Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Rainy Week
Author: Abbott, Eleanor Hallowell, 1872-1958
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 "Rainy Week" ***

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



RAINY WEEK

BY

ELEANOR HALLOWELL ABBOTT

AUTHOR OF "OLD-DAD," "PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD-WILL, TO DOGS," ETC.

NEW YORK

E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY

681 FIFTH AVENUE

Copyright, 1921, By E. P. Button & Company

All Rights Reserved

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

RAINY WEEK

CHAPTER I

IN the changes and chances of our New England climate it is not so
much what a Guest can endure outdoors as what he can originate
indoors that endears him most to a weather-worried Host.

Take Rollins, for instance, a small man, dour, insignificant--a
prude in the moonlight, a duffer at sailing, a fool at tennis--yet
once given a rain-patter and a smoky fireplace, of an audacity so
impertinent, so altogether absurd, that even yawns must of necessity
turn to laughter--or curses. The historic thunderstorm question,
for instance, which he sprang at the old Bishop's house-party after
five sweltering days of sunshine and ecclesiastical argument: "Who
was the last person you kissed before you were married?"

A question innocent as milk if only swallowed! But unswallowed?
Gurgled? Spat like venom from Bishop to Bishop? And from Bishop's
Wife to Bishop's Wife? Oh la! Yet that Rollins himself was the only
unmarried person present on that momentous occasion shows not at
all, I still contend, the slightest "natural mendacity" of the man,
but merely the perfectly normal curiosity of a confirmed Anchoret
to learn what truths he may from those who have been fortunate--or
unfortunate enough to live.

Certainly neither my Husband nor myself would ever dream of running
a house-party without Rollins!

Yet equally certain it is not at all on Rollins's account but
distinctly on our own that we invariably set the date for our
annual house-party in the second week of May.

For twenty years, in the particular corner of the New England
sea-coast which my husband and I happen to inhabit, it has never,
with one single exception only, failed to rain from morning till
night and night till morning again through the second week of May!

With all weather-uncertainties thus settled perfectly definitely,
even for the worst, it is a comparatively easy matter for any Host
and Hostess to _Stage_ such events as remain. It is with purely
confessional intent that I emphasize that word "stage." Every human
being acknowledges, if honest, some one supreme passion of
existence. My Husband's and mine is for what Highbrows call "the
experimental drama."

We call it "Amateur Theatricals."

Yet even this innocent passion has not proved a serene one!

After inestimable seasons of devotion to that most ruthless of all
goddesses, the Goddess of Amateur Theatricals, involving, as it
does, wrangles with

Guests who refuse to accept unless they areassured that there will
be a Play,

wrangles with

Guests who refuse to accept unless assured that there will not be a
Play,

wrangles with

Guests already arrived, unpacked, tubbed, seated at dinner, who
discover suddenly that their lines are too long,

wrangles with

Guests already arrived, unpacked, tubbed, seated at dinner, who
discover equally suddenly that their lines are too short.

wrangles with

Guests who "can't possibly play in blue."

wrangles with

Guests who "can't possibly play in pink."

wrangles with

Guests who insist upon kissing in every act.

wrangles with

Guests who refuse to kiss in any act, it was my Husband's ingenious
idea to organize instead an annual Play that should never dream it
was a Play, acted by actors who never even remotely suspected that
they were acting, evolving a plot that no one but the Almighty,
Himself, could possibly foreordain.

We call this Play "_Rainy Week_."

Yet, do not, I implore you, imagine for a moment that by any such
simple little trick as shifting all blame to the weather, all
praise to the Almighty, _Care_ has been eliminated from the
enterprise.

It is only indeed at the instigation of this trick that the real
hazard begins. For a Play after all is only a Play, be it humorous,
amorous, murderous, adulterous,--a soap-bubble world combusting
spontaneously of its own effervescence. But life is life and
starkly real if not essentially earnest. And the merest flicker of
the merest eyelid in one of life's real emotions has short-circuited
long ere this with the eternities themselves! It's just this chance
of "short-circuiting with the eternities" that shifts the pucker
from a Host's brow to his spine!

No lazy, purring, reunion of old friends this _Rainy Week_ of ours,
you understand? No dully congenial convocation of in-bred
relatives? No conference on literature,--music,--painting? No
symposium of embroidery stitches? Nor of billiard shots? But the
deliberate and relentlessly-planned assemblage of such distinctly
diverse types of men and women as prodded by unusual conditions of
weather, domicile, and propinquity, will best act and re-act upon
each other in terms inevitably dramatic, though most naively
unrehearsed!

"Vengeance is mine!" said the Lord. "Very considerable psychologic,
as well as dramatic satisfaction is now at last ours!" confess your
humble servants.

In this very sincere if somewhat whimsical dramatic adventure of
_Rainy Week_, the exigencies of our household demand that the
number of actors shall be limited to eight.

Barring the single exception of Husband and Wife no two people are
invited who have ever seen each other before. Destiny plays very
much more interesting tricks we have noticed with perfect strangers
than she does with perfect friends!

Barring nothing no one is ever warned that the week will be rainy.
It is astonishing how a guest's personality strips itself right
down to the bare sincerities when he is forced unexpectedly to doff
his extra-selected, super-fitting, ultra-becoming visiting clothes
for a frankly nondescript costume chosen only for its becomingness
to a--situation! In this connection, however, it is only fair to
ourselves to attest that following the usual managerial custom of
furnishing from its own pocket such costumes as may not for bizarre
or historical reasons be readily  converted by a cast to street and
church wear, we invariably provide the _Rainy Week_ costumes for
our cast. This costume consists of one yellow oil-skin suit or
"slicker," one yellow oil-skin hat, one pair of rubber boots. One
dark blue jersey. And very warm woolen stockings.

Reverting also to dramatic sincerity no professional manager
certainly ever chose his cast more conscientiously than does my
purely whimsical Husband!

After several years of experiment and readjustment the ultimate
cast of _Rainy Week_ is fixed as follows:

A Bride and Groom

One Very Celibate Person

Someone With a Past

Someone With a Future

A Singing Voice

A May Girl

And a Bore. (Rollins, of course, figuring as the Bore.)

Always there must be that Bride and Groom (for the Celibate Person
to wonder about). And the Very Celibate Person (for the Bride and
Groom to wonder about). Male or Female, one Brave Soul who had
Rebuilt Ruin. Male or Female, one Intrepid Brain that Dares to
Boast of Having Made Tryst with the Future. Soprano, Alto, Bass or
Tenor, one Singing Voice that can Rip the Basting Threads out of
Serenity. One Young Girl so May-Blossomy fresh and new that
Everybody Instinctively Changes the Subject When She Comes into the
Room . . . . And Rollins!

To be indeed absolutely explicit experience has proved, with an
almost chemical accuracy, that, quite regardless of "age, sex, or
previous condition of servitude," this particular combination of

Romantic Passion

Psychic Austerity

Tragedy

Ambition

Poignancy

Innocence

And Irritation

cannot be housed together for even one Rainy Week without producing
drama!

But whether that drama be farce or fury--? Whether he who came to
_star_ remains to _supe_? Who yet shall prove the hero? And who the
villain! Who--? Oh, la! It's God's business now!

"All the more reason," affirms my Husband, "why all such details as
light and color effects, eatments, drinkments and guest-room
reading matter should be attended to with extra conscientiousness."

Already through a somewhat sensational motor collision in the gay
October Berkshires we had acquired the tentative Bride and Groom,
Paul Brenswick and Victoria Meredith, as ardent and unreasonable a
pair of young lovers as ever rose unscathed from a shivered racing
car to face, instead of annihilation, a mere casual separation of
months until such May-time as Paul himself, returning from Heaven
knows what errand in China, should mate with her and meet with us.

And to New York City, of course, one would turn instinctively for
the Someone With a Future. At a single round of studio parties in
the brief Thanksgiving Holiday we found Claude Kennilworth. Not a
moment's dissension occurred between us concerning his absolute
fitness for the part. He was beautiful to look at, and not too
young, twenty-five perhaps, the approximate age of our tentative
Bride and Groom. And he made things with his hands in dough, clay,
plaster, anything he could reach very insolently, all the time you
were talking to him, modeling the thing he was thinking about,
instead!

"Oh, just wait till you see him in bronze?" thrilled all the young
Satellites around him.

"Till you see me in bronze!" thrilled young Kennilworth himself.

Never in all my life have I beheld anyone as beautiful as Claude
Kennilworth--with a bit of brag in him! That head sharply uplifted,
the pony-like forelock swished like smoke across his flaming eyes,
the sudden wild pulse of his throat. Heavens! What a boy!

"You artist-fellows are forever reproducing solids with liquids,"
remarked my Husband quite casually. "All the effects I mean! All
the illusion! Crag or cathedral out of a dime-sized mud-puddle in
your water-color box! Flesh you could kiss from a splash of
turpentine! But can you reproduce liquids with solids? Could you
put the ocean into bronze, I mean?"

"The ocean?" screamed the Satellites.

"No mere skinny bas-relief," mused my Husband, "of the front of a
wave hitched to the front of a wharf or the front of a beach but
waves corporeally complete and all alone--shoreless--skyless--like
the model of a village an ocean rolling all alone as it were in the
bulk of its three dimensions?"

"In--bronze?" questions young Kennilworth. "_Bronze_?" His voice
was very faintly raspish.

"Oh, it wasn't a blue ocean especially that I was thinking about,"
confided my Husband, genially, through the mist of his cigarette.
"Any chance pick-up acquaintance has seen the ocean when it's blue.
But my wife and I, you understand, we live with the ocean!
Call it by its first name,--'Oh Ocean!'--and all that sort of
thing!" he smiled out abruptly above the sudden sharp spurt of
a freshly-struck match. "The--the ocean I was thinking of," he
resumed with an almost exaggerated monotone, "was a brown
ocean--brown as boiled sea-weeds--mad as mud under a leaden
sky--seething--souring--perfectly lusterless--every brown
billow-top pinched-up as though by some malevolent hand into
a vivid verdigris bruise----"

"But however in the world would one know where to begin?" giggled
the Satellites. "Or how to break it off so it wouldn't end like the
edge of a tin roof! Even if you started all right with a nice
molten wave? What about the--last wave? The problem of the horizon
sense? Yes! What about the horizon sense?" shouted everybody at
once.

From the shadowy sofa-pillowed corner just behind the supper table,
young Kennilworth's face glowed suddenly into view. But a minute
before I could have sworn that a girl's cheek lay against his. Yet
now as he jumped to his feet the feminine glove that dropped from
his fidgety fingers was twisted with extraordinary maliciousness, I
noted, into a doll-sized caricature of a "Vamp."

"I could put the ocean into bronze, Mr. Delville," he said, "if
anybody would give me a chance!"

Perhaps it was just this very ease and excitement of having booked
anyone as perfect as young Kennilworth for the part of Someone with
a Future that made me act as impulsively as I did regarding Ann
Woltor.

We were sitting in our room in a Washington hotel before a very
smoky fireplace one rather cross night in late January when I
confided the information to my Husband.

"Oh, by the way, Jack," I said quite abruptly, "I've invited Ann
Woltor for Rainy Week."

"Invited whom?" questioned my Husband above the rim of his
newspaper.

"Ann Woltor," I repeated.

"Ann--what?" persisted my Husband.

"Ann Woltor," I re-emphasized.

"Who's she?" quickened my Husband's interest very faintly.

"Oh, she's a woman," I explained--"or a Girl--that I've been
meeting 'most every day this last month at my hair-dresser's. She
runs the accounts there or something and tries to keep everybody
pacified. And reads the darndest books, all highbrow stuff. You'd
hardly expect it! Oh, not modern highbrow, I mean, essays as bawdy
as novels, but the old, serene highbrow,--Emerson and Pater and
Wordsworth,--books that smell of soap and lavender, as well as
brains. Reads 'em as though she liked 'em, I mean! Comes from New
Zealand I've been told. Really, she's rather remarkable!"

"Must be!" said my Husband. "To come all the way from New Zealand
to land in your hair-dresser's library!"

"It isn't my hair-dresser's library!" I corrected with faint
asperity. "It's her own library! She brings the books herself to
the office.

"And just what part," drawled my Husband, "is this New Zealand
paragon, Miss Stoltor, to play in our Rainy Week?"

"Woltor," I corrected quite definitely. "Ann Woltor."

"Wardrobe mistress?" teased my Husband. "Or----?"

"She is going to play the part of the Someone With a Past," I said.

"What?" cried my Husband. His face was frankly shocked. "_What_?"
he repeated blankly. "The most delicate part of the cast? The most
difficult? The most hazardous? It seemed best to you, without
consultation, without argument, to act so suddenly in the matter,
and so--so all alone?"

"I had to act very suddenly," I admitted. "If I hadn't spoken just
exactly the minute I did she would have been off to Alaska within
another forty-eight hours."

"U-m-m," mused my Husband, and resumed his reading. But the half-inch
of eye brow that puckered above the edge of his newspaper loomed
definitely as the sample of a face that was still distinctly
shocked.

When he spoke again I was quite ready for his question.

"How do you know that this Ann Woltor has got a past?" he demanded.

"How do we know young Kennilworth's got a future?" I counter-checked.

"Because he makes so much noise about it I suppose," admitted my
Husband.

"By which very same method," I grinned, "I deduct the fact that Ann
Woltor has got a past,--inasmuch as she doesn't make the very
slightest sound whatsoever concerning it."

"You concede no personal reticence in the world?" quizzed my Husband.

"Yes, quite a good deal," I admitted. "But most of it I honestly
believe is due to sore throat. A normal throat keeps itself pretty
much lubricated I've noticed by talking about itself."

"Herself," corrected my Husband.

"Himself," I compromised.

"But this Ann Woltor has told you that she came from New Zealand,"
scored my Husband.

"Oh, no, she hasn't!" I contradicted. "It was the hair-dresser who
suggested New Zealand. All Ann Woltor has ever told me was that she
was going to Alaska! Anybody's willing to tell you where he's
going! But the person who never tells you where he's been--! The
person who never by word, deed or act correlates to-day with
yesterday! The Here with the There--! I've been home with her twice
to her room! I've watched her unpack the Alaska trunk! Not a thing
in it older than this winter! Not a shoe nor a hat nor a glove that
confides anything! No scent of fir-balsam left over from a summer
vacation! No photograph of sister or brother! Yet it's rather an
interesting little room, too,--awfully small and shabby after the
somewhat plushy splendor of the hairdressing job--but three or four
really erudite English Reviews on the table, a sprig of blue
larkspur thrust rather negligently into a water glass, and a man's----"

"Blue larkspur in January?" demanded my Husband. "How--how old is
this--this Woltor person?"

"Oh--twenty-five, perhaps," I shrugged.

With a gesture of impatience my Husband threw down his paper and
began to poke the fire.

"Oh, Pshaw!" he said, "is our whole dramatic endeavor going to be
wrecked by the monotony of everybody being 'twenty-five'?"

"Well--call it 'thirty-five' if you'd rather," I conceded. "Or a
hundred and five! Arm Woltor wouldn't care! That's the remarkable
thing about her face," I hastened with some fervor to explain.
"There's no dating on it! This calamity that has happened to
her,--whatever it is, has wrung her face perfectly dry of all
contributive biography except the mere structural fact of at
least reasonably conservative birth and breeding."

A little bit abruptly my Husband dropped the fire-tongs.

"You like this Ann Woltor, don't you?" he said.

"I like her tremendously," I acknowledged.

"Tremendously _as_ a person and tremendously _for_ the part!" I
insisted.

"Yet there's something about it that worries you?" quizzed my
Husband not unamiably.

"There is," I said, "just one thing. She's got a broken tooth."

With a gesture of real irritation my Husband sank down in his chair
again and snatched up the paper.

It was ten minutes before he spoke again.

"Is it a front tooth?" he questioned with out lifting his eyes from
the page.

"It is," I said.

When my Husband jumped up from his chair this time he showed no
sign at all of ever intending to return to it. As he reached for
his hat and coat and started for the door, he tried very hard to
grin. But the effort was poor. This was no mere marital
disagreement, but a real professional shock.

"I simply can't stand it," he grinned. "One's prepared, of course,
for a tragedy queen to sport a broken heart but when it comes to a
broken tooth--!"

"Wait till you see her!" I said. There was nothing else to say.
"Wait till you see her!"

Even with the door closed behind him he came back once more to tell
me how he felt.

"Oh!" he shivered. "O--H!"

Truly if we hadn't gone out together the very next day and found
George Keets I don't know what would have happened. Depression
still hung very heavily over my Husband's heart.

"Here it is almost February," he brooded, "and even with what we've
got, we're still short the Celibate and the Singing Voice and the
May Girl."

It was just then that we turned the street corner and met George
Keets.

"Why--why the Celibate--of all persons!" we both gasped as in a
single breath, and rushed upon him.

Now it may seem a little strange instead of this that we have never
thought to feature poor Rollins as the Celibate. To "double" him as
it were as Celibate and Bore. Conserving thereby one by no means
inexpensive outfit of water-proof clothes, twenty-one meals, a week's
wash, and Heaven knows how many rounds of Scotch at a time of
imminent drought. But Rollins--though as far as anybody knows, a
bachelor and eminently chaste--is by no means my idea of a
Celibate. Oh, not Rollins! Not anybody with a mind like Rollins!
For Rollins, poor dear, would marry every day in the week if
anybody would have him. It's the "other people" who have kept
Rollins virgin. But George Keets on the other hand is a good deal
of a "fascinator" in spite of his austerity, perhaps indeed because
of his austerity, tall, lean, good-looking, extravagantly severe,
thirty-eight years old, and a classmate of my Husband at college.
Whether Life would ever succeed or not in breaking down his
unaccountable intention never-to-mate, that intention,--physical,
mental, moral, psychic, call it whatever you choose,--was stamped
indelibly and for all time on the curiously incongruous granite-like
finish of his originally delicate features. Life had at least done
interesting historical things to George Keets's face.

"Oh, George!" cried my Husband, "I thought you were in Egypt
digging mummies."

"I was," admitted George without any further palaver of greeting.

"When did you get back?" cried my Husband, "And what are you doing
now!"

"And where are you going to be in May?" I interposed with perfectly
uncontrollable interest.

"Why, I'm just off the boat, you know," brightened George. "A drink
would be good, of course. But first I'd just like to run into the
library for a minute to see if they've put in any new thrillers
while I've been gone. There's a corking new book on Archselurus
that ought to be due about now."

"On w-what?" I stammered.

"Oh, fossil cats, you know, and all that sort of thing," explained
George chivalrously. "But, of course--you, Mrs. Delville," he
hastened now to appease me, "would heaps rather hear about Paris
fashions, I know. So if you-people really should want me in May
I'll try my best, I promise you, to remember every latest wrinkle
of lace, or feather. Only, of course," he explained with typical
conscientiousness, "in the museums and the libraries one doesn't
see just--of course--the----"

"On the contrary, Mr. Keats," I interrupted hectically, "there is
no subject in the world that interests me more--at the moment--than
Mummies. And by the second week in May that interest will have
assumed proportions that----"

"S-sh!" admonished my Husband. "But really, George," he himself
hastened to cut in, "if you could come to us the second week in
May----"

"May?" considered George. "Second week? Why, certainly I will." And
bolted for the library, while my Husband and I in a perfectly
irresistible impulse drew aside on the curbing to watch him
disappear.

Equally unexplainably three totally non-concerned women turned also
to watch him.

"It's his shoulders," I ventured. "The amazing virility of his
shoulders contrasted with the stinginess of his smile."

"Stinginess nothing!" snapped my Husband. "Devil take him!"

"He may--yet," I mused as we swung into step again.

So now we had nothing to worry about--or rather no uncertainty to
worry about except the May Girl and the Singing Voice.

"The Singing Voice," my Husband argued, "might be picked up by good
fortune at most any cabaret show or choral practise. Not any
singing voice would do, of course. It must be distinctly poignant.
But even poignancy may be found sometimes where you least expect
it,--some reasonably mature, faintly disappointed sort of voice,
usually, lilting with unquestionable loveliness, just this side of
real professional success.

"But where in the world should we find a really ingenuous Ingénue?"

"They don't exist any more!" I asserted. "Gone out of style like
the Teddy Bear--! Old Ingénues you see, of course, sometimes, sweet
and precious and limp--as old Teddy Bears. But a brand new Ingénue--?
Don't you remember the awful search we had last year and even
then----?"

"Maybe you're right," worried my Husband.

And then the horrid attack of neuralgia descended on poor Mr.
Husband so suddenly, so acutely, that we didn't worry at all about
anything else for days! And even when that worry was over, instead
of starting off gaily together for the Carolinas as we had
intended, to search through steam-heated corridors, and green
velvet golfways, and jessamine scented lanes, for the May Girl, my
poor Husband had to dally at home instead, in a very cold, slushy
and disagreeable city, to be X-rayed, tooth-pulled, ear-stabbed,
and every thing but Bertilloned, while I, for certain business
reason, went on ahead to meet the Spring.

But even at parting it was the dramatic anxiety that worried my
Husband most.

"Now, don't you dare do a thing this time," he warned me, "until I
come! Look around all you want to! Get acquainted! Size things up!
But if ever two people needed to work together in a matter it's in
this question of choosing a May Girl!"

Whereupon in an impulse quite as amazing to himself as to me--he
went ahead and chose the May Girl all by himself!

Before I had been in the Carolinas three days the telegram came.

"Have found May Girl. Success beyond wildest dreams. Doubles with
Singing Voice. Absolute miracle. Explanations."

Himself and the explanations arrived a week later. Himself, poor
dear, was rather depleted. But the explanations were full enough to
have pleased anybody.

He had been waiting, it seems, on the day of the discovery, an
interminably long time in the doctor's office. All around him, in
the dinginess and general irritability of such an occasion, loomed
the bulky shapes of other patients who like himself had also been
waiting interminable eons of time. Everybody was very cross. And it
was snowing outside,--one of those dirty gray late-winter snows
that don't seem really necessary.

And when _She_ came! Just a girl's laugh at first from the street
door! An impish prance of feet down the dark, unaccustomed hallway! A
little trip on the threshold! And then personified--laughing--blushing,
stumbling fairly headlong at last into the room--the most radiantly
lovely young girl that you have ever had the grace to imagine,
dangling exultantly from each frost-pinked hand a very large, wriggly,
and exceedingly astonished rabbit.

"Oh, Uncle Charles!" she began, "s-ee what I've found! And in an
ash-barrel, too! In--a--" She blinked the snow from her lashes,
took a sudden startled glance round the room, another at the clock,
and collapsed with confusion into the first chair that she could
reach.

A very tall "little girl" she was, and very young, not a day
more than eighteen surely. And even in the encompassing bulk
of her big coon-skin coat with its broad arms hugging the brown
rabbits to her breast she gave an impression of extraordinary
slimness and delicacy, an impression accentuated perhaps by a
slender silk-stockinged ankle, the frilly cuff of a white sleeve,
and the aura of pale gold hair that radiated in every direction
from the brim of her coon-skin hat. For fully fifteen minutes my
Husband said she sat huddled-up in all the sweet furry confusion of
a young animal, till driven apparently by that very confusion to
essay some distinctly normal-appearing, every-day gesture, she
reached out impulsively to the reading table and picked up a book
which some young man had just relinquished rather suddenly at a
summons to the doctor's inner office. Relaxing ever so slightly
into the depths of her chair with the bunnies' noses twinkling
contentedly to the rhythm of her own breathing, she made a
wonderful picture, line, color, spirit, everything of _Youth_.
Reading, with that strange, extra, inexplainable touch of the
sudden little pucker in the eyebrows, sheer intellectual perplexity
was in that pucker!

But when the young man returned from the inner office he did not
leave at once as every cross, irritable person in the room hoped
that he would, but fidgeted around instead with hat and coat,
stamped up and down crowding other people's feet, and elbowing
other people's elbows. With a gaspy glance at his watch he turned
suddenly on the girl with the rabbits. "Excuse me," he floundered,
"but I have to catch a train--_please_ may I have my book?"

"Your book?" deprecated the Girl. Confusion anew overwhelmed her!
"Your--book? Why, I beg your pardon! Why--why--" Pink as a rose
she slammed the covers and glanced for the first time at the title.
The title of the book was "What Every Young Husband Should Know."
. . . With a sigh like the sigh of a breeze in the ferns the
tension of the room relaxed! A very fat, cross-looking woman in
black satin ripped audibly at a side seam. . . . A frail old
gentleman who really had very few laughs left, wasted one of them
in the smothering depths of his big black-bordered handkerchief.
. . . The lame newsboy on the stool by the door emitted a single
snort of joy. Then the doctor himself loomed suddenly from the
inner office, and started right through everybody to the girl with
the rabbits. "Why, May," he laughed, "I told you not to get here
till four o'clock!"

"Oh, not May?" I protested to my Husband. "It simply couldn't be!
Not _really_?"

"Yes, really," affirmed my Husband. "Isn't it the limit? But wait
till you hear the rest! She's Dr. Brawne's ward, it seems, and has
been visiting him for the winter. . . . Comes from some little
place way off somewheres. . . . And she's got one of those sweet,
clear, absolutely harrowing 'boy soprano' types of voices that
sound like incense and altar lights even in rag-time. But weirder
than any thing--" triumphed my Husband.

"Oh, not than 'anything'?" I gasped.

"But weirder than anything," persisted my Husband, "is the curious
way she's marked."

"M-marked?" I stammered.

"Yes. After I saw her with her hat off," said my Husband, "I saw
the 'mark'. I've seen it in boys before, but never in a girl--an
absolutely isolated streak of gray hair! In all that riot of
blondness and sparkle and youth, just as riotous, just as lovely, a
streak of gray hair! It's bewitching! Bewildering! Like May itself!
Now sunshine! Now cloud! You'll write to her immediately, won't
you?" he begged. "And to Dr. Brawne, too? I told Dr. Brawne quite
frankly that it was going to be rather an experimental party, but
that, of course, we'd take the best possible care of her. And he
said he'd never seen an occasion yet when she wasn't perfectly
capable of taking care of herself. And that he'd be delighted to
have her come--" laughed my Husband quite suddenly, "if we were
sure that we didn't mind animals."

"Animals?" I questioned.

