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´╗┐Title: Many Kingdoms
Author: Jordan, Elizabeth Garver, 1867-1947
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Many Kingdoms" ***

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



  MANY KINGDOMS

  BY

  ELIZABETH JORDAN

  AUTHOR OF
  "May Iverson--Her Book"
  "Tales of the Cloister"
  "Tales of Destiny"
  Etc. Etc.



  ... _"The state of man,
  Like to a little kingdom, suffers then
  The nature of an insurrection."_

  --SHAKESPEARE.



  MCMVIII



  CONTENTS

  CHAP.

  I.    VARICK'S LADY O' DREAMS
  II.   THE EXORCISM OF LILY BELL
  III.  HER LAST DAY
  IV.   THE SIMPLE LIFE OF GENEVIEVE MAUD
  V.    HIS BOY
  VI.   THE COMMUNITY'S SUNBEAM
  VII.  IN MEMORY OF HANNAH'S LAUGH
  VIII. THE QUEST OF AUNT NANCY
  IX.   THE HENRY SMITHS' HONEYMOON
  X.    THE CASE OF KATRINA
  XI.   BART HARRINGTON, GENIUS



I

VARICK'S LADY O' DREAMS


Varick laid down the book with which he had beguiled an hour of the
night, turned off the electric light in the shaded globe that hung
above his head, pulled the sheets a little nearer his chin, reversed
his pillow that he might rest his cheek more gratefully on the cooler
linen, stretched, yawned, and composed himself to slumber with an
absolutely untroubled conscience.

He was an eminently practical and almost rudely healthy young man, with
an unreflecting belief in the existence of things he had seen, and
considerable doubt concerning those which he had not seen. In his heart
he regarded sentiment as the expression of a flabby nature in a feeble
body. Once or twice he had casually redressing-case, with its array of
silver toilet articles, the solid front of his chiffonnier, the carved
arms of his favorite lounging-chair, even the etchings and prints on
the walls. Suddenly, as he looked at these familiar objects, a light
haze fell over them, giving him for an instant the impression that a
gauze curtain had been dropped between them and his eyes. They slowly
melted away, and in their place he saw the streets of a tiny village in
some foreign country which he did not know. A moment later, in what
seemed at the time a perfectly natural transition from his bed in an
Adirondack club-house, he was walking up the streets of the little
town, in correct tourist attire, looking in vain for a familiar
landmark, and with a strange sinking of the heart. How he got there, or
why he was there, was equally incomprehensible to him. It was high noon
of a warm summer day, and the red roofs of the old buildings seemed to
glow in the heat. Before him, at the end of the street down which he
was walking, was a public square where marketing was going on in the
open. It was crowded with men and women in picturesque peasant costumes
he did not recognize, though he had travelled a great deal. As he drew
nearer he heard them speaking, but discovered that their tongue was as
unknown to him as their garb. He knew French, German, and Italian well;
he had, in addition, a smattering of Spanish, and was familiar with the
accents of Slavic tongues. But this babel that met his ears was
something new. Taken in connection with the rest of the experience, the
discovery sent a cold chill down the spinal column of Mr. Lawrence
Varick. For the first time in his debonair life he was afraid, and
admitted it inwardly, with a sudden whitening of the lips.

"It's so infernally queer," he told himself, uneasily. "If I could
remember how I got here, or if I knew anything about the place--"

"Have you classified them?" asked a voice at his elbow. It was
feminine, contralto, and exquisitely modulated. The words were English,
but spoken with a slight foreign accent. With a leap of the heart
Varick turned and looked at the speaker.

She was young, he saw at once--twenty-two, twenty-three, possibly
twenty-four. He inclined to the last theory as he observed her perfect
poise and self-possession. She was exquisitely dressed; he realized
that despite the dimness of masculine perception on such points, and,
much more clearly, saw that she was beautiful. She was small, and the
eyes she raised to his were large and deeply brown, with long black
lashes that matched in color the wavy hair under her coquettish hat. As
he stared at her, with surprise, relief, and admiration struggling in
his boyishly handsome face, she smiled, and in that instant the
phlegmatic young man experienced a new sensation. His own white teeth
flashed as he smiled back at her. Then he remembered that it was
necessary to reply to her question.

"I--I--beg your pardon," he stammered, "a--a thousand times. But to
tell you the truth, I'm--I'm horribly confused this morning. I--I don't
seem, somehow, to place myself yet. And I can't understand what these
people say. So, when you spoke English it was such a relief--"

He stopped suddenly and turned a rich crimson. It had occurred to him
that this incoherent statement was not quite the one to win interest
and admiration from a strange and exceedingly attractive woman. What
would she think of him? Perhaps that he was intoxicated, or insane.
Varick's imagination, never lively, distinguished itself during the
next few seconds by the stirring possibilities it presented to his
mind. He grew redder, which was very unfortunate, and shuffled
miserably from one foot to the other, until he noticed that she was
looking at him with a glance that was entirely dignified yet very
friendly. It had an oddly sympathetic quality in it as well. His
spirits rose a trifle.

"You must think me an awful duffer," he murmured, contritely. "I'm not
always like this, I assure you."

"I know," she assented. "I understand. Walk on with me. Possibly I may
be able to help you."

He bowed assent and the two walked toward the crowded square.

"You're awfully good," he said, feeling reassured, yet still boyish and
embarrassed. "I don't want to be a nuisance, but if you'll just put me
right, somehow--start me on a path that will lead me home--"

The entire idiocy of this struck him. He stopped again, then burst into
his contagious, youthful laughter, in which she instantly joined. The
mellow contralto and the clear tenor formed a soft and pleasant duet,
but Varick noticed that not a head in the crowd around them turned
their way, nor did an eye of all the peasant throng give them a glance.
He spoke of this to his companion as they continued their walk.

"The most surprising thing to me in all this--unusualness," he said,
"is the cool manner in which these beggars ignore us. You know how such
people gape, usually; but not a soul among all these people seems to
know we're here."

She looked at him with a gentle amusement and sympathy in her brown
eyes.

"That is not surprising," she said, quietly. "For, you know, we are not
here--really."

Varick stopped for the second time and stared at her, with a repetition
of that new and annoying sinking in the region of his heart. Her words
were certainly disconcerting, but she herself was delightfully human
and most reassuringly natural. She had walked on, and he tried to fall
into her mood as he overtook her.

"Where are we, then?" he asked, with a short and not especially
mirthful laugh.

Her smooth brow wrinkled for a moment.

"I do not know," she said, frankly. "That is, I do not know this place,
where we _think_ we are, though I have been here before, and the
experience does not frighten me now. But I know where we _really_ are.
You are asleep somewhere in America, and I--but oh, my dear, my dear,
you're going to wake!"

The clock that was somewhere struck three. Varick, sitting up in his
bed with eyes staring into the darkness, saw again his familiar room,
the dim light, the silver, the dressing-case, the pictures. He sprang
to the door opening into the hall, and tried it. It was bolted, as he
had left it. So was the other door leading into his sitting-room. The
darkness around him still seemed full of the refrain of the words he
had just heard--where?

_"Oh, my dear, my dear, you're going to wake!"_ And her eyes--her
smile--

Varick got into bed again, in a somewhat dazed condition, with a tremor
running through it. Very slowly he straightened himself out, very
slowly he pulled up the bedclothes. Then he swore solemnly into the
obscurity of the room.

"Well, of--all--the--dreams!" he commented, helplessly.

As the months passed, after Varick got back to town and into the whirl
of city life, he recalled his dream, frequently at first, then more
rarely, and finally not at all. It was almost a year later when, one
night, lying half awake, he saw again the fine, transparent,
screen-like veil enshroud the objects in his bedroom. It was winter,
and a great log was burning in the large fireplace. He had tried to
choke the flames with ashes before he went to bed, but the wood had
blazed up again and he had lain quiet, awaiting slumber and blinking
indifferently at the light. His bedroom overlooked Fifth Avenue. There
was a large club-house just opposite his house, and cabs and carriages
still came and went. Varick heard the slam of carriage doors, the click
of horses' hoofs on the wet asphalt, and congratulated himself on the
common-sense which had inspired him to go to bed at eleven instead of
joining the festive throng across the street. He had dutifully spent
the morning in his father's offices, and then, with a warming sense of
virtue, had run out of town for a late luncheon and a trial of hunters.
To-night he was pleasantly tired, but not drowsy. When the curtain fell
before his surroundings, and he saw them melting imperceptibly into
others quite foreign to them, he at once recalled the similar
experience of the year before. With a little quickening of his steady
heart-beats, he awaited developments.

Yes, here was the old town, with its red roofs, its quaint
architecture, its crowded, narrow, picturesque streets. But this time
they seemed almost deserted, and the whole effect of the place was
bleak and dreary. The leaves had dropped from the trees, the flowers
had faded, the vines that covered the cottage walls were brown and
bare. He was pleasantly conscious of the warmth of a sable-lined coat
he had brought from Russia two years before. He thrust his gloved hands
deep into its capacious pockets and walked on, his eyes turning to
right and left as he went. At intervals he saw a bulky masculine
figure, queerly dressed, turn a corner or enter a house. Once or twice
one came his way and passed him, but no one looked at him or spoke. For
a moment Varick was tempted to knock at one of the inhospitably closed
doors and ask for information and directions, but something--he did not
know what--restrained him.

When she appeared it was as suddenly as she had come before, with no
warning, no approach. She was at his elbow--a bewitching thing of furs
and feminine beauty, French millinery and cordiality. She held out her
small hand with a fine _camaraderie_.

"Is it not nice?" she asked at once. "I was afraid I should arrive
first and have to wait alone. I would not have liked that."

He held her hand close, looking down at her from his great height, his
gray eyes shining into hers.

"Then you knew--you were coming?" he asked, slowly.

"Not until the moment before I came. But when I saw the curtain fall--"

"You saw that, too? A thin, gauzy thing, like a transparency?"

"Yes."

He relapsed into silence for a moment, as he unconsciously adapted his
stride to hers, and they walked on together as naturally as if it were
an every-day occurrence.

"What do you make of it all?" he at length asked.

She shrugged her shoulders with a little foreign gesture which seemed
to him, even then, very characteristic.

"I do not know. It frightened me--a little--at first. Now it does not,
for it always ends and I awake--at home."

"Where is that?"

She hesitated.

"I may not tell you," she said, slowly. "I do not quite know why, but I
may not. Possibly you may know some time. You, I think, are an
American."

He stared hard at her, his smooth face taking on a strangely solemn
expression.

"You mean to say," he persisted, "that this is all a dream--that you
and I, instead of being here, are really asleep somewhere, on different
continents?"

She nodded.

"We are asleep," she said, "on different continents, as you say.
Whether we are dreaming or whether our two souls are taking a little
excursion through space--oh, who shall say? Who can question the
wonderful things which happen in this most wonderful world? I have
ceased to question, but I have also ceased to fear."

He made no reply. Somewhere, in the back of his head, lay fear--a very
definite, paralyzing fear--that something was wrong with him or with
her or with them both. Instead of being in the neutral border-land of
dreams, had he not perhaps passed the tragic line dividing the normal
mind from the insane? She seemed to read his thoughts, and her manner
became more gentle, almost tender.

"Is it so very dreadful?" she asked, softly. "We are together, you
know, my friend. Would it not be worse to wander about alone?"

With a great effort he pulled himself together.

"Infinitely," he said, with gratifying conviction. "And you're--you're
a trump, you know. I'm ashamed of acting like such a boor. If you'll
bear with me I'll try from now on to be more like a man and less like a
fretful ghost."

She clapped her hands.

"Capital!" she cried. "I knew you would--what is the word?--oh
yes--_adapt_ yourself. And it is only for a little while. You will wake
very soon. But you ought to enjoy it while it lasts. There are many
amusing things about it all."

Varick reflected grimly that it was the "amusing things" which
occasioned his perturbation, but he kept his reflection to himself and
smiled down at her sunnily.

"For example," she continued, "as we really do not exist here, and as
we are not visible to these people, we cannot do anything that will
affect them in any way or attract their attention. Look at that!"

They were passing a small house whose front door, opening on the
street, stood ajar. Within they could see a stout woman standing at a
tub and washing busily, and a little girl pouring hot water from a
quaint kettle into a large pan full of soiled blue dishes. The pan
stood near the edge of a wooden table, and the little girl was perched
on a stool just high enough to bring her on a level with her work.

"You are, I am sure, a fine athlete," murmured the woman. "Or else your
looks belie you," she added, with a roguish upward glance. "Yet with
all your strength you cannot push that pan of dishes off the table."

Without a word, Varick passed through the doorway, strode into the
house and up to the table. She followed him closely. He attempted to
seize the pan in his powerful hands--and, to his horror, discovered
that they held nothing. The pan remained on the table and the child was
now unconcernedly washing the blue dishes, humming a little folk-song
as she worked. As if to add to the irony of the situation, the small
laborer quietly lifted the pan and moved it to a position she thought
more convenient. This was the last touch. With a stifled murmur of
intense exasperation, Varick put forth all his strength in a supreme
effort. The pan fell, the water and broken blue dishes covering the
floor. He sprang back and stood aghast, gazing at the havoc he had
wrought.

"Oh, dear! oh, dear!" murmured the voice at his side. "I never dreamed
you could do it, or I would not have suggested it. Oh, oh, the poor
little darling!"

For the stout woman at the tub had hastily dropped her work, crossed
the room, and was soundly chastising the unhappy infant who she
supposed was responsible for the mischief. Varick caught her arm.

"Oh, I say," he cried, "this won't do at all! She didn't do it; it was
all my fault. I'll pay for the things. Here--here--"

He fumbled in his pockets as he spoke and pulled out several gold
pieces. But the fat arm of the old woman offered no resistance to his
grasp, and the gold pieces did not exist for her. It was evident that
she saw neither him nor them, nor the woman with him. With an unsparing
hand she spanked the child, whose voice rose in shrill lamentations.
Varick and his companion in guilt crept out of the room with a sense of
great helplessness upon them, and he breathed a long breath of relief
at finding himself--in bed, with a cold February sun shining in through
his windows, and the faithful Parker at his side with the quieting
announcement that his bath was ready.

One of Varick's boon companions in camp and hunting excursions was a
distinguished New York specialist in nervous diseases. A day or two
later Varick found it convenient to drop into this man's office and,
quite casually, tell him the story of his dreams, giving it various
light touches that he fondly imagined concealed the anxiety that lay
beneath the recital. "Recurrent dreams," he then learned, were a very
common human experience and not deserving of much attention.

"Don't think about it," said his friend. "Of course, if you worry over
it, you'll be dreaming it all the time. Send this 'personally conducted
tour' to me if you don't like it. I don't mind meeting pretty women who
are 'dreams,' whether in the flesh or out of it."

As time went on and the dream did not return, Varick decided that he
would not mind, either. He thought of her a great deal; he even longed
for her. Eventually he deliberately tried to induce the dream by going
to bed early, putting himself in the proper mental attitude, as he
conceived it, and staring wide-eyed into his dimly lighted room. But
only once in eighteen months was he even partly successful. Then he saw
the haze, saw the familiar streets, saw her far, far ahead of him, and
hurrying onward, saw her turn a sharp corner, caught one backward look
from her dear brown eyes as she vanished--and awoke! He gave much
thought to that look in the months which followed. He was a modest
youth, singularly unconscious of his own charms; but the eloquent
glance had conveyed to him a sense of longing--of more than longing.

Quite an interval elapsed before she came again. There was, first of
all, the inevitable filmy effect, but, in the vision that succeeded it,
instead of finding himself in the little town, he was in the depths of
a great old forest, and in horrible agony. Some accident had
occurred--he did not know what. He only knew that he was shot,
suffering, dying! He groaned, and even as he writhed in a spasm of pain
he saw her sitting on the sward beside him. He turned glazed eyes on
her. Her brown ones looked back into his with a great love and pity in
their depths.

"Oh, my dear," she whispered, "I know it seems terribly hard to you.
And because you think you suffer, it is almost as hard for you as if
you did. But you are not really hurt, you know. You are not suffering.
It is all in the dream. You are sound asleep, far, far away."

He forced a sardonic laugh from his stiff throat.

"Not this time," he managed to articulate. "Whatever the others may
have been, this is no dream. This is the real thing--and death!"

She smoothed the hair back from his damp brow with a beautiful,
caressing touch. He felt her fingers tremble.

"No," she said. "It is a dream, and almost over."

"Then will you stay with me," he gasped, "to the end?"

"Yes," she promised. "Try to bear it just a moment longer. Courage,
dear heart! for already you are waking--you are
waking--_you--are--awake!_"

He was, and it was daylight, and around him were the familiar objects
of his own room. He wiped his forehead, which was cold and wet. He felt
utterly exhausted.

"Stay with me to the end!"

If she only would! If he could find her--find her in this warm, human
world, away from that ghastly border-land where they two met. For in
that hour he knew he loved--what? A woman or a ghost? A creature of
this world or a fantasy of the night? Wherever she was, whatever she
was, he loved her and he wanted her. And in that hour of his agony her
eyes had told that she loved and wanted him.

It was eight months before they met again. Varick's friends thought him
changed, and quite possibly he was. The insouciant boy of twenty-eight
had become a man, a sympathetic, serious, thoughtful man, still given
to sports and outdoor life, but more than all devoted to a search which
had taken him to no end of out-of-the-way European towns. He was
sleeping in one of these one night (not _the_ one, alas!--he had not
found that) when the veil, now so warmly welcome, fell for the fourth
time.

He was in an exquisite Italian garden, a place all perfume and May
breezes and flooding sunshine and overarching blue sky. As he entered
it he saw her coming to meet him, and he went forward to greet her with
his pulses bounding and a light in his eyes which no eyes but hers had
ever seen there. Even in that supreme moment the wonderfully _real_
atmosphere of it all impressed him. He heard a dry twig crack under his
foot as he walked, and he recognized the different perfumes of the
flowers around him--the heavy sweetness of a few belated orange
blossoms, the delicate breath of the oleander, the reminiscent perfume
of the rose. Then their hands met and their eyes, and each drew a long
breath, and neither spoke for a moment. When Varick found words they
were very commonplace.

"Oh, my love, my love!" he said. And she, listening to them with sudden
tears in her brown eyes, seemed to find in them the utmost eloquence of
the human tongue.

"It has been so long, so long!" he gasped. "I began to think I was
never to see you again."

They drifted side by side along a winding, rose-hedged path, past an
old sun-dial, past a triumphant peacock strutting before his mild
little mate, past a fountain whose spray flung out to them a welcome.
She led the way with the accustomed step of one who knew and loved the
place. They came to a marble seat, half hidden by a tangle of vines and
scarlet blossoms, and sheltered by overhanging oleander branches; there
she sat down and moved her skirts aside that he might sit close to her.
Her brown eyes, raised now to his hungry gray ones, looked at him with
the softened brilliance he had sometimes seen in those of a happy child.

"Should you have missed me," she asked, softly, "if you had never seen
me again? Should you have been sorry?"

He drew a long breath.

"I love you," he said. "Whatever you are, wherever you come from,
whatever all this means, I love you. I don't understand anything else,
but I know that. It's the one sure thing, the one real thing, in all
this tangle."

Without a word she put her hand in his. He could feel distinctly its
cool, soft, exquisite texture. With an exclamation of delight he drew
her toward him, but she held herself away, the expression of her
beautiful face softening the effect of the recoil.

"Not yet, dear," she said, gently. "We must be very careful. You do not
understand. If you do anything abrupt or sudden you will wake--and then
we shall be parted again, who knows for how long!"

There were tears in her eyes as she spoke. Seeing them, he buried his
face in his hands and groaned, while the sense of his utter
helplessness rolled over him like a flood.

"God!" he broke out, with sudden fierceness. "What devil's trick is
this? It's not a dream. It can't be a dream. Here we are, two human
beings in a human world--I'll swear it. Smell that oleander. Listen to
that bird sing. Hear the trickle of that fountain. And yet you tell me
that we are asleep!"

She laid her head in the curve of her arm, resting on the ivy-covered
back of the low seat. Bending over her, he saw that her cheeks were
wet. The sight made him desperate.

"Don't!" he cried, hoarsely. "Don't do that! Tell me what is expected
of me. Whatever it is, no matter how hard it is, or how long it takes,
I'll do it."

She did not reply, but she made a quick little gesture with the hand
nearest him. It signified hopelessness, almost despair. Darkness began
to fall, and an early moon hung pale in the heavens. Somewhere in the
thick bushes near them a nightingale began to sing. To Varick's excited
fancy there was a heart-breaking pathos in the soft notes. They seemed
to have been together, he and she, for a long time--for hours. He bent
his head till it touched hers.

"But you love me?" he asked. She moved a little and wiped her eyes with
an absurdly tiny, lace-edged square of linen. One corner, he noticed,
bore an embroidered coronet.

"Yes," she said, very quietly, "I love you."

Her tone as she spoke expressed such entire hopelessness that the full
sense of her words did not at once come to him. When it did, slowly,
sweetly, she was speaking again.

"But oh, dearest, dearest!" she broke out, "why do we love? To what can
love lead us--two poor shadows in a dream world, in which alone we can
meet?"

He was silent. There seemed, somehow, nothing that he could say, though
later he thought of many words with which he might have filled that
throbbing silence. The dusk deepened around them. Off in the thicket
the nightingale still warbled passionately, and now the stars began to
come out over their heads, pale as yet against the warm blue of the
heavens. Varick, sitting stiffly on the old marble bench, became
conscious of an odd dizziness, and set his teeth with a sudden
determination to show no evidence of it. She had risen and was moving
about among the rose-bushes just behind them. Almost before he missed
her she had returned, holding in her hand a beautiful salmon-hued rose,
with a flame-colored, crumply heart. He had never before seen one like
it. As she held it near him it exhaled an exquisitely reminiscent
perfume--a perfume which seemed to breathe of old joys, old memories,
and loves of long ago.

"Is it not beautiful?" she said. "It is called the _Toinnette_. Take
it, dear, and keep it--for memory." Then, as he took it from her, her
eyes widened in a sudden anguish of dread and comprehension.

"Oh, you're leaving me!" she said. "You're waking. Dearest, dearest,
stay with me!"

The words and the look that accompanied them galvanized him into sudden
action. He sprang to his feet, caught her in his arms, held her there,
crushed her there, kissing her eyes, her hair, her exquisitely soft
mouth.

"I will not leave you!" he raved. "I swear I won't! I defy the devil
that's back of this! I swear--" But she, too, was speaking now, and her
words came to his ears as from a long, long distance, sobbingly, with a
catch in the breath, but distinct.

"Alas!" she cried, "you have ruined everything! You have ruined
everything! You will never see me again. Dearest, dearest--"

He awoke. His heart was thumping to suffocation, and he lay exhausted
on his pillow. It was a dark morning, and a cold rain beat dismally
against the window-panes. Gone were the Dream Woman, the Italian
garden, the song of the nightingale, the perfume of flowers. How
definite that perfume had been! He could smell it yet, all around him.
It was like--what was it like? He became suddenly conscious of an
unusual sensation in his hand, lying on the bedspread. He glanced at it
and then sat up with a sudden jerk that almost threw him off his
balance. In his upturned palm was a rose--a salmon-colored rose,
slightly crushed, but fresh and fragrant, with a flame-colored, crumply
heart. Varick stared at it, shut his eyes, opened them, and stared
again. It was still there, and, with the discovery that it was, Varick
became conscious of a prickling of the scalp, a chill along the spine.
His brown face whitened.

"Well, by all the gods!" he gasped. "How did that thing get here?"

No one ever told him. Possibly no one could except the Dream Woman, and
her he never saw again; so the mystery was unfathomable. He put the
rose between the leaves of the Bible his mother had given him when he
went to college, and which he had not opened since until that morning;
and the rose became dry and faded as the years passed, quite as any
other rose would have done.

Varick paid a second and quite casual visit to his medical friend, who
scoffed at him rudely and urged him to go on a long hunting trip. He
went, and was singularly successful, and came back with considerable
big game and a rich, brown complexion. When the doctor asked him
whether he still awoke from his innocent slumbers to find his little
hands full of pretty flowers, Varick swore naturally and healthfully,
turned very red, and playfully thumped the medical man between the
shoulders with a force that sent that gentleman's eye-glasses off his
nose. But, notwithstanding all these reassuring incidents, Varick has
never married; and he remains deeply interested as to the source of
that rose. He would be very grateful to any one who could tell him
where the thing came from. The nearest he ever came to this was when a
man who knew a good deal about flowers once inspected the faded rose,
at Varick's request, and listened to the description of how it looked
when fresh.

"Why, yes," he said, "I know that variety. It grows in Italy, but I
don't think it's known here. They call it the _Toinnette!_"



II

THE EXORCISM OF LILY BELL


It is quite possible that not even Raymond Mortimer Prescott himself
could have told definitely the day or the hour when Lily Bell first
came into his life; and as Raymond Mortimer Prescott was not only the
sole person privileged to enjoy Miss Bell's society, but was also the
sole person who had been permitted to gaze upon her charms at all, it
would seem that inquiries directed elsewhere were destined to prove
fruitless. Raymond himself, moreover, was not communicative; he had the
reserve of an only child whose early efforts at conversation had been
discouraged by parents selfishly absorbed in "grown-up" interests, and
whose home was too remote from other country homes to attract playmates.

His mother was a nervous invalid, and almost in infancy Raymond had
grasped the fact that his absence seemed to be of more definite benefit
to her than any other remedy for neurasthenia. His father was a busy
man, absent from home for weeks at a time, and bearing this exile with
a jovial cheerfulness which did not always characterize his moods when
he deigned to join the family circle. Occasionally the elder Prescott
experienced a twinge of conscience when he looked at his son, ten years
of age now, the possessor of a superbly healthy body and presumably of
the social aspirations of growing Americans. In such moments of
illumination the father reflected uneasily that "the little beggar must
have a beastly lonesome time of it"; then, surveying the little
beggar's choice company of pets, gazing upon the dam he had built with
his own busy hands, inspecting approvingly his prowess in the
swimming-hole and with his fish-rods, even noting, in his conscientious
appraisal of his heir's assets, the self-assertive quality of the
freckles on his nose and the sunburn on the whole of his visage, this
perfunctory American parent easily decided that nothing need be changed
for another year or two. It was impossible even for a scrupulous
conscience to make a youthful martyr of Raymond Mortimer. Not the most
rabid New England brand could compass that, and certainly Raymond
Mortimer Prescott, Sr., had no such possession. The housekeeper, Miss
Greene, a former trained nurse who had charge of the boy in infancy,
looked after his clothes and his meals. Notwithstanding his steadfast
elusiveness, she had also succeeded in making him master of extremely
elementary knowledge of letters and figures. Beyond this he was
arrogantly ignorant, even to the point of being ignorant of his
ignorance. He had his dogs, his rods and tackle, his tool-house,
unlimited fresh air, sunshine, and perfect health; in addition he had
Lily Bell.

How long he may have enjoyed the pleasure of this young person's
company unobserved by his elders is a matter of surmise; it may well
have been a long time, for family curiosity never concerned itself with
Raymond Mortimer unless he was annoyingly obtrusive or disobedient. But
the first domestic records of her arrival, kept naturally enough by
Miss Greene, whose lonely spinster heart was the boy's domestic refuge,
went back to a day in June when he was five. He was in his nursery and
she in an adjoining room, the communicating door of which was open. She
had heard him in the nursery talking to himself, as she supposed, for a
long time. At last his voice took on a note of childish irritation, and
she distinctly heard his words.

"But it won't be right that way," he was saying, earnestly. "Don't you
see it won't be right that way? There won't be nothing to hold up the
top."

There was a long silence, in the midst of which Miss Greene stole
cautiously to the nursery door and looked in. The boy was on his knees
on the floor, an ambitious structure of blocks before him, which he had
evidently drawn back to contemplate. His eyes were turned from it,
however, and his head was bent a little to the left. He wore a look of
great attention and annoyance. He seemed to be listening to a prolonged
argument.

"All right," he said, at last. "I'll do it. But it ain't right, and
you'll be sorry when you see it fall." He hurriedly rearranged the
block structure, adding to the tremulously soaring tower on the left
side. True to his prediction, it fell with a crash, destroying other
parts of the edifice in its downfall. The boy turned on his unseen
companion a face in which triumph and disgust were equally blended.
"There, now!" he taunted; "didn't I tell you so, Lily Bell? But you
never will b'lieve what I say--jes like girls!"

Miss Greene hurriedly withdrew, lifting to the ceiling eyes of awed
surprise. For some reason which she was subsequently unable to explain,
she asked the boy no questions; but she watched him more closely after
this, and discovered that, however remote the date of Miss Bell's first
appearance, she was now firmly established as a daily guest--an honored
one whose influence, though mild, was almost boundless, and whose
gentle behests were usually unhesitatingly obeyed. Occasionally, as in
the instance of the blocks, Raymond Mortimer combated them; once or
twice he disobeyed them. But on the second of these occasions he
drooped mournfully through the day, bearing the look of one adrift in
the universe; and the observant Miss Greene noted that the following
day was a strenuous one, occupied with eager fulfilment of the
unexpressed wishes of Lily Bell, who had evidently returned to his
side. Again and again the child did things he most obviously would have
preferred not to do. The housekeeper looked on with deep but silent
interest until she heard him say, for perhaps the tenth time, "Well, I
don't like it, but I will if you really want me to." Then she spoke,
but so casually that the boy, absorbed in his play, felt nothing
unusual in the question.

"Whom are you talking to, Raymond?" she asked, as she rounded the heel
of the stocking she was knitting. He replied abstractedly, without
raising his eyes from the work he was doing.

"To Lily Bell," he said.

Miss Greene knitted in silence for a moment. Then, "Where is she?" she
asked.

"Why, she's here!" said the child. "Right beside me!"

Miss Greene hesitated and took the plunge. "I don't see her," she
remarked, still casually.

This time the boy raised his head and looked at her. There was in his
face the slight impatience of one who deals with an inferior
understanding.

"'Course you don't," he said, carelessly. "You can't. No one can't see
Lily Bell but 'cept me."

Miss Greene felt snubbed, but persevered.

"She doesn't seem to be playing very nicely to-day," she hazarded.

He gave her a worried look.

"She isn't," he conceded, "not very. 'Most always she's very, very
nice, but she's kind of cross to-day. I guess p'r'aps," he speculated,
frankly, "you're 'sturbing her by talking so much."

Miss Greene accepted the subtle hint and remained silent. From that
time, however, Raymond Mortimer counted on her acceptance of Lily Bell
as a recognized personality, and referred to her freely.

"Lily Bell wants us to go on a picnic to-morrow," he announced, one day
when he was six. "She says let's go on the island under the willow an'
have egg-san'wiches an' ginger-ale for lunch."

Miss Greene carried out the programme cheerfully, for the child made
singularly few requests. Thomas, the gardener, was to row them over,
and Miss Greene, a stout person who moved with difficulty, seated
herself in the stem of the boat with a sigh of relief, and drew Raymond
Mortimer down beside her. He wriggled out of her grasp and struggled to
his feet, his stout legs apart, his brown eyes determined.

"You can't sit there, please, Miss Greene," he said, almost austerely.
"Lily Bell wants to sit there with me. You can take the other seat."

For once the good-natured Miss Greene rebelled.

"I'll do no such thing," she announced, firmly, "flopping round and
upsetting the boat and perhaps drowning us all. You and your Lily Bell
can sit together in the middle and let me be."

An expression of hope flitted across the child's face. "Will that do,
Lily Bell?" he asked, eagerly. The reply was evidently unfavorable, for
his jaw fell and he flushed. "She says it won't," he announced,
miserably. "I'm awful sorry, Miss Greene, but we'll have to 'sturb you."

If Miss Lily Bell had been in the habit of making such demands, the
housekeeper would have continued to rebel. As it was, she had grave
doubts of the wisdom of establishing such a dangerous precedent as
compliance with the absurd request. But Raymond Mortimer's distress was
so genuine, and the pleasure of the picnic so obviously rested on her
surrender, that she made it, albeit slowly and with groans and dismal
predictions. The boy's face beamed as he thanked her.

"I was so 'fraid Lily Bell would be cross," he confided to her, as he
sat sedately on his half of the stern-seat. "But she's all right, an'
we're going to have a lovely time."

That prediction was justified by events, for the occasion was a
brilliant one, and Lily Bell's share in it so persistent and convincing
that at times Miss Greene actually found herself sharing in the
delusion of the little girl's presence. Her good-natured yielding in
the matter of the seat, moreover, had evidently commended her to Miss
Bell's good graces, and that young person brought out the choicest
assortment of her best manners to do honor to the grown-up guest.

"Lily Bell wants you to have this seat, Miss Greene, 'cause it's in the
shade an' has a nice back," said Raymond, delightedly, almost as soon
as they had reached the island; and Miss Greene flopped into it with a
sigh of content in the realization that Miss Bell did not intend to
usurp all the choice spots, as her persistence earlier in the day might
possibly have suggested to a suspicious mind. There, alternately
reading and dozing, she incidentally listened to the flow of
conversation poured forth by her small charge, varied only by
occasional offerings to her, usually suggested by Miss Bell and ranging
from the minnow he had succeeded in catching with a worm and a bent pin
to the choicest tidbits of the luncheon. There were two glasses for the
ginger-ale. Miss Greene had one and Lily Bell the other. Raymond
Mortimer gallantly drank from the bottle.

"Why don't you use Lily Bell's glass?" was Miss Greene's very natural
inquiry. It would seem, indeed, that two such congenial souls would
have welcomed the closer union this suggestion invited, but Raymond
Mortimer promptly dispelled that illusion.

"She doesn't want to," he responded, gloomily.

In other details, however, Miss Lily Bell was of an engaging sweetness
and of a yielding disposition of the utmost correctness. Again and
again Raymond Mortimer succeeded in convincing her, by the force and
eloquence of his arguments, of the superiority of his ideas on fort
building, fishing, and other occupations which filled the day. Miss
Greene's heart yearned over the boy as he came to her during the
mid-day heat and cuddled down comfortably by her side, heavy-eyed and
tired after his exertions.

"Where's Lily Bell?" she asked, brushing his damp hair off his forehead
and wondering whether she was also privileged to enjoy the unseen
presence of the guest of honor.

"She's back there under the tree takin' a nap," murmured the boy,
drowsily, indicating the exact spot with a grimy little hand. "She tol'
me to come an' stay with you for a while."

Miss Greene smiled, deeply touched by this sweet mingling of coyness
and thoughtfulness on the maiden's part.

"What does Lily Bell call you?" she asked, with interest. The boy
snuggled down on the grass beside her and rested his head comfortably
in her lap.

"She knows my name's Raymond Mortimer," he said, sleepily, "but she
calls me 'Bill' for short." Then, more sleepily, "I asked her to," he
added. In another moment his eyelids had dropped and he too was in the
Land of Nod, whither Lily Bell had happily preceded him.

During the next four years Miss Greene was privileged to spend many
days in the society of Miss Lily Bell, and the acquaintance between
them ripened into a pleasant friendship. To her great satisfaction she
found Miss Bell's name one to conjure with in those moments of friction
which are unavoidable in the relations of old and young.

"I don't think Lily Bell would like that," she began to say,
tentatively, when differences of opinion as to his conduct came up
between Raymond and herself. "I think _she_ likes a gentlemanly boy."

Unless her young charge was in a very obstinate mood the reminder
usually prevailed, and it was of immense value in overcoming the early
prejudice of the small boy against soap and water.

"Isn't Lily Bell clean?" she had inquired one day when he was eight and
the necessity of the daily tubbing was again being emphasized to him.

Raymond conceded that she was.

"When she first comes she is," he added. "'Course she gets dirty when
we play. Why, sometimes she gets awful dirty!"

The excellent and wise woman saw her opportunity, and promptly grasped
it.

"Ah," she exclaimed, "that's the point. I want you to start out clean
and to go to bed clean. If you'll promise me to take a tub before you
dress in the morning, and another before you go to bed at night, I
don't care how dirty you get in the mean time."

This happy compromise effected, she was moved to ask more particularly
how Miss Lily Bell looked. She recalled now that she had never heard
her described. Raymond Mortimer, she discovered, was no better than the
rest of his sex when it came to a description of feminine features and
apparel, but on two points his testimony was absolute. Lily Bell had
curls and she wore pantalettes. The last word was not in his
vocabulary, and it was some time before he succeeded in conveying the
correct impression to Miss Greene's mind.

"Don't you remember the little girls in mamma's old Godey books?" he
asked, at last, very anxiously, seeing that his early imperfect
description had led to an apparent oscillation of Miss Greene's
imagination between the paper ruffle of a lamb-chop and a frilly
sunbonnet. "They have slippers an' 'lastic bands an' scallopy funnels
coming down under their skirts. Well"--this with a long-drawn sigh of
relief as she beamed into acquiescence--"that's how Lily Bell looks!"

