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Title: Dr. Lavendar's People
Author: Deland, Margaret Wade Campbell, 1857-1945
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 "Dr. Lavendar's People" ***

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[Frontispiece: "'I HAVE A PRESENT FOR YOU--A SISTER'"  See p. 45]



DR. LAVENDAR'S PEOPLE


BY

MARGARET DELAND


AUTHOR OF "OLD CHESTER TALES"



ILLUSTRATED BY

LUCIUS HITCHCOCK



NEW YORK AND LONDON

HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS

1903



Copyright, 1903, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

_All rights reserved._

Published October, 1903.



TO

DR. FRANCIS B. HARRINGTON

These Stories are

Dedicated



CONTENTS


The Apotheosis of the Reverend Mr. Spangler

The Note

The Grasshopper and the Ant

Amelia

"An Exceeding High Mountain"

At the Stuffed-Animal House



ILLUSTRATIONS


"I HAVE A PRESENT FOR YOU--A SISTER'" . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

"DAVID'S HEAD SWAM"

"SHE ALWAYS CAME INTO THE LIBRARY TO SAY GOOD-NIGHT TO HIM"

"LURCHED FORWARD INTO A CHAIR, BREATHING LOUDLY"

"MRS. BARKLEY ROSE, TAPPING THE TABLE WITH ALARMING LOUDNESS"

"MISS LYDIA, WATCHING HIM, GREW PALER AND PALER"

"THERE SHE TURNED AND LOOKED BACK"

"THOMAS DILWORTH GOT ON HIS FEET AND SWORE"

"'WHAT IS THE NAME OF THE KIND PERSON?'"

"SHE KNELT DOWN, AS USUAL, AT THE BIG CHINTZ-COVERED WINGED CHAIR"

MISS HARRIET WAS LEANING FORWARD

"'A HAPPY SLEEP,' MISS ANNIE REPEATED"



THE APOTHEOSIS

OF THE

REVEREND MR. SPANGLER


I

Miss Ellen Baily kept school in the brick basement of her old frame
house on Main Street.

The children used to come up a flagstone path to the side door, and
then step down two steps into an entry.  Two rooms opened on this
entry; in one the children sat at small, battered desks and studied; in
the other Miss Baily heard their lessons, sitting at a table covered
with a red cloth, which had a white Grecian fret for a border and
smelled of crumbs.  On the wall behind her was a faded print of
"Belshazzar's Feast"; in those days this was probably the only feasting
the room ever saw--although on a thin-legged sideboard there were two
decanters (empty) and a silver-wire cake-basket which held always three
apples.  Both rooms looked out on the garden--the garden and, in fine
weather, _Mr. David Baily!_ ... Ah, me--what it was, in the dreary
stretches of mental arithmetic, to look across the flower-beds and see
Mr. David--tall and dark and melancholy--pacing up and down, sometimes
with a rake, oftener with empty hands; always with vague, beautiful
eyes fixed on some inner vision of heart-broken memory.  Miss Ellen's
pupils were confident of this vision because of a tombstone in the
burial-ground which recorded the death of Maria Hastings, at the
romantic age of seventeen; and, as everybody in Old Chester knew, Mr.
Baily had been in love with this same seventeen-year-old Maria.  To be
sure, it was thirty years ago; but that does not make any difference,
"_in real love_," as any school-girl can tell you.  So, when David
Baily paced up and down the garden paths or sat in the sunshine under
the big larch we all knew that he was thinking of his bereavement.

In the opinion of the older girls, grief had wrecked Mr. David's life;
he had intended to be a clergyman, but had left the theological school
because his eyes gave out.  "He cried himself nearly blind," the girls
told each other with great satisfaction.  After that he tried one
occupation after another, but somehow failed in each; which was proof
of a delicacy of constitution induced by sorrow.  Furthermore, he
seemed pursued by a cruel fortune--"Fate," the girls called it.
Elderly, unromantic Old Chester did not use this fine word, but it
admitted pursuing disaster.

For instance: there was the time that David undertook the charge of a
private library in Upper Chester, and three months afterwards the owner
sold it!  Then Mr. Hays found a job for him, and just as he was going
to work he was laid up with rheumatism.  And again Tom Dilworth got him
a place as assistant book-keeper; and David, after innumerable tangles
on his balance-sheet, was obliged to say, frankly, that he had no head
for figures.  But he was willing to do anything else--"_any_ honest
work that is not menial," he said, earnestly.  And Tom said, why, yes,
of course, only he'd be darned if he knew what to suggest.  But he
added, in conjugal privacy, that David ought to be hided for not
turning his hand to something.  "Why doesn't he try boot-blacking?
Only, I suppose, he'd say he couldn't make the change correctly.  He
doesn't know whether two and two make five or three--like our Ned."

"Why, they make four, Tom," said Mrs. Dilworth.  And Thomas stared at
her, and said, "You don't say so!"

There had been no end of such happenings; "and none of them my
brother's fault," Miss Ellen told the sympathetic older girls, who
glanced sideways at Mr. David and wished that they might die and be
mourned as Mr. David mourned Maria.

The fact was, the habit of failure had fastened upon poor David; and in
the days when Miss Ellen's school was in its prime (before the new
people told our parents that her teaching was absurdly inadequate), he
was depending on his sister for his bread-and-butter.  That Miss Ellen
supported him never troubled the romantic souls of Miss Ellen's pupils
any more than it troubled Miss Ellen--or Mr. David.  "Why shouldn't
she?" the girls would have demanded if any such rudely practical
question had been asked; "he is so delicate, _and he has a broken
heart!_"  So that was how it happened that the pupils were able to have
palpitating glimpses of him, walking listlessly about the garden, or
dozing in a sunny window over an old magazine, or doing some pottering
bit of carpentering for Miss Ellen, but never losing his good looks or
the grieved melancholy of his expression.


Miss Ellen had been teaching for twenty years.

It is useless to deny that, unless one has a genius for imparting
knowledge, teaching is a drudgery.  It was drudgery to Ellen Baily, but
she never slighted it on that account.  She was conscientious about the
number of feet in the highest mountain in the world; she saw to it that
her pupils could repeat the sovereigns of England backward.  Besides
these fundamentals, the older girls had Natural Philosophy every
Friday; it was not, perhaps, necessary that young ladies should know
that the air was composed of two gases (the girls who had travelled and
seen the lighted streets of towns knew what gas was), nor that rubbing
a cat's fur the wrong way in the dark would produce electric
sparks--such things were not necessary.  But they were interesting,
and, as Mrs. Barkley said, if they did not go too far and lead to
scepticism, they would do no harm.  However, Miss Ellen counteracted
any sceptical tendencies by reading aloud, every Saturday morning,
Bishop Cummings on the Revelation, so that even Dr. Lavendar was not
wiser than Miss Ellen's girls as to what St. John meant by "a time, and
a time, and a half of a time," or who the four beasts full of eyes
before and behind stood for.  For accomplishments, there was fine
sewing every Wednesday afternoon; and on Mondays, with sharply pointed
pencils, we copied trees and houses from neat little prints; also, we
had lessons upon the piano-forte, so there was not one of us who, when
she left Miss Ellen's, could not play at least three pieces, viz., "The
Starlight Valse," "The Maiden's Prayer," and "The Last Rose of Summer."

Ah, well, one may smile.  Compared to what girls know nowadays, it is,
of course, very absurd.  But, all the same, Miss Ellen's girls knew
some things of which our girls are ignorant: reverence was one;
humility was another; obedience was a third.  And poor, uneducated folk
(compared with our daughters) that we of Old Chester may be, we are, if
I mistake not, glad that we were taught a certain respect for our own
language, which, though it makes the tongue of youth to-day almost
unintelligible, does give us a joy in the wells of English undefiled
which our children do not seem to know; and for this, in our dull Old
Chester way, we are not ungrateful.  However, this may all be sour
grapes....

At any rate, for twenty painstaking years Miss Ellen's methods fed and
clothed Mr. David.  Then came the winter of Dr. Lavendar's illness, and
the temporary instalment of the Reverend Mr. Spangler, and Ellen Baily
realized that there were other things in the world than David's food
and clothes.

Dr. Lavendar, cross, unbelieving, protesting, was to be hustled down
South by Sam Wright; and the day before he started Mr. Spangler
appeared.  That was early in February, and Dr. Lavendar was to come
back the first of May.

"Not a day sooner," said Sam Wright.

"I'll come when I see fit," said Dr. Lavendar.  He didn't believe in
this going away, he said.  "Home is the best place to be sick in.  The
truth is, Willy King doesn't want me to die on his hands--it would hurt
his business," said Dr. Lavendar, wickedly; "I know him!"

But to Mr. Spangler Dr. Lavendar said other things about Willy, and Sam
Wright, too; in fact, about all of them.  And he pulled out his big,
red silk pocket-handkerchief with a trembling flourish and wiped his
eyes.  "I don't deserve it," he said.  "I'm a dogmatic old fogy, and I
won't let the new people have their jimcrackery; and I preach old
sermons, and I've had a cold in my head for three months.  And yet,
look at 'em: A purse, if you please!  And Sam Wright is going down with
me.  Sam ought to be ashamed of himself to waste his time; he's a busy
man.  No, sir; I don't deserve it.  And, if you take my advice, you'll
pray the Lord that your people will treat you as you don't deserve."

Mr. Spangler, a tall, lean man, very correctly dressed, who was
depended upon in the diocese as a supply, made notes solemnly while Dr.
Lavendar talked; but he sighed once or twice, patiently, for the old
man was not very helpful.  Mr. Spangler wanted to know what
Sunday-school teachers could be relied upon, and whether the choir was
very thin-skinned, and which of the vestry had chips on their shoulders.

"None of 'em.  I knocked 'em all off, long ago," said Dr. Lavendar.
"Don't you worry about that.  Speak your mind."

"I have," said Mr. Spangler, coughing delicately, "an iron hand when I
once make up my mind in regard to methods; firmness is, I think, a
clergyman's duty, and duty, I hope, is my watchword; but I think it
best to canvass a matter thoroughly before making up my mind."

"It is generally wise to do so," said Dr. Lavendar, very meekly.

"Of course," Mr. Spangler said, kindly, "you belong to a somewhat older
period, and do not, perhaps, realize the value of our modern ways of
dealing with a parish--I mean in regard to firmly carrying out one's
own ideas.  I suppose these good people do pretty much as they please,
so far as you are concerned?"

"Perhaps they do," said Dr. Lavendar, very, very meekly.

"So, not wishing to offend, I will ask a few questions: I have heard
that the parish is perhaps a little old-fashioned in regard to matters
of ritual?  I have wondered whether my cassock would be misunderstood?"

"Cassock?" said Dr. Lavendar.  "Bless your heart, wear a pea-jacket if
it helps you to preach the Word.  It will only be for ten Sundays," he
added, hopefully.

The Reverend Mr. Spangler smiled at that; and when he smiled one saw
that his face, though timid, was kind.

So Dr. Lavendar, growling and scolding, fussing about Danny and his
little blind horse Goliath, and Mr. Spangler's comfort, was bundled
off; and Mr. Spangler settled down in the shabby rectory.  His iron
will led him to preach in his surplice, and it was observed that a
silver cross dangled from his black silk fob.  "But it's only for ten
weeks," said Old Chester, and asked him to tea, and bore with him, and
did nothing more severe than smile when he bowed in the creed--smile,
and perhaps stand up a little straighter itself.

This, of the real Old Chester.  Of course the new people were pleased;
and one or two of the younger folk liked it.  Miss Ellen Baily was not
young, but she liked the surplice better than Dr. Lavendar's black gown
and bands, and the sudden sparkle of the cross when Mr. Spangler knelt
gave her a pang of pleasure.  David, too, was not displeased.  To be
sure, David was rarely stirred to anything so positive as pleasure.
But at least he made no objections to the cross; and he certainly
brightened up when, on Saturday afternoon, Mr. Spangler called.  He
even talked of Gambier, to which he had gone for a year, and of which,
it appeared, the clergyman was an alumnus.  Miss Ellen had a pile of
compositions on the table beside her, and she glanced at one
occasionally so that she might not seem to expect any share in the
conversation.  But, all the same, Mr. Spangler noticed her.  He was not
drawn to the brother; still, he talked to him about their college, for
Mr. Spangler believed that being agreeable was just as much a
clergyman's duty as was changing the bookmarks for Advent or Lent; and
duty, as Mr. Spangler often said, was his watchword.  Furthermore, he
was aware that his kindness pleased the silent, smiling woman seated
behind the pile of compositions.

It pleased her so much that that night, after David had gone to bed,
she went over to Mrs. Barkley's to talk about her caller.

"Well, Ellen Baily," Mrs. Barkley said, briskly, as Miss Baily came
into the circle of lamplight by the parlor-table, "so you had a visitor
to-day?  I saw him, cross and all."

"It was a very small one," Miss Baily protested, "and only silver."

"Would you have had it diamonds?" demanded Mrs. Barkley, in a deep
bass.  "Oh, well; it doesn't really matter; there are only nine more
Sundays.  But Sam Wright says he shall mention it when he writes to Dr.
Lavendar."

"I suppose Dr. Lavendar saw it before he went away," Ellen said, with
some spirit.

"Well, if he doesn't take his religion out in crosses, I suppose it's
all right.  But he's not a very active laborer in the vineyard.  I
suppose you know about him?"

"Why, no," Ellen said; "nothing except that he supplies a good deal."

"Supplies?  Yes, because his mother left him a house in Mercer, and
enough to live on in a small way; so he likes supplying better than
taking a charge where he'd have to work hard and couldn't have his
comforts."

"Why doesn't he take a charge where he could have his comforts?"

"Can't get the chance," Mrs. Barkley explained, briefly.  "Not enough
of a preacher.  And, besides, he likes his ease in Zion.  Rachel
Spangler's old house, and her Mary Ann, and his father's library,
and--well, the flesh-pots of Mercer!--and supplying, just enough to buy
him his ridiculous buttoned-up coats.  That's what he likes.  I suppose
he uses the same old sermons over and over.  Doesn't ever have to write
a new one.  However, he's here, and maybe Old Chester will do him good.
Ellen Baily, did you know that we have a new-comer in Old Chester?  A
widow.  I don't like widows.  Her name's Smily.  Foolish name!  She's
staying at the Stuffed Animal House.  She's Harriet Hutchinson's
cousin, and she's come down on her for a visit."

"Maybe she'll make her a present when she goes away," said Ellen,
hopefully.

"Present!  She needs to have presents made to her.  She hasn't a cent
but what her husband's brother gives her.  He's a school-teacher, I
understand; and you know yourself, Ellen Baily, how much a
school-teacher can do in that way?"

Miss Ellen sighed.

"Well," proceeded Mrs. Barkley, "I just thought I'd tell you about her,
because if we all invite her to tea, turn about, it will be a relief to
Harriet--(she isn't well, that girl; I'm really uneasy about her).  And
I guess the Smily woman won't object to Old Chester food, either," said
Mrs. Barkley, complacently.  "I've asked her for Tuesday evening, and I
thought I'd throw in Mr. Spangler and get him off my mind."

"David likes him so much," Miss Ellen began.

"Does he?" said Mrs. Barkley.  "Well, tell him to come; he can talk to
Mr. Spangler.  I'm afraid I might hurt the man's feelings if I had to
do all the talking.  I seem to do that sometimes.  Did you ever notice,
Ellen, that the truth always hurts people's feelings?  But I knew his
mother, so I don't want to do anything to wound him.  I won't ask you,
Ellen; I don't like five at table.  But just tell David to come, will
you?"

And Miss Baily promised, gratefully.  David was not often asked out in
Old Chester.



II

The supper at Mrs. Barkley's was a great occasion to David Baily.
Right after dinner he went up to the garret, and Ellen heard him
shuffling about overhead, moving trunks.  After a while he came down,
holding something out to his sister.

"Guess I'll wear this," he said, briefly.  It was an old black velvet
waistcoat worked with small silk flowers, pink and blue and yellow.

"I haven't seen gentlemen wear those waistcoats lately," Miss Ellen
said, doubtfully.

Mr. David spread the strange old garment across his narrow breast, and
regarded himself in the mirror above the mantel.  "Father wore it," he
said.

Then he retired to his own room.  When he reappeared he wore the
waistcoat.  His old black frock-coat, shiny on the shoulders and with
very full skirts, hung so loose in front that the flowered velvet
beneath was not conspicuous; but Mr. David felt its moral support when,
at least ten minutes before the proper time, he started for Mrs.
Barkley's.

His hostess, putting on her best cap before her mirror, glanced down
from her window as he came up the path.  "Ellen ought not to have sent
him so early," she said, with some irritation.  "Emily!" she called, in
her deep voice, "just go to the front door and tell Mr. Baily to go
home.  I'm not ready for him.  Or he can sit in the parlor and wait if
he wants to.  But he can't talk to me."

Emily, a mournful, elderly person, sought, out of regard for her own
feelings, to soften her mistress's message; but David instantly
retreated to walk up and down the street, keeping his eye on Mrs.
Barkley's house, so that he could time his return by the arrival of Mr.
Spangler.

"He'll come at the right hour, I presume," he said to himself.  Just
then he saw Mrs. Smily stepping delicately down the street, her head on
one side, and a soft, unchanging smile on her lips.  As they met she
minced a little in her step, and said:

"Dear me!  I'm afraid I've made a mistake.  I'm looking for Mrs.
Barkley's residence."

"Mrs. Barkley resides here," said Mr. David, elegantly.

She looked up into his sad, dark eyes with a flurried air.  "Dear me,"
she said, "I fear I am late."

"Oh, not _late_," said poor David.  "Perhaps we might walk up and down
for a minute longer?"

Mrs. Smily, astonished but flattered, tossed her head, and said, Well,
she didn't know about _that_!  But, all the same, she turned, and they
walked as far as the post-office.

"I'm afraid you are very attentive to the ladies," Mrs. Smily said,
coquettishly, when David had introduced himself; and David, who had
never heard a flirtatious word (unless from Maria), felt a sudden
thrill and a desire to reply in kind.  But from lack of experience he
could think of nothing but the truth.  He had been too early, he said,
and had come out to wait for Mr. Spangler--"and you, ma'am," he added,
in a polite after-thought.  But his hurried emphasis made Mrs. Smily
simper more than ever.  She shook her finger at him and said:

"Come, come, sir!"  And David's head swam.

[Illustration: "DAVID'S HEAD SWAM"]

At that moment Mr. Spangler, buttoned to his chin in a black waistcoat,
came solemnly along, and, with his protection, David felt he could face
Mrs. Barkley.

But, indeed, she met her three guests with condescension and kindness.
"They are all fools in their different ways," she said to herself, "but
one must be kind to them."  So she made Mrs. Smily sit down in the most
comfortable chair, and pushed a footstool at her.  Then she told Mr.
Spangler, good-naturedly, that she supposed he found Old Chester very
old-fashioned.  "Don't you be trying any candles on us," she threatened
him, in a jocular bass.  As for David, she paid no attention to him
except to remark that she supposed time didn't count with him.  But her
bushy eyebrows twitched in a kindly smile when she said it.  Then she
began to talk about Dr. Lavendar's health.  "It is a great trial to
have him away," she said.  "Dear me!  I don't know what we will do when
the Lord takes him.  I wish he might live forever.  Clergymen are a
poor lot nowadays."

"Why, I heard," said Mrs. Smily, "that he didn't give entire
satisfaction."

"What!" cried Mrs. Barkley.  "Who has been talking nonsense to you?
Some of the new people, I'll be bound."

Mrs. Smily, very much frightened, murmured that no doubt she was
mistaken.  Wild horses would not have drawn from her that she had heard
Annie Shields that was, say that Dr. Lavendar had deliberately advised
some one she knew to be bad; and that he had refused to help a very
worthy man to study for the ministry; and that the Ferrises said he
ought to be tried for heresy (or something) because he married Oscar
King to their runaway niece; and that he would not give a child back to
its repentant (and perfectly respectable) mother--"And a mother's claim
is the holiest thing on earth," Mrs. Smily said--and that he had
encouraged Miss Lydia Sampson in positively _wicked_ extravagance.
After hearing these things, Mrs. Smily had her opinion of Dr. Lavendar;
but that was no reason why she should let Mrs. Barkley snap her head
off.  So she only murmured that no doubt she had made a mistake.

"I think you have," said Mrs. Barkley, dryly; and rose and marshalled
her company in to supper.  "She's a perfect fool," she told herself,
"but I hope the Lord will give me grace to hold my tongue."  Perhaps
the Lord gave her too much grace, for, for the rest of the evening, she
hardly spoke to Mrs. Smily; she even conversed with David rather than
look in her direction.

For the most part the conversation was a polite exchange of views upon
harmless topics between Mrs. Barkley and Mr. Spangler, during which
Mrs. Smily cheered up and murmured small ejaculations to David Baily.
She told him that she was scared nearly to death of the stuffed animals
at Miss Harriet's house.

"They make me just scream!" she said.

David protectingly assured her that they were harmless.

"But they are so dreadful!" Mrs. Smily said.  "Isn't it strange that my
cousin likes to--to do that to animals?  It isn't quite ladylike, to my
mind."

Mr. Baily thought to himself how ladylike it was in Mrs. Smily to
object to taxidermy.  He noticed, too, that she ate almost nothing,
which also seemed very refined.  It occurred to him that such a
delicate creature ought not to go home alone; the lane up to Miss
Harriet's house was dark with overhanging trees, and, furthermore,
half-way up the hill it passed the burial-ground.  In a burst of fancy
David saw himself near the low wall of the cemetery, protecting Mrs.
Smily, who was shivering in her ladylike way at the old head-stones
over in the grass.  He began (in his own mind) a reassuring
conversation: "There are no such things as spectres, ma'am.  I assure
you there is no occasion for fear."  And at these manly words she would
press closer to his side.  (And this outside the burial-ground--oh,
Maria, Maria!)

But this flight of imagination was not realized, for later Emily
announced that Miss Harriet's Augustine had come for Mrs. Smily.

"Did she bring a lantern?" demanded Mrs. Barkley.  "That lane is too
dark except for young folks."

Augustine had a lantern, and was waiting with it at the front door for
her charge; so there was no reason for Mr. David to offer his
protection.  He and Mr. Spangler went away together, and David twisted
his head around several times to watch the spark of light jolting up
the hill towards the burial-ground and the Stuffed-Animal House.  When
the two men said good-night, Mr. Spangler had a glimpse of a quickly
opened door and heard an eager voice--"Come in, dear brother.  Did you
have a delightful evening?"

"How pleasing to be welcomed so affectionately!" said the Reverend Mr.
Spangler to himself.



III

The gentle warmth of that welcome lingered persistently in Mr.
Spangler's mind.

"I suspect that she _kissed_ him," he said to himself; and a little
dull red crept into his cheeks.

Miss Ellen, dark-eyed, gentle, with soft lips, made Mr. Spangler
suddenly think of a spray of heliotrope warm in the sunshine.  "That is
a very poetical thought," he said, with a sense of regret that it
probably could not be utilized in a sermon.  But when he entered the
study he banished poetry, because he had a letter to write.  It was in
answer to an offer of the secretaryship of a church publishing-house in
a Western city.

Dr. Lavendar, it appeared, had mentioned Mr. Spangler's name to one Mr.
Horatius Brown, stating that in his opinion Mr. Spangler was just the
man for the place--"exact, painstaking, conscientious," Mr. Brown
quoted in his letter; but forbore to add Dr. Lavendar's further remark
that Mr. Spangler would never embarrass the management by an original
idea.  "He'll pick up pins as faithfully as any man I know," said Dr.
Lavendar, "and that's what you religious newspapers want, I believe?"
Mr. Spangler was not without a solemn pride in being thus sought out by
the ecclesiastical business world, especially when he reflected upon
the salary which Mr. Brown was prepared to offer; but acceptance was
another matter.  To leave his high calling for mere business!  A
business, too, which would involve exact hours and steady
application;--Compared with that, and with the crude, smart bustle of
the Western city, the frugal leisure of his placid days in Mercer
assumed in his mind the sanctity of withdrawal from the world, and his
occasional preaching took on the glow of missionary zeal.  "No," said
Mr. Spangler, "mercenary considerations do not move me a
hair's-breadth."  Mr. Spangler did not call his tranquil life in
Mercer, his comfortable old house, his good cook, his old friends, his
freedom from sermon-writing, mercenary considerations.  On the
contrary, he assured himself that his "circumstances were far from
affluent; but I must endure hardness!" he used to add cheerfully.  And
very honestly his declination seemed to him something that Heaven would
place to his credit.  So he wrote to the publishing-house that he had
given the proposition his most prayerful consideration, but that he
believed that it was his duty to still labor at the sacred desk--and
duty was, he hoped, the watchword of his life.  And he was Mr. Brown's
"obedient servant and brother in Christ--Augustus Spangler."

Then he settled down in Dr. Lavendar's armchair by the fire in the
study; but he did not read the ecclesiastical paper which every week
fed his narrow and sincere mind.  Instead he wondered how often Dr.
Lavendar called upon his female parishioners.  Would twice in a
fortnight be liable to be misunderstood?  Mr. Spangler was terribly
afraid of being misunderstood.  Then he had a flash of inspiration: he
ought, as rector, to visit the schools.  That was only proper and could
not possibly be misunderstood.  "For an interest in educational affairs
is part of a priest's duty," Mr. Spangler reflected.

If he was right, it must be admitted that Dr. Lavendar was very remiss.
So far as we children could remember, he had never visited Miss Ellen's
school and listened to recitations and heard us speak our pieces.
Whether that was because he did not care enough about us to come, or
because he saw us at Collect class and Sunday-school and church, and in
the street and at the post-office and at home, until he knew us all by
heart, so to speak, may be decided one way or the other; but certainly
when Mr. Spangler came, and sat through one morning, and told us
stories, and said we made him think of a garden of rosebuds, and took
up so much of Miss Ellen's time that she could not hear the mental
arithmetic, it was impossible not to institute comparisons.  Indeed,
some hearts were (for the moment) untrue to Mr. David.  When Miss Ellen
called on us to speak our pieces, we were so excited and breathless
that, for my part, I could not remember the first line of "Bingen on
the Rhine," and had to look quickly into the Fourth Reader; but before
I could begin, Lydia Wright started in with "Excelsior," and she got
all the praise; though I'm sure I--well, never mind!  But Dr. Lavendar
wouldn't have praised one girl so that all the others wanted to scratch
her!  All that first half, the pupils, bending over their copy-books,
writing, "_Courtesy to inferiors is true gentility_," glanced at the
visitor sideways, and if they caught his eye, looked down, blushing to
the roots of their hair--which was not frizzled, if you please, or
hanging over their eyes like the locks of Skye-terriers, but parted and
tied with a neat ribbon bow on the tops of all the small heads.  But
Mr. Spangler did not look often at the pupils; instead he conversed in
a low voice with Miss Ellen.  Nobody could hear what he said, but it
must have been very interesting, for when Miss Ellen suddenly looked at
the clock she blushed, and brought her hand hurriedly down on the bell
on her desk.  It was ten minutes after the hour for recess!

For the rest of that day Miss Ellen Baily moved and looked as one in a
dream.  Her brother, however, did not seem to notice her
absent-mindedness.  Indeed, he was as talkative as she was silent.

"Sister," he said, as they sat at tea, "I need a new hat.  One with a
blue band about it might be--ah--becoming."

"Blue is a sweet color," said Miss Ellen, vaguely.

"Mrs. Smily remarked to me that before her affliction made it improper,
she was addicted to the color of blue."

"Was she?" Ellen said, absently.

"Don't you think," David said, after a pause, "that my coat is somewhat
shabby?  You bought it, you may remember, the winter of the long frost."

"Is it?" Miss Ellen said.

"Yes; and the style is obsolete, I think.  Not that I am a creature of
fashion, but I do not like to be conspicuous in dress."

"You are not that, dear David," Miss Ellen protested.  "On Sunday I
often think nobody looks as handsome as you."

David blushed.  "You are partial, Ellen."

"No, I'm not," cried Miss Ellen, coming out of her reveries.  "Only
yesterday I heard some one say that you were very fine-looking."

"Who said it?"

"Never mind," Ellen said, gayly.

"Do tell me, sister," he entreated; "that's a good girl."

"It was somebody whose opinion you care a great deal about."

"I think you might tell me," said Mr. David, aggrieved.  "Not that I
care, because it isn't true, and was only said to please you.  People
know how to get round you, Ellen.  But I'd just like to know."

"Guess," said Miss Ellen.

"Well, was it--Mrs. Smily?"

"Oh, dear, no!  It was somebody very important in Old Chester.  It was
Mrs. Barkley."

"Oh," said Mr. David.

"A compliment from her means so much, you know," Miss Ellen reminded
him.

David was silent.

"But all the same," Ellen said, "you do need a coat, dear brother.  I'm
afraid I've been selfish not to notice it."

Mr. David made no reply.

Miss Ellen beamed at him.  "You always look well, in my eyes: but it
pleases me to have you well dressed, too."

"Well, then, to please you, I'll dress up," said Mr. David, earnestly.



IV

"Does not Mr. Baily take any part whatever in his sister's work?" Mr.
Spangler said.  He was calling upon Mrs. Barkley, and the conversation
turned upon the guests whom he had met at the tea-party.

"That is a very foolish question," said Mrs. Barkley; "but of course
you don't know poor David, or you wouldn't have asked it.  David means
well, but he has no mind.  Still, he has tried, poor fellow."  Then she
recited the story of David's failures.  "There is really nothing that
he is capable of doing," she ended, thoughtfully; "though I think, if
his eyes hadn't given out, he might have made a good minister.  For
David is a pious man, and he likes to visit."

A faint red came into Mr. Spangler's cheeks; although he had been in
Old Chester nearly a month, he had not yet become acclimated to Mrs.
Barkley.  The watchword of duty made him call, but he closed her front
door behind him with an emphasis which was not dutiful.

"That's done!" he said; and thought to himself how much pleasanter than
parochial visits were educational matters.

Mr. Spangler felt their importance so deeply that he spent two more
mornings watching Miss Ellen's pupils work out examples on the
blackboard and hearing them read, turn about, in the Fourth Reader.  In
fact, the next month was a pretty happy time for Miss Ellen's girls.

"I skipped to the bottom of the page in 'Catiline's Reply,'" Lydia
Wright said, giggling, "and she never knew it!"

The girls were tremendously interested but not very sympathetic, for
"she's so dreadfully old!" they told each other.  Had Miss Ellen been
Maria's age and had a beau (by this time they called Mr. Spangler Miss
Ellen's beau, the impudent little creatures!), how different it would
have been!  But Miss Ellen was forty.  "Did you ever know anything so
perfectly absurd?" said the older girls.  And the second-class girls
said they certainly never did.  So when Mr. Spangler came and listened
to recitations we poked one another, and put out our tongues behind our
Readers, and made ourselves extremely obnoxious--if dear Miss Ellen had
had the eyes to see it, which, indeed, she had not.  She was very
absent in those days; but she did her work faithfully, and saw to
David's new coat, and asked Mrs. Smily to tea, not only to help out
Miss Harriet at the Stuffed-Animal House, but because David told her a
piteous tale of Mrs. Smily's loneliness and general forlornness.  David
had had it directly from Mrs. Smily herself, and had been greatly moved
by it; she had told him that this was a sad and unfriendly world.

"But I am sure your brother-in-law's family is much attached to you?"
David said, comfortingly.

Then poor Mrs. Smily suddenly began to cry.  "Yes; but I am afraid I
can't live at my brother-in-law's any longer.  His wife is--is tired of
me," said the poor little creature.

David was thunderstruck.  "Tired?  Of you!  Oh, impossible!"

Then she opened her poor foolish heart to him.  And David was so
touched and interested that he could hardly wait to get home to pour it
all into Ellen's ears.  Ellen was very sympathetic, and made haste to
ask Mrs. Smily to tea; and when she came was as kind and pitiful as
only dear, kind Ellen could be.  But perhaps she took Mrs. Smily's
griefs a little less to heart than she might have done had she heard
the tale a month before.  Just then she was in the whirl of Old Chester
hospitality; she was asked out three times in one week to meet the
Supply!--and by that time the Supply had reached the point of hoping
that he was going to meet Miss Ellen.

Yet, as Mr. Spangler reflected, this was hardly prudent on his part.
"For I might become interested," he said to himself, and frowned and
sighed.  Now, as everybody knows, the outcome of "interest" is only
justified by a reasonable affluence.  "And," Augustus Spangler reminded
himself, "my circumstances are not affluent."  Indeed, that warm,
pleasant old house in Mercer, and Mary Ann, and his books, and those
buttoned-up coats needed every penny of his tiny income.  "Therefore,"
said Mr. Spangler, "it is my duty to put this out of my head with an
iron hand."  But, all the same, Ellen Baily was like a spray of
heliotrope.

For a week, the second week in April, while Old Chester softened into a
mist of green, and the crown-imperials shook their clean, bitter
fragrance over the bare beds in the gardens--for that week Mr. Spangler
thought often of his income, but oftener of Miss Ellen.  Reason and
sentiment wrestled together in his lazy but affectionate heart; and
then, with a mighty effort, sentiment conquered....

"It seems," said Mr. Spangler, nervously, "a little premature, but my
sojourn in Old Chester is drawing to a close; I shall not tarry more
than another fortnight; so I felt, my dear friend, that I must, before
seeking other fields of usefulness, tell you what was in my mind--or
may I say heart?"

"You are very kind," Ellen Baily said, breathlessly.

.... Mr. Spangler had invited Miss Ellen to walk with him on Saturday
afternoon at four.  Now, as everybody knows in Old Chester, when a
gentleman invites you to walk out with him, you had better make up your
mind whether it is to be "yes" or "no" before you start.  As for poor
Ellen, she did not have to make up her mind; it was made up for her by
unconquerable circumstances.  If she should "seek other fields of
usefulness," she could not take David with her.  It was equally clear
that she could not leave him behind her.  Where would he find his
occasional new coat, or even the hat with the blue band, if there were
no school in the basement?  Compared to love-making and romance, how
sordid are questions about coats!  Yet, before starting on that
Saturday-afternoon walk, poor, pretty Miss Ellen, tying the strings of
her many-times retrimmed bonnet under her quivering chin, asked them,
and could find no answer except that if he should "say anything," why,
then, she must say "no"; but, of course, he wasn't going to say
anything.  So she tied her washed and ironed brown ribbons into a neat
bow, and started down the street with the Reverend Mr. Spangler.

David Baily, watching them from the gate, ruminated over obvious
possibilities.  Mrs. Barkley had opened his eyes to the fact that Mr.
Spangler "was taking notice," and David was not without a certain
family pride in a ministerial proposal.  "He'll do it this afternoon,"
said David; and went pottering back into the empty school-room to mend
a bench that Ellen told him needed a nail or two.  But the room was
still and sunny, and Ellen's chair was comfortable; and sitting there
to think about the bench, he nodded once or twice, and then dozed for
an hour.  When he awoke it seemed best to mend the bench the next day;
then, yawning, and staring vacantly out of the window, he saw Mrs.
Smily, and it seemed only friendly to go out and tell her
(confidentially) what was going to happen.

"It will make quite a difference to you, won't it?" Mrs. Smily said.

"Oh," David said, blankly, "that hadn't occurred to me.  However," he
added, with a little sigh, "my sister's happiness is my first thought."

Mrs. Smily clasped her hands.  "Mr. Baily, I do think you are real
noble!" she said.

Mr. David stood very erect.  "Oh, you mustn't flatter me, ma'am."

"Mr. Baily, I never flatter," Mrs. Smily said, gravely.  "I don't think
it's right."

And David thought to himself how noble Mrs. Smily was.  Indeed, her
nobility was so much in his mind that, strangely enough, he quite
forgot Ellen's exciting afternoon.  He remembered it the next morning,
but when he essayed a little joke and a delicate question, the asperity
with which the mild Ellen answered him left him gaping with
astonishment.  Evidently Mr. Spangler had not spoken.  David would have
been less (or more) than a human brother if he had not smiled a very
little at that.  "Ellen expected it," he said to himself.  "Well, I did
myself, and so did Mrs. Barkley."  It never occurred to him that the
Reverend Mr. Spangler might also have had expectations which left him
disappointed and mortified.  Yet when a gentleman of Mr. Spangler's
age--one, too, whose income barely suffices for his own comfort, and
who, added to this, has had his doubts whether the celibacy of the
clergy may not be a sacrament of grace--when such a gentleman does make
up his mind to offer himself--to offer himself, moreover, to a lady no
longer in her first youth, who is pleasing perhaps to the eye, but not,
certainly, excessively beautiful, and whose fortune is merely (and most
meritoriously, of course) in her character and understanding--it is a
blow to pride to be refused.  Mr. Spangler found it hard to labor at
the sacred desk that morning; yet no one would have thought it, to see
the fervor with which, as Old Chester said, he "went through his
performances."

But he read the service, hot at heart and hoping that Miss Baily
observed how intensely his attention was fixed on things above.  When
he stood in the chancel waiting for the collection-plates, and saying,
in a curious sing-song, absolutely new to Old Chester, "_Zaccheus stood
forth, and said, Behold, Lord--_" his glance, roving over the
congregation, rested once on Ellen Baily, and was as carefully
impersonal as though she were only a part of the pew in which she sat.
Miss Ellen thrilled at that high indifference; it occurred to her that
even had David's circumstances been different, she could scarcely have
dared to accept the hand of this high creature.

"_--the half of all my goods--_" said Mr. Spangler.  Yes, it was
inconceivable, considering what he was offering her, that Ellen Baily
could let her brother stand in the way!

All that long, pleasant spring Sunday, Augustus Spangler was very
bitter.  All that week he was distinctly angry.  He said to himself
that he was glad that Dr. Lavendar was soon to return; he would, after
making his report of the parish, shake the dust of Old Chester from off
his feet as witness against Miss Baily, and depart.  By the next Sunday
he had ceased to be angry, but his pride was still deeply wounded.  By
Wednesday he had softened to melancholy; he was able to say that it all
came from her sense of duty.  Unreasonable, of course, but still duty.
Then, on Thursday, suddenly, he was startled by a question in his own
mind: Was it unreasonable?  If she gave up her teaching--"what would
that fellow live on?"

That was a very bad moment to the Reverend Mr. Spangler.  Pride
vanished in honest unhappiness.  He began to think again about his
income; he had known that to marry a wife meant greater economy; but
sacrifices had not seemed too difficult considering that that wife was
to be Miss Ellen Baily.  But if the wife must be Miss Baily
_plus_--"that fellow"!

"It is out of the question," said poor Mr. Spangler, and arose and
paced up and down the study.  He was very miserable; and the more
miserable he became, the more in love he knew himself to be.  "But it
is madness to think of the matter further," he told himself,
sternly--"madness!"

Yet he kept on thinking of it--or of Miss Ellen's dark eyes, and her
smile, and the way her hair curled in little rings about her temples.
"But it's impossible--impossible!" he said.  Then, absently, he made
some calculations: To meet the support of David Baily he would have to
have an increase of so much in his income or a decrease of so much in
his expenses.  "Madness!" said Augustus Spangler, firmly.  "But how her
eyes crinkle up when she smiles!"

Yet it took another day before the real man conquered.  His expenses
should be decreased, _and David should live with them_.

Yes, it would mean undeniable pinching; he must give up this small
luxury and that; his Mary Ann could not broil his occasional
sweetbread; and the occasional new book must be borrowed from the
library, not purchased for his own shelves.  He must push about to get
more supplying.  He had meant to come down one step when he got
married; well, he would have to come down two--yes, or three.  But he
would have Miss Baily.  And warmed with this tender thought, he sat
down, then and there, at nearly midnight, and wrote Miss Ellen a
letter.  It was a beautiful letter, full of most beautiful sentiments
expressed with great elegance and gentility.  It appreciated Miss
Ellen's devotion to her family, and acknowledged that a sense of duty
was a part of the character of a Christian female.  It protested that
it was far from the Reverend Mr. Spangler to interfere with that sense
of duty; on the contrary, he would share it; nay more, he would assist
it, for duty was, he hoped, the watchword of his life.  If Miss Baily
would consent to become his wife, Mr. Baily, he trusted, would make his
home with his sister.

Mr. Spangler may have been addicted to petticoats (in his own toilet)
and given to candles and other emblems of the Scarlet Woman, but his
letter, beneath its stilted phrase, was an honest, manly utterance, and
Ellen Baily read it, thrilling with happiness and love.

That was Friday, and she had only time to read those thin, blue pages
and thrust them into the bosom of her dress, when it was time to go to
school and hear her girls declare that the Amazon was the largest river
in South America; but we might have said it was the largest river in
Pennsylvania, and Miss Ellen would have gone on smiling at us.  At
recess we poured out into the garden, eager to say, "Goodness! do you
suppose he's popped?"  The older girls were especially excited, but
they took their usual furtive look about the garden before sitting down
on the steps to eat their luncheons.  Alas, He was not there!

"Perhaps," said Lydia Wright, "he has gone to the tomb."

This, for the moment, was deliciously saddening; but, after all, real
live love-making, even of very old people, is more fascinating than
dead romance.  Through the open window we could see Miss Ellen sitting
at her desk, writing.  There were some sheets of blue paper spread out
in front of her, and she would glance at them, and then write a little,
and then glance back again, and smile, and write.  But she did not look
troubled, or "cross," as the girls called it; so we knew it could not
be an exercise that she was correcting.  But when she came out to us,
and said, in a sweet, fluttered voice, "Children, will one of you take
this letter to the post-office?" we knew what it meant--for it was
addressed to the Reverend Mr. Spangler.  How we all ran with it to the
post-office!--giggling and palpitating and sighing as our individual
temperaments might suggest.  In fact, I know one girl who squeezed a
tear out of each eye, she was so moved.  When we came back, there was
Miss Baily still sitting at her desk, her cheek on one hand, her
smiling eyes fastened on those sheets of blue paper.  "Gracious," said
the girls, "what a long recess!" and told each other to be quiet and
not remind her to ring the bell.

Then suddenly something happened....

An old carry-all came shambling along the road; there were two people
in it, and one of them leaned over from the back seat and said to the
driver: "This is my house.  Stop here, please."  The girls, clustering
like pigeons on the sunny doorstep, began to fold up their
luncheon-boxes, and look sidewise, with beating hearts, towards the
gate--for it was _He_!  How graceful he was--how elegant in his
manners!  Ah, if our mothers had bidden us have manners like Mr.
David!--but they never did.  They used to say, "Try and behave as
politely as Miss Maria Welwood," or, "I hope you will be as modest in
your deportment as Miss Sally Smith."  And there was this model before
our eyes.  It makes my heart beat now to remember how He got out of
that rattling old carriage and turned and lifted his hat to a lady
inside, and gave her his hand (ah, me!) and held back her skirts as she
got out, and bowed again when she reached the ground.  She was not much
to look at; she was only the lady who was visiting at the
Stuffed-Animal House, and she was dressed in black, and her bonnet was
on one side.  They stood there together in the sunshine, and Mr. David
felt slowly in all his pockets; then he turned to us, sitting watching
him with beating hearts.

"Little girls," he said--he was near-sighted, and, absorbed as he
always was with sorrow, we never expected him to know our
names--"little girls, one of you, go in and ask my sister for two coach
fares, if you please."

