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Title: The Enchanted Barn
Author: Hill, Grace Livingston, 1865-1947
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Enchanted Barn" ***

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[Frontispiece: SHE WAS ALMOST BREATHLESS WHEN SHE REACHED THE BOTTOM OF
THE HILL AND STOOD IN FRONT OF THE GREAT BARN.  _Page 20_]



The Enchanted Barn


By

Grace Livingston Hill Lutz


Author of "Marcia Schuyler," "Phoebe Deane," "The Obsession of Victoria
Gracen," etc.



_With Frontispiece by_

EDMUND FREDERICK



Philadelphia & London

J. B. Lippincott Company

1918



COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY THE GOLDEN RULE COMPANY

COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY



PUBLISHED APRIL, 1918



PRINTED BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY

AT THE WASHINGTON SQUARE PRESS

PHILADELPHIA, U.S.A.



THE ENCHANTED BARN



CHAPTER I

Shirley Hollister pushed back the hair from her hot forehead, pressed
her hands wearily over tired eyes, then dropped her fingers again to
the typewriter keys, and flew on with the letter she was writing.

There was no one else in the inner office where she sat.  Mr. Barnard,
the senior member of the firm, whose stenographer she was, had stepped
into the outer office for a moment with a telegram which he had just
received.  His absence gave Shirley a moment's respite from that
feeling that she must keep strained up to meet his gaze and not let
trouble show in her eyes, though a great lump was choking in her throat
and the tears stung her hot eyelids and insisted on blurring her vision
now and then.  But it was only for an instant that she gave way.  Her
fingers flew on with their work, for this was an important letter, and
Mr. Barnard wanted it to go in the next mail.

As she wrote, a vision of her mother's white face appeared to her
between the lines, the mother weak and white, with tears on her cheeks
and that despairing look in her eyes.  Mother hadn't been able to get
up for a week.  It seemed as if the cares of life were getting almost
too much for her, and the warm spring days made the little brick house
in the narrow street a stifling place to stay.  There was only one
small window in mother's room, opening against a brick wall, for they
had had to rent the front room with its two windows.

But, poor as it was, the little brick house had been home; and now they
were not to have that long.  Notice had been served that they must
vacate in four weeks; for the house, in fact, the whole row of houses
in which it was situated, had been sold, and was to be pulled down to
make way for a big apartment-house that was to be put up.

Where they were going and what they were going to do now was the great
problem that throbbed on Shirley's weary brain night and day, that kept
her from sleeping and eating, that choked in her throat when she tried
to speak to Mr. Barnard, that stared from her feverish eyes as she
looked at the sunshine on the street or tried to work in the busy
monotony of the office.

They had been in the little house nearly a year, ever since the father
died.  It had taken all they could scrape together to pay the funeral
expenses, and now with her salary, and the roomer's rent, and what
George got as cash-boy in a department store they were just barely able
to get along.  There was not a cent over for sickness or trouble, and
nothing to move with, even if they had anywhere to move, or any time to
hunt for a place.  Shirley knew from her experience in hunting for the
present house that it was going to be next to impossible for them to
find any habitable place for as little rent as they were now paying,
and how _could_ they pay more?  She was only a beginner, and her salary
was small.  There were three others in the family, not yet
wage-earners.  The problem was tremendous.  Could it be that Carol,
only fourteen years old, must stop school and go to work somewhere to
earn a pittance also?  Carol was slender and pale, and needed fresh air
and nourishing food.  Carol was too young to bear burdens yet; besides,
who would be housekeeper and take care of mother if Carol had to go to
work?  It was different with George; he was a boy, strong and sturdy;
he had his school in the department store, and was getting on well with
his studies.  George would be all right.  He belonged to a baseball
team, too, and got plenty of chances for exercise; but Carol was frail,
there was no denying it.  Harley was a boisterous nine-year-old, always
on the street these days when he wasn't in school; and who could blame
him?  For the narrow, dark brick house was no place for a lively boy.
But the burden and anxiety for him were heavy on his sister's heart,
who had taken over bodily all the worries of her mother.  Then there
was the baby Doris, with her big, pathetic eyes, and her round cheeks
and loving ways.  Doris, too, had to be shut in the dark little house
with the summer heat coming on, and no one with time enough or strength
enough to take her to the Park.  Doris was only four.  Oh, it was
terrible, _terrible_!  and Shirley could do nothing but sit there, and
click those keys, and earn her poor little inadequate salary!  Some
day, of course, she would get more--but some day might be too late!

She shuddered as the terrible thought flashed through her mind, then
went on with her work again.  She must shake off this state of mind and
give attention to her duty, or she would lose even this opportunity to
help her dear ones.

The door of the outer office opened, and Mr. Barnard entered.

"Miss Hollister," he said hurriedly, "if you have those letters ready,
I will sign them at once.  We have just had word that Mr. Baker of the
firm died last night in Chicago, and I must go on at once.  The office
will be closed for the rest of the day.  You can let those other
matters that I spoke of go until to-morrow, and you may have the day
off.  I shall not be at the office at the usual hour to-morrow morning,
but you can come in and look after the mail.  I will leave further
directions with Mr. Clegg.  You can mail these letters as you go down."

Ten minutes later Shirley stood on the street below in the warm spring
sunshine, and gazed about her half dazed.  It seemed a travesty on her
poor little life just now to have a holiday and no way to make it count
for the dear ones at home.  How should she use it, anyway?  Should she
go home and help Carol?  Or should she go out and see whether she could
find a house somewhere that they could possibly afford to move to?
That, of course, was the sensible thing to do; yet she had no idea
where to go.  But they did not expect her home at this time of day.
Perhaps it was as well that she should use this time and find out
something without worrying her mother.  At least, she would have time
to think undisturbed.

She grasped her little package of lunch that she had brought from home
with her and looked about her helplessly.  In her little thin purse was
the dime she always carried with her to pay her car-fare in case
something happened that she had to ride either way--though she seldom
rode, even in a storm.  But her mother insisted on the dime.  She said
it was not safe to go without any money at all.  This dime was her
capital wherewith to hunt a house.  Perhaps the day had been given her
by a kind heavenly Father to go on her search.  She would try to use it
to the best of her ability.  She lifted her bewildered heart in a
feeble petition for light and help in her difficult problem, and then
she went and stood on the corner of the street where many trolley-cars
were passing and repassing.  Which one should she take, and where
should she go?  The ten cents must cover all her riding, and she must
save half of it for her return.

She studied the names on the cars.  "Glenside Road" one read.  What had
she heard about that?  Ah! that it was the longest ride one could take
for five cents within the limits of the city's roads!  Her heart leaped
up at the word.  It sounded restful anyway, and would give her time to
think.  It wasn't likely, if it went near any glens, that there would
be any houses within her means on its way; but possibly it passed some
as it went through the city, and she could take notice of the streets
and numbers and get out on her return trip to investigate if there
proved to be anything promising; or, if it were too far away from home
for her to walk back from it, she could come another time in the
evening with George, some night when he did not have school.  Anyhow,
the ride would rest her and give her a chance to think what she ought
to do, and one car was as good as another for that.  Her resolve was
taken, and she stepped out and signalled it.

There were not many people in the car.  It was not an hour when people
rode out to the suburbs.  Two workmen with rolls of wall-paper slung in
burlap bags, a woman and a little girl, that was all.

Shirley settled back in her seat, and leaned her head against the
window-sash wearily.  She felt so tired, body and soul, that she would
have been glad to sleep and forget for a little while, only that there
was need for her to be up and doing.  Her room had been oppressively
warm the night before; and Doris, who slept with her, had rolled from
one side of the bed to the other, making sleep well-nigh impossible for
the elder sister.  She felt bruised and bleeding in her very soul, and
longed for rest.

The car was passing through the thickest of the city's business
thoroughfare, and the noise and confusion whirled about her ears like
some fiendish monotonous music that set the time for the mad dance of
the world.  One danced to it whether one would or not, and danced on to
one's death.

Around the city hall the car passed, and on up Market Street.  They
passed a great fruit-store, and the waft of air that entered the open
windows came laden with the scent of over-ripe bananas, late oranges
and lemons; a moment later with sickening fumes it blended into a
deadly smell of gas from a yawning hole in the pavement, and mingled
with the sweat of the swarthy foreigners grouped about it, picks in
hand.  It seemed as though all the smells in creation were met and
congregated in that street within four or five blocks; and one by one
they tortured her, leather and paint and metal and soap, rank cheese in
a fellow traveller's market-basket, thick stifling smoke from a street
engine that was champing up the gravel they fed it to make a new patch
of paving, the stench from the cattle-sheds as they passed the railroad
and stock-yards, the dank odor of the river as they crossed the bridge,
and then an oilcloth-factory just beyond!  The faint sweet breath of
early daffodils and violets from an occasional street vendor stood no
chance at all with these, and all the air seemed sickening and dreadful
to the girl as she rested wearily against the window with closed eyes,
and tried to think.

They slipped at last into the subway with a whir and a swish, where the
cool, clean smell of the cement seemed gradually to rise and drown the
memory of the upper world, and came refreshingly in at the windows.
Shirley had a passing thought, wondering whether it would be like that
in the grave, all restful and sweet and quiet and clean, with the
noisy, heartless world roaring overhead.  Then they came up suddenly
out of the subway, with a kind of triumphant leap and shout of brakes
and wheels, into the light and sunshine above, and a new world.  For
here were broad streets, clean pavements, ample houses, well-trimmed
lawns, quiet people walking in comfort, bits of flower-boxes on the
window-sills filled with pansies and hyacinths; and the air was sweet
and clean.  The difference made Shirley sit up and look about her, and
the contrast reminded her of the heaven that would be beyond the grave.
It was just because she was so tired and disheartened that her thoughts
took this solemn form.

But now her heart sank again, for she was in the world of plenty far
beyond her means, and there was no place for such as she.  Not in
either direction could she see any little side streets with tiny houses
that would rent for fifteen dollars a month.  There were such in the
city, she knew; but they were scarce, and were gobbled up as soon as
vacant.

But here all was spaciousness, and even the side streets had three
stories and smug porches with tidy rockers and bay windows.

She looked at the great plate-glass windows with their cobwebby lace
draperies, and thought what it would be if she were able to take her
mother and the children to such a home as one of those.  Why, if she
could afford that, George could go to college, and Doris wear a little
velvet coat with rose-buds in her bonnet, like the child on the
sidewalk with her nurse and her doll-carriage.

But a thing like that could never come to her.  There were no rich old
uncles to leave them a fortune; she was not bright and gifted to invent
some wonderful toy or write a book or paint a picture that would bring
the fortune; and no one would ever come her way with a fortune to marry
her.  Those things happened only in story-books, and she was not a
story-book girl; she was just a practical, every-day, hard-working girl
with a fairly good complexion, good blue eyes and a firm chin.  She
could work hard and was willing; but she could not bear anxiety.  It
was eating into her soul, and she could feel a kind of mental paralysis
stealing over her from it, benumbing her faculties hour by hour.

The car glided on, and the houses grew less stately and farther apart.
They were not so pretentious now, but they were still substantial and
comfortable, with more ground and an air of having been there always,
with no room for newcomers.  Now and then would come a nucleus of shops
and an old tavern with a group of new groceries and crying competition
of green stamps and blue stamps and yellow stamps posted alluringly in
their windows.  Here busy, hurried people would swarm, and children ran
and shouted; but every house they passed seemed full to overflowing,
and there was nowhere any place that seemed to say, "Here you may come
and find room!"

And now the car left the paved and built-up streets, and wandered out
between the open fields, where trees arched lavishly overhead, and
little new green things lifted up unfrightened heads, and dared to grow
in the sunshine.  A new smell, the smell of rich earth and young green
growing things, of skunk-cabbage in bloom in the swamps, of budding
willows and sassafras, roused her senses; the hum of a bee on its way
to find the first honey-drops came to her ears.  Sweet, droning,
restful, with the call of a wild bird in the distance, and all the air
balmy with the joy of spring.  Ah!  This was a new world!  This indeed
was heaven!  What a contrast to the office, and the little narrow
stifling brick house where mother lay, and Doris cut strings of paper
dolls from an old newspaper and sighed to go out in the Park!  What a
contrast!  Truly, this was heaven!  If she could but stay, and all the
dear ones come!

She had spent summers in the country, of course; and she knew and loved
nature, but it had been five years since she had been free to get
outside the city limits for more than a day, and then not far.  It
seemed to her now that she had never sensed the beauty of the country
as to-day; perhaps because she had never needed it as now.

The road went on smoothly straight ahead, with now a rounding curve,
and then another long stretch of perfect road.  Men were ploughing in
the fields on one side, and on the other lay the emerald velvet of a
field of spring wheat.  More people had got into the car as it left the
city.  Plain, substantial men, nice, pleasant women; but Shirley did
not notice them; she was watching the changing landscape and thinking
her dismal, pitiful thoughts.  Thinking, too, that she had spent her
money--or would have when she returned, with nothing to show for it,
and her conscience condemned her.

They were coming now to a wide, old-fashioned barn of stone, with ample
grassy stone-coped entrance rising like a stately carpeted stairway
from the barn-yard.  It was resting on the top of a green knoll, and a
great elm-tree arched over it protectingly.  A tiny stream purled below
at one side, and the ground sloped gradually off at the other.  Shirley
was not noticing the place much except as it was a part of the
landscape until she heard the conductor talking to the man across the
aisle about it.

"Good barn!" he was saying reflectively.  "Pity to have it standing
idle so long; but they'll never rent it without a house, and they won't
build.  It belongs to the old man's estate, and can't be divided until
the youngest boy's of age, four 'r five years yet.  The house burned
down two years ago.  Some tramps set it afire.  No, nobody was living
in it at the time.  The last renter didn't make the farm pay,--too fur
from the railroad, I guess,--and there ain't anybody near enough round
to use the barn since Halyer built his new barn," and he indicated a
great red structure down the road on the other side.  "Halyer useta use
this,--rented it fer less'n nothing, but he got too lazy to come this
fur, and so he sold off half his farm fer a dairy and built that there
barn.  So now I s'pose that barn'll stand idle and run to waste till
that kid comes of age and there's a boom up this way and it's sold.
Pity about it, though; it's a good barn.  Wisht I had it up to my
place; I could fill it."

"Make a good location for a house," said the other man, looking
intently at the big stone pile.  "Been a fine barn in its time.  Old
man must uv had a pile of chink when he built it.  Who'd ya say owned
it?"

"Graham, Walter Graham, big firm down near the city hall--guess you
know 'em.  Got all kinds of money.  This ain't one, two, three with the
other places they own.  Got a regular palace out Arden way fer summer
and a town house in the swellest neighborhood, and own land all over.
Old man inherited it from his father and three uncles.  They don't even
scarcely know they got this barn, I reckon.  It ain't very stylish out
this way just yet."

"Be a big boom here some day; nice location," said the passenger.

"Not yetta while," said the conductor sagely; "railroad station's too
far.  Wait till they get a station out Allister Avenue; then you can
talk.  Till then it'll stay as it is, I reckon.  There's a spring down
behind the barn, the best water in the county.  I useta get a drink
every day when the switch was up here.  I missed it a lot when they
moved the switch to the top of the hill.  Water's cold as ice and clear
as crystal--can't be beat this side the soda-fountain.  I sometimes
stop the car on a hot summer day now, and run and get a drink--it's
great."

The men talked on, but Shirley heard no more.  Her eyes were intent on
the barn as they passed it--the great, beautiful, wide,
comfortable-looking barn.  What a wonderful house it would make!  She
almost longed to be a cow to enter this peaceful shelter and feel at
home for a little while.

The car went on, and left the big barn in the distance; but Shirley
kept thinking, going over almost unconsciously all the men had said
about it.  Walter Graham!  Where had she seen that name?  Oh, of course
in the Ward Trust Building, the whole fourth floor.  Leather goods of
some sort, perhaps, she couldn't just remember; yet she was sure of the
name.

The man had said the barn rented for almost nothing.  What could that
mean translated in terms of dollars?  Would the fifteen dollars a month
that they were now paying for the little brick house cover it?  But
there would be the car-fare for herself and George.  Walking that
distance twice a day, or even once, would be impossible.  Ten cents a
day, sixty cents a week--twice sixty cents!  If they lived out of the
city, they couldn't afford to pay but twelve dollars a month.  They
never would rent that barn for that, of course, it was so big and
grand-looking; and yet--it was a _barn_!  What did barns rent for,
anyway?

And, if it could be had, could they live in a barn?  What were barns
like, anyway, inside?  Did they have floors, or only stalls and mud?
There had been but two tiny windows visible in the front; how did they
get light inside?  But then it couldn't be much darker than the brick
house, no matter what it was.  Perhaps there was a skylight, and hay,
pleasant hay, to lie down on and rest.  Anyhow, if they could only
manage to get out there for the summer somehow, they could bear some
discomforts just to sit under that great tree and look up at the sky.
To think of Doris playing under that tree!  And mother sitting under it
sewing!  Mother could get well out there in that fresh air, and Doris
would get rosy cheeks again.  There would not likely be a school about
for Carol; but that would not hurt her for the summer, anyway, and
maybe by fall they could find a little house.  Perhaps she would get a
raise in the fall.  If they could only get somewhere to go now!

But yet--a barn!  Live in a barn!  What would mother say?  Would she
feel that it was a disgrace?  Would she call it one of Shirley's wild
schemes?  Well, but what were they going to do?  They must live
_somewhere_, unless they were destined to die homeless.

The car droned on through the open country coming now and then to
settlements of prosperous houses, some of them small; but no empty ones
seemed to beckon her.  Indeed, they looked too high-priced to make her
even look twice at them; besides, her heart was left behind with that
barn, that great, beautiful barn with the tinkling brook beside it, and
the arching tree and gentle green slope.

At last the car stopped in a commonplace little town in front of a red
brick church, and everybody got up and went out.  The conductor
disappeared, too, and the motorman leaned back on his brake and looked
at her significantly.

"End of the line, lady," he said with a grin, as if she were dreaming
and had not taken notice of her surroundings.

"Oh," said Shirley, rousing up, and looking bewilderedly about her.
"Well, you go back, don't you?"

"Yes.  Go back in fifteen minutes," said the motorman indulgently.
There was something appealing in the sadness of this girl's eyes that
made him think of his little girl at home.

"Do you go back just the same way?" she asked with sudden alarm.  She
did want to see that barn again, and to get its exact location so that
she could come back to it some day if possible.

"Yes, we go back just the same way," nodded the motorman.

Shirley sat back in her seat again contented, and resumed her thoughts.
The motorman took up his dinner-pail, sat down on a high stool with his
back to her, and began to eat.  It was a good time now for her to eat
her little lunch, but she was not hungry.  However, she would be if she
did not eat it, of course; and there would be no other time when people
would not be around.  She put her hand in her shabby coat-pocket for
her handkerchief, and her fingers came into contact with something
small and hard and round.  For a moment she thought it was a button
that had been off her cuff for several days, But no, she remembered
sewing that on that very morning.  Then she drew the little object out,
and behold it was a five-cent piece!  Yes, of course, she remembered
now.  It was the nickel she put in her pocket last night when she went
for the extra loaf of bread and found the store closed.  She had made
johnny-cake instead, and supper had been late; but the nickel had
stayed in her coat-pocket forgotten.  And now suddenly a big temptation
descended upon her, to spend that nickel in car-fare, riding to the
barn and getting out for another closer look at it, and then taking the
next car on into the city.  Was it wild and foolish, was it not perhaps
actually wrong, to spend that nickel that way when they needed so much
at home, and had so little?  A crazy idea,--for how could a barn ever
be their shelter?

She thought so hard about it that she forgot to eat her lunch until the
motorman slammed the cover down on his tin pail and put the high stool
away.  The conductor, too, was coming out of a tiny frame house, wiping
his mouth with the back of his hand and calling to his wife, who stood
in the doorway and told him about an errand she wanted him to do for
her in the city.

Shirley's cheeks grew red with excitement, for the nickel was burning
in her hand, and she knew in her heart that she was going to spend it
getting off that car near that barn.  She would eat her lunch under the
tree by the brook!  How exciting that would be!  At least it would be
something to tell the children about at night!  Or no! they would think
her crazy and selfish, perhaps, to waste a whole day and fifteen cents
on herself.  Still, it was not on herself; it was really for them.  If
they could only see that beautiful spot!

When she handed her nickel to the conductor, she felt almost guilty,
and it seemed as if he could see her intention in her eyes; but she
told herself that she was not sure she was going to get off at all.
She could decide as she came near the place.  She would have to get off
either before she got there or after she had passed and walk back.  The
conductor would think it strange if a young girl got off the car in the
country in front of an empty barn.  How would she manage it?  There had
been houses on the way, not far from the barn.  What was the name the
conductor had mentioned of the man who had built another barn?  She
might get off at his house, but still--stay--what was that avenue where
they had said the railroad would come some day with a station?  They
had called it out as they stopped to let off the woman and the little
girl.  Allister Avenue!  That was it.  She would ask the conductor to
let her off at Allister Avenue.

She watched the way intently; and, as they neared the place where
Allister Avenue ought to be, her heart pounded so that she felt quite
conscious, as if she were going to steal a barn and carry it home in
her coat-pocket.

She managed to signal the car to stop quite quietly, however, and
stepped down to the pavement as if it were her regular stopping-place.
She was aware of the curious gaze of both motorman and conductor, but
she held her head up, and walked a few steps up Allister Avenue until
the car had whirred on out of sight.  Then she turned anxiously,
looking down the road, and there to her joy saw the stone gable of the
great barn high on its knoll in the distance.



CHAPTER II

Shirley walked down the dusty road by the side of the car-track,
elation and excitement in her breast.  What an adventure!  To be
walking alone in this strange, beautiful spring country, and nobody to
interfere!  It was her Father's beautiful out-of-doors, and she had
paid her extra nickel to have a right to it for a little while.
Perhaps her mother would have been worried at her being alone in the
country, but Shirley had no fears.  Young people seldom have fears.
She walked down the road with a free step and a bright light in her
eyes.  She had to see that barn somehow; she _just had to_!

She was almost breathless when she reached the bottom of the hill at
last, and stood in front of the great barn.  The up car passed her just
as she got there, and the people looked out at her apathetically as
they would at any country girl.  She stood still a minute, and watched
the car up the hill and out of sight, then picked her way across the
track, and entered the field where the fence was broken down, walking
up the long grassy slope to the front of the barn and standing still at
the top in front of the big double doors, so grim and forbidding.

The barn was bigger than it looked in the distance.  She fell very
small; yet her soul rejoiced in its bigness.  Oh, to have plenty of
room for once!

She put her nose close to the big doors, and tried to find a crack to
look through; but the doors were tight and fitted well.  There was no
use trying to see in from there.  She turned and ran down the long
grassy slope, trying to pretend it was a palatial stairway, then around
the side to the back of the barn, and there at last she found a door
part way ajar, opening into what must have been the cow-stables, and
she slipped joyously in.  Some good angel must have been protecting her
in her ignorance and innocence, for that dark basement of the barn
would have been an excellent hiding-place for a whole regiment of
tramps; but she trod safely on her way, and found nothing but a
field-mouse to dispute her entrance; and it scurried hastily under the
foundation, and disappeared.

The cow-stables evidently had not been occupied for a number of years,
for the place was clean and littered with dry straw, as if it had
fallen and sifted from the floor above.  The stalls were all empty now,
and old farm implements, several ploughs, and a rickety wagon occupied
the dusty, cobwebby spaces beyond the stalls.  There were several
openings, rude doorways and crude windows; and the place was not
unpleasant, for the back of it opened directly upon a sloping hill
which dropped away to the running brook below, and a little stone
spring-house, its mossy roof half hidden by a tangle of willows.
Shirley stood in a doorway and gazed with delight, then turned back to
her investigation.  This lower place would not do for human habitation,
of course; it was too low and damp, and the floor was only mud.  She
must penetrate if possible to the floor above.

Presently she found a rough ladder, cleats nailed to uprights against
the wall; and up this she crept cautiously to the opening above, and
presently emerged into the wide floor of the real barn.

There were several small windows, left open, and the sweet spring air
swept gently in; and there were little patches of pale sunshine in the
misty recesses of the great dim room.  Gentle motes floated in the
sharp lances of sunshine that stole through the cracks; another ladder
rose in the midst of the great floor to the loft above; and festoons of
ancient hay and cobwebs hung dustily down from the opening above.
After Shirley had skipped about the big floor and investigated every
corner of it, imagining how grand it would be to set the table in one
end of the room and put mother's bed behind a screen in the other end,
with the old piano somewhere in the centre and the big parlor chair,
mended, near by, the old couch covered with a portière standing on the
other side, she turned her attention to the loft, and, gathering
courage, climbed up there.

There were two great openings that let in the light; but they seemed
like tiny mouse-holes in the great place, and the hay lay sweet and
dim, thinly scattered over the whole big floor.  In one corner there
was quite a luxurious lot of it, and Shirley cast herself down upon it
for a blessed minute, and looked up to the dark rafters, lit with beams
of sunlight creeping through fantastic cracks here and there, and
wondered how the boys would enjoy sleeping up here, though there was
plenty of room down-stairs for a dozen sleeping-rooms for the matter of
that.

Foolish, of course, and utterly impossible, as all daydreams always had
been; but somehow it seemed so real and beautiful that she could
scarcely bring herself to abandon it.  Nevertheless, her investigation
had made her hungry, and she decided at last to go down and eat her
lunch under the big tree out in the sunshine; for it was dark and
stuffy inside, although one could realize how beautiful it would be
with those two great doors flung wide, and light and air let in.

The day was perfect, and Shirley found a beautiful place to sit, high
and sheltered, where she would not be noticed when the trolley-cars
sped by; and, as she ate her sandwiches, she let her imagination build
a beautiful piazza where the grassy rise came up to the front of the
barn, and saw in thought her mother sitting with the children at the
door.  How grand it would be to live in a home like this, even if it
were a barn!  If they could just get out here for the summer, it would
do wonders for them all, and put new heart into her mother for the hard
work of the winter.  Perhaps by fall mother would be well enough to
keep boarders as she longed to do, and so help out with the finances
more.

Well, of course, this was just one of her wild schemes, and she must
not think any more about it, much less even speak of it at home, for
they would never get done laughing and teasing her for it.

She finished the last crumb of the piece of one-egg cake that Carol had
made the day before for her lunch, and ran down to the spring to see
whether she could get a drink, for she was very thirsty.

There proved to be an old tin can on the stones in the spring-house,
doubtless used by the last tramp or conductor who came that way; but
Shirley scrubbed it carefully in the sand, drank a delicious draught,
and washed her hands and face in the clear cold water.  Then she went
back to the barn again, for a new thought had entered her mind.
Supposing it were possible to rent that place for the summer at any
reasonable price, how could they cook and how keep warm?  Of course
there were such things as candles and oil-lamps for lighting, but
cooking!  Would they have to build a fire out-of-doors and play at
camping?  Or would they have to resort to oil-stoves?  Oil-stoves with
their sticky, oily outsides, and their mysterious moods of smoke and
sulkiness, out of which only an expert could coax them!

But, though she stood on all sides of that barn, and gazed up at the
roof, and though she searched each floor diligently, she could find no
sign of a chimney anywhere.  Her former acquaintance with barns had not
put her into a position to judge whether this was a customary lack of
barns or not.  There were two wooden, chimney-like structures
decorating the roof, but it was all too evident that they were solely
for purposes of ornament.  Her heart sank.  What a grand fireplace
there might have been right in the middle of the great wall opposite
the door!  Could anything be more ideal?  She could fancy mother
sitting in front of it, with Harley and Doris on the floor playing with
a kitten.  But there was no fireplace.  She wondered vaguely whether a
stovepipe could be put out of the window, and so make possible a fire
in a small cook-stove.  She was sure she had seen stovepipes coming out
of all sorts of odd places in the cities.  But would the owners allow
it?  And would any fire at all perhaps make it dangerous and affect the
fire-insurance?  Oh, there were so many things to think about, and it
was all so impossible, of course.

She turned with heavy heart, and let herself down the ladder.  It was
time she went home, for the afternoon was well on its way.  She could
hear the whir of the trolley-car going up.  She must be out and down
the road a little way to get the next one that passed it at the switch
when it came back.

So with a wistful glance about the big dusty floor she turned away, and
went down to the ground floor and out into the afternoon sunshine.

Just as she crossed the knoll and was stepping over the broken fence,
she saw a clump of clover, and among the tiny stems one bearing four
leaves.  She was not superstitious, nor did the clover mean any special
omen to her; but she stooped, smiling, and plucked it, tucking it into
the button-hole of her coat, and hurried down the road; for she could
already hear the returning trolley-car, and she wished to be a little
farther from the barn before it overtook her.  Somehow she shrank from
having people in the car know where she had been, for it seemed like
exposing her audacious wish to the world.

Seated in the car, she turned her eyes back to the last glimpse of the
stone gables and the sweeping branches of the budding tree as the car
sped down the hill and curved away behind another slope.

After all, it was but half-past four when the car reached the city
hall.  Its route lay on half a mile nearer to the little brick house,
and she could stay in it, and have a shorter walk if she chose.  It was
not in the least likely anybody would be in any office at this hour of
the day, anyway; that is, anybody with authority; but somehow Shirley
had to signal that car and get out, long walk or not.  A strong desire
seized her to put her fate to the test, and either crush out this dream
of hers forever, or find out at once whether it had a foundation to
live.

She walked straight to the Ward Trust Building and searched the
bulletin-board in the hallway carefully.  Yes, there it was,
"Graham-Walter--Fourth floor front."

With rapidly beating heart she entered the elevator and tried to steady
her voice as she said, "Fourth"; but it shook in spite of her.  What
was she doing?  How dared she?  What should she say when they asked her
what she wanted?

But Shirley's firm little lips were set, and her head had that tilt
that her mother knew meant business.  She had gone so far she would see
the matter to the finish, even if it was ridiculous.  For now that she
was actually on the elevator and almost to the fourth floor it seemed
the most extraordinary thing in the world for a girl to enter a great
business office and demand that its head should stoop to rent her an
old barn out in the country for the infinitesimal sum she could offer.
He would perhaps think her crazy, and have her put out.

But she got out of the elevator calmly, and walked down the hall to
where a ground-glass door proclaimed in gold letters the name she was
hunting.  Timidly she turned the knob, and entered a large room,
spacious and high ceiled, with Turkish rugs on the inlaid floor,
leather chairs, and mahogany desks.

There was no one in the office but a small office-boy, who lolled idly
on one elbow on the table, reading the funny page of the afternoon
paper.  She paused, half frightened, and looked about her appealingly;
and now she began to be afraid she was too late.  It had taken longer
than she had thought it would to get here.  It was almost a quarter to
five by the big clock on the wall.  No head of a business firm was
likely to stay in his office so late in the day as that, she knew.  Yet
she could hear the steady click of typewriter keys in an inner office;
he might have remained to dictate a letter.

The office-boy looked up insolently.

"Is Mr. Graham in?" asked Shirley.

"Which Mr. Graham?"

"Why," hesitating and catching the name on the door, "Mr. Walter
Graham."

"No, he isn't here.  Never here after four o'clock."  The boy dropped
on his elbow again, and resumed his reading.

"Oh!" said Shirley, dismayed now, in spite of her fright, as she saw
all hope fading from her.  "Well, is there another--I mean is the
other--Mr. Graham in?"

Someone stirred in the inner office, and came across to the door,
looking out, someone with an overcoat and hat on.  He looked at the
girl, and then spoke sharply to the boy, who stood up straight as if he
had been shot.

"Edward!  See what the lady wants."

"Yes, sir!" said Edward with sudden respect.

Shirley caught her breath, and plunged in.

"I would like to see _some_ Mr. Graham if possible for just a moment."
There was something self-possessed and businesslike in her voice now
that commanded the boy's attention.  Her brief business training was
upon her.

The figure from the inner room emerged, and took off his hat.  He was a
young man and strikingly handsome, with heavy dark hair that waved over
his forehead and fine, strong features.  His eyes were both keen and
kind.  There was something luminous in them that made Shirley think of
Doris's eyes when she asked a question.  Doris had wonderfully wise
eyes.

"I am Mr. _Sidney_ Graham," said the young man, advancing.  "What can I
do for you?"

"Oh, I wanted to ask you about a barn," began Shirley eagerly, then
stopped abashed.  How could she ask this immaculate son of luxury if he
would rent a young girl his barn to live in during the summer?  She
could feel the color mounting in her cheeks, and would have turned and
fled gladly if a way had been open.  She was aware not only of the kind
eyes of the man upon her, but also of the gaping boy taking it all in,
and her tongue was suddenly tied.  She could say no more.

But the young man saw how it was, and he bowed as gracefully as if
asking about barns was a common habit of young women coming into his
office.

"Oh, certainly," he said; "won't you just step in here a moment and sit
down?  We can talk better.  Edward, you may go.  I shall not need you
any longer this evening."

"But I am detaining you; you were just going out!" cried Shirley in a
panic.  "I will go away now and come again--perhaps."  She would do
anything to get away without telling her preposterous errand.

"Not at all!" said young Mr. Graham.  "I am in no hurry whatever.  Just
step this way, and sit down."  His tone was kindness itself.  Somehow
Shirley had to follow him.  Her face was crimson now, and she felt
ready to cry.  What a fool she had been to get herself into a
predicament like this!  What would her mother say to her?  How could
she tell this strange young man what she had come for?  But he was
seated and looking at her with his nice eyes, taking in all the little
pitiful attempts at neatness and style and beauty in her shabby little
toilet.  She was awfully conscious of a loose fluff of gold-glinted
hair that had come down over one hot cheek and ear.  How dishevelled
she must look, and how dusty after climbing over that dirty barn!  And
then she plunged into her subject.



CHAPTER III

"I'm sure I don't know what you will think of my asking," said Shirley
excitedly, "but I want very much to know whether there is any
possibility that you would rent a beautiful big stone barn you own out
on the old Glenside Road, near Allister Avenue.  You do own it, don't
you?  I was told you did, or at least that Mr. Walter Graham did.  They
said it belonged to 'the estate.'"

"Well, now you've got one on me," said the young man with a most
engaging smile.  "I'm sure I don't know whether I own it or not.  I'm
sorry.  But if it belongs to grandfather's estate,--his name was
Walter, too, you know.--why, I suppose I do own part of it.  I'm sorry
father isn't here.  He of course knows all about it--or the
attorney--of course he would know.  But I think he has left the office.
However, that doesn't matter.  What was it you wanted?  To rent it, you
say?"

"Yes," said Shirley, feeling very small and very much an impostor;
"that is, if I could afford it.  I suppose perhaps it will be way ahead
of my means, but I thought it wouldn't do any harm to ask."  Her shy
eyes were almost filled with tears, and the young man was deeply
distressed.

"Not at all, not at all," he hastened to say.  "I'm just stupid that I
don't know about it.  Where did you say it was?  Out on the Glenside
Road?  A barn?  Come to think of it, I remember one of my uncles lived
out that way once, and I know there is a lot of land somewhere out
there belonging to the estate.  You say there is a barn on it?"

"Yes, a beautiful barn," said Shirley anxiously, her eyes dreamy and
her cheeks like two glowing roses.  "It is stone, and has a wide grassy
road like a great staircase leading up to it, and a tall tree over it.
There is a brook just below,--it is high up from the road on a little
grassy hill."

"Oh, yes, yes," he said, nodding eagerly, "I see!  It almost seems as
if I remember.  And you wanted to rent it for the summer, you say?  You
are--ah--in the agricultural business, I suppose?"  He looked at her
respectfully.  He knew the new woman, and honored her.  He did not seem
at all startled that she wanted to rent a barn for the summer.

But Shirley did not in the least understand.  She looked at him
bewildered a moment.

"Oh, no!  I am only a stenographer myself--but my mother--that is----"
she paused in confusion.

"Oh, I see, your mother is the farmer, I suppose.  Your home is near
by--near to the barn you want to rent?"

Then she understood.

"No, oh, no!" she said desperately.  "We don't want to use the barn for
a barn at all.  I want to use it for a house!"

It was out at last, the horrible truth; and she sat trembling to see
his look of amazement.

"Use it for a house!" he exclaimed.  "Why, how could you?  To live in,
do you mean? or just to take a tent and camp out there for a few days?"

"To _live in_," said Shirley doggedly, lifting her eyes in one swift
defiant look and then dropping them to her shabby gloves and thin
pocketbook, empty now even of the last precious nickel.  If he said
anything more, she was sure she should cry.  If he patronized her the
least little bit, or grew haughty, now that he saw how low she was
reduced, she would turn and fly from the office and never look him in
the face.

But he did neither.  Instead, he just talked in a natural tone, as if
it were the most common thing in the world for a girl to want to live
in a barn, and nothing to be surprised over in the least.

"Oh, I see," he said pleasantly.  "Well, now, that might be arranged,
you know.  Of course I don't know much about things, but I could find
out.  You see, I don't suppose we often have calls to rent the property
that way----"

"No, of course not," said Shirley, gathering up her scattered
confidence.  "I know it's queer for me to ask, but we have to
move--they are going to build an apartment-house where we are renting
now, and mother is sick.  I should like to get her out into the
country, our house is so little and dark; and I thought, if she could
be all summer where she could see the sky and hear the birds, she might
get well.  I want to get my little sisters and brothers out of the
city, too.  But we couldn't likely pay enough rent.  I suppose it was
silly of me to ask."

"Not at all!" said the young man courteously, as though she had been a
queen whom he delighted to honor.  "I don't see why we shouldn't be
able to get together on some kind of a proposition--that is, unless
father has other plans that I don't know about.  A barn ought not to be
worth such a big price.  How much would you feel like paying?"

He was studying the girl before him with interested eyes; noting the
well-set head on the pretty shoulders, even in spite of the ill-fitting
shabby blue coat; the delicate features; the glint of gold in the soft
brown hair; the tilt of the firm little chin, and the wistfulness in
the big blue eyes.  This was a new kind of girl, and he was disposed to
give her what she wanted if he could.  And he _could_.  He knew well
that anything he willed mightily would not be denied him.

The frightened color came into the delicate cheeks again, and the blue
eyes fluttered down ashamedly.

"We are only paying fifteen a month now," she said; "and I couldn't pay
any more, for we haven't got it.  I couldn't pay _as much_, for it
would cost sixty cents a week apiece for George and me to come in to
our work from there.  I couldn't pay more than twelve! and I know
that's ridiculous for such a great big, beautiful place, but--I _had_
to ask."

She lifted her eyes swiftly in apology, and dropped them again; the
young man felt a glow of sympathy for her, and a deep desire to help
her have her wish.

"Why, certainly," he said heartily.  "Of course you did.  And it's not
ridiculous at all for you to make a business proposition of any kind.
You say what you can do, and we accept it or not as we like.  That's
our lookout.  Now of course I can't answer about this until I've
consulted father; and, not knowing the place well, I haven't the least
idea what it's worth; it may not be worth even twelve dollars."  (He
made a mental reservation that it _should_ not be if he could help it.)
"Suppose I consult with father and let you know.  Could I write or
phone you, or will you be around this way any time to-morrow?"

Shirley's breath was fairly gone with the realization that he was
actually considering her proposition in earnest.  He had not laughed at
her for wanting to live in a barn, and he had not turned down the price
she offered as impossible!  He was looking at her in a kindly way as if
he liked her for being frank.

"Why, yes," she said, looking up shyly, "I can come in to-morrow at my
noon hour--if that would not be too soon.  I always have a little time
to myself then, and it isn't far from the office."

"That will be perfectly all right for me," smiled young Graham.  "I
shall be here till half-past one, and you can ask the boy to show you
to my office.  I will consult with father the first thing in the
morning and be ready to give you an answer.  But I am wondering if you
have seen this barn, I suppose you have, or you would not want to rent
it; but I should suppose a barn would be an awfully unpleasant place to
live, kind of almost impossible.  Are you sure you realize what the
proposition would be?"

"Yes, I think so," said Shirley, looking troubled and earnest.  "It is
a beautiful big place, and the outlook is wonderful.  I was there
to-day, and found a door open at the back, and went in to look around.
The up-stairs middle floor is so big we could make several rooms out of
it with screens and curtains.  It would be lovely.  We could live in
picnic style.  Yes, I'm sure mother would like it.  I haven't told her
about it yet, because if I couldn't afford it I didn't want to
disappoint her; so I thought I would wait till I found out; but I'm
just about certain she would be delighted.  And anyhow we've _got_ to
go _somewhere_."

"I see," said this courteous young man, trying not to show his
amazement and delight in the girl who so coolly discussed living in a
barn with curtains and screens for partitions.  He thought of his own
luxurious home and his comfortable life, where every need had been
supplied even before he realized it, and, wondering again, was
refreshed in soul by this glimpse into the brave heart of the girl.

"Then I will expect you," he said pleasantly, and, opening the door,
escorted her to the elevator, touching his hat to her as he left her.

Shirley would not have been a normal girl if she had not felt the least
flutter in her heart at the attention he showed her and the pleasant
tones of his voice.  It was for all the world as if she had been a lady
dressed in broadcloth and fur.  She looked down at her shabby little
serge suit--that had done duty all winter with an old gray sweater
under it--half in shame and half in pride in the man who had not let it
hinder him from giving her honor.  He was a _man_.  He must be.  She
had bared her poverty-stricken life to his gaze, and he had not taken
advantage of it.  He had averted his eyes, and acted as if it were just
like other lives and others' necessities; and he had made her feel that
she was just as good as any one with whom he had to deal.

Well, it was probably only a manner, a kind of refined, courteous habit
he had; but it was lovely, and she was going to enjoy the bit of it
that had fallen at her feet.

On the whole, Shirley walked the ten blocks to her narrow little home
feeling that she had had a good day.  She was weary, but it was a
healthy weariness.  The problem which had been pressing on her brain
for days, and nights too, did not seem so impossible now, and hope was
in her heart that somehow she would find a way out.  It had been good
to get away from the office and the busy monotony and go out into the
wide, open out-of-doors.  It was good also to meet a real nobleman,
even if it were only in passing, and on business.

She decided not to tell her mother and the children of her outing yet,
not until she was sure there were to be results.  Besides, it might
only worry her mother the more and give her a sleepless night if she
let out the secret about the barn.

One more little touch of pleasantness there came to make this day stand
out from others as beautiful.  It was when she turned into Chapel
Street, and was swinging along rapidly in order to get home at her
usual time and not alarm her mother, that a car rolled quickly past to
the middle of the block, and stopped just under a street-light.  In a
moment more a lady came out of the door of a house, entered the car,
and was driven away.  As she closed the car-door, Shirley fancied she
saw something drop from the lady's hand.  When Shirley reached the
place she found it was two great, luscious pink rosebuds that must have
slipped from the lady's corsage and fallen on the pavement.  Shirley
picked them up almost reverently, inhaling their exotic breath, and
taking in their delicate curves and texture.  Then she looked after the
limousine.  It was three blocks away and just turning into another
street.  It would be impossible for her to overtake it, and there was
little likelihood of the lady's returning for two roses.  Probably she
would never miss them.  Shirley turned toward the house, thinking she
ought to take them in, but discovered that it bore the name of a
fashionable modiste, who would, of course, not have any right to the
roses, and Shirley's conscience decided they were meant by Providence
for her.  So, happily, she hurried on to the little brick house,
bearing the wonderful flowers to her mother.

She hurried so fast that she reached home ten minutes earlier than
usual, and they all gathered around her eagerly as if it were some
great event, the mother calling half fearfully from her bedroom
up-stairs to know whether anything had happened.  She was always
expecting some new calamity like sickness, or the loss of their
positions by one or the other of her children.

"Nothing at all the matter, mother dear!" called Shirley happily as she
hung up her coat and hat, and hugged Doris.  "I got off earlier than
usual because Mr. Barnard had to go away.  Just see what a beautiful
thing I have brought you--found it on the street, dropped by a
beautiful lady.  You needn't be afraid of them, for she and her
limousine looked perfectly hygienic; and it wasn't stealing, because I
couldn't possibly have caught her.  Aren't they lovely?"

By this time she was up in her mother's room, with Doris and Carol
following close behind exclaiming in delight over the roses.

She kissed her mother, and put the flowers into a glass beside the bed.

"You're looking better to-night, I believe, dear," said the mother.
"I've been worried about you all day.  You were so white and tired this
morning."

"Oh, I'm feeling fine, mother dear!" said Shirley gayly, "and I'm going
down to make your toast and poach you an egg while Carol finishes
getting supper.  George will be here in ten minutes now, and Harley
ought to be in any minute.  He always comes when he gets hungry.  My!
I'm hungry myself!  Let's hurry, Carol.  Doris, darling, you fix
mother's little table all ready for her tray.  Put on the white cloth,
take away the books, set the glass with the roses in the middle very
carefully.  You won't spill it, will you, darling?"

Doris, all smiles at the responsibility accorded her, promised: "No, I
yun't spill it I'll move it tarefully."

There was something in Shirley's buoyant air that night that lifted
them all above the cares that had oppressed them for weeks, and gave
them new hope.  She flew around, getting the supper things together,
making her mother's tray pretty, and taking little extra pains for each
one as she had not felt able to do before.  Carol caught the contagion,
and mashed the potatoes more carefully, so that there wasn't a single
lump in them.

"Goodness!  But it's been hot in this kitchen all day, Shirley," said
Carol.  "I had the back door open, but it just seemed stifling.  I got
the ironing all done except a table-cloth, and I guess I can finish
that this evening.  I haven't got much studying to do for to-morrow.
Nellie Waite stopped, and left me my books.  I don't believe I'll have
to stay at home another day this week.  Mother says she can get along.
I can leave her lunch all ready, and Doris can manage."

Shirley's conscience gave a sudden twinge.  Here had she been sitting
under a lovely tree by a brook, eating her lunch, and dreaming foolish
day-dreams about living in a barn, while Carol stayed at home from
school and toiled in the kitchen!  Perhaps she ought to have come home
and sent Carol back to school.  And yet perhaps that nice young Mr.
Graham would be able to do something; she would not condemn herself
until the morrow, anyway.  She had tried to do her best.  She had not
gone off there selfishly just to have a good time by herself when her
dear ones were suffering.  It had been for their sake.

Then George came in whistling, and Harley banged in gayly a minute
later, calling to know whether supper was ready.

"'Cause I gotta date with the fellas this evening, and I gotta beat
it," he declared impatiently.

The shadow of anxiety passed over Shirley's face again at that, but she
quieted her heart once more with her hopes for to-morrow.  If her plan
succeeded, Harley would be away from "the fellas," and wouldn't have so
many questionable "dates" to worry them all.

George was in a hurry, too.

"Gee, Shirley, I gotta be at the store all evening," he said, bolting
his food hurriedly.  "I wouldn't 'a' come home, only I knew you'd
worry, and mother gets so upset.  Gee, Shirley, what we gonta do about
a house?  It's getting almost time to move.  I went to all those places
you suggested at noon to-day, but there wasn't a vacant spot anywhere.
There's some rooms on Louden Street, but there's all sorts in the
house.  Mother wouldn't like it.  It's dirty besides.  I suppose if we
look long enough we could find rooms; but we'd have to get along with
only two or three, for they come awful high.  We'd have to have three
anyway, you girls and mother in one, us boys in the other, and one for
parlor and kitchen together.  Gee!  Wouldn't that be fierce?  I oughtta
get a better job.  We can't live that way."

"Don't worry, George; I think we'll find something better," said
Shirley with a hopeful ring in her voice.  "I've been thinking out a
plan.  I haven't got it all just arranged in my mind yet, but I'll tell
you about it pretty soon.  You don't have school to-morrow night, do
you?  No, I thought not.  Well, maybe we can talk it over then.  You
and I will have to go out together and look up a place perhaps," and
she smiled an encouraging smile, and sent him off to his school happily.

She extracted a promise from Harley that he would be in by nine
o'clock, discovered that he was only going to a "movie" show around the
corner with one of the fellows who was going to "stand treat" on
account of a wonderful ball game they had won, found out where his
lessons were for the morrow, promised to help him when he returned, and
sent him away with a feeling of comfort and responsibility to return
early.  She washed the dishes and ironed the table-cloth so Carol could
go to her lessons.  Then she went up and put Doris to bed with a story
about a little bird that built a nest in a tall, beautiful tree that
grew beside the place where the little girl lived; a little bird that
drank from a little running brook, and took a bath on its pebbly shore,
and ate the crumbs and berries the little girl gave it, and sat all day
on five little blue eggs.

Harley came in at five minutes after nine, and did his lessons with her
help.  George came home just as they finished.  He was whistling,
though he looked tired.  He said "the prof." had been "the limit" all
the evening.  Shirley fixed her mother comfortably for the night, and
went at last to her own bed, more tired than she had been for weeks,
and yet more happy.  For through it all she had been sustained by a
hope; inspired by a cultured, pleasant voice, and eyes that wanted to
help, and seemed to understand.

As she closed her eyes to sleep, somehow that pleasant voice and those
kind eyes mingled with her dreams, and seemed to promise relief from
her great anxieties.

It was with a feeling of excitement and anticipation that she dressed
the next morning and hurried away.  Something was coming, she felt
sure, some help for their trying situation.  She had felt it when she
knelt for her usual prayer that morning, and it throbbed in her excited
heart as she hurried through the streets to the office.  It almost
frightened her to feel so sure, for she knew how terrible would be the
disappointment if she got her hopes too high.

There was plenty to be done at the office, a great many letters to
answer, and a telegram with directions from Mr. Barnard.  But she
worked with more ease than for some time, and was done by half-past
eleven.  When she took the letters out to Mr. Clegg to be signed, he
told her that she would not be needed the rest of the day, and might go
at once if she chose.

She ate her bit of lunch hurriedly, and made herself as fresh and tidy
as was possible in the office.  Then she took her way to the fourth
floor of the Ward Trust Building.  With throbbing heart and glowing
cheeks she entered the office of Walter Graham, and asked for Mr.
Sidney Graham.

The office-boy had evidently received instructions, for he bowed most
respectfully this time, and led her at once to the inner office.



CHAPTER IV

The afternoon before, when Mr. Sidney Graham had returned to his office
from seeing Shirley to the elevator, he stood several minutes looking
thoughtfully at the chair where she had sat, while he carefully drew on
his gloves.

There had been something interesting and appealing in the spirited face
of the girl, with her delicate features and wistful eyes.  He could not
seem to get away from it.  It had left an impression of character and a
struggle with forces of which in his sheltered life he had had only a
vague conception.  It had left him with the feeling that she was
stronger in some ways than himself, and he did not exactly like the
sensation of it.  He had always aimed to be a strong character himself;
and for a young man who had inherited two hundred and fifty thousand
dollars on coming of age, and double that amount two years later, with
the prospect of another goodly sum when his paternal grandfather's
estate was divided, he had done very well indeed.  He had stuck to
business ever since leaving college, where he had been by no means a
nonentity either in studies or in athletics; and he had not been
spoiled by the adulation that a young man of his good looks and wealth
and position always receives in society.  He had taken society as a
sort of duty, but had never given it an undue proportion of his time
and thoughts.  Notably he was a young man of fine balance and strong
self-control, not given to impulsive or erratic likes and dislikes; and
he could not understand why a shabby little person with a lock of gold
over one crimson cheek, and tired, discouraged lights in her had made
so strong an impression upon him.

