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Title: Sylvia Arden Decides
Author: Chalmers, Margaret Piper
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Sylvia Arden]



                              SYLVIA ARDEN
                                DECIDES


                                   BY

                         MARGARET REBECCA PIPER

                               AUTHOR OF
          SYLVIA’S EXPERIMENT: THE CHEERFUL BOOK, (Trade Mark)

              SYLVIA OF THE HILL TOP: THE SECOND CHEERFUL
                        BOOK, ETC. (Trade Mark)



                            FRONTISPIECE BY
                             HASKELL COFFIN



                            GROSSET & DUNLAP
                          PUBLISHERS NEW YORK



                           _Copyright, 1917_,
                          BY THE PAGE COMPANY

                         _All rights reserved_

                   First Impression, September, 1917



                               *CONTENTS*

CHAPTER

I  Of Futures and Other Important Matters
II  Reasons and Wraiths
III  Twenty-Two
IV  The Ways of a Maid
V  September Afternoon
VI  Of Missions, and Omissions
VII  October Developments
VIII  Fire and Frost
IX  The Moth and the Star
X  The City
XI  Margins
XII  "Such Stuff as Dreams"
XIII  Into Haven
XIV  "And Having Eyes"
XV  The City and Sylvia
XVI  As Might Have Been Expected
XVII  Barb Diagnoses
XVIII  The Cause and the Career
XIX  Oh, Suzanne!
XX  Sylvia and Life
XXI  A Chapter of Revelations
XXII  Unto the Forest
XXIII  Aftermath
XXIV  High Tide
XXV  Warp and Woof
XXVI  The End and the Beginning



                             *SYLVIA ARDEN
                                DECIDES*



                              *CHAPTER I*

                *OF FUTURES AND OTHER IMPORTANT MATTERS*


"I know what the trouble with Sylvia is," announced Suzanne, elevating
herself on one elbow and leaning forward out of the hammock just enough
to select and appropriate a plump bonbon from the box on the wicker
stand near by.

"Well," encouraged Sylvia, "what _is_ the trouble with me?"

At the moment as she stood leaning against the massive white pillar with
a smile on her lips and in her dark eyes, the sunshine glinting warm,
red-gold lights in her bronze hair, it seemed as if it would be hard
indeed to find any trouble with her so completely was she a picture of
radiant, joyous, care-free youth.

Suzanne demolished her bonbon, then proceeded to expatiate on her
original proposition.

"The trouble with you," she averred oracularly from her cushions, "is
that you are addicted to the vice of contentment."

"Well, why shouldn’t she be?" demanded Barbara from the depths of the
huge arm-chair which nearly swallowed her diminutive figure.  "I’d like
to know who has a better right?  Hasn’t Sylvia this minute got
everything anybody in the world could want?  If I had been born to live
on a hill top, like Sylvia, I’d never leave it."

Suzanne sat up, brandishing a reproachful forefinger at the speaker.

"Barbie Day!  I am shocked at you.  What would your Aunt Josephine say?
Sylvia, she must be packed off at once.  She mustn’t be allowed to stay
even for the party.  The flesh pots have gone to her head.  Another day
at Arden Hall will ruin her for the Cause."  And, with a prophetic shake
of her head, Suzanne helped herself to a "Turkish Delight" and relaxed
among her cushions, the leaf green color of which, contrasting with the
pale pink of her gown, made her look rather like a rose, set in its
calyx.  Suzanne was extraordinarily pretty, much prettier, in fact, than
was at all necessary for a young person of distinct literary bent and a
pronounced--audibly pronounced--distaste for matrimony.  Thus Nature,
willfully prodigal, lavishes her gifts.

"Speak for yourself," retorted Barbara with unusual spirit.  "If the
flesh pots are ruining me they shall continue on their course of
destruction without let or hindrance until Wednesday next.  I was born
poor, I have lived poor and I shall probably die poor, but I am not
above participating in the unearned increment when I get a heavenly
chance like this blessed week and if anybody says ’Votes for Women’ to
me in the next five days he or she is likely to be surprised.  I am
going to turn Lotus Eater for just this once.  Don’t disturb me."  And
by way of demonstration Barb tucked one small foot up under her,
burrowed even deeper in the heart of the big chair and closed her eyes
with a sigh of complete satisfaction.

In the meanwhile Sylvia had absentmindedly plucked a scarlet spray from
the vine which was swaying in the September breeze just above her head
and her eyes were thoughtful.  Unwittingly, the others had stirred
mental currents which lay always fairly near the surface with her,
suggested problems which had been asserting themselves of late rather
continuously.  The generous-hearted little schoolgirl Sylvia who had
wanted to gather all the lonely people in the world into her Christmas
family, the puzzled Sylvia who even five years ago had been tormented by
the baffling question why she had so much and others so little was still
present in the Sylvia of almost two and twenty who considered herself
quite grown up and sophisticated and possessed a college diploma.

"I don’t know that I am so viciously contented as you seem to think,
Suzanne," she said, "and I haven’t the slightest intention of staying on
my hill top, as you mean it, Barb.  But I can’t just come down off it
and go tilting at windmills at random. I’ve got to know what my job is,
and I don’t at all, at present--can’t even guess at it.  All the rest of
you girls had your futures neatly outlined and sub-topiced.  Nearly
every one in the class knew, when she graduated last June, just what she
wanted to do or had to do next.  Every one was going to teach or travel,
or ’slum’ or study, or come out or get married.  But poor me!"  Sylvia
shrugged humorously, though her eyes were still thoughtful. "I haven’t
any startling gifts or urgent duties.  I haven’t the necessity of
earning bread and butter, nor any special cause to follow.  It is really
hopeless to be so--"  She groped for a word then settled on
"unattached."

"There is more than one male who would be willing to remedy that defect,
I’m thinking," chuckled Suzanne wickedly.  "How about the person who
disburses these delectable bonbons? Won’t he do for a cause?"

"I am afraid not, the person being only Jack."

"Only Jack, whom the mammas all smile upon and the daughters don their
fetchingest gowns and their artfullest graces for--quite the most
eligible young man in the market.  Sylvia, you are spoiled if Jack
Amidon isn’t good enough for you!"

"I didn’t say he wasn’t good enough for me."  Sylvia came over to the
table to provide herself with one of Jack’s bonbons before seating
herself on the India stool beside the hammock facing out over the lawn.
"Jack is a dear, but I’ve known him nearly all my life, seems to me, and
even to oblige you it would be hard to get up any romantic thrills over
him."

"Too bad!" murmured Suzanne, regretfully. "He is so good looking.  You
two would look lovely prancing down the aisle together à la Lohengrin."

"Suzanne!"  Barb opened her eyes to expostulate. "You are so dreadfully
flippant.  I don’t believe anything is sacred to you."

Suzanne laughed.  "Maybe not," she admitted. Then she sat up abruptly to
add, "I forgot my Future.  I have that shrined and canonized and burn
incense to it every night.  It is the only thing in the world or out of
it I take seriously. I-am-going-to-write-plays."  She thumped a plump
green cushion vigorously, allotting a single thump to each staccato
syllable.  "I may not succeed this year or next year or in five years,
but some day I shall arrive with both feet.  You two shall come and sit
in my first-nighter box and it will be _some_ play!"  She vaunted
slangily, imparting a last emphatic punch upon the acquiescent cushion
before she relinquished it.

"We’ll be there," promised Sylvia.  "I only wish I had convictions like
that about my Future. Mine is just a nebular hypothesis at present.  How
about you, Barbie?  Are you as certain about your Cause as Suzanne is
about her Career?"

Barb uncurled herself to testify.  "Not a bit," she sighed.  "You see,
my Cause is a sort of inherited mantle, and I am never sure whether it
fits or not, though I never have the slightest doubt as to the propriety
of my attempting to wear it even if I have to take tucks in it."
Barbara’s eyes crinkled around the corners in a way they had when she
was very much in earnest.  "You know it has been understood all along
that I was to be Aunt Jo’s secretary and general right-hand man as soon
as I graduated.  That was what she educated me for. Of course I believe
in suffrage and all that.  When I hear Aunt Jo talk I just get thrills
all up and down my spinal column and feel as strong as Samson making
ready to topple over the pillars, as if I could do anything and
everything to give women a chance.  But when I get away from Aunt Jo I
cool off disgracefully.  That is what makes me think sometimes it isn’t
the real fire I have but a sort of surface heat generated by Aunt Jo’s
extraordinary personal magnetism and fearful and wonderful vocabulary.
It worries me dreadfully sometimes."

Barb’s small, brown, child-like face puckered in perplexity and her blue
eyes blinked as if they beheld too much light.

"It needn’t," commented Suzanne sagely.  "I know you.  By the time you
have been flinging out the banner six weeks you will be white hot for
the Cause, especially if you can somehow manage to martyrize yourself
into the bargain.  You would have made a perfect early Christian.  I can
see you smiling with glad Pollyannaism into the faces of the abashed
lions."

"Oh, Suzanne!"

Barbara had spent many minutes all told during the past four years of
her college life saying, "Oh, Suzanne!" in precisely that shocked,
protesting, helpless tone.  The two were the best of friends, but in
code of conduct and mode of thought they were the meeting extremes.

"Aren’t you going to prescribe for me now you have diagnosed my case?"
Sylvia came to the rescue.

"I did prescribe, but you wouldn’t swallow Mr. Jack Amidon, sugar-coated
pill though he is.  How about your tawny-maned, giant, ex-football-hero
M.D.?  He isn’t so good looking as Jack but--"

"I think he is much nicer looking," Barb interposed surprisingly, then
blushed and subsided.

"Oho!" laughed Suzanne.  "Better keep your eye on our Barbie if you want
to keep Doctor Philip Lorrimer on your waiting list, Sylvia.  Such
unprecedented enthusiasm!  And she has beheld him but once at that.  Oh,
the witchery of that Commencement moon!  I inadvertently nearly promised
to marry Roger Minot myself in its specious glamour.  I’ll wager our
demure Barbie flirted with your six-foot medicine man when you rashly
left him on her hands on the outskirts of Paradise. ’Fess up, Barb.
Didn’t you flirt a teeny weeny little flirt in the moonshine?"

"No, I didn’t," denied Barbara, flushed and indignant.  "But I did like
Doctor Lorrimer.  He talked sense, and I was awfully interested in his
work in the free clinic."

"Sense!  Shop!  By moonlight!  Ye gods!" mocked Suzanne.  "Never mind,
Barbie.  Your tactics were admirable.  Listen to ’em.  Keep on listening
to ’em.  It’s what the sex likes.  It gets ’em every time."

"But I don’t want to get ’em," protested Barbara earnestly.

Whereupon Suzanne giggled and tossed her victim a silver sheathed bonbon
by way of reconciliation. Then she returned to her charge upon Sylvia,
who had sat silent during the last sally, meditatively playing with the
spray of scarlet creeper in her lap.

"Sorry, Sylvia, belovedest.  But I can’t seem to think of a single
suitable job for you except matrimony.  You are eminently fitted for
that."

Sylvia looked up with an expression half mirthful, half dissenting.

"Thanks.  But at this juncture I don’t happen to want to get married one
bit more than you do, which to judge from your protestations and your
treatment of poor Roger isn’t much."

"Right you are.  No such ’cribb’d, cabin’d and confined’ business as
matrimony for this child. What was the advice old Bacon cites as to when
a man should marry?  ’A young man not yet, an elder man, not at all.’
Read woman for man and you have my sentiments in a nutshell."

"Oh, Suzanne!"  Thus the refrain from the big chair.  But Sylvia only
laughed, knowing what Barbara seemed never to be able to learn, that
Suzanne rarely meant more than a half or at best a quarter of what she
said and thoroughly delighted in being iconoclastic, especially if the
idols made considerable noise smashing, as she would have put it
herself.

"Look at your neighbor, Mrs. Doctor Tom."  Suzanne warmed her to her
subject.  "She used to write for all the best magazines and travel and
live the broadest, freest, splendidest kind of life. How does she put in
her time now?  Eternally making rompers for Marjory, trying to keep
Thomas Junior’s face clean and his vocabulary expurgated, seeing that
the dinner is warm and the cook’s temper cool when Doctor Tom is late to
meals, and so on and so on to the end of the chapter.  Only there isn’t
any end to the chapter.  It goes on forever like Tennyson’s stupid
brook. Bah!  Excuse me!"  And Suzanne’s gesture betokened insuperable
scorn for the ways of the wifely.

"But Mrs. Daly looks as if she enjoyed doing all those things, and I
think it is lovely to have babies."  There was a little wistful note in
Barb’s voice as she made the statement.

"H-mp!  Maybe so.  But I say it is a shame for anybody who could write
the way she could to give it up.  Don’t you, Sylvia?"

"O dear!" groaned Sylvia.  "Yes and no. Why do I always have to see both
sides of things? Lois _is_ happy.  At least I think she is.  You can’t
always tell about Lois, she is so cool and serene and deep.  Anyway, the
babies are lovely.  But I can’t help agreeing with you a little,
Suzanne.  It does seem a pity."

"Of course it is a pity.  And there is your Felicia.  She is another
case in point.  She gave up her work and a fortune to marry a man who
lived just long enough to leave her with a big heartache to carry round
inside her and two children to provide immediate bread and butter for.
You can say what you like.  I say it was too much of a price."

"O, but, Suzanne, Marianna and Donald are such dears!" pleaded Barb.

"Of course they are dears.  They are adorable. But you can’t deny they
have kept her back.  She is just beginning to be a real sculptor after
all these years.  And now she is beginning appears this Kinnard person
to spoil it all."

Sylvia looked up a trifle startled.

"What do you mean, Suzanne?  Mr. Kinnard isn’t spoiling anything.  He is
helping.  Felicia hasn’t a bit of faith in herself.  She never would
have thought of entering into that mural relief competition if he hadn’t
made her.  And I know her designs are going to be splendid.  Mr. Kinnard
says they are, and he knows."

Suzanne shrugged.

"I fear the Greeks bearing gifts.  No man ever gave a woman something
for nothing since time began.  You’ll see."

"What shall I see?"

"You might have seen the way he looked at your Felicia yesterday
afternoon.  You needn’t stare. She is the loveliest thing imaginable;
and, anyway, widows always marry again.  They can’t seem to help it.  It
is in the system."

"Oh, he looks at every woman.  How can he help it with eyes like that?
He is much more likely to be wooing Hope.  He has been sketching her all
summer and she makes lovely shy dryad eyes at him while he works.  I
don’t see how he can resist her myself, she is so deliciously pretty."

"’A violet by a mossy stone.’  Mr. Kinnard isn’t looking for violets.
You’ll see, as I said before."

And in spite of her denial, Sylvia couldn’t help wondering if there were
any truth in Suzanne’s implications.  She had accepted Stephen Kinnard
quite simply as Felicia had explained him, an old friend and fellow
artist of Paris days.  He had been in Greendale nearly all summer doing
some sketches of Southern gardens for a magazine, and it had seemed
perfectly natural to Sylvia that he should come often up the hill to see
Mrs. Emory. They were both artists and had much in common beside their
old friendship.  That any factors deeper than those which appeared on
the surface might be keeping Stephen Kinnard in Felicia’s proximity had
not until the moment occurred to Sylvia.  For a moment it flashed across
her mind how sadly Arden Hall would fare without Felicia who with the
dear "wonder babies" had come to help Sylvia keep Christmas nearly six
years ago and had remained in the old house ever since to its young
owner’s infinite content and well being.

"I never thought of Felicia’s marrying again," she said after a moment
of silence.

"Well, Stephen Kinnard has thought of it, if you haven’t," pronounced
Suzanne.  "By the way, he said a rather nice thing about you yesterday.
He said you had a genius for happiness."

Sylvia smiled a little as her gaze strayed past the white pillars, past
the giant magnolia-tree lifting its shining leaves to the sun, past the
pink and white glory of cosmos and the dial beyond, dedicating itself
discreetly to none but sunny hours; beyond still farther to the clear
turquoise space of sky visible behind it all.

"Being happy isn’t much of an art when you can’t help being it," she
said, her gaze and her thoughts coming back from their momentary
journey.

"Oh, but he didn’t mean just your being happy," put in Barb in her
quick, serious way.  "He meant your way of making other people happy.
It’s true. I noticed it often in college.  But it is truer than ever
here.  Everybody in Arden Hall is happy.  It is like Shakespeare’s
forest.  It makes you feel different--not just only happy but better,
being here."

"That is the house.  It has been like that ever since I had my Christmas
family here.  Of course, it is realty mostly Felicia.  She is the
mainspring of it all.  But we like to pretend there is something magic
about the house itself.  You don’t know how I love every stick and brick
of it.  I have never had half enough of it.  I have been in school so
much, I’ve only snatched a few vacations on the wing, as it were, and
even that only in the last few years since I captured Felicia.  Ugh!
Nobody knows how I hated those dreadful holidays in hotels after Aunt
Nell died and I came to America.  And nobody knows how I love this."
Her expansive gesture made "this" include house and lawn and magnolia
and pink and white bloom and sun dial and all the rest, perhaps even the
turquoise stretch of sky.  "I’ve never had my fill of homeness," she
concluded.

"Funny!" mused Suzanne.  "Now, I don’t want to be at home at all.
Norton is such a stuffy, snippy, gossipy, little town, and I loathe
being officially the ’parson’s daughter.’  Sometimes it used to seem to
me I’d rather throw myself in the river than go to another prayer
meeting and hear Deacon Derby drone out minute instructions to the Lord
as to how he should manage his business. And being home isn’t so sweet
and simple as it seems either.  I adore my mother, but we don’t see two
things alike in the wide world.  She likes the chairs stiff and straight
against the walls, just in the same position year in, year out.  I like
’em at casual experimental angles, different every day. That is typical
of our two viewpoints.  She likes things eternally straight and the
same.  I like ’em eternally on the bias and different.  We can’t either
of us help it.  We are made that way.  And we’re both more or less
miserable, whether we give in or whether we don’t.  Mother and Dad are
regular darlings, both of them, but I don’t mean to stay at home with
them a bit more than I can help. They don’t need me.  They are perfectly
used to doing without me and are really much happier sans Suzanne.  I
just stir things up and they like to snuggle down in their nice
comfortable ruts.  I’ve got to live in New York.  I’d smother in Norton,
Pa."

"Roger doesn’t seem to be smothering in Norton," Sylvia reminded her.
"Jack stopped over to see him last week and he said Roger was stirring
things up with a vengeance since he has been sitting among the city
fathers."

"Oh, Roger!"  Suzanne shrugged Roger away as entirely negligible.
"Roger Minot would stir things up in a graveyard.  He likes to live in a
small town.  I don’t.  The biggest city in the world isn’t one bit too
big for me.  New York for mine. Better change your mind, Sylvia, and
come on, too. There will be plenty of room in my garret.  More room than
anything else probably.  Aunt Sarah’s legacy has its limits, more’s the
pity.  But come on and share my crust."

"Maybe I will, temporarily.  I’ve promised Jeanette Latham to visit her
next winter and I’ll include you and Barb in my rounds if invited."

"Jeanette Latham?  Mrs. Francis VanDycke Latham?  _The_ Mrs. Latham who
figures in ’Vanity Fair’ and the Sunday supplement?  The only Jack’s
sister?  There will be some contrast between visiting her and visiting
me.  She inhabits a Duplex on the Drive, doesn’t she?  One of the
utterly utter."

"That depends.  Mr. Latham is awfully rich and old family, if that is
what you mean, and Jeanette does like to be at the extreme of
everything, but underneath all her dazzle and glitter she is really as
simple and genuine as Jack is.  I like her, and she is Jack’s favorite
sister."

"Which helps," murmured Suzanne.  "See here, Sylvia, if you once get
into that high society labyrinth you’ll never get out."

"Oh, yes I shall--unless the Minotaur gets me. I just want a bit of
Jeanette’s kind of life to see what it is really like.  In fact, I want
to try all kinds."

Sylvia smiled as she spoke, but she meant her last assertion for all
that.  Hers was an eager, active, questing temperament.  She was avid
for life in its entirety, with a healthy zest for experience whose sword
blades rather than poppy seeds appealed to her just now, as is natural
with youth. The college world from which she had been recently
emancipated, full and various and strenuous as it had often been, had
never fully satisfied her free, quick, young spirit.  She had always the
memory of those early rich years in Paris with her aunt from which to
draw comparison.  She had once complained to Felicia that college was
too much like the Lady of Shallott’s tower whose occupants perceived
life in a polished mirror instead of in direct contact.  She was already
frankly a little tired of "shadows," ready for the real thing, whatever
that was.

"Maybe I am glad I don’t have to do any one thing," she continued.  "All
through school you are so pushed and guarded and guided and instructed
you don’t have half a chance to be yourself.  I’m thankful for a
breathing space to find out who I really am."

"Why, Sylvia!  How funny!" puzzled Barb. "Don’t you know all about
yourself?"

"No, do you?"

Barbara shook her head with a faint sigh.

"Maybe not.  Or, if I do, I don’t let myself look at the real Barb for
fear--"  She broke off and Suzanne intervened.

"Well, I know all there is to know about Suzanne Morrison.  I have taken
considerable pains to get acquainted, in fact.  It is great to know
precisely what you want and that you are going to get it sooner or
later."  Thus the sublime arrogance of the young twenties.

"I wish I did!" said Sylvia quickly.

"Which?"

"Both," parried Sylvia.

But Barb, who was watching her, was aware of something in her friend’s
face which she could not quite fathom.  Was it possible there was
anything in the world Sylvia Arden wanted and could not have?  It was a
startling thought to Barb, who was accustomed to considering Sylvia as
the Princess of all the Heart’s Desires.

Just then the Japanese gong from within sent out its silver-tongued
invitation.  With the alacrity of the healthily hungry and heart-free
the three friends rose, the conclave ended, consigning to temporary
oblivion Causes, Careers and all Concomitant Problems.



                              *CHAPTER II*

                         *REASONS AND WRAITHS*


Mrs. Emory laid down her sewing on the porch table and rose to greet
Stephen Kinnard, a tall, lean man with a rather angular but interesting
face, with hair slightly graying on the temples, and remarkably
beautiful eyes, slate-gray shot with tiny topaz colored flecks, eyes
which as Sylvia said "looked" at women.  They looked now, which was
scarcely strange considering how beautiful Felicia Emory was at
thirty-three.

"Will you have tea?" inquired Felicia.

"Thanks, no."  He shook his head with a humorous gesture.  "I’ve taken
tea at the Oriole Inn--almost forcible feeding, in fact.  It seems they
are serving a new kind of sandwich to-day and Sylvia waylaid me and
insisted on trying it on the dog so to speak.  She and Suzanne and
Barbara and Martha and Hope all stood by to watch the effect.  I was
never so nervous in my life.  May I smoke to calm my spirit?"

Felicia nodded assent and sat down, resuming her sewing.

"I am glad to see you still survive," she said, as he lit his cigarette
and dropped into a near-by chair.

"Oh, yes, I still survive.  It was really an excellent sandwich in its
way, though I should hate to have to pass an examination on its
contents.  It was one of Sylvia’s inventions it seems.  Tell me, does
she have the whole Hill on her hands?  First it’s a garden party at
’Hester house,’ Sylvia at the helm; then it is the Byrd sisters who have
to be petted or scolded or braced, or a patient of Doctor Tom’s who
needs attention, or his babies that have to be story-told to, or
Marianna and Donald who have to have her assistance in a dramatic
performance of Lord Ullin’s Daughter.  I heard her shouting ’I’ll
forgive your Highland Chief’ yesterday while the kids eloped in the
hammock, amidst high billows, I judge from the way the boat was rocking.
To-day it is the Oriole Inn sandwich. She is a most remarkable young
person, this Sylvia of yours, with a most insatiable energy."

"She is, indeed," agreed Felicia heartily.  "The Hill can hardly get
along without Sylvia.  We all mope and get selfish and lazy, what she
calls ’rutty’ when she is away from it.  I am so glad she is home for
keeps now.  The Hill is never quite the same without her."

"But she won’t stay on it forever," warned Stephen Kinnard.  "She is a
live wire--that young lady.  She isn’t going to be content to settle
down on even so lovely a hill as hers.  Also she is more than likely to
get married."

"I suppose so," sighed Felicia.

"What a lugubrious tone to vouchsafe to the holy state!" he teased.

"It isn’t the holy state in itself.  It is Sylvia.  I hate to have her
get grown up and married and settled down.  I’d like to keep things just
as they are for awhile.  The dread of changes seems to grow on me as I
get old."

Felicia smiled as she made the statement but there was genuine feeling
behind it.

"Would you dread change for yourself?"

"For myself?  I don’t know.  I wasn’t thinking especially about myself."

"Do you ever?"

"Not oftener than is agreeable.  I am getting to be a very placid,
settled sort of person.  That is the comfort of being in the thirties.
You don’t expect so much of life.  Now, ten years ago if I had been
thinking of submitting designs for a competition I should have been
frightfully excited.  Now, I think I would almost rather not win, which
is fortunate considering how little chance there is of my doing so."

"There is all the chance in the world," objected Stephen.  "You need a
little of the virus of vanity instilled into you.  Felicia, do you
remember back there in Paris when old Regnier used to insist you had
more talent than any man in his class?"

Felicia tranquilly snipped off her thread and admitted that she
remembered.

"And do you remember how he raved when you told him you were going to
marry Syd?"

Felicia nodded.  She remembered that, too; remembered also, though she
did not say so, how she had smiled at the old master’s ravings, sure
that love would prove no hindrance to her art, sure that she and Sydney
would work and achieve fame together.  She had not dreaded changes in
those days. She had welcomed them, taken risks blithely, unafraid.  And
there had been risks.  Her aunt had raved also, to more purpose than the
Master, and in a moment of rage had changed her will, cutting off from
inheritance the willful girl who chose to reject the French count her
judicious relative had selected for her and insisted on marrying instead
a penniless artist.  The loss of her inheritance had seemed to Felicia
at the time a trifle light as air, quite as irrelevant indeed as the
Master’s gloomy prediction as to the eternal incompatibility of art and
matrimony.  All these things she had thrown into the scales with love in
the opposite balance and love had weighed immeasurably heaviest.

There had followed a few years of idyllic happiness.  Though with the
coming of the babies the art she loved had been temporarily suspended;
both she and her husband promised themselves eagerly that it was only a
suspension, that she would go back to it again as soon as Marianna and
Brother were just a little older.  But before Marianna and Brother were
much older Felicia was left alone with a "big heartache to carry round
inside her and two children to provide immediate bread and butter for,"
as Suzanne had put it.  And so the old dreams had been thrust out of
sight, and the young woman whom the Master pronounced to have possessed
more talent than twenty talented young men, fell to earning a living for
herself and her little folk by painting place cards and Christmas
greetings and calendars and such like small ilk.  All this drifted in
retrospect through Felicia Emory’s mind as she bent over her sewing, and
something in the droop of her mouth touched Stephen as he perceived it.
Impulsively he threw away his cigarette and leaned forward letting his
hand touch hers.

"Felicia, forgive me!  I didn’t mean to hurt you."

"You didn’t.  It just came back to me for a moment how fearfully young
and happy and ignorant I was in those days.  But with all the wisdom
I’ve garnered since, if I had it to do over again, I suppose I should
travel precisely the same road.  Isn’t it queer, Stephen?  Don’t you
feel that way about the past, too?"

"No, my road was too devilish rough.  I’d like it different."

Felicia looked up, surprised both at his words and the unusual passion
in his voice.

"Do you suppose I have ever forgotten I didn’t get what I wanted?
Felicia, I loved you before Syd ever saw you."

"I know.  I’m sorry.  I was always sorry. You know that, Stephen."

"You needn’t be.  Loving you made a man of me, though it did make the
road rough.  Things had come my way rather too easily up to that time.
Syd was the better man.  I always owned that."

"You were fine, Stephen.  I’ve never forgotten how fine.  And Sydney
cared more for you than for any one else in the world--barring us."  She
smiled a little and her eyes strayed out to the magnolia tree beneath
whose generous shade Marianna and Donald were laboriously engaged in the
construction of a kite with much chatter and argument.

"Felicia."

"Yes?"

"Are you so afraid of change you wouldn’t risk beginning over
again--with me?"

Felicia’s sewing dropped in her lap and her blue eyes opened wide with
surprise and consternation as she looked up to meet his dark, eager
eyes.

"Stephen!"

"Well?  Is it so impossible to conceive? Haven’t you guessed I was going
to ask it sooner or later?"

"No.  Oh, Stephen, I wish you hadn’t."

"Why?  I don’t expect the same kind of love you gave Syd.  You couldn’t
give it, of course. That is past.  But you are too young to have life
stop altogether for you--too young and too lovely. Other men will ask it
if I don’t, and I--well, I want to get in ahead."  He laughed boyishly,
but his eyes, which were grave enough, never left her face. "Is there
any reason you couldn’t say yes?" he asked.

"I am afraid there are many.  One of them--rather two of them--are out
under the tree at present."

His gaze followed her gesture.

"Are they really a reason?  I love the kiddies and they like me.  Surely
it would be no injustice nor detriment to them.  Why should it?"

"Not to them--rather to you--to any man I married.  They are a very
piece of me.  They are me.  If there ever came to be a decision between
them and--well, call the man you--I should decide for them.  Is that
fair to you?  Would you risk it?"

"Willingly.  Why should there be any decision or division?  What do you
think I am?  If I marry you I marry them too.  I am crazy over children.
I’ve always wanted them."

"Exactly," said Felicia quietly.  "That would be part of the injustice
to you.  I don’t want children.  Marianna and Donald are enough."

"So they would be for me.  Felicia, can’t you understand, I want nothing
except what you want--what will make you happy?  Is there any other
reason?"

"Yes, she is coming up the Hill now."

He turned quickly and saw Sylvia, with her friends on either side, just
going up the path which led to the door of the Byrd sisters preparatory
to an afternoon call.

"What nonsense!"  He turned back to Felicia to protest.  "Sylvia would
be the last to stand in the way of your happiness."

"Oh, I know that.  But listen, Stephen.  You accused me of not
understanding a moment ago. Now it is you who do not understand.  Do you
know what Sylvia has been to me all these years? No, you couldn’t
possibly know.  No man could. Six years ago I was weary almost unto
death, and discouraged with a weight of hopelessness which was beginning
to make even the children seem a burden.  That Christmas was the
blackest time of all the months since Sydney went.  I tell you honestly
it didn’t seem as if I could go on with it all.  I was too near the
breaking point.  And then straight out of the delightful good fairyland
where she lives came Sylvia begging me to be her Christmas sister and
bring the babies to round out her magic Christmas circle.  I believe it
was Sylvia’s smile and Sylvia’s pleading eyes that began to heal the
hurt in me then and there.  I have had lonely moments since, of course,
and some black ones, too, but they have never been so bad since that
Christmas.  Do you wonder that next to my own children I care more for
Sylvia and her happiness than for anything else in the world?"

Stephen shook his head soberly, trying his best to understand since she
desired it.

"After the Christmas family scattered I came to be what Sylvia calls her
homekeeper and that I have been for over five years now.  You can see a
little what it has meant to me to have a home like Arden Hall for the
children to grow up in instead of a cramped city apartment with no
outdoors except public parks to play in.  It has made all the difference
in the world to them and to me, body, mind and soul.  I couldn’t have
been half a mother to them the way I was working and living.  And all of
this we owe to Sylvia."

"But you have rendered good measure.  You have given her a home no less
than she has given you one.  It has been a fair exchange."

"I know.  It has meant almost as much to Sylvia as it has to me.  It has
given us both what we wanted most.  I don’t pretend it hasn’t been give
and take.  It has.  But this one year is the one of all the six since
I’ve known Sylvia that she needs me most.  I wouldn’t fail her now for
anything."

"And they say women have no sex loyalty," muttered Stephen Kinnard.
"See here, Felicia, do you realize you have as good as accepted me?"

"Accepted you!  I have been refusing you with reasons for fifteen
minutes."  Felicia’s serene voice was a bit ruffled and there was a
flush in her cheeks.

"You’ve been giving reasons, I grant you, but not refusal.  Look at me,
Felicia.  If there weren’t any Marianna and Donald and Sylvia in the
world wouldn’t you say this minute, ’Stephen, I’ll marry you just as
soon as you can get the license’?  No quibble now.  Honest."

Felicia laughed softly and her flush deepened.

"If there weren’t any Marianna and Donald and Sylvia in the world I
should be so desperately lonesome I should tell the first man that asked
me I would marry him as soon as he could get the license, but seeing
that there are Marianna and Donald and Sylvia, not only in the world but
on this very Hill, I am not in the least lonesome and quite satisfied
with my mothering-sistering job, thank you."

"Then it is really no?"

The mirth died out of her eyes at the gravity of his tone.

"Yes, Stephen.  I am sorry, but it is really no. Aside from Sylvia and
the children there would always be Sydney.  You are too fine to be a
second best, Stephen, dear.  Do go and find somebody who is fresher and
younger and less--tired than I am."

At her words there rose to both their minds a vision of Hope Williams’
dainty, wild rose beauty and wistful "dryad" eyes.  Stephen had been
sketching her only that morning in the Oriole Inn garden and every line
of her exquisite, fragile, flower-like face and lithe, graceful young
body was in his head still.  And Felicia had more than once surprised an
unforgettable expression in Hope’s eyes when the artist had come
suddenly into the girl’s presence.  Hope was young, younger than Sylvia,
and Stephen Kinnard was forty.  But he was of the eternally young type
of man, brimming over with that inexplicable, irresistible thing we call
charm, and his years abroad had stamped him with a picturesque, foreign
quality which was sure to appeal to the romantic fancy of youth.  One
ardent gaze from those strange, gold-flecked eyes of his had no doubt
been enough to set many a maid dreaming ere this, and he had been kind
to Hope, perhaps more than kind for all Felicia knew.

But already the vision of Hope had vanished from Stephen’s mind.  He saw
only the mature grace and loveliness of the woman who had long ago been
the one fixed star of his errant youth and to whom he now brought the
homage of ripened manhood.

"I don’t want anybody in the smallest particular different from
yourself, sweet Lady Love.  Don’t worry though," as he saw her troubled
eyes.  "I am not going to pester you.  I shall take myself off to-morrow
but I shall come back and some day I shall surprise you in a lonely hour
and you will say, ’Stephen, do hurry and get the license.’"

Seeing his whimsical, reassuring smile, Felicia smiled back, half
relieved, and indeed not quite knowing how much of it all had been in
earnest; glad, at all events, to have him slip back so easily into the
familiar channels of friendliness.

And just then the girls, having finished their call, came gayly
chattering up the walk, demanding of Stephen whether he had suffered any
ill effects from the experimental sandwich he had so manfully
encountered.  And amidst the general confusion of talk and laughter
Stephen rose to take his departure, giving no hint of finality about his
leave taking, except a slightly lengthened clasp of Felicia’s hand and a
steady gaze into her blue eyes. Consequently the girls, at least, were
considerably surprised the next day to receive three boxes of sweet peas
each with Stephen Kinnard’s card, rose pink for Suzanne, shell pink for
Barb, delicate lavendar for Sylvia.  Sylvia’s box also contained a
charming little note thanking the girl for her summer’s hospitality and
regretting that the writer was called out of town without opportunity
for formal farewells.  For Felicia had come violets, but no word at all,
not even a card.

"H-m-m," murmured the astute Suzanne, when the girls were alone, "Called
out of town, indeed! Needn’t tell me.  Your Felicia didn’t have such a
becoming extra bloom yesterday for nothing.  You are safe for the
present, Sylvia.  She evidently dismissed him."

Down the Hill, at the Oriole Inn, Hope and Martha Williams reigned in
the absence of the young proprietor who since her grandmother’s death
had been traveling in Europe with the Armstrongs, her sister Constance
and her husband, Sylvia’s erstwhile gardener.  And to the Oriole Inn
also came flowers, dainty, half-open, pink rosebuds nestled in
maidenhair fern.  Came also a brotherly affectionate note of thanks and
adieu from the artist.

"The sketches are bound to be a success," he wrote, "for you are the
very spirit of Southern gardens, the veriest rose of them all."  So he
had put it, poet fashion, and Hope, with fluttering pink and white in
her cheeks, ran off to enjoy her treasures in happy solitude, leaving
her sister Martha stolidly measuring lengths for the new dining-room
curtains.  No one had ever sent roses to Martha in all her life.  Nor
had any one ever written poet lines about her or to her.  She was not
that kind, as she would herself have explained.  But it was not that
that brought a wry twist to her lips and a worried look to her eyes as
she bent over her work.

"Why couldn’t he a been a little meaner to her?" she demanded of the
curtains.  "’Twould have been a whole lot kinder than being kind."

In which theory she unconsciously paraphrased the words of a person she
had never heard of, another perturbed guardian of another flower-like
maid, the Lily Maid of Astolat.  Of Launcelots and Elaines there are a
plenty in this somewhat uneconomical world.



                             *CHAPTER III*

                              *TWENTY-TWO*


"Please, Felicia.  Look at me.  Am I all right?"

Mrs. Emory turned from her mirror before which she had been adjusting a
last hairpin in her blond hair and smiled at the radiant vision which
hovered on her threshold.  But before she had time to render verdict the
vision ceased to be stationary and became before her eyes a vivid,
ecstatic flash and whirl of white chiffon and silver.

"Bless us, child!" laughed Felicia.  "You are as bad as Marianna.  How
can I tell anything about you when you are spinning like a Dervish? You
look as if you might float out the window any minute and join the moon
sprites."

Sylvia laughed, too, and came to a halt, though one silver slipper
paused tip toe as if it scorned prosaic levels and held itself ready for
further airy revolutions.

"And leave my birthday party!  Not much! The moon sprites shan’t get me
to-night.  Honest, Felicia, I just can’t keep still.  I’m too alive."

The chiffons and silver began to shimmer and quiver again in testimony
and Felicia smiled understandingly.  But even as she smiled she felt a
sharp little pang--the pang of chastened maturity for exuberant youth.
A vagrant bit of verse flashed through her mind.

    "Pity that ever the jubilant springs should fail at their flow
    And that youth so utterly knowing it not should one day know."


Yes, that was the pity.  Here was Sylvia Arden, glad, and young, and
free, smiling into the future with fearless eyes, challenging
experience.  Must she too, one day know?  At any rate, the hour of too
much knowing was as yet afar off.  At twenty-two Sylvia was still very
close to the jubilant springs.  But even as she reached this comforting
conclusion Felicia saw the girl’s eyes grow sober.

"Felicia, sometimes I think it’s a dreadful thing to grow up.  Life is
so fearfully complex somehow.  All sorts of questions jump out and ’Boo’
at you from behind every tree."

"What kind of questions?"