We rose in a body and swarmed back into the school-room--just as Miss
Ellen with a start looked at the clock and put out her hand to ring the
bell.  "Mr. David says, please, ma'am, will you give him money for two
coach fares?"

Miss Ellen, rummaging in her pocket for her purse, said: "Yes, my love.
Will you take this to my brother?"  Just why she followed us as we ran
out into the garden with her purse perhaps she hardly knew herself.
But as she stood in the doorway, a little uncertain and wondering, Mr.
David led the shabby, shrinking lady up to her.

"My dear Ellen," he said, "I have a present for you--a _sister_."

Then the little, shabby lady stepped forward and threw herself on Miss
Ellen's shoulder.

"A sister?" Ellen Baily said, bewildered.

"We were married this morning in Upper Chester," said Mr. David, "and I
have brought her home.  Now we shall all be so happy!"



V

That evening Dr. Lavendar came home.  Of course all the real Old
Chester was on hand to welcome him.

When the stage came creaking up to the tavern steps, the old white head
was bare, and the broad-brimmed shabby felt hat was waving tremulously
in the air.

"Here I am," said Dr. Lavendar, clambering down stiffly from the
box-seat.  "What mischief have you all been up to?"

There was much laughing and hand-shaking, and Dr. Lavendar, blinking
very hard, and flourishing his red silk pocket-handkerchief, clapped
Mr. Spangler on the shoulder.

"Didn't I tell you about 'em?  Didn't I tell you they were the best
people going?  But we mustn't let 'em know it; makes 'em vain," said
Dr. Lavendar, with great show of secrecy.  "And look here, Sam Wright!
You fellows may congratulate yourselves.  Spangler here has had a fine
business offer made him, haven't you, Mr. Spangler? and it's just your
luck that you got him to supply for you before he left this part of the
country.  A little later he wouldn't have looked at Old Chester.  Hey,
Spangler?"

"Oh, that's settled," Mr. Spangler said.  "I declined--"

"Oh," said Dr. Lavendar, "have you?  Well, I'm sorry for 'em."

And Augustus Spangler smiled as heartily as anybody.  He had a letter
crushed up in his hand; he had read it walking down from the
post-office to the tavern, and now he was ready to say that Old Chester
was the finest place in the world.  He could hardly wait to get Dr.
Lavendar to himself in the rectory before telling him his great news
and giving him a little three-cornered note from Ellen Baily which had
been enclosed in his own letter.

"Well, well, _well_," said Dr. Lavendar.

He had put on a strange dressing-gown of flowered cashmere and his
worsted-work slippers, and made room for his shaggy old Danny in his
leather chair, and lighted his pipe.  "Now tell us the news!" he said.
And was all ready to hear about the Sunday-school teachers, and the
choir, and Sam Wright's Protestantism, and many other important things.
But not at all:--

"_I'm engaged to be married._"

"Well, well, well," said Dr. Lavendar, blinking and chuckling with
pleasure; then he read Ellen's little note.  "I had to tell you
myself," Ellen wrote him, "because I am so happy."  And then there were
a dozen lines in which her heart overflowed to this old friend.  "Dear
child, dear child," he murmured to himself.  To no one but Dr.
Lavendar--queer, grizzled, wrinkled old Dr. Lavendar, with never a
romance or a love-affair that anybody had ever heard of--could Miss
Ellen have showed her heart.  Even Mr. Spangler did not know that heart
as Dr. Lavendar did when he finished Ellen's little letter.--And Dr.
Lavendar didn't tell.  "I am so happy," said Miss Ellen.  Dr. Lavendar
may have looked at Mr. Spangler and wondered at the happiness.  But,
after all, wonder, on somebody's part, is a feature of every
engagement.  And if the wonder is caused only by the man's coat, and
not by his character, why be distressed about it?  Mr. Spangler was an
honest man; if his mind was narrow, it was at least sincere; if his
heart was timid, it was very kind; if his nature was lazy, it was clean
and harmless.  So why shouldn't Ellen Baily love him?  And why
shouldn't Dr. Lavendar bubble over with happiness in Ellen's happiness?

"She's the best girl in the world," he told Mr. Spangler.  "I
congratulate you.  She's a good child--a good child."

Mr. Spangler agreed, in a somewhat solemn manner.

"But David--how about David?"

"My house shall always be open to Mrs. Spangler's relatives," said Mr.
Spangler, with Christian pride.

"You are a good fellow, Spangler," Dr. Lavendar said; and listened,
chuckling, to Mr. Spangler's awkward and correct expressions of bliss.
For indeed he was very happy, and talked about Miss Ellen's virtues
(which so eminently qualified her to become his wife), as fatuously as
any lover could.

"Hi, you, Danny," said Dr. Lavendar, after half an hour of it, "stop
growling."

"There's somebody at the door," said Augustus Spangler, and went into
the entry to see who it was.  He came back with a letter, which he
read, standing by the table; then he sat down and looked white.  Dr.
Lavendar, joyously, was singing to himself:

  "'Ten-cent Jimmy and his minions
  Cannot down the Woolly Horse.'


"Spangler, we must drink to your very good health and prospects.  Let's
have Mary bring the glasses."

"I fear," said Mr. Spangler--he stopped, his voice unsteady.  "I
regret--"

"Hullo!" said Dr. Lavendar, looking at him over his spectacles; "what's
wrong?"

"I'm extremely sorry to say," said poor Mr. Spangler, "that--it can't
be."

"A good glass of wine," said Dr. Lavendar, "never hurt--"

"I refer," said Mr. Spangler, sighing, "to my relations with Miss Ellen
Baily."

Dr. Lavendar looked at him blankly.

"I have just received a letter," the poor man went on, "in which she
informs me that it can never be."  His lip trembled, but he held
himself very straight and placed the letter in his breast-pocket with
dignity.

"Spangler, what are you talking about?"

"It appears," said Mr. Spangler, "that her brother--"

"Fiddlesticks!" said Dr. Lavendar.  "Has Ellen started up some
fantastic conscientiousness?  Spangler, women's consciences are
responsible for much unhappiness in this world.  But I won't have it in
my parish!  I'll manage Ellen; trust me."  He pulled at his pipe, which
had gone out in these moments of agitation.  "I tell you, sir," he
said, striking a match on the bottom of his chair, "these saintly,
self-sacrificing women do a fine work for the devil, if they only knew
it, bless their hearts."

"You misapprehend," said Mr. Spangler, wretchedly; and then told Miss
Ellen's news.  It was brief enough, this last letter; there was no
blame of David; indeed, he had displayed, Miss Baily said, "a true
chivalry; but of course--"  "Of course," said Mr. Spangler.

But Dr. Lavendar broke out so fiercely that Danny squeaked and jumped
down out of the chair.  "Upon my word; upon my word, Spangler, what
were you thinking of to let it go on?  If I had been at home, it would
never--upon my _word_!"  This was one of the times that Dr. Lavendar
felt the limitations of his office in regard to language.  Mr.
Spangler, his elbows on his knees, his chin on hands, was staring
miserably at the floor.

"I shall, I trust, meet it in the proper spirit," he said.

Dr. Lavendar nodded.  "Of course," he said.  "Fortunately, she is
dealing with a man who has backbone--perhaps."

Mr. Spangler sighed.  "I regret to say that her presence in her school
under the circumstances does seem imperative."

Dr. Lavendar lighted his pipe.  "Do you mean on account of money,
Spangler?"

"The support of Mr. David Baily and this--this _female_, must be met, I
suppose, by Miss Baily's school."

"You are not so situated that you--" began Dr. Lavendar, delicately.

"My circumstances," said Augustus Spangler, "are not affluent.  I have
my residence in Mercer; and I supply, as you know.  But my income
barely suffices for one.  Four--would be out of the question."

Dr. Lavendar looked at Ellen's little, happy note, lying half open on
the table.  "Poor old jack-donkey of a David!" he groaned.

"His selfishness," said Augustus Spangler, between his teeth, his voice
suddenly trembling with anger, "is perfectly incomprehensible to
me--perfectly incomprehensible!  I endeavor always to exercise charity
in judging any human creature; but--really, _really_!"

"It isn't selfishness as much as silliness.  David hasn't mind enough
to be deliberately selfish.  The poor fellow never thought.  He never
has thought.  Ellen has always done the thinking for the family.  Well,
the harm's done.  But, Spangler--" the old man stopped and glanced
sharply at the forlorn and angry man opposite him.  Yes, he certainly
seemed very unhappy;--and as for Ellen!  Dr. Lavendar could not bear
that thought.  "Spangler, I'll stand by you.  I won't let her offer you
up as well as herself.  There must be some way out."

Mr. Spangler shook his head hopelessly.  "The support of four persons
on my small stipend is impossible."

"Spangler, my boy!" said Dr. Lavendar, suddenly, "there is a way out.
What an old fool I am not to have thought of it!  My dear fellow"--Dr.
Lavendar leaned over and tapped Mr. Spangler's knee, chuckling
aloud--"_that secretaryship_!"

"Secretaryship?" Mr. Spangler repeated, vaguely.

"You declined it?  I know.  But I don't believe Brown's got a man yet.
I heard from him on another matter, yesterday, and he didn't say he
had.  Anyway, it's worth trying for.  We can telegraph him to-morrow,"
said Dr. Lavendar, excitedly.

Mr. Spangler stared at him in bewilderment.  "But," he said,
breathlessly, "I--I don't think--I fear I am not fit."  He felt as if
caught in a sudden wind; his face grew red with agitation.  "I declined
it!" he ended, gasping.

"Fit?" said Dr. Lavendar.  "My dear man, what fitness is needed?
There's nothing to it, Spangler, I assure you."  Dr. Lavendar was very
much in earnest; he sat forward on the edge of his chair and
gesticulated with his pipe.  "Don't be too modest, my boy."

"Business entails such responsibilities," Mr. Spangler began, in a
frightened voice.

"Oh, but this is mere routine," Dr. Lavendar interrupted; "they want a
clergyman--somebody with tact.  There's a good deal of church politics
in it, I suppose, and they've got to have somebody who would never step
on anybody's toes."

"I would never do that," said Mr. Spangler, earnestly, "but--"

"No," said Dr. Lavendar, abruptly, his voice changing--"no, Spangler,
you never would."  Then he was silent for a moment, pulling on his
pipe, wondering perhaps, in spite of himself, at Ellen.  "No, you never
would.  You see, you are just the man for the place.  Brown said they
wanted somebody who was presentable; he said they didn't need any
particular abil--I mean any particular business ability."

"But," said Mr. Spangler, "to give up my sacred calling--"

"Spangler, come now! you don't 'call' very loudly, do you?  There, my
dear boy, let an old fellow have his joke.  I merely mean you don't
preach as often as if you had a regular parish.  And you can supply,
you know, there just as well as here."

"The Master's service is my first consideration," said Augustus
Spangler.

Dr. Lavendar looked at him over his spectacles.  "Mr. Spangler, the
Christian business-man serves the Master just as well as we do."

"I should wish to reflect," said Mr. Spangler.

"Of course."

"Miss Baily would, I fear, object to going so far away."

"If the place is still open, I'll manage Ellen," said Dr. Lavendar; but
he looked at Mr. Spangler narrowly.  "And your own entreaties will, of
course, weigh with her if you show determination.  I think you told me
you were pretty determined?"

"I have," said Mr. Spangler, "an iron will; but that would not justify
me in insisting if Miss Baily--"  His voice trailed off; it rose before
him--the far-off, bustling city, the office, the regular hours, the
people whose toes must not be stepped upon, the letters to write and
read, the papers to file, all the exact minutiae the position involved.
And his comfortable old house? his leisure? his ease?  And Mary Ann?
Mary Ann would never consent to go so far!  "I--I really--" he began.

Dr. Lavendar frowned.  "Mr. Spangler, I would not seem to urge you.
Ellen is too dear to us for that.  But if you appreciate her as I
suppose you do--"

"I do indeed!" broke in poor Augustus Spangler, fervently.

"The way is probably open to you."

"But--" said Mr. Spangler, and then broke out, with marked agitation;
"I--I really don't see how I could possibly--"  Yet even as he spoke he
thought of Ellen's sweet eyes.  "Good Heavens!" said Mr. Spangler,
passionately; "what shall I do?"

But Dr. Lavendar was silent.  Mr. Spangler got up and began to walk
about.

"My affection and esteem," he said, almost weeping, "are unquestioned.
But there are other considerations."

Dr. Lavendar said nothing.

"It is a cruel situation," said Mr. Spangler.

Dr. Lavendar looked down at his pipe.

There was a long silence.  Augustus Spangler walked back and forth.
Dr. Lavendar said never a word.

"A man must consider his own fitness for such a position," Mr. Spangler
said, pleadingly.

"Perhaps," Dr. Lavendar observed, mildly, "Ellen's affections are not
very deeply engaged?  It will be better so."

"But they are!" cried Mr. Spangler.  "I assure you that they are!  And
I--I was so happy," said the poor man; and sniffed suddenly, and tried
to find the pocket in his coat-tails.

Dr. Lavendar looked at him out of the corner of his eye.

Mr. Spangler stood stock-still; he opened and shut his hands, his lips
were pressed hard together.  He seemed almost in bodily pain, for a
slight moisture stood out on his forehead.  He was certainly in
spiritual pain.  The Ideal of Sacrifice was being born in Mr.
Spangler's soul.  His mild, kind, empty face grew almost noble;
certainly it grew very solemn.

"Dr. Lavendar," he said, in a low voice, "_I will do it._"

Dr. Lavendar was instantly on his feet; there was a grip of the hand,
and, for a moment, no words.

"I'll telegraph Mr. Brown," said Mr. Spangler, breathlessly.

"So will I!" said Dr. Lavendar.

Mr. Spangler was scarlet with heroism.  "It means giving up my house
and my very congenial surroundings, and I fear Mary Ann will feel too
old to accompany me; but with--with Ellen!"

"She's worth six Mary Anns, whoever Mary Ann may be," said Dr. Lavendar.

"You may have thought me hesitant," said Mr. Spangler, "but I felt that
I must weigh the matter thoroughly."

"Why, certainly, man.  It was your duty to think what was best for
Ellen."

"Exactly," Mr. Spangler said, getting his breath again, and beginning
to feel very happy.  "And duty is, I hope, my watchword; but I had to
reflect," he ended, a little uncomfortably.

But Dr. Lavendar would not let him be uncomfortable.  They sat down
again, and Dr. Lavendar filled another pipe, and until long after
midnight they talked things over--the allowance to be made to David and
his bride, the leasing of the house in Mercer, the possible obduracy of
Mary Ann, and, most of all, the fine conduct of the Reverend Mr.
Spangler.

But when they had said good-night, Dr. Lavendar sat awhile longer by
his fireside, his pipe out, his old white head on his breast.

"The minute I get back," he said to himself after a while,
sheepishly--"the minute I get back I poke my finger into somebody
else's pie.  But I think 'twas right: Ellen loves him; and he's not a
bad man.--And Brown don't want brains."

Then he chuckled and got up, and blew out the lamp.



THE NOTE


I

Of course everybody in Old Chester knew that there was something queer
about Mary Gordon's marriage--not the mere fact of the man, queer as he
was; for, to Old Chester's ideas, he was very queer....  A
"travelling-man," to begin with--and the Gordons had a line of scholars
and professional men behind them--a drummer, if you please.  In theory,
Old Chester was religiously democratic; it plumed itself upon its
Christian humility, and every Sunday it publicly acknowledged that Old
Chesterians were like the rest of humanity to the extent of being
miserable sinners.  But, all the same, that Mary Gordon should marry a
"person" of that sort--

"Dear me!" said Old Chester.

However, travelling-men may be worthy; they need not necessarily use
perfumery or put pomade upon their shiny, curly, black hair.  But Mr.
Algernon Keen was obviously not worthy, and he was saturated with
perfumery, and his black, curly hair was sleek with oil.  Furthermore,
he was very handsome: his lips were weak and pouting and red; his eyes
liquid and beautiful; his plump cheeks slightly pink.  One may believe
that such physical characteristics do not imply moral qualities; but
only youth has such a belief.  When one has lived a little while in the
world, one comes to know that a human soul prisoned in such pretty
flesh is piteously hampered.  Yet Mary Gordon, meeting this poor
creature by chance, fell deeply in love with him.  Of course such
falling in love was queer--it was inexplainable; for Mary was a nice
girl--not, of course, of the caliber of some Old Chester girls; she had
not the mind of Alice Gray nor the conscience of Sally Smith; but she
was a quiet, biddable, good child--at least so far as anybody knew.
But nobody knew much about her.  In the first place, the Gordons lived
just far enough out of Old Chester to miss its neighborliness.  Mary
was not often seen in town, and in her own home her brother Alex's loud
personality crushed her into a colorless silence.  Her father did not
crush her--he merely did not notice her; but he was fond of her--at
least he had the habit of indifferent affection.  She always came into
the library to say good-night to him; and he, sitting by the fire in a
big, winged chair, a purple silk handkerchief spread over his white
locks, to keep off possible draughts, would turn his cheek up to her
mechanically; but the soft touch of her lips never made him lift his
eyes from his book.  She never kissed Alex good-night; she was openly
afraid of him.  Alex was rude to her and made her wait on him, throwing
her a curt "thank you" once in a while, generally coupled with some
sarcastic reference to her slowness or stupidity--for, indeed, the
child was both slow and stupid.  Perhaps, had she been loved--  But no
one can tell now how that would have been.  At any rate, there was a
pathetic explanation of loneliness to account for the fact that she was
drawn to this Algernon Keen, who had nothing to recommend him except a
cheap and easy kindliness that cost him no effort and was bestowed on
everybody.

[Illustration: "SHE ALWAYS CAME INTO THE LIBRARY TO SAY GOOD-NIGHT TO
HIM"]

Of course the two men, her father and brother, refused to consider Keen
as Mary's suitor at all.  Alex nearly had a fit over it; in his rage
and mortification he took all Old Chester into his confidence.  He went
to the Tavern--this was the day after Mary had, trembling and crying,
told her little love affair to her father and begged his consent--Alex
went to the Tavern and ordered the snickering, perfumed youth out of
town.

"Well, I guess not," said Algy.  "This town doesn't belong to you, does
it?"

Alex stammered with passion: "If--if you dare to address Miss Gordon
again, I'll--I'll--I'll horsewhip you," he said, his pale eyes bulging
from his crimsoning face.

"I guess Mary has a right to let me talk to her if she wants to; this
is a free country," the other blustered.  And Alex, loudly, on the
Tavern steps, cursed him for a skunk, a--  Well, Old Chester was never
able to quote Alex.  He came to his senses after this dreadful
exhibition of himself, and was horribly mortified.  But
post-mortification cannot undo the deed, and before night everybody in
Old Chester knew that Mary Gordon had fallen in love with--"the person
who brings samples to Tommy Dove's apothecary shop."

Old Chester was truly sorry for Mary; "for," as Mrs. Barkley said,
"love's love, whether it's suitable or not; and Mary has such a lonely
life, poor child!  Well, it will take time for her to get over it."

It seemed to take a good deal of time.  That winter she grew pale and
was often ill.  The poor little thing seemed to creep into her shell to
brood over her blighted hopes.  Once she was downright sick for a week,
and Mr. Gordon sent for William King.  Willy said at first that Mary
had something on her mind (which certainly Mary's family did not need
to be told).

"I believe she's thinking about that scoundrel yet," said Alex.  "But
she has just got to understand that we'll never allow it, Willy.  You
may as well make that clear to her, and let her get over her moping."

William King looked thoughtful and said he would call again.

However, any of us Old Chester girls could have enlightened the doctor.
"Mary was pining away for her lover;" that was all there was to it.
But the lover never appeared, being engaged in offering samples of
pomade and perfumery to apothecary stores in other regions.  And then,
suddenly, the queer thing happened....

The _Globe_ announced: "Married--by Dr. Lavendar, Mary Gordon to
Algernon Keen"--and the date, which was the night before.

"_What!_" said Old Chester at the breakfast-table, and gaped out of its
windows to see Mary, crying very much, get into the stage, not at her
father's house, but at the Tavern door, if you please, and drive away
with the Person.  What did it mean?  "Was Alex at home?  Did he
consent?" demanded Old Chester; for Alex had been away from home for a
week.  By noon it was decided that Alex had consented; for it came out
that he had returned to Old Chester the previous afternoon, and with
him, shrinking into the corner of the stage, was Mr. Algy Keen.

"Get out," Alex said to him when the stage drew up at the Gordon house.
The man got out, shambling and stumbling, with a furtive look over his
shoulder, for Alex Gordon walked behind him to the front door, his
right hand gripped upon his walking-stick, his left clinched at his
side.

"He kep' just behind the feller," the stage-driver told Van Horn at the
Tavern afterwards--"just behind him, like as if he was afraid the
feller'd run away from him.  But the feller, he stopped right at the
steps, and he turned around, and he says, 'Mind you,' he says (mad as a
hatter)--'mind you,' he says, 'I'm not _brought_, I've
_come_';--whatever that means," the stage-driver ruminated.

So much Old Chester knew the day after Mary Gordon's wedding.  And it
naturally sought to know a little more.

"I suppose her father feels it very much?" ventured Mrs. Barkley to Dr.
Lavendar.

"Any man feels the marriage of his only girl," said Dr. Lavendar,
briefly.  And Mrs. Barkley held her tongue.  But Mrs. Drayton, who was
just then anxious about her soul and found it necessary to consult Dr.
Lavendar as to the unpardonable sin--Mrs. Drayton was not so easily
squelched.  "My Jean says that the Gordon's Rachel told her that Alex
brought the man into the house by the ear, and then sent her for you,
running, and--"

"She didn't bring me into the house by the ear," said Dr. Lavendar.

"But why, do you suppose, was it all so sudden?" said Mrs. Drayton; "it
almost looks--"

"How do you know it was sudden?" said Dr. Lavendar.

"Well, my Jean said--"

"It may have been sudden to Jean," said the old man; "possibly Mary had
not taken Jean into her confidence.  Some folks don't confide in
servants, you know."

But Mrs. Drayton was proof against so delicate a thrust.  "Well, I only
hope she won't repent at her leisure;--if there's nothing but haste to
repent of.  If there's anything else--"

"I'll say good-day, Mrs. Drayton," interrupted Dr. Lavendar; "and as
for your question about the unpardonable sin, ma'am, why, just be ready
to forgive other folks and you needn't be afraid of the unpardonable
sin for yourself."

He took his hat and stick and went thumping down-stairs.  In the hall
he met William King going up to see the invalid, and said, with a gasp:
"Willy, my boy, a good, honest murderer is easier to deal with than
some milder kinds of wrong-doing."

"Dr. Lavendar," said William, "I'd rather have a patient with small-pox
than treat some lighter ills that I could name."

As for Mrs. Drayton, she told her daughter that Dr. Lavendar was very
unspiritual, and did not understand the distress of a sensitive
temperament.  "Even the slightest error fills me with remorse," said
Mrs. Drayton.  "Dear me!  I should think Mary Gordon would know what
remorse is--for, of course, there is only one thing to think."



II

Old Chester thought the one thing.  No evasions of Dr. Lavendar's, no
miserable silence on the part of the disgraced father and the
infuriated brother, could banish that one thought.  But nothing
definite was known.  "Although," as everybody said to everybody else,
"of course, Dr. Lavendar knows the whole thing, and probably Willy King
does, too."  If they did, they kept their knowledge to themselves.  But
Dr. Lavendar went often to the Gordon house that winter.  "They're
pretty lonely, those two men," he told Willy once--perhaps six months
afterwards.

"Would either of them have softened if the baby had lived, do you
think, sir?" William said.  And Dr. Lavendar shook his head.

"Perhaps her father might.  But Alex will never forgive her, I'm
afraid."

And Alex never did forgive her--not even when she died, as, happily,
she did six or seven years later.  She died; and life closed over the
miserable little tragedy as water closes, rippling, over some poor,
broken thing flung into its depths.

"_Thank God!_" Alex said, when he heard she was gone.

"You may thank God for her," Dr. Lavendar said, turning upon him
sternly, "but ask mercy for yourself, because this door of opportunity
is shut upon you forever."

Dr. Lavendar had brought them the news.  They did not ask how it had
come to him; it was enough to hear it.  The two men, Mary's father and
brother, listened while he told them, briefly: "She died yesterday.
The funeral will be to-morrow, at twelve."

"Thank God!" Alex said, hoarsely, and lifted his hand and cursed the
man who had dishonored them.

And Dr. Lavendar turned upon him in solemn anger.  "Your opportunity is
gone--so far as she is concerned.  There yet remains, however, the
poor, foolish sinner whom she loved--"

"Damn him!" said Alex.

"_--and who loved her._"

Old Mr. Gordon dropped his face in his hands and groaned.

"Who loved her," Dr. Lavendar repeated.

"For that, at least, he cannot be indifferent to us, whatever he has
made us suffer."

Neither of his listeners spoke.  It was growing dark in the long room,
walled to the ceiling with books and lighted only by a fire sputtering
in the grate.  Mr. Gordon, sitting in his big, winged chair close to
the hearth, said, after a long pause: "You said--to-morrow, Edward?
Where?"

"In Mercer.  I shall go up on the morning stage."

Again the silence fell.  Alex got up and walked to the window and
looked out.  "Why didn't you bring Danny in, Dr. Lavendar?" he said,
carelessly; "the little brute will freeze out there in your buggy.
I'll call him in."  He turned to leave the room, and then stopped.

"Alexander, _sit down_," said Dr. Lavendar.

Alex sat down with involuntary quickness; then he threw his legs out in
front of him and thrust his hands down into his pockets.  "Dr.
Lavendar, this is our affair.  I'm obliged to you for your kind
intentions; but this is our affair.  You've told your news, and we have
listened respectfully--if I should say gladly you might be shocked.  So
I only say respectfully.  But you have spoken; we have listened.  That
is all there is to it.  The thing is finished.  The book is closed.  I
say thank God!  I don't know what my father says.  If he takes my
advice, for I've been a good son to him; I never gave him any cause to
be ashamed;--if he takes my advice, he'll forget the whole affair.
That's what I mean to do.  The book is closed.  I shall never think of
it again."  He got up and walked about with affectation of vast
indifference.

"Alex, you will probably never think of anything else," Dr. Lavendar
said, half pitifully; and then, sternly, again: "I can't make you
accept the opportunity that still is open to you; but I will point it
out to you: Come up to Mercer to-morrow with your father and me."

"Mercer!" the younger man cried out, furiously; "you mean to see her
buried?  To dance on her grave and pull the man out and spit in his
face and--"  He stopped, his face suddenly purpling, his light eyes
staring and rolling; then he stumbled and jerked himself together, and
lurched forward into a chair, breathing loudly.  The two old men,
trembling with horror, ran to him.  "Oh, Edward," John Gordon
said--"oh, Edward, why did you rouse him?  He can't speak of it, he
can't think of it.  Alex--there!--we'll say no more about it."

[Illustration: "LURCHED FORWARD INTO A CHAIR, BREATHING LOUDLY"]

Alex stared at them with glassy eyes, in silence; his father kept
bemoaning himself and imploring his old friend to say no more.  "You
won't speak of it again, Edward?  He goes out of his head with rage.
Promise me not to speak of it any more."

"No, John; no," Dr. Lavendar said, sadly; and as Alex's eyes cleared
into bewildered consciousness, the old minister stood a little aside
while the father helped the son to his feet and led him away.  When he
came back, shuffling feebly down the long, darkening room, Dr. Lavendar
was still sitting by the fire.  "He's quiet now; I--I think he's
ashamed.  I hope so.  But he won't come out of his room."

Dr. Lavendar nodded.

John Gordon spread his purple handkerchief over his white locks, with
shaking hands, and then sat down, tumbling back in his chair in a
forlorn heap.  "Edward," he said, feebly, "tell me about it.  It was on
Thursday?  Had she been sick long?"  Then, in a low voice, "She--didn't
lack for comforts?"

"No; I think not.  The man was as tender with her as--as you might have
been.  She was sick--I mean in bed--two weeks.  She had been ailing for
a long time; you remember I spoke to you about it about a month ago.
And again last week."

"You--saw her?"

"Yes."

"More than once?"

"Oh, many times," Dr. Lavendar said, simply; "many times, of course."

John Gordon put out his hand; Dr. Lavendar shook it silently.  Then
suddenly the old man broke out, in weak, complaining anger: "He
wouldn't let me write to her.  I would have sent her some money.  He
wouldn't hear of it.  He was awful, Edward.  I--I didn't dare."

Dr. Lavendar was silent.  It had grown so dark that he could not see
the father's face.  Suddenly, from behind the leafless trees at the
foot of the garden, a smouldering yellow glow of sunset broke across
the gloom of the room, and touched the purple cowl and the veined hands
covering the aged face.  Dr. Lavendar sighed.

"What can I do, Edward?  I can't go to-morrow.  You see I can't."

"Yes, you can, John."

"He would die; he'd have another attack.  His heart is bad, Edward."

"Oh, I'm afraid it is, I'm afraid it is.  But John, you do your duty.
Never mind Alex's heart.  That isn't your affair."

"Oh, I couldn't possibly go--not possibly," the father protested,
nervously.

The glow died out.  The room grew dusk and then dark.  Mr. Gordon got
up and reached to the mantel-shelf for a spill.  "Mary used to make the
spills for me," he said, vaguely.  "Now our Rachel does it, and she
doesn't half bend the end over."  He lighted the spill, the little
flame flickering upon his poor old face peering out from under his
purple handkerchief.  "Oh, Alex ought not to be so hard.  I would go
with you to-morrow, Edward, but I can't, you know.  I can't."  Then,
with a shaking hand, he took off the ground-glass globe and lighted the
tall lamp that stood among a litter of papers on the library-table.
"You see how it is, Edward, don't you?  I can't possibly go."

"You will be sorry if you don't, John."

"I'll be sorry anyhow," he burst out.  "I'm always sorry.  I've been
sorry all my life.  My children are my sorrow."



III

Algy Keen, his face swollen with crying, his black hair limp and
uncurled, sat on the edge of the bed in the back room of a dingy Mercer
lodging-house.  The windows had been left open after Mary had been
taken away, so that the room was cold; and there were still two chairs
facing each other,--a certain distance apart.  The room was in dreary
order, and there was the scent of flowers in the chill air.  The bed
was tumbled, for the forlorn man had dropped down upon it to rest.  But
he was too tired to rest, and was sitting up again, dangling his
stockinged feet on the shabby carpet and talking to Dr. Lavendar.  He
snuffled, and his poor, weak lips shook, and he rubbed the back of his
trembling hand across his nose.  Algy had had broken nights for a
fortnight, and the last three days and nights of Mary's life he had
almost no sleep at all; these two days when she lay dead in their bare
room he had slept and wept and slept again; and now, when he and Dr.
Lavendar had come back from the funeral, he sat on the edge of the bed
and whimpered with weakness and grief.

"Well, sir, she was a good girl," he said.  "I don't care what anybody
says, she was a good girl.  I ain't saying that things was just right,
to begin with.  But that wasn't Mary's fault.  No; she was a good girl.
And her folks treated her bad.  They'd always treated her mean bad.  My
goodness! if they'd 'a' let me come to see her respectable, as you
would any of your lady friends, 'stead of skulkin' 'round--... _I can't
stand the smell of those flowers_," he broke out, in a high, crying
voice; "I left them all out there at the cemetery, and I smell them
here--I smell them here," he moaned, trembling.

"I like to smell them," Dr. Lavendar said.  "They mean the old
friendship for Mary.  Mrs. King sent them.  She's our doctor's wife in
Old Chester.  She always liked Mary."

"I don't see how she could help it," Algy said, his face crumpling with
tears.  "Well, she was a good girl.  And she was a good wife, sir, too.
I tell you, you never saw a better wife.  I used to come home tired,
and there'd be my slippers out for me.  Yes, sir; she never missed it.
And she was always pleasant, too; you mayn't call just being pleasant,
religion, but I--"

"I do," Dr. Lavendar interposed.

"Well, so do I," Algy said, his face lightening a little.  "I call it a
better religion than her folks showed.  Well, now, sir, I loved
Mary"--he stopped and cried, openly--"I loved her (I didn't need that
hell-hound of a brother to come after me)--yes, I was just as fond of
her; and yet there was times when I come home at night--not--not
quite--well, maybe a little--you know?"

"Yes," said Dr. Lavendar.

"But, my God, sir, Mary was pleasant.  It isn't every woman that would
be pleasant then, is it?"

"No, it isn't, Algy."

"Course, next day she'd tell me I done wrong.  (She never told me so at
the time--Mary had sense.)  And I always said: 'Well, yes, Mary, that's
so.  And I'll never do it again.'  But she was pleasant.  Course I
don't mean she was lively.  She used to remember--well, that we'd made
a mistake.  _You_ know?  And she used to kind a brood on it.  She
talked to you considerably about it, I guess.  She said you comforted
her.  She said you said that maybe her--her mistake had brought her to
be kind o' more religious--saved her, as you might say."

"I said that she had come to know her Saviour through His forgiveness."

"I don't think Mary needed any forgiveness," the poor husband said,
with tearful resentment; "I think her folks needed it."

"I'm sorry for them," Dr. Lavendar said.  "They have got to remember
that they might have been kinder.  That's a hard thing to have to
remember."

The young man nodded.  "I hope they'll remember it, hard!"

"They will," said Dr. Lavendar, sighing.

"I spent my last cent on Mary," Algernon rambled on.  "I got her a good
coffin--a stylish coffin.  The plate was solid silver.  The man wanted
me to take a plated one.  I says 'no,' I says; 'I don't get plated
things for my wife if it takes my last cent.'  Well, it just about took
it.  But I don't care.  Her people threw her off, and I did for her.  I
spent my last cent."

"You took her from them in the first place, Algernon," the old minister
said.  "Don't forget that you sinned."

"Well, you said she was forgiven," the other broke out, angrily.  "I
guess God's more easy than some people."

"He is."

"Well, then," Algy said, resentfully; "what's the use of talking?"

Dr. Lavendar was silent.

"I don't begrudge a cent I spent on her," Algy went on.  "I had laid by
$1140 to set up a place of my own here in Mercer.  At least, it wasn't
me; I'm not one to save much; it was Mary did it.  But these last eight
months have taken it all, 'cause I 'ain't done hardly any work;
couldn't be away from her on the road, you know; so we had to live on
that money.  I could 'a' got a cheaper coffin; but I wouldn't.  As for
the doctor, I got the best in town.  I don't believe in economizing on
your wife.  And I paid him.  I paid him $204 yesterday morning, though
it seems high, considering he didn't cure her.  But I wasn't going to
let Mary get buried owing the doctor.  And I paid for the coffin.
'Spot cash,' I says to the man, 'make it spot cash, and name your
figure.'  He took off $17.  Well, how much do you suppose I've got left
now, Dr. Lavendar, out of $1140?  Just $23, sir.  I don't care; I don't
begrudge Mary a cent.  I thought the coffin looked handsome, didn't
you?--_Oh, I wish somebody had 'a' moved those chairs when we were
gone!_" he cried, his voice shrill and breaking.

Dr. Lavendar got up and pushed one of the chairs back against the wall
and brought the other to Algy's side.  The young man laid his hand on
it and began to cry.



IV

"No, I suppose you don't care to hear about it, John.  But I want to
tell you; so I guess you'll listen to please me?"

John Gordon said nothing.

"It isn't a long story," Dr. Lavendar said, and told him briefly of the
funeral.  When he ended there was silence.  Then, "John," Dr. Lavendar
said.

"Yes, Edward."

"The man is in need."

"What's that to me?" the other burst out.

"Much," said Dr. Lavendar; "it gives you a chance."

"You mean a chance to give him some money?" said the other.  "Good God!
To pay the scoundrel for what he did to us?  Edward, you don't
understand human nature."

"He spent his last cent making Mary comfortable, John.  She told me so
herself."

"I will never give that--creature one penny of my clean money."

Dr. Lavendar said nothing.

The older man bent forward, shivering, and stirred the fire.  The coal
broke into sputtering fragments and the flames roared up into the soot.
"Alex would never listen to giving him any money."

"Don't ask him to listen to it.  Haven't you got your own check-book?"

"Let him rot.  That's what Alex says."

"I don't believe it's what you say, John, because he was good to
Mary;--and you were not."

Mr. Gordon groaned.

"Well, I won't give him anything; I'll lend it, possibly."

Dr. Lavendar frowned and got up.

Mr. Gordon put out a trembling, detaining hand.

"Edward, you don't understand....  How much do you want for him?"

"He had saved about $1200 to go into some business.  It's all gone."

"Well, I won't give it to him," the other repeated, with feeble
sharpness; "I'll lend it--to please you."

"I'm sorry you haven't a better motive."

John Gordon got up and went over to his library-table and fumbled about
in one of the drawers for his check-book.  "I'm a fool," he said,
fretfully; "I don't know but what I'm worse.  Lending money to--  But
you say he was good to her?  Poor Mary!  Oh!" he ended, half to
himself, "I don't know why Alex is so hard."  Then he took his quill
and began to scrawl his check.  "I'd rather see him starve," he said.

"No, you wouldn't," Dr. Lavendar said, calmly.

"Well, there!  Take it!  Get a receipt."

"Johnny, think better of it."

"You needn't take it if you don't want to," the other said, sullenly.

Dr. Lavendar took it, and John Gordon called after him,

"You won't tell Alex?"

Dr. Lavendar shook his head and sighed.  As he drove home he said to
himself that a loan was better than nothing.  "But, Danny, my boy," he
added, "what a chance he had!  Well, he'll take it yet--he'll take it
yet.  The trouble with me, Daniel, is, I'm in too much of a hurry to
make folks good.  I must reform."

Danny blinked a grave agreement, and Dr. Lavendar, dropping his
shortcomings joyfully from his mind, began to sing to himself:

  "Oh! what has caused this great commotion--motion--motion
  Our country through?"


When, however, a day or two later, Dr. Lavendar went up to Mercer to
take the check to Algernon Keen, he found to his astonishment that it
was not so easy to secure to his old friend even the smaller and meaner
opportunity of lending, much less giving.

At first, Algernon looked at him open-mouthed.  "_Him_--offering to
lend money to--?"  His astonishment robbed him of words.  Then into his
poor, shallow face came the first keen touch of shame.  But instantly
he was ashamed of his shame,--ashamed, like so many of us strange human
creatures, of the stirring of God within him.  He didn't want their
dirty money, he said.  They thought themselves so good, they couldn't
stomach Mary.  Well, then, they were too good for him to touch their
money.  His voice shook with angry grief.  His bitterness was genuine,
even though he used it to hide that first regenerative pang of shame.
No; Dr. Lavendar could take their money back to them.  "I spent my last
cent, just about, on Mary," he said; "and I didn't begrudge it, either."

"I'm sure you didn't begrudge it."

Algy's weak mouth shook and his eyes filled; he turned away and stared
out of the window.  "He better have offered to lend her some money than
me," he said.  "I bet he's glad she's dead."

(Dr. Lavendar thought of Alex.)  "He wants to help you now for her
sake," he said.

"I don't want his money," the younger man insisted, brokenly; "he let
her die."

"I think that it would please her to have you take it."

"I don't want to be under obligations to those people," Algernon said,
doggedly.

"If Mr. Gordon has your note, it's business."

Algy hesitated.  "I suppose he thinks I'd never pay it back?"

"If he takes your note, it looks as if he expected to be repaid."

"It's treating me white, I'll say that," Algernon said.  And again his
face reddened slowly to his forehead and he would not meet Dr.
Lavendar's eye.  "But I don't want their favors," he cried,
threateningly.

"It's business, if you give your note," Dr. Lavendar repeated.  "Come,
Algernon, let her father do something for her sake.  And as for
you--it's a chance to play the man; don't you see that?"

Algy caught his breath.  "Damn!--if I borrowed his money I'd pay
it--I'd pay it, if it took the blood out of me."

"I will make your feeling clear to him," Dr. Lavendar said.  "Let's
make out the note now, Algy."

The old man got up and hunted about for pen and paper.  "Here's a
prescription blank," he said; "that will do."  An ink-bottle stood on
the narrow mantel-shelf, a rusty pen corroding in its thickening
depths; but Dr. Lavendar, in a very small, shaky old hand, managed to
scrawl that "Algernon Keen, for value received, promised to pay to John
Gordon--"

--"in a year," Algy broke in; "I ain't going to have it run but a
year--and put in the interest, sir.  I'll have no favors from 'em.
I'll pay interest; I'll pay six per cent.--like anybody else would."

--"and interest on same," Dr. Lavendar added.  "Now, you sign here,
Algy.  There! that will please Mary."

"Oh, my!" said Algernon, his poor, red-rimmed eyes filling--"oh, my!
my! what will I do without her?"



V

The next day Dr. Lavendar carried the note back to old John Gordon, who
took it, his mouth tightening, and glanced at it in silence.  Then he
shuffled over to a safe in the corner of his library and pulled out a
japanned tin box.  Dr. Lavendar watched him fumble with the combination
lock, holding the box up to catch the light, and shaking it a little
until the lid clicked open.  "He'll never pay it," John Gordon said.

"He'll try to," Dr. Lavendar said; "but it's doubtful, of course.  He's
a sickly fellow, and he hasn't much gumption.  But if there's any good
in him, your trusting him will bring it out."

"There isn't any good in him," the other said, violently.

And that was the last they said about it; for the time Algernon Keen
dropped out of their lives.

He set up his little store in Mercer, and struggled along, advertising
his samples of perfumery and pomade upon his own person; trying to
drink a little less, for Mary's sake; whimpering with loneliness and
sick-headache in his grimy room in the hotel where Mary had died; and
never forgetting for a day that promise to pay on the back of the
prescription paper in John Gordon's possession.  But when the year came
round, on the 2d of December, he had not a cent in hand to meet his
obligation.  And that was why Dr. Lavendar heard of him again.  Would
the doctor--this on perfumed paper, ruled, and with gilt edges--would
the doctor "ask him if he would extend?"  Algernon could pay the
interest now; but that was all he could do.  He wasn't in very good
shape, he said.  He'd been in the hospital for a month, and had had to
hire a salesman.  "I guess he cheated me; he was a kind of fancy
talker, and got me to let him buy some stock; he got off his slice, I
bet."  That was the reason, Algy said, that he could not make any
payment on the principal.  But he was going to introduce a new article
for the lips (no harmful drugs in it), called Rosebloom--first-class
thing; and he expected he'd do first rate with it.  And in another year
he'd surely pay that note.  It hung over him, he said, like a ton.  "I
guess he don't want it paid any more than I want to pay it," Algy
ended, simply.

Of course Dr. Lavendar asked for an extension, and got it, though John
Gordon's lip curled.  "I never expected to hear from him or his note
again," he said.  "Probably his honesty won't last over another year."

