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

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


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

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

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Old-Dad" ***

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



OLD-DAD

BY

ELEANOR HALLOWELL ABBOTT

NEW YORK

E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY

681 FIFTH AVENUE

Copyright 1919,

By E. P. BUTTON & COMPANY

All Rights Reserved

First Printing, Feb., 1919
Second Printing, Feb., 1919
Third Printing, Feb., 1919
Fourth Printing, Feb., 1919
Fifth Printing, Mar., 1919
Sixth Printing, Mar., 1919
Seventh Printing, April, 1919
Eighth Printing, April, 1919

Printed in the United States of America

CONTENTS

PART I

CHAPTER                              PAGE

I   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   1

II  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  39

III . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  56

PART II

I   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107

II  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149

III . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 224



PART I

OLD-DAD

UNTIL Daphne Bretton's peremptory departure from college she had
neither known nor liked her father well enough to distinguish
him with a nick name. But on that momentous day in question,
when blurting into the problematical presence of an unfamiliar
parent in an unfamiliar room in an unfamiliar city she flung her
unhappy news across his book-cluttered desk, the appellation
slipped from her stark lips as though it were the only fluid
phrase in a wooden-throated world.

"Old-Dad!" she said, "I have been expelled from college!"

From under the incongruous thatch of his snow-white hair her young
father lifted his extraordinarily young face with a snarl like the
snarl of a startled animal.

"Why?--Why Daphne!" he gasped. "_What?_" [2]

With her small gloved hand fumbling desperately at the great muffly
collar of her coat the young girl repeated her statement.

"I--I have been expelled from college!" she said.

"Yes, but Daphne!--What for?" demanded her father. His own face was
suddenly as white as hers, his lips as stark. "What for?" he persisted.

Twice the young girl's lips opened and shut in an utter agony of
inarticulation. Then quite sharply the blonde head lifted, the shoulders
squared, and the whole slender, quivering little body braced itself
to meet the traditional blow of the traditional Avenger.

"For--for having a boy in my room--at night," said the girl.

Before the dumb, abject misery in the young blue eyes that lifted so
heavily to his, a grin like the painted grin on a sick clown's face
shot suddenly across the father's mobile mouth.

"Oh I hope he was a nice boy!" he said quite abruptly. "Blonde or
brunette?"

"Why--Why--Father!" stammered the [3] girl. "I--I thought you
would--would kill me!"

"Kill you?" mumbled her father. More essentially at the moment he
seemed concerned with an overturned bottle of ink that was splashing
its sinister pool across his morning's work. "Kill you?" he repeated
vaguely. Across the high, intervening barrier of books and catalogues
he craned his neck suddenly with a certain sharp intentness.

"And is your shoulder broken, too?" he asked very gently.

"My shoulder?" quivered the girl.

"It sags so," murmured her father.

"It's my suit-case," said the girl. "My heavy suit-case."

"Why not put it down?" asked the man.

Across the young girl's fluctuant face a dozen new miseries flared
hotly.

"I didn't--just know--whether you'd want me to put it down," she said.

"You've come home, haven't you?" questioned the man. "Home is
supposed to be where your father is, isn't it?"

"It never has been," said the girl quite simply. [4]

Like a clash of swords the man's eyes smote across the girl's
and the girl's across the man's. The ironic grin was still
twisting wryly at one corner of the man's mouth but under the
mocking fend of his narrowing eye lids a glisten of tears showed
suddenly.

"Oh--Father," rallied the girl. "They called me an evil name!
They----" With a gesture of ultimate bewilderment and despair she
took a single step towards him. "Oh, Father," she gasped. "_What_ is
it about boys that makes it so wicked to have them around?" And
pitched over headlong in a dead faint at his feet.

When blackness turned into whiteness again she found herself
lying limply in the big Oxford chair before the fire with a
slate-colored hound sniffing rather interrogatively at her
finger-tips and the strange man whom she had called "father"
leaning casually with one elbow on the mantel-piece while he
stood staring down at her through a great, sweet, foggy blur of
cigarette smoke.

"Wh--what is the blue dog's name?" she asked a bit vaguely.

"Creep-Mouse," said the man. [5]

"I'm--I'm glad there's a dog," she whispered.

"So it's all right now, is it?" smiled the man. The smile was
all in his eyes now and frankly mechanical still--a faint flare
of mirth through a quizzical fretwork of pain.

"Yes, it's all right--now," said the girl, "unless of course----"
Edging weakly forward to the front of the chair she clutched out
gropingly for its cool, creaking straw arms and straightened up
suddenly very stiff and tense. "Aren't you even going to ask
me," she faltered, "what the boy was doing in my room--at night?"

"Oh, of course, I'm only human," admitted her father. Very
leisurely as he spoke he stopped to light a fresh cigarette and
stood for a moment blowing innumerable rings of smoke into
space. "Only somehow--that's a matter," he smiled, "that I'd
rather hear directly from the boy himself!"

"From the boy himself?" stammered the girl. With her slender,
silken-shod limbs, the short skirt of the day, the simple blouse,
the tousled hair, she looked for all the world like [6] a little
child just jumping up to play. "Why--why he's here now!" she said.

"Here _now?_" cried her father. "Where?"

"Downstairs," said the girl. "We came on together."

"Came on together?" demanded her father. "From college, you
mean? Two days and a night?"

"Yes," said the girl.

With a sharp intake of his breath that might have meant anything
the man stepped suddenly forward.

Towering to her own little height the girl stood staunchly to
meet him.

"Why you don't think for one single moment that--that it was fun,
do you?" she questioned whitely. "You don't think for one single
solitary little moment that I wanted him to come, do you? Or
that there was anything very specially amusing for him in the
coming?" Whiter and whiter the little face lifted. "It was only
that he said I couldn't come alone to--to face whatever had to
be faced. And if he came first he said it would seem like
telling tales on me instead of on himself. So----" [7]

"Go and get him!" said her father quite sharply.

With unquestioning obedience the girl started for the door.
Half way across the rug she stopped and swung round squarely.

"He will say it was all his fault," she said. "But it wasn't! I--I
sort of dared him to do it!"

"Just a minute!" called her father. "When you come back with
him----"

"Am I to come back with him?" protested the girl.

"When you come back with him----" repeated her father, "if I ask
him to be seated you may leave the room at once--at once, you
understand? But if I shouldn't ask him to sit down----"

"Then I am to stay and--see it through?" shivered the girl.

"Then you are to stay and see it through," said her father.

With a little soft thud the door shut between them.

When it opened again the man was still standing by the fireplace
blowing gray smoke into space. With a casualness that savored [8]
almost of affectation he stopped to light another cigarette
before glancing up half askance to greet the hesitant footstep
on the threshold.

"Why, come in!" he ordered.

Without further parleying the two young people appeared before him.

In the five minutes of her absence the young girl seemed to have
grown younger, smaller, infinitely more broken even than her
father had remembered her. But almost any girl would have looked
unduly frail perhaps before the superbly handsome and altogether
stalwart young athlete who loomed up so definitely beside her.

As though his daughter suddenly had ceased to exist the father's
glance narrowed sharply towards the boy's clean young figure--the
eager, worried eyes--the sensitive nostril--the grimly resolute
young mouth, and in that glance a gasp that might have meant anything
slipped through his own lips.

"You're--you're a keen looking lad!" he said. "But I think I could
lick you at tennis!"

"Sir?" faltered the boy.

Quizzically but not unkindly the man [9] resumed his stare. "I don't
think I happen to have heard your name," he affirmed with some
abruptness.

"Wiltoner," said the boy. "Richard Wiltoner."

"Sit down, Richard," said the man.

Like some tortured creature at bay the boy turned sharply to the
window and back towards the door again.

"No, I thank you, Sir!" he protested. "I simply couldn't sit
down!" Restively he crossed to the bookcase and swung around
with a jerk to rake his impatient eyes across the girl's
lingering presence. "Maybe I'll never sit down again!" he said.

"Nor eat?" drawled the older man. "Nor--sleep?"

"Nor eat, nor sleep!" said the boy.

"Yes, that's just it," whispered the girl. "That's just the way
he was on the train--miles and miles it must have been--from
the engine to the last car--all the time I mean--night and
day--stalking up and down--up and down!"

"Little Stupid!" said her father.

"Who?--I?" gasped the girl. For a [10] second bewilderment she
stared from the man's face to the boy's. "O--h!" she cried out in
sudden enlightenment. "You _asked_ him to sit down, didn't you?"
And fled from the room.

With a shiver of relief the boy turned squarely then to meet the
man. The quizzically furrowed lines around the man's mouth still
held their faint ironic humor but the boy's face in the full
light showed strangely stark.

"Well--Lad," said the man very softly. "What have you got to
tell me about it?"

"Why that's just it!" cried the boy. "What is there to tell
except that I've been a thoughtless cad,--a----"

"How--thoughtless?" said the man.

"And that your daughter isn't one bit to blame!" persisted the
boy. "Not one bit! And for the rest of it----" he cried out
desperately. "What am I expected to say? What ought I to say?
For God's sake what do you want me to say? Oh, of course, I've
read yarns," he flushed. "French novels and all that sort of
thing, but when it comes down to one's self and a--and a girl
you know----Why--what's the matter with everybody?" [11] he demanded
furiously. "A fellow isn't rotten just because he's a fellow!
And it isn't even as though I had wanted to be rotten but wasn't!
I never _thought_ of being rotten!" Hotter and hotter the red
shame flared in his face. "It's a nasty, dirty, evil-minded world!"
he stormed. "Why you'd think to hear Miss Merriwayne talk that----"

"Miss who?" said the older man.

"Miss Merriwayne," said the boy. "Claudia Merriwayne--the
president of the college, you know."

"No, I didn't know," said the man.

"She's a fiend!" said the boy. "An utterly merciless----" In a
hectic effort to regain his self-control he bit the sentence in
two and began to repace the room. "There--there was a dance at
the college that night," he resumed at last with reasonable
calmness.

"I don't go in much for that sort of thing. I don't live in
town, you see, but miles and miles outside. I'm just a 'farmer,'
you know," he confided with his first faint ghost of a smile.
"My brother and I have a bit of a ranch outside. We're trying
very hard to be 'scientific farmers.' It's the deuce of a [12] job!
And whenever there comes a night that I've got pep enough to stay
awake I'd rather ride somehow than fuss around with people.
Sometimes I ride all night! I've got a horse named Brainstorm!
And he's some devil!" In the instant's transfiguring glow he was
all young god again, superb, defiant. Then as though with a
spasm of pain his young mouth tightened to a single determinate
line. With the air of one suddenly very tired he stopped his
restless pacing and backed into the supporting angle of the
bookcase.

"But on this particular night--that I was telling you about," he
resumed unhappily, "I had a sort of a feeling somehow that I'd
like to go to the dance. It isn't always easy, you know," he
confided with unexpected ingenuousness. "After the long day's
work, I mean, with your back broken and your arms sprained, to
come in and round up your own hot tub and your own shaving things
and your own supper and the evening clothes you haven't even seen
for six months. And I forgot the supper," he smiled faintly. "We
haven't any woman at the house just now. But after you get to the
dance you don't [13] mind!" he brightened transiently. "It's so
bright and sweet-smelling! So many lights and colors! And so many
funny dresses! And the music certainly is bully! And then all of
a sudden at some silly hour like eleven o'clock everything shuts
down and you have to go home! Why you'd only just come! Just got
into your step, I mean! Just met the girls you wanted to meet!
Just begun to laugh! Just begun to fool! That's the trouble with
college parties," he frowned. "They're so darn institutional! No
hanging round afterwards to forage in the kitchen and help put
the house to bed, no nice jolly dawdling about on the front steps
to look at the moon, no funny, bumpy walk home through a plowed
field with a girl in high-heeled shoes and a lace tidy over her
head! Just _zip!_ Like that! 'Eleven o'clock! Everybody _get out!_'
All that fun and prettiness and everything snuffed out like a sour
candle just because some old dame wants to go to bed! It's too--it's
too abrupt!" said the boy.

"So you felt?" prodded the man.

_"Felt?"_ cried the boy. "Why at five [14] minutes of eleven I felt
so _fit_ I could have run nine miles to help put out a fire. But
at eleven I was so mad I'd have run twenty just to start one!"

"So what _did_ you do?" said the man.

"I swore I wouldn't go home," flushed the boy, "until at least
I'd had something to eat! You know what college feeds are, a
cent's worth of salad and the juice of one cracker? Your
daughter laughed. She thought it was funny. 'Oh, what a pity,'
she said, 'that you can't have the cold roast chicken that's up
in my room!' 'Where is your room?' I asked. I was laughing too.
'Oh, just round the corner in the next building,' she said.
'Trot along over with me and if nobody's round I'll scoot
upstairs and toss it down to you!' It was further than I
thought," said the boy. "And very nice. Just a two-minute cut
across the campus, but stars, you know, and a crunch of snow,
and the funny fat shapes of the orchestra instruments running
for their train. And Lord but I was hungry! But when we got to
the dormitory there were too many people round, it seemed, too
many lights, too much passing, [15] not a single shadow in the
whole world apparently that was big enough to toss a roast chicken
into--let alone hide my great hulking shape. 'I just darsn't!'
said your daughter. 'Somebody surely would see me, a matron or a
proctor or the night watchman or some body!' And all of a
sudden," flushed the boy, "it seemed to me so absolutely idiotic
that a girl who'd never done any harm in her life should be shut
up in a place where she couldn't even proffer food to a starving
friend or finish out a dance or do any other decent normal thing
just because some cranky old dame had other ideas. 'Well, there's
no old dame who owns me!' I said. So if you're afraid to go get
the chicken I'll come and get it myself!' 'Yes--I can--see you!'
laughed your daughter. She was standing on the step as she spoke
and she had on something very red and sort of cunning with a hood
all black fur around her face and as she tilted up her chin to the
light it looked as though even her hair was laughing at you. 'Well,
I'm coming!' I laughed back. '_You_ darsn't!' she said. In an hour
I was there! Oh, of course, I know I oughtn't to have done [16] it!"
conceded the boy. "But upon my soul I swear I didn't think anything
about it except that it was putting something over on some of those
old dames! All this fuss about it's being a girl's room never
entered my head for a moment I tell you! I've always had such an
awful lot of girl cousins tumbling around. And it was all so darned
easy after the moon went down! Such a nifty fire-escape and the
toughest sort of an old wisteria vine and----"

"Was--she expecting you?" asked the man.

"No,--that was the trouble," flushed the boy. "Maybe at first
she had wondered a bit if I'd really have the nerve--I don't
know. But by the time I'd got there she'd started for bed. Was
in her wrapper, I mean, with her hair down. Bare feet, you know,
and all that sort of thing. And when I opened the window and
slipped in across the edge she started to scream. Knew who I was
all at once and all that--but the scream got started first. And
I knew, of course, that wouldn't do, so I jumped and caught her
in my arms to try and smother it out. And the door opened--and
in walked President Merriwayne [17] herself. I don't know what she
was doing there in that dormitory at that time of night. It may
have been just accident or somebody may have overheard us
fooling out on the front steps the hour before--I don't know. It
just happened--that's all," said the boy. "And there was an
awful scene, of course. Things said, I mean, that I shouldn't
have supposed a woman would say to a young girl. And two or
three teachers or proctors came running in. And there was a
faculty meeting later of course. And somebody blabbed to a
chambermaid and the chambermaid blabbed to somebody else. And a
reporter got hold of it and----"

"And a reporter got hold of it?" said the man.

"Yes," shivered the boy.

"Pictures?" asked the man.

"Yes," said the boy.

"Pretty horrid?" said the man.

"Very horrid," said the boy.

For an instant there seemed to be no sound at all in the room
except the sound of flame sucking at the birch juices on the
hearth. [18]

Then the man looked up sharply from the birch log to the boy's
quivering face.

"Well--was the roast chicken good?" he asked.

"_S--ir_?" stammered the boy.

"And so----?" prompted the man.

From the boy's lips a long shuddering sigh escaped. "And so,"
said the boy, "I have ruined your daughter's life."

"And what do you propose to do about it?" asked the man.

With a quick squaring of his shoulders the boy drew his fine
young body to its full height.

"I propose to do whatever you want me to do," he said.

"Such as what?" asked the man.

"Such as anything!" said the boy. Almost imperceptibly his
breath quickened. "Why, when I came here just now," he cried, "I
came, of course, expecting to be stormed at, to be cursed, to be
insulted, to be told I was a liar, to have everything I said or
did rammed down my throat again! But you?----All you've done is
just to listen to me! And believe me! And laugh! It's as though
I'd hurt you so much you were sorriest of all [19] for me--and
were trying every darned way you knew to keep me from going mad!
It's as though----" From the sudden slight sag of his shoulders
he rallied again with a gesture of folded arms and finality. "I
tell you I want to do whatever you want me to do," he repeated
quite simply.