It had been his intention just before Shirley's arrival to leave the
office at once and perhaps drop in on Miss Harriet Hale.  If the hour
seemed propitious, he would take her for a spin in his new racing-car
that even now waited in the street below; but somehow suddenly his plan
did not attract him deeply.  He felt the need of being by himself.
After a turn or two up and down his luxurious office he took the
elevator down to the street floor, dismissed his chauffeur, and whirled
off in his car, taking the opposite direction from that which would
have taken him to the Hale residence.  Harriet Hale was a very pretty
girl with a brilliant mind and a royal fortune.  She could entertain
him and stimulate him tremendously, and sometimes he almost thought the
attraction was strong enough to last him through life; but Harriet Hale
would not be able to appreciate his present mood nor explain to him why
the presence in his office for fifteen minutes of a nervy little
stenographer who was willing to live in a barn should have made him so
vaguely dissatisfied with himself.  If he were to try to tell her about
it, he felt sure he would meet with laughing taunts and brilliant
sarcasm.  She would never understand.

He took little notice of where he was going, threading his way
skilfully through the congested portion of the city and out into the
comparatively empty highways, until at last he found himself in the
suburbs.  The name of the street as he slowed up at a grade crossing
gave him an idea.  Why shouldn't he take a run out and hunt up that
barn for himself?  What had she said about it, where it was?  He
consulted the memorandum he had written down for his father's
edification.  "Glenside Road, near Allister Avenue."  He further
searched his memory.  "Big stone barn, wide approach like a grand
staircase, tall tree overhanging, brook."  This surely ought to be
enough to help him identify it.  There surely were not a flock of stone
barns in that neighborhood that would answer that description.

He turned into Glenside Road with satisfaction, and set a sharp watch
for the names of the cross-avenues with a view to finding Allister
Avenue, and once he stopped and asked a man in an empty milk-wagon
whether he knew where Allister Avenue was, and was informed that it was
"on a piece, about five miles."

There was something interesting in hunting up his own strange barn, and
he began to look about him and try to see things with the eyes of the
girl who had just called upon him.

Most of the fields were green with spring, and there was an air of
things doing over them, as if growing were a business that one could
watch, like house-cleaning and paper-hanging and painting.  Graham had
never noticed before that the great bare spring out-of-doors seemed to
have a character all its own, and actually to have an attraction.  A
little later when the trees were out, and all the orchards in bloom,
and the wild flowers blowing in the breeze, he could rave over spring;
but he had never seen the charm of its beginnings before.  He wondered
curiously over the fact of his keen appreciation now.

The sky was all opalescent with lovely pastel colors along the horizon,
and a few tall, lank trees had put on a soft gauze of green over their
foreheads like frizzes, discernible only to a close observer.  The air
was getting chilly with approaching night, and the bees were no longer
proclaiming with their hum the way to the skunk-cabbages; but a
delicate perfume was in the air, and though perhaps Graham had never
even heard of skunk-cabbages, he drew in long breaths of sweetness, and
let out his car over the smooth road with a keen delight.

Behind a copse of fine old willows, age-tall and hoary with weather,
their extremities just hinting of green, as they stood knee-deep in the
brook on its way to a larger stream, he first caught sight of the old
barn.

He knew it at once by something indefinable.  Its substantial stone
spaciousness, its mossy roof, its arching tree, and the brook that
backed away from the wading willows, up the hillside, under the rail
fence, and ran around its side, all were unmistakable.  He could see it
just as the girl had seen it, and something in him responded to her
longing to live there and make it into a home.  Perhaps he was a
dreamer, even as she, although he passed in the world of business for a
practical young man.  But anyhow he slowed his car down and looked at
the place intently as he passed by.  He was convinced that this was the
place.  He did not need to go on and find Allister Avenue--though he
did, and then turned back again, stopping by the roadside.  He got out
of the car, looking all the time at the barn and seeing it in the light
of the girl's eyes.  As he walked up the grassy slope to the front
doors, he had some conception of what it must be to live so that this
would seem grand as a home.  And he showed he was not spoiled by his
life in the lap of luxury, for he was able to get a glimpse of the
grandeur of the spot and the dignity of the building with its long
simple lines and rough old stones.

The sun was just going down as he stood there looking up.  It touched
the stones, and turned them into jewelled settings, glorifying the old
structure into a palace.  The evening was sweet with the voices of
birds not far away.  One above the rest, clear and occasional, high in
the elm-tree over the barn, a wood-thrush spilling its silver notes
down to the brook that echoed them back in a lilt.  The young man took
off his hat and stood in the evening air, listening and looking.  He
could see the poetry of it, and somehow he could see the girl's face as
if she stood there beside him, her wonderful eyes lighted as they had
been when she told him how beautiful it was there.  She was right.  It
was beautiful, and it was a lovely soul that could see it and feel what
a home this would make in spite of the ignominy of its being nothing
but a barn.  Some dim memory, some faint remembrance, of a stable long
ago, and the glory of it, hovered on the horizon of his mind; but his
education had not been along religious lines, and he did not put the
thing into a definite thought.  It was just a kind of sensing of a
great fact of the universe which he perhaps might have understood in a
former existence.

Then he turned to the building itself.  He was practical, after all,
even if he was a dreamer.  He tried the big padlock.  How did they get
into this thing?  How had the girl got in?  Should he be obliged to
break into his own barn?

He walked down the slope, around to the back, and found the entrance
close to the ladder; but the place was quite dark within the great
stone walls, and he peered into the gloomy basement with disgust at the
dirt and murk.  Only here and there, where a crack looked toward the
setting sun, a bright needle of light sent a shaft through to let one
see the inky shadows.  He was half turning back, but reflected that the
girl had said she went up a ladder to the middle floor.  If she had
gone, surely he could.  Again that sense that she was stronger than he
rebuked him.  He got out his pocket flashlight and stepped within the
gloom determinedly.  Holding the flash-light above his head, he
surveyed his property disapprovingly; then with the light in his hand
he climbed in a gingerly way up the dusty rounds to the middle floor.

As he stood alone in the dusky shadows of the big barn, with the
blackness of the hay-loft overhead, the darkness pierced only by the
keen blade of the flash-light and a few feebler darts from the sinking
sun, the poetry suddenly left the old barn, and a shudder ran through
him.  To think of trying to live here!  How horrible!

Yet still that same feeling that the girl had more nerve than he had
forced him to walk the length and breadth of the floor, peering
carefully into the dark corners and acquainting himself fully with the
bare, big place; and also to climb part way up the ladder to the loft
and send his flash-light searching through its dusty hay-strewn
recesses.

With a feeling utterly at variance with the place he turned away in
disgust, and made his way down the ladders again, out into the sunset.

In that short time the evening had arrived.  The sky had flung out
banners and pennants, pencilled by a fringe of fine saplings like
slender brown threads against the sky.  The earth was sinking into
dusk, and off by the brook the frogs were tinkling like tiny answering
silver rattles.  The smell of earth and growing stole upon his senses,
and even as he gazed about him a single star burned into being in the
clear ether above him.  The birds were still now, and the frogs with
the brook for accompaniment held the stage.  Once more the charm of the
place stole over him; and he stood with hat removed, and wondered no
longer that the girl was willing to live here.  A conviction grew
within him that somehow he must make it possible for her to do so, that
things would not be right and as they ought to be unless he did.  In
fact, he had a curiosity to have her do it and see whether it could be
done.

He went slowly down to his car at last with lingering backward looks.
The beauty of the situation was undoubted, and called for admiration.
It was too bad that only a barn should occupy it.  He would like to see
a fine house reared upon it.  But somehow in his heart he was glad that
it was not a fine house standing there against the evening sky, and
that it was possible for him to let the girl try her experiment of
living there.  Was it possible?  Could there be any mistake?  Could it
be that he had not found the right barn, after all?  He must make sure,
of course.

But still he turned his car toward home, feeling reasonably sure that
he had found the right spot; and, as he drove swiftly back along the
way, he was thinking, and all his thoughts were woven with the softness
of the spring evening and permeated with its sounds.  He seemed to be
in touch with nature as he had never been before.

At dinner that night he asked his father:

"Did Grandfather Graham ever live out on the old Glenside Road, father?"

A pleasant twinkle came in the elder Graham's eyes.

"Sure!" he said.  "Lived there myself when I was five years old, before
the old man got to speculating and made his pile, and we got too grand
to stay in a farmhouse.  I can remember rolling down a hill under a
great big tree, and your Uncle Billy pushing me into the brook that ran
at the foot.  We boys used to wade in that brook, and build dams, and
catch little minnows, and sail boats.  It was great sport.  I used to
go back holidays now and then after I got old enough to go away to
school.  We were living in town then, but I used to like to go out and
stay at the farmhouse.  It was rented to a queer old dick; but his wife
was a good sort, and made the bulliest apple turnovers for us boys--and
doughnuts!  The old farmhouse burned down a year or so ago.  But the
barn is still standing.  I can remember how proud your grandfather was
of that barn.  It was finer than any barn around, and bigger.  We boys
used to go up in the loft, and tumble in the hay; and once when I was a
little kid I got lost in the hay, and Billy had to dig me out.  I can
remember how scared I was when I thought I might have to stay there
forever, and have nothing to eat."

"Say, father," said the son, leaning forward eagerly, "I've a notion
I'd like to have that old place in my share.  Do you think it could be
arranged?  The boys won't care, I'm sure; they're always more for the
town than the country."

"Why, yes, I guess that could be fixed up.  You just see Mr. Dalrymple
about it.  He'll fix it up.  Billy's boy got that place up river, you
know.  Just see the lawyer, and he'll fix it up.  No reason in the
world why you shouldn't have the old place if you care for it.  Not
much in it for money, though, I guess.  They tell me property's way
down out that direction now."

The talk passed to other matters, and Sidney Graham said nothing about
his caller of the afternoon, nor of the trip he had taken out to see
the old barn.  Instead, he took his father's advice, and saw the family
lawyer, Mr. Dalrymple, the first thing in the morning.

It was all arranged in a few minutes.  Mr. Dalrymple called up the
other heirs and the children's guardian.  An office-boy hurried out
with some papers, and came back with the signatures of heirs and
guardians, who happened all to be within reach; and presently the
control of the old farm was formally put into the hands of Mr. Sidney
Graham, he having signed certain papers agreeing to take this as such
and such portion of his right in the whole estate.

It had been a simple matter; and yet, when at about half-past eleven
o'clock Mr. Dalrymple's stenographer laid a folded paper quietly on
Sidney Graham's desk and silently left the room, he reached out and
touched it with more satisfaction than he had felt in any acquisition
in a long time, not excepting his last racing-car.  It was not the
value the paper represented, however, that pleased him, but the fact
that he would now be able to do as he pleased concerning the
prospective tenant for the place, and follow out a curious and
interesting experiment.  He wanted to study this girl and see whether
she really had the nerve to go and live in a barn--a girl with a face
like that to live in a barn!  He wanted to see what manner of girl she
was, and to have the right to watch her for a little space.

It is true that the morning light might present her in a very different
aspect from that in which she had appeared the evening before, and he
mentally reserved the right to turn her down completely if she showed
the least sign of not being all that he had thought her.  At the same
time, he intended to be entirely sure.  He would not turn her away
without a thorough investigation.

Graham had been greatly interested in the study of social science when
in college, and human nature interested him at all times.  He could not
but admit to himself that this girl had taken a most unusual hold upon
his thoughts.



CHAPTER V

As the morning passed on and it drew near to the noon hour Sidney
Graham found himself almost excited over the prospect of the girl's
coming.  Such foolish fancies as a fear lest she might have given up
the idea and would not come at all presented themselves to his
distraught brain, which refused to go on its well-ordered way, but kept
reverting to the expected caller and what he should say to her.  When
at last she was announced, he drew back his chair from the desk, and
prepared to meet her with a strange tremor in his whole bearing.  It
annoyed him, and brought almost a frown of sternness to his fine
features.  It seemed not quite in keeping with his dignity as junior
member of his father's firm that he should be so childish over a simple
matter like this, and he began to doubt whether, after all, he might
not be doing a most unwise and irregular thing in having anything at
all to do with this girl's preposterous proposition.  Then Shirley
entered the office, looked eagerly into his eyes; and he straight-way
forgot all his reasoning.  He met her with a smile that seemed to
reassure her, for she drew in her breath half relieved, and smiled
shyly back.

She was wearing a little old crêpe de chine waist that she had dyed a
real apple-blossom pink in the wash-bowl with a bit of pink crepe-paper
and a kettle of boiling water.  The collar showed neatly over the
shabby dark-blue coat, and seemed to reflect apple-blossom tints in her
pale cheeks.  There was something sky-like in the tint of her eyes that
gave the young man a sense of spring fitness as he looked at her
contentedly.  He was conscious of gladness that she looked as good to
him in the broad day as in the dusk of evening.  There was still that
spirited lift of her chin, that firm set of the sweet lips, that gave a
conviction of strength and nerve.  He reflected that he had seldom seen
it in the girls of his acquaintance.  Was it possible that poverty and
privation and big responsibility made it, or was it just innate?

"You--you have found out?" she asked breathlessly as she sat down on
the edge of the chair, her whole body tense with eagerness.

"Sure!  It's all right," he said smilingly.  "You can rent it if you
wish."

"And the price?"  It was evident the strain was intense.

"Why, the price will be all right, I'm sure.  It really isn't worth
what you mentioned at all.  It's only a barn, you know.  We couldn't
think of taking more than ten dollars a month, if we took that.  I must
look it over again; but it won't be more than ten dollars, and it may
be less."

Young Graham wore his most businesslike tone to say this, and his eyes
were on the paper-knife wherewith he was mutilating his nice clean
blotter pad on the desk.

"Oh!" breathed Shirley, the color almost leaving her face entirely with
the relief of his words.  "Oh, _really_?"

"And you haven't lost your nerve about living away out there in the
country in a great empty barn?" he asked quickly to cover her
embarrassment--and his own, too, perhaps.

"Oh, no!" said Shirley with a smile that showed a dimple in one cheek,
and the star sparks in her eyes.  "Oh, no!  It is a lovely barn, and it
won't be empty when we all get into it."

"Are there many of you?" he asked interestedly.  Already the
conversation was taking on a slightly personal tinge, but neither of
them was at all aware of it.

"Two brothers and two sisters and mother," said the girl shyly.  She
was so full of delight over finding that she could rent the barn that
she hardly knew what she was answering.  She was unconscious of the
fact that she had in a way taken this strange young man into her
confidence by her shy, sweet tone and manner.

"Your mother approves of your plan?" he asked.  "She doesn't object to
the country?"

"Oh, I haven't told her yet," said Shirley.  "I don't know that I
shall; for she has been quite sick, and she trusts me entirely.  She
loves the country, and it will be wonderful to her to get out there.
She might not like the idea of a barn beforehand; but she has never
seen the barn, you know, and, besides, it won't look like a barn inside
when I get it fixed up.  I must talk it over with George and Carol, but
I don't think I shall tell her at all till we take her out there and
surprise her.  I'll tell her I've found a place that I think she will
like, and ask her if I may keep it a surprise.  She'll be willing, and
she'll be pleased, I know!"  Her eyes were smiling happily, dreamily;
the dreamer was uppermost in her face now, and made it lovely; then a
sudden cloud came, and the strong look returned, with courage to meet a
storm.

"But, anyhow," she finished after a pause, "we _have_ to go there for
the summer, for we've nowhere else to go that we can afford; and
_anywhere_ out of the city will be good, even if mother doesn't just
choose it.  I think perhaps it will be easier for her if she doesn't
know about it until she's there.  It won't seem so much like not going
to live in a house."

"I see," said the young man interestedly.  "I shouldn't wonder if you
are right.  And anyhow I think we can manage between us to make it
pretty habitable for her."  He was speaking eagerly and forgetting that
he had no right, but a flush came into the sensitive girl's cheek.

"Oh, I wouldn't want to make you trouble," she said.  "You have been
very kind already, and you have made the rent so reasonable!  I'm
afraid it isn't right and fair; it is such a _lovely_ barn!"

"Perfectly fair," said Graham glibly.  "It will do the barn good to be
lived in and taken care of again."

If he had been called upon to tell just what good it would do the barn
to be lived in, he might have floundered out of the situation, perhaps;
but he took care not to make that necessary.  He went on talking.

"I will see that everything is in good order, the doors made all right,
and the windows--I--that is, if I remember rightly there were a few
little things needed doing to that barn that ought to be attended to
before you go in.  How soon did you want to take possession?  I'll try
to have it all ready for you."

"Oh, why, that is very kind," said Shirley.  "I don't think it needs
anything; that is, I didn't notice anything, but perhaps you know best.
Why, we have to leave our house the last of this month.  Do you suppose
we could have the rent begin a few days before that, so we could get
things moved gradually?  I haven't much time, only at night, you know."

"We'll date the lease the first of next month," said the young man
quickly; "and then you can put your things in any time you like from
now on.  I'll see that the locks are made safe, and there ought to be a
partition put in--just a simple partition, you know--at one end of the
up-stairs room, where you could lock up things.  Then you could take
them up there when you like.  I'll attend to that partition at once.
The barn needs it.  This is as good a time as any to put it in.  You
wouldn't object to a partition?  That wouldn't upset any of your plans?"

He spoke as if it would be a great detriment to the barn not to have a
partition, but of course he wouldn't insist if she disliked it.

"Oh, why, no, of course not," said Shirley, bewildered.  "It would be
lovely.  Mother could use that for her room, but I wouldn't want you to
do anything on our account that you do not have to do anyway."

"Oh, no, certainly not, but it might as well be done now as any time,
and you get the benefit of it, you know.  I shouldn't want to rent the
place without putting it in good order, and a partition is always
needed in a barn, you know, if it's to be a really good barn."

It was well that no wise ones were listening to that conversation; else
they might have laughed aloud at this point and betrayed the young
man's strategy, but Shirley was all untutored in farm lore, and knew
less about barns and their needs than she did of Sanskrit; so the
remark passed without exciting her suspicion.

"Oh, it's going to be lovely!" said Shirley suddenly, like an eager
child, "and I can't thank you enough for being so kind about it."

"Not at all," said the young man gracefully.  "And now you will want to
go out and look around again to make your plans.  Were you planning to
go soon?  I should like to have you look the place over again and see
if there is anything else that should be done."

"Oh, why," said Shirley, "I don't think there could be anything else;
only I'd like to have a key to that big front door, for we couldn't
carry things up the ladder very well.  I was thinking I'd go out this
afternoon, perhaps, if I could get George a leave of absence for a
little while.  There's been a death in our firm, and the office is
working only half-time to-day, and I'm off again.  I thought I'd like
to have George see it if possible; he's very wise in his judgments, and
mother trusts him a lot next to me; but I don't know whether they'll
let him off on such short notice."

"Where does he work?"

"Farwell and Story's department store.  They are pretty particular, but
George is allowed a day off every three months if he takes it out of
his vacation; so I thought I'd try."

"Here, let me fix that.  Harry Farwell's a friend of mine."  He caught
up the telephone.

"Oh, you are very kind!" murmured Shirley, quite overcome at the
blessings that were falling at her feet.

Graham already had the number, and was calling for Mr. Farwell, Junior.

"That you, Hal?  Oh, good morning!  Have a good time last night?  Sorry
I couldn't have been there, but I had three other engagements and
couldn't get around.  Say, I want to ask a favor of you.  You have a
boy there in the store I want to borrow for the afternoon if you don't
mind.  His name is George Hollister.  Could you look him up and send
him over to my office pretty soon?  It will be a personal favor to me
if you will let him off and not dock his pay.  Thank you!  I was sure
you would.  Return the favor sometime myself if opportunity comes my
way.  Yes, I'll hold the phone till you hunt him up.  Thank you."

Graham looked up from the phone into the astonished grateful girl's
eyes, and caught her look of deep admiration, which quite confused
Shirley for a moment, and put her in a terrible way trying to thank him
again.

"Oh, that's all right.  Farwell and I went to prep school together.
It's nothing for him to arrange matters.  He says it will be all right.
Now, what are your plans?  I wonder if I can help in any way.  How were
you planning to go out?"

"Oh, by the trolley, of course," said Shirley.  How strange it must be
to have other ways of travelling at one's command!

"I did think," she added, half thinking aloud, "that perhaps I would
stop at the schoolhouse and get my sister.  I don't know but it would
be better to get her judgment about things.  She is rather a wise
little girl."

She looked up suddenly, and seeing the young man's eyes upon her, grew
ashamed that she had brought her private affairs to his notice; yet it
had seemed necessary to say something to fill in this embarrassing
pause.  But Sidney Graham did not let her continue to be embarrassed.
He entered into her plans just as if they concerned himself also.

"Why, I think that would be a very good plan," he said.  "It will be a
great deal better to have a real family council before you decide about
moving.  Now I've thought of something.  Why couldn't you all go out in
the car with me and my kid sister?  I've been promising to take her a
spin in the country, and my chauffeur is to drive her down this
afternoon for me.  It's almost time for her to be here now.  Your
brother will be here by the time she comes.  Why couldn't we just go
around by the schoolhouse and pick up your sister, and all go out
together?  I want to go out myself, you know, and look things over, and
it seems to me that would save time all around.  Then, if there should
be anything you want done, you know----"

"Oh, there is nothing I want done," gasped Shirley.  "You have been
most kind.  I couldn't think of asking for anything at the price we
shall be paying.  And we mustn't impose upon you.  We can go out in the
trolley perfectly well, and not trouble you."

"Indeed, it is no trouble whatever when I am going anyway."  Then to
the telephone: "Hello!  He's coming, you say?  He's on his way?  Good.
Thank you very much, Harry.  Good-by!"

"That's all right!" he said, turning to her, smiling.  "Your brother is
on his way, and now excuse me just a moment while I phone to my sister."

Shirley sat with glowing cheeks and apprehensive mind while the young
man called up a girl whom he addressed as "Kid" and told her to hurry
the car right down, that he wanted to start very soon, and to bring
some extra wraps along for some friends he was going to take with him.

He left Shirley no opportunity to express her overwhelming thanks, but
gave her some magazines, and hurried from the room to attend to some
matters of business before he left.



CHAPTER VI

Shirley sat with shining eyes and glowing cheeks, turning over the
leaves of the magazines with trembling fingers, but unable to read
anything, for the joy of what was before her.  A real automobile ride!
The first she had ever had!  And it was to include George and Carol!
How wonderful!  And how kind in him, how thoughtful, to take his own
sister, and hers, and so make the trip perfectly conventional and
proper!  What a nice face he had!  What fine eyes!  He didn't seem in
the least like the young society man she knew he must be from the
frequent mention she had noticed of his name in the papers.  He was a
real gentleman, a real nobleman!  There were such.  It was nice to know
of them now and then, even though they did move in a different orbit
from the one where she had been set.  It gave her a happier feeling
about the universe just to have seen how nice a man could be to a poor
little nobody when he didn't have to.  For of course it couldn't be
anything to him to rent that barn--at ten dollars a month!  That was
ridiculous!  Could it be that he was thinking her an object of charity?
That he felt sorry for her and made the price merely nominal?  She
couldn't have that.  It wasn't right nor honest, and--it wasn't
respectable!  That was the way unprincipled men did when they wanted to
humor foolish little dolls of girls.  Could it be that he thought of
her in any such way?

Her cheeks flamed hotly and her eyes flashed.  She sat up very straight
indeed, and began to tremble.  How was it she had not thought of such a
thing before?  Her mother had warned her to be careful about having
anything to do with strange men, except in the most distant business
way; and here had she been telling him frankly all the private affairs
of the family and letting him make plans for her.  How had it happened?
What must he think of her?  This came of trying to keep a secret from
mother.  She might have known it was wrong, and yet the case was so
desperate and mother so likely to worry about any new and
unconventional suggestion.  It had seemed right.  But of course it
wasn't right for her to fall in that way and allow him to take them all
in his car.  She must put a stop to it somehow.  She must go in the
trolley if she went at all.  She wasn't sure but she had better call
the whole thing off and tell him they couldn't live in a barn, that she
had changed her mind.  It would be so dreadful if he had taken her for
one of those girls who wanted to attract the attention of a young man!

In the midst of her perturbed thoughts the door opened and Sidney
Graham walked in again.  His fine, clean-cut face and clear eyes
instantly dispelled her fears again.  His bearing was dignified and
respectful, and there was something in the very tone of his voice as he
spoke to her that restored her confidence in him and in his impression
of her.  Her half-formed intention of rising and declining to take the
ride with him fled, and she sat quietly looking at the pictures in the
magazine with unseeing eyes.

"I hope you will find something to interest you for a few minutes,"
young Graham said pleasantly.  "It won't be long, but there are one or
two matters I promised father I would attend to before I left this
afternoon.  There is an article in that other magazine under your hand
there about beautifying country homes, bungalows, and the like.  It may
give you some ideas about the old barn.  I shouldn't wonder if a few
flowers and vines might do a whole lot."

He found the place in the magazine, and left her again; and strangely
enough she became absorbed in the article because her imagination
immediately set to work thinking how glorious it would be to have a few
flowers growing where Doris could go out and water them and pick them.
She grew so interested in the remarks about what flowers would grow
best in the open and which were easiest to care for that she got out
her little pencil and notebook that were in her coat-pocket, and began
to copy some of the lists.  Then suddenly the door opened again, and
Graham returned with George.

The boy stopped short on the threshold, startled, a white wave of
apprehension passing over his face.  He did not speak.  The boy-habit
of silence and self-control in a crisis was upon him.  He looked with
apprehension from one to the other.

Shirley jumped to her feet.

"Oh, George, I'm so glad you could come!  This is Mr. Graham.  He has
been kind enough to offer to take us in his car to see a place we can
rent for the summer, and it was through his suggestion that Mr. Farwell
let you off for the afternoon."

There was a sudden relaxing of the tenseness in the young face and a
sigh of relief in the tone as the boy answered:

"Aw, gee!  That's great!  Thanks awfully for the holiday.  They don't
come my way often.  It'll be great to have a ride in a car, too.  Some
lark, eh, Shirley?"

The boy warmed to the subject with the friendly grasp the young man
gave him, and Shirley could see her brother had made a good impression;
for young Graham was smiling appreciatively, showing all his even white
teeth just as if he enjoyed the boy's offhand way of talking.

"I'm going to leave you here for ten minutes more until I talk with a
man out here in the office.  Then we will go," said young Graham, and
hurried away again.

"Gee, Shirley!" said the boy, flinging himself down luxuriously in a
big leather chair.  "Gee!  You certainly did give me some start!  I
thought mother was worse, or you'd got arrested, or lost your job, or
something, finding you here in a strange office.  Some class to this,
isn't there?  Look at the thickness of that rug!" and he kicked the
thick Turkish carpet happily.  "Say, he must have some coin!  Who is
the guy, anyway?  How'd ya get onto the tip?  You don't think he's
handing out Vanderbilt residences at fifteen a month, do you?"

"Listen, George.  I must talk fast because he may come back any minute.
Yesterday I got a half-holiday, and instead of going home I thought I'd
go out and hunt a house.  I took the Glenside trolley; and, when we got
out past the city, I heard two men talking about a place we were
passing.  It was a great big, beautiful stone barn.  They told who
owned it, and said a lot about its having such a splendid spring of
water beside it.  It was a beautiful place, George; and I couldn't help
thinking what a thing it would be for mother to be out in the country
this summer, and what a wonderful house that would make----"

"We couldn't live in a barn, Shirl!" said the boy, aghast.

"Wait, George.  Listen.  Just you don't say that till you see it.  It's
the biggest barn you ever saw, and I guess it hasn't been used for a
barn in a long time.  I got out of the trolley on the way back, and
went in.  It is just enormous, and we could screen off rooms and live
like princes.  It has a great big front door, and we could have a
hammock under the tree; and there's a brook to fish in, and a big third
story with hay in it.  I guess it's what they call in books a hay-loft.
It's great."

"Gee!" was all the electrified George could utter.  "Oh, gee!"

"It is on a little hill with the loveliest tree in front of it, and
right on the trolley line.  We'd have to start a little earlier in the
morning; but I wouldn't mind, would you?"

"Naw!" said George, "but could we walk that far?"

"No, we'd have to ride, but the rent is so much lower it would pay our
carfare."

"Gee!" said George again, "isn't that great?  And is this the guy that
owns it?"

"Yes, or at least he and his father do.  He's been very kind.  He's
taking all this trouble to take us out in his car to-day to make sure
if there is anything that needs to be done for our comfort there.  He
certainly is an unusual man for a landlord."

"He sure is, Shirley.  I guess mebbe he has a case on you the way he
looks at you."

"George!" said Shirley severely, the red staining her cheeks and her
eyes flashing angrily.  "George!  That was a _dreadful_ thing for you
to say.  If you ever even think a thing like that again, I won't have
anything to do with him or the place.  We'll just stay in the city all
summer.  I suppose perhaps that would be better, anyway."

Shirley got up and began to button her coat haughtily, as if she were
going out that minute.

"Aw, gee, Shirley!  I was just kidding.  Can't you take a joke?  This
thing must be getting on your nerves.  I never saw you so touchy."

"It certainly is getting on my nerves to have you say a thing like
that, George."

Shirley's tone was still severe.

"Aw, cut the grouch, Shirley.  I tell you I was just kidding.  'Course
he's a good guy.  He probably thinks you're cross-eyed, knock-kneed----"

"George!"  Shirley started for the door; but the irrepressible George
saw it was time to stop, and he put out an arm with muscles that were
iron-like from many wrestlings and ball-games with his fellow laborers
at the store.

"Now, Shirley, cut the comedy.  That guy'll be coming back next, and
you don't want to have him ask what's the matter, do you?  He certainly
is some fine guy.  I wouldn't like to embarrass him, would you?  He's a
peach of a looker.  Say, Shirley, what do you figure mother's going to
say about this?"

Shirley turned, half mollified.

"That's just what I want to ask you, George.  I don't want to tell
mother until it's all fixed up and we can show if to her.  You know it
will sound a great deal worse to talk about living in a barn than it
will to go in and see it all fixed up with rugs and curtains and
screens and the piano and a couch, and the supper-table set, and the
sun setting outside the open door, and a bird singing in the tree."

"Gee!  Shirley, wouldn't that be some class?  Say, Shirley, don't let's
tell her!  Let's just make her say she'll trust the moving to us to
surprise her.  Can't you kid her along and make her willing for that?"

"Why, that was what I was thinking.  If you think there's no danger she
will be disappointed and sorry, and think we ought to have done
something else."

"What else could we do?  Say, Shirley, it would be great to sleep in
the hay-loft!"

"We could just tell her we were coming out in the country for the
summer to camp in a nice place where it was safe and comfortable, and
then we would have plenty of time to look around for the right kind of
a house for next winter."

"That's the dope, Shirley!  You give her that.  She'll fall for that,
sure thing.  She'll like the country.  At least, if it's like what you
say it is."

"Well, you wait till you see it."

"Have you told Carol?" asked George, suddenly sobering.  Carol was his
twin sister, inseparable chum, and companion when he was at home.

"No," said Shirley, "I haven't had a chance; but Mr. Graham suggested
we drive around by the school and get her.  Then she can see how she
likes it, too; and, if Carol thinks so, we'll get mother not to ask any
questions, but just trust to us."

"Gee!  That guy's great.  He's got a head on him.  Some lark, what?"

"Yes, he's been very kind," said Shirley.  "At first I told him I
couldn't let him take so much trouble for us, but he said he was going
to take his sister out for a ride----"

"A girl!  Aw, gee!  I'm going to beat it!"  George stopped in his eager
walk back and forth across the office, and seized his old faded cap.

"George, stop!  You mustn't be impolite.  Besides, I think she's only a
very little girl, probably like Doris.  He called her his 'kid sister.'"

"H'm!  You can't tell.  I ain't going to run any risks.  I better beat
it."

But George's further intentions were suddenly brought to a finish by
the entrance of Mr. Sidney Graham.

"Well, Miss Hollister," he said with a smile, "we are ready at last.
I'm sorry to have kept you waiting so long; but there was something
wrong with one of my tires, and the chauffeur had to run around to the
garage.  Come on, George," he said to the boy, who hung shyly behind
now, wary of any lurking female who might be haunting the path.  "Guess
you'll have to sit in the front seat with me, and help me drive.  The
chauffeur has to go back and drive for mother.  She has to go to some
tea or other."

George suddenly forgot the possible girl, and followed his new hero to
the elevator with a swelling soul.  What would the other fellows at the
store think of him?  A whole half-holiday, an automobile-ride, and a
chance to sit in the front and learn to drive!  But all he said was:

"Aw, gee!  Yes, sure thing!"

The strange girl suddenly loomed on his consciousness again as they
emerged from the elevator and came out on the street.  She was sitting
in the great back seat alone, arrayed in a big blue velvet coat the
color of her eyes, and George felt at once all hands and feet.  She was
a slender wisp of a thing about Carol's age, with a lily complexion and
a wealth of gold hair caught in a blue veil.  She smiled very prettily
when her brother introduced her as "Elizabeth."  There was nothing
snobbish or disagreeable about her, but that blue velvet coat suddenly
made George conscious of his own common attire, and gave Shirley a pang
of dismay at her own little shabby suit.

However, Sidney Graham soon covered all differences in the attire of
his guests by insisting that they should don the two long blanket coats
that he handed them; and somehow when George was seated in the big
leather front seat, with that great handsome coat around his shoulders,
he did not much mind the blue velvet girl behind him, and mentally
resolved to earn enough to get Carol a coat like it some day; only
Carol's should be pink or red to go with her black eyes and pink cheeks.

After all, it was Shirley, not George, who felt embarrassment over the
strange girl and wished she had not come.  She was vexed with herself
for it, too.  It was foolish to let a child no older than Carol fluster
her so, but the thought of a long ride alone on that back seat with the
dainty young girl actually frightened her.

But Elizabeth was not frightened.  She had been brought up in the
society atmosphere, and was at home with people always, everywhere.
She tucked the robes about her guest, helped Shirley button the big,
soft dark-blue coat about her, remarking that it got awfully chilly
when they were going; and somehow before Shirley had been able to think
of a single word to say in response the conversation seemed to be
moving along easily without her aid.

"Sid says we're going to pick up your sister from her school.  I'm so
glad!  How old is she?  About my age?  Won't that be delightful?  I'm
rather lonesome this spring because all my friends are in school.  I've
been away at boarding-school, and got the measles.  Wasn't that too
silly for a great big girl like me?  And the doctor said I couldn't
study any more this spring on account of my eyes.  It's terribly
lonesome.  I've been home six weeks now, and I don't know what to do
with myself.  What's your sister's name?  Carol?  Carol Hollister?
That's a pretty name!  Is she the only sister you have?  A baby sister?
How sweet!  What's her name?  Oh, I think Doris is the cutest name
ever.  Doris Hollister.  Why don't we go and get Doris?  Wouldn't she
like to ride, too?  Oh, it's too bad your mother is ill; but of course
she wouldn't want to stay all alone in the house without some of her
family."

Elizabeth was tactful.  She knew at a glance that trained nurses and
servants could not be plentiful in a family where the young people wore
such plain, old-style garments.  She gave no hint of such a thought,
however.

"That's your brother," she went on, nodding toward George.  "I've got
another brother, but he's seventeen and away at college, so I don't see
much of him.  Sid's very good to me when he has time, and often he
takes me to ride.  We're awfully jolly chums, Sid and I.  Is this the
school where your sister goes?  She's in high school, then.  The third
year?  My!  She must be bright.  I've only finished my second.  Does
she know she's going with us?  What fun to be called out of school by a
surprise!  Oh, I just know I'm going to like her."

Shirley sat dumb with amazement, and listened to the eager gush of the
lively girl, wondered what shy Carol would say, trying to rouse herself
to answer the young questioner in the same spirit in which she asked
questions.

George came out with Carol in a very short time, Carol struggling into
her coat and trying to straighten her hat, while George mumbled in her
ear as he helped her clumsily:

"Some baby doll out there!  Kid, you better preen your feathers.  She's
been gassing with Shirley to beat the band I couldn't hear all they
said, but she asked a lot about you.  You should worry!  Hold up your
head, and don't flicker an eyelash.  You're as good as she is any day,
if you don't look all dolled up like a new saloon.  But she's some
looker!  Pretty as a red wagon!  Her brother's a peach of a fellow.
He's going to let me run the car when we get out of the city limit; and
say!  Shirley says for me to tell you we're going out to look at a barn
where we're going to move this summer, and you're not to say a word
about it's being a barn.  See?  Get onto that sky-blue-pink satin scarf
she's got around her head?  Ain't she some chicken, though?"

"Hush, George!  She'll hear you!" murmured Carol in dismay.  "What do
you mean about a barn?  How could we live in a barn?"

"You just shut up and saw wood, kid, and you'll see.  Shirley thinks
she's got onto something pretty good."

Then Carol was introduced to the beautiful blue-velvet girl and sat
down beside her, wrapped in a soft furry cloak of garnet, to be whirled
away into a fairy-land of wonder.



CHAPTER VII

Carol and Elizabeth got on very well together.  Shirley was amazed to
see the ease with which her sister entered into this new relation,
unawed by the garments of her hostess.  Carol had more of the modern
young America in her than Shirley, perhaps, whose early life had been
more conventionally guarded.  Carol was democratic, and, strange to
say, felt slightly superior to Elizabeth on account of going to a
public school.  The high-school girls were in the habit of referring to
a neighboring boarding-school as "Dummy's Retreat"; and therefore Carol
was not at all awed by the other girl, who declared in a friendly
manner that she had always been crazy to go to the public school, and
asked rapid intelligent questions about the doings there.  Before they
were out of the city limits the two girls were talking a steady stream,
and one could see from their eyes that they liked each other.  Shirley,
relieved, settled back on the comfortable cushions, and let herself
rest and relax.  She tried to think how it would feel to own a car like
this and be able to ride around when she wanted to.

On the front seat George and Graham were already excellent friends, and
George was gaining valuable information about running a car, which he
had ample opportunity to put into practice as soon as they got outside
the crowded thoroughfares.

They were perhaps half-way to the old barn and running smoothly on an
open road, with no one in sight a long way ahead, when Graham turned
back to Shirley, leaving George to run the car for a moment himself.
The boy's heart swelled with gratitude and utmost devotion to be thus
trusted.  Of course there wasn't anything to do but keep things just as
he had been told, but this man realized that he would do it and not
perform any crazy, daring action to show off.  George set himself to be
worthy of this trust.  To be sure, young Graham had a watchful eye upon
things, and was taking no chances; but he let the boy feel free, and
did not make him aware of his espionage, which is a course of action
that will win any boy to give the best that is in him to any
responsibility, if he has any best at all.

It was not the kind of conversation that one would expect between
landlord and tenant that the young girl and the man carried on in these
brief sentences now and then.  He called her attention to the soft
green tint that was spreading over the tree-tops more distinctly than
the day before; to the lazy little clouds floating over the blue; to
the tinting of the fields, now taking on every hour new colors; to the
perfume in the air.  So with pleasantness of passage they arrived at
last at the old barn.

Like a pack of eager children they tumbled out of the car and hurried
up to the barn, all talking at once, forgetting all difference in
station.  They were just young and out on a picnic.

Graham had brought a key for the big padlock; and clumsily the man and
the boy, unused to such manoeuvres, unlocked and shoved back the two
great doors.

"These doors are too heavy.  They should have ball bearings," remarked
young Graham.  "I'll attend to that at once.  They should be made to
move with a light touch.  I declare it doesn't pay to let property lie
idle without a tenant, there are so many little things that get
neglected."

He walked around with a wise air as if he had been an active landowner
for years, though indeed he was looking at everything with strange,
ignorant eyes.  His standard was a home where every detail was perfect,
and where necessities came and vanished with the need.  This was his
first view into the possibilities of "being up against it," as he
phrased it in his mind.

Elizabeth in her blue velvet cloak and blue cloudy veil stood like a
sweet fairy in the wide doorway, and looked around with delight.

"Oh Sid, wouldn't this be just a dandy place for a party?" she
exclaimed eagerly.  "You could put the orchestra over in that corner
behind a screen of palms, and decorate with gray Florida moss and
asparagus vine with daffodils wired on in showers from the beams, and
palms all around the walls, and colored electrics hidden everywhere.
You could run a wire in from the street, couldn't you? the way they did
at Uncle Andy's, and serve the supper out on the lawn with little
individual rustic tables.  Brower has them, and brings them out with
rustic chairs to match.  You could have the tree wired, too, and have
colored electrics all over the place.  Oh! wouldn't it be just
heavenly?  Say, Sid, Carol says they are coming out here to live,
maybe; why couldn't we give them a party like that for a house-warming?"

Sidney Graham looked at his eager, impractical young sister and then at
the faces of the three Hollisters, and tried not to laugh as the
tremendous contrast of circumstances was presented to him.  But his
rare tact served him in good stead.

"Why, Elizabeth, that would doubtless be very delightful; but Miss
Hollister tells me her mother has been quite ill, and I'm sure, while
that might be the happiest thing imaginable for you young folks, it
would be rather trying on an invalid.  I guess you'll have to have your
parties somewhere else for the present."

"Oh!" said Elizabeth with quick recollection, "of course!  They told me
about their mother.  How thoughtless of me!  But it would be lovely,
wouldn't it, Miss Hollister?  Can't you see it?"

She turned in wistful appeal to Shirley, and that young woman, being a
dreamer herself, at once responded with a radiant smile:

"Indeed I can, and it would be lovely indeed, but I've been thinking
what a lovely home it could be made, too."

"Yes?" said Elizabeth questioningly, and looking around with a dubious
frown.  "It would need a lot of changing, I should think.  You would
want hardwood floors, and lots of rugs, and some partitions and
windows----"

"Oh, no," said Shirley, laughing.  "We're not hardwood people, dear;
we're just plain hard-working people; and all we need is a quiet, sweet
place to rest in.  It's going to be just heavenly here, with that tree
outside to shade the doorway, and all this wide space to walk around
in.  We live in a little narrow city house now, and never have any
place to get out except the street.  We'll have the birds and the brook
for orchestra, and we won't need palms, because the trees and vines
will soon be in leaf and make a lovely screen for our orchestra.  I
imagine at night the stars will have almost as many colors as
electrics."

Elizabeth looked at her with puzzled eyes, but half convinced.

"Well, yes, perhaps they would," she said, and smiled.  "I've never
thought of them that way, but it sounds very pretty, quite like some of
Browning's poetry that I don't understand, or was it Mrs. Browning?  I
can't quite remember."

Sidney Graham, investigating the loft above them, stood a moment
watching the tableau and listening to the conversation, though they
could not see him; and he thought within himself that it might not be a
bad thing for his little sister, with her boarding-school rearing, to
get near to these true-hearted young working people, who yet were
dreamers and poets, and get her standards somewhat modified by theirs.
He was especially delighted with the gentle, womanly way in which
Shirley answered the girl now when she thought herself alone with her.

George and Carol had grasped hold of hands and run wildly down the
slope to the brook after a most casual glance at the interior of the
barn.  Elizabeth now turned her dainty high-heeled boots in the brook's
direction, and Shirley was left alone to walk the length and breadth of
her new abode and make some real plans.

The young man in the dim loft above watched her for a moment as she
stood looking from one wall to the other, measuring distances with her
eye, walking quickly over to the window and rubbing a clear space on
the dusty pane with her handkerchief that she might look out.  She was
a goodly sight, and he could not help comparing her with the girls he
knew, though their garments would have far outshone hers.  Still, even
in the shabby dark-blue serge suit she seemed lovely.

The young people returned as precipitately as they had gone, and both
Carol and George of their own accord joined Shirley in a brief council
of war.  Graham thoughtfully called his sister away, ostensibly to
watch a squirrel high in the big tree, but really to admonish her about
making no further propositions like that for the party, as the young
people to whom he had introduced her were not well off, and had no
money or time for elaborate entertainments.

"But they're lovely, Sid, aren't they?  Don't you like them just
awfully?  I know you do, or you wouldn't have taken the trouble to
bring them out here in the car with us.  Say, you'll bring me to see
them often after they come here to live, won't you?"

"Perhaps," said her brother smilingly.  "But hadn't you better wait
until they ask you?"

"Oh, they'll ask me," said Elizabeth with a charming smile and a
confident little toss of her head.  "I'll make them ask me."

"Be careful, kid," he said, still smiling.  "Remember, they won't have
much money to offer you entertainment with, and probably their things
are very plain and simple.  You may embarrass them if you invite
yourself out."

Elizabeth raised her azure eyes to her brother's face thoughtfully for
a moment, then smiled back confidently once more.

"Don't you worry, Sid, dear; there's more than one way.  I won't hurt
their feelings, but they're going to ask me, and they're going to want
me, and I'm going to come.  Yes, and you're going to bring me!"

She turned with a laughing pirouette, and danced down the length of the
barn to Carol, catching her hand and whirling her after her in a
regular childish frolic.

"Well, do you think we ought to take it?  Do you think I dare give my
final word without consulting mother?" Shirley asked her brother when
they were thus left alone for a minute.

"Sure thing!  No mistake!  It's simply _great_.  You couldn't get a
place like this if you went the length and breadth of the city and had
a whole lot more money than you have to spend."

"But remember it's a barn!" said Shirley impressively.  "Mother may
mind that very much."

"Not when she sees it," said Carol, whirling back to the consultation.
"She'll think it's the sensiblest thing we ever did.  She isn't foolish
like that.  We'll tell her we've found a place to camp with a shanty
attached, and she can't be disappointed.  I think it'll be great.  Just
think how Doris can run in the grass!"

"Yes," put in George.  "I was telling Carol down by the spring--before
that _girl_ came and stopped us--I think we might have some chickens
and raise eggs.  Harley could do that, and Carol and I could raise
flowers, and I could take 'em to town in the morning.  I could work
evenings."

Shirley smiled.  She almost felt like shouting that they agreed with
her.  The place seemed so beautiful, so almost heavenly to her when she
thought of the close, dark quarters at home and the summer with its
heat coming on.

"We couldn't keep a lodger, and we'd have that much less," said Shirley
thoughtfully.

"But we wouldn't have their laundry nor their room-work to do," said
Carol, "and I could have that much more time for the garden and
chickens."

"You mustn't count on being able to make much that way," said Shirley
gravely.  "You know nothing about gardening, and would probably make a
lot of mistakes at first, anyway."

"I can make fudge and sandwiches, and take them to school to sell,"
declared Carol stoutly; "and I'll find out how to raise flowers and
parsley and little things people have to have.  Besides, there's
watercress down by that brook, and people like that.  We could sell
that."

"Well, we'll see," said Shirley thoughtfully, "but you mustn't get up
too many ideas yet.  If we can only get moved and mother is satisfied,
I guess we can get along.  The rent is only ten dollars."

"Good _night_!  That's cheap enough!" said George, and drew a long
whistle.  Then, seeing Elizabeth approaching, he put on an indifferent
air, and sauntered to the dusty window at the other end of the barn.

Sidney Graham appeared now, and took Shirley over to the east end to
ask her just where she thought would be a good place to put the
partition, and did she think it would be a good thing to have another
one at the other end just like it?  And so they stood and planned,
quite as if Shirley were ordering a ten-thousand-dollar alteration put
into her ten-dollar barn.  Then suddenly the girl remembered her fears;
and, looking straight up into the interested face of the young man, she
asked earnestly:

"You are sure you were going to put in these partitions?  You are not
making any change on my account?  Because I couldn't think of allowing
you to go to any trouble or expense, you know."

Her straightforward look embarrassed him.

"Why, I----" he said, growing a little flushed.  "Why, you see I hadn't
been out to look things over before.  I didn't realize how much better
it would be to have those in, you know.  But now I intend to do it
right away.  Father put the whole thing in my hands to do as I pleased.
In fact, the place is mine now, and I want to put it in good shape to
rent.  So don't worry yourself in the least.  Things won't go to wrack
and ruin so quickly, you know, if there is someone on the place."

He finished his sentence briskly.  It seemed quite plausible even to
himself now, and he searched about for a change of topic.

"You think you can get on here with the rough floor?  You might put
padding or something under your carpets, you know, but it will take
pretty large carpets----"  He looked at her dubiously.  To his
conventional mind every step of the way was blocked by some impassable
barrier.  He did not honestly see how she was going to do the thing at
all.

"Oh, we don't need carpets!" laughed Shirley gayly.  "We'll spread down
a rug in front of mother's bed, and another one by the piano, and the
rest will be just perfectly all right.  We're not expecting to give
receptions here, you know," she added mischievously.  "We're only
campers, and very grateful campers at that, too, to find a nice, clean,
empty floor where we can live.  The only thing that is troubling me is
the cooking.  I've been wondering if it will affect the insurance if we
use an oil-stove to cook with, or would you rather we got a wood-stove
and put the pipe out of one of the windows?  I've seen people do that
sometimes.  Of course we could cook outdoors on a camp-fire if it was
necessary, but it might be a little inconvenient rainy days."

Graham gasped at the coolness with which this slip of a girl discoursed
about hardships as if they were necessities to be accepted pleasantly
and without a murmur.  She actually would not be daunted at the idea of
cooking her meals on a fire out-of-doors!  Cooking indeed!  That was of
course a question that people had to consider.  It had never been a
question that crossed his mind before.  People cooked--how did they
cook?  By electricity, gas, coal and wood fires, of course.  He had
never considered it a matter to be called in any way serious.  But now
he perceived that it was one of the first main things to be looked out
for in a home.  He looked down at the waiting girl with a curious
mixture of wonder, admiration, and dismay in his face.

"Why, of course you will need a fire and a kitchen," he said as if
those things usually grew in houses without any help and it hadn't
occurred to him before that they were not indigenous to barns.  "Well,
now, I hadn't thought of that.  There isn't any chimney here, is there?
H'm!  There ought to be a chimney in every barn.  It would be better
for the--ah--for the hay, I should think; keep it dry, you know, and
all that sort of thing.  And then I should think it might be better for
the animals.  I must look into that matter."

"No, Mr. Graham," said Shirley decidedly.  "There is no necessity for a
chimney.  We can perfectly well have the pipe go through a piece of tin
set in the back window if you won't object, and we can use the little
oil-stove when it's very hot if that doesn't affect the insurance.  We
have a gas stove, of course, that we could bring; but there isn't any
gas in a barn."

Graham looked around blankly at the cobwebby walls as if expecting
gas-jets to break forth simultaneously with his wish.

"No, I suppose not," he said, "although I should think there ought to
be.  In a _barn_, you know.  But I'm sure there will be no objection
whatever to your using any kind of a stove that will work here.  This
is a stone barn, you know, and I'm sure it won't affect the insurance.
I'll find out and let you know."

Shirley felt a trifle uneasy yet about those partitions and the low
price of the rent, but somehow the young man had managed to impress her
with the fact that he was under no unpleasant delusions concerning
herself and that he had the utmost respect for her.  He stood looking
down earnestly at her for a moment without saying a word, and then he
began hesitatingly.

"I wish you'd let me tell you," he said frankly, "how awfully brave you
are about all this, planning to come out here in this lonely place, and
not being afraid of hard work, and rough floors, and a barn, and even a
fire out-of-doors."

Shirley's laugh rang out, and her eyes sparkled.

"Why, it's the nicest thing that's happened to me in ages," she said
joyously.  "I can't hardly believe it's true that we can come here,
that we can really _afford_ to come to a great, heavenly country place
like this.  I suppose of course there'll be hard things.  There always
are, and some of them have been just about unbearable, but even the
hard things can be made fun if you try.  This is going to be grand!"
and she looked around triumphantly on the dusty rafters and rough stone
walls with a little air of possession.

"You are rather"--he paused--"unusual!" he finished thoughtfully as
they walked toward the doorway and stood looking off at the distance.

But now Shirley had almost forgotten him in the excitement of the view.

"Just think of waking up to that every morning," she declared with a
sweep of her little blue-clad arm toward the view in the distance.
"Those purply hills, the fringe of brown and green against the horizon,
that white spire nestling among those evergreens!  Is that a church?
Is it near enough for us to go to?  Mother wouldn't want us to be too
far from church."

"We'll go home that way and discover," said Graham decidedly.  "You'll
want to get acquainted with your new neighborhood.  You'll need to know
how near there is a store, and where your neighbors live.  We'll
reconnoitre a little.  Are you ready to go?"