Dr. Lavendar went up to Mercer to see Algy, and they talked things over
in the store between the calls of two customers.  Algy's hair was sleek
and curly as before, for business is business; but he looked draggled
and forlorn; his color had gone and he was thinner, and there were
lines on his forehead, and his bright, hazel eyes, kind and shallow as
those of some friendly animal, had come into their human birthright of
worry.  "It's this note that takes the spunk out of me," he said.  "If
I could only get it paid!  Then I'd hire a house and have the shop in
front.  I've thought some I'd get married, too.  It's hard on your
digestion living in one of these here cheap hotels.  But I can't get
over thinking of Mary.  I don't seem to relish other ladies.  I suppose
they're all right; but Mary was so pleasant."  And his eyes reddened.
"And, anyway, it would cost more to keep a wife, and I don't propose to
spend money that way.  _He's_ treated me white, I'll say that for him;
and I propose to show him--Dr. Lavendar, I haven't drunk too much only
three times in the last year--honest, I haven't.  I thought you'd think
that would please Mary?"

"I'm sure it does," said Dr. Lavendar.

"I suppose you think," the drummer said, sheepishly, "that it was
pretty darned foolish to drop three times?"

"I think pretty soon it won't be even three times," Dr. Lavendar
declared; "but it's hard work; I know it is."

Algernon looked at him eagerly.  "You know how it is yourself, maybe?"

"Well, I never happened to want to take too much," Dr. Lavendar said,
gently; "if I had, it would have been hard, I'm sure."

"Well, you bet," Algy told him, knowingly.  Then they talked the
business over, and Dr. Lavendar clapped Algy on the shoulder and said
he believed he'd have that house and shop yet.  "Rosebloom may be a
gold-mine," said Dr. Lavendar.  Then he gave Algy some advice about the
window display, and suggested a little gas-jet on the counter where
gentlemen might light their cigars; and he told Algy what brand he
smoked himself, and recommended it, in spite of its price.  Algy
smacked his thigh at that, and said Dr. Lavendar had the making of a
smart business man in him.  Indeed, Algy felt so cheered that he opened
his show-case and displayed a box of his new cosmetic.

"Look here, doctor," he said, earnestly; "I'll give you a box.
Yes--yes!  I will.  I'd just as lief as not.  You maybe wouldn't want
to use it yourself; gentlemen don't, often.  But give it to one of your
lady friends.  Do, now, doctor.  It don't cost me much of anything--and
I'm sure you've been kind to me."

And Dr. Lavendar accepted the lip-salve, and thanked Algy warmly; then
he said that the picture on the lid of the tight-waisted lady was very
striking.

"That's so!" cried Algy.  "She's a beauty.  She makes me think of Mary."

Algernon had presented Dr. Lavendar with a cigar, and the old minister
was smoking it in great comfort, his feet on the base of a rusty,
melon-shaped iron stove; Algy was leaning back against the counter, his
elbows on the show-case behind him.  "Dr. Lavendar," he said, looking
at the toe of his boot, "I--got something on my mind."

"Well, off with it, quick as you can."

"I've been thinking about the Day of Judgment."

"Ho!" said Dr. Lavendar.

"Well, sir, I get to thinking: if everybody's sins are to be read out
loud before all the world--standing up, rows and rows and rows of 'em.
Can't see the end of 'em--so many.  I kind a' hate to think that Mary
might hear--things about me."

"Well, Keen," said Dr. Lavendar, slowly, "I don't believe it will be
that way."  He hesitated a little.  After all, it is a risk to take
away even a false belief, unless you can put a true one in its place.

Algy stopped looking at the toe of his boot.  "_What!_" said he.

"Now just look at it," said Dr. Lavendar.  "Who would be the better for
that kind of publicity?  Good people wouldn't like it; it would pain
them.  You say yourself that Mary wouldn't like to hear that you did
wrong three times."

"No; she wouldn't," Algernon said.

"Wicked people might enjoy it," Dr. Lavendar ruminated, "but--"

--"but God don't cater to the wicked?" Algy finished, quickly.

"That's just it," said Dr. Lavendar.  "He doesn't.  But I tell you what
it is, Algy, it is painful enough to just have your Saviour tell you
your sins when you're sitting all alone--or, maybe, lying awake in the
dark; that's a dreadful time to hear them.  It's worse than having rows
of people listening."

Algernon nodded.  "Maybe you're right," he said, sighing.

The birth of a soul is a painful process.  But when he went away Dr.
Lavendar's eyes were full of hope.

And he grew more hopeful when, as the next year came round and Algernon
again asked for extension, he was able to carry back, not only the note
and the interest to John Gordon, but a payment of $24.  What that $24
meant of self-denial and perseverance Dr. Lavendar knew almost as well
as Algy himself.

"I don't know whether you meant it, John," he said, as the old man took
the note and locked it up in the japanned box--"I don't know that it
was your intention, but I believe the responsibility of debt is going
to make a man of Mary's husband."

"Debt doesn't generally work that way," Mr. Gordon said.

"No; it doesn't.  But He maketh the wrath of man to praise Him, once in
a while, Johnny."

"It's nothing to me.  I'm done with him."

"'If the court knows itself, which it think it do,'" said Dr. Lavendar,
chuckling, "you're just beginning with him."

"I'd rather have him decent, if that's what you mean.  But I despise
him."

"I don't," said Dr. Lavendar.  "I tell you, John, we're poor, limited
critters, you and I.  We felt that no good could possibly come out of
Nazareth.  I must confess that when I got you to send him that money I
was thinking more of the benefit to you than any effect it might have
on him.  I thought he didn't amount to two cents.  To my shame I say
it.  But I was blind as a bat; the Lord had sent him a great
experience--_Mary's death_.  Well, it was like a clap of thunder on a
dark night; the lightning showed up a whole landscape I didn't know.
There was honesty; and there was perseverance; and there was love, mind
you, most of all.  Love!  I tell you, Johnny, only the Lord knows what
is lying in the darkness of human nature.  In fact," said Dr. Lavendar,
reflectively, "as I get older there is nothing more constantly
astonishing to me than the goodness of the Bad;--unless it is the
badness of the Good.  But that's not so pleasant.  No, sir; I don't
despise Mr. Keen."

Nor did he despise Algy when the note had to be extended still again,
although again Algy was ready not only with the interest, but with
$37.50 of the principal.



VI

As Algernon struggled along with Rosebloom and cheap cigars and bright
red and green perfumed soaps, the debt was lessened and lessened; and
the back of the note was almost covered with extensions, yet only $317
had been paid off.  In spite of himself John Gordon grew interested; he
would not have admitted it for the world, but he wanted to hear about
Dr. Lavendar's annual visits to Mercer; and Dr. Lavendar used to drive
out to smoke a pipe with him and tell him what Algy had said and done.
One day--it was seven years after the note had been drawn--a clear,
heartless winter day, with a cold, high wind that made the old minister
look so blue that John Gordon mixed a glass of whiskey-and-water and
made him drink it before they began to talk--that day Mr. Gordon went
so far as to ask a question about Algy.  "Has he given you anything
more for your complexion, Edward?" he said, with a faint grin.

"He gave me a smelling-bottle this time.  I handed it over to Mary, and
told her not to let me get a sniff of it; and she said, 'Sakes!  it's
beautiful!'  But I'll tell you something he said, Johnny: he said that
his debt to you was a millstone round his neck.  And yet the truth is,
it's a life-buoy!"

John Gordon looked at the soiled, crumpled paper, with its dates of
extensions, and smiled grimly.  "Well, I won't deprive him of his
life-buoy."

"The store is doing pretty well," Dr. Lavendar went on--and stopped,
because Alex entered.

"Whose store is doing pretty well," he asked, civilly enough--for Alex.

"Algernon Keen's," said Dr. Lavendar.

Alex's face changed; he looked from one to the other of the old men by
the fire, and he saw his father's hand open and close nervously.  But
he restrained himself until their visitor had gone.  He even went out
into the sharp, bright wind and unhitched Dr. Lavendar's little blind
horse Goliath, backing the buggy close to the steps and helping the old
man in with what politeness he could muster.  Then he hurried back into
the library to his father.

"I should like to know, sir," he said, standing up with his back to the
fire, his legs, in their big, mud-stained top-boots, wide apart, his
hands under his coat-tails--"I should like to know, sir, why Dr.
Lavendar sees fit to refer to a subject which is most offensive to us?"
He fixed his motionless, pale eyes on his father, shrinking back in the
winged chair.

"I don't know--I don't know," said John Gordon.  Then, suddenly, he put
out his hand and caught at the crumpled note on the table beside him
and put it in his pocket.  Instantly suspicion flamed into Alex's eyes.
His face turned dully red, almost purple.  He made a step forward as
though to interpose and grasp at the paper, restrained himself, and
said, with laborious politeness:

"If that is a note, sir--I thought I saw indorsements of
interest--sha'n't I put it into the safe for you?"

"I won't trouble you, Alex."

Alex stood silent; then suddenly he struck the table with his fist: "My
God!  I believe you've been lending money to that--to that--"

Mr. Gordon began to shake very much.

"Did Dr. Lavendar presume to ask you to lend money to--to--"

Mr. Gordon passed his hand over his lips; then he said, faintly, "No;
he didn't."

Alex, like a boat brought suddenly up into the wind, stammered
uncertainly.  "Oh; I--I--thought--"  And then suspicion broke out
again.  "Has the creature asked you for a loan?"

"No," Mr. Gordon said.

And Alex gaped at him, silenced.  Yet he was certain that that strip of
paper had some connection with Algernon Keen.  "I beg your pardon," he
said; "I thought for an instant that you were dickering with the man
who seduced your daughter.  I am sure I beg your pardon for the
thought," he ended, with elaborate and ironical courtesy, for his
father's obvious agitation assured him that he was right.  "I only felt
that if it was his note, it must be kept carefully--carefully."  He
smiled in a deadly way he had, and opened and shut his hand as though
he would close it on the hilt of a knife.  "But, of course, I was
mistaken.  You would press it if you had his note--although 'sue a
beggar.'  And, besides, if we had got as far as lending him money, we
would be asking him to dinner next."

Mr. Gordon cringed.

"So I beg your pardon," Alex ended, sardonically.

"Very well--very well," his father said; and got up and began to potter
about among his books, as much as to say that the subject was ended.

"It _is_ a note," Alex said to himself, and smiled....  So far the
creature had gone scot-free.  In these days of lawfully accepted
dishonor revenge is not talked about.  But perhaps it would come to his
hand.  Not the revenge of the instincts--not the shedding of blood, man
fashion; but the revenge of inflicting misery.  Not much of a revenge,
of course, but the best that he could get.  And so he smiled to
himself....

He said no more at the time; but months later his father realized that
the incident was not forgotten when Alex said, suddenly, sneering: "So
your son-in-law is prospering in his business?  I saw his establishment
to-day in Mercer.  If he owes you any money he will be able to pay
cash.  I congratulate you, sir."

Old Mr. Gordon made no reply.  He was very feeble that autumn.  Willy
King told Alex that another attack of bronchitis would be the end.  "He
can't stand it," said Dr. King.  "I'd take him South, Alex, if I were
you."

Alex did not like to leave his mill in Upper Chester, but, as he told
Willy, he was a good son, and always did his duty to his father.  "I
play dominoes with him every night," he said;--so he would take the old
man South, though to go and come would keep him from business almost a
week.

It was then that John Gordon told Dr. Lavendar that Alex suspected him
of lending money to Mr. Keen.  "And if I die," he said, "Alex will
squeeze the poor devil--he'll squeeze him till he ruins him.  I--I
suppose I'm a great fool, but I almost thought maybe, sometime, I'd
destroy that note, Edward?"

Dr. Lavendar chuckled: "I knew you'd come to it, Johnny; but--" he
stopped and ruminated.  "You've come to it; so that's all right.  But
do you know--I don't believe he can do without it quite yet awhile."

"Poor devil!" John Gordon said again, kindly.  "Well, I'll let him gnaw
on it awhile longer.  I suppose he'll want another extension?"

"Probably," said Dr. Lavendar.  "He is just holding his own this year;
he will be able to pay the interest, he told me, but not very much
more."

Extension was necessary, as Dr. Lavendar had foreseen; and when he
wrote to Mr. Gordon about it the old man replied in obvious fear of his
son.  The note was in his safe, he said; Edward knew where it was; it
was in the japanned box.  "But I don't care to ask Alex to get it," he
explained.  "He doesn't know of its existence; so I'll give you power
of attorney to see to it.  You'd better just have Ezra Barkley put it
in shape for you, because it will be necessary to go up to the house
and open the safe to get it and put it back again.  Alex is never at
home until late in the afternoon, but Rachel is there and will let you
in.  You'll find some very good Monongahela in the chimney closet."
Then he added the combinations of the locks on the safe and the
japanned box.

"Stick that in, Ezra, will you, about going up to the house?" Dr.
Lavendar said.

And Ezra stuck it in solemnly, and then held his pen between his teeth
and blotted his paper.  "It is estimated," he observed, through his
shut teeth, "that the amount of ink used in the United States of
America, in signatures to wills, since the year when the independence
of the colonies was declared, would be sufficient in bulk to float a--"

"Well, Ezra," said Dr. Lavendar, chuckling, "this paper seems rather
liberal.  Suppose I take some cash out of the safe to repair the roof
of the vestry?  It leaks like a sieve."

"Your construction of liberality is at fault, sir," Mr. Ezra corrected
him, gently; "this paper defines just exactly what you may do, up to
the moment when the principal reclaims the paper--or dies."

"Well, I hope he won't reclaim it, or die, either, till he gets an
affair we are both interested in patched up," Dr. Lavendar said; then
he listened politely while Mr. Ezra told him how many times the word
"ink" occurred in Holy Writ.

Dr. Lavendar went away with his power of attorney in his pocket.  And
when he sent it to John Gordon to sign, he seemed to take it for
granted that he and Mr. Gordon were equally interested in the
development and well-being of Mary's husband.  He said in his letter
such things as, "You'll make a man of him yet;" and, "Your patience has
given the best elements in him time to come out."  Dr. Lavendar had a
perfectly unreasonable way of imputing good motives to people; the
consequence was he was not very much astonished when they displayed
goodness.  He was not astonished when, some two months later, another
letter came from old Mr. Gordon, saying that on the whole he thought
the note had better not run any longer.  "I am going to forgive him his
debt," Mary's father wrote, in a feeble scrawl; "and I'll be obliged to
you if you will go up to my house and get that note and send it to me.
I'm pretty shaky on my pins, and I don't want to run risks, so I wish
you'd tear the signature out and burn it before you mail the note.
I'll send it along to Mr. Keen.  I mean to write to him and tell him I
think he is honest, anyway.  The fact is, I half respect the poor
fellow.  It's been a long winter, and I can't say I'm much better.
Willy King doesn't know everything.  These doctors are too confoundedly
ready to send a man away from home.  I should have been just as well
off in Old Chester.  _Be sure and destroy that signature_."

Dr. Lavendar read this letter joyfully, but without surprise.  "I'm
glad he didn't take my advice and let it go on any longer," he said to
himself; "I guess I'U risk the effect on Algy now."

Then he wondered if there would be any danger of meeting Alex if he
went up to the house right after dinner.  "I can't manage it this
morning," he said to himself.  "I've got to go and see Mrs. Drayton.
Well, I wish the Lord would see fit to cure her--or something."

So he went plodding out into a still, gray February day, and called on
Mrs. Drayton, and stopped at the post-office to hear the news, and then
went home to his dinner.  "Ye're not going out _again_?" his Mary
cried, in shrill remonstrance, when in the afternoon she saw him muffle
himself up for the drive out into the country; "it's beginning to snow!"

"I am," said Dr. Lavendar; "and see you have a good supper for me when
I get back."  He got into his buggy, buttoning the apron up in front of
him, for it was a wet snow.  He had on a shabby old fur cap, which he
pulled well down over his forehead, furrowed by other people's sins and
troubles; but his eyes peered from under it as bright and happy as a
squirrel's.

His little blind horse pulled slowly and comfortably up the hill,
stopping to get his breath on a shaky bridge over a run.  In the
silence of the snow Dr. Lavendar did not hear the stage coming down the
hill until it was almost on the bridge; then he had to pull over to let
it pass.  As he did so the single passenger inside rapped on the
window, and then opened it and thrust his head out, calling to the
driver to stop.

"Dr. Lavendar!  you have heard, I suppose?  Very sad.  A great shock.
Of course I'm going on at once to bring the body back.  It is difficult
to get off at this season, but a son has a sacred duty."  Alex's pale
eyes were bulging from his red, excited face.

"What news?" Dr. Lavendar said.  "You don't mean--Alex!  John
isn't--your father isn't--"

"My father is dead," Alex said, with ponderous solemnity.  "It is a
great grief, of course; but I trust I shall be properly resigned.  His
age rendered such an event not altogether unexpected."

Dr. Lavendar could not speak; but as the stage-driver began to gather
up his reins from the steaming backs of his horses, he said, brokenly:
"Wait--wait.  Tell me about it, Alex; your father and I have been
friends all our lives."  Alex told him briefly: He had just had a
despatch; his father had died that morning; he had been less well for a
fortnight.  "I had a letter from him this morning," Alex said, "in
which he referred to his health--"

"So had I--so had I."

"I cannot get back with the body for six days--three to go, three to
come," Alex said, "but I will be obliged if you will arrange for the
obsequies next Thursday."

"Yes, yes.  I will make any arrangements for you," Dr. Lavendar said.
He took out his big red silk pocket-handkerchief and blew his nose with
a trembling flourish.  "We were boys together; your father was the big
boy, you know; I was the youngster.  But we were great friends.  Alex,
I am afraid my own grief has made me forgetful of yours; but you have
had a loss, my boy--a great loss."

"Very much so--very much so," Alex agreed, with a proper sigh, and
pulled up the window of the stage, then lowered it abruptly: "Oh, Dr.
Lavendar, are you going on as far up as--as _my_ house?"

"As _your_ house?" Dr. Lavendar repeated.  "Oh--oh yes; I didn't
understand.  Yes, I am."

"Would it inconvenience you," Alex said, "to stop there?  I am going to
ask Mr. Ezra Barkley to come up at once and put seals on various
things.  I am the sole executor, as well as the heir, of course; but I
sha'n't be able to attend to things for a week; and the forms of law
must be observed.  If you could be on hand when Barkley is there--not
that I do not trust him."

Dr. Lavendar stared at him blankly; for an intelligent man, Alex was
sometimes a great fool.  But he only nodded gravely, and said he would
stop at the house and wait for Mr. Ezra; Alex signed to the driver, and
the stage went rolling noiselessly on into the storm.  When, at the
foot of the hill, Alex glanced back through the little oblong of bubbly
glass in the leather curtain of the coach, he saw Dr. Lavendar's buggy
standing motionless where he had passed it on the bridge; then the snow
hid it.

Under the bridge the creek ran swiftly between edges of ice that here
and there had caught a dipping branch and held it prisoner, or had
spread in agate curves--snow white, clear black, faint white
again--around a stone in mid-stream.  On the black current, silent
except for a murmurous rush of bubbles under the ice, the snowflakes
melted instantly, myriads of them--hurrying, hurrying, hurrying; then,
as they touched the water, gone.  Dr. Lavendar, in the buggy, sat
looking down at them:

"_In an instant--in the twinkling of an eye, we shall be changed._" ...

"He was my oldest friend."  ("Was": with what an awful promptitude the
mind adjusts itself to "he _was_"!)  Yet as he sat there, peering out
over the top of the apron and making, heavily, those plans familiar to
every clergyman, Dr. Lavendar did not really believe that the plans
were for Johnny.  The snow fell with noiseless steadiness; the top of
the buggy was white; thimbles of down heaped themselves on the hubs,
tumbling off when the horse moved restlessly a step forward or backed a
little and stamped.  Suddenly Goliath shook himself, for the snow was
cold upon his shaggy back, and the harness clattered and the shafts
rattled.  Dr. Lavendar drew a long breath.  "G'on!" he said.  And
Goliath went on with evident relief.  He knew the road well, and turned
in at the Gordon gateway, as a matter of course.  When he stopped at
the front steps, the door opened and Rachel stood there, her eyes red.

"Sam will take him round to the stable, sir," she said, as Sam shambled
out from the back of the house to stand at Goliath's head.  "Oh, my!
sir; I suppose you've heard?"

"Yes, Rachel; I've heard," the old man said, unbuttoning the apron and
climbing out.  Rachel took his hand and wept audibly.  "I knew he'd
never come back; he was marked for death.  I've lived here eighteen
years, and I always said it was a privilege to work for a gentleman
like him."

"Yes--yes," he said, kindly.  He was plainly agitated, and Rachel saw
that he was trembling.

"Course you feel it, sir, being about of an age," she said,
sympathetically.  "Dr. Lavendar, sir, won't you have a glass of
something?" With the hospitality of an old servant, she would have
opened the little closet in the chimney-breast, but he checked her.

"Not yet; not now, Rachel.  Leave me here awhile by myself, my girl.
I'll come out to the kitchen and see you before I go.  When Mr. Barkley
comes, ask him to step into the library."

"Yes, sir," Rachel said, obediently; and went away sniffling and
sighing.

Dr. Lavendar stood looking about him at the emptiness of the room: the
winged chair, with the purple silk handkerchief hanging over the back;
the table heaped with books; the fire drowsing in the grate; the old
safe in the corner by the window.  Outside, the snow drove past,
blotting the landscape.  Ezra would probably arrive within a half-hour;
he had better get the note before he came.  Then there need be no
explanations.

When Mr. Ezra came in he found the old minister sitting by the fire,
quite calm again, and even cheerful.  "Yes," he said, in answer to the
lawyer's very genteel expressions of sympathy--"yes, I'll miss him.  We
were boys together.  He used to call me Bantam.  I hadn't thought of it
for years."

"Nicknames," said Mr. Ezra, "were used by the ancients as long ago as
300 B.C."

"Well, I'm not as ancient as 300 B.C.," said Dr. Lavendar, "but I
called him Storkey; I can't imagine why, for he was only an inch and a
half taller; he always said it was two inches, but it wasn't.  It was
an inch and a half."

"We are here," said Mr. Ezra, pulling off his gloves and coughing
politely, "for indeed a solemn and an affecting task.  It is my duty,
sir, to seal the effects of the deceased, so that they may be
delivered, intact, to the executor."

Dr. Lavendar nodded.

"In all my professional career I have never happened to be called upon
for this especial duty.  It is quite unusual.  But Alex seemed to think
it necessary.  Alex is a good son."

"So he says," said Dr. Lavendar.

"Are you aware, sir," proceeded Mr. Ezra, producing from his bag the
paraphernalia of his office, "that such is the incredible celerity of
bees (belonging to the _Hymenoptera_) that they can within twenty-four
hours manufacture four thousand cells in the comb?  This interesting
fact is suggested by the use of wax for sealing."

Dr. Lavendar watched him in a silence so deep that he hardly heard the
harmless stream of statistics; but at last he was moved to say, with
his kind, old smile, "How _can_ you know so many things, Ezra?"

"In my profession," Mr. Ezra explained, "it is necessary to keep the
mind up to the greatest agility; I, therefore, exercise it frequently
in matters of memory."  He lit a candle and held his wax sputtering in
the flame.  "I recall," he said, "with painful interest, that at one of
our recent meetings I had the honor of drawing the power of attorney
for you, from the deceased."

"So you did," said Dr. Lavendar.

"Did you ever reflect," said Mr. Barkley, "that should that power be
used after the death of the donor, to carry out a wish of said donor,
expressed an hour, nay, a moment, before the instant of
dissolution--such act would be an offence in the eye of the law?"

"I've always thought the law ought to put on spectacles, Ezra," said
Dr. Lavendar; "it has mighty poor eyesight once in a while."

Mr. Barkley was shocked.  "The law, Lavendar, is the deepest expression
of the human sense of justice!"

"But, Ezra," Dr. Lavendar said, suddenly attentive, "that is very
interesting.  I remember you referred to the lapsing of the power of
attorney when you made out that paper for me; but I didn't quite
understand.  Do you mean that carrying out, now, directions given
before the death of my old friend would be against the law?  Suppose he
had asked me--last week, perhaps, to destroy--well, say that old
account-book there on the table, couldn't I do it to-day?"

"Dr. Lavendar, you do not, I fear, apprehend the majesty of the law!
Why," said Mr. Ezra, standing up, very straight and solemn, "such a
deed--"

"But suppose I didn't want--suppose Johnny didn't want, for reasons of
his own, to have anybody--say, even his executor--see that
account-book; suppose it might be put to some bad purpose--used to
injure some third person (of course that is an absurd supposition, but
it will do for an illustration); if he had asked me last week to
destroy it, do you mean to say, Ezra, I couldn't destroy it
to-day?--just because he happened to die this morning!"

"My dear sir," said Mr. Ezra, "such conduct on your part would be
perilously near a criminal offence."

Dr. Lavendar whistled.  "Well, Ezra, I won't destroy it."

"I hope not, sir--I hope not, indeed," cried Mr. Ezra.

Dr. Lavendar laughed; he had the impulse to turn round and wink at
Johnny, to take him into the joke.  But it was only for an instant, and
his face fell quickly into puzzled lines.

"A moment's reflection," Mr. Ezra continued, "will convince you, Dr.
Lavendar, that the aforesaid account-book is now the property, not of
the deceased, but of the estate.  Its destruction would be the
destruction of property belonging to the heirs.  Furthermore, your
belief that the herein before mentioned account-book might be put to an
improper use, for the injury of a third person--such belief would no
more justify you in destroying it than would your belief in its
unfairness towards said third person justify you in destroying a will."

Dr. Lavendar thrust out his lower lip and stared at him, frowning.
"Yes," he said, slowly--"yes; I see.  I did not quite understand.  But
I see."

Mr. Ezra solemnly began to pour forth a stream of statistics; he
referred to the case of Buckley vs. Grant, and even mentioned chapter
and page of _Purdon's Digest_ where Dr. Lavendar could find further
enlightenment.  Dr. Lavendar may have listened, but he made no comment;
he sat staring silently at the old purple handkerchief on the top of
John's chair.

When Mr. Ezra had finished his work and his statistics, the two men
shook hands; then Dr. Lavendar said good-bye to Rachel and climbed into
his buggy, buttoning the apron high up in front of him; the lawyer
mounted his horse, and they plodded off into the snow, single file.
But Dr. Lavendar's eyes, under his old fur cap, had lost their
squirrel-like brightness....

So Algy's note belonged to the estate; and the estate belonged to Alex;
and Alex was the executor.  And upon Alex Gordon his father's
intentions in regard to Algy's note would make no more impression than
the flakes of snow on running water.  A vision of Alex's mean and cruel
mouth, his hard, light eyes, motionless as a snake's in his purpling
face, made Dr. Lavendar wince.  The note--the poor, shabby, worn
note,--that stood for the best there was in Algy, that stood for
perseverance and honesty and courage; the note, which had weighed so
heavily that he had had to stand up in his pitiful best manhood to bear
it: the note that John had meant to "forgive"--Alex would use to
humiliate and torture and destroy.  Under the pressure which he would
bring to bear that note would be poor Algy's financial, and perhaps his
moral, ruin.  "And if I had not objected, John would have cancelled
it," Dr. Lavendar thought, frowning and blinking under his fur cap.  He
saw the smoking flax quenched, the bruised reed broken; he saw Algy
turning venomously upon his enemy--for he knew him well enough to know
that his code of defence would not include any conventional delicacy;
he saw the new and hardly won integrity crumbling under the assault of
Alex's legal wickedness.  Dr. Lavendar groaned to himself.  Alex could,
lawfully, murder Algernon Keen's soul.


When Mary saw the old minister come into the house she was much
displeased.  "There, now, look at him," she scolded; "white as a sheet.
What did I tell you?  I'll bet ye he won't eat them corn dodgers, and I
never made 'em finer."

It must be admitted that Mary was right.  Dr. Lavendar did not eat much
supper.  He went shuffling back to his study, Danny slinking at his
heels; but for once he did not notice his little, grizzled friend.
When he got into his flowered cashmere dressing-gown and put on his
slippers and stirred his fire, he sat a long time with his pipe in his
hand, forgetting to light it.  When he did light it, it went out,
unnoticed.  Once Danny tried to scramble into his chair, but, receiving
no encouragement, curled up on the rug.  The fire burned low and
smouldered into ashes; just one sullen, red coal blinked in a corner of
the grate; Dr. Lavendar watched this red spot fixedly for a long time.
Indeed, it was well on towards twelve before he suddenly reached over
for the bellows and a couple of sticks, and, bending down, stirred and
blew until the sticks caught and the cinders began to sparkle under the
ashes.  This disturbed Danny, who sat up, displeased and yawning.  But
when at last the flames broke out, sputtering and snapping, and caught
a piece of paper--a shabby, creased piece of paper covered with
dates--caught it, ran over it, curling it into brittle blackness, and
then whirled it, a flimsy, crumbling ghost, up the chimney, Dr.
Lavendar's face shone with a light that was not only from the fire.

"Ha, Danny, you scoundrel," he said, cheerfully, "I guess you are
_particeps criminis_!"

Then he went over to his study-table and rooted about for a thin,
shabby, blue book, over which he pored for some time, stopping once or
twice to make some calculations on the back of an envelope, then
turning to the book again.  He covered the envelope with his small,
neat figuring, and turned it over to begin on the other side--and
started: "Johnny's letter!" he said.  But when the calculations were
made, the rest was easy enough: first, his check-book and his pen.  (At
the check he looked with some pride.  "Daniel," he said, "look at that,
sir.  You never saw so much money in your life; and neither did I--over
my own signature.") Next, a letter to Alex Gordon:


"MY DEAR ALEXANDER,--I owe your father's estate to the amount of the
enclosed check.  No papers exist in regard to it, as the matter was
between ourselves.  I will ask you for a receipt.  Yours truly,

"EDWARD LAVENDAR."



THE GRASSHOPPER AND THE ANT


I

When William Rives and Lydia Sampson quarrelled and broke their
engagement, Old Chester said that they were lucky to fall out two weeks
before their wedding-day instead of two weeks after it.  Of course, Old
Chester said many other things: it said it had always known they could
never get along.  William, who had very little money, was careful and
thrifty, as every young man ought to be; Lydia, who was fairly well
off, was lavish and no housekeeper.  "What could you expect?" demanded
Old Chester.  Old Chester never knew exactly what the trouble between
them had been, for they kept their own counsel; but it had its
suspicions: it had something to do with William's father's will.  By
some legal quibble the Orphan's Court awarded to William a piece of
property which everybody knew old Mr. Rives supposed he had left to his
daughter Amanda.  Lydia thought (at least Old Chester thought she
thought) that William would, as a matter of course, at once turn the
field over to his sister.  But William did no such thing.  And, after
all, why should he?  The field was his; the law allowed it, the Court
awarded it.  Why should he present a field to Amanda?  Old Chester said
this thoughtfully, looking at William with a sort of respectful regret.
Very likely Lydia's regret was not respectful.  Lydia was always so
outspoken.  However, it was all surmise.  About the time that Amanda
did not get the field the engagement was broken--and you can put two
and two together if you like.  As for Old Chester, it said that it
pitied poor, dear Lydia; and it was no wonder William left town after
the rupture, because, naturally, he would be ashamed to show his face.
But then it also said it pitied poor, dear William, and it should think
Lydia would be ashamed to show her face; for, of course, her obstinacy
made the trouble--and a young female ought not to be obstinate, ought
not, in fact, to have opinions on such matters.  Legal affairs, said
Old Chester, should be left to the gentlemen.  In fact, Old Chester
said every possible thing for and against them both; but gradually, as
years passed, conflicting opinions settled down to the "poor Lydia"
belief.

This was, probably, for two reasons: first, because William had never
seen fit to come back to Old Chester, and that, quite apart from his
conduct to his lady-love, was a reason for distrust; and, secondly,
Lydia had, somehow, become Old Chester's one really poor person--that
is, in a genteel walk of life.  After the crumbling of the Sampson
fortune, Old Chester had to plan for Lydia, and take care of her, and
give her its "plain sewing"; so, naturally, William was reprobated.
Besides, she may have quarrelled and broken her engagement two weeks
before her wedding, but all these years afterwards she had been
faithful to the memory of Love!  Old Chester knew this, for the simple
reason that Miss Lydia, during all these years, had kept in her
sitting-room a picture of William Rives, adorned with a sprig of box;
furthermore, it knew (Heaven knows how!) that she kissed this slender,
tight-waisted picture every night before she went to bed.  Of course,
Old Chester softened!  Lydia may have broken her engagement and all
that, but she kept his picture, and she kissed it every night.  "But he
ought to be ashamed of himself," said Old Chester--"that is, if he is
alive."  Then it added, reflectively, that he must be dead, for he had
never returned to Old Chester.  Yet as time went on people forgot even
to disapprove of William; they had enough to do to take care of poor
Lydia, "for she is certainly very poor--and very peculiar," said Old
Chester, sighing.

"Peculiar!" said Martha King; "I call it something worse than peculiar
to spend money that ought to go towards rent on a present for Rachel
King's Anna.  She gave that child a picture-book.  I'm sure _I_ can't
afford to go round giving children picture-books.  I told her so flatly
and frankly.  And then it was so trying, because, right on top of my
scolding, she gave me a present--a cup all painted with roses, and
marked 'Friendship's Gift,' in gilt.  I didn't want it; I could have
shaken her," Mrs. King ended, helplessly.

It was not only Martha whose patience was tried by Miss Lydia; the
experience was common to all Old Chester.  Even Dr. Lavendar had felt
the human impulse to shake her.  When he had, very delicately, asked
"as an old friend, the privilege of assisting her," it was exasperating
to have a lamp-shade made of six porcelain intaglios set in a tin frame
come to him the next day, with the "respectful compliments of L.S."
But somehow, when, beaming at him from under her shabby bonnet, Miss
Lydia had asked him if he liked that preposterous shade, he could not
speak his mind,--at least to her.  He spoke it mildly to Mrs. Barkley.
"We must restrain her; she brought me $2 for Zenanna Missions
yesterday."

"What did you do?" Mrs. Barkley said, sympathetically.

"I made her take it back.  I pointed out that her first duty was to her
landlord."

"Her landlord has some duties to her," Mrs. Barkley said, angrily.
"The stairs are just crumbling to pieces, and that chimney is dreadful.
She says that Davis said the flue would have to be rebuilt, and maybe
the whole chimney.  He couldn't be sure about that, but he thought it
probable.  He said it would cost $100 to put all the things in
repair--floor and roof and everything.  But he would do it for $85,
considering.  He thinks the flue has broken down inside somehow.  She
might burn up some night; and then," said Mrs. Barkley, in a deep bass,
"how would that Smith person feel?"

"He says," Dr. Lavendar explained, "that by the terms of the lease the
tenant is to make repairs."

Mrs. Barkley snorted.  "And how is poor Lydia to make repairs?  She
hasn't two cents to bless herself with.  I told him so."

Mrs. Barkley's face grew very red at the recollection of her interview
with Mr. Smith (he was one of the new Smiths, of course).  "I don't mix
philanthropy and business," he had said; "the lease says the tenant
shall make repairs.  And, besides, I do not wish to be more attractive
than I am.  With that chimney, some other landlord may win her
affections.  Without it, she will never desert Mr. Micawber."

"I am not acquainted with your friend Mr. Micawber," said Mrs. Barkley,
"neither, I am sure, is Miss Sampson; and if you will allow me to say
so, sir, we do not in Old Chester consider it delicate to refer to the
affections of an unmarried female."

Upon which Mr. Smith laughed immoderately.  (None of the new people had
any manners.)

"So there is no use asking him to do anything," Mrs. Barkley told Dr.
Lavendar.

"The only thing I can think of," the old minister said, "is that we all
join together and give her the price Davis named, as a present."

"Eighty-five dollars!" Mrs. Barkley exclaimed, startled; "that's a good
deal of money--"

"Well, yes; it is.  But something has got to be done."

"And to take up a collection for Lydia!  It's--charity."

"It isn't taking up a collection," Dr. Lavendar protested, stoutly.
"And it isn't charity.  Miss Lydia's friends have a right to make her a
present if they feel like it."

Mrs. Barkley agreed, doubtfully.

"Mrs. Dale would contribute, I'm sure," said Dr. Lavendar.  "And
perhaps the Miss Ferises."

"I wouldn't like to ask them."

"Don't ask 'em.  Offer them the chance."

"No," Mrs. Barkley insisted; "they've no right.  They are not really
her friends.  Lydia doesn't call them by their first names."  But she
went away very much encouraged and full of this project of a present
for poor Lydia, who, happily, had no idea that she was "poor" Lydia.
She was not poor to herself (except, of course, in purse, which is a
small matter).  She lived in a shabby and dilapidated cottage at the
Smith gates, and every month squeezed out a few dollars rent to Mr.
Smith; she was sorry for the Smiths, for they were new people; but she
always spoke kindly to them, for she never looked down on anybody.  So,
as far as position went, she was not "poor."  She had no relations
living, but she called all Old Chester of her generation by its first
name; so, as to friendship, there was nothing "poor" about her.  And,
most of all, she was not "poor," but very rich, in her capacity for
interest.

Now, no one who has an interest is poor; and Miss Lydia had a hundred
interests.  A hundred?  She had as many interests as there were people
in the world or joys or sorrows in Old Chester; so she was really very
rich....  Of course, there are different degrees of this sort of
wealth: there are folk who have to manufacture their interests; with
deliberation they are philanthropic or artistic or intellectual, or
even, if hard put to it, they are amused.  Such persons may be said to
be in fairly comfortable circumstances, although they live anxiously
and rather meagrely, because they know well that when interest gives
out they are practically without the means to support life.  Below this
manufacturing class come the really destitute--the poor creatures who
do not care vitally for anything and who are without the spiritual
muscle to manufacture an interest.  These pathetic folk are
occasionally made self-supporting by a catastrophe--grief or even
merely some uncomfortable surgery in regard to their bank account may
give them a poor kind of interest; but too often they exist
miserably--sometimes, with every wish gratified, helplessly poor.
Above the manufacturing class comes the aristocracy, to which Miss
Lydia Sampson belonged, the class which is positively rolling in
wealth.  Every morning these favored creatures arise with a zest for
living.  You hear them singing before breakfast; at the table they are
full of eager questions: Is it going to rain?  No; it is a fair day;
delightful!--for it might have rained.  And the sun will bring up the
crocuses.  And this was the day a neighbor was to go to town.  Will she
go?  When will she come back?  How pleasant that the day is pleasant!
And it will be good for the sick people, too.  And the moment the
eager, simple mind turns to its fellows, sick or well, the field of
interest widens to the sky-line of souls.  To sorrow in the sorrows of
Tom and Dick and Harry and their wives, to rejoice in their joys--what
is better than that?  And then, all one's own affairs are so vital: the
record of the range of the thermometer, the question of turning or not
turning an alpaca skirt, the working out of a game of solitaire--these
things are absorbing experiences.

No wonder we who are poor, or even we who work hard at philanthropy or
art or responsibility to manufacture our little interests--no wonder we
envy such sky-blue natures.  Certainly there were persons in Old
Chester who envied Miss Lydia; at least, they envied her her unfailing
joyousness--but they never envied her her empty purse.  Which was like
envying a rose its color, but despising the earth from which by some
divine chemistry the color came.

Miss Lydia's eyes might smart from the smoke puffing out into her room,
but she was able to laugh at the sight of her bleared visage in the
narrow mirror over the mantel.  Nor did the fact that the mirror was
mottled and misty with age, the frame tarnished almost to blackness,
cause her the slightest pang.  What difference does it make in this
world of life and death and joy and sorrow, if things are shabby?  The
fact is, the secret of happiness is the _sense of proportion_;
eliminate, by means of that sense, trouble about the unimportant, and
we would all be considerably happier than kings.  Miss Lydia possessed
this heaven-born sense, as well as the boundless wealth of interest
(for to him that hath shall be given).  "I don't want to brag," she
used to say, "but I've got my health and my friends; so what on earth
more do I want?"  And one hesitated to point out a little thing like a
shabby mirror, or even a smoky chimney.  When the chimney smoked, Miss
Lydia merely took her rocking-chair and her sewing out into a small
room that served as a kitchen--and then what difference did the smoking
make?

And as it turned out, one shadowy April day, it was the best thing she
could have done, because, when Dr. Lavendar dropped in to see her, she
could make him a cup of tea at once, without having to leave him alone.
She was a little, bustling figure, rather dusty and moth-eaten, with a
black frizette, always a little to one side, and eager, gentle, blue
eyes.

"What's the news?" she said.  She had given Dr. Lavendar an apple, and
put on the kettle, and taken up her hemming.

"I never saw anybody so fond of sewing," the old man ruminated, eating
his apple.  "I believe you'd sew in your grave."

"I believe I would.  Dear me!  I am so sorry for the poor women who
don't like to sew.  Amelia Dilworth told me that Mrs. Neddy can't bear
to take a needle in her hand.  So Milly does Ned's mending just as she
did before he was married."

"Aren't you sorry for the poor men that don't like to sew?" Dr.
Lavendar said, looking about for a place to deposit his core--("Oh,
drop it on the floor; I'll sweep it up sometime," Miss Lydia told him;
but he disposed of it by eating it).

"Well, as for sewing," said Miss Lydia, "it's my greatest pleasure.
Why, when I get settled down to sew, my mind roves over the whole
earth.  I don't want to brag, but I don't believe anybody enjoys
herself more than I do when I'm sewing.  If you won't tell, I'll tell
you something, Dr. Lavendar."

"I won't tell."

"Well, then: Sunday used to be an awful day to me.  I couldn't sew, and
so I couldn't think.  And I really couldn't go to church all day.  So I
just bought some beautiful, fine nainsook and cut out my shroud.  And I
work on that Sundays, because a shroud induces serious thoughts."

"I should think it might," said Dr. Lavendar.

"You don't think it's wrong, do you?" she asked, anxiously; and added,
joyously, "I'm embroidering the whole front.  I declare I don't know
what I'll do when I get it done."

"Embroider the whole back."

"Well, yes.  I can do that," Miss Lydia assented.  "There! there's your
tea."

Dr. Lavendar took his tea and stirred it thoughtfully.  "Miss Lydia,"
he said, and looked hard at the tea, "what do you suppose?  Mr. William
Rives--"  Dr. Lavendar stopped and drank some tea.  "How many years ago
was it that he went away from Old Chester?  I don't exactly remember."

"It was thirty-one years ago," she said; she put down her own cup of
tea and stared at him.  "What were you going to say about him, sir?"

"Well, only," said Dr. Lavendar, scraping the sugar from the bottom of
his cup, "only that--"

"There! my goodness!  I'll give you another lump," cried Miss Lydia;
"don't wear my spoon out.  What about him, sir?"

Dr. Lavendar explained that he had come back on the stage from Mercer
the night before with a strange gentleman--"stout man," Dr. Lavendar
said, "with a black wig.  I was rooting about in my pocket-book for a
stamp--I wanted to post a letter just as we were leaving Mercer; and
this gentleman very politely offered me one.  I took it.  Then I looked
at him, and there was something familiar about him.  I asked him if we
had not met before, and he told me who he was.  He has changed a good
deal."

Miss Lydia drank her tea excitedly.  "Where is he going to stay?  Is he
well?  Has he come back rich?"  She hoped so.  William was so
industrious, he deserved to be rich.  She ran into the smoky front room
and brought out his picture, regarding it with affectionate interest.
"Did you know I was engaged to him, years ago, Dr. Lavendar?  We
thought it best to part.  But--"  She stopped and looked at the
picture, and a little color came into her face.  But in another moment
she was chattering her birdlike questions.