"Oh, all kinds!"  Sylvia dropped down on the low window seat, like a
bird suddenly alighting, and clasped her hands around her knees in
reckless disregard of her billowing chiffons.  "I’m a little afflicted
with socialism and that is a sad disease for a person who has as much
money as I have.  But that isn’t all.  I am so at sea about so many
things, and there are so many strings pulling in all directions.
Suzanne thinks New York is the only place in the world to really live in
and she wants me to come and live with her and study or do something.
She doesn’t think it matters much what, so long as I breathe New York,
and Barb is nearly as bad.  They are both full of up-to-date notions and
they think I’m just going to slip behind if I stay here and maybe I
shall.  I can see pretty easily how I could.  Everybody here expects me
to do the regular coming out performance, teas and dinners and balls and
the rest, with maybe a little discreet charity work thrown in, and
possibly a paper on art or ethics for the literary club.  You know what
Greendale is.  The Gordons want me to go to Japan with them and Hilda
wants me to join her in Berlin, or did before the war.  Goodness knows
where she is now.  I haven’t heard since July. And--well, there are
other things."

Felicia quite understood that Jack Amidon might possibly be another
string pulling the girl.  It was no secret from the Hill, and certainly
not from the wise-eyed "Big Sister," that that devoted, persistent and
"magerful" young man had every intention of storming Sylvia’s hill top
and carrying off its princess if such a feat were humanly possible.

"And you don’t want to do any of these things?"

Sylvia smiled dubiously.

"Oh, yes, a little of me wants to do all those things.  But the most of
me wants to stay right here at Arden Hall and do nothing particular.
I’d like a kind of year o’ grace I think.  I don’t seem to have any
especial ambitions nor desires except to learn to live as broad and deep
and quick as I can."  She shifted her position slightly and looked out
into the night where her beloved rose garden lay in magical moonlight
and shadow and a faint sigh escaped her, born of the very beauty,
poignant almost as pain, so quick was her response to it.  Suddenly she
turned back and her eyes smiled at Felicia.

"Life’s funny, isn’t it?" she said, springing up. "Felicia, what ever in
the world should I do without you?"  She eyed a little sternly the bunch
of violets Felicia was wearing, a fresh bunch which had arrived that
day.  "Felicia, Mr. Kinnard isn’t--you aren’t--?"

Felicia laughed.

"Your observations lack a certain finished coherence but I assure you I
am not, nor is he--at least, not seriously."

"I’m so glad!" sighed Sylvia.  "I know I’m a pig but I should simply
hate Stephen Kinnard if I thought he were going to carry you off, and I
should hate to hate him he is so exceedingly nice.  I wish he could have
stayed for the party to-night. Oh me!  We ought to be downstairs this
blessed minute.  _Am_ I all right, Felicia?  You never did tell me."
And Sylvia whirled around to the mirror for a last critical survey.
Felicia, whose eyes also sought the reflected figure in the glass,
thought she had never seen the girl lovelier than she was to-night in
all her shimmering bravery of white and silver.  But there was always
something more than mere prettiness about Sylvia, something which seemed
to shine from within out.  She was so exquisitely alive like the fire in
the heart of an opal or a jet of pure flame.

"Aren’t you coming, Syl?" Suzanne’s voice called from the hall as she
knocked and entered almost simultaneously, followed by Barbara.

    "’The feast is set,
    The guests are met.
      May’st hear the merry din.’"

she chanted gayly, looking more impishly charming even than usual in her
beruffled corn yellow taffeta, which set off her sparkling brunette
beauty to perfection.  "Do come down quick and get the hand shaking over
so we can begin to dance.  It is a shame to waste a moment of that
heavenly music. And here’s Barb just dying to get to cracking the hearts
of the Greendale swains.  Look at her. Behold my handiwork.  She even
let me apply the faintest soupçon of Nature’s sweet reënforcer. Madame
Delphine’s Parisian Bloom.  Isn’t she adorable?  Barbie, my child,
revolve for the ladies."

"Oh, Suzanne!"  The roses in Barb’s cheeks needed no further
reënforcement at the moment. "Do please rub it off.  It’s dreadful.
Does it show, Sylvia?  She would do it."

"Nothing shows except that you’re the cunningest mite I ever laid eyes
on," approved Sylvia. "Felicia, do look at her.  Doesn’t she look
precisely like one of Marianna’s dolls?  In that darling white baby
dress and blue sash to match her eyes, would you ever suspect her of
being a Summa cum Laude and a frightfully new woman?"

"You all look new enough when it comes to that," laughed Felicia.  "You
haven’t a notion how young you really are.  Now, shoo, every one of you.
I’ll follow as soon as I have rounded up Donald and Marianna."

It was a rather heterogeneous assembly which met at the Hall that night,
as Sylvia’s parties were apt to be.  The guests ranged from "Grandpa
McIntosh," getting to be rather an old gentleman these days but still
hale and a little crusty as became a good Scotchman, down to little Mary
Lane, the youngest, shyest member of the "Hester house" family which
continued to hold its hospitable doors open to those who needed a home
"with some one to care" as Sylvia had stipulated from the beginning.

Marianna, still fairy-like, in spite of her eleven-year-old dignity,
flitted happily among the guests feeling delightfully grown up and
important, but Donald, younger and shyer, boyishly conscious of his
hands and feet, slipped into unobtrusive corners save for the rare
moments when he could squeeze into an empty space beside his mother.

Of course the Hill was all there, Miss Priscilla, and Miss Rosalie and
Julietta feasted their eyes delightedly on Sylvia, telling every one who
would listen what a very picture of her Aunt Eleanor Arden the child
was, rapturously reminiscent of other days and other parties when they,
too, like Arden Hall were younger than at present, and Doctor Tom and
Lois were there also, rallying each other on being such old fogies that
a party was an event and the new dances utterly beyond their ken.

"Hester house" was present too in full force, including Mrs. Lorrimer
and all the family of girls who had the luck to be mothered by her
skillful hands and warm heart.  All kinds of girls they were, big and
little, pretty and plain, stupid and clever, but all of the workaday
world and all otherwise homeless, united by one common bond, a warm
adoration for Sylvia through whom they felt themselves linked to the
world of their rosiest dreams. Sylvia would no more have omitted them
from her list of guests on this birthday celebration than she would have
omitted the Byrds or Doctor Tom.  To be of the Hill was open sesame to
Sylvia’s favor, and moreover these girls were every one of them her
personal friends and she wanted them here for their own sakes.

Hope and Martha, too, had come up from the Oriole Inn, the former still
a little inarticulate and somber but happily having lost the old-young,
pinched look about the mouth and the bitterness about the eyes which had
been hers that night in Sylvia’s garden when she had charged the owner
so sternly with possessing "Hundreds of roses when Hope hasn’t even
one;" a charge which Sylvia had never since been able to forget for
long.  It was to her a symbol of the mesh of inequality and injustice of
the world in which she herself was caught and struggled.  For Sylvia
wanted to share her roses.  She always had wanted to, as Martha had long
since learned.  Hope was even sweeter and lovelier at twenty than she
had been at fifteen, still a little frail in appearance though perfectly
well.  This summer there was an added grace about her, a sort of
suppressed joyousness, a glow which transformed her rather ethereal
charm into an even more appealing human guise.  During the sunny summer
days past when Stephen Kinnard had been using her as the incarnation of
gardens, Hope herself had bloomed from a shy bud of a rose into a
half-blown flower, though perhaps only Martha’s keen, devoted eyes saw
what had happened.

Professor Lane and his wife, Sylvia’s original "Christmas Mother," were
unfortunately unable to be present, though they sent warm greetings and
hearty congratulations from the Western university to which the
professor had recently been called. With them, too, was Elizabeth, also
of the original famous family, who had come of late to be almost like a
daughter in their childless home.

Gus Nichols was here, however, a slim, dark youth, extremely quiet,
though not in the least awkward; unobtrusive, grave, giving the
impression somehow of banked fires behind those solemn dark eyes of his,
which followed Sylvia Arden wherever she passed.  Though Gus was
thoroughly American in dress and manner and articulation, the trail of
his Italian ancestry was upon him.  Even after all these years he looked
"different," an odd contrast to the grim conservative old man, Angus
McIntosh, whose adopted son and idol he was.  Gus had been studying
abroad for several years, had indeed just returned to America, ready to
start his career on the concert stage.  If this profession elected by
the boy were at all a bitter pill for the old Scotchman to swallow he
made no protest about it and had even furthered the lad’s ambition. Mr.
McIntosh was not one to indulge in half-way measures and Sylvia had long
since driven home her point that if he was to transform Gus Nichols,
office boy, into Augustus Nichols, his adopted son, he had no right to
change the currents of the boy’s being in the process.  He quite
understood that if Gus "had to play the music that was in him," he _had_
to.  That was the end of it.  Angus McIntosh was enough of a
predestinarian to perceive that.  At any rate, Sylvia and her Christmas
family had inoculated the fast hardening old man with a certain infusion
of human tolerance and human understanding and he had all the reward for
his kindness that he desired and more in the boy’s usually silent but
none the less deep gratitude and devotion.

Other friends there were of Greendale and the near-by city, assembled to
do honor to the young mistress of Arden Hall who had at last come home
to take her place among them no longer a half-fledged school girl, but a
poised and very lovely young woman.

"I suppose you will be marrying her off next," observed Mr. McIntosh
curtly, with bent brows, to Mrs. Emory who chanced to be standing near
by as Sylvia sped past in Jack Amidon’s arms.

"Not I," smiled Felicia.  "I should be sorry to have her marry for a
year or so yet.  One is young such a very short time in this world at
best. I should like to keep her just as she is for awhile if I could."

"You’ll have some trouble doing it unless you muzzle that young man, I’m
thinking."  The speaker frowned thoughtfully at Jack Amidon’s back. "I
suppose that is what most people would call a suitable match, eh?" he
wheeled on Felicia to ask.

"I suppose so," admitted Felicia.

"H-mp!" snorted her companion.  "Most people are fools."

Whether fools or not there were plenty of people to note with interest,
pleasure or alarm, according to their several viewpoints, when as the
music ceased Sylvia stepped through the French window into the balcony
beyond, followed by Jack Amidon.  Perhaps more than one guest would have
echoed Suzanne’s verdict that Sylvia was spoiled indeed if Jack Amidon
were not good enough for her; handsome, debonair, thoroughly charming as
he was.  Health, wealth, good looks and good old family on both sides.
What more could be desired?  Who but a canny old Scotchman would have
"H-mped" in the face of such a very obviously appropriate combination?
Yet Sylvia herself was still to be reckoned with; Sylvia who wore her
heart on her sleeve as little now as in the old St. Anne days, Sylvia,
who wanted to learn to live as broad and deep and quick as she could.



                              *CHAPTER IV*

                          *THE WAYS OF A MAID*


"You look mighty sweet and cool and moonshiny!"

Jack stooped to draw Sylvia’s scarf about her bare shoulders with the
protecting chivalrous touch which was characteristic of him.  His
ancestors had been cavaliers and none of them all knew better than he
the art of little, tender, intimate, endearing ways which women--even
new women--love. The ardently adoring expression in his eyes was also
characteristic.  Jack Amidon’s eyes were accustomed to looking adoring.
He could no more help making love to a pretty girl than he could have
been rude to an ugly one.  It was constitutional. To do him justice,
however, this time the adoration came from rather deep.  There had been
girls and girls in his life but never but one Sylvia.

"Ah, but it’s good to have you home for good and all."  And he let his
hands rest for a moment on her shoulders as he spoke and permitted the
ardentness of his eyes to deepen.

But Sylvia slipped away from his hands and his too eloquent gaze.  She
turned to rest her hands on the railing and look down at the fountain
which flashed and gurgled pleasantly below in the moonlight.  Perhaps
she knew that all the summer day playing had been leading up to this
night, that a serious question was likely to "Boo" at her at any minute
unless she could keep it at a safe distance, which as Jack’s eyes just
now betrayed was not going to be so easy.

"I am not sure I _am_ home--for good and all," she said, still with her
eyes on the fountain.  "I have to find something to do.  Just being
’out’ isn’t going to satisfy me.  I have to be in something or rather.
I am looking for a Cause," she turned back to him with a smile to add.

Jack dropped on the railing by her side and bent his handsome head until
it was very near the girl’s.

"Won’t I do--for a Cause?" he asked, unconsciously echoing Suzanne.

Sylvia smiled.

"Scarcely.  I am afraid you are more like an effect."

"An effect!"

"You are a fearful example of what I don’t want to be and what I am
bound to be if I don’t watch out."

"What?"

Sylvia paused for a word, then, "A derelict," she pronounced.

Jack’s head went up quickly, his self-complacency shattered for the
moment.  Sylvia’s word had stung.

"Do I honestly remind you of anything so--dilapidated, not to say
rotten?" he asked.

Sylvia caught the hurt sound in his voice and looked up, taking in at a
glance his wholesome, young vigor, his essential cleanness and fineness.
Excellent things these in themselves as the girl knew, though she asked
for more.

"No," she admitted.  "It wasn’t a good figure after all.  You are more
like a freshly rigged, beautifully appointed yacht, without a rudder or
a pilot, going nowhere--anywhere."

Jack settled back on the railing with a shrug.

"Same old Sylvia!  You always did hit straight from the shoulder.  What
do you want me to do? There is more money in the family now than is good
for us.  What’s the infernal use of my scrapping and scrambling for
more?  I’m a nincompoop at the business anyway."

"Then for goodness’ sake find one you aren’t a nincompoop at," retorted
Sylvia.

"Easier said than done, young woman."

"Oh, I know," relented his mentor.  "I haven’t any right to preach till
I find my own job."

"You!  Girls don’t need a job.  Their job is to look pretty and get
married."

Sylvia frowned at that.

"Heretic!  That’s not twentieth-century lingo. You are positively
mediæval.  I shall set Barb on you."

Jack smiled.

"Barb knows it’s true just as well as I do for all her theories.  She
would marry the right man in a minute if he turned up and forget the
suffrage stuff.  She’s by all odds the most domestic of the three of
you."

Sylvia looked thoughtful.  She remembered Barb’s opinion about the
"loveliness" of having babies and wondered.  For all his inconsequence
Jack had a somewhat startling habit at times of getting beneath the
surface of things.  She suspected he had hit upon a truth now but would
not give him the satisfaction of acknowledging the fact. Therefore she
said nothing, and her silence gave her companion the opening he had been
waiting for.  He had not brought Sylvia out in the moonlight to talk
"twentieth-century lingo."

"You didn’t wear my orchids," he observed irrelevantly, at least
irrelevantly to everything except his ardent eyes.  From the beginning
his eyes had been talking a language older than that of feminism.

"I didn’t wear anybody’s flowers.  I had too many."

"And I am not different from just anybody?"  There was a caressing,
proprietary note in his voice. "Sylvia, sweetheart, you _know_ I am."

Sylvia faced him and the issue then, aware that she could fend no
longer.

"Of course you are different, Jack.  I’ve known you so much longer than
the rest, but--I am afraid you are not different in the way you want me
to say it.  Please, Jack, don’t spoil what we have by asking too much."
Impulsively she put out her hand and let it rest on his.  "Can’t we keep
on being--just friends?"  She pleaded after the immemorial fashion of
woman.

"I’m afraid not.  You see, I don’t want to be just friends.  I want a
whole lot more as it happens.  I know I’m not much good, but I could be
with you at the helm.  You could do anything with me.  You always could.
Oh, Sylvia, wouldn’t you try it?  Couldn’t you?"  He stooped and lifted
her hand to his lips.  "Sylvia, isn’t there any hope?" he implored, all
his boy’s heart in his eyes.

Sylvia couldn’t help being stirred deeply.  When one is loved it is not
so hard to believe one loves in return and the call of youth and life is
strong. But for both their sakes she steadied herself knowing the time
was not ripe for yielding, if, indeed, it ever would be.  This was one
of the things among others that she was at sea about.  She was not yet
sure she knew herself, as she had told her friends.

"I am afraid there isn’t--much," she said gently, apropos of his word
_hope_.

His hand clinched.

"Sylvia, is there any one else?"

She shook her head hastily, but her eyes fell beneath his penetrating
gaze.

"It isn’t--Sylvia, it isn’t Phil?"

Sylvia’s head went up and there was a flash in her brown eyes, a deeper
flush on her cheeks.

"It is nobody.  Jack, you haven’t any right to ask that," she rebuked
him hotly.

"Sorry," he apologized.  "Consider it unasked."  "So it is old Phil," he
thought.

"I don’t want to marry anybody--not for a long, long time," Sylvia went
on swiftly.  "Anyway, I couldn’t marry anybody who was just a boy. I’ve
got to marry a _man_."  In her confusion Sylvia hit hard again; harder
perhaps than she really meant.

Jack rose and made one or two quick turns tip and down the balcony.
Then he came to a halt before Sylvia.

"Maybe I deserve that," he said soberly.  "No doubt I do.  See here,
Sylvia, if I can show you I am a man, will it help any?"

Sylvia hesitated.  It would help a great deal and she knew it.  And yet
could she promise anything while she was still so uncertain of herself?
Had she any right to hold out any hope?

"Sweetheart, wouldn’t there be any chance for me?" he pleaded.

"I don’t know," said Sylvia honestly.  "I’m sorry, Jack.  I’m all in a
muddle myself.  I do care a lot.  How could I help it?  You are always
so dear and nice to me, and you are so twisted up with so many of the
happiest times I’ve ever had I couldn’t help caring.  But it isn’t
enough at present, and I am not at all sure it ever could be enough of
the right kind.  We are awfully good playmates, but there is more ahead
for both of us than play.  At least I hope there is.  Anyway, I don’t
want to belong to anybody but myself for awhile."

"I’ll wait.  I’ll work like the devil.  I’ll do anything if you’ll only
say there is the slightest shadow of a chance."

Sylvia couldn’t help smiling at the boyishness of his protestations,
earnest as they were and touching in their unwonted humility.  She shook
her head.

"That is all there is--just a shadow of a chance. I’m sorry it isn’t
more.  Truly I am.  And don’t--please, don’t--hope too much," she
begged.

"I’ll hope all there is," he retorted grimly.

"Well, here you are!  My word!  Your partners are tearing their hair and
rushing round like mad dogs.  Pretty way for a hostess to behave,
vanishing like the original Cheshire puss!  Amidon, your life isn’t
worth a nickle if you go in there."  Thus challenged a blond young
medical student from the near-by University suddenly appearing in the
window, blithely unconscious that he had interrupted anything more than
a moonlight interlude.

"Then I’ll stay out," announced Jack coolly as Sylvia rose with
apologies and followed her captor.

Left alone, Jack lit a cigarette and strode to and fro in the little
balcony thinking as hard as perhaps he had ever thought in his
twenty-six rather heedless happy-go-lucky years.  If ever a man takes
square account of himself it is at the moment when he desires with all
his heart and soul to win a woman.  As young men go, Jack Amidon was as
clean and fine as most, considerably more so than might have been
expected, in fact, considering his easy-going temperament and unlimited
income. But being merely negatively decent was not enough to offer
Sylvia Arden.  Not even shrewd old Angus McIntosh knew that better than
Jack himself.

"Man indeed!" he muttered in the course of his march.  "I suppose if I
had studied like sin and turned into a saw bones like old Phil she would
have had some use for me."  The thought of Phil Lorrimer sent his
thoughts on a different tangent. For with that uncanny perceptive power
which Sylvia herself granted him he knew far better than Sylvia knew
that if it had been Phil instead of himself who had been besieging the
Princess of the hill top that evening for the boon of her hand and heart
a different answer might have been forthcoming. Phil, at least,
fulfilled the initial requirement. He was a man, every inch of him.
Jack vouchsafed him that just as he had admitted the other lad deserved
Sylvia’s favor even at his own expense back in the days of the Christmas
family.

It was odd how history repeated itself.  Just as in that old time,
Sylvia had set himself a task to "mend his fences" as she had
whimsically expressed it, so she was again bidding him gird on his armor
if he would win her respect without which her love was an impossibility.
As if it were yesterday Jack remembered that night among the snow-laden
pines, out under the stars, when Sylvia had gravely and simply without
any preaching, Sylvia fashion, turned him aside from paths already
beginning to be dangerous to safer, cleaner ways. Come to think of it,
it had always been Sylvia who had pointed him starward, Sylvia only who
believed in him enough to swear him into knighthood. Now that they were
no longer boy and girl it was the prize of her love which would send him
into the fray.  Already he had experienced his accolade.

"Poor old Lorry!" he thought.  "Why didn’t he cut his blooming
operations and come down here and speak for himself to-night?  Thank the
Lord he didn’t though or yours truly would be ditched and done for.  I
never had a show with Lorry in the foreground.  Well, here’s to the
breach.  Sylvia will never forgive me if I omit to dance with one of her
precious orphans."

So it happened that a few moments later shy little Mary Lane watching
the dancers with longing eyes from a corner caught her breath with
astonishment and delight as Jack Amidon stood before her, his eyes
smiling encouragement and friendliness, his lips begging the boon of a
dance quite as earnestly as if she had been one of the belles of the
ball.  So it happened also that Sylvia, being whirled past the two,
smiled happy gratitude at Jack over her partner’s shoulder, and he knew
that his careless kindness to her little guest had scored him a high
mark in her favor.

"Jack is such a dear," thought Sylvia.  "He is a real knight.  I wonder
if I am all wrong to try to turn him into a plain workaday person.  He
is so thoroughly delightful as he is.  When men get too much absorbed in
their work you can’t count on them for the little things, and, after
all, the little things mean a whole lot."

Possibly this sage conclusion had some vague connection with the fact
that a certain very much "absorbed in work" young doctor way off in a
distant city had permitted Sylvia’s birthday to come and almost go with
no word or sign.  If so certainly Sylvia would have been the last to
admit the connection even to herself.

"Please, Miss Sylvia, there’s some one downstairs in the hall asking for
you," whispered a maid in Sylvia’s ears as her partner brought her to a
chair.  "He didn’t give any name."

Sylvia excused herself and slipped away wondering as to the identity of
her late arriving guest. At the foot of the stairs was an
extraordinarily tall, blond young man, with the bluest and friendliest
of eyes and the biggest, most crushing hand grip in the world.

"Why, Phil!" gasped Sylvia.  "I had no idea you could come."  This as
soon as she was able to regain her wits and the possession of her hands.

"Nor I.  As a matter of fact, I couldn’t.  I just did," grinned Phil
Lorrimer, cheerfully. "Here I am, B. and O. grime and all.  May I come
to the party just as I am without one plea?"

"You surely may.  I’m so glad."  And Sylvia’s face corroborated her
words.

"Here’s a nosegay for you," and Phil’s fingers fumbled with the string
on the box he had deposited in a convenient chair while he had used both
hands greeting Sylvia.  In a moment a charming bouquet of cream yellow
roses, shell pink at the heart, was disclosed.

"How lovely!"  Sylvia buried her face in the nosegay.  "I just have to
wear them.  Oh, dear, I haven’t a pin."

"Here you are!"  And the young doctor solemnly produced the needful
article.

"Trust you!" laughed Sylvia.  "There, aren’t they perfect?  Come on,
quick.  Let’s not waste the music."

"Ditto my sentiments.  Is this my dance?"

"It’s Doctor Tom’s, but he won’t care.  Hurry."

And in a moment the onlookers had something new to think of as Sylvia’s
white and silverness flashed back into the ballroom with a tall figure
in plain traveling clothes by her side.

"Another country heard from," grunted Angus McIntosh as he watched the
two swing into step.

Perhaps in the whole room there was no one who had more cause for a
sudden reaction of feeling than Jack Amidon, whose quick eye took in
even at the length of the hall that Sylvia was at last wearing
somebody’s flowers.  But it was with apparent nonchalance and entire
good will that he came to offer Phil Lorrimer a cordial greeting a few
moments later, though even as he chatted with the other young man it did
not escape him that there was an added radiance to Sylvia’s
"moonshininess," as if she had tasted some magic draught of youth and
joy during those few moments in which she had been out of the room.  As
has been observed, Jack Amidon was a rather unexpectedly perspicuous
person at times.



                              *CHAPTER V*

                         *SEPTEMBER AFTERNOON*


"Oh, me!  Just think!  By to-morrow afternoon at this time we’ll all be
scattered to the four winds," sighed Barbara.  "Don’t you hate to have
things get different?"

"Can’t say I do.  The differenter the better so far as I am concerned as
I have hitherto remarked," put in Suzanne.  "I hate staying still,
physically, mentally, or morally.  I’m ready for new pricks every
minute.  I feel like saying to life every morning ’Come on.  Do your
worst.  I’m ready.  Give me anything--everything--except stagnation.’"

"You don’t look as if you were going to stagnate just this minute,"
laughed Sylvia, surveying her friend, who, indeed, from the tip of her
impatiently tapping shoe to the crown of her rebellious blue-black, wavy
hair, appeared sufficiently dynamic for any purpose.

"I don’t intend to.  That is why I am transferring my spiritual and
bodily allegiance from Norton, Pa., to New York City.  I’d rather live
on a crust in that blessed city of enchantment than fare on nectar and
ambrosia elsewhere.  I wish you would change your mind and come along,
Sylvia. I know you are going to be discontented here or even contented,
which is worse.  Arden Hall is a perfect dream of a place, and I’ve
loved every minute of this week with you, but it would swamp me with its
placidity if I settled down in it, and that’s the truth."

"Oh, Suzanne!"  Thus Barb, always sensitive to the possibility that some
one’s feelings might be going to be hurt.

"Don’t mind her, Barb.  I know what she means precisely, and it is all
more or less true. Arden Hall is placid and remote.  I have to find a
way to link it somehow with big moving things outside--below--or the
very thing Suzanne threatens me with will happen."

"You’ll find a way," prophesied Barb earnestly.

"Of course she’ll find it," seconded Suzanne. "If there is anybody on
this green earth capable of squeezing the traditional camel through the
needle’s eye it is the young person I see before me. Isn’t it time our
cavaliers arrived?  I begin to pine for action already."

"Jack said he would be here at four sharp.  We are going to take you to
the most heavenly spot, right over the river with the whole Ridge for a
background.  Some day when you are being compressed to a wafer in the
Subway in your precious old city you will remember it and be willing to
give your second-most-becoming hat for a magic carpet to take you back."

"I shouldn’t wonder," murmured Barb.  "I believe Suzanne would rather
hear the roar of the El than the wind in the pines though.  She is the
most urban person I ever knew."

Suzanne laughed at this arraignment.

"It isn’t the music of the El, _per se_ that I delight in.  That’s
nearer like the thing it rhymes with.  But it’s a symbol.  It means
hurrying human beings, the rush and stir of things.  I love crowds."

"And I detest them," groaned Barb.  "I’m afraid of New York in spite of
all its wonderfulness. It is so big and hard and impersonal.  If it
weren’t for being with Aunt Jo I know it would scare me to bits to live
there."

"You poor babe!"  Sylvia smiled sympathetically at the speaker.  "It is
unthinkable that a little shrinking infant like you should be dedicated
to a great screaming cause.  You ought to live in a cozy cottage, in a
friendly little village, where everybody knows everybody and grow
pansies."

"And babies," added Suzanne, an addition which brought a quick flush to
Barb’s cheeks and made her put out her hand with a deprecating gesture.
"You’ll never be able to stand the pace.  Better wire your Aunt
Josephine you have decided to bury the mantle."

"For mercy’s sake, what do you two think I am?  I guess I don’t have to
be packed away in rose petals and pink cotton."  There was a strain of
indignation in Barb’s voice.  "I don’t belong in the sheltered woman
class, and I wouldn’t stay in it if I did.  How long do you suppose I’d
have any peace in my cozy cottage, in my friendly little village,
remembering all the other women who don’t live in cozy friendly places
but have to work in horrid, noisy, sweaty factories or worse?  What
pleasure would I get out of my pansies--and babies--so long as I knew
there was a child in the world who wasn’t free to chase butterflies in
the sunshine?  You two think I am just playing at this woman game.  I’m
not.  Sylvia can act Lady Bountiful from the top of her Hill and you can
write about woman, Suzanne, but I’m going to fight for her, so there!"

"Bravo!  I stand reproved and beg a thousand pardons.  You’re a trump,
Barbie.  You are right, too.  Sylvia and I are likely to play with this
thing called Feminism, but you’ll fight for it to the last trench like
the wee bit heroine you are.  Oh, there’s Mr. Amidon’s car.  There is
Mr. Amidon and Dr. Lorrimer and--Sylvia, _who_ is the third man?"

"If my eyes do not deceive me the third man is Roger Minot.  Did you
know he was imminent?"

"I did not.  Moreover, I am extremely displeased with him for
appearing," frowned Suzanne.  "I told him distinctly I didn’t want to
see him again unless I sent for him."

"Well, you will have to look the other way then," observed Sylvia.  "He
is in plain sight."

So indeed it proved, for three minutes later, Roger Minot, a tall young
man with hazel eyes and a firm chin, was shaking hands with the
assembled group and explaining with considerable explicitness that he
had happened to be in Baltimore on business and had also happened to
call up Jack Amidon by telephone, who, in turn, had happened to be
taking Sylvia and her guests on an excursion and had been kind enough to
include himself in the invitation.

At all of which elaborate eloquence Suzanne had shrugged her displeasure
and pointedly turned her back on the young barrister and devoted herself
to the doctor.  So much "happening" in the face of her expressed command
deserved punishment and Suzanne was a firm disciplinarian where her
lovers were concerned, especially the unfortunate Roger.

"Sylvia, you will have to sit with me to show me the way," ordered Jack
in his usual "magerful" way, taking things into his own hands.  "All
aboard, everybody?  Sure Madame Felicia won’t go?"  He turned to Sylvia
to inquire.

"No, she said not.  Felicia is not exceedingly devoted to picnics, and I
suspect she has had more than enough of them this summer.  Ready?"
Sylvia turned back to her guests to ask and in a moment they were off
down the hill.

The rich, vivid-hued Maryland fields and meadows lay indeed, "fair as
the garden of the Lord" as the car sped out of Greendale beyond to the
open country, along the smooth, hard, white pike.  The afternoon shadows
fell cool and long, and already there was a faint autumnal hint of
crispness in the air and a mellow, misty gold to the sunshine.  The
mountains were outlined, palely blue, against the deeper azure of the
cloudless September skies. Here and there a buzzard sailed and dipped
above some wooded slope or a blue jay screamed and flashed out of an oak
thicket.

Amidst the chatter of the rest Barbara fell silent and gave herself
blissfully to the serene beauty of the outdoor world so utterly remote
from that other world of din and traffic, of strenuous toil and keen
competition in which she was to merge her own existence on the morrow.
She was profoundly grateful for this last opportunity to feel the benign
presence of Nature in field and sky and mountain.  Her quick eye took in
every patch of purple aster bloom, every scarlet glory of sumach and
warm bronze hue of oaks.  Even the corn shocks spreading their brown
skirts as if indulging in some quaint minuet stamped themselves upon her
inner vision to be remembered long after.  She did not wish to talk,
scarcely even to think.  She desired only to feel--to let the
benediction of the jewel-tinted day possess her spirit.

Suzanne, less susceptible to the mood of tranquillity, was bubbling over
with gayety, her attention centering chiefly on Phil Lorrimer sitting in
the seat opposite her.  She chose to ignore Roger Minot’s steady hazel
eyes.  He need not think his coming made any difference to her.  Whether
he came or went was a matter of supreme indifference. He might just as
well have stayed in his grim little, trim little, office in Norton, Pa.,
as to have pursued a will-o’-the-wisp to Arden Hall so far as Suzanne
was concerned.  Some women were made unhappy by men.  Suzanne had a
cousin to whom this had befallen and had long since determined none
should have power to hurt her.  She meant to guard well the citadel
which was Suzanne Morrison.  If there were any casualties in the attempt
to scale the walls the responsibility would not be on her head.  Let men
look to themselves. Suzanne had small compassion.  Though she thoroughly
enjoyed the stimulus of the society of the other sex and dearly loved to
clash swords with them she wished nothing at their hands.  She meant to
show the world that a woman could stand alone, strive and conquer alone,
fail if need be, alone, sufficient unto herself unto the end.  There
should be no doll’s house for her, no more confining limits than life
itself, wide as ether and deep as the sea, for her abiding place.

On the driver’s seat were Jack and Sylvia, the latter a little silent.
Though she had made no protest against her companion’s rather
high-handed disposition of herself it had not wholly pleased Sylvia.
For one thing, she thought it assumed too much on the basis of that half
promise of last night.  She did not desire that Phil or indeed any of
the party should infer that she and Jack must necessarily pair off like
a couple of Noah’s ark animals; moreover she considered it extremely
thoughtless, not to say selfish, of Jack to leave Phil to the society of
a group of almost strangers when his time in Greendale was so limited;
for Phil was taking the midnight train back to New York having allowed
himself little more than twenty-four hours for a holiday.

"Too bad everybody has to go away," Jack was saying.  "May I come over
often and help cheer your lonely hours?"  His voice was lowered and his
head bent toward Sylvia in an intimate fashion.

"No."  The negative was sufficiently decisive to make the driver send a
sharp glance at his companion.

"Why not?"

"Several why nots.  One is because you said last night you were going to
work in earnest.  You can’t do that and keep flying out to Greendale
every other day the way you have been doing all summer. Besides, I
expect to be busy myself."

"You!  May I ask what you are going to do that is so almighty
important?"

"You may ask but I am not likely to inform you if you take that tone."

Jack whistled softly.

"Gee!  Am I in as bad as all that?"

"As all what?  Did I sound cross?"  Sylvia smiled relentingly.  "Well,
maybe I was.  I hate the lordly male attitude you assume at times.  Your
tone bristled with it just then."

"Did it?" he chuckled.  "Sorry.  Honest, I didn’t mean to patronize your
ladyship.  So far from feeling lordly in your presence you usually make
me feel infernally infinitesimal, not to say atomic.  I have a fearful
and wonderful respect for your serene high mightiness.  I truly did want
to know what you were going to do."

"I am going to get to work on my music for one thing.  I’ve promised to
practice with Gus. Then I am going to learn to cook."

"In the name of heaven why?"

"Because I want to, chiefly.  Also I think everybody--male and
female--ought to know how."

Jack groaned.

"Thence to dressmaking and millinery, I suppose?"

"Hardly.  I haven’t the slightest interest in sewing, though I could do
it on a pinch I believe.  I know I couldn’t trim a hat--at least not one
I would wear.  But cooking is different.  I believe I could get up quite
a passion for it.  Hilda used to.  She claimed it was just as much an
art to create a perfect salad as to write a sonnet."

"I’d vote for the salad personally.  By the way, where is Hilda?  Heard
lately?"

"No, and I’m worried.  One hears such horrid stories of what is
happening over there.  I don’t know whether she and the Armstrongs can’t
get back or don’t want to."

"Most likely the latter.  Johnny Armstrong is darned likely to do what
he wants.  He is just the boy not to want to get back to safe and sane
America.  He is much more apt to be down in a trench or up in a ’plane
by this time."

"I know.  He’s a wonder--one of the finest men I know.  Just to think he
was my gardener once!  Wasn’t it funny?"

"He got mighty good pay for that piece of masquerading.  Constance is a
shade too much on the grand duchess order for my taste but she suits him
down to the ground.  Only wish Isabel had drawn a man like John instead
of the rotter she took a fancy to marry."  For a moment Jack’s serene
brow looked thundery.  "Queer world!" he muttered.  "Sometimes I think
we Amidons are doomed to go amuck one way or another. Jeanette’s not
much better off.  Guess we’re all sort of rudderless as you say,
excepting Dad.  He knows where he is going all right."

"You had better get on to his ship then," suggested Sylvia a little
dryly.

"I am going to.  You needn’t think I didn’t mean what I said last night.
I did mean it, every word.  If sticking to a job is going to mean
getting what I want, I’ll stick tighter than a stamp."

There was a ring of determination in his voice which startled Sylvia a
little, it sounded so alarmingly conclusive.

"Jack!  I didn’t promise," she protested.

"Oh, I know.  I’m not such a cad as to throw it up at you if even the
sticking isn’t enough.  But if it’s the one chance I’m too good a
gambler not to take it--or to kick if I fail in the end."  And Jack’s
lips came together with a firmness which avouched the sincerity of his
statement.

Sylvia watching the landscape flit by looked thoughtful.  It suddenly
occurred to her that her companion had spoken the literal truth.  Jack
Amidon was first and last a good gambler, ready to play high stakes, to
win or lose like a gentleman, without vainglory or bitterness.  If she
had said yes to his impassioned plea last night Sylvia could not help
wondering if a little of the ardor of his love might not have abated in
spite of himself. Wasn’t it the chase itself he loved?  If so, he was
only his father’s own son.  Jackson Amidon, Senior, went on quietly
bagging his millions, not because he cared a snap of his fingers for the
money but because the exhilaration of achieving it in the face of
obstacles was the breath of life to him. Like the biblical war horses he
metaphorically trumpeted "Ha Ha!" in the battle hour.  With father and
son the game itself was the thing.  The nature of the stake did not
matter so much.  With one it was Power, with the other Love, as it
happened, but with both the zest lay, not in the end, but in the
pursuit.  Of course Sylvia did not reason all this out clearly, but
vaguely she sensed the truth which the boy’s words had revealed.  Many
months later the revelation recurred to her and she wondered if Jack,
too, had understood himself as clearly as for a moment she had
understood him. She thought it possible with his keen power of
intuition, he had always understood.  Perhaps he had.

So through the deepening autumnal twilight sped Youth with its visions
and its questionings, Youth unproved, pressing forward toward some
unknown mark in challenging mood, knowing little of the eternal mystery
of Life and less of that even more baffling mystery, the mystery of
Self.



                              *CHAPTER VI*

                      *OF MISSIONS, AND OMISSIONS*


"H-mm!"  Suzanne meditatively surveyed the depleted feast.  "Thermos
bottles!  Silver spoons! Sophisticated salads!  Is this your notion of
roughing it, Mr. Jack Amidon?  Of all Sybaritical picnics!"

"Same old bugs!  Same old sticks in the lemonade!" retorted Jack,
leaning forward to extract a leaf from Sylvia’s cup with the prong of a
salad fork.  "The good old times aren’t utterly gone."

"Oh, but think of the bacon bats of yesteryear!" mourned Suzanne.  "The
fingers I’ve burned! The clothes I’ve spoiled!  The smudges wherewith
I’ve smudged my nose!  I begin to feel fatally reminiscent.  Give me
some more lemonade, I pine to drown my grief."

"And I pine to see the sunset from Lover’s Leap."  And Sylvia sprang up
hastily, perceiving that the sun was already glinting flame and gold
through the trees.  "Come on everybody or it will be too late."  The
others rose to follow her lead. Phil fell into step beside Sylvia,
leaving Jack to Barbara’s society, as Suzanne and Roger had at last
struck up a conversation, albeit a rather non-amicable one and strayed
off together.

"Are you sure your name isn’t Pease Blossom or Mustard Seed?  I could
swear you were a fairy. Are you really a Militant?  Would you resist
forcible feeding?  Here, let me test you with a pickle."

But Barb only laughed and accepted the pickle.

"I’m nothing militant to-night.  I’m at peace with the whole world."

"Even the menacing male?" teased Jack.

"The menacing male is a spoiled baby, biting off his own nose.  Mr.
Amidon, it would serve you right if I delivered a suffrage lecture here
and now.  I don’t believe you know a thing about the movement,"
severely.