"Oh, yes.  I'm afraid we have kept you too long already, and we must
get home about the time Carol usually comes from school, or mother will
be terribly worried.  Carol is never later than half-past four."

"We've plenty of time," said the driver of the car, looking at his
watch and smiling assurance.  "Call the children, and we'll take a
little turn around the neighborhood before we go back."

And so the little eager company were reluctantly persuaded to climb
into the car again and start on their way.



CHAPTER VIII

The car leaped forward up the smooth white road, and the great barn as
they looked back to it seemed to smile pleasantly to them in farewell.
Shirley looked back, and tried to think how it would seem to come home
every night and see Doris standing at the top of the grassy incline
waiting to welcome her; tried to fancy her mother in a hammock under
the big tree a little later when it grew warm and summery, and the boys
working in their garden.  It seemed too heavenly to be true.

The car swept around the corner of Allister Avenue, and curved down
between tall trees.  The white spire in the distance drew nearer now,
and the purplish hills were off at one side.  The way was fresh with
smells of spring, and everywhere were sweet scents and droning bees and
croaking frogs.  The spirit of the day seemed to enter into the young
people and make them glad.  Somehow all at once they seemed to have
known one another a long time, and to be intimately acquainted with one
another's tastes and ecstasies.  They exclaimed together over the
distant view of the misty city with the river winding on its far way,
and shouted simultaneously over a frightened rabbit that scurried
across the road and hid in the brushwood; and then the car wound round
a curve and the little white church swept into view below them.


  "The little white church in the valley
    Is bright with the blossoms of May,
  And true is the heart of your lover
    Who waits for your coming to-day!"

chanted forth George in a favorite selection of the department-store
victrola, and all the rest looked interested.  It was a pretty church,
and nestled under the hills as if it were part of the landscape, making
a home-centre for the town.

"We can go to church and Sunday-school there," said Shirley eagerly.
"How nice!  That will please mother!"

Elizabeth looked at her curiously, and then speculatively toward the
church.

"It looks awfully small and cheap," said Elizabeth.

"All the more chance for us to help!" said Shirley.  "It will be good
for us."

"What could you do to help a church?" asked the wondering Elizabeth.
"Give money to paint it?  The paint is all scaling off."

"We couldn't give much money," said Carol, "because we haven't got it.
But there's lots of things to do in a church besides giving.  You teach
in Sunday-school, and you wait on table at suppers when they have
Ladies' Aid."

"Maybe they'll ask you to play the organ, Shirley," suggested George.

"Oh George!" reproved Shirley.  "They'll have plenty that can play
better than I can.  Remember I haven't had time to practise for ages."

"She's a crackerjack at the piano!" confided George to Graham in a low
growl.  "She hasn't had a lesson since father died, but before that she
used to be at it all the time.  She c'n sing too.  You oughtta hear
her."

"I'm sure I should like to," assented Graham heartily.  "I wonder if
you will help me get her to sing sometime if I come out to call after
you are settled."

"Sure!" said George heartily, "but she mebbe won't do it.  She's awful
nutty about singing sometimes.  She's not stuck on herself nor nothing."

But the little white church was left far behind, and the city swept on
apace.  They were nearing home now, and Graham insisted on knowing
where they lived, that he might put them down at their door.  Shirley
would have pleaded an errand and had them set down in the business part
of the town; but George airily gave the street and number, and Shirley
could not prevail upon Graham to stop at his office and let them go
their way.

And so the last few minutes of the drive were silent for Shirley, and
her cheeks grew rosy with humiliation over the dark little narrow
street where they would presently arrive.  Perhaps when he saw it this
cultured young man would think they were too poor and common to be good
tenants even for a barn.  But, when they stopped before the little
two-story brick house, you would not have known from the expression on
the young man's face as he glanced at the number but that the house was
a marble front on the most exclusive avenue in the city.  He handed
down Shirley with all the grace that he would have used to wait upon a
millionaire's daughter, and she liked the way he helped out Carol and
spoke to George as if he were an old chum.

"I want you to come and see me next Saturday," called Elizabeth to
Carol as the car glided away from the curb; "and I'm coming out to help
you get settled, remember!"

The brother and two sisters stood in front of their little old dark
house, and watched the elegant car glide away.  They were filled with
wonder at themselves that they had been all the afternoon a part of
that elegant outfit.  Was it a dream?  They rubbed their eyes as the
car disappeared around the corner, and turned to look up at the
familiar windows and make sure where they were.  Then they stood a
moment to decide how they should explain to the waiting mother why they
happened to be home so early.

It was finally decided that George should go to hunt up a drayman and
find out what he would charge to move their things to the country, and
Shirley should go to a neighbor's to inquire about a stove she heard
they wanted to sell.  Then Carol could go in alone, and there would be
nothing to explain.  There was no telling when either George or Shirley
would have a holiday again, and it was as well to get these things
arranged as soon as possible.

Meantime Elizabeth Graham was eagerly interviewing her brother, having
taken the vacant front seat for the purpose.

"Sid, where did you find those perfectly dear people?  I think they are
just great!  And are they really going to live in that barn?  Won't
that be dandy?  I wish mother'd let me go out and spend a month with
them.  I mean to ask her.  That Carol is the nicest girl ever.  She's
just a dear!"

"Now, look here, kid," said Graham, facing about to his sister.  "I
want you to understand a thing or two.  I took you on this expedition
because I thought I could trust you.  See?"

Elizabeth nodded.

"Well, I don't want a lot of talk at home about this.  Do you
understand?  I want you to wait a bit and go slow.  If things seem to
be all right a little later on, you can ask Carol to come and see you,
perhaps; but you'll have to look out.  She hasn't fine clothes to go
visiting in, I imagine, and they're pretty proud.  I guess they've lost
their money.  Their father died a couple of years ago, and they've been
up against it.  They do seem like awfully nice people, I'll admit; and,
if it's all right later on, you can get to be friends, but you'll have
to go slow.  Mother wouldn't understand it, and she mustn't be annoyed,
you know.  I'll take you out to see them sometime when they get settled
if it seems all right, but meantime can you keep your tongue still?"

Elizabeth's face fell, but she gave her word immediately.  She and her
brother were chums; it was easy to see that.

"But can't I have her out for a week-end, Sid?  Can't I tell mother
anything about her?  I could lend her some dresses, you know."

"You go slow, kid, and leave the matter to me.  I'll tell mother about
them pretty soon when I've had a chance to see a little more of them
and am sure mother wouldn't mind.  Meantime, don't you fret.  I'll take
you out when I go on business, and you shall see her pretty soon again."

Elizabeth had to be content with that.  She perceived that for some
reason her brother did not care to have the matter talked over in the
family.  She knew they would all guy him about his interest in a girl
who wanted to rent his barn, and she felt herself that Shirley was too
fine to be talked about in that way.  The family wouldn't understand
unless they saw her.

"I know what you mean, Sid," she said after a thoughtful pause.  "You
want the folks to see them before they judge what they are, don't you?"

"That's just exactly the point," said Sidney with a gleam of
satisfaction in his eyes.  "That's just what makes you such a good pal,
kid.  You always understand."

The smile dawned again in Elizabeth's eyes, and she patted her
brother's sleeve.

"Good old Sid!" she murmured tenderly.  "You're all right.  And I just
know you're going to take me out to that barn soon.  Aren't you going
to fix it up for them a little?  They can't live there that way.  It
would be a dandy place to live if the windows were bigger and there
were doors like a house, and a piazza, and some fireplaces.  A great
big stone fireplace in the middle there opposite that door!  Wouldn't
that be sweet?  And they'll have to have electric lights and some
bathrooms, of course."

Her brother tipped back his head, and laughed.

"I'm afraid you wouldn't make much of a hand to live in a barn, kid,"
he said.  "You're too much of an aristocrat.  How much do you want for
your money?  My dear, they don't expect tiled bathrooms, and electric
lights, and inlaid floors when they rent a barn for the summer."

"But aren't you going to do anything, Sid?"

"Well, I can't do much, for Miss Hollister would suspect right away.
She's very businesslike, and she has suspicions already because I said
I was going to put in partitions.  She isn't an object of charity, you
know.  I imagine they are all pretty proud."

Elizabeth sat thoughtful and still.  It was the first time in her life
she had contemplated what it would be to be very poor.

Her brother watched her with interest.  He had a feeling that it was
going to be very good for Elizabeth to know these Hollisters.

Suddenly he brought the car to a stop before the office of a big
lumber-yard they were passing.

"I'm going in here, kid, for just a minute, to see if I can get a man
to put in those partitions."

Elizabeth sat meditatively studying the office window through whose
large dusty panes could be seen tall strips of moulding, unpainted
window-frames, and a fluted column or two, evidently ready to fill an
order.  The sign over the door set forth that window-sashes, doors, and
blinds were to be had.  Suddenly Elizabeth sat up straight and read the
sign again, strained her eyes to see through the window, and then
opened the car door and sprang out.  In a moment more she stood beside
her brother, pointing mutely to a large window-frame that stood against
the wall.

"What is it, kid?" he asked kindly.

"Sid, why can't you put on great big windows like that?  They would
never notice the windows, you know.  It would be so nice to have plenty
of light and air."

"That's so," he murmured.  "I might change the windows some without its
being noticed."

Then to the man at the desk:

"What's the price of that window?  Got any more?"

"Yes," said the man, looking up interested; "got half a dozen, made
especially for a party, and then he wasn't pleased.  Claimed he ordered
sash-winders 'stead of casement.  If you can use these six, we'll make
you a special price."

"Oh, take them, Sid!  They're perfectly lovely," said Elizabeth
eagerly.  "They're casement windows with diamond panes.  They'll just
be so quaint and artistic in that stone!"

"Well, I don't know how they'll fit," said the young man doubtfully.
"I don't want to make it seem as if I was trying to put on too much
style."

"No, Sid, it won't seem that way, really.  I tell you they'll never
notice the windows are bigger, and casement windows aren't like a
regular house, you know.  See, they'll open wide like doors.  I think
it would be just grand!"

"All right, kid, we'll see!  We'll take the man out with us; and, if he
says it can be done, I'll take them."

Elizabeth was overjoyed.

"That's just what it needed!" she declared.  "They couldn't live in the
dark on rainy days.  You must put two in the front on each side the
door, and one on each end.  The back windows will do well enough."

"Well, come on, kid.  Mr. Jones is going out with me at once.  Do you
want to go with us, or shall I call a taxi and send you home?" asked
her brother.

"I'm going with you, of course," said Elizabeth eagerly, hurrying out
to the car as if she thought the thing would be done all wrong without
her.

So Elizabeth sat in the back seat alone, while her brother and the
contractor discoursed on the price of lumber and the relative values of
wood and stone for building-purposes, and the big car went back over
the way it had been before that afternoon.

They stopped on the way out, and picked up one of Mr. Jones's
carpenters who was just leaving a job with his kit of tools, and who
climbed stolidly into the back seat, and sat as far away from the
little blue-velvet miss as possible, all the while taking furtive notes
to tell his own little girl about her when he went home.

Elizabeth climbed out, and went about the barn with them, listening to
all they had to say.

The two men took out pencils and foot rules, and went around measuring
and figuring.  Elizabeth watched them with bright, attentive eyes,
putting a whispered suggestion now and then to her brother.

"They can't go up and down a ladder all the time," she whispered.
"There ought to be some rough stairs with a railing, at least as good
as our back stairs at home."

"How about it?" said Graham aloud to the contractor.  "Can you put in
some steps, just rough ones, to the left?  I'm going to have a party
out here camping for a while this summer, and I want it to be safe.
Need a railing, you know, so nobody will get a fall."

The man measured the space up with his eye.

"Just want plain steps framed up with a hand-rail?" he said, squinting
up again.  "Guess we better start 'em up this way to the back wall and
then turn back from a landing.  That'll suit the overhead space best.
Just pine, you want 'em, I s'pose?"

Elizabeth stood like a big blue bird alighted on the door-sill,
watching and listening.  She was a regular woman, and saw big
possibilities in the building.  She would have enjoyed ordering
parquetry flooring and carved newel-posts and making a regular palace.

The sun was setting behind the purply hill and sending a glint from the
weather-vane on the little white church spire when they started back to
the city.  Elizabeth looked wistfully toward it, and wondered about the
rapt expression on Shirley's face when she spoke of "working" in the
church.  How could one get any pleasure out of that?  She meant to find
out.  At present her life was rather monotonous, and she longed to have
some new interests.

That night after she had gone to her luxurious little couch she lay in
her downy nest, and tried to think how it would be to live in that big
barn and go to sleep up in the loft, lying on that hay.  Then suddenly
the mystery of life was upon her with its big problems.  Why, for
instance, was she born into the Graham family with money and culture
and all the good times, and that sweet, bright Carol-girl born into the
Hollister family where they had a hard time to live at all?



CHAPTER IX

Quite early the next morning Sidney Graham was in his office at the
telephone.  He conferred with the carpenter, agreeing to meet him out
at the barn and make final arrangements about the windows in a very
short time.  Then he called up the trolley company and the electric
company, and made arrangements with them to have a wire run from the
road to his barn, with a very satisfactory agreement whereby he could
pay them a certain sum for the use of as much light as he needed.  This
done, he called up an electrician, and arranged that he should send
some men out that morning to wire the barn.

He hurried through his morning mail, giving his stenographer a free
hand with answering some of the letters, and then speeded out to
Glenside.

Three men were already there, two of them stone-masons, working away
under the direction of the contractor.  They had already begun working
at the massive stone around the windows, striking musical blows from a
light scaffolding that made the old barn look as if it had suddenly
waked up and gone to house-cleaning.  Sidney Graham surveyed it with
satisfaction as he stopped his car by the roadside and got out.  He did
delight to have things done on time.  He decided that if this
contractor did well on the job he would see that he got bigger things
to do.  He liked it that his work had been begun at once.

The next car brought a quartette of carpenters, and before young Graham
went back to the city a motor-truck had arrived loaded with lumber and
window-frames.  It was all very fascinating to him, this new toy barn
that had suddenly come into his possession, and he could hardly tear
himself away from it and go back to business.  One would not have
supposed, perhaps, that it was so very necessary for him to do so,
either, seeing that he was already so well off that he really could
have gotten along quite comfortably the rest of his life without any
more money; but he was a conscientious young man, who believed that no
living being had a right to exist in idleness, and who had gone into
business from a desire to do his best and keep up the honorable name of
his father's firm.  So after he had given careful directions for the
electric men when they should come he rushed back to his office once
more.

The next two days were filled with delightful novelties.  He spent much
time flying from office to barn and back to the office again, and
before evening of the second day he had decided that a telephone in the
barn was an absolute necessity, at least while the work was going on.
So he called up the telephone company, and arranged that connection
should be put in at once.  That evening he wrote a short note to Miss
Shirley Hollister, telling her that the partitions were under way and
would soon be completed, and that in a few days he would send her the
key so that she might begin to transport her belongings to the new home.

The next morning, when Graham went out to the stone barn, he found that
the front windows were in, and gave a very inviting appearance to the
edifice, both outside and in.  As Elizabeth had surmised, the big
latticed windows opening inwards like casement doors seemed quite in
keeping with the rough stone structure.  Graham began to wonder why all
barns did not affect this style of window, they were so entirely
attractive.  He was thoroughly convinced that the new tenants would not
be likely to remember or notice the difference in the windows; he was
sure he shouldn't have unless his attention had been called to them in
some way.  Of course the sills and sashes were rather new-looking, but
he gave orders that they should at once be painted an unobtrusive dark
green which would well accord with the mossy roof, and he trusted his
particular young tenant would not think that he had done anything
pointed in changing the windows.  If she did, he would have to think up
some excuse.

But, as he stood at the top of the grassy slope and looked about, he
noticed the great pile of stones under each window, from the masonry
that had been torn away to make room for the larger sashes, and an idea
came to him.

"Mr. Jones!" he called to the contractor, who had just come over on the
car to see how the work was progressing.  "Wouldn't there be stones
enough all together from all the windows to build some kind of a rude
chimney and fireplace?" he asked.

Mr. Jones thought there would.  There were stones enough down in the
meadow to piece out with in case they needed more, anyway.  Where would
Mr. Graham want the fireplace?  Directly opposite the front doors?  He
had thought of suggesting that himself, but didn't know as Mr. Graham
wanted to go to any more expense.

"By all means make that fireplace!" said the young owner delightedly.
"This is going to be a jolly place when it gets done, isn't it?  I
declare I don't know but I'd like to come out here and live."

"It would make a fine old house, sir," said the contractor
respectfully, looking up almost reverently at the barn.  "I'd like to
see it with verandys, and more winders, and a few such.  You don't see
many of these here old stone buildings around now.  They knew how to
build 'em substantial in those old times, so they did."

"H'm!  Yes.  It would make a fine site for a house, wouldn't it?" said
the young man, looking about thoughtfully.  "Well, now, we'll have to
think about that sometime, perhaps.  However, I think it looks very
nice for the present"; and he walked about, looking at the improvements
with great satisfaction.

At each end of the barn a good room, long and narrow, had been
partitioned off, each of which by use of a curtain would make two very
large rooms, and yet the main section of the floor looked as large as
ever.  A simple stairway of plain boards had been constructed a little
to one side of the middle toward the back, going up to the loft, which
had been made safe for the children by a plain rude railing consisting
of a few uprights with strips across.  The darkening slats at the small
windows in the loft had been torn away and shutters substituted that
would open wide and let in air and light.  Rough spots in the floor had
been mended, and around the great place both up-stairs and down, and
even down in the basement underneath, electric wires ran with simple
lights and switches conveniently arranged, so that if it became
desirable the whole place could be made a blaze of light.  The young
man did not like to think of this family of unprotected women and
children coming out into the country without all the arrangements
possible to make them feel safe.  For this reason also he had
established the telephone.  He had talked it over with the agent,
paying a certain sum for its installation, and had a telephone put in
that they could pay for whenever they desired to use it.  This would
make the young householder feel more comfortable about leaving her
mother out in the country all day, and also prevent her pride from
being hurt.  The telephone was there.  She need not use it unless
necessity arose.  He felt he could explain that to her.  If she didn't
like it, of course she could have it taken away.

There were a lot more things he would like to do to make the place more
habitable, but he did not dare.  Sometimes even now his conscience
troubled him.  What did he know about these people, anyway? and what
kind of a flighty youth was he becoming that he let a strange girl's
appealing face drive him to such lengths as he was going now?
Telephone, and electric lights, and stairs, and a fireplace in a barn!
It was all perfectly preposterous; and, if his family should hear of
it, he would never hear the last of it; that he was certain.

At such times he would hunt up his young sister and carry her off for a
long drive in the car, always ending up at Glenside Road, where she
exclaimed and praised to his heart's satisfaction, and gave anew her
word not to tell anybody a thing about it until he was ready.

Indeed, Elizabeth was wild with delight.  She wanted to hunt up some of
her mother's old Turkish rugs that were put away in dark closets, to
decorate the walls with pictures and bric-â-brac from her own room, and
to smother the place in flowering shrubs for the arrival of the
tenants; but her brother firmly forbade anything more being done.  He
waited with fear and trembling for the time when the clear-eyed young
tenant should look upon the changes he had already made; for something
told him she would not stand charity, and there was a point beyond
which he must not go if he wished ever to see her again.

At last one morning he ventured to call her up on the telephone at her
office.

"My sister and I were thinking of going out to see how things are
progressing at the Glenside place," he said after he had explained who
he was.  "I was wondering if you would care to come along and look
things over.  What time do you get through at your office this
afternoon?"

"That is very kind of you, Mr. Graham," said Shirley, "but I'm afraid
that won't be possible.  I'm not usually done until half-past five.  I
might get through by five, but not much sooner, and that would be too
late for you."

"Not at all, Miss Hollister.  That would be a very agreeable time.  I
have matters that will keep me here quite late to-night, and that will
be just right for me.  Shall I call for you, then, at five?  Or is that
too soon?"

"Oh, no, I can be ready by then, I'm sure," said Shirley with
suppressed excitement.  "You are very kind----"

"Not at all.  It will be a pleasure," came the answer.  "Then I will
call at your office at five," and the receiver clicked at the other
end, leaving Shirley in a whirl of doubt and joy.

How perfectly delightful!  And yet ought she to go?  Would mother think
it was all right?  His little sister was going, but was it quite right
for her to accept this much attention even in a business way?  It
wasn't at all customary or necessary, and both he and she knew it.  He
was just doing it to be nice.

And then there was mother.  She must send a message somehow, or mother
would be frightened when she did not come home at her usual time.

She finally succeeded in getting Carol at her school, and told her to
tell mother she was kept late and might not be home till after seven.
Then she flew at her work to get it out of the way before five o'clock.

But, when she came down at the appointed time, she found Carol sitting
excitedly in the back seat with Elizabeth, fairly bursting with the
double pleasure of the ride and of surprising her sister.

"They came to the school for me, and took me home; and I explained to
mother that I was going with you to look at a place we were going to
move to.  I put on the potatoes, and put the meat in the oven, and
mother is going to tell George just what to do to finish supper when he
gets home," she exclaimed eagerly.  "And, oh, isn't it lovely?"

"Indeed it is lovely," said Shirley, her face flushing with pleasure
and her eyes speaking gratitude to the young man in the front seat who
was opening the door for her to step in beside him.

That was a wonderful ride.

The spring had made tremendous advances in her work during the ten days
since they went that way before.  The flush of green that the willows
had worn had become a soft, bright feather of foliage, and the maples
had sent out crimson tassels to offset them.  Down in the meadows and
along the roadside the grass was thick and green, and the bare brown
fields had disappeared.  Little brooks sang tinklingly as they glided
under bridges, and the birds darted here and there in busy, noisy
pairs.  Frail wavering blossoms starred the swampy places, and the air
was sweet with scents of living things.

But, when they came in sight of the barn, Elizabeth and her brother
grew silent from sheer desire to talk and not act as if there was
anything different about it.  Now that they had actually brought
Shirley here, the new windows seemed fairly to flaunt themselves in
their shining mossy paint and their vast extent of diamond panes, so
that the two conspirators were deeply embarrassed, and dared not face
what they had done.

It was Carol who broke the silence that had come upon them all.

"Oh!  Oh!  Oh!" she shouted.  "Shirley, just look!  New, great big
windows!  Isn't that great?  Now you needn't worry whether it will be
dark for mother days when she can't go out!  Isn't that the best ever?"

But Shirley looked, and her cheeks grew pink as her eyes grew starry.
She opened her lips to speak, and then closed them again, for the words
would not come, and the tears came instead; but she drove them back,
and then managed to say:

"Oh, Mr. Graham!  Oh, you have gone to so much trouble!"

"No, no trouble at all," said he almost crossly; for he had wanted her
not to notice those windows, at least not yet.

"You see it was this way.  The windows were some that were left over
from another order, and I got a chance to get them at a bargain.  I
thought they might as well be put in now as any time and you get the
benefit of them.  The barn really needed more light.  It was a very
dark barn indeed.  Hadn't you noticed it?  I can't see how my
grandfather thought it would do to have so little light and air.  But
you know in the old times they didn't use to have such advanced ideas
about ventilation and germs and things----"  He felt he was getting on
rather famously until he looked down at the clear eyes of the girl, and
knew she was seeing right straight through all his talk.  However, she
hadn't the face to tell him so; and so he boldly held on his way,
making up fine stories about things that barns needed until he all but
believed them himself; and, when he got through, he needed only to
finish with "And, if it isn't so, it ought to be" to have a regular
Water-Baby argument out of it.  He managed to talk on in this vein
until he could stop the car and help Shirley out, and together they all
went up the now velvety green of the incline to the big door.

"It is beautiful! beautiful!" murmured Shirley in a daze of delight.
She could not yet make it seem real that she was to come to this
charmed spot to live in a few days.

Graham unlocked the big doors, and sent them rolling back with a touch,
showing what ball bearings and careful workmanship can do.  The group
stepped inside, and stood to look again.

The setting sun was casting a red glow through the diamond panes and
over the wide floor.  The new partitions, guiltless of paint, for
Graham had not dared to go further, were mellowed into ruby hangings.
The stone fireplace rose at the opposite side of the room, and the new
staircase was just at the side, all in the ruddy evening glow that
carried rich dusky shadows into the corners, and hung a curtain of
vagueness over blemishes.

Then all suddenly, before they had had time to take in the changes,
more than the fact of the partitions which they expected, Graham
stepped to the side of the door, and touched a button, and behold a
myriad of lights burst forth about the place, making it bright like
noontime.

"Oh!  Oh!  Oh!" breathed Carol in awe and wonder, and "Oh!" again, as
if there were nothing else to say.  But Shirley only looked and caught
her breath.  It seemed a palace too fine for their poor little means,
and a sudden fear gripped hold upon her.

"Oh Mr. Graham!  You have done too much!" she choked.  "You shouldn't
have done it!  We can never afford to pay for all this!"

"Not at all!" said young Graham quickly.  "This isn't anything.  The
electric people gave permission for this, and I thought it would be
safer than lamps and candles, you know.  It cost scarcely anything for
the wiring.  I had our regular man do it that attends to the wiring and
lights at the office.  It was a mere trifle, and will make things a lot
more convenient for you.  You see it's nothing to the company.  They
just gave permission for a wire to be run from the pole there.  Of
course they might not do it for every one, but I've some pretty good
friends in the company; so it's all right."

"But the fireplace!" said Shirley, going over to look at it.  "It's
beautiful!  It's like what you see in magazine pictures of beautiful
houses."

"Why, it was just the stones that were left from cutting the windows
larger.  I thought they might as well be utilized, you know.  It wasn't
much more work to pile them up that way while the men were here than if
we had had them carted away."

Here Carol interrupted.

"Shirley!  There's a telephone!  A real telephone!"

Shirley's accusing eyes were upon her landlord.

"It was put in for our convenience while the workmen were here," he
explained defensively.  "It is a pay phone, you see, and is no expense
except when in use.  It can be taken out if you do not care to have it,
of course; but it occurred to me since it was here your mother might
feel more comfortable out here all day if she could call you when she
needed to."

Shirley's face was a picture of varying emotions as she listened, but
relief and gratitude conquered as she turned to him.

"I believe you have thought of everything," she said at last.  "I have
worried about that all this week.  I have wondered if mother would be
afraid out in the country with only the children, and the neighbors not
quite near enough to call; but this solves the difficulty.  You are
sure it hasn't cost you a lot to have this put in?"

"Why, don't you know the telephone company is glad to have their phones
wherever they can get them?" he evaded.  "Now, don't worry about
anything more.  You'll find hardships enough living in a barn without
fretting about the few conveniences we have been able to manage."

"But this is real luxury!" she said, sitting down on the steps and
looking up where the lights blazed from the loft.  "You have put lights
up there, too, and a railing.  I was so afraid Doris would fall down
some time!"

"I'm glad to find you are human, after all, and have a few fears!"
declared the owner, laughing.  "I had begun to think you were Spartan
through and through and weren't afraid of anything.  Yes, I had the men
put what lumber they had left into that railing.  I thought it wasn't
safe to have it all open like that, and I didn't want you to sue me for
life or limb, you know.  There's one thing I haven't managed yet, and
that is piping water up from the spring.  I haven't been able to get
hold of the right man so far; but he's coming out to-morrow, and I hope
it can be done.  There is a spring on the hill back of us, and I
believe it is high enough, to get the water to this floor.  If it is it
will make your work much easier and be only the matter of a few rods of
pipe."

"Oh, but, indeed, you mustn't do anything more!" pleaded Shirley.  "I
shall feel so ashamed paying such a little rent."

"But, my dear young lady," said Graham in his most dignified business
manner, "you don't at all realize how much lower rents are in the
country, isolated like this, than they are in the city; and you haven't
as yet realized what a lot of inconveniences you have to put up with.
When you go back to the city in the winter, you will be glad to get
away from here."

"Never!" said Shirley fervently, and shuddered.  "Oh, never!  You don't
know how dreadful it seems that we shall have to go back.  But of
course I suppose we shall.  One couldn't live in a barn in the winter,
even though it is a palace for the summer"; and she looked about
wistfully.  Then, her eyes lighting up, she said in a low tone, for the
young man's benefit alone:

"I think God must have made you do all this for us!"  She turned and
walked swiftly over to one of the new casement windows, looking out at
the red glow that the sun in sinking had left in the sky; and there
against the fringes of the willows and maples shone out the bright
weather-vane on the spire of the little white church in the valley.

"I think God must have sent you to teach me and my little sister a few
things," said a low voice just behind Shirley as she struggled with
tired, happy tears that would blur her eyes.  But, when she turned to
smile at the owner of the voice, he was walking over by the door and
talking to Carol.  They tumbled joyously into the car very soon, and
sped on their way to the city again.

That night the Hollister children told their mother they had found a
place in which to live.



CHAPTER X

The crisis was precipitated by Shirley's finding her mother crying when
she came up softly to see her.

"Now, little mother, _dear_!  What can be the matter?" she cried
aghast, sitting down on the bed and drawing her mother's head into her
lap.

But it was some time before Mrs. Hollister could recover her calmness,
and Shirley began to be frightened.  At last, when she had kissed and
petted her, she called down to the others to come up-stairs quickly.

They came with all haste, George and Harley with dish-towels over their
shoulders, Carol with her arithmetic and pencil, little Doris trudging
up breathless, one step at a time, and all crying excitedly, "What's
the matter?"

"Why, here's our blessed little mother lying here all by herself,
crying because she doesn't know where in the world we can find a
house!" cried Shirley; "and I think it's time we told our beautiful
secret, don't you?"

"Yes," chorused the children, although Harley and Doris had no idea
until then that there was any beautiful secret.  Beautiful secrets
hadn't been coming their way.

"Well, I think we better tell it," said Shirley, looking at George and
Carol questioningly.  "Don't you?  We don't want mother worrying."  So
they all clustered around her on the bed and the floor, and sat
expectantly while Shirley told.

"You see, mother, it's this way.  We've been looking around a good deal
lately, George and I, and we haven't found a thing in the city that
would do; so one day I took a trolley ride out of the city, and I've
found something I think will do nicely for the summer, anyway, and that
will give us time to look around and decide.  Mother dear, would you
mind camping so very much if we made you a nice, comfortable place?"

"Camping!" said Mrs. Hollister in dismay.  "Dear child!  In a tent?"

"No, mother, not in a tent.  There's a--a--sort of a house--that is,
there's a building, where we could sleep, and put our furniture, and
all; but there's a lovely out-of-doors.  Wouldn't you like that, for
Doris and you?"

"Oh, yes," sighed the poor woman; "I'd like it; but, child, you haven't
an idea what you are talking about.  Any place in the country costs
terribly, even a shanty----"

"That's it, mother, call it a shanty!" put in Carol.  "Mother, would
you object to living in a shanty all summer if it was good and clean,
and you had plenty of out-of-doors around it?"

"No, of course not, Carol, if it was perfectly respectable.  I
shouldn't want to take my children among a lot of low-down people----"

"Of course not, mother!" put in Shirley.  "And there's nothing of that
sort.  It's all perfectly respectable, and the few neighbors are nice,
respectable people.  Now, mother, if you're willing to trust us, we'd
like it if you'll just let us leave it at that and not tell you
anything more about it till we take you there.  George and Carol and I
have all seen the place, and we think it will be just the thing.
There's plenty of room, and sky, and a big tree, and birds; and it only
costs ten dollars a month.  Now, mother, will you trust us for the rest
and not ask any questions?"

The mother looked in bewilderment from one to another, and, seeing
their eager faces, she broke into a weary smile.

"Well, I suppose I'll have to," she said with a sigh of doubt; "but I
can't understand how any place you could get would be only that price,
and I'm afraid you haven't thought of a lot of things."

"Yes, mother, we've thought of everything--and then some," said
Shirley, stooping down to kiss the thin cheek; "but we are sure you are
going to like this when you see it.  It isn't a palace, of course.  You
don't expect plate-glass windows, you know."

"Well, hardly," said Mrs. Hollister dryly, struggling with herself to
be cheerful.  She could see that her children were making a brave
effort to make a jolly occasion out of their necessity, and she was
never one to hang back; so, as she could do nothing else, she assented.

"You are sure," she began, looking at Shirley with troubled eyes.
"There are so many things to think of, and you are so young."

"Trust me, mudder dearie," said Shirley joyously, remembering the
fireplace and the electric lights.  "It really isn't so bad; and
there's a beautiful hill for Doris to run down, and a place to hang a
hammock for you right under a big tree where a bird has built its nest."

"Oh-h!" echoed the wondering Doris.  "And could I see de birdie?"

"Yes, darling, you can watch him every day, and see him fly through the
blue sky."

"It's all right, mother," said George in a businesslike tone.  "You'll
think it's great after you get used to it.  Carol and I are crazy over
it."

"But will it be where you can get to your work, both of you?  I
shouldn't like you to take long, lonely walks, you know," said the
troubled mother.

"Right on the trolley line, mother dear; and the difference in rent
will more than pay our fare."

"Besides, I'm thinking of buying a bicycle from one of the fellows.  He
says he'll sell it for five dollars, and I can pay fifty cents a month.
Then I could go in on my bike in good weather, and save that much."
This from George.

"Oh, gee!" said Harley breathlessly.  "Then I could ride it sometimes,
too."

"Sure!" said George generously.

"Now," said Shirley with her commanding manner that the children called
"brigadier-general," "now, mother dear, you're going to put all your
worries out of your head right this minute, and go to sleep.  Your
business is to get strong enough to be moved out there.  When you get
there, you'll get well so quick you won't know yourself; but you've got
to rest from now on every minute, or you won't be able to go when the
time comes; and then what will happen?  Will you promise?"

Amid the laughing and pleading of her children the mother promised,
half smilingly, half tearfully, and succumbed to being prepared for the
night.  Then they all tiptoed away to the dining-room for a council of
war.

It was still two weeks before they had to vacate the little brick
house, plenty of time to get comfortably settled before they took their
mother out there.

It was decided that George and Shirley should go out the next evening
directly from their work, not waiting to return for supper, but eating
a lunch down-town.  Now that the place was lighted and they had been
told to use the light as freely as they chose, with no charge, the
question of getting settled was no longer a problem.  They could do it
evenings after their work was over.  The first thing would be to clean
house, and for that they needed a lot of things, pails, pans, brooms,
mops and the like.  It would be good to take a load of things out the
next day if possible.

So George went out to interview the man with the moving-wagon, while
Shirley and Carol made out a list of things that ought to go in that
first load.  George came back with the report that the man could come
at half past four in the afternoon; and, if they could have the things
that were to go all ready, he would have his son help to load them, and
they could get out to Glenside by six o'clock or seven at the latest.
Harley might go along if he liked, and help to unload at the other end.

Harley was greatly excited both at the responsibility placed upon him
and at the prospect of seeing the new home.  It almost made up for the
thought of leaving "the fellows" and going to live in a strange place.

The young people were late getting to bed that night, for they had to
get things together so that Carol would not have her hands too full the
next day when she got home from school.  Then they had to hunt up soap,
scrubbing-pails, rags, brushes and brooms; and, when they went to bed
at last, they were much too excited to sleep.

Of course there were many hindrances to their plans, and a lot of delay
waiting for the cartman, who did not always keep his word; but the days
passed, and every one saw some little progress toward making a home out
of the big barn.  Shirley would not let them stay later in the evenings
than ten o'clock, for they must be ready to go to work the next
morning; so of course the work of cleaning the barn progressed but
slowly.  After the first night they got a neighbor to sit with their
mother and Doris, letting Carol and Harley come out on the car to help;
and so with four willing workers the barn gradually took on a nice
smell of soap and water.

The old furniture arrived little by little, and was put in place
eagerly, until by the end of the first week the big middle room and the
dining-room and kitchen began really to look like living.

It was Saturday evening of that first week, and Shirley was sitting on
the old couch at the side of the fireplace, resting, watching George,
who was reeling out a stormy version of chopsticks on the piano, and
looking about on her growing home hopefully.  Suddenly there came a
gentle tapping at the big barn door, and George as the man of the house
went to the door with his gruffest air on, but melted at once when he
saw the landlord and his sister standing out in front in the moonlight.

"Are you ready for callers?" asked Graham, taking off his hat in
greeting.  "Elizabeth and I took a spin out this way, and we sighted
the light, and thought we'd stop and see if we could help any.  My, how
homelike you've made it look!  Say, this is great!"

Sidney Graham stood in the centre of the big room, looking about him
with pleasure.

The young people had put things in apple-pie order as far as they had
gone.  A fire was laid in the big stone fireplace, all ready for
touching off, and gave a homelike, cleared-up look to the whole place
as if it were getting ready for some event.  On each side of the
chimney stood a simple set of bookshelves filled with well-worn volumes
that had a look of being beloved and in daily intimate association with
the family.  On the top of the shelves Carol had placed some bits of
bric-â-brac, and in the centre of each a tall vase.  Beside them were a
few photographs in simple frames, a strong-faced man with eyes that
reminded one of Shirley and a brow like George's; a delicate-featured,
refined woman with sweet, sensitive mouth and eyes like Carol's; a
lovely little child with a cloud of fair curls.

The old couch was at one side of the fireplace, at a convenient angle
to watch the firelight, and yet not hiding the bookshelves.  On the
other side, with its back toward the first landing of the rude
staircase, stood an old upright piano with a pile of shabby music on
the top and a book of songs open on the rack.  On the floor in the
space between was spread a worn and faded ingrain rug, its original
colors and pattern long since blended into neutral grays and browns,
which strangely harmonized with the rustic surroundings.  A few
comfortable but shabby chairs were scattered about in a homelike way,
and a few pictures in plain frames were hung on the clean new
partitions.  Under one stood a small oak desk and a few
writing-materials.  A little further on a plain library table held a
few magazines and papers and a cherished book or two.  There had been
no attempt to cover the wide bare floor spaces, save by a small dingy
rug or two or a strip of carpet carefully brushed and flung here and
there in front of a chair.  There was no pretension and therefore no
incongruity.  The only luxurious thing in the place was the bright
electric light, and yet it all looked pleasant and inviting.

"Say, now, this is great!" reiterated the young owner of the place,
sinking into the nearest chair and looking about him with admiration.
"Who would ever have imagined you could make a barn look like this?
Why, you're a genius, Miss Hollister.  You're a real artist."

Shirley in an old gingham dress, with her sleeves rolled high and her
hair fluffing wilfully in disorder about her hot cheeks, stood before
him in dismay.  She had been working hard, and was all too conscious of
the brief time before they must be done; and to have company just
now--and such company--put her to confusion; but the honest admiration
in the young man's voice did much to restore her equilibrium.  She
began to pull down her sleeves and sit down to receive her callers
properly; but he at once insisted that she should not delay on his
account, and, seeing her shyness, immediately plunged into some
questions about the water-pipes, which brought about a more
businesslike footing and relieved her embarrassment.  He was soon on
his way to the partitioned corner which was to be the kitchen, telling
Shirley how it was going to be no trouble to run a pipe from the spring
and have a faucet put in, and that it should be done on the morrow.
Then he called to Elizabeth.

"Kid, what did you do with those eats you brought along?  I think it
would be a good time to hand them out.  I'm hungry.  Suppose you take
George out to the car to help you bring them in, and let's have a
picnic!"

Then, turning to Shirley, he explained:

"Elizabeth and I are great ones to have something along to eat.  It
makes one hungry to ride, you know."

The children needed no second word, but all hurried out to the car, and
came back with a great bag of most delicious oranges and several boxes
of fancy cakes and crackers; and they all sat down to enjoy them,
laughing and chattering, not at all like landlord and tenants.

"Now what's to do next?" demanded the landlord as soon as the repast
was finished.  "I'm going to help.  We're not here to hinder, and we
must make up for the time we have stopped you.  What were you and
George doing, Miss Carol, when we arrived?"

"Unpacking dishes," giggled Carol, looking askance at the frowning
Shirley, who was shaking her head at Carol behind Graham's back.
Shirley had no mind to have the elegant landlord see the dismal state
of the Hollister crockery.  But the young man was not to be so easily
put off, and to Carol's secret delight insisted upon helping despite
Shirley's most earnest protests that it was not necessary to do
anything more that evening.  He and Elizabeth repaired to the
dining-room end of the barn, and helped unpack dishes, pans, kettles,
knives, and forks, and arrange them on the shelves that George had
improvised out of a large old bookcase that used to be his father's.
After all, there was something in good breeding, thought Shirley, for
from the way in which Mr. Graham handled the old cracked dishes, and
set them up so nicely, you never would have known but they were
Haviland china.  He never seemed to see them at all when they were
cracked.  One might have thought he had been a member of the family for
years, he made things seem so nice and comfortable and sociable.

Merrily they worked, and accomplished wonders that night, for Shirley
let them stay until nearly eleven o'clock "just for once"; and then
they all piled into the car, Shirley and Carol and Elizabeth in the
back seat, George and the happy Harley with Graham in the front.  If
there had been seven more of them, they would have all happily squeezed
in.  The young Hollisters were having the time of their lives, and as
for the Grahams it wasn't quite certain but that they were also.
Certainly society had never seen on Sidney Graham's face that happy,
enthusiastic look of intense satisfaction that the moon looked down
upon that night.  And, after all, they got home almost as soon as if
they had gone on the ten-o'clock trolley.

After that on one pretext or another those Grahams were always dropping
in on the Hollisters at their work and managing to "help," and
presently even Shirley ceased to be annoyed or to apologize.

The east end of the barn had been selected for bedrooms.  A pair of
cretonne curtains was stretched across the long, narrow room from wall
to partition, leaving the front room for their mother's bed and Doris's
crib, and the back room for Shirley and Carol.  The boys had taken
possession of the loft with many shouts and elaborate preparations, and
had spread out their treasures with deep delight, knowing that at last
there was room enough for their proper display and they need feel no
fear that they would be thrown out because their place was wanted for
something more necessary.  Little by little the Hollisters were getting
settled.  It was not so hard, after all, because there was that
glorious big "attic" in which to put away things that were not needed
below, and there was the whole basement for tubs and things, and a
lovely faucet down there, too, so that a lot of work could be done
below the living-floor.  It seemed just ideal to the girls, who had
been for several years accustomed to the cramped quarters of a tiny
city house.

At last even the beds were made up, and everything had been moved but
the bed and a few necessities in their mother's room, which were to
come the next day while they were moving their mother.

That moving of mother had been a great problem to Shirley until Graham
anticipated her necessity, and said in a matter-of-fact way that he
hoped Mrs. Hollister would let him take her to her new home in his car.
Then Shirley's eyes filled with tears of gratitude.  She knew her
mother was not yet able to travel comfortably in a trolley-car, and the
price of a taxicab was more than she felt they ought to afford; yet in
her secret heart she had been intending to get one; but now there would
be no necessity.

Shirley's words of gratitude were few and simple, but there was
something in her eyes as she lifted them to Graham's face that made a
glow in his heart and fully repaid him for his trouble.

The last thing they did when they left the barn that night before they
were coming to stay was to set the table, and it really looked very
cozy and inviting with a white cloth on it and the dishes set out to
look their best.  Shirley looked back at it with a sweeping glance that
took in the great, comfortable living-room, the open door into the
dining-room on one hand and the vista of a white bed on the other side
through the bedroom door.  She smiled happily, and then switched off
the electric light, and stepped out into the sweet spring night.
Graham, who had stood watching her as one might watch the opening of
some strange, unknown flower, closed and locked the door behind them,
and followed her down the grassy slope to the car.

"Do you know," he said earnestly, "it's been a great thing to me to
watch you make a real home out of this bare barn?  It's wonderful!
It's like a miracle.  I wouldn't have believed it could be done.  And
you have done it so wonderfully!  I can just see what kind of a
delightful home it is going to be."

There was something in his tone that made Shirley forget he was rich
and a stranger and her landlord.  She lifted her face to the stars, and
spoke her thoughts.

"You can't possibly know how much like heaven it is going to be to us
after coming from that other awful little house," she said; "and you
are the one who has made it possible.  If it hadn't been for you I know
I never could have done it."

"Oh, nonsense, Miss Hollister!  You mustn't think of it, I haven't done
anything at all, just the simplest things that were absolutely
necessary."

"Oh, I understand," said Shirley; "and I can't ever repay you, but I
think God will.  That is the kind of thing the kingdom of heaven is
made of."

"Oh, really, now," said Graham, deeply embarrassed; he was not much
accustomed to being connected with the kingdom of heaven in any way.
"Oh, really, you--you over-estimate it.  And as for pay, I don't ask
any better than the fun my sister and I have had helping you get
settled.  It has been a great play for us.  We never really moved, you
see.  We've always gone off and had some one do it for us.  I've
learned a lot since I've known you."

That night as she prepared to lie down on the mattress and blanket that
had been left behind for herself and Carol to camp out on, Shirley
remembered her first worries about Mr. Graham, and wondered whether it
could be possible that he thought she had been forward in any way, and
what her mother would think when she heard the whole story of the new
landlord; for up to this time the secret had been beautifully kept from
mother, all the children joining to clap their hands over wayward
mouths that started to utter tell-tale sentences, and the mystery grew,
and became almost like Christmas-time for little Doris and her mother.
It must, however, be stated that Mrs. Hollister, that last night, as
she lay wakeful on her bed in the little bare room in the tiny house,
had many misgivings, and wondered whether perchance she would not be
sighing to be back even here twenty-four hours later.  She was holding
her peace wonderfully, because there really was nothing she could do
about it even if she was going out of the frying-pan into the fire; but
the tumult and worry in her heart had been by no means bliss.  So the
midnight drew on, and the weary family slept for the last night in the
cramped old house where they had lived since trouble and poverty had
come upon them.



CHAPTER XI

Shirley was awake early that morning, almost too excited to sleep but
fitfully even through the night.  Now that the thing was done and they
were actually moved into a barn she began to have all sorts of fears
and compunctions concerning it.  She seemed to see her delicate mother
shrink as from a blow when she first learned that they had come to
this.  Try as she would to bring back all the sensible philosophy that
had caused her to enter into this affair in the first place, she simply
could not feel anything but trouble.  She longed to rush into her
mother's room, tell her all about it, and get the dreaded episode over.
But anyhow it was inevitable now.  They were moved.  They had barely
enough money to pay the cartage and get things started before next
pay-day.  There was nothing for it but to take her mother there, even
if she did shrink from the idea.

Of course mother always had been sensible, and all that; but somehow
the burden of the great responsibility of decision rested so heavily
upon her young shoulders that morning that it seemed as if she could
not longer bear the strain.

They still had a good fire in the kitchen range, and Shirley hastened
to the kitchen, prepared a delicate piece of toast, a poached egg, a
cup of tea, and took it to her mother's room, tiptoeing lightly lest
she still slept.

But the mother was awake and glad to see her.  She had been awake since
the first streak of dawn had crept into the little back window.  She
had the look of one who was girded for the worst.  But, when she saw
her daughter's face, the mother in her triumphed over the woman.

"What's the trouble, little girl?  Has something happened?"

The tenderness in her voice was the last straw that broke Shirley's
self-control.  The tears suddenly sprang into her eyes, and her lip
trembled.

"Oh mother!" she wailed, setting the tray down quickly on a box and
fumbling for her handkerchief.  "I'm so worried!  I'm so afraid you
won't like what we've done, and then what shall we do?"

"I _shall_ like it!" said the mother with instant determination.
"Don't for a minute think of anything else.  Having done something
irrevocably, never look back and think you might have done something
better.  You did the best you could, or you thought you did, anyway;
and there didn't seem to be anything else at the time.  So now just
consider it was the very best thing in the world, and don't go to
fretting about it.  There'll be _something_ nice about it, I'm sure,
and goodness knows we've had enough unpleasant things here; so we
needn't expect beds of roses.  We are just going to _make_ it nice,
little girl.  Remember that!  We are going to like it.  There's a tree
there, you say; so, when we find things we don't like, we'll just go
out and look up at our tree, and say, 'We've got _you_, anyway, and
_we're glad of it!_'"

"You blessed little mother!" laughed Shirley, wiping her tears away.
"I just believe you will like it, maybe, after all, though I've had a
lot of compunctions all night.  I wondered if maybe I oughtn't to have
told you all about it; only I knew you couldn't really judge at all
until you had seen it yourself, and we wanted to surprise you."

"Well, I'm determined to be surprised," said the brave little woman;
"so don't you worry.  We're going to have a grand good time to-day.
Now run along.  It's almost time for your car, and you haven't had any
breakfast yet."

Shirley kissed her mother, and went smiling down to eat her breakfast
and hurry away to the office.

There was a big rush of work at the office, or Shirley would have asked
for a half-holiday; but she did not dare endanger her position by
making a request at so busy a season.  She was glad that the next day
was Sunday and they would have a whole day to themselves in the new
home before she would have to hurry away to the office again.  It would
serve to make it seem less lonely for her mother, having them all home
that first day.  She meant to work fast to-day and get all the letters
written before five if possible.  Then she would have time to get home
a few minutes before Graham arrived with his car, and see that her
mother was all comfortably ready.  It was a good deal to put upon Carol
to look after everything.  It wasn't as if they had neighbors to help
out a little, for they were the very last tenants in the doomed block
to leave.  All the others had gone two or three weeks before.

Thinking over again all the many details for the day, Shirley walked
down to the office through the sunshine.  It was growing warm weather,
and her coat felt oppressive already.  She was so thankful that mother
would not have to sleep in those breathless rooms after the heat began.
The doctor had said that her mother needed rest and air and plenty of
sunshine more than anything else.  She would at least have those at the
barn, and what did other things matter, after all?  Mother was game.
Mother wouldn't let herself feel badly over such a silly thing.  They
certainly were going to be more comfortable than they had been for
several years.  Think of that wonderful electric light.  And clear cold
water from the spring!  Oh, it was great!  And a little thrill of
ecstasy passed over her, the first she had let herself feel since she
had taken the great responsibility of transplanting her family to a
barn.

After all, the day passed very quickly; and, when at half-past four the
telephone-bell rang and Graham's voice announced that he would be down
at the street door waiting for her in half an hour, that she needn't
hurry, he would wait till she was ready, her heart gave a little jump
of joy.  It was as if school was out and she was going on a real picnic
like other girls.  How nice of him!  How perfectly lovely of him!  And
yet there hadn't been anything but the nicest friendliness in his
voice, such as any kindly disposed landlord might use if he chose,
nothing that she need feel uncomfortable about.  At least, there was
the relief that after to-night mother would know all about it; and, if
she didn't approve, Shirley could decline any further kindness, of
course.  And now she was just going to take mother's advice and forget
everything but the pleasant part.

At home Carol and Harley bustled about in the empty house like two
excited bumble-bees, washing up the few dishes, putting in an open box
everything that had been left out for their last night's sleeping,
getting lunch, and making mother take a nap.  Doris, vibrating between
her mother's room and down-stairs, kept singing over to herself: "We
goin' to tuntry!  We goin' to tuntry!  See birdies an' twees and walk
on gween gwass!"

After lunch was over and the dishes were put carefully into the big box
between comfortables and blankets Carol helped her mother to dress, and
then made her lie down and take a good long nap, with Doris asleep by
her side.  After that Carol and Harley tiptoed down to the bare
kitchen, and sat on a box side by side to converse.

"Gee!  Ain't you tired, Carol?" said the boy, pushing his hair back
from his hot face.  "Gee!  Don't it seem funny we aren't coming back
here any more?  It kind of gets my goat I sha'n't see the fellows so
often, but it'll be great to ask 'em to see us sometimes.  Say, do you
suppose we really can keep chickens?"

"Sure!" said Carol convincingly.  "I asked Mr. Graham if we
might,--George said we ought to, he was such a good scout you'd want to
be sure he'd like it, and he said, 'Sure, it would be great.'  He'd
like to come out and see them sometimes.  He said he used to keep
chickens himself when he was a kid, and he shouldn't wonder if they had
a few too many at their place they could spare to start with.  He told
me he'd look it up and see soon's we got settled."