"Yes, dogs, cats, birds!" explained my Husband. "It isn't apt to be
a large animal such as a horse or a cow, Dr. Brawne was kind enough
to assure me. But he never knew her yet, he said, to arrive
anywhere without a guinea pig, squirrel, broken-winged bat, lame
dove, or half-choked mouse that she had acquired on the way! She's
very tender-hearted. And younger than----"

Blankly for a moment my Husband and I sat staring into each other's
eyes. Then, quite impulsively, I reached over and kissed him.

"Oh, Jack," I admitted, "it's too perfect! Truly it makes me feel
nervous!--Suppose she should roll her hoop off the cliff or----"

"Or--blow out the gas!" chuckled my Husband.

So you see now our cast was all assembled.

Radiant, "runctious," impatient Paul Brenswick and Victoria Meredith
for the Bride and Groom.

George Keets for the Very Celibate Person.

Ann Woltor for the Someone With a Past.

Claude Kennilworth for the Someone With a Future.

May Davies for the May Girl and the Singing Voice.

And Rollins for the Bore. About Rollins I must now confess that
I have not been perfectly frank. We hire Rollins! How else could
we control him! Even with a mushroom mind like his,--fruiting only
in bad weather, one can't force him on one's guests morning, noon,
_and_ night! Very fortunately here, for such strategy as is necessary,
my Husband concedes one further weakness than what I have previously
designated as his passion for amateur theatricals and his tolerance
of me. That weakness is sea shells--mollusca, you know, and that
sort of thing. . . . From all over the world, smelling saltily of
coral and palms, iceberg or arctic,--and only too often alas of
their dead selves, these smooth-spikey-pink-blue-yellow-or-mottled
shells arrive with maddening frequency. And Rollins is a born
cataloguer! What easier thing in the world to say than, "Oh, by
the way, Rollins, old man, here's an invoice that might interest
you from a Florida Key that I've just located. . . . How about
the second week in May? Could you come then, do you think? I'm
all tied up to be sure with a houseful of guests that week, but
they won't bother you any. And, at least, you'll have your evenings
for fun. Clothes? Haven't got 'em? Oh, Pshaw! Let me see. It rained
last year, didn't it? . . . Well, I guess we can raise the same
umbrella that we raised for you then! S'long!"

Everything settled then! Everything ready but the springtime and
the scenery! . . . And God Himself at work on that!--Hist! What is
it? The flash of a blue-bird?

A bell tinkles! A pulley-rope creaks! And the Curtain Rises!

May always comes so amazingly soon after February! So infinitely
much sooner than anyone dares hope that it would! Peering into
snow-smeared shop windows some rather particularly bleak morning
you notice with a half-contemptuous sort of amusement a precocious
display of ginghams and straw hats. And before you can turn round
to tell anybody about it, tulips have happened!--And It's May!

More than seeming extravagantly early this year, May dawned also
with extravagant lavishness. Through every prismatic color of the
world, sunshine sang to the senses!

"What shall we do," fretted my Husband, "if this perfection lasts?"
The question indeed was a leading one!

The scenery for Rainy Week did not arrive until the afternoon of
the eighth.

From his frowning survey of bright lawns, gleaming surf, radiant
sky, I saw my Husband turn suddenly with a little gasping sigh that
might have meant anything.

"What is it?" I cried.

"Look!" he said, "it's come."

Silently, shoulder to shoulder, we stood and watched the gigantic
storm-bales roll into the sky--packed in fleece, corded with ropes
of mist, gorgeous, portentous,--To-morrow's Rain! It is not many
hosts and hostesses under like circumstances who turn to each other
as we did with a single whoop of joy!

An hour later, hatless and coatless in the lovely warm May
twilight, we stood by the larch tree waiting for our guests. We
like to have them sup in town at their own discretion or
indiscretion, that first night, and all arrive together reasonably
sleek and sleepy, and totally unacquainted, on the eight o'clock
train. But the larch tree has always been our established point for
meeting the _Rainy Week_ people. Conceding cordially the truth of
the American aphorism that while charity may perfectly legitimately
begin at home, hospitality should begin at the railroad station! We
personally have proved beyond all doubt that for our immediate
interests at stake dramatic effect begins at the entrance to our
driveway.

Yet it is always with mingled feelings of trepidation and
anticipation that we first sense the blurry rumble of motor wheels
on the highway. If the station bus were only blue or green! But
palest oak! And shuttered like a roll-top desk! Spilling out
strange personalities at you like other people's ideas brimming
from pigeon-holes!

For some unfathomable reason of constraint this night, no one was
talking when the bus arrived. Shy, stiff-spined, non-communicative,
still questioning, perhaps. Who was who and what was what, these
seven guests who by the return ride a week hence might even be
mated, such things have happened, or once more not speaking to each
other, this also has happened, loomed now like so many dummies in
the gloom.

"Why, Hello!" we cried, jumping to the rear step of the bus as it
slowed slightly at the curb, and thrusting our faces as genially as
possible into the dark, unresponsive doorway.

"Hello!" rallied someone--I think it was Rollins. Whoever it was he
seemed to be having a terrible time trying to jerk his suitcase
across other people's feet.

"Oh, is this where you live?" questioned George Keets's careful
voice from the shadows. The faintest possible tinge of relief
seemed to be in the question.

"Here?" brightened somebody else.

A window-fastener clicked, a shutter crashed, an aperture opened,
and everybody all at once, scenting the sea, crowded to stare out
where the gray dusk merging into gray rocks merged in turn with the
gray rocks into a low rambling gray fieldstone house silhouetted
with indescribable weirdness at the moment against that delicate,
pale gold, French-drawing-room sort of sky cluttered so
incongruously with the clump of dark clouds.

"The road--doesn't go any farther?" puzzled someone. "There's no
other stopping place you mean--just a little bit farther along?
This is the end,--the last house,--the----?"

High from a cliff-top somewhere a sea bird lifted a single eerie cry.

"Oh, how--how dramatic!" gasped somebody.

Reaching out to nudge my Husband's hand I collided instead with a
dog's cold nose.

Following apparently the same impulse my Husband's hand met the
dog's startling nose at almost the same instant.

Except for a second's loss of balance on the bus-step neither of us
resented the incident. But it was my Husband who recovered his
conversation as well as his balance first.

"Oh, you Miss Davies!" he called blithely into the bus. "What's
your Pom's name? Nose-Gay? Skip-a-bout? Cross-Patch? What?--Lucky
for you we knew your propensity for arriving with pets! The
kennel's all ready and the cat sent away!"

In the nearest shadow of all it was almost as though one heard an
_ego_ bristle.

"I beg your pardon, but the Pomeranian is mine," affirmed Claude
Kennilworth's un-mistakable voice with what seemed like quite
unnecessary hauteur.

"What the deuce is the matter with everybody?" whispered my
Husband.

With a jerk and a bump the bus grazed a big boulder and landed us
wheezily at our own front door.

As expeditiously as possible my Husband snatched up the lantern
that gleamed from the doorstep and brandishing it on high,
challenged the shadowy occupants of the bus to disembark and
proclaim themselves.

Ann Woltor stepped down first. As vague as the shadows she merged
from her black-garbed figure faded un-outlined into the shadow of
the porch. For an instant only the uplifted lantern flashed across
her strange stark face--and then went crashing down into a shiver
of glass on the gravelly path at my Husband's feet. "Ann--Stoltor!"
I heard him gasp. My Husband is not usually a fumbler either with
hand or tongue. In the brightening flare of the flash-light that
some one thrust into his hands his face showed frankly rattled.
"Ann _Woltor_!" I prompted him hastily. For the infinitesimal
fraction of a second our eyes met. I hope my smile was as quick.
"What is the matter with everybody?" I said.

With extravagant exuberance my Husband jumped to help the rest of
our guests alight. "Hi, there, Everybody!" he greeted each new face
in turn as it emerged somewhat hump-shouldered and vague through
the door of the bus into the flare of his lantern light.

Poor Rollins, of course, tumbled out.

Fastidiously, George Keets illustrated how a perfect exit from a
bus should be made,--suitcase, hat-box, English ulster, everything
a model of its kind. Even the constraint of his face, absolutely
perfect.

With the Pomeranian clutched rather drastically under one arm,
Claude Kennilworth followed Keets. All the time, of course, you
knew that it was the Pomeranian who was growling, but from the
frowning irritability of young Kennilworth's eyes one might almost
have concluded that the boy was a ventriloquist and the Pom a
puppet instead of a puppy. "Her name is 'Pet'," he announced
somewhat succinctly to my Husband. "And she sleeps in no--kennel!"

A trifle paler than I had expected, but inexpressively young,
lovely, palpitant, and altogether adorable, the May Girl sprang
into my vision--and my arms. Her heart was beating like a wild
bird's.

With the incredibility of their miracle still stamped almost
embarrassingly on their faces, our Bride-and-Groom-of-a-Week
completed the list. It wasn't just the material physical fact that
Love was consummated, that gave them that look. But the spiritual
amazement that Love was consummatable! No other "look" in life ever
compasses it, ever duplicates it!

It made my Husband quite perceptibly quicken the tempo of his
jocosity.

"One--two--three--four--five--six--seven," he enumerated. "All good
guests come straight from Heaven! One--two--three--four--five--six--
Seven--" he repeated as though to be perfectly sure, "_seven_?
Why--Why, what the----?" he interrupted himself suddenly.

With frank bewilderment I saw him jump back to the rear step of the
bus and flash his light into the farthest corner where the huddled
form of an _eighth_ person loomed weirdly from the shadows.

It was a man--a young man. And at first glimpse he was quite dead.
But on second glimpse, merely drunk. Hopelessly,--helplessly,--sodden
drunk, with his hat gone, his collar torn away, his haggard face
sagging like some broken thing against his breast.

With a tension suddenly relaxed, a faint sigh seemed to slip from
the group outside. In the crowding faces that surrounded us
instantly, it must have been something in young Kennilworth's
expression, or in the Pomeranian's, that made my Husband speak just
exactly as he did. With his arms held under the disheveled, uncouth
figure, he turned quite abruptly and scanned the faces of his
guests, "And whose little pet--may this be?" he asked trenchantly.

From the shadow of the Porte-cochere somebody laughed. It was
rather a vacuous little laugh. Sheer nerves! Rollins, I think.

Framed in the half-shuttered window of the bus the May Girl's face
pinked suddenly like a flare of apple blossoms.

"He--came with--me," said the May Girl.

No matter how informally one chooses to run his household there is
almost always some one rule I've noticed on which the smoothness of
that informality depends.

In our household that rule seems to be that no explanations shall
ever be asked either in the darkness or by artificial light. . . .
It being the supposition I infer that most things explain
themselves by daylight. . . . Perfectly cordially I concede that
they usually do. . . . But some nights are a great deal longer to
wait through than others.

It wasn't, on this particular night, that anyone refused to
explain. But that nobody even had time to think of explaining. The
young Stranger was in a bad way. Not delirium tremens nor anything
like that, but a fearful alcoholic disorganization of some sort.
The men were running up and down stairs half the night. Their
voices rang through the halls in short, sharp orders to each other.
No one else spoke above a whisper. With silly comforts like talcum
powder, and hot water bottles, and sweet chocolate, and new novels,
I put the women to bed. Their comments if not explanatory were at
least reasonably characteristic.

From a swirl of pink chiffon and my best blankets, with her ear
cocked quite frankly toward a step on the stairs, her eyes like
stars, her mouth all a-kiss, the Bride reported her own emotions in
the matter.

"No,--no one, of course had ever believed for a moment," the Bride
assured me, "that the Drunken Man was one of the guests. . . . And
yet, when he didn't get off at any of the stops, and this house was
so definitely announced as the 'end of the road'--why it did, of
course, make one feel just a little bit nervous," flushed the
Bride, perfectly irrelevantly, as the creak on the stairs drew
nearer.

Ann Woltor registered only a very typical indifference.

"A great many different kinds of things," she affirmed, "were bound
to happen in any time as long as a day. . . . One simply had to get
used to them, that was all." She was unpacking her sombre black
traveling bag as she spoke, and the first thing she took out from
it was a man's gay, green-plaided golf cap. It looked strange with
the rest of her things. All the rest of her things were black.

I thought I would never succeed in putting the May Girl to bed.
With a sweet sort of stubbornness she resisted every effort. The
first time I went back she was kneeling at her bedside to say her
"forgotten prayers." The second time I went back she had just
jumped up to "write a letter to her Grandfather." "Something about
the sea," she affirmed, "had made her think of her grandfather."
"It was a long time," she acknowledged, since she "had thought of
her grandfather." "He was very old," she argued, "and she didn't
want to delay any longer about writing." Slim and frank as a boy in
her half-adjusted blanket-wrapper dishabille she smiled up at me
through the amazing mop of gold hair with the gray streak floating
like a cloud across the sunshine of her face. She was very nervous.
She must have been nervous. It darkened her eyes to two blue
sapphires. It quickened her breath like the breath of a young fawn
running. "And would I please tell her--how to spell 'oceanic'?" she
implored me. As though answering intuitively the unspoken question
on my lips, she shrugged blame from her as some exotic songbird
might have shrugged its first snow. "No--she didn't know who the
young man was! Truly--as far as she knew--she had never--never seen
the young man before!--o-c-e-a-n-i-c--was it?----"

The rain was not actually delivered until one o'clock in the
morning. Just before dawn I heard the storm-bales rip. In sheets of
silver and points of steel, with rage and roar, and a surf like a
picture in a Sunday supplement, the weather broke loose!

Thank heaven the morning was so dark that no one appeared in the
breakfast-room an instant before the appointed hour of nine.

George Keets, of course, appeared exactly at nine, very trim, very
_distingué_, in a marvelously tailored gray flannel suit, and
absolutely possessed to make his own coffee.

Claude Kennilworth's morning manner was very frankly peevish.
"His room had a tin roof and he hardly thought he should be
able to stand it. . . . Rain? Did you call this rain? It was a
_Flood_! . . . Were there any Movie Palaces near? . . . And were
they open mornings? . . . And he'd like an underdone chop, please,
for the Pomeranian. . . . And it wasn't his dog anyway, darn the
little fool, but belonged to the girl who had the studio next to
his and she was possessed with the idea that a week at the shore
would put the pup on its feet again. . . . Women were so blamed
temperamental. . . . If there was one thing in the world that he
hated it was temperamental people." And all the time he was talking
he wasn't making anything with his hands, because he wasn't
thinking anything instead, "And how in Creation," he scolded, "did
we ever happen to build a house out on the granite edge of Nowhere?
. . . How did we stand it? How----? . . . Hi there! . . . Wait a
moment! . . . _God_--what _Form_! That wave with the tortured top!
. . . Hush! . . . Don't speak! . . . _Please_ leave him alone!
Breakfast? Not yet! When a fellow could watch a--a thing like that!
. . . For heaven's sake, pass him that frothy-edged napkin! . . .
Did anybody mind if he _tore_ it? . . . While he watched that other
froth tear!"

Dear, honest, ardent, red-blooded Paul Brenswick came down so
frankly interested in the special device by which our house gutters
took care of such amazing torrents of water that everybody felt
perfectly confident all at once that no bride of his would ever
suffer from leaky roofs or any other mechanical defect. Paul
Brenswick liked the rain just as much as he liked the gutters! And
he liked the sea! And he liked the house! And he liked the sky! And
he liked everything! Even when a clumsy waitress joggled coffee
into his grapefruit he seemed to like that just as much as he liked
everything else. Paul Brenswick was a real Bridegroom. I am not, I
believe, a particularly envious person, and have never as far as I
know begrudged another woman her youth or her beauty or her talent
or her wealth. But if it ever came to a chance of swapping facial
expressions, just once in my life, some very rainy morning, I wish
I could look like a Bridegroom!

But the expression on the Bride's face was distinctly worried. Joy
worried! Any woman who had ever been a bride could have read the
expression like an open book. Victoria Brenswick had not counted on
rain. Moonlight, of course, was what she had counted on! Moonlight,
day and night in all probability! And long, sweet, soft stretches
of beach! And cavernous rocks! And incessantly mirthful escapades
of escape from the crowd! But to be shut up all day long in a
houseful of strange people! . . . With a Bridegroom who after all
was still more or less of a strange Bridegroom? The panic in her
face was almost ghastly! The panic of the Perfectly-Happy! The
panic of the person hanging over-ecstatically on the absolute
perfection of a singer's prolonged high note, driven all at once to
wonder if this is the moment when the note must break! . . . To be
all alone and bored on a rainy day is no more than anyone would
expect. . . . But to be with one's Lover and have the day prove
dull? . . . If God in the terrible uncertainty of Him should force
even one dull day into the miracle of their life together----?

Ann Woltor, dragging down to breakfast just a few moments late, had
not noticed especially, it seemed, that the day was rainy. She met
my Husband's eyes as she met the eyes of her fellow-guests, calmly,
indifferently, and with perfect sophistication. If his presence or
personality was in any way a shock to her she certainly gave no
sign of it.

The May Girl didn't appear till very late, so late indeed that
everybody started to tease her for being such a Sleepy Head. Her
face was very flushed. Her hair in a riot of gold--and gray. Her
appetite like the appetite of a young cannibal. Across the rim of
her cocoa cup she hurled a lovely defiance at her traducers.
"Sleepy Head!" she exulted. "Not much! Hadn't she been up since
six? And out on the beach? And all over the rocks? . . . Way, way
out to the farthest point? . . . There was such a heavenly suit of
yellow oil-skins in her closet! . . . She hoped it wasn't cheeky of
her but she just couldn't resist 'em! . . . And the fishes? . . .
The poor, poor little bruised fishes dashed up, by that terrible
surf on the rocks! . . . . She thought she never, never would get
them all put back! . . . They kept coming and coming so! Every new
wave! Flopping!--Flopping----"

Rollins's breakfast had been sent to his room. You yourself
wouldn't have wanted to spring Rollins on any one quite so early in
the day. And with my best breakfast tray, my second best china, and
sherry in the grape fruit, there was no reason certainly why
Rollins in any way should feel discriminated against. Surely, as
far as Rollins knew, every guest was breakfasting in bed.

Even without Rollins there was quite enough uncertainty in the air.

Everybody was talking--talking about the morning, I mean--not about
yesterday morning; most certainly not about yesterday night!
Babble, chatter, drawl, laughter, the voices rose and fell.
Breakfast indeed was just about over when a faint stir on the
threshold made everybody look up.

It was the Drunken Stranger of the night before.

Heaven knows he was sober enough now. But very shaky! Yet
collarless as he was and still unshaven--our men had evidently not
expected quite so early a resuscitation--he loomed up now in the
doorway with a certain tragic poise and dignity that was by no
means unattractive.

"Why, hello!" said everybody.

"Hello!" said the Stranger. With a palpable flex of muscle he
leaned back against the wainscoting of the door and narrowed his
haggard eyes to the cheerful scene before him. "I don't know where
I am," he said, "or how I got here. . . . Or who you are." "I can't
seem to remember anything." The faintly sheepish smile that
quickened suddenly in his eyes, if not distinctly humorous, was at
least plucky. "I think I must have had a drink," he said.

"I wouldn't wonder!" grinned Paul Brenswick.

"You are perfectly right," conceded George Keets.

"Have another!" suggested my Husband. "A straight and narrow this
time! You look wobbly. There's nothing like coffee."

And still the Stranger stood undecided in the doorway. "I'm not
very fit," he acknowledged. "Not with ladies. . . . But I _had_ to
know where I was." Blinking with perplexity he stared and stared at
the faces before him. "I'm three thousand miles from home," he
worried. "I don't know a soul this side of the Sierras. . . . I--I
don't know how it happened----"

"Oh, Shucks!" shrugged young Kennilworth. "Easiest thing in the
world to happen to a stranger in a new town! 'Welcome to our City
Welcome to our City' from night till morning and morning till night
again! Any crowd once it gets started----"

"Crowd!" brightened the Stranger. "I--I was in some sort of a--a
crowd?" he rummaged hopefully through his poor bruised brain.

From her concentrated interest in a fried chicken-bone, the May
Girl glanced up with her first evidence of divided attention.

"Yes! You were!" she confided genially. "It was at the railroad
junction. And when the officer arrived, he said, 'I hate like the
dickens to run this gentleman in, but if there's nobody to look
after him--?' So I said you belonged to me! I saw the crape on your
sleeve!" said the May Girl.

"Crape--on--my--sleeve?" stammered the Stranger. With a dreadful
gesture of incredulity he lifted his black-banded arm into vision.
It was like watching a live heart torn apart to see his memory
waken. "My--God!" he gasped. "My _God_!" Still wavering but with a
really heroic effort to square his stricken shoulders, he swung
back toward the company. His face was livid, his voice, barely
articulate. Over face and voice lay still that dreadful blight of
astonishment. But when he spoke his statement was starkly simple.
"I--I buried my wife and unborn child--yesterday," he said. "In a
strange land--among strangers I--I----"

More quickly than I could possibly have imagined it, George Keets
was on his feet beckoning the Stranger to the place which he
himself had just vacated. And with his hands on the Stranger's
shoulders he bent down suddenly over him with a curiously twisted
little smile.

"Welcome to our--Pity!" said George Keets.

Between Paul Brenswick and his Bride there flashed a sharp glance
of terror. It was as though the bride's heart had gasped out. "What
if I have to die some day?--And _this_ day was wasted in rain?"

I saw young Kennilworth flush and turn away from that glance. I saw
the May Girl open her eyes with a new baffled sort of perplexity.

It was then that Rollins came puttering in, grinning like a Chessy
Cat, with his half-demolished breakfast sliding round rather
threateningly on his ill-balanced tray. The strange exultancy of
rain was in his eye.

"I thought I heard voices," he beamed. "Merry voices!" With
mounting excitement he began to beat tunes with his knife and fork
upon the delicate porcelain dome of his toast dish. "Am I a--King,"
he began to intone, "that I should call my own, this--?" Struck
suddenly by the somewhat strained expression of Ann Woltor's face,
he dropped his knife and fork and fixed his eye upon her for the
first time with an unmistakable intentness.

"How did you break your tooth?" beamed Rollins.

CHAPTER II

FOR a single horrid moment everybody's heart seemed to lurch off
into space to land only too audibly in a gaspy thud of dismay.

Then Ann Woltor with unprecedented presence of mind jumped up from
the table and ran to the mirror over the fireplace. Only the
twittering throat-muscle reflected in that mirror belied for an
instant the sincerity of either her haste or her astonishment.

"Broken tooth!" she protested incredulously. "Why! Have I got
a--broken tooth?"

People acknowledge their mental panics so divergently. My Husband
acknowledged his by ramming his elbow into his coffee cup. Claude
Kennilworth lit one cigarette after another. The May Girl started
to butter a picture post card that someone had just passed her.
Quite starkly before my very eyes I saw the Sober Stranger,
erstwhile drunken, reach out and slip a silver salt-shaker into his
pocket. Meeting his glance my own nerves exploded in a single hoot
of mirth.

Into the unhappy havoc of the Stranger's face a rather sick but
very determinate little smile shot suddenly.

"Well, I certainly am rattled?" he acknowledged.

His embarrassment was absolutely perfect. Not a whit too much, not
a whit too little, at a moment when the slightest under-emphasis or
over-emphasis of his awkwardness would have stamped him
ineradicably as either boor--or bounder. More indeed by his chair's
volition than by his own he seemed to jerk aside then and there
from any further responsibility for the incident. Turbid as the
storm at the window his eyes racked back to the eyes of his
companions.

"Surely," he besought us, "there must be some place--some
hotel--somewhere in this town where I can crawl into for a day or
two till I can yank myself together again?  . . . Taking me in this
way from the streets--or worse the way you-people have--" Along the
stricken pallor of his forehead a glisten of sweat showed faintly.
From my eyes to my Husband's eyes, and back to mine again he turned
with a sharply impulsive gesture of appeal. "How do you-people know
but what I _am_ a burglar?" he demanded.

"Even so," I suggested blithely, "can't you see that we'd
infinitely rather have you visiting here as our friend than
boarding at the hotel as our foe!"

The mirthless smile on the Stranger's face twitched ever so faintly
at one corner.

"You really believe then--" he quickened, "that there is 'honor
among thieves'?"

"All proverbs," intercepted my Husband a bit abruptly, "are best
proved by their antithesis. We do at least know that there is at
times--a considerable streak of dishonor among saints!"

"Eh?--What's that--I didn't quite catch it," beamed the Bridegroom.

But my Husband's entire attention seemed focused rather suddenly on
the Stranger.

"So you'd much better stay right on here where you are!" he adjured
him with some accent of authority. "Where all explanations are
already given and taken! . . . Ourselves quite opportunely short
one guest and long one guest-room, and--No! I won't listen for a
moment to its being called an 'imposition'!" protested my Husband.
"Not for a moment! Only, of course, I must admit," he confided
genially, above the flare of a fresh cigarette, "that it would be a
slight convenience to know your name."

"My name?" flushed the Stranger. "Why, of course! It's Allan John."

"You mean 'John Allan'," corrected the May Girl very softly.

"No," insisted the Stranger. "It's Allan John." Quite logically he
began to rummage through his pockets for the proof. "It's written
on my bill-folder," he frowned. "It's in my check-book. . . . It's
written on no-end of envelopes." With his face the color of half-dead
sedge grass he sank back suddenly into his chair and turned his
empty hands limply outward as though his wrist-bones had been
wrung. "Gone!" he gasped. "Stripped!--Everything!"

"There you have it!" I babbled hysterically. "Now, how do you know
but what _we_ are burglars? . . . This whole house a Den of
Thieves? . . . The impeccable Mr. George Keets there at your
right,--no more, no less, than exactly what he looks,--an almost
perfect replica of a stage 'Raffles'?"

"Eh? What's that?" bridled George Keets.

"Dragging you here to this house the way we did," I floundered
desperately. "Quite helpless as you were. So--so----"

"'Spifflicated,'" prompted the May Girl. The word on her lips was
like the flutter of a rose petal.

With a little gasp of astonishment young Kennilworth rose from his
place, and dragging his chair in one hand, his plate of fruit in
the other, moved round to the May Girl's elbow to finish his
breakfast. Like a palm trying to patronize a pine tree, his crisp
exotic young ego swept down across her young serenity.

"Really, I don't quite make you out," he said. "I think I shall
have to study you!"

"Study--me!" reflected the May Girl. "Make a lesson about me, you
mean! On a holiday?" The vaguely dawning dimple in her smooth cheek
faded suddenly out again.

The Stranger--Allan John--it seemed, was rising from the table.

