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Title: Laughing Last
Author: Abbott, Jane
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Laughing Last" ***

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



[Illustration: "DO YOU KNOW, IT WAS LIKE A PIRATE'S SHIP"]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             LAUGHING LAST

                                   BY

                              JANE ABBOTT

                               AUTHOR OF
                  HIGHACRES, KEINETH, RED ROBIN, Etc.

                             ILLUSTRATED BY
                            E. CORINNE PAULI

                             [Illustration]

                            GROSSET & DUNLAP
                         PUBLISHERS    NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

              COPYRIGHT, 1924, BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                   TO
                         FRANCES STANTON SMITH
                 WHOSE LOYAL INTEREST IN MY WORK IS AN
                 UNFAILING HELP TO ME, I AFFECTIONATELY
                           DEDICATE THIS BOOK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                CONTENTS

                   I THE EGG
                  II REBELLION
                 III POLA LIFTS A CURTAIN
                  IV SIDNEY DIGS FOR COUSINS
                   V THE SUMMER WILL TELL WHO LAUGHS LAST
                  VI SUNSET LANE
                 VII WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE
                VIII MR. DUGALD EXPLAINS
                  IX SIDNEY TELLS "DOROTHEA"
                   X MAIDS
                  XI INDEPENDENCE
                 XII SIDNEY BELONGS
                XIII PLOTS AND COUNTERPLOTS
                 XIV WORDS THAT SING
                  XV CAP'N PHIN
                 XVI POLA
                XVII PEACOCKS
               XVIII "HOOK"
                 XIX THE GLEAM
                  XX "THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG"
                 XXI WHAT THE NIGHT HELD
                XXII "YOU NEED A BIG BROTHER"
               XXIII DIAMONDS
                XXIV WHAT THE DAY HELD
                 XXV NO ONE LAUGHS LAST

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             ILLUSTRATIONS

"Do You Know, It was Like a Pirate's Ship"

Her Eyes Fell Upon an Entry on Another Page

Captain Davies Drew a Letter from His Pocket and Tapped It with His Finger

She Spied Approaching Figures--Trude and Mr. Dugald, Walking Slowly

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             LAUGHING LAST



                               CHAPTER I

                                THE EGG


"I beg your pardon, but it's _my_ turn to have the Egg!"

Three pairs of eyes swept to the sunny window seat from which
vantage-ground Sidney Romley had thrown her protest. Three mouths gaped.

"_Yours--_"

"Why, Sid--"

"Fifteen-year-olders don't have turns!" laughed Victoria Romley, who
was nineteen and very grown up.

Though inwardly Sidney writhed, outwardly she maintained a calm
firmness. The better to impress her point she uncurled herself from the
cushions and straightened to her fullest height.

"It's because I _am_ fifteen that I am claiming my rights," she
answered, carefully ignoring Vicky's laughing eyes. "Each one of you
has had the Egg twice and I've never had a cent of it--"

"Sid, you forget I bought a rug when it was my last turn and you enjoy
that as much as I do," broke in her oldest sister.

Sidney waved her hand impatiently. She had rehearsed this scene in the
privacy of her attic retreat and she could not be deflected by mention
of rugs and things. She must keep to the heart of the issue.

"It's the principle of the thing," she continued, loftily. "We're
always fair with one another and give and take and all that, and I
think it'd be a blot on our honor if you refused me my lawful turn at
the Egg. I'm willing to overlook each one of you having it twice."

"That's kind of you. What would you do with it, anyway, kid?"
interrupted Vicky, quite unimpressed by her sister's seriousness. She
let a chuckle in her voice denote how amused she was.

Sidney flashed a withering look in Vicky's direction.

"I wouldn't spend it all on one party that's over in a minute and
nothing to show for it!" she retorted. Then: "And what I'd do with it
is my own affair!" She swallowed to control a sob that rose in her
throat.

"Tut! Tut!" breathed the tormenting Vicky.

"Why, Sid, dear!" cried Trude, astonished. She put a tray of dishes
that she was carrying to the kitchen down upon the old sideboard and
turned to face Sid. At the tone of her voice Sidney flew to her and
flung her arms about her.

"I don't care--I don't _care_! You can laugh at me but I'm _sick_ of
being different. I--I want to do things like--other girls do. H-have
fun--"

Over her head Trude's eyes implored the others to be gentle. She
herself was greatly disturbed. Even Vicky grew sober. In a twinkling
this lanky, pigtailed little sister seemed to have become an individual
with whom they must reckon. They had never suspected but that she was
as contented with her happy-go-lucky way as any petted kitten.

Isolde, the oldest sister, frowned perplexedly.

"Sidney, stop crying and tell us what you want. As far as _fun_ is
concerned I don't think you have any complaint. Certainly you do not
have anything to _worry_ about!" Isolde's tone conveyed that she did.

"If it's just the Egg that's bothering you, why, take it!" cried Vicky,
magnanimously.

Only Trude sensed that the cause of Sidney's rebellion lay deeper than
any desire for fun. She was not unaware of certain dissatisfactions
that smoldered in her own breast. The knowledge of them helped her to
understand Sidney's mood. She patted the girl's head sympathetically.

"I guess we haven't realized you're growing up, Sid," she laughed
softly. "Now brace up and tell us what's wrong with everything."

Trude's quiet words poured balm on Sidney's soul. At last--at _last_
these three sisters realized she was fifteen. It _hadn't_ been the Egg
itself she had wanted--it had been to have them reckon her in on their
absurd family cogitations. She drew the sleeve of her blouse across her
eyes and faced them.

"I want to go somewhere, to live somewhere where I won't be Joseph
Romley's daughter! I want to wear clothes like the other girls and go
to a boarding school and never set eyes on a book of poetry. I want
adventure and to do exciting things. I want--"

Isolde stemmed the outpour with a shocked rebuke.

"Sid, I don't think you realize how disrespectful what you are saying
is to our father's memory! He has left us something that is far greater
than wealth. A great many girls would gladly change places with you and
enjoy being the daughter of a poet--"

"Oh, tush!" Quite unexpectedly Sidney found an ally in Vicky. "Issy,
you've acted your part so often, poor dear, that you really think we
_are_ blessed by the gods in having been born to a poet. And poor as
church mice! I wish someone _would_ change places with me long enough
for me to eat a few meals without hearing you and Trude talk about how
much flour costs and how we're going to pay the milk bill. Yes, a
_fine_ heritage! Poor Dad, he couldn't help being a poet, but I'll bet
he wishes now he'd been a plasterer or something like that--for _our_
sakes, of course. I'm not kicking, I'm as game as you are, and I'm
willing to carry on about Dad's memory and all that--it's the least
_we_ can do in return for what the League's done for us, but just among
ourselves we might enjoy the emotion of sighing for the things other
girls do and have, mightn't we?"

Sidney had certainly started something! The very atmosphere of the
familiar room in which they were assembled seemed charged with strange
currents. Never had any family council taken such a tone. Sidney
thrilled to the knowledge that she was now a vital part of it. Her
eyes, so recently wet, brightened and her cheeks flushed. So interested
was she in what Issy would answer to Vick that she ignored the opening
Vick had made for her.

But it was Trude who answered Vicky--Trude, the peaceful.

"Come! Come! First thing we know we'll actually be feeling sorry for
ourselves! I sometimes get awfully tired living up to Dad's greatness,
but I don't think that's being disrespectful to his memory. I don't
suppose there are any girls, even rich ones, who don't sigh for
something they haven't. But just to stiffen our spines let's sum up our
assets. We're not quite as poor as church mice; we have this old house
that isn't half bad, even if the roof does leak, and the government
bonds and the royalties and living the way we had to live with Dad
taught us to have fun among ourselves which is something! We're not
dependent upon outsiders for _that_. You, Issy, have your personality
which will get you anywhere you want to go. And Vick's better dressed
on nothing than any girl in Middletown. We older girls do have a little
more than Sid, so I vote she has the Egg this time all to herself to do
exactly as she pleases with it--go 'round the world in search of
adventure or any old thing. How's that, family?"

The tension that had held the little circle broke under Trude's
practical cheeriness. Isolde smiled. Vick liked being told she looked
well-dressed, she worked hard enough to merit that distinction. Sid had
the promise of the Egg, which, be it known, was the royalty accruing
each year from a collection of whimsical verse entitled "Goosefeathers"
and which these absurd daughters of a great but improvident man set
aside from the other royalties to be spent prodigally by each in turn.

"I'm quite willing," Isolde conceded. "I was going to suggest that we
agree to use it this time to fix the roof where it leaks but if Sid's
heart is set on it--"

"It would have been my turn--that is not counting Sid," Vick reminded
them, "and I'd have used it having that fur coat Godmother Jocelyn sent
me made over. But let the roof leak and the coat go--little Sid must
have her fling! I hope you're happy now, kid. What will you really do
with all that money?"

At no time had Sidney definitely considered such a question. Her point
won she found herself embarrassed by victory. She evaded a direct
answer.

"I won't tell, now!"

"Oh--ho, mysterious! Well, there won't be so much that you'll hurt
yourself in your youthful extravagance. Now that this momentous
_affaire de famille_ is settled, what are you girls going to do this
morning?"

"As soon as these dishes are out of the way I'm going to trim that vine
on the front wall. It's disgustingly scraggly."

"Oh, Trude--you _can't_! You forget--_it's Saturday_!"

Trude groaned. Vicky laughed naughtily. Saturday--that was the day of
the week which the Middletown Branch of the League of American Poets
kept for the privilege of taking visitors to the home of Joseph Romley,
the poet. In a little while they would begin to come, in twos and
threes and larger groups. First they'd stand outside and look at the
old house from every angle. They would say to the strangers who were
visiting the shrine for the first time: "No, the house wasn't in his
family but Joseph Romley made it peculiarly his; it's as though his
ancestors had lived there for generations--nothing has been
changed--that west room with the bay window was his study--yes, his
desk is there and his pencils and pens--just as he left them--even his
old house jacket--of course we can go in--our League paid off the
mortgage as a memorial and we have Saturday as a visiting day--there
are four girls, most interesting types, but Isolde, the oldest, is the
only one of them who is at all like the great poet--"

They would come in slowly, reverently. Isolde, in a straight smock of
some vivid color, with a fillet about the cloudy hair that framed her
thin face like a curtain, would meet them at the door of the study. She
would shake hands with them and answer their awkward questions in her
slow drawl which always ended in a minor note. They would look at
Isolde much more closely than at the desk and the pens and pencils and
the old swivel chair and the faded cushion. On their way out they'd
peep inquisitively into the front room with its long windows, bared to
the light and the floor looking dustier for the new rug, and the two
faded, deep chairs near the old piano. They would see the dust and the
bareness but they wouldn't know how gloriously, at sunset time, the
flame of the sky lighted every corner of the spacious room or what
jolly fires could crackle on the deep hearth or what fun it was to
cuddle in the old chairs--they could hold four--while Vicky's clever
fingers raced over the cracked ivory keys in her improvisations that
sometimes set them roaring with laughter and sometimes brought mist to
their eyes. The intruders would find some way to look into the dining
room which for the girls was living room and sewing room, too, and
they'd say: "How quaint everything is! These old houses have _so_ much
atmosphere;" when in their hearts they'd be thinking about the
shabbiness of everything and they'd be rejoicing that _their_ fathers
and husbands were not poets! Vicky claimed to have heard one
sacrilegious young creature, plainly on a honeymoon, exclaim: "I'm glad
I'm not a poet's daughter and have to live in that old sepulcher! Give
me obscurity in a steam-heated three bathroom apartment, any day!"

Of course there could be no trimming the vines and Trude's fingers
itched for the task--not so much that she minded the unkempt growth as
that she longed to be active out-of-doors. She had planned to plant
another row of beans, too. The girls wouldn't poke fun at her when they
ate fresh vegetables right out of a garden all of their own! But the
ladies of the League must not find her, earth-stained and disheveled,
in the garden on Saturday!

"I'll have to change my dress. I forgot it was Saturday when I put this
old thing on."

"Vick, dear, you haven't taken your sketching things from Dad's desk,"
admonished Isolde a little frightenedly and Vicky jumped with a low
whistle. "Good gracious! What if a High Lady Leaguer found _my_ truck
on that sacred shrine!" She rushed off to the study.

Trude having gone kitchenward with her dishes, Isolde and Sidney faced
one another. Sidney grew awkwardly aware of a constraint in her
sister's manner. She was regarding her with a curious hardness in her
grave eyes.

"You said you were sick of being different!" Isolde made Sidney's words
sound childish. "Well--I don't know just how you can escape it--any
more than the rest of us can. Look at me--look at Trude--" Then she
shut her lips abruptly over what she had started to say. "What had you
planned to do this morning, Sid?"

"I told Nancy Stevens I'd go swimming with her though I don't much care
whether I go or not."

"Well--as long as you _have_ claimed a share in our little scheme of
life, kitten--perhaps _you'd_ better receive the League visitors this
morning. I have some letters to write and I want to dye that old silk.
Don't forget to enter the date in the register!"

With which astounding command Isolde walked slowly out of the room
leaving Sidney with a baffled sense of--in spite of the promise of the
Egg--having been robbed of something.



                               CHAPTER II

                               REBELLION


Not the least of the dissatisfactions that had grown in Sidney's breast
was belonging to an Estate.

Since the death of Joseph Romley four years earlier, the royalties from
his published verse and the government bonds and the oil stock, that
had never paid any dividend but might any year, and the four young
daughters were managed by two trustees who had been college friends of
the poet and who, even in his lifetime, had managed what of his affairs
had had any managing. One was a banker and one was a lawyer and they
lived in New York, making only rare visits to Middletown. They
considered it far better for Isolde and Trude to visit them twice a
year and to such an arrangement both older girls were quite agreeable.

But Sidney, knowing the Trustees only as two brusque busy men who
talked rapidly and called her "mouse" and "youngster" and brought her
childish presents and huge boxes of candy which never contained her
favorite chocolate alligators, found them embarrassingly lacking in the
dramatic qualities a "guardian," to be of any value to a girl, should
possess. Nor did they ever bother their heads in the least as to what
_she_ did or didn't do! In fact no one did. There seemed to be only one
law that controlled her and everything in the big old house--what one
could _afford_ to do! She disliked the word.

She resented, too, the Middletown Branch of the League of American
Poets. This was a band of women and a scattering of men who had pledged
to foster the art of verse-making; a few of them really wrote poetry, a
few more understood it, the greater number belonged to the League as
Associates. Before Joseph Romley's death Sidney had thought them only
very funny because her father and Trude and Isolde thought them funny.
There had been then a great timidity in their approach. They had seemed
to tremble in their adoring gratitude for a hastily scrawled autograph;
they had sometimes knocked at the back door and with deep apologies
asked if they might slip in _very_ quietly and take a time exposure of
THE desk where Joseph Romley worked. They brought senseless gifts which
they left unobtrusively on the piano or the hall rack. They dragged
their own daughters to the old house for awkwardly formal calls upon
Isolde and Trude. But after her father's death even Sidney realized
that the League ladies were different. They were not shy any more, they
swooped down upon the little household and cleaned and baked and sewed
and "deared" the four girls, actually almost living in the house.
Isolde and Trude had made no protest and had gone around with troubled
faces and had talked far into the nights in the bed which they shared.
Then one morning at breakfast Isolde had announced: "The League has
paid the mortgage on this house so that we can keep our home here. It
is very good of them--I'm sure I don't know where we could have gone.
We must show them how grateful we are." And Sidney had come to know, by
example and the rebukes cast her way by Isolde, that "showing them"
meant living, not as _they_ might want to live--but as the League
expected the four daughters of a great poet to live. _That_ was the
price for the mortgage. The League wanted to say possessively: "This is
Joseph Romley's second daughter" or "That is our lamb who was only ten
months old when the poor mother died. I am sure the great man would not
have known what to do if it had not been for old Huldah Mueller who
stayed on and took care of the house and the children for him. He wrote
a sonnet to Huldah once. It was worth a month's wages to the woman--"
And the League had bought its right to that possessive tone. Sidney,
when Isolde could not see, indulged in naughty faces behind stout Mrs.
Milliken's back and confided to her chum, Nancy Stevens, the story of
how Dad had once, in a rage of impatience, called down to the adoring
Mrs. Milliken, waiting in the hall for an autograph: "Madam, if you
don't go off at once and leave me alone I'll come down to you in my
pajamas! I tell you I've gone to bed." Oh, Mrs. Milliken had fled
_then_!

Sidney had to go to Miss Downs' stupid private day school when she
would have preferred the Middletown High (as long as she could not go
away to a boarding school), simply because Miss Downs was one of the
directors of the League and gave her her tuition as a scholarship.

But Sidney had never thought--until Isolde had spoken so strangely a
moment before--that her sisters minded either the Trustees or the
League or having to be "different." Isolde naturally was everything the
League wanted her to be, with her grave eyes and her cloudy hair with
the becoming fillets and her drawling voice and her clever smocks.
Trude always wanted to oblige everyone anyway, and Vicky was so pretty
that it didn't make any difference what she did. Sidney had considered
that she was alone in her rebellion, a rebellion that had flamed in her
outburst of the morning: "I'm _sick_ of being different!"

Isolde's words of a moment before, with their hard hint of some
portentous meaning, started a train of thought now in Sidney's mind
that drove away all joy in the promise of the next Egg, that made her
even forget her dislike of the duty Isolde had so unexpectedly put upon
her. Isolde had said distinctly: "You can't get away from it--look at
_me_--look at _Trude_!" And it had sounded queer, bitter, as though
somewhere down deep in her Isolde nursed an unhappy feeling about
something. Sidney pondered, lingering in the deserted dining room.
Maybe, after all, Isolde did not like being the daughter of a poet and
her smocks and her fillets and all the luncheons and teas to which she
had to go and the speeches of appreciation she had to make. And what
did Trude dislike? She always _seemed_ happy but maybe _she_ wanted
something. Sidney remembered once hearing Trude cry terribly hard in
the study. She and Dad had been talking at dinner about college. They
had come to the door of the study and Dad had said: "It can't be done,
sonny." That's what Dad had always called Trude because she was the boy
of the family. Trude had come out with her face all shiny with tears
and her father had stood on the threshold of the door with his hair
rumpled and his nose twitching the way it did when something bothered
him. That was probably it. Trude had wanted college. That seemed silly
to Sidney who hated lessons, at least the kind Miss Downs gave, but it
was too bad to have good old Trude, who was such a peach, want anything.

Isolde hadn't included Vicky, but then Vicky _couldn't_ want anything.
She wasn't afraid to fly in the faces of the Trustees and the whole
League and they wouldn't mind if she did. She was as clever as she was
pretty. She could take the old dresses which Mrs. Custer and Mrs.
White, the Trustees' wives, and Mrs. Deering whom Isolde had visited in
Chicago, and Godmother Jocelyn sent every now and then and make the
stunningest new dresses. And once an artist from New York had painted
her portrait and exhibited it in Paris and had won a medal for it. The
League ladies approved of that and always told of it.

Vicky had whole processions of beaux who came and crowded in the chairs
in the front room or sat on the broad window sills of the open windows
smoking while she talked to them or played for them. Isolde's few beaux
were not noisy and jolly like Vick's--they all looked as though the
League might have picked them out from some assortment. They usually
read to Isolde verses of their own or made her read them some of Dad's.
Maybe, Sidney's thoughts shot out at a new angle--maybe Isolde did not
like beaux who were poets, liked Vick's kind of men better.

Trude had only one beau and Sidney had never seen him because Trude had
had him when she was visiting Aunt Edith White. Trude and Isolde had
whispered a great deal about him and Trude had let Isolde read his
letters. Then a letter had come that had made Trude look all queer and
white and Isolde, after she had read it, had gone to Trude and put her
arms around her neck and Isolde only did a thing like that when
something dreadful happened. Sidney had hoped that she might find the
letter lying around somewhere so carelessly that she could be pardoned
for reading it, but though she had looked everywhere she had never
found it. She had had to piece together Trude's romance from the fabric
of her agile imagination.

Sidney had often tried to make herself hate the old house. Though it
was a jolly, rambly place it was so very down-at-the heels and the
light that poured in through the windows made things look even barer
and shabbier. Nancy Stevens lived in one of the new bungalows near the
school and it was beautiful with shiny furniture and rugs that felt
like woolly bed slippers under one's tread and two pairs of curtains at
each window and Nancy's own room was all pink even to the ruffled stuff
hung over her bed like a tent. But Sidney had once heard Mrs. Milliken
say to Isolde: "I hope, dear girl, that you will not be tempted to
change this fine old house in _any_ way--to leave it just as your
father lived in it is the greatest tribute we can pay to his memory."
After that Sidney knew there was no use hinting for even _one_ pair of
curtains. But her sisters had seemed quite contented.

There had been a disturbing ring of finality to Isolde's, "You can't
get away from it," that seemed almost to slap Sidney in the face. Would
they _always_--at least she and Isolde and Trude, Vick would manage to
escape someway--be bound down there in the "quaint" bare house with the
Trustees sending their skimpy allowances and long letters of advice and
the ladies of the League of Poets coming and going and owning them body
and soul? What was to prevent such a fate? They didn't have money
enough to just say--"Dear ladies, take the old house and the desk and
the pens and pencils and the old coat--they're yours--" and run away
and do what they pleased; probably a whole dozen of Eggs would not get
them anywhere!

"What are you doing mooning there in the window?" cried Vick from the
open door. Her arms were filled with a litter of boxes and old
portfolios. "Where's Isolde? I want her to know I dusted things in the
study."

"Isolde's writing letters. Then she's going to dye something."

"On Saturday!"

"Yes. _I'm_ going to receive the League visitors today."

"You!" Victoria went off into such a peal of laughter that she had to
lean against the door frame. "Oh--how funny! What's _ever_ in the air
today."

"I don't know why it's so funny. I'm--"

"Fifteen. So you are. But bless me, child, the Leaguers will never
accept you in a middy blouse and pigtails. What's Isolde _thinking_ of?
And you look _much_ too plump! Now--" But Sidney stalked haughtily past
her tormenter into the hall.

Vick's bantering, however, had stung her. The old clock on the stair
landing chiming out the approaching hour of the League visitors warned
Sidney that there was not time to change her middy with its faded
collar; nor to wind the despised pigtails, around her head in the
fashion Mrs. Milliken called "So beautifully quaint." Anyway, if there
were all the time in the world she would not do it. She'd begin right
now being her own self and not something the League wanted her to be
because she was a poet's daughter! Isolde and Trude might yield weakly
to their fate but she would be strong. Perhaps, some day, she would
rescue them--even Vicky!

But as an unmistakable wave of chattering from without struck her ear
her fine defiance deserted her. She ran to the door and peeped through
one of the narrow windows that framed the door on either side.

At the gate stood Mrs. Milliken and a strange woman. Behind them, in
twos, stretched a long queue of girls--girls of about her own age. They
wore trim serge dresses with white collars, all alike. They carried
notebooks in their hands. They leaned toward one another, whispering,
giggling.

Sidney's heart gave a tremendous bound. It was most certainly a
boarding school! It was the nearest she had ever been to one! She
forgot her middy and the hated pigtails, and the dread of the League.
She threw open the door. Mrs. Milliken's voice came to her: "He died on
April tenth, Nineteen eighteen. He had just written that sonnet to the
West Wind. You know it I am sure. He bought this house when he came to
Middletown but he made it his as though he'd lived in it all his
life--we have left it _exactly_ as it was when he was with us--our
committee----"

They came walking slowly toward the house, Mrs. Milliken and the
strange woman with reverent mien, the wriggling queue still whispering
and giggling.



                              CHAPTER III

                          POLA LIFTS A CURTAIN


"Where _is_ Isolde?" Mrs. Milliken whispered between her "Note the
gracious proportions of this hall" and "Joseph Romley would never allow
himself to be crowded with possessions."

"She's--she's--" Sidney had a sudden instinct to protect Isolde. "She
has--a headache."

"I am _so_ sorry that I cannot introduce you to Isolde Romley--the
poet's oldest daughter," Mrs. Milliken pitched her voice so that it
might reach even to the girls crowding into the front door. "She is a
_most_ interesting and delightful and unusual young lady. She was
always closely associated with her gifted father and we feel that she
is growing to be very like him. _This_--" smiling affectionately at
Sidney and allowing a suggestion of apology to creep into her tone,
"This is just our little Sidney, the poet's baby-girl. Sidney, lamb,
this is Miss Byers of Grace Hall, a boarding school for young ladies
and these are her precious charges. They are making a pilgrimage to our
beloved shrine--" Sidney, too familiar with Mrs. Milliken's flowery
phrases to be embarrassed by them, faced a little frightenedly the eyes
that stared curiously at her from above the spotless collars.

"We will go right into the study," Mrs. Milliken advised Miss Byers.
"We can take the girls in in little groups. As poor Isolde is not here
I will tell them some of the precious and personal anecdotes of the
great poet. You know we, in Middletown--especially of the League--feel
very privileged to have lived so close to him--"

Miss Byers briskly marshalled the first eight girls into the small
study. The others broke file and crowded into the front room and on to
the stairs, some even spilled over into the dining room. They paid not
the slightest attention to anything about them. Assured that Miss Byers
was out of hearing they burst into excited chatter and laughter. Except
for one or two who smiled shyly at her they did not even notice Sidney.

Sidney, relieved that Mrs. Milliken did not expect _her_ to recite the
"precious and personal anecdotes," drew back into a corner from where
she could enjoy to its fullest measure the delight of such close
propinquity to real boarding-school girls. Their talk, broken by
smothered shrieks of laughter, rang like sweetest music to her. They
seemed so jolly. Their blue serges and white collars were so stylish.
She wondered where they all came from and whether they had "scrapes" at
Grace Hall.

The first eight girls filed back into the hall from the study and Miss
Byers motioned eight more to enter. There was a general stirring, then
the chatter swelled again. Presently a girl slipped into Sidney's
corner and dropped down upon a chair.

"Isn't this the _stupidest_ bore!" she groaned. Then looking at Sidney,
she gasped and laughed. "Say--I _beg_ your pardon. I thought you were
one of the girls. And you're--you're--the poet's daughter, aren't you?"
The slanting dove-gray eyes above the white collar actually softened
with sympathy.

Sidney thought this young creature the very prettiest girl--next to
Vicky--she had ever seen. She did not mind her pity. The stranger had
taken her for "one of the girls" and Sidney would have forgiven her
anything for that!

"I suppose it is a bore. Isn't it fun, though, just going places?"

The boarding school girl stared. "Oh, we go so _much_. There isn't a
big gun anywhere within a radius of five hundred miles that we don't
have to visit. We get autographs and listen to speeches and make notes
about graves and look at pictures. Most of the girls get a kick out of
it slipping in some gore behind Byers' back--but I don't. I travel so
much with my family that nothing seems awfully exciting now."

Sidney wished she'd say that over again--it sounded so unbelievable.
And the girl couldn't be any older than she was. She was conscious that
the slanting eyes were regarding her closely.

"Do you like living here and having a lot of people tramp all over your
house and stare at you and say things about you and poke at your
father's things?"

It was plain magic the way this stranger put her finger directly upon
the sore spot.

"No, I don't!" vehemently.

"_I'd_ hate it, too. And I suppose you always have to act like a poet's
daughter, don't you? Do you have to write poetry yourself?"

"No, I loathe poetry!"

"But I'll bet you don't dare say so when that Dame in there can hear
you! I have to be careful talking about candy. My father makes the
Betty Sweets. Don't you know them? They're sold all over the world. We
have an immense factory. And there isn't any other kind of candy that I
don't like better. But I don't dare tell anybody that. Funny, I'm
telling you! Our spirits must be drawn together by some invisible bond."

Sidney's ears fairly ached with the beauty of the other's words. She
stiffened her slender little body to control its trembling. She tried
to say something but found her throat choked. The other girl rattled on:

"I didn't take any notes. I'll copy my roommate's. You see we have to
write a theme about our visit. Miss Byers prides herself on the girls
of Grace being so well-informed. I know. I'll put you into it. That'll
be fun. Only you'll have to tell me something about yourself. How old
are you? Do you go to a regular school and play with other girls like
any ordinary girl?"

Sidney flushed at the other's manner and found her tongue in an
instinctive desire to defend her lot.

"Of course I go to school. It's sort of a boarding school, only all the
girls go home nights. And I do everything the others do. And I am
fifteen."

"I didn't mean to offend you. I thought perhaps a poet's daughter was
different. If you don't mind in my theme I'll _make_ you
different--pale and thin, with curly hair in a cloud, and faraway
eyes--"

"That's like Isolde, my oldest sister, the one who usually tells the
'precious and personal anecdotes.' I wasn't really offended--and I'll
admit most of the girls do treat me a little bit differently--but
that's Miss Downs' fault; she won't let them forget that I am Joseph
Romley's daughter. She uses it all the time in her catalogue and when
any visitors come to the school it's dreadful--"

"If you don't like it why don't you come to Grace Hall? We'd have no
end of fun--"

"Gracious, I've never been _any_where. I only go to Miss Downs' because
it's here at Middletown and because she gives me my tuition on account
of Dad--" Sidney bit off her words in a sudden panic lest her admission
of poverty shock this lovely creature. It had not, however. The
dove-gray eyes had softened again with pity.

"Oh, I see. Of course, poets are always poor. I supposed they usually
lived in garrets. I nearly flopped when I saw this big house!" This to
comfort Sidney. "Well, it's too bad you _can't_ go to Grace. I like the
riding best. I have my own horse. Gypsy. She's a darling. My roommate
is the cutest thing. She's captain of the hockey team and her picture
was in the _New York Times_. Her mother made a dreadful fuss about it
but it was too late. And she got a letter from a boy in New York who'd
seen the picture--the most exciting letter--"

"Oh, _here_ you are, Pola," cried a voice behind them and a tall girl
elbowed Sidney back into her corner. "Say, Byers will be here at least
a half an hour longer. We'll have time for a dope at that store we
passed, if we hurry!"

All boredom vanished, the girl Pola sprang to her feet. She paused only
long enough to hold out her hand to Sidney. "Don't tell anyone that I
don't like Betty Sweets best of all the candy in the world, will you?"
she laughed. "And I won't tell anyone that you loathe poetry." Then she
ran after the tall girl. Sidney felt engulfed in a great and terrible
loneliness.

For the next half hour she was only conscious of a fear that Pola and
her companion might not get back before Miss Byers discovered their
flight. But just as the last eight came out of the study and Miss Byers
was lingering for a few words with Mrs. Milliken, Sidney saw two flying
figures join the others at the gate. Her little hope that she might
have a chance to talk again with Pola or hear her talk was lost in a
surge of relief that she was quite safe.

Mrs. Milliken remained after the others had filed down the street.
Sidney, troubled by her fib of the headache, wished with all her soul
that she would go and strained her ears for any sound from the floor
above that might betray Isolde's activities.

"A lovely thing--to bring those young girls to this spot," Mrs.
Milliken was murmuring as she looked over the register which the League
kept very carefully. "Here are some well-known names. Jenkins--probably
that's the iron family. Scott--I wonder if that's the Scott who's
related to the Astors." Sidney watched the gloved finger as it traced
its way down the page of scrawled signatures.

"Is there a Pola Somebody there?" she asked, hopefully. Mrs. Milliken's
finger ran back up the page.

"No--not that I can find. The girls were very careless--not half of
them registered."

Of course Pola wouldn't have registered--she had been too bored.

Her survey finished, Mrs. Milliken put the register in its place and
regarded Sidney with contemplative eyes.

"Another time, dear lamb, if you receive, tell Isolde to--well, fix you
up a little. I must speak to the Committee and plan something suitable
for you. Perhaps we have been forgetting that our dear little girl is
growing out of her rompers. Oh--and another thing, tell Isolde I was
_shocked_ to smell gasoline on your gifted father's jacket--"

"Trude thought it had moths in it and she soaked it in gasoline,"
explained Sidney uncomfortably.

"Oh, she _mustn't_ do it again. It--it spoiled the atmosphere of
everything! I will speak to the dear girls. Give my love to Isolde and
tell her to rest. I do not think anyone else will come today for I
posted a notice at the clubrooms reserving this date for Grace School."

With an affectionate leave-taking of her "lamb" Mrs. Milliken rustled
off. Sidney slowly shut the door. Out there, beyond the hedge, went
Pola and the other laughing girls of Grace Hall, out into a world of
fun and adventure. And _inside_ the door--

Pola had dared race off to the corner drug store; Sidney felt certain
Pola would dare _anything_. And _she_ had not even had spunk enough to
speak up and tell interfering Mrs. Milliken that Trude and the rest of
them would soak everything in gasoline, if they wanted to! Most
certainly they were not going to let _moths_ eat them all up alive!

Oh--oh, it was hateful! And Isolde had said they could not escape it;
well, she'd _find_ a way!

                  *       *       *       *       *

From abovestairs the three older sisters had witnessed the invasion of
their home by the Grace Hall girls.

"It's perfectly disgusting!" had been Vick's comment.

Trude was all sympathy for Sidney. "You were cruel, Issy, making Sid
receive that mob."

Isolde reluctantly turned her attention from the faded silks in her lap.

"Sidney might as well realize with what _we_ have to put up. Then
perhaps she will not be so discontented with her own easy lot--"

From where she squatted on the floor, a huge mending basket balanced on
her knees, Trude regarded Isolde with troubled eyes. Her forehead
puckered with little criss-cross wrinkles. Of the three older girls
Trude had the least claim to beauty; from constant exposure her skin
had acquired a ruddiness like a boy's which made her blue eyes paler by
contrast; her hair had been cut after an attack of scarlet fever and
had grown in so slowly that she wore it shingle-bobbed which added to
the suggestion of boyishness about her; there was an ungirlish
sturdiness and squareness to her build--one instinctively looked to her
shoulders to carry burdens. Yet withal there was about her a
lovableness infinitely more winning than Vick's Grecian beauty or
Isolde's interesting personality--a lovableness and a loyalty that
urged her on now to champion poor Sidney and yet made it the harder for
her to express to the others what she felt deep in her heart.

"Stop a minute and think, Issy. Didn't _we_ used to feel discontented
lots of times and fuss about things between ourselves? We knew--though
we didn't exactly ever _say_ it--that we _had_ to be different, on
account of Dad. We couldn't ever bother him, for fear we'd spoil his
work. Of course it was all worth while and doesn't make much
difference--now, but, Issy, _Sid_ doesn't have to put up with what we
did--" Trude stopped suddenly. It seemed dreadful to say: "Dad isn't
writing any poems now." She felt the pang of loss in her tender heart
that always came when she thought of her father, with his bursts of
impatience and his twitching nose and his long hours in the study with
the door closed, and then his great indulgence and boyish
demonstrativeness when some work that had been tormenting was completed
and off or when some unexpected acceptance came with an accompanying
check. She blinked back some tears. "You know I wouldn't talk like this
to anyone outside of us, but, just among us--I wish we could let Sidney
do the things we didn't do when we were her age."

"Trude, I have never heard you talk so foolishly. I'm sure our lot
isn't so tragic that Sid can't share it. She has nice friends and goes
to Miss Downs and hasn't a responsibility in the world--"

"Sometimes we get tired of the brand of our best friends and want a
change--even yearn for responsibility!"

"I'd say we'd spoiled her enough--she doesn't need any more."

"Isolde, you simply don't want to understand me! Goodness knows I
preach contentment the loudest--but-- Are we going to live like this
all our lives? Look at us, huddled up here, now, because the Saturdays
belong to the League. Issy, you and I can go on because we got broken
in to it years ago. Vick won't, of course--" (flashing a smile at the
disinterested Victoria) "but little Sid--She's fifteen now. She has two
more years at Miss Downs'. She may want college--or--or
something--different----"

Isolde lifted her shoulders with an impatient shrug. Isolde's thin
shoulders were very expressive and had a way of communicating her
thoughts more effectively than mere words. They silenced Trude, now.

"Do you think it's a kindness to encourage Sid to want things that we
simply can't afford to give her? You ought to know that we can't live a
bit differently--you keep our accounts."

Trude groaned. In any argument they always came back to that; their
poverty was like the old wall outside that closed them around. If poor
little Sid dreamed dreams it would be as it had been with her. Isolde
was quite right--it might be no kindness to the child to let her want
things--like college. Yet, though silenced, Trude was not satisfied;
there were surely things one could want that could surmount even the
ugly wall of poverty.

Vick broke into the pause.

"While we're considering Sid, what are we going to do with her this
summer? If she's going to have fits like she had this morning it'll be
pleasant having her round with nothing to do. Of course if Godmother
Jocelyn makes good on her promise to take me to Banff _I_ won't have to
worry but--"

"Trude, have you written to Huldah asking her if she can come for July
and August? Prof. Deering wrote last week suggesting that I spend the
summer with them in their cottage on Lake Michigan. I can more than pay
my board by helping Professor Deering with his book and that will
relieve Mrs. Deering so that she can play with the children. It will be
a change for me--"

"Some change, I'd say," laughed Vicky. "A crabby professor and an
overworked wife and two crying babies--"

"Professor Deering _isn't_ crabbed at all, Vick; he's a dear and the
babies are adorable and Mrs. Deering wrote that the bungalow is right
on the water and that she's going to reduce the housework to almost
nothing."

"It would be nice, Isolde. Why hadn't you told us of the plan? I had
better postpone going to New York. Aunt Edith White will invite me some
other time."

"You mustn't do anything of the sort," remonstrated Isolde quickly. "If
you do I'll write to Mrs. Deering and tell her I cannot come. You
didn't go to New York at Easter when Aunt Edith White invited you and
she may think you don't like to go."

"It seems terribly selfish for us to go away and leave Sid with Huldah
in this lonely old house."

"She adores Huldah and she has her chums--"

"And she'll have the Egg to spend--" from Vick.

"But there's such a sameness. And the League brings so many more
people--"

"Trude, you're positively silly about Sid. When we were fifteen--"

"Just the same, I don't want to be the one to tell her the three of us
are going away to have a good time and leave her here with Huldah all
summer--"

"I'll tell her," declared Isolde, firmly. "And I'll try to make her
understand she is very well off. Sidney really owes more to the League
than the rest of us do for we _could_ take care of ourselves. I think
we ought to make her appreciate that fact. Vick, look out, quick! Did I
hear Mrs. Milliken saying goodby?"

"Yes, there she goes!" cried Vick, now boldly at the window. "What luck
to be free so early. Let's see how much is left of poor old Sid."

But Vick, opening the door, saw a very straight, pigtailed figure walk
resolutely down the long hall toward the attic stairs. Her quick "Well,
kid, how did it go?" fell upon deaf ears, nor did Sidney so much as
glance in her direction.



                               CHAPTER IV

                        SIDNEY DIGS FOR COUSINS


The Romley house stood two stories and a half high, heavy-beamed,
thick-walled, of square spacious rooms with deep-set windows and
cavernous fireplaces under low marble mantels. Joseph Romley had chosen
it because he said it was so big a man could think in it; he liked the
seclusion, too, that the surrounding wall promised. If his wife
faltered before the care it presented she had given no sign but had
bravely spread their limited possessions through some of the rooms and
had sensibly closed off others.

There had never been a time since the Romleys took possession when the
house had not needed painting and shingling, when the guarding wall was
not crumbling and the gate swinging on one hinge, when the furnace was
not needing cleaning and the plumbing overhauling. But the wind sang
cheerily down the great chimneys and the sun poured in through the
windows and the ancient elms housed hosts of birds and the hollyhocks
bloomed early and late against the wall so that Joseph Romley knew only
the beauty of the place and was content and his family, perforce, was
content because he was.

There had never been enough of the fine old furniture Mrs. Romley had
collected in her bridehood to furnish a separate room for each one of
the girls. Isolde and Trude had always shared a sunny room over the
study. In a back room Victoria and Sidney still used the narrow beds of
nursery days. Only lately Victoria had painted them gray with a trim of
pink rose buds but the effect had suffered so sharply from Sidney's
"truck" that Sidney had been coerced into taking her precious
belongings to the attic where she established a kingdom of her own.

It was a beautiful attic. Its rafters, shiny and brown, were so low
that Sidney, by standing very straight, could touch them with the top
of her head. It had mysterious crannies and shadowy corners and deep
dusty holes. Sidney had walled off one end by piling one trunk upon
another and pushing an old wardrobe next to them. There she had her
possessions, a flat-topped desk with long wobbly legs which she reached
by a box balanced on an old stool, the skeleton of a sofa on which sat
five dusty and neglected dolls, a scrap of carpeting, amazing as to red
roses but sadly frayed about its edges, one boastful rocker in complete
possession of arms and legs, which Trude had smuggled up to her, and a
conglomeration of her favorite books scattered everywhere, for in the
seclusion of the attic she could pore over them without risk of some
Lady Leaguer discovering her love of them.

To this sanctuary Sidney retreated now from Vick and the Leaguers and
her luckless lot. Swinging open the door of the wardrobe so as to shut
off any unannounced approach to her den, she tiptoed to a corner, knelt
down and cautiously lifted a board from the floor, thereby revealing a
space two feet square between the beams.

From among the treasures concealed there she drew out an old ledger on
the first page of which was printed in large type: "Dorothea, friend
and confidante of Sidney Romley." Jerking herself closer to the window
she opened the book across her knees and began to write in it with the
stub of a pencil she extracted from the pocket of her middy blouse.

  "Dearest Dorothea:

  "Today I stand at a crossroad of life. I am fifteen. It is not my
  birthday for I had my birthday as you will see if you turn back to
  page 64 but I am fifteen today in the eyes of the world for I have
  come into my legal and just rights. I am to have the next Egg. I
  had to make a scene before I got them to promise I could have it
  but it was ever thus with rights. I swear solemnly now to you, dear
  Dorothea, that I shall never cry again in front of Victoria Romley.
  Never. I hate her when she laughs. I do not hate Isolde even though
  she does not understand me and that is hard. And I adore Trude as I
  have told you on many other pages. However, I am to have the Egg.

  "But that is not all that happened this morning. I have talked to
  the most beautiful girl I ever saw. Her name is Pola and she goes
  to Grace Hall, which is a boarding school for very rich girls who
  have horses. Her father makes candy in a big factory and it is sold
  all over the world. When I get the Egg I shall buy a great deal of
  Betty Sweets. That is it. Pola has traveled so much that it bores
  her to think of it. When she talked she lifted a curtain and let me
  peep into a wonderful world. I think she liked me. She's going to
  put me in a theme only she is going to make me like Isolde who just
  to be mean made me receive the Leaguers this morning and went
  upstairs and did things as though it was not Saturday at all. But
  for that I must love her just as if she had not done it to be mean
  for I would not have met Pola. Pola--is that not the most romantic
  name you ever heard?--feels sorry for me because my father was a
  poet and she knew right off how I hate having the Leaguers own us
  and the house. She was wonderful. I shall never see anyone like her
  again. My life is doomed to be sad and lonely.

  "But though I never see Pola again I shall try to live to be like
  her. Inside of me, of course. It would be no use to try to be like
  her outside on account of my horrid hair. Pola's hair is curly and
  short and she wears it caught with a 'bonny bright ribbon.' My eyes
  are plain blue and hers are a mysterious gray like an evening sky.
  Her skin is like creamy satin touched with rose petals and I think
  it is natural for it is not a bit like Josie Walker's who uses
  rouge for Nancy caught her putting it on one day at school in the
  toilet. Pola is as brave as she is beautiful. She dares anything.
  She would despise me if she knew that I just let my fate close over
  my head and do nothing.

  "But now that I am fifteen before the world I must take my life in
  my hands. As adventure will never come to this house on account of
  the League I must go forth to meet adventure. I will not let the
  others know what I am planning for, as I said heretofore, Isolde
  does not understand me and Victoria would only laugh. And as I said
  heretofore, I hate her when she laughs. But, Victoria Romley,
  remember the words of the prophet: 'He who laughs last laughs
  loudest.'

  "In case I pass to the Great Beyond and strange eyes read these
  confidences, let me add that I only hate Vicky when she laughs. At
  all other times I love her dearly. She is so beautiful that
  sometimes when I look at her I feel all queer and gaspy inside.
  Pola is not quite as beautiful as Vic but Pola is a girl like me.

  "Dear Dorothea, friend of my inner spirit, as I close this page who
  knows what the future holds for me? I shall probably be very busy
  with my plans and may neglect you, my comforter, but as I go forth
  on my quest I shall often think of you, waiting, faithful, in my
  secret cranny. And I shall think of Isolde and Trude for I gleaned
  from something Isolde said to me this morning when she was mad that
  she and Trude long to escape from the League the way I do. But they
  think they have to stay here the rest of their lives. Mayhap I can
  bring escape to them. Vick will marry of course, but Isolde's beaux
  look too poor to get married and they are mostly poets as I have
  told you. And Trude has only her one Lost Love. Dear Dorothea,
  farewell. 'Mid pleasures and palaces though I may roam, my heart
  will come to thee in thy deep and secret chamber.'"

Sidney liked the last line so well that she paused to read it over,
aloud.

She closed the book simply because her thoughts were racing ahead so
fast that to write them became a torture. She restored "Dorothea"
rather carelessly to her "deep and secret chamber." Having secured the
loose planking she rose and turned her agile mind to the consideration
of a desire that had began shaping when Trude said she could go around
the world with the Egg. Of course the Egg would not take her that far
but if it would only just take her somewhere on a train she'd be
satisfied.

Travel in the Romley family had always been limited. One shabby bag had
done comfortable duty for them all. Joseph Romley had never wanted to
go away; if the girls' mother ever yearned for other horizons she had
hidden it behind a smiling contentment. Neither Isolde nor Trude had
gone further than fifty miles from Middletown until the two trustees,
after their father's death, had summoned them to New York. Victoria,
seemingly born to more fortune than the others, had been whisked away
on several trips with Godmother Jocelyn, traveling luxuriously in a
stateroom with a maid but she had returned from even the most prolonged
of these so silent and dispirited that Sidney suspected traveling with
Godmother Jocelyn, fat and fussy, was not the unalloyed pleasure Vick
would have them believe.

To how much Sidney longed to vision the world that lay beyond the level
horizons of Middletown an old map of the United States and Canada,
tacked to one of the rafters, attested. Upon this Sidney had marked
with various signs that meant much to her and nothing to any one else,
the different localities of which she read in books or newspapers. When
a Leaguer introduced some devotee from some far-off city Sidney
promptly noted the visit on the map. In consequence she had a vicarious
acquaintance scattered from coast to coast. It was the only way she had
ever expected to "know" the world until Trude had said that about the
Egg.

She did not count as "traveling" going once to Cascade Lake, twenty
miles to the South, and spending a week there with Nancy. They had not
gone on a train; they had driven down with Nancy's father in the
automobile. Though in anticipation the visit had appeared like an
adventure, in later retrospection it was stupid. It had been just like
being at Nancy's house in Middletown; Nancy's father and mother and
Snap, the dog, and Caroline, the colored cook, and much of the
furniture were all there. It had rained all week and they had had to
play in the house and Nancy had had a cold in her head which had made
her cross and horrid-looking. No, that had not been "going" somewhere,
the way Trude went to New York and Isolde to Chicago.

Crouched low in the sound rocker Sidney stared at the old map with
speculative eyes. One could not, when one was the youngest sister,
simply pack the old bag and start off for just anywhere. All the trips
she knew anything about had some objective; one went somewhere to see
somebody. Trude went to see Aunt Edith White, Isolde the Deerings. Vick
always went somewhere with Godmother Jocelyn. Plainly her first step
was to find someone who lived somewhere where she could want to go.

It was a pity, Sidney lamented voicelessly, that her father had shunned
all their relatives the way he had the autograph seekers. Nancy had a
great many; she was always going to reunions at some aunt's or cousin's
or her mother was having a big "family" dinner. It would help her now
to have a few cousins herself. They surely must have some somewhere.
Everyone did. That her father had snubbed them would not make them any
the less related.

She suddenly remembered a book she had found once in a box consigned to
the attic in that first settling. The book for a while had fascinated
her and Nancy, then they had thrown it aside for something more novel,
little dreaming that it was destined to hold an important part in the
shaping of Sidney's fortunes--and misfortunes. It was a very slender
little volume with an embellished binding, long since yellow with dust.

Finding it now Sidney drew the sleeve of her blouse across its cover
and opened it. Its first page was given over to a curious tree from the
sprawling branches of which hung round things much like grapefruits,
each ring encircling one or two names. From each fruit dangled more
fruit until the tree was quite overladen. A line at the bottom
explained that the curious growth was the Tree of the New England Ellis
Family.

At that first inspection Sidney had felt no particular sense of
belonging herself to the suspended grapefruits; the only thought that
had held her was how many, many years it had taken all those people to
live and what a little minute to read their names. But finding an "Ann
Ellis" in a corner of the tree had brought them suddenly close to her.
"Ann Ellis Green"--why, that was her mother's name. She and Nancy
figured out at once that these were her mother's ancestors--_her_
ancestors. Nancy had supplied the word. Nancy had been deeply impressed
by the Tree and the Coat-of-Arms which had come down to these Ellises
from a Welsh baron of feudal times. She had urged Sidney to use it on
her school papers.

But neither the Coat-of-Arms nor the Tree held any especial value to
Sidney, brought up as she had been in a state of family isolation,
until this moment.

Now the little book offered the reasonable possibility that each
ancestor recorded therein had had children, just as that Ann Ellis in
the round enclosure had had her mother and her mother in turn had had
Isolde and Trude and Vick and herself. These children would be
cousins--and cousins were what she needed!

She remembered certain notations that had been made in a fine script on
back pages of the book. In search of cousins she now scanned these
carefully, with a shivery feeling of prowling over dead bones--the
writing was so queer and faded, the paper crackled and smelled so old.

"Charles Ellis, son of James by Mary Martin, second wife. Served in the
102nd Regiment at Gettysburg. Awarded the Congressional Medal for
exceptional bravery under fire."

"Priscilla Ellis gave her life in the service of nursing through the
epidemic of small-pox that swept Boston in the year of 18--" Sidney
read this twice with a thrill. That was adventure for you. Small-pox.
She wondered if Priscilla had been beautiful like Victoria and whether
she had left a sweetheart to mourn her tragic death to the end of his
days. She liked to think Priscilla had had such.

That one Abner Ellis had been a Selectman for ten years did not
interest her--she passed him for the next entry.

"Ann Ellis married Jonathan Green, June 10, 1874. To this happy union
has been born one precious daughter, our little Ann." Why, this "little
Ann" was her own mother, of course. And the Jonathan Green who was her
father had written in the book the little notes about all the Ellises
so that when the "Little Ann" grew up she would know all about them and
be proud--Priscilla who had died of small-pox and the ancestor with the
Congressional Medal. Sidney suddenly thought it strange that her mother
had cared so little for the family tree that she had left it, dusty and
forgotten, in the attic. Probably that was because her mother had been
too busy being a poet's wife to bother about dead and gone Ellises.

She felt a little rush of tender remorse toward Jonathan Green--she
wished he had not died when her mother was a little girl. He was her
own grandfather. And _he_ had had a tree behind _him_--there had
doubtless been as many Greens as Ellises. She wished she knew what
_they_ had been like. And almost in answer to the thought her eyes fell
upon an entry on another page, made in Jonathan Green's fine hand.

"On this day, October 6, 1869, my brother, Ezekiel Green, sailed from
Provincetown for far shores on his good ship the _Betsy King_ which
same has come into his possession as a reward for years of thrift and
perseverance. God's blessing go with him--"

There were more entries concerning the brother, Ezekiel. He and his
good ship the _Betsy King_ were reported as returning safely from the
Azores, and again they had rounded Cape Horn, again had ventured to
East Indian waters.

"Oh-h!" cried Sidney aloud for at the top of another page she read that
the _Betsy King_ had foundered off the Cape in the storm of '72--with
all lives. "May the soul of my beloved brother, Ezekiel Green, rest in
peace with his Maker."

Sidney forgot the Burton-Ellis tree in her breathless interest in the
fate of Ezekiel Green who had "foundered" and then rested in peace. It
was like a story of marvellous adventure. Her grandfather had evidently
thought a great deal of this brother who had sailed the oceans wide. He
had added, beneath the entry of the foundering of the _Betsy King_:
"Our loving prayers go out in behalf of our beloved Ezekiel's son and
daughter, Asabel and Achsa. May they walk in the path their respected
father trod before them!" "That's funny," reflected Sidney, "How _can_
they when he sailed the wide seas!"

[Illustration: HER EYES FELL UPON AN ENTRY ON ANOTHER PAGE]

Sidney's brain actually crackled with lightning calculations. This
Asabel and Achsa must be old but they might be still living--and at
Provincetown, from whence the _Betsy King_ had sailed. Perhaps Asabel
had a boat, too. Provincetown--she looked at the map. Why, Provincetown
was at the very tip end of that crooked finger of land which always
seemed to be beckoning to ships to come to Massachusetts. She knew all
about it--she and Nancy had read a delightful book in which a little
girl had lived with two guardians who were old sea captains--like
Ezekiel Green. And she, Sidney Romley, had never known that she had
relatives, real flesh-and-blood relatives, lots of them, no doubt, who
lived right on Cape Cod! She wished that Nancy were with her that she
might tell her at once. She figured off the generations on her fingers.
Ezekiel Green was her mother's uncle, her great uncle. This son and
daughter, Asabel and Achsa, were her mother's first cousins, _her_
second cousins. She felt suddenly proudly rich in kin.

"Cousin Achsa!" she repeated the name slowly, wondering just how she
ought to pronounce it. She pictured Cousin Achsa living in a square
white cupolaed house of noble dimensions that crowned a rocky eminence
from which a sweeping view of ocean distances might be had.

This picture had no more than shaped itself in her mind than the
resolution formed to communicate at once with Asabel and Achsa. Not a
day must be lost. When one had girded oneself to set forth in quest of
the Gleam one must not dally over any uncertainties.

Sidney climbed on to the box before the high desk and spread the book
before her for reference in spelling her relatives' names. Then she
took out a sheet of writing paper and dipped an old pen into a bottle
of ink.

Her imagination seething, it was not difficult to frame her unusual
letter. Indeed, the writing of it fell into quite easy lines.

  "Dear Cousin Achsa:

  "You will be very much surprised to get a letter from your second
  cousin, Sidney Ellis Romley. But I have heard my mother speak of
  you often. (Let it be said in justice to Sidney that she hesitated
  over this outrageous fib, then decided it was justified by the
  necessity for tact. However, some quick calculation caused her to
  amend her statement.) At least my older sisters have told me that
  she spoke often of you. You see she died when I was a baby. My
  father is dead, too. I live with my sisters in Middletown. I am the
  youngest though I am fifteen.

  "My sisters have travelled extensively but I have never gone
  anywhere. But this summer I am going to have the Egg which is a sum
  of money that comes to us each year. (Here Sidney had paused to
  consider whether she ought to confess that her father had been a
  poet. She decided she need not.) I can spend the Egg any way I want
  to. I think I will go somewhere on a train. I came across a family
  tree of the New England Ellises which told all about the Greens,
  too, and Ezekiel Green who is your father as you know and his good
  ship the _Betsy King_ which I think was thrilling and how his soul
  is with his Maker and all about you and Cousin Asabel and it was so
  interesting, I mean the Greens, not the Ellises, that I have
  decided to visit you if it is convenient. I will not be any
  trouble. I wish you would write and tell me if I can come. I shall
  await your letter with trembling expectancy.

  "Your most affectionate and new-found Cousin,

                                                "Sidney Ellis Romley."

Sidney hurried the letter into an envelope, sealed it and addressed it.
For a dreadful moment she wondered if she ought to know a street number
in Provincetown. This Achsa might have married and have another name.
Then she remembered that Isolde always put their own address in one
corner of her envelopes. She printed it on hers in square letters.
"There, it'll come back to me if it doesn't find Cousin Achsa! But, oh,
I hope it does."

"_Sid-ney!_ Luncheon. I've called you three times."

Vick's voice, sharply rebuking, broke across Sidney's occupation. She
jumped hurriedly from her perch, tucking the letter into the pocket of
her blouse. Her lips pressed together in a straight thin line of red.
Life must, of course, appear to go on as usual--school and the same
stupid things she did every day, Nancy, who was so distressingly short
of the standard Pola had that day forever fixed. No one, her sisters
least, must suspect that Adventure loomed so close. She would guard her
plans carefully in her "inscrutable breast."



                               CHAPTER V

                "THE SUMMER WILL TELL WHO LAUGHS LAST!"


To use Sidney's own thought, "things happened" with amazing swiftness.
If a fairy godmother had been invited in at her christening her plans
could not have prospered more.

First came Mrs. Milliken's unpleasant announcement that the Summer
Convention of the League was to be held in Middletown during July which
meant that every day for two weeks would see the old house invaded by
the curious and the reverent. Mrs. Milliken, in Sidney's hearing, had
gently hinted that it would be very nice if the girls could go away
somewhere for July--at least all of them except dear Isolde.

Then Sidney heard for the first time of Isolde's invitation to the
Deerings. Isolde had thrown it in self-defense at Mrs. Milliken. "I do
not expect to be here, Mrs. Milliken. I am going to Professor Deering's
for July and August to help him with his new book." Sidney turned away
to hide a sudden smile, not, however, before she caught Trude's eyes
anxiously upon her.

Then the Egg--seventy whole dollars--came on the same day that
Godmother Jocelyn informed Vick by telegram that if she could be ready
by the first of July she could go with her to California by way of the
Canadian Rockies. "Be ready! Well, I should just say I _could_!" Vick's
eyes had shone like stars against a velvet black sky and Sidney had
again intercepted that anxious glance from Trude.

Isolde considered this an auspicious moment, with all the excitement
over Vick, to break to Sidney their plans for the summer--plans hurried
to a head by the League's announcement.

"And Trude's going to Long Island with the Whites, dear, but you won't
be lonely with Huldah. You can have Nancy here and probably she will
invite you down to Cascade."

"Oh, there's a letter from Huldah on the table in the hall! I meant to
bring it in and forgot," cried Vick.

"Get it, dear," asked Isolde, gently, of Sidney. Action would help
Sidney control her disappointment--if the child _was_ disappointed.
Perhaps Trude was over-apprehensive.

Trude hastily scanned the few lines of the letter Sidney put into her
hands. "Oh, _dear_," she exclaimed "Huldah can't come."

Could any fairy godmother, indeed, have shaped circumstances with more
kindly hand?

"She says she can't leave her niece. Her niece's just had a baby. And
her rheumatism is bad."

"I call that rank disloyalty," cried Isolde with spirit. "After all
we've stood from Huldah!"

"What'll we do? Can't we make her come? Doesn't she owe us more
consideration than her niece?"

Trude put the letter down. "Huldah isn't disloyal. You know that,
Isolde. And she doesn't owe us anything. Don't forget, Vick, that she
worked for us for years for almost nothing when she could have gone
anywhere else and received good pay. This house _is_ damp and big and
Huldah is old. No, we can't beg her to come--over this. It was probably
hard for her to refuse. I'll stay home with Sid. We'll have lots more
fun here together than I'd have with Aunt Edith White on Long
Island--in spite of the League. Will we not, Sid?"

There was so much more sincerity in Trude's honest blue eyes than any
suggestion of self-sacrifice that Sidney ran around to her and hugged
her. She longed to tell Trude and the others of her own budding
plans--only she had not received as yet an answer from Cousin Achsa. So
all she could say was: "We just won't mind the League!"

And then that very afternoon the postman, meeting her outside the wall,
had handed her an envelope addressed to "Miss Sidney Ellis Romley" and
postmarked _Provincetown_!

Sidney ran with it straight to her attic retreat. Her heart within her
breast hurt with its high hopes. There was a Cousin Achsa--her own
letter had reached her and had been answered! She studied the
unfamiliar writing on the envelope--it was a big sweeping script. The
envelope felt fine and soft in her fingers and smelled faintly of a
fragrance that was not of flowers and yet distinctly pleasant. Oh, this
Cousin Achsa must be wealthy, like Pola!

She broke the envelope and spread out the double sheet it contained. At
its top she read, "My dear little Cousin." She paused long enough to
wonder why Cousin Achsa thought that she was little.

  "My dear little Cousin:

  "Of course you may come to visit us. We shall enjoy learning to
  love a young cousin who must be delightful if we can judge from her
  letter. We blame ourselves and the miles that have separated us for
  not knowing anything of 'Sidney Ellis Romley' until yesterday,
  though we knew your mother in days long past. Will you write and
  tell us when we may expect you? Can a girl of fifteen find her way
  to this outlying bit of country? If you decide you cannot perhaps
  we can arrange for you to come with someone. We await your word
  with affectionate anticipation.

                                            "Your already loving cousin,
                                                "Achsa."

Sidney blinked hard simply to be certain that the words actually lay
before her eyes. Then she read it again and again--aloud. Oh, it was
too wonderful to believe. It was a _beautiful_ letter--Cousin Achsa
must surely live in the square white house on the eminence she had
pictured. She had written "we" so perhaps Cousin Asabel still lived or
maybe there were young cousins. Anyway, they wanted her. She hugged the
letter to her and rushed off to find the girls. Oh, Huldah could stay
with her niece if she wanted to! And Trude could go to Long Island! The
Leaguers could come and camp in the house! Guided by the murmur of
voices Sidney broke headlong into an informal conference of the older
sisters. Her drama-loving soul could not have built a more perfect
stage, nor asked a more thrilling moment of denouement. Isolde had just
declared generously, that she could not enjoy a day of her stay with
the Deerings if Trude had to give up the Long Island plans.

"It isn't as though we girls received invitations every day," she
explained tearfully. "And it'll be stupid for you here, Trude, with
just Sidney. Perhaps it's my duty to stay home and help Mrs. Milliken."

"Your sacrifice is quite unnecessary!" Sid answered in such a queer
voice that the three older girls stared at her in alarm. In truth her
flushed face and wild eyes gave strength to the sudden conviction that
she had gone mad! She fairly leaped at Isolde and flung her letter into
Isolde's lap. "I guess 'just Sid' is capable of making her own plans!"

Sidney had a moment's terror that she was "beginning" wrong but
Isolde's remark which she had overheard had upset all her preplanned
diplomacy. Now she stood back, anxiously, and watched Isolde read the
letter.

As Isolde read it aloud she punctuated it with excited exclamations.

"'My dear little Cousin'--Why, Sid, how did you happen to write to her?
How did you know she wasn't dead? Why--'Of course you may come and
visit us!' Sid, what _have_ you been doing? Why--" and so, to the end.

Sidney drew a long breath and braced herself. Her explanation tumbled
out with such incoherence that the girls kept interrupting her to ask
her to repeat something. Well, they had told her she could use the Egg
any way she wanted to and she wanted to go somewhere a long way off--on
a train. One always had to visit someone or with somebody and she'd
remembered these cousins--

"Why, how _could_ you, Sid? I don't think you've ever heard us speak of
them. I'm sure I'd almost forgotten them--"

"Well, I _did_. Blood's thicker than water," witheringly, "and maybe
you can just remember relatives without ever hearing anything about
them. She's nice, I know, because her father was persevering and
thrifty--"

A sudden laugh from Vick brought Sidney to an abrupt stop. But Isolde,
rebuking Vick with a lift of her right shoulder, turned her attention
again to the letter.

"It's a very nice letter--a--a cultured letter, don't you think so,
Trude? Somehow I have always had the idea that these relations in the
East--the Greens--were very poor and--well, uneducated. But this letter
doesn't look like it. And they actually seem to _want_ Sidney to come!"

"It's a long way--" Trude put in.

"But I want to _go_ a long way. I don't just want to go to some place
right near home--like Cascade. There's money enough--Nancy and I asked
at the railroad station. And the man there gave me a timetable with all
sorts of interesting pictures on it. It's the very most interesting
place I ever heard of--it's an education. I want to go. I've--I've
never been anywhere."

Isolde was trying not to look as though this unexpected development of
things was pleasing but she simply could not suppress the thought that
in permitting Sid to go to these cousins lay their one chance of happy
escape for their summer. After all--these Cape Cod relatives _were_
first cousins of their mother's, her very own people. She wished she
could remember what her mother had told of them from time to time but
it could not have been anything to their discredit or she would have
remembered. And the letter, in its woody fragrance, the bold sweep of
the handwriting, the expensive texture of the paper, bespoke culture,
even wealth. However, with a lingering sense of duty, she reminded
Sidney that this Cousin Achsa must be very old.

As if that mattered! Sidney flung out an impatient hand. It was like
Isolde to sit rock-fashion and trump up reasons why she'd better not
go. But Vick came unexpectedly to her aid.

"If she's old--all the better. She'll make Sid behave herself. I think
this is the luckiest thing that could have happened. Now we can all go
away. Sid wanted adventure--she'll have it with Cousin--what's her
name?"

Though she writhed under the tone in Vick's voice Sidney bit her lips
over the retort that sprang to them. Anyway, she _would_ have her
adventure. She wanted to go on the train all alone; the ticket office
man had said it would be quite safe and had told her that he'd write
something on a card that she could show to each conductor. She'd like
not to have even to do _that_, for that seemed a little babyish.

Trude had found a reassuring thought. "I'll be near enough, anyway, so
that if Sid gets homesick or finds that things aren't just what she'd
like them to be she can telegraph to me and come home. You will, won't
you, kid?"

Sid promised hastily. Then for the next half hour everything whirled
about her; she could not believe what her ears heard, what her eyes
beheld. The girls were actually planning for her--clothes, trunks,
tickets, trains. Trude was figuring and making notes on the back of
Cousin Achsa's letter. It was, "Sid will need this--Sid had better do
that--it will be nice for Sid to see this--I think by way of Boston is
the better route--you'd better write to Cousin Achsa, Trude--No, let
Sid write herself--had we ought to consult the Trustees? Why, we're old
enough to decide this for ourselves--she'd better go just before Vick
and then we can pack away our intimate things and turn the house over
to the League."

"Didn't Evangeline come from somewhere up that way? Oh, no. Well, I
always think of Cape Cod and Nova Scotia as being off there on the map
together. Anyway, write and tell us, kid, when you find the Chalice or
Grail or whatever it is! If you discover any untrodden fields of
romance--wire us and we'll send one of Issy's poets down--"

Now, in her exalted spirit Sid could meet Vick's raillery with a level
glance. Let Vick laugh! Cape Cod wasn't off "somewhere" in a corner of
the map. It was as intriguing as the Canadian Rockies. And she had a
lot shut away in her heart about which Vick and the others knew
nothing. All that about the good ship _Betsy King_. _Betsy King_ had
foundered as a good ship should, but there was a big chance that Cousin
Asabel, Ezekiel's son, might have a boat. Then she had a glimpse into a
beautiful world that Pola had given her; she would see Pola's world
from the train window. It was simply all too breath-taking to think of.
Oh, the summer would tell who would laugh last!



                               CHAPTER VI

                              SUNSET LANE


When Tillie Higgins saw Joe the baker's cart pass her house she ran to
her gate.

"He must be going to Eph Calkins or to Achsy Green's. Now I wonder--"
Joe rarely penetrated Sunset Lane with his goods; Tillie Higgins and
old Mrs. Calkins did their own baking and Achsa Green's pies were
legend.

Old Mrs. Calkins, too, had seen the baker's rickety cart approaching
through the deep sand. At once she "happened" to be out tying up her
yellow rambler.

"Got a letter for Achsy Green," the baker called to her, leaning out of
his cart.

"You don't say! Not bad news, I hope?"

"Dunno. It's a letter. Thought I'd bring it to her. Gettap, General.
Pretty nice weather we're havin'. Dry, though."

"Tell Achsy I'll drop over soon's my bakin's done."

Tillie Higgins' shadow fell across the yellow roses. Tillie was a
little breathless; she had hurried over to catch what the baker was
saying.

"A letter? For Achsy Green? You don't say. Not bad news I hope," she
echoed.

"Joe dunno. Cal'late that's why he came all this way with it. He'll
find out what's in that letter if he can. Then the hul town'll know. I
told him to tell Achsy I'd drop over soon's my pies are out of the
oven. Better set down a spell and go along with me."

But Tillie Higgins, with regret in her voice, explained that she had
bread in her own oven. "If it's news send Martie over with it. Hope
it's nothing bothersome. Achsy Green has 'nough as 'tis."

This Sunset Lane was the farthest byway of the northernmost habitation
of Cape Cod. Only a ridge of sandy dunes at its back door kept it from
tumbling into the blue Atlantic. Provincetown folk called it "up p'int
way" and "t'other end." The more fanciful name had been given to it by
a young Portuguese who had essayed to convert that corner of
Provincetown into a summer colony. He had only succeeded, after long
effort, in selling the Carpenter house nearest Commercial Street, then
had abandoned his enterprise to open a combination garage and one-arm
lunch room on Commercial Street.

Sunset Lane led nowhere, unless one counted the dunes; it was only wide
enough for a cart to pass between the hedging rows of crowding wild
flowers and the guardian willows; it was deep in sand. The rising tide
of commercialism that was destroying the eighteenth-century dignity of
the little town turned before it reached it. Few went there unless on
definite purpose bound, excepting the artists who came singly and in
groups to paint an old gray gable against an overtowering hill of sand
or a scrap of blue sky between crumbling chimney pots and peaked roofs
or old Mrs. Calkins' hollyhocks that flanked the narrow byway like
gaudy soldiers. Some sketched Jeremiah Higgins' octagonal house, more
of an oddity than a thing of grace yet ornamented with hand-wrought
cornices and dignified by a figurehead from the prow of a ship long
since split into driftwood; others went on to the end of the lane to
catch upon their canvases the grace of Achsa's Green's old
gray-shingled cottage with its low roof and white pilastered doorway.

With the changing years Achsa Green had become as quaint as her
surroundings. Bent, and small, her face seared to the brown of a
withered leaf from the hot suns and biting winds, her hands knotted
with labor, her sparse hair twisted into a knob at the exact center of
the back of her head, she was not lovely to look upon, yet from her
eyes gleamed a spirit that knew no wear of age, that took its knocks
upstanding, that suffered when others suffered but that spread a
healing philosophy of God's wisdom. For Achsa's acceptance of God's
wisdom faltered only when she thought of Lavender.

Lavender was her brother Asabel's only child. His mother had died a
week after his birth, his father five months before. Achsa had taken
the babe into her arms and had promised to "do" for him. And she had,
with a fierce yearning, a compassion that hurt to her very soul. For
Lavender was not like other children; his poor little body was sadly
crippled. Achsa had at first refused to believe but that he might "grow
straight," then as the years convinced her that this could never be she
consecrated herself to the single task of keeping him fed and clothed
and happy and "out o' mischief." She clung staunchly to the hope that,
if she prayed hard enough by night and believed by day that her boy was
"straight," sometime Lavender _would_ be straight and all their little
world--the Cape--would know.

There was nothing unusual in Dugald Allan of Rahway, N. J., finding
Sunset Lane, for he was a fledgling artist and came there like other
artists, but certainly a destiny that was kind toward old Achsa had
something to do in the skirmish that ensued between Poker, Allan's
brindle bull-pup, and Nip and Tuck, Achsa Green's two black cats. Tuck,
caught sunning herself in the middle of the lane, had recognized a foe
in Poker and had defended her stronghold; Poker, resenting her
exclusiveness, had offered battle. Nip, never far from his sister, had
promptly thrown himself into the fray. There had resulted a whirl of
sand like a miniature cyclone from which young Allan rescued Poker just
in time to save his brindle hide. Nip, unvanquished, had retreated to
the very doorway that Allan had come to paint; Tuck fled to the shelter
of a bed of tall sweet william.

"Dear! Dear!" cried Achsa Green in the open doorway. "Oh, my cats--"

"Nobody hurt. I'm sorry," laughed young Allan. "I mean--Poker's sorry.
I don't understand his rudeness. He never fights anyone smaller than
himself. I've brought him up to a high sporting code. He must have
misunderstood your cat's attitude. He apologizes, humbly."

Assured that her pets were unharmed the little old woman in the doorway
had laughed gleefully. "Tuck's sort o' suspicious o' strange folks, but
I cal'late she didn't take a good look at _you_! She must a looked at
your dog first!"

"I thank you for the compliment. You see, we came quite peaceably to
paint your doorway. You're Miss Green, aren't you? I'm sure that's the
door they told me about. And if your defiant animal will stand like
that long enough for me to sketch it--I'd consider myself in luck--"

"I cal'late he will--if your dog's 'round. Nip ain't 'fraid of nothin'
'slong as his own door's at his back. Don't know as anyone's wanted to
draw his picture before. He'll be all set up for sure!"

Whipping out his pad Dugald Allan, with rapid strokes, had sketched the
door and the cat--and Achsa Green. Later the picture he painted from
the sketch hung in a Paris exhibition. When he showed the drawing to
Achsa Green she had beamed with pleasure. "Why, that's as like Nip as
though it war a twin." Nip, scenting the friendly atmosphere, had
relaxed, stretched, yawned, waved a plumy tail toward poor Poker,
watching fearfully from behind his master, and had stalked, disdainful,
over to the sweet william to reassure the more timid Tuck.

Of course Achsa Green had wanted to show the "picture" to Lavender and
Dugald Allan, eager to see the inside of the old house, had followed
her into the low-ceilinged kitchen. And that had been ten years ago and
each succeeding spring since had brought Dugald Allan back to Sunset
Lane.

Achsa Green knew him only as "a nice appearin' boy--not so much on
looks," with a kindly manner toward Lavender and an appreciation of the
merits of Nip and Tuck. And inasmuch as Nip and Tuck made friendly
advances to Poker and Lavender would do things for Dugald Allan that he
would not do for anyone else, she finally consented to "let" her gable
room to the young stranger and to board him as well. In settling the
matter of board young Allan had had to deal with a pride as hard as the
granite of the breakwall he could glimpse from the one window of his
room; it had been only after he convinced Aunt Achsa that he could
never feel like "one of the folks" until he contributed something to
the upkeep of the family, that he had persuaded her to accept the sum
of money which he considered barely repaid her trouble but which Aunt
Achsa deemed a fortune.

Wisely young Allan paid the "board money" at the bank. He had come to
know Aunt Achsa's failings, how sometimes she stowed her scant earnings
away and forgot its hiding place; how at other times she gave them to
someone needier than herself. Many a one of her generation had told him
that she was without "sense" where business was concerned. It was
everyone's wonder how she'd managed to feed two mouths, not counting
the cats, with Lavender not earning so much as his salt. And gradually,
as the summers passed, Allan took upon his shoulders other
responsibilities; planning safe pastimes for Lavender; marketing, after
which the kitchen cupboards groaned with food; persuading Aunt Achsa to
let her rugs go and putter in her flowers while the summer lasted.

With the Cape standards of wealth it would not have made any difference
to Achsa Green, anyway, or to anyone else, if they had known that the
"nice-appearin' boy" in the old flannels was the only son of Roderick
Allan, President of the Allan Iron Works of Newark, New Jersey. Not
half so much difference as the old flannels made to Dugald's mother.
The inclination on the part of their boy to be "queer," for under that
head they put all his predilections that differed from their
ambitions--distressed his parents very much. The boy had "everything"
and he didn't care a rap about "anything"; they looked upon his spells
of dreamy preoccupation as "loafing." His father had an executive
office in the iron works waiting for him when he finished college, a
job at which any red-blooded young fellow would jump, and Dugald talked
of painting. His mother had grieved that he would take no part in the
social whirl that made up her existence, that he laughed at the creed
of her "set," scouted the class commandments by which she lived. When
he expressed the intention of going on a tramp over Cape Cod she had
encouraged the whim. She had believed that the discomforts of such an
expedition would cure him of his "notions." She had motored to
Provincetown two summers before and she thought it a forlorn place; the
hotels were impossible, the streets dusty and crowded, everything
smelled fishy and one was always elbowing great foreign creatures in
dirty oilskins and rubber boots.

Like many a mother she had been too busy living down to her rapidly
accruing wealth to know the man her boy had grown to be. All her
upbringing notwithstanding he was a simple soul with a sympathetic
understanding of his fellow mortals; a quiet humor and a keen
perception of beauty that abhorred the false or superficial, a brain
that stifled in crowded places. He much preferred knocking elbows with
men of homely labor to the crowded and law-breaking parties he came to
Cape Cod to escape; he found among the fisherfolk, the old gray
wharves, the sandy dunes, everlastingly swept with the clean breath of
the Atlantic, a peace of mind and an inspiration he had never known
elsewhere. The longing in his heart to paint that had been scarcely
more than an urge, took definite and splendid shape. Someone else had
the executive job in his father's manufacturing plant.

That he grew to know that Aunt Achsa needed him and looked forward to
his coming strengthened the bond that brought him back to Sunset Lane
each spring. No one had ever needed him before and it was a
man-satisfying sensation. And in Aunt Achsa's affection for him there
was a depth which he divined but only vaguely understood. In his hardy
six feet four the compassionate mother-woman was seeing her poor
Lavender, big and strong and "straight." To her Dugald was what
Lavender "wasn't"; in her way she put him and Lavender together and
made a satisfying whole. Sometimes she wondered if Dugald might not be
the answer to her prayers!

It had been to young Allan that Aunt Achsa had carried the letter that
the baker brought so unexpectedly to the door. Joe had lingered on the
doorstep, but had not been rewarded by any hint of its contents. Achsa
could not remember when she had had a letter before. She fingered the
envelope apprehensively. Yet it could scarcely be bad news of any sort,
for there was just herself and Lavender and he was only down in the
flats. No one would write anything about _him_.

"Read it--my eyes ain't certain with folk's writing," she had begged
Dugald Allan, in a shaky voice. Thereupon he had read aloud Sidney's
letter.

"I never!" "I swan!" "Why, that's Annie Green's girl--Annie was
Jon'than's daughter--I rec'lect her when she wasn't much bigger than a
pint of cider." Achsa Green fluttered with excitement like a quivering
brown leaf caught in a sudden stir of wind. "And the little thing says
she knows all about me. Heard her folks tell. Well, well, I wouldn't 'a
said there was a God's soul knew about Achsa Green outside this harbor!
The little pretty. And her ma's dead--died when she was a baby, poor
little mite. Sidney--that's not a Cape name. Like as not they got it
from the other side. Well, Uncle Jon'than allas was diff'runt--he was
for books and learnin' and was a peaked sort, as I rec'lect him--He was
consid'rable younger than Pa!"

During Achsa's excited soliloquy Dugald Allan had an opportunity to
reread the letter. He smiled broadly over the reading. But his smile
changed to a quick frown as he observed the signature. For a brief
second he pondered over it, then by a shake of his head seemed to
dismiss some thought.

"What are you going to tell her?" he asked Achsa Green. "Will you let
her come on?"

Achsa Green started. She had not thought of the real business of the
letter. "Why, I don't know. It's a poor place for a young girl--"

"Don't talk like that, Aunt Achsa. Haven't I told you this is the only
corner of the earth where God's air is sweet--and untainted?"

Achsa Green could only understand what her Mr. Dugald meant by the
expression of his eyes. Now, they encouraged her. "I might fix up the
downstairs bedroom. It ain't been used except to store things since
Lavender was born in there and his ma was taken out in a box, but I
don't know but that I could fix it up suit'ble; a young girl ain't so
finicky as grownups. If you won't mind havin' a young piece 'round--"
uncertainly.

It was _not_ exactly to Dugald Allan's liking to have a "young piece"
around. He had planned some difficult and steady work for the summer.
And he had an unreasonable aversion to fifteen-year-olds, at least the
kind like his young cousin and her friends, which was the only kind he
really knew. But he was touched by Aunt Achsa's delight in finding
"flesh-and-blood" kin; he did not like to dampen her pleasure. He could
work somewhere else, in one of the corners of the breakwall or among
the dunes. He smilingly assured her that a "young piece" around would
add tremendously to his summer.

"I dunno if I can write her a nice enough letter, my hand shakes so,
and I ain't much of a head at spelling. Pa never set anything by books
himself and Asabel's and my schoolin' sort o' depended on the
elements." Dugald Allan sensed that Achsa did not want this little
unknown cousin, miles away, to know of her lack of "schoolin'."

"Bless you, I'll write and I'll write just as though it came from you."

"Don't know as there's a scrap of writin' paper in this house."

"My best is none too good," promised young Allan promptly, delighting
in the growing pleasure in the wrinkled face.

But one more doubt assailed Achsa Green. Lavender.

"D'you think I ought to tell first hand--about Lavender?"

Early in his acquaintance with Aunt Achsa and Sunset Lane Dugald had
come to know how it hurt Aunt Achsa to speak of Lavender as "being
different." At first, with courteous consideration he had avoided the
truth--then as the summers passed he himself had grown fond enough of
the boy to forget the crooked body.

He hesitated a moment before he answered, then he spoke gently:

"No, Aunt Achsa. That is not necessary. And anyway--it's only the outer
shell of him that is different, his soul is fine and straight and
manly."

At this Achsa's eyes caressed him; he put so easily into words what she
tried so bravely to remember.

And thus it had come about that Dugald Allan wrote on his best
stationery (which he kept for his letters to his mother) to Sidney
Ellis Romley, as though, per promise, it was Cousin Achsa, herself. He
had had to write several letters before one quite suited both him and
Achsa. The letter despatched, to his surprise he shared with Aunt Achsa
considerable interest in its outcome. It would certainly knock the
summer flat, but Aunt Achsa's delighted anticipation was rare.

He helped her to prepare the "spare" room off the parlor and to remove
anything that might remind its young occupant of that tragic passing of
Lavender's mother "by box." He abetted her safeguarding the various
mementoes of the days when the _Betsy King_ sailed into the harbor from
foreign shores.

"No sense leavin' things 'round waitin' to be knocked off long's they
lived through them cats. You can't tell what fifteen's goin' to be!"

"No--" groaned Allan inwardly, "You certainly can not."

In the last hours before Sidney's expected arrival he agreed to meet
her. Though that was Lavender's duty he knew, as well as Achsa, that
she could not depend upon Lavender. "If he took it into his head to go
down to Rockman's wharf why, he'd go--cousin or no cousin comin'," Aunt
Achsa had worried; and then Dugald had come to the rescue, even
promising to go so far as to hire Hiram Foss's hack--none of the town
taxis would go through the sand of Sunset Lane!



                              CHAPTER VII

                         WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE


"Land O' Goshen, you don't tell me you're cruisin' down to the Cape all
by yourself! Now, ain't that exciting! And you never been there before,
y'say?"

Sidney nodded, sitting very straight on the seat, her hand closed
tightly over her purse which contained all that was left of the Egg
after purchasing her tickets. Her face perceptibly brightened. Others
had talked to her during the long journey but they had had a way of
saying "brave little girl" that had been annoying and that had not
helped the lump that persisted in rising in her throat.

This stranger Sidney felt was himself from the Cape. He was big and
broad and had bushy white whiskers that encircled a very red face. From
his booming voice she knew he must have commanded a ship; perhaps he
knew Ezekiel Green and the _Betsy King_. She smiled shyly at him as he
slid into the seat beside her. They were leaving Plymouth behind.

"Goin' to Provincetown? Well, now, that's about as far as you _can_ go,
'lowin' you ain't goin' to Race P'int Light, by chance. You be careful
that no pirates come 'long and ship and stow you in the fo'castle!
There's a-plenty of 'em 'round these waters yet."

"Of course I know there aren't really pirates--but what's a--a
fo'castle?"

Her new friend roared. "Bless the heart of the little landlubber! Why,
the--the fo'castle's the--the fo'castle--for'ard of the fo'mast. And
don't you be too sure about the pirates--you ask Jed Starrow if there
ain't! Only they don't run up their flag no more--I guess the black
sky's _their_ flag."

"Have they any treasure buried on the Cape?" Sidney ventured.

The old seaman started to laugh again, then smothered it by a big hand
at his whiskers. "Now I won't say they have or they haven't. The Cape
ought to be full of it. And these here pirates I speak of bury their
treasures somewheres--jest where's the business of Uncle Sam's men to
find out." He struck his chest proudly and Sidney caught the gleam of a
badge pinned to one of the red straps of his suspenders. He saw that
she had glimpsed it; doubtless he had intended she should.

"Special deputy marshal--I'm Cap'n Phin Davies of Wellfleet, retired,
you might say--at Uncle Sam's command."

"Oh, I guessed you'd sailed a ship. Do you--did you know the Greens?"

"Greens? There's Greens all over the Cape. But I reckon I know 'most
everyone in these parts and if I don't, Elizy does--"

"Ezekiel Green sailed the _Betsy King_--" enlightened Sidney.

"Old Zeke? Why, sure as spatter! Well, well! I might say I was brought
up on stories about Zeke Green. My father overhauled the _Betsy King_
for Zeke. Zeke's folks any folks of yours?" turning suddenly to Sidney.

Sidney explained that they were--that she was Sidney Romley of
Middletown, going now to visit her Cousin Achsa, whom she had never
seen and of whom she knew little.

"You don't say. My, my, comin' all this way. So Achsa's livin', is she?
Zeke's boy died, near as I can remember. I rec'lect a benefit they had
for his widow. She was a Wellfleet girl. Seems to me she died, too.
Yes, she did--suddenly, when her baby was born. Can't rec'lect whether
the baby lived or not. Don't pay much time to those things, don't have
to for Elizy does it well enough for the two of us. Ain't anything on
the Cape Elizy misses. Comes to me though that I heard her say
something about that kid--sure does. I remember that benefit like it
was last night. I'd just come ashore from a long v'yage and was rigged
from t'mast to mizzen for a night at Potter's with the boys and Elizy
puts me into a b'iled shirt and makes me hitch up the hoss and drive to
that benefit. I guess I ought 'er remember it."

He was too deep in his own reminiscences to observe the effect of his
words upon Sidney. So Cousin Asabel was dead! And they had had a
benefit for his widow. Sidney did not know just what a benefit was but
the sound of the word connected it in her brain with the League and the
mortgage. She wished Cap'n Phin Davies could remember whether the baby
had lived or not.

"If it had lived--I mean that baby--how old would it be, now?"

"Oh--yes--the baby. Let's see. That benefit must a' been all a' sixteen
or seventeen year ago. It was the last trip I made on the _Valiant_.
Yep, the last. Elizy'd know for sartin sure, though. Ain't many dates
she can't remember down to the minit. There's somethin' about that kid
of Green's I've heard Elizy tell--" He turned suddenly to Sidney:
"You're comin' down to this part of the country to visit what's left of
your folks hereabouts and you don't know nothin' 'bout them? Seems to
me some one ought 'a shipped with you. Now I wish 'twas Elizy and me
you was comin' to visit. I sartin' do. Elizy likes little girls--we've
often wished we had a boat's crew of 'em. What's the use I tell her of
havin' a house as big as a four-masted schooner and nary a chick or a
child in it. I tell you, you ask your auntie or whatever she is to let
you come over and stay a spell with us. Wellfleet ain't so far. I'll
tell Elizy. You'll come, now, won't you? Anyone can tell you which is
Phin Davies' house--ain't any much finer on the Cape."

"Is it square--and white--and on an eminence?"

"Eh? If it's a hill you mean, you're right. I told Elizy after I'd made
my last v'yage she could build anything she had her heart set on but
it'd got to be where I could smell the harbor. Got a lookout atop where
you can see the boats when they sail round the Point." A faintly
wistful note shaded the rugged voice. "You tell folks in Provincetown
that you're a friend of Cap'n Phin Davies and I guess you can just
about have anything you want in the town. There's a few of us old
fellows left!"

As the train carried them further upon the Cape a boyish excitement
seized the old man. He declared that, though he'd only been in Boston
three or four days, it was as good as "moorin' from a long v'yage." He
pointed out to Sidney the places and things of interest they were
passing. Through his eyes Sidney saw the beauty of the old, elm-shaped
villages, the rich meadow lands, the low-lying salt marshes, the
sand-bars gleaming against stretches of blue water. Cap'n Phin Davies
seemed to know something, and it was nearly always funny, about every
one who lived in the quaint houses set here and there under century old
trees. Wellfleet came all too soon.

"Now don't forget, Missy, you're coming to visit old Phin Davies. I'll
tell Elizy. And keep an eye to wind'ard for those pirates!"

"Gosh all fish hooks," he exclaimed to his Elizy a half hour later, as
he divested himself of his Sunday coat and vest and sprawled his great
hulk in his own easy chair, "don't know as I've ever seen a cuter
little girl--and comin' all this way by herself to visit what's left of
Zeke Green's folks."

In her way Elizy Davies registered sincere horror. "You don't say! Why,
all there _is_ is old Achsa and that poor Lavender! Now, you don't say!
The little thing--"

With Cap'n Phin's going Sidney was engulfed in a terrifying loneliness.
The lump swelled in her throat again. She tried desperately to rally
something of that splendid excitement with which she had started on her
journey, to thrill again over the assembled belongings in the old
satchel, some things Isolde's and some Trude's and some even Vick's.
The girls had been very kind and generous with her. But in spite of her
valiant efforts her spirits sank lower and lower. She had come so far,
she had sat through so many lonely hours that all that had happened
back at Middletown seemed now to belong to someone else--some other
Sidney Romley. Strong within her mounted an apprehension at what
awaited her at her journey's end.

But there was a chance the "baby" _had_ lived; Cap'n Davies had said
it'd be about sixteen. Sidney hoped it was a boy--a boy cousin would be
such fun. And he'd be more likely to have a boat. In order to keep from
thinking that the low dunes of sand and marsh, shrouded in twilight
haze, through which they now were passing were very dreary she held
stubbornly to her speculations concerning the "baby." She was tired and
hungry. The lump was growing very big and hurt. When, as she finally
followed her fellow passengers off the train and along a bustling
platform she heard a pleasant voice ask: "Is this Sidney Romley?" she
gave an involuntary little gasp of relief.

"Oh, are you my cousin?"

Dugald Allan took her bag. "Well, yes, if both of us belonging to Aunt
Achsa can make us cousins. Are you tired? It's an endless journey--you
think you are never going to get here, don't you? Did you have any
fears that you'd just ride off into the ocean? You had a coolish day."
As he talked he piloted her through the crowd, a crowd that startled
Sidney after those miles of twilight loneliness. "It's always like this
toward the week-end," he apologized. "But Sunset Lane is quiet enough.
I've old Dobbin here and the one-hoss shay. Hoist this up, will you,
Toby?" he addressed a lanky barefooted boy who slouched upon the
driver's high seat.

As they creaked and swayed down the sandy road Sidney turned searching
eyes again upon her companion.

"I mean--are you the baby that was born? You see, Captain Phin Davies
told me--"

"Oh, you mean Lavender. No--I am not Lavender. I just live with Aunt
Achsa summers; wouldn't that make me a--sort of half-nephew?"

"But there _is_ a cousin?" Sidney drew a quick breath. "You see
everything's so strange to me that I have to put it all together, like
a picture puzzle. And it will be _nice_ having someone young in the
picture. Then you're--you're--a sort of boarder?" Her voice rose,
hesitatingly.

"I suppose so. Though Aunt Achsa holds me as one of the family and I
hope you will, too, when you get that picture put together. What do you
think of our Cape?"

"Oh, it's wonderful! Only--" Sidney had to be honest. "I didn't like it
so well until Captain Phin Davies made me see what was so nice about
it. You see I expected to see a stern and rock-bound coast."

At this Allan laughed. "We'll have to find one for you, won't we? Well,
wait until you see the back shore. Toby's taking a short-cut home. I
expect he knows Aunt Achsa has the finest dinner you ever tasted
waiting for us--we'll be there in two seconds now."

Two seconds--and her journey would be over, her adventure begun. Again
that apprehension mounted sweeping before it even her hope of the big
house on an eminence. She was scarcely conscious of anything they were
passing. The dusk had deepened, enveloping them like a heavy veil. She
heard her companion say: "This is Sunset Lane." Then, with a great
jolt, the ancient equipage stopped. "Here we are--and there's Aunt
Achsa watching for us!"

They were so close to the house that Sidney almost could have jumped
from the step of the carriage to the threshold. All about her she felt
rather than saw crowding flowers. And in the open door silhouetted
against a glow of lamplight waited a very small, brown old lady.

Ascha Green fluttered out to meet Sidney and touched the girl with shy
hands.

"Well, well, you're here. Don't seem true. Let old Achsa look at you,
child. Annie's girl. Come in. Come right in. I expect you're tuckered
out and hungry, too. Lavender, come and meet your new cousin."

Sidney's glance shot across the room to the boy who huddled back of the
stove, regarding her with shy dark eyes. And as quickly it dropped
before what she saw. Ascha Green, watching, sensed her involuntary
shudder.

"He's strange," Aunt Achsa hurried to explain, a tremble in her voice,
"but he'll make friends fast 'nough. Goodness knows he ain't talked of
much else than a new cousin's comin' sence we got your letter. This is
your room, Sidney, right here handy and mebbe you'll like to wash up
while I put supper on the table. Here, take this candle; it's darkened
up fast."

The "boarder" had already carried Sidney's bag into the little room
that opened directly out of the parlor. Aunt Achsa, after bustling her
in, closed the door quickly between them.

It was the smallest room Sidney had ever seen. Why, she could reach out
from just where she was standing and touch the ceiling or anyone of the
walls. And it was the neatest. The small panes of the window twinkled
at her between starched muslin curtains, coarse but immaculate towels
covered the washstand and the highboy that stood at each side of the
window. Another white towel Achsa had tacked on the wall behind the
washbowl and under the oval mirror. A cushion, much faded from many
washings, she had tied to the back of the straight rush-bottomed chair
at the foot of the bed. A smell of strong soap hung in the air.

Sidney could not know that the highboy was priceless, that the two blue
vases which Achsa had risked leaving on top of it had come from a
Spanish port a century before, that the woven cover on the bed had the
date of its making in one corner, that the hooked rug on the floor
could have brought Achsa a hundred dollars any time she wanted to sell
it; her eyes were too brimming with tears to notice the flowers that
grew to her window-sill and peeped over it at her their bright heads
nodding to the candle gleam. The lump that had been growing and growing
mastered her. She drew a long-quivering breath. She had come all the
way from home for _this_. _This_ was her great adventure!

Oh, it was too humiliating, too cruel! That dreadful old woman--if
she'd only had a broom she would have looked just like a witch. And in
a few minutes she'd open the door and make her go out into the kitchen
and eat supper with them. They were going to eat in the kitchen. She
had seen the table. And the boarder--nice people in Middletown did not
keep boarders. And, oh, that dreadful Lavender and his big eyes,
staring at her--that was the cousin! And she could not telegraph Trude
until tomorrow at the earliest--

She could not cry. She must not. If she began she'd never stop. She
knew now that the tears had been starting deep down within her miles
back on her long journey. Her teeth bit into her quivering lip. She
went to the little window and leaned her face against its frame. The
fragrant salt-laden air caressed her hot face and soothed her.

"Shame on you, Sidney Romley," she finally muttered. "Remember you're
fifteen. And you _wanted_ to come--no one made you! Anyway--" She
addressed a rose that was wagging its pink head at her in an
understanding way and that certainly had not been there a moment
before! "Anyway, I'll bet it won't be a _bit_ worse than traveling with
fat, cross old Godmother Jocelyn!"



                              CHAPTER VIII

                          MR. DUGALD EXPLAINS


Sidney had fallen asleep on that first night at Cousin Achsa's with the
resolution to escape at the earliest moment possible from her
humiliating situation; she would telegraph Trude in the morning.

But with errant sunbeams, as yellow as gold, dancing across one's face,
with a tang of salt and pine in the air, fifteen is certain to rise up
strong-hearted, despite all accumulated woe. Forgetting her bitter
disappointment of the night before Sidney sprang from her bed and
rushed to the window to look out upon her new surroundings.

There was not really much she could see, for the lane turned at Mrs.
Ephraim Calkins' house and beyond her house a hillock of sand rose
steeply to an azure blue sky. But Aunt Achsa's riotous flowers were
smiling their brightest, at the opening of the hedge crouched Nip and
Tuck regarding the morning with dignified satisfaction, over everything
shone the alluring sun.

A sudden whiff of tobacco caught Sidney's attention. At the same moment
the boarder emerged from the back of the house and walked slowly along
the clam-shell path that skirted the bit of garden. He was evidently
deep in thought. Suddenly he bent and picked a flower. As he
straightened his glance interrupted Sidney's curious speculations.

"Good morning, little half-cousin."

"Good morning," Sidney answered, quite cheerfully, thinking as she
spoke that he was nicer looking in the garden than he had seemed in
Cousin Achsa's kitchen the night before. "Is it early or late and is it
your pipe that smells so good?"

"It's early. Aunt Achsa has gone on an errand, for I assured her that
you would probably sleep until noon. You see I'd forgotten that you
are--fifteen, did you say? And that smell--well, it may be the good
Atlantic, or Lav's basket of fish, which is not likely. My best bet is
that it's breakfast over at the Calkins'. I have an idea. I'll finish
this pipe while you dress, then we'll run down and meet Aunt Achsa and
incidentally I'll give you your first glimpse of the harbor. What say?"

Sidney indicated her willingness by drawing her head in from the frame
of roses. She dressed with haste, splashing the cold water from the
bowl over her face and scarcely disturbing the two braids of hair. In a
few moments she joined the "boarder" in the garden, rousing him from a
frowning contemplation of the little flower he had picked. At her "I'm
ready" he put it into the pocket of his coat.

Unlike Sidney, Dugald Allan had _not_ slept the night before. Argue as
he would he could not shake the notion that he was responsible for
Sidney's coming. Because the idea had seemed to please Aunt Achsa he
had encouraged her to invite the girl; to further humor her he himself
had written the letter that he knew must have given Sidney's family a
wrong impression of conditions at Aunt Achsa's. Its very tone had been
unwittingly misleading He had not thought of that until he had caught
the stricken look on Sidney's face the night before, observed her
involuntary shrinking from the intimacy of the supper table.

Poor Aunt Achsa, it had been rather a ghastly supper in spite of all
her efforts and her expectations: Lavender had huddled in his chair
with his great soft eyes on Sidney; Sidney had been too frightened to
eat or to answer by more than a monosyllable Aunt Achsa's eager
questions; poor Aunt Achsa, in an agony of shyness and concern had
fluttered over them all. It had been a relief when Sidney, pleading
weariness from her long journey, took her candle from Aunt Achsa and
went to bed. And later Allan could have sworn he heard the sound of
sobbing from behind that closed door.

The whole thing had bothered him and kept him awake, thinking. And it
was not alone Sidney's disappointment that moved him. He was stirred by
a strong desire to make the girl know Aunt Achsa as he knew her, to
love the noble spirit in the weather-beaten old body. Even Lavender.
These people might indeed be his own so quickly did he rise in their
defense. "Well, they _are_ my own!" he muttered. If this Sidney had
been like the other fifteen-year-old girls who had crossed his path he
would not have bothered, for they could not have been taught by any
process to recognize the gold from the dross; but she seemed different.
And he had caught the impression that she had come all this way for
something that she had wanted very much to find. Her disappointment had
bordered on the tragic. Well, it was no business of his, but he'd make
amends by laying off work for a few days and playing around with her
and Lavender.

He was a little taken aback when Sidney, clad in a middy and pleated
skirt, for Trude's last injunction had been to brush and hang away the
new suit in which she had traveled, joined him, no trace of last
night's woe on her face. With Nip and Tuck following they tramped
through the sand between the hollyhocks. Where the lane turned into the
beach road Sidney stopped with a quick, delighted intake of breath.
"Oh, the _boats_! Aren't they darling? I never saw so many. Why, the
sails look all pinky!"

Dugald Allan explained that this was a trick of the sun and water.
"Sometimes they are green and sometimes they are gray and deep purple.
The fishing boats are starting out for the grounds. They've been
waiting for the tide. That large schooner's headed for the banks--I
think it's the _Puritan_, Jed Starrow's new boat. She won't be back for
a week or so. Most of the others will pull in by dark."

"Can I go out on one of them? Oh, you don't know how much I want to,
I've never been in anything but a rowboat. And I can swim! Has Lavender
a boat?"

"One can always find a dory one can use--whenever he wants one. And
Lavender has the _Arabella_."

It was on the tip of Sidney's tongue to ask "What is the _Arabella_?"
and something more of this Jed Starrow whom she remembered Captain Phin
Davies had mentioned, but another thought seized her, crowding out all
others. From this boarder who seemed to want to be very nice to her,
she might learn the answer to the riddle that was perplexing her.

"Mr.-- Mr.--"

"Dugald, please. Won't you treat me like one of the family?"

"Mr.--Dugald, I--I want to ask you something. Prob'ly you'll think it's
dreadfully rude but--you see, none of us, my sisters and me, really
knew anything about Cousin Achsa and the Greens except what we found in
a book in our attic--a sort of family tree book. But I wanted to go
somewhere, so I wrote to her. I didn't tell my sisters until I got an
answer back. Mr.--Dugald, can letters be awfully different--from
people?"

A guilty shiver raced the length of Mr. Dugald's spine.

"What do you mean?" he parried.

"Why, I mean the letter I got back looked so _nice_. It looked as
though the person who wrote it was--well, sort of rich and lived in a
big house and--"

Dugald Allan motioned to an overturned dory.

"Suppose we sit here where we can see Aunt Achsa when she comes up the
road. Now I'll make a confession. _I_ wrote that letter for Aunt Achsa.
She didn't feel quite up to the mark, her hand shakes and she's a
little uncertain as to her spelling. I did not think at the time that I
possibly might be giving you--your family--a wrong impression. Aunt
Achsa was so happy at finding a relative, so touched that you knew
something of her, that I only thought of furthering her delight.
Anyway--" he faced Sidney's amazed eyes squarely; "You say you didn't
know anything of Achsa Green except what you--well, you might say, dug
out of the attic, weren't you taking a sporting chance when you came?"

Sidney flushed under the challenge in his tone. "I--I guess so. You
see, I've never done anything _different_--like the other girls have,
and I thought it was _my_ turn to use the--the Egg, we call it. I
wanted adventure. But I think I know what you mean; I ought not to be
disappointed because my cousins aren't just what I thought they'd be--"

"Sidney--I've lived--well, a little longer than you have; you see I've
had a chance to find out a few things about this world of ours and the
people in it. There's one kind of an aristocracy that we find mostly in
big cities--it comes up overnight, a sham thing made over with a
gilding of money and wit, very grand on the outside but when you
scratch it a little you find the common material underneath. Then
there's an aristocracy that's the real thing way through--it's so real
that it doesn't ever stop to think that it is an aristocracy. You find
that mostly in old, forgotten, out-of-the-way places--like on Cape Cod.
I think here it's more solid than the most, though it's fast dying;
some day it'll be a thing only of romance. But the real Cape Coders are
descended from pioneer men who followed the sea for an honest living,
who put bravery and justice and charity and how to live humanly with
their fellows above money. Most of 'em have been crowded out by a
different kind of a commerce than they knew how to deal with; that's
Lavender's father's story; others, the young ones, have scattered to
inland places; some have saved enough money to keep their positions in
their communities, like Captain Phin Davies; a few like your Cousin
Achsa have nothing but the honor of their people. Miss Sidney, in your
Cousin Achsa's old body there is a spirit that has come to her from men
who were like the Vikings of old--she lives by their standards. She's
never known anything but work and poverty, but she faces it--square to
the wind. And I've never known her to make a complaint or to utter a
begrudging word to or of a soul. Isn't that nobility?"

"I adore the way you say it!" cried Sidney. "It's just like the things
that come to me to say in my attic!"

"Huh? Your--what?" Amazed, Allan looked at her to see if she were
making fun of him. But her face was alight with enthusiasm.

"You must think a great deal of Cousin Achsa."

"I do. But--wait, I have more I want to say. You see, I feel
responsible on account of that letter--for your coming here. I want to
tell you--about Lavender. You could not have known--knowing nothing of
any of them--that poor old Lav wasn't--well, like other boys."

Sidney flushed. "No, I didn't. But then I didn't know there _was_ a
Lavender until I came."

"Look here--" Allan drew from his pocket the flower he had picked up in
the garden. "I was racking my brain for some way to make you see
Lavender as I see him--and then I found this. It was growing in a
corner of the garden where the soil is poor and the wind harsh and
where there isn't much sun; see, it's only half-size and the stem is
crooked. But look into the heart of it--it's as beautiful as its
fellows. Well--that's Lavender. After all his poor little body is only
a shell--if the heart of him is fine and straight, isn't that all that
matters? Like the blossom of the flower. Can't you think of Lav like
that?"

"I'll try to," promised Sidney, "and I'm ashamed dreadfully, to have
been so disappointed--about everything. I'll take the sporting chance.
Of course Vick would poke no end of fun at me if she knew how different
everything is. But--" with sudden determination, "Vick shall never
know." Then Sidney drew a long breath and let her thoughts revert to
the _Arabella_.

"What is the _Arabella_?"

"Look beyond that schooner that's nosing into the tide."

"Why, that's a real boat."

"Oh, the _Arabella's_ real enough. But she's been pensioned off--you
might say; she's enjoying a peaceful old age on a sand bar. When the
tide is out she's high and dry."

"And she belongs to Lavender?" incredulously.

Dugald Allan laughed. "The blood of his ancestors is strong in the boy.
He wanted a boat. A boat of his own--poor lad. He used to hide on the
fishing schooners until they'd clear the Point. So I bought the
_Arabella_ for him. Her owner was going to chop her up for kindling
wood. She serves a good purpose--and a safe one, moored out there.
Lavender sails the globe on her--and nothing can harm him.

"Oh, I see--just pretend. But even that's fun. Will he let me go with
him?"

"I am sure he will. If you ask him to take you to the Caribbean Sea on
his next voyage you'll win him completely."

"I'll help Lavender play the game for I know lots of different
places--though they're mostly inside the map."

Dugald Allan was regarding Sidney with thoughtful eyes. She certainly
was not in the least like the fifteen-year-olds he had assiduously
avoided. "Some kid," he commented, inwardly. Aloud he ventured: "Will
it be too inquisitive if I ask you what an Egg is? I see Aunt Achsa
coming and I think you'll have just time to tell me--unless you'd
rather not."

"An Egg? Oh, you mean _my_ Egg. Of course you must have thought it
funny! Why the Egg's the money that comes each year from a book my
father wrote--Goosefeathers. He was always ashamed of it. So we--my
sisters, you see, take turns spending the money any way we want to.
This is my first turn. Oh, dear, I wasn't going to tell a soul."

"You don't mean to say that you have any--well, objection, to being
known as the daughter of Joseph Romley?"

"Why, I'm not _ashamed_, of course not, for he was my own dad, and we
loved him. Lots of times he acted just as though he wasn't a poet.
But--but I wanted to be my own self; that was to be part of my
adventure. You see its awfully stupid always having to remember to act
like a poet's daughter; at least it is for Victoria and me--my older
sisters are so used to it that they do it naturally--"

But the astonishing boarder interrupted her with a roar of laughter. In
fact, he seemed so amused and even delighted at something that he could
not control his mirth. "You _are_ the funniest kid!" Then he had to
laugh again. "Did you say you were--only fifteen? And just how do
poets' daughters _have_ to act, anyway? I've only known--one. Well,
I'll keep your secret. Only you'll let me talk about it with you once
in a while, won't you? With everyone else you shall be as 'different'
as your heart desires. I don't believe Aunt Achsa knows. Now, let's go
and meet her and assure her that you are ready for the biggest
breakfast she can give you!"

"And do you think we can go out on the _Arabella_ today?"



                               CHAPTER IX

                        SIDNEY TELLS "DOROTHEA"


After all Sidney never sent the telegram to Trude. But it must not be
thought that all in a moment she adapted herself to her new
surroundings, or saw Cousin Achsa as the "boarder" had pictured her;
her anticipations had soared too high, on the wings of too agile an
imagination, to surrender at once to their downfall. Even Dugald Allan
she regarded with inward skepticism.

How she rebuilt her small world can be chronicled best by peeping over
her shoulder one afternoon, the third day after her coming, as she
wrote in her precious "Dorothea" book. At the last moment she had
brought this with her, moved by a doubt as to the wisdom of leaving it
behind; there was no knowing what liberties the Leaguers, left alone,
might take.

"Dorothea Mine, you do not know how it comforts me to feel your dear
pages. I am not alone for you are with me. And when I think how I
almost left you at home. There is so much to write that I scarcely know
where to begin and must needs sit with my pen suspended. This is the
funniest place I ever saw but no one, absolutely no one but you, dear
bosom friend, shall ever know that. I mean it is funny because
everything is just the opposite of what I expected it to be. I had
thought, you see, that our relatives probably lived in a big white
square house high up on a rock-bound coast against which the waves
dashed in foamy crests. That's the way I wanted the house to look. And
instead it is very small and all wigglety, with sand hills around it.
But it is cute for the rooms are small like a doll's house. There is a
kitchen in which we do everything which I did not like at first only it
is a different kitchen and there is not any other place anyway for the
parlor is so stiff and dressed-up looking that it would be shocking to
muss it up. The kitchen smells good and shines it is so clean and there
is a door that opens right out into the flowers. I shall not say much
about Cousin Achsa because Dugald, who is the boarder, says that she is
an aristocrat of solid material and he must know because he has lived
here summers for a very long time. But she talks bad English like
Huldah only she says 'I swum,' instead of 'Yah!' And she is queer
looking but then all is not gold that glitters. But she is very kind to
me and I think likes me and she cooks the grandest things and so much.
She works all the time. I do not think I ever saw anyone who could work
so fast. She is like she was wound up inside and had to keep working
until she ran down.

"But pour out my heart I must about Lavender who is my cousin. You see
I did not know I had a young cousin until Phin Davies (of him I will
record later), told me of the benefit and of the baby who would be
sixteen now, he said. Then I became greatly excited in anticipation of
a cousin about my own age to play with. And oh, what did I find! But
only once will I truly describe him for I have promised Mr. Dugald to
think of Lavender as the poor flower on the crooked stem and I make
myself shut my inside eyes so that I cannot see that he is different.
He is small for he only comes to my ears and his arms hang way down and
he has funny, long fingers and one shoulder is higher than the other
and he has a hump on his back. There, I have written the truth. Now I
will remember the flower. Lavender has beautiful and very wise eyes and
a low voice that sounds like music and a lovely name, like a name in a
languishing novel. And he is dreadfully smart, and gets it all from the
lots and lots of books which he reads to make up for not going to
school. I suppose he hates to go to school and anyway his mind is
working all the while other boys are playing ball and doing things he
can't do. At least Mr. Dugald thinks it's that way. Mr. Dugald told me
how to win Lavender's affection for he is terribly shy and that was by
making a great fuss over Nip and Tuck who are the cats and Lavender is
passionately fond of the cats. That was hard, too, for we never had any
cats as you know and the only cat I ever touched was Mrs. Jordan's old
Tommy when I wanted him in a play Nancy and I were going to give in the
attic and he scratched me. But I bravely took Nip and Tuck in my arms
and you would have been surprised if you could have seen how beatified
Lavender looked. At least that's the way Mr. Dugald said he looked
afterwards. And he has liked me ever since. I mean Lavender, of course.
I must digress to say a word of Nip and Tuck. They are extraordinary
cats. They are quite old and big and black and I think they are solid
aristocrats, too, and you can only tell them apart by a nick in Nip's
ear that he got in a fight. They can lick any dog or cat in this part
of Provincetown. They are terrors. And they are twins, I forgot to say.
And they do the same things all the time like the Crooker twins at
school. Lavender loves all animals. He is always bringing home some
stray thing only Nip and Tuck will not let them stay and that makes
Lavender sad.

"But I must not spend all my time telling you of my cousins and the
cats when there is so much terribly exciting to write about. This is
the most different place I ever knew. It is all sand and the houses
look like doll's houses most of them and come right out to the funniest
little streets that are not much wider that our sidewalks at home and
all the nice houses have flowers around them somewhere. And they are
mostly a lovely shiny gray that is pinky in the sun. Mr. Dugald says
they get that way from the salt in the air and that most of the old
houses were shingled from the wood that was in old masts. And he says
the reason flowers grow brighter and bigger here is because years ago
the ships used plain earth for ballast and changed it when they got
into the harbor and that there is soil right here in Provincetown from
almost every corner of the world. I held a handful from Cousin Achsa's
garden and pretended I knew it was from Algiers. There are a lot of
stores on the Main street and some are like the stores home and Mr.
Dugald says they are a shame. It is hard to walk on the sidewalk
because it is so narrow and most of the time you have to walk in the
street. And everybody talks to everybody else whether they know them or
not or if they do not talk they smile. There are lots of Portuguese and
they have beautiful eyes and lovely voices like Isolde's. I think Mr.
Dugald means it's them who have crowded out the solid aristocracy, but
they are nice for they make it seem just like I was in a foreign land.
But most, most of all, I like the docks. Mr. Dugald laughs at me when I
call them docks; but I always forget to call them wharves. They are all
gray and crookedy, as though they were leaning against one another and
when the tide goes out it leaves the posts all shiny and green. And
there are funny little houses all along the edge of the beach that are
something like the boathouses of Cascade Lake, only more interesting
and people live right in them and have flower boxes all around them and
fix up weeny verandas over the water and go in bathing right out of
their front doors. And some of them are fish lofts only Mr. Dugald says
that consolidated companies (I do not exactly know what he means but
will write it because he said it) have bought out all the small fish
companies and that means that the men do not get enough for their
'catch' to pay for the expense and danger of their going out to sea. He
says the Portuguese are satisfied to only get a little. Everyone knows
Lavender and they let him go anywhere and on to the boats and
everything and I follow him, though at first the little rowboats which
Mr. Dugald calls dorys smelled so that it made me sick. But I did not
want even Lavender to think I was afraid so I held my nose inside and
went wherever he did. I cannot wear anything but my old clothes--but no
one dresses up here like Pola probably does, which is a disappointment,
for Vick let me bring her cherry crêpe de chine for she is very sure
Godmother Jocelyn will get her some new dresses and I am simply dying
to wear it.

"And now I must tell you about the good ship _Arabella_. It is a very
old boat--I think it is a schooner--and Mr. Dugald says it has probably
been in every port in the world. When it got too old to sail any more
Mr. Dugald bought it for Lavender. And it is all Lavender's own. I am
sure I never heard of anyone before having a real big boat just to play
on. But, then, Lavender is different. It is fastened with a great big
anchor and can't move only when the water is in it swings around on it
just as though it was going. And when the water is out the boat is up
real high and looks so funny and lopsided, like that dreadful old
drunken man who walked past school one day. Mr. Dugald and Lavender
took me out to the _Arabella_ the very first day. We went out in a
rowboat--I mean dory, and Mr. Dugald rowed. Oh, it was so thrilling, my
heart sang within my breast. It seemed as though I was going far out to
sea and the little waves danced and were so blue and everything smelled
so salty and there were boats all around and some of them moving with
big sails and a three-masted schooner went right close to us--I mean we
went right close to it because it was fastened--and I could breathe
only with difficulty I was so excited. Dear friend--at that moment I
said to myself I did not mind my relatives not living in a big house on
an eminence. This, meaning all the boats and the lovely docks and
things, is worth my quest. It was very hazardous climbing on to the
_Arabella_ for it wiggled so but at last we were on and then!--Oh! Do
you know, it was like a pirate's ship. And it has a wheel and a little
house and the cutest cabins downstairs and a funny little kitchen. I am
going to ask Aunt Achsa--I have decided to call her that because she
seems too old to be a cousin--to let me cook out on the _Arabella_. Mr.
Dugald will not let Lavender cook on it for fear he will set the boat
on fire. It would be funny to have a boat burn right in the water, but
then I have read of ships that burned at sea. Mr. Dugald has fixed
everything up real nice and he goes out a lot and draws. He says that
as long as I know how to swim I can go out anytime with Lavender. It is
certainly the most different thing I ever dreamed of doing and next
best to sailing far away on a young boat. The boat rocked like a cradle
and we laid down on the deck in the sun and it was a delightful
sensation. I am going to take books out there and I will sometime take
you, dear friend, and write in you as I rock upon the bosom of the
ocean--though this is a bay it is ocean water.

"Next most exciting to the _Arabella_ was going to the backside which
is what they call the other side of the Cape the side that is on the
outside on the map. We tramped over for Mr. Dugald says that is the
only way to navigate on Cape Cod. It was not the least bit hot for
there was such a lovely breeze and the road is hard and right through
sand hills that looked awfully big and just have a little grass on them
and funny little trees. Mr. Dugald told me that the heavy winds keep
shifting the sand and that after ever and ever so many years the whole
Cape will be moved and maybe was somewhere else a long time ago and the
State of Massachusetts is planting a lot of pine trees to hold it where
it is now and that the reason the trees look so small is that every
fall and winter when the big storms come they blow the sand over them
until they are almost buried. I suppose if one could dig down you would
find a big tree. Mr. Dugald told me all this as we walked over the
dunes. He told me how after one big storm years and years ago the
school children went to school and found it buried under sand right up
to the roof. I wish that would happen to my school. But that is how
different this place is. Well, we finally came to a ridge of sand that
was bigger and higher than any of the others so that it took my breath
to climb it like the trail back of Cascade and then when I got to the
top it was so beautiful that I felt hurt inside and felt afraid. Before
me, dear friend, swept the endless ocean. And as far as eye could see
there was naught but sand. And you seemed close enough to the blue in
the sky to touch it. You felt it the way you do the furnace when you go
into the furnace room. And not a living being anywhere around, except
us. And the beach is the loveliest beach I ever dreamed of--and you see
it is the first real beach I have ever seen. It is wide and hard and
part of it is wet where the big waves roll in and it moans beautifully.
And there are lots of little funny flowers, like wild sweet peas, and
pretty grasses grow on it and the sand up away from the water is white
and glistens like jewels. I did not like to go near the water at first
for the waves looked like angry monsters with tossing white manes
tearing in at me with their arms raised to clutch me. But I kept close
to Mr. Dugald who sometimes goes in swimming right in the breakers. And
he pointed out the Coast Guard Station which was a cute little white
house nestled in the sand dunes and he told me there was a man up in
the square tower who was watching us and every move we made and if a
wave did catch us he'd give the alarm and a lifeguard would dash out in
a minute and save us. That would be very exciting but it did not tempt
me. We picked up beautiful shells on the beach and I poked a horrid
jelly fish and then we visited the Station where the men were very nice
and showed us everything. The big man who is Commander Nelson told us
how the sand when it blows against the windows of the house turns the
glass all funny and frosted so that you cannot see out of it, and he
said they have to keep putting in new glass every few days. And Mr.
Dugald told me as we walked back how the men from the Coast Guard
Stations patrol the shores of our country so that there is not a bit of
our seacoast that is not guarded. One starts out from one station and
meets another from another station and they exchange little checks
which they take back so that their commanders know they have been all
the way. Is it not a lovely feeling to think that as we sleep someone
is watching our shores by night? Only I wonder how if there are any
pirates, and Captain Davies said there still were, they can land
anywhere without one of these guards seeing them. Maybe they wait until
the watchmen start back with their checks.

"I must now tell you of my new acquaintances.

"First there is Aunt Achsa and Lavender of whom I have written. Second,
there is the boarder. His name is Dugald Allan which I think is a
perfectly lovely name. I am sorry to say he is an artist. I would have
preferred that he had been a fisherman. When I told him that he laughed
very hard. He laughs at me a great deal which I did not like at first
and then I decided it is his nature and he cannot help it. He spends
every summer with Aunt Achsa and says he is her half-nephew. Even
though he gave the _Arabella_ to Lavender I think he must be a poor
artist because his clothes look old and have no style. He knows
everyone and everyone calls him Dug. At first I thought it was horrid
visiting a relative who kept boarders but afterwards I learned that
here in Provincetown someone else lives in nearly all the houses
besides the families, because they are not nearly enough houses for all
the people who want to come to Provincetown. Mr. Dugald says that
artists and poets and musicians come here from all over the world for
the inspiration. I cannot tell the men artists from the fishermen for
they wear things like sailors but the women artists all wear big hats
and smocks all covered with paint. I am sure I saw a poet yesterday and
I do not know what a musician would look like and Mr. Dugald said he
did not know, either. That was one of the times when he laughed. But I
said then and repeat now that there are enough other people around so
that I do not mind the artists and poets.

"Third of my acquaintance is Captain Phin Davies. Aunt Achsa says he is
very rich, that he was smart enough to buy up a lot of fishing boats
and a storage house of his own and he could laugh at the Boston and New
York people. But he used to sail a boat like Cousin Zeke's which is
what they call my relative. And he is very, very nice and invited me to
go to Wellfleet and visit him and his wife and Aunt Achsa says she does
not see no harm in my going. Aunt Achsa's grammar is so bad that I
blush to write it here.

"Fourth, Martie Calkins who is Mrs. Eph Calkins' granddaughter and
lives in the house next to Aunt Achsa's. She is very different from the
girls I know at school and Nancy would shudder if she saw her for Nancy
is so sensitive, but then this is not Middletown and I am sensitive
like Nancy and Mart is just my age and she can go out on the _Arabella_
with us, though she told me confidentially that her grandmother thought
Achsa Green stark daffy to trust Lavender out of her sight. Mart does
not think about Lavender the way Mr. Dugald taught me to think. She can
tell the grandest stories of the sea because her father and grandfather
were fishermen who went out on big boats and her father was lost at sea
so she is an aristocrat, too. She is going to show me how to dig clams
tomorrow. And we are going to the moving pictures on Saturday. It seems
very queer and like home to have moving pictures here but Mr. Dugald
says they are like the poor. To quote him exactly, 'Alas, the
movies--like the poor, we have always with us!' He says very queer
things.

"Fifth, Miss Letitia Vine, a most picturesque character. I quoted Mr.
Dugald then for I did not know people could be picturesque. No one but
Miss Letty herself knows how old she is and she won't tell. Aunt Achsa
said she paid to have the date and year of her mother's death scratched
off her tombstone so folks couldn't figure out her age. But she is very
cultured and is a music teacher, only a funny one. She drives all over
this part of the Cape and gives music lessons. She has done it for
years and years, Aunt Achsa calculates she has worn out three horses
teaching folks their notes. She stays in one town two or three days
sleeping round with her pupils and then hitches up and drives to the
next. She scorns a Ford. Mr. Dugald says he's thankful for that for a
Ford would spoil the most perfect thing on the Cape. She looks like the
figurehead of a ship (again quoting Mr. Dugald) and she isn't afraid of
man or beast. She and Mr. Dugald are very good friends and Mr. Dugald
took me there to call and I think he told her that I was the daughter
of a poet, because she looked at me like that though he had promised
not to and I hate to think he broke his promise. She has very
interesting things in her house that she has picked up from all over
the Cape as she gave her music lessons. I guess she does not have many
pupils now but Aunt Achsa said Letty Vine would have to die in the
harness so that is probably why she keeps going.

"Sixth is Mr. Commander Nelson at the Coast Guard Station who invited
me to come to see him again. He said if he needed a hand at any time
he'd send for me. It would be exciting to help save souls from a wreck
at sea. I would like to even see one though that sounds wicked and I
must curb my thirst for adventure.

"Jed Starrows is not an acquaintance but I intend to know more about
him. When anyone speaks of him they put such a funny tone in their
voices. I asked Mr. Dugald if he is aristocratic too and he laughed and
said he most certainly is not. But he owns a big boat--an auxiliary
schooner that is the fastest one here and he has just bought out a fish
company and Aunt Achsa says it beats everything where he gets his money
because he wasn't much more than a common clam-digger a year or so ago.
But I will record here that Captain Davies spoke of Jed Starrows as
though he might know something about pirates and I mean to find out if
I can.

"Enough now, dear friend--my arm aches and I must stop. Adieu for the
nonce--"



                               CHAPTER X

                                 MAIDS


And later Sidney wrote the following letter to her sisters.

  "Dear Family:

  "I have not written before because everything is so marvellously
  exciting. My telegram told you that I had arrived safely at Cousin
  Achsa's. The hours of my journey, all too short, sped on wings of
  happiness. Thus they are still speeding. This is the loveliest and
  the unusualest place and it is filled with quaint homes and the
  most interesting people. Our relatives are among the most
  aristocratic and Aunt Achsa, she wants me to call her that, is of
  the proudest blood of Cape Cod. She is very nice to me and asks a
  great many questions about you all and about our mother. She has a
  nephew who lives here who is only a year older than I am. And a
  family friend of Aunt Achsa's lives here summers and he takes
  Lavender (which is our cousin's name) and me out on a big boat
  which is most exciting.

  "There is a girl about my own age who lives right next door and I
  think we will be very good friends. She is not at all like Nancy
  which I am glad as variety is the sauce of living. She is of pure
  Cape Cod blood, too.

  "If I do not write often and only very little letters it is because
  I'm so busy, for I must make the most of every minute. I wish you
  would write to me an awful lot though and please send all of Vick's
  letters to me so that I will know what she's doing just as though I
  was home, and Trude, _you_ write every day. And when you write to
  Vick tell her that I am having the most wonderful time. Be sure to
  do that. Loads and loads of love,

                                                "Your sister, Sidney."

Kneeling against a half-packed trunk, Trude read Sidney's letter aloud
to Isolde. Victoria had gone the day before.

"What do you think?" Trude asked, slowly, as she finished.

"Think? What do you mean? I'm glad the child's there safe and happy."

"But, Issy, that letter doesn't ring just--true. I know how Sid usually
writes and talks. It's too brief and there's something, well--forced
about it."

Isolde put down a box of papers she had been sorting over. Her
conscience had troubled her not a little at letting Sidney go off alone
among strangers, even though they were relatives, and now Trude's
doubts sharpened the pricks.

"Forced? I didn't notice it. It was short, of course, but probably she
is having too good a time to write a longer letter. Anyway, Trude,
she's there safe, and we're almost packed and our tickets are
bought--it isn't going to do anyone a bit of good, now, to upset all
our plans and bring Sid home. That's the way I look at it. And she
would have been perfectly wretched here with the League Convention
filling the house. It's dreadful to contemplate."

"I can't bear to think of Sid going out on boats with a harum-scarum
boy--" Trude groaned.

"I don't feel half as concerned over the boats as I do wondering if
living there in luxury may not spoil her for her own poor home--make
her dissatisfied. She is probably meeting all the wealthy summer
people--there are a lot on the Cape, you know."

Trude was still studying the letter as though to find something between
the written lines.

"She wants me to write every day. That sounds a little homesicky. Well,
I will, bless the kid's heart--no matter how rushed I am. And I will
warn her in every letter to be careful around the boats. And not to get
her head turned by our relatives' high estate, either. Isn't it funny,
Issy, that we never knew they were wealthy--until now? Not that it
would have made a bit of difference with Mother or Dad," she finished,
defensively.

Isolde, her conscience quieted for the hundreth time, turned her
attention to her box. She lifted out a small packet of letters tied
together and handed them to Trude.

"These are yours."

One slipped from the packet and fell to the floor between the two
girls. Trude picked it up quickly, a deep crimson sweeping her face.

"Why, it's one of _those letters_--" exclaimed Isolde, accusingly.

Trude nodded, guiltily. "I know it. I--I couldn't bear to destroy them
all."

"Trude, dear, you don't care anything about that man--now?"

Trude forced a light laugh but her eyes avoided Isolde's searching
glance. "Why, no--at least not in _that_ way. If you like things in a
person very much you just have to keep on liking them no matter what
happens. And, Issy, it wasn't his fault that I--I imagined--he
cared--for me--" Her voice broke. Isolde gave a quick little cry.

"Trude, you _do_ care! And he isn't worth the tiniest heartache. He
_must_ have led you on to think things. And all the time he was playing
with you. It makes me _furious_! You're such an old peach."

The "old peach" made no answer. There flashed across her mind all that
Isolde had had to say before about this man; every fibre of her being
shrank from a repetition that would bring pain as well as humiliation.
She straightened.

"We are a couple of geese to dig all this up now. I was just
sentimental enough to hang on to one of the letters--I suppose it's
because they are the only letters I've ever had from a man--but I see
my mistake now. I will destroy it." She slipped the letter into her
pocket with the tiniest sigh. "So there." (But the letter was not
destroyed.)

"I wish you'd meet someone down at the Whites'--some perfectly grand
man. I should think Uncle Jasper would realize--"

Isolde's tone was so tragic that Trude laughed, now with genuine
amusement. "I was thinking of some of Uncle Jasper's friends," she
explained. "They are mostly nice, fat settled bankers and lawyers, but
if any bachelor doctors, tinkers or tailors slip in I promise to flirt
desperately--"

"Trude, you think I am joking and I am not. If you don't meet someone
at the Whites' where _will_ you meet him? What chance have you and I,
shut up here, to know the kind of men we'd--we'd like to know? Do you
think I enjoy the namby-pamby sort that flock here to sit in Dad's
chair? No, indeed. And Trude--I'm--twenty-six next October! _I'm--an
old maid!_"

Before Isolde's earnestness Trude unknowingly lowered her voice to a
soft note. "Do you feel like that, too, Issy? I've felt that way often.
I'm twenty-four. But I'm not afraid of being an old maid--I've always
sort of known I'd be one--but I catch myself just longing to do
_something_ with my life, different--as little Sid put it. Then I
chastise myself severely for my repinings. Anyway, it'll be fun
watching Vick's and Sid's experiences, won't it? Bless them, they seem
to have escaped our bounds, don't they?"

"I am afraid my vicarious enjoyment of their adventures may be tempered
with a little jealousy. I am not as noble as you are, Trude. It is hard
to think that you and I have to go on sitting still and watching our
lives go by--and our one and only life, remember!"

Trude shook herself a little--perhaps she was "chastising" her inner
spirit. "Come, we mustn't get mopey on the eve of a holiday. They're
too rare to spoil. And two trunks still to pack. Do you think the
Leaguers will mind if we shroud that painting in the living-room. It's
the best thing we own and I hate to have it get too dusty."

Isolde lifted her shoulders rebelliously. "I don't know what has
happened to me but, do you know, Trude, I am beginning to think it's
the limit that we have to consider the League in even a little thing
like that. Thank goodness we _are_ going to have a holiday! But I
wonder if the summer will bring anything to any of us."

In answer Trude smiled down into the trunk. "Well--it's bringing
something to Sid. Rather she went out and got it. And it surely will to
Vick, new clothes if nothing more. And I hope it will to you, too,
Issy, dear, something grand and--contenting."

It was typical of Trude that she did not think of herself.



                               CHAPTER XI

                              INDEPENDENCE


"Golly day, but I'm tired!"

Martie Calkins threw herself on the cool sand of the beach and gave
vent to a long breath. Sidney, standing over her, wished she could do
likewise with the same picturesque abandon. Mart was so splendidly "I
don't care a hang"; her tumbled hair now was thick with sand, across
her tanned face was a smear of black, her shabby blouse was torn and
open at the throat exposing her chest to the hot sun, her bare,
hard-muscled legs were outstretched, the heels digging into the sand
and the grimy toes separating and curling like the tentacles of a crab.

"Oh, this is the life," she sang. "Sit down and make yourself at home.
This beach's yours as much as mine I guess."

Sidney sat down quickly lest her companion guess how she was tied
inside with the innumerable bonds and knots of conventions, century
old, which Martie had somehow escaped. Of course Sidney herself did not
think it that way; she only knew that she felt ridiculously awkward
with Martie Calkins in spite of her growing determination to be just
like her.

They had been friends now for two whole weeks, the shortest two weeks
Sidney had ever known simply because into them they had crowded so
much. She had met Mart the day after her coming to Sunset Lane. Mart
had appeared at Aunt Achsa's with some baking soda her grandmother had
borrowed two months before. Aunt Achsa had said: "I cal'late you two
girls better make friends." That was so obviously sensible that Sidney
quickly put from her the impression that Mart was the "queerest" girl
she had ever met. She had _seen_ queerer but had never _talked_ to
them. But Mart was young and frankly friendly and lived next door and,
anyway, everything was so very different here that it was ridiculous to
expect to meet a girl like Nancy or the others at school or perfect
like Pola.

Before Mart's experience, her knowledge of the sea and boats, her
background of seafaring ancestors, her easy assurance, Sidney's
pleasant sense of superiority soon went crash. Too, Mart revealed a
quality of strongheartedness and a contentment with everything as it
came along that amazed Sidney at the same time that it put her own
restlessness to shame. Why, Mart, in all her life, had never been
farther than Falmouth and had gone there to a funeral, but she had none
of Sidney's yearnings to "see places." Pressed by Sidney's inquiries
she had answered, with a deceiving indifference: "Oh, what's the use of
wanting to go anywhere, it's nice enough here." Nor did Mart's
multitudinous tasks embarrass her; she would keep Sidney waiting while
she finished scrubbing the kitchen floor. And she had a way of swishing
her brush that made even this homely labor seem like play until Sidney,
watching from the safety of a chair, her feet securely tucked between
its rungs, longed to roll up her own sleeves and thrust her arms into
the sudsy water. Martie had to work much harder than any girl Sidney
had ever known or heard about; she did a man's work and a woman's work
about her home and did not even think it was out of kindly proportion
to her years. "Oh, there's just gran'ma and me and she has rheumatiz
awful," she had explained just once to Sidney. That was why, of course,
Martie looked so unkempt and overgrown and had had so little schooling,
but Sidney came to think these shortcomings and their cause made Martie
the more interesting.

Though after a week Sidney could toss her head like Mart, run as fast,
go barefooted, sprinkle her chatter with a colloquial slang that would
have horrified the League, affect ignorance to anything schooly, she
found that it was not easy to emulate Mart's fine independence. There
was always that feeling of being tied to the things ingrained within
her.

Mart's ease with everyone, young or old, gave her, in Sidney's eyes,
the desirable quality of grown-upness. Mart talked to the fishermen and
the women who were her grandmother's friends and the artists and the
tradespeople exactly as though she were their equal in point of years;
Sidney, marvelling and admiring, did not know that this assurance was
really a boldness that had grown naturally out of there just being
"gran'ma and me." Martie had had to hold her own since she was six
years old.

Though from the first day of her coming Sidney, moved by a sense of the
courtesy to be expected from a guest, had insisted that they include
Lavender in all their plans, at the same time she had wished that he
would refuse for she could not conquer a shyness with him. He was a boy
and she had never known any boys very well, and he was a "different"
boy. But Mart did not mind him at all; she played tolerantly with him,
quarreled cheerfully and bitterly with him, laughed with him and at him
exactly as though he were a girl like herself or she the boy that she
should have been, gran'ma considered.

On this day Mr. Dugald had taken Lavender to the backside. He had not
invited the girls to join them which had roused Sidney's curiosity. She
had watched them depart, loaded down with books and stools and an easel
and a box of lunch and had wondered what they were going to do all day,
alone, in the dunes. She was soon to know that those hours were sacred
to Lavender, that in the great silences of the sandy stretches he and
his Mr. Dugald with their books went far from the Cape and Sunset Lane
and the crooked body.

The girls, left to themselves, had decided to go clamming. Of all the
novel things she had done in the last two weeks Sidney liked clamming
best. It was even more fun than the _Arabella_ for after all the
_Arabella_ was only pretend. She liked to feel her bare toes suck up
the goosy sand as she stepped over the wet beds. She could never dig as
fast as Mart or Lavender because she had to stop and watch the sky and
the clouds and the moving sails and the swooping seagulls. "You'd never
make a living digging clams," Martie had scolded. (Mart herself could
dig faster than old Jake Newberry who had peddled clams through the
town for fifty years. Mart had sometimes sold hers at the hotels.)

"There's so much to _look_ at!" Sidney had answered, drawing in a long
happy breath.

"_Look_ at! What? All I can see is sky and water and a lot of that and
that ain't nothing new."

"But it is always different! The sky gets bluer and the clouds pinker
and the water dances just as though there were sprites hiding in each
wave."

"Gee, anyone 'ud think you were a poet!" Mart had laughed and at that
Sidney had fallen hastily to digging.

Now, as they lay on the beach, hot and happy, their basket of clams
between them, Sidney's thoughts went back to Lavender's and Mr.
Dugald's mysterious departure.

"We've had just as much fun," she declared, aloud.

"What d'you mean? Oh--Lav. Pooh, yes. Who'd want t'go off in the sand
and sit in the hot sun all day? _I_ wouldn't."

"Aunt Achsa packed them an awfully good lunch," Sidney reflected.

"Sure she did. She spoils Lav like anything. Gran'ma says it's a shame.
And what _she_ doesn't spoil that boarder does."

For an instant Sidney flared with resentment at her companion's tone.
However she realized that she was at a disadvantage in that she had
only known these people for only two weeks and Mart for her whole
lifetime.

"What do you s'pose they do over there?"

Mart shrugged her shoulders. "I used to be curious but I'm not any
more. They go off somewhere like that together all the time, packed up
'sif they were headin' for a whole winter's cruise. I guess I know.
Like as not the boarder's paintin' Lav's picture and Lav don't want him
to do it where people'll see on account of his being crooked." Mart,
satisfied with her explanation, stretched herself luxuriously, her arms
upflung.

Sidney shuddered. "Oh, why should he want to paint Lavender's picture?
I think he's cruel!" Then she remembered Dugald Allan's allusion to the
flower on the crooked stem. "Maybe he's painting Lav's spirit."

At this Mart raised herself on her elbow, stared at Sidney, and burst
into a loud laugh. "Oh, that's the _best_! Lav's spirit! Oh, _my_!
You're the funniest kid. Say, don't get sore but I just have to howl,
you're so rich." She threw herself back in the sand and rolled from one
side to the other.

Sidney sat very still biting the lips that had betrayed her. She'd
remember after this; she'd never make another slip that would provoke
Mart to such amusement. Mart began looking hard at her again and she
squirmed uneasily under the scrutiny. But Mart only asked:

"Say, ain't your hair awful hot?"

Relieved, Sidney answered promptly, "Yes. I hate it." She gave a fling
to the heavy braids.

"Why do you have it then? I'd cut it off. I cut mine. I wouldn't be
bothered with a lot of hair. I s'pose your folks would make an awful
fuss if you did, though."

Sidney twisted her bare toes in the sand and frowned down at them. Yet
it was not at their whiteness she frowned but at a sudden recollection
of Mrs. Milliken's: "Always wear your hair like that, my lamb, it is so
beautifully quaint."

"I don't know that they'd mind. It's my own hair. I've thought of
having it cut often."

Mart sat upright. "Say, I'll do it for you--if you want me to. We can
go straight home now. We'll divide our clams when we get to our house.
That is if you're not afraid."

"Afraid--of just cutting my hair? I may look a sight but who cares?
I'll do it. Come on!" Sidney sprang to her feet, a challenge in her
voice that Mart, of course, could not understand.

Mart rose more leisurely and took the dripping basket of clams and
seaweed. They were not far from Sunset Lane. It took them but a few
moments to reach the Calkins' house--not long enough for Sidney's
courage to falter.

"Gran'ma isn't home, but anyway she wouldn't say anything. She lets me
do just as I please. She never said a word when I cut my own hair. Sit
down here and I'll find the shears in a jiffy."

Sidney sat down in a rush-bottomed chair, thrilling pleasantly. This
was a high moment in her life--the clipping of the two despised braids;
a declaration of independence, a symbol of a freedom as great as
Mart's. And certainly Mart must be impressed by the way she had
responded to the suggestion. "Afraid!" Well, Mart might laugh at things
she said but she would see that she was quite her own mistress.

Mart returned with a pair of huge shears.

"Of course I can't do it as good as a regular barber but it'll be good
enough for the first time and around here, anyway. Sure you don't mind?
Your hair _is_ dandy!" While she was speaking she was unbraiding one
pigtail. She shook it out. "It's awful thick and wavy. Mebbe you could
sell it. I've heard of girls doing that but I don't know's there's any
place around here. Sit still, now, so I can get it straight."

Click. Sidney shut her eyes and sat rigid with a fearful certainty that
she must suffer physical pain from the operation. Click. The touch of
the steel against her neck sent icy shivers down her spine.

"There, now--it's off," cried Mart, taking a step backward. "It's sort
of crooked but that won't show when it's all loose. Go in gran'ma's
room and take a look at yourself."

Sidney turned and stared stupidly at the mass of hair in Martie's hand.
It _was_ beautiful hair. For an instant she wanted to cry out in a
violent protest; she checked it as it rose to her lips. Mart's eyes
were on her. She managed instead a little laugh. "It feels so _funny_."

"Oh, you'll get used to that. You'll like it. Take a look now and say
I'm some barber."

Gran'ma Calkins' old mirror, hung where the light shone strong upon it,
reflected back to Sidney a strange and pleasing image.

"Why _I like it_!" she cried, running her fingers through the mass.
"It's--it's--so _different_. It's jolly."

"You won't have to bother combing it much, either. I don't touch mine
sometimes for days."

Sidney, still staring at the stranger in the old mirror, laughed
softly. "Wait until Nancy sees it. Nancy hair is straight as can be or
I'll bet she'd cut hers. And Issy. Issy will have a fit when she knows.
And Mrs. Milliken!" Here she broke off abruptly, not even in her
triumph must she give hint to Mart of the League and its hold upon the
house of Romley. "Oh, I like it!" she repeated exultingly. "And it
won't be half the bother." She felt now that she was Mart's peer in
point of abandon.

"You don't think your Aunt Achsa will make a fuss, do you?" asked
Martie, with tardy concern.

"Aunt Achsa? Oh, no! At least--" It had not occurred to Sidney that
Aunt Achsa had anything to say about it. "She lets me do anything."
Which was quite true. But something of Sidney's exultance faded; she
was beginning to wish that she had just said _some_thing to Aunt Achsa
about it before she let Mart clip her braids--not exactly asked
permission but confided her intentions. That Mart might not perceive
her moment's perturbation she turned her attention to the clams.

"I ought not to have half for I didn't find nearly as many as you did."

"Oh, rats. Take 'em. All you want." To Mart, who could dig clams faster
than old Jake Newberry, an accurate division of their spoils meant
nothing. To Sidney who dug awkwardly each clam was a treasure.

Her step lagged as she approached Aunt Achsa's. She hoped Aunt Achsa
would not be home. Then she wondered why she could not be as
confidently defiant as Martie; she supposed it was the restraint of the
League and the three sisters under whom she had had to live and Martie
had not. But it was absurd to feel even apprehensive of Aunt Achsa's
displeasure when Aunt Achsa was such a little thing and so indefinite a
relative.

Aunt Achsa was in the kitchen trimming the edge of a pie. She was
holding it high on the tips of her fingers and skilfully cutting the
crust with a small knife when under it she spied Sidney's shorn head.
She promptly dropped the pie upon the table upside down. A trickle of
red cherry juice ran out over the spotless table.

"Why, I _swum_! Sidney Romley! Wh--what have you gone and done? What's
ever happened to you?"

"My hair was so hot and _such_ a bother. I can swim now and won't have
to sit around for an hour drying it. I _hated_ my braids--" All good
arguments which rang true but did not seem to convince Aunt Achsa who
continued to stare at Sidney with troubled eyes.

"It's _my_ hair, Aunt Achsa. If I look a sight it's my own fault."

"That ain't it, child. Only--it's so sudden. Your--_doing_ it--without
a word or--or anything. What'll your folks say? I--I--kind a wish you'd
just _told_ me, you see."

Sidney laughed with a lightness she did not feel. Aunt Achsa eyes were
so reproachful, even hurt. "Why, I did not have time to tell you. I
didn't think of it myself until a few moments ago. And Mart offered to
do it for me. It's such a little thing to make any fuss about."

The cherry juice went on dripping until a big round stain disfigured
the tablecloth and still Aunt Achsa stared at Sidney with troubled eyes.

"It's a little thing, of course. But I was thinkin'--Sidney, promise
your Aunt Achsy you won't go off and do anything _else_ high-handed
like without tellin' me. I don't want to be worryin' or suspicionin'
what you're up to or havin' your sisters blame me for something that
ain't just right to their thinkin'. Mebbe we don't do things same as
you do but we know what's right and what's wrong same as anyone." Which
was a long and stern speech for Aunt Achsa. She gave a frightened gasp
at the end and turned the poor pie right side up.

A dark flush had swept Sidney's face. There was no such thing as
freedom _any_where--there must always be someone in authority somewhere
to warn and rebuke, even this absurd little old woman, who seemed so
remotely related. She wished she could think of something very
withering and at the same time dignified to retort.

"I think I am perfectly capable of knowing what is right and what is
wrong and my sisters have _perfect_ confidence in me," she said slowly
and with deep inward satisfaction. Then she added scornfully: "Of
course it _is_ very different here and if I don't seem to get used to
it you can't blame me!" With which she stalked through the parlor to
her room and slammed the door.

Aunt Achsa pattered after her.

"Child! Child!" she called through the door. "Here's a letter for you.
I was that taken back when I saw you I forgot to give it you." She
slipped the letter through the inch of opening that Sidney, now
tearful, vouchsafed her.

The letter was from Trude. To poor Sidney this was the crowning
humiliation; it was exactly as though Trude could look out from the
pages and see the mutilated locks. Trude had always loved her hair and
had often brushed it for her for the simple delight of fingering its
wavy strands. More than once Trude had said: "You're lucky to have this
hair, kid. Look at mine." Now she would gasp in horror as Aunt Achsa
had done. "You should not have done it, Sidney--at least without
consulting one of us." It was not the deed itself even Trude would
censure--it was her independence. Oh, how terribly difficult it was to
be like Mart!

Trude had written to her almost daily, sketchy letters full of the news
of what she was doing at the Whites. Sidney could not know that Trude
purposely made them lively and wrote them often because she believed
Sidney was homesick. In this letter her concern had reached the height
of sacrifice.

"If you're ready to go home, have had enough of Cape Cod, just say the
word, little sister, and I'll join you at Middletown. Perhaps you have
been with Cousin Achsa long enough--you do not want to impose upon her
hospitality. She may have other friends she wants to invite to her
house. But you must decide at once for Mrs. White is making plans for
the next few weeks and will want to know if I am going to be here. She
is perfectly wonderful to me and I think she likes to have me here and
that I help her a little, but if you want me to join you at home she
will understand.

"Why in the world haven't you written to me? I shall scold you soundly
for that when we are together. Be a good girl and remember how much we
all love you. I shall expect a letter within three days at most telling
me what you want to do."

Sidney gasped. Her barbered hair, Aunt Achsa, were forgotten for the
moment. Go home--leave all her fun and Sunset Lane and Mart--and
Lavender? Her consternation gave no room for the thought that two weeks
had indeed worked a strange conversion. Why, she would sit right down
and write to Trude that she did not _want_ to go home. That was silly!

Then she thought of the hurt on Aunt Achsa's face only a few moments
before when she had flung her angry retort at her. And Aunt Achsa had
been so good to her! Why, that cherry pie that had come to such a
disastrous end Aunt Achsa was baking just because she had said she
adored cherry pies. That was Aunt Achsa's way of showing affection.
That Aunt Achsa had trusted her--she had given her complete freedom in
the two last whirlwind weeks because she had _trusted_ her. And how
ungrateful, now, Aunt Achsa must think her. Well, she had punished her
own self for now, of course, Aunt Achsa would _want_ her to go.



                              CHAPTER XII

                             SIDNEY BELONGS


Sidney was too deep in her slough of despond to see that behind Mr.
Dugald's shock of surprise was a smiling admiration of her bobbed head.
And even Lavender avowed at once that it "looked swell." Two hours
before Sidney would have gloried in their approval but with Trude's
letter in her pocket and the humiliating memory of her silly retort to
Aunt Achsa she was beyond feeling pleasure at anything.

She ate her supper in a heavy silence. Lavender's and Mr. Dugald's high
spirits seemed to her as unfitting as jazz at a funeral. She kept her
eyes carefully away from Aunt Achsa's face and found a faint solace in
only nibbling at the especially delectable supper until Aunt Achsa
asked her anxiously if she "wa'n't well?"

She felt infinitely far removed, too, from the curiosity that had
obsessed her throughout the day. It didn't matter now what Mr. Dugald
and Lavender had been doing over there among the sand dunes!

The next morning Lav invited her to go with him while he helped Cap'n
Hawkes take a fishing party out to the _Mabel T_. This was one of the
odd jobs Lavender often did around the harbor. Sidney had gone with him
twice before and had thoroughly enjoyed it. It was fun to sit in the
bow of the old dory and watch the harbor lazily coming to life in the
bright morning sun, sails lifting and dipping to the breeze, boats
swinging at their moorings, the low roofs of the houses on the shore
glistening pink against the higher ridges of sand, the dancing waves,
their tips touched with gold. She liked to listen to the noisy chatter
of the picnicers, to most of whom everything was as novel as it was to
her; the women invariably squealed as they climbed aboard the _Mabel T_
just as she had squealed the first time she boarded the _Arabella_. And
her greatest thrill came when the tourists took her for a native, like
Lavender, asking her questions which she invariably answered glibly.

This was probably the last time she would go out in the harbor with
Lavender. She thought it, sitting very still behind a barricade of bait
pails and baskets. She glared at a tanned girl who was telling her
companion that they were going to stay on at the Cape through August.
The brightness of the morning only deepened her gloom--she could stand
things _much_ better if it were pouring rain.

The fishing party and all the paraphernalia shipped safely aboard the
_Mabel T_, Lavender let the dory drift as Sidney had begged him to do
the first time she had gone out. He looked at her anticipating her
noisy pleasure only to find her eyes downcast, her face disconsolate.

She felt his glance questioning her and lifted her head.

"I've got to go home."

That he simply stared and said nothing was balm to her. And she caught,
too, the strange expression that flashed into the boy's great dark eyes.

"I got a letter yesterday from Trude. She thinks I've stayed long
enough--that I am imposing upon Aunt Achsa's hospitality."

Still Lavender said nothing. Now he was looking off to where the sails
of the _Mabel T_ cut the blue of the sky like the wings of a great bird.

"She wants me to write at once just when I am going." Which was of
course not _exactly_ the way Trude had written and yet was the correct
interpretation Sidney now put upon her letter.

And still no word from Lavender.

"I--I hate to go. Dreadfully. Will you miss me the least bit, Lav? I--I
mean you and Mart--"

"Oh, _hang_ Mart!" burst out the boy hotly. "Who cares 'bout her? I can
fool 'round with her _any_time only I don't want to. I--I--" He stopped
short with a queer inarticulate sound and Sidney gasped. Why, Lavender
was almost crying!

He really _was_ crying only he was swallowing it all with funny gulps
that lifted his crooked shoulders. Sidney's heart gave a happy leap.

"Oh, Lav, I'm so _glad_ you are sorry that I am going. We have had such
fun together and you see I've never known any boys before--oh, except
the ones I've met at parties and things and they're terribly stupid.
But you have been such a peach to me and showed me how to do everything
just as though I was a boy. I'll miss you, too, Lav--"

"Oh, no, you won't. I mean it isn't the same," muttered Lavender, his
shoulders quiet now. Across his face settled a sullenness that Sidney
had never seen on it. She did not like it; it made him look ugly. She
turned away. The boy went on, in a thick voice.

"Y'see, I never do anything with anyone because, well--I'm different.
That's why. I c'n always see them lookin' at me curious or pitying and
I won't stand it! I just _won't_. I hate it. That's why I wouldn't ever
go to school. Some of the kids wouldn't come near me--'fraid of
touchin' me, I guess. And some'd _try_ to touch me--for luck, y'know.
It's always been like that--and I get awful lonesome. But some day when
I'm grown up I'm going to save money and go away. Out in the big cities
there are lots of people that are different--all kinds of shapes and
colors and everything and they are too busy to stop to pity you. Mr.
Dugald says so. I'm goin' to study and learn to be a doctor. Not the
kind that goes around to see folks like Dr. Blackwell but the kind that
works in a big laboratory and finds out what cures the sick people.
They are just as important Mr. Dugald says. And no one will _see_ me
then--they'll just _know_ about me. I don't care how old I am, I'm
going to do it some time."

Before the sudden fire in his voice Sidney's heart quickened with
excitement. Why, Lavender was revealing to her his innermost soul and
it was fine and straight, just as Mr. Dugald had said.

"Oh, Lavender, you're _wonderful_!" she cried, her eyes shining. "It
must be grand to know just what you want to do and I hope you _won't_
have to wait until you're very old. I'm glad you told me. Only, only--"
a doubt assailed her. "Won't you _have_ to go to school?"

Lavender flushed. "Sometime, I s'pose. But not here. Mr. Dugald
understands how it is and he's helped me. And he says I know more than
the other fellows in the grade I'd be in if I had kept on going. He
sends me books all winter long and Miss Letty hears me and she got some
examination papers from the teachers at school and I tried them and
gee, they were a cinch. Only don't tell anyone--Mart, anyway," he
admonished, in sudden alarm. "It's a secret between me and Mr. Dugald
and Miss Letty. Let 'em think I'm a loafer."

The sullen look that had made Lavender's face so ugly disappeared under
Sidney's understanding. And she in turn forgot her own sorrow in her
joy of Lavender's confidences. Now the golden sun and the dancing water
gladdened her and lifted her spirit; all _was_ well in the world.

"I won't tell a soul--_not_ a soul, Lav. Oh--" gasping, "is that what
you and Mr. Dugald do when you go off like you did yesterday?"

Lavender nodded with a sheepish grin. "Yep, that's our school."

"Oh, what _fun_! To study like that. _I'd_ learn a lot, too. Mart and I
were dreadfully curious and Mart said she knew that Mr. Dugald was
painting you and didn't want to do it where anyone might see you on
account of--" Poor Sidney stopped, abruptly in sorry confusion.

"Oh, that's all right! I don't care what _you_ say because you don't
feel sorry for me. That's why I like to have you 'round. _You_ think I
can do something. Sidney, Mr. Dugald says there was a man who was an
electrical wizard and knew everything and what he didn't know he worked
over until he found out and he--he--was--like me--only worse. I'll
work--gee, how I'll work--if I get a chance--" Lavender clenched his
long fingers together and his dark eyes glared fiercely. "I'd cut and
run now from here--if it wasn't for Aunt Achsa."

"Oh, yes,--Aunt Achsa." That brought Sidney sharply back to her own
troubles.

"She's been awful good to me and I can't leave her now even though I
don't do much. Mr. Dugald says that just now my job's right here and I
must show folks that my back can carry its job even if it is--"

"_Don't_, Lav--" cried Sidney, near to the pity that Lavender despised,
but he was too engrossed in his own feelings to notice it.

"Of course you can't leave Aunt Achsa. Lav, I feel so cheap
and--and--horrid. I was very rude to Aunt Achsa yesterday and hurt her
feelings which was ungrateful of me after her letting me come and doing
everything here to make me happy. It was about my hair. I--I--oh, I
won't even _repeat_ what I said--it was so silly. And _that's_ really
why I must go home. Trude didn't exactly tell me I had to go--she just
said perhaps I ought to go and that I must decide. But of course I know
now--after yesterday--Aunt Achsa would not want me to stay--"

"Say, is _that_ all! As though Aunt Achsa is holding anything against
you! Why, she's the most forgivingest person you ever heard of. She
wants to forgive anyone before they've done anything. She's like that.
I'll bet the next second after you said it she'd forgotten what you
said."

"But it's worse to hurt anyone like that!" cried Sidney miserably, yet
with her heart lifting. For a thought was taking shape--a reasonable
and just thought.

"Lavender--do you think--as long as _you_ like to have me here--that
that would sort of make up for my rudeness? I mean--can't I go and ask
Aunt Achsa to let me stay? I'll tell her how ashamed I am."

"Gee, you're square!" exclaimed Lavender, proudly. "I'll tell
you--we'll go together and ask her. I know just what she'll say but
you'll feel more honest about it."

"Lav, you're wonderful--the way you understand." Sidney's responsive
mood leaped out to the boy's. Lavender had found something in her that
was above his estimation of girls. And _she_ had been vouchsafed a
glimpse into the heart that lay beneath the crooked body--with its
sensitiveness, its ambition. "We're just like pals," she finished
shyly, "And I'm as proud as can be." Mentally she was resolving to live
true to Lavender's standard. _That_ would be much finer than to try to
be like Mart. In her effort to attain Mart's showy independence she
had--almost--come to grief, not quite. Lavender seemed certain that
Aunt Achsa would want her to stay. And he had said he would go with her
while she apologized which would make it as easy as could be.

"Let's go now!" she said aloud, unmindful of the fact that Lavender
could not possibly be following her high flight of thought.

"Where?"

"Home--to Aunt Achsa." Sidney said it very simply. And to her it seemed
like home, now. With a warm feeling in her heart she thought of herself
as truly belonging to them all and to Sunset Lane and the homely
cottage.

"All right." With a dexterous motion Lavender swung his strength into
the oars. The dory cut the shining water. Sidney stared solemnly
straight ahead, going over in her mind just what she would say to Aunt
Achsa.

At sight of the two Aunt Achsa paused in one of her multitudinous
tasks. It was not usual for either the boy or the girl to appear until
noontime. Her first thought was an anxiety that something had happened.
She fluttered out to meet them.

"There ain't anything happened, has there?" her fond eyes on Lavender.

"I'll say something's _most_ happened," the boy began. "Sidney here
thinks she ought to go home on account of something she said
yesterday--"

"Lav, let me do it," implored Sidney. "Aunt Achsa, I--I'm so ashamed of
the way I answered you yesterday about my hair. I ought to have told
you--you had a right--but I guess I wanted to feel grown up and
independent. And I am sorry."

At Sidney's halting confession Aunt Achsa looked what Lavender, with
his odd coinage of words, had described as the "most forgivingest
person." She actually blushed.

"Why, law's sake, child, your Aunt Ascha didn't mind--don't worry your
little head over that. I ain't forgotten how a girl feels even if it
was a long spell ago that I was fifteen. Old as I am my tongue gets
loose in my head lots of times and runs away with itself. That's a way
tongues has of doing. And you worryin' over it and thinkin' about going
home! Why, why--it's _nice_ to have you here. Only last evening I said
it to Mr. Dugald. It's like you were one of us--"

"Do you really mean that, Aunt Achsa? I'm not company any more
or--or--a distant cousin?"

"Not a bit. And now long's you and Lavender's come home in the middle
of the morning, which I will say give me a turn, you can set down on
the step out there and pit these cherries for me!"

"Cherry pie?" cried Sidney, glad over everything.

"Better. I'll bet pickled cherries!" Lavender had spied the row of
glistening glass jars on the table. "And they're licking good."

Sidney took the checkered apron Aunt Achsa handed her and tied it about
her slim person, then they sat down upon the step in the sunshine and
fell to their task. From the shade of the lilac bush Nip and Tuck
regarded them with their inscrutably wise eyes. Without doubt Nip and
Tuck knew why Sidney's voice lifted so gaily as the red juice trickled
down her brown arms.

When Mr. Dugald returned for dinner he had to hear how nearly Sidney
had come to going home. "Why, that's the worst thing I've heard," he
exclaimed with exaggerated alarm, "Now, you wouldn't really go and do
that, would you?" His eyes laughed above the serious twist of his lips;
Sidney wondered if he was remembering that first night of her coming.

"I think we ought to celebrate this crisis through which we have
lived," he declared. "What say to a picnic supper over at the backside
and a call upon Captain Nelson. He'll be expecting us about this time.
If I commandeer Pete Cady's Ford you can go, too, Aunt Achsa."

When he was in his rollicking mood Aunt Achsa could never resist her
Mr. Dugald. Though she'd as soon trust herself in one of "them
ar-y-planes" as in Pete Cady's Ford, which only went under stress of
many inward convulsions and ear-splitting explosions, she accepted Mr.
Dugald's invitation and fell at once to planning the "supper," though
their dinner was not yet cleared away.

"I'll write a letter and mail it and then stop and tell Mart. Mart may
go, may she not?" Sidney asked anxiously.

Yes, Mart must go, too. Plainly the occasion _was_ a momentous one.

And to Trude Sidney wrote, hastily, for Lavender was waiting and there
would be time for a swim on the _Arabella_ before they started off in
the Ford.

"--Aunt Achsa and Lavender both want me to stay _very_ much. They like
me and I am just one of the family. I help Aunt Achsa too, in a great
many ways and Lavender and I are like pals--it's just as though I had a
brother which I never thought would be any fun but now I know it would
be a lot especially if the brother was a twin. You must not worry when
I do not write often for there is so much to do that I don't have a bit
of time--"

And in her excited state of mind Sidney forgot to tell Trude about her
shorn braids.



                              CHAPTER XIII

                         PLOTS AND COUNTERPLOTS


Rockman's Wharf was the center of the fishing activities of the town.
To it, each day, the small fishermen came in their dories with their
day's catch. From it motor boats chugged off to the bigger boats moored
in the bay, some schooner was always tied to the gray piles waiting to
be overhauled or to be chartered for deep sea fishing. There was always
something to watch on Rockman's, or someone to talk to. The fishing
folk spent their leisure hours loafing in the shadow of the long shed,
smoking and talking; often the artists boldly pitched their easels and
stools in everyone's way and painted a gray hull and a pink-gray sail,
checkered with white patches, or a dark-skinned Portuguese bending to
the task of spiking shiny cod from the bottom of a dory and throwing
them to the wharf to be measured and weighed.

Sidney never failed to thrill to the changing scenes that Rockman's
offered. She had become, like Mart and Lavender and a score of other
youngsters, a familiar figure on the old wharf. With the ease of a Cape
Coder born she talked to the Portuguese fishermen and to the men who
worked in the shed and to Captain Hawkes, who when he was not on the
_Mabel T_ sat on a leaning pile smoking and waiting for tourists to
engage him. She knew the fishermen and their boats by name and was as
interested in how much old Amos Martin got for his beautiful catch as
Amos himself. Rockman's knew her as "that summer gal of Achsa Green's."
"She beats all for askin' questions," it agreed, smilingly. "Ain't
anything misses _that_ gal!"

Sidney certainly did not intend anything should. She had to make up for
all the years she had not lived in Provincetown and if she watched and
listened closely she might some day catch up with Mart and Lavender.
She sat on the wharf late one afternoon, dangling her bare legs over
its edge, and watched the sails and the circling seagulls and
everything within sight and waited for Mart and Lavender to join her as
they had agreed. Lavender was running an errand for Cap'n Hawkes and
Mart had gone to Commercial Street for some candy.

It was too early in the day for the fishermen to come in. Sidney knew
that. For that reason a dory approaching Rockman's caught her eye. In
it were two men, in oilskins and rubber boots. As it came near to the
wharf a thickset fellow stepped out from the shed. Sidney had never
noticed him before. And her eyes grew round as she observed that in
place of one hand he wore an iron hook. Like a flash there came to her
a confused memory of stories she had read of high piracy and
buccaneers. She looked at the ugly hook and at the man and then at the
approaching dory and every pulse quickened and tingled. Without moving
a muscle she leapt to attention.

Partly concealed as she was by the pile of old canvas the man did not
see her. Nor did the two in the dory notice her. As the dory bumped its
nose against the wharf one of the men threw a line to the man on the
dock who caught it dexterously with the iron hook. He had evidently
been waiting for the dory. Then one of the two in the boat sprang to
the wharf while the other busied himself in shutting off the engine.

"'Lo, Jed. Good catch?"

"Yep. Good catch."

Not unusual words for Rockman's wharf but they rang with strange
significance to Sidney, athirst for adventure. Why, there were not any
fish in the dory! And the man with the hook had called the other Jed!
Jed Starrow! _It was Jed Starrow._ She peeked cautiously around the old
sails. Jed Starrow was tall and very dark and had just the right
swagger. If he had worn a gay 'kerchief knotted about his head,
earrings, and a cutlass in his sash he would have been the pirate true;
as it was easy for Sidney to see him like that in spite of his
commonplace oilskins and his cap.

The two men walked slowly up the wharf, Jed Starrow a little in advance
of the other. The man in the dory, having shut off the engine, lounged
in the bow of the boat and lighted a pipe.

Sidney sat very still until Jed Starrow and his companion were out of
sight. Then she climbed to her feet, slipped along the side of the shed
and ran up the wharf until she could jump down on the beach. Here she
waited Mart's return.

Mart and Lavender came almost at the same moment, Mart with a bulging
bag of assorted and dreadful-hued candies. Mysteriously Sidney beckoned
to them to join her in the seclusion of the beach.

"Whatever's happened?" mumbled Mart her mouth full of candy. "You act
like you were struck silly."

"I've found something out!" Sidney spoke in a sepulchral whisper though
their voices could not have been heard by anyone on the wharf. "Lav,
_who is Jed Starrow_!"

Lav stared at her in wonder.

"Why--why--he's Jed Starrow. That's all. Fellow 'round town. Owns the
_Puritan_, that new schooner."

"I believe--" Sidney spoke slowly. "I believe Jed Starrow is a--pirate!"

At this Lav and Mart broke into loud laughter. But Sidney stood her
ground, not even flushing under their derision.

"You can laugh. But I know--I know--instinctively. I sometimes do know
things like that. I guess it's an occult power I have. And, anyway,
Cap'n Davies hinted as much."

"Oh, Cap'n Davies--he's always snoopin' round for trouble. We have
plenty of rum-runners and I guess lots of things get smuggled--but
_pirates_--"

"Captain Davies distinctly _said_ pirates--" insisted Sidney who had
not sufficient experience to properly classify rum-runners and
smugglers. Anyway, pirates sounded more exciting.

"What's started all this?" asked Lavender.

Sidney told of the landing of the dory and the man with the iron hook
for a hand.

"Oh, that's only Joe Josephs. He's a wrecker."

Mart was catching something of Sidney's spirit; in truth Mart was
unconsciously catching a great deal from Sidney these days.

"Well, he's certainly doing something _besides_ wrecking. It's been an
awful poor season for wrecks and gran'ma says Joe Josephs' wife's been
to her sister's at Plymouth and got a new coat and hat for the trip and
she hasn't had a new thing since Letty Vine give her her blue serge
dress and that wasn't new."

"You see--" cried Sidney, exulting, "Joe Josephs has divided the
spoils!"

"Oh, you girls are crazy! Why everyone in the town knows Jed Starrow.
Don't you think everyone 'ud know if he was a pirate? He's lived here
ever since he was born, I guess."

"But, Lav, it was so _funny_ for them to say just alike 'good catch'
when they didn't have any fish at all! It was a password. Pirates
always have passwords."

"Prob'bly a code," jeered Lav, rocking with laughter. "You watch the
sky anights; mebbe they use rockets to signal one another, too."

Sidney was still sufficiently stirred by the whole incident as to be
able to tolerate Lav's stupidity.

"Of course I know pirates--even these days--wouldn't use rockets and
codes. I'm not as ignorant as all _that_. And I _am_ going to watch,
day and night. It'll be easy for me to watch 'cause I'm a girl and no
one will suspect what's in my head."

"I should say they wouldn't! Gee!" and Lav permitted himself a last
long laugh.

"And you may change your tune yet," cried Sidney, really vexed, "When
Mart and I discover something."

"We'll both keep our eyes open!" Mart agreed, admiring Sidney's
imagination even though she could not always follow it. "But we ought
to keep quiet 'bout our suspicions, hadn't we?"

Sidney hesitated. She _did_ want to tell Mr. Dugald about the "good
catch." But Mart went on convincingly.

"If we told anyone we were on, y'see it might get to Jed Starrow
himself."

"That'd be the biggest joke in town," Lav warned, with a chuckle.

Sidney ignored him. "Of course we must not breathe a word of our
suspicions to a soul," she averred. "And if either of us finds out
anything she must tell the other at once. I think we _will_ find
something, too, for two heads are better than one."

"Say, are you going to leave me out of your fun--just 'cause I laughed?"

Sidney did not want to leave Lavender out but she did want to punish
him a little. She pretended to consider his question.

"If you find it all so highly amusing you might be tempted to tell
someone--"

"What'ya mean? That I'd squeal on you? If you think _that_, well, I
don't want to be in on it--"

"Oh, Lav, of course I know you wouldn't squeal," cried Sidney,
relenting. "And we _will_ need you to help find things out. Oughtn't we
to have some sign or a word or something to sort of signal that one of
us knows something to tell the others? What'll it be--"

Mart scowled down at the sand. For the moment she was possessed with an
envy for Sidney's agile imagination, a disgust at her own stolid
faculties. Why couldn't _she_ think of things right offhand the way
Sidney could?

But it was Lavender who suggested the "signal."

"Hook!" he offered and Sidney clapped her hands in delight.

"Oh, grand! No one would ever guess. And it sounds so shivery! Why,
that man with the iron hook just _has_ to be a pirate!" Then she
suddenly grew embarrassed by her own enthusiasm. "It's different with
you two," she explained, "you've lived here all your lives and you
don't know what it's like to have to be a po--" She broke off,
startled. One breath more and she would have revealed the truth to
Lavender and Mart. "Middletown is the pokiest town--there's nothing
exciting ever happens there."

"I don't know as much exciting happens here. I s'pose enough happens,
only you have to have something inside you that makes you _think_ it
exciting, I guess." Which was Mart's initial step into any analysis of
emotion, but not her last.

Lavender turned toward the wharf. "I got to go and hunt up Cap'n
Hawkes," he announced regretfully. "So it'll be 'hook,' will it? Well,
I swear from henceforth I'll watch every citizen of Provincetown to see
if he has a cutlass at his belt or a tattoo on his chest. Come on,
girls--sleuths, I mean--"

"I do hope," sighed Sidney as she and Mart wandered homeward over the
hard sand, "that one of us'll have to say 'hook' soon. Don't you?"

But in her heart Sidney had an annoying conviction that neither Mart
nor Lav took her pirate suspicions quite as seriously as she did. At
supper Lav deliberately kept the conversation on Jed Starrow and his
activities with a disconcerting twinkle in his eyes. Mart assumed the
same lofty tolerance of their secret game as she showed to their play
on the _Arabella_--as though it were a sort of second-best fun.

"Well, I don't care," Sidney declared stoutly. To think of Jed Starrow
as a wicked buccaneer and Joe Josephs, the wrecker, as his accomplice
in piracy, satisfied her craving for adventure. For the next many days
she let it color everything she saw, every word she overheard; the
connecting links she forged from her own active imagination.



                              CHAPTER XIV

                            WORDS THAT SING


To seal their pact of palship Lavender took Sidney to Top Notch.

He led her over a little path that wound around the smaller sand dunes
directly behind Sunset Lane until they came to a clump of old willows.
Once a cottage had stood under the willows; its timbers and crumbling
bricks still lay about half buried in the sand and covered over with
moss and climbing weeds. Though not a quarter of a mile from Aunt
Achsa's the spot offered as complete solitude as though it had been at
the ends of the world. The only sounds that reached its quiet were the
far-off screaming of the seagulls as they fought for their food at low
tide, and the distant boom-boom of the surging sea on the beach of the
backside.

"Look up there!" commanded Lavender proudly. And Sidney, looking as he
had bidden her, gave a little cry of delight. For there among the great
limbs of the biggest of the willows was a tiny house.

"That's mine. Top Notch. Mr. Dugald built it. That's where I study."

"Why, it's the cutest thing I ever _saw_!" Sidney was already at the
bottom of the narrow ladder that led to the house. "Can I go up? I feel
just like Alice in Wonderland, as though I'd have to take a pill to get
small enough to squeeze in."

"Oh, no, you won't. It's big enough for two."

The structure had been cleverly contrived; plankings securely nailed to
the spreading branches gave indeed ample space for two and even more;
there were comfortable seats and wide unshuttered windows, a rough
table and a secret shelf that looked like part of the wall until one
unlocked and let down a little door and revealed a neat row of books. A
"wing" of the house, added to another branch, Sidney declared, was
"upstairs."

Sidney sat down on one of the seats and Lavender sat on the other.

"Why, this is the best _yet_!" Sidney cried with a long breath. "I
don't see how Mr. Dugald thinks of the nice things he does."

"He's the best sort that ever lived." Lavender asserted with a little
break in his voice. "I don't know why he bothers 'bout me. But he found
out that I came over here and sort o' camped among those ruins down
there and I used to hide my things in that old oven so's Aunt Achsa
wouldn't find them. He knew why, too. Y'see it bothers Aunt Achsa a lot
to have me want to read and study so much--she's afraid I'll get to
thinkin' of going away. She don't know, y'see, that I _am_ going, some
day. So then Mr. Dugald helped me build Top Notch. There are all my
books."

Sidney ran her eye over the different volumes; among them were stories
of seafaring adventure and books on travel and science, a dictionary, a
Bible--and a volume of Browning's poetry. Sidney's hand shot out toward
this last, then quickly dropped to her side.

Lavender saw the gesture. "I like poetry," he explained shyly. "I'm
kinda afraid of it--I mean I don't understand it and I wish I did. Mr.
Dugald says he don't, either. But there's something about the way
poetry goes that's like music--it makes a sound. It's like the ocean,
moving and beating, and kind o' like your heart. And sometimes the
words hurt, they're so beautiful. I wish I knew more about poetry."

Sidney felt shivery cold all over and hot at the same moment. She kept
her eyes on the square that was the open window. She knew she ought to
tell the truth to Lavender--right now. But, oh, she _couldn't_. Yet she
must! She had almost summoned the right words to begin when Lavender
rose and stepped toward the ladder.

"I brought you here so's you'd know 'bout it and use it when you want
to--the books'n everythin'. Only don't let Mart come. She'd make fun of
it. Here's where I hide the key to the shelf. S'long. I got to get down
to Rockman's." Lavender abruptly slipped down the ladder and ran out of
sight among the dunes.

Left alone in the Top Notch Sidney felt a guilty remorse sweep over
her. Lavender had shared with her his sanctum sanctorum, he had
admitted his love of poetry and she had sat silent and had not told him
the truth.

Like music--like the waves of the ocean beating--like one's
heart--words that hurt, his shy sentences rang in her ears. Probably he
had found it hard to tell her for fear she might laugh. Laugh--why,
suddenly she knew that that was really the way poetry seemed to her!
She just _made_ herself believe she hated it when she did not hate it
at all. Music--she could hear Isolde's soft drawling voice reading from
one of father's books and it was indeed music. She had all that
treasure that she could share with Lavender, hungry for the beautiful,
and yet she had sat mum. Oh, she had been horrid, stingy. And he was
sharing Top Notch with her.

Quite naturally Sidney, brooding secretly over her shortcomings, fell
back upon the long-neglected "Dorothea." And she took "Dorothea" at
once to Top Notch, the better to pour out her feelings undisturbed. She
covered a whole page with her appreciation of Lavender's confidence and
her utter unworthiness of such tribute. Then the fascination of Top
Notch brought her to Mr. Dugald.

"I wish the girls knew him. He's so much nicer than any of their
suitors, than even any of Vick's." Let it be recorded here that Sidney
paused and chewed her pencil and pondered the difficulties of bringing
about an acquaintance between Mr. Dugald and any one of her three
sisters. Romance was never far from Sidney's imaginings; she invariably
endowed every young man who came to the Romley house for any sort of a
reason with deep purposes of wooing. But this situation offered
obstacles to even Sidney's imagination for miles separated Mr. Dugald
from the charms of her sisters; there seemed no way in which he could
meet them.

However, obstacles only stimulated Sidney. "I know," she wrote
furiously, "I'll pick out one of them and talk about her all the time
and wish and wish in my heart and just _make_ something happen. Now,
which one, dear Dorothea, is the important thing for me to decide."

From point of romance Vick offered the most possibilities--there was so
much about Vick to talk about. But Mr. Dugald did not seem Vick's sort.
Vick liked what she called "smooth" men and Mr. Dugald was most
certainly not that. And, anyway, Vick would simply have to have a rich
man to give her all the things she said she intended having and Mr.
Dugald was not rich or he'd have more fashionable clothes. No, Vick was
out of it. Isolde--well, he wasn't Issy's sort, either. Sidney did not
know just what Issy's sort was like but she did not think it was like
Mr. Dugald. Anyway, she did not _want_ Issy to have him. She wanted
Trude to have him, dear old peachy Trude who had never had any beau
except her Lost Love.

"I shall talk about dear Trude and all her nice points. I shall even
say she is beautiful for she is in the eyes of love and I like to talk
about Trude, anyway. So from this day forth I shall gather the threads
of Destiny into my white hands and weave a beautiful pattern of love
and happiness."

Forthwith Sidney began her weaving and found it amazingly easy. She
talked through supper about Trude and took it as a promising sign that
Mr. Dugald himself asked her all sorts of questions as though he
"thirsted" to know more. And Sidney answered generously. She walked
with him after supper to the postoffice in order to talk more about
Trude. The next day she produced a very unflattering snapshot of Trude
and left it on the kitchen table and later gloated in secret over its
disappearance, though of course Aunt Achsa _might_ have burned it up in
her tireless cleaning and straightening.

After that Trude's name crossed the conversation of the little family
frequently and quite naturally. Mr. Dugald called her "Truda" and knew
that she was staying with the Whites on Long Island and that she was
the prop of the entire Romley family and never thought of herself at
all and that she wasn't as pretty as Vick or Isolde but really,
_nicer_--Sidney quite opened her heart. And then one morning when she
was helping Mr. Dugald clean his brushes she told him of Trude's Lost
Love. Not much about it for the reason that she herself knew only a
little and also because a strange look went suddenly over Mr. Dugald's
face.

"Put on the brakes, little sister. Aren't you letting me into secrets
that perhaps your Trude would not want me to know?"

Sidney's face flamed. She knew Mr. Dugald was right. "Oh, I _should_
not have told you. I--just got started and didn't think. Can't you
forget what I said as though I didn't say it?" she pleaded.

"I'll forget what you said," Mr. Dugald promised, knowing perfectly
well that he could not and from that day on he never asked any more
questions of Sidney concerning her family.

"I'm not playing fair," he said to himself but not to her.

To "Dorothea" Sidney confided her chagrin. "I didn't say _much_--just
that Trude had had one heartbreaking affair with a man she met at Mrs.
White's and that I didn't believe she'd gotten over it yet. I read a
book once where it said pity was akin to love and I thought if Mr.
Dugald _knew_ that Trude's heart was broken he would feel very sorry
for her. But he looked so embarrassed that I knew I had not been
maidenly as Isolde would say and I blushed furiously. He promised to
forget it and I think he will. But, oh, perhaps I have defeated my dear
purpose for now when I speak of Trude he looks funny as though he was
afraid of what I was going to say next. I am in despair."

The sound of voices, one unmistakably Mr. Dugald's, disturbed Sidney's
musings. She thrust "Dorothea" into the secret shelf and locked it.
Then she peeped out of the window.

Mr. Dugald and Miss Letty Vine approached down the narrow path of hard
sand straight toward the willows. Sidney's first impulse was to call to
them; in the next moment she realized that they had no intention of
climbing to Top Notch. Miss Vine wore heavy gloves on her hands and
carried a trowel and a basket and was making little jumps here and
there among the weeds in search of "specimens."

Sidney sat very still and watched her. She thought Miss Letty the most
interesting person, anyway. She always looked like the figurehead of a
ship come to life, as Mr. Dugald had described her. She was very tall
and bony, with huge bones that made lumps in her shoulders and elbows
and even at her knees; her temples protruded and her cheek-bones and
her jaw. She had long fingers with prominent knuckles.

Miss Letty always wore a style of dress that she had evolved for
herself long ago and that was plainly built for comfort rather than
style or beauty. She held any grace of trimming as "froppery" and
scorned it, going always unadorned. She wore her "learning" just as she
wore her clothes. That she had gone to school in Boston and studied
music there no one would ever know from anything she said. One just
thought of Miss Letty as being _born_ with knowledge, the way she was
born capable. "Capable from the cradle," Aunt Achsa sometimes said.

Everyone liked Miss Letty in spite of the bones and the sharp tongue
and the freakish dresses, and no one knew exactly why; it might have
been her eyes which were kindly and had little twinkles deep-set within
their irises, or her way of knowing the thing to do and going ahead and
doing it. Everyone respected Miss Letty and acknowledged her worth at
once.

Now Mr. Dugald was lounging against one of the rotting timbers of the
house-that-had-been and sketching Miss Letty on the pad which he always
carried in the pocket of his old coat. _He_ thought Miss Letty most
interesting, too. He spent considerable time at her house and often
took long walks with her.

While Sidney watched, Miss Letty sat down stiffly by Mr. Dugald's side
and looked with interest at the sketch.

"That's about the thousandth one you've made, isn't it? And you can't
seem to get any of them bad enough."

"I can't get into it what I want," Dugald Allan laughed, tearing off
the sheet and crumpling it in his hand. "You see I feel something about
you that I haven't been able yet to put on canvas. But I will some day.
Then I'll know I have gotten somewhere."

Miss Letty considered his words as though they were of some one quite
apart from herself.

"I suppose it's my soul you're hoping to catch. Well, I never did wear
it on my sleeve," and she laughed, a great laugh like a man's.

"No, you do not. That's true. But it's my job to get at people's souls,
wherever they wear 'em, and paint them in."

"Well, hunt, then. Souls are queer things," opined Miss Letty,
carefully drawing off her old gloves and smoothing them out with her
long, bony fingers. "I sometimes think the Lord gets the souls mixed up
and puts them in the wrong bodies. Maybe that's wicked but if 'tis I
think lots wickeder things."

"Maybe He knows more about it than we think He does--" said Dugald so
softly that Sidney, frankly eavesdropping, had hard work to catch the
words. They were so interesting, these two, that she was glad she had
not let them know she was in Top Notch; she hoped they would talk a
long time about souls and such things. But without warning Miss Letty
changed the subject.

"Did you ever know such a smart piece as that girl of Achsy Green's?"

"Sidney?" And Mr. Dugald chuckled. "She's sure one rare kid. I don't
know when I've enjoyed anything as much as having her around. And do
you know the youngster's rarely gifted--she has a colorful imagination
and a perception of verities that may take her further than her father.
She is fighting destiny just now, but it will get her; if she isn't a
poet she'll be a creator of something equally fine."

"I'm too old to live to know--but you will," answered Miss Letty, quite
calmly. "And maybe we're both wrong. Maybe her finest work will be to
raise a family. And I don't know, when all's said and done, but that's
as good a job as your daubs or my music or a book of verse. You've got
something then that can love you back."

But Sidney did not hear this simple philosophy for she had dropped to
the floor of Top Notch and covered her ears with her hands. Her face
flamed with the anger that held her. How _dared_ they sit there and
talk her over! And say that she was going to write poetry! That she had
something or other and might be greater than her father! A poet! Well,
she _wouldn't_! _She would not!_ She thought, with stinging
humiliation, of the verses she had written in her attic den and that
lay now hidden in the secret place under the floor. She'd written them
just because they hummed so in her ears that she had _had_ to write
them, but when she returned home she'd tear them into tiny bits and
never, _never_ write another line, even though the words did jingle and
hum.

She sat cramped on the floor of Top Notch, until she was certain the
intruders had gone away. Then she got stiffly to her feet and reached
for "Dorothea." Hot tears of mortification blinded her eyes so that she
had to dash them away with the back of her hand. One splashed upon the
page she had opened.

"I have come, dear Dorothea, to another crossroad in life. You only
shall witness my solemn vow. _I shall not be a poet!_ I shall be a
missionary. A missionary's life is fraught with danger and takes them
to distant climes and they have to dress in what is given to them out
of a barrel--"

She felt a little better and pleasantly sacrificial after she had
written this vow. Poor Sidney, she did not know that the words that
Lavender had likened to music and the beating sea would sing in her
ears as persistently in Timbuctoo as in the quiet of her attic den!



                               CHAPTER XV

                               CAP'N PHIN


What made life at Sunset Lane so delightful to Sidney was that she
never knew from one day to the next what she was going to do. Back at
Middletown everything was always arranged ahead--they did this on
Tuesday and this on Wednesday and always on Saturday there was the
League. At Sunset Lane she did not even know when it was Tuesday or
Thursday unless she stopped to think; jolly things happened as though
they popped out of the blue ether.

Like that Miss Letty dropped in one evening after supper.

"Do you want to ride over to Wellfleet with me enough to be ready at
six o'clock?" she asked Sidney very casually, as though it were nothing
at all to suggest. Sidney had longed to ride with Miss Letty in the
sideboard buggy behind King who, Mr. Dugald declared, had come off the
Ark with Noah. And to go to Wellfleet, perhaps see her friend Cap'n
Phin Davies!

"Can we call on Cap'n Davies?" she asked eagerly.

Miss Letty smiled. "I reckon I couldn't steer King away from Elizy
Davies' house. I thought I'd take you there and leave you while I give
my lessons and then I'd ride 'round and have a visit with Elizy and
Phin and maybe some of Elizy's gingerbread. Elizy and I went to school
together."

The next morning Sidney was ready and on her, way to Miss Letty's house
before six o'clock. She had been far too excited to eat any of the
breakfast Aunt Achsa had set out for her but Miss Letty, guessing this,
made her sit down and eat a bit of toast and a boiled egg.

"It's a long way between here and Wellfleet and King's slower than he
used to be."

Seated next to Miss Letty, jogging along through the misty morning,
Sidney could not speak for pure rapture of delight. She had never
ridden behind a horse in her life! She thought King a giant steed; with
every swish of his long tail her heart skipped a beat, the move of his
great muscles under his heavy flanks held her fascinated gaze. Miss
Letty talked to him as though he were human and the animal understood
and tossed his head. She said: "Now, King, we're going to Wellfleet and
we got to get there before noon." And then she let the reins slacken
and slip down between her knees as though she had no further care. One
certainly could not do that with an automobile! Sidney did not wonder
now that Miss Letty preferred King to a Ford.

She wished she dared ask Miss Letty how old King really was but she did
not think it polite anymore than if she asked Miss Letty how old she
was. King was not handsome, he was bony like his mistress, but he
certainly understood everything. Miss Letty said he knew they were
going to Elizy Davies' by the way he loped ahead; King, too, had a
strong liking for Elizy Davies' gingerbread.

"She feeds it to him in great hunks. And he won't eat anyone else's
gingerbread, either. Scornful as you please even when I offer him some.
Now I say that's discriminating for a horse. I suppose it's what folks
call horse-sense."

Sidney did not know which she liked better, watching the gleaming
marshes through which the highway wound or listening to Miss Letty's
spasmodic conversation. Miss Letty pointed out old landmarks to Sidney,
then told her something of the school at Truro to which she and Elizy
Davies had gone, then of the little girls to whom she was about to give
music lessons. She had taught their mothers. Then she lapsed into a
deep silence broken only by an occasional "cl-lk" to King which she
made with her tongue against her teeth and to which King paid no
attention except for a flick of his right ear.

Sidney, looking down at the great bony hands limply holding the reins,
thought it very funny to picture them on the keyboard of a piano. If
she had spoken her thoughts aloud Miss Letty would have told her, quite
calmly, that she couldn't play a note now, but that she knew when notes
were played right and she could still rap lagging fingers smartly
across the knuckles. Folks would have her, anyway. Sidney did not know,
of course, that Miss Letty was a tradition and that Cape Cod clings to
its traditions.

"You'll think Phin Davies' house the queerest thing you ever saw. It
isn't a house nor is it a boat; it's as much one as t'other and not
anything, I'd say, but what two crazy men getting their heads together
rigged up. Cap'n Davies said as long as he had to live ashore he wanted
his house to look like a boat, he didn't care what folks said, and he
hunted the Cape over to find a builder who wouldn't apply to have him
locked up in an asylum, straight off. He got a man from Falmouth, who'd
been a master once on a trader and sort of knew how Phin Davies felt.
But there was Elizy carrying on awful about it and saying _she'd_
always looked forward to the time when she could have a nice house--and
there the two of them were. And the house is as 'tis. Phin has the
front of it that's as like the bow of a ship without any rigging as
they could make it, and Elizy has the back that's got as up-to-date a
kitchen as any on Cape Cod."

A winding road, all sweet with wild primroses led up to the queer house
on the eminence. Sure enough, there was the front part like the forward
hull of a ship, deck-houses and all; and the back like any sensible New
England home. Sidney giggled delightedly.

"But there aren't two finer people on this Cape!" declared Miss Letty.
"And there's Phin coming to meet us. Reckon he spied King through his
glasses along beyond Wellfleet."

Cap'n Phin Davies was overjoyed to see Sidney. "Why, it's the little
gal I found on the train!" he repeated over and over. "Elizy," he
called lustily toward the kitchen door, "come and see! It's the little
gal I told you 'bout that I found on the train."

Elizy Davies came hurrying from the kitchen door. She was lean to
gauntness and tall and wore round, steel-rimmed glasses low on the
sharp bridge of her nose. Sidney immediately understood how she had
been able to hold out for her half of the house. But she greeted Sidney
with kindly interest and Miss Letty with real affection.

"I thought you'd be over this way today. Anne Matthews said Maida was
going to have a lesson. Got my gingerbread all mixed."

Miss Letty had not gotten out of the buggy. She turned King's head.

"Thought I'd leave Sidney here while I gave my lessons," she explained
briefly and then clucked to King.

Mrs. Davies took Sidney into her part of the house. It was cool and
dark and sweet-smelling and very, very neat. Sidney sat down in a stiff
rocker and answered Mrs. Davies' questions concerning her Aunt Achsa
and Lavender, while Cap'n Davies stumped restlessly about.

"Now I cal'late you've heard enough, Elizy, and I'm goin' to carry my
little shipmate off and show her _my_ part o' the old hull."

Elizy accepted his suggestion with a smile and admitted that she had to
finish up her work. Immensely relieved Sidney followed Cap'n Davies.
With the enthusiasm of a boy he took her to the front rooms of the
house and showed her his treasured possessions. There was not a corner
of the globe that had not contributed something to his collection of
mementoes. And each meant to the old seafarer, not its own intrinsic
value, but a certain voyage. "I got that when we took a cargo to
Shanghai. Roughest v'yage I ever ran into," and "I picked that up when
we had to lay to at Buenos Aires 'cause every man jack in the fo'castle
had small-pox," or "found that when Elizy shipped with me on the old
_Amanda L. Downs_. Forget just where--" and so on.

In the cupola on the roof that Cap'n Davies called his lookout and
where he spent most of his time, he had put the paraphernalia from the
_Viking_, his last boat. He had rigged up a bunk so that he could even
sleep there when he fancied. He explained that he never let Elizy "tidy
up." "When I get a notion I fix things shipshape myself, but I ain't
had a notion now in sometime." Sidney could see that. Yet the littered
room had an individuality that Elizy's own spotless quarters lacked.

"Now set down on that bunk and let me have a look at you," the Cap'n
commanded, seating himself in an old swivel chair that creaked and
trembled under his weight. "'Pears to me you've picked up quite a bit!"
He smiled his approval and nodded his great head. "Yes, they ain't
starvin' you and I'd say you'd been runnin' in the sun and there ain't
anything that can beat our Cape sun for bringin' out roses on bushes
and little gal's cheeks." He beamed with satisfaction over his long
speech. "Now, tell me, how's the pirates? Seen any?"

His question came so suddenly that Sidney started. She hesitated, then
answered slowly. "Yes, I have."

"Well, I'll be dumblasted!" exclaimed the captain, plainly astonished
by her answer. He had spoken only in pleasant chaff and had not thought
Sidney would take him seriously.

"At least--" Sidney amended, "I _think_ I've seen some. I told Lavender
and Mart they're pirates or--or something, and we're going to watch
every move Jed Starrow makes, at least every chance we get--"

The jovial expression suddenly left the Captain's genial face and a
heavy frown furrowed the leathery forehead.

"Jed Starrow! Now what in thunder would make you set on Jed Starrow--"

His frown alarmed Sidney. Perhaps she had made a dreadful mistake in
divulging their suspicions of Jed Starrow, suspicions which really
Lavender and Mart did not share, except as it helped their fun along--

"Oh, I shouldn't have said that it's Jed Starrow we suspect. I heard
Mr. Starrow and that--that man with the hook--say something that
sounded mysterious and I told the others, Mart and Lav, about it and
we're just pretending that we _think_ they're pirates! It's something
to do and makes it exciting when we're down on the wharves. And they
_do_ look like pirates--especially the wrecker man. But I ought not to
have said their names--as long as it's only a sort of game we're
playing, ought I? You won't tell anyone, will you?"

Cap'n Davies promised hastily and took Sidney off to see the new heifer
calf, just a week old. In the delight of fondling the pretty little
creature Sidney forgot her embarrassing break. She did not notice that
the Captain seemed deeply absorbed by some thought and that when he was
not talking he still frowned.

After she had visited the Cove and watched the waves dash against the
Head and explored the boathouse Miss Letty arrived with King and Mrs.
Davies summoned them to dinner. They ate dinner in the big kitchen that
stretched from one side of the house to the other so that a breeze, all
tangy with salt, stirred the heat of the room. Mrs. Elizy and Miss
Letty talked and Sidney ate and laughed as Cap'n Phin surreptitiously,
and with sly winks at her, fed the old Maltese cat under the table.
There were fried chicken and peas and mashed potatoes and the
gingerbread and cocoa and flaky cherry pie. And after dinner they all
went out to watch King eat the gingerbread of his choice.

Sidney and Miss Letty helped Mrs. Elizy clear up and then they joined
Cap'n Phin under the shade of the trees on the Head from where they
could see far out over the bay. Sidney stretched on the grass and
listened while the others talked, determining to put down every word
they said in "Dorothea" so that she could read it over when she was a
very old woman. She loved the way Miss Letty answered back to Cap'n
Davies when he teased her and she was not the least bit afraid of Mrs.
Davies, now. All in all, though it was a very quiet afternoon, it was
one Sidney long remembered.

When Miss Letty announced that they'd "have to be starting for home,"
Cap'n Davies recollected that there was something in the lookout he
wanted to show Sidney and had forgotten. But when they reached the
lookout it appeared that he had forgotten again for he sat down in the
swivel chair and faced her.

"Looky here," he commanded in a voice Sidney had not heard before in
their brief acquaintance, "don't know as it's any o' my affair but I
want you to keep off the wharves after dark. Off the beach, too. Play
your games in daylight. Things are shapin' to a sort o' head and there
may be mischief anytime and you'd best be at home come dark. If you
don't promise me I'll speak a word to Achsy Green--"

"Oh, I'll promise," cried Sidney anxiously. A warning to Aunt Achsa
would most likely curtail their precious freedom. But she could not
resist the temptation of questioning. "What mischief?" she asked,
eagerly.

Cap'n Davies hesitated. Then he drew a letter from his pocket and
tapped it with his finger.

"That's from the Custom House in Boston. Come last week. They're
sending secret service men down to comb the Cape. Been huntin' the hul
coast for a year and a half and they sort o' suspicion these parts
because a lot of 'em was shipped into Boston that--"

"Oh, _what_! You haven't said _what_--" broke in Sidney, aquiver.

"So I didn't. I'm sailin' stern first, I cal'late. Well, there's always
smuggling and smuggling and I guess there always will be, but when it
comes to _diamonds_ Uncle Sam sets up and takes notice. And they're
suspicionin' that they're comin' in somewheres along the Cape, and this
part of the Cape, too. And _this_--" he shook another sheet in Sidney's
face, "this is a notice of a reward offered by Wellfleet and Truro
counties for findin' the dog that's givin' this part of the Cape a bad
name! Five thousand dollars. In two weeks it'll be stuck on every post
hereabouts 's far as Provincetown. And Phin Davies ain't goin' to lay
to 'till I've found out whether it's someone on the Cape that's doing
it or not. Cape Cod's brung up a race of honest men who could sleep
with their doors wide open and if anybody is hurtin' the good name of
the Cape I want to know it. 'Taint the money I want."

[Illustration: CAPTAIN DAVIES DREW A LETTER FROM HIS POCKET AND TAPPED
IT WITH HIS FINGER]

Sidney was scarcely drawing a breath for excitement. The Captain,
suddenly subsiding, observed her tenseness. He laughed embarrassedly.

"Now there I go spillin' everything _I_ know like a ship that's sprung
a leak. I'll have to ask you to keep mum 'bout what I've told you,
mate, and remember your word to keep off the beach come night. Ain't no
place for a gal like you." And without another word he rose and led
Sidney down the narrow stairs.

On the homeward ride Miss Letty found Sidney an abstracted companion.
After a few attempts to keep up conversation she subsided into silence
herself. "It's good to find a young one who can keep her tongue still a
spell and enjoy her own thoughts."

But Sidney was not enjoying her thoughts, not at all. With the
realization that she could not share with Mart and Lavender the
astounding revelations Cap'n Phin Davies had made all joy in them had
fled. Had not she and Mart and Lavender agreed solemnly to tell one
another anything any one of them discovered? It would be so perfectly
thrilling to greet them the instant she reached home with "Hook!" They
would be so surprised. They wouldn't laugh if she told them what she
knew! But she couldn't.

Cap'n Phin Davies had said: "I'll have to ask you to keep mum" and that
was quite enough to seal Sidney's lips.



                              CHAPTER XVI

                                  POLA


For the next few days Mart and Lav found Sidney strangely quiet. Sidney
on her part wondered if they could not tell, simply by looking at her,
that her uncomfortable heart carried a great secret. Then something
happened that put pirates and secrets completely out of her mind,
something so amazing, so unexpected, as to turn her world on its head.
Pola came!

In her zeal to get out of each day all the joy that it offered Sidney
had forgotten Pola, or at least she had tucked her idol into a far-back
corner of her mind where it was fast gathering dust.

One morning Mart, racing over the sand of the beach, hailed her. "Sid!
Sid! They want us to pose for them! That Craig woman and the others!"

Sid gasped, unbelieving. The girls had often wished they might pose for
some of the artists. Mart, having caught up with her, clutched her arm
and hauled her hurriedly forward toward where little groups of artists
were gathering on the beach in the shadow of one of the long wharves.

"But--but--" Sidney protested breathlessly. It would be fun to pose, of
course, but not dressed as she was at that moment! Vick, in the picture
that had been hung in Paris, had worn a black velvet dress which the
artist had borrowed for her sitting; she could run home and don the
precious cherry crêpe de chine that she had not worn since she had come
to Sunset Lane.

"Miss Craig said to get that--other--girl--" Mart was explaining as
they ran. "And they're waiting."

Miss Craig, a pretty, earnest-eyed woman who was studying in one of the
summer art classes, came forward to meet them. Her glance went over
Sidney's figure with enthusiastic approval.

"You found her! How nice. Miss Higgins will pose you--"

"Can't I go home and change my dress? I have an awfully pretty--"

But Miss Craig cut Sidney's appeal short.

"_Gracious_ no! Why, that would _spoil_ you! We want you exactly as you
are this moment--both of you. You're--you're _precious_!"

Sidney resented her "precious." She resented other remarks that
came to their ears as Miss Higgins, who had charge of the little
group, posed them against an old, overturned dory. "A perfect
type--native--girls----freedom----wild beauty----" She resented the
rotting dory. Vick had leaned against a crimson velvet chair. Why,
her hair had not been combed since the morning before, her skirt
was in tatters where she had torn it climbing into Top Notch; she
was horribly conscious of her long legs, bare, brown, and bruised.

Sidney found that posing in the morning sun on a beach at Provincetown
was not the lark Vick had declared posing for the great Stuart Gelding
had been. But then Vick had flirted a little with Stuart Gelding and
had always had a cup of tea with him and his wife afterward; these art
students appeared to have forgotten that their models were human with
legs that ached from holding a position and arms that trembled with
very eagerness to move. It was not one bit of fun.

Then, after an interminable time, Miss Craig called out cheerily;
"There, that's enough for this morning," and came down to the dory,
opening a little crocheted bag. From it she took two crisp one dollar
bills. "Take this, girls, and divide it. And we are ever so
grateful--you were splendid types. We'll have you again some day."

Sidney's hand had barely closed over her dollar bill when she spied a
woman and a girl slowly walking along the wharf, watching with interest
the artists who were still at work. The girl looked startlingly
familiar to Sidney. She gave a little gasp and ran forward.

"_Pola!_" she called loudly.

The girl turned in astonishment at the sound of her name, stared for a
moment, then quickly advanced laughing.

"Why, you're the Romley girl, aren't you? Of _all_ the things! What are
you doing here?"

"I'm visiting my aunt," explained Sidney, suddenly conscious of her
appearance and in consequence painfully ill-at-ease.

"Oh, and do they hire you to pose? What fun! I suppose that's a sort of
costume they make you wear, isn't it?"

"Y--yes," Sidney faltered, miserably. Pola's manner was prettily
condescending and she made no move to join Sidney on the beach.

"I'm a wreck myself," Pola went on, airily surveying her trim and
elegant person. "Mother and I are motoring. And I made her bring me
down here to see my cousin. He's an artist and lives here summers.
He'll just despise seeing us because he comes here to get rid of
everything home. And the car's broken down and goodness knows how long
we'll have to stay."

"Pola!" Her mother called sharply.

Pola waved her hand toward her mother. "Yes, mamma!" Then, to Sidney,
"Isn't it simply rare our meeting like this? It shows how small the
world is. I must run now! By-by!" She gave the slightest flip of her
hand in sign of leave-taking and, turning, ran lightly up the wharf
toward her mother.

Sidney's eyes followed her, devouring her dainty clothes, the
tight-fitting motoring hat, the buckled pumps. Pola--the Pola she had
carried enshrined in her heart! That heart hurt now, to the core. She
had dreamed of a meeting sometime, somewhere, had planned just what it
would be like and what she'd say and what Pola would say. And now Pola
had turned a shoulder upon it.

Mart's laugh behind her roused her.

"Who's Guinevere, anyway? Her ma called her just in time--we might a
hurt the doll-baby!"

Sidney turned on Mart fiercely. "She's a friend of mine," she cried, in
a voice she made rough to keep the tears from it. "And she's _not_ a
doll-baby."

"All right--go and play with her then--she's crazy about you, I guess."
And with that Mart swung on her heel and stalked away, her head in the
air.

Poor Sidney hurried back to Sunset Lane to hide her humiliation and her
dismay. For some reason she could not understand she had offended Mart.
And Pola had snubbed her. It had indeed been a cruel fate that had
brought Pola out on the wharf at that precise moment!

She spent a lonely afternoon in Top Notch, too miserable to even pour
out her heart to "Dorothea." Then she helped Aunt Achsa prepare supper
and after supper, which was lonely, too, for neither Lavender nor Mr.
Dugald were there, she insisted upon clearing up the dishes while Aunt
Achsa went down to Tillie Higgins'.

Swishing her hands in the soapy water Sidney pondered sadly the things
she had longed to learn of Pola. Her name--why she hadn't even found
out her name! What had her teacher said of that theme she had written
on her visit to the Romley house? Where did Pola live? Of course she
might see her again--Pola had said that they'd be in Provincetown for a
few days, but she did not _want_ to see her; she did not want Pola to
see Sunset Lane and the little gray cottage and Aunt Achsa and
Lavender. Pola would laugh at them and she would hate her!

At that moment footsteps crunched the gravel of the path and a shadow
fell across the kitchen door. Sidney turned from the table. There stood
Mr. Dugald and with him--Pola.

"I've brought my cousin, Sidney. She blew out to the Cape with that
ill-wind we felt this morning. If you know what we can do with her I'll
be your slave for life."

Playfully pushing Dugald Allan aside Pola walked into the kitchen.

"Isn't he horrid? You wouldn't dream that he's really crazy about me,
would you? I told him how we'd met, even before this morning. He'd
written home that Miss Green's cousin was here but I never dreamed it
was you. I'm so sorry I didn't have a chance to introduce you to mother
this morning. But mother wants me to take you back to the hotel. You
can have a room right next to mine and we'll have scads of fun--You'll
come, won't you?" For Sidney's face was unyielding.

Like one cornered, Sidney stood straight against the table, her hands,
red from the hot dish water, clasped tightly behind her back. Though
she knew that Pola was trying to make amends for her rudeness of the
morning, something within her heart turned hard. The dusty idol was
crumbling to bits of clay.

"She's only inviting me because Mr. Dugald has told her to," she
reasoned inwardly. And aloud she answered in a steady voice:

"I'm sorry, but I simply can't leave Aunt Achsa. You must come here and
we'll find lots of jolly things to do--"

"Here?" laughed Pola, glancing around the old kitchen.

"Why not here?" roared Mr. Dugald. "As long as you've broken into our
Secret Garden we'll introduce you to some things you've never done
before in your life. Only Sid will have to find some suitable clothes
for you, and you'd better leave your complexion on the dressing table."

Pola accepted his banter good-naturedly. "I shall be deeply grateful,
old dear, if you _will_ introduce me to any sensations I have not
experienced before. There, now, will that hold you for awhile?" She
turned to Sidney. "We quarrel like this all the time, but it's fun and
I always have the last word. I make him so mad he can't think of
anything withering enough to say and I seize that strategic moment to
cease firing. You see, I practice on Dug. I _will_ come tomorrow if I
may. Now, Duggie dear, lead me out of this funny lane or else I'll
_never_ find my way back to mamma. Goodby, Miss Romley."

Behind Pola's back Mr. Dugald cast such a despairing, apologetic and
altogether furious look toward Sidney as to make Sidney suddenly laugh.
And with her laugh all her sense of dismay and humiliation vanished.
She forgot her red hands and the big gingham apron and the dishes
spread about her in her amusement over Pola's pathetic attempt to be
very grown-up and sophisticated. And _so_ ill-bred! How ashamed Mr.
Dugald had been of her!

Then a thought struck Sidney with such force that she sat down in the
nearest chair. Why, if Mr. Dugald was Pola's own cousin, belonged to
the grandeur that was Pola's, he would _never_ be attracted by poor,
plain Trude. Her beautiful hopes were shattered! She felt distinctly
aggrieved.

However, there was Vick. Sidney hated to give Mr. Dugald to Vick, who
always got everything, yet it seemed the only thing to do if any of the
sisters were to have him. Almost sadly she went to her room, opened her
satchel and took from it a small framed photograph of Victoria, a
photograph which, while it did not flatter Victoria, paid full justice
to her enticing beauty. Considering it, Sidney reflected on how lucky
it was that at the last moment she had put the pictures of her sisters
into her baggage. Then she carried it to the kitchen and stood it on
the narrow mantel next to the clock where Mr. Dugald's eyes must surely
find it. Unlike the snapshot of Trude the picture remained there
undisturbed.



                              CHAPTER XVII

                                PEACOCKS


Early the next day Pola appeared with Mr. Dugald in Sunset Lane in a
simple garb that must have satisfied even her exacting cousin. Her mood
was in accord with her attire as though she had left her sophistication
behind with her silks and her rouge. She declared she felt as "peppy as
they make them" and ready to do anything anyone suggested. And Mr.
Dugald, resigned to wasting two weeks to entertaining his young cousin,
of whom he was really very fond, promptly offered an astonishing
assortment of suggestions from which he commanded the girls to choose.

"Why, you wouldn't believe there were so many things to do!" cried Pola
with real enthusiasm. "Sidney, you'll have to decide." And Sidney at
once decided upon a tramp to Peaked Hill on the ocean side with an
early picnic supper.

In the days that followed, Sidney's first admiration for Pola returned.
Though Pola would never again be the idol she was much more enjoyable
as a chum. Her spirits, though an affectation, were infectious and gay;
in her pretty clothes and with her pretty face she made Sidney think of
a butterfly, a fragile, golden-winged, dainty flitting butterfly. She
professed to enjoy everything they did--even to the picnics. She
tramped endlessly in her unsuitable shoes without a murmur of fatigue
and Sidney suspected that she really _did_ care a great deal for her
cousin Dugald's approval.

With Mr. Dugald they motored to Highland Light and to Chatham. They
toured the shops at Hyannis. They sailed with Captain Hawkes on the
_Mabel T_. They rose very early one morning and went to the Coast Guard
Station to watch the drill and then ate ham and eggs with Commander
Nelson. More than once Sidney donned the cherry crêpe de chine and
dined with Mrs. Allan and Pola and Dugald at the hotel, feeling very
grand and traveled.

But to Sidney's deep regret Pola professed an abhorrence of swimming.

"Just please don't _ask_ me," she had begged, shuddering. "I loathe it!
It's one of my complexes. Of course I've gone swimming in almost every
body of water on the globe, but I hate it. You'll spoil my fun
_utterly_ if you even try to make me!" After that Sidney could not
urge. She did not know what complexes were, but Pola had made them
sound real and convincing and a little delicate. Though Sidney missed
the jolly swims with Lavender and Mart she refrained from even a hint
of her feelings.

Often when they were together Pola waxed confidential over her cousin.
"He's a thorn in Aunt Lucy's side," she explained one day as the girls
lounged in Pola's room at the hotel, a huge box of candy on a stool
between them. "She always wants him to go in for society and to go
abroad with her and do all the fashionable resorts on the Continent,
but couldn't you _see_ him? Not for Duggie boy, ever! When she starts
planning something like that he bolts off somewhere and the next thing
you hear is that he's painted a wonderful picture and sold it or had
first mention or a gold medal. Of course that makes him terribly
interesting and there are dozens of single ladies from forty to
fourteen itching to catch him. And Dug's such a simple old dear that he
doesn't know it. But his mother does and she has them all sorted over
and the eligible ones ticketed. You see Dug will be dreadfully rich
some day and goodness knows what he'll do with the money for he hasn't
the brains of a child where business is concerned. His father's even
richer than Dad."

Sidney literally blinked before the picture Pola drew--blinked and
blushed that she had dared angle for Mr. Dugald herself like the
forty-to-fourteen single ladies. Mr. Dugald belonged to a world that
was foreign to the Romley girls, Pola's dazzling, peacock-world.

Sidney felt immensely flattered that Pola had taken her in among her
peacocks. (Secretly, too, she considered that she carried herself well
among them. She was most careful of her dress, now!) She did not know
that Pola's sort instinctively seeks out someone to dazzle, that Pola's
generosity was a part of the dazzling process. She thought Pola
wonderful to accept so casually her gilded privileges. Why, if Pola
didn't like a dress or a hat or a pair of shoes she simply didn't wear
it; she could buy anything she wanted from any one of the priceless
bits of jewelry in the shops at Hyannis to the delectable sweets in the
tea-rooms on Commercial Street. She could do just as she pleased--even
more than Mart, for _she_ never had to darn or mend or wipe dishes or
dust or hang up her clothes or brush them. Realizing all this Sidney
came to forgive that first condescension that had stung; she thought
Pola little short of an angel to be so prettily friendly with them all.

So engrossed was Sidney in basking in Pola's favor that for a time she
felt no compunctions at deserting Mart and Lavender; in fact she did
not even think of them. Both Mart and Lavender had become suddenly very
busy with affairs that kept them out of sight. If, once in awhile,
Sidney wondered what they were doing something of Pola's or something
Pola said quickly crowded the thought from her head. But one afternoon
they encountered Mart as they strolled toward the Green Lantern to sit
under its gay awnings and drink tea. Sidney introduced Mart to Pola and
to cover Pola's rude stare she added quickly: "We're going down to the
Green Lantern, Mart. Won't you come with us?" conscious as she said it
that her voice sounded stilted.

"No, thanks. I'm going to do something lots more exciting than sitting
_there_! And I'm in a hurry, too." And with that Mart swung on past
them, her head high.

Sidney had a moment's longing to run after her and coax her to come,
but Pola's light giggle checked her. "Isn't she a riot? I'd have _died_
if she'd come with us!"

"Oh, Pola--she'll hear you!" pleaded Sidney.

She hated herself because she did not tell Pola at once how bravely
Mart shouldered her responsibilities, about gran'ma, who looked to Mart
for everything. Instead she simply walked along with Pola and let Pola
giggle. Pola, sensing Sidney's feelings, slipped her arm through hers
and gave it an affectionate little squeeze.

"You're such a funny child," she said softly. "You'd be nice to
anything. I can't, of course, for I go around to so many places and
mother's warned me often about strangers. Anyway, it's lots nicer for
just us two to be together, isn't it?"

But in spite of Pola's soft flattery and countless lumps of sugar the
tea tasted bitter to Sidney and the Green Lantern, with its futurist
awnings, its bizarre hangings and cushions, had no allure. The thought
came suddenly to Sidney that it had been a whole week since she had
even seen Mart; in that time she had scarcely exchanged more than a
half dozen words with Lavender.

To the tune of Pola's ceaseless chatter Sidney's thoughts kept darting
back to that uncomfortable fact. Pola always talked of things she had
done at home, abroad, at school, of her boy friends whom she called
"men." She liked to hint of countless "affairs" which simply must not
come to her mother's attention, assuring Sidney that she was absolutely
the only one to whom she confided these deep intrigues. She had worn
Guy Townsend's fraternity pin the whole winter before and not a soul
had known whose pin it was for Guy was tabooed by mothers in general
and Mrs. Allan in particular. Now Pola was simply crazy over a Jack
Sicard who was playing the lead in "Hearts Aquiver." But not even
Jack's manly beauty, as described by Pola, failed to draw from Sidney
more than a mild: "He must be cute." Pola gave way to vexation.

"You're scarcely listening to me, Sidney Romley, when I'm telling you
things I haven't told a _soul_! I believe you're still thinking of that
ridiculous girl we met."

"She isn't ridiculous!" Sidney was prompt enough now in Mart's defense.
"She looks funny, but you see I've gotten well acquainted with her and
she's awfully nice."

"Oh, _nice_, of course! But _anyone_ can be nice! You know perfectly
well, Sidney, that there's as much class in this country as there is in
Europe and being _nice_ does not break down social barriers."

Sidney had no answer ready for this. Curiously into her mind flashed
what Mr. Dugald had said about the solid aristocracy. But somehow she
knew Pola would not understand this. Pola went on:

"I'm a dreadful little snob, anyway. But I suppose that is the result
of my education. It would be funny to go to the most expensive schools
and have all the culture that Europe can offer and _not_ be a snob."

Still Sidney stared into her teacup. She thought Pola was all wrong,
but she did not know how to say it. Pola herself had told her that she
had gone to Grace Hall because it had no examinations and graduated a
girl anyway--so much for Pola's education. And culture--what benefited
all the culture of Europe if Pola found enjoyment only in the company
of youths her mother would not permit in the house?

Pola mistook Sidney's silence for hurt. "You goose, I'm not saying I
think I'm any better than _you_ are! But you must see that neither of
us are a bit like that native girl!" Which admission Pola considered
most generous.

"I wasn't thinking about whether you are any better than I am or not.
I've been brought up, you see," with a rueful laugh, "to believe that
my father being a poet set _me_ a little apart from everyone else. And
I've hated it. What I was thinking was that there really isn't any
class difference in people--except what we make ourselves, like the
League building a barrier around me and you thinking you're in another
class from Mart because you're rich. Maybe it isn't really the outside
things that count, maybe it's the big things we have got or haven't got
inside us--"

"Like what?" demanded Pola.

Sidney was thinking of Lav's self-effacing ambition to serve the world
from the seclusion of a laboratory, of Mart's cheerfulness in the face
of her lot and her loyal affection for her exacting and rheumatic
grandmother; of the courage of Mart's grandfather, Ambrose Calkins, who
had lost his own life in going back to his sinking schooner for the
cook who could not swim; of her own ancestor, Priscilla Ellis. _Those_
were the things which set people apart from their fellows, Sidney
thought, but the understanding was too new in her own heart for her to
find words in which she could tell Pola of it. "Like what?" Pola
demanded again and this time her voice was a little haughty.

"Oh, I don't know," Sidney laughed. "I'm all mixed up. I guess I was
trying to say something Mr. Dugald said once to me."

"Oh, _Dug_!" laughed Pola. "He's nutty about all that! Look at the way
he lives here on the Cape. But mother says he'll get over it when he
marries. Now I have no intention of getting serious this grand day so
let's have another piece of that chocolate fudge cake--it's on me, too,
remember!" Which was Pola's pretty way of pretending she did not know
that Sidney did not have any money with her. The dollar Sidney had
earned for posing had long since been spent.

Sidney was relieved that Pola had rescued her from the "deep water." At
the same time she suffered from the sense that she had not made Pola
see Mart in another light. She had failed in loyalty. The sparkling
blue of the bay that stretched before them only reminded her that this
was the hour she usually went swimming. Due to Pola's "complex" she had
not gone swimming for a whole week.

Even with her mouth full of the fudge cake, she vowed to herself that
the very next day she would hunt out her chums and her old pastimes.
Pola and Mr. Dugald must plan without her!

She had promised to dine again at the hotel with Pola and her mother
but as soon as she could after dinner she returned to Sunset Lane.
Because of her determination her heart was lighter. And her way was
made easier, too, for Mrs. Allan had told Pola at dinner that the
"Truxtons were at Chatham Bars." Pola had been as excited over the
Truxtons as her mother.

"Can we go and see them right away?"

"Not tonight. But I have arranged for a car and Shields will drive us
over tomorrow. We can stay there for a few days. I shall welcome the
change for this place has been very stupid for me, my dear."

"Poor mamma! I've been selfish. It'll be a lark seeing Cora Truxton
again!" Pola had explained to Sidney: "We met the Truxtons at Nice.
Cora and Millicent are both older, but they're the _cutest_ girls. Will
we go in the morning, mamma?"

Pola's manner had indicated that the coming of the Truxtons into their
plans raised a barrier that now excluded Sidney. Throughout the dinner
she had talked exclusively of the trip on the morrow and the renewing
of that acquaintance that had begun in Nice. But Sidney felt nothing
but a sense of escape.

She found Aunt Achsa alone in the cottage on Sunset Lane. She was
sitting on the doorstep, "coolin' off." Sidney sat down beside her.

"Where's Lavender?" she asked, wishing Lavender was at home that she
might begin her "making up" at once.

"Don't know. And I wish I did. Don't know what's gotten into that boy.
I'm as worried as can be."

"About Lav? Oh, what's the matter?" For Aunt Achsa was close to tears.
Something must have happened to break her habitual optimism.

"He's acted so queer like lately. Cal'late you'd of noticed it if you
hadn't been off so much with Mr. Dugald's folks. I thought it might a'
been his stomach and I put a powder into his coffee, but he ain't been
a mite different--"

"But what does he do, Aunt Achsa? He looks all right--"

Now Aunt Achsa hesitated. One tear separated itself from its fellows
and rolled down her withered cheek and dropped upon her withered hand.
She looked at it, startled, then lifted her hand and dashed it across
her eyes.

"I swum, I'm cryin'. Don't know as I know when I've cried before. And
cryin' before I have anything as I can see to cry for. But Sidney, I
set such a lot on that boy--it's like I was his mother and his father
and his brothers and his sisters all mixed up in one--gran'ma, too. He
was such a little mite when I took him, y'see and then he's not like
other boys and I've had to do a heap of lovin' to make up to him. I've
prayed every day of my life for the Lord to keep him happy in spite of
things and that was a pretty big prayer for I don't suppose the Lord
wants us all to be happy all the time, that ain't His way of bringing
us up. But I thought He might make an exception for Lav. Land sakes,
how I go on--and you nigh to cryin' yourself." For she had caught
Sidney blinking back something glistening from her own eyes.

"Aunt Achsa, Lavender is wonderful. He's talked to me a lot and he's
going to be a great man some day, I know. He has the grandest plans
shut away in his heart and he _is_ happy--"

Aunt Achsa looked at her, startled. "Plans--how _can_ he when he's--"
She bit off the words. Her lips trembled.

"Aunt Achsa, it doesn't matter what one's like on the outside!" Now
Sidney floundered for the second time in one day under the pressure of
her own thoughts. "I mean--Lav can do anything he wants to do, anyway.
And he's working hard reading and studying and some day, after awhile,
he'll go away somewhere and study more--"

"Sidney Romley, you're _crazy_!" cried Aunt Achsa, in a quavering
voice. "Go away! How _can_ he go away when we ain't even the money to
go 'sfar as Orleans. And he ain't plannin' to go on anyone's _charity_!"

"Oh, I don't mean he's going away _soon_! I shouldn't have told anyway
for Lav told me as a secret. But I thought maybe it would make you
happier knowing he had great ambitions. And he'll tell you sometime
himself."

When Aunt Achsa spoke it was in a thin, grieved voice.

"It's what I didn't want him to ever take into his head. Goin' off
somewhere--alone. For I'm too old to go with him and he'll need me!"

"Oh I wouldn't have told you if I'd thought it would make you unhappy.
He won't go for a long time, Aunt Achsa. And when he does he'll come
back real often."

Now Aunt Achsa sat so still that Sidney thought she had consoled her.
But Aunt Achsa was facing in her own way this at which Sidney had
hinted, drawing for it from that courage of hers that had not yet been
exhausted. Well, if it was best for Lavender some day to go away she'd
send him away with a smile even though the heart that had taken him, a
wee baby, from the dying mother did burst with loneliness. Besides,
even if Lavender went away she could go on praying to the Lord to keep
him "happy"--no distance could keep her from doing that!

"It's like as not his plans in his head that's makin' him act so quiet
like and short-spoken. And last night he didn't sleep in his bed at
all!"

"Why, Aunt Achsa, where _was_ he?" gasped Sidney, really startled.

"I don't know, dearie. He used to take to spells like that when he was
little. But lately he's got over them. I followed him once and I found
him out in the sand dunes lying flat on his face cryin' awful--out loud
and beatin' his arms. I let him be. I stole home and I never let on I
knew. When he came back all white lookin' I had a nice cake ready--roll
jell, his favorite."

"Do--do you think he was out in the sand dunes--last night?"

"I don't know. He come in about nine o'clock, awful quiet and I didn't
ask him anything, but I just set his breakfast before him as though the
morning wa'n't half over. And then he went off again and I ain't seen
him sense. I thought mebbe it was these folks of Mr. Dugald's--"

"What do you mean, Aunt Achsa?" But Sidney knew what she meant.

"Like as not Lav's plain jealous. Mr. Dugald hasn't had any time for
anything but toting this Pola round everywhere and Lav notices it. He
hasn't any right to be jealous as I can see for Miss Pola is Mr.
Dugald's own cousin, but Lav thinks the sun rises and sets in Mr.
Dugald. And like as not he misses you--"

"I've missed Lav dreadfully. I didn't know how much I missed him and
Mart until today when it came over me suddenly that the things I was
doing with Pola weren't really much fun--just at first they were
because they were different. I'm afraid, Aunt Achsa, that I love
different things! But tomorrow I am going to play all day long with Lav
and Mart, see if I don't. I can't wait for tomorrow to come!"



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                                "HOOK!"


Sidney found it a little difficult to take up the fun with her
erstwhile chums where she had left off. When she stopped at the
Calkins' house directly after breakfast, Mart coolly declined to go
anywhere with her, and smiled scornfully at her bare legs.

"I s'pose your million-dollar friend is otherwise engaged today!"

Sidney truthfully admitted that she was. "She's gone to Chatham with
her mother to see some people they know. And I'm glad. I've been just
dying for a good swim. Let's go out to the _Arabella_ this morning."

But Mart declared she was tired of all that. In fact she was tired of
doing lots of the silly things they'd been doing. She'd promised Gert
Bartow to go there right after lunch.

Sidney had no choice but to go on alone in search of Lav. She was
discouraged to the point of tears. Yet she knew in her heart that she
deserved Mart's coldness. She remembered how she had felt once when
Nancy had deserted her for a new girl at Miss Downs'. And it had
seriously threatened their friendship.

As she wandered slowly toward the town Sidney wondered what Mart and
Gert Bartow were going to do. Gert Bartow was a girl of nineteen at
least, and much more grown up than even that. Mart had pointed her out
to Sidney. Sidney wished Mart had asked her to go with her to Gert's.
She felt very lonely.

Perhaps she had spoiled everything. Pola would come back, of course,
but, somehow, Pola's glamour had faded. After all, what, besides tons
of candy and quarts of sweet mixtures and much glitter, had there been
to it? The sweets and the glitter and Pola's endless confidences of
"men" had left Sidney jaded and bored, though she did not know it; she
did know that she was suddenly lonely for Mart and Lav and the
stimulating pastimes they seemed to find always right at hand.

As she approached Rockman's, wandering there from force of habit, she
saw Lav pushing off in a dory. She ran down the wharf, hailing him.

"Oh, Lav, take me with you!" she pleaded, breathlessly.

He hesitated a moment before he swung the dory back to the wharf.
Something of the look Mart had given her flashed into his eyes.

Then: "Come on if y'want to," he answered ungraciously.

As she sat down in the bow of the boat Sidney wanted to cry more than
anything else, but Lav's dark face suddenly reminded her of what Aunt
Achsa had told her. Perhaps he had been out in the sand dunes last
night, lying on his face, sobbing aloud! She began chattering with
resolute cheerfulness.

"Isn't it hot this morning, Lav? Where are you going?" Lav answered
shortly that he was going out to the _Arabella_. Sidney noticed a book
in his pocket, but said nothing. She ventured other remarks concerning
the activities in the bay to which Lavender answered in monosyllables,
if at all.

"Oh, look, the _Puritan's_ in, Lav!" And even to this Lavender only
grunted: "It's been in two days!"

By the time they reached the _Arabella_ Sidney's remorse was yielding
to a spark of indignation. Lav needn't be _quite_ so mad for, after
all, it had been his own precious Mr. Dugald who had thrown her and
Pola so constantly together! And if Lav had not hidden himself away he
most certainly would have been included in all the plans. It was not
fair in Lav to act so cross.

"I know you came out to read, Lav, and I've some thinking to do, so I'm
going up in the bow and leave you quite to yourself," Sidney said as
they boarded the _Arabella_, and if in her tone there was something of
Mart's tartness, it may be forgiven for Sidney had been punished enough.

"I don't care if you hang 'round," Lav conceded. "It's too hot to read,
anyways. I thought maybe there'd be a breeze out here. What's that?"
For he had suddenly spied an object lying on the deck close to the rail
as though it had dropped there from someone's pocket.

At almost the same moment Sidney spied it, too. Both darted for it.
Lavender reached it first and picked it up and examined it with
frowning eyes.

"It's a knife!" cried Sidney, at his elbow.

"Sure it's a knife. Anybody can see that. What I want to know--"

"Let me look at it. Isn't it Mr. Dugald's?"

"No, it isn't Mr. Dugald's. He hasn't been out here for a week. And
that knife wasn't here yesterday for I'd a' seen it."

"Let me look at it, Lav," pleaded Sidney, for Lav, a curious expression
on his face, had covered the knife with his hand.

"It's funny, that's all I got to say. I mean--how it come here."

"Lavender Green, show me that knife this minute! You act so mysterious
and I have a right to know why."

Slowly Lavender placed the knife in Sidney's eager hands. It was an
ordinary case knife such as the fishermen carried, but Lavender pointed
to two initials that had been carved on the case.

"J.S."

"J.S." repeated Sidney; then she cried: "Why--J.S.! That's Jed Starrow!"

"Sure it's Jed Starrow!"

"But how did it get on the _Arabella_?"

"That's what I'd like to know."

"He's _been_ on the _Arabella_, Lav!"

"Or someone of his gang."

"Isn't that _funny_? What would he come here for?"

Lavender was silent. And Sidney, staring at him as though to read from
his face some explanation, suddenly fell silent, too. The secret that
Cap'n Davies had laid upon her weighed heavily. She _wished_ she could
tell.

"Sid, I haven't played square," Lavender suddenly blurted out,
flushing. "We promised to tell one another if any one of us found out
anything and _I did_--and I didn't tell!"

Lavender's admission faded beside the fact that he knew something.

"Oh, what?" Sidney cried.

"I wasn't going to tell you. I thought you didn't care anything about
the pirates any more. And the laugh's sort o' on me, anyway, because I
thought we were all crazy to suspect Jed Starrow."

"Tell me quick, Lav," commanded Sidney, quivering with excitement.

Lav leaned against the rail. To tell his story meant confessing his
state of mind.

"I guess I've been sore because you and Mr. Dugald fooled 'round with
those new folks. Jealous. I get that way lots of times--all hot inside
because I'm different. And I go off somewhere alone and stay there
until I fight it down."

"I know, Lav. Aunt Achsa told me. Did you go to the dunes?"

"One night I did. Stayed there all night. But one evening I went out on
the breakwall. There's a place out there where the rocks are piled so's
to make a cave. I used to play there a lot when I was a little kid. I
crawled into it. And I hadn't been there very long when I heard
somebody talking--two men. They were up close so's I heard everything
they said."

"And what did they say, Lav? Oh, tell me quick!"

"I could only get scraps of it. I didn't dare look, I didn't dare move.
But one fellow called the other Jed. I heard 'em say something about
'risk' and a 'stranger from Boston asking too many questions 'round
Rockman's to be healthy,' and Jed Starrow--I'm dead sure it was his
voice--said, sort of blustering like, 'Let them search the _Puritan_!
They won't find anything on her _now_!' And the other fellow answered
him: 'There's too much in this, Jed, to take any chances.' That's what
they said, Sid, and then they went on."

"Oh, Lav, they're pirates!"

"Well, not exactly pirates, but they're up to _something_ that's sure.
Maybe they're rum-runners. There's a lot of that going on. I thought
you were crazy, but I guess you weren't."

Sidney's lips trembled with eagerness. As long as Lavender knew what he
knew she felt that she would be justified in telling him what Cap'n
Davies had told her.

"It isn't rum--Lav," she whispered, "It's _diamonds_!"

"Diamonds! Oh, go on, where did you get that stuff?"

"It's diamonds, Lav." Then Sidney solemnly repeated what the old
Captain had told her concerning the letter and the reward. "He asked me
not to tell a soul, but you're different because you know. And he said
that the reward would be posted everywhere in two weeks at least and
it's that long now. Everyone will know soon."

"Sid, five thousand dollars!" Lavender whistled.

"If someone 'round here's doing it Cap'n Davies wants to catch him
himself. He says he doesn't want the reward but he wants to punish the
man who's hurting the honest name of this part of Cape Cod. I think
that's a grand spirit."

Lavender's shoulders lifted. Why couldn't someone else save the fair
name of Cape Cod--someone like a crippled boy whom most of the
towns-people looked upon as a loafer?

"I'd like to catch 'em, myself," he said slowly in such a low voice
that Sidney barely caught the words.

"Oh, Lav, why not? We have as good a chance as anyone, knowing as much
as we do. What'll we do first?" For Sidney was ready for adventure.

Suddenly Lavender realized that he was gripping the knife in his hand.
He looked down at it.

"What we ought to do first is to find out how this knife got here.
Let's put it where we found it and go back around the other side of
that schooner so's no one on the _Puritan_'ll see us. Then we can come
out late this afternoon and if it's gone--well, we'll know someone came
to look for it!"

"And then we'd know for sure that someone had been on the _Arabella_."

"That's the idea. You get on quickly for a girl, Sid. Come on, now,
we'll pull the dory round to the starboard side."

Sidney caught herself tiptoeing across the deck of the_ Arabella_. In
her excitement she scarcely breathed. Every move, every act, was
fraught with significance. Lavender took the precaution to beach the
dory at an abandoned wharf near Sunset Lane.

"Just as well not to show ourselves 'round Rockman's."

"When can we go out to the _Arabella_?"

"Not 'till four o'clock. We can go out to swim just like we always do.
Even if they see us they won't think it's funny for us to do that.
They'd think it funnier if we didn't."

Sidney admitted the truth of this, but wondered how she could live
until four o'clock!

As they walked up Sunset Lane Sidney reminded Lavender that, because of
their promise, they ought to tell Mart. But when they stopped at the
Calkins' house they found that Mart had already gone to Gert Bartow's.

"Oh, dear," sighed Sidney, with an added pang of remorse.

At four o'clock Sidney and Lavender went out to the _Arabella_ to swim
as they had done always before Pola's coming. Except for a brightness
in Sidney's eyes, an alertness about her whole body, and the occasional
significant glances that passed between them they both appeared quite
normal. Lav talked casually of the heat of the day.

"Gee, the water'll feel great. This is the hottest day we've had yet."

"I can't wait to get in." Most certainly Jed Starrow, had he been
listening, could not have guessed how closely Nemesis pressed upon his
heels!

Lavender pulled up alongside of the _Arabella_ and deliberately made
the boat fast.

"We got to act as though we haven't found the knife, y'see," he warned.
"As though we were going just swimming."

In her eagerness to board the _Arabella_ Sidney stumbled. Lavender had
to clutch her to keep her from tumbling into the water.

"Oh!" They both cried in one sound as they clambered to the deck--for
the knife was gone!

"Well, _that_ means they'd been on the _Arabella_. Jed Starrow dropped
that knife and he missed it and came back to look for it!"

"Lav, I believe they've hidden their treasure on the _Arabella_!"
Sidney still reverted to the more romantic terms of buccaneering.
"Let's look for it now!"

"With 'em watching maybe from the _Puritan_? I guess not. We got to go
ahead and swim the way we always do, Sid. Don't let's even appear to be
talking about anything. Come on, I'll beat you in!"

For the space of the few minutes while the water closed about her with
delicious coolness Sidney forgot everything in an intoxication of
delight. Presently she came back to the _Arabella_ and climbed aboard
with a sigh of utter content. "Thank goodness _I_ haven't any
complexes," she laughed, shaking the salt drops from her bobbed head.
"And now what?"

Lavender pulled on the light sweater he had worn over his bathing suit.

"When it gets dark I'm coming out to the _Arabella_ and stay all night.
Maybe they'll come back and I'll find out why. That fellow said
something 'bout Rockman's not being safe. They'll learn the _Arabella_
isn't safe either!"

"But Lav, I'm coming with you!"

"You can't. And this isn't any work for a girl to get mixed up in."

Sidney drew herself to her full height.

"Lavender Green, if you think you're going to lose me _now_ you're
mistaken. I guess we went into this in a sort of partnership and it's
going to hold. I found out just as much as you did! And if you come out
to the _Arabella_, _I'm_ coming, and Mart, too, if she's home."

Lav still hesitated.

"Aunt Achsa won't let you. How'd you get away?"

This staggered Sidney for a moment, then she thought of a "way." This
was Wednesday night and Miss Letty had said that on Wednesday night she
was going to drive to Truro and that Sidney might go with her. From
Truro Miss Letty was going on to Wellfleet. Aunt Achsa would think
Sidney wanted to see Cap'n Davies again. She explained all this
breathlessly to Lavender. "This is important enough to warrant a fib.
And when it's all over Aunt Achsa will understand. Let's go home now
and find Mart."

Unwillingly Lavender conceded Sidney's right to share with him his
night's vigil at any cost. Again they beached the dory near Sunset Lane.

Now they found Mart at home. Sidney put her head in the door, made
certain that gran'ma was not in hearing, and cried "Hook!"

Mart had only to look once at Sidney's face to know that something had
happened. Sidney dragged her out to the Lane and there she and
Lavender, in words as quick as pistol shots, told the story.

"Meet us down on the beach near Milligan's at eight o'clock," Lav
whispered, as they parted.



                              CHAPTER XIX

                               THE GLEAM


Exactly at the appointed hour Sidney met Lavender on the beach. She was
breathless and a little worried for it had been neither easy nor to her
liking to deceive Aunt Achsa. Aunt Achsa had declared that a storm was
"comin'" for she could smell it in the air and Tillie Higgins had seen
Sam Doolittle start for the backside with his pike pole and that meant
a blow for Sam didn't waste steps. "'Tisn't likely Letty Vine'll _go_
to Truro tonight."

"But I'll _see_ if she's going, anyway," Sidney had cried and had raced
off, a sweater over her arm.

"I wish I could tell her how very important it is and then she'd
understand, but I can't for maybe she wouldn't understand," Sidney
thought as she hurried to the rendezvous.

"Gee, how'd you ever get away?" asked Lav, admiringly, but Sidney had
no opportunity to explain for at that moment Mart joined them, eager
and excited.

"I put some cookies in my pocket," she exclaimed. "You can't tell
what'll happen."

"Good. And I've got matches."

Sidney wished she had thought of something to bring. Lav went on:

"It isn't dark enough to go out yet. We got to be awful careful. You
girls sort o' walk up the beach as though we weren't all together."

Lavender was actually pale and his eyes burned fiercely. Sidney looked
at him admiringly. She knew he was not thinking of the reward but of
the fair name of the Cape.

Obediently the girls strolled up the beach. And, as they turned, a
voice hailed them. To their consternation Pola came flying toward them.

At sight of her Sidney bit her lips with vexation. She gave a sidewise
glance at Mart and saw Mart's chin set stubbornly.

"Sidney--wait a minute!" Pola called and Sidney could do nothing but
wait until Pola came up to them.

"I thought you were going to stay in Chatham tonight."

"I should say _not_!" Pola had enough breath to make her answer
expressive. "I was never so bored in my life. Those Truxton girls are
_stupid_. And I kept wondering what you were doing. I coaxed mother to
let Shields bring me back and she said she would provided I came and
stayed with you tonight. Can you squeeze me in? Dug will give me his
room, I know."

Sidney cast a wild glance toward Mart. She started to answer, then
stopped. Pola looked from her to Mart and back again to Sidney.

"What's the mystery? If you don't want me I'll go to the hotel."

"Oh, Pola, it isn't that. It's--it's--"

"Sidney Romley I'll bet you're up to something! And if you are, you
simply have got to let me in on it! I'm just pepped up to some
excitement. Tell me what's up."

The girls turned slowly and walked toward Lav and the dory, Pola
between them.

"It isn't any fun," Sidney explained slowly. "It's something
serious--and--and dangerous. And you'll have to ask Mart and Lav if you
can come with us."

"You'll let me go, won't you, Mart?" Pola begged with friendly
entreaty, forgetting she had ever thought Mart a riot.

Sidney introduced Pola to Lavender and turned away that she might not
see the pain that flashed across Lavender's face.

"Pola came back to stay all night with me. She wants to go with us and
if she doesn't I guess I'll have to go back home."

"I'll do anything you say," promised Pola. "I'm so curious that I'm
fairly bursting."

"I don't care, but you'll have to take off your shoes and stockings,"
muttered Lav, scarcely looking at Pola.

"Oh, I'll do that! I'll do _anything_!" Pola flopped upon the beach and
commenced removing her sport shoes. "And I won't even ask any questions
until you're ready to tell me." Rising, her small feet pink against the
sand, she saluted Lav with mock solemnity.

"There, Captain Lavender Green, I'm at your command."

Her pretty acquiescence won the girls at once. If any doubt assailed
them as to the prudence of letting Pola go, their admiration for Pola's
gameness stilled it. Sidney rolled Pola's shoes and stockings and her
own in her sweater and hid them behind some logs. Then the little party
waded out to the dory and embarked.

"We're going to the _Arabella_," Sidney whispered to Pola. She felt
Pola shiver, but the girl made no protest. "We have to go 'round this
way so's no one can see us from the harbor. Sh--h!"

Silently they boarded the old hull, Lavender last. With the line from
the dory in his hand the boy considered.

"If anyone comes up and sees the dory they'll know someone's aboard."

"That's true. What'll we do?" whispered Sidney, anxiously.

"We can set her adrift. It's an old tub anyway."

"But how'll we get ashore?"

"The tide'll be out towards morning."

"You mean _swim_?" cried Pola. "But I _can't_ swim! I--I--"

True, Pola's complex! Sidney hastened to reassure her.

"When the tide's out it won't be over your head. And I'll help you."

Lavender had already let the line of the dory slip out of his hand.
They saw the old boat become a shadowy outline as the tide carried it
slowly away, then--nothing. Pola caught Sidney's hand and held it.

"I'm not frightened--but it's so--_spooky_!"

It had been decided that they should conceal themselves in the
fo'castle cabin. They groped their way forward, Sidney guiding Pola in
the dark, for Lavender dared not light any of his matches. Stumbling,
scarcely breathing, they slipped down the companion ladder and crawled
into the small, ill-ventilated cabin. Sidney sat down upon some
tarpaulins. Pola crouched close to Sidney's side. Lav and Mart stowed
themselves upon one of the bunks.

"There--now we'll wait!"

"I--I wish I knew what _for_!" whispered Pola. The smell of rank bilge
water, the lift and drop of the boat sickened her. The wind was whining
and that and the swish of the water against the sides of the boat
terrified the girl.

In a few short words Lav vouchsafed Pola a little information. Like
Sidney he admired the girl's gameness though he was beginning to wish
they had not let her come.

"How long do you think we'll have to wait? And what if no one comes?"

"We'll have to wait until most morning anyway before the tide is out.
And if no one comes tonight we'll have to come out again, that's all.
We're not in this business for any fun!"

"Oh--h!" sighed Pola, clinging closer to Sidney.

The wind howled over their heads with increasing velocity and Sidney
thought involuntarily of the snugness of Miss Letty's buggy. Miss Letty
was probably almost to Truro now. And Aunt Achsa thought she was with
her!

"Is--is the boat tied tight?" asked Pola; and Lav assured her that it
was. "The wind could get a lot worse and you'd be as safe out here as
in your bed at home."

After a long while Mart muttered, "What's that?" The others leaned
forward in the blackness of the cabin. They had all felt rather than
heard a soft thud as though something had touched the side of the boat.
And in a few moments heavy footsteps came straight toward the fo'castle.

"Oh, will they come _here_?" breathed Pola, shaking. And for answer
Sidney caught Pola's arm with a warning clutch.

For an instant it seemed that the footsteps must descend to the cabin.
But at the companionway they halted. A voice came, heavy and thick.

"I tell you it ain't safe to take it off now. They got a man on
Rockman's and another on Teal's and no knowin' how many in the bay!
Every constable on the Cape's here, damn them! And old Davies's been
'round all day and he ain't rigged up for any picnic!"

"If we don't take it off tonight Lav Green may find it--or that girl--"

At that someone laughed, horribly. "Huh--_him_! Why we could twist
every crooked bone in his body until he wouldn't know 'em. Him--ha,
that's a joke! Why, a look 'ud scare him to a pulp. The girl, too."

Sidney, reaching her hand out instinctively, caught Lavender's and held
it tight. She felt the writhing of his body.

A new voice broke in above them. "I got a better scheme. Listen.
We'll--" But the voices suddenly died to silence; the footsteps moved
away.

The four, huddled in the darkness of the cabin, drew long trembling
breaths.

"Lav, those diamonds are on this boat!"

"Sh--h. I know it. But we got to be careful. They haven't gone yet. We
got to wait. And we'll wait until we find 'em. Damn them _I'll_ show
them who's crooked!"

"Hush," implored Sidney. "Of course you will"

"Isn't it most morning? I--I wish I was home," quavered Pola; but no
one paid any heed to her.

With the howling of the wind, the slap-slap of the water, it was
difficult to make out whether the men had left the boat or not. Once
Lav crawled to the top of the companion ladder but a muttering like a
human voice drove him back. Queer sounds struck upon their sensitized
ears. And the boat seemed to lift to a new motion.

They waited for an interminable time. Then Mart spoke quickly.

"Lav, we're moving!"

Lav needed no warning. He, too, had missed the pull of the boat on the
anchor rope. He shot up the ladder.

"Oh, what's the matter?" cried Sidney and Pola, forgetting all caution.

Mart had no time to explain her fears. In an instant Lav was back,
fairly throwing himself into the cabin.

"We're drifting! They cut the anchor rope! We're drifting out! Fast!
Way out! To sea!"

That had been the "better scheme." To cut the _Arabella_ free from its
mooring and let the wind and tide carry it out into the bay. At first
Starrow had not favored the plan; he had declared that it was too much
risk, that the wind was shifting and freshening fast and that the old
tub might open a seam, but Joe Josephs had convinced him with: "the
_Arabella_ would be good for a week out in a nastier sea than this.
It's safer than riskin' runnin' afoul one of Phin Davies' men ashore.
Guthrie's _Sally_'ll stand this squall and pick up the _Arabella_ easy
and we can reckon sure on the course the old tub'll take, even 'lowin'
for the wind to shift."

As she comprehended what had happened Pola screamed. Mart and Sidney
dragged her with them up the ladder. Lav was at the side of the boat
tearing off his blouse.

"Oh, Lav, what'll we do! What are you going to do now?" cried Sidney.

"It's so black," wailed Pola. "I'm--sick!"

"I'm going to swim ashore. It's the only way. I don't know how long
this old tub'll stand a sea and the wind's rising. We got to get help."

"You shan't swim alone, Lavender Green. We'll _all_ swim. That's
nothing of a swim--"

"You can't! You forget--Pola."

Sidney wheeled in consternation. "Pola's complex!" The girl was
crouched, now, on the deck, an abject, wailing figure.

"You go with Lav, Mart," said Sidney in a quiet voice. "I'll stay with
Pola."

"What do you think I am? I guess I'll stay with her too!"

"But your grandmother--"

"Oh, gran'ma!" Mart's voice choked. "But she'd be the one to _tell_ me
to stay--"

"It's no use our all trying it," muttered Lav. "I'll get there or I
won't get anywhere."

"Maybe it's too far for you to swim!" Sidney was at Lavender's side,
her hands on his arm. The boy's form in its light underwear showed
pitifully crooked but Sidney saw him straight and she saw the gleam in
his eyes. Suddenly she remembered what Vick had said so lightly about
the Grail. Ah, she was seeing its gleam now, transcendently beautiful,
in Lav's eyes! She dropped her hold of his arm.

"You see, I've _got_ to try it, Sid." And she understood. He went on:
"I'll swim for the lighthouse. They can telephone from there to
Rockman's. You girls find a light and signal with it. Don't lose your
nerve, Sid." He poised for an instant on the rail then plunged into the
black water.

"Oh, _Lav_," cried Sidney. She leaned far over the side of the boat.
She could see nothing but a crest of foam. "Mart, he's--he's--drowned!"

Pola screamed again.



                               CHAPTER XX

                       "THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG!"


In the sunny embrasure of Mrs. White's morning room Trude Romley sorted
over the mail that Pepper, the butler, had brought in. So gay and
colorful was the room itself with its cretonnes, its soft tinted walls,
its singing birds, in wicker cages, that it seemed a part of the
fragrant garden that crowded close to the French windows. A tiny
fountain splashed azure blue water over delicately sculptured nymphs; a
flowering vine trailed around the windows.

The mail arranged, Trude sat back in the cushions of a great wicker
chair and with a long breath of delight enjoyed the beauty around her.
Each day Edgeacres enraptured her anew and roused in her a wonder as to
why it should be her lot to be there. "It ought to be Vick or Issy,"
she would apologize to the nodding flowers or to Mitie, the yellow
warbler.

And as might be expected Trude had found innumerable ways of making
herself useful to Mrs. White as an expression of her gratitude. There
were telephone calls she could answer, letters she could write,
shopping she could do, ordering, she even conferred with old Pepper and
Jonathan, the gardener. She drove with Mrs. White in the afternoon and
served tea to the callers who flocked to the house from the nearby
summer hotels.

"I do not know how I ever got along without you, my dear," Mrs. White
had said more than once. "What do you do to make yourself so
invaluable? It seems as though just to look at you one leans on you!
Even Pepper is saying 'Miss Trude thinks this and Miss Trude thinks
that--'"

Her benevolent interest in her husband's wards, a certain pride in
saying to her friends: "My husband, you know, is looking after the
daughters of Joseph Romley, who was a college friend of his," had grown
into a real fondness for Trude. "I have never appreciated the dear girl
when she's been with us before," she declared to her husband. "I
suppose it was because we were in town, then, and I was too busy to get
acquainted with her. Why, she's really pretty. And she makes such a
slave of herself to her sisters! She hasn't any life of her own. I
don't believe they appreciate it, either. It's a shame she doesn't
marry some nice young man--" Mrs. White's kind always found virtue's
reward in the proverbial "nice young man."

Mr. White agreed with her on every point but this. "If she deserted
that household it would fall! She's the only one that isn't like her
father."

"Then she must find someone who'll take the family with her," Mrs.
White asserted determinedly. But having no godmother's fairy wand she
had not been able, during the summer weeks, to bring the prince to
Edgeacres; her husband's acquaintances were too bald and round to play
the part of princes.

Trude had not minded the dearth of young men. Since her unhappy
experience on a former visit she was glad of that dearth. The serenity
of the summer, the relaxation and rest from responsibilities had
brought a lovely freshness to her face, a brightness to her eyes that
was not all a reflection of the brightness about her. The sheer luxury
of loafing, of not having to think out petty problems or worry one
single minute was all her old-young heart now asked. Once in awhile, of
course, she fretted because Isolde was not enjoying Edgeacres with her,
or getting to know how really nice Aunt Edith White was. Where Vick and
Sidney were concerned she had no remorse for Vick was seeing new lands,
doubtless conquering them, and Sidney was happy at Cape Cod; but she
could not help thinking that Issy must be working too hard at the
Deerings--getting up early in the morning and typing all through the
hot day and doubtless fussing over the housework and the small babies
as well.

Trude thought of the mail. Again there had been no letter from either
Issy or Sidney! Sidney really _ought_ to write. Perhaps it _had_ not
been wise to let her go off alone with relatives of whom they knew
nothing!

Suddenly a postmark on one of the letters on the little table at her
elbow caught her eye. Provincetown. Trude caught it up apprehensively.
That letter might be from their Cousin Achsa! She turned it over and
over, wishing she might open it.

"Good morning, my dear! I get up with the birds myself and find that
you're up before me!"

Trude laughed, to cover her anxiety. "I told Jonathan I'd inspect his
new beds this morning."

"There, didn't I say you were supplanting me in Jonathan's esteem? But
he only wants you to admire them and smile at him. He knows you know
nothing about gardens, even though you are a very wise young woman! Ah,
the mail--is there anything there worth looking at before breakfast?"

"Two cards, three advertising envelopes and--and two personal letters."
Trude held out the two letters, her heart beating in her throat.

Mrs. White glanced at them indifferently. She turned one as though to
tear open the envelope, then stopped to play with Mitie. Next she gave
her attention to Pepper who appeared in the door to summon her to
breakfast. And all the time Trude's eyes were beseeching her to open
them--to open _one_ of them quickly.

Trude followed her into the breakfast room and sat down across from
her. After she had eaten her fruit Mrs. White took up the envelope that
was postmarked Provincetown and studied it while Trude waited.

"Why, that's from Laura Craig--a cousin of mine. I remember now she
said she was going to study in a summer school on Cape Cod. I hope the
girl's getting on. She's dependent upon her own labor." As she spoke
she spread out the sheet. A sketch dropped to the table.

Trude drew a long breath. She had not known how worried she was. She
wanted to laugh aloud now from sheer relief. Because she had to do
something she took up the sketch with a murmured: "May I?"

"Laura writes it's a little sketch she made in class. 'This will show
you I am improving. It's from life. It will give you an idea of the
delightful types we find around here, types that you will not find
anywhere else. These are two little vagabonds whom you see almost
anytime on the beach or around the wharves--as wild and free and
beautiful as the seagulls--'"

Mrs. White looked up from the letter to take the sketch and exclaimed
aloud at Trude's face. It had gone deathly white.

"My _dear_, what is it?"

For a moment Trude could not answer. She was staring at the sketch as
though she could not take her eyes from it.

"Read that again! These are types--you find these girls any time on the
wharves--wild--vagabonds! Oh, Aunt Edith that's--_that's_--_Sidney_!"

"Why, it _can't_ be, Trude. You said--"

Trude shook her head. "I can't help what I said. It's Sidney. I--know.
The likeness is true--there can't be anyone else who looks like Sidney!
But she's barefooted--and--and so--_slovenly_--and--_her hair_! She's
cut her beautiful hair!"

Mrs. White took the sketch forcibly from Trude. She frowned over it.
One of the girls certainly did look like Sidney as she remembered the
child from their one meeting.

"How do you explain it, Trude?"

Trude sighed heavily. "I can't explain it. There's something wrong
somewhere. And it's my fault, Aunt Edith. I--I consented--we all
consented to let Sidney go off down there just so that we could go
ahead with our own plans. But we thought--we felt _certain_ that these
cousins were very nice--I--I mean had a lovely home and were rich so
that Sidney might get something out of her visit that she couldn't get
at home. It sounds shameful to _say_ it."

"I understand, my dear. But what made you think so?"

"The--the letter this Cousin Achsa wrote. It _was_ a very nice letter!"

"Well, _I_ have always thought you could judge anyone's character and
background by a letter. There must be something wrong. This girl--"
pointing to the sketch, "is positively shocking! At least she would be
around here."

"I remember now something Sidney said--when she was begging us to let
her go away. 'I want to be different! I want to go somewhere where I
won't be Joseph Romley's daughter. I want adventure and to do exciting
things--' Those were her very words! I didn't take them seriously then,
but, oh, Aunt Edith, perhaps she meant them more than we guessed!" Poor
Trude rose quickly to her feet. "Aunt Edith, I simply _must_ go to
Provincetown at once. May I ask Pepper to find out about trains?
You'll--you'll understand, won't you? I can't be happy one minute until
I see the child. I feel that it's all my fault."

Mrs. White was all concern. She summoned Pepper and instructed him to
find out the first train; she sent her maid to Trude's room to pack her
clothes. And last she wrote a generous check.

"You may need it, my dear. It is nothing. Don't thank me. I wish I
could do more. Somehow your shoulders seem too young to carry so much
responsibility!"

So on the selfsame day that Sidney and the others set out upon their
adventure Trude was journeying to Cape Cod. She missed connections at
Boston and hired an automobile to take her to Provincetown, in her
heart thanking Mrs. White for the check that made this possible. Two
blow-outs delayed her journey so that it was midnight when she reached
her destination. She could scarcely hunt out the Greens and Sidney at
that hour. She took a room at the hotel for the night and sat for a
while at its window straining her eyes out into the darkness. The
howling of the wind intensified her apprehension; somewhere out in that
strange blackness that enwrapped her was her little sister. Perhaps
Sidney needed her that very moment!

Finally she crept into bed and fell into a troubled sleep. She did not
hear the running steps that passed under her window or the muffled
voices of excited men.



                              CHAPTER XXI

                         "WHAT THE NIGHT HELD"


"Oh--h, take me back to the cabin!" moaned Pola.

"I guess we might as well," muttered Mart. Their matches had been long
since exhausted; they had been of little avail for the one ship's light
on the boat was without oil.

One on each side of her, Mart and Sidney helped Pola down into the
cabin. The boat was rolling heavily now in the rough sea, each lift and
drop sending terror to the three young hearts. In the blackness of the
night the waves looked mountain high. Even Mart was glad to shut them
from view.

"If--if we're going to drown I'd rather drown in--a--room," gasped
Pola, clinging to Sidney and burying her face in Sidney's shoulder.

It seemed to the girls as though months had passed since Lav had
plunged to what they felt certain was his death. The _Arabella_ had
tossed about on the roughening water like some wild thing, her old
timbers creaking and groaning under their new living. Just at first
Sidney and Mart had been too concerned in quieting the panic-stricken
Pola to face their danger; not until Pola had exhausted herself did
they think of their possible fate.

Unless Lav succeeded in reaching the beach and giving an alarm, they
might toss about for days or be dashed to pieces on some reef. Or,
worse fate, Jed Starrow and his gang might find the boat and--

"Wh-at are you thinking about, Mart?" whispered Sidney after a long
time of silence, broken only by the howling of the wind and the
pounding of the water. "Let's talk--and then we can't hear--"

"Don't be afraid, Sidney," Mart spoke calmly. "You sort o' belong to
the Cape and we Cape folks don't think anything of drowning. We sort of
expect to, sometime--" But here her voice broke with a tremble. "I--I
was thinking of gran'ma. I wish I'd been better to her. I talk back to
her lots of times when I shouldn't."

"But you _are_ good to her, Mart. And--_I_ was thinking of Aunt Achsa.
I shouldn't have deceived her--about coming out here. I fooled myself
into thinking that even a lie didn't matter considering what we were
trying to do. But the honor of Cape Cod isn't worth anything happening
to Lav. And if anything does happen there won't be anyone to tell about
Jed Starrow, anyway! Oh, Mart, I can't bear to _think_ about Lav. Why
did we let him do it? Dear old Lav. I've been mean to him, too. He
adores poetry and I--I never even told him that my father was a poet
and that I know lots and lots of poems and--and--that I've written most
a book myself."

"Honest, Sid, was your father a poet? And you can write it yourself?
Gee," softly. "I wish I could do something like that. I'd rather be
like that than anything else. I just pretend that I hate school and
books and such things--it's because I had to stop going to school to
stay with gran'ma that I've put on that I didn't have any use for it.
Even when I was sort of laughing at you, Sid, down in my heart I was
feeling aw'fly proud that you'd want to fool 'round with anyone like
me--I'll _always_ be proud."

"Oh, Mart--" Sidney faltered. "I wish I could put into words what Mr.
Dugald taught me when I first came here. That it's the big inside
things that really count. He told me so's I'd see Aunt Achsa and Lav as
they really are. And, Mart, your giving up school to take care of your
grandmother is a big thing, a real thing! You don't want to forget it."

"Oh, I'm--I'm--sick!" broke in Pola.

"Sit up straight and talk and you won't think about it," commanded
Mart, so sternly that Pola straightened, her white face wan in the
darkness.

"I don't see how you _can_ talk when you're--may be--going--to die!"

"Well, talking helps you more than crying."

"But I--I don't _want_ to--die."

"Who does?" retorted Mart roughly. Nevertheless, touched by Pola's
helplessness, she found Pola's hand and held it close in hers. "But
let's face whatever happens with our heads up!"

"To the wind," breathed Sidney, shivering.

"I--I just can't be brave like you two. I--I'm an awful coward. I can't
help it. I've always been afraid to even try to swim. I'm afraid of
lots of things. Oh, I'm afraid to--to--"

Sidney caught Pola's other hand.

"Don't say it, Pola. Maybe someone will find us. And probably you can't
help feeling afraid."

Mart suddenly remembered the cookies she had brought. She found them
where she had hidden them at the back of one of the bunks.

"Here, eat a cookie and you'll forget things. I'm hungry, aren't you,
too?"

Pola ate with nervous greed. Sidney bit off a piece but found it dry in
her mouth. She was thinking of her sisters and the safety of the dear
old house; as vividly as though it hung in a picture before her eyes
she saw the little circle around the dining room table, the embroidered
square of Indian cloth, the green shaded lamp, Issy's books and Trude's
sewing, Vick's sketching things, the girls at their beloved tasks--and
her chair empty! Oh, what if she never sat again in that dear circle?
Her heart broke in an agony of longing for Trude.

A sudden thought roused Pola to a feeble show of spirit.

"If I had known how to swim we'd all be ashore now! And you two stayed
with me! I--I don't believe I'm worth that, girls." She spoke with
gloomy conviction.

But Mart answered with a promptness that settled that question forever.
"Forget it. Why, you don't think we could a' done anything else, do
you? And now I'm going up on deck and get some air. We must be most to
Halifax by this time."

"_Halifax!_" But this time Pola did not scream.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Lavender, after his first plunge, had struck out toward the lighthouse.
His Mr. Dugald had taught him the science of swimming and because it
was the one thing he could do easily and well, in spite of his
misshaped body, Lavender had taken pride in perfecting the practice.
His assurance helped him now; he had no fear, he knew how to save his
strength; he swam first with one stroke, then with another, always
keeping in sight the beacon of light.

But after a little it came to him that the yellow gleam did not seem
any closer; in fact, it grew fainter; he knew then, with a moment's
panic, that the tide and wind were too strong for him. He cursed his
frail strength, with a smarting in his eyes that did not come from the
salt water.

There was only one thing he could do. Turn his back on the friendly
light and strike out in the direction of the beach. It would be
further, but the cross currents of the tide would not impede his
progress so much.

For a long time he fought ahead stubbornly, changing his strokes, even
swimming on his back. But his breath came with increasing difficulty, a
sharp pain stabbed at his side. He labored on. The pain grew sharper
and caught at him like a horrible vise. Once he yielded to it and sank
down, down into the black water. But it passed and, as he rose, he
struck out again, blindly, now, for he had lost all sense of direction.

"Oh, God! Oh, God!" he shouted in his heart. His Aunt Achsa's God,
whose All-embracing Love he had questioned because that God had made
him crooked, must help him now! "I _got_ to get help!" God _must_ hear
him.

A great exhaustion seized him. He sank again with a quivering breath.
But now his feet touched sand. With new strength he plunged ahead.
Again he was in deep water but he swam with eager strokes. The dreadful
pain stabbed but he did not heed. Now he saw moving lights. He was near
the beach! With a heartbreaking effort he fought the strength of the
water, finally gaining the shallow depths. He heard voices nearby in
the darkness.

Knee-deep in the water he tried to shout but he had no strength. A
terrible faintness was creeping over him. His arms outstretched, he
stumbled forward toward the voices. Oh, he must _not_ yield to that
overpowering sleepiness until he had made them know!

"Help--help!" he gasped, reeling toward the shadowy forms.

"What the blazes--" A man ran forward. Two others came at his heels.

"Why, _it's Lav Green_!" one of them cried.

"The _Arabella_--adrift out there--Sidney's on it--oh--_help_! And then
Lavender slipped into the strong arms that reached out to catch him.

"Quick, the _Sally_! She's at Rockman's!" Captain Davies ran toward
Rockman's wharf. Before Jed Starrow's men, concealed behind the shed
could guess their intention, three men had jumped into the big motor
boat and had swung her free of the wharf.

"What the hell--" shouted an ugly voice after them, but the _Sally_
only chugged out into the darkness of the bay.

                  *       *       *       *       *

"Look, Sid--light! It's--it's--morning!" Mart's voice came in a thin
whisper. For a long time the girls had lain huddled against the
taff-rail of the boat, too weary and disheartened to even talk.

Sidney lifted her face to the tiny streak of light that gleamed palely
in the east.

Then she shook Pola ever so slightly. Poor Pola had fallen into a sleep
of exhaustion. She stirred now with a little cry. "What is it?"

"It's morning--daylight. See--there--"

"Oh--h!" Pola whimpered. "Is that all?" She clung to Sidney in fresh
terror. "If we're going to die--I'd rather not _see_--"

"Hark," cried Mart, suddenly leaning forward. "Don't you hear
something? Girls, that's a motor boat! I _know_! Quick. Let's signal!
Yell! Wave something! _Anything!_" She sprang to her feet, leaning her
body against the rail for support as the boat rolled in the heavy sea.
She cupped her hands to her lips and shouted lustily. "Come on, girls!"
she commanded.

"Maybe it's the pirates," wailed Pola.

"I don't care if it is! I don't care _what_ it is!" And Mart and Sidney
lifted their chorus.

Out of the mist that lay over the surging water a small, gray object
gradually shaped. The chug-chug of an engine now came distinctly to
their ears. After a little they could make out the forms of two men
standing. And then someone shouted faintly.

Pola, a solemn happiness transfiguring her face, clung to Sidney.

"Girls," she whispered, "We're going to be saved! And I'll never forget
this night--never. Or you two. Or what you've done! Or what you _are_.
And I'm never going to get over being ashamed of myself!"

Sidney had some solemn resolutions of her own shaping in her heart but
the moment gave her no time to pronounce them.

"Mart!" she cried. "It's _not_ Jed Starrow! It's--it's--Cap'n Phin
Davies! And that means that--_Lav_--_made_--_it_!" And happy tears ran
down her cheeks.

Under the skilled guidance of the man at its wheel the _Sally_ soon
came alongside of the _Arabella_. Cap'n Davies promptly boarded the
schooner and the next instant Sidney was in his arms.

"All I'll say is praise be to God!" the old mariner muttered. "And now
I cal'late you and your mates here are 'bout ready to abandon your
cruisin'--"

"Lav, is he--all right?" demanded Sidney, still clinging to Cap'n Phin.

"Well, he jest about made port and how he is now I can't say for I
didn't waste any time shippin' in the _Sally_. Lucky for us it was
lyin' there at Rockman's. Give us a hand, Saunders, while we load on
this cargo of distress!" A roughness in the old man's voice betrayed
that the big heart was not as light as he would have the girls think.
For hours they had searched the bay with only their knowledge of tides
and winds to guide them; more than once the others had been ready to
abandon the search as futile, but the Captain had held them stubbornly
to it.

Pola needed no urging but leaped into the _Sally_ and sank to its
bottom with a long gasp of relief. Sidney and Mart were about to follow
her example when a word from Cap'n Davies held Sidney.

"We'll let a government boat pick up the _Arabella_. We'll take no
chances tryin' to tow her in with the _Sally_." And then Sidney thought
of the treasure.

"But the diamonds!" she cried.

"_Diamonds_--" Cap'n Davies stared at her, his mouth open.

"Why, yes, they're on this boat. They _must_ be! We were in the forward
cabin watching and Jed Starrow came on board and they talked right
where we could hear. They were going to take them off and then they
decided it wasn't safe and they'd wait and they went away. And then
they must have cut the boat adrift. But we're _sure_ they're on this
boat."

"So that was it! Of all the low-down dastardly tricks! Well, never mind
your diamonds, now. We got to get back to shore and let a few folks
know--"

"But I won't _go_ until we've looked!" Sidney protested, almost in
tears. "Why, that was why we risked everything! And Lav wants to save
the name of the Cape--the--the way--you do! Oh, please look!"

The old Captain dropped his hold of the girl's arm. "Well, I'll be
ding-blasted!" he stormed. But he motioned to Saunders. "Climb aboard
and give us a hand. 'Taint likely they'd hide their stuff above deck.
You look round the stern and the girls and me'll give a hunt forward.
Of all the stubborn, crazy-headed female pieces you'll beat 'em all!"

While Saunders searched the stern of the schooner the Captain and
Sidney and Mart searched the fo'castle cabin. Sidney, tugging away the
heavy tarpaulins, disclosed a small wooden box.

"I'm _sure_ it wasn't there before--" she cried. "Why--why, I was
_sitting_ on it--"

Cap'n Davies lifted the box. "It's pretty big to be diamonds but it
looks suspicious like! And you're sure it wasn't there before? That it
ain't the property of that summer boarder of Miss Green's?"

Sidney's face was flaming with excitement. "Oh, I'm _sure_! The other
stuff was there but there wasn't any box under it. If I hadn't been so
excited listening I'd have realized I was sitting on something
different. Can't we look inside?"

"We won't take the time to look at anything now, mate. We'll get
ashore. I reckon by this time there are folks strainin' their eyes for
a sight o' you--"

He fairly pushed Sidney and Mart ahead of him and toward the _Sally_.
Saunders lifted the girls into the smaller boat, then took the box.

"To Rockman's. Quick as you can make it," snapped Cap'n Phin.



                              CHAPTER XXII

                        "YOU NEED A BIG BROTHER"


Aunt Achsa had not slept through the storm. Accustomed though she was
to the howl of the wind and the roar of the pounding surf, tonight it
filled her heart with dread. Lavender had not come home.

Twice during the night hours she crept to the door of his small room
and peered in, shielding her candle with a trembling hand. For a long
while she sat in the window straining her eyes into the darkness. The
cats came and rubbed her bare ankles and Nip meowed plaintively. She
picked him up and cuddled him to her.

Suddenly a moving object in the lane caught her attention. It separated
itself into the forms of men, men moving slowly as though they bore a
burden. They turned into the garden patch.

"Lavender!" Aunt Achsa cried, jumping up quickly, shaking. "Oh--my boy!"

But that was the only sound she made. She opened the door as though she
had been waiting for these men with their limp burden. She directed
them to carry the boy to his own room. She moved aside for Doctor
Blackwell who had come with the others, an old pair of flannel trousers
drawn over his night shirt. She felt Mr. Dugald put a restraining arm
over her shoulders and nodded as though to say: "I'm all right--just
look out for Lavender."

One of the men coming back from Lavender's room offered an explanation.
"Those young 'uns were on the _Arabella_ and it broke from its
moorin's. The boy swum ashore to give an alarm. Plucky, I say--don't
know how he did it."

"Those young ones--_who_?" cried Dugald Allan.

"Why, I cal'late that gal Sidney and I don't know who else--"

"Sidney went with Miss Vine!" protested Achsa.

But at that moment Miss Letty appeared in the door, as scantily clad as
the doctor had been. From her window which faced Doctor Blackwell's
house, she had heard the men summoning him. She had lost no time in
getting to Sunset Lane.

"Who went with me? Where? What's happened?"

Now Aunt Achsa let her whole weight drop against Mr. Dugald.

"Didn't Sidney go 'long to Truro with you?" she asked falteringly.

"I didn't go to Truro. Knew this storm was comin'. Where--"

"Oh--h!" Aunt Achsa moaned Mr. Dugald motioned to Miss Vine.

"Take care of things--here. I'm off--"

"Cap'n Davies and Jim Saunders and Pete Cady's gone out in the
_Sally_," cried one of the men who had brought Lavender home. But
Dugald Allan had plunged into the darkness without hearing him. The men
rushed after him.

Miss Vine pushed Aunt Achsa into a chair.

"You're not going to cross any bridges 'til you come to them, Achsy
Green. Doctor Blackwell brought Lav into this world and he isn't going
to let him quit it without putting up a pretty good fight. Jeremiah
Berry's in with him and he's as good as two women. You wrap that shawl
'round you 'til I can light a lamp and get you some clothes. You're
shivering like it was December. I'll put the kettle over, too--"

Oddly huge and gaunt in the shadowy room, Miss Vine moved and talked
briskly to keep up Aunt Achsa's nerve and her own against the black
fear that held them.

Mr. Dugald ran with all speed to Rockman's, the other men after him. As
their hurrying steps echoed through the silent street heads popped out
of windows, doors opened. Then more men, half-dressed and dressing as
they ran, rushed after them toward Rockman's. They knew, with that
intuition inbred in seacoast communities, that something was wrong. Old
Simon Tibbetts, too crippled to join the gathering crowds, rang up
Commander Nelson at the Life Guard station on the backside.

When, in the gray light of the dawn, the _Sally_ chugged up to
Rockman's wharf with its precious cargo Sidney and Mart found a weary,
anxious crowd of men and women gathered there. And as Cap'n Davies and
Saunders lifted the girls ashore a lusty shout of rejoicing went
up--eager hands reached out to touch the rescued as though to make
certain they were safe and sound.

Sidney had eyes only for Mr. Dugald who seemed to tower above them all,
his eyes dark lined with the strain of anxious watching, his mouth set
sternly. And strangely enough, at first, Dugald Allan saw only Sidney,
yet it was not strange, for the white-faced, shrinking, abject girl,
barefooted and disheveled, who was hiding behind Mart and Sidney, had
little semblance to his gay young cousin.

Mr. Dugald opened his arms and Sidney ran into them like a little
child, and clung to him. He felt her slender body shaking.

"I--I can't help crying. I wanted Trude--so much!"

"_I_ was thinking of Trude, too. Thank God!" But Sidney was too moved
at the moment to wonder at his words or that the cheek he bent to hers
was wet with tears.

Then Dugald Allan spied Pola shivering forlornly behind Mart and
Sidney. "_You_--" he cried, pushing Sidney aside. "I thought you were
at Chatham!" His mouth tightened in a straight, stern line. "What is
all this? But wait, I must get Sidney back to Aunt Achsa. You shall
explain things as we go along."

He hurried the girls through the crowd which parted, smilingly, to let
them pass. On Commercial Street he hailed old Hiram Moss, who with an
eye to business in the midst of tragedy, had harnessed his horses to
his ancient cab and had them ready for an emergency.

After he had bundled his charges in Dugald Allan turned to Sidney.

"Now give me some inkling of what started this crazy adventure. Thank
God it has not ended as it might have ended though Lavender is still
fighting for his life! Answer me, Sidney."

But before Sidney could begin her tale she had to know what had
happened to Lavender.

"Fighting for his life? But--he _got here_, didn't he?"

"Yes--he reached shore, by an effort so great as to completely
prostrate him. They took him home. I left Doctor Blackwell with him."
Dugald Allan spoke shortly and his crisp sentences had the effect of
stunning poor Sidney. She shivered and leaned close to him. Her voice,
when she spoke, came with a childish tremor.

"Oh, Lavender _can't_ die. If he does--it will be all my fault! I
started everything. I--I told him about the diamonds--"

"_Diamonds_--"

"Yes--the diamonds. That's why we went out on the _Arabella_--" In
broken sentences Sidney told the story; she wanted Mr. Dugald to know
that they had cared most for the honor of Cape Cod!

"And we found them--a big box--at least we _think_ it's the diamonds!
Cap'n Phin Davies says it's _something_ queer!"

Dugald Allan's exclamation had much the character of an explosion.
"_Diamonds!_ What nonsense! You've risked bereaving three homes for
what is probably nothing more than a case of rum. If ever a girl needed
a big brother to keep her in check, you do!"



                             CHAPTER XXIII

                                DIAMONDS


During the early morning hours of that summer day that Sidney was
destined never to forget, the girl passed through every emotion that a
fifteen-year-old heart can suffer.

First, to her dismay no one at the cottage had seemed to rejoice, as
the crowd on the wharf had rejoiced, at her rescue. When Mr. Dugald led
her in Miss Vine was making coffee at the stove and all she said was:
"Well, you're all right! Better go to bed now as quick as you can and
keep out from under foot." Then Mr. Dugald had taken Pola back to the
hotel. Aunt Achsa was with Doctor Blackwell and Lavender. Sidney had
tried to summon sufficient courage to ask Miss Vine's forbidding back
for some word of Lavender, but the words failed in her throat. Cold,
forlorn, hungry, she crept to her room, threw off her clothes and
huddled down into the bed-clothes.

They would all blame her--Miss Vine and Mr. Dugald, Aunt Achsa, Doctor
Blackwell. Probably now Pola would have more complexes to suffer;
Pola's mother would be angry and they could never be friends again. And
Mart--Aunt Achsa had said old Mrs. Calkins could be terrible when she
was "worked up!" Even if Lavender lived Aunt Achsa would never forgive
her and if he _didn't_ live--Mr. Dugald had said he was fighting. Those
boards creaking faintly meant that Doctor Blackwell and Aunt Achsa were
helping Lavender fight. Dear old Lav with his fine dreams!

The desperate longing for Trude shook her. She sobbed into her pillow.
And yet the longing brought only added remorse. Trude would scold her.
Trude would take her home. That meant stinging humiliation. How Vick
would laugh at her when everything was over. A case of rum! Sidney
writhed under the soft covers.

Somewhere boards creaked again--Lavender's fight. Sidney pictured the
doctor and Aunt Achsa bending over him. And outside everything was so
quiet and gray. That was the way death probably came, Sidney thought.

On the morrow they would send her home--in disgrace. She might not even
be allowed to see Lavender, or Mart, or Pola--or Mr. Dugald. Someone
would telegraph to Trude and Trude would meet her back at Middletown.
She would live a long, sad life of penance behind the crumbing stone
wall she had so detested.

But the thought of the wall and the shelter of the old house brought
such a surcease of torment that the girl had fallen into a heavy sleep.
When she wakened it was to a consciousness of bright sunshine--and
someone looking at her, someone different, and someone smiling.

She sat bolt upright and rubbed her eyes. Then she flung out her arms
with a low glad cry that was half sob.

"Trude--_Oh, Trude!_"

Trude held her long and close, stroking the shorn head, murmuring
soothing words. Finally Sidney wriggled from her.

"Have you come to take me home? But how could they send for you so
quickly? How long have I been asleep? Oh, Lavender--is he--is he--"

"One question at a time, Sid. Lavender is better. He'll be all right,
the doctor says, after a good rest. Yes, I think I'd better take you
home. No, they did not send for me." Briefly, as though now that
earlier concern was of little consequence, Trude told of the sketch
that had so bewildered and alarmed her.

"I couldn't understand," she finished.

"I couldn't either, at first. You see the boarder--the man who has
boarded here so long and is dreadfully fond of Aunt Achsa wrote that
letter to me and wrote it _nice_ so as to please her, and, at
first--but, oh, Trude, Aunt Achsa _is_ wonderful and so is Lavender,
really, truly, even though they are poor--"

"Hush, Sidney." Trude's eyes darkened with feeling. "You do not have to
tell me that. I have learned _that_ in only a few hours. Oh, I have
seen straight into souls--those kind men on the street, as concerned as
though you belonged to them, and here--Aunt Achsa with her great
courage and her love. And that Miss Vine--they're so _simple_--and so
fine--it made me ashamed of my silly standards, my fears."

"And Lavender is best of all--"

Now quick tears shone like stars in Trude Romley's eyes. She reached
out her hands and caught Sidney's.

"Oh, Lavender--when I think what _he_ did I--I--" She could not finish,
but Sidney understood the gratitude that was in her heart. She leaned
her face against Trude's shoulder with a long sigh.

"I'm cured of lots of things, Trude. I wanted something different but I
didn't want all _this_ to happen! You see I _made_ Lavender and Mart
believe it was diamonds Jed Starrow was hiding when it was probably
only a case of rum--"

Suddenly Trude straightened. "I almost forgot. A boy came here and said
a Captain Davies wanted you to come down to Rockman's wharf as soon as
you could. That was two hours ago. You see it is nearly noon now. You'd
better dress quickly and I'll go out and fix you some breakfast."

Sidney obeyed reluctantly. In her mingled remorse and humiliation she
shrank from facing the world. She was not even curious as to why Cap'n
Phin wanted to see her.

By the time she had dressed Trude had a poached egg and a glass of milk
ready for her. Miss Letty was with Lavender and Aunt Achsa had gone to
bed.

Sidney begged so hard that Trude accompany her to Rockman's that Trude
put on her hat and went with her. And poor Sidney needed Trude's
support for Sunset Lane was thronged with curious men and women; as
they walked along the waterfront fishermen and tourists and boys and
girls stared and nodded and Sidney's sensitive soul mistook their
obvious interest for ridicule. She walked with lowered eyes lest she
encounter Mrs. Calkins or Pola's mother.

Cap'n Phin was waiting outside the door of the shed on Rockman's wharf.
He nodded to Sidney and Trude and beckoned them inside. At any other
time, in any other state of mind, Sidney would have thrilled to his air
of mystery.

Four men sat in wooden chairs tipped at various angles and on the floor
before them stood the wooden box from the _Arabella_. The men nodded
and smiled at Sidney and brought their chairs to the floor as though to
attention.

Cap'n Davies solemnly motioned Sidney and Trude to two vacant chairs
and then cleared his throat.

"I cal'late, Miss Sidney, that you've a sort o' interest in this cargo
we brought in on the _Sally_ so we stood by 'til you hove in sight.
Now, mebbe it's what we think it is and mebbe it isn't. Si, give a hand
and unload."

One of the men knelt down by the box and proceeded to open it with a
hammer and a chisel. The others leaned forward with interest. Sidney
held her breath.

The man Si, having torn off the cover, put his hands into the paper
wrappings and drew forth yards and yards of magnificently embroidered
fabric that made Sidney and Trude gasp in admiration and astonishment.
But the others were plainly disappointed. A low murmur of disgust went
around the room.

"Give it here," one of the men asked. And as Si handed over the
contraband it slipped from his hands. He caught at it quickly to save
it from the dirt of the floor. Suddenly something small and gleaming
fell from the folds and rolled upon the floor.

"I'll be ding-blasted!" roared Cap'n Phin. Someone swore softly. The
man Si dropped to his knees. Sidney blinked.

Cap'n Phin seized the silk and unwound it. And among the countless
folds he found a cunningly contrived pocket filled with hundreds of the
priceless gems.

For a moment no one spoke. The daring of it all, the wealth of the
glistening jewels, held each man in the room. Cap'n Phin folded the
gorgeous silk and passed it to one of the men.

"I guess this belongs to you in trust for Uncle Sam," he said gravely.
"Our business is with one Jed Starrow." He turned to Sidney who was
trembling violently. "Now, matie, will you tell these men how you
happened to ship aboard the _Arabella_ last night?"

Sidney's story tumbled out in quick, eager words and in careful detail.
The men listened closely. The one who had taken the diamonds "in trust
for Uncle Sam" made notes in a small black book. When she had finished
Cap'n Phin nodded, his face serious.

"Reckon we'd better not question Lav Green just yet, he's pullin' out
of the fog. We got enough as 'tis to hold Jed Starrow. If I ain't much
mistaken he'll turn yellow when we face him and squeal on the folks
higher up what's paid him to hurt the name of the Cape. That'll do for
now, little gal."

Walking homeward Sidney could not speak for excitement. It had _not_
been rum! It _had_ been the diamonds they had sought! Their
recklessness had not been in vain. Her disgrace had a sweeter flavor.

As they turned in to Sunset Lane Sidney spied Mr. Dugald ahead. He must
hear the news! And he could tell her of Pola! She ran toward him,
calling. At the sound of her voice he lifted his head.

"Oh, Mr. Dugald, it _was_ diamonds--in that box, you know, why--" But
here Sidney stopped. For Mr. Dugald was not even hearing her, he was
staring over her head at Trude.

"Oh, I forgot--this is my sister, Trude. Trude, this is Mr. Dugald,
Aunt Achsa's--"

But her introduction went no farther. At sight of Trude's face she
broke off abruptly. And Mr. Dugald was saying quietly:

"I know your sister, Sidney. Trude, I am more glad to see you than you
can ever know!"

Sidney's brain whirled. Mr. Dugald _knew_ Trude! And Trude--only once
before had she seen that look on Trude's face and that had been when
she had watched Trude reading a letter to Issy.

"Why--why--why--" she gasped, a great enlightenment slowly dawning over
her. "You're--you're--why, you're Trude's _lost love_!"

"_Sidney!_" cried Trude, scarlet-faced.

Dugald Allan laughed. "Sidney, go in and see Lav. He's been calling for
you and Miss Letty says you can see him for five minutes if you won't
let him do any of the talking. I want to tell your sister a few things
about you that I think she ought to know." He caught Trude's arm in a
masterful way, wheeled her about and led her down the lane.

Sidney stared after them; even the excitement of the diamonds faded to
nothing by the side of this amazing revelation. Mr. Dugald had known
Trude all the time! He was the man who had made Trude so unhappy! He
had let her talk of Trude and had never betrayed by so much as a blush
their acquaintance!

Sidney had no choice but to go on alone to the cottage. Her elation and
her delight at seeing Lavender were shadowed by a growing apprehension.
Mr. Dugald had promised to forget what she had told him of Trude's
broken heart, but perhaps he hadn't! And he might tell Trude that he
knew!

[Illustration: SHE SPIED APPROACHING FIGURES--TRUDE AND MR. DUGALD,
WALKING SLOWLY]



                              CHAPTER XXIV

                           WHAT THE DAY HELD


"Dear Dorothea, again I stand at the crossroads, a saddened soul, and
wiser--"

But Sidney could get no further than that. There was so much to tell
Dorothea that she did not know how to begin. For those terrible hours
on the _Arabella_ she had no words; she shrank from trying to depict
Lavender's splendid courage for his white face as she had seen it in
the precious five minutes still haunted her. Even the diamonds lost
their lustre beside Trude's ultimatum that they must go home.

Go home so ingloriously!

It was two hours since Dugald had led Trude away down the lane and
Sidney's apprehension had mounted as the time had passed. She was
feeling very young and very forgotten; Miss Letty who had remained at
the cottage to "be handy" and to answer the stream of inquiries that
came to the door, had warned her to "keep quiet" as there had been
enough excitement for one day and she had been too rebuffed to even
confide to Miss Letty that Mr. Dugald was someone her sister had known
a few years before and that they had gone away without her.

Miss Letty was baking vigorously, her great hands moving deftly among
the cupboards, her straight back eloquently expressive of her mood. "I
guess folks'll have a different opinion of Lavender Green _now_," she
muttered and as Sidney was the only person within hearing she accepted
the remark as addressed to her and agreed. Miss Letty went on, shaking
the flour-sifter as though she wished she were shaking someone in
particular: "I guess folks like that Mrs. Allan will have a different
opinion of Cape Cod. She came here and asked to see Lavender and I took
her in and waited outside the door--"

"Oh, what did she say?" begged Sidney.

"She offered him money! Well, I thought the boy'd have a relapse on the
spot. And I walked in and took her by the arm and led her out and I
said to her: 'Madam, we on Cape Cod do not sell our bravery--we _give_
it!' I said just that. And she withered like a limp leaf. She sort of
clung to me and cried like a baby. Yes, she'll know now what sort o'
breed we Cape Coders are."

Even that Sidney could not record in Dorothea.

She began to pack because it was the occupation best suited to her mood
and because from the window of her room she could see Trude and Mr.
Dugald the moment they turned the corner by Mart's house. She spread
her scant belongings over the bed and set the old satchel on the
rush-bottomed chair. She was in the act of folding the precious cherry
crêpe de chine when she spied approaching figures--Trude and Mr.
Dugald, walking slowly. Her heart gave a quick bound only to grow cold
at the sight of Trude's chin which was set stubbornly in a way that
Sidney well knew! Nor did Mr. Dugald appear the happy lover; he walked
with bent face and occasionally kicked at the flowers that edged the
lane.

Trude sought Sidney directly and nodded with approval when she saw the
packing. She sat down on the edge of the bed.

"Sid," she began in a queer voice that Sidney had never heard before.
"I suppose I ought to tell you how I happened to know--Dugald Allan."

Trude spoke so slowly and with such difficulty that Sidney hastened to
make it easier for her.

"I do know. You met him at the Whites three winters ago and he wrote
something. I overheard you and Issy talking once but I didn't hear his
name and I saw you crying over a letter--"

Trude laughed shakily.

"Sidney, you're simply the limit! Yes, I met him there that first
winter I went to visit Aunt Edith. His father and Mr. White are old
friends and he was staying at Aunt Edith's while he painted a portrait
of one of Aunt Edith's friends. I was just a silly, countrified girl
and--I didn't understand lots of things and thought--well, there's no
use, now going into all that. I lost my head and let myself think
things that weren't so--"

Sidney interrupted, impatiently. "Trude, you talk to me as though I was
a baby and couldn't hear the truth. I guess I know; you fell in love
with Mr. Dugald and you thought he was in love with you--"

"Thank you, Sid. Yes, I _had_ forgotten your extreme age. I fell in
love with--him. I am not ashamed to admit it. I had never known anyone
like him before. And I thought--yes, that--There was another girl
there, Sylvia Thorn, from Atlanta. She was very pretty and she and
Dugald were great pals and one day Aunt Edith told me she hoped they
would marry, that it would be a very nice match for Dugald, a relief to
his family, that he needed that type of girl to cure him of his queer
ways. I remember just what she said. 'You understand, my dear, _you_
have lived with genius yourself.' It wasn't exactly _what_ she said, it
was the way she said it, as though she thought I would know because _I_
lived entirely out of Dugald Allan's class. It hurt cruelly. It made me
sensitive and made me see little things between Dugald--and Sylvia. And
it made me see myself as someone quite unworthy of--Dugald. I found
some pretext to go home. I thought by running away from it all I could
forget. Dugald wrote a few times--then that letter telling me that he
was going on a six months' painting cruise in the South Seas with
Sylvia Thorn and her father and mother and wanted to run up to
Middletown to tell me something before he went. I wrote back that he
must not come that I--could not--see him. That's all."

Sidney was listening with clasped hands, a color on her cheeks that
matched Trude's, stars in her eyes. With magic swiftness her romantic
soul was piecing together a beautiful picture.

"Why, that _can't_ be all! How could you have written to him like that!
And he wasn't in love with that Sylvia, was he?"

Trude's eyes softened. "N--no. I know now. He told me--today. Sylvia
was engaged at the time to his best friend, but they wanted it kept
secret for awhile. Dugald thought I knew."

"Then--then--" cried Sidney. But, somehow, she could not ask Trude what
had happened during the afternoon, something new in Trude's dear eyes
plainly warned her that just now all that was too much her own to be
shared with anyone.

Instead she threw her arms around Trude and hugged her violently.

"Oh, Trude, how I love you! And it's so good to be with you. Out
there--on the boat--I kept thinking of you and how safe I always feel
with you--how I _need_ you! I don't ever want to feel grown-up again
and independent, I don't care _how_ old I am--"

Trude kissed the tousled head. "You've said just what I wanted to hear,
dear," she answered softly. "And that you--need me!"

Summoning them to supper, Miss Letty stood with arms akimbo and with a
satisfied eye surveyed the good things she had prepared. That Mr.
Dugald was at the hotel starting his aunt and cousin homeward from
Provincetown, was Miss Letty's one regret. Sidney sniffed rapturously
at everything, begging that Trude sit next to her. The old kitchen
gleamed golden in the fading sunlight, a fragrance of flowers and
sea-air and pines came on the breeze that wafted in through the
wide-opened doors and windows. Aunt Achsa, her smiling self again,
fluttered around in anxious concern as to Trude's welfare. A great
happiness held the little group. Though Lavender's chair was empty
Lavender was better--Lavender would get well!

After supper, while they still lingered over the empty plates, the
voices of men came from the lane.

"More folks askin' after Lav," declared Miss Letty with pride.

Cap'n Davies himself halted before the door and nodded to the women
inside. Back of him stood the men Sidney had met that morning at
Rockman's and back of them Mr. Dugald, smiling, and back of him many
others, curious and excited. What _ever_ had happened!

Cap'n Davies wore his most important air.

"I'm here to see one Lavender Green and one Sidney Romley."

"Phin Davies, you know Lav Green's flat on his back," retorted Miss
Letty brusquely but smiling. It seemed to Sidney, standing close to
Trude, that everyone was smiling.

Mr. Dugald pushed into the room.

"Doctor Blackwell says that it won't hurt Lav for me to carry him in!"
And without another word he rushed off to Lav's room and returned
almost instantly with the boy in his arms. He put him carefully in Aunt
Achsa's rocker and then stood close to him.

Cap'n Phin cleared his throat an extra number of times. Having done
this to his satisfaction he drew a blue slip of paper from a leather
pocketbook and held it high.

"In the name of Truro and Wellfleet counties I take great pleasure in
presenting to Lavender Green and Sidney Romley this reward for the
capture of--"

He never did finish his speech. His voice was drowned in loud hurrahs
that echoed and reechoed down the lane and brought Gran'ma Calkins and
Mart and Tillie Higgins in a great hurry to Achsa Green's.

Sidney's face flamed.

"Oh, _I_ don't want it!" she cried. "It's Lav's. Honestly. He really
found out about the diamonds. I--I just--"

Everyone looked at Lavender, whose face had gone even whiter. Against
it his eyes shone big and black. He seemed to straighten in the old
chair and his poor shoulders took on a fine dignity.

"_I_--didn't--want--any--money," he answered in a voice so weak that it
was scarcely anything more than a whisper.

But here the practical Miss Letty, who had taught Mrs. Allan her lesson
on Cape Cod folks, took charge of matters.

"Well, you can do a whole lot with money, Lav Green. As long as the two
counties decided it was worth that much to run down these smugglers I
reckon you've earned it. And I want you men to go away from here and
spread the word over the whole of Cape Cod that in that crooked body of
Lav Green's is a heart that's as brave as the bravest and ambition,
too. Folks have gotten to think he's a loafer because he wouldn't go to
school, but they'll come to know he isn't and you can tell them Letty
Vine knows for she's taught him herself and he knows as much and more
than any boy his age! And now--well, you _watch_ Lav Green! That's all
I can say. Some day you men will hear about him and remember this day
and be awful proud!"

Miss Vine had to stop to swallow something in her throat. Cap'n Phin
forgot entirely the nice phrases he had practiced for the occasion. His
men shuffled slowly out of the room, some of them coughing and others
covertly wiping their eyes.

Mr. Dugald and Doctor Blackwell and Cap'n Phin and Martie and Gran'ma
Calkins remained. Mart and Sidney were excitedly examining the little
slip of paper that meant five thousand whole dollars, not with any
coveting, for Mart was as vehement as Sidney in disclaiming any share
in the reward. It was Lav's. But for Lav's risking everything to swim
to shore no one might have known anything about Jed Starrow's
connection with the persistent smuggling.

"Oh, where _is_ Jed Starrow?" Sidney suddenly asked and Cap'n Phin told
her Jed Starrow was in jail.

"It'll be a lesson to him and others like him," he continued, sternly.
"Betrayin' the honor of the Cape! And him born and brought up on it!"

Sidney felt a moment's regret that _anyone_ had to be in jail. Then she
forgot it in everyone's interest as to what Lavender would do with so
much money. They pressed him on every side, heedless of Doctor
Blackwell's warning that the boy should not be unduly excited.

Lav's eyes found Aunt Achsa's smiling face.

"Get Aunt Achsa an oil stove," he answered promptly. "And--and lots of
things. And books. And--" his eyes kindled. But he broke off abruptly.
He was going to say that now he could go to school in one of the big
cities where folks did not notice other folks who were "different." But
he did not say it, he did not want to spoil Aunt Achsa's joy.

Sidney understood and, reaching out, squeezed one of Lavender's hands.

Doctor Blackwell ordered his patient back to bed. Martie took Gran'ma
Calkins home. With much handshaking Cap'n Phin took his leave. Miss
Letty and Trude and Sidney briskly cleared away the dishes.

"I feel as though I had lived ten years since I heard those men
pounding on Steve Blackwell's door," declared Miss Letty, piling the
plates with a clatter.

"Oh, ten! A _hundred_! I didn't know anyone _could_ live so fast all at
one time!" agreed Sidney solemnly. "Sometimes I think I'm just dreaming
and will wake up and find that nothing's happened. I won't mind going
home now for I'll have so much to think about!"

"Going home?" gasped Aunt Achsa. "Why--why--"

Dugald Allan, coming from Lavender's room, interrupted them.

"I beg to report that your millionaire nephew is resting quietly and is
in fine shape." Sidney noticed with a little glow of feeling how
quickly Mr. Dugald's eyes sought Trude's. And she thought Trude cruel
to look away!

Miss Vine persuaded Aunt Achsa to go to bed and then said good-night
herself. Her "ten years" had left her fatigued. Dugald Allan walked as
far as the lane with her then came back, remembering suddenly that he
was carrying two letters in his pocket.

"In the excitement I nearly forgot them," he apologized. He drew them
out. Both were for Trude and had been forwarded by special delivery
from Long Island. One was from Vick and one from Issy.

"Oh, open them quickly," begged Sidney.

Trude's hand trembled as she held Issy's envelope. "I'm--almost afraid
to. I _know_ it's silly--but so much has happened today that--I don't
think--I could bear--anything more!"



                              CHAPTER XXV

                           NO ONE LAUGHS LAST


Trude read Issy's letter aloud, not noticing in her high pitch of
anxiety that Dugald Allan had lingered.

"--I am going to tell something now concerning which I have given no
hint in my former letters. It's something that means so much to me that
I have not dared write about it until it was decided. And now it is
decided. Professor Deering has asked me to stay on with him as his
secretary. And I have accepted. The salary will not be so very big
though it will seem big to me and I am happy among books and bookish
people and working right here in the college will give me opportunities
I never had before.

"But Trude dear, I feel like a deserter! To think that I who used to
preach the loudest of our duty to Dad's memory and the tradition of his
genius should be the first to break from it! I believe now that Sidney,
that morning she had her little flare-up and we promised her the Egg,
broke down restraints that have been holding us all. Certainly, ever
since then, rebellious thoughts have been growing in me. I have come to
see our lives differently and to believe that we've been silly. We
thought we had to go on living the same kind of lives we led when Dad
was with us, that we had to submerge our own personalities to his
because his was so great. Maybe the League frightened us into thinking
that; they bought us or thought they did. But Trude, they _couldn't_!
They can buy the house and the atmosphere and Dad's coat and chair and
pens and all that but they can't buy Dad's children! Dad wouldn't want
it that way. Why, we are his greatest creation and our lives are his
gift to us and he would want us to make something fine of those
gifts--something that would be our own. Sidney said that she wanted to
be something besides Joseph Romley's daughter and that was simply her
real self crying for escape. I hope the dear child has found it in a
happy summer and has had her fill of the adventure she craved.

"Happy as I am I cannot bear thinking of leaving you with the
responsibilities of Vick and Sidney and the League, except that you
have always carried the responsibility anyway. But it seems too much
for even shoulders like yours. So I've been making schemes. Vick will
be sure to marry soon, bless her pretty face, and then with my salary
and the royalties we can send Sidney away to school and you can plan
something for yourself just as I have done. It's a wonderful feeling,
Trude, I am just beginning to live! I don't mind a bit now thinking of
being an old maid--"

Trude folded the letter, suddenly conscious of her listeners. Sidney
caught at it as though to make certain it had actually been written by
her sister Isolde.

"Think of it. Trude! A hope-to-die secretary with a salary! I do
believe it's old Issy who's going to laugh last."

"What do you mean Sidney?" asked Trude; but she did not wait for Sidney
to answer. Her thoughts were elsewhere. "I believe _Issy_ has torn a
veil from us all. We _were_ silly. We held to the ties of Dad as a poet
and were losing the sweet real ones of him as a father. Of course he'd
want us--the father part of him--to live our own lives, make of them
what we can--"

"_Would he?_" cried Dugald Allan from his corner. And at the sound of
his voice Trude started, her face flushing crimson. "Then, Trude
Romley, will you please withdraw that answer you gave me out on the
breakwall? It can't hold good now."

"Oh, _hush_! Don't! Not here--now--"

Sidney, alert to some deeper meaning, took up his question.

"What answer?" she demanded.

Mr. Dugald threw his arm about her shoulder. "Sid, I asked your sister
to marry me. You see I found out that you needed a big brother, someone
with a stern eye and a hard heart and I rather want the job. And that's
the only way I can think of. And she says she cannot, that she must
keep the little household together in return for what the League has
done and cook and sew and sweep and keep accounts. I think there was a
lot more--"

Sidney threw out an imploring hand to her sister.

"Oh, Trude, _please_! I _do_ need a big brother. And Mr. Dugald's
grand! And rich. Pola said so. And _dear_. And it'd be such fun having
him in the family! I'll go away to school and Vick can work and we can
give the old house over to the League. Issy _said_ they couldn't buy
us! And--why, there are just loads of women trying to get Mr. Dugald--"

"Sidney Romley, _stop_!" Trude stamped her foot in confused
exasperation. She refused to meet Dugald's yearning eyes.

"No League can mortgage your heart or your happiness!" he pleaded
softly. "It belongs to you--to give--"

"I object to being courted in this--public--manner," Trude broke in,
her hands flying to her face. But Dugald Allan caught the surrender in
her eyes. He seized her hand.

"All right. We'll go out in the garden. Excuse us, Sid. When I come
back I think I'll be your big brother."

Sidney's eyes followed them longingly until they disappeared behind a
hedge of hollyhocks. She wanted to laugh and to cry all at once she was
so strangely happy; her girl heart stirred with a vicarious thrill to
the look she had seen in Trude's face. Well, Trude would laugh last!
Dear old Trude. Trude a bride when everyone had thought that she would
never marry, just because she had no beaus like Vick or languishing
poets like Issy.

Sidney stood still in the center of the dusk gray room. She did not
know what she wanted to do next--or even think of. She would like to
plan the wedding at once with herself as a beautiful bridesmaid in
shimmery white and Mart and Pola and Lavender and Aunt Achsa there to
see, and she would like just to think of Mrs. Milliken's face when she
heard about everything and--

Suddenly her eyes fell upon Vick's forgotten letter. What had Vick
written? No ordinary letter could come on this momentous day! Perhaps
Vick had written that she had eloped--she had read that sometimes even
nice girls did that, girls oppressed by things like the League. She
opened the letter without any hesitation and carried it to the door
that she might read it by the fading light.

It was not neatly margined like Issy's; the big letters raced slantwise
across the page. Nor was it wordy, rather straight to the point.

"Dear old girls everybody: You'll die. Godmother Jocelyn's a good sort,
in spite of her lace and her lap-dog. She's going to take me around the
world! She says that as long as we're this far we might as well go all
the way. It isn't the cherry blossoms and the rickshaws and the
southern moons alone that thrill me--we're going with the peppiest
family from Chicago--some people we met on the train. A father, a
mother, a girl my age--_AND_--a very nice brother! _Nicest yet!_ But am
I a pig? Yes. To leave my sisters there under Mrs. Milliken's thumb!
But you'll forgive me, won't you? Do you remember how we used to play
going to China?_ And I'm going!_"

Sidney drew a long breath. She wished she were not alone. She wanted to
shout or something. "Well!" she cried softly. "_No_ one laughs loudest!
I guess--the whole family of Romley--laughs _together_ long--and--loud!"


                                THE END

------------------------------------------------------------------------

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chagrin. There is "another man" who complicates matters.

SIX FEET FOUR

Beatrice Waverly is robbed of $5,000 and suspicion fastens upon Buck
Thornton, but she soon realizes he is not guilty.

WOLF BREED

No Luck Drennan, a woman hater and sharp of tongue, finds a match in
Ygerne whose clever fencing wins the admiration and love of the "Lone
Wolf."

                 GROSSET & DUNLAP, Publishers, NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                  DETECTIVE STORIES BY J. S. FLETCHER

  May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list

                     THE SECRET OF THE BARBICAN
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                     THE WOLVES AND THE LAMB
                     GREEN INK
                     THE KING versus WARGRAVE
                     THE LOST MR. LINTHWAITE
                     THE MILL OF MANY WINDOWS
                     THE HEAVEN-KISSED HILL
                     THE MIDDLE TEMPLE MURDER
                     RAVENSDENE COURT
                     THE RAYNER-SLADE AMALGAMATION
                     THE SAFETY PIN
                     THE SECRET WAY
                     THE VALLEY OF HEADSTRONG MEN

   Ask for Complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction

                 GROSSET & DUNLAP, Publishers, NEW YORK





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