"Gee!  He's a peach, isn't he?  Say, has he got a case on Shirl?"

"I don't know," said the girl thoughtfully; "maybe he has, but he
doesn't know it yet, I guess.  But anyhow you must promise me you will
never breathe such a word.  Why, Shirley would just bust right up if
you did.  I said a little something to her like that once; it wasn't
much, only just that he was awfully nice and I guessed he liked her by
the way he looked at her, and she just fairly froze.  You know the way
her eyes get when she is sore at us?  And she said I must never,
_never_ even _think_ anything like that, or she would give the place
right up, and get a few rooms down on South Street, and stay in the
city all summer!  She said Mr. Graham was a gentleman, and she was only
a working girl, and it would be a disgrace for her to accept any favors
from him except what she could pay for, and an insult for him to offer
them, because she was only a working girl and he was a gentleman, you
know."

"H'm!" growled Harley.  "I guess our sister's as good as he is any day."

"Of course!" snapped Carol; "but then he might not think so."

"Well, if he don't, he can go to thunder!" bristled Harley wrathfully.
"I'm not going to have him looking down on Shirley.  She's as good as
his baby-doll sister with her pink cheeks, and her little white hands,
and her high heels and airs, any day!  She's a nut, she is."

"Harley!  You stop!" declared Carol, getting wrathful.  "Elizabeth's a
dear, and you're not going to talk about her that way.  Just because
she is pretty and doesn't have to work."

"Well, you said her brother looked down on our sister," declared Harley.

"I did not!  I only said he _might_!  I only meant that was the way
_some_ gentlemen would.  I only said people kind of expect gentlemen to
do that."

"Not if they're real gentlemen, they won't.  And anyhow _he_ won't.  If
I find him looking down on my sister Shirley, I'll punch his face for
him.  Yes, I will!  I'm not afraid.  George and I could beat the
stuffing out of him, and we will if he does any looking-down stunts,
and don't you forget it!"

"Well, I'm sure he doesn't," said Carol pacifically, trying to put a
soothing sound into her voice as wise elder sisters learn to do.  "You
see if he did look down on her, Shirley would know it; right away she'd
know it.  Nobody would have to tell _her_!  She'd see it in his voice
and smile and everything.  And, if he had, she wouldn't have gone out
there to live in the place he owns, you know.  So I guess you can trust
Shirley.  _I_ think he's been just dandy, fixing up that fireplace and
stairs and lights and water and everything."

"Well, mebbe!" said Harley grudgingly.  "Say, this is slow.  I'm going
out to meet the fellows when they come from school, and see what the
score of the game is.  Gee!  I wish I could play to-day!"

"You'll be sure to come back in time?" asked Carol anxiously.

"Sure!  You don't suppose I'd miss going out in that car, do you?" said
the brother contemptuously.  "Not on your tintype!"

"Well, maybe there won't be room for you.  Maybe Elizabeth'll come
along, and you'll have to go in the trolley with George."

"No chance!" declared the boy.  "Mr. Graham said I should ride with him
in the front seat, and he looks like a man that kept his word."

"You see!  _You_ know he's a gentleman!" triumphed Carol.  "Well, I
think you'd better stay here with me.  You'll forget and be late, and
make a mess waiting for you."

"No, I won't!" said the restless boy.  "I can't be bothered sticking
round this dump all afternoon"; and Harley seized his cap, and
disappeared with a whoop around the corner.  After he was gone Carol
found she was tired out herself, and, curling up on a mattress that was
lying ready for the cartman, was soon asleep.  It was so that Harley
found her when he hurried back an hour later, a trifle anxious, it must
be confessed, lest he had stayed too long.  He stirred up the small
household noisily, and in no time had Carol in a panic brewing the cup
of tea that was to give her mother strength to take the journey,
dressing Doris, smoothing her own hair, putting the last things into
bags and baskets and boxes, and directing the cartman, who arrived half
an hour sooner than he promised.  Carol was quite a little woman, going
from one thing to another and taking the place of everybody.

Meantime Elizabeth Graham and her brother had been spending the
afternoon in business of their own.  It was Elizabeth who had suggested
it, and her brother saw no reason why she should not carry out her plan
and why he should not help her.

She came down in the car after lunch, the chauffeur driving her, a
great basket of cut and potted flowers from the home conservatory in
the tonneau beside her, carefully wrapped in wax-paper.  She stopped at
the office for her brother, and together they went about to several
shops giving orders and making purchases.  When they had finished they
drove out to Glenside to unpack their bundles and baskets.  Graham left
Elizabeth with the old servant to help her, and drove rapidly back to
his office, where he telephoned to Shirley.

Certainly Elizabeth had never had such fun in her life.  She scarcely
knew which delightful thing to do first, and she had only about two
hours to complete her arrangements before the family would arrive.

She decided to decorate first, and the great hamper of flowers was
forthwith brought into the barn, and the chauffeur set to work twining
ropes and sprays of smilax and asparagus fern over doorways and
pictures, and training it like a vine about the stone chimney.  Then
came the flowers.  Pots of tall starry lilies, great, heavy-headed,
exquisite-breathed roses, pink, white, yellow, and crimson; daffodils
and sweet peas, with quantities of sweet violets in the bottom of the
basket.  Elizabeth with deft fingers selected the flowers skilfully,
putting pots of lilies on the window-sills, massing a quantity of pink
roses in a dull gray jar she found among the kitchen things, that
looked to the initiated amazingly as though it might once have been
part of a water-filter, but it suited the pink roses wonderfully.  The
tall vases on the bookcases each Bide of the fireplace held daffodils.
Sweet peas were glowing in small vases and glasses and bowls, and
violets in saucers filled the air with fragrance.  White and yellow
roses were on the dining-table, and three exquisite tall crimson
rosebuds glowed in a slender glass vase Elizabeth had brought with her.
This she placed in Mrs. Hollister's room on the little stand that she
judged would be placed beside the bed when the bed arrived.  The
flowers certainly did give an atmosphere to the place in more senses
than one; and the girl was delighted, and fluttered from one spot to
another, changing the position of a vase or bowl, and then standing off
to get the effect.

"Now bring me the big bundle, Jenkins, please," she said at length when
she was satisfied with the effect.  "Oh, and the little long box.  Be
careful.  It is broken at one end, and the screws may fall out."

Jenkins was soon back with the things.

"Now, you get the rods put up at the windows, Jenkins, while I get out
the curtains," and she untied the big bundle with eager fingers.

Jenkins was adaptable, and the rods were simple affairs.  He was soon
at work, and Elizabeth ran the rods into the curtains.

They were not elegant curtains.  Graham had insisted that she should
get nothing elaborate, nothing that would be out of keeping with the
simplicity.  They were soft and straight and creamy, with a frost-like
pattern rambling over them in threads of the same, illuminated here and
there with a single rose and a leaf in color.  There was something
cheerful and spring-like to them, and yet they looked exceedingly plain
and suitable, no ruffles or trimming of any kind, just hems.  To
Elizabeth's mind they had been very cheap.  Shirley would have
exclaimed over their beauty wistfully and turned from them with a gasp
when she heard their price.  They were one of those quiet fitting
things that cost without flaunting it.  They transformed the room into
a dream.

"Oh, isn't it _beautiful_!" exclaimed Elizabeth, standing back to look
as the first curtain went up.

"Yes, Miss, it's very stunning, Miss," said the man, working away with
good will in his face.

When the curtains were all up, Elizabeth pinned one of her cards to the
curtain nearest the front door, inscribed, "With love from Elizabeth."

Then in a panic she looked at her watch.

"Oh Jenkins!  It's almost six o'clock," she cried in dismay.  "They
might get here by half-past, perhaps.  We must hurry!  Bring the other
things in quick now, please."

So Jenkins brought them in, bundles and bags and boxes, an ice-cream
freezer, and last of all the cooking-outfit belonging to their
touring-car.

"Now you get the hot things ready, Jenkins, while I fix the table,"
directed the girl.

Jenkins, well trained in such things, went to work, opening cans and
starting his chafing-dish fire.  Elizabeth with eager fingers opened
her parcels.

A great platter of delicious triangular chicken sandwiches, a dish of
fruit and nut salad surrounded by crisp lettuce leaves, a plate of
delicate rolls, cream puffs, chocolate éclairs, macaroons, a cocoanut
pie, things she liked herself; and then because she knew no feast
without them there were olives, salted almonds, and bonbons as a matter
of course.

Delicious odors from the kitchen end of the room began to fill the air.
Jenkins was heating a pail of rich soup--chicken with rice and
gumbo--from one of the best caterers in the city.  He was making rich
cocoa to be eaten with whipped cream that Elizabeth was pouring into a
glass pitcher; the pitcher came from the ten-cent store if she had only
known it.  Jenkins was cooking canned peas and heating lovely little
brown potato croquettes.  The ice-cream freezer was out in full sight,
where they could never miss it.  Everything was ready now.

"Jenkins, you better light up that queer stove of theirs now if you're
sure you know how,--she said it was just like a lamp the way it
worked,--and put those things in the oven to keep warm.  Then we'll
pack up our things, and hide them out in the grass where they can't
see, and get them in the car when they get out.  Hurry, for they'll be
here very soon now, I think."

Elizabeth stuck a card in the middle of the rose-bowl that said in
pretty letters, "Welcome Home," stood back a minute to see how
everything looked, and then fluttered to the door to watch for the car.



CHAPTER XII

When Shirley came down to the street at five o'clock.  Graham was
waiting for her as he promised, and swung the car door open for her
with as much eagerness as if he were taking the girl of his choice on a
picnic instead of just doing a poor little stenographer a kindness.

"I telephoned to the store and sent a message to George.  We're going
to pick him up on our way," he said as the car wended its way skilfully
through the traffic.

She was sitting beside him, and he looked down at her as if they were
partners in a pleasant scheme.  A strange sense of companionship with
him thrilled through her, and was properly rebuked and fled at once,
without really rippling the surface of her joy much.  She had
determined to have the pleasure out of this one evening ride at least,
and would not let her thoughts play truant to suggest what wider,
sweeter realms might be for other girls.  She was having this good
time.  It was for her and no one else, and she would just enjoy it as
much as she could, and keep it the sweet, sane, innocent pleasure that
it really was.  If she was not a fool, everything would be all right.

George was waiting in a quiver of pride and eagerness for them as they
swept up to the employees' entrance, and a line of admiring
fellow-laborers stood gaping on the sidewalk to watch his departure.

"Oh, gee!  Isn't this great?" shouted George, climbing into the back
seat hilariously.  "Got a whole omnibus of a car this time, haven't
you?"

"Yes, I thought we'd have plenty of room for your mother, so she could
lie down if she liked."

"That was very kind of you," murmured Shirley.  "You think of
everything, don't you?  I'm sure I don't see how we ever could have
managed without your help.  I should have been frightened a dozen times
and been ready to give up."

"Not you!" said Graham fervently.  "You're the kind that never gives
up.  You've taught me several valuable lessons."

As they turned the corner into the old street where the little brick
house stood, Shirley suddenly began to have a vivid realization that
she had told her mother nothing whatever about Mr. Graham.  What would
she think, and how could she explain his presence?  She had expected to
get there before Graham arrived and have time enough to make her mother
understand, but now she began to realize that her real reason for
leaving the matter yet unexplained was that she did not know just what
to say without telling the whole story from beginning to end.

"I'll hurry in and see if mother is all ready," she said, as the car
stopped in front of the house, and the children rushed out eagerly,
Doris just behind the others, to see the "booful tar."

"Mother," said Shirley, slipping softly into the house and going over
to the bed where she lay with hat and coat on, fully ready.  "Mother, I
sha'n't have time to explain all about it, but it's all right; so don't
think anything.  Mr. Graham, the man who owns the place where we are
going, has been kind enough to offer to take you in his car.  He thinks
it will be easier for you than the trolley, and he is out at the door
now waiting.  It's perfectly all right.  He has been very kind about
it----"

"Oh daughter, I couldn't think of troubling any one like that!" said
the mother, shrinking from the thought of a stranger; but, looking up,
she saw him standing, hat in hand, just in the doorway.  The children
had led him to the door when he offered to help their mother out to the
car.

"Mother, this is Mr. Graham," said Shirley.

Mrs. Hollister, a little pink spot on each cheek, tried to rise, but
the young man came forward instantly and stooped over her.

"Don't try to get up, Mrs. Hollister.  Your daughter tells me you
haven't been walking about for several weeks.  You must reserve all
your strength for the journey.  Just trust me.  I'm perfectly strong,
and I can lift you and put you into the car almost without your knowing
it.  I often carry my own mother up-stairs just for fun, and she's
quite a lot larger and heavier than you.  Just let me put my hand under
your back so, and now this hand here.  Now if you'll put your arms
around my neck--yes, that way--no, don't be a bit afraid.  I'm
perfectly strong, and I won't drop you."

Little Mrs. Hollister cast a frightened look at her daughter and
another at the fine, strong face bent above her, felt herself lifted
like thistle-down before she had had time to protest, and found herself
obediently putting her weak arms around his neck and resting her
frightened head against a strong shoulder.  A second more, and she was
lying on the soft cushions of the car, and the young man was piling
pillows about her and tucking her up with soft, furry robes.

"Are you perfectly comfortable?" he asked anxiously.  "I didn't strain
your back or tire you, did I?"

"Oh, no, indeed!" said the bewildered woman.  "You are very kind, and I
hardly knew what you were doing till I was here.  I never dreamed of
anything like this.  Shirley didn't tell me about it."

"No," said the young man, smiling, "she said she wanted to surprise
you; and I believe she thought you might worry a little if you heard
the details of the journey.  Now, kitten, are you ready to get in?"  He
turned a smiling face to Doris, who stood solemnly waiting her turn,
with an expression of one who at last sees the gates of the kingdom of
heaven opening before her happy eyes.

"Soor!" said Doris in a tone as like Harley's as possible.  She lifted
one little shabby shoe, and tried to reach the step, but failed, and
then surrendered her trusting hands to the young man; and he lifted her
in beside her mother.

"Sit there, kitten, till your sister comes out," he said, looking at
her flower face admiringly.

Doris giggled.

"I ain't a kitty," she declared; "I'se a 'ittle gurrul!"

"Well, little girl, do you like to go riding?"

"Soor!  I do 'ike to go widin'!" said Doris.  "Oh!  There goes muvver's
bed!" as the drayman came out carrying the headboard.

Shirley meanwhile was working rapidly, putting the last things from her
mother's bed into the box, tossing things into the empty clothes-basket
that had been left for this purpose, and directing the man who was
taking down the bed and carrying out the boxes and baskets.  At last
all the things were out of the house, and she was free to go.  She
turned for one swift moment, and caught a sob in her throat.  There had
not been time for it before.  It had come when she saw the young man
stoop and lift her mother so tenderly and bear her out to the car.

But the children were calling her loudly to come.  She gave one happy
dab at her eyes with her handkerchief to make sure no tears had
escaped, and went out of the little brick house forever.

A little middle seat had been turned down for Carol, and Doris was in
her lap.  Graham turned the other middle seat down for Shirley; the
boys piled into the front seat with him; and they were off.  Mrs.
Hollister in her wonder over it all completely forgot to look back into
what she had been wont to call in the stifling days of summer her
"frying-pan," or to wonder whether she were about to jump into the
fire.  She just lay back on her soft cushions, softer than any she had
ever rested upon before, and felt herself glide along away from the
hated little dark house forever!  It was a wonderful experience.  It
almost seemed as if a chariot of fire had swooped down and gathered all
her little flock with her, and was carrying them to some kind of
gracious heaven where comfort would be found at last.  A bit of hope
sprang up within her, utterly unpremeditated and unreasonable, and
persisted so that she could not help feeling happy.  As yet it had not
come to her to wonder who this handsome young man was that presumed to
lift her and carry her like a baby, and move her on beds of down to
utterly unknown regions.  She was too much taken up with the wonder of
it all.  If Doris hadn't been prattling, asking questions of her, and
the light breeze hadn't flapped a lock of hair into her eyes and
tickled her nose, she might have thought she was dreaming, so utterly
unreal did it all seem to her.

And now they passed out from the narrow streets, through crowded
thoroughfares for a brief space, then out beyond, and free, into the
wider reaches.  Fair houses and glimpsed of green were appearing.  The
car was gliding smoothly, for the sake of the invalid not going at high
speed; and she could see on every side.  The trees were in full leaf;
the sky was large and blue; the air was filled with freshness.  She
drew a long breath; and closed her eyes to pray, "Oh, my Father!" and
then opened them again to see whether it was all true.  Shirley,
sensitive for her to the slightest breath, turned and drew the robes
closer about her mother, and asked whether she were perfectly warm and
whether she wanted another pillow under her head.

Graham did not intrude himself upon the family behind him.  He was
absorbed in the two boys, who were entirely willing to be monopolized.
He told them all about the car, and discoursed on the mysteries of the
different makes with a freedom that gave George the impression that he
was himself almost a man to be honored by such talk.

It was nearly seven o'clock when they reached Glenside and the big
stone barn came in sight, for they had travelled slowly to make it
easier for the invalid.

Elizabeth had sighted the car far down the road below the curve; and,
switching on every electric light in the place, she fled down the
ladder to the basement, dragging the willing Jenkins after her.  Here
they waited with bated breath until the family had gone inside, when
they made their stealthy way out the east end, across the little brook
under the fence, and down the road, to be picked up by the car
according to previous arrangement.

As the car came in sight of the barn a deep silence suddenly fell upon
the little company.  Even Doris felt it, and ceased her prattle to look
from one to another.  "Whatzie mattah?" she asked Shirley shyly,
putting out her hand to pat Shirley's face in a way she had when she
was uneasy or troubled.  "_Whatzie mattah, Surly?_"

But Shirley only squeezed her hand reassuringly, and smiled.

As they drew near, the young people noticed that the bars of the fence
in front of the barn had been taken down and the ditch filled in
smoothly.  Then they saw that the car was turning in and going straight
up the grassy incline to the door.

Mrs. Hollister, lying comfortably among her cushions, was looking at
the evening sky, hearing a bird that reminded her of long ago, and
scarcely noticed they had turned until the car stopped.  Then in silent
joy the children swarmed out of the car, and with one consent stood
back and watched mother, as the strong young man came to the open door
and gathered her in his arms once more.

"Now we're almost home, Mrs. Hollister," he said pleasantly.  "Just put
your arms around my neck once more, and we'll soon have you beside your
own fire."  He lifted her and bore her in to the wide couch before the
crackling fire that Elizabeth had started just before she went to look
out the door the last time.

Then into the blazing light of the transformed barn they all stepped,
and every one stood back and stared, blinking.  What was this?  What
wondrous perfume met their senses?  What luxury!  What flowers!  What
hangings!

They stood and stared, and could not understand; and between them they
forgot to wonder what their mother was thinking, or to do a thing but
stupidly stare and say, "Why!" and "Oh!" and "Ah!" half under their
breath.

"Just phone me if you need anything, Miss Hollister, please.  I shall
be glad to serve you," said Graham, stepping quickly over to the door.
"Mrs. Hollister, I hope you'll be none the worse for your ride"; and he
slipped out the door, and was gone.

The sound of the car softly purring its way backward down the slope
brought Shirley out of her daze; but, when she turned and understood
that he was gone, the car was just backing into the road, turning with
a quick whirl, and was away before she could make him hear.

"Oh!  He is _gone_!" she cried out, turning in dismay to the children.
"He is gone, and we never thanked him!"

George was out down the road like a shot; and the rest, forgetful for
the moment of the invalid who had been the great anxiety all day,
crowded at the door to watch him.  They could hear the throbbing of the
machine; they heard it stop down the road and start again almost
immediately, growing fainter with every whir as it went farther from
them.  In a moment more George came running back.

"He's gone.  He meant to, I guess, so we could have it all to ourselves
right at first.  Elizabeth and the man were down the road waiting for
him.  They've been dolling the place up to surprise us."

"Oh!" said Shirley, turning to look around, her cheeks growing rosy.
"Oh!  Isn't it beautiful?"  Then, turning swiftly to the couch and
kneeling, she said, "Oh _mother_!"

"What does it all mean, daughter?" asked the bewildered mother, looking
about on the great room that seemed a palace to her sad eyes.

But they all began to clamor at once, and she could make nothing of it.

"Oh Shirley, look at the curtains!  Aren't they perfectly dear?" cried
Carol ecstatically.

"Perf'ly deah!" echoed Doris, dancing up and down gleefully.

"And here's a card, 'With love from Elizabeth'!  Isn't it sweet of her?
Isn't she a perfect _darling_?"

"Who is Elizabeth?" asked Mrs. Hollister, rising to her elbow and
looking around.

"Gee!  Look at the flowers!" broke in George.  "It's like our store at
Easter!  I say!  Those lilies are pretty keen, aren't they, Shirl?"

"Wait'll you see the dining-room!" called Harley, who was investigating
with the help of his nose.  "_Some_ supper-table!  Come on quick; I'm
starved.  Hello!  Hustle here quick.  Here's another sign-board!"

They followed to the dining-room.  Harley, still following his nose,
pursued his investigations to the kitchen, discovered the source of the
savory odors that were pervading the place, and raised another cry so
appreciative that the entire family, with the exception of the invalid,
followed him and found the supper steaming hot and crying to be eaten.

After the excitement was somewhat quieted Shirley took command.

"Now, children, you're getting mother all excited, and this won't do.
And, besides, we must eat this supper right away before it spoils.
Quiet down, and bring the hot things to the table while I get mother's
things off.  Then we will tell her all about it.  There's plenty of
time, you know.  We're going to stay right here all summer."

"Aw, gee!  Can't we bring mother out to the table?" pleaded George.
"Harley and I could lift that couch just as easy."

"Why, I don't know," said Shirley, hesitating.  "You know she isn't
strong, and she will worry about your lifting her."

"Oh Shirley, let her come," pleaded Carol.  "We could all take hold and
wheel the couch out here; you know the floor is real smooth since those
new boards were put in, and there are good castors on the couch."

"Mother!  Mother!  You're coming out to supper!" they chorused, rushing
back to the living-room; and before the invalid realized what was
happening her couch was being wheeled carefully, gleefully into the
brilliantly lighted dining-room, with Doris like a fairy sprite dancing
attendance, and shouting joyously:

"Mudder's tumin' to suppy!  Mudder's tumin' to suppy adin!"

The mother gazed in amazement at the royally spread table, so smothered
in flowers that she failed to recognize the cracked old blue dishes.

"Children, I insist," she raised her voice above the happy din.  "I
insist on knowing immediately what all this means.  Where are we, and
what is this?  A hotel?  And who was the person who brought us here?  I
cannot eat anything nor stay here another minute until I know.  People
can't rent houses like this for ten dollars a month anywhere, and I
didn't suppose we had come to charity, even if I am laid up for a few
days."

Shirley could see the hurt in her mother's eyes and the quick alarm in
her voice, and came around to her couch, smiling.

"Now, mother dear, we'll tell you the whole thing.  It isn't a hotel
we're in, and it isn't a house at all.  It's only an old barn!"

"A barn!"  Mrs. Hollister sat up on her couch alertly, and looked at
the big bowl of roses in the middle of the table, at the soft, flowing
curtains at the window and the great pot of Easter lilies on the little
stand in front, and exclaimed, "Impossible!"

"But it is, really, mother, just a grand old stone barn!  Look at the
walls.  See those two over there are just rough stones, and this one
back of you is a partition made of common boards.  That's only an old
brown denim curtain over there to hide the kitchen, and we've got the
old red chenille curtains up to partition off the bedrooms.  The boys
are going to sleep up in the hay-loft, and it's going to be just great!"

Mrs. Hollister looked wildly at the stone walls, back at the new
partition, recognized one by one the ancient chairs, the old bookcase
now converted into a china-closet, the brown denim curtain that had
once been a cover for the dining-room floor in the little brick house.
Now it was washed and mended, and was doing its faded part to look like
a wall and fit into the scheme of things.  She darted questioning
glances at the wealth of flowers, and the abundantly set table, then
settled back on her pillow but half satisfied.

"They don't have curtains in a barn!" she remarked dryly.

"Those are a present from Elizabeth, the little sister of the landlord.
She was out here with him when he came to see about things, and she got
acquainted with Carol.  She has put up those curtains, and brought the
flowers, and fixed the table, for a surprise.  See, mother!" and
Shirley brought the card on which Elizabeth had printed her crude
welcome.

Mrs. Hollister took the card as if it were some sort of a
life-preserver, and smiled with relief.

"But this is a great deal to do for strangers," she said tremblingly,
and tears began to glitter in her eyes.  "They must be wealthy people."

"Yes, mother, I think they are," said Shirley, "and they have been most
kind."

"But, daughter, wealthy people do not usually take the trouble to do
things like that for nothing.  And ten dollars a month for a barn could
be nothing to them."

"I know, mother, but he seems very well satisfied with the price," said
Shirley with a troubled brow.  "I----"

"Something's burning!" yelled Harley at the top of his lungs from the
kitchen, and immediately they all rushed out to rescue the supper,
which took that moment to assert itself.

"Now, mother," said Shirley, coming in with a big tureen of soup,
"we've got to eat this supper or it will spoil.  You're not to ask
another question till we are through."

They all settled expectantly down at the table, Doris climbing joyously
into her high chair, calling:

"Suppy!  Suppy!  Oh goody!"

Such a clatter and a clamor, such shoutings over the sandwiches and
such jumpings up and down to carry something to mother!  Such lingering
over the delicious ice-cream and fresh strawberries that were found in
the freezer!  Think of it!  Real strawberries for _them_ that time of
year!

Then, when they had eaten all they could, and began to realize that it
was time to get mother to bed, they pushed the chairs back, and all
fell to clearing off the table and putting things away.  It was Carol
who discovered the big roasted fowl and the bowl of salad set away in
the tiny ice-box ready for to-morrow.  How had Elizabeth, who never
kept house in her life, known just what would be nice for a family were
all tired out with moving, and needed to lie back and rest before
starting on with living?

The dishes were almost washed when the cart arrived with the last load
of things, and the drayman helped George to put up mother's bed.

They wheeled the couch into the living-room after the big doors were
closed and safely fastened for the night.  Before the glowing fire
Shirley helped mother to undress, then rolled her couch into the
bedroom and got her to bed.

"Do you mind very much that it is only a barn, mother dear?" questioned
Shirley, bending anxiously over her mother after she was settled.

"I can't make it seem like a barn, dear; it seems a palace!" said the
mother with a tremble in her voice.  "I'm glad it's a barn, because we
could never afford a house with space like this, and air!"  She threw
out her hands as if to express her delight in the wide rooms, and drew
in a breath of the delicious country air, so different from air of the
dusty little brick house in the city.

"Daughter!" she drew Shirley down where she could whisper to her.
"You're sure he is not looking on us as objects of charity, and you're
sure he understands that you are a self-respecting girl earning her
honorable living and paying her way?  You know this is a wicked,
deceitful world we live in, and there are all sorts of people in it."

"Mother dear!  I'm sure.  Sure as anybody could be.  He has been a
perfect gentleman.  You didn't think he looked like one of those--those
people--that go around misunderstanding girls, did you mother?"

The mother remembered the gentle, manly way in which the young man had
lifted her and carried her to and from the car, and her heart warmed to
him.  Yet her fears lingered as she watched her sweet-eyed girl.

"No-o-o," she answered slowly; "but then, you can't always judge.  He
certainly was a gentleman, and he was very nice-looking."  Then she
looked sharply at Shirley.

"You won't go to getting any notions in your head, dear child?"  Her
eyes were wistful and sad as she searched the sweet, weary face of the
girl.  "You know rich young men follow whims sometimes for a few days.
They don't mean anything.  I wouldn't want your heart broken.  I wish
he was an old man with white hair."

"Oh mother dear!" laughed Shirley with heart-free ring to her voice,
"did you think you had a young fool for a daughter?  He was only being
nice because he is a perfect gentleman; but I know he is not in the
same universe as I am, so far as anything more than pleasant kindliness
is concerned.  We shall probably never see him again now that we are
settled.  But don't you think I ought to go and telephone thanks to his
little sister?  They will be home by this time, and it seems as if we
ought to make some acknowledgment of her great kindness."

"By all means, dear; but how can you?  Is there a pay-station near
here?  I thought you said this was out in the country."

"Why, we have a telephone of our own, muddy dear!  Just think of the
luxury of it!  Us with a telephone!  Mr. Graham had it put into the
barn when he was making some repairs, so he could communicate with his
workmen; and he said if we would like it we might keep it.  It is one
of those 'pay-as-you-go' phones, with a place to drop nickels and dimes
in; so we are perfectly independent.  Mr. Graham thought it would be a
comfort to you when George or I had to stay late in town."

"How thoughtful of him!  He must be a _wonderful_ rich man!  By all
means telephone at once, and tell the little girl to say to her brother
from me that I shall esteem it a privilege to thank him personally for
all that he has done for my children, sometime when he is out this way.
Think.  A real rose by my bed!"  She reached out a frail hand, and
touched the exquisite petals lovingly.  "It is wonderful!"

So Shirley went into the living-room to telephone, while all the
children stood about to watch and comment and tell her what to say.
Doris sat on a little cushion at her feet in awe, and listened, asking
Carol with large eyes: "Is Sirley tautin to Dod?  Vy doesn't see sut
her yeyes?" for Shirley's conversation over the telephone sounded to
the little sister much like a prayer of thanksgiving; only she was not
accustomed to hearing that joyous laughter in the voice when people
prayed.

Then Doris was put to bed in her own little crib, and the light in
mother's room was switched off amid Doris's flood of questions.

"Vat makes it light?  Vy did it do avay?  Will it tum adin?"

At last she was asleep, and the other children tiptoed excitedly about
preparing for bed, going up and downstairs softly, whispering back and
forth for this or that they could not find, till quiet settled down
upon the tired, happy household, and the bullfrogs in the distant creek
droned out the nightly chorus.



CHAPTER XIII

It was beautiful to wake the next morning with the birds singing a
matin in the trees, and a wonderful Sabbath quiet over everything.
Tired out as she was and worn with excitement and care, Shirley was the
first to waken, and she lay there quiet beside Carol for a little while
with her eyes closed, listening, and saying a prayer of thanksgiving
for the peace of the place, and the wonder that it had come into her
life.  Then suddenly a strange luminousness about her simply forced her
to open her eyes.

The eastern window was across the room from her bed, and the sky was
rosy, with the dawn, and flooding the room.  It was the first time in
years she had watched the sun rise.  She had almost forgotten, in the
little dark city house, that there was a sun to rise and make things
glorious.  The sun had seemed an enemy to burn and wilt and stifle.

But now here was a friend, a radiant new friend, to be waited for and
enjoyed, to give glory to all their lives.  She raised herself on one
elbow and watched until the red ball had risen and burst into the
brightness of day.  Then she lay down softly again and listened to the
birds.  They seemed to be mad with joy over the new day.  Presently the
chorus grew less and less.  The birds had gone about their morning
tasks, and only a single bright song now and then from some soloist in
the big tree overhead marked the sweet-scented silence of the morning.

In the quiet Shirley lay and went over events since she had first seen
this spot and taken the idea of living in the barn.  Her heart gave
thanks anew that her mother had not disliked it as she had feared.
There was no sense that it was a stable, no odor of living creatures
having occupied it before, only sweet dusty clover like a lingering of
past things put away carefully.  It was like a great camping
expedition.  And then all those flowers!  The scent of the lilies was
on the air.  How lovely of the young girl out of her luxury to think to
pass on some of the sweet things of life!  And the gracious, chivalrous
man, her brother!  She must not let him think she would presume upon
his kindness.  She must not let even her thoughts cross the line and
dwell on the ground of social equality.  She knew where he belonged,
and there he should stay for all her.  She was heart-free and happy,
and only too glad to have such a kind landlord.

She drifted off to sleep again, and it was late when she awoke the next
time.  A silvery bell from the little white church in the valley was
ringing and echoing distantly.  Sabbath, real Sabbath, seemed brooding
happily in the very air.  Shirley got up and dressed hastily.  She felt
as if she had already lost too much of this first wonderful day in the
country.

A thrush was spilling his liquid notes in the tree overhead when she
tiptoed softly into her mother's room.  Doris opened her eyes and
looked in wonder, then whispered softly:

"Vat is dat, Sirley?  Vat _is_ dat pitty sound?"

"A birdie in the tree, dearie!" whispered Shirley.

"A _weel budie_!  I yantta see it!  Take Doris up, Sirley!"

So Shirley lifted the little maiden, wrapped a shawl about her, and
carried her softly to the window, where she looked up in wonder and joy.

The boys came tumbling down from their loft in a few minutes, and there
was no more sleep to be had.  Carol was up and out, and the voice of
one or the other of them was continually raised in a shout of triumph
over some new delight.

"I saw a fish in the brook!" shouted Harley under his mother's window.
"It was only a little fellow, but maybe it'll grow bigger some day, and
then we can fish!"

"You silly!" cried George.  "It was a minnow.  Minnows don't grow to be
big.  They're only good for bait!"

"Hush, George, there's a nest in the big tree.  I've been watching and
the mother bird is sitting on it.  That was the father bird singing a
while ago."  This from Carol.

George, Harley, and Carol declared their intention of going to church.
That had likely been the first bell that rang, their mother told them,
and they would have plenty of time to get there if they hurried.  It
was only half-past nine.  Country churches rang a bell then, and
another at ten, and the final bell at half-past ten, probably.
Possibly they had Sunday-school at ten.  Anyhow, they could go and find
out.  It wouldn't matter if they were a little late the first time.

So they ate some breakfast in a hurry, took each a sandwich left from
the night before, crossed the road, climbed the fence, and went
joyously over the green fields to church, thinking how much nicer it
was than walking down a brick-paved street, past the same old grimy
houses to a dim, artificially lighted church.

Shirley took a survey of the larder, decided that roast chicken, potato
croquettes, and peas would all warm up quickly, and, as there was
plenty of ice cream left and some cakes, they would fare royally
without any work; so she sat beside her mother and told the whole story
of her ride, the finding of the barn, her visit to the Graham office,
and all that transpired until the present time.

The mother listened, watching her child, but said no wore of her inner
thoughts.  If it occurred to her that her oldest daughter was fair to
look upon, and that her winning ways, sweet, unspoiled face, and
wistful eyes had somewhat to do with the price of their summer's abode,
it would be no wonder.  But she did not mean to trouble her child
further.  She would investigate for herself when opportunity offered.
So she quieted all anxieties Shirley might have had about her sanction
of their selection of a home, kissed Shirley, and told her she felt it
in her bones she was going to get well right away.

And, indeed, there was much in the fact of the lifting of the burden of
anxiety concerning where they should live that went to brighten the
eyes of the invalid and strengthen her heart.

When the children came home from church Shirley was putting dinner on
the table, and her mother was arrayed in a pretty kimono, a relic of
their better days, and ready to be helped to the couch and wheeled out
to the dining-room.  It had been pleasant to see the children coming
across the green meadow in the distance, and get things all ready for
them when they rushed in hungry.  Shirley was so happy she felt like
crying.

After the dinner things were washed they shoved the couch into the
living-room among the flowers, where George had built up a beautiful
fire, for it was still chilly.  The children gathered around their
mother and talked, making plans for the summer, telling about the
service they had attended, chattering like so many magpies.  The mother
lay and watched them and was content.  Sometimes her eyes would search
the dim, mellow rafters overhead, and glance along the stone walls, and
she would say to herself: "This is a barn!  I am living in a barn!  My
husband's children have come to this, that they have no place to live
but a barn!"  She was testing herself to see if the thought hurt her.
But, looking on their happy faces, somehow she could not feel sad.

"Children," she said suddenly in one of the little lulls of
conversation, "do you realize that Christ was born in a stable?  It
isn't so bad to live in a barn.  We ought to be very thankful for this
great splendid one!"

"Oh mother, dear!  It is so beautiful of you to take it that way!"
cried Shirley with tears in her eyes.

"Doris, you sing your little song about Jesus in the stable," said
Carol.  "I'll play it for you."

Doris, nothing loath, got a little stool, stood up beside her mother's
couch, folded her small hands demurely, and began to sing without
waiting for accompaniment:

  "Away in a manger,
    No trib for His head,
  The litta Lord Jesus
    Lay down His sveet head.
  The tars in the haaven
    Look down vhere 'e lay--
  The litta Lord Jesus
    As'eep in the hay.

  "The catta are lowing,
    The poor baby wates;
  But the litta Lord Jesus
    No cwyin' He mates.
  I love Thee, Lord Jesus;
    Look down fum the sky,
  An' stay by my trib,
    Watching my lul-la-by!"


Shirley kissed Doris, and then they began to sing other things, all
standing around the piano.  By and by that distant bell from the valley
called again.

"There's a vesper service at five o'clock.  Why don't you go, Shirley?
You and George and Harley," said Carol.

"Me 'ant do too!" declared Doris earnestly, and it was finally decided
that the walk would not be too long; so the boys, Shirley and the baby
started off across the fields, while Carol stayed with her mother.  And
this time Mrs. Hollister heard all about Elizabeth and how she wanted
Carol to come and see her sometime.  Heard, too, about the proposed
dance, and its quiet squelching by the brother.  Heard, and looked
thoughtful, and wondered more.

"Mother is afraid they are not quite our kind of people, dear!" she
said gently.  "You mustn't get your heart bound up in that girl.  She
may be very nice, but she's a society girl, and you are not, you know.
It stands to reason she will have other interests pretty soon, and then
you will be disappointed when she forgets all about you."

"She won't forget, mother, I know she won't!" declared Carol stoutly.
"She's not that kind.  She loves me; she told me so.  She wanted to put
one of her rings on my finger to 'bind our friendship,' only I wouldn't
let her till I had asked you, because I didn't have any but
grandmother's to give her, and I couldn't give her that."

"That was right, dear.  You can't begin things like that.  You would
find a great many of them, and we haven't the money to keep up with a
little girl who has been used to everything."

Carol's face went down.  Tears began to come in her eyes.

"Can't we have even _friends_?" she said, turning her face away to hide
the quiver in her lip, and the tears that were rolling down her cheeks.

"Yes, dear," said the mother sorrowfully, "but don't choose them from
among another people.  People who can't possibly have much in common
with us.  It is sure to hurt hard when there are differences in station
like that."

"But I didn't choose them.  They chose us!" declared Carol.  "Elizabeth
just went wild over us the first time she saw us, and her brother told
Shirley he was glad, that it would do Elizabeth a lot of good to know
us.  He said, 'We've learned a lot of things from you already'; just
like that, he said it!  I was coming down the stairs behind them when
they stood here talking one day, and I couldn't help hearing them."

"Yes?" said Mrs. Hollister thoughtfully.  "Well, perhaps, but, dear, go
slow and don't pin your heart to a friendship like that, for it will
most likely be disappointing.  Just be happy in what she has done for
us already, and don't expect anything more.  She may never come again.
It may just have been a passing whim.  And I don't want you to be
always looking for her and always disappointed."

"I shall not be disappointed, mamma," said Carol decidedly.  "You'll
see!" and her face brightened.

Then as if to make good her words a big car came whirring up the road
and stopped in front of the barn, and almost before she could get to
the window to look out Carol heard Elizabeth's voice calling softly:

"Carol!  Car-_roll_!  Are you there?" and she flung the door open and
rushed into her new friend's arms.

Graham came more slowly up the incline, smiling apologetically and
hoping he didn't intrude, coming so soon.

Carol led them over to the invalid and introduced her friend, and the
young man came after them.

"I'm afraid this is rather soon to obey your summons, Mrs. Hollister,"
he said engagingly, "but Elizabeth couldn't stand it without coming
over to see if you really found the ice-cream freezer, so I thought
we'd just drop in for a minute and see whether you were quite
comfortable."

Somehow, suddenly, Mrs. Hollister's fears and conclusions concerning
these two young people began to vanish, and in spite of her she felt
just as Shirley had done, that they were genuine in their kindliness
and friendship.  Carol, watching her, was satisfied, and a glow of
triumph shone in her eyes.  Nevertheless, Mrs. Hollister gathered her
caution about her as a garment, and in dignified and pleasant phrases
thanked the two in such a way that they must see that neither she nor
her children would ever presume upon what had been done for them, nor
take it for more than a passing kindliness.

But to her surprise the young man did not seem to be more than half
listening to her words.  He seemed to be studying her face with deep
intention that was almost embarrassing.  The soft color stole into her
thin cheeks, and she stopped speaking and looked at him in dismay.

"I beg your pardon," he said, seeing her bewilderment, "but you can't
understand perhaps how interested I am in you.  I am afraid I have been
guilty of staring.  You see it is simply amazing to me to find a woman
of your refinement and evident culture and education who is content--I
might even say joyful--to live in a _barn_!  I don't know another woman
who would be satisfied.  And you seem to have brought up all your
children with just such happy, adaptable natures, that it is a great
puzzle to me.  I--I--why, I feel sort of rebuked!  I feel that you and
your children are among the great of the earth.  Don't thank Elizabeth
and me for the little we have been able to do toward making this barn
habitable.  It was a sort of--I might say homage, due to you, that we
were rendering.  And now please don't think anything more about it.
Let's just talk as if we were friends--that is, if you are willing to
accept a couple of humble strangers among your list of friends."

"Why, surely, if you put it that way!" smiled the little woman.
"Although I'm sure I don't know what else we could do but be glad and
happy over it that we had a barn like this to come to under a sweet
blue sky, with a bird and a tree thrown in, when we literally didn't
know where we could afford to lay our heads.  You know beggars
shouldn't be choosers, but I'm sure one would choose a spacious place
like this any day in preference to most of the ordinary city houses,
with their tiny dark rooms, and small breathless windows."

"Even if 'twas called a barn?"

"Even if 'twas called a barn!" said the woman with a flitting dance in
her eyes that reminded him of the girl Shirley.

"Well, I'm learning a lot, I tell you!" said the young man.  "The more
I see of you all, the more I learn.  It's opened my eyes to a number of
things in my life that I'm going to set right.  By the way, is Miss
Hollister here?  I brought over a book I was telling her about the
other day.  I thought she might like to see it."

"She went over to the vesper service at the little church across the
fields.  They'll be coming home soon, I think.  It must be nearly over."

He looked at his watch.

"Suppose I take the car and bring them back.  You stay here, Elizabeth.
I'll soon be back.  I think I can catch them around by the road if I
put on speed."

He was off, and the mother lay on the couch watching the two girls and
wishing with all her heart that it were so that her children might have
these two fine young people for friends.  But of course such things
could not very well be in this world of stern realities and
multitudinous conventionalities.  What, for instance, would be said in
the social set to which the Grahams belonged if it were known that some
of their intimate friends lived in a barn?  No, such things did not
happen even in books, and the mother lay still and sighed.  She heard
the chatter of the two girls.

"You're coming home with me to stay over Sunday pretty soon.  Sidney
said he would fix it all up with your mother pretty soon.  We'll sleep
together and have the grandest times.  Mother likes me to have friends
stay with me, but most of the girls I know are off at boarding-school
now, and I'm dreadfully lonesome.  We have tennis-courts and golf links
and a bowling-alley.  Do you play tennis?  And we can go out in the car
whenever we like.  It's going to be grand.  I'll show you my dog and my
pony I used to ride.  He's getting old now, and I'm too big for him,
but I love him just the same.  I have a saddle-horse, but I don't ride
much.  I'd rather go motoring with Sid----"

And so she rattled on, and the mother sighed for her little girl who
was being tempted by a new and beautiful world, and had not the
wherewithal to enter it, even if it were possible for her to do so.

Out in the sunset the car was speeding back again with the seats full,
Doris chirping gleefully at the ride, for her fat legs had grown very
weary with the long walk through the meadow and Shirley had been almost
sorry she had taken her along.

The boys were shouting all sorts of questions about dogs and chickens
and cars and a garden, and Graham was answering them all
good-humoredly, now and then turning around to throw back a pleasant
sentence and a smile at the quiet girl with the happy eyes sitting in
the back seat with her arm around her little sister.

There was nothing notable about the ride to remember.  It was just one
of those beautiful bits of pleasantness that fit into the mosaic of any
growing friendship, a bit of color without which the whole is not
perfect.  Shirley's part in it was small.  She said little and sat
listening happily to the boys' conversation with Graham.  She had
settled it with her heart that morning that she and the young man on
that front seat had nothing in future to do with each other, but it was
pleasant to see him sitting there talking with her brothers.  There was
no reason why she should not be glad for that, and glad he was not a
snob.  For every time she looked on his clean, frank face, and saw his
nice gray eyes upon her, she was surer that he was not a snob.

The guests stayed a little while after they all got back, and accepted
quite as a matter of course the dainty little lunch that Carol and
Elizabeth, slipping away unobserved, prepared and brought in on
trays,--some of the salad left from dinner, some round rolls that
Shirley had brought out with her Saturday, cut in two and crisply
toasted, cups of delicious cocoa, and little cakes.  That was all, but
it tasted fine, and the two self-invited guests enjoyed it hugely.
Then they all ranged themselves around the piano and sang hymns, and it
is safe to say that the guests at least had not spent as "Sabbathy" a
Sabbath in all their lives.  Elizabeth was quite astonished when she
suggested that they sing a popular song to have Carol answer in a
polite but gently reproving tone, "Oh, not _to-day_, you know."

"Why not?  Doesn't your mother like it?" whispered Elizabeth.

"Why, we don't any of us usually sing things like that on Sunday, you
know.  It doesn't seem like Sunday.  It doesn't seem quite respectful
to God."  Carol was terribly embarrassed and was struggling to make her
idea plain.

"Oh!" Elizabeth said, and stood looking wistfully, wonderingly at her
friend, and finally stole out a soft hand and slipped it into Carol's,
pressing her fingers as if to make her know she understood.  Then they
lifted up their voices again over the same hymn-book:

  "Thine earthly Sabbaths, Lord, we love,
  But there's a nobler rest above;
  To that our longing souls aspire
  With cheerful hope and strong desire."


Graham looked about on the group as they sang, his own fine tenor
joining in the words, his eyes lingering on the earnest face of his
little sister as she stood arm in arm with the other girl, and was
suddenly thrilled with the thought of what a Sabbath might be, kept in
this way.  It had never appealed to him quite like that before.
Sabbath-keeping had seemed a dry, thankless task for a few fanatics;
now a new possibility loomed vaguely in his mind.  He could see that
people like this could really make the Sabbath something to love, not
just a day to loll through and pass the time away.

When they finally went away there was just a streak of dull red left in
the western horizon where the day had disappeared, and all the air was
seething with sweet night sounds and odors, the dampness of the swamps
striking coolly in their faces as the car sped along.

"Sidney," said Elizabeth after a long time, "did you ever feel as if
God were real?"

"Why, how do you mean, kid?" asked the brother, rather embarrassed.
These subjects were not discussed at all in the Graham household.

"Did you ever feel as if there really was a God somewhere, like a
person, that could see and hear you and know what you did and how you
felt to Him?  Because they do.  Carol said they didn't sing 'Tipperary'
on Sunday because it didn't seem quite respectful to God, and I could
see she really meant it.  It wasn't just because her mother said she
had to or anything like that.  She thought so herself."

"H'm!" said Graham thoughtfully.  "Well, they're rather remarkable
people, I think."

"Well, I think so too, and I think it's about time you fixed it up with
mamma to let Carol come and visit me."

"I'm going to get mother to go out there and call this week if I can,"
said Graham after another longer pause, and then added: "I think she
will go and I think she will like them.  After that we'll see, kid.
Don't you worry.  They're nice, all right."  He was thinking of the
look on Shirley's face as she sat at the piano playing for them all to
sing.



CHAPTER XIV

The first few days in the new home were filled with wonder and delight
for them all.  They just could not get used to having plenty of room
indoors, with all outdoors for a playground.  Doris's cheeks took on a
lovely pink, and her eyes began to sparkle.  She and Harley spent all
day out-of-doors.  They were making a garden.  Not that they had any
experience or any utensils.  There was an old hoe and a broken spade
down in the basement of the barn, and with these Harley managed to
remove a few square feet of young turf, and mellow up an inch or two of
soil depth.  In this they planted violet roots and buttercups and
daisies which they found in the meadows.  Doris had a corner all her
own, with neat rows of tiny stones from the brook laid in elaborate
baby-patterns around the edge, and in this she stuck twigs and weeds of
all descriptions, and was never daunted, only pained and surprised when
they drooped and died in a day or two and had to be supplanted by
others.

It had been decided that Harley was to stop school and stay at home
with mother and Doris, which indeed he was quite willing to do under
the glamour of the new life.  The school itself never had much
attraction for him, and "the fellows" were almost forgotten in
searching for angleworms and building dams in the creek.

Carol went to high school every morning with Shirley and George on the
trolley.  There were only six more weeks till the term was over, and it
was better for Carol to finish out her year and get her credits.
Shirley thought they could afford the extra carfare for just that
little while, and so all day long mother and Doris and Harley kept
quiet home in the old barn, and the meadows rang with Doris's shouts
and Harley's answers.

One day the doctor came out in his machine to see Mrs. Hollister as he
had promised to do, and found her so much better that he told her she
might get up and go around a little while every day if she was very
careful not to get over-tired.  He prophesied a speedy return to health
if she kept on looking happy and breathing this good air.  He praised
the good sense that brought her out into the country to live, in
preference to any little tucked-up house in town, and said if she could
only get well enough to work outdoors in the ground and have a
flower-bed it would be the making of her.  Her eyes brightened at that,
for she loved flowers, and in the days of her youth had been extremely
successful at making things grow.

The doctor was deeply interest in the barn.  He walked about with his
hands in his pockets, looking the rooms over, as delighted as a child
at seeing a new mechanical toy.

"Well, now this is great!" he said heartily.  "This is simply great!  I
admire you people for having the nerve to go against conventionality
and come out here.  If I had a few more patients who could be persuaded
to go out into the country and take some of the unused old barns and
fix them up to live in, I'd have to change my occupation.  It's a great
idea, and I mean to recommend it to others if you don't mind.  Only I
doubt if I find two others who have the nerve to follow your example."

The invalid laughed.

"Why, doctor, I can't see the nerve.  We really hadn't any choice.  We
couldn't find a decent place that we could afford, and this was big and
healthful and cost less than the worst little tenement that would have
done in town.  Any one would be a fool not to have come here."

"Mrs. Hollister, do you know that most people would rather starve and
swelter, yes--and _die_ in a conventional house, than to do such an
unheard-of thing as to live in a barn, no matter how delightful that
barn might be?  You are a great little woman, Mrs. Hollister, and you
deserve to get well, and to see your children prosper.  And they will.
They have the right spirit."

After his visit Mrs. Hollister began to get up a little while every
day, and her improvement in health was rapid.  She even ventured out to
see Doris's garden and watch the "budie" in his nest in the tree.

One day a drayman stopped at the place and left several great rolls of
chicken-wire, and a couple of big crates.  One crate was bigger than
the other and contained half a dozen big yellow hens and a beautiful
rooster.  The small crate held two lovely white rabbits.

The children hovered joyfully over the crates.

"Mine wabbits!" declared Doris solemnly.  "Nice Mistah Dwaham give
Doris wabbits."

"Did Mr. Graham say he was going to send you some rabbits?" questioned
her mother.

"'Es.  He did say he was goin' to sen' me some wabbits.  On 'e way fum
chutch in big oughtymobeel.  He did say he would give me wabbits.  Oh,
mine wabbits!"  Doris was in ecstasy.

Mrs. Hollister looked at the big rolls of wire questioningly:

"George and I told him we wanted some chickens.  I guess that's why he
sent 'em," announced Harley excitedly.