"If you'll excuse me, I think I'll go to my room," he explained.
"I'm still pretty shaky. I'm----"

But half way to the stairs, as though drawn by some irresistible
impulse, he turned, and fumbling his way back across the dining-room
opened the big glass doors direct into the storm. Tripping ever so
slightly on the threshold he lurched forward in a single wavering
step. In an instant the May Girl was at his side, her steadying
hand held out to his! Recovering his balance almost instantly he
did not however release her hand, but still holding tight to it,
indescribably puzzled, indescribably helpless, stood shoulder to
shoulder with her, staring out into the tempestuous scene. Lashed
by the wind the May Girl's mop of hair blew gold, blew gray, across
his rain-drenched eyes. Blurred in a gusty flutter of white skirts
his whole tragic, sagging figure loomed suddenly like some weird,
symbolic shadow against the girl's bright beauty.

Frankly the picture startled me! "S-s-h!" warned my Husband. "It
won't hurt her any! He doesn't even know whether she's young or
old."

"Or a boy--or a girl," interposed George Keets, a bit drily.

"Or an imp or a saint," grinned young Kennilworth. "Or----"

"Or anything at all," persisted my Husband, "except that she says
'_Kindness_' and nothing else, you notice, except just
'_Kindness_.' No suggestions, you observe? No advice? And at an
acid moment in his life of such unprecedented shock and general
nervous disorganization when his only conceivable chance of 'come-back'
perhaps, hangs on the alkaline wag of a strange dog's tail or the
tune of a street piano proving balm not blister. By to-morrow--I
think--you won't see him holding hands with the May Girl nor with
any other woman. Personally," confided my Husband a bit abruptly,
"I rather like the fellow! Even in the worst of his plight last
night there was a certain fundamental sort of poise and dignity
about him as of one who would say, 'Bad as this is, you chaps must
see that I'd stand ready with my life to do the same for you'!"

"To--do--the same--for you?" gasped the Bride. Very quietly, like
an offended young princess, she rose from the table and stood for
that single protesting moment with her hand on her Bridegroom's
shoulder. Her eager, academic young face was frankly aghast,--her
voice distinctly strained. "I'm sorry," she said, "but I quite fail
to see how the word 'dignity' could possibly be applied to any man
who had so debased himself as to go and get drunk because his wife
and child were dead!"

"You talk," said my Husband, "as though you thought 'getting drunk'
was some sort of jocular sport. It isn't! That is, not inevitably,
you know!"

"No--I didn't--know," murmured the Bride coldly.

"Deplorable as the result proved to be," interposed George Keets's
smooth, carefully modulated voice, "it's hardly probable I suppose
that the poor devil started out with the one deliberate purpose
of--of debasing him self, as Mrs. Brenswick calls it."

"N-o?" questioned the Bride.

"It isn't exactly, you mean, as though he'd leapt from the church
shouting, 'Yo--ho--, and a bottle of rum,'" observed young
Kennilworth with one faintly-twisted eyebrow.

"S-s-h!" admonished everybody.

"Maybe he simply hadn't eaten for days," suggested my Husband.

"Or slept for nights and nights," frowned George Keets.

"And just absolutely was obliged to have a bracer," said my
Husband, "to put the bones back into his knees again so that he
could climb up the steps of his train and fumble some sort of way
to his seat without seeming too conspicuous. Whatever religion may
do, you know, to starch a man's soul or stiffen his upper lip, he's
got to have bones in his knees if he's going to climb up into
railroad trains. . . . And our poor young friend here, it would
seem, merely mis----"

"Mis--calculated," mused Kennilworth, "how many knees he had."

"Paul wouldn't do it!" flared the Bride.

"Do what?" demanded young Kennilworth.

"Hush!" protested everybody.

"Make a beast of himself--if I died--if I died!" persisted the Bride.

"Pray excuse me for contradicting either your noun or your
preposition," apologized my Husband. "But even at its worst I'm
quite willing to wager that the only thing in the world poor Allan
John started out to 'make' was an oblivion--for--himself."

"An oblivion?" scoffed the Bride.

"Yes--even for one night!" persisted my Husband. "Even for one
short little night! . . . Before the horror of 365 nights to the
year and God knows how many years to the life--rang on again! Some
men really like their wives you know,--some men--so no matter how
thin-skinned and weak this desire for oblivion seems to you--"
quickened my Husband, "it is at least a----"

"Paul wouldn't!" frowned the Bride.

In the sudden accentuation of strain everybody turned as quickly as
possible to poor Paul to decide as cheerfully as seemed compatible
with good taste just what that gorgeously wholesome looking
specimen of young manhood would or would not do probably under
suggested circumstances. Nobody certainly wanted to consider the
matter seriously, yet nobody with the Bride's scared eyes still
scorching through his senses would have felt quite justified I
think in mere shrugging the issue aside.

"No, I don't think Paul--would!" rallied my Husband with
commendable quickness. "Not with those eyes! Not with that
particular shade of crisp, controlled hair! . . . Complexions like
his aren't made in one generation of righteous nerves and
digestions! . . . Oh no--! Even in the last ditch the worst thing
Paul would do would be to stalk round putting brand new gutters on
a brand new house!"

"Bridge-building is my job--not gutters," grinned Paul unhappily.

"Stalk round building brand new bridges," corrected my Husband.

"Intoxicated with bridges!" triumphed young Kennilworth. "Doped
with specifications!"

"But perhaps Allan John--doesn't know how to build bridges,"
murmured my Husband. "And perhaps in Allan John's family an
occasional Maiden Aunt _or_ Uncle has strayed just a----"

"With the faintest possible gesture of impatience, but still
smiling, the Bridegroom rose from the table and lifted his Bride's
hand very gently from his shoulder.

"Who started this conversation, anyway?" he quizzed.

"I did!" laughed everybody.

"Well, I end it!" said the Bridegroom.

"Oh, thunder!" protested young Kennilworth. In the hollow of his
hand something that once had been the spongy shapeless center of a
breakfast roll crushed back into sponge again. But in the instant
of its crushing, crude as the modeling was, half jest, half child's
play, I sensed the unmistakable parody of a woman's finger-prints
bruising into the soft crest of a man's shoulder. Even in the
absurdity of its substance the sincerity of the thing was
appalling. Catching my eye alone, young Kennilworth gave an amused
but distinctly worldly-wise little laugh.

"Women do care so much, don't they?" he shrugged.

A trifling commotion in the front hall stayed the retort on my lips.

The commotion was Ann Woltor. Coated and hatted and already
half-gloved she loomed blackly from the shadows, trying very hard
to attract my attention.

In my twinge of anxiety about the May Girl I had quite forgotten
Ann Woltor. And in the somewhat heated discussion of Allan John's
responsibilities and irresponsibilities, the May Girl also, it
would seem, had passed entirely from my mind.

"I'm very sorry," explained Ann Woltor, "but with this unfortunate
accident to my tooth I shall have to hurry, of course, right back
to town." Even if you had never heard Ann Woltor speak you could
have presaged perfectly from her face just what her voice would be
like, gravely contralto, curiously sonorous, absolutely without
either accent or emphasis, yet carrying in some strange,
inex-plainable way a rather goose-fleshy sense of stubbornness and
finality. "One can't exactly in a Christian land," droned Ann Woltor,
"go round looking like the sole survivor of a massacre."

Across the somewhat sapient mutual consciousness that ever since we
had first laid eyes on each other five months ago--and goodness
knows how long before that--she had been going round perfectly
serenely 'looking like the sole survivor of a massacre,' Ann Woltor
and I stared just a bit deeply into each other's eyes. The
expression in Ann's eyes was an expression of peculiar poignancy.

"No, of course not!" I conceded with some abruptness. "But surely
if you can find the right dentist and he's clever at all, you ought
to be able to get back here on the six-thirty train to-night!"

"The six-thirty train? Perhaps," murmured Ann Woltor. Once again
her eyes hung upon mine. And I knew and Ann Woltor knew and Ann
Woltor knew that I knew,--that she hadn't the slightest intention
in the world of returning to us on any train whatsoever. But for
some reason known only to herself and perhaps one other, was only
too glad to escape from our party--anatomically impossible as that
escape sounds--through the loop-hole of a broken tooth. Already
both black gloves were fastened, and her black traveling-bag swayed
lightly in one slim, determinate hand. "Your maid has ordered the
station bus for me," she confided; "and tells me that by changing
cars at the Junction and again at Lees--Truly I'm sorry to make any
trouble," she interrupted herself. "If there had been any possible
way of just slipping out without anybody noticing----!"

"Without anybody noticing?" I cried. "Why, Ann, you dear silly!"

At this, my first use of her Christian name, she flashed back at me
a single veiled glance of astonishment, and started for the door.
But before I could reach her side my Husband stepped forward and
blocked her exit by the seemingly casual accident of plunging both
arms rather wildly into the sleeves of his great city-going
raincoat.

"Why the thing is absurd!" he protested. "You can't possibly make
train connections! And there isn't even a covered shed at the
Junction! If this matter is so important I'll run you up to town
myself in the little closed car!"

Across Ann Woltor's imperturbable face an expression that would
have meant an in-growing scream on any other person's countenance
flared up in a single twitching lip-muscle and was gone again.
Behind the smiling banter in my Husband's eyes she also perhaps had
noted a determination quite as stubborn as her own.

"Why--if you insist," she acquiesced, "but it has always distressed
me more than I can say to inconvenience anybody."

"Inconvenience--nothing!" beamed my Husband. Ordinarily speaking my
Husband would not be described I think as having a beaming
expression.

With a chug like the chug of a motor-boat the little closed car
came splashing laboriously round the driveway. Its glassy face was
streaked with tears. Depressant as black life-preservers its two
extra tires gleamed and dripped in their jetty enamel-cloth
casings. A jangle as of dungeon chains clanked heavily from each
fresh revolution of its progress.

Everybody came rushing helpfully to assist in the embarkation.

My Husband's one remark to me flung back in a whisper from the
steering wheel, though frankly confidential, concerned Allan John
alone.

"Don't let Allan John want for anything to-day," he admonished me.
"Keep his body and mind absolutely glutted with bland things like
cocoa and reading aloud . . . And don't wait supper for us!"

With her gay jonquil-colored oil-skin coat swathing her sombre
figure, Ann Woltor slipped into the seat beside him and slammed the
door behind her. Her face was certainly a study.

"Sixty miles to town if it's an inch! How--cosy," mused young
Kennilworth.

"Good-bye!" shouted everybody.

"Good-bye!" waved Ann Woltor and my Husband.

As for Rollins, he was almost beside himself with pride and
triumph. Shuffling joyously from one foot to the other he crowded
to the very edge of the vestibule and with his small fussy face
turned up ecstatically to the rain, fairly exploded into speech the
instant the car was out of earshot.

"She'll look better!" gloated Rollins.

"Who?--the car?" deprecated young Kennilworth.

Then, because everybody laughed out at nothing, it gave me a very
good chance suddenly to laugh out at "nothing" myself. And most
certainly I had been needing that chance very badly for at least
the last fifteen minutes. Because really when you once stopped to
consider the whole thrilling scheme of this "Rainy Week" Play, and
how you and your Husband for years and years had constituted
yourself a very eager, earnest-minded Audience-of-Two to watch how
the Lord Almighty,--the one unhampered Dramatist of the world,
would work out the scenes and colors--the exits and entrances--the
plots and counter plots of the material at hand--it was just a bit
astonishing to have your Husband jump up from his place in the
audience and leap to the stage to be one of the players instead!

It wasn't at all that the dereliction worried your head or troubled
your heart. But it left your elbow so lonely! Who was there left
for your elbow to nudge? When the morning curtain rose on a flight
of sea gulls slashing like white knives through a sheet of silver
rain, or the Night Scene set itself in a plushy black fog that
fairly crinkled your senses; when the Leading Lady's eyes narrowed
for the first time to the Leading Man's startled stare, and the
song you had introduced so casually at the last moment in the last
act proved to be the reforming point in the Villain's nefarious
career, and the one character you had picked for "Comic Relief"
turned out to be the Tragedienne, who in the world was left for
your elbow to nudge?

Swinging back to the breakfast-room I heard the clock strike
ten--only ten?

It was going to be a nice little Play all right! Starting off
already with several quite unexpected situations! And it wouldn't
be the first time by any means that in an emergency I had been
obliged to "double" as prompter and stage hand or water carrier and
critic. But how to double as elbow-nudger I couldn't quite figure.

"Let's go for a tramp on the beach!" suggested the Bridegroom.
Always on the first rainy morning immediately after breakfast some
restive business man suggests "a tramp on the beach!" Frankly we
have reached a point where we quite depend on it for a cue.

Everybody hailed the proposition with delight except Allan John and
Rollins. A zephyr would have blown Allan John from his footing. And
Rollins had to stay in his room to catalogue shells. . . . Rollins
was paid to stay in his room and catalogue shells!

Of the five adventurers who essayed to sally forth, only one failed
to clamor for oil skins. You couldn't really blame the Bride for
her lack of clamoring. . . . The Bride's trousseau was wonderful as
all trousseaux are bound perforce to be that are made up of equal
parts of taste,--money,--fashion,--and passion. No one who had
"saved up" such a costume as the Bride had for the first rainy day
together, could reasonably be expected to doff it for yellow
oil-skins. Of some priceless foreign composition, half cloth, half
mist, indescribably shimmering, almost indecently feminine, with
the frenchiest sort of a little hat gaily concocted of marshgrass
and white rubber pond-lilies, it gave her lovely, somewhat classic
type, all the sudden audacious effect somehow of a water-proofed
valentine.

Young Kennilworth sensed the inherent contrast at once.

"Beside you," he protested, "we look like Yellow Telegrams! . . .
Your Husband there is some Broker's Stock Quotation--sent
'collect!' . . . Mr. Keets is a rather heavily-worded summons to
address the Alumnae of Something-or-other College! . . . I am a
Lunch Invitation to 'Miss Dancy-Prancy of the Sillies!' . . . And
you, of course, Miss Davies," he quickened delightedly, "are a
Night Letter, because you are so long--and inconsequent--all about
rabbits--and puppies--and kiddie things like checked gingham
pinafores!"

Laughing, teasing, arguing, jeering each other's oil-skins,
praising the Bride's splendor, they swept, a young hurricane of
themselves, out into the bigger hurricane of sea and sky, and still
five abreast, still jostling, still teasing, still arguing, passed
from sight around the storm-swept curve of the beach, while I
stayed behind to read aloud to Allan John.

Not that Allan John listened at all. But merely because every time
I stopped reading he struggled up from the lovely soggy depths of
his big leather chair and began to worry. We read two garden
catalogues and a chapter on insect pests. We read a bit of Walter
Pater, and five exceedingly scurrilous poems from a volume of free
verse. It seemed to be the Latin names in the garden catalogues
that soothed him most. And when we weren't reading, we drank malted
milk. Allan John, it seemed, didn't care for cocoa.

But even if I hadn't had Allan John on my mind I shouldn't have
gone walking on the beach. We have always indeed made it a point
not to walk on the beach with our guests on the first rainy,
restive morning of their arrival. In a geographical environment
where every slushy step of sand, every crisp rug of pebbles, every
wind-tortured cedar root, every salt-gnawed crag is as familiar to
us as the palms of our own hands, it is almost beyond human nature
not to try and steer one's visitors to the preferable places, while
the whole point of this introductory expedition demands that the
visitors shall steer themselves. In the inevitable mood of
uneasiness and dismay that overwhelms most house party guests when
first thrust into each other's unfamiliar faces, the initial
gravitations that ensue are rather more than usually significant.
To be perfectly explicit, for instance, people who start off five
abreast on that first rainy walk never come home five abreast!

In the immediate case at hand, nobody came home at all until long
after Allan John and I had finished our luncheon, and in the manner
of that coming, George Keets had gravitated to leadership with the
Bride and Bridegroom. Very palpably with the Bridegroom's
assistance he seemed to be coaxing and urging the Bride's frankly
jaded footsteps, while young Kennilworth and the May Girl brought
up the rear staggering and lurching excitedly under the weight of a
large and somewhat mysteriously colored wooden box.

The Bridegroom and George Keets and young Kennilworth and the May
Girl were as neat as yellow paint. But the poor Bride was ruined.
Tattered and torn, her diaphanous glory had turned to real mist
before the onslaught of wind and rain. Her hat was swamped, her
face streaked with inharmonious colors. She was drenched to the
skin. Her Bridegroom was distracted with anxiety and astonishment.

Everybody was very much excited! Lured by some will-o-the-wisp that
lurks in waves and beaches they had lost their way it seems between
one dune and another, staggered up sand-hills, fallen down
sand-hills, sheltered themselves at last during the worst gust of
all "in a sort of a cave in a sort of a cliff" and sustained life
very comfortably "thank you" on some cakes of sweet chocolate which
George Keets had discovered most opportunely in his big oil-skin
pockets!

But most exciting of all they had found a wreck! "Yes, a real
wreck! A perfectly lovely--beautiful--and quite sufficiently
gruesome real wreck!" the May Girl reported.

Not exactly a whole wreck it had proved to be . . . Not shattered
spars and masts and crumpled cabins with plush cushions floating
messily about. But at least it was a real trunk from a real wreck!
Mrs. Brenswick had spied it first. Just back of a long brown untidy
line of flotsam and jetsam, the sea-weeds, the dead fish, the old
bales and boxes, that every storm brings to the beach, Mrs.
Brenswick had spied the trunk lurching up half-imbedded in the
sand. It must have come in on the biggest wave of all some time
during the night. It was "awfully wet" and yet "not so awfully
wet." Everybody agreed that is, that it wasn't water-logged, that
it hadn't, in short, been rolling around in the sea for weeks or
months but bespoke a disaster as poignantly recent as last night,
on the edge of this very storm indeed that they themselves were now
frivoling in. For fully half an hour, it appeared before even so
much as touching the trunk, they had raced up and down the beach
hunting half hopefully, half fearfully for some added trace of
wreckage, the hunched body even of a survivor. But even with this
shuddering apprehension once allayed, the original discovery had
not proved an altogether facile adventure.

It had taken indeed at the last all their combined energies and
ingenuities to open the trunk. The Bride had broken two finger
nails. George Keets had lost his temper. Paul Brenswick in a final
flare of desperation had kicked in the whole end with an abandon
that seemed to have been somewhat of an astonishment to everybody.
Even from the first young Kennilworth had contested "that the thing
smelt dead." But this unhappy odor had been proved very fortunately
to be nothing more nor less than the rain-sloughed coloring matter
of the Bride's pond-lily hat.

"And here is what we found in the trunk!" thrilled the Bride. In
the palm of her extended hand lay a garnet necklace,--fifty stones
perhaps, flushing crimson-dark in a silver setting of such unique
beauty and such unmistakable Florentine workmanship as stamped the
whole trinket indisputably "precious," if not the stones themselves.

"And there were women's dresses in it," explained Paul Brenswick.
"Rather queer-looking dresses and----"

"Oh, it was the--the--funniest trunk!" cried the May Girl. "All--"
Her eyes were big with horror.

"Anybody could have Sherlocked at a glance," sniffed young
Kennilworth, "that it had been packed by a crazy person!"

"No, I don't agree to that at all!" protested the Bride, whose own
trunk-packing urgencies and emergencies were only too recent in her
mind. "Anybody's liable to pack a trunk like that when he's moving!
The last trunk of all! Every left-over thing that you thought was
already packed or that you had planned to tuck into your suitcase
and found suddenly that you couldn't."

"Why, there was an old-fashioned copper chafing dish!" sniffed
young Kennilworth. "And the top-drawer of a sewing-table fairly
rattling with spools!"

"And books!" frowned George Keets. "The weirdest little old edition
of 'Pilgrim's Progress'!"

"And toys!" quivered the May Girl. "A perfectly gorgeous brand new
box of 'Toy Village'! As huge as--Oh it was awful!"

"As huge as--that!" kicked young Kennilworth wryfully against the
box at his feet. "I wanted to bring the chafing dish," he scolded,
"but nothing would satisfy this young idiot here except that we lug
the Toy Village.----"

"One couldn't bring--everything all at once," deprecated the May
Girl. "Perhaps to-morrow--if it isn't too far--and we ever could
find it again----"

"But why such haste about the 'Toy Village'?" I questioned. "Why
not the dresses? The----"

Hopelessly, but with her eyes like blue skies, her cheeks like
apple-blossoms, the May Girl tried to justify her mental processes.
"Probably I can't explain exactly," she admitted, "but books and
dishes and dresses being just things wouldn't mind being drowned
but toys, I think, would be frightened." With a frank expression of
shock she stopped suddenly and stared all around her. "It doesn't
quite make sense when you say it out loud, does it?" she reflected.
"But when you just feel it--inside----"

"I brought the little 'Pilgrim's Progress' back with me," confessed
George Keets with the faintest possible smile. "Not exactly perhaps
because I thought it would be 'frightened.' But two nights
shipwreck on a New England coast in this sort of weather didn't
seem absolutely necessary."

"And I brought the dinkiest little pearl-handled pistol,"
brightened Paul Brenswick. "It's a peach! Tucked into the pocket of
an old blue cape it was! Wonder I ever found it!"

From a furious rummaging through her pockets the May Girl suddenly
withdrew her hand.

"Of course, we'll have to watch the shipwreck news," said the May
Girl. "Or even advertise, perhaps. So maybe there won't be any real
treasure-trove after all. But just to show that I thought of you,
Mrs. Delville," she dimpled, "here are four very damp spools of red
sewing-silk for your own work-table drawer! Maybe they came all the
way from China! And here's a--I don't know what it is, for Allan
John--I think it's a whistle! And here's a little not-too-soggy
real Morocco-bound blank book for Mr. Rollins when he comes
down-stairs again! And----"

"And for Mr. Delville?" I teased. "And for Ann Woltor?"

With her hand slapped across her mouth in a gesture of childish
dismay, the May Girl stared round at her companions.

"Oh dear--Oh dear--Oh _dear_!" she stammered. "None of us ever
thought once of poor Mr. Delville and Miss Woltor!"

"It's hot eatments and drinkments that you'd better be thinking of
now!" I warned them all with real concern. "And blanket-wrappers!
And downy quilts! Be off to your rooms and I'll send your lunches
up after you! And don't let one of you dare show his drenched face
down-stairs again until suppertime!"

Then Allan John and I resumed our reading aloud. We read Longfellow
this time, and a page or two of Marcus Aurelius, and half a
detective story. And substituted orange juice very mercifully for
what had grown to be a somewhat monotonous carousal in malted milk.
Allan John seemed very much gratified with the little silver
whistle from the shipwreck, and showed quite plainly by various
pursings of his strained lips that he was fairly yearning to blow
it, but either hadn't the breath, or else wasn't sure that such a
procedure would be considered polite. Really by six o'clock I had
grown quite fond of Allan John. It was his haunted eyes, I think
and the lovely lean line of his cheek. But whether he was
animal--vegetable--mineral--Spirituelle--or Intellectuelle, I,
myself, was not yet prepared to say.

The supper hour passed fortunately without fresh complications.
Everybody came down! Everybody's eyes were like stars! And every
body's complexion lashed into sheer gorgeous-ness by the morning's
mad buffet of wind and wave! Best of all, no one sneezed.

Our little Bride was a dream again in a very straight, very severe
gray velvet frock that sheathed her young suppleness like the
suppleness of a younger Crusader. Her regenerated beauty was an
object-lesson to all young husbands' pocket-books for all time to
come that beauty like love is infinitely more susceptible to bad
weather than is either homeliness or hate, and as such must be
cherished by a man's brain as well as by his brawn. Paul Brenswick,
goodness knows, would never need to choose his Bride's clothes for
her. But lusty young beauty-lover that he was by every right of
clean heart and clean living, it was up to him to see that his
beloved was never financially hampered in her own choosing! A
non-extravagant bride, wrecked as his bride had been by the
morning's tempest, might not so readily have recovered her magic.

The May Girl, as usual, was like a spray of orchard bloom in some
white, frothy, middy blouse sort of effect. With the May Girl's
peculiarly fragrant and insouciant type of youthfulness one never
noted somehow just what she wore, nor rated one day's mood of
loveliness against another. The essential miracle, as of May-time
itself, lay merely in the fact that she was here.

Everybody talked, of course, about the shipwreck.

The Bride did not wear her necklace. "It was too ghostly," she
felt. But she carried it in her hand and brooded over it with the
tender, unshakable conviction that once at least it must have
belonged to "another Bride."

Rollins, I thought, was rather unduly enthusiastic about his share
of the booty. Yet no one who knew Rollins could ever possibly have
questioned the absolute sincerity of him. Note-books, it appeared,
were a special hobby of his! Morocco-bound note-books particularly.
And when it came to faintly soggy Morocco-bound note-books, words
were inadequate it seemed to express his appreciation. Nothing
would do but the May Girl must inscribe it for him. "Aberner
Rollins," she wrote very carefully in her round, childish hand,
with a giggly flourish at the tail-tip of each word. "For Aberner
Rollins from his friend May Davies. Awful Shipwreck Time, May 10th,
1919." Rollins used an inestimable number of note-books it appeared
in the collection of his statistics. "The collection of statistics
was the consuming passion of his life," he confided to everybody.
"The consuming passion!" he reiterated emphatically. "Already," he
affirmed, "he had revised and reaudited the whole fresh-egg-account
of his own family for the last three generations! In a single
slender tome," he bragged, "he held listed the favorite flowers of
all living novelists both of America and England! Another tome
bulged with the evidence that would-be suicides invariably waited
for pleasant weather in which to accomplish their self-destruction!
In regard to the little black Morocco volume," he kindled
ecstatically, "he had already dedicated it to a very interesting
new thought which had just occurred to him that evening, apropos of
a little remark--a most significant little remark that had been
dropped during the breakfast chat. . . . If anyone was really
interested--" he suggested hopefully.

Nobody was the slightest bit interested! Nobody paid the remotest
attention to him! Everybody was still too much excited about the
shipwreck, and planning how best to salvage such loot as remained.

"And maybe by to-morrow there'll be even more things washed up!"
sparkled the May Girl. "A real India shawl perhaps! A set of chess-men
carved from a whale's tooth! Only, of course--if it should rain as
hard--" she drooped as suddenly as she had sparkled.