"I declare," Dr. Lavendar said, at last, "you are the youngest person
of my acquaintance."

Miss Lydia laughed.  "I hope you don't think it's wrong to be young?"
she said.

"Wrong?" said Dr. Lavendar; "it's wrong not to be young.  I'd be
ashamed not to be young.  My body's old, but that's not my fault.  I'm
not to blame for an old body, but I would be to blame for an old soul.
An old soul is a shameful thing.  Mind, now, don't let me catch you
getting old!"

And then he said good-bye, and left her sitting by the stove.  She
turned her skirt back over her knees to keep it from scorching and held
the picture in her left hand and warmed the palm of the right; then in
her right hand and warmed the left.  Then she put it down on her knees
and warmed both hands and smiled.



II

When Mrs. Barkley heard the news of the wanderer's return, she hurried
to Dr. Lavendar's study.  "Do you suppose we need go on with the
present?" she demanded, excitedly.

"Why not?" said Dr. Lavendar.

Mrs. Barkley looked conscious.  "I only thought, perhaps--maybe--Mr.
Rives--"

"William Rives's presence in Old Chester won't improve draughts, will
it?" Dr. Lavendar said, crossly.  And that was all she could get out of
him.

Meantime, Old Chester began to kill the fatted calf.  Mr. Rives liked
fatted calves; and, furthermore, he had prudently arranged with Van
Horne at the Tavern for a cash credit for each meal at which he was not
present.  "For why," he had said, reasonably enough, "should I pay for
what I don't get?"  So he went cheerfully wherever he was bidden.  Old
Chester approved of him as a guest, for, though talkative, he was
respectful in his demeanor, and he did not, so Old Chester said, "put
on airs."  He was very stout, and he wore a black wig that curled all
around the back of his neck; his eyes were somewhat dull, but
occasionally they glanced out keenly over his fat cheeks.  He had a
very small mouth and a slight, perpetual smile that gave his face a
rather kindly look, and his voice was mild and soft.

He had come back rich (his shabby clothes to the contrary); "and poor
Lydia is so poor," said Old Chester; "perhaps--" and then it paused and
smiled, and added that "it would be strange, after all these years,
_if_--"

When somebody said something like this to Dr. Lavendar he grew very
cross.  "Preposterous!" he said.  "I should feel it my duty to prevent
anything so dreadful."

And there were romantic hearts in Old Chester who were displeased with
him for this remark.  Mrs. Drayton said it showed that he could not
understand love; "though he can't be blamed for that, as he never
married.  Still," said Mrs. Drayton, "he ought to have married.  I
don't want to make any accusations, _but I always look with suspicion
on an unmarried gentleman_."  Mrs. Barkley did not go as far as that,
but she did say to herself that Dr. Lavendar was unromantic.  "Dear
me!" she confided to Jane Jay--"if anything _should_ happen!  Well, I'd
be glad to do anything I could to bring it about."

And Mrs. Barkley, who had not only the courage but the audacity of her
convictions, invited the parted lovers to tea, so they met for the
first time at her house.  Mrs. Barkley was the last person one would
accuse of being romantic, and yet Dr. Lavendar saw fit to stop at her
door that morning and say, "Matches are dangerous playthings, ma'am!"
and Mrs. Barkley grew very red, and said that she couldn't imagine what
he meant.

However, the party went off well enough.  Miss Jane Jay, who made a
conscious fourth, expected some quiverings and blushings; but that was
because she was young--comparatively.  If she had been older she would
have known better.  Age, with shamefaced relief, has learned the
solvent quality of Time.  It is this quality which makes possible the
contemplation of certain embarrassing heavenly reunions--where
explanations of consolation must be made....  Thirty-one years of days,
days full of personal concerns and interests, had blurred and softened
and finally almost blotted out that one fierce day of angry parting;
those thirty-one years of days had made this man and woman able to meet
with a sort of calm, good-natured interest in each other.  Miss
Lydia--her black frizette over one smiling eye, her hands encased in
white cotton gloves, a new ribbon at the throat of her very old
alpaca--called him "William," with the most commonplace friendliness.
He began with "Miss Sampson," but ended before supper was over with her
first name, and even, once, just as they were going home, with "Lydy,"
at which she did start and blink for an instant, and Jane Jay thought a
faint color came into her cheek.  However, he did not offer to walk
home with her, but bowed politely at Mrs. Barkley's gate, and would
have betaken himself to the Tavern had not Mrs. Barkley, when he was
half-way across the street, called after him.  There was a flutter of
uncertainty in her voice, for those words of Dr. Lavendar's (which she
did not understand) "stuck," she said to herself, "in her crop."  Mr.
Rives came back and paused in the moonlight, looking up at Mrs. Barkley
standing in the doorway.  "I should be pleased, sir," she said, "to
have a few words with you."

"Certainly, ma'am," said Mr. Rives, in his soft voice, and followed her
into the parlor.

"Sit down," said Mrs. Barkley.

William Rives sat down thoughtfully.  A tall lamp on the heavy,
claw-footed table emitted a feeble light through its ground-glass
globe, and Mrs. Barkley stared at it a moment, as though for
inspiration; then she said, in a deep bass: "Mr. Rives, I thought you
might be interested in a certain little project.  Some of us have
thought that we would collect--a--a small sum--"

Mr. Rives bowed; his smiling lips suddenly shut tight.

"Perhaps you have not heard that our old friend Lydia Sampson is in
reduced circumstances; and some of us thought that a small present of
money--

"Ah--" said Mr. Rives.

Mrs. Barkley felt the color come up into her face at that small, cold
sound.  "Lydia is very poor," she blurted out.

"Really?" murmured Mr. Rives, with embarrassment; and fell to stroking
his beaver hat carefully.  Then he added that he deeply regretted Mrs.
Barkley's information.

"I knew you would," she said, in a relieved voice.  "Lydia is a dear
girl.  So kind and so uncomplaining!  And--and faithful in her
affections, William."

"Ah!" said Mr. Rives again; his smile never changed, but his eyes were
keen.

"Yes," Mrs. Barkley said, boldly.  "Why, William--I don't know that I
ought to tell you, but do you remember a sketch of yourself that you
gave her in--in other days?  William, she has kept it ever since.  It
hangs in her parlor, (horrid, smoky room!) And she keeps a sprig of
fresh box stuck in the frame."

"Really?" said Mr. Rives; and his face grew a little redder.

"That's all," Mrs. Barkley said, abruptly.  "Now go.  I just thought
I'd mention it."

"Yes," said Mr. Rives; then added that it was a beautiful night, and
politely bowed himself out.

"But he didn't say anything about giving anything," Mrs. Barkley told
Dr. Lavendar the next day.  And whatever romantic hopes she may have
had withered under the blighting touch of such indifference.



III

Mrs. Barkley's hopes withered and then revived; for as she climbed the
hill to the Stuffed-Animal House a day or two later whom should she see
wandering through the graveyard (of all places!) but Lydia and William.
"Of course, I pretended not to see them," she told Harriet Hutchinson,
"but I believe they've begun to take notice."

They had not seen her; the graveyard was on the crest of the hill, and
the road lay below the bank and the stone wall, wherein were set two or
three iron doors streaked and eaten with rust, each with its name and
its big ring-bolt.  There was a bleached fringe of dead grass along the
top of the wall, but the bank above was growing green in the April
sunshine.  There were many trees in this older part of the cemetery,
and even now, when the foliage was hardly more than a mist, the tombs
and low mounds and old headstones were dappled with light shadows.
Miss Lydia and William had met here, by some chance; and Mrs. Barkley,
climbing the road before it dipped below the bank, had caught sight of
them just where the slope broke into sunshine beyond the trees.  Behind
them, leaning sidewise over a sunken grave, was a slate headstone, its
base deep in a thatch of last year's grass; there were carved cherubs
on the corners, and the inscription was blurred with lichen.  A still
older tomb, a slab of granite on four pedestals, made a seat for Miss
Lydia.  She had been deciphering its crumbling inscription:

  "Mr. Amos Sm ... Sr.
  Born ...... 1734
  Die ... May 7th, 1802
  Aged 68

  "Base body, thou art faint and weak--
    (How the sweet moments roll!)
  A mortal paleness on thy cheek,
    But glory in thy soul!"

William, reading it, had remarked that he thought people lived longer
nowadays.  "Don't you?" he added, anxiously.

"We live long enough," Miss Lydia said.  "I don't want to live too
long."

"You can't live too long," he told her, with his sharp smile.

Miss Lydia laughed and looked down at the crumbling stone.  "I think
sixty-eight was just about long enough.  I'm like Dr. Lavendar; he says
he 'wants to get up from the banquet of life _still hungry_.'  That's
the way I feel.  I don't want to lose my appetite for life by getting
too much of it."

"I couldn't get too much," Mr. Rives said, nervously.  "Let us proceed.
This place is--is not cheerful.  I like cheerfulness.  You always seem
cheerful, Lydy?"

"Course I am," she said, getting up.  "Why shouldn't I be?  I haven't a
care in the world."

"You don't say so!" said William Rives.  "I was under the impression
that your circumstances--"

"My circumstances?" said Miss Lydia.  "Bless you!  I haven't any.
Father didn't leave much of anything.  I had $2000, but Cousin Robinson
invested it and lost it.  He felt so badly, I was just distressed about
him."

"He should have been prosecuted!" Mr. Rives said, angrily.

Miss Lydia shook her head in horrified protest, but she beamed at him
from under her black frizette, grateful for his sympathy.

"I remember," he said, thoughtfully, "that you were always
light-hearted.  I recall your once telling me that you began to sing as
soon as you got up in the morning."

"Oh yes," Miss Lydia said, simply.  "I always sing the morning hymn.
You know the morning hymn, William?

  "'Awake, my soul, and with the sun
  Thy daily course of duty run--'"


William nodded.  "Vocal exercises (if in tune and not too loud) are
always cheerful," he said.

Gossiping thus of simple things, they walked back to Lydia's house and
sat down in her parlor.  There William told her, with a sort of
whimper, that his health was bad.  "I sent for Willy King--he is so
young, he ought not to charge the full fee.  I remember him as a very
impudent boy," Mr. Rives said, growing red at some memory of William's
youth; "however, he seems a respectable young man."

"Oh, indeed he is," said Miss Lydia; "he is a dear, good boy.  I hope
he is doing you good?" she ended, with eager kindness.

"Yes, I think so," he said, anxiously.  And then he gave his symptoms
with a detail that made poor Miss Lydia get very red.  "And I don't
sleep very well," he ended, sighing.  "Willy told me to try repeating
the kings of England backward, but I couldn't remember them; so it
didn't do any good."

"When I don't sleep," said Miss Lydia, "I just count my blessings.
That's a splendid thing to do, because you fall asleep before you get
to the end of 'em."

William sighed.  "The kings of England was a foolish prescription; yet
I paid Willy $1.50 for that call.  Still, I must say I think he is
doing me good; but he recommends many expensive things--perhaps because
he is young.  He wished me to hire a vehicle and drive every day.  Now
just think of the expense of such a thing!  I suggested to him that
instead of hiring a conveyance, I would go out with him in his buggy
whenever he calls.  He is a very young man to treat an important case,"
William ended, sighing.  Then he asked Lydia about her health, with an
exactness which she thought very kind.

"Yes, I'm always well; and _so_ sorry for the poor people who are
sick," she said.

"You are a good nurse, aren't you, Lydy?" he asked.

"I'm always glad when I can do anything for a sick person.  I'm so
sorry for 'em," Miss Lydia said, kindly.

"And you are economical, aren't you, Lydy?" Mr. Rives inquired, in his
mild voice, "and not fond of dress?"

"Bless you!" said Lydia, "how can I be anything but economical?  And as
for being fond of dress--I'm fond of my old dresses, William."

"That is an excellent trait," said William Rives, solemnly.  Then,
catching sight of his own portrait--the slim, anæmic young person in a
stock and tight-waisted coat, with very small feet and very large hat,
he got up to look at it.  "I--have changed a little," he said,
doubtfully.

"It's more becoming to be heavier," Miss Lydia said.  And this remark
gave him such obvious satisfaction that when he went away his perpetual
smile had deepened into positive heartiness.

It was after this talk that he finally added his offering to the
"Present" which just then was occupying Old Chester's attention.  "And
how much do you suppose I got out of him?" Mrs. Barkley asked Dr.
Lavendar.  "_$1.50!_"

However, other friends were more liberal, and by the end of May the $85
(grown now into the round sum of $100) was ready for Miss Lydia.  A
little silk bag, with a scrap of paper twisted about its ribbon
drawing-string, was thrust one evening by an unknown hand into Miss
Lydia's door.  In it were twenty five-dollar gold pieces.  "From old
friends," Dr. Lavendar had written on the scrap of paper.

"Sha'n't we say--'for repairs'?" Mrs. Barkley asked, doubtfully.

"No," Dr. Lavendar declared; "I'd rather say 'to buy curl-papers.'  Of
course she'll use it for repairs; but we mustn't dictate."

Nobody saw Miss Lydia gasp when she opened the bag, and sit down, and
then cry and laugh, but probably every friendly heart in Old Chester
was busy imagining the scene, for every friend had contributed.  They
had all done it in their different ways--and how character confesses
itself in this matter of giving! ... Mrs. Dale, who gave the largest
sum, did it with calm, impersonal kindness.  Martha King said that she
had so many calls upon her charity that she couldn't give much, but was
glad to do what she could.  Miss Harriet Hutchinson said it was a
first-rate idea, and she was obliged to Mrs. Barkley for letting her
have a hand in it; as for Mrs. Drayton, she said it was a great trial
not to contribute, but she could not do so conscientiously.  "_I_ make
such things a matter of prayer," she said; "some do not.  I do not
judge them.  I never judge any one.  But I take all such matters to the
Throne of Grace, and as a result I feel that such things are injurious
to a poor person, and so I must deny myself the pleasure of charity."

William Rives said that he would be pleased to contribute, and Mrs.
Barkley had a moment of intense excitement when she read his
check--$150.  But her emotion only lasted until she put on her
spectacles.

And yet, when Lydia, sitting at the kitchen table, wiped her eyes and
counted her gold by the light of a candle in a hooded candlestick, she
felt, somehow, William's hand in it.  For, by this time, William's
friendliness was beyond any question.  He came to see her every other
day, and he told her all his symptoms and talked of his loneliness and
forlornness until they were both moved to tears.

"Poor William!" she said, her eyes overflowing with sympathy.  "Well,
I'm glad you have plenty of money, anyhow.  It would be hard to be poor
and have bad health, too."

"But I haven't plenty of money," William said, with agitation.  "How
did you get such an idea?  I haven't!"

And then Miss Lydia was sorrier for him than ever.  "Although," she
said, cheerfully, "poverty is the last thing to worry about.  Look at
me.  I don't want to brag, but I'm always contented, and I'll tell you
why: _I don't want things_.  Don't want things, and then you're not
unhappy without 'em."

"Oh, Lydy, that's so true," Mr. Rives said, earnestly.  "I'm so glad
you feel that way."  And he began to call every day.

"It's plain to be seen what's going to happen," said Mrs. Barkley,
excitedly, and whispered her hopes (in secret) to almost everybody in
Old Chester--except Dr. Lavendar.  He became very ill-tempered the
moment she approached the subject.  But she was jocose, in a deep bass,
to Miss Lydia herself; and Miss Lydia did not pretend to misunderstand.
She reddened and laughed; but her eyes were not clear; there was a
puzzled look at the back of them.  Still, when she sat and looked at
her gold the puzzle lightened, and her face, under her black
frizette--in her excitement fallen sidewise over one ear--softened
almost to tears.  "William is kind," she said to herself.

And, indeed, at that very moment William was referring to her in most
kindly terms.  He was sitting in Mrs. Barkley's gloomy parlor, on the
edge of the horse-hair sofa, and Mrs. Barkley was regarding him with
romantic interest.  "I have been much saddened, ma'am," he was saying,
"to observe the destitution of Miss Lydia Sampson."

Mrs. Barkley beamed.  Was he going to do something, after all?  She
spoke in an amiable bass, twitching her heavy eyebrows.  "Our little
gift, which has gone to her to-night, will make her more comfortable.
I could wish it had been larger," she ended, and looked sidewise at Mr.
Rives, who bowed and regretted that it was not larger.  He then coughed
behind his hand.

"Mrs. Barkley, I wish to approach a subject of some delicacy."

("He _is_ going to do something," she thought, excitedly; "or perhaps
he means marriage!")

"Mrs. Barkley, in past years there were passages of affection between
Miss Sampson and myself" (Mrs. Barkley bowed; her heart began to glow
with that warmth which stirs the oldest of us at the sight of a lover).

"We were younger in those days, ma'am," William said, in his soft voice.

"Oh no!" she protested, politely.  "Why, you are very well preserved,
I'm sure."

"Yes," said William, "I am.  Yet I am not as young as I once was."

This drifting away from Miss Lydia disturbed Mrs. Barkley.  She lowered
her chin and glared at him over her spectacles, saying, in a rumbling
bass: "Neither is Lydia; and it's hard for her to be destitute in her
old age."

"Just so," Mr. Rives said, eagerly--"exactly.  She is not as young as
she once was, which, for many reasons, is desirable.  But I think she
is healthy?"

"Why, yes," Mrs. Barkley admitted; "but I don't know that that makes it
easier to be poor."

"But I infer that poverty has taught her economy?" William Rives said.

"Yes; but poverty is a hard teacher."

"But thorough--thorough!" said Mr. Rives; "and some people will learn
of no other."

Mrs. Barkley was growing impatient; she gave up marriage and thought of
a pension.

"Yes," said William; "she is economical, and has good health, and is
fond of old clothes, and is kind-hearted, and doesn't have any wants.
Excellent traits--excellent.  I have looked very carefully at the items
of expense in regard to a housekeeper or nurse."

Mrs. Barkley stared at him in bewilderment.  Was he going to offer
Lydia a position as housekeeper?  She was fairly dizzy with this seesaw
of possibilities; and she was perplexed, too, for, after all, badly as
Lydia needed assistance, propriety must be considered, and certainly
this housekeeping project was of doubtful propriety.  "Because you know
you are neither of you very old," she explained.

Mr. Rives looked disturbed.  "Yes, we are," he said, sharply.  "Quite
old enough.  I would not wish a youthful wife, for--many reasons.
There might be--results, which would interfere with my comfort.  No,
Lydia is no longer young; yet she is sufficiently robust to make me
extremely comfortable."  The light was breaking slowly on Mrs. Barkley.
Her face flushed; she sat up very straight and tapped the table with
her thimble.  "The expense of an extra person is not very considerable,
is it?" Mr. Rives said, doubtfully.  "It was in regard to this that I
wished to consult you."

"Not more than the wages of a housekeeper or a nurse," Mrs. Barkley
said, in a restrained voice.

"Exactly!" cried Mr. Rives--"granted that her health is good."

Mrs. Barkley opened and closed her lips.  Her impulse to show him the
door battled with her common-sense.  After all, it would mean a home
for Lydia; it would mean comfort and ease and absence from worry--plus,
of course, Mr. Rives.  But if Lydia liked him, that wouldn't make any
difference.  And she must like him--her faithfulness to the picture
proved it--and he was an agreeable person; amiable, too, Mrs. Barkley
thought, for he always smiled when he spoke.

"Would you live in Old Chester?" she managed to say, after a pause.

"Yes."

"You would build, I suppose?" Mrs. Barkley said, trying, in the
confusion of her thoughts, to make time.

"No," Mr. Rives said; "we would reside in Lydia's present abode."

"_In Lydia's house_?  You couldn't!--why, it would be impossible!"

Mrs. Barkley, her mouth open with astonishment, saw, suddenly, that
this project was not comfort plus William, but William minus comfort.
"You couldn't!  The chimney in the parlor is dreadful; it smokes
whenever the wind is from the west."

"But, as I understand, Lydia has been provided with the means of
mending the chimney?" William said, anxiously.

At this the rein broke.  Mrs. Barkley rose, tapping the table with
alarming loudness and glaring down at her guest.  "William Rives, I
have been a perfect fool.  But you are worse--you are a mean person.
I'd rather live with a murderer than a mean man!"

[Illustration: "MRS. BARKLEY ROSE, TAPPING THE TABLE WITH ALARMING
LOUDNESS"]

Mr. Rives was unmoved.  His little, steely smile never wavered; he rose
also, bowed, and said: "Possibly Miss Sampson does not agree with you.
I will bid you good-night, ma'am."

"I was a perfect fool," she said again, as the door closed softly
behind him.

But William Rives was no fool....  He said to himself that it behooved
him to see Miss Lydia before Mrs. Barkley had a chance to impart to her
those impolite views regarding himself.  And that was why, as she was
still sitting at her kitchen table, twinkling with happiness over the
kindness of her world and piling her gold pieces in a little leaning
tower, William knocked at the door.

Miss Lydia threw an apron over the small, glittering heap and ran to
let her caller in.  When she saw who it was she whipped off the apron
to display her wealth; the tears stood in her eyes, and her happy heart
burst into words: "How good people are!  Just think--$100!  Why, it
takes my breath away--"

"It is a large sum of money," William said, solemnly, touching the gold
with respectful fingers.  "I would suggest a bank until you pay for the
mending of your chimney.  And you will get some interest if you defer
payment for ninety days."

"Mending my chimney?" Miss Lydia said, thoughtfully.  "Well--that
wouldn't take nearly all this."

William's face brightened.  "You are right to be prudent, Lydia," he
said.  "I admire prudence in a female; but still, masons and
carpenters--in fact, all persons of that sort,--are--thieves!"  Then he
coughed delicately.  "Lydia," he said, "I--I have been thinking--"

"Yes?" said Miss Lydia, calmly.

"We are so situated--each alone, that perhaps we might--we might,
ah--marry--to our mutual advantage?"

"_Marry?_"

"Yes," William said, earnestly; "I should be pleased to marry, Lydy.  I
need a home.  My health is not very good, and I need a home.  You need
a home, also."

"Indeed I don't!" she said; "I've got a home, thank you."

"I haven't," William said; and Lydia's blue eyes softened.  "I am not
very strong," he said ("though I see no reason why I should not live to
old age); but I want a home.  Won't you take me, Lydy?"

Miss Lydia frowned and sighed.  "I am very well satisfied as I am," she
said; "but perhaps that is a selfish way to look at it."

"Yes, it is," he told her, earnestly; "and you didn't use to be
selfish, Lydia."

Miss Lydia sighed again.  "I suppose I could make you comfortable,
William."

"Do take me, Lydy," he entreated.

And somehow or other, before she quite knew it, she had consented.

As soon as the word was spoken, William arose with alacrity.  "I don't
like to be out in the night air," he said, "so I'll say good-night,
Lydy.  And, Lydy--shall we, for the moment, keep this to ourselves?"

"Oh yes," said Miss Lydia, getting very red, "I'd rather, for the
present."  Then, smiling and friendly, she went out with him,
bare-headed, to the gate.  There William hesitated, swallowed once,
rubbed his hands nervously, and then suddenly gave her a kiss.

Miss Lydia Sampson jumped.  "Oh!" she said; and again, "_Oh!_"

And then she ran back into the house, her eyes wet and shining, her
face flushed to her forehead.  She sat down by the table and put her
hands over her eyes; she laughed, in a sort of sob, and her breath came
quickly.

"I hadn't thought of it--that way," she whispered to herself.  And
somehow, as she sat there by her kitchen table, she began to think of
it that way--Miss Lydia was very young! ... Oh, she would try and make
him happy; she would try and be more orderly; she would try to be good,
since her Heavenly Father had given back to her the old happiness.

And that night she did not bid the picture good-night.

Mr. Rives was himself not without emotion.  It was many years, he
reflected, since his lips had touched those of a female, and the
experience was agreeable--so agreeable that he wished to repeat it as
soon as possible; and, furthermore, he felt anxious to know that Lydia
had put the gold in a safe place.  But when he called the next day he
was a little late, because, as he explained to Miss Lydia, he had had
to wait for the mail.  She met him with a new look in her innocent,
eager eyes, and her face was shy and red.  As she sat sewing, listening
vaguely, she would glance at him now and then, as if, until now, she
had not seen him since that day of parting, thirty-one years ago--the
thirty-one years which had blotted Amanda's field from her memory.  The
old happiness, like a tide long withdrawn, was creeping back, rising
and rising, until it was overflowing in her eyes.  This puffy
gentleman, with his tight, smiling mouth, was the William of her
youth--and she had never known it until last night!  She had thought of
him during the last month or two only as an old friend who needed the
care which her kind heart prompted her to give; and lo! suddenly he was
the lover who would care for her.

"I was sorry, my dear Lydia, to be late," said Mr. Rives, in his soft
voice; "I was detained by waiting for the mail."

Miss Lydia said, brightly, that it didn't matter.

"But it was worth waiting for," William assured her.  "I have done a
good piece of business.  (Not that it will make me richer; I have so
many obligations to meet!)  But it was a fortunate stroke."

"That is good," said Miss Lydia.

"A female in a distant city, where I own a poor little bit of real
estate--nothing of any value, Lydia; I am a poor man--"

"That's no difference," she told him, softly.

"--this female, a widow, and foolish (as widows always are)," William
said, with a little giggle, "asked me to sell her a house I owned.  She
wished, for some reason, to purchase in that locality.  I named the
market price.  I did so, by letter, a fortnight ago.  I believe she
thought it high; but that was her affair.  She would have to sell
certain securities to purchase it, she said.  But as I wrote her--'my
dear madam, that's your business.'"  Mr. Rives laughed a little.  Miss
Lydia looked up, smiling and interested.  "Yes," said Mr. Rives--"I
didn't urge it.  I never urge, because then I can't be blamed if things
go wrong.  But I held my price.  That is always good policy--not to
drop a dollar on price.  So she's bought it.  She made a payment
yesterday to bind the sale.  Not that I feel any richer, for I must
immediately apply the money to the purchase of other things."

"That's nice," Miss Lydia said.

"I guess it is," William agreed; "I happen to know that a boiler
factory is to be erected on the rear lot."

"But will she like that--the poor widow?" Miss Lydia said.

Mr. Rives laughed comfortably.  "Ah, Lydy, my dear, in business we do
not ask such questions before making a sale.  _I_ like it.  In three
months that bit of property will have shrunk to an eighth of its
selling price to-day."  Mr. Rives's eyes twinkled with satisfaction.

"But--_William!_" said Miss Lydia.  Suddenly she grew pale.  "William,"
she said, "it seems to me you ought to have told the poor widow."

"Lydia, a lady cannot understand business," William said, with kindly
condescension, but with a slight impatience.  "Don't you see, if I had
told her, she would not have made the purchase?"

Miss Lydia was silent, stroking the gathers of her cambric with a
shaking needle.  Then she said, in a low voice, "I suppose she
wouldn't."

William nodded encouragingly.  "You'll learn, Lydia.  A married lady
learns much of business methods through her husband.  Though they don't
profit by it, I notice; widows are always foolish.  Not that--that you
will be likely to be--to be foolish," he ended, hastily, frowning very
much.

Lydia went on sewing in silence.  The color did not come back into her
face, which caused William to ask her anxiously how she was.

"You are sure you are healthy, Lydia, aren't you?" he said.

Miss Lydia, without looking at him, said she was.  When he had gone,
she stopped sewing and glanced about her in a frightened way; then she
put her hands over her eyes and drew in her breath, and once she
shivered.  She sat there for a long time.  After a while she got up and
went over to the picture of Mr. William Rives and stood looking at it;
and as she looked her poor, terrified eyes quieted into tears and she
straightened the bit of box with a tender hand, and then she suddenly
bent down and kissed the slim gentleman behind the misty glass.

The next day when she met her lover she was cheerful enough.  It was at
the front door of the Tavern; Dr. Lavendar was there, too, waiting for
the morning stage for Mercer.

"Well! well!  So I am going to have company, am I?" he said, for Miss
Lydia was waiting for it, too.  Her bonnet was on one side, her shabby
jacket, fading from black to green on the shoulders, was split at the
elbow seams, and the middle finger of each glove was worn through; but
her eyes were shining with pleasure.

"Yes," she said, nodding; "I'm going."

Her presence seemed to be a surprise to Mr. Rives, who had strayed
forth from the breakfast-room to see the stage start.

"You are going to Mercer?" he said, his small smile fading into an
astonished question.

"Yes," Miss Lydia said, laughing, and suddenly she gave a little jump
of happiness.  "I haven't been to Mercer for nine years.  Oh, dear!
isn't it just delightful!"

"But, why?" William persisted, in an amazed aside.

"Oh, that's the secret!" cried Miss Lydia, clambering into the stage;
"you'll know sometime."

"I suppose you wish to arrange for the alterations of your house?"
William said; "but considering the stage fares back and forth--  Oh,
there is Dr. Lavendar."

He came round to the other side of the stage, smiling very much.
"Well, sir, good-morning! good-morning, sir!"

"Hello," Dr. Lavendar said.

Mr. Rives rubbed his hands.  "I--I was about to say, Dr. Lavendar--that
little matter between us--it's of no importance, of course; quite at
your convenience, sir; I don't mean to press you--but at your
convenience, sir."

"What are you talking about?" Dr. Lavendar said, with a puzzled blink.

"Well," William said, smiling, "there's no haste, only I thought I'd
just remind you.  I'm always business-like myself; and that little
matter of accommodation--"

Dr. Lavendar stared at him.  "I am afraid I'm a stupid old fellow; I
don't understand."

The stage-driver gathered up his reins; Miss Lydia nodded joyously on
the back seat, the two other passengers frowned at the delay; so
William Rives made haste to explain: "Merely, sir, the stamp I had the
pleasure of lending you.  But pray don't incommode yourself; I merely
remind you; it's of no--"

Dr. Lavendar pulled out his shabby leather pocket-book, his hands
fairly trembling with haste, and produced the stamp; then he pulled the
door to, and as the stage sagged forward and went tugging up the hill,
he turned his astonished eyes on Miss Lydia.  She had grown very pale,
but she said nothing, only looking out of the window and rubbing her
little cotton gloves hard together.

"Would you have asked him for a receipt?" Dr. Lavendar said, under his
breath, chuckling.  But when she tried to answer him, there was
something in her face that turned Dr. Lavendar grave.

The stage jolted on; the two other passengers chatted, then one fell
asleep and the other read an almanac.  Suddenly Miss Lydia turned
sharply round.  "It just kills me!" she said.

"Nonsense!" Dr. Lavendar told her.  "He is a man of business, and I'm a
forgetful old codger.  I knew William, and I ought to have remembered."

But Miss Lydia's face had fallen into such drawn and anxious lines that
Dr. Lavendar had to do his best to cheer her.  He began to ask
questions: How long was it since she had been in Mercer?  Was she going
to call on friends?  Was she going to shop?  "I believe you ladies
always want to shop?" said Dr. Lavendar, kindly.  And somehow Miss
Lydia brightened up.  Yes; she was going to shop!  It was a secret: she
couldn't tell Dr. Lavendar yet, but he should know about it first of
all.  She was so happy, so important, so excited, that her pain at
William's business-like ways seemed forgotten; and when in Mercer they
separated at the Stage House, she went bustling off into the sunshine,
waving a shabby cotton glove at him, and crying, "I haven't a minute to
lose!"

Dr. Lavendar stood still and shook his head.  "Pity," he said--"pity,
pity.  But I suppose it can't be helped.  There's no use telling
William about her; he must see it.  And there's no use telling her
about William; she must see it.  No--no use.  But it's a pity--a pity."
Which shows that Dr. Lavendar had reached that degree of wisdom which
knows that successful interference in love affairs must come from the
inside, not from the outside.

He did not see Miss Lydia again until they met in the afternoon at the
Stage House, and for a minute he did not recognize her.  She came
running and panting, laden with bundles, to the coach door.  Indeed,
she was so hurried that one of her innumerable packages, a long, slim
bundle, slipped from her happy, weary arms, and, hitting the iron
drop-step, crashed into fragments and splashed her dress with its
contents.  "Oh! that's one of my bottles of Catawba," said Miss Lydia.
"Dear, dear!  Well, never mind; I'll order another."

The fragrance of the wine soaking her gloves and the front of her faded
dress, filled the stage (in which they were the only passengers), and
Miss Lydia joyously licked the two bare finger-tips.  "Too bad!" she
said; "but accidents will happen."

Dr. Lavendar helped her pile her bundles on the front seat, and then he
unhooked the swinging strap so that certain parcels could be put on the
middle bench.  Miss Lydia leaned back with a happy sigh.  "The rest
will come down to-morrow," she said.

"The _rest_?" said Dr. Lavendar.

"Oh, I've just got to tell somebody!" she said.  "Promise you won't
tell?"

"I won't tell," he assured her.

"Well," said Miss Lydia, "look here--do you see that?"  She tore a
little hole in a long, flat package, and Dr. Lavendar saw a gleam of
blue.  "That's a dress.  Yes, a blue silk dress--for myself.  I'm
afraid it was selfish to get a thing just for myself, but that and a
pair of white kid gloves and some lace are all I did get; and I've
wanted a silk dress, a blue silk dress, ever since I got poor."

Dr. Lavendar looked at her and at the hole in the package, and at her
again.  "Lydia!" he said, "is it possible that you--?  _Lydia!_" he
ended, speechless with consternation.

"The other things are all for the party."

"The--party?"

"Presents!" she said, rubbing her hands.  "Oh, dear!  I'm so tired!
And I'm so happy!  Oh, nobody was ever so happy.  The party (that's the
secret) is to be next Thursday a week; that gives me time to make my
dress.  I ordered the cake in Mercer.  All pink-and-white
icing--perfectly lovely!  And I have a present for everybody.  Here's a
work-basket for Martha King.  And I have a bird-cage and a canary for
dear Willy (that is to come down to-morrow; I really couldn't carry
everything).  And I've got a knitted shawl for Maria Welwood, and a
cloak for her dear Rose--that was rather expensive, but it's always
cheap to get the best.  And a cornelian breast-pin for Alice Gray.  And
a Roman sash for poor little Mary Gordon; she seems to me such a
forlorn child--no mother, and that rough Alex for a brother.
And--well; oh, dear!  I'm so excited I can hardly remember--a book for
Mr. Ezra; a book for Mrs. Dale.  Books are safe presents, don't you
think?"

Dr. Lavendar groaned.

"And a picture for Rachel King--that's it; that square bundle.  So
pretty!--a little girl saying her prayers; sweet!--it's like her Anna.
And a box of candy for Sally Smith's little brothers; and a pair of
agate cuff-buttons for Sally--"  She was moving her packages about as
she checked them off, and she looked round at Dr. Lavendar with a sigh
of pure joy.  He could not speak his distracted thought.

"Oh, you mustn't see that," she cried, suddenly pushing a certain
package under the others with great show of secrecy; and Dr. Lavendar
groaned again.  "I think a party with presents for everybody will be
very unusual, don't you?" she asked, heaping her bundles up carefully;
two more fingers had burst through her cotton gloves, and as she leaned
forward a button snapped off her jacket.  "I don't want to brag," she
said, "but I think it will be as nice a party as we have ever had in
Old Chester."

"But, Lydia, my dear," Dr. Lavendar said, gently, "I am afraid it is
extravagant, isn't it, to try to give us all so much pleasure?  And is
a blue silk frock very--well, serviceable, I believe, you ladies call
it?"

"No, indeed it isn't," she said, with sudden, pathetic passion.
"_That's why I got it_.  I never, since I was a girl, have had anything
that wasn't serviceable."

"But," Dr. Lavendar said, "I rather hoped you would see your way clear
to making your house a little more comfortable?"

"Why, but I'm perfectly comfortable," she assured him; "and even if I
was not, I'd rather, just for once in my life, have my party and give
my presents.  Oh, just once in a lifetime!  I'd rather," she said, and
her eyes snapped with joy--"I'd rather have next Thursday night, and my
house as it is, than just comfort all the rest of my days.  Comfort!
What's comfort?"

"Well, Lydia, it's a good deal to some of us," Dr. Lavendar said.  And
then his eyes narrowed.  "Lydia, my dear--does Mr. Rives know about
this?"

Miss Lydia, counting her packages over, said, absently, "No; it is to
be a surprise to William."

"If I am not mistaken," said Dr. Lavendar, "it will be a very great
surprise to William."

And then he fell into troubled thought; but as he thought his face
brightened.  It brightened so much that by the time they reached Old
Chester he was as joyously excited about the party as was Miss Lydia
herself, who made him a thousand confidences about her dress and her
presents and the food which would be offered to her guests.  His
joyousness had not abated when, the next morning, Mrs. Barkley
presented herself, breathless, at the Rectory.

"I think," said she, in an awful bass, sitting up very straight and
glaring at Dr. Lavendar, "that this is the most terrible thing that
ever happened."

"There are worse things," said Dr. Lavendar.

"_I_ know of nothing worse," Mrs. Barkley said, with dreadful
composure.  "You may.  You know what the unregenerate human heart may
do.  I do not.  This is the worst.  What will people say?  What will
Mrs. Dale say?  It must be stopped!  She ran in this morning and told
me in confidence.  She came, she said, to know if she could borrow my
teaspoons next Thursday week.  I said she could, of course; but I
suppose I looked puzzled; I couldn't imagine--then she confessed.  She
said you knew, but no one else.  Then, before I came to my senses, she
ran out.  I came here at once to say that you must stop it."

"In the first place," said Dr. Lavendar, thrusting his hands down into
his dressing-gown pockets, "I couldn't stop it.  In the second place, I
haven't the right to stop it.  And in the third place, I wouldn't stop
it if I could."

"Dr. Lavendar!"

"I am delighted with the plan.  We need gayety in Old Chester; _I think
we'll get it_.  I hope she'll have Uncle Davy in, with his fiddle, and
we'll have a reel.  Mrs. Barkley, will you do me the honor?"

It came over Mrs. Barkley, with a sudden chill, that there was
something the matter with Dr. Lavendar.

"I have calculated," said the old minister, chuckling, "that Miss Lydia
has in hand, at present, about $1.75 of our $100.  This sum I trust she
will give to Foreign Missions.  The need is great.  I shall bring it to
her attention."

"Dr. Lavendar," said Mrs. Barkley; and paused.

"Ma'am?"

"I don't understand you, sir."

Dr. Lavendar looked at her and smiled.



IV

And so the night of Old Chester's festivity approached.  Miss Lydia's
invitations were delivered the morning of the day, but a rumor of the
party was already in the air.  There had been some shakings of the head
and one or two frowns.  "It will cost her at least $3," said Martha
King, "and she could get a new bonnet with that."

"It's her way of thanking us for her present," said the doctor, "and a
mighty nice way, too.  I'm going.  I'll wear my white waistcoat."

Mrs. Drayton said, calmly, that it was dishonest.  "The money was given
to her for one purpose.  To ask people to tea, and have even only cake
and lemonade, is spending it for another purpose.  It will cost her at
least $4.50.  Not a large sum, compared with the whole amount donated
in charity.  But the principle is the same.  I always look for the
principle--it is a Christian's duty.  And I could not face my Maker if
I ever failed in duty."

Then Mrs. Dale's comment ran from lip to lip: "Miss Lydia has a right
to do as she pleases with her own; if she invites me to tea, I shall go
with pleasure."

When the rumor reached William Rives's ears he turned pale, but he made
no comment.  "But I came to ask you about it, Lydy," he said.  This was
Wednesday evening, and William stood at the front door; Miss Lydia was
on the step above him.  "I won't ask you to come in, William," she
said, "I'm so busy--if you'll excuse me."

"I am always gratified," said William, "when a female busies herself in
household affairs, so I will not interrupt you.  I came for two
purposes: first, to inquire when you intend to begin the improvements
upon your house; and, secondly, to say that I hope I am in error in
regard to this project of a supper that I hear you are to give."

"Why?" said Lydia.

"Because," William said, with his sharp, neat smile, "a supper is not
given without expense.  Though I approve of hospitality, and make a
point of accepting it, yet I am always conscious that it costs money.
I cannot but calculate, as I see persons eating and drinking, the
amount of money thus consumed, and I often wonder at my hosts.  I say
to myself, as I observe a guest drink a cup of tea, 'Two cents.'  Such
thoughts (which must present themselves to every practical man) are
painful.  And such a supper as I hear you mean to give would involve
many cups of tea."

"Twenty-seven," said Miss Lydia.

"And is there to be cake also?" said William, breathlessly.

"There is," said Miss Lydia; "a big one, with a castle in
pink-and-white icing on it--beautiful!"

William was stricken into silence; then he said, shaking his head, "Do
you really mean it, Lydy?"

"I do, William."

Mr. Rives sighed.

"Well," he said--"well, I regret it.  But, Lydy, we might utilize the
occasion?  Refreshment is always considered genteel at a marriage.  Why
not combine your supper with our wedding?  We can be married to-morrow
night.  Dr. Lavendar is coming, I presume?  I can get the license in
the morning."

Miss Lydia was silent; the color came into her face, and she put her
hand up to her lips in a frightened way.  "Oh, I--don't know," she
faltered.  "I--I am not--not ready--"

"Oh," William urged, "never mind about being ready; I should be the
last to wish you to go to any of the foolish expense of dress customary
on such occasions.  Yes, Lydy, it is an opportunity.  Do agree, my
dear; we will save money by it."

Miss Lydia drew in her breath; she was very pale; then suddenly she
nodded.  "Well, yes," she said.  "I will, if you want to, William.
Yes, I will."

"I will communicate with Dr. Lavendar," said Mr. Rives, joyfully, "and
ask him to hold himself in readiness, but not to speak of it outside."
Miss Lydia nodded, and, closing the door, went back to her engrossing
affairs.  Presents and a party and a wedding--no wonder the poor little
soul was white and dizzy with excitement!

Long will Old Chester remember that occasion: The little house, lighted
from garret to cellar; candles in every possible spot; flowers all
about; the mantel-piece heaped with bundles; William King's bird-cage
hanging in the window; Uncle Davy's fiddle twanging in the kitchen; and
Miss Lydia in front of the smoky fireplace, banked now with larkspurs
and peonies--Miss Lydia in a light, bright blue silk dress trimmed with
lace; Miss Lydia in white kid gloves, buttoned with one button at the
wrist, and so tight that the right glove split across the back when she
began to shake hands.  Oh, it was a great moment....  No wonder she was
pale with excitement! ... She was very pale when William Rives
arrived--arrived, and stood dumfounded!--staring at Miss Lydia; staring
at the packages which were now finding their way into astonished hands;
staring at the refreshment-table between the windows, at the great,
frosted cake, at the bottles of Catawba, at Mrs. Barkley's spoons stuck
into tall glasses of wine jelly.  Mr. Rives stood staring at these
things, his small eyes starting out upon his purpling cheeks, and as he
stared, Miss Lydia, watching him, grew paler and paler.

[Illustration: "MISS LYDIA, WATCHING HIM, GREW PALER AND PALER"]

Then, suddenly, William, stealthily, step by step, began to back out of
the room.  In the doorway he shouldered Mrs. Barkley, and, wheeling,
turned upon her a ferocious face:

"_And I contributed $1.50--_"

But as he retreated and retreated, the color returned to Miss Lydia's
cheek.  She had almost stopped breathing as he stood there; but when he
finally disappeared, she broke out into the full joyousness of the
occasion.  The opening of each present was like a draught of wine to
her, the astounded or angry thanks went to her head; she rubbed her
hands until the left glove split also; and then Uncle Davy's fiddle
began in good earnest, and she bustled about, running and laughing, and
arranging partners for the reel.