"Have you talked with anyone--about this?" asked the man.

"Just with my brother," said the boy.

"And what did he say?" asked the man.

"It's the brother who runs the farm with me," explained the boy.
"He's a cripple and rather a bit nervous now and then, but he
reads an awful lot of books. Not just farm books I mean--not
just scientific books, but all sorts of----"

"By which you are intending to imply," interrupted the man,
"that your brother's opinion, even though nervous, may be
considered fairly sophisticated?"

"Oh, yes," said the boy. "And we went into it all very thoroughly.
All the scandal and notoriety of the expulsion, I mean, and the
fright and the mortification, and the silly sap-headed mothers
who won't let their [20] daughters chum with your daughter any more,
and the old cats who all their lives long will be pussy footing
after her with whispers and insinuations. It's the bill, of course,
that I can't ever pay. That's the beastliness of it! But what
I've got, of course, I must give towards it! This isn't just my
opinion, you understand?" he questioned a bit sharply. "But it's
my brother's, too! And it isn't just my brother's either! It's
_mine_!"

"And that opinion is----?" prompted the man.

"I should like to ask your daughter to marry me!" said the boy.

"I admit that that opinion is--classical," drawled the man.
"Shall--shall we consult the lady?"

"Yes," said the boy.

"Suppose you go to the door and call her," suggested the father.

An instant later the boy was on the threshold. With the
hesitation of perplexity only he peered first to the right and
then to the left.

"Miss Bretton!" he called.

"Not even 'Daphne?'" interpolated the man. [21]

With a vague gesture of surprise the boy swung back into the room.

"Why--why I never even _saw_ your daughter," he said, "until the
night of the dance!"

"_What_?" cried the man.

Before the interrogative exclamation could even be acknowledged
Daphne herself appeared upon the scene.

"Yes,--Mr. Wiltoner?" she faltered.

"Mr. Wiltoner," said her father quite abruptly, "has just made
you an offer of marriage."

"A--what?" gasped the girl.

"Mr. Wiltoner--I would say," drawled her father, "has--just done
himself the honor of asking your hand in marriage."

"What?" repeated the girl, her voice like a smothered scream.

"And he's quite poor, I judge," said her father, "with all his
own way to make in the world--and a crippled brother besides.
And whoever marries him now will have the devil of a time
pitching in neck and neck to help him run his farm. Have to
carry wood, I mean, and water, and help plow and help [22] scrub
and help kill pigs--and help wrangle with the crippled brother
and----"

"_What_?" gasped the girl.

"Oh, of course, I admit it's very old-fashioned," murmured her
father, "very quixotic--very absurd--and altogether what any
decent lad would do under the circumstances. And you, of course,
will refuse him to the full satisfaction of your own thoroughly
modern sense of chivalry and self-respect Nevertheless----" From
the half-mocking raillery of the older man's eyes a sudden glance
wistful as a caress shot down across the boy's sensitive face and
superb young figure. "Nevertheless," he readdressed his daughter
almost harshly, "I would to God that _you_ were old-fashioned
enough to faint on his neck and accept him!"

"Why--why Father!" stammered the girl. "I'm engaged to the--to
the English professor at college!"

Above the faint flare of a fresh cigarette the man's ironic
smile broke suddenly again through shrewdly narrowed eyes.

"'Are'? Or 'were'?" he asked. "'Yet', you mean? 'Still?'" [23]

"Oh, of course, I know I can't marry anyone now," quivered
the girl. "Everything's over--everything's smashed. It's only
that--that----"

With the hand that had just tossed away a half-burnt match her
father reached out a bit abruptly to clasp the boy's fingers.

"You hear, Richard?" he asked. "Your offer, it seems, is
rejected! So the incident is closed, my boy--with honor to all
and 'malice towards none!' Completely closed!" he adjured with a
certain finality. "And the little lady----" he bowed to his
daughter, "suffers no more--fear--nor ever will, I trust, while
her life remains in my keeping." From his pocket he snatched a
card suddenly, scribbled a line on it, and handed it to the boy.
"I'm going South to-morrow," he smiled. "Daphne and I. To be
gone rather indefinitely I imagine. About January send me a
line! About your own luck, you know, that farm of yours and
everything! It's very interesting!" With faintly forked eyebrows
he turned to watch the precipitated parting between the boy and
girl--a slender, quivering hand stealing limply into a clasp
that wrung [24] it like a torture, blue eyes still baffled with
perplexity lifting heavily to black eyes as quick as a bared
nerve. "Good-bye!" said the man quite trenchantly.

"Good-bye," choked the girl.

"Good-bye!" snapped the boy.

Then the man and his daughter stood alone again.

"There's a bath-room down the hall!" said the man. "And my own
room is just beyond. Take a tub! Take a nap. Take--something!
I've got a letter to write and don't want any one around!"

It was quite evident also that he didn't want any things around,
either. The instant his daughter had left him he turned with a
single impetuous gesture and swept all the books and papers from
his desk. It might have been the tantrumous impulse of a child,
or the unconscious urge of the spirit towards unhampered elbow
room.

Certainly there was neither childishness nor spirituality in the
plain businesslike paper and strong, blunt handwriting that went
to the composition of the letter. An almost breathless immediacy
seemed also a distinctly [25] actuating factor in the task. As
fast ever as hand could reach pen and pen could reach ink and ink
could reach paper again the writer drove to his mark.

To Miss Claudia Merriwayne,

President, -------- College (said the letter).

So it is you, dear Clytie Merriwayne, who have so peremptorily
thus become the arbitrator of my family fame and fortunes?

God Almighty! How Time flies! You, old enough to have a college.
And I, old enough to have a daughter expelled from the same! Why
did you do it, Clytie? Not have a college, I mean, but expel my
daughter? Truly she seems to me like rather a nice little kid.
And now I suppose in the cackle and comment of all concerned she
stands forth "ruined" before the world. Yet when all's said and
done, Clytie Merriwayne, who did the "ruining?" Not the little
girl certainly. Most emphatically not that splendid boy! Who
else then except yourself? Personally it would seem to me
somehow at the moment as though you had bungled your college just
[26] about as badly as I have bungled my daughter. My only
conceivable excuse is that I've been a damned Ignoramus! What's
yours?

Here I had a fine, frank, clean, prankish little girl who didn't
know a man from a woman, and you have changed her into a cowering,
tortured, and altogether bewildered young recreant who never again,
as long as time lasts, perhaps, will ever be able to tell a saint
from a devil, or a lark from a lust, or a college president from
any other traducer of youth and innocence. Yet you are considered
to be something of a Specialist in girls, I should suppose. As
well as once having been a girl yourself.

How ever did you happen to do it, I say? How ever in the world
did you happen to do it?

"For discipline," of course you will most instantly affirm. "A
necessary if drastic example to all the young lives in your
charge. Youth being," as you will undoubtedly emphasize, "the
formative period of character." It certainly is, Clytie! The
simplest garden catalogue will tell you the same. Young things
grow on the morning sun! That's the [27] phrase--everywhere. But
don't ever forget, Clytie, that they blight just as easily on
that selfsame sun! And if you have blighted my little girl
instead of 'grown' her I shall not easily forgive you.

"What?" I can hear you demand in hectic righteousness. "Do I
claim for one minute that my little daughter has committed a
Propriety instead of an Impropriety?" (Oh, Clytie, haven't you
learned even yet that Youth is almost never proper but, oh, so
seldom vicious?) Admitting perfectly frankly to all the world
that my daughter has committed a very grave Impropriety I must
still contend that she has by no means committed a Viciousness!
And even God Almighty, that shrewdest of Accountants, exacts
such little toll for Improprieties. It's these sharkish overhead
charges of middlemen like you that strain Youth's reputational
resources so.

Far be it from me, alas, to deny that there undoubtedly _is_ a
hideous amount of evil in the world. But more and more I stand
astonished before the extraordinarily small amount of it that
smoulders in young people's bodies compared with the undue
proportion of it [28] that flames so frankly in older people's
minds! In this case in point for instance, it's your whole moral
premises that are wrong! It isn't just that the boy wouldn't
have hurt her if he could. But that he couldn't have hurt her if
he would! Both equally "pure in heart!" Both romping equally
impishly through a moment's impulsive adventure! My God! I'd
hate to be the first evil thought that had ever butted into a
youngster's mind!

But enough! What you need in your college, perhaps, is a little
less French and a little more Biology! Quite a bit more mercy
certainly! This setting steel traps for Vice and catching
Innocence instead is getting to be an altogether too common
human experience. And some of us who have watched the writhings
of an accidentally incarcerated household pet have decided long
since that even a varmint doesn't quite deserve a steel trap!

But all this, Clytie, being neither here nor there, I come now
to the real point of my letter which is to ask a favor.

My little daughter is pretty sick, Clytie--sick mentally, I
mean--sex-scared, socially [29] and emotionally disorganized.
On the particular trip I am planning for the winter into the
more or less primitive and lawless wild-lands of the far South
I am hoping that she will find plentiful opportunity to
reconstruct her courage from the inherent principles alone of
Right and Wrong. But failing this hope by the time the Northern
summer is due----?

Have you no memories, Clytie, of another college room? And
another indiscretion? Which beginning soberly with a most worthy
desire to exchange Philosophy note books ended--if my memory
serves right--with a certain amount of kissing. Yet will you
contend for one single instant, Clytie, that your thoughts that
night were one whit less clean than my daughter's? That there
were four "improper" youngsters in that episode, instead of two
as now, does not greatly in my mind refute the similarity. Nor
the fortuitous chance by which one boy had just vanished over the
window-sill and you into another room when _that_ blow fell! Do
you remember the things that were said then, Clytie Merriwayne?
To your room-mate, I mean? Poor [30] little frightened baby!
Seventeen, wasn't she? And cut her throat at dawn rather than
meet what had to be met? Pretty little white throat it was too
as I remember it. With a rather specially tender and lilting
little contralto voice that would have been singing lullabys in
another four or five years. And the boy? The boy who was caught,
I mean? Not a bad sort at all! Was rather intending to make
something fairly decent of himself--up to then! But after the
blood-red things the girl's father and mother said to him? He
went a bit "batty" after that, some people said! A bit wild
anyway! Eighteen or nineteen he must have been? Oh, ye gods,
what a waste! Babies _all_! And to make them suffer so! Just by
the thickness of a door you escaped it, Clytie! Just by the
whish of a skirt! Except for that----?

Well this is the favor, Clytie. If by Summer my little girl is
still staggering under the nervous and moral burden of feeling
herself the only "improper" person in the world, I shall ask
your permission to tell her the incident here noted, assuring
you of course in all fairness and decency--if I am any judge [31]
of young character--that she will never tell on you as you have
told on her!

As for the rest if I have written over-garrulously I crave your
pardon. This turning the hands of the clock backwards is slower
work than turning them ahead.

For old time's sake believe me at least

_Sincerely_ yours,

JAFFREY BRETTON.

With a sigh of relief then he rose from his desk, lit another
cigarette, and started down the hall, with Creep-Mouse, the blue
hound, skulking close behind him.

As he crossed the threshold of his own room and glanced incidentally
towards his bed a gasp of purely optical astonishment escaped him.
All hunched up in a pale blue puffy-quilt his lovely little
daughter lay ensconced among his snow-white pillows. Across
her knees innumerable sheets of paper fluttered. Close at her
elbow a discarded box of pencils lay tossed like a handful of
jack-straws. And the great blue eyes that peered out at him
from the cloud of bright gold hair were all brimmed up again
with terror and tears. [32]

"I'm--I'm writing to John," she said.

"John?" queried her father.

"Why--yes,--the English professor--at college,--don't you
remember?" faltered the girl. "Don't--don't you want to know
about John?"

"No, I don't!" said the man. "There's nothing important about
'John' that 'John' won't have a chance to show for himself--in
this immediate situation."

"Isn't it--isn't it--Hell?" quivered the girl.

"N--o--o," said her father. "I shouldn't consider it just Hell.
But I admit it's something of a poser for a man in John's
position. He's one of the faculty of course?"

"Yes," said the girl.

"And was at the faculty meeting--presumably when----"

"Yes," said the girl.

"Was your engagement--announced?" asked her father quite
abruptly. "Generally known, I mean, among the girls?"

"No--not--exactly," said the girl.

"U--m--m," said her father. From his wordless stare at the wall
he glanced down a [33] bit sharply at the wan little face before
him. "Heard from him yet?" he demanded.

"No, not yet," said the girl. "Why he doesn't know where I am!
Nobody knows where I am, I tell you! I just ran away, I tell
you! I didn't even wait to pack! I--I----But, of course, I _will_
hear!" she asserted passionately. "I will! I _will_! It isn't
that I expect to--to marry him now," she explained piteously.
"Nobody of course--would want to marry me now. It's only that----"

Before the sudden rush of color to her face her father gave a
little startled gasp.

"Hanged if you're not pretty!" he said. "Shockingly pretty!" With an
almost amused interest his eyes swept down across the exquisite little
face and figure all muffled up to the tips of its ears in the great
blue puffy-quilt against the snow-white pillows. "Truly when I came in
here just now," he laughed, "I thought a magazine-cover had come to
life on my bed!" With the laughter still on his lips all the mischief
went suddenly out of his eyes. "You heard what I said just now about
going South to-morrow?" he asked a [34] bit trenchantly. "I'm sorry if
it seems peremptory. But my plans have been made for some time. I had
intended to take only--Creep-Mouse with me."

"Creep-Mouse?" questioned the girl.

"Oh, of course, there are a dozen other dogs up country that I
could choose from," reflected her father with a somewhat frowning
introspection. "But when it comes to traveling about and putting
up with things, Creep-Mouse alone combines the essential
characteristics of an undauntable disposition--with folding legs."

"Oh, of course, I can't speak too positively about my
undauntable disposition," rallied the girl with the faintest
possible smile, "but I certainly will try to take the hint about
the folding legs----"

"Hint?" snapped her father. "Oh, it wasn't so much the adaptability
business I was thinking about as it was about the dog!" With a
gesture almost embarrassed he reached down suddenly and drew the
hound's plushy ear through his fingers. "Oh, hang it all,
Daphne!" he resumed quite abruptly, "you and I might easily not
like the same opera [35] or the same hors-d'oeuvre--but I'd hate
anyone round who didn't like the same dog."

"I--adore--Creep-Mouse!" said Daphne.

"Truly?" quizzed her father.

"Truly!" twinkled Daphne.

"Oh, all right then," said her father, "I guess we understand
each other!"

"Perfectly," nodded Daphne.

"For all time," said her father.

"All time," acquiesced Daphne.

With his watch in his hand and his dark eyes narrowed to some
unspoken thought he thrust out his last admonishment to her.

"Then take all the brace there is!" he said, "and hustle out and
get some new clothes! It's quite lucky on the whole, I imagine,
that you didn't have time to pack up any of your college things
for you certainly won't need anything--academic in the place
we're heading for! It's not any South that you've ever heard of
that we're going to, you understand?" he explained with the
faintest possible tint of edginess in his tone. "No Palm
Beaches! No pink sash-ribbons! No tennis! No velvet golf
courses! No airy--fairy--anythings! But a South below the South!
A [36] South all heat and glare and sweat and jet-greens jungles!
Tropics and slime! Rough! Tough! Pretty nasty some of the time.
Violently beautiful--almost always! And we're going down to
_hunt_!" he added with certain decisiveness. "And to _fish_! And
to study citrus fruits when there's nothing else to do! And you
might just as well know it now as later," he resumed with all
his old insouciance. "I--am--also going to find me a wife if
such a thing is humanly possible."

"A--wife?" gasped the girl. "Oh, this--this eternal marrying
business!" she shivered. "If it's all so dreadful, about men, I
mean, why do women keep marrying? What's the righteousness of
it? What's the decency? What's it all about?"

"Don't forget that I'm one of these 'dreadful men,'" smiled her
father.

"Yes--I--know," quivered the girl.

"But----" Like a butterfly slipping out of its cocoon one
shoulder slipped lacy-white from the blue puffy-quilt. "What
about my own mother?" she demanded.

"Your mother has been dead for fifteen years," said the man. [37]

"Yes--but Father," persisted the girl.

With folded arms the man stood watching her bright young color
wax--and wane again.

"If there's anything you want to ask," he suggested, "maybe
you'd better ask it now--and get it over with."

"Oh, I didn't want to be inquisitive," stammered the girl. "It's
only that--that servants and relatives talk so--and I know so
little. You--you and mother didn't live together, did you?" she
questioned quite abruptly.

"No," said the man.

"You--you mean there was trouble?" flushed the girl.

"There was--some trouble," said the man.

"You mean that you--didn't like her?" probed the merciless
little voice.

"No--I--didn't--like her," said the man without a flicker of
expression.

Clutching the blue quilt about her the girl jumped to the floor
and ran swiftly to him.

