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Title: Much Ado About Peter
Author: Webster, Jean, 1876-1916
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 "Much Ado About Peter" ***

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MUCH ADO ABOUT PETER

BY
JEAN WEBSTER

AUTHOR OF
DADDY LONG-LEGS,
DEAR ENEMY, ETC.

[Illustration: Decoration]

NEW YORK
GROSSET & DUNLAP
PUBLISHERS

Made in the United States of America


[Illustration: " ... PLUNGED INTO A RECKLESS FLIRTATION WITH MARY, THE
CHAMBERMAID"]


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF TRANSLATION
INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES, INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN

COPYRIGHT, 1905, BY THE S. S. MCCLURE COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1907, BY THE CROWELL PUBLISHING COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1908, BY THE PHILLIPS PUBLISHING COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1909, BY HAMPTON'S BROADWAY MAGAZINE

COPYRIGHT, 1909, BY DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
PUBLISHED, MARCH, 1909



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                        PAGE
   I. Gervie Zame, Gervie Door                    3

  II. The Ruffled Frock                          33

 III. Their Innocent Diversions                  57

  IV. Dignity and the Elephant                   81

   V. The Rise of Vittorio                      113

  VI. Held for Ransom                           139

 VII. George Washington's Understudy            175

VIII. A Usurped Prerogative                     209

  IX. Mrs. Carter as Fate                       243

   X. A Parable for Husbands                    281



Much Ado About Peter



I

GERVIE ZAME, GERVIE DOOR


Peter and Billy, the two upper grooms at Willowbrook, were polishing the
sides of the tall mail phaeton with chamois-skin rubbers and whistling,
each a different tune, as they worked. So intent were they upon this
musical controversy that they were not aware of Mrs. Carter's approach
until her shadow darkened the carriage-house doorway. She gathered up
her skirts in both hands and gingerly stepped inside. Peter had been
swashing water about with a liberal hand, and the carriage-house floor
was damp.

"Where is Joe?" she inquired.

"He's out in the runway, ma'am, jumpin' Blue Gipsy. Shall I call him,
ma'am?" Billy answered, as the question appeared to be addressed to him.

"No matter," said Mrs. Carter, "one of you will do as well."

She advanced into the room, walking as nearly as possible on her heels.
It was something of a feat; Mrs. Carter was not so light as she had been
twenty-five years before. Peter followed her movements with a shade of
speculative wonder in his eye; should she slip it would be an
undignified exhibition. There was even a shade of hope beneath his
respectful gaze.

"Why do you use so much water, Peter? Is it necessary to get the floor
so wet?"

"It runs off, ma'am."

"It is very unpleasant to walk in."

Peter winked at Billy with his off eye, and stood at attention until she
should have finished her examination of the newly washed phæton.

"The cushions are dripping wet," she observed.

"I washed 'em on purpose, ma'am. They was spattered thick with mud."

"There is danger of spoiling the leather if you put on too much water."

She turned to an inspection of the rest of the room, sniffing dubiously
in the corner where the harness greasing was carried on, and lifting her
skirts a trifle higher.

"It's disgustingly dirty," she commented, "but I suppose you can't help
it."

"Axle grease _is_ sort o' black," Peter agreed graciously.

"Well," she resumed, returning to her errand with an appearance of
reluctance, "I want you, William--or Peter either, it doesn't matter
which--to drive into the village this evening to meet the eight-fifteen
train from the city. I am expecting a new maid. Take Trixy and the
buckboard and bring her trunk out with you. Eight-fifteen, remember,"
she added as she turned toward the doorway. "Be sure to be on time, for
she won't know what to do."

"Yes, ma'am," said Peter and Billy in chorus.

They watched in silence her gradual retreat to the house. She stopped
once or twice to examine critically a clipped shrub or a freshly spaded
flower-bed, but she finally passed out of hearing. Billy uttered an
eloquent grunt; while Peter hitched up his trousers in both hands and
commenced a tour of the room on his heels.

"William," he squeaked in a high falsetto, "you've spilt a great deal
more water than is necessary on this here floor. You'd ought to be more
careful; it will warp the boards."

"Yes, ma'am," said Billy with a grin.

"An' goodness me! What is this horrid stuff in this box?" He sniffed
daintily at the harness grease. "How many times must I tell you,
William, that I don't want anything like that on _my_ harnesses? I want
them washed in nice, clean soap an' water, with a little dash of
_ee-oo-dee cologne_."

Billy applauded with appreciation.

"An' now, Peter," Peter resumed, addressing an imaginary self, "I am
expectin' a new maid to-night--a pretty little French maid just like
Annette. I am sure that she will like you better than any o' the other
men, so I wish you to meet her at the eight-fifteen train. Be sure to be
on time, for the poor little thing won't know what to do."

"No, you don't," interrupted Billy. "She told me to meet her."

"She didn't either," said Peter, quickly reassuming his proper person.
"She said either of us, which ever was most convenient, an' I've got to
go into town anyway on an errand for Miss Ethel."

"She said me," maintained Billy, "an' I'm goin' to."

"Aw, are you?" jeered Peter. "You'll walk, then. I'm takin' Trixy with
me."

"Hey, Joe," called Billy, as the coachman's steps were heard approaching
down the length of the stable, "Mrs. Carter come out here an' said I was
to meet a new maid to-night, an' Pete says he's goin' to. Just come an'
tell him to mind 'is own business."

Joe appeared in the doorway, with a cap cocked on the side of his head,
and a short bull-dog pipe in his mouth. It was strictly against the
rules to smoke in the stables, but Joe had been autocrat so long that he
made his own rules. He could trust himself--but woe to the groom who so
much as scratched a safety-match within his domain.

"A new maid is it?" he inquired, as a grin of comprehension leisurely
spread itself across his good-natured rubicund face. "I s'pose you're
thinking it's pretty near your turn, hey, Billy?"

"I don't care nothin' about new maids," said Billy, sulkily, "but Mrs.
Carter said me."

"You're awful particular all of a sudden about obeying orders," said
Joe. "I don't care which one of you fetches out the new maid," he added.
"I s'pose if Pete wants to, he's got the first say."

The Carter stables were ruled by a hierarchy with Joe at the head, the
order of precedence being based upon a union of seniority and merit. Joe
had ruled for twelve years. He had held the position so long that he had
insidiously come to believe in the divine right of coachmen. Nothing
short of a revolution could have dislodged him against his will; in a
year or so, however, he was planning to abdicate in order to start a
livery stable of his own. The money was even now waiting in the bank.
Peter, who had commenced as stable-boy ten years before, was
heir-presumptive to the place, and the shadow of his future greatness
was already upon him. Billy, who had served but a few meagre months at
Willowbrook, did not realize that the highest honours are obtained only
after a painful novitiate. He saw no reason why he should not be
coachman another year just as much as Peter; in fact, he saw several
reasons why he should be. He drove as well, he was better looking--he
told himself--and he was infinitely larger. To Billy's simple
understanding it was quantity, not quality, that makes the man. He
resented Peter's assumption of superiority, and he intended, when
opportunity should present itself, to take it out of Peter.

"I don't care about fetchin' out the new maid any more than Billy,"
Peter nonchalantly threw off after a prolonged pause, "only I've got to
take a note to the Holidays for Miss Ethel, and I'd just as lief stop at
the station; it won't be much out o' me way."

"All right," said Joe. "Suit yourself."

Peter smiled slightly as he fell to work again, humming under his
breath a song that was peculiarly aggravating to Billy. "_Je vous aime,
je vous adore_," it ran. Peter trilled it, "_Gervie zame, gervie door_,"
but it answered the purpose quite as well as if it had been pronounced
with the best Parisian accent.


The last maid--the one who had left four days before--had been French,
and during her three weeks' reign at Willowbrook she had stirred to its
foundations every unattached masculine heart on the premises. Even
Simpkins, the elderly English butler, had unbent and smiled foolishly
when she coquettishly chucked him under the chin in passing through the
hall. Mary, the chambermaid, had been a witness to this tender passage,
and poor Simpkins's dignity ever since had walked on shaky ground. But
Annette's charms had conquered more than Simpkins. Tom, the gardener,
had spent the entire three weeks of her stay in puttering about the
shrubs that grew in the vicinity of the house; while the stablemen had
frankly prostrated themselves--with the exception of Joe, who was
married and not open to Gallic allurements. It was evident from the
first, however, that Peter and Billy were the favoured ones. For two
weeks the race between them had been even, and then Peter had slowly,
but perceptibly, pulled ahead.

He had returned one morning from an errand to the house with a new song
upon his lips. It was in the French language. He sang it through several
times with insistent and tender emphasis. Billy maintained a proud
silence as long as curiosity would permit; finally he inquired gruffly:

"What's that you're givin' us?"

"It's a song," said Peter, modestly. "Annette taught it to me," and he
hummed it through again.

"What does it mean?"

Peter's rendering was free.

"It means," he said, "I don't love no one but you, me dear."

This episode was the beginning of strained relations between the two.
There is no telling how far their differences would have gone, had the
firebrand not been suddenly removed.

One morning Joe was kept waiting under the _porte-cochère_ unusually
long for Mrs. Carter to start on her daily progress to the village, but
instead of Mrs. Carter, finally, his passenger was Annette--bound to the
station with her belongings piled about her. Joe had a wife of his own,
and it was none of his affair what happened to Annette, but he had
observed the signs of the weather among his underlings, and he was
interested on their account to know the wherefore of the business.
Annette, however--for a French woman--was undemonstrative. All that Joe
gathered in return for his sympathetic questions (they were sympathetic;
Joe was human even if he was married) was a series of indignant sniffs,
and the assertion that she was going because she wanted to go. She
wouldn't work any longer in a place like that; Mrs. Carter was an old
cat, and Miss Ethel was a young one. She finished with some idiomatic
French, the context of which Joe did not gather.

Billy received the news of the departure with unaffected delight, and
Peter with philosophy. After all, Annette had only had three weeks in
which to do her work, and three weeks was too short a space for even the
most fetching of French maids to stamp a very deep impression upon
Peter's roving fancy. Four days had passed and his wound was nearly
healed. He was able to sit up and look about again by the time that Mrs.
Carter ordered the meeting of the second maid. Ordinarily the grooms
would not have been so eager to receive the assignment of an unallotted
task, but the memory of Annette still rankled, and it was felt between
them that the long drive from the station was a golden opportunity for
gaining a solid start in the newcomer's affections.

The stablemen did not eat with the house servants; Joe's wife furnished
their meals in the coachman's cottage. That evening Peter scrambled
through his supper in evident haste. He had an important engagement, he
explained, with a meaning glance toward Billy. He did take time between
mouthfuls, however, to remark on the fact that it was going to be a
beautiful moonlight night, just a "foin" time for a drive.

An hour later, Billy having somewhat sulkily hitched Trixy to the
buckboard under Joe's direction, Peter swaggered in with pink and white
freshly shaven face, smelling of bay-rum and the barber's, with shining
top-hat and boots, and spotless white breeches, looking as immaculate a
groom as could be found within a hundred miles of New York. He jauntily
took his seat, waved his whip toward Billy and Joe, and touched up Trixy
with a grin of farewell.

Later in the evening the men were lounging in a clump of laurels at one
side of the carriage-house, where a hammock and several battered veranda
chairs had drifted out from the house for the use of the stable hands.
Simpkins, who occasionally unbent sufficiently to join them, was with
the party to-night, and he heard the story of Peter's latest perfidy.
Simpkins could sympathize with Billy; his own sensibilities had been
sadly lacerated in the matter of Annette. Joe leaned back and smoked
comfortably, lending his voice occasionally to the extent of a grunt.
The grooms' differences were nothing to him, but they served their
purpose as amusement.

Presently the roll of wheels sounded on the gravel, and they all
strained forward with alert interest. The driveway leading to the back
door swerved broadly past the laurels, and--as Peter had remarked--it
was a bright moonlight night. The cart came into view, bowling fast,
Peter as stiff as a ramrod staring straight ahead, while beside him sat
a brawny Negro woman twice his size, with rolling black eyes and
gleaming white teeth. An explosion sounded from the laurels, and Peter,
who knew what it meant, cut Trixy viciously.

He dumped his passenger's box upon the back veranda with a thud, and
drove on to the stables where he unhitched poor patient little Trixy in
a most unsympathetic fashion. Billy strolled in while he was still
engaged with her harness. Peter affected not to notice him. Billy
commenced to hum, "_Je vous aime, je vous adore_." He was no French
scholar; he had not had Peter's advantages, but the tune alone was
sufficiently suggestive.

"Aw, dry up," said Peter.

"Pleasant moonlight night," said Billy.

Peter threw the harness on to the hook with a vicious turn that landed
the most of it on the floor, and stumped upstairs to his room over the
carriage-house.

For the next few days Peter's life was rendered a burden. Billy and Joe
and Simpkins and Tom, even good-natured Nora in the kitchen, never met
him without covert allusions to the affair. The gardener at Jasper
Place, next door, called over the hedge one morning to inquire if they
didn't have a new maid at their house. On the third day after the
arrival the matter reached its logical conclusion.

"Hey, Pete," Billy called up to him in the loft where he was pitching
down hay for the horses. "Come down here quick; there's some one wants
to see you."

Peter clambered down wearing an expectant look, and was confronted by
the three grinning faces of Billy, Tom, and David McKenna, the gardener
from Jasper Place.

"It was Miss Johnsing," said Billy. "She was in a hurry an' said she
couldn't wait, but she'd like to have you meet her on the back stoop.
She's got a new song she wants to teach you."

Peter took off his coat and looked Billy over for a soft spot on which
to begin. Billy took off his coat and accepted the challenge, while
David, who was a true Scotchman in his love of war, delightedly
suggested that they withdraw to a more secluded spot. The four trooped
in silence to a clump of willow trees in the lower pasture, Peter grimly
marching ahead.

Billy was a huge, loose-jointed fellow who looked as if he could have
picked up little Peter and slung him over his shoulder like a sack of
flour. Peter was slight and wiry and quick. He had once intended to be a
jockey, but in spite of an anxious avoidance of potatoes and other
fattening food-stuffs, he had steadily grown away from it. When he
finally reached one hundred and sixty-six pounds he relinquished his
ambition forever. Those one hundred and sixty-six pounds were so
beautifully distributed, however, that the casual observer would never
have guessed their presence, and many a weightier man had found to his
sorrow that Peter did not belong to the class he looked.

The hostilities opened with Billy's good-natured remark: "I don't want
to hurt you, Petey. I just want to teach you manners."

Ten minutes later Peter had taught him manners, and was striding across
the fields to work off his surplus energy, while Billy, whose florid
face had taken on a livelier tinge, was comforting a fast-swelling eye
at the drinking trough.

It was the last that Peter heard of the maid, except for a mild lecture
from Joe. "See here, Pete," he was greeted upon his return, "I'm given
to understand that you've been fighting for your lady-love. I just want
you to remember one thing, young man, and that is that I won't have no
fighting about these premises in business hours. You've laid up Billy
for the day, and you can go and do his work."

Three weeks rolled over the head of "Miss Johnsing," and then she, too,
departed. It developed that a husband had returned from a vacation on
"the island" and wished to settle down to family life again. A week
passed at Willowbrook without a parlour-maid, and then one day, as Peter
returned from the lower meadow where he had been trying to entice a
reluctant colt into putting its head into the halter, he was hailed by
Joe with:

"Say, Pete, Mrs. Carter sent out word that you're to go to the station
to-night and fetch out a new maid."

"Aw, go on," said Peter.

"That's straight."

"If there's a new maid comin' Billy can get her. I ain't interested in
maids."

"Them's orders," said Joe. "'Tell Peter,' she says, 'that he's to drive
in with the buckboard and meet the eight-fifteen train from the city.
I'm expectin' a new maid,' she says, but she neglected to mention what
colour she was expectin' her to be."

Peter grunted by way of answer, and Joe chuckled audibly as he hitched
up his trousers and rolled off toward his own house to tell his wife the
joke. The subject was covertly alluded to at supper that night, with
various speculations as to the colour, nationality, and possible size of
the newcomer. Peter emphatically stated his intention of not going near
the blame station. When the train hour approached, however, the stables
were conspicuously empty, and there was nothing for him to do but
swallow his assertion and meet the maid.

As he drove down the hill toward the station he saw that the
eight-fifteen train was already in, but he noted the fact without
emotion. He was not going to hurry himself for all the maids in
creation; she could just wait until he got there. He drew up beside the
platform and sat surveying the people with mild curiosity until such
time as the maid chose to search him out. But his pulses suddenly
quickened as he heard a clear voice, with an adorable suggestion of
brogue behind it, inquire of the station-master:

"Will you tell me, sor, how I'll be gettin' to Mr. Jerome B. Carter's?"

"Here's one of the Carter rigs now," said the man.

The girl turned quickly and faced Peter, and all his confused senses
told him that she was pretty--prettier than Annette--pretty beyond all
precedent. Her eyes were blue, and her hair was black and her colour was
the colour that comes from a childhood spent out of doors in County
Cork.

He hastily scrambled out of his seat and touched his hat. "Beggin' yer
pardon, ma'am, are ye the new maid? Mrs. Carter sent me to fetch ye out.
If ye'll gi' me yer check, ma'am, I'll get yer trunk."

The girl gave up her check silently, quite abashed by this very dressy
young groom. She had served during the two years of her American
experience as "second girl" in a brown-stone house in a side street, and
though she had often watched men of Peter's kind from a bench by the
park driveway, she had never in her life come so near to one as this.
While he was searching for her trunk, she hastily climbed into the cart
and moved to the extreme end of the left side of the seat, lest the
apparition should return and offer assistance. She sat up very stiffly,
wondering meanwhile, with a beating heart, if he would talk or just
stare straight ahead the way they did in the park.

Peter helped the baggage-man lift in her trunk, and as he did it he
paused to take a good square look. "Gee, but Billy will want to kick
himself!" was his delighted inward comment as he clambered up beside her
and gathered the reins in his hands. They drove up the hill without
speaking, but once Peter shot a sidewise glance at her at the same
moment that she looked at him, and they both turned pink. This was
embarrassing, but reassuring. He was, then, nothing but a man in spite
of his clothes, and with a man she knew how to deal.

A full moon was rising above the trees and the twilight was fading into
dusk. As Billy had justly observed at the supper table, it was a fine
night in which to get acquainted. The four miles between the station and
Willowbrook suddenly dwindled into insignificance in Peter's sight, and
at the top of the hill he turned Trixy's head in exactly the wrong
direction.

"If ye have no objections," he observed, "we'll drive the long way by
the beach because the roads is better."

The new maid had no objections, or at least she did not voice any, and
they rolled along between the fragrant hedgerows in silence. Peter was
laboriously framing to himself an opening remark, and he found nothing
ludicrous in the situation; but to the girl, whose Irish sense of humour
was inordinately developed, it appeared very funny to be riding alone
beside a live, breathing groom, in top-hat and shining boots, who turned
red when you looked at him.

She suddenly broke into a laugh--a low, clear, bubbling laugh that
lodged itself in Peter's receptive heart. He looked around a moment with
a slightly startled air, and then, as his eyes met hers, he too laughed.
It instantly cleared the atmosphere. He pulled Trixy to a walk and faced
her. His laborious introductory speech was forgotten; he went to the
point with a sigh of relief.

"I guess we're goin' to like each other--you an' me," he said softly.

The moon was shining and the hawthorn flowers were sweet. Annie's eyes
looked back at him rather shyly, and her dimples trembled just below the
surface. Peter hastily turned his eyes away lest he look too long.

"Me name's Peter," he said, "Peter Malone. Tell me yours, so we'll be
feelin' acquainted."

"Annie O'Reilly."

"Annie O'Reilly," he repeated. "There's the right swing to it. 'Tis
better than Annette."

"Annette?" inquired Annie.

She had perceived that he was a man; he now perceived that she was a
woman, and that Annette's name might better not have been mentioned.

"Ah, Annette," he said carelessly, "a parlour-maid we had a while ago;
an' mighty glad we was to be rid of her," he added cannily.

"Why?" asked Annie.

"She was French; she had a temper."

"I'm Irish; I have a temper--will ye be glad to be rid o' me?"

"Oh, an' I'm Irish meself," laughed Peter, with a broader brogue than
usual. "'Tis not Irish tempers I'm fearin'. Thim I c'n manage."

When they turned in at the gates of Willowbrook--some half an hour later
than they were due, owing to Peter's extemporaneous route by the
beach--he slowed Trixy to a walk that he might point out to his
companion the interesting features of her new home. As they passed the
laurels they were deeply engaged in converse, and a heavy and respectful
silence hung about the region.

"Good night, Mr. Malone," said Annie, as he deposited her trunk on the
back veranda. "'Tis obliged to ye I am for bringin' me out."

"Oh, drop the Mister Malone!" he grinned. "Peter's me name. Good night,
Annie. I hope as ye'll like it. It won't be my fault if ye don't."

He touched his hat, and swinging himself to the seat, drove whistling to
the stables. He unhitched Trixy and gave her a handful of salt. "Here,
old girl, what are ye tryin' to do?" he asked as she rubbed her nose
against his shoulder, and he started her toward her stall with a
friendly whack on the back. As he was putting away her harness, Billy
lounged in, bent on no errand in particular. Peter threw him a careless
nod, and breaking off his whistling in the middle of a bar, he fell to
humming softly a familiar tune. "_Gervie zame, gervie door_," was the
song that he sang.



II

THE RUFFLED FROCK


It was the Fourth of July, and Annie was hurrying with her work in order
to get out and celebrate. She had no particular form of celebration in
view, but she had a strong feeling that holidays, particularly Fourths
of July, ought to be celebrated; and she was revolving in her mind
several possible projects, in all of which Peter figured largely. Aside
from its being the Fourth of July, it was Thursday, and Thursday was
Peter's afternoon off. She put away the last of the dishes with a gay
little burst of song as she glanced through the window at the beckoning
outside world. It was a bright sunshiny day with a refreshing breeze
blowing from the sea. The blue waters of the bay, sparkling at the foot
of the lower meadow, were dotted over with white sailboats.

"Do ye want anything more of me, Nora?" she asked.

"No, be off with you, child," said Nora, good-naturedly. "I'll finish
puttin' to rights meself," and she gathered up the dish-towels and
carried them into the laundry.

Annie paused by the screen door leading on to the back veranda, and
stood regarding the stables speculatively. She was wondering what would
be the most diplomatic way of approaching Peter. Her speculations were
suddenly interrupted by the appearance in the kitchen of Miss Ethel,
with a very beruffled white muslin frock in her arms.

"Annie," she said, "you'll have to wash this dress. I forgot to have
Kate do it yesterday, and I want to wear it to-night. Have it ready by
five o'clock and be careful about the lace."

She threw the frock across the back of a chair, and ran on out of doors
to join a laughing crowd of young people about the tennis-court. Annie
stood in the middle of the floor and watched her with a fast-clouding
brow.

"An' never so much as said please!" she muttered to herself. She walked
over and picked up the frock. It was very elaborate with ruffles and
tucks and lace insertion; its ironing meant a good two hours' work.
Ironing muslin gowns on a Fourth of July was not Annie's business. She
turned it about slowly and her eyes filled with tears--not of sorrow for
the lost afternoon, but of anger at the injustice of demanding such work
from her on such a day.

Presently Nora came in again. She paused in the doorway, her arms
akimbo, and regarded Annie.

"What's that you've got?" she inquired.

Then the floodgates of Annie's wrath were opened and she poured out her
tale.

"Don't you mind it, Annie darlin'," said Nora, trying to comfort her.
"Miss Ethel didn't mean nothin'. She was in a hurry, likely, an' she
didn't stop to think."

"Didn't think! Why can't she wear some other dress? She's got a whole
room just full o' dresses, an' she has to have that special one ironed
at a minute's notice. An' Kate comin' three days in the week! It isn't
my place to wash--that isn't what Mrs. Carter engaged me for--I wouldn't
'a' minded so much if she'd asked it as a favour, but she just ordered
me as if washin' was me work. On Fourth o' July, too, an' Mrs. Carter
tellin' me I could have the afternoon off--an' all those ruffles--'have
it done by five o'clock,' she says, an' goes out to play."

Annie threw the dress in a fluffy pile in the middle of the floor.

"I shan't do it! I won't be ordered about that way by Miss Ethel or
anybody else."

"I'd do it for you meself, Annie, but I couldn't iron that waist no
more 'n a kangaroo. But you just get to work on it; you iron beautiful
and it won't take you long when you once begin."

"Won't take me long? It'll take me the whole afternoon; it'll take me
forever. I shan't touch it!"

Annie's eyes wandered out of doors again. The sunshine seemed brighter,
the songs of the birds louder, the glimpse of the bay more enticing.
And, as she looked, Peter came sauntering out from the stables--Peter in
his town clothes, freshly shaven, with a new red necktie and a flower in
his buttonhole. He was coming toward the kitchen.

Annie's lips trembled and she kicked the dress spitefully.

Peter appeared in the doorway. He, too, had been revolving projects for
the fitting celebration of the day, and he wished tentatively to broach
them to Annie.

"What's up?" he inquired, looking from Annie's flushed cheeks to Nora's
troubled eyes.

Annie repeated the story, growing more and more aggrieved as she dwelt
upon her wrongs. "An' never so much as said please," she finished.

"That's nothin'--ye mustn't mind it, Annie. Miss Ethel ain't used to
sayin' please." Peter was gropingly endeavouring to soothe her. "I
remember times when she was a little girl she'd be so sassy, that, Lor',
me fingers was itchin' to shake her! But I knowed she didn't mean
nothin', so I just touches me hat an' swallows it. She's used to
orderin', Annie, an' ye mustn't mind her."

"Well, I ain't used to takin' orders like that, an' what's more, I
won't! 'Have it done by five o'clock,' she says, an' it's half past two,
now. An' all them ruffles! I hate ruffles, an' I won't touch it after
the way she talked. Not if she goes down on her knees to me, I won't."

"Aw, Annie," remonstrated Peter, "what's the use in kickin' up a fuss?
Miss Ethel's awful kind hearted when she thinks about it."

"Kind hearted!" Annie sniffed. "I guess she can afford to be kind
hearted, havin' people wait on her from mornin' to night an' never doin'
a thing she doesn't want to do. I wish she had to iron once, an' she
could just see how she likes it."

"She gave you a bran' new dress last week," reminded Nora.

"Yes, an' why? 'Cause when I was dustin' her room she happened to be
tryin' it on an' it didn't fit, an' she threw it down on the floor an'
said: 'I won't wear that thing! You can have it, Annie.'"

"The time you burned your hand with her chafing-dish she 'most cried
when she saw how blistered it was, an' wrapped it up herself, an'
brought you some stuff in a silver box to put on it."

For a moment Annie showed signs of relenting, but as her glance fell
upon the dress again, she hardened. "She tipped the alcohol over me
herself an' she'd ought to be sorry. I'd be willin' to do her a favour,
but I _won't_ be ordered around. She just pokes it at me as if I was an
ironing machine. An' this the Fourth o' July, an' Mrs. Carter tellin' me
I could go out. She has enough dresses to last from now till she's gray,
an' I just won't touch it!"

"You won't touch what?" asked Mrs. Carter, appearing in the doorway. She
glanced from the girl's angry face to the rumpled frock upon the floor.
They told their own story. "What's the meaning of this, Annie?" she
asked sharply.

Annie looked sulky. She stared at the floor a moment without answering,
while Peter's and Nora's eyes anxiously scanned Mrs. Carter's face.
Finally she replied:

"You said I could go out this afternoon, ma'am, an' just as I was
gettin' ready, Miss Ethel came in an' said I was to wash that dress
before five o'clock."

"I am sorry about your afternoon," said Mrs. Carter. "Miss Ethel didn't
know about it, but you may go to-morrow afternoon instead."

"I was wantin' to go to-day," said Annie. "I'm willin' enough to do me
own work, ma'am, but it isn't me place to wash."

Mrs. Carter's mouth became a straight line.

"Annie, I never allow my servants to dictate as to what is their work
and what is not. When I engage you, I expect you to do whatever you are
asked. This is a very easy place; you are allowed to go out a great
deal, and you have very little work to do. But when something extra
comes up outside your regular work, I expect you to do it willingly and
as a matter of course. Miss Ethel has been very kind to you; you can do
her a favour in return."

"I wouldn't mind doin' it as a favour, but she just walks in an' orders
it as if it was me regular place to wash."

"And I order it also," said Mrs. Carter. "You may wash that dress and
have it done by five o'clock, or else you may pack your trunk and go."
She turned with a firm tread and walked out of the room.

Annie looked after her with flashing eyes.

"She orders it too, does she? Well, I won't do it, an' I won't, an' I
_won't_!" She dropped down in a chair at one end of the table and hid
her head in her arms.

Peter cast an anxious glance at Nora; he did not know how to deal with
Annie's case. Had she been an obstinate stable-boy, he would have taken
her out behind the barn and thrashed reason into her with a leather
strap. He awkwardly laid his hand on her shoulder.

"Aw, Annie, wash the dress; there's a good girl. It won't take ye very
long, an' then we'll go down t' the beach to-night to see the fireworks.
Miss Ethel didn't mean nothin'. What's the use o' makin' trouble?"

"It's no more my place to wash than it is Simpkins's," she sobbed. "Why
didn't she ask him to do it? I won't stay in a place like this where
they order you around like a dog. I'll pack me trunk, I will."