Yes, it was a great occasion.  Old Chester talked of it for months; not
even William Rives's most unexpected and unexplainable departure the
next day on the morning stage could divert the appalled, excited,
disapproving interest that lasted the year out.  Not even Miss Lydia's
continued faithfulness to the portrait, which had condoned so many
offences in the past, could soften Old Chester's very righteous
indignation.  There were, it must be admitted, one or two who professed
that they did not share the disapproval of all right-thinking persons;
one was, if you please, Mr. Smith!  (He was one of the new Smiths, so
one might expect anything from him.)  He had not been invited to the
party, but when he heard of it he roared with most improper mirth.

"Well done!" he said.  "By Jove! what a game old party.  Well done!
The money was champagne on an empty stomach; of course, she got drunk.
It would have been cheaper to have bought a bottle of the genuine
article and shut herself up for twenty-four hours.  Well, it's worth
the cost of a new chimney.  I'll put her repairs through, Dr.
Lavendar--unless you want to get up another present?"  And then he
roared again.  Very ill-bred man he was.

Dr. Lavendar said that there would not be another present.  He said
Miss Lydia had a right, in his opinion, to spend her money as she
chose; but there would not be another present.

And then he walked home, blinking and smiling.  "Smith's a good
fellow," he said to himself, "if he is one of the new folks.  But what
I'd like to know is: _did Lydia think $100 a low price?_"



AMELIA


I

The exception that proved Old Chester's rule as to the subjection of
Youth was found in the household of Mr. Thomas Dilworth.

When the Dilworth children (at least the two girls) hung about their
father when he came home at night or teased and scolded and laughed at
him at their friendly breakfast-table, an observer might have thought
himself miles away from Old Chester and its well-brought-up Youth.  The
way those girls talk to Thomas Dilworth!  "Where will it end?" said Old
Chester, solemnly.  For instance, the annual joke in the Dilworth
family was that father had been in love with mother for as many years
as she was old, less so many minutes.

Now, imagine Old Chester children indulging in such familiarities!

Yet on Mrs. Dilworth's birthday this family witticism was always in
order:

"Father, how long have you been mother's beau?"

And Thomas, rosy, handsome, looking at least ten years younger than his
Amelia, would say: "Well, let's see: forty-one years" (or two or three,
as the case might be), "eleven months, twenty-nine days, twenty-three
hours, and forty minutes; she was twenty minutes old when I first laid
eyes on her, and during those twenty minutes I was heart-whole."

But Mrs. Dilworth, smiling vaguely behind her coffee-cups, would
protest: "I never heard anything about it, Tom, until you were sixteen."

And then the girls would declare that they must be told just what
father said when he was sixteen and mother was twelve.  But Thomas drew
the line at that.  "Come! come! you mustn't talk about love-making.  As
for marrying, I don't mean to let you girls get married at all.  And
Ned here had better not let me catch him thinking of such nonsense
until he's twenty-five.  He can get married (if I like the girl) when
he is twenty-eight."

"You got married at twenty-two, sir," Edwin demurred.

"If you can find a woman like your mother, you can get married at
twenty-two.  But you can't.  They don't make 'em any more.  So you've
got to wait.  And remember, I've decided not to let Mary and Nancy get
married, ever.  I don't propose to bring up a brace of long-legged
girls, and clothe 'em and feed 'em and pay their doctors' bills, and
then, just as they get old enough to amount to anything and quit being
nuisances, hand 'em over to another fellow.  No, sir!  You've got to
stay at home with me.  Do you understand?"

The girls screamed at this, and flung themselves upon him to kiss him
and pull his hair.

No wonder Old Chester was shocked.

Yet, in spite of such happenings, Thomas and Amelia Dilworth were of
the real Old Chester.  They were not tainted with _newness_--that sad
dispensation of Providence which had to be borne by such people as the
Macks or the Hayeses, or those very rich (but really worthy) Smiths.
The Dilworths were not new; yet their three children had the
training--or the lack of training--that made the Hayes children and
their kind a subject for Old Chester's prayers.

"Who can say what the result of Milly Dilworth's negligence will be?"
Mrs. Drayton said, sighing, to Dr. Lavendar; who only reminded her that
folks didn't gather thistles of figs--generally speaking.

But in spite of Dr. Lavendar's optimism, it was a queer household,
according to Old Chester lights....  In the first place, the father and
mother were more unlike than is generally considered to be
matrimonially safe.  Amelia was a dear, good soul, but, as Miss Helen
Hayes said once, "with absolutely no mind"; while Thomas Dilworth was
eminently level-headed, although very fond (so Mrs. Drayton said) of
female society.  And it must be admitted that Thomas had more than once
caused his Milly a slight pang by such fondness.  But at least he was
never conscious that he had done so--and Milly never told him.  (But
Mrs. Drayton said that that was something she could not forgive in a
married gentleman.  "My dear husband," said Mrs. Drayton, "has never
wandered from me, even in imagination.")  Added to conjugal incongruity
was this indifference on the part of Thomas and his wife to the
training of the children.  The three young Dilworths were allowed to
grow up exactly as they pleased.  It had worked well enough with Mary
and Nancy, who were good girls, affectionate and sensible--so sensible
that Nancy, when she was eighteen, had practically taken the
housekeeping out of her mother's hands; and Mary, at sixteen, looked
out for herself and her affairs most successfully.  With Edwin the
Dilworth system had not been so satisfactory.  He was conceited (though
that is only to be expected of the male creature at nineteen) and
rather selfish; and he had an unlovely reserve, in which he was
strikingly unlike his father, who overflowed with confidences.  This,
and other unlikeness, was, no doubt, the reason that there were
constant small differences between them.  And Mrs. Dilworth--vague,
gentle soul!--was somehow unable to smooth the differences over as
successfully as most mothers do.

Now, smoothing things over is practically a profession to mothers of
families.  But Milly Dilworth had never succeeded in it.  In the first
place, she had no gift of words; the more she felt, the more
inexpressive she became; but, worst of all, she had, poor woman, not
the slightest sense of humor.  Now, in dealing with husbands and
children (especially with husbands), though you have the tongues of
men--which are thought to be more restrained than those of women--and
though you have the gift of prophecy (a common gift of wives) and
understand all mysteries--say, of housekeeping--and though you give
your body to be used up and worn out for their sakes, yet all these
things profit you nothing if you have no sense of humor.  And Milly
Dilworth had none.

That was why she could not understand.

She loved, in her tender, undemonstrative way, her shy, unpractical,
secretive Edwin and her two capable girls; she loved, with the single,
silent passion of her soul, her generous, selfish, light-hearted Tom,
who took her wordless worship as unconsciously and simply as he took
the air he breathed; she loved them all.  But she did not pretend to
understand them.  Thus she stood always a little aside, watching and
loving, and wondering sometimes in her simple way; but often suffering,
as people with no sense of humor are apt to suffer.  Dear, dull, gentle
Milly!  No one could remember a harsh word of hers, or mean deed, or a
little judgment.  No wonder Dr. Lavendar felt confident that there
would be no thistles in her household.

Thomas Dilworth had the same comfortable conviction, especially in
regard to his girls.  "Now, Milly, honestly," he used to say, "apart
from the fact that they are ours, don't you really think they are the
nicest girls in Old Chester?"

Milly would admit, in her brief way, that they were good children.

"And Edwin means all right," the father would assure himself; and then
add that he couldn't understand their boy--"at least, I suppose he's
ours?  Willy King says so.  I have thought perhaps he was a changeling,
put into the cradle the first day."

"But, Tom," Milly would protest, anxiously, "Neddy couldn't be a
changeling.  He was never out of my sight for the first week--not even
to be taken out of the room to be shown to people.  Besides, he has
your chin and my eyes."

"Well, if you really think so?" Thomas would demur.  And Mrs. Dilworth
always said, earnestly, that she was sure of it.

Still, in spite of eyes and chin, Ned's unpracticalness was an anxiety
to his father, and his uncommunicativeness a constant irritation.
Thomas himself was ready to share anything he possessed, money or
opinions or hopes, with any friend, almost with any acquaintance.  "I
don't want to know anybody's business," he used to say; "I'm not
inquisitive, Milly; you know I'm not.  But I hate hiding things!  Why
shouldn't he say where he's going when he goes out in the evening?
Sneaking off, as if he were ashamed."

"He just doesn't think of it," the mother would say, trying to smooth
it over.

"Well, he ought to think of it," the father would grumble, eager to be
smoothed.

But Milly found it harder to reconcile her husband to their boy's
indifference to business than to his reserves.

"He sees fit to look down on the hardware trade," Tom told his wife,
angrily.  "'Well, sir,' I said to him the other day, 'it's given you
your bread-and-butter for nineteen years; yes--and your fiddle, too,
and your everlasting music lessons.'  And I'll tell you what, Milly, a
man who looks down on his business will find his business looking down
on him.  And it's a good business--it's a darned good business.  If Ned
doesn't have the sense to see it, he had better go and play his fiddle
and hold out his hat for pennies."

Milly looked anxiously sympathetic.

"I don't know what is going to become of him," Thomas went on.  "When
you come to provide for three out of the hardware business, nobody gets
very much."

Mrs. Dilworth was silent.

"I was talking about him to Dr. Lavendar yesterday, and he said: 'Oh,
he'll fall in love one of these days, and he'll see that fiddling won't
buy his wife her shoe-strings; then he'll take to the hardware
business,' Dr. Lavendar said.  It's all very well to talk about his
falling in love and taking to business; but if he falls in love, I'll
have another mouth to fill.  And maybe more," he added, grimly.

"Not for a year, anyway," his wife said, hopefully.  "And, besides, I
don't think Neddy's thinking of such a thing."

"I hope not, at his age."

"You were engaged when you were nineteen."

"My dear, I wasn't Ned."

Mrs. Dilworth was silent.

"The Packards telegraphed to-day that they wouldn't take that reaper,"
Tom Dilworth said.

Milly seemed to search for words of sympathy, but before she found them
Tom began to talk of something else; he never waited for his wife's
replies, or, indeed, expected them.  He was so constituted that he had
to have a listener; and during all their married life she had listened.
When she replied, she was a sounding-board, echoing back his own
opinions; when she was silent, he took her silence to mean agreement.
Tom used to say that his Milly wasn't one of the smart kind; he didn't
like smartness in a woman, anyway; but she had darned good sense;--for,
like the rest of us, Thomas Dilworth had a deep belief in the
intelligence of the people who agreed with him....

"I have a great mind," he rambled on, "to go up to the Hayeses'.  You
know that note is due on the 15th, and I believe I'll have to ask him
to extend it.  I hate to do it, but Packard has upset my calculations,
and I'll have to get an extension, or else sell something out; and just
now I don't like to do that."

"Very well," she said.  It was her birthday--the one day in the year
that her Thomas remembered that he had been in love with her for so
many years, months, days, hours, minutes--a fact she never for one day
in the year forgot.  But she could no more have reminded him of the day
than she could have flown.  She was constitutionally inexpressive.

Tom began to whistle:

[Illustration: music fragment]

but broke off to say, "Well, since you advise it, I'll see Hayes"; then
he gave her a kiss, and immediately forgot her--as completely as he had
forgotten his supper or any other comfortable and absolutely necessary
thing.  Then he lighted his cigar and started for the Hayeses'.



II

"And who do you suppose I found there?" he said, when he got home, well
on towards eleven o'clock, an hour so dissipated for Old Chester that
Milly was broad awake in silent anxiety.  "Why, Ned, if you please!  He
was talking to Hayes's daughter Helen.  She seems a mighty nice girl,
Milly.  I packed young Edwin off at nine; he was boring Miss Helen to
death.  Boys have no sense about such things.  Can't you give him a
hint that women of twenty-five don't care for little boys' talk?
By-the-way, she talks mighty well herself.  After I settled my business
with Hayes, we got to discussing the President's letter; she had just
read it."

"Do you mean to say _that the President has written to Helen Hayes_?"
cried Mrs. Dilworth, sitting up in bed in her astonishment.

Thomas roared, and began to pull his boots.  "Why, they are regular
correspondents!  Didn't you know it?"

"No!  I hadn't the slightest idea--Tom, you're joking?"

"My dear, you can't think I am capable of joking?  But, Milly, look
here, I'll tell you one thing: she was mighty sensible about Ned.  She
thinks there's a good deal to him--"

"I don't need Helen Hayes to tell me that," said Ned's mother.

Tom, who never paused for his wife's reply, was whistling joyfully:

[Illustration: music fragment]


Helen Hayes had been very comforting to him; he had protested, when Ned
reluctantly departed, that a boy never knew when to clear out; and Miss
Helen had pouted, and said Ned shouldn't be scolded; "I wouldn't let
him 'clear out'--so there!"  Few women of thirty-two can be cunning
successfully, but Tom thought Miss Helen very cunning.  "I just
perfectly love to hear him talk about his music," she said.

"He can't talk about anything else," Ned's father said.  "That's the
trouble with him."

"The trouble with him?  Why, that's the beauty of him," said Miss
Hayes, with enthusiasm; and Thomas said to himself that she was a
mighty good-looking girl.  The rose-colored lamp-shade cast a soft
light on a face that was not quite so young as was the frock she
wore--rose-colored also, with much yellowish lace down the front.  It
was very unlike Milly's dresses--dark, good woollens, made rather
tight, for Milly, short and stout and forty-three, aspired (for her
Thomas's sake) to a figure,--which is always a pity at forty-three.
Furthermore, Helen Hayes's hands, very white and heavy with shining
rings, lay in lovely idleness in her lap; and that is so much more
restful in a woman's hands than to be fussing with sewing "or
everlasting darning," Thomas thought.  In fact, what with her lovely
idleness and her praise of his boy, Tom Dilworth thought he had rarely
seen so pleasing a young woman.  "Though she's not so very young, after
all; she must be twenty-five," he told his wife.

"She'll never see thirty again."

"Well, she's a mighty nice girl," Thomas said.

Except to look pretty, Miss Helen Hayes had done nothing to produce
this impression, for she had contradicted Mr. Dilworth up and down
about Ned.

"He has genius, you know."

"You mean his fiddle?" Tom said, incredulously.

"I mean his music.  We'll hear of him one of these days."

"I don't care much whether we ever hear from his music," he said, "but
I wish I could hear that he was applying himself to business."

"Business!" cried Helen Hayes.  "What is business compared to Art?"

Thomas looked over at Mr. Hayes in astonishment, for in those days, in
Old Chester, this particular sort of talk had not been heard; the older
man sneered and changed his cigar from one corner of his mouth to the
other.  Miss Hayes did not get much sympathy from her family.  But she
went on with pretty dogmatism:

"You see, in a man like your son--"

"A man!  He's only twenty, my dear young lady."

"In a _man_, sir! like your son--genius is the thing to consider; and
you owe it to the world to let genius have its fullest play.  Don't
bring Pegasus down to plough Old Chester cornfields.  Why, it seems to
me," said Helen Hayes, "that he ought to be allowed to just soar.  We
common folk ought to do the ploughing."

"Thunder an' guns!" said Tom Dilworth.

"I don't care if he can't be sure that two and two make four," cried
Miss Helen (Thomas, bubbling into aggrieved confidence on this sore
subject, had alleged this against his son); "he can put four notes
together that open the gates of heaven.  And he'll distinguish himself
in music, because his father's son is bound to have tremendous
perseverance and energy."

Old Mr. Hayes snorted and spat into the fire; but Miss Helen's look
when she said "his father's son" made Mr. Thomas Dilworth simper.

"That girl has sense," he said to himself as he walked home at a
quarter to eleven.  But he only told Mrs. Dilworth that she had better
hint to Ned to be a little more backward in coming forward.  "That
Hayes girl is nice to him on our account," said Tom, "but he needn't
bore her to death.  Milly, why don't you have one of those pink
wrappers?  She had one on to-night.  Loose, you know, and trimmed down
the front."

"A wrapper isn't very suitable for company," Mrs. Dilworth said,
briefly.  "It didn't matter with you, because you're an old married
man; but she oughtn't to go round in wrappers when Neddy's there."

"Why, it was a sort of party dress--all lace and stuff.  I wish you had
one like it.  As for Ned, he's a babe; and her wrapper thing was
perfectly proper, of course.  Can't you ask her for the pattern?"

And then Thomas went to sleep and dreamed of a large order for
galvanized buckets; but his Milly lay awake a long time, wondering how
she could get a pink dress; pleased, in her silent way, that Tom should
be thinking about her clothes; but with a slow resentment gathering in
her heart that Helen Hayes's clothes should have suggested his thought.

"And pink isn't my color," she thought, a vision of her own mild, red
face rising in her mind.  Still, a fresh pink lawn--"that's always
pretty," Milly Dilworth said to herself, earnestly.



III

Tom Dilworth's boy was a curious _sport_ from the family stock.  He
did, indeed, look down on the hardware business, but not much more than
on any business, although galvanized utensils were perhaps a little
more hideous than most things.  Business in itself did not interest
him.  Money-making was sordid folly, he said; because, "What do you
want money for?  Isn't it to buy food and clothes and shelter?  Well,
you can't eat more food than enough; you can only wear one suit of
clothes at a time; and an eight-foot cell is all the shelter that is
necessary."

"Eight-foot--_grandmother!_" his father would retort; "you'll inventory
that lot of spades, young man, and dry up."

And Ned, with shrinking hands and ears that shuddered at the hideous
screech of scraping shovels, would make out his inventory with
loathing.  His mother was not impatient or contemptuous with him--she
could not have been that to any one; she simply could not understand
what he meant when he spouted upon the folly of wealth (for, like most
shy people, he occasionally burst into orations upon his theories), or
when he set off some fireworks of scepticism borrowed from Mr. Ezra
Barkley, or undertook (when Thomas was not present) to prove his
father's politics entirely wrong.  On such occasions Nancy would say,
"Oh, Ned, _do_ be quiet!" and Mary would yawn openly.  As for his
music, nobody cared about it, except, perhaps, his mother.  "But I must
say, Neddy, I like a tune," she would say, mildly, after Edwin had
tucked his violin under his chin and poured out all his young soul in
what was a true and simple passion.

"A tune!" poor Ned said, and groaned.  "Mother, I wish you wouldn't
call me that ridiculous name."

"I'll try not to, Neddy, dear," she would promise, anxiously; and Ned
would groan again.

With such a family circle, one can fancy what it was to the lad when
quite by accident he found a friend.  It was the summer that he was
twenty, that once, coming back in the stage with him from Mercer, Miss
Helen Hayes showed a keen interest in something he said; then she asked
a question or two; and when, hesitating, waiting for the laugh which
did not come, he began to talk, she listened.  Oh, the joy of finding a
listener!  She looked at him, as they sat on the slippery leather seat
of the old stage, with soft, intelligent eyes, her slightly faded
prettiness giving a touch of charm to the high and flattering gravity
of her manner.  When she asked him to bring his violin sometime and
play to her, the boy could almost have wept with joy.  He made haste to
work off several of his dearest and most shocking phrases, which she
took with deep seriousness: A whale's throat is not large enough to
swallow a man--therefore the Biblical account is false, etc., etc.  "In
fact," said Ned, "if I could have a half-hour's straight conversation
with Dr. Lavendar, I could prove to him the falsity of most of the Old
Testament."

Helen Hayes was shocked; she regretted Mr. Dilworth's scepticism with
almost tearful warmth; yet she realized that a powerful mind must
search for truth, above all.  She wished, however, that he would read
such and such a book.  "I can't argue with you myself," she said--"you
are far too clever for my poor little reasoning powers."

It was in April that Edwin entered into this experience of feminine
sympathy; and by mid-summer, at the time when Mr. Thomas Dilworth also
found Miss Helen Hayes so remarkably intelligent, the boy was absorbed
in his new emotion of friendship.  He never spoke of it at home, hence
his father's astonishment at finding him at the Hayeses'.  And when, a
week later, he found him a second time, Tom Dilworth was much perplexed.

"I dropped in on my way back from the store," he told his wife, "and
there was that boy.  I said to Miss Helen that she really must not let
him bother her.  I told her he was a blatherskite, and she must just
tell him to dry up if he talked too much."

"Tom, I don't think you ought to talk that way about Neddy," Mrs.
Dilworth said.  "He's a dear boy."

"He may be a dear boy, but he is a great donkey," Ned's father said,
dryly; "and I think it is very good in Helen Hayes to put up with him.
I can see she does it on my account.  Milly, why don't you ask her to
come to supper, sometime?  I like to talk to her; she's got brains,
that girl.  And she's good-looking, too.  Ask her to tea, and have
waffles and fried chicken, and some of that fluffy pink stuff the
children are so fond of, for dessert."

"She's not much of a child," said Mrs. Dilworth, her face growing
slowly red.  "She's thirty-two if she's a day."

"My dear, she has aged rapidly; you said thirty a month ago.  I like
the pink stuff myself, and I'm nearly fifty.  I bet the Hayeses don't
have anything better at their house."

Milly softened at that.  Where is the middle-aged housekeeper who does
not soften at being told that her pink stuff is better than anything
the Hayeses can produce?  Yet Tom's talk of Miss Helen's brains pierced
through her vagueness and bit into her heart and mind; and she could
not forget that he had called the girl good-looking.  "Girl!" said Mrs.
Dilworth.  She was standing before the small swinging glass on her high
bureau, looking at herself critically; then she slipped back and locked
her door; then took a hand-glass and stood sidewise to look again.  Her
hair was drawn tightly from her temples and twisted into a hard knot at
the back of her head; she remembered that the Hayes girl wore high
rats, which were very fashionable, and had a large curl at one side of
her waterfall.  "But it's pinned on," Milly said to herself; "anyway,
mine's my own."  Then she pulled her cap farther forward (in those days
mothers of families began to wear caps when they were thirty) and
looked in the glass again: Helen Hayes did not have a double chin.
"She's a skinny thing," Milly said to herself.  Yet she knew, bitterly,
that she would rather be skinny than see those cruel lines, like
gathers on a drawing-string, puckering the once round neck below the
chin.  And her forehead: she wondered whether if, every day, she
stroked it forty-two times, she could smooth out the wrinkles?--those
wrinkles that stood for the tender and anxious thought of all her
married life!  She had heard of getting rid of wrinkles in that way.
"It would take a good deal of time," she thought, doubtfully.  Still,
she might try it--with the door locked.  These reflections did not,
however, interfere with the invitation which Thomas had suggested.

Milly had her opinion of a middle-aged woman who wore wrappers in
public; but if Tom wanted her and her wrappers, he should have them.
He should have anything in the world he desired, if she could procure
it.  Had he desired Miss Hayes hashed on toast, Milly would have done
her best to set the dainty dish before her king.  And no doubt poor
Miss Helen in this form would have given Mrs. Dilworth more personal
satisfaction than did her presence at Tom's side (for the invitation
was promptly accepted) in some trailing white thing, her eyes fixed on
her host's face, intent, apparently, upon any word he might utter.
Watching that absorbed and flattering gaze, Milly grew more and more
silent.  She heard their eager talk, and her mild eyes grew round and
full of pain with the sense of being left out; for Miss Hayes, though
patient with her hostess, and even kind in a condescending way, hardly
spoke to her.  Once when, her heart up in her throat, Mrs. Dilworth
ventured a comment, it seemed only to amuse Thomas and his guest--and
she did not know why.

"This morning," Tom said, "I was h'isting up a big bunch of galvanized
buckets to our loft with a fall and tackle, and all of a sudden the
strap slipped, and the whole caboodle just whanged down on the
pavement--"

"O-o-o-o!" said Helen Hayes, putting her hands over her ears with
dramatic girlishness.

"It was terrific, and just at that moment up came Dr. Lavendar.  Well,
of course I couldn't express my feelings--"

"Poor Mr. Dilworth!"

"--he came up, and gave me a rap with his stick.  'Thomas,' he said
(you know how his eyes twinkle!)--'Thomas, this is the most profane
silence I ever heard.'"

Everybody laughed, except Milly and Edwin, the latter remarking that he
didn't see anything funny in that.  At which Miss Hayes said to him,
under her breath, "Oh, you superior people are so contemptuous of our
frivolity!"  And Ned blushed with satisfaction, and murmured, "Why, no;
I'm not superior, I'm sure."

As for Milly, with obvious effort and getting very red, she said that
she didn't see how silence could be profane.  "As long as you didn't
say anything, you conquered your spirit," she added, faintly.

And then they all (except Edwin) laughed again.  After that she made no
attempt to be taken into the gayety about her, but her heart burned
within her.  The next morning at breakfast some words struggled out:
"You'd think she was a young thing, she laughs so.  And she's nearly
thirty-five."

"How time flies!" said Tom, chuckling.  And then, to everybody's
astonishment, the mute Edwin spoke up, and said that as for age it was
a matter of the soul and not of the body.  "Some people are always
young," said Edwin.  "Dr. Lavendar is, and you are, father--"

"Thank you, grave and reverend seignior."

"--and mother," continued the candid youth, "has always been old.
Haven't you, mother?"

"True, for you, my boy," said the father; "your mother has the wisdom
of the family."

Milly Dilworth's face grew dully red to the roots of her hair; a wave
of anger rose up in her inarticulate heart.  They called her old, these
two.  She could hardly see her plate for tears.

Edwin, however, was so thrilled by the elegance of his sentiment that
he was eager to repeat it to Miss Hayes; but, somehow, he always had
difficulty in introducing the subject of age.  When he did succeed in
getting in his little speech, she said that he impressed her very much
when he said things like that.  "Your insight is wonderful," she
murmured, looking at him with something like awe in her eyes.  (Miss
Helen was never cunning with Ned.)

"I guess you're the only person that thinks so," Ned said; "at home
they're always making fun of me."

"My friend," she said, gravely, "what else can you expect?  You are an
eagle in a pigeon's nest.  I don't mean to criticise your family, but
you know as well as I that you are--different.  You are an inspiration
to me," she ended.  And Ned blushed with joy.

It certainly is inspiring to be told you are an inspiration....  Mr.
Thomas Dilworth did not blush when he learned that mentally he was the
most stimulating person that Miss Hayes had ever met; but he had an
agreeable consciousness of his superiority, which he made no effort to
conceal from his wife.  He never made any effort to conceal anything
from Milly, not even that fondness for female society which Mrs.
Drayton had deplored.

And by-and-by Milly's tears began to lie very near the surface.  They
never gathered and fell, but perhaps they dropped one by one on her
heart, leaving their imprint of patiently accepted pain.  At this time
she thought of her own mental deficiencies very constantly.  Her mind
had no flexibility, and she reached conclusions only by toilsome
processes; but once reached, they were apt to be permanent.  Her slow
reasoning at this time led her to conclude that her Thomas was not to
blame because he admired some one who was cleverer than she.  "Why,
he'd be foolish not to," she thought, sadly.

But this eminently reasonable conclusion did not save Mrs. Dilworth
from turning white and red with misery, when, for instance, her husband
observed that he had had to take down two bars of the Gordon fence, so
that Miss Hayes could go home across lots.  Then Thomas chuckled, and
added that Helen Hayes was the brightest woman he knew.

He did not go on to tell of his walk in the October dusk, and Miss
Helen's arch appeal to him for instruction on a certain political point
on which she was ignorant.  Thomas had instructed her so fully and
volubly, while she looked at him with her reverent gaze, that it had
grown dark; and that was why he had to take her home across lots.
Thomas had not mentioned these details; he merely said he thought Miss
Helen Hayes a bright woman--the brightest, to be exact, that he knew.
And yet his Milly went into the kitchen pantry and hid her face in the
roller behind the door and sobbed.

Well, of course!  It's very absurd.  A fat, wordless woman, who ought
to be darning her children's stockings, it's very absurd for her to be
weeping into a roller because her man, who has loved her for
forty-three years, eleven months, twenty-nine days, twenty-three hours,
and forty minutes--her man, to whom she is as absolutely necessary as
his old slippers or his shabby old easy-chair--because this man does
not think her the brightest woman he knows.  But absurd as it is, it is
suffering.

The woman of faithful heart who has been left behind mentally by her
husband is a tragic figure, even if she is at the same time a little
ridiculous--poor soul!  Her futile, panting efforts to catch up; her
brave, pitiful blunders; her antics of imitation; her foolish pink lawn
frocks--of course they are funny; but the midnight tears are not funny,
nor the prinking (behind locked doors), nor the tightened dresses, nor
the stealthy reading to "improve the mind"--that poor, anxious, limited
mind which knows only its duty to its dearest and best.  These things
mean the pain--a hopeless pain--of the recognition of limitations.
What did it matter that once a year Tom announced that he had loved his
Amelia for so many years, months, days, hours, and minutes?--He did not
talk to her about the President's letter!  But he talked to Helen Hayes
about it.  And yet she was a pale thing.  "She never had my color,"
poor Milly thought; "and they say she doesn't get along well at home.
And she's no housekeeper.  Mrs. Hayes herself told me she was just real
useless about the house.  I can't understand it."

Of course she could not understand it.  What feminine mind ever
understood why uselessness attracts a sensible man?  It is so foolish
that even the most foolish woman cannot explain it.

As the autumn closed in on Old Chester, nobody in the family noticed
Milly Dilworth's heavier look and deeper silence.  Tom himself was more
talkative than usual; business had been good, and he was going to get
something handsome out of a deal he had gone into with Hayes.  This
took him often to the Hayeses' house; and after the two men had had
their talk, Miss Helen was to be found at the parlor fireside, very
arch and eager with questions, but most of all so respectful of Tom's
opinions.  His Amelia was respectful of his opinions, too, but in such
a different way.  Perhaps just at this time Thomas Dilworth pitied
himself a little--the middle-aged husband does pity himself once in a
while.  Perhaps he sighed--certainly he whistled.  There is no doubt
that Mrs. Drayton would have felt he was wandering from his Amelia--at
least in imagination.  And yet Tom was as settled and grounded in love
for his middle-aged wife as he ever had been.

This, however, cannot be understood by those who do not know that the
male creature, good and honest and faithful as he may be, is at heart a
Mormon.

"I declare," Tom said, coming home at twelve o'clock at night--"I
declare I feel younger."

Milly was silent.

Then Tom began to whistle:

[Illustration: music fragment]

Then he broke off to say that he didn't think that Helen Hayes was
over-happy at home.  "The Hayeses are commonplace people, and she is
very superior.  I guess they don't get along well."

Milly thought to herself that when a girl didn't get along with her own
mother it didn't speak well for the girl; but she did not say so.

But Thomas went on to declare that he didn't know what to make of Ned.
"Hanging round the Hayeses till I'm ashamed of him!  Why doesn't he
know better?  I never bored a woman to death when I was his age."  And
his wife thought, in heavy silence, that there were other people who
hung round the Hayeses.

However, Thomas made his feeling so clear to his son that during the
winter Ned was never seen at the Hayeses' on the same evening that his
father was there.  But there was an hour in the afternoon, from five to
six, when the boy was free and Thomas was busy with his spades and
buckets;--but you can't look after a boy every minute.



IV

Poor Amelia, in her bedroom, in the chilly December dusk, sopped her
eyes with cold water and looked in the glass.  "I _mustn't_ cry any
more," she said to herself, despairingly--"they're so red now!"

A door opened down-stairs, and there was a burst of laughter; and Mrs.
Dilworth, in the cold twilight, went on sopping her eyes.  Tom and the
girls evidently didn't need her.  "They could get along just as well
without me.  And if the Lord would take me, Tom could--could--so he
could--"

Her soul was dumb, even to itself; but she knew what it was that Tom
"could" do.

And she knew it without bitterness.  Like every other woman whose love
for her husband has in it the maternal element (and most good women's
love has this element), she had always felt that if she died Thomas
ought to marry again; but this simple creature went one ahead of that
rather elementary feeling, and specified: she was willing to have him
marry _her_.

"If the Lord would only remove me," said poor Milly, looking miserably
in the glass at her plump figure, which showed no indications of
removal.  Her eyes were hopelessly red; she didn't see how she could
possibly go down to supper.  But of course she had to go down.  The
mother of a family and the mistress of one servant must go down to
supper, no matter what the condition of her eyes may be.  She slunk
into her seat behind her teacups, and scarcely dared to look about her
noisy, hungry circle, still less at her Thomas, who was smiling to
himself, but who did not share his amusement with his family.  Still,
when he suddenly said something about the refreshment of talking to
intelligent people, it was not hard to guess the direction of his
thoughts.  "It sharpens your brains up," said Thomas.  "I was going to
suggest, Milly, that you should ask Helen Hayes to tea again; but she's
got company; and when they leave she's going off to make a visit to
some of her relations, she tells me."

Amelia's mild lips tightened silently.  So they had been together
again.  Her hand shook as she poured out another cup of tea for her
Thomas, who took that moment to say, with all a husband's candor, that
she was getting fatter than ever.  "I thought you were starving
yourself to get thin, Milly?" he said, smiling.  Milly smiled, too,
faintly; but she was saying to herself: "What did they talk about?  How
long were they together?  Oh, if I could only be taken away!"

It would be interesting to follow the processes of a mind like Mrs.
Dilworth's: how did a wife and mother of children reach the point of
feeling that her family would be better off without her?  Anybody in
Old Chester could have told her such a belief was folly, and wicked
folly at that.  But it seemed just plain reason to Milly Dilworth: "I'm
not necessary to anybody.  Thomas likes somebody younger.  He can't
marry her because I'm alive; he could marry her (and she would be good
to the children) if I were not here.  But I _am_!" she would end,
hopelessly.

Morning after morning, as she went about her household duties, or when
before tea she sat in her little, old rocking-chair, mending the family
stockings, she used to break herself against the hopelessness of the
situation: She was there; and unless the Lord would remove her (any
other sort of removal was impossible to her devout imagination) Tom
could not have what he wanted--yes, and needed, too.  For it was at
this period that Mrs. Dilworth recognized, what most wives of men do
recognize at one time or another, that although being a wife and mother
is the only vocation of a married woman, being a husband and father is
only one of many vocations of a married man.  Hence the companionship
of an eminently worthy wife is almost never enough for the male
creature.  When this harsh truth burst upon Milly, she wiped her eyes
on the stocking she was mending and groaned aloud.  But she did not
rail against the fact, nor did she attempt to deny it; wherein she
showed a superfeminine intelligence.  She only said to herself that
Thomas could not have what he wanted while she was alive; yet she
couldn't, it seemed, die, although she was so miserable that she didn't
know how she lived!  It was at this point that she began to make wild
schemes to relieve the situation: Suppose she asked that Hayes girl to
come and make them a visit?  But no--a man wants more than to just look
at a pretty girl across the table.  Suppose she went away herself and
made a visit, and asked Miss Helen Hayes to come and keep house for
her?  (Like all good wives, Milly had no hesitation in offering up
another woman to the pleasure of her lord.)  No; people would talk
about Tom if she did that....  The amount of it was, poor Milly,
although she did not know it, was really planning that Thomas should
have two wives at the same time--and, dear me! how that would simplify
things!  There would be the old, sensible, matter-of-fact wife to mend
his stockings and order his good dinner and nurse him through the
indigestion consequent upon the dinner--the old, anxious wife, who has
had the children and reared them, who has planned and economized and
toiled with him, who has borne the burden and heat of the day at his
side--the prosaic wife, who gives, unasked, such good advice.  Every
one will admit that this elderly person has been, and (to a limited
degree) still is, a necessity to every Thomas.  But sometimes Thomas
thinks, in his simple way, that it would be pleasant to have the
luxuries as well as the necessities of life; to have, for instance, a
young wife--a pretty wife, clever and light-hearted and gayly
tyrannical; a wife who never knew enough to advise anybody, who should
be a relaxation and a refreshment, _and just a little bit of a fool_;
for, as every intelligent (unmarried) woman knows, men like fools;
feminine fools.  Of course the trouble is that if you supply a wife for
two sides of a man's character--for utility, so to speak, and for
diversion--he may, not unreasonably, demand that every side and angle
and facet of his jewel-like nature have its own feminine setting.  That
was probably Solomon's idea.  Well, well! the time is not yet for this
reasonable arrangement; and it is possible that trade in galvanized
buckets will never warrant its extensive existence.

But all this is very frivolous compared to the reality of this poor
woman's pain, a pain that finally evolved a plan which, although less
picturesque than the harem, was of the same grade in the eye of the
law, though, curiously enough, not in her own eye.  She could not, as
she expressed it to herself, be dead, so that her Thomas might have his
wish; _but he could think she was dead_.

When this extraordinary idea came into Milly Dilworth's head, she felt
as one imprisoned in darkness who sees, far off, the glimmer of
daylight.  He "could think she was dead!"  And if he thought so, of
course there could be nothing wrong in his marrying "_her_."  (Miss
Hayes's moral status did not enter into Milly's calculations.)

The light in her darkness dazzled poor Milly at first, and the way was
not clear.  It took two weeks of further thought to decide upon the
step, and then to evolve its details; but one need not go into them as
Milly did....  As she sat at her work, day after day, she thought her
plan out slowly and toilsomely.  At first she kept balking at the
enormity of it.  Then some chance word would betray Tom's admiration
for brains, and she would beat and spur her mind up to her project
again....  And at last she accepted it....  Once accepted, the thing
was settled.  Her mind had about as much flexibility as a bar of lead,
and there was no changing it.  It only remained to decide upon the
details.  This she did slowly and painfully.  Each step was planned,
each contingency arranged for.

And by-and-by the day came to act.


The night before, at supper, Mrs. Dilworth, her hands stumbling among
her teacups, said, faintly, "I'm going over to the other side of the
river to-morrow to order some chickens from Mrs. Kensy."

"That Kensy house is right by the railroad station," Ned said,
scowling; "I don't believe she has any hens."

"Yes, she has, Neddy," said Mrs. Dilworth.

Edwin frowned blackly.  "I do wish you wouldn't call me by that absurd
name, mother."

"I keep forgetting, Neddy dear."

Edwin held up his hands despairingly.

"What are you two people talking about?" demanded Thomas.

"I'm going to walk over, across the ice, to the Bend, to-morrow," said
Milly.

"Walk!" her husband protested.  "What do you walk for?  It's cold as
Greenland on the ice, and, besides, they were cutting at the pool by
the Bend; you don't want to go that way, Milly.  Take the stage round."

Mrs. Dilworth crumbled a piece of bread with shaking fingers, and said
nothing.

"What time are you going, mother?" inquired Edwin.

"In the afternoon, about four."

"Why, you went there only two days ago," Edwin said, irritably.  "I saw
you on the back road carting a big bundle."

"It would have been more to the point if you'd done the carting for
your mother," Tom Dilworth said, sharply.

His wife paled suddenly at that word about a bundle, but the subject
was not pursued.  Edwin said, grumbling, that he didn't see what
possessed his mother to choose such an hour.  "It's too dark for a lady
to be out," Edwin protested.

"Too dark for a--_grandmother_!" his father said.  "Don't you criticise
your mother, young man."  And then he added: "Look out for the places
where the men were cutting, Milly.  It hasn't frozen over yet."

And Mrs. Dilworth said, after a pause, "I know."

That night was a misery of dreams that the deed was done, broken by
wakings desperate with the knowledge that it was yet to do.  In the
morning she seemed to have lost all power of words; she bore her
husband's reproaches that Ned was late for breakfast; she went about
her household duties; she watched the girls start for school (she did
not kiss them; demonstrations of affection had never been possible to
this dumb breast; but she stared after them with haggard eyes); and
through it all she hardly uttered a word; when she did speak, it seemed
as though she had to break, by agonizing effort, some actual lock upon
her lips.  When the girls had gone she looked about for her eldest; but
Ned was not to be found.  "I never knew him to go to the store before
breakfast," she thought, miserably.  His father, pulling on his coat in
the hall, said that Ned was getting industrious to go to his work so
early!  His wife was silent.

When he started, whistling cheerfully,

[Illustration: music fragment]

she watched him from the window, straining her eyes until he was out of
sight.  Then she went up-stairs to her bedroom, and, opening his closet
door, leaned her head against one of his coats, trembling very much.

Afterwards she wandered about the house in aimless, restless waiting
for Ned.

In the course of the morning Tom sent over to inquire why the boy had
not come to the store.  Milly told the messenger to tell Mr. Dilworth
that Mr. Edwin was not at home.  "Say I thought he was at the store,"
she said.  "I'll give him his father's message when he comes in to
dinner."  But he did not come in to dinner; and minute by minute the
afternoon ticked itself away.  She had said to herself that she must
start about four, before Nancy and Mary got home from school.  "It must
be so that it would be dark when I was coming back," she reminded
herself.  "If I leave here at four, and get my bundle from Mrs. Kensy
at five, it would be pretty dark by the time I would be going home.
Mrs. Kensy will tell them that it was dark."

At four Edwin had not appeared; Milly, having no imagination, had no
anxiety; she merely gave up, patiently, the hope of a wordless
good-bye.  But she kept looking for him; and when she finally put on
her things, she paused and turned back to the window, to look once more
towards Old Chester; but there was no sign of Ned.  It did not occur to
her to postpone her plan; her mind, run into the mould of sacrifice,
had hardened into rigidity.  So at last, miserably, the tears running
down her face, she stepped out into the cold and went down through the
garden to the river.  There she turned and looked back, with dumb
passion in her eyes; the firelight was winking from the parlor windows
and all the warm commonplace of life seemed to beckon her.  She put her
muff up to wipe her eyes, but she made no prayer or farewell; her
silence had reached her soul by that time.

[Illustration: "THERE SHE TURNED AND LOOKED BACK"]

It was very cold; the ice was rough, and the wind had blown the dry
snow about in light drifts and ripples, so that walking was not
difficult.  She trudged out, up towards the Bend, skirting the place
where the men had been cutting.  They had gone home now, and the ice
about the black, open space of water was quite deserted.  The wind came
keenly down the river, blowing an eddy of snow before it; the bleak sky
lay like lead over the woods along the shore.  There was not a house in
sight.  Amelia Dilworth looked furtively about her; then she bent down
and scraped at the snow on the edge of the ice, as one might do who, in
the water, was struggling for a hold upon it.  After that, for a long
time, she stood there, looking dumbly at the current running, black and
silent, between the edges of the ice.  At last, her hand over her mouth
to check some inarticulate lament, she stooped again, and put her
little black muff on the broken snow close to the water.

When she reached Mrs. Kensy's she was quite calm.  She said briefly
that she had come to order some chickens; "--and I'll take that bundle
I asked you to keep for me."

The woman brought it, and Milly tucked her fingers through the stout
strings she had tied so carefully a few days before.  When she would
open it in the woods, and put on the new dress and shawl and the heavy
veil that it held, and then, in the dark, take the half-past-five
train, no one would know that Thomas Dilworth's wife had fled away into
another State.  They would find the muff, and they would think--there
would be only one thing to think.

"I want the chickens for Sunday," she said; "please send them over on
Saturday."  Then it came into her mind with a little gush of happiness
that she would pay for them on the spot, instead of having the bill
sent to Tom, as was her custom; she had drawn a sum of money from the
bank a fortnight ago--a small sum, but her own; now it was all in her
purse; she would buy Tom's Sunday dinner out of her little fund.
Except to leave him, it was the last thing she would ever do for him.

