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Title: Talbot's Angles
Author: Blanchard, Amy Ella
Language: English
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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.

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Internet Archive)



TALBOT'S ANGLES

[Illustration: "I AM AS PROUD AS CAN BE OF YOU."
                                           FRONTISPIECE (_Page 147_).]



               _TALBOT'S ANGLES_

                      _BY
               AMY E. BLANCHARD_

  _Author of "A Journey of Joy," "Wits' End,"
            "The Glad Lady," etc._

                [Illustration]

                   _BOSTON
             DANA ESTES & COMPANY
                 PUBLISHERS_



              _Copyright, 1911_,
           BY DANA ESTES & COMPANY

            _All rights reserved_


                  Printed by
             THE COLONIAL PRESS:
      C.H. Simonds & Co., Boston, U.S.A.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                              PAGE

      I. AT END OF DAY                    9

     II. A CLINGING VINE                 21

    III. LEAVING THE NEST                35

     IV. DEPARTED DAYS                   48

      V. THE ALARM                       61

     VI. AN INQUISITIVE NEIGHBOR         75

    VII. WAS IT CURIOSITY?               89

   VIII. A DISCLOSURE                   105

     IX. THE LETTERS ON THE TRUNK       118

      X. PURSUING CLUES                 132

     XI. A NEWSPAPER                    145

    XII. A BRACE OF DUCKS               157

   XIII. AN ANCESTRAL PILGRIMAGE        170

    XIV. TWO BUGGIES                    185

     XV. A DISTINCT SENSATION           199

    XVI. BEGONE, DULL CARE              213

   XVII. AS WATER UNTO WINE             228

  XVIII. THE DELIBERATE CONSCIENCE      245

    XIX. OF WHAT AVAIL?                 262

     XX. "THE SPRING HAS COME"          277



ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                                    PAGE

  "I AM AS PROUD AS CAN BE OF YOU." (_Page 147_)          _Frontispiece_

  SCOLDING AWAY "JES LAK AN OLE BLUE JAY," DECLARED JAKE.             38

  "DON'T SHOOT!"                                                      71

  "BUT YOU MUST NOT CALL ME COUSIN!"                                 115

  "YOU DON'T IMAGINE HE HAS FALLEN IN LOVE WITH GRACE, DO YOU?"      164

  "HE HAS GIVEN ME THE DEAREST RING."                                225

  "HER GAZE FELL ON THE TWO."                                        289



TALBOT'S ANGLES



CHAPTER I

THE END OF A DAY


The sun was very low in the west and the evening colors were staining
the creek whose quiet waters ran between flat lands to be carried out
to the river further on, which, in its turn, found the broader bay. The
arms of one or two ancient windmills, which had been moving lazily in
the breeze, made a few rotations and then stopped, showing themselves
dark objects against a glowing sky. An old church, embowered by tall
trees, caught some of the evening glow upon its ancient brick walls,
and in the dank long grass gray headstones glimmered out discovering
the graveyard. Beyond the church the sparkling creek murmured gently. A
few turkey-buzzards cast weird shadows as they circled slowly overhead
or dropped with slanting wing to perch upon the chimneys of a long low
house which stood not many rods from the weather-stained church. One
reached the church by way of a green lane, and along this lane was now
coming Linda Talbot, a girl above medium height whose dark hair made
her fine fair skin look the fairer by contrast. Her eyes were downcast
so that one could not discern their depth of violet blue, but one could
note the long black lashes, the well-shaped brows and the rounded chin.
Just now her lips were compressed so the lines of her mouth could not
be determined upon. She walked slowly, never once raising her eyes
toward the sparkling creek and the sunset sky. But once beyond the gate
opening from the lane, she stood and looked around, taking in the view
which included the windmills raising protesting arms, the fields where
lately, corn had been stacked, the long low brown house. Upon this last
her eyes lingered long and lovingly, observing the quaint lines, the
low sloping roof, the small-paned windows, the chimneys at each end,
the porch running the length of the building, each detail so familiar,
so dearly loved, and now passing from her.

She gave her head a little quick shake as if to scatter the thoughts
assailing her, then she moved more quickly toward the house, but
passing around to the kitchen rather than entering by way of the porch.
An old colored woman was picking crabs at a table near the window.
"Gwine give yuh some crab cakes fo' suppah, Miss Lindy," she announced,
looking up. "Dark ketch me fo' I git 'em done I specs, dat no 'count
Jake so long gittin' 'em hyar. He de no countines' niggah evah I did
see. Thinks he ain't got nothin' to do but set 'roun' rollin' his eyes
at de gals."

"Get me an apron, Mammy," said Linda, "and I'll help you."

"Go 'long, Miss Lindy. 'Tain't no need o' dat."

"But I'd like to," persisted the girl feeling relief at not immediately
being obliged to seek other society than that of the old colored woman
to whom she had brought her troubles from babyhood.

Enveloped in a huge gingham apron, she sat down to her task, but was
so much more silent than was her wont that the old woman from time to
time, raised her eyes to watch her furtively.

Presently she could stand it no longer. "Wha' de matter, honey?" she
asked solicitously. "Yuh got sumpin mo' on yo' min' dat honin' fo' Mars
Martin."

Linda dropped crab and fork into the dish of crab meat, rested her arms
on the table and hid her face in them that Phebe should not see the
tears she could no longer keep back.

"Dere, honey, dere baby," crooned Phebe. "Tell yo' ole Mammy all about
it. Wha' she been a doin' to Mammy's honey chile?"

Linda lifted her tearful eyes. "Oh, Mammy, I can't stand it. I must
go."

Phebe's hands shook. "What yuh mean, chile?" she asked with a tremor in
her voice.

"I mean I must earn my own living. Phebe, I shall have to. Oh, Mammy,
you know I cannot blame my brother, but if he had only left a little,
just a little for my very own. If he had not made the conditions so
hard."

"Tell Mammy agin jes' how yuh stan's, honey," said Phebe soberly.

"It's this way, Mammy. The place is left to Grace and me. As long as
she chooses to make it her home I am to live here. If Grace marries
she forfeits her right to it, but while she remains a widow she has a
claim to the whole farm, the crops, everything. I am permitted only a
place to sleep and enough to eat, and if she elects not to stay here,
what am I to do? I cannot keep up an establishment on nothing, can I?
Oh, Mammy, I did try, you know I did, while Martin lived, I tried to be
patient and good. It hurt more than anyone knew when he brought home
a silly pretty girl to take my place, to show a petty jealousy of me.
You know how I used to delight in saving that I might buy something
for Christmas or birthdays that he particularly wanted. Every little
possession meant some sacrifice, and when, one by one, all the little
treasured things that I had scrimped and saved to get for him, when
they were shoved out of sight and something took their place that she
had bought, I never said a word though it did hurt. We were such
comrades, Mart and I, and I was only a school girl when I began to keep
house for him and he came to me with all his confidences. We used to
talk over the crops, the investments, this, that, the other thing, and
it seemed as if it must always be so until--"

"Yas, honey, yas, I knows." Phebe spoke soothingly.

"She was jealous of every little thing," Linda went on. "She was very
sweet and appealing, always calling me 'dear little sister' to Mart
and gradually weaning him from me and my interests, subtly poisoning
his mind--No, not that exactly, but making him believe he was such a
wonderful brother to give me a home, to support me. She never ceased to
praise him for what she told him was his great unselfishness. She never
ceased to put me in the light of a dependent who had no real right to
what he gave. It used to be share and share alike, Mammy, and Mart used
to be the one to praise me for making a cheerful home. He used to say
that he would work day and night rather than have me go out into the
world to make my living, but, Mammy--to-day--Grace said I ought to do
it, and I must, for she is going to the city for the winter."

"Law, honey! Law, honey! Mah li'l baby!" groaned Mammy. "Yo' ma an'
pa'll riz up in dere grabes ef yuh does dat. Ain't it yo' home 'fore
it hers? Ain't yo' gran'daddy an' you gre't-gran'-daddy live hyar?
Ain't yuh de one dat has de mostes' right?"

"Yes, Mammy, dear, in the ordinary order of things it would be so, but
you know the place was mortgaged up to the last dollar and it was Mart
who lifted the mortgage and made the farm all his before father died.
According to the law I have no part nor parcel in it except what he
chose to leave me. Poor dear Mart, he was so blind, he thought never
was such a wife as Grace; he couldn't see that she worked steadily,
cleverly, cunningly all the time to build a barrier between us, to
chain him fast, to make him see through her eyes, to make me appear a
poor, weak incapable creature who ought to be left in her guardianship.
Well, she succeeded; my darling brother, whose thought was always for
me, made his will in such a way as to render me homeless."

"Lord, have mercy," groaned Mammy, rocking back and forth, the crabs
unheeded in their pan.

"Oh, he was innocent enough, poor dear," Linda went on quickly. "He
couldn't see anything but that it would be a fine thing for us two to
live together like loving sisters always. I would be Grace's right
hand; she would be my kind elder sister. That is the way it looked to
him. He couldn't see through her little deceits. How could he know
that her smiles covered a jealous, grasping nature? How could he
know that six months after he left us she would practically turn me
out-of-doors, that she would tell me I could not expect anything more
than food and shelter for part of the year, and that she intended to
spend her winters with her family and only her summers here?"

"Ain't it de troof?" ejaculated Mammy.

Having for the first time poured forth her grievances to a sympathetic
ear, Linda was not disposed to stop the torrent which gave her relief.
"She told me that it was for my sake as well as her own, and that she
thought I would be much happier if I were to make myself entirely
independent, all with that solicitous manner as if she lay awake nights
thinking of my welfare. Oh, no one but you, Mammy, who have seen it,
could realize the thousand little pin pricks that I have endured."

"Yas, honey, I knows; Mammy knows," responded the old woman gravely.
"But lemme tell yuh right now, ef yuh leaves de ole place, I leaves it."

"Oh, no, Mammy," Linda spoke in alarm, "Master Mart wouldn't like you
to do that."

"I ain't thinkin' so much about Marster Mart as I is o' my baby, an'
huccome she goes away. I ain't thinkin' so much o' him as I am o' mah
ole mistis, yo' grandma. Yuh reckon she think I 'bleedged to stay? No,
ma'am, dat she don't. 'Sides, honey, I reckons by dis time de angels
done cl'ar yo' brudder's eyes o' de wool what been pull over dem dese
two ye'rs pas', an' I reckons he a-sayin' to his own daddy an' ma', de
ole place ain't de same nohow, an' po' li'l sis she need her ole Mammy
Phebe, wharever she go!"

At these words, Linda quite broke down again, but this time she hid her
face on Phebe's shoulder and was patted gently with many soothing words
of, "Dere, honey, dere now, baby, don' cry; de good Lord gwine look
arfter yuh."

After a few minutes Linda raised her head to say, "Grace's sister is
coming down to help her close the house. They mean to leave before
Christmas and Phillips will manage the place. I haven't told you yet
what I mean to do. I had a letter to-day from Mr. Willis and he thinks
I can have a position in one of the schools, for one of the teachers is
going to be married and he will do all he can to get me her place."

"Dat up in town?"

"Yes, it will be in the primary department, and I shall have a class of
little boys."

"Humph!" Mammy expressed her disdain. "Whar yuh gwine live?"

"I shall have to board somewhere, of course."

The old woman's face fell. "I hopes I ain't live to see mah ole mistis'
gran'child bo'din' in a common bo'din' house, 'thout no lady to give
her countenance an' make it proper fo' her beaux to come an' see her.
No, ma'am, I hopes I ain't live to see dat."

"But, Mammy, what can I do? I haven't any very near relatives down
here, you know, and none nearly related anywhere, certainly not near
enough for me to invite myself to their homes. I can't afford a
chaperone, and besides I am sure I am well enough known in town to be
treated with respect wherever I may happen to live."

"I ain't say yuh isn't, but what I do say is dat it ain't fittin' an'
proper fo' one of de fambly to go off to bo'd thes anywhar lak common
folks."

"Then please to tell me what I am to do. Pshaw! Mammy, it's nonsense to
talk as if I were a princess. We've got to face facts--plain, every-day
facts. I must make my living, and I am lucky to be able to do it in a
nice, ladylike way, in my own town and among my own friends."

Mammy began to pick at the crabs again, working away sullenly. She knew
these were facts, but she rebelled against the existence of them. She
thought seriously over the situation for some minutes. "If yuh goes, I
goes," at last she reiterated. "Miss Ri Hill she tell me laughin' like,
mo' times dan one, 'When yuh wants a place, Phebe, mah kitchen ready
fo' yuh.' She ain't think I uvver leave yuh-alls, but I knows she tek
me ef she kin git me."

"Miss Ri Hill! Why, Mammy, that is an inspiration. She is the very one.
Perhaps she will take me in, too," cried Linda.

"Praise de Lord! Ain't it de troof now? Co'se she tek yuh. 'Tain'
nobody think mo' o' yuh dan Miss Ri. She yo' ma's bridesmaid, an' yuh
always gre't fav'ite o' hers. Dat mek it cl'ar as day. She yuh-alls
kin' an' she stan' fo' yuh lak home folks. When yuh gwine, Miss Lindy?"

"Oh, pretty soon, I think."

Just here the door opened and a high-pitched, rather sweet, but
sentimentally pathetic voice said, "Phebe, have you forgotten that it
is nearly supper time? Linda, dear, is that you? I wouldn't hinder
Phebe just now. I was wondering where you were. I saw you walking
about so energetically and am so glad you can take pleasure in
outside things, for of course I couldn't expect you to appreciate my
loneliness, a young girl like you is always so buoyant." A plaintive
sigh followed, as Grace Talbot turned to go. She was a fair, plump
young woman with an appealing expression, a baby mouth and wide-open
eyes in which it was her effort to maintain a look of childish
innocence. "Do try to have supper promptly, Phebe," she said as she
reached the door. "Of course, I don't care for myself, as I eat very
little, but Miss Linda must be hungry after her walk."

Phebe gave a suggestive shrug and muttered something under her breath
about "snakes in the grass," while Linda, with a sad little smile of
deprecation, followed her sister-in-law through the irregular rooms,
up a step here, down there, till the parlor was reached. Here an open
fire was burning dully, for, though it was early fall, the evenings
were chill even in this latitude, and Grace was a person who loved
warmth. Creature comforts meant much to her, a certain chair, a special
seat at table, a footstool, a cushion at her back, these she had
made necessities, and had demanded them in the way which would most
appeal to her husband, while later, for the sake of harmony, Linda had
followed his precedent.

Grace now sank into her chair by the fire, put her head back against
the cushion and closed her eyes. "Linda, dear," she said, "would you
mind seeing if there is more wood? One gets so chilly when one's
vitality is low, and I am actually shivering."

Silently Linda went to the wood box, brought a log, stirred the fire
and started a cheerful blaze, then sat down in a dim corner, resting
elbows on knees, chin in hands.

"Where were you walking?" asked Grace presently, stretching herself
like some sleek animal in the warmth of the fire.

"I went to the graveyard," replied Linda slowly.

Grace shivered slightly. "What strong nerves you have. I simply
cannot bear to do such things; I am so sensitive. I cannot endure
those reminders of my loss. You are so different, but, of course, all
natures are not the same. I saw you talking to Phillips. I am glad to
know that you can still take an interest in the place, but as for me
it is too sad to talk over those things which were always a concern of
my dear husband's. I cannot face details yet. My sorrow consumes all
my thoughts and outside matters have no place in them. I suppose," she
added in a weary voice, "everything is going on all right or you would
tell me."

"Everything is right so far as I can judge," returned Linda; "but I
would advise you to rouse yourself to take an interest soon, Grace, for
I shall not be here."

"Are you really going soon?" asked Grace, opening her eyes.

It was Linda's impulse to say, "I hope so," but she refrained. "I think
so," she answered. "I will tell you just when after I have definite
information."

"Please don't be so secretive," said Grace a little sharply. "You must
consider that I have my own arrangements to make and that it is due me
to know your plans as soon as they are made."

"I will tell you as soon as they are settled," returned Linda stoutly.
Here Phebe came in to announce supper and the conversation ended.



CHAPTER II

THE CLINGING VINE


When, two years earlier, Martin Talbot brought his wife to the old
family homestead of Talbot's Angles, Linda determined to make the best
of the situation. If it was for Martin's happiness to marry the pretty,
rather underbred, wholly self-centered Grace Johnson, his sister would
not be the one to offer disillusionment. Grace was from the city,
dressed well, had dependent little ways which appealed to just such a
manly person as Martin. She made much of him, demanded his presence
continually, cooed to him persuasively when he would be gone, pouted if
he stayed too long, wept if he chided her for being a baby, but under
her apparent softness there was obstinacy, and the set purpose of a
jealous nature.

Between Linda and her brother there had always been good comradeship,
but not much over-demonstration of affection. Each felt that the other
was to be depended upon, that in moments of stress, or in emergency
there would be no holding back, and consequently Martin expected
nothing less than that Linda should accept a new sister-in-law
serenely, should make no protests. In fact, he was so deeply in
love that, as is the way of mankind, he could not conceive that
anyone should not be charmed to become the housemate of such a
lovable creature as he assumed Grace to be, one so warm-hearted, so
enchantingly solicitous, so sweetly womanish, and, though he did not
exactly underrate Linda, he grew to smile at Grace's little whispers
of disparagement. Linda was so cold, so undemonstrative; Linda was so
thoughtless of dear Martin. Why, she had never remarked that he was
late for dinner. Wasn't it just like Linda to go off by herself to
church instead of walking with them? How unappreciative sisters could
be of a brother's sacrifices. Not every brother would have supported
his sister so uncomplainingly all these years, but dear Martin was such
an unselfish darling, he never once thought of its being a sacrifice,
and that a less unselfish man would expect his sister to take care of
herself. Martin was so chivalrous, and so on.

Therefore, Linda's days of devotion, her constant proofs of affection
told in acts rather than in reiterated words, her hours of poring over
accounts that she might economize as closely as possible in order
that the mortgage might the sooner be paid, her long consultations
with Mammy, and her continual mending, patching, turning, contriving,
all were forgotten or taken for granted as a just return for her
support. That she had driven to town and back again, seven miles each
way, during the last years of her school life, that she might still be
companion and housekeeper for her brother, seemed no great matter from
Grace's point of view, though in those days themselves there had been
many a protest against the necessitated late hours that were the result
of her many tasks, and "What should I do without my little sister?" was
the daily question.

There was no lack of employment for Linda's hands, even after Grace
came, for though very tenacious of her prerogative as mistress of the
house, Grace did nothing but assume a great air of being the busy
housekeeper, and such work as was not done by Phebe, fell to Linda's
share. Martin saw nothing of this, for Grace would bustle in with a
show of having been much occupied, would throw herself into a chair
with a pretence of fatigue, cast her eyes innocently at Martin, and
say, "Oh, I am so tired. Housekeeping in the country is so difficult,
but I love doing it for you, dear. Can't you stay home with your
little Gracie this afternoon?" And Martin would stay nine times out
of ten, with not the slightest perception of the fact that a surface
sentimentality which stands in the way of the advancement or profit
of another is worth nothing by the side of the year in, year out
thought and activity in those little things which, in the end, show a
far deeper affection than any clamor for a person's presence or any
foolish and unmeaning words of praise.

Linda's pride constrained her to keep all these things to herself, and
not even from her old Mammy would she allow criticism of her brother
and his wife. Mammy, be it said, was ready enough to grumble at the
new order of things to Linda herself, but it was not till the burden
was too heavy to bear longer in silence that Linda poured forth the
grievances to which no one could listen so sympathetically as Mammy.
Indeed, no one could have been a safer listener, for Mammy's pride in
the family was as great as Linda's own, and she would have died rather
than have noised its trouble abroad.

Before the next Sunday, Linda had made her arrangements to leave her
old home, and Grace's eldest sister, Lauretta, had arrived. Lauretta
was a colorless, well-meaning person, a little shaky in her English,
inclined to overdress, with no pretension to good looks, and admiring
her younger sister the more because of her own lack of beauty. Being
less of the spoiled darling, she was less vain and selfish, less
wilful and obstinate, but was ready to reflect Grace's opinions, as
born of a superior mind, so she quite approved of Linda's departure
and prepared to fit into her place as soon as might be, assuming the
responsibilities of housekeeping with perfect good will. Of Phebe's
departure nothing more had been said, and when Linda questioned the
old woman the only answer she received was: "Ain't a-sayin' nuffin."

However, when Linda went into the kitchen one morning and remarked,
"I'm going up to town to see Miss Ri Hill, Phebe," she was answered by,
"I was thes a-thinkin' I'd go up mahse'f, Miss Lindy."

"How were you going?"

"Well, honey, I kin walk, I reckon."

"You will do no such thing. I intended to go up in the buggy, but I
think I can get Jake to drive, and you can go along in the surrey. Have
you said anything to Miss Grace about going?"

"No, I ain't, an I ain't a-gwineter. I been hyar befo' she was bo'n,
an' she nuvver hire me nohow. I ain't got no call to say nuffin. When I
goes, I goes."

Linda was silent for a moment. "But, Mammy," she said presently, "I
don't feel that it is exactly right for you to do that way. If you go
to town with me to see about a place, I am responsible in a measure."

"No, yuh ain't. Who say I cain't go see Miss Ri? I ain't a-gwine bag
an' baggage. Ef I doesn't go with yuh, I goes on Shanks's mare."

"But who will get dinner to-day?"

"I reckon I kin git Popsy to come in an' git it."

"Well, go along and find out, for I want to get off pretty soon."

Mammy put a discarded felt hat of Martin Talbot's upon her head, and an
old table-cover over her shoulders, then sallied forth down the road in
search of the woman whose little cabin was one of a number belonging to
a negro settlement not far off. Trips to town were so infrequent upon
Phebe's part, and she demanded so few afternoons out, that what she
wanted was generally conceded her, and though Grace pouted and said she
didn't see why both Linda and Phebe should be away at the same time,
Lauretta smoothed her down by saying: "Oh, never mind, Gracie dear, I
have no doubt the other servant will do very well, and we'll have a
nice cosey day together. I can see to everything, and it will give me
a good chance to poke around. Old Phebe is such a martinet, she won't
allow me inside the kitchen when she is here."

"She certainly is a regular tyrant," admitted Grace, "but no one can
cook better, and I am glad to keep her, for down here it is hard to get
competent servants; they are all more or less independent."

"Her being away to-day won't make much difference to you and I,"
replied Lauretta, with careful attention to her pronoun. She was always
very particular never to say you and me. "I'm not a bad cook myself,
and we can try some of our own home recipes. For my part, I should
think you would get rather tired of oysters and Maryland biscuits."

"I do," returned Grace plaintively. "Linda doesn't always consider me
in ordering. Dear Martin didn't seem to notice that until I called his
attention to it."

"I don't see why you didn't take up all the housekeeping at the very
first," responded Lauretta.

"Oh, I was so unused to it, and these Eastern Shore ways were so
unfamiliar. Linda understood them much better than I. Besides, it would
have taken up so much of the time I might want to be with Martin."
She sighed deeply and wiped a furtive tear before going on: "Then,
too," she continued, "I didn't want to neglect my friends, and it does
take time to write letters. Everyone always said I was such a good
correspondent, and when anyone is in trouble, that my letters are so
sympathetic."

Lauretta changed the subject. Even in her sisterly eyes Grace was
almost too eager a correspondent. "Why has Linda gone to town?" she
asked. "To do some shopping? I suppose she will need some additions to
her wardrobe now she is in mourning and is going to town to live."

"Oh, dear no; she is not going to do any shopping for herself. She has
all she needs for the present. I gave her some things, and she will
soon be earning money for herself. No; she has gone to see about a
boarding place, she told me, and she has some errands for me. I think
it so much better to give her occupation just now. She is rather
a restless person, and she will be much happier than she could be
brooding by herself. You know, Lauretta dear, Linda is not so very
companionable. She hasn't the nice, confidential way with me that I
have with my sisters."

"But she isn't your sister," returned Lauretta bluntly.

"Alas, no. Dear Martin hoped we would be congenial, but you can see
it is impossible. I wouldn't acknowledge this to everyone, Lauretta;
but I always feel that she holds herself superior. I have seen a look
sometimes that made me want to box her ears."

Lauretta kept silence a moment before she said: "The Talbots are of
excellent family, Grace."

"And we are not, you mean. That is between ourselves. I am sure I try
to impress everyone with the belief that we are," which was too true,
"and though our grandparents may have been plain people, Lauretta,
in the beginning, they did have plenty of means at the last; we have
enough of their solid silver to prove that fact," and indeed Grace's
display of solid silver on the sideboard at Talbot's Angles was not
allowed to go unnoticed and was her most cherished possession, one of
which she made much capital.

"There they go," said Lauretta, looking from the small-paned windows to
see the carriage turn from the driveway into the road. "I may be wrong,
but it does seem to me rather like turning Linda out of house and home,
Grace, doesn't it?"

"Oh, dear, no; you are quite mistaken. I haven't a doubt but she would
much rather live in town. I don't credit her with any real sentiment.
She was as calm and self-possessed as possible when Martin died, while
I went from one fit of hysterics into another. She can do things which
would upset me completely. Oh, you needn't waste your sympathies upon
Linda; it is I who am the real sufferer."

"You poor dear," murmured Lauretta. "I am glad you have decided not to
spend your winters in this lonely place; it would be too much for one
of your sensitive nature."

This was balm to Grace, and she cast a pathetic look at the sister,
murmuring: "It is so sweet to be understood."

Meanwhile over the flat, shell road Mammy and Linda were travelling
toward the town. Once in a while a thread of blue creek appeared in the
distance beyond fields of farmlands, or a white house glimmered out
from its setting of tall trees, the masts of a sailing vessel behind
it giving one the feeling that he was looking at a floating farm, or
that in some mysterious way a vessel had been tossed up far inland, so
intersected was the land with little creeks and inlets.

Linda knew every step of the way; to Phebe it was less familiar, and
the excitement of going up to town was an unusual one. She hugged
herself in her ample shawl and directed, criticised and advised Jake
the entire distance. Up through the shaded streets of the town they
continued until they stopped before a gate leading to an old red house
which faced the sapphire river. Here lived Miss Maria Hill.

Her cheery self came out on the porch to meet them. "Of all things,
Verlinda Talbot!" she cried. "And Phebe, too. Well, this is a surprise.
Come right in. You are going to stay to dinner and we will have a good
old-fashioned talk." She never failed to call Linda by the quaint name
which had been given to various daughters of the Talbot family for many
generations. "Go right out into the kitchen, Phebe," continued Miss Ri,
"and if you can put any energy into that lazy Randy's heels, I'll be
thankful. When are you going to make up your mind to come and live with
me, Phebe?" she asked, laughing at the never-failing joke.

But this time Phebe's answer, instead of being: "When de dead ducks eat
up all de mud, Miss Ri," was: "Whenever yuh likes to have me, Miss Ri."

Miss Maria stopped short in surprise. She looked from one to another.
"You don't mean it!" she cried.

"Yas'm, I means it; dat is, ef acco'din' to de ques', yu teks Miss
Lindy, too."

Miss Ri turned her gaze on Linda. "What does all this mean?" she
asked. "Come on in, Phebe--no, you mustn't go into the kitchen just
yet; we must thrash this out first." She led the way into a cheerful
living-room, against whose ancient walls stood solid pieces of shining
mahogany. Time-stained pictures, one or two portraits, old engravings,
a couple of silhouettes looked down at the group. "Sit right down
here, Verlinda dear. There's a chair for you, Phebe. Now let us hear
all about it." Miss Ri drew up a chair and enfolded one of Linda's
black-gloved hands in hers. "What does it all mean?"

"It means just this, Miss Ri," said Linda; "Grace is preparing to leave
Talbot's Angles and is going to the city for the winter. I cannot stay
there alone, even if I had the means to keep up the house, and as it
is to be closed, I am thrown on my own resources. Mr. Willis has been
good enough to interest himself in getting me a position in one of the
schools, and I have come up to town to find a boarding place. I have
passed my examinations and am to have Miss Patterson's position, for
you know she is going to be married this fall. And now, Miss Ri, Phebe
thinks that maybe you would be so good as to take me in."

"Ef yuh teks her, yuh gits me," broke in Phebe with an air of finality.

"It's a bargain," cried Miss Maria. "Have I been speaking for Phebe all
these years to be deprived of her now on account of so slight a thing
as Verlinda Talbot? No, indeed. I shall be delighted to have you as my
guest, my dear. While as for you, Phebe, go right into the kitchen and
stir up that lazy Randy with a poker, or anything else you can find.
Thank goodness, I shall not have to keep her long. Go along, Phebe."
Thus adjured, Phebe departed, ducking her head and chuckling; she
dearly liked the errand.

"It must be as a paying guest, you understand," said Linda, when Phebe
had left them.

"Paying nonsense! Isn't my house big enough for plump me, skinny you,
and fat Phebe? You see how I discriminate between my size and Phebe's?"

"Then if I am not to be a real boarder, I can't come," said Linda
firmly.

"And I shall lose Phebe! Verlinda Talbot, you are right-down mean. All
right, then, come any way you like, and the sooner, the better. We'll
fix it somehow; just make yourself easy on that score. My! I never
looked for such luck; a young companion and a good cook at one and the
same time. I'll get your room ready right away. I don't suppose you
could stay now?"

Linda smiled. "Not to-day. I haven't a very extensive wardrobe, but
such as it is, I must get it together; but I shall come within the next
ten days. It is so very good of you to take me in, Miss Ri. Joking
aside, I am most grateful. It makes the giving up of my own home less
of a dread."

"Bless your heart, you dear child; I will try to make you comfortable.
I have always wanted someone to mother, but I never expected the Lord
would send me Verlinda Talbot. I am not going to ask any questions now,
but some day we'll get at the root of the matter. Meantime let it rest.
How is Grace bearing up?"

Linda hesitated. "Of course, she misses Martin terribly, but I think
she is well; she has a good appetite."

Miss Ri smiled. "I don't doubt it. Has her sister come?"

"Yes."

"A nice sort of somebody, is she?"

"Yes, quite harmless, really good-hearted, I think, but rather dull.
However, though she may bore one, she has no affectations. She is
devoted to Grace, and I think will be of great use to her."

Miss Ri nodded understandingly. "Take off your things, dear," she said
gently. "You are going to stay to dinner, you know, and then we will
choose a room for you." She missed the color from the girl's face and
noted the heavy shadows under the violet eyes, when Linda removed her
hat. "Poor darling," she said to herself, "only time can help her.
Grief sits heavily on her heart." She turned to a curious old cupboard
in one corner of the room. "You must have some of my home-made wine,"
she said, "and then we will pick out the room. Would you like one
looking out on the river or on the road?"

"Oh, a river room, if I may," replied Linda eagerly.

"Very well; so be it. I'll show you both and you can take your choice;
or no, better still, I will fix up the one I am sure you will prefer,
for it will look cosier than it does now, and you will have a better
impression of it." She poured out some amber-hued wine from an old
decanter. "Here, drink this," she said, "and I will join you in a
health. Here's to many happy days under my roof, Verlinda, and may you
never regret coming to your old friend, Maria Hill."

Just then Phebe's black face appeared at the door. "Miss Ri," she said,
"I cain't stan' pokin' 'roun' arfter that fool nigger. I is gwine to
set de table, ef yuh'll show me whar de things is, please, ma'am."

Miss Ri finished her glass with a "Here's to Phebe!" and Linda followed
her to the dining-room.



CHAPTER III

LEAVING THE NEST


In this quiet little corner of Maryland's eastern shore, if life
lacked the bustle and stir of more widely-known localities, it did not
lack interest for its residents, while at the same time it provided a
certain easy content which is missed in places more densely populated,
or of more stirring affairs.... To Linda Talbot the days had come and
gone in careless fashion up to the time of her brother's death, for
even his marriage did not rob her of friendships, and of concern in
the small neighborhood doings, especially in matters relating to the
little church, which, because it stood upon Talbot ground, had always
been considered the special care of those dwelling at Talbot's Angles.
The church was very old and it had required many bazars, many efforts
at subscription, many appeals to keep it in repair, and now it showed
its antiquity in moss-grown walls, mouldy woodwork, falling plaster and
weather-stained casements.

On this last Sunday, when she should perform her weekly duty of
placing flowers upon the altar, Linda clipped her choicest white
chrysanthemums from the bushes and early in the day took them to
the church, making her way through dankly green paths overgrown with
woodbine, that she might reach the enclosure where dead and gone
Talbots of many generations were buried. Upon a newly-sodded grave she
laid her fairest blossoms, and stood for a moment with heaving breast
and quivering lips, then she went on to the church, pushing open the
creaking door which led into the still, dimly-lighted, musty-smelling
place.

"There must be more air and sun," she said, setting wide the door and
forcing open a window that the sunlight might pour in. Then she busied
herself with placing the flowers in their vases. This done, she sat
down in the old family pew, her thoughts travelling back to the days
when it had been scarce large enough for them all, father, mother,
grandmother, two brothers, three sisters, and now all resting in the
quiet churchyard, herself the youngest of them all, the only one left.
She ran her hand lovingly along the corner of the pew where her mother
had been wont to sit; she touched with her lips the spot where Martin's
forehead had so often rested as he knelt by her side. Next she knelt,
herself, for a few minutes; then, without looking back, she left the
church, to return later to the one service of the day, letting Grace
and Lauretta follow.

Even sorrow possessed certain elements of satisfaction to Grace when
she was made a conspicuous object of sympathy. She could not have
mourned in silence, if she had tried, and the gratification of hearing
someone say as she passed: "Poor, dear Mrs. Talbot, how pathetic she
looks," was true balm to her grief. She always went regularly to
church, swept in late in all her swathing of crape, to take her place
in the Talbot pew, and as certain suggestive looks were cast her, she
returned them with a plaintive droop of the eye, and a mournful turn of
the head, as if she would say: "Yes, here I am in all my woe. Pity me
who will, and I shall be grateful." Linda, on the contrary, stole into
a back seat just before the service began and stole out again as soon
as it was over. She could not yet face sympathy and commiseration.

Especially on this last Sunday did she feel uncertain of herself and
wished heartily that the day were over, for Grace could not and would
not be set aside for any matter of packing, and reproached the girl
for her coldness and indifference toward her "own brother's wife,"
from whom she was about to be parted, so that Linda must fain sit and
listen to commonplaces till Grace settled herself for a nap, and then
she escaped to her room. There had promised to be a stormy time over
Phebe's leave-taking, but as both Linda and Lauretta brought arguments
to bear upon the matter, Grace was at last made to admit that, after
giving a week's notice, Phebe could not be expected to lose the
opportunity of taking a good place when Grace herself should so soon
cease to need her. At first there was an effort at temporizing, and
then Grace tried to exact a promise that Phebe would return in the
summer, but the old woman would give her no satisfaction, and she was
obliged to make the best of it.

There was a great bustle and stir the next morning, more because of
Phebe's departure than because of Linda's, for Phebe was here, there,
everywhere giving orders and scolding away "Jes' lak a ole bluejay,"
declared Jake. She was so importantly funny that Popsy, who was to
fill her place, and Jake, who had long known her ways, grinned and
snickered so continually, that after all, Linda's departure was not the
heart-breaking thing she had fancied it would be, and even the drive to
town was deprived of melancholy on account of the lively chatter which
Jake and Phebe kept up and which was too droll not to bring a smile
from one listening.

"Of course, you will come back for the summer holidays," Grace had said
at parting, with the air of one who knows her duty and intends to do
it. "Of course, you remember that it was dear Martin's wish that you
would make the place your home whenever I might be here."

[Illustration: SCOLDING AWAY "JES LAK AN OLE BLUE JAY." DECLARED
JAKE.]

But Linda had made no reply except a faint "I don't know what I shall
do next summer." That season was too far off to be making plans for it
now when the winter must be gone through, a winter whose unknown ways
she would be compelled to learn.

But Miss Ri's welcome was so warm that there was little room left for
the sadness of parting after the cheery greeting. "Welcome home, dear
child. Come right upstairs. Your room is all ready. That's it, Phebe.
Fetch along the bags. I've fixed you up a place over the kitchen. It
is a new experience for me to have a cook who doesn't want to go home
nights. Right through the kitchen and up the back stairs. You'll find
your way. Come, Verlinda, let me have your umbrella or something. I can
take that bag."

"Indeed, no. I'm not going to have you waiting on me, Miss Ri."

"Just this once. I'm so proud of having a young lass to look after
that you'll have to let me have my way for this first day. There, how
do you like it?" She threw open the door of the spotless room, whose
windows, though small, were many, and revealed a view of the sparkling
blue river, the harbor near by and, on the opposite shores, stretches
of green farmlands. The room itself was long and low. It held an
old-fashioned four-poster bed with snowy valance, a handsomely-carved
mahogany bureau, a spindle-legged table with leaf set up against the
wall, a desk which was opened to show many pigeon-holes and small
drawers. A low, soft couch, chairs of an antique pattern, and a wood
stove completed the furniture. White curtains were at the windows, and
on the high mantel were one or two quaint ornaments.

"Now, my dear," said Miss Ri, "this is your sanctum. You can switch the
furniture around any way that you prefer, tack up pictures, put your
own belongings where you choose, and if there is anything you don't
like, it shall be removed."

"It is a darling room," returned Linda gratefully. "I can't imagine how
one could want to change a single thing."