"Oh, Father!" she cried. "Whatever in the world will I do if you
don't like _me_?"

"But I do like you!" smiled her father. Shy as a boy he reached
out and touched her sunny hair. "Only one condition!" he rallied
[38] with sudden and unaffected sternness. "When you broke into my
study just now you called me 'Old-Dad'! Up to that moment I had
considered myself--some--young--buck. Never again--as long as
you live--I warn you--ever call me anything _except_ Old-Dad!
Darned if it isn't sobering!" [39]

II

THE scene that Daphne had left behind her two thousand miles or
more, though more academic of course, was none the less poignant
to the one most concerned.

Deflected by a more or less erudite lecture-obligation to a town
at least gossip-distance away, no faintest rumor of any college
chaos whatsoever had reached John Burnarde's ears till the
evening after the dance, when just recrossing the well-worn
threshold of his beautiful, austere study, the shrill harsh
clang of his telephone bell rang down the curtain on what had
been the most exquisitely perfect episode of even his fastidious
life.

Yet even then no whisper prepared him for what the alarm was all
about. Poor John Burnarde!

Whatever else an academic training may teach an undergraduate it
has certainly never taught a member of the faculty what to do
when summoned post-haste to the President's [40] office to consult
with various other members of the faculty on what has been
pronounced "a most flagrant breach of moral as well as of
academic standards" he finds the case to be the exceedingly
delicate one of a girl-student caught entertaining a man in her
room late at night,--and the girl herself--his fiancee!

That the betrothal at that moment was known only to himself and
the girl gave John Burnarde the last long breath, he felt, that
he should ever draw again.

Still a bit flushed, a bit breezy, with his brisk sprint across
the chill November campus, he was just slipping out of his overcoat
in the doorway of the President's office when the name "Daphne
Bretton" first struck across his startled senses. Half hampered by
a balky overshoe, half pinioned by a ripped sleeve-lining he thrust
his head alone into the conference.

"What?" he demanded.

"This will hit Burnarde rather roughly, I'm afraid," whispered
the History Man to the Biology Woman. "She's quite his star
English pupil, I imagine. Has done one [41] little bit of lyric
verse already, they say, that is really rather remarkable. Very
young of course, very ingenuous, but quite remarkably knowing."

"Maybe now we can guess where she gets her 'knowingness,'"
murmured the new Bible Instructor behind her pure white ringers.

"_What_?" demanded John Burnarde all over again. The winter wind
seemed to have faded oddly from one cheek but was still spotting
hecticly in the other. "_What_?" he persisted bewilderedly,
still struggling with his overshoes.

"Why it's the Bretton girl!" prompted a sharp voice from some
dark seat in the corner.

"That pretty little Bretton girl," regretted a gentler tone.

"Yes--I--I--know who you mean," stammered Burnarde. "But--but----"

"Always made me think of apple-blossoms--somehow," confided the
old Mathematics professor a bit surreptitiously.

"Apple-blossoms?" mumbled poor Burnarde.

"So sort of pink and white and fresh and--and [42] fragrant. 'Pon
my soul when she comes into my class and takes a front seat it
makes me feel a little queer. It's like being a boy again! Young
grass, May morning, and a wind through the apple orchard!
Fragrancy? Yes, that's it!"

"Yes, it's just exactly the flagrancy of it that makes the
scandal so complete!" interposed the President's keenly incisive
feminine voice.

Instantly every eye except Burnarde's reverted to the unquestionable
dominance of the President's ash-blond personality.

Burnarde alone, looming lean, keen, tense, on the edge of the
group, with five generations of poise and reticence masking the
precipitant horror in his mind, stood staring blankly from one
face to another of his cruder-birthed associates.

"I--protest!" he said.

"Protest?" questioned the President's coolly inflected voice.
"Protest what?" With a graceful if somewhat studied gesture of
patience Miss Claudia Merriwayne laid down her jotting pencil
and narrowed her cold gray eyes to the eyes of her youngest [43]
professor. "You were a little late getting here I think, Mr.
Burnarde," she admonished him perfectly courteously, "but the
general circumstances of the case you have gleaned quite
sufficiently, I think, even in this last brief moment or so?
Surely in a case so--so distressing," she flushed, "it will not
be necessary for us to--to revive the details in all their
entirety? In the half hour that we have been discussing the
matter. It _is_ a half hour, isn't it?" she turned sharply and
asked of her nearest neighbor.

"Fully a half hour!" gloated the nearest neighbor.

"Miss Bretton, of course, will have to leave college," resumed
the President succinctly. "Definitely--positive expulsion is, of
course, the only path open to us!"

"I protest!" said John Burnarde.

From some half-shadowed corner directly in front of him a
distinctly Continental smile flared up on a French instructor's
face. Close at his elbow the phrase "little sly, pink-faced
minx" hissed plainly from one gossip to another. The blood was
surging in his ears! His heart was pounding like an [44] engine!
Shock, bewilderment, nausea itself, racked chaotically through
all his senses! Yet neither love nor loyalty, a girl's honor or
a man's dignity, seemed to him at that moment to be essentially
served by capping sensationalism with sensationalism. Sophisticated
as he was in all the finer knowledges that book or life could offer,
afraid of nothing on earth except the vulgarity of publicity, shy
of nothing on earth except his great, grown-man desire for this
little, young, exquisite girl, no power in the world could have
forced him then and there to take the sweetest news he had ever
known, or ever was to know, it would seem, and slop it down
like so much kerosene to feed a flame already quite noxious
enough. Still fighting desperately for time, still parrying
for enlightenment, he kept his mask-like face turned blankly
towards his companions.

"I protest!" he repeated tenaciously. "There is some mistake--some
misunderstanding! Even in the two short months Miss Bretton has
been with us she has certainly--Certainly----" In a voice as low
as a nun's but particularly and peculiarly enunciative [45] he
focused suddenly on the President. "The charge is absurd," he
said. "It's outrageous! Someone has lied of course! And lied
very badly."

With an ill-concealed gesture of exasperation the President
straightened up in her chair and glared at her youngest professor.

"I--am the only person--who could have 'lied,'" she affirmed with
some hauteur. Slowly into her cold strong-featured face a hot
flush ebbed and waned again through lips that crisped a bit
round the edges of her words. "If you _insist_ on knowing every
detail, Mr. Burnarde," she said, "it was I myself who discovered
Miss Bretton! And she was barefooted at the time--and in her
nightdress--and clasped most emphatically in the young man's arms."

"What?" cried Burnarde. His very heart seemed to wrench itself
loose at the word, but his tight lips bit back the agony into a
mere raspishness of astonishment. "What?" Then quite as
unexpectedly to himself as to any of the others an amazing
little laugh slipped through where even agony could not pass. Oh
ye god of Rhetoric! Ye subtlety [46] of Satire! Ye psychology of
Climax! Was this the moment when a Master of Arts should fling
his tenderest morsel to the dogs? "Betrothal?" Red as blood,
white as a lily, the word flashed through his stricken senses!
"Betrothal?" Oh ye gods of everything! A betrothal so new, so
shy, so sacred, so reverential, that he had not yet even so much
as affrighted the cool, unawakened, little-girl finger tips with
the thrill of his grown-man lips! A betrothal so new, so shy, so
precious, he had not yet even so much as shared the secret with
his adorable, patrician mother! Announce it now? Proclaim it
now? Merciful God! Was there anything left to proclaim? Yes,
that was just exactly the question! _Was_ there anything left to
proclaim? Even for loyalty, even in defense of the Beloved who
had chosen so garishly--elsewhere, would it greatly enhance a
substance as tender as a young girl's honor to scream out now?
"_I also claimed her_--_once_?" Starkly his fine, clear-cut lips
opened and shut again. "I--I protest!" he mumbled. Vaguely in a
chaotic blur he sensed a restless exchange of glances, the soft,
clothy shifting [47] and stir of busy people impatient to be off.
Cleanly and concisely through the blur cut the President's
persistent purpose.

"Expulsion, of course," said the President, "must always seem a
drastic measure. But in the safety and protection of the greater
number rests now as always the greater mercy. This Bretton girl,
I understand, has grown up with practically no home surroundings,
being shifted about from one boarding school to another ever since
her earliest childhood, and knowing apparently very little more about
her people than even I have been able to glean. The circumstances
are very sad, of course, very unfortunate, but our duty at the
moment, of course, concerns itself with results, not causes. Looking
back now to her first appearance among us two months ago I realize
that there has always been something about her that was vaguely
disquieting, vaguely suggestive of lawlessness. Her eyes,
perhaps, her hair, some odd little trick of manner. Certainly,"
quickened the President, "I would not be doing my duty by the
hundreds of innocent young girls committed to my care if----" [48]

As though all life reverted then to the mere pursuit of hats and
coats and rubbers, the Faculty Meeting dissolved into individual
interests again and dispersed as such along the gloomy corridor
and down the creaking stairs.

It was winter-cold on the stairs.

Shuffling a little in his overshoes, jerking his coat-collar
just a bit tighter around his throat, John Burnarde felt
suddenly very old. "Old? Merciful Heavens!" he winced. He was
only thirty-five! Did Age come like that to a man in just the
time it took him to go up and down the same gray, creaky,
familiar stairs? "Apple Blossoms was it that the old Mathematics
Professor had said she looked like? But God knew it wasn't just
her little face that was Apple Blossomy, but her little mind
also, and the little glad gay heart of her! So fresh, so new, so
virgin-sweet! By what foul chance, by what incalculable
circumstance, had she blundered into _this_?"

Stripped of passion, stripped even of protest, stripped indeed
of every human emotion except his dignity and his pain he pushed
his [49] way blindly out through interminable heavy doors and
breasted the winter night.

Then quite suddenly, stripped of every emotion _except_ pain, he
swung around in his tracks, remounted the stairs, re-entered the
President's office, and slamming the door be hind him, flung
down even his dignity on the altar of his love.

"Miss Merriwayne!" he said. "This thing that you propose
doing--cannot be done! I am engaged to Miss Bretton!"

For a single instant only, every knowledge, manner, poise, that
John Burnarde had been born with, defied every knowledge,
manner, poise, that Claudia Merriwayne had worked forty years to
acquire.

Then reverting suddenly to the identical accent with which
Claudia Merriwayne's mother was still lashing Claudia Merriwayne's
father, doubtless, in the little far away North Kansas home, the
College President opened her thin lips to speak.

"The thing--is already done,--Mr. Burnarde," she said. "Miss
Bretton left town an hour ago--and with her paramour, I am
told!" [50]

"With her--what?" cried John Burnarde.

"With her 'paramour,'" repeated the President coolly.

"The word is unfortunate," frowned Burnarde.

"So--is the episode," said the President.

With a little sharp catch of his breath John Burnarde stepped
forward to the edge of the desk.

"You understand that I am going to marry Miss Bretton?" he
affirmed with some incisiveness.

"Not in my college!" said the President. "Nor in any other
college if I even so much as remotely gauge either the
professional or the social exigencies of the situation."
Emphatically, but by no means extravagantly, she drove her
meaning home. "Do you dream for one single moment, Mr.
Burnarde," she quizzed, "that any reputable college in the land
would accept, or maintain on its faculty," she added significantly,
"a man whose wife for reasons of moral obliquity had not been
considered a safe associate for----"

"You mean----" interrupted John Burnarde. [51]

"Everything that I say," acquiesced the President, "and everything
that I imply."

"That is your ultimatum?" questioned John Burnarde.

"That is my ultimatum!" said the President.

With the slightest perceptible tightening of his lips John
Burnarde began to put on his gloves.

"Very fortunately," he said, "there are other professions in the
world besides the teaching of English."

"Very fortunately," conceded the President. One side of her
mouth lifted very faintly with the concession. "Yet somehow, Mr.
Burnarde," she added hastily, "I do not seem to picture you as
a--as an automobile salesman, for instance. Nor yet visualize
that frail, lovely mother of yours relinquishing very easily her
life-long ambitions for your deanship--which up to now, of
course, has by no means seemed the improbable fruition of your
distinguished services with us. Your mother," mused the
President, "has doubtless made some sacrifices for you--in her
time?" [52]

"Most mothers have!" snapped John Burnarde.

Roused snap for snap to his tone the President leaned forward
suddenly.

"You're not the only man," she cried, "who has been both flouted
and betrayed by Frivolity! Next time you choose----" Her cheeks
flushed scarlet. "Next time you choose, perhaps you will choose
more wisely, more consistently with your age and attainments!
This mad infatuation is surely but the mood of a moment, the----"
Recovering her self-control as quickly almost as she had lost
it she sank back with typical statuesqueness into her throne-like
Jacobean chair. "Surely, Mr. Burnarde," she asked in all
sincerity, "you must admit that the--that the warning I have
given you is at least--reasonable?"

"Absolutely reasonable!" said John Burnarde. "And absolutely
damnable!" And turning on his heel he stalked from the room.

But even the winter night could not cool his cheeks now, nor the
great pile of unread themes and forensics that he found awaiting
him in his room, divert his tortured mind for one single second
from the problems of a [53] lover to the problems of a professor.
Somewhere indeed, he reasoned, among that white flare of papers
a fresh stab of pain undoubtedly awaited him, a familiar
handwriting strangely poignant, some little brand new bud of an
idea forging valiantly upward through the clotted sod of
academic tradition into the sunshine of acknowledged success, a
purely prosy rhetorical question, perhaps, thrilled to its very
interrogation mark by the sweet new secret hidden behind its
formality!

With an irresistible impulse he began suddenly to rummage
through the themes. Yes, here was _the_ handwriting! With fingers
that trembled he unfolded the page. Dated the very night before
this dreadful thing had happened, surely somehow--somewhere on
this very page the dreadful thing must be disproved!

"Dear Mr. Burnarde," ran the little note pinned to the page.
"Dear Mr. Burnarde" (Oh, the delicious camouflage of the
formality). Please, I beg of you do not be angry with me because
I am submitting no prose theme this week! I just can't, somehow!
I'm all verse these days! What do you think [54] about this one?
There are oodles and oodles more lines to it of course, but this
is to be the recurrent refrain:

     He who made Hunger, Love, and the Sea,
     Made three tides which have got to be!

"Oh, of course, I know you'll say that the word 'got' isn't
particularly poetical and all that. But it's simply got to be
'got,' don't you see? Why----"

Right in the middle of the unfinished sentence he crumpled the
page in his hand. Merciful Heavens, if she was innocent why
hadn't she written him? Or even if she were sorry--only? Or even
if----If people had any explanations to give they usually gave
them to you, didn't they? "Gave" them to you? _Forced_ them on
you, rather, didn't they? Fairly _hurled_ them at you? This
staking all for love? Yes, surely! Social position! Professional
reputation! Even his mother's heart! _For love_? Yes, that was
it! But suppose--the object of such love--fairly flaunted
herself as being neither loving--nor lovable? Maddened anew by
the futility of it all he plunged down at his desk and [55] began
to write a letter--and tore that letter up! And began another and
tore that up! And began another! Merciful Heavens! he suffered.
Was his hand palsied? His brain blighted? Were there no live
words left in all the world--except just those which crowded
every other sane thought out of his mind?

     "He who made hunger, love, and the sea,
     Made three tides which have got to be!" [56]

III

TAKEN all in all, _mileage_ undoubtedly is just about the
paltriest form of separation that can occur between two people.
If only Fate would break its impish habit of always and forever
introducing such perfectly unexpected things into mileage! Even
Fate though at just this time hadn't quite made up its mind
perhaps just what it intended to do with little Daphne Bretton!

Given good food, a brave heart, and any reasonable amount of
diversion, most young people outgrow their sins and even their
mistakes almost as soon as they outgrow their clothes. But to
outgrow a punishment is quite a different matter! People who
deal out punishments ought to think about that!

Daphne Bretton and her father had to think a good deal about it.
Daphne especially! Totally uninjured by her mistake but pretty
badly crippled by her punishment the world looked very dark to
Daphne. [57]

Being only eighteen and having thus far evolved no special
philosophy of her own concerning the best way to meet Life's
inevitable disasters it was rather fortunate perhaps in the
present emergency that she had at least her father's philosophy
to fall back upon. Her father's philosophy was so amazingly
simple.

"No matter what happens," said her father, "never wear a worried
looking hat!"

"Which being interpreted," puzzled Daphne, "means----"

Like a Fancier perfectly willing to share the cut-flowers of his
mind but quite distinctly opposed to parting with the roots of
any of his ideas her father parried the question.

"Which being interpreted," he repeated a bit stiffly, "means
'_Never wear a worried looking hat_!'"