She put her hand into her pocket--and chilled all over.  Then stood
blankly looking at the woman; then plunged her hand down again into her
pocket; then exclaimed under her breath; then tore her bag open and
fumbled distractedly among brushes and night-gown and slippers; then
pulled her pocket wrong side out with trembling fingers.

"_My purse!_" she said, breathlessly.  Then she searched everything
again.

"It ain't any difference," Mrs. Kensy protested.

"I must have left it at home.  I can't go back for it.  It is too late."

"What for?" said Mrs. Kensy.

"The--the train."

"Oh, you was going on, was you?" Mrs. Kensy said.  "Well, I can let you
have the price of a ticket a little ways."

But Mrs. Dilworth, with shaking hands, pulled everything out of her
bag, shook her skirts, fumbled in the bosom of her dress, ran out and
searched the garden-path, strained her eyes across the snow on the
river--all in vain.  "Oh, my!" she said, faintly.

"But I can lend you the price of a ticket, ma'am," Mrs. Kensy said
again.

"No matter," Mrs. Dilworth said, dully.  "I'll go home."

Even as she spoke she heard the train tooting faintly far up the
valley.  She sat down, feeling suddenly sick.



V

There was nothing to do but to go home.  She remembered now how in her
agitated watching for her son she had put her purse down on the corner
of her bureau--and left it there.  Yes; there was nothing to do but go
back.  "I can start to-morrow," she said to herself.  But in the sick
reaction of the moment she knew that she could never start again; her
purpose had been shattered by the blow.  She took her bundle--the
bundle that meant flight and disguise and self-sacrifice, and that
stood for the shrewdness which is so characteristic of the kind of
stupidity which forgets the purse--and went stumbling down in the
darkness to the river.  She said to herself that she must get her muff;
and she thought heavily that it would be pretty hard to carry so many
things across the ice.  She was numb with the shock of interrupted
ecstasy.  She could not feel even mortification--only fatigue.  She was
so tired that, seeing in the darkness a hurrying figure approaching
her, she did not recognize her husband until he was almost upon her.

"_Milly_?  My God!  Milly!"

He had her muff in his hand, and as he reached her he caught at her
shoulder and shook her roughly.  "Milly--I thought--I thought--"  He
stammered with agitation.  "I found this muff, and I thought it was
yours; and Neddy's gone, too, and I thought--both of you--"

"Neddy _gone_?" she repeated, dully.

She stood still on the ice, trying to get her wits together.

"He's disappeared.  He isn't in town.  He went out early this morning.
To skate, I suppose.  Nora saw him from her window; at about six, she
says.  And this open water"--she felt him quiver at her side--"and then
this muff--"

"No!" she said.  "I--I made a mistake."  She did not take in the words
about Ned.

"But where is he?  Nobody's seen him.  I suppose I'm a fool, but I'm
uneasy.  I came to meet you because I thought you might know.  But when
I saw this muff--it is yours, Milly, isn't it?--I got into a panic
about you, too."

"Why," she said--"it's mine; yes.  I--I left it--I suppose.  Neddy
wasn't with me.  Did you think he was with me?  I don't understand,"
she ended, bewildered.

"He hasn't been at home all day," her husband said, "nor in town,
either."  And then he repeated the story, while she looked at him, slow
understanding dawning in her eyes.

"Neddy--gone!  Where?"

"But that's what I don't know," the father said.

And his wife, dazed still, but awake to the trouble in his voice, began
to comfort him, alarm rising slowly in her own heart like an icy wave.

"Maybe he went to see somebody in Upper Chester?"

"But he doesn't know anybody at Upper Chester.  Of course it's
possible.  Only--you gave me such a fright, Milly!"  Mrs. Dilworth put
her hand over her mouth and trembled.  "However, I guess he's all
right, as you say.  I guess we'll find him at home when we get back.
It's lucky I came to meet you, because I can lug your things for you.
How did you drop your muff, dear?  Here, take it; your hands must be
cold.  Oh, Milly, you gave me an awful fright--it was right on the very
edge of the ice; those confounded cutters hadn't put up any ropes.  You
do really think there's no reason to be uneasy about Ned?"

"No," she said.  Her knees shook; she had to pause to swallow before
she spoke.  Oh, what if he should find her out?  As she trudged along
at his side in the cold darkness she said to herself, with a sickening
sense of apprehension, that if he found her out she should die.  Then
as her mind cleared she tried in her brief way to encourage him about
their boy; yet, as they drew nearer home and she saw again the firelit
windows, she began to awaken to the situation: Neddy had gone out to
skate; at six, did Nora say?  Of course he might have stopped to see
somebody in Upper Chester; only Neddy never went to see anybody
anywhere--except (Amelia Dilworth had forgotten her!)--except that
Hayes girl--and she wasn't at home.  Yes, it was strange; and worrying,
perhaps.  But she only repeated, as they went hurrying up to the back
door, that she was sure Neddy was all right.  But she held her breath
to listen for his voice haranguing his sisters in the sitting-room.
Instead, the two girls came running out to meet them.

"Oh, father, did you find Ned?  Oh, here's mother; she'll know where he
is."

"Mother, I'm sort of scared about him," Mary whispered.

"He's gone to see some friend," the mother said, and her brevity, so
agonizing to her, seemed to reassure the others.

"He hasn't any friend except Miss Helen Hayes," Nancy said, "and she
went away last week."

"Maybe he's gone to hunt her up," Mary said, giggling, and her father
told her to be quiet.

"It's thoughtless in him to be so late.  But your mother isn't worried,
so I guess we needn't be.  Your mother says there is not the slightest
cause for anxiety, and she knows."

"Come to supper," Amelia said, her heart sinking; and the commonplace
suggestion cheered them all, although Tom Dilworth did not like to lose
the assurance of his wife's presence, even to have her go up-stairs to
take off her bonnet, and went with her, saying again, decidedly, that
there was, as she said, no possible reason for uneasiness, and that he
himself hadn't a particle of anxiety.  "But I'll give that boy a piece
of my mind for worrying you so.  Why, Milly, what a fat pocket-book!
Where did you get so much money, my dear?  I didn't know the hardware
trade was so prosperous.  Look here, Milly--it is pretty late,
honestly?"

She took her purse out of his hands, her own trembling.  For a moment
she could not speak, and leaned forward to look into the swinging glass
and make pretence of untying a knot in her bonnet-strings.  "Oh, he'll
come home soon," she said.

In spite of assurances, the tea-table was not very cheerful--the girls
stopped short in the middle of a sentence to listen for a step on the
porch.  Tom got up twice to look out of the window.  Mrs. Dilworth
thought she heard the gate slam, and held her breath; but no Ned
appeared.  The evening was endlessly long.  Tom pretended to read his
newspaper, and kept his eye on one spot for five minutes at a time.  At
ten he packed the girls off to bed; at eleven he was walking up and
down the room; at twelve he told his wife to go to bed; but somehow or
other he went himself, while she sat up, "to let the boy in."

You can make excuses for this sort of lateness up to a certain point;
but it is curious that at about 2.30 in the morning the excuses all
give out.  Tom Dilworth got up and dressed.  "Something has happened,
Milly," he said, brokenly.  His wife put her arms around him, trying to
comfort him.

"If Miss Hayes was only at home," she said, "maybe she would have some
idea of his plans.  He might have told her.  And she could tell us what
to do."

"Who?" said Tom--"that Hayes girl?  Maybe so.  I hadn't thought of her.
No, I don't believe she'd be any help.  She hasn't got much sense in
that kind of way."

Such ages and ages was Milly away from her great experience of jealousy
that she felt no relief at this bald betrayal.  Together they went out
onto the porch, listening, and straining their eyes.  The moon was just
going down; it was very cold; far off a dog barked.  But there was no
human sound.  The two haggard people went shivering back into the hall,
where a candle burned dimly in the glass bell hanging at the foot of
the stairs.

"Something has certainly happened," Tom said again.  "Oh, Milly, you
are always so calm and I go all to pieces."  He leaned his elbow
against the wall and hid his face in his arm.  His wife heard him groan.

"And--I've been hard on him sometimes," he said.

She took his hand and kissed it silently.

Poor Tom went to pieces more than once in the days that
followed--dreadful days of panic and despair.  Old Chester, aroused at
daybreak by the terrified father, decided at once that the boy was
drowned; but everybody stood ready to help the stricken parents with
hopeful words to the contrary, words which rang as hollow to Thomas and
his wife as to the well-meaning liars.

It was on Wednesday that he had disappeared.  On Friday they dragged
the river through the open holes; on Saturday, blew up the ice and
dragged all the way down to the second bend.  That night Nancy and Mary
crept away to cry in their own room; Tom sat with his head buried in
his arms; his wife knelt beside him, touching him sometimes with a
quiet hand, but never speaking.  Dr. Lavendar came in and put his hand
on Tom's shoulder for a minute, and then went away.  The firelight
slipped flickering about the room; sometimes the coal in the grate
snapped and chuckled, and a spurt of flame shone on the two suddenly
aged faces.  And then into the silent room came, with hurried,
shamefaced triumph--Edwin.

"I--I'm afraid you've been anxious--"

"He ought to have written," said another voice, breathless and
uncertain, and breaking into nervous laughter.  "It is naughty in him
to have forgotten.  I--I told him so."

Thomas Dilworth lifted his head and stared, silently; but his wife
broke out into wild laughter and streaming tears; she ran and threw
herself on Edwin's breast, her throat strangling with sobs.

"Oh--she's found Neddy!  She has brought him back to us!--she has found
him!  Oh, Miss Hayes, God bless you--God bless you!  Oh, where did you
find him?"

Miss Hayes opened her lips--then bit the lower one, and stood, scarlet.

"I meant to write," Edwin began to explain--"of course I meant to
write, but--"

"Oh, dear Mrs. Dilworth," Helen's fluttering voice took up the excuse,
"you must forgive him"--she came as though to put her arms about Ned's
mother.  "After all, a bridegroom, you know--"

Milly lifted her head from Edwin's shoulder and gaped at her.

"Bridegroom?"

Thomas Dilworth got on his feet and swore.  Miss Helen Hayes--or, no;
Mrs. Edwin Dilworth--came and hung upon his arm.

[Illustration: "THOMAS DILWORTH GOT ON HIS FEET AND SWORE"]

"You won't mind very much?  You'll forgive him?  We couldn't tell,
because--because papa would have interfered; but I knew your dear, kind
heart.  Mrs. Dilworth, I have so revered Mr. Dilworth!--that was one
reason I said _yes_.  You'll let me be your little girl, Mr. Dilworth?"

"Little--_grandmother_!" said Tom Dilworth; and burst into a roar of
laughter; then stopped, and said through his set teeth to his son, "You
scoundrel!"

"Thomas--don't!" the mother entreated.  "He has come back."

"He'd better have stayed away!" Thomas said, furiously, in all the
anger of suddenly relieved pain.

"Oh, dear Mrs. Dilworth," Helen murmured, "forgive us!  He ought to
have written--I ought to have reminded him.  But--_you_ understand?  I
know you do.  Just these first beautiful days, one forgets everything."

"Well, I tell you I meant to write," Ned persisted, doggedly.  "But
mother put me all out by going over to the Bend in the afternoon.  I
was going to take that train, and of course I couldn't; Kensy's house
is right there by the station.  And I had to take the morning train
instead; and it put me all out.  I had to get up so early I forgot to
take any clothes," he added, resentfully.  "It wasn't my fault."

"Not your fault?" his father said, and then turned to his wife, almost
with a sob.  "Milly, can he be our boy, this sneak?"

"Yes; yes, he is, Tom; indeed he is, dear.  And he just forgot; he
didn't mean anything wrong."  Milly was almost voluble, and she was
crying hard.  And then she looked at the woman who had brought him
back--the faded, anxious, simpering woman, who for once had no words
ready.  Milly looked at her, and suddenly opened her arms and took her
son's elderly wife to her heart.  "Oh, you poor woman," she said, "how
unhappy you must have been at home!"

Helen looked at her blankly, then dropped her head down on the kind
shoulder, and Milly felt her quiver.

"She's fifty!" Tom said, trembling with anger.  "How the devil a son of
mine can be such a jack--"

"Tom, dear! there now, _don't_," the mother said; "he's at home.  Just
think; he's at home! and we thought--we thought--"  Her voice broke.
"We'll all love you, Miss Hayes--I mean Helen," she whispered to the
sobbing woman.

Then, with a sort of gasp, she put her daughter-in-law's arms aside
gently, and went over and kissed her husband.


As for Thomas Dilworth, after the first shock of anger and
mortification had passed, and the young couple had finally settled
themselves upon the disgusted bounty of the respective fathers, he used
to whistle incessantly a certain song much in vogue at the time:

  "I hanker
  To spank her,
  Now I'm her papa!"



"AN EXCEEDING HIGH MOUNTAIN"


I

Robert Gray's first wife, Alys (Old Chester had hard work to swallow
her name; "but it's better than any of your silly 'ie's,'" said Old
Chester)--this first Mrs. Gray was a good deal of a trial to everybody.
She was not only "new," but foreign; not only foreign, but indifferent
to Old Chester.  Indeed, it took all Old Chester's politeness and
Christian forbearance to invite Mrs. Robert Gray to tea--with the
certainty that the invitation would be declined.  She was an English
girl whom Robert met somewhere in Switzerland--a heavy-eyed, silent
creature, certainly a very beautiful woman, but most inefficient and
sickly; and there were so many nice, sensible girls in Old Chester!
(However, there is no use saying things like that: as if a man ever
married a girl because she was sensible!)

Yet young Gray certainly needed a sensible wife; his wealth was limited
to character and good manners, plus a slender income as tutor in the
Female Academy in Upper Chester.  Excellent things, all; but a wife
with sense (and money) would have been an agreeable addition to his
circumstances.  Whereas, this very beautiful English girl was a
penniless governess, left stranded in Germany by an employer, who had,
apparently, got tired of her.  Robert Gray had met the poor, frightened
creature, who was taking her wandering way back to England, and married
her, frantic with rage at the way she had been treated.  When he
brought her home, he was so madly in love that he probably did not half
appreciate Old Chester's patience with her queer ways.  But the fact
was, that for the few months she lived, she was so miserable that Old
Chester could not help being patient, and forgiving her her half-sullen
indifference, and her silence, and her distaste for life--even in Old
Chester!

For in spite of Robert's adoration, in spite of all the ready
friendliness about her, in spite of the birth of a baby girl, she
seemed, as it were, to turn her face to the wall.  She died when the
child was about a week old.  Died, the doctor said, only because, so
far as he could see, she did not care to live.

"You ought to try to get better for the baby's sake," said Miss Rebecca
Jones, who had come in to help nurse her.  And the poor girl frowned
and shook her head, the heavy, white lids falling over her dark eyes.

"I don't like it."

And Rebecca (who had too much good sense to be shocked by the vagaries
of a sick woman) said, decidedly: "Oh, you'll learn to like her.  Come,
now, just try!"

But she did not seem to try; even though Robert, kneeling with his arm
under her pillow, holding her languid hand to his lips, said, sobbing,
"Oh, Alys, Alys--for God's sake--don't leave me--"

Then she opened her beautiful eyes and looked at him solemnly.
"Robert," she said, "I am sorry.  I am--sorry.  I--am--"

"What for, precious?" he entreated; "sorry for what? to leave me?  Oh,
Alys, then live, live, dear!"

"I--am--" she began; and then her voice trailed into eternity.

Miss Rebecca Jones hung about the house for a few days, to make the
poor gentleman comfortable; then he was left alone with the child
(purchased at so dreadful a cost) and one servant, and his daily work
of teaching the polite languages at the Female Academy.  Miss Rebecca's
hard face softened whenever she thought of him; but all she could do
for him was to go often to see the poor seven-months baby--which seemed
for a time inclined to follow its mother.

Now it must be understood at once that Rebecca Jones was not a schemer,
or a mean or vulgar woman.  She was merely a hard-headed,
honest-hearted product of years of public-school teaching, with a
passion for truth and no grace in telling it.  She was sorry for Mr.
Gray, and sorry for the poor baby, who was being allowed, she said to
herself, to grow up every which way; and sorry for the comfortless
house left to the care of what she called "an uneducated servant-girl."
So, after school, and on Saturday mornings, she used to go over to Mr.
Gray's house and bustle about to the bettering of several things.
Indeed, old Mr. Jones told her more than once that he didn't know what
that there widower would do without her.  And Rebecca said, truthfully
enough, that she didn't know, either.  And when she said it her heart
warmed with something more than pity.

As for Robert Gray, dazed and absent, trying to do his duty at the
Academy during the day, and coming home at night to look blankly at his
child, he, too, did not know what he would have done that first year
without Miss Rebecca's efficient kindness.  He was so centred in his
grief, and also of so gentle a nature, that he took the kindness as
simply as a child might have done.  Like many another sweet-minded man,
he had not the dimmest idea of the possible effect of his rather
courtly manner and his very delicate courtesy upon a woman of slightly
different class, whose life had been starved of everything romantic or
beautiful.  He became to sharp-tongued Miss Rebecca Jones a vision of
romance; and, somehow, quite suddenly, about eighteen months after his
wife's death, he discovered that he was going to marry her.  In his
startled astonishment, he realized that he had himself led up to her
avowal of willingness by some talk about her kindness.  Perhaps she had
misunderstood his words; if she had, Robert Gray was not the man to
offer an explanation....  However, after the first shock of being
accepted, he was gently explicit:

"I realize that the child ought to have the care of a good woman, and
therefore I--"

"I'll do my duty by her," Rebecca said.

"I want her brought up to love and reverence her mother.  I want her
brought up to be like her.  It is for the child's sake that I--I marry
again.  I speak thus frankly, Miss Rebecca, because I so entirely
respect you that I could not be anything but frank."

Rebecca's square face flushed over the high cheek-bones to the gaunt
forehead and the sparse hair; then her eyes looked passionately into
his.  "I understand.  Yes; I understand.  And I will be good to your
child, Mr. Gray."

And so he married her; and, when you come to think of it, it was a very
sensible thing to do.  Even Old Chester said he was very sensible.  A
man of thirty, with a baby--of course he ought to marry again!  "But
why on earth," said Old Chester, "when there are so many girls of his
own class!--not but what Rebecca Jones is a very worthy person."

Meanwhile, Rebecca, with hard conscientiousness, set herself to bring
the child up.  She trained her, and disciplined her, and made a painful
point of talking to her about the first Mrs. Gray, according to her
promise to teach her to "love and reverence her mother."  The
discipline sometimes made Robert Gray wince; but it was wise, and never
unkind; so he never interfered;--but he left the room when it was going
on.  Once he said, nervously:

"I scarcely think, Mrs. Gray, that it is necessary to be quite so
severe?"

"She must be made a good child," Rebecca answered.

"I am not afraid that she will not be a good child," Robert Gray said;
"she is her mother's daughter."

"Well, she is her father's daughter, too," Rebecca declared, briefly.
And her husband, shrinking, said:

"Light is stronger than darkness; Alice's mother was a creature of
light.  I am not afraid of her inheritance of darkness."

As for Rebecca, she went away and shut herself up in the garret.
"'Creature of light!'" she said, sitting on the floor under the
rafters, and leaning her head on an old horsehair-covered trunk wherein
were packed away Mr. Gray's winter flannels--"well, I am a good wife to
him, if I ain't a 'creature of light.'"

Yes, she was a good wife....  How carefully she put his flannels away
in May; how prudently she planned his food; how she managed to make the
two ends of his little income meet--yes, and lap over, so that every
summer he could go away from her for a two months' vacation in the
woods!  Not once did he find a button lacking; not once had he put on a
clean pair of stockings and then pulled them off because of a hole in
the heel.  Can our lords say as much, my mistresses?  I trow not!  Yes,
a good wife: that lovely being who left the world with a faint,
unfinished regret upon her pitiful lips could never have made him so
comfortable.

Indeed, the whole household revolved upon Robert's comfort.  Every
domestic arrangement had reference to his well-being.  That he did not
become intolerably selfish was not Rebecca's fault, for, like many good
wives, she was absolutely without conscience in the matter of
self-sacrifice; but Robert escaped spiritual corruption, thanks to his
own very gentle nature and his absolute unconsciousness of the
situation.  Perhaps, too, Rebecca's tongue mitigated the spoiling
process.  She never spared him what she considered to be the truth
about himself or Alice.  But her truthfulness stopped here; she spared
the dead, perforce.  For what could she say ill of that beautiful
creature whose only wrong-doing lay in dying?  But she knew, with
shame, that she would have liked to speak ill of her--in which
reprehensible impulse to remove a fellow-being from a pedestal, Rebecca
showed herself singularly like the rest of us.

In this bleak air of unselfishness and truth-telling, Robert Gray
became more and more aloof.  Gradually he retreated quite into his
past, doing his daily work at the Academy--where successive classes of
young ladies adored him for his gentle manners and his mild, brown
eyes--and living very harmlessly with his memories, which he kept fresh
and fragrant by sharing them with Alys's daughter, who, it must be
admitted, being young and human, was not always intensely interested;
but Rebecca had trained her too well for Alice ever to show any
weariness.  Robert kept his little collection of pictures and
photographs of his first wife shut behind the curtained doors of an old
secretary.  If his second wife found him standing, his hands clasped
behind him, his eyes wandering from one lovely presentment to another,
he never displayed an embarrassed consciousness, but he shut the doors.
He accepted Rebecca's devotion respectfully; he was never impolite,
still less unkind; in fact, in all their married life he had never, she
used to tell herself, spoken unkindly save once; and then his words
were nothing more dreadful than, "We will not discuss it, if you
please, Mrs. Gray."  At first he had, very gently, made some
grammatical suggestions; and she had profited by them, though, being a
true Pennsylvanian, she never mastered "shall" and "will," nor did she
lose the Pennsylvania love for the word 'just'; to the end of her days,
Rebecca was 'just tired out'; or 'just real glad'; or 'just as busy as
could be.'  Grammar, however, was as far as Robert Gray went in any
personal relation.  He addressed her, in his courteous voice (always a
little timidly), as "Mrs. Gray"; and he kept as much as possible out of
her way.  Meantime, Rebecca (remembering why he had married her) did
her duty by the child, and never failed to mention, in her hard voice,
that Alice must try to grow up like her mother.

"Make me a good girl," Alice used to say in her sleepy prayers every
night--"make me a good girl, like my dear mother."  Once, of her own
accord, the child added, "And make me pretty like her, too."  Rebecca,
listening to the little figure at her knee, said, sternly, when Alice
got up and began to climb into the big four-poster:

"Don't be vain.  Don't ask God for foolish things.  Beauty is foolish
and favor is deceitful.  Just ask Him to make you as good as your
mother was."

And, indeed, it must be admitted that the child did not inherit her
mother's wonderful beauty.  At first her father had expected it; he
used to take liberties with his Horace, and say:

  "O filia pulchra matre pulchriore."


But as Alice grew older, Robert Gray had to admit that the dead woman
had taken her beauty away with her.  The child had just a pleasant
face; eyes that were gray or blue, as it happened; a commonplace nose,
and uncompromisingly red hair.  In those days red hair was thought to
be a mortifying affliction, and poor, plain Alice shed many tears over
the rough, handsome shock of hair that broke into curls about her
forehead and all around the nape of her pretty, white neck.



II

But in spite of red hair, and what Old Chester religiously believed to
be its accompanying temper, Alice Gray was a lovable girl, and at
twenty, behold, she had a lover; indeed, she had more than one (not
counting Dr. Lavendar); but Alice never gave a thought to anybody but
Luther Metcalf.  Luther was a good boy, Old Chester said; but added
that he would never set the river on fire.

Certainly he did not use his incendiary opportunity; he had a small
printing-office, and he owned and edited Old Chester's weekly
newspaper, the _Globe_; but neither the news nor the editorial page
ever startled or displeased the oldest or the youngest inhabitant.  The
_Globe_ confined itself to carefully accredited cuttings from
exchanges; it had a Poet's Corner, and it gave, politely, any Old
Chester news that could be found; besides this, it devoted the inner
sheet to discreet advertisements, widely spaced to take up room.  All
Old Chester subscribed for it, and spoke of it respectfully, because it
was a newspaper; and snubbed its editor, because he was one of its own
boys--and without snubbing boys are so apt to put on airs!  Poor Luther
was never tempted to put on airs; he was too hard-worked and too
anxious about his prospects.  He and Alice were to get married when he
and the _Globe_ were out of debt; for his father had left him a
mortgage on the office building, as well as an unpaid-for press.  When
Luther was particularly low-spirited, he used to tell Alice it would
take him five years to pay his debts; and, to tell the truth, that was
an optimistic estimate, for the _Globe_ and the printing-office
together did very little more than pay the interest on the notes and
Luther's board.

So, when they became engaged, waiting was what they looked forward to,
for, of course, Robert Gray could not help them; it was all Rebecca
could do to stretch his salary to cover the expenses of their own
household.  But the two young people were happy enough, except when
Luther talked about five years of waiting.

"We've been engaged two years already," he said, moodily; "I don't want
to be another case of Andrew Steele."

"I'm not afraid," Alice said.  "Why, if you get the new job press, and
get that Mercer work, think how much that will help!"

"Well," Luther said, "yes; but if I get the press, there's another
debt.  And if I don't get it, I can't get the work; so there it is.  A
vicious circle."

This question of the purchase of a new press, before the old press had
been paid for, was a very serious and anxious one.  "I wish father
could help," Alice said--they were walking home from Wednesday-evening
lecture, loitering in the moonlight, and wishing the way were twice as
long.

"Oh, I wouldn't think of such a thing," the young man declared; "we'll
pull out somehow.  He's gone off to the woods, hasn't he?"

"Yes, he went this morning; he's so pleased to get away!  He won't be
back till the Academy opens."

"I suppose he hates to leave you, though," Lute said.

"Yes, but I can see that the getting away is a great relief.  I keep
his pictures dusted, and take the flowers up to the cemetery for him;
so he knows things are not neglected."

"But," Luther said, thoughtfully, "I think she's sorry to have him go?"

"Oh yes; sorry, I suppose," Alice admitted.  "She's fond of him--in her
way."

"Then why--" Luther began.

"My dear, she's _jealous_ of my mother."

"Oh, Alice!"

"Well, you know," Alice explained, "my mother was so beautiful--and
poor Mrs. Gray!  But I must say, Lute, she's the justest person I know.
She's always told me that my mother was perfect.  And of course she
was; but when you're jealous, it isn't so easy to acknowledge things
like that."

"But I don't see how you can be jealous of the dead," Luther ruminated.

"Oh, _I_ do!  I could be jealous of some girl who was dead, if you'd
loved her, Lute."  And then the boy put his arm round her, and they
kissed each other there in the shadows of the locust-trees overhanging
a garden wall.  "I'm so glad there isn't anybody, dead or alive," Alice
said, happily; "though I'd rather have her alive than dead.  If she
were alive, you'd have quarrelled with her, and stopped loving her.
But if she were dead, she would keep on being perfect.  Yes; I'd rather
marry a man who had been--been _divorced_," said Alice, lowering her
voice, because the word was hardly considered proper in Old Chester,
"than a man whose wife was dead, because he would always be thinking
what an angel she was and what a sinner I was."

"He would think you were an angel," the boy told her, blushing at his
own fervency.

But the fervency died on his ardent young lips when they got into the
house and sat decorously in the parlor with Mrs. Gray.  Rebecca was
sewing, her hard, square face a little harder than usual.  Mr. Gray had
gone away on that annual fishing-trip--gone, with a look of relief
growing in his eyes even as he stepped into the stage and pulled the
door to behind him; pulled it hurriedly, as though he feared she would
follow.  Then, baring his head politely, he had looked out of the
window and said:

"Good-bye.  You will send for me should you, by any chance, need me.  I
trust you will be very well."

"I don't know that I have ever had to interrupt your fishing-trip with
any of my needs," Rebecca had answered, briefly.  She spoke only the
truth; she never had interfered with any pleasure of his; and yet
Robert Gray had winced, as if he had not liked her words.  Now, alone,
in the parlor, darning his stockings, she wondered why.  She never said
anything but the simple truth; but he looked at her sometimes as a dog
looks who expects a blow.  He was truthful himself, but he never seemed
to care much to hear the truth, she thought, heavily.  Once he told her
that truth was something more than a statement of fact.  The statement
of a fact may be a lie, he had said, smiling whimsically; and Rebecca
used to wonder how a fact could be a lie?  She recalled the time when,
with brief accuracy, she had mentioned to him in what condition of
ragged neglect she had found his wardrobe after the "creature of light"
had left him; and how he had seemed to shrink not from the shiftless
dead, but from her.  And she remembered painfully that one unkindness:
She had told him that, to her mind, not even the weakness of death was
quite an excuse for saying you didn't like your own baby; and he had
said, with a terrible look, "We will not discuss it, if you please,
Mrs. Gray."  She had never spoken of it again; but his look had burned
into her poor, narrow, sore mind; she thought of it now, moodily, as
she sat alone, her heart following him on his journey.  If his first
wife had only not been so perfect, she said to herself, she could have
borne it better; if she had had a bad temper, even, it would have been
something.  But she had often heard Robert tell Alice that her mother
had an "angelic temper."  Rebecca wished humbly she herself could be
pleasanter.  "I don't feel unpleasant inside; but I seem to talk so,"
she thought, helplessly.  She was thinking of this when the two young
people came in; and looking up over her spectacles, she said, coldly:

"Did you remember to wipe your feet, Luther?  You are careless about
that.  Alice, I found a flower on my daphne; you can carry the pot up
to the cemetery when you go."

"Yes, ma'am," Alice said.  She took up her sewing (for Rebecca would
not have idle hands about); sometimes she glanced at Luther, sitting
primly in the corner of the sofa, and once caught his eye and smiled;
but there were no sheep's-eyes or sweet speeches.  They were Old
Chester young people, and such things would have been considered
improper; just as sitting by themselves would have been thought not
only indecorous, but selfish.

"Oh, Alice," Luther said, suddenly, "I meant to ask you; wasn't your
mother's name spelled 'Alys'?"

"Yes.  Why?"

"Well, it's such an unusual name that it struck my attention when I saw
it in the paper."

"What about it?" Alice asked.  "Oh, dear, why didn't father spell me
'Alys' instead of 'Alice'?  It's so much prettier!"

"Prettiness isn't everything; and 'Alice' is a sensible name," Rebecca
said.  "Don't criticise your father."

"It was an advertisement in one of the _Globe's_ exchanges," Luther
explained.  "I was scissoring things, and the name caught my eye.  It
was information wanted.  Of course it's just a coincidence, but it's
queer, because--here it is," said the editor of the _Globe_, fumbling
in his pocket.  "I cut it out and meant to show it to you, but I
forgot."  Then he read, slowly, "_Information wanted of one Alys
Winton--_"

"Why, but Winton was my mother's name!" cried Alice.

"_--one Alys Winton, who married sometime in 1845; husband thought to
be an American, name unknown.  She (or a child of hers, born in 1846)
is requested to communicate with Amos Hughes, Attorney at Law,_" etc.

Alice stared, open-mouthed.  "Why, Lute!" she said--"why, but that must
be my mother!"

Lute shook his head.  "I don't think there's anything in it.  Do you,
Mrs. Gray?"

"Might be," she said, briefly.

Alice took the crumpled cutting, and holding it under the lamp, read it
through to herself.  "But, Lute, really and truly," she said, "it is
queer.  Perhaps some of my mother's rich relations have left her a
fortune!  Then we could pay off the mortgage.  Only I'm afraid my
mother hadn't any rich relations--or poor ones, either.  I never heard
of any.  Did you, Mrs. Gray?"

"No," Rebecca said.

"She was a governess, you know, Lute, in some horrid English family;
the wife didn't like her, and she discharged my poor little mother;
then the family went off and left her all alone in Germany.  Perfectly
abominable!"

"Don't be unjust, Alice; you don't know anything about it," Mrs. Gray
said.  "She was very young.  Perhaps she couldn't teach the children to
suit their parents.  Though it was unkind to leave her unprovided for,"
she added, with painful fairness.

"I guess it was!" cried Alice.  "Oh, how angry father gets when he
talks about it!  He says she was in such terror, poor little thing,
when he met her.  And yet she was very forgiving, father says.  He says
she wrote and told the gentleman that she was married.  _I_ wouldn't
have.  I'd have let him think I'd starved, so he would have suffered
remorse--the wretch!"

"I hope you would not have been so foolish or so selfish," her
step-mother said.

"You see, she had no relations to turn to," Alice explained to Luther;
"if father hadn't come, dear knows what would have become of her."

"I suppose she could have earned an honest living, like anybody else,"
Mrs. Gray said.

"Well, anyway," Alice said, thoughtfully, "this advertisement is queer.
She had no relations that father ever heard of; but there might be some
one.  What do you think, Mrs. Gray?"

"There might be," Rebecca said.  She thought to herself that it was
very probable; that first wife had brought Robert Gray beauty and love;
it only needed that she should bring him money to make it all perfect.
In her bleak mind a window of imagination suddenly opened, and she had
a vision of what wealth would mean to her husband, coming as a gift
from those dead hands.  She set her lips, and said: "Better find out
about it, Luther.  Write to the man and say that a person of that name
before her marriage, died here in Old Chester, leaving a child--and
don't keep your hands in your pockets; it's bad manners."

"Do you really think it is worth while, ma'am?" Luther said,
incredulously.

"Of course it is," said Alice.  "Suppose it should be some inheritance?
Such things do happen."

"In story-books," Lute said.

"Well, then I'd like to be in a story-book," Alice said, sighing.
"Just think, Lute, we might pay for the press and pay off the mortgage!"

"Golly!" said Lute.

Then they fell to making all sorts of plans, gayly, each tripping the
other up with the prosaic reminder of improbability.

"Or, if it _should_ be anything," Luther said, "it won't be more than
$100."

"Well, that's something; it will meet two monthly payments on the
press."

"It will pay for a diamond-ring for you," Lute said.

"Nonsense!  We'll buy father a horse."

"And who will buy the oats?" Rebecca said.

"I could give you a big oleander, Mrs. Gray," Alice told her, smiling.

"You could put the money in the bank, like a sensible girl," Rebecca
said, severely.  "Don't speak of this outside, either of you.  Mr. Gray
wouldn't wish his wife's name talked about."

"And don't let's write anything about it to him," Alice said; "let's
have it a surprise!--if there is anything in it; only, of course, there
isn't anything," she ended, sighing.  "But you might write to the man,
Lute."

"Of course there isn't anything," Lute agreed, sensibly.  "I'll write
if you want me to; but I wouldn't build on it, Ally," he said, as he
got up to go.  And when he paused a minute in the darkness on the
porch, he added, softly, "If you get rich, maybe you won't want a poor
printer?"

And she laughed, and said, "Maybe I won't!"

Then he kissed her just under her left ear, and said, "Money isn't
everything, Ally."



III

Money isn't everything, but it has so much to do with most things that
even a dim, story-book vision of it stirred Alice's imagination.
Luther, having no imagination, dismissed the vision from his mind after
writing a letter to "Amos Hughes, Attorney at Law."  Indeed, Luther had
more practical things to think of than possible legacies, poor fellow.
His balance-sheet for that month of June was very dark.  More than
once, after the office was closed for the day, he sat at his desk in
his shirt-sleeves, hot and tired and grimy, poring over his ledger by
the light of a swinging lamp.  Alice grew worried about his pallor and
the hollows in his cheeks; but there was nothing she could do, though
she chafed against her helplessness to help, and revolved all sorts of
schemes in her impractical girl-mind.  Indeed, she went so far as to
pour out her heart to Dr. Lavendar, in the hope that he could make some
suggestion.  She found the old man sitting in the wistaria arbor near
his beehives, smoking peacefully, and throwing sticks to Danny, who
needed exercise and scrambled after them into the tall grass, bringing
them back with fatiguing alacrity.

"Look here, sir," said Dr. Lavendar, "don't find 'em so quick.  I'm
worn out pitching them."

Then Alice Gray came down between the box borders and said she wanted
his advice; and Dr. Lavendar, glancing up at her, saw an uncertain lip
and heard a catch in her voice; whereupon he told her to give Danny a
run.  "The scoundrel has kept me working for the last half-hour," he
complained.

When she came back, flushed and laughing, and sat down on the arbor
step, her voice was quite steady; so he listened placidly to her story.

"You want to get some work to help Lute, do you, good-for-nothing?"

"Yes," Alice said, eagerly.  "Oh, Dr. Lavendar, _can_ you think of
anything?  I wanted to go into the office and learn to set type, but
Mrs. Gray--"

"Well?"

"Mrs. Gray said I had better learn to keep house economically.  She
said father wouldn't like it."

"Mrs. Gray would always think first of what your father would like."

Alice scratched lines in the gravel with one of Danny's sticks.  "I
suppose she would," she admitted.

"And what did Lute say?"

"Oh, he wouldn't listen to it.  But I thought maybe you could make him,
Dr. Lavendar?"

"I?" said Dr. Lavendar.  "No, thank you.  Do you think I'd rob the boy?"

"Rob him?"

"Of his self-respect; a boy wants to stand on his own legs; he doesn't
want a girl propping him up.  You let Lute alone.  He'll manage.  And
you're young yet, anyhow.  It won't hurt ye to wait.  Mrs. Gray is
right.  You learn to be as good a housekeeper as she is; and though you
mayn't put money into Lute's pocket before you're married, you'll not
be taking it out after you're married."

Alice sighed.  "Oh, I wish I could help Lute; I wish I had a lot of
money."

"A lot of sense is better," Dr. Lavendar said, chuckling.  "Oh, you
women!  You steal a man's unselfishness and self-respect, and you put
it down to love.  Love?  You're a pack of thieves, the lot of you.  You
ought to be prosecuted.  I'd do it, if I had time.  Hey, Danny! bite
her; she's like all the rest of 'em."

Alice hugged him, and defended herself.  "You're just an old bachelor;
you don't appreciate us."

"Appreciate ye?  I appreciate you.  Maybe that's why I'm an old
bachelor."

But though he discouraged Alice's projects for assisting Luther, Dr.
Lavendar went plodding up the printing-office stairs the next morning.
Luther, emerging from behind a press, brightened at the sight of his
caller, and ushered him into a small closet which he called his private
office; and when Dr. Lavendar asked him to print some more
missionary-meeting notices, he said he would put them in at cost price.

"Don't you do it!" said Dr. Lavendar, thumping the floor with his
umbrella.  "Look here; I'll have to teach you the first principles of
business: make your profit--and don't go to 'pauperizing the Church,'
sir.  There's too much of that sort of thing," he added, with
reminiscent crossness.  "Some scalawag of a bookseller wrote and
offered to sell me books at thirty-three per cent. discount because I
was a parson.  There's no more reason why a parson should get a
discount than a policeman.  I told him so.  I tell you so.  Print those
slips, and _print 'em better than you did the last lot_!  Do you hear
that?  You forgot a comma on the second line.  How's business, Lute?"

Lute's face fell.  Then they talked things over, to the boy's great
comfort; and at the end of the talk Lute straightened his shoulders and
drew a good breath.

"By George!  sir, if hanging on does it, I'll hang on--" he stopped,
and looked round, in answer to a knock.  "Well?" he said, impatiently.
But the gentleman who stood in the doorway was not rebuffed.

"Are you Mr. Metcalf, the editor of the _Globe_?"

"Yes, sir," said Luther.

"I called in relation to an advertisement"--Luther was instantly alert,
and Dr. Lavendar, scenting a customer, was about to withdraw--"an
advertisement in a New York paper, requesting information of a certain
person--"

"What!" cried Luther.  "I had forgotten all about it."

"My name is Carter.  I am from the office of Mr. Amos Hughes.  Messrs.
Pritchett, Carver, and Pritchett, Solicitors at Law, of London, are our
principals.  The advertisement was in relation to a person called Alys
Winton."

Luther, stumbling in his astonishment over his words, began to explain.
"Mrs. Gray is dead," he ended.  "And Alice is her daughter; isn't she,
Dr. Lavendar?  She asked me to write to you."

"Well, well; this is very interesting," said Dr. Lavendar.  "I hope
your object in seeking to obtain information is to benefit this young
lady?  She's one of my children."

Mr. Carter, still standing in the doorway, smiled, and said, "Do I
understand that this Miss Alice is the daughter of the person named
Alys Winton?"

"Yes," said Dr. Lavendar.  "You can easily satisfy yourself on that
point by consulting my parish records."

"And her mother is the lady you advertised for!" cried Luther.  The boy
was red with excitement.  It was just as Alice said--a story-book.  And
they could get married right away!  For it would be a lot of
money--perhaps $5000; people in England didn't advertise for
information of a person dead for twenty-two years for any small amount;
well, even if it were $4000, they could get married; even if it were
$3000.  "How m--" he began, and stopped; of course that was not a
proper question.  "Alice's mother is the lady you advertised about," he
said, lamely.

"Well, that does not follow, young gentleman; but the coincidence of
the name was of sufficient interest for our firm to feel that I might,
perhaps, just look into it.  There may be dozens of Alys Wintons, you
know."

"Oh," said Luther, so blankly that Dr. Lavendar laughed.

"Perhaps before beginning at the beginning you might save time by
looking at the end," he said to the lawyer.  "If you will step over to
my church, you will see that our little Alice here is the daughter of
Mr. Robert Gray and a lady named Alys Winton."

"A very good idea, sir.  You, I infer, are a clergyman in this place?
Ah, yes; just so.  Lavendar?  Ah, yes.  I shall be pleased to look at
the records, as you suggest, sir."

Luther, rather abashed, longing to accompany them, stood waiting for an
invitation.  But none came.  Dr. Lavendar went pounding down the
stairs, followed by Mr. Carter, and Lute heard them talking about the
roughness of the road from Mercer over which Mr. Carter had come on the
morning stage.

"Confound the road!" said Lute to himself.  "Hi!  Davidson!  I'm going
out.  The first page is all made up; you can close up the fourth."
Then he dashed down the creaking stairs and out into the hot sunshine.
He had a glimpse up the street of the church, and Dr. Lavendar bending
down fumbling with the key of the vestry door; it was evident that
Luther's presence was not considered necessary.  "I don't care," the
boy said to himself, joyously, and started at a swinging pace out over
the hill.  "I'll be the one to tell her, anyhow!"  His face was all
aglow.  As he hurried along he made calculations as to the rent of the
little house.  To be sure, he was reckoning on Alice's money; but the
boy was so honest, and so in love, that he had no mean
self-consciousness of that kind.  "_We can get married!_"  He had no
room for any other thought.

Mrs. Gray was sitting on the back porch shelling pease; there was a
grape trellis running out from the porch roof, and under it the shadows
lay cool and pleasant on the damp flagstones.  Rebecca, absorbed in the
lulling snap of pods, looked up, frowning, at the noisy interruption,
for the young man burst in, breathless, swinging his cap, his eyes
shining.

"Oh, Mrs. Gray, where's Alice?  Oh, my, such news!  I never was so
excited in my life!"

"That is not saying much," Rebecca told him; "you've not had a very
exciting life.  Alice is in the dining-room.  Alice! come out here.
Here's Luther.  He says he never was so excited in his life; and I hope
he won't be again, for he has upset my bucket of pods."