"Then we'll have your trunk up; there will be room for one at least
in this closet," Miss Ri told her, flinging open a door to disclose
further accommodations. "Here's your washstand, you see, and there will
be room for some of your frocks on these hooks; the rest can go in the
clothes-press on the other side of the room and you can have another
bureau, if you like. The trunks could go up in the attic, if that would
suit better; but we will let that work out as it will later. Now, make
yourself comfortable, and I'll go look after Phebe. Come down when you
are ready."

Left to herself, Linda sank down in a chair by the window, for a moment
overcome by the thought that she had cut loose from all the ties which
bound her to the dear old home. But in a moment her courage returned.
"What nonsense," she murmured. "Was ever a girl so lucky? Here I am
with my living assured and with dear Miss Ri to coddle me; with this
darling room; and, last of all, with my own old Mammy at hand. I am a
perfect ingrate to want more." She turned her eyes from a survey of the
room to a survey of the outside. Along the river's brink stood some
little houses, where the oystermen lived; nearer, was a long building,
where the oyster-packing went on. Every now and then, through the
open window, came a sound of cheerful singing from the shuckers at
work. Tall-masted sail-boats dipped and curtseyed upon the sapphire
waters. Across the river a line of shore was misty-green in the autumn
light; closer at hand a grassy slope, over which tall trees cast their
shadows, stretched down to the river. One or two little row-boats
tethered to a stake, near a small boat-house, rocked gently as the
tiny wavelets leaped up on the sandy brink. Vines clambered to the
very windows of her room, amongst their leaves birds were twittering.
The trees about the place were many, and from one of them a scarlet
tanager was shrilling out his inviting call. "It is next best to being
at home," Linda told herself, "and to get next best is a rare thing.
I will unpack at my leisure, for perhaps I'd better see how Mammy is
faring."

She found Miss Ri in the sitting-room and Phebe already busy in the
kitchen. Miss Ri was looking over some photograph prints. She handed
one to Linda. "Tell me what you think of it," she said.

"Fine!" exclaimed Linda. "I didn't know you were an expert
photographer, Miss Ri."

"I'm not. Don't give me credit for them. Sit down and I'll tell you
how I happen to have them. One day, not long ago, I was potting some
of my plants for the winter, when a young man came in the gate. I had
never seen him before and thought he must be a book-agent or some sort
of trader in dustless dusters or patent flat-irons, though he was much
too nice-looking for that kind of business. Well, he walked up to me
and said, 'Don't you want me to take some photographs of your house and
grounds? This is certainly the most picturesque place I have seen about
here.'"

"Of course, that pleased you, and so--"

"Yes, that is it exactly, and so he took a lot of views, interiors and
exteriors, and I think they are pretty good. He didn't overcharge, and
if he had done it, I should be disposed to forgive him. He stayed all
the morning--"

"And I'll venture to say you asked him to dinner."

Miss Ri laughed. "Well, yes, I did; for who wouldn't have almost anyone
rather than eat alone? He did stay and told me his story, which was a
most interesting one."

"I hope he didn't go off with his pockets full of your old silver."

"My dear, he is a gentleman."

"Oh, is he? And goes around taking photographs? This is interesting,
Miss Ri. Tell me some more."

"Well, it seems that he has come down here to look up some property
that belonged to his great-grandfather and which he should have
inherited by all rights; but, unfortunately, his trunk, with all the
papers he needs, has gone astray, and, what is more, he was robbed of
his pocketbook; so now, while he is waiting to find the trunk and until
his next quarter's money comes in, he finds himself, as they express
it, 'momentarily embarrassed'; but, having his camera with him and
being a good amateur photographer, he is turning his gifts to account,
that he may at least pay his board."

"It seems to me it would have been more to the purpose, if he had been
robbed of the camera instead of the pocket-book. He strikes me as a
very careless young man to lose both his trunk and his purse."

"He didn't lose the pocket-book; it was stolen; he is sure of that; and
as for the trunk, it was sent by a local expressman to the steamboat,
and so far has not been traced."

"A very clever story," Linda went on. "I am only surprised that you
didn't offer to take him in here until the missing articles are found."

"I did think of it," returned Miss Ri with a twinkle in her eye, "and
if you hadn't been coming, I might have done it; but I was afraid he
might prove too susceptible or that--"

"I might," returned Linda, laughing. "You certainly are considerate,
Miss Ri. Where is our paragon, now?"

"Oh, I sent him to Parthy Turner's, and they are both having a mighty
nice time of it. She has turned him over to Berk Matthews, and he is
doing what he can for him."

"And do you believe there really was a great-grandfather?"

"Oh, dear, yes; I am convinced of it. The young man has shown us his
credentials, and I have no doubt but that in time he can find enough
proof to substantiate what he has told us about his claim. If only the
trunk could be found, he says he thinks it would be a very simple thing
to establish his rights."

"And am I not to see this mysterious stranger? I suppose he comes here
sometimes to report."

"If you are very good, I may let you see him through the crack of the
door; but he is not for you. I have picked out someone else."

"Oh, you have? So you are a confessed matchmaker, Miss Ri? May I know
the name of my knight?"

"No, you may not; that would be enough to make you turn your back on
him at once. It is entirely my secret."

"And the picked out person doesn't know he is picked out?"

"Not a bit of it; he hasn't the faintest suspicion. How good that
dinner does smell. Phebe is the only thing I wanted that I didn't have,
and now I have her."

"Do you really mean, Miss Ri, that you get everything you want in this
world?"

"Why, yes; at least of late years it has been so. I found out the
secret from Thoreau some ten or more years ago."

"A precious secret, I should say."

"A very simple one. It is easy enough to get what one wants, when one
makes it a rule to want only what he can get. If you think you haven't
enough for your wants, all you have to do is to reduce your wants."

"I'm afraid my philosophy isn't sufficient for such a state of things,"
said Linda with a sigh.

"Why isn't it? Now, let's face the question. What do you want that you
can't get?"

Linda was silent before she said tremulously, "My brother."

"Ah, my dear, that is all wrong. Don't you believe that you have your
brother still? If he were in Europe, in China, in India, wouldn't you
still have him? Even if he were in some unreachable place like the
South Pole, he would still be your brother, and now because he has gone
a little further away, is he not yours just the same?"

"Oh, Miss Ri, sometimes I am afraid I doubt it."

"But I know it, for there was One who said, 'If it were _not_ so, I
would have told you.' Even the greatest scoffer among us must admit
that our Lord was one who did speak the truth; that is what comforts."

Linda laid her cheek against the other woman's hand. "That does
comfort," she said. "I never saw it that way before. Is it that, Miss
Ri, that keeps you almost always so bright and happy? You who have lost
all your nearest and dearest, too? You so seldom get worried or blue."

"Yes, I suppose it is that and another reason," returned Miss Ri,
unwilling to continue so serious a talk.

"And what is the other?"

"I try to make it a rule never to get mad with fools," replied Miss Ri
with a laugh. "Of course, I don't always succeed, but the trying helps
a lot."

Just here Phebe's head appeared at the door. "Miss Ri, I cain't find no
tater-masher. What I gwine do?"

"Oh, dear me; let me see. Oh, yes, I remember; Randy threw it at black
Wally the other day when he was pestering her. She didn't hit him and
I reckon she never troubled herself to pick up the potato-masher;
you'll find it somewhere about the back yard. Randy certainly has a
temper, for all she is so slow in other ways. Come along, Verlinda; I
promised to show you that old wine-cooler we were talking about the
other day. I found it down cellar, when the men were clearing out the
trash; I've had it done over, and it isn't bad." She led the way to the
living-room, which, rich in old mahogany, displayed an added treasure
in the quaint wine-cooler, in which the bottles could lie slanting,
around the central receptacle for ice.

"It is a beautiful piece of wood," commented Linda, "and it is
certainly curious enough. I do love this room, with all this beautiful
old furniture. How do you manage to keep it so beautifully polished?"

"Give it a rub up once in a while; and, you see, between whiles there
is no one to abuse the things, so they keep bright. Let us see about
the potato-masher; Phebe's found it, I declare. I venture to say it
won't lie out of doors for a week, while she's here."



CHAPTER IV

"DEPARTED DAYS"


Miss Parthy Turner's back garden was separated from Miss Maria Hill's
by a fence in which a gate was cut that the two might sociably jog
back and forth without going around the block. One of Linda's windows
overlooked these gardens, where apple-trees disputed right of way with
lilac bushes and grape-vines, and where, just now, late roses were
cast in the shade by the more brilliant chrysanthemums. Miss Parthy,
it may be said, was of a more practical turn than her neighbor in that
she gave over to vegetables a larger part of her garden space, so
that there were still discernible rows of cabbages, slowly-ripening
pumpkins, high-poled beans, and a few late tomatoes.

The morning after her arrival, Linda noticed in the garden, beyond the
dividing line, a young man walking about with an evident eye to the
quality of the apples shining redly above his head. She regarded this
person with some curiosity, conjecturing that he was the mysterious
stranger who had taken the photographs for Miss Ri. "He doesn't look
like a fake," she told herself. "I suppose his story may be true. By
the way, Miss Ri didn't tell me his name nor where he hails from."
However, her thoughts did not long dwell upon the stranger, for this
was to be her initial morning at school, and she was looking forward to
it with dismay and dread. She scarce tasted her breakfast and looked so
pale and anxious, that Miss Ri's heart ached for her. Mammy, too, was
most solicitous, but knew no better way to express her sympathy than by
urging hot cakes upon the girl with such persistence that at last, to
please her, Linda managed to eat one.

In spite of fears, the morning went more smoothly than she had
anticipated, for Miss Patterson remained to coach her and she became
familiarized with the routine, at least. Her pupils were little boys,
none too docile, and naturally a new teacher was a target for tricks,
if so she did not show her mettle. Under Miss Patterson's watchful eye
there was no chance for mutiny, and Linda went home with some of her
qualms allayed. She had passed her examinations creditably enough and
felt that she could cope with the mere matters of teaching, but the
disciplining of a room full of mischievous urchins was quite another
question, and the next morning her heart misgave her when she met the
rows of upturned faces, some expressing mock meekness, some defiant
bravado, some open mirth. Courageously as she met the situation, it
was a trying morning. If her back was turned for but an instant, there
were subdued snickers; if she made a statement, it was questioned;
if she censured, there were black looks and whispers of disapproval.
At last one offender, sneaking on his hands and knees to the desk of
another boy, was captured and marched off to the principal, a last
resort, as poor Linda's nerves could stand no more. She was near to
crying, her voice trembled and her heart beat fast. She scarcely knew
how she went through the rest of the morning, for, though her summary
act had quelled open rebellion, she was not at ease and keenly felt
the undercurrent of criticism. She did not realize that the boys were
trying her spirit, and she went home discouraged and exhausted, a sense
of defeat overcoming her.

As she was entering the gate, she met someone coming out, a young man,
rather heavily built, with a keen, clever face, rather than a handsome
one. "Ah, Miss Linda," he exclaimed, holding out his hand, "I've just
been hearing about you."

"From Miss Ri, of course. Well, what has she been telling you?"

"It wouldn't do to say. How is the school going?"

"The school in general seems to be going very well; as to my part of
it, the least said, the better."

"Really? What's the trouble?"

"I don't know exactly. I suppose that I am the trouble, perhaps; Miss
Patterson seemed to get along well enough."

"Boys or girls do you have?"

"Boys; little wretches from eight to ten, such sinners, not a saint
among them."

"Would you have even one saint? I wouldn't, for he couldn't be a truly
normal, healthy boy. But I am keeping you standing and I know you are
ready for your dinner. I'll walk back to the house with you, and you
can tell me the particular kinds of sin that have annoyed you. I was a
boy myself once, you know."

He walked by her side to the house. Miss Ri, seeing them coming, was at
the door to meet them. "I thought I sent you home once, Berk Matthews,"
she said.

"So you did, but I took this way of going. Don't imagine for a moment
that my return involves an invitation to dinner, Miss Ri."

"That is an excellent thing, for I don't intend to extend one."

"Could you believe that she would so fail in hospitality?" said the
young man, turning to Linda. "I am mortified, Miss Ri, not because of
the dinner, but that you should go back on the reputation of an Eastern
Shore hostess. Isn't it a world-wide theory that we of the Eastern
Shore never turn a guest from the door when there is the faintest
possibility of his accepting a bid to a meal? Alas, that you should be
the first to establish a precedent that will change the world's opinion
of us."

Miss Ri laughed. "You would think I was a client for the other side and
that he was using his wiles to get me fined, at least. Come along in,
if you must; I can guarantee you better fare than you will get at the
Jackson House, I am bound to say."

"That sounds alluring, but my feelings are hurt because I had to hint
for an invitation."

"Could anything so obvious be dignified by the name of a hint? Very
well, go along and cut off your nose to spite your face, if you like;
you will be the loser."

"Not very complimentary, is she?" said Mr. Matthews, laughing. "I
believe I will come now, just to show you that I am not to be badgered."

"Then don't stand there keeping us from our dinner. It is all ready,
and I don't want it spoiled." Thus adjured, the young man followed the
others into the dining-room, where Phebe was just setting forth the
meal.

"Well, and how did it go to-day, Verlinda?" asked Miss Ri, when they
had seated themselves.

"Don't ask her anything till after dinner," put in Mr. Matthews.
"Things will assume an entirely different aspect when she has had
something to eat. Just now the shooting of the young idea is not a
pleasant process to contemplate, in the eyes of Miss Linda. We'll talk
about something else. Where did you get these oysters, Miss Ri? I never
tasted such a pie."

"Of course you didn't, for you never ate one made by such a cook. The
oysters came from the usual place, but I'm in high feather, Berk, for I
have the best cook in town. I have Linda's Phebe."

"You don't want another boarder?"

"Not I. Linda is adopted; she is not to be classed with common
boarders, and I certainly don't want to spoil my ideal household by
taking in a--"

"Mere man," interrupted Berkley. "Very well, I will find an excuse
to come in every day about meal time. What are you going to have for
supper?"

"Cold cornbread, dried apples and chipped beef," replied Miss Ri with
gravity.

"That's mean. Well, I'll come around with the papers to-morrow."

"We're going to have the remains of the chipped beef and dried apples
for dinner."

"Then I'll come about supper time; they can't last over three meals."

"You don't know the surviving qualities of those articles of diet; they
may last a week with proper care."

"I'll come and find out. I can go in the back way and ask Phebe, or
I might bribe her to throw the stuff over the fence to Miss Parthy's
chickens."

"Don't you be up to any of your lawyer's tricks, Berk Matthews. I
warn you, not a meal in my house shall you eat, if I hear of any
shenannyging on your part."

"I'll be good then, but I'd like a piece of that pie, a nice big piece."

While all this nonsense was going on, Linda kept silence. She was
really hungry and the light foolish talk was a relief, as the others
intended it should be. In consequence, she went back to school in
better spirits and the afternoon passed more satisfactorily.

True to his threat, Berkley Matthews did appear with some papers just
before supper time, but refused to stay, telling Miss Ri with great
glee that Miss Parthy had invited him to her house and that she was
going to cook the supper herself, while he and her other guest, Wyatt
Jeffreys, were going to help.

"Wyatt Jeffreys, Wyatt Jeffreys," repeated Linda. "That name sounds
very familiar. I wonder where I have heard it. Where is he from, Miss
Ri?"

"From Connecticut, I believe. Any more light on the case, Berk?"

"No. Nothing can be done till he shows up his papers, and they seem
to be lost irrevocably. It's pretty hard on the poor chap, if there is
really anything in the claim. Good-by, Miss Linda. I must be going,
Miss Ri; you can't wheedle me into staying this time."

"Wheedle you!" cried Miss Ri in pretended indignation. "I can scarcely
get rid of such a persistent beggar. Go along and don't come back."

"I'll have to," cried he. "You must sign those papers at once, this
very evening."

"I'll bring them to your office to-morrow morning," Miss Ri called
after him, but he only waved his hand with a parting "Shan't be there,"
and Miss Ri turned to Linda, laughing. "We always have it back and
forth this way. He attends to my business, you know, and runs in often.
Now that his mother and sister have left town, he boards at the hotel,
and likes the home feeling of coming here to a meal. Nice boy, Berk is."

Linda had known Berkley Matthews all her life. As a little stocky
boy he had come to play with her in Miss Ri's garden on some of the
occasions when she was brought from Talbot's Angles to spend the day.
Later he had gone to boarding-school, then to college, and she had seen
little of him during late years.

"He'll be back," said Miss Ri nodding, "just to get the better of me.
But to tell you the truth, Verlinda, he certainly is a comfort, for he
looks out for my interest every time. I wouldn't have a house nor a
field left by this time, if it had depended upon my kin folks. Don't be
an old maid, Verlinda. When their very nearest and dearest are gone,
old maids seem to be regarded, by the world in general, as things so
detached as to have no rights whatever; their possessions appear to be
regarded as so many threads hanging from them; whoever comes along in
need of a needleful, makes a grab, possesses himself of such a length
and makes off with it, never stopping to see that it leaves a gaping
rent behind."

Linda laughed. Miss Ri's grievances were not many, but were generally
those caused by her stepbrother's family, who lived not far away and
made raids upon her whenever they came to town.

"Oh, well, you may laugh," Miss Ri went on, "but it is quite true. Why,
only the last time Becky was here she carried off a little mirror that
had belonged to my great-grandmother."

"Why did you let her have it? Your great-grandmother was no relation of
hers."

"I know that; but she talked so much, I had to let her take it to get
rid of the incessant buzzing. You know what a talker Becky is."

"But you like Mrs. Becky; I've often heard you say so."

"Oh, yes, I like her well enough. She is entertaining when she is
talking about other people's affairs and not mine," remarked Miss Ri
with a droll smile. "That is the way it generally is, I suppose. Well,
anyhow, Berk Matthews keeps my business together, and I'm sure I am
satisfied to have him run in when he chooses, if only to keep me in a
good humor."

"I thought you were always so, and that you never got mad with fools."

"I don't; but Becky is no fool, my dear."

They turned into the big drawing-room, a room charming enough in
itself, without the addition of the fine old Chippendale chairs and
tables, the carved davenport, the big inlaid piano, and the portraits
representing beauties of a departed time. Linda knew them all. The
beautiful girl in white, holding a rose, was Miss Ri's grandmother, for
whom she was named and who was a famous belle in her day. The gentleman
in red hunting-coat was a great-grandfather and his wife the lady with
powdered hair and robed in blue satin. The man with the sword was
another great-grandfather, and so on. One must go up a step to reach
the embrasured windows which looked riverward, but at the others, which
faced the lawn, hung heavy damask curtains. Linda had always liked the
smaller windows, and when she was a little child had preferred to play
on the platform before them to going anywhere else. There was such a
sense of security in being thus raised above the floor. She liked, too,
the little writing-room and the tiny boudoir which led from the larger
room, though these were closed, except in summer, as so large a house
was hard to heat comfortably.

A freshly-burning fire in the fireplace sent glancing lights over
the tall candlesticks and sought out the brightest spots on the old
picture-frames. It picked out the brass beading on the yellow-keyed
piano, and flickered across Chinese curios on the spindle-legged
tables. Miss Ri's grandfather had been an admiral in the navy and many
were the treasures which were tucked away here, out of sight there, or
more happily, brought forth to take the place of some more modern gift
which had come to grief in the hands of careless servants.

"It is a dear old room," said Linda, sitting down at the piano and
touching softly the yellowed keys, which gave forth a tinkling response.

"I ought to have a new piano," said Miss Ri, "and now you have come, it
will be an excuse to get one. I'll see what I can do next time I go to
town. I remember that you have a nice voice."

"Nothing to boast of."

"Not very powerful, perhaps, but sweet and true. I wish you'd sing for
me, Verlinda, if you are not too tired."

"I will, if you will first play for me some of those things I used to
love when I was a child. You would play till I grew drowsy, and then
you would carry me off to bed."

"Oh, my dear, I don't play nowadays, and on that old tinkling piano."

"But it is just because it is the old piano that I want the old tunes."

"Then pick out what you like, and I will try."

Linda turned over a pile of music to find such obsolete titles as
"Twilight Dews," "Departed Days," "Showers of Pearl," and the like. She
selected one and set it on the rack. "Here is one I used to like the
best," she said. "It suggested all sorts of things to my childish mind;
deep woods, fairy calls, growling giants; I don't know what all."

"'Departed Days.' Very fitly named, isn't it? for it is at least
fifteen years ago, and it was an old thing then. Well, I will try; but
you mustn't criticise when I stumble." She sat down to the piano, a
stout, fresh-colored, grey-haired woman with a large mouth, whose sweet
expression betokened the kindly nature better than did the humorous
twinkling eyes. She played with little style, but sympathetically,
though the thin tinkling notes might have jarred upon the ears of one
who had no tender associations with the commonplace melody. To Linda it
was a voice from out of her long-ago, and she listened with a wistful
smile till suddenly the door opened and the music ended with a false
chord. Miss Ri shut the piano with a bang, and turned to greet the
young man who entered.



CHAPTER V

THE ALARM


"Have I interrupted a musicale?" asked Berkley jauntily.

"You are just in time to hear Verlinda sing," responded Miss Ri with
ready tact and in order to cover her own confusion.

"Ah, that's good," cried he, though "Oh, Miss Ri," came in protest from
Linda.

"Didn't you promise to sing for me, if I played for you?" queried Miss
Ri.

"Yes,--but--only for you."

"Now, Miss Linda," Berkley expostulated, "haven't I known you as long
as Miss Ri has?"

"Not quite," Linda answered.

"But does the matter of a few months or even years, when you were yet
in a state of infantile bewilderment, make any difference?"

"It makes all the difference," Linda was positive.

"Oh, come, come," spoke up Miss Ri, "that is all nonsense. You don't
make any bones of singing in the church choir, Verlinda."

"Oh, but then I have the support of other voices."

"Well, you can have the support of Berk's voice; I am sure it is big
enough."

"Oh, but I don't sing anything but college songs," the young man
declared.

"Such a very modest pair," laughed Miss Ri.

"Well, who was blushing like a sixteen-older when I came in? Tell
me that," said Berkley triumphantly. And Miss Ri was perforce to
acknowledge that she was as bad as the rest, but the controversy was
finally ended by Linda's consenting to sing one song if Berkley would
do the same. She chose a quaint old English ballad as being in keeping
with the clinking piano, and then Berkley sang a rollicking college
song to a monotonous accompaniment which, however, was nearly drowned
by his big baritone.

By the time this was ended the ice was broken and they warmed up to
the occasion. They dragged forth some of Miss Ri's old music-books to
find such sentimental songs of a former day as pleased their fancy.
Over some of these they made merry; over others they paused. "My mother
used to sing that," Berkley would say. "So did my mother," Linda would
answer, and then would follow: "She Wore a Wreath of Roses," "Flow
Gently, Sweet Afton," "Cast That Shadow from Thy Brow," or some other
forgotten ballad.

"Oh, here is 'The Knight of the Raven Black Plume,'" cried Linda, as
she turned the discolored pages of one of the old books. "How I used
to love that; it is so romantic. Listen," and she began, "A lady looked
forth from her lattice."

So they went from one thing to another till Berkley, looking at his
watch exclaimed, "I'm keeping you all up, and Miss Ri, we haven't seen
to those papers. That music is a treasure-trove, Miss Linda. We must
get at the other books sometime, but we'll take some Friday night when
you can sleep late the next morning."

Linda's face shadowed. "Why remind me of such things? I had nearly
forgotten that there were matters like school-rooms and abandoned
little wretches of boys."

"Don't be so hard on the little chaps. I was one once, as I reminded
you, and I have some sympathy with them caged up in a school-room. Just
get the point of contact and you will be all right."

"Ah, but there's the rub," returned Linda ruefully. "I am not used to
boys, and any sort of contact, pointed or otherwise, doesn't appeal to
me."

"You must just bully them into good behavior," put in Miss Ri. "Here,
Berk, you be the little boy and I'll be the school-marm. Verlinda needs
an object lesson." Then followed a scene so funny that Linda laughed
till she cried.

"Where are those papers?" inquired Miss Ri suddenly putting an end to
the nonsense. "Bring them into the sitting-room, Berk, and we will get
them done with. I'm going up to town to-morrow, and we may as well
finish up this business before I go."

"One of your mysterious errands, Miss Ri?" said Berkley smiling.

"Never mind what it is; that is none of your concern. You don't suppose
because you collect my rents, and look after my leases that you must
know every time I buy a paper of hairpins."

"You don't have to go up to the city for those, you see. It is my
private opinion, Miss Linda, that she makes a semi-annual visit to
a fortune-teller or some one of that ilk. I notice she is more than
ordinarily keen when she gets back after one of these trips."

"Come along, come along," interrupted Miss Ri. "You'll stand here
talking all night. I declare you are as bad as Becky Hill."

"Oh, yes, I'm coming, Miss Ri. Do you know Mrs. Hill, Miss Linda? and
did you ever hear what her sister, Mrs. Phil Reed says of her?"

"I know Mrs. Hill, yes, indeed, but I never heard the speech. What was
it?"

"You know what a talker Mrs. Becky is. Mrs. Reed refers to it in this
way. 'Becky, dear child, is so sympathetic, so interested in others
that she exhausts herself by giving out so much to her friends.'"

"I should say it was the friends who were exhausted," returned Linda.
But here Miss Ri suddenly turned out the lights leaving them to grope
their way to the sitting-room where the papers were signed and then
Berkley was, as Miss Ri termed it, driven out.

The steamboat which left at six o'clock every evening bore Miss Ri away
on its next trip. It was an all night journey down the river and up the
bay, and therefore, Miss Ri would not return till the morning of the
second day when the boat arrived on its voyage from the city.

"If you are afraid to sleep in the house with no one but Phebe, get
some one to come and stay with you," charged Miss Ri. "Bertie Bryan
will come, I am sure."

"I shall not be in the least afraid," declared Linda. "Phebe and I have
often stayed in the house alone at Talbot's Angles."

"Nevertheless, I would rather you did have someone. I'll send Phebe
over to the Bryans with a note." This she did in spite of Linda's
protest that it was not necessary, and after Linda had returned from
seeing Miss Ri on her way, Bertie arrived. She was a nice wholesome
girl who had been a schoolmate of Linda's and had spent many a day with
her at Talbot's Angles. She was not exactly a beauty, but a lovely
complexion and sweet innocent eyes helped out the charm of frank good
nature and unaffected geniality.

"It certainly is good to see you in town, Linda," she said as she
greeted her friend. "Why didn't you send me word you were here? I would
have been over long ago."

"I wanted to gather my wits together first. I am experimenting, you
see, and I didn't know how my experiment might turn out. I was afraid I
might have to slink off again ignominiously after the first week."

"But, as this is the second week and you are not slinking, I surmise it
is all right."

"Not exactly all right, but I manage to keep from having hysterics, and
am getting my youngsters in hand better."

"I heard Miss Adams say this morning that you were getting on very well
for one who had never had any experience."

"That is the most encouraging thing I have heard yet. I have been
wondering what my principal really did think, and to have that much
praise is worth a great deal," said Linda gratefully. "Now don't let us
talk shop. Tell me what is going on in town."

"Don't you hear every bit of town news from Miss Ri? What she can't
tell you Miss Parthy can."

"I haven't seen much of Miss Parthy. The hobnobbing between those two
generally goes on while I am at school. Have you met the mysterious
stranger, Bertie?"

"Yes, indeed, and he is quite an acquisition, or would be if he could
find his trunk. Have you met him?"

Linda smiled. "No, Miss Ri is afraid I shall fall in love with him, I
think, and has stipulated that he is only to call at such hours as I am
at school."

"What nonsense. Is she making a recluse of you?"

"Oh, no. Berk Matthews is allowed, or rather he comes without being
allowed, being a favorite and liable to take his own way. Tell me more
of the man without a trunk."

"Sounds rather ghastly, doesn't it? Well, he is like almost any other
nice young man, has good manners, speaks correctly, makes himself
agreeable when the opportunity is afforded. It is rumored that his
affairs are in better shape, and that money orders and checks and
things have come in, so he is no longer a mere travelling photographer."

"I wonder he stays here now that he has the means to get away."

"Oh, but he came prepared to stay. At least his object was to look up
this property. He has been up to the city once or twice and is still
hoping to recover the trunk which he thinks must be in Baltimore
still. In the meantime he is very reticent about his case, won't talk
of it to anyone, so nobody seems to know exactly what he does claim."

"The name is very familiar," remarked Linda thoughtfully. "I can't
think where I have heard it."

"There is some sort of romantic tale about him, Miss Parthy says. She
seems to know more than anyone."

"He can't be a duke or a prince in disguise," said Linda.

"He might be, for he was educated abroad, I have heard."

"Wyatt Jeffreys--Jeffreys--I can't get the name located. I suppose it
will come to me sometime."

The girls had a quiet chatty evening alone, and started upstairs
betimes. To Bertie was given a room opening out of Linda's, and with
many a good-night they at last settled down to sleep.

From her first nap Linda, after a while, was awakened by the low murmur
of voices beneath her window. She listened with beating heart. No,
there was no mistake. Should she arouse Bertie? She listened for a few
moments and then heard a sound as of someone trying a shutter. Next
a door-knob rattled slightly. Though frightened enough Linda was no
coward, and as she sat up in bed listening, her brain worked rapidly.
It would be better to arouse Bertie than to go prowling around alone,
and have her friend doubly alarmed. Together they would go down stairs
and perhaps could scare off the would-be burglars. Slipping on some
clothing she cautiously went to Bertie's door, candle in hand. Flashing
the light before her friend's closed eyes she succeeded in awaking
without alarming her.

"What's the matter, Linda?" asked Bertie sitting up and rubbing her
eyes. "Are you ill? It isn't morning, is it?"

"No, I'm not ill. Don't be scared, Bertie, but get up and put on some
clothes quickly. I am sure I heard someone trying to get into the
house."

"But what can we do?" asked Bertie in a shaking voice. "We mustn't go
down, Linda; we mustn't. Let's lock the doors and let them take what
they want."

"I don't believe they have really broken in yet, and I am going to try
to scare them away. I wish I had a pistol; I left mine in the country,
not supposing I should need it here."

"I'm sure we left everything safely locked and barred; you know we
tried every door and window."

"Yes, I know. It wouldn't be any sneak thief, of course. I have a plan.
Come into my room and let's peep out the window." They extinguished
the candle and crept to Linda's window, already raised. There was no
one in sight.

"Now we'll go to Miss Ri's room," whispered Linda. Tiptoeing across
the hall they went into this room at the front of the house and gently
raised a window here.

"I believe I hear someone on the porch," whispered Linda, drawing in
her head. "Someone is at the front door. Come on down. They are not
inside yet; that is a comfort."

"Oh, but do you think we ought to go?" asked Bertie in trepidation.
"Suppose they should get in and shoot us."

"No, they are still outside, I am sure."

The rooms below were dark and silent, windows and shutters tightly
closed. The girls listened at the front door. Yes, surely there was a
very low murmur of voices. Linda crept into the dining-room, Bertie
holding tightly to her sleeve.

"What are you going to do?" asked Bertie fearfully.

"I'll show you. Don't be scared, and don't hold on to me."

"But what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to blow up some paper bags. You take this one and blow into
it while I open the window. As soon as it is up burst your bag, and
I'll get mine ready. Say when you are ready."

[Illustration: "DON'T SHOOT!"]

"Ready!" whispered Bertie and up went the window, back shot the
bolt and upon the silence of the night sounded a loud report quickly
followed by a second.

"Hallo!" cried a surprised voice. "Here, Miss Linda, don't shoot."

The girls who had drawn back from the window clutched one another, but
felt an immense relief.

There were footsteps on the porch and presently two figures appeared
before the open window. "Hallo, in there," called someone. "It's only
I, Berk Matthews, Miss Linda."

The two girls approached the window. "What in the world are you doing
prowling around here at this time of night, trying our bolts and bars?"
asked Linda, indignantly. "You scared us nearly to death."

"And don't you reckon you gave us a good scare. It is lucky you don't
see one of us weltering in gore, Linda Talbot. Just like a girl to be
reckless with fire-arms."

Bertie stifled a giggle and pinched Linda's arm.

"It would serve you right to welter," Linda replied severely. "What
right had you to try to frighten us, I demand?"

"We didn't intend to, but I promised Miss Ri faithfully that I would
make a point of coming around here after you had gone to bed to see if
by any chance some door or window had been left insecure."

"Well, you might have told us what you were going to do," returned
Linda somewhat mollified.

"I couldn't," returned Berkley meekly, "for I haven't seen you since,
and--Do you happen to know Mr. Jeffreys? Here, Jeffreys, I want to
present you to Miss Talbot and--who is with you, Linda?"

"Bertie Bryan."

"And Miss Bryan. It is rather dark to tell which from t'other, but I
would like especially to warn you against Miss Talbot. She carries a
pistol and in her hot rage against us may still yearn for prey."

"It was Bertie who fired the first shot," declared Linda with a gravity
which brought a giggle from Bertie. "Don't tell what it was," whispered
Linda to her.

"Oh," said Mr. Jeffreys, "I have met Miss Bryan, so it will not be
difficult to identify her when she is brought up with intent to kill."

"Well, whatever happens to-morrow, we mustn't keep these ladies from
their slumbers now," said Berkley. "I'm awfully sorry, girls, really I
am, that we frightened you. We tried not to make any noise. Let's be
friends. We will forgive you for the shooting if you will forgive us
for the scare."

"But," said Linda, "the laugh is entirely on our side, for--it wasn't
a pistol. Please shut in the shutters, Berk, and I'll fasten them
inside."

"It wasn't a pistol? Then what in the world was it?" Berkley paused in
the act of closing the shutters.

"Paper bags!" returned Linda pulling the shutters together with a bang
and closing the window, while upon the quiet of the night rang out a
hearty peal of laughter from the two outside.

"It's lucky I didn't use a bottle of ammonia to throw in their faces,"
remarked Linda as the girls climbed the stairs. "That was my first
thought, but the bags were handy in my washstand drawer."

"It was an awfully good joke," replied Bertie, "and I wouldn't have
missed it, scared as I was at first. I was dreadfully afraid of
burglars getting in and chloroforming us."

"Did you ever hear of the girl who slept with her head at the foot of
her bed and who was roused by feeling something cold on her toes? A
burglar was chloroforming them, and she let him do it, then when he was
out of the room she jumped up, locked her door and gave the alarm."

Bertie laughed. "There is no fear of burglars now, I think, when we
have two self-appointed watchmen."

"It does give us a safer feeling," acknowledged Linda.

"So we can rest in peace," returned Bertie going to her room.

There was no disturbing of slumbers the next night, for the young men
made noise enough to arouse the girls, who, in fact, had not gone to
bed when stentorian voices called to them, "Here we are. Get out your
ammunition. We're ready to stand fire."

The girls looked down from above. "Anyone who is scared at a bag of
wind would be sure to run from a flash in the pan," called Bertie. "We
won't test your courage to-night, Berk."

"Did you find everything all right?" asked Linda.

"All's well," answered Berkley.

"Thank you, watchmen," returned Linda, and then the window was closed
and the young men tramped off softly singing: "Good-night, ladies."



CHAPTER VI

AN INQUISITIVE NEIGHBOR


Miss Ri returned in due time. The girls were at breakfast when she came
in bearing a small package which she laid on the table, a merry twinkle
in her eye. "Well, girls," she exclaimed, "so nobody has carried you
off, I see."

The girls laughed. "No one has, although--" began Linda.

"Don't tell me anything has happened," exclaimed Miss Ri. "Now isn't
that just the way? I might stay at home a thousand years and nothing
would happen. Tell me about it. I'm glad it's Saturday, Verlinda, so
you don't have to hurry. Just touch the bell for Phebe to bring in some
hot coffee. I don't take meals on the boat when I know what I can get
at home. Those rolls look delicious."

"Did you have a good trip, Miss Ri?" asked Bertie.

"Never had such a stupid one. I didn't get a good state-room going up,
and what with the men talking in the cabin outside my door all night,
and the calves bleating in their stalls below, I did not get a wink of
sleep, and there never was such a stupid sale."

"Sale? Oh, you went to a sale? Of what?" Bertie was interested.

"Oh, just things--all kinds of things," returned Miss Ri vaguely. Then,
turning her attention to her breakfast she said, "Go on now, and tell
me all that has been going on."

The girls delivered themselves of the news of their adventure with
supposed burglars to the great entertainment of Miss Ri, and then a
message coming to Bertie from her mother, she departed while Miss Ri
finished her breakfast.

"I've almost as good a tale to tell myself," remarked that lady as she
folded her napkin. "I think I shall have to tell you, Linda, but you
must promise not to repeat it. I couldn't have told it to Bertie for
she would never rest till she had passed it on. However, I can trust
you, and you mustn't hint of it to Bertie of all people."

Linda gave the required promise, Miss Ri picked up her wraps and the
small bundle, and proposed they should go into the sitting-room where
the sun was shining brightly. They settled themselves comfortably and
Miss Ri proceeded to unfold her secret. "Berk was entirely too keen
when he said I had a special purpose in going to town periodically,"
she began. "I have a harmless little fad, Verlinda; it is nothing more
nor less than the buying of "old horse" if you know what that is."

"I'm sure I don't," Linda confessed.