Certainly there developed nothing worried looking about Daphne
Bretton's Florida-going hat! Nor about her suit, either! Nor her
shoes! Nor her silken stockings! Her hat was crisp, with a flare
of pink in it, her suit was blue, her shoes and silkies
distinctly [58] trim. From top to toe, bright hair, bright cheeks,
lithe little body and all, there was nothing worried looking
about Daphne Bretton except her eyes. Sweet eyes they were too,
wide set, wistful, and inherently frank, though vaguely furtive
now with the tragic, incongruous furtiveness of youth that
having once perhaps feared overmuch that it would not be noticed
is panic-stricken now lest it may be. Little girl eyes distinctly,
and the eyes of a very worried little girl at that!

In the joggling crowd at the railroad station two women noticed
her only too quickly. The little blue hound himself sniffing
close at her heels quickened to the trail no more avidly than
they.

"Bet you a dollar," gasped the first, "that that's the Bretton
girl!"

"Bretton girl?" gloated the other in an only too audible whisper.

"Why, yes, of course, you know," nudged the first "That one, you
know, that was expelled from college for having a boy in her
room at night! Oh, an awful scandal it was! Why the Sunday
papers were full of it last week!" [59]

"Oh, yes, of course, I saw it," confided the second. "A whole
page of pictures, wasn't it? Perfectly disgusting, I call it! So
bold--so----"

"Pretty, though, isn't she?" deprecated the first.

"If you like that fast type," sneered the second.

"Oh, and look at her now!" snickered the first. "Got an older
man in tow this time! And, oh goodness, but isn't he a stunner
with all that white hair and elegant figure and swell traveling
bags! If there's one thing I think refined it's swell traveling
bags! But, oh, isn't it awful the way rich people cut up?
Wouldn't you think her folks would stop her? Wouldn't you?"

From under the sheltering, shadowy brim of her hat Daphne shot
an agonized glance at her father's half-averted face. But to her
infinite astonishment her father's deep-set eyes were utterly
serene, and even his shrewd mouth was relaxed at the moment into
the faint ghost of a perfectly amiable smile.

"Old-Dad--are you deaf?" she gasped with a little quick clutch
at his arm. [60]

"When geese are cackling," said her father.

"And blind?" flared Daphne.

"When the view is offensive," admitted her father. With
unwavering nonchalance he swung around suddenly to the nearest
news stand and began then and there to pile Daphne's blue
broadcloth arms with every funny paper in sight.

From lips quivering so that they could barely function their
speech Daphne protested the action. "Why--why, Old-Dad," she
pleaded. "Do you think for one single moment that I shall ever
smile again? Or--or ever--even want to smile again?" In a fresh
shiver of tears and shame the hot tears started to her eyes.
"Why I'm nothing but--but just an outlaw!" she gasped. "A--a--
sort of a----"

"Personally," conceded her father, "I'd infinitely rather travel
with an outlaw than an inlaw! They're so inherently more
considerate--somehow, so----" Quite imperturbably as he spoke he
kept right on piling up the magazines in Daphne's protesting
arms. "Steady there, Kiddie!" he admonished her smilingly.
"Steady! Steady! Never let any [61] sorrow you'll ever meet leak
into your chance to laugh! Water-tight your compartments--that's
the idea! Love, Hope, Fear, Pride, Ambition--everything walled off
and separate from another! And then if you run into a bit of bad
weather now and then, Little Girl, you won't--" Aghast at the
increasing tremor of the little figure he broke off abruptly in
the midst of his message. "Why the only trouble with you,
Daphne," he laughed, "is that you are so pretty! It's an awful
responsibility I tell you to travel with a daughter who's so
extravagantly pretty. So many complicating things are bound to
happen all the time. Beaux, for instance, and----"

"Beaux?" winced Daphne.

"Such as the incipient one yonder," nodded her father.

Following the general direction of the nod the girl's eyes raked
somewhat covertly but none the less thoroughly the shadow just
back of the flower booth.

"O--h," she shivered. "_That_?" Back of her lovely blondeness,
her youth, her vitality, the delicate fine-boned structure of
her face [62] loomed suddenly into the faint, poignant outline
of the ultimate skull. "Do--do you think he's a reporter?" she
stammered.

"Reporter _nothing_!" snapped her father. Snatching up the
traveling bags he headed quite precipitously for the train.
White as a little ghost Daphne pattered after him. Close at her
heels followed the blue hound.

"What a stunning looking man!" said someone. "And what an
awfully pretty girl!" murmured another. "And what a funny
looking dog!" agreed everybody.

"For goodness sake, don't you know who it is?" called the girl
at the flower booth to the girl at the news-stand.

"Naw," admitted the girl at the news-stand.

"Oh, pshaw," preened the girl at the flower booth. "Don't you
know anything? Why it's Jaffrey Bretton the--the--well, I don't
know what he is except that he's richer than--oh, richer than
Croesus! And wild? Oh, Gee! Why I knew a chauffeur once that
knew a cook that said----"

So Jaffrey Bretton and Daphne and the little blue hound passed
from the rabble of the station to the rumble of the train. [63]

The rumble of the train is at least a pleasant sound. And when
one's nerves are just a bit over-frazzled with the cantankerous
parlance of men it is not a half bad idea for the price of a
railroad ticket to yield one's ears for such time as one may to
the simpler things that Steel, Wood, and Plush have to say to
each other. "Strength!" pulses Steel. "Form!" urges Wood. "Rest!"
purrs Plush. "Strength--Form--Rest! Strength--Form--Rest!" On and
on and on, just like that, day and night, mile and mile, swirl and
sway, with no more effort to one's brittle-nerved, ice-chilled
body than lolling in a bath-tub would be, while the great Sunny
South like so much hot water comes pouring in, a little deeper,
a little hotter, every minute, to lave and soothe Past, Present,
and Future alike. God bless Railroad Journeys!

Surely it was at least twenty-four restful hours before the
"parlance of men" caught up with Daphne and her father again.
This catching up, however, proved itself quite sufficiently
unpleasant.

It had been rather an eerie day, an eerie twilight anyway, as
railroad twilights are apt [64] to be with a great, smooth-running,
brilliantly lighted, ultra-perfected train of ultra-perfected
cars slipping deeper and deeper and deeper into the black morass
of a wild, swampy, tropical night.

Eerieness for eerieness Daphne Bretton's eyes matched the night.
Sparkle for sparkle Jaffrey Bretton's eyes matched the train. To
escape the sparkle Daphne pleaded a desire to dally alone in her
quiet dark drawing-room. To escape the eerieness Jaffrey Bretton
vaunted the intention of finding some stray man who could smoke
more cigars than he. With an unwonted touch of formality, a
sudden strange shyness of scene and sentiment they bowed their
good-nights to each other.

"See you in the morning!" nodded her father.

"In the morning," acquiesced Daphne.

Nothing on earth could have brightened her eyes at the moment.
Nothing on earth could have dulled her father's. Yet within an
hour when they met again it was Daphne's face that was fairly
blazing with excitement and her father's that was stricken with
brooding. [65]

Maybe too much "looking back" even from the last car of a train
isn't specially good for any man. Certainly just sitting up till
nine o'clock never made any man look so tired.

Joggling back to his warm, plushy Pullman car from the cindery
murk and chill of the observation platform it was then that Jaffrey
Bretton sensed through the tail of his eye, as it were, the
kaleidoscopic blur of a scuffle in the smoking-room. Tweed-brown,
newspaper-white, broadcloth-blue, the fleeting impress struck
across his jaded optic nerve, till roused by a sudden lurch of
his heart to the familiar blueness of that blue he whirled
around in the narrow aisle and yanked aside the curtain just
in time to behold a perfectly strange young man forcing a kiss
on Daphne's infuriated lips.

"But I _am_ Daphne Bretton! I _am_! I _am_!" fought the girl.

"Why, of course, you're 'Daphne Bretton!'" kissed the man. "So
why be so particular?"

"And I--happen to be Daphne Bretton's--father!" hailed Jaffrey
Bretton quite incisively from the doorway. [66]

"Eh? _What_?" jumped the Kissing Man.

"Oh--O--h!" gasped Daphne.

With a somewhat hectic attempt at nonchalance the Kissing Man
stooped down and picked up the crumpled newspaper at his feet.

"Well, it's my newspaper, anyway!" he grinned.

"It's mine if I want it!" began Daphne all over again.

With a quick jerk of his wrist the stranger twisted the
newspaper from the girl's snatching fingers and began rather
awkwardly to smooth out the crumple and piece together the
fragments. It was the pictorial supplement of a week-old Sunday
paper and from its front page loomed an almost life-sized
portrait of Daphne extravagantly bordered and garnished with
what some cheap cartoonist considered a facetious portrayal of
Daphne's recent tragedy.

"Do--you want your head--kicked off?" asked Jaffrey Bretton.

"No, I don't," admitted the stranger. "But even if I did," he
confided with undismayed diablerie, "how ever in the world should
we locate it? I seem to have lost it so badly!" [67] By no means
unattractive even in his impudence he turned his flushed, indecorous
face to Daphne and in the sudden tilt of his deeply-cleft chin
the electric light struck down rather mercilessly across a faint
white scar that slashed zig-zag from his turbid, reckless eyes to
a most ingenuous dimple in his left cheek.

"You are--drunk!" said Jaffrey Bretton quite frankly.

"Yes, a little," admitted the stranger. "But even so," he
persisted with an elaborate bow. "But even so, the young lady
here will hardly contend, I think, that I acted entirely without
provocation!"

"Provocation?" questioned Jaffrey Bretton. With the faintest
perceptible frown blackening between his brows he turned to his
daughter. "Daphne," he said, "don't you know that you haven't
any business to enter a man's smoking-room?"

"But he wasn't smoking!" flared Daphne. "He was sleeping!"

"Well--a man's sleeping-room, then?" conceded her father.

"But I simply _had_ to have that newspaper!" [68] insisted Daphne.
"I tell you I won't have it flaunted all over the train! Brought into
the dining-car every meal! Flapped and rustled in my face--everywhere
I look! Oh, you think you're _funny_, do you?" she cried out
furiously as with one swift dart she snatched the offending page
from the stranger's unguarded grasp and tore it into shreds before
his eyes. "Oh, you think you're fu--fu--funny, do you?" she began
to babble hysterically.

"Yes--but Daphne," said her father with scarcely a lift to his
voice, "surely you don't imagine for a moment that you're
destroying the whole edition? It can't be done, you know. No one
yet has ever found a way to do it. Ten years hence from a
wayside hovel some well-meaning crone will hand you the page to
wrap your muddy rubbers in! Five thousand miles from here, on
the other side of the world, you'll open your top bureau drawer
to find it lined with your own immortal features! You just
simply have to get used to it, that's all. Laugh at it! Keep a
laugh always handy for just that thing!"

"_Laugh_?", flared Daphne. With a fresh [69] burst of fury she
tore the tattered page through and through again. "Well, I've
destroyed _this_ copy!" she triumphed. "No darkey porters or
smirking tourists will ever see _this_ copy! And maybe when I
get to Florida," she cried, "snakes will bite me! Or typhoons
shipwreck me! Or--or something happen so that I won't have to
come home again! But you, Old-Dad----" Tottering ever so
slightly where she stood all the hot anger in her eyes faded
suddenly into the vague, sinister bewilderment of a young mind
crowded dangerously near to the edge of its endurance. "You--you
see nobody knew I was bad until the College President said so,"
she explained painstakingly to no one in particular. "I didn't
even know it myself, I mean. _But my father_----" she rekindled
instantly. Like the rippling start of a young tiger just getting
ready to spring she swung around sharply on the stranger again.
"Surely you didn't think for a moment that it was just myself I
was thinking about in that wicked old paper?" she demanded
furiously of him. "For Heaven's sake, what earthly difference do
you think any such thing [70] can make to _me_ now? My life's over
and done with! But my father? The dreadful--malicious--flippant
things they said about my father!"

"O--h! So it was my honor, was it, that you were defending?"
asked her father a bit dryly.

As though she had not even heard the question, Daphne lifted her
flaming, defiant little face to the stranger's. "Why, my
Father's an _angel_!" she attested. "And he always was an
_angel_! And he always will be an _angel_!"

"In which case," interposed her father quite abruptly, "we had
better leave I think while the angeling is still good!" With a
touch that looked like the graze of a butterfly's wing and felt
like a lash of steel wires he curved his arm across her shoulder
and swept her from the smoking-room. Once outside the curtain
his directions were equally concise. "Trot along to your
drawing-room, Kiddie!" he ordered. "I'll join you presently."

As he swung back into the smoking-room he almost tripped across
the stranger's sprawling feet. Huddled in the corner with his [71]
face buried in his hands the stranger sat sobbing like a woman.

"You are drunker than I thought!" said Jaffrey Bretton.

"I am fully--that," admitted the stranger.

"And a rotter!" said Jaffrey Bretton.

"Oh, no end of a rotter!" conceded the stranger.

"And if I am not very much mistaken," mused Jaffrey Bretton, "you
are also the same man whom I noted--yesterday afternoon at the flower
booth in the railroad station--staring so unconscionably--not to
say offensively hard at my daughter?"

"I deny nothing!" hiccoughed the stranger. With an emotion that
would have done credit to a sober sorrow he lifted his stricken
face to his accuser. "And I don't mind at all that I'm drunk,"
he confided. "Nor--nor yet being the man who stared so--so hard
at your daughter. But--but _why_ am I such a rotter? Frankly now
as man to man how could I be such a rotter? That nice--nice
little girl! That----" With uncontrollable remorse he buried his
face in his hands again. [72]

"There are never but two reasons why a man pursues a woman,"
observed Bretton, "One because he respects her, and the other
because he doesn't. My daughter has, of course, been a little
unfortunate lately in achieving a certain amount of cheap
newspaper notoriety." In a perfectly even line of interrogation
his fine eyebrows lifted ever so slightly. "There was a woman
back there at the railroad station," he confided, as though in
sheer impulsiveness, "who rated my daughter indeed as being
'fast looking'. Now just about how 'fast looking' would you
consider her?"

From behind the cage of his fingers the young man's lips emitted
a most unhappy little groan.

"Why--why I should consider her," he mumbled, "just--just about
as 'fast looking' as a new-born babe!" But his rowdy eyes,
raking the older man's face, gathered no answering smile to
their humor. "N--n--o?" he rallied desperately. "N--o? On--on
further consideration I should say that that she wasn't _half_
as fast looking as a newborn babe! What? _Eh_?" he questioned [73]
worriedly. "Well not a hundredth part, then? Not a thousandth?
Not a--not a billionth? Oh, upon my soul," he sweated, "I can't
think what comes higher than billions!

"A 'billion' is plenty high enough," said Jaffrey Bretton. "But
such being the case--_why did you do it_?"

"Why did I do it?" mumbled the stranger.

"Why? Why----" Once again the rakish, confused young face
lifted, but this time at least a single illuminating conviction
transfigured its confusion. "Why--because she was so pretty!"

With a cigarette at his lips, a match poised halfway in mid-air,
Jaffrey Bretton's heels clicked together. Sharp as the crackle
of a trainer's whip his smile snapped into the situation.

"So you admit that she is pretty?" he asked quite tersely.

As though the question were a hook that fairly yanked him to his
feet the stranger struggled upward and crossed his limp arms on
his breast.

"She is--adorable!" he testified.

"And young?" urged Jaffrey Bretton. [74]

"Very young," acknowledged the stranger.

"And--spirited?" prodded Jaffrey Bretton. "Even tom-boyish
perhaps? And distinctly innocent?"

"Oh, perfectly spirited!" grinned the stranger a bit wanly.
"Ditto tom-boyish! And most essentially innocent!"

"So innocent," persisted Jaffrey Bretton. "So tom-boyish--so
spirited--so young--so pretty--that taken all in all the only
wonder is that--she wasn't expelled from college before."

"It is an absolute miracle!" brightened the stranger quite
precipitously.

With a shrug of his shoulders Jaffrey Bretton resumed the
lighting of his cigarette.

"The days--of miracles--are reputedly over," he confided very
casually between puffs. "But the natural phenomenon of a formal
apology is still occasionally observed, I believe, in the case
where either a very crude or a very cruel injustice has been
done."

With a click of his own heels the stranger added at least an
inch to his otherwise slouching height. [75]

"I apologize in all languages!" he hastened to affirm.

"'Jeg beklager at jeg har vaeret uhoflig.' That's it in Norwegian,
I believe! Now in Spanish----"

"What is just 'Plain Sorry?'" interrupted Jaffrey Bretton.

"_I am_!" cried the stranger. Like a sign post pointing "This
way to the Smile!" the faint white scar that slashed across his
face seemed to twitch suddenly towards the astonishing dimple in
his left cheek. Robbed for that single instant of its frowning,
furtive-eyed emphasis, his whole haggard young face assumed an
expression of extraordinary ingenuousness. "Certainly, you've been
awfully decent to me!" he smiled. "Thank you for being so--so
decent! But--but--whatever in the world _made_ you so decent?"
he began to waver ever so slightly. "Most fa--fathers you know,
would have knocked me down!"