"It can't!" said young Kennilworth. Even with the fresh crash of
wind and rain at the casement he made the assertion arrogantly. "It
isn't in the mind of God," he said, "to make two days as rainy as
this one." The little black Pomeranian believed him anyway, and
came sniffing out of the shadows to see if the arrogantly
gesticulative young hand held also the gift of lump sugar as well
as of prophecy.

It was immediately after supper that the May Girl decided to
investigate the possibilities and probabilities of her "toy
village."

Somewhat patronizingly at first but with a surprisingly rapid
kindling of enthusiasm, young Kennilworth conceded his assistance.

The storm outside grew wilder and wilder. The scene inside grew
snugger and snugger. The room was warm, the lamps well shaded, the
tables piled with books, the chairs themselves deep as waves. "Loaf
and let loaf" was the motto of the evening.

By pulling the huge wolf-skin rug away from the hearth, the May
Girl and young Kennilworth achieved for their village a plane of
smoothness and light that gleamed as fair and sweet as a real
village common at high noon. Curled up in a fluff of white the May
Girl sat cross-legged in the middle of it superintending operations
through a maze of sunny hair. Stretched out at full-length on the
floor beside her, looking for all the world like some beautiful
exotic-faced little lad, young Kennilworth lay on his elbows,
adjusting, between incongruous puffs of cigarette smoke, the
faintly shattered outline of a miniature church and spire, or
soothing a blister of salt sea tears from the paint-crackled visage
of a tiny villa. Softly the firelight flickered and flamed across
their absorbed young faces. Mysteriously the wisps of cigarette
smoke merged realities with unrealities.

It was an entrancing picture. And one by one everybody in the room
except Rollins and myself became drawn more or less into it.

"If you're going to do it at all," argued Paul Brenswick, "you
might as well do it right! When you start in to lay out a village
you know there are certain general scientific principles that must
be observed. Now that list to the floor there! What about drainage?
Can't you see that you've started the whole thing entirely wrong?"

"But I wanted it to face toward the fire," drooped the May Girl,
"like a village looking on the wonders of Vesuvius."

"Vesuvius nothing!" insisted Paul Brenswick. "It's got to have good
drainage!"

Enchanted by his seriousness, the Bride rushed off up-stairs with
her scissors to rip the foliage off her second-best hat to make a
hedge for the church-yard. Even Allan John came sliding just a
little bit out of his chair when he noted that there was a large,
rather humpy papier-mache mountain in the outfit that seemed likely
to be discarded.

"I would like to have that mountain put--there!" he pointed.
"Against that table shadow . . . And the mountain's name is Blue
Blurr!"

"Oh, very well," acquiesced everybody. "The mountain's name is Blue
Blurr!" It was George Keets who suggested taking the little bronze
Psyche from the mantelpiece to make a monument for the public
square. "Of course there'll be some in your village," he
deprecated, "who'll object to its being a nude. But as a classic
it----"

"It's a bear! It's a bear! It's a bear!" chanted Kennilworth in
exultant falsetto. "Speaking of classics!"

"Hush!" said George Keets. . . . George Keets really wanted very
much to play, I think, but he didn't know exactly how to, so he
tried to talk highbrow instead. "This village of yours," he
frowned, "I--I hope it's going to have good government?"

"Well, it isn't!" snapped young Kennilworth. "It's going to be a
terror! But at least it shall be pretty!"

Under young Kennilworth's crafty hand the little village certainly
had bloomed from a child's pretty toy into the very real beauty of
an artist's ideal. The skill of laying out little streets one way
instead of another, the decision to place the tiny red schoolhouse
here instead of there, the choice of a linden rather than a
pinetree to shade an infinitesimal green-thatched cottage, had all
combined in some curious twinge of charm to make your senses
yearn--not that all that cunning perfection should swell suddenly
to normal real estate dimensions--but that you, reduced by some lovely
miracle to toy-size, might slip across that toy-sized greensward
into one of those toy-sized houses, and live with toy-sized
passions and toy-sized ambitions and toy-sized joys and toy-sized
sorrows, one single hour of a toy-sized life.

Everybody, I guess, experienced the same strange little flutter.

"That house shall be mine!" affirmed George Keets quite abruptly.
"That gray stone one with the big bay-window and the pink rambler
rose. The bay-window room I'm sure would make me a fine study.
And----"

From an excessively delicate readjustment of a loose shutter on a
rambling brown bungalow young Kennilworth looked up with a certain
flicker of exasperation.

"Live anywhere you choose!" he snapped. "Miss Davies and I are
going to live--here!"

"W--What?" stammered the May Girl. "What?"

"Here!" grinned young Kennilworth.

"Oh--no," said the May Girl. Without showing the slightest offense
she seemed suddenly to be quite positive about it. "Oh, no!--If I
live anywhere it's going to be in the gray stone house with Mr.
Keets. It's so infinitely more convenient to the schools."

"To the what?" chuckled Kennilworth. Before the very evident
astonishment and discomfiture in George Keets's face, his own was
convulsed with joy.

"To the schools," dimpled the May Girl.

"You do me a--a very great honor," bowed George Keets. His face was
scarlet.

"Thank you," said the May Girl.

In the second's somewhat panicky pause that ensued Rollins flopped
forward with his note-book. Rollins evidently had been waiting a
long and impatient time for such a pause.

"Now speaking of drinking to drown one's Sorrows--" beamed Rollins.

"But we weren't!" observed George Keets coldly.

"But you were this morning!" triumphed Rollins. From the flapping
white pages of the little black note-book he displayed with pride
the entries that he had already made, a separate name heading each
page--Mrs. Delville--Mr. Delville--Mr. Keets--Miss Davies--the list
began. "Now take the hypothesis," glowed Rollins, "that everybody
has got just two bottles stowed away for all time, the very last
bottles I mean that he will ever own, rum--rye--Benedictine--any
thing you choose--and eliminating the first bottle as the less
significant of the two--what are you saving the last one for!"
demanded Rollins.

From a furtive glance at Allan John's graying face and the May
Girl's somewhat startled stare, young Kennilworth looked up with a
rather peculiarly glinting smile.

"Oh, that's easy," said he, "I'm saving mine to break the head of
some bally fool!"

"And my last bottle," interposed George Keets quickly. "My last
bottle--?" In his fine ascetic face the flush deepened suddenly
again, but with the flush the faintest possible little smile showed
also at the lip-line. "Oh, I suppose if I'm really going to have a
wedding--in that little gray toy house, it's up to me to save mine
for a 'Loving Cup' . . . claret . . . Something very mild and rosy
. . . Yes, mine shall be claret."

With her pretty nose crinkled in what seemed like a particularly
abstruse reflection, the May Girl glanced up.

"Bene--benedictine?" she questioned. "Is that the stuff that smells
the way stars would taste if you ate them raw?"

"I really can't say," mused Kennilworth. "I don't think I ever ate
a perfectly raw star. At the night-lunch carts I think they almost
invariably fry them on both sides."

"Night-lunch carts?" scoffed Keets, with what seemed to me like
rather unnecessary acerbity. "N-o, somehow I don't seem to picture
you in a night-lunch cart when it comes time to share your last
bottle of champagne with--with--'Miss Dancy-Prancy of the Sillies,'
wasn't it?"

"My last bottle isn't champagne!" flared young Kennilworth. "It's
scotch! . . . And there'll be no Miss Anybody in it, thank you!"
His face was really angry, and one twitch of his foot had knocked
half his village into chaos. "Oh, all right, I'll tell you what I'm
going to do with my last bottle!" he frowned. "The next-to-the-last-one,
as you say, is none of your business! But the last one is going to
my Old Man! . . . I come from Kansas," he acknowledged a bit
shamefacedly. "From a shack no bigger than this room . . . And my
Old Man lives there yet . . . And he's always been used to having a
taste of something when he wanted it and I guess he misses it some.
. . . And he'll be eighty years old the 15th of next December. I'm
going home for it. . . . I haven't been home for seven years. . . .
But my Old Man is going to get his scotch! . . . If they yank me
off at every railroad station and shoot me at sunrise each new
day,--my Old Man is going to get his scotch!

"Bully for you," said George Keets.

"All the same," argued the May Girl, "I think benedictine smells
better."

With a little gaspy breath somebody discovered what had happened to
the Village.

"Who did that?" demanded Paul Brenswick.

"You did!" snapped young Kennilworth.

"I didn't, either," protested Brenswick.

"Why of all cheeky things!" cried the Bride.

"Now see here," I admonished them, "you're all very tired and very
irritable. And I suggest that you all pack off to bed."

Helping the May Girl up from her cramped position, George Keets
bent low for a single exaggerated moment over her proffered hand.

"I certainly think you are making a mistake, Miss Davies," bantered
young Kennilworth. "For a long run, of course, Mr. Keets might be
better, but for a short run I am almost sure that you would have
been jollier in the brown bungalow with me."

"Time will tell," dimpled the May Girl.

"Then I really may consider us--formally engaged?" smiled George
Keets, still bending low over her hand. He was really rather
amused, I think--and quite as much embarrassed as he was amused.

"No, not exactly formally," dimpled the May Girl. "But until
breakfast time to-morrow morning."

"Until breakfast time to-morrow morning," hooted young Kennilworth.
"That's the deuce of a funny time-limit to put on an engagement . . .
It's like asking a person to go skating when there isn't any
ice!. . ."

"Is it?" puzzled the May Girl.

"What the deuce do you expect Keets to get out of it?" quizzed
young Kennilworth.

In an instant the May Girl was all smiles again. "He'll get
mentioned in my prayers," she said. "'Please bless Mr. Keets, my
fiancé-till-to-morrow-morning.'"

"That's certainly--something," conceded George Keets.

"It isn't enough,"--protested Kennilworth.

The May Girl stared round appealingly at her interlocutors.

"But the time is so awfully short," she said, "and I did want to
get engaged to as many boys as possible in the week I was here."

"What--what!" I babbled.

"Yes, for very special reasons," said the May Girl, "I _would_ like
to get engaged to as many----"

With a strut like the strut of a young ban tam rooster, Rollins
pushed his way suddenly into the limelight.

"If it will be the slightest accommodation to you," he affirmed,
"you may consider your self engaged to me to-morrow!"

Disconcerted as she was, the May Girl swallowed the bitter,
unexpected dose with infinitely less grimace than one would have
expected. She even smiled a little.

"Very well, Mr. Rollins," she said, "I will be engaged to
you--to-morrow."

Young Kennilworth's dismay exploded in a single exclamation.
"Well--you--certainly are an extraordinary young person!"

"Yes, I know," deprecated the May Girl. "It's because I'm so tall,
I suppose----"

Before the unallayed breathlessness of my expression she wilted
like a worried flower.

"Yes, of course, I know, Mrs. Delville," she acknowledged, "that
mock marriages aren't considered very good taste . . . But a mock
engagement?" she wheedled. "If it's conducted, oh, very--very--very
properly?" Her eyes were wide with pleading.

"Oh, of course," I suggested, "if it's conducted very--_very_--_very_
properly!"

Across the May Girl's lovely pink and white cheeks the dark lashes
fringed down.

"There--will--be--no--kissing, affirmed the May Girl.

"Oh, Shucks!" protested young Kennilworth. "Now you've spoiled
everything."

Out of the corner of one eye I saw Rollins nudge Paul Brenswick. It
was not a facetious nudge, but one quite markedly earnest. The
whole expression indeed on Rollins's face was an expression of
acute determination.

With laughter and song and a flicker of candlelight everybody filed
up-stairs to bed.

Rollins carried his candle with the particularly unctuous pride of
one who leads a torchlight procession. And as he turned on the
upper landing and looked back, I noted that-behind the almost
ribald excitement on his face there lurked a look of poignant
wistfulness.

"I've never been engaged before," he confided grinningly to Paul
Brenswick. "I'd like to make the most of it . . ."

Passing into my own room I flung back the casement windows for a
revivifying slash of wind and rain, before I should collapse
utterly into the white scrumptiousness of my bed. Frankly, I was
very tired.

It must have been almost midnight when I woke to see my Husband's
dark figure silhouetted in the bright square of the door. Through
the depths of my weariness a consuming curiosity struggled.

"Did Ann Woltor come back?" I asked.

"She did!" said my Husband succinctly.

"And how did you get on with Allan John?"

"Oh, I'm crazy about Allan John," I yawned amiably. And then with
one of those perfectly inexplainable nerve-explosions that
astonishes no one as much as it astonishes oneself I struggled up
on my elbow.

"But he's still got my best silver saltshaker in his pocket!" I
cried.

It was then that the scream of a siren whistle tore like some
fear-maddened voice through the whole house. Shriller than knives
it ripped and screeched into the senses! Doors banged! Feet
thudded!

"There's Allan John now!" I gasped. "It's the whistle the May Girl
gave him!"

CHAPTER III

EVERYBODY looked pretty tired when they came down to breakfast the
next morning. But at least everybody came down. Even Rollins! Never
have I seen Rollins so really addicted to coming down to breakfast!

Poor Allan John, of course, was all overwhelmed again with
humiliation and despair, and quite heroically insistent on removing
his presence as expeditiously as possible from our house party. It
_was_ his whistle that had screeched so in the night. And as far as
he knew he hadn't the slightest reason or excuse for so screeching
it beyond the fact that, rousing half-awake and half-asleep from a
most horrible nightmare, he had reached instinctively for the
little whistle under his pillow, and not realizing what he was
doing, cried for help, not just to man alone it would seem,  but to
High Heaven itself!

"But however in the world did you happen to have the whistle under
your pillow?" puzzled the Bride.

"What else have I got?" answered Allan John.

He was perfectly right! Robbed for all time of his wife and child,
stripped for the ill-favored moment of all personal moneys and
proofs of identity, sojourning even in other men's linen, what did
Allan John hold as a nucleus for the New Day except a little silver
toy from another person's shipwreck? (Once I knew a smashed man who
didn't possess even a toy to begin a new day on so he didn't begin
it!)

"Well, of course, it was pretty rackety while it lasted," conceded
young Kennilworth. "But at least it gave us a chance to admire each
other's lingeries."

"Negligées," corrected George Keets.

"I said 'scare-clothes'!" snapped young Kennilworth. "Everybody who
travels by land or sea or puts in much time at house parties ought
to have at least one round of scare-clothes, one really chic
'escaping suit.'"

"The silver whistle is mine," intercepted the May Girl with some
dignity. "Mine and Allan John's. I found it and gave it to Allan
John. And he can blow it any time he wants to, day or night. But as
long as you people all made so much fuss about it--and looked so
funny," dimpled the May Girl transiently, "we will consider that
after this--any time the whistle blows--the call is just for me."
The May Girl's gravely ingenuous glance swept down in sudden
challenge across the somewhat amused faces of her companions,
"Allan John--is mine!" she confided with some incisiveness. "I
found him--too!"

"Do you acknowledge that ownership, Allan John!" demanded young
Kennilworth.

Even Allan John's sombre eyes twinkled the faintest possible glint
of amusement.

"I acknowledge that ownership," acquiesced Allan John.

"Now see here!--I protest," rallied George Keets. "Most
emphatically I protest against my fiancée assuming any masculine
responsibilities except me during the brief term of our
engagement!"

"But your engagement is already over!" jeered young Kennilworth.
"Nice kind of Lochinvar you are--drifting down-stairs just exactly
on the stroke of the breakfast bell!--'until breakfast time' were
the terms, I believe. Now Rollins here has been up since dawn!
Banging in and out of the house! Racing up and down the front walk
in the rain! Now that's what I call real passion!"

At the very first mention of his name Rollins had come sliding way
forward to the edge of his chair. He hadn't apparently expected to
be engaged till after breakfast. But if there was any conceivable
chance, of course----

"All ready--any time!" beamed Rollins.

"_Through_--breakfast time was what I understood," said George
Keets coldly.

"Through breakfast time was--was what I meant," stammered the May
Girl. From the only too palpable excitement on Rollins's face to
George Keets's chill immobility she turned with the faintest
possible gesture of appeal. Her eyes looked suddenly just a little
bit frightened. "A--after all," she confided, "I--I didn't know as
I feel quite well enough to-day to be engaged so much. Maybe I
caught a little cold yesterday. Sometimes I don't sleep very well.
Once----"

"Oh, come now," insisted young Kennilworth. "Don t, for Heaven's
sake, be a quitter!"

"A--'quitter'?" bridled the May Girl. Her cheeks went suddenly very
pink. And then suddenly very white. Like an angry little
storm-cloud that absurd fluff of gray hair shadowed down for an
instant across her sharply averted face. A glint of tears
threatened. Then out of the gray and the gold and the blue and the
pink and the tears, the jolliest sort of a little-girl-giggle
issued suddenly. "Oh, all right!" said the May Girl and slipped
with perfect docility apparently into the chair that George Keets
had drawn out for her.

George Keets I really think was infinitely more frightened than she
was, but in his case, at least, a seventeen years' lead in
experience had taught him long since the advisability of disguising
such emotions. Even at the dining-table of a sinking ship George
Keets I'm almost certain would never have ceased passing salts and
peppers, proffering olives and radishes, or making perfectly sure
that your coffee was just exactly the way you liked it. In the
present emergency, to cover not only his own confusion but the May
Girl's, he proceeded to talk archaeology. By talking archaeology in
an undertone with a faintly amorous inflection to the longest and
least intelligible words, George Keets really believed I think that
he was giving a rather clever imitation of an engaged man. What the
May Girl thought no one could possibly have guessed. The May Girl's
face was a study, but it was at least turning up to his! Whether
she understood a single thing he said, or was only resting, whether
she was truly amused or merely deferring as long as possible her
unhappy fate with Rollins, she sat as one entranced.

Slipping into the chair directly opposite them, young Kennilworth
watched the proceedings with malevolent joy. Between his very frank
contempt for the dulness of George Keets's methods, and his
perfectly palpable desire to keep poor Rollins tantalized as long
as possible, he scarcely knew which side to play on.

Everybody indeed except Ann Woltor seemed to take a more or less
mischievous delight in prolonging poor Rollins's suspense. Allan
John never lifted his eyes from his coffee cup, but at least he
showed no signs of disapproval or haste. Even George Keets, to the
eyes of a close observer, seemed to be dallying rather unduly with
his knife and fork as well as with his embarrassment.

As the breakfast hour dragged along, poor Rollins's impatience grew
apace. Fidgeting round and round in his chair, scowling ferociously
at anyone who dared to ask for a second service of anything,
dashing out into the hall every now and then on perfectly
inexplainable errands, he looked for all the world like some
wry-faced clown performing by accident in a business suit.

"Really, Rollins," admonished my Husband. "I think it would have
been a bit more delicate of you if you'd kept out of sight somehow
till Keets' affair was over--this hovering round so through the
harrowing last moments--all ready to pounce--hanged if I don't
think it's crude!"

"Crude?--it's plain buzzard-y!" scoffed Kennilworth.

It was the Bride's warm, romantic heart that called the time-limit
finally on George Keets's philandering.

"Really, I don't think it's quite fair," whispered the Bride. Taken
all in all I think the Bridegroom was inclined to agree with her.
But stronger than anybody's sense of justice, it was a composite
sense of humor that sped Rollins to his heart's desire. Even Ann
Woltor, I think, was curious to see just how Rollins would figure
as an engaged man.

The May Girl's parting with George Keets was at least mercifully
brief.

"Does he kiss my hand?" questioned the May Girl.

"No--I think not," flushed George Keets. Having no intention in the
world of kissing any woman in earnest, it was not in his code,
apparently, to kiss a young girl in fun. Very formally, with that
frugal, tight-lipped smile of his which contrasted so curiously
with the rather accentuated virility of his shoulders, he rose and
bowed low over the May Girl's proffered fingers. "Really it's been
a great honor. I've enjoyed it immensely!" he conceded.

"Thank you," murmured the May Girl. In a single impulse everybody
turned to look at Rollins, only to find that Rollins had
disappeared.

"Hi, there, Rollins! _Rollins_!" shouted young Kennilworth. "You're
losing time!"

As though waiting dramatically for just this cue, the hall
portieres parted slightly, and there stood Rollins grinning like a
Cheshire Cat, with a great bunch of purple orchids clasped in one
hand! Now we are sixty miles from a florist and the only neighbor
of our acquaintance who boasts a greenhouse is a most estimable but
exceedingly close-fisted flower-fancier, who might under certain
conditions, I must admit, give bread at the back door, but who
never under any circumstances whatsoever has been known to give
orchids at the front door. Nor did I quite see Rollins even in a
rain-storm actually breaking laws or glass to achieve his floral
purpose. Yet there stood Rollins in our front hall, at half-past
nine in the morning, with a very extravagant bunch of purple
orchids in his hand.

"Well--bully for you!" gasped young Kennilworth. "Now that's what I
call not being a mutt!"

Beaming with pride Rollins stepped forward and presented his
offering, the grin on his face never wavering.

"Just a--just a trifling token of my esteem, Miss Davies!" he
affirmed. "To say nothing of--of----"

The May Girl, I think, had never had orchids presented to her
before. It is something indeed of an experience all in itself to
see a young girl receive her first orchids. The faint astonishment
and regret to find that after all they're not nearly as darling and
cosy as violets or roses or even carnations--the sudden
contradictory flare of sex-pride and importance--flashed like so
much large print across the May Girl's fluctuant face.

"Why--why they're--wonderful!" she stammered.

Producing from Heaven knows what antique pin-cushion a hat-pin that
would have easily impaled the May Girl like a butterfly against the
wall, Rollins completed the presentation. But the end it seemed was
not yet. Fumbling through his pockets he produced a small wad of
paper, and from that small wad of paper a large old-fashioned seal
ring with several strands of silk thread dangling from it.

"Of course at such short notice," beamed Rollins, "one couldn't
expect to do much. But if you don't mind things being a bit
old-timey,--this ring of my great uncle Aberner's--if we tie it
on--perhaps?"

Whereupon, lashing the ring then and there to the May Girl's
astonished finger, Rollins proceeded to tuck the May Girl's whole
astonished hand into the crook of his arm, and start off with
her--still grinning--to promenade the long sheltered glassed-in
porch, across whose rain-blurred windows the storm raged by more
like a sound than a sight.

The May Girl's face was crimson!

"Well it was all your own idea, you know, this getting engaged!"
taunted Kennilworth.

It was not a very good moment to taunt the May Girl. My Husband saw
it I think even before I did.

"Really, Rollins," he suggested, "you mustn't overdo this arm-in-arm
business. Not all day long! It isn't done! Not this ball-and-chain
idea any more! Not this shackling of the betrothed!"

"No, really, Rollins, old man," urged young Kennilworth, "you've
got quite the wrong idea. You say yourself you've never been
engaged before, so you'd better let some of us wiser guys coach you
up a bit in some of the essentials."

"Coach me up a bit?" growled Rollins.

"Why, you didn't suppose for a minute, did you," persisted young
Kennilworth tormentingly, "that there was any special fun about
being engaged? You didn't think for a moment, I mean, that you were
really going to have any sort of good time to-day? Not both of you,
I mean?"

"Eh?" jerked Rollins, stopping suddenly short in his tracks, but
with the May Girl's reluctant hand still wedged fast into the crook
of his arm, he stood defying his tormentor. "Eh? _What_?"

"Why I never in the world," mused Kennilworth, "ever heard of two
engaged people having a good time the same day. One or the other of
them always has to give up the one thrilling thing that he yearned
most to do and devote his whole time to pretending that he's
perfectly enraptured doing some stupid fuddy-duddy stunt that the
other one wanted to do. It's simply the question always--of who
gives up! Now, Miss Davies for instance--" Mockingly he fixed his
eyes on the May Girl's unhappy face. "Now, Miss Davies," he
insisted, "more than anything else in the world to-day what would
you like to do?"

"Sew," said the May Girl.

"And you, Mr. Rollins," persisted Kennilworth. "If it wasn't for
Miss Davies here--what would you be doing to-day?"

"I?" quickened Rollins. "I?" across his impatient, irritated face,
an expression of frankly scientific ecstasy flared up like an
explosion. "Why those shells, you know!" glowed Rollins. "That last
consignment! Why I should have been cataloging shells!"

"There you have it!" cried Kennilworth. "Either you've got to sew
all day long with Miss Davies--or else she'll have to catalog
shells with you!"

"Sew?" hooted Rollins.

"Oh, I'd just love to catalog shells!" cried the May Girl. In that
single instant the somewhat indeterminate quiver of her lips had
bloomed into a real smile. By a dexterous movement, released from
Rollins's arm, she turned and fled for the door. "Up-stairs, you
mean, don't you?" she cried. The smile had reached her eyes now. In
another minute it seemed as though even her hair would be all
laughter. "At the big table in the upper hall? Where you were
working yesterday? One, on one side of the table--and one--the
other? And one, the _other_!" she giggled triumphantly.

With unflagging agility Rollins started after her.

"What I had really planned," he grinned, "was a walk on the beach."

"Arm--in--arm!" mused young Kennilworth.

"Eh! You think you're smart, don't you!" grinned Rollins.

"Yes, quite so," acknowledged Kennilworth. "But if you really want
to see smartness on its native heath just pipe your eye to-morrow
when I dawn on the horizon as an engaged man!"

"You?" called the May Girl. Staring back through the mahogany
banisters her face looked fairly striped with astonishment.

"You certainly announced your desire," said Kennilworth, "to go
right through the whole list. Didn't you?"

"Oh, but I didn't mean--everybody," parried the May Girl. Her mouth
and her eyes and her hair were all laughing together now. "Oh,
Goodness me--not _everybody_!" she gesticulated, with a fine air of
disdain.

"Not the married men," explained the Bride.

"No, I'm sure she discriminated against the married men," chuckled
the Bridegroom.

"Well--she sha'n't discriminate against _me_!" snapped young
Kennilworth. Absurd as it was he looked angry. Young Kennilworth,
one might infer, was not accustomed to having women discriminate
against him. "You made the plan and you'll jolly-well keep to it!"
affirmed young Kennilworth.

"Oh, all right," laughed the May Girl. "If you really insist! But for
a boy who's as truly unselfish as you are about nursery-governessing
other people's Pom dogs, and saving your last taste of anything for
your old Old Daddy--you've certainly got the worst manners!

"Manners!" drawled George Keets. "This is no test. Wait--till you
see his engagement manners!"

"Oh, she'll 'wait' all right!" sniffed young Kennilworth, and
turned on his heel.

Paul Brenswick, searching hard through the shipping news in the
morning paper, looked up with a faint shadow of concern.

"What's the grouch?" he questioned.