"It's the stuff that collects at the express office; it may have been
sent to a wrong address, or in some way has failed of being delivered.
When it has accumulated for so many months they sell it at auction to
the highest bidder. I have had some rare fun over it for it is much
on the principle of a grab-bag at a fair. Of course I never venture a
large sum and I generally go early enough to look around and make up my
mind just what I will bid on. Once I had a whole barrel of glass ware
knocked down to me; another time I was fortunate enough to get a whole
case of canned goods of all sorts. This time--" she shook her head as
denying her good luck. "I saw this neat little package which looked as
if it might contain something very nice; it had such a compact orderly
appearance, so I bid on it, only up to fifty cents, Verlinda, and
when I came out of the place to take the car I couldn't forbear from
tearing the paper in order to peep in. I saw a nice wooden box, and I
said to myself, 'Here is something worth while.' I had some errands
to do before boat time so didn't examine further until I was in my
state-room, then I opened the box and what do you think I found?"

"I can't imagine." Linda's curiosity was aroused. She looked
interestedly at the small parcel.

"I found a bottle," Miss Ri chuckled, "a bottle of what is evidently
nice, home-made cough syrup, sent by some well-meaning mother to her
son who had left the address to which it was sent. As I haven't an
idea of the ingredients I don't dare pass it along to anyone else. I
was tempted to chuck it in the river, but I thought I would bring it
home to you." She made great form of presenting it to Linda who took it
laughing.

"I'll give it to Phebe," declared the girl. "She'd love to take it when
she has a 'mis'ry in her chist.'"

"Don't you do it," cried Miss Ri in alarm. "It might make her really
ill, and then who would cook for us? Give it right back to me." She
possessed herself of the bottle, trotted back to the dining-room
where she emptied the contents into the slop-bowl, returning to the
sitting-room with the empty bottle in her hand. "You can have the
bottle," she said, "and the nice wooden box. I don't want to keep any
reminder of my folly."

"And you have sworn off?"

Miss Ri laughed. "Not exactly. At least I've sworn off before, but I
am always seized with the craze as soon as I see the advertisement
in the paper. Once I was cheated out of a dollar by getting a box of
decayed fruit, and another time I got a parcel of old clothes that I
gave to Randy after making her boil them to get rid of any lingering
microbes. This is the third time I have been bamboozled, but very
likely next time I will draw a prize. Goodness, Verlinda, if here
doesn't come Grace and her sister. Do you suppose they are off for the
city to-night?"

"I think it is very probable," returned Linda as she followed Miss Ri
to the door.

Even though she did not admire Grace Talbot, Miss Ri could not be
anything but graciously hospitable, and was ready to greet the visitors
heartily as they came up on the porch. "Well, Mrs. Talbot," she
exclaimed, "come right in. This is your sister, isn't it? How are you,
Miss Johnson. It is lucky you chose Saturday when Linda is at home.
You'll stay to dinner, of course. Here, let me take those bags. Are you
on your way to the city?"

"Yes," returned Grace, "we're leaving for the winter. Howdy, Linda."
She viewed her sister-in-law critically, finding her paler and thinner,
but keeping the discovery to herself. Lauretta, however, spoke her
thought. "I don't believe town agrees with you as well as country,
Linda. You look a little peaked."

"That comes from being shut up in a school-room," Miss Ri hastened to
say; "it is trying work."

"She will get used to it in time," Grace replied. "Why, there is
Miss Sally Price about as sturdy and rosy as anyone I know, and she's
been teaching twenty-five years. What lovely old tables you have,
Miss Ri. They remind me of grandmother's, don't they you, Lauretta?
Dear grandmother, she was such a very particular old dame and would
have her mahogany and silver always shining. I remember how she would
say to her butler, 'James, that service is not as bright as it should
be.'" Grace's imitation of her various forbears always conveyed the
idea that they were most haughty and severe personages who never spoke
except with military peremptoriness. She was constantly referring to
grandmother Johnson, or great-uncle Blair or someone utterly irrelevant
to the topic of the moment, and as entirely uninteresting to her
audience.

"Did you leave everything all right at the farm?" asked Linda,
hastening to change the subject. She knew that great-uncle Blair would
be paraded next, if the slightest opportunity was allowed.

"Everything is as it should be," returned Grace high-and-mightily.
"You didn't suppose for an instant, Linda, that I would leave anything
at loose ends. Of course, it has been most arduous work for Lauretta
and I, but we have the satisfaction of knowing that we have not
neglected anything. I am completely fagged out, and feel that a rest is
essential."

Miss Ri's eye travelled from Grace's plump proportions to Linda's
slight figure. "Well," she said bluntly, "work evidently agrees with
you, for I never saw you looking better."

Grace bit her lip and searched her mind for a fitting retort but could
only say piously, "One must bear up for the sake of others. The world
cannot see behind the scenes, my dear Miss Hill, and that a smile may
hide a breaking heart."

"Come up and see my room," proposed Linda, anxious to prevent what
promised to be a passage at arms between Miss Ri and Grace. "Come,
Lauretta, I want you to see the view from my windows." And so she
managed to get them away before there were any hurt feelings.

After this matters passed off well enough, although great-uncle Blair
was dragged in more than once at the dinner table, and grandmother
Johnson's haughty attitude toward underlings was again reproduced for
the benefit of all. Miss Ri chafed under the affectations, but was too
polite to show it, though when the door at last closed upon her guests
she turned to Linda.

"I'm glad enough they are not your blood kin, Verlinda Talbot. I hope
Heaven will give me patience always to behave with politeness when
Grace Talbot is around. A daily dose of her would be too much for my
Christian forbearance. I wonder you stood her so long, and what Martin
was thinking of to be blinded by a superficial, shallow, underbred
creature like that is beyond me."

"Grace has her good points," said Linda with an effort to be loyal. "I
think she was genuinely fond of Martin."

"You mean she was fond of his fondness for her. There is a lot of
difference, my dear. The idea of her trying to parade her ancestors
before me. Why, old John Blair was the plainest of the plain, a decent,
humble sort of man who accumulated a tidy little sum which his sister
Eliza Johnson inherited; the Johnsons hadn't a picayune; I know all
about them. I have heard my grandfather speak of John Blair and his
sister a dozen times. They lived down in East Baltimore and he had a
little carpenter shop. Grandfather used to tell a funny story of how
Blair brought him in a bill in which he had spelled tacks, t-a-x. 'That
isn't the way to spell tacks, John,' said grandfather. John scratched
his head and looked at the bill. 'Well, Mr. Hill,' he said; 'if t-a-x
don't spell tacks, what do it spell?' He was a good honest man enough,
and afterward became a builder, but he never put on any airs, as why
should he? You may talk a great deal about your grandfather, and make
much display of your family silver, my dear, but if you don't speak
correct English the ancestors don't count for much. Evidently Grace
thinks solid silver is vastly more important than correct speech."

"You certainly are put out of humor this time, Miss Ri."

"Oh, such people exasperate me beyond words. 'Major Forbes sent tickets
to Lauretta and I.' To I, forsooth. 'Mrs. General So-and-So invited
Grace and I to tea.' Invited I, did she?"

"It seems there is a necessity for a schoolmarm in the family,"
remarked Linda.

"Yes, but the unfortunate part of it is that they haven't a ghost of an
idea that they do need one. Well, let them go up to the city, to their
Major Forbes and their Mrs. Generals, I say, and I hope to goodness
Grace will marry her major and good luck to him."

"Oh, Miss Ri."

"I can't help it. Let me rave for awhile. I shall feel better
afterward. Did you ever know such a talker as she is? She is as bad as
Becky, and did you hear Lauretta? 'Poor dear Grace does so draw upon
her vitality.' Oh, dear me, what fools we mortals be."

"And you are the one who never gets mad with fools."

"I don't, as a rule, but when a person is as many kinds of a fool as
Grace is I can't grapple with all the varieties at one sitting. There
now, I have finished my tirade. I won't abuse your in-laws any more.
Let us hope they have passed out of our lives. Now let us talk about
something pleasant. How do you like Mr. Jeffreys?"

"Is he something pleasant? I really haven't had a chance to decide. We
met in the dark and we didn't exchange a dozen words. Bertie likes him."

Miss Ri sat looking out of the window, drumming on the arms of her
chair with her strong capable fingers. "I wish I knew," she murmured;
"I wish I knew. Has Berk been here?" she asked presently.

"If you call his nocturnal prowlings visits, he has."

"Oh, I don't mean those, but, of course, he wouldn't come. I must see
him. I think I'd better call him up, although he is pretty sure to look
in upon us this evening."

After the strain consequent upon Grace's visit, Linda felt that even
Miss Ri's cheerful chatter was more than she could stand, so she sought
an opportune moment to escape to the lawn and from there to wander down
the box-bordered walks to the foot of the garden. The chickens in Miss
Parthy's premises on the other side of the fence, were discoursing in
their accustomed manner before going to roost, making contented little
sounds as someone threw them handfuls of grain. Once in a while would
come a discordant "Caw! Caw!" as an over-greedy rooster would set upon
one less aggressive. It all sounded very homelike and Linda wondered
how matters were going with the familiar flocks she had left at home.
Grace's coming, her talk of affairs at the farm had made a great wave
of homesickness come over the girl as she approached the fence to look
at Miss Parthy's chickens. These, she discovered, were being fed with
careful hand by some other than Miss Parthy. A young man with crisp
auburn hair, which was cropped close. He had a good figure, and rather
a serious expression. His eyes, much the color of his hair, were turned
quickly upon Linda as her face appeared above the fence. "Good-evening,
Miss Talbot," he said.

"Good-evening, Mr. Jeffreys," she returned. "How is it you are taking
Miss Parthy's tasks upon yourself?"

"Oh, I begged leave to do it. I like it. Don't you think chickens are
very amusing? They are as different in character as people, and give me
as much amusement as a crowd of human beings. Look at that ridiculous
little hen; she reminds me of a girl scared by a mouse the way she
jumps every time I throw down a handful of food."

"Don't you think," said Linda mockingly, "that it is more reasonable to
be afraid of creepy things like mice than to be frightened out of your
wits by a paper bag?"

"You have me there," returned the young man. "That was certainly one on
us. I hope you have not been disturbed since."

"Oh, no, and now my natural protector has returned, I shall feel
perfectly safe. You know Miss Ri, I believe."

"Oh, yes. She is a most interesting character. She doesn't run from
mice, I fancy."

"No, and neither do I."

"Really? Then you are a rarity whom I am fortunate in meeting. I
understand, Miss Talbot, that your home is some distance from this
town."

"My home was some distance, about seven miles away."

"On Broad Creek? Do the Talbots come from that neighborhood?"

"Yes, they are old settlers. We hold the original land grant from Lord
Baltimore."

"That is interesting. Did you ever happen to know of a Madison Talbot
who lived--let me see--about 1812 or thereabouts?"

"Why, yes. That was the name of my great-grandfather."

"It was?"

"Why do you ask?" inquired Linda curiously.

"Oh, because I have heard the name. My grandfather has mentioned him. I
believe he knew him, and coming down to this unexplored region, I am
naturally reminded of anyone who might have been connected with what I
have heard of it."

"Unexplored? Do you mean by yourself?"

"Well, yes, and by some others. I doubt if the majority of those one
meets could locate this special town, for instance."

"Anyone who knows anything must have heard of it," said Linda with
innocent conviction.

"Oh, I am not disparaging it. In some respects it is the nicest place I
ever saw. Tell me something about your home there on Broad Creek."

Linda's eyes grew wistful. "It is the dearest spot on earth. The house
is old and low and queer, with rambling rooms that go up a step here,
down one there. The water is always in sight, and through the trees you
can see the old church; it is on our ground, you know, and there is
an old windmill on the place. I should hate to have that old windmill
taken away. I used to watch its long arms go around and around when I
was a child, and I made up all sorts of tales about it."

"How many acres are there?" Mr. Jeffreys asked the practical question
suddenly.

"About two or three hundred. There was another farm. It all belonged to
the same estate originally, or at least there were two farms, and ours
is the older. My brother brought it up wonderfully, and it is in very
good condition now. My father was in ill health for years and when he
died his affairs were in a sad state; the farm was not making anything
till my brother took hold of it."

"And it is yours?"

Linda wondered at the question. She colored with both indignation
and confusion. "It is my home," she replied with dignity, "and it is
the dearest spot on earth to me." Having made this answer she turned
from the fence and resumed her walk while Mr. Jeffreys gave one wide
flourish with his pan of screenings and then walked thoughtfully back
to the house where Miss Parthy waited supper.



CHAPTER VII

WAS IT CURIOSITY?


"Don't talk to me about the curiosity of women," said Linda coming upon
Miss Ri after her return walk. "The new importation at Miss Parthy's is
certainly the most inquisitive person it has ever been my lot to meet.
I was prepared to like him from what Bertie told me, but I never met a
man who could ask such personal questions upon such short acquaintance."

"Why, Linda, I never thought he could be called exactly rude. Perhaps
he doesn't pay one those little courteous attentions that we are used
to down here, though he is polite enough as I remember. Parthy and I
have wondered whether he could be an adventurer, or whether he were a
visionary sort of person or what, but we have come to the conclusion
that he is neither."

"I shouldn't be at all surprised if he were an adventurer and that he
has come down here to hunt up some unsuspecting damsel with property of
her own whom he could beguile into marrying him."

"Why, my child, did he ask you to marry him?"

"Oh, dear no, I hope not, since my first real conversation with him
has just taken place, but he wanted to know all about Talbot's Angles,
how much land there was and all that, and he wound up by inquiring if
it belonged to me."

"That does look somewhat suspicious, though it does not show much tact,
if his object is really what you surmise. A real adventurer would make
his inquiries of someone else. I wouldn't judge him too severely. He
says he is looking up an old claim, you know, and it may lie near your
place. I would wait and see what happens."

"Tell me, Miss Ri, did he bring any sort of credentials with him?"

"Yes, I think so, at least he gave Berk a business card and said he was
well known by the insurance company by whom he had been employed in
Hartford, and that he had friends there who could vouch for him, and he
said he had a number of letters in his trunk."

"Oh, says, says; it's easy enough to say. I don't believe he ever had a
trunk, and I believe his story is made out of whole cloth."

"Why, Verlinda, dear, I never knew you so bitter. Do give the lad a
chance to prove himself."

"I thought you didn't want me to know him. You know you said you
weren't going to have him come when I was at home."

"Oh, well, I didn't mean that exactly; I only wanted to provide against
your flying off into a sentimental attitude, but now you have gone to
the other extreme; I don't want that either. Parthy says there never
was a more considerate man, and that he is not any trouble at all. Of
course, he hasn't the little thoughtful ways that Berk has; he doesn't
always stand with his hat off when he is talking to me in the street,
and he doesn't rise to his feet every time I leave my chair, and stand
till I am seated. He has allowed my handkerchief to lie till I chose
to pick it up myself, and doesn't always spring to open the door for
me; in those things he differs from Berk, but he is certainly quiet and
dignified. There comes Berk now, Verlinda; I knew he'd be along about
supper time."

Berkley's broad shoulders were seen over the rows of chrysanthemums and
scarlet salvia as he took a leisurely passage up the gravelled walk. He
waved a hand in greeting. "I knew I wasn't too late because I saw you
both from the street."

"And of course you hurried before that?" questioned Miss Ri.

"Yes, I always make it a point to hurry if there is a chance of being
late to supper, but I never hurry when there is no need to. I don't
wish to squander my vital energies, you see. What's for supper, Miss
Ri?"

"You haven't been invited to take it with us, yet."

"I don't have to be. Once, many a year ago, you said, 'Berk, drop in
whenever you feel like it,' and I have piously enshrined that saying
upon the tablets of my memory. Once invited, always invited, you see,
so I repeat my anxious query: what's for supper?"

"I am sure I don't know. Linda did the ordering this morning for I
wasn't here."

"Tell me, Linda." Berkley had dropped formalities since the evening of
song.

Linda shook her head. "As if I could be expected to remember things
that occurred this morning before breakfast; so many things have
happened since then."

"Things have happened in this blessed sleepy old place? That is news. I
didn't know anything could happen in Sandbridge."

"Oh, they might not be important to you, but they are to me."

"Then, of course, they are important to me."

"A very nice speech, sir. Well, in the first place, Miss Ri has
returned, as you see. Then Grace and Lauretta were here and have just
departed for the city."

"For good?"

"Let us hope it is for good only," put in Miss Ri.

"Sh! Sh!" warned Linda. "That wasn't pretty, Miss Ri. Then I have been
talking over the fence to your friend, Mr. Jeffreys, and he has aroused
my antagonism to a degree."

"He has?" Berkley looked surprised. "I don't see why or how he could do
that."

"Wait till she tells you, Berk," Miss Ri spoke up. "I am going in to
tell Phebe to set another place at table. If I am to have guests thrust
upon me whether I invite them or not, I must be decent enough to see
that they have plates to eat from." She left the two to saunter on to
the house while she entered the path which led to the kitchen.

Linda recounted her tale to which Berk listened attentively. "What do
you think of a man who would put such questions to a perfect stranger?"
queried Linda.

Berkley knit his brows. "Looks like one of two things; either
unqualified curiosity or a deeper purpose, that of finding out all
about the farm on account of personal interest in it."

"But what nonsense. You don't mean he thinks _that's_ the place to
which he lays claim? Why, we've held the grant for hundreds of years."

"We don't know what he thinks; I am not saying what are the facts; I am
only trying to account for his interest."

"Miss Ri thought he might be interested because his claim may perhaps
touch our property somewhere, and that there may be some question of
the dividing line."

"That could very well be. At all events, I don't believe it was idle
curiosity. I'll sound him a little if I can, but he is a reticent sort
of fellow, and as dumb as an oyster about that matter, though there
is really no use in his talking till he gets his papers, which, poor
fellow, it's mighty unlikely he'll ever find."

"I'd hate a prying neighbor," remarked Linda.

"You're not liable to have one from present indications. If I had time
I'd really like to look into some of the old titles, and see just how
the property in the vicinity of Talbot's Angles has come down to the
present owners. I know about a good many, as it is. Your brother sold
off Talbot's Addition, didn't he?"

"Yes. You know my father had mortgaged it up to the hilt, and then
Mart sold it in order to get rid of the interest and to have something
to put into the home place. He thought he would rather hold one
unencumbered place and have some money to improve it than to struggle
along with two places."

"Good judgment, too. If I am not mistaken there was still more property
belonging to the Talbot family originally. Wasn't Timber Neck theirs at
one time?"

"I believe so, though it was so long ago that I don't remember hearing
much about it."

"I see. Well, here we are, and I think there must be crab cakes from
the odor."

"So there are; I remember now. I knew Miss Ri was fond of them and no
one can make them as well as Phebe."

The supper set forth on the big round table displayed the crab cakes,
brown and toothsome, the inevitable beaten biscuits on one side, and
what Phebe called "a pone of bread" on the other. There were, too,
some thin slices of cold ham, fried potatoes and a salad, while the
side table held some delectable cakes, and a creamy dessert in the
preparation of which Phebe was famous. No one had ever been able to get
her exact recipe, for "A little pinch" of this, "a sprinkling" of that,
and "what I thinks is right" of the other was too indefinite for most
housekeepers. Many had, indeed, ventured after hearing the ingredients
but all had failed.

"This is a supper fit for a king," said Berkley, sitting down after a
satisfied survey of the table.

"You might have just such every day," returned Miss Ri.

"Please to tell me how. Do you mean I could induce Phebe to accept the
place of head cook at the hotel?"

"Heaven forbid. No, bat, of course not."

"Why bat?"

"You are so blind, just like most conceited young men who might have
homes of their own if they chose."

"Please, Miss Ri, don't be severe. You haven't the right idea at all.
Don't you know it is my lack of conceit which prevents my harboring
the belief that I could induce anyone to help me to make a home?"

"I don't know anything of the kind. I know it is your selfish love of
ease and your desire to shirk responsibility."

"Listen to her, Linda. She will drive me to asking the first girl I
meet if she will marry me. You might do it, by the way, and then we
might take our revenge by luring Phebe away from her. Of course, Phebe
would follow you. I wonder I never thought of that before."

"You are a flippant, senseless trifler," cried Miss Ri with more heat
than would appear necessary. "I won't have you talking so of serious
subjects."

"So it is a serious subject to your mind?" Berkley laughed gleefully.

But Miss Ri maintained a dignified silence during which Berkley made
little asides to Linda till finally Miss Ri said placidly, "I told
Linda not long ago that I never got mad with fools, and," she added
with a gleam of fun in her eyes, "I'm not going to begin to do it now."

"You have the best of me as usual, Miss Ri," laughed Berkley, "although
I might get back at you, if one good turn deserves another. By the way,
Linda, did you ever hear the way old Aaron Hopkins interprets that?"

"No, I believe not."

"Someone sent him a barrel of apples last year, and he told me the
other day that he expected the same person would send another this
year. 'He sent 'em last year,' said the old fellow, 'and you know 'one
good turn deserves another.' He is a rare old bird, is Aaron."

"He certainly is," returned Linda. "I think it is too funny that he
named his boat the _Mary haha_. He told me he thought that _Minnehaha_
was a nice name for young folks to use, 'but for an old fellow like me
it ain't dignified,' he said."

"Tell Berk what he said to your brother when he came back from
college," urged Miss Ri.

"Oh, yes, that was funny, too. You know Mart had been away for three
years, and he met old Aaron down by the creek one day. I doubt if Aaron
has ever been further than Sandbridge in his life. He greeted Mart like
one long lost. 'Well, well,' he said, 'so you've got back. Been away
a right smart of a time, haven't you?' 'Three years,' Mart told him.
'Where ye been?' 'To New Jersey.' 'That's right fur, ain't it?' 'Some
distance.' 'Beyand Pennsylvany, I reckon. Well, well, how on airth
could you stand it?' 'Why, it's a pretty good place, why shouldn't I
stand it, Aaron?' said Mart. 'But it's so durned fur from the creek,'
replied Aaron."

"Pretty good," cried Berkley. "A true Eastern shoreman is Aaron, wants
nothing better than his boat and the creek. Good for him."

They lingered at table talking of this and that till presently
there came a ring at the door. Phebe lumbered out to open. She was
unsurpassed as a cook, but only her extreme politeness excused the
awkwardness of her manner as waitress. "It's dat Mr. Jeffs," she said
in a stage whisper when she returned. "He ask fo' de ladies."

"Then you will have to come, Linda," said Miss Ri, "and you, too, Berk."

"Of course, I'll come," replied the young man.

"You don't imagine I am going to stay here by myself while you two make
eyes at an interloper." And he followed the two to the drawing-room
into which Phebe had ushered the visitor.

The young man sitting there arose and came forward, and after shaking
hands with Miss Ri he said, "I believe you have not formally presented
me to your niece, Miss Hill, though I was so unceremonious as to talk
to her over the fence this evening."

"You mean Linda. She is not my niece; I wish she were. How would it do
for me to adopt you as one, Verlinda? I'd love to have you call me Aunt
Ri."

"Then I'll do it," returned the girl with enthusiasm.

"Then, Mr. Jeffreys, allow me to present you to my adopted niece, Miss
Verlinda Talbot, and beware how you talk to her over the fence. I am a
very fierce duenna."

The young man smiled a little deprecatingly, not quite understanding
whether this was meant seriously or not, and wondering if he were being
censured for his lack of ceremony.

"I presented Mr. Jeffreys quite properly myself," spoke up Berkley. "To
be sure, it was in the dark and he wasn't within gun-shot. I haven't
recovered from my scare yet, have you, Jeffreys? Next time you go to
town, Miss Ri, I am going with you, for I don't mean to be left behind
to the tender mercies of anyone as bloodthirsty as Linda."

They all laughed, and the visitor looked at the two young people
interestedly. Evidently they were on excellent terms. He wondered if by
any chance an engagement existed between them, but when later Bertie
Bryan came in, and he saw that Berk treated her with the same air of
good comradeship, he concluded that it was simply the informality of
old acquaintance, though he wondered a little at it. In his part of the
country not even the excuse of lifelong association could set a young
man so at his ease with one of the opposite sex, and he was quite sure
that he could not play openly at making love to two girls at once.
However, they spent a merry time, Linda, under the genial influence of
her friends, was livelier than usual, and however much she may have
resented Mr. Jeffreys' inquisitiveness earlier in the day, on further
acquaintance she lost sight of anything but his charm of manner and his
art of making himself agreeable.

After the young men had seen Bertie to her home, they walked down the
shadowy street together. "Haven't heard anything of those papers yet, I
suppose," Berkley said to his companion.

"Nothing at all."

"Too bad. Are you going to give it up?"

"Not quite yet. I thought I'd allow myself six months. I have a bit of
an income which comes in regularly, and one doesn't have to spend much
in a place like this. Once my papers are found, I think my chances are
good." Then abruptly, "You've known Miss Talbot a long time, I suppose,
Matthews."

"Nearly all my life. At least we were youngsters together; but I was at
college for some years, and I didn't see her between whiles. She was
grown up when I came back."

"Then you probably know all about her home, Talbot's Angles, do they
call it?"

"Yes, certainly. Everyone about here knows it, for it is one of the few
places that has remained in the family since its first occupation."
Then suddenly, "Good heavens, man, you don't mean that's the place you
are thinking to claim? I can tell you it's not worth your while. The
Talbots have the original land grant and always have had it, and--why,
it's an impossibility."

His companion was silent for a moment. "You know, I am not talking yet.
If I find the papers are lost irrevocably, I shall go away with only a
very pleasant memory of the kindness and hospitality of Sandbridge."

Berkley in turn was silenced, but after parting from his companion at
Miss Parthy's door, he went down the street saying to himself, "I'll
search that title the very first chance I get. I am as sure as anyone
could be that it is all right. Let me see, Miss Ri would know about the
forbears; I'll ask her." He stopped under a street lamp and looked at
his watch. "It isn't so very late, and she is a regular owl. I'll try
it."

Instead of continuing his way to the hotel, he turned the corner which
led to Miss Ri's home. Stopping at the gate, he peered in. Yes, there
was a light in the sitting-room, and from some unseen window above was
reflected a beam upon the surface of the gently-flowing river. "She
is up and Linda has gone to her room," he told himself. "Just as I
thought."

He stepped quickly inside the ground and went toward the house. One
window of the sitting-room was partly open, for the night was mild. He
could see Miss Ri sitting by her lamp, a book in her hand. "Miss Ri,"
he called softly.

She came to the window. "Of all prowling tomcats," she began. "What are
you back here for?"

"I forgot something. May I come in?"

"Linda has gone to bed."

"I didn't come to see Linda."

"Oh, you didn't. Well, I'll let you in, but you ought to know better
than to come sneaking around a body's garden at this time of night."

"You see, I've gotten into the habit of it," Berkley told her. "I've
done it for two nights running and I can't sleep till I've made the
rounds."

"Silly!" exclaimed Miss Ri. But she came around to open the door for
him. "Now, what is it you want?" she asked. "I've no midnight suppers
secreted anywhere."

"Is thy servant a dog, that he comes merely to be fed?"

"I've had my suspicions at times," returned Miss Ri. "Come in, but
don't talk loud, so as to waken Linda; the child needs all the sleep
she can get. Now, go on; tell me what you want."

"I want you to tell me exactly who Linda's forbears were; that is, on
the Talbot side. Her father was James, I know."

"Yes, and his father was Martin. He had a brother, but he died early;
there were only the two sons, but there was a daughter, I believe."

"And their father was?"

"Let me see--Monroe? No, Madison; that's it, Madison Talbot, and his
father was James again. I can't give you the collaterals so far back."

"Humph! Well, I reckon that will do."

"What in the world are you up to? Are you making a family tree for
Linda?"

"No; but I have some curiosity upon the subject of old titles, and as
it may come in my way, I thought I would look up Talbot's Angles."

"There's no use in doing that. Linda has the original land grant in her
possession. Poor child, she clings to that, and I am glad she can. I
wish to goodness you'd marry Grace, Berk Matthews, so Verlinda could
get her rights."

"I'd do a good deal for a pretty girl, but I couldn't bring myself up
to the scratch of marrying Grace Talbot. Now, if it were Linda herself,
that might be a different matter."

"You'd get a treasure," avowed Miss Ri, shaking her head wisely. "She
doesn't have to air her family silver in order to make people forget
her mistakes in English."

"True, O wisest of women."

"There's another way out of it, Berk; the place reverts to Verlinda in
the event of Grace's death."

"Do you mean I shall poison her or use a dagger, Lady Macbeth?"

"You great goose, of course I don't mean either such horrible thing. I
was only letting my thoughts run on the possibilities of the case. I'm
not quite so degenerate as to wish for anyone's death, but I haven't
found out yet why you were looking into the family procession of names."

"Oh, just a mere matter of legal curiosity, as I said. I come across
them once in a while, and I wanted to get them straight in my mind.
James, son of Martin, son of Madison, son of James; that's it, isn't
it?" He checked them off on his fingers.

"That's it."

"Well, good-night, Miss Ri. I won't keep you any longer from that
fascinating book at which you've been casting stealthy glances ever
since I came in. Don't get up; I can let myself out."

Miss Ri did not immediately return to the book. "Now, what is he
driving at?" she said to herself. "It's all poppycock about his
interest in the names because he wants to get them straight in his
mind. He's not so interested in Verlinda as all that, worse luck. I
wish he were." She gave a little sigh and, adjusting her glasses,
returned to the page before her.



CHAPTER VIII

A DISCLOSURE


"The old horse is neighing again," said Miss Ri, whimsically, one
morning a little later. "I must go to town, Verlinda."

The girl looked up from some papers over which she was working. The
two were sitting at the big table before an open fire, for it had
suddenly turned colder. The room was very cosey, with warm touches of
color found in the table-cover of red, in the yellow chrysanthemums
by the window, and in the deep tones of the furniture. Linda looked
frailer and thinner than when her life at the farm admitted of more
open-air employment and less indoor. She did her work conscientiously,
even thankfully, but hardly lovingly, and in consequence it was a
constant strain upon her vitality. "What were you saying, Aunt Ri?" she
asked, her thoughts vaguely lingering with her work, while yet she was
conscious of Miss Ri's remark.

"I said the old horse was neighing again. There is another sale this
week, a different express company this time, and I feel the call of the
unknown. I think I'll go up by train, and then you will be alone but
one night. Bertie enjoyed herself so much last time, that I am sure she
will like to come again, if you want her. Bertie is a nice child, not
an overstock of brains in some directions, but plenty of hard sense in
others."

"Do you suppose it will be cough medicine this time?" asked Linda,
making little spirals on the edge of her paper with her pencil.

"Heaven forfend! No, I'm going to bid on the biggest thing there, if
it be a hogshead. I saw one man get a stuffed double-headed calf, and
another the parts of some machine whose other belonging had evidently
gone elsewhere. I shall try to avoid such things. I wish you could go
with me, Verlinda; it is such fun." Miss Ri's eyes twinkled, as her
hands busied themselves with some knitting she had taken up.

"I'd like to go," admitted Linda wistfully, "but it isn't a holiday,
and I mustn't play truant. Good luck to you, Aunt Ri." She returned to
her work, while Miss Ri knitted on for a while.

"Shall you be working long?" asked the latter presently. "I must make
such an early start, that I think I'll go up, if you will put out the
lights and see to the fire."

"I have considerably more to do," Linda answered, turning over her
papers. "I'll put out the lights, Aunt Ri."

"Don't sit up too late," charged the other, stuffing her knitting into
a gay, flowery bag. "Good-night, child. I'll be off before you are up.
Just order anything you like, and don't bother about anything." She
dropped a kiss upon the shining dark hair, and went her way, stopping
to try the front door.

For half an hour Linda worked steadily, then she stacked her papers
with a sigh, arose and drew a chair before the fire, whose charred logs
were burning dully. She gave a poke to the smouldering ends, which
sent up a spurt of sparks and caused the flame to burn brightly. With
chin in hands, the girl sat for some time gazing into the fire which,
after this final effort, was fast reducing itself to gray ashes and red
embers. The old clock in the hall struck eleven slowly and solemnly.
Miss Ri's quick tread on the floor above had ceased long before. The
tick-tock of the clock and the crackle of the consuming wood were the
only sounds. Linda returned to the table, picked up a bit of paper
and began to write, at first rapidly, then with pauses for thought,
frequent re-readings and many erasures. She occupied herself thus till
the clock again struck deliberately but insistently. Linda lifted
her head and counted. "Midnight," she exclaimed, "and I am still up.
I wonder if it is worth it." She stopped to read once more the page
she had finally written, then, tucking the paper into her blouse, she
gathered up the rest, found a candle in one of the dignified old
candlesticks, put out the lamp and tip-toed to her room.

The sun was shining brightly on the river when she awakened next
morning. Miss Ri had gone long before. Linda had been dimly conscious
of her stirring about, but had slept on, realizing vaguely that it was
early. Her first movement was to sit up in bed, abstract a paper from
under her pillow, and read it over. "I wondered how it would sound by
daylight," she said to herself. "I think it isn't so bad, and it was
such a joy to do it after those stupid papers. I wonder, I wonder if it
is worth while." She tucked the paper away in her desk, feeling more
blithe and content than for many a day. How blue the river was, how
picturesque the tall-masted ships, how good the tang of the autumn air,
laden with the odor of leaf-wine. Even the turkey-buzzards, sailing
over the chimney-tops, gave individuality to the scene. It was a
beautiful world, even though she must be shut up in a school-room all
day with a parcel of restless urchins.

She went down-stairs humming a tune, to the delight of Phebe, who
waited below. "Dat soun' lak ole times, honey chile," she said. "I
ain't hyar dem little hummy tunes dis long while. I always use say to
mahse'f, 'Dar come mah honey chile. I knows her by dat little song
o' hers, same as I knows de bees by dere hummin' an' de robin by he
whistle.' Come along, chile, fo' yo' breakfus spile." She bustled back
to the kitchen, and Linda entered the dining-room, warm from the fire
in the wood stove and cheery by reason of the scarlet flowers with
which Phebe had adorned the table. There was an odor of freshly-baked
bread, of bacon, of coffee.

"I believe I'm hungry," said Linda.

Phebe's face beamed. "Dat soun' lak sumpin," she declared. "Jes' wait
till I fetches in dem hot rolls. Dey pipin' hot right out o' de oben.
I say hongry," she murmured to herself, as she went clumsily on her
errand.

The day went well enough. On her way home from school, Linda stopped
to ask Bertie to spend the night with her. But Bertie was off to a
birthday dance in the country, which meant she would not be back till
the next morning. She was "so sorry." If she had "only known," and all
that. "But, of course, you can get someone else," she concluded by
saying.

"Oh, I don't mind staying alone, if it comes to that," Linda told her.

"You stay too much alone, Linda."

"And I, who am surrounded all day by such a regiment of boys."

"Oh, they don't count; I mean girls of your own age. How are you
getting along, Linda, by the way?"

"Oh, well enough," responded Linda doubtfully. "The more successful
I am, the more it takes it out of me, however, and I am afraid I
shall really never love teaching. Even though you may succeed in an
undertaking, if you don't really love it, you tire more easily than if
you did something much harder, but which you really loved."

"I suppose that may be true. Well, Linda, I hope you will not always be
a teacher."

"I hope not," responded Linda frankly.

"I wish you would come over oftener, and would go around more with the
girls. They would all love to have you."

Linda shook her head gravely. "That is very nice for you to say, but I
couldn't do it--yet."

"Well, be sure you don't stay by yourself to-night," Bertie charged her.

Linda promised, and started off to fulfil the intention. Miss Parthy,
from her porch, called to her as she went by. "When's Ri coming back?"
she asked, over the heads of her three dogs, who occupied the porch
with her.

"Not till to-morrow morning."

"You'd better come over here and sleep," Miss Parthy advised her. "I
have an extra room, you know."

"And leave dear old Mammy to her lonesome? No, I think I'd better not,
Miss Parthy; thank you. I'll get someone to stay."

"You can have one of the dogs," offered Miss Parthy quite seriously.
"They are better than any watchman."

Linda thanked her, but the thought of Brownie's tail thumping on
the floor outside her door, or of Pickett's sharp bark, or Flora's
plaintive whine, decided her. "I think I'd rather have a human girl,
thank you, Miss Parthy, and even if I find no one, it will be all
right; I have stayed with only Mammy in the house dozens of times."

She continued her way, stopping at the house of this or that friend,
but all were bound for the birthday party, and after two or three
attempts she gave it up. Rather than put any more of the good-hearted
girls to the pain of refusing, she would stay alone. More than one had
offered to give up the dance, and this she could not allow another to
propose. After all, it would not be bad, though Mammy should drop to
sleep early, for there would be the cheerful fire and another bit of
paper to cover with the lines which had been haunting her all day.
She turned toward home again, with thoughtful tread, traversing the
long street between rows of flaming maples or golden gum trees, whose
offerings of scarlet and yellow fluttered to her feet at every step.
There was the first hint of winter in the air, but the grass was green
in the gardens and in the still unfrosted vines birds chattered and
scolded, disputing right of way.

At the corner she met Mr. Jeffreys, who joined her. "Bound for a walk?"
he asked. "May I go with you?"

As a girl will, who does not despise the society of a companionable
man, she tacitly accepted his escort, and they went on down the street
toward the river, where the red and yellow of trees appeared to have
drifted to the sky, to be reflected in the waters below.