Long before this the family had accepted Lily Bell as a part of the
domestic circle, finding her a fairly trustworthy and convenient
playmate for the boy. Not always, of course; for it was very
inconvenient to leave a vacant seat beside Raymond Mortimer when they
went driving, but this had to be done or Raymond stayed at home rather
than desert his cherished Lily. It was long before his father forgot
the noble rebuke administered by his son on one occasion when the elder
Prescott, thoughtlessly ignoring the presence of Miss Bell, sought to
terminate the argument by sitting down by the boy's side. The shrieks
of that youth, usually so self-contained, rent the ambient air.

"Father, _father!_" he howled, literally dancing up and down in his
anguish, "you're sitting on Lily Bell!" Then, at the height of the
uproar, he stopped short, an expression of overwhelming relief covering
his face. "Oh no, you ain't, either," he cried, ecstatically. "She
jumped out. But she won't go now, so neither will I"; and he promptly
joined his imaginary playmate in the road. Pausing there, he gave his
abashed parent a glance of indescribable reproach and a helpful hint on
etiquette.

"Don't you know," he asked, stonily, "that gentlemen don't _never_ sit
on ladies?" Striding gloomily back to the house, presumably close by
the side of the outraged maiden, he left his convulsed parent to
survive as best he could the deprivation of their presence. This Mr.
Prescott did with reluctance. He was beginning to find the society of
his son and Lily Bell both interesting and exhilarating. He showed, in
fact, a surprising understanding of and sympathy with "the
love-affair," as he called it. "The poor little beggar had to have
something," he said, indulgently, "and an imaginary play-mate is as
safe as anything I know." Therefore he referred to Miss Bell
respectfully in conversation with his son, and, save on the tragic
occasion just chronicled, treated her with distinguished consideration.

His wife's acceptance of the situation was less felicitous. Mrs.
Prescott, whose utter lack of a sense of humor had long saddened her
domestic circle, suddenly felt the birth of one now that was even more
saddening, and the cause of it was Lily Bell. She referred to that
young person wholly without respect, and was convulsed by foolish
laughter when her son soberly replied. The boy resented this
attitude--first sullenly, then fiercely.

"She acts as if there _wasn't_ really any Lily Bell," he confided to
his father, in a moment of such emotion. "I don't think that's nice or
p'lite, an' it hurts Lily Bell's feelings."

"That's bad," said the father, soberly. "We mustn't have that. I'll
speak to your mother."

He did subsequently, and to such good effect that the expression of
Mrs. Prescott's amusement was temporarily checked. But Raymond
Mortimer's confidence was temporarily blighted, and he kept his little
friend and his mother as far apart as possible. Rarely after that did
Lily Bell seek the invalid's room with the boy, though she frequently
accompanied him to his father's library when that gentleman was home
and, presumably, listened with awe to their inspiring conversation. Mr.
Prescott had begun to talk to his boy "as man to man," as he once put
it, and the phrase had so delighted the boy, now ten, that his father
freely gave him the innocent gratification of listening to it often.
Moreover, it helped in certain conversations where questions of morals
came up. As the small son of an irate father, Raymond Mortimer might
not have been much impressed by the parental theory that watermelons
must not be stolen from the patches of their only neighbor, a crusty
old bachelor. As a man of the world, however, listening to the views of
one wiser and more experienced, he was made to see that helping one's
self to the melons of another is really not the sort of thing a decent
chap can do. Lily Bell, too, held the elder man's opinion.

"She says she doesn't like it, either," the boy confided to his father
with an admiring sigh. "She never would go with me, you know.
My!"--this with a heavier sigh--"I'm 'fraid if I do all the things you
an' Lily Bell want me to I'll be awful good!"

His father sought to reassure him on this point, but he himself was
beginning to cherish a lurking fear of a different character. Was
longer continuance of this dream companionship really wise? So far, if
it had influenced the boy at all, it had been for good. But he was
growing older; he was almost eleven. Was it not time that this
imaginary child friend should be eliminated in favor of--of what? The
father's mind came up against the question and recoiled, blankly. Not
exercise, not outdoor pursuits, not pets, for Raymond Mortimer had all
these and more. His little girl friend had not made him a milksop. He
was an active, energetic, live, healthy-minded boy, with all a boy's
normal interests. When he built kennels for his dogs and made hutches
for his rabbits, Lily Bell stood by, it is true, but her friendly
supervision but added to the vigor and excellence of his work. Indeed,
Lily, despite her pantalettes, seemed to have a sporty vein in her.
Still, the father reflected uneasily, it could lead to no good--this
continued abnormal development of the imagination. For Lily Bell was as
real to the boy at ten as she had been at six.

What could be done? With what entering wedge could one begin to
dislodge this persistent presence? If one sent the boy away, Lily Bell,
of course, would go, too. If one brought--if--one--brought--

Mr. Prescott jumped to his feet and slapped his knee with enthusiasm.
He had solved his problem, and the solution was exceedingly simple.
What, indeed, but another little girl! A real little girl, a
flesh-and-blood little girl, a jolly, active little girl, who, as Mr.
Prescott inelegantly put it to himself, "would make Lily Bell, with her
ringlets and her pantalettes, look like thirty cents." Surely in the
circle of their friends and relatives there must be a little girl who
could be borrowed and introduced--oh, casually and with infinite
tact!--into their menage for a few months. Mr. Prescott, well pleased
with himself, winked a Machiavellian wink and sought his wife,
ostensibly to consult her, but in reality to inform her that he had
made up his mind, and that it would be her happy privilege to attend to
the trivial details of carrying out his plan.

In exactly three weeks Margaret Hamilton Perry was established in the
Prescott homestead for a visit of indefinite length, and in precisely
three hours after her arrival Margaret Hamilton had annexed the
Prescott homestead and its inmates and all the things appertaining
thereto and made them her own. She was the most eager and adorable of
small, fat girls--alive from the crown of her curly head to the soles
of her sensible little spring-heeled shoes. As Mr. Prescott
subsequently remarked in a moment of extreme self-appreciation, if she
had been made to order she couldn't have filled the bill better. Born
and bred in the city, the country was to her a mine of unexplored
delights. The shyness of Raymond Mortimer, suddenly confronted by this
new personality and the immediate need of entertaining it, gave way
before the enthusiasm of the little girl over his pets, his favorite
haunts, the works of his hands--everything in which he had a share.
Clinging to his hand in a rapturous panic as they visited the animals,
she expatiated on the privileges of those happy beings who lived always
amid such delights.

"I wish I didn't ever have to go away again," she ended, wistfully.

"I wish you didn't, either," said Raymond, gallantly, and then was
shocked at himself. Was this loyalty to Lily Bell? The reflection gave
a tinge of coldness to his next utterance. When Margaret Hamilton,
cheered by the tribute, asked, confidently, "May I play with you lots
and help you to make things?" the boy's response lagged.

"Yes," he said, finally, "if Lily Bell will let you."

"Who's Lily Bell?"

"She--why, she's the girl I play with! Everybody knows Lily Bell!"

"Oh!"

Some of the brightness was gone from the eager face.

"Will she like me?" she asked, at last.

"I don't know--I guess--p'r'aps so."

"Will I like her?"

"I don't know. You can't see her, you know."

"Can't see her? Why can't I see her? Doesn't she come here, ever?"

"Oh yes, she's here all the time, but--" The boy squirmed. For the
first time in his short life he was--_was_ he--ashamed of Lily Bell?
No; not that. Never that! He held his small head high, and his lips
set; but he was a boy, after all, and his voice, to cover the
embarrassment, took on a tone of lofty superiority.

"Nobody ever does see her but me," he asserted. "They'd like to, but
they don't."

"Why don't they?"

Verily, this was a persistent child. The boy was in for complete
surrender, and he made it.

"She ain't a little girl like you," he explained, briefly. "She doesn't
have any home, and I don't know where she comes from--heaven, maybe,"
he hazarded, desperately, as a sort of "When in doubt, play trumps."
"But she comes, an' no one but me sees her, an' we play."

"Huh!" This without enthusiasm from Margaret Hamilton Perry. She eyed
him remotely for a moment. Then, with an effort at understanding, she
spoke again.

"I shouldn't think that would be very much fun," she said, candidly.
"Just pretendin' there's a little girl when there ain't! I should think
it would be lots nicer--" She hesitated, a sense of delicacy
restraining her from making the point she so obviously had in mind.

"Anyhow," she added, handsomely, "I'll like her an' play with her if
you do."

Raymond Mortimer was relieved but doubtful. Memories of the extreme
contrariness of Lily Bell on occasion overcame him.

"If she'll let you," he repeated, doggedly.

Margaret Hamilton stared at him and her eyes grew big.

"Won't you let me, if she doesn't?" she gasped. "Why--why--" The
situation overcame her. The big, brown eyes filled suddenly. A small
gingham back rippling with fat sobs was presented to Raymond Mortimer.
In him was born immediately man's antipathy to woman's tears.

"Oh, say," he begged, "don't cry; please don't." He approached the
gingham back and touched it tentatively. "She will let you play with
us," he urged. And then, moved to entire recklessness as the sobs
continued, "_I'll make her!"_ he promised. The gingham back stopped
heaving; a wet face was turned toward him, and a rainbow arched their
little heaven as Margaret Hamilton smiled. Her first triumph was
complete.

It is to be regretted that Lily Bell did not at once lend herself to
the fulfilment of this agreeable understanding. True, she appeared
daily, as of yore, and Margaret Hamilton was permitted to enter her
presence and join her games, but the exactions of Lily Bell became
hourly more annoying. It was evident that Raymond Mortimer felt them as
such, for his anguished blushes testified to the fact when he repeated
them to the victim.

"She wants you to go away off and sit down, so's you can't hear what
we're saying," he said to Margaret Hamilton one day. "I don't think
it's very p'lite of her, but she says you must."

This brief criticism of Lily Bell, the first the boy had ever uttered,
cheered the little girl in her exile. "Never mind," she said. "I don't
care--much. I know it isn't your fault." For by this time she, too, was
under the influence of the spell of convincing reality which Raymond
Mortimer succeeded in throwing over his imaginary friend.

"She does things Ray wouldn't do," she once confided to Miss Greene. "I
mean," hastily, as she suddenly realized her own words--"I mean she
makes him think--he thinks she thinks--Oh, I don't know how to 'splain
it to you!" And Margaret Hamilton hastily abandoned so complicated a
problem. In reality she was meeting it with a wisdom far beyond her
years. The boy was in the grip of an obsession. Margaret Hamilton would
have been sadly puzzled by the words, but in her wise little head lay
the idea they convey.

"He thinks she really is here, an' he thinks he's got to be nice to her
because they're such ve-ry old fren's," she told herself. "But she
isn't very nice lately, an' she makes him cross, so maybe by-an'-by
he'll get tired an' make her act better; or maybe--"

But that last "maybe" was too daring to have a place even in the very
furthest back part of a little girl's mind.

She lent herself with easy good-nature to Lily Bell's exactions. She
had no fondness for that young person, and she let it be seen that she
had none, but she was courteous, as to a fellow-guest.

"Pooh! I don't mind," was her usual comment on Miss Bell's behests; and
this cheerful acceptance threw into strong relief the dark shadows of
Lily Bell's perversity. Once or twice she proposed a holiday.

"Couldn't we go off somewhere, just by ourselves, for a picnic," she
hazarded, one morning--"an' not ask Lily Bell?"

It was a bold suggestion, but the conduct of Miss Bell had been
especially reprehensible the day before, and even the dauntless spirit
of Margaret Hamilton was sore with the strife.

"Wouldn't you like a--a rest, too?" she added, insinuatingly.
Apparently the boy would, for without comment he made the preparations
for the day, and soon he and the child were seated side by side in the
boat in which the old gardener rowed them over to their beloved island.

It was a perfect day. Nothing was said about Lily Bell, and her
presence threw no cloud on those hours of sunshine. Seated adoringly by
the boy's side, Margaret Hamilton became initiated into the mysteries
of bait and fishing, and the lad's respect for his companion increased
visibly when he discovered that she could not only bait his hooks for
him, but could string the fish, lay the festive board for luncheon, and
set it forth. This was a playmate worth while. Raymond Mortimer, long a
slave to the exactions of Lily Bell, for whom he had thanklessly
fetched and carried, relaxed easily into the comfort of man's more
congenial sphere, and permitted himself to be waited on by woman.

In such and other ways the month of August passed. Margaret Hamilton,
like the happy-hearted child she was, sang through the summer days and
knitted more closely around her the hearts of her companions.

With the almost uncanny wisdom characteristic of her, she refrained
from discussing Lily Bell with the other members of the family.
Possibly she took her cue from Raymond Mortimer, who himself spoke of
her less and less as the weeks passed; but quite probably it was part
of an instinct which forbids one to discuss the failings of one's
friends. Lily Bell was to Margaret Hamilton a blot on the boy's
scutcheon. She would not point it out even to him, actively as her
practical little soul revolted against his self-deception. Once,
however, in a rare moment of candor, she unbosomed herself to Mr.
Prescott.

"I don't like her very well," she said, referring, of course, to Lily
Bell. "She's so silly! I hate to pretend an' pretend an' do things we
don't want to do when we could have such good times just by ourselves."

She buried her nose in his waistcoat as she spoke and sniffed rather
dismally. It had been a trying day. Lily Bell had been much _en
evidence_, and her presence had weighed perceptibly upon the spirits of
the two children.

"Can't you get rid of her?" suggested the man, shamelessly. "A real
meat little girl like you ought to do away with a dream kid--an
imaginary girl--don't you think?"

Margaret Hamilton raised her head and looked long into the eyes that
looked back at her. The man nodded solemnly.

"I'd try if I were you," he said. "I'd try mighty hard. You don't want
her around. She's spoiling everything. Besides," he added, half to
himself, "it's time the boy got over his nonsense."

Margaret Hamilton reflected, her small face brightening.

"Are you very, very sure it wouldn't be wicked?" she asked, hopefully.

"Yep. Perfectly sure. Go in and win!"

Greatly cheered by this official sanction, Margaret Hamilton the
following day made her second suggestion of a day _a deux_.

"All by ourselves," she repeated, firmly. "An' not Lily Bell, 'cos
she'd spoil it. An' you row me to the island. Don't let's take Thomas."

This was distinctly wrong. The children were not allowed to take the
boat save under Thomas's careful eye; but, as has been pointed out,
Margaret Hamilton had her faults. Raymond Mortimer struggled weakly in
the gulf of temptation, then succumbed and went under.

"All right," he said, largely, "I will. We'll have lunch, too, and
p'r'aps I'll build a fire."

"We'll play we're cave-dwellers," contributed Margaret Hamilton, whose
invention always exceeded his own, and whose imagination had recently
been stimulated by Miss Greene, who occasionally read aloud to the
children. "You hunt an' get the food an' bring it home, an' I'll cook
it. You be the big, brave man an' I'll be your--your mate," she
concluded, quoting freely from the latest interesting volume to which
she had lent an ear.

The picture appealed to Raymond Mortimer. With a manly stride he
approached the boat, helped her in, loosened it from its moorings, and
cast off. His brow dark with care, he loftily ordered her to steer, and
spoke no more until they had safely made their landing.

Alone on their desert island, the two children faithfully carried out
the programme of the day. With dry branches gathered by his mate the
intrepid male soon made a fire, and retreating hurriedly to a point
comfortably distant from it, they gazed upon their work. Fishing and
the cleaning and cooking of their catch filled the morning; and if,
indeed, the cleaning is something the mind would mercifully pass over,
those chiefly concerned were satisfied and ate with prodigious appetite.

"It's awful funny," said Raymond Mortimer, comfortably, as they reposed
under a tree after their repast, "but when Lily Bell an' I used to come
here--"

He stopped and gazed apprehensively behind him, as if fearful that the
unbidden guest was even now within hearing. Apparently reassured, he
resumed: "When Lily Bell an' I used to come we 'most always went to
sleep after awhile. I--we--got kind of tired talking, I guess. But when
you an' I talk I don't get tired."

Margaret Hamilton flushed with delight, but an excess of maidenly
modesty overcame her at the same moment.

"Why don't you?" she inquired, coyly.

"'Cos I like you better."

Margaret Hamilton gasped, sputtered, looked around her. Everything was
in its place; there had been no submarine upheaval. The boy was there
and he had said this thing, the full meaning of which burst suddenly
upon her. Rising to her feet, she hurled herself upon him with the
impetuosity of her intense nature.

"Do you really?" she gasped and gurgled. "Do you? Oh, do you? Oh, Ray,
I'm so glad!"

And she kissed him!

Disengaging himself with dignity from the clinging embrace of the
maiden, the outraged youth rose to his feet.

"Don't you ever do that again, Margaret Hamilton Perry," he said,
slowly, and with awful sternness. "Don't you ever. Lily Bell never,
never did such a thing!"

She retreated, but unabashed.

"It's 'cause I was so glad," she said, happily. "Real girls always do;
they're like that. But I won't any more. You like me best, just the
same, don't you?" she inquired, anxiously.

He came cautiously nearer.

"Yes, I do," he said, coldly, "but don't you try that any more, or I
won't!"

Then they talked of cave-dwellers, and of the pleasant warmth of an
open-air fire on an August day, and of marvellous things they would do
during the coming weeks. And the absorption of their conversation was
such that when the faithful Thomas, having rowed after them, stealthily
approached and smote the boy upon the back, they yelled in startled
unison.

That no rancor lingered in the mind of Raymond Mortimer toward the
too-demonstrative Margaret Hamilton was proved by the careless remark
he made to his father when, some days later, that gentleman uttered a
jocund inquiry as to the health of Lily Bell.

His son stared at him for an instant, as one who seeks to recall the
snows of yester-year.

"Oh," he said, at last, "I haven't seen her for a long time. She
doesn't come round now."

Then, as his father grinned widely over these melancholy tidings, the
son flushed crimson.

"Well, I don't care," he said, hotly. "It's all your fault. Didn't you
tell me I had to 'muse Margaret? Didn't you? Well--I am. I ain't got
time for two. An', anyhow," he concluded, with Adamitic instinct, "Lily
Bell stopped coming herself!"

The exorcism of Lily Bell was complete. Unlike more substantial Lily
Bells of larger growth, she had known how to make her disappearance
coincide with a wish to that effect on the part of her gentleman friend.



III

HER LAST DAY


For some time--possibly an hour or more--she sat perfectly still,
staring at a wavering line made on the floor by a stray sunbeam which
had forced its way through the window of her hotel sitting-room. At
first she looked unseeingly, with the dull, introspective gaze of the
melancholic. Then she began to notice the thing, and to fear it, and to
watch for outlines of a quivering human face, and to tremble a little.
Surely there had been a face--she thought vaguely, and puckered her
brow in an effort to remember. It was half an hour before she realized
what it was, and the passing of fifteen minutes more had been ticked
off by a clock on the table near her when she lifted her glance enough
to follow the beam along the floor, up the wall, to the pane where it
had entered. She rose suddenly. It was long since she had made a
consciously voluntary movement, and she knew this. She drew a deep
breath as she stood up, and almost on the instant she experienced a
life-giving sensation of poise and freedom. The weight fell from her
feet, the blackness in which she had lived for weeks unwrapped itself
from around her like a departing fog, her lax muscles tightened. She
groped her way to the window and stood there for a moment, resting her
cheek against the cool pane and gazing up at the sky. Presently her
eyes dropped to the level of a distant water-line, and she saw the
river and the trees that fringed its distant bank, and the swiftly
moving boats on its surface.

She was better. She knew all that this meant, how much and how little.
For an interval, long or short, as it should happen to be, she was
again a rational human being. She abruptly swerved around from the
window and swept the room with her eyes, recognizing it as the one she
was occupying before she "went under," as she put it to herself, and
trying, from association with the familiar objects around her, to form
some idea of the length of this attack.

At the beginning of her breakdown the intervals between intelligent
consciousness and insanity had been long. She was herself, or was able
to keep herself fairly in hand, the greater part of the time, and
chaos, when it came, lasted only for a few days or weeks. Recently this
condition had been reversed. She had lost knowledge of time, but she
felt that centuries must have passed since those last flying, blessed
hours when she knew herself at least for what she was. She grasped now
at her returning reason, with a desperate, shuddering little moan,
which she quickly stifled. Some one must be near, she remembered, on
guard: her nurse, or a hotel maid if the nurse was taking one of her
infrequent outings. Whoever was in charge of her must be in the next
room, for the door was open between the two. The nurse would welcome
her return, the patient reflected. It was her habit--a singularly
pathetic habit, the nurse had found it--to refer always to her attacks
as "absences," and to temporary recovery as "returns."

She moved toward the open door and then stopped, feeling suddenly that
she was not yet ready to talk to any one, even the nurse, for whom she
had a casually friendly feeling based on dependence and continued
association. She wished to think--dear God, to be able to think
again!--and there seemed so much thinking to be done and so little time
in which to do it. Her heart dropped a beat as she realized that. On
how much time could she safely count, she wondered. A week? A few days?
It had never been less than a week, until the last episode. She turned
from the thought of that with a sick shudder, but memory dragged it up
and ruthlessly held it before her--the hour, the moment, the very place
she was sitting when it occurred. She had been talking to a friend, who
unconsciously said something that annoyed and excited her. She saw now
that friend's face growing dim before her eyes--at first puzzled, then
frightened, then writhing and twisting into hideous shapes, she
thought, until in her horror she had struck at it. She must not think
of that, she knew, as she set her teeth and pulled herself up short.
She had a will of extraordinary strength, her physicians and nurses had
conceded, and she resolved that it should serve her now. With grim
determination she pieced together the patches of memory left to her.
She had had three days then--three short days. She dared not count on
even that much respite now, though she might possibly have it and more.
But one day--surely Providence would let her have one day--one _last_
day. Her friends and the specialists had begun to talk of asylums. She
had heard whispers of them before she succumbed to this last attack;
and though her memory of what occurred in it was mercifully vague, she
dimly recalled struggles and the shrieks of some one in agony--her own
shrieks, she knew now, though she had not known it then. It all meant
that she was getting worse and more "difficult." It all meant chronic
invalidism, constant care, eventual confinement.

Her brain was now abnormally clear, supernaturally active. It worked
with an eager deference, as if striving to atone for the periods when
it failed her. The little clock struck ten. It was early--she had a
long day before her, a beautiful spring day; for she noticed now the
tender green of the leaves and the youth of the grass. How interesting
it would be, she reflected, idly, to go out into the free, busy world
and mingle with human beings, and walk the city streets and come into
touch with life and the living. She would go, she would spend the day
that way; but, alas! the nurse would go, too--cool, kind, professional,
alert, quietly watchful. If she could in any way elude her and go
alone. ...

Her eyes narrowed and took on a look of cunning as she turned them
sidewise toward the open door. As stealthily as a cat she crept to it
and looked in. On a divan in the farthest corner the nurse lay
stretched in a deep sleep, whose unpremeditatedness was shown by the
book which lay on the floor, dropped, evidently, from her suddenly
relaxed fingers. The patient retreated as noiselessly as she had
advanced, and, going to a mantel-mirror in her sitting-room, turned on
her reflection there a long and frightened look. She saw a woman of
thirty-five, thin, pale, haggard, high-bred. Her hair had been arranged
in accordance with the nurse's conception of comfort and economy of
time, and though her gown was perfect in its fit and tailor-made
severity, the lace at her neck and in the sleeves of her silk waist was
not wholly fresh. Her lips curled as she looked. This was she, Alice
Stansbury, the wreck of a woman who had once had health and beauty and
wealth and position. The last two were in a degree left to her, but
what difference did it make how she looked, she asked herself, harshly.
Even as the thought came, however, she took off her waist and sewed
clean lace cuffs on the sleeves, replacing the collar with a fresh one.
Then she took down her hair and rearranged it, rapidly but with care.
It was a simple matter to change her slippers for walking-boots, and to
find her hat and coat and gloves in their old places. Miss Manuel, the
nurse, _was_ reliable, she told herself again as she put them on,
feeling a moment's gratitude to the woman for trying to keep her "up,"
even during her "absences," to something approaching the standard a
gentlewoman's birth and breeding demanded. Her money, or at least a
large part of it, for she did not stop to count it, she found in the
despatch-box where she had put it on their arrival in New York, and the
key was with others on a ring in the private drawer of her
writing-desk. Hurriedly she selected several large bills and put them
into a silver purse, pressing it deep into the pocket of her
walking-skirt with some vague fear that she might lose it. Then she
replaced the box and locked the desk, dropping the key in her pocket.
Her movements were extraordinarily swift and noiseless. In twenty
minutes from the time she had looked in on the nurse she was ready for
the street.

A second glance into the inner room showed her that Miss Manuel was
still sleeping. She regarded her distrustfully for an instant, and on a
sudden impulse sat down at her desk and wrote a message on a sheet of
the hotel paper.

"I am going out for the day. _I will return to-night._ Do nothing,
consult no one. I am quite able to take care of myself. Don't make a
sensation for the newspapers! ALICE STANSBURY."

"That last sentence will quiet her," she reflected, with cool
satisfaction, as she pinned the note to the side of the mirror. "She
won't care to advertise far and wide that she has temporarily mislaid a
patient!"

The most difficult thing of all remained to be done. The outer door of
her own room was locked and the key was missing. To leave the apartment
she must pass through the room where Miss Manuel lay asleep. She held
her breath, but crossed in safety, though Miss Manuel stirred and
murmured something, as if subconsciously warned of danger. Miss
Stansbury closed the door noiselessly behind her and stood silent for a
moment in the hall, glancing about her and planning the wisest method
of getting away. She knew better than to enter any of the hotel
elevators. While there was no certainty that she would be detained if
she did, there had been a great deal of interest in her when she
arrived at the hotel, and there was every chance that some employe
might think it a wise precaution to ask her nurse a question or two
after she departed. Then Miss Manuel would be hot upon her trail, and
her day would be spoiled. She crept cautiously along the rear halls,
keeping out of sight on each floor when the elevators were passing, and
meeting only strangers and one preoccupied porter. Her rooms were on
the fifth floor, but she descended the four flights of stairs in
safety, and, going triumphantly out of the rear entrance of the hotel,
found herself in the quiet street on which it opened. The great
building was on a corner, and as she crossed its threshold she saw a
trolley-car passing along the avenue at her right. On a quick impulse
she signalled. When it stopped she entered and seated herself in a
corner, surveying her fellow-passengers with seeming unconcern, though
her breath came fast. She was safe; she was off! She decided to ride on
until she made her plans and knew in more detail what should be done
with this gift of the gods, a day that was all her own.

It had been a long time since she had been alone, she suddenly
remembered. There had been outings, of course, and shopping expeditions
and the like, but always Miss Manuel or one of her kind had been at her
elbow--sometimes professionally cheerful, sometimes professionally
grave, but at all times professionally watchful. The woman exulted
fiercely in her new-found liberty. She had hours before her--free,
glorious hours. She would use them, fill them, squander them in a
prodigal spending, following every impulse, indulging every desire, for
they were hers and they were her last. In the depths of her brain lay a
resolution as silent, as deadly, as a coiled serpent waiting to strike.
She would enter no asylums, she would endure no more "absences," she
would have no more supervision, no more consultations, no more
half-concealed fear of friends, no more pity from strangers. There was
a way of escaping all this forever, and she knew it and would take it,
though it led across the dim threshold over which she could never
return.

The car hummed as it sped along. At a distance she saw an entrance to
Central Park, and from the inside the branches of trees seemed to wave
a salute to her in honor of her freedom. She signalled to the conductor
and left the car, retracing her steps until she entered the Park. She
was far up-town, near the northern end of it, and the paths, warm in
the spring sunshine, were almost deserted. For a while she strolled
idly about, her senses revelling in the freshness and beauty around
her, in the green vistas that opened to right and left, and the soft
breeze that fanned her face. Children, riding tricycles or rolling
hoops, raced past her; and once, after she had walked almost an hour, a
small boy of four slipped his hand into her gloved one and trotted
beside her for a moment, to the open scandal of his nurse. She smiled
down at him, pleased by the touch of his little fingers. When he left,
as abruptly as he had joined her, and in response to a stentorian Irish
summons from the rear, she felt a rather surprising degree of regret.
The momentary contact had given her a pleasant sense of companionship;
for the first time it came to her that it would be better to have a
sharer of this day of days--no hireling, no scientific-eyed caretaker,
but a little child or a friend, some one, any one, whom she liked and
who liked her, and who, like the little boy, did not know the truth
about her.

Her spirits dropped as suddenly as they had risen, and she felt tired
and disappointed. Almost unconsciously she dropped on a bench to rest,
her eyes still following the figure of the child, now almost out of
sight around a distant bend. The bench was off the path, and she had
been too preoccupied when she sat down to notice that it had another
occupant; but as the figure of her little friend vanished and she
turned her eyes away with a sigh, she found herself looking into those
of a man. He was very young, hardly more than a boy, and he occupied
the far end of the seat, one arm thrown across the back of it, his
knees crossed, and his body so turned that he faced her. The thing she
saw in his eyes held her own fastened to them, at first in surprise,
then in sudden comprehension. It was hunger. With a long look she took
him in--the pinched pallor of his smooth, handsome young face, the
feverish brightness of his gray eyes, the shabbiness of his well-made,
well-fitting clothes, even the rent in the side of one of his
patent-leather shoes. His linen was clean, and his cuffs were fastened
with cheap black links; she reflected instinctively that he had pawned
those whose place they obviously filled, and then her mind returned at
once to her first discovery, that he was hungry. There was no mistaking
it. She had never seen hunger in a face before, but she recognized it
now. He had taken off his hat and dropped it on the bench beside him.
His brown hair was short and wavy, and one lock on his left temple was
white. He had been writing a note, or possibly an advertisement for
work, with a stub of lead-pencil on a scrap of paper resting on his
knee, and now he suddenly raised his eyes--either in an abstracted
search for the right word or because her appearance had startled him.

Without hesitation she spoke to him.

"Pardon me," she said, impersonally. "May I ask you some questions?"

He looked at her, and the understanding of his situation revealed in
her glance brought the blood to his face. He straightened himself, his
lips parting for a reply, but she gave him no time to speak.

"I am a stranger here," she continued, "and New York is not always kind
to strangers. You seem to be unhappy, too. I wonder if we cannot help
each other."

He smiled with an unyouthful bitterness.

"I'm afraid I'm not much use--to myself or any one else," he answered,
with hard deliberation. Then his face underwent a change as he looked
at hers and read in it, inexperienced as he was, some of the tragic
writing of Fate's inexorable hand. His voice showed his altered mood.

"Of course," he added, quickly, "if there's really anything I can do. I
know the town well enough. Perhaps I can help you if you want to get
anywhere. What is it you would like?"

Her face, under the sudden idea which came to her, could hardly be said
to brighten, but it changed, becoming less of a mask, more human. She
felt a thrill of unaccustomed interest, less in him than in the plan
which he unconsciously suggested. Here at last was something to do.
Here was a companion who did not know her. He was watching her closely
now, and it came to him for the first time, with a sense of surprise,
that this strange woman who had spoken to him was not old, and was even
attractive.

"I think you can help me, if you will," she went on, quietly. "As I
have said, I am a stranger in New York. I have never seen anything of
it except the streets I passed through this morning between the Park
and my hotel. But I've always wanted to see it, and to-day is my first
and only opportunity, for I am going away to-night."

He surveyed her thoughtfully. The shadow had returned to his face, and
it was plain that under his air of courteous interest stirred the
self-despair she had surprised in her first look at him.

"Of course I can make out a sight-seer's list for you," he said, when
she stopped, "and I will, with pleasure. I think you'd better drop into
the Metropolitan Art Galleries while you're in the Park. I'll write the
other places in their street order going down-town, so you won't waste
time doubling on your tracks. Have you a bit of paper?"

He began to fumble in his own pockets as he spoke, but vaguely, as one
who knows the search is vain. She shook her head.

"No," she told him, "and I don't want one. That isn't my idea at all--a
list of places to look up all alone and a dismal round of dreary
sight-seeing. What I would like"--she smiled almost demurely--"is a
'personally conducted' tour. Are you very busy?"

He flushed again and looked at her, this time with a veiled suspicion
in his glance. She met it with such calm appreciation that it changed
to one of surprised doubt. She knew perfectly what was passing in his
mind, and it caused her no more concern than the puzzled silence of a
child who has heard a new word. She went on as complacently as if he
were the little boy who had walked beside her a few moments before.

"In Paris and London," she remarked, "one can engage a guide, a
gentleman, for a day at a fixed price. Probably there are such guides
here in New York, if I knew where they were to be found and had the
time to look for them. You are much younger than I am. You might almost
be my son! Moreover, you will not mind my saying that I fancied you
were unemployed and possibly were looking for employment. You can
hardly help seeing the definite connection in all this."

His eyes met hers for a moment and then dropped. He blushed boyishly.

"I see you're trying to help me," he murmured, apologetically.

She went on as if she had not heard him.

"Let me employ you for the day. I need amusement, interest,
occupation--more than you can imagine. I am in the same mood, as far as
desolation and discouragement go, that you are in. I must be about,
seeing people and diverting my mind. We can each supply the other with
one thing that we need. I have money. To earn a little of that
professionally, by a humane service, should really appeal to you."

Something in her voice as she uttered the last words made him turn
toward her again. As he looked, his young face softened. She waited in
silence for what he would say.

He sat up and straightened his shoulders with a quick gesture.

"You are right," he said, "but I'm awfully afraid you'll get the worst
of it. I'm not an ornamental escort for a lady, as you see." He looked
at his broken shoe, and then at her. Her expression showed entire
indifference to the point he had raised.

"We will consider it settled," she said. "You will take my purse and
pay our joint expenses. I think," she went on, as she handed it to him,
"we'll omit the Metropolitan. After miles of the Louvre and the
Luxembourg and the Vatican, I don't seem to crave miles of that.
Suppose we take a cab and drive round. I want to see the streets, and
the crowds, and the different types of men and women, and the slums. I
used to be interested in Settlement work, long ago."

"Pardon me," he said. "You have won your case. I will serve you to the
best of my ability. But as a preliminary I insist on counting the money
in this purse, and on your seeing that my accounts are all right."

"Do as you like about that," she replied, indifferently, but her glance
rested on him with a glint of approval.

He deliberately counted the bills. "There are three hundred and forty
dollars," he said, replacing them.

She nodded absently. She had sunk into a momentary reverie, from which
he did not arouse her until she suddenly looked at her watch. "Why,
it's after twelve!" she exclaimed, with more animation than she had yet
shown. "We'll go to Delmonico's or Sherry's for luncheon, and make our
programme while we're there."

He started, and leaned forward, fixing his eyes on her, but she did not
meet them. She replaced her watch in her belt with a successful
assumption of abstraction, but she was full of doubt as to how he would
take this first proposition. The next instant the bench trembled under
the force with which he had dropped back on it.

"God!" he cried, hoarsely, "it's all a put-up job to feed me because
you suspect I'm hungry! No, you don't even suspect--you _know_ I'm
hungry!"

She put her hand on his arm, and the gesture silenced him.

"Be quiet," she said. "Suppose you are hungry? What of it? Is it a
disgrace to be hungry? Men and women deliberately cultivate the
condition! Come," she ended, as she rose abruptly, "keep to your
bargain. We both need our luncheon."

He replaced the purse in the inside-pocket of his coat, and rose. They
walked a few moments without a word. She noticed how well he carried
himself and how muscular and athletic his figure appeared even in its
shabby clothes. As they strolled toward the nearest exit she talked of
the Park, and asked him a few matter-of-fact questions, to which he
replied with growing animation. "I can't give you figures and
statistics, I'm afraid," he added, smiling.

She shook her head. "It would be sad if you could," she said. "Give me
anything but information. As for statistics, I've a constitutional
distaste for them. Where can we find a cab?"

"We won't find a cab," he explained, with an authoritative independence
which somehow appealed to her. "We'll take this trolley-car and ride to
within a short walk of Delmonico's. After luncheon we'll find cabs at
every turn."

He helped her into a car as he spoke, and paid their fare from her
purse, flushing as he had to change a five-dollar note to do so. The
simple act emphasized for him, as no words could have done, his
peculiar relation to this strange woman, whom he had never seen until
half an hour ago. Balancing the purse in his hand, he glanced at her,
taking in almost unconsciously the tragic droop of her lips, the
prematurely gray locks in her dark hair, and the unchanging gloom of
her brown eyes.

"How do you know I won't drop off the car at some corner and abscond
with this?" he asked, in a low voice.

She looked at him calmly.

"I think I know you will not. But if you did it would hurt me."

"Would it spoil your day?"

"Yes," she conceded, "it would spoil my day."

"Well," he announced, judiciously, "you shall not have to reproach me
with anything of that kind. Your day shall be a success if I can make
it so."