Nora and Peter regarded each other helplessly. They furtively
sympathized with Annie, but they did not dare to do it openly, as
sympathy only fanned the flames, and they both knew that Mrs. Carter,
having pronounced her ultimatum, would stand by it. Annie must wash that
dress before five o'clock, or Annie must go. At the thought of her
going, Peter fetched a deep sigh, and two frowning lines appeared on his
brow. She had been there only four weeks, but Willowbrook would never
again be Willowbrook without her. Presently the silence was broken by
the sound of generous footsteps flapping across the back veranda, and
Ellen, the cook at Mr. Jasper's, appeared in the doorway.

"Good afternoon to ye, Nora, an' I wants to borrow a drop o' vanilla. I
ardered it two days ago, an' that fool of a grocer's b'y----what's the
matter wit' Annie?" she asked, her good-natured laughing face taking on
a look of concern as she gazed at the tableau before her.

Nora and Peter between them explained. Annie, meanwhile, paid no
attention to the recital of her wrongs; only her heaving shoulders were
eloquent. Ellen hearkened to the story with ready sympathy.

"Oh, it's a shame, it is, an' on Fort' o' July! We all has our troubles
in this world." She sighed heavily and winked at Peter and Nora while
she pushed them toward the door. "Get out wit' ye, the two of yez, an'
lave her to me," she whispered.

Ellen reached down and picked up the dress. "'Tis somethin' awful the
things people will be puttin' on ye, if ye give 'em the chance. 'Tis a
shame to ask any human bein' to wash a dress like that wit' all them
ruffles an' lace fixin's. I think it's bad enough to have to wash Mr.
Harry's shirts, but if he took to havin' lace set in 'em, I'd be leavin'
pretty quick. An' ye not trained to laundry work either! I don't see how
Miss Ethel had the nerve to ask it. She must be awful over-reachin'.
She'll be settin' ye to play the piano next for her to dance by."

Annie raised a tear-stained face.

"I could do it," she said sulkily. "I can wash as good as Kate; Miss
Ethel said I could. It's not the work I'm mindin' if she'd ask me
decent. But she just throws it at me with never so much as please."

"I don't blame ye for leavin'; I would, too." Ellen suddenly had an
inspiration, and she plumped down in a chair at the opposite end of the
table. "I'm goin' to leave meself!" she announced. "I won't be put upon
either. An' what do ye think Mr. Jasper is after telephonin' out this
afternoon? He's bringin' company to dinner--three strange min I niver
set eyes on before--an' he's sint a fish home by Patrick, a blue fish
he's after catchin'. It's in the ice-box now an' we're to have it for
dinner, he says, an' I wit' me dinner all planned. I don't mind havin'
soup, an' roast, an' salad, an' dessert, but I _won't_ have soup, _an'
fish_, an' roast, an' salad, an' dessert. If there was as many to do the
work at our house as there is over here, I wouldn't say nothin', but
wit' only me an' George--an' him not so much as touchin' a thing but the
silver an' the glasses--it's too much, it is. George 'ud see me buried
under a mountain o' dishes before he'd lift a finger to help."

Ellen paused with a pathetic snivel while she wiped her eyes on a corner
of her apron. Annie raised her head and regarded her sympathetically.

"Soup, an' fish, an' roast, an' salad, an' dessert, an' three strange
min into the bargain, an' all the dishes to wash, an' the fish not even
cleaned. True it is that troubles niver come single; they're married an'
has children. Ivery siparate scale o' that blue fish did I take off
wit' me own hands, an' not a word o' thanks do I get. I slaves for those
two min till me fingers is worn to the bone, an' not a sign do they
give; but just let the meat be too done, or the bottles not cold, an'
then I hears quick enough! 'Tis the way wit' min; they're an ungrateful
set. Ye can work an' work till ye're like to drop, an' they swallows it
all an' niver blinks. It ud be different if there was a woman around.
I've often wished as Mr. Harry had a wife like Miss Ethel, so smilin'
an' pretty 't is a pleasure to watch her. Oh, an' I wouldn't mind
workin' a little extra now an' then for her--but five courses an' no one
but me to do the dishes! It's goin' I am. I'll give notice to-night."

Ellen broke down and wept into her apron while Annie attempted some
feeble consolation.

"I've worked there thirteen years!" Ellen sobbed. "Since before Mrs.
Jasper died, when Mr. Harry was only a b'y. 'Tis the only home I've
got, an' I don't want to leave."

"Then what makes you?" Annie asked.

"Because I won't be put upon--soup, an' fish, an' roast, an' salad, an'
dessert is too much to ask of any human bein'. The dishes won't be done
till ten o'clock, an' it's Fort' o' Ju-l-y-y." Ellen's voice trailed
into a wail. Her imagination was vivid; by this time she fully believed
in her wrongs. They cried in unison a few minutes, Ellen murmuring
brokenly: "Soup, an' fish, an' roast, an' salad, an' dessert, an' it's
all the home I've got.

"You don't have company very often," said Annie consolingly.

"That we don't!" cried Ellen. "An' the house is so lonesome an' shut up
'tis like a tomb to live in. If there was dancin' an' singin' an'
laughin' the way there is over here I'd be glad enough. Wit' Mr. Jasper
an' Mr. Harry so quiet an' frownin' an never sayin' a word--Oh, if I had
someone like Miss Ethel to do for 'tis willin' enough I'd be to iron
her dresses. That night she had her party an' I come over to help, an'
you an' Pete was dancin' in the kitchen to the music, an' after the
guests was served we had a table set out on the back veranda--'tis then
I was wishin' I lived in a place like this. An' Miss Ethel come out when
we was eatin' an' asked was we tired an' said thank you for sittin' up
so late, an' she was glad if we was havin' a good time, too."

Annie sighed, and her eyes wandered somewhat guiltily to the dress on
the floor.

"Mrs. Carter orders me around just as if I was a machine," she
reiterated, in a tone of self-defence.

"An' it's orderin' around ye've got to learn to take in this world,"
said Ellen. "If ye occasionally get a 'thank ye,' thrown in, ye can
think yourself lucky--it's more 'n I get. I've darned Mr. Harry's socks
for eleven years, an' never a word o' notice does he take--I'm doubtin'
he even knows they're darned. 'Tis a thankless world, Annie dear.
Thirteen years I've worked for the Jaspers, an' on top o' that to ask me
for soup, an' fish, an' roast, an' salad, an' dessert on a Fort' o' July
night!"

Ellen showed signs of breaking down again and Annie hastily interposed.

"Don't cry about it, Ellen; it's too bad, it is, but Mr. Jasper likely
didn't think what a lot o' trouble he was makin'. He ain't never washed
no dishes an' he don't know what it's like. I'll come over an' help you
do them."

"But ye won't be here. Ye're goin' yerself," Ellen blubbered.

Annie was silent.

"Thirteen years an' 'tis the only home I've got."

"Don't go, Ellen," Annie begged.

"Soup, an' fish, an' roast----"

"I'll stay if you will!"

Ellen heaved a final shuddering sigh and wiped her eyes.

"Ye'll have to hurry, Annie, if ye're goin' to get that dress done by
five o'clock. Come on!" she cried, jumping to her feet. "I'll help ye.
Ye take the waist and I'll take the skirt, an' we'll see which one gets
done first. It just needs a little rubbin' out an' we'll iron it damp."

Five minutes later, Peter and Nora, who had been sitting on the back
steps, waiting patiently for Ellen's diplomacy to bear fruit, returned
to the laundry. They found Ellen at one tub and Annie at another--up to
her elbows in the soap suds, her cheeks still flushed, but a smile
beginning to break through.

"Ellen's helpin' me," she said in rather sheepish explanation.

"An' she's comin' over to wash the dishes for me to-night," Ellen chimed
in. "We're havin' soup, an' fish, an' roast, an'----"

Peter clapped his hand over his mouth and Nora cast him a warning look.

"You're goin' to the beach with Pete to see the fireworks, that's where
you're goin' to-night," she said. "I'll help Ellen with her dishes."

"Thank ye, Nora," said Ellen. "'Tis a kind heart ye've got, an' that's
more 'n I can say for Mr. Jasper, for all I've worked for 'im thirteen
years. 'Tis soup, an' fish, an' roast, an' salad, an' dessert the man's
after wantin' for dinner to-night, an' no one but me to wash a kettle.
If it wasn't for Annie, I'd be leavin', I would." Ellen wrung the skirt
out and splashed it up and down in the rinsing water. "An' now while
this dress is dryin' ready to iron, I'll just run home an' stir up a bit
o' puddin' for dessert, if ye'll be lendin' me some vanilla, Nora dear.
That fool of a grocery b'y----"

"Oh, take your vanilla an' get along wit' you! We've had all we wants o'
your soup an' your fish an' the rest o' your fixin's."

Nora dived into the pantry after the bottle, while the attention of the
others was attracted by a gay laugh outside the window. Annie's face
clouded at the sound, and they all looked out.

Miss Ethel was coming across the lawn on her way to the bay. Mr. Lane,
who was visiting at Willowbrook, strolled at her side, dressed in white
boating flannels with some oars over his shoulder. A little way behind
walked Mr. Harry, a second pair of oars over his shoulder, and his eyes
somewhat surlily bent on the ground. Miss Ethel, pretty and smiling in
her light summer gown, was talking vivaciously to Mr. Lane, apparently
having forgotten that Mr. Harry existed.

"I'd show her pretty quick if I was Mr. Harry!" Ellen muttered
vindictively.

Miss Ethel paused and shaded her eyes with her hand.

"It's awfully sunny!" she complained. "I'm afraid I want a hat." She
glanced back over her shoulder. "Harry," she called, "run back and get
my hat. I think I left it on the front veranda, or maybe at the
tennis-court. We'll wait for you at the landing."

For a moment Mr. Harry looked black at this peremptory dismissal; but he
bowed politely, and whirling about strode back to the house while Miss
Ethel and Mr. Lane went on laughing down the hill.

"An' she never so much as said please!" whispered Annie.

"I'll be darned if I'd do it," said Peter.



III

THEIR INNOCENT DIVERSIONS


"We got three kids visitin' to our house, and there won't be nothin'
left o' Willowbrook by the time they goes away. Hold up, Trixy! What are
ye tryin' to do?"

Peter paused to hook the line out from under Trixy's tail, and then
re-cocking his hat at a comfortable angle and crossing his legs, he
settled himself for conversation. Peter loved to talk and he loved an
audience; he was essentially a social animal. His listeners were two
brother coachmen and a bandy-legged young groom, who were waiting, like
himself, for "ladies' morning" to draw to its usual placid
termination--sandwiches and lemonade on the club veranda after a not too
heated putting contest on the first green.

"Yes, we got three visitin' kids; with Master Bobby it makes four, and
I ain't drawed an easy breath since the mornin' they arrived. They keep
up such an everlastin' racket that the people in the house can't stand
them, an' we've had them in the stables most o' the time. Mrs. Brainard,
that's their mother, is Mr. Carter's sister, and I can tell ye she makes
herself to home.

"That's her over there with the lavender dress and the parasol"--he
jerked his head in the direction of a gaily dressed group of ladies
trailing across the links in the direction of the first green. "She's
mournin' for her husband--light mournin', that is; he's dead two years."

"She picked me the first day to look after the la-ads. 'Peter,' she
says, 'me dear boys are cr-razy to play in the stables, but I can't help
worryin' for fear they'll get under the horses' feet. I have perfect
confidence in you,' she says, 'and I'll put them under yer special
care. Just keep yer eye on the la-ads an' see that they don't get
hur-rt.'

"'Thank ye, ma'am,' says I, flattered by the attention, I'll do the best
I can.' I hadn't made the acquaintance o' the little darlin's yet, or I
would 'a' chucked me job on the spot.

"Master Augustus--he's the youngest--has gold curls an' blue eyes and a
smile as innocint as honey. He's the kind the ladies stops an' kisses,
and asks, 'Whose little boy is you?' At the first glance ye'd think to
see a couple o' wings sproutin' out behind, but when ye knowed him
intimately, ye'd look for the horns an' tail. I've pulled that little
divvil three times out o' the duck pond, and I've fished him out from
the grain chute with a boat hook. I couldn't tell ye the number o' trees
he's climbed after birds' eggs and got stuck in the top of; we keeps a
groom an' ladder on tap, so to speak. One afternoon I caught the four o'
them smokin' cigarettes made o' dried corn silk up in the hay loft as
comfortable as ye please--'tis many a stable-boy as has been bounced for
less. Between them they finished up the dope the vet'rinary surgeon left
when Blue Gipsy had the heaves, thinkin' it was whisky--an' serves them
right, I say. I didn't tell on 'em, though, when the doctor asked what I
thought the trouble was; I said I guessed it was green apples.

"But them's only the minor divarsions that occupy their leisure; they're
nothin' to the things they think of when they really get down to
business. The first thing they done was to pretend the victoria was a
pirate ship; an' they scratched the paint all up a-tryin' to board her.
Joe turned 'em out o' doors to play, an' they dug up the whole o' the
strawberry bed huntin' for hidden treasure. Their next move was to take
off their shoes an' stockin's, turn their clothes wrong side out, an'
dirty up their faces with huckleberry juice--ye would have sworn they
was a lot o' jabberin' Dagoes. They went beggin' in all the houses o'
the neighbourhood, includin' Willowbrook, an' Nora never knew them an'
give them some cold potatoes.

"One day last week they nearly broke their blame young necks slidin'
down the waggon-shed roof on a greased tea-tray. There's a pile o' straw
at the bottom that kind of acted as a buffer, but Master Augustus didn't
steer straight an' went over the edge. 'Twas only a drop o' four feet,
but he come up lookin' damaged.

"That ain't the worst though. Last Sunday afternoon they frightened the
cow into hysterics playin' she was a bull, an' they was matydoors or
torydoors, or whatever ye call them. They stuck pins into her with paper
windmills on the end, and she ain't give more 'n six quarts at any
milkin' since. I was mad, I was, an' I marched 'em to the house an' tole
their mother.

"'It grieves me,' she says, 'to think that me boys should be so
troublesome; but they didn't mean to be cruel to the poor dumb brute.
They're spirited la-ads,' she says, 'an' their imaginations run away wid
them. What they needs is intilligent direction. Ye should try,' she
says, 'to enter into the spirit o' their innocint divarsions; an' when
ye see them doin' somethin' dangerous, gintly turn their thoughts into
another channel. Their grattytood,' she says, 'will pay ye for yer
trouble.'

"'Wery well, ma'am,' says I, not too enthusiastic, 'I'll do the best I
can,' and I bows meself out. I've been superintendin' their innocint
divarsions ever since, and if there's any one as wants the job, I'll
turn it over to him quick."

Peter paused to back his horses farther into the shade; then having
climbed down and taken a drink at a near-by hydrant, he resumed his seat
and the conversation.

"But ye should have seen them this mornin' when I drove off! They was a
sight if there ever was one. Joe's away with Mr. Carter and I'm takin'
charge for the day. When I went into the carriage-house to give Billy
orders about hitchin' up, what should I find but them precious little
lambkins gambolin' around in stri-ped bathin' trunks, an' not another
stitch. They was further engaged in paintin' their skins where the
trunks left off--an' that was the most o' them--with a copper colour
foundation and a trimmin' o' black stripes.

"'Holy Saint Patrick!' says I. 'What the divvil are ye up to now?'

"'Whoop!' says Master Bobby. 'We'll scalp ye and eat yer heart. We're
Comanche braves,' he says, 'an' we're gettin' ready for the war-path.'

"'Ye look more like zebras,' says I, 'escaped from a menagerie.'

"'Wait till we get our feathers on,' he says, 'an' Pete,' he adds, 'will
you do me back? There's a place in the middle that I can't reach.'

"Wid that he turns a pink an' white surface a yawnin' for decoration,
an' presses a can o' axle grease in me hands. And I'll be darned if them
young imps hadn't covered their skins with axle grease and red brass
polish, an' for variety, a touch o' bluing they'd got off Nora in the
kitchen. An' they smelt--Gee! they smelt like a triple extract harness
shop. I tole them I thought they'd be havin' trouble when they was ready
to return to the haunts o' the pale-face; but Master Bobby said their
clothes would cover it up.

"I done the job. I don't set up to be a mural artist, and I ain't
braggin', but I will say as Master Bobby's back beat any signboard ye
ever see when I finished the decoratin'. I fastened some chicken
feathers in their hair, and I hunted out some tomahawks in the lumber
room, an' they let out a war-whoop that raised the roof, an' scalped me
out o' grattytood.

"'Now see here,' says I to Master Bobby, 'in return for helpin' along
yer innocint amusements, will ye promise to do yer scalpin' in the
paddock, an' not come near the stables? 'Cause me floor is clean,' I
says, 'and I don't want no blood spattered on it. 'Tis hard to wash up,'
I says. I was, ye'll observe, gintly turnin' their thoughts into another
channel, like their mother recommended. An' they promised sweet as
cherubs. She was right; they're spirited la-ads, an' they won't be
driven. 'Tis best to use diplomacy.

"I left them crawlin' on all fours through the bushes by the duck pond,
shootin' arrers in the air as innocint as ye please. I dunno, though,
how long 'twill last. I tole Billy to keep an eye on them, and I s'pose
when I get back, I'll find his head decoratin' the hitchin'-post an' his
hair danglin' from their belts."

A movement of farewell on the club veranda brought the men back to their
official selves. Peter straightened his hat, stiffened his back, and
gathered up the reins.

"So long, Mike," he remarked as he backed into the driveway. "I'll see
ye to-morrow at the Daughters o' the Revolution; and if ye hear of
anyone," he added, "as is wantin' a combination coachman an' first class
nursemaid, give them my address. I'm lookin' for an easier place."

"Peter," said Mrs. Carter, as they trotted out of the club-house gateway
and swung on to the smooth macadam of the homeward road, "I meant to ask
you what the children were doing this morning. Have they been amusing
themselves?"

"Yes, they've been amusin' themselves. They was playin' Indian, ma'am,
with chicken feathers in their heads." He wisely suppressed the
remainder of the costume. "I found them some tomahawks in the lumber
room, an' the last I see o' them they was in the paddock scalpin' each
other as happy as ye please."

"Those delicious boys!" murmured their mother. "I never know what they
will think of next. It is such a relief to get them into the country,
where they can have plenty of room to play and I can be sure they are
not in mischief. They are so exuberant, that when we are stopping in a
summer hotel I am always uneasy for fear they may disturb the guests."

The carriage had turned into the Willowbrook grounds, and was decorously
rolling along between the smooth green lawns bordered by coloured
foliage, the two ladies reclining against the cushions in placid
contemplation of the summer noonday, when suddenly an ebullition of
shouting and crying burst out across the shrubbery in the direction of
the stables. It was not the mere joyous effervescence of animal spirits
that had been gladdening Willowbrook for the past two weeks. There was
an unmistakable note of alarm, a hoarser undertone, as of men joining in
the tocsin. Peter pulled the horses sharply to their haunches and
cocked his head to listen, while the ladies leaned forward in a flutter
of dismay.

"Something has happened to my precious boys! Drive on quick, Peter,"
Mrs. Brainard gasped.

Peter used his whip and they approached the house at a gallop. The
trouble was evident by now. Heavy clouds of smoke were curling up from
among the willow trees while the cry of "Fire! Fire!" filled the air.

"Thank heaven it ain't the stables!" ejaculated Peter, as his eye
anxiously studied the direction. "'Tis the waggon-shed--an' the
buckboard's in it an' all the farmin' tools."

People were running from every side. Two men from Jasper Place came
puffing through the hole in the hedge, dragging a garden hose behind
them, while the house servants, bare-headed and excited, swarmed out
from the back veranda.

"Annie! Annie!" called Mrs. Carter as the panting horses were dragged to
a standstill, "turn on the fire alarm. Go to the telephone and call the
engine house."

"Simpkins has done it, ma'am," called Annie over her shoulder, as she
hurried on. "Ow! What's that?" she added with a scream of astonished
terror, as a red and black striped figure, with a row of ragged feathers
waving in a fringe about its ears, burst from the shrubbery and butted
plump against her.

"Bobby!" gasped his mother, as after a moment of shocked hesitation she
recognized her son. Bobby waved his arms and set up a howl. An
expression of terror was plainly visible struggling through the
war-paint.

"Pete, Billy, Patrick! Quick! Quick! We can't untie him and he's
burning! We didn't mean to burn him," he added quickly. "It's an
accident."

"Burn what?" cried Mrs. Carter.

"Augustus," Bobby sobbed.

And to the horror-stricken group was borne a shrill falsetto wail:
"Help! H-e-l-p! They're burning me at the s-t-a-k-e!"--a wail apparently
of mortal anguish, though an unexcited listener would have detected in
the tones more of anger than of pain.

Mrs. Brainard, with a frenzied shriek, threw away her lavender parasol
and dashed in the direction of the sounds. Peter jumped from the box and
overtook her. He was first upon the spot. The waggon-shed roof was a
blazing mass; the straw pile beneath it was sending up a stifling cloud
of blue smoke, and the dry surrounding grass was crackling in a swiftly
widening circle. But in the centre of the conflagration there still
remained a little oasis of green, where a young willow sapling rose
defiantly from the flames. And as the smoke blew momentarily to one
side, the writhing figure of Augustus came to view lashed firmly to the
tree trunk, his hands above his head. With the arrival of spectators he
finished struggling and assumed an expression of stoicism that would
have done credit to a true Comanche.

"My boy! My boy!" shrieked Mrs. Brainard, running forward with
outstretched arms, as the smoke again closed around him.

Peter caught her. "Stand back, ma'am. For heaven's sake, stand back!
Ye'll ketch yer dress. He ain't hurt none; the fire ain't reached him.
I'll save him," and whipping out his knife, Peter dashed into the smoke.
He returned three minutes later, a mass of stripes and mingled grease
kicking in his arms.

Mrs. Brainard, who had closed her eyes preparing to faint, opened them
again and looked at Augustus. He was a muddy copper colour with here and
there a vivid touch of blue, and he exuded a peculiarly blent odour of
brass polish and smoke.

"Is--is he dead?" she gasped.

"He's quite lively, ma'am," said Peter, grimly struggling to hold him.

She opened her arms with a sob of relief, and received the boy, grease
and smoke and all; while the three remaining braves modestly tried to
efface themselves.

"Robert," said Mrs. Carter, laying a detaining hand on her son's
tri-coloured shoulder, "what is the meaning of this outrageous affair?"

Bobby dug his eyes with his greasy fists and whimpered.

"We just tied him to the stake and pretended to burn him. And then we
sat down to smoke a pipe of peace, and I guess maybe the straw caught
fire."

"It did--apparently," said his mother; her tone carried a suggestion of
worse to come.

Peter, having hastily organized a fire brigade, succeeded in saving the
buckboard and a few of the farming tools, but the building itself was
beyond salvation. The wood was dry and thoroughly seasoned, and the
feeble stream of water from the garden hose served to increase the smoke
rather than to lessen the flames. The men finally fell back in a
panting circle and watched it burn.

"Gee!" ejaculated Peter, "I'm glad it was the waggon-shed. It might have
been the stables."

"Or the house," added Mrs. Carter.

"Or Augustus!" breathed Mrs. Brainard.

The roof fell in with a crash, and the flames leaped up to surround it.
A mild cheer broke from the spectators; since there was nothing more to
be done, they might as well enjoy the bonfire. The cheer was echoed by
an answering shout at the end of the avenue, and a moment later the Sea
Garth volunteer hook and ladder company dashed into sight, drawn by two
foam-covered horses, the firemen still struggling into belated uniforms.

They came to a stand; half a dozen men tore off the nearest ladder and
dragged it to the burning building. There, they hesitated dubiously. It
was clearly an impossible feat to lean a thirty-foot ladder against a
one-story waggon-shed whose roof had fallen in. Their chief, an
impressive figure in a scarlet shirt and a rubber helmet, advanced to
take command. He grasped the painful situation, and for a moment he
looked dashed. The next moment, however, he had regained his poise, and
announced, in a tone of triumph; "We'll save the stables!"

Mrs. Carter stepped forward with a voice of protest.

"Oh, no, I beg of you! It isn't necessary. The sparks are flying in the
other direction. My own men have fortunately been able to cope with the
fire, and while I am very much obliged for your trouble, there is no
necessity for further aid."

"Madam," said the chief, "the wind is likely to change at any moment,
and a single spark falling on that shingle roof would sweep away every
building on the place. I am sorry to be disobliging, but it is my duty
to protect your property." He waved her aside and issued his orders. For
the first time in her life Mrs. Carter found that she was not master on
her own place.

Five minutes later half a dozen ladders were resting against the main
edifice of the stables, while the bucket brigade was happily splashing
the contents of the duck pond over the shingle roof.

This precautionary measure was barely under way, when a second shouting
and clanging of bells announced the approach of the Sea Garth Volunteer
Hose Company No. 1. They did not possess horses and their progress had
of necessity been slower. Accompanied by an excited escort of barefooted
boys, they swept like a tidal wave across shaven lawns and flowered
borders.

"Keep them back! Keep them back!" wailed Mrs. Carter, in a sudden access
of helplessness. "Peter, William, stop them! Thank them and send them
home." She accosted the hook and ladder chief. "Tell them it's all over.
Tell them that you yourself have already done everything that's
necessary."

"Sorry, Mrs. Carter, but it's impossible. There hasn't been a fire in
this town for the last three months, and then it was only a false alarm.
They're sore enough as it is because we got here first. A little water
won't hurt anything; we're in need of rain. You go in the house, Mrs.
Carter, and trust to me. I won't let them do any more damage than
necessary."

The hose company bore down upon the scene of confusion that surrounded
the wrecked waggon-shed with an air of pleased expectancy. Their faces
fell as they caught sight of the pitiable size of the fire; but the new
chief, with quickly reviving cheerfulness, usurped dictatorship, and
soon had a generous stream of water playing upon the embers.

Mrs. Carter, with a last plaintive appeal to Peter to get rid of them,
resumed her natural aloofness; and she and Mrs. Brainard trailed their
smoke-grimed splendour toward the house, driving the vanquished braves
before them.

When, finally, the last spark was irretrievably dead, the duck pond was
nearly dry and everything else was wet, the firemen reloaded their
ladders and hose, their buckets and rubber helmets, and noisily trundled
away. The Willowbrook contingent sat down and mopped their grimy brows.

"Will you look at my flower-beds?" mourned Tom. "Walked right over 'em,
they did."

"An' will ye look at the clothes on the line?" cried Nora. "They walked
slap through them wid their dir-rty hands."

"Go and look at the carriage-house floor," Peter growled. "They turned a
three-inch stream o' water in at the front door; it looks as if the
flood o' Arrerat had struck us. If I ever ketch that lobster of a fire
chief out alone, I'll teach 'im 'is dooty, I will." He paused to examine
his person. "Gee! but I blistered me hands." He carried the examination
further. "An' these is me best pants," he muttered. "The next time I
helps along their innocint divarsions, I'll get me life insured."



IV

DIGNITY AND THE ELEPHANT


"Come in!"

Peter opened the library door and advanced with awkward hesitation.
Behind his respectfully blank expression there was visible a touch of
anxiety; he was not clear in his own mind as to the reason for this
peremptory summons to the house. It might mean that he was to be
rewarded for having saved Master Augustus's life and the contents of the
waggon-shed; it might mean that he was to be censured for any one of a
dozen innocent and unpremeditated faults. But Mr. Carter's expression as
he turned from the writing table banished all doubt as to the meaning of
the interview. His bearing contained no suggestion of honourable mention
to come.

"Close the door," he said dryly.

Peter closed the door and stood at attention, grasping with nervous
fingers the brim of his hat. Mr. Carter allowed a painful silence to
follow while he sat frowning down at a newspaper spread on the table
before him. Peter, having studied his master's face, lowered his
troubled eyes to the headlines of the paper:


     COMANCHE BRAVES ON THE WAR PATH

        FIRE THREATENS DESTRUCTION
       TO JEROME B. CARTER'S ESTATE


"This has been a very shocking affair," Mr. Carter began, in a tone of
impressive emphasis. "The damage, fortunately, was slight, but the
principle remains the same as if every building on the place had burned.
The blame on the surface rests with the boys who started the fire; and,"
he added, with a touch of grimness, "they have been fittingly punished.
But I find, upon looking into the matter, that the blame does not stop
with them. I have here a copy of a New York evening paper of
an--uh--sensational order, giving a grossly exaggerated account of the
incident. There is one particular, however, in regard to which they do
not exaggerate--exaggeration being impossible--and that is in their
description of the outrageous apparel which my son and my nephews were
wearing at the time."

Mr. Carter adjusted his glasses and picked up the paper, his frown
darkening as he glanced rapidly down the column. A facetious young
reporter had made the best of a good story.

"'Volunteer firemen--Gallant behaviour of Chief McDougal--Threatened
tragedy--H'm----" His eye lighted on the offending paragraph, and he
settled himself to read.

"'Conspicuous among those present were the authors of the conflagration,
Master Robert Carter, twelve-year-old son of Jerome B. Carter, and his
three cousins, sons of John D. Brainard, of Philadelphia. Whatever may
be said of Philadelphians in general, there is nothing slow about the
Brainard boys. In the character of Comanche braves the four were clothed
in simple but effective costumes of black and red war-paint. The paint,
we are informed, was composed of axle grease and brass polish, and had
been artistically laid on by one Peter Malone, who occupies the position
of head groom in the Carter stables. Young Malone has missed his
calling. His talents point to the field of decorative art.'"