Standing with her hands on her Bridegroom's shoulders the Bride
glanced back from the stormy window to Kennilworth's face with a
somewhat provocative smile.

"Well--it _was_ in the mind of God, wasn't it?" she said.

"What was!" demanded young Kennilworth.

"The rain," shrugged the Bride.

"Oh--damn the rain!" cried young Kennilworth. "I wish people
wouldn't speak to me! It drives me crazy I tell you to have
everybody babbling so! Can't you see I want to work? Can't anybody
see--anything?" Equally furious all of a sudden at everybody, he
swung around and darted up the stairs. "Don't anybody call me to
lunch," he ordered. "For Heaven's sake don't let anyone be idiot
enough to call me to lunch."

Even Ann Woltor's jaw dropped a bit at the amazing rudeness and
peevishness of it.

It was then that the beaming grin on Rollins's face flickered out
for a single instant of incredulity and reproach.

"Why--Miss Woltor!" he choked, "you didn't have your tooth
fixed--after all!"

With a great crackle of paper every man's face seemed buried
suddenly in the shipping news.

"No!" I heard my Husband's voice affirm with extravagant precision,
"not the slightest mention anywhere of any maritime disaster."

"Not the slightest!" agreed George Keets.

"Not the slightest!" echoed Paul Brenswick with what seemed to me
like quite unnecessary monotony.

It was the Bride who showed the only real tact. Slipping her hand
casually into Ann Woltor's hand she started for the Library.

"Let's go see if we can't find something awfully exciting to read
to-day," she suggested. Once across the library threshold her voice
lowered slightly. "Really, Miss Woltor," she confided, "there are
times when I think that Mr. Rollins is sort of crazy."

"So many people are," acquiesced Ann Woltor without emotion.

Caroming off to my miniature conservatory on the pretext of
watering my hyacinths I met my Husband bent evidently on the same
errand. My Husband's sudden interest in potted plants was
bewitching. Even the hyacinths were amused I think. Yet even to
prolong the novelty of the situation there was certainly no time to
be lost about Rollins.

"Truly Jack," I besought him, "this Rollins man has got to be
suppressed."

"Oh, not to-day--surely?" pleaded my Husband. "Not on the one
engagement day of his life? Poor Rollins--when he's having such a
thrill?"

"Well--not to-day perhaps," I conceded with some reluctance. "But
to-morrow surely! We never have been used you know to starting off
the day with Rollins! And two breakfasts in succession? Well,
really, it's almost more than the human heart can stand. Far be it
from me," I argued, "to condone poor Allan John's lapse from
sobriety or advocate any plan whatsoever for the ensnaring of the
very young or the unwary; but all other means failing," I argued,
"I should consider it a very great mercy to the survivors if
Rollins should wake to-morrow with a slight headache. No real
cerebral symptoms you understand--nothing really acute. Just----!"

"Oh, stop your fooling!" said my Husband. "What I came in here to
talk to you about was Miss Woltor."

"'Woltor' or 'Stoltor'?" I questioned.

"Who said 'Stoltor'?" jerked my Husband.

"Oh, sometimes you say 'Woltor' and sometimes you say 'Stoltor'!" I
confided. "And it's so confusing. Which is it--really?"

"Hanged if I know!" said my Husband.

"Then let's call her Ann," I suggested.

With an impulse that was quite unwonted in him my Husband stepped
suddenly forward to my biggest, rosiest, most perfect pot of pink
hyacinths, and snapping a succulent stem in two thrust the great
gorgeous bloom incongruously into his button-hole. Never in fifteen
years had I seen my Husband with a flower in his button-hole.
Neither, in all that time, had I ever seen him flush across the
cheek-bones just exactly the shade of a rose-pink Hyacinth. I could
have hugged him! He looked so confused.

"Oh, I say--" he ventured quite abruptly, "Miss Woltor and I, you
know,--we never went near the dentist yesterday!"

"So I inferred," I said, "from Rollins's observation. What _were_
you doing?" Truly I didn't mean to ask, but the long-suppressed
wonder most certainly slipped.

"Why we were just arguing!" groaned my Husband. "Round and round
and round!"

"Round--what?" I questioned--now that the slipping had started.
"Round and round the country?"

"Country, no indeed!" grinned my Husband unhappily. "We never left
the place!"

"Never--left the place?" I stammered. "Why, where in Creation were
you?"

"Why, first," said my Husband, "we were down at the end of the
driveway right there by the acacia trees, you know. She was crying
so I didn't exactly like to strike the state highway for fear
somebody would notice her. And then afterward--when I saw that she
really couldn't stop----"

"Crying?" I puzzled. "Ann Woltor--crying?"

"And then afterward," persisted my Husband, "we went over to the
Bungalow on the Rock and commenced the argument all over again!
Fortunately there was some tea there and crackers and sardines and
enough firewood. But it was the devil and all getting over! We ran
the car into the boat-house and took the punt! I thought the surf
would smash us, but----"

"But what was the 'argument'?" I questioned.

"Why about her coming back!" said my Husband. "She was so
absolutely determined not to come back! I never in my life saw such
stubbornness! And if she once got away I knew perfectly well that
she never would come back! That she'd drop out of sight just as--And
such crying!" he interrupted himself with apparent irrelevance.
"Everything smashed up altogether at once!--Hadn't cried before,
she said, for eight years!"

"Well, it's time she cried, the poor dear!" I affirmed sincerely.
"But----"

"But I couldn't bring her back to the house!" insisted my Husband.
"Not crying so, not arguing so!"

"No, of course not," I agreed.

"I kept thinking she'd stop!" shivered my Husband.

"Jack," I asked quite abruptly, "Who is Ann Woltor?"

"Search me!" said my Husband, "I never saw her before."

"You--never saw her--before!" I stammered. "Why--why you called her
by name!--you----"

"I knew her face," said my Husband. "I've seen her picture. In
London it was. In Hal Ferry's studio. Fifteen years ago if it's a
day. A huge charcoal sketch all swoops and smouches.--Just a girl
holding up a small hand-mirror to her astonished face.--'_The woman
with the broken tooth_' it was called."

"Fifteen years ago?" I gasped. "'_The--the woman with the broken
tooth_!' What a--what a name for a picture!

"Yes, wasn't it?" said my Husband. "And you'd have thought somehow
that the picture would be funny, wouldn't you? But it wasn't! It
was the grimmest thing I ever saw in my life! Sketched just from
memory too it must have been. No man would have had the cheek to
ask a woman to pose for him like that,--to reduplicate just for fun
I mean that particular expression of bewilderment which he had by
such grim chance surprised on her unwitting face. Such shock! Such
_astonishment_! It wasn't just the astonishment you understand of
Marred Beauty worrying about a dentist. But a look the stark,
staring, chain-lightning sort of look of a woman who, back of the
broken tooth, linked up in some way with the accident of the broken
tooth, saw something, suddenly, that God Himself couldn't repair!
It was horrid, I tell you! It haunted you! Even if you started to
hoot you ended by arguing! Arguing and--wondering! Ferry finally
got so that he wouldn't show it to anybody. People quizzed him so."

"Yes, but Ferry?" I questioned.

"No," said my Husband. "It was only by the merest chance that I
heard the name Ann Stoltor associated in any way with the picture.
Hal Ferry never told anything. Not a word. But he never exhibited
the picture, I noticed. It was a point of honor with him, I
suppose. If one lives long enough, of course, one's pretty apt to
catch every friend off guard at least once in his facial
expression. But one doesn't exhibit one's deductions I suppose. One
mustn't at least make professional presentation of them."

"Yes, but Ann Woltor--Stoltor," I puzzled. "When she tried to bolt
so? Was it because she knew that you knew Hal Ferry? When you
called her Stoltor and dropped the lantern so funnily when you
first saw her, was it then that she linked you up with this
something--whatever it is that has hurt her so?--And determined
even then to bolt at the very first chance she could get? But why
in the world should she want to bolt?" I puzzled. "Certainly she's
had to take us on faith quite as much as we've taken her. And I?--I
_love_ her!"

In the flare of the open doorway George Keets loomed quite
abruptly.

"Oh, is this where you bad people are?" he reproached us. "We've
been searching the house for you."

"Oh, of course, if you really need us," conceded my Husband. "But
even you, I should think, would know a flirtation when you saw it
and have tact enough not to butt in."

"A flirtation?" scoffed Keets. "You? At ten o'clock in the morning?
All trimmed up like an Easter bonnet! And acting half scared to
death? It looks a bit fishy to me, not to say mysterious!"

"All Husbands move in a mysterious way their flirtations to
perform," observed my Husband.

From one pair of half-laughing eyes to the other George Keets
glanced up with the faintest possible suggestion of a sigh.

"Really, you know," said George Keets, "there are times when even
_I_ can imagine that marriage might be just a little bit jolly."

"Oh never jolly," grinned my Husband, "but there are times I
frankly admit--when it seems a heap more serious than it does at
other times."

"Less serious, you mean," corrected Keets.

"More serious," grinned my Husband.

"Oh, for goodness sake, let's stop talking about us," I protested,
"and talk about the weather!"

"It was the weather that I came to talk about," exclaimed George
Keets. "Do you think it will clear to-day?" he questioned.

For a single mocking instant my Husband's glance sought mine.

"No, not to-day, George," he said.

"U---m!" mused George Keets. "Then in that case," he brightened
suddenly, "if Mrs. Delville is really willing to put up a
water-proof lunch we think it would be rather good sport to go back
to the cave and explore a bit more of the beach perhaps and bring
home Heaven knows what fresh plunder from the shipwrecked trunk."

"Oh, how jolly!" I agreed. "But will Mrs. Brenswick go?"

"Mrs. Brenswick isn't exactly keen about it," admitted Keets. "But
she says she'll go. And Brenswick himself and Miss Woltor and Allan
John--" It was amusing how everybody called Allan John "Allan John"
without title or subterfuge or self-consciousness of any kind.

With their arms across each other's shoulders the Bride and
Bridegroom came frolicking by on their way to the foot of the
stairs.

"Oh, Miss Davies!--Miss Davies!" they called up teasingly. "Are you
willing that Allan John should go to the cave to-day?"

Smiling responsively but not one atom teased, the May Girl jumped
up from her tableful of shells and came out to the edge of the
balustrade to consider the matter.

"Allan John! Allan John!" she called. "Do you really want to go?"

"Why, yes," admitted Allan John, "if everybody's going."

Behind the May Girl's looming height and loveliness the little
squat figure of Rollins shadowed suddenly.

"Miss Davies and I are not going," said Rollins.

"Not--going?" questioned the May Girl.

"Not going," chuckled Rollins, "unless she walks with me!" He
didn't say "arm-in-arm." He didn't need to. That inference was
entirely expressed by the absurdly triumphant little glint in his
eye.

I don't think the May Girl intended to laugh. But she did laugh.
And all the laugh in the world seemed suddenly "on" Rollins.

"No--really, People," rallied the May Girl, "I'd heaps rather stay
here with Mr. Rollins and work on these perfectly darling shells.
One--on one side of the table--and one on the other."

"We are going to have lunch up here--in fact," counterchecked that
rascally Rollins with a blandness that was actually malicious.
"There is a magnificent specimen here I notice of 'Triton's
Trumpet'. The Pacific Islanders I understand use it very
successfully for a tea-kettle. And for tea-cups. With the aid of
one or two Hare's Ears which I'm almost sure I've seen in the
specimen cabinet----"

"'Hare's Ears'?" gasped the May Girl.

"It's the name of a shell, my dear,--just the name of a shell,"
explained Rollins with some unctuousness. "Very comfortable here we
shall be, I am sure!" beamed Rollins. "Very cosy, very scientific,
very ro-romantic, if I may take the liberty of saying so. Very----"

"Oh, Shucks!" interrupted George Keets quite surprisingly. "If Miss
Davies isn't going there's no good in anybody going!"

"Thank--you," murmured Ann Woltor. At the astonishingly new and
relaxed timbre of her voice everybody turned suddenly and stared at
her. It wasn't at all that she spoke meltingly, but the fact of her
speaking meltedly, that gave every one of us that queer little gasp
of surprise. Still icy cold, but fluid at last, her voice flowed
forth as it were for the very first time with some faint suggestion
of the real emotion in her mind. "Thank you--Mr. Keets," mocked Ann
Woltor, "for your enthusiasm concerning the rest of us."

"Oh, I say!" deprecated George Keets. "You know what I meant!" His
face was crimson. "It--it was only that Miss Davies was so awfully
keen about it all yesterday! Everybody, you know, doesn't find it
so exhilarating."

"No-o?" murmured Ann Woltor. In the plushy black somberness of her
eyes a highlight glinted suddenly. Suppressed tears make just
that particular kind of glint. So also does suppressed laughter.
"I was out in a storm--once," drawled Ann Woltor, "I found it
very--exhilarating."

With a flash of rather quizzical perplexity I saw my Husband's
glance rake hers.

Wincing just a little she turned back to me with a certain gesture
of appeal.

"Cry one day and laugh another, is it?" she ventured
experimentally.

"Going to the dentist isn't very jolly--you're quite right,"
interposed the Bride.

"No, it certainly isn't," sympathized every body.

It was perfectly evident that no one in the party except my Husband
and myself knew just what had happened to the dentistry expedition.
And Ann Woltor wasn't quite sure even yet, I could see, whether I
knew or not. The return home the night before had been so late the
commotion over Allan John's whistle so immediate--the breakfast
hour itself such a chaos of nonsense and foolery. Certainly there
was no object in prolonging her uncertainty. I liked her infinitely
too much to worry her. Very fortunately also she had a ready eye,
the one big compensating gift that Fate bestows on all people who
have ever been caught off their guard even once by a real trouble.
She never muffed any glance I noticed that you wanted her to catch.

"Oh, I hate to think, Ann dear," I smiled, "about there being any
tears yesterday. But if tears yesterday really should mean a laugh
to-day----"

"Oh, to-day!" quickened Ann Woltor. "Who can tell about to-day!"

"Then you really would like to go?" said George Keets.

Across Ann Woltor's shoulders a little shrug quivered.

"Why, of course, I'm going!" said Ann Woltor.

"Good! Famous!" rallied George Keets. "Now that makes how many of
us?" he reckoned. "Kennilworth?"

"No, let's not bother about Kennilworth," said my Husband.

"You?" queried George Keets.

"Yes, I'm going," acquiesced my Husband.

"And you, Mrs. Delville, of course?"

"No, I think not," I said.

"Just the Brenswicks then," counted George Keets. "And Allan John
and----"

Once again, from the railing of the upper landing, the May Girl's
wistfully mirthful face peered down through that amazing cloud of
gold-gray hair.

"Allan John--Allan John!" she called very softly. "I'd like to have
you dress warmly--you know! And not get just too absolutely tired
out! And be sure and take the whistle," she laughed very
resolutely, "and if anybody isn't good to you--you just blow it
hard--and I'll come."

As befitted the psychic necessities of a very cranky
Person-With-a-Future, young Kennilworth was not disturbed for lunch.

And Rollins, it seemed, was grotesquely genuine in his desire to
picnic up-stairs with the May Girl and the shells. Even the May
Girl herself rallied with a fluttering sort of excitement to the
idea. The shell table fortunately was quite large enough to
accommodate both work and play. Rollins certainly was beside
himself with triumph, and on Rollins's particular type of
countenance there is no conceivable synonym for the word "triumph"
except "ghoulish glee." Really it was amazing the way the May Girl
rallied her gentleness and her patience and her playfulness to the
absurd game. She opposed no contrary personality whatsoever even to
Rollins's most vapid desires. Unable as he was either to simulate
or stimulate "the light that never was on land or sea," it was
Rollins's very evident intention apparently to "blue" his Lady's
eyes and "pink" his Lady's cheeks by the narration at least of such
sights as "never were on land or sea"! Flavored by moonlight,
rattling with tropical palms, green as Arctic ice, wild as a loon's
hoot, science and lies slipped alike from Rollins's lips with a
facility that even I would scarcely have suspected him of! Lands he
had never visited--adventures he had never dreamed of cannibals not
yet born--babble--babble--_babble_--_babble_!

As for the May Girl herself, as far as I could observe, not a
single sound emanated from her the entire day, except the
occasional clank of her hugely over-sized "betrothal ring" against
the Pom dog's collar, or the little gasping phrase, "Oh, no, Mr.
Rollins! Not _really_?" that thrilled now and then from her
astonished lips, as, elbows on table, chin cupped in hand, she sat
staring blue-eyed and bland at her--tormentor.

It must have been five o'clock, almost, before the beach party
returned. Gleaming like a great bunch of storm-drenched jonquils,
the six adventurers loomed up cheerfully in the rain-light. Once
again George Keets and the Bridegroom were dragging the Bride by
her hand. Ann Woltor and my Husband followed just behind. Allan
John walked alone.

Even young Kennilworth came out on the porch to hail them.

"Hi, there!" called my Husband.

"Hi, there, yourself!" retaliated Kennilworth.

"Oh, we've had a perfectly wonderful day! gasped the Bride.

"Found the cave all right!" triumphed Keets.

"Allan John found a--found an old-fashioned hoop-skirt!" giggled
the Bride.

"The devil he did!" hooted Rollins.

"But we never found the trunk at all!" scolded the Bridegroom.
"Either we were way off in our calculations or else the sand----"

In a sudden gusty flutter of white the May Girl came round the
corner into the full buffet of the wind. It hadn't occurred to me
before just exactly how tired she looked. "Why, hello, everybody--"
she began, faltered an instant--crumpled up at the waist-line--and
slipped down in a white heap of unconsciousness to the floor.

It was George Keets who reached her first, and gathering her into
his long, strong arms, bore her into the house. It was the first
time in his life I think that George Keets had ever held a woman in
his arms. His eyes hardly knew what to make of it. And his
tightened lips, quite palpably, didn't like it at all. But after
all it was those extraordinarily human shoulders of his that were
really doing the carrying?

Very fortunately though for all concerned the whole scare was over
in a minute. Ensconced like a queen in the deep pillows of the big
library sofa the May Girl rallied almost at once to joke about the
catastrophe. But she didn't want any supper, I noticed, and dallied
behind in her cushions, when the supper-hour came.

"You look like a crumpled rose," said the Bride.

"Like a poor crumpled--white rose," supplemented Ann Woltor.

"Like a very long-stemmed--poor crumpled--white rose," deprecated
the May Girl herself.

Kennilworth brought her a knife and fork, but no smiles.

George Keets brought her several different varieties of his
peculiarly tight-lipped smile, and all the requisite table-silver
besides.

Paul Brenswick sent her the cherry from his cocktail and promised
her the frosting from his cake.

The Bride sent her love.

Ann Woltor remembered the table napkin.

Allan John watched the proceedings without comment.

It was Rollins who insisted on serving the May Girl's supper. "It
was his right," he said. More than this he also insisted on
gathering up all his own supper on one quite inadequate plate, and
trotting back to the library to eat it with the May Girl. This also
was his right, he said. Truly he looked very funny there all
huddled up on a low stool by the May Girl's side. But at least he
showed sense enough now not to babble very much. And once, at
least, without reproof I saw him reach up to the May Girl's fork
and plate and urge some particularly nourishing morsel of food into
her languidly astonished mouth.

It was just as everybody drifted back from the dining-room into the
library that the May Girl wriggled her long, silken, childish legs
out of the steamer-rug that encompassed her, struggled to her feet,
wandered somewhat aimlessly to the piano, fingered the keys for a
single indefinite moment and burst ecstatically into song!

None of us, except my Husband, had heard her sing before. None of
us indeed, except my Husband and myself, knew even that she could
sing. The proof that she could smote suddenly across the ridge of
one's spine like the prickle of a mild electric shock.

My Husband was perfectly right. It was a typical "Boy Soprano"
voice, a chorister's voice--clear as flame--passionless as syrup.
As devoid of ritual as the multiplication table it would have made
the multiplication table fairly reek with incense and Easter
lilies! Absolutely lacking in everything that the tone sharks call
"color"--yet it set your mind a-haunt with all the sad crimson and
purple splendors of memorial windows! Shadows were back of it! And
sorrows! And mysteries! Bridals! And deaths! The prattle alike of
the very young and the very old! Carol! And Threnody! And a fearful
Transiency as of youth itself passing!

She sang--

     "There is a Green Hill far away

      Without a city wall,

      Where our dear Lord was crucified,

      Who died to save us--all."

and she sang

     "From the Desert I come to thee,

     On a stallion shod with fire!

     And the winds are not more fleet

     Than the wings of my de-sire!"

Like an Innocent pouring kerosene on the Flame-of-the-World the
young voice soared and swelled to that lovely, limpid word
"desire." (In the darkness I saw Paul Brenswick's hand clutch
suddenly out to his Mate's. In the darkness I saw George Keets
switch around suddenly and begin to whisper very fast to Allan
John.) And then she sang a little nonsense rhyme about "Rabbits"
which she explained rather shyly she had just made up. "She was
very fond of rabbits," she explained. "And of dogs, too--if all the
truth were to be told. Also cats."

"Also--shells!" sniffed young Kennilworth.

"Yes, also shells," conceded the May Girl without resentment.

"Ha!" sniffed young Kennilworth.

"O--h, a--jealous lover, this," deprecated George Keets. "Really,
Miss Davies," he condoned, "I'm afraid to-morrow is going to be
somewhat of a strain on you."

"To-morrow?" dimpled the May Girl.

"Ha!--To-morrow!" shrugged young Kennilworth.

"It was the rabbits," dimpled the May Girl, "that I was going to
tell you about now. It's a very moral song written specially to
deplore the--the thievish habits of the rabbits. But I can't seem
to get around to the 'deploring' until the second verse. All the
first verse is just scientific description." Adorably the young
voice lilted into the nonsense---

  "Oh, the habit of a rabbit

  Is a fact that would amaze

  From the pinkness of his blinkness and the blandness of his gaze,

  In a nose that's so a-twinkle like a merri--perri--winkle---

  And---"

Goodness me!--That _voice_!--The babyishness of it!--And the
poignancy! Should one laugh? Or should one cry? Clap one's hands?
Or bolt from the room? I decided to bolt from the room.

Both my Husband and myself thought it would be only right to
telephone Dr. Brawne about the fainting spell. There was a
telephone fortunately in my own room. And there is one thing at
least very compensatory about telephoning to doctors. If you once
succeed in finding them, there is never an undue lag in the
conversation itself.

"But tell me only just one thing," I besought my Husband, "so I
won't be talking merely to a voice! This Dr. Brawne of yours?--Is
he old or young? Fat or thin? Jolly? Or----?"

"He's about fifty," said my Husband. "Fifty-five perhaps. Stoutish
rather, I think you'd call him. And jolly. Oh, I----"

"Ting-a-ling--ling--_ling_!" urged the telephone-bell.

Across a hundred miles of dripping, rain-bejeweled wires, Dr.
Brawne's voice flamed up at last with an almost metallic crispness.

"Yes?"

"This is Dr. Brawne?"

"Yes."

"This is Mrs. Delville--Jack Delville's wife."

"Yes?"

"We just thought we'd call up and report the safe arrival of your
ward and tell you how much we are enjoying her!"

"Yes? I trust she didn't turn up with any more lame, halt, or blind
pets than you were able to handle."

"Oh no--_no_--not--at all!" I hastened to affirm. (Certainly it
seemed no time to explain about poor Allan John.)

"But what I really called up to say," I hastened to confide, "is
that she fainted this afternoon, and----"

"Yes?" crisped the clear incisive voice again.

"Fainted," I repeated.

"Yes?"

"_Fainted_!" I fairly shouted.

"Oh, I hardly think that's anything," murmured Dr. Brawne. His
voice sounded suddenly very far away and muffled as though he were
talking through a rather soggy soda biscuit. "She faints very
easily. I don't find anything the matter. It's just a temporary
instability, I think. She's grown so very fast."

"Yes, she's tall," I admitted.

"Everything else all right?" queried the voice. The wires were
working better now. "I don't need to ask if she's having a good
time," essayed the voice very courteously. "She's always so
essentially original in her ways of having a good time--even with
strangers--even when she's really feeling rather shy."

"Oh, she's having a good time, all right," I hastened to assure
him. "Three perfectly eligible young men all competing for her
favor!"

"Only three?" laughed the voice. "You surprise me!"

"And speaking of originality," I rallied instantly to that laugh,
"she has invented the most diverting game! She is playing at
being-engaged-to-a-different-man--every day of her visit. Oh _very_
circumspectly, you understand," I hastened to affirm. "Nothing
serious at all!"

"No, I certainly hope not," mumbled the voice again through some
maddeningly soggy connection. "Because, you see, I'm rather
expecting to marry her myself on the fifteenth of September next."

CHAPTER IV

SLEEP is a funny thing! Really comical I mean! A magician's trick!
"Now you have it--and now you don't!"

Certainly I had very little of it the night of Dr. Brawne's
telephone conversation. I was too surprised.

Yet staring up through those long wakeful hours into the jetty
black heights of my bedroom ceiling it didn't seem to be so much
the conversation itself as the perfectly irrelevant events
succeeding that conversation that kept hurtling back so into my
visual consciousness--The blueness of the May Girl's eyes! The
brightness of her hair!--Rollins's necktie! The perfectly wanton
hideousness of Rollins's necktie!--The bang--_bang_--_bang_ of a
storm-tortured shutter way off in the ell somewhere.

Step by step, item by item, each detail of events reprinted itself
on my mind. Fumbling back from the shadowy telephone-stand into the
brightly lighted upper hall with the single desire to find my
Husband and confide to him as expeditiously as possible this news
which had so amazed me, I had stumbled instead upon the May Girl
herself, climbing somewhat listlessly up the stairs toward bed,
Rollins was close behind her carrying her book and a filmy sky-blue
scarf. George Keets followed with a pitcher of water.

"Oh, it isn't Good Night, dear, is it?" I questioned.

"Yes," said the May Girl. "I'm--pretty tired." She certainly looked
it.

Rollins quite evidently was in despair. He was not to accomplish
his 'kiss' after all, it would seem. All the long day, I judged, he
had been whipping up his cheeky courage to meet some magic
opportunity of the evening. And now, it appeared, there wasn't
going to be any evening! Even the last precious moment indeed was
to be ruined by George Keets's perfidious intrusion!

It was the Bride's voice though that rang down the actual curtain
on Rollins's "Perfect Day."

"Oh, Miss Davies!--Miss Davies!" called the Bride. "You mustn't
forget to return your ring, you know!"