"I hope you boys didn't hint.  That's very bad manners.  You know I
can't have Mr. Graham giving you such expensive presents; it won't do,
dear."

"No, mother, we didn't hint.  George just asked him if he minded if we
kept chickens here, and he said no, indeed, he'd like to go into the
business himself.  He said he used to have a lot of his own when he was
a boy, and he guessed there was a lot of wire from the old chicken-run
around at his place yet.  If there was, there wasn't any reason why it
shouldn't be in use, and he'd look it up.  He said, if it was, he and
we'd go into business.  He'd furnish the tools and we could do the
work, and maybe some day we could sell eggs and make it pay."

"That's very kind of him, I'm sure.  But, Harley, that looks like new
wire.  It isn't the least bit rusted."

"It's galvanized, mother.  Galvanized wire doesn't rust, don't you know
that?" said Harley in a superior, man's voice.

Harley and Doris were wild over their pets, and could do nothing all
that day but hover about them, and the minute George arrived the boys
went out to see about putting up some of the wire and making a
temporary abode for the creatures until they could get time to plan an
elaborate chicken-run.

Before dark Graham arrived.  He had brought a book on chicken-raising
and had a good many suggestions to offer.  With him in the front seat
of the car rode a great golden-brown dog with a white-starred face,
great affectionate eyes, and a plumy white tail.  He bounded floppily
out after Graham and came affably up to the door as if he understood
everything; and at sight of him the children went wild.

"I brought this fellow along, thinking perhaps you'd like him to help
look after things here.  He's only a puppy, but he's a good breed, and
I think you'll find him a splendid watch-dog.  You don't need to keep
him, of course, if you don't want him, Mrs. Hollister, but I thought
out in the country this way it might be as well for you to have him on
guard, at night especially.  He'll be good company for the children.
We've got so many of them that we want to give this one away."

And what was there to do but accept him with thanks, a dog like that
begging for a home, and a home like that really needing a dog?

So the dog was promptly accepted as a member of the family, was named
Star, and accepted the overtures of his devoted worshippers in many
amiable waggings of tail and a wide puppy laugh on his face.  He stayed
behind most contentedly when Graham departed after a long conference
with George and Harley over the "chicken" book, and a long discussion
in the back yard as to the best place for the chicken-run.  He seemed
to know from the start that he had come to stay, that this was his
"job" and he was on it for life.

It must be admitted that Mrs. Hollister went to sleep that night with
more content, knowing that big, floppy, deep-voiced dog was lying
across the door out in the living-room.  The hillside had seemed a bit
lonely at night, though she had never admitted it even to herself
before, and she was glad the dog had come.  That night in the little
prayer that she said every night with all her children gathered about
her couch in front of the fire, she added, "We thank Thee, oh, Lord,
for sending us such good kind friends to make the world so much happier
for us."

A few days later Mrs. Graham came to call.

Her son did not explain to her anything about the Hollisters, nor say a
word about the place where they were living.  He merely remarked
casually: "Mother, there are some people I'd like you to call on if you
don't mind.  They live out Glenside way, and I'll take you any
afternoon you have time."

"I really haven't much time now before we go to the shore, Sidney," she
said.  "Couldn't they wait till the fall when we return?"

"No, mother, I'd like you to call now.  It needn't take you long, and I
think you'll like them--her--Mrs. Hollister, I mean.  Can't you go this
afternoon?  I'll call for you with the car anywhere you say, along
about half-past four or five o'clock.  It will be a pleasant little
drive and rest you."

"Shall I have to be much dressed?" asked the mother thoughtfully,
"because I shouldn't have time for an elaborate toilet.  I have to go
to Madame's for a fitting, meet with the Red Cross committee, drop in
at the hospital for a few minutes, and see Mrs. Sheppard and Mrs.
Follette about our Alumni Anniversary banquet."

"Just wear something simple, mother.  They are not society people.
It's you I want to show them, not your clothes."

"You ridiculous boy!  You're as unsophisticated as your father.  Well,
I'll be ready at half-past four.  You may call for me then at the
Century Building."

Elizabeth had been loyal to her brother's commands and had said nothing
about her new-found friend, awaiting his permission.  Graham earnestly
discussed the pros and cons of woman's suffrage with his mother during
the drive out, so that she was utterly unprejudiced by any former ideas
concerning the Hollisters, which was exactly what her son desired her
to be.  He knew that his mother was a woman of the world, and hedged
about by conventions of all sorts, but he also knew her to be fair in
her judgments when once she saw a thing right, and a keen reader of
character.  He wanted her to see the Hollisters without the least bit
of a chance to judge them beforehand.

So when the car drew up in front of the old barn Mrs. Graham was quite
unprepared to have her son get out and open the car door and say,
"Mother, this is the place: may I help you out?"  She had been talking
earnestly, and had thought he was getting out to look after something
wrong about the car.  Now she looked up startled.

"Why, Sidney!  Why, you must have made a mistake!  This isn't a house;
it is a barn!"

"This is the place, mother.  Just come right up this way."

Mrs. Graham picked her way over the short green turf up to the door and
stood astonished while her son knocked.  What in the world did he mean?
Was this one of his jokes?  Had he brought her out to see a new
riding-horse?  That must be it, of course.  He was always taking a
fancy to a horse or a dog.  She really hadn't the time to spare for
nonsense this afternoon, but one must humor one's son once in a while.
She stepped back absent-mindedly, her eyes resting on the soft greens
and purples of the foliage across the meadows, her thoughts on the next
paper she intended to write for the club.  This incident would soon be
over, and then she might pursue the even tenor of her busy way.

Then the door slid back and she became aware of something unusual in
the tenseness of the moment.  Looking up quickly she saw a beautiful
girl of about Elizabeth's age, with a wealth of dark wavy hair, lovely
dark eyes, and vivid coloring, and by her side one of the loveliest
golden-haired, blue-eyed babies she had ever seen in her life.  In the
wonder of the moment she forgot that the outside of the building had
been a barn, for the curtain had risen on a new setting, and here on
the very threshold there opened before her amazed eyes a charming,
homelike room.

At first she did not take in any of the details of furnishings.
Everything was tastefully arranged, and the dull tones of wall and
floor and ceiling in the late afternoon light mellowed the old
furniture into its background so perfectly that the imperfections and
make-shifts did not appear.  It was just a place of comfort and beauty,
even though the details might show shabby poverty.

But her son was speaking.

"Mother, this is Miss Carol Hollister, and this little girl is her
sister Doris----"

Doris put out a fat hand and gravely laid it in the lady's kid glove,
saying carefully, with shy lashes drooped sideways, and blue eyes
furtively searching the stranger's face.

"How oo do?"

Then as if she had performed her duty, she turned on her smiles and
dimples with a flash, and grasping Graham's hand said,

"Now, Mistah Dwa'm, oo tum out an' see my wabbits!"

It was evident to the mother that her son had been here before.  She
looked at him for an explanation, but he only said to Carol,

"Is your mother able to see callers for a few minutes?"

"Oh, yes," said Carol with a glad little ring in her voice.  "Mother is
up in a chair this afternoon.  See!  The doctor says she may get up
now, she is so much better!" and she turned and flung out her arm
toward the big easy chair where her mother sat.

Mrs. Hollister arose and came forward to meet them.

She was dressed in a plain little gown of cheap gray challis, much
washed and mended, but looking somehow very nice; and Carol had just
finished fastening one of Shirley's sheer white fluffy collars around
her neck, with a bit of a pink ribbon looped in a pretty knot.  Her
hair was tastefully arranged, and she looked every inch a lady as she
stood to receive her unexpected guests.  Graham had never seen her in
any but invalid's garb before, and he stood amazed for a moment at the
likeness between her and Shirley.  He introduced his mother with a few
words, and then yielded to Doris's eager, pulling hand and went out to
see the bunnies.

The situation was a trifle trying for both ladies, but to the woman of
the world perhaps the more embarrassing.  She hadn't a clew as to who
this was she had been brought to see.  She was entirely used to
dominating any situation, but for a moment she was almost confused.

Mrs. Hollister, however, tactfully relieved the situation, with a
gentle, "Won't you sit here by the fire?  It is getting a little cool
this evening, don't you think?" and put her at once at her ease.  Only
her family would have guessed from the soft pink spots in her cheeks
that she was at all excited over her grand guest.  She took the
initiative at once, leading the talk into natural channels, about the
spring and its wonderful unfolding in the country, exhibited a vase
with jack-in-the-pulpits, and a glass bowl of hepaticas blushing blue
and pink, told of the thrush that had built a nest in the elm over the
door, and pointed out the view over the valley where the sinking sun
was flashing crimson from the weather-vane on the little white spire of
the church.  She said how much they had enjoyed the sunsets since
coming out here to live, taking it for granted that her visitor knew
all about their circumstances, and making no apologies or comments; and
the visitor, being what her son called "a good sport," showed no hint
that she had never heard of the Hollisters before, but smiled and said
the right thing at the right moment.  And somehow, neither knew just
how, they got to the subject of Browning and Ibsen, and from there to
woman's suffrage, and when Graham returned with Carol and Harley, Doris
chattering beside him and the dog bounding in ahead, they were deep in
future politics.  Graham sat and listened for a while, interested to
note that the quiet little woman who had spent the last few years of
her life working in a narrow dark city kitchen could talk as
thoughtfully and sensibly as his cultured, versatile mother.

The next trolley brought Shirley and George, and again the mother was
amazed to find how altogether free and easy seemed to be the relation
between all these young people.

She gave a keen look at Shirley, and then another at her son, but saw
nothing which gave her uneasiness.  The girl was unconscious as a rose,
and sweet and gracious to the stranger guests as if she had been in
society all her life.  She slipped away at once to remove her hat, and
when she came back her hair was brushed, and she looked as fresh as a
flower in her clean white ruffled blouse.  The older woman could not
take her eyes from her face.  What a charming girl to be set among all
this shabbiness!  For by this time her discriminating eyes had
discovered that everything--literally _every_thing was shabby.  Who
were these people, and how did they happen to get put here?  The baby
was ravishingly beautiful, the girls were charming, and the boys looked
like splendid, manly fellows.  The mother was a product of culture and
refinement.  Not one word or action had shown that she knew her
surroundings were shabby.  She might have been mistress of a palace for
aught she showed of consciousness of the pitiful poverty about her.  It
was as if she were just dropped down for the day in a stray barn and
making a palace out of it while she stayed.

Unconsciously the woman of the world lingered longer than was her wont
in making calls.  She liked the atmosphere, and was strangely
interested by them all.

"I wish you would come and see me," she said cordially as she rose at
last to go, and she said it as if she meant it,--as if she lived right
around the corner and not twenty-two miles away,--as if she really
wanted her to come, and not as if this other woman lived in a barn at
all.

"Good old sport!" commented her son in his heart as he listened.  He
had known she must see their worth, and yet he had been strangely
afraid.

Mrs. Hollister received the invitation with a flush of pleasure.

"Thank you," she answered graciously, "I'm afraid not.  I seldom go
anywhere any more.  But I've been very glad to have had this call from
you.  It will be a pleasure to think about.  Come sometime again when
you are out this way.  Your son has been most kind.  I cannot find
words to express my thanks."

"Has he?" and his mother looked questioningly at her son.  "Well, I'm
very glad----"

"Yes, and Elizabeth!  She is a dear sweet girl, and we all love her!"

Revelations!

"Oh, has Elizabeth been here too?  Well, I'm glad.  I hope she has not
been a nuisance.  She's such an impulsive, erratic child.  Elizabeth is
quite a problem just now.  She's out of school on account of her eyes,
and her girl friends, most of them, being away at school, she is
perfectly forlorn.  I am delighted to have her with your children.  I
am sure they are charming associates for her."  And her eyes rested
approvingly on the sparkling Carol in her simple school dress of brown
linen with its white collar and cuffs.  There was nothing countrified
about Carol.  She looked dainty in the commonest raiment, and she
smiled radiantly at Elizabeth's mother and won her heart.

"Would you let Elizabeth stay overnight with us here sometime?" she
asked shyly.

"Why, surely!  I presume she would be delighted.  She does about as she
pleases these days.  I really don't see very much of her, I'm so busy
this time of year, just at the end of the season, you know, and lots of
committee meetings and teas and things."

They stopped at the doorway to look up into the big tree, in response
to the earnest solicitations of Doris, who pulled at the lady's gloved
hand insistently, murmuring sweetly:

"Budie!  Budie!  See mine budie in the twee!"

The Hollisters stood grouped at the doorway when at last the visitors
got into their car and went away.  Mrs. Graham looked back at them
wistfully.

"What a lovely group they make!" she murmured.  "Now, Sidney, tell me
at once who they are and why they live in a barn, and why you brought
me out here.  I know you had some special object.  I knew the minute I
saw that charming woman."

"Mother, you certainly are great!  I thought you'd have the good sense
to see what they are."

"Why, I haven't spent a more delightful hour in a long time than I
spent talking with her.  She has very original ideas, and she expresses
herself well.  As for the children, they are lovely.  That oldest girl
has a great deal of character in her face.  But what are they doing in
a barn, Sidney, and how did you come to know them?"

And so, as they speeded out the smooth turnpike to their lovely home
Sidney Graham told his mother as much of the story of Shirley Hollister
and the old barn as he thought she would care to know, and his mother
sat thoughtfully watching his handsome, enthusiastic face while he
talked, and wondering.

One comment she made as they swept up the beautiful drive to their
luxurious country home:

"Sidney dear, they are delightful and all that, and I'm sure I'm glad
to have that little girl come to see Elizabeth, but if I were you I
wouldn't go out there too often when that handsome oldest girl is at
home.  She's not exactly in your set, you know, charming as she is, and
you wouldn't want to give her any ideas.  A gentleman looks out for
things like that, you know."

"What has being in our set got to do with it, mother dear?  Do you know
any girl in our set that is better-looking or has nicer manners, or a
finer appreciation of nature and books?  You ought to hear her talk!"

"Yes, but, Sidney, that isn't everything!  She isn't exactly----"

"Mother, were you and father, when you used to have good times
together?  Now, mother, you know you are just talking twaddle when you
let that idea about 'our set' rule your mind.  Be a good sport, mother
dear, and look the facts in the face.  That girl is as good as any
other girl I know, and you know it.  She's better than most.  Please
admit the facts.  Yet you never warned me to be careful about calling
on any of the girls in our set.  Do please be consistent.  However,
don't worry about me.  I've no idea at present of paying any special
attention to anybody," and he swung the car door and jumped down to
help her out.



CHAPTER XV

A man arrived one morning with a horse and a plough and several other
implements of farm life of which Harley didn't know the name, and
announced that Mr. Graham had sent him to plough the garden.  Would
Mrs. Hollister please tell him where she wanted the ground broken, and
how much?  He volunteered the information that he was her next
neighbor, and that if he was in her place he'd plough the south slope
of the meadow, and if she wanted flower-beds a strip along the front
near the road; the soil was best in those spots, and she wouldn't need
so much fertilizer.

Mrs. Hollister asked him how much he would charge to do it, and he said
a little job like that wasn't worth talking about; that he used to rent
the barn himself, and he always did a little turn for Mr. Graham
whenever he needed it.  He did it for Mr. Graham, and it wouldn't cost
her "nothin'."

Mrs. Hollister asked him how much he would charge to see where it would
be best to have the ploughing done, and when she came in a few minutes
later and dropped down on the couch to rest from her unusual fatigue a
new thought was racing through her mind.  They could have a garden, a
real garden, with lettuce and green peas and lima beans and corn!  She
knew all about making them grow.  She had been brought up in a little
village home, where a garden was a part of every one's necessary
equipment for living.  She used to kelp her father every spring and all
summer.  Her own little patch always took the prize of the family.  But
for years she had been in the city without an inch of space.  Now,
however, the old fever of delight in gardening took possession of her.
If she could get out and work in the ground, as the doctor had
suggested, she would get well right away.  And why, with Harley to
help, and George and Carol to work a little every evening, couldn't
they raise enough on all that ground to sell some?  George could take
things into town early in the morning, or they could find some private
families who would buy all they had to sell.  It was worth thinking
about, anyway.  She could raise flowers for sale, too.  She had always
been a success with flowers.  She had always wanted a hothouse and a
chance to experiment.  She heard the children say there were some old
window-sashes down under the barn.  She would get George to bring them
out, and see what she could do with a coldframe or two.  Violets would
grow under a coldframe, and a lot of other things.  Oh, if they could
only just live here always, and not have to go back to the city in the
fall!  But of course there was no way to heat the barn in winter, and
that was out of the question.  Nevertheless, the idea of making some
money with growing things had seized hold of her mind and would not be
entirely put by.  She thought of it much, and talked of it now and then
to Shirley and the other children.

Shirley brought home some packages of seeds she got at the ten-cent
store, and there was great excitement planting them.  Then Mr. Graham
sent over a lot of seeds, of both vegetables and flowers, and some
shrubs, cuttings and bulbs which he said were "left-overs" at their
country house that he thought perhaps the children could use; and so
before the Hollisters knew it they were possessed of a garden, which
almost in a breath lifted up its green head and began to grow.

Life was very full for the Hollisters in those days, and those who went
to the city for the day could hardly bear to tear themselves away from
the many delights of the country.  The puppy was getting bigger and
wiser every day, tagging Doris and Harley wherever they went, or
sitting adoringly at Mrs. Hollister's feet; always bounding out to meet
the evening trolley on which George and Shirley came, and always
attending them to the trolley in the morning.

Out behind the barn a tiny coop held a white hen and her seven little
downy balls of chickens.  Another hen was happily ensconced in a barrel
of hay with ten big blue duck-eggs under her happy wings, and a little
further down toward the creek a fine chicken-run ended in a trig little
roosting-place for the poultry, which George had manufactured out of a
packing-box and some boards.  The feathered family had been increased
by two white Leghorns and three bantams.  George and Harley spent their
evenings watching them and discussing the price of eggs and chickens
per pound.  They were all very happy.

Elizabeth came out to spend Sunday as she had promised.  She got up
early to see the sun rise and watch the birds.  She helped get
breakfast and wash the dishes.  Then she went with the others across
the fields to the little white church in the valley to Sunday-school
and church.  She was as hungry and eager as any of them when she came
home, and joyfully helped to do the work, taking great pride in the
potatoes she was allowed to warm up under careful tutelage.  In the
afternoon there was no more eager listener among them to the Bible
story Shirley told to Doris and the book she read aloud to them all
afterward; her voice was sweetest and clearest of them all in the hymns
they sang together; and she was most eager to go with Shirley to the
Christian Endeavor service.

"I shouldn't wonder if Sidney wishes he was here too," she remarked
dreamily that evening, as she sat before the fire on a little cushion,
her chin in her hands, her eyes on the fantastic shadows in the ashes.

She went to school with Carol the next morning, came home with her in
the afternoon, and when her brother came for her in the evening she was
most reluctant to go home to the big, lonely, elegant house again, and
begged that Carol might soon come and see her.

Friday afternoon Elizabeth called up Mrs. Hollister.

"Please, Mrs. Hollister, let Carol come and stay with me till Monday.
I'm so lonesome, and mamma says she will be so glad if you will let her
come."

"Oh, my dear, that would be impossible.  Carol isn't suitably dressed
to make a visit, you know," answered the mother quickly, glad that she
had so good an excuse for keeping her child from this venture into an
alien world about which she had many grave doubts.

But the young voice at the other end of the telephone was insistent.

"Dear Mrs. Hollister, please!  She doesn't need any other clothes.
I've got lots of things that would fit her.  She loaned me her gingham
dress to make garden in, and why shouldn't I loan her a dress to wear
on Sunday?  I've got plenty of clean middy blouses and skirts and can
fix her all out fresh for school, too, Monday morning, and if you'll
just let her stay Sidney will take us both down to her school when he
goes to the office.  You've got all those children there at home, and
I've only myself.  Sidney doesn't count, you know, for he's grown up."

So, with a sigh, the mother gave her consent, and Carol found the
Graham car waiting for her when she came out of school.  Thus she
started on her first venture into the world.

It was all like fairy-land that wonderful week-end to the little girl
whose memories were full of burdens and sacrifices: the palatial home
of many rooms and rich furnishings, the swarm of servants, the
anticipation of every want, the wide, beautiful grounds with all that
heart could wish in the way of beauty and amusement, the music-room
with grand piano, harp, and violin lying mute most of the time, the
great library with its walls lined with rare books, mostly unread.
Everything there to satisfy any whim, reasonable or unreasonable, and
nobody using any of it much.

"Not a room in the whole place as dear and cozy and homey as this!"
sighed Carol happily, sinking into the old denim-covered couch before
the fireplace in the barn-living-room that Monday night after she got
home.  "I declare, mother, I don't see how Elizabeth stands it.  Her
mother is nice, but she's hardly ever there, unless she has a swarm of
people dinnering or teaing or lunching.  She hardly ever has time to
speak to Elizabeth, and Elizabeth doesn't seem to care much, either.
She almost seems to think more of that old nurse Susan that took care
of her when she was a baby than she does of her mother.  I'm so glad I
was sent to you instead of to her!"  And Carol suddenly slipped across
the room and buried her face in her mother's neck, hugging and kissing
her, leaving a few bright tears on her mother's happy face.

It was a wonderful relief to Mrs. Hollister to find her child unspoiled
by her first experience of the world and glad to get back to her home,
after all the anxiety her mother heart had felt.  Carol presently sat
up and told them minutely all about her visit.  The grand concert that
Sidney had taken them to Friday evening in the Academy of Music, where
a world-renowned pianist was the soloist with the great symphony
orchestra; the tennis and riding Saturday morning; the luncheon at a
neighboring estate, where there were three girls and a brother who were
"snobs" and hadn't at all good manners; the party in the evening that
lasted so late that they didn't get to bed till long after midnight;
the beautiful room they slept in, with every imaginable article for the
toilet done in sterling silver with monograms; the strange Sabbath,
with no service in the morning because they woke up too late, and no
suggestion of anything but a holiday,--except the vesper service in a
cold, formal chapel that Carol had begged to go to; just a lot of
worldly music and entertaining, with a multitude of visitors for the
end of it.  Carol told of the beautiful dresses that Elizabeth had
loaned her, coral crêpe de chine accordion-plaited for the concert,
white with an orange sash for the luncheon, pale yellow with a black
velvet girdle for the party, a little blue silk affair and another
lovely white organdie for Sunday, and all with their accompanying silk
stockings and slippers and gloves, and necklaces and bands for her
hair.  It was most wonderful to her, and as they listened they
marvelled that their Carol had come back to them so gladly, and
rejoiced to see her nestling in her brown linen skirt and middy blouse
close beside her mother's chair.  She declared herself satisfied with
her flight into the world.  She might like to go again for a glimpse
now and then, but she thought she would rather have Elizabeth out to
Glenside.  She hated to lose any of the time out here, it was so
pretty.  Besides, it was lonesome without them all.

About that time Shirley picked up the morning paper in her office one
day to look up a matter for Mr. Barnard.  Her eye happened to fall on
the society column and catch the name of Sidney Graham.  She glanced
down the column.  It was an account of a wedding in high circles in
which Graham had taken the part of best man, with Miss Harriet Hale--in
blue tulle and white orchids as maid of honor--for his partner down the
aisle.  She read the column hurriedly, hungrily, getting every detail,
white spats, gardenia, and all, until in those few printed sentences a
picture was printed indelibly upon her vision, of Graham walking down
the lily-garlanded aisle with the maid in blue tulle and white orchids
on his arm.  To make it more vivid the lady's picture was in the paper
along with Graham's, just under those of the bride and groom, and her
face was both handsome and haughty.  One could tell that by the tilt of
chin, the short upper lip, the cynical curve of mouth and sweep of long
eyelash, the extreme effect of her dress and the arrangement of her
hair.  Only a beauty could have stood that hair and not been positively
ugly.

Shirley suddenly realized what she was doing and turned over the page
of the paper with a jerk that tore the sheet from top to bottom, going
on with her search for the real-estate column and the item she was
after.  All that morning her typewriter keys clicked with mad rapidity,
yet her work was strangely correct and perfect.  She was working under
a tense strain.

By noon she had herself in hand, realized what she had been doing with
her vagrant thoughts, and was able to laugh at Miss Harriet
Hale--whoever or whatever she was.  What mattered it, Miss Harriet Hale
or somebody else?  What was that to Shirley Hollister?  Mr. Graham was
her landlord and a kindly gentleman.  He would probably continue to be
that to her to the end of her tenancy, without regard to Miss Hale or
any other intruding Miss, and what did anything else matter?  She
wanted nothing else of Mr. Graham but to be a kindly gentleman whenever
it was her necessity to come in his way.

But although her philosophy was on hand and her pride was aroused, she
realized just where her heart might have been tending if it had not
been for this little jolt it got; and she resolved to keep out of the
gentleman's way whenever it was possible, and also, as far as she was
able, to think no more about him.

Keeping out of Sidney Graham's way was one thing, but making him keep
out of her way was quite another matter, and Shirley realized it every
time he came out to Glenside, which he did quite frequently.  She could
not say to him that she wished he would not come.  She could not be
rude to him when he came.  There was no way of showing him pointedly
that she was not thinking of him in any way but as her landlord,
because he never showed in any way that he was expecting her to.  He
just happened in evening after evening, in his frank, jolly way, on one
pretext or other, never staying very long, never showing her any more
attention than he did her mother or Carol or the boys, not so much as
he did to Doris.  How was she to do anything but sit quietly and take
the whole thing as a matter of course?  It really was a matter to deal
with in her own heart alone.  And there the battle must be fought if
ever battle there was to be.  Meantime, she could not but own that this
frank, smiling, merry young man did bring a lot of life and pleasure
into their lives, dropping in that way, and why should she not enjoy it
when it came, seeing it in no wise interfered with Miss Harriet Hale's
rights and prerogatives?  Nevertheless, Shirley withdrew more and more
into quietness whenever he came, and often slipped into the kitchen on
some household pretext, until one day he boldly came out into the
kitchen after her with a book he wanted her to read, and was so frank
and companionable that she led the way back to the living-room, and
concluded it would be better in future to stay with the rest of the
family.

Shirley had no intention whatever of letting her heart stray out after
any impossible society man.  She had her work in the world, and to it
she meant to stick.  If there were dreams she kept them well under lock
and key, and only took them out now and then at night when she was very
tired and discouraged and life looked hard and long and lonely on
ahead.  Shirley had no intention that Sidney Graham should ever have
reason to think, when he married Miss Harriet Hale or some one
equivalent to her, that any poor little stenographer living in a barn
had at one time fancied him fond of her.  No, indeed!  Shirley tilted
her firm little chin at the thought, and declined to ride with Graham
and Elizabeth the next time they called at the office for her, on the
plea that she had promised to go home in the trolley with one of the
office girls.  And yet the next time she saw him he was just as
pleasant, and showed no sign that she had declined his invitation.  In
fact, the whole basis of their acquaintance was such that she felt free
to go her own way and yet know he would be just as pleasant a friend
whenever she needed one.

Matters stood in this way when Graham was suddenly obliged to go West
on a trip for the office, to be gone three or four weeks.  Mrs. Graham
and Elizabeth went to the Adirondacks for a short trip, and the people
at Glenside settled down to quiet country life, broken only by a few
visits from their farm neighbors, and a call from the cheery, shabby
pastor of the little white church in the valley.



CHAPTER XVI

Graham did not seem to forget his friends entirely while he was gone.
The boys received a number of post-cards from time to time, and a lot
of fine views of California, Yellowstone Park, the Grand Cañon, and
other spots of interest.  A wonderful picture-book came for Doris, with
Chinese pictures, and rhymes printed on crêpe paper.  The next morning
a tiny sandalwood fan arrived for Carol with Graham's compliments, and
a few days later a big box of oranges for Mrs. Hollister with no clew
whatever as to their sender.  Shirley began to wonder what her part
would be and what she should do about it, and presently received--a
letter!  And then, after all, it was only a pleasant request that she
would not pay the rent, about which she had always been so punctual,
until his return, as no one else understood about his affairs.  He
added a few words about his pleasant trip and a wish that they were all
prospering,--and that was all.

Shirley was disappointed, of course, and yet, if he had said more, or
if he had ventured to send her even a mere trifle of a gift, it would
have made her uncomfortable and set her questioning how she should
treat him and it.  It was the perfection of his behavior that he had
not overstepped a single bound that the most particular might set for a
landlord and his respected tenant.  She drew a deep sigh and put the
letter back into the envelope, and as she did so she spied a small
card, smaller than the envelope, on which was an exquisite bit of
scenery, a colored photograph, apparently, and underneath had been
pencilled, "One of the many beautiful spots in California that I am
sure you would appreciate."

Her heart gave an unforbidden leap, and was promptly taken to task for
it.  Yet when Shirley went back to her typewriter the bit of a picture
was pinned to the wall back of her desk, and her eyes rested on it many
times that day when she lifted them from her work.  It is questionable
whether Shirley remembered Miss Harriet Hale at all that day.

The garden was growing beautifully now.  There would soon be lettuce
and radishes ready to eat.  George had secured a number of customers
through people at the store, and was planning to take early trips to
town, when his produce was ripe, to deliver it.  They watched every
night and looked again every morning for signs of the first pea
blossoms, and the little green spires of onion tops, like sparse hairs,
beginning to shoot up.  Every day brought some new wonder.  They almost
forgot they had ever lived in the little old brick house, until George
rode by there on his bicycle one noon and reported that it had been
half pulled down, and you could now see the outline of where the stairs
and closets had been, done in plaster, on the side of the next house.
They were all very silent for a minute thinking after he told that, and
Mrs. Hollister looked around the great airy place in which they were
sitting, and then out the open door where the faint stain of sunset was
still lingering against the horizon, and said:

"We ought all to be very thankful, children.  George, get the Bible and
read the thirty-fourth psalm."  Wonderingly George obeyed, and they all
sat listening as the words sank into their souls.

"Now," said the mother when the psalm was finished and those last
words, "The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants, and none of them
that trust in him shall be desolate"; "now let us kneel down and thank
Him."

And they all knelt while she prayed a few earnest, simple words of
thanksgiving and commended them to God's keeping.

By this time Mrs. Hollister was so well that she went every day for a
little while into the garden and worked, and was able to do a great
deal in the house.  The children were overjoyed, and lived in a
continual trance of delight over the wild, free life they were living.
Carol's school had closed and Carol was at home all day.  This made one
more to help in the garden.  George was talking about building a little
pigeon-house and raising squabs for sale.  The man who did the
ploughing had given him a couple to start with and told him there was
money in squabs if one only went about it right.  George and Harley
pored over a book that told all about it, and talked much on the
subject.

The weather was growing warm, and Shirley was wishing her vacation came
in July or August instead of the first two weeks in September.  Somehow
she felt so used up these hot days, and the hours dragged by so slowly.
At night the trolleys were crowded until they were half-way out to
Glenside.  She often had to stand, and her head ached a great deal.
Yet she was very happy and thankful--only there was so much to be done
in this world, and she seemed to have so little strength to do it all.
The burden of next fall came occasionally to mar the beauty of the
summer, and rested heavily upon her young shoulders.  If only there
wouldn't be any winter for just one year, and they could stay in the
barn and get rested and get a little money ahead somehow for moving.
It was going to be so hard to leave that wide, beautiful abiding-place,
barn though it was.

One morning nearly four weeks after Graham left for California Shirley
was called from her desk to the outer office to take some dictation for
Mr. Clegg.  While she was there two men entered the outer office and
asked for Mr. Barnard.  One of them was a short, thick-set man with a
pretentious wide gray mustache parted in the middle and combed
elaborately out on his cheeks.  He had a red face, little cunning eyes,
and a cruel set to his jaw, which somehow seemed ridiculously at
variance with his loud, checked suit, sporty necktie of soft bright
blue satin, set with a scarf-pin of two magnificent stones, a diamond
and a sapphire, and with the three showy jewelled rings which he wore
on his fat, pudgy hand.  The other man was sly, quiet, gray,
unobtrusive, obviously the henchman of the first.

Mr. Clegg told the men they might go into the inner office and wait for
Mr. Barnard, who would probably be in shortly, and Shirley watched them
as they passed out of her view, wondering idly why those exquisite
stones had to be wasted in such an out-of-place spot as in that
coarse-looking man's necktie, and if a man like that really cared for
beautiful things, else why should he wear them?  It was only a passing
thought, and then she took up her pencil and took down the closing
sentences of the letter Mr. Clegg was dictating.  It was but a moment
more and she was free to go back to her own little alcove just behind
Mr. Barnard's office and connecting with it.  There was an entrance to
it from the tiny cloak-room, which she always used when Mr. Barnard had
visitors in his office, and through this way she now went, having a
strange repugnance toward being seen by the two men.  She had an innate
sense that the man with the gaudy garments would not be one who would
treat a young girl in her position with any respect, and she did not
care to come under his coarse gaze, so she slipped in quietly through
the cloak-room, and passed like a shadow the open door into Mr.
Barnard's office, where they sat with their backs toward her, having
evidently just settled down and begun to talk.  She could hear a
low-breathed comment on the furnishings of the office as indicating a
good bank-account of the owner, and a coarse jest about a photograph of
Mr. Barnard's wife which stood on his desk.  It made her wish that the
door between the rooms was closed; yet she did not care to rise and
close it lest she should call attention to herself, and of course it
might be but a minute or two before Mr. Barnard returned.  A pile of
envelopes to be addressed lay on her desk, and this work she could do
without any noise, so she slipped softly into her seat and began to
work.

"Well, we got them Grahams good and fast now!" a coarse voice, that she
knew for that of the man with the loud clothing, spoke.  "The young
feller bit all right!  I thought he would.  He's that kind."  He
stopped for a laugh of contempt, and Shirley's heart stood still with
apprehension.  What could it mean?  Was it something about her Grahams?
Some danger threatening them?  Some game being played on them?  He
looked like the kind of man who lived on the blindnesses of others.
What was it they called such?  A parasite?  Instinctively she was on
the alert at once, and automatically she reached for the pad on which
she took dictation and began to write down in shorthand what she had
just heard.  The voice in the other room went on and her fountain pen
kept eager pace, her breath coming quick and short now, and her face
white with excitement.

"He went out to see the place, you know, examine the mines and all
that.  Oh, he's awful cautious!  Thought he took a government expert
with him to test the ore.  We fixed that up all right--had the very man
on tap at the right minute, government papers all O.K.--you couldn't
have told 'em from the real thing.  It was Casey; you know him; he's a
crackerjack on a job like that,--could fool the devil himself.  Well,
he swore it was the finest kind of ore and all that kind of dope, and
led that Graham kid around as sweetly as a blue-eyed baby.  We had a
gang out there all bribed, you know, to swear to things, and took
particular pains so Graham would go around and ask the right ones
questions,--Casey tended to that,--and now he's come home with the
biggest kind of a tale and ready to boost the thing to the skies.  I've
got his word for it, and his daddy is to sign the papers this morning.
When he wakes up one of these fine days he'll find himself minus a
hundred thousand or so, and nobody to blame for it, because how could
anybody be expected to know that those are only pockets?  He'll
recommend it right and left too, and we'll clean out a lot of other
fellers before we get done.  Teddy, my boy, pat yourself on the back!
We'll have a tidy little sum between us when we pull out of this deal,
and take a foreign trip for our health till the fracas blows over.  Now
mind you, not a word of this to Barnard when he comes in.  We're only
going to pave the way this morning.  The real tip comes from Graham
himself.  See?"

Shirley was faint and dizzy with excitement as she finished writing,
and her brain was in a whirl.  She felt as if she would scream in a
minute if this strain kept up.  The papers were to be signed that
morning!  Even now the deed might be done and it would be too late,
perhaps, to stop it.  And yet she must make no sign, must not have the
men know that she was there and that they had been heard.  She must sit
here breathless until they were gone, so they would not know she had
overheard them, or they might manage to prevent her getting word to
Graham.  How long would they stay?  Would they talk on and reveal more?
The other man had only grunted something unintelligible in reply, and
then before more could be said an office boy opened the outer door and
told them that Mr. Barnard had just phoned that he would not be back
before two o'clock.

The men swore and went out grumbling.  Suddenly Shirley knew her time
had come to do something.  Stepping quickly to the door she scanned the
room carefully to make sure they were gone, then closing her own door
she took up the telephone on her desk and called up the Graham number.
She did not know just what she meant to say, nor what she would do if
Sidney Graham were not in the office,--and it was hardly probable he
would be there yet if he had only arrived home the day before.  He
would be likely to take a day off before getting back to work.  Her
throbbing heart beat out these questions to her brain while she waited
for the number.  Would she dare to ask for Mr. Walter Graham?  And if
she did, what would she say to him?  How explain?  He did not know her,
and probably never heard of her.  He might think her crazy.  Then there
was always the possibility that there was some mistake--and yet it
seemed a coincidence that two men of the same name should both be going
West at that time.  It must be these Grahams that the plot was against.
But how explain enough over the phone to do any good?  Of course she
must give them a copy of what she had taken down in shorthand, but
first she must stop the signing of those papers, whatever they were, at
all costs.

Then all at once, into the midst of her whirling confusion of thoughts,
came a voice at the other end of the phone, "Hello!" and her frantic
senses realized that it was a familiar one.

"Oh, is this,--this _is_ Mr. Sidney Graham, isn't it?  This is Shirley
Hollister."

There was a catch in her voice that sounded almost like a sob as she
drew in her breath with relief to know that he was there, and his
answer came in swift alarm:

"Yes?  Is there anything the matter, Miss Shirley?  You are not ill,
are you?"

There was a sharp note of anxiety in the young man's voice, and even in
her excitement it made Shirley's heart leap to hear it.

"No, there is nothing the matter with me," she said, trying to steady
her voice, "but something has happened that I think you ought to know
at _once_.  I don't know whether I ought to tell it over the phone.
I'm not sure but I may be overheard."

"I will come to you immediately.  Where can I find you?"

Her heart leaped again at his willingness to trust her and to obey her
call.

"In Mr. Barnard's private office.  If you ask for me they will let you
come right in.  There is one thing more.  If there is anything
important your father was to decide this morning, could you get him to
wait till you return, or till you phone him?"

There was a second's hesitation, and the reply was politely puzzled but
courteous:

"He is not in the office at present and will not be for an hour."

"Oh, I'm so glad!  Then _please hurry_!"

"I will get there as soon as I can," and the phone clicked into place.

Shirley sat back in her chair and pressed her hands over her eyes to
concentrate all her powers.  Then she turned to her typewriter and
began to copy off the shorthand, her fingers flying over the keys with
more than their usual swiftness.  As she wrote she prayed, prayed that
nothing might have been signed, and that her warning might not come too
late; prayed, too, that Mr. Barnard might not return until Mr. Graham
had been and gone, and that Mr. Graham might not think her an utter
fool in case this proved to have nothing whatever to do with his
affairs.



CHAPTER XVII

When Graham entered the office Shirley came to meet him quietly,
without a word of greeting other than to put her little cold hand into
his that he held out to her.  She began to speak in a low voice full of
suppressed excitement.  She had a vague fear lest the two men might be
still lingering about the outer office, waiting for Mr. Barnard, and a
momentary dread lest Mr. Barnard might enter the room at any minute.
She must get the telling over before he came.

"Mr. Graham, two men were sitting in this room waiting for Mr. Barnard
a few minutes ago, and I was in my little room just back there.  I
could not help hearing what they said, and when I caught the name of
Graham in connection with what sounded like an evil plot I took down
their words in shorthand.  It may not have anything to do with your
firm, but I thought I ought to let you know.  I called you on the phone
as soon as they left the office and would not hear me, and I have made
this copy of their conversation.  Read it quickly, please, because if
it does have anything to do with you, you will want to phone your
father at once, before those men can get there."

Her tone was very cool, and her hand was steady as she handed him the
typewritten paper, but her heart was beating mildly, because there had
been a look in his eyes as he greeted her that made her feel that he
was glad to see her, and it touched an answering gladness in her heart
and filled her both with delight and with apprehension.  What a fool
she was!

She turned sharply away and busied herself with arranging some papers
on Mr. Barnard's desk while he read.  She must still this excitement
and get control of herself before he was through.  She _must_ be the
cool, impersonal stenographer, and not let him suspect for a moment
that she was so excited about seeing him again.

The young man stood still, reading rapidly, his face growing graver as
he read.  The girl snatched a furtive glance at him, and felt convinced
that the matter was a serious one and had to do with him.

Suddenly he looked up.

"Do you know who those men were, Miss Shirley?" he asked, and she saw
his eyes were full of anxiety.

"No," said Shirley.  "But I saw them as they passed through the outer
office, and stopped to speak to Mr. Clegg.  I was taking dictation from
Mr. Clegg at the time.  I came back to my desk through the cloak-room,
so they did not know I was within hearing."

"What kind of looking men were they?  Do you remember?"

She described them.

Certainty grew in his face as she talked, and grave concern.

"May I use your phone a minute?" he asked after an instant's thought.

She led him to her own desk and handed him the receiver, then stepped
back into the office and waited.

"Hello!  Is that you, Edward?" she heard him say.  "Has father come
yet?  Give me his phone, please.  Hello, father; this is Sidney.
Father, has Kremnitz come in yet?  He has?  You say he's waiting in the
office to see you?  Well, don't see him, father, till I get there.
Something has turned up that I'm afraid is going to alter matters
entirely.  Yes, pretty serious, I'm afraid.  Don't see him.  Keep him
waiting.  I'll be there in five minutes, and come in from the back way
directly to your office.  Don't talk with him on any account till I can
get there.  Good-by."

He hung up the receiver and turned to Shirley.

"Miss Shirley, you were just in time to save us.  I haven't time now to
tell you how grateful I am for this.  I must hurry right over.  Do you
suppose if we should need you it would be possible for you to come over
and identify those men?  Thank you.  I'll speak to Mr. Clegg about it
as I go out, and if we find it necessary we'll phone you.  In case you
have to come I'll have an office-boy in the hall to take your hat, and
you can come right into the office as if you were one of our
employees--just walk over to the bookcase as if you were looking for a
book--any book.  Select one and look through it, meanwhile glancing
around the room, and see if you find those men.  Then walk through into
my office.  I'll be waiting there.  Good-by, and thank you so much!"

He gave her hand one quick clasp and was gone, and Shirley found she
was trembling from head to foot.  She walked quickly into her own room
and sat down, burying her face in her hands and trying to get control
of herself, but the tears would come to her eyes in spite of all she
could do.  It was not the excitement of getting the men and stopping
their evil plans before they could do any damage, although that had
something to do with her nervous state, of course; and it was not just
that she had been able to do a little thing in return for all he had
done for her; nor even his gratitude; it was--she could not deny it to
herself--it was a certain quality in his voice, a something in the look
he gave her, that made her whole soul glow, and seemed to fill the
hungry longing that had been in her heart.

It frightened her and made her ashamed, and as she sat with bowed head
she prayed that she might be given strength to act like a sensible
girl, and crush out such foolish thoughts before they dared lift their
heads and be recognized even by her own heart.  Then strengthened, she
resolved to think no more about the matter, but just get her work done
and be ready to enter into that other business if it became necessary.
Mr. Barnard would be coming soon, and she must have his work finished.
She had lost almost an hour by this matter.

She went at her typewriter pell-mell, and soon had Mr. Clegg's letters
done.  She was nearly through with the addressing that Mr. Barnard left
for her to do when the telephone called her to Graham's office.

She slipped on her hat and hurried out.

"Will it be all right for me to take my noontime now, Mr. Clegg?" she
said, stopping by his desk.  "Mr. Graham said he spoke to you."

"Yes, he wants you to help him identify some one.  That's all right.
I'll explain to Mr. Barnard when he comes.  There's nothing important
you have to finish, is there?  All done but those envelopes?  Well, you
needn't return until one o'clock, anyway.  The envelopes can wait till
the four-o'clock mail, and if Mr. Barnard needs anything in a hurry
Miss Dwight can attend to it this time.  Just take your time, Miss
Hollister."

Shirley went out bewildered by the unusual generosity of Mr. Clegg, who
was usually taciturn and abrupt.  She realized, however, that his
warmth must be due to Graham's visit, and not to any special desire to
give her a holiday.  She smiled to think what a difference wealth and
position made in the eyes of the world.

The same office-boy she had met on her first visit to Graham's office
was waiting most respectfully for her now in the hall when she got out
of the elevator, and she gave him her hat and walked into the office
according to programme, going straight to the big glass bookcase full
of calf-bound volumes, and selecting one after running her finger over
two rows of them.  She was as cool as though her part had been
rehearsed many times, although her heart was pounding most
unmercifully, and it seemed as though the people in the next room must
hear it.  She stood and opened her book, casting a casual glance about
the room.

There, sure enough, quite near to her, sat the two men, fairly bursting
with impatience.  The once immaculate hair of the loudly dressed one
was rumpled as if he had run his fingers through it many times, and he
played nervously with his heavy rings, and caressed half viciously his
elaborate mustache, working his thick, sensuous lips impatiently all
the while.  Shirley took a good look at him, necktie, scarf-pin, and
all; looked keenly into the face of the gray one also; then coolly
closed the door of the bookcase and carried the book she had selected
into Sidney Graham's office.

Graham was there, standing to receive her, and just back of him stood a
kindly-faced elderly man with merry blue eyes, gray hair, and a
stylishly cut beard.  By their attitude and manner Shirley somehow
sensed that they had both been watching her.  Then Graham introduced
her.

"This is my father, Miss Hollister."

The elder man took her hand and shook it heartily, speaking in a gruff,
hearty way that won her from the first:

"I'm glad to know you, Miss Hollister.  I certainly am!  My son has
been telling me what you've done for us, and I think you're a great
little girl!  That was bully work you did, and I appreciate it.  I was
watching you out there in the office.  You were as cool as a cucumber.
You ought to be a detective.  You found your men all right, did you?"

"Yes, sir," said Shirley, much abashed, and feeling the return of that
foolish trembling in her limbs.  "Yes, they are both out there, and the
short one with the rings and the blue necktie is the one that did the
talking."

"Exactly what I thought," drawled the father, with a keen twinkle in
his kindly eyes.  "I couldn't somehow trust that chap from the start.
That's why I sent my son out to investigate.  Well, now, will you just
step into my private office, Miss Hollister, and take your seat by the
typewriter as if you were my stenographer?  You'll find paper there in
the drawer, and you can just be writing--write anything, you choose, so
it looks natural when the men come in.  When we get to talking I'd like
you to take down in shorthand all that is said by all of us.  You're
pretty good at that, I judge.  Sid, will you phone for those officers
now?  I think it's about time for the curtain to rise."  And he led the
way into his own office.

Shirley sat down at the typewriter as she had been directed and began
to write mechanically.  Mr. Graham touched the bell on his desk, and
told the office boy who answered to send in Mr. Kremnitz and his
companion.

Shirley was so seated that she could get occasional glimpses of the men
without being noticed, and she was especially interested in the twinkle
that shone in the bright blue eyes of the elder Graham as he surveyed
the men who thought he was their dupe.  Her heart warmed to him.  His
kindly, merry face, his hearty, unconventional speech, all showed him
to be a big, warm-hearted man without a bit of snobbishness about him.

The son came in, and talk began just as if the matter of the mine were
going on.  Mr. Kremnitz produced some papers which he evidently
expected to be signed at once, and sat complacently answering
questions; keen questions Shirley saw they were afterwards, and in the
light of the revelation she had overheard in Mr. Barnard's office
Kremnitz perjured himself hopelessly by his answers.  Presently the
office-boy announced the arrival of some one in the next room.  Shirley
had taken down minutely a great deal of valuable information which the
Grahams had together drawn from their victim.  She was surprised at the
list of wealthy business men who were to have been involved in the
scheme.

Then suddenly the quiet scene changed.  The elder Graham gave a signal
to his office-boy, which looked merely like waving him away, and the
door was flung open, revealing four officers of the law, who stepped
into the room without further word.  Graham arose and faced his two
startled callers, his hand firmly planted on the papers on his desk
which he had been supposed to sign.

"Mr. Kremnitz," he said, and even in the midst of this serious business
Shirley fancied there was a half-comic drawl to his words.  He simply
could not help letting his sense of humor come on top.  "Mr. Kremnitz,
it is not going to be possible for me to sign these papers this
morning, as you expected.  I do not feel satisfied that all things are
as you have represented.  In fact, I have the best evidence to the
contrary.  Officer, these are the gentlemen you have come to arrest,"
and he stepped back and waved his hand toward the two conspirators, who
sat with startled eyes and blanched faces, appalled at the sudden
developments where they had thought all was moving happily toward their
desired end.

"Arrest!  Who?  On what charge?" flashed the little gaudy Kremnitz,
angrily springing to his feet and making a dash toward the door, while
his companion slid furtively toward the other end of the room,
evidently hoping to gain young Graham's office before he was noticed.
But two officers blocked their way and the handcuffs clanked in the
hands of the other two policemen.

"Why, arrest _you_, my friend," said Graham senior, as if he rather
enjoyed the little man's discomfiture.  "And for trying to perpetrate
the biggest swindle that has been attempted for ten years.  I must say
for you that you've worked hard, and done the trick rather neatly, but
you made one unfortunate slip that saved all us poor rich men.  It
seems a pity that so much elaborate lying should have brought you two
nothing but those bracelets you're wearing,--they don't seem to match
well with your other jewels,--but that's the way things go in this
world.  Now, take them away, officer.  I've no more time to waste on
them this morning!" and he turned and walked over by Shirley's desk,
while the curtain fell over the brief drama.

"Do you know how much money you've saved for us, little girl,--just
plain _saved_?  I'll tell you.  A clean hundred thousand!  That's what
I was going to put into this affair!  And as for other men, I expected
to influence a lot of other men to put in a good deal also.  Now,
little girl, I don't know what you think about it, but I want to shake
hands."  He put out his hand and Shirley laid her own timid one in it,
smiling and blushing rosily, and saying softly with what excited breath
she had, "Oh, I'm so glad I got you in time!"  Then she was aware that
the man had gone on talking.  "I don't know what you think about it,"
he repeated, "but I feel that you saved me a clean hundred thousand
dollars, and I say that a good percentage of that belongs to you as a
reward of your quickness and keenness."

But Shirley drew away her hand and stepped back, her face white, her
head up, her chin tilted proudly, her eyes very dark with excitement
and determination.  She spoke clearly and earnestly.

"No, Mr. Graham, nothing whatever belongs to me.  I don't want any
reward.  I couldn't think of taking it.  It is utterly out of the
question!"

"Well, well, well!" said the elder Graham, sitting down on the edge of
his desk, watching her in undisguised admiration.  "Now that's a new
kind of girl that won't take what she's earned,--what rightly belongs
to her."

"Mr. Graham, it was a very little thing I did,--anybody would have done
it,--and it was just in the way of simple duty.  Please don't say
anything more about it.  I am only too glad to have had opportunity to
give a little help to people who have helped me so much.  I feel that I
am under deep obligation to your son for making it possible for us to
live in the country, where my mother is getting well."

"Well, now I shall have to inquire into this business.  I haven't heard
anything about obligations, and for my part I feel a big one just now.
Perhaps you think it was a very little thing you did, but suppose you
_hadn't_ done it.  Suppose you'd been too busy, or it hadn't occurred
to you to take down that conversation until it was too late; or suppose
you hadn't had the brains to see what it would mean to us.  Why, then
it would have become a very big thing indeed, and we should have been
willing, if we had known, to pay a mighty big sum to get that evidence.
You see a hundred thousand dollars isn't exactly a very little thing
when you're swindled out of it.  It's the _swindling_ that hurts more
than the loss of the money.  And you saved us from that.  Now, young
lady, I consider myself under obligation to you, and I intend to
discharge it somehow.  If I can't do it one way I shall another, but in
the meantime I'm deeply grateful, and please accept our thanks.  If you
are willing to add one more to your kindness, I shall be glad if you
will make a carbon copy of those shorthand notes you took.  I may need
them for evidence.  And, by the way, you will probably be called upon
to testify in court.  I'm sorry.  That may be unpleasant, but I guess
it can't be helped, so you see before you get through you may not think
you did so very small a thing after all.  Sid, I think you better
escort this young lady back to her office and explain to Barnard.  He's
probably been on the verge of being buncoed also.  You said Kremnitz
was waiting for him when the conversation took place?  I guess you
better go with Miss Hollister and clear the whole thing up.  Say,
child, have you had your lunch yet?  No, of course not.  Sidney, you
take her to get some lunch before she goes back to the office.  She's
had an exciting morning.  Now, good-by, little girl.  I sha'n't forget
what you've done for us, and I'm coming to see you pretty soon and get
things squared up."