A fleeting grin swept over Peter's face. It struck him, for the
hundredth time, that there was a singular absence of a sense of humour
in the Carter family. But he quickly recomposed his features. Mr. Carter
had laid the paper down again, and was waiting. Peter glanced dubiously
about the room, and finally ventured in a tone of conciliation:

"It weren't so shockin' as the paper made out, sir. They was wearin'
stri-ped bathin' trunks and a row o' chicken feathers in addition to the
grease."

Mr. Carter waved the remark aside as irrelevant.

"That has nothing to do with the point. The question which I am
discussing is the fact that you painted my son with axle grease. I am
not only shocked, but astonished. I have always entertained the highest
opinion of your sense of propriety and fitness. I should have believed
this story a pure fabrication on the part of an unprincipled reporter,
had I not heard it corroborated from Master Bobby's own lips. Before
passing judgment it is only right that I hear your version of the
affair. What have you to say?"

Peter shifted his weight uneasily. An invitation to tell a story rarely
found him wanting, but he liked to feel that his audience was with him,
and in the present instance Mr. Carter's manner was not surcharged with
sympathy.

"Well, sir," he began, with an apologetic cough, "If ye'll excuse me
mentionin' it, them three Brainard boys is young limbs o' Satan, every
one o' them. Their badness, so to speak, is catchin', an' Master Bobby's
got it. 'Tis demoralizin', sir, to have them about; I'm losin' me own
sense o' right an' wrong."

"Very well," said Mr. Carter, impatiently, "what I want to hear about is
this Indian business."

"Yes, sir, I'm comin' to it, sir. Yesterday mornin' I got an order early
to drive Mrs. Carter to the country club, an' when I went into the
carriage-house to see about hitchin' up, what should I find but them
four little div----"

Peter caught Mr. Carter's eye, and hastily altered his sentence.

"I found the four young gentlemen, sir, dressed in stri-ped bathin'
trunks, engaged in paintin' their skins with axle grease ready for the
war-path. They'd got two cans on before I seen 'em, and all I done was
Master Bobby's back an' Master Wallace's legs. I mistrusted it wouldn't
come off, sir, and I told 'em as much; but they was already so nearly
covered that it seemed a pity to spoil the sport. Ye see, I was mindin'
what their mother said about takin' a sympathetic interest in their
innocint divarsions."

"And this struck you as an innocent diversion?"

"Comparatively speakin', sir. None o' their divarsions strikes me as
fittin' for a Sunday-school."

"Go on," said Mr. Carter, sharply.

Peter fumbled with his hat. He was finding his employer's mood a trifle
difficult.

"It weren't my fault about the fire, sir. When I drove off they was
playin' in the paddock as innocint as ye please. How should I know that
as soon as me back was turned they'd be takin' it into their heads to
burn Master Augustus at the stake? It ain't no ordinary intilligence,
sir, that can keep up wid them. And as for the damage, there wouldn't
'a' been none, aside from losin' the waggon-shed, if it weren't for that
meddlin' fire department. Ye see for yerself the mess they made."

He came to a sudden pause, and then added with an air of reviving
cheerfulness:

"'T was bad, sir, but it might have been worse. We saved the buckboard,
an' we saved the garden tools, to say nothin' o' Master Augustus."

Mr. Carter grunted slightly, and a silence followed, during which Peter
glanced tentatively toward the door; but as his companion gave no sign
that the interview was at an end, he waited. Mr. Carter's eye had
meanwhile travelled back to the paper, and his frown was gathering anew.
He finally faced the groom with the deliberative air of a counsellor
summing up a case.

"And you think it consonant with the dignity of my position that a New
York paper should be able to print such a statement as that in regard to
my son?"

Peter smiled dubiously and mopped his brow, but as no politic answer
occurred to him, he continued silent.

"There is another matter which I wish to speak of," added Mr. Carter,
with a fresh assumption of sternness. "I am informed that you called the
boys, in their presence," he paused, as though it were painful for him
to repeat such malodorous words--"_damned little devils!_ Is that so?"

Peter sighed heavily.

"I don't know, sir. I might 'a' said it without thinkin'. I was excited
when I see the roof a blazin' and I may have spoke me mind."

"Are you not aware, Peter, that such language should never, under any
circumstances, be used in Master Bobby's presence?"

"Yes, sir, but if ye'll pardon the liberty, sir, there's times when the
Angel Gabriel himself would swear in Master Bobby's presence."

"That will do, Peter. I won't bandy words with you any further; but I
wish this to be a warning. You are now head groom--I was even
considering, as you know well, the advisability of advancing you still
further. Whether or not I do so will depend upon yourself. I regret to
say that this episode has shaken my confidence."

There was a sudden flaring of anger in Peter's eyes. He recalled the
long years of honest service he had given Mr. Carter, a service in which
his employer's interest had always been his own; and his Irish sense of
justice rebelled. It was on his tongue to say: "I've worked ten years at
Willowbrook, and I've always done my best. If my best is not good
enough, you'll have to look for another man. Good evening, sir."

But he caught the words before they were spoken. Since Annie had come to
Willowbrook, Peter's outlook on life had changed. If a secret dream
concerning himself and her and the coachman's cottage were ever to come
true, he must swallow his pride and practise wisdom. His mouth took a
straighter line, and he listened to the remainder of his master's homily
with his eyes bent sulkily on the floor.

"Had it been one of the other grooms who was guilty of using such
language before my son, and of committing such an--er--unpardonable
breach of decorum as to paint him with axle grease, I should have
discharged the man on the spot. Your past record has saved you, but I
warn you that it will not save you a second time. In future, I shall
expect you to set an example to the under stablemen. You never find me
forgetting the dignity of my position; let me see that you remember the
dignity of yours. You may go now."

Mr. Carter dismissed him with a nod, and turned back to the desk.

Annie was waiting in the kitchen to hear the history of the interview.
Peter stalked through the room without a word, his face set in ominous
lines. She followed him to the back veranda, and caught him by the coat
lapel.

"What's the matter, Petey? What are you mad at? Didn't he thank you for
savin' the things?"

"Thank nothin'," Peter growled. "Do the Carters ever thank you? All the
blame is fixed on me for the things them little divvels do--_damn_
little divvels--that's what they are. 'An' is it fittin',' says he,
'that ye should use such language before Master Bobby?' Lor'! I wish he
could hear the language Master Bobby used before me the time he fell
into Trixy's manger. I'd like to meet Mr. Carter in the open once, as
man to man. I'd knock him out in the first round with me right hand tied
behind me."

Peter was clearly fighting mad.

"I'd like to get a whack at that reporter what wrote that paper. Young
Malone has missed his callin', has he? I'd show him where young Malone's
talents lie; I'd knock him into the middle o' next week. 'Gallant work
o' Chief McDougal.' Bloomin' lobster in a rubber helmet. I'll teach him
his dooty if I ever ketch him out alone. It was me as saved the
buckboard an' all the tools, an' Master Augustus in the bargain--wish
I'd let him burn, I do. 'An',' says Mr. Carter, 'do ye think it
consonant wid the dignity o' me position,' he says, 'that me son should
be painted with axle grease--me--the Honourable Jerome B. Carter,
Esquire?' His dignity! Take away his money an' his dignity, an' there
wouldn't be enough of him left to fill a half-pint measure. I'll get it
back at him; you see if I don't. I risks me life and I burns me best
pants, an' that's all the thanks I get!"


A week had passed over Willowbrook. The charred ruins of the waggon-shed
had been carted to the barnyard; the Comanche braves had become white
again--though in the course of it they had lost a layer of skin--and
the subject of axle grease and brass polish had been allowed to fade
into the past. Mr. Carter, having once eased his mind, had banished all
rancour from his thoughts. Being a lawyer, with influence in high
places, he had received an unexpectedly adequate insurance, and he was
beginning to regard the matter as a funny after-dinner story. But Peter
persisted in being sulky. Though his blistered hands were healed, his
wounded feelings were still sore. As he drove his employer to and from
the train, he no longer permitted himself the usual friendly chatter;
his answers to all queries were respectful but not cordial. Peter was
steadfastly determined to keep Mr. Carter in his place. Meanwhile, he
was looking longingly for the chance to "get it back." And suddenly the
chance presented itself--fairly walked into his hands--a revenge of such
thorough-going appropriateness that Peter would have held himself a fool
to let it slip.

The yearly circus had arrived--the Nevin Brothers' Company of Trick
Animals and Acrobats--and every billboard in the village was blazing
with pictures of Rajah, the largest elephant in captivity. The Nevin
Brothers confined themselves to one-night stands. On the day of the
performance, Peter, having driven Mr. Carter to the station, stopped on
his way home at Scanlan's to have the shoe tightened on Trixy's off hind
foot. The shop was just around the corner from the vacant lot where the
tents were going up, and while he was waiting, Peter strolled across to
watch.

To his surprise and gratification he discovered that the elephant
trainer was a boyhood friend. Arm in arm with this distinguished person,
he passed by the curious crowd of onlookers into the animal tent for a
private view of Rajah. Once inside, and out of sight, it transpired that
his friend would be obliged if Peter could lend him a dollar. Peter
fortunately had only fifty cents about him; but the friend accepted
this, with the murmured apology that the boss was slow in forwarding
their wages. He more than paid the debt, however, by presenting Peter
with a pass for himself and "lady," and Peter drove home in a pleasant
glow of pride and expectation.

He submitted the pass to Annie, and drove on to the stables, casually
informing the groom who helped him unhitch that he had gone to school
with Rajah's trainer, and wished he had a dollar for every time he'd
licked him.

Toward seven o'clock that evening, as Peter was happily changing from
plum-coloured livery into checked town clothes, a telephone call came
out from the house, ordering the waggonette and the runabout. "Yes, sir,
in fifteen minutes, sir," said Peter into the mouthpiece, but what he
added to the stable boy would scarcely have been fit for Master Bobby's
presence. He tumbled back into his official clothes, and hurried to the
kitchen to break the news to Annie.

"It's all up with us," said Peter gloomily. "They've ordered out the two
rigs, and both Billy an' me has to go--if it had only been ten minutes
earlier they'd uv caught Joe before he got off."

"'T is a pity, it is, an' you with the lovely pass!" she mourned.

"Why the dickens should they take it into their heads to go drivin'
around the country at this time o' night?" he growled.

"They're goin' to the circus themselves!" said Annie. "Miss Ethel's
after havin' a dinner party; I was helpin' Simpkins pass the things, and
I heard them plannin' it. The whole crowd's goin'--all but Mrs. Carter;
she don't like the smell o' the animals. But Mr. Carter's goin' and all
four boys--Master Augustus was in bed an' they got him up an' dressed
him. They're laughin' an' carryin' on till you'd think they was crazy.
Mr. Harry Jasper pretended he was a polar bear, an' was eatin' Master
Augustus up."

"Mr. Carter's goin'?" asked Peter, with a show of incredulity. "An' does
he think it consonant wid the dignity o' his position to be attendin'
circuses? I wouldn't 'a' believed it of him!"

"He's goin' to help chaperon 'em."

"I'm glad it ain't for pleasure. I'd hate to think o' the Honourable
Jerome B. Carter descendin' so low."

"I'm to serve supper to 'em when they come home, an' I'll have somethin'
waitin' for you on the back stoop, Pete," she called after him as he
turned away.

Peter and Billy deposited their passengers at the entrance of the main
tent, and withdrew to hitch the horses to the fence railing. A number of
miscellaneous vehicles were drawn up around them--mud-spattered farmers'
waggons, livery "buggies"--but private carriages with liveried coachmen
were conspicuously lacking. Peter could not, accordingly, while away the
tedium of waiting with the usual pleasant gossip; as for opening a
conversation with Billy, he would as soon have thought of opening one
with the nearest hitching-post. Billy's ideas were on a par with Billy's
sparring, and in either case it was a waste of breath to bother with
him.

Peter sat for a time watching the crowd push about the entrance, the
pass burning in his pocket. Then he climbed down, examined the harness,
patted the horses, and glanced wistfully toward the flaming torches at
either side of the door.

"Say, Bill," he remarked in an offhand tone, "you stay here and watch
these horses till I come back. I'm just goin' to step in an' see me
friend the elephant trainer a minute. Sit on the lap robes, and keep yer
eye on the whips; there's likely to be a lot o' sneak thieves around."
He started off, and then paused to add, "If ye leaves them horses, I'll
come back an' give ye the worst tannin' ye ever had in yer life."

He presented his pass and was admitted. The show had not begun. A couple
of clowns were throwing sawdust at each other in the ring, but this was
palpably a mere overture to keep the audience in a pleasant frame of
mind until the grand opening march of all the animals and all the
players--advertised to take place promptly at eight, but already twenty
minutes overdue. Peter, aware that it would not be wise to let his
master see him, made himself as inconspicuous as possible. Hidden behind
the broad back of a German saloon-keeper, he drifted with the crowd into
the side tent, where the animals were kept.

Here, vociferous showmen were urging a hesitating public to enter the
side-shows, containing the cream of the exhibit, and only ten cents
extra. Vendors of peanuts and popcorn and all-day-suckers were adding to
the babel, while the chatter of monkeys and the surly grumbling of a big
lion formed an intoxicating undertone.

Across the tent, gathered in a laughing group about the elephant, Peter
caught sight of the Willowbrook party--the ladies in fluffy, light
gowns and opera coats, the gentlemen in immaculate evening clothes. They
were conspicuously out of their element, but were having a very good
time. The bystanders had left them in a group apart, and were granting
them as much attention as Rajah himself. The elephant, in scarlet and
gold trappings, with a canopied platform on his back, was accepting
popcorn balls from Master Augustus's hand, and Master Augustus was
squealing his delight. Above the other noises Peter could hear his
former schoolmate declaiming in impressive tones:

"Fourteen years old, and the largest elephant in captivity. Weighs over
eight thousand pounds, and eats five tons of hay a month. He measures
nine feet to the shoulders, and ain't got his full growth yet. Step up
the ladder, ladies and gentlemen, and get a bird's-eye view from the
top. Don't be bashful; there's not the slightest danger."

Mr. Harry Jasper and Master Bobby accepted the invitation. They mounted
the somewhat shaky flight of steps, sat for a moment on the red velvet
seat, and with a debonair bow to the laughing onlookers, descended
safely to the ground. They then urged Mr. Carter up, but he emphatically
refused; his dignity, it was clear, could not stand the strain.

"Step up, sir," the showman insisted. "You can't get any idea of his
size from the ground. There's not the slightest danger. He's as playful
as a kitten when he's feeling well."

Miss Ethel and one of the young men pushed Mr. Carter forward; and
finally, with a fatuous smile of condescension, he gave his overcoat to
Master Bobby to hold, his walking-stick to Master Augustus, and having
settled his silk hat firmly on his head, he began climbing with careful
deliberation.

Peter, hidden in the crowd, fingering in his pocket the dollar he had
intended to spend, suddenly had an infernal prompting. His revenge
spread itself before him in tempting array. For one sane moment he
struggled with the thought, but his unconquerable sense of humour
overthrew all hesitation. He slipped around behind Rajah and beckoned to
the trainer. All eyes were fixed upon Mr. Carter's shining hat as it
slowly rose above the level of the crowd. The two men held a hurried
consultation in a whisper; the bill inconspicuously changed hands, and
Peter, unobserved, sank into the crowd again. The trainer issued a brief
order to one of the bandmen and resumed his position at Rajah's head.

Mr. Carter had by this time gained the top, and with one foot on the
platform and the other on the upper round of the ladder was approvingly
taking his bird's-eye view, with murmured exclamations to those below.

"Stupendous! He must measure six feet across--and not reached his full
growth! A wonderful specimen--really wonderful."

Rajah suddenly transferred his weight from one side to the other, and
the ladder shook unsteadily. Mr. Carter, with an apprehensive glance at
the ground, prepared to descend; but the keeper shouted in a tone of
evident alarm:

"Take your foot off the ladder, sir! Sit down. For heaven's sake, sit
down!"

The ladder wavered under his feet, and Mr. Carter waited for no
explanations. With a frenzied grasp at the red and gold trappings he sat
down, and the ladder fell with a thud, leaving him marooned on Rajah's
back. On the instant the band struck into "Yankee Doodle," and Rajah,
with a toss of his head and an excited shake of his whole frame, fell
into a ponderous two-step.

"Stop him! Hold him! The ladder--bring the ladder!" shouted Mr. Carter.
His voice was drowned in the blare of trumpets.

Without giving ear to further orders, the elephant plunged toward the
opening between the two tents and danced into the ring at the head of a
long line of gilded waggons and gaudy floats. The grand opening march
of all the players and all the animals had begun.

Peter looked at the Willowbrook party. They were leaning on each other's
shoulders, weak with laughter. He took one glance into the ring, where
Mr. Carter's aristocratic profile was rising and falling in jerky
harmony with the music. And in the shadow of the lion cage Peter
collapsed; he rocked back and forth, hugging himself in an ecstasy of
mirth. "Gee! Oh, gee!" he gasped. "Will ye look at the dignity of his
position now?" In one perfect, soul-satisfying moment past slights were
blotted out, and those booked for the future were forgiven.

Rajah completed the circuit and two-stepped back into the animal tent
drunk with glory. Half a dozen hands held the ladder while Mr. Carter,
white with rage, descended to the ground. The language which he used to
the keepers, Peter noted with concern, should never have been spoken in
Master Bobby's presence.

The elephant trainer waited patiently until the gentleman stopped for
breath, then he took off his hat and suggested in a tone of deprecation:

"Beg your pardon, sir, but the price for leading the grand march is
fifty cents at the evening performance."

"I'll have you arrested--I'll swear out an injunction and stop the whole
show!" thundered Mr. Carter, as he stalked toward the entrance.

Peter, coming to a sudden appreciation of his own peril, slipped out
behind him. He ran smack into Billy who was hovering about the door.

"So I caught ye," hissed Peter. "Get back to them horses as fast as ye
can," and he started on a run, shoving Billy before him. Mr. Carter,
fortunately not knowing where to find the carriages, was blundering
around on the other side.

"What's yer hurry?" gasped Billy.

"Get up and shut up," said Peter sententiously, as he shot him toward
the waggonette. "An' ye can thank the saints for a whole skin. We ain't
neither of us left our seats to-night--d'ye hear?"

To Billy's amazement, Peter jumped into the runabout, and fell asleep. A
second later Mr. Carter loomed beside them.

"Peter? William?"

His tone brought them to attention with a jerk. Peter straightened his
hat and blinked.

"What, sir? Yes, sir! Beg pardon, sir; I must 'a' been asleep."

Mr. Carter leaped to the seat beside him.

"Drive to the police station," he ordered, in a tone that sent
apprehensive chills chasing up Billy's back.

"Yes, sir. Whoa, Trixy! Back, b-a-c-k. Get up!" he cut her with the
whip, and they rolled from the circle of flaring torches into the outer
darkness.

"She's a trifle skittish, sir," said Peter, in his old-time
conversational tone. "The noise o' the clappin' was somethin' awful; it
frightened the horses, sir."

Mr. Carter grunted by way of response, and Peter in the darkness hugged
himself and smiled. He was once more brimming with cordial good-will
toward all the world. Mr. Carter, however, was too angry to keep still,
and he presently burst into a denunciation of the whole race of showmen,
employing a breadth of vocabulary that Peter had never dreamed him
capable of.

"Yes, sir," the groom affably agreed, "It's true what ye say. They're
fakes, every one of them, an' this show to-night, sir, is the biggest
fake of all. The way they do people is somethin' awful. Fifty cents they
charges to get in, an' twenty-five more for reserved seats. Extra for
each of the side shows, an' there ain't nothin' in them, sir. Peanuts is
ten cents a pint when ye can buy them at any stand for five, an' their
popcorn balls is stale. I've quit goin' to shows meself. I spent a
dollar in five minutes at the last one, sir. I had a good time and I
ain't regrettin' the money, but 'tis expensive for a poor man."

Mr. Carter grunted.

"The worst sell I ever heard of, though," Peter added genially, "is
chargin' fifty cents to ride the elephant in the openin' grand march. Ye
wouldn't think it possible that anybody'd want to do it, but they tells
me that never a night goes by but somebody turns up so forgettin' of his
dignity----"

Mr. Carter glanced at Peter with a look of quick suspicion. The groom
leaned forward, and with innocent solicitude examined Trixy's gait.

"Whoa, steady, ole girl! She's limpin' again in her off hind foot. They
never shoe her right at Scanlan's, sir. Don't ye think I'd better take
her down to Gafney's in the mornin'?"

They were approaching the station house. Peter glanced sideways at his
companion, and picked up the conversation with a deprecatory cough.

"Yes, sir, the show's a fake, sir, an' no mistake. But if I was you,
sir, I wouldn't be too hard on 'em. 'Twouldn't be a popular move. If
ye're thinkin' of runnin' for judge," Peter broke off and started anew.
"If ye'll excuse me tellin' it, sir, I heard 'em sayin' in Callahan's
saloon the other day that they guessed ye was a better man than Judge
Benedict all right, but that ye was too stuck up. They didn't care about
votin' for a man who thought he was too good to mix with them. An' so,
sir, you're appearin' at the circus so familiar like was a politic
move--meanin' no offence. I know ye didn't do it on purpose, sir, but
it'll bring ye votes."

He drew up before the station house in a wide curve, and cramped the
wheels and waited.

Mr. Carter appeared lost in thought. Finally he roused himself to say:

"Well, after all, perhaps there isn't any use. You may drive back and
pick up the others. I've changed my mind."



V

THE RISE OF VITTORIO


David MacKenna, the gardener at Jasper Place, was a Scotchman of the
Scotch. He was truculent when sober, and actively pugnacious when drunk.
It may be said to his credit that he was not drunk very often, and that
when he was drunk he was canny enough to keep out of Mr. Jasper's way.
But one night, after a prolonged political discussion at Callahan's
saloon, he was unsteadily steering homeward across the side lawn just as
Mr. Harry and two friends who were visiting him emerged from the gap in
the hedge that divided Jasper Place from Willowbrook. The gentlemen were
returning from a dinner, and were clothed in evening dress. They in no
wise resembled tramps; but David's vision was blurred and his fighting
blood was up. He possessed himself of an armful of damp sods, and warily
advanced to the attack. He was not in a condition to aim very straight,
but the three shining shirt-fronts made an easy mark. Before his victims
had recovered from the suddenness of the onslaught sufficiently to
protect themselves, he had demolished three dress suits.

The next morning David was dismissed. The other workers, both at Jasper
Place and Willowbrook, appreciated the justice of the sentence, but were
sorry to see him go. David's argumentative temper and David's ready
fists had added zest to social intercourse. They feared that his
successor would be of a milder type, and less entertaining. The
successor came some three days later, and Peter, observing his arrival
across the hedge, paid an early call on Patrick to see what he was like.
Peter returned to Willowbrook disgusted.

"He's a Dago! A jabberin' Dago out of a ditch. He can't talk more'n ten
words, an' he don't understand what they means. Mr. Harry picked him
all right for a peaceable citizen who won't be spoilin' no dress suits.
He ain't got a drop o' fight in him. Ye call him a liar, an' he smiles
an' says, 'Sank you!'"

Vittorio set about the weeding of his flower-beds with the sunny
patience bred of love. Whatever were his failings in English and the
war-like arts, at least he understood his business. Mr. Harry watched
his protégé with pleased approval. He had always admired the Italian
character theoretically, but this was the first time that he had ever
put his admiration to the actual test; and he congratulated himself upon
finding at last the ideal gardener with the pastoral soul that he had
long been seeking. Mr. Harry had no racial prejudices himself, and he
took it for granted that others were as broad.

Vittorio's pastoral soul, however, won less approval among his
fellow-workers. Peter did not share Mr. Harry's enthusiasm for the
Italian race, and Peter largely swayed public opinion both at Jasper
Place and Willowbrook.

"It's somethin' awful," he declared, "the way this country's gettin'
cluttered up with Dagoes. There ought to be a law against lettin' 'em
come in."

In so far as he was concerned, Peter refused to let Vittorio come in;
and the man was consigned to social darkness and the companionship of
his plants. He did not seem to mind this ostracism, however, but
whistled and sang at his work with unabated cheerfulness. His baby
English shortly became the butt of everybody's ridicule, but as he never
understood the jokes, he bore no grudge. The only matter in which he
showed the slightest personal prejudice was the fact that they all
persisted in calling him "Tony."

"My name no Tony," he would patiently explain half a dozen times a day.
"My name Vittorio Emanuele, same-a de king."

Tony, however, he remained.

The man's chief anxiety was to learn English, and he was childishly
grateful to anyone who helped him. The stablemen took a delighted
interest in his education; it was considered especially funny to teach
him scurrilous slang. "Come off your perch, you old fool," was one of
the phrases he patiently committed to memory, and later repeated to Mr.
Harry with smiling pride at his own progress.

Mr. Harry spoke to Peter on the subject.

"Yes, sir," Peter agreed easily, "it's disgustin', the language these
Dagoes picks up. I can't imagine where they hears it, sir. They're that
familiar, ye can't pound no manners into them."

Mr. Harry wisely dropped the matter. He knew Peter, and he thought it
safest to let Vittorio work out his own salvation.

Several of the practical jokes at the man's expense should, logically,
have ended in a fight. Had he taken up the gauntlet, even at the expense
of a whipping, they would have respected him--in so far as Irishmen can
respect an Italian--but nothing could goad him into action. He swallowed
insults with a smiling zest, as though he liked their taste. This
unfailing peaceableness was held to be the more disgraceful in that he
was a strongly built fellow, quite capable of standing up for his
rights.

"He ain't so bad looking," Annie commented one day, as she and Peter
strolled up to the hedge and inspected the new gardener at work with the
clipping-shears. "And, at least, he's tall--that's something. They're
usually so little, them Eye-talians."

"Huh!" said Peter, "size ain't no merit. The less there is of an
Eye-talian, the better. His bigness don't help along his courage none.
Ye're a coward, Tony. D'ye hear that?"

Their comments had been made with perfect freedom in Vittorio's
presence, while he hummed a tune from "Fra Diavolo" in smiling
unconcern. Unless one couched one's insults in kindergarten language
and fired them straight into his face, they passed him by unscathed.

"Ye're a coward, Tony," Peter repeated.

"Cow-ward?" Vittorio broke off his song and beamed upon them with a
flash of black eyes and white teeth. "How you mean, cow-ward? No
understand."

"A coward," Peter patiently explained, "is a man who's afraid to
fight--like you. Eye-talians are cowards. They don't dare stand up man
to man an' take what's comin' to 'em. When they've got a grudge to pay,
they creeps up in the night an' sticks a knife in yer back. That's bein'
a coward."

The insulting significance of this escaped Vittorio, but he clung to the
word delightedly. "Cow-ward, cow-ward," he repeated, to fix the
syllables in his mind. "Nice word! Sank you." Then, as a glimmering of
Peter's insinuation finally penetrated, he shook his head and laughed.
The charge amused him. "Me no cow-ward!" he declared. "No afraid fight,
but no like-a fight. Too hard work." He shrugged his shoulders and
spread out his hands. "More easy take care-a flower."

The subtlety of this explanation was lost upon Peter, and the two went
their ways; the one happily engaged with his weeding and his pruning,
the other looking on across the hedge contemptuously scornful.

Peter's ideal of the highest human attainment was to become a "true
sport." His vocabulary was intensive rather than extensive, and the few
words it contained meant much. The term "true sport" connoted all
desirable qualities. Abstractly, it signified ability, daring,
initiative, force; it meant that the bearer attacked the world with
easy, conquering grace, and--surest test of all--that he faced defeat no
less than success with a high heart. Concretely, a true sport could play
polo and ride to hounds, could drive a motor-car or a four-in-hand or
sail a boat, could shoot or swim or box. All of these things, and
several others, Mr. Harry Jasper could do. It was from observing him
that Peter's definition had gained such precision.

The billiard-room mantelpiece at Jasper Place held a row of silver cups,
relics of Mr. Harry's college days. The hall at Jasper Place testified
to Mr. Harry's prowess with the rifle. A moose head decorated the arch,
a grizzly bear skin stretched before the hearth, and a crocodile's head
plucked from the mud of its native Nile emerged grinning from the
chimney-piece. Some day Mr. Harry was going to India after a tiger skin
to put over the couch; in the meanwhile he contented himself with
duck-shooting on Great South Bay, or an occasional dip into the
Adirondacks.

Patrick had accompanied him on the last of these trips, and it had been
a long-standing promise that Peter should go on the next. Their camp was
to be in Canada this year, as soon as the open season for caribou
arrived. Peter's heart was set on a caribou of his own, and as the
summer wore to an end his practice with the rifle was assiduous.

Mr. Harry had set up a target down on the Jasper beach--a long strip of
muddy gravel which the inlet, at low tide, left bare--and had given the
men permission to shoot. One Saturday afternoon Patrick and Peter and
Billy were gathered on the beach amusing themselves with a rifle and a
fresh box of cartridges. The target was a good two hundred yards away.
With a light rifle, such as the men were using, it was a very pretty
shot to hit one of the outer rings, the bull's-eye, through anything but
a lucky fluke, being almost impossible.