"I--don't--knock--sick men down," said Jaffrey Bretton quite
simply.

"_Sick men_?" flared the stranger, all eyes again.

"But--some fathers--haven't such scruples," [76] confided Jaffrey
Bretton. With absolutely merciless scrutiny his eyes swept over
the swaying young figure before him--hollow temples, narrow
chest, twittering wrists, and all. "And if--I hadn't any longer
to live--than you evidently have," he added, without a flex of
accent, "I don't think I would squander any very large amount of
it in forcing tipsy kisses on young girls."

"_What would you do_?" asked the stranger quite surprisingly.

"God knows!" said Jaffrey Bretton. "But not that!"

"Yes--but _what_?" pleaded the stranger.

"Search--me!" shrugged Jaffrey Bretton. "That's the whole
trouble with 'whooping it up,'" he confided quite frankly.
"There's so blamed little to whoop! And it's so soon over! If
one only could believe now what the preachers have to say----"

"Preachers?" sniffed the stranger.

"It is, I admit, a sniffy idea," said Jaffrey Bretton, "but
undeniably--quaint! Being somewhat to the effect that the
pursuit of 'good works,' on the contrary, is an absolutely
inexhaustible amusement! Brand-new every [77] morning, I mean!
Just as original at night! A perfectly thrilling novelty--even
at noon! Heartache in it now and then perhaps but never any
headache! Atrophy of the pocket-book perhaps--but never atrophy
of the liver!"

"Never--any--headache?" contemplated the stranger. "Not even in
the morning, you mean?" Across his face a faint incredulous
smile twisted wryly like a twinge of pain. "Oh, now you're
joshing!" he said. "In all the world there never was any idea as
quaint as that!"

"Oh, nonsense!" snapped Jaffrey Bretton. "I've got an idea of my
own that's twice as quaint as that!"

"Such as what?" bridled the stranger.

Across the sweet-scented blur of a fresh cigarette the older
man's eyes narrowed suddenly to two mere glints of steel.

"I--I hated the way you kissed my little girl!" he said.

"Y--yes?" stammered the stranger.

"That youngster of mine is such a--little youngster," mused Jaffrey
Bretton perfectly evenly. "So totally inexperienced! So [78]
desperately affrighted and bewildered already with the untoward
happenings of the past week! Personally," he persisted, "I
want neither Prude nor Wanton in my family, but either one of
them--unfortunately--is made only too easily out of the same
sex-shock. In view of which case and under all existing
circumstances--you have made it considerably harder, I think,
for my little girl to reconstruct normal sex standards while
that particular kiss of yours remains the last one in her memory.
So I will thank you," said Jaffrey Bretton, "to accompany me now
to her drawing-room and show her as best you may how even a man
like you can kiss a woman 'Good-night' instead of 'Bad-night!'"

"_What_?" jumped the stranger.

Starkly for an instant he probed Jaffrey Bretton's unflinching
eyes. Then rubbing one hand for a single instant across his
clammy forehead he followed Jaffrey Bretton out through the
plushy green curtain into the aisle.

In the general joggle of the train it was comfortable for each
perhaps that the other's footsteps swayed no more, no less, than
his [79] own. Even outside Daphne's door the footing was none too
certain.

"Let us in!" cried Daphne's father quite peremptorily.

In a vague mist of rumpled gold hair and soft white negligee
Daphne opened the door and ushered the two men into her trig
little room.

Without a moment's delay Jaffrey Bretton sprung the question
that was already on his lips. "Daphne--have you ever been kissed
very much?"

Above the cruel shadows that underlined the lovely young eyes,
the eyes themselves widened still with blank astonishment of a
little girl. But the white teeth that gleamed so brightly in the
half-light were caught for the first time in their lives across
the crimson line of an over-conscious under lip.

"I said,'Were you ever kissed very much?'" repeated her father
a bit tersely.

It was the big, blue, bewildered child's eyes that proved the
truth of the red lips answer.

"Why--why once," stammered Daphne perplexedly. "Why once on a
boat--when I was a little girl--and--and lost my doll [80]
overboard--an--an old lady jumped up and kissed me. Oughtn't
she to have?" Heavy with bewilderment only the blue eyes lifted
to the stranger's face, winced darkly away again behind their
shadowy lashes, and opened wide once more to her father's strangely
inscrutable smile.

"Yes--but man-kisses?" probed her father quite mercilessly.
"You--you are engaged to be married?"

"I--I _was_ engaged to be married," corrected Daphne. It was the
red lips that did all the answering now. "If you mean----"
curled the red lips, "if you mean----" Startlingly just above
her delicate cheek-bones two spots of red flared suddenly.
"It--it just never happened--somehow," she whispered. "Maybe--people
don't kiss much before they're married." Into the blue eyes
suddenly welled a great blur of tears. "It just--never
happened--that's all," quivered the red lips. Quick as a bolt the
white teeth shot across the quiver. "Thank God it never happened!"
cried the red lips. "I loathe men! I despise them! I----"

"This--this gentleman," said Jaffrey Bretton, [81] quite abruptly,
"has come to kiss you 'Good-night!'----"

"_What_?" screamed Daphne. Reeling back against the dark
wainscoting she stood there before them with a single slender
hand creeping out of its white sleeve towards her throat.

"Oh, I admit," said her father, "that it will not be just the
kiss that the old lady gave you when your doll was drowned. Nor
yet the kiss that your English Professor was doubtless planning
to give you some time. But as kisses go--you will find no fault
with it--I am quite sure."

"Why--why, Old-Dad!" gasped Daphne.

Flaming with protest, paling with revulsion, she lifted her
stricken eyes to the stranger only to find that his own face was
quite as stricken as hers.

Ashy-gray where his flush had been, faintly green around his
insolent young nostrils, his eyes seemed fairly begging for
mercy. Then quite suddenly he gave a queer, strained little
smile, sank down on one knee like a hero in a Play, and picking
up the hem of her gown pressed his lips solemnly to it. [82]

"You little--funny--furious--Baby," he began, twitched his queer
smile again, and crumpled up at her feet! "Call my man--quick!"
he mumbled thickly. "Next car--somewhere. Good-night! _Good-night!_"

But it was not a good night even so! Even what was left of the
night was not good! Even after the brief commotion was over and
the young stranger had been carried off more or less stumblingly
to his own quarters in the hands of a most efficient and formidable
valet, Daphne found her car only too frankly a sleepless car. Curling
up just as she was in her easiest window-corner with all her pillows
crushed behind her back, her knees hunched to her chin in the clasp
of her slim white arms, she sat wide-eyed and feverish watching the
cindery-smelling Southland go rushing darkly by to meet the North.
Long forgotten incidents of her littlest childhood flared hectically
back to her! Optical impressions so recent that they had scarcely
yet reported to her consciousness seared like flame across her
senses! The funny, furry scallop of her first kitten's ear, the
jingling tune of a Christmas Cantata, the quite [83] irrelevant weave
of the gray silk tie her English professor had worn at his last
lecture, the queer white scar that slashed the tipsy stranger's
face, some turquoise-colored dishes she had seen once in a
shop-window, the crackling rhyme-words "faster"--"disaster" of
a new poem she had just planned to write, the horrid crushed
feeling of her nose when that Wiltoner boy had caught her so roughly
to his breast, white narcissus and scarlet tulips bunched together
somewhere in a jet-black basket, and--and always that queer white scar
that slashed the tipsy stranger's face! Clacketty-clack-clack-clack
of wheels and brakes, rhythm and rumble, rapture of speed,
stark-eyed sleeplessness, a Railroad Night! Murky blackness
spangled with hamlet lights! Interminable miles of wraith-like
fog! A night-heron winging his homeward way suddenly across a
bizarre sky striped like a Japanese fan! The faint, sweet,
unbelievable scent of orange blossoms! And then the Florida Dawn!

It was the dawn that crept so inquisitively to the hem of Daphne's
gown.

With her lovely tousled head cocked ever [84] so slightly to one
side Daphne's glance followed the dawn's. Between her perfect
eyebrows a curious little frown puckered suddenly. With a quick,
raspy catch of her breath she jumped from her couch and bolted
for her father's compartment. Digging her fingers quite
unceremoniously into his gay-colored flannel shoulders she
roused him from his dreams.

"Old-Dad!" she cried, "I can't sleep!"

"Very few people can," growled her father. "So why fuss about it?"

"Yes--but Old-Dad!" persisted the girl. Her teeth were chattering
and from hand to feet a dreadful convulsive chill seemed to be
racking her suddenly.

"For Heaven's sake, what's the matter?" cried her father.

"It's that--kiss!" quivered Daphne.

"Oh, shucks!" relaxed her father. "Forget it! It was a bit rough,
I know! But remember--you had no right--at all--to go foraging
into a tipsy man's smoking-room!"

"Smoking-room?" gasped Daphne. "Why--why I'd forgotten all about
_that_! The--the kiss, I mean----" her eyes were wide [85] with
horror, "the kiss, I mean----" White as a ghost suddenly she lifted
to her father's eyes the filmy hem of her gown where in two faint
crimson splashes across one corner a man had stenciled the bow of
his lips with his own life-blood.

"The _deuce_!" cried her father, and jumping into his wrapper rang
precipitously for the porter.

"The young man who was--who was sick last night the one that had
the hemorrhage--what about him?" he demanded of the first white-coated
Darky who came running.

"Is--is he dead?" whispered Daphne.

"The young man what had the hemorrhage," confided the Darky, "he done
gone leap from the train."

"What?" cried Jaffrey Bretton.

Enraptured by the excitement the Darky ripped his somber face in a
white grin from ear to ear.

"He sure did, Sah!" he attested genially. "Back thar jes' as we
was leavin' the water tank it was! More'n an hour back I reckon!"
With a sudden elongation of his grin that threatened to separate
the whole upper part [86] of his face from the lower he rallied
himself for his real news. "Was you by any chance, sah," he
grinned, "the gentleman what owned the cat-hound in the baggage car?"

"Cat-hound?" flared Jaffrey Bretton. "I've got a thousand-dollar
slate-colored hound in the baggage car if that's what you mean?"

"You ain't done got him now," regretted the Darky. "It was him
that jumps off first at the water tank. The cat was yeller. One
of them sort of swamp cats that----"

With a cry of real dismay Jaffrey Bretton pushed the Darky aside
and started for the door.

"'Twon't do you no good now, sah," protested the Darky. "It was
more'n an hour ago I reckon and the Captain of this 'ere train
he don't stop nothing for no dog."

"No, of course not!" cried Jaffrey Bretton, "But we've got to do
something! The swamp country----"

"Yes, sah, that's the trouble with these 'ere hound-dogs,"
reflected the Darky. "They runs till they busts. And when they
busts they bogs down. And jes' as soon as they bogs [87] down Mr.
Alligator or Mr. Little Ole Mocassin snake he----It was when the
young gentleman sees the swamp that he jumps. Tell the folks not
to worry, he hollers. Tell 'em this little ole good works
'speriment am only just begun! Was _you_ his folks?" brightened
the Darky.

"No!" flared Daphne.

"Yes!" said Jaffrey Bretton. "Go get me a telegraph blank
quick!" he ordered. "Find out what the last station back was!
And the next one ahead!"

Expeditiously the Darky plunged through the door, then swung
back for one more sentence.

"There was some gentlemens down here las' year what lost their
hound-dog. Jes' two hours it was and when they foun' him he was
all buzzard-et."

"Hush your mouth!" said Jaffrey Bretton.

"But, Old-Dad," shivered Daphne, "what about the--the man?"

"Men can look after themselves!" frowned her father, "and if
they can't, maybe they'll get another chance, who knows? But a
dog, poor little lover. All that dumb quivering [88] miracle of
love, trust, shrewdness, sinew, silk. If _he_ doesn't get the chance
to live out the measure of even his stingy little day----"

"Yes, but Old-Dad," reasoned Daphne, "it was Creep-Mouse's own
idea wasn't it--this jumping off to chase the cat?"

"Hush _your_ mouth!" said Jaffrey Bretton. To cover the very real
emotion that hid behind the irritability he began at once with
the stub of a pencil and the back of an envelope to compose a
telegram for the stranger.

"Thanks," he wrote. "Please communicate any news to J. Bretton,
Hotel-------"

Then quite abruptly he jumped up and started after the porter.
"Why, what an idiot I am!" he called back from the door way. "We
don't even know the chap's name!"

From under lashes that seemed extraordinarily heavy to lift
Daphne glanced up a bit askance at her father.

"His name is Sheridan Kaire," she said.

Swinging sharply round in his tracks her father stood eyeing her
with frank astonishment. [89]

"Well, I'd like to know," he demanded, "how _you_ happen to know
what his name is?"

"He--he sent me his card," said Daphne. This time her eyelashes
were quite unmistakably too heavy to lift. "At the hotel, I
mean," she faltered, "three or four nights ago. He sent me
orchids. He sent me candy. He sent me----"

"Do you mean," said her father, "that this man has been following
you for days?"

"Yes," said Daphne.

"And--and what did you do with these--these offerings?" asked
her father.

"Why, I didn't know just what to do with them," stammered
Daphne. "I was so frightened--I--I gave them to the bell boy."

"Do you mind telling me," quickened her father, "just why if you
were frightened or troubled you wouldn't call upon your most
natural protector?"

Like the fluffy edges of two feather fans Daphne's lashes
fringed on her cheeks.

"This father and daughter game is such a new one to me," she
said. "I've lived so much with boarding school girls--I--I
didn't know fathers were people you told things to, I [90] thought
they were people that you kept things from!" Very faintly around
the tremulous young mouth, very briefly behind the dark lashes a
little smile signaled.

"Take off that gown!" ordered her father quite abruptly, "and
wrap yourself up in that big coat of mine! And wait here till I
come back!"

"What time is it?" shivered Daphne.

"Four o'clock," said her father and was gone.

When he reappeared ten minutes later with a yellow envelope
flapping in his hand Daphne was still standing just where he had
left her though obediently bundled up now in the big tweed coat.

"We are all idiots!" affirmed her father. "Everybody on the
train is an idiot! Here's this message been stuck up in the
dining car since nine o'clock last night and no one had wit
enough to find us!"

"Is it from--Creep-Mouse?" brightened Daphne.

"Silly!" cried her father. "Creep-Mouse didn't jump off till
after midnight! This is for you!" [91]

"For--me?" questioned Daphne. With incredulous fingers she took
the yellow envelope and slit it end from end.

"Why, it's from John," she whispered. "John Burnarde--Mr. John
Burnarde." Swaying a little where she stood she bent her bright
head to the message. Then white once more to the lips she handed
the page to her father.

"Read it to me yourself," said her father. "You know the man's
accents and emphases better than I do and it won't make any
sense to me unless I can hear the man's voice in it."

Once again the bright head bent to the page.

"To Miss Daphne Bretton," began the young voice as one quotes
some precious-memoried phrase. "While your blessed letter
completely relieves mind it cannot unfortunately relieve certain
distressing complications of----" As though breaking its way
through lips turned suddenly to ice the sweet enunciation began
quite palpably to crisp around the edges of its words. "Certain
distressing complications of this most unhappy situation.
Forwarding to you all love and confidence am yet tied hand and
foot against immediate action. Letter follows.

"T. D." [92]

"Which being interpreted?" questioned her father.

"Which being interpreted," rallied Daphne, "is academic for
nothing doing.----"

"U--m--m," mused her father, "and what does 'T. D.' stand for?"

"'Teacher-Dear,'" flushed Daphne. "It was just a sort of a joke
between us. I never somehow quite got round to calling him 'John.'"

As though lost in the most abstract reflection Jaffrey Bretton
cocked his head on one side.

"It's a good telegram," he said.

"Oh, a perfectly good telegram," acquiesced Daphne. With a
curiously old gesture of finality she turned aside.

"So in this fashion ends passion," she murmured.

"What do you know about passion?" quizzed her father.

"It rhymes with 'fashion,'" said Daphne.

For an instant only from blue eyes to black eyes and black eyes
to blue again the baffling, sphynxlike mystery of youth defied
the baffling, sphynxlike mystery of experience. [93] Then quite
abruptly her father reached out and cupped the little white
quivering chin in the hollow of his hand.

"What did you _think_ your lover would do, Daphne?" he smiled.
"Tear down the college chapel? Set fire to the gymnasium? Cast
all the faculty into dungeons--and come riding forth to claim
you on a coal black charger decked with crimson trappings?"

"No, of course not," said Daphne. "Only----"

"Yes, that's just it," hurried her father. "'Only' boys do
things like that! Only first-love, the young, wild free-lance
peddler ready and able any moment, God bless him, to dump down
his whole tip-cartful of trinkets at the feet of the first
lady-fair who meets his fancy! But a _grown man_, Daphne, is a
corporation! No end of other people's investments tied up with
him! No end of rules and obligations encompassing him about!
Truly, little girl, there are mighty few grown men who could
proffer honorable succor even to their belovedest on such short
notice. Truly, little girl, taken all in all, I think your John
is doing pretty well. [94] Maybe for all you know your John owes
money!"