"Heaven forbid!" he ejaculated piously.

"You will sing a different tune before many years.  You’ll have it
forcibly fed to you unless you take to it of your own accord as babies
take to their thumbs."

"I believe I could bear to have even Suffrage rammed into me at your
hands, Mademoiselle Mustard Seed, especially if you would make pansy
eyes at me while you did it," he added audaciously. "What are you going
to do with those eyes of yours anyway?  They are altogether too
expressive to be wasted on a Cause."

Barb frowned.

"You wouldn’t wear a last year’s hat.  Why do you use last century
methods with women?  They hate compliments."

"Do they?  I wonder."  And his wonder was genuine.  He honestly
reflected a moment.  Sylvia did hate compliments he knew.  But then he
never offered her any.  He never even flirted with Sylvia, though she
was about the only pretty girl of his acquaintance of whom as much could
be said.  He had been perfectly willing to play the game à deux with
this demurely charming, pansy-eyed, little suffragist however.  But he
was evidently not going to be permitted to have his will.  Were Barbara
Day and Sylvia and the sharp-tongued Suzanne really a new breed of
womankind?  Were his own sisters and the dozens of other girls of their
kind with whom he had played and danced and flirted for the past five or
six years really an older type, soon to be as extinct as the Dodo?  Only
for a moment, however, he wondered.  Jack was not much given to serious
thinking.  He took life and the feminine sex on the whole rather as he
found them.  He was always genially ready to "play up" to both.  He was
now.  It was rather agreeable he thought to watch Barb’s eyes shine and
the color surge in her cheeks, so he laid the match to the tow chiefly
from an artistic impulse to see the flame.

"Tell me," he urged.  "What is this thing you girls are up to?  What is
it you are going to New York to do?"

Barb shot him a shrewd rather indignant glance. Then she laughed.

"You don’t really care, but, just to punish you, I’m going to tell you.
You deserve it."

And then she did tell him, a little reservedly at first, but soon losing
both her resentment and her shyness she forgot herself entirely and
warmed to her loved theme, betraying something of the dream of her Aunt
Josephine, of herself, of all women who think and feel and are forever
disenchanted with any Pisgah heights they themselves might have the luck
to attain, so long as the great weary horde of the "dispossessed" wait
without the gates, scarcely even knowing in the apathy of their misery
that there is a Promised Land.  And her listener did not scoff even to
himself at the revelation he was vouchsafed.  He had the grace to
recognize with suitable humility that he unworthy had been permitted a
brief glimpse into a holy of holies. And irreverence was not one of
Jack’s failings, for all his habitual levity of mood.

In the meanwhile, not far ahead, Roger and Suzanne were quarreling
hotly.  At least Suzanne was quarreling.  Roger never quarreled, which
was perhaps one of his most glaring defects in Suzanne’s eyes.

"I told you not to come and you came," was the burden of Suzanne’s
complaint.

"I didn’t come to see you.  I didn’t even know you were in Greendale
until Jack told me.  And when I knew, how could I resist a chance to see
you, especially as it will be months before I can see you again?  Be
reasonable, Suzanne.  Why are you so angry at me for coming?"

Suzanne shot him an exasperated and somewhat malicious glance.
Unfortunately, Mr. Minot was a lawyer and not a clairvoyant and
therefore was totally without means of knowing that the chief reason for
Suzanne’s anger was the fact that she had been so foolishly glad to see
him.  For every quickened beat of her pulse in his near presence poor
Roger had to pay with a lash of her tongue. Angry, indeed, was Suzanne
at Roger Minot for disobeying her royal mandates, but angrier still was
she at Suzanne Morrison for being automatically glad of his nearness.
Scant wonder the young lawyer had a very bad quarter of an hour as he
mounted the pine-needled slope toward the sunset.

Phil and Sylvia had less to say than either of the other couples,
strange to say, though it had seemed to both beforehand they would have
volumes. The hush of the forest and the hour seemed to have cast a spell
upon them, or was it an even more potent enchantment that held them fast
bound in silence?  They had seen so little of each other during this
brief visit of Phil’s.  Last night had been too full and joyous and
excited for much conversation, even had Sylvia’s responsibilities as
hostess left her much time for her latest arrived guest. Those few
moments on the stairs had been practically--indeed, the only ones--they
had enjoyed alone, and this morning Phil had given to his mother while
Sylvia and her guests slept away the hours up at the Hall.  Both had
felt a little aggrieved and cheated at the way circumstances had
curtailed the pleasure of their being together for the first time since
the June Commencement at college.  Yet now that the awaited moment had
come at last neither seemed to have anything particular to do with it.
It was strange, and both felt slightly embarrassed by the strangeness,
suddenly grown shy, after all their years of friendship.

"Oh!"  Sylvia uttered the exclamation as she stepped out upon the great
ledge of rock from which she could see the sun’s gold rim just dipping
behind the crest of the topmost purple peak leaving a sea of tulip
colors in its wake.

For a moment neither spoke again.  A mood of complete serenity was upon
them that forbade speech, a sense of nearness, each to the other, and to
some high other Presence which might have been God or Nature or Love or
a mystic commingling of all three.  Were the three, indeed, a new
Trinity, perfect and indivisible?  There was a crackling among the
bushes behind, the sound of voices.  The others were near.  The
enchanted moment passed. Sylvia sighed, and, turning, met Phil’s eyes
and her own drooped before what she saw there.  No word was spoken, nor
needed, yet something unforgettable had been communicated.  Sylvia’s
heart was beating a little more quickly than usual and there was dew and
star shine in her eyes as she smiled at Jack and Barbara, a shine which
was lost on neither of the two new arrivals, though later it suited both
to pretend they had never seen it.  For the moment Barbara’s only
feeling was a quick compunction lest they had interrupted something
which they had no right to share.  As for her companion, sharp fear and
half resentful jealousy went through him like keen-bladed knives.  Had
he lost just at the moment when he seemed to have gained something
almost tangible?  And then Suzanne and Roger reached the rock also,
arriving rather dilatorily by another path, having arrived also
apparently at a state of something faintly resembling truce, for Suzanne
was wearing a spray of vivid scarlet berries which Roger had risked
thorns and a possible broken neck to acquire.  The risk had been worth
it, it seemed, for Roger was looking happier than at any moment since
Suzanne had first snubbed him several hours ago on Sylvia’s piazza.

Barb, standing apart, watching the whole pageant from the outside, felt
oddly cold and lonely all of a sudden.  There seemed to be so much love
in the world somehow and yet so little left over, as it were.  And
Sylvia and Suzanne--did they know? Did they even begin to know how
precious love was? How one needed it in this great lonely world?  She
walked to the edge of the cliff and looked down at the river whose rapid
current whirled fiercely, down below her.  She remembered Sylvia’s story
of how the rock was named.  There are so many Lover’s Leaps in the world
and their stories are all somewhat the same story.  An Indian girl and
her lover had been forbidden to marry because they belonged to hostile
tribes and here they had gladly taken the consecrated leap together,
hand in hand, into space and eternity, one in death as they could never
have been in life.

What a strange thing love was!  So Barb meditated. Was it something to
be avoided as Suzanne insisted because it demanded too high toll?  The
others had seated themselves on the rock to watch the shifting panorama
of color in the western skies, but Barb wandered off by herself, still
pondering about that strange thing love.  And the others scarcely
noticed her going, which was in its way a symbol.

Suddenly a single sharp cry broke the silence of the dusk and then
ceased.  They all sprang to their feet in alarm, but it was Phil
Lorrimer’s quick eye that first discovered what had happened.  Below
them, and somewhat at the right of the outcropping ledge on which they
stood, hung Barbara, clinging to a slender sapling whose trunk bent, it
seemed almost to snapping beneath her slight weight. Sylvia saw, too,
almost at the same instant.

"There she is!"  Her finger pointed.  "Oh, Phil!"

But Phil had not waited for his embassy.  He was already speeding down
the steep bank on his way to the scene of the accident.

"Hold on," he called cheerfully.  "I’m coming. Can I reach you from
above?"

"No."  Barb’s voice sounded faraway but steady as Phil’s own.  "Don’t
try.  It’s all crumbly."

"Hang tight then.  I’ll be there in a minute."

In what appeared to be an endless stretch of time to everybody, but
which was in reality an astonishingly brief interval, Phil’s tall form
appeared on the river bank precisely beneath the tiny figure suspended
as it seemed in midair, but still clinging pluckily to the stout ash
sapling which held her weight gallantly. The distance between Phil and
the girl was perhaps ten feet, though it looked much more in the gulfing
darkness to them both.

"All right.  Let go.  I’ll catch you."

A shudder shook Barb’s whole body.  That slim, tough little ash-tree
seemed all that kept her from the greedy swirl of the black river.  Her
hands were grooved and cut with clinging and her arms ached until it
seemed as if she could not bear the pain, but for all that she felt as
if the one thing she could not do was to release her hold and slip into
the darkness.  But there below loomed Phil Lorrimer’s comforting size
and strength and Barb’s courage grew as she looked down into his
uplifted face.

"Come on, Barbie, I’m right here."  He had never called her anything but
Miss Day before, not even Barbara.  Barbie was Sylvia’s name, as it had
once been her mother’s in the dear long ago. Somehow it seemed right and
natural and sweet that Phil should use it now.  Suddenly she became the
trusting, obedient little girl Barbie again and without a quiver of
dread and with a heart at peace and full of faith she let go her hold on
the ash and went down, down, down into space--a surprisingly long
journey it seemed, though she felt perfectly comfortable taking it.  She
had even time to notice that a star had come out and was smiling at her
friendlily out of the dusk over a sycamore-tree. She knew somehow or
rather that Phil would not fail her.  Most people felt that about Phil
Lorrimer.  More than one of his patients had been willing and unafraid
to go down the dark valley if he would stand by and help them on the
way.

Certainly he did not fail Barbara.  Though the shock of the impact of
even her "fairy" figure made him sway and stagger a little, he caught
her as deftly as he had been wont in his college days to catch a
dazzling outfielder.  In a second he had deposited her gently on the
soft moss on the river bank.  Whereupon Barb gave a quick breath of a
sob then laughed a little rippling gurgle of a laugh, though there were
tears in her eyes.

"D-don’t mi-nd me," she begged.  "I’m just being g-glad I let go."

"All safe!"  Phil’s big voice boomed out of the darkness to the relief
of the anxious waiters above on the cliff.  "All right, little lady?
Seeing as you wouldn’t walk down, suppose we say you shan’t walk up."
And Barb was swept like a sudden victim to a bird of prey into his arms.

"Oh, don’t," she begged.  "Please put me down.  I can walk perfectly
well.  I’m dreadfully heavy."

"So are thistledown and dewdrops," he laughed. "Please forget you are a
feminist for once and succumb to the eternal masculine superiority of
brawn and muscle."

And in spite of herself, Barb felt oddly content to let herself lie
passive in his arms, so much so that she closed her eyes and said never
a word. At the top of the ascent, which had been short though somewhat
steep, Phil put down his burden, and the rest crowded around the two,
full of excitement, anxiety and questions.  But Phil exercised his
doctor’s prerogatives and ordered them to let Barb alone and make a
speedy start for home. These orders were meekly obeyed, though they
managed little by little to get the information of how the accident had
occurred.  It had been simple enough.  The rock on which Barb had been
standing had been "crumbly" as she had said, and before she had had time
to realize what had happened she had slipped with the shelving stone and
soil and had only by the greatest of good fortune managed to snatch at
the ash in her descent and thus save herself from the disastrous fall
into the turbulent rock-filled bed of the river.  It had been obviously
a sufficiently narrow escape to make them all rather silent and sober as
they packed up the remains of the feast and made their way to the road
just beyond the glade where the car waited.

"Want to have a try at the wheel, old man?" asked Jack, laying an
affectionate hand on Phil’s shoulder when they were ready to start.
"She’s a bird."

"Why, yes."  Phil’s frank face lit up with pleasure. "Sure you don’t
mind, Jackie Horner?"

"Not a bit.  Glad to have a rest," acquiesced Jack cheerfully.  "Pile
in, Sylvia.  Phil’s waiting."

Sylvia’s eyes flashed quick inquiry at Jack as he helped her into the
seat beside the driver.  He met her gaze imperturbably but she was not
deceived by his noncommittal expression.  Well she knew that the owner
of the "bird" suffered the tortures of the damned when any hand beside
his own was on the wheel.  Well she knew also that he was deliberately
giving Phil a chance to do more than run his car.  It was so precisely
like Jack, impulsively selfish one minute, impulsively generous the
next. Through the white star-lit wonder of the night the car sped, while
its occupants sat almost silent, wrapped in an incommunicable garment of
dreams. Later, after they had taken leave of the girls, Jack and Roger
went with Phil to the station at Baltimore.  But Roger stayed in the car
while Jack went to the train with Phil.  Just as the train pulled in
Jack stirred himself to say what was on his mind.

"Phil!  Forgive the impertinence, old man, but I’ve got to know.  If she
has decided for you, I’ll clear out.  You’re the better man--always
were."

Phil Lorrimer drew a long breath and set his lips rather as he used to
set them before a tackle in the field.

"You needn’t clear out, so far as I am concerned.  I haven’t asked
Sylvia to marry me. How can I?  I’ve only just finished paying my
college debts and she is worth something like a million.  Is thy servant
a fool?" he added a little bitterly.

"Yes," said Jack Amidon.  "The biggest kind of fool.  Do you suppose the
money matters a hang to her?"

"Well, it matters to me," curtly.  "Train’s under way.  ’By."  And with
a hasty but warm pressure of the hand which went out to meet his, Phil
boarded the moving train, leaving Jack staring after.

"Confound the fellow!" he muttered. "Hanged if I know whether to be mad
or glad he’s such an idiot.  How did he dare not ask Sylvia when her
eyes looked like that?  Gee!  Perhaps he didn’t see."

But Phil Lorrimer had seen, and all that night he stared sleeplessly out
at the stars and the twinkling lights of villages and cities, love and
pride battling within him.  Once or twice he made up his mind feverishly
to telegraph Sylvia the first thing in the morning.  Then he would
decide it would be better to write her a letter, tell her exactly how it
all was and ask if she cared enough to wait for him until he had
something worth while to offer her.  And all the time he knew he would
do nothing of the kind.  He would fight on grimly by himself, and if in
the meantime somebody else--Jack or another--slipped in ahead, well,
that would mean she was not for him, if he knew Sylvia.  And so on and
so on and so on.  But never in all his reasonings did it occur to him
that the money was as nothing between him and Sylvia Arden, neither of
advantage or disadvantage, simply a zero.  Jack Amidon knew it and had
generously endeavored to tell his rival.  Sylvia knew it and her eyes
had also tried to tell him that night in the sunset.  But poor Phil,
blind as the clearest sighted man sometimes becomes when a woman is
involved, saw Sylvia’s money as a huge, hateful, insurmountable,
mountain peak behind which stood Sylvia herself, only to be reached by
accumulating another pile of gold from which he could make the leap to
her.

And in all that long wakeful night he never once thought of little
Barbara Day.  He was too used to saving people, one way or another, to
think much about this latest exploit in the salvation line; and,
besides, his mind was full of other things.

But Barbara dreamed of Phil and heard his deep voice calling out of the
darkness, "Come on, Barbie.  I’m right here."  And all through her
dreams the star over the sycamore-tree kept smiling at her friendlily
but its smile was oddly mixed up with Phil Lorrimer’s.



                             *CHAPTER VII*

                         *OCTOBER DEVELOPMENTS*


A deeper bronze to the oaks and a more vivid scarlet to the sumach.  A
sharper tang to the air, mornings.  Hilltops veiled in amethyst and
golden haze on the meadows, afternoons.  At sundown, ghost-like wraiths
of mists rising up from the river valley.  Now and then a clanging wedge
of wild geese speeding southward through the night.  October!

It must be admitted that in spite of Sylvia’s "vicious contentedness"
she did feel the Hall a little too peaceful and quiet after her friends
had gone, and she settled back into the very life she had chosen for
herself.  The summer had been brimful of guests and gayeties, with
people coming and going all the time and always some new delightful
project or enthralling interest afoot, a true Forest of Arden atmosphere
of sunshine and happiness and blithe irresponsibility.

Even the sharp and sudden thunder crash, heard from overseas in that
fateful early August, the din of great nations rushing to arms, came
only vaguely to Sylvia’s happy Hill as to most of America.  Slow to
waken, the country had not at once sensed the significance of what was
happening.  Humane and peaceful itself, it had not taken in the hideous
reality of a desolated and ravaged Belgium, the inspiriting vision of a
risen and consecrated France beating the enemy back from Paris, of the
fearful and relentless grip of the great dog of war upon the stricken
nations.  To Sylvia, as to others, it all seemed impossible, incredible,
not to be apprehended in terms of actuality.  These things just couldn’t
be, that was all.  There must be some mistake somewhere.  But there was
no mistake.  People kept coming in on every steamer with harrowing tales
of well-substantiated horror.  The things they had seen made the heart
sick and the blood run cold.  It was war indeed.  However horrible,
these things were possible, had happened.

Perhaps the first vital realization came to Sylvia as it came to nearly
every one in this country through individual testimony of friends.  Even
in September, rumor reached her that John Armstrong’s money had helped
to establish and support a field hospital "somewhere in France," that
his wife and her sister Hilda were regular Red Cross nurses.  And in
October had come a letter from Hilda herself, describing simply but with
the fearful graphicness of the bare truth, the horrors, the miracles,
the splendid thrills, the supreme satisfaction of the work she and
Constance had undertaken. John was driving a relief Ambulance near the
battle line.  Bertram was at the front somewhere. Bertram, it appeared,
was the young Englishman to whom the writer had very recently become
engaged after a romantically brief acquaintance.  Of course it was
horrible, Hilda admitted, having him there, but then she wouldn’t want
him not to want to be there.

All this Sylvia read with absorbed interest and straightway dispatched a
generous check to John Armstrong.  But giving money being altogether
insufficient to express her abounding sympathy she also learned to knit,
to Jack’s huge delectation and much raillery, and resolutely set herself
to making sponges and rather eccentric looking hose, though this
process, too, scarcely satisfied her when she thought of what her friend
was doing over in France.  In fact, it satisfied her so little that she
very speedily abandoned it entirely wherein she was rather like a good
many other American women. "A thousand shall fall at thy right hand but
it shall not come nigh thee" seemed to be America’s motto in those days.

Perhaps the thing which came nearest, that autumn, to offering Sylvia an
outlet for her restless energy was her music.  She was an excellent
accompanist and she and Gus Nichols spent much time together previous to
his departure for the concert tour which was to begin early in November.
And while Sylvia was intent on her own dreams and quandaries, weaving
much she scarcely understood herself into the music, she had not the
slightest perception that these hours she gave the young violinist meant
anything more to him than to herself, an agreeable mutual expression in
a loved art. "Music is Love in search of a word" and if the boy’s violin
struggled more than once to tell her what his lips would never have
ventured on, Sylvia, with her mind on other things, did not hear.

Long enthusiastic letters came frequently from Suzanne, ensconced,
according to schedule, in a dingy studio in the Square where one is not
encumbered with needless luxuries like steam heat and bath tubs and
electricity, where one steeps in "Atmosphere," and pays far more than he
can afford for the privilege of living very uncomfortably but
artistically.  Her letters reeked of Bohemia, of "Polly’s" and "Bruno’s
Garret," of the delicious glamour and picturesqueness of the inimitable
Village, of the thrill and stimulus of the whole marvelous city of which
the Village was a unique part.

Barb, too, wrote often, though with less abandon of rejoicement in her
new way of life.  It was all "interesting."  Aunt Jo was "wonderful."
The Metropolitan was "magnificent."  People were "kind."  But there was
a faint panic-stricken note beneath it all, at first, which made Sylvia
wonder if poor Barbara were a little submerged by the very seething
whirlpool which was such supreme delight to Suzanne.  It was as if both
were on a "Merry-Go-Round," and Suzanne kept clapping her hands and
crying "Faster!  Faster!" while Barb’s timid "pansy" eyes begged in
silence for a safer, less mad rate of revolution.

Aside from her aunt, of whom Barb could never say enough, the person
most frequently mentioned in her letters was Philip Lorrimer.  "Dr.
Lorrimer is so good to me."  "Dr. Lorrimer took me to a roof garden last
night."  "Phil and I rode over on the ferry to Staten Island to cool off
last evening." "Phil just came in and sends greetings.  He is going to
take me to a Socialist meeting soon."  "Aunt Jo likes Phil so much," and
so forth.

And though Sylvia made no comment on this new development it gave her
cause for reflection. Sylvia was more than ever "at sea" these days.
That sunset moment on Lover’s Leap had been an illuminating moment for
her and she guessed it had been one for Phil also.  Though she told
herself later she must have been mistaken, she knew in her heart she had
not been so.  The look in Phil’s eyes as they had met hers that moment
was unmistakable, more eloquent than volumes of speech. She had felt the
same thing vibrating in his voice when later he had bidden her "Good
night" and "Good-by" and stepped into Jack’s car, something which met a
quick leap of response in herself. Sylvia was very woman and she knew
what had happened, though she did not know whether the thing was going
to be permanent or not.

All that next day and the next and for a week beyond she watched the
mails, pretending to herself, feminine wise, that she was doing nothing
of the sort.  And, finally, when on the tenth day a brotherly, brief,
impersonal, not to say casual, note came from New York in Phil’s big
sprawling hand, she felt as if a shower of icy water had been hurled at
her.  Not that she wanted Phil to ask her to marry him, not that she was
at all sure she would have said yes if he had asked her.  She was by no
means certain it would not be Jack to whom she would surrender when the
time came for surrender. At least so she told herself to save her pride.
Certainly she was far from ready to marry any man that Fall, sincerely
desirous as she was to belong to herself awhile as she had told Jack.
Nevertheless Phil’s very discretion angered and hurt her.  Every now and
then she was tortured by an agonizing fear that in the strange
exhilaration of that moment in the forest she might have betrayed to him
more than she had been in any degree willing to admit to herself.
Consequently, Philip Lorrimer, M.D., got very few and very brief letters
from Arden Hall those golden autumn days.

Neither is it strange that out of favor with his "Faraway Princess" Phil
turned to sympathetic little Barbara in his few idle hours.  Not that he
took Barb into his confidence.  Indeed there were no confidences to
make.  To no one in the world would he have admitted that Sylvia’s
apparent indifference hurt.  Sylvia had the right to ignore him if she
chose.  The Queen could do no wrong.  Nor was there anything to say
about the rumors which reached him frequently that Sylvia and Jack were
often together, and that an engagement was obviously to be expected if
not already secretly in existence.  That, too, he had counted on as a
possibility when he had told Jack there was no reason for him to "clear
out."  Phil Lorrimer was man enough to want the lady of his heart to be
free in her choice. Had he been in Jack’s position he would have entered
the race and run, neck and neck, beside his rival and abided the end
whatever it was.  But he was handicapped, or so he believed, by his
poverty, so he set his teeth and stood out of the way leaving Jack a
clear road.  If Jack could win--well, it meant Sylvia cared, that was
all.  Phil’s philosophy was a very simple one.

In the meantime there was work.  And Phil was the kind to be able to
assuage nearly every mortal ill in work.  In the strenuous demands of
the day-time hours at the hospital he had little chance to brood over
any personal woes and when night came on he took what consolation he
could, man fashion, from another woman’s obvious pleasure in his
society, never once suspecting he was playing with edged tools any more
than Barb herself did.  Of the physiological action of the heart Phil
Lorrimer knew a great deal but of the more subtle manifestations of that
organ he knew astonishingly little.

Only Miss Josephine Murray kept her keen eyes wide open.  "Babes in the
wood!" she thought sometimes.  "Heavens!  What a fearful thing it is to
be young!"  And then seeing the soft flush on Barb’s cheeks when she
came in from an excursion with the young doctor, and the starry shine in
her eyes, Miss Murray would add grimly to herself, "Fearful but divine!
It’s a million years since I had the gift of looking like that."

And sometimes she would ask her niece questions about young Dr.
Lorrimer, and Barb would chatter on innocently about him, how he was an
old, old friend of Sylvia’s, so old, they were almost like brother and
sister, though she and Suzanne used sometimes to think maybe Sylvia
would marry him some time, but now everybody said it would be Jack
Amidon.  And once Barb had told the story of how she had slipped over
the edge of the cliff and hung to the little ash-tree until Phil had
called to her to let go and she had obeyed and gone down, down into
space, not one tiny bit afraid for she had felt just as sure as sure
that Phil Lorrimer would catch her just as he promised.

"He’s the kind of person you just have to have faith in.  You know he
wouldn’t fail you, no matter what happened," she had finished.  And Aunt
Jo had "H-med" meditatively and risen to switch on the electric light
and sit down to her letters.  But Barb had lingered before the gas log,
watching its scintillating colors and lights and dreaming little vague
pleasant dreams.  Perhaps the Barb who didn’t dare let herself look at
the real Barb took a shy peep that night.

As for Jack Amidon, he was extraordinarily on his good behavior that
autumn.  His father was grimly pleased to find him prompt and assiduous
at his office desk, a rather unexpected departure from his career of the
past two years when he had fulfilled the obligations of his nominal post
chiefly by absent treatment.  Possibly the sudden change of heart on the
part of his rather erratic son reminded the old man of a similar abrupt
right-about-face some six years ago when the same delinquent had
announced himself blandly as being "on the water wagon" after a rather
strenuous course of wild oat sowing.  Perhaps, too, Jackson Amidon
shrewdly suspected that now as then the impetus to the reform could be
traced to a vigorous-willed, clear-eyed young lady who tolerated no
weaklings among her retinue.

"The boy’s taken a new turn," he thought. "He’ll come out all right in
the end.  He’s sound as a nut inside for all his vagaries.  And if that
little girl on the Hill can make him come to, it will be one of the best
jobs she ever landed."  And he added also to himself that if the day
ever came when he should welcome Sylvia Arden as his third daughter
there would be little left to wish for in the time he had left.  And
then his eyes had grown sober, for his own daughters, those of his own
flesh and blood, had never been of much comfort to him, dearly as he
loved them.  Over in Europe, Isabel was already threatening stormily to
get a divorce from the titled rascal she had insisted on marrying in
spite of her father’s judgment and protestations. And there was
Jeanette, beautiful, willful Jeanette, whose frocks were the last cry
from Paris and whose cars and horses and houses and entertainments were
all the most daring and expensive America could produce!  He, himself,
had given her all the money her little hands could hold or spend and
Francis Latham had gone on with the prodigious task but neither one of
them had been able to give her happiness.  That was all too evident.
Perhaps if there had been children it would have been different. And at
this point in his reflections the old man always broke off with a sigh,
for he knew that the moment when Jack should bring Sylvia home for a
bride could only yield precedence in satisfaction to that other
hoped-for moment when he should see his grandson, Jackson Amidon, the
third.  Then, indeed, the curtain might go down when it pleased.

These dreams of Jackson Amidon’s did not look so all improbable that
October.  Jack was distinctly "on the job" as he would have expressed
it, doing his level best to make a man of himself, since that was what
Sylvia demanded, and sunning himself happily in her favor during their
mutual leisure hours.  Very good comrades the two were.  Youth turns to
youth as a morning glory to the sun and the Goddess of Propinquity is a
lady of much influence.  Certainly it was not strange that people
prophesied that an engagement would soon be announced.  Possibly it was
not strange either, that Jack and Sylvia themselves believed such a
dénouement entirely probable in course of time.



                             *CHAPTER VIII*

                            *FIRE AND FROST*


"Lois, aren’t you ever going to write any more?"  Sylvia on the rug
before the fire with wee Marjory in her arms looked up over that young
person’s bobbing silver curls to ask the question.

Lois Daly sitting by the window to catch the last bit of daylight, ran
her hand into a small stocking to investigate the number of casualties
before she answered.

"Maybe.  When the kiddies are grown up."

"But don’t you mind not doing it now?  Don’t you want to do it
dreadfully sometimes?"

"Not especially.  In fact I don’t believe I could write now if I tried.
I’ve lost the knack as well as the impulse.  You have no idea how much
such things are a matter of mere habit."  Lois’ voice had an even flow
suggesting cool, shady, translucent waters.  Sometimes her friend’s
serenity irritated Sylvia.  It did now.

"Well, I think that is all wrong," she announced decidedly.  "You
oughtn’t to have let it go."

"Just how could I have helped it?  You may recall I have been moderately
busy these last few years.  I haven’t had much time to entertain
literary angels."

"Oh, I know," acknowledged Sylvia penitently, curling one of Marjory’s
ringlets around her finger as she spoke.  "You couldn’t, of course, with
the house and the babies and the little mother’s death and everything.
But couldn’t you begin again now?"

"Why should I?  Tom doesn’t need an author in his household.  He needs a
housekeeper and a nurse and a seamstress and a wife."  There was a
faintly satirical twist to Lois’ lips as she made the statement.  "Of
the four he needs the wife least, of course.  He is too busy to enjoy my
society.  This hospital project is the last straw."

Sylvia looked thoughtful.  Somehow there did seem to be something wrong
somewhere.  Doctor Tom too occupied to see anything of his beautiful,
brilliant wife; she, in turn, too much immersed in household and
maternal cares either to cultivate her own particular gift or pay much
attention to the things her husband was so vitally interested in! These
two had started out so well.  They were both so fine, so thoroughly
devoted at heart to each other.  What was the trouble?  Was marriage
always a compromise like this?  Sylvia did not like to think so.
Somewhere there must have been something which could have been done
differently. Woman-like she was a bit inclined to blame the other woman.
If only Lois had cared a little more for the things Doctor Tom cared
for, the things which to Sylvia seemed so splendid, his profession, his
tireless service to the community, his dreams for its progress and
betterment!  Lois rolled up the stockings she had just finished mending
and rose.

"Do you mind staying a few minutes with Marjory, Sylvia?  It is cook’s
night out and I have to see about supper."

Sylvia assented willingly and Lois departed. Even as the door closed
behind her, Sylvia heard Doctor Tom’s step in the hall and his cheerful
voice as he greeted his wife.

"Got in earlier than I expected.  Come on back and enjoy the twilight
with me," she heard him inviting.

Lois’ answer was inaudible but in a moment Doctor Tom entered the
living-room alone.

"Hello, here’s my best daughter and my star neighbor!  Come on, Cherub,
and let your old Dad toss you up to the moon."

Marjory leaped with a happy little crow out of Sylvia’s arms and Sylvia
rose to the higher level of a chair while she smiled at the baby’s
gurgling delight as her father tossed her "up to the moon."  Presently
the doctor seated himself before the fire with his small daughter still
in his arms.  As he settled back with a tired sigh Sylvia saw with
sudden quick compunction that Doctor Tom looked old--too old for his
years.  Some of his characteristic buoyancy had gone out of him.

"How is the Curry baby?" she asked.

He shook his head sadly.

"Died early this morning," he said.

"Oh!"  Sylvia’s exclamation was pitiful.  "Can I do anything?"

"Go down and see the mother.  She is like a stone.  Can’t even cry.
Maybe the baby’s better off.  The father is drunk half the time and
there isn’t any too much to eat.  But if I could have had Jimmy in a
decent hospital I could have saved him. Everything was against him down
there, poor little chap!"  And Tom Daly’s big hand closed over little
Marjory’s dimpled one as if somehow to keep her safe from the grim enemy
that had pursued Jimmy Curry, an enemy who had altogether too many
allies down in the unsanitary tenement district where the baby had
wearily breathed his little life in and out again in one short year.
Then the doctor’s fist came down with a resounding thump on the arm of
the chair.  "I tell you, Sylvia, we have got to get that hospital and
get it quick.  We’re wasting human life too fast at this rate."

"Will money help?  You know I’m ready to give to the hospital any
time--any amount you want."

Doctor Tom smiled his old wide-mouthed friendly grin.

"Naturally you are, Miss Christmas.  I can always count on you every
time.  You would give your last red cent if anybody needed it.  Thank
Heaven you don’t come into the bulk of your property till you are
twenty-five.  You would have made ducks and drakes of it before this if
you had it all. I shall tell Gordon to keep his eye on the purse strings
until you get a husband to do it for you. You have such dissipating
tendencies.  Don’t wrinkle your nose like that.  You shall give when the
time is ripe.  What I want just now is to wring some money out of the
hides of some of these tough old Greendale sinners who keep their
religion with their prayer books in the family pew and their brotherly
love reduced systematically to lowest terms. The apology for a hospital
we have is a disgrace and they know it or they will before I get through
with ’em.  There isn’t even a children’s ward. Little Allie Wendell died
last week to the tune of Jake Casey’s blasphemous D. T. music.  Bah!
It’s rotten."

"Tom, I do wish you wouldn’t shout so.  I could hear you clear out in
the kitchen."  Thus Lois’ silver cool voice from the doorway,
contrasting oddly with her husband’s vehement ejaculatoriness which
still filled the little room.  "Supper is ready.  You’ll stay, won’t
you, Sylvia?  I will be with you as soon as I can get Marjory into
Tessy’s hands and see if Junior brushed his teeth.  He is so bad these
days.  I can’t trust him at all."

Sylvia had been about to refuse but Doctor Tom cut her short.

"Of course you will stay.  You haven’t been here for a dog’s age.
Besides, I want to talk to you about the hospital and ask what you think
about--"

"Don’t start to talk shop now," ordered Lois from the doorway, with
small Marjory’s head bobbing sleepily over her shoulder.  "The omelet
will go down."

"It sure will," promised the doctor.  "I feel as if almost anything
would go down in me this minute."

"That is the trouble with Tom," smiled Lois to Sylvia.  "He doesn’t know
the difference between a sublimated soufflé and plain hash.  It is all
food to him.  It is very discouraging."

Doctor Tom shook his head as the door closed upon his wife and daughter.

"If only she wouldn’t fuss," he groaned.  "Sylvia, I feel like a beast
when I think what a lot this life we are leading takes out of her.  If
only she would take it a bit easier.  She’s such a confounded
perfectionist every blessed thing she does has to be just right.  That’s
why it uses up so much of her."

It was certainly a "just right" meal to which they sat down a few
moments later.  Everything was cold which should have been cold,
everything hot which should have been hot.  The table linen was fine and
dazzling white, the silver and glass resplendently bright and clean.
The bowl of yellow chrysanthemums made a perfect centerpiece, under the
pleasantly shaded glow of the suspended lamp. Lois herself was exquisite
in a soft clinging gray gown which she had taken the time to slip into
while she had been upstairs with the children.  Not a fold was awry, not
a hair out of place.  Serene and low-voiced and deft-motioned, she
served perfect tea in quaint gold-banded cups from a green-dragoned
teapot.

But somehow Sylvia was critical in her judgment to-night.  The very
perfectness of it all jarred upon her.  She couldn’t help wondering if
Lois were after all the consummate artist her husband acclaimed her.
Life was made for happiness and was Lois Daly happy or was she making
her big-hearted, splendid-souled husband happy?  Had she even noticed
the tired look in his eyes to-night, the droop to his shoulders?  In her
conscientious supervision of Junior’s teeth and Marjory’s bedtime did
she think or care at all about the Tommy Currys and Allie Wendells of
the world who mattered so gravely to her husband?  The two loved each
other devotedly, Sylvia knew, yet she could not help seeing how far
apart they were after five years of wedded life.  It gave one food for
thought.

After supper Lois excused herself to do some household auditing.

"You and Tom are going to talk hospital anyway," she added to Sylvia,
"and there is no use of my listening while it is all just an air-castle.
If I had that on my mind on top of the price of potatoes and bacon I
don’t know what would happen."

"Stay and rest and we’ll call hospital taboo," promised Doctor Tom.
"Never mind the old accounts to-night."

But Lois shook her head, protesting if he ran his business the way he
wanted her to run hers they would soon end in the poorhouse.

"Not that you run your business any too well, Tommy dear," she had
added.  "You are a scandalously poor bill collector.  Aren’t the
Williamsons ever going to pay?"

"Steve Williamson’s down with pneumonia.  I can’t press them now."

"Pneumonia on top of twins!  They _are_ unfortunate."  And Lois left the
room.

Sylvia dropped her eyes quickly.  Intuitively she knew she didn’t want
to look at Doctor Tom just then.  He made no comment upon his wife’s
parting speech but settled down in the big armchair with a tired grunt.

"Mind if I smoke?"

"Of course not."

"All right, here goes."  He took one or two long comforting puffs at his
pipe.  "Let’s side-track the hospital for the present.  Might as well
since it’s only an air-castle, as Lois says.  I’m a bit frazzled
to-night.  Can’t seem to get the Curry baby off my chest.  Suppose you
play something instead.  Nothing too classic--just agreeable and
anæsthetic."

Sylvia went to the piano and sat down.  Her fingers drifted into a
nocturne.  Save for the soft music and the crackling of the logs on the
hearth there was no sound in the room.  Tom Daly sat staring into the
leaping flames and smoked stolidly. It would have made an appropriate
picture for a woman’s magazine cover.  The gracious, comfortable room,
the tired man, basking in home peace and contentment after the labor and
stress of the day; the young girl at the piano, with healing and
sympathy, wordless but no less apparent in her finger tips.  Only in a
woman’s magazine the musician would no doubt have been the man’s wife.
Life is sometimes oddly different from magazine covers.

It was nearly an hour before Lois returned to the living-room.  She
paused a moment on the threshold.

"Oh, so you aren’t building hospitals after all? Forgive me for being
such a bad hostess, Sylvia. Was that Brahms?"

Sylvia shook her head with a smile.

"I don’t know what it was," she admitted. "Something I heard in my
dreams maybe.  Did I put you to sleep Doctor Tom?"

"No, just soothed the savage in me.  I feel fairly pacific at the
moment.  Don’t stop."

"Ah, but I must.  Felicia will think I am lost."  She rose as she spoke
and Doctor Tom rose too. "Don’t come," she protested.  "It is too absurd
when it’s only such a step."

"It’s a step I intend to take," he grinned.  "If you must go, I’m at
your service."

"I wish you wouldn’t," objected Sylvia, but she let him wrap her long
moss green cloak about her and in a moment they were out in the keen
November air under the stars.  Neither said anything until they were at
the steps of the Hall.  Then suddenly Doctor Tom spoke.

"Sylvia, how did you know I had the blue devils to-night?" he demanded.

"Did you?" parried Sylvia.  There was something different about Doctor
Tom to-night; a queer, tense something in his voice she wasn’t used to.

"You know I did.  You played to ’em--charmed ’em, as I said."

"I’m glad," said Sylvia.  "Glad I charmed them, I mean.  You need a
rest, Doctor Tom.  You are going a pace that would kill any man who
wasn’t as strong as an ox."

He laughed a little grimly.

"Well, Miss Nestor, any more sage advice to offer your grandfather?
Just how am I going to shunt the world I happen to have on my shoulders
at present?"

"Just drop it off.  You could if you had to. Why don’t you and Lois go
on a vacation?  Felicia and I will look after the babies."

"Thanks, Miss Christmas.  That is like you and mighty kind, but do you
see Lois letting anybody--the angel Gabriel himself--look after the
babies for her?"