"Mr. Harry's givin' us a run for our money," Peter grumbled, after
splashing the water behind the target several times in a vain attempt to
get his range. "Ye'd better keep out, Billy. This ain't no easy steps
for little feet."

But Billy, with his usual aplomb, insisted upon trying. After his
second shot Peter derisively shouted:

"Look out, Pat! It ain't safe to stand behind him; he's likely to hit
'most anything except the mark."

Billy good-naturedly retired and engaged himself in keeping score. The
rivalry between Peter and Patrick was keen. The latter was the older
hand at rifle-shooting, but Peter was the younger man and possessed the
keener eye. As soon as they became accustomed to their distance they
pulled into line, and the contest grew spirited. Presently Vittorio, a
garden hoe in hand, came loping across the meadow, attracted by the
shots. When he saw what was toward, he dropped down on the bank and
interestedly watched the match. Patrick had been ahead, but his last
shot went wild and splashed the water to the left of the target. Peter
made the inner ring and pulled the score up even. He was in an elated
frame of mind.

"Hello, Tony!" he called with unwonted affability as he paused to
reload. "See that shot? Pretty near hit the bull's-eye. You don't know
how to shoot--no? Eye-talians use knives. Americans use guns."

Vittorio smiled back, pleased at being so freely included in the
conversation.

"I shoot-a more good dat. You no shoot-a straight; no hit middle." His
tone was not boastful; he merely dropped the remark as an unimpassioned
statement of fact.

Peter had raised the rifle to his shoulder; he lowered it again to
stare.

"What are ye givin' us?" he demanded. "Ye think ye can shoot better'n
me?"

Vittorio shrugged. He had no desire to hurt Peter's feelings, but at the
same time he saw no occasion to lie.

"Course I shoot-a more good dat," he responded genially. "I shoot-a long
time. You no learn how like-a me."

"Here," said Peter, stretching the rifle toward the man, "let me see ye
do it, then! Either put up or shut up. I'll show ye that it ain't so
easy as it looks."

Vittorio sprang to his feet with an air of surprised delight.

"You let-a me shoot? Sank you! Sank you ver' moch." He took the rifle in
his hand and caressed the barrel with a touch almost loving. His eyes
were eager as a child's.

"Here, you, Tony," Peter warned, "don't get funny with that gun! Point
it at the target."

Vittorio raised the rifle and squinted along the barrel; then, as an
idea occurred to him, he lowered it again and faced the three men with
his always sunny smile. He had a sporting proposition to make.

"You shoot-a more good me, my name Tony. I shoot-a more good you, my
name Vittorio Emanuele, same-a de king. You call me Vittorio, I
understand, I come; you call me Tony, I no understand, no come."

Peter, whatever his prejudices, was true to his ideals.

"It's a bargain, Tony. Ye beat me shootin' and I'll call ye any bloomin'
thing ye please--providin' I can twist me tongue to it."

Vittorio's eyes sought Patrick's. He removed the pipe from his mouth and
grunted.

"All-a right!" said Vittorio. "We shoot-a free time. First me, den you,
den you, den me again, like dat."

Without more ado he threw the gun to his shoulder, and, scarcely seeming
to sight, fired, and snapped out the empty cartridge. As the smoke
cleared the three strained forward in open-mouthed astonishment. He had
hit the target squarely in the centre.

"By gum! he's done it!" Peter gasped; then, after an astonished silence,
"Nothin' but luck--he can't do it again. Gi' me the gun."

Peter's surprise had not steadied his nerves; his shot went far astray,
and he silently passed the rifle to Patrick. Patrick laid down his
pipe, planted his feet firmly, and made the inner ring. He passed the
rifle on to Vittorio, and resumed his pipe. Patrick was a phlegmatic
soul; it took a decided shock to rouse him to words.

"Let's see ye do it again," said Peter.

Vittorio raised the rifle and did it again. His manner was entirely
composed; he scored bull's-eyes as a matter of course.

Peter's feelings by now were too complicated for words. He studied the
nonchalant Vittorio a moment in baffled bewilderment, then stepped
forward without remark to take his turn. He sighted long and carefully,
and scored the outer ring. He offered the rifle to Patrick, who waved it
away.

"I'm out."

"Don't back down," said Peter. "Ye've got two more tries. If ye let him
beat us he'll be so darned cocky there won't be no livin' with him."

Patrick copied the Italian's shrug and passed the rifle on. Vittorio
advanced for his third turn under the keenly suspicious scrutiny of six
eyes. They could not divine how such shooting could be accomplished by
trickery, but, still more, they could not divine how it could be
accomplished without. Vittorio sighted more carefully this time, but he
made his bull's-eye with unabated precision.

"Dat make-a free time," he observed, relinquishing the rifle with a
regretful sigh.

"Guess I've had enough," said Peter. "You're Vittorio Emanuele, same-a
de king, all right. We don't appear to trot in your class. How'd ye
learn?"

"All Italian mans know how shoot--learn in de army. I shoot-a long time.
Shoot-a Afric'."

"Africa!" said Peter. "You been in Africa?"

"Two time," Vittorio nodded.

"What'd ye shoot there--lions?"

"No, no lion." Vittorio raised his shoulders with a deprecatory air.
"Just man."

"Oh!" said Peter. His tone was noticeably subdued.

Mr. Harry Jasper, also attracted by the shooting, came strolling along
the beach to see how the match was going, but arrived too late to
witness Vittorio's spectacular exhibit. Mr. Harry considered himself a
pretty good shot; he had often beaten Peter, and Peter entertained a
slightly malicious desire to see him worsted once at his own game.

"Oh, Mr. Harry!" he called carelessly. "We've been tryin' our hands at
yer target, like ye said we might, an' this here new gardener-man come
along an' wanted to have a try. He's a surprisin' good shot for an
Eye-talian. Ye wouldn't believe it, but he beat Pat an' he beat me.
Would you mind shootin' with him once? I'd like to show him what
Americans can do."

Peter's tone was a touch over-careless. Mr. Harry glanced at him
suspiciously, and from him to Vittorio, who was looking on with amiable
aloofness, quite unaware that he was the subject of discussion. Mr.
Harry had not been entirely blind to the trials of David's peaceable
successor, and he was glad to see that the man was coming to the top.

"So he's beaten you? How does that happen, Peter? I thought you prided
yourself on your shooting."

"I'm a little out o' practice," said Peter.

Mr. Harry ran his eye over Vittorio's well-set-up figure.

"Served in the army, Vittorio?"

"Si, signore, five year."

"What corps--_Bersaglieri_?"

"Si, si!" Vittorio's face was alight. "I b'long _Bersaglieri_. How you
know?"

"Thank you for your interest, Peter," Mr. Harry laughed. "I don't
believe I'll shoot with him to-day. I'm a little out of practice
myself."

Peter's face was mystified.

"The _Bersaglieri_," Mr. Harry explained, "are the sharpshooters of the
Italian army, and a well-trained lot they are. You and I, Peter, are
amateurs; we don't enter matches against them when we know what we're
about."

"He didn't tell me nothin' about bein' a sharpshooter," said Peter,
sulkily. "He said he learned in Africa."

"Africa?" Mr. Harry echoed. "Did you go through the campaign in
Abyssinia, Vittorio?"

The man nodded.

"Surely not at Adowa?"

A quick shadow crossed his face.

"Si, signore," he said, simply; "I fight at Adowa."

"Good heavens!" Mr. Harry cried. "The fellow's fought against Menelik
and the dervishes." He faced the other three, his hand on Vittorio's
shoulder.

"You don't know what that means? You never heard of Adowa? It means that
this chap here has been through the fiercest battle ever fought on
African soil. He was beaten--the odds against him were too heavy--but it
was one of the bravest defeats in history. The Italians for three days
had been marching across burning deserts in a hostile country, on half
rations, and with almost no water. At the end of that time they
accomplished a forced march of twenty miles by night, across hills and
ravines so rough that the cannon had frequently to be carried by hand.
Then, as they were, worn out and hungry, hopeless as to the outcome,
they were asked to face an enemy six times larger than themselves--not a
civilized enemy, mind you, but howling dervishes--and they did it
without flinching. There's not a man who went through Adowa but came out
a hero."

Vittorio had watched his face; here and there he had caught a word. He
suddenly threw out his arms in a spasm of excitement, his eyes blazing
at the memory of the fight.

"Dat's right! Menelik bad king--bad war. No like-a dose peoples--me. I
shoot-a fast like dis." He snatched up the rifle and crouched behind a
rock; in pantomime he killed a dozen of the foe in as many seconds. He
threw the rifle away and sprang to his feet. "Not enough cartridges! No
can shoot-a more. Den I get-a wound; lie like-a dis." He dropped his
arms and drooped his head. "How you say? Tired? Yes, ver' tired like-a
baby. _Santissima Virgine!_ No can move, I bleed so moch. Sun ver'
hot--no water--ver' t'irsty. Den come-a dose peoples. Dey cut-a me up."

He tore open his shirt. A broad scar extended from his shoulder across
his breast. He lifted his hair and showed a scar behind his ear, another
on his forehead.

"Si, signore, all over my body dey cut-a me up!"

Mr. Harry frowned.

"Yes, yes, I know. It was terrible! You put up a great fight,
Vittorio--sorry you didn't do for 'em. You are brave chaps, you
Italians. It's a great thing to have gone through Adowa, something to be
proud of all your life. I am glad to know you were there." He glanced at
Peter sharply, then nodded and turned away.

Peter studied Vittorio, a new look in his eyes. The man's momentary
excitement had vanished; he was his old, placid, sunny self again.

"I guess we made a mistake," said Peter, and he held out his hand.

Vittorio obligingly shook it, since that seemed to be expected, but he
did it with smiling uncomprehension. He had never known that he had been
insulted, and he did not realize that amends were necessary. A pause
followed while the three men gazed at Vittorio, and Vittorio gazed at
the sun, slanting toward the western horizon.

"Six 'clock!" he exclaimed, coming to a sudden realization that duty
called. "I go water flower." He shouldered his hoe and turned away, but
paused to add, his eyes wistfully on the rifle: "You let-a me shoot some
ovver day? Sank you. Goo'-bye."

Peter looked after him and shook his head.

"An' to think he's a Dago! I s'pose if ye could understand what they was
jabberin' about, half the time, ye'd find they was talkin' as sensible
as anybody else. 'Tis funny," he mused, "how much people is alike, no
matter what country they comes from." He picked up the rifle and stuffed
the cartridges into his pocket. "Get a move on ye, Billy. 'Tis time we
was feedin' them horses."



VI

HELD FOR RANSOM


Peter, from being a care-free, irresponsible young groom, suddenly found
himself beset with many and multiform anxieties. It commenced with Joe's
falling through the trap-door in the ice-house and breaking his leg.
While he was in the hospital impatiently recovering, Peter was put in
command of the stables. The accident happened only a short time after
the burning of the waggon-shed, and Peter was determined to retrieve his
good name in Mr. Carter's sight. The axle grease episode remained a
black spot in his career. The three Brainard boys were still at
Willowbrook, but their visit was to come to an end in a week, and in the
meantime they, too, were in a chastened mood. Peter marked out a diamond
in the lower meadow, and with infinite relief saw them devote
themselves to the innocent pursuit of base-ball. If their enthusiasm
could only be made to last out the week, he felt that the waggon-shed
would be cheap at the price.

But though the boys were providentially quiescent, Peter's private
affairs were not moving so smoothly. He had another reason besides mere
ambition for wishing to prove himself capable of taking command in that
uncertain future when Joe should resign. Heretofore, the prospect of
being coachman, absolute ruler of three grooms and two stableboys, had
been sufficient goal in itself; but of late, visions of the coachman's
cottage, vine-covered, with a gay little garden in front, and Annie
sewing on the porch, had supplanted the old picture of himself haughtily
ordering about his five underlings. He had not, however, ventured to
suggest this dream to Annie. His usual daring impudence, which had
endeared him to her predecessors, seemed to have deserted him, and he
became tongue-tied in her presence. Peter had been possessed before by
many errant fancies, but never by an obsession such as this. He went
about his work blind to everything but the memory of her face. When he
peered into the oat-bin it was Annie that he saw; she smiled back at him
from the polished sides of the mail phaeton and the bottom of every
bucket of water. She made him happy and miserable, exultant and fearful,
all at once. Poor badgered Peter knew now what it felt like to be a
brook-trout when a skilful angler is managing the reel.

This alternate hope and fear was sufficiently upsetting for one whose
whole mind should have been upon his duties, but it was nothing to the
state that followed. Their quarrel fell from a clear sky. He had taken
her, one Sunday afternoon, to a popular amusement resort, a trolley
ride's distance from Willowbrook, and had suggested refreshments in a
place he remembered from the year before. It was called the "Heart of
Asia," and represented, so the man with the megaphone announced, the
harem of a native prince. The room was hung with vivid draperies of gold
and crimson, and dimly lighted by coloured lanterns suspended from the
ceiling. The refreshments were served by maidens billed as "Circassian
Beauties," but whose speech betrayed a Celtic origin.

Peter picked out a secluded table and ordered striped ice-cream. He had
thought the place particularly conducive to romance, but Annie was too
excited over her first introduction to the glamour of the East to give
attention to anything but her surroundings.

"Ain't she wonderful?" Annie whispered, as a Circassian Beauty, in green
and gold, trailed across her field of vision.

Peter shrugged in blasé, man-of-the-world fashion.

"'Tis the paint an' powder an' clothes an' lights," he said sceptically.
"Out in the daylight, with her own clothes on, she wouldn't look so
different from you."

This was not a strictly politic rejoinder, but he meant it well, and for
the moment Annie was too dazzled to be in a carping mood. The gorgeous
creature drew near, and set their ice-cream upon the table. She was
turning away, after a casual glance to make sure that they had spoons
and ice-water and paper napkins, when her eyes lighted upon Peter. Her
second glance was not so casual; it lingered for a moment on his face.
Peter had never visited the place but once in his life, and that the
summer before, when he had spent an inconsequential half hour in
chaffing the girl who served him. The incident had completely faded from
his mind; but the girl had a diabolical memory and a love of mischief.

"Hello, Peter Malone!" she laughed. "You haven't been around much
lately. I guess you don't care for me any more."

Peter's face--for no reason on earth but that he felt Annie's
questioning eyes upon him--took on a lively red. Annie transferred her
gaze and studied the Circassian Beauty at close range. After some
further reminiscences, audaciously expansive on her part, gruffly
monosyllabic on Peter's, the girl withdrew with a farewell laugh over
her shoulder; and Annie's eyes returned to Peter, an ominous sparkle in
their depths.

"I've had all I want o' this place," she observed, pushing away her dish
of ice-cream.

Peter followed her outside, aware of a chilly change in the atmosphere.
He anxiously ventured on an explanation, but the more he explained, the
more undue prominence the incident acquired.

"Ye needn't be apologizin'," said Annie, in an entirely friendly tone.
"Ye've got a perfect right to go anywhere ye please, an' know anyone ye
please. It's none o' my business."

She bade him good-night with an air of cheerful aloofness, thanking him
politely for an "interestin' afternoon." Her manner suggested that there
was nothing to quarrel about; she had been mistaken in her estimate of
Peter, but that was not his fault; in the future she would be more
clear-seeing. This wholly reasonable attitude failed to put Peter at his
ease. He passed a wakeful night, divided between profanity when he
thought of the Circassian Beauty, and anxiety when he thought of Annie.

In the morning the plot thickened.

A fourth youngster was spending a few days at Willowbrook--another
Brainard, cousin to the three who were already there; but,
providentially, he was only thirteen months old, and had not learned to
walk. Peter accepted the arrival without concern, never dreaming that
this young gentleman's presence could in any degree affect his own peace
of mind. The baby, however, had lost his nurse, and while they were
searching a new one Annie volunteered to act as substitute. The morning
after her visit to the Heart of Asia saw her ensconced on a rustic bench
under an apple tree on the lawn, the perambulator at her side. The tree
was secluded from the house by a mass of shrubbery, but was plainly
visible from the stables. It was also closely adjacent to the grounds of
Jasper Place, and this morning, by a fortuitous circumstance, Vittorio
was clipping the hedge.

It had never entered Peter's mind to regard Vittorio as a possible
rival; but now it suddenly occurred to him that the man was good
looking--not according to his own ideals, but in a theatrical, exotic
fashion, sure to catch a woman's eye. It also occurred to him that
Vittorio's conversation was diverting--again from a woman's point of
view. There was something piquant in the spectacle of a
broad-shouldered, full-grown man conversing in the baby accents of a
child of three. Peter went about his work that day, bitterly aware of
the by-play going on under the apple tree. Annie had undertaken the
task of teaching Vittorio English, and the lessons were punctuated by
the clear ring of her merry laugh.

In the evening the man was enticed to the back veranda, where he sat on
the top step singing serenades to his own accompaniment on the mandolin,
while the maids listened in rapt delight. Even Miss Ethel added her
applause; overhearing the music, she haled Vittorio and his mandolin and
Italian love songs to the front veranda to entertain her guests. Peter,
who had never been invited to entertain Miss Ethel's guests, swallowed
this latest triumph with what grace he might. The irony of the matter
was that it had been Peter himself who had first rescued Vittorio from
social obscurity, and who had insisted to the other sceptical ones that
the man was "all right," in spite of the misfortune of having been born
in Italy instead of in Ireland. He had not hoped to be taken so
completely at his word.

In this sympathetic atmosphere Vittorio expanded like a flower in the
sunlight. He had suddenly become a social lion. His funny sayings were
passed from mouth to mouth, and everybody on the place commenced
conversing in Italian-English.

"Eh, Peta!" Billy hailed him one afternoon, "Mees Effel, she want-a go
ride. She want-a you go too. I saddle dose horsa?"

"Aw, let up!" Peter growled. "We hears enough Dago talk without them as
knows decent English havin' to make fools o' theirselves."

While Peter's private troubles were thus heavy upon him, his official
responsibility increased. Mr. Carter was called away on business. On the
morning of the departure, as they were starting for the station, Miss
Ethel ran after them with a forgotten umbrella. "Take care of yourself,
dad!" She kissed him good-bye, and stood on the veranda waving her
handkerchief until the carriage was out of sight. Mr. Carter settled
himself against the cushions with a sigh.

"What a world this would be without women!" he murmured.

"Yes, sir," Peter agreed gloomily, "an', beggin' yer pardon, what a hell
of a world it is with 'em, sir."

The following few days strengthened this opinion. Vittorio's education
progressed, while Annie still maintained her attitude of superior
aloofness. Her manner was friendly--exactly as friendly to Peter as to
any of the other men. The intangibility of the quarrel was what made it
hardest to bear. Could he have punched some one it would have eased his
mind, but in all fairness he was forced to acknowledge that the "Dago"
was not to blame. The advances were blatantly from Annie's side.

In the meantime, however, a new complication had developed, which acted
in a measure as a counter irritant. Mr. Carter's train was barely out
of hearing, when the most extraordinary amount of petty thieving
commenced. Nothing could be laid down anywhere about the place but that
it immediately disappeared. There had been a number of Armenian women in
the neighbourhood selling lace, and Peter would have suspected these had
not the list of stolen articles been so unusual. It comprised the
clothes-line, half a dozen sheets and the wash-boiler, six jars of jam
from the cellar, and some bread and cake from the pantry window, a
bundle of stakes for training the tomato plants, and Master Wallace's
spelling book (he was having to study through vacation, and he bore the
loss with composure), a Japanese umbrella-holder from the front veranda,
a pair of lap-robes from the stable, and last, most uncanny touch of
all, the family Bible! This had stood on the under shelf of the table in
the library window, where it could be reached easily from the outside;
but, as Peter dazedly inquired of the world in general, "Why the divvil
should anyone be wantin' to take a Bible? It can't do him no good when
it's stolen."

It was Annie who had discovered this last depredation in the course of
her daily dusting. As yet the family had not noticed the loss of any of
the articles, and Peter, fearing that the matter might reflect upon his
own generalship, had hesitated about reporting it; none of the things
were very valuable, and he had daily expected to find the thief. The
boys knew, however, and took an open delight in the situation. Anything
approaching a mystery was food and drink to them. They abandoned
base-ball, and gave themselves over entirely to a consideration of the
puzzle.

The day the lap-robes disappeared, they were gathered in a group outside
the stable, Peter tipped back in an old armchair pulling furiously at
his pipe, with a double frown the length of his brow, the four boys
occupying the bench in an excited, chattering row.

"Perhaps the place is haunted!" Master Jerome put forth the suggestion
with wide eyes.

"Haunted nothin'," Peter growled. "It was a pretty live ghost that got
off with them lap-robes durin' the two minutes the stable was empty."

"They were the old ones," Bobby consoled him. "At least it was kind of
him not to take the best ones when they were just as convenient."

"Do you fink it's gypsies?" Master Augustus asked the question with a
fearful glance over his shoulder. He had been told that gypsies carried
off bad little boys.

"I don't know what it is," Peter said sullenly, "but if I ever ketches
anybody snooping about this place who has no business to snoop----" The
sentence ended in a threatening silence.

The four boys looked at one another and shuddered delightedly.

"It's like a book," Master Wallace declared. "The miscreant has foiled
us at every turn."

"Let's form a detective bureau!" Bobby rose to the occasion. "You can
be chief of the local police, Peter. And since you find the mystery
beyond your power to solve, you have called to your aid a private
detective force--that's us. Jerome and Wallace and me can be detectives,
and Augustus can be a policeman."

"I want to be a detective, too," objected Augustus.

"It's nice to be a policeman," soothed Bobby. "When we've tracked down
the thief, we'll call to you and say, 'Officer, handcuff this man!' and
you'll snap 'em on his wrist and lead him to jail."

"All right!" agreed Augustus. "Give 'em to me."

"Later, when we're on his track," said Bobby. "Now, Peter, you ought to
plan a campaign. 'Course, you aren't expected to find out anything, the
local police never do; but nominally we're under your orders, so you
must tell us to shadow some one."

Peter had been staring into space only half at tending to their
prattle. Bobby jogged his elbow.

"Pay attention, Peter! We're waiting for orders. You ought to detail two
plain-clothes men to watch the gates, and I think it would be well to
shadow Vittorio. He's a foreigner, you know; maybe he b'longs to the
Black Hand. I shouldn't wonder if he was planning to blow up the
stables. Only," he added, as an afterthought, "it's sort of hard
shadowing a man who stands by the hedge all day talking to Annie."

Peter's frown darkened as his gaze sought the rustic bench under the
apple tree. He had little spirit left for the boys' diversions, but he
roused himself to say:

"I'll turn the details o' the case over to you, Master Bobby. Guard the
gates, an' shadow anyone that seems suspicious. I'm drivin' Joe's wife
to the hospital this afternoon; ye can report at six o'clock, when I
gets back."

The four rose and saluted; they held a whispered consultation, and
crept warily away in different directions. Peter watched them out of
sight with a wan smile, then turned inside to hitch up. The ladies of
the family were spending the day in the city on a midsummer shopping
expedition, so he had no fear of any demands issuing from the house. He
called the under-groom, gave him strict orders not to leave the stables
alone a minute, and drove on to the cottage to pick up Joe's wife. She
packed a basket for the invalid into the back of the cart, and climbed
up beside Peter.

"I'm fetching him out something to eat," she explained. "They don't give
him nourishment enough for a kitten. A man of Joe's size can't keep up
his strength on beef tea and soft-boiled eggs."

As they drove through the gate, a small figure sprang out from the
bushes in front of the astonished Trixy's head.

"I'm sorry to detain you," said Bobby, with dignified aloofness--his
expression suggested that he had never seen Peter before--"but my
orders are to search every person leaving the premises."

"Lord love you, Master Bobby! What are you playing at now?" inquired
Joe's wife with wide-eyed amazement.

"I am Robert Carter, of the Secret Service," said Bobby, icily, as he
walked to the rear of the buckboard and commenced his search. "Ha! What
is this?" He raised the towel that covered the basket and suspiciously
peered inside. It contained two pies, a quantity of doughnuts, and a jar
of cherry preserves. "Madam, may I ask where you obtained these
articles?" His manner was so stern that she stammered her reply with an
air of convicted guilt.

"I--I made them myself. They're for Joe in the hospital."

"H'm!" said Bobby. "As they are for charitable purposes, I will not
confiscate the entire lot." He gravely abstracted two of the most
sugary doughnuts and transferred them to his pocket. "These will be
sufficient to exhibit at headquarters with a description of the rest.
Please favour me with your names and addresses."

Peter complied in all seriousness. Evidently, his was a case of dual
personality; he represented the local police only when he was not acting
as coachman. He drove on with an amused grin. After all, the boys and
their escapades added to the dull routine of daily life a spice of
adventure which most twentieth century households lacked; the
entertainment they furnished paid for the trouble they caused.

Three hours later Peter set down Joe's wife at the door of the cottage
and drove on to the stables. As he rounded the corner, he perceived an
excited group gathered under the apple tree where he had left Annie and
her kindergarten class.

"There he is!" cried Nora. "Peter! Come here quick."

Peter threw the lines to an adjacent groom--the one who had been told
not to leave the stables--and hurriedly joined the circle. He found
Annie collapsed on her bench beside the baby-carriage, rocking back and
forth, and sobbing convulsively, while the other servants crowded about
her.

"What's the matter?" he gasped.

"They've stolen the baby!" Annie wailed.

Peter felt a cold chill run up his back as he peered into the empty
carriage. For a moment he was silent, struggling to grasp the full
horror of the fact; then he laid a hand, none too lightly, on Annie's
shoulder, and shook her into a state of coherence.

"Stop yer noise an' tell me when it happened."

"Just now! Just a few minutes ago. The baby was asleep, an' Vittorio, he
had some new flowers in the farther bed, an' he wanted me to tell him
their name. I wasn't gone more'n five minutes, an' when I come back I
peeked in to see if the baby was all right, an' the carriage was empty!
We've hunted everywhere. He's gone--stolen just like the lap-robes."

Annie buried her head in her arms and commenced sobbing anew. Peter's
face reflected the blankness of the others.

"Lord! This is awful! What will its mother be sayin'?"

Annie's sobs increased at this agonizing thought.

"It's them Armenian-lace women," Nora put in. "Master Bobby says they're
gypsies, and are always stealing babies and holding them for ransom."

"Haven't ye done anything?" he cried. "Didn't ye telephone for the
p'lice?"

"Master Bobby wouldn't let us. He says the local police are blind as
bats and what we need are detectives. An' above all, he says, we must
not let it get into the papers; his father is awful mad when anything
gets into the papers. Leave it to him, he says, and he'll have the
gypsies shadowed."

"This ain't no time for play," growled Peter, whirling toward the house
and the telephone. "What's that?" He stopped as his eye lighted upon a
vivid sheet of paper lying on the ground.

"It was pinned to the p-pillow," Annie sobbed.

Peter snatched it up and stared for a moment in blank amazement. The
words were printed in staggering characters, a bright vermilion in tone.


     PLACE TEN THOUSAN DOUBBLOONS
     IN GOLD IN THE HOLLO OAK
     BEFORE SUN RISE AND
     YOUR BABY SHALL BE
     RISTORED FAIL AND
     YOU WONT NEVER SEE
     HIM AGEN!!
     BLOOD! BLOOD!


A flash of illumination swept over Peter's face.

There was an old barn at the end of the lane that had been moved back
when the new stables were built. A few days before, Peter, himself
unobserved, had seen Wallace knock three times on the door, and had
heard a voice from inside respond:

"Who goes there?"

"A friend," said Wallace.

"Give the countersign."

"Blood!"

"Pass in," said the voice.

The door had opened six inches while Wallace squeezed through. Peter had
supposed it merely their latest play, unintelligible but harmless; now,
however, he commenced putting two and two together. Evidently, his was
not the only case of dual personality.

"Gee! I'm a fool not to have thought of it," he muttered.

"Oh, Pete!" Annie implored. "Do you know where he is?"

Peter controlled his features and gravely shook his head.

"I can't say as I do, exactly, but this here paper furnishes a clue. I
think p'raps I can find the baby without calling in the p'lice." He
faced the others. "Go back to the house and watch out that none o' them
gypsy women comes prowlin' around." He waited until they were out of
hearing, then he sat down on the bench by Annie. "I'll find the kid on
just one condition--ye're to let that Dago alone. D'ye understand?"

"Get the baby, hurry--please! I'll talk to you afterward."

"I think I'll be talkin' just a second now. Ye know well enough I never
had nothin' to do with that Circassian Beauty girl."

"Yes, yes, Pete! I believe you. I know you didn't. Please go."

"Stop thinkin' o' the kid a minute an' listen to me." He reached over
and grasped her firmly by the wrist. "If I fetches him back without no
hurt before his mother gets home, will everything be just the same
between us as before I took ye to that infernal Heart of Asia?"

"Yes, Pete, honest--I promise." Her lips trembled momentarily into a
smile. "I knew you didn't have nothing to do with her. I just wanted to
make you mad."

His grasp tightened.

"Ye succeeded all right."

"Ow, Pete, let me go! You hurt."

He dropped her wrist and rose to his feet.

"Mind, now, this is on the straight. I finds the kid an' we're friends
again."

She nodded and smiled into his eyes. Peter smiled back, and swung off,
whistling, down the lane. A rustling behind the hedge, and a scampering
of feet, warned him that the enemy had posted scouts. He stilled his
whistle and approached the old barn warily. It presented a blank face
when he arrived; the door was shut and locked. He pounded three times. A
startled movement occurred inside, but no challenge. He pounded again,
more insistently, pushing with his shoulder until there was the sound of
straining timber.