His manner was more than gentle. His mood was one of gratitude and
pleasant expectation. He was getting to know her and was sorry for
her--possibly because she trusted him and was sorry for him. She was
not the companion he would have chosen for a day's outing, and it was
doubtful if she would be any too cheerful; but he would serve her
loyally, wherever this queer adventure led, and he was young enough to
appreciate its possibilities. Inwardly she was amused by his little
affectation of experience, of ripe age addressing youth, but it was so
unconsciously done, so unconquerably youthful, that it added to the
interest he had aroused in her. She liked, too, his freshness and
boyish beauty, and his habit of asserting his sense of honor above
everything. Above all things, she liked his ignorance of her. To him,
she was merely a woman like other women; there was a satisfaction to
her in that thought as deep as it was indescribable. The only other
occupants of the car were a messenger-boy, lost to his surroundings in
a paper-covered novel, and a commercial traveller whose brow was
corrugated by mental strain over a notebook.

"There are some things I would like to do in New York," she confided.
"We will do them now--lunch at Delmonico's, go sight-seeing all the
afternoon, dine at Sherry's, and go to the theatre this evening. Which
is the best play in town?"

"Well--er--that, you know, depends on what you like," hazarded the boy,
sagely. "Do you prefer comedy, tragedy, or melodrama?"

She reflected.

"Something light," she decided; "something airy and effervescent--with
no problems or even thoughts in it."

His eyes twinkled as he smiled at her. If these were her tastes, she
was getting on, he reflected, and the vista of the long day before him
offered attractions.

"'Peter Pan'!" he exclaimed. "That's all those things. I've not seen
it, but I've read the criticisms, and I know a fellow who has gone five
times."

"Testimony enough," agreed his companion. "We'll go to 'Peter Pan.' Now
tell me something about yourself."

"Is that in the bond?"

"No. That would be a gift."

"I'd--I'd rather not, if you don't mind."

He indulged in his inevitable painful blush as he spoke, but she stared
at him without pity and with a sudden hauteur which gave him a glimpse
of another side of her complex nature. This woman who picked up strange
youths in the street and spent the day with them was obviously
accustomed to unquestioning deference from others. He edged away from
her, firm but unhappy.

"You're right," she said, at last. "We'll add a clause to our compact
and play we're disembodied spirits. Neither of us will ask the other a
personal question."

"Agreed, and thank you. It's not that I wouldn't be flattered, you
know, by your interest, and all that," he went on, awkwardly. "It's
only because it's such a beastly harrowing recital and shows me up in
such--such an inefficient light. It would depress you, and it couldn't
do me any good. The things about myself are what I want to get away
from--for a while."

They were soon at Delmonico's, and she followed him into the main
dining-room, where she selected a table at a window looking out on the
Avenue. The head waiter glanced at him, hesitated, surveyed her, and
showed that he was indeed a good servant who knew his own. He hovered
over them with deepening interest as they scanned the menu.

The boy smiled at his companion, trying not to notice the smell of the
food around them, nor the horrible sinking sensation which overwhelmed
him at intervals. A sickening fear swept over him that he would faint
before luncheon came--faint on a lady's hands, and from starvation at
that! He plunged into conversation with reckless vivacity.

When the waiter came with the oysters she set the example of eating
them at once. Her companion followed it in leisurely fashion. She told
herself that he was a thoroughbred, and that she had not been mistaken
in him, but she would almost have preferred to see him eat wolfishly.
His restraint got on her nerves. She could not eat, though she made a
pretence of it. When he had eaten his soup with the same careful
deliberation, a little color came into his face. She observed this, and
her tension relaxed.

"The last time I was here," he said, absently, "was two years ago. One
of the fellows at New Haven had a birthday, and we celebrated it in the
corner room just above this. It was a pretty lively dinner. We kept it
up from seven o'clock until two in the morning, and then we all went
out on the Avenue and sat down in the middle of the street, where it
was cool, to smoke and talk it over. That was Davidson's idea. It
annoyed the cabmen and policemen horribly. They have such ready tempers
and such torpid minds."

The recital and the picture it called up amused her.

"What else did you do?" she asked, with interest.

"I'm afraid I don't remember much of it," he confessed. "I know we were
pretty silly; but I do remember how foolish the head waiter looked when
Davidson insisted on kissing him good-bye in the hall out there, and
cried because he didn't know when he'd see him again. Of course you
can't see how funny that was, because you don't know Davidson. He was
the most dignified chap at college, and hated gush more than any one I
ever knew."

He drank the last of his black coffee with a sigh of content, and blew
a last ring from the cigar she had insisted that he should smoke.

"Don't you think," he hazarded, "that it would be jolly to drive up and
down Broadway and Fifth Avenue for an hour or two? If you want crowds,
they're there; and if you see anything worth closer inspection, we can
get out and look at it."

She agreed, and he paid the bill, tipping the waiter discriminatingly.

As their hansom threaded its way through the crowded street she rarely
smiled, but her sombre eyes took in everything, and she "said things,"
as the boy put it, which he recalled and quoted years afterward.
Incidentally she talked of herself, though always without giving him a
clew as to who she was and where she came from. Several times, as a
face in the passing throng caught her interest, she outlined for him in
a few terse words the character of its possessor. He was interested,
but he must have unconsciously suggested a certain unbelief in her
intuition, for once she stopped speaking and looked at him sharply.

"You think I don't know," she said, "but I do. We always know, until we
kill the gift with conventionalities. We're born with an intuitive
knowledge of character. Savages have it, and animals, and babies. We
lose it as we advance in civilization, for then we distrust our
impressions and force our likes and dislikes to follow the dictates of
policy. I've worked hard to keep and develop my insight, and behold my
reward! I recognized you at the first glance as the perfect companion
of a day."

The boy's face flamed with pleasure.

"Then it is a success?"

"It is a success. But it's also five o'clock. What next?"

"Then it's been a success?" he repeated, dreamily--"so far, I mean.
We've done so little in one way, but I'm awfully glad you've liked it.
We'll drop into Sherry's now for a cup of tea and a buttered English
muffin and the beautiful ladies and the Hungarian Band. Then, instead
of dining there, suppose we go to some gayer, more typical New York
place--one of the big Broadway restaurants? That will show you another
'phase,' as you say; and the cooking is almost as good."

She agreed at once. "I think I'd like that," she said. "I want as much
variety as I can get."

He leaned toward her impressively over the little table in the
tea-room, recalling her unexpected tribute to the "perfect companion,"
and feeling all at once surprisingly well acquainted with her.

"What a pity you've got to go away tonight!" he murmured, ingenuously.
"There's so much left to do."

For an instant, as memory rolled over her, her heart stopped beating.
He observed her change of expression and looked at her with a
sympathetic question in his gray eyes.

"Can't you change your plans?" he suggested, hopefully. "Must you go?"

"No, they're not that kind of plans. I must go."

As she spoke her face had the colorlessness and the immobility he had
seen in it during the first moments it was turned toward him in the
morning, and her features suddenly looked old and drawn. Under the
revelation of a trouble greater than he could understand, the boy
dropped his eyes.

"By Jove!" he thought, suddenly, "she's got something the matter with
her." He wondered what it was, and the idea flashed over him that it
might be an incurable disease. Only the year before he had heard a
friend receive his death-warrant in a specialist's office, and the
memory of the experience remained with him. He was so deep in these
reflections that for a moment he forgot to speak, and she in her turn
sat silent.

"I'm sorry," he then said, awkwardly. Then, rightly divining the
quickest way to divert her thoughts, he suggested that they should
drive again before dinner, for an hour or two, to get the effect of the
twilight and the early lights on Broadway.

She agreed at once, as she had agreed to most of his suggestions, and
her face when she looked at him was serene again, but he was not wholly
reassured. In silence he followed her to the cab.

Over their dinner that night in the glittering Broadway restaurant,
with the swinging music of French and German waltzes in their ears, she
relaxed again from the impersonal attitude she had observed during the
greater part of the day. She looked at him more as if she saw him, he
told himself, but he could not flatter himself that the change was due
to any deepening of her interest in him. It was merely that she knew
him better, and that their long hours of sight-seeing had verified her
judgment of him.

Their talk swept over the world. He realized that she had lived much
abroad and had known many interesting men and women. From casual
remarks she dropped he learned that she was an orphan, unmarried, with
no close ties, and that her home was not near New York. This, when the
next day, after a dazed reading of the morning newspapers, he summed up
his knowledge of her, was all he could recall--the garnered drift-wood
of a talk that had extended over twelve hours.

"You look," he said once, glancing critically at her, "as if you had
lived for centuries and had learned all the lessons life could teach."

She shook her head. "I have lived for centuries, so far as that goes,"
she said, "but of all the lessons I've really learned only one."

"And that is?"

"How little it all amounts to."

Again, as he studied her, he experienced an unpleasant little tremor.
He felt at the same time an odd conviction that this woman had played a
part all day, and that now, through fatigue and depression, she was
tiring of her role and would cast it away, showing herself to him as
she was. For some reason he did not want this. The face behind the
mask, of which he was beginning to get a glimpse at intervals, was a
face he feared he would not like. He shrank from it as a child shrinks
from what it does not understand.

Much to his relief, she threw off the dark mood that seemed to threaten
her, and at the play she was more human than she had been yet.

"Ah, that first act," she said, as the curtain fell on Peter Pan's
flight through the window with the Darling Children--"that delicious
first act! Of course Barrie can't keep it up--no one could. But the
humor of it and the tenderness and the naivete! Only a grown-up with
the heart of a child could really appreciate it."

"And you are that?" he asked, daringly. He knew she was not.

"Only for this half-hour," she smiled. "I may get critical at any
moment and entirely out of touch."

She did not, however, and watching her indulgent appreciation of the
little boys in Never Never Land, he unconsciously reflected that, after
all, this must be the real woman. That other personality, some sudden
disheartening side of which he got from time to time, was not his new
friend who laughed like a young girl over the crocodile with the clock
inside, and showed a sudden swift moisture in her brown eyes when the
actress pleaded for the dying fairy. When the curtain fell on the last
act, leaving Peter Pan alone with his twinkling fairy friends in his
little home high among the trees, Alice Stansbury turned to her
companion with the sudden change of expression he had learned to dread.
The pupils of her eyes were strangely dilated, and she was evidently
laboring under some suppressed excitement. She spoke to him curtly and
coolly.

"We'll have a Welsh rabbit somewhere," she said, "and then I'll
go--back." He was struck by this use of the word, and by the tone of
her voice as she said it. "Back," he repeated, mentally--"back to
something mighty unpleasant, I'll wager."

At the restaurant she ate nothing and said little. All the snap and
sparkle had gone out of the day and out of their companionship as well.
Even the music was mournful, as if in tacit sympathy, and the faces of
the diners around them looked tired and old. When they left the
dining-room they stood together for an instant in the vestibule opening
into the street. No one was near them, and they were for the moment
beyond the reach of curious eyes. She cast one quick look around to be
sure of this, and then, going close to him, she put both her hands on
his shoulders. As she stood thus he realized for the first time how
tall she was. Her eyes were almost on a level with his own.

"You're a dear boy," she said, quickly, and a little breathlessly. "You
have made the day perfect, and I thank you. We shall not meet again,
but I'd like to feel that you won't forget me, and I want you to tell
me your first name."

He put his hands over hers.

"It's Philip," he said, simply, "and as for forgetting, you may be very
sure I won't. This isn't the kind of thing one forgets, and you're not
the kind of woman."

As he spoke the grip of her hands on his shoulders tightened, and she
leaned forward and kissed him on the mouth. Under the suddenness and
the surprise of it his senses whirled, but even in the chaos of the
moment he was conscious of two conflicting impressions--the first, an
odd disappointment in her, his friend; the second, an absurd resentment
against the singular remoteness of those cool, soft lips that for an
instant brushed his own. She gave him no chance to speak.

"I've left my gloves on the table," she said, crisply. "Get them."

He went without a word. When he returned the vestibule was deserted.
With a swift intuition of the truth he opened the door and rushed out
into the street. She was not there, nor the cabman whom he had
instructed to wait for them. She had slipped away, as she intended to
do, and the kiss she had given him had been a farewell. He was left
standing looking stupidly up and down the street, with her gloves in
his hand and her purse, as he now remembered, in his pocket. Well, he
could advertise that the next morning, in such a way that she could
reclaim it without seeing him again if she wished. He could even seal
it in an envelope and leave it at the _Herald_ office, to be given to
any one who would describe it. He walked slowly down Broadway and
turned into the side street which held the house and the unattractive
hall bedroom he called home. He felt "let down," as he would have put
it, and horribly lonely and depressed. She was such a good sort, he
reflected, and it was such a big pity she wouldn't let him see her
again. He knew somehow that he never would. She was not a woman that
changed her mind about things. Jove! but the whole experience had been
interesting; and that kiss--that kiss he had been cad enough to
misunderstand for an instant. ... The deepest blush of the day scorched
his face as he recalled it.

Miss Stansbury arrived at the front entrance of her hotel at the same
moment, and tersely instructed the driver to collect his fare at the
desk. She entered the hall with him, and walked indifferently past the
night clerk, answering with a nod the tacit question of that youth as
he glanced from her to the cabman. She was not unconscious of the
suppressed excitement in his manner nor of the elevator boy's relief as
he joyfully greeted her appearance in his car. What did it matter? What
did anything matter now? Her day was over.

Miss Manuel, already informed of her arrival by a hurried telephone
message from the office, was waiting for her at the door of their
apartment. She burst into tears as she put her arms around her patient
and kissed her and led her inside.

"Oh, my dear, how _could_ you?" she cried, reproachfully. "Think of the
agonies I've been through. It's almost twelve o'clock."

The other woman did not look at her, nor did she return the caress. She
walked into the room and sat down at her desk, with a strange
appearance of haste, at which the nurse marvelled. Without waiting to
take off her hat or coat, she seized a pen and paper and wrote these
lines, marking them plainly:

PERSONAL

FOR INSERTION IN TO-MORROW'S "HERALD"

_PHILIP.--The purse was purposely left with you. Its contents are
yours._

She put this in an envelope and directed it to the _Herald_ Advertising
Department. Then, for the first time, she spoke to the nurse, balancing
the envelope absently in her hand as she talked, and not looking once
at the other's face. Her tones were level and monotonous, almost as if
she were repeating a lesson.

"You need not have worried," she said, answering at last the nurse's
first words. "I've had what I've wanted for years--a whole day to
myself. I've done what I wanted to do. It's been worth while. But," she
added, more slowly, "you needn't ask me about it, for I shall not tell
you anything. Ring for a messenger, please. I want this taken to the
_Herald_ office at once; give him the money to pay for it."

In silence Miss Manuel obeyed. When the boy came she went into the hall
to hand the envelope to him, glancing at the address as she did so. The
instant she crossed the threshold Alice Stansbury slipped into the next
room and opened a window looking down into a court. As she did so she
whimpered like a frightened child.

"I must do it," she whispered. "I must--I must--now--now--now! If I
wait, I won't--dare."

When the nurse entered the room there was only the open window to tell
her what had happened. Panting, she leaned out and looked down with
starting eyes. Far below, on the asphalt floor of the court, was a dark
mass which moved once and then lay still.

The little clock on the table in the inner room struck twelve. Out in
the hall the messenger whistled softly as he waited for the elevator.
Hearing these familiar sounds, the nurse cast off the paralysis which
had held her, and the silent corridor of the great hotel echoed her
useless call for help.



IV

THE SIMPLE LIFE OF GENEVIEVE MAUD


Genevieve Maud reclined in a geranium-bed in an attitude of unstudied
ease. On her fat body was a white dress, round her waist was a wide,
blue sash, perched on one side of her head was a flaunting blue bow,
and in her heart was bitterness. It was dimly comforting to lie down in
all this finery, but it did not really help much. She brooded darkly
upon her wrongs. They were numerous, and her cherubic little face took
on additional gloom as she summed them up. First, she had been
requested to be good--a suggestion always unwelcome to the haughty soul
of Genevieve Maud, and doubly so this morning when she saw no
alternative but to obey it. Secondly, there was no one to play with--a
situation depressing to any companionable being, and grindingly so to
one who considered all men her peers, all women her unquestioning
slaves, and all animals grateful ministers to her needs in lowlier
fields of delight.

These delusions, it must be admitted, had been fostered during the four
short but eventful years of Genevieve Maud's life. Her method of
approach had been singularly compelling; old and young paused not to
argue, but freely stripped themselves of adornments she fancied, and
animals, from the kitten she carried round by one ear to the great St.
Bernard she half strangled in recurring moments of endearment, bore
with her adoringly, and humbly followed the trail of cake she left
behind her when she tired of them and trotted off in search of fresh
attractions. These were usually numerous; and had they been rarer, the
ingenuity of Genevieve Maud would have been equal to the test. There
were no social distinctions in her individual world. But one short year
ago she had followed a hand-organ man and a monkey to a point safely
distant from too-observant relatives and servants; there, beside the
chattering monkey, she had sung and danced and scrambled for pennies
and shaken a tambourine, and generally conducted herself like a
_debutante_ maenad.

That had been a glorious day. She recalled it now smoulderingly,
resentfully. Different, indeed, was the tragic present. No one to play
with--that was bad enough. But there were still worse conditions. She
was not even allowed to play by herself! Rover had been banished to a
neighbor's, the kitten had been lent generously to the Joyce children,
her human playmates had been warned off the premises, and Genevieve
Maud had been urged to be a dear little girl and keep very, very quiet
because mamma was sick. As if this was not enough, fate drove its
relentless knife and gave it a final twist. Far back in a corner of the
garden where she lay, almost hidden by the drooping branches of an old
willow, sat her two sisters, Helen Adeline and Grace Margaret, highly
superior beings of a stately dignity even beyond their ripe ages of
eleven and nine years. They were too old to play with little girls, as
they had frequently mentioned to Genevieve Maud, but they were not
wholly beyond the power of her spell, and there had been occasions when
they had so far forgotten themselves as to descend to her level and
enjoy doll tea-parties and similar infantile pleasures. To-day,
however, they were of a remoteness. Their plump backs were turned to
her, their heads were close together, and on the soft afternoon breeze
that floated over the garden were borne sibilant whispers. They were
telling each other secrets--secrets from which Genevieve Maud, by
reason of her tender years, was irrevocably shut out.

Genevieve Maud sat up suddenly in the flower-bed as the full horror of
this truth burst upon her, and then briskly entered into action
designed to transform the peace and quiet of the scene. Her small, fat
face turned purple, her big, brown eyes shut tight, her round mouth
opened, and from the tiny aperture came a succession of shrieks which
would have lulled a siren into abashed silence. The effect of this
demonstration, rarely long delayed, was instantaneous now. A
white-capped nurse came to an up-stairs window and shook her head
warningly; the two small sisters rose and scurried across the lawn; a
neighbor came to the hedge and clapped her hands softly, clucking
mystic monosyllables supposed to be of a soothing nature; neighboring
children within hearing assumed half-holiday expressions and started
with a rush to the side of the blatant afflicted one. Surveying all
this through half-shut eyes and hearing the steady tramp of the
oncoming relief corps, an expression of triumphant content rested for
an instant of Genevieve Maud's face. Then she tied it up again into
knots of even more disfiguring pattern, took another long breath, and
apparently made an earnest effort to attract the attention of citizens
of the next township. "I'm tired!" was the message Genevieve Maud sent
to a sympathetic world on the wings of this megaphonic roar.

The trained nurse, who had rushed down-stairs and into the garden, now
reached her side and drastically checked Genevieve Maud's histrionism
by spreading a spacious palm over the wide little mouth. With her other
hand she hoisted Genevieve Maud from the flower-bed and escorted her to
neutral ground on the lawn.

"'Tired!'" repeated the irate nurse, as the uproar subsided to gurgles.
"Heavens! I should think you would be, after that!" Helen Adeline and
Grace Margaret arrived simultaneously, and the older child took the
situation and the infant in hand with her best imitation of her
mother's manner.

"I am so sorry you were disturbed, Miss Wynne," she said, "and poor
mamma, too. We will take care of Genevieve Maud, and she won't cry any
more. We were just making some plans for her future," she ended,
loftily.

The mouth of Genevieve Maud, stretched for another yell, was arrested
in its distension. Her small ears opened wide. Was she, after all, in
the secret? It would seem so, for the nurse, seemingly satisfied, left
the three children alone and went back to her patient, while Helen
Adeline at once led her small sister to the choice retreat under the
willow.

"We are going to talk to you, Genevieve Maud," she began, "ve-ry
seriously, and we want you to pay 'tention and try to understand." This
much was easy. Mamma usually opened her impressive addresses in such
fashion.

"'Pay 'tention and try to understand," echoed Genevieve Maud, and
grinned in joyful interest.

"Yes, really try," repeated Helen Adeline, firmly. Then, rather
impatiently, and as one bearing with the painful limitations of the
young, she went on:

"You're so little, Maudie, you see, you don't know; and you won't know
even if we tell you. But you are a spoiled child; every one says so,
and mamma said the other day that something should be done. She's sick,
so she can't do it, but we can. We've got to take care of you, anyhow,
so this is a good time. Now what it really is, is a kind of game.
Gracie and I will play it, and you are going to--to--well, you are
going to be the game."

Genevieve Maud nodded solemnly, well satisfied. She was in it, anyhow.
What mattered the petty details? "'Going to be the game,'" she echoed,
as was her invariable custom, with the air of uttering an original
thought.

Helen Adeline went on impressively.

"It's called the simple life," she said, "and grown-up folks are
playing it now. I heard the minister an' mamma talking about it las'
week for hours an' hours an' hours. They give up pomps an' vanerties,
the minister says, an' they mus'n't have luxuries, an' they mus' live
like nature an' save their souls. They can't save their souls when they
have pomps an' vanerties. We thought we'd try it with you first, an'
then if we like it--er--if it's nice, I mean, p'r'aps Grace an' I will,
too. But mamma is sick, an' you've had too many things an' too much
'tention, so it's a good time for you to lead the simple life an' do
without things."

Genevieve Maud, gazing into her sister's face with big, interested
eyes, was vaguely, subconsciously aware that the new game might halt
this side of perfect content; but she was of an experimental turn and
refrained from expressing any scepticism until she knew what was
coming. In the mean time the eyes of her sister Grace Margaret had
roamed disapprovingly over Genevieve Maud's white dress, the blue sash
that begirded her middle, the rampant bow on her hair. Katie had put on
all these things conscientiously, and had then joyfully freed her mind
from the burden of thought of the child for the rest of the afternoon.

"Don't you think," Grace Margaret asked Helen Adeline, tentatively,
"sashes an' bows is pomps?"

Helen Adeline gave the speaker a stolid, unexpressive glance. She
acquiesced.

"Let's take 'em off," went on the younger and more practical spirit.
"Then we won't never have to tie 'em for her, either, when they get
loose."

They stripped Genevieve Maud, first of the sash and bows, then of the
white gown, next of her soft undergarments, finally, as zeal waxed,
even of her shoes and stockings. She stood before them clad in
innocence and full of joyful expectation.

"All these fine clothes is pomps an' vanerties," remarked Helen
Adeline, firmly. "The minister said so when he was talking with mamma
'bout the simple life, an' Gracie and I listened. It was very
interestin'."

She surveyed the innocent nudity of her little sister, "naked but not
ashamed," with a speculative glance.

"Katie will be glad, won't she?" she reflected, aloud. "She says
there's too much washing. Now she won't have to do any more for you.
Don't you feel better an' happier without those pomps?" she asked
Genevieve Maud.

That young person was already rolling on the grass, thrusting her
little toes into the cool earth, exulting in her new-found sartorial
emancipation. If this was the "new game," the new game was a winner.
Grace Margaret, gazing doubtfully at her, was dimly conscious of an
effect of incompleteness.

"I think she ought to have a hat," she murmured, at last. Helen Adeline
was good-naturedly acquiescent.

"All right," she answered, cheerfully, "but not a pompy one. Papa's big
straw will do." They found it and put it on the infant, whose eyes and
face were thereby fortunately shaded from the hot glare of the August
sun. Almost before it was on her head she had slipped away and was
running in and out of the shrubbery, her white body flashing among the
leaves.

"We'll have our luncheon here," announced Helen Adeline, firmly, "an'
I'll bring it out to save Katie trouble. Maudie can't have rich food,
of course, 'cos she's livin' the simple life. We'll give her bread off
a tin plate."

Grace Margaret looked startled.

"We haven't got any tin plate," she objected.

"Rover has."

Grace Margaret's eyes dropped suddenly, then rose and met her sister's.
An unwilling admiration crept into them.

"How will Maudie learn nice table manners?" she protested, feebly.
"Mamma says she must, you know."

"Folks don't have nice table manners when they're livin' simple lives,"
announced Helen Adeline, loftily. "They just eat. I guess we won't give
her knives an' forks an' spoons, either."

Grace Margaret battled with temptation and weakly succumbed.

"Let's give her some of the rice pudding, though," she suggested. "It
will be such fun to see her eat it, 'specially if it's very creamy!"

Of further details of that luncheon all three children thereafter
declined to speak. To Genevieve Maud the only point worthy of mention
was that she had what the others had. This compromise effected, the
manner of eating it was to her a detail of indescribable unimportance.
What were knives, forks, spoons, or their lack, to Genevieve Maud? The
tin plate was merely a gratifying novelty, and that she had been in
close communion with rice pudding was eloquently testified by the
samples of that delicacy which clung affectionately to her features and
her fat person during the afternoon.

While they ate, Helen Adeline's active mind had been busy. She
generously gave her sisters the benefit of its working without delay.

"She mus'n't have any money," she observed, thoughtfully, following
with unseeing eyes the final careful polish the small tongue of
Genevieve Maud was giving Rover's borrowed plate. "No one has money in
the simple life, so we mus' take her bank an' get all the money out
an'--"

"Spend it!" suggested Grace Margaret, rapturously, with her second
inspiration. Helen Adeline reflected. The temptation was great, but at
the back of her wise little head lay a dim foreboding as to the
possible consequences.

"No," she finally decided, consistently. "I guess it mus' be given to
the poor. We'll break the bank an' take it out, an' Maudie can give it
to the poor all by herself. Then if any one scolds, _she_ did it!
You'll enjoy that kind an' noble act, won't you, Maudie?" she added, in
her stateliest grown-up manner.

Maudie decided that she would, and promptly corroborated Helen
Adeline's impression. The soft August breeze fanned her body, the grass
was cool and fresh under her feet, and her little stomach looked as if
modelled from a football by her ample luncheon. She was to be the
central figure in the distribution of her wealth, and wisdom beyond her
own would burden itself with the insignificant details. Genevieve Maud,
getting together the material for large and slushy mud pies, sang
blithely to herself, and found the simple life its own reward.

"We'll leave her with her dolls," continued Helen Adeline, "an' we'll
hunt up deservin' poor. Then we'll bring 'em here an' Maudie can give
'em all she has. But first"--her little sharp eyes rested
discontentedly upon Genevieve Maud's family--six dolls reposing in a
blissful row in a pansy-bed--"first we mus' remove _those_ pomps an'
vanerties."

Grace gasped.

"Take away the dolls?" she ejaculated, dizzily.

"No, not edzactly. Jus' take off all their clothes. Don't you think it
looks silly for them to have clothes on when Maudie hasn't any?"

Grace Margaret agreed that it did, and at once the mistake was
rectified, the clothing was added to the heap of Genevieve Maud's
garments, and a pleasing effect of harmony reigned. The little girls
regarded it with innocent satisfaction.

"I s'pose we couldn't really take her dolls," reflected Helen Adeline,
aloud. "She'd make an awful fuss, an' she's so good an' quiet now it's
a pity to start her off. But her toys _mus'_ go. They're very
expensive, an' they're pomps an' vanerties, I know. So we'll take 'em
with us an' give 'em to poor children."

"You think of lots of things, don't you?" gurgled Grace Margaret, with
warm admiration. Her sister accepted the tribute modestly, as no more
than her due. Leaving Genevieve Maud happy with her mud pies and her
stripped dolls, the two sought the nursery and there made a
discriminating collection of her choicest treasures. Her Noah's Ark,
her picture-books, her colored balls and blocks, her woolly lambs that
moved on wheels, her miniature croquet set, all fell into their
ruthless young hands and, as a crowning crime, were dumped into the
little go-cart that was the very apple of Genevieve Maud's round eyes.
It squeaked under its burden as the children drew it carefully along
the hall. They carried it down-stairs with exaggerated caution, but
Genevieve Maud saw it from afar, and, deeply moved by their
thoughtfulness, approached with gurgles of selfish appreciation. The
conspirators exchanged glances of despair. It was the intrepid spirit
of Helen Adeline that coped with the distressing situation. Sitting
down before her victim, she took Maudie's reluctant hands in hers and
gazed deep into her eyes as mamma was wont to gaze into hers on the
various occasions when serious talks became necessary.

"Now, Genevieve Maud," she began, "you mus' listen an' you mus' mind,
or you can't play. Ain't you havin' a good time? If you don't want to
do what we say, we'll put your clothes right straight on again an'
leave you in the midst of your pomps an' vanerties: an' then--what'll
become of your soul?" She paused impressively to allow this vital
question to make its full appeal. Genevieve Maud writhed and squirmed.

"But," continued Helen Adeline, solemnly, "if you do jus' as we say,
we'll let you play some more." The larger issue was temporarily lost
sight of this time, but the one presented seemed to appeal vividly to
Genevieve Maud.

"Let Genevieve Maud play some more," she wheedled.

"And will you do everything we say?"

"Do everything you say," promised Genevieve Maud, recklessly.

"Very well,"--this with a fidelity in its imitation to her mother's
manner which would have convulsed that admirable and long-suffering
woman could she have heard it. "An' first of all we mus' give away your
toys to poor children."

The mouth of Genevieve Maud opened. Helen Adeline held up a warning
hand, and it shut.

"They're _pomps_," repeated the older sister, positively, "an' we'll
bring you simple toys if poor children will exchange with us."

This was at least extenuating. Genevieve Maud hesitated and sniffed. In
the matter of being stripped, toys were more important than clothes.

"If you don't, you know, you can't play," Grace Margaret reminded her.

"Awright," remarked Genevieve Maud, briefly. "Give toys to poor
chil'ren."

They hurriedly left her before her noble purpose could do so, and
Genevieve Maud, left to her own resources, made unctuous mud pies and
fed them to her family. Grace Margaret and Helen Adeline returned in
triumph within the hour and laid at the feet of their small victim
modest offerings consisting of one armless rubber doll, one dirty and
badly torn picture-book, and one top, broken.

"These is simple," declared Helen Adeline, with truth, "an' the poor
Murphy children has your pomps, Maudie. Are you glad?"

Genevieve Maud, surveying doubtfully the nondescript collection before
her, murmured without visible enthusiasm something which was
interpreted as meaning that she was glad. As a matter of fact, the
charm of the simple life was not borne in upon her compellingly. The
top she accepted until she discovered that it would not go. The rubber
doll she declined to touch until Grace Margaret suggested that it had
been in a hospital and had had its arms amputated like Mrs. Clark's son
Charlie. Deeply moved by the pathos of this tragic fate, Genevieve Maud
added the rubber doll to her aristocratic family, whose members seemed
to shrink aside as it fell among them. The picture-book she declined to
touch at all.

"It's dirty," she remarked, with an air of finality which effectually
closed the discussion. By this time she was not herself an especially
effective monument of cleanliness. The rice pudding and the mud pies
had combined to produce a somewhat bizarre effect, and the dirt she had
casually gathered from the paths, the flower-beds, and the hedges
enlivened but did not improve the ensemble.

"She ought to be washed pretty soon," suggested Grace, surveying her
critically; but to this tacit criticism Helen Adeline promptly took
exception.

"They don't have to, so much," she objected, "when it's the simple
life. That's one of the nice things."

With this decision Genevieve Maud was well content. Her tender years
forbade hair-splitting and subtle distinctions; the term "accumulated
dirt" or "old dirt" had no significance for her. She could not have
told why she rejected the Murphy child's thoroughly grimed
picture-book, yet herself rolled happily about in a thin coating of mud
and dust, but she did both instinctively.

Her attention was pleasantly distracted by subdued cries from the
street beyond the garden hedge. Three Italian women, all old, stood
there gesticulating freely and signalling to the children, and a small
ragged boy on crutches hovered nervously near them. Helen Adeline
jumped to her feet with a sudden exclamation.

"It's the poor!" she said, excitedly. "For your money, Genevieve Maud.
I told them to come. Get the bank, Gracie, an' she mus' give it all
away!"

Grace departed promptly on her errand, but there was some delay in
opening the bank when she returned--an interval filled pleasantly by
the visitors with interested scrutiny of the shameless Genevieve Maud,
whose airy unconsciousness of her unconventional appearance uniquely
attested her youth. When the money finally came, rolling out in
pennies, five-cent pieces, and rare dimes, the look of good-natured
wonder in the old black eyes peering wolfishly over the hedge changed
quickly to one of keen cupidity, but the children saw nothing of this.
Helen Adeline divided the money as evenly as she could into four little
heaps.

"It's all she has," she explained, grandly, "so she's got to give it
all to you, 'cos riches is pomps an' ruins souls. Give it, Genevieve
Maud," she continued, magnanimously surrendering the centre of the
stage to the novice in the simple life.

Genevieve Maud handed it over with a fat and dirty little paw, and the
women and the lame boy took it uncritically, with words of thanks and
even with friendly smiles. Strangely enough, there was no quarrelling
among themselves over the distribution of the spoils. For one golden
moment they were touched and softened by the gift of the baby hand that
gave its all so generously. Then the wisdom of a speedy disappearance
struck them and they faded away, leaving the quiet street again
deserted. Helen Adeline drew a long breath as the bright gleam of their
kerchiefs disappeared around a corner.

"That's nice," she exclaimed, contentedly. "Now what else can we make
her do?"

The two pair of eyes rested meditatively on the unconscious little
sister, again lost to her surroundings in the construction of her
twenty-third mud pie. Not even the surrender of her fortune beguiled
her from this unleavened joy of the simple life. "We've made her do
'mos' everything, I guess," admitted Grace Margaret, with evident
reluctance. It appeared so, indeed. Stripped of her clothing, her money
and her toys, it would seem that little in the way of earthly
possessions was left to Genevieve Maud; but even as they looked again,
Grace Margaret had another inspiration.

"Don't they work when they have simple lives?" she asked, abruptly.
"'Course they work."

"Then let's have Genevieve Maud do our work."

There was silence for a moment--silence filled with the soul-satisfying
enjoyment of a noble conception.

"Grace Margaret Davenport," said Helen, solemnly, "you're a smart
girl!" She exhaled a happy sigh, and added: "'Course we'll let her! She
mus' work. She can water the geraniums for you an' the pansies for me,
an' gather up the croquet things for me an' take them in, an' fill
Rover's water-basin, an' get seed for the birds, an' pick up all the
paper an' leaves on the lawn."

It is to be deplored that the active and even strenuous life thus
outlined did not for the moment appeal to Genevieve Maud when they
brought its attractions to her attention. The afternoon was fading, and
Genevieve Maud was beginning to fade, too; her little feet were tired,
and her fat legs seemed to curve more in her weariness of well-doing;
but the awful threat of being left out of the game still held, and she
struggled bravely with her task, while the two arch-conspirators
reposed languidly and surveyed her efforts from beneath the willow-tree.

"It'll be her bedtime pretty soon," suggested Helen Adeline, the
suspicion of a guilty conscience lurking in the remark. "She can have
her bread and milk like she always does--that's simple 'nuff. But do
you think she ought to sleep in that handsome brass crib?"

Grace Margaret did not think so, but she was sadly puzzled to find a
substitute.

"Mamma won't let her sleep anywhere else, either," she pointed out.

"Mamma won't know."

"Annie or Katie will know--p'r'aps."

The "p'r'aps" was tentative. Annie and Katie had taken full advantage
of the liberty attending the illness of their mistress, and their
policy with the children was one of masterly inactivity. So long as the
little girls were quiet they were presumably good, and hence, to a
surety, undisturbed. Still, it is hardly possible that even their
carelessness would fail to take account of Genevieve Maud's unoccupied
bed, if unoccupied it proved to be.

"An' cert'inly papa will know."

Helen Adeline's last hope died with this sudden reminder. She sighed.
Of course papa would come to kiss his chicks good-night, but that was
hours hence. Much could be done in those hours. Her problem was
suddenly simplified, for even as she bent her brows and pondered, Grace
Margaret called her attention to an alluring picture behind her. Under
the shelter of a blossoming white hydrangea lay Genevieve Maud fast
asleep. It was a dirty and an exhausted Genevieve Maud, worn with the
heat and toil of the day, scratched by bush and brier, but wonderfully
appealing in her helplessness--so appealing, that Helen Adeline's heart
yearned over her. She conquered the momentary weakness.