"He does," nodded Daphne. "There were some queer old editions of
something he persuaded the college to buy last year. They turned
out not to be genuine or something and John feels he ought to
refund on it."

"And maybe there's an old father somewhere?"

"It's an old mother," quivered Daphne.

"And maybe the college president herself didn't make things any
too easy for him!"

"Miss Merriwayne's crazy about him," quickened Daphne. "All the
girls say so! Everybody----"

"U--m--m," mused her father. "Well, I think you'll hear from him
again!"

"Yes, I think I'll hear from him again," monotoned Daphne. Quite
suddenly her teeth began to chatter and the eyes that lifted to
his were like the eyes of a frightened fawn.

"I feel so little," she whispered. "Even in this big coat I feel so
little--and so cold! I never sat in anybody's lap," she stammered
desperately, "and--and as long as you didn't like my--my
mother I don't suppose you've [95] ever held anybody in yours. But
perhaps--maybe----" With a little smothered cry her hands crept
up to her father's shoulders. "Oh, if you just could hold me
till breakfast time!" she begged, "or just till the coffee's
ready."

Flushing like an embarrassed school-boy her father caught her up
in his arms and sank back into the narrow angular corner of plush
and wood with the little unfamiliar form snuggled close on his breast.

"Why--why, you don't weigh anything!" he faltered.

"No, I'm not as fat as I was last week," conceded Daphne. Like a
puppy dog settling down for a nap she stirred once or twice in
her nest. "Do you think of any little song you could sing?" she
asked.

"Nothing except:

     'Fifteen men on a dead man's chest--
     Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!----'"

began her father in a cheerful tenor.

"No, I wouldn't care for that," sighed Daphne. [96]

"Why, it's from Stevenson himself!" argued her father.

"Never mind," snuggled Daphne. "Maybe I can think of one myself."

Peering down a moment later through the bright tickly blur of
her hair her father noticed suddenly that her lips were moving.

"Oh, you're not praying, are you?" he squirmed. "Oh, I do hope
you're not one of those people who makes his spiritual toilet in
public! Dear me! Dear me! To brush your soul night and morning
is no more, of course, than any neat person would do. But in
public----"

"I wasn't praying," said Daphne. "I was making a little poem."

"You seem to be rather prone to make little poems," murmured her
father.

"Would you like to hear this one?" offered Daphne.

"Oh, I don't mind," said her father.

"All right," quivered Daphne. "It's about Love."

"So I supposed," mused her father.

"And death," confided Daphne. [97]

"I wouldn't wonder at all," admitted her father.

"And its name?" puzzled Daphne. "Oh, I guess it hasn't any name!
It just begins! This is it:

     'Oh, the little rose that died,
     How it tried, oh, how it tried
     Just to grow a little stronger,
     Just to live a little longer,
     Snatching sunshine, sipping rain
     Till the June should come again!
     Didn't want to be a tree,
     Didn't envy you or me,
     Asked no favor ere life's close
     But the chance to be a rose,
     Oh, that little rose that died,
     How it tried! Oh, how it tried!----'"

"U--m--m," mused her father. "But I thought you said it was about
'Love.' This is all about 'roses.'"

"But it _is_ about 'Love!'" flared Daphne. "The rose part is
just--just figurative! You have to do that in poetry! Make most
everything figurative, or else it wouldn't be--be delicate."
Quite palpably her upper lip began to tremble. "Why, didn't you
like it?" [98] she whispered. "Didn't you like it at all, I mean?"

"Oh, yes," hurried her father, "I liked it very much, oh very!
Though personally on these crape-y poems I must confess I like
some jolly refrain added like 'Yo-ho and a bottle of rum!----'"

"Why--Old-Dad!" gasped Daphne. Sitting bolt upright, her cheeks
blazing, she stared aghast at him.

"Oh, of course, you've never been in love!" she cried. "But I
tell you when you're sitting all alone with your love-secret in
a whole recitation roomful of girls and--and _he_ comes in--so
lithe--so beautiful--and smiles through everybody--right at
you--and--and then begins to read--it's Shakespeare, you know

     'How like a winter hath my absence been
     From Thee----'

Oh, Old-Dad, if you could only hear him read!"

Before the sudden twinkle in her father's eyes she reverted
equally suddenly into sheer [99] childishness again and began to
pound him quite familiarly with her small fists.

"Oh, you're just teasing me!" she laughed. "You naughty,
naughty--Old-Dad! Oh, very well then, here's another poem for
you! You'll love this one! I made it up last night It's all
about you!"

"Shoot!" said her father.

Re-dramatized in that single instant to the role of a poet she
straightened up very formally. Back to her breast crept the
quivering little hands. Her eyes were blurred with tears. "The
name of this poem," she said, "is 'The Word that God Forgot to
Make.' But if that's too long I could, of course, call it just
'The Miracle.' See what you think.

     'Out of panic and pain, out of unspeakable disaster,
     (Oh rhyme, oh rune, oh rhythm itself, come faster, come faster!)
     Out of all this I say
     Fate has found me my father!
     But where? Where? In earth or air?
     From sky to sea? From you to me?
     Where shall I find a rhyme for "father"?
     I whose only speech is rhyme, I who have so little time.
     How can I in other ways sound my Daddy's glorious praise?
     Beauty, Splendor, Brains, Perfection----'" [100]

"Oh, I say!" wriggled her father. "Is that all?"

Wilting down on his breast again he heard her swallow pretty
hard several times before her muffled answer came.

"It's--it's all," she said, "except, of course, the refrain 'Yo-ho,'
etc."

Chuckling softly to himself for a moment her father sat staring
off across the crown of her head at the shifting car-window
landscape of orange groves, palm trees, and pine.

"Couldn't you pat me a little?" came the sweet, muffled voice
again.

"I darsn't," said her father. "If I should unclasp a single hand
you'd go bumpety-bump on the floor."

"O--h," sighed Daphne, "but couldn't you even--pat me with your
voice?"

"'Pat you with my voice?'" puzzled her father. With a quiver of
muscles his strong arms tightened round her. "Why, you poor
baby," he cried, "you poor lonesome little kiddie! You----"

"Why does everybody think I'm so little?" protested Daphne. With
considerable effort she struggled up again, "You--and John [101]
Burnarde--and the--and the Kissing Man! Every one of you called
me 'a baby.' But that Wiltoner boy--at the dance that night,"
she faltered, "he treated me as though I was quite grown up and
real. Right in the midst of a dance it was he asked me about
bread machines. Asked my advice about bread machines, I mean!
And I loved it!"

"Did you ever see a bread machine?" quizzed her father.

"N--o," admitted Daphne, "but it sounds so real! But what I want
to know," she hurried on quite irrelevantly, "is about this
place--this wild, desert-islandy sort of place that we're going
to. Will that seem _real_?"

"Very real," promised her father.

"Tents?" questioned Daphne.

"Yes," said her father.

"What will there be to eat?" brightened Daphne.

"Oh, canned goods," shrugged her father, "and warm oranges and
grape-fruit, and heaps of salt pork, of course, and all the
fresh fish we have strength to land--Spanish mackerel, sea
trout, sharks."

"Not sharks?" thrilled Daphne. [102]

"Ah, of course, we don't have to eat them," confessed her father.

"And people?" wilted Daphne again. "Will there have to be people?"

"Oh, only four or five probably," laughed her father, "and even those
usually are scattered twenty-five or fifty miles apart. Oh, of course,
now and then," he admitted in all honesty, "some gay Northern
houseboat comes floating by. But mostly--somehow, all that part of
the land, or rather of the water, seems inhabited by people who have
made mistakes--made real mistakes, I mean--argued not wisely but
too well with their mothers-in-law, or overdrawn their bank accounts
with the butt of a pistol rather than with the point of a pen, or
had a bit of 'rough play' somewhere upstate with an over-sensitive
sheriff. We're going to have, for instance, a 'Lost Man' for a
cook. Nice distinguished looking old city-spoken derelict who can't
remember who he is, so most happily for him he can't remember what
_his_ mistake was. And on the next key just below us, twenty miles
or so, there's an outlaw who killed two revenue officers 'up North in
Alabama' [103] somewhere. And inland just behind us there's a rather
good-looking woman who's gone batty on the subject of red. Can't
bear red, it seems, and has come down there to wallow her nerves
in the all-green jungle."

Big and dark and blue, Daphne widened her eyes to her father's.

"You're not fooling _any_, Old-Dad?" she asked.

"Not fooling any," said her father.

Blackly for an instant the heavy lashes shadowed down across the
delicately tinted cheeks. Then quite abruptly a real smile
flashed from eyes to lips.

"Oh, Old-Dad!" cried Daphne. "_Would_ you mind if I touched
your--beautiful hair?"

"Oh, shucks!" dodged her father.

But Daphne's little hands had already reached their goal.

"Oh, Old-Dad--how soft!" she gloated. "How white! How _thick_!
But, oh goodness--isn't it _hot_?"

"On the contrary," smiled her father with a slightly twisted
eyebrow. "On the contrary--it is an Ice Cap prescribed by Fate
for [104] what has doubtless been an over-feverish youth."

Solemnly for an instant Daphne considered the answer.

"Which being interpreted?" she questioned.

With a little sharp catch of his breath her father caught her
suddenly back to his breast.

"Which being interpreted," he laughed, "means:

     'Didn't want to be a freak,
     Had no hunch to sing or speak,
     Couldn't be clever if he tried,
     So have it dyed! _Oh_, have it dyed!----'" [105]

PART II [106]

I [107]

"EVERY man, once in his lifetime," gloated Jaffrey Bretton, "has
craved the adventurous experience of being marooned on a coral
island with a beautiful lady!"

From eyes that brooded only too soberly on the bright tropic
scene all around her, Daphne shot back a faintly amused and
frankly deprecatory smile.

"Oh, of course I meant an unrelated 'beautiful lady,'" murmured
her father.

As swiftly as it had come the faint smile vanished again.

Shrugging the hot salt and sand from his blue-jersied shoulders
her father gathered his bare brown knees into the curve of his
bare brown arms and surveyed her suddenly with a most ferocious
frown.

"Daphne," he ordered, "never inhale your smile! Nicotine itself
is no more injurious to one's 'in'ards than is an inhaled smile." [108]
With a sweep of the hand he seemed in that single moment to
include the whole shining universe in the measure of his reproach.
"Even with all--this," he demanded, "can't you be happy--_any_?"

Certainly no one could have denied that it was a shining universe!

Like a cake of white soap splashing in a pan of bluing, the
little island gleamed in the Gulf! Whiteness beyond your wildest
dreams of whiteness! Blueness beyond your wildest dreams of
blueness! Pearl, azure, indigo, turquoise, ultramarine--all
sizzling together in the merciless sun!

Green there was too, of course--the vivid, clattering green of
majestic cocoanut palms, the virescent flare of beech-grass, the
crisp fan of scrub palmetto, and always the great, glossy
mangrove trees rearing like giant laurel bushes in the dark,
dustless splendor. But green in the Gulf, somehow, always seems
like man's idea, or woman's--a sheer after-thought, as it were,
of shade or trimmings. All the blue gulf wants is glare--and
the eternal chance to grind pale rain bow-tinted shells into
white sand! [109]

Cuddled to the white sand but hiding from the glare, Jaffrey
Bretton lolled in the pale shadow of an old wreck, staring out
into the radiance. Half a rod away from him in a slim blue
swimming suit that exactly matched his own, Daphne lay basking
in her own sand nest.

Nothing else on land or sea dozed or dallied because of the heat.

"Slam--Bang--_Bang_" for a glistening mile the big billows
boomed and roared on the beach. Fantastic as a shadow with a
shine to it, the gray sharks slashed and reslashed through the
churning tide! High overhead in inestimable thousands white
gulls furled and feathered in ecstatic maneuver! Far on the
outer reef bright Spanish mackerel leaped in the sun! And
startlingly outlined across the horizon, as though in deliberate
mockery of all man's futile efforts to walk on the water, a
gigantic kite-shaped whipperee went reeling tipsily from wave to
wave!

With a gasp of almost pagan joy Jaffrey Bretton repeated his question.

"Even with all this," he insisted, "can't you be happy--any?" [110]

"Oh, Old-Dad," shivered Daphne, "you know just as well as I do
that I would be perfectly happy if only I could forget!"

"Forget what?" said her father.

"Forget the hideous thing the President called me!" quivered Daphne.
"Forget that--that awful letter my room-mate's mother wrote me! . . .
Forget the newspapers! . . . Forget--forget--_everything_!"

With a shrug of his shoulders, Jaffrey Bretton gestured back to
the camp fire at the edge of the cactus thicket where, crouched
before the fragrant coffee pot in a scarecrow suit of gay-colored
ginghams, a weirdly majestic looking old man with long scraggly
hair and sharply aquiline features added the one tragic note to
the scene.

"Lost Man has--'forgotten everything,'" he confided, a bit dryly.

"Forgotten everything?" repeated Daphne.

"Everything except how to make coffee," said her father, "or fry
a bit of fish now and then! Forgotten who he is, I mean! Forgotten
who he was! Forgotten even who he intends to be! That's rather the
trouble, it seems, with this forgetting business! When [111] you
once start out to 'forget' there doesn't seem to be any special
discrimination about it! Your father's name, the location of
your banker, the price of turnips, the esthetic value of brushing
your hair all wiped out of existence by a single slop of the same
sponge!"

"Yes, but Old-Dad----" parried Daphne.

With a smile that was almost caressing her father narrowed his
gaze once more to the tragic old figure.

"Hanged if I don't think the old chap would die for me!" he
attested. "But nothing on earth, it seems, could make him
remember me! Seventy years old and seventy miles from a fish
hook and seventy times battier than batty! That's the way I
found him five or six years ago!"

"Yes, but where did you find him?" wakened Daphne. "How ever did
you happen to find him?"

"Well, if the truth must be told," said her father, "I was
hunting rather zealously at the moment for a pink curlew. It is
against the law, I believe, to be hunting overzealously for a
pink curlew. Way up one of those tortuous green waterways it
was! An absolute [112] maze of mangrove islands! No conceivable
footing, you understand, except that great bare fretwork of
mangrove roots clawing down into the water! And every separate
way you stared was just another dank green tunnel! Glossy leaves
slapping along the sides of your canoe, dove-gray curlews
blocking out the sky, alligators guzzling in every slimy bog
hole! Had a little chunk of dry land, the old chap did, just
about the size and substantiality of a crumpled-up newspaper,
and a wigwam thatched like a cannibal hut with palm leaf fans!
And there he lay in the damp and the heat and the buzz, too weak
any longer to raise his head, but swearing like a trooper
because in some inexplicable way he had missed the trading boat
that chugged along his coast line every three months or so. For
days and days, I suppose, he had rowed laboriously down to the
mouth of the pass and leaned on his oars from dawn to dusk
raking that blue horizon line for rice and 'white bacon' and
coffee and matches and--life. It wasn't just that he was fastidious,
you know! Raw curlew or raw jewfish would have tasted like pudding
to him by then! [113] But something seemed to have happened to his
shotgun and his last fish hook--rot, I suppose. Anyway, from
grass floor to peak of that rattling palm-leaf hut there wasn't
a single thing left but damp and heat and buzz! Yet somewhere
up in the North, I suppose, or the East or the West, there's a
baffled little family group still arguing round the evening lamp
or over the morning porridge: 'Whatever in the world became of
Father?' Wrecked by a typhoon or a bank defalcation, swerved from
some perfectly sober path by the phantasia of a headache powder,
driven to frenzy by the pattern of his dining-room wall paper
'Whatever in the world became of Father?'"

"Well, whatever did?" quickened Daphne.

"Oh, we chucked him into our canoe," said Jaffrey Bretton, "and
took him back to the yacht, and from the yacht in due time to this
same little coral island. And every quarter now, when the trading
boat skirts the coast, it rather plans, I think, to throw a box of
fodder ashore at the entrance to Lost Man's pass--whether Lost Man
himself is in sight or not. And usually in the winter when I [114]
come down I send a Seminole Indian back into that mad green maze
to find him. No one but an Indian could find him, I imagine. And
always, without the slightest question or demur, Lost Man comes and
cooks for me. Yet never once, I think, has he shown a flicker of
recognition beyond staring up bewilderedly through every first brew
of camp coffee to inquire, 'Say, boss,--have--I--ever--cooked for
you before?'"

"Oh, but Old-Dad!" cried Daphne. "Don't you think we ought to
try and take him home?"