"Who goes there? Give the countersign," issued from the keyhole in
Master Augustus's tones.

"Blood!" said Peter, with grim emphasis.

A pause followed, during which he kept his ear to the crack. A whispered
consultation was going on inside, then presently, a small window opened
and Master Augustus's head appeared.

"Oh, Pete! Is dat you?" There was relief in his tone. "Wait a minute an'
I'll let you in. I was 'fraid it was gypsies."

"Well, it ain't gypsies; it's the local p'lice on the track o' stolen
goods. You open up that door an' be quick about it!"

A long wait ensued while Augustus ineffectually fumbled with the lock,
talking meanwhile to Peter in as loud a voice as possible to drown the
sound of movement behind him. The door was finally flung wide, and Peter
was received with a disarming smile. He stepped inside and peered about.

"Where have ye hid the other boys?" he demanded.

"I'm a p'liceman," lisped Augustus, with engaging inconsequence,
"stationed here to guard de lane. I fought it was safest to keep de door
locked for fear some more gypsy people might come along."

"Where's the ladder gone to that loft?"

"De ladder?" Augustus raised wide innocent eyes to the hole in the
ceiling. "Maybe de same person stole de ladder as stole de ovver fings."

"Maybe," Peter assented genially, as he squinted up through the opening.

The end of the ladder was visible, also the end of a rope-ladder, easier
to haul up in emergencies. The clothes-line at least was accounted for.
Peter took off his coat, shoved a saw-horse under the opening, and
sprang and caught the edge of the scuttle, while Augustus, in a frenzy
of remonstrance, danced below and shouted warnings. After a few
convulsive kicks Peter swung himself up and sat down on the edge of the
scuttle to get his breath, while he took a preliminary survey of the
room. There was no doubt but that he had tracked the robbers to their
den. Opposite him, in letters a foot high, the legend sprawled the
length of the wall:


     TOM SAWYER'S ROBBER GANG


As his eyes roved about the room they lit on one familiar object after
another. The four walls were hung with sheets; two pirate flags of black
broadcloth (he recognized his lap-robes) fluttered overhead; the centre
of the room was occupied by the umbrella-stand, upside down, serving as
a pedestal for the Bible, and the tomato stakes, made into cross swords,
decorated the walls. The booty was there, but the thieves had escaped. A
second, more thorough examination, however, betrayed in a shadowy
corner, a slight bulging of the sheets, while sundry legs protruded
from below. Peter stalked over, and laying a firm grasp on the nearest
ankle, plucked out Master Wallace from behind the arras. He set the boy
on his feet and shook him.

"What have ye done with that baby?"

Wallace dug his fists into his eyes and commenced to whimper. Peter
tried another cast, and fetched out Master Bobby.

"Hello, Pete!" said Bobby, with cheerful impudence.

"You cough up that baby," said Peter.

"He's in the wash-boiler." Bobby waved his hand airily toward the
opposite end of the room.

Peter, still grasping Bobby's collar with a touch unpleasantly firm,
strode across and raised the lid. The baby was sleeping as peacefully as
in his own perambulator.

"We were just going to return him when you came." Bobby's voice
contained an increasing note of anxiety. "We fed him and sterilized his
milk just like Annie does. He's been having a bully time, laughing and
crowing to beat the band. He likes adventures. It's terribly stupid
lying all day in that carriage; a little change is good for his health."

Peter shook his captive. "What's the meanin' o' this?" His gesture
included the entire interior.

"We're robbers," said Bobby, stanchly. "I'm Huck Finn, the Red-handed,
and Jerome's Tom Sawyer, the Terror of the Plains. When we saw that baby
left alone in the carriage, we thought we ought to teach Annie a lesson.
We meant to turn into detectives pretty soon and raid this robber den
and take the baby back. We were just getting ready to be detectives when
you came."

"This is one time the local police got in first," observed Peter.
"What's that Bible for?"

"To take our oaths on."

"Huh! I guess yer mother will be havin' somethin' to say to that." He
lowered the ladder and faced the robbers. There were three by this
time: Jerome had emerged of his own accord. "I'll take the baby meself.
Master Bobby, ye follow with the Bible; Master Jerome, ye rip the skull
an' bones off them lap-robes, fold 'em up neat, an' put 'em in the
closet where they b'long. I'll give ye just half an hour to break up
this gang an' return the loot. Master Augustus!" Peter bellowed down the
trap, "fetch four pairs o' handcuffs an' have these robbers at the
p'lice station in half an hour to hear their sentence."

He shouldered the baby with awkward care, and retraced his steps toward
the house. Annie was still drooping on her bench. Peter approached
softly from behind.

"Here he is like I promised."

"Oh, Pete! Is he hurt?" She snatched the child from his arms and
commenced anxiously examining his limbs for injuries. The baby grabbed
her hair and cooed. She covered him with kisses. "Where'd you find him?"

"I found him--where I found him," said Peter, cannily, "an' don't ye be
leavin' him alone again."

"I won't! I can't never thank you enough."

"Yes, ye can--by not flirtin' with that Dago any more."

"I wasn't flirtin' with him; he don't care nothin' about me. All he
wants is to learn to talk."

Peter looked sceptical.

"Honest, Pete! It's the livin' truth. I never flirted with no one,
except--maybe you."

Peter's face softened momentarily, but it hardened again as a shadow
fell between them. Vittorio was standing on the other side of the hedge.

"You find-a dat baby?" he inquired with an all-inclusive smile. As the
fact was self-evident, nobody answered. Vittorio was a romantic soul; he
caught the breath of sentiment in the air. "Annie you girl?" he inquired
genially of Peter.

Peter scowled without speaking.

"I got-a girl too, name Marietta. Live-a Napoli. Some day I send-a
money, she come Americ'; marry wif me. Nice girl, Marietta. Annie nice
girl, too," he added, as a polite afterthought. "You marry wif her?"

Peter's face cleared.

"Some day, Vittorio, if she'll be havin' me." He stole a side glance at
Annie. She rose with a quick flush.

"Quit your foolin', Pete! 'Tis time this baby was getting his supper.
Would you mind settin' his carriage on the porch? Good night, Vittorio."
She tucked the baby under her arm and started, singing, for the house.

Peter put up the carriage and sauntered toward the stables in the utmost
good humour. He found Augustus with his prisoners drawn up in line,
their wrists and ankles shackled together.

Augustus saluted. "I caught free robbers," he observed. "De ovver one
'scaped."

Peter drew his face into an expression of judicial sternness. "What
have ye got to say for yourselves?" he growled.

There was silence for a moment, then Jerome ventured: "We're going away
in three days. I shouldn't think at the very end you'd want to have hard
feelings between us."

"If you tell mother," Bobby added, "you'll get Annie into an awful lot
of trouble. Annie's been good to me. I'd hate to have her get a
scolding."

Peter suppressed a grin.

"Ten years at solitary confinement is what ye deserve," he announced,
"but since there's extenuatin' circumstances, I'll let ye go free on
parole--providin' ye play base-ball all the rest o' the time."

"I say, Pete, you're bully!"

"It's a bargain," said Peter. "_An' mind ye keep to it._ Officer, set
free the prisoners."



VII

GEORGE WASHINGTON'S UNDERSTUDY


"Wait a moment, Peter," Miss Ethel called from the veranda, as he was
starting for the village with the daily marketing list. "I want you to
drive around by Red Towers on your way home and leave this note for Mrs.
Booth-Higby."

"Very well, Miss Ethel." Peter reined in Trixy and received the note
with a polite pull at his hat brim.

"And, Peter, you might use a little discretion. That is--I don't want
her to know----"

"You trust me, Miss Ethel; I'll fix it."

Her eyes met his for a second and she laughed. Peter's face also relaxed
its official gravity as he pocketed the note and started off. He
understood well the inner feelings with which she had penned its polite
phrases. A battle had been waging in the Carter family on the subject of
Mrs. Booth-Higby, and the presence of the invitation in Peter's pocket
proved that Miss Ethel was vanquished.

The invitation concerned a garden party to be given at Willowbrook on
the evening of the fifteenth, with the Daughters of the Revolution as
guests of honour, and amateur theatricals as entertainment. Peter knew
all about it, having arduously assisted the village carpenter in the
construction of rocks, boats, wigwams, log-cabins and primæval forests.
He knew, also, that the chief attraction of the evening would not be the
theatricals, but rather the presence of a young Irish earl who was
visiting Mr. Harry Jasper. Miss Ethel was also entertaining guests, and
the two households formed an exclusive party among themselves. The
entire neighbourhood was agog at the idea of a live lord in their midst,
but so far no one had seen him, except from a distance, as he was
whirled past in Mr. Harry's motor, or trailed across the golf links in
Miss Ethel's wake. She was planning to exhibit him publicly on the night
of the garden party.

The question of invitations had been difficult, particularly in the case
of Mrs. Booth-Higby. In regard to this lady society was divided into two
camps, comprising those who received her and those who did not. Miss
Ethel was firm in her adherence to those who did not, but her father and
mother had tacitly slipped over to the other camp--Mr. Carter being a
corporation lawyer, and Mr. Booth-Higby a rising financier. Peter
likewise knew all about this, Mrs. Carter and her daughter having
discussed the matter through the length of a seven-mile drive, while he
sedulously kept his eyes on the horses' ears, that the smile which would
not be suppressed might at least be unobserved.

Mrs. Carter had maintained that, since Mrs. Booth-Higby was a member of
the Society, not to invite her would be too open a slight. Miss Ethel
had replied that the party was purely a social affair--she could invite
whom she pleased--and she had added some pointed details. The woman's
maiden name, as everyone knew, was Maggie McGarrah, and her father,
previous to his political career, had kept a saloon; she was odious,
pushing, _nouveau riche_; she dyed her hair and pencilled her eyebrows,
she didn't have a thought in the world beyond clothes, and she flirted
outrageously with every man who came near. Peter's smile had broadened
at this last item. It was, he shrewdly suspected, the keynote of the
trouble. Miss Ethel had caught Mr. Harry Jasper paying too assiduous
attention to Mrs. Booth-Higby's commands on the occasion of a recent
polo game.

Peter felt that when Mrs. Carter and her daughter matched wills, the
result was pretty even betting, and his sporting instincts were aroused.
He had been interested, upon delivering the invitations, to see that
there was none for the Booth-Higbys; and now his interest was doubly
keen at receiving it three days late. Miss Ethel had succumbed to the
weight of superior argument.

He turned in between the ornate gates of Red Towers--the two posts
surmounted by lions upholding a mythical coat of arms--and drew up in
the shadow of an imposing _porte-cochère_. A gay group of ladies and
gentlemen were gathered in lounging chairs on the veranda, engaged with
frosted glasses of mint julep; while Mrs. Booth-Higby herself, coifed
and gowned as for an evening reception, was standing in the glass doors
of the drawing-room. As her gaze fell upon Peter she strolled toward him
with a voluminous rustle of draperies.

"Whose man are you?" she inquired, with an air of languid condescension.

Peter's face reddened slightly. The entire group had ceased their
conversation to stare.

"Mr. Jerome Carter's," he replied, fumbling for the note.

"Ah!" said Mrs. Booth-Higby, with a lifting of the eyebrows.

"It should have come three days ago," Peter glibly lied. "Miss Carter
give me a lot o' them to deliver; this one must have slipped down the
crack between the cushions an' got overlooked. We come across it this
mornin' when we was washin' the buckboard, so I drove over with it on me
way home from the marketin'. I hope that it ain't important, and that ye
won't feel called upon to tell Miss Carter? It would get me into
trouble, ma'am."

Her face had cleared slightly during this recital; it was evident that
she knew about the garden party, and had entertained emotions over the
absence of her own invitation. She saw fit now to work off her stored-up
anger upon the delinquent. Peter knew his place, and respectfully
swallowed the scolding, but he did it with a cordial assent to Miss
Ethel's description of the lady's character. She ended by bidding him
wait for an answer. He heard her say, as she swept down the veranda:

"Excuse me a moment while I answer this note. It's from Ethel Carter,
Jerome Carter's daughter, you know"--evidently this was a name to
conjure with--"an invitation to meet Lord Kiscadden. It should have come
three days ago, but their man stupidly forgot to deliver it. He is
begging me not to report him, though I feel that such carelessness
really ought to be punished." She rustled on into the house, and Peter
sat for twenty minutes flicking the flies from Trixy's legs.

"An' she's a daughter o' Tim McGarrah!" he repeated to himself. There
had been nothing snobbish about Tim; he was hail-fellow-well-met with
every voter east of Broadway. "She's ashamed of him now," Peter
reflected, "and won't let on she ever heard the name; but the old man
was ten times more a gentleman than his daughter is a lady, for all his
saloon!"

His cogitations came to an end as Mrs. Booth-Higby rustled back, a
delicately tinted envelope in her hand and a more indulgent smile upon
her lips.

"There are to be theatricals?" she inquired, in a note of forgiveness.

"I believe so, ma'am."

"Is Lord Kiscadden to take part?"

"Can't say, ma'am."

Peter, as scene-shifter, had had ample opportunity to study Lord
Kiscadden's interpretation of the character of George Washington--his
lordship, with a fine sense of humour, had himself selected the
rôle--but at mention of the name, Peter's face was blank.

"Is he to remain much longer at Jasper Place?" she persisted.

"Haven't heard him say, ma'am."

She abandoned her pursuit of news, handed him the note, and graciously
added ten cents.

Peter touched his hat gravely, murmured, "Thank ye, ma'am," and drove
away. At the foot of the lawn the Booth-Higby peacock--supposedly a
decoration for the Italian garden, but given to wandering out of
bounds--trailed its plumage across his path. Peter shied his ten cents
at the bird's head, with the muttered wish that the coin had been large
enough really to accomplish damage.

The day of the garden party showed a clear sky above, and Peter was up
with the dawn and at work. Miss Ethel had appointed him her right-hand
man, and though he had the entire stable and house force to help him, he
found the responsibility wearing. He was feeling what it was to be a
Captain of Industry. He superintended the raising of a supper tent on
the lawn, strung coloured electric bulbs among the branches of the
trees, saw the furniture moved out of the drawing-room and a hundred
camp chairs moved in. He spent the afternoon shifting scenery for the
dress rehearsal; but finally, close upon six, he shoved Plymouth Rock
back into place for the first tableau, and, with a sigh of relief,
turned toward the kitchen. He felt that he had earned a fifteen-minutes'
chat with Annie.

But fresh trouble awaited him. He found Mrs. Carter and Nora in anxious
consultation. The ice-cream had not come; and the expressman, who had
already met three trains, said that he could not deliver it now until
morning.

Mrs. Carter pounced upon Peter.

"Is Miss Ethel through with you? Then drive to the station immediately
and meet the six-twenty train. If it isn't on that, stop at Gunther's
and tell them they will _have_ to make me seven gallons of ice-cream
before ten o'clock to-night. It's disgraceful! I shall never engage
Perry to cater again. And tell the expressman that I consider him very
disobliging," she threw after him.

An hour and a half later he dumped three kegs of ice and brine on the
back veranda, and was turning away, cheered by the near hope of his
long-postponed supper when Annie hailed him from the kitchen window.

"Hey, Pete! Wait a minute. Miss Ethel said, as soon as you got back, for
me to send you to the library."

"What are they wantin' now?" he growled. "I'll be glad when that
bloomin' young lord takes himself home to Ireland where he b'longs.
Between picnics an' ridin' parties an' clambakes an' theatricals, I
ain't had a chance to sit down since he come."

Annie shoved a chair toward him.

"Then now's your chance, for he's gone. A telegram came calling him
away, an' Mr. Harry's just back from motoring him to the station."

"Praise be to the saints!" said Peter, and he turned toward the library
door.

He found Miss Ethel, the two young ladies who were visiting her, and Mr.
Harry Jasper gathered in a pensive group before the gauze screen that
stretched across the front of the stage.

"Here he is!" cried Miss Ethel, with an assumption of energy. "Put on
this hat and wig, Peter, and stand behind the screen. I want to see what
you look like."

Peter apathetically complied. He had received so many extraordinary
commands during the past few days that nothing stirred his curiosity.

"Bully!" said Mr. Harry. "Never'd know him in the world."

"We'll lower the lights," said Miss Ethel. "Fortunately the gauze is
thick."

"Peter," Mr. Harry faced him with an air of tragic portent, "a grave
calamity has befallen the state. The rightful heir has been spirited
away, and it's imperative that we find a substitute. I've often
remarked, Peter, upon the striking resemblance between you and Lord
Kiscadden. In that lies our only hope. It's a Prisoner of Zenda
situation. Often occurs in novels. Do you think it might be carried out
in real life?"

"Can't say, sir," Peter blinked dazedly.

"Be sensible, Harry!" Miss Ethel silenced him. "Peter, Lord Kiscadden
has been suddenly called away, and it spoils our tableaux for this
evening. Fortunately, he didn't have a speaking part. You've watched him
rehearse--do you think you could take his place?"

"Don't believe I could, ma'am." Peter's face did not betray enthusiasm.

"You'll _have_ to do it!" said Miss Ethel. "It's too late now to find
anyone else."

"You're George Washington," Mr. Harry cut in. "Father of his country.
Only man on earth who never told a lie--no one will recognize you in
that part, Peter."

"Here are the clothes." Miss Ethel bundled them into his arms. "You saw
Lord Kiscadden this afternoon, so you know how they go. Be sure you get
your wig on straight, and powder your face _thick_! It's half-past
seven; you will have to dress immediately."

"I ain't had no supper," Peter stolidly observed.

"Annie will give you something to eat in the kitchen. We won't tell
anybody except the few who are with you in the tableaux. The operetta
cast have never seen Lord Kiscadden, and won't know the difference. The
minute the tableaux are over you can disappear, and we will explain that
you have been suddenly called away."

A slow grin spread over Peter's face.

"Are ye wantin' me to talk like him?" he inquired. His lordship's idiom
had been the subject of much covert amusement among the servants; Peter
could mimic it to perfection.

"I don't quite ask that," Miss Ethel laughed, "but at least keep still.
Don't talk at all except to us. You can pretend you are shy."

"What did she want, Pete?" Annie inquired, with eager curiosity as he
reappeared.

Peter exhibited his clothes.

"Don't speak to me so familiar! I'm Lord Kiscadden o' County Cark. Me
family is straight descinded from the kings of Ireland, and I'm
masqueradin' as George Washington who never told a lie."

An hour later, Peter, in knee breeches and lace ruffles, with hat
comfortably cocked toward his left ear, was sitting at ease on a corner
of the kitchen table, dangling two buckled shoes into space, while a
cigarette emerged at an acute angle from the corner of his mouth. His
appearance suggested a very rakish caricature of the immortal first
President. The maids were gathered in a giggling group about the young
man, when Miss Ethel and Mr. Harry, also in costume, appeared in the
kitchen door. The effect on George Washington was electrical; he removed
his cigarette, slid to the floor, straightened his spinal column, and
awaited orders.

Mr. Harry carried a make-up box under his arm. He covered the groom's
face with a layer of powder, redirected the curve of his eyebrows,
added a touch of rouge, and stepped back to view the effect.

"Perfect!" cried Miss Ethel. "No one on earth would recognize him."

"Peter," Mr. Harry gravely schooled him, "these are your lines for the
evening; say them after me: 'By Jove! Ripping! Oh, I say! Fancy, now!'"

Peter unsmilingly repeated his lesson.

"And no matter what anybody says to you, you are not to go beyond that.
Understand?"

"Yes, sir. I'll do me best, sir." There was an anxious gleam in Peter's
eye; he was suddenly being assailed by stage fright.

"Your first appearance is in the fourth tableau, where you say good-bye
to your family before taking command of the army," Miss Ethel explained.
"The moment it's over slip out to change your costume, and stay out
until after the Declaration of Independence has been signed. Don't stand
around the wings where people can talk to you. Now go and wait in the
butler's pantry until you are called."

Washington took an affecting leave of his family amid an interested
rustling of programmes on the part of the audience; no one was unaware
of the exalted identity of the hero. The applause was enthusiastic, and
the curtain was twice raised. As it fell for the last time a group of
historical personages from the operetta cast hovered about him with
congratulatory whispers. One or two were in the secret, but the rest
were not. Mr. Harry, as stage manager, waved them off.

"Clear the boards for the next scene," he whispered hoarsely. "Here,
Kiscadden, you'll have to hurry and dress. You cross the Delaware in ten
minutes." With a hand on George Washington's shoulder he marched him
off. "That was splendid, Peter," Mr. Harry whispered, as he shunted him
into the butler's pantry. "Not a soul suspected. You stay here until you
are wanted."

The Delaware was crossed without mishap, also the night watch kept at
Valley Forge. Washington and Lafayette crouched over their camp fire
amidst driving snow, while the audience shivered in sympathy. But
unluckily, these tableaux were followed by no change of costume, and
several others intervened before Peter's next appearance. As he was
anxiously trying to obliterate himself in the shadow of Plymouth Rock,
he heard some one behind him whisper:

"Let's cut out and have a smoke. It's deucedly hot in here."

He turned to find Miles Standish of the operetta cast, with an insistent
hand on his elbow. Miles Standish, in private life, was a young man
whose horse Peter had held many a time, and whose tips were always
generous.

There seemed to be no polite means of escape, and Peter, with a
suppressed grin, followed his companion to the veranda. It was lighted
by a subdued glow from coloured lanterns, but there was an occasional
patch of dimness. He picked out a comfortable chair and shoved it well
into the shadow of a convenient palm. Standish produced
cigars--twenty-five-cent Havanas, Peter noted appreciatively--and the
two fell into conversation. Fortunately the young man aspired to the
reputation of a _raconteur_, and he willingly bore most of the burden.
Peter kept his own speeches as short as possible, manfully overcoming a
tendency to end his sentences with "sir." An occasional interpolation of
"By Jove!" or "I say!" in imitation of Lord Kiscadden's lazy drawl, was
as far as he was required to go.

He came out of the encounter with colours still flying; but a perilous
ten minutes followed. As the two strolled back to the stage entrance,
they were intercepted by a gay group of Pilgrim maids. Peter had coped
successfully with one young man, but he realized that half a dozen
young ladies were quite beyond his powers of repartee. One of them threw
him a laughing compliment on his acting, and he felt himself growing
pink as he murmured with a spasmodic gulp:

"Yes, ma'am. Thank ye, ma'am--I say!"

The orchestra saved the situation by striking into a rollicking
quickstep that made talking difficult. The music in the end went to
Peter's heels; and grasping a blue and buff coat tail in either hand, he
favoured the company with an Irish jig. This served better than
conversation; the laughter and applause were uproarious, bringing down
upon them the wrath of the stage manager.

"Here you people, _taisez-vous_! You're making such a racket they can
hear you inside. Ah, Kiscadden! You're wanted on the stage; it's time
for Cornwallis to surrender." Peter was marched out of danger's way.

The surrender was followed by the operetta in which Miss Ethel was
heroine. Her own affairs claimed her, but she paused long enough to
whisper in George Washington's ear:

"You may go now, Peter. You've done very nicely. Slip out through the
butler's pantry where no one will see you. Change into your own clothes
and help them in the kitchen about serving supper--but don't on _any_
account step into the front part of the house again to-night."

"Yes, ma'am," said Peter, meekly.

He found the entrance to the butler's pantry blocked, and he dived into
the empty conservatory, intending to pass thence to the veranda, and so
get around to the kitchen the outside way. But as he reached the veranda
door he ran face to face into Mrs. Booth-Higby. Peter quickly backed
into a fern-hung nook to let her pass. The light was dim, but his
costume was distinctive; after a moment of hesitating scrutiny she bore
down upon him.

"Oh, it's George Washington!--Lord Kiscadden, I should say. I see by the
programme that your part is finished. It was so frightfully warm inside
that I slipped out to get a breath of air. May I introduce myself? I am
Mrs. Booth-Higby, of Red Towers. I trust that you will drop in often
while you are in the neighbourhood. I have so wanted to have a chance to
talk to you because you come from Ireland--dear old Ireland! I am Irish
myself on the side that isn't Colonial, and I have a warm spot in my
heart for everything green."

Peter manfully bit back the only observation that occurred to him while
the lady rattled on:

"My Irish connection is three generations back--a younger son, you know,
who came to make his way in a new land, and, having married into one of
the old Colonial families, settled for good. But once Irish, always
Irish, I say. My heart warms to the little ragamuffins in the street if
they have a bit of the brogue. It's the call of the blood, I suppose.
Shall we sit here? Or perhaps you have an engagement--don't let me keep
you----"

He summoned what breath was left and confusedly murmured: "Oh, I say!
Ripping!"

They settled themselves on a rustic bench, and Peter, possessing himself
of her fan, slowly waved it to and fro in the nonchalant manner of Mr.
Harry. Mrs. Booth-Higby, fortunately, was no less garrulous than Miles
Standish had been, and she rattled on gaily, barely pausing for her
companion's English interpolations.

Peter's feelings were divided. He had the amused consciousness that he
was being flirted with by the lady who, three days before, had so
condescendingly given him ten cents. And he also had a chilly
apprehension of the storm that would rise if by any mischance she
discovered the hoax. But his fighting blood was up, and he was excited
by past success. He abandoned his interjections and, venturing out for
himself, recounted an anecdote of a fellow countryman in an excellent
imitation of Irish brogue. The effort was received with flattering
applause. After all, he reassured himself, this was not his funeral,
Miss Ethel and Mr. Harry must bear all blame; with which care-free
shifting of responsibility he settled himself to extract what amusement
there might be in the situation.

The curtain finally fell on the last act of the play, and a shuffling of
feet and moving of chairs betokened that a general exodus would follow.
Peter came back with a start to a realization of his predicament. While
confidence in his powers of simulation had been rising steadily during
the past half-hour, he still doubted his ability to deal with the
audience _en masse_.

But fortunately, the first two to appear in the conservatory were Miss
Ethel and Mr. Harry, engaged entirely with their own affairs, all
thought of the pseudo Kiscadden put from their minds. As they became
aware of the couple in the fernery, they stopped short with a gasp of
surprise.

"Why, Pet----" Miss Ethel caught herself, and summoning a cordial tone
added quickly: "Lord Kiscadden! A telegram came a long time ago--I
thought you had received it? I'm afraid they stopped the boy in the
kitchen."

"Oh, I say, by Jove! Fancy now!" George Washington jumped hastily to his
feet. "Pleased to know ye, ma'am," he added with a farewell duck of his
head; and without waiting for further words, he vaulted the veranda
railing and disappeared around the corner of the house. He lingered a
moment in the shrubbery to hear her say:

"Lord Kiscadden and I have been having such an interesting evening! What
a delicious accent he has! You must bring him to Red Towers, Mr. Jasper.
I feel that he really belongs to me more than to you; we have discovered
that we are distant connections. It seems that his grandmother, the
third Lady Kiscadden, was a McGarrah before she married. My own family
name was McGarrah, and----"

Peter put his hand over his mouth to stifle his feelings, and reeled
toward the kitchen porch.

An hour later, when supper was finished, Miss Ethel and Mr. Harry Jasper
slipped away from the guests and turned toward the kitchen. They paused
for a moment in the butler's pantry, arrested by the sound of Peter's
voice as he discoursed in his richest brogue to an appreciative group of
maids. His theme was the Daughters of the Revolution--he had evidently
kept his ears open during his brief introduction to society.

"Me father was a Malone, an' me mother was a Haggerty. The family
settled in America in 1620 B. C., all me ancistors on both sides bein'
first-cabin passengers on the _Mayflower_. We're straight discinded from
Gov'nor Bradford, an' me fifth great-grandfather was the first man hung
in the United States. Malone's a Scotch name--it used to be Douglas, but
it got changed in the pronouncin'--an' Haggerty is Frinch. I'm eligible
on both sides, an' me mother was a charter member. Yes, 'tis a great
society; the object of it is to keep the country dimocratic."

They pushed open the door and entered. Peter, restored to his own
clothes, was seated before the kitchen table engaged, between sentences,
with a soup plate full of ice-cream. He shuffled hastily to his feet as
the two appeared, and with a somewhat guilty air studied their faces. He
was trying to remember what he had said last.

"Peter," Miss Ethel's voice was meant to be severe, "what have you been
telling Mrs. Booth-Higby?"

Peter shifted his weight anxiously from one foot to the other.

"Nothin', ma'am."

"Nothing--nonsense! She is going about telling everybody that she is
Lord Kiscadden's cousin. She never made up any such impossible story as
that without help."

Miss Ethel's manner was sternly reproving, but Peter caught a gleam of
malicious amusement in her eye. It occurred to him that she was not
averse to an exhibition of Mrs. Booth-Higby's folly before Mr. Harry
Jasper.

"I wasn't to blame, Miss Ethel. I couldn't get out by the butler's
pantry like ye told me because the Hartridge family was blockin' the
way, and I knew they'd recognize me if I come within ten feet. So I
thinks to meself, I'll go through the conservatory; but just as I
reaches the door I runs plumb into Mrs. Booth-Higby.

"'Oh, me dear Lord Kiscadden,' she says, 'you was the b'y I was wantin'
to see! I must tell ye,' she says, 'how I've enjoyed yer actin'; 'twas
great,' she says, 'ye was the best person in the whole show.' An' wid
that she puts a hand on me arm an' never lets go for an hour and a
quarter--ye know, Mr. Harry, how graspin' she is."