"_I_ think," she suggested, casually, "she ought to sleep in the barn."

Grace Margaret gasped.

"It ain't a simple life sleepin' in lovely gardens," continued the
authority, with simple but thrilling conviction. "An'--wasn't the
Infant Jesus born in barns?"

Grace Margaret essayed a faint protest.

"Papa won't like it," she began, feebly.

"He won't know. 'Course we won't let her _stay_ there! But just a
little while, to make it finish right--the way it ought to be."

The holding up of such lofty ideals of consistency conquered Grace
Margaret--so thoroughly, in fact, that she helped to carry the sleeping
Genevieve Maud not only to the barn, but even, in a glorious
inspiration, to Rover's kennel--a roomy habitation and beautifully
clean. The pair deposited the still sleeping innocent there and stepped
back to survey the effect. Helen Adeline drew a long breath of
satisfaction. "Well," she said, with the content of an artist surveying
the perfect work, "if that ain't simple lives, I don't know what is!"

They stole out of the place and into the house. The shadows lengthened
on the floor of the big barn, and the voices of the children in the
street beyond grew fainter and finally died away.

Lights began to twinkle in neighboring windows. Rover, returning from
his friendly visit, sought his home, approached its entrance
confidently, and retreated with a low growl. The baby slept on, and the
dog, finally recognizing his playmate, stretched himself before the
entrance of his kennel and loyally mounted guard, with a puzzled look
in his faithful brown eyes. The older children, lost in agreeable
conversation and the attractions of baked apples and milk toast, wholly
forgot Genevieve Maud and the flying hours.

It was almost dark when their father came home and, after a visit to
the bedside of his wife, looked to the welfare of his children. The
expression on the faces of the two older ones as they suddenly grasped
the fact of his presence explained in part the absence of the third.
Mr. Davenport had enjoyed the advantages of eleven years of daily
association with his daughter Helen Adeline.

"Where is she?" he asked, briefly, with a slight prickling of the scalp.

In solemn procession, in their night-gowns, they led him to her side;
and the peace of the perfumed night as they passed through the garden
was broken with explanations and mutual recriminations and expressions
of unavailing regret. Rover rose as they approached and looked up into
his master's eyes, wagging his tail in eager welcome.

"Here she is," he seemed to say. "It's all right. _I_ looked after her."

The father's eyes grew dim as he patted the dog's fine head and lifted
the naked body of his youngest daughter in his arms. Her little body
was cold, and she shivered as she awoke and looked at him. Then she
gazed down into the conscience-stricken faces of her sisters and memory
returned. It drew from her one of her rare spontaneous remarks.

"Don't yike simple yives," announced Genevieve Maud, with considerable
firmness. "Don't yant to play any more."

"You shall not, my babykins," promised her father, huskily. "No more
simple life for Genevieve Maud, you may be sure."

Later, after the hot bath and the supper which both her father and the
trained nurse had supervised, Genevieve Maud was tucked cozily away in
the little brass crib which had earlier drawn out the stern disapproval
of her sisters. Her round face shone with cold cream. A silver mug,
full of milk, stood beside her crib, on her suggestion that she might
become "firsty" during the night. Finding the occasion one of unlimited
indulgence and concession, she had demanded and secured the privilege
of wearing her best night-gown--one resplendent with a large pink bow.
In her hand she clasped a fat cookie.

Helen Adeline and Grace Margaret surveyed this sybaritic scene from the
outer darkness of the hall.

"Look at her poor, perishin' body full of comforts," sighed Helen
Adeline, dismally. Then, with concentrated bitterness, "I s'pose we'll
never dare to even _think_ 'bout her soul again!"



V

HIS BOY


Captain Arthur Hamilton, of the ----th Infantry, moved on his narrow
cot, groaned partly from irritation and partly from pain, muttered a
few inaudible words, and looked with strong disapproval toward the
opening of the hospital tent in which he lay. Through it came the soft
breezes of the Cuban night, a glimpse of brilliantly starred
horizon-line, and the cheerful voice of Private Kelly, raised in song.
The words came distinctly to the helpless officer's reluctant ears.

"'Oh, Liza, de-ar Liza,'" carolled Kelly, in buoyant response to the
beauty of the evening.

Captain Hamilton muttered again as he suppressed a seductive desire to
throw something at the Irishman's head, silhouetted against the sky as
he limped past the entrance. Six weeks had elapsed since the battle of
San Juan, in which Hamilton and Kelly had been among the many
grievously hurt. Kelly, witness this needless service of song, was
already convalescent. He could wander from tent to tent in well-meaning
but futile efforts to cheer less fortunate mates. Baker was around
again, too, Hamilton remembered, and Barnard and Hallenbeck and Lee,
and--oh, hosts of others. He ran over their names as he had done
countless times before in the long days and nights which had passed
since he had been "out of it all," as he put it to himself. He alone,
of his fellow officers in the regiment, still lay chained to his
wretched cot, a very log of helplessness, in which a fiery spirit
flamed and consumed. His was not a nature that took gracefully to
inactivity; and of late it had been borne in upon him with a cold,
sickening sense of fear, new, like his helplessness, that inactivity
must be his portion for a long, long time to come. At first the thought
had touched his consciousness only at wide intervals, but now it was
becoming a constant, lurking horror, always with him, or just within
reach, ready to spring.

He was "out of it all," not for weeks or even for months, but very
possibly for all time. The doctor's reticence told him this; so did his
own sick heart; so did the dutiful cheerfulness of his men and his
brother officers. They overdid it, he realized, and the efforts they so
conscientiously made showed how deep their sympathy must be, and how
tragic the cause of it. His lips twisted sardonically as he remembered
their optimistic predictions of his immediate recovery and the tributes
they paid to his courage in the field. It was true he had distinguished
himself in action (by chance, he assured himself and them), and he had
figured as a hero in the subsequent reports of the battle. But the
other fellows would hardly have bothered to have a trifle like that
mentioned, he told himself, if the little glowing badge of fame he
carried off the field had not been now his sole possession. He had
given more than his life for it. He had sacrificed his career, his
place in the active ranks, his perfect, athletic body. His life would
have been a simple gift in comparison. Why couldn't it have been taken?
he wondered for the hundredth time. Why could not he, like others, have
died gloriously and been laid away with the flag wrapped round him? But
that, he reflected, bitterly, would have been too much luck. Instead,
he must drag on and on and on, of no use to himself or to any one else.

Again and again he contemplated the dreary outlook, checking off
mentally the details of the past, the depressing experiences to come,
the hopelessness of it all; and as his mind swung wearily round the
small circle he despised himself for the futility of the whole mental
process, and for his inability to fix his thoughts on things other than
his own misfortune. A man paralyzed; a thing dead from the waist
down--that was what he had become. He groaned again as the realization
gnawed at his soul, and at the sound a white-capped nurse rose from a
table where she had been sitting and came to his bedside with a smile
of professional cheerfulness. She had a tired, worn face, and faded
blue eyes, which looked as if they had seen too much of human
suffering. But an indomitable spirit gazed out of them, and spoke, too,
in her alert step and in the fine poise of her head and shoulders.

"Your mail has come," she told him, "and there seem to be some nice
letters--fat ones. One, from Russia, has a gold crown on the envelope.
Perhaps I had better leave you alone while you read it."

Hamilton smiled grimly as he held out a languid hand. He liked Miss
Foster. She was a good sort, and she had stood by the boys nobly
through the awful days after the fight. He liked her humor, too, though
he sometimes had suspicions as to its spontaneity. Then his eye fell on
the top envelope of the little package she had given him, and at the
sight of the handwriting he caught his breath, and the blood rushed
suddenly to his face. He closed his eyes for a moment in an effort to
pull himself together. Did he still care, after ten years, and like
that! But possibly, very probably, it was merely a manifestation of his
wretched weakness, which could not endure even a pleasant surprise
without these absurd physical effects. He remembered, with a more
cheerful grin, that he had hardly thought of her at all during the past
year. Preparations for war and his small part in them had absorbed him
heart and soul. He opened the letter without further self-analysis, and
read with deepening interest the closely written lines on the thin
foreign paper, whose left-hand corner held a duplicate of the gold
crown on the envelope.

"DEAR OLD FRIEND,--You have forgotten me, no doubt, in all these years.
Ten, is it not? But I have not forgotten you, nor my other friends in
America, exile though I am and oblivious though I may have seemed. I do
not know quite why I have not come home for a visit long before this.
Indeed, I have planned to do so from year to year, but a full life and
many varied interests have deferred the journey one way or another. I
have three boys--nine, seven, and five--and it would be difficult to
bring them with me and impossible to leave them behind. So, you see--

"But my heart often longs for my native land, and in one tower of this
old castle I have a great room full of souvenirs of home. It is the
spot I love best in my new country. Here I read my mail and write my
letters and follow American news in the newspapers friends send me.
Here, with my boys tumbling over each other before the fireplace, I
read of the ascent of San Juan Hill, and of you, my friend, and your
splendid courage, and your injury.

"No doubt by the time this letter reaches you you will be well again,
and in no need of my sympathy. But you will let me tell you how proud
of you I am.

"I read the newspaper accounts to my boys, who were greatly interested
and impressed when they learned that mamma knew the hero. I was much
amused by the youngest, Charlie--too small, I thought, to understand it
all. But he stood before me with his hands on my knees and his big
brown eyes on my face; and when I finished reading he asked many
questions about the war and about you. He is the most American of my
children, and loves to hear of his mother's country. After the others
had gone he cuddled down in my lap and demanded the 'story' repeated in
full; and when I described again the magnificent way in which you saved
your men, he said, firmly, 'I am _his_ boy.'

"I thought you might be interested in this unsought, spontaneous
tribute, and my purpose in writing is to pass it on to you--though I
admit it has taken me a long time to get 'round to it!

"You will forgive this rambling letter, and you will believe me, now as
ever,

"Sincerely your friend,

"MARGARET CHALLONER VALDRONOVNA."

Hamilton slowly refolded the letter and returned it to its envelope,
letting the solace of its sweet friendliness sink into his sore heart
the while. She had not wholly forgotten him, then, this beautiful woman
he had loved and who had given him a gracious and charming
_camaraderie_ in return for the devotion of his life. He had not been
senseless enough to misconstrue her feeling, so he had never spoken;
and she, after two brilliant Washington seasons, had married a great
Russian noble and sailed away without suspecting, he felt sure, what
she was to him. He had recovered, as men do, but he had not loved
again, nor had he married. He wondered if she knew. Very probably; for
the newspapers which devoted so much space to his achievements had
added detailed biographical sketches, over which he had winced from
instinctive distaste of such intimate discussion of his personal
affairs. The earlier reports (evidently the ones she had read) had
published misleading accounts of his injuries. They were serious, but
not dangerous, according to these authorities. It was only recently
that rumors of his true condition had begun to creep into print. The
Princess had not read these. Hamilton was glad of that.

He recalled dreamily the different passages of her letter, the
remainder of his mail lying neglected on his bed. That boy--her
boy--_his_ boy. He smiled to himself, at first with amusement, then
with a sudden tenderness that pleasantly softened his stern lips. He
was weak enough, frightened enough, lonely enough, to grasp with an
actual pitiful throb of the heart this tiny hand stretched out to him
across the sea. He liked that boy--_his_ boy. He must be a fine fellow.
He wondered idly how he looked. "Three boys--nine, seven, five"--yes,
Charlie was five and had great brown eyes. Like his mother's, the
stricken man remembered. She had brown eyes--and such brown eyes. Such
kind, friendly, womanly brown eyes--true mirrors of the strong soul
that looked from them. Something hot and wet stung the surface of
Hamilton's cheek. He touched it unsuspectingly, and then swore alone in
deep, frank self-disgust.

"Well, of all the sentimental idiots!" he muttered. "My nerves are in a
nice way, when I bawl like a baby because some one sends me a friendly
letter. Guess I'll answer it."

Miss Foster brought him pen, ink, and paper, and he began, writing with
some difficulty, as he lay flat on his back.

"MY DEAR PRINCESS,--Your letter has just reached me, and you cannot, I
am sure, imagine the cheer and comfort it brought. I am still lingering
unwillingly on the sick-list, but there is some talk now of shipping me
north on the _Relief_ next week, when I hope to give a better account
of myself. In the mean time, and after, I shall think much of you and
the boys, especially of the youngest and his flattering adoption of me.
I am already insufferably proud of that, and rather sentimental as
well, as you will see by the fact that I want his photograph! Will you
send it to me, in care of the Morton Trust Company, New York? I do not
yet know just where I shall be.

"There is a pleasant revelation of well-being and happiness between the
lines of your letter. Believe me, I rejoice in both.

"Faithfully yours,

"ARTHUR HAMILTON."

As he read it over the letter seemed curt and unsatisfactory, but he
was already exhausted and had not the strength to make another effort.
So he wearily sealed and addressed it, and gave it to Miss Foster for
the next mail. Her tired eyes widened a little as she artlessly read
the inscription.

During the seemingly endless days and nights that followed, Hamilton
battled manfully but despairingly with his sick soul. Wherever he
looked there was blackness, lightened once or twice, and for an instant
only, by a sudden passing memory of a little child. It would be too
much to say that the memory comforted him. Nothing could do that, yet.
All he dared hope for was for the strength to go through his ordeal
with something approaching manliness and dignity. The visits of his
friends were a strain to him, as well as to them, and it was sadly easy
to see how the sense of his hopeless case depressed them. He could
imagine the long breath they drew as they left his tent and found
themselves again in the rich, warm, healthy world. He did not blame
them. In their places, he would no doubt have felt just the same. But
he was inevitably driven more and more into himself, and in his dogged
efforts to get away from self-centred thought he turned with a sturdy
determination to fancies about remote things, and especially to
imaginings of the boy--the little fellow who loved him, and who, thank
God, was not as yet "sorry for him!" Oddly enough, the mother seemed to
have taken her place in the background of Hamilton's thoughts. It was
her son who appealed to him--the innocent man-child, half American,
half Russian, entering so happily and unconsciously on the enhanced
uncertainties of life in the tragic land of his birth.

During the trying, stormy voyage north on the great hospital ship,
Hamilton had strange, half-waking visions of a curly headed lad with
brown eyes, tumbling over a bear-skin rug in front of a great
fireplace, or standing at his mother's knee looking into her face as
she talked of America and of an American soldier. He began to fancy
that the vision held at bay the other crowding horrors which lay in
wait. If he could keep his mind on that he was safe. He was glad the
mother and son could not, in their turn, picture him--as he was.

When the photographs arrived, soon after he reached New York, the
helpless officer opened the bulky package with eager ringers. There
were two "cabinets," both of the child. One showed him at the tender
age of two, a plump, dimpled, beautiful baby, airily clad in an
embroidered towel. The second was apparently quite recent. A
five-year-old boy, in black velvet and a bewildering expanse of lace
collar, looked straight out of the picture with tragic dark eyes, whose
direct glance was so like his mother's that ten years seemed suddenly
obliterated as Hamilton returned their gaze. With these was a little
letter on a child's note-paper, in printed characters which reeled
drunkenly down the page from left to right. Hamilton read it with a
chuckle.

"DEAR CAPTAIN HAMILTON,--I love you very much. I love you becos you
fought in the war. I have your picture. I have put a candle befront of
your picture. The candle is burning. I love you very much. Your boy,

"CHARLIE."

Accompanying this epistolary masterpiece was a brief note from the
writer's mother, explaining that the "picture" of Captain Hamilton, of
whose possession her infant boasted, had been cut from an illustrated
newspaper and pasted on stiff card-board in gratification of the
child's whim.

"He insists on burning a candle before it," she wrote, "evidently from
some dim association with tapers and altars and the rest. As it is all
a new manifestation of his character, we are indulging him freely.
Certainly it can do him no harm to love and admire a brave man.
Besides, to have a candle burned for you! Is not that a new flutter of
glory?"

Hamilton, still in the grasp of a dumb depression he would voice to no
one, was a little amused and more touched. In his hideous loneliness
and terror the pretty incident, one he would have smiled at and
forgotten a year ago, took on an interest out of all proportion to its
importance. He felt a sudden, unaccountable sense of pleasant
companionship. The child became a loved personality--the one human,
close, vital thing in a world over which there seemed to hang a thick
black fog through which Hamilton vaguely, wretchedly groped. He himself
did not know why the child interested him so keenly, nor did he try to
analyze the fact. He was merely grateful for it, and for the other fact
that he cherished no sentimental feeling for the boy's mother. That had
passed out of his life as everything else had seemingly passed which
belonged to the old order of things. He had always been a calm,
reserved, self-absorbed, unemotional type of man, glorying a little,
perhaps, in his lack of dependence on human kind. In his need he had
turned to his fellows and turned in vain. Now that a precious thing had
come to him unsought, he did not intend to lose it.

Through his physicians he pulled various journalistic wires, resulting
in the suppression, in the newspapers, of the hopeless facts of his
case. He did not intend, he decided, to have his boy think of him as
tied to an invalid's couch. Then, knowing something of human nature,
and of the evanescent character of childish fancies, he ordered shipped
to Russia a variety of American mechanical toys, calculated to swell
the proud bosom of the small boy who received them. This shameless bid
for continued favor met with immediate success. An ecstatic, incoherent
little shriek of delight came from the land of the czar in the form of
another letter; and the candle, which quite possibly would have burned
low or even gone out, blazed up cheerily again.

That was the beginning of an intercourse which interested and diverted
Hamilton for months. He spared no pains to adapt his letters to the
interest and comprehension of his small correspondent, and he derived a
quite incredible amount of satisfaction from the childish scrawls which
came to him in reply. They were wholly babyish documents, about the
donkey, the nurse, the toys, and games of the small boy's daily life.
Usually they were written in his own printed letters. Sometimes they
were dictated to his mother, who faithfully reported every weighty word
that fell from the infant's lips. But always they were full of the
hero-worship of the little child for the big, strong, American
fighting-man; and in every letter, sometimes in the beginning,
sometimes at the end, occasionally in both places, as the enthusiasm of
the writer waxed, was the satisfying assurance, "_I am your boy._"
Hamilton's eyes raced over the little pages till he found that line,
and there rested contentedly.

As the months passed, the healing influence of time wrought its
effects. Hamilton, shut in though he was, adapted himself to the narrow
world of an invalid's room and its few interests. With the wealth he
had fortunately inherited he brought to his side leading specialists
who might possibly help him, and went through alternate ecstatic hopes
and abysmal fears as the great men came and departed. Very quietly,
too, he helped others less fortunate, financially, than himself. The
nurses and physicians in the hospital where he lay learned to like and
admire him, and other patients, convalescents or newcomers who were
able to move about, sought his cheerful rooms and brought into them a
whiff of the outside world. Through it all, winding in and out of the
neutral-colored weeks like a scarlet thread of life and hope, came the
childish letters from Russia, and each week a thick letter went back,
artfully designed to keep alive the love and interest of an imaginative
little boy.

At the end of six months young Charles fell from his donkey and broke
his left arm, but this trivial incident was not allowed to interfere
with the gratifying regularity with which his letters arrived. It was,
however, interesting, as throwing a high light on the place his
American hero held in the child's fancy. His mother touched on this in
her letter describing the accident.

"The arm had to be set at once," she wrote, "and of course it was very
painful. But I told Charlie you would be greatly disappointed if your
boy were not brave and did not obey the doctor. He saw the force of
this immediately, and did not shed a tear, though his dear little face
was white and drawn with pain."

Master Charlie himself discussed the same pleasant incident in the
first letter he dictated after the episode.

"I did not cry," he mentioned, with natural satisfaction. "Mamma cried,
and Sonya cried. Men do not cry. Do they? You did not cry when you were
hurt, did you? I am going to be just like you."

Hamilton laughed over the letter, his pale cheek flushing a little at
the same time. He _had_ cried, once or twice; he recalled it now with
shame. He must try to do better, remembering that he loomed large as a
heroic model for the young.

He was still reading the little letter when Dr. Van Buren, his
classmate at the Point, his one intimate since then, and his physician
now, entered the room, greeted him curtly, and stood at the window for
a moment, drumming his fingers fiercely against the pane. Hamilton knew
the symptoms; Van Buren was nervous and worried about something. He
dropped the small envelope into his lap and looked up.

"Well?" he said, tersely.

Van Buren did not answer for a moment. Then he turned, crossed the room
abruptly, and sat down near the reclining-chair in which the officer
spent his days. The physician's face was strained and pale. His glance,
usually direct, shifted and fell under his friend's inquiring gaze.

"Well?" repeated the latter, compellingly. "I suppose you fellows have
been talking me over again. What's the outcome?"

Van Buren cleared his throat.

"Yes, we--we have, old man," he began, rather huskily--"in there, you
know." He indicated the direction of the consulting-room as he spoke.
"We don't like the recent symptoms."

Unconsciously, Hamilton straightened his shoulders.

"Out with it. Don't mince matters, Frank. Do you think life is so
precious a thing to me that I can't part with it if I've got to?"

Van Buren writhed in his chair.

"It isn't that," he said, "life or death. It's wor--I mean, it's
different. It's--it's these." He laid his hand on the officer's
helpless legs, stretched out stiffly under a gay red afghan. "God!" he
broke out, suddenly, "I don't know how you'll take it, old chap; and
there's no sense in trying to break a thing like this gently. We're
afraid--we think--they'll--have to come off!"

Under the shock of it Hamilton set his teeth.

"Why?" he asked, quietly.

"Because--well, because they're no good. They're dead. They're a
constant menace to you. A scratch or injury of any kind--they've got to
go--that's all, Arthur. But we've been talking it over and we can fix
you up so you can get about and be much better off than you are now."
He leaned forward as he spoke, and his words came quickly and eagerly.
The worst was over; he was ready to picture the other side. Hamilton
stopped him with a gesture.

"Suppose I decline to let them go?" he asked, grimly.

Van Buren stared at him.

"You can't!" he stammered.

"Why not?"

"Because--why, because your life depends on their coming off!"

Hamilton's lips set.

"My _life!_" he repeated. "My precious, glad, young life! So full of
happiness! So useful!" He dropped the savagely bitter tone suddenly.
"No, Frank," he said, quietly, "I won't go through life as the half of
a man. I'll let the thing take its course; or if that will be too slow
and too--horrible, I'll help the hobbling beast on its way. I think I'd
be justified. It's too much to ask--you know it--to be hoisted through
life as a remnant."

Van Buren rose, moved his chair nearer to Hamilton's, and sat down
close to his friend's side. All nervousness had left him. He was again
cool, scientific, professional; but with it all there was the deep
sympathy and understanding of a friend.

"No, you won't," he said, firmly; "you won't do anything of the kind,
and I'll tell you why you won't. Because it isn't in your make-up to
play the coward. That's why. You've got to go through with it and take
what comes, and do it all like the strong chap you are. If you think
there won't be anything left in life, you are mistaken. You can be of a
lot of use; you can do a lot of good. You will have time and
inclination and money. You will be able to get around, not as quickly,
but as surely. With a good man-servant you'll be entirely independent
of drafts on charity or pity. Money has some beautiful uses. If you
were a poor devil who hadn't a cent in the world and would be dependent
on the grudging service of others, I should wish you to accept and
bear, perhaps, but I could not urge you to. Now, your life is helpful
to others. You can give and aid and bless. You can be a greater hero
than the man who went up San Juan Hill, and there are those who will
feel it."

"That is, my money is needed, and because I've got it I should drag out
years of misery while I spread little financial poultices on other
people's ills," returned Hamilton. "No, thanks; it's not enough good.
They can have the money just the same. That can be amputated with
profit to all concerned. I'll leave it to hospitals and homes for the
helpless, especially for fractional humanity--needy remnants. But I
decline absolutely, once and for all, to accept the noble future you
have outlined. I grant you it would be heroic. But have you ever heard
of great heroism with no stimulus to arouse it?"

He raised his hand as he spoke, and brought it down with a gesture of
finality. As it fell, it dropped on the little letter. Mechanically,
his fingers closed on it.

His boy! His brave little boy who had not flinched or cried, because he
meant to be just like Captain Hamilton. What would _he_ think when the
truth came to him years hence, as it must do. What would she think now,
the mother who was glad that her son should "love and admire a brave
man"? The small missive was a stimulus.

Hamilton turned to Van Buren again, checking with a little shake of the
head the impetuous speech that rushed to that gentleman's lips.

"Just wait one moment," he said, thoughtfully. He leaned back and shut
his eyes, and as he did so the familiar scene of months past came
suddenly before them--the quaint old foreign room, the great fireplace
with its blazing logs, the mother, the curly haired boy. His life had
been a lonely one, always, Hamilton reflected. Few, pathetically few,
so far as he knew, would be affected by its continuance or its end. But
the _manner_ of its end--that was a different matter. That might touch
individuals far and wide by its tragic example to other desperate
souls. Still, he was not their keeper. As for Charlie--

Ah, _Charlie!_ Charlie, with his childish but utter hero-worship;
Charlie, with his lighted candle; Charlie, with his small-boy love and
trust--Charlie would be told some little story and Charlie would soon
forget. But--what would Charlie think of him some day when the truth
was out--Charlie who at five could set his teeth and bear pain
stoically because his hero did! Because he was "His Boy!" Hamilton's
mind returned to that problem again and again and lingered there. No,
he could not disappoint Charlie. Besides, Van Buren was right. There
was work, creditable work to do. And to be plucky, even if only to keep
a brave little chap's ideal intact, to maintain its helpful activity,
was something worthy of a stanch man. Would he wish his boy to go under
when the strain against the right thing was crushing?

He laid the letter down gently, deliberately, turned to his friend, and
smiled as Van Buren had not seen him smile since their ingenuous
boyhood days. There was that sweetness in the smile which homage to
woman makes us dub "feminine," and something of it, too, in the way he
laid his hand on his chum's shoulder.

"All right, old sawbones," he said, slowly. "You may do whatever has to
be done. I'll face the music. Unbuilding one man may build up another."



VI

THE COMMUNITY'S SUNBEAM


Miss Clarkson looked at the small boy, and the small boy looked back at
Miss Clarkson with round, unwinking eyes. In the woman's glance were
sympathy and a puzzled wonder; the child's gaze expressed only a calm
and complete detachment. Subtly, but unmistakably, he succeeded in
conveying the impression that he regarded this human object before him
because it was in his line of vision, but that he found no interest in
it, nor good reason for assuming an interest he did not feel: that if,
indeed, he was conscious of any emotion at all, it was in the nature of
a vaguely dawning desire that the object should remove itself, should
cease to shut off the view from the one window of the tenement room
that was his home. But it really did not matter much. Already, in his
seven years of life, the small boy had decided that nothing really
mattered much, and his dark, grim little face, with its deep-cut,
unchildish lines, bore witness to the unwavering strength of this
conviction. If the object preferred to stay--He settled himself more
firmly on the rickety chair he occupied, crossed his feet with infinite
care, and continued to regard the object with eyes that held the
invariable expression with which they met the incidents of life,
whether these incidents were the receiving of a banana from Miss
Clarkson's hands, or, as had happened half an hour before, the
spectacle of his dead mother being carried down-stairs.

It was not a stupid look; it was at once intent, unsympathetic,
impersonal. Under it, now, its object experienced a moment of actual
embarrassment. Miss Clarkson was not accustomed to the indifferent gaze
of human eyes, and in her philanthropic work among the tenements she
had been somewhat conspicuously successful with children. They seemed
always to like her, to accept her; and if her undoubted charm of face,
of dress, and of smile failed to win them, Miss Clarkson was not above
resorting to the aid of little gifts, of toys, even to the pernicious
power of pennies. She did good, but she did it in her own way. She was
young, she was rich, she was independent. She helped the poor because
she pitied them, and wished to aid them, but her methods were unique,
and were followed none the less serenely when, as frequently happened,
they conflicted with all the accepted notions of organized philanthropy.

She had come to this room almost daily, Miss Clarkson remembered, since
she had discovered the destitute Russian woman and her child there a
month ago. The mother was dying of consumption; the child was neglected
and hungry--yet both had an unmistakable air of birth, of breeding; and
the mother's French was as perfect as the exquisitely finished manner
that drew from Anne Clarkson, in the wretched tenement room, her utmost
deference and courtesy. The child, too, had glints of polish.
Punctiliously he opened doors, placed chairs, bowed; punctiliously he
stood when the lady stood, sat when the lady sat, met her requests for
small services with composure and appreciation. And (here was the rub)
each time she came, bringing in her generous wake the comforts that
lightened his mother's dreary journey into another world, he received
her with the air of one courteously greeting a stranger, or, at best,
of one seeking an elusive memory as one surveys a half-familiar face.

Doggedly Anne Clarkson had persisted in her attentions to them both.
The mother was grateful--there was no doubt of that. Under the
ministrations of the nurse Miss Clarkson supplied, under the influence
of food, of medicines, and of care, she brightened out of the apathy in
which her new friend had found her. But to the last she retained
something of her son's unresponsiveness, and an uncommunicativeness
which tagged his as hereditary. She never spoke of herself, of her
friends, or of her home. She made no last requests, left no last
messages. Once, as she looked at her boy, her eyeballs exuded a film of
moisture. Miss Clarkson interpreted this phenomenon rightly, and
quietly said:

"I will see that he is well cared for." The sick woman gave her a long
look, and then nodded.

"You will," she answered. "You are not of those who promise and do not
perform. You are very good--you have been very good to us. Your reward
should come. It does not always come to those who are good, but it
should come to you. You should marry and have children, and leave this
terrible country, and be happy."

The words impressed Miss Clarkson, because, as she reminded herself
now, they were almost the last her protegee uttered. She considered
them excessively unmodern, and strongly out of place on the lips of one
whose romance had ended in disillusionment.

Well, it was over. The mother was gone. But the child remained, and his
future--his immediate future, at least--must be decided here and now.
With a restless movement Anne Clarkson leaned toward him. In her
abstraction she had shifted her glance from him for a few moments, and
he had taken advantage of the interval to survey dispassionately the
toes of the new shoes she had given to him. He glanced up now, and met
her look with the singular unresponsiveness which seemed his note.

"We're going away, Ivan," she said, speaking with that artificial
cheerfulness practised so universally upon the helpless and the young.
"Mother has gone, you know, and we can't stay here any more. We're
going to the country, to a beautiful place where there are flowers, and
birds, and dogs, and other little boys and girls. So get your cap,
dear."

Ivan looked unimpressed, but he rose with instant obedience and crossed
the room to its solitary closet. His little figure looked very trim in
the new suit she had bought for him; she noticed how well he carried
himself. His preparations for departure were humorously simple. He took
his cap from its peg, put it on his head, and opened the door for her
to precede him in the utter abandonment of his "home." Earlier in the
day Miss Clarkson had presented to pleased neighbors the furniture and
clothing of the dead woman, taking the precaution to have it fumigated
in an empty room in the building. On the same impulse she had given to
an old bedridden Irishwoman a few little articles that had soothed the
Russian's last days: a small night-lamp, a bed-tray, and the like.
Ivan's outfit, consisting solely of the things she herself had given
him, had been packed in his mother's one small foreign trunk, whose
contents until then, Miss Clarkson, observed, was an ikon, quaintly
framed. Of letters, of souvenirs, of any clue of any kind to the
identity of mother and son, there was none. She felt sure that the
names they had given her were assumed.

Stiffly erect, Ivan waited beside the open door. Miss Clarkson gave a
methodical last look around the dismantled room, and walked out of it,
the child following. At the top of the stairs she turned her head
sharply, a sudden curiosity uppermost in her mind. Was he glancing
back? she wondered. Was he showing any emotion? Did he feel any? He
seemed so horribly mature--he _must_ understand something of what this
departure meant. Did he, by chance, need comforting? But Ivan was close
by her side, his sombre black eyes looking straight before him, his new
shoes creaking freshly as he descended the rickety steps. Miss Clarkson
sighed. If only he were pretty, she reflected. There were always
sentimental women ready and willing to adopt a handsome child. But even
Ivan's mother would have declared him not pretty. He was merely small,
and dark, and foreign, and reserved, and horribly self-contained. His
black hair was perfectly straight, his lips made a straight line in his
face. He had no dimples, no curls, none of the appealing graces and
charms of childhood. He was seven--seven decades, she almost thought,
with a sudden throb of pity for him. But he had one quality of
childhood--helplessness. To that, at least, the Community to which she
had finally decided to intrust him would surely respond. She took his
small hand in hers as they reached the street, and after an instinctive
movement of withdrawal, like the startled fluttering of a bird, he
suffered it to remain there. Together they walked to the nearest
corner, and stood awaiting the coming of a trolley-car, the heat of an
August sun blazing upon them, the stifling odors of the tenement
quarter filling their nostrils. Rude, half-naked little boys jeered at
them, and made invidious remarks about Ivan's new clothes; a small girl
smiled shyly at him; a wretched yellow dog snapped at his heels. To
these varying attentions the child gave the same quietly observant
glance, a glance without rancor as without interest. Miss Clarkson
experienced a sense of utter helplessness as she watched him.

"Did you know the little girl, Ivan?" she asked, in English.

"Yes, madam."

"Do you like her?"

"No, madam."

"Why not? She seemed a nice little girl."

There was no response. She tried again.

"Are you tired, dear?"

"No, madam."

"Are you glad you are going into the country and away from the hot,
dirty city?"

"No, madam."

"Would you rather stay here?"

"No, madam."

The quality of the negative was the same in all.

Miss Clarkson gave him up. When they entered the car she sank into a
depressed silence, which endured until they reached the Grand Central
Station. There, after she had sent off several telegrams and bought
their tickets, and established herself and her charge comfortably side
by side on the end seat in a drawing-room car, she again essayed
sprightly conversation adapted to the understanding of the young.

"Do you know the country, Ivan?" she asked, ingratiatingly. "Have you
ever been there to see the grass and the cows and the blue skies?"

"No, madam."

"You will like them very much. All little boys and girls like the
country, and are very happy there."

"Yes, madam."

"Do you like to play?"

"No, madam."

"Do you like to--to--look at picture-books?"

"No, madam."

"What do you like to do?"

There was no reply. Miss Clarkson groaned inwardly. Was he only a
little monosyllabic machine? The infant regarded with calm eyes the
sweep of the New York landscape across which the train was passing. His
patron opened the new novel with which she had happily provided
herself, plunged into its pages, and let herself rest by forgetting him
for a while. He sat by her side motionless, observant, continuing to
exude infinite patience.

"He ought to be planted on the Egyptian sands," reflected Miss Clarkson
once, as she glanced at him. "He'd make a dear little brother to the
Sphinx." She stopped a train-boy passing through the car and bought him
a small box of chocolates, which he ate uninterruptedly, somewhat as
the tiny hand of a clock marks the seconds. Later she presented him
with a copy of a picture-paper. He surveyed its illustrations with
studious intentness for five minutes, and then laid the paper on the
seat beside him. Miss Clarkson again fled to sanctuary in her novel,
wondering how long pure negation could enlist interest.

At the small station where they left the train the tension of the
situation was slightly lessened. A plump little woman, with a round
pink face, keen, very direct blue eyes, and live gray hair, deftly
tooled a fat pony up to the asphalt, and greeted them with cheerful
informality.

"Get in," she said, briskly, after a brief handshake with Miss
Clarkson. "There's plenty of room in the phaeton. We pack five in
sometimes. I was sorely tempted to bring two of the children; they
begged to come to meet the new boy; but it seemed best not to rush him
in the beginning, don't you know, so I left Josephine squalling behind
the wood-pile, and Augustus Adolphus strangling manfully on a glass of
lemonade intended to comfort him."

She laughed as she spoke, but her blue eyes surveyed the boy
appraisingly as she tucked him into the space between herself and Miss
Clarkson. He had stood cap in hand during the meeting between the
ladies; now he replaced his cap upon his head, fixed his black eyes on
the restless tail of the fat pony, and remained submerged under the
encroaching summer garments of both women. Mrs. Eltner, presiding
genius of the Lotus Brotherhood Colony, exchanged an eloquent glance
with Miss Clarkson as she started the pony along the winding ribbon of
the country road. The New-Yorker's heart lightened. She had infinite
faith in the plump, capable hands that held the reins; she believed
them equal to anything, even to the perplexing task of guiding the
infant career of Ivanovitch. Mrs. Eltner prattled on.

"Well," she quoted, in answer to Miss Clarkson's question, "they are so
well that Fraulein von Hoffman is in despair over them. She has some
new theories she's anxious to try when they're ill, but throughout the
year she hasn't had one chance. Every blessed child is flamboyantly
robust. Goodness! Why shouldn't they be? In the sunshine from eight in
the morning until six at night. They have their lessons in a little
roofed summer-house in the open air, their meals in another, and they
almost sleep in the open air. There are ten of them now--counting your
boy"--she nodded toward the unconscious Ivan--"four girls and six boys.
None of the parents interferes with them. They sleep in the dormitory
with Fraulein, she teaches them a few hours a day, and the rest of the
time we leave them alone. Fraulein assures me that the influence on
their developing souls is wonderful." Mrs. Eltner laughed comfortably.
"It's all an experiment," she went on, more seriously. "Who can tell
how it will end? But one thing is certain: we have taken these poor
waifs from the New York streets, and we have at least made them healthy
and happy to begin with. The rest must come later."