"Why, no, so I mustn't," rallied the May Girl.

Twice I heard Rollins swallow very hard. Any antique was sacred to
him, but a family antique. Oh, ye gods!

"K--K--Keep the ring!" stammered Rollins. It was the nearest point
to real heroism surely that funny little Rollins would ever attain.

"Oh, no, indeed," protested the May Girl. Very definitely she
snapped the silken threads, removed the clumsy bauble from her
finger, and handed it back to Rollins. "But--but it's a beautiful
ring!" she hastened chivalrously to assure him. "I'll--I'll keep
the orchids!" she assented with real dimples.

On Rollins's sweating face the symptoms of acute collapse showed
suddenly. With a glare that would have annihilated a less robust
soul than George Keets's he turned and laid bare his horrid secret
to an unfeeling Public.

"I'd rather you kept the _ring_," sweated Rollins. "The--The
orchids have got to go back!--I only hired the orchids!--That is I--I
bribed the gardener. They've got to be back by nine o'clock
to-night. For some sort of a--a party."

"To-night?" I gasped. "In all this storm f Why, what if the May
Girl had refused to--to----?"

In Rollins's small, blinking eyes, Romance and Thrift battled
together in terrible combat.

"I gotta go back," mumbled Rollins. "He's got my watch!"

"Oh, for goodness sake you mustn't risk losing your watch!" laughed
the May Girl.

George Keets didn't laugh. He hooted! I had never heard him hoot
before, and ribald as the sound seemed emanating from his
distinctly austere lips, the mechanical construction of that hoot
was in some way strangely becoming to him.

The May Girl quite frankly though was afraid he had hurt Rollins's
feelings. Returning swiftly from her bedroom with the lovely
exotics bunched cautiously in one hand she turned an extravagantly
tender smile on Rollins's unhappy face.

"Just--Just one of them," she apologized, "is crushed a little. I
know you told me to be awfully careful of them. I'm very sorry. But
truly," she smiled, "it's been perfectly Wonderful--just to have
them for a day! Thank you!--Thank you a whole lot, I mean! And for
the day itself--it's--it's been very--pleasant," she lied
gallantly.

Snatching the orchids almost roughly from her hand Rollins gave
another glare at George Keets and started for his own room. With
his fingers on the door-handle he turned and glared back with
particular ferocity at the May Girl herself. "Pleasant?" he
scoffed. "_Pleasant_?" And crossing the threshold he slammed the
door hard behind him.

Never have I seen anything more boorish!

"Why--Why, how tired he must be," exclaimed the May Girl.

"Tired?" hooted George Keets. He was still hooting when he joined
the Bride and Bridegroom in the library.

It must have been fifteen minutes later that, returning from an
investigation of the banging blind, I ran into Rollins stealing
surreptitiously to the May Girl's door. Quite unconsciously,
doubtless, but with most rapacious effect, his sparse hair was
rumpled in innumerable directions, and the stealthy boy-pirate
hunch to his shoulders added the last touch of melodrama to the
scene. Rollins, as a gay Lothario, was certainly a new idea. I
could have screamed with joy. But while I debated the ethics of
screaming for joy only, the May Girl herself, as though in reply to
his crafty knock, opened her door and stared frankly down at him
with a funny, flushed sort of astonishment. She was in her great
boyish blanket-wrapper, with her gauzy gold hair wafting like a
bright breeze across her neck and shoulders, and the radiance of
her I think would have startled any man. But it knocked the breath
out of Rollins.

"P-p-pleasant!" gasped Rollins, quite abruptly. "It was a--a
_Miracle_!"

"--Miracle?" puzzled the May Girl.

"Wall-papers!" babbled Rollins. "Suppose it had been true?" he
besought her. "To-day, I mean? Our betrothal?" With total
unexpectedness he began to flutter a handfull of wall-paper samples
under the May Girl's astonished nose. "I've got a little flat you
know in town," babbled Rollins. "Just one room and bath. It's
pretty dingy. But for a long time now I've been planning to have it
all repapered. And if you'd choose the wallpaper for it--it would
be pleasant to think of during--during the years!" babbled Rollins.

"_What_?" puzzled the May Girl. Then quite suddenly she reached out
and took the papers from Rollins's hand and bent her lovely head
over them in perfectly solemn contemplation. "Why--why the pretty
gray one with the white gulls and the flash of blue!" she decided
almost at once, looked up for an instant, smiled straight into
Rollins's fatuous eyes, and was gone again behind the impregnable
fastness of her closed door, leaving Rollins gasping like a fool,
his shoulders drooping, his limp hands clutching the sheet of white
gulls with all the absurd manner of an amateur prima donna just on
the verge of bursting into song!

And all of a sudden starting to laugh I found myself crying instead.
It was the expression in Rollins's eyes, I think. The one
"off-guard" expression perhaps of Rollins's life! A scorching flame of
self-revelation, as it were, that consumed even as it illuminated,
leaving only gray ashes and perplexity. Not just the look it was of a
Little-Man-Almost-Old-who-had-Never-Had-a-Chance-to-Play. But the
look of a Little-Man-Almost-Old who sensed suddenly for the first
time that he never _would_ have a chance to play! That Fate denying
him the glint of wealth, the flash of romance, the scar even of
tragedy, had stamped him merely with the indelible sign of a
Person-Who-wasn't-Meant-to-be-Liked!

Truly I was very glad to steal back into my dark room for a moment
before trotting downstairs again to join all those others who were
essentially intended for liking and loving, so eminently fitted,
whether they refused or accepted it, for the full moral gamut of
human experience.

On my way down it was only human, of course, to stop in the May
Girl's room. Rollins or no Rollins it was the May Girl's problem
that seemed to me the only really maddening one of the moment. What
in creation was life planning to proffer the May Girl?--Dr.
Brawne?--Dr. Brawne?--It wasn't just a question of Dr. Brawne! But
a question of the May Girl herself?

She was still in her blanket-wrapper when I entered the room, but
had hopped into bed, and sat bolt-up-right rocking vaguely, with
her knees gathered to her chin in the circle of her slender arms.

"What seems to be the matter?" I questioned.

"That's what I don't know," she dimpled almost instantly. "But I
seem to be worrying about something.

"Worrying?" I puzzled.

"Well,--maybe it's about the Pom dog," suggested the May Girl
helpfully. "His mouth is so very--very tiny. Do you think he had
enough supper?"

"Oh, I'm sure he had enough supper," I hastened to reassure her.

Very reflectively she narrowed her eyes to review the further field
of her possible worries.

"That cat--that your Husband said he sent away just before I came
for fear I'd bring some--some contradictory animals--are you quite
sure that he's got a good home?" she worried.

"Oh, the best in the world," I said. "A Maternity Hospital!"

"Kittens?" brightened the May Girl for a single instant only. "Oh,
you really mean kittens? Then surely there's nothing to worry about
in that direction!"

"Nothing but--kittens," I conceded.

"Then it must be Allan John," said the May Girl. "His feet! Of
course, I can't exactly help feeling pretty responsible for Allan
John. Are you sure--are you quite sure, I mean, that he hasn't been
sitting round with wet feet all the evening? He isn't exactly the
croupy type, of course, but--" With a sudden irrelevant gesture she
unclasped her knees, and shot her feet straight out in front of
her. "Whatever in the world," she cried out, "am I going to do with
Allan John when it comes time to go home! Now gold-fish," she
reflected, "in a real emergency,--can always be tucked away in the
bath-tub. And once when I brought home a Japanese baby," she
giggled in spite of herself, "they made me keep it in my own room.
But----"

"But I've got a worry of my own," I interrupted. "It's about your
fainting. It scared me dreadfully. I've just been telephoning to
Dr. Brawne about it."

Across the May Girl's supple body a curious tightness settled
suddenly.

"You--told--Dr. Brawne that--I fainted?" she said. "You--you
oughtn't to have done that!" It was only too evident that she was
displeased.

"But we were worried," I repeated. "We had to tell him. We didn't
like to take the responsibility."

With her childish hands spread flatly as a brace on either side of
her she seemed to retreat for a moment into the gold veil of her
hair. Then very resolutely her face came peering out again.

"And just what did Dr. Brawne--tell _you_?" asked the May Girl.

"Why something very romantic," I admitted. "The somewhat
astonishing news, in fact, that you were engaged--to him."

"Oh, but you know, I'm _not_!" protested the May Girl with
unmistakable emphasis. "No--No!"

"And that he was hoping to be married next September. On the 15th
to be perfectly exact," I confided.

"Well, very likely I _shall_ marry him," admitted the May Girl
somewhat bafflingly. "But I'm not engaged to him now! Oh, I'm much
too young to be engaged to him now! Why, even my grandmother thinks
I'm much too young to be engaged to him now!--Why, he's most fifty
years old!" she affirmed with widely dilating eyes. "--And I--I've
scarcely been off my grandmother's place, you know, until this last
winter! But if I'm grown-up enough by September, they say--you see
I'll be eighteen and a half by September," she explained
painstakingly, "so that's why I wanted to get engaged as much as I
could this week!" she interrupted herself with quite merciless
irrelevance. "If I've got to be married in September--without ever
having been engaged or courted at all--I just thought I'd better go
to work and pick up what experience I could--on my own hook!"

"Dr.--Dr. Brawne will, of course, make you a very distinguished
husband," I stammered, "but are you sure you love him?"

"I love everybody!" dimpled the May Girl.

"Yes, dogs, of course," I conceded, "and Rabbits--and horses and----"

"And kittens," supplemented the May Girl.

"Your mother is--not living?" I asked rather abruptly.

"My father is dead," said the May Girl. "But my mother is in
Egypt." Her lovely face was suddenly all excitement. "My mother ran
away!"

"Oh! An elopement, you mean?" I laughed. "Ran away with your
father. Youngsters used to do romantic things like that."

"Ran away _from_ my father," said the May Girl. "And from me. It
was when I was four years old. None of us have ever seen her since.
It was with one of Dr. Brawne's friends that she ran away. That's
one reason, I think, why Dr. Brawne has always felt so sort of
responsible for me."

"Oh, dear--oh, dear, this is very sad," I winced.

"N-o," said the May Girl perfectly simply. "Maybe it was bad but
I'm almost sure it's never been sad. Dr. Brawne hears from her
sometimes. Mother's always been very happy, I think. But everybody
somehow seems to be in an awful hurry to get me settled."

"Why?" I asked quite starkly, and could have bitten my tongue out
for my impertinence.

"Why--because I'm so tall, I suppose," said the May Girl. "And not
so very specially bright. Oh, not nearly as bright as I am tall!"
she hastened to assure me with her pretty nose all crinkled up for
the sheer emphasis of her regret. "Life's rather hard, you know,
on tall women," she confided sagely. "Always trying to take a
tuck in them somewhere! Mother was tall," she observed; "and
Father, they say, was always and forever trying to make her look
smaller--especially in public! Pulling her opinions out from under
her! Belittling all her great, lovely fancies and ideas! Not that
he really meant to be hateful, I suppose. But he just couldn't help
it. It was just the natural male-instinct I guess of wanting to be
the everythinger--himself!"

"What do you know of the natural male 'instinct'?" I laughed out in
spite of myself.

"Oh--lots," smiled the May Girl. "I have an uncle. And my
grandmother always keeps two hired men. And for almost six months
now I've been at the Art School. And there are twenty-seven boys at
the Art School. Why there's Jerry and Paul and Richard and--and----"

"Yes, but your father and mother?" I pondered. "Just how----?"

"Oh, it was when they were walking downtown one day past a great
big mirror," explained the May Girl brightly. "And Mother saw that
she was getting round-shouldered trying to keep down to Father's
level--it was then that she ran away! It was then that she began to
run away I mean! To run away in her mind! I heard grandmother and
Dr. Brawne talking about it only last summer. But I?" she affirmed
with some pride, "oh, I've known about being tall ever since I
first had starch enough in my knees to stand up! While I stayed in
my crib I don't suppose I noticed it specially. But just as soon as
I was big enough to go to school. Why, even at the very first," she
glowed, "when every other child in the room had failed without the
slightest reproach some perfectly idiotic visitor would always pipe
up and say, 'Now ask that tall child there! The one with the yellow
hair!' And everyone would be as vexed as possible because I failed,
too! It isn't my head, you know that's tall," protested the May
Girl with some feeling, "it's just my neck and legs!

"You certainly are entrancingly graceful," I smiled. How anybody as
inexpressibly lovely as the May Girl could be so oblivious of the
fact was astonishing!

But neither smile nor compliment seemed to allay to the slightest
degree the turmoil that was surging in the youngster's mind.

"Why, even at the Art School," she protested, "it's just as bad!
Especially with the boys! Being so tall--and with yellow hair
besides--you just can't possibly be as important as you are
conspicuous! And yet every individual boy seems obliged to find out
for himself just exactly how important you are! But no matter what
he finds," she shrugged with a gesture of ultimate despair, "it
always ends by everybody getting mad!"

"Mad?" I questioned.

"Yes--very mad," said the May Girl. "Either he's mad because he
finds you're not nearly as nice as you are conspicuous, or else,
liking you most to death, he simply can't stand it that anyone
as nice as he thinks you are is able to outplay him at tennis
or--that's why I like animals best--and hurt things!" she
interrupted herself with characteristic impetuosity. "Animals and
hurt things don't care how rangy your arms are as long as they're
loving! Why if you were as tall as a tree," she argued, "little
deserted birds in nests would simply be glad that you could reach
them that much sooner! But men? Why, even your nice Mr. Keets,"
she cried; "even your nice Mr. Keets, with his fussy old
Archaeology, couldn't even play at being engaged without talking
down--down--down at me! Tall as he is, too! And funny little old
Mr. Rollins," she flushed. "Little--_little_--old Mr. Rollins--Mr.
Rollins really liked me, I think, but he--he'd torture me if he
thought it would make him feel any burlier!

"And Claude Kennilworth," I questioned.

The shiver across the May Girl's shoulders looked suddenly more
like a thrill than a distaste.

"Oh, Claude Kennilworth," she acknowledged quite ingenuously. "He's
begun already to try to 'put me in my place'! Altogether too
independent is what he thinks I am. But what he really means is
'altogether too tall'!" Once again the little shiver flashed across
her shoulders. "He's so--so awfully temperamental!" she quickened.
"Goodness knows what fireworks he'll introduce tomorrow! I can
hardly wait!"

"Is--is Dr. Brawne--tall?" I asked a bit abruptly.

"N--o," admitted the May Girl. "He's quite short! But--his years
are so tall!" she cried out triumphantly. "He's so tall in his
attainments! I've thought it all out--oh very--very carefully," she
attested. "And if I've got to be married in order to have someone
to look out for me I'm almost perfectly positive that Dr. Brawne
will be quite too amused at having so young a wife to bully me very
much about anything that goes with the youngness!"

"Oh--h," I said.

"Yes,--exactly," mused the May Girl.

With a heart and an apprehension just about as gray and as heavy as
lead I rose and started for the door.

"But, May Girl?" I besought her in a single almost hysterical
desire to rouse her from her innocence and her ignorance. "Among
all this great array of men and boys that you know--the uncle--yes,
even the hired men," I laughed, "and all those blue-smocked boys at
the Art School--whom do you really like the best?"

So far her eyes journeyed off into the distance and back again I
thought that she had not heard me. Then quite abruptly she answered
me. And her voice was all boy-chorister again.

"The best?--why, Allan John!" she said.

Taken all in all there were several things said and done that
evening that would have kept any normal hostess awake, I think.

The third morning dawned even rainier than the second! Infinitely
rainier than the first! It gave everybody's coming-down-stairs
expression a curiously comical twist as though Dame Nature herself
had been caught off-guard somehow in a moment of dishabille that
though inexpressibly funny, couldn't exactly be referred to--not
among mere casual acquaintances--not so early in the morning,
anyway!

Yet even though everybody rushed at once to the fireplace instead
of to the breakfast-table nobody held us responsible for the
weather. Everyone in fact seemed to make rather an extra effort to
assure us that he or she--as the case might be, most distinctly did
not hold us responsible.

Paul Brenswick indeed grew almost eloquent telling us about an
accident to the weather which he himself had witnessed in a
climate as supposedly well-regulated as the climate of South
Eastern Somewhere was supposed to be! Ann Woltor raked her
cheerier memories for the story of a four days' rain-storm which
she had experienced once in a very trying visit to her great aunt
somebody-or-other on some peculiarly stormbound section of the
Welsh coast. George Keet's chivalrous anxiety to set us at our ease
was truly heroic. He even improvised a parody about it: "Rain,"
observed George Keets, "makes strange umbrella-mates!" A leak
had developed during the night it seemed in the ceiling directly
over his bed--and George, the finicky, the fastidious, the
silk-pajamered--had been obliged to crawl out and seek shelter with
Rollins and his flannel night-cap in the next room. And Rollins, it
appeared, had not proved a particularly genial host.

"By the way, where is Mr. Rollins this morning?" questioned the
Bride from her frowning survey of the storm-swept beach.

"Mr. Rollins," confided my Husband, "has a slight headache this
morning."

"Why, that's too bad," sympathized Ann Woltor.

"No, it isn't a bad one at all," contradicted my Husband. "Just the
very mildest one possible--under the circumstances. It was really
very late when he got in again last night. And very wet." From
under his casually lowered eyes a single glance of greeting shot
out at me.

"Now, there you are again!" cried George Keets. "Flirting! You
married people! Something that anyone else would turn out as
mere information,--'The Ice Man has just left two chunks of ice!'
or 'Mr. Rollins has a headache'!--you go and load up with some
mysterious and unfathomable significance! Glances pass! Your
wife flushes!" "Mysterious?" shrugged my Husband. "Unfathomable?
Why it's clear as crystal. The madam says, 'Let there be a
headache'--and there _is_ a headache!"

As Allan John joined the group at the fireplace everybody began
talking weather again. From the chuckle of the birch-logs to the
splash on the window-pane the little groups shifted and changed.
Everybody seemed to be waiting for something. On the neglected
breakfast table even the gay upstanding hemispheres of grapefruit
rolled over on their beds of ice to take another nap.

In a great flutter of white and laughter the May Girl herself came
prancing over the threshold. It wasn't just the fact of being in
white that made her look so astonishingly festal; she was almost
always in white. Not yet the fact of laughter. Taken all in all I
think she was the most radiantly laughing youngster that I have
ever known. But most astonishingly festal she certainly looked,
nevertheless. Maybe it was the specially new and chic little twist
which she had given her hair. Maybe it was the absurdly coquettish
dab of black court-plaster which she had affixed to one dimply
cheek.

"Oh, if I'm going to be engaged to-day to a real artist," she
laughed, "I've certainly got to take some extra pains with my
personal appearance. Why, I've hardly slept all night," she
confided ingenuously, "I was so excited!"

"Yes, won't it be interesting," whispered the Bride to George
Keets, "to see what Mr. Kennilworth will really do? He's so
awfully temperamental! And so--so inexcusably beautiful. Whatever
he does is pretty sure to be interesting. Now up-stairs--all day
yesterday--wouldn't it----?"

"Yes, wouldn't it be interesting," glowed Ann Woltor quite
unexpectedly, "if he'd made her something really wonderful?
Something that would last, I mean, after the game was over? Even
just a toy, something that would outlast Time itself. Something
that even when she was old she could point to and say, 'Claude
Kennilworth made that for me when--we were young'."

"Why, Ann Woltor!" I stammered. "Do you feel that way about him?
Does--does he make you feel that way, too!"

"I think--he would make--anyone feel that way--too," intercepted
Allan John quite amazingly. In three days surely it was the only
voluntary statement he had made, and everybody turned suddenly to
stare at him. But it was only too evident from the persistent
haggardness of his expression that he had no slightest intention in
the world of pursuing his unexpected volubility.

"And it isn't just his good looks either!" resumed the Bride as
soon as she had recovered from her own astonishment at the
interpolation.

"Oh, something, very different," mused Ann Woltor. "The queer
little sense he gives you of--of wires humming! Whether you like
him or not that queer little sense of 'wires humming' that all
really creative people give you! As though--as though--they were
being rather specially re-charged all the time from the Main
Battery!"

"The 'Main Battery,'" puzzled the Bridegroom, "being----?"

"Why God,--of course!" said the Bride with a vague sort of
surprise.

"When women talk mechanics and religion in the same breath,"
laughed the Bridegroom, "it certainly----"

"I was talking neither mechanics nor religion," affirmed the Bride,
with the faintest possible tinge of asperity.

"Oh, of course, anyone can see," admitted the Bridegroom, "that
Kennilworth is a clever chap."

"Clever as the deuce!" acquiesced George Keets.

With an impatient tap of her foot the May Girl turned suddenly back
from the window.

"Yes! But where _is_ he?" she laughed.

"That's what I say!" cried my Husband. "We've waited quite long
enough for him!"

"Dallying up-stairs probably to put a dab of black court-plaster on
_his_ cheek!" observed George Keets drily.

With one accord everybody but the May Girl rushed impulsively to
the breakfast table.

"Seems as though--somebody ought to wait," dimpled the May Girl.

"Oh, nonsense!" asserted everybody.

A little bit reluctantly she came at last to her place. Her face
was faintly troubled.

"On--on an engagement morning," she persisted, "it certainly seems
as though--somebody ought to wait."

In the hallway just outside a light step sounded suddenly. It was
really astonishing with what an air of real excitement and
expectancy everybody glanced up.

But the step in the hall proved only the step of a maid.

"The young gentleman upstairs sent a message," said the maid. "Most
particular he was that I give it exact. 'It being so rainy again,'
he says, 'and there not being anything specially interesting on
the--the docket as far as he knows, he'll stay in bed--thank you.'"

For an instant it seemed as though everybody at the table except
Allan John jerked back from his plate with a knife, fork or spoon,
brandished half-way in mid air. There was no jerk left in Allan
John, I imagine. It was Allan John's color that changed. A dull
flush of red where once just gray shadows had lain.

"So he'll stay in bed, thank you," repeated the maid
sing-songishly.

"What?" gasped my Husband.

"W-w-what?" stammered the May Girl.

"Well--of all the--nerve!" muttered Paul Brenswick.

"Why--why how extraordinary," murmured Ann Woltor.

"_There's_ your 'artistic temperament' for you, all right!" laughed
the Bride a bit hectically. "Peeved is it because he thought Miss
Davies----?"

"Don't you think you're just a bit behind the times in your
interpretation of the phrase 'artistic temperament'?" interrupted
George Keets abruptly. "Except in special neurasthenic cases it is
no longer the fashion I believe to lay bad manners to the artistic
temperament itself but rather to the humble environment from which
most artistic temperaments are supposed to have sprung."

"Eh? What's that?" laughed the Bride.

Very deliberately George Keets lit a fresh cigarette. "No one
person, you know, can have everything," he observed with the
thinnest of all his thin-lipped smiles. "Three generations of
plowing, isn't it, to raise one artist? Oh, Mr. Kennilworth's
social eccentricities, I assure you, are due infinitely more to the
soil than to the soul."

"Oh, can your statistics!" implored my Husband a bit sharply, "and
pass Miss Davies the sugar!"

"And some coffee!" proffered Paul Brenswick.

"And this heavenly cereal!" urged the Bride.

"Oh, now I remember," winced the May Girl suddenly. "He said
'she'll wait all right'--but, of course, it does seem just a
little--wee bit--f-funny! Even if you don't care a--a rap," she
struggled heroically through a glint of tears. "Even if you don't
care a rap--sometimes it's just a little bit hard to say a word
like f-funny!"

"Damned hard," agreed my Husband and Paul Brenswick and George
Keets all in a single breath.

The subsequent conversation fortunately was not limited altogether
to expletives. Never, I'm sure, have I entertained a more vivacious
not to say hilarious company at breakfast. Nobody seemed contented
just to keep dimples in the May Girl's face. Everybody insisted
upon giggles. The men indeed treated them selves to what is usually
described as "wild guffaws."

Personally I think it was a mistake. It brought Rollins down-stairs
just as everybody was leaving the table in what had up to that
moment been considered perfectly reestablished and invulnerable
glee. Everybody, of course, except poor Allan John. No one
naturally would expect any kind of glee from Allan John.

In the soft pussy-footed flop of his felt slippers none of us heard
Rollins coming. But I--I saw him! And such a Rollins! Stripped of
the single significant facial expression of his life which I had
surprised so unexpectedly in his eyes the night before, Rollins
would certainly never be anything but just Rollins! Heavily swathed
in his old plaid ulster with a wet towel bound around his brow he
loomed cautiously on the scene bearing an empty coffee cup, and
from the faintly shadowing delicacy of the parted portieres
affirmed with one breath how astonished he was to find us still at
breakfast, while with the next he confided equally fatuously, "I
thought I heard merry voices!"

It was on Claude Kennilworth's absence, of course, that his
maddening little mind fixed itself instantly with unalterable
concentration.

"What ho! The--engagement?" he demanded abruptly.

"There isn't any engagement," said my Husband with a somewhat
vicious stab at the fire.

From his snug, speculative scrutiny of the storm outside, George
Keets swung round with what quite evidently was intended to be a
warning frown.

"Mr. Kennilworth has--defaulted," he murmured.

"Defaulted!" grinned Rollins. Then with perfectly unprecedented
perspicacity his roving glance snatched up suddenly the
unmistakable tremor of the May Girl's chin. "Oh, what nonsense!" he
said. "There are plenty of other eligible men in the party!"

"Oh, but you see--there are not!" laughed Paul Brenswick. "Mr.
Delville and I are Married--and our wives won't let us."

"Oh, nonsense!" grinned Rollins. Once again his roving glance swept
the company.

Everybody saw what was coming, turned hot, turned cold, shut his
eyes, opened them again, but was powerless to avert.

"Why, what's the matter with trying Allan John?" grinned Rollins.

The thing was inexcusable! Brutal! Blundering! Absolutely doltish
beyond even Rollins's established methods of doltishness. But at
last when everybody turned inadvertently to scan poor Allan John's
face--there was no Allan John to be scanned. Somewhere through
a door or a window--somehow between one blink of the eye and
another--Allan John had slipped from the room.

"Why--why, Mr. Rollins!" gasped everybody all at once. "Whatever in
the world were you thinking of?"

"Maybe--maybe--he didn't hear it--after all!" rallied the Bride
with the first real ray of hope.

"Maybe he just saw it coming," suggested the Bridegroom.