"Home to what?" frowned her father. With a sudden glance of a
lover his eyes reswept the turquoise-colored tide. "Wouldn't any
man," he questioned, "rather die on the Spanish Main--than live
in an asylum? Also, incidentally," he murmured, "when a man has
once formed the Seminole Indian sort of habit of living in a gay
gingham jumper with or without trousers he doesn't slip over-easily,
you understand, into linen collars again."

"Yes, but what about his family?" protested [115] Daphne, "and the
awful tragedy of being lost?"

"God knows!" said her father. "But the awful tragedy of being
lost is considerably less sometimes, I fancy, than the awful
tragedy of being found! Every human catastrophe makes a lot of
new problems of course--but it cancels, I imagine, just as many
old ones. By land or sea there never was any smash-up yet, I
suppose, that didn't release some poor soul with the cry, 'Now,
I'll never have to tell! Now, they'll never need to know! Now,
we'll never have to pay!' People who wondered how they could
meet the coming day just didn't have to, that's all! And lads
like our old friend here, Kiddie, are pretty apt to represent
somebody's canceled problem. And anyway" (for comedy instead of
tragedy he restaged his whole face suddenly by the shift of a
single eyebrow), "and anyway, Kiddie," he laughed, "it must
simplify life pretty considerably to forget everything in it
except how to cook the one thing you like best! In your own case,
for instance, what will you choose? Guava jelly? Or fudge?" [116]

"Guava jelly and fudge _nothing_!" flared Daphne. In another
instant she was on her feet and speeding toward Lost Man.

"Whatever you do--don't start him swearing!" shouted her father.
"Truly, I couldn't advise it!"

But heedless of everything except the intolerable mystery,
Daphne was already at the camp fire poised like a slim wand of
blue larkspur over the old man's crouching hulk.

"Must at least have been a Northerner once!" called her father,
"or he'd never stand the shock of that bathing suit!"

Shrugging the raillery aside Daphne clutched out with desperate
intensity at the old man's multicolored shoulder.

"Lost Man!" she flamed, "it's perfectly absurd for you to
remember a silly little thing like how to make coffee and forget
a great big important one like who you are! It doesn't make
sense, I tell you? You must remember who you are! You must! You
_must_! Lost Man, what is your name?"

"'Lost Man,'" answered the old chap, as though it had been
Smith. [117]

"Yes, but where do you live?" cried Daphne.

"Here," said Lost Man.

"Yes, but after you leave here where do you go?" persisted Daphne.

"There," said Lost Man.

With a little wail of despair Daphne pointed back toward her father.

"What is that man's name?" she demanded.

"It doesn't matter," said Lost Man. "He has such a good face."

"Yes, but what's my name?" giggled Daphne.

As though just a little bit wearied by the catechism Lost Man resumed
his coffee drinking.

"Everything is all the same," he said.

"But I tell you I won't be an 'All the Same!'" cried Daphne. "My name
is Daphne! D-a-p-h-n-e! _Daphne_! Remember it now!" she admonished
him. "You've simply got to remember something! . . . Daphne! Daphne!
Daphne!"

With a curious little chuckle and a sudden cock of his head as
though trying to locate the source of so unfamiliar a sound,
Lost Man [118] reached out for the great long-handled camp spider
and began quite unexpectedly to thrum it like a banjo, as, shaking
his shaggy mane out of his eyes, he burst into song:

     "Diaphenia, like a daffadown dilly,
     White as the sun, fair as the lily,
     Heigho--Heigho----"

With a tiny scream Daphne swung back to ward her father.

"Why, Old-Dad!" she cried. "He's calling me 'Diaphenia'! It's an
old, old song! Oh, an awfully old, old English song! It's in the
Golden Treasury! You learn it in college! You never in the world
would know it if you hadn't been to college!"

"Well, switch him back to the swearing if you'd like it better!"
called her father. But already, with a leap and a run, he was on
his way to prove the phenomenon with his own ears and eyes.

Quaveringly, but with determinate gallantry, Lost Man's guttural
old voice carried the tuneful memory.

     "Diaphenia like to all things blessed,
     When all thy praises are expressed,
     Heigh-o--Heigh-o." [119]

The scream that Daphne gave now scared even Lost Man out of his
next line.

"Oh, I've thought of something perfectly wonderful!" she cried,
and speeding into her tent returned with a large shining mirror
clasped close in her arms. "Oh, you thought I was silly to bring
it!" she admonished her father, "but maybe I wasn't so silly,
after all! Maybe I'm going to work a miracle with it! Maybe this
is the psychological moment!" Still with the mirrored surface
gleaming from her like a bright breastplate she advanced slowly
toward Lost Man till every inch of the quicksilver had taken its
merciless toll of the scarecrow figure before it. "Now, Lost
Man!" she triumphed, "look close! Look close! . . . _Who are
you_?"

As indifferently as an animal Lost Man gazed into the mirror for an
instant. Then, quite suddenly, with his neck yanked oddly forward,
he stared direct into the reflection and staggered to his feet. Dumb
with some inexplicable emotion he stood staring for a breathless
moment from Jaffrey Bretton's utterly expressionless face to Daphne's
excited eyes. Then, very deliberately the tip [120] of his tongue crept
out to moisten his sun-parched lips.

"Do I look like _that_?" he pointed.

"Yes, I'm afraid you do," admitted Daphne in all honesty.

With a gasp like the gasp of a person strangling, Lost Man
raised his arms to heaven. "My God! My God!" he cried, "I
thought I was _young_!" And swinging sharply around he ran madly
down the white beach into the white surf and out through the
white surf into the blue churn and chop beyond, as though the
horizon line itself was his ultimate goal. Outward through the
indigo depths in long, slow, fiercely powerful strokes,
floundering half erect through azure-colored shoals, merging for
interminable seconds with the wild eddy and roar of far outlying
breakers, silhouetted for one brief fantastic moment standing
ankle-deep on the crest of a hidden sand bar with white gulls
circling in a living halo around his head he passed, half
whipperee, half miracle-man--into the unfathomable glare.

"Oh, Old-Dad!" gasped Daphne, "won't he be drowned?" [121]

More shaken than he liked to show, Jaffrey Bretton stooped for
an instant to brush a tickle of imaginary sand from his instep.

"Not in a thousand years," he said, "but at least he will
be--washed."

At some unfamiliar timbre of the voice Daphne crept timidly to
him.

"Oh, Old-Dad," she faltered, "you don't really suppose, do you,
that he's been lost ever since he was--young?"

"God knows," said Jaffrey Bretton. "Only, next time you have a
wonderful idea, Kiddie,--keep it muzzled for a day or two until
you make sure it won't bite."

"Oh, but Old-Dad!" quivered Daphne, "I--I didn't mean to hurt
him! Truly, I didn't! I----"

"You didn't hurt him," said her father. "Like all merciful
executions, he never knew what hit him!" With a gesture frankly
rompish he reached out and grabbed Daphne by her wrist. "Come
on, Kiddie!" he challenged, "let's have a race up the beach!"

By the time the race was over there wasn't enough breath left in
either of them to talk about anything. Merged in the sand again,
[122] scorched by the sun, fanned by a great clattery clump of scrub
palmetto, they curled up in half a shadow and fell asleep.

It was Jaffrey Bretton who woke first.

"Poor--devil," was the first phrase on his lips.

"Who?" yawned Daphne.

"I!" said her father quite quickly. "I was worrying about my dog."

"O--h," yawned Daphne.

"Oh--yourself!" yawned her father.

It was Daphne who woke first the next time, and she woke with
her fingers clutching hard into her father's startled shoulder.

"Oh, Old-Dad!" she cried. "There's a lady walking on my beach!"

Heavy with sleep, Jaffrey Bretton struggled laboriously upward
and shook his white hair from his eyes just in time to face the
intruder as she rounded the nearest cactus thicket.

"Why--why--good afternoon, Lady-Walking-on-our-Beach!" he said.

The scream that the lady gave, though distinctly shrill was yet
quite unmistakably a [123] khaki scream, the scream, as it were,
of a sportswoman, a mere matter of atavism only.

"_Oh_! How you startled me!" she cried.

It was at least very becoming to the lady to be startled, though
all around the edges of the frank confession her lips showed
still their stark, atavic pallor, and the clever gray eyes that
searched the two blue-jersied figures before her were rather
extravagantly dilated.

"Is--is this Martha's Island?" she questioned just a little bit
abruptly.

"It is not!" said Jaffrey Bretton with some coldness. "Martha is
a crazy lady. Do we look to you like crazy ladies?"

"Oh, no--of course not," flushed the intruder. "Only--only it is
so awfully hard sometimes to place people without their clothes."

"Without their clothes?" flared Daphne. "Why these are our
clothes! Our very own clothes!" As though in indisputable proof
of the assertion she edged even closer to her father's side and
began to stroke such shoulder and such sleeve as her father's
swimming suit boasted.

But, gentle as the gesture was, it only served [124] somehow to
increase the Intruding Lady's nervousness.

"Why--of course--I--I didn't mean that," she stammered. "It's
only that that running on you so suddenly the way I did, I----"
With a gesture of sheer helplessness she threw out her hands.
"Well, there _are_ so many queer people down here!" she cried.
"Fanatics and fruit growers and runaway people--and--and
fanatics!" In an access of bewilderment her glance swept out
across Daphne's slim, nymph-like loveliness to the wild island
scene all around them, and back again to Jaffrey Bretton's
distinctly sophistcated eyes. "For all I know," she affirmed
with a palpable effort at lightness, "_you_ may be fugitives
from justice!"

"Call us rather--fugitives from injustice," bowed Jaffrey
Bretton, with the faintest possible smile.

Tugging at the brim of her brown khaki hat, fumbling at the
collar of her brown khaki shirt, patting at the flare of her
brown khaki skirt, the Intruding Lady began very suddenly to
tinker with her personal appearance. [125]

"Now, isn't that funny?" jerked Daphne. "Whenever my father
smiles, smiles like that, I mean--so faint, so twinkly--every
woman in sight except myself begins to straighten her hat and----"

"Hush such nonsense!" ordered her father.

But the Intruding Lady, without showing an atom of resentment,
wilted right down in the hot sands and began to laugh. It was a
clever laugh, too, though still just a little bit wobbly round
its edges.

"Please excuse me for being so hysterical," she begged. "But
it's been such a queer day! And I've just had such a dreadful
fright I hardly know who's crazy and who isn't!"

"A fright?" deprecated Jaffrey Bretton with increasing
formality.

"Yes! Coming ashore just now," cried the Intruding Lady, "I
thought I saw a man walking on the water! Way out in the Gulf it
was! Almost a mile I should think! But when I looked again it
was a fish!" very faintly, but none the less palpably her teeth
began to chatter. "But when I looked _again_ it was a man! It
_was_!"

"Nothing at all to be alarmed about," [126] interposed Jaffrey
Bretton quickly; "it was just our butler doing his calisthenics."

"Your--butler?" stammered the Intruding Lady.

"Yes--you have probably noticed that the water is exceedingly
thin in spots" then with a precipitate return of his manners
Jaffrey Bretton waved her toward the green-shadowed sand nest
which he had just vacated.

"Have a shade, madam!" he begged her. "You seem quite out of
breath! And as though you had been running!"

"Running?" rallied the lady. "I have been galloping!" Rather
cautiously, but none the less gratefully, she edged her way into
the wavy green shadow. "And even after I got ashore," she
confided, "I met such queer things on the beach! Oh, pelicans, I
mean," she added hastily, "and fiddler crabs! Crowds and crowds
of----"

"We shall have to have a traffic cop," mused Jaffrey Bretton.
But even as he mused he stood with one hand shading his eyes
while he raked the vacant horizon line for some thing that
seemed to perplex him.

"When you spoke of coming ashore just [127] now," he turned and asked
the lady quite abruptly, "just what, may I ask, were you on?"

"I was on a--on a honeymoon," said the lady.

"A honeymoon?" jumped Daphne.

"And being inexpressibly bored," said the lady, "I----"

"You are frank, to say the least," murmured Jaffrey Bretton.

"'Frank?'" said the lady. "I was desperate! So when the others
took all the launches to go off and hunt for some kind of a
fish, a sail fish I think it was, I pretended that I had a
headache and stayed behind in my cabin, and the first moment
even the engineer was out of sight I just slipped into the canoe
and paddled ashore. Having heard, you see," explained the lady,
"about all the queer people hidden away on some of these
islands--it just occurred to me, you see, that----"

"All of which is very interesting, of course," said Jaffrey
Bretton, "but honor compels me to advance a few little
observations of my own. Yonder, through that maze of gulls," he
pointed, "I note the only smoke on [128] the horizon which leads
me to infer that, having camouflaged your absence not only wisely
but too well, the yacht and bridegroom in question are already
steaming southward at a very reasonable mileage. For the
Caribbean, doubtless? Always have I understood that the
Caribbean was a really rather remarkable place for honeymoons!"

But already, with a little choking gasp, the Intruding Lady was
on her feet staring frantically in every direction. Her face was
horridly white.

"Quick!" she cried. "We must get the canoe and try to catch
them!"

"Your knowledge of nautical matters is charming," bowed Jaffrey
Bretton. "But though one may often put to sea in a canoe he does
not readily put to Gulf. The unfortunate typhoonish treachery of
these waters, the peculiarly hoydenish habits of sharks, the----"

"We--must--get--the--canoe!" insisted the lady.

"Why, how silly!" roused Daphne. "Why, it would take weeks and
weeks!"

"And in this impetuous climate," deprecated [129] her father,
"how dispiriting to arrive at last only to find that the recreant
bride groom had already taken unto himself another bride."

"Your levity is quite uncalled for," frowned the lady. "When I
think of the anxiety I have caused my party the commotion there
will be on board the yacht as soon as my absence is discovered,
the----"

"Oh, of course we could advertise," suggested Jaffrey Bretton
cheerfully, "stating the latitude and longitude, and the more
explicit directions that it's the island that almost always has
eleven pelicans sitting on the sand bar. And we could train our
butler, I suppose, to swim out from time to time to the passing
yachts and houseboats with a placard in his mouth saying, Found:
'A Brown Khaki Lady'. But unless we have a little more definite
identification--" he turned and addressed the lady with some
incisiveness.

In spite of herself and quite inexplainably the lady began to
smile. Simultaneously with the smile she unwound the brown veil
from her brown hat, and snatching off the hat itself bared her
bright head to the breeze. [130]

"Just mention that I have red hair," she said. "Names are
altogether too easily assumed to be practical for identification
purposes."

"Yet more ladies, I suppose," murmured Jaffrey Bretton, "travel
under assumed hair than under assumed names."

"Why, Old-Dad!" protested Daphne. In a sudden flare of interest
her whole attention focused on the lady. "My! but your hair _is_
red!" she cried. "And such heaps of it! Why, goodness!" she
stammered, "you're almost as young as I am!"

"It's delightful of you to think so," smiled the lady. "But even
you, I'm afraid, will never rate me as young as this--this--your
father, was it, you said?"

"I don't quite understand what you mean?" sobered Daphne.

"People almost never understand what ladies mean," said her
father. "But the inference is, of course, that this one refers
at the moment to my somewhat callow conversation. However," he
continued, perfectly blithely, "I see no reason why we shouldn't
all be very happy together--until such time at least as my own [131]
launch returns with its remodeled engine. But meanwhile when did
you eat last?" he turned abruptly to ask the lady with sincere
concern.

"Last night," conceded the lady. "Truly I did have a bit of a
headache."

"Our grapefruit are not iced," mused Jaffrey Bretton, "and we
pour our butter from a pitcher--which is not the custom, of
course, on Gulf-going yachts but as camp food goes----" With a
little swift smile he reached out his hand to Daphne and drew
her to her feet. "Dinner is served, ladies!" he said, and
started up the beach.

Still holding tightly to one hand Daphne followed half a step
behind him.

"The sun's so hot and--the sand's so thick--and the shells are
so sharp," she called back cordially to the Intruding Lady,
"you'd find it heaps easier, too, if you'd take Old-Dad's other
hand!"

"No, I thank you!" said the Intruding Lady, but plowed along
valiantly after them.

The sun was hot! The sand was thick! The shells were very sharp!
No shade for almost a mile except the occasional lattice-like [132]
flicker of a sea gull's flight! But close at their side the Blue
Gulf pounded and splashed in ecstatic spray. And towering high
above the sallow glare of beach-grass and cactus thicket the
bright green cocoanut palms clattered and fanned with at least
the sound of coolness!

"I--I suppose I'll have to keep the lady in _my_ tent,"
whispered Daphne.

"Your supposition is perfectly correct," said her father.

"She's got rather nice eyes, I think," whispered Daphne. "And
the cutest hair!"

"Has she really?" said her father.

At the sudden sharp wince in the little hand that had nestled so
confidently in his own he glanced back just in time to catch the
look he so dreaded in her eyes.

"I--I suppose I ought to tell her," suffered Daphne.

"Tell her--what?" snapped her father.