Peter appealed to him as one man to another.

"She begun with askin' about me estate in dear old Ireland. Bein' only
eighteen months old when I left it, I couldn't remember many details,
but I used me imagination an' done the best I could. I told her there
was two lions sittin' on the gate-posts holdin' me coat-of-arms in their
paws; I told her there was two towers to the castle, and a peacock
strollin' on the lawn; an' then f'r fear she'd be gettin' suspicious, I
thought to change the subject. 'Yes, 'tis a beautiful house,' I says,
'but it ain't so grand as some. The biggest place in the neighbourhood,'
I says, 'is Castle McGarrah'--the name just popped into me head, Miss
Ethel.

"'McGarrah!' she says, 'that is me own name.'

"'The divvil!' thinks I. 'I've put me foot in it now.' But 't was too
late to go back. 'Possibly the same family,' says I, politely. 'The
present owner, Sir Timothy McGarrah----'

"'Timothy!' she says, 'that was me father's name, an' me grandfather's
before him.'

"'There's always one son in ivery gineration that carries it,' says I.

"'Can it be possible?' she murmurs to herself.

"'Me own grandmother was a daughter to the second Sir Timothy,' I says,
'him as quarrelled with his youngest son an' drove him from home. Some
says he went to Australia, an' some that he come to America. 'Twas fifty
years ago, an' all trace is lost o' the lad.'

"An' with that she says solemn like, 'The b'y was me grandfather! I see
it all--he was a silent man an' he niver talked of his people; but I
always felt there was a secret a preyin' on his mind. An' by that token
we're cousins,' she says. 'I must insist that ye make Red Towers yer
home while ye stay in America. Me husband,' she says, 'will enjoy yer
acquaintance.'

"An' while I was tryin' to tell her polite like that 't would be a
pleasure, but unfortunately me engagements would require me presence in
another place, you an' Mr. Harry come walkin' into the conservatory, and
I made me escape."

"What ever possessed you to tell such outrageous lies?" Miss Ethel
gasped.

"'Twas the clothes that done it, ma'am; bein' dressed as George
Washington, I couldn't think o' nothin' true that was fit to say."

Miss Ethel dropped limply into a chair, and leaning her head on the
back, laughed until she cried.

"Peter," she said, wiping the tears from her eyes, "I don't see but what
I shall have to discharge you. I should never dare let you drive past
Mrs. Booth-Higby's again."

"There's nothin' to fear," said Peter, tranquilly. "She won't recognize
me, ma'am. Mrs. Booth-Higby's eyes ain't focussed to see a groom."



VIII

A USURPED PREROGATIVE


Peter scooped a quart of oats into a box, took out the bottle of
liniment the veterinary surgeon had left, and started, grumbling, for
the lower meadow. Trixy had hurt her foot, and it was Billy's fault. A
groom who knew no better than to tie a horse to a barbed-wire fence on a
day when the flies were bad, ought, in Peter's estimation, to be
discharged.

He had some trouble in catching Trixy and applying the liniment, but he
finally accomplished the matter, and dropped down to rest in the shade
of the straggling hedge that divided the grounds of Willowbrook from
Jasper Place. He lighted his pipe and fell to a lazy contemplation of
the pasture--his thoughts neither of Trixy nor the cows nor anything
else pertaining to his duties, but now as always playing with a
glorified vision of Annie, the prettiest little parlour-maid in the
whole wide world. He was completely lost to his surroundings, when the
sound of pistol shots on the other side of the hedge recalled him to the
present with a jerk.

"What are them young devils up to now?" he muttered, as he raised
himself to look through the branches.

A group of boys was visible down on the Jasper beach, firing, somewhat
wildly, toward a target they had set up on the bank. Peter squinted his
eyes and peered closely; one of the boys was Bobby Carter, and Peter
more than suspected that the revolver was his father's. The boy had been
strictly forbidden to play with firearms, and Peter's first impulse was
to interfere; but on second thoughts he hesitated. Bobby was very
recently thirteen, and was feeling the importance of no longer being a
little boy. He would not relish being told to come home and mind his
father.

While Peter stood hesitating, a sudden frightened squawk rang out, and
he saw one of Mr. Jasper's guinea fowls fly a few feet into the air and
plump heavily to the ground. At the same instant Patrick appeared at the
top of the meadow, bearing down upon the scene of the crime, shouting
menacingly as he advanced. The boys broke and ran. They came crashing
through the hedge a few feet from Peter and made for cover in a clump of
willows. Peter recognized them all--Bobby and Bert Holliday and the two
Hartridge boys, the latter the horror of all well-regulated parents. He
saw them part, the two Hartridge boys heading for the road, while Bobby
and Bert Holliday turned toward the house, keeping warily under the
bank, Bobby buttoning the revolver inside his jacket as he ran. Peter
crouched under the branches and laid low; he had no desire to be called
into the case as witness.

Patrick panted up to the hedge and surveyed the empty stretch of meadow
with a disappointed grunt. He caught a glimpse of the Hartridge boys as
they climbed the fence into the high-road, but they were too far off for
recognition. He mopped his brow and lumbered back to examine the body of
the guinea fowl. Poor Patrick was neither so slender nor so young as
when he entered Mr. Jasper's service twenty years before; as he daily
watched Peter's troubles across the hedge, he thanked the saints that
the Jasper family contained no boys.

Peter waited till Patrick was well out of sight, when he rose and turned
back toward the stables. He met Bobby and Bert Holliday in the lane,
armed with a net, a basket, and a generous hunk of raw meat.

"Hello, Pete!" Bobby hailed him cheerily. "We're going crabbing, Bert
and me. If you hear Nora asking after some soup meat that strayed out of
the refrigerator, don't let on you met it."

"Trust me!" said Peter with an answering grin; but he turned and looked
after the boys a trifle soberly.

Bobby's escapade with the revolver was on a different plane from such
mild misdemeanours as abstracting fishing bait from the kitchen. Peter
felt keenly that Mr. Carter ought to know, but he shrank from the idea
of telling. For one thing, he hated tale-bearing; for another, he had a
presentiment as to the direction Bobby's punishment would take.

As an indirect result of his thirteenth birthday, the boy was to have a
new horse--not another pony, but a grown-up horse--provided always that
he was good. Mr. Carter, being occupied with business out of town, had
not been able to give the matter his immediate attention; and poor Bobby
had been dwelling on the cold heights of virtue for nearly a month. He
had undergone, a week or so before, a mild attack of three-day measles
which he had borne with a sweet gentleness quite foreign to his nature.
Peter had openly scouted the doctor's diagnosis of the case.

"Rats!" he remarked to Annie, after viewing the boy's speckled surface.
"That ain't measles. It's his natural badness working out. I knew it
weren't healthy for him to be so good. If Mr. Carter don't make up his
mind about that horse pretty soon the boy'll go into a decline."

But at last the question was on the point of being settled. Mr. Carter,
having visited every horse dealer in the neighbourhood, had, in his
carefully methodical manner, almost made up his mind. The choice was a
wiry little mustang, thin-limbed and built for running; he could give
even Blue Gypsy some useful lessons in speed, and she had a racing
pedigree four generations long. Peter had fallen in love with the
mustang; he wanted it almost as much as Bobby. And he realized that
these next few days were a critical period; if the boy were discovered
in any black offence, the horse would be postponed until his fourteenth
birthday. His father had an unerring sense of duty in the matter of
punishments.

It was Saturday and Mr. Carter would be out on the noon train. Peter
drove to the station to meet him, still frowning over the question of
Bobby and the revolver. He finally decided to warn the boy; there would
be time enough to speak if the offence were repeated. Mr. Carter proved
to be in an unusually genial frame of mind. He chatted all the way out
on matters pertaining to the stables; and as they drew up at the
_porte-cochère_ he paused to ask:

"Ah, Peter, about this new mustang for Master Bobby, what do you think?"

"He's a fine horse, sir, though I suspicion not too well broke. But he's
got a good pair o' legs--I should say two pair, sir--an' sound wind.
That's the main thing. We can finish his trainin' ourselves."

"Then you advise me to get him?"

"I should say that ye wouldn't be makin' no mistake. I'll be glad, sir,
to see Master Bobby with a horse of his own. He's gettin' too heavy for
Toddles."

"Very well. I'll do it. You may have Blue Gypsy saddled immediately
after luncheon and I will ride over to Shannon Farms and close the
deal."

At two o'clock Blue Gypsy stood pawing impatiently before the library
door with Peter soothingly patting her neck. Mr. Carter paused on the
steps to survey her shining coat with the complaisant approval of
ownership.

"Pretty good animal, isn't she, Peter?"

"She is that," said Peter, heartily. "You'd search a long time
before----"

His sentence broke down in the middle as his eye wandered to the stretch
of lawn beyond the hedge. Patrick was visible hurrying toward them, a
white envelope waving in his hand, plainly bent on gaining the hole in
the hedge and Mr. Carter's side before that gentleman's departure.
Peter tried to cover his slip and induce his master to mount and ride
off; but it was too late.

"Here, Peter, just hold her a minute longer. I think that note is for
me."

Patrick with some difficulty squeezed himself through the hole--it had
been made originally by Mr. Harry so that he might run over and call on
Miss Ethel without having to go around; and Mr. Harry was thin. Patrick
emerged with hair awry and puffing. He stood anxiously mopping his brow
while Mr. Carter read the note. Peter likewise eyed his master with a
touch of anxiety; he had a foreboding that the contents of the letter
meant no good to the cause of the new mustang.

Mr. Carter ran his eye down the page with a quickly gathering frown and
then faced the man.

"You saw my son shoot the guinea fowl?"

"No, sir--that is, sir, I ain't sure. Mr. Jasper he asked me who I
thought the boys was, and I told him I didn't get close enough to see,
but I fancied one was Bobby Carter, because they run this way, and I
thought I recognized Master Bobby's legs as he crawled under the hedge.
I told Mr. Jasper it was only guess, but he was mad because she was one
of his prize hens, and he said he'd just drop a line to you and let you
investigate. It was dangerous, he said, if Master Bobby was playin' with
firearms, and you'd ought to know it."

"Yes, certainly; I understand."

Mr. Carter raised his voice and called to the boy who was visible
sprawling on a bench by the tennis-court.

"Bobby! Come here."

He pulled himself together with obedient haste and advanced to meet his
father, somewhat apprehensively, as his eye fell upon Patrick.

"Bobby, here is a note from Mr. Jasper. He says that some boys were
shooting at a target on his beach this morning and killed one of his
prize guinea fowls. He is not sure, but he thinks that you may have been
one of them. How about it?"

Bobby looked uncomprehending for a moment while he covertly studied
Patrick. The man's air was apologetic; his accusation was evidently
based upon suspicion rather than proof.

"I went crabbing with Bert Holliday this morning," said Bobby.

"Ah!" his father's face cleared, though he still maintained his stern
tone. "I gave you strict orders, you remember, never to touch my
revolver when I was not with you?"

"Yes, father."

"You never have touched it?"

"No." Bobby's tone was barely audible.

"Speak up! I can't hear you."

"No!" snapped Bobby.

"Don't act that way. I am not accusing you of anything. I merely wish to
know the truth." Mr. Carter turned to Patrick, who was nervously
fumbling with his hat. "You see, Patrick, you were mistaken. Tell Mr.
Jasper that I am sorry about the guinea fowl, but that Master Bobby had
nothing to do with the shooting."

He dismissed the man with a nod, and mounted and rode away.

Peter watched him out of sight, then he turned and crossed the lawn to
the tennis-court. Bobby was back on his bench again engaged in carving
his name on the handle of a racket, though his face, Peter noted, did
not reflect much pleasure in the work. He glanced up carelessly as Peter
approached, but as he caught the look in his eye, he flushed quickly,
and with elaborate attention applied himself to shaping a "C."

Peter sat down on the end of the bench and regarded him soberly. He was
uncertain in his own mind how he ought to deal with the case, but that
it must be dealt with, and drastically, he knew. Peter was by no means
a Puritan. The boy could accomplish any amount of mischief--go crabbing
instead of to Sunday-school, play fox and geese over the newly sprouted
garden, break windows and hotbeds, steal cake from the pantry and
peaches from Judge Benedict's orchard, and Peter would always shield
him. His code of morals was broad, but where he did draw the line he
drew it tight. Bobby's sins must be the sins of a gentleman, and Peter's
definition of "gentleman" was old fashioned and strict.

Bobby grew restless under the silent scrutiny.

"What do you want?" he asked crossly. "If you don't look out you'll make
me cut my hand."

He closed the large blade with an easy air of unconcern, and opening a
smaller one, fell to work again. The knife was equipped with five blades
and a corkscrew; it was one of the dignities to which Bobby had attained
on his recent birthday. Peter stretched out his hand and, taking
possession of the knife, snapped it shut and returned it.

"Put it in yer pocket an' pay attention to me."

"Oh, don't bother, Pete. I'm busy."

"Your father will be home before long," said Peter, significantly.

"Well, fire ahead. What do you want?"

"Ye told a lie--two o' them, to be accurate. Ye were one o' them boys
that shot the chicken an' ye did have the pistol."

"I didn't shoot his old chicken; it was Bert Holliday. And anyway he
didn't mean to; it flew straight in front of the target just as he
fired."

"He had no business to be firin'. But it's not the chicken I'm mournin'
about; it's the lie."

"It's none of your business," said Bobby, sullenly.

"Then I'll make it me business! Either ye goes to yer father an' tells
him ye lied, or I will. Ye can take yer choice."

"Peter," Bobby began to plead, "he'll not give me the mustang--you know
he won't. I didn't mean to touch the revolver, but Bert forgot his air
rifle, and the boys were waiting to have a shooting match. I won't do it
again--honest, Peter--hope to die."

"It ain't no use, Master Bobby. Ye can't wheedle me. Ye told a lie an'
ye've got to be punished. Gentlemen don't tell lies--leastways, not
direct. They hires a lawyer like Judge Benedict to do it for them. If ye
keep on ye'll grow to be like the Judge yerself."

Bobby smiled wanly. The Judge, as Peter knew well, was his chiefest
aversion, owing to an unfortunate meeting under the peach trees.

"You've told lots of lies yourself!"

"There's different kinds o' lies," said Peter, "an' this is the kind
that I don't tell. It ain't that I'm fond o' carrying tales," he added,
"but that I wants to see ye grow up to be a thoroughbred."

Bobby changed his tactics.

"Father'll feel awfully bad; I hate to have him find it out."

Peter suppressed a grin.

"Boys ought always to be considerate o' their fathers' feelin's," he
conceded.

"And you know, Pete, that you want me to have the mustang. You said
yourself that it was a shame for a big boy like me to be riding
Toddles."

Peter folded his arms and studied the distance a moment with thoughtful
eyes; then he faced his companion with the air of pronouncing an
ultimatum.

"I'll tell ye what I'll do, Master Bobby, since ye're so anxious to save
yer father's feelin's. I'll agree not to mention the matter, an' ye can
take yer punishment from me at the end of a strap."

Bobby stared.

"Do you mean," he gasped, "that you want to whip me?"

"Well, no, I can't say as I _want_ to, but I think it's me dooty. If ye
was a stable-boy and I caught ye in a lie like that, I'd wallop ye till
ye couldn't stand."

"I never was whipped in my life!"

"The more reason ye need it now. I've often thought, Master Bobby, that
a thorough lickin' would do ye good."

Bobby sprang to his feet.

"Tell him if you want. I don't care!"

"Just as ye please. He's over to Shannon Farms now buyin' the mustang.
When he gets back an' finds his son is a liar and a coward, he'll be
returnin' that horse by telephone."

Bobby's flight was suspended while he hung wavering between indignation
and desire.

"There it is," said Peter. "I won't go back on me word. Either ye keeps
a whole skin an' rides Toddles another year, or ye takes yer lickin'
like a man an' gets the horse. Ye can have an hour to think it over."

He rose and sauntered unconcernedly toward the stables. Bobby stared
after him, several different emotions struggling for supremacy in his
freckled face; then he plunged his hands deep into his pockets and
turned down the lane with an attempt at a swagger as he passed the
stable door. At the paddock gate Toddles poked his shaggy little head
through the bars and whinnied insistently. But Bobby, instead of
bestowing the expected lump of sugar, shoved him viciously with his
elbow and scuffed on. He seated himself precariously on the top rail of
the pasture fence and fell to digging holes in the wood with his new
knife, cogitating meanwhile the two alternatives he had been invited to
consider.

They appealed to him as equally revolting. Only that morning he had
carelessly informed the boys that his father was going to buy him a
mustang--a brown and white circus mustang that was trained to stand on
its hind legs. The humiliation of losing the horse was more than he
could face. Yet, on the other hand, to be beaten like a stable-boy for
telling a lie! He had boasted to the Hartridge boys, who did not enjoy
such immunity, that he had never received a flogging in his life. He
might have stood it from his father--but from Peter! Peter, who had
always been his stanchest ally, who, on occasion, had even deviated from
the strict truth himself in order to shield Bobby from justice. The boy
already had his full quota of parents; he did not relish having Peter
usurp the rôle.

For thirty minutes he balanced on the fence, testing first one then the
other of the horns of his dilemma. But suddenly he saw, across the
fields where the high-road was visible, a horse and rider approaching at
a quick canter. He slid down and walked with an air of grim resolution
to the stables.

Peter was in the harness-room busily engaged in cleaning out the closet.
The floor was a litter of buckles and straps and horse medicine.

"Well?" he inquired, as Bobby appeared in the door.

"You can give me that licking if you want," said Bobby, "but I tell you
now, _I'll pay you back_!"

"All right!" said Peter, cheerfully, reaching for a strap that hung
behind the door. "I'm ready if you are. We'll go down in the lower
meadow where there won't be no interruption."

He led the way and Bobby followed a dozen paces behind. They paused in a
secluded clump of willows.

"Take yer coat off," said Peter.

Bobby cast him one appealing glance, but his face was adamant.

"Take it off," he repeated.

Bobby complied without a word, his own face growing white.

Peter laid on the strap six times. He did not soften the blows in the
slightest; it was exactly the same flogging that a stable-boy would have
received under the same circumstances. Two tears slipped down Bobby's
cheeks, but he set his jaw hard and took it like a man. Peter dropped
the strap.

"I'm sorry, Master Bobby. I didn't like it any better than you, but it
had to be done. Are we friends?" he held out his hand.

"No, we're not friends!" Bobby snapped. He turned his back and put on
his coat; then he started for the house. "You'll be sorry," he threw
over his shoulder.

During the next few days Bobby ignored Peter. If he had any business in
the neighbourhood of the stables he addressed himself ostentatiously to
one of the under men. The rupture of their friendship did not pass
unmarked, though the grooms soon found that it did not pay to be
facetious on the subject. Billy, in return for some jocular comments,
spent an afternoon in adding a superfluous lustre to already brilliant
carriage lamps.

The mustang arrived, was christened Apache, and assigned to a box stall.
He possessed a slightly vicious eye and a tendency to buck, as two of
the grooms found to their cost while trying to ride him bareback in the
paddock. Peter shook his head dubiously as he watched the unseating of
the second groom.

"We'll put a curb bit on that horse. I don't just like his looks for a
youngster to ride."

"Huh!" said Billy, "Master Bobby ain't such a baby as everybody thinks;
he can manage him all right."

Word came out from the house that afternoon that Bobby was to try the
new mustang. Billy saddled the horses--Apache, and Blue Gypsy for Miss
Ethel, and a cob for Peter--and led them out, while Peter in his most
immaculate riding clothes swaggered after. The maids were all on the
back porch and the family at the _porte-cochère_ to watch the departure.
Bobby would accept no assistance, but mounted from the ground with a
fine air of pride. Apache plunged a trifle, but the boy was a horseman
and he stuck to his saddle.

"Be careful, Bobby," his mother warned.

"You needn't worry about me," Bobby called back gaily. "I'm not afraid
of any horse living!"

Blue Gypsy never stood well, and Miss Ethel was already off. Bobby
started to follow, but he wheeled about to say:

"You come, Billy; I don't want Peter."

"Bobby, dear," his mother expostulated, "you don't know the horse; it
would be safer----"

"I want Billy! I won't go if Peter has to come tagging along."

Peter removed his foot from the stirrup and passed the horse over to the
groom. The cavalcade clattered off and he walked slowly back to the
stables. He felt the slight keenly. He could remember when he had held
Bobby, a baby in short dresses, on the back of his father's hunter, when
he had first taught the little hands to close about a bridle. And now,
when the boy had his first horse, not to go! Peter's feeling for Bobby
was almost paternal; the slight hurt not only his pride but his
affections as well.

He spent an hour puttering about the carriage room, whistling a cheerful
two-step and vainly pretending to himself that he felt in a cheerful
frame of mind. Then suddenly his music and his thoughts were interrupted
by the ringing of the house telephone bell, long and insistently. He
sprang to the instrument and heard Annie's voice, her words punctuated
by frightened sobs.

"Oh, Pete! Is that you? Something awful's happened. There's been an
accident. Master Bobby's been throwed. The doctor's telephoned to get a
room ready and have a nurse from the hospital here. You're to hitch up
Arab as fast as you can and drive to the hospital after her. Oh, I hope
he won't die!" she wailed.

Peter dropped the receiver and ran to Arab's stall. He led him out and
threw on the harness with hands that trembled so they could scarcely
fasten a buckle.

"Why can't I learn to mind me own business?" he groaned. "What right
have I to be floggin' Master Bobby?"

The young woman whom Peter brought back decided before the end of the
drive that the man beside her was crazy. All that she could get in
return for her inquiries as to the gravity of the accident was the
incoherent assertion:

"He's probably dead by now, ma'am, and if he is it's me that done it."

As they turned in at the Willowbrook gate Peter strained forward to
catch sight of the house. A strange coupé was drawn up before the
_porte-cochère_. He involuntarily pulled Arab to a standstill and looked
away, but the nurse reached out and grasped the reins.

"Here, man, what is the matter with you? Hurry up! They may want me to
help get the boy in."

Peter drove on and sat staring woodenly while she sprang to the ground
and hurried forward. Mrs. Carter and the maids were gathered in a
frightened group on the steps. He could hear Miss Ethel inside the
carriage calling wildly:

"Do be quick! His head has commenced to bleed again."

The driver climbed down to help the doctor lift him out. They jarred him
going up the steps and he moaned slightly. Peter cursed the man's clumsy
feet, though not for worlds could he himself have stirred to help them.
The boy's head was bandaged with a towel, and he looked very limp and
white, but he summoned a feeble smile at sight of his mother. They
carried him in and the servants crowded after in an anxious effort to
help.

Peter drove on to the stables and put up Arab. In a few minutes Billy
returned leading the two horses. He was frightened and excited; and he
burst into an account of the accident while he was still half way down
the drive.

"It wasn't my fault," he called. "Miss Ethel said it wasn't my fault.
We met a mowing-machine and Apache bolted. He threw the boy off against
a stone wall, and by the time I reached 'em, Apache was eating grass in
the next field and Master Bobby lying in the ditch with 'is head cut
open."

"I don't want to hear about it," Peter returned shortly. "Put them
horses up and get out."

He himself removed Apache's new saddle and bridle and drove him with a
vicious whack into the stall. Billy took himself off to find a more
appreciative audience, while Peter dropped down on a stool inside the
stable door, and with his chin in his hands sat watching the house. He
saw the nurse fling wide the blinds of Bobby's room and roll up the
shades; he wondered with a choking sensation what they were doing to the
boy that they needed so much light. He saw Annie come out and hang some
towels on the line. The whole aspect of the place to Peter's sharpened
senses wore an air of tragic bustle. No one came near to tell him how
the boy was doing; he had not the courage to go to the house and ask. He
sat dumbly waiting for something to happen while twilight faded into
dusk. One of the stableboys came to call him to supper and he replied
crossly that he didn't want any supper. Presently he heard a step
scrunching on the gravel, and he looked up to find Annie coming toward
him.

"Is--is he dead?" he whispered.

"He's not goin' to die. He's feelin' better now; they've sewed up the
hole in his head. The doctor did it with a thread an' needle just like
you'd sew a dress. He took ten stitches an' Master Bobby bled awful. He
never cried once, though; he just got whiter an' whiter an' fainted
away. Don't feel so bad, Pete, he's goin' to get well."

She laid her hand caressingly on his hair and brushed it back from his
forehead. He caught her hand and held it.

"It's me that's to blame for his gettin' hurt. He won't never speak to
me again."

"Yes, he will; he's wantin' to speak to you now. They sent me out to
fetch you."

"Me?" he asked, shrinking back. "What's he wantin' with me?"

"He's been out of his head an' callin' for you; he won't go to sleep
till he sees you. The doctor said to fetch you in. Come on."

Annie's manner was insistent and Peter rose and followed her.

"Here he is," she whispered, pushing him ahead of her into the darkened
room.

Bobby made a half movement to turn as the door creaked, but a quick pain
shot through his shoulder and he fell back with a little gasp.

"Take care, Bobby," the nurse warned. "You mustn't move or you will hurt
that bad arm." Her greeting to Peter was stern. "You may stay five
minutes, and mind you don't get him excited!" She bent over the boy to
loosen the bandage about his shoulder.

"You go out," said Bobby, querulously. "I want to see Peter alone."

"Yes, dear," she patted the bedclothes indulgently. "Remember, five
minutes!" she added as she closed the door.

The two left alone stared at each other rather consciously for a moment.
They both felt that the occasion demanded something heroic in the way of
a reconciliation, but it was the natural instinct of each to fly from
sentiment. The sight of Bobby's pale face and bandaged head, however,
had their effect on Peter's already overwrought nerves.

"I'm a blunderin' fool!" he groaned. "I don't know why I can't never
learn to attend to me own affairs. If I'd told yer father, as was me
dooty, he'd never uv given ye that spotted devil of a horse."

"You aren't to blame, Pete. I guess I was hurt for more punishment
'cause I didn't take the first in the right spirit." He fumbled under
his pillow and drew out the new five-bladed knife. "This is for a
remembrance, and whenever you use it you will think 'it was me that
cured Bobby Carter of telling lies.'"

Peter received the gift with an air of hesitation.

"I don't like to take it," he said, dubiously, "though I have a feelin'
that perhaps I ought, for with five blades to choose from ye'll be
cuttin' yer blamed young throat--I'd hate to be the cause of any more
accidents." He balanced it thoughtfully in his palm. "But I'm thinkin,"
he added softly, "that the corkscrew might be doin' as much damage to me
as the five blades to you."

Bobby grinned appreciatively, and held out his uninjured left hand.

"Pete," he said, "if I promise never, never to tell any more lies, will
you promise never, never to use that corkscrew?"

"It's a bargain!" said Peter, grasping the boy's hand. "And I'm glad
that we're friends again."

They stared at each other solemnly, neither thinking of anything further
to add, when Peter suddenly became aware of the ticking of the clock.

"Holy Saint Patrick!" he ejaculated. "Me five minutes was up five
minutes ago. I must be takin' me leave or that commandin' young woman
will come back and eject me."

He moved toward the door, but paused to throw over his shoulder:

"I'd already promised the same to Annie, so ye needn't be takin' too
much credit to yerself fer me conversion."



IX

MRS. CARTER AS FATE


As the summer wore to an end, the course of affairs between Peter and
Annie became a matter of interested comment among the other servants.
They had all seen Peter recover from many incipient attacks of love, but
this they unanimously diagnosed as the real thing. Joe and his wife
talked the matter over upon his return from the hospital, and decided
that the time had definitely come for the livery stable; Peter, in all
fairness, had served as groom long enough. They would move out of the
coachman's cottage the following spring, and give the young people a
chance. Thus was the way open for a happy conclusion, and everyone was
preparing to dance at the wedding, except Peter and Annie themselves.
They alone were not certain as to the outcome. Neither was quite
comfortably sure that the other was in earnest, and when it came to the
point they were both a little shy. Annie, with laughing eyes, tempted
Peter at every point, but when he showed a disposition to control
matters himself, she precipitously fled.

The two were standing on the back veranda one moonlight night, and Annie
was engaged in pointing out to Peter the lady in the moon. Peter was
either stubborn or stupid; he frankly declared that he saw no "loidy,"
and didn't believe there was one. In her zeal in the cause of astronomy,
Annie unwarily bent her head too near, and while her eyes were turned to
the moon, Peter kissed her. She slapped him smartly, as a
well-brought-up young woman should, and fled into the house before he
could catch her. Peter, strong in his new-found courage, waited about in
the hope that she would reappear; but she did not, and he finally took
himself off to his room over the carriage-house, where he sat by the
window gazing out at the moonlight for two hours or more before he
remembered to go to bed. The slap had hurt neither him nor his feelings;
he liked her the better for it. She wasn't really mad, he reflected
happily, for she had laughed as she banged the door in his face.

The next morning Peter went about his work with a singing heart and many
a glance toward the kitchen windows. He swashed water over the stable
floor and rubbed down the horses with a mind happily intent upon what he
would say to Annie when he saw her. About ten o'clock Mrs. Carter
ordered the victoria, but as the carriage horses were at the shop being
shod, Joe sent Peter in to ask if Trixy and the phaeton would do as
well.