"An achievement," agreed Miss Clarkson. "I hope you will be as
successful with my small charge. He is not healthy, and I doubt if he
has ever known a moment of happiness. Possibly he can never take it in.
I don't know--he puzzles me."

Her friend nodded, and they drove on in silence. It was almost sunset
when the fat pony turned into an open gate leading to a big white
colonial house, whose wide verandas held hammocks, easy-chairs, and one
fat little girl asleep on a door-mat. On the sweeping lawn before the
house an old man lounged comfortably in a garden-chair, surveying with
quiet approval the efforts of a pretty girl in a wide sunbonnet who was
weeding a flower-bed near him. Through the open window of a distant
room came the sound of a piano. At the left of the house a solitary
peacock strutted, his spreading tail alive in the sun's last rays. The
effect of the place was deliriously "homey." With eyes slightly
distended, Ivan surveyed the monstrous fowl, turning his head to follow
its progress as the phaeton rolled around the drive and stopped before
the wide front door. The two women again exchanged glances.

"Absolutely the first evidence of human interest," remarked Miss
Clarkson, with hushed solemnity. The other smiled with quiet
confidence. "It will come," she predicted; "it will come all right. We
do wonders with them here."

As they entered the wide hall a picturesque group disintegrated
suddenly. A slender German woman, tall, gray-haired, slightly bent,
detached herself from an encircling mass of childish hands and arms and
legs, gave a hurried greeting to Miss Clarkson, of whom she rather
disapproved, and turned eyes alight with interest on the new claimant
for her ministrations. Cap in hand, Ivan looked up at her. Mrs. Eltner
introduced them briefly.

"Your new little boy, Fraulein," she said, "Ivan Ivanovitch. He speaks
English and French and Russian. He is going to love his new teacher and
his new little friends, and be very happy here."

Fraulein von Hoffman bent down and kissed the chilling surface of
Ivan's pale cheek.

"But yes," she cried, "of a certainty he shall be happy. We are all
happy here--all, all. He shall have his place, his lessons, his little
duties--but, ach, he is so young! He is the youngest of us. Still, he
must have his duty." She checked her rapid English for a courteous
explanation to Miss Clarkson.

"Each has his duties," she told that lady, while the line of children
lent polite interest to her words, drinking them in, apparently, with
open mouths. "Each of us must be useful to the community in some way,
however small. That is our principle. Yes. Little Josephine waters
every day the flowers in the dining-room, and they bloom gratefully for
little Josephine--ach, how they bloom! Augustus Adolphus keeps the
wood-box filled. It is Henry's task to water the garden plants, and
Henry never forgets. So, too, it is with the others. But Ivan--Ivan is
very young. He is but seven, you say. Yes, yes, what shall one do at
seven?"

Her rapid, broken English ceased again as she surveyed the child, her
blond brows knit in deep reflection. Then her thin face lit suddenly.

"Ach," she cried, enthusiastically, "an inspiration I have! He is too
young to work as yet, this little Ivan, but he shall have his task,
like the rest. He shall be our little sunbeam. He shall laugh and play
and make us happy."

With a common hysterical impulse Miss Clarkson and Mrs. Eltner turned
their heads to avoid each other's eyes, the former making a desperate
effort at self-control as she gazed severely through a window near her.
It was not funny, this thing, she reminded herself sternly; it was too
ghastly to be funny, but there was no question that the selection of
Ivan Ivanovitch as the joyous, all-pervasive sunbeam of the community
at Locust Hall was slightly incongruous. When she could trust herself
she glanced at him. He stood as he had stood before, his small, old,
unchildish face turned up to the German, his black eyes fixed
unwaveringly upon her gray ones. Under the glance Fraulein's expression
changed. For an instant there was a look of bewilderment on her face,
of a doubt of the wisdom of her choice of a mission for this unusual
new-comer, but it disappeared as quickly as it had come. With recovered
serenity she addressed him and those around him.

"But he need not begin to-night," she added, kindly, "not when he is
tired. He shall eat, he shall rest, he shall sleep. Then to-morrow he
shall take his place among us and be the little sunbeam. Yes,
yes--think how far the sunbeam has to travel!" she murmured,
inspirationally.

Miss Clarkson knelt down before the boy and gathered him into her arms.
The act was spontaneous and sincere, but as she did it she realized
that in the eyes of the German, and even in those of Mrs. Eltner, it
seemed theatrical. It was one of the things Fraulein von Hoffman
disapproved in her--this tendency to moments of emotion.

"Good-night, Ivan," she said. "I am going to stay until morning, so I
shall see you then. Sleep well. I am sure you will be a happy little
boy in this pleasant home."

The unfathomable eyes of Ivan Ivanovitch looked back into hers.

"Good-night, madam," he said, quietly. Then, as she was about to turn
away, his small face took on for an instant the dawn of an expression.
"Good-night, madam," he said again, more faintly.

Slight as the change had been, Miss Clarkson caught it. She swayed
toward him.

"Are you homesick, Ivan?" she asked, caressingly, almost lovingly.
"Would you like me to take you up-stairs and put you to bed?"

Fraulein von Hoffman broke in upon her speech.

"But they shall all go!" she cried. "It is their time. He will not be
alone. Josephine shall take him by the hand; Augustus Adolphus shall
lead the way. It will be a little procession--ach, yes! And he shall
have his supper in the nursery."

A chubby, confident little girl of nine detached herself from the group
near them and grasped the hand of Ivan Ivanovitch firmly within her
own. He regarded her stoically for an instant; then his eyes returned
to Miss Clarkson's, who had risen, and was watching him closely. There
was a faint flicker in them as he replied to her question.

"No, madam," he said, gravely. "Thank you, madam. Good-night, madam."

He bowed deeply, drawing the reluctant figure of the startled Josephine
into the salute as he did so. A sturdy German boy of eleven, with
snapping brown eyes, placed himself before the children, his feet
beating time, his head very high. "Forward, march!" he cried, in clear,
boyish tones. The triumphant Josephine obeyed the command, dragging her
charge after her. Thus convoyed, one companion leading, another
pulling, the rest following with many happy giggles, Ivan Ivanovitch
marched up-stairs to bed. His life as the community's sunbeam had begun.

The next morning Fraulein von Hoffman met Miss Clarkson in the hall,
and turned upon her the regard of a worried gray eye. Miss Clarkson
returned the look, her heart sinking as she did so.

"It is that child," the German began. "He is of an interest--and ach,
ja! of a discouragement," she added, with a gusty sigh. "Already I can
see it--what it will be. He speaks not; he plays not. He gazes always
from the window, and when one speaks, he says, 'Yes, madam'--only that.
This morning I looked to see him bright and happy, but it is not so. Is
it that his little heart breaks for his mother? Is it--that he is
always thus?"

Miss Clarkson shook her head and then nodded, forming thereby
unconsciously the sign of the cross. The combination seemed to answer
the German's questions. Fraulein von Hoffman nodded also, slowly, and
with comprehension.

"I don't know what you can do with him," said the American, frankly.
"He's like that all the time. I asked his mother, and she admitted it.
I brought him here because I hoped the other children might brighten
him up, and I knew you could arouse him if any one could."

The tribute, rare from Miss Clarkson, cheered Fraulein von Hoffman. Her
face cleared. She began to regain her self-confidence.

"Ach, well," she said, comfortably, "we will see. We will do our
best--yes, of a certainty. And we will see." She strolled away after
this oracular utterance, and Miss Clarkson went to breakfast. Thus
neither witnessed a scene taking place at that moment on the lawn near
the front veranda. Standing there with his back against a pillar,
surrounded by the other children of the community, was Ivan Ivanovitch.
In the foreground, facing him, stood Augustus Adolphus, addressing the
new-comer in firm accents, and emphasizing his remarks by waving a
grimy forefinger before Ivan Ivanovitch's uninterested face. The high,
positive tones of Augustus Adolphus filled the air.

"Well, then, why don't you do it?" he was asking, fiercely. "You _got_
to do it! You _have_ to! Fraulein says so. The rest of us has to do
ours. I filled my wood-boxes already, and Josie watered the flowers. We
did it early so we could watch you being a sunbeam, and now you ain't
being one. Why ain't you? You _got_ to! Why don't you begin?" The
continued unresponsiveness of Ivan Ivanovitch irritated him at this
point, and he turned excitedly to the others for support.

"'Ain't he got to?" he cried. "'Ain't he got to be a sunbeam? Fraulein
said he should begin this morning. Well, then, why don't he begin?"

A childish buzz of corroboration answered him. It was plain that the
assignment of Ivan's mission, publicly made as it had been the night
before, had deeply impressed the children of the community. They closed
around the two boys. The small Josephine laid a propelling hand upon
Ivan's shoulder and tried to push him forward, with a vague idea of
thus accelerating his task.

"Begin now," she suggested, encouragingly. "Do it, and have it over.
That's the way I do."

In response to this maiden appeal the lips of Ivan Ivanovitch parted.

"I do not know how to do it," he announced, distinctly. "How shall I do
it?"

Augustus Adolphus broke in again. "Aw, say, go on," he urged. "You
_got_ to do it! Why _don't_ you, then?"

Ivan Ivanovitch turned upon him an eye in which the habitual expression
of patience was merely intensified.

"I do not know how to do it," he said again, speaking slowly and
painstakingly. "You tell me how; then I will do it."

Under the force of this counter-charge, Augustus Adolphus fell back.

"I--I--don't know, neither," he muttered, feebly. "I thought you knew.
You _got_ to know, 'cause you got to do it."

The eyes of the small Russian swept the little group, and lingered on
the round face of Josephine.

"You tell me," he said to her. "Then I will do it."

Josephine rose to the occasion.

"Why, why," she began, doubtfully, "_I_ know what it is. You be a
sunbeam, you know. I know what a sunbeam is. It's a little piece of the
sun. It is long and bright. It comes through the window and falls on
the floor. Sometimes it falls on us. Sometimes it falls on flowers."

Offered this choice, Ivan at once expressed his preference.

"I will fall on flowers," he announced, with decision.

The brown eyes of Augustus Adolphus glittered as he suddenly grasped
the possibilities of the situation.

"No, you won't, neither!" he cried, excitedly. "You got to do it _all!_
You better begin now. You can fall through that window; it's open." He
indicated, as he spoke, a low French window leading from the
living-room on to the broad veranda. "He's got to!" he cried, again.
"'Ain't he got to?" With a unanimous cry the meeting declared that he
had got to. Some of the children knew better; others did not; but all
knew Augustus Adolphus Schmidtt.

Without a word, Ivan turned, walked up the steps of the veranda,
entered the wide hall, swung to the left, crossed the living-room,
approached the window, and fell out, head first. There was something
deeply impressive in the silence and swiftness of his action, something
deliriously stimulating to the spectators in the thud of his small body
on the unyielding wood. A long sigh of happiness was exhaled by the
group of children. Certainly this was a new duty--a strange one, but
worthy, no doubt, since it emanated from Fraulein, and beyond question
interesting as a spectacle. Augustus Adolphus resolved in that instant
to attend to his personal tasks at an early hour each day, that he
might have uninterrupted leisure for getting new falls out of Ivan's.
That infant had now found his feet, and was methodically brushing the
dust from his clothes. There was a rapidly developing lump over one
eye, but his expression remained unchanged. Josephine approached him
with happy gurgles. Her heart was filled with womanly sympathy, but her
soul remained undaunted. She was of the Spartan stuff that sends sons
to the war, and holds a reception for them if they return--from
victory--on their shields. She cooed in conscious imitation of
Fraulein's best manner. "Now, you can fall on flowers."

Her victim followed her unresistingly to the spot she indicated, and,
having arrived, cast himself violently upon a bed of blazing
nasturtiums. The enthusiastic and approving group of children closed
around him as he rose. Even Augustus Adolphus, as he surveyed the wreck
that remained, yielded to Ivan's loyal devotion to his role the tribute
of an envious sigh.

"Now you can fall on us," he suggested, joyfully. Before the words had
left his innocent lips, Ivan had made his choice. The next instant the
air was full of arms, legs, caps, and hair.

"Lemme go!" shrieked Augustus Adolphus, battling wildly with the
unsuspected and terrible force that had suddenly assailed him. "Lemme
go, I tell you!"

The reply of Ivan came through set teeth as he planted one heel firmly
in the left ear of the recumbent youth. "I have to fall on you," he
explained, mildly, suiting the action to the word. "First I fall on
you; then I let you go."

There was no question in the minds of the spectators that this was the
most brilliant and successfully performed of the strange and
interesting tasks of Ivan. They clustered around to tell him so, while
Augustus Adolphus sought the dormitory for needed repairs. One of the
rules of the community was that the children should settle their little
disputes among themselves. Fortunately, perhaps, for Augustus Adolphus
he found the dormitory empty, and was able to remove from his person
the most obvious evidences of one hoisted by his own petard. In the
mean time Ivan Ivanovitch was experiencing a new sensation--the
pleasurable emotion caused by the praise of one's kind. But he did not
show that it was pleasant--he merely gazed and listened.

"I think your new duties is nice," Josephine informed him, as she gazed
upon him with eyes humid with approval. "You have to do it every day,"
she added, gluttonously.

Ivan assented, but in his heart there lay a doubt. Seeking for light,
he approached Fraulein von Hoffman that afternoon as she dozed and
knitted under a sheltering tree.

He stopped before her and fixed her with his serious gaze.

"Does a sunbeam fall through windows?" he inquired, politely.

Fraulein von Hoffman regarded him with a drowsy lack of interest.

"But yes, surely, sometimes," she admitted.

"Does it fall always through the window--every day?"

"But yes, surely, if it is in the right place."

The community's sunbeam sighed.

"Does it fall on flowers and on boys and girls?" he persisted.

"But yes, it falls on everything that is near."

A look of pained surprise dawned upon the features of Ivan Ivanovitch.

"Always?" he asked, quickly. "Always--it falls on _everything_ that is
near?"

Fraulein von Hoffman placidly counted her stitches, confirming with a
sigh her suspicion that in dozing she had dropped three.

"Not always," she murmured, absently. "But no. Only when the sun is
shining."

Ivan carried this gleam of comfort with him when he went away, and it
is very possible that he longed for a darkened world. But if, indeed,
his daily task was difficult, as it frequently proved to be as the days
passed, there were compensations--in the school games, in the
companionships of his new friends, in the kindness of those around him.
Even Augustus Adolphus was good to him at times. Unquestioningly,
inscrutably, Ivan absorbed atmosphere, and did his share of the
community's work as he saw it.

The theories of the community were consistently carried out. In the
summer, after their few hours of study, the children were left to
themselves. Together they worked out the problems of their little
world; together they discussed, often with an uncanny insight, the
grown-ups around them. Sometimes the tasks of the others were
forgotten; frequently, in the stress of work and play, Augustus
Adolphus's wood-box remained unfulfilled; Josephine's flowers were
unwatered. But the mission of Ivan as a busy and strenuous sunbeam was
regularly and consistently carried out--all the children saw to that.
Regularly, that is, save on dark days. Here he drew the line.

"Fraulein says it only falls on things when the sun shines," he
explained, tersely, and he fulfilled his mission accordingly. Fraulein
wondered where he had accumulated the choice collection of bumps and
bruises that adorned his person; but he never told, and apparently
nobody else knew. Mrs. Eltner marvelled darkly over the destruction of
her favorite nasturtium-bed. Daily the stifled howls of Augustus
Adolphus continued to rend the ambient air when the sunbeam fell on
him; but he forbore to complain, suffering heroically this unpleasant
feature of the programme, that the rest might not be curtailed. Once,
indeed, he had rebelled.

"Why don't you fall on some one else?" he had demanded, sulkily. "You
don't have to fall on me all the time."

The reply of the sunbeam was convincing in its simple truth.

"I do," he explained. "Fraulein has said so. It must fall always on the
same place if it is there."

Augustus Adolphus was silenced. He was indeed there, always. It was
unfortunate, but seemed inevitable, that he should contribute his share
to the daily entertainment so deeply enjoyed by all.

It was, very appropriately, at Thanksgiving-time that Ivan's mission as
an active sunbeam ended. He was engaged in his usual profound
meditation in the presence of Miss Clarkson, who had come to see him,
and who was at the moment digesting the information she had received,
that not once in his months at Locust Hall had he been seen to smile.
True, he seemed well and contented. His thin little figure was fast
taking on plumpness; he was brown, bright-eyed. Studying him, Miss
Clarkson observed a small bruise on his chin, another on his
intellectual brow.

"How did you get those, Ivan?" she asked.

For some reason Ivan suddenly decided to tell her.

"I fell through the window. This one I got yesterday"--he touched
it--"this one I got Monday; this one I got last week." He revealed
another that she had not discovered, lurking behind his left ear.

"But surely you didn't fall through the window as often as that!"
gasped Miss Clarkson. The small boy surveyed her wearily.

"But yes," he murmured, in unconscious imitation of Praulein. "I must
fall through the window every day when the sun shines."

Miss Clarkson held him off at arm's-length and stared at him.

"In Heaven's name, _why?_" she demanded.

Ivan explained patiently. Miss Clarkson listened, asked a few
questions, gave way to a moment of uncontrollable emotion. Then she
called together the other children, and again heard the story. It came
disjointedly from each in turn, but most fluently, most picturesquely,
most convincingly, from the lips of Augustus Adolphus Schmidtt and the
fair Josephine. When they had finished their artless recital, Miss
Clarkson sought Fraulein von Hoffman. That afternoon, beside the big
open fire in the children's winter play-room, Fraulein von Hoffman
addressed her young charges in words brief but pointed, and as she
talked the mission of Ivan at Locust Hall took on a new significance,
clear to the dullest mind.

"You were very cruel to Ivan--ach, most cruel! And he is not to fall
any more, anywhere, on anything, you understand," explained the German,
clearly. "He has no tasks any more. He is but to be happy, and you
should love him and take care of him, because he is so small. That is
all."

Ivan exhaled a sigh of deep contentment. Then he looked around him. The
great logs on the andirons were blazing merrily. In the hands of
Josephine a corn-popper waved above them, the corn inside burning
unobserved as she lent her ears to Fraulein's earnest words. Ten
apples, suspended on strings, swung from the mantel, spinning slowly as
they roasted. It was a restful and agreeable scene to the eyes of
little Ivan.

Josephine felt called upon to defend her friends.

"We didn't mean to be cruel," she explained, earnestly, answering the
one of Fraulein's charges which had most impressed her. "We love Ivan.
We love him lots. We like to see him to be a sunbeam, an' we thought he
liked to be one. He never said he didn't."

The faces of his little companions were all around him. Ivan surveyed
them in turn. They loved him--lots. Had not Josephine just said so? And
only yesterday Augustus Adolphus had played marbles with him. It was
very good to be loved, to have a home, and not to be a little sunbeam
any longer. Then his eyes met those of Miss Clarkson, fixed upon him
sympathetically.

"Would you like to go away, Ivan?" she asked, quietly. "Would you be
happier somewhere else?"

The eyes of Ivan widened with sudden fear. To have this and to lose
it!--now, if ever, he must speak! "Oh _no_," he cried, earnestly; "no,
_no_, madam!"

Reassured, she smiled at him, and as she did so something in her look,
in the atmosphere, in the moment, opened the boy's closed heart. He
drew a long breath and smiled back at her--a shy, hesitant,
unaccustomed smile, but one very charming on his serious little face.
Miss Clarkson's heart leaped in sudden triumph. It was his first smile,
and it was for her.

"I like it here," he said. "I like it very much, madam."

Miss Clarkson had moments of wisdom.

"Then you shall stay, my boy," she said. "You shall stay as long as you
wish. But, remember, you must not be a sunbeam any more."

Ivan responded in one word--a simple, effective word, much used by his
associates in response to pleasing announcements of holidays and
vacations, but thus far a stranger on his lips. He threw back his head
and straightened his shoulders.

"Hurray!" he cried, with deep fervor. This was enough for Augustus
Adolphus and the fair Josephine. "Hurray!" they shrieked, in jubilant
duet--"Hurray! Hurray!"

The others joined in. "Hur-ray!" cried the nine small companions of
Ivan. He looked at them for a moment, his thin mouth twitching. They
were glad, too, then, that he was to stay! He walked straight to Miss
Clarkson, buried his face in her lap, and burst into tears. For a
moment she held him close, smoothing his black head with a tender hand.
Almost immediately he straightened himself and returned to the side of
Josephine, shy, shamefaced, but smiling again--a new Ivan.

"What did you cry for?" demanded that young lady, obtusely. "Because
you feel bad?"

Augustus Adolphus replied for his friend, with an insight beyond his
years.

"You let him alone," he said, severely. "He don't never cry when he
feels bad; _he_ only cries when he feels good!"



VII

IN MEMORY OF HANNAH'S LAUGH


His name was "'Rastus Calhoun Breckenridge," he announced the morning
that he began his new duties as janitor of the Adelaide apartments, and
he at once gave the tenants to understand that no liberties were to be
taken with it. He preferred it _all_ when he was addressed in ordinary
conversation, he explained to them, but he had no objections to the
title, "Mistah Breckenridge," when they felt hurried. This interested
every inmate of the Adelaide, and for a few days amazingly amused
several, who gave play to their fancy in the use of abbreviations which
struck them as humorous. Their jokes lost point, subsequently, when it
was discovered that on no occasion did "Mistah Breckenridge" respond to
their calls nor meet their demands--whereas his service to all others
was swift, expert, phenomenally perfect. Thereafter the jokers forswore
indulgence of their sense of humor and addressed the janitor at full
length and with fuller deference, to reap their reward with those whose
apartments were warm, whose reasonable requests were met, whose halls
were clean, and whose door-knobs shone even as the rare smile of
"Mistah Breckenridge" himself.

It required no unusual powers of observation to discover that as a
janitor the new man was the rare and perfect specimen who keeps alive
in a chilly world the tender plant of faith. Long before the sun was up
his busy mop and broom were heard in the land, and the slip-slap of his
carpet slippers, flopping along the halls as he made his nightly round,
was the lullaby of dissipated souls who "retired" at eleven. Results
followed with gratifying promptness. Apartments long empty were soon
rented, and envious neighbors came to gaze in awe upon the Adelaide and
its presiding genius, beholding in it the fine essence of New England
neatness and in him a small, thin, nervous, insignificant-looking
"colored gemman," who gazed past the sides of their faces with cold
aloofness. Often, neighbors, passing the impressive entrance, heard
from the lower regions of the building the sound of a high chuckle,
deepening rapidly to a contralto gurgle, and then broadening out into a
long, rich, velvety laugh as smooth as a flowing stream. No one could
hear that laugh unmoved. It rippled, it lilted, it died away, and
rolled forth again until the most _blase_ listener smiled in sympathy,
and children in the streets haw-hawed in mindless glee. It was the
laugh of Hannah--_Mrs._ 'Rastus Calhoun Breckenridge, as her husband
was careful to explain; and he once so far forgot his dignity as to
add, expansively, "We got de stifkit dat prove hit, Hannah an' me. We
got mah'd, _real_ mah'd, by a pahson."

Hannah--stout, indolent, good-looking, good-natured, large enough to
make two small persons like her husband--chuckled and gurgled into her
fruity laugh.

"Dat's de mos' pahtickler man," she volunteered, artlessly. Then,
seeing with wifely insight the first traces of gloom on her lord's
brow, she winked, trembled like a jelly-fish in a fresh convulsion of
her exhaustless mine of mirth, and disappeared into the lower regions,
to which, it was said, her husband devoted much more housewifely care
than she did. Usually he cooked his meals--and hers. Invariably he
scrubbed and swept the floors.

Not infrequently he washed and ironed. But whatever he did and whatever
he was, the ripple of his wife's easy laughter followed him like the
wave in the wake of a puffing tug; and as he listened, the weazened
face of "Mistah Breckenridge" took on the expression of a small dog who
hears his master's footsteps at the end of a dragging day.

The strenuousness of life left 'Rastus little time for the society of
his wife, but occasionally on a Sunday afternoon a rainbow-hued
apparition appeared at the entrance of the Adelaide, which, being
resolved into its elements, was recognized as "Mistah" and Mrs.
Breckenridge attired for a walk. Richly red were the hats of Hannah,
brilliantly blue her gown, glaringly yellow her new kid gloves. Like a
rubber-tired automobile she rolled along the street, while, not a bad
second--immaculate, silent, spatted, creased, silk-hatted, gloved, and
lavender-tied--pattered her small husband. He rarely spoke and never
laughed; but there was no evidence that Hannah missed these attentions;
if she did, there were numerous compensations, one of which she
confided to the cook of the newly married Browns, on the first floor.

"'Rastus suttinly do pay mah bills," she murmured, appreciatively. And
then, with her unctuous laugh, "An' ah suttinly does keep dat man busy
at hit!"

Quite possibly it was this and his other occupations which for a long
time made "Mistah Breckemidge" seemingly oblivious of a situation which
deeply impressed many others. It was the frequent presence in his home
of another "colored gemman"--large, brilliantly attired, loud-voiced,
and cheerful--who called upon Hannah three or four times a week and
whiled away many hours in her stimulating society. Occasionally her
husband found him there, but if the fact annoyed him he gave no
evidence of it. It was observed, too, that the manner of the visitor
was gingerly deferential toward his host; he evidently desired no
trouble with "Mistah Breckenridge." Occasionally he took Hannah for a
walk; several times he brought her simple offerings of chickens and
melons, heartening her to their consumption by participating in the
same. One evening he presented her with a rhine stone belt-buckle. The
next morning "Mistah Breckenridge" sought young Haddon Brown, the newly
married, who happened to be a lawyer as well as a happy groom. Without
preface or apology, 'Rastus came to the point. He wished a divorce from
Hannah. He wished it to be procured as cheaply as possible, but economy
was not to interfere with its being riveted as strongly as the law
permitted. He had his facts neatly tabulated. There was no emotion on
his little black face. At the door, after young Brown had promised to
do what he could for him, "Mistah Breckenridge" paused.

"Git it jes' as quick as yuh kin, Mistah Brown," he suggested, "foh ef
yuh don't, I'se feared Hannah ain't a-gwine tuh stay tell hit comes.
Hannah am mighty sudden sometimes in huh ways." With this final tribute
to his spouse, he shut the door quietly and departed.

In due time Haddon Brown handed "Mistah Breckenridge" the documentary
evidence of his freedom, and immediately on its receipt Hannah rose,
donned her most radiant attire, shook out a few farewell peals of
laughter, and departed, closely followed by the friend of the family,
beautiful in patent-leather shoes, new gray spats, and a tie to match.
Left alone, 'Rastus rearranged his household possessions, watered the
geraniums blooming in his basement windows, scrubbed, washed, answered
bells as scrupulously as of yore, and each night, when the work of the
day was done, donned his best clothes, oiled his crinkly hair, and
departed, returning in time for his usual inspection of the halls at
eleven o'clock.

At the end of one month he set a fresh geranium in the window,
purchased a generous supply of provisions, went forth attired like
Solomon, and came back holding in one hand the hand of a blushing
bride, and in the other the "stifkit," signed by the negro minister who
had just married them.

No two human beings could have been more unlike than the former and the
present Mrs. 'Rastus Calhoun Breckenridge. The bride was tall, thin,
chocolate-colored, serious, and hard-working. She toiled as steadily
and as indefatigably as her husband, and to the most cynical observer
it was plain that she loved him and valued him even at his worth. She
cooked appetizing meals for him, to which he did full justice; she
mended his old clothes and saw to it that he bought new ones; she saved
his money; and at the end of the year she presented him with a small,
fat, black son, over which 'Rastus hung in pathetic wonder.

He himself had begun to grow stout. He put on more flesh as three
additional years passed. He seemed well-fed, happy, and prosperous. He
had money in the bank. His wages had been twice increased, and one
Christmas the enthusiastic tenants of the Adelaide had solemnly
presented him with a watch, with his name and the value of his services
inscribed in the case. His little boy flourished, his silent wife still
adored him. The world seemed good to 'Rastus.

One day a dirty note was put into his hand by a small black youth he
had never seen before. It was brief but pointed:

"I am sik. Com to Sharty Hospitl. He ain't duin nuthen fer me. HANNAH."

"Mistah Breckenridge" carefully placed the note in his pocket, put his
hat on his head, and went to the Charity Hospital. It was not hard to
find Hannah. She had not been there long, but the doctors and nurses
liked her and seemed to have been expecting him.

"She's the life of the place," said one of them. "She's got a lot of
pluck, too, and laughs when we hurt her. She thinks she's going to get
well, but she isn't."

The little round face of 'Rastus changed expression.

"She gwine tuh die?" he asked, quickly.

"Sure," was the terse reply.

"How--how soon?"

The doctor hesitated. "In about a month, I think," he said, finally.

'Rastus carried the memory of the words into the ward where she lay,
and then felt a quick sense of reaction. Die? Why, this was the
old-time Hannah, the Hannah of his youth, the Hannah he had married.
She was thinner, but the lines had smoothed out of her face and her big
black eyes looked up at him as confidingly as the eyes of a baby. She
laughed, too, a little--a ghost of the old, fat, comfortable chuckle;
but there was nothing of death nor even of suffering about Hannah that
day. Her spirit was not yet overthrown.

"Ahm awful glad tuh see yuh, honey," she said. "Ah knew yuh'd cum."

'Rastus sat down on the wooden chair beside her and fixed his little
black eyes unwinkingly upon her face. In his hands he held his hat,
which he twisted nervously between his knees at first, but finally
forgetfully dropped on the floor as his embarrassment passed. Propped
up on her pillows, Hannah chatted incessantly, telling him the small
details of her hospital life and such few facts of her illness as she
had been permitted to know.

"I ain' got no pain," she assured him--"des now, I mean. Bimeby hit'll
cum, like hit do ebery aftahnoon, but doctah he come, too, an' he git
de better ub hit, ebery time. He sure am good to me, dat man!"

Her white teeth flashed in a smile as she talked, but the eyes she kept
on the man's face had a curious look of wonder in them.

"Yuh look well, honey," she said, finally, "an' yit yuh doan look well.
How come dat? You-all ain' got nuffin' tuh trouble yuh, is yuh?"

'Rastus hurriedly assured her that he had not. He did not mention his
wife nor child, of whose existence she was, of course, perfectly aware;
but he dilated on the glories of his position, the size of his income,
and the gift of the watch. He pulled the last from his pocket as he
spoke of it, and she wagged her head proudly over it and shamelessly
boasted to the nurse who happened to come to her side.

"Dey give dat to mah husban'," she said. Then she mentioned casually,
with all her old naivete, "Leaseways, he wuz mah husban' oncet."

"Mistah Breckenridge" ignored this little incident. His mind was on
practical things.

"Yuh got all yuh want, Hannah?" he asked. "'Caze ahm gwine tuh git hit
foh yuh ef yuh ain't."

Hannah, who seemed prepared for this inquiry, responded to it with much
promptness. She needed a wrapper, she said, and some cologne, and three
new night-gowns, and "a lil chicking." 'Rastus wrote down each item
painstakingly and somewhat ostentatiously in a hand suited to unruled
paper. Then he bowed to the nurse, touched Hannah's hand with his
sinewy little paw, and trotted out with an air of vast importance.

For several weeks the Adelaide was almost neglected, and puzzled
tenants sought the janitor in vain. He was rarely home, but Dinah,
dark-browed, sullen, red-lidded, and with a look of suffering on her
plain face, responded to their demands and did, so far as she could,
her husband's work and her own. She made no explanation of his absence,
and the last one which would have been accepted was the truth--that day
after day "Mistah Breckenridge" sat by the bedside of Hannah, talking
to her, cheering her, nursing her, feeding her with the fruit he had
brought her. He had almost superseded the nurse; and the doctors,
watching the pair, let them do much as they pleased, on the dreary
theory that nothing Hannah did could hurt her now. Sometimes she had
hours of severe pain, during which he remained with her, holding her
hand, soothing her, and lifting her still great bulk in his thin arms
with unexpected strength. In her better hours she talked to him,
telling him stories about the other patients, anecdotes of nurses and
doctors, and mimicking several luckless victims to the life.

It was six weeks before Hannah died, very suddenly, and in one of her
paroxysms of suffering. 'Rastus was with her at the end, as he had been
during the hard weeks preceding it. When he realized that all was over,
he left the room, sought an undertaker, had a brief but pregnant
interview with him, and then disappeared from the hospital and from the
city as well. Where he went no one knew, though Dinah, wellnigh
frantic, strove distractedly to learn. On the morning of Hannah's
funeral he returned and assumed a leading part in that melancholy
procession, long after referred to as "de mos' scrumptuous bury-in'" in
colored circles. Nothing had been omitted that she would have wished.
Tall plumes nodded on the hearse, many carriages gathered in the
mourners, and close behind the silver-trimmed coffin which held all
that was left of Hannah. "Mistah Breckenridge" walked with leaden
steps, his small face drawn with grief. Subsequently he drew most of
his savings from the bank to pay the bills, and, having paid them,
returned once more to his anxious family and the monotonous routine of
life at the Adelaide.

Dinah welcomed him coldly, and went about her duties with her head
high. She said no word of reproach, and it was not until several weeks
had passed that it was borne in upon her that 'Rastus remained
oblivious not only to her just wifely resentment, but to most other
things and emotions in life as well. He did his work, but he ate little
and slept less, and the flesh of his prosperous years seemed to drop
from him even as the startled beholder gazed. In despair Dinah sought
Haddon Brown and laid the case before him.

"Dat man am suttinly gwine lose his min'," she sobbed, "ef he keep on
like he doin'. Den what gwine become of me and dat in'cen' chile!"

Young Brown casually and unostentatiously looked 'Rastus over, and was
not satisfied with the survey. The janitor's lips were drawn, his eyes
were glassy, his clothes hung loosely on his shrunken little figure. He
did his work as a manikin wound up for the purpose might have done it.
There was no spring, no energy, no snap. Mr. Brown waited a fortnight,
expecting some change. None coming, one Sunday morning he urged 'Rastus
to go with him on a fishing trip, carry bait, fish if he wanted to, and
make himself generally useful. With unrelieved gloom "Mistah
Breckenridge" accepted the invitation, and the two left the city behind
them, and sought the peace of wood and stream and broad, overarching
sky.

When he had found the shaded nook that seemed most promising, young
Brown baited his hook, dropped it into the water, and gave himself up
to pleasant reveries in which poor "Mistah Breckenridge" had no part.
He had good-naturedly brought him out here for rest and change and
sport and pure air, he told himself, but it was hardly to be expected
that he should do more. He yawned, dozed, and surveyed his line without
curiosity; beside him sat "Mistah Breckenridge," every muscle of him
tense, and a light in his eyes that was not nice to see.

The spot they had chosen was a not infrequented one in the Bronx woods,
and at intervals the sound of human voices came to them and the light
colors of a woman's gown showed through the trees. Suddenly a laugh was
borne to their ears--a woman's laugh; light, happy, irrepressible.
Young Brown opened one eye. It sounded like the laugh of a nice girl.
He looked lazily in the direction whence it came. Then close by his
side he heard a thud, a groan. His companion had pitched full length on
the ground, and lay there crying with great, gasping sobs, and tearing
up the grasses by the roots. Brown gazed aghast, startled, sympathetic,
understanding dimly, yet repelled by this unmasculine outburst. He
began to speak, but changed his mind and waited, his eyes again on the
bobbing cork of his line.

"Mistah Breckenridge" cried a long time--a very long time, indeed, it
seemed to young Brown, ill at ease and wholly unused to such
demonstrations. Then he sat up, pulled himself together, and turned a
distorted face toward the young man who had been so good a friend to
him.

"You-all know, Mr. Brown, ah sure is ashamed," he said, quietly, "but
ah feel bettah, an' ah guess hit done me good. Ah felt like ah could
kill someone when we come yeah, but ah feel differnt now."

His voice trailed into silence. He restlessly pulled up dandelions and
blades of grass around him, but his face had relaxed and he seemed
calm. Haddon Brown murmured something about a nervous strain, but the
other did not seem to hear him.

"Hit wuz dat lady laffin'," he said, suddenly. "You-all know how mah
Hannah use tuh laff. Mah gracious! Yuh could heah dat woman a mile! An'
yuh know," he proceeded, slowly, "hit done me lots o' good, Mistah
Brown, des to heah huh. Ahm a silen' man, an' ah doan laff much, but ah
liked hit in Hannah, ah suttinly did--mighty well. Hit des made dis
mo'nful ole wurl' seem a chee'ful place--hit did indeed."