"She might," dubiously.

"And again she mightn’t.  But, aside from Lois, I have too many life and
death jobs on hand at present to quit.  A doctor’s no business to get
nerves.  He ought to leave that to his patients. Anyway, it isn’t the
work that is getting me just now, it is the damnable futility of it all.
The Curry baby is a symbol.  I’m pouring water in a sieve, Sylvia, and
that’s the devil’s truth."

"It isn’t.  You aren’t," denied Sylvia quickly. "You are doing miracles
every day of your life and everybody knows it.  Doctor Tom, I never
heard you talk like that before.  Don’t.  It makes me feel as if
everything were tottering on its foundations."

"Sometimes I think they are with that infernal senseless war going on
over there after all our peace prating.  Sylvia, what’s it all for?
Where are we going?  What’s the use?"

"Everything’s the use.  Maybe we can’t see behind all the agony and
blundering but there must be something there even if we can’t see it.
Why, Doctor Tom, there must be."  Sylvia’s eyes were earnest, her face
uplifted to the stars lit with the fine fires of youth’s faith.  Tom
Daly shook himself like one coming out of a trance.  He was suddenly
ashamed that he, the strong man, had been outdistanced in courage by the
slim girl before him.

"Right you are," he said heartily.  "There _must_ be.  It’s the only way
to look at it.  Thank you, Sylvia.  I won’t bleat again.  If only--"
But what was to have followed that sharp wrung "if only" Sylvia never
knew for suddenly Tom Daly crushed both her hands in a vicelike grip and
then turned and fled with a gruff "good night" down the path.

In his own yard close by he met his wife placidly draping a blanket over
a rhododendron bush.

"I thought there might be a frost to-night," she observed, and her tone
had all the clear crispness of frost in it as she spoke.  Tom Daly was
only human. It was scarcely strange that he could not help contrasting
his wife’s voice with that other eager, vibrant, younger, warmer voice
he had just heard, passionately asserting faith in that something behind
all the miseries and misunderstandings of things without which life were
indeed scarcely to be endured.

There was a world war on.  Little Jimmy Curry lay dead unnecessarily.
Tom Daly’s nerves and courage and endurance were strained all but to the
breaking point.  And his wife Lois thought there might be a frost.  But
long after Tom Daly had fallen into the heavy sleep of complete physical
exhaustion Lois lay wide-eyed and sleepless, staring into the darkness.



                              *CHAPTER IX*

                        *THE MOTH AND THE STAR*


The audience settled itself into place, rattling its programs, prepared
idly to be either amused or bored as the opportunity presented itself,
mildly curious as to the personality and talent of the young violinist
"heard for the first time in this country."

"They say he used to be old man McIntosh’s office boy.  He certainly
struck it soft.  Old man’s worth near a million they say and this darned
Dago’ll get it all I suppose.  Some folks just naturally nab the luck."
Thus a young reporter to his neighbor.

"I don’t know about that.  I can’t imagine old McIntosh standing for
this fiddling business.  He’s a husky old Puritan."

"Well, he did stand for it to the tune of quite a pretty price, I
understand.  The chap’s had four years of Berlin and Dresden and the
rest of it. Some mixture!  Italian birth, American start, Scotch
bringing up, German polish.  Whew! Wonder what he’s like with all that
in him.  Talk about your melting pots!"

"There’s old McIntosh in the box now.  No, the left.  Ugly old snoozer,
ain’t he?  But brains. Gee!  He’s shrewd as they make ’em.  Hello! Who’s
the dame?  Pretty easy to look at it, ain’t she?"

"That’s Miss Arden--lives on a high mucky muck hill out in Greendale.
She’s something to old McIntosh.  Niece maybe.  I forget."

"No, she isn’t.  Old man used to be bookkeeper for her father’s firm.  I
remember.  My dad knew ’em.  Arden and Daly--big cotton concern. Arden
died young.  Daly lost his money in some railroad slump and croaked too.
Son’s a doctor--making the wires hum out in Greendale about a hospital
or something.  So that’s Miss Arden. Engaged to young Amidon, isn’t
she?"

"I reckon.  Shut up.  There he comes.  Gee! He’s nothing but a kid."

It must be admitted that Gus, appearing on the program as Gustavus
Niccolini, did look very much indeed like a "kid" as he came across the
stage and made a shy, stiff little bow to the audience. Angus McIntosh
fidgeted in his chair and cleared his throat irritably.  "Fool to let
him try," he thought.  "How do I know whether he can play or not?  What
if he can’t?"  A cold perspiration stood out on the old man’s forehead.
What if the boy made a failure of the thing?  What if the audience
smiled, hissed?  Audiences did behave like that sometimes.  Why hadn’t
he told the boy, short-off, long ago, he shouldn’t try it?  Thus he
worked himself into a perfect passion of apprehension. But in the midst
of his perturbation Sylvia’s hand rested on his knee and Sylvia’s eyes
smiled reassurance.

"It’s all right, Daddy McIntosh," she whispered. "Just you wait till
they hear him."

In a moment they did hear him and the great hall was hushed to
respectful silence.  The audience had the grace to recognize a master
touch when they heard it.  Angus McIntosh was justified.  The boy whom
he had plucked out of a den of squalor and vice was an artist, and the
grim old man who had had a hand in the creation had been something of an
artist at the job himself.  As for Sylvia, who was behind it all, she
hardly breathed until the music ceased.  She listened rapt while the
voice of the violin sang and soared, now rapturous, now tender, now
triumphant, now dying away like the note of a wild bird in the night.
She had known before that Gus could play, but this--why this was a thing
born of Heaven to which she listened reverently.  Finally the last note
came and quivered into silence.  There was an instant’s hush then the
applause thundered.  The boy lifted his head quietly, but with a certain
grave pride, and his eyes sought the box where Angus McIntosh and Sylvia
sat.  Then suddenly his face was lit with a light which was not a smile
but an enveloping radiance which seemed to say, "This is yours.  I give
it to you.  I am glad it is worth giving."  Then he bowed to the
audience and the applause redoubled.

Angus McIntosh never knew much about the rest of that program.  He knew
it went on and the applause went on, that the boy went through the
varied and difficult performance with ease and serenity and simplicity,
but what he was playing the old man never knew.  It might have been
"Yankee Doodle" or the "Cam’el’s are Coming" for all he heard.  He only
knew the thing was beautiful.  All the remnants of still lingering
prejudices floated off into some dim cavern where such limbo is stored
or annihilated.  There was a place in the world it seemed for sheer
beauty.  Maybe it had a spiritual essence all its own.  Anyway, this
music of the boy’s seemed oddly connected in his mind with the psalms
and other fine old religious poetry with which his mother had filled his
mind long ago.  He was humbly glad that he had had a share in letting
loose this thing upon the world.  He remembered always that it was
Sylvia who had really opened the door.
Beauty--Kindness--Happiness--Love--all these things had been slipping
almost beyond his grasp that December nearly six years ago when Sylvia
and her Christmas family had brought them back.  It was Sylvia who had
given the boy to him, Sylvia, who had given his music to the world by
making himself who had been blind see.

The concert was over and Herr Bernsdorf, Gus’ old music teacher, had
rushed up to the box and was pumping Mr. McIntosh’s hand up and down
violently with inarticulate croonings and mutterings of delight and
congratulation.  "Haf I not told you that the boy was a genius?  Haf I
not said it hundertmal?  I knew.  I, who was his master, I knew.  They
haf done well by him over there, they haf done well.  But somebody else,
she haf done more?  Is it you, mein Fraulein?"  He turned his flashing
little black eyes on Sylvia as he asked the question.

"I!  Oh, no.  I have done nothing," disclaimed Sylvia.

"No?  Maybe it is another, in Berlin or Dresden or elsewhere.  I know
not.  I only know the boy haf learned to play like that from luf.  Luf
haf taught him.  Only luf learns to play like that. Ach!  Do I not
know?"

And then Gus himself stepped into the box, having gently but firmly
slipped away from the crowd which would have waylaid him.

"Did you like it, Daddy McIntosh?" he asked playfully, and the old man
coughed and sputtered and could not speak.  But Gus was satisfied.  Even
as he grasped his sponsor’s hand the boy’s eyes went beyond to Sylvia,
who had purposely stepped back.  Though his lips said nothing, his eyes
asked her too, "Did you like it, Sylvia?" and said again what they had
proclaimed from the stage.  "It is yours.  I give it to you."

And a little shiver went over Sylvia as she read the boy’s eyes, and
suddenly she felt very sad and humble and a little ashamed because she
had been so blind.  She knew he was asking nothing, probably never would
ask anything, but she also knew he was giving something very precious,
something for which she had nothing to give in exchange. Mr. McIntosh,
absorbed in his emotions, did not understand, but the old music teacher
did.

"I haf said it," he thought triumphantly.  "I haf had right.  It was
luf--luf and no other who have learned the boy to play like that.  I haf
heard it from his fingers and now I haf seen it in his eyes.  And by and
by he will play efen better, for luf will also learn him pain, and pain
he is the great master.  He it is who learn the masters themselves.  Haf
I not seen it?"

Only for a moment Gus had let his eyes betray him, so brief an interval
indeed that Sylvia thought afterward she must have imagined it so
naturally did she and the young man find themselves chatting over the
details of the concert.

But later, after she was home in Greendale and curled comfortably in
bed, that eloquent look from those dark eyes came back and would not let
her sleep.

"Oh, dear," she thought.  "Who would ever have thought it of Gus, of all
people?  I thought he was just wrapped up in his music.  Why won’t they
stay friends?  It is so discouraging and uncomfortable.  There is no end
to the trouble it makes when they begin to want to be lovers.  Jack is
likely to come any minute and tell me what a good boy he is and demand
the plums out of the Christmas pie.  I don’t want to marry any of them.
I don’t.  I don’t.  So there."

But even as she snuggled down among the pillows she heard a wee distinct
little voice inside her somewhere say something quite different.

"Oh, yes, you do," it said.  "You want to marry Phil, by and by, way off
in the future, a thousand years from now.  Only he doesn’t want to marry
you, and that is what makes you so restless and discontented and horrid.
That’s why you’ve been flirting with Jack and--yes, Gus, too, in a
demure, artistic sort of way, not thinking it would do any harm to
anybody.  And even Doctor Tom looked funny at you the other night.
And--but then it is all Phil’s fault--so you needn’t worry."

And then Sylvia put her hands over her ears, for she didn’t want to hear
any more of that kind of talk.

"You are quite mistaken," she retorted to the disagreeable little voice.
"I haven’t been flirting with anybody.  Jack and Gus are both good
friends and I can’t help being nice to them.  And Doctor Tom is safe and
married, so he doesn’t count.  But, anyway, I’ll be careful after this
and I don’t want to marry anybody--not anybody."

And down in the near-by city the young violinist who had scored such a
success that the papers were already writing up flattering notices about
him sat in his room, furiously scribbling poetry, at least that is what
he would probably have called it, poetry whose theme was mostly borrowed
from another young lover, and had in it a lot about the "desire of the
moth for the star" or some such rubbish.  Gus was very young yet if he
was a master violinist and Love was beginning to teach him other things
than how to make his violin sing.  But the poetry was not so good as his
music and presently he pushed aside his scribblings in disgust and went
and stood by the window looking out into the night.

It had been raining and the pavements glistened in the light reflected
from the arc-lamps.  And suddenly the twinkling lights called up to the
boy the memory of a Christmas eve when he had followed Angus McIntosh
into a brilliantly lighted room with a wonderful Christmas tree in the
center, such a Christmas tree as he had never dreamed of in his wildest
dreams.  And then he forgot the tree and remembered Sylvia smiling
kindly at him, saying, "Christmas Family, here are Mr. McIntosh and Gus
Nichols.  Isn’t it nice they could get here to-night?"

He knew now that the desire of the moth for the star had been born then
and there, only it wasn’t even a desire, it was just a worship.

And in the Oriole Inn, at the foot of Sylvia’s Hill, Hope Williams lay
asleep with Stephen Kinnard’s four weeks’ old letter under her pillow,
and a smile on her lips, for she was dreaming she was back in the garden
with Stephen sketching her among the wistaria vines.  But Stephen
Kinnard was having a very amusing and profitable time sketching a wild,
little beauty of a half breed on an Arizona desert these days and had
all but forgotten such a person as Hope existed.  But never once in all
his wanderings did he forget to mail a weekly letter to Felicia Emory,
who had rejected him "with reasons."

So things go in this piquant world of ours.  And there is much truth
hidden for the wise in the depths of the "Grecian Urn."



                              *CHAPTER X*

                               *THE CITY*


By November Barbara had become so accustomed to the city that she no
longer jumped at its noises or shrank physically from its crowds.  She
learned to ignore the thunder of the El and to regard the Subway as a
necessary evil, the traffic policeman a very present help in time of
trouble.  She even learned to zigzag deftly, alone and unprotected, in
and out among the automobiles, and to calculate on the chance that a
Fifth Avenue Bus driver would probably prefer not to run her down, other
things being equal.

But she never quite made friends with the big, strange city--the
Step-Mother city--as some one has called it.  Always it seemed to hold
her at a distance, perfectly amicable and perfectly impersonal.  It
seemed to say to her "What are you to me?  There are hundreds---yes,
thousands, like you in my gigantic household.  Can I be expected to care
for you each as individuals?  Watch the motes dancing in the sunshine.
As the motes to you so you to me.  Go look at the sands shining on the
beach at Coney.  As the grains to you so you to me.  Let your eyes
follow the ripples of my big river.  As the ripples to you so you and
all the rest of the human eddies which make up my great tide to me."

Yet there were moments when Barb felt as if she had almost surprised the
city’s secret, caught it unaware, as it were, and half ashamed, slipping
into its holy of holies.  Once coming over on the ferry from Jersey City
she had scanned the great towers and buildings, set with twinkling
lights as with many jewels, and beheld the huge bridges, across which an
endless stream of traffic passed and repassed, like human life itself in
its unending succession.  And then she had seemed to see for a moment
what the city really meant.  Sordid, material, menacing, heartless as it
was in many of its aspects did it not after all cherish a big vision?
Were not those very towers and bridges the symbol of its restless
aspiration?

Suddenly above it all had risen a pale lackadaisical looking moon,
slipping quietly from behind a smoke bank to look down at the seething
tumultuous life of the great city.  To Barb the moon had seemed almost
to smile, a world-weary, somewhat cynical smile as one who should say
"Go on.  Keep it up. Burrow and build, crush and create, scream and
scuffle.  What will it matter a million years hence? You will have
learned by then to be cold and calm like me."

But the bridges and towers had mocked the moon and defied it.  "We are
wood and stone and steel," they said.  "We may crumble and fall but what
we stand for will neither crumble nor fall.  For we are the symbol of
man, aspirant, conquering--a spirit which shall not grow cold or calm
while there is anything in life to which to aspire, anything left to
conquer.  We are nothing.  That we grant you, Moon.  But the spirit of
man is everything, yes, even God himself, God passioning, agonizing,
ultimately victorious."

So the vision came to little Barb, and after that she was not afraid of
the city.  She had the clew as to what it was all about.  It whirred and
rumbled and rushed and screeched like its own busses but it had a method
in its madness.  Like the busses, it had a destination.  It was going
somewhere whether it knew it or not.

As for Barb’s own little life, caught in the whirl of the city’s, it was
full and breathless and on the whole incredibly agreeable.  She typed
her Aunt’s eloquent pro-suffrage pamphlets and articles and listened
with rapt eyes and eager ears to her Aunt’s glowing speeches and all the
while in her busy brain the meaning of this, too, was gradually dawning.
At first it had been like a confused, jumbled picture puzzle, but little
by little she was able to put the pieces together into their proper
places.  She was beginning to see that though one talked a great deal
about the woman question and listened to a great deal about the woman
question, there was really, after all, no woman question, just the human
question--the human questions.

How could every man and woman and child in America--in the world--be
assured enough to eat and to wear, enough and not too much?  How could
each have leisure to play, also just enough, neither too much, nor too
little?  How was each to find his own work, neither too much nor too
little, but the right work, the work he could do with all his heart, not
for the payment, though that must be adequate, but for the zest of the
doing itself, that special, personal service which every human being
should be God endowed and man fitted to perform? Above all, how could
every man, woman and child be sure of happiness?  Since she had come to
the city happiness had come to seem a very fundamental thing, perhaps
because she herself was so happy, partly also because she was so sorry
for the rest who were not happy.  And so few of them seemed to be happy.
They looked complacent, or smug, or well-fed, or blatantly successful,
some of them, but almost none looked happy, and most of them, it seemed
to Barb, looked downright miserable, haunted and hunted, which was very
sad.

Barb herself was happy, as has been said.  In her ignorance and
innocence she supposed her happiness had its roots in the fact that she
was young and healthy and busy and useful and interested in her work.
She had no idea that her happiness was at all bound up in the other fact
that few days passed that she did not either see or talk over the
telephone with a certain rather grave but very friendly young doctor
from the near-by clinic, who was also interested in getting at the
secret of the city, especially in trying to pluck out the heart of its
physical miseries, fighting the seemingly futile battle with filth and
disease and ignorance and vice and their sad consequences, attacking the
Augean stables of the city with the energy of a Hercules, though there
was no magic stream to turn to his aid except the magic stream of youth
and courage and determination and faith, which was, after all, a fairly
efficient substitute.

And if sometimes when there was a silence between the two young people
and Barb’s heart was almost overbrimming with a wistful, half-conscious
joy in things as they were, she did not know that the grim set to Phil’s
mouth and the tired look in his eyes was due to the fact that his
Faraway Princess was looking particularly far off just then and that he
was all but oblivious of the presence of the contented little
Beggar-Maid quite within hailing distance.  So much for Fools’ Paradises
where Youth lives from preference and for Nature going quietly about her
business in the background!

The city had its way with Suzanne, too, and though she loved it better
than Barb, it treated her less genially.  Suzanne worked hard and
hopefully. The click of her typewriter resounded faithfully by night and
day.  But, somehow, her plays and stories did not sell.  The arrival of
the mails with the persistently returning long envelopes was a daily
agony.  She got to know all the hateful platitudinous variations of the
printed slip "Does not necessarily imply lack of merit," "Not exactly
suited to the needs of the magazine," and so on. How she detested the
smug, smooth, complacency of those printed formulæ!  How she hugged to
her heart the occasional kindly, personal notes of the compassionate
editors who salved the pain of rejection by a brief word or two of
encouragement or advice.  But, alas, these favors were as few as they
were precious!

The plays fared no better.  The managers smiled unctuously upon her
prettiness when Suzanne bearded them in their dens.  Some of them even
patted her on the shoulder and told her her work was "promising," and
advised her by all means to keep at it.  But there was always some
thoroughly excellent reason why they could not take the particular play
or sketch she had to offer and she had eventually to retreat from the
dens, one after the other, sore, indignant, but more doggedly determined
than ever to storm the citadel.

In the meanwhile Aunt Sarah’s little legacy dwindled until it became a
mere shadow of itself. It had never been very portly at the best of
times, and living in the Village is deceptively expensive. By the first
of December Suzanne moved, taking with her her "Factory re-built," which
skipped a few letters for variety’s sake now and then, but was, on the
whole, very dependable.  Certainly it could be depended upon to turn out
manuscript which would return with automatic precision after the
briefest allotment of days.  Suzanne informed Barb about this time over
the telephone that it was incomparably more picturesque to be living
over a fruit vender’s shop in the Alley than it was to inhabit a mere
studio.  It gave you loads of "copy."  Miss Murray looked meditative
when her niece reported this new viewpoint on Suzanne’s part and
suggested that that young lady be invited to take supper with them at an
early date, to which Barbara joyfully acquiesced.  She felt that she had
seen too little of Suzanne of late.  Suzanne accepted and Barb looked at
her very critically and accused her of working herself to death and
getting great dark circles under her eyes.

But Suzanne only shrugged and asserted that work agreed with her and
sent up her plate for more salad, apologizing for her appetite on the
score of having been so busy at lunch time she had forgotten to eat any.

"Oh, you genii!" laughed Barb reproachfully, but Miss Josephine Murray
vouchsafed her guest a keen scrutiny which Suzanne perceiving,
straightway rattled off a lot of voluble enthusiasm about the delights
of the "Dutch Oven" and other Bohemian eating-places.

Later, Phil Lorrimer dropped in and took the girls to a show.  He, too,
looked rather hard at Suzanne later when they were having innocuous
sandwiches and beer at a little German restaurant. Phil and Barb
escorted Suzanne home to her alley but she would not let them come in,
protesting that it was too late and she didn’t want to ruin her
reputation with Giovanni and Pepita downstairs, who were very proper
people.

On the Bus Phil turned to Barb to ask a rather odd question.

"Roger Minot been in town lately?"

"I don’t think so.  Suzanne wouldn’t let him see her if he did come.
Why?"

"I just wondered.  Suzanne is looking a little peaked, don’t you think?"

"Dreadful," sighed Barb.  "Suzanne is such a fiend for work.  She owned
up to forgetting to eat any luncheon to-day she was so interested in
what she was doing.  I’m afraid she forgets rather often."

"Shouldn’t wonder," agreed Phil.  He had seen more than one young man
and young woman, too, for that matter, who had developed that convenient
kind of memory about food in the city when pockets were empty.  He
shrewdly suspected that Suzanne was "up against it" in his own parlance.
He had made a fair diagnosis of her case in the garish lights of the
German restaurant.  "Overwork, underfeeding, devilish desperation.
Something sure to snap soon."  Thus he summed the matter up mentally,
for he had not thought it necessary to alarm Barb about her friend’s
situation, since she was so obviously unsuspecting.  He knew Suzanne
would brook no help nor pity.  "Proud as Lucifer, of course," he
thought.  But he made up his mind to keep his eye on Suzanne, as he put
it.

To that end he made his way to the Village a few evenings later, found
from Giovanni that Suzanne was out and discovered her, for himself
shortly, sitting in a bench on the Square, looking pinched and blue
about the lips.  Phil Lorrimer was a very direct person and usually went
straight for any goal he had in sight.  He finally succeeded in wringing
the truth out of Suzanne.  She had not sold a story since she came to
New York or "landed" a play.  Her money was all but gone and she had
been living on one meal a day for a week past.

"And the worst of it is, I’m a rotten failure. That’s what I can’t
stand."  And Suzanne had clenched her fist in her shabby little glove
and set her white teeth together sharply.  "I won’t give up.  I tell you
I won’t.  I won’t go home and I won’t ask ’em for a cent.  I won’t let
’em say, ’I told you so.’  I won’t.  I won’t.  Phil Lorrimer, if you
dare to hint one word of what I’ve told you to-night to Rog--er--to my
people, I’ll borrow a stiletto of Giovanni and ram it clean through you.
What did you ever make me tell you for, anyway? You hadn’t any business
to.  I hate you!"  And with an ejaculation somewhere between a snarl and
a sob, Suzanne had turned and fled away from him into the night.

But it had not taken Phil’s long legs many seconds to be up with her
again.

"See here, Suzanne," he urged.  "Don’t take it like that.  My knowing
doesn’t count.  Doctors and priests are dumb as the grave.  I won’t
peach, but do let me help you over the bad spot.  I haven’t much myself,
as you know, but I’d be glad to ease you along a bit if you’ll let me,
man to man."

Suzanne smiled an April smile at him.

"Man to man, you are a darling, Phil Lorrimer. I’d let you help me if
I’d let any one but I won’t. My pride’s all I have left, and I’m going
to hang on to that like grim death.  Don’t you worry.  I know what I can
do and I’m going to do it."

"What?"  Phil was somewhat dubious about the sudden flush on Suzanne’s
cheeks, the sparkle in her eyes.

She shook her head, mischief written in every line of her thin, pretty,
piquant face.

    "’Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck,
    Till you applaud the deed,’"

she quoted gayly.  "It is much better you shouldn’t know.  I’m not even
going to tell Barb.  She will only be informed that I am out of town
with friends. My esteemed parents and dear Roger will hear the same.
Your job is to sit tight and know nothing. You won’t be responsible.
Your skirts--I mean your coat-tails---will be entirely clear."

"Suzanne, I’ve half a mind to telegraph your father this minute--or
Roger.  Maybe it would be better to summon Roger."  He eyed her sternly.

Suzanne giggled wickedly.

"You will do nothing of the sort, dear Dumb as the Grave.  I have your
sacred oath not to peach."

"Let me off, Suzanne," he begged.  "Honest, I’m worried about you.  You
look wild."

But Suzanne only laughed again, and assured him she was saner than the
statue of Liberty.

"Let you off nothing, dear sir," she added for good measure.  "But
please don’t fret.  I assure you I am not going to do a thing either
desperate or immoral.  I’m going on a lark, that is all.  You can’t down
Suzanne.  Like Ivory Soap--it floats. Here we are at my alley.  My fruit
stand’s just beyond.  Shake hands like a good boy and wish me luck.
Don’t frown like that.  It spoils your leonine beauty.  Good night--and
good-by."  And, before he could speak, Suzanne had darted into her own
doorway leaving Phil staring rather ruefully after her.

"Now what in time or eternity is she up to?" he pondered.  "She isn’t
the kind to play the fool to any great extent.  Got too much head and
too little heart.  I may as well let her gang her own gait. She’s bound
to anyway.  Poor old Roger!  She is certainly leading him a trail.
Wouldn’t he curse me for letting her make a getaway like this if he
knew? Out of town with friends!" he muttered as he descended into the
depths of the subway.  "I’d like to see the friends.  And if I were Rod
Minot, I would too, or know the reason why."

Thus satisfactorily can one young man sum up the whole duty of another
in a recreant courtship though remaining as helpless and inefficient as
a new-born infant in the management of his own.



                              *CHAPTER XI*

                               *MARGINS*


"Hello, Jack!  I had no idea you were home."  Sylvia, rosy and blown
from a spin behind Doctor Tom’s frolicsome black mare, entered the
living-room at Arden Hall, bringing with her a whiff of fresh outdoor
air.  She threw down her muff and held out a welcoming hand to her guest
who had been waiting her return.

"Bad penny, you know."  Jack captured both hands instead of the one
vouchsafed as he spoke. "Can’t leave business very long, you see."  His
eyes twinkled mischievously as he looked down at Sylvia, making
shameless bid for her favor.  Sylvia laughed, but she withdrew her hands
and shook her head at him.

"You are a dreadful fraud, Jack.  You don’t really care such a lot about
the business all at once. You know you don’t."

"Not a tinker’s dam," he shrugged.  "Whatever that may be."

"Then why--" began Sylvia and stopped.

"There is only one why, young lady, and you know it."

Sylvia frowned and jabbing out her hatpins a little irritably, tossed
her black velvet toque on the table.  She had already removed her coat
and furs and stood, trim and tailored, in her simple blue serge dress; a
simplicity which was exceedingly becoming and likewise extremely
expensive as Jack’s approving gaze, sweeping the lithe young curves of
her figure, knew very well.

"I wish you wouldn’t, Jack."

"Wouldn’t what?" blandly.

"Wouldn’t work--just because I want you to. It is so horribly like a
bribe."

"It is a bribe."

"Then I don’t like it.  I told you I didn’t promise anything."

"And I told you I didn’t expect anything.  You can’t blame a fellow for
putting all the eggs he can find into his basket."

"Put all the eggs you like into the basket, only don’t blame me if they
get smashed.  Sometimes, Jack, I think you don’t really want to marry me
at all--you just want the fun of pursuing me."

"Maybe so," agreed Jack so amicably that Sylvia lifted her eyebrows at
him.  "I was brought up never to contradict a lady."

Sylvia laughed at that and sat down, running her hand over her hair, to
brush back its turbulent ripple, a gesture Jack loved because it was so
interwoven with his mental pictures of her.

"Let’s not discuss ourselves," she added.  "Tell me the news.  Did you
see Barb and Suzanne?"

"I saw Barb.  Suzanne has fled the coop."

"What?"

"The report is she is out of town, traveling with friends.  Barb looks
worried and Phil looks wise but neither has much to say."

"Does Phil know where she is?"

"He says not, but he knows something, or I miss my guess.  Not that the
old oyster would open up his shell a fraction of an inch even to oblige
yours truly.  I pried like a good one but to no purpose.  Talk about
your professional secrecy! Phil’s got it down to the finish.  The old
chap is different somehow, older and solemn as a fish. Horrible example
of what work will do to a fellow!" he grinned.

Sylvia stooped to pick up the tongs and stir the fire, which was
smoldering a little sulkily on the hearth.  Out of the tail of his eye
Jack watched her.

"He and Barb seem to be remarkably good pals," he continued.  "The Aunt
orders him about like a member of the family.  Don’t wonder he obeys.
That woman is a general.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she took the vote
away from the men and gave it to the women any day, if she took the
notion. Lucky she and Napoleon didn’t hitch their wagons to the same
star in the same generation.  The star would have dragged Aunt Josephine
and ditched the emperor, that’s certain."

"Do stop talking nonsense, Jack, and tell me more about Suzanne."

Sylvia’s voice had a faint edge of sharpness to it as if a little of the
grim December wind outside had gotten into it.

"I don’t know any more.  I’ve told you all that is generally published.
Even Norton, Pa., gropes in middle darkness.  She didn’t even write to
Roger it seems.  He is in bad.  Had the temerity to propose to her again
just after she had emerged with a bundle of manuscripts from a manager’s
office, which wasn’t a tactful moment, I gather.  She consigned him to
the devil or some feminine equivalent thereof, apparently.  Pa and Ma
knows she’s traveling.  Had cards from Buffalo and Cleveland, I
understand.  Pa’s excited and Ma’s took to her bed.  Looks as if they
feared the worst."

"Jack!"

"Sorry.  I was only joking, of course.  Trust Suzanne to take care of
herself.  She is all right. Roger is having a fit or two though, and no
wonder."

"Serves him right.  Why didn’t he go and marry her and not let her go
off on a tangent like that?"

"Why, indeed?" murmured Jack.  "It is so hanged easy to marry a girl
when she won’t have you!  Give me the good old cave days.  You could
knock your bride down with a club if she objected. Then, when she came
to, she would get up and grin at her noble master and string some red
berries round her neck, or stick a ring in her nose, to enhance her
charms, and everything would be entirely agreeable."

"Jack, you are perfectly horrid to-day.  I wish you had stayed in New
York.  How is Jeanette?"  Sylvia changed the subject severely.

"Going the pace, as usual.  Good Lord, Sylvia, what do you suppose a
woman wants to live the kind of life she’s elected for?  I like a good
time myself.  It’s a family trait.  But she goes as if all the devils of
Hell were loose and after her.  Maybe they are, after a fashion.  See
here, Sylvia, aren’t you going up to see her soon?"

"After Christmas.  Why?"

"Nothing especial.  I thought a dose of you might be good for her, that
is all."

And that was all the explanation that Sylvia extracted on that subject,
though she guessed that there was more than Jack admitted behind his
rather enigmatic remarks.  Jack was incredibly clear-sighted about some
things, and it was evident he saw cause to worry about his sister
Jeanette, even to the extent of hurrying Sylvia to New York where he
himself could not follow unless he turned back the page of the virtuous
new leaf of his devotion to business.  There was a puzzle behind it
somewhere, Sylvia knew.  She also knew she was going to be left to
discover the exact nature of the puzzle for herself.

So December went its way.  Suzanne continued mysteriously "traveling
with friends."  Barb and Phil kept hard at work in the city and managed
to see a good deal of each other in their off hours.  Sylvia and Phil
had almost ceased to write to each other, though there was no open break
in their friendship. It was rather that a wall, intangible but
unsurmountable, had risen between them, as perhaps it had, for pride is
a mightier barrier than a mountain peak sometimes.  Gus went his quiet,
successful way on his concert tour, refusing politely but conclusively
to be made a lion of, keeping rather to himself in his leisure hours,
living on his unspoken dreams and managing to get a great deal of pure
happiness out of his star worship.  To Sylvia’s delight, and almost to
Felicia’s consternation, the latter’s designs for a mural relief, which
Stephen Kinnard had fairly bullied her into submitting in a competition,
had been accepted and she was hard at work on the actual modeling these
brief winter days, though she found time, Felicia fashion, to be an
excellent "Home-keeper" and Mother along with the other task.

Early in November Lois Daly had rather astonishingly announced her
intention of "doing some writing" as she put it rather vaguely.  Lois
was always reticent, especially about her literary work, and even her
husband asked no questions, realizing it suited her better to be let
alone to work out her purpose for herself.  She was far too
conscientious about her other duties to neglect any of them and it was
consequently the long evenings when the children were in bed and the
household affairs quiescent that she found most profitable for her new
work. This arrangement was admirable in all but two respects.  It made
Lois’ working day an almost impossibly long one and left her a little
too weary for restful sleep when she did finally creep into bed.  It
also curtailed almost to a minimum the moments which she had to spare
for her husband’s society, which had been all too few even before the
advent of this new era.  Doctor Tom made no protest as to this.  He was
always over-sensitive to the sacrifice of her work which Lois had made
for him and his, but he did beg her at times not to "bother" so much
about the house and the children and himself.

But Lois always shook her head at his pleas and explained quietly that
he and the house and the children were her real job and she could not
neglect them for the other.  And if Tom Daly found it in his heart to
wonder sometimes if his wife’s "real job" did not include a little
closer companionship with himself he never voiced his wondering.  He was
no "martyr," as he had once long ago protested to Sylvia.

But human relations are never static and while Lois shut herself in her
den and wrote feverishly, night after night, her husband, being only
human, easily drifted into the habit of finding elsewhere than at his
own home the companionship and sympathy which even the strongest and
most independent of men half-consciously crave.  Arden Hall and Sylvia
were close at hand and it was almost inevitable that he should find his
way to the two rather often. Sylvia was intensely interested in all his
schemes for the hospital and other altruistic visions which made up a
very large part of his wide, busy career.  Often they talked eagerly for
hours, either with or without Felicia’s presence.  Oftener still Tom
Daly would sit and smoke in contented silence while Sylvia played soft
music or read aloud out of some magazine stories which let his mind rest
instead of wrestle.

It was all the most natural, even inevitable development.  The two were
old friends.  Tom Daly was thirty-eight and happily married.  Sylvia
Arden was twenty-two questing for experience innocently enough.  There
was no one to question or warn, or indeed, anything to question or warn
against.  Yet there sat Nature spinning away at her web all the time and
Tom Daly and Sylvia were near to being caught in the mesh, without even
knowing there was any mesh.  And the danger for Tom Daly as it happened
was considerably greater than for Sylvia just because he was a man.  Man
is the so-called reasoning sex, but, as has been more than once noted,
sex is the one subject upon which he will not reason. And so things
slipped easily and pleasantly along up to Christmas time.

It was Jack Amidon who involuntarily opened Sylvia’s eyes by uttering an
unusually sharp protest that she went nowhere any more, either with him
or any one else, but just sat in the chimney corner and played Joan to
Tom Daly’s Darby.  "And soon there’ll be the deuce to pay whether you
know it or not," he had added darkly.

Of course Sylvia had flared out in quick anger at his implications.

"What do you mean, Jack Amidon, by saying such horrid things?" she had
stormed.  "It is perfectly ridiculous.  Doctor Tom is years and years
older than I am.  He is just like a brother."

Jack had seen the brother dodge worked before and said so somewhat
caustically, whereupon Sylvia lost what little temper she had left, and
having delivered a volley of violent wrath upon her guest’s imprudent
head, shot out of the room, leaving him to enjoy the hospitality of the
Hall in solitude or beat a retreat as pleased him best.

Meanwhile, upstairs in her own room, Sylvia threw herself on the bed,
and, first of all, woman fashion, relieved her feelings by indulging in
a good old-fashioned "weep," her anger dissipating with her tears.
Presently she sat up and began to take stock of the situation and
herself, and found to her consternation that things as they actually
were, were about as safe as a child with a box of matches in a haymow.

She was a perfectly clear-eyed and sophisticated young woman and when
her attention was called, however brutally, to the fact that you cannot
see a man, night after night, week after week, as she had been seeing
Tom Daly, without there being at least the possibility of the "deuce to
pay," as Jack had bluntly expressed it, she was willing to acknowledge
the fact to herself at least.  She carefully analyzed her own mental
processes for the past few weeks and discovered to her surprise and some
chagrin that she had been ruthlessly cutting out engagements in which
Tom Daly did not figure, and eagerly making those in which he did
figure, that she had deliberately plunged into everything that
interested him, Red Cross work, the new hospital, the needs of some of
his poorer patients; everything, in short, that he cared about heartily.
She even had to admit to herself that she had been a little complacent
and self righteous in her genuine interest and sympathy with these
things because she resented Lois Daly’s apathy in the matter and felt
profoundly sorry for Doctor Tom.  She discovered that it is not prudent
in the world as it is lived to be too sorry for another woman’s husband.
That way danger lies, and a signboard to that effect is in order.
Beyond this, however, Sylvia knew she had little for which to blame
herself.  She was not a deliberate coquette. She had acted in all
simplicity and naturalness, but there had been a risk to the experiment
for all that and she was a bit ashamed of her hitherto state of
blindness.

Being a very honest young person, Sylvia sat down, as soon as she had
threshed the whole matter out to the satisfaction of her clear, fair
mind, and wrote a very artistically penitent note to Jack, retracting
some of the unwarrantable things she had said in her wrath and admitting
rather hazily that there was a faint possibility that he might have been
in the right about certain matters, implying that she was magnanimously
willing even to ignore his objectionable rightness if he so desired.

And her note crossed one from Jack, begging her to forgive his "darned
impertinence" and adding that he had behaved like a jackass and a dog in
the manger and Heaven knows how many other kinds of animals, but if she
would be good enough to overlook his misdemeanors he would be eternally
grateful.

And the next evening Sylvia appeared under Jack’s escort at the
Honeycutt ball, wearing a marvelous new gown and looking extraordinarily
pretty after her temporary estrangement from Vanity Fair. And from that
time on during all the mad gayeties of Christmas week Jack was
constantly in attendance, obviously the favored knight.  Life is mostly
made up of reactions.  The pendulum having swung so far to the left,
swings back an equal distance to the right.  Sylvia was the kinder to
Jack because of her deflection away from him in an entirely opposite
direction.  And he, with the wisdom born of considerable experience of
the feminine sex in general, and Sylvia Arden in particular, made no
comment though he perfectly understood what had happened, but sunned
himself agreeably in his lady’s rather uncertain grace and bided his
time.

And the night of the Honeycutt ball for the first time in several weeks
Tom Daly sat and smoked before his own fireside and not once did he
think of the new hospital.



                             *CHAPTER XII*

                        *"SUCH STUFF AS DREAMS"*


"Phil?  That you, my boy?  Come up and take dinner with us to-night,
won’t you?  I have a proposition to make to you."

Thus the smooth voice of Justin Huntley over the telephone.  Justin
Huntley was a famous nerve specialist, a classmate and lifelong friend
of Phil Lorrimer’s father, who had kept a friendly eye on the young man
ever since he had come to the city.