Peter dropped his sponge and started for the house at exactly the wrong
moment for his future peace of mind. He arrived at the kitchen door just
in time to see the man from the grocery put his packages on the table
and his arms around Annie, and kiss her with a smack that resounded
through the room and would, to Peter's outraged senses, resound through
all time. Annie turned with a startled cry, and as her gaze fell upon
Peter, her face paled before the look in his eyes. Without a word he
whirled about and strode back to the stables with white lips and
clenched fists, and murder in his heart for the grocer's man. He did not
hear what Annie said to him, nor did he know that she locked herself in
her room and cried; what he did know was that she had been making a fool
of him, and that she flirted with every man who came along, and that
that wasn't the kind of a girl he wanted to do with.

Several days before, as Peter was driving Mr. Lane, who was visiting at
Willowbrook again, and Master Bobby to the village, Annie had been
sweeping the front veranda as they passed, and had thrown a friendly
smile in the direction of the cart. The smile was intended for Peter,
but Mr. Lane had caught it, and had remarked to Bobby:

"That's a deuced pretty maid you've got there."

"Annie's the bulliest maid we ever had," Bobby had returned
appreciatively. "She swipes cake for me when Nora isn't looking."

But Peter had frowned angrily, as he longingly sized up Mr. Lane, and
wished he were not a gentleman so that he could punch him. It was none
of Mr. Lane's business whether Annie was pretty or not.

At that time Annie could do no wrong, and Peter had not thought of
blaming her for Mr. Lane's too-open admiration, but now he wrathfully
accused her of trying to flirt with gentlemen, than which, in Peter's
estimation, she could do no worse. As he could take it out of neither of
them in blood--which his soul thirsted for--he added it to the grocer's
score, and his fingers fairly itched to be at work. The grocer was just
the sort of man that he most enjoyed pummelling--big and florid, with
curling hair, a black moustache, and a dimple in his chin.

Annie, after her _contretemps_ with the grocer, passed a miserable day.
In vain she tried to get a word with Peter; he was not to be seen. Billy
was the groom who came to the house on all further errands from the
stables. That evening she put on her prettiest frock and sat for two
hours on the top step of the back veranda with her eyes turned
expectantly toward the carriage-house, and then she went to bed and
cried. Had she but known it, Peter was in a vacant lot back of Paddy
Callahan's saloon, blissfully remodelling the features of the grocer's
man.

Annie passed a wakeful night, and the next morning she swallowed her
pride and went to the stables in the hope of seeing Peter alone. Peter,
too, in spite of his victory of the evening, had kept vigil through the
night. He was listlessly currying one of the carriage horses when he
saw Annie leave the house and come slowly down the walk toward the
stables. His heart suddenly leaped to his mouth, but a moment later he
was bending over the horse with his back to the door, whistling as
merrily as though he had not a care in the world. He heard Annie's
hesitating step on the threshold, and he smiled grimly to himself and
whistled the louder.

"Pete, I'm wantin' to speak to you, if ye're not busy."

Peter glanced up with a well-assumed start of surprise. He looked Annie
over, slowly and deliberately, and then turned back to the horse.

"Aw, but I am busy," he returned. "Lift up!" he added to the horse, and
he solicitously examined her foot.

Annie waited patiently, struggling between a sense of pride which urged
her to go back and never speak to Peter again, and a sense of shame
which told her that she owed him an explanation.

"Pete," she began, and there was a little catch in her voice which went
to Peter's heart; in his effort to resist it and mete out due punishment
for all the misery she had caused him, he was harder than he otherwise
would have been. "Pete, I wanted to be tellin' ye that it wasn't my
fault. He--he niver kissed me before, and I didn't know he was goin' to
then."

Peter shrugged.

"Ye needn't be apologizin' to me. I ain't interested in yer amoors. If
ye wants to be apologizin' to any one go an' do it to his wife."

"His wife?" asked Annie.

"Aye, his wife an' his three childern."

"I didn't know he was married," said Annie, flushing again, "but 'tis no
difference, for it weren't my fault. I niver acted a bit nicer to him
than to anny other man, an' that's the truth."

"Oh, ye're a lovely girl, ye are! Flirtin' around with other women's
husbands, and lettin' every fool that comes along kiss ye if he wants
to."

"Ye needn't talk," cried Annie. "Ye did it yerself, an' ye're no better
than the grocer man."

"An' do ye think I'd a-done it if I hadn't knowed ye was willin?"

Annie backed against the wall, and with flushed cheeks and blazing eyes,
stared at him speechlessly, angry with herself at her powerlessness to
say anything that would hurt him enough. As she stood there, Master
Bobby and Mr. Lane came in on their way to visit the kennels. Mr. Lane
looked curiously from the angry girl to the nonchalant groom, who had
resumed his work, and was softly whistling under his breath. Master
Bobby, being intent only upon puppies, passed on without noticing the
two, but Mr. Lane glanced back over his shoulder at Annie's pretty
flushed face, and paused to ask:

"My dear girl, has that fellow been annoying you?"

"No, no!" Annie said wildly. "Go away, Mr. Lane, please."

Mr. Lane glanced from one to the other with a laugh. "Ah, I see! A
lovers' quarrel," and he followed Master Bobby.

Peter echoed his laugh, and in a tone which would have justified Mr.
Lane in knocking him down had he heard.

"So ye're his dear girl too, are ye? He's a nice gentleman, he is! Ye
ought to be proud o' him."

Annie straightened herself with her head thrown back.

"Peter Malone," she burst out, "I came here to 'pologize, 'cause,
without meanin' any harm, I thought as I'd hurt yer feelin's an' was
owin' an explanation. I niver had anything to do with that groc'ry man
nor any other man, an' ye know it as true as ye're standin' there.
Instead o' believin' what I say like a gentleman would, ye insult me
worse than anybody's iver done in the whole o' me life, an' I'll niver
speak to ye again as long as I live." She choked down a sob, and with
head erect turned and walked back to the house.

The two had had differences before, but never anything like this. Peter,
his arms dropped limply at his side, stood watching her go, while the
words she had spoken rang in his ears. Suddenly a lump rose in his
throat, and he leaned his head against the horse's neck.

"Lord!" he whispered. "What have I done?"


The week which followed was one of outward indifference and inward
misery to both. Annie mourned when alone, but under the eyes of the
stables she flirted openly and without conscience with one of the
painters who was opportunely engaged in re-staining the shingle roof of
the Jasper house. Peter watched her with a heavy heart, and formed a
brave determination never to think of her again, and ended by thinking
of her every minute of the day. He made one awkward attempt at
reconciliation which was spurned, whereupon he, too, plunged into a
reckless flirtation with Mary, the chambermaid, who was fat, and every
day of thirty-five. As neither Peter nor Annie had any means of knowing
how wretched this treatment was making the other, they got very little
comfort from it.


Annie sat at the kitchen table polishing silver with a sober face. It
was six days since the grocery man's historic visit, and the war clouds
showed no sign of lifting. There was a houseful of company at
Willowbrook, and the work was mercifully distracting. Mary, this
morning, had hung a long row of blankets and curtains on the line to
air, for the sole purpose, Annie knew, of being near the stables. Peter
was visible through the open window, greasing harness in the
carriage-house doorway, and exchanging jocular remarks with Mary.
Annie's eyes were out of doors oftener than upon her work. Nora, who
was sitting on the back veranda shelling peas, remarked on Peter's newly
awakened interest in the chambermaid, but as Annie did not answer, she
very wisely changed the subject.

"I guess that Mr. Lane what's visitin' here has got a heap o' money,"
she called in tentatively.

"I guess he has," Annie assented indifferently.

"He seems to be pretty taken up with Miss Ethel. That was an awful
becomin' pink dress she had on last night. Mrs. Carter would be pleased
all right."

Annie received this remark in silence, but Nora was not to be
discouraged. She felt that this new freak of taciturnity on Annie's part
was defrauding her of her rights. A maid whose duties call her to the
front part of the house is in a position to supply more accurate gossip
than it is given a cook to know, and it is her business to supply it.

"Mr. Harry would feel awful, havin' growed up with her like," Nora
continued. "He's a sight the best lookin' o' the two, and I'm thinkin'
Miss Ethel knows it. It ud be convenient, too, havin' the places joined.
The Jaspers has got money enough, an' him the only son. I guess they
wouldn't starve if she did marry him. I've always noticed 'tis the
people who has the most money as needs the most. I don't think much o'
that Mr. Lane," she added.

Annie suddenly woke up.

"I don't neither. 'Tis too fresh he is."

"That's what I'm thinkin' meself," said Nora, cordially. "An' I guess so
does Mr. Harry. I'm after observin' that he hasn't been around much
since Mr. Lane's been here."

Annie's mind had wandered again. Her own affairs were requiring so much
attention lately that Miss Ethel's were no longer a source of interest.
Out in the stable Peter was proclaiming, in tones calculated to reach
the kitchen, "There's only one girl in this world for me." Annie's lip
quivered slightly as she heard him; a week before she had laughed at the
same song, but as affairs stood now, it was insulting.

The peas finished, Nora gathered the yellow bowl under her arm and
returned to the kitchen, where she concentrated her attention upon Annie
and the silver.

"I'm thinkin' ye must be in love!" she declared. "Ye've cleaned that
same spoon three times while I've been watchin', an' ye didn't count the
plates right last night for dinner, an' ye forgot to give 'em any butter
for breakfast."

Annie blushed guiltily at this damning array of evidence, and then she
laughed. "If it's in love I am whiniver I forget things, then I must
a-been in love since I was out o' the cradle."

"An' there's him as would be in love with you, if ye'd only act dacent
to him--and I'm not meanin' the painter."

Annie chose to overlook this remark, and Nora's sociability was
suppressed by the entrance of Mrs. Carter.

"We have decided to have a picnic supper at the beach to-night, Nora,"
she said. "You will not have to get dinner for anyone but Mr. Carter."

"Very well, ma'am."

"I am sorry that it happens on your afternoon out, Annie," she added,
turning to the maid, "but I shall need you at the picnic to help about
serving."

"Certainly, ma'am," said Annie. "I don't care about goin' out anyway."

"We shall start early in the afternoon, but I want you to wait and help
Nora with the sandwiches, and then Peter can drive you out about six
o'clock in the dog-cart."

Annie's face clouded precipitously.

"Please, ma'am," she stammered, "I think--that is, if ye please----" she
hesitated and looked about desperately. "I'm afraid if ye're after
wantin' coffee, I can't make it right. I'm niver sure o' me coffee two
times runnin', and I should hate to be spoilin' it when there's company.
If ye could take Nora instead o' me, ma'am, I could just be gettin' the
lovely dinner for Mr. Carter when he comes."

"Why, Annie," she remonstrated, "you've always made excellent coffee
before, and Nora doesn't wait on the table. Is it because you want to go
out this afternoon? I am sorry, but you will have to wait until Miss
Ethel's guests have gone."

"No, ma'am," said Annie, hastily, "I'm not wantin' the afternoon, an'
it's willin' I am to help Miss Ethel, only--only--will you tell Peter,
ma'am, about the cart?" she finished lamely, "'cause if I tell him he's
likely to be late."

Mrs. Carter passed out of the kitchen door and crossed the lawn toward
the stables, casting meanwhile a sharp eye about the premises to be sure
that all was as it should be. Mary was shaking blankets with an air of
deep absorption; Peter was industriously cleaning the already clean
harness, and Joe could be heard inside officiously telling Billy to
grease the other wheel and be quick about it. Unless Mrs. Carter
approached very quietly indeed, she always found her servants oblivious
to everything but their several duties. As she drew near the doorway,
Peter rose from the harness and respectfully touched his cap with a very
dirty hand, while the coachman, with a final order over his shoulder to
a brow-beaten stable-boy, came forward hastily, and stood at attention.

"Joe, we are going to have a picnic at the beach this afternoon, and I
want you to have the horses ready at three o'clock. Miss Ethel, Mr.
Lane, and Master Bobby will ride, and you will drive the rest of us in
the waggonette."

"Very well, ma'am," said Joe.

"And Peter," she added, turning to the groom, "I want you to bring out
the supper with Trixy and the dog-cart at five o'clock."

"All right, ma'am," said Peter, saluting.

"Be sure to be on time," she warned. "Stop at the kitchen for Annie and
the hampers promptly at five."

Peter's face suddenly darkened. He drew his mouth into a straight line,
and looked sullenly down at the harness. "Beggin' yer pardon, ma'am," he
mumbled, "I don't think--that is----" He scowled defiance at Joe, who
grinned back appreciatively. "If it's just the same to ye, ma'am, I'd
like to drive the waggonette an' let Joe fetch the lunch. If I'm to be
coachman, ma'am, I'd sort o' like to get used to me dooties before he
goes."

Mrs. Carter was frankly puzzled; she could not imagine what had suddenly
got into her servants this morning. A lady who has a grown daughter, of
some attractions and many admirers, to chaperone, cannot be expected to
keep _au courant_ of her servants' love affairs.

"You have had a month in which to get used to your duties while Joe was
in the hospital; that is sufficient for the present. Joe will drive the
waggonette and you will follow with the supper--I wish you to help Tom
put new netting in the screen-doors this afternoon."

Her tone precluded argument. As soon as she was out of hearing, Joe
remarked softly, "Now, if she'd only said Mary instead of Annie I
'spose----"

"Aw, let up," Peter growled, and he fell to rubbing in the grease with
unnecessary vehemence. His misunderstanding with Annie was a subject he
would stand no fooling about, even from his chief.

At five o'clock, Peter, in a spotless top-hat and shining boots, looking
as stiff as if he were clothed in steel armour, drew up before the
kitchen door and piled the hampers and pails he found on the back
veranda onto the seat beside him. He climbed to the box again with an
air of finality, and gathering his reins together made a feint of
starting.

"Peter!" Nora called from the kitchen window. "Where is it ye're goin'?
Wait for Annie."

"Annie?" Peter looked as if he had never heard the name before.

"Yes, Annie. Did ye think ye was to cook the supper yerself?"

"I didn't think nothin'," said Peter. "Me orders was to stop for the
lunch at five o'clock, an' I done it. If she wants to come along she'll
have to sit on the back seat. I ain't a goin' to change these baskets
again."

Annie appeared in the doorway in time to hear this ungracious speech;
she clambered up to the somewhat uncomfortable footman's seat in
silence, and they drove off back to back, as stiff as twin ramrods.

The cart rolled along over the smooth roads, past country clubs and
summer cottages, and the only sign either of the two gave of being
alive was an occasional vicious crack of the whip from Peter when
patient little Trixy showed signs of wishing to take a quieter pace. At
such times Annie would instinctively stretch out a deterring hand and
form her mouth as if to say, "Please, Pete, don't whip her; she's doin'
her best," and then suddenly remembering that formidable vow, would
straighten up again and stare ahead with flushed cheeks.

The beach was five miles away, and there is an element of ludicrousness
in the spectacle of two people in one small dog-cart riding five miles
without speaking. Annie's sense of humour was keen; it struggled hard
with her sense of wrong. She was never an Indian to cherish vengeance;
her anger could be fierce at the moment, but it rarely lasted. And Peter
was sorry for what he had said, she reminded herself; he had already
tried to make up. By the end of the second mile two dimples appeared in
her cheeks. At the third mile she shut her mouth tight to keep a laugh
from escaping. At the fourth mile she spoke.

"Say, Pete, why don't ye talk to me? Are ye mad?"

Peter had been gazing at Trixy's ears with an air of deep preoccupation,
and he came back to the present with a start of surprise, apparently
amazed at finding that he had a companion in the cart.

"Ma'am?" he said.

Annie glanced around at his uncompromising back.

"Why don't ye say somethin'?" she repeated more faintly.

"I ain't got nothin' to say."

Annie's dimples gave way to an angry flush. Never, never, never again
would she say a thing to him as long as she lived. The remainder of the
drive was passed in a tumultuous silence. Peter, with grim mouth, kept
his unseeing eyes on the road in front, and Annie, with burning cheeks,
stared behind at the cloud of dust.

When the cart arrived among the straggling cedar trees which bordered
the beach, they found drawn up beside the Carter horses, Mr. Harry's
hunter and a strange drag which betokened impromptu guests. Annie had
barely time to wonder if the plates would go around and if there would
be salad enough, when the cart was welcomed with joyful shouts by a
crowd of hungry picnickers. She caught a glimpse on the edge of the
group of Miss Ethel, debonair and smiling, in another new dress, with
Mr. Lane scowling on one side of her and Mr. Harry on the other.
Ordinarily, she would have taken a lively interest in such a situation,
and would have had an appreciative fellow-feeling for Miss Ethel; but
she saw it now with an unhappy sense that the blessings of this world in
the shape of dresses and men are unevenly distributed.

Annie usually accepted the pranks of the young ladies and gentlemen in
good part, no matter how much extra trouble they caused; but to-day as
she caught a plundering hand on one of the hampers, she called out
sharply:

"Master Bobby, you let that cake alone! Them olives are for supper."

A general laugh greeted this outburst, and she turned away and began
unpacking dishes with a bitter feeling of rebellion. Mrs. Carter bustled
up, and having driven off the marauders, briskly took command.

"Now, Peter, as soon as you have hitched Trixy, come back and help about
the supper. Annie will tell you what to do."

Annie cheered up slightly at this, and for the moment waived the letter
of her vow. As Peter reluctantly reappeared, she ordered: "Get a pile o'
drift wood and fix a place for the fire. Them are too big," she
commented, as he returned with an armful of sticks. "Get some little
pieces and be quick about it; you're too slow."

Peter looked mutinous, but the eyes of Mrs. Carter were upon him, and he
obeyed.

"Now, take those two pails and go to the farm-house for water," Annie
ordered.

When he returned with the two heavy pails, cross and splashed, she
fished out a bug or two with an air of dissatisfaction, and told him to
build the fire. Peter built the fire, and, at Annie's suggestion, held
the coffee-pot to keep it steady. He burnt his hands, and swore softly
under his breath, and Annie laughed. Mrs. Carter, having started
preparations, suddenly recalled her duties as hostess and hurried off
again, leaving Annie to superintend the remainder alone.

"Here, Peter," said Annie, "I want ye to open these cans o' sardines."

Peter looked after the retreating figure of Mrs. Carter. She was well
out of hearing; he took from his pocket a cigarette and leisurely
regarded it.

"I want these cans opened," Annie repeated more sharply.

Peter lighted his cigarette.

"I'll tell Mrs. Carter if ye don't."

Peter threw himself down on the grass, and blowing a ring of smoke,
looked dreamily off toward the ocean.

Mrs. Carter showed no signs of coming back, and Annie saw that her brief
dominion was over. She picked up the can-opener and jabbed it viciously
into the tin. It slipped and cut an ugly gash in her finger. She uttered
a little cry of pain, and turned pale at sight of the blood, and Peter
laughed. She turned her back to keep him from seeing the tears of anger
that filled her eyes, and for the third time she solemnly swore never,
never, _never_ to speak to him again.

The two served the supper with the same grim silence behind the scenes
that they exhibited before the guests. When it was over, instead of
eating with Joe and Peter, Annie commenced gathering up the dishes and
repacking them in the hampers ready for departure. The two men laughed
and joked between themselves, without taking any notice of her absence,
and Annie angrily told herself that she wouldn't speak to Joe any more,
either. Just as she had everything packed and was comforting herself
with the thought that she would soon be back home, and the miserable day
would be ended, Mrs. Carter reappeared.

"Your coffee was excellent, Annie," she said, pleasantly, "and you and
Peter served very nicely indeed. And now, instead of going home, I
should like to have you wait and make some lemonade to be served later
in the evening. It will be a beautiful moonlight night, and you and
Peter can stay and enjoy yourselves."

"Very well, ma'am," said Annie, dully.

Peter, at this news, lighted another cigarette and strolled off with
Joe, while Annie, who was growing apathetic under a culmination of
troubles, busied herself in making the lemonade, and then sat down by
her baskets to wait. She could see through the gathering dusk the merry
crowd upon the beach, as they scattered about gathering driftwood for a
fire. She heard every now and then, above the sound of the waves, a gay
shout of laughter, and, nearer at hand, the restless stamping of the
horses. She turned her back to the beach half pettishly, and sat
watching Mr. Harry's sorrel as he nervously tossed his head and switched
his tail, trying to keep off the sand flies. From that she fell to
wondering how Mr. Harry happened to be there, and what Mr. Lane thought
about it, and if there would be a fight. There probably would not, she
reflected, with some regret, for gentlemen did not always fight when
they should. (She had heard through the butcher's boy the story of
Peter's prowess, and the knowledge had given some slight comfort.) Her
reflections were suddenly interrupted by the sound of steps crashing
toward her through the underbrush, and she looked up with a fast-beating
heart. Her first thought was that it was Peter coming to make up, and
she resolutely stiffened herself to withstand him, but a second glance
showed her that it was Mr. Lane.

"Where's Joe?" he demanded.

"I don't know, Mr. Lane."

"Where's Peter, then?"

"I don't know. The two o' them hasn't been here since supper."

"Well, damn it! I've got to find some one." Mr. Lane was evidently
excited. "See here, Annie," he said, "you're a good girl. Just give a
message to Mrs. Carter from me, will you, please? Tell her a boy rode
out on a bicycle with a telegram calling me back to New York
immediately, and I had to ride back to the house without finding her in
order to catch the ten-o'clock train. Don't say anything to Miss Ethel,
and here's something to buy a new dress. Good-bye."

"Thank you, sir. Good-bye."

He hastily rebuckled his horse's bridle, led him into the lane out of
sight of the beach, and mounted and galloped off. Annie looked after
him with wide eyes; his bearing was not very jaunty; she wondered if Mr.
Harry had whipped him. It did not seem likely, for Mr. Lane was the
larger of the two; but for the matter of that, she reflected, so was the
grocer's man larger than Peter. She did not understand it, but she
slipped the bill into her pocket with a shrug of her shoulders. She
could afford to be philosophic over other people's troubles.

It was growing dark in among the trees and she was beginning to feel
very lonely. A big red moon was rising over the water, and a bright fire
was crackling on the beach. The sound of singing was mingled with the
beating of the surf. Annie wandered out from the shadow of the trees and
strolled up the beach away from the camp-fire and the singers. Presently
she dropped down in the shadow of a sand dune and sat with her chin in
her hands pensively watching the black silhouettes against the fire. By
and by she saw two figures strolling along the beach in her direction.
She recognized them as Miss Ethel and Mr. Harry, and she crouched down
behind the dune until they passed. She felt lonelier than ever as she
watched them disappear, and the first thing she knew, she had buried her
head in her arms and was crying to herself--but not very hard, for she
was mindful of the ride home, and she did not wish to make her eyes red.
Not for the world would she have let Peter know that she felt unhappy.

Suddenly into the midst of her misery came the sound of scrunching sand
and the smell of cigarette smoke. Then, without looking up, she felt
that some one was standing over her and that that some one was Peter.
She held her breath and waited like a little ostrich, with her head
burrowed into the sand.

Peter it was, and a mighty struggle was going on within his breast, but
love is stronger than pride, and his Irish heart conquered in the end.

He bent over and touched her shoulder lightly.

"Annie!" he whispered.

She held her breath and kept her face hidden.

He dropped on his knee in the sand beside her. "Annie, darlin', don't be
cryin'. Tell me what's the trouble." He forcibly transferred her head
from the sand bank to his shoulder, and her tears trickled down his
neck. "Is it yer finger that's hurtin' ye?"

She raised a tear-stained face with a quick smile quivering through at
this purely masculine suggestion.

"It's not me finger; it's me feelin's," she breathed into his ear. Peter
tightened his arms around her. "But they're not hurtin' any more," she
added with a little laugh.

"An' this time we'll be friends f'r always?"

She nodded.

"Gee!" he whispered. "I've been spendin' the week in hell thinkin' ye
didn't care nothin' for me."

"So uv I," said Annie.

As they sat watching the rippling path of moonlight on the water, from
far down the beach they could hear the voices singing, "It's the spring
time of life and the world is all before us." Annie laughed happily as
she listened.

"I was wishin' a while ago that I was Miss Ethel 'cause she has
everything she wants, but I don't wish it any more. She hasn't got you,
Petey."

"And I'm thinkin' she isn't wantin' me," said Peter, with his eyes on
the beach above them, where Miss Ethel and Mr. Harry were coming toward
them hand in hand. The two stopped suddenly as they caught sight of
Annie and Peter and hastily dropped each others' hands. Then Miss Ethel
ran forward with a conscious little laugh.

"Annie, you shall be the first to congratulate me--but it's a secret;
you mustn't tell a soul."

Annie looked back with shining eyes. "I'm engaged, too," she whispered.

"You dear!" said Miss Ethel, and she put her arm around her and kissed
her.

Peter and Mr. Harry stood a moment eyeing each other awkwardly, then
they reached out across the gulf that separated them and shook hands.



X

A PARABLE FOR HUSBANDS


Blue Gipsy's filly had broken two pairs of shafts, kicked a hole through
a dash-board, and endeavoured to take a fence carriage and all, in a
fixed determination not to become a harness-horse. It was evident that
she had chosen her career and meant to stick to it.

"Break her to the shafts if you have to half kill her," Mr. Harry had
said, but there were some things that Mr. Harry did not understand so
well as Peter.

"Where's the use in spoilin' a good jumper for the sake o' makin' a poor
drivin' horse?" Peter had asked the trainer, and he had added that the
master was talking through his hat.

Peter had already explained the matter to Mr. Harry, but Mr. Harry was
very much like the filly; when he had made up his mind he did not like
to change. Peter decided to talk it over once more, however, before he
risked another groom. The first groom had dislocated his shoulder, and
he refused to have any further intercourse with Blue Gypsy's filly.

Poor Peter felt himself growing old under the weight of his
responsibilities. Three years before he had been a care-free groom at
Willowbrook; now, since Miss Ethel had married Mr. Harry, he was
coachman at Jasper Place, with seven horses and three men under him.
Occasionally he gazed rather wistfully across the meadow to where the
Willowbrook stables showed a red blur through the gray-green trees. He
had served there eleven years as stable-boy and groom, and though he had
more than once tasted the end of a strap under Joe's vigorous dominion,
it had been a happily irresponsible life. Not that he wished the old
time back, for that would mean that there would be no Annie waiting
supper for him at night in the coachman's cottage, but he did wish
sometimes that Mr. Harry had a little more common sense about managing
horses. Blue Gypsy's filly trotting peaceably between shafts! It was in
her blood to jump, and jump she would; you might as well train a bull
pup to grow up a Japanese poodle and sleep on a satin cushion.

Peter, pondering the matter, strolled over to the kitchen and inquired
of Ellen where Mr. Harry was. Mr. Harry was in the library, she said,
and Peter could go right through.

The carpet was soft, and he made no noise. He did not mean to listen,
but he had almost reached the library door before he realized and then
he stood still, partly because he was dazed, and partly because he was
interested.

He did not know what had gone before, but the first thing he heard was
Miss Ethel's voice, and though he could not see her, he knew from the
tone what she looked like, with her head thrown back and her chin up and
her eyes flashing.

"I am the best judge of my own actions," she said, "and I shall receive
whom I please. You always put the wrong interpretation on everything I
do, and I am tired of your interfering. If you would go away and leave
me alone it would be best for us both--I feel sometimes as though I
never wanted to see you again."

Then a long silence, and finally the cold, repressed tones of her
husband asked: "Do you mean that?"

She did not answer, except by a long indrawn sob of anger. Peter had
heard that sound before, when she was a child, and he knew how it ought
to be dealt with; but Mr. Harry did not; he was far too polite.

After another silence he said quietly: "If I go, I go to stay--a long
time."

"Stay forever, if you like."

Peter turned and tiptoed out, feeling unhappy and ashamed, as he had
felt that other time when he had overheard. He went back to the stables,
and sitting down with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands,
he pondered the situation. If he were Mr. Harry for just ten minutes, he
told himself fiercely, he would soon settle things; but Mr. Harry did
not understand. When it came to managing horses he was too rough, as if
they had no sense; and when it came to managing women, he was too easy,
as if they were all sense. Peter sighed miserably. His heart ached for
them both: for Miss Ethel, because he knew that she did not mean what
she said, and would later be sorry; for Mr. Harry, because he knew that
he did mean what he said--terribly and earnestly. Neither understood the
other, and it was all such a muddle when just a little common sense
would have made everything happy. Then he shrugged his shoulders and
told himself that it was none of his business; that he guessed they
could make up their quarrels without help from him. And he fell to
scolding the stable-boy for mixing up the harness.

In about half an hour, Oscar, the valet, came running out to the stables
looking pleased and excited, with an order to get the runabout ready
immediately to go to the station. Oscar was evidently bursting with
news, but Peter pretended not to be interested, and kept on with his
work without looking up.

"The master's going in to New York and I follow to-night with his
things, and to-morrow we sail for England! Maybe we'll go from there on
a hunting trip to India--I'm to pack the guns. There's been trouble," he
added significantly. "Mrs. Jasper's in her room with the door banged
shut, and the master is pretty quiet and white-like about the gills."

"Shut up an' mind yer own business," Peter snapped, and he led out the
horses and began putting on the harness with hands that trembled.

As he drew up at the stepping-stone, Mr. Harry jumped in. "Well,
Peter," he said, in a voice which was meant to be cheerful, but was a
very poor imitation, "we must drive fast if we're to make the
four-thirty train."

"Yes, sir," said Peter, briskly clicking to the horses, and for once he
thanked his stars that the station was four miles away. A great resolve
had been growing in his mind, and it required some time and a good deal
of courage to carry it out. He glanced sideways at the grim, pale face
beside him, and cleared his throat uneasily.