Brown said nothing. There was nothing in his mind that quite fitted the
occasion. "Mistah Breckenridge" ripped a few more dandelions off their
stems and went on.

"W'y, when dat woman lef me--when mah Hannah went away--ah use tuh go
aftah night to de place whah she lived, jes' to heah huh laff again.
Ah'd stan' out in d' dahk, an' ah'd see huh shadow on de cu'tin, an'
den ah'd heah huh laff an' laff lak she always done, an' den--ah'd come
home! Ah done dat all dese yeahs sense mah Hannah lef me. Dinah's all
right. Ah ain' complainin' none 'bout Dinah. Ah mah'd huh caze ah wuz
lonesome, an' she suttinly bin a good wife to me. Ahm goin' to wuk foh
huh tell ah git back all the money ah spent on Hannah. Hit wus Dinah's
money, too. But"--he burst out again with a sudden long wail--"ah jes'
doan see how ahm goin' tuh keep on livin in a worl' whah dey ain't no
Hannah!"

His grief gathered force as he gave it rein. He hurled himself down on
the ground again and tore at the grasses with his thin black hands.
"Oh, ah want, ah want, _ah want tuh heah mah Hannah laff again!_" he
cried, frenziedly.

A fish nibbled at the bait on Brown's hook, changed his mind, flirted
his fins, and swam away--a proof of the proverb about second thoughts.
A bird in the branches of the tree above the two men burst into
ecstatic song. But neither heard him. "Mistah Breckenridge" had buried
his black face in the cool grass, his hot tears falling fast upon it.
Beside him young Brown, brought face to face with elemental conditions,
sat silent and thought hard.



VIII

THE QUEST OF AUNT NANCY


It was in a stuffy compartment of a night train approaching Paris that
Jessica and I were privileged to look upon Aunt Nancy for the first
time. Her obvious age would soon have attracted our attention, no
doubt, and certainly the gallantry with which she carried her eighty
years could not long have escaped the observation of two such earnest
students of humanity as we believed ourselves to be. But the
characteristic in her which at once caught my eye was her expression--a
look of such keen alertness, such intense vitality, that even in the
mental stagnation that accompanies night travel I wondered what, in her
surroundings, could explain it.

The dingy carriage in which we sat was vaguely illuminated by an oil
lamp, the insufficient rays of which brought out effective high lights
on the bald head of one audibly slumbering German on our side of the
compartment, and on the heavy face of a stout Frenchwoman who sat
opposite him, next to the old lady upon whom I was concentrating my
attention. The latter, obviously an American, the two foreigners, and
ourselves, were the sole occupants of the compartment; and certainly in
the appearance of none of her four fellow-passengers was there
justification of the wide-awake intentness of the kind old eyes that
now beamed on us through heavy, steel-rimmed spectacles. Pensively, as
befitted the weary wanderer, I marvelled. How could she look so alive,
so wide awake, so energetic, at one o'clock in the morning?

The bald-headed man slept on. The stout woman removed a shell comb from
her back hair and composed herself for deeper slumber. Jessica
presented to my lambent gaze a visage which besought unspoken sympathy,
and mutely breathed a protest against travel in general and this phase
of it in particular. Jessica in the "still small hours" was never
really gay. It was dimly comforting to one of my companionable nature
to turn from her to the little old woman opposite me. In figure and
dress she might have posed for one of Leech's drawings of ancient
dames, so quaintly prim was she, so precise in their folds were her
little black mantle and her simple black gown, so effective a frame to
her wrinkled face was the wide black bonnet she wore. On her hands,
demurely crossed in her lap, were black lace mitts. Moreover, she was
enveloped, so to speak, in a dim aroma of peppermint, the source of
which was even then slightly distending one faded cheek. Irrepressibly
I smiled at her, and at once a long-drawn sigh of pleasure floated
across to me. In spontaneous good-fellowship she leaned forward.

"It's a real comfortable journey, ain't it?" she whispered, so
evidently torn between a passionate desire to talk and consideration
for the sleepers that my heart went out to her.

"Well, if you mean this especial journey--" I hesitated.

"Yes, I do," she insisted. "The seats are real comfortable. Everything
is." She threw out her mittened hands with a gesture that seemed to
emphasize a demand for approval. "I wouldn't change a single thing.
Some say it's hot; I don't think 'tis. I wouldn't mind, though, if
'twas. We're gettin' a nice draught."

I looked through the open window at the French landscape, bathed in the
glory of an August moon.

"That, at least, is very satisfactory," I admitted, cheerfully.

She looked a little blank as she glanced around, and a queer expression
of responsibility settled over her features, blurring their brightness
like a veil.

"I see," she said, slowly. "You mean France. Yes, 'tis nice, an' they's
certainly a great deal to see in it." She hesitated a moment, and then
went on more rapidly. "You know," she continued, in her high-keyed,
sibilant whisper, "it's some different with me from what 'tis with you.
You can speak French. I heard you talkin' to the conductor. An' I
suppose you've been here often, an' like it. But this is the first time
_I've_ come over to Europe. I've always meant to, sometime, but things
ain't been just so's I _could_ come. Now't I'm here, I can't stay long,
an' I must say I feel kind of homesick. There's so much to see it jest
makes my head swim. I come for a purpose--a purpose of my own--but
now't I'm here, I want to do my duty an' see things. I declare," she
added, shamefacedly, "I most hate to go to sleep nights, I'm so afraid
I'll miss something an' hear about it when I git back."

I asked a conventional question, which evoked a detailed report of her
journeyings. By this time Jessica had opened one eye; the two
foreigners slept on peacefully. She had landed at Naples, the old lady
told me; and from her subsequent remarks I gathered that she had found
the Italians as a people deficient in the admirable qualities of
cleanliness and modesty. She lamented, also, an over-preponderance of
art galleries, and the surprising slowness of the natives to grasp
intelligent remarks made in the English tongue. Aside from these
failings, however, she had found Italy somewhat interesting, and she
mentioned especially the grotto at Capri and the ascent of Vesuvius.
She added, casually, that few of her fellow-tourists had made this
latter excursion, as it was just after the severest eruptions, and the
air had been full of dust and cinders. Jessica opened the other eye. I
began to experience vivid interest in the conversation.

Rome, she further revealed, meant to her the Campagna and the
Catacombs. On the former she had taken walks, and in the very bowels of
the latter she had seemingly burrowed for days, following some
mysterious purpose of her own. Her favorite time for a promenade on the
Campagna, and one she paused to recommend to me, was at dusk, the place
then being quiet and peaceful, owing to the fact that tourists,
foolishly fearing the fever, kept away from it after sunset.

At this point Jessica sat up, arranged a pillow comfortably behind her
back, and gave her undivided attention to the monologue. At last she
put a question. Was the lady travelling alone? The lady hastened to
explain that she was not.

"My, no," she said, briskly. "I'm a tourist--that's what they call 'em,
you know, when they're with a man. They's eighteen in our party, and
the man that is takin' us is Mr. James George Jackson. He's real nice.
He's in one of the other cars on this train, an' they's three gentlemen
with him that belong to us, too. All the rest stayed in Paris because
they was tired. You see," she added, explanatorily, "we done Lourdes in
two days, an' we took it off our time in Paris. We ain't got much time
in Paris, anyhow, so we went an' come back at night. I s'pose the rest
thought it might be tryin' in the heat, so they stayed behind an' went
to Fontingblow yesterday an' up the Seen to-day. But I saw the Black
Forest when we was in Germany, an' the Rhine, too, an' some of us
walked from Binjen to Cooblens, so's we could git the view real well.
So I thought I'd let the French river an' forest go, an' see Lourdes
instead."

Jessica interrupted here.

"I beg your pardon," she asked, earnestly, "but--have you really been
travelling two nights and sight-seeing two days in that fearful crush
at Lourdes without any sleep?"

Our new friend nodded slowly, as one to whose attention the matter had
just been directed. "Why, yes, that's so," she conceded. "But I ain't a
bit tired. Old folks don't need much sleep, you know, an' I'm pretty
old. I was eighty-one last June."

Jessica dropped her pillow and sat up very straight, a slight flush
upon her face. Our new friend prattled on until the lights of Paris
appeared in the distance, and Jessica and I began to collect the
impressive array of impedimenta with which we had thoughtfully
multiplied the discomfort of travel. As we pulled down packages of rugs
and tightened various straps the bright eyes of the little old woman
watched us unswervingly through her spectacles. Grasping firmly a stout
and serviceable umbrella, she was ready to disembark. If she had
brought any baggage with her, which I doubted, it was evidently in the
fostering care of Mr. James George Jackson.

"What hotel are you goin' to?" she asked, suddenly. "I know a real good
one."

I told her it was the St. James et D'Albany, and her wrinkled face grew
radiant.

"Well, now, I declare," she cried, heartily, "ain't that nice! That's
jest where we're stayin', an' I'm as comfor'ble as I can be. I got a
room with a window that looks right into the Twilry Gardens. Mr.
Jackson says that I must have the best they is, because I'm the oldest.
'Age before beauty,' he says, an' none of the other ladies minds a bit.
They certainly are good to me. Of course, I don't say 't I wouldn't
like a more relishin' breakfast, because I would; an' I ain't got used
to that waiter man comin' right into my room with his trays before I'm
out of my bed, an' I never expect to. But _'tis_ a good hotel, an' the
lady that runs it is real nice, if she _is_ French."

The train swung into the great station as she spoke, and a round,
perspiring, and very grimy masculine face presented itself at the door
of our compartment.

"Well, Aunt Nancy," said the owner of this, with a sprightly effort at
cheerfulness, "you alive yet? The rest of us are dead. You come right
along with me now, and I'll whisk you up to the hotel in a cab. And if
you take my advice, you'll go to bed and stay there for two days, after
this experience."

He tucked the old lady under his arm as he spoke, and she trotted off
with him in high good-humor, turning several times to nod and smile at
us as she departed.

At eight o'clock the following morning I was awakened by Jessica, who
stood at my bedside light-heartedly reminding me of my self-imposed
duty of going early to the station to attend to the luggage, which we
had omitted to do the night before. My replies to this suggestion,
while they held Jessica's awe-struck attention for five minutes, would
be of no interest here. Bitterly I rose, reluctantly and yawningly I
dressed. At nine I stood at the entrance of our hotel signalling
sleepily for a cab, and wilting already under the heat of the August
sun. While I waited, a tourist coach drew up at the curb. It was
gorgeous with red paint and conspicuous with large signs bearing the
lettering "A VERSAILLES." The driver remained on the box. The guide,
evidently there by appointment and sharply on time, leaped to the
sidewalk, glanced at his watch, snapped the case shut with a satisfied
nod, and stood with his eyes on the hotel entrance. One tiny black
figure came forth, greeted him with a blithe "Bongjure," and intrepidly
began the perilous ascent of the ladder he hastened to place against
the side of the coach for her convenience. It was Aunt Nancy, dressed
as she had been the night before, but immaculately neat, and reflecting
in her face the brightness of the morning. I greeted her, and in her
glad surprise at seeing me again she remained suspended between earth
and heaven to talk to me, incidentally revealing the whole of two
serviceable gaiters, the tiny ruffle of an alpaca petticoat, and a
long, flat section of gray-striped cotton hose.

"Well, well," she beamed. "Ain't this nice? Yes, I'm goin'. The rest
ain't ready yet, but I've been awake sence five, so I thought I'd come
right down an' watch the coach fill up. The men ain't goin'--they're so
tired, poor dears. Onri, my waiter, says every last one of 'em is in
bed yit. But some of the ladies that went up the Seen yesterday is
comin', so I guess we'll have a real nice party. We're goin' to see the
palace an' the Treenon first, an' then I'm goin' to the fair in the
village. Mr. Jackson says a French fair is real interestin', but he
ain't goin'. He said last night he had a great deal of work to do in
his room to-day, an' he guessed we wouldn't none of us see him till
dinner. Do you know"--she lowered her voice mysteriously and cast an
apprehensive eye about her as she went on--"Onri says Mr. Jackson's
asleep this very minute, an' it's most nine o'clock in the mornin'!"

These startling revelations were checked by the appearance of two of
her fellow-tourists, and I seized the opportunity afforded by this
interruption to depart upon my uncongenial task.

We did not see Aunt Nancy again until the morning of our third day in
Paris, when I ran across her in the galleries of the Luxembourg. She
was settled comfortably in a bright-red upholstered seat near the main
entrance, and on her wrinkled face was an expression of perfect peace.

"Well, I'm glad to see you resting at last," was my greeting.

"Yes, I'm restin'," she conceded. "I always do in the art galleries,"
she added, simply, as I sat down beside her. "They've got the
comfort'blest chairs here of any, I think, though they was some nice
ones in Florence, too; an' in one of the places in Rome they was a long
seat where you could 'most lay down. I took a real nice nap there. You
see," she continued, smoothing an imaginary wrinkle out of one lace
mitt, "I don't know much about pictures, _anyway_, but I come right
along with the others, an' when I git here I jest set down an' rest
till they git through lookin' at 'em. I don't know what's Michelangelo
an' what _ain't_, an' 't seems to me it's too late to find out now."

Jessica appeared at this moment, and further revelations were checked
by greetings, followed almost immediately by our reluctant departure to
keep an appointment. Before we left, however, we learned that the day
at Versailles had been followed by an evening "at one of them French
kafes where women sing," and that fourteen hours of sight-seeing in
Paris itself had dispelled the threatened ennui of the second day.

Late that evening Mr. James George Jackson tottered to the side of
Jessica in the corridor of the Hotel D'Albany and addressed her, wiping
his brow as he did so.

"It's the old lady," he said--"Aunt Nancy Wheeler, you know. She asked
me to ask you two ladies if you wouldn't like to join us in a drive
this evening. She wants to see how Paris looks at night, an' I've got
to show her."

He swayed languidly against a pillar when we had accepted the
invitation, and groaned in reply to Jessica's tribute to the old lady's
activity.

"She's active all right," he remarked, grimly. "If there's anything
left of _me_ after she gets through, it'll be because I've inherited an
iron constitution from my mother. She's worn out every other man in the
party weeks ago. The worst of it is that I don't know why she does it.
She really doesn't care about anything; I'm sure of that. But she's got
some object; so she goes from early morn till dewy eve, and of course
some one's got to go with her; we can't let her wander around alone.
Besides, what I'm afraid of is that she'll go all to pieces some
day--like the deacon's one-horse shay, you know, and there won't be
anything left but a little heap of alpaca clothes and congress gaiters.
She's worn out six pair of gaiters since we started," he added, with a
wail. "I know, because I've had to buy them. _She_ hasn't had time." He
shook his head mournfully as he wandered away.

Jessica and I bade Aunt Nancy an affecting farewell that night, as we
were leaving Paris the next day. For several weeks we heard no more of
her, but in Scotland we crossed her trail again. The Highlands were
full of rumors of an intrepid old dame who had "done" the lakes and the
Trossachs as apparently they had never been done before. Was she an
American? She was. Eighty years old, dressed in black, with a big
bonnet, steel-rimmed spectacles, and gaiters? All was correct but the
gaiters. Seemingly the gaiter supply had been exhausted by the constant
demand. She wore shoes with heavy soles and, our informant added,
happily, gray, striped stockings. From the rumors of her achievements
on land and water, Jessica and I glanced apprehensively over the
surface of Scotland, fearing to see it strewn with exhausted boatmen,
guides, and drivers; but apparently all her victims had survived,
though they bore as a souvenir of their experience with her a haggard
and hunted look which Jessica declared she could detect from the top
seat of the loftiest coach.

Drifting down through Ireland we heard another echo of Aunt Nancy. She
had ridden on horseback through the Gap of Dunloe, no difficult feat in
itself, and one achieved daily during Kallarney's tourist season by old
ladies of various countries and creeds. In Aunt Nancy's case, however,
it appeared that she had been able to enjoy that variety which is so
gratifying a feature of human experience. Notwithstanding the fact that
she had never been on the back of a horse in her life, she unerringly
selected the freshest and most frolicsome of the Irish ponies as her
mount. It appears further that she was finally lifted to the saddle of
this animal as the result of a distinct understanding between Mr. James
George Jackson and her guide that the latter gentleman was not only to
accompany the lady every foot of the route, but was meantime to cling
valiantly to the bridle with both hands. Unfortunately, this
arrangement, so deeply satisfying to all, was not ratified by the
mettlesome Irish pony; the result being that, after the guide had been
swept off his feet by a sudden and unexpected lift of the animal's
forelegs, Aunt Nancy and the pony continued the excursion alone.
Judging from the terse words of one of the observers, it must have been
an exciting spectacle while it lasted, though it passed all too rapidly
beyond the line of the beholder's longing vision.

"Ye c'u'dn't tell," remarked this gentleman, sadly, in relating the
accident, "which was the harse an' which the auld lady, an' which the
Gap of Dunloe!"

Excited pursuers did not "catch 'em," as they were urged to do by the
frenzied Mr. Jackson, but they were rewarded by finding various
portions of Aunt Nancy's wearing apparel scattered along the trail.
Items: one black bonnet, one cape, one handkerchief, one pair of
steel-rimmed spectacles. Apparently only those garments securely
fastened in place, such as shoes and lace mitts, had survived the
experience. Apparently, also, Aunt Nancy had made in almost unbroken
silence her exciting mountain ride. The exception seemingly occurred
somewhere in the Dark Valley, where a mountain woman, seeing her fly
by, had thoughtlessly urged her to stop and buy a glass of goat's milk.
The woman's memory of the encounter was slightly vague, it having ended
so abruptly, but she retained the impression that Aunt Nancy had
expressed an unusual degree of regret at being unable to accept her
invitation.

"'Twasn't till thin I saw the poor harse was crazy wid fright, an' the
auld lady's close blowin' over his eyes," added the mountain woman,
sympathetically. "An' I couldn't do nathin', becuz, begorra, whin I
lifted me v'ice to call me big bye, the auld woman an' the harse was
half-way down the valley."

Fortunately, five or six miles of this stimulating pace had a blighting
effect on the wild Hibernian spirits of the pony, with the result that
he and his rider ambled at a most sedate gait into the space where the
row-boats were waiting their passengers for Ross Castle, and where the
remaining members of the party were expected to meet. The remaining
members of the party, for obvious reasons, were not yet there; and the
long delay before their arrival gave Aunt Nancy time to replace the
missing articles of her apparel with garments borrowed from the woman
at the refreshment booth, and to eat a hearty luncheon. Thus refreshed,
she was ready for the fourteen-mile journey in a row-boat to Ross
Castle, which was the next item on the programme of the day; and she
made it that afternoon, notwithstanding the almost hysterical
expostulations of Mr. James George Jackson.

It was not until we sailed for America that we looked again into Aunt
Nancy's dauntless eyes. She was the first passenger we saw when we
reached the deck of the Columbia, and her joy in the encounter was as
deep as our own. We chatted for a moment, and then she darted off to
greet various members of her party from whom side excursions had
temporarily separated her.

The sea was slumberously calm, bathed in hazy autumnal sunshine.
Light-hearted men and women in white linen and pale flannel costumes
strolled about the decks explaining to one another what good sailors
they were, and how they hoped the sea would not remain monotonously
smooth.

"One wants a little life and swing on a ship," explained one fat, blond
man on whose face we were even then looking, though we knew it not, for
the last time in seven sad days. To a unit the passengers poured into
the dining-saloon at the first call for luncheon. To a unit they
consumed everything on the bill of fare. All was peace and appetite.

That afternoon the sea roused herself drowsily, turned over, and
yawned. The blue waves of the morning were gone. In their place were
huge, oily, black swells, which lazily lifted the _Columbia_, held her
suspended for a long minute, and then with slow, shuddering reluctance
let her down, down, down. An interesting young Scotchman who was
sitting by Jessica's side on deck stopped suddenly in the midst of an
impassioned tribute to the character of Robert Brace, looked in her
face for an instant with eyes full of a horrible fear, and hastily
joined a stout German in a spirited foot-race to the nearest
companionway. A High-church English divine, who had met me half an hour
before and had hastened to spare me future heartaches by explaining at
once that he was married, rose abruptly from his chair beside me and
wobbled uncertainly to the deck-rail, where he hung suspended in an
attitude of pathetic resignation. Thus recalled to the grim realities
of life, Jessica and I looked up and down the deck. It was
deserted--deserted save for a little black figure that trotted rapidly
past us, clutching occasionally at the empty air for support as she was
hurled from one side to the other of the glistening deck, but cheerful,
undaunted, and happy.

"I got to have some exercise," panted Aunt Nancy, as she reclined for
an instant in my lap, where a lurch of the ship had deposited her; "so
I'm takin' a little walk." She was still walking when Jessica and I
retreated hurriedly to our cabin.

The days that followed are too sad to be described by the most
sympathetic pen. The sea, moved to her uttermost depths as she had not
been in twenty-five years, resented fiercely the presence of the
Columbia on her disturbed bosom. Madly she cast her from her; with
feline treachery she drew her back again, and sought to tear apart her
mighty timbers. Groaningly, agonizingly, pluckily, the Columbia bore
all--and revenged herself on her passengers. She stood on her head, and
sent them, so to speak, into her prow. She rose up on her stern, and
scattered them aft. She stood still and shuddered. She lay down on her
left side until she had imperilled the heart action of every person on
board; she rolled over on her right side and started briskly toward the
bottom of the sea. She recovered herself, leaped up and down a few
times to prove that she was still intact, and did it all over again.
Meanwhile the passengers, locked below and sternly commanded to keep to
their cabins, held fast to the sides of their berths and prayed
fervently for death.

Neither Jessica nor I was actively ill, but Jessica's indifference to
food and social intercourse was marked in the extreme. Stretched on her
back in the berth opposite my own, she lay day and night with closed
eyes and forbidding demeanor, rousing herself only long enough to repel
fiercely any suggestion that she take nourishment. Also, she furnished
me with one life-long memory. From sheer ennui I ordered and devoured
at noon on the third day a large portion of steamed peach dumpling,
with hard sauce. The look which Jessica cast first upon this dish and
then upon me will always, I think, remain the dominant feature of my
most troubled dreams.

During this time I had not forgotten Aunt Nancy, though I am sure
Jessica had. Her cabin, however, while on the same deck as our own, was
at the other end of the ship, and I had grave doubts of my ability to
cover safely the distance between. Finally I attempted it, and, aside
from the slight incidents of blacking one eye in an unexpected
diversion to the rail, and subsequently being hurled violently against
the back of an axe nailed to the wall, I made the passage in safety.
Aunt Nancy was not in her cabin, but a hollow groan from the upper
berth betrayed the fact that her room-mate was. From this lady I was
unfortunately unable to extract any information. She seemed to feel
that I was mercifully sent to chloroform her out of existence, and her
disappointment over my failure to play this Samaritan role was so
bitter that I was forced to withdraw lest she should utter things
unbefitting a gentlewoman.

Down the long corridor, as I groped my way back, something blew toward
me like a wraith from the sea. It wore a gray, woolly bathrobe, a tiny
wisp of white hair fastened precariously with one hair-pin, and a pair
of knitted bedroom slippers. It was Aunt Nancy, and we executed then
and there an intricate pas de deux in our common efforts to meet.
Finally the Columbia ceased her individual evolutions long enough to
enable us to grasp the passage-rail.

"I've been in your cabin," I explained, above the roar of wave and
wind, as we stood facing each other. "I was afraid you were ill."

Aunt Nancy looked almost pained at such a suspicion.

"My, no," she disavowed, hastily; "but there's them that is," she
conceded. "I've been to see--let me see--thirty of 'em to-day--men an'
women both. Poor Mr. Jackson's about the worst. I never SEE such a sick
man. I got this cracked ice for him," she added, looking down at the
glass she was clasping to her bosom with her free hand. "I'd 'a' looked
in on you," she added, kindly, "if I hadn't been so busy, but I heard
you wa'n't neither of you sick."

I explained with some effort that I felt comfortable as long as I lay
still, but that as soon as I was on my feet, the motion--We parted
hurriedly.

On the morning of the sixth day Jessica turned over in her berth,
removed from her spine a fork which had seemingly been there all the
week, regarded it with strong disfavor, and announced briefly that she
was going above. We went. The decks were still wet, and the
steamer-chairs were securely lashed in place. The sky was gray and
lowering, but the sea had sulkily subsided, showing its continued
resentment of the whole experience only in the upheaval of an
occasional wave which broke over the ship-rail and perished at our
feet. As the hours passed, pale wraiths appeared at the companionways,
supported one another feebly to the nearest chairs, sank into them, and
veiled their faces from one another's gaze. They seemed the ghosts of
the happy men and women who had come on board the Columbia six long
days ago. Languidly as the hours passed they revived and confided to
one another the simple record of the voyage. No, they had not been ill.
It was, indeed, singular how few of them had been disturbed by the
voyage, though they had all noticed that it was rough. But they had
been injured by being knocked about or thrown from their berths, or
they had been caring for friends or relatives who were ill. Several of
them paused at my side on their way to and from their cabins to indulge
in these artless confidences. It remained, however, for Aunt Nancy to
make the most interesting of all.

She came along the deck about five in the afternoon and dropped with
serene satisfaction into the empty steamer-chair at my right. She was
fully dressed in the inevitable black, even to her wide bonnet. With a
sigh of pleasure she folded her mittened hands and began to talk.

"It's been real interestin'," she said. "I must say I'm 'most sorry to
have it over. I want to go to Europe again in two years; I ain't really
enjoyed this trip very much; but when I come again I think I'll like it
better, now that I know it. But of course at my age one can't really be
sure one can come again."

She sank into silence for a moment, looking down at the mittened hands
in her lap. Then her face brightened, and she turned to me again with
her old, alert eagerness of expression.

"I dunno why I shouldn't come, though," she added, cheerfully. "I'm
real well. Before I left home I was some worried. I didn't seem to be
as strong as I used to be. That's why I come--to build up my health an'
git strong. Lots of folks has wondered why I come, I guess, an' that
was it, though I ain't told no one till now. I guess I did improve,
too, for the stewardess told me with her own lips only this mornin'
that she thought I was a healthy woman. But of course," she added, with
lowly humility, "I can't do what I did when I was young."

I was speechless. The Columbia paused on the top of a wave, hesitated a
moment, and sailed unsteadily onward. With eyes filled with a solemn
content, Aunt Nancy gazed out over the cold, wet sea.



IX

THE HENRY SMITHS' HONEYMOON


When Jacob West suggested to Henry Smith that the latter's honeymoon
should be spent in New York, Mr. Smith's ruddy countenance paled at the
audacity of the words, and Miss Maria Tuttle, his fiancee, gasped
audibly for breath. Unconsciously they clasped hands, as if better to
meet together the rude shock of the moment; and seated side by side on
the rustic bench which adorned the small veranda of the Tuttle
homestead, they gazed helplessly at the speaker. Slowly and with the
stiffness of age Jacob sat down on the steps below them and looked up
at their startled faces with a twinkle in his dim old eyes. His
enjoyment of the moment was intense.

"Why not?" he demanded, cajolingly and argumentatively. "Ain't yeh old
enough t' have a good time? Ain't yeh waited long enough? Ain't
yeh"--he turned directly to Maria--"bin nursin' yer poor mother fer six
years past an' wearin' yerself out, an' ain't yeh bin sewin' day an'
night fer three months, ever sence she died, t' git ready t' marry
Henry?" He drew a long breath of gratification over the respectful
silence which greeted these adroit points, and went on with hortatory
sympathy. "Yeh bin a good daughter, Maria. They ain't no better in
Clayton Centre. Yeh deserve th' best they is. Now be good t' yerself
an' Henry. Let him take yeh to New York an' give yeh a good time on the
weddin' tower."

Miss Tuttle blushed faintly. She was forty-five, and looked ten years
older. She was a tired, worn out, faded little woman, drained of her
youth and vitality by the hourly exactions of the fault-finding invalid
mother whom she had so recently laid away in the church-yard with
unselfish filial tears. But there was something attractive in the sweet
patience of her thin face, and the look in her brown eyes as she turned
them on her faithful middle-aged lover was one of the trump cards her
sex has played since Eve first used it as she accompanied Adam to the
gate out of paradise. In her embarrassment she laughed a little,
consciously.

"Mebbe Henry don't want to go," she began. "He ain't said nothing about
New York."

Henry whirled abruptly till he faced her on the rustic seat.

"Go! You bet I want to go!" he ejaculated, with fervor. "Don't I
just--you bet I do. Say, Maria"--he fumbled nervously with the thin
hand he still held in his own--"say, let's go."

Jacob West cackled delightedly. "That's the talk!" he cried, his thin,
high tones taking on a shriller note in his excitement. "You jest do
it, Henry! You make her! Neither of yeh'll be sorry, I swan!"

They sat silent, reflecting, and the old fellow rose slowly and
painfully, instinctive delicacy telling him that, having done his part,
it behooved him to leave them alone to solve for themselves the
question he had raised. It was hard to go, but he went, chuckling
reminiscently as he recalled the excited look on their faces and
pictured the lively debate which would follow his departure.

It was a warm October evening, and the little village lay silent under
the early stars. A light wind sang a droning lullaby in the grove of
pines back of the Tuttle home, and a few belated birds twittered
sleepily in near-by trees. Unconsciously Maria voiced the subtle charm
of the hour when she spoke.

"I dunno, Henry," she said, lingeringly--"I dunno's I feel to go. Seems
like we ought to be content to stay right here, where it's so quiet an'
restful."

Her eyes roamed lovingly down the garden paths, lingering on trees and
shrubs planted by Tuttle hands now a part of earth themselves. "I'm so
glad you're comin' here," she sighed, happily. "I don't b'lieve you
know yet how glad I am, Henry--not t' leave the old place."

He waived the discussion of this side interest, already settled between
them.

"It'll be jest as nice when we come back from New York," he argued,
logically, "an' jest as quiet."

The feminine intellect beside him took another tack on the sea of
uncertainty with which old Jacob had surrounded it.

"Mebbe we can't afford it," she hazarded. "Prices is very high in New
York, Henry. Joseph Hadley's daughter went there four years ago with
her aunt, and she told me with her own lips they had to pay a dollar a
day for their room at the hotel, without no meals. The hotel man wanted
seventy-five cents apiece for dinner, so they paid it once a day an'
the rest of the time they went into lunch-rooms an' had milk an'
crackers. But with one dollar for the room, and another dollar 'n' a
half for dinner, an' the crackers an' milk besides, they spent 'most
twenty dollars the very first week. They had to come right straight
home, 'n' they'd meant to stay two weeks."

Henry Smith's strong jaw set rather obstinately.

"I guess we won't have to come home till we git ready," he remarked,
easily, "an' I guess we'll git our three meals a day, too. I don't see
myself eatin' no milk an' crackers, nor you, neither. I guess I 'ain't
bin savin' all these years, with a good carpenter business, without
gittin' somethin' ahead. Say, 'Ria"--it was he who blushed now, his
round face close to hers--"yeh can have anything yeh want. I'm that
glad t' git yeh at last, I'd spend all I have!"

Her thin hand responded for an instant to the pressure of his and then
coyly withdrew itself. She had few words at any time and none in
moments of emotion, but he knew her and was satisfied.

"You've bin so good, Henry," she said, at last; "you've bin awful
patient all these years. Fur's I'm concerned, I'd as lief stay here's
anywhere, but if you want to go t' New York, I--I--want to do what yeh
say."

"Then we'll go," he said, quietly; and the great question was settled.

When Mr. and Mrs. Henry Smith arrived in New York on the evening of
their wedding-day, it is doubtful which of them was the more dazed and
frightened by the bustle and confusion at the Grand Central station.
Maria had at least the support of her husband's nearness to sustain
her, and the comparative peace of mind of the one who, though facing
untoward conditions, is without personal responsibility; but Henry
experienced, in addition to his self-distrust, a sickening fear of
failure in her presence. He was conscious of two dominant thoughts.
Whatever happened, he must take care of his wife and spurn the advances
of agreeable strangers. Also he and she must be transported by hack to
the hotel they had chosen, without parting with the savings of years
for the ride. He had heard of the extortions of cabmen. He bargained
fiercely with a too-zealous independent who had already grasped his
hand-bag and was leading the way to his cab, past the more inexpensive
cabs supplied by the railroad company.

"You don't git one cent more'n two dollars for taking us, I can tell
you that," announced Henry Smith, firmly but breathlessly, as he
climbed clumsily into the cab after his wife. The hotel was in the
fifties, and the cabman had intended to charge a dollar for the ride.
He promptly protested against Mr. Smith's offer, however, inquiring
anxiously if the gentleman wished an honest cabman's family to go
supperless to bed. It appeared that the gentleman was indifferent to
the fate of the cabman's family.

"You'll do it for two dollars or you'll let us git out," was his final
word. As one overcome by superior force, the cabman yielded, climbed
sulkily to his perch, and, bestowing a large, comprehensive wink upon
the by-standers, started for the hotel his fare had indicated. Mr.
Smith's spirits rose. Obviously, in this triumph he had demonstrated
his fitness to cope with all the other grinding monopolies of New York.
He smiled proudly at his wife as they drove toward Broadway, and his
confidence grew as he discovered that he recognized the Times Building
at the first glance and could also recognize the Hotel Astor by its
resemblance to the picture of it in the Clayton Centre Weekly. At one
point in their progress up-town the cab was caught in a crush of
vehicles and Mrs. Henry Smith was privileged, for the first time in her
life, to listen to the untrammelled conversation of New York cabmen on
an occasion when they set their moral shoulders against congested
traffic, knowing that it helps THEM, at all events. She shuddered and
clung to Henry's arm. It was all too plain that they were in the vortex
of godlessness, but even as the realization of this was borne to her on
the winged speech of the driver, Mrs. Smith was conscious of an inward
thrill. It was awful, but it was life--not life as lived in Clayton
Centre, but certainly a life that already gained in excitement and
interest from that fact. Unconsciously craning her thin neck farther
out of the cab window, she drank in with a fearful joy the roar and
excitement of Broadway, the shouts of drivers, the clang of
trolley-cars. Her faded eyes gleamed as she saw the brilliant lights of
the great thoroughfare whose illuminated signs met her glance at every
turn.

Arrived at the hotel, the cabman accepted the two dollars, dumped the
bride's trunk on the sidewalk, and drove off with an alacrity designed
to prevent any further discussion of rates. Mr. Smith surrendered his
hand-bag to the bell-boy who was reaching out impatient hands for it,
grasped his wife's arm, and, following his small guide, walked firmly
into the presence of the hotel clerk. It was a trying moment for him as
he dragged that aloof personality down to his level, but details were
arranged with surprising ease, barring so strange a lack of sympathy.
As soon as he had expressed his few and simple wishes he found himself
and his wife being guided to a lift, and with wonderful simplicity put
in possession of a comfortable room on the third floor. Here the shades
were drawn down, a pitcher of ice-water was hospitably placed on the
stand, and a cheery fire was started on the small hearth. Over this
last extravagance the bride faintly demurred, but Henry silenced her
with his simple grandeur of insistence. It was a cool November evening,
and he had noticed that she shivered in her thin wrap as they drove
up-town.

"I jest intend makin' yeh comfortable," he announced, masterfully.

It was something of an ordeal to go down to dinner half an hour later,
but they met it bravely, walking stiffly into the crowded dining-room,
and looking to neither the right nor the left as they followed the
headwaiter to their places. The discovery that they had exclusive
possession of a small table was a matter of joyful surprise to them
both, on which they freely commented. The daintiness of the linen, the
gleam of silver, the perfection of the service, and the soft glow of
candles under silk shades, filled their simple country souls with awe.
It suggested unconjectured expense with a tang of wickedness as well.
Off in an alcove, screened by palms, an orchestra played with
considerate softness. Mr. Smith smiled a large, expansive smile and
leaned back in his chair. The moment was perfect. His apprehensions
were over for the time. Maria was with him, she was his, and he was
giving her all this. Could an Astor or a Vanderbilt offer more to the
woman of his heart? Henry Smith looked at the plush and gilding about
him, and read his answer.

He experienced a rude awakening. A silent waiter stood beside him,
offering for his inspection an elaborate menu. The letters danced
before his eyes as Henry looked at them. What did they mean, anyhow,
and how did one pick out what one wanted, he wondered. Or, perchance,
was one expected gracefully to consume everything? His momentary
self-sufficiency died on the instant, and sickening fears of making a
mistake before Maria's eyes again overcame him. A great longing filled
him to appear to advantage, to do the thing properly, whatever it was.
On a sudden inspiration he leaned toward the waiter.

"Say," he said, confidentially, "you jest bring us two good
dinners--the best of everything you've got--and I'll make it all right
with yeh." He surveyed the waiter's face anxiously as he spoke, his own
clearing as it remained quietly respectful.