Phil accepted the invitation, and later, as he left the Subway and
strolled down Seventy-second Street toward the river, he speculated
vaguely as to what the proposition might be likely to be.  Doctor
Huntley was quite capable of initiating any kind of a suggestion, from
proposing a marriage to an heiress to the use of a new serum.
Consequently Phil had little to go upon in his speculations.

It was an agreeable dinner.  Dinner at the Huntleys’ always was
agreeable, moving by pleasant stages to a perfect end, gastronomically
speaking. There were no other guests to-night and presently, Mrs.
Huntley, a frail tired looking little lady who always seemed to be
deprecating the weight of her silks and the brilliancy of her jewels,
rose and left the two men together.

"Any curiosity about the proposition I baited my hook with to get you
here to-night?"  Dr. Huntley surveyed his guest a little quizzically as
he launched the question.

"I didn’t need any bait," said Phil.  "But I admit the curiosity."

The older man leaned forward and deliberately lit his cigarette from a
candle that stood close at hand.

"You don’t smoke?" he remarked irrelevantly.

"No," admitted Phil.  "At least, not often. Bad for the operating
table."

"Bad!  It’s the devil.  You have a deal of sense, young man.  How would
you like to be my partner?"  The question was put as casually as if he
were offering a fellow traveler, caught in the rain, a share of his
umbrella, but his shrewd eyes took full account of the face of the young
man.  Phil flushed and his mouth opened slightly.  It was a proposition
to make any ambitious young man drop his jaw. Justin Huntley had one of
the largest and most remunerative practices in the city.  It was a
dazzling prospect to open suddenly before the eyes of a small-salaried
worker in a free clinic.  It meant success, money--Sylvia, something to
offer her, at last.

"Well?"

"It is a wonderful chance," said Phil steadily, "but I should like to
think it over, if you don’t mind."

"Eh?"  It was Dr. Huntley’s jaw that dropped this time.  He had scarcely
expected a young man in Phil Lorrimer’s position to need to think over
an offer such as he had just made.  Most young men would have jumped at
it quickly as a trout leaps at a shining fly lest the fascinating thing
disappear from view before it could be apprehended.  "What did you say?"

"I said I should have to think it over," repeated Phil.  "Your kind of
practice isn’t the kind I am interested in, to speak frankly."

"Interested!  Good Lord!  Who expects to be interested in anything
nowadays?  A lot of damn women with nothing on earth the matter with
them except fool notions, and having nothing on earth or in Heaven to
occupy themselves with, dyspeptics, neurasthenics, hypochondriacs, dope
fiends, gentlemen drunkards and worse!  That is my kind of practice,
boy.  Pah!  Interesting!  Of course, they aren’t interesting.  They are
fools.  But they pay. Lord, how they pay!  They wouldn’t be sick if they
didn’t have so much money.  You would open your eyes if you saw my
books.  But I’ve had ’most enough of ’em.  I want somebody to take the
brunt of their damn foolnesses off of me.  That is what I want a partner
for.  Some day I’ll be telling ’em what I really think of ’em and it
wouldn’t do--it wouldn’t do.  I’ve got to have an understudy. You’ve a
close mouth and a good head and you’d like the money.  Don’t tell me you
wouldn’t like it," querulously.  "Everybody wants money these days. The
whole world’s after it."

"Oh, I want it all right," said Phil Lorrimer honestly.  "I happen to
want it like the devil just at present.  But I am not sure I want
it--that bad. That is what I have to think over."

He took a hasty swallow of water from the glass beside his plate, then
rose and made a few quick, nervous turns, up and down the room.  Finally
he came to a halt opposite his host.

"I don’t know whether I can make you understand, Dr. Huntley, but it is
like this," he said.  "I have a drop or so of missionary blood in me.
My father is in China now.  My mother would be, if she could stand the
climate.  My sister is teaching in a missionary school in Turkey.  I
chose the kind of work I am doing here in New York partly because it
interested me, but I believe it was a little bit too because of the
missionary strain.  Anyway, it seems to me a worth-while job.  But this
thing you are offering me--  Pardon me if I sound rude. I don’t mean to
disparage your work.  It is fine--some of it, but well, the truth of it
is, it doesn’t look to me to measure up to what we are doing in the
clinic and what some other doctors and surgeons are doing in other
places.  The finest man I know--doing the finest work I know--is in
Greendale, a little place just outside Baltimore.  He has always been a
sort of standard for me--he and my father. If I went in with you, it
would be not because my heart was in it, but because the money was in
it, and wanted the money worse than I wanted to hang onto my dreams.
That is about the whole story."

Justin Huntley smoked in silence during this, for Phil, rather long
speech.  Phil was not much given to eloquence.

"Well," he said.  "Even so.  Put it as baldly as that, if you like.  It
is up to you.  A man can’t afford to sentimentalize much in this day and
generation.  Let me remind you, the money is not to be despised.  It
buys a good deal."

Phil’s eyes were lowered.  Well he knew, or thought he knew, what it
could buy for him.  Not Sylvia, of course, Sylvia could not be bought,
but the right to go in and try to win her against Jack, against the
world, yes, against even his own ideals. The last thought crowded in, an
unbidden guest. Suddenly he loathed his father’s friend, loathed his
smug success, his cynical sureness that he himself could be bought.  For
it was buying, and Phil knew it.  If he took this offer, he sold out, to
the highest bidder, his own high ideals.  Was it worth it?  Was even
Sylvia worth it?  Had he the right to win her that way?  Could he do it?

"Don’t give your final answer to-night."  Justin Huntley’s bland voice
interrupted the boy’s reflections.  "There is no hurry.  Take a week.
Two--three--if you like."

Phil pulled himself together.

"Thank you.  I will, if you don’t object--a few days, anyway.  Please
don’t think I am ungrateful, or don’t appreciate the compliment you have
paid me--or rather the kindness, for, of course, I know I’m not
experienced enough to be much of a partner at present.  I--"

But Huntley waved the words aside.

"It’s not kindness--nothing but selfishness.  I happen to want you.
Come on in if you will. Anyway think it over.  The madame is alone.
Shall we go to her?"

Phil fancied there was an odd, wistful inquiry in Mrs. Huntley’s pale
eyes as she turned to meet the men as they entered the room.  It was
almost as if she were making some kind of plea.  Whether she wanted him
to accept or refuse her husband’s offer was not at all clear to Phil.
He made his adieus as early as he politely could on the score of a
previous engagement and passed out into the night trying to adjust as
best he could the confused bundle of thoughts and emotions he carried.

"Wonder if old Mephisto had any qualms," muttered Justin Huntley as the
door had closed upon the tall young doctor.

"Did you speak, dear?" inquired his wife.  "I didn’t understand."

"No, I didn’t say anything--worth repeating."

"How like Philip is to his father, isn’t he?"

"Very like," somewhat dryly.  "Did you say there was a girl?"

"A girl?"  Mrs. Huntley always dealt in mild interrogatives as if to
disclaim the responsibility of assertion.  "Oh, yes.  His mother told us
he was devoted to Sylvia Arden--wasn’t it?  That lovely young girl we
met once--in Baltimore, I think? She is a great heiress, isn’t she?"

"H-mm.  Maybe he will be back, after all," remarked her husband
irrelevantly.

Phil’s restlessness gave him no peace, and though the engagement had
been fiction he decided to run around and see Barb a few moments before
he turned in for the night.  He had gotten in the habit of using Barb as
an anæsthetic of late, though he had no idea he was doing it.  To-night
he found her alone, curled up like a sleepy kitten before the fire. She
rose with a happy little exclamation of surprise as Phil came in.

For once the flood gates of his reserve were down for Phil.  In five
minutes he had poured out the whole story of his evening’s experience,
omitting nothing except the mention of Sylvia.  In fact, he, hardly
thought it necessary to mention Sylvia.  She so fully possessed his own
mind he had no conception that Barbara did not fully understand how
inextricably Sylvia was woven in with the whole matter.

"But Phil," wondered Barb, "it isn’t the kind of work you like, is it?
I can’t imagine you dealing with that kind of patients exclusively."
Barb’s eyes blinked and crinkled, Barb-like, as she made the statement.

"Nor I.  I should be all too likely to tell ’em to go plum to thunder."
He grinned a little as he made the admission.

"Then why?  Phil, it can’t be the money that appeals to you?"  Barb’s
voice was startled, incredulous.

Phil had been on his feet, marching to and fro in the little room, as
was his custom when excited. But suddenly he dropped into a chair before
the hearth.

"Listen, Barbie.  Listen hard," he said.  "Suppose a chap wanted to
marry a girl and he didn’t have any money, at least not as much as he
thought he ought to have, not to look like a fool and a knave, asking
for her, and then suppose that, right out of a clear sky, the chap saw a
chance to make a big income, perfectly respectably, if not, well, we’ll
say exhilaratingly, wouldn’t he just naturally grab at the chance?"

Phil was not looking at Barb.  He was staring into the gas log with all
his might, but in any case it didn’t matter much.  Wherever he looked
Phil saw only Sylvia that night.  Barb’s cheeks were pink and her breath
came a little more quickly than usual.  She couldn’t help wondering if
Phil could hear the "Blop!  Blop!  Blop!" her heart was making.  It
seemed as if he must hear, it was such a queer, loud sound, but he did
not appear to notice. He did not even turn toward her.

"He might grab, but I think he would put his hand down quick again as
soon as he realized the girl wouldn’t want him--that way.  She wouldn’t
want to be bought at a price--like that."  Barb managed to keep her
voice steady in spite of the queer thing her heart was doing.

"Maybe not," said Phil.  "Somehow I thought that is what you would say,
Barbie.  Thank you."  And suddenly Phil was on his feet.  "’Night, Barb.
I’ve got to telephone a man before it gets any later."

And before Barb caught her breath he was gone. It did not matter any
more now how her heart behaved, but somehow, oddly enough it stopped
"blopping" and seemed suddenly to be very, very tired and heavy, as if
it were going to sink straight down into her stomach which, of course,
was no place for a heart to be located.

Yet it was all perfectly natural and like Phil not to have said anything
more at the moment.  He had to get the taint of barter off his hands
before he came to her.  "Suppose a chap wanted to marry a girl."
"Suppose a chap wanted to marry a girl."  The clock on the mantel seemed
to be ticking out the words very distinctly.  And suddenly Barb felt
very happy and contented and curled up in her chair again like a kitten.
Here her aunt found her a half hour later.

"Asleep, Kiddie?" she asked, and Barbara looked up with a shy, radiant
little smile.

"No, just dreaming," she said.



                             *CHAPTER XIII*

                              *INTO HAVEN*


Christmas was over, and Sylvia had hardly breathed for a week so
engrossed had she been in all kinds of festivities.  Even now she was
preparing to depart on the morrow for an even gayer round, on the long
promised visit to Jeanette Latham, Jack’s sister.  Perhaps it was to
keep the "Booing" questions at a distance that Sylvia chose to fly from
one mad whirl to another that winter.

"I almost wish you weren’t going to New York, just now, Sylvia.  You
look tired to death and your nerves are ’jumpy,’ as Doctor Tom says."

Thus Felicia addressed Sylvia at breakfast the morning of the
twenty-sixth, after the children had scampered off to the delights of
yesterday’s new harvest of toys.

"It is nothing but the day-after feeling," said Sylvia.  "I’ve danced
until morning for four nights running.  I’ll be all right as soon as I
can get some sleep."

"I don’t know," Felicia looked dubious.  "If you were seventeen instead
of twenty-two, I believe I should order you to stay at home."

"Isn’t it lucky, I’m not?" smiled Sylvia.  "Felicia, dear, you never did
really boss me in all the years you might have done it.  Are you going
to begin now?"

"I am afraid it wouldn’t be much use at this late date," sighed Felicia.
"Sometimes I wonder why you aren’t more spoiled than you are.
Seriously, child, you have gotten a little of your shining splendor
rubbed off.  Anything the matter?"

"Nothing in the world, except maybe I wish I knew whether I were going
to marry Jack or not. It is a little distracting not to know.  You don’t
happen to possess any inside information on the subject, do you?"
Sylvia’s smile was whimsical but her eyes were tired.  It was true.  She
had lost a little of her "shining splendor," as Felicia described it, in
the past few weeks.

"I do not.  But I should on the whole say you were not going to marry
him.  You have seen too much of him lately.  You need to get away and
get a perspective."

"Well, who wanted to order me to stay away from New York, just now?"

"I retract.  Go ahead with my blessing.  I hope you will meet a hundred
young men and let Jack Amidon get put in his place."

"That is just it.  What _is_ his place?"

"Sylvia!"  Felicia’s tone was faintly exasperated. "You are no more in
love with Jack Amidon than I am.  Some day you will wake up and find it
out."

"Will I?  Sometimes, Felicia, I have a horrible suspicion I am just a
taster--like tea tasters, you know. Only I like to go round tasting
experience.  I never thought I was a bit of a flirt until lately.  But
I’m just finding out there are ways and ways of flirting, having
’adventures in personality’ as Suzanne calls it.  Jack says my ’Damnable
sympathetic ways’ are vicious.  Maybe they are.  I think I must be a
sort of chameleon--all things to all men, you know.  I shouldn’t wonder
if I couldn’t really love anybody--_grand style_."

"You goose!  When the right man comes along you will know the
difference."

"I wonder."  And suddenly Sylvia remembered how she had felt that night
on Lover’s Leap, when she and Philip Lorrimer had been the only two
individuals in a whole spacious, shining universe.  It seemed now as if
she had heard a kind of Hallelujah chorus, or was it that the silence
had been a strange kind of music itself?

And then on the heels of this blinding sweet memory had come another,
bringing with it a bitter taste, a memory of those long days after Phil
had gone back to the city and she had watched the mails and pretended to
ignore them.

And then she remembered Gus and Jack and Doctor Tom.  Had they all been
just understudies for somebody else she really wanted in her heart of
hearts?  How many other understudies would there be?  And would she
marry one of them sooner or later?

"Women are rather like cats, after all, aren’t they, Felicia?  They will
pat their mice and keep putting their paws on them, even if they don’t
want to eat them."

Felicia laughed.

"What a traveler you are!  Have you been half round the world since you
spoke last?  Shall we ask Tom and Lois over to dinner to-night?  We
haven’t seen either of them for an age."

"Yes," said Sylvia.  "You telephone, Felicia.  I have to pack."

Sylvia had seen practically nothing of Doctor Tom for the past few
weeks.  Never once in that time had she been alone with him.  Twice
Doctor Tom had been over when she was in, which was not often during
those full holiday evenings, and she had taken pains to be sure Felicia
was present on those two occasions.  Once he had called to her to come
for a drive but she had had a genuine engagement with Jack to plead.
She felt silly enough placing any sort of a barrier between herself and
Doctor Tom but she was afraid for her own part it would be some time
before she could meet him quite naturally again.  Sometimes she wished
Jack had kept his "darned impertinence" to himself and other times she
owned it was safer this way.  Better that children should not play with
matches at all, since matches did sometimes ignite.  At any rate, she
did not mean to see her neighbor alone again until after she got back
from New York.

But Fate ruled otherwise.  That very afternoon, after her breakfast
table philosophizing, she had gone downtown to attend to a few last
errands and the delicious, crisp frostiness of the day tempted her to
walk instead of having the car out.  She had hardly finished her tasks
and started homeward when she heard Doctor Tom’s familiar whistle, and,
turning, saw him reigning in black Bess by the curb.

"Game for a spin?" he asked.  "I have to go a few miles out in the
country and was looking for company."

His tone was so natural that Sylvia herself lost her self-consciousness
and was so thankful for the loss that she was very gay and talkative.
If only he needn’t find out that it had not been accidental that he had
seen so little of herself of late all would be well.

"Seems to me you are turning into a regular society Miss after all," he
teased.  "Bet you’ve been cutting Red Cross and everything else since
this dance mania set in."

"I am afraid I have.  I’ve been an awful backslider in pretty much
everything lately," she told him soberly.

He flashed one of his quick, shrewd glances at her.

"What’s this, Miss Christmas?  Your own special season here and you in
the dumps without even a solitary star sparkle?"

"You are as bad as Felicia," said Sylvia a little crossly.  "Do you all
expect me to grin like a Cheshire cat every minute?"

He chuckled.

"Sylvia touchy!  What next?  Indigestion or bad conscience?"

"Neither--well, maybe a bit of the latter," admitted Sylvia.  "Anyway, I
am not at all pleased with myself lately.  I’m getting to be a selfish
pig, and that’s the ungarnished truth."

"Indeed!  I hadn’t noticed it.  The McGuires had a powerful good dinner
yesterday and--"

"Do hush.  It is nothing to send dinners to McGuire’s.  It doesn’t cost
me anything--not even much thought.  You needn’t try to smooth it over.
I know.  I haven’t been thinking about a single soul in the world lately
except Sylvia Arden.  I set Jack to work and I’ve just diddled round
myself doing next to nothing.  I haven’t even learned to cook as I said
I was going to, and since Gus went I haven’t practiced and--"

"And since three weeks ago Thursday you haven’t even played me a psalm
tune," he jested.

Then suddenly he stared.  For out of the corner of his eye he perceived
that Sylvia was unmistakably blushing, blushing, of course, the more
hotly because she was so furiously angry at herself for so doing.

"So it isn’t my imagination.  There has been some kind of fool talk
somewhere.  Confound me for an idiot!  Poor kid!  We’ll settle that."
So thought Tom Daly.  Then aloud, "See here, Sylvia, may I say a little
speech?  You needn’t look at me.  I was a manger dog all right, a few
weeks ago, without meaning to be.  I had no business to be keeping the
young chaps away from you.  I didn’t even see I was doing it.  I was
down and out for a while, and you, bless your kind heart, saw it and
came to the rescue, like the Christmas girl you are. I shan’t forget
what you did for me.  If you pulled me out of a rut--and you did--maybe
we both came somewhere near being pulled into a bigger one. So far as I
know, no man is ever old enough to be sure he’s passed the fool limit,
and maybe I was nearer the edge than I knew.  Anyway, you were a trump
as usual.  The blame, if there is any, is mine. All right, little
sister?"  Then, at last, he turned to face Sylvia.

And suddenly and disconcertingly her eyes filled with tears.  She was
very tired and her nerves were unstrung by too much gayety and mental
uneasiness.

"Of course it is all right.  There never was anything much wrong,
only--well, I thought I was beginning to plume myself and get complacent
because I was the only one who patted you and smoothed your fur the
right way and maybe I’d better stop before--Doctor Tom, I hate things to
be as they are."

"Meaning?"

"Lots of things, but mostly why can’t people--men and women--just be
friends and not have anything else snarled up with it?"

"They can."  Tom Daly’s steady voice was like oil to the troubled waters
of Sylvia’s soul.

Nor did she guess that it cost him something of an effort to throw
precisely the right amount of big-brotherness into his words.  As he
admitted, no man could safely boast that he had passed the fool limit,
but he could and would be man enough himself to be sure no girl like
Sylvia was going to be bothered by the folly.

"_We_ can anyway," he smiled down at Sylvia to add in the old friendly
way, a friendliness whose very familiarity was steadying.

She smiled back mistily.

"Of course we can.  I’m a silly idiot to-day. Ghosts seem to walk even
in the sunniest, most everyday places.  Thank you, Doctor Tom.  I don’t
know why I wept.  My spirit isn’t weepy.  It was just my eyes.  My
spirit feels like singing ’Yankee Doodle’ this minute."

"Let her go," he approved gayly, and directed the conversation through
the rest of the ride so skillfully to safe and sane and neutral matters
that long before they reached the Hill Sylvia had lost the last vestige
of self-consciousness, and was her old, merry, natural self, with a good
many of the "star sparkles" back in their places.

This process was so salutary that later when Tom and Lois were at the
Hall to dinner it hardly seemed possible to Sylvia that she had had any
queer feelings at all about the matter and teased and joked with the
doctor in precisely her old merry, audacious way, exactly as she had
been accustomed to doing since she was a naughty little schoolgirl at
St. Anne’s. When they were walking home together in the starlight Lois
turned to her husband with a curious question.

"Tom, don’t you ever wish you had waited for Sylvia?  She is so lovely
and full of life.  She is much more your kind than I am."

Tom Daly shook his head, and added with all honesty that there never had
been but one girl he had wanted to marry and he had been lucky enough to
get her.  And Lois, suddenly lifting her face to his, gave him one of
her rare love looks; a look which he would have crossed the very fires
of Hell to gain.

As they entered the house she turned to him again.

"Tom, I am cold and indifferent and I don’t always care about the things
you care so much for but I do care--about you.  I wish you would try to
remember that, even when I hurt you.  Do you mind kissing me?"

Tom Daly had not "minded."  But it was not until they were upstairs in
their own room that the whole of Lois’ slow speech evolved.  She turned
from the mirror before which she had been letting down her long, ash
blond hair.

"Tom," she said.

"Yes, Lois."

"Do you know I have been having a feeling for a long time that you and
Sylvia were beginning to care for each other?  It began that night she
was here and played to you all the evening while I wrote out checks.  I
went out to cover the flowers and I saw you on her steps, with her hands
in yours looking so exactly like lovers something just froze in me. I
hate jealous women and I wouldn’t say it or hardly think it, but that is
why I have been holding you so far off.  If you could love Sylvia, I
didn’t want to keep you.  I wouldn’t fight for anything--even love.  But
to-night I saw it had all been just my imagination.  I have hurt myself
and you just for nothing.  I might have known Sylvia wasn’t that kind.
Oh, Tom!"

But even as he drew Lois into his arms Tom Daly knew that it is
sometimes a woman’s business to fight for love.  Humbly he admitted that
it had been Sylvia and not himself nor Lois who had saved the day.  As
honest a man as ever lived was Tom Daly, but neither then nor at any
other time did he tell his wife how narrowly her fears had escaped
realization.  Nor did Sylvia Arden ever guess how slight an impetus
would have set herself and the fine man she knew as neighbor and brother
drifting into perilous seas, instead of being as they now were, anchored
safely in the haven of old friendship. That was Tom Daly’s secret, and
he was used to keeping secrets, even his own.



                             *CHAPTER XIV*

                          *"AND HAVING EYES"*


After the night when Phil Lorrimer played with opportunity a minute,
then set it aside as not for his taking, things began to be different.
Human relations have a way of shifting into new combinations of form and
color like a kaleidoscope just when you think they have become as fixed
as the stars in their courses.

That night brought a reaction with Phil.  He was actuated by a fierce
and relentless energy which only work could appease.  Hence he came less
often to Miss Josephine Murray’s pleasant apartment, but kept burrowing
deeper and deeper like a mole into the professional soil, working like a
demon by day, and studying, reading, experimenting doggedly by night,
trying his best to fill his mind so full that the thought of Sylvia
could not find a cranny in which to creep and grow.  But the less vacuum
he left in his mind the bigger seemed the emptiness of his heart, or
rather its fullness, for was it not full to overflowing with love for
Sylvia?  Like a mole, too, in his blindness, it did not occur to Phil
that his stubborn silence might be hurting Sylvia.  Still less in his
humble unselfconsciousness did it occur to him that he might also be
hurting Barbara Day.  He had supposed always she understood.  His love
for Sylvia seemed as obvious and inevitable as rain and sun. It was
incredible that any one should be unaware of it.  So he would perhaps
have reasoned, if it had seemed necessary to reason at all on the
subject, which it did not.

And while Phil burrowed and blundered Barbara grew up.  Her cheeks shed
their soft childlike curves.  Her eyes lost their dewy morning-glory
look.  They seemed not to wonder any more, but to know.  The city had
set its seal upon her, fed her youth to its strange gods.  But the city
was not all to blame.  What had happened to Barb might have happened
anywhere.  The little drama in which she was playing out her part might
have been staged in any other place quite as well.  Nor was it at all an
original drama.  Its plot is curiously old though it has infinite
variations.

It came to Barb that winter that, after all, happiness wasn’t the
essential thing she had believed. One could, it seemed, go on eating and
sleeping and walking and talking and typing and even laughing, just the
same, even if one did feel a little like an empty goblet, turned bowl
down, with all its sparkling contents spilled out.  It was queer, but it
was so.

Yet way down in the bottom of Barb’s heart there still nestled a little
winged creature called Hope, just as there had been in the bottom of
Pandora’s box.  Maybe things were not as strange as they seemed.  Maybe
it was just that people were very busy about Christmas time.  Possibly
after New Year’s it would be different again.

But before New Year’s Barb discovered that things would never be
different, and the way she found out was very simple.

On the second evening of her visit to Jeanette, Sylvia had run away from
the stately "Duplex on the Drive" to take supper with Barb, and Miss
Murray, for purposes of her own, had asked Doctor Lorrimer to join them
also.  He had been a little late in arriving and as the others had
already gone into the dining-room Barb opened the door for him.  He
greeted her with the old friendly terrible grip which crushed Barb’s
ring into her finger and set the blood singing through her.  He started
to make a remark about the weather but his opinion of that commodity was
never completed for suddenly from the room beyond Sylvia’s laughter
rippled out.

Did you ever happen to be engaged in decorous conversation with a man
and suddenly see a change sweep over his face, and an arrested,
listening, illuminated look take possession of it, just because
somewhere in the distance he had heard a step, a voice, a laugh,
belonging to somebody who was not yourself?  That was what Barbara Day
saw, and the little winged creature used her wings then and there and
never came back.  Barb heard the clock tick out as before, "Suppose a
chap wants to marry a girl," but she knew now, once and for all, that
the clock had never been talking about Barbie Day.  It had always meant
Sylvia Arden from the beginning.

But Barb’s fathers had been fighting men and she herself was game to her
little brown fingertips.

"Hurry!" she said gayly, just a shade _too_ gayly, perhaps, only Phil
did not notice.  "Sylvia’s here and soup’s served."  And as she pushed
aside the curtains into the dining-room she announced with a gallant
flourish, "Doctor Lorrimer, ladies."

But while Phil and Sylvia shook hands she did not look at them, busying
herself instead with rearranging the scarlet carnations which stood in
the center of the table, complaining to her aunt as she did so that the
flowers looked "stiff" and "old-maidish" and needed a "touch."

It was Barb who was the blithest of them all that night at the little
supper party, bestowing to it the "touch" just as she had to the
carnations.  Sylvia and Phil were both slightly self-conscious and not
very conversational.  Miss Josephine Murray was somewhat silent too,
watching the young people with eyes that saw all there was to see and
understanding things at which she had been able only to guess hitherto.

That night after Sylvia and Phil had gone, Barb slipped quickly away to
bed, a little afraid of what her aunt’s keen gaze might have discovered,
and longing, in any case, to be alone with the dark and the Thing she
had been dodging all the evening, the Thing which sooner or later had to
be faced and grappled with.

Later Miss Murray found her wide awake and stooped to kiss her with
unwonted tenderness.

"Good night, Barbie.  Anything I can do to--put you to sleep?"

Barb shook her head with a tired little smile. Then suddenly she sat up.

"If you don’t mind, I think I’d like you to put your arms around me and
hold me tight for a minute.  Mother used to hold me that way when I
felt--achey."

Miss Josephine’s arms went around the girl, holding her very "tight"
indeed for a few moments of silence.

"Do you feel very achey, Barbie?" she asked presently.

"Oh, no," lied Barb.  "I just wanted to be petted a little weeny mite,
that was all.  I’m all right. Thank you, Aunt Jo.  Don’t bother.  Do go
to bed. I know you are tired."

That was the nearest the two ever came to speaking of the Thing but
neither fell asleep until dawn, and when Barb awoke from her brief,
heavy slumber she was entirely grown up.

Out in the crisp chill of the December night, after leaving Miss Murray
and Barb, Phil and Sylvia had found their tongues.  All the hurt and
estrangement of the past months seemed magically to have shed itself,
leaving only the old happy intimacy with perhaps a touch of something
new and even more exhilarating about it.

As they walked along the river front they talked of many things, of
Phil’s work, of Jack’s unprecedented diligence, of Gus Nichols’ success
on the road, of Felicia’s designs, and Lois Daly’s novel, of "Hester
house" and Phil’s mother, of Barb’s services to the Cause, and Suzanne’s
mysterious journeyings; of everything indeed, it seemed, except the
subject which was nearest the surface, their own selves.

When they reached the Lathams’ apartment they were still as far from
having said the really important things that trembled on their lips as
they had been at the beginning.  Sylvia knew perfectly well what she
wanted to say but being a woman could not say it.  Phil also knew
perfectly well what he wanted to say but being a man set his lips and
did not say it. It was only as Sylvia paused in the doorway and held out
her hand to Phil that the thing came near to getting said in spite of
them both.

"Sylvia!"  Phil’s voice had a quick little catch in it very unlike his
usual rather deliberate speech.  "If I don’t see much of you while you
are here you will understand, won’t you?  It won’t be because I don’t
want to but because I--don’t dare."  And his frank blue eyes implored
her to understand and forgive.

"Are you sure--there is anything--to be afraid of?" Sylvia’s words had
jerked a little, too, and as she drew her hand away to press the bell
her eyes expressed more even than her tongue had said.

"Sylvia!"  Phil took a swift step nearer but before he could say any
more a solemn liveried person had appeared in the doorway and stood at
blinking attention while Sylvia shot one dazzling glance at the young
doctor and vanished into the dim spaces of the hall, whence it seemed to
Phil, though he could not be sure, she kissed her hand to him behind the
liveried person’s back, before she was lost in the elevator.  Phil
stared after her a moment in dazed silence then went out into the night.

The next day, when he came in from the clinic, he found a little note
from Sylvia inviting him to take tea with her the following afternoon.
"Of course it is all nonsense about your not seeing much of me while I
am here," the note had added.  "Phil, can’t you understand there isn’t
anything to be afraid of?"  The last was underscored.  And then the
writer subscribed herself conventionally his as ever.

Phil read the note hungrily several times and puzzled more than a little
over its contents, which he perceived were open to more than one
interpretation, especially the underscored portion.  And then he had sat
down and written an answer which he dispatched by special messenger.
The answer expressed thanks and polite regret that the writer had a
previous engagement.

Sylvia had run away into her own room to read the note and grew first a
little rosy, then a little white as she read.  Then she tore the missive
into bits, and going to the window, deliberately let the fragments
flutter away in the December blast outside.

"I might as well have proposed and done with it," she thought hotly.
"Phil Lorrimer needn’t worry. I won’t endanger his precious peace of
mind again while I’m here.  Previous engagement, indeed! He’s afraid of
my money and he makes me tired."

As a matter of fact she did Phil injustice in one particular at least.
The previous engagement had been perfectly authentic.  The Washington
Square Players were giving that afternoon a first performance of a play
which had been translated from the Russian by a friend of Phil’s and he
had promised to be present and had long ago invited Barb to go with him.
And Barb being fully determined that Phil should never guess how things
were had kept her engagement and succeeded in behaving so comradely and
sisterly, which was precisely the way she had been behaving all along
only more so, that her escort was allowed to continue in his state of
innocence and ignorance as to things better left unknown, which was
quite according to code.

But it was one of those odd coincidences that sometimes occur that
Sylvia and Jeanette should have been whirling swiftly toward the park on
their way home from the matinée just at the moment when Phil and Barb
were transferring to the Subway at the Circle.  Very much absorbed the
latter appeared to be in each other’s society, so much so that neither
saw the limousine pass them, but Sylvia had not been so blind, and
Jeanette also had taken in the scene.

"Wasn’t that your little friend with Phil Lorrimer?" the latter had
asked.  "Somebody was telling me he goes everywhere with her.  I
shouldn’t wonder if they were engaged, should you?  They certainly
looked devoted enough."  So Jeanette had rattled on and never noticed
that Sylvia had not answered.

That night Sylvia had gone to a big ball and worn a wonderful,
sophisticated Paquin gown of sea green satin and pearls.  She looked
very young and lovely. The men flocked around her and she managed them
all like a seasoned coquette and had three proposals during the course
of the evening.  Of course it was perfectly well known that she was an
heiress as well as a beauty, so the proposers was not so romantically
rash as might have been thought.

And from that time on Sylvia "went the pace" as madly as Jeanette
herself, without pause or rest. After that one supper party Barb was
never able to capture her friend again, her engagements piled up so fast
and high.  It looked as if Suzanne’s prophecy about the "labyrinth" were
being fulfilled.  As for Phil, never once was he able to see her again.
She was always out when he called or telephoned and always had previous
engagements when he tried to get her for the theater or a concert.  She
was as invisible, so far as he was concerned, as if some fairy’s wand
had drawn a magic circle about her, a fact which made him burrow deeper
than ever in his work and made him look a little older and grimmer than
his twenty-five years warranted.



                              *CHAPTER XV*

                         *THE CITY AND SYLVIA*


Sylvia had supposed herself sufficiently grown up and wise and modern
when she came to the city but she had not been there a week before she
knew that she had been a veritable innocent, an infant in swaddling
clothes, so to speak.  Here was life, of a sort, with a vengeance.

In Jeanette’s circle, Sylvia saw Mammon worship executed on so
prodigious a scale and with such sacrificial ardor it fairly took her
breath away. Everything was of the superlative degree.  Sheer wealth,
sheer elaboration, sheer success, sheer bigness, sheer speed, were all
that counted it seemed. And in the mêlée the old-fashioned virtues,
spiritual values, ideals, were somehow either dimmed beyond recognition
or totally extinguished.  Love showed itself chiefly in the guise of
passion, often frankly illicit, and in lust frequently but thinly
veiled.  The motley throng of young-old men and old-young men who paid
court to herself were obviously actuated by one of two motives or a
combination of the two, the impulse of passion, or the impulse of
avarice. Both points of view Sylvia loathed and thought degrading to
herself as well as the men who held them. Nearly all of the group of
more or less importunate suitors who thronged about her she frankly
despised. The men she might have liked and respected did not come near
her, much less enter the lists.  No doubt they classed her with the
other women with whom she appeared, women butterfly clad, butterfly
souled, obviously unfit for the serious purposes of life. Sylvia did not
wonder that the real men kept away.  They showed their realness by so
doing she thought.

Once, at a dinner, fate and her hostess allotted a different kind of
companion, a grim looking person with very broad shoulders and very
clear blue eyes, who let her severely alone during three courses and
then when she was getting desperately bored by the over-assiduous
attentions of the receding-chinned, narrow-browed scion of wealth who
sat at her other elbow had suddenly turned to explode a question in her
direction.

"What the devil do you see in all this?"

Sylvia had retorted that she didn’t know what she saw but was trying to
find out.

"When the pumpkin coach arrives I shall skip back home and think it
over," she had added whimsically with a Sylvia smile.

Her neighbor had grunted a little at that and eyed her sharply from
under his heavy brows.

"I thought as much," he said.  "You don’t belong."

"Don’t I?" Sylvia had inquired dubiously. "Isn’t my gown all right?"
She was wearing a New York creation this time, of white tulle and gold
tissue, a frock which Jeanette had pronounced a "dream," so her anxiety
was not very deep-seated. "Or is it my hair?  Ears are out just now,
aren’t they.  They told me they were."

"Oh, you are protectively colored all right.  It isn’t that.
Superficially you might be any one of this sea of ninnies that surround
us.  But, my dear young lady, your eyes betray you.  You have a brain."

"Dear me!" sighed Sylvia, looking around her apprehensively.  "Is it so
bad as that?  I hope nobody else suspects."

"No danger.  They aren’t looking for brains. Bodies content ’em.  I hope
you don’t think this Punch and Judy show is the real New York?  You are
a stranger, I take it?"

"A pilgrim and a stranger.  Where is the real New York?"

"Downtown, a good deal of it.  Some of it is in the universities,
especially in the night classes. Some of it is in the laboratories where
they are fighting disease and achieving chemical miracles. Some of it is
in the little back bedrooms where the chap from the up-state village has
come down to peddle his dreams in the market place.  The real New
York--the real America--is made up of just two things--the dream and the
deed.  Those that make dreams their masters fail and go to pieces and
that is a tragedy.  Those that build without the vision will see the
work of their hands filter to dust. And that’s a worse tragedy.  But
those who can dream and transmute the dream to human gain, in tangible
form--they are the real thing.  These people here haven’t the decency to
dream nor the energy to do.  They are the scum on the surface. They are
punk--most of ’em.  Rotten."

Sylvia had looked around her a little startled. The scene had looked
brilliant and appealing to her a moment ago.  Somehow now she saw it
through this brutal stranger’s eyes a "Punch and Judy show.".  She
shivered slightly.  Suddenly she felt a bit like a little girl at a
party, grown homesick, all at once, ready to be taken home quick.  For
she could not help believing her neighbor was right. Underneath the
glamour and the beauty and the poise and the breeding around her there
was a good deal that was more or less "rotten."  She had seen it in
men’s eyes and heard it in their voices, yes, in the women’s, too.  She
was filled with a great disgust and with some shame as well.  For in her
zest for experience had she not let her own shield get a little dented
and tarnished?  She turned back to her companion, her new knowledge in
her eyes.

"Why did you tell me?" she reproached.

"Why, indeed?  You knew it without my telling you.  See here, girl, I’m
going to Alaska myself to-morrow.  I can’t stand much of this sort of
thing. I’d like to think you were going to pull out, too, before the
taint gets you.  I said your eyes betrayed you.  They did.  But it isn’t
only that you have brains.  The brains are there but there is something
else too.  You have faith.  You’ve lived in a decent sort of world where
people are straight and kind and honest and simple.  Better go back to
it while there is still time."

Sylvia drew a long breath.

"Thank you," she said.  "I believe I will."

Later Jeanette asked her what she had found to say to Archibald Grant.

"He’s the Arctic Explorer Grant, you know. Quite the biggest toad in the
puddle there, to-night."

"Was he?"  Sylvia had looked thoughtful.  "I didn’t know who he was but
we had rather an interesting talk.  Jeanette, I’ve got to go home."

"Go home!  Why, Sylvia, you haven’t been here two weeks yet!"

"I know.  But I’m incurably a home person. I’ve had a wonderful time but
I want to see Arden Hall and Felicia and--"

"Jack?" teased Jack’s sister languidly.

Sylvia flushed a little.  At the moment it did seem as if she would be
very glad, indeed, to see Jack. Jack was so clean and young and joyous
and wholesome.  He seemed to her to belong to a different world from
that which his sister inhabited.  But, after all, at Jeanette’s
insistence, Sylvia agreed to stay another week.

Jeanette herself was almost feverish in her gayety these days.  It
seemed, indeed, as if she could not stop if she tried, as if "all the
devils of Hell were loose and after her" as Jack had said.  She was a
puzzle to Sylvia.  That she was not happy was apparent, but she was
always gay, talkative, full of quick laughter and brilliant plans for
new pleasures, something fresh every hour.  There were always many men
in her wake.  Usually they were men of brains, men "who did things," as
the phrase goes, musicians, writers, artists and the like.  Jeanette did
not affect fools, as she had said curtly to Sylvia once.  She had brains
herself and used them.  She was rather famous and rather feared for her
somewhat satirical wit.  Her husband was a quiet, scholarly aristocrat,
who spent most of his time reading memoirs of somebody or other, or
bringing out elegant "privately printed" monographs.  In Jeanette’s
scheme of things he seemed scarcely to count at all, beyond the
essential facts of having provided her with an extravagant income and an
assured place in New York society.  To do her justice, however, Jeanette
was by no means dependent upon her husband for these things.  She made
her own circle wherever she went.  She did not need either the Latham
money or name to assure her leadership. She was a born queen.  These
factors were merely contributing circumstances.