Luther, full of apologies, began to pick them up.  "I'm so sorry, but I
was so dreadfully excited--"

"Dreadful is a large word," Rebecca said.  "I doubt whether either you
or I have ever seen anything 'dreadful' in our lives.  Don't
exaggerate, Luther."

"Yes, ma'am," Lute said.  "Oh, there's Alice!  _Alice!_"  He stood up,
his hands full of pods, his face red.  "Oh, Alice, what do you suppose
has happened?  You'll never guess!"

"The advertisement man!" cried Alice.  Luther's face fell a little, and
he laughed.

"Well, you're pretty smart.  Yes, it is--"

"_What?_" said Rebecca Gray.  As for Alice, she whirled out on the cool
flags and jumped up and down.

"Oh, Lute, tell us--tell us!  What does he say?  Has he sent some
money?  Oh, how much is it?  Oh, Lute, we'll pay for the press.  Lute,
is it--is it $1000?  Tell us; hurry, hurry!"

Upon which Lute began to subside.  "Well, it isn't quite--I mean, he
didn't--he hasn't said just exactly how much.  I mean, of course, I
suppose, it isn't certain; but I'm sure there isn't a particle of
doubt; only--"

"Now, Lute, begin at the beginning and tell us."  Alice sat down
breathlessly beside her step-mother, and began mechanically to shell
the pease.

"Don't," Rebecca said; "I will do my own work.  You'd better get your
table-cloth and finish that darning."  Her face had grown quite pale;
she saw the fabric of her life crumbling at the base; if, through that
first wife, money should come into the family, what use for her patient
economies?  What use for her existence?  That first wife, yet more
perfect, would crowd her further from her husband's life.  In her
heart, used to the long, dull ache of unloved years, rose up a
murderous hatred of the dead woman.  At first she hardly heard Luther's
story, but as it went on she began to listen and the pain in her
tightened throat of unshed tears lessened.  It might not be.  As this
Mr. Carter said, there might be dozens of Alys Wintons.  Her hands,
motionless after the first shock, went at their work again.

"You're the daughter of a lady of that name," she said, coldly; "but
she may not be the lady they want.  Better not count on it."  Alice
looked rather blank for a moment; and then she burst into even more
than Luther's confidence.

"Do you suppose it will be $2000?  Oh, Lute, just think, we'll pay for
the new press right down!"

"No, we won't, either," Lute said, stoutly.  "I'm not going to let you
spend your money on printing-presses."

"Nonsense!" Alice cried, laughing and stamping her foot.

Rebecca frowned and looked at her over her glasses.  "Don't be
unlady-like, Alice."

"No, 'm," Alice said; and then she laughed at her own excitement; "it
may be only $100."

"It may be nothing at all," Rebecca Gray said, and got up and took her
pan and bucket and went into the house.  It seemed to her that if she
had to hear any more of Alys Winton she would speak out and say some
dreadful thing about her.  But what could she say with any kind of
truth?  What could she say ill of that poor creature, so beloved and so
harmless?  For, after all, though a woman ought to see that a man's
buttons are sewed on, you can't say that mere shiftlessness is a sin.
Besides, she was sick for those few months.  "Perhaps if my health
hadn't been good, I would have been careless myself," Rebecca thought,
with painful justice.  But she went up-stairs to her own room and
locked the door.  She felt sure that it was as Alice and Luther said:
there would be money, and she would be of still less consequence to her
husband; for what did Robert Gray, nervously polite, really care for
her economies and her good housekeeping?

"Not _that_!" she said to herself, bitterly.



IV

"You will stay and have dinner with me," Dr. Lavendar had told the
lawyer, hospitably, "and then Goliath and I will take you up the hill
to Mr. Gray's house."

And so, in the early afternoon, Goliath brought Mr. Carter to the
Grays' door.  Alice, who was on the porch, insisted that Dr. Lavendar
should come in, too; she leaned into the buggy to whisper, joyously,
"If it is anything nice, I want you to hear it."

But for once Dr. Lavendar did not laugh and give her a kiss and call
her his good-for-nothing; he got out silently, and followed Mr. Carter
into the parlor, where Luther and Mrs. Gray were awaiting them.  There
was a tense feeling of expectation in the air.  The two young people
were together on the sofa, smiling and laughing, with small, whispered
jokes of presses and diamond-rings and mortgages.  Rebecca sat by the
table, her worn hands in a trembling grip in her lap; she sat very
upright, and was briefer and curter than ever, and she looked most of
the time at the floor.

"You have been informed of my errand, madam?" said Mr. Carter.  "It is
unfortunate that Mr. Gray is not at home, but perhaps you may be able
to give us some information on certain points, which will at least
instruct me as to whether the facts in the case warrant further
reference to him for confirmation.  I will ask a few questions, if you
please?"

"Go on," Rebecca said.

"The late Mrs. Gray, the mother of this young lady," said Mr.
Carter--"do you happen to know her nationality?"

"English."

"Ah, yes.  Just so.  And do you know the date of her marriage to Mr.
Gray?"

Rebecca gave it.

"If any facts in regard to her occur to you--" the lawyer began.

"I've heard Mr. Gray say that she was a governess in the family of a
Mr. Urquhart," Rebecca said; and added, "They discharged her in Berlin."

Mr. Carter, glancing at a memorandum, his face keen with interest,
said, eagerly, "Pray proceed, madam."

"I don't know much more; Mr. Gray met her in Interlaken.  They were
married three weeks afterwards."

"Ah, Switzerland?  That explains; there was no record of a marriage at
the Embassy.  Can you tell me anything of the parentage of the lady?"

"Her father's name was George Winton," Alice broke in, "and they lived
in a place called Medfield.  He was a clergyman.  Her mother's name was
Alys, too.  Father has a prayer-book belonging to my grandmother; it
has her name in it, and my mother's.  Would you like to see it, sir?",

"Exceedingly," Mr. Carter said; and while Alice ran to get the book, he
studied his memorandum so closely that no one dared to ask him a
question, if, indeed, any one wanted to.  Rebecca had answered him
dully, looking out of the window part of the time, part of the time at
the floor.  Dr. Lavendar, on the other side of the room, his hands on
the head of his cane, sat silently staring down at the carpet, his face
heavy and rather stern.  Lute, radiant, twirled his cap in his hands,
and resolutely held his tongue.

Alice, as she handed the prayer-book to Mr. Carter, stopped on her way
back to Luther and squeezed Dr. Lavendar's hand.  "Isn't it wonderful?"
she whispered; and he shook his head a little impatiently.

"Go and sit down, my dear," he said.

Mr. Carter, glancing at the name on the flyleaf, looked at his notes
again and then at Alice, "And this young lady--can she give me the date
of her birth?"

There was a little laugh, and Luther and Alice gave it together,
eagerly.

There were two or three more questions, and then Mr. Carter folded his
memorandum and slipped it within its rubber band with a snap; then he
smiled.  Rebecca looked at him drearily.  "Of course," he said,
addressing himself to her, "a question of identity cannot be decided
offhand; it is necessary to have certain affidavits which the surviving
husband of the deceased (who is asserted to be the person in question)
would be obliged, legally, to furnish.  I think, however, that I am not
going beyond the line of discretion and propriety if I say that _if_
Mr. Robert Gray can produce such proofs (which I think I am not
unwarranted in saying I believe he can)--_if_ he can, then this young
lady is the heir to a very considerable fortune.  I think, in point of
fact, I have the right to say that, if (as I have said before) these
proofs are forthcoming, the amount to be paid to the daughter of Alys
Winton is £5000."

Rebecca Gray put her hand to her mouth and stared blindly at the floor.
Dr. Lavendar thrust out his lower lip and frowned.  As for Alice, she
laughed aloud, then burst out crying.

"Oh, _Lute_!" she said, tremulously; and, somehow, the two children
found themselves holding hands.  "It's--it's so much!" she faltered.

"Five thousand pounds is--is $25,000!" the boy said, turning pale.
There was a pause; no one seemed to know just what to say.  Then Lute,
suddenly: "Is it your mother's father that left it to you, Alice?"

She turned to Mr. Carter, drawing in her breath like a child.  "Is it?"

"Ah--no," he answered, briefly.

"But I didn't know my mother had any relations?" Alice said, in a dazed
way; "I thought father said--I'm sure he said--she hadn't any
relations?  Perhaps--perhaps it is a mistake, after all?"

"The testator was not a relative of the Alys Winton in question," Mr.
Carter said.  He glanced uneasily at Dr. Lavendar, who lifted his head
and looked at him searchingly.  "It will be best to make further
explanations to Mr. Gray," Mr. Carter said, hurriedly.

"But who has left the money to me--if it is to me?" Alice said,
bewildered.  "Can't I ask that?  What is the name of the kind person?
I think I might ask that."

[Illustration: "'WHAT IS THE NAME OF THE KIND PERSON?'"]

"The name of the testator was Urquhart," Mr. Carter said, "but--but,
you know, my dear young lady, the identity is not yet legally
authenticated; so--therefore--perhaps--I think, Dr. Lavendar, I had
best go now?  I think you mentioned that the stage leaves at four?"

"Urquhart?" Alice said; "the man who was so unkind?  Oh, Lute, I
suppose he repented.  Oh, how astonished father will be!  He'll have to
forgive him now."

"It's a pretty late repentance," Luther said, with a chuckle; "and how
did he know about you, Alice?  I don't see why he should leave you
money, even if he was a brute to your mother.  Still," said the boy,
gayly, "I guess we won't complain?"

"Gracious!" cried Alice, "that is queer.  Well, he _was_ a kind person!"

Rebecca Gray stared, frowning, at the lawyer.  "He knew--this
Urquhart--that she had a child?" she said, slowly.

Mr. Carter was gathering up his papers.  "Yes," he said--"yes; he--knew
it."

"What?" said Rebecca, in a very low voice--"_what?_"

"In view of the fact that, legally, the matter is still undecided," Mr.
Carter said, hurriedly, "perhaps we need not take this point up?  At
all events, not here."

"Sir," said Rebecca, "why does Mr. Urquhart leave £5000 to Robert
Gray's daughter?"

"He was sorry he was unkind to my mother," Alice said, her voice
quivering.  ("Oh, Lute, $25,000!")

"Alice," her step-mother said, in a loud, harsh voice, "you had better
leave the room.  Luther, go with Alice, please."

The two young people, bewildered, got up with blank faces, and with
obvious reluctance obeyed.  "But why should I be sent out, Lute?" Alice
said, hotly, when they were in the hall.  "It's my money--if I'm the
person."

Luther stopped, and stood, frowning.  On the boy's open, honest face
came a perplexed look.  But Alice said again, in injured tones, that
she didn't know what Mrs. Gray meant.  In the parlor the three elders
looked at each other in silence.  Mrs. Gray had risen, and stood
leaning forward, her trembling hands flat on the table.

"I don't--understand," she said.

"Mr. Carter," said Dr. Lavendar, "certain remarks of yours on our way
up here made me apprehensive.  I see that my friend, Mrs. Gray, is
also--apprehensive.  I would suggest that you have a few words with her
alone.  I will leave you."

"No," Rebecca said; "hear the end of it."  Her hard face was red and
hot.  "Why does Mr. Urquhart leave the child of Robert Gray £5000?
Why?"

"It is as I think you surmise, madam," John Carter said, gravely.

Rebecca recoiled, with a broken exclamation of horror.

Dr. Lavendar drew in his breath.  "Oh, my poor Robert!" he said.

"It is so stated in the will," the lawyer went on; "there is no
disguising it; nor, as far as I can see, can it be hidden from the
legatee.  The directions for finding this heir make the thing explicit.
The testator states that he received information of the expected birth
of his child _after_ the marriage of the person in question, who did
not mention her married name--hence our difficulty in tracing her."

Rebecca, her eyes narrowing into a cruel smile, sat down and rocked
backward and forward in her chair.

"Dreadful--dreadful--dreadful!" she said, aloud, exultantly.



V.

The last quarter of an hour, packed with tragic revelation, lost Mr.
Carter the stage.

"I hope you will put up at the Rectory, sir," Dr. Lavendar said, as
they drove away from Robert Gray's door.

"I thank you, sir," said Mr. Carter.

Then they fell into silence--Mr. Carter from politeness, Dr. Lavendar
from horror.  He was going back in his memory with painful effort; but
it was all very vague....  He had hardly known her; she had been ill
for those months that she had been in Old Chester, and she had made it
very clear that she did not care to see people.  He thought of her
beautiful, sullen face; of Robert Gray's passionate devotion; of Old
Chester's silent disapproval....  He groaned to himself, and John
Carter looked at him sidewise.

After supper at the Rectory, they sat down to smoke in heavy silence;
Mr. Carter respected the old man's distress, but wondered if he should
not have been more comfortable with Van Horn at the Tavern.  The
glowing July day had darkened into rainy night, with a grumble of
thunder back among the hills; but in the midst of a sudden downpour
they heard footsteps on the path, and then some one pushed open the
hall door, and flapped a wet umbrella on the steps before entering.  A
minute later Luther Metcalf stood, hesitating, on the study threshold.

"Dr. Lavendar--"

The old man got up hurriedly.  "Yes, Lute.  Come into the dining-room.
You will excuse me, sir?" he said to Mr. Carter.  He put his hand on
Lute's arm, in a friendly grip, for there was a break in the boy's
voice.

"I know about it," Lute said.  They sat down at the dining-room table;
Lute swallowed hard, and pulled with trembling fingers at his hatband;
he did not lift his eyes.  "And--and I want you to tell her not to take
it."

"How is she, Lute?"

"I haven't seen her.  She wouldn't come down-stairs.  She sent me a
little note," Luther said, taking it out of his breast-pocket, and then
putting it back again tenderly.  "'Course I won't pay any attention to
it."

"Saying she'd release you, I suppose?"

"Yes; but that's nothing.  I'll make her understand the minute I see
her.  But, Dr. Lavendar, I don't want that--that money!" the boy ended,
almost with a sob.  "I want you to tell her not to take it."

Dr. Lavendar was silent.

"At first I thought--I couldn't help thinking--we could get married
right off.  We could get married and have a home of our own; you know,
we'd be rich people with all that money.  And I suppose, honestly, that
as things are now, there's no chance of our getting married for a good
while.  But I--I tell you what, sir.  I'd rather never get married
than--than touch that money!"

Dr. Lavendar nodded.

"You won't let her, sir?  You'll make her give it back?"

"My dear boy, I can't 'make' Alice do anything.  The money is hers."

"Oh, but Dr. Lavendar, won't you go and talk to her?  It may be a
temptation to her, just as it was to me, for a minute.  We could just
make the office hum, sir.  We could put it right on its feet; we could
have a real Daily.  I know she'll think of that.  _I_ just thought we
could get married.  But Alice will think about helping the office, and
me."

"Of course the money would bring ease to her father--"  Dr. Lavendar
stopped abruptly.

"Oh, my _God_!" Lute said, and dropped his head on his arms.

"Bring ease to--to the family," Dr. Lavendar ended lamely.

"You know Mr. Gray won't touch it," Lute burst out; "and I can't let
Alice, either.  Dr. Lavendar, I thought maybe you'd let me hitch
Goliath up and drive you out to the house?"

"Not to-night, Lute.  Alice has got to be alone.  Poor child, poor
child!  Yes; we've all of us got to meet the devil alone.  Temptation
is a lonely business, Lute.  To-morrow I'll go, of course.  Did you
answer her note?"

"Oh yes; right off.  I just said, 'Don't be foolish,' and--and some
other things.  I didn't tell her we mustn't take the money, because I
hadn't thought of it then.  Mrs. Gray said she wouldn't come out of her
room.  Oh, just think of her, all by herself!"  Luther bent over and
fumbled with his shoelace; when he looked up, Dr. Lavendar pretended
not to see his eyes.

When the boy went away, Dr. Lavendar went back to the study and asked
John Carter some legal questions: Suppose he had not found this child,
what would have become of the money?  Suppose the child should now
decline to take it, what then?

"Well," said Mr. Carter, smiling, "as a remote contingency, I suppose I
might reply that it would revert to the residuary estate.  But did you
ever know anybody decline £5000, Dr. Lavendar?"

"Never knew anybody who had the chance," Dr. Lavendar said; "but
there's no telling what human critters will do."

"They won't do that," said John Carter.


What a long night it was, of rain and wind and dreadful thought! ...
Rebecca had told Alice, with kindness, but with such a grip upon
herself lest exultation should tremble in her voice, that she seemed
harsher than ever.  Then she told Lute.  He pleaded that Alice would
speak to him, and Mrs. Gray had gone to the girl's room and bidden her
come down-stairs.

"Come, Alice.  You must control yourself.  Come down and talk to
Luther."

Alice shook her head.  "I'll--write him a note."

Mrs. Gray carried the note back to Lute, and brought up the answer,
which Alice read silently.  Rebecca watched her; and then, with an
effort, she said:

"Alice, remember we are not to judge.  We don't understand.  We must
not judge.  Good-night."  She opened the door, and then looked at the
child, seated, speechless, with blank eyes, on the edge of the bed.
"Good-night, Alice.  I--I'm sorry for you, poor girl!" and she came
back hastily and kissed her.

At that, even in her daze of horror, a glimmer of astonishment came
into Alice's face.  But she did not look up or speak.  When it grew
dark, she began mechanically to get ready for bed; she knelt down, as
usual, at the big chintz-covered winged chair and began to say her
prayers, her mind blind as to her own words: "Bless dear father--"
Then she cried out, suddenly and dreadfully, and covered her poor,
shamed head with her arms, and prayed no more.  Then came a long fit of
crying, and then a dreary calm.  Afterwards, as the night shut in with
rain and rumble of thunder, the shame lightened a little, for, though
she could not read it in the darkness, she held Lute's little note
against her lips and kissed it, and cried over it, and said his words
over to herself, and felt that at any rate there was one bright spot in
it all: Lute would never have any more anxieties.  Of Robert Gray she
thought pitifully, but with not much understanding.  Oh, dreadful,
dreadful!  But he had loved his wife so much (so the child thought) he
would surely forgive her.  Not knowing how little forgiveness counts
for when a star goes out.  Sometimes, sitting there on the floor,
listening to the rain, she slept; then woke, with a numb wonder, which
darkened into cruel understanding.  _Shame; shame_--but Lute wouldn't
be worried any more; Lute would be rich.

[Illustration: "SHE KNELT DOWN, AS USUAL, AT THE BIG CHINTZ-COVERED
WINGED CHAIR"]

So the night passed....

Rebecca Gray did not sleep.  When the house was still she went
up-stairs, eager to be alone.  She shut her bedroom door softly; then
she put her brass candlestick on the high bureau and looked about
her....  Everything seemed strange.  Here was her old-fashioned bed
with its four mahogany posts like four slender obelisks; there was the
fine darn in the valance of the tester; the worn strip of carpet on
which she had knelt every night for all these twenty years; it was all
the same, but it was all different, all unfamiliar.  The room was
suddenly the room where that woman had died; the old four-poster was
the bed of that heartbreaking night, with sheets rumpling under a
wandering hand and pillows piled beneath a beautiful, dying head; not
her own bed, smooth and decorous and neat, with her own fine darn in
the tester valance.  She did not know the room as it was now; she did
not know herself; nor Robert; nor that--that--_that woman_.  She sat
down, suddenly a little faint with the effort of readjusting a belief
of twenty-two years.  "She was a wicked woman," she said, out loud; and
her astounded face stared back at her from the dim mirror over the
mantel-piece.  After a while she got up and began to walk back and
forth; sometimes she drew a deep breath; once she laughed.  "A wicked
woman!" ... Now he would know.  Now he would see.  And he would loathe
her.  He would hate her.  He would--her lip drooped suddenly from its
fierce, unconscious smile; he would--suffer.  Yes; suffer, of course.
But that couldn't be helped.  Just at first he would suffer.  Then he
would hate her so much that he would not suffer.  Not suffer?  It came
over her with a pang that there is no suffering so dreadful as that
which comes with hating.  However, she could not help that.  Truth was
truth!  All the years of her hungry wifehood rose up, eager for
revenge; her mind went hurriedly, with ecstasy, over the contrast; her
painful, patient, conscientious endeavor to do her best for him.  Her
self-sacrifice, her actual deprivations--"I haven't had a new bonnet
for--for four years!" she thought; and her lip quivered at the
pitifulness of so slight a thing.  But it was the whole tenor of her
life.  _She_ had no vacations in the mountains; she would have liked
new valances, but she spent hours in darning her old ones to save his
money; she had turned her black silk twice; she had only had two black
silks in twenty years.  All the great things she had done, all the
petty things she had suffered, rose up in a great wave of merit before
her; and against it--what?  Hideous deceit!  Oh, how he would despise
the creature!  Then she winced; he would--suffer?  Well, she couldn't
help that.  It was the truth, and he had got to face it.  She was
walking up and down, whispering to herself, a sobbing laugh on her
lips, when suddenly, as she passed the mirror, she had a dim, crazy
vision of herself that struck her motionless.  A moment later she took
the candle, and with one hand clutching for support at the high
mantel-shelf--for her knees were shaking under her--held it close to
the glass and peered into the black depths.  Her pale, quivering face,
ravaged with tears, stared back at her, like some poor ghost more ugly
even than in life.  "_A wicked woman._"  Yes--yes--yes; and he would
have to know it.  But when he knew it, what then?  If his eyes opened
to sin, would they open to--

"I have tried to make him comfortable," she said, faintly.

Suddenly she put the candle down and sank into a chair, covering her
face with her poor, gaunt hands....

And so the night passed....  The dawn was dim and rainy.  It was about
four o'clock that Alice, sitting on the floor, sleeping heavily, her
head on the cushion of the chair, started, bewildered, at the noise of
the opening door.  Rebecca, in her gray dressing-gown, one hand
shielding the flare of her candle, came abruptly into the room.

"Alice," she said, harshly, and stopped by the empty bed; then her eyes
found the figure on the floor ("you ought to be in bed"), she said, in
a brief aside; then: "Alice, I've been thinking it over.  You can't
take that money."

"I don't understand," Alice said, confused with sleep and tears.

"You can't take that money.  If you do, your father would have to know.
And he never must--he never must."

Alice pulled herself up from the floor and sat down in her big chair.
"Not take the money?" she said, in a dazed way; "but it's mine."

"That's why you needn't take it.  Thank God it was left to you, not
just to 'her heirs.'  Alice, I've gone all over it.  I--I wanted you to
take it"--Rebecca's voice broke; "yes, I--did."

"Well, it's mine," Alice repeated, bewildered.

Rebecca struck her hands together.  "Yours not to take!  Don't you see?
You can save your father."

Alice, cringing, dropped her head on her breast with a broken word.

"Don't be a fool," the older woman said, trembling.  "He's been your
father ever since you were born.  And it would be a pretty return for
his love to tell him--"

Alice burst out crying; her step-mother softened.

"I am sorry for you, you poor girl.  But, oh, Alice, think, _think_ of
your father!"  She clasped her hands and stood, trembling; she took a
step forward, almost as if she would kneel.

"If he would feel so dreadfully," Alice said, at last, "why--we needn't
tell him where the money comes from."

"Now, Alice, that is absurd.  Of course he would know.  He would have
to know.  A girl doesn't inherit £5000 without her father's knowing
where it comes from.  And, anyway, Mr. Carter said that Mr. Gray would
have to make a statement and swear to it.  Of course he would--know."

"Do you mean you don't want me to have it at all?" Alice said, blankly.

"I've just explained it to you," Rebecca said, her voice harsh with
anxiety.  "You _can't_ have it."

"But it's my money; I have a right to it.  And it would make all the
difference in the world to Lute.  If he is going to take a girl--like
me, he ought to have the money, anyhow."

"And kill your father?" Rebecca said.  "Alice!  Don't you see, he must
go on believing that she is"--her voice grew suddenly tender--"that she
is 'a creature of light?'"

"I want Lute to have the money," Alice said.

"Alice!" the other exclaimed, with dismay, "don't you think of your
father at all?  And--for your mother's sake."

Alice was silent; then, in a hard voice, "I don't like her."

"Oh!" Rebecca cried, and shivered.  There was a pause; then she said,
faintly, "For your own sake?"

Alice looked up sullenly.  "Nobody need know; we would only say it had
been left to--her.  Nobody would know."

Suddenly, as she spoke, despite the plain face and the red hair, Alice
looked like her mother.  Rebecca stepped back with a sort of shock.
Alice, crying a little, got up and began to pull down her hair and
braid it, with unsteady fingers.  Her step-mother watched her silently;
then she turned to go away; then came back swiftly, the tears running
down her face.

"Oh, Alice, it is my fault!  I've had you twenty-two years, and yet you
are like--  See, Alice, child; give her a chance to be kind to him, in
you.  Oh, I--I don't know how to say it; I mean, let her have a chance!
Oh--don't you see what I mean?  She said she was sorry!"  All the
harshness had melted out of Rebecca's face; she was nothing but
gentleness, the tears falling down her cheeks, her voice broken with
love.  "Alice, be good, dear.  Be good.  Be good.  And I--I _will_ be
pleasanter, Alice; I'll try, indeed; I'll try--"



VI

"Well," said Mr. Amos Hughes, a week later, in the cool dusk of Dr.
Lavendar's study, just before tea, "this is a most extraordinary
situation, sir!"

"Will ye have a pipe?" said Dr. Lavendar, hospitably.

John Carter, his feet well apart, his back to the fireless grate, his
hands thrust down into his pockets, said, looking over at his partner:

"Amos, Dr. Lavendar once remarked to me that there was no telling what
human critters would do."

Dr. Lavendar chuckled.

"Very true," Amos Hughes admitted, putting one fat knee over the other;
"but I must say that I never before knew a human critter throw away
£5000."

"I'm sorry you haven't had better acquaintances," said Dr. Lavendar.
"I have.  I'm not in the least surprised at this child's behavior.  Mr.
Carter, are you looking for anything?  You'll find a decanter on the
sideboard in the next room, sir.  This is a pretty good world, Mr. Amos
Hughes; I've lived in it longer than you have, so you'll take my word
for it.  It's a pretty good old world, and Miss Alice Gray has simply
decided to do the natural and proper thing.  Why, what else could she
do?"

"I could mention at least one other thing," said Mr. Carter.

"Extraordinary situation! but I suppose the residuary legatees won't
make any objection," murmured Amos Hughes.

Dr. Lavendar rapped on the table with the bowl of his pipe.  "My dear
sir, would you have a girl, for a paltry £5000, break her father's
heart?"

"Her father?"

"Mr. Gray would not, in my judgment, survive such a revelation," said
Dr. Lavendar, stiffly.

"May I ask one question?" John Carter said.

"G'on," said Dr. Lavendar.

"What I would like to know is: How did you bring Miss Gray to look at
the thing in this way?"

"I didn't bring her," said Dr. Lavendar, indignantly; "her Heavenly
Father brought her.  Look here, sir; this business of the law is all
very well, and necessary, I suppose, in its way, but let me tell you,
it's a dangerous business.  You see so much of the sin of human nature
that you get to thinking human nature has got to sin.  You are
mistaken, sir; it has got to be decent.  We are the children of God,
sir.  I beg that you'll remember that--and then you won't be surprised
when a child like our Alice does the right thing.  Surprise is
confession, Mr. Carter."

Mr. Carter laughed, and apologized as best he could for his view of
human nature; and Dr. Lavendar was instantly amicable and forgiving.
He took Mr. Amos Hughes's warning, that he should, as a matter of duty,
lay very clearly before the young lady the seriousness of what she
proposed to do, and not until he had exhausted every argument would he
permit her to sign the papers of release which (as a matter of
precaution) he had prepared.  "She's of age," said Amos Hughes, "and
nobody can say that she has not a right to refuse to proceed further in
the matter.  But I shall warn her."

"'Course, man," said Dr. Lavendar; "that's your trade."

And so the evening came, and the three men went up to Robert Gray's
house.

It was a long evening.  More than once Dr. Lavendar trembled as he saw
the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them spread before his
child's eyes.  But he said no word, and once, sternly, he laid his hand
on Rebecca's arm to check some word of hers.

"Let her alone," he said.

It was eleven o'clock before there came a moment of solemn silence.
Alice bent over a paper, which John Carter had read aloud to her, and
signed her name.  Luther and Rebecca and Dr. Lavendar witnessed the
signature.  Then Rebecca Gray took the girl in her arms.


"That young man has got something to him," Mr. Amos Hughes said, as
they went back to the Rectory.

"If you could put some printing in his way, it would be a favor to me,"
said Dr. Lavendar.

"I shouldn't wonder if I could," the lawyer said.

"The girl is a fine creature, poor child," said Mr. Carter.

"Gentlemen," said Dr. Lavendar, "they are both good children, and they
have behaved well; but there's somebody else, let me tell you!"

However, he did not tell them.  Perhaps he kept his opinion for Robert
Gray's ears, for once he said, smiling, in Rebecca's presence:

"Robert, this wife of yours is a noble woman."

Mr. Gray, a little surprised, said, politely, looking with kind eyes at
Rebecca, "Mrs. Gray is a very good wife, sir."

And Rebecca went up and hid herself in the garret and cried with joy.



AT THE STUFFED-ANIMAL HOUSE


I

Willy King's buggy, splashed to the top of the hood with mud and
sagging sidewise on its worn old springs, came pulling up the hill past
the burial-ground.  The doctor himself, curled in one corner, rested a
leg on the dash-board and hung his reins on the hook over his head.  He
was very sleepy, for he had been up until three with an old woman who
thought she was sick, and he had been routed out of bed again at five
because she told her family that she was going to die.  William King
was not given to sarcasm, but he longed to say to the waiting
relatives, "There is no hope!--she'll live."  Instead, he looked
seriously sympathetic and kept his thoughts to himself.  When he got
home to breakfast, his wife told him how foolish he was to take so much
trouble.  "There's nothing the matter with Mrs. Drayton," said Mrs.
King; "and I should tell her so, flatly and frankly.  It would do her
good."

William said that he would like another cup of coffee.

"It wouldn't be good for you," said his Martha; "you are drinking too
much coffee.  You can have shells if you want to.  Shall I have some
shells warmed up?"

William said "No," and went trudging off to his office; and then, at
ten, started on his round of calls, his old buggy still unwashed from
the morning jaunt to the hypochondriac's death-bed.  The day was still
and sunny, the road quite deserted and full of pleasant shadows under
the May foliage.  But the sleepy doctor saw it all through half-closed
eyes, and yawned, and rested one plump leg on the dash-board, and let
the reins hang swaying from the hook in the roof of the bug-pry.  Then,
suddenly, his mare stopped and William opened his eyes.

"Caught you napping, Willy!" said a loud, hearty voice.  And the doctor
sat up and drew his leg in and laughed.

"Well, Miss Harriet, how do you know but what I was worrying over a
case?"

"Much worrying you do, young man!"  She sat down on a log on the
road-bank and smiled at him.  She was a big, vigorous woman with a
fresh, brown face and a keen, kind eye.  She had a gun in her hand, and
a rabbit's white tail stuck out of the hunting-wallet slung over her
shoulder.  She had broken through the underbrush on the hill-side just
as Willy's buggy jogged into the shadow of a sycamore that stretched
its mottled arms over the deserted road.

"Willy," she went on, in her loud, cheerful voice, "do you doctor-men
smile at one another when you meet, like the Augurs, because you fool
us so easily with your big words?  You call a scratched finger an
'abrasion of the epidermis'--and then you send a bill.  And, bless me!
what a serious air you put on at a minute's notice!--I saw you pull
your leg in, Willy.  Come, now; you were in my Sunday-school class--why
don't you just admit to me that that piercing look over your
eye-glasses is one of the tricks of the trade?  I won't tell."

William King chuckled.  "You just get a touch of lumbago, Miss Harriet,
and you'll believe in my tricks."

"Lumbago!" said his reviler.  "Not I; a day's shooting would cure it
quicker than a barrel of your pills."

"Been shooting this morning?"

"No; I set a trap in Dawson's hollow."  She pulled out the rabbit and
held it up.  "Not a bone broken.  Handsome, isn't he?  Poor little
thing!"

William looked at the soft, furry creature, limp in the big brown hand,
with critical appreciation.  "Yes, beautiful.  Miss Annie didn't find
him, to let him out?"

The hunter's face changed to amused impatience.  "Willy, she opened
three traps last week.  And she was so shrewd about it; you would never
believe how clever she is.  Of course it's no use to scold."

"Of course not.  What excuse does she make?"

"Oh, just the same thing: 'Sister, it hurts me to think they can't get
out.'"

"Poor thing!" said the doctor.

"I have tried to make her promise not to interfere with the traps.  You
know, if I could once get a promise out of her I would be all right;
Annie never broke a promise in her life.  But she is too shrewd to be
led into it.  She always says, 'I'm the oldest, and you mustn't order
me round.'  It would be funny if it weren't so provoking."

"Poor thing!" said the doctor again.

"She follows me and takes the bait out of the traps once in a while;
but she prefers to let things go.  And she is certainly wonderfully
bright about it," Miss Harriet said.  "Now, why can't she be sensible
in other things?"

"Well, you know she has always been about twelve; it's the young head
on old shoulders."

"I must tell you her last performance," Miss Harriet said.  "You know
that picture of Aunt Gordon that hung in the dining-room?  Dreadful
thing!  I never saw the poor woman, but I believe she wasn't quite as
ugly as that portrait, though Alex looks just like her, Dr. Lavendar
says; and Alex is dreadfully ugly, with those pale eyes of his.  Well,
I happened to say--it was last Tuesday, at tea, and Matty Barkley was
there: 'That picture of Aunt Gordon is awful!  I can't bear it.'  Of
course I never thought of it again, until I came home the next day--and
what do you suppose?"

Willy began to grin.

"Yes! she had got up on a chair, if you please, and cut it out of the
frame and slashed it all to pieces."

"Well done!" said Willy King, slapping his thigh.

"No such thing.  It was ugly, but it was a family portrait."

"What did she say?"

"Oh, she had her excuse....  Willy, I can't understand her mind; it is
so unreasonably reasonable: 'Sister, you said you couldn't bear it, so
what was the use of having it?'  After all, that was sense, William."

"So it was," said the doctor, and unhooked his reins and nodded.
"Well," he said--

But Miss Harriet laughed awkwardly.  "Wait a minute, can't you?  It
won't kill anybody to do without a pill for five minutes."

"Well, no, I suppose it won't," William admitted; "but with a view to
getting home in time for dinner--"

"Oh, let Martha wait.  Willy, you are the meekest being--let her wait.
Tell her you'll have your dinner when you're good and ready."

"Martha is only concerned on my own account," the loyal William
protested.

"Well, I'm not going to keep you long," his old friend said, roughly;
"I--I just want to ask you a question."  Her face grew suddenly a dull
red.  "Not that I believe in your pills and potions--just please
remember that.  But I suppose you do know a little something."

"I could diagnose a scratched finger," said the doctor, meekly.

"Well--" she said, and looked at the lock of her rifle; "there's
nothing in the world the matter with me, but--"

"You don't look like a confirmed invalid," the doctor assured her.

"No!--do I?" she said, eagerly.  "I really am very well, William--very
well.  Dear me, when I get home after a round of my traps (when Annie
hasn't teased me by letting things out) and eat a good dinner, and sit
down with a taxidermy magazine, I--I wouldn't thank King George to be
my uncle.  Yes, I am _very_ well."

Her emphasis had in it a certain agitation that caught the doctor's
eye.  "Your out-of-door life is calculated to keep you well," he said.

Miss Harriet got up and thrust the rabbit back into the pouch at her
side.  "Of course; and, anyhow, I'm not the sick kind.  Imagine me shut
up between four walls!  I should be like Sterne's starling.  Do you
remember?--'I want to get out, I want to get out.'  No, there's nothing
the matter with me.  Absolutely nothing."

She did look very well, the big, brown woman, towering up at the
road-side, with her rifle in her hand and the good color in her cheeks
and lips.  Yet her eyes had a worn look, William thought.  "Pain
somewhere," said the doctor to himself.

"You know, I don't believe in your pills and truck," she insisted,
frowning.

"Of course not," he assured her easily.  "Come, now, Miss Harriet,
what's wrong?"

"Nothing, I tell you," she said, sharply; and then, with impatient
brevity, she spoke of some special discomfort which had annoyed her.
"It began about six months ago."

"Probably you've taken cold," William King said, and then he asked a
question or two.  She answered with irritable flippancy:

"Now don't put on airs, Willy.  There's no use trying to impress me; I
know you.  Remember, you were in my Sunday-school class."

"Why didn't you make a better boy of me, then?  You had your chance.
Miss Harriet, would you mind coming into my office and just letting me
look you over?  Come, now, why shouldn't I get a job out of you for
once?  Here you tackle me on the road-side and get an opinion for
nothing."

She chuckled, but retorted that she hated doctors and their offices.
"I'm not that Drayton cat," she said, "always wanting a doctor to fuss
over me.  No, you can give me a pill right here--though I haven't a bit
of faith in it."

"I wouldn't waste a good pill on you," the doctor defended himself.
"You've got to come and see me."

But when she had promised to come, and William, slapping a rein down on
the mare's flank, was jogging along under the sycamore branches, he did
not fall into his pleasant drowse again.  "She looks so well," he said
to himself, "she must be all right--"



II

Miss Harriet's house, called by Old Chester children "The
Stuffed-Animal House," was on the hill-road a stone's-throw beyond the
burial-ground.  It was of weather-worn brick, and its white lintels,
carved in thin festoons of fruit and flowers, were nearly hidden by ivy
that stretched dark figures over the marble, and, thickening with the
years across the tops of the windows, made the rooms within dim with
wavering leaf shadows.  A brick path, damp and faintly green with moss,
ran down to a green gate set in a ragged privet hedge that was always
dusty and choked with dead twigs.  The house itself was so shaded by
horse-chestnuts that grass refused to grow in the door-yard.  A porch
shadowed the front door, which opened into a dark, square hall, full of
dim figures that hung from the ceiling and stood in cases against the
walls.  A dusty crocodile stretched overhead, almost the width of the
hall; a shark, with varnished belly splitting a little under one fin
and showing a burst of cotton, lurked in a dim corner; over the parlor
door a great snake, coiled about a branch, looked down with glittering,
yellow eyes; and along the walls were cases of very beautiful birds,
their plumage dulled now, for it was forty years since Miss Harriet's
father had made his collection.  But all around the hall were
glistening eyes that stared and stared, until sometimes an Old Chester
child, clinging to a mother's protecting hand, felt sure they moved,
and that in another moment the crocodile's jaws would snap together, or
the eagle's wings would flap horribly in the darkness.

Yet there was an awful joy to Old Chester youth in being allowed to
accompany a mother when she made a polite call on Miss Harriet.  This
hall, that was dark and still and full of the smell of dead fur and
feathers and some acrid preservative, had all the fascination of
horror.  If we were very good we were allowed to walk from case to case
with old Miss Annie, while our mothers sat in the parlor and talked to
Miss Harriet.  Miss Annie could not tell us much of the creatures in
the cases, and for all she used to laugh and giggle just as we did, she
never really knew how to play that the hall was a desert island and the
wild beasts were lurking in the forest to fall upon us.

"It isn't a forest, it's our front hall," Miss Annie would say; "and
you must do what I tell you, because I'm the oldest, and I don't want
to play desert island.  But I'll show you my chickens," she would add,
with eager politeness.

Sometimes, if Miss Annie were not in the room, we would hear Miss
Harriet tell some story about her mischievousness, and our mothers
would sigh and smile and say, "Poor dear!"  Our mothers never said
"poor dear!" about us when we did such things.  If one of us Old
Chester children had spoken out in church as Miss Harriet said Miss
Annie did once, and told Dr. Lavendar that he was telling a story when
he read in the morning lesson that the serpent talked to
Eve--"because," said Miss Annie, "snakes can't talk"--if we had done
such a dreadful thing, we should have been taken home and whipped and
sent to bed without any supper, and probably the whole of the third
chapter of Genesis to learn by heart.  We should not have been "poor
things!"  This was very confusing to Old Chester youth until we grew
older and understood.  Then, instead of being puzzled, we shrunk a
little and stayed close to our mothers, listening to Miss Harriet's
stories of Miss Annie with strange interest and repulsion, or staring
furtively at the little old woman, who laughed often and had a way of
running about like a girl, and of smoothing back her gray hair from her
temples with a fluttering gesture, and of putting up her lip and crying
when she was angry or frightened or when she saw anything being hurt.
Miss Annie could never bear to see anything hurt; she would not let us
kill spiders, and she made us walk in the grass instead of on the brick
path, because the ants came up between the bricks, and she was afraid
we would step on them.

"Annie is very kind-hearted," Miss Harriet used to tell our mothers.
"She can't bear my traps."

Miss Harriet's traps were her passion; her interest in taxidermy had
come to her from her father, and though she had not been able to add
anything of real value to Mr. Hutchinson's collection, her work was
thoroughly well done; and she even made a fair sum of money each year
by sending her squirrels and doves to town for the Christmas trade.

But more important than the money was the wholesome out-of-door life
her little business entailed, which had given her her vigorous body and
sane mind.  She needed both to live with this gray-haired woman, whose
mind was eleven or twelve years old.  It was not a bad mind for eleven
or twelve, Willy King used to say.  Old Miss Annie had a sort of crude
common-sense; she could reason and determine as well as any other
twelve-year-old child--indeed, with an added shrewdness of experience
that sixty years of bodily age made inevitable.  She knew, innocently,
much of life that other children were guarded from knowing; she knew
death, too, but with no horror--perhaps as we were meant to know
it--something as natural as life itself, and most of all as a release
from pain.  For old Annie knew pain and feared it as only the body in
which the soul is not awake can fear it.  She wept at the sight of
blood and moaned when she heard a squirrel squeak in the trap; she
shivered with passionate expectation of relief when Miss Harriet's
kindly chloroform brought peace to fluttering wings or beating claws.
When some soft, furry creature, hurt in the trap, relaxed into happy
sleep in the thick, sweet smell that came out of Miss Harriet's big
bottle, Miss Annie would laugh for joy, the tears of misery still wet
upon her wrinkled cheeks.

"Don't come into my shop," Miss Harriet used to say, laughing and
impatient, when Miss Annie would follow her into the room in the barn
where she did her work--"don't come in here, and then you won't see
things that hurt your feelings."

But Annie, smoothing her hair back from her temples with a curious,
girlish gesture, would only shake her head and sidle closer to her
sister, the young, guileless eyes in the withered face full of protest
and appeal.  Her horror of pain lost Miss Harriet many a fine specimen;
for, in her pity for the trapped creatures, Annie, noiselessly, like
some Indian hunter, used to follow on her sister's footsteps through
the woods, lifting the baits out of the traps, or if she found a snared
creature unhurt, letting it go, and then creeping home, frightened at
Miss Harriet's anger, which, if she discovered the old child's
naughtiness, fell like a thunderbolt, and then cleared into patient
amusement, as a black shower brightens into sunshine.  The big, kind
woman with a man's mind could not be angry at this poor creature; so
she did her duty by her and tried not to think about her.  She went her
way, and set her traps, and prepared her few specimens, brushing Annie
or any other annoyance aside with careless good-nature.

"Don't think about unpleasant things," she used to say, in her loud,
cheerful voice.  "The trouble with you doctors and ministers," she told
Dr. Lavendar, "is that you make people think about their insides.  It's
stomachs with Willy and souls with you.  Nobody ought to know that they
have a stomach or a soul.  I don't.  A tree don't.  And there isn't an
oak in Old Chester that isn't pleasanter than Mrs. Drayton.  Yet she's
always fussing about her insides--spiritual and material."