"And dodged in the nick of time," said George Keets.

"To save not only himself but ourselves," frowned my Husband, "from
an almost irretrievable awkwardness.

"Why just the minute before it happened," deprecated Ann Woltor, "I
was thinking suddenly how much better he looked, how his color had
improved,--why his cheeks looked almost red."

"Yes, the top of his cheeks," said the May Girl, "were really quite
red." Her own cheeks at the moment were distinctly pale. "Where
do you suppose he's gone to?" she questioned. "Don't you think
that--p'raps--somebody ought to go and find him?"

"Oh, for heaven's sake leave him alone!" cried Paul Brenswick.

"Leave him alone," acquiesced all the other men.

In the moment's nervous reaction and letdown that ensued it was
really a relief to hear George Keets cry out, with such poignant
amazement from his stand at the window:

"Why what in the world is that red-roof out on the rocks?" he
cried.

In the same impulse both my Husband and myself ran quickly to his
side.

"Oh, that's all right!" laughed my Husband. "I thought maybe it had
blown off or something. Why, that's just the 'Bungalow on the
Rocks,'" he explained.

"My Husband's study and work-room," I exemplified. "'Forbidden-Ground'
is its real name! Nobody is ever allowed to go there without an
invitation from--himself!"

"Why--but it wasn't there yesterday!" asserted George Keets.

"Oh, yes, it was!" laughed my Husband.

"It was not!" said George Keets.

The sheer unexpected primitiveness of the contradiction delighted
us so that neither of us took the slightest offense.

"Oh, I beg your pardon, of course," George Keets recovered himself
almost in an instant--"that right here before our eyes--that same
vivid scarlet roof was looming there yesterday against the gray
rocks and sea--and none of us saw it?"

"Saw what?" called Paul Brenswick. "Where?" And came striding to
the window.

"Gad!" said Paul Brenswick. "Victoria! Come here, quick!" he
called.

With frank curiosity the Bride joined the group. "Why of all
things!" she laughed. "Why it never in the world was there
yesterday!"

A trifle self-consciously Ann Woltor joined the group. "Bungalow?"
she questioned. "A Bungalow out on the rocks." Her face did
certainly look just a little bit queer. Anyone who wanted to, was
perfectly free of course, to interpret the look as one of
incredulity.

"No, of course not! Miss Woltor agrees with me perfectly,"
triumphed George Keets. "It was not there yesterday!"

"Oh, but it must have been!" dimpled the May Girl. "If Mr. and Mrs.
Delville say so! It's their bungalow!"

"It--was--not there--yesterday," puzzled George Keets. More than
having his honor at stake he spoke suddenly as though he thought it
was his reason that was being threatened.

With her cheeks quite rosy again the May Girl began to clap her
hands. Her eyes were sparkling with excitement.

"Oh, I don't care whether it was there yesterday or not!" she
triumphed. "It's there to-day! Let's go and explore it! And if it's
magic, so much the better! Oh, loo--loo--look!" she cried as a
great roar and surge of billows broke on the rocks all around the
little red roof and churned the whole sky-line into a chaos of
foam. "Oh, come--_come_!" she besought everybody.

"Oh, but, my dear!" I explained, "How would you get there? No
row-boat could live in that sea! And by way of the rocky ledge
there's no possible path except at the lowest tide! And besides," I
reminded her, "it's named 'Forbidden Ground', you know! No body is
supposed to go there without----"

With all the impulsiveness of an irresponsible baby the May Girl
dashed across the room and threw her arms round my neck.

"Why, you old dear," she laughed, "don't you know that that's just
the reason why I want to explore it! I want to know why it's
'Forbidden Ground'! Oh, surely--surely," she coaxed, "even if it is
a work-room, there couldn't be any real sin in just prying a
little?"

"No, of course, no real sin," I laughed back at her earnestness.
"Just an indiscretion!"

Quite abruptly the May Girl relaxed her hug, and narrowed her
lovely eyes dreamily to some personal introspection.

"I've--never yet--committed a real indiscretion," she confided with
apparent regret.

"Well, pray don't begin," laughed George Keets in spite of himself,
"by trying to explore something that isn't there."

"And don't you and Keets," flared Paul Brenswick quite
unexpectedly, "by denying the existence of something that is
there!"

"Well, if it is there to-day," argued George Keets, "it certainly
wasn't there yesterday!"

"Well, if it wasn't there yesterday, it is at least there to-day!"
argued Paul Brenswick.

"Rollins! Hi there--Rollins!" they both called as though in a
single breath.

From his humble seat on the top stair to which he had wisely
retreated at his first inkling of having so grossly outraged public
opinion, Rollins's reply came wafting some what hopefully back.

"H--h--iii," rallied Rollins.

"That red roof on the rocks--" shouted Paul Brenswick.

"Was it there--yesterday?" demanded George Keets.

"Wait!" cackled Rollins. "Wait till I go look!" A felt footstep
thudded. A window opened. The felt footstep thudded again. "No,"
called Rollins. "Now that I come to think of it--I don't remember
having noticed a red roof there yesterday."

"Now!" laughed George Keets.

"But, oh, I say!" gasped Rollins, in what seemed to be very sudden
and altogether indisputable confusion. "Why--why it must have been
there! Because that's the shack where we've catalogued the shells
every year--for the last seven years!"

"Now!" laughed Paul Brenswick.

Without another word everybody made a bolt for the hat-rack and the
big oak settle, snatched up his or her oil-skin clothes--anybody's
oil-skin clothes--and dashed off through the rain to the edge of
the cliff to investigate the phenomenon at closer range.

Truly the thing was almost too easy to be really righteous! Just a
huge rock-colored tarpaulin stripped at will from a red-tiled roof
and behold, mystery looms on an otherwise drab-colored day! And a
mystery at a houseparty? Well--whoever may stand proven as the
mother of invention--_Curiosity_, you know just as well as I do, is
the father of a great many very sprightly little adventures!

Within ten minutes from the proscenium box of our big bay-window,
my Husband and I could easily discern the absurd little plot and
counterplots that were already being hatched.

It was the Bride and George Keets who seemed to be thinking,
pointing, gesticulating, in the only perfect harmony. Even at this
distance, and swathed as they were in hastily adjusted oil-skins, a
curiously academic sort of dignity stamped their every movement.
Nothing but sheer intellectual determination to prove that their
minds were normal would ever tempt either one of them to violate a
Host's "No Trespass" sign!

Nothing academic about Paul Brenswick's figure! With one yellow
elbow crooked to shield the rain from his eyes he stood estimating
so many probable feet of this, so many probable feet of that. He
was an engineer! Perspectives were his playthings! And if there was
any new trick about perspectives that he didn't know--he was going
to solve it now no matter what it cost either him or anybody else!

More like a young colt than anything else, like a young colt
running for its pasture-bars, the May Girl dashed vainly up and
down the edge of the cliff. Nothing academic, nothing of an
engineer--about any young colt! If the May Girl reached "the
Bungalow on the Rocks" it would be just because she wanted to!

Ann Woltor's reaction was the only one that really puzzled me.
Drawn back a little from the others, sheltered transiently from the
wind by a great jagged spur of gray rock but with her sombre face
turned almost eagerly to the rain, she stood there watching with a
perfectly inexplainable interest the long white blossomy curve of
foam and spray which marked the darkly submerged ledge of rock that
connected the red-tiled bungalow with the beach just below her. Ann
Woltor certainly was no prankish child. Neither was it to be
supposed that any particular problem of perspective had flecked her
mind into the slightest uneasiness. Ann Woltor knew that the
bungalow was there! Had spent at least nine hours in it on the
previous day! Lunched in it! Supped in it! Proved its inherent
prosiness! Yet even I was puzzled as she crept out from the shelter
of her big boulder to the very edge of the cliff, and leaned away
out still staring, always at that wave-tormented ledge.

From the hyacinth-scented shadows just behind me I heard a sudden
little laugh.

"I'll wager you a new mink muff," said my Husband quite abruptly,
"that Ann Woltor gets there first!"

CHAPTER V

IN this annual _Rainy Week_ drama of ours, one of the very best
parts I "double" in, is with the chambermaid, making beds!

Once having warned my guests of this occasional domestic necessity,
I ought, I suppose, to feel absolutely relieved of any embarrassing
sense of intrusion incidental to the task. But there is always,
somehow, such an unwarrantable sense of spiritual rather than
material intimacy connected with the sight of a just deserted
guest-room. Particularly so, I think, in a sea-shore guest-room. A
beach makes such big babies of us all!

Country-house hostesses have never mentioned it as far as I can
remember. Mountains evidently do not recover for us that particular
kind of lost rapture. Nor even green pine woods revive the innocent
lusts of the little. But in a sea-shore guest-room, every fresh
morning of the world, as long as time lasts, you will find on
bureau-top desk or table, mixed up with chiffons and rouges,
crowding the tennis rackets or base balls, blurring the open
sophisticate page of the latest French novel, that dear, absurd,
ever-increasing little hoard of childish treasures! The round,
shining pebbles, the fluted clam shell, the wopse of dried
sea-weed, a feather perhaps from a gull's wing! Things common as
time itself, repetitive as sand! Yet irresistibly covetable! How do
you explain it?

Who in the world, for instance, would expect to find a cunningly
contrived toy-boat on Rollins's bureau with two star-fish listed as
the only passengers! Or Paul Brenswick's candle thrust into a
copperas-tinted knot of water-logged cedar? In the snug confines of
a small cigar box on a lovely dank bed of maroon and gray sea-weed
Victoria Brenswick had nested her treasure-trove. Certainly the
quaint garnet necklace could hardly have found a more romantic and
ship-wrecky sort of a setting. Even Allan John had started a little
procession of sand-dollars across his mantelpiece. But there was no
silver whistle figuring as the band, I noticed.

What would Victoria Brenswick have said, I wondered, what would
Allan John have thought if they had even so much as dreamed that
these precious "ship-wreck treasures" of theirs had been purchased
brand new in Boston Town within a week and "planted" most carefully
by my Husband with all those other pseudo mysteries in the old
trunk in the sand? But goodness me, one's got to "start" something
on the first day of even the most ordinary house-party!

With so much to watch outside the window, figures still moving
eagerly up and down the edge of the cliff, and so much to think
about inside, all the little personal whims and fancies betrayed by
the various hoards, the bed-making industry I'm afraid was somewhat
slighted on this particular morning. Was my Husband still standing
at that down-stairs window, I wondered, speculating about that
bungalow on the rocks even as I stood at the window just above him
speculating on the same subject? Why did he think that Ann Woltor
would be the one to get there first? What had Ann Woltor left there
the day before that made her specially anxious to get there first?
Truly this _Rainy Week_ experiment develops some rather unique
puzzles. Maybe if I tried, I thought, I could add a little puzzle
of my own invention! Just for sheer restiveness I turned and made
another round of the guest-rooms. Now that I remembered it there
was a bit more sand oozing from the Bride's necklace box to the
mahogany bureau-top than was really necessary.

The rest of the morning passed without special interest. But the
luncheon hour developed a most extraordinary interest in the
principles of physical geography which beginning with all sorts of
valuable observations concerning the weight of the atmosphere or
the conformation of mountains or the law of tides, ended invariably
with the one direct question: "At just what hour this evening, for
instance, will the tide be low again?"

My Husband was almost beside himself with concealed delight.

"Oh, but you don't think for a moment, do you--" I implored him in
a single whisper of privacy snatched behind the refilling of the
coffee urn. "You don't think for a moment that anybody would be
rash enough to try and make the trip in the big dory?"

"Well--hardly," laughed my Husband. "If you'd seen where I've
hidden the oars!"

The oars apparently were not the only things hidden at the moment
from mortal ken. Claude Kennilworth and Ego still persisted quite
brutally in withholding their charms from us. Rollins had retreated
to the sacristy of his own room to complete his convalescence. And
even Allan John seemed to have wandered for the time being beyond
the call of either voice or luncheon bell. Allan John's deflection
worried the May Girl a little I think, but not unduly. It didn't
worry the men at all.

"When a chap wants to be alone he wants to be alone!" explained
Paul Brenswick with unassailable conciseness.

"It's a darned good sign," agreed my Husband, "that he's ready to
be alone! It's the first time, isn't it?"

"Yes, that's all right, of course," conceded the May Girl amiably,
"if you're quite sure that he was dressed right for it."

"Maybe a hike on the beach at just this moment, whether he's
dressed right for it or not," asserted George Keets, "is just the
one thing the poor devil needs to sweep the last cobweb out of his
brain."

"I agree with you perfectly," said Victoria Brenswick.

It was really astonishing in a single morning how many things
George Keets and the Bride had discovered that they agreed on
perfectly. It teased the Bridegroom a little I think. But anyone
could have seen that it actually puzzled the Bride. And women, when
they are puzzled, I've noticed, are pretty apt to insist upon
tracing the puzzle to its source. So that when George Keets
suggested a further exploration of the dunes as the most plausible
diversion for the afternoon, it wouldn't have surprised me at all
if Victoria Brenswick had not only acquiesced in the suggestion for
herself and her Bridegroom but exacted its immediate fulfillment.
She did not, however. Quite peremptorily, in fact, she announced
instead her own and her Bridegroom's unalterable intent to remain
at home in the big warm library by the apple-wood fire.

It was the May Girl who insisted on forging forth alone with George
Keets into the storm.

"Why, I shall perish," dimpled the May Girl, "if I don't get some
more exercise to-day!--Weather like this--why--why it's so
glorious!" she thrilled. "So maddeningly glorious!--I--I wish I was
a seagull so I could breast right off into the foam and blast of
it! I wish--I wish----!" But what page is long enough to record the
wishes of Eighteen?

My Husband evidently had no wish in the world except to pursue the
cataloging of shells in Rollins's crafty company.

Ann Woltor confessed quite frankly that her whole human interest in
the afternoon centred solely on the matter of sleep.

Hyacinths, of course, are my own unfailing diversion.

Tracking me just a little bit self-consciously to my hyacinth lair,
the Bride seemed rather inclined to dally a moment, I noticed,
before returning to her Bridegroom and the library fire. Her eyes
were very interesting. What bride's are not? Particularly that
Bride whose intellect parallels even her emotions.

"Maybe," she essayed quite abruptly, "Maybe it was a trifle funny
of me not to tramp this afternoon. But the bridge-building work
begins again next week, you know. It's pretty strenuous, everybody
says. Men come home very tired from it. Not specially sociable. So
I just made up my mind," she said, in a voice that though playfully
lowered was yet rather curiously intense. "So I just made up my
mind that I would stay at home this afternoon and get acquainted
with my Husband." Half-proud, half-shamed, her puzzled eyes lifted
to mine. "Because it's dawned on me very suddenly," she laughed,
"that I don't know my Husband's opinion on one solitary subject in
the world except--just me!" With a rather amusing little flush she
stooped down and smothered her face in a pot of blue hyacinths.
"Oh--hyacinths!" she murmured. "And May rain! The smell of them!
Will I ever forget the fragrance of this week--while Time
lasts?" But the eyes that lifted to mine again were still puzzled.
"Now--that Mr. Keets," she faltered. "Why in just an hour or two
this morning, why in just the little time that luncheon takes, I
know his religion and his Mother's first name. I know his
philosophies, and just why he adores Buskin and disagrees with
Bernard Shaw. I know where he usually stays when he's in Amsterdam
and just what hotel we both like best in Paris. Why I know even
where he buys his boots, and why. And I buy mine at the same place
and for just exactly the same reason. But my Husband." Quite in
spite of herself a little laugh slipped from her lips. "Why--I
don't even know how my Husband votes!" she gasped. In some magic,
excitative flash of memory her breath began to quicken. "It--It was
at college, you know, that we met--Paul and I," she explained. "At
a dance the night before my graduation." Once again her face flamed
like a rose. "Why, we were engaged, you know, within a week! And
then Paul went to China!--Oh, of course, we wrote," she said, "and
almost every day, too. But----"

"But lovers, of course, don't write a great deal about buying
boots," I acquiesced, "nor even so specially much about Buskin nor
even their mothers."

In the square of the library doorway a man's figure loomed a bit
suddenly.

"Vic! Aren't you ever coming?" fretted her impatient Bridegroom.

Like a homing bird she turned and sped to her mate!

Yet an hour later, when I passed the library door, I saw Paul
Brenswick lying fast asleep in the depth of his big leather chair.
Fire wasted--books neglected--Chance itself forgotten or ignored!
But the Bride was nowhere to be seen.

I was quite right though when I thought that I should find her in
her room. Just as I expected, too, she was standing by the window
staring somewhat blankly out at the Dunes.

But the eyes that she lifted to me this time were not merely
puzzled--they were suffering. If Paul Brenswick could have seen his
beloved at this moment and even so much as hoped that there was a
God, he would have gone down on his knees then and there and prayed
that for Love's sake the very real shock which he had just given
her would end in laughter rather than tears. Yet her speech, when
it came at last, was perfectly casual.

"He--he wouldn't talk," she said.

"Couldn't, you mean!" I contradicted her quite sharply. "Husbands
can't, you know! Marriage seems to do something queer to their
vocal chords."

"Your husband talks," smiled the Bride very faintly.

"Oh--beautifully," I admitted. "But not to me! It doesn't seem to
be quite compatible with established romance somehow, this talking
business, between husbands and wives."

"Romance?" rallied the Bride. "Would you call Mr. Delville
ex--exactly romantic!"

"Oh--very!" I boasted. "But not conversationally."

"But I wanted to talk," said the Bride, very slowly.

"Why, of course, you did, you dear darling!" I cried out
impulsively. "Most brides do! You wanted to discuss and decide in
about thirty minutes every imaginable issue that is yet to develop
in all the long glad years you hope to have together! The friends
you are going to build. Why you haven't even glimpsed a child's
picture in a magazine, this the first week of your marriage,
without staying awake half the night to wonder what your children's
children's names will be."

"How do you know?" asked the Bride, a bit incisively.

"Because once I was a Bride myself," I said. "But this Paul of
yours," I insisted. "This Paul of yours, you see, hasn't finished
wondering yet about just you----!"

"For Heaven's sake," called my own husband through the half open
doorway, "what's all this pow-wow about?"

"About husbands," I answered, quite frankly. "An argument in fact
as to whether taken all in all a husband is ever very specially
amusing to talk to."

"Amusing to talk to?" hooted my Husband. "Never! The most that any
poor husband can hope for is to prove amusing to talk about!"

"Who said Paul?" called that young person himself from the further
shadows of the hallway.

"No one has," I laughed, "for as much as two minutes."

A trifle flushed from his nap, and most becomingly dishevelled as
to hair, the Bridegroom stepped into the light. I heard his Bride
give a little sharp catch of her breath.

"I--I think I must have been asleep," said the Bridegroom.

Twice the Bride swallowed very hard before she spoke.

"I--I think you must have, you rascal!" she said. It was a real
victory!

Really my Husband and I would have been banged in the door if we
hadn't jumped out as fast as we did!

George Keets and the May Girl came in from their walk just before
supper. Judging from their personal appearances it had at least
been a long walk if not a serene one. George Keets indeed seemed
quite unnecessarily intent in the vestibule on taking the May Girl
to task for what he evidently considered her somewhat careless
method of storing away her afternoon's accumulation of pebble and
shell. Every accent of his voice, every carefully enunciated
syllable reminded me only too absurdly of what the May Girl had
confided to me about "boys always trying to make her feel small."
He was urging her now, I inferred, to stop and sort out her
specimens according to some careful cotton-batting plan which he
suggested.

"Whatever is worth doing at all, you know, Miss Davies," he said,
"is worth doing well."

The May Girl's voice sounded very tired, not irritable, but very
tired.

"Oh, if there's anything in the world that I hate," I heard her cry
out, "it's that proverb! What people really mean by it," she
protested, "is, 'Whatever's worth doing at all is worth doing
_Swell_.' And it isn't either! I tell you I like simple things
best! All I ever want to do with my shells tonight is just to chuck
'em behind the door!"

Truly if Claude Kennilworth hadn't turned up for supper all in
white flannels and looking like a young god, I don't know just what
I should have done. Everybody seemed either so tired or so
distrait.

The tide would be low at ten o'clock. It was eight when we sat down
to supper.

Ann Woltor I'm sure never took her eyes from the clock.

But to be perfectly frank everybody else at the table except the
May Girl seemed to be diverting such attention as he or she
retained to the personal appearance of Claude Kennilworth. Truly it
wasn't right that anyone who had been so hateful all day long
should be able to look so perfectly glorious in the evening.

"Where did you get the suit?" said Rollins. "Is it your own?"

"And the permanent wave?" questioned the Bride. "I think you and
the ocean must patronize the same hair dresser."

"Dark men always do look so fine in white flannels," whispered Ann
Woltor to my Husband.

"Personally," beamed Paul Brenswick, "you look to me like a person
who had imported his own Turkish bath."

"Turkish?" scoffed George Keets. "Nobody works up a shine like that
by being washed only in one language! Russian, too, it must be!
Flemish----"

"Flemish are rabbits," observed the May Girl gravely. But even with
this observation she did not lift her eyes from her plate. Whether
she was consciously and determmingly ignoring Claude Kennilworth's
only too palpable efforts to impress her with the fact that now at
last he was ready to forgive her and subjugate her, or whether she
really hadn't noticed him, I couldn't quite make out. And then
quite suddenly at the end of her first course she put down her
knife and fork and folded her hands in her lap. "Where is Allan
John?" she demanded.

"Why, yes, that's so! Where is Allan John!" questioned everybody
all at once.

"Some walk he's taking," reflected Paul Brenswick.

"Not too long I hope," worried my Husband very faintly.

"Hang it all, I do like that lad," acknowledged George Keets.

"Who wouldn't?" said Young Kennilworth.

"Yes, but why?" demanded Keets.

"It's his eyes," said the Bride.

"Eyes nothing!" scoffed young Kennilworth. "It's the way he came
out of his fuss without fussing! To make a fool of yourself but
never a fuss--that's my idea of a fellow being a good sport!"

"It was his tragedy that I was thinking of," said George Keets very
quietly.

"Yes, where in the world," questioned my Husband with quite
unwonted emotion, "would you have found another chap in the same
harrowing circumstances, even among your own friends, I mean, a
chum, a pal, who could have dropped in here the way he has, without
putting a damper on everything? Not intentionally, of course, but
just in the inevitable human nature of things. But I don't get the
slightest sense somehow of Allan John being a damper!"

"'Damper?'" said the Bride. "Why he's like a sick man basking in
the sun. Hasn't a word to say himself, not a single prance in his
own feet. But I'd as soon think of shutting out the sun from a sick
man as shutting out a laugh from Allan John. Why, Allan John needs
us!" attested the Bride, "and Allan John knows that he needs us!"

With a sideways glance at the vacant chair George Keets's thin lips
parted into a really sweet smile.

"Where in creation is the boy!" he insisted. "Frankly I think we
rather need him."

"All of which being the case," conceded my Husband, "it behooves me
even once more, I should say, to tell Allan John that the next time
he speaks about moving on I shall hide his clothes. Certainly I
haven't trusted him yet with even a quarter. He's so
extraordinarily fussy about thinking that he ought to clear out."

It was just at that moment that the telephone rang. I decided to
answer it myself, for some reason, from the instrument upstairs in
my own room, rather than from the library. A minute's delay, and I
held the transmitter to my lips.

"Yes," I called.

"Is this Mrs. Jack Delville?" queried the voice.

"Yes. Who's speaking?"

"It's Allan John," said the voice.

"Why, Allan John!" I laughed. "Of course it would be you! We were
just speaking about you, and that's always the funny way that
things happen. But wherever in the world are you? We'd begun to
worry a bit!"

"I'm in town," said Allan John.

"In town," I cried. "Town! How did you get there?"

In Allan John's voice suddenly it was as though tone itself was
fashion. "That's what I want to tell you," said Allan John. "I've
done a horrid thing, a regular kid college-boy sort of thing. I've
taken something from your house, that silver salt cellar you know
that I forgot to give back, and left it with a man in the village
as security for the price of a railroad ticket to town, and a
telegram to my brother and this phone message. I didn't have a cent
you know. But the instant I hear from my brother----"

"Why, you silly!" I cried. "Why didn't you speak to my Husband?"

"Oh, your Husband," said Allan John, just a bit drily, "would have
given me the whole house. But he wouldn't let me leave it! And it
was quite time I was leaving," the voice quickened sharply. "I had
to leave some time you know. And all of a sudden I--I had to leave
at once! Rollins, you know! His break about the little girl. After
young Kennilworth's cubbishness I simply couldn't put another
slight on that lovely little girl. But--" His voice was all gray
and again spent, like ashes. "But I just couldn't play," he said.
"Not that!"

"Why of course you couldn't play," I cried. "Nobody expected you
to! Rollins is a--a horror!"

"Oh, Rollins is all right enough," said Allan John. "It's life that
is the horror."

"Yes, but Allan John--!" I parried.

"You people have been angels to me," he interrupted me sharply. "I
shall never forget it. Nor the lovely little girl. I'm going back
to Montana to see how my ranch looks. I can't talk now. Not to
anybody. For God's sake don't call anybody. But if I get
straightened out again, ever, you'll hear from me. And if I don't----"

"But, Allan John," I protested. "Everybody will be desolated, your
going off like this! Why, you're not even equipped in the simplest
way! Not a single bit of baggage! Not a personal possession!"

Across the buzzing wires it seemed suddenly as though I could
actually hear Allan John making one last really desperate effort to
smile.

"I've got my little silver whistle," said Allan John. As though in
confirmation of the fact he lifted the silver bauble to his lips
and blew a single flutey note across the sixty miles.

"Goodbye!" he said.

Before I had fairly dropped the receiver back into its place, the
May Girl was at my elbow. Her lovely childish eyes were strangely
alert, her radiant head cocked ever so slightly to one side as
though she held a shell to her listening ear. But there was no
shell in her hand.

"What was that?" cried the May Girl. "I thought I heard Allan
John's whistle!"

CHAPTER VI

WERE you ever in a theatre, right in the middle of a play, on the
very verge of an act that you were really quite curious about, and
just as the curtain started to go up it was suddenly yanked down
again instead, and a woman behind the scenes screamed--oh,
horridly, and a man came rushing out in front of the curtain waving
his arms and trying to tell everybody something, but everybody all
of a sudden was so busy screaming for himself that even God, I
think, couldn't have made you hear just what the trouble was?