Among Jeanette’s varied and numerous retinue was one young man whom
Sylvia found less easy than the others to place.  This was an artist,
Charlton Haynes by name, a newcomer in the city who had been for some
time engaged in "doing" Jeanette’s portrait.  Wherever Jeanette was, the
young portrait painter appeared to be also by some magic process.  The
two had little to say to each other in public but Sylvia had noticed
more than once how the painter’s rather gloomy face lit up when Jeanette
approached, giving an effect much like a sudden sunshine after a passing
cloud.  More than once, too, Sylvia had seen a flash of some quick,
wordless communication pass between them.  They spent long hours
together mornings in the great ball-room where he worked in the north
light.  When Sylvia was with them, as she sometimes was, the artist was
rather silent and absorbed in his work and Sylvia thought if he were
always so quiet he must be rather dull company.

One morning she suffered an abrupt enlightenment as to the relations
between her hostess and the artist. Jeanette had been detained and had
asked Sylvia to go to the ballroom and explain to Mr. Haynes that she
would be with him as soon as possible.  As Sylvia opened the door he had
turned with outstretched arms and an impulsive "Sweetheart, you are
dreadfully late."  And then his hands had fallen and a shamed, hang-dog,
caught-in-the-act expression banished the eager look of expectant joy on
his face as he met Sylvia’s eyes and saw her quick flush.

He shrugged and tried to make the best of the situation by a hasty "Beg
pardon, Miss Sylvia.  I didn’t see it was you."

"So I judged," said Sylvia and delivered her message gravely and
departed.  She wondered if this was what Jack had guessed and if that
was why he had wanted her to go to Jeanette.  Had he thought she could
save her?  Poor Jeanette!  Could any one save her but herself?

Two hours later Jeanette came to Sylvia, writing letters in her own room
at the little teakwood desk.

"Sylvia."

"Yes?"  Sylvia had turned, wondering what Jeanette would say, wondering
almost more what she herself was going to say.

"Charlton says he gave himself away awhile ago, did he?"

"Rather."

"I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean you to know for fear it might bother you.
Otherwise, of course, I don’t mind your knowing.  We have been in love
for some time.  There doesn’t seem to be anything to do about it at
present."

Jeanette’s tone was impersonal.  She might as easily have been
discussing the relation between the moon and the tides as the relation
between herself and Charlton Haynes.  The facts existed.  That was all
apparently.  At least all Jeanette cared to admit.

"Couldn’t he go away?" asked Sylvia, equally matter of fact.

"He could, but it would make talk if he went before the portrait was
done.  Besides, I don’t want him to go.  He offered to.  It is I who am
keeping him.  I hope you are not too much shocked, Sylvia."

"I’m not shocked at all, but I am sorry.  Does Jack know?"

"Jack!"  For the first time, Jeanette showed a quaver of emotion in her
voice.  "Jack!  Good gracious, no!  Why should he?  I wouldn’t have Jack
know for anything.  What made you ask that?"

"Jack tried to warn me something about you before I came.  He seemed to
think you needed me."

And suddenly Jeanette’s calm broke.  She flung herself face down among
the silken cushions of the couch.  Sylvia came and knelt beside her
putting both arms around her.  In a moment Jeanette sat up, flushed but
tearless.  Sylvia slipped back upon the floor, her hands clasped around
her knees, her eyes pitiful.

"I do need you.  I need somebody.  Sylvia, listen to me.  It is a
dreadful thing for a girl to marry if she isn’t in love.  Fate is sure
to strike back at her sooner or later.  That is what happened to me. I
married Francis because I thought he could give me the things I
wanted--the things I thought I wanted.  And he has, but it isn’t what I
really wanted at all.  I am just beginning to understand what I do
want--what life might mean, if one deserved to have it mean anything.  I
hate this house and the servants and the hideous kind of existence we
live--the kind I elected to live.  It wasn’t Francis’ choice.  It was
mine.  But I hate it all now.  I’d like to leave it this minute.  But I
can’t. I’m bound, hand and foot, by conventions and fears and
selfishness.  I couldn’t live now without luxury, I’ve had it so long.
I couldn’t stand poverty or shame or sacrifice or honesty of any kind.
I’m a sham.  I love Charlton.  But I shan’t try to get a divorce and I
shan’t run off with him because I’m not big enough.  I’m just big enough
to squirm and suffer and hate myself for being such a pitiful little
coward.  I’m not even big enough to send him away. I’m not worth his
wrecking his life and ideals for, but I don’t tell him that.  I tell him
I love him and that is enough to keep him here like a lap dog. Pah!  He
isn’t very big either or he would make me go with him or leave me
outright."

"But, Jeanette, it is all such a tangle.  If you really care, why don’t
you go to Francis and tell him the truth?  Surely nothing can be so bad
as going on like this."

"You don’t know what you are talking about, Sylvia.  I’d die before I
would go to Francis and I’d die if he found out, but I’m going on
risking everything until something happens.  I don’t know what."

And in the face of such reasoning or non-reasoning, Sylvia had no answer
to make.  She was beginning to hate the city heartily.  It seemed to be
weaving nothing but misery for everybody.  Was there any happiness in
it?  Surely she herself had found none.  She desired more than anything
else in the world to run away from it all, to get back to Felicia and,
yes, to Jack.  They two seemed the only refuge in a heaving sea of
trouble.



                             *CHAPTER XVI*

                     *AS MIGHT HAVE BEEN EXPECTED*


It seemed as if Sylvia’s cup of disenchantment were destined to brim
over before the city was done with her.  She tried to view Jeanette’s
affair with the portrait painter with an open mind and tolerant
attitude.  She saw that there was no real evil in it as yet--probably
never would be for Jeanette was likely to "play safe" having much at
stake.  But somehow it all disheartened the younger girl.  She thought
she could have forgiven both the transgressors more easily if they had
dared a little more, or cared a little more for each other and less for
themselves.  If they had eloped she would have been shocked and troubled
but she would have understood their conduct.  It was the amazing bad
taste and effrontery of carrying on so half-hearted a liaison in Francis
Latham’s own house and under his very eyes which was to Sylvia the least
excusable phase of the matter.  Deceit of any sort was obnoxious to her
straightforward soul.  She herself could never have kept on living a
daily lie such as Jeanette was living.  Something would have snapped.
And somehow Sylvia found herself seeing things all around her blacker,
no doubt, than they were, because of her too much recently acquired
knowledge, and often she remembered the explorer’s terse verdict that
these people were "punk."  It was all very disillusioning and made one
sick at heart.

But Sylvia had other cause to feel that happiness was eluding her these
days in early January.  The wound to her pride that Phil Lorrimer had
dealt, though seared over, was by no means healed.  She tried to be
perfectly fair and sane, to admit that if Jeanette’s supposition were
correct, Barb would doubtless make Phil a better wife than she herself
would have done, to acknowledge that it was entirely natural and
appropriate that Phil and Barb should have learned to care for each
other during the intimate months past when she herself had deliberately
neglected Phil.  Even so, Phil need not have looked at her as he had
that night on Jeanette’s doorstep.  He needn’t have let her all but
propose to him.  That was the deepest rankling thorn of all. She had
almost offered herself to him on Jeanette’s threshold.  If he had really
cared as his eyes had said wouldn’t he have understood what she was
trying to tell him that the money was nothing at all, that it didn’t
matter in the least, that there was, indeed, nothing to be afraid of, as
she had twice taken the pains to reassure him?

If he had really cared would he not have found means to see her during
her weeks with Jeanette in spite of her mantle of invisibility?  It was
all too evident that he didn’t care, that it was Barb who could give him
what he wanted, or rather let him give everything as his pride demanded.
Sylvia knew perfectly well that she had wanted Phil Lorrimer to ask her
to marry him, knew too, that she had meant to say yes if he did ask her,
but she also knew that though her pride was offended, her heart was far
from being broken.  Indeed, love in its entirety, in its heights and
depths, its glory and its mortal agony, its madness and its abiding joy,
she had scarcely as yet conceived.

She was still questing experience, tasting life, and even the bitter
flavor of this last new-gained knowledge was interesting because
bitterness was new to Sylvia Arden.  Youth drinks its gall and wormwood
with almost as supreme satisfaction as it does its nectar and ambrosia.

Not that Sylvia understood all this or consciously analyzed her mental
processes.  She did nothing of the sort.  She only knew she had been
hurt, and found it a rather fascinating game to hide the hurt from
herself and the rest of the world.

Perhaps her zest for the hiding game made her play a little more
recklessly with the men who dogged her footsteps than was entirely wise
or kind. Certainly it made her eyes a little starrier, her cheeks a
little deeper carmine, her laugh a little more tantalizing.  Men saw and
smiled and said the little Maryland "Deb" was a queen, a beauty, and a
wit as well as an heiress, an unbelievably lucky combination.

"Knows how to hold her own too," they agreed. "She’ll lead you on to the
limit and then when you think you have her--she isn’t there.  Got the
elusive game to perfection, wherever she learned it."

But the last night of her stay in the city Sylvia came near playing her
game an inch too far.  There had been a theater party and supper
afterward at the Astor and when at last they started for home she
chanced to get separated from Jeanette who, supposing her guest was with
her husband, had gone on in another car.

"Why!" exclaimed Sylvia, from the curbing. "I do believe they have all
deserted me.  There goes Jeanette, and Francis went with the Homers."

"Well, here am I!" challenged Porter Robinson, at her elbow.  Porter
Robinson was the most daring and insistent of all the swarmers about the
most popular new rose.  "Whither thou goest I will go!  Here, Cabby,"
and his uplifted finger summoned a taxicab in which he and Sylvia were
in a moment ensconced.

It was a wonderful night.  Brilliant stars studded the heavens and the
trees in the park were laden with a fleecy burden of new-fallen snow.
The little girl still in Sylvia who loved snow storms and had too little
of them in Maryland cried out in ecstasy at the sight.

"Oh-h!  Couldn’t we drive in there a little and see it?  It’s so lovely
after the lights and the crowd--like a different world!"

Naturally Porter Robinson had no objections to driving at midnight in a
closed cab through the park with the prettiest, liveliest, most piquant
girl he had met in many a season.

But a half hour later Sylvia flashed into the library at the Lathams
with wrath and shame in her heart and ran square into Jack standing with
his back to the fireplace.

"Ugh!  I hate men," she greeted him stormily.

"You do!  What’s up?  Where is Jeanette? You look like a Valkyr or an
avenging fury."

"I don’t know where Jeanette is.  Porter Robinson brought me home."

"Oh," comprehended Jack.  "So that is the rumpus.  Didn’t Porter behave
like a perfect gentleman?"

"He did not."  Sylvia threw off her cloak with a wrathful gesture,
leaving her slim, rounded young loveliness, clad in the white tulle and
gold "dream," suddenly revealed to Jack’s eyes.  "He tried to kiss me,
if you must know."

"And what did you expect at this time of night when you had shed your
lawful chaperones?" inquired Jack blandly.  "Especially after you had
been flirting like the mischief with him all the evening!"

Sylvia slipped into a chair and stared up at Jack. "How did you know?"
she asked with astonished meekness.

Jack laughed.

"Didn’t.  I just guessed.  So you did flirt with him like the mischief?"

"I--shouldn’t wonder," admitted Sylvia with a grimace.  "He’s a beast,
but then maybe I was a little to blame.  I suppose I shouldn’t have
asked him to take me riding in the park at this time of night."

"Possibly not," agreed Jack.

"You wouldn’t have taken advantage of a situation like that, Jack.  You
know you wouldn’t."

"H-m-m?" interrogated Jack dubiously.  "That so?  If you looked one half
as pretty in the cab as you do this minute, I’m morally or immorally
certain I should not only have tried to kiss you but have succeeded."

"Jack!"

"Like this!"  And suddenly, to Sylvia’s utter surprise, he had stooped
and kissed her full on one crimson, excited cheek.  "Game’s up,
sweetheart. My turn.  You’ve had your fling, and I guess from all
Jeanette writes it has been a pretty lively one. Honest Injun, Sylvia,
aren’t you sick of it all, ready to try it out on a different line with
me?  No, don’t speak just yet.  I’m not quite through.  I promised I
would get busy and show you I could hold down a man’s job if necessary.
Well, I’ve done it.  I’m not boasting, but you can ask Dad if I haven’t
made good and kept my promise to the letter.  That is all on that
subject.  Secondly, I don’t pretend to be a saint, but thanks to you and
the Christmas Family setting me straight some years ago I’m a fairly
decent specimen as men go.  I believe I’d show up moderately well by
comparison with the Porter Robinsons and the rest.  That is all of that.
Thirdly, I love you.  There isn’t any other girl, never has been, and,
so far as I can see, never will be.  Now--did you mind very much having
me kiss you?"

Sylvia’s eyes were demurely downcast, her cheeks flushed, but a quiver
of a smile appeared around the corners of her mouth.

"Not much.  I rather think I--I liked it--a little," she admitted.

That was enough for Jack, and five minutes later when Jeanette came in
she found him on the arm of Sylvia’s chair, her tulle and gold rather
crushed and mussed but with her eyes looking very starry.

He sprang up with alacrity as his sister entered and went to give her a
brotherly kiss.

"’Lo, Jeannie.  Sylvia and I have just got engaged.  Hope you don’t
mind?"

Jeanette shot a straight, questioning, dubious look at Sylvia then
remarked she was delighted, of course, and if they would excuse her she
would go to bed as she was very tired.  Sylvia had vaguely realized at
the moment that Jeanette was white, but it was not until the next day
that she understood. Charlton Haynes had left suddenly for California on
the midnight train and he and Jeanette had apparently parted for all
time.  Of what lay behind Sylvia could not even surmise and Jeanette
kept her own counsel.  At any rate, Sylvia was able to perceive that
under the circumstances the other woman had little enthusiasm left over
for the love affairs of even her sole and beloved brother.

And that next afternoon Sylvia and Jack went South together, and the
Minotaur did not get Sylvia after all.  But whether she had not stepped
blithely into a deeper labyrinth than the one she had evaded was another
question.



                             *CHAPTER XVII*

                            *BARB DIAGNOSES*


The evening that culminated in Sylvia’s engagement to Jack, Phil had
spent with Barbara.  Barb had discovered that it was neither impossible
nor very difficult to slip back into the beaten way of friendship with
the young doctor, especially as he himself had never left that safe and
sane path and had no faintest conception of the mad little, sad little
detour the girl had accomplished beneath his very eyes.  Barb was a very
wise and brave little lady and having realized that she had been
reaching for the moon withdrew her hand and made the most she could out
of every day sunbeams.  Phil never guessed that his occasional visits to
Miss Murray’s apartment were rather bittersweet occasions to Barb, nor
did he notice that she was quieter, graver, not quite so responsive as
he had hitherto found her. As a matter of fact, Phil wasn’t seeing much
of anything these days except his own stolidly endured misery.  It had
been bad enough to know Sylvia was in Greendale where he couldn’t see
her at all, but to know she was within easy reach and yet farther from
him to all intents and purposes than if an ocean or a desert separated
them was incomparably worse.

He hated Jeanette Latham’s kind of life, hated to have Sylvia’s fresh
radiance tarnished by its contact, hated to think of her, night after
night, in the society, even in the arms of the Porter Robinsons of
Jeanette’s circle, jealous of it all because it kept Sylvia from him,
hurt that she would give up none of her gayeties for his sake, blindly
conscious that he had offended her, though only half guessing how and to
what extent.

One night he had been at the opera, way up in the upper tiers, as was
his custom, and between the acts he had wandered about in the galleries
and seen Sylvia in a box below, surrounded by a swarm of devoted male
attendants, and he had watched her with mingled gloom and avidity.  She
was so lovely in her chiffons and furs and her exquisite youthfulness
and grace, her face uplifted, her hair shining in the light like
burnished copper, her lips parted with laughter.  She seemed so
eminently a part of the picture to fit into the brilliant scene as a
diamond sparkles appropriately in its hoop of gold that Phil’s heart
sank heavier than ever.  Well, it only proved he had been right.  What
had he to offer Sylvia in exchange for all this?  She belonged to it and
it to her, as a bird belongs to the air.

Perhaps it was the intensity of his gaze that had made Sylvia look up.
At any rate she raised her eyes and met his, staring hungrily down at
her.  The exciting, haunting music of Tristan and Isolde had stirred
strange deeps in Sylvia, begotten an élan of flesh and soul which flared
like a pure flame in her eyes at the moment.  The man at her side,
Porter Robinson, as it happened, saw the look and followed her gaze with
curiosity to see what had lit the flame. But in all that sea of faces he
had no means of distinguishing the one which stood out for the girl as
if it had been the one face in the world.  In a second she had turned
away and lowered her eyes.

"What was it?" asked her companion.  "Did you see a vision?"

"Maybe," said Sylvia.  "Hush!  The music is beginning."

All the rest of the evening she half hoped Phil would seek her out in
the box but he had not come. And the next night had been the one when
she had discovered Porter Robinson was a beast and an hour later had
found herself rather unexpectedly engaged to Jack Amidon.

As for Phil, his will tugged at its moorings that night.  He, too, had
been moved by the music, and even more by the challenge of Sylvia’s
eyes.  He had telephoned her the next day to try to make an engagement
with her for the evening but Sylvia was submerged with engagements, had
a tea, a dinner, a theater party, and so forth, already on hand, and her
voice over the telephone was as cool and remote as a mountain stream.
She even forgot to tell him she was leaving the city the next day.
Sylvia’s pride in its way matched Phil’s own.

And so instead of spending the evening with Sylvia, Phil had dropped in
to see Barbara, which is where this chapter really began.

He was certainly anything but good company that night.  He sat somberly
looking into the fire, answering Barb’s casual chatter with brief
absent-minded monosyllables.  Barb, watching out of the corner of her
eye, and with the sure intuition that love teaches, guessed the source
of his gloom.  She forgot all about her own hurt in sorrow for his and
longed with all the mother in her to comfort him.  Suddenly the silence
which had fallen became intolerable, the weight of the unspoken thing
too heavy to be endured another minute.  So out of a clear sky Barb
dropped a bomb.

"Phil, why don’t you ask Sylvia to marry you?"

Phil jumped and stared and frowned.

"Reason’s sufficiently obvious I should say.  The gown and the furs and
the pearls she had on last night probably cost more than my year’s
income."

"What of it?  Gowns and furs and pearls aren’t important.  There are
things that Sylvia cares much more about."

"What?"

"You," was on the tip of Barb’s tongue, but she did not say it.  After
all, that was for Sylvia to say. She had no means of knowing how Sylvia
felt except that vivid memory of the way the other girl’s eyes had
looked that night on Lover’s Leap.

"Happiness, for one thing," she substituted. "Phil Lorrimer, don’t you
know Sylvia Arden well enough to know the things that money buys are not
the real things--the things she cares for.  She is willing to play with
them while she is waiting.  Who wouldn’t?  I would myself, if I had the
chance. But Sylvia never mixes things up.  She knows what counts and
what doesn’t count as well as anybody I know.  If you think her having
money and your not having it makes the slightest difference to her,
you’re even stupider than I gave you credit for."  Barb had warmed to
her subject and did not care if the lash of her tongue did sting a
little.  She rather thought Phil Lorrimer needed a sting or two.  She
had forgotten for the moment she had ever been in love with this young
man herself.  She remembered only she was a woman speaking for her sex
in plain round terms.

"You mean Sylvia wants me to ask her to marry her?"

Barb made an impatient gesture.

"I don’t know anything about that.  That is between you two.  What I do
know, and what I am trying to tell you, is that the modern woman
despises a man just as much for not wanting to ask her to marry him
because she has money as she does for wanting to ask her to marry him
because she has it. That kind of idea is ancient and exploded and
idiotic and disgusting."

Phil threw out his hand in half humorous, half serious protest.

"My word!  What an avalanche!  So you think it is thoroughly
contemptible in me to care whether the woman I marry has a million
dollars or not when I haven’t a red cent?"

"I do," asserted Barb stoutly.  "The money isn’t any of your affair, any
more than the kind of knife you use on the operating table is hers, or
the color of your hair or eyes, for that matter.  It just hasn’t
anything to do with it."

"What is my affair?  What is the male end of the bargain, according to
the latest approved feministic standards?"

"It’s the male end of the bargain, if you choose to put it that way, to
give a woman love and respect and comradeship, a clean, strong, healthy
body and mind and soul, to be the kind of man she would like the father
of her children to be. I believe that is about all.  Read Beatrice
Forbes-Robinson Hale’s chapter on the ’New Man’ and you’ll understand
why Sylvia’s money has nothing to do with the case and why your pride is
stupid and conceited and old-fashioned, a relic of the time when man
expected to be the sole provider and expected his wife to be the chief
parasite of the family, when he gloried in his high and mighty
superiority and expected her to be meekly grateful and appreciative of
said superiority.  Now, do you understand?"

"A little," said Phil Lorrimer slowly.  "Thank you, Barb.  Maybe I have
been an idiot, as you say. It takes you to clear away the rubbish in a
fellow’s mind.  Jack tried to tell me the same thing and, well, I guess
Sylvia tried, too, only she didn’t put it as violently visibly as you
have, and I threw the words back in her face like the donkey I am.
Barb, do you believe there is any chance she’ll forgive me?" he begged
anxiously.

"I don’t know how much she has to forgive," retorted Barb shortly.  "But
you had better be about it before her forgiveness is all she has left to
give.  You can’t expect a girl like Sylvia to sit down and wait for a
man to get his eyes open like a Maltese kitten.  I suppose you know Jack
is hot on the trail, and no doubt there are plenty of others here in New
York."

"Lord!  Don’t I know it?"  Phil got to his feet. "You needn’t rub it in,
Barb.  I’m scared enough on that score already and jealous as the old
one. I’d have liked to drop asphyxiating gas on the moon-faced calf I
saw with her last night at the opera, looking as if he owned her.  Gee!
I’ve got to get out and let the air circulate through my brains a
little.  I feel as if I had a hot box up there."  He gave his tawny head
a thump.  "Honest, Barb, I’m much obliged to you for your efficiently
brutal treatment.  You are some doctor, all right."

And in his genuine gratitude Phil started to seize both Barb’s small
hands in his, but she backed away, fearful perhaps lest he see more than
she wanted, now that his eyes were unsealed in other respects. In a
moment he was gone and Barb walked deliberately over to the mirror and
surveyed her flushed face and big, excited eyes.

"They say a critic is a man who can’t write.  I begin to think a
reformer--at least, a woman reformer--is a woman who can’t have what she
wants.  Maybe I can get the sacred fire after all. Wonder if Aunt Jo got
it--my way."

Barb laughed a little tremulously and then picked up a volume of Ellen
Key and sat down to read as hard as she could.

Her brain was very clear that night it seemed. She felt as if she could
have written a book about woman herself.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII*

                       *THE CAUSE AND THE CAREER*


For two weeks after that Barb saw nothing of Phil, a fact for which she
was exceedingly grateful. The news of Sylvia’s engagement had come up
from Greendale, and Barb had no wish to see the look which she knew
would be in Phil’s blue eyes, if he too, had heard, as no doubt he had.
Neither had she any desire to say "I told you so," though it was her
right.  Her warning, though late, had been justified.  No one could
expect Sylvia Arden to sit down and wait "for a man to get his eyes open
like a Maltese kitten."  Sylvia had not waited, and Phil’s eyes were
open at least twenty-four hours too late.

The next time Phil and Barb met was at a public meeting.  Miss Murray
had been scheduled to speak but at the last moment had succumbed to
laryngitis, and Barbara, dismayed and protesting, had been haled into
the breach.

It was the first time Barb had ever spoken in public, though she had
more than once sat on platforms with her aunt, striving to look
dignified and impressive and generally worthy of the "mantle."  She was
desperately frightened now and when she finally rose to face the
audience, which was made up mostly of women of the working-class, her
knees shook and her throat felt as if she were trying to swallow the
whole Sahara Desert.  The upturned faces paralyzed her forces.  She
wished an earthquake would come and dispose of the audience and bury
herself in eternal oblivion.  And then suddenly behind those weary-eyed,
apathetic faces in the foreground, she saw Phil Lorrimer’s friendly,
encouraging eyes and some tension within her snapped. She began to talk
slowly at first, and then more swiftly, borne along on the current of
her own surging thought and emotion.  She never knew afterward quite
what she said.  She seemed to have talked more about happiness than
about enfranchisement. Perhaps the women who listened were more
interested in happiness than they were in the vote anyway.  At all
events, they listened respectfully, even eagerly, as Barbara Day painted
for them her crystal clear vision of a world where women were to be
neither drudges nor toys, but honored co-workers, laboring in joyous
self-expression, side by side with men, a world where motherhood should
be respected and supported by the nation, where education should be open
not to the favored few but to the many, a world where war and brutality
and slavery, of soul and body, and all blood guiltiness should be
impossible, a world enlightened, free, strong, glad.  And this
millennium, the women of America were to help to bring about, _must_
help if they were to save themselves and their sisters--so Barbara Day
told them.  "We have to work together. Whatever we are, the one thing we
cannot be is indifferent--you and I--we must be awake--wide awake."

And with that Barb had slipped shyly back into her seat amid the
applause which greeted her little speech, terribly frightened again now
it was all over and wondering if it had not been intolerably
presumptuous in her to have spoken at all, much less present so
portentous a plea.

There were other speeches but Barb scarcely heard them.  She fell into a
revery, in which she carried the vision she had shared with these women
on and on until it became almost as the new Jerusalem in its
transcendent splendor.

And in her vision she seemed to see why it had been given her to desire
and to have no fruition of desire, to know the flare of happiness and to
know happiness gone out like a wind blown candle, to understand what it
was to be acquainted with heartache and loneliness.  For all these
things would teach her how other women yearned and suffered and were
denied.  If she herself had found her heart’s desire in a good man’s
protecting love, in the warm glow of her own hearth fires, with her own
children in her arms, would she have desired so poignantly to help these
others to find life more abundant?  By the measure of what she had lost,
had she not gained?

"Happiness left us content with happiness but sorrow bids us rise up and
seek something divine," says some one, and Barbara Day had come to
understand this with many other things.  As the old music teacher had
said: "Love is the great Master."

The hint of the "Something divine" was still in Barb’s eyes when she
took Phil’s outstretched hand in the doorway where he waited.  He had
meant to congratulate her on her speech but somehow the words evaporated
before the look on her face as she lifted it to him.  He saw she had
been in some far, high place where he could not follow and the spell was
still upon her.

"How did you know I was here?" she asked presently, as they made their
way to the Subway together in silence.

"Your aunt sent me word.  I am tremendously grateful.  I wouldn’t have
missed it for anything. Barb, you made me understand a whole lot of
things."

She flashed him a quick, startled glance.  She did not wish him to
understand too much.  But she need not have feared.  Phil was as blind
as ever so far as she was concerned.

"You are a wonder, Barbie.  I’m a little scared of you all at once.  I
am afraid I haven’t been quite appreciating what an angel I was
entertaining--or rather letting entertain me."

"Don’t.  If you mean that silly speech, you needn’t talk.  I feel as
humble as--that puddle," groping for a simile she happened to let her
gaze fall upon a pool which a recent shower had left in the gutter.

Phil smiled.

"There’s a star reflected in the puddle," he said gently, then dropped
the subject as she obviously desired.

As they stood in the crowded Subway later there was little chance for
conversation, but Barb noticed that Phil looked worn and tired, almost
haggard.  Her heart was very tender for him.  It didn’t matter how much
she was hurt.  Barb sensed intuitively that women were meant to be hurt.
But that Phil should suffer was all but intolerable.  She almost hated
Sylvia who had brought that look to his eyes.  Alas!  What a jumble
things were! How changed everything was since that happy September week
with Sylvia at Arden Hall!  She remembered how Suzanne had rallied
Sylvia on her fitness for matrimony and charged herself in jest with
having designs on Phil Lorrimer.  Funny Suzanne!  Poor Suzanne!  What
was she doing?

It happened at the moment Suzanne was sitting by the fire in Miss
Murray’s apartment, doing absolutely nothing for the first time in many
strenuous weeks.  There Barbara and Phil found her a few moments later,
to their unbounded astonishment.

"Well, aren’t you going to greet the returning prodigal?" asked Suzanne,
getting up.

Whereupon Barb recovered sufficiently to throw her arms around her
friend with a series of little rapturous, inarticulate, affectionate
gurgles such as women occasionally indulge in.

When she had finished it was Phil’s turn, and though his greeting was
more decorous, it was no less hearty.

"Where have I been?  I know that is what you are bursting to ask.  Sit
down all and let me tell you. Dearly beloved, I have been on the road.
No, not selling petticoats like the immortal Emma, but in the chorus of
’The Prettiest Princess,’ and it’s been worth a fortune to me."

"In the chorus!  Oh, Suzanne!  What did your father and mother say?"

"They haven’t said anything up to present speaking, for the very good
reason that they don’t know what I’ve been up to.  I told them I was
traveling. I was.  Gee!  How I’ve traveled!  I also told them I had been
visiting Aunt Selina in Salt Lake City.  I did visit Aunt Selina.  I
spent a week with her while the ’Prettiest Princess’ and her retinue
delighted the enthusiastic Mormon gentlemen. For Heaven’s sake, don’t
stare so, Barb!  I assure you both my virtue and my looks are
unimpaired.  You can see the latter for yourself."

Suzanne whirled round to the mirror as if to assure herself that her
statement was true.  Certainly the others could see for themselves that
Suzanne had never looked prettier in her life.

Little by little the story came out, delivered with much glee and gusto
by the irrepressible Suzanne.  That night Phil had found her in the
Square she had come to the end of her resources and knew something had
to be done at once if she were going to avoid an ignominious return to
Norton, Pa., or the sacrifice of her pride to ask for an advance of
money.  A manager had refused her latest play that day but even as he
had done so he had offered her a place in the third company of the
musical comedy he was just starting on the road.  Suzanne had asked for
a night to consider and she had been considering when Phil had
interrupted her meditations. In his society, too, she had decided to
take the offer. The next day she had become a member of the third
company and the next was "on the road."

"Why did you come home?  Show bust?"

"Indeed, no.  The ’Prettiest Princess’ goes on as cheerfully as may be
lacking its most charming first row right chorus girl."

"Fired?" still further inquired Phil.

"Nope.  Resigned.  Came into a fortune and flew back to the Great White
Way instanter."

"What kind of a fortune?  Anybody died?"

"Thank goodness no.  On the contrary.  An editor came to life.  I’ve
sold a series of stories to the Ultra Urban, two hundred plunks per.
’Melissa on the Road’ is the general title, Melissa being, of course,
Suzanne, thinly disguised.  I thought I might as well make copy out of
myself and I did. I’ve given things so close to the way they really were
that every one will swear they are fiction of the most romancy order."

"Are they coming out under your own name?" Barb found breath to ask.

"No.  I thought they might begin to appear before I had a chance to
explain things, so it seemed better to break the shock, as it were.
They are anonymous, which will make them more spicy."

"Good for you!" chuckled Phil.  "I’ll bet they are spicy all right."

"But the best isn’t told.  I’ve written a play--a real play that is
going to make the managers sit up on their haunches and beg prettily.
And I’ve got a Star in my crown--I mean in my circle of friends--who
wants to play the lead.  What do you think of that?  Let Broadway stop,
look, and listen. Suzanne is coming, Hurray!  Hurray!" she chanted.
"I’ll cause more of a sensation than my predecessor at the bath.  Now,
tell me the news."



                             *CHAPTER XIX*

                             *OH, SUZANNE!*


It was not until Phil had gone and Barb and Suzanne were reduced to the
intimate kimono and pigtail state that Barb got the full force of the
stream of Suzanne’s confidences.

"When I think what a fool I was only just last September I could weep,
if only it weren’t so killingly funny."  Suzanne sat up in bed to
announce. "I thought because I had a pretty knack of juggling words and
a little mother wit I could just walk right in and conquer the literary
and dramatic world as easy as anything.  The trouble with college is it
gives you an over-dose of fine spun theories about life and doesn’t
teach you a thing about being up against the real article.  Maybe it
couldn’t.  I guess we all have to knock that lesson out of the bed rock
itself with a chisel or a pick axe.  I’ve tried both ways.  I don’t know
all there is to know yet by a long shot but I know a whole heap more
than I did, which is something to be thankful for."  And the speaker
thumped the pillow with her doubled fist rather as she had thumped
Sylvia’s hammock cushions the preceding September.

Barb, listening, sighed a little as she wondered if this knowledge of
life were as desirable as Suzanne seemed to think.  It left one a little
tired, she thought, this knowing things.

"I don’t know whether you ever guessed," Suzanne rattled on, "how near I
was to the end of my rope last November.  Phil knew, but he kept my
secret, like the good dear he is.  By the way, what is the matter with
Phil?  He looks awfully seedy and sober.  Don’t know but you do, too,
come to think of it.  City got on your nerves?"

Suzanne’s keen eyes sought her friend’s face with an intentness that
made the latter turn under pretense of switching off the light.

"Nothing the matter with me," she said cheerfully. "With Phil, of
course, it is Sylvia."

"H’m, I suppose so.  He certainly looked as jolly as a tombstone when we
were talking about her engagement a while ago.  Well, why didn’t he go
in and get her himself?  He could have last September easily enough.
Anybody could have seen that with half an eye.  Gets me why he didn’t
clinch it that night at Lover’s Leap."

Barb made no reply.  Even with Suzanne she could not discuss Phil’s
mischance, especially as Suzanne would be sure to say it served him
right.  Barb was very pitiful for Phil.  She did not want to hear
anybody say sharp things about him.

"Go on about yourself," she suggested, getting into bed.  "Do you mean
you were really hard up, last November?"

"Hard up!" chuckled Suzanne.  "My dear, I was not merely badly bent.  I
was broke.  That night I was up here to supper I was as hungry as a
wolf.  I hadn’t been eating much of anything for days."

"Oh, Suzanne!  And you never told me!"

"Naturally not.  I had made my own bed and I intended to lie on it even
if it was a bit rocky.  Of course they would have sent me money from
home, or Sylvia or any of you would have lent me some. But I wouldn’t
ask anybody.  I set myself to work out my own salvation and I meant to
finish up the job."

"You are a wonder, Suzanne!  But wasn’t the show work dreadful?"

"Not so dreadful as you might think.  You have to work like everything,
and there is a good deal naturally that you have to shut your eyes and
ears to, but it was Life with a capital letter, which was what I was
looking for.  Heaven knows I got it! Sometimes more than I bargained
for."  There was a catch in Suzanne’s voice which made Barb come a
little nearer and put out her hand until it touched her friend’s.

"Barbie!"  Suzanne’s voice was lowered.

"Yes."

"Did you ever think goodness was a sort of relative thing?  That some
girls are good just negatively because they never have any temptation or
opportunity to be anything else?"

"Yes," said Barbara again.

"You don’t know what you are really like inside until you suddenly come
up against the sharp edges of things.  Do you remember when Sylvia said
she wanted to get acquainted with herself and I said I knew all about
myself.  Well, I didn’t, that’s all.  I found out."

"Suzanne!"  Barb’s voice had a motherly croon to it.

"Don’t be scared.  I’m all right.  I did get scorched a little, and I
know fire now when I see it. Who do you suppose came to my rescue when I
was singeing?"  And Suzanne mentioned the name of a "Star" all America
knows and loves--a Star of the first magnitude.

"There was a big snow storm and we were blocked for a day this side of
Kansas City.  Her company happened to be on the same train ours was.  I
dug her Chow out of a snow bank for her and we got acquainted.  I guess
she saw where I was drifting. Anyway, she pulled me back just in season.
Never mind who the man was.  He doesn’t count any more. He never counted
very much.  I was just dizzy with life.  It all frothed and bubbled and
sparkled like champagne, and I was a little drunk with it all maybe.
She made me see things.  She’d been there. She knew."

Barb nestled closer, but did not speak.  Did she not understand?  Had
life not frothed and bubbled and sparkled for her, too?  Did she not
know how nearly anything could happen when you felt like that?
Especially if the man cared or pretended to care.  It had been at once
her own safety and torture that in her case the man had not cared.

"I saw her again at Denver," continued Suzanne, "and she told me the
kind of a play she wanted. And Barb, just like a flash of lightning it
came so quick, I knew I was going to try to write a play for her and I
did.  And she’s seen it and she likes it and she wants me to take it to
----.  He’s her manager--just as soon as I can and tell him she liked
it. And I’m going to, to-morrow.  Oh, Barbie!  If he should like it.
But he won’t.  I mustn’t think he’s going to.  I’d die if I were sure,
I’d be so happy."

And to-morrow Suzanne had taken the play to the great manager and had
sent in the Star’s card bearing the magic caption, "Introducing Miss
Morrison."  The caption had worked like a charm, swung open doors and
fore-shortened delays.  It was an incredibly brief space of time before
Suzanne found herself in the most inner of all the offices with a pair
of shrewd kindly eyes fixed inquiringly upon her.

The manager had glanced over her manuscript with a swift apprising gaze,
then glanced over Suzanne in something of the same manner.

"I’ll read this, this afternoon," he promised.  "I have the greatest
confidence in the judgment of that lady," with a nod at the card which
lay among the litter on his desk.  "If she says this is good, I have no
doubt it is.  At any rate, we will hope for the best.  Lord knows we are
looking for something good.  I’ll telephone you to-morrow if you will
leave me your number and address.  By the way--" he frowned a little.
"Haven’t I seen you before somewhere, Miss Morrison?"

Suzanne twinkled.

"I’ve brought you three plays--all impossible," she said.

"Indeed!  Let us hope this one--" he glanced at the manuscript--"will be
at least--probable."

"It is more than that," said Suzanne.  "It is a dead sure thing.  Read
it.  You will see."  And with that parting shot Suzanne withdrew,
leaving the manager grinning at her effrontery.

But the next day when the great manager sought to communicate with
Suzanne over the telephone, Suzanne, white and silent, was packing to
take the next train for Norton, Pa.

A telegram had been sent to Salt Lake City in her aunt’s care and
followed her back to New York. The telegram had said: "Mother very sick.
Come home at once."

"It is Mr. ----" said Miss Murray from the telephone.  "Will you speak
to him, Suzanne?"

"No," said Suzanne curtly.  "Tell him I’m out of town.  Tell him
anything.  I don’t care."

Thus did the Nemesis of Suzanne’s joyous tilting with the universe
overtake her.  At the moment when victory seemed well within her hands
life had struck back.  Like the star of the seer’s vision, the star of
her ambition fell burning into the waters.

"_And the name of the star is called wormwood; and the third part of the
waters became wormwood and many died of the waters because they were
made bitter._"

At the station in Norton, Roger Minot waited with his car to meet
Suzanne--a crushed anguished Suzanne, her pertness and her prettiness
equally in eclipse.  She could only put out her hand to him with a
little moan and gasp "Mother?"