"Miss Talbot," said the young man, when they had wandered to where
houses were few and scattered, "I have a confession to make."

Linda looked at him in surprise. He was rather a reticent person,
though courteous and not altogether diffident. "To me?" she exclaimed.

"To you first, because--well, I will tell you that I, too, can claim
kinship with the Talbot family. My great-grandfather and yours were
brothers. Did you ever hear of Lovina Talbot?"

"Why, yes. Let me see; what have I heard? It will come back to me after
a while. That branch of the Talbots left here years ago."

"Yes, just after the War of 1812. My great-grandfather, Cyrus, went to
Western Pennsylvania. His only daughter, Lovina, was my grandmother.
She married against his wishes, and then he married a second time--a
Scotch-Irish girl of his neighborhood--and the families seem to have
known little of one another after that. My father, Charles Jeffreys,
was Lovina's son. He settled in Hartford, Connecticut. And now you have
my pedigree."

"Why, then we are really blood relations. No wonder you were interested
in the old Talbot place. Why--" she paused, hesitated, flushed
up--"then it must be some of the Talbot property you are looking up."

"That is it; but I don't exactly know which it is, and without proof I
can make no claim, as I have often said."

Linda ran over in her mind the various pieces of property which she
was aware of having belonged to the original grants. "There was a good
deal of it," she said. "Some of it was sold before my father's time,
and he parted with more, so now all we have is the old homestead farm.
I should like to know," she continued musingly, "which place you think
it really is. I suppose it must be Timber Neck, for that was the first
which passed out of our hands."

"I cannot tell, for I don't know exactly."

"Why didn't you make yourself known before? Didn't you know it would
have made a difference to me--to us all, if you belonged, even
remotely, to one of the old families?"

"Yes, I did, I suppose; but for that very reason I was slow to confess
it. I came here under rather awkward circumstances. For a time I was in
a position to be looked upon with suspicion, to be considered a mere
adventurer. I may be yet," he continued, with a smile and a side glance
at the girl, "even if I do pay my board bills and my laundress."

"Oh, we don't think that of you; we are quite sure you are genuine,"
Linda hastened to assure him.

"You have only my word. You don't know who my father was."

"You just told me he was Charles Jeffreys."

"Yes, but--" He did not finish the sentence. "I thought it was due you
to know something of myself and my errand."

"I am glad to know it."

"Thank you. That is very good of you. Do you mind if I ask that you do
not repeat what I have been telling you?"

"Not even to Miss Ri?"

Mr. Jeffreys considered the question. "I think Miss Hill should
certainly know, for she was my first friend; and Mr. Matthews, too,
perhaps. I will tell them and ask them to respect my secret for the
present. When I can come among you as one who has a right to claim
ancestry with one of your Eastern Shore families, that will be a
different thing."

[Illustration: "BUT YOU MUST NOT CALL ME COUSIN," SAID LINDA.]

Linda would like to have asked for more of his personal history
and, as if reading her thought, he went on: "I have not had a
wildly-adventurous life; it has been respectably commonplace. I
had a fair education, partly in Europe; but I am not college-bred. My
father was a gentleman, but not over-successful in business. He left
only a life insurance for my mother, enough for her needs, if used with
care. My mother died two years ago, and I have neither brother nor
sister."

Linda's sympathy went out. "Neither have I brother nor sister," she
returned softly. "I can understand just how lonely you must be. But
you know you have discovered a cousin, and you may consider it a real
relationship."

The young man cast her a grateful look. "That makes me feel much
less of an alien. I am afraid an outsider would not meet with such
graciousness up our way."

"But you must not call me cousin," said Linda, "or we shall have your
secret public property, and that will never do." Her sweet eyes were
very tenderly bright, and the gentle curve of her lips suggested a
smile.

"She is much prettier than I thought," the young man told himself.
"She has always looked so pale and unresponsive, I thought she lacked
animation; but when one sees--I beg your pardon," he was roused by
Linda's speaking. "Oh, yes; it is getting on to supper time, I am
afraid. Perhaps we'd better turn back."

They returned by the river walk, parting at Miss Ri's gate.
"Good-night, cousin," said Linda, "and good luck to you."

The walk had stirred her blood, the talk had roused a new and romantic
interest in her companion, and the same song which Phebe had heard in
the morning was on her lips as she entered the house.

Phebe was on the watch for her. "Ain't nobody comin' to eat suppah with
yuh?" she inquired.

"No; the girls are all off to a dance in the country. I don't need
anyone, Mammy. You and I have been alone many a time before this, and
it will seem like old times."

Mammy looked at her critically. "Yuh sholy is beginnin' to git some
roses in yo' cheeks," she said. "Whar yuh been?"

"Just around town a little, and then I took a walk by the river."

"By yose'f? Who dat come to de gate wi' yuh?"

"You prying old Mammy. I believe you could see even around the corner.
That was Mr. Jeffreys."

"Dat bo'ds wi' Miss Parthy an' feeds de chickens?"

"That is the one."

"Humph!" Mammy's tones expressed contempt. Who was he to be gallanting
her young lady around town? But she knew better than to follow up her
expressive ejaculation with any spoken comment, and went in without
another word.

It was a quiet, cosey evening that Linda spent. It being Friday, there
were no lessons to be considered for the morrow, and so she smiled
over her own scribbling or smiled into the fire when pleasant thoughts
possessed her. At the end of the evening, there was a carefully-copied
contribution, which was ready to go to a weekly paper; but so precious
was it, that it must not be trusted to remain on the sitting-room
table, but must be carried upstairs until, with her own hand, she could
take it to the postoffice.

As she went to her window to draw down the shades, a handful of pebbles
clicked against the pane. She raised the sash and looked out. "I'm
making the rounds," said a voice from below. "Good-night." And through
the dimness she saw Wyatt Jeffreys' tall figure tramping around the
corner of the house.

"That is nice of him," she said to herself. "Poor fellow, I hope he
does recognize that I don't mean to be offish. I am sure he is proving
his own cousinly consideration."



CHAPTER IX

THE LETTERS ON THE TRUNK


Miss Ri arrived betimes that Saturday morning. She was in high glee
and declared she had made the luckiest bid yet, for her "old horse"
proved to be a box of books. "Not bad ones, either," she declared, "and
those I have duplicates of, I can give away at Christmas. The box was
certainly well worth the two dollars I paid for it."

"New books, are they?" Linda inquired.

"Quite new, and it looks as if they had been selected for someone's
library. We'll have a good time looking them over when they get here.
Here's something else for your consideration, Linda: Berk Matthews went
with me. He is the greatest one to tease. I met him on the street and
couldn't get rid of him. I didn't want him to go to the sale, but the
more I tried to shake him off, the more determined he was to stay with
me, and finally I had to let him go along. Well, he became interested,
too. Oh, I have a joke on him. He bought a trunk."

"A trunk?"

"Yes, a nice little compact trunk, which he says will be just the
thing for him to take when he goes off with Judge Baker. It has the
letters J. S. D. on it, which Berk declares mean 'Judge Some Day,' and
he doesn't mean to change them. He is a nonsensical creature."

"What is in the trunk?"

"Oh, he hadn't opened it; for, of course, he had no key. He was in a
hurry to see his mother and sister, and didn't want to bother with the
trunk then. He is going to stay over till Sunday. That is a good son,
Verlinda. I wish you could see the beautiful little desk he bought for
his mother's birthday. I went with him to pick it out. It is on account
of the birthday that he went up to the city. I am firmly convinced that
he will not marry until he can give his mother just as much as he gives
his wife."

"That would be expecting a little too much, wouldn't it?"

"Not from Berk's present point of view. Nothing is too good for that
mother of his, and when Margaret was married, well, no girl in town
could have had a better outfit. I don't believe Berk has had even a new
necktie since."

"Then I'll crochet him one for a Christmas gift," said Linda smiling.
"What color would you suggest?"

"A dull blue would be becoming to his style of beauty."

"Not much beauty there."

"Not exactly beauty, maybe, but Berk looks every inch a man."

"And not any superfluous inches, unless you measure his shoulders and
take him in square measure."

"Well, Verlinda, you must admit he has a fine, honest face."

"So has Brownie, Miss Parthy's setter."

"That is just like a foolish girl. I'll venture to say you think Mr.
Jeffreys much better looking."

"Far handsomer. By the way--no, I'll not tell you; I'll let him do
that."

"You rouse my curiosity. Tell me."

"I don't need to, for here comes the young man himself."

Mr. Jeffreys was seen coming up between the borders of box which led
from Miss Parthy's back fence to Miss Ri's back door. He skirted the
chrysanthemum beds, and came around to the front door, Miss Ri watching
him the while. "Berk would have bolted in through the kitchen," she
commented. "I don't suppose anything would induce Mr. Jeffreys to be
seen coming in the back door. I am surprised that he did as much as to
come in through the garden." She went to the door to meet him.

Conscious of his lack of ceremony, Mr. Jeffreys began to apologize at
once. "I hope you will pardon my taking the short cut, Miss Hill; but
I promised Miss Turner that I would deliver this note into your hands
before the ink had time to dry."

"I should be much less inclined to forgive you, if you had taken the
long way around," replied Miss Ri. "Come in, Mr. Jeffreys, and let us
see what this weighty matter is."

He followed her into the sitting-room, where Linda was watering some
house-plants lately brought in. "Here, Verlinda, you entertain Mr.
Jeffreys while I answer this note," said Miss Ri. "It's about a church
meeting, and Parthy thinks I don't know, or haven't made up my mind to
go, or something. I shall have to relieve her mind."

Mr. Jeffreys drew near to Linda at the window. "I hope you slept
without fear of robbers," he said.

She looked up smiling. "Oh, yes. I felt very safe after your
examination of bolts and bars." She went on with her task, nipping off
a dead leaf here, straightening a bent twig there. "They don't look
very well, yet," she said. "It takes plants some time to become used to
a change of habitation."

"Like some people," he returned.

She gave him an understanding nod. "Yes, but just as surely they will
thrive under proper treatment."

Miss Ri left her desk and came toward them. "I'm not going to ask you
to deliver this, Mr. Jeffreys, for I want to send Parthy a lemon pie
that Phebe has just baked, and I'd never trust a man to carry a lemon
pie. Just sit down and I'll be back in a moment."

"Are you going to tell her?" asked Linda, when the door had closed
after Miss Ri.

"Maybe. It will depend. I won't force the information."

"Get her to tell you about her trip to town; she is so funny about it."

"Miss Hill, you are to tell me about your trip to town," began Mr.
Jeffreys when Miss Ri returned.

"I shall not do it," she declared. "What do you mean, Verlinda Talbot,
by trying to get me to tell my secrets?"

"Maybe if you do, Mr. Jeffreys will tell you one of his."

"In that case, we must make a compact. Can you keep a secret, Mr.
Jeffreys?"

"I have kept my own, so far."

"But another's is quite a different matter."

"I will keep yours, if you will keep mine."

"Then it is a bargain. Well, then, I have a fad for buying 'old
horse.' You don't know what 'old horse' is? It's the stuff the express
companies collect in the course of some months. If persons refuse to
pay expressage, if the address is wrong, if it has been torn off, you
see how it would be, they have a sale, an auction. I enjoy the fun of
buying 'a pig in a poke.' Sometimes it turns out a nice fat pig and
sometimes it doesn't."

"And this time?"

"It was a nice fat one. I became the possessor of a box of really good
and desirable books. Perhaps I shouldn't be so ready to tell, if Berk
Matthews hadn't been along; but I'm quite sure he will think it too
good a story on me not to tell it. But I have one on him, too. He bid
for a trunk, and it was knocked down to him."

"A trunk? You know I am interested in stray trunks. If mine had been
sent by express, I'd be very keen about it."

"How was yours sent?"

"A local expressman was to take it to the steamer and I was unable to
identify him when the trunk didn't turn up. I had his claim check, but
that was in the pocket-book of which I was robbed--so you see--There
was a tag on the trunk, but that might have been torn off. Well, let's
hear about Mr. Matthew's trunk. It's rather interesting, this, and may
give me a clue to mine."

"My dear young man, I fear a dishonest driver is what is wrong in your
direction, or your trunk may have been stolen from the wagon, or have
fallen off. However, that is an old subject, isn't it? Mr. Matthews' is
a neat little steamer trunk, of rather an old fashion. Of course, he
has no key, and had no time to get a locksmith, so we don't know the
contents."

"Mine was a small steamer trunk, not of a new fashion. It had been my
mother's; but, being small and in good condition, I used it for myself,
old as it was. It had her initials on it, for she had it before she was
married."

Miss Ri leaned forward and asked earnestly: "What were they?"

"J. S. D. Julia Somers Darby was her maiden name."

Miss Ri looked at him excitedly. "J. S. D.? My dear man, those are the
very initials on Berk's trunk."

It was Mr. Jeffreys' turn to look agitated. "Miss Hill, are you sure?
Do you think--?" he began. "Miss Hill, could it be possible that it is
my trunk? Will you tell me all the details? Where is this place that
you found it? Perhaps, though, I'd best see Matthews."

"But he has not yet come back."

"True; I had forgotten that."

"I can tell you where the place is," continued Miss Ri, "if it will do
any good," and she proceeded to describe the locality, Mr. Jeffreys
listening intently.

"It is well worth looking into," he decided. "I don't suppose there is
any chance of my catching Mr. Matthews in town before he leaves?"

"There is no boat up to-night, you know."

"That is so. I did not remember that this was Saturday."

"Moreover, if you were to take the train, very likely he would have
left by the time you could reach the city. Better possess your soul in
patience, Mr. Jeffreys, and wait till he gets back."

"I have been patient for some time," he responded quietly.

"To be sure, you have; so that twenty-four hours longer will not seem
impossible. It certainly is a curious coincidence, though doubtless
there are other steamer trunks bearing the initials J. S. D."

"Yes, I admit that; and how mine could have found its way to the
express office is another puzzle."

"I shouldn't bother much about the how, if you discover that it really
did reach there."

There was a pause for a moment, then Linda said: "You haven't told Aunt
Ri your secret yet, cousin."

Miss Ri wheeled around in her chair. "Cousin! What are you talking
about, Verlinda Talbot?"

"Our great-grandfathers were brothers, Miss Hill," said Mr. Jeffreys.
"It doesn't give a very near relationship, I admit, but there it is and
we are of the same blood."

"Well, I am astonished. Tell me all about it, right away. Your
great-grandfather on the Talbot side, is it, Verlinda? Yours was
Madison, and who was yours, Mr. Jeffreys?"

"Cyrus, whose daughter Lovina married Wyatt Jeffreys, after whom I am
named. My grandfather that was, you see."

"And that is why the name always sounded so familiar," exclaimed
Linda. "I am sure I have heard my grandmother speak of him, for you
see, Lovina would be her husband's first cousin. Go on, please, Mr.
Jeffreys."

"Very well. After the War of 1812, Cyrus Talbot removed to Western
Pennsylvania. I believe his house was burned during that war, and he,
like many others, was seized with the spirit of emigration to the West."

"The old house at Talbot's Addition was burned, you remember," cried
Linda, turning to Miss Ri, "though I don't know just when." She turned
again to Mr. Jeffreys.

"Lovina married a young Englishman," he continued. "In those days the
feeling was very bitter against the English, and her father refused
to see her; but after his death an old box of papers came into her
possession, and they were found to be his. He had married a second
time, but there were no children by this marriage. By his will, Cyrus
Talbot left most of his property in Western Pennsylvania to his wife,
but a clause of the will read: 'The remainder of my property to my
daughter Lovina.' A little farm in that part of the country to which
he emigrated was supposed to be all that came to Lovina, but the old
papers show, we believe, that he still had a claim to estates here in
Maryland. Lovina went to England after her marriage, and the papers
were left with some of the neighbors, though she seems to have had
possession of them afterward, for there was a memorandum giving the
name and address of the persons in whose care it was eventually left.
This memorandum my father found after her death, and when he came to
this country later on, he hunted up the box and told me several times
that there might be something in those papers if one had time or would
take the trouble to look them over. He settled in Hartford and died
there. My father left a life insurance which was sufficient for my
mother's needs and which has descended to me now that she is gone.
I have not studied a profession, but had a clerkship, which seemed
to promise little future, and after thinking over the situation, I
determined to make a break, come down here and see if there were really
anything to be done about that property."

He concluded his story. Miss Ri sat drumming on the arms of her chair,
as was her habit when thinking deeply. Linda, no less preoccupied, sat
with eyes fixed upon the plants in the window. It was she who broke the
silence. "It must be Talbot's Addition," she decided; "but, oh, what a
snarl for the lawyers."

"It certainly will be," agreed Miss Ri, with a little laugh. "My dear
man, I am thinking the game will not be worth the candle. However,
we shall see. If Berk takes up your case, you may be sure of honest
dealing, at least. He little knows what his purchase has brought about."

Yet it was not at the end of twenty-four hours that Wyatt Jeffreys
received the assurance he hoped for, though he sought the Jackson House
immediately upon the arrival of the morning boat. Mr. Matthews was
not there. Had he arrived? Oh, yes; he came in on the train the night
before, but went off again with Judge Baker first thing in the morning.
When would he be back? Not for some time. He took a trunk with him, and
would be making the circuit with the judge.

Therefore Wyatt Jeffreys turned disappointedly away. He went directly
to Miss Ri, who observed him walking so dejectedly up the gravelled
path, that she went out on the porch to meet him.

"Wasn't it your trunk?" she began. "I had worked myself quite into the
belief that it must be, so I am not ready for a disappointment."

"It is not exactly disappointment, but only hope deferred," was the
reply. "Mr. Matthews came last night, but went off early this morning
with Judge Baker."

"Pshaw! that is trying, isn't it? However, we must make the best of it.
Perhaps he didn't take the trunk."

"He took _a_ trunk."

"I wonder if he started from the Jackson House or his office? We might
make a tour of investigation. Just wait till I look to one or two
things, and then we'll see what can be done."

She did not keep him waiting long, and together they went first to the
square brick building, with its white columns, which was designated
the Jackson House. Its porch was occupied by various persons who, with
chairs tipped back, were smoking sociably. In the lobby were gathered
others who, less inclined for outdoor air, were taking a morning cigar
there. Miss Ri interviewed the clerk, porter, and chambermaid to gather
the information that Mr. Matthews had come in on the train with a
trunk, which came up on the bus with him and which the porter afterward
carried to his office; the same trunk it was which he took with him
that morning.

"Now we'll go to his office," decided Miss Ri as they left the hotel.
"I am wondering what he did with the papers. There is probably a
youngster in charge of the office, who can tell us something."

The office was just across the street. Here they learned that Mr.
Matthews had come in that morning in a great rush to gather up what he
should need for the trip. "He was here last night, too, Miss Ri," said
the lad, a fresh-faced youngster of seventeen or so. "He told me he had
to do some work, and he came to my house and got the key."

"Do you know if he took any papers from his trunk to leave behind?"
inquired Miss Ri.

"I don't know; but if he did, they would be in the little room
upstairs. I can see. Were there some papers of yours, Miss Ri? Perhaps
I could find them, if you will tell me what they are."

"There were some papers belonging to a particular case which I wanted
to get at," she explained.

The lad hesitated when she asked, "Could we go up to the little room?"

"It's not in very good order," he told her. "It's where Mr. Matthews
keeps odds and ends."

"We shall not mind the disorder," Miss Ri told him. So he led the way
up a narrow stairway to a little attic room with a small dusty-paned
window at each end. The room held a motley collection of things:
saddles and bridles, a shooting outfit, two or three old hats hung on
the wall, one or two boxes of books and pamphlets were shoved under
some rough shelves. The boy dragged out a large valise stuffed so full
that its sides gaped. It was locked, but from one end hung a cravat,
which Mr. Jeffreys drew out, slowly examining it, Miss Ri regarding him
questioningly.

"It looks very like one of mine," he said; "but I don't lay claim to
a particular brand of tie." He turned over the heavy valise, shaking
it from side to side. From the bulging crevice fell a card upon which
was printed, "Wyatt B. Jeffreys, Hartford Fire Insurance Co." The young
man held it out silently to Miss Ri, who gasped, "Of all things! That
settles it."



CHAPTER X

PURSUING CLUES


"When do you expect Mr. Matthews?" Miss Ri asked the boy, who was
watching them curiously.

"Oh, not for a week or more. He told me to hold down the office till he
came, so I'm keeping the lid on the best I know how. I don't see any
papers marked for you, Miss Ri." He looked around on the shelves at
some dusty collections.

"No? Well, never mind; we can see about it later. Suppose we slip that
card and necktie back, Mr. Jeffreys? Thank you, Billy, for letting us
come up." Everyone in town was known to Miss Ri, as she was known to
everyone.

Once out in the street, Miss Ri gave voice to her conjectures. "Of
course, Mr. Jeffreys, we can be positive now, don't you think?"

"One might suppose so, only that I have been thinking I may have given
Matthews one of my cards which I chanced to have with me, and he has
stuffed it into his valise along with other things which may have
no connection with me whatever. I can't exactly believe it is proof
positive."

"But the cravat?"

"Almost anyone might have a blue spotted tie like that. No, Miss Hill;
I can't say I think it wise to jump at the conclusion."

"Oh, dear me, the masculine mind does work more deliberately than ours,
doesn't it? At all events, I think it is something to go on, if not
absolute proof. Let me see; first the trunk with the same initials,
next the cravat, then the card. One doesn't expect to meet three such
coincidences and gain no result, does one? Eliminate two, and you
still have one pretty good proof, I should say. What are you going to
do next, pending Berk's return? You surely don't mean to sit down and
twiddle your thumbs?"

"No, hardly. I think I will go up to the city and interview the express
people. If this is really my trunk, it may be superfluous to make the
trip, but it will give me something to do, and may bring about some
satisfactory conclusion."

"It isn't a bad move," returned Miss Ri. "You know the date, I suppose,
and no doubt they have some record."

"That is what I am hoping for. If I only knew the number, which they
must have marked on the trunk, it would help."

"How would it do to follow up Berk? You could probably find out where
the judge is going; it may be his family can tell. Suppose we stop by
and see what Mrs. Baker can tell us?"

But the Baker family were all in the city and that clue was dropped.
Then the two returned to Miss Ri's and bethought themselves of getting
Berkley on the telephone, but this, too, failed. He had been to
the hotel, in a certain little town, which they called up, but had
departed. Where was he going next? "Couldn't say."

"That clips off one thread," said Miss Ri, putting down the receiver.
"You'd better go to town, after all. It will keep you occupied, and it
is always a relief to be doing something, when one must wait. You'd get
there quicker by taking the train, but the boat is cheaper, and I don't
know that you would gain anything by starting earlier, for it would be
too late to accomplish anything if you did get in this evening. You'll
report progress, of course, when you get back?"

"Surely."

Miss Ri watched him depart, and then sat for a long time pondering
over the situation. Why should she interest herself in a stranger? And
supposing it were so that he found his papers and proved his claim,
mightn't that mean loss to Linda; or if not to her, to someone they all
had known as a neighbor? It might possibly be Talbot's Angles. No, that
couldn't be, thought Miss Ri, for everyone knows it belonged to Jim
Talbot and his father before him. Well, it is all very puzzling, and
Linda may yet have her chance. Grace is just the silly kind of pretty
woman to attract some blind bat of a man. There comes my girlie; I must
tell her all the news. "It's the greatest comfort in the world to have
someone in the house I can gossip to," she said as Linda entered. "I
don't know what I did before you came."

"Stepped out the back way to Miss Parthy."

"Yes, that is just what I did; but fond as I am of Parthy Turner, there
are subjects I would rather not discuss with her, to say nothing of the
plague of finding a man in the way whenever I go over there nowadays.
Tired, are you?"

"Not so very. If I am half the comfort to you that you are to me, Aunt
Ri, I am very glad."

"So we are mutually satisfied; that is good. Lie down there on the sofa
till dinner is ready, and I'll tell you what I've been doing."

Linda obeyed, and Miss Ri gave an account of the pursuit of clues,
ending up with, "Now, what do you think of it?"

"I think it is very remarkable, to say the least, and I am inclined to
believe with you that the trunk Berk bought is really Mr. Jeffreys'.
Aunt Ri, do you suppose Berk could have found that out? I don't see why
he shouldn't have made the discovery as soon as he opened it, in which
case I think he ought to have notified Mr. Jeffreys at once."

"My dear, I don't for a moment think that of Berk. He is too honest and
straightforward, and besides, what would be his object?"

"I don't know; yet, if he removed the papers, how could he help seeing
whose they were? They must have been marked in some way to identify
them."

"I don't believe he noticed them at all."

"Wouldn't you have done so?"

"I am a woman, and a woman always notices details more quickly than a
man. Don't be suspicious, Verlinda."

"I'm not; but I can't help conjecturing."

"It isn't worth while to do even that till the two come back. We will
nab Berk as soon as he gets here and have it settled. I don't know
when anything so exciting has occurred in this town, and to think it
concerns you, too. We mustn't let it get out, or the whole place will
be agog. That young man is right to keep his affairs to himself."

But in spite of Miss Ri's intention to nab Berkley Matthews as soon
as he returned, that opportunity was not accorded her, for though she
called up his office daily, he arrived one evening and was off again
the next day, unfortunately making his call at Miss Ri's when neither
she nor Linda was at home. Mrs. Becky Hill had come to town and had
carried off Miss Ri, willy-nilly, to look at a horse which Mrs. Becky
thought of buying. When Miss Ri returned from the five-mile drive,
Phebe met her at the door, saying, "Mr. Matthews done been hyar whilst
yuh away, Miss Ri. He lef' a note on de table in de settin'-room."

Miss Ri was reading the note when Linda came in. "Now isn't this hard
luck?" exclaimed the older woman. "Becky came in this afternoon and
nothing would do but I must be dragged off to Hillside to see about a
horse she has an idea of buying. She wanted my advice, as if I were a
horse-dealer and spent my time looking in horses' mouths to count their
teeth."

"Didn't you have a pleasant drive? It is a lovely day," returned Linda.

"Oh, it was pleasant enough; I really enjoyed it, but it made me miss
Berk Matthews. Here's a note from him saying he was sorry not to find
us at home and that he is going off duck-shooting down the bay. Isn't
that provoking?"

"It surely is. Does he say anything about the trunk?"

"Not a syllable."

"Nor when he will be back?"

"Not a word. Here read for yourself."

Linda took the hastily-scribbled note, written in the rather cramped,
lawyer-like handwriting which she had come to know as Berkley's:

 "Sorry not to see you. Am off for some duck-shooting. I will bring a
 brace to you and we'll eat them together, allowing Linda the bones to
 pick.

                                "In haste,
                                                        "BERK."

That was all.

"It sounds very like Berk," said Linda, "and it doesn't seem possible
that he could be keeping away on purpose. Mr. Jeffreys will be very
much disappointed, I am afraid."

"Of course, it is not on purpose. What an idea, Verlinda! All the men
go duck-shooting this time of year; it's about all the amusement they
get in this part of the world. You wouldn't deprive him of it?"

"Yes, I would; for I don't like even ducks to be killed. However, I
suppose it is inevitable."

"Of course it is inevitable while ducks fly over the waters of the bay.
For my part, I like to see the lads go off in their shooting clothes,
with their dogs and their guns. Ducks can't live forever, and if we
don't eat them, something else will."

"If they were all killed outright, I shouldn't care so much; for, of
course, they are intended for food, but I can't bear to think of their
only being wounded and of their suffering, perhaps, for days."

"You have too tender a heart, Verlinda, for a girl who has been brought
up in a hunting community."

"Perhaps that is the very reason; because I have seen something of what
it means to the poor ducks. Have you seen Mr. Jeffreys? He was to have
returned this morning."

"No, I haven't seen him. I'll call up Parthy and find out if he has
returned. If he has, I'll ask her to send him over."

"Do you want to do that?"

"Why not?"

Linda did not give any reason, and Miss Ri went to the 'phone. Mr.
Jeffreys himself answered it, and promised to come over immediately.

He was met by the question: "What report?"

"Not much of any account. I went to see the express people," he told
them, "and they admitted that there were such things as drunken drivers
who might hand over orders to others who, in turn, would maybe deliver
a trunk to the wrong place; that had sometimes happened. And if the
trunk were not marked, or if the tag were torn, there would be little
chance of its reaching the proper owner, unless he held the express
company's receipt. So I came away with nothing more than a warning not
to trust any but the regular expressmen, and that is about all the
satisfaction I could get."

"Too bad!" declared Miss Ri. "And now, I suppose you know Berk is off
duck-shooting, and that is another delay for you."

"Yes, I heard about that. I went to the hotel, but couldn't very well
ask to be allowed to break into his room, where the trunk probably is;
and Billy would think me a most suspicious character, if I asked for
a second view of the valise. I am beginning to think that, after all,
we have made a mistake, and that he has not my property at all, or he
surely would have notified me."

"It does look that way, and it is very provoking to be kept in
suspense. I will tell you what I will do. If you can't get into Berk's
room, I can. I know the proprietor of the Jackson House, and his
wife, as well; so I am sure I can manage. I'll make an effort this
very afternoon. Berk won't mind when I tell him and he learns it was
in a good cause. I will bring away a pile of stockings to mend, and
that will be an excellent excuse. I can make a strict examination of
the trunk and bring you an accurate description, so if there are any
identifying marks, I can tell you. How will that do?"

"Miss Hill, you are a miracle of ingenuity. That is a great scheme."

Miss Ri looked up at the clock. "It isn't so late. I believe I will go
now. No time like the present. You can stay here with Linda till I get
back. I won't be long."

"Isn't she wonderful?" said Mr. Jeffreys, looking after the stout
figure admiringly. "She is so direct, and so initiative. A woman like
that is a friend worth having. I liked her from the moment I saw her
out in this old garden."

Linda warmed to the praise of her friend. She was somewhat annoyed at
Berkley's readiness to allow other matters to interfere with his visits
to the house, and with his attention to Mr. Jeffreys' affairs. She felt
sorry for the young man who, like herself, was lonely and bereft. She
was too tender-hearted not to show sympathy for anyone so unfortunate,
and she was very gentle in her manner toward him, so the two sat
there talking of those personal things which draw those with similar
interests together, and Miss Ri's absence seemed a very short one.

She came in flushed and panting from a rapid walk, a bundle of
stockings, done up in newspaper, under her arm, and in her hand a bit
of paper which she laid triumphantly on the table. It was getting
dark, and she called for lights, as she threw aside her wraps. "Find
the matches, Verlinda, and get Mr. Jeffreys to light the gas. I really
think I have found something worth while."

While Linda was searching for the matches, Mr. Jeffreys had taken the
bit of paper to the window and was examining it by the waning light. He
came back to take the matches from Linda's hand and to say, "Miss Hill,
I really think you have brought me proof positive."

"Wait till we get a light," she returned.

Another moment furnished this, and then, under the lighted chandelier,
he showed them the paper, a piece of a tag from which more than half
had been torn. That remaining showed but four letters, though they were
enough. "You see here," said Mr. Jeffreys, "on this first line was W.
B. Jeffreys. The W. B., in my handwriting, remains. On the second line
was Sandbridge, of which the S alone is left. The third line showed
Md., and you see not quite all of the M. I would swear to it in any
court."

"Which will not be necessary, as no doubt you have the trunk key and
can describe the contents."

"Tell us how you managed, Aunt Ri," urged Linda.

"Well, first I hunted up Mrs. Beall, told her I wanted to get some
of Berk's socks to mend in order to surprise him; so she told the
chambermaid to open his room for me. I hunted out the holey socks and
then I turned my attention to the trunk. There it sat with its J. S. D.
as plain as day. It was locked and, of course, I couldn't get at the
inside; but on one of the handles I saw this piece of tag hanging, so I
took it off and brought it away. Of course, I examined it and came to
my own conclusions, which were the same as yours, Mr. Jeffreys. So now,
let me congratulate you. Since there seems no doubt but that you have
found your trunk, the waiting for Berk will not be so trying."

"I congratulate you, too," added Linda, holding out her hand.

"Thank you," replied the young man, taking Miss Ri's proffered hand
rather than Linda's, and then turning somewhat confusedly to examine
again the piece of paper.

But, as if to make up for this seeming rudeness, for the next few days
he was rarely absent from the house when Linda was there. He was at the
gate when she started forth to school; he was at the corner to join her
when she came home. Supper was scarcely over before his step was heard
upon the porch, and if there was no open love-making, there was at
least a sufficient show of interest to make the girl feel that no word
of hers passed unnoticed.

"I believe the man is falling in love with you," averred Miss Ri
bluntly, when he left them one evening; "if he is not already there."

Linda flushed, but replied steadily: "You must remember that I am a
relative, and naturally he turns to me for sympathy and advice. The
poor fellow has neither mother nor sister, and, of course--"

"Take care, Verlinda. That 'poor fellow' sounds very dangerous. You
know what pity is akin to."

But Linda did not reply. She turned out the light by the piano,
busied herself in straightening the room, and then, kissing Miss Ri
good-night, went directly upstairs. She stood a long time before her
mirror, thoughtfully gazing at the reflection she saw there, and after
she had turned out her light, she went to the window which opened upon
the back garden, looking across to where a twinkling beam shone out
from Miss Parthy's house. "It is rather nice to have a new cousin," she
said to herself, as she drew down the shade again and turned to open a
window further away from her bed.

On the other side of the entry, Miss Ri, in her room, was frowning and
saying savagely to herself: "Maria Hill, you are an idiot. It is just
like you to be carried away by some new excitement, never looking far
enough ahead to discover what it is all leading to. I say you are an
idiot, and you are not the only one, if the truth were known."



CHAPTER XI

A NEWSPAPER


Linda, though spontaneous enough in ordinary matters like most Southern
girls, was reticent when it came to those things which touched her
most nearly. She was but fifteen when her mother died; her sisters,
older than herself, had passed out of her life before she had really
known them well. The elder had married and had died within a year, the
younger, Linda remembered only as a delicate girl, who was too frail to
go so far as town to school, and who one day was covered with flowers
and was borne to the little churchyard. So at the very time Linda had
needed someone to whom to give her confidences she had only her older
brother, Martin, a busy man, and one who could hardly sympathize with
her youthful fancies, her flights of imagination, however kind he
might be. Therefore because she must have some outlet for her fanciful
thoughts she began to scribble, for her own pleasure at first, later
with the hope that she might one day write something worth publishing.
It was not till she had taken up her abode with Miss Ri that she did
timidly send forth some little verses, very doubtful of their finding
a place in the columns of the newspaper to which she sent them.

Time went on and she had heard nothing of her small venture, but one
Saturday morning, having gone to the school-house for some book she
needed, she stopped at the postoffice for the mail, forestalling the
postman who could deliver it later.

On the threshold she met Berk Matthews. "Why, hallo, Linda," he
exclaimed. "Haven't seen you for a month of Sundays."

"And whose fault is that, I'd like to know," she answered.

"Whose fault? Why, the ducks, of course. I didn't have any luck and am
going out again. By the way when did you turn poet?"

Linda paled, flushed, looked down nervously, shuffled the letters and
papers she held. "What do you mean?" she asked at last.

"There's only one Verlinda Talbot, isn't there? Unless someone has
borrowed your very pretty and unusual name. Look at this." He thrust
his hand into his coat pocket and drew forth a paper, opened the sheet
and pointed out the following:

THE MARCHING PINES

  Up from the hill-slope and over the ridge
  An army is coming of marching pines.
  The cloud-shadows lurking, lie low on the bridge
  Wrought out by the moonbeams in delicate lines.

  They march from the meadow land over the snow
  With bayonets pointed, a solid phalanx,
  Save where, on their outlying edges, they show
  A few timid stragglers who've broken the ranks.

  And down in the field, set in orderly rows
  Are wigwams, one sees by the light of the moon.
  Hark! Hark! Does a war-whoop discover the foes?
  From out of the marsh comes the laugh of a loon.

                                Verlinda Talbot.

"Here, let me take your things," said the young man gently as he
perceived by her shaking hands and changing color that she was
agitated. He watched her read the lines through and as she raised sweet
questioning eyes, he bit his lip and drew in his breath quickly and
sharply. "I like it, Linda," he said as she folded the paper and handed
it back to him. "How did you manage to do it? I am as proud as can be
of you."

"Are you really, Berk? That is very nice of you. To think you saw it
before I did. Why I didn't even know they were going to print it."

"You didn't? Then I'm the discoverer. I'm proud of that, too. Very
likely you will find a copy of the paper in your mail. Are they paying
you well for it?"

"Oh, no, I don't think they pay at all. I don't expect that. I am paid
sufficiently by seeing it in print this time. Perhaps--some day--if I
keep on--"

"You will be a great writer."

"Oh, never that, but I may be able to write something worth while. I
long to."

"And give up teaching? You don't like teaching."

"I don't believe I do very much."

"Yet I hear good accounts of you."

"Really, Berk?"

"Certainly I do. Mr. Willis told me you were very satisfactory, and had
broken in your class so they trotted along without a break."

"I think we do get along better," Linda acknowledged a little
dubiously, "and I believe the small boys do begin to like me more than
they did, at least some of them do."

"All of them will in time, I am sure."

"You're a nice encouraging friend, Berk. Is this where we part?"

"Yes, I have an appointment with Judge Morris this morning. Good-by.
Tell Miss Ri I'll be around soon."