"It's when you don't have 'em that you fuss," Dr. Lavendar said; "the
trouble isn't too much soul, it's too little.  And I guess it's the
same with stomachs."

"Then you say Mrs. Drayton has no soul?" Miss Harriet said, pleasantly.

"I never said anything of the sort," said Dr. Lavendar.

As for Miss Harriet, she went on to Willy King's office, prepared, as
usual, to make him as uncomfortable as she could.  But she never put
Willy out.  Her flings at his profession tickled him immensely, and if
now and then the good, honest William practised, as Miss Harriet said,
a few of the tricks of his trade, he was not averse to sharing their
humor with some one who could appreciate it.

"So you have that Drayton cat on your hands again?" Miss Harriet said,
plumping herself down in William's own chair in front of his office
table so that she could pick up and examine what she called his
"riffraff."  ("Do open your windows, William.  I don't see how you can
be so shut up.  Po-o-o! how can people live so much in-doors?")

"Well," said William, doing as he was bid, "she enjoys my visits and I
enjoy her checks.  I don't complain."

"That's like the profession," said Miss Harriet; "you put your hands in
our pockets whenever you get a chance.  Well, you'll get nothing out of
my pocket, William, for there's nothing in it."

"Miss Harriet," said William, chuckling--"you won't tell anybody, will
you?  But Mrs.--well, I won't name names; that's not professional--"

"Call her a 'Female,'" said Miss Harriet.

"Well, a Female sent for me on Tuesday, in a dreadful hurry; I must
come, 'right off! quick!'  I was just sitting down to breakfast, but of
course I ran--"

"Martha must have been pleased?"

"I ran; and arrived, winded.  There was--the Female, at _her_
breakfast.  'Oh,' she said, 'doctor, the baby has slept right through
from six last night, and he hasn't wakened up yet.  I am afraid there
is something the matter with his little brain.'"

"William, if you didn't say that there was something the matter with
_her_ little brain--"

"I didn't," William said, grimly, "because she hasn't any.  Now, Miss
Harriet, let's talk about yourself; it's pleasanter."

"Oh, there was not the slightest occasion to come to see you.  But I
said I would, and here I am.  I suppose you'll send me a bill as long
as my arm.  Do you have a system of charges, Willy?  So much for a look
over your glasses?  So much for that solemn cough?  I suppose you grade
all your tricks.  Now work off the most expensive ones on me; I propose
to get the worth of my money, young man."

"Thought you said you weren't going to pay any bills?" William reminded
her; and then refused to be side-tracked any longer, but asked question
after question, bringing her up once or twice with a sharp turn.
"Don't joke now, please, Miss Harriet.  Be as exact as you can.  Is
this condition thus, or so--?"  And when he got through with his
questions, he took up the joking rather heavily.

"You're so faithless about pills," he said, "that I'm not going to give
you any."

"What! no pills?" said Miss Harriet.

William King laughed awkwardly.  "Not a pill!  I don't see any
condition which warrants them: but--"

"What did I tell you?  There's nothing the matter, and you just dragged
me here to give your office a busy look."

"I didn't suppose you'd see through it," said Willy King.  "But, Miss
Harriet, I--I don't feel _quite_ satisfied.  I--do you know I've a
great mind to get a man in Mercer to look you over?  I want you to go
up with me to-morrow and see him."

"Nonsense!"

"No, truly," he said; "I am not satisfied, Miss Harriet."

"But what do you mean?" she insisted, sharply.  "There's nothing the
matter with me.  You said yourself I didn't need any medicine.  Give me
some opiate to stop this--this discomfort when it comes on, and I'll be
all right."

"You can't bear opiates," he said, bluntly; "your heart won't stand
them.  Don't you remember the time you broke your ankle and I tried
morphine--a baby dose--to give you some relief?  You gave me a scare, I
can tell you."

Miss Harriet was silent.  Then: "I've known my heart wasn't right for
two years.  But--"

"Oh, your heart doesn't give me any concern--if you don't take
liberties with it.  Perhaps it isn't quite as good as it was thirty
years ago, but--"

"Ah, I lost it to you then, Willy.  You were a sweet little fellow when
you came into my class.  Do you remember once when--"

"Miss Harriet, you've got to go to Mercer with me to-morrow," William
King interrupted, quietly.  "I hope there's nothing much out of the
way.  I hope not.  I--I believe not.  But I'm not sure.  We'll go up
and see Greylord and find out.  He'll give you some pills, maybe," he
ended, and laughed and got up.  "Now I'm off to the cat, Miss Harriet."

And Miss Harriet, to her astonishment, found herself dismissed before
she had made the boy tell her what he was afraid of.  "He _is_ a boy,"
she said to herself.  "Of course he wouldn't be apt to know what was
the matter.  I ought to have gone to see some Mercer man to begin with.
I remember when Willy was born."



III

When they came out of the Mercer doctor's door William King's fresh
face had gone white, but Miss Harriet walked smiling.  At the foot of
the steps the doctor paused and stood an instant leaning on the
hand-rail, as though for support and to get his breath.  Miss Harriet
looked at him with concern.  "Why, Willy!" she said.

"Miss Harriet," William said, hoarsely, "he may be mistaken.  It's
perfectly possible that he is mistaken."

"I guess not, Willy," she said, simply.  "Come, now, don't be such a
wet string."  She struck him a friendly blow on the shoulder that made
the doctor take a quick step forward to keep his balance; but it gave
him the grip upon himself that for a single instant he had lost.

"And, anyhow," he said, "even if he is right, it may not develop.  I've
known a case where it was checked for two years; and then the patient
died of small-pox."

"Pleasant alternative," said Miss Harriet; she was smiling, her face
full of color, her shoulders back, her head up.  "Come, Willy, let's
have a spree.  Here we are for a day, and Martha's at home.  We'll have
a good dinner, and we'll do something interesting.  _Hurrah!_" said
Harriet Hutchinson.

And the doctor could do no less than fall into step at that martial
note and march at her side proudly.  And by some spiritual contagion
his courage met hers like the clash of swords.  They went to get their
good dinner, and Miss Harriet ate it with appetite.  Afterwards she
declared they would go to the circus.  "It's in town; I saw the tents.
I haven't been to a circus for forty years," she said; "but I know just
how the pink lemonade tastes.  You've got to treat, Willy."

"I'll throw in pea-nuts," said William King; and with that they left
the restaurant and went sauntering along the hot, grimy street in the
direction of the open lots beyond the blast-furnaces, where, under a
deep June sky, dazzling even though it was smudged by coils of smoke,
were stretched the circus tents, brave with flags and slapping and
billowing in a joyous wind.  William King held on to his hat and looked
at the great, white clouds, domed and shining, piled all along the
west.  "We'll get a shower, I'm afraid, Miss Harriet."

"Well, take a pill, Willy, and then it won't hurt you," she told him,
with a laugh that belonged to the sun and wind, to the flags whipping
out on their halyards and the signs of the side-shows bellying from
their guy-ropes, to the blare of music and the eager circus crowd--that
crowd that never changes with changing generations.  Still there is the
old man gaping with excited eyes; still the lanky female in spectacles;
the cross elder sister afraid of crushing her fresh skirts; the little
boy absorbed in thought; the little girl who would like to ride on the
Shetland pony when the clown offers any miss in the audience an
opportunity.  We know them all, and doubtless they know us, the
patronizing, amused on-lookers, who suddenly become as eager and
absorbed as any graybeard or child in the crowd.  We know the red
boxes, too, where men with hard faces and wearied eyes shout
mechanically the same words of vociferous invitation to the side-shows.
Children, pulled along by their elders, would stop, open-mouthed,
before these men; but somehow they never see the wild man or the fat
lady.  Ah, the regret for the unseen side-shows!--the lady with the
snakes; the skeleton man; the duel between the educated hyena and his
trainer--that hyena of whom the man in the red box speaks with such
convincing enthusiasm.  "_I have been_," cries the strident voice--"_I
have been connected with circuses all my life--all my life, ladies and
gentlemen!--and I give you my sacred word of honor that this is the
most magnificent specimen of the terrible grave-robbing hyena that I
have ever seen!_"  Why did we never see that hyena?  Why, why did we
always hurry on to the main tent?  It is the pang that even paradise
must know, of the lost experience of earth--or perhaps of hell.

"We ought to see the fat lady," said Dr. King.

"I'm afraid we'll be late," Miss Harriet objected, eagerly.

So they pushed on with the impatient, good-natured crowd.  The smell of
tan-bark and matted pelts and stale pea-nut shells came in a gust as
they jostled under the flap of the outer tent and found themselves
inside the circle of gilded cages.  "Shall we go right in and get our
seats?" William said.

"What! and not look at the animals?  Willy, you're crazy.  I want to
feed the elephants.  Why, there are a lot of them, six or seven."

So they trudged around the ring, their feet sinking deep into the
loose, trampled earth.  Miss Harriet poked the monkeys clinging to the
grating of their car, with her big umbrella, and examined the
elephant's hide with professional interest.  "Imagine curing that
proboscis," she said.  And then they stopped in front of a miserable,
magnificent lion, turning, turning, turning in a cage hardly more than
his own length.  Miss Harriet drew in her breath.  "It's being trapped
that is so awful, Willy.  The consciousness that _you can't get out_.
It isn't the--the pain of it; it's being trapped."

William King, looking at the poor tawny creature of the desert and free
winds and life that dealt death with passion, blinked suddenly behind
his glasses.  "But you trap things yourself," he protested, a moment
afterwards.

"Oh, but I don't keep 'em trapped; I kill 'em," she defended herself.
"I couldn't keep things shut up.  I'd be as bad as Annie if I saw any
living creature that wasn't free to get out-of-doors."  And then she
pushed on to the next cage, and the next; then suddenly feared that
they would not get good seats if they wasted any more time among the
animals.  "For we won't have any reserved doings," she said.  "I want
to sit on those boards that I sat on forty years ago."

She was as excited as she might have been forty years ago; and pushed
ahead into the big tent, dragging William by the hand, and climbing up
tier after tier, to get a good view of the ring.  When they sat down,
she made haste to spread open the flimsy pink sheet of the programme
with its pale type, and read to William, in a loud, ecstatic voice,
just what was going to happen:

"_Display No. 1.  Gigantic Pageantric Prelude--presenting Equitational
Exercises, Hippo-dramatical Revivals, Pachydermical Aggregations--the
only terpsichorean Pachyderms ever taught to tread the mazes of the
Quadrille._

"_Display No. 2.  Claire St. Jeal and her company--the loveliest
daughters of Italy, and world-famous bareback equestriennes--_"

"You are sure you are not getting tired?" William King interrupted.

"Tired?" she repeated, scornfully.  "William, as Matty Barkley would
say, you are a perfect fool.  Why should I be tired?  I feel first
rate--never better.  I wouldn't thank King George to be my uncle!  I've
wanted to come to the circus for years.  Willy, what will your wife
say?"

"Nothing," said William, significantly.

At which Miss Harriet laughed until the tears stood in her eyes.
"William, you have more sense than I gave you credit for.  But I am not
sure that, as your Sunday-school teacher, I ought not to tell you to
confess.  Hullo! look what's coming."

Flare of banners!  Prancing horses!  Roman soldiers in rumbling
gold-and-crimson chariots!  Elephants bearing, throned upon their
backs, goddesses of liberty and queens of beauty!  Miss Harriet was
leaning forward, her lips parted with excitement.  William King looked
at her and drew in his breath.

[Illustration: "MISS HARRIET WAS LEANING FORWARD"]

"'Not more than six months;' God grant not!--I wish it might not be
more than two."

"Willy, read what comes next," she said, shoving the programme at him;
"I can't stop looking."

The canvas was darkening a little overhead, so that William had to put
on his glasses and hold the printed sheet at arm's-length to decipher
the blurred, smudged text sufficiently to say that "Mademoiselle
Orinda, Queen of the Flying Trapeze, would give her marv--"

"William--what shall I do about Annie?" Miss Harriet said.

"You know we will all take care of Miss Annie," he said, tenderly;
"and--"

"Oh, Willy, there's the red lemonade," she interrupted, standing up and
beckoning with her crumpled programme.  "Did you ever see so deadly a
drink?  You forgot the pea-nuts," she reminded him, reproachfully.  And
when William secured his hot, brown-paper bag, she ate the pea-nuts and
watched the changing wonders of the ring with intent eyes.  She laughed
aloud at the clown's endeavors to ride a kicking donkey, and when the
educated dogs carried one another about in a wheelbarrow she applauded
generously.  "They are wonderful!" she said.

William King looked at her keenly; it was all real.  Miss Harriet was
incapable of pretence.

The brilliant day, that had showed between lacings of the tent like
strings of sapphires, had dimmed and dimmed; and by-and-by, unnoticed
at first, there was the drip of rain.  Here and there an umbrella was
raised, and once or twice a bedraggled man or woman led out a reluctant
child--"For I ain't a-goin' to have you catch your death of cold for no
trained elephants," a mother said, decidedly, pulling a whining boy
from beside Miss Harriet.

"Perhaps," ventured the doctor, "we really ought to go.  I can't have
you 'catch your death of cold,' Miss Harriet."

"I won't die of a cold, William," she said, her eyes narrowing.

And William swore at himself under his breath, but said, with clumsy
jocularity: "Well, not if I can help it.  But I don't know why you
should be so sure; it might give you bronchitis for a year."

"I won't have bronchitis for a year," Miss Harriet said, gazing at the
clowns.

And William King swore at himself again.

The rain increased to a downpour; little streams at first dripped, then
poured, upon the thinning benches.  The great centre pole was streaming
wet; the clown stood in a puddle, and the red triangle on his
chalk-white forehead melted into a pink smear.

"Really, Miss Harriet," William said, anxiously, "I'm afraid--"

"If you're afraid for yourself, I'll go," she said; "but we ought to
wait for the grand concert.  (Ah! there's the man with the red
balloons.  If you had a half-dozen children, Willy, as you ought to
have, I'd buy him out.)  Well, are you sugar or salt, to be so scared
of a drop of rain?"

She did not look afraid of rain herself when she got up and pushed past
the scattered spectators, her hair glistening with drops, her cheeks
red, her eyes clear.  "William," she said, when they got outside and
were hurrying along to catch the stage for Old Chester--"William, that
has done me good.  I feel superbly.  Do you know, I haven't had an
instant's pain since I first spoke of the thing to you?  That's three
days entirely free.  Why, such a thing hasn't happened in--in three
months.  Just think of that--entirely free.  William, I'll cheat you
doctor-men yet."  She looked at him with glowing courage.  "I feel so
well," she said.

She held out her hand, there in the rain on the black cinder-path, and
William King struck his into it with a sort of shout.

"Hurrah!" he said, as she had said when they had come out from hearing
the sentence in the Mercer doctor's office.

The long ride home in the stage, in which they were the only
passengers, was perhaps a descending scale....  At first they talked of
the circus.  "I liked the man and the bear best," William said.

"Oh, he wasn't as fine as that beautiful lady in pink petticoats who
rode the fat, white horse.  Did you ever see a horse with so broad a
back, Willy?  Why, I could have ridden him myself."

"He would need a broad back," William said; and Miss Harriet told him
to hold his tongue and not be impudent.  The rain was pattering on the
roof and streaming down the windows, and in the dark, damp cavern of
the stage they could not see each other's face very well; but the
stretches of tense silence in the circus talk made William King's heart
beat heavily, although he burst out gayly that the afternoon had
brought back his youth.  "Miss Harriet, when you were a child, didn't
you always want to poke around under the seats when it was over and
find things?  William Rives once found five cents.  But William would
find five cents in the Desert of Sahara.  I never had his luck, but I
was confident that watches were dropped freely by the spectators."

"Of course," cried Miss Harriet.  "Or diamond-rings.  My fancy led me
towards diamond-rings.  But I suppose you never knew the envy of the
ladies' clothes?  Dear me--those petticoats!"

"The ring-master's boots were very bitter to me; but my greatest desire
was--"

"Willy," Miss Harriet said, hoarsely, "I don't want anybody to know."

"Of course not," William King said.  "Why should they?  We may hold
this thing at bay for--"

"We will hold it at bay," she said, with passion.  "I will!  I _will_!
Do you hear me?"

Willy King murmured something inarticulately; his eyes suddenly smarted.

The ride to Old Chester seemed to him interminable; and when, after
wandering snatches of talk about the circus, the stage at last drew up
at the green gate in Miss Harriet's privet hedge, his nerves were tense
and his face haggard with fatigue.

At home, at his belated supper-table, his good Martha was very severe
with him.  "You oughtn't to allow yourself to get so tired; it's wrong.
You could just as well as not have ordered your things by mail.  I must
say, William, flatly and frankly, that a doctor ought to have more
sense.  I hope there was nobody in the stage you knew to talk you to
death?"

"Miss Harriet came down," William said, "but she hadn't much to say."

"I suppose she went to buy some of her horrid supplies?" Martha said.
"I can't understand that woman--catching things in traps.  How would
she like to be caught in a trap?  I asked her once--because I am always
perfectly frank with people.  'How would you like to be caught in a
trap, Miss Harriet?' I said.  And she said, 'Oh, Annie would let me
out.'  You never can get a straight answer out of Harriet Hutchinson."

"My dear, I'll take another cup of tea.  Stronger, please."

"My dear, strong tea isn't good for you," Martha said.



IV

When Miss Harriet woke the next morning the blue June day was flooding
her room.  At first she could not remember....  What was the something
behind her consciousness?  It came in an instant.  "_Trapped_," she
said, aloud, and turned her head to see Miss Annie at her bedside.

"What is trapped, sister?" said Miss Annie, her little old face
crumpling with distress.

"I am," Harriet said; and laughed at the absurdity of telling Annie in
such a fashion.  But of course there was no use in telling Annie.  She
couldn't understand, and all that there was for her to know, the
ultimate fact, she would find out soon enough.  The younger sister felt
a sick distaste of dealing with this poor mind; she wanted to be kind
to Annie; she had always wanted to be kind to her--but she didn't want
her round, that was all.  And so she sent her off, patiently and not
ungently: "Don't bother me, Annie, that's a good girl.  No--I don't
want any roses; take them away.  No--I don't want to look at pictures.
You go away now, that's a good girl."

And the wrinkled child obeyed meekly.  But she told the deaf Augustine
that Harriet was cross.  "I'm the oldest, and she oughtn't to order me
round," she whimpered.

Poor Miss Annie was constantly being told to be a good girl and go
away, in the days that followed--days, to Miss Harriet, of that
amazement and self-concentration which belong to such an experience as
hers.  There had been no leading up to this knowledge that had come to
her--no gradual preparation of apprehension or suspicion.  The full
speed of living had come, _crash!_ against the fact of dying.  The
recoil, the pause, the terrible astonishment of that moment when Life,
surging ahead with all his banners flying, flings himself in an instant
against the immovable face of Death--leaves the soul dazed by the
shock--dazed, and unbelieving.  "_It cannot be._"  That is the first
clear thought.  It is impossible; there is a mistake somewhere.  A day
ago, an hour ago, Death was lying hidden far, far off in the years.
Sometime, of course, he would arrive--solemn, inevitable, but
beneficent, or at least serene.  He would send soft warnings before
him--faint tollings of fatigue, vague mists of sunset shadows.  The
soul will be ready for him when he comes then; will even welcome him,
for after a while Life grows a little tired and is ready to grasp that
cool hand and rest.  We all know how to meet Death then, with dignity
and patience.  But to meet him to-morrow--to-day, even, when we are
full of our own business, of our own urgent affairs--the mere
interruption of it is maddening.  Across the solemnity of the thought
comes with grotesque incongruity an irritated consciousness of the
_inconvenience_ of dying.

As for Harriet Hutchinson--"I don't believe it," she said to herself,
that first morning.  And then, breathlessly, "Why, I can't--die!"

She was not afraid, as one counts fear, but she was absorbed; for there
is a dreadful and curiously impersonal interest in the situation that
takes possession of the mind in moments like this.  No wonder she could
not think about Annie.  She could not think about anything except that
that man in Mercer had said that in a very short time--

"Why, but it's perfectly ridiculous!" she told herself; "it _can't_ be.
I'm not sick--"

As she lay there in her bed that morning, after she had sent Miss Annie
away, she lifted her hand--a large hand, with strong, square fingers,
brown with weather and rough with her work, and looked at it curiously.
It was a little thin--she had not noticed that before; but there it
was, eager, vital, quick to grip and hold, life in every line.  And it
would be--still?  No; she did not believe it.  And, besides, it
couldn't be, it mustn't be.  She had a hundred things to do.  She must
do them; she couldn't suddenly--_stop_.  Life surged up in a great wave
of passionate determination.  She got up, eager to go on living, and to
deny, deny, deny!  It was the old human experience which is repeated
and repeated until Life can learn the fulfilment of Death.  Poor Life,
beaten by the whips of pain, it takes so long sometimes to learn its
lesson!

In those weeks that followed--weeks of refusal, and then struggle, and
then acceptance, and last of all adjustment--Miss Harriet found old
Annie's companionship almost intolerable.  She was very unreasonable
with her, very harsh even; but all she asked was solitude, and solitude
Annie would not give.  She ran at her sister's heels like a dog; sat
looking at her with frightened eyes in the bad hours that came with
relentlessly increasing frequency; came whimpering to her bedside on
those exhausted mornings when Harriet would scourge her poor body onto
its feet and announce that she was going out.  "These four walls
smother me," she used to say; "I must get out-of-doors."

Sometimes it seemed as if the big, kind nature that had borne the
pin-pricks so patiently all these years had reached the breaking-point,
and another day or another hour of poor old Annie's foolish love would
cause it to burst out in frantic anger:

"It hurts, sister?"

"Yes, Annie; but never mind.  If I could only get out-of-doors I
wouldn't mind."

"Oh, sister, don't let it hurt."

"Can't help it, Annie.  Now, don't think about it, that's a good girl.
Maybe I can get out to-morrow a little while."

"But I can't bear it."

"Got to, my dear.  Come, now, run away.  Go and see your chickens."

"Sister, I can't bear it."

"Annie, you drive me wild.  Augustine--oh, she can't hear.
_Augustine!_ you must take Miss Annie away.  Annie, if you say another
word--"

"I'm the oldest and I have a right to talk.  Why don't you smell your
big bottle?  When the squirrels smell it they are not hurt."

"Well, I'm not a squirrel.  Annie, if you stay another minute,
I'll--I'll--  Oh, for Heaven's sake, let me alone!"

She could stand it, she told herself, if she was alone.  For though she
finally accepted the fact, her own weakness she could not accept.  "I
am ashamed," she told William King, angrily.

"But there's nothing to be ashamed of," Willy King protested, in his
kind way.  "Dear Miss Harriet--"

"Hold your tongue.  Nothing to be ashamed of?  I guess if your body had
put your soul in a corner, with its face to the wall--I guess you'd be
ashamed.  Yesterday I--I--  Well, never mind.  But my body got me down,
I tell you--got my soul down.  Isn't that something to be ashamed of?
Don't be an ass, William.  I'm ashamed."

It was this consciousness of her own weakness that made her hold
herself aloof from her friends.

In those days people did not have trained nurses; they nursed one
another.  It was not skilful nursing; it frequently was not wise, as we
count wisdom to-day; but it was very tender and loving, and it was very
bracing.  In these softer times, when we run so easily to relief from
pain, we do not feel the presence of the professional nurse a check
upon our weakness; if we suffer, we are willing that this skilful,
noiseless machine, who will know exactly how to relieve us, shall see
the suffering.  We are neither mortified nor humiliated by our lack of
endurance or of courage.  But in Old Chester, when we were ill, and
some friend or relative came to sit by our bedside, we had--for their
sakes--to make an effort to control ourselves.  If the effort failed,
our souls blushed.  Miss Harriet would not run the risk of failure; her
body, as she said, got the better of her soul when she was alone; it
should not have the chance to humiliate her publicly; so, roughly, she
refused the friendly assistance so eagerly offered: "Thank you;
Augustine can look after me.  I don't want anybody.  And besides, I'm
perfectly comfortable.  (William, I won't have anybody.  Do you
understand?  It's bad enough to disgrace myself in my own eyes; I won't
have Matty Barkley sit and look on.)"

And William King put people off as well as he could: "I go in two or
three times a day, just to say how do you do; and Miss Annie is about
and can bring her anything she needs.  And Augustine is very faithful.
Of course, she is deaf as a post, but she seems to know what Miss
Harriet wants."

So the situation was accepted.  "Here I am," she told the doctor,
grimly, "dying like a rat in a hole.  If I could only get
out-of-doors!--or if I had anything to do!--I think it's the having
nothing to do that is the worst.  But I'll tell you one thing, Willy--I
won't be pitied.  Don't have people mourning over me, or pretending
that I'm going to get well.  They know better, and so do I."

Those who dared to pity her or who ventured some futile friendly lie
about recovery were met by the fiercest impatience.  "How do I feel?
Very well, thank you.  And if I didn't, I hope I wouldn't say so.  I
hope I'm well enough bred not to ask or answer questions about
feelings.  There is nothing in the world so vulgar," she said, and
braced herself to one or another imprudence that grieved and worried
all the kind hearts that stood by, eager to show their love.

"It breaks my heart to see her, and there's nothing anybody can do for
her," Mrs. Barkley told Dr. Lavendar, snuffling and wiping her eyes.
"She positively turned Rachel King out of the house; and Maria Welwood
cried her eyes out yesterday because she was so sharp with her when
Maria said she was sorry she had had a bad night and hoped she'd soon
feel better."

The old man nodded silently.  "Poor Miss Harriet!" he said.

"Don't say 'poor Miss Harriet!' to her.  Dr. Lavendar, Harriet and I
have been friends since we were put into short dresses--and she spoke
to me to-day in a way--!  Well, of course, I shall go back; but I was
ready to say I wouldn't.  And she treats poor old Annie outrageously."

Dr. Lavendar nodded again.  He himself had seen her several times, but
she had never let him be personal: "Was Mrs. Drayton still gossiping
about her soul?"  "Wasn't it nearly time to get a new carpet for the
chancel?" etc., etc.  It was her way of defending herself--and Dr.
Lavendar understood.  So he only brought her his kindly gossip or his
church news, and he never looked at her mournfully; but neither did he
ever once refer to a possible recovery--that poor, friendly pretence
that so tries the soul absorbed in its own solemn knowledge!

But in the afternoon, after his talk with Mrs. Barkley, the old man
went plodding up the hill to the Stuffed-Animal House, with tender and
relentless purpose in his face.  It was a serene September day, full of
pulsing light and fragrant with the late mowing.  William King's mare
was hitched to a post by the green gate in the hedge, and the doctor
was giving her a handful of grass as Dr. Lavendar came up.  "How is
Miss Harriet, Willy?" the old man said.

William climbed into the buggy and flicked with his whip at the
ironweed by the road-side.  "Oh--about the same.  Dr. Lavendar, it's
cruel--it's cruel!"

"What's cruel, William?"

"I can't give her any opiate--to amount to anything."

"Why?"

"Her heart."

"But you can't let her suffer!"

"If I stopped the suffering," the doctor said, laconically, "it would
be murder."

"You mean--"

"Depressants, to amount to anything, would kill her."

Dr. Lavendar looked up into the sky silently.  Willy King gathered up
the reins.  "And Annie?" Dr. Lavendar said.

"She is just a poor, frantic child.  I can't make her understand why
Miss Harriet shouldn't have two powders, when one 'sugar,' as she calls
it, gives her a little comfort for a little while.  She says, 'Harriet
wouldn't let a squirrel stay hurt.'  Miss Harriet says she told her the
other day that she wasn't a squirrel; but it didn't seem to make any
difference to Miss Annie.  She has a queer elemental reasonableness
about her, hasn't she?  Well, I must go.  Dr. Lavendar, I--I hope you
won't mind if I say that perhaps--I mean she doesn't want anybody to
refer to--to anything religious."

"William," said the old man, mildly, "if you can mention anything which
is not religious to a woman who is going to die within a very few
weeks, I will consider it."

And William King had the grace to blush and stammer something about
Miss Harriet's hating anything personal.  Dr. Lavendar listened
silently; then he went on up the path to the Stuffed-Animal House.  Old
Miss Annie let him into the darkened hall, a burst of western sunshine
flooding in behind him and making the grim, dead creatures dart out of
their shadows for a moment, and sink back into them again when the door
was shut.  The old child had been crying, for Miss Harriet had turned
her out of her room, and so he had to sit there in the hall, under the
shark, and try to comfort her and bid her go out and see her chickens.
But for once Miss Annie would not be diverted:

"Harriet wants to go out-of-doors, and she can't.  And she is hurt; and
Willy King won't give her sugar in a paper to stop the hurting.  He is
wicked."

"By-and-by," said Dr. Lavendar, "Harriet will fall asleep and not be
hurt any more."

"Not till she is dead," Miss Annie said; "Augustine told me so."

"I meant that," Dr. Lavendar said, stroking the poor, gray head
grovelling against his knee.

"Then why didn't you say so?  It is a story to say sleep when you mean
dead."

"I ought to have said dead," he acknowledged, gently, "so that you
could understand.  But I want you to remember that death is a happy
sleep.  Will you remember that?"

"A happy sleep," Miss Annie repeated; "yes; I will remember.  _A happy
sleep._"  She lifted her head from his knee and smiled.  "I'll go and
see my chickens," she said.

[Illustration: "'A HAPPY SLEEP,' MISS ANNIE REPEATED"]

And Dr. Lavendar took his way up-stairs, past the cases of birds, to
Miss Harriet's room.  She received him with elaborate cheerfulness.

As for Dr. Lavendar, he lost no time in pretence.  "Miss Harriet," he
said, "I am not going to stay and talk and tire you.  You've seen
people enough to-day--"

"I'm not tired in the least."

"But I have a word to say to you."

She looked at him angrily.  "I would rather not talk about myself, Dr.
Lavendar, please."

"I don't want to talk about yourself," he said.

Her face cleared a little.  "That's a relief.  I was afraid you were
going to talk to me about 'preparing,' and so forth."

A sudden smile twinkled into Dr. Lavendar's old eyes.  "My dear Miss
Harriet, you've been 'preparing' for fifty years--or is it fifty-one?
I've lost count, Harriet.  No; you haven't got anything to do about
dying; dying is not your business.  In fact, I sometimes think it never
is our business.  Our business is living.  Dying is God's affair."

"I haven't any business, that's the worst of it," Miss Harriet said,
bitterly.  "I've nothing to do--nothing to do but just lie here and
wait.  I don't mind dying; but to be here in this trap, waiting.  And
I've always been so busy, I don't know how to do nothing."

"That's what I wanted to say to you.  There is something you can do.
In fact, there's something you must do."

"Something I must do?" Miss Harriet said, puzzled.

"My dear friend, you must meet this affliction; you can't escape; we
can't save you from it.  But there is one thing you can do: you can try
to spare the pain of it to other people.  Set yourself, Miss Harriet,
to make it as easy as you can for those who stand by."

Harriet Hutchinson looked at him in amazement.  No pity?  No
condolences?  Nothing but the high charge to spare others.  "You mean
my temper?" she said at last, slowly.

"Yes," said Dr. Lavendar.

Miss Harriet blushed hotly.  "It is bad; I know it's bad.  But--"

"Mine would be worse," said Dr. Lavendar, thoughtfully.  "But look out
for it, Harriet.  It's getting ahead of you."

Miss Harriet nodded.  "You're right."

"You see, when you are out of temper it shows you are suffering; and
that's hard for us to bear--not the temper, of course, but the
knowledge.  So you've got to spare us, Harriet.  Understand?"

"I understand."

"It will be hard work for you," he said, cheerfully; and somehow the
words meant, not pity, but "_Shoulder arms!_"

For an instant they gazed, eye to eye--the woman devoured by pain, the
old man with his calm demand; and then the soul of her rose with a
shout.  What! there was something left for her to do?  She need not
merely sit still and die?  She need not wait idly for the end?  It was
a splendid summons to the mind--a challenge to the body that had dogged
and humiliated the soul, that had wrung from her good-humored courage
irritability and unjust anger, that had dragged her pride in the dust
of shame, yes, even--even (alone, and in the dark), but even of tears.

"_Make it as easy as possible for those that stand by._"

Some might say that that austere command was the lash of the whip; but
to Miss Harriet it was the rod and the staff.  The Spartan old man had
suddenly revealed to her that as long as the body does not compel the
soul, there is no shame.  As long as she could hold her tongue, she
said to herself, she need not be ashamed.  Let the body whimper as it
may, if the soul is silent it is master.  Miss Harriet saw before her,
not humiliation and idleness and waiting, but fierce struggle....  And
it was a struggle.  It was no easy thing to be amiable when good Maria
Welwood wept over her; or when Martha King told her, flatly and
frankly, that she was doing very wrong not to make more effort to eat;
or even when Mrs. Dale hoped that she had made her peace with Heaven.

"Heaven had better try to make its peace with me, considering," said
Miss Harriet, grimly; but when she saw how she had shocked Mrs. Dale,
she made haste to apologize.  "I didn't mean it, of course.  But I am
nervous, and say things to let off steam."  Such an admission meant
much from Miss Harriet, and it certainly soothed Mrs. Dale.

But most of all, Harriet Hutchinson forbade her body to dictate to her
soul when Miss Annie hung whimpering about her with frantic persistence
of pity.  Never in all their years together had Miss Harriet shown such
tenderness to Annie as now, when the poor old child's mere presence was
maddening to her.  For Annie could think of nothing but the pain which
could not be hidden, and her incessant entreaty was that it should be
stopped.  "Wouldn't you rather be dead, sister?"

"Yes, Annie."

"Well, then, be dead."

"I can't, Annie.  Now let us talk of something else.  Tell me what the
black hen did when the speckled hen stole her nest."

Annie joyously told her story, as she had told it dozens of times
before; while Harriet Hutchinson turned her face to the wall.  Annie
sat on her heels on the floor beside the bed, rocking back and forth,
and talking: "And so the speckled hen flew off.  Sister, I'll get you
your big bottle?"

No answer.

"Sister, don't you want to smell the bottle?"

"No, Annie.  No--no--_no_!  Oh, Annie, don't you want to go and see
your chickens?"

"Why not?"

"Because it wouldn't be right, Annie."

"Why wouldn't it be right, sister?"

"Because," said Harriet Hutchinson--"because I suppose that's one of
the things that would 'make it harder for those that stand by.'"

"I don't understand," poor old Annie said, timidly.

"Well, Annie, that's the only reason I know of.  Oh, Annie, Annie! it
is the only reason there is; it is the root of its being wrong." ...
And then the long moan.  When Miss Annie heard that sound she shivered
all over; it was the elemental protest of the flesh, which cannot
understand the regal and unconquered soul.

Those were hard days for Willy King, what with his affection and his
sympathy and his daily struggles with Miss Annie; "for she is frantic,"
he told Dr. Lavendar.  They were walking up the hill together in the
late afternoon.  Miss Harriet had sent for the old man, on whom now she
leaned even more than on William King, for Dr. Lavendar gave her
granite words instead of Willy's tenderer sympathy.  "She insists that
I shall give Miss Harriet something--'stuff out of Harriet's bottle,'
she says.  I suppose she means chloroform.  I wish to God I could."

"God will do His own work, William."

"Yes, sir; but it's such a waste--this courage that fairly breaks our
hearts."

"Waste!  William, what are you talking about?  We are every one of us
richer for it.  I told her so yesterday."

"Well," said William King, thoughtfully, "perhaps so; in this case we
are richer, I admit.  But suppose it were a baby that was suffering--or
a dog?  Only, we wouldn't let the dog suffer.  Dr. Lavendar, one of
these days--you and I won't live to see it, but one of these days--"

"There is Miss Annie now," said Dr. Lavendar.  "Why--look at her!"

The old woman came fluttering down the path towards the green gate in
the privet hedge; she was smoothing her hair back from her temples,
with her strange, girlish gesture, and she was smiling, but there was a
new and solemn age in her face that made the two men look at each
other, startled and wondering.

"Dr. Lavendar!  Willy!" she said, her voice breaking with joy, "Harriet
is dead--oh, Harriet is dead!"

They stopped short in the pathway.  "What--what?" stammered William
King.

"Oh, Harriet is dead!" the old woman said; "and I'm so happy."  She
came and leaned on the closed gate at the foot of the path, smiling up
into their faces.  "She isn't hurt any more.  Oh, I can breathe, I can
breathe, now," said Miss Annie, laying her withered hands upon her
throat and drawing a deep breath.

"When?" said the doctor.

"Oh, just a little while ago.  As soon as she got dead I opened the
windows and let the air blow in; she likes the wind when she isn't
hurt."

William King said, suddenly, "_My God!_" and turned and ran up the
path, into the house, into the room, where, indeed, there was no more
hurting.

"Annie," Dr. Lavendar said, "were you with her?"

"Yes," Miss Annie said.  "Harriet was hurt very much.  But when she
smelled her bottle she stopped being hurt."

Dr. Lavendar leaned against the gate, his breath wavering; then he sat
down on the grass, and rested his forehead on his hands clasped on the
top of his stick.  He was unable to speak.  Miss Annie came out into
the road and looked at him curiously.  After a while he said, feebly,
"Annie, tell me about it."

"Willy wouldn't give Harriet sugar in a paper to stop the hurting.  And
Harriet said she couldn't get her bottle.  She said it would be wrong
for her to get it."

Dr. Lavendar lifted his head with a quick gesture of relief.  "What!
Harriet, didn't get it herself?"

"Oh no," Miss Annie said.  "I got it.  And I went into Harriet's room.
Harriet's eyes were shut, and she was--was moaning," said Miss Annie,
shivering.  "So I put some stuff out of the bottle on a towel and held
it for Harriet to smell.  And Harriet opened her eyes and looked
frightened, and she said, 'No, no!'  And I said, 'Yes; I'm the oldest
and you must do what I say.'  And she said, 'Augustine!  Augustine!'
But Augustine can't hear.  And I held it down and I said, 'You won't be
hurt any more.'  And Harriet pushed it away and said 'No.'  And then
she shut her eyes.  And after a while she didn't say anything more.
And I held it, oh, a long time.  And then I looked, and Harriet's eyes
were shut.  And now she's dead!  And it doesn't hurt any more.  You
come and look at her, and you'll see it doesn't hurt any more.  Now she
wouldn't thank King George to be her uncle!  Oh, she's dead," said Miss
Annie, nodding her head and laughing; "a happy sleep."  She was
standing there in the dusty road in front of him, telling the story,
her hands behind her, rocking slightly backward and forward, like a
child repeating a lesson.  The long afternoon shadows stretched from
the trees across the road, and, swaying lightly, flecked her gray head
with sunshine.

"Annie," said Dr. Lavendar, "come here and sit beside me."

She came, happily enough, and let him take her hand and hold it,
patting it softly for a moment before he spoke.

"Annie, it was not right to give Harriet the stuff out of the bottle;
our Heavenly Father stops the hurting when He thinks best.  So it does
not please Him for us to do it when we think best."

"But Willy gave Harriet one sugar in a paper, and that stopped it a
little," Miss Annie said, puzzled; "and if he stopped it a little, why
shouldn't it all be stopped?"  The obvious logic of the poor mind
admitted of no answer--certainly no argument.

Dr. Lavendar said, gravely, stroking the hand, as wrinkled as his own:
"It was not right, my child.  You will believe me when I say so?  And I
do not want any one to know that you did a thing that was not right.
So I want you to promise me now that you will not tell any one that you
did it.  Will you promise me?"

"Willy knows it, I guess," Miss Annie said.

Dr. Lavendar was silent.  Just what had William heard her say?  Only
that Miss Harriet was "dead."  "I am pretty sure that Willy doesn't
know it," he said, slowly.  "And I am quite sure he would prefer not to
know it; so you mustn't tell him.  But you can't understand about that,
Annie.  You'll just have to believe me.  Will you promise me?"

"Why, yes," Miss Annie said, indifferently, smiling up at the moving
leaves.  "Oh, Harriet isn't hurt now!"

Dr. Lavendar trembled with anxiety.  "I want a solemn promise, Annie.
What do the children do when they make a solemn promise?"

Miss Annie was instantly interested.  "Why, they cross their breast and
say 'honest and true'; don't you know?" ...

"Well, then," said Dr. Lavendar, slowly, "you will make a promise to me
in that way."  He stood up and took her hand, his face very pale.
"Promise me that never, so long as you live, will you tell any one--any
one, Annie--that you made Harriet fall asleep by giving her the big
bottle to smell.  Now, make the promise, Annie."

Miss Annie slowly crossed her breast.  "I promise," she said, in a low
voice; her eyes, widening with awe, were fixed on his face.  "I promise:

  "Honest and true,
  Black and black and blue,
  Lay me down
  And cut me in two--

if I do."

"_Amen!_" said Dr. Lavendar; and took off his hat, and stood looking up
into the sky, his lip trembling.  "Father," he said, "I don't even say
'forgive her!'  She is Thy little child."  And then they stood for a
moment hand in hand in the sunny silence.



THE END



BY ONOTO WATANNA

A JAPANESE NIGHTINGALE.  A love story of Japan.  Full-page Drawings in
Color and unique Decorative Color Borders on every page, by the
well-known Japanese artist GENJIRO YETO.  Crown 8vo, Ornamented Cloth,
Deckel Edges, Gilt Top (in a box), $2.00 net.

There could not easily be a more charming volume to look at than this,
nor a more delightfully appealing romance to read.--_New York World_.

An idyl of the author's homeland, delicate in fancy and dainty in
expression.--_Public Opinion_.

The author and the artist together have produced a charming work of
art, as thoroughly imbued with the Japanese spirit as a bit of old
Satsuma.--_Buffalo Express_.

"A Japanese Nightingale" is one of the daintiest and most exquisite of
love stories; ... indeed, so exquisite is her art, and so delightful
the humor of her pages, that more than one critic has spoken of the
story as "A Japanese Kentucky Cardinal."--_New York Journal_.

It is full of poetry and charm.--_Current Literature_.

A delicious vein of humor runs through the story, especially in the
love scenes, and the style is distinct with the lyrical delicacy of
Japanese thought.--_Brooklyn Eagle_.


HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS

NEW YORK AND LONDON

_The above work will be sent by mail to any part of the United States,
Canada, or Mexico, on receipt of the price_.  (_Postage 15 cents._)



BY ROBERT W. CHAMBERS

THE MAID-AT-ARMS.  Illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy.  Post 8vo,
Ornamented Cloth, $1.50.

Mr. Chambers has long since won a most enviable position among
contemporary novelists.  The great popular success of "Cardigan" makes
this present novel of unusual interest to all readers of fiction.  It
is a stirring novel of American life in days just after the Revolution.
It deals with the conspiracy of the great New York land-owners and the
subjugation of New York Province to the British.  It is a story with a
fascinating love interest, and is alive with exciting incident and
adventure.  Some of the characters of "Cardigan" reappear in this new
novel.


HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS

NEW YORK AND LONDON

_The above work will be sent by mail, postage prepaid, to any part of
the United States, Canada, or Mexico, on receipt of the price_.





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