"Very well, sir; certainly, sir," said the servant, promptly. "Oysters
first, sir, I suppose, and a little green-turtle soup; a bit of fish,
perhaps--we've some very nice sole in to-day, sir; a bird--the
partridge and grouse are excellent, sir; a salad, and an ice. Any wine,
sir? No, sir? Yes, sir." He was gone, and Mr. Smith wiped his
perspiring brow. Maria was gazing at him with simple love and trust.

"I declare, Henry," she murmured, "you do it all just 's if you'd be'n
doin' it every day of your life. Where'd you learn?"

Mr. Smith made a vague gesture repudiating the charge, but his face
shone and he sat straighter in his chair. He dared not boast, for he
knew there were crucial moments coming, but so far there had been no
catastrophes and his courage grew with each achievement. When Maria
looked doubtfully at her oysters, and, joyfully recognizing them,
wondered audibly why they were not made into a stew instead of being
presented in this semi-nude condition, he was able, after a piercing
glance at near-by tables, to set her right with easy authority.

"They eat 'em this way in New York," he said, swallowing one himself
and endeavoring, with indifferent success, to look as if he liked it.
Maria followed his example, rather gingerly and not as one who ventures
on a new joy. Her interest remained equally vague when the soup and
fish successively appeared. When the partridge was served, however,
with bread sauce and French pease and currant jelly, the gratifying
experience of finally "having something really on the plate" moved her
to alert appreciation, and she proceeded to eat her dinner with an
expression of artless and whole-souled relief. She was able to point
out to Henry, as a bit of prandial small-talk, that the orchestra was
playing "Nancy Brown"--a classic ditty whose notes had reached even
Clayton Centre. It was at this stimulating point of the dinner, also,
that she felt privileged for the first time to remove her gloves,
glance at the other tables and the clothes of the women, and talk
freely to her husband. Hitherto she had "conversed" under pressure.

The waiter, offering her a second helping of jelly, saw, shining in her
hair, several grains of rice. The discovery exhilarated but did not
surprise him. His mien was one of fatherly interest five minutes later
as he presented a small bottle for Mr. Smith's inspection.

"Champagne, sir," he murmured. "Not too dry for the lady's taste, sir.
Thought you'd like a glass--special occasion, sir--"

His eloquence died away under the startled look in the bride's eyes,
but the groom met his happy suggestion with warm approval.

"Jest the thing," he said, heartily. "It'll do you good, Maria. Doctors
give it when people ain't well, so you can take it 'thout any fear. 'N'
I guess you're feelin' pretty well, ain't you?" he grinned, broadly,
over this flash of humor.

He motioned to the waiter to fill her glass, and that worthy did so and
retired behind her to give his courteous attention to the effect.

They drank their champagne, and a faint color came to Maria's pale
cheeks. It was really a nice place, this hotel, she decided, and the
furnishing of this room was such as palaces might cope with in vain.
She had heard of their glories; now she could guess what those glories
were. The voices of other guests chatting around her mingled with the
music; Clayton Centre seemed very remote. At last she was seeing life.

She felt no embarrassment as they left the table. They strolled slowly
down the dining-room and out into the palm-lined corridor on whose
plush chairs handsome men and beautifully dressed women sat and chatted
with surprising volubility and ease. Intrepidly the newcomers seated
themselves side by side where they could listen to the music and watch
the strange beings in this strange world. They were out of it all, and
even in the exhilaration of the moment they knew it; but their
aloofness from others added to the charm of the evening by drawing them
closer together. They gloried in the joint occupation of their little
island of happiness. For a long time they sat there, for Maria could
not be torn away. The music, the costumes and beauty of the women, the
delicate perfumes, the frequent ringing of bells, the hurrying back and
forth of bell-boys and hotel servants, were indescribably fascinating
to her.

The next morning Mr. Smith, sternly recalling himself to the material
side of life, had a brief but pregnant chat with the clerk. He and his
wife wished to stay a few days at the hotel, he intimated, but it would
be advisable, before making their plans, to go somewhat into the
question of expense. How much, for instance, was their dinner last
night. He had signed a check, but his memory was hazy as to the amount.
His brain reeled when the clerk, having looked it up, gave him the
figures--$10.85.

"Good Lord!" gasped Mr. Henry Smith. "I guess we'd better go back
to-day ef it's goin' to be THAT much!"

He was too limp mentally to follow for a time the clerks remarks, but
light gradually broke upon him. He could henceforth take table d'hote
meals, paying sixty cents each for breakfast and luncheon for himself
and his wife, and one dollar each for their dinner. That would be only
four dollars and forty cents a day for all meals--and would make the
hotel bills much less than if one ordered by card, unless one
was--er--familiar with the prices. It was much less trouble, too. Mr.
Smith grasped the point and expansively shook the clerk's hand. His
relief was so great that he urged that youth to have a cigar, and the
youth in return volunteered information as to points of interest to
strangers in New York.

"Better do the town to-day," he suggested. "Just go round and get a
general view--Broadway, Fifth Avenue, the shops, and all that. Then
to-night you'd better go to the play. I think you'd enjoy 'The White
Cat' as much as anything."

Armed with definite information as to the most direct route to
Broadway, Mr. Smith sought his bride. He found her in the corridor,
watching the people come and go, her thin face flushed and animated.

"Oh, Henry," she cried, eagerly, "I declare I'm having the most
interestin' time! Those folks over there--you know, the ones that has
the room next to ours--ain't spoke to each other sence breakfast. Do
you think they've quarrelled, the poor dears?"

He gave but perfunctory attention to "the poor dears," his duties as
prospective cicerone filling his thoughts. Maria's face fell as he
outlined their plans for the day.

"Well, if you feel to go, Henry," she said, doubtfully, "but it's SO
interestin' here. I feel 's if I knew all these folks. I wish we could
stay here this mornin', anyhow, 'n' not git out in those dreadful
crowded streets jest yet."

He sat down beside her with a promptness which evoked a startled shriek
from an absorbed young person reading near them.

"Then we'll stay right here," he announced, kindly. "We're here, 'Ria,
to do jest what you want, an' we're goin' to do it."

She gave him an adoring look, and under its radiance Mr. Smith promptly
forgot the small claims of Broadway. Siberia with Maria in it would
have blossomed like the rose for Henry Smith, and the wide, cheerful
corridors of the Berkeley were far removed from Siberia's atmosphere.
Side by side and blissfully happy, they whiled the morning hours away.
After luncheon Henry again tentatively touched on sight-seeing.

"'Tain't far," he said. He consulted the slip of directions the clerk
had given him, and went on expansively, "We take the cross-town line at
Fifty-ninth Street, transfer to a Broadway car--"

Maria shivered. "My, Henry," she quavered, "that sounds dreadful mixed.
I'm afraid we'll get lost."

Henry's own soul was full of dark forebodings, and he inwardly welcomed
the respite her words gave him.

"Well, then, don't let's go," he said, easily, "till to-morrow, anyhow.
We got plenty o' time. We'll stay here, an' to-night we'll go to see a
play."

Like the morning, the afternoon passed sweetly. Henry made the
discovery that the hotel cafe at the right of the reception-room was a
popular resort for men guests of the hotel, and his researches into
their pleasures led to an introduction to a Manhattan cocktail. He
returned to Maria's side an ardent convert to her theory that the hotel
was the pleasantest place in New York. Subsequently, as he sampled a
Martini, one or two men chatted with him for a moment, giving him a
delightful sense of easy association with his peers. Maria, in the mean
time, had formed a pleasing acquaintance with the parlor maid, and had
talked freely to several little children. It was with reluctance that
they tore themselves away from the corridor long enough to go in to
dinner.

The table d'hote dinner, served in another room, was much less
elaborate than the banquet of the night before, but neither of them
realized the difference. Good in itself, to them it was perfection, and
Maria recognized almost as old friends familiar faces of fellow hotel
guests at the tables around her. When the question of the theatre came
up she was distinctly chilling.

"We'll go if you want to, Henry," she said, "but the band's goin' to
play all evening, an' the maid said some of the young folks has got up
a dance in the little ball-room. Wouldn't you like to see it?"

Henry decided that he would. He had, in fact, no rabid wish to see a
play, and the prospect of piloting Maria safely to the centre of the
town and home was definitely strenuous. He drank another cocktail after
dinner, smoked a cigar with a Western travelling man, exchanged sage
views on politics with that gentleman, and happily spent the remainder
of the evening by his Maria's side, watching the whirling young things
in the small ball-room. The happiest of them were sad, indeed, compared
with Henry Smith.

The next morning the cheerful voice of the clerk greeted him as he came
from the dining-room.

"Where to-day, Mr. Smith?" inquired that affable youth. "How about the
Horse Show? You surely ought to look in on that." He wrote on a card
explicit directions for arriving at the scene of this diversion, and
Mr. Smith, gratefully accepting it, hastened to his bride's side. He
found her full of another project.

"Oh, Henry," she cried, "they's going to be a lecture here in the hotel
this mornin', by a lady that's been to Japan. All the money she gets
for tickets will go to the poor. I guess she'll ask as much as
twenty-five cents apiece, but I think we better go."

Sustained by a cocktail, and strengthened by the presence of his Maria,
Mr. Smith attended the lecture, cheerfully paying two dollars for the
privilege, but refraining from dampening his wife's joy by mentioning
the fact. In the afternoon he broached the Horse Show. Maria's face
paled. To her it meant an exaggerated county fair, with its attendant
fatigue.

"You go, Henry," she urged. "You jest go an' enjoy yourself. I feel too
tired--I really do. I'd rather stay home--here--an' rest. We don't
really have to do nothing we don't want to, do we?"

Honest Henry Smith, whose working-day in Clayton Centre began at five
in the morning and ended at six at night, and whose evenings were
usually spent in the sleep of utter exhaustion, found himself relaxing
deliciously under her words. It was good, very good, to rest, and to
know they didn't HAVE to do things unless they wished.

"I won't, neither, go alone," he announced. "I ain't anxious to go. I'd
ruther stay here with you. We'll go some other time."

The white-capped maid smiled as she passed them; the palms nodded as to
old friends. The seductive charms of the Berkeley corridors again
wrapped them round.

"Going to see some of the pictures to-day?" asked the clerk, on the
third morning, cheerfully doing his duty by the strangers as he
conceived it. "Better go to Central Park first and the Metropolitan
Museum, then to the private exhibitions. Here's the list. Take a
cross-town car to Fifth Avenue, and a 'bus to Eighty-first Street, and
after the Park a Fifth Avenue 'bus will drop you at the other places."

Apprehension settled over Henry Smith, rudely disturbing his
lotos-eater's sense of being. He felt almost annoyed by this
well-meaning but indefatigable young man who seemed to think folks
should be gadding all the time. His manner was unresponsive as he took
the addresses.

"I'll see what my wife says," he remarked, indifferently.

His wife said what he believed and hoped she would say.

"We ain't goin' home till to-morrow afternoon," she observed, "an' we
can see Central Park to-morrow mornin' if we want to. They's a woman
here that does up hair for fifty cents, an' I thought if yeh didn't
mind, Henry, I'd have her do mine--"

Henry urged her to carry out this happy inspiration. "She can't make
yeh look any nicer, though," he added, gallantly. Then, as Maria
surrendered herself and their room to the hairdresser's ministrations,
he visited the bar, chatted with his friend the clerk, and smoked a
good cigar. Afterward he selected a comfortable chair in the corridor
where he was to meet Maria, stretched his long legs, dozed, and found
it good to be alive.

A befrizzled Maria, whose scant hair stood out in startling Marcel
waves, confronted him at luncheon-time. A sudden inspiration shook him
to his depths.

"Don't you want to go down-town and have your picture took?" he urged.
"Let's have ours done together."

Maria was proof against even this lure. She had a better idea.

"They's a photograph man right here in the hotel," she chirped,
joyously. "He's next to the flower-shop, an' we can go right in through
that little narrow hall."

They went, subsequently carrying home with them as their choicest
treasure the cabinet photograph for which they had posed side by side,
with the excitement of New York life shining in their honest eyes. In
the evening the clerk suggested a concert.

"It's a fine one, at Carnegie Hall, right near here," he urged,
cheerfully, "and Sembrich is to sing, with the Symphony Orchestra. You
can get in for fifty cents if you don't mind sitting in the gallery.
You really ought to go, Mrs. Smith; you would enjoy it."

Mrs. Smith turned upon him an anxious eye.

"How far did you say 'twas?" she asked, warily.

"Oh, not ten minutes' ride. You take the car here at the corner--"

But the mention of the car blighted the budding purpose in Maria's soul.

"I feel real tired," she said, quickly, "but if my husband wants to
go--"

Her husband loudly disavowed any such aspiration.

"We got a long journey before us to-morrow," he said, "an' I guess we
better rest."

They rested in the Berkeley corridor, amid the familiar sights and
scenes. The following morning found them equally disinclined for
sight-seeing. Seated in their favorite chairs, they watched the throngs
of happy people who came and went around them. Henry had added to the
list of his acquaintances two more travelling men and the boy at the
news-counter. His wife had heard in detail the sad story of her
chambermaid's life, and a few facts and surmises about fellow-guests at
the hotel.

Maria drew a long sigh when, after they had paid their bill the next
day and bade farewell to the clerk and other new friends, they climbed
into the cab which was to take them to the station.

"My, but it was interestin'!" she said, softly; adding, with entire
conviction, "Henry, I 'ain't never had such a good time in my hull
life! I really 'ain't!"

"Neither have I," avowed Henry, truthfully. "Wasn't it jest bully!"

On the train a sudden thought occurred to Mrs. Smith.

"Henry," she began, uneasily, "s'pose any one asks what we've SEEN in
New York. What'll we tell 'em? You know, somehow we didn't seem t' git
time t' see much."

Henry Smith was equal to the emergency.

"We'll say we seen so much we can't remember it," he said, shamelessly.
"Don't you worry one bit about that, Maria Smith. I've always heard
that weddin' couples don't never really see nothin' on their weddin'
towers, anyhow--they gad an' gad, an' it don't do no good. We was wiser
not to try!"



 X

THE CASE OF KATRINA


My memory of Katrina goes back to the morning when, at the tender age
of ten, she was violently precipitated into our classroom. The motive
power, we subsequently learned, was her brother Jacob, slightly older
than Katrina, whose nervous system had abruptly refused the ordeal of
accompanying her into the presence of the teacher. Pushing the door
ajar until the opening was just large enough to admit her, he thrust
her through, following her fat figure for a second with one anxious eye
and breathing audibly in his excitement. The next instant the cheerful
clatter of his hob-nailed boots echoed down the hall, followed by a
whoop of relief as he emerged upon the playground.

It was Katrina's bearing as she stood, thus rudely projected into our
lives, endeavoring to recover her equilibrium, and with thirty pairs of
eyes fixed unswervingly upon her, that won my heart and Jessica's.
Owing to a fervid determination of our teacher to keep us well in view,
we sat in the front row, directly facing her. Having, even in our
extreme youth, a constitutional distaste to missing anything, we
undoubtedly stared at Katrina longer and harder than any of the others.
We smiled, too, largely and with the innocent abandon of childhood; and
Katrina smiled back at us as if she also tasted a subtle flavor of the
joke, lost to cruder palates. Then she shifted her tiny school-bag from
one hand to the other, swept the room with a thoughtful glance, and
catching sight of frantic gestures I was making, obeyed them by walking
casually to an empty seat across from my own, where she sat down with
deepening dimples and an air of finality.

Several moments subsequently our teacher, Miss Merrill, aroused herself
from the trance into which she apparently had been thrown by the
expeditiousness with which this incident was accomplished, and coming
to Katrina's side, ratified the arrangement, incidentally learning the
new pupil's name and receiving from her hand a card, written by the
principal and assigning her to our special grade. But long before these
insignificant details were completed, Jessica and I had emptied
Katrina's bag, arranged her books in her desk, lent her a pencil she
lacked, indicated to her the boy most to be scorned and shunned, given
her in pantomime the exact standing of Miss Merrill in the regard of
her pupils, and accepted in turn the temporary loan of the spruce-gum
with which she had happily provided herself. At recess the acquaintance
thus auspiciously begun ripened into a warm friendship, and on the way
home from school that night we made a covenant of eternal loyalty and
love, and told one another the stories of our lives.

Jessica's and mine were distressingly matter-of-fact. We were both
supplied with the usual complement of parents, brothers, and sisters,
and, barring the melancholy condition that none of them, of course,
understood our complex natures, we had nothing unusual to chronicle.
But Katrina's recital was of an interest. She was, to begin with, an
orphan, living with two brothers and an old uncle in a large and gloomy
house we had often noticed as it stood with its faded back turned
coldly to Evans Avenue. Seemingly her pleasures and friends were few.
Once a month she went to the cemetery to put flowers on her father's
and mother's graves. Katrina herself seemed uncertain as to whether
this pilgrimage properly belonged in the field of pleasure or the stern
path of duty; but Jessica and I classified it at once, and dropped an
easy tear. We hoped her uncle was grim and stern, and did not give her
enough to eat. This, we felt, would have made the melancholy picture of
Katrina's condition most satisfyingly complete. But when we sought
eagerly for such details, Katrina, with shameless indifference to
dramatic possibilities, painted for us an unromantic, matter-of-fact
old German, kind to her when he remembered her existence, but submerged
in his library and in scientific research. We further learned that they
ate five meals a day at Katrina's home, with "coffee" and numerous
accompaniments in between. Moreover, Katrina's school-bag bulged at the
sides with German cakes of various shapes and composition. Our stern
disapproval of these was tempered in time by the fact that she freely
shared them with us. We were not surprised to discover also, though
these revelations came later, that the old house-keeper had difficulty
in keeping buttons on the child's frocks, and that Katrina was addicted
to surreptitious consumption of large cucumber pickles behind her
geography in school hours. These were small faults of an otherwise
beautiful nature, and stimulating to our youthful fancy in the
possibilities they suggested. Unquestioningly we accepted Katrina as a
being to be loved, pitied, and spared the ruder shocks of life.
Lovingly we sharpened her pencils, cheerfully we covered her books,
unenthusiastically but patiently we wrote her compositions; for
Katrina's mind worked slowly, and literature was obviously not her
forte. In return, Katrina blossomed and existed and shed on us the
radiance of a smile which illumined the dim school-room even as her
optimistic theories of life leavened our infant pessimism.

Time swept us on, out of childhood school-rooms into the dignified
shades of the academy, and Katrina developed from a fat little girl
with yellow braids into a plump young person with a rather ordinary
complexion, some taste in dress, and a really angelic smile. As a
possible explanation of her lack of interest in intellectual pursuits,
she explained to us that she continued to attend school only because
her uncle suggested nothing else. Whatever the reason, we were glad to
have her there; and though we still did most of her work, and she
carefully refrained from burdening her mind with academic knowledge,
the tie between us was strengthened, if anything, by the fact. Jessica
and I were already convinced that more was being put into us than two
small heads could hold. It was a grateful as well as a friendly task to
pass the surplus on to Katrina.

When we were seventeen, Jessica and I were told that we were to be sent
East to college, and Katrina's uncle, first stimulating thought by
pushing his spectacles back upon his brow, decided that she was already
sufficiently burdened by education, and that the useful arts of the
_Hausfrau_ should engage her attention forthwith. She should keep house
for him and her brothers, he announced, until she carried out her
proper mission in life by marrying and having babies. With this
oracular utterance he closed further discussion by burying himself once
more in his library, while Katrina came to tell us his decision.

She had looked forward to the pleasing social aspects of college life,
so she seemed slightly disappointed, did Katrina, and the end of her
nose held certain high lights. But aside from this evidence of sorrow
she made no protest against the peremptory masculine shaping of her
future. Stricken to the heart, Jessica and I stormed, begged, implored,
wept. Katrina opposed to our eloquence the impassive front of a pink
sofa-cushion.

"My uncle says it," she sighed, and was silent.

Jessica and I were not the natures to remain inactive at such a crisis.
We appealed to her brothers, who promptly declined to express any
opinion in the matter beyond a general conviction that their uncle was
right in all things. Baffled, we proceeded to beard the uncle in his
den. We found him wearing worn carpet slippers, a faded dressing-gown,
a serene expression, and an air of absorption in science which did not
materially lift at our approach. He listened to us patiently, however,
greeting our impassioned climaxes with long-drawn "ach so's," which
Jessica subsequently confided to me brought to birth in her the first
murderous impulse of a hitherto blameless life. Once we experienced
high hopes, when Jessica, whose conscience had seemingly not
accompanied us to the conference, dwelt feelingly on Katrina's unusual
intellectual achievements at the academy. Her uncle grew very grave at
this, and his "ach so's" rolled about in the bare old library like
echoes of distant thunder.

"Ach, that is bad," he sighed; "I did not think it; I was careless. I
should have taken her away sooner, is it not so? But she will quickly
forget--yes, yes." His face cleared. "It will do her no harm," he went
on. "It is not good that the women know too much. _Kirche, Kinder, und
Kuchen_--that is best for them. Ach, yes."

There being obviously little to gain by prolonging this painful
discussion, Jessica and I bore our outraged sensibilities to the
calming atmosphere of our homes. And in due time, our trunks being
packed and our farewells said, we departed to apply our thirsty lips to
the fountain of knowledge flowing at the Eastern college, leaving
Katrina to embark upon her domestic career.

Time and distance, we reminded Katrina, could be bridged by letters,
and Katrina responded nobly to the hint. She wrote every day at first,
and we consumed most of our waking hours in inditing our replies. There
seemed, indeed, little else to engage our attention in a community
which was experiencing great difficulty in recalling our names and was
in heathen darkness as to our brilliant achievements at the academy. As
time passed, however, we grew more busy. For a few months the necessity
of asserting our individuality to an extent which would at least
prevent our being trodden upon in the halls engaged our attention, and
after that a conscientious imitation of loved ones in the Junior class
occupied much time.

The great news of Katrina's engagement fanned into a fierce flame the
warm embers of our friendship. Oh, joy, oh romance, oh, young, young
love! We wrote Katrina forty pages of congratulations, and Katrina
coyly but fully replied. We could almost see her rosy blushes as she
bent over the pages of her long letters to us. Her future lord was a
German, a professor in the Lutheran college in our native city, and, it
seemed, though Katrina dwelt but lightly on the fact, somewhat past the
first fine flush of youth. So much Katrina naively conveyed to us, with
the further information that the wedding was to be early in February,
because Professor von Heller, the happy bridegroom, seemed
unaccountably to be in haste, and had bought a home, to which he was
anxious to take her.

There was much in all this to arouse our girlish enthusiasm; the charms
of our beloved Juniors paled into temporary insignificance as we
followed Katrina's love-affair. We could not go home for the wedding,
for reasons which seemed sufficient to the faculty, and this was a
bitter blow. But we spent more than we could afford on the
wedding-present we sent Katrina, and we still occupied most of our
waking hours writing to her.

The wedding, according to Katrina's account, was in the nature of a
brilliant social function. She found time during her honeymoon to write
us lengthy accounts of its splendors. She obviously had taken
considerable satisfaction in the presence of the entire faculty of
Professor von Heller's college and in the effect of her gown, which was
of white satin, with orange-blossoms. She also sent us a box of her
wedding-cake, some of which we ate and upon the rest of which we
conscientiously slumbered, experiencing horrible nightmares. Then, as
the weeks passed, her letters became less frequent, and we, in turn,
whirling in the maelstrom of spring examinations, gave to her paradise
the tribute of an occasional envious thought and respected her happy
silence.

When we went home for our summer vacation our first caller, most
properly, was Katrina. She was a subdued, rather chastened Katrina,
whose thoughtful, slightly puzzled expression might have suggested to
maturer minds that some, at least, of the vaunted joys of domestic life
had thus far escaped her. She urged us to come to her at once--the next
day, in fact--and we accepted her invitation with the alacrity it
deserved. We could not dine with her, we explained, as Jessica's sister
had thoughtlessly made another engagement for us; but we would come at
two and remain until after five, unbosoming ourselves of the year's
experiences in a long talk and listening to the wisdom that flowed from
Katrina's lips.

The next day was very beautiful, and Jessica and I, casting off a
haunting suspicion of our individual unimportance which we had not
quite succeeded in leaving behind us at college, expanded joyfully, and
lent ourselves to the charms of a sunlit world. The Lutheran fount of
knowledge was on the edge of the city, and Katrina's home was a short
distance beyond it. It was quite a country place, this home, over the
big, bare lawn of which an iron dog fiercely mounted guard. A
weather-beaten house confronted us, with a cold, forbidding expression.
We felt chilled as we opened the gate, but Katrina presented herself at
the first click of its latch, and her welcome was so hospitable and
eager that our temporary constraint vanished. Simultaneously we fell
upon her neck; loudly we assured her of our envious delight; noisily we
trooped into her hall. As we entered it, a large, cheerful room
confronted us. Through its open door we could see soft, leather-covered
easy-chairs and big windows overlooking distant hills. Jessica started
toward this, but Katrina checked her with a gentle touch.

"Not there," she said, gravely; "that is my husband's study, and he may
come in any moment. _This_ is our sitting-room."

She opened another door as she spoke, and we followed her dazedly
across the threshold into a space which, properly utilized, might have
made a comfortable single sleeping-room. It was quite seven feet by
nine and had one window, looking out on a dingy barn. The painted floor
was partly covered by a rug. Katrina's zither stood stiffly in a
corner, three chairs backed themselves sternly against the wall.
Katrina indicated two of these, and dropped on the third with her
radiant smile.

"We use this as the sitting-room," she remarked, casually, "because my
husband needs plenty of light and space when he works. Oh, my dear
girls!" she broke out; "you don't know how glad I am to see you! Tell
me everything that has happened since we met--all about college and
your friends there."

As she spoke, there was the sound of heavy footsteps in the hall,
followed by the noisy opening and shutting of a door. The pushing about
of chairs in the next room and the drop of a heavy body into one of
them suggested that the professor was at home and in his study. Katrina
corroborated this surmise.

"My husband," she murmured, with a little blush. "He is early to-day."

The words were drowned by a roar.

"Katrina," bellowed a bass voice of startling depth, "bring my
slippers!"

Katrina rose on the instant.

"You will excuse me?" she said, hastily. "Talk till I come back."

We did not talk, having some abysmal suspicion that if we talked we
might say something. I gazed steadily at a little German picture on the
wall--one I had given our hostess years before--and Jessica hummed a
college-song under her breath. We heard Katrina's feet fly up-stairs,
down again, and into the study. Almost immediately she returned to us,
her cheeks pink from her exertions.

"Now," she began, "I want to hear all about it--the nicest teachers,
the chums who have taken my place."

The voice in the next room boomed out again.

"Ka-tri-na!" it bellowed. "My pipe! It is up-stairs."

Katrina departed for the pipe. Jessica and I indulged in the luxury of
a long, comprehending gaze into the depths of each other's eyes.
Katrina returned, and we all talked at once; for five minutes
reminiscences and confidences flowed with the freedom of a mountain
stream after a thaw.

"Ka-tri-na!"

Katrina sat still. She was listening to the end of Jessica's best
story, but one willing foot went forward tentatively.

"Ka-tri-na!" Katrina should have heard that call though she lay with
folded hands beside her mother 'neath the church-yard mould.

"Katrina, get me Haeckel's _Wonders of Life!_"

Katrina got it, by the simple and effective process of going into the
room where the professor sat and taking it from its shelf. We heard the
soft murmur of her voice, fallowed by the rumble of his. When she
returned to us, Jessica finished her story in the chastened spirit
which follows such an interruption, and there were ten minutes of talk.
We forgot the bare little room; old memories softly enfolded us; the
Katrina we knew and loved dominated the situation.

"Ka-tri-na!"

Katrina's soft lips were not smiling now, but she rose at once, and
with a murmured apology left the room. We heard the suggestion of the
rest of her task as she closed the door.

"Where is that box of pens I got last week?"

Apparently their lurking-place was a distant one; Katrina's absence was
long. When she returned, she volunteered to show us the house. We
surmised that her desire was to get away from the sound of that
summoning voice, and even as we rose we realized the futility of such
an effort.

The dining-room, into which she led us for cake and tea, was almost
comfortable. Its furniture, dark, serviceable oak, was a gift, Katrina
told us, from her uncle. Twice as she served the tea she responded to a
summons from the professor's study. Once he desired a handkerchief, and
the second time he wished an important letter posted at once. His wife
went out to the rural box which adorned the fence in front of the house
and cast the envelope into its yawning mouth. Returning, she showed us
her kitchen, an immaculate spot, the floor of which was evidently
scrubbed by her own hands, for she mentioned that she employed no
servant.

"Hans thinks we do not need one," she added, simply.

To the right of the dining-room was a fine, bright, cheerful room, full
of shelves on which stood innumerable jars and bottles of evil odor.

"My husband's laboratory," announced Katrina, proudly. "He has to have
light and air."

Up-stairs there was a bedroom containing a huge double bed; a companion
room off this was evidently used by the professor as a dressing-room
and store-room. His clothes and several startling German trunks filled
it. There were other rooms, but not one of them contained a rug or a
piece of furniture. Slowly, convincingly, the knowledge entered our
sentimental little hearts that Katrina's sole refuge for herself and
her friends was the tiny, so-called "sitting-room" down-stairs. She
continued to show us about with housewifely pride. So far as we could
see, her unconsciousness of her wrongs was complete. She was wholly
untouched by self-pity.

"Do you mean to say--" began Jessica, warmly, and then suddenly
realized that she herself could not say it. It was as well, for there
was no opportunity. Even as Katrina was beginning to explain that her
husband did not think it necessary to complete the furnishing of the
house for a year or two, he summoned her to his side by a megaphonic
demand for water to thin his ink. His impatience for this overcame his
obvious aversion to exertion, and he came into the hall to take it from
her hand as we descended the stairs. She introduced him to us, and he
bowed gravely and with considerable dignity. He had a massive head,
with iron-gray, curling hair, and near-sighted eyes, which peered at us
vaguely through large, steel-rimmed spectacles. He surveyed us, not
unpleasantly, but wholly without interest, nodded again, partly to
himself and partly to us, as if our appearance had confirmed some dark
surmise of his own, took the water from Katrina's hand, grunted an
acknowledgment, and retreated to his fastness in the study. He had not
spoken one articulate word. Even Katrina, smiling her untroubled smile,
seemed to feel that something in the situation demanded a word of
comment.

"He is not at ease with girls," she murmured, gently. "He has taught
only boys, and he does not understand women; but he has a kind heart."

Jessica and I ruminated thoughtfully upon this tribute as we went away.
We had learned through the innocent prattle of our hostess's busy
tongue that she desired a garden, but that Hans thought it a waste of
time; that she had suggested open plumbing, and that Hans declined to
go to the expense; that she saw little of her brothers nowadays, as
Hans did not approve of them; that her old friends came to see her
rarely since her marriage, as, for some reason unaccountable to
Katrina, they seemed not to like her husband. We waited until we were
out of sight of the house, and then seated ourselves gloomily on a
wayside rock under a sheltering tree. A robin, perched on a branch
above our heads, burst into mocking song. The sun still shone; I
wondered how it could.

"Well, of all the selfish beasts and unmanageable brutes!" Jessica
began, hotly. Jessica's language was frequently too strong for
elegance, and even at this exciting moment my sense of duty forced me
to call the fact to her attention. I moreover, essayed judicious
weighing of the situation as the most effective means of cooling her
off.

"If the secret of happiness is work, as most authorities agree," I
reminded Jessica, "Professor von Heller's wife ought to be the happiest
bride in this country."

Jessica turned one disgusted glance upon me, rose with dignity, and
moved haughtily down the road to a street-car which was bumping its way
toward us on its somewhat uneven track.

"Oh, well, if you are going to be funny over a tragedy in which one of
your dearest friends is a victim," she observed, icily, "we will not
discuss the matter. But I, for one, have learned a lesson: I know _now_
what matrimony is."

I had a dim sense that even this experience, interesting and educative
though it was, could not be fairly regarded as a post-graduate course
in matrimonial knowledge, and I ventured to say so.

Jessica set her teeth and declined to discuss the matter further,
resolutely turning the conversation to the neutral topic of a cat-bird
which was mewing plaintively in a hedge behind us. Late that night,
however, she awoke me from my innocent slumbers with a request for
knowledge as to the correct spelling of _irrevocable_ and
_disillusionment_. She was at her desk, writing hard, with her brows
knit into an elaborate pattern of cross-stitching. I knew the moment I
looked upon her set young face that the missive was to Arthur Townsend
Jennings, the brother of a classmate, whose letter urging her to "wait
five years" for him Jessica had received only that morning. It was
quite evident, even to the drowsiest observation, that Jessica was not
promising to wait.

Jessica's pessimism on the subject of matrimony dated from that hour,
and grew with each day that followed. Coldly, even as she had turned
from the plea of Arthur Townsend Jennings, did she turn from all other
suitors. She grew steadily in charm and beauty, and her opportunities
to break hearts were, from the susceptible nature of man, of an almost
startling frequency. Jessica grasped each one with what seemed even to
my loyal eyes diabolical glee. She was an avenging Nemesis, hot on the
trail of man. Grave professors, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton Juniors
and Seniors, loyal boy friends of her youth who came in manhood to lay
their hearts at her feet--all of these and more Jessica sent forth from
her presence, a long, stricken procession. "I know _now_ what matrimony
is," was Jessica's battle-cry. If, in a thoughtless partisan spirit, I
sought to say a good word for one of her victims, pointing out his
material advantages or his spiritual graces, or both, Jessica turned
upon me with a stern reminder. "Have you forgotten Katrina?" she would
ask. As I had not forgotten Katrina, the question usually silenced me.

For myself, I must admit, Jessica's Spartan spirit had its effect as an
example. Left alone to work out the problem according to my elemental
processes, I might possibly have arrived at the conclusion that
Katrina's domestic infelicity, assuming that it existed, need not
necessarily spread a sombre pall over the entire institution of
matrimony. But Jessica's was a dominant personality, and I was easily
influenced. In my humble way I followed her example; and though,
lacking her beauty and magnetism, the havoc I wrought was vastly less
than hers, I nevertheless succeeded in temporarily blighting the lives
of two middle-aged professors, one widower in the dry-goods line, and
the editor of a yellow newspaper. This last, I must admit, my heart
yearned over. I earnestly desired to pluck him from the burning, so to
speak, and assist him to find the higher nature of which he had
apparently entirely lost sight. There was something singularly pleasing
to me in the personality of this gentleman, but Jessica would have none
of him. I finally agreed to be a maiden aunt to him, and, this happy
compromise effected, I was privileged to see him frequently. If at any
time I faltered, quoting him too often on the political problems of the
day, or thoughtlessly rereading his letters in Jessica's presence, she
reminded me of Katrina. I sighed, and resumed the mantle, so to speak,
of the maiden aunt. Unlike Katrina, I never had been good at running
errands, and now, in my early thirties, I was taking on stoutness: it
was plain that the risk of matrimony was indeed too great.

For we had been growing older, Jessica and I, and many things more or
less agreeable had happened to us. We had been graduated with high
honors, we had spent four years abroad in supplementary study, and we
had then returned to the congenial task of bringing education up to
date in our native land. We taught, and taught successfully; and our
girls went forth and married, or studied or taught, and came back to
show us their babies or their theses, according to the character of
their productiveness. We fell into the routine of academic life.
Occasionally, at longer intervals as the years passed, an intrepid man,
brushing aside the warnings of his anxious friends, presented himself
for the favor of Jessica, and was sternly sent to join the long line of
his predecessors. Life was full, life in its way was interesting, but
it must be admitted that life was sometimes rather lonely. My editor,
loyal soul that he was, wrote regularly, and came to see me twice a
year. Professor Herbert Adams, a victim long at Jessica's feet, made
sporadic departures from that position, and then humbly returned. These
two alone were left us. Jessica acquired three gray hairs and a
permanent crease in her intellectual brow.

During all these changing scenes we had not seen Katrina. Under no
circumstances, after that first melancholy visit, would we willingly
have seen her again. At long intervals we heard from her. We knew there
were three fat babies, whose infant charms, hitherto unparalleled, were
caricatured in snapshots sent us by their proud mother. Jessica looked
at these, groaned, and dropped them into the dark corners of our study.
Our visits home were rare, and there had been no time in any of them
for a second call at the home of Professor von Heller. Seven years
after our return from Europe, however, Jessica decided that she needed
a rest and a summer in her native air. Moreover, she had just given
Professor Adams his final _conge_, and he had left her in high dudgeon.
I sapiently inferred that Jessica had found the experience something of
a strain. As Jessica acted as expeditiously in other matters as in
blighting lives, I need hardly add that we were transported to our home
town with gratifying despatch. We had stepped from the train at the end
of our journey before a satisfactory excuse for remaining behind had
occurred to me, and it was obviously of little avail to mention it
then. Twenty-four hours after the newspapers had chronicled the
exciting news of our arrival, Katrina called on us.