So that was how it came about that in spite of her protests Mr. Sidney
Graham escorted Shirley Hollister into one of the most exclusive
tea-rooms of the city, and seated her at a little round table set for
two, while off at a short distance Miss Harriet Hale sat with her
mother, eating her lunch and trying in vain to "place" the pretty girl
she did not recognize.

It never occurred to her for a moment that Sidney Graham's companion
might be a stenographer, for Shirley had a knack about her clothes that
made her always seem well dressed.  That hat she wore had seen service
for three summers, and was now a wholly different shape and color from
what it had been when it began life.  A scrub in hot water had removed
the dust of toil, some judiciously applied dye had settled the matter
of color, and a trifling manipulation on her head while the hat was
still wet had made the shape not only exceedingly stylish but becoming.
The chic little rosette and strictly tailored band which were its sole
trimming were made from a much-soiled waist-ribbon, washed and
stretched around a bottle of hot water to dry it, and teased into the
latest thing in rosettes by Shirley's witching fingers.  The simple
linen dress she wore fitted well and at a distance could not have been
told from something better, and neither were gloves and shoes near
enough to be inspected critically, so Miss Hale was puzzled, and
jealously watched the pretty color come and go in Shirley's cheek, and
the simple grace of her movements.

Fortunately, Shirley did not see Miss Hale, and would not have
recognized her if she had from that one brief glimpse she had of her
picture on the society page of the newspaper.  So she ate her
delectable lunch, ordered by Graham, in terms that she knew not, about
dishes that she had never seen before.  She ate and enjoyed herself so
intensely that it seemed to her she would never be able to make the
rest of her life measure up to the privileges of the hour.

For Shirley was a normal girl.  She could not help being pleased to be
doing just for once exactly as other more favored girls did constantly.
To be lunching at Blanco's with one of the most-sought-after men in the
upper set, to be treated like a queen, and to be talking beautiful
things about travels and pictures and books, it was all too beautiful
to be real.  Shirley began to feel that if it didn't get over pretty
soon and find her back in the office addressing the rest of those
envelopes she would think she had died in the midst of a dream and gone
to heaven.

There was something else too that brought an undertone of beauty, which
she was not acknowledging even to her inmost self.  That was the way
Graham looked at her, as if she were some fine beautiful angel dropped
down from above that he loved to look at; as if he really cared what
she thought and did; as if there were somehow a soul-harmony between
them that set them apart this day from others, and put them into tune
with one another; as if he were glad, _glad_ to see her once more after
the absence!  All through her being it thrilled like a song that brings
tears to the throat and gladness to the eyes, and makes one feel strong
and pure.  That was how it seemed when she thought about it afterward.
At the time she was just living it in wonder and thanksgiving.

At another time her sordid worldliness and pride might have risen and
swelled with haughtiness of spirit over the number of people who eyed
her enviously as they went out together; over the many bows and
salutations her escort received from people of evident consequence, for
she had the normal human pride somewhere in her nature as we all have.
But just then her heart was too humble with a new, strange happiness to
feel it or take it in, and she walked with unconscious grace beside
him, feeling only the joy of being there.

Later, in the quiet of her chamber, her mother's warning came to her,
and her cheeks burned with shame in the dark that her heart had dared
make so much of a common little luncheon, just a mere courtesy after
she had been able to do a favor.  Yet through it all Shirley knew there
was something fine and true there that belonged just to her, and
presently she would rise above everything and grasp it and keep it hers
forever.

She felt the distinction of her escort anew when she entered Barnard
and Clegg's in his company, and saw Mr. Clegg spring to open the door
and to set a chair for his young guest, saw even Mr. Barnard rise and
greet him with almost reverence.  And this honor she knew was being
paid to money, the great demagogue.  It was not the man that she
admired to whom they were paying deference, it was to his money!  She
smiled to herself.  It was the _man_ she admired, not his money.

All that afternoon she worked with flying fingers, turning off the work
at marvellous speed, amused when she heard the new note of respect in
Mr. Barnard's voice as he gave her a direction.  Mr. Barnard had been
greatly impressed with the story Graham had told him, and was also
deeply grateful on his own account that Shirley had acted as she had,
for he had been on the verge of investing a large trust fund that was
in his keeping in the new mining operation, and it would have meant
absolute failure for him.

When Shirley left the office that night she was almost too tired to see
which trolley was coming, but some one touched her on the arm, and
there was Sidney Graham waiting for her beside his car,--a little
two-passenger affair that she had never seen before and that went like
the wind.  They took a road they had not travelled together before, and
Shirley got in joyously, her heart all in a tumult of doubts and joys
and questions.



CHAPTER XVIII

What that ride was to Shirley she hardly dared let herself think
afterwards.  Sitting cozily beside Graham in the little racing car,
gliding through the better part of town where all the tall, imposing
houses slept with drawn blinds, and dust-covered shutters proclaimed
that their owners were far away from heat and toil.  Out through wide
roads and green-hedged lanes, where stately mansions set in flowers and
mimic landscapes loomed far back from road in dignified seclusion.
Passing now and then a car of people who recognized Graham and bowed in
the same deferential way as they had done in the tea-room.  And all the
time his eyes were upon her, admiring, delighting; and his care about
her, solicitous for her comfort.

Once he halted the car and pointed off against the sunset, where wide
gables and battlemented towers stood gray amidst a setting of green
shrubbery and trees, and velvety lawns reached far, to high, trim
hedges arched in places for an entrance to the beautiful estate.

"That is my home over there," he said, and watched her widening eyes.
"I wish I had time to take you over to-night, but I know you are tired
and ought to get home and rest.  Another time we'll go around that
way."  And her heart leaped up as the car went forward again.  There
was to be another time, then!  Ah!  But she must not allow it.  Her
heart was far too foolish already.  Yet she would enjoy this ride, now
she was started.

They talked about the sunset and a poem he had lately read.  He told
her bits about his journey, referring to his experience at the mines,
touching on some amusing incidents, sketching some of the queer
characters he had met.  Once he asked her quite abruptly if she thought
her mother would be disturbed if he had a cement floor put in the
basement of the barn some time soon.  He wanted to have it done before
cold weather set in, and it would dry better now in the hot days.  Of
course, if it would be in the least disturbing to any of them it could
wait, but he wanted to store a few things there that were being taken
out of the office buildings, and he thought they would keep drier if
there was a cement floor.  When she said it would not disturb any one
in the least, would on the contrary be quite interesting for the
children to watch, she was sure, he went easily back to California
scenery and never referred to it again.

All through the ride, which was across a country she had never seen
before, and ended at Glenside approaching from a new direction, there
was a subtle something between them, a sympathy and quick understanding
as if they were comrades, almost partners in a lot of common interests.
Shirley chided herself for it every time she looked up and caught his
glance, and felt the thrill of pleasure in this close companionship.
Of course it was wholly in her own imagination, and due entirely to the
nervous strain through which she had passed that day, she told herself.
Of course, he had nothing in his mind but the most ordinary kindly
desire to give her a good time out of gratitude for what she had done
for him.  But nevertheless it was sweet, and Shirley was loath to
surrender the joy of it while it lasted, dream though it might be.

It lasted all the way, even up to the very stop in front of the barn
when he took her hand to help her out, and his fingers lingered on hers
with just an instant's pressure, sending a thrill to her heart again,
and almost bringing tears to her eyes.  Foolishness!  She was
overwrought.  It was a shame that human beings were so made that they
had to become weak like that in a time of pleasant rejoicing.

The family came forth noisily to meet them, rejoicing openly at
Graham's return, George and Harley vying with each other to shout the
news about the garden and the chickens and the dove-cote; Carol
demanding to know where was Elizabeth; and Doris earnestly looking in
his face and repeating:

"Ickle budie fy away, Mistah Gwaham.  All gone!  All ickle budies fy
away!"

Even Mrs. Hollister came smiling to the door to meet him, and the young
man had a warm word of hearty greeting and a hand-shake for each one.
It was as if he had just got home to a place where he loved to be, and
he could not show his joy enough.  Shirley stood back for the moment
watching him, admiring the way his hair waved away from his temples,
thinking how handsome he looked when he smiled, wondering that he could
so easily fit himself into this group, which must in the nature of
things be utterly different from his native element, rejoicing over the
deference he paid to her plain, quiet mother, thrilling over the kiss
he gave her sweet little sister.

Then Mrs. Hollister did something perfectly unexpected and
dreadful--she invited him to stay to dinner!  Shirley stood back and
gasped.  Of course he would decline, but think of the temerity of
inviting the wealthy and cultured Mr. Graham to take dinner in his own
barn!

Oh!  But he wasn't going to decline at all.  He was accepting as if it
were a great pleasure Mrs. Hollister was conferring upon him.  _Sure_,
he would stay!  He had been wishing all the way out they would ask him.
He had wondered whether he dared invite himself.

Shirley with her cheeks very red hurried in to see that the table-cloth
was put on straight, and look after one or two little things; but
behold, he followed her out, and, gently insisting and assisting,
literally compelled her to come and lie down on the couch while he told
the family what she had been through that day.  Shirley was so happy
she almost cried right there before them all.  It was so wonderful to
have some one take care of her that way.  Of course it was only
gratitude--but she had been taking care of other people so long that it
completely broke her down to have some one take care of her.

The dinner went much more easily than she had supposed it could with
those cracked plates, and the forks from which the silver was all worn
off.  Doris insisted that the guest sit next to her and butter her
bread for her, and she occasionally caressed his coat-sleeve with a
sticky little hand, but he didn't seem to mind it in the least, and
smiled down on her in quite a brotherly way, arranging her bib when it
got tangled in her curls, and seeing that she had plenty of jelly on
her bread.

It was a beautiful dinner.  Mother Hollister had known what she was
about when she selected that particular night to invite unexpected
company.  There was stewed chicken on little round biscuits, with
plenty of gravy and currant jelly, mashed potatoes, green peas, little
new beets, and the most delicious custard pie for dessert, all rich,
velvety yellow with a golden-brown top.  The guest ate as if he enjoyed
it, and asked for a second piece of pie, just as if he were one of
them.  It was unbelievable!

He helped clear off the table too, and insisted on Carol's giving him a
wiping-towel to help with the dishes.  It was just like a dream.

The young man tore himself reluctantly away about nine o'clock and went
home, but before he left he took Shirley's hand and looked into her
eyes with another of those deep understanding glances, and Shirley
watched him whirling away in the moonlight, and wondered if there ever
would be another day as beautiful and exciting and wonderful as this
had been, and whether she could come down to sensible, every-day living
again by morning.

Then there was the story of the day to tell all over again after he was
gone, and put in the little family touches that had been left out when
the guest was there, and there was: "Oh, did you notice how admiring he
looked when he told mother Shirley had a remarkably keen mind?" and "He
said his father thought Shirley was the most unspoiled-looking girl he
had ever seen!" and a lot of other things that Shirley hadn't heard
before.

Shirley told her mother what the senior Mr. Graham had said about
giving her a reward, and her mother agreed that she had done just right
in declining anything for so simple a service, but she looked after
Shirley with a sigh as she went to put Doris to bed, and wondered if
for this service the poor child was to get a broken heart.  It could
hardly be possible that a girl could be given much attention such as
Shirley had received that day, from as attractive a young man as
Graham, without feeling it keenly not to have it continue.  And of
_course_ it was out of the question that it should continue.  Mrs.
Hollister decided that she had done wrong to invite the young man to
stay to supper, and resolved never to offend in that way again.  It was
a wrong to Shirley to put him on so intimate a footing in the
household, and it could not but bring her sadness.  He was a most
unusual young man to have even wanted to stay, but one must not take
that for more than a passing whim, and Shirley must be protected at all
hazards.

"Now," said the elder Graham the next morning, when the business of the
day was well under way and he had time to send for his son to come into
his office, "now, I want you to tell me all about that little girl, and
what you think we ought to give her.  What did she mean by
'obligations' yesterday?  Have you been doing anything for her, son?  I
meant to ask you last night, but you came home so late I couldn't sit
up."

And then Sidney Graham told his father the whole story.  It was
different from telling his mother.  He knew no barn would have the
power to prejudice his father.

"And you say that girl lives in the old barn!" exclaimed the father
when the story was finished.  "Why, the nervy little kid!  And she
looks as if she came out of a bandbox!  Well, she's a bully little girl
and no mistake!  Well, now, son, what can we do for her?  We ought to
do something pretty nice.  You see it wasn't just the money we might
have lost.  That would have been a mere trifle beside getting all those
other folks balled up in the mess.  Why, I'd have given every cent I
own before I'd have had Fuller and Browning and Barnard and Wilts get
entangled.  I tell you, son, it was a great escape!"

"Yes, father, and it was a great lesson for me.  I'll never be buncoed
as easily again.  But about Miss Hollister, I don't know what to say.
She's very proud and sensitive.  I had an awful time doing the little
things I just had to do to that barn without her suspecting I was doing
it especially for her.  Father, you ought to go out there and meet the
family; then you'd understand.  They're not ordinary people.  Their
father was a college professor and wrote things.  They're cultured
people."

"Well, I want to meet them.  Why don't we go out there and call to-day?
I think they must be worth knowing."

So late that afternoon the father and son rode out to Glenside, and
when Shirley and George reached home they found the car standing in
front of their place, and the Grahams comfortably seated in the great
open doorway, enjoying the late afternoon breeze, and seemingly
perfectly at home in their own barn.

"I'm not going to swarm here every day, Miss Shirley," said the son,
rising and coming out to meet her.  "You see father hadn't heard about
the transformation of the old barn, and the minute I told him about it
he had to come right out and see it."

"Yes," said the father, smiling contentedly, "I had to come and see
what you'd done out here.  I've played in the hay up in that loft many
a day in my time, and I love the old barn.  It's great to see it all
fixed up so cozy.  But we're going home now and let you have your
dinner.  We just waited to say 'Howdy' to you before we left."

They stayed a few minutes longer, however, and the senior Graham talked
with Shirley while he held Doris on his knee and stroked her silky
hair, and she nestled in his arms quite content.

Then, although young Graham was quite loath to leave so soon, they
went, for he could not in conscience, expect an invitation to dinner
two days in succession.

They rode away into the sunset, going across country to their home
without going back to town, and Doris, as she stood with the others
watching them away, murmured softly:

"Nice favver-man!  Nice Gwaham favver man!"

The "nice-Graham-father-man" was at that moment remarking to his son in
very decided tones, as he turned to get a last glimpse of the old barn:

"That old barn door ought to come down right away, Sid, and a nice big
old-fashioned door with glass around the sides made to fill the space.
That door is an eyesore on the place, and they need a piazza.  People
like those can't live with a great door like that to open and shut
every day."

"Yes, father, I've thought of that, but I don't just know how to manage
it.  You see they're not objects of charity.  I've been thinking about
some way to fix up a heating arrangement without hurting their
feelings, so they could stay there all winter.  I know they hate to go
back to the city, and they're only paying ten dollars a month.  It's
all they can afford.  What could they get in the city for that?"

"Great Scott!  A girl like that living in a house she could get for ten
dollars, when some of these feather-brained baby-dolls we know can't
get on with less than three or four houses that cost from fifty to a
hundred thousand dollars apiece!  Say, son, that's a peach of a girl,
do you know it?  A peach of a girl!  I've been talking with her, and
she has a very superior mind."

"I know she has, father," answered the son humbly.

"I say, Sid, why don't you marry her?  That would solve the whole
problem.  Then you could fix up the old barn into a regular house for
her folks."

"Well, father, that's just what I've made up my mind to do--if she'll
have me," said the son with a gleam of triumph in his eyes.

"Bully for you, Sid!  Bully for you!" and the father gave his son's
broad shoulder a resounding slap.  "Why, Sid, I didn't think you had
that much sense.  Your mother gave me to understand that you were
philandering around with that dolly-faced Harriet Hale, and I couldn't
see what you saw in her.  But if you mean it, son, I'm with you every
time.  That girl's a peach, and you couldn't get a finer if you
searched the world over."

"Yes, I'm afraid mother's got her heart set on Harriet Hale," said the
son dubiously, "but I can't see it that way."

"H'm!  Your mother likes show," sighed the father comically, "but she's
got a good heart, and she'll bowl over all right and make the best of
it.  You know neither your mother nor I were such high and mighties
when we were young, and _we_ married for _love_.  But now, if you
really mean business, I don't see why we can't do something right away.
When does that girl have her vacation?  Of course she gets one
sometime.  Why couldn't your mother just invite the whole family to
occupy the shore cottage for a little while,--get up some excuse or
other,--ask 'em to take care of it?  You know it's lying idle all this
summer, and two servants down there growing fat with nothing to do.  We
might ship Elizabeth down there and let 'em be company for her.  They
seem like a fine set of children.  It would do Elizabeth good to know
them."

"Oh, she's crazy about them.  She's been out a number of times with me,
and don't you remember she had Carol out to stay with her?"

"Was that the black-eyed, sensible girl?  Well, I declare!  I didn't
recognize her.  She was all dolled up out at our house.  I suppose
Elizabeth loaned 'em to her, eh?  Well, I'm glad.  She's got sense,
too.  That's the kind of people I like my children to know.  Now if
that vacation could only be arranged to come when your mother and I
take that Western trip, why, it would be just the thing for Elizabeth,
work right all around.  Now, the thing for you to do is to find out
about that vacation, and begin to work things.  Then you could have
everything all planned, and rush the work so it would be done by the
time they came back."

So the two conspirators plotted, while all unconscious of their
interest Shirley was trying to get herself in hand and not think how
Graham's eyes had looked when he said good-night to her.



CHAPTER XIX

Since the pastor from the village had called upon them, the young
people of the stone barn had been identified with the little white
church in the valley.  Shirley had taken a class of boys in the
Sunday-school and was playing the organ, as George had once predicted.
Carol was helping the primary teacher, George was assistant librarian
and secretary, Harley was in Shirley's class, and Doris was one of the
primaries.

Shirley had at once identified herself with the struggling little
Christian Endeavor society and was putting new life into it, with her
enthusiasm, her new ideas about getting hold of the young people of the
community, and her wonderful knack of getting the silent ones to take
part in the meetings.  She had suggested new committees, had invited
the music committee to meet her at her home some evening to plan out
special music, and to coöperate with the social committee in planning
for music at the socials.  She always carried a few appropriate
clippings or neatly written verses or other quotations to meeting to
slip into the hands of some who had not prepared to speak, and she saw
to it that her brothers and sisters were always ready to say something.
Withal, she did her part so unobtrusively that none of the old members
could think she was trying to usurp power or make herself prominent.
She became a quiet power behind the powers, to whom the president and
all the other officers came for advice, and who seemed always ready to
help in any work, or to find a way out of any difficulty.  Christian
Endeavor in the little white church at once took great strides after
the advent of the Hollisters, and even the idlers on the street corners
were moved with curiosity to drop into the twilight service of the
young people and see what went on, and why everybody seemed so
interested.  But the secret of it all, Shirley thought, was the little
five-minute prayer service that the prayer-meeting committee held in
the tiny primary room just before the regular meeting.  Shirley as
chairman of the prayer-meeting committee had started this little
meeting, and she always came into the larger room with an exalted look
upon her face and a feeling of strength in her heart from this brief
speaking with her Master.

Shirley was somewhat aghast the next Sabbath to have Sidney Graham
arrive and ask her to take a ride with him.

"Why, I was just going to church," she said, half hesitating, and then
smiling bravely up at him; "besides, I have a Sunday-school class.  I
couldn't very well leave them, you know."

He looked at her for a moment thoughtfully, trying to bridge in his
thoughts this difference between them.  Then he said quite humbly,

"Will you take me with you?"

"To church?" she asked, and there was a glad ring in her voice.  Would
he really go to church with her?

"Yes, and to Sunday School if I may.  I haven't been to Sunday School
in years.  I'd like to go if you'll only let me."

Her cheeks grew rosy.  She had a quick mental picture of putting him in
Deacon Pettigrew's Bible class.

"I'm afraid there isn't any class you would enjoy," she began with a
troubled look.  "It's only a little country church, you know.  They
don't have all the modern system, and very few teachers."

"I should enjoy going into your class very much if I might."

"Oh, mine are just boys, just little boys like Harley!" said Shirley,
aghast.

"I've been a little boy once, you know I should enjoy it very much,"
said the applicant with satisfaction.

"Oh, but--I couldn't teach _you_!"  There was dismay in her voice.

"Couldn't you, though?  You've taught me more in the few months I've
known you than I've learned in that many years from others.  Try me.
I'll be very good.  I'll be a boy with the rest of them, and you can
just forget I'm there and go ahead.  I really am serious about it.  I
want to hear what you have to say to them."

"Oh, I couldn't teach with you there!" exclaimed Shirley, putting her
hands on her hot cheeks and looking like a frightened little child.
"Indeed I couldn't, really.  I'm not much of a teacher.  I'm only a
beginner.  I shouldn't know how to talk before any but children."

He watched her silently for a minute, his face grave with wistfulness.

"Why do you teach them?" he asked rather irrelevantly.

"Because--why, because I want to help them to live right lives; I want
to teach them how to know God."

"Why?"

"So that they will be saved.  Because it was Christ's command that His
disciples should give the message.  I am His disciple, so I have to
tell the message."

"Was there any special stipulation as to whom that message should be
given?" asked the young man thoughtfully.  "Did He say you were just to
give it to those boys?"

"Why, no; it was to be given to--all the world, every creature."
Shirley spoke the words hesitatingly, a dimple beginning to show in her
cheek as her eyelids drooped over her shy eyes.

"And don't I come in on that?" asked Graham, with a twinkle that
reminded Shirley of his father.

Shirley had to laugh shamefacedly then.

"But I couldn't!" said Shirley.  "I'd be so scared I couldn't think of
a thing to say."

"You're not afraid of me, Miss Shirley?  You wouldn't be scared if you
thought I really needed to know the message, would you?  Well, I really
do, as much as any of those kids."

Shirley looked steadily into his earnest eyes and saw something there
that steadied her nerve.  The laughter died out of her own eyes, and a
beautiful light of longing came into them.

"All right," she said, with a little lift of her chin as if girding up
her strength to the task.  "You may come, and I'll do the best I can,
but I'm afraid it will be a poor best.  I've only a little story to
tell them this morning."

"Please give them just what you had intended.  I want the real thing,
just as a boy would get it from you.  Will the rest of them come in the
car with us?"

Shirley was very quiet during the ride to church.  She let the rest do
all the talking, and she sat looking off at the woods and praying for
help, trying to calm the flutter of her frightened heart, trying to
steady her nerves and brace herself to teach the lesson just as she had
intended to teach it.

She watched him furtively during the opening exercises, the untrained
singing, the monotonous prayer of an old farmer-elder, the dry
platitudes of the illiterate superintendent; but he sat respectfully
listening, taking it all for what it was worth, the best service these
people knew how to render to their Maker.

Somehow her heart had gained the strength she needed from the prayers
she breathed continually, and when the time for teaching the lesson
arrived she came to her class with quietness.

There was a little awe upon the boys because of the stranger in their
midst.  They did not fling the hymn-books down with a noisy thud, nor
send the lesson leaves flying like winged darts across the room quite
so much as they were wont to do.  They looked askance at Harley, who
sat proudly by the visitor, supplying him with Bibles, hymn-books,
lesson leaves, and finding the place for him officiously.  But Graham
sat among the boys without ostentation, and made as little of his own
presence as possible.  He smiled at them now and then, put a handful of
silver into the collection envelope when they would have passed him by,
and promised a ride to one fellow who ventured to ask him hoarsely if
that was his car outside the church.

Shirley had made up her mind to forget as far as she could the presence
of the visitor in the class, and to this end she fixed her eyes upon
the worst little boy present, the boy who got up all the disturbances,
and made all the noises, and was the most adorable, homely, sturdy
young imp the Valley Church could produce.  He sat straight across from
her, while Graham was at the side, and she could see in Jack's eye that
he meant mischief if he could overcome his awe of the stranger.  So
before Jack could possibly get started she began her story, and told it
straight to Jack, never taking her eyes from his face from start to
finish, and before she was half-way through she had her little audience
enthralled.  It was a story of the Bible told in modern setting, and
told straight to the heart of a boy who was the counterpart in his own
soul of the man whom Christ cured and forgave.  What Graham was
thinking or looking Shirley did not know.  She had literally forgotten
his existence after the first few minutes.  She had seen the gleam of
interest in the eyes of the boy Jack; she knew that her message was
going home to a convicted young soul, and that he saw himself and his
own childish sins in the sinful life of the hero of her tale.  Her
whole soul was bent on making him see the Saviour who could make that
young life over.  Not until the story was almost finished did any one
of the listeners, unless perhaps Harley, who was used to such
story-recitals, have a suspicion that the story was just a plain,
ordinary chapter out of the Bible.  Then suddenly one of the elder boys
broke forth: "Aw!  Gee!  That's just the man in the Bible let down
through the roof!"  There was a slight stir in the class at the
discovery as it dawned upon them that the teacher had "put one over on
them" again, but the interest for the most part was sustained
breathlessly until the superintendent's bell rang, and the heads drew
together in an absorbed group around her for the last few sentences,
spoken in a lower tone because the general hum of teaching in the room
had ceased.

Graham's face was very grave and thoughtful as she finished and slipped
away from them to take her place at the little organ.  One could see
that it was not in the teacher alone, but in her message as well, that
he was interested.  The boys all had that subdued, half-ashamed,
half-defiant look that boys have when they have been caught looking
serious.  Each boy frowned and studied his toes, or hunted assiduously
in his hymn-book to hide his confusion, and the class in various keys
lifted up assertive young voices vigorously in the last hymn.

Graham sat beside Shirley in the little crowded church during the
rather monotonous service.  The regular pastor, who was a good,
spiritual man if not a brilliant one, and gave his congregation solid,
practical sermons, was on his vacation, and the pulpit was supplied by
a young theologue who was so new to his work that his sermon was a
rather involved effort.  But so strong was the power of the
Sunday-school lesson to which he had just listened that Graham felt as
if he were sitting in some hallowed atmosphere.  He did not see the
red-faced, embarrassed young preacher, nor notice his struggles to
bring forth his message bravely; he saw only the earnest-faced young
teacher as she spoke the words of life to her boys; saw the young
imp-faces of her boys softened and touched by the story she told; saw
that she really believed and felt every word she spoke; and knew that
there was something in it all that he wanted.

The seat was crowded and the day was warm, but the two who looked over
the same hymn-book did not notice it.  The soft air came in from the
open window beside them, breathing sweet clover and wild honeysuckle,
and the meadowlarks sang their songs, and made it seem just like a
little bit of heaven.

Shirley's muslin frills trembled against Graham's hand as she reached
to catch a fluttering leaf of the hymn-book that the wind had caught;
once her hand brushed the coatsleeve beside her as they turned the
page, and she felt the soft texture of the fine dark blue goods with a
pleasant sense of the beautiful and fitting.  It thrilled her to think
he was standing thus beside her in her own little church, yielding
himself to the same worship with her in the little common country
congregation.  It was wonderful, beautiful!  And to have come to her!
She glanced shyly up at him, so handsome, standing there singing, his
hand almost touching hers holding the book.  He felt her glance and
answered it with a look and smile, their eyes holding each other for
just the fraction of a second in which some inner thought was
interchanged, some question asked and answered by the invisible flash
of heart-beats, a mutual joining in the spiritual service, and then
half-frightened Shirley dropped her eyes to the page and the soft roses
stole into her cheeks again.  She felt as if she had seen something in
his eyes and acknowledged it in her own, as if she had inadvertently
shown him her heart in that glance, and that heart of hers was leaping
and bounding with an uncontrollable joy, while her conscience sought by
every effort to get it in control.  What nonsense, it said, what utter
folly, to make so much of his coming to church with her once!  To allow
her soul to get into such a flutter over a man who had no more idea of
noticing her or caring for her than he had for a bird on the tree.

And with all the tumult in her heart she did not even see the envious
glances of the village maidens who stared and stared with all their
might at the handsome man who came to church in an expensive car and
brought the girl who lived in a barn!  Shirley's social position went
up several notches, and she never even knew it.  In fact, she was
becoming a great puzzle to the residents of Glenside.

It was good to know that for once the shabby collection-box of the
little church was borne back to the altar laden with a goodly bill, put
in with so little ostentation that one might have judged it but a
penny, looking on, though even a penny would have made more noise in
the unlined wooden box.

After the service was over Graham went out with the children, while
Shirley lingered to play over an accompaniment for a girl who was going
to sing at the vesper service that afternoon.  He piled all the
children in the back seat of the car, put the boy he had promised a
ride in the seat beside him, took a spin around the streets, and was
back in front of the church by the time Shirley came out.  Then that
foolish heart of hers had to leap again at the thought that he had
saved the front seat for her.  The boy descended as if he had been
caught up into heaven for a brief space, and would never forget it the
rest of his life.

There was that same steady look of trust and understanding in Graham's
eyes whenever he looked at her on the way home, and once while the
children were talking together in the back seat he leaned toward her
and said in a low tone:

"I wonder if you will let me take you away for a little while this
afternoon to a quiet place I know where there is a beautiful view, and
let us sit and talk.  There are some things I want to ask you, about
what you said this morning.  I was very much interested in it all, and
I'm deeply grateful that you let me go.  Now, will you go with me?
I'll bring you back in time for the Christian Endeavor service, and you
see in the meantime I'm inviting myself to dinner.  Do you think your
mother will object?"

What was there for Shirley to do but accept this alluring invitation?
She did not believe in going off on pleasure excursions on the Sabbath,
but this request that she ride to a quiet place out-of-doors for a
religious talk could not offend her strongest sense of what was right
on the Sabbath day.  And surely, if the Lord had a message for her to
bear, she must bear it to whomsoever He sent.  This, then, was this
man's interest in her, that she had been able to make him think of God.
A glad elation filled her heart, something deep and true stirred within
her and lifted her above the thought of self, like a blessing from on
high.  To be asked to bring light to a soul like this one, this was
honor indeed.  This was an answer to her prayer of the morning, that
she might fulfil God's pleasure with the lesson of the day.  The
message then had reached his soul.  It was enough.  She would think no
more of self.

Yet whenever she looked at him and met that smile again she was
thrilled with joy in spite of herself.  At least there was a
friendliness here beyond the common acquaintance, a something that was
true, deep, lasting, even though worlds should separate them in the
future; a something built on a deep understanding, sympathy and common
interests.  Well, so be it.  She would rejoice that it had been given
her to know one man of the world in this beautiful way; and her foolish
little human heart should understand what a high, true thing this was
that must not be misunderstood.

So she reasoned with herself, and watched him during the dinner, among
the children, out in the yard among the flowers and animals,
everywhere, he seemed so fine and splendid, so far above all other men
that she had ever met.  And her mother, watching, trembled for her when
she saw her happy face.

"Do you think you ought to go with him, daughter?" she asked with
troubled eyes, when they were left alone for a moment after dinner.
"You know it is the Sabbath, and you know his life is very different
from ours."

"Mother, he wants to talk about the Sunday School lesson this morning,"
said Shirley shyly.  "I guess he is troubled, perhaps, and wants me to
help him.  I guess he has never thought much about religious things."

"Well, daughter dear, be careful.  Do all you can for him, of course,
but remember, don't let your heart stray out of your keeping.  He is
very attractive, dear, and very unconventional for a wealthy man.  I
think he is true and wouldn't mean to trifle, but he wouldn't realize."

"I know; mother; don't you be afraid for me!" said Shirley with a lofty
look, half of exultation, half of proud self-command.

He took her to a mossy place beside a little stream, where the light
filtered down through the lacy leaves flecking the bank, and braided
golden currents in the water; with green and purple hazy hills in the
distance, and just enough seclusion for a talk without being too far
away from the world.

"My little sister says that you people have a 'real' God," he said,
when she was comfortably fixed with cushions from the car at her back
against a tall tree-trunk.  "She says you seem to realize His
presence--I don't know just how to say it, but I'd like to know if this
is so.  I'd like to know what makes you different from other girls, and
your home different from most of the homes I know.  I'd like to know if
I may have it too."

That was the beginning.

Shirley, shy as a bird at first, having never spoken on such subjects
except to children, yet being well versed in the Scriptures, and
feeling her faith with every atom of her being, drew out her little
Bible that she had slipped into her pocket when they started, and
plunged into the great subject.

Never had preacher more earnest listener, or more lovely temple in
which to preach.  And if sometimes the young man's thoughts for a few
moments strayed from the subject to rest his eyes in tenderness upon
the lovely face of the young teacher, and long to draw her into his
arms and claim her for his own, he might well have been forgiven.  For
Shirley was very fair, with the light of other worlds in her face, her
eyes all sparkling with her eagerness, her lips aglow with words that
seemed to be given her for the occasion.  She taught him simply, not
trying to go into deep arguments, but urging the only way she knew, the
way of taking Christ's promise on its face value, the way of being
willing to do His will, trusting it to Him to reveal Himself, and the
truth of the doctrine, and make the believer sure.

They talked until the sun sunk low, and the calling of the wood-birds
warned them that the Endeavor hour was near.  Before they left the
place he asked her for the little Bible, and she laid it in his hand
with joy that he wanted it, that she was chosen to give him a gift so
precious.

"It is all marked up," she said apologetically.  "I always mark the
verses I love, or have had some special experience with."

"It will be that much more precious to me," he said gently, fingering
the leaves reverently, and then he looked up and gave her one of those
deep looks that seemed to say so much to her heart.  And all at once
she realized that she was on earth once more, and that his presence and
his look were very precious to her.  Her cheeks grew pink with the joy
of it, and she looked down in confusion and could not answer, so she
rose to her feet.  But he, springing at once to help her up, kept her
hand for just an instant with earnest pressure, and said in deeply
moved tones:

"You don't know what you have done for me this afternoon,
my--_friend_!"  He waited with her hand in his an instant as if he were
going to say more, but had decided it were better not.  The silence was
so compelling that she looked up into his eyes, meeting his smile, and
that said so many things her heart went into a tumult again and could
not quite come to itself all through the Christian Endeavor service.

On the way home from the church he talked a little about her vacation:
when it came, how long it lasted, what she would do with it.  Just as
they reached home he said,

"I hope you will pray for me, _my friend_!"

There was something wonderful in the way he said that word "friend."
It thrilled her through and through as she stood beside the road and
watched him speed away into the evening.

"My friend!  I hope you will pray for me, _my friend_!"  It sang a
glory-song down in her heart as she turned to go in with the vivid
glory of the sunset on her face.



CHAPTER XX

The cement floor had been down a week and was as hard as a rock, when
one day two or three wagon-loads of things arrived with a note from
Graham to Mrs. Hollister to say that he would be glad if these might be
stored in one corner of the basement floor, where they would be out of
her way and not take up too much room.

Harley and George went down to look them over that evening.

"He said something about some things being taken from the office
building," said Harley, kicking a pile of iron pipes with his toe.

"These don't look like any old things that have been used," said George
thoughtfully.  "They look perfectly new."  Then he studied them a few
minutes more from another angle, and shut his lips judiciously.  He
belonged to the boy species that has learned to "shut up and saw wood,"
whatever that expression may mean.  If anything was to come out of that
pile of iron in the future, he did not mean to break confidence with
anybody's secrets.  He walked away whistling and said nothing further
about them.

The next day Mrs. Graham came down upon the Hollisters in her
limousine, and an exquisite toilet of organdie and ribbons.  She was
attended by Elizabeth, wild with delight over getting home again.  She
begged Mrs. Hollister very charmingly and sincerely to take care of
Elizabeth for three or four weeks, while she and her husband were away,
and to take her entire family down to the shore and occupy their
cottage, which had been closed all summer and needed opening and
airing.  She said that nothing would please Elizabeth so much as to
have them all her guests during September.  The maids were there, with
nothing to do but look after them, and would just love to serve them;
it really would be a great favor to her if she could know that
Elizabeth was getting a little salt air under such favorable
conditions.  She was so genuine in her request and suggested so
earnestly that Shirley and George needed the change during their
vacation, and could just as well come down every night and go up every
morning for a week or two more after the vacations were over, that Mrs.
Hollister actually promised to consider it and talk it over with
Shirley when she came home.  Elizabeth and Carol nearly went into
spasms of joy over the thought of all they could do down at the shore
together.

When Shirley came home she found the whole family quite upset
discussing the matter.  Carol had brought out all the family wardrobe
and was showing how she could wash this, and dye that, and turn this
skirt upside down, and put a piece from the old waist in there to make
the lower part flare; and Harley was telling how he could get the man
next door to look after the hens and pigeons, and there was nothing
needing much attention in the garden now, for the corn was about over
except the last picking, which wasn't ripe yet.

Mrs. Hollister was saying that they ought really to stay at home and
look up another place to live during the winter, and Carol was pleading
that another place would be easier found when the weather was cooler
anyway, and that Shirley was just awfully tired and needed a change.

Shirley's cheeks grew pink in spite of the headache which she had been
fighting all day, when she heard of the invitation, and sat down to
think it out.  Was this, then, another of the kind schemes of her kind
friend to make the way easier for her?  What right had she to take all
this?  Why was he doing it?  Why were the rest of the family?  Did they
really need some one to take care of Elizabeth?  But of course it was a
wonderful opportunity, and one that her mother at least should not let
slip by.  And Doris!  Think of Doris playing in the sand at the seaside!

Supper was flung onto the table that night any way it happened, for
they were all too excited to know what they were about.  Carol got
butter twice and forgot to cut the bread, and Harley poured milk into
the already filled water-pitcher.  They were even too excited to eat.

Graham arrived with Elizabeth early in the evening to add his pleading
to his mother's, and before he left he had about succeeded in getting
Mrs. Hollister's promise that she would go.

Shirley's vacation began the first of September, and George had asked
for his at the same time so that they could enjoy it together.  Each
had two weeks.  Graham said that the cost of going back and forth to
the city for the two would be very little.  By the next morning they
had begun to say what they would take along, and to plan what they
would do with the dog.  It was very exciting.  There was only a week to
get ready, and Carol wanted to make bathing-suits for everybody.

Graham came again that night with more suggestions.  There were plenty
of bathing-suits down at the cottage, of all sizes and kinds.  No need
to make bathing-suits.  The dog, of course, was to go along.  He needed
the change as much as anybody, and they needed him there.  That breed
of dog was a great swimmer.  He would take care of the children when
they went in bathing.  How would Mrs. Hollister like to have one of the
old Graham servants come over to sleep at the barn and look after
things while they were gone?  The man had really nothing to do at home
while everybody was away, as the whole corps of servants would be
there, and this one would enjoy coming out to the country.  He had a
brother living on a place about a mile away.  As for the trip down
there, Graham would love to take them all in the big touring-car with
Elizabeth.  He had been intending to take her down that way, and there
was no reason in the world why they should not all go along.  They
would start Saturday afternoon as soon as Shirley and George were free,
and be down before bedtime.  It would be cool and delightful journeying
at that hour, and a great deal pleasanter than the train.

So one by one the obstructions and hindrances were removed from their
path, and it was decided that the Hollisters were to go to the seashore.

At last the day came.

Shirley and George went off in the morning shouting last directions
about things.  They were always having to go to their work whatever was
happening.  It was sometimes hard on them, particularly this day when
everything was so delightfully exciting.

The old Graham servant arrived about three o'clock in the afternoon,
and proved himself invaluable in doing the little last things without
being told.  Mrs. Hollister had her first gleam of an idea of what it
must be to have plenty of perfectly trained servants about to
anticipate one's needs.  He entered the barn as if barns were his
native heath, and moved about with the ease and unobtrusiveness that
marks a perfect servant, but with none of the hauteur and disdain that
many of those individuals entertain toward all whom they consider poor
or beneath them in any way.  He had a kindly face, and seemed to
understand just exactly what was to be done.  Things somehow moved more
smoothly after he arrived.

At four o'clock came Graham with the car and a load of long linen
dust-cloaks and veils.  The Hollisters donned them and bestowed
themselves where they were told.  The servant stowed away the wraps and
suitcases; Star mounted the seat beside Harley, and they were ready.

They turned to look back at the barn as the car started.  The old
servant was having a little trouble with the big door, trying to shut
it.  "That door is a nuisance," said Graham as they swept away from the
curb.  "It must be fixed.  It is no fit door for a barn anyway."  Then
they curved up around Allister Avenue and left the barn far out of
sight.

They were going across country to the Graham home to pick up Elizabeth.
It was a wonderful experience for them, that beautiful ride in the late
afternoon; and when they swept into the great gates, and up the broad
drive to the Graham mansion, and stopped under the porte-cochère, Mrs.
Hollister was quite overcome with the idea of being beholden to people
who lived in such grandeur as this.  To think she had actually invited
their son to dine in a barn with her!

Elizabeth came rushing out eagerly, all ready to start, and climbed in
beside Carol.  Even George, who was usually silent when she was about,
gave her a grin of welcome.  The father and mother came out to say
good-by, gave them good wishes, and declared they were perfectly happy
to leave their daughter in such good hands.  Then the car curved about
the great house, among tennis courts, green-houses, garage, stable, and
what not, and back to the pike again, leaping out upon the perfect road
as if it were as excited as the children.

Two more stops to pick up George, who was getting off early, and
Shirley, who was through at five o'clock, and then they threaded their
way out of the city, across the ferry, through another city, and out
into the open country, dotted all along the way with clean, pretty
little towns.

They reached a lovely grove at sundown and stopped by the way to have
supper.  Graham got down and made George help him get out the big
hamper.

There was a most delectable lunch; sandwiches of delicate and unknown
condiments, salad as bewildering, soup that had been kept hot in a
thermos bottle, served in tiny white cups, iced tea and ice-cream
meringues from another thermos compartment, and plenty of delicious
little cakes, olives, nuts, bonbons, and fruit.  It seemed a wonderful
supper to them all, eaten out there under the trees, with the birds
beginning their vesper songs and the stars peeping out slyly.  Then
they packed up their dishes and hurried on their beautiful way, a
silver thread of a moon coming out to make the scene more lovely.

Doris was almost asleep when at last they began to hear the booming of
the sea and smell the salt breeze as it swept back inland; but she
roused up and opened wide, mysterious eyes, peering into the new
darkness, and murmuring softly: "I yant to see ze osun!  I yant to see
the gate bid watter!"

Stiff, bewildered, filled with ecstasy, they finally unloaded in front
of a big white building that looked like a hotel.  They tried to see
into the deep, mysterious darkness across the road, where boomed a
great voice that called them, and where dashing spray loomed high like
a waving phantom hand to beckon them now and again, and far-moving
lights told of ships and a world beyond the one they knew,--a wide,
limitless thing like eternity, universe, chaos.

With half-reluctant feet they turned away from the mysterious unseen
lure and let themselves be led across an unbelievably wide veranda into
the bright light of a hall, where everything was clean and shining, and
a great fireplace filled with friendly flames gave cheer and welcome.
The children stood bewildered in the brightness while two strange
serving-maids unfastened their wraps and dust-cloaks and helped them
take off their hats.  Then they all sat around the fire, for Graham had
come in by this time, and the maids brought trays of some delicious
drink with little cakes and crackers, and tinkling ice, and straws to
drink with.  Doris almost fell asleep again, and was carried up-stairs
by Shirley and put to bed in a pretty white crib she was too sleepy to
look at, while Carol, Elizabeth, George, and Harley went with Graham
across the road to look at the black, yawning cavern they called ocean,
and to have the shore light-houses pointed out to them and named one by
one.

They were all asleep at last, a little before midnight, in spite of the
excitement over the spacious rooms, and who should have which.  Think
of it!  Thirty rooms in the house, and every one as pretty as every
other one!  What luxury!  And nobody to occupy them but themselves!
Carol could hardly get to sleep.  She felt as if she had dropped into a
novel and was living it.

When Graham came out of his room the next morning the salt breeze swept
invitingly through the hall and showed him the big front door of the
upper piazza open and some one standing in the sunlight, with light,
glowing garments, gazing at the sea in rapt enjoyment.  Coming out
softly, he saw that it was Shirley dressed in white, with a ribbon of
blue at her waist and a soft pink color in her cheeks, looking off to
sea.

He stood for a moment to enjoy the picture, and said in his heart that
sometime, if he got his wish, he would have her painted so by some
great artist, with just that little simple white dress and blue ribbon,
her round white arm lifted, her small hand shading her eyes, the
sunlight burnishing her brown hair into gold.  He could scarcely
refrain from going to her and telling her how beautiful she was.  But
when he stepped quietly up beside her only his eyes spoke, and brought
the color deeper into her cheeks; and so they stood for some minutes,
looking together and drawing in the wonder of God's sea.

"This is the first time I've ever seen it, you know," spoke Shirley at
last, "and I'm so glad it was on Sunday morning.  It will always make
the day seem more holy and the sea more wonderful to think about.  I
like best things to happen on Sunday, don't you, because that is the
best day of all?"

Graham looked at the sparkling sea all azure and pearls, realized the
Sabbath quiet, and marvelled at the beauty of the soul of the girl,
even as her feeling about it all seemed to enter into and become a part
of himself.

"Yes, I do," said he.  "I never did before, but I do now,--and always
shall," he added under his breath.

That was almost as wonderful a Sabbath as the one they had spent in the
woods a couple of weeks before.  They walked and talked by the sea, and
they went to a little Episcopal chapel, where the windows stood open
for the chanting of the waves and the salt of the breeze to come in
freely, and then they went out and walked by the sea again.  Wherever
they went, whether resting in some of the many big rockers on the broad
verandas or walking on the hard smooth sand, or sitting in some cozy
nook by the waves, they felt the same deep sympathy, the same
conviction that their thoughts were one, the same wonderful thrill of
the day and each other's nearness.

Somehow in the new environment Shirley forgot for a little that this
young man was not of her world, that he was probably going back soon to
the city to enter into a whirl of the winter's season in society, that
other girls would claim his smiles and attentions, and she would likely
be forgotten.  She lost the sense of it entirely and companioned with
him as joyously as if there had never been anything to separate them.
Her mother, looking on, sighed, feared, smiled, and sighed again.

They walked together in the sweet darkness beside the waves that
evening, and he told her how when he was a little boy he wanted to
climb up to the stars and find God, but later how he thought the stars
and God were myths like Santa Claus, and that the stars were only
electric lights put up by men and lighted from a great switch every
night, and when they didn't shine somebody had forgotten to light them.
He told her many things about himself that he had never told to any one
before, and she opened her shy heart to him, too.

Then they planned what they would do next week when he came back.  He
told her he must go back to the city in the morning to see his father
and mother off and attend to a few matters of business at the office.
It might be two or three days before he could return, but after that he
was coming down to take a little vacation himself if she didn't mind,
and they would do a lot of delightful things together: row, fish, go
crabbing, and he would teach her to swim and show her all the walks and
favorite places where he used to go as a boy.  Reluctantly they went
in, his fingers lingering about hers for just a second at the door,
vibrating those mysterious heart-strings of hers again, sweeping
dearest music from them, and frightening her with joy that took her
half the night to put down.



CHAPTER XXI

Sidney Graham went back to the city the next morning.  They all stood
out on the piazza to watch the big car glide away.  Doris stood on the
railing of the piazza with Shirley's arm securely about her and waved a
little fat hand; then with a pucker of her lip she demanded:

"Fy does mine Mister Dwaham do way?  I don't yant him to do way.  I
yant him to stay wif me aw-ways, don't oo, Sirley?"

Shirley with glowing cheeks turned from watching the retreating car and
put her little sister down on the floor suddenly.

"Run get your hat, Doris, and we'll take a walk on the sand!" she said,
smiling alluringly at the child, till the baby forgot her grievance and
beamed out with answering smiles.

That was a wonderful day.

They all took a walk on the sand first, George pushing his mother in a
big wheeled chair belonging to the cottage.  Elizabeth was guide and
pointed out all the beauties of the place, telling eager bits of
reminiscence from her childhood memories to which even George listened
attentively.  From having been only tolerant of her George had now come
to look upon Elizabeth as "a good scout."

When Mrs. Hollister grew tired they took her back to the cottage and
established her in a big chair with a book.  Then they all rushed off
to the bath-houses and presently emerged in bathing-suits, Doris
looking like a little sprite in her scarlet flannel scrap of a suit,
her bright hair streaming, and her beautiful baby arms and legs
flashing white like a cherub's in the sunlight.

They came back from their dip in the waves, hungry and eager, to the
wonderful dinner that was served so exquisitely in the great cool
dining-room, from the windows of which they could watch the lazy ships
sailing in the offing.

Doris fell asleep over her dessert and was tumbled into the hammock to
finish her nap.  Carol and Elizabeth and the boys started off crabbing,
and Shirley settled herself in another hammock with a pile of new
magazines about her and prepared to enjoy a whole afternoon of
laziness.  It was so wonderful to lie still, at leisure and unhurried,
with all those lovely magazines to read, and nothing to disturb her.
She leaned her head back and closed her eyes for a minute just to
listen to the sea, and realize how good it was to be here.  Back in her
mind there was a pleasant consciousness of the beautiful yesterday, and
the beautiful to-morrows that might come when Sidney Graham returned,
but she would not let her heart dwell upon them; that would be humoring
herself too much, and perhaps give her a false idea of things.  She
simply would not let this wonderful holiday be spoiled by the thought
that it would have to end some day and that she would be back at the
old routine of care and worry once more.

She was roused from her reverie by the step of the postman bringing a
single letter, for her!

It was addressed in an unknown hand and was in a fat long envelope.
Wonderingly she opened it and found inside a bank book and blank check
book with a little note on which was written:


Dear Little Girl:

This is just a trifle of that present we were talking about the other
day that belongs to you.  It isn't all by any means, but we'll see to
the rest later.  Spend this on chocolates or chewing-gum or frills or
whatever you like and have a good time down at the shore.  You're a
bully little girl and deserve everything nice that's going.  Don't be
too serious, Miss Shirley.  Play a little more.

Your elderly friend,
    Walter K Graham.


In the bank book was an entry of five thousand dollars, on check
account.  Shirley held her breath and stared at the figures with wide
eyes, then slipped away and locked herself in the big white room that
was hers.  Kneeling down by the bed she cried and prayed and smiled all
in one, and thanked the Lord for making people so kind to her.  After
that she went to find her mother.

Mrs. Hollister was sitting on the wide upper piazza in a steamer chair
looking off to sea and drawing in new life at every breath.  Her book
was open on her lap, but she had forgotten to read in the joy of all
that was about her.  To tell the truth she was wondering if the dear
father who was gone from them knew of their happy estate, and thinking
how glad he would be for them if he did.

She read the letter twice before she looked at the bank book with its
astonishing figures, and heard again Shirley's tale of the happening in
the office the morning of the arrest.  Then she read the letter once
more.

"I'm not just sure, daughter," she said at last with a smile, "what we
ought to do about this.  Are you?"

"No," said Shirley, smiling; "I suppose I'll give it back, but wasn't
it wonderful of him to do it?  Isn't it grand that there are such men
in the world?"