It isn't a pleasant thing to have happen.

But that is almost exactly what happened to our _Rainy Week_ play
on this the fourth night of events just as I was waiting for the
curtain to rise on the most carefully staged scene which we had
prepared, the scene designated as "_The Bungalow on the Rocks_."

And the woman who screamed was the May Girl. And the man who came
rushing back to try and explain was Rollins. And the May Girl it
proved was screaming because she was drowning! And if it hadn't
been for the silly little Pom dog that Claude Kennilworth had been
silly enough to bring way from New York "for a week's outing at the
sea shore" just to please the extraordinarily silly girl who
occupied the studio next to his, the May Girl would have drowned!
It makes one feel almost afraid to move, somehow, or even not to
move, for that matter, afraid to be silly indeed, or even not to be
silly, lest it foil or foul in some bungling way the plot of life
which the Biggest Dramatist of All had really intended.

It was Ann Woltor who gave the only adequate explanation.

Everybody had at least pretended that night the unalterable
intention of going to bed early.

Claude Kennilworth of course having absented himself from the
breakfast table didn't know anything about the bungalow discussion.
But pique alone at the May Girl's persistent yet totally unexcited
rebuff of his patronage had retired him earlier than anyone to the
seclusion of his own room. And Rollins's unhappy propensity of
always and forever butting into other people's plans had been most
efficiently thwarted, as far as we could see, by dragging him
upstairs and slamming his nose into a brand new and very profusely
illustrated tome on the subject of "The Violet Snail."

By half past ten, Ann Woltor confessed she had found the whole
lower part of the house apparently deserted.

For the same reason, best known even yet only to herself, she was
still very anxious it appeared to get to the bungalow before any of
her house-companions should have forestalled her. The trip, I
judged, had not proved unduly hard. By the aid of a pocket
flashlight she had made the descent of the cliff without accident,
and after a single confusion where a blind trail ended in the water
discovered the jagged path that twisted along the ledge to the very
door of the bungalow. Once in the bungalow she had dallied only
long enough to search out by the aid of the flashlight the
particular object or objects which she had come for. Startled by a
little sound, the sound of a man humming a little French tune that
she hadn't heard for fifteen years, she had grabbed up her
treasure, whatever it was, and bolted precipitously for the house,
not knowing she had sprung the trap of our concealed phonograph
when she opened the door. Even once back in the safe precincts of
the house, however, she was further startled and completely upset
by running into the May Girl.

The May Girl was on the stairs, it seemed, just coming down. And
she didn't look "quite right," Ann Woltor admitted. That is, she
looked almost as though she was walking in her sleep, or a bit
dazed, a bit bewildered, and certainly, dressed as she was, just a
filmy night-gown with her warm blanket wrapper merely lashed across
her shoulders by its sleeves, her pretty feet bare, her gauzy hair
floating like an aura all around her, it certainly wasn't to be
supposed that she was just starting off on a prankish endeavor to
solve the bungalow mystery. Even her eyes looked unreal to Ann
Woltor. Even her voice, when she spoke, sounded more than a little
bit queer.

"I--I thought I heard Allan John whistle" she said. "I--I promised,
you know, that if he ever needed me I'd come."

Ann Woltor nearly collapsed. "Nonsense!" she explained. "Allan John
is in town! Don't you remember? He telephoned while we were at
supper. Mrs. Delville delivered his messages and good-byes to us."

"Why, yes, of course!" roused the May Girl, almost instantly. "How
silly!--I guess I must have been asleep! And just dreamed it!"

"Why, of course, you were asleep and just dreamed it." Ann Woltor
assured her. "You're asleep now! Get back to bed before you catch
your death of cold! Or before anybody sees you!"

Ann Woltor, on the verge of hysterics herself, quite naturally was
not at all anxious that those dazed, bewildered eyes should clear
suddenly and with inevitable questioning upon her own distinctly
drenched and most wind-blown and generally dishevelled appearance.

A single little shove of the shoulders had proved enough to herd
the May Girl back to her bed-room while she herself had escaped
undetected to her own quarters.

But the May Girl had _not_ been satisfied, it appeared, with Ann
Woltor's assurances concerning Allan John.

An hour or more later, roused once again to a still somewhat dazed
but now unalterable conviction that Allan John had whistled, and
fully equipped this time to combat whatever opposition or weather
she might meet, she crept from the house out into the storm with
the little Pom dog sniffing at her heels. Just what happened
afterwards nobody knows. Just how it happened or exactly when it
happened, nobody can even guess. Maybe it was the brilliantly
lighted bungalow my Husband had fixed for the setting of the "Bunga
low Scene" just after Ann Woltor's surreptitious visit that incited
her. Maybe to a mind already stricken with feverishness the rising
tide did suck through the bungalow rocks with a sound that faintly
suggested a rather specially agonized sort of whistle. Who can say?
The fact remains that to all intents and purposes she seemed to
have ignored the ledge that even yet, in spite of its drenching
spray, would have been perfectly safe for another half hour at
least, and plunged forth down the blind trail, off the rocks into
the water below. Resolutely she refused to cry for help. Perhaps
the shock of the cold water chilled the cry in her throat. She
grasped the slippery seaweed clinging to the rocks--moaning a
little--crying a little--the pitiful struggle setting the Pom dog
nearly crazy. How long she clung there she couldn't tell. She was
mauled and bruised by the threshing waves. Still some complex
inhibition prevented her crying out for help. Ages passed, her
bruised arms and numb fingers refused to hold the grip on the
elusive seaweed forever and she eventually let go her hold. A
receding wave took her and tossed her poor exhausted body still
struggling against another ledge of rock well out of reach from
shore. Then, for the first time, the May Girl seemed to realize
fully her peril--and she shrieked for help.

Ann Woltor, rousing sluggishly from her sleep, heard the black Pom
dog barking furiously on the beach. Reluctant at first to leave her
snug bed it must have been several minutes at least before sheer
curiosity and irritation drove her to get up and peer from the
window.

Out of that murky blackness of course not a single outline of the
little dog met her sight. Just that incessant yap-yap-yap-yap of a
tiny creature almost frenzied with excitement. But what really
smote Ann Woltor's startled vision, and for the first time, was the
flare of lights, which made the bungalow seem as if ablaze. And as
she stared aghast into that flare of light which seemed to point so
accusingly at her across the intervening waters, she either sensed
or saw the May Girl's unmistakable head and shoulders banging into
the single craggy rock that still jutted up from the depths saw an
arm reach out heard that one blood-curdling scream!

Rollins must have thought she was mad! Dragging him from his bed,
with her arms around his neck, her lips crushed to his ear,--even
then she could hardly articulate or make a sound louder than a
whisper.

Rollins fortunately did not lose his voice. Rollins bellowed.
Rushing out into the hall just as he was, pajamas, nightcap and
all, Rollins lifted his voice like a baying hound.

In a moment all hands were on deck. My Husband rushed for the
dory--George Keets with him, Paul Brenswick, Kennilworth, Rollins!

The women huddled on the beach.

"Hold on! Hold on!" we shouted into space. "Just a minute
more!--Just one minute more!"

We might just as well have shouted into a saw-dust pile.--The wind
took the words and rammed them down our throats again till we
sickened and choked!

Young Kennilworth came running. He was still in his white flannels.
He looked like a ghost.

"There's been some hitch about the oars!" he cried. "Is she still
there?"

In the flare of our lantern light I turned suddenly and stared at
him. He looked so queer. In a moment so awful, it seemed almost
incredible that any human face could have summoned so much EGO into
it. From those gay, pleasure-roaming feet, it must have come
hurtling suddenly--that expression! From those facile self-assured
finger tips that were already coaxing the secrets of line and form
from the Creator!--From that lusty, hot-blooded young heart that
was even now accumulating its "Pasts!"--From the arrogant,
brilliant young brain that knew only too well that it had a
"FUTURE!"--And even as I watched, young Kennilworth stripped the
white flannels from his body. And the pleasure. And the triumph.
And all the little pasts. And all the one big future. And he who
had come so presumptuously to us to make an infinitesimal bronze
replica of the sea--went forth very humbly from us to make a
man-sized model of sacrifice.

For an instant only as he steadied for the plunge a flash of the
old mockery crossed his face.

"Of course I'm stronger than the ocean," he called back. "But if it
shouldn't prove so--don't forget my Old Man's birthday!"

Ann Woltor fainted as his slim body struck the waves.

Hours passed--ages, aeons--before the dory reached them! Yet my
husband says that it way only minutes. By the merciful providence
of darkness we were at least spared some of the visual stages of
that struggle. Minutes or aeons--there were not even seconds to
spare, it proved by the time help actually arrived. Claude
Kennilworth had a broken arm, but was at least conscious. The May
Girl looked as though she would never be conscious again. Against
the ghastly pallor of her skin the brutal bruises loomed like
love's last offering of violets. The flexible finger-tips had
clawed themselves to pulp and blood.

The village doctor came on the wings of the wind! We telephoned Dr.
Brawne, but he was away on a business trip somewhere and could not
be located! The rest of the night went by like a brand-new battle
for life, but in the full glare of lamp-light this time! By
breakfast-time, if one can compute hours so on a morning when
nobody eats, Claude Kennilworth was almost himself again. But the
May Girl's vitality failed utterly to rally. White as the linen
that encompassed her she lay in that dreadful stupor among her
pillows. Only once she roused herself to any attempt at speech and
even then her words were almost inaudible. "Allan John," she
struggled to say. "Was trying--to find him."

"Has she had any shock before this!" puzzled the Doctor. "Any
recent calamity? Any special threat of impending illness?"

"She fainted day before yesterday," was all the information anybody
could proffer. "She is subject to fainting spells, it seems. Last
night Miss Woltor thought she looked a little bit dazed as though
with a touch of fever."

"We've got to rouse her some way," said the Doctor.

"Oh, if we could only find Allan John," cried the Bride. "Allan
John--and his whistle," she supplemented with almost shamefaced
playfulness.

My Husband and George Keets tore off to town in the little car!
They raked the streets, the hotels, the telegraph offices, the
railroad station, God knows what before they found him. But they
did find him. That's all that really matters!

It was ten o'clock at night before they all reached home again.
Allan John asked only one question as he crossed the threshold. His
forehead was puckered with perplexity.

"Is--everybody--in the world going to die?" he said.

They took him directly to the May Girl's room and put him down in a
chair just opposite her bed, with the whistle in his hands. "Spring
and Youth and the Pipes of Pan!" But such a sorry Pan! All the
youth that was left in him seemed to have been wrung out anew by
this latest horror. In the grayness of him, the hopelessness, the
pain, he might have been fifty, sixty, himself, instead of the
scant twenty-eight or thirty years that he doubtless was. A little
bit shakily he lifted the whistle to his lips.

"Not that I put a great deal of credence in it," admitted the
Doctor. "But if you say it was a sound--a signal that she had been
waiting for----"

Softly Allan John fluted the silver note.

A little shiver--a struggle, passed across the figure on the bed.

"Again!" prompted the Doctor.

Once more Allan John lifted the whistle to his lips.

The May Girl opened her eyes and struggled vainly to raise herself
on her elbow. When she saw Allan John a vague sort of astonishment
flushed across her face and an odd apologetic little laugh slipped
weakly from her lips.

"I--I came just as soon as I could, Allan John," she said, and
sinking back into her pillows began quite unexpectedly to cry. It
was the Doctor himself who sat by her side and wiped her tears
away.

Ann Woltor shared the watches with me through the rest of the
night. Allan John never left the room. Towards dawn I sent even Ann
Woltor to her sleep and Allan John and I met the new day alone. By
the time it was really light the May Girl, weak as she was, seemed
to have recovered a certain amount of talkativeness. Recognizing
thoroughly the presence and activity of both my hands and my feet,
she seemed to ignore entirely the existence of either my eyes or my
ears. Her puzzled wonderments were directed at Allan John alone.

"Allan John--Allan John," I heard her call softly.

"Yes," said Allan John.

"It's a lie," said the May Girl, "what people say about drowning,
that as you go down you remember every little teeny weeny thing
that has ever happened to you in your life! All your past, I mean!
All the dreadful--wicked things that you've ever done! Oh, it's an
awful lie!"

"Is it?" said Allan John.

"Yes, it certainly is;" attested the May Girl. "Why, I never even
remembered the day I bit my grandmother."

"N--o," shivered Allan John.

"No, indeed!" insisted the May Girl. "The only things that I
thought of were the things I had planned to do!--The--the--PLANS
that were drowning with me! One of them," she flushed suddenly,
"one of the plans I mean I didn't seem to care at all when I saw it
go down and the plan about going to Europe some time. Oh, I don't
think that suffered so terribly. But the farm. The farm I was
planning to have. The cows. The horses. The dogs. The chickens. The
rabbits. Why, Allan John, I counted seventeen rabbits!" Very softly
to herself she began to cry again.

"S--s--h. S--s--h," cautioned Allan John. "Things that have never
happened you know can't die."

"Of that," reflected the May Girl through her tears, "I am--not so
perfectly sure. Is--is it going to clear up?" she asked quite
irrelevantly.

"Oh, yes, _surely_!" rallied Allan John. He would have told her it
was Christmas I think if he had really thought that that was what
she wanted him to say. Very expeditiously instead he began to shine
up the silver whistle with the corner of his handkerchief.

With an almost amusing solemnity the May Girl lay and watched the
proceeding. Under the heavy fringe of her lashes her eyes looked
very shy. Then so gently, so childishly, that even Allan John
didn't wince till it was all over, she asked him the question that
no other person in the world probably could have asked him at that
moment, and lived.

"Allan John," she asked, "do you suppose that you will ever marry
again?"

"Oh, my God, no!" gasped Allan John.

"Men--do," mused the May Girl.

"Men do," conceded Allan John. With the sweat starting on his brow
he jumped up and strode to the window. From the window he turned
back slowly with a curious look of perplexity on his face. "Why--do
you ask--that?" he said.

"Oh, I don't know!" said the May Girl. "I was just wondering," she
sighed.

"Wondering what?" said Allan John.

"Wondering," mused the May Girl, "if you would ever want to marry me."

For a moment Allan John did not seem to understand--for a moment he
gazed aghast at the May Girl's impassive face. "Why--child," he
stammered.

"Why Honey-Dear," I intercepted wildly.

It was the strangest wooing I ever saw or dreamed of. The wooing by
a person who didn't even know she was wooing--of a person who
didn't even know he was being wooed.

"Well--all right--perhaps it doesn't matter," said the May Girl. "I
was only thinking how sad it would be--if Allan John ever did need
me for his wife and I was already married to somebody else."

When the Doctor came at noon he reported with eminent satisfaction
a decided improvement in both his patients. Claude Kennilworth,
contrary to one's natural expectations, was proving himself an
ideal patient despite his painful injury which he steadfastly
refused to acknowledge.

Even the May Girl's more subtle and mystifying complications seemed
to have cleared up most astonishingly, he felt, since his previous
visit.

"Oh, she's coming out all right," he assured us. "Fresh air, plenty
of range, freedom from all emotional concern or distress," were the
key-notes of his advice. "She's only a baby, grown woman-sized in
an all too brief eighteen years," he averred.

Words, phrases, judgments, rioted only too confusedly through my
mind that was already so inordinately perplexed with the whole
chaotic situation.

As I said "good-bye," and turned back from the front door, I was
surprised to see both my Husband and Ann Woltor standing close
beside me. The constrained expressions on their faces startled me.

"You heard what the Doctor said," I exclaimed. "You heard his exact
words--'great big overgrown baby,' he said. 'Ought to be turned out
to play in a sand-pile for at least two years more.' Just a baby,"
I protested, "And she'll be tending her own babies before the two
years are over! They are planning to marry her in September you
know to a man old enough to be her grandfather--almost. To Doctor
Brawne," I stormed!

"To whom?" gasped Ann Woltor. Her face was suddenly livid. "To
whom?"

A horrid chill went through me. "What's Doctor Brawne to you?" I
asked.

"It's time you told her," interposed my Husband, quietly.

"What is Doctor Brawne to you!" I demanded.

"Doctor Brawne? Nothing!" cried Ann Woltor. "But the girl--the girl
is my girl--my own little girl--my own big little girl."

"What!" I gasped. "What!" As though my knees had turned to straw I
sank into the nearest chair.

With the curious exultancy of a long strain finally relaxed, I saw
Ann Woltor's immobile face flame suddenly with amusement.

"Did you think I was talking just weather with your husband all
that first harrowing day and evening? In the car? In the bungalow?
Oh, no--not weather!" she exclaimed. "Not even just the 'May Girl,'
as you call her, but--everything! Your husband discovered it that
first morning in the car," she annotated hurriedly. "I dropped my
watch. It had a picture in it. A picture of May taken last year.
Dr. Brawne sent it to me."

"Yes, but Dr. Brawne?" I puzzled.

"Oh, I knew that May was to be married," she frowned. "And to a man
a good deal older than herself. Dr. Brawne wrote me that. But what
he quite neglected to mention,--" once again the frown deepened,
"was that the old man was himself. I like Dr. Brawne. He is a very
brilliant man. But I certainly do not approve of him as my
daughter's husband. There are reasons. One need not go into them
now," she acknowledged. "At least they do not specially concern his
age. My daughter would hardly be happy with a boy I think. Boys do
not usually like simplicity. It takes a mature man to appreciate
simplicity."

"Yes, but the discovery?" I fretted. "Your own discovery?--Just
when?"

"In the train of course, coming down that first night!" cried Ann
Woltor. "I thought I should go mad. I thought at every station I
would jump off. And then Rollins's bungling remark the next day
about my tooth gave me the chance, as I supposed, to get away.
Except for that awkward accident to my watch I should have gotten
away. Your husband implored me for my own sake, for everyone's
sake, to stop and consider. There was so much to consider. I had
all my proofs with me, my letters, my papers, my marriage
certificate. We went to the Bungalow. We thrashed it all out. I was
still mad to get away. I had no other wish in the world except to
get away! Your husband persuaded me that my duty was here--to watch
my girl--to get acquainted with my girl--before I even so much as
attempted meeting my other problems. I was very rattled. I left my
broken watch in the bungalow! The picture was still in it! That's
why I went back! I wasn't sure eyen then that I would disclose my
identity even to my daughter! For that reason alone I made your
husband promise that he would not betray my secret even to you. If
I decided to tell all right. But I wished no such decision forced
upon me!"

"Oh, Ann, Ann dear," I cried, "don't tell me any more, you've
suffered enough. Just Rollins's bungling alone--the impudence of
him----!"

"Rollins?--Rollins?" intercepted that pestiferous gentleman's voice
suddenly. "Do I hear my name bandied by festive voices?" In another
moment the Pest himself stood beside us.

My Husband is by no means a swearing man, but I distinctly heard
from his unwonted lips at that moment a muttered blasphemy that
would make a stevedore blush for shame.

Despite all her terrible stress and strain Ann Woltor
smiled--actually smiled.

My Husband gasped. The cause of that gasp was only too evident.
Once again we saw Rollins's ominous gaze fixed with unalterable
intent on Ann Woltor's face. What was meant to be an ingratiating
smile quickened suddenly in his eyes.

"Truly, Miss Woltor," he said, "_tell me_, why don't you get it
fixed!"

For an instant I thought Ann Woltor would scream. For an instant I
thought Ann Woltor would faint, then quicker than chain lighting,
right there before our eyes we saw her make her great decision. It
was as though her brain was glass and we could see its every
working.

"All right," said Ann Woltor, very quietly. "All right--you--Damn
fool--I _will_ tell you! I will tell everybody!"

For the first time in his life I saw Rollins stagger!

But Rollins could not remain prostrate even under such a rebuff as
this.

"Why--er--thank you--thank you very much," he rallied with his
first returning breath. "Shall I--shall I call the others?"

"By all means, call them quickly," said Ann Woltor.

"Oh, Ann!" I protested.

"I mean it," she said. Her face was strangely quiet. "The time has
come--I've made up my mind at last."

From the door of the porch we heard Rollins's piping voice.

"Mr. Brenswick! Mr. Keets! Kennilworth! Allan John!--Come on! Miss
Woltor's going to tell us a story!"

With vaguely responsive interest, the people came trooping in.

"A story?" brightened the Bride. "Oh, lovely--what is it about?"

"The story of my broken tooth," said Ann Woltor, very trenchantly,
"told by request--Mr. Rollins's request," she added.

With a single comprehensive glance at my tortured face--at my
Husband's--at Ann Woltor's, Claude Kennilworth turned sharply on
his heel and started to leave the room.

"What, don't you want to hear the story?" piped Rollins.

"No, not by a damn sight," snapped Kennilworth.

"But I want you to hear it," said Ann Woltor, still in that deadly
quiet but absolutely firm voice.

George Keets's lips were drawn suddenly to a mere thin white line.

"One has no desire to intrude, Miss Woltor," he protested.

"It is no intrusion," said Aim Woltor.

For a single hesitating moment her sombre eyes swept the waiting
group. Then, without further break or pause, she plunged into her
narrative.

"I am the May Girl's mother," she said. "I ran away from the May
Girl's father. I ran away with another man. I don't pretend to
explain it. I don't pretend to condone it. This is not a discussion
of ethics but a mere statement of history. All that I insist upon
your understanding--is that I ran away from a legalized life of
incessant fault-finding and criticism to an unlegalized life of
absolute approval and love.

"I cannot even admit, after the first big wrench, of course, that I
greatly regretted the little child I left behind. Mothers are
always supposed to regret such things I know, but I was not perhaps
a normal mother. I suffered, of course, but it was a suffering that
I could stand. I could not stand, it seems, the suffering of living
with my child's father.

"My husband followed us after a few months, not so much for
outraged love, I think, as for vindictiveness. We met in a cafe,
the three of us. My husband and my lover were both cool-blooded
men. My lover was a Quaker who had never yet lifted his hand
against any man. The two men started arguing. I came of a hot-
blooded family. I had never seen men arguing only about a woman
before. More than that I was vain. I was foolish. The biggest
portrait painter of the hour had chosen me for what he considered
would be his masterpiece. I taunted my lover and my husband with
the fact that neither of them loved me. John Stoltor struck my
husband. It was the first blow. My husband made a furious attack on
him. I tried to intervene. He struck me instead, with such damage
as you note. Enraged beyond all sanity at the sight, John Stoltor
killed him.

"Even then, so overwrought as I was, so bewildered with my mouth
all cut and bleeding, I snatched up a mirror to gauge the extent of
my ruin. John Stoltor spoke to me--the only harsh words of his
life.

"Your damage can be repaired in an hour," he said--"but
his--mine--_never_!"

"It was at that moment they took him away--almost fifteen years--it
has been. He did not have to pay the extreme penalty. There were
extenuating circumstances the judge thought. His time expires next
month. I am waiting for him. I have been waiting for fifteen years.
At least he will see that I have subjugated my vanity. I swore that
I would never mend my damage until I could help him mend his."

With a little gesture of fatigue she turned to Rollins. "This is
the story of the broken tooth," she finished, quite abruptly.

"Wasn't Allan John even listening?" I thought. With everyone else's
eyes fairly glued to Ann Woltor's arresting face, even now, at the
supreme climax of her narrative, his eyes seemed focussed far away.
Instinctively I followed his gaze. At the top of the stairs, her
arms holding tight to the banisters for support, sat the May Girl!

In the almost breathless moment that ensued, Rollins swallowed
twice only too audibly.

"All the same"--insisted Rollins hesitatingly, "all the same--I
really do think that----"

With a little cry that might have meant almost anything, the Bride
jumped up suddenly and threw her arms around Ann Woltor's neck.

Even at twilight time everybody was still discussing the problem of
the May Girl. Certainly there was plenty of problem to discuss.

The question of an innocent young girl on the very verge of her
young womanhood. The question of a practically unknown mother. The
question of a shattered unrelated man coming fresh to them from
fifteen years in prison. The question even of Dr. Brawne. Everybody
had his or her own impractical or unsatisfactory solution to
suggest. Everybody, that is, except Allan John.

Allan John as usual had nothing to say.

Upstairs, in the privacy of her own room, Ann Woltor and the May
Girl, without undue emotion, were very evidently threshing out the
problem for themselves.

Yet when they came down and joined us just before supper-time, it
was only too evident from their tired faces that they had reached
no happier conclusion than ours.

George Keets and my Husband brought the May Girl down. Claude
Kennilworth, quite in his old form, save for his splinted arm,
superintended the expedition.

"It's her being so beastly long," scolded Kennilworth, "that makes
the job so hard!"

In the depths of the big leather chair the May Girl didn't look
very long to me, but she did look astonishingly frail.

With a gesture of despair. Ann Woltor turned to her companions, as
if she had read our thoughts.

"There isn't any solution," she said.

Why all of us turned just then to Allan John I don't know, but it
became perfectly evident to everyone at that moment that Allan John
was about to speak.

"It seems quite clear to me," said Allan John simply. "It seems
quite natural to me somehow," he added, "that you should all come
home with me to my ranch in Montana. The little girl needs it--the
big outdoors--the animals--the life she craves. You need it," he
said, turning to Ann Woltor, "the peace of it, the balm of it. But
most of all John Stoltor will need it when it is time for him to
come. Far from prying eyes, safe from intrusive questionings, that
certainly will be the perfect chance for you all to plan out your
new lives together. How much it would mean to me not to have to go
back alone I need not say."

Startled at his insight, compelled by his sincerity, Ann Woltor saw
order dawn suddenly out of the chaos of her emotions.

From her frankly quivering lips a single protest wavered.

"But Allan John," she cried, "you've only known us four days."

Across Allan John's haggard face flickered the faintest possible
suggestion of a smile.

"I was a stranger--and you took me in."

With the weirdest possible sense of supernatural benediction, the
dark room flooded suddenly with light. From the window, just beyond
me, I heard my Husband's astonished exclamation:

"Look, Mary," he cried, "come quickly."

At an instant I was at his side.

Across the murky western sky the tumultuous storm-clouds had broken
suddenly into silver and gold. In a blaze of glory the setting sun
fairly streamed into our faces.

Struggling up from the depths of her chair to view it--even the May
Girl's pallid cheeks caught up their share of the radiance.

"Oh, Allan John," she laughed, "just see what you have done--you've
shined up all the world."

With a curiously significant expression on his face my Husband
leaned toward me quickly.

"Ring down the curtain, quick," he whispered. "The Play's
done--_Rainy Week_ is over."





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Rainy Week" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home