He gave the budget into her hands, raised his hat and entered the
little one-storied building at the side of whose door were signs
denoting the calling of those whose offices were within, lawyers all,
two judges among them.

The trees over-arching the long street had lost most of their leaves,
but the river was as blue as ever, and the gardens still held late
blooms. A tall cosmos peeped over the fence of one, chrysanthemums
made a brave showing in another. A few courageous nasturtiums started
brilliantly from amid their yellowing leaves, scarlet salvia shot
out myriads of little tongues of flame before almost every house.
The streets were quite full of people this Saturday morning. Country
vehicles, mud-stained, and in many cases rickety and drawn by shabby
mules, jostled more pretentious teams. Lolling darkies singing some
monotonous camp-meeting hymn, drove their brick carts to a new building
which was going up near by. Dogs were seen everywhere, some at the
heels of the young men who, in hunting attire, were making ready to
start out for a day's shooting, some lying on the porches ready to
bark at any passer-by, some sportively chasing one another up and down
the street, playfully catching at the long silky ear of a companion,
or rolling him over and over, then off again in hot chase. One or two
thrust their cold noses into Linda's hand as she passed them, and with
wagging tail received her caress and "Nice doggie" as something not
only expected but deserved. The air was soft, sweet and languorous,
for Indian summer was here and the days still held suggestions of the
earlier season.

Linda turned in at the gate leading to Miss Ri's house, and pushing
her feet through the drift of crisp leaves which covered the gravelled
walk, enjoyed the exhilaration of the hour. She was buoyant, hopeful,
really happy. Life was opening up wonderful possibilities. The music
of the spheres was hers. She read the spirit of the universe in each
dancing leaf, in each scarlet flower-flame.

Seeing Phebe at the back of the house she ran around to her. The old
woman raised herself ponderously from where she was spreading her
dish-towels on the grass. "Do you like it here? Are you happy, Mammy?"
asked Linda.

"Jes listen to de chile," exclaimed Mammy. "Is I happy? I done got
'ligion long ago, honey, and I ain't back-slid fo' many a ye'r. Co'se I
is happy. I ain't shoutin' but I ain't mo'nin', an' I hopes I ain't lak
dese young things dat hollers hallelujah at nights and steals from de
madam in de mawnin'. Co'se I is happy long as mah baby ain't down in de
mouf. Yuh sutt'nly looks peart, honey, an' bless mah Lord an' Marster
dat I kin say it. Whar all yo' beaux, honey chile?"

Linda laughed. "Oh, they'll be around after a while."

Mammy chuckled and Linda entering by the back door, after some
searching, at last found Miss Ri upstairs looking over the house linen.

"Well, Verlinda, you have a fine color," said the lady looking up. "It
does you good to get out into the fresh air. Any news up town?"

"I met Berk."

"You did? What did he say about the trunk?"

Linda stopped in the act of tearing the wrapper from a newspaper she
held. "Aunt Ri, I declare I never said a word to him about it. Never
once did it enter my mind."

"Verlinda Talbot! I can scarce believe that. What were you talking
about to make you forget it?"

Linda finished freeing the paper from its wrapper. Her eyes were
downcast, and the flush lingered in her cheeks; a smile played around
her lips. "This," she answered holding out the paper on which her
verses were printed.

Miss Ri adjusted her spectacles, read the lines, laid the paper aside
and took the girl's hands in hers. "You dear, sentimental child," she
said, "I am proud of you."

"That is what Berk said," returned Linda with a little pleased smile.

"Did he? Well, he may be. Why, my dear, we shall all be proud of you,
the whole town. We must have you in the club; you will be an ornament
to it."

Linda fairly laughed at this. "One meagre little set of verses will not
give more than a rushlight's beam," she answered, "even in Sandbridge,
Aunt Ri. But maybe I shall be a real shining light some day. Anyhow it
is great fun."

"Of course it is to those who can do it. I couldn't to save me."

"And, you see, in the excitement of the discovery, the reason of my
forgetting the trunk. Please don't tell Mr. Jeffreys that I have seen
Berk; he will think me a very indifferent cousin if he knows."

"What did Berk have to say besides mentioning that he was proud of you?"

"He said he had no luck shooting and that he was going out again. I
imagine he has been pretty busy, but he said I was to tell you he'd be
around soon."

"Ducks or no ducks?"

"The ducks weren't mentioned."

"Well, he'd better come if he knows what is good for him. Here is your
other swain heading this way. Go down and see him and keep the trunk
out of the conversation when I am around or I might forget myself and
tell on you. I think you'd better take him off somewhere if you want to
be quite safe. It's a fine day to be out of doors."

"We can sit on the porch or go out on the river," responded Linda as
she left the room.

She felt a little diffident about showing her newspaper to her visitor,
but, reflecting that Miss Ri would be sure to speak of it, she decided
to have the matter over with, and at once displayed her verses. If
Mr. Jeffreys did not openly express the same appreciation that Berkley
had done he was at least as effusive as Linda expected, being at no
time a person who showed ardent enthusiasm. His call was not a long
one, for Linda felt a little ill at ease, condemning herself for having
forgotten a thing so important to him, and in consequence she was not
able to talk of his affairs with the same show of interest, a fact
which he, however, attributed to her excitement over the printing of
her verses.

As the two walked to the gate together they saw Berkley drive by with a
friend. Both men were equipped for hunting, and from between Berkley's
knees looked out the intelligent face of a fine brown setter who was
all a-quiver with the prospect in view.

Mr. Jeffreys gave a sudden call after the buggy, but checked himself
directly, turning to Linda with an air of apology. "I should not
have done that, but I was carried away by my interest in seeing Mr.
Matthews. I didn't know he was in town."

"He is going off with Elmer Dawson, evidently," rejoined Linda, looking
after the buggy.

"And there is no telling when he will return. The fates are against me,
Miss Linda."

"You certainly are having a lesson in patience," Linda admitted. "Never
mind, Mr. Jeffreys, the case won't suffer by reason of delay. Why
don't you write a note to Mr. Matthews?" she asked suddenly catching at
the idea. "Tell him you think he has happened upon your trunk, describe
it, and ask him to let you see it. You must remember his attention has
not been called to it yet, and he hasn't a notion that you are in a
state of suspense."

"Unless he has examined the contents."

"Which he may or may not have done. At all events, you will have the
satisfaction of knowing that you have brought the subject to his
notice. He seems such a difficult person to get at these days that it
might be as well to write."

"Thank you for the suggestion; it might not be a bad idea. I will
go home and think it over." He lifted his hat and Linda watched him
thoughtfully walking down the street. "If Berk does know it is pretty
mean of him," she said to herself, and she voiced the opinion to Miss
Ri when she went indoors.

"It is mighty mean if he really knows it, and it almost seems as if
he must," agreed Miss Ri. "One might almost think he was doing it on
purpose, if it were not really a serious matter. Berk is something of a
tease, you know. I'll call him up to-night and tell him to come and get
his socks. He doesn't deserve to have me mend them, the rascal."

But Mr. Matthews was not at the hotel, came the news over the 'phone
that evening. Neither did he appear on Sunday. On Monday it was learned
that he had returned but was at Court when Mr. Jeffreys tried to see
him. The day went by and there was no response to the note Mr. Jeffreys
mentioned having written.

"It begins to look very queer," said Miss Ri soberly when Monday
had passed and no Berkley appeared. "I'm beginning to lose faith,
Linda, and that is something I have never done before where Berk was
concerned. He can't want to steal such a paltry thing as a trunk."

"Perhaps to his legal mind it is his own property since he bought it,"
remarked Linda in excuse.

"But there are the papers."

"True, there are the papers. He has no right to them. Dear me, my head
fairly buzzes with trying to account for it. I wish we had never heard
of Wyatt Jeffreys and his old trunk. Why did he come here to disturb
our peace?"

"It certainly is queer for Berk to act so," continued Miss Ri, "and the
queerest part of the whole business to me is that he has not been near
us for two weeks."

"He did come, you remember, that day you went to the country with Mrs.
Becky."

"Yes, I had forgotten that."

"And he was as nice and friendly as could be the day I met him at the
postoffice."

"But he hasn't sent us those ducks," contended Miss Ri.



CHAPTER XII

A BRACE OF DUCKS


The very next morning after this talk Wyatt Jeffreys met Berkley
Matthews on the street just outside the Jackson House. "Hallo," cried
the latter. "Just have your note. I've been staying with John Emory,
and we've been off ducking so I didn't get my mail till this morning.
It certainly would be a good joke if I had captured your trunk. Suppose
you come and have a look at it, and if you identify it, of course you
shall have it without delay. Come up to my room."

As Mr. Jeffreys followed the springing step all suspicion fled. Once
in the room the trunk was easily recognized. "There were some papers,"
said Mr. Jeffreys.

"Oh, yes, they are over at my office. I had to get a locksmith to open
the trunk for me, and he had to put on a new lock, as you see. I took
out the clothing over here, sent the trunk across the way, dumped out
the papers in a valise without looking at them, and there they are. You
can get them any time."

"I'd like you to go over them with me when you have time, Matthews."

"Very well. Just now I am a little rushed, but we can take it up later
when I get this case through I am now at work upon. In the meantime I
will see that you get the trunk and the rest of the things. I'll try
to get them off this afternoon. I am certainly glad I happened to take
a fancy to your trunk, but what a queer coincidence it is. I never
associated it with you at all. Those initials, J. S. D. would have
misled me in any event. I told Miss Ri they stood for Judge Some Day,
and I think they are about the only part of the trunk I feel loth to
give up."

Mr. Jeffreys smiled. It was like a sentimental Southerner, he thought.
Then, after some discussion about cost of transportation and all that,
the matter was settled to the satisfaction of both.

With the delivery of the trunk came the ducks, not inside the trunk,
of course, for that contained everything which was in it at the time
of Berkley's first possession, everything except the papers. The trunk
was brought to Miss Parthy's by an old colored man picturesquely
antique both as regarded his costume and himself. Uncle Moke everyone
called him, his real name of Moses having fallen into disuse so long
before that no one remembered it. He was general factotum around
town and a trusty messenger. He had delivered his first charge at
Miss Parthy's door, and then was ready for Miss Ri. Nothing pleased
him more than such an errand. "Evenin' Miss Ri," said the old fellow
with many a bow and scrape, his ragged hat in his hand. "Mr. Berk
Matthews' compliments, Miss Ri, an' dese yer ducks, Miss. He say he
hopes yuh-alls have 'em fo' suppah, an' he be 'long 'bout seben fo' to
he'p yuh-alls eat 'em," the last with a little chuckle of pleasure at
delivering such a message.

"Very well, Uncle Moke," returned Miss Ri, taking the ducks. "Whether I
have them for supper or not is my look out, you tell Mr. Berk."

"Dey nice fat ducks," remarked Uncle Moke with the privilege of an old
acquaintance.

"I see they are."

"Yuh got some cu'ant jelly, is yuh, Miss Ri? Ef yuh ain't mah ole woman
got a little she kin spare yuh."

"I know Aunt Welcome's jelly is good, Uncle Moke, but I reckon I have
enough for some time to come. How is your wife?"

"She thes tollable, Miss Ri."

"And you?"

"I thes tollable. I has mis'ry in mah j'ints f'om de rheumatiz dese
col' days. I kin skeerce tote de rale heavy trunks. Dat one I thes now
taken to Miss Parthy's fo' de strange young man wa'n't de heavy kin'."

"Did you take a trunk to Miss Parthy's for Mr. Jeffreys?"

"Yas'm. Mr. Berk he done sont it f'om de hotel. Little weenchy trunk,
kinder old-fashion."

"Um-hm," said Miss Ri, nodding her head. "So that's done. Have you good
warm flannels, Uncle Moke?" Miss Ri looked him over, perceiving the
shabbiness of his attire, ragged shirt, threadbare trousers.

"I ain't had time to buy no winter flannins yet, Miss Ri," responded
the old man with a pride that forbade giving the real reason.

"Well, you stop by to-morrow," said Miss Ri. "I shouldn't in the least
wonder if there were some things in the house that you could wear, and
there is no use to buy anything when I'd be glad to get rid of some
underwear that I have on hand."

"Thanky, ma'am, thanky." The bowing and scraping were continued to a
degree. "I sholy is obleedged to yuh, Miss Ri. It save me a lot o'
bother. I nuvver was no han' at buyin' flannins, and Welky she don' git
about much."

Miss Ri watched him stiffly mount his creaking wagon drawn by a scrubby
mule, then she went in with the ducks. "Well," she announced, "here
they are at last. Don't let me forget, Verlinda, to hunt up some things
for Uncle Moke, and if I haven't anything I must buy some. The poor old
soul hasn't enough to keep him warm. I don't suppose he makes a great
deal these days, for the younger and stronger men are employed where
he used to be. He is not able to carry heavy burdens. By the way, the
trunk seems to have been delivered, too. Aren't you curious to hear the
report. Berk, the impudent boy, sent word he was coming over to help
eat the ducks, and wouldn't we please to have them for supper to-night.
Isn't that just like him? He does not deserve to be treated decently
after the way he has neglected us, but I suppose we shall have to be
nice to him as long as he has sent us the ducks." She went on to the
kitchen to see Phebe about supper of which she was ready enough to make
a true feast.

True to his promise, Berkley arrived promptly for supper. "You
renegade," cried Miss Ri. "We were beginning to think all manner of
evil about you."

"You were? I didn't expect that of you. What have I done?"

"You have neglected us abominably."

"It does look that way, but I really couldn't help it. I had a tough
week of it off with Judge Baker, and then to limber up my brain I took
a little outing with some of the boys. We all went down to John Emory's
little shack. Didn't I send you the first fruits of my chase? I hope
Unc' Moke understood he was to leave the ducks here, and that he didn't
take them to Miss Parthy's."

"They came safely enough, and our thanks are ready. We accept your
excuses since they seem moderately reasonable, don't we, Verlinda?"

She smiled her response and came forward to greet the young man.

"And how goes the school? Does the verse-making continue?" he asked
looking down with interest showing in his eyes.

"The school hasn't finished me yet, and the verses," she blushed a
little, "go spasmodically. I haven't sent out any more effusions."

"You must do it. Aren't we proud of her, Miss Ri? Oh, did you hear
that the trunk had been found, and that mine was the great mind that
happened to realize its value?"

"It was accident, pure accident," cried Miss Ri. "Your great mind had
nothing to do with it. You have sent it back to the owner?"

"Yes, worse luck. I wanted to keep it on account of the letters upon
it. Now I have nothing to cheer me in my despondent moments. It was
quite a fillip to my ambitions to see those letters. I don't know where
I shall get another mascot."

"What of the papers?" asked Linda.

"Oh, we haven't come to those yet; they are at my office, and there
they will stay till Jeffreys and I can look them over. Ducks ready?
Good! May I escort you, Miss Ri. Will you take my other arm, Linda?"
They marched solemnly to the dining-room. For some reason Berkley
was suddenly subdued and was so long in taking the initiative in the
carving of the ducks that Miss Ri spoke up. "Where are your thoughts,
Berk?" Then he picked up the wrong knife and fork in confusion and
laughed a little nervously.

But though the ducks were done to a turn, and everything was as it
should be, Berkley was distrait and ill at ease all the evening, though
he stayed quite as late as usual and went off with a jest.

The door had no sooner closed behind him than Miss Ri turned to Linda
to say. "I can't think what is the matter with Berk. Did it strike you
that he was embarrassed and unlike himself."

"I did think so, but put away the thought as coming from my own vain
imaginings. What do you suppose is the matter?"

"I should say it was one of two things; either he is in love or there
is something in those papers that is bothering him. I wonder if, after
all, it was his mother whom he was so eager to see in the city. I'm
beginning to get suspicious."

"But about the papers; what could be in them?"

"That is just what I don't know, but I'm going to find out. I have a
deal of thinking to do, Verlinda, my dear. Go to bed and let me puzzle
out a few things. Berk said he had seen Grace Talbot, didn't he?" Linda
paused, her foot on the stair. "Yes, he spoke of her, said she was
looking unusually well." Then a little laugh rippled out. "You don't
imagine he has fallen in love with Grace, do you?"

"Some men are fools enough to do anything," returned Miss Ri crossly.

"Then, of course, you don't get mad with such," vouchsafed Linda. Then
she turned, a slim graceful figure in trailing black, and came swiftly
up to Miss Ri. "You dear old thing," she said, "you mustn't get notions
in your head like that; it doesn't make any difference; nothing makes
very much difference. Suppose he should marry Grace, then I'd have
Talbot's Angles."

"And I'd lose you," returned Miss Ri ruefully. "Are you sleepy? No?
Come in then, and let's talk over people and things."

"Let's leave out Berkley and Grace."

"Very well, we'll talk of your new cousin. By the way, if Berk has
examined those papers he must know the relationship. Possibly that is
just what is the matter."

"I don't think so, besides, I had the impression that he had not looked
at them. But we weren't going to talk of Berk, you know. Tell me
plainly, what do you think of my new cousin?"

[Illustration: "YOU DON'T IMAGINE HE HAS FALLEN IN LOVE WITH GRACE, DO
YOU?"]

"I think he is an out and out Yankee. Clever enough in some directions,
rather whimsical, deadly afraid you will find out what he is thinking
about, frightfully cautious of showing his feelings, with a
conscience which worries him because his inclination isn't always
to follow it exactly, wherein he differs from another who follows
his impulses, and whose impulses are always generous ones. Your Mr.
Jeffreys sits down and pros and cons for hours. Someone, whose name we
don't mention, plunges out, impelled by an unselfish motive, and does
the thing that the other deliberates over. Yet I won't say the cousin
doesn't do fine honorable things once he makes up his mind it is right.
Very likely he rises to his heights by a different process, and doesn't
ever make the mistake of over zeal, of going at too brisk a pace like
the unmentioned sometimes does. What the latter does is with his whole
heart. I think he might almost perjure himself for one he loved; I know
he would cheerfully die in the same cause."

Linda, leaning with elbows on table, thoughtfully tapped one hand with
an ivory paper-cutter. "You are analytical, Aunt Ri, but probably you
are right. Yet, after all if a man, through evolutions of reasoning,
reaches a point where his conscience bids him do a noble deed, isn't
he just as much to be approved as he who rushes out, never asking for
reasons, and does a like noble thing? And isn't he more to be approved
than the man who sacrifices his integrity, or does a wrong thing for
love's sake?"

"Oh, yes, I don't doubt it though it depends largely upon one's view of
the case. For my part I admire the spontaneous, intrepid man more than
the deliberate one, but that is a matter of preference."

"Which do you think would be the easier to live with?" Linda balanced
the paper-cutter on the tips of her fingers. "Wouldn't the impetuous
man be more difficult, more trying, for the very reason of his
impetuosity?"

"Yes, but he'd be vastly more entertaining, to my mind, because of his
uncertainty."

"In perjuring himself, for example?"

"Oh, we needn't go so far as that, Verlinda. A really good man would
never go so far unless--"

"Unless?"

"He felt the cause for which he criminated himself was a greater thing
than his own state of well-being. I can imagine certain men who would
sacrifice their immortal welfare for the sake of a sacred cause."

"And you think Berkley Matthews is like that?"

"No, I don't say so? I won't go so far in my estimate of him, though I
do say there are few things he wouldn't do for one he loved. But you
remember we were not to mention him."

"We don't appear to be doing much else. We are comparing him all the
time with Mr. Jeffreys whether we mention his name or not. I agree
with you in thinking Berk is capable of fine things, but so I believe
is Mr. Jeffreys."

"Berk has the tenderest of hearts," continued Miss Ri, "and he has
thoughtful little ways that please an elderly woman like myself. I
could but notice the difference when I was walking with Mr. Jeffreys.
Did he help me over a gutter, or up a steep curb? Not he. Not that I
wanted help, but it was the outward and visible sign of an inward and
spiritual grace that I missed. Berk watches out for your every step,
makes way for you, as it were. If he wore a Sir Walter Raleigh cloak
it would be mud from end to end so readily would he spread it for a
woman's feet to tread on. He may not have the tall and graceful figure
of your cousin, but he can bow like a courtier, and will stand with
his head uncovered in any weather rather than wear his hat in a lady's
presence."

"I have noticed all those things," admitted Linda. "So far, in your
opinion, his side of the scales tip far, far below my cousin's, but
then one must make allowances for your partiality. You've known Berk
since he was born. Perhaps Mr. Jeffreys' mother may have had just so
good an opinion of him."

"Being his mother she probably had. What have you to put in his side of
the scales?"

"Oh, good looks, a very dignified bearing, and a perfectly
well-trained conscience which wouldn't run away with him."

"You know I don't call that so desirable a quality as the impulsive
generosity."

"But I do, so if you leave your impulsive generosity in the scales, I
must have the well-trained conscience."

"Very well. Go on."

"Then, there's your mud-spattered cloak which I will balance with--let
me see--"

"You can't find anything to equal that," cried Miss Ri triumphantly.

"Oh, yes, I can. There is a certain beautiful dignity and a certain
indescribable charm; I don't know exactly wherein it lies, but it is
there. Bertie Bryan has discovered it, too, and very probably it has
not escaped you."

"I don't see it at all."

"There we are again, so you will have to take the courtesy and I'll
have the dignity and charm. I haven't a doubt but if we knew Mr.
Jeffreys better we should find a host of other things."

"He is not sympathetic in the way Berk is."

The paper-cutter was at work again. "No-o," Linda admitted, "he doesn't
seem to be, but perhaps he really is, inside."

"Then I don't see what use it is to anyone. Berk shows that quality in
his eyes. He has dear eyes, I think."

Linda neither affirmed nor denied though she suddenly remembered the
eager, tender look bestowed upon her that day in the postoffice when
she gave back the newspaper after reading her little poem in it. "We
certainly have discussed those two long enough," she said lightly. "How
their ears must burn. What next, Aunt Ri?"

"I've been thinking I'd like to get some facts for you from some other
source than Wyatt Jeffreys. There's our old family lawyer, Judge
Goldsborough, who was your family's lawyer as well. He retired from
active life long ago, and is a very old man now, but I believe he could
tell us things. He knew your grandfather and all that. Some day we will
go to see him. We'll make it an ancestral pilgrimage. He lives up in
the next county where his son has a fine estate. On the way we can take
in that old church where my grandparents were married; they were Roman
Catholics, you see, and I have always wanted to see that old church.
How do you like the idea of such a trip?"

"Immensely. You are very clever to have thought of it, Aunt Ri."

"Then some Saturday we will go. The judge will be delighted to see you,
and me, too, I am not too modest to say. He is a dear old man and,
though his memory is not what it was, the way back things are those
he remembers the best. Now go to bed. We've talked long enough. Go to
bed."



CHAPTER XIII

AN ANCESTRAL PILGRIMAGE


Miss Ri was not one to be dilatory when an idea once took possession of
her, and she therefore began planning at once for the trip to "Mary's
Delight," where Judge Goldsborough lived. It was a roundabout journey
involving several changes, if one went all the way by rail to the
nearest station, but was not nearly so far if one drove from Sandbridge
to the point where a train could be had which would go direct to the
little village of Mackenzie. Miss Ri finally decided upon the latter
course, naturally choosing a Saturday as being the day when Linda could
most easily leave. It was not a matter to be made secret, and Berkley
was consulted as to the best method of getting to the desired point.

"You'd better take the train from Boxford to Mackenzie," he told them.
"Of course you must drive from here to Boxford, and you would better
send word ahead to Mackenzie to have some sort of vehicle ready for you
there to take you to 'Mary's Delight,' unless you prefer to let the
Goldsboroughs know you are coming."

Miss Ri shook her head. "I think I'll let that go, and trust to luck,
for it might be a bad day which would prevent our going, and I don't
want them to make preparations, as they might do; besides we want to
stop at the old church, and I should prefer a hired team if we are to
do that."

"Very well, then, suppose I drop a line to Mackenzie, to the postmaster
there, he knows me, and I'll tell him two ladies are coming from
Sandbridge. He will do all he can for you. You can go right to the
postoffice, and then it will be plain sailing."

"You are a good thoughtful boy, Berk, to smooth our way so nicely,"
Miss Ri told him. "By the way," she added, "aren't you feeling well
these days? You seem so serious. Anything wrong?"

The young man flushed up and turned over some papers on his desk. They
were in his office where Miss Ri had stopped to consult him. "I'm all
right," he replied in reply. "Working a little hard, maybe. I must, you
know, if I want to get ahead."

"And that is why you don't drop in so often," returned Miss Ri. Then
after waiting a moment for the answer which did not come, she went on.
"Well, you know you are always welcome, Berk. I may bamboozle you, but
you know it is all talk. Come when you can and thank you very much for
straightening out this route. I did not want to go around the other
way and be all day getting there, spending half the time waiting at
stations to make connections."

"I find the most direct way is generally the best," he told her. "When
you want to go across country you'd better drive instead of depending
upon trains. Good luck to you, Miss Ri." And he turned to his desk as
she went out.

Saturday furnished all that anyone could ask in the way of weather.
It was almost too warm for the season, and a few clouds piled up in
the west, but it could not be a finer day, as everyone declared with
satisfaction, and the two travellers sat down to their morning meal in
happy anticipation of what was before them.

"We're going to have a lovely time, Verlinda," remarked Miss Ri. "The
judge will have some good tales for us, I know. I am sure he will
be interested to know you are a great-niece of the Verlinda Talbot
he used to know, and, if report speaks the truth, with whom he was
much in love, but like the gallant gentleman he was, when she married
someone else he made no sign though he was hard hit, and he was always
a devoted friend to her and to your grandfather. His son Dick isn't
unlike him. He has a nice wife and half a dozen children, some of
whom are grown up by now." She was silent for a little while and then
she said, with half a laugh and half a sigh, "I didn't expect to be
visiting Dick Goldsborough's house in my old age."

Linda looked up from the coffee she was sipping. "That sounds very much
as if there were a story, a romance hidden in your remark."

Miss Ri gave a little comfortable laugh. "Well, there was something
like it once."

"Oh, Aunt Ri, and you never told me. Were you--were you engaged to Mr.
Dick Goldsborough?"

"No-o. You see there were two of us, Julia Emory and I, and it seemed
hard for him to make up his mind which he liked best--but finally--he
did."

"Oh, dear Aunt Ri! And he married the other girl? Did it--were you--"

"Oh, yes, I was dreadfully cut up for a time, I can frankly say. The
first year I thought I'd die and wanted to; the second I was not averse
to living, though in a sort of twilight world; the third I was quite
glad to live; the fourth I wondered how I could ever have been such a
sentimental goose, and the fifth I thanked the Lord that I had escaped."

"Oh, Aunt Ri, Aunt Ri, you are dreadful."

"It is a fact, I can assure you, and I have been thankful ever since,
not that Dick isn't a fine man, for he is, but, dear me, he would never
have suited me, as I came to find out, and he suits Julia to a T. They
are as happy as two clams at high tide."

"Then that is why you never married."

"It probably had something to do with it, for during the two or three
years when I was wearing the willow came other chances which I didn't
take, and when I had reached the stage of thanking the Lord for my
escape my patient suitors had become impatient and had danced off to
those who, in their opinions, had better taste. But, Verlinda, bear
this truth in mind; I am still thanking the Lord. Come, if you have
finished we'll be off. I see Nichols has sent around the man with the
surrey; he is waiting outside."

The ride to Boxford over level shell roads would have been pleasant
enough with a less companionable person than Miss Ri, but she who knew
every house along the way had innumerable stories to tell, humorous,
pathetic, romantic, and the time seemed very short before they reached
the station from which they were to start on the second and more
commonplace stage of their journey which ended at Mackenzie. This was
a small settlement which appeared to consist of the station, a country
store, and a few houses straggling along an unpaved street which
stretched out into the country road, leading on and on indefinitely.
There were few people in sight; a half dozen darkies lounged around
the station, inside which the telegraph operator clicked away at his
transmitter industriously, some children played in the street further
up, but no one else was to be seen.

"Where do you suppose the postoffice is?" asked Miss Ri, looking
around.

"At the store in all probability," replied Linda.

"We'll go over and see."

But, contrary to their expectation, they found the postoffice was not
there but at the second house up the street. They could read the sign
outside, they were told.

Its location known, the place was easy enough to find; a small white
house, like any other of its type. The door was ajar and the travellers
entered to find themselves in a square enclosure, a door to their left,
and in front of them a box-like structure with a sort of window cut in
it. Before the window hung a calico curtain. From behind this curtain
presently appeared the head of a man.

"Good morning, ladies," the voice came with pleasant eagerness; "you're
the ladies from Sandbridge? Mr. Matthews wrote to me about you. Will
you just walk into the front room there, and take seats while I am
sorting the mail. I'll be with you as soon as it is distributed."

Linda opened the only door in sight, and the two entered a plainly
furnished room, which, however, provided two comfortable chairs, and in
these they seated themselves to wait the postmaster's leisure.

They were mistaken if they thought their arrival was the unimportant
matter it would seem to be, for, as the villagers began to come in,
each made some excuse to enter the room, the first leaving the door
ajar so the visitors could distinctly hear the postmaster, as he
handed out the mail, importantly informing his friends: "The ladies
from Sandbridge have come." So one after another made some pretext for
seeing the strangers. "Where can I get a match?" one would inquire.
"Oh, I've opened the wrong door," the next would say, while the third
showed his ardent curiosity simply and honestly by merely standing in
the doorway and beaming on the two ladies. Once or twice a salutation
was offered, though more often it was not.

The finale occurred when two little girls, with hair slicked tightly
back and braided in flaxen pigtails, appeared, each holding the hand
of a little boy with as shining a face as her own. Each little girl
grasped a large red apple, in one hand, taking frequent succulent
bites as she stared with round china-blue eyes at the strangers. The
little roly-poly boy stared quite as fixedly, but at the first question
addressed, the three fled, though Miss Ri and Linda could hear them
shrilly reporting their experiences to someone in the next room.

In due time the postmaster appeared. "You wanted a fix, ladies, I
believe. I meant to have gotten Jo Wilson's, but he's gone to his
wife's brother's funeral. Maybe I can get Tom Skinner's; I'll see. I
reckon a buggy will do, and you can drive yourselves. Going to the old
church, I hear."

"I don't think we can drive," spoke up Miss Ri. "We don't know the
road, in the first place, and in the second I don't care to drive a
strange horse."

The man looked quite taken aback; he had not counted on these
complications. "Now, that's too bad," he said. "I just depended on
Jo, you see, but funerals won't wait. I'll look around and find out
what we can do." He departed, leaving the two to be peeped at over the
window-sill by three pairs of china-blue eyes. Evidently the children's
curiosity was not yet satisfied.

"I feel as if I belonged to a menagerie," laughed Linda, "and as if
they'd be feeding me peanuts next."

Miss Ri laughed and beckoned to the children who incontinently took to
their heels.

After some time the postmaster returned saying he had been able to
get a buggy and a boy to drive it. He hoped the ladies wouldn't mind
sitting three on a seat; the boy wasn't so very big. It was the best he
could do; he hoped they would be comfortable and if it hadn't been for
Jo Wilson's wife's brother all would have been well.

If Linda had been of Miss Ri's proportions they would have found it a
tight squeeze, but the boy, as reported, was not very big, and they
assured the postmaster that they could manage. The lad evidently had
been gathered in hastily from the fields to don his Sunday best, and to
make such ablutions as consisted in clearing a circular expanse in the
center of his face, and then wiping his wet hands on his hair which was
still moist from the application. With many charges to the boy and with
many anxious queries as to the comfort of the strangers, the postmaster
at last sped them on their way, and before many miles were covered the
old church appeared dully through the trees. It had a decayed, unkempt
aspect even at a distance, and a nearer view showed it set amidst riots
of thorny bushes, and old trees, which had never been trimmed.

In what probably had been the priest's quarters in bygone days, they
found an old woman who lived there as care-taker. She hobbled to the
door to open to their knock, showing one foot swathed in bandages.
She was as unkempt as the rest of it, but was both surprised and
pleased to see visitors, and was ready to display to them remnants
of tawdry hangings, shrines from which the paint was scaling, and
in the dingy church, a company of dusty saints who looked out dimly
from altar and niche, bedecked with once garish but now faded and
discolored artificial flowers. Miss Ri gazed around with an expression
half contemptuous, half pitying. "And this is where my grandparents
worshipped. Poor dears, I hope it was better in their day."

"Oh, it was a fine church once," spoke up their guide, "but very few
comes to it now, and there's a service only once a month."

They were glad to escape out into the sunlight. The old woman led
the way back to her own quarters, discoursing all the time upon her
ailments and asking for remedies. Being thirsty after the drive Linda
begged for a glass of water, but when a brass thimble was fished out of
a murky tumbler before it was filled, she concluded that nothing would
induce her to drink it, and finally she made the excuse of speaking to
the boy outside, when she found an opportunity of emptying the glass
upon the grass.

This turning aside to visit the church had occupied some time, and it
was noon when they reached "Mary's Delight," a beautiful old place
bordering upon one of the many salt rivers which pierce Maryland's
eastern shore. A tall, grey-haired man met them at the gate to open to
them. "Howdy, Dick Goldsborough," cried Miss Ri.

"Of all things, Maria Hill," he responded. "Get right out. Well, this
is a surprise. This your niece?"

"An adopted one. This is Betty Dorsey's daughter, Verlinda Talbot."

"Is that so? You are doubly welcome, Miss Talbot, for your father's as
well as your mother's sake. I declare, Maria, this does take me back to
old times. Come right in and I'll see about your horse. Where did you
drive from?"

"We came up from Mackenzie. I wanted to see the old church, and the
little boy has been our driver."

"Well, we can send him back and you shall return in a more comfortable
way when you are ready to go. The boy must have some dinner. Just drive
around to the stable, my boy, and one of the men will fix you up.
You are going to make us a good visit, I hope, Maria. Father will be
perfectly charmed to see you, and so will Julia."

They were ushered into a fine hall with a noble staircase rising on
either side to the floor above. On one side the hall was a large room
with a great fireplace now filled with crackling logs, in spite of the
mildness of the day. Before the fire sat an old white-haired man who
rose at the entrance of visitors.

"Here's a surprise for you, Father," said the younger man, raising his
voice slightly. "Here is an old friend and the daughter of another.
Miss Ri Hill and Jim Talbot's daughter have come to see us."

The old gentleman's fine face brightened as he held out a slender frail
hand. "My dears, I am delighted, pleased beyond measure to see you.
Won't you come to the fire after your drive?"

"It is very mild out, Judge; we won't come too near," Miss Ri told him.

He waited till they were seated and then took his old place, looking
at first one then the other. Linda thought him charming with a nobly
intellectual head, hair white and fine as floss, waving thickly around
a face full of strength and sweetness, eyes both wise and kind, still
showing brilliancy. The rather high and prominent nose was saved from
coarseness by delicate nostrils, the mouth had not lost its shapeliness
nor the chin its firmness.

Before Linda had time for many words with the judge Mrs. Goldsborough
entered to welcome them warmly and to carry them upstairs to lay
aside their wraps. A white-curtained room exhibiting the beauty lent
by handsome old furniture and exquisite neatness was placed at their
disposal. The windows on one side looked out on the river, on the other
was obtained a view of fields and garden. A little negro boy chasing
chickens was the liveliest object in sight. It was quite necessary that
chickens be caught for a company dinner, as Linda well knew.

The children were all at school, Mrs. Goldsborough told them, all but
the eldest daughter who was in Baltimore where an aunt would chaperon
her in this her débutante season. The younger children had a governess
at home, the two older boys were at St. John's in Annapolis. Mrs.
Goldsborough, a very neat, still rather pretty woman, was graciousness
itself, and would fain have carried Miss Ri off for a long talk,
but that she must be down-stairs to oversee the rather inefficient
servants which the country supplied. So the visitors were handed over
to the judge and his son.

Miss Ri was not long in bringing the conversation around to where she
wanted it, and began her queries on the subject of the Talbot estates,
giving the judge her reasons for asking. With the intricacies of a
conjectural case in view the judge threw up his head like an old war
horse and declared his opinion. "Any flaw in the title to Jim Talbot's
property? Of course not. He was the eldest son as his father and
grandfather were before him. The home plantation was always left to
the eldest son. Madison Talbot bought Addition from his brother Cyrus
when he went west, I am sure of that. Talbot's Addition was what Cyrus
inherited from his father, while Madison had the Angles. Oh, I can't
make any mistake there. Anyone who claims the Angles can't have a shred
of proof. I've a lot of papers somewhere; I'll get them out, Maria, and
you shall hear from me. Dick, don't let me forget that. I think the
papers are in the old secretary in my office, but I am not sure; they
may have been moved. Who is this young man, Maria, who says he is the
great grandson of Cyrus Talbot? Let me see. Hm!" He put the tips of his
delicate fingers together and bent his gaze on the fire. "Cyrus had a
son who was killed in the War of 1812, I remember that, but this son
was unmarried. There was a daughter who went away with him."

"Lovina, wasn't it?"

"Yes, that was the name. I remember all that. You can't get me confused
when it comes to those old matters, Maria; it is what happened
yesterday that I forget. I'll look up those papers, however, and we
will see if there is any sort of complication. Dinner, did you say,
Julia? Maria, allow me. Dick, will you take out Miss Talbot?" And in
this stately and formal manner they were conducted to the dining-room
where was spread such a meal as one rarely sees except in just such
a house in just such a locality. A great platter of fried chicken
stood at one end of the table, a home-cured ham at the other, oysters,
numerous vegetables smothered in rich cream, homemade jellies, pickles
and sauces, the ever-present beaten biscuits, corn bread, wheat bread,
all were there, and at the last a dainty dessert served with thick
cream and pound cake.