"She is holding her own.  There is hope--at least a little," he told
her.  "When did you start?"

"From New York?"

"From Salt Lake City?"

"I haven’t been in Salt Lake City for days.  I got to New York
yesterday.  I didn’t know.  I didn’t know.  Oh, Roger, it’s dreadful!
I’ve been so selfish--so everything that is horrid."

Roger Minot looked straight ahead of him and said nothing.  Perhaps he
knew it was for the good of Suzanne’s soul to taste the whole acrid cup
of her remorse.

But as they neared the parsonage his heart was smitten with pity.
Suzanne looked so wan and grief-stricken and subdued, so utterly unlike
the Suzanne he knew, all sparkles and ripples and laughter, like a
little shallow stream running along through sunshine.  The hand which
was not busy at the wheel closed over Suzanne’s.

"Don’t give up, little girl.  Maybe it will come out right, after all.
Anyway, remember I’m right here if you need me."

Suzanne uttered a sound which was a little bit like a sob.  When,
indeed, had Roger not been right there when she needed him? though she
had treated him as the very dust beneath her feet.  Dear Roger! And with
an impulse of penitent tenderness she gave back the pressure of his
hand.

And then in a moment they were at home, where the chairs still stood
stiff and angular against the wall, though up there in a quiet room
above the hand that had put them in their places lay very still and
white.  Suzanne’s mother was very sick indeed.  It was she, after all,
and not her willful little daughter that had pulled the family out of
its comfortable rut and cast a sad spell of differentness upon the
household.  Suzanne had stayed away but sickness had come in and another
darker guest waited outside the door, his shadow already on the
threshold.  Poor Suzanne!  The waters were made bitter, indeed, at the
falling of her star.



                              *CHAPTER XX*

                           *SYLVIA AND LIFE*


In the meanwhile Sylvia, home at Arden Hall again, slipped back very
easily and naturally into the old ways and almost as easily and
naturally into the new one of being engaged.

"It is really quite a comfortable state," she told Felicia.  "You don’t
have to wonder about every new man you meet when you are all
satisfactorily accounted for and checked off yourself.  You can even
enjoy flirting more," she added wickedly with a Sylvia twinkle, "since
everybody knows you don’t mean anything by it.  Anyway, I’m so used to
having Jack around that it isn’t much different being engaged to him
from not being engaged to him.  I am afraid I am a hopelessly unromantic
person, Felicia. I always supposed when people got engaged it was a
fearsome, sublimated sort of experience like being on top of an Alp or
something of the sort.  But I don’t feel any different from what I did
before, except for the comfortable settled feeling I have already
mentioned.  And I’m not going to get married for a long time.  I am
going to make the most of the privileges and immunities of my present
blissful state."

But as was perhaps natural Jack did not share his fiancée’s leisurely
attitude.  In fact the two came more than once near to quarreling on the
subject of the date of their marriage.  But Sylvia’s will was stronger
and Sylvia would not be married for another year.  That was a flat and
unequivocable dictum and Jack had to put up with it as best he could. He
dared not hurry his perverse lady love for it must be confessed he
sometimes experienced doubts whether he had won her at all, so slight
seemed the bond between them.  The very tranquillizing effect of the
engagement upon Sylvia was disturbing to Jack.  That she could take so
placidly what was the biggest thing in the universe to him was alarming
and a little exasperating.  Sometimes he would accuse her of not caring
for him at all and then she would still further disconcert him by
looking very directly and questioningly at him as if she, too, had some
doubts on the subject.

Sylvia knew she had floated into the engagement from the crest of one
wave of emotion to another. Her estrangement from Phil Lorrimer, her
disillusionment about Jeanette’s married life, the panic-stricken horror
and shame with which her own affair with Porter Robinson had filled her,
her generally overwrought, hysterical, nervous condition had all
contributed to throw her into Jack’s arms that night. He had seemed an
oasis on a desert, a spar to the drowning.  She had awakened soon enough
to the realization that it was by no means a grand passion, a life and
death affair, this placid, even affection she felt for Jack.  She loved
him sufficiently.  She knew she could be fairly happy with him and make
him happy, perhaps could even let her affection deepen into something
approaching a great love in due time.  They were ideal comrades already,
and Sylvia had a theory that comradeship was a better basis than stormy
passion for happy wedlock.  Yet perhaps down in her heart there was a
fear that something was lacking in it all, something that kept her
stubbornly insistent on postponing the wedding for a year.  Impulsively
she had yielded the first redoubt.  She intended to be sure of herself
before she surrendered the fortress for good and all.  She meant to do
it in the end without reservation, for better for worse.  There should
be no shilly-shallying like Jeanette’s in her life.  That she was
determined upon.

Part of the steadying effect of her engagement expressed itself in a
sincere desire to stop the unsatisfactory flitting from flower to flower
process, sipping honey here and there, into which she had drifted during
the restless winter months past.  She had had enough tasting of
experience and honestly sought serious employment for her energies.

Luckily there was always plenty to occupy her on the Hill.  More and
more the Byrd sisters came to depend on her, especially as Julietta was
now away getting acquainted with her grandson, Gloria’s boy, recently
arrived upon this planet.  The girls at "Hester house," and Hope and
Martha, also came in for a generous share of her attention.  The old
buoyant, radiant Sylvia seemed to have come back to them, ready to cheer
and comfort and command at need.  Never was her genius for happiness
more in demand or more in evidence than it was that February. It seemed
as if everything had been awry and sad and bad while she had been away
in the city and that now she was home it must all just naturally
straighten itself out.

She took up her music again with rigorous hours of practice.  She
fulfilled her long made threat of learning to cook, much to Aunt Mandy’s
pride and delight in her role as chief professor of the culinary arts.
She went in, seriously, this time, into Red Cross work, organizing a
unit which she kept sternly to its task of rolling bandages and all the
rest of the necessary if rather prosaic labor.  She also got under way a
class in first aid instruction under the tuition of a young doctor whom
Tom Daly had recommended, too busy himself to take on any new duties.

Doctor Tom and Sylvia saw a great deal of each other off and on but
always in the comfortable, wholesome, brother and sister relation which
their November interlude had interrupted but not destroyed.  Sylvia was
often at the cottage playing with the babies whom she adored and kept
out of Lois’ way as often as possible so that the latter might have time
for the typing of her book which was almost ready for the publisher’s
hands.  Marianna and Donald, too, came in for a large share of Sylvia’s
time.  For them she spun rare tales old and new and rendered Kim and the
Water Babies, the Immortal Alice and other beloved favorites of the
realms of gold until she knew them nearly by heart. With the children
Sylvia was happiest of all. Living in their world she almost forgot her
own, which in spite of her boasted contentment did not wholly satisfy
her.  She had learned that the busier she was, the better life seemed,
leaving fewer crannies and nooks for doubts and wonders to seep in.

Of course there was plenty of gayety both in Greendale and in the
near-by city, but she steadily refused to go in for an excess of this
kind of thing, though here, too, she and Jack came near to dissension.
It must be admitted Jack was scarcely so assiduous a devotee of business
now that he felt his assiduity no longer essential to the winning of his
liege lady.  He was ready now to enjoy the fruits of his labor and have
a thoroughly frivolous holiday with Sylvia as mistress of the revels.
But just as he wanted to cut loose Sylvia wanted to go sedately. He
complained that he saw infinitely less of her now he was engaged to her
than he had when he was not, and resented somewhat sharply the thousand
and one claims and duties which Sylvia acknowledged. Yet the two never
really quarreled.  Jack was too sunny-tempered and Sylvia too tactful,
and on the whole they were very happy together, Sylvia, oddly enough,
happier than Jack.

Meanwhile the war went on overseas and men began to shake their heads
and prophesy that we would be in it soon.  But that was still nineteen
hundred and fifteen and we kept out.  About this time came a letter from
Hilda, the first in many months.  The chief item told simply and with
scarcely any comment was that Bertram had been killed early in October.
"I can hardly realize it or feel it," wrote Hilda.  "It is getting to be
an old story over here.  Women see their lovers and their sons and their
husbands go and they don’t come back, or if they do, they come maimed
and crippled, only the shadow of the men that went forth.  In the
meanwhile we try to heal as many as we can, though it is discouraging to
heal them and send them back to be killed outright perhaps next time."

The letter and its sad news had haunted Sylvia for a long time.  What a
strange romance Hilda’s had been--so brief it must almost have seemed a
dream!  She had known Bertram only a few weeks in August.  By the first
of September they had become engaged.  A week later he had gone to the
front.  In October he had been overtaken by death. And that was the end.
What a waste there was to it all!

Half consciously all that month Sylvia expected to hear that Barb and
Phil were engaged.  She had long since made up her mind that that
particular consummation was natural, even desirable.  She, herself, was
far too sane a person to spend many moments prying among ashes to see if
any sparks remained.  Nor would she permit herself to regret that which
had perhaps never been more than moonshine and dream stuff.  She was
able to persuade herself quite easily that since she was able to be so
placidly happy without Phil she had never needed him overmuch.  That
miracle moment on Lover’s Leap and that other music intoxicated moment
in December came to seem to her mere magic casements through which she
had looked for the briefest interval of time into another world,
essentially unreal, fantastic, a sort of mirage of the soul.  And
mirages were not in Sylvia’s line, so she did not often let herself
remember those irrevocable moments.

Once in her desultory reading she came across a little poem called
"Remembrance," one stanza of which particularly haunted her.


      _Not unto the forest--not unto the forest, O my lover!_
      _Take me from the silence of the forest!_
    I will love you by the light and the beat of drums at night
    And echoing of laughter in my ears,
        _But here in the forest_
    I am still, remembering a forgotten, useless thing,
    And my eyelids are locked down for fear of tears--
      _There is memory in the forest._


She had gone to a dance with Jack that night and every now and then the
music had taken words.


    I will love you by the light and the beat of drums at night
    And echoing of laughter in my ears.


But, afterward, in her own room, she had sat a long time by the window
looking out into the white night where snows lay on her rose bushes.
And perhaps she remembered a "forgotten useless thing" and her eyelids,
too, were "locked down for fear of tears."  And a new fear awakened in
Sylvia’s heart that night, a fear of Love.  She, too, needed to be
delivered from the memory of the forest.



                             *CHAPTER XXI*

                       *A CHAPTER OF REVELATIONS*


February passed and March came in, rough and blustering, with "noise of
wind and of many waters" blowing its silver trumpets to life long
dormant under winter snows.  There came a few warm days and the crocuses
began to run gay little races through the grass in Sylvia’s garden and
the jocund company of daffodils appeared.  One morning a bluebird
flashed out in the magnolia and the cardinals called "Pretty!  Pretty!
Pretty!" ecstatically all day long.

But then came frost and the frivolous crocuses in their parti-colored
gowns lay flat and desolate like little dead dreams.  The daffodils
blackened and their stalks snapped, brittle as icicles.  The bluebird
disappeared, nobody knew where, and the cardinal’s joy was muted.  And
it was all a symbol of life as it was in the world that spring of
nineteen hundred and fifteen.  Men had dreamed of peace and good will,
of strong nations hailing each other with a "God speed" across the
waters, a world of quickened life and promise and progress.  And
suddenly, out of a clear sky, as it seemed, had come blackening,
devastating war.  Men who had smiled like friendly gods snarled and
hissed and rolled each other in the dust like brute beasts.  Hymns of
hate replaced the song of the morning stars, and the Prince of Peace was
again crucified.

And still America looked on, dismayed, awed, shaking herself like a
great dog, but not yet ready to leap at the throat of the enemy of
democracy, not yet ready to believe such an enemy could really live and
move and have his mighty being in this day and generation of
enlightenment.  Not yet was Beowulf dedicated to Heorot’s cause, not yet
did he fully realize the hatefulness of Grendel, who bore God’s wrath.
Aloof from it all, America’s great pulse beat on almost steadily.  Men
and women loved and sinned and suffered and bartered and sacrificed as
they had been doing from the beginning, more or less unmindful of the
whirlwind sowing not so far off, with only an ocean between it and
themselves. And what is an ocean nowadays?

In the stuffy little town of Norton, Pa., Suzanne took a deep draught of
life that March; a deeper draught, indeed, than New York, or for that
matter all the cities of America could have held to her lips. Day by
day, as she sat by her mother’s bed, she learned lessons no college
could have taught her. Suzanne’s spirit had been "stabb’d broad awake."
She saw the Suzanne of the past, blind, arrogant, selfish, deeming
herself wise and self-sufficient, yet really knowing neither life nor
herself.  Here in the quiet room where the angels of life and death
wrestled she saw things very clearly and was made humble.

But it was willed that she be spared the last drops of the cup of sorrow
and remorse.  In those early March days her mother drifted back slowly
from the Hinterland.  It was almost as if Suzanne’s need and Suzanne’s
prayer and Suzanne’s love had brought her back.  Little by little, as
the mother grew better, she and her daughter came into the grace of
mutual understanding and sympathy and forgiveness, knowing at last the
whole story of Suzanne’s light-hearted vagabondage.  Mrs. Morrison was
able to smile and sigh over "Melissa on the Road," the first installment
of which appeared in the April issue of the magazine whose editor had
"come to life" in season to recognize a live human document when it came
into his hands.

As for the play, Suzanne received a letter in March from the great
manager informing her he had kept in touch with her affairs through Miss
Murray, congratulating her on her mother’s recovery and begging for an
interview at her earliest convenience.  His confidence in the Star’s
judgment had, it seemed, been justified.  The play was as good as
Suzanne had promised, so he admitted.

Accordingly, one day, when her mother was able to spare her, Suzanne
went up to New York to sign contracts and discuss royalties with a
glibness which scarcely betrayed her recent complete inexperience of
such pleasing commodities.  The play was to be tried out in early
September and if it was successful would be given a chance on Broadway
later.

"Of course, that is on the knees of the gods," the manager had warned.
"You can’t tell what the public will do.  The public is a spoiled child.
The thing may go.  It may not.  The whole thing’s a devilish lottery,
you understand."

Oh, yes, Suzanne understood.  All life was pretty much of a devilish
lottery she thought, but that made it more rather than less interesting.
Long ago she had taken for her motto, "Believe and venture, as for
pledges the gods give none."  It was enough for her at the time that the
play was to be given a trial.  More would have slain her with joy she
thought.

Of course she ran straight to Barb with this bucketful of delightful
certainties and enchanting possibilities.  And Barb was as happy as
Suzanne over it all.  She was an artist at rejoicing with those that
rejoice as well as mourning with those that mourned.  Sometimes she
seemed to herself to be nothing at all but an agglomeration of
sympathies for the rest of the world.  Her own selfhood seemed drowned
in the sea of humanity.  She was not unhappy.  Indeed she was quietly,
humbly content.  To some women to love itself is the main thing.  In
such the waters of affection returning back to their springs, fill them
indeed full of refreshment.  There was no bitterness in Barb. Gladly and
freely she had broken her alabaster box of precious ointment not
counting the cost, nor deeming the performance any sort of waste, rather
a privilege.

As for the Cause, her dedication to it held no more scruples.  Suzanne
had been right in her prophecy. She was "white hot" in her faith, in her
mission, the whiter-hot, perhaps, because she had managed to get
"martyrized" along the way.

In March Lois Daly’s book was accepted by the publishers, with hearty
congratulations on her return to the field of literature after her
sojourn elsewhere.  The terms of her contract were generous and Lois
smiled, well pleased.  She took the letter at once to her husband, and
when he had expressed his delight and pride in her success she had
explained why she had done the thing.

"I didn’t want to write a bit, Tom," she said.  "I dreaded to go into it
again.  Of course when I once got in it I loved it just as I always
have.  It is exhilarating--soul-possessing.  But I was happy without it,
perfectly happy.  I don’t know whether you understand that, Tom.  I was
afraid sometimes it worried you that I had given it up.  It needn’t
have.  You and the home and the children were enough to fill every
need."

"Then why did you do it?"  He surveyed her, puzzled.  It occurred to him
as no doubt it occurs to many wise men at times how little he knew his
wife. Do men ever really know their wives?  Tom Daly thought of that
little episode with Sylvia and wondered if it had had anything to do
with sending Lois back to her writing.

"Why?  Because I wanted to make some money--quite a lot of money--and
that was the only way I knew of doing it--my only wage earning asset,"
she smiled.

But Tom still looked bewildered.  Just why should Lois have suddenly
acquired her zeal for money?  She had never been luxurious in her
tastes, turning always preferably to simplicity of living, as those of
the aristocracy of brains usually do. Therefore he awaited
enlightenment.  It was twilight and they were sitting together in the
dusk, but he could see her eyes shining with a sort of wistful
tenderness as they lifted themselves to his.

"You don’t ask why I wanted the money?  Is it because you know that I
wanted it to give to you?"  She pushed the publisher’s letter across the
table to him.  "It is yours, dear,--my gift to the hospital. I haven’t
been able to show I cared for what you were working for.  Perhaps I
haven’t really cared, though I think I have learned a little about it
this winter, while I’ve been working myself.  I’ve had a little light--a
crack of it, anyway."  She smiled at him in the grayness.  "But I’ve
always cared for you, Tom, even when maybe I haven’t shown it, and I
want to give this--piece of me to your hospital because I do love you
and your big vision.  Will you take it?  It isn’t much, but it comes
straight from my heart."

"Not much!" cried Tom Daly.  "Lois, it is everything."

And in a moment his arms were around her and there was nothing else in
all the world but they two, mystically one in the fullness of their love
each for the other.

So Spring brought with it quickened life and love to Tom Daly and Lois
as it had done to Suzanne Morrison and her mother.

Spring, too, brought back Gus Nichols from his concert tour, a little
thinner and tired looking as if the fire of his music had burned rather
deep but with a new poise and dignity and manhood, along with his old
boyish charm.

Mr. McIntosh was as happy as a child with a new toy at having the boy
back, or rather as a child with an old toy, beloved and rediscovered.
It was pleasant to see the two together, old man and lad, so different
racially and temperamentally, yet so bound together by the ties of
affection.

"Best job you ever did in your life, Sylvia Arden," Mr. McIntosh had
observed one Sunday when he and Gus were taking dinner at the Hall.
"Best job you ever did, when you persuaded me to adopt the boy.  I can
see you now, impertinent little witch that you were, sitting up and
giving me advice like a grandmother.  But it was good advice. I grant
you that.  You knew what you were talking about and talked to some
purpose.  See here, Sylvia--"  The old man lowered his voice a little,
though the others--Gus and Felicia and Doctor Daly--were engaged in
conversation and could not hear, "do you think there is anything the
matter with the lad?  He doesn’t look just happy to me.  You don’t think
there can be a girl or any nonsense like that?"

Romance had always seemed more or less nonsense to Angus McIntosh,
probably would unto the end, though years and affection had somewhat
tempered his aversion for sentiment.

Sylvia looked up a little startled, remembering suddenly what she had
almost forgotten--that unspoken thing she had read in the boy’s eyes
that night after his first concert.  Gus, too, looked up at the moment,
and as their gaze met Sylvia saw that the boy’s had the fire and dew of
a Galahad in them, the look of one who sees the Grail afar off. Her own
eyes fell.  She could not bear that shining, reverent look.  It blinded
her, shook her, quickened her, filled her with humility and compassion
and envy.  She perceived that Gus had found this thing which she herself
seemed forever seeking with vain quest.  In giving he had gained, in
losing he had found.

"Well?" challenged Angus McIntosh at her side.

Sylvia shook her head.

"No, Gus looks to me--very happy," she said.

"I’m glad you think so."  The old man’s tone was relieved, as if a
burden had been lifted from his mind.  He had the greatest respect for
Sylvia’s judgment and understanding.  "Glad you think so. He seems all
right, but I wasn’t sure.  Thought I’d see what you thought, that’s
all."

Later Sylvia played accompaniments for her guest’s violin.  And if his
eyes had not already conveyed the truth to her, his violin would have
done so.  Sylvia could hardly keep the tears out of her eyes as she
played.  Not that the music was sad.  It was jubilant, at times almost
triumphant.  It throbbed and welled and exulted.  It disdained pity as a
crowned monarch might have disclaimed it.  It proclaimed itself
inviolate, consecrate, perfected. "I rejoice!  I conquer!  I love!" it
sang.

As Sylvia rose from the piano she almost feared to meet the gaze of the
listeners.  She thought they must all have heard the message of the
violin as she had heard it.  But no one seemed to have done so. They had
felt the power and the beauty of the thing, but its soul had been
concealed from them all except Sylvia herself.

And then Sylvia saw that Jack was in the room. He had come in while they
had been playing and stood silent, waiting until the violin ceased.  She
went to him, her eyes still full of the music, and noticed that he was a
little white and very grave, with something of his boyishness stricken
out of him.

"I didn’t know you were back from New York," she said, though that
wasn’t at all what she seemed to care about saying.  The ordinary,
conventional words rise to our lips when the real things hide unsaid.

"Let’s get out of here a moment," he whispered, under cover of greeting,
"I’ve something to tell you."

Sylvia stepped out into the hall and he followed.

"Sylvia, there’s been an accident.  Phil’s hurt--dying, maybe."

He put out his arm quickly, for Sylvia swayed toward him with eyes that
told him what perhaps he had known in his heart all the time.



                             *CHAPTER XXII*

                           *UNTO THE FOREST*


Sylvia did not faint.  Indeed it seemed to her as if she had never in
all her life been so quick in every fiber as she was at the moment she
heard Jack’s voice saying those fearful illuminating words,
"Phil--dying, they think."  It was as if a great clean wave swept over
her leaving her purged of misunderstanding and doubt and weakness and
compromise.  With one blinding flash of light she saw clear.  She drew
away from Jack’s arms.

"Tell me about it.  No, I am all right.  Tell me."

There was little to tell.  A crowded street, a heedless chauffeur, a
toddling Italian baby escaped from its mother’s fruit stand.  These were
the details. There was nothing unusual about them.  Such accidents
happen daily in great cities.  One scarcely hears of them they are so
frequent of occurrence. The wonder is there are not more of them when
human life teems so thick and is held so cheap.  But, unfortunately,
clear-witted, quick-moving, strong-limbed young ex-football heroes are
not always at hand as in this case.  The baby was happily unhurt, but
Phil Lorrimer lay in the hospital at the point of death.

Instead of keeping a luncheon engagement with his friend, Jack Amidon
had been called upon to take charge of a grave situation.  Finally,
there being nothing left to do, he had come back to Greendale to tell
Mrs. Lorrimer--Mrs. Lorrimer and Sylvia.

"I thought it would be better to tell his mother myself," he said to
Sylvia.  "Telegrams knock you out so.  She is a wonder, though.  Not a
whimper. She’s going up on the five o’clock from Baltimore. I’m taking
her in, in the car."

"I am going, too," said Sylvia.

For a moment the two stared at each other, then Jack understood and
acquiesced.

"All right.  That is for you to say," he responded quietly.  "Go and get
ready.  I’ll tell the rest."

Even in her distress, Sylvia smiled wanly at Jack. It was so like him to
understand, to spare her, to see at a flash the helpful, kindly thing to
do.  Jack was always so "dear."  She tried to express her gratitude but
he cut her short by stooping to kiss her, not on the lips as usual, but
on the forehead.

"Don’t bother about me, sweetheart.  I don’t count," and he strode away
from her toward the living-room where he had promised to "tell the
rest."

Sylvia ran up the stairs to her own room, dazed and dry-eyed, with a
strange lightness about her, as if she had suddenly shed her body and
become all spirit.  In a few moments Felicia joined her, quiet, helpful,
unquestioning.  There was never any need of explaining things to
Felicia.  She did not ask why Sylvia, engaged to one man, should be
rushing with anguish-stricken eyes to the sick-bed of another.  Perhaps
she understood that better than she had understood the engagement in the
first place.

It was a strange journey--first, the swift almost silent automobile ride
to the city; Jack’s stern, white face as he kissed her good-by so unlike
the sunny lover she was used to, whom she had loved "by the light and
beat of drums," a look so different it had haunted her all the way to
New York; beside her the quiet countenance and grief-filled eyes of
Phil’s mother.  Feeling scarcely worthy to dwell in the sanctuary of her
own grief, Sylvia’s heart went out to the older woman in her silent
agony.  Perhaps never in her life before had the girl realized what it
meant to be a mother--how mothers gave and gave and gave, and suffered
and suffered and suffered, and loved and loved and loved, unto the end.
What was going on in the mind and heart of the other woman she could
only conjecture.  Dimly she perceived that the mother loved the son for
the baby he had been, the boy and youth he had been, the man he was, the
man he was to be--all in one.  How could she bear it? Sylvia wondered.

Then the vision widened.  How could all those women over in Europe bear
it?  To give up their sons--the very fruit of their bodies, those for
whom they had undergone the agonies of death!  It was horrible.  Phil
was only one, and he had offered life for life.  That was natural.  But
those other strong young men, over there--they were giving life for more
death.  That was the unthinkable, hideous part of it.  The sorrows of
all the world seemed pressing down upon her, crystallized, made real by
her own poignant, personal grief.  Phil became the mangled young life of
the world.

Suddenly Sylvia felt she could bear it no longer alone.  She put out her
hand and let it rest upon the hand of Phil’s mother.  Mrs. Lorrimer
turned with a faint little smile.

"Pray, Sylvia, pray," she said softly.  "Try to help me say ’Thy will be
done.’  I am trying to say it.  But it is hard--so very hard."

"I can’t," Sylvia’s young voice flung back, hard, almost fierce, in its
hurt.  "I can only keep saying, ’Don’t take him.  Don’t take him.  I
can’t bear it.’"

But Mrs. Lorrimer shook her head and pressed the girl’s hand.

"We can bear anything, Sylvia--anything.  We are never asked to bear too
much."

"I am," cried Sylvia passionately.  "I can’t bear his dying--without
knowing.  He must know."

"He will know, dear."

Sylvia took comfort from the quiet assurance. She believed Mrs. Lorrimer
meant she felt sure that Phil was still living, would live.  She did not
know the mother meant that her son might already be where there could be
no misunderstanding, no longer any seeing as through a glass darkly, but
face to face with infinite realities.  Alice Lorrimer was not young like
Sylvia.  She knew from sad experience how many paths of human life lead
straight to the Garden of Gethsemane.’

Presently Sylvia spoke again.

"Mrs. Lorrimer, how do you suppose I could have been so blind--not to
know--I cared--this way?"  Sylvia’s phrases came out in quick, uneven
gasps, as if every word hurt.  "I didn’t know--I never knew until Jack
told me just now--about Phil.  I didn’t know," she moaned.

"Maybe Phil was blind too, dear.  I think he was. He put an unreal thing
ahead of a real one, I am afraid, just because he cared so much.  You
needn’t look surprised, child.  Mothers know so much more than any one
ever tells them.  Of course I don’t know what happened in New York, but
I have always suspected my boy hurt you, and it was the hurt which made
you shut your eyes so tight."

"It was something like that," admitted Sylvia. "It is so horribly easy
to get all muddled and twisted up in life."

"It is," agreed Mrs. Lorrimer.  "Sometimes it takes a great grief to
remove the bandages from our eyes."

"I know.  When Jack told me--first everything went black and then it was
all white and shining.  I felt as if I had never really seen clear in
all my life before, except maybe just once, last September out in the
woods at sunset.  I think Phil and I both knew then.  Oh, Mrs. Lorrimer,
why didn’t he speak?  What difference could my money possibly make?
Money and love haven’t anything to do with each other.  They are in
different kingdoms like animal, vegetable, mineral, only there must be a
fourth kingdom--the love kingdom."  Sylvia’s eyes smiled a little, like
stars through mist.

"Men do not always understand, little daughter. Perhaps they never
understand quite.  You must not blame Philip too much."

"Blame!  Oh, I don’t.  The blame was mine.  I shouldn’t have rushed like
a mad thing into the fire to save my pride.  I wasn’t true to love or
Phil or myself or Jack.  Maybe I was untruest of all to Jack.  He will
never tell me, but I know I have hurt him dreadfully.  Sometimes I think
women are the cruellest things in the world.  We don’t mean to be but we
are."

"I am afraid we are sometimes."

"I didn’t mean to be cruel.  I’ve always wanted to be kind.  Maybe that
is the trouble.  I’ve been too kind.  I let myself believe I loved Jack
because it pleased me to make him happy.  And I haven’t made him happy.
That is the worst of it.  I believe he has been miserable all along
because he knew I was giving him counterfeit gold instead of the real
thing.  It was only I who did not know, and even I suspected, sometimes.
That was why I wanted to keep so dreadfully busy all the time, so I
wouldn’t have time to think.  Mother Lorrimer," in sudden contrition,
"you are so tired and I have chattered and chattered until I almost feel
better because I’ve talked.  As if I mattered--beside you."

Mrs. Lorrimer pressed the girl’s hand again.

"Nothing matters very much just now," she said, "except God."

"But God is so far off."

"Oh, no, He isn’t, Sylvia.

    "’Closer is He than breathing
    And nearer than hands and feet.’

Haven’t you ever felt how near He is?"

"Yes," said Sylvia, remembering again that night when she and Phil and
the "shadowy third" had been so close to each other that there had not
been a breath between them.  And then she fell silent, led at last unto
the forest where she had not dared to go for many months.  And in the
forest Sylvia sought God.

It seemed an endless time before they reached the great station in New
York but at last they did arrive.  There was no one to meet them.  It
was a very different arrival from the one Sylvia remembered in December.
Jeanette had been there then to greet her and Barb and Phil.  She had
been breathless, exhilarated with happiness.  She remembered how almost
intoxicated with sheer delight of living she had felt when Phil had
helped her into the limousine and recalled also what a queer, deserted,
almost lonely feeling she had experienced, immediately after, when she
leaned out of the car to wave good-by to Barb and Phil on the curb.

The thought of Barb brought a new current of reflection.  For all she
knew it was Barb and not herself who had the right to be with Phil now.
How did she know but he might have learned to care for Barb in all those
months?  Wasn’t it probable, natural, that he should have done so?  Why
should she expect him to keep on caring for her while she had given
herself to Jack?  A panic seized her.  All the way to the hospital even
Phil’s desperate illness, which she had never seemed able to sense,
loomed less important than this new specter which had arisen.  What if
Barb should be there with him? What if they should say "Who is this
young person?  The woman he loves is there already with him.  There is
no room for another."

But when they reached the hospital no such questions were raised.  Mrs.
Lorrimer swept everything aside with her quiet dignity.  "I am his
mother," she had said.  "And this is Miss Arden," quite as if the
authorities knew and understood why Miss Arden must be admitted.
Perhaps they did understand.  The doctor who challenged them shot a
quick questioning look at Sylvia and bowed acquiescence.  Possibly
Sylvia’s eyes were the password. The doctor was used to reading human
faces.  He had admitted many another white-cheeked, tortured-eyed young
woman into the chamber of the Shadow ere this.  He was gravely
sympathetic.  He did not expect the young man in there to live
twenty-four hours.  It would be a miracle, he thought, if he got well.

And so the mother and the girl who loved Philip Lorrimer sat beside him
all that still night though he did not know them.  Sylvia lived a
thousand lives and died a thousand deaths before the gray dawn came to
the quiet room.  And who knows what new agonies the mother who bore the
lad suffered during those long silent hours?  To Sylvia at least, there
was something beautiful even in the unspeakable anguish of it all.  Even
in death Phil would be hers and she his.  Love had crowned her as it had
crowned Gus.  She no longer envied the young musician his Grail ecstasy.
She, too, had been anointed.

Sylvia never knew whether she consciously prayed that night.  It was
rather that she talked with God and He in His beneficence let her share
some of His eternal secrets.

And underneath it all she was crying out to Phil, "Don’t die.  Don’t
die.  Don’t die.  I love you. I love you.  Come back.  Come back."  And
she did not seem to be saying it to the inert form on the high, narrow
bed.  That was not Phil at all.  Phil was all strength and energy and
vitality.  That was a mere husk of something--what, she did not care. It
had nothing to do with Phil or with herself.  She was sending out her
cry, not from her body to his, but from her spirit to his, wherever the
latter was faring.  She knew that wherever he was he would hear and
almost she knew he would come back.

The strange part of it was he did come back, as if Sylvia’s voice had
arrested him and brought him back from those far fields to which he had
been journeying.  Perhaps not so strange, after all.  The wisest men of
all the ages have not been able to mark the metes and bounds of the
power of love.  At any rate, whether Sylvia’s call had anything to do
with it or not, Phil Lorrimer came back.  The miracle was achieved.

It was early morning when Phil opened his eyes, blue as ever, though
dark-circled and heavy, and the first thing he saw was Sylvia, who had
just turned from the window where she had been watching the dawn come up
over the city with strange unearthly light and shadow.  Something of the
same light was on Phil’s face as he recognized Sylvia.  With one swift
light step she was beside him, her face bent over his, her heart in her
eyes.

"Sylvia."  The voice was faint as if the speaker had come back from
other worlds, but distinct, wondering, happy.

"Phil!"  And as he felt Sylvia’s kiss on his cheek, Phil closed his eyes
again as if there were now no other bliss to attain in this world or the
next.



                            *CHAPTER XXIII*

                              *AFTERMATH*


Three weeks later and April had surprised even the city and taken it by
storm.  Buds were beginning to burst in the trees in the park, hyacinths
rainbowed here and there, the fountains were released from their winter
bondage.  The river took on a bluer hue to match the sky, or was it at
the hint of the bird who arrived just before Easter giving advance
notice of the latest colors in Nature’s fashion house, bearing samples
on his own back?

In Miss Josephine Murray’s little apartment Suzanne and Barb and Sylvia
were assembled, one blue and gold afternoon, with tongues flying fast as
of old.

"When is Phil going to be able to be moved?" Suzanne was demanding of
Sylvia.  "And where is he going to move to?"

"Next week, we hope.  And he is coming to Arden Hall."

"Bless us! how modern!" teased Suzanne.

Sylvia flushed and shook her head.

"It isn’t so specially modern.  It is just natural. The doctors say he
has to get out of the city.  His mother thinks she has to get back to
the girls, and she also thinks there is no doctor in the world equal to
Doctor Tom and wants him to set his eye on Phil. Of course, he can’t go
to ’Hester house.’  That would be too absurd and he’d hate it
anyway--with all those sympathetic females in attendance.  There is
always plenty of room at the Hall, and it is lovely there in April.  So
he’s coming," she concluded.

"Reasons as plenty as blackberries," jeered Suzanne.  "Perfectly well
explained.  What do you happen to be doing with your fiancé in the
meantime?"

Sylvia looked up at that, meeting Suzanne’s eyes squarely.

"I haven’t any," she announced quietly.  "Jack has known for three weeks
I wasn’t going to marry him.  In fact, he suggested it himself."

"More and more modern," approved Suzanne. "It is indeed well to be off
with the old love before you are on with the new.  When are you going to
announce your next engagement?"

"Maybe never," said Sylvia so soberly that Suzanne relented and
obligingly turned the fire on herself.

"Speaking of being off with the old love, it seems to be the one thing I
can’t manage.  Roger and I have decided we miss quarreling so much when
we are separated that it’s simpler and more agreeable to get married and
quarrel in peace."

At which last Suzannesque paradox Sylvia and Barb laughed and proffered
congratulations.

"Better offer Roger condolences instead," advised Suzanne.  "I shall
lead him a life."

"Is he coming to New York to live?" inquired Barb, remembering her
friend’s urban preferences.

"He is not.  He is having far too much fun stirring things up in Norton,
Pa.  We are going in for politics.  I think I shall let him run for
mayor. There will be a lovely row, for all the crocks are afraid of him
now, and it isn’t a circumstance to what they’ll be if they suspect he
wants to raise that particular tempest in their cozy, grafty teapot."
Suzanne chuckled, scenting battle afar off.  A "scrap" was as the elixir
of life to her.  "I don’t want to live in New York, anyway," she
continued. "I couldn’t bear to be very far off from mother, and it’s
much more distinguished to draw my royalties and breath on some sacred
Parnassian Hill in Norton, Pa.  Likewise it is less expensive.  I shall
come up often, however, if only to see that they do not murder my
precious play.  Vengeance is mine if they touch one hair--that is, one
line--of its blessed substance.  Remember my prophecy, sweet friends?
I-did-write-a-play."  And, lacking a cushion, Suzanne thumped the tea
table with her fist until the cups rattled ominously.

"You did," agreed Sylvia.  "And here is Barbie here, an ornament to the
Cause.  Wait until you see her marching in the parade next fall!  Wait
till you know what she did to the legislators when she bearded them at
Albany!  She is so modest she will hide her light under a bushel, but
I’m all the time hearing things about her.  Phil says she’s a wonderful
speechifier.  To the victor--in her own colors!"  And Sylvia dropped the
yellow jonquils she was wearing in her friend’s lap and bent over her to
press a butterfly kiss on her forehead.

Sylvia and Barb had come very close to each other during the latter’s
recent stay in the city.  Phil Lorrimer’s accident had been a fiery
ordeal for Barbara as well as Sylvia, and Sylvia, guessing this, felt
very tender toward the other girl.  Never once did they reach the point
of putting things into words.  But words were not essential to mutual
understanding. Barb and Sylvia knew all there was to know, each about
the other, without communication on the subject and their love was the
stronger for knowing. Perhaps the closest Barbara ever came to a
confession was when she said to Sylvia once that she didn’t believe
there was a single woman who was a really inspired worker in the Cause
who hadn’t a hurt of her own somewhere underneath to make her pitiful of
scars other women carried.  "I guess maybe they are even thankful for
their hurts when they have healed a little," she had added with
Barb-like naïveté.  "It makes them understand so much more.  You’ve got
to understand to care."

And Sylvia had understood and cared so much for Barbara’s hurt that she
would not offer her the last spear thrust--the word of spoken
compassion. And, after all, Sylvia could hardly help seeing that Barb
scarcely needed compassion.  She, too, had her Grail fire to follow and
it took her to high places.

"Oh, Barb is some little wonder!" Suzanne had agreed.  "Isn’t it funny
how much we’ve all been through since September and yet we aren’t any of
us so cock-sure about things as we were then?  I was the worst--the most
Sophomoric of the three--and maybe I’ve come the worst croppers just
because I had to have the cock-sureness forcibly if not painlessly
extracted.  Anyway, I don’t want to go back and be the Suzanne of
September, nineteen hundred and fourteen again.  What about the rest of
you? Would you like old Time to turn back in his flight?"

"No," said Sylvia and Barb in emphatic chorus. Then they all laughed and
grew sober.

"It is a vote," declared Suzanne.

When Sylvia got back to her hotel she found a message from Jeanette
Latham inviting her to dinner. A little reluctantly she telephoned
acceptance. She was not very anxious to see Jeanette, not only because
she had rather distasteful memories of her recent visit but because she
dreaded meeting any of Jack’s people just now.  It seemed to her they
must dislike and despise her for her treatment of Jack. Not that she
blamed them for that.  No one could judge her more harshly than she
judged herself on that score.