"Why--my--my story," stammered Daphne. "It wouldn't be quite
honorable not to, would it?" Desperately the young lips tried to
recapture some kind of a humorous smile. "Tell--her I mean--quite
frankly, you [133] know--that I'm more or less of a notorious
character." In a single quiver the young mouth stripped itself
of even this futile attempt at mirth. "No decent woman would
ever _choose_ to associate with me again, the President said."

In an outburst of quite irrelevant temper, Jaffrey Bretton swung
around to wait for the Intruding Lady.

"Is this a tortoise race?" he demanded accusingly. "Are we to
die here in our tracks of hunger and thirst?" Without so much as
a "By your leave" he snatched the Intruding Lady's hand in his
spare one and plunged onward again. As they raced across the
spongy, tide-swept sand bar just ahead of a huge blue wave and
sighted the white tents at last, he tossed back his head with a
whoop of extravagant mirth. "Whatever in the world have I done,"
he demanded of earth, air, sky, sea, "that I should be marooned
on a coral island with _two_ beautiful ladies--one of whom is my
daughter and the other the bride of another man?"

"S-s-h!" warned Daphne with a twitch of the hand. "There's a
stranger at the camp [134] fire!" Dropping her father's fingers and
quite ignoring the other lady she ran swiftly ahead, and dodging
into a thick clump of beach-grass crouched down like a young
Indian to study out the mystery. "Oh, Old-Dad!" she signaled
back with her finger on her lips, "it's the--sissiest-looking
man! Such queer little narrow shoulders! And the mooniest eyes!
And a beard like a silk hand kerchief!"

"Must be the Outlaw," said her father

"The Outlaw?" protested Daphne. "Oh, dear me!" she cried
suddenly. "He's seen me! And he's skulking off through the grass
with a great roll of furs or something under his arm! Quick!
Maybe we're robbed!" Darting out into full view on the beach she
stood poised for a single uncertain instant while the Outlaw, as
though by magic, vanished from sight.

"Robbed! Oh no," laughed her father. "It's your bathing suit!
Next to being the honestest man I know this particular Outlaw
happens to be also the most squeamishly modest. Creep around the
back way by the [135] palmettos," he ordered, "and put on a skirt!
I want to see him!"

Dropping the Brown Khaki Lady's fingers he cupped his hands to
his mouth and began to halloo across the little distance.

"Hi there, Alliman!" he called.

"How-do, Mr. Bretton!" came the soft-voiced answer very cautiously,
then, from the thicket the man himself emerged with the roll of
wildcat skins still clutched in his arms. Daphne certainly had
not exaggerated the gentleness of him, nor the narrow shoulders,
nor the silky old-fashioned brown beard, nor the bland eyes.

"Come to trade me those cat skins for some pipe tobacco and
oranges?" smiled Jaffrey Bretton.

"I--don't--mind," drawled the Outlaw.

As one to whom Time meant nothing nor ever would again, he sat
down on the edge of the old wreck and drew his empty pipe from
his pocket.

"Just behind that broken spar there you'll find a tobacco tin, I
guess," said Jaffrey Bretton. "I rather plan to cache more or less of
it around on such shelf-room as the island [136] affords. . . . It's
such a blamed nuisance to get way off up the beach somewhere and
find you've forgotten your 'baccy'. That's the only conceivable
fault I could find with this island," he mused. "There's so little
closet room and practically no shelves!"

"Puff, puff, puff," without a flicker of expression the Outlaw
sucked at his pipe. "Puff, puff--puff--puff, puff."

With a gesture toward the tents, a nod toward the retreating back
of the Brown Khaki Lady, Jaffrey Bretton essayed to re-crank the
conversation.

"My ladies," he confided, "have been swimming--wading--running
not to say--yachting!"

"Pretty ladies!" blushed the Outlaw.

"Thank you," bowed Jaffrey Bretton.

"Puff, puff, puff, puff, puff," sighed the Outlaw's pipe.

Very deftly Jaffrey Bretton reached round behind the broken spar
for a smoke of his own.

"Any special news this last year?" he asked.

Thoughtfully, from the long monotonous months of heat and glare
and squalor and [137] privation and almost absolute isolation, the
Outlaw extracted as a sheer gift the one comely fact.

"I--seen--a whole bunch of pink--curlew," he said.

"The deuce you did!" brightened Jaffrey Bretton.

"Any news--up--your way?" droned the Outlaw.

From Europe, Asia, Africa--from the courts of kings and the
gossip of queens, from a hundred adventures, from a hundred
glittering memories Jaffrey Bretton traded gift for gift.

"I saw the World's Series," he confided. "I saw Frank Baker make
his two home-runs."

"N--o?" shivered the Outlaw. Very slowly he removed the pipe from
his mouth. For an instant only, a muscle twitched like a sob in
his grizzled throat. As though suddenly consumed with bashfulness,
he began to shuffle his bare toes in the sand. "Got--got the same
President as usual?" he ventured at last.

"As far as I know," said Bretton. "I was in Washington three
weeks ago." [138]

"Orange crop good up-state?" persisted the listless voice.

"Good enough, I guess," acquiesced Bretton.

"Anything--special--in the papers these days about Alabamy?"
mumbled the pipe-clenched lips.

"Alabama's still on the map," admitted Bretton.

"Puff--puff--puff," mused the Outlaw. Then very limply he
struggled to his feet. "Say, Martha wants you," he said.

"Martha?" puzzled Jaffrey Bretton. "Wants _me_? . . . What for?"

"She don't say," said the Outlaw, "but she wants you--quick."

"Quick?" gibed Jaffrey Bretton.

"She sure wants you quick," repeated the Outlaw.

"Oh, all right, we'll go now," acquiesced Jaffrey Bretton, "just
as soon as I can jump into my khakis! Why, I wouldn't fail
Martha for anything in the world! Why, that time the catfish
stung me she----" Quite precipitate his face darkened, and then
cheered again. "Oh, of course I haven't my [139] launch here," he
acknowledged, "but we can go in yours!"

"Oh--no," protested the Outlaw gently. "It'll be night coming back,
and I don't calculate on going nowheres in the dark. . . . It
ain't healthy to travel in the dark. . . . My mother back home,
she always say it ain't healthy no ways to travel in the dark."

"Oh, nonsense!" said Jaffrey Bretton. "Why, Martha may be ill!"

"She sure has got something," sighed the Outlaw, "but it ain't a
dyingness. To-morrow'll do."

"It certainly won't do--if Martha's in trouble!" cried Jaffrey
Bretton. "We'll go this minute! . . . Wait till I tell the
ladies, and we'll all be along just as soon as we can grab up a
bite to eat!"

Like a man smitten in his tracks, the Outlaw stopped short and
began to twirl his battered slouch hat in his hands.

"Oh--not the ladies!" he protested wanly.

"Sure, we'll take the ladies!" insisted Bretton. "It will be
quite an adventure for them."

Dumbly the Outlaw stared for a [140] moment from the Gulf to the sky
and back to Jaffrey Bretton's smile again.

"You ain't forgotten Martha's little peculiarity, has you?" he
whispered, "about red?" In frankly abject misery he began to
retwirl his hat. "One of them ladies had red hair, I notices,"
he said.

With a whoop of joy, Jaffrey Bretton tossed back his own white
head.

"I guess we could muffle it," he laughed.

But the Outlaw recognized no mirth in any thing at the moment.

"It ain't so easy to muffle ladies," he said.

"Oh, shucks!" persisted Jaffrey Bretton. "Trot along."

Reluctantly the Outlaw turned and started for his boat.

"My engine ain't running any too good," he confided plaintively.

"They never do," said Jaffrey Bretton.

"'Tain't near likely there's enough gas," deprecated the Outlaw.

"There never is," said Jaffrey Bretton.

With a gesture of sheer weariness the Outlaw submitted to his fate.

"Oh, very well this time," he said, "but I'm [141] going to move.
I likes you fine, Mr. Bretton, but I sure am a-going further off.
What with Lost Man and Martha this here Gulf is getting too crowded."

Cocking his head abruptly toward the sound of metal ringing on
metal, Jaffrey Bretton gestured toward the mangrove-shadowed cove.

"There's good old Lost Man now," he said, "tinkering with your
engine."

"Oh--Lost Man's all right," admitted the Outlaw, "only he ain't
got any tact."

"Oh, shucks!" repeated Jaffrey Bretton. "_Trot_ along, I say!
. . . But go over to the food tent first and pick out your
trade for the cat skins. Whatever's fair, you know? Anything you
please. . . . Strawberries, asparagus, chili con carne--anything,
you know, except caviar."

"Yes--I know," rallied the Outlaw. With the slightest possible
accentuation of his pace he started up the beach.

Still laughing to himself Jaffrey Bretton bolted for his tent
and his khakis.

"Hurry up--hurry up--hurry up!" he called across to the tent
that sheltered Daphne [142] and the Intruding Lady. "We're going
on an adventure! Heaven knows what it is but something is the matter
with Martha. . . . Be sure and bring your sweater--we're liable
to be out all night!"

In an incredibly short space of time he reappeared on the "tote
path" hurrying back and forth between the camp and the launch
with a great jug of drinking water, a khaki-colored blanket or
two, and indeterminate tins of coffee and milk and meat.

Very frankly bewildered, but conscientiously determined to be a
good sport, the Brown Khaki Lady hurried to help him.

Deflected by some sudden adolescent dreaminess, Daphne was the
last to emerge from her tent. In her white shoes and stockings,
her short white skirt, her simple little white middy-blouse and
severe white tam, all her wild, nymphlike beauty of the surf
and the beach seemed to have reverted into sheer childish
loveliness and austerity. Craving a yellow cactus bloom to stick
in her belt, she plunged off first into the nearest thicket.
Chasing a bright blue butterfly, she decided just as impulsively
to explore the farther [143] palmetto. Then altogether contritely
she started out to find her own way back to the waiting launch and
her companions.

Green and dank and lacelike as the vegetation of an aquarium the
great trees traced their leaves and branches against the sky.
Close in a little bush a storm-blown scarlet bird twittered and
preened in its temporary sacristry. High over all throbbed the
ecstasy of the surf.

"Oh--_beautifulness_!" gasped Daphne. "In all the world," she
thought, "is there any word this moment except just _beautifulness_?"

Then quite suddenly from the green maze just beyond her she
heard a word that some other person evidently seemed to consider
the biggest word of the moment, and that word was "Jaffrey!"
_Jaffrey_? . . . Of all things!

With a lurch of her heart she darted forward just in time to see
her father and the Brown Khaki Lady standing like the picture of
the Huguenot lovers, with their hands on each other's shoulders.
. . . And there was a laugh on the Brown Khaki Lady's lips! But
there were tears in her eyes! [144]

"Jaffrey!" cried the Brown Khaki Lady, "since--when have you
boasted a daughter?"

Stricken with astonishment and resentment at the deception which
had been practised upon her, Daphne dashed out into the open
only to find that at some shriller cry than hers both her father
and the lady were speeding madly toward the beach, where, huddled
somewhat conglomerately in the bow of the launch, the Outlaw was
holding Lost Man at bay with a distinctly businesslike-looking gun.

"What in thunder's the matter?" shouted Jaffrey Bretton.

For a single relaxing instant the Outlaw glanced back across his
narrow shoulder.

"This-here Lost Man ain't got any tact," he sighed.

"Put that gun down!" cried Bretton. "Why, the poor old chap's
twice your age!"

"And--twice my size," confided the Out law. But he lowered the
gun at least an inch.

"But what's it all about?" insisted Bretton.

Very gloweringly Lost Man essayed to be the real explainer. [145]

"He was silly about a crab," glowered Lost Man.

"'Tweren't, either, silly," argued the Outlaw. "He stepped on a
crab and hurted it. There ain't no call to hurt nothing, I say."

"Nice one to talk, you are!" snarled Lost Man. "You--you man-killer,
you!"

Quicker than a flash the Outlaw raised his gun again.

"I ain't no man-killer," he droned. "I ain't never in my life
killed no man. What I killed was two men--both coming at me
double. There ain't no man living, I tells you, more peaceful
than me. . . . But when I'm moonshining"--in an instant the
flaccid lips had tightened into a single merciless line--"but
when I'm moonshining I don't stand no monkeyshining!"

"Oh, cut it out!" said Jaffrey Bretton. "Here come the ladies!"

"I forgot the ladies!" collapsed the Outlaw. Blushing like a
schoolboy he tucked his gun back in his belt, and began to
tinker with the engine.

But the ladies, it seemed, were not over-quick about coming. [146]

A little impatiently Jaffrey Bretton turned back to meet them.
The Brown Khaki Lady was frankly scared. But Daphne, though
white as a sheet, admitted no trepidation.

"Oh, don't you think he's too dangerous to go with?" shivered
the Brown Khaki Lady.

"Nonsense!" laughed Jaffrey Bretton. "He's as gentle as a lamb."

"If you handle him right," supplemented the Brown Khaki Lady.

"Isn't most everything dangerous," laughed Jaffrey Bretton, "if
you don't handle it right? A fifth-story window? A knife and
fork? A blank sheet of paper? The buttons on your coat? Yet only
a fool jumps through the fifth-story window, or tries to cram
the sheet of paper into his eye, or--" With a gasp of apprehension
he turned suddenly on Daphne. "You _are_ white!" he said.

Who was this woman--what was she to her father?

Twice Daphne opened her lips to cry out the question--the
accusation, the bewilderment that was consuming her. Then, with
a really heroic effort, she swung in her tracks and ran off at
full speed toward the launch. [147]

"Hurry up, you--you slow-pokes!" she turned and called back when
neither the quiver of her lips nor the blur of her eyes could be
gleaned through the distance.

In another five minutes, with a great churn of water, a great
chug of engine, a great stench of gasoline, the little old
rickety launch was on its way.

It was still very bright, very hot; but already, as though for
sheer weight and wiltedness, the huge sun lolled in its orbit,
and like a turbulent bed smoothed out at last for the night the
green mangrove-pillow and white sand-sheet of the fast-receding
shore gleamed soft and cool at last above the taut blue blanket
of the Gulf.

Perched high in the bow of the launch Daphne sat staring back at her
traveling companions--the puny Outlaw, the gigantic Lost Man, her
own most distinguished-looking father, and the mysterious lady. Like
a crippled phonograph record her mind seemed to catch suddenly on
that phrase "her most distinguished-looking father and the mysterious
lady--the mysterious lady." . . . And they were all bound somewhere
on a mysterious [148] errand--an all-night mysterious errand
concerning some mad woman who didn't like red and--and----Quite
alarmingly her heart began to pound and pound and pound! "And a
month ago," she thought, "I was getting up when bells rang, and
going to bed when bells rang, and thinking when bells rang, and
stopping thinking when bells rang!" In a curious little shiver
she looked up suddenly to find Lost Man's eyes fixed on hers with
a distinctly benign and apostolic smile, but even as he smiled he
hunched his shoulders up, clapped his hands together and burst once
more into the old English song:

     "Diaphenia, like the daffadowndilly,
     White as the sun, fair as the lily. . . ."

With a single outcry, Daphne tossed back her head and shrieked
her nerves into space.

"Good!" said her father. "Now you'll feel better!" [149]

II

IT was dark when they sighted the yellow lantern light on
Martha's Island. Darkness drops down so suddenly in the far
south! It's rather spooky! Rather a nice spooky, though, if you
happen to be a reasonably innocent Northerner looking for
thrills. It's only poor souls like Lost Man and the Outlaw, and
perhaps even Martha herself, to whom Darkness symbolizes a stab
in the back, a shot from ambush, or God knows what!

To Daphne, this night, the darkness was all a-tingle with magic
and pain. High overhead in ineffable crispness the blue-black
dome of the sky seemed fairly crackling with stars. Close around
her in murky mystery the great Gulf chuckled and prattled of
coral and pearl. From the dark, huddled group in the stern of
the boat not a face or a feature flared familiarly to hers. And
drowned in the shuddering gasp and throb of the engine [150] her
father's deep-voiced raillery, even the Brown Khaki Lady's light
laughter, sounded like something from another world.

It was Daphne's own little world that concerned her most at that
moment, a world in chaos!

"My father is false to me!" mutinied her wild little heart. "He
has deceived me! And about a lady!" woke jealousy. "We didn't
_need_ another lady! And what earthly reason could two people
have for pretending to be strangers when they really were
lovers? But how could two people possibly be lovers," she
questioned suddenly with an entirely new stab of bewilderment
and pain, "if one of them was already married to somebody else?
If one of them indeed was actually on a honeymoon? Even though
at the particular moment she might have run away from her
honeymoon? Marriage was marriage, people said! You had to play
it fair! Everybody had to play it fair! It was like a game! Even
people who cheated in business wouldn't think of cheating in
games! It wasn't good sportsmanship! It wasn't----" Feverishly
her fancy quickened and raged at all its [151] pulses. "If my
father isn't good," she tortured