The judge entertained them with many a tale of the days when he was
young, when Martin Talbot, Senior, and he were chums, when old Admiral
Hill used to sail over to Sandbridge from Annapolis to spend a holiday
in his old home and to stir the boys' young blood with his sea stories.

It was after dinner that Miss Ri had a chance to talk to the old man
in confidence and to tell him of Linda's misfortunes while he frowned
and shook his head and spoke of men who disgraced themselves and their
families by marrying beneath them, and at last he became so scornful
of "John Blair's people," that Miss Ri was glad Linda was not at hand
to hear. She was with the children and their pretty young governess out
in the little school-house where the day's lessons were had, and it was
only when she was sent for that she realized how happy a time she was
having.



CHAPTER XIV

TWO BUGGIES


It was with difficulty that the two visitors were able to take their
leave that afternoon, and only the promise to come again and stay
longer gave them liberty to go without hurting the feelings of these
old friends. The little lad from Mackenzie had been dismissed long
before, and it was Mr. Dick Goldsborough himself who insisted upon
setting them upon their way. The dear old judge stood on the porch to
wave a last farewell and to repeat his promise to look into the matter
of Talbot plantations.

Linda wondered how it must seem to Miss Ri to be driving behind the
horses of her former lover, himself holding the reins. She tried to
place herself in a like position but when she attempted to replace Mr.
Goldsborough in her mind with some other, two quite different persons
would appear, and she could decide on neither.

Instead of going around by the old church they took the shorter way to
the village which brought them to the borders of a stream where Mr.
Goldsborough left them to be ferried across, thus saving some miles
of travel. It was a very usual way of getting about in that part of
the country where waterways were so numerous. From the old church at
Talbot's Angles one could watch many of the congregation approaching
in boats from the opposite shore of the creek, and when, before an
approaching gale the tide would rise to cover the road, the little
boats would be rowed in through the gateway half way up the path that
they might land their passengers. It was therefore no novelty to be
transported to the upper end of the village by means of the little
boat, though it involved a walk down the long street to the lower end.

Miss Ri looked at her watch as they started on this walk. "It is
earlier than I thought," she remarked. "The days are getting so short
one cannot realize the time. The train doesn't leave till seven, and we
have over an hour to spare. What shall we do with ourselves?"

"We don't want to go to the postoffice to be stared at," returned
Linda, "so perhaps we'd better entertain one another as best we can at
the station; it seemed rather a horrid little place, but what better
can we do?"

However, this experiment was spared them, for they had not gone more
than half way to their destination when they were pleasantly accosted
by a man who was coming from the other direction. "I believe you
are the ladies who came from Sandbridge on the train this morning,"
he began. "I am Mr. Brown, the agent of the railroad, and as such I
feel that I must extend you such hospitality as we have to offer. Our
accommodations at the station are rather poor, and you have a long wait
before you, for I suppose you take the seven o'clock train."

"Yes, we intended to," Miss Ri told him.

"Then I beg that you will make yourselves comfortable at my house. It
is only a step away. I am sure you will find it a better place to wait
than the station." He was so evidently anxious for the good repute of
the village, and was so earnestly sincere in his invitation that there
was but one thing to do, and that to accept.

Mr. Brown conducted them up on the porch of a neat little house, opened
the door and ushered them into an orderly sitting-room where he saw
that they were provided with the most comfortable of the chairs and
then he settled himself to entertain them. But a very few remarks had
been exchanged before he sprang to his feet with a shocked expression
on his face. "Ladies," he exclaimed, "I am entirely forgetting that
you will not be able to get any supper before you reach home, and that
it will be then very late. What was I thinking of? We have only just
finished our own meal, and--Excuse me, but I must speak to Mrs. Brown,"
and before they could utter a word of protest he rushed from the room.

"Do you suppose he has gone to fetch the keys of the city?" whispered
Linda. "What are we to do, Aunt Ri? We can't run, for there is nowhere
that we can escape, and--"

She was interrupted by the entrance of their host with his wife, who,
though somewhat less importunate, was nevertheless quite determined
that the strangers should not leave the town without being properly
fed, and this in spite of Miss Ri's protest that they had brought some
fruit and biscuits with them, and that they really needed nothing more.

Mr. Brown waved all such suggestions aside. Therefore, seeing that it
would be less rude to accept the proffered hospitality they followed
Mrs. Brown to the small dining-room where a dainty little meal was soon
spread for them, served by Mrs. Brown and her sister, Miss Weedon.

The rain, which the gathering clouds in the west had threatened that
morning, and which had begun to drop before they entered the house,
was coming down in torrents by the time the meal was over, and was
accompanied by heavy rolls of thunder and vivid lightning. At each
resounding peal and sharp flash the hostess and her sister would
disappear within the recesses of a darkened room somewhere beyond,
issuing only when there was a lull in the storm.

"It is rather unusual to have so heavy a thunderstorm this late in the
season," Miss Ri was remarking when from the station someone came in
haste to say that lightning had struck the building and would Mr. Brown
come at once. He hurried off, though not without the parting assurance
that he would soon return, leaving his wife and Miss Weedon divided
between the responsibility of remaining with their guests and their
desire to escape to the darkened room.

The storm, however, seemed to have spent its fury in hurling a final
bolt at the station, and the timid women had the hardihood to remain
in the outer room while only sullen mutterings once in a while reached
them. Miss Ri and Linda did their best to reassure them, but in the
face of the fact that lightning had struck so near, this was not easy
to do.

It was getting on toward train time, and though the station was but a
short walk the two visitors wondered how they were to reach it without
umbrellas, but in spite of the confusion occasioned by the lightning
shock, they were not forgotten by good Mr. Brown, who, true to his
feeling of responsibility as agent, appeared with umbrellas at the
proper moment, and bore them off with the manner of one who would
furnish a band of music if he could. He was faithful to the last,
piloting them to seats in the car, telling the conductor to look after
them, and at the last expressing regret at the coming of the storm as
if he were in some way accountable for it. He came to the car window
to urge them to come again when it should be made more agreeable for
them, then as the train began to move off, he stood, hat in hand till
darkness hid him from sight.

"That is what I call a true Maryland gentleman," said Miss Ri. "Did you
ever meet such beautiful hospitality, and isn't it worth while to find
out that it has not entirely disappeared from the land?"

"I wouldn't have missed it for anything," declared Linda. "It has been
a wonderful trip, Aunt Ri, from beginning to end."

"And the end is not yet," responded Miss Ri with prophetic vision.

"I don't see what more could happen," rejoined Linda.

What could happen was made very obvious as they stepped from the train
at Boxford, for they had hardly alighted before Berkley Matthews
rushed up to them. "Here you are," he cried, as if it were quite to be
expected that he would meet them. "It has been a pretty bad storm and I
didn't know whether you would venture or not, but I thought I'd be on
the safe side. Now--"

But he had not finished his sentence when another figure loomed up in
the doorway of the dimly lighted waiting-room, and who should come
forward but Wyatt Jeffreys. The two men looked at one another and
each gave a little embarrassed laugh. "I didn't know you were here,
Jeffreys," said Berkley.

"Nor did I know you were," was the reply. "How long since you came?"

"Oh, half an hour or so. When did you get in?"

"Just at this moment. I suppose I don't know the road quite as well as
you do."

"Linda, will you give me the pleasure of taking you to Sandbridge in my
buggy," broke in Berkley with visible haste.

Miss Ri chuckled. "Go with him, Linda, and I'll give Mr. Jeffreys the
inestimable privilege of taking me, that is, if he intends going back
to-night. Perhaps you were going on by train, Mr. Jeffreys?"

"Oh, no, I came up--I came up," he was not so ready to announce his
purpose as Berkley. "I thought you ladies might not be provided against
the storm," he continued, "and it seemed to me that I might perhaps be
of use in some way."

"And you were quite right," Miss Ri returned. "It saves me the bother
of hunting up a team from the stables, or of deciding upon the other
alternative of spending the night in Boxford, something I would much
prefer not to do. Where is your buggy? I know the road perfectly." So
Mr. Jeffreys was forced to hide whatever disappointment he might feel
while Berkley bore off Linda to where his buggy, well provided with
rain-proof covers, stood under shelter of the station's shed.

Well protected from the weather Linda and her escort drove off hidden
behind the oilcloth curtains on which the rain pattered steadily. The
lights of the buggy sent long beams over the wet shell road, the air
had a mingled odor of salt marsh and moist, fallen autumn leaves. From
the clouds rolling off overhead, once in a while rumbled muffled peals
of thunder. Berk's horse responded to his master's slightest word,
and on a worse night and over worse roads could be depended upon, so
Berkley assured his companion.

"So you've been to see the old judge," said the young man by way of
beginning conversation. "Isn't he a fine old fellow?"

"He is the dearest old man I ever saw," returned Linda
enthusiastically. "He has such a beautiful head, and if one wanted to
meet the very pattern of an old time courtly gentleman he would have to
go no further than Judge Goldsborough."

"I quite agree with you, and I wish I could ever hope to become
anything like him, but nature has not endowed me with his fine presence
nor with his brains."

"But you can hope to be J. S. D., you know."

"I don't know. The some day seems a very far cry, just now." He was
silent a moment before he asked: "What did the judge have to say to
you, Linda?"

"Miss Ri asked him about the Talbot estates and he appeared quite sure
that there could be no complications as regards Talbot's Angles, at
least. He said he had some old papers which might give him some points
about the other places."

"He ought to know if anyone does," returned Berkley. "Suppose there
should be complications, Linda, and suppose it should be Talbot's
Angles that Jeffreys lays claim to, and that he proved a legitimate
claim, what then?"

"I'd not be much worse off than I am now."

"Oh, yes, you would. There is the chance of your sister-in-law marrying
again."

"Which I don't think she is liable to do. I don't know that I would
mind Mr. Jeffreys' having it any more than I do that Grace should. He,
at least, is of the Talbot blood."

"There is something in that. I wish it were all yours; I can't bear the
idea of your wearing yourself out teaching, Linda." The words came with
caressing concern.

"I am more fortunate than most. Think of my having a home with Miss Ri,
and among my own people. I suppose it actually isn't so much that the
teaching is difficult as that I am so constituted that I can't really
love it. It is a great thing to make one's living in the way one likes
best; that seems to me to be half the battle."

"And what is it you like best?"

"To scribble."

"Have you sent out any more of your work?"

"No, but I intend to."

"And I hope you will finally meet such success that you can give
yourself up to that kind of work. I agree with you that one ought to
discover what are his best powers and make the best use of them he
possibly can; if he would be happy."

"You are happy in your work, Berk, aren't you?"

"Yes, I love it, thank fortune, and I am beginning to see glimpses of a
future."

"That is good," returned Linda with satisfaction. "You deserve success,
Berk."

"No more than others."

"Much more than most others. Was ever a better son, or brother, if it
comes to that?"

"Oh, nonsense, it is no sacrifice to do things for those you love; in
fact, I've been rather selfish in pleasing myself, indulging my love of
bestowing. It is really no credit to give because one enjoys it."

"Then there is no such thing as unselfishness in the world."

"Oh, yes, there is; when one does a thing he doesn't like, or gives up
something he really wants very much; that is my idea of unselfishness."

"Then am I or am I not to consider that you have performed a selfish
act in coming all the way to Boxford for me in all this rain?" asked
Linda laughing. There may have been a little coquetry in the question,
but she was hardly prepared for the seriousness of the reply.

"It was purely and entirely selfish on my part. It was the one thing I
wanted most to do, and I would go much further and through a thousand
greater difficulties for you. In fact, there is nothing I wouldn't do
to make you happy, Linda Talbot."

"There's chivalry for you," returned Linda, determined to take the
answer as lightly as possible.

The warmth but not the earnestness had gone out of his tones when he
made the next remark: "I wish I could make it possible for you to stop
teaching, Linda."

"Marry Grace off and get back Talbot's Angles for me, and I will stop,"
she replied in a matter-of-fact tone.

"Then would you go down there to live?"

"No, I'd still let Phillips have the place, but I would go down there
often, and it would bring me enough to live on. I could persuade Miss
Ri to spend part of the year there, maybe, and--oh, wouldn't it be
lovely?"

Berkley did not reply, but spoke to his horse, "Go on there, Jerry."
They had been driving so slowly that the other buggy had passed them
though Berkley's was the fleeter horse. But now they sped along over
the hard wet road, silence between them. Linda's imagination was busy
picturing the delights of having the old homestead for her very own,
and was fancying days spent there with Miss Ri and Mammy, for of course
Mammy would go.

She was roused by hearing Berkley say in a hard dispassionate voice,
"Then your dearest wish on earth is to possess Talbot's Angles."

"I really think it is. I don't suppose it is very nice of me to feel so
about what belongs to another, but I confess to you, Berk, that I can't
help counting a little on Grace's marrying again."

"That is perfectly natural, and it isn't half so bad as wishing her
dead, though some might think so," he added. Then after a moment's
silence: "Linda, I was selfish to carry you off this way without giving
you any choice in the matter. Perhaps you would rather have gone with
Jeffreys. It isn't too late to change now, if you say so. We can easily
overtake his buggy."

"At the eleventh hour? No, I thank you, not after I am comfortably
settled and safe from the rain. You have tucked me in so well, Berk.
I don't believe Mr. Jeffreys could have done it half so well, but
probably he has not had the experience you have. I might enjoy variety
of companionship, but my bodily comfort is worth more to me." Linda
was very skilful in giving non-committal replies it seemed.

Berkley drew a little sigh; whether of relief or disappointment Linda
could not determine.

They had nearly overtaken the other two by now and soon had passed
them, reaching home before the others. Berkley refused to come in;
spite of inducements in the shape of hot coffee and sandwiches. Mr.
Jeffreys, however, was not averse to joining in a late supper, and
taking his horse around to shelter, he returned to the house while
Berkley bade all good-night and drove off in the rain.

Anyone noticing the little office opposite the Jackson House would have
seen a light there burning nearly all night, and could he have looked
in he would have observed a young man whose earnest eyes were bent upon
pages of yellow manuscript. These absorbed him so closely that the
clock in the church tower struck three before he aroused himself. Even
then he did not leave the place, but sat with elbows on desk and head
in hands for another hour. Then, turning out the light and locking the
door he crossed the street to the hotel where the watchman, snoring in
his chair, paid no heed to the quiet entrance of this late guest.

Long before this Linda had said good-night to her departing relative,
but the words which haunted her before she dropped asleep were not
his unemotional and polite phrases, but the words spoken softly,
caressingly yet with subdued fire: "There is nothing I would not do
to make you happy, Linda Talbot." Was there a confession? Dared she
understand it so?



CHAPTER XV

A DISTINCT SENSATION


For two days the storm continued, increasing to a gale which whipped
the waters of the placid river to a yellow angry flood, and beat the
few remaining leaves from their clasp on the trees. During this time
Linda and Miss Ri kept indoors as closely as they could, their chief
visitor being Mr. Jeffreys. Miss Parthy, to be sure, paddled up the
walk to the back door in all the rain, and Bertie Bryan's rosy face
peeped in at them one afternoon, but Berkley did not come near, and no
one guessed his reason for staying away.

How great a struggle had been going on in the young man's mind none
associated with him imagined. Since that night when it was disclosed
to him through the papers which Mr. Jeffreys had left in his care,
that there was a possibility of Linda's losing her chance to inherit
Talbot's Angles, he had fought his giants; one his love for the girl,
the other the temptation to withhold the more important papers. He
need not destroy them; he would only set them aside, and tell Jeffreys
there was not sufficient evidence to warrant a legal claim. At last,
however, when he must really face the issue, he laughed at such an
idea, and realized that there was but one thing for him to do. He
would give up Linda to his rival. Why should Jeffreys not possess
the property as well as Grace? So, perhaps, would Linda be given her
dearest wish. That day at the postoffice it had been revealed to him
what his feeling for the girl really meant, and from that moment his
love had grown stronger, deeper, fuller. On that rainy night he had
nearly spoken of his feeling for her. Had she spoken less lightly he
might have done so, even though at that time his cursory glance at the
papers had given him some belief in the justice of Jeffreys' claim.
But he had recognized that the girl herself was still heart free, and
therefore, though there might be a chance for him he must keep away,
must make excuses not to see her. He must assume a great air of one too
absorbed in business to spare time for visiting his friends. He could
manage all that. But first he must pave the way. He would go and tell
them all that to Jeffreys would probably fall the old homestead, and
he would say: "Better into the hands of an honest and honorable man,
the descendant of the old stock, than to Grace Talbot." He would praise
this future owner, and would plant the seeds which should blossom into
regard and affection. Jeffreys was a good fellow, a little stiff,
maybe, but a man of strict morality and--the fight was bitter--he
would make her a good husband.

He shrank from making the revelation which should first suggest to
Linda that it was really Talbot's Angles to which the papers referred.
He could see her startled look, her fluttering hands, the color coming
and going in her cheeks. He bit his lip fiercely and tramped up and
down his small office savagely. Why should this ordeal be his to meet?
He would turn it over to some other, Miss Ri, perhaps.

"I can't do it," he cried aloud. "I'll fling the whole dog-goned pack
of papers into the river first." Her dearest wish! He stopped short.
Could he supply it? Was he able to buy Talbot's Angles supposing it
were for sale? What nonsense. He laughed mirthlessly. "I am a pretty
sort of duffer," he exclaimed. "What am I thinking of?"

He jammed his hat upon his head, slammed the door behind him and strode
down the street, passing Uncle Moke without a word and with such a set
look on his face as caused the old man to mumble, "Mr. Berk sholy is
riled. Look lak he gwine 'res' some o' dese bank robbers, or sumpin."

Berkley's step never faltered as he marched on with head up, as one
going to battle. His savage peal of the door-bell brought Miss Ri in
haste. Her face cleared when she saw who it was. "Well, Berk," she
exclaimed, "what a mighty pull you did give, to be sure. Come in, come
in and help us celebrate. We've a great piece of news for you."

He entered the room, where Linda sat, her face all alight, and some
distance away, Mr. Jeffreys, with a queer strained expression in his
eyes, but a forced smile upon his lips. On the table stood a tray with
glasses filled with some of Miss Ri's famous homemade wine. "Here comes
another to help us celebrate," cried Miss Ri. "Get another glass,
Verlinda." She filled it, when brought, from the heavy old decanter
and, holding her own glass aloft, she exclaimed: "Here's to the next
owner of Talbot's Angles!"

Berkley's hand shook so that his glass overflowed and a few drops were
spilled. His eyes met those of the other man. Neither spoke, nor did
either touch the wine.

"You don't understand my toast," cried Miss Ri, looking from one to the
other. "Grace Talbot is going to marry Major Forbes, and Linda will
have her heart's desire."

"Of course, I'll drink to Linda, if that is what you mean," said
Berkley, recovering himself and tossing off the contents of the glass,
while Mr. Jeffreys echoed: "Of course, we'll drink to Miss Linda."

Berkley sat down, his head in a whirl. This put an entirely different
face on the matter. He would have to think it over. This was no time
to force conclusions. He scarcely heard Linda's eager account of the
letter she had that day received from her sister-in-law. "It was so
like Grace," she told him. "Major Forbes was such an old friend--"

"Quite old," put in Miss Ri. "He must be sixty, if he's a day."

"And she was such a dependent creature," Linda went on. "It seemed only
proper that these two starved hearts should be united. She hoped Linda
would not think she had been precipitate, but it had been eight months
since poor Martin--not darling Martin any more--" Linda commented
sadly, "and she would, of course, wait for the full year to pass. She
felt that dear Linda would be pleased, not only because of Grace's
happiness, but because it would benefit her. She must not think that
little Grace was unmindful of that part of it. She had it in mind to
do what she could for Martin's sister and, though it was a sacrifice
to give up her home to Linda, it was done cheerfully. Linda must feel
assured of that."

"Now, isn't it like that woman to take such an attitude," sneered Miss
Ri. "Give it up? She can't help herself, as I see it."

"Major Forbes is abundantly able to keep me in the style to which I
have been accustomed," Linda read--another sneer from Miss Ri--"and I
am sure I shall be happier than living a lonely and forlorn widowhood,"
and so on and so on.

As Linda's soft slow tones ceased, Berkley roused himself to say, "I
only dropped in for a minute. I am terribly busy these days. I must run
right back to the office." He did not look at Mr. Jeffreys, but shook
hands with Miss Ri. "Sorry I can't stay," he said nervously. "I'll come
again as soon as I get time, Miss Ri."

Linda followed him to the door. "Aren't you glad, Berk?" she asked
wistfully.

He looked past her down the street. "Glad? Of course, I'm glad," he
said, then he ran down the steps, Linda looking after him with a
quivering lip.

She returned to find that Mr. Jeffreys, too, had gone. "By the side
door," explained Miss Ri.

Linda went over to the fireplace and put her foot on the fender,
her back to Miss Ri, that the latter might not see the tears which
filled her eyes. "They weren't a bit glad, either of them," she said
presently. "I thought Berk would be, anyhow. Don't you think he acted
queerly, Aunt Ri?"

"I think they both did; but it may have been that they were completely
bowled over with surprise. You know we could scarcely believe it at
first, ourselves, and men are much slower to grasp things than women.
They were dumbfounded, that was all and, no doubt, Berk is busy. I hope
he is. So much the better for him, my dear."

Linda made no response. She was not aware that Berkley had gone back
to his office to wage another battle. What a turn of fate, to be
sure, and now what was to be done? It would be Linda, Linda who was
to be deprived of her own, and his must be the hand to deal the blow.
Those papers! He struck them with his clenched fist, as he stood over
his desk, and if a smothered oath escaped him, it is to be hoped the
recording angel failed to register it against him. "There is one thing
certain," he told himself; "if the thing is to be carried on, I'll
throw up the case. I'll be hanged if I have anything to do with it."

He picked up a letter which he had laid aside, sat down, and began to
read it over. It was from Cyrus Talbot to his brother Madison, and it
read:

 "You say that your property Addition has not suffered as much as some
 others, but that on account of hard times, you do not feel it possible
 at this time to rebuild the house burnt some months ago; therefore,
 since evil times have befallen you by reason of the ravages of war,
 I am quite willing that you should continue to occupy the house at
 Talbot's Angles; but as soon as peace visits our land, I would esteem
 it a favor, if you would find someone to take the plantation itself,
 paying me a yearly rental, which shall be fixed as circumstances
 allow. My own affairs here continue to prosper, and I do not think I
 shall return to Maryland, having found me a wife whose relatives live
 in close proximity and are a God-fearing and industrious people. I
 shall be glad to hear from you as occasion permits, and subscribe
 myself

                      "Your aff. brother,
                                          "CYRUS."

This letter appeared never to have been sent, but there were others
bearing upon the subject from Madison to his brother. It seemed from
them that Madison was able to find a tenant for the Angles, but in
time he proved unsatisfactory, as there were many reports of his
thriftlessness, and at the time of Cyrus's death the place lay idle.

That this place was Talbot's Angles appeared evident from references
to certain fields lying next the old church, and in an account of some
disaster befalling the old windmill in a heavy storm. There were,
too, old receipts and bills which identified the property and proved
that, at least during the life of Cyrus Talbot, it had been in his
possession, whatever may have happened afterward. Owing to the fact
that many deeds and records had been destroyed during the War of 1812
and later during the Civil War, when neglect and indifference caused
many legal papers to be lost, it promised to be a difficult thing to
trace the ownership through succeeding years, unless further proof
could be found.

At last Berkley happened upon a letter dated much later, a letter from
Linda's own father to Charles Jeffreys. It said: "I have looked into
the matter you bring to my notice, and I find that you are right in
most of your surmises; but, as the place lay idle and neglected for a
number of years, tenantless and abandoned, it was in no condition to
bring in any return when I took it in hand. I have spent a good deal on
it, and if you are willing to consider this outlay as rental for the
time being, I shall be glad to be considered as your tenant, otherwise
I must give up the place. Since the slaves were freed, labor is
difficult to get, and I cannot afford to bring up so neglected a place
at my own expense and pay rent besides. We have continued to live in
the old house, which has been kept in good repair. Later on, we may be
able to come to a different arrangement; but at present it seems to me
it would be to your better advantage if you allow matters to remain as
they are. If you take the property into your own hands, much money will
have to be spent on it before it can bring you any appreciable return."

"Twenty-five years ago," mused Berkley. "I wonder if Martin knew, or
whether a different arrangement was at last made. I imagine not and
that the place was allowed to remain in James Talbot's hands in return
for what he might do for it. That is the latest information to be had,
that I can see, and there is really nothing more to be found out from
these papers."

He rested his head on his hand and remained lost in deep thought. For
all Miss Ri's decided announcement that he might even perjure himself
for one he loved, that was something Berkley Matthews would never do.
No, there was no help for it; facts were facts, and he must let them be
known. Could he ever expect to win Linda's love and respect, if he had
won her by such unworthy means? Would he not always be playing a false
part, and would not the result fail of good to him and to her? No, a
dishonorable transaction, no matter what its motive, would never do to
base true love upon. Let things take their course, and let the best
man win. It might be, after all, that she would not marry Jeffreys, in
spite of his prospects. But this hope he dared not cherish. He pressed
his hand over his eyes, as if he would shut out too bright a vision,
and just then the door of his office opened and in walked Mr. Jeffreys.

Berkley turned sharply at the sudden entrance. "Ah," he exclaimed, "you
are just the man I was thinking of. I've been going over these papers
again, Jeffreys, and so far as I can judge, it looks like a pretty good
case. Sit down and we'll talk it over."

Jeffreys drew up a chair. Berkley wheeled around and the two sat
facing one another. "Of course," Berkley began, "you realize that the
property referred to is Miss Talbot's old home, Talbot's Angles."

Mr. Jeffreys looked down. "Yes, I inferred so, although at first I was
uncertain, not knowing as much as I do now."

"The records will have to be searched, of course, and we can find out
who has been paying taxes and all that, you understand. I don't know
that I shall have time to attend to it myself; I am pretty busy just
now."

"That is too bad; I depended on you, Matthews."

"I know you did, but--"

Wyatt Jeffreys leaned forward. "Is it only because you are busy? Is
that the only reason?"

Berkley did not answer at once; then he parried the question.

"What other reason could there be?"

"Your interest in Miss Talbot. I realize, Matthews, that I have come
down here a perfect stranger to deprive a very lovely young woman of
her property, and that you should in all reason feel antagonistic is
not to be wondered at. I think you have known for some time that it was
her property that I claimed."

"I have known it only since I made a closer examination of these
papers."

"Very well; that does not alter the fact that you have been uniformly
kind and considerate so far as I was concerned, and therefore I feel
that I can speak as man to man." He paused. "Unless you have a prior
claim, there is no need of Miss Talbot's losing her property if--"

"She will take you with it," Berkley filled the pause. "I understand."
The crucial moment had come. Berkley suddenly swung his chair around,
his face, turned from the other, was white and set, but he said
steadily, "That would certainly be the best way out of the difficulty.
I have no prior claim, Jeffreys, and I wish you success." He swung
himself back again and held out his hand.

The other took it in a firm grip. "That is good of you, Matthews. I
appreciate your kindness more than I can say." There was silence,
broken by Mr. Jeffreys, who went on: "If it is only the matter of delay
then, Matthews, I can wait your good pleasure, if you will take up my
case."

Berkley gave himself time before he answered. Why shouldn't he take
the case? What odds, now, what Linda thought? He had relinquished
all rights to her consideration. If he did not hunt up the evidence,
someone else would, and she be no better off. If he must disregard her,
he could at least be true to Jeffreys. "I'll not go back on my word.
I'll take it," he said shortly.

"I've kept a busy man too long," said Jeffreys rising, "but I hope some
day I can show my appreciation of what you are doing for me, in more
ways than one," he added with a smile. He held out his hand. Berkley
took it mechanically, saying, "Good-night."

"Good-evening," returned Mr. Jeffreys, and he went out.

It was not late, though growing dark, but to Berkley it had become
darkest night. Never, till that moment, had he realized how strong a
hold upon him his affection for Linda had taken. She was so sweet,
so gentle, one whose presence always brought calm and peace, yet she
could be very droll and merry, very bright and entertaining, with
a blessed grace of humor. With all her poetic fancy there was the
domestic side, too, which had made her the successful housekeeper when
yet but a school girl. And how dainty she always was, how womanly her
little frills and simple ornaments. Even the way her dark hair grew
around her pretty low forehead, and was worn parted above it, made her
distinctive from other girls, whose monstrous puffs and braids gave
them a top-heavy look. What a woman for a man to come home to after a
day of stress. She, who had striven for her daily bread, how well she
would understand what a man's battle of life meant. His first impulse
was to throw everything to the winds, to snatch up his hat and rush off
to her, beg her to listen to him, tell her he would work for her, live
for her, die for her. He stood for a moment, trembling with intensity
of feeling, then he sat heavily down again. "I can't do it," he
whispered. "I must think of her, of what is best for her."

Moments passed. The street lamps shone out, footsteps echoed and
reëchoed. Some boys went by singing. In the darkness Berkley sat very
quietly, only once in a while he whispered, "Oh, God! oh, God!" as one
who has found his Gethsemane. The hours wore on, the street grew very
quiet, the rumbling of wagons, the tread of passers-by ceased. Lights
in the lower stories of the houses began to be extinguished, while
those above showed in first one room and then another. Berkley finally
arose, stumbled uncertainly across the street and up to his room, where
he threw himself across his bed, face down, and lay there all night
wrestling with himself.



CHAPTER XVI

"BEGONE, DULL CARE"


The days slipped by till the Christmas holidays were at hand. Linda
was busy with her school. Miss Ri occupied herself with the hundred
things which kept her interests alive. Her clubs, church meetings,
visits to sick neighbors, public and private charities, all filled her
days to overflowing. Mr. Jeffreys called regularly, so it came to be
an understood thing that he would appear either afternoon or evening.
Berkley visited the house seldom, and rarely when Linda was at home.
He would run in once in a while, asserting that he was too busy to
stay and had only dropped in to say "Howdy." He would question Miss
Ri about her affairs, but before she could turn her queries upon him,
he would be off. After that one bitter fight, he had himself well in
hand, and the fact that he worked far into the night and was fast
gaining a reputation for industry and exactness, not only bore out his
statements, but caused him to stand well with the older lawyers.

"That's a young man who will make his mark," said Judge Baker to Miss
Ri one morning when he met her on the street--Berkley had just passed
them with a swift bow--"though I am afraid he is working too hard."

"I'll have to haul him over the coals," returned Miss Ri. "You know he
is a great favorite of mine, Judge."

"So I have observed. Give him a little motherly advice, Miss Ri.
He needs it. He mustn't be burning the candle at both ends; but I
prophecy, that if he continues to exhibit the keenness and skill he is
developing, he will be judge some day."

The words returned to Miss Ri as she walked down street, and her
thoughts went back to the trunk and then to the papers. There had been
no news from Judge Goldsborough, and there appeared to be an absolute
lull. Mr. Jeffreys had announced that Berkley was going to take up the
case as soon as he had time, and so it stood.

If Linda missed Berkley, she did not say so, and never commented upon
his sins of omission. She accepted Mr. Jeffreys' constant attention
as a matter of course, was chagrined only when he refused to tell her
about his claim, for he always set aside the question with, "We cannot
tell definitely as yet."

"He is such a cautious, deliberate person," complained the girl one day
to Miss Ri. "I wish he would show a little more spontaneity."

"I thought you admired his beautiful dignity and reserve."

"Oh, I do; except when I want my curiosity satisfied," laughed Linda.
"I don't doubt but that he says what he really means, which is more
than can be believed of some persons I know."

Miss Ri gave her a sharp, quick look, but made no comment. Her crochet
needle moved swiftly in and out the meshes of white wool she held.
"Verlinda," she said presently, "how would you like to go up to the
city for your holiday? I invite you as my guest. We can get someone to
stay here in the house to keep Phebe satisfied, and we'll have a real
rollicking time going to the theatre, shopping, seeing our friends, and
giddy-gadding generally. What do you say to it?"

"Oh, Aunt Ri, it would be perfectly delightful, but--"

"But what?"

"Won't it be very expensive?"

"It won't be too expensive. I've just had a dividend I didn't expect,
and I can't think of a pleasanter way of spending it. I hate to go
poking around by myself, and I don't know anyone whom it would be more
real joy to have with me."

"Not Miss Parthy?"

"Oh, Parthy's an old stick when it comes to the city. She isn't young
enough," Miss Ri laughed comfortably.

Linda sat bending over an embroidered piece she was doing for Grace's
Christmas. There was a reminiscent look on her face. This would be her
first Christmas since Martin died. It would be hard not to spend the
day as usual in the old home, and harder still not to hear the voice of
him who had always made Christmas a happy day for her. Yet, after all,
it would be less lonely with Miss Ri, for had not the dear woman made
this a true home for her? It was like her to plan this outing, that the
girl might not yearn too deeply for past joys. There would not be the
old church to decorate, as in the years gone by, but on Christmas Eve
she could take wreaths to the churchyard. Her thoughts were far away
when Miss Ri's voice roused her.

"Well, shall we go?"

"If you really think you would enjoy having me," answered Linda, coming
back to the present. "I think you are a darling to ask me."

"Of course I'd enjoy having you. We can have our Christmas here--Phebe
would be broken-hearted if we didn't allow her to cook our Christmas
dinner--and then we'll pack up our duds and go. I don't know that I can
take you to any big functions, but we can have a mighty good time, I
truly believe. We ought to have someone to dine with us on Christmas
Day to make it more festive. I'd ask Berk, but he wouldn't miss
spending the day with his mother for worlds. We might have Parthy and
Mr. Jeffreys. Parthy hasn't any too good a woman in the kitchen, and
it would suit all around; give her a rest and please the cook."

So it was arranged, and Linda looked forward quite joyously to the
ten days in the city. Never before had such a treat been hers; a few
days at a time had been the utmost of her stay. She had gone to her
brother's wedding, a showy affair in which she had little heart, and
had several times remained with a friend over Sunday, but this was a
very different affair.

Phebe, on being consulted as to whom she would prefer to look after
while the two were absent, gave an unqualified vote for Mr. Berk. "He
so jokey, Miss Ri," she said, "an' he do look at my wittles lak he
can't wait. Den he a gem'man. I laks to wait on a rale gem'man, one o'
de ole fambly kin'. Mr. Jeffs he a gem'man, too, I specs, but he don'
know nuffin how to talk to us niggers. He so solemn, lak ole owl, or
fo' all de worl' lak a preacher. He tas'es dis an' he tas'es dat lak he
dunno whe'r he gwine lak it or no. Mr. Berk he shake he haid an' say,
'Um-um, dat sholy look good.' Mr. Jeffs ack lak he feard somebody think
he enjyin' hisse'f, but Mr. Berk thes pitch in an enjy hisse'f 'thout
carin' what anybody think."

Miss Ri laughed and, upon the occasion of her next walk down town,
stopped at Berk's office to ask if he would take possession and sleep
nights at her house during the holidays. He responded with alacrity,
promising to behave himself, but begging that he might be allowed to
take his meals at the hotel.

"And disappoint Phebe? Never!" cried Miss Ri. "She is counting upon
feeding you up. I told her you were getting thin and pale because they
didn't give you enough to eat at the Jackson House, and she is fairly
aching to provide for you. She will have to cook for herself, and why
not for you? Besides, you are her choice of the whole townful, so you
should feel flattered."

"I do," returned Berkley, "and very grateful to both you and her. I'll
come, Miss Ri. When do you start?"

"The day after Christmas. You'll be back by then?"

"Oh, yes, I'll be back. I shall go to town only for the day, and must
be here for various reasons as soon as practicable."

"Then that is settled. Merry Christmas, Berk. I wish you could dine
with us, but I know your mother's mind, and I wouldn't even suggest
such a thing."

Miss Ri's box of books provided several gifts for outsiders, but for
Linda was a special gift obtained, a fine soft evening cloak, something
she did not possess, and which she would need during her holiday visit.
From the new cousin came a handsome set of books and a box of flowers,
the latter for both ladies. A very ornate, wholly impossible scarf of
coarse texture arrived from Grace for her sister-in-law.

"It just looks like her," commented Miss Ri. "You can always tell
underbred people by the presents they give. No lady would look twice at
a thing like that. Why didn't she send you one plain fine handkerchief,
if she didn't want to spend her money for something handsome? It would
at least have shown some refined taste."

"I don't believe she knows any better," returned Linda, by way of
excuse.

"Exactly," replied Miss Ri.

From Berk came merely an unostentatious little card for Linda, though
for Miss Ri arrived a fine potted plant. "I'll allow you to look at
it," remarked the recipient with a little laugh.

Not even a card found its way from Linda to Berkley, though in her
upper drawer lay a half-finished blue silk tie. She had stopped working
on it long before.