"It certainly is, dear, and I'm glad my little girl was able to do
something that was of assistance to him; and that she has won her way
into his good graces so simply and sweetly.  But I'm not so sure what
you ought to do.  Hadn't we better pray about it a bit before you
decide?  How soon ought you to write to him?  It's too late to reach
him before he leaves for California, isn't it?"

"Oh, yes, he's just about starting now," said the girl.  "Don't you
suppose he planned it so that I couldn't answer right away?  I don't
know his address.  I can't do a thing till I find out where to write.
I wouldn't like to send it to the office because they would probably
think it was business and his secretary might open it."

"Of course.  Then we'll just pray about it, shall we, dear?  I'm not
just sure in my mind whether it's a well-meant bit of charity that we
ought to hand back with sincere thanks, or whether it's God's way of
rewarding my little girl for her faithfulness and quickness of action.
Our Father knows we have been--and still are--in a hard place.  He
knows that we have need of 'all these things' that money has to buy.
You really did a good thing and saved Mr. Graham from great loss, you
know, and perhaps he is the kind of man who would feel a great deal
happier if he shared a little of it with you, was able to make some
return for what you did for him.  However, five thousand dollars is a
great deal of money for a brief service.  What do you think, dear?"

"I don't know, mother dear.  I'm all muddled just as you say, but I
guess it will come right if we pray about it.  Anyhow, I'm going to be
happy over his thinking of me, whether I keep it or not."

Shirley went thoughtfully back to her hammock and her magazines, a
smile on her lips, a dream in her eyes.  She found herself wondering
whether Sidney Graham knew about this money and what he would wish her
to do about it.  Then suddenly she cast the whole question from her and
plunged into her magazine, wondering why it was that almost any
question that came into her mind promptly got around and entangled
itself with Mr. Sidney Graham.  What did he have to do with it, anyway?

The magazine story was very interesting and Shirley soon forgot
everything else in the pleasure of surrendering herself to the printed
page.  An hour went by, another passed, and Shirley was still oblivious
to all about her.  Suddenly she became aware of a boy on a bicycle,
riding almost up to the very steps, and whistling vigorously.

"Miss Shirley Hollister here?" he demanded as he alighted on one foot
on the lower step, the other foot poised for flight as soon as his
errand should have been performed.

"Why, yes," said Shirley, startled, struggling to her feet and letting
a shower of magazines fall all about her.

"Long distance wants yer," he announced, looking her over
apathetically.  "Mr. Barnard, of Philadelphia, wants to talk to yer!"
and with the final word chanted nasally he alighted upon his obedient
steed and spun away down the walk again.

"But, wait!  Where shall I go?  Where is the telephone?"

"Pay station!" shouted the impervious child, turning his head over his
shoulder, "Drug store!  Two blocks from the post office!"

Without waiting to go upstairs Shirley, whose training had been to
answer the telephone at once, caught up Elizabeth's parasol that lay on
a settee by the door, rumpled her fingers through her hair by way of
toilet and hurried down the steps in the direction the boy had
disappeared, wondering what in the world Mr. Barnard could want of her?
Was he going to call her back from her vacation?  Was this perhaps the
only day she would have, this and yesterday?  There would always be
yesterday!  With a sigh she looked wistfully at the sea.  If she had
only known a summons was to come so soon she would not have wasted a
second on magazines.  She would have sat and gazed all the afternoon at
the sea.  If Mr. Barnard wanted her, of course she would have to go.
Business was business and she couldn't afford to lose her job even with
that fairy dream of five thousand to her credit in the bank.  She knew,
of course, she meant to give that back.  It was hers for the day, but
it could not become tangible.  It was beautiful, but it was right that
it must go back, and if her employer felt he must cut short her
vacation why of course she must acquiesce and just be glad she had had
this much.  Perhaps it was just as well, anyway, for if Sidney Graham
came down and spent a few days there was no knowing what foolish
notions her heart would take, jumping and careening the way it had been
doing lately when he just looked at her.  Yes, she would go back if Mr.
Barnard wanted her.  It was the best thing she could do.  Though
perhaps he would only be calling her to ask where she had left
something for which they were searching.  That stupid Ashton girl who
took her place might not have remembered all her directions.

Breathless, with possibilities crowding upon her mind, she hurried into
the drug store and sought the telephone booth.  It seemed ages before
the connection was made and she heard Mr. Barnard's dry familiar tones
over the phone:

"That you, Miss Hollister?  This is Mr. Barnard.  I'm sorry to disturb
you right in the midst of your holiday, but a matter has come up that
is rather serious and I'm wondering if you could help us out for a day
or two.  If you would we'd be glad to give you fifty dollars for the
extra time, and let you extend your vacation to a month instead of two
weeks.  Do you think you could spare a day or two to help us right
away?"

"Oh!  Why, yes, of course!" faltered Shirley, her eyes dancing at the
thought of the extra vacation and money.

"Thank you!  I was sure you would," said Mr. Barnard, with relief in
his voice.  "You see we have got that Government contract.  The news
just came in the afternoon mail.  It's rather particular business
because it has to do with matters that the Government wishes to keep
secret.  I am to go down to-morrow morning to Washington to receive
instructions, and I have permission to bring a trusted private
secretary with me.  Now you know, of course, that I couldn't take Miss
Ashton.  She wouldn't be able to do what I want done even if she were
one I could trust not to say a word about the matter.  I would take Jim
Thorpe, but his father has just died and I can't very well ask him to
leave.  Neither can I delay longer than to-morrow.  Now the question
is, would you be willing to go to Washington in the morning?  I have
looked up the trains and I find you can leave the shore at 8.10 and
meet me in Baltimore at ten o'clock.  I will be waiting for you at the
train gate, but in case we miss each other wait in the station, close
to the telephone booths, till I find you.  We will take the next train
for Washington and be there a little before noon.  If all goes well we
ought to be through our business in plenty of time to make a four
o'clock train home.  Of course there may be delays, and it is quite
possible you might have to remain in Washington over night, though I
hardly think so.  But in case you do I will see that you are safe and
comfortable in a quiet hotel near the station where my wife's sister is
staying this summer.

"Of course your expenses will all be paid.  I will telegraph and have a
mileage book put at your disposal that you can call for right there in
your station in the morning.  Are you willing to undertake this for us?
I assure you we shall not forget the service."

When Shirley finally hung up the receiver and looked about the little
country drug store in wonder at herself the very bottles on the shelves
seemed to be whirling and dancing about before her eyes.  What strange
exciting things were happening to her all in such breathless haste!
Only one day at the shore and a piece of another, and here she was with
a trip to Washington on her hands!  It certainly was bewildering to
have things come in such rapid succession.  She wished it had come at
another time, and not just now when she had not yet got used to the
great sea and the wonder of the beautiful place where they were
staying.  She did not want to be interrupted just yet.  It would not be
quite the same when she got back to it she was afraid.  But of course
she could not refuse.  It never entered her head to refuse.  She knew
enough about the office to realize that Mr. Barnard must have her.
Jimmie Thorpe would have been the one to go if he were available,
because he was a man and had been with Barnard and Clegg for ten years
and knew all their most confidential business, but of course Jimmie
could not go with his father lying dead and his mother and invalid
sister needing him; and there was no one else but herself.

She thought it all out on the way back to the cottage, with a little
pang at the thought of losing the next day and of having perhaps to
stay over in Washington a day and maybe miss the arrival of Sidney
Graham, if he should come in a day or two, as he had promised.  He
might even come and go back again before she was able to return, and
perhaps he would think her ungrateful to leave when he had been so kind
to plan all this lovely vacation for her pleasure.  Then she brought
herself up smartly and told herself decidedly that it was nothing to
him whether she was there or not, and it certainly had no right to be
anything to her.  It was a good thing she was going, and would probably
be a good thing for all concerned if she stayed until he went back to
the city again.

With this firm determination she hurried up to the veranda where her
mother sat with Doris, and told her story.

Mrs. Hollister looked troubled.

"I'm sorry you gave him an answer, Shirley, without waiting to talk it
over with me.  I don't believe I like the idea of your going to a
strange city, all alone that way.  Of course Mr. Barnard will look
after you in a way, but still he's a good deal of a stranger.  I do
wish he had let you alone for your vacation.  It seems as if he might
have found somebody else to go.  I wish Mr. Graham was here.  I
shouldn't wonder if he would suggest some way out of it for you."

But Shirley stiffened into dignity at once.

"Really, mother dear, I'm sure I don't see what Mr. Graham would have
to say about it if he were here.  I shouldn't ask his advice.  You see,
mother, really, there isn't anybody else that could do this but Jimmie
Thorpe, and he's out of the question.  It would be unthinkable that I
should refuse in this emergency.  And you know Mr. Barnard has been
very kind.  Besides, think of the ducky vacation I'll have afterward, a
whole month!  And all that extra money!  That shall go to the rent of a
better house for winter!  Think of it!  Don't you worry, mother dear!
There isn't a thing in the world could happen to me.  I'll be the very
most-discreetest person you ever heard of.  I'll even glance shyly at
the White House and Capitol!  Come, let's go up and get dolled up for
supper!  Won't the children be surprised when they hear I'm really to
go to Washington!  I'm so excited I don't know what to do!"

Mrs. Hollister said no more, and entered pleasantly into the merry talk
at the table, telling Shirley what she must be sure to see at the
nation's capital.  But the next morning just as Shirley was about to
leave for the station, escorted by all the children, Mrs. Hollister
came with a package of addressed postal cards which she had made George
get for her the night before, and put them in Shirley's bag.

"Just drop us a line as you go along, dear," she said.  "I'll feel
happier about it to be hearing from you.  Mail one whenever you have a
chance."

Shirley laughed as she looked at the fat package.

"All those, mother dear?  You must expect I am going to stay a month!
You know I won't have much time for writing, and I fully expect to be
back to-night or to-morrow at the latest."

"Well, that's all right," said her mother.  "You can use them another
time, then; but you can just put a line on one whenever it is
convenient.  I shall enjoy getting them even after you get back.  You
know this is your first journey out into the world alone."

Shirley stooped to kiss the little mother.

"All right, dear!  I'll write you a serial story.  Each one continued
in our next.  Good-by!  Don't take too long a walk to-day.  I want you
rested to hear all I'll have to tell when I get back to-night!"

Shirley wrote the first postal card as soon as she was settled in the
train, describing the other occupants of the car, and making a vivid
picture of the landscape that was slipping by her windows.  She wrote
the second in the Baltimore station, after she had met Mr. Barnard,
while he went to get seats in the parlor car, and she mailed them both
at Baltimore.

The third was written as they neared Washington, with the dim vision of
the great monument dawning on her wondering sight in the distance.  Her
last sentence gave her first impression of the nation's capital.

They had eaten lunch in the dining car, a wonderful experience to the
girl, and she promised herself another postal devoted to that, but
there was no time to write more after they reached Washington.  She was
put into a taxi and whirled away to an office where her work began.
She caught glimpses of great buildings on the way, and gazed with awe
at the dome of the Capitol building.  Mr. Barnard was kind and pointed
out this and that, but it was plain his mind was on the coming
interview.  When Shirley sat at last in a quiet corner of a big dark
office, her pen poised, her note-book ready for work, and looked at the
serious faces of the men in the room, she felt as if she had been
rushed through a treasure vault of glorious jewels and thrust into the
darkness of a tomb.  But presently the talk about her interested her.
Things were being said about the vital interests of the country, scraps
of sentences that reminded her of the trend of talk in the daily
papers, and the headings of front columns.  She looked about her with
interest and noted the familiarity with which these men quoted the
words of those high up in authority in the government.  With awe she
began her work, taking down whatever Mr. Barnard dictated, her fingers
flying over the tiny pages of the note-book, in small neat characters,
keeping pace with the voices going on about her.  The detail work she
was setting down was not of especial interest to her, save that it was
concerned with Government work, for its phraseology was familiar and a
part of her daily routine office work at home; but she set every sense
on the alert to get the tiniest detail and not to make the smallest
mistake, understanding from the voices of the men about her that it was
of vital interest to the country that this order should be filled
quickly and accurately.  As she capped her fountain pen, and slipped
the rubber band on her note-book when it was over, she heard one of the
men just behind her say in a low tone to Mr. Barnard:

"You're sure of your secretary of course?  I just want to give you the
tip that this thing is being very closely watched.  We have reason to
believe there's some spying planned.  Keep your notes carefully and
don't let too many in on this.  We know pretty well what's going on,
but it's not desirable just now to make any arrests until we can watch
a little longer and round up the whole party.  So keep your eyes
peeled, and don't talk."

"Oh, certainly!  I quite understand," said Mr. Barnard, "and I have a
most discreet secretary," and he glanced with a significant smile
toward Shirley as she rose.

"Of course!" said the other.  "She looks it," and he bowed
deferentially to Shirley as she passed.

She did not think of it at the time, but afterwards she recalled how in
acknowledging his courtesy she had stepped back a little and almost
stumbled over a page, a boy about George's age, who had been standing
withdrawn into the shadow of the deep window.  She remembered he had a
keen intelligent look, and had apologized and vanished immediately.  A
moment later it seemed to be the same boy in blue clothes and gilt
buttons who held the outer door open for them to pass out--or was this
a taller one?  She glanced again at his side face with a lingering
thought of George as she paused to fasten her glove and slip her
note-book into her hand-bag.

"I think I will put you into the taxi and let you go right back to the
station while I attend to another errand over at the War Department.
It won't take me long.  We can easily catch that four-o'clock train
back.  I suppose you are anxious to get back to-night?"

"Oh, yes," said Shirley earnestly, "I must, if possible.  Mother isn't
well and she worries so easily."

"Well, I don't know why we can't.  Then perhaps you can come up to town
to-morrow and type those notes for us.  By the way, I guess it would be
better for me to take them and lock them in the safe to-night.  No,
don't stop to get them out now"--as Shirley began to unfasten her bag
and get the note-book out--"We haven't much time if we want to catch
that train.  Just look after them carefully and I'll get them when we
are on the train."

He helped her into the taxi, gave the order, "To the station," and
touching his hat, went rapidly over to the War Department Building.  No
one saw a boy with a blue cap and brass buttons steal forth on a
bicycle from the court just below the office, and circling about the
asphalt uncertainly for a moment, shoot off across the park.

Shirley sat up very straight and kept her eyes about her.  She was glad
they were taking another way to the station so that she might see more.
When she got there she would write another postal and perhaps it would
go on the same train with her.

It was all too short, that ride up Pennsylvania Avenue and around by
the Capitol.  Shirley gathered up her bag and prepared to get out
reluctantly.  She wished she might have just one more hour to go about,
but of course that would be impossible if she wished to reach home
to-night.

But before the driver of the car could get down and open the door for
her to get out a boy with a bicycle slid up to the curb and touching
his gilt-buttoned cap respectfully said:

"Excuse me, Miss, but Mr. Barnard sent me after you.  He says there's
been some mistake and you'll have to come back and get it corrected."

"Oh!" said Shirley, too surprised to think for a minute.  "Oh!  Then
please hurry, for Mr. Barnard wants to get back in time to get that
four-o'clock train."

The driver frowned, but the boy stepped up and handed him something,
saying:

"That's all right, Joe, he sent you this."  The driver's face cleared
and he started his machine again.  The boy vanished into the throng.
It was another of Shirley's after-memories that she had caught a
glimpse of a scrap of paper along with the money the boy had handed the
driver, and that he had stuffed it in his pocket after looking intently
at it; but at the time she thought nothing of it.  She was only glad
that they were skimming along rapidly.



CHAPTER XXII

Shirley's sense of direction had always been keen.  Even as a child she
could tell her way home when others were lost.  It was some minutes,
however, before she suddenly became aware that the car was being driven
in an entirely different direction from the place she had just left Mr.
Barnard.  For a moment she looked around puzzled, thinking the man was
merely taking another way around, but a glance back where the white
dome of the Capitol loomed, palace-like, above the city, made her sure
that something was wrong.  She looked at the buildings they were
passing, at the names of the streets--F Street--they had not been on
that before!  These stores and tall buildings were all new to her eyes.
Down there at the end of the vista was a great building all columns.
Was that the Treasury and were they merely seeing it from another
angle?  It was all very confusing, but the time was short, why had the
man not taken the shorter way?

She looked at her small wrist watch anxiously and watched eagerly for
the end of the street.  But before the great building was reached the
car suddenly curved around a corner to the right,--one block,--a turn
to the left,--another turn,--a confusion of new names and streets!  New
York Avenue!  Connecticut Avenue!  Thomas Circle!  The names spun by so
fast she could read but few of them, and those she saw she wanted to
remember that she might weave them into her next postal.  She opened
her bag, fumbled for her little silver pencil in the pocket of her coat
and scribbled down the names she could read as she passed, on the back
of the bundle of postal cards, and without looking at her writing.  She
did not wish to miss a single sight.  Here were rows of homes, pleasant
and palatial, some of them even cozy.  The broad avenues were
enchanting, the park spaces, the lavish scattering of noble statues.
Bah the time was hastening by and they were going farther and farther
from the station and from the direction of the offices where she had
been.  She twisted her neck once more and the Capitol dome loomed soft
and blended in the distance.  A thought of alarm leaped into her mind.
She leaned forward and spoke to the driver:

"You understood, didn't you, that I am to return to the office where
you took me with the gentleman?"

The man nodded.

"All right, lady.  Yes, lady!"  And the car rushed on, leaping out upon
the beautiful way and disclosing new beauties ahead.  For a few minutes
more Shirley was distracted from her anxiety in wondering whether the
great buildings on her right belonged to any of the embassies or not.
And then as the car swerved and plunged into another street and darted
into a less thickly populated district, with trees and vacant lots
almost like the country, alarm arose once more and she looked wildly
back and tried to see the signs; but they were going faster still now
upon a wide empty road past stretches of park, with winding drives and
charming views, and a great stone bridge to the right, arching over a
deep ravine below, a railroad crossing it.  There were deer parks
fenced with high wire, and filled with the pretty creatures.
Everything went by so fast that Shirley hardly realized that something
really must be wrong before she seemed to be in the midst of a strange
world aloof.

"I am sure you have made a mistake!"  The girl's clear voice cut
through the driving wind as they rushed along.  "I must go back right
away to that office from which you brought me.  I must go _at once_ or
I shall be too late for my train!  The gentleman will be very angry!"
She spoke in the tone that always brought instant obedience from the
employees around the office building at home.

But the driver was stolid.  He scarcely stirred in his seat to turn
toward her.  His thick voice was brought back to her on the breeze:

"No, lady, it's all right, lady!  I had my orders, lady!  You needn't
to worry.  I get you there plenty time."

A wild fear seized Shirley, and her heart lifted itself as was its
habit, to God.  "Oh, my Father!  Take care of me!  Help me!  Show me
what to do!" she cried.

Thoughts rushed through her brain as fast as the car rushed over the
ground.  What was she up against?  Was this man crazy or bad?  Was he
perhaps trying to kidnap her?  What for?  She shuddered to look the
thought in the face.  Or was it the notes?  She remembered the men in
the office and what they had said about keeping still and
"spying-enemies."  But perhaps she was mistaken.  Maybe this man was
only stupid, and it would all come out right in a few minutes.  But no,
she must not wait for anything like that.  She must take no chance.
The notes were in her keeping.  She must put them where they would be
safe.  No telling how soon she would be overpowered and searched if
that was what they were after.  She must hide them, and she must think
of some way to send word to Mr. Barnard before it was toe late.  No
telling what moment they would turn from the main road and she be
hidden far from human habitation.  She must work fast.  What could she
do?  Scream to the next passer-by?  No, for the car was going too fast
for that to do any good, and the houses up this way seemed all to be
isolated, and few people about.  There were houses on ahead beyond the
park.  She must have something ready to throw out when they came to
them.  "Oh God!  Help me think what to do!" she prayed again, and then
looking down at her bag she saw the postal cards.  Just the thing!
Quickly she scribbled, still holding her hand within the bag so that
her movements were not noticeable:

"Help!  Quick!  Being carried off!  Auto!  Connecticut Ave.!  Park.
Deer.  Stone bridge.  Phone Mr. Clegg.  Don't tell mother!  Shirley."

She turned the card over, drew a line through her mother's name and
wrote Carol's in its place.  Stealthily she slipped the card up her
sleeve, dropped her hand carelessly over the side of the car for a
moment, let the card flutter from her fingers, and wrote another.

She had written three cards and dropped them in front of houses before
it suddenly occurred to her that even if these cards should be picked
up and mailed it would be sometime before they reached their
destination and far too late for help to reach her in time.  Her heart
suddenly went down in a swooning sickness and her breath almost went
from her.  Her head was reeling, and all the time she was trying to
tell herself that she was exaggerating this thing, that probably the
man would slow up or something and it would all be explained.  Yes, he
was slowing up, but for what?  It was in another lonely spot, and out
from the bushes there appeared, as if by magic, another man, a
queer-looking man with a heavy mustache that looked as if it didn't
belong to him.  He stood alertly waiting for the car and sprang into
the front seat without waiting for it to stop, or even glancing back at
her, and the car shot forward again with great leaps.

Shirley dropped out the two cards together that she had just written
and leaned forward, touching the newcomer on the arm.

"Won't you please make this driver understand that he is taking me to
the wrong place?" she said with a pleasant smile.  "I must get back to
an office two or three blocks away from the Treasury Building
somewhere.  I must turn back at once or I shall miss my appointment and
be late for my train.  It is quite important.  Tell him, please, I will
pay him well if he will get me back at once."

The stranger turned with an oily smile.

"That's all right, Miss.  He isn't making any mistake.  We're taking
you right to Secretary Baker's country home.  He sent for your man,
Mr.----  What's his name?  I forget.  Barnard?  Oh, yes.  He sent for
Mr. Barnard to come out there, sent his private car down for him; and
Mr. Barnard, he left orders we should go after you and bring you along.
It's something they want to change in those notes you was taking.
There was a mistake, and the Secretary he wanted to look after the
matter himself."

Shirley sat back with a sudden feeling of weakness and a fear she might
faint, although she had never done such a thing in her life.  She was
not deceived for an instant now, although she saw at once that she must
not let the man know it.  The idea that Secretary Baker would pause in
the midst of his multiplicity of duties to look into the details of a
small article of manufacture was ridiculous!  It was equally impossible
that Mr. Barnard would have sent strangers after her and let her be
carried off in this queer way.  He had been most particular that she
should be looked after carefully.  She was horribly to blame that she
had allowed herself to be carried back at all until Mr. Barnard himself
appeared; and yet, was she?  That surely had been the page from the
office who came with the message?  Well, never mind, she was in for it
now, and she must do her best while there was any chance to do
anything.  She must drop all those postals somehow, and she must hide
those notes somewhere, and perhaps write some others,--fake ones.  What
should she do first?

"Father, help me!  Show me!  Oh, don't let me lose the notes!  Please
take care of me!"  Again and again her heart prayed as her hand worked
stealthily in her bag, while she tried to put a pleasant smile upon her
face and pretend she was still deceived, leaning forward and speaking
to the strange man once more:

"Is Secretary Baker's home much farther from here?" she asked, feeling
her lips draw stiffly in the frozen smile she forced.  "Will it take
long?"

"'Bout ten minutes!" the man answered graciously, with a peculiar look
toward the driver.  "Nice view 'round here!" he added affably with a
leering look of admiration toward her.

Shirley's heart stood still with new fear, but she managed to make her
white lips smile again and murmur, "Charming!"

Then she leaned back again and fussed around in her bag, ostentatiously
bringing out a clean handkerchief, though she really had been detaching
the pages which contained the notes from her loose-leaf note-book.
There were not many of them, for she always wrote closely in small
characters.  But where should she hide them?  Pull the lining away from
the edge of her bag and slip them inside?  No, for the bag would be the
first place they would likely search, and she could not poke the lining
back smoothly so it would not show.  If she should try to drop the tiny
pages down her neck inside her blouse, the men would very likely see
her.  Dared she try to slip the leaves down under the linen robe that
lay over her lap and put them inside her shoe?  She was wearing plain
little black pumps, and the pages would easily go in the soles, three
or four in each.  Once in they would be well hidden, and they would not
rattle and give notice of their presence; but oh, what a terrible risk
if anything should happen to knock off her shoe, or if they should try
to search her!  Still she must take some risk and this was the safest
risk at hand.  She must try it and then write out some fake notes,
giving false numbers and sizes, and other phraseology.  Or stay!
Wasn't there already something written in that book that would answer?
Some specifications she had written down for the Tillman-Brooks
Company.  Yes, she was sure.  It wasn't at all for the same articles,
nor the same measurements, but only an expert would know that.  She
leaned down quite naturally to pick up her handkerchief and deftly
managed to get five small leaves slipped into her right shoe.  It
occurred to her that she must keep her keepers deceived, so she asked
once more in gracious tones:

"Would it trouble you any to mail a card for me as soon as possible
after we arrive?  I am afraid my mother will be worried about my delay
and she isn't well.  I suppose they have a post office out this way."

"Sure, Miss!" said the man again, with another leering smile that made
her resolve to have no further conversation than was absolutely
necessary.  She took out her fountain pen and hurriedly wrote:

"Detained longer than I expected.  May not get back to-night.  S. H.,"
and handed the card to the man.  He took it and turned it over, all too
evidently reading it, and put it in his pocket.  Shirley felt that she
had made an impression of innocence by the move which so far was good.
She put away her fountain pen deliberately, and managed in so doing to
manipulate the rest of the leaves of notes into her left shoe.  Somehow
that gave her a little confidence and she sat back and began to wonder
if there was anything more she could do.  Those dropped postals were
worse than useless, of course.  Why had she not written an appeal to
whoever picked them up?  Suiting the action to the thought she wrote
another postal card--her stock was getting low, there were but two more
left.

"For Christ's sake send the police to help me!  I am being carried off
by two strange men!  Shirley Hollister."

She marked out the address on the other side and wrote: "To whoever
picks this up."  She fluttered it to the breeze cautiously; but her
heart sank as she realized how little likelihood there was of its being
picked up for days perhaps.  For who would stop in a car to notice a
bit of paper on the road?  And there seemed to be but few pedestrians.
If she only had something larger, more attractive.  She glanced at her
belongings and suddenly remembered the book she had brought with her to
read, one of the new novels from the cottage, a goodly sized volume in
a bright red cover.  The very thing!

With a cautious glance at her keepers she took up the book as if to
read, and opening it at the flyleaf began to write surreptitiously much
the same message that had been on her last postal, signing her name and
home address and giving her employers' address.  Her heart was beating
wildly when she had finished.  She was trying to think just how she
should use this last bit of ammunition to the best advantage.  Should
she just drop it in the road quietly?  If only there were some way to
fasten the pages open so her message would be read!  Her handkerchief!
Of course!  She folded it cornerwise and slipped it in across the pages
so that the book would fall open at the fly leaf, knotting the ends on
the back of the cover.  Every moment had to be cautious, and she must
remember to keep her attitude of reading with the printed pages
covering the handkerchief.  It seemed hours that it took her, her
fingers trembled so.  If it had not been for the rushing noise of wind
and car she would not have dared so much undiscovered, but apparently
her captors were satisfied that she still believed their story about
going to Secretary Baker's country house, for they seemed mainly
occupied in watching to see if they were pursued, casting anxious
glances back now and then, but scarcely noticing her at all.

Shirley had noticed two or three times when a car had passed them that
the men both leaned down to do something at their feet to the machinery
of the car.  Were they afraid of being recognized?  Would this perhaps
give her a chance to fling her book out where it would be seen by
people in an oncoming car?  Oh, if she but had the strength and skill
to fling it _into_ a car.  But of course that was impossible without
attracting the attention of the two men.  Nevertheless, she must try
what she could do.

She lifted her eyes to the road ahead and lo, a big car was bearing
down upon them!  She had almost despaired of meeting any more, for the
road was growing more and more lonely and they must have come many
miles.  As soon as the two men in front of her sighted the car, they
seemed to settle in their seats and draw their hats down a little
farther over their eyes.  The same trouble seemed to develop with the
machinery at their feet that Shirley had noticed before, and they
bobbed and ducked and seemed to be wholly engrossed with their own
affairs.

Shirley's heart was beating so fast that it seemed as though it would
suffocate her, and her hand seemed powerless as it lay innocently
holding the closed book with the knotted handkerchief turned down out
of sight; but she was girding herself, nerving herself for one great
last effort, and praying to be guided.

The big car came on swiftly and was about to pass, when Shirley half
rose and hurled her book straight at it and then sank back in her seat
with a fearful terror upon her, closing her eyes for one brief second,
not daring to watch the results of her act,--if there were to be any
results.

The men in the front seat suddenly straightened up and looked around.

"What's the matter?" growled the man who had got in last in quite a
different tone from any he had used before.  "What you tryin' to put
over on us?"

Shirley gasped and caught at her self-control.

"I've dropped my book," she stammered out wildly, "Could you stop long
enough to pick it up?  It was borrowed!" she ended sweetly as if by
inspiration, and wondering at the steadiness of her tone when blood was
pounding so in her throat and ears, and everything was black before
her.  Perhaps--oh, perhaps they would stop and she could cry out to the
people for help.

The man rose up in his seat and looked back.  Shirley cast one
frightened glance back, too, and saw in that brief second that the
other car had stopped and someone was standing up and looking back.

"Hell!  No!" said her captor briefly, ducking down in his seat.  "_Let
her out!_" he howled to the driver, and the car broke into a galloping
streak, the wheels hardly seeming to touch the ground, the tonneau
bounding and swaying this way and that.  Shirley had all she could do
to keep in her seat.  At one moment she thought how easy it would be to
spring from the car and lie in a little still heap at the roadside.
But there were the notes!  She must not abandon her trust even for so
fearful an escape from her captors.  Suddenly, without warning, they
turned a sharp curve and struck into a rough, almost unbroken road into
the woods, and the thick growth seemed to close in behind them and shut
them out from the world.

Shirley shut her eyes and prayed.



CHAPTER XXIII

The next trolley that passed the old barn after the Hollisters had left
brought a maid servant and a man servant from the Graham place.  The
other old servant met them, and together the three went to work.  They
had brought with them a lot of large dust-covers and floor-spreads such
as are used by housemaids in cleaning a room, and with these they now
proceeded to cover all the large pieces of furniture in the place.  In
a very short space of time the rugs and bits of carpet were carefully
rolled up, the furniture piled in small compass in the middle of the
rooms, and everything enveloped in thick coverings.  The curtains,
bric-â-brac, and even the dishes were put away carefully, and the whole
big, inviting home was suddenly denuded.  The clothes from the
calico-curtained clothes-presses were folded and laid in drawers, and
everything made perfectly safe for a lot of workmen to come into the
house.  Even the hay-loft bedrooms shared in this process.  Only a cot
was left for the old servant and a few necessary things for him to use,
and most of these he transported to the basement out of the way.  When
the work was done the man and maid took the trolley back home again and
the other old man servant arranged to make his Sabbath as pleasant as
possible in the company of his brother from the near-by farm.

Monday morning promptly at eight o'clock the trolley landed a bevy of
workmen, carpenters, plasterers, plumbers, and furnace men, with a
foreman who set them all at work as if it were a puzzle he had studied
out and memorized the solution.  In a short time the quiet spot was
full of sound, the symphony of industry, the rhythm of toil.  Some men
were working away with the furnace that had been stored in the cellar;
others were measuring, fitting, cutting holes for lead pipes; still
others were sawing away at the roof, making great gashes in its mossy
extent; and two men were busy taking down the old barn door.  Out in
front more men were building a vat for mortar, and opening bags of lime
and sand that began to arrive.  Three men with curious aprons made of
ticking, filled with thin wire nails, were frantically putting laths on
the uprights that the carpenters had already set up, and stabbing them
with nails from a seemingly inexhaustible supply in their mouths.  It
was as if they had all engaged to build the tower of Babel in a day,
and meant to win a prize at it.  Such sounds!  Such shoutings, such
bangings, thumpings, and harsh, raucous noises!  The bird in the tall
tree looked and shivered, thankful that her brood were well away on
their wings before all this cataclysm came to pass.

Presently arrived a load of sashes, doors, and wooden frames, and
another load of lumber.  Things can be done in a hurry if you have
money and influence and the will to insist upon what you want.  Before
night there was a good start made toward big changes in the old barn.

Plumbers and gas-fitters and men who were putting in the hot-water heat
chased one another around the place, each man seeking to get his pipes
in place before the lathers got to that spot; and the contractor was
everywhere, proving his right to be selected for this rush job.  As
soon as the lathers had finished with a room the plasterers took
possession, and the old door was rapidly being replaced with a great
glazed floor set in a frame of more sashes, so that the old darkness
was gone entirely.

In the roof big dormer windows were taking the place of the two or
three little eyebrow affairs that had given air to the hay heretofore,
and the loft was fast becoming pleasanter than the floor below.

Outside laborers were busy building up a terrace, where a wide
cement-floor piazza with stone foundations and low stone walls was to
run across the entire front.  Another chimney was rising from the
region of the kitchen.  A white enamel sink with a wide drain-shelf
attached appeared next, with signs of a butler's pantry between kitchen
and dining-room.  A delightful set of china-closet doors with little
diamond panes that matched the windows was put in one corner of the
dining-room, and some bookcases with sliding doors began to develop
along the walls of the living-room.  Down in the basement a man was
fitting stationary tubs for a laundry, and on both the first floor and
the second bathrooms were being made.  If the place hadn't been so big,
the workmen would have got in one another's way.  Closets big and
little were being put in, and parts of a handsome staircase were lying
about, until you wouldn't know the place at all.  Every evening the old
servant and the neighbor next door, who used to rent the old barn
before he built his own new one, came together to look over what had
been accomplished during the day, and to discourse upon this changing
world and the wonders of it.  The farmer, in fact, learned a great deal
about modern improvements, and at once set about bringing some of them
to bear upon his own modest farmhouse.  He had money in the bank, and
why shouldn't he "have things convenient for Sally"?

When Sidney Graham reached the city on Monday morning he scarcely took
time to read his mail in the office and give the necessary attention to
the day's work before he was up and off again, flying along the
Glenside Road as fast as his car would carry him.  His mind certainly
was not on business that morning.  He was as eager as a child to see
how work at the old barn was progressing, and the workmen stood small
chance of lying down on their job that week, for he meant to make every
minute count, no matter how much it cost.  He spent a large part of
Monday hovering about the old barn, gloating over each new sign of
progress, using his imagination on more things than the barn.  But when
Tuesday arrived an accumulation of work at the office in connection
with a large order that had just come in kept him close to his desk.
He had hoped to get away in time to reach Glenside before the workmen
left in the afternoon, but four o'clock arrived with still a great pile
of letters for him to sign, before his work would be done for the day.

He had just signed his name for the forty-ninth time and laid his pen
down with an impatient sigh of relief when the telephone on his desk
rang.  He hesitated.  Should he answer it and be hindered again, or
call his secretary and let her attend to it while he slipped away to
his well-earned respite?  A second insistent ring, however, brought him
back to duty and he reached out and took up the receiver.

"Is this Mr. Sidney Graham?  Long distance is calling!"

The young man frowned impatiently and wished he had sent for his
secretary.  It was probably another tiresome confab on that Chicago
matter, and it really wasn't worth the trouble, anyway.  Then a small
scared voice at the other end of the wire spoke:

"Is that you, Mr. Graham?  Well, this is Carol.  Say, Mr. Graham, I'm
afraid something awful has happened to Shirley!  I don't know what to
do, and I thought I'd better ask you."  Her voice broke off in a gasp
like a sob.

A cold chill struck at the young man's heart, and a vision of Shirley
battling with the ocean waves was instantly conjured up.

"Shirley!  Where is she?  Tell me, quick!" he managed to say, though
the words seemed to stick in his throat.

"She's down at Washington," answered Carol.  "Mr. Barnard phoned her
last night.  There was something special nobody else could take notes
about, because it was for a Government contract, and has to be secret.
Mr. Barnard asked her to please go and she went this morning.  Mother
didn't like her to go, but she addressed a lot of postal cards for her
to write back, and one came postmarked Baltimore in this afternoon's
mail, saying she was having a nice time.  But just now a call came for
mother to go to the telephone.  She was asleep and George was crabbing
so I had to come.  It was a strange man in Washington.  He said he had
just found three postal cards on the road addressed to mother, that all
said 'Help!  Quick!  Two men were carrying off Shirley and please to
phone to the police.'  He took the postals to the police station, but
he thought he ought to phone us.  And oh, Mr. Graham, _what shall I
do_?  I can't tell mother.  It will kill her, and how can we help
Shirley?"

"Don't tell mother," said Graham quickly, trying to speak calmly out of
his horror.  "Be a brave girl, Carol.  A great deal depends on you just
now.  Have you phoned Mr. Barnard?  Oh, you say he's in Washington?  He
was to meet your sister in Baltimore?  He _did_ meet her you say?  The
postal card said she had met him?  Well, the next thing is to phone Mr.
Clegg and find out if he knows anything.  I'll do that at once, and
unless he has heard that she is all right I will start for Washington
on the next train.  Suppose you stay right where you are till half-past
five.  I may want to call you up again and need you in a hurry.  Then
you go back to the cottage as fast as you can and talk cheerfully.  Say
you went to take a walk.  Isn't Elizabeth with you?  Well, tell her to
help keep your mother from suspecting anything.  Above all things don't
cry!  It won't do any good and it may do lots of harm.  Get George off
by himself and tell him everything, and tell him I said he was to make
some excuse to go down town after supper and stay at the telephone
office till ten o'clock.  I may want to call him up from Washington.
Now be a brave little girl.  I suspect your sister Shirley would tell
you to pray.  Good-by."

"I will!" gasped Carol.  "Good-by!"

Graham pressed his foot on the bell under his desk and reached out to
slam his desk drawers shut and put away his papers.  His secretary
appeared at the door.

"Get me Barnard and Clegg on the phone!  Ask for Mr. Barnard or, if he
isn't in, Mr. Clegg.  Then go out to the other phone and call up the
station.  Find out what's the next express to Washington.  Tell
Bromwell to be ready to drive me to the station and bring my car back
to the garage."

He was working rapidly as he talked; putting papers in the safe,
jotting down a few notes for the next day's work, trying to think of
everything at once.  The secretary handed him the phone, quietly
saying, "Mr. Clegg on the phone," and went out of the room.

Excited conference with Mr. Clegg brought out the fact that he was but
just in receipt of a telegram from Police Headquarters in Washington
saying that a book with Barnard and Clegg's address and an appeal from
a young woman named Shirley Hollister who was apparently being
kidnapped by two strange men in an auto, had been flung into a passing
car and brought to them.  They had sent forces in search of the girl at
once and would do all in their power to find her.  Meantime they would
like any information that would be helpful in the search.

Mr. Clegg was much excited.  He appeared to have lost his head.  He
seemed glad to have another cooler mind at work on the case.  He
spluttered a good deal about the importance of the case and the
necessity for secrecy.  He said he hoped it wouldn't get into the
papers, and that it would be Barnard and Clegg's undoing if it did.  He
seemed more concerned about that and the notes that Shirley probably
had, than about the girl's situation.  When Graham brought him up
rather sharply he admitted that there had been a message from Barnard
that he would be detained over night probably, but he had attached no
significance to that.  He knew Barnard's usual hotel address in
Washington but hadn't thought to phone him about the telegram from
police headquarters.  Graham hung up at last in a panic of fury and
dismay, ringing violently for his secretary again.

"The next train leaves at five o'clock," she said capably, as she
entered.  "Bromwell has gone after the car.  I told him to buy you a
mileage book and save your time at this end.  You have forty minutes
and he will be back in plenty of time."

"Good!" said Graham.  "Now call up long distance and get me Police
Headquarters in Washington.  No!  Use the phone in father's office
please, I'll have to use this while you're getting them."

As soon as she had left the room he called up the shore again and was
fortunate in getting Carol almost immediately, the poor child being
close at hand all in a tremble, with Elizabeth in no less a state of
nervousness, brave and white, waiting for orders.

"Can you give me an exact description of your sister's dress, and
everything that she had with her when she started this morning?" asked
Graham, prepared with pen and paper to write it down.

Carol summoned her wits and described Shirley's simple outfit exactly,
even down to the little black pumps on her feet, and went mentally
through the small hand-bag she had carried.

"Oh, yes!" she added, "and she had a book to read!  One she found here
in the cottage.  It had a red cover and was called, "From the Car
Behind."

Graham wrote them all down carefully, asked a few more details of
Shirley's plans, and bade Carol again to be brave and go home with a
message to George to be at the phone from half-past eight to ten.

He was all ready to go to his train when the Washington call came in,
and as he hurried to his father's office to answer it he found his
heart crying out to an Unseen Power to help in this trying hour and
protect the sweet girl in awful peril.

"Oh, God, I love her!" he found his heart saying over and over again,
as if it had started out to be an individual by itself without his will
or volition.

There was no comfort from Washington Police Headquarters.  Nothing more
had been discovered save another crumpled postal lying along the
roadside.  They received with alacrity, however, Mr. Barnard's
Washington hotel address, and the description of the young woman and
her belongings.  When Graham had finished the hasty conversation he had
to fly to make his train, and when at last he lay back in his seat in
the parlor car and let the waves of his anxiety and trouble roll over
him he was almost overwhelmed.  He had led a comparatively tranquil
life for a young man who had never tried to steer clear of trouble, and
this was the first great calamity that had ever come his way.
Calamity?  No, he would not own yet that it was a calamity.  He was
hurrying to her!  He would find her!  He would not allow himself to
think that anything had befallen her.  But wherever she was, if she was
still alive, no matter how great her peril, he was sure she was praying
now, and he would pray too!  Yes, pray as she had taught him.  Oh, God!
If he only knew how to pray better!  What was it she had said so often?
"Whatsoever ye ask in my name"--yes, that was it--"I will do it."  What
was that talismanic Name?  Ah!  Christ!  "Oh, God, in the name of
Christ--"  But when he came to the thought of her she was too exquisite
and dear to be put into words, so his petition went up in spirit form,
unframed by words to weight it down, wafted up by the pain of a soul in
torture.

At Baltimore it occurred to Graham to send a telegram to Barnard to
meet him at the train, and when he got out at Union Station the first
person he saw was Barnard, white and haggard, looking for him through
the bars of the train gate.  He grasped the young man's hand as if it
were a last straw for a drowning man to cling to, and demanded in a
shaking voice to know if he had heard anything from Miss Hollister.

One of the first questions that Graham asked was whether Barnard had
been back to the office where Miss Hollister had taken the dictation,
to report her disappearance.

"Well, no, I hadn't thought of that,"' said Barnard blankly.  "What
would they know about it?  The fact is I was rather anxious to keep the
facts from getting to them.  You see they warned me that there were
parties anxious to get hold of those specifications.  It's Government
work, you know."

"They should know at once," said Graham sternly.  "They may have inside
information which would give us a clew to follow.  The secret service
men are onto a lot of things that we common mortals don't suspect."

Mr. Barnard looked mortified and convinced.

"Well, what _have_ you done so far?  We would better understand each
other thoroughly so as to save time and not go over old ground.  You
have been in communication with Police Headquarters, of course?" asked
Graham.

"Why, no," said the older man apologetically.  "You see, I got here
just in time for the train, and failing to find the young lady in the
station where we had agreed to meet, I took it for granted that she had
used the extra time in driving about to see a few sights in the city,
as I suggested, and had somehow failed to get back in time.  I couldn't
understand it because she had been quite anxious to get home to-night.
I could have caught the train myself, but didn't exactly like to leave
her alone in a strange city, though, of course, it's perfectly safe for
a steady girl like that.  Afterward it occurred to me that she might
have gotten on the train and perhaps I should have done so too, but
there was really very little time to decide, for the train pulled out
two minutes after I reached the station.  I waited about here for a
time, and then went over to the Continental, where my sister is
stopping, thinking I would ask her to stay in the station and watch for
the young lady and I would go home; but I found my sister had run down
to the shore for a few days; so I had something to eat and while I was
in the dining-room your telegram came.  I was hoping somehow you had
seen Miss Hollister, or had word from her, and it was all right."

One could see the poor man had no conception of what was due to a lady
in his care, and Graham looked at him for a moment with rage, wishing
he could take him by the throat and shake some sense into him.

"Then you don't know that she's been kidnapped and the police are out
on track for her?" said Graham dryly.

"No!  You don't say!" exclaimed Barnard, turning white and showing he
had some real feeling after all.  "Kidnapped!  Why--why--how _could_
she?  And she's got _those notes_!  Why, Graham!  You're fooling!  Why,
how came you to know?"

Graham told him tersely as he walked the man over to the telephone
booths, and finished with:

"Now, you go in that booth and phone your Government man, and I'll call
up police headquarters and see what's doing.  We've got to work fast,
for there's no telling what may have happened in the last three hours.
It's up to us to find that girl before anything worse happens to her."

White and trembling Barnard tottered into the booth.  When he came out
again the sleuth-hounds of the Secret Service were on the trail of
Shirley Hollister's captors.



CHAPTER XXIV

The car that was bearing Shirley Hollister through the lonely wooded
road at a breathless speed suddenly came to a halt in the rear of an
old house whose front faced on another road equally lonely.  During the
brief time that they had been in the woods, the sky seemed to have
perceptibly darkened with the coming evening.

Shirley looked about her with increased fright.  It was almost night
and here was her prison, far from town or human dwelling place.  Even
the road was at some distance in front of the house, and there were
more woods on either side.

"This here is Secretary Baker's summer home," announced the man who had
done the talking, as he climbed out of the car and opened the door for
her.  "You can just step in the back door and go through to the parlor;
the help's all out this afternoon.  The Secretary'll be down presently.
He always takes a nap afternoons about this time.  I'll tell him you've
come."

There seemed nothing to do but obey, and Shirley chose to let the farce
continue.  Surely the man must know she was not a fool, but it was
better than open hostility.  There was nothing to be gained by
informing him that she knew he was guying her.

"Oh, Jesus Christ, I trust myself to you!" she breathed in her heart as
she stepped across the leaf-strewn grass and looked about her,
wondering whether she should ever walk the earth again after she had
stepped into the dim tree-shrouded house.  But why go in?

"I think I will remain out here," she said calmly, albeit her heart was
pounding away like a trip-hammer.  "Please tell Mr. Baker to come to me
here.  It is much pleasanter than in the house a day like this."

"Aw no!  You won't neither!  The Secretary don't receive in the open
air even in summer," drawled the man, and she noticed that he and the
driver straightened up and stepped closer to her, one on either side.
She gave one wild glance toward the open space.  There was simply no
chance at all to run away even if she succeeded in eluding them at the
start by a quick, unexpected dash.  They were alert athletic men, and
no telling how many more were hidden in the house.

"Oh, very well, of course, if it's a matter of etiquette!" said Shirley
pleasantly, determined to keep up the farce as long as possible.

A cold, dark air met the girl as she stepped within the creaking door
and looked about her.  At her left was an old-fashioned kitchen, dusty
and cobwebby.  A long, narrow hall led to the front of the house and
her guide pointed her toward a room on the right.  There was something
hollow and eerie in the sound of their footsteps on the old oaken
floor.  The room into which she was ushered was musty and dusty as the
rest.  The floor was covered with an ancient ingrain carpet.  The table
was covered with a magenta felt cover stamped with a vine of black
leaves and riddled with moth holes.  The walls were hung with old
prints and steel engravings suspended by woollen cords and tassels.
The furniture was dilapidated.  Everything was covered with dust, but
there were finger marks in the dust here and there that showed the
place had been recently visited.  Through an open doorway an old square
piano was visible in what must be the parlor.  The place seemed to
Shirley fairly teeming with memories of some family now departed.  She
leaped to the quick conclusion that the house had been long deserted
and had only recently been entered and used as a rendezvous for illegal
conferences.  It occurred to her that there might be an opportunity for
her to hide her precious papers somewhere safely if it came to it that
she must be searched.  How about that piano?  Could she slip some of
them between the keys?  But it was hardly likely that there would be
opportunity for anything like that.

She felt strangely calm as she looked about upon her prison.

"H'm!  He ain't come yet!" remarked her guide as he glanced into the
front room.  "Well, you can set down.  He won't be long now.  Joe, you
jest look about a bit and see if you can find the Secretary, and tell
him the young lady is here."

The man flung himself full length on the carpet-covered couch and
looked at her with satisfaction.

"What train was that you said you must make?  I'm afraid now you might
be going to be just a trifle late if he don't get a hustle on, but you
can't hurry a great man like that you know."

"Oh, it's no matter!" said Shirley coolly, looking around her with the
utmost innocence.  "What a quaint old house!  Has it been in the family
a long time?"

The man looked at her amusedly.

"You're a cute one!" he remarked affably.  "I believe you're a pretty
good sport!  You know perfectly well you're in my power and can't do a
turn to help yourself, yet you sail around here as calm as a queen!
You're some looker, too!  Blamed if I'm not enjoying myself.  I
wouldn't mind a kiss or two from those pretty lips----"

But Shirley had melted through the doorway into the other room and her
voice floated back with charming indifference as if she had not heard,
though she was ready to scream with loathing and fear of the man:

"Why, isn't this a delightful old piano?  The keys are actually
mother-of-pearl.  Isn't it odd?  Would Mr. Baker mind if I played on
it?"

And before her astonished captor could get himself to the doorway she
had sat down on the rickety old hair-cloth stool and swept the keys
lightly.  The old chords trembled and shivered as if awaking from a
tomb, and uttered forth a quavering, sweet sound like ancient memories.

The man was too much astonished to stop her, amused too, perhaps, and
interested.  Her white fingers over the dusty pearls in the growing
dusk had a strange charm for the hardened reprobate, like the wonder of
a flower dropped into the foulness of a prison.  Before he could
recover, he was startled again by her voice soaring out in the empty
echoing house:

  Rock of ages, cleft for me,
    Let me hide myself in Thee;
  Let the water and the blood
    From Thy riven side which flowed,
  Be of sin the double cure,
    Save me Lord and make me pure!


Perhaps those dim, gloomy walls had echoed before to the grand old
tune, but never could it have been sung in dire strait, or with more
earnest cry from a soul in distress.  She had chosen the first words
that seemed to fit the chords she had struck, but every syllable was a
prayer to the God in whom she trusted.  It may be the man felt the
power of her appeal as he stood rooted in the doorway and listened
while she sang through all the verses she could remember.  But the last
trembling note was broken harshly by Joe's voice at the kitchen door in
sharp, rasping orders:

"Hist, there!  Can that noise!  Do you want to raise hell here?  Wake
up, Sam!  Get onto your job.  Hennie's comin'."

"That's all right, Joe!  Dry up!  This is good Sunday School dope!
This won't rouse no suspicions.  Go to the devil and mind your
business!  I know what I'm about!"

Shirley was almost ready to cry, but she drew a deep breath and started
on another song:

  Jesus, Lover of my soul,
    Let me to Thy bosom fly,
  While the nearer waters roll,
    While the tempest still is high!
  Hide me, oh, my Saviour hide,
    Till the storm of life is past.


On through the time-worn words she sang, while the sin-hardened man
stood silently and listened.  His eyes had gradually lost their leer
and grown soft and tender, as if some childhood memories of home and
mother and a time when he was innocent and good were looking out his
eyes, reminding him of what he once intended to be before he ate the
apple of wisdom and became as the gods and devils.  Shirley gradually
became aware that she was holding her strange audience; and a power
beyond herself steadied her voice, and kept her fingers from trembling
on the old pearl keys, as she wandered on from song to song; perhaps
happening on the very ones,--who knows?--that this man, standing in the
dying twilight of the old gloomy house, had sung beside his mother's
hearth or in church during his childhood?  Certain it is that he stood
there silent and listened for at least half an hour without an
interruption, while the light in the big room grew dimmer and dimmer
and all about the house seemed still as death in the intervals between
her voice.  She was just beginning:

  Abide with me,
    Fast falls the eventide,
  The darkness deepens,
    Lord, with me abide!

When the man put his hand in his pocket and brought out a candle.
Scratching a match on his trousers, he lit the candle and set it
carefully on the piano, where its light fell flickering, wavering over
her worn young face; and who shall say that she was not a messenger
from another world to this man who had long trodden the downward path?

They were interrupted, however, before this song was finished by a
newcomer who entered like a shadow and stood at the end of the piano
looking wonderingly from Shirley to the man, when she glanced up.  She
stopped, startled, for although he wore no brass buttons nor blue
clothes she was quite sure those were the same gray eyes that had
looked at her from the recess of the window in the Government office
that afternoon, perhaps the same boy who had come after her car and
sent her off on this long way into the wilderness.

The man Sam straightened up suddenly and looked about him half-ashamed
with an apologetic grin:

"Oh, you've come, have you, Hennie?  Well, you been a long time about
it!  But now I guess we'll get to work.  Where's Joe?  Out on the
watch?  All right then, Miss, if you've no objection, we'll just take a
little vacation on the psalm singin' and turn our attention to worldly
things.  I calculate you're sharp enough to know what we brought you
put here for?  I acknowledge you can sing real well, and you sorta got
my goat for a while there with all that mourning bench tra-la, for you
certainly have got that holy dope down fine; but now the time's come
for business, and you needn't to think that because I can enjoy a
little sentiment now and then in a leisure moment that you can put
anything over on me, for it can't be did!  I mean business and I've got
you in my power!  We're ten miles from any settlement, and no neighbors
anywhere's about.  Everybody moved away.  So it won't do any good to
work any funny business on us.  You can't get away.  We're all armed,
and no one knows where you are!  If you behave yourself and do as
you're told there won't be any trouble.  We'll just transact our
business and then we'll have a bit of supper, and mebbe a few more
tunes--got any rag-time in your repitwar?--and then sometime after
midnight, when the moon's good and dark, we'll get you back to
civilization where you won't have no trouble in gettin' home.  But if
you act up and get funny, why you know what to expect.  There was a
young girl murdered once in this house and buried in the cellar and
ever since folks say it's hanted and they won't come near it.  That's
the kind of a place we're in!  So, now are you ready?"

Shirley sat cold and still.  It seemed as if her life blood had
suddenly congealed in her veins and for a second she felt as if her
senses were going to desert her.  Then the echo of her own song: "Hide
me, oh, my Saviour hide!" seemed to cry out from her soul silently and
she rallied once more and gained her self-control.

"Well, Miss," went on the man impressively, "I see you're ready for the
question, and you've got your nerve with you, too, I'll hand you that!
But I warn you it won't do no good!  We brung you out here to get a
hold of that note-book you wrote in this morning, and we're goin' to
have it.  We know that Mr. Barnard left it in your care.  Hennie here
heard him say for you to keep it.  So it won't be of any use for you to
lie about it."

"Of course!" said Shirley, standing up and reaching over for her
hand-bag, which she had laid on the piano beside her while she played.
"I understand perfectly.  But I'd like to ask you a question, Mr.----?"

"Smith, or Jones, whichever you like to call it.  Spit it out!"

"I suppose you are paid to bring me out here, Mr. Smith, and get my
property away from me?" she said gravely.

"Well, yes, we don't calculate to do it just for sweet charity."

"And _I_ am paid to look after my note-book, you see.  It's a trust
that has been given me!  I just _have_ to look after it.  It's out of
the question for me to desert it!"  Shirley spoke coolly and held her
little bag close in the firm grasp of her two hands.  The man stared at
her and laughed.  The boy Hennie fairly gaped in his astonishment.  "A
girl with all that nerve!"

"Of course, I understand perfectly that you can murder me and bury me
down in the cellar beside that other girl that was murdered, and
perhaps no one will find it out for a while, and you can go on having a
good time on the money you will get for it.  But the day will come when
you will have to answer for it!  You know I didn't come here alone
to-day----!"

Both men looked startled and glanced uneasily into the shadows, as if
there might be someone lurking there.

"_God_ came with me and _He_ knows!  He'll _make you remember_ some
day!"

The boy laughed out a nervous ha! ha! of relief, but the man seemed
held, fascinated by her look and words.  There was silence for a second
while the girl held off the ruffian in the man by sheer force of her
strong personality.  Then the boy laughed again, with a sneer in the
end of it, and the spell was broken.  The leer came into the eyes of
the man again.  The sneer of the boy had brought him to himself,--to
the self he had come to be.

"Nix on the sob-stuff, girlie!" he said gruffly.  "It won't go down
with me!  We're here for business and we've been delayed too long
already.  Come now, will you hand out that note-book or will we have to
search you?"  He took one stride across to where she stood and wrenched
the hand-bag from her grasp before she was aware of his intention.  She
had not meant to give it up without a struggle, much as she loathed the
thought of one.  She must make the matter last as long as possible, if
perchance God was sending help to her, and must contest every inch of
the way as far as lay in her power.  Oh, had anyone picked up her
cards?  Had the book with its message reached any friendly eye?

Frail and white and stern she stood with folded arms while they turned
out the contents of the little bag and scattered it over the piano,
searching with clumsy fingers among her dainty things.

The note-book she had rolled within her handkerchiefs and made it hard
to find.  She feared lest her ruse would be discovered when they looked
it over.  The boy was the one who clutched for the little book,
recognizing it as the one he had seen in the office that morning.  The
man hung over his shoulder and peered in the candlelight, watching the
boy anxiously.  It meant a good deal of money if they put this thing
through.

"Here it is!" said the boy, fluttering through the leaves and carefully
scrutinizing the short-hand characters.  "Yes, that's the dope!"

He ran his eye down the pages, caught a word here and there,
technicalities of manufacture, the very items, of course, that he
wanted, if this had been the specifications for the Government order.
Shirley remembered with relief that none of the details were identical,
however, with the notes she carried in her shoes.  The book-notes were
in fact descriptive of an entirely different article from that demanded
by the Government.  The question was, would these people be wise enough
to discover that fact before she was out of their power or not?

Furtively she studied the boy.  There was something keen and cunning
about his youthful face.  He was thick-set, with blond hair and blue
eyes.  He might be of German origin, though there was not a sign of
accent about his speech.  He had the bull-dog chin, retreating forehead
and eagle nose of the Kaiser in embryo.  Shirley saw all this as she
studied him furtively.  That he was an expert in short-hand was proved
by the ease with which he read some of her obscure sentences,
translating rapidly here and there as he examined the book.  Was he
well enough informed about the Government contract to realize that
these were not the notes she had taken in the office that morning?  And
should he fail to recognize it, was there perhaps some one higher in
authority to whom they would be shown before she was released?  She
shivered and set her weary toes tight with determination over the
little crinkling papers in her shoes.  Somehow she would protect those
notes from being taken, even if she had to swallow them.  There surely
would be a way to hide them if the need came.

Suddenly the tense strain under which she was holding herself was
broken by the man.  He looked up with a grin, rubbing his hands with
evident self-gratulation and relief:

"That's all right, Girlie!  That's the dope we want.  Now we won't
trouble you any longer.  We'll have supper.  Hennie, you go get some of
that wood out in the shed and we'll have a fire on the hearth and make
some coffee!"

But Shirley, standing white and tense in the dim shadow of the room,
suddenly felt the place whirling about her, and the candle dancing afar
off.  Her knees gave way beneath her and she dropped back to the piano
stool weakly, and covered her face with her hands, pressing hard on her
eyeballs; trying to keep her senses and stop this black dizziness that
threatened to submerge her consciousness.  She must not faint--if this
was fainting.  She must keep her senses and guard her precious shoes.
If one of those should fall off while she was unconscious all would be
undone.



CHAPTER XXV

The man looked up from the paper he was twisting for a fire and saw
Shirley's attitude of despair.

"Say, kid," he said, with a kind of gruff tenderness, "you don't need
to take it that a-way.  I know it's tough luck to lose out when you
been so nervy and all, but you knew we had it over you from the start.
You hadn't a show.  And say!  Girlie!  I tell you what!  I'll make
Hennie sit down right now and copy 'em off for you, and you can put 'em
in your book again when you get back and nobody be the wiser.  We'll
just take out the leaves.  We gotta keep the original o' course, but
that won't make any beans for you.  It won't take you no time to write
'em over again if he gives you a copy."

Somehow it penetrated through Shirley's tired consciousness that the
man was trying to be kind to her.  He was pitying her and offering her
a way out of her supposed dilemma, offering to assist her in some of
his own kind of deception.  The girl was touched even through all her
other crowding emotions and weariness.  She lifted up her head with a
faint little smile.

"Thank you," she said, wearily, "but that wouldn't do me any good."

"Why not?" asked the man sharply.  "Your boss would never know it got
out through you."

"But _I_ should know I had failed!" she said sadly.  "If you had my
notes I should know that I had failed in my trust."

"It wouldn't be your fault.  You couldn't have helped it!"

"Oh, yes, I could, and I ought.  I shouldn't have let the driver turn
around.  I should have got out of that car and waited at the station as
Mr. Barnard told me to do till he came.  I had been warned and I ought
to have been on my guard.  So you see it _was_ my fault."

She drooped her head forward and rested her chin dejectedly on the palm
of her hand, her elbow on her knee.  The man stood looking at her for a
second in half-indignant astonishment.

"By golly!" he said at last.  "You certainly are some nut!  Well,
anyhow, buck up, and let's have some tea.  Sorry I can't see my way
clear to help you out any further, being as we're sort of partners in
this job and you certainly have got some nerve for a girl, but you know
how it is.  I guess I can't do no more'n I said.  I got my honor to
think about, too.  See?  Hennie!  Get a move on you.  We ain't waitin'
all night fer eats.  Bring in them things from the cupboard and let's
get to work."

Shirley declined to come to the table when at last the repast was
ready.  She said she was not hungry.  In fact, the smell or the
crackers and cheese and pickles and dried beef sickened her.  She felt
too hysterical to try to eat, and besides she had a lingering feeling
that she must keep near that piano.  If anything happened she had a
vague idea that she might somehow hide the precious notes within the
big old instrument.

The man frowned when she declined to come to supper, but a moment later
stumbled awkwardly across the room with a slopping cup of coffee and
set it down beside her.

"Buck up, girlie!" he growled.  "Drink that and you'll feel better."

Shirley thanked him and tried to drink a few mouthfuls.  Then the
thought occurred to her that it might be drugged, and she swallowed no
more.  But she tried to look a bit brighter.  If she must pass this
strange evening in the company of these rough men, it would not help
matters for her to give way to despair.  So after toying with the
teaspoon a moment, she put the cup down and began to play soft airs on
the old piano again while the men ate and took a stealthy taste now and
then from a black bottle.  She watched them furtively as she played,
marvelling at their softened expressions, remembering the old line:

"Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast," and wondering if
perhaps there were not really something in it.  If she had not been in
such a terrifying situation she would really have enjoyed the character
study that this view of those two faces afforded her, as she sat in the
shadow playing softly while they ate with the flaring candle between
them.

"I like music with my meals!" suddenly chanted out the boy in an
interval.  But the man growled in a low tone:

"Shut up!  Ain't you got no manners?"

Shirley prolonged that meal as much as music could do it, for she had
no relish for a more intimate tête-a-tête with either of her
companions.  When she saw them grow restless she began to sing again,
light little airs this time with catchy words; or old tender melodies
of home and mother and childhood.  They were songs she had sung that
last night in the dear old barn when Sidney Graham and Elizabeth were
with them, and unconsciously her voice took on the wail of her heart
for all that dear past so far away from her now.

Suddenly, as the last tender note of a song died away Joe stumbled
breathlessly into the room.  The boy Hennie slithered out of the room
like a serpent at his first word.

"Beat it!" he cried in a hoarse whisper.  "Get a move on!  All hell's
out after us!  I bet they heard her singin'!  Take her an' beat it!
I'll douse the fire an' out the candle."

He seized a full bucket of water and dashed it over the dying fire.
Shirley felt the other man grasp her arm in a fierce grip.  Then Joe
snuffed out the candle with his broad thumb and finger and all was
pitch dark.  She felt herself dragged across the floor regardless of
furniture in the way, stumbling, choking with fear, her one thought
that whatever happened she must not let her slippers get knocked off;
holding her feet in a tense strain with every muscle extended to keep
the shoes fastened on like a vise.  She was haunted with a wild thought
of how she might have slipped under the piano and eluded her captor if
only the light had gone out one second sooner before he reached her
side.  But it was too late to think of that now, and she was being
dragged along breathlessly, out the front door, perhaps, and down a
walk; no, it was amongst trees, for she almost ran into one.  The man
swore at her, grasped her arm till he hurt her and she cried out.

"You shut up or I'll shoot you!" he said with an oath.  He had lost all
his suavity and there was desperation in his voice.  He kept turning
his head to look back and urging her on.

She tripped on a root and stumbled to her knees, bruising them
painfully, but her only thought was one of joy that her shoes had not
come off.

The man swore a fearful oath under his breath, then snatched her up and
began to run with her in his arms.  It was then she heard Graham's
voice calling:

"Shirley!  Where are you?  I'm coming!"

She thought she was swooning or dreaming and that it was not really he,
for how could he possibly be here?  But she cried out with a voice as
clear as a bell: "I'm here, Sidney, come quick!"  In his efforts to
hush her voice, the man stumbled and fell with her in his arms.  There
came other voices and forms through the night.  She was gathered up in
strong, kind arms and held.  The last thought she had before she sank
into unconsciousness was that God had not forgotten.  He had been
remembering all the time and sent His help before it was too late; just
as she had known all along He must do, because He had promised to care
for His own, and she was one of His little ones.

When she came to herself again she was lying in Sidney Graham's arms
with her head against his shoulder feeling oh, so comfortable and
tired.  There were two automobiles with powerful headlights standing
between the trees, and a lot of policemen in the shadowy background.
Her captor stood sullen against a tree with his hands and feet
shackled.  Joe stood between two policemen with a rope bound about his
body spirally, and the boy Hennie, also bound, beside his fallen
bicycle, turned his ferret eyes from side to side as if he hoped even
yet to escape.  Two other men with hawk-like faces that she had not
seen before were there also, manacled, and with eyes of smouldering
fires.  Climbing excitedly out of one of the big cars came Mr. Barnard,
his usually immaculate pink face smutty and weary; his sparse white
hair rumpled giddily, and a worried pucker on his kind, prim face.

"Oh, my dear Miss Hollister!  How unfortunate!" he exclaimed.  "I do
hope you haven't suffered too much inconvenience!"

Shirley smiled up at him from her shoulder of refuge as from a dream.
It was all so amusing and impossible after what she had been through.
It couldn't be real.

"I assure you I am very much distressed on your account," went on Mr.
Barnard, politely and hurriedly, "and I hate to mention it at such a
time, but could you tell me whether the notes are safe?  Did those
horrid men get anything away from you?"

A sudden flicker of triumph passed over the faces of the fettered man
and the boy, like a ripple over still water and died away into
unintelligence.

But Shirley's voice rippled forth in a glad, clear laugh, as she
answered joyously:

"Yes, Mr. Barnard, they got my note-book, but not the notes!  They
thought the Tilman-Brooks notes were what they were after, but the real
notes are in my shoes.  Won't you please get them out, for I'm afraid I
can't hold them on any longer, my feet ache so!"

It is a pity that Shirley was not in a position to see the look of
astonishment, followed by a twinkle of actual appreciation that came
over the face of the shackled man beside the tree as he listened.  One
could almost fancy he was saying to himself: "The nervy little nut!
She put one over on me after all!"

It was also a pity that Shirley could not have got the full view of the
altogether precise and conventional Mr. Barnard kneeling before her on
the ground, removing carefully, with deep embarrassment and concern,
first one, then the other, of her little black pumps, extracting the
precious notes, counting over the pages and putting them ecstatically
into his pocket.  No one of that group but Shirley could fully
appreciate the ludicrous picture he made.

"You are entirely sure that no one but yourself has seen these notes?"
he asked anxiously as if he hardly dared to believe the blessed truth.

"Entirely sure, Mr. Barnard!" said Shirley happily, "and now if you
wouldn't mind putting on my shoes again I can relieve Mr. Graham of the
necessity of carrying me any further."

"Oh, surely, surely!" said Mr. Barnard, quite fussed and getting down
laboriously again, his white forelock all tossed, and his forehead
perplexed over the unusual task.  How did women get into such a little
trinket of a shoe, anyway?

"I assure you, Miss Hollister, our firm appreciates what you have done!
We shall not forget it.  You will see, we shall not forget it!" he
puffed as he rose with beads of perspiration on his brow.  "You have
done a great thing for Barnard and Clegg to-day!"

"She's done more than that!" said a burly policeman significantly
glancing around the group of sullen prisoners, as Graham put her upon
her feet beside him.  "She's rounded up the whole gang for us, and
that's more than anybody else has been able to do yet!  She oughtta get
a medal of some kind fer that!"

Then, with a dare-devil lift of his head and a gleam of something like
fun in his sullen eyes, the manacled man by the tree spoke out, looking
straight at Shirley, real admiration in his voice:

"I say, pard!  I guess you're the winner!  I'll hand you what's comin'
to you if I do lose.  You certainly had your nerve!"

Shirley looked at him with a kind of compassion in her eyes.

"I'm sorry you have to be--there," she finished.  "You were--as fine as
you could be to me under the circumstances, I suppose!  I thank you for
that."

The man met her gaze for an instant, a flippant reply upon his lips,
but checked it and dropping his eyes, was silent.  The whole little
company under the trees were hushed into silence before the miracle of
a girl's pure spirit, leaving its impress on a blackened soul.

Then, quietly, Graham led her away to his car with Barnard and the
detectives following.  The prisoners were loaded into the other cars,
and hurried on the way to judgment.



CHAPTER XXVI

The ride back to the city was like a dream to Shirley afterward.  To
see the staid Mr. Barnard so excited, babbling away about her bravery
and exulting like a child over the recovery of the precious notes, was
wonder enough.  But to feel the quiet protection and tender interest of
Sidney Graham filled her with ecstasy.  Of course it was only kindly
interest and friendly anxiety, and by to-morrow she would have put it
into order with all his other kindlinesses, but to-night, weary and
excited as she was, with the sense of horror over her recent experience
still upon her, it was sweet to feel his attention, and to let his
voice thrill through her tired heart, without stopping to analyze it
and be sure she was not too glad over it.  What if he would be merely a
friend to-morrow again!  To-night he was her rescuer, and she would
rest back upon that and be happy.

"I feel that I was much to blame for leaving you alone to go to the
station with a bait like these notes in your possession," said Mr.
Barnard humbly.  "Though of course I did not dream that there was any
such possibility as your being in danger."

"It is just as well not to run any risks in these days when the country
is so unsettled," said the detective dryly.

"Especially where a lady is concerned!" remarked Graham significantly.

"I suppose I should have taken Miss Hollister with me and left her in
the cab while I transacted my business at the War Department!" said
Barnard with self-reproach in his tones.

"They would have only done the same thing in front of the War
Department," said the detective convincingly.  "They had it all planned
to get those notes somehow.  You only made it a trifle easier for them
by letting the lady go alone.  If they hadn't succeeded here, they
would have followed you to your home and got into your office or your
safe.  They are determined, desperate men.  We've been watching them
for some time, letting them work till we could find out who was behind
them.  To-night we caught the whole bunch red-handed, thanks to the
lady's cleverness.  But you had better not risk her alone again when
there's anything like this on hand.  She might not come out so easy
next time!"

Graham muttered a fervent applause in a low tone to this advice,
tucking the lap robes closer about the girl.  Barnard gave little
shudders of apology as he humbly shouldered the blame:

"Oh, no, of course not!  I certainly am so sorry!"  But Shirley
suddenly roused herself to explain:

"Indeed, you mustn't any of you blame Mr. Barnard.  He did the
perfectly right and natural thing.  He always trusts me to look after
my notes, even in the most important cases; and I heard the warning as
much as he did.  It was my business to be on the lookout!  I'm old
enough and have read enough in the papers about spies and ruffians.  I
ought to have known there was something wrong when that boy ordered me
back and said Mr. Barnard had sent me word.  I ought to have known Mr.
Barnard would never do that.  I did know just as soon as I stopped to
think.  The trouble was I was giving half my attention to looking at
the strange sights out of the window and thinking what I would tell the
folks at home about Washington, or I would not have got into such a
position.  I insist that you shall not blame yourself, Mr. Barnard.  It
is a secretary's business to be on her job and not be out having a good
time when she is on a business trip.  I hadn't got beyond the city
limits before I knew exactly what I ought to have done.  I should have
asked that boy more questions, and I should have got right out of that
car and told him to tell you I would wait in the station till you came
for me.  It troubled me from the start that you had sent for me that
way.  It wasn't like you."

Then they turned their questions upon her, and she had to tell the
whole story of her capture, Graham and Barnard exclaiming indignantly
as she went on, the detective sitting grim and serious, nodding his
approval now and then.  Graham's attitude toward her grew more tender
and protective.  Once or twice as she told of her situation in the old
house, or spoke of how the man dragged her along in the dark, he set
his teeth and drew his breath hard, saying in an undertone: "The
villain!"  And there was that in the way that he looked at her that
made Shirley hasten through the story, because of the wild, joyous
clamor of her heart.

As soon as the city limits were reached, Graham stopped the car to
telephone.  It was after eleven o'clock, and there was little chance
that George would have stayed at the phone so long, but he would leave
a message for the early morning at least.  George, however, had stuck
to his post.

"Sure!  I'm here yet!  What'd ya think?  Couldn't sleep, could I, with
_my sister_ off alone with a fella somewhere _being kidnapped_?  What'd
ya say?  Found her?  She's all right?  Oh, gee!  That's good!  I told
Carol you would!  I told her not to worry!  What'd ya say?  Oh,
Shirley's going to talk?  Oh, hello, Shirley!  How's Washington?  Some
speed, eh?  Say, when ya coming home?  To-morrow?  That's good.  No,
mother doesn't know a thing.  She thinks I went to bed early 'cause I
planned to go fishing at sunrise.  She went to bed herself early.  Say,
Mister Graham's a prince, isn't he?  Well, I guess I'll go to bed now.
I might make the fishing in the morning yet, if I don't sleep too late.
I sure am glad you're all right!  Well, so long, Shirley!"

Shirley turned from the phone with tears in her eyes.  It wasn't what
George said that made her smile tenderly through them, but the gruff
tenderness in his boy tones that touched her so.  She hadn't realized
before what she meant to him.

They drove straight to the station, got something to eat, and took the
midnight train back to their home city.  Graham had protested that
Shirley should go to a hotel and get a good rest before attempting the
journey, but she laughingly told him she could rest anywhere, and would
sleep like a top in the train.  When Graham found that it was possible
to secure berths in the sleeper for them all, and that they would not
have to get out until seven in the morning he withdrew his protests;
and his further activities took the form of supplementing her supper
with fruit and bonbons.  His lingering hand-clasp as he bade her
good-night told her how glad he was that she was safe; as if his eyes
had not told her the same story every time there had been light enough
for them to be seen!

Locked at last into her safe little stateroom, with a soft bed to lie
on and no bothersome notes to be guarded, one would have thought she
might have slept, but her brain kept time to the wheels, and her heart
with her brain.  She was going over and over the scenes of the eventful
day, and living through each experience again, until she came to the
moment when she looked up to find herself in Sidney Graham's arms, with
her face against his shoulder.  Her face glowed in the dark at the
remembrance, and her heart thrilled wildly sweet with the memory of his
look and tone, and all his carefulness for her.  How wonderful that
_he_ should have come so many miles to find her!  That he should have
been the one to find her first, with all those other men on the hunt.
He had forged ahead and picked her up before any of the others had
reached her.  He had not been afraid to rush up to an armed villain and
snatch her from her perilous position!  He was a man among men!  Never
mind if he wasn't her own personal property!  Never mind if there were
others in his own world who might claim him later, he was hers for
to-night!  She would never forget it!

She slept at last, profoundly, with a smile upon her lips No dream of
villains nor wild automobile rides came to trouble her thoughts.  And
when she woke in the home station with familiar sounds outside, and
realized that a new day was before her, her heart was flooded with a
happiness that her common sense found it hard to justify.  She tried to
steady herself while she made her toilet, but the face that was
reflected rosily from the mirror in her little dressing room would
smile contagiously back at her.

"Well, then, have it your own way for just one more day!" she said
aloud to her face in the glass.  "But to-morrow you must get back to
common sense again!"  Then she turned, fresh as a rose, and went out to
meet her fellow travellers.

She went to breakfast with Sidney Graham, a wonderful breakfast in a
wonderful place with fountains and palms and quiet, perfect service.
Mr. Barnard had excused himself and hurried away to his home, promising
to meet Shirley at the office at half-past nine.  And so these two sat
at a little round table by themselves and had sweet converse over their
coffee.  Shirley utterly forgot for the time that she was only a poor
little stenographer working for her bread and living in a barn.  Sidney
Graham's eyes were upon her, in deep and unveiled admiration, his
spirit speaking to hers through the quiet little commonplaces to which
he must confine himself in this public place.  It was not till the meal
was over and he was settling his bill that Shirley suddenly came to
herself and the color flooded her sweet face.  What was she better than
any other poor fool of a girl who let a rich man amuse himself for a
few hours in her company and then let him carry her heart away with him
to toss with his collection?  She drew her dignity about her and tried
to be distant as they went out to the street, but he simply did not
recognize it at all.  He just kept his tender, deferential manner, and
smiled down at her with that wonderful, exalted look that made her
dignity seem cheap; so there was nothing to do but look up as a flower
would to the sun and be true to the best that was in her heart.

She was surprised to find his own car at the door when they came out on
the street.  He must have phoned for it before they left the station.
He was so kind and thoughtful.  It was so wonderful to her to be cared
for in this way.  "Just as if I were a rich girl in his own social
set," she thought to herself.

He gave his chauffeur the orders and sat beside her in the back seat,
continuing his role of admirer and protector.

"It certainly is great to think you're here beside me," he said in a
low tone as they threaded their way in and out of the crowded
thoroughfare toward the office.  "I didn't have a very pleasant
afternoon and evening yesterday, I can tell you!  I don't think we'll
let you go off on any more such errands.  You're too precious to risk
in peril like that, you know!"

Shirley's cheeks were beautiful to behold as she tried to lift her eyes
easily to his glance and take his words as if they had been a mere
commonplace.  But there was something deep down in the tone of his
voice, and something intent and personal in his glance that made her
drop her eyes swiftly and covered her with a sweet confusion.

They were at the office almost immediately and Graham was helping her
out.

"Now, when will you be through here?" he asked, glancing at his watch.
"What train were you planning to take down to the shore?  I suppose
you'll want to get back as soon as possible?"

"Yes," said Shirley, doubtfully, "I do.  But I don't know whether I
oughtn't to run out home first and get mother's big old shawl, and two
or three other little things we ought to have brought along."

"No," said Graham, quickly, with a flash of anxiety in his face.  "I
wouldn't if I were you.  They'll be anxious to see you, and if it's
necessary you can run up again sometime.  I think you'll find there are
lots of shawls down at the cottage.  I'm anxious to have you safely
landed with your family once more.  I promised Carol you'd be down the
first train after you got your work done.  How long is it going to take
you to fix Mr. Barnard up so he can run things without you?"

"Oh, not more than two hours I should think, unless He wants something
more than I know."

"Well, two hours.  It is half-past nine now.  We'll say two hours and a
half.  That ought to give you time.  I think there's a train about
then.  I'll phone to the station and find out and let you know the
exact time.  The car will be here waiting for you."

"Oh, Mr. Graham, that's not a bit necessary!  You have taken trouble
enough for me already!" protested Shirley.

"No trouble at all!" declared Graham.  "My chauffeur hasn't a thing to
do but hang around with the car this morning and you might as well ride
as walk.  I'll phone you in plenty of time."

He lifted his hat and gave her a last look that kept the glow in her
cheeks.  She turned and went with swift steps in to her elevator.

Sidney Graham dropped his chauffeur at the station to enquire about
trains and get tickets, with orders to report at his office within an
hour, and himself took the wheel.  Quickly working his way out of the
city's traffic he put on all possible speed toward Glenside.  He must
get a glimpse of things and see that all was going well before he went
to the office.  What would Shirley have said if she had carried out her
plan of coming out for her mother's shawl?  He must put a stop to that
at all costs.  She simply must not see the old barn till the work was
done, or the whole thing would be spoiled.  Strange it had not occurred
to him that she might want to come back after something!  Well, he
would just have to be on the continual lookout.  For one thing he would
stop at a store on the way back and purchase a couple of big steamer
rugs and a long warm cloak.  He could smuggle them into the cottage
somehow and have the servants bring them out for common use as if they
belonged to the house.

He was as eager as a child over every little thing that had been
started during his absence, and walked about with the boss carpenter,
settling two or three questions that had come up the day before.  In
ten minutes he was back in his car, whirling toward the city again,
planning how he could best get those rugs and cloaks into the hands of
the housekeeper at the shore without anybody suspecting that they were
new.  Then it occurred to him to take them down to Elizabeth and let
her engineer the matter.  There must be two cloaks, one for Shirley,
for he wanted to take her out in the car sometimes and her little scrap
of a coat was entirely too thin even for summer breezes at the shore.

Shirley met with a great ovation when she entered the office.  It was
evident that her fame had gone before her.  Mr. Barnard was already
there, smiling benevolently, and Mr. Clegg frowning approvingly over
his spectacles at her, The other office clerks came to shake hands or
called congratulations, till Shirley was quite overwhelmed at her
reception.  Clegg and Barnard both followed her into the inner office
and continued to congratulate her on the bravery she had shown and to
express their appreciation of her loyalty and courage in behalf of the
firm.  Mr. Barnard handed her a check for a hundred dollars as a slight
token of their appreciation of her work, telling her that beginning
with the first of the month her salary was to be raised.

When at last she sat down to her typewriter and began to click out the
wonderful notes that had made so much trouble, and put them in shape
for practical use, her head was in a whirl and her heart was beating
with a childish ecstasy.  She felt as if she were living a real fairy
tale, and would not ever be able to get back to common every-day life
again.

At half-past eleven Graham called her up to tell her there was a train
a little after twelve if she could be ready, and the car would be
waiting for her in fifteen minutes.

When she finally tore herself away from the smiles and effusive thanks
of Barnard and Clegg and took the elevator down to the street she found
Sidney Graham himself awaiting her eagerly.  This was a delightful
surprise, for he had not said anything about coming himself or
mentioned when he would be coming back to the shore, so she had been
feeling that It might be some time before she would see him again.

He had just slammed the door of the car and taken his seat beside her
when a large gray limousine slowed down beside them and a radiant,
well-groomed, much-tailored young woman leaned out of the car, smiling
at Graham, and passing over Shirley with one of those unseeing stares
wherewith some girls know so well how to erase other girls.

"Oh, Sidney!  I'm so glad I met you!" she cried.  "Mother has been
phoning everywhere to find you.  We are out at our country place for a
couple of weeks, and she wants to ask you to come over this afternoon
for a little tennis tournament we are having, with a dance on the lawn
afterward."

"That's very kind of you, Harriet," said Graham pleasantly, "but I
can't possibly be there.  I have an engagement out of town for this
afternoon and evening.  Give my regards to your mother, please, and
thank her for the invitation.  I know you'll have a lovely time, you
always do at your house."

"Oh, that's too bad, Sidney!" pouted the girl.  "Why will you be so
busy! and in the summer-time, too!  You ought to take a vacation!
Well, if you can't come to-night, you'll run down over the week-end,
won't you?  We are having the Foresters and the Harveys.  You like
them, and we simply can't do without you."

"Sorry," said Graham, smilingly, "but I've got all my week-ends filled
up just now.  Harriet, let me introduce you to Miss Hollister.  Miss
Hale, Miss Hollister!"

Then did Harriet Hale have to take over her unseeing stare and
acknowledge the introduction; somewhat stiffly, it must be
acknowledged, for Harriet Hale did not enjoy having her invitations
declined, and she could not quite place this girl with the lovely face
and the half-shabby garments, that yet had somehow an air of having
been made by a French artist.

"I'm sorry, Harriet, but we'll have to hurry away.  We're going to
catch a train at twelve-fifteen.  Hope you have a beautiful time this
afternoon.  Remember me to Tom Harvey and the Foresters.  Sorry to
disappoint you, Harriet, but you see I've got my time just full up at
present.  Hope to see you soon again."

They were off, Shirley with the impression of Harriet Hale's smile of
vinegar and roses; the roses for Graham, the vinegar for her.
Shirley's heart was beating wildly underneath her quiet demeanor.  She
had at last met the wonderful Harriet Hale, and Graham had not been
ashamed to introduce her!  There had been protection and enthronement
in his tone as he spoke her name!  It had not been possible for Miss
Hale to patronize her after that.  Shirley was still in a daze of
happiness.  She did not think ahead.  She had all she could do to
register new occurrences and emotions, and realize that her joy was not
merely momentary.  It had not occurred to her to wonder where Graham
was going out of town.  It was enough that he was here now.

When they reached the station Graham took two large packages out of the
car, and gave some directions to the chauffeur.

"Sorry we couldn't have gone down in the car again," he said as they
walked into the station, "but it needs some repairs and I don't want to
take as long a run as that until it has been thoroughly overhauled."

Then he was going down too!  He had declined Harriet Hale's invitation
to go back to the cottage with her!  Shirley's breath came in little
happy gasps as she walked beside her companion down the platform to the
train.

She found herself presently being seated in a big green velvet chair in
the parlor car while the porter stowed away the two big packages in the
rack overhead.



CHAPTER XXVII

There was only one other passenger in the car, an old man nodding
behind a newspaper, with his chair facing in the other direction.
Graham took a swift survey of him and turned happily back with a smile
to Shirley:

"At last I have you to myself!" he said with a sigh of satisfaction
that made Shirley's cheeks bloom out rosily again.

He whirled her chair and his quite away from the vision of the old man,
so that they were at the nearest possible angle to each other, and
facing the windows.  Then he sat down and leaned toward her.

"Shirley," he said in a tone of proprietorship that was tender and
beautiful, "I've waited just as long as I'm going to wait to tell you
something.  I know it's lunch time, and I'm going to take you into the
dining-car pretty soon and get you some lunch, but I must have a little
chance to talk with you first, please."

Shirley's eyes gave glad permission and he hurried on.

"Shirley, I love you.  I guess you've been seeing that for some time.
I knew I ought to hide it till you knew me better, but I simply
couldn't do it.  I never saw a girl like you, and I knew the minute I
looked at you that you were of finer clay than other girls, anyway.  I
knew that if I couldn't win you and marry you I would never love
anybody else.  But yesterday when I heard you were in peril away off
down in Washington and I away up here helpless to save you, and not
even having the right to organize a search for you, I nearly went wild!
All the way down on the train I kept shutting my eyes and trying to
pray the way you told your Sunday School boys how to pray.  But all I
could get out was, 'Oh, God, I love her!  Save her!  I love her!'
Shirley, I know I'm not one-half worthy enough for you, but I love you
with all my heart and I want you for my wife.  Will you marry me,
Shirley?"

When she had recovered a little from her wonder and astonishment, and
realized that he had asked her to marry him, and was waiting for his
answer, she lifted her wondering eyes to his face, and tried to speak
as her conscience and reason bade her.

"But I'm not like the other girls you know," she said bravely.  Then he
broke in upon her fervently.

"No, you're not like any other girl I know in the whole wide world.
Thank God for that!  You are one among a thousand!  No, you're one
among the whole earthful of women!  You're the _only_ one I could ever
love!"

"But listen, please; you haven't thought.  I'm not a society girl.  I
don't belong in your circle.  I couldn't grace your position the way
your wife ought to do.  Remember, we're nobodies.  We're poor!  We live
in a _barn_!"

"What do you suppose I care about that?" he answered eagerly.  "You may
live in a barn all your days if you like, and I'll love you just the
same.  I'll come and live in the barn with you if you want me to.  My
position!  My circle!  What's that?  You'll grace my home and my life
as no other girl could do.  You heart of my heart!  You strong, sweet
spirit!  The only question I'm going to ask of you is, Can you love me?
If you can, I know I can make you happy, for I love you better than my
life.  Answer, please.  Do you love me?"

She lifted her eyes, and their spirits broke through their glances.  If
the old man at the other end of the car was looking they did not know
it.

They came back to the cottage at the shore with a manner so blissful
and so unmistakable that even the children noticed.  Elizabeth
whispered to Carol at table: "My brother likes your sister a lot,
doesn't he?  I hope she likes him, too."

"I guess she does," responded Carol philosophically.  "She oughtta.
He's been awfully good to her, and to all of us."

"People don't like people just for that," said wise Elizabeth.

Harley, out on the veranda after dinner, drew near to Carol to confide.

"Say, kid, I guess he _has_ got a case on her all right now.  Gee!
Wouldn't that be great?  Think of all those cars!"

But Carol giggled.

"Good night!  Harley!  How could we ever have a wedding in a barn?  And
they're such particular people, too!"

"Aw, gee!" said Harley, disgusted.  "You girls are always thinking of
things like that!  As if that mattered.  You can get married in a
chicken-run if you really have a case like that on each other!  _You
make me tired!_" and he stalked away in offended male dignity.

Meantime the unconscious subjects of this discussion had gone to Mrs.
Hollister to confess, and the sea was forgotten by all three for that
one evening at least, even though the moon was wide and bright and gave
a golden pathway across the dark water.  For a great burden had rolled
from Mrs. Hollister's shoulders when she found her beloved eldest
daughter was really loved by this young man, and he was not just
amusing himself for a little while at her expense.

The days that followed were like one blissful fleeting dream to
Shirley.  She just could not get used to the fact that she was engaged
to such a prince among men!  It seemed as if she were dreaming, and
that presently she would wake up and find herself in the office with a
great pile of letters to write, and the perplexing problem before her
of where they were going to live next winter.  She had broached that
subject once to Graham shyly, saying that she must begin to look around
as soon as she got back to town, and he put her aside, asking her to
leave that question till they all went back, as he had a plan he
thought she might think well of, but he couldn't tell her about it just
yet.  He also began to urge her to write at once to Mr. Barnard and
resign her position, but that she would not hear of.

"No," she said decidedly.  "We couldn't live without my salary, and
there are a lot of things to be thought out and planned before I can be
married.  Besides, we need to get to know each other and to grow into
each other's lives a little bit.  You haven't any idea even now how far
I am from being fitted to be the wife of a man in your position.  You
may be sorry yet.  If you are ever going to find it out, I want you to
do it beforehand."

He looked adoringly into her eyes.

"I know perfectly now, dear heart!" he said, "and I'm not going to be
satisfied to wait a long time for you to find out that you don't really
care for me after all.  If you've got to find that out, I believe I'd
rather it would be after I have you close and fast and you'll _have_ to
like me anyway."

And then the wonder and thrill of it all would roll over her again and
she would look into his eyes and be satisfied.

Still she continued quite decided that nothing could be done about
prolonging her vacation, for she meant to go back to Barnard and
Clegg's on the day set.

"You know I'm the man of the house," she said archly.  "I can't quite
see it at all myself--how I'm ever going to give up."

"But I thought I was going to be the man of the house," pleaded Sidney.
"I'm sure I'm quite capable and eager to look out for the interests of
my wife's family."

"But you see I'm not the kind of a girl that has been looking around
for a man who will support my family."

"No, you surely are not!" said the young man, laughing.  "If you had
been, young lady, I expect you'd have been looking yet so far as I am
concerned.  It is because you are what you are that I love you.  Now
that's all right about being independent, but it's about time to fight
this thing to a finish.  I don't see why we all have to be made
miserable just because there are a lot of unpleasant precedents and
conventions and crochets in the world.  Why may I not have the pleasure
of helping to take care of your perfectly good family if I want to?  It
is one of the greatest pleasures to which I am looking forward, to try
and make them just as happy as I can, so that you will be the happier.
I've got plenty to do it with.  God has been very good to me in that
way, and why should you try to hinder me?"

And then the discussion would end in a bewildering look of worshipful
admiration on Shirley's part and a joyous taking possession of her and
carrying her off on some ride or walk or other on the part of Graham.

He did not care just now that she was slow to make plans.  He was
enjoying each day, each hour, to the full.  He wanted to keep her from
thinking about the future, and especially about the winter, till she
got home, and so he humored her and led her to other topics.

One night, as they sat on the dark veranda alone, Graham said to George:

"If you were going to college, where would you want to prepare?"

He wondered what the boy would say, for the subject of college had
never been mentioned with relation to George.  He did not know whether
the boy had ever thought of it.  But the answer came promptly in a
ringing voice:

"Central High!  They've got the best football team in the city."

"Then you wouldn't want to go away to some preparatory school?"

"No, _sir_!" was the decided answer.  "I believe in the public school
every time!  When I was a little kid I can remember my father taking me
to walk and pointing out the Central High School, and telling me that
some day I would go there to school.  I used to always call that 'my
school.'  I used to think I'd get there yet, some day, but I guess
that's out of the question."

"Well, George, if that's your choice you can get ready to enter as soon
as you go back to the city."

"What?"  George's feet came down from the veranda railing with a thud,
and he sat upright in the darkness and stared wildly at his prospective
brother-in-law.  Then he slowly relaxed and his young face grew grim
and stern.

"No chance!" he said laconically.

"Why not?"

"Because I've got my mother and the children to support.  I can't waste
time going to school.  I've got to be a _man_."

Something sudden like a choke came in the young man's throat, and a
great love for the brave boy who was so courageous in his self-denial.

"George, you're not a man yet, and you'll shoulder the burden twice as
well when you're equipped with a college education.  I mean you shall
have it.  Do you suppose I'm going to let my new brother slave away
before his time?  No, sir; you're going to get ready to make the best
man that's in you.  And as for your mother and the family, isn't she
going to be my mother, and aren't they to be my family?  We'll just
shoulder the job together, George, till you're older--and then we'll
see."

"But I couldn't take charity from anybody."

"Not even from a brother?"

"Not even from a brother."

"Well, suppose we put it in another way.  Suppose you borrow the money
from me to keep things going, and when you are ready to pay it back
we'll talk about it then.  Or, better still, suppose you agree to pass
it on to some other brother when you are able."

They talked a long time in the dark, and Graham had quite a hard time
breaking down the boy's reserve and independence, and getting a real
brotherly confidence.  But at last George yielded, saw the common sense
and right of the thing, and laid an awkward hand in the man's, growling
out:

"You're a pippin and no mistake, Mr. Graham.  I can't ever thank you
enough!  I never thought anything like this would happen to me!"

"Don't try thanks, George.  We're brothers now, you know.  Just you do
your best at school, and it's all I ask.  Shirley and I are going to be
wonderfully proud of you.  But please don't call me Mr. Graham any
more.  Sid, or Sidney, or anything you like, but no more mistering."

He filing a brotherly arm across the boy's shoulders and together they
went into the house.

Meantime the beautiful days went by in one long, golden dream of
wonder.  The children were having the time of their lives, and
Elizabeth was never so happy.  Shirley sat on the wide verandas and
read the wealth of books and magazines which the house contained, or
roamed the beach with the children and Star, or played in the waves
with Doris, and wondered if it were really Shirley Hollister who was
having all this good time.



CHAPTER XXVIII

The morning they all started back to the city was a memorable one.
Graham had insisted that Shirley ask for a holiday until Tuesday
morning so that she might go up with them in the car, and have the
whole day to be at home and help her mother get settled.  She had
consented, and found to her surprise that Mr. Barnard was most kind
about it.  He had even added that he intended to raise her salary, and
she might consider that hereafter she was to have ten dollars more per
month for her services, which they valued very highly.

George had sent his resignation to the store and was not to go back at
all.  Graham had arranged that, for school began the day after his
return and he would need to be free at once.

Elizabeth, to her great delight, was to go with the Hollisters and
remain a few days until her parents returned.  Mrs. Graham had written
from the West making a proposition to Mrs. Hollister that Carol be
allowed to go to school with Elizabeth the next winter, because Mrs.
Graham felt it would be so good for Elizabeth to have a friend like
that.  Mrs. Hollister, however, answered that she felt it better for
her little girl to remain with her mother a little longer; and that she
did not feel it would be a good thing for her child, who would be
likely to have a simple life before her with very few luxuries, to go
to a fashionable finishing-school where the standards must all
necessarily be so different from those of her own station in life, and,
kind as the offer had been, she must decline it.  She did not say that
Carol had fairly bristled at the idea of leaving her beloved high
school now when she was a senior and only one year before her
graduation.  That bit of horror and hysterics on Carol's part had been
carefully suppressed within the four walls of her mother's room; but
Elizabeth, deeply disappointed, had wept her heart out over the matter,
and finally been comforted by the promise that Mrs. Hollister would
write and ask Mrs. Graham to allow Elizabeth to go to school with Carol
the coming winter.  That proposition was now on its way West, together
with an announcement of Sidney's engagement to Shirley.  Sidney was
confidently expecting congratulatory telegrams that morning when he
reached the city.  He had written his father in detail all about their
plans for returning, and how the work at the old barn was progressing,
and Mr. Graham, Senior, was too good a manager not to plan to greet the
occasion properly.  Therefore Graham stopped at his office for a few
minutes before taking the family out to Glenside, and, sure enough,
came down with his hands full of letters and telegrams, and one long
white envelope which he put carefully in his breast pocket.  They had a
great time reading the telegrams and letters.

The way out to Glenside seemed very short now, watching as they did for
each landmark.  The children were as eager to get back as they had been
to leave, and Star snuggled in between Harley's feet, held his head
high, and smiled benevolently on everybody, as if he knew he was going
home and was glad.  They began to wonder about the chickens, and if the
garden was all dried up, and whether the doves were all right.  There
was an undertone of sadness and suppressed excitement, for it was in
the minds of all the Hollisters that the time in the old barn must of
necessity be growing brief.  The fall would soon be upon them, and a
need for warmth.  They must go hunting for a house at once.  And yet
they all wanted this one day of delight before they faced that question.

At last they reached the final curve and could see the tall old tree in
the distance, and the clump of willows knee-deep in the brook.  By
common consent they all grew silent, watching for the first glimpse of
the dear old barn.

Then they came around the curve, and there it was!  But what was the
matter?

Nobody spoke.  It seemed as if they could not get their breath.

Shirley rubbed her eyes, and looked again.  Mrs. Hollister gave a
startled look from her daughter to Graham and back to the barn again.
Elizabeth and Carol were utterly silent, grasping each other's hands in
violent ecstasy.  The boys murmured inarticulately, of which the only
audible words were: "Good night!  Some class!"  Doris looked for a long
second, puckered her lips as if she were going to cry, and inquired
pitifully: "I yant my dear barn house home!  I yant to doh home!" and
Star uttered a sharp, bewildered bark and bounded from the car as if
this were something he ought to attend to.

But before anybody could say anything more, Graham brought out the long
white envelope and handed it to Shirley.

"Before you get out and go in I just want to say a word," he began.
"Father and I both want Shirley to have the old barn for her very own,
to do with as she pleases.  This envelope contains the deed for the
property made out in her name.  We have tried to put it in thorough
repair before handing it over to her, and if there is anything more she
can think of that it needs we'll do that too.  And now, welcome home to
the old barn!  Mother, may I help you out?"

"But there isn't any barn any more," burst forth the irrepressible
Elizabeth.  "The barn's gone!  It's just a house!"

And, sure enough, there stood a stately stone mansion on a wide green
terrace, where shrubs and small trees were grouped fittingly about,
erasing all signs of the old pasture-land; and the old grassy incline
to the door now rolled away in velvety lawn on either side of a smooth
cement walk bordered with vivid scarlet geraniums.  Trailing vines and
autumn flowers were blossoming in jars on the wide stone railing.  The
old barn door had been replaced by glass which gave a glimpse of
strange new rooms beyond, and the roof had broken forth in charming
colonial dormer windows like a new French hat on a head that had worn
the same old poke bonnet for years.  No wonder Doris didn't recognize
the dear old barn.  It did seem as though a wizard had worked magic
upon it.  How was one to know that only a brief half-hour before the
old gardener from the Graham estate set the last geranium in the row
along the walk, and trailed the last vine over the stone wall; or that
even now the corps of men who had been hastily laying and patting the
turf in place over the terrace were in hiding down in the basement,
with their wheelbarrows and picks and spades, having beat a hasty
retreat at the sound of the car coming, and were only waiting till they
could get away unobserved?  For orders were orders, and the orders were
that the work was to be _done_ and every man out of sight by the time
they arrived.  A bonus to every man if the orders were obeyed.  That is
what money and influence can do in a month!

In due time they got themselves out of that car in a sort of bewildered
daze and walked up the new cement path, feeling strangely like
intruders as they met the bright stare of the geraniums.

They walked the length of the new piazza in delight.  They exclaimed
and started and smiled and almost wept in one another's arms.  Graham
stood and watched Shirley's happy face and was satisfied.

The first thing Doris did when she got inside the lovely glass door was
to start to run for her own little willow chair and her own little old
rag doll that had been left behind, and down she went on the slippery
floor.  And there, behold, the old barn floors too had disappeared
under a coating of simple matched hardwood flooring, oiled and polished
smoothly, and Doris was not expecting it.

She got up quickly, half ashamed, and looked around laughing.

"I vas skating!" she declared with a ringing laugh.  "I skated yite
down on mine nose."

Then she hurried more cautiously to the haven of her own chair, and
with her old doll hugged to her breast she reiterated over and over as
if to reassure herself: "Mine!  Doris!  Mine!  Doris!"

Words would fail to describe all they said about the wonderful rooms,
the walls all shining in a soft rough-finish plaster, tinted creamy on
the upper half and gray below, and finished in dark chestnut trimmings;
of the beautiful staircase and the wide bay window opening from the
first landing like a little half-way room, with seats to rest upon.  It
was standing in this bay window that Graham first called Mrs.
Hollister's attention to something strange and new outside behind the
house.  It was a long, low glass building with green things gleaming
through its shining roof.

"There, mother," he said, coming up softly behind her.  "There is your
plaything.  You said you had always wanted a hot-house, so we made you
one.  It is heated from a coil in the furnace, and you can try all the
experiments with flowers you want to.  We put in a few things to start
with, and you can get more at your leisure."

Mrs. Hollister gave one look, and then turned and put her arms around
the tall young man, reaching up on her tip-toes to do so, brought his
handsome face down to hers, and kissed him.

"My dear son!" she said.  That was all, but he knew that she had
accepted him and given him a loving place with her own children in her
heart.

There were shoutings and runnings up stairs and down by first one and
then another.  The bathrooms were discovered one by one, and then they
had to all rush down into the basement by the new stairs to see the new
laundry and the new furnace, and the entrance to the hot-house; and the
hot-house itself, with its wealth of bloom transplanted from the Graham
greenhouses.

They almost forgot the chickens and the doves, and the garden was a
past Eden not to be remembered till long hours afterward.

The sunset was dying away in the sky, and the stars were large and few
and piercing in the twilight night when Shirley and Sidney came walking
up the terrace arm in arm, and found Doris sitting in the doorway
cuddling her old rag doll and a new little gray kitten the farmer next
door had brought her, and singing an evening song to herself.

Shirley and Sidney turned and looked off at the sky where a rosy stain
was blending softly into the gray of evening.

"Do you remember the first night we stood here together?" Sidney said
in a low tone, as he drew her fingers within his own.  "I loved you
then, Shirley, that first night----"

And then Doris's little shrill voice chimed above their murmurings:

"Oh, mine nice dear home!  Mine kitty an' mine dolly! and mine piazza!
and mine bafwoom wif a place to swim boats! an' mine fowers an' pitty
house!  No more barn!  Barn _all dawn_!  Never turn bat any moh!  Oh,
mine nice, pitty dear home!"





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