"Beggin' yer pardon," he began, "I was at the library door to ask about
the filly, an' without meanin' to, I heard why you was goin' away."

A quick flush spread over Mr. Harry's face, and he glanced angrily at
his coachman.

"The devil!" he muttered.

"Yes, sir," said Peter. "I suppose ye'll be dischargin' me, Mr. Harry,
for speakin', but I feel it's me dooty, and I can't keep quiet. Beggin'
yer pardon, sir, I've knowed Miss Ethel longer than you have. I was
servin' at Willowbrook all the time that ye was in boardin' school an'
college. Her hair was hangin' down her back an' she was drivin' a pony
cart when I first come. I watched her grow and I know her ways--there
was times, sir, when she was most uncommon troublesome. She's the kind
of a woman as needs managin', and if ye'll excuse me for sayin' so, it
takes a man to do it. Ye're too quiet an' gentleman-like, Mr. Harry.
Though I guess she likes to have ye act like a gentleman, when ye can't
do both she'd rather have ye act like a man. If I was her husband----"

"You forget yourself, Peter!"

"Yes, sir. Beg yer pardon, sir, but as I was sayin', if I was her
husband, I'd let her see who was master pretty quick, an' she'd like me
the better. And if she ever told me she would be glad for me to go away
an' never come back, I'd look at her black like with me arms folded,
and I'd say: 'Ye would, would ye? In that case I'll stay right here an'
niver go away.' An' then she'd be so mad she'd put her head down on the
back o' the chair an' cry, deep like, the way she always did when she
couldn't have what she wanted, an' I'd wait with a frown on me brow, an'
when she got through she'd be all over it, an' would ask me pardon
sorrowful like; an' I'd wait a while an' let it soak in, an' then I'd
forgive her."

Mr. Harry stared at Peter, too amazed to speak.

"Yes, sir," Peter resumed, "I've watched Miss Ethel grow up, and I knows
her like her own mother, as ye might say. I've drove her to and from the
town for thirteen years, and I've rode after her many miles on
horseback, an' when she felt like it she would talk to me as chatty as
if I weren't a groom. She was always that way with the servants; she
took an interest in our troubles, an' we all liked her spite o' the
fact that she was a bit over-rulin'."

Mr. Harry knit his brows and stared ahead without speaking, and Peter
glanced at him uneasily and hesitated.

"There's another thing I'd like to tell ye, sir, though I'm not sure how
ye'll take it."

"Don't hesitate on my account," murmured Mr. Harry, ironically. "Say
anything you please, Peter."

"Well, sir, I guess ye may have forgotten, but I was the groom ye took
with ye that time before ye was married when ye an' Miss Ethel went to
see the old wreck."

Mr. Harry looked at Peter with a quick, haughty stare; but Peter was
examining the end of his whip and did not see.

"An' ye left me an' the cart, sir, under the bank, if ye'll remember,
an' ye didn't walk far enough away, an' ye spoke pretty loud, and I
couldn't help hearin' ye."

"Damn your impertinence!" said Mr. Harry.

"Yes, sir," said Peter. "I never told no one, not even me wife, but I
understood after that how things was goin'. An' when ye went away
travellin' so sudden, I s'picioned ye wasn't feelin' very merry over the
trip; an' I watched Miss Ethel, and I was sure she wasn't feelin' merry,
for all she tried mighty hard to make people think she was. When they
was lookin', sir, she laughed an' flirted most outrageous with them
young men as used to be visitin' at Willowbrook, but I knew, sir, that
she didn't care a snap of her finger for any o' them, for in between
times she used to take long rides on the beach, with me followin' at a
distance--at a very respectful distance; she wasn't noticin' my troubles
then, she had too many of her own. When there weren't no one on the
beach she'd leave me the horses an' walk off by herself, an' sit on a
sand dune, an' put her chin in her hand an' stare at the water till the
horses was that crazy with the sand flies I could scarcely hold 'em. An'
sometimes she'd put her head down an' cry soft like, fit to break a
man's heart, and I'd walk the horses off, with me hands just
itchin'--beggin' yer pardon, sir, to get a holt o' you, for I knew that
ye was the cause."

"You know a great deal too much," said Mr. Harry, dryly.

"A groom learns considerable without meanin' to, and it's lucky his
masters is if he knows how to keep his mouth shut. As I was sayin', Mr.
Harry, I knew all the time she was longin' for ye, but was too proud to
let ye know. If ye'll allow the impertinence, sir, ye made a mistake in
the way ye took her at her word. She loved ye too much not to be willin'
to forgive ye for everything; and if ye'd only understood her an'
handled her right, she wouldn't 'a' throwed ye over."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, if ye'll excuse me speakin' allegorical like, as she's the kind
of a woman as needs a sharp bit and a steady hand on the bridle, an'
when she bolts a touch o' the lash--not too much, for she wouldn't stand
it, but enough to let her see who's master. I've known some women an'
many horses, sir, an' I've noticed as the blooded ones is alike in both.
If ye 'll excuse me mentionin' it, Miss Ethel was badly broke, sir. She
was given the rein when she needed the whip, but for all that, she's a
thoroughbred, sir, an' that's the main thing."

Peter imperceptibly slowed his horses.

"If ye don't mind, Mr. Harry, I'd like to tell ye a little story. It
happened six or seven years ago when ye was away at college, and if Miss
Ethel is a bit unreasonable now, she was more unreasonable then. It was
when the old master first bought Blue Gypsy--as was a devil if there
ever was one. One afternoon Miss Ethel takes it into her head she wants
to try the new mare, so she orders her out, with me to follow. What does
she do but make straight for the beach, sir, an' gallop along on the
hard sand close to the water-line. It was an awful windy day late in
October, with the clouds hangin' low an' the waves dashin' high, and
everything sort o' empty an' lonesome. Blue Gypsy wasn't used to the
water, an' she was so scared she was 'most crazy, rearin' an' plungin'
till ye would a swore she had a dozen legs--not much of a horse for a
lady, but Miss Ethel could ride all right. She kept Blue Gypsy's head to
the wind an' galloped four or five miles up the beach, with me poundin'
along behind, hangin' on to me hat for dear life.

"'Twas ebb-tide, but time for the flood, and I was beginning to think
we'd better go back, unless we wanted to plough through the loose
shingle high up, which is mighty hard on a horse, sir. But when we come
to the Neck, Miss Ethel rode straight on; I didn't like the looks of it
much, but I didn't say nothin' for the Neck's never under water an'
there weren't no danger. But what does she do when we comes to the end
o' the Neck, but turn to ride across the inlet to the mainland, which
ye can do easy enough at low tide, but never at high. The sand was
already gettin' oozy, an' with the wind blowin' off the sea the tide was
risin' fast. Ye know what it would 'a' meant, sir, if she'd gone out an'
got caught. An' what with that unknown devil of a Blue Gypsy she was
ridin', there was no tellin' when it would happen.

"'Miss Ethel,' I calls, sort o' commandin' like, for I was too excited
for politeness, 'ye can't go across.'

"She turns around an' stares at me haughty, an' goes on.

"I gallops up an' says: 'The tide's a risin', Miss Ethel, an' the inlet
isn't safe.'

"She looks me over cool an' says: 'It is perfectly safe. I am goin' to
ride across; if you are afraid, Peter, you may go home.'

"With that she whips up an' starts off. I was after her in a minute,
gallopin' up beside her, an' before she knew what I was doin' I reaches
out me hand an' grabs hold o' the bridle an' turns Blue Gypsy's head. I
didn't like to do it, for it seemed awful familiar, but with people as
contrary as they is, sir, ye've got to be familiar sometimes, if ye're
goin' to do any good in the world.

"Well, Mr. Harry, as ye can believe, she didn't like it, an' she calls
out sharp and imperative for me to let go. But I hangs on an' begins to
gallop, an' with that she raises her crop an' cuts me over the hand as
hard as she can. It hurt considerable, but I held on an' didn't say
nothin', an' she raised her arm to strike again. But just at that moment
a wave broke almost at the horses' feet, an' Blue Gypsy reared, an' Miss
Ethel, who wasn't expectin' it, almost lost her balance an' the crop
dropped on the sand.

"'Peter,' she says, 'go back an' get me that crop.'

"But by that time I'd got the bit in me teeth, sir, an' I just
laughs--ugly like--an' keeps holt o' the bridle an' gallops on. Well,
sir, then she was 'most crazy, an' she tries to shake off me arm with
her fist, but she might as well have tried to shake down a tree. I looks
at her, an' smiles to meself impertinent, an' keeps on. An' she looks
all around, desperate like, hopin' to see someone within call, but the
beach was empty, an' there wasn't nothin' she could do, I bein' so much
stronger."

"You brute!" said Mr. Harry.

"I was savin' her life," said Peter. "An' when she saw she couldn't do
nothin' she kind o' sobbed down low to herself an' said, soft like:
'_I'll discharge you, Peter, when we get home._'

"I touches me hat an' says as polite as ye please: 'Very well, miss, but
we ain't home yet, miss, and I'm boss for the present.'

"With that a great big wave comes swash up against the horses' legs, an'
lucky it is that I had a holt o' the bridle, for Blue Gypsy would 'a'
thrown her sure. An' after I got her back on her four legs--Blue Gypsy,
sir--an' we was goin' on again, Miss Ethel throws a look over her
shoulder at the inlet which was all under water, an' then she looks down
at me hand that had a great big red welt across it, an' she said so low
I could scarce hear her over the waves:

"'You can take your hand away, Peter. I'll ride straight home.'

"I knew she meant it, but me hand was burnin' like fire, and I'd got me
temper up, so I looks at her doubtin' like, as if I couldn't believe
her, an' she turns red an' says, 'Can't ye trust me, Peter?' an' with
that I touches me hat an' falls behind.

"An' when we got back, sir, and I got off at the porter-ker-cher to help
her dismount, what does she do but take me big red hand in both o' hers,
an' she looks at the scar, an' then she looks in me eyes, an' she says,
like as ye hit straight from the shoulder, sir, 'Peter,' she says, 'I'm
sorry I struck you. Will ye forgive me?' she says.

"An' I touches me hat an' says: 'Certainly, miss. Don't mention it,
miss,' an' we was friends after that.

"An' that's the reason, Mr. Harry, I hate to see ye go off an'--beggin'
yer pardon--make a fool o' yerself. For she loves ye true, sir, like as
Annie loves me, an' I know, sir, if she took it hard before ye was
married, it ud near kill her now. Ye mustn't mind what she says when
she's angry, for she just thinks o' the worst things she can to hurt yer
feelin's, but Lord! sir, she don't mean it no more'n a rabbit, an' if
ye'll give her half a chance and don't act like an iceberg she'll want
to make up. Me an' Annie, Mr. Harry, we pulls together lovely. I'm the
boss in some things, an' she's the boss in others; I lets her think she
can manage me, an' she lets me think I can manage her--and I can, sir.
Sometimes we have little quarrels, but it's mostly for the joy o' makin'
up, an' we're that happy, sir, that we wants to see everyone else
happy."

The horses had slowed to a walk, but Mr. Harry did not notice it. A
smile was beginning to struggle with the hard lines about his mouth.

"Well, Peter," he said, "you've preached quite a sermon. What would you
advise?"

"That ye go back an' take a firm hold o' the bridle, sir, an' if she
uses the whip, just hold on hard an' don't let on that it hurts."

Mr. Harry looked at Peter and the smile spread to his eyes. "And then
when she drops it," he asked, "just laugh and ride on?"

Peter coughed a deprecatory cough.

"Beggin' yer pardon, Mr. Harry, I think if I was in your place I'd pick
it up an' keep it meself. It might come in handy in case of
emergencies."

Mr. Harry threw back his head in a quick, boyish laugh, and reaching
over he took the lines and turned the horses' heads.

"Peter," he said, "you may be elemental, but I half suspect you're
right."

       *       *       *       *       *

_"The Books You Like to Read at the Price You Like to Pay"_


_There Are Two Sides to Everything_----

--including the wrapper which covers every Grosset & Dunlap book. When
you feel in the mood for a good romance, refer to the carefully selected
list of modern fiction comprising most of the successes by prominent
writers of the day which is printed on the back of every Grosset &
Dunlap book wrapper.

You will find more than five hundred titles to choose from--books for
every mood and every taste and every pocket-book.

_Don't forget the other side, but in case the wrapper is lost, write to
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_There is a Grosset & Dunlap Book for every mood and for every taste_

       *       *       *       *       *

B. M. BOWER'S NOVELS

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset and Dunlap's list.


     CHIP OF THE FLYING U. Wherein the love affairs of Chip and Della
     Whitman are charmingly and humorously told.

     THE HAPPY FAMILY. A lively and amusing story, dealing with the
     adventures of eighteen jovial, big hearted Montana cowboys.

     HER PRAIRIE KNIGHT. Describing a gay party of Easterners who
     exchange a cottage at Newport for a Montana ranch-house.

     THE RANGE DWELLERS. Spirited action, a range feud between two
     families, and a Romeo and Juliet courtship make this a bright,
     jolly story.

     THE LURE OF THE DIM TRAILS. A vivid portrayal of the experience
     of an Eastern author among the cowboys.

     THE LONESOME TRAIL. A little branch of sage brush and the
     recollection of a pair of large brown eyes upset "Weary" Davidson's
     plans.

     THE LONG SHADOW. A vigorous Western story, sparkling with the
     free outdoor life of a mountain ranch. It is a fine love story.

     GOOD INDIAN. A stirring romance of life on an Idaho ranch.

     FLYING U RANCH. Another delightful story about Chip and his pals.

     THE FLYING U'S LAST STAND. An amusing account of Chip and the
     other boys opposing a party of school teachers.

     THE UPHILL CLIMB. A story of a mountain ranch and of a man's hard
     fight on the uphill road to manliness.

     THE PHANTOM HERD. The title of a moving-picture staged in New
     Mexico by the "Flying U" boys.

     THE HERITAGE OF THE SIOUX. The "Flying U" boys stage a fake bank
     robbery for film purposes which precedes a real one for lust of
     gold.

     THE GRINGOS. A story of love and adventure on a ranch in
     California.

     STARR OF THE DESERT. A New Mexico ranch story of mystery and
     adventure.

     THE LOOKOUT MAN. A Northern California story full of action,
     excitement and love.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK

       *       *       *       *       *

ZANE GREY'S NOVELS

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list.

THE MAN OF THE FOREST
THE DESERT OF WHEAT
THE U. P. TRAIL
WILDFIRE
THE BORDER LEGION
THE RAINBOW TRAIL
THE HERITAGE OF THE DESERT
RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE
THE LIGHT OF WESTERN STARS
THE LAST OF THE PLAINSMEN
THE LONE STAR RANGER
DESERT GOLD
BETTY ZANE

       *       *       *       *       *

LAST OF THE GREAT SCOUTS

The life story of "Buffalo Bill" by his sister Helen Cody Wetmore, with
Foreword and conclusion by Zane Grey.


ZANE GREY'S BOOKS FOR BOYS

KEN WARD IN THE JUNGLE
THE YOUNG LION HUNTER
THE YOUNG FORESTER
THE YOUNG PITCHER
THE SHORT STOP
THE RED-HEADED OUTFIELD AND OTHER BASEBALL STORIES

GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK

       *       *       *       *       *

JAMES OLIVER CURWOOD'S

STORIES OF ADVENTURE

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list.


THE RIVER'S END

A story of the Royal Mounted Police.


THE GOLDEN SNARE

Thrilling adventures in the Far Northland.


NOMADS OF THE NORTH

The story of a bear-cub and a dog.


KAZAN

The tale of a "quarter-strain wolf and three-quarters husky" torn
between the call of the human and his wild mate.


BAREE, SON OF KAZAN

The story of the son of the blind Grey Wolf and the gallant part he
played in the lives of a man and a woman.


THE COURAGE OF CAPTAIN PLUM

The story of the King of Beaver Island, a Mormon colony, and his battle
with Captain Plum.


THE DANGER TRAIL

A tale of love, Indian vengeance, and a mystery of the North.


THE HUNTED WOMAN

A tale of a great fight in the "valley of gold" for a woman.


THE FLOWER OF THE NORTH

The story of Fort o' God, where the wild flavor of the wilderness is
blended with the courtly atmosphere of France.


THE GRIZZLY KING

The story of Thor, the big grizzly.


ISOBEL

A love story of the Far North.


THE WOLF HUNTERS

A thrilling tale of adventure in the Canadian wilderness.


THE GOLD HUNTERS

The story of adventure in the Hudson Bay wilds.


THE COURAGE OF MARGE O'DOONE

Filled with exciting incidents in the land of strong men and women.


BACK TO GOD'S COUNTRY

A thrilling story of the Far North. The great Photoplay was made from
this book.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK

       *       *       *       *       *

EDGAR RICE BURROUGH'S NOVELS

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list.


TARZAN THE UNTAMED

Tells of Tarzan's return to the life of the ape-man in his search for
vengeance on those who took from him his wife and home.


JUNGLE TALES OF TARZAN

Records the many wonderful exploits by which Tarzan proves his right to
ape kingship.


A PRINCESS OF MARS

Forty-three million miles from the earth--a succession of the weirdest
and most astounding adventures in fiction. John Carter, American, finds
himself on the planet Mars, battling for a beautiful woman, with the
Green Men of Mars, terrible creatures fifteen feet high, mounted on
horses like dragons.


THE GODS OF MARS

Continuing John Carter's adventures on the Planet Mars, in which he does
battle against the ferocious "plant men," creatures whose mighty tails
swished their victims to instant death, and defies Issus, the terrible
Goddess of Death, whom all Mars worships and reveres.


THE WARLORD OF MARS

Old acquaintances, made in the two other stories, reappear, Tars Tarkas,
Tardos Mors and others. There is a happy ending to the story in the
union of the Warlord, the title conferred upon John Carter, with Dejah
Thoris.


THUVIA, MAID OF MARS

The fourth volume of the series. The story centers around the adventures
of Carthoris, the son of John Carter and Thuvia, daughter of a Martian
Emperor.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK

       *       *       *       *       *

MYRTLE REED'S NOVELS

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset and Dunlap's list.


LAVENDER AND OLD LACE.

A charming story of a quaint corner of New England. The story centers
round the coming of love to the young people on the staff of a
newspaper--and is one of the sweetest and quaintest of old-fashioned
love stories.


FLOWER OF THE DUSK.

A crippled daughter struggles to keep up the deception of riches for the
comfort of a blind father. Through the aid of an heiress and her surgeon
lover both father and daughter are cured.


MASTER OF THE VINEYARD.

A pathetic love story of a young girl, Rosemary. The teacher of the
country school, who is also master of the vineyard, comes to know her
through her desire for books. She is happy in his love till another
woman comes into his life. But happiness comes to Rosemary at last.


OLD ROSE AND SILVER.

A love story,--sentimental and humorous,--with the plot subordinate to
the character delineation of its quaint people and to the exquisite
descriptions of picturesque spots.


A WEAVER OF DREAMS.

This story tells of the love-affairs of three young people, with an
old-fashioned romance in the background.


A SPINNER IN THE SUN.

An old-fashioned love story of a veiled lady who lives in solitude.
There is a mystery that throws over it the glamour of romance.


THE MASTER'S VIOLIN.

A love story in a musical atmosphere. An old German virtuoso consents to
take for his pupil a youth who proves to have an aptitude for technique,
but not the soul of an artist. But a girl comes into his life, and
through his passionate love for her his soul awakes.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK

       *       *       *       *       *

NOVELS OF FRONTIER LIFE BY

WILLIAM MACLEOD RAINE

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list.


MAVERICKS

A tale of the western frontier, where the "rustler" abounds. One of the
sweetest love stories ever told.


A TEXAS RANGER

How a member of the border police saved the life of an innocent man,
followed fugitive to Wyoming, and then passed through deadly peril to
ultimate happiness.


WYOMING

In this vivid story the author brings out the turbid life of the
frontier with all its engaging dash and vigor.


RIDGWAY OF MONTANA

The scene is laid in the mining centers of Montana, where politics and
mining industries are the religion of the country.


BUCKY O'CONNOR

Every chapter teems with wholesome, stirring adventures, replete with
the dashing spirit of the border.


CROOKED TRAILS AND STRAIGHT

A story of Arizona; of swift-riding men and daring outlaws; of a bitter
feud between cattle-men and sheep-herders.


BRAND BLOTTERS

A story of the turbid life of the frontier with a charming love interest
running through its pages.


STEVE YEAGER

A story brimful of excitement, with enough gun-play and adventures to
suit anyone.


A DAUGHTER OF THE DONS

A Western story of romance and adventure, comprising a vivacious and
stirring tale.


THE HIGHGRADER

A breezy, pleasant and amusing love story of Western mining life.


THE PIRATE OF PANAMA

A tale of old-time pirates and of modern love, hate and adventure.


THE YUKON TRAIL

A crisply entertaining love story in the land where might makes right.


THE VISION SPLENDID

In which two cousins are contestants for the same prizes; political
honors and the hand of a girl.


THE SHERIFF'S SON

The hero finally conquers both himself and his enemies and wins the love
of a wonderful girl.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK

       *       *       *       *       *

ELEANOR H. PORTER'S NOVELS

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list.


JUST DAVID

The tale of a loveable boy and the place he comes to fill in the hearts
of the gruff farmer folk to whose care he is left.


THE ROAD TO UNDERSTANDING

A compelling romance of love and marriage.


OH, MONEY! MONEY!

Stanley Fulton, a wealthy bachelor, to test the dispositions of his
relatives, sends them each a check for $100,000, and then as plain John
Smith comes among them to watch the result of his experiment.


SIX STAR RANCH

A wholesome story of a club of six girls and their summer on Six Star
Ranch.


DAWN

The story of a blind boy whose courage leads him through the gulf of
despair into a final victory gained by dedicating his life to the
service of blind soldiers.


ACROSS THE YEARS

Short stories of our own kind and of our own people. Contains some of
the best writing Mrs. Porter has done.


THE TANGLED THREADS

In these stories we find the concentrated charm and tenderness of all
her other books.


THE TIE THAT BINDS

Intensely human stories told with Mrs. Porter's wonderful talent for
warm and vivid character drawing.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK

       *       *       *       *       *

THE NOVELS OF WINSTON CHURCHILL


THE INSIDE OF THE CUP. Illustrated by Howard Giles.

The Reverend John Hodder is called to a fashionable church in a
middle-western city. He knows little of modern problems and in his
theology is as orthodox as the rich men who control his church could
desire. But the facts of modern life are thrust upon him; an awakening
follows and in the end he works out a solution.


A FAR COUNTRY. Illustrated by Herman Pfeifer.

This novel is concerned with big problems of the day. As _The Inside of
the Cup_ gets down to the essentials in its discussion of religion, so
_A Far Country_ deals in a story that is intense and dramatic, with
other vital issues confronting the twentieth century.


A MODERN CHRONICLE. Illustrated by J. H. Gardner Soper.

This, Mr. Churchill's first great presentation of the Eternal Feminine,
is throughout a profound study of a fascinating young American woman. It
is frankly a modern love story.


MR. CREWE'S CAREER. Illus. by A. I. Keller and Kinneys.

A new England state is under the political domination of a railway and
Mr. Crewe, a millionaire, seizes a moment when the cause of the people
is being espoused by an ardent young attorney, to further his own
interest in a political way. The daughter of the railway president plays
no small part in the situation.


THE CROSSING. Illustrated by S. Adamson and L. Bay.

Describing the battle of Fort Moultrie, the blazing of the Kentucky
wilderness, the expedition of Clark and his handful of followers in
Illinois, the beginning of civilization along the Ohio and Mississippi,
and the treasonable schemes against Washington.


CONISTON. Illustrated by Florence Scovel Shinn.

A deft blending of love and politics. A New Englander is the hero, a
crude man who rose to political prominence by his own powers, and then
surrendered all for the love of a woman.


THE CELEBRITY. An episode.

An inimitable bit of comedy describing an interchange of personalities
between a celebrated author and a bicycle salesman. It is the purest,
keenest fun--and is American to the core.


THE CRISIS. Illustrated with scenes from the Photo-Play.

A book that presents the great crisis in our national life with splendid
power and with a sympathy, a sincerity, and a patriotism that are
inspiring.


RICHARD CARVEL. Illustrated by Malcolm Frazer.

An historical novel which gives a real and vivid picture of Colonial
times, and is good, clean, spirited reading in all its phases and
interesting throughout.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK

       *       *       *       *       *

"STORM COUNTRY" BOOKS BY

GRACE MILLER WHITE

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list.


JUDY OF ROGUES' HARBOR

Judy's untutored ideas of God, her love of wild things, her faith in
life are quite as inspiring as those of Tess. Her faith and sincerity
catch at your heart strings. This book has all of the mystery and tense
action of the other Storm Country books.


TESS OF THE STORM COUNTRY

It was as Tess, beautiful, wild, impetuous, that Mary Pickford made her
reputation as a motion picture actress. How love acts upon a temperament
such as hers--a temperament that makes a woman an angel or an outcast,
according to the character of the man she loves--is the theme of the
story.


THE SECRET OF THE STORM COUNTRY

The sequel to "Tess of the Storm Country," with the same wild
background, with its half-gypsy life of the squatters--tempestuous,
passionate, brooding. Tess learns the "secret" of her birth and finds
happiness and love through her boundless faith in life.


FROM THE VALLEY OF THE MISSING

A haunting story with its scene laid near the country familiar to
readers of "Tess of the Storm Country."


ROSE O' PARADISE

"Jinny" Singleton, wild, lovely, lonely, but with a passionate yearning
for music, grows up in the house of Lafe Grandoken, a crippled cobbler
of the Storm Country. Her romance is full of power and glory and
tenderness.


_Ask for Complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction_

GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK

       *       *       *       *       *

STORIES OF RARE CHARM BY

GENE STRATTON-PORTER

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset and Dunlap's list

[Illustration]


LADDIE.

Illustrated by Herman Pfeifer.

This is a bright, cheery tale with the scenes laid in Indiana. The story
is told by Little Sister, the youngest member of a large family, but it
is concerned not so much with childish doings as with the love affairs
of older members of the family. Chief among them is that of Laddie, the
older brother whom Little Sister adores, and the Princess, an English
girl who has come to live in the neighborhood and about whose family
there hangs a mystery. There is a wedding midway in the book and a
double wedding at the close.


THE HARVESTER. Illustrated by W. L. Jacobs.

"The Harvester," David Langston, is a man of the woods and fields, who
draws his living from the prodigal hand of Mother Nature herself. If the
book had nothing in it but the splendid figure of this man it would be
notable. But when the Girl comes to his "Medicine Woods," and the
Harvester's whole being realizes that this is the highest point of life
which has come to him--there begins a romance of the rarest idyllic
quality.


FRECKLES. Decorations by E. Stetson Crawford.

Freckles is a nameless waif when the tale opens, but the way in which he
takes hold of life; the nature friendships he forms in the great
Limberlost Swamp; the manner in which everyone who meets him succumbs to
the charm of his engaging personality; and his love-story with "The
Angel" are full of real sentiment.


A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST.

Illustrated by Wladyslaw T. Brenda.

The story of a girl of the Michigan woods; a buoyant, lovable type of
the self-reliant American. Her philosophy is one of love and kindness
towards all things; her hope is never dimmed. And by the sheer beauty of
her soul, and the purity of her vision, she wins from barren and
unpromising surroundings those rewards of high courage.


AT THE FOOT OF THE RAINBOW.

Illustrations in colors by Oliver Kemp.

The scene of this charming love story is laid in Central Indiana. The
story is one of devoted friendship, and tender self-sacrificing love.
The novel is brimful of the most beautiful word painting of nature, and
its pathos and tender sentiment will endear it to all.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK

       *       *       *       *       *

THE NOVELS OF IRVING BACHELLER

Full of the real atmosphere of American home life.


THE HAND-MADE GENTLEMAN. With a double-page frontispiece.

The son of a wash-woman begins re-making himself socially and imparts
his system to his numerous friends. A story of rural New York with an
appreciation of American types only possible from the pen of a humor
loving American.


DARREL OF THE BLESSED ISLES. With illustrations by Arthur I. Keller.

A tale of the North Country. In Darrel, the clock tinker, wit,
philosopher and man of mystery, is portrayed a force held in fetters and
covered with obscurity, yet strong to make its way, and widely felt.


D'RI AND I: A Tale of Daring Deeds in the Second War with the British.
Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

"D'ri" was a mighty hunter, quaint, rugged, wise, truthful. He fights
magnificently on the Lawrence, and is a striking figure in this
enthusiastic romance of early America.


EBEN HOLDEN: A Tale of the North Country.

A story of the hardy wood-choppers of Vermont, who founded their homes
in the Adirondack wilderness. "Eben," the hero, is a bachelor with an
imagination that is a very wilderness of oddities.


SILAS STRONG: Emperor of the Woods.

A simple account of one summer life, as it was lived in a part of the
Adirondacks. Silas Strong is a woodland philosopher, and his camp is the
scene of an impressive little love story.


VERGILIUS: A Tale of the Coming of Christ.

A thrilling and beautiful story of two young Roman Patricians whose
great and perilous love in the reign of Augustus leads them through the
momentous, exciting events that marked the year just preceding the birth
of Christ.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, 526 WEST 26TH ST., NEW YORK





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