Mr. Jeffreys saw them off on a cold twenty-sixth of December. That
same evening Berkley arrived to take possession of the room Miss Ri
had told Phebe to make ready for him. Phebe, with her head tied up in
a new kerchief, and with an immaculate expanse of white apron, was
ready to receive him, to show him upstairs and to wait upon him hand
and foot. She adored Linda, had great respect for Miss Ri, but "a rale
young gem'man" awakened all the love of service within her, and if he
had done the justice she expected to the meal she served, he would
probably have died of indigestion that very night, and the close of
this chapter would mark the end of this tale. However, whether from
lack of appetite or for other reasons, he ate with discretion, and then
retired to the sitting-room, where he worked over a budget of papers
till near midnight. With candle in hand, he then went upstairs. As he
passed through the upper hall he perceived the door of a room open. He
tip-toed up to it, stood for a moment on the sill, then entered softly
and with the expression of one approaching a sanctuary. Phebe had
removed all suggestion of disorder, but she could not remove the subtle
reminders of a girlish presence, which were suggested by the pictures
on the wall, the books on the table, by the little slippers peeping
from under the foot of the lounge. An end of ribbon fluttered out from
behind the door of the small wash-closet, which stood partly open.
Berkley gently lifted the satiny end and laid it against his cheek,
then to his lips. After this, he tip-toed out again, closing the door
softly behind him. He had this once entered a holy of holies, but he
must not be tempted again.

Meanwhile Miss Ri and Linda were settled at their hotel and were
making plans for the next day.

"I suppose I must go to see Grace," remarked Linda.

"Oh, not right away," was Miss Ri's reply. "Wait till the memory of
that scarf becomes a little more vague, then you will be able to thank
her for it with some similitude of warmth. In the case of that gift, it
is one of the instances when 'absence makes the heart grow fonder.' No,
I have planned what we are to do to-morrow. In the morning we will go
shopping; in the afternoon we will stay at home and receive calls; in
the evening we will go to the theatre."

"Oh, but, Aunt Ri, I haven't been going anywhere."

"High time you did. I don't want you to do anything that might distress
you, Verlinda, but I think a good play or two will do you a world of
good. We will look at the paper and see what is going on. We must hear
some good music. Perhaps there are to be some good concerts at the
Peabody; we will find out. I don't believe in persons making a selfish
indulgence of a sorrow. I am sure no one more than Martin would like
you to have a pleasant, cheerful time. You need it, and we ought to do
what is best for us."

"Very well," Linda acquiesced. "I am in your hands, Aunt Ri. I will do
as you say."

Miss Ri looked pleased. "That is what I do like about you, Verlinda;
you are always so sweetly reasonable. Come, let's go down to supper."

It was rather a pleasant sensation to be one of the company which
occupied the dining-room, and Linda enjoyed looking about her quite
as much as she did the partaking of the excellent meal. They had just
finished, when suddenly she caught sight of a party at one of the
tables across the room. "Aunt Ri, Aunt Ri," she said, turning toward
her companion. "Who do you think is over there, just across from us, a
little to your rear? You'll have to turn your head--the Goldsboroughs.
Mrs. Goldsborough, the governess, the two little girls, and an older
one. She must be the débutante."

Miss Ri turned her head, but by this time the little girls had caught
sight of them and were smiling and nodding. "They've evidently come up
for the holidays," said Miss Ri. "That Miss Carroll is quite a pretty
girl, isn't she?"

"Yes, I thought so when we met her the other day at 'Mary's Delight,'
It was nice of them to bring her, wasn't it? She told me that she was
very happy with the Goldsboroughs, that the children were dears, and
that she was quite like a daughter in the house."

"Julia would make her feel so. She is one of the kindest-hearted women
in the world, and not the least of a snob. They are coming over to
speak to us."

The two groups met half way, and walked to the reception room together.
Freddy, the eldest daughter, was bound for a theatre party and must
hurry away. "She was named Fredericka, for her grandfather," Mrs.
Goldsborough explained. The other little girls, Julia and Mary, sat one
each side of Linda, on the sofa; Miss Carroll drew up a stool opposite,
while Mrs. Goldsborough and Miss Ri settled themselves further away for
a good talk.

There were ever so many things going on in the city, the girls told
Linda. One of their cousins was to have a tea, another had asked them
to a box party, a third to a small dance. "We won't be out for two or
three years yet," said Mary; "but we shall have just as good a time
as Fred, if she is a débutante." Then there was much talk of this and
that one who had come out that season; of Fred's engagements and the
attention she was having, the twittering chat which young girls like.
Miss Carroll smiled indulgently at the little chatterers, but once or
twice gave Linda a look, as much as to say, "We know what it is worth."
However, Linda enjoyed this glimpse into a frivolous world and went
upstairs with Miss Ri without a thought to sadden her.

There was a morning's shopping, luncheon at a quaint little place on
Charles Street, a return to the hotel, an afternoon with the friends
who had been notified of their arrival and who called promptly, then
the theatre, and Linda's first day in the city was so full that she
dropped to sleep with never a thought of Sandbridge and the friends
there who might be missing her.

The next day Miss Ri reluctantly consented to a call on Grace. The
house where the Johnsons lived was in a new, rather than a fashionable
part of the city. The room into which the maid showed them was
pretentiously furnished, crowded with ornaments, ugly though expensive,
the walls lined with poor pictures in gaudy frames. Money value, rather
than good taste, was the keynote of the establishment, it was easily
seen.

After keeping them waiting for some time, Grace swept in wearing a
new gown tinkling with jets and redolent with sachet. She made many
apologies for having kept them waiting. "Such a surprise. So sorry I
couldn't have known." She had been up so late the night before, and the
rest of it. Were they up for a shopping expedition? There were so many
good bargains after the holidays.

[Illustration: "HE HAS GIVEN ME THE DEAREST RING."]

She lifted her eyebrows and viewed Linda with surprise when told why
they had come, where they were staying, and how long they intended to
remain. She could not quite understand why Miss Ri should have invited
anyone so uninteresting as she conceived her sister-in-law to be. Yet
she did not voice her opinion, but only said gushingly, "Oh, then
you'll be able to meet the dear Major. I do so want you to know him,
Miss Hill, and you, too, Linda. Of course, the engagement cannot be
announced except to the family, but he has given me the dearest ring,
which I do not wear in public, naturally." She stretched out her plump
hand and displayed the solitaire with much satisfaction.

There was some talk upon trifling matters, then Grace, turning to
Linda, said, "Oh, by the way, what about that Mr. Jeffreys? I had a
note from Mr. Matthews a few days ago, and he tells me there is a
claimant for Talbot's Angles, and that he is going to law about it.
Mr. Matthews asked me if I knew of any old papers which might be in
the house down there. I told him Mr. Phillips had the key and he would
go with him to see what could be found. It would be sad, would it not,
Miss Hill, if, after my effort to do what would seem best for Linda,
the property should pass into other hands?"

"Talbot's Angles? Are you sure it is Talbot's Angles?" asked Linda. "We
have always thought it must be Addition, or even Timber Neck."

"No, I am quite sure it is the Angles. Of course, that is the most
valuable of the three places now, though the Major says none of them
are worth so very much; but then he has such large ideas. The amount at
which we value the place would be a mere bagatelle to him."

The call was short. Miss Ri could not stand much of Grace, but they
were urged to come soon again and to come in the evening, when the
dear Major would be there. Grace was invited to have tea with the two
at their hotel, an invitation which she accepted eagerly, and then the
callers left.

"Aunt Ri," began Linda as soon as they had turned from the house, "did
you dream it was Talbot's Angles?"

"Why, yes, dear; I half suspected it all the time."

"Why?"

"From the way those two, Berk and Mr. Jeffreys, acted."

"And that is why you wanted to consult Judge Goldsborough?"

"Yes, that was why."

"But he says there is not a shred of proof."

"He said so at first. Later, he was not so sure but there might be
complications."

"I understand." Linda was silent for some time; then she spoke again,
following out her thoughts: "Aunt Ri, do you think that is why Berk has
avoided me? Do you think he has known all this time?"

Miss Ri hesitated before she made answer. "It may be that, Verlinda."

Linda gave a little sigh. "I am sorry he had to feel that way about
it. I wouldn't have blamed him, for he was not to blame, was he? He
couldn't help it."

"Not unless he chose to be disloyal to Mr. Jeffreys and dishonorable
altogether."

"And that he could never be. We know that, don't we, Aunt Ri? Shall we
see his sister and mother, do you think?"

"I am sure we shall. I wrote to Mrs. Matthews that we were coming."

No more was said on the subject just then; but, in thinking it over in
the seclusion of her room, it dawned upon Miss Ri that Linda was much
more concerned for Berkley's part in the transaction than in her own
loss of the property. "Well," she exclaimed, sitting down to face the
situation, "this is a revelation. How on earth is it going to end now,
I'd like to know."



CHAPTER XVII

AS WATER UNTO WINE


The time passed as gaily as Miss Ri meant it should: in receiving and
returning calls, in a little sight-seeing, in shopping, lunching,
dining, a moderate amount of theatre-going. There was a visit to the
old low-roofed, grey-shingled market one Saturday evening, when the
Goldsborough girls, with their governess, begged Miss Ri and Linda to
join them in a frolic.

"We want to buy taffy," they said, "and see the funny people. Do go
with us; it will be so jolly." The expedition was quite to Miss Ri's
taste and, that Linda might have the experience, she urged the going.
A merry time they all had of it, pushing their way from one end of the
long market-house to the other, and then parading up and down outside,
where the country people, with their wagons, exhibited their wares on
tables improvised from a couple of barrels with boards laid across. A
little of anything that might be salable was offered, from bunches of
dried herbs to fat turkeys.

"It hasn't changed a particle since I was a little girl," declared Miss
Ri. "My uncle used to take me to market with him before breakfast on
summer mornings, and would buy me a glass of ice cream from that very
stand," she designated one with a bee-hive on its sign. "I wonder how I
could eat such a thing so early in the morning, though then I thought
it a great treat. On Saturday evenings in winter he always brought home
a parcel of taffy, which tasted exactly as this does which we have
bought to-night. And my aunt, I can see her now with a colored boy
walking behind her carrying a huge basket, while she had a tiny one in
which to bring home special dainties."

"That custom isn't altogether done away with yet," Miss Carroll told
her. "Some of the good old housekeepers still cling to their little
baskets."

"And a good thing, too," asserted Miss Ri.

One afternoon, Grace brought her Major to call, and they found him to
be a stout, elderly man, rather florid, a little consequential, but
quite genial and polite, and evidently very proud of his young fiancée.

"He's not so bad," commented Miss Ri, "although he is not of our
stripe. I was sure he could not be a West Point man, and he isn't. He
served in the Spanish War for a short time, he told me. However, I
don't doubt that it is going to be a perfectly satisfactory marriage.
He likes flattery, and Grace is an adept in bestowing it."

Mrs. Matthews and her daughter, Margaret Edmondson, were among the
very first to call and to offer an invitation to luncheon. "We shall
not make a stranger of you any more than of Maria," said Mrs. Matthews,
taking Linda's hands in hers. "I remember you so well as a little
bit of a girl, of whom Berkley was always ready to make a playmate
when you came to town. My first recollection of you is when I brought
Berkie over at Miss Ri's request. You were no more than three and he
was perhaps six or seven. You looked at him for a long time with those
big blue eyes of yours, and then you said, 'Boy, take me to see the
chickens.' You liked to peep through the fence at Miss Parthy's fowls,
but were not allowed to go that far alone, you were such a little
thing. From that day Berkie was always asking when Miss Ri's little
girl was coming back, for you left that same evening."

Miss Ri looked at Linda. Her face was flushed and her eyes downcast.

"I shouldn't be surprised," put in Margaret, "if Berk were wishing now
that Miss Ri's little girl would come back."

Linda withdrew her hand from Mrs. Matthews' clasp and turned from the
gentle face, whose eyes were searching hers. "Oh, you are mistaken,
Mrs. Edmondson," she said hurriedly. "Berk and I very seldom see one
another; in fact, I have not laid eyes on him for weeks."

"He's working too hard," said Mrs. Matthews, turning to Miss Ri. "I
thought he looked thin and careworn when he was last here. I wish
you all would advise him not to overwork. He values your advice very
highly, Maria."

"We all think he is working too hard," returned Miss Ri, "but if he
listens to anyone, it will be his mother. I never knew a more devoted
son."

"He is indeed," replied Mrs. Matthews. "Maria, I hate to have him in
that comfortless hotel; he was always such a home boy."

"Come, Mother, come," broke in Mrs. Edmondson. "Miss Ri, if you get
mother started on the subject of Berk, she will stand and talk all day.
We shall expect you both on Thursday. Take the car to Cold Spring Lane
and you will not have far to walk."

The callers departed and though Linda said little of them, Miss Ri
noticed that she made no protest against the trip to the pretty suburb
where they lived. She had not been so ready on other occasions.

Mrs. Edmondson, proud of her pretty new house, was ready to show off
its conveniences and comforts, and to discourse upon the delights of
living in a place which was not city and yet was accessible to all
that one desired, for it was not half an hour by trolley to the center
of the town. Her husband, a young business man, was making his way
rapidly, Mrs. Matthews told Miss Ri with pride. "And he is a good son
to me," she added, "so I shall never want for a home while I have three
children. Margie insists that I shall never leave her; but, unless
Berkley marries, I think I should make a home for him. I can't have him
living in a hotel all his life." Then followed anecdotes of Berkley,
of this act of self-denial, that evidence of devotion. "You know,
Maria, that he is exactly like his father. The Doctor always thought of
himself last."

"Mother, dear," interrupted Margaret, "they didn't come to hear Berk
eulogized, but to see your pretty room. Come, Linda, let us leave them.
Miss Ri is almost as bad as she is when it comes to Berk." She put her
arm around Linda and drew her away, whispering, "Mother thinks I am
jealous, but I am not a bit; I only don't want her to get the notion
that she must leave me and go back to Sandbridge. After all Berk has
done for us, I think he ought to have his chance to get ahead, and
the very least I can do is to try to make mother happy here with me.
Herbert agrees with me. I wish Berk had a home of his own, and then
mother would be satisfied."

The two younger women went off to view other parts of the house, while
their elders talked of those things nearest their hearts. They were old
friends and had much in common. Margaret was a sweet womanly person,
not a beauty, but fresh and fair and good to look upon, with the same
honest grey eyes as her brother's, and the same sturdy frankness of
manner. Linda thought her a trifle expansive, till she realized that
herself was anything but a stranger, in spite of the fact that she had
not met these two since she was a little girl.

"I am glad I wasn't brought up within hail of the monument," said
Margaret as she exhibited her spick and span kitchen. "I should hate
to be deprived of the privileges of my own kitchen, and I shouldn't
like to believe I must live on certain streets or be a Pariah. There
is too much of that feeling in this blessed old city, and I must say
our Cavalier ancestors did give us pleasure-loving natures as an
inheritance. Half the girls I know are pretty and sweet and amiable,
but they never read anything but trash, think of nothing but wearing
pretty clothes and of having a good time. However, I think they do
make good wives and mothers when it comes to settling down. Someone
said to me the other day, that Southern girls married only for love
and that poverty came in at the door to mock them for being so silly
as to think any marriage was better than none; that they didn't mind
love flying out of the window half so much as they did going to their
graves unmarried. There may be some truth in that, but I think they are
generally pretty contented and are satisfied to take life as it comes."

Margaret was a great chatterer, and was delighted to get Linda to
herself, to air her own views and to learn of Linda's. "Aren't you
glad, Linda," she went on, "that you are making a place for yourself in
the world? Berk has often said that you were quite different from most
of the girls he knew, and that he wished we could be good friends. He
says you can talk of other things than dress and gossip, and that you
are quite domestic. Are you domestic?"

"Why"--Linda paused to consider--"yes, I think I am. I like to keep
house. I did for my brother, you know; yet I like a good time and
pretty clothes as much as anyone."

"Of course. So do I. But you care for other things, too. Berk thinks
you are so wonderful to write so well, and to get along so successfully
with your teaching."

Linda made a little grimace. "Berk is very kind to say so, but that is
something for which I do not feel myself fitted and which I really do
not enjoy."

"So much the more credit for doing it well. Linda, you must come to the
Club while you are here. I know you would enjoy it. Mother and I both
belong. There is another and more fashionable literary club, but we
like ours much the best. The real workers are members of it, not the
make-believes. It meets every Tuesday afternoon. We must arrange for
you to go with us, and Miss Ri must come, too." Here the elder women
entered, and Miss Ri reminded Linda that they were to go to a tea on
their way home, so they departed, Linda and Margaret parting like old
friends.

The tea was a quiet little affair which Linda had promised Miss Ri
to attend, as it was at the house of one of the latter's particular
friends, and here they lingered till dinner time. As they were going
to their rooms a card was handed them. Miss Ri raised her lorgnette to
read the name. "Mr. Jeffreys has been here," she exclaimed.

"The gen'l'man say he be back this evenin'," the elevator boy told them.

"Humph!" Miss Ri looked at Linda. "Were we going anywhere to-night?"

"No. You remember that we said we would be going all day and that we'd
better stay in and rest."

"Then rest shall I, and you can see the young man. Now, no protests;
I am not going down one step. I can trust you to go unchaperoned this
once, I should think. I don't feel like talking to him. I have been
talking all day."

Therefore Linda went down alone when the young man was announced, to
find him sitting in a little alcove, waiting for her. He was in correct
evening dress and looked well. Linda had never seen him so carefully
attired and could but acknowledge that there was a certain elegance in
the tall, dignified figure, and that he looked quite as distinguished
as any man she had met. She, herself, was all in white, Miss Ri having
persuaded her that such a dress was as appropriate as her frocks of
black. She looked very charming, thought the young man, who rose to
meet her, and his manner was slightly more genial than usual.

"It seems a very long time since I saw you, Miss Linda," he said.

"Only a week," returned Linda, seating herself on a low divan, her
skirts making soft billows around her.

"You have enjoyed yourself and the time has passed very quickly, I
presume."

"Very quickly. We have had a delightful week. And you?"

"There have been festivities in Sandbridge from which you were missed."

"And to which, probably, I should not have gone. No piece of news of
any importance?"

"One which will interest you and which I came to tell you of."

He hesitated so long that Linda, to help him out, began, "And the news
is--"

"About my claim." He hesitated, as if finding it very hard to go on.

"Oh, I think I can anticipate what you have to say," rejoined Linda
easily. "My sister-in-law has told me that it is Talbot's Angles to
which your papers refer. Is that true?"

"It is."

"And have you established your facts?" Linda asked the question
steadily.

"Not perfectly; although the past week has given us some extra proof in
the papers found at the house itself. Among them we found some receipts
given by Cyrus Talbot to the tenant for rent. They read: 'Received from
John Briggs one quarter's rent for Talbot's Angles,' so much, and are
signed by Cyrus Talbot."

"By 'us' you mean Mr. Matthews and yourself?"

"Yes, it is through his efforts that we are able to get so much
evidence as we have."

"I see." There was silence for a moment. Linda sat perfectly still and,
except that she nervously played with a ring on her finger, appeared
unmoved.

Mr. Jeffreys watched her for a moment, then he leaned forward. "Miss
Linda," he began, "I know how you must feel, and it pains me beyond
expression to bring you news that must be disappointing to you, but--"
he halted in his precise speech, "but you need not lose your old home,
if you will take the claimant with it."

Linda lifted startled eyes.

The young man went on: "I have thought the matter over and while I
could not consider it expedient to live on the place, I would not sell
it unless you wished, and would always, under any circumstances,
reserve the house, that you might still consider it your home."

Linda laughed a little wildly. "It seems that is always the way of it.
I am merely to consider it my home in every case."

He drew nearer and took her hand. "Then, will you accept it as I offer
it? With myself? I would try to make you happy. I think if I had the
stimulus of your companionship, I could succeed. We could make our home
in Hartford, and you could return to Maryland when it pleased you each
year. I have just received an offer from an insurance company. They
wish to send me to England on business, and on my return they give me
the promise of such a position as will insure me a future."

"It is in Hartford?"

"Yes; and it is a lovely city, you know."

"Where, as in Sandbridge, they are always ready to welcome strangers
cordially? I think I have heard how very spontaneous they are up there,
quite expansive and eager to make newcomers feel at home." She spoke
with sarcastic emphasis.

"Of course, my friends would welcome you," returned Mr. Jeffreys a
little stiffly. "Dear Miss Linda," he continued more fervently, "don't
get the idea that there are no warm hearts in the North because you
have heard of some cold ones. Once you know the people, none could be
better friends. I would try to make you happy. Will you believe me
when I say that you are the first woman I have ever wished to make my
wife?"

"Yes, I believe you." She smiled a little.

"Please think it over. I would rather not have my answer now. I know
there is much to bewilder you, and I would rather you did not give
me an impulsive reply. I will not pursue the subject. I will come
to-morrow. I would much rather wait."

"Thank you for your consideration," returned Linda. "I will think it
over, Mr. Jeffreys. It is only right that I should. Must you go?"

"I think so. May I come to-morrow afternoon? At what hour?"

"About five. We have an engagement in the evening."

He arose, took her hand, pressed it gently and said earnestly, "I beg
that you will remember that it would be my dearest wish to make you my
wife under any circumstances."

"I will remember," returned Linda.

"Please give my regards to Miss Hill," continued Mr. Jeffreys, taking
up his hat. "I owe her a debt of thanks for giving me this opportunity
of seeing you alone." And he bowed himself out.

There were but few persons in the large drawing-room, and they had
been quite sequestered in their little alcove. Linda returned to her
seat, and lingered there, thinking, thinking. Presently she smiled
and whispered to herself, "He never once said he loved, never once.
'As moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wine,'" she murmured
musingly. So he would marry her and take her to his city, where there
would be no Aunt Ri, no warm-hearted neighbors to welcome her with
cordial emphasis, as there would be when she went back to Sandbridge.
Nevermore the flat, level roads, the little salt rivers, the simple
every-day intercourse of friend with friend, the easy-going unambitious
way of living, the smiling content. Instead, the eager struggle for
greater ostentation and luxury, which she saw even in the city where
she now was; the cold, calculating stares from utter strangers, when
she went among them, interest lacking, affection wanting. But on the
other hand, she would come back to her old home every year, and it
would be truly hers. But how hard it would be to go from it again!
And after a while she would be coming less and less frequently. She
would grow reticent and unapproachable. Repression would silently work
the change in her. She would have the opportunity of pouring out her
thoughts on paper, to be sure, but--so she would at home. "No, no, no,"
she cried; "I'd rather a thousand times teach my restless boys for
the remainder of my life. I don't love him, and that is exactly what
is wrong. Where he lives has nothing to do with it. Goodbye, Talbot's
Angles. You were never mine, and you never will be now."

She went to her room, tip-toeing gently that Miss Ri might not hear her
in the adjoining one. She slipped quietly into a chair near the window
and gave herself up to her thoughts. She must not let Miss Ri think her
caller had remained so short a time, and the dear woman must not be
told of what had occurred. When she heard a stirring around in the next
room, she knocked on the door, which was quickly opened to her.

"Well, child, has your young man gone?" came the query. "What did he
have to say?"

"He told me the same thing Grace did about Talbot's Angles."

"He did? The wretch!... Linda, why did we ever treat him so well? He
doesn't deserve it."

"Why, Aunt Ri, he can't help being the great-grandson of Cyrus Talbot."

"He could help coming down here and stirring up all this fuss."

"He sent his regards to you."

"I don't want them. What else did he say?"

"It appears that they have some new evidence, found in the paper which
Grace directed them to. Some old receipts which seem to establish the
fact that Cyrus Talbot really did have the right to rent the place
to a certain John Briggs. I don't know how these receipts came into
the possession of our branch of the family, but probably Briggs gave
them to our great-grandfather to keep safely. At all events, Berkley
Matthews and Mr. Jeffreys have worked it all out."

"I don't see how Berkley could have the conscience. It is outrageous
for him to be party to a scheme for defrauding an orphan girl."

"Oh, Aunt Ri, you mustn't say it is defrauding; it is just legal
rights. We may have been defrauding them."

"We'll see whether it is so or not. Judge Goldsborough was so sure; but
then I suppose all these things were not known to him. I wish we could
hear from him and learn what he has discovered in the papers he holds."

"We shall, in good time. Meanwhile, what difference does it make? I
am used to having the place belong to someone else, and I am growing
content to spend my days in teaching. I shall even be glad to get back
to my boys."

Miss Ri swung around sharply and took the girl's face between her
hands. "Verlinda, Verlinda," she said, "I wish I could turn a
search-light on that heart of yours?"

"Why, Aunt Ri?"

"Oh, because, because, a woman's reason." Then she put her arms around
the girl and hugged her close to her ample night-dress. "You are a
darling child. Teach as long as you like; it will be so much the better
for me than seeing you go off to Hartford."

Linda felt the color rise to her face. "How do you know that
opportunity will ever be afforded me?" she asked lightly.

"If it hasn't been, it will. How did that miserable usurper look?"

"Very handsome; in quite correct evening dress, which suited him
perfectly. Aunt Ri, it would be a privilege to sit opposite such a
fine-looking man three times a day for the rest of my life."

"It would, would it? and have to use a knife to dissect him before you
could find out what he really felt about anything? And even then you
wouldn't discover a thing in his veins but ice-water."

Linda laughed. "You can be the most vehement person for one who
pretends to be so mild and serene. I notice that where those you love
are concerned, you are anything but mild, bless your dear heart. Don't
be scared, Aunt Ri; I'll never leave Sandbridge, never. I'll never
leave the dear old Eastern Shore for anyone. No, indeed."

"Who is vehement now, Verlinda Talbot? I verily believe that man has
proposed to you. I am convinced of it. Oh, my dear, maybe after all you
ought to consider him, for that would settle it all. You could live in
the old home and be happy ever after, only, Verlinda, Verlinda, what
would become of Berk?"

Linda gave a little smothered cry and Miss Ri felt the slender figure
quivering, though quite steadily came the words, "We can't take Berk
into consideration, Aunt Ri; he is fighting with all his might for
Mr. Jeffreys, and so far as I am concerned, he doesn't think of me at
all--in any direction."

"I don't believe it," returned Miss Ri. "I admit he is an enigma, but
I don't believe a word of his not thinking of you. I've talked to his
mother," she added triumphantly.

After that not a word would she say on the subject, but sent Linda off
to bed, and if the girl needed anything to fix her decision regarding
Mr. Jeffreys, it is possible that Miss Ri's last words helped to the
conclusion.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE DELIBERATE CONSCIENCE


In spite of having already made up her mind when she left Miss Ri,
Linda conscientiously devoted an hour's serious thought to the subject
of Wyatt Jeffreys; for she told herself that it was only fair to him.
She took down her hair, wrapped herself in a dressing-gown, and gave
herself up to contemplation. "It wouldn't be so hard," she thought,
drawing her brows together, "if he had determined to live at Talbot's
Angles, for I should at least have my old home."

"And see Berkley Matthews whenever you went to town," something
whispered.

"Oh, well," the argument came as if in reply, "would that be any worse
than it will be now when I have to stay in town and run the risk of
meeting him at any time?"

"But now there is a little hope," again came the inward voice.

"There isn't! there isn't!" Linda contradicted. "I can't believe there
is. Look how he has acted: avoiding me openly, sending me only a little
trifling card at Christmas, taking up this case which defies my
rights. Tell me such a thing? It is not so."

"But Miss Ri has talked to his mother. Margaret herself told you that
Berk never wearied of sounding your praises."

"That is all a blind. He doesn't care; he couldn't, and act as he is
doing." She resolutely shut her ears to the voice of the charmer and
turned her attention to the other claimant to regard. He had many fine
qualities, but comparisons would crop up. Mr. Jeffreys had praised her
work and had congratulated her upon appearing in print; but it was more
on account of the recognition, than because of what she wrote. Berk, on
the other hand, perceived the spirit rather than the commercial value.
She had shown both men other little writings; Berk had commented upon
the thought, the originality of some fancy; Mr. Jeffreys had praised
the metre, or the quality which would make it marketable. "There is the
difference," thought Linda; "Mr. Jeffreys does not lack intellectual
perception but Berk has a spiritual one. I saw deep into that one day
when I was talking to him about Martin. He may be flippant and boyish
on the surface, but back of it all there is that in his soul which
can penetrate behind the stars. If he loved anyone he would not care
for her looks, her position, her wealth, or for anything but just her
individual self. Mr. Jeffreys would weigh the qualities which go to
make a satisfactory wife. It was his dearest wish. I was the first, he
would try to make me happy; all that, and not a word of his feelings
toward me. His heart did not speak, his deliberate conscience did, for
I don't doubt he has one, and it makes him uncomfortable when he thinks
of wresting Talbot's Angles from me. Well, my good man, keep your
conscience. You have done your duty and there is an end of it. Go back
to where you belong."

She pondered awhile longer and then took out her writing-materials.
"I'll have this ready when he comes," she said to herself. "In
case Aunt Ri is at hand and I do not have a chance to speak to him
privately." She wrote the note, addressed the envelope and sealed it
with an emphasis which had an air of finality about it, and then she
went to bed. What her dreams were she did not tell, but no doubt Queen
Mab galloped through her brain.

Prompt to the minute, Mr. Jeffreys arrived. Miss Ri and Linda, hurrying
back from a call, found him there, and as fate would have it Miss Ri
sat down for a chat. She would like to have the gossip of the town from
Mr. Jeffreys. How was Parthy and how were the dogs, and what was going
on? Had he seen Berk? and all the rest of it. The young man, whatever
may have been his impatience, answered quietly and politely, giving at
length certain little details which he knew would interest Miss Ri,
and for this he deserved more credit than he received.

After half an hour he asked if Linda would take a walk with him, but
Miss Ri objected, saying that Linda was tired and that she was going
out to dinner and must not be late, which hint started the young man
off, though not before he had given the girl a deprecating, inquiring
look. She responded by handing him the little note she had written the
night before.

"Here is what you asked me for," she said, the color rising to her
cheeks and a little regret to her heart when she realized that she was
dealing him a blow.

He looked at her searchingly, but she dropped her eyes, and he was
obliged to go without receiving a spark of satisfaction.

As girls will be, in such cases, Linda was a little hard on the man
whom she had just refused. She gave him less credit than he deserved,
for he was honestly and fervently in love with her, though having lived
in an atmosphere of repression, and where it was considered almost a
crime to show a redundance of affection, he had betrayed little of what
he really felt, but it is a comment upon his eagerness to state that he
wasted no time in finding out the contents of the note she gave him. It
was brief, but to the point, and was enough to send the young man back
to Sandbridge on the evening boat which he had barely time to catch.
He felt rather badly treated, for in her sweet sympathetic manner he
had read a deeper concern than existed. Now he realized that it was
nothing more than she would show anyone thrown upon her generosity,
or at the most, presenting a claim to kinship of blood. He credited
her with magnanimity in yielding up Talbot's Angles without showing
resentment, and he valued her invariable attention to his confidences,
as he reported the various ups and downs of his affairs, but in his
heart of hearts he charged her with a little coquetry, failing to
understand her spontaneous sympathy as a man of her own locality would
have done.

He had the wisdom to believe that her decision was final, yet he
lingered in Sandbridge till her return, giving himself up to brooding
over his troubles more pessimistically, if less passionately than a
more impulsive man would have done, and his cheerful little remarks to
Miss Parthy, clipped off with the usual polite intonation, gave her no
evidence that he was most unhappy.

But one day he walked into Berkley's office. Berkley looked up from the
litter of legal documents crowding his desk. "Well, Jeffreys, old man,
how goes it? Been up to town, I hear. When did you get back?"

"Several days ago," was the answer. "I did not stay long."

"Sit down and tell me about it."

Mr. Jeffreys took the vacant chair, but ignored the invitation to
"tell about it." "I came in to say that I am thinking of returning to
Hartford," he began. "I suppose you can continue to push my business
without my presence."

"Why, yes, I imagine so. You could run down if necessary. I don't
suppose you mean to stay away very long in any event."

"I should probably not return except in case of necessity." He paused,
then said with an effort, "You were good enough, Matthews, to encourage
me in my addresses to Miss Talbot so I think it is due you to say that
she has refused me."

"My dear man!" Berk leaned forward and laid his hand on the other's
knee. "You mustn't give up so easily. You know a woman's No isn't
always final."

"I believe this to be. You wouldn't accuse Miss Linda of being an
undecided character.

"No, I must confess I wouldn't. She is very gentle but she generally
knows her own mind pretty thoroughly. Jeffreys, my dear fellow, I am
sorry. I don't wonder you are cut up and are thinking of leaving us.
It would be a desperately hard fight to stay and be obliged to see
her every now and then. For a man to lose a girl like Linda Talbot is
pretty tough lines. I shouldn't want my worst enemy to go through such
a purgatory."

"You speak feelingly," returned Mr. Jeffreys with a little bitter
smile. Then his better manhood asserting itself, "Matthews, you know
you love her yourself."

Berkley tossed up his head proudly. "What if I do? I am not ashamed of
it."

"And you deliberately gave me the chance of winning her if I could.
Why?"

Berkley made savage dabs with his pen upon the blotting pad before him,
thereby injuring the pen hopelessly and doing the blotter no good.
He suddenly threw the pen aside. "What sort of chump would I be if I
hadn't done it? Her happiness was the first thing to be considered,
not mine. I knew she wanted Talbot's Angles more than anything in the
world, and that ought to have made it dead easy for a man who really
loved a girl in the right way."

"And you have been doing everything in your power to win the property
for me. You have been loyal to both of us. Shake hands, Berkley
Matthews, you are far and away a better man than I am, but I will not
be outdone. Do you think I have no pride? I may have a deliberate
conscience, as Miss Talbot herself once told me, but I hope it is as
well developed as yours. I'll fight it out and then we shall see. What
right had I to expect that I could throw a sop to my conscience by
asking her to marry me? I see it all now. You love her; so do I, and I
will prove it to you both."

"Do you suppose I doubted the truth of your feeling for her?" cried
Berkley. "That would be a poor compliment to her. I think you are too
easily downed, Jeffreys. Cheer up. Take another chance. Wait awhile.
Do your best to better your chances. Unbend a little. Be more free and
easy. Make her dependent upon you for encouragement and sympathy. Oh,
there are a thousand ways."

Jeffreys regarded him with a half smile. "You mean I must substitute a
Southern temperament for a Northern one. That is easier said than done.
The day of miracles is past."

"You've not known her so very long," Berkley persisted in his argument.

"I've seen her almost every day, sometimes twice a day for three
months. I have known young ladies for years whom I seem to know less
well. Certainly there has been no bar to our becoming well acquainted."

"Well, I wouldn't give up this early in the game," Berk continued his
pleading.

"You think there is a chance for me, do you? I can tell you there is
not," replied Mr. Jeffreys with emphasis.

Berkley accompanied him to the street where they stood talking a few
minutes longer. A horse and buggy were there in waiting for Berkley.
"I promised John Emory to go with him to sign a deed," he said, "and
he left his buggy. I am to pick him up further along. Can I take you
anywhere, first, Jeffreys?"

"No, thank you. I have no special errand. I'm not a man of business
just now, you remember."

Berkley took his place in the vehicle, was about to gather up the reins
when around the corner dashed an automobile. The horse threw up his
head, gave a sudden plunge, and in another second would have swung the
buggy directly in the path of the rushing car, but that Jeffreys sprang
forward and seized the horse's head to jerk him to one side, but this
was not done before the car grazed him sufficiently to send him to the
ground, close to the horse's hoofs. Without stopping the car sped on.
By this time Berkley had grabbed the reins and had spoken commandingly
to the horse which fortunately, stood still. Several by-standers sprang
to Jeffreys' aid and dragged him from his precarious position.

Berkley threw the reins to Billy, who had run out at the sound of this
commotion, and leaped to where Jeffreys now stood. "Are you hurt, old
man?" he asked as Jeffreys limped to the sidewalk. "Come right into the
office." He dismissed the little crowd which had gathered and assisted
Jeffreys inside.

The latter shook himself. "I'm not actually hurt," he answered "only a
little bruised, I think, and slightly shaken up."

"You were within an ace of being killed, man," said Berkley gravely.
"And you risked your life for me. I am not going to forget that,
Jeffreys."

The young man smiled. "It evens up matters a little," he returned,
"though we are not quits yet. I haven't lost sight of that fact."

"Doesn't saving a man's life come about as near settling any existing
score as a thing could?" asked Berkley.

"Oh, we won't strain a point so far as to say it was saving your life.
You might not have been hurt at all, and it merely happened that I was
the first to grab the bridle. There were others ready to do it if I had
not."

"Bah!" cried Berkley. "That's all wrong argument; if the horse had not
been there; if the car had not come along; we could go on indefinitely
with conjecturing, but what we face is a visible truth. You risked your
life and limbs for me, and that is the exact statement of the case.
Thank you, is a very feeble way to say what I feel."

"I'm quite all right now," returned the other, setting aside further
discussion. "If you will let me have a brush or something to get rid of
this dust on my clothes, I'll be as good as ever. That's it, thanks,"
for Berkley was vigorously applying a whisk broom to his dusty coat
and trousers. He refused further aid, insisting that there was no need
of any assistance in getting home. He would rather walk; it would be
good for him. So Berkley was perforce to see him leave, and himself
reëntered the buggy, and drove off to keep his appointment.