We gasped as we looked at her. Was this, indeed, Katrina--this rosy,
robust, glowing, radiant German with shining eyes and with vitality
flowing from her like the current of an electric battery? I looked at
Jessica's faded complexion, the tired lines in her face, the white
threads in her dark hair, and my heart contracted suddenly. I knew how
I looked--vastly more tired, more faded than Jessica, for I had started
from a point nearer to these undesirable goals. We three were about the
same age. There were six months at the most between us. Who would
believe it to look at us together?

Katrina seized us in turn, and kissed us on both cheeks. To me there
was something life-giving in the grasp of her strong, firm hands, in
the touch of her cool, soft lips. She insisted that we come to see her
and at once. When would we come? We had no excuse now, she pointed out,
and if we needed a rest, the farm--her home--was the best place in the
world for rest. With a faint access of hope I heard her. The farm? Had
she, then, moved? No, she was still in the same place, Katrina
explained, but the city had lurched off in another direction, leaving
her and Hans and the children undisturbed in their peaceful pastoral
life.

"Ka-tri-na!"

I almost jumped, but it was only a memory, helped on by my vivid fancy.
I had tried to picture the peaceful pastoral life, but all that
responded was the echo of that distant summons. Jessica, however, was
explaining that we would come--soon, very soon--next week--yes,
Tuesday, of course. Jessica subsequently inquired of me, with the
strong resentment of the person who is in the wrong, how I expected her
to get us out of it. It was something that had to be done. Obviously,
she said, it was one of those things to do and have done with.

She discoursed languidly about Katrina in the interval between the
promise and the visit.

"Well! Of course she's well," drawled Jessica. "She's the kind that
wouldn't know it if she wasn't well. For the rest, she's phlegmatic,
has no aspirations, and evidently no sensitiveness. All she asks is to
wait on that man and his children, and from our glimpse of Hans we can
safely surmise that he is still gratifying that simple aspiration.
Heavens! don't let's talk about it! It's too horrible!"

Tuesday came, and we made our second visit to Katrina's--fourteen years
to a month from the time of our first. Again the weather was perfect,
but the years and professional cares had done their fatal work, and our
lagging spirits refused to respond to the jocund call of the day. Again
we approached, with an absurd shrinking, the bleak old house. The bleak
old house was not there; nay, it was there, but transformed. It was
painted red. Blossoming vines clambered over it; French windows
descended to meet its wide verandas; striped awnings sheltered its
rooms from the July sun. The lawns, sloping down to a close-clipped
hedge, were green and velvety. The iron dog was gone. A great hammock
swung in the corner of the veranda, and in it tumbled a fat, pink child
and a kitten. The fat child proved that all was not a dream. It was
Katrina reborn--the Katrina of that first day in school, twenty years
and more ago. Rather unsteadily we walked up the gravel path, rather
uncertainly we rang the bell. A white-capped maid ushered us in. Yes,
Frau von Heller was at home and expecting the ladies. Would the ladies
be gracious enough to enter? The ladies would. The ladies entered.

The partition between two of the rooms had been taken down and the
entire floor made over. There was a wide hall, with a great living-room
at the right. As we approached it we heard the gurgle of a baby's
laugh, Katrina's answering ripple, and the murmur of a bass voice
buzzing like a cheerful bumblebee. Our footsteps were deadened by the
thick carpet, and our entrance did not disturb for a moment the
pleasing family tableau on which we gazed. The professor was standing
with his baby in his arms, his profile toward the door, facing his
wife, who was laughing up at him. The infant had grasped a handful of
his father's wavy gray hair and was making an earnest and gratifyingly
successful effort to drag it out by the roots. Von Heller's face,
certainly ten years younger than when we saw it last, was alight with
pride in this precocious offspring. Seeing us, he tossed the baby on
his shoulder, holding it there with one accustomed arm, and came to
meet us, his wife close by his side. They reached us together, but it
was the professor who gave us our welcome. This time he needed no
introduction.

"My wife's friends, Miss Lawrence and Miss Gifford, is it not?" He
smiled, extending his big hand to each of us in turn, and giving our
hands a grip the cordiality of which made us wince. "It is a pleasure.
But you will excuse this young man, is it not?" He lowered the baby to
his breast as he spoke, while his wife fell upon our necks in
hospitable greeting. "He has no manners, this young man," added the
father, sadly, when Katrina had thus expressed her rapture in our
arrival. "He would yell if I put him down, and he has lungs--ach, but
he has lungs!"

He busied himself drawing forth chairs for us, apparently quite
unhampered by his small burden. We contemplated the baby and said
fitting things. He had cheeks like beefsteaks and eyes that stuck out
of his head with what appeared to be joyful interest in his
surroundings Katrina exclaimed over a sudden discovery:

"But you haven't taken off your hats!" she cried. "Hans, give the baby
to Gretchen and take my friends' wraps and hats up to the guest-room. I
don't want Miss Lawrence to climb stairs."

The professor obediently summoned the nurse, dropped the baby, burdened
himself with our garments, and ambled off with the tread of a peaceful
elephant. When he returned, with the eager look of a retriever waiting
for another stick, his wife promptly met his hopes.

"Arrange the easy-chair for Miss Lawrence, dear," she said,
comfortably, "and put an ottoman under her feet. I want her to rest
while she is here."

The professor did it, while we gazed. He also inquired feelingly as to
the state of Jessica's health, showed a sympathy almost human in her
replies, and placed a pillow behind her back. Subsequently, during that
call, he did these things:

He answered the telephone half a dozen times, faithfully repeating to
his wife the messages of her various friends, and carrying hers back,
as she declined to be torn from us long enough to talk to them herself.

He rounded up the remaining two children and presented them for our
inspection, straightening his son's shoulders with an experienced hand,
and tying with consummate skill the bow on his little girl's hair.

He went to the stable and ordered the family carriage, that we might
drive later in the afternoon.

He searched for and found the morning newspaper, thoughtlessly dropped
in the waste-paper basket by the maid, and he read aloud to us a
paragraph to which Katrina had referred chronicling the achievements of
a classmate of ours. He brought to Katrina, at different times and from
remote parts of the house, one white shawl, six photographs of the
children, an essay written by their son, aged ten, two books, a bib to
meet a sudden need of the baby, and Katrina's address-book. He did
these things, and he did them cheerfully, and with the unmistakable
ease of frequent repetition. I glanced at Jessica. The expressions of
incredulity and amazement to which she had freely yielded during the
first half-hour of our call had given way to a look of deep reflection.

Subsequently Katrina showed us her home. The room that had been the
professor's study was now part of the large general living-room. The
laboratory was now Katrina's personal sitting-room. Through its French
windows we saw Katrina's garden blossoming like the rose. Jessica asked
the present location of the professor's study and laboratory. She
subsequently admitted to me that she should not have done it, but that
to leave the house without the information would have been a physical
and moral impossibility. Katrina looked at her vaguely, as one seeking
to recall a fleeting moment of the long-dead past; but the professor
responded with gratified alacrity.

"But you shall see them!" he cried. "Surely, yes;" and like a jovial
school-boy he led us up to the third floor. There, indeed, was his
study--a hall bedroom, much crowded by his desk and easy-chair; and off
it, in a closet, were his beloved bottles and chemicals. I felt a throb
of sympathy for the professor, but he was evidently blissfully ignorant
of any reason for such a sentiment.

"The _Mutterchen_ and the babies need the rest," he smiled,
complacently. "They must not climb too many stairs--no;" and he led the
way back to comfort with unconsciousness of the painful contrast
between past and present conditions that made Jessica and me carefully
refrain from meeting each other's eyes. The children, when they espied
him upon our return, uttered shrieks of joy. The baby sprang to his
arms, the little boy swarmed up his leg. The picture of Professor von
Heller as a perfectly trained husband and father was complete.

In silence, after our prolonged farewells, Jessica and I left the
house. In silence we entered the trolley-car; in silence we rode home.
At last I voiced a sudden suspicion.

"Do you think," I asked, hopefully, "that it was all a--a--well, that
she persuaded him to do it just this once, for our edification?"

Jessica shook her head.

"I thought so, at first," she conceded, slowly. "That in itself would
have been a miracle--one I'd never believe if I hadn't seen it with
these eyes. But everything disproves the theory. Do you think she could
have trained those children to advance and retreat like a Casino
ballet? On the contrary, it's evident that they literally live on him.
They've worn the creases off his trousers! Didn't you notice where the
creases left off and the sliding-place of the babies began?"

I reluctantly admitted that this detail had escaped my observation.
Jessica sighed.

"Incredible as it is," she summed up, "it's all true. It's the real
thing."

"It opens quite a vista," I observed, thoughtfully. "If you would like
Professor Adams's present address, I can give it to you. He is in the
Adirondacks with his sister Mollie, and I had a letter from her this
morning."

Jessica looked at me and urged me not to be vulgar. Her thoughtful
expression did not lift.

"If Katrina can do _that_ with _that_ man," I murmured, reflectively,
as we entered the house, "I really believe you could work wonders with
Adams. He would probably do the cooking and marketing--"

"If you're so impressed," remarked Jessica, in incisive tones, "I
wonder you don't yield to the prayers and tears of your editor man."

My reply made Jessica sink into a hall chair which was fortunately at
hand.

"I am going to," I said, placidly. And I did.

Jessica's nature being less womanly and yielding than mine, her
surrender was a matter of longer time. In the interval I quite forgot
her unimportant affairs, being wholly absorbed in the really
extraordinary values of my own. Two weeks before the reopening of
college, my reformed yellow journalist, who had come West to spend his
brief vacation with me, was seated by my side one evening studying the
admirable effect of a ring he had just placed on my finger. It is
singular how fraught with human interest such moments can be, and
Edward and I failed to hear Jessica as she opened the door. She looked
over our heads as she spoke to me, Her face was rather red, but her
voice and manner expressed a degree of indifference which I am
convinced no human being has ever really felt on any subject.

"Did you say that you could give me Mollie Adams's address?" asked
Jessica.



XI

BART HARRINGTON, GENIUS


The assistant Sunday editor of the New York "Searchlight" was busy.
This was not an unusual condition, but it frequently included unusually
irritating features. His superior, Wilson, the Sunday editor, was a
gentleman with a high brow and a large salary, who, having won a
reputation as "a Napoleon of Journalism," had successfully cultivated a
distaste for what he called "details." His specialty was the making of
suggestions in editorial council, in cheery expectation that they would
be carried out by his associates--an expectation so rarely realized
that Mr. Wilson's visage had almost a habit of hurt wonder. "Details"
continued to absorb the activity of the Sunday "Searchlight" office,
and Maxwell, the assistant editor, attended to them all, murmuring
bitterly against his chief as he labored.

On this special morning, moreover, he was receiving telephoned
bulletins of the gradual disintegration of his biggest "special,"
scheduled for the coming Sunday edition, which was to tell with
sympathetic amplitude of a beautiful French maiden who had drowned
herself because some young man no longer loved her. The active reporter
assigned to the case had telephoned first his discovery that the girl
never had a lover, but cheerily suggested that this explained her
suicide as well as the earlier theory, and wasn't so hackneyed, sagely
adding that he would get the story anyhow. Subsequently he had rung up
the office to report, with no slight disgust, that there was no suicide
to explain, as the girl was not dead. She had merely gone to visit
friends in the country, and the people in the house, missing her, had
decided that the peaceful waters of the Hudson--

Maxwell hung up the receiver with a few crisp remarks addressed to
space, and absorbed in awestruck silence by a young woman at the other
end of the room who eased her type-writing labor by pausing to hear
them fully. It was at this inauspicious moment that the card of Mr.
Bart Harrington was brought in by an office boy. Maxwell surveyed it
with strong disfavor.

"Who is he?" he asked, regarding the office boy severely.

The office boy avowed deprecatingly that he didn't know.

"He 'ain't never been here before," he submitted, in extenuation. "He
says he's got a Sunday story."

Maxwell resigned himself to the waste of five minutes of precious time.

"Show 'm in," he commanded, testily. He sat down at his desk and turned
toward the door an expression that reminded callers of the value of
time and the brevity of life. Mr. Harrington, who had followed the boy
through the door with conviction of these two things, dropped into a
chair beside the editor's desk and surveyed Maxwell with a smile so
young, so trustful, and withal so engaging, that unconsciously the
stern features of that functionary relaxed. Nevertheless, he was not
jarred out of his routine.

"Got your story with you, Mr. Harrington?" he asked, briskly, holding
out his hand for the manuscript. "If you'll leave it, I'll read--"
Harrington interrupted him with an impressive shake of his head. Then
he settled back in his chair, crossed one leg comfortably over the
other, plunged his hands deep in the pockets of his very shabby
overcoat, and continued to regard the editor with his singularly
boyish, dimpling smile. With one swift glance Maxwell took him in, from
the broken boot on the foot he was gently swinging to and fro to the
thick, curly locks on his handsome head. He had a complexion like a
girl's, a dimple in each cheek, and a jaw like a bull-dog's. He was all
of six feet tall, and his badly made clothes could not wholly conceal
the perfect lines of his figure. He was about twenty-two years old,
Maxwell decided, and, notwithstanding his dimples, his complexion, his
youth, and his smile, he conveyed a vivid impression of masculinity and
strength. He was wholly self-possessed, and his manner suggested that
the business which had brought him where he was was of such urgent
value and importance that the busy world itself might well hush its
noisy activities long enough to hear of it. To his own great surprise,
Maxwell waited until his caller was prepared to speak.

Harrington shook his head again slowly. Then he tapped his forehead
with the second finger of his right hand.

"I have it heah," he said, slowly, referring evidently to the brow he
had indicated, and speaking with a slight drawl and the strongly marked
accent of the Southern mountaineer. "I 'lowed I wouldn't write it till
I knew you-all wanted it. I'd like to tell it. Then if--"

Maxwell nodded, and glanced at his watch.

"Fire away," he said, elegantly. "But be as quick as you can, please.
This is closing day and every minute counts."

Harrington smiled his ingenuous smile. It was a wistful smile--not a
happy one--but it seemed, somehow, to illumine the office. Maxwell
reflected irritably that there was something unusually likable about
the fellow, but he wished he'd hurry up and get out. From force of
habit his fingers grasped a blue pencil on his desk, and he began to
fumble nervously among the manuscripts that lay before him. Harrington
settled back more firmly in his chair, and the swinging of his torn
boot was accelerated a trifle, but his voice when he spoke was full of
quiet confidence.

"It's a good thing, suh," he said, "and I can tell you-all about it in
a sentence. I'm goin' to commit suicide to-day, an' I agree to write
the experience foh you, up to the last minute, if you-all will have me
buried decently. I don't cayah to be shovelled into the Pottah's Field."

Maxwell dropped the blue pencil and wheeled to look at him. Then his
face hardened.

"It's a pretty bad joke," he said, "or a bum sort of bid for charity.
In either case you can't waste any more of my--"

But Harrington had sprung to his feet, his blond young face black with
passion.

"Damn you!" he hissed, thrusting his head down close to the other's and
clinching his fists. "How dahe you-all say I lie o' ask charity? I'd
see you-all in hell befoah I'd take a cent of youah damned money.
'Ain't you got brains enough in youah haid to see that I've got to the
end of mah rope?"

Maxwell was a clever man, educated in the world's university. He knew
truth when he met it, and he knew human nature.

"Sit down," he said, quietly, "and tell me about it. I'm sorry I spoke
as I did, but you must admit that your proposition was rather
startling."

Harrington sat down, still breathing hard in his excitement, but
evidently making a resolute effort to control himself.

"That's why I brought it heah," he said, answering the other's last
words, "You-all like stahtlin' things, don't you? That's what you
print. I'm offerin' you a straight bahgain, suh--a business
proposition. If you-all don't want it, say so."

Maxwell smiled in his turn, but there was nothing ironic in the smile,
nor in the look he turned on his fellow-man.

"It's not quite as simple as you seem to think," he explained, gently.
"But tell me more about it. What led to this decision? What makes you
think suicide is the only way out of your troubles? That's a part of
the story, you know. Let me have that first, in a few words.

"It can be told, suh, in three," said the Southerner. His smile had
returned. His voice was the cool voice of one who discussed abstract
things. "I'm a failyuh. This wold 'ain't no use foh failyuhs. I've
given myself all the time and chances I dese'ved, but I cayn't win out,
so I've got to _git_ out. The's no one to ca'e. I've no kin, no ons
dependin' on me in any way. As foh me, I'm ti'ed; life ain't wuth the
effo't."

Maxwell regarded him.

"You don't look like a quitter," he said, thoughtfully.

The boy's face blazed again, but he kept his temper.

"To quit means to give somethin' up," he said, doggedly. "I ain't
givin' anythin' up. I 'ain't got anythin' to give up. Life without
wo'k, o' interest, o' fren's, o' ambition, o' love--that ain't livin'!
If you-all evah tried it, you'd know. I 'ain't been so chee'ful in
yeahs as I've been sence I made up my mind to 'quit,' as you-all call
it."

"You've got health, haven't you?" demanded Maxwell. "Yes."

Maxwell brought his hand down on the desk with an air of finality.

"Then you've got everything. Do you mean to tell me that a fellow like
you can't earn enough to support himself? If you do, you're talking
rot."

Harrington took this with his wide, guileless grin. He was not offended
now, for he felt the friendly interest and sympathy under the other's
words. His voice when he replied was gentler.

"I ain't sayin' I can't keep body an' soul together, foh maybe I can,"
he conceded. "But I'm sayin' _that_ ain't _life_. I'm sayin' I ain't
been fitted fo' wo'k. I 'ain't been educated. I've lived in a log-cabin
down in the Virginia mountains all man life. I left thah six weeks ago,
after mah mother died. She was the last of ouah family but me. I 'ain't
never been to school. She taught me to read in the Bible, an' to write.
I 'ain't nevah read anotheh book except the Bible and Mistah
Shakespeah's poems, an' Mistah Pluta'ch's _Lives of Great Men_. I know
them by hea't. I don't know whe' she got them o' whe' she came from.
She was different from othah mountain women. I've been No'th six weeks,
and I've tried ha'd to find a place whah I could fit in, but th' ain't
none. Men must be trained fuh wo'k; I ain't trained. I cayn't go back,
foh the's no one thah, an' I hate the mountains."

Maxwell's reply was brief and to the point.

"Think you could learn to run our elevator without killing us all?" he
inquired. "Well, you've got to. You've been talking awful guff, you
know. Now you're going to work, right here. We need a new man. The one
we have has been drunk three days. You're going to run the elevator and
get fifteen dollars a week to begin with. Here's your first week's
salary in advance. I'll arrange about the job with the superintendent.
I'll give you some books, and you can educate yourself. When you're
above elevator work we'll give you something better. You'll probably
have my job inside of a year," he ended, jocosely.

The hand of the mountaineer stretched out to him trembled as Maxwell
grasped it.

"You ah the only white man I've found in the No'th," said the
Southerner, breathlessly. "I'll make good, as they say up heah. But I
don't know how I can thank you."

"Don't try," said Maxwell, brusquely. "Be here at eight in the morning.
By nine there will be a few callers I may want you to throw down the
shaft."

Thus began the connection between the _Searchlight_ and Bart
Harrington, subsequently its most popular employe. Before the week was
over all the reporters and most of the editors had casually sought from
Maxwell some details concerning his protege, but had received few.
Harrington was a new man, and he came from the Virginia mountains, and
was most obliging and altogether engaging. This was all the information
acquired even by the indefatigable Miss Mollie Merk, whose success in
extracting from individuals information it was their dearest desire to
conceal had made her a star member of the _Searchlight's_ staff. It was
to Miss Merk, however, that Harrington announced his first important
discovery. Leaning across her desk one evening after his successor had
taken the "car," the new elevator man touched a subject much upon his
mind.

"I got wet the othah day," he began, conversationally, "an' mah
landlady let me go to the kitchen to dry mah clothes. I obse'ved as I
sat by huh stove that the lid of the wash boilah kept liftin' up, all
by itself, an' then I saw 'twas raised by the steam of the hot watah
inside. I kep' thinkin' 'bout it, an' it seems to me thah's an idea
thah, a soht of ene'gy, you know, that might be used in big ways. I
mus' think it out."

Mollie Merk looked at him, vague memories of one James Watts stirring
uneasily in her brain.

"There's a good deal written about steam," she said, sympathetically.
"I'll bring you a book on it."

She did, for Harrington was already high in her regard; and quite
possibly the volume killed in that youth's aspiring soul the germ of a
beautiful hope. But he was to the fore very soon with a discovery of
equal weight. This time his confidant was Maxwell.

"Why is it," he asked that busy citizen one evening, "that when I get
in the bathtub the water rises highah? Ain't the' some principle the'
that is impo'tant? As I think it ovah--"

Maxwell hurriedly assured him that there was, and the volume on steam
was followed by a treatise on specific gravity, which gave Mr.
Harrington food for reflection for several days. Nevertheless, the
discovery that others had been before him did not depress him in the
least. He gave the Sunday editor an insight into his views on one
occasion when that gentleman was able to convince him that Isaac Newton
and not Bart Harrington had discovered the law of gravitation while
watching an apple fall from a tree.

"I obse'ved it, too, suh," argued Harrington, sturdily, defending his
position as a scientific discoverer. "Of co'se I see the fo'ce of you'h
rema'k that the othah man was _first_. That is unfo'tunate foh me. But
does it affect the value of _my_ discovery? It does not, suh."

"There's a good deal in it," Wilson conceded to Maxwell, after he had
delightedly repeated this conversation. "Of course, the fellow has an
unusual mind. It's a pity he's always a few hundred years behind the
time, but, as he hints, that needn't dim our admiration for the quality
of his brain fibre."

Maxwell laughed uneasily.

"I can't make up my mind," he admitted, in his turn, "whether he's a
genius or a plain fool. He lost his dinner last night explaining to me
how the power of Niagara could be applied to practical uses. He was
horribly depressed when I told him it not only could be, but was. I let
him talk, though, to see what his ideas were, and they were very
practical."

"I call that mighty encouraging," said the chief, optimistically. "He's
getting down to modern times. After he has discovered the telephone and
telegraph and cable and wireless telegraphy he may tackle telepathy and
give us something new."

But Harrington indulged in an unexplained digression at this point. He
discovered literature and became acquainted with the works of one
Charles Dickens, of whose genius he made himself the sounding
trumpet-call for the ears of an indifferent world.

"The's a book called _David Coppe'field_," he confided to Maxwell one
night when he had lingered for a chat with his benefactor. "It's great,
suh. You should read it sometime, Mistah Maxwell; you would appreciate
its wo'th." He outlined the plot then and there, and Maxwell
good-naturedly listened, finding his compensation in the enthusiast's
original comments on character and situation. This, however,
established a bad precedent, and Maxwell was subsequently obliged to
hear a careful synopsis of _Little Dorrit, Old Curiosity Shop,_ and
_Oliver Twist_, in quick succession, followed by the somewhat painful
recitation of most of Gray's _Elegy in a Country Churchyard_--for
Harrington was now entering the daisied field of poetry.

It was at this point that Maxwell felt himself constrained to give his
protege a few words of advice, the city editor having objected to an
enforced hearing of the plot of _Ivanhoe_, and Mollie Merk having
admitted that she had climbed six flights of stairs twice a day for a
week in preference to hearing the final eighteen stanzas of _Paradise
Lost_.

Maxwell explained the situation to his friend as gently as he could one
morning when Harrington had interrupted a talk between himself and a
distinguished Western editor who was spending a few days in New York.

"You see, old man," he ended, kindly, "this is a big, new world to you,
but the rest of us have been living in it all our lives. We've taken in
these things you're discovering--or we've had them driven into us at
school. So--er--they're not new, and while we appreciate them we
haven't got time to go over them all again. When you get up to modern
fiction--the things people are reading to-day--"

With one expressive gesture of the hand Mr. Harrington demolished
modern fiction.

"_I_ 'ain't got time foh that, Mistah Maxwell," he said, respectfully.
"I read one, and I regret to say, suh, that it was too much. I have
looked into othe's, but I go no fu'thah. I have tried to open to you
gentlemen the great wo'ks I have discove'ed, an' youah reply is that
you-all have read them, suh. I am surprised. Do you give one glance at
a picture an' nevah look again? Do you listen once to music, o' must it
be something new and mode'n ev'ry time? Last night I heard the
composition of a musician named Beethoven, who, I have learned, has
been dead foh yeahs. Yet people still listen to his notes. Why don't
they read these books of Mistah Dickens and Mistah Scott and Mistah
Shakespeah?"

Maxwell murmured feebly that a few did. A fitting response to
Harrington's arraignment somehow eluded him, and before he had found
the words he wanted an unexpected interruption came from the Western
editor, who had been listening to the conversation with almost painful
interest.

"Mr. Harrington," he asked, abruptly, "can you write?"

Harrington looked surprised and boyishly injured.

"Yes, suh," he replied, stiffly. "I can read and write."

"Oh, of course, of course," explained the other, hastily. "I don't mean
that. Can you write for the press? Have you tried to write anything for
other people to read?"

Harrington's characteristic smile flashed forth.

"I have submitted sev'al ahticles to Mistah Maxwell," he said, with
some dignity, "but thus far I have not been fo'tunate enough---"

Maxwell drew a little package of manuscripts from a pigeon-hole in his
desk and handed them to the visitor without a word. They spoke for
themselves. The latter glanced through them, frowning. Maxwell returned
to his work. Harrington waited. At last the Westerner handed the papers
back to his Eastern colleague, shaking his head as he did so.

"These won't do at all," he said, decidedly, "but they confirm my
impression that this man can write something worth while." He addressed
himself to Maxwell now, discussing Harrington as impersonally as if he
were absent, but from time to time his keen eyes returned to the
Southerner's face.

"Here's a man," he began, didactically, "who is hundreds of years
behind the times. But please remember that he would have been Watts,
Newton, and several other discoverers if he had existed before them.
He's as much of a pilgrim on this earth to-day as if he were a visitor
from another planet. But he has an extraordinary type of mind and very
good taste--a strong, ignorant, instinctive feeling for the best. If he
would write a series of short articles giving his point of view to the
busy men and women of to-day, they should be 'good stuff'--a sort of
artistic voice crying in the commercial wilderness, don't you see. You
or some one else may have to put them into shape, until he catches the
idea, but he will catch it all right. He's clever enough. If you want
to try him, and it turns out as I think it will, I'll buy the material
for simultaneous publication in Chicago. What do you say?"

"Agreed," said Maxwell, briefly. "I think you're right. We'll try it,
anyhow. I guess we won't have much trouble persuading Harrington to
favor us with the opportunity of examining his manuscript." He smiled
as he glanced at the other. Harrington's eyes were shining. His words,
when he spoke, came breathlessly.

"I'll have the first copy ready in the mo'ning, Mistah Maxwell," he
promised. "And I reckon," he added, straightening his splendid
shoulders--"I reckon I'll give up the elevatah, suh."

Maxwell laughed in high good-humor.

"Oh yes," he agreed, "I guess we'll have to give you a successor there,
in any event. However this experiment turns out, it's time you had
something better than that."

Harrington's first paper was signed "A Visitor from Mars," and Maxwell
marvelled as he read it. It was not a great production, and it was full
of small faults; but there was an indescribable naivete and charm about
it to which its quaint, old-time style added the final touch.
Harrington's studies of what he called "the olden masters" had not been
in vain. Late the next evening, in the peace of his small Harlem flat,
Maxwell submitted the manuscript to his wife for criticism. He passed
it over without comment, desiring the unprejudiced opinion of the
intelligent general reader, and Mrs. Maxwell read it twice, very
carefully, before she handed it back. When she did there was a mist
over her bright brown eyes.

"The darling thing!" she cried. "Who wrote it, Bob? It's as clever as
it can be, and yet there's something about it that makes me feel queer
and choky. It's--it's"--her face brightened--"it's something like the
feeling I had when little Bobbie wrote me his first letter, that time I
went home to take care of mother. One almost expects to see the words
staggering down one side of the page in dear little, crooked, printed
letters. It's the manuscript of a grown-up, sophisticated baby."

Maxwell took the copy from her, well pleased at this conjugal
confirmation of his own impression.

"It's Harrington's," he explained, "and he's not sophisticated enough
to hurt anybody yet. But he's going to make a success of this
job--there's no doubt of that. I'll ask him to come up to dinner
to-morrow night and go over the stuff with me a bit. I don't want to do
it in the office."

The Western editor was equally enthusiastic the following day. He was
also glowing pleasantly in the confirmation of his own keenness of
intuition.

"You wouldn't have seen what you had here," he explained to Maxwell,
unnecessarily. "This is pretty much like genius. This fellow will be
writing his autobiography some day, and perhaps he'll remember his
humble discoverers. Meantime, don't you spoil his work by trying to
edit it. Let it alone. It's all right."

The column of "The Visitor from Mars" grew to two columns, and became a
strong feature of the Sunday _Searchlight_. Harrington, now in
possession of a fair weekly income and unlimited leisure, bought new
clothes, rented a sitting-room, bedroom, and bath in a comfortable
bachelor apartment-house, and spent his days browsing in libraries,
where he read omnivorously. Incidentally, he discovered not only the
telephone, telegraph, and other inventions predicted by the Sunday
editor, but a locomotive fire-box which had received some favor among
railroad officials for ten years, and a superb weapon of destruction
which had been used in the Japanese army for six.

"He's getting on!" cried Wilson, delightedly, when Maxwell recounted
these small disappointments in an otherwise inspiring onward career.
"He's learned to dress like a gentleman, speak like a gentleman, and
look like a gentleman, and he has also learned that there have been a
few active minds in the world before his came. Give him time. He'll do
something big yet."

Harrington promptly verified this prediction by falling in love, which
he did on a scale and with an abandon unprecedented in the history of
Park Row. It was a tempestuous upheaval for the emotional Southerner,
and every other interest in his life retired to the remotest background
and remained there, unseen and unsuspected. His choice fell on a woman
reporter of the _Searchlight_, a quiet, refined young girl, whose
journalistic activities were confined to reports of meetings of women's
clubs and the descriptions of other social events. For her Bart
Harrington commanded the morning stars to sing together, and dared the
dazzled sun to look upon her like. To him she was Laura, Beatrice,
Juliet, Francesca--the essence of all the loves of all the ages in one
perfect form. During their brief engagement he called for her in a cab
each morning, and drove her to her home each night. He would have laid
a carpet of flowers for her from the office to the curb had it been
practicable. Also, he discovered Keats and Shelley and Byron and
Swinburne, and quoted them until the office boys, who alone remained to
listen to him, demanded that increase of salary justly attached to
increased nervous strain. Swinburne, Harrington promptly decided, he
did not like. There was an earthiness in his verse, he explained to
Maxwell, a material side, wholly lacking in the love of the right man
for the right woman--in other words, in his own love for Miss Evans. He
wrote a column about this kind of love in his Mars department, and a
hundred thousand men read it with gurgles of warm appreciation and
quoted it at dinner the next night. Then he married Miss Evans and
became interested in the price of coal and other household supplies.
His absorption in these topics was almost feverish. He talked about
them morning, noon, and night. His interest in literature flickered and
died out. To Maxwell, his first and still his best friend, he finally
confided his dilemma.

"You see, old man," he began, one morning about six months after the
wedding, "we've discovered, Clara and I, that the least we can live on
in New York is fifty dollahs a week. And you see I'm only getting
forty. It's serious, isn't it? But Clara says that if we buy all ouah
canned goods at Lacy's---"

Maxwell stopped him with a gesture of desperation.

"Harrington, if you say another word I shall go crazy," he announced,
with the calmness of despair. "We'll give you fifty dollars a week. Now
consider that settled, and for God's sake get your mind off it. If you
don't look out you'll be writing about coal and canned goods in your
Mars column. What are you going to write this week, anyhow?" he
demanded, with sudden suspicion.

Harrington looked guilty.

"I thought I'd say something about how prices have advanced," he
faltered. "Clara says that two yeahs ago--" But Maxwell had taken him
by the shoulders.

"No, you don't!" he shouted, fiercely. "You'll keep on writing about
literature and life and lily-pads and love--that's what you'll do. If
you don't, you'll lose your job. Don't you dare to introduce a
single-dollar sign or canned tomato into those columns," he added,
warningly, as he returned to his work.

Harrington's look of reproach as he went out haunted him for days--so
long, in fact, that he bore with extraordinary patience a confidence
that gentleman favored him with several months later. He came to the
office one morning wearing an expression oddly combined of pride and
shame, in which first one and then the other predominated. For a long
time he discussed apartments and janitors and domestic supplies, and
Maxwell humored him. Then he said:

"I've been an awful ass, Maxwell, but that's no reason why I should
keep on being one, is it? I've got to tell you something impo'tant, and
I'm going to do it now. I can't write any more about literatuah of the
past and lily-pads of the present, as you would say. Who ca'es about
'em? _I_ don't. The wo'ld to-day is interested in the life of to-day.
Men think about theah wo'k and theah incomes and theah homes and theah
wives and theah children, and that's _all_ they think about. And women
think about men, and that's all _they_ think about. And heah I'm
writing all the time about literatuah--literatuah." He turned the word
over in his mouth and ejected it with supreme contempt.

As once before, Maxwell was silent in the presence of simple truth. He
rallied, however, and voiced a protest.

"I suppose you haven't lost interest in earning your living," he
suggested, ironically. "How do you intend to do that if you give up
this job?"

Harrington flushed a little, and cleared his throat nervously before he
spoke. Then he drew a paper from his pocket, and as his fingers touched
it his face cleared and happy pride beamed from him.

"I've got something else," he said, simply. "I waited to see how it
would tu'n out befoah I told you. It's quite a story. You see," he went
on expansively, settling back in his chair, and swinging his foot with
the characteristic swing of the boy of two years before--"you see,
Clara needed a hat-pin, the kind that would stay in and keep a hat
_on_. None of them do, Clara said. So I made one foh huh, and Clara's
brothah saw it and thought it was a good thing. He's a lawyer, you
know. He showed it to some man with money, and they took it up and we
patented it, and now we've got a facto'y and we're selling it.
It's--it's making lots of money." He turned an apologetic eye on his
friend and continued, more firmly: "They gave me twenty thousand
dollahs down and twenty pe' cent, of the stock, and a block of stock
foh you, because I insisted on that. I want you in on my luck. Heah it
is. E.W. Hubbard is the chief backah, and he says this is wuth ten
thousand dollahs. He says every woman in Ame'ica will be wearing one of
ouah hat-pins this time next yeah."

He laid the certificate on the table as he spoke, and for a moment
Maxwell sat staring at it, speechless. He knew Hubbard--a rich, shrewd
financier, and no leader of forlorn-hopes. If Hubbard was in the thing
the thing was all right. But a _hat-pin_! Maxwell looked at the
certificate and thought of the hat-pin, and reviewed the Harrington of
the past two years, and felt a horrible desire to laugh and to cry.
Then he pushed the paper toward the inventor.

"It's awfully good of you, old man," he said, huskily. "But of course I
can't take this. There's no reason why you should give me ten thousand
dollars, you know."

Harrington laughed--a queer little laugh.

"Ain't they a reason?" he asked, lapsing in his earnestness into the
careless grammar he had almost overcome. "Well, I guess I know moah
than any one else 'bout _that_. Do you remembah the fifteen dollahs you
lent me the day I came heah? Well, suh, I was sta'ving. I hadn't eaten
fo' two days, an' I couldn't get wo'k, an' I couldn't beg. That's why I
meant to kill myself. That money saved me. Now heah's this thing. It
ain't money. It's an _idea_. It's an idea out of my haid, an' that haid
wouldn't be heah at all if it wasn't fo' you. You've given me mah
chance. What I've done ain't much, but it's brought results, and
results ah the things that count. So we'll just call it interest, if
you don't mind. I think it's goin' to be wuth while. An' you know," he
added, almost timidly, "we ah friends--ahn't we, you and I?"

Maxwell wrung his hand. Then he picked up the certificate, folded it,
and put it carefully into his pocket.

"Thanks, old man," he said, quietly. "It's the biggest thing that's
ever come my way, and I'll take it--from my friend."

Later, when Harrington had taken his jubilant departure, Maxwell
related the incident to his chief. Wilson listened with flattering
attention. At the end he nodded sympathetically.

"He's all right," he said, "and you needn't worry about him. He's got
one quality left that sets him far enough apart from the rabble of
to-day." He looked keenly at the young man as he added, suddenly: "Of
all the fellows you've ever helped, Maxwell--and I know you've helped a
lot in one way or another--has any one of them before to-day ever shown
you any gratitude?"

Maxwell shook his head. "Don't remember any," he admitted. "But I
didn't expect any, and don't want any."

"And you don't get it," ended the older man, with a sigh. "It's the
rarest thing in life. So make the most of it this time, my boy. One
doesn't often meet a visitor from Mars!"

THE END





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