Arrived at the great house on the drive, Sylvia was informed that Mrs.
Latham was in her own room and begged that Miss Arden would come up. The
two kissed and then drew back each surveying the other woman fashion,
out of the tail of her eye.

Jeanette was a little pale, Sylvia thought, but somehow prettier than
she had been in December, her rich brunette glow softened and subdued a
little. She was wearing an exquisite rose-colored robe above which her
lovely full throat gleamed white and her eyes looked darker and more
brilliant than ever.

"Sylvia, it is good to see you," she murmured. "Take off your wraps.  We
are going to have dinner up here if you don’t mind.  Francis is dining
out.  We can have a cozy gossip all to ourselves."

As the dainty little dinner was being served the two talked about
everything in general and nothing in particular, taking pains to avoid
anything that could possibly interest either.  It was only after the
meal was cleared away and the maid banished that they came to the really
important things.

"Sylvia, I know you think I am going to be disagreeable about Jack.  I’m
not.  I’m glad.  No, don’t speak yet.  I want to tell you why I am glad.
I knew you didn’t care for Jack, at least not enough. You sort of half
way cared just as I did for Francis. You thought it would be suitable
and agreeable and easy and please everybody all round especially Jack.
And you thought that the rest would come in time, didn’t you?"

Sylvia nodded in shamed silence.

"On the whole, your reasons for getting engaged were quite as creditable
as mine for getting engaged to Francis, certainly more so than Isabel’s
for getting engaged to her miserable count.  But, even so, they weren’t
good enough.  There is only one reason for getting engaged to a man,
anyway, only one for marrying him, and that is just plain old-fashioned
love.  I found that out in a very expensive course of lessons.  You
didn’t love Jack.  I knew it that night.  I had just sent Charlton away
and I knew the real thing--what it was.  I care more for Jack than
almost anybody in the world and I didn’t want him to be unhappy any more
than you did, but he is going to be more unhappy now than if you had
said no last December."

Sylvia winced at that.

"I know it, Jeanette.  I am as sorry about that as you can possibly be."

"I know.  I didn’t mean to reproach you.  I just wanted to tell you I
know it was better this way, hard as it is for Jack.  He’ll get over it
now.  At least, I hope he will, but if you had married him he wouldn’t
have gotten over it.  He would have been like Francis.  Francis knows I
don’t care.  At least he knows I didn’t use to care.  It has hurt him
pretty badly sometimes, I’m afraid.  Maybe now he’ll understand.  I’m
not so bad as I might have been. I--Sylvia, do you know why I sent
Charlton away?"

Sylvia shook her head.

"I had just found out--something--about myself.  I am not much good but
I couldn’t go on with that kind of thing when I knew--  Sylvia, please
understand.  It is harder to say than I thought."

And suddenly Sylvia did understand, and came and put her arms around the
other woman with real joy and affection.

"If it will only be a boy," sighed Jeanette.  "It is dreadful to be a
woman in this world, and Dad would like it so, and so would Francis."

When she returned to the hotel again there was a letter from Jack
waiting for Sylvia, the second only since she had come to New York.  The
first had been in response to her telegram announcing that Phil was
surely out of danger.  It had been a very brief letter, expressing his
relief and pleasure at the good news of Phil’s recovery.  "And Sylvia,
Belovedest," it had added, "don’t forget I meant just what I said that
day.  Don’t bother about me. I don’t count.  Nothing counts except your
being happy.  I believe I have always known it was Phil you really cared
for.  Anyway, I know it now. You have always been an angel of goodness
to me and I am grateful.  It has been just Jack and Jill going up the
hill.  Jack fell down and broke his crown all right, but there is no
reason in the world why Jill should come tumbling after.  And in order
to prevent such a disaster the best thing Jack can say is good-by."

Sylvia had written back a long, affectionate and remorseful letter
blaming herself wholly and severely and accepting his proffered release
from their engagement.  She had not heard from him again until now.
Consequently she tore open the letter with some trepidation.


"Dear Sylvia,"--So it ran--

"I am sailing to-morrow to join the American Ambulance Field Service in
France.  It isn’t a new notion.  It has been in the back of my brain a
long time.  I should have gone in December if you had refused me then.
I am not much good at anything but driving a car.  I stuck to the
business because you wanted me to but my heart wasn’t in it.  Dad
understands, and is perfectly willing I should go. Don’t misunderstand
me, please, sweetheart.  I am not doing this for gallery play or to work
on your feelings.  And I’m not going to talk any tommyrot about my life
being spoiled and wanting to throw it away.  I don’t want to throw it
away.  I want to find it if I can over there.  It seems to me France
ought to drive whip and spur into any chap and make a man of him.
Anyway, I’m going to have a try at it.  Of course there is a little
danger--not much.  You must not worry.  Danger agrees with me, and I’m a
lucky chap in everything but love.  Best wishes to old Phil.  Remember
that means in _everything_.

"I would have come to say good-by in person, but it took a little more
nerve than I have just now. It was easier for both of us for me to make
a quiet getaway.  Wish me luck, Sylvia.

"Yours, as always,
       "JACK."


Sylvia read the letter, dazed, troubled but by no means surprised.  It
was like Jack to do the gallant, generous, splendid, impulsive thing.
As she finished she made a rapid calculation.  "I sail to-morrow."  That
must mean to-day.  He was already gone.  Somewhere out beyond the harbor
his ship was plowing its way toward France.  The tears came into her
eyes.  Jack was very dear to her. Why, oh why had she driven him to this
unnecessary danger, this fearful carnage field overseas? And yet was he
not right?  Would he not find something worth the risk in the stern
realities of that glorious and tragic country he went to aid?  That he
had not gone into it lightly she saw.  He had counted the possible cost
as any man who was not a fool must count it.  But he had not gone in
bravado or in bitterness.  He had taken pains to show her that.  He had
gone simply, in quiet earnest to prove himself, not to throw away his
life recklessly but to find it as he said.  Dear Jack!  No wonder
Sylvia’s eyes were wet as she folded his letter and put it back in its
envelope.



                             *CHAPTER XXIV*

                              *HIGH TIDE*


For weeks after his injury Phil Lorrimer had been too sick to care very
much about anything except the agreeable fact that his mother and Sylvia
hovered over him like seraphim as he assured them later.  It had
mattered very little to him where he was nor how he got there so long as
Sylvia was there too.  It might be Heaven for all he knew. For a while
it had seemed quite probable it was Heaven, for he remembered quite
distinctly that Sylvia had kissed him and she had never done that on
earth he was quite certain.

But presently his mind had cleared and things had been explained.  He
heard how he had been hurt and how his mother had come at once.  Neither
of these things seemed hard to grasp.  But why was Sylvia here?  Sylvia
was engaged to Jack.  Why was she here spending long hours by his
bedside? Sylvia was always kind.  It must have been sheer kindness that
brought her he concluded.  But somehow there appeared to be more than
kindness in Sylvia’s eyes, though after that heavenly dream she had not
kissed him again.

It was not until he was almost able to travel that Sylvia told him that
she and Jack were no longer engaged, that they had decided it had all
been a mistake and that Jack had gone to France.  Phil took the news in
silence and sobriety.  He had very little to say on that subject or any
other for the rest of the day.  And Sylvia, suddenly self-conscious, had
kept away from the hospital on the next day.  But on the next, the day
before the cavalcade was to start for Greendale, she came.  Phil was
sitting by the window looking somewhat like his old self though gaunt
and lean as a wintered wolf.

"You weren’t here yesterday," he accused sternly.

"No.  What a spoiled invalid you are getting to be!  You don’t expect to
see me every day, do you? Those carnations need fresh water.  I’ll get
some."  Sylvia turned, flowers in hand, but Phil had waxed suddenly,
unexpectedly imperious.

"Put ’em down," he ordered so stentoriously that Sylvia obeyed without
really intending to.

"Come here," he still further ordered.  Sylvia did not come nearer but
she did stand perfectly still looking at him.

"I missed you like the devil yesterday," he observed.

"You flatter me," said Sylvia.

He ignored her irony.

"I say, are you really not engaged any more?"

Sylvia admitted that she really was not.

"Why did you end it?"

"I told you.  We decided that it was a mistake."

"When?"

"A few weeks ago."

"Precisely when?"

"The night I knew you were hurt."  Sylvia faced him steadily now.  If he
wanted facts he should have them.

"Was that why you broke it off?"

"I didn’t break it off.  Jack did."

"You mean he didn’t like your coming here to me?"

"No.  It wasn’t that.  He just knew--well, he knew I couldn’t marry him.
Jack is a dear.  He always sees things without being told."

"And I don’t see things until they are rammed into my darn fool eyes.
Is that it?"

Sylvia acknowledged that that seemed to be a fair statement of the case.

"You tried to show me a thing or two last winter?"

"Yes."

"And when I wouldn’t look, you cut me good and proper as I deserved and
got engaged to Jack?"

Sylvia nodded.

"Sylvia!"

"Well?"

"Barb opened my eyes as to what an idiot I’d been about the money
business.  She did it one night, too late though.  I rushed out to see
you the next day, first minute I had, and Jeanette told me you were
engaged to Jack and had gone home. That cooked my goose, all right."

"Well, the silly fowl ought to have been cooked."  There was a faint
twinkle in Sylvia’s eyes.

"Granted," agreed Phil heartily.  "See here, Sylvia, I’ve a whole lot of
things to say to you but a man in a bath robe doesn’t cut a very
impressive figure saying the things I’ve got to say and--"

"Don’t say them then.  I insist on being impressed. Besides, it is time
you went back to bed. I’m going, anyway."

"Sylvia!"

Sylvia paused in the doorway.

"Did you kiss me that night or did I dream it?"

"The idea!"  But Sylvia’s cheeks were less ambiguous in their answer
than her lips as she fled into the corridor.

"Bless her!" grunted Phil.  "Just wait until I get on my feet.  I
wouldn’t care if she were Miss Midas herself, I’d run off with her.  I
wish she’d kiss me again."

But it was May now and Sylvia had not kissed him again.  Though she took
very good care of her guest that particular attention did not seem to be
included in the list.  Up to this time, too, Phil had not been
sufficiently "on his feet" either to run off with his hostess or even to
have the presumption to ask her to marry him.

May in Maryland!  Is there anything lovelier the world over?  Roses in
the gardens, wistaria dripping purple trails from the balconies, waxen,
fragrant magnolia bloom!  Red bud and dogwood on the hills!  Green fire
everywhere!

In Sylvia’s garden Phil Lorrimer lay stretched at ease in a canopied
hammock watching a pair of red birds carry on a lively courtship in the
magnolia tree.  He was getting on famously it was declared. Certainly he
felt too much energy to be willing to stay recumbent much longer.  He
was beginning to be restless.  It was a wonder he had not begun before.
It was not so long ago that if any one had told him he would stay
contentedly for nearly two months away from his beloved clinic he would
have thought them mad and no doubt told them so.  But sickness is a
powerful leveller and Phil had other things on his mind beside medicine
and surgery these May days.

"Enter egg nogg," announced Sylvia suddenly arriving, Hebe like, with a
tray and a tall glass of foaming yellow deliciousness.

Phil sat up.

"Gee!  What business has a great hulking idiot like me to loaf around
and let an angel like you wait on him hand and foot?"

"Angels aren’t conspicuous for their hands and feet.  They are all wings
like that mosquito there. Don’t let him bite.  He’ll disfigure your
beauty. And don’t stop to concoct highfaluting speeches. Your business
is to drink."

"All right I will, if you’ll sit down too."  He patted the hammock
beside him and Sylvia accepted the invitation.

When he had disposed of the egg nogg he set the empty glass on the tray
on the grass where Sylvia had deposited it.  Then he turned to look at
his companion.  Sylvia was well worth looking at these days.  Her old
rose bloom and "moonshininess" were back again.  She had returned close
to the "jubilant springs" from which she had journeyed afar during the
troublous winter past, though perhaps the little girl Sylvia had
disappeared forever in the course of her devious wayfaring.  At any
rate, the new womanliness was very becoming.

"Is this a good time to propose?" demanded Phil so suddenly that Sylvia
blushed like a schoolgirl and drooped her head, but her lips twitched
roguishly as she averred that it was as good a time as any.

"Very well.  Remember I’m scared to death.  I never proposed to a girl
before in my life and I’m never going to do it again.  One, two, three!
Sylvia, will you marry me?"

Sylvia lifted her head then and her eyes met Phil’s straight and brave
with the fine surrender of a proud woman.

"Yes," she said quietly.

"Thank the Lord!"  Phil mopped his perspiring brow.  "If you don’t mind
kissing me again I’d feel a little more as if it were real.  I’ve lived
a dreadfully long time on that heavenly kiss.  I’d like an earth one,
please."

An hour later they were still in the hammock as blissful and mutually
self-absorbed as the redbirds.

"Sylvia, do you realize that I haven’t any money, thanks to this
heavenly-infernal smash up of mine, that even my job is knocked galley
westward by all this business?  If I weren’t too jolly happy to think at
all I should think I was an idiot and an ass if nothing worse to ask a
girl to marry me under the circumstances."

"Don’t think," said Sylvia.  "What is the use? You will get caught up
quick enough when you are well again.  Don’t talk about money.  It
leaves a bad taste in your mouth."

"All right, I won’t.  But, Sylvia, there is another thing."  Phil’s eyes
strayed over the beautiful May sweet garden, on to the great red brick
house whose open doors suggested hospitality and affluence and home
happiness on a bountiful scale.  "Have you thought you will have to give
this up and come and live in a little airtight compartment in New York?"

For a moment Sylvia was startled out of her new content.  Her eyes, too,
followed Phil’s.  Never had Arden Hall seemed so dear, so infinitely
desirable as now in the ripe hour of her happiness. Somehow she had
never thought of that particular complication though it was obvious
enough.  To lose the Hall now that she had just come into the very heart
of it, or to have it again for brief holidays only, snatched "on the
wing" as she had said once before!  A redbird flashed like a flame
before her in the sunshine.  The redbirds would soon be nesting.
Mechanically the thought crossed her mind.  Nesting!  That was it.  She,
too, would be nesting in the heart of the man she loved.  She looked
back to Phil who was watching her with troubled eyes.

"I shan’t care, if I have you," she said.

And it was true, would always be true for Sylvia Arden.  She had been
like the empty marshes, waiting for the tide to come in.  The tide had
come, full flood, sweeping every inlet and lagoon.  There were no vacant
places in her whole being.  Love filled it all.  Nothing mattered any
more except this big, strange, beautiful, engulfing thing which had come
to her and taken possession.  Felicia’s prophecy had come true.  Sylvia
had found the real thing at last, and knew the difference between it and
the specious substitute with which she had striven to be content.



                             *CHAPTER XXV*

                            *WARP AND WOOF*


Early in June, Sylvia and her little circle were shocked and saddened by
the sudden death of Angus McIntosh.  He had gone to the office as usual
but had come in early in the afternoon, and in the dusk Gus had found
him sitting in the big chair beneath his mother’s picture looking as
serene as if he had just fallen asleep.  It seemed there had been for
quite a while past the probability that the very thing which had
happened would happen.  This Gus had known and had been in a measure
prepared, though we are never fully armed against such loss.  When our
dear ones leave us there is always a sad surprise about it.  We can
never quite believe they can really go, however we think our minds are
fortified.

Silent in his grief as in his love, Gus went quietly about the grave
duties which his foster-father’s death imposed upon him, but no one
could have seen the lad and not known he was suffering acutely.  To
Sylvia alone he seemed able to voice the grief that possessed him and to
her he turned with natural impulse to seek solace from one who knew what
the dead man had meant to the lonely boy.  Sylvia gave him all the
comfort and friending she could in his hour of need.  She felt very
pitiful for him not only because of this sorrow but because she knew he
had another scarcely healed hurt, though this new grief had driven it
into the background.

When the old man’s will was read many were surprised to learn that aside
from some bequests to servants and old friends and a small annuity to
"my beloved son, Augustus Nichols," the bulk of Angus McIntosh’s hard
earned and considerable property was left to Thomas Daly in trusteeship
to found a hospital for Greendale.  When people tried to commiserate Gus
on his rather meager sharings he had rejected their condolences.  It
appeared he had for some time known of the disposition Angus McIntosh
had made of his estate.  It had, indeed, been by the lad’s own wish that
he was not burdened by the management and responsibility of a great
property.

"What would I want with all that money?" he asked Sylvia.  "I should
have hated it.  I don’t want money.  I’ve never wanted it.  I’ve had
more than my share already in my musical training. Thanks to his
generosity, my violin will bring me all the income I can stand.  I
couldn’t tend to a big property and keep on playing.  I’ve got to play.
It is all I’m fit for.  He understood.  We talked it over so often.  And
he didn’t want to fritter away his money in little driblets in small
charities.  He wanted to leave it in a lump sum where it would really do
some good.  The hospital seemed to be the best.  His mother died because
she didn’t have proper medical care.  It always hurt him to think about
it.  He wants a room named after her.  Oh, he knew exactly what he was
doing.  I wish people would stop sympathizing with me.  I don’t want
their sympathy."

So surprisingly it came about that Tom Daly’s castle in the air suddenly
appeared convertible to brick and mortar.  And the beauty of having it
so minutely and perfectly planned in advance was that there need not be
the slightest delay in getting the substance of things hoped for under
way.  Thanks to Doctor Tom’s unflagging effort other bequests to the
hospital were already forthcoming, including Lois Daly’s gift of love,
but the big unhampered lump sum provided by Angus McIntosh’s will made
it possible to carry out the doctor’s dreams on a scale which he had
hardly dared hope to contemplate hitherto.

One day Phil Lorrimer, up in New York, had a letter from Tom Daly.  The
latter had for some time been considering the advisability, even the
necessity, of taking to himself a professional partner. His hands had
been already full before the hospital project had matured.  Now they
were overflowing. All of which was preliminary to asking the younger man
if he would consider moving to Greendale to become Tom Daly’s associate.

Phil’s breath came hard as he read.  It was of all things the one he
would have liked best if he had chosen.  Tom Daly had long been a boyish
idol of his, and since the boy had attained his own manhood he had seen
even more clearly the bigness of the other man’s vision, the scope of
the service he was rendering Greendale.  Nothing could have pleased or
flattered the young doctor more than that Tom Daly should consider him
worthy of the proffered post.

Moreover, Phil’s sickness had taken heavy toll even of his abundant
young vitality.  It would be a year at least before he would be
perfectly strong again, and he had been warned since he had been back
that it was extremely doubtful whether he would be able to stand the
city work and city life. Here was his release in dignified, desirable
form.

There were other considerations, too.  It was no small inducement that
he could be near his mother in Greendale.  He had realized more than
ever of late how hard it was for her to have her loved ones so
scattered.  His father was in China, his sister in Constantinople, he
himself might just as well be at the uttermost parts of the earth for
all she saw of him under normal conditions.  And his going to Greendale
would put an end to that source of regret and anxiety.

But, chief of all naturally, was the knowledge that the arrangement
would bring joy to Sylvia.  In spite of her sincere willingness to go
anywhere with him he knew it was hard for her to leave the beloved home
of her heart.  And now there would be no need of such a sacrifice.  The
cottage and the Hall were but a stone throw apart, an admirable
proximity so far as the professional partnership was concerned.

So Phil wired, "Accept gladly, if Sylvia approves," and had hardly sent
the message before an enthusiastic letter arrived from Sylvia imploring
him to say yes to Doctor Tom’s proposition if it were not in any way
contrary to his wishes and ambitions.

"Of course it is just too heavenly to think of our living at Arden
Hall," she had written, "but, Phil, don’t let any thought of me
influence your decision. Whatever you want, I want.  You know I’d be
happy going to sea in a sieve with you if you elected to be a sieve
pilot.  But, oh Phil, I can’t help hoping you will want to come to
Greendale."

All of which made Sylvia’s approval fairly evident.

Soon after this Phil went to call on the Huntleys, who had been kindness
itself to him and to his mother during the latter’s stay in the city.
The doctor was not at home but Mrs. Huntley was delighted to see him and
hovered over him with tea and sandwiches and cakes as a fond female bird
hovers over its offspring with juicy worms.

When Phil came to revealing his future plans he did so a little warily
remembering how he had refused Justin Huntley’s generous offer.  But
Mrs. Huntley seemed genuinely pleased.

"How lovely for you!  Now you can marry that sweet girl and everything
will be quite all right, will it not?"

Phil explained that everything would have been quite all right in any
case since the "sweet girl" had been willing to come to him if he had
not been able to come to her.

"Quite as it should be," Mrs. Huntley had declared approvingly.  "But I
am glad it has come out as it has just the same.  Do you know, Philip,
I’ve always been a little glad you didn’t take Justin’s offer, dearly as
I should have loved to have you with us."

Phil hesitated to speak, not being quite certain of his hostess’ course
of reasoning.  But she soon enlightened him.

"It isn’t the kind of work for a young man," she went on.  "It is too
disillusioning.  Don’t you think so?  It might have made you a
little--just a little--cynical, you know.  Mightn’t it?  It is hard to
keep your faith in human nature when you have a practice like Justin’s."
She paused a moment then continued with unusual affirmatives. "Justin
was a country practitioner in a little town once.  He took his father’s
place.  Wonderful old man--Justin’s father!  As much of a priest as a
doctor Justin used to say.  He lived among kind, simple, hard-working
people and they loved him like a father.  You should have seen them
flocking in from the farms and mountains to his funeral. There was a
kind of personal relation you don’t get in cities."

"No," agreed Phil.  "Anyway, you don’t get it in Dr. Huntley’s kind of
practice.  I get some few chunks of personality at the clinic."

"Sometimes I’ve wished Justin had stayed in the country and followed his
father’s steps.  But I suppose it had to be this way.  Justin wasn’t
satisfied until he had worked his way to the top, though sometimes one
wonders what the top really is," she sighed. "But, anyway, I am glad
your father’s son is going to have a different outlook.  Justin will be
glad, too. He liked your refusal, though it disappointed him. He
understood."

"He has been very good to me, and you, too," said Phil, warmly.  "I hope
you don’t think I don’t appreciate his kindness and was ungrateful.  It
was a big thing to offer a young man.  But I couldn’t take it.  I had to
hold tight for my kind of a job.  And, thanks to luck and Doctor Daly, I
have it."

Watching the fine, earnest, young face, with its clear, honest, blue
eyes, and that firm, strong chin, Mrs. Huntley thought Phil Lorrimer
owed his opportunity chiefly to his own intrinsic worth, clear head, and
fine ideals, which was true.  But perhaps almost more was he beholden to
a big-souled missionary out in China who had set him a standard of
manhood to follow and a gentle, low-voiced woman who lived at the foot
of Sylvia’s Hill and had a gift for mothering.

July brought Stephen Kinnard back to Greendale after much wandering,
from Alaska to Mexico, from Mexico to Quebec, and finally to Maryland.
He had written charming desultory letters from time to time to Felicia
and had been especially rejoiced over her having won the competition as
he had prophesied. But never in any of the letters had he pressed again
the question he had asked in September.  Among other arts Stephen
Kinnard possessed the art of long patience and the power of biding his
time.

Occasionally jolly, friendly, brotherly epistles had come for Hope, too.
At first Hope had blushed delightfully over them and read and reread
them until she fairly knew them by heart.  But as the letters came less
frequently she gradually ceased to watch for them.  Youth needs
something more substantial than a chimera to feed upon.  Moreover, in
June, a young architect had come to Greendale to build Doctor Tom’s
hospital, a rather clever young man with some Beaux Arts letters after
his name and a good eye for a pretty girl.  Passing up the Hill and down
it as he did frequently in his interviews with the Doctor, he had
occasion to go by the Oriole Inn and it took him remarkably little time
to discover that it was agreeable to drop in afternoons for a cup of tea
in the quaint dining-room or out under the trees which the orioles still
haunted. Perhaps not the least of the charms of the place was the
presence of the fair-haired, slender lily of a girl who hovered about
with a pleasing anxiety that he be well served and often took the task
of ministration upon herself in her zeal.

Out of the corner of her eye Martha watched this too, even as she had
watched Hope and Stephen the previous summer.  It had for some time been
evident to Martha’s astute vision that so long as Hope remained
unclaimed there would always be honey seekers about her sweet rose.
Much as she dreaded to have Hope marry she thought she would prefer the
sad certainty of such a contingency to the eternal worrying lest Hope be
somehow hurt and her white flower-likeness be made to droop in the dust.
The young architect apparently meant business.  By July he was spending
most of his free hours in Hope’s society.  Martha had almost settled
down to acquiesce in the idea of Hope’s surrender when she heard that
Stephen Kinnard was back in Greendale, news which brought the anxious
pucker back to her forehead.

But she need not have worried.  Hope was pleased to see Stephen as a
younger sister might have been glad to welcome back a long absent
brother. She had all but forgotten she had ever had any dreams about
him.  The real love which was daily more engrossing made the pale little
phantom love so insignificant as to be scarcely a thing to be recalled.
It had been love and not the lover that Hope had hungered for from the
first.

As for Stephen himself, Hope had never dwelt except upon the outer
margins of his consciousness. He had admired her as the artist in him
always paid tribute to beauty wherever he found it.  He had a fatal gift
of kindness always and gave careless largess easily to lovely women
whenever they had the luck to cross his path.  That Hope had invested
him, even temporarily, with the glamour of her sweet, shy, little dreams
he had no manner of idea.  He had, from the beginning, paid homage to a
higher court.

Shrewdly perceiving that the chief obstacle to his suit was Sylvia,
Stephen did not blunder into a premature insistence.  Sylvia’s wedding
was set for early September.  He could afford to wait a little, though
he took pains to make himself very useful and desirable in little ways
to the household on the Hill while he waited.

During the summer Sylvia had a few brief letters from Jack.  He was
well, intensely thrilled by the experience he was undergoing, rejoicing
endlessly, apparently, in his luck at having at last found a genuine
task which he could pursue with all the zest of play.  Physical courage
had always been an inherent characteristic with him.  Danger agreed with
him as he had said to Sylvia.  In deeds of daring he had always
delighted, simply, with no fuss about it.  Jack was never spectacular.
It was merely that being a good gambler he liked hazards.  This game of
life and death made an excellent substitute for the game of love in
which he had gallantly lost. In fact it seemed he found even greater
satisfaction in it.  At any rate, he was in it, as he had been in love,
with all his might and main and with all his heart.

Sylvia’s engagement, expected as it had been, had appeared to disturb
little less than the surface of his exultant, new found joy of service.
Perhaps the larger issues swallowed up his private grief even as they
had swallowed Hilda Jensen’s. Certainly he had little time for thought
or brooding. Life crowded thick around him.  He was in the same unit
with John Armstrong and that in itself was a satisfaction, for the two
had long been staunch friends.  Hilda, also, he saw occasionally as she
was working in the hospital at Neuilly, not far from the front.

It was Hilda who wrote in August that Jack had been wounded and was in
the hospital in her care. The injury, though painful, was not serious
and Jack made light of it as well he might, for he had been "cité" for
"distinguished service under fire" and won the Croix de Guerre.

"The men all say he has a charmed life," wrote Hilda.  "The Poilus are
quite superstitious about him.  He goes anywhere, everywhere with his
car, in the most unheard of, impossible places with the utmost disregard
of it and himself.  John says he never saw anything like him.  He keeps
them all, French and American alike, in an uproar of mirth, too.  Even
in the hospital it is the same.  He tells his funniest stories and makes
his absurdest jokes and has everybody in a good humor without trying. He
is the sunniest fellow I ever knew.  You can’t down him.  You needn’t
worry about him as far as you are concerned, Sylvia.  I don’t mean he
doesn’t care.  He does care tremendously.  He deserves the Croix de
Guerre, in love, too.  He has been under fire.  You can see that.  But
what I mean is, he is so thoroughly wholesome and happy-hearted he will
come out all right.  He can’t help it.  John says it is making a man of
him over here, and I believe it is true, though I think you started that
process.

"But, oh, Sylvia, it is dreadful!  If ever it ends I shall fly back to
safe, peaceful, happy America and try to forget all the agonies I’ve
seen and lived over here.  We all hope America will manage to keep out
of war, but it seems as if she could not long do so with safety and
honor.  It is hard to forget the _Lusitania_, and for us it is almost
harder to forget Belgium.  Americans at home will never fully understand
Belgium.  For us it has been stamped with red hot irons upon our minds
and memories.  We cannot forget."

As Sylvia eagerly read this letter she couldn’t help hoping that somehow
or other this terrible experience Hilda and Jack were going through
together might, in time, bring them still nearer. Women are incorrigible
matchmakers where their old lovers are concerned, and Jack and Hilda had
long been good friends.  They were both too essentially sane and too
young to let their lives be wrecked by the hapless experiences with
which they had started out.  If only they might find consolation and
happiness in each other Sylvia thought she would have nothing left to
wish for.

And so summer days came and went, with their joys and their sorrows,
their dreams and their despairs, their losses and their gains, woven all
into the common web of life.  And finally again came September.



                             *CHAPTER XXVI*

                      *THE END AND THE BEGINNING*


Cloudless September afternoon!  The same blue space of sky beyond the
shining-leaved magnolia; the same pink and white riot of cosmos; the
same dial dedicating itself to none but sunny hours! And again Barb and
Suzanne and Sylvia on the porch at Arden Hall.  Externally everything
was much as it had been a twelve month ago.  But the year had brought
its changes and left its traces as years will.  As the shell’s growth is
marked by its increasing number of circles so spiritual development
stamps its impress upon human faces and even more on human souls.  Barb
and Suzanne and Sylvia were less unchanged than the outer world.  All
three had grown in the grace of wisdom, each according to her way and
measure.

Barb was still quiet and humble of heart, but the year had given her the
poise which comes from increasing self dependence and even more from
depths and widths of experience.  Barbara was learning to base life
broad on the roots of things and faced the world serenely content if a
little gravely, going the "softlier all her days for the dream’s sake"
as so many women do.

Suzanne was, on the surface, the least changed. She still flashed out
conversational audacities and delighted in "taking a shot at the idols"
as she put it.  But underneath the jewel-like hardness and brilliance of
the exterior there was a difference. Her theories of life were not so
polished and compact and perfected.  She had undergone more than one
seismic upheaval of emotion during the year and her "cock-sureness" was
shattered if not annihilated.  But the greatest difference lay in her
deepened power of human sympathy and understanding. The success of
"Melissa on the Road" had not been mere accident but a logical outgrowth
of its author’s surer insight into life, and the play was an even more
certain indication that Suzanne in finding herself had found something
universal at the same time.

As for Sylvia--but let Sylvia speak for herself. Suzanne, lolling as
before in Sylvia’s hammock, again pronounced judgment.

"I never knew a person for whom the whole universe seemed to be working
the way it does for you, Sylvia Arden.  Now, if I had wanted to live in
a certain place Roger would have been called to Kamchatka or Kalamazoo
or some other God forgotten spot.  But just because you had your heart
set on living at Arden Hall the fates come galloping up to present Phil
a choice professional opening on a charger."

"Do you know whether a charger is a horse or a platter?" laughed Sylvia.
"I should never know from your phrasing."

"It is both, of course.  Don’t criticize my diction. Diction is my
business.  And don’t crab.  Honest, Sylvia, don’t you think your luck is
altogether out of proportion to your deserts?"

"’In the course of justice which of us should see salvation?’" quoted
Sylvia.  "Oh, I know, Suzanne.  It is almost too good to be true that
Phil can find the right kind of work in Greendale and we can live here
at Arden Hall.  But you are mistaken about my having set my heart on
living here. I love it better than any place on earth but I would have
gone anywhere with Phil.  Even the Hall wanes in comparison with him."
And Sylvia blushed charmingly as she made the admission.

"Of course you think so.  Quite the proper sentiment to express
twenty-four hours before your wedding.  May the Lord give me grace to
feel the same next December when I follow your lead to the altar.  But,
Sylvia, you don’t really know what you are talking about.  I can’t
imagine you in a little apartment.  You’re too--spacious."

Sylvia smiled.

"Oh, I believe I could have adjusted my spaciousness if necessary.  But
I’m rather glad I don’t have to.  I’d rather--spread."

"You _will_ spread, too," put in Barb.  "You and Phil will have a
wonderful opportunity to really live here, more than you could ever have
done in the city."

"I hope so."  Sylvia’s eyes were thoughtful as she looked out across the
lawn, past the magnolia to the blue sky, just as she had a year ago.
She looked as if she saw visions.  Perhaps she did. The "home trust"
which she and Felicia had formed years ago was still an integral part of
her scheme of things.  She meant her home to be a home in the truest
sense, not just a house beneath whose roof she could shelter herself and
her loved ones.  She wanted her doors to stand open wide to the
world--especially the lonely people.  "The lonely people" were always
very close to Sylvia’s heart perhaps because her own lonely girlhood had
given her the clew to the yearning that nearly all the world knows at
times.

"You are going to keep on being viciously contented," accused Suzanne.

"I hope so," said Sylvia again.  "I feel that way at present, anyway.  I
am afraid I’ll never do anything very big, Suzanne.  You and Barb are
going to leave me way behind, I know.  I haven’t any special ambition
except to be happy myself and to make other people within my range
happy, too."

"You are a genius at that.  Remember what Mr. Kinnard said.  Don’t let
Suzanne tease you, Sylvia. You have the secret of living.  If all the
people in the world wanted to be happy themselves and tried to see that
other people near them were happy, why--"

"The millennium would have come," finished Suzanne.  "You are blooming
sentimentalists both of you, though I don’t deny there is a little solid
sense behind your sentiment.  Anyway, I have a sneaking notion I shall
have a sort of satisfaction knowing that down here on your Hill things
are going to be a little more the way they ought to be than is customary
in this cranky old world."

"Why, Suzanne!  That is just what I was thinking," cried Barb.  "I see
so much sin and sordidness and misery and things so snarled and twisted
that it seems as if they never would smooth out.  I’m going to see even
more this year if I go in for the probation work.  And it is wonderful
to me to be able to think that it is all clean and sweet and happy and
kind in Sylvia’s world.  It is kindness somehow that is important.  If
we would all be kind the way Christ taught us there wouldn’t be any war
and hate and competition and oppression. We’d all be just brothers and
sisters."

"Maybe that is what we are growing into," said Sylvia soberly.  "Thank
you, Barb.  I like that--what you said just now.  Remember, if you want
to send anybody down to my--_our_ garden--  It is Phil’s, too--we shall
be glad to take her--or him--in.  We want to help."

"We want to help."  That is the keynote of the new democracy.  And Barb
and Suzanne and Sylvia, each in her own way, had enlisted in the shining
army which is none other than the army of love.

And indoors, while the three girls were thus philosophizing about the
universe at large, Felicia and Stephen had suddenly concentrated upon
themselves.

"Felicia," Stephen was saying, "I have waited very patiently.  Haven’t
you a different answer for me this time?  I am not going to pretend I
shall go away broken-hearted if it is no.  My heart is a little too old
to break, but if you could make it yes it will make all the difference
in the world. Couldn’t you say it, dear?  Sylvia won’t need you after
to-morrow.  And you know the kiddies won’t be the losers.  We’ll see to
that.  Those reasons of yours aren’t operative any more, you know."

"But there is still Sydney," she reminded him gravely, her face averted.

"There is," he admitted.  "Ah, but, Felicia, you can’t live all your
days on a memory--even so vital a one.  I don’t expect to take Syd’s
place.  I don’t even want to.  But, Felicia, look at me.  Haven’t I
somewhere a place all my own in your heart?"

And then Felicia lifted her eyes, still forget-me-not blue like
Marianna’s.

"Yes, Stephen, I believe you have--a big place. If you want me as I am,
the best of me gone, the rest is all yours."


Night and stillness of night on Arden Hall and Sylvia’s garden!
Suddenly out of the darkness Sylvia stole down the broad staircase,
candle in hand, like a vestal virgin, in her white silk robe, her dark
hair unbound, lying loose upon her shoulders.

On the wall, near the foot of the stairs hung two portraits; one, of a
dark-eyed young man, the other a lovely young girl, looking out with
wistful, wondering gaze upon the world.

Straight to the portraits went Sylvia, holding her candle high.  For a
moment she stood there with uplifted face and rapt gaze, trying to speak
to these two, to bespeak their blessing this night on the daughter who
was to follow in their footsteps to-morrow in giving herself in marriage
to the mate she loved.

"If only you were here," she sighed.  "I do want you so, Father!
Mother!  Please try to know and be glad I am so happy.  Please be glad.
I want you to be glad."

In the flickering light of the uplifted candle it seemed to Sylvia as if
her father’s dark eyes smiled down into hers as if he understood and was
glad as she desired.

"The truest and the kindest," she whispered. "That was what Doctor Tom
said, and I know you must have been.  Phil is like that, too, Father.
I’m glad you know.  Good night."

Then she turned to the fair girl whom it had always been a little hard
to think of as a mother, she was so tiny and sweet and girlish herself
and her eyes looked so incredibly young and innocent.

"Little Mother!" crooned Sylvia.  "Little, little Mother!  I wonder if
you were afraid at all. Did you ever feel like running away even from
him? This marrying is such a big, solemn business. Didn’t you feel a
teeny little bit scared about it all?  It isn’t that you are afraid of
him.  It is rather yourself you don’t trust, as if you weren’t quite
tall enough to reach up to marriage. Marriage is so high, so dreadfully
high.  But it is all right, isn’t it, little Mother?  You just have to
trust love, don’t you?  Good night, little Mother.  Please love me up
there where you are."

This rite over, Sylvia turned to go back upstairs. But the moonlight
fell in bright patines across the floor from the latticed windows,
beside the front door, and Sylvia had never been able to resist
moonlight.  Hastily she set down her candle and snatched up a black
velvet cloak from the rack and throwing it about her shoulders, covering
her thin silken draperies, she unbolted the rear door which led out into
the garden and ran down the steps into the enchanted world outside.

Even as she reached the path she uttered a half startled exclamation.  A
tall form was pacing up and down under the willow-trees, silhouetted
against the whiteness of the garden space.  She did not retreat however
but stood motionless as a statue with the moonlight full upon her.  In a
moment the silhouetted figure turned and came swiftly toward her.

"Sylvia!"

"Phil!"

For a second she was swept into Phil’s arms, his kiss on her lips.  Then
they stood apart, looking at each other as if all at once they had
discovered some new, sacred thing which all their love up to now had not
taught them.

"Phil, I’m glad--glad it is you," breathed Sylvia.  "Glad I’m going to
be yours."

"Forever and ever, amen," said Phil Lorrimer, as solemnly as if he were
pronouncing his own wedding service.

The actual ceremony took place the next day in the gray stone Gothic
church where Sylvia’s father and mother had been made man and wife.  But
to Sylvia, and perhaps to Phil, too, it always seemed as if the real
wedding had been the night before in the white moonlight of Sylvia’s own
garden.  There it was at least that Sylvia lost forever her fear of not
being able to reach up to marriage however high it was.  Love, she knew,
would show her the way.



                                THE END



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WHEN PATTY WENT TO COLLEGE, By Jean Webster.

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K.

Illustrated

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                     *      *      *      *      *


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