He was very grateful to and infinitely sorry for his rival, but there
was an undercurrent of joy singing through his heart. She had refused
him, bless her, and she would return home that very day. He took out
a note received from Miss Ri the day before, saying that they would
arrive by the morning's boat. He reread the lines. "It isn't decent of
me; it really isn't," he exclaimed, stuffing the note back into his
pocket. "It's like dancing on another man's grave, and after what he
has just done for me, too. What right have I to be glad anyway? It is
losing her the comfort of living again in her old home, and, dickens
take it, how do I know that I am any better off? Simmer down, Berkley
Matthews; it won't do for you to go galloping off with an idea before
you have all the facts in the case. At least you will have the grace to
keep quiet while the other fellow is around." And he altered his train
of thought with the determination of one who has learned the art of
concentration under difficulties.

He had restrained himself from rushing off to the boat to meet the
returning travellers, but, after his return to his office, Miss Ri
called him up and imperiously demanded his presence to dinner, and he
accepted without a word of protest.

"You're looking better," remarked Miss Ri, after they had shaken hands.
"I knew Phebe would be as good for you as untold bottles of tonic. Come
right in. Linda is waiting in the dining-room."

And there Linda was. Berkley wondered if she could hear the thumping
of his heart. Here was her hand in his. What a wonderful fact! She
was there before him,--free--as possible for him as for any other. He
longed to ask if she were the least little bit glad to see him, but he
didn't; all he said was: "Glad to see you back, Linda. I hear you have
been having a great time."

"Who told you?" she asked with a sudden bright smile.

"Mother wrote me a long letter. I'll tell you about it another time. I
suppose you were sorry to come away."

"No, not at all, though we had a lovely time. If you want a thoroughly
skilled designer of good times you must employ Aunt Ri.

"I think the trip did much for me in many ways. One must get off from
things to acquire a really true perspective, you know, and now I am so
happy to be here again, to see the dear blue river, and this blessedly
stupid town and all that. There is no place like it, Berk."

What pure joy to hear her speak like that. Berkley wished she would
go on forever, but she was waiting for some response, he suddenly
realized. "That is the way I like to hear you talk," he said quite
honestly. "I've noticed myself, that when I have been away for any
length of time I am always glad to get back to the simple life."

"Very simple with such a dinner," laughed Linda. "Phebe has prepared
all this in honor of our home-coming."

"It seemed a pity that you should not be here to share it," spoke up
Miss Ri. "There was no need to send you back to husks this very first
day."

"I came near not being here at all," he answered. Then he recounted the
episode of the morning, sparing no praise of Mr. Jeffreys, but looking
at Miss Ri rather than at Linda as he told the tale over which his
hearers were much excited.

Fain as he was to linger after dinner, he would not allow himself such
a luxury, but rushed off almost immediately, saying he must get back
to work. Miss Ri watched him with tender eyes as he hurried down the
path. "It is good to get him back," she said turning from the window.
"I don't know what I should have done if anything serious had happened
to him. He is looking very well, I think. That troubled, anxious
expression has left his face. I think the poor boy must have been under
some great strain. If you go off with that waxen image to Hartford
I'll adopt Berk as sure as you live."

"Oh, Aunt Ri," expostulated Linda, "you know he is no tailor's dummy,
but a very fine-looking man, and just think of what a heroic thing he
has just done. There was no deliberation then, but the quick sacrifice
of himself at the critical moment. Berk might have been killed but for
him. I don't see how you can talk so about my brave cousin."

"Cousin is it? Well, so long as he remains only that I have no
complaint to make of him. I suppose now we shall have to have more
respect for him than ever."

Linda had to laugh at the aggrieved tone. "_I_ certainly have," she
answered emphatically. "I think he was perfectly splendid."

"Berk, or any other half way decent man would have done the same thing
under like circumstances," argued Miss Ri. "I don't see that it was
anything for him to crow over."

"I think it was decidedly." Linda stood her ground.

"Well, we won't quarrel over it," continued Miss Ri. "Let's change the
subject. I was just thinking, Linda, that I have discovered something
since I have had you here with me, though, by the way, one does that
all through life; some truth, some moral of living is suddenly revealed
at a given stage. Life is nothing more than a series of revelations."

"And what has been revealed to you, wisest of Aunt Ris." Linda came
over and took her friend's face between her hands.

"That one must have somebody to work for in order to get the best out
of existence."

Linda's hands dropped; her face grew wistful. "And I have no one but
myself to work for," she shook her head sadly.

"You have me, in a certain sense, and it is too early yet for you to
despair of having someone else." Miss Ri laughed wickedly.

Linda pretended to box her ears. "You are a naughty old thing. I am
going out to talk to Mammy, and leave you to meditate upon your sins,"
she said.

Mammy was sitting at the table lingering over her dinner. She never
liked to cut short this happy hour of the day, and was fond of picking
here and picking there, though she would not remain at the table if
anyone entered. It would never do to have "white folkes" see you eat.

"I thes gwine to cl'ar away," she said with a beaming smile as she
swept bones and potato skins into her empty plate.

"Oh, Mammy, you haven't finished your dinner," exclaimed Linda.

"Yas, I done et all I wants. I thes res'in' up a little 'fo' I does
mah dishes. Set down, honey, an' tell yo' Mammy what yuh-all been
a-doin' whilst yuh was up in de city. Mighty fine doin's, I reckon. Yuh
stay at de big hotel?"

"Yes."

"An' w'ar dat nice floppity white frock?"

"Yes, I wore it several times."

"An' yuh has uver so many nice young gem'mans come to see yuh?"

"Not very many. You see I don't know a great many people, and I am not
going to dances this winter, of course. Mr. Jeffreys came up while I
was there, and he is a nice young gentleman, I am sure."

Mammy began delicately to wipe her tumblers. "Miss Lindy, yuh ain't
gwine ma'y dat man, is yuh?"

"No, Mammy." Linda spoke quite decidedly, "but you know he is a kind of
cousin, and I must be as nice to him as possible, besides I like him
very much."

"He kain't hol' a can'le to Mr. Berk; he de likenes' young man I uvver
see."

"You'll make me jealous if you talk that way," said Linda fondly and to
please her Mammy.

Mammy ducked her head and laughed, shaking her head from side to side.

"I'll not go away again if you are going to get so fond of someone
else while I am gone," Linda went on with a pretence of pouting.

Mammy fairly doubled up at this. "Ain' it de troof?" she cried. "Law,
chile," she continued appeasingly, "I ain't so t'arin' fond o' him; he
ain't tall enough."

It was Linda's turn to laugh, and she went back to Miss Ri to repeat
Mammy's criticism.



CHAPTER XIX

OF WHAT AVAIL?


Berkley's words did have the effect of encouraging Mr. Jeffreys to take
heart anew, and, as it would be another month before his presence would
be required in Hartford, he concluded not to neglect his opportunities.
Therefore again Berkley retired to the background to watch his rival
pass by with Linda, walk to church with her, while he heard of his
visiting her daily. It seemed, then, that he did not intend to give her
up lightly.

"I don't know what to do about it," Linda confided to Miss Ri ruefully.
"I can't tell him to go home when he comes, and I can't disappear like
the Cheshire cat when he joins me on the street. He will be such a
short time here that it doesn't seem worth while to do more than let
matters drift."

"I rather like his persistence," declared Miss Ri. "He'll win you yet,
Verlinda."

Linda neither affirmed nor denied. Another little poem had found its
way into print and there was hope ahead, even though Talbot's Angles
should be lost to her.

"It isn't such a tremendously valuable piece of property after all,"
Miss Ri continued her remarks, showing the trend of her thought, "and
if you weren't so sentimentally fond of it, Verlinda, I don't know that
it would be such a great loss. I wish you'd let me adopt you; then I'd
leave you this place."

"You'd have me give up my independence, Aunt Ri? Oh, no. We've
canvassed that question too often. If you had taken me before I had
known what it was to hoe my own row, it might have done, but now, oh,
no. You're the dearest of dears to tempt me, but we shall both be
happier with no faster bond than that which self-elected friends must
always feel. I love no one so well as you, and you don't dislike me,
though I admit I don't consider myself first in your regard."

"And who do you think is? Not Becky Hill's brood, I'm sure. They will
have enough, and I am not one of those who think everything should go
to those of the name, unless there's love, too. Who do you mean? If
you're not first, who is?"

"Berkley Matthews."

"Better say he used to be. He hasn't the sense he was born with. If I
were his mother I'd spank him."

"Now, Aunt Ri, what for?"

"On general principles, just because he is such a notional piece of
humanity. I admire him, too; I can't help it; all the same he tries me.
When you desert me to turn Yankee, Verlinda, I'll make my will and
leave this place as a home for indigent females or something of that
kind."

"How nice," returned Linda comfortably; "then when I grow decrepit I
can come back here and have my old room."

The little creases appearing around Miss Ri's eyes, showed that she
appreciated this retort. "There comes Bertie," she announced a moment
after.

"Then I'll ask her to walk with me," returned Linda, rising with
alacrity.

"Doesn't Mr. Jeffreys make his appearance about this time?"

"Generally, but I can skip him to-day. I'd rather go with Bertie. Just
tell him, Aunt Ri."

"That you'd rather go with Bertie?"

"Of course not, but that we have gone out for a walk."

"Where are you going?"

"There's no need of your knowing, is there?"

Miss Ri looked up with a smile. "I understand. Go along. I reckon
you're right to suggest the unattainable once in a while; it adds to
the zest later." And with this Parthian shot following her, Linda left
the room to join Bertie.

In another moment Miss Ri saw the two girls going out the gate. "I'll
not even watch to see which way they turn," she said to herself,
letting her gaze fall on her work rather than on the outside world.
The dear lady made a good conspirator.

"When are you going to announce your engagement?" was one of the first
questions Bertie put to her companion, as they set their faces toward
the main street.

"What do you mean?" asked Linda.

"Oh, now Linda Talbot, everyone knows you are engaged to Mr. Jeffreys.
You wouldn't be together so continually if you were not."

"I think I could mention several young persons in this town who have
set a worthy precedent," replied Linda.

"Oh, well, of course, but in this case--He isn't the flirty kind, we
all know."

"He is my cousin," argued Linda in self-defence.

Bertie laughed. "We all know that kind of cousin. The Irish maids have
flaunted them before our eyes for generations. That won't do, Linda.
Own up."

"Positively there are none but friendly relations between Wyatt
Jeffreys and myself."

"Truly? I can scarcely believe it, but there is not a doubt but that
there will be different ones, and everyone is thinking it such an ideal
arrangement, for of course it is known that he is the claimant for
Talbot's Angles."

"I am sorry to disappoint my neighbors."

"I, for one, don't expect to be disappointed. If I did I would set my
cap for the young man myself. I've heard girls talk that way before,
and the first thing you knew their wedding cards were out. I don't see
how you can possibly give up the joy of owning that dear old home of
yours. He'd better not offer himself to me, I'd accept him for Talbot's
Angles if for nothing else."

Linda winced. It might come to that, perhaps. For the moment she felt
annoyed at Bertie who might have been more tactful, she thought.

"Do you know," continued Bertie, "whether Mr. Jeffreys intends to
live there? We are all dying to know, and if you don't become the
mistress of the dear old place it will not want for one for the lack of
appreciative damsels. The girls are ready, even now to reckon on their
chances. We don't have so many eligible young men come to town that we
can afford to let such a desirable one go away unappropriated."

"It seems to me that he is not the only one," responded Linda.

"There are not more than half a dozen, not near enough to go around. I
know perfectly well, for at the last dance I had to dance twice with
a girl, and I do hate that. Let me see, there are Elmer Dawson, John
Emory, Todd Bryan, Billy Tucker, Tom Willis, and Berk Matthews, though
Berk doesn't count. Nobody sees him nowadays. He has turned into a
regular greasy grind, so that he is no good at all. He has a girl up in
the city, you know. I charged him with it, and he the same as admitted
it. I think he might have looked nearer home. Berk used to be great
fun, too; it is rather a shame. So you see, Linda, even counting him
there are not more than six who are really worth while; the rest are
mere boys. Now, if you really don't want your cousin yourself, you
might speak a good word for me, and I'll be mighty thankful."

"Bertie, you are a silly child. You know you don't mean a word of all
this. Why do you rattle on in such a brainless way?"

"I'm in dead earnest, I assure you. I'll take him in a minute, now that
I can't get Berk who is as good as gone. We are wild to know who the
girl is, what she looks like and all that. I suppose you didn't happen
to meet her when you were in the city. Miss Ri ought to know, if anyone
does."

"We didn't meet any such person," replied Linda a little defiantly. "We
saw Mrs. Matthews and Margaret, but, of course, they did not mention
her."

"Very likely they would be the last ones to know. At all events he is
not the lad he was, as anyone with half an eye can see. Even if he
hadn't told me there would be but one conclusion to gather from his
absolute indifference to us all. Every one of the girls agree to that."

Linda smiled mechanically. Suppose it were true. There had been but the
one meeting, that which took place upon the day of her arrival from
the city, then it had seemed as if they were about to return to the
old pleasant relations, but since then not another sign. Yet--"There
isn't anything I wouldn't do to make you happy, Linda Talbot." What was
the meaning of that saying? Only the gentle concern of a chivalrous,
tender-hearted man, probably. She gave a little sigh which drew
Bertie's attention.

"Tired, Linda? We're going too far, perhaps. I forget that you are a
busy bee all the morning. We'd better turn back."

Linda agreed. She felt singularly heavy-spirited and would be glad to
reach home, she realized. Bertie left her with a laughing challenge to
"hurry up or she would try to cut her out," and then Linda went in.

Miss Ri was just stirring the fire, for she loved the dancing lights at
a twilight hour. "Draw up, draw up," she cried, "and tell me the news.
What did you learn from Bertie?"

"First that I was engaged to Mr. Jeffreys, and if not that I ought to
be. Second; it is reported that Berkley Matthews has a sweetheart in
the city."

"The wretch!" cried Miss Ri. "I'd like to see him bring a strange girl
here for me to conciliate and defer to."

"He has a perfect right, hasn't he, Aunt Ri?"

"Oh, I don't know, I'm sure. I hate to think of it. So the report is
that you are certainly engaged."

"Yes, they have arranged it all, and are quite pleased. I am to live
at Talbot's Angles, it seems, and it is considered a delightful way to
settle matters for me. Bertie was quite enthusiastic. Did Mr. Jeffreys
come?"

"Yes, and was sorry to have missed you. He'll be back this evening. He
tells me he is going to leave for Hartford next week. Are you going
with him, Verlinda?"

The girl thoughtfully prodded a long stick which needed pushing further
back. "I haven't decided," she replied presently.

"You had decided there in Baltimore, if I remember correctly."

"Yes, so I had. Oh, I don't know. I don't know. I don't see how I could
stand it to keep on living here." She put down the tongs and clasped
her hands tightly.

"Why, Verlinda, my dear child, what do you mean? You--" Miss Ri paused
and laid her hand gently on the girl's. "The wretch," she murmured,
"the wretch."

Linda turned to kiss her cheek. "Never mind, Aunt Ri," she rejoined;
"no doubt I'll be thanking the Lord yet."

Miss Ri laughed shortly, then the words came pleadingly, "Don't leave
me, Verlinda, and don't think you will be any happier if you go away.
You can't run from yourself, you know. Stay where you are and fight it
out as I did. I'll do my best for you."

"Dear Aunt Ri! As if I didn't know that. After all, I believe you are
right. I'd be happier here with you than among strangers under any
circumstances, even with my old home calling me and a good man to share
it. I suppose it is cowardly to want to take refuge in a love you can't
return."

"It isn't only cowardly," affirmed Miss Ri with decision, "but it is
unfair to the one who gives all and receives no return. I think you are
too proud as well as too honest to allow that, Verlinda."

"Do you think I've been unkind, unfair to Mr. Jeffreys? I haven't meant
to be. I've been trying my best to care for him, to learn to know
him better and to appreciate his good qualities so they would seem
sufficient for me. I haven't meant to encourage him unduly. I meant to
do the very fairest thing I could, but I am afraid I haven't, after
all, or the town wouldn't take things so for granted."

"The town takes things for granted upon slighter evidence than that.
Don't struggle any more, dear child. What is that old quotation? 'To
thine own self be true and it must follow as the night the day, thou
can'st not then be false to any man.' Don't forget that. Now, let's
light up and be as cheery as we can. Don't believe all the gossip you
hear; there's not one tenth of it true."

Mr. Jeffreys came again that evening. Miss Ri, with a wisdom born of
experience, went around to Miss Parthy's and with the opportunity
afforded him Mr. Jeffreys made a final throw--and lost. Miss Ri
returned to find Linda, with her head in the cushions of the sofa,
shaking with sobs.

"You poor darling child," said Miss Ri, bending over her, "was it so
hard?"

"Oh, I hated to do it. I hated to, Aunt Ri. He was so quiet and
dignified, and so kind. He tried to make me feel that it wasn't my
fault and he--cares much more than I believed. He didn't say so before."

"Before? There was a first time, then, and this was the second."

"Yes, as you suspected, there in Baltimore, but I wasn't half so
distressed then. Oh, dear, why should we have such contrary hearts?"
Down went her head again.

"There, dear, there," Miss Ri soothed her. "Don't cry about it.
There never was a man living worth so many tears. He will get over
it beautifully; I never knew one who didn't. You will probably get
cards for his wedding while you are still grieving over this night's
business. Mark my words."

Linda sat up at this. "I suppose I am silly," she said steadily. "I
haven't a doubt but I was overwrought and nervous. You see it is the
first time I ever refused a man to his face; I gave him a note before.
Very likely if I had refused a dozen men as some girls do, I should get
to rather enjoying it." She smiled ruefully.

Miss Ri sat down and snuggled her up close. "Dear, good little lass,
you'd never be one to glory in scalps. I am sorry for you both, but it
can't be helped, and you have done exactly right. Now don't lie awake
all night thinking about it." A wise piece of advice but one which
profited Linda little.

With more than his usual gravity Wyatt Jeffreys presented himself
at Berkley's office the next morning. "Can I see you privately?" he
asked, for Billy was rattling papers in the next room where a couple
of countrymen were waiting, beguiling the time by a plentiful use of
chewing tobacco.

Berkley glanced at his clients. "Can you wait a few minutes? I shall
be through with these men before very long. Suppose you go over to the
hotel and tell them that you are to meet me there. Ask them to show
you to my room. I'll be over as soon as I can."

Jeffreys nodded approvingly. "Very well. I will meet you there. Thank
you for suggesting it."

He was admitted to the room without question. He remembered it from
having first visited Berkley there to identify the little trunk. Better
it had never been found and that he had left the place then and there.
He sat down in the one easy chair, and looked around. On the bureau
stood a row of photographs, the first of a gentle looking woman whose
eyes were like Berkley's; that must be his mother, and the next his
sister. A third, evidently taken some years before, showed a man with
thoughtful brow and a strong, though not handsome face; this was Dr.
Matthews of whom Jeffreys had heard much from those who still missed
their beloved physician. There was another photograph standing by
itself, the thin white outer covering dropped like a veil over it, but
through this Jeffreys could see that it was a head of Linda. He did not
lift the veil, but stood thoughtfully looking at the dim outline. He
had put his own camera to use often enough to secure several snap-shots
of the girl in Miss Ri's old garden, but this picture he had not seen.
He wondered if she had given it to Berkley, and when. There were no
other pictures about except those three of the family standing side by
side.

The man sat down again and presently Berkley hurried in. "Sorry I had
to keep you waiting," he said, "but these country fellows are slow.
Well, anything new?"

"Nothing," responded Jeffreys dully. "I only wanted to tell you that I
am leaving next week, and that I wish to stop proceedings in the matter
of Talbot's Angles."

"What do you mean, man?" Berkley turned in surprise.

"Just that. Do you think you're the only man who can do a brave thing?
Do you suppose you can flaunt your heroics without making me feel that
I am a small specimen who has no right to be smirking around as a
complacent recipient of others' property? I will not have it. I am as
capable as you of making sacrifices. I will not be outdone by you."

"Please explain yourself." Berkley spoke quietly, eyeing the other
man's tense face.

"I mean this: I wish Miss Talbot to retain her property. I have taken
your advice, but, as I told you before, it was not worth while. Not
even for the sake of having her own again would she take me with the
property."

"You wouldn't expect one of her caliber to do it for the sake of that
only," said Berkley a little proudly. Then more gently, "I am no end
of sorry. Believe me or not, I had hoped for a better report from you."

"Is that honestly said?"

"It is."

The man's face softened. "I believe you, Matthews. If ever a man
has shown himself loyal, you are he. I see it all, and I bow to the
inevitable. I never have had much of what I wanted in this world, and
I suppose I shall never have. As yet I cannot be as generous as you,
but some day I hope to reach your heights. I have the promise of a good
future before me, and I can do without Cyrus Talbot's inheritance. What
I came to say I have said. Stop proceedings. I relinquish all claim to
Talbot's Angles."

What could Berkley answer? He realized that these were sorry days for
Jeffreys, and the least said now the better. "Very well," he agreed;
"it shall be as you wish. I consider it most generous of you. Of course
nothing of any account has been done, and we will drop the whole thing
for the present. Perhaps you will wish to reconsider it some day. If
you do, I am at your service. Shall I hand you back your papers?"

"No. Throw them into the fire. I don't care what you do with them. I
shall never want them."

He rose to go. Berkley followed him to the street where they parted,
the one to return to his room, the other to his office where he tied
up the papers and thrust them into his desk. That was done. What a
storm of feeling those yellow sheets had raised, and now--"Poor devil,"
said Berkley to himself. "It was pretty hard lines and he has shown
himself of good stuff. Confound it all, why did it have to happen so?
At least I must have the delicacy to keep out of the way while the
man is in town." The color rushed to his face, but receded almost as
quickly. "I'm a conceited ass," he cried inwardly. "If she couldn't
care for such a man as Jeffreys why should I expect her to care for me?
Go to, Berkley Matthews. Crawl down from your pinnacle, and don't lay
any such flattering unction to your soul." He set to work at one of his
briefs, determined not to encourage himself in any illusions.



CHAPTER XX

"THE SPRING HAS COME"


During the remainder of Mr. Jeffreys' stay in the town Berkley
religiously kept away from Miss Ri's brown house on the point, and even
carried his determination so far that once seeing Linda in the distance
as he was coming out of his office he bolted back again and waited till
she was well out of sight before he came out. "What did I do that for?"
he said to himself, smiling a little. He did not see Mr. Jeffreys again
until one afternoon a week later when he came into the office.

"I am going around making my farewell calls, Matthews," he said. "I
take the boat for Baltimore this evening. My unfortunate old trunk and
I will soon be out of your way. Again let me thank you for all your
kindness."

"I'm sorry to see you go," replied Berkley, "but I hope you will carry
away some pleasant memories of our old 'eastern shore.'"

"I shall carry away many. I can never forget the hospitality and
kindness shown me here."

"And about those papers; if ever you want to renew the case I am ready
to help you, remember." He held out his hand.

"That matter is disposed of," returned Jeffreys with a little frown.
"We will dispense with the subject if you please. I am going to Miss
Talbot from here, and shall tell her that she need fear no more
interference from me. To-day our paths separate. Have you seen her,
Matthews?" he asked after a slight pause.

"No, I have not." Berkley looked straight into the other's eyes.

Jeffreys gave the hand he held a closer grip. "You are a good friend,
Matthews. Let me echo your offer; if there is anything I can ever do
for you, command me. Good-by."

Berkley laid his hand on the young man's shoulder. "Thank you,
Jeffreys. I will remember. Good luck to you and good-by."

So they parted and the boat slipping through the darkness over the
quiet waters of the river that night, bore away him whose coming and
going both seemed made under unpropitious stars.

It was a warm afternoon in February, one of those days when Spring
seems close at hand by reason of a bluebird's early note, and the
appearance of some venturesome crocus in the grass. February brings
such days in this part of Maryland. The morning's mail had given Linda
the happiness of receiving a magazine in which were some of her
verses, accepted and paid for. This step, which carried her beyond the
satisfaction of seeing herself in print, merely by compliment, was one
which well agreed with the springlike day. She was sitting at the piano
joyously singing:

  "The spring has come, the flowers in bloom
        The happy birds--"

She broke off suddenly, for in through the window open to the floor
came Berkley.

"Don't stop," he begged. "I love to hear you."

They stood smiling at one another, before either spoke again, then
Linda turned back to the piano to finish the song while Berkley leaned
above her to watch her slim fingers moving over the keys. "It just
suits the day, doesn't it?" she said when she had finished. "Did you
see that there was a crocus by the side of the walk? And this morning I
heard a bluebird."

"And that is what makes you look so happy?"

"Not altogether. Sit down over there by the little window, and if you
will be very good I will show you something."

He obediently took the place assigned him, where the window seat ran
along the small raised platform, and Linda produced the magazine.
"There," she said, opening to a certain page. "And it is paid for," she
added triumphantly.

Berkley read the lines through. "You have climbed into fame, haven't
you?" he said. "Are you feeling very high and mighty? Would you like
me to sit on the floor at your feet. It would be very easy on this
platform."

She laughed. It was good to hear the old foolish manner of speech
again. "No, I won't insist upon that, though I can't tell what I may
require if this continues. Do you like my verses, Berk?"

"Yes, very much. I suppose they are really better than these. He took
from his pocket-book a little clipping, 'The Marching Pines,' but I
shall always care more for these. I shall never be quite so fond of any
others, perhaps."

"Why?"

Berkley did not answer, but instead asked, "Did Jeffreys tell you of
his determination not to follow up his claim?"

"Yes, he told me." Linda looked grave.

"It was generous of him, don't you think?"

A half smile played around Linda's lips. "Yes, I suppose it was. He
meant to do me a great kindness and I appreciate it."

"But you could not agree to share it with him. He is a good fellow,
Linda, and I am very sorry for him. He was greatly cut up."

"How do you know?"

"He told me."

"That--"

"That he had asked you to marry him? Yes, he told me that. Poor old
chap. I grew quite fond of him. Why didn't you, Linda?"

"I don't know. I didn't; that's all; I didn't, though I tried very
hard."

"Don't you think he was actually heroic to give up the claim?"

"I am sure he meant to be, but of course you understand that I could
not accept such a sacrifice from him and that if the law were to give
him a right to Talbot's Angles, I couldn't think of doing anything but
giving it up to him."

"But he refuses to allow me to go on. I have the papers and I am to
burn them if I choose."

Linda smiled, a little mysterious, exultant smile. "That doesn't alter
my point of view."

"And so you refuse to allow him to be a hero."

"He isn't the only hero in the world. He himself told me of another."
There was a wise, kind expression in her eyes.

Berkley slipped down from the window seat to a cushion at her feet.
She bent over him as a mother over her child. "Linda," he said
whisperingly. "Linda." He took her soft hand in his strong lithe
fingers, and she let it lie there. He pressed the cool little hand
against his hot brow, then he looked up. "Linda," he repeated, "here
I am at your feet. I love you so! Oh, how I love you! I know I don't
deserve it, but do you think you could ever learn to care a little for
me? I am not rich, but some day maybe I could buy back Talbot's Angles.
There is nothing I would not do to make you happy."

"You said that once before, Berk."

"Did I?"

"Yes,--that night in the rain."

"I meant it."

"As much as you do now?"

"Every bit."

"And yet you avoided me, passed me by, allowed another to step in."

"It was for you, for you. I wanted you to be happy," he murmured.

"I see that now, but I missed my friend."

"Your friend? Am I never to be anything more, Linda? I love you with my
whole heart. You are the one woman in the world to me. Don't you think
that some day you might learn to love me a little?"

Linda's face was aglow with a tender light; her eyes were like stars.
"No, Berk," she said slowly, lingeringly, "I could never learn to love
you a little."

He dropped her hand and looked down, all the hope gone from his face.

"Because," Linda went on, bending a little nearer that he could hear
her whisper, "I already love you so much."

He gave a little joyous cry and sprang to his feet, all his divine
right suddenly recognized. He held out his arms. "Come," he said.

Linda arose with shining face, stepped down from the platform and went
to him.

The dim portraits on the walls smiled down at them. It was the old
story to which each passing generation had listened. The ancient house
could tell many a like tale.

"Berk," said Linda when they had gone back to the seat by the window,
"they told me you had a sweetheart in the city. Bertie Bryan vowed you
acknowledged it to her."

He took her hands and kissed them. "So I may have done, my queen, but
it was when you were there."

Linda sighed, a happy satisfied sigh. "Berk, dear, were you very
unhappy, then? You didn't have to be, you see."

"I thought it was necessary, and perhaps I needed the discipline."

"Just as I have needed the discipline of teaching. I am realizing by
degrees what a wonderful life work it might become."

"But you shall not teach long, though, Linda darling, I haven't told
you that we shall have to begin life rather simply, for you know I must
always think of my mother."

"Berk, dear, I couldn't be happy if I thought you ever would do less
than you do now for her."

"You are so wonderful, so wonderful," he murmured. "I hope to do better
and better in my profession, for I am much encouraged, and some day,
remember I shall buy back Talbot's Angles for you."

"You will never do that, Berk," returned Linda, trying to look very
grave.

"Why, sweet?"

"Because when Grace marries it will be mine without any question. We
have had a letter from Judge Goldsborough."

"And he said--"

"That he had discovered papers which prove that Cyrus Talbot had only a
lease on the place; it was for ninety-nine years, and it expired more
than ten years ago."

"Of all things!" ejaculated Berkley. "That was the last explanation
that would have occurred to me. Did Jeffreys know before he left?"

"Yes, we told him that afternoon he called to say good-by. Aunt Ri
thought it was best to tell him, and to show him the judge's letter."

"Poor old chap! And he had to go without even the recompense of having
made a sacrifice for you."

Linda's face clouded. "Yes, he said that everything had failed, even
his attempted good deeds. I hope he will find happiness some day."

"And you are very glad that you can feel an undisputed ownership of the
old home?"

"Yes, of course I am glad. Aren't you?"

"What is your happiness is mine, beloved Verlinda."

"The only drop of bitterness comes from the thought of Wyatt Jeffreys,
but even there Aunt Ri insists his unhappiness will not last and that
comforts me."

"Who is talking about Aunt Ri?" asked that lady coming in and throwing
aside her hat. "Parthy has a brood of thirteen young chickens just out,
and I have been down to see them. What were you two saying about me?
Hallo, Berk, what has brought you here, I'd like to know? I thought you
were so busy you could scarcely breathe."

"Oh, I'm taking an afternoon off," he responded. "A man can't be a mere
machine such weather as this."

"I've been telling him about the judge's letter," put in Linda.

"And I reckon that was a mighty big surprise; it certainly was to us.
It took a better lawyer than you, Berk Matthews, to unravel that snarl.
Even the judge himself didn't remember the facts."

"Which were?"

"That to Cyrus Talbot belonged Addition and a part of Timber Neck,
while to Madison belonged the Angles and the other part of Timber Neck;
that was in the first place when they had their inheritance from their
father, you see. They sold Timber Neck, and then Madison retained the
Angles, while Cyrus kept Addition. Well, it seems the Angles, being the
home plantation, had always gone to the eldest son. Madison's first
child was a daughter, and after her birth Madison's wife died. Cyrus'
first child was a son, and he wanted the Angles for him but Madison
wouldn't give it up, but at last he consented to lease the place to
his brother. Later on Cyrus' son died, and he left for the West,
selling out Addition to his brother Madison who had married a second
time. Madison went to Addition to live while Cyrus still clung to his
lease of the Angles. However, when the house at Addition was burned
he allowed his brother to go back to the homestead place to live. The
rest you know; how Cyrus rented the lands to this and that tenant, and
how the place went to the dogs at one time, and how it was finally
discovered by Charles Jeffreys to belong to his mother's family. He
wrote the letter you remember, the answer to which you have shown us.
There is no use going over all that, for you will see just how the
matter stands, and Verlinda will come to her own."

Linda looked at Berk who smiled back at her understandingly. "Aunt Ri,"
said the girl, going over and laying her cheek against the gray head,
"Verlinda has come to her own in more than one sense." She held out her
hand to Berkley who took it and drew it against his heart.

"What?" almost screamed Miss Ri. "You haven't a sweetheart in the city,
Berk Matthews? What did I tell you, Verlinda? I knew that Bertie Bryan
was making that all up."

"Not exactly, Miss Ri," said Berkley, "for I did give her reason to
think so."

"And why did you do it? Just to make Verlinda unhappy?"

"Oh, Aunt Ri," Linda put her hand over the dear lady's lips.

"I did have a sweetheart there, when you were in the city," replied
Berk, "and here she is, the only sweetheart for me."

Miss Ri pulled out her handkerchief and began to mop her eyes.

"I'm as glad as I can be," she wept, "but I am tremendously sorry for
myself. You will leave me, Verlinda, and you will take Phebe, too. What
am I to do?"

"Oh, it will not be for a long, long time from now," said Linda
consolingly.

"Yes, it will." Miss Ri was decided. "Of course it must be. Why in the
world should you wait? You will stop teaching after this year, anyway,
for then you will have the farm to depend upon, while as for Berk, he
is out of the woods, I know that; his mother told me so. By the way,
Berk, how glad your mother will be. She fell in love with Linda at
first sight. Oh, she told me a thing or two, and that's why I knew
Bertie Bryan was--"

"But she wasn't, you remember," interposed Linda. "She thought so."

"It amounts to the same thing. Well, I shall have to adopt somebody.
Never shall I be happy alone again, now that I know what it is to have
a young thing about. I believe I will send for Jeffreys, he is mighty
forlorn, and he needs coddling."

"He wouldn't come," said Berkley triumphantly.

"You mean you don't want him to; you look much better when he isn't
here to give the contrast," retorted Miss Ri. "I don't want him myself,
to tell the truth. See here, children, why can't you both come here
and live with me till I can find an orphan who wants an Aunt Ri? I'm
speaking for myself, for how I am to endure anyone's cooking after
Phebe's is more than I can tell, and think of me rattling around in
this big house like a dried pea in a pod. I should think you would be
sorry enough for me to be ready to do anything."

Miss Ri was so very unlike a dried pea that the two laughed. "We'll
talk about it some day," said Berkley, "but just now--"

[Illustration: "HER GAZE FELL ON THE TWO."]

"All you want is to be happy. Well," Miss Ri sighed, but immediately
brightened. "Go along," she cried, "I never get mad with fools, you
remember, and, as I have frequently told Verlinda, I am still thanking
the Lord that I have escaped. Go along with you. My brain has about
as much as it can stand."

The two stepped out upon the porch, but Miss Ri bustled after them.
"Here, take this shawl, Verlinda; it is growing damp. Don't stay out
too late. You'll stay to supper, Berk, of course."

"Thank you, Miss Ri. I'll be glad to come, but I must go to the office
for a few moments. I'll be back, though."

The sun was dropping in the west. Day was almost done for the workers
in the packing house near by, from which presently arose a burst of
song. Phebe, at her kitchen door, joined in, crooning softly:

  "I'se gwine away some o' dese days
  'Cross de riber o' Jordan
      My Lord, my Lord."

As she sang her gaze fell on the two walking slowly toward the river's
brim, the man leaning over the girl, her eyes lifted to his. Suddenly
Mammy clapped her hand over her mouth, then she seized her knees,
bending double as she chuckled gleefully. "Ain't it de troof, now," she
murmured. "She nuvver look dat away at Mr. Jeffs, I say she nuvver.
Bless my honey baby." Then she lifted up her voice fairly drowning the
rival singers further away as she chanted:

  "Dis is de way I long has sought--
    Oh, glory hallelujah!
  And mo'ned because I found it not--
    Oh, glory hallelujah!"

"Phebe," said Miss Ri, suddenly interrupting the singing, "we have got
to have the best supper you ever cooked."

"Ain't it de troof, now, Miss Ri," Phebe responded with alacrity.
"Dat's thes what I say, dat's thes what I say."

The shadows fell softly, the singers ceased their weird chant. Phebe,
too busy conferring with Miss Ri to think of singing, bustled about the
kitchen. Berkley and Linda walked slowly to the gate.

"Berk," said the girl, "I wouldn't live anywhere but on this blessed
old Eastern Sho' for the world, would you?"

"If you were in the anywhere else, yes," he answered.

She stood at the gate watching his sturdy figure and springing step as
he went off down the street. So would she stand to watch him in the
years to come. It was all like a wonderful dream. The old home and the
love of Berkley, what more could heaven bestow upon her!

The sun had disappeared, but a golden gleam rose and fell upon the
water's surface with each pulsation of the river's heart. The
venturesome crocus had shut its yellow eye, the harbinger bird had
tucked its head under its wing. The world, life, love, all made a poem
for Linda.

Presently Mammy came waddling down the path in breathless haste. "Miss
Lindy, Miss Lindy," she panted, "Miss Ri say yuh jes' got time to come
in an' put on that purty floppity white frock. She puttin' flowers on
de table, an' we sho' gwine hab a fesibal dis night."

Linda turned her laughing face toward the old house, lightly ran up the
path, and disappeared within the fan-topped doorway. Presently Miss Ri
heard her upstairs singing:

                        "The spring has come."


       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber's Notes:

Page 172, changed "or" to "of" (some of whom are grown)

Page 219, changed "a" to "an" (merely an unostentatious)

Page 226, changed "Jefreys" to "Jeffreys" (and Mr. Jeffreys, acted)

Both homemade and home-made are used.

Both pocketbook and pocket-book are used.

Both schoolmarm and school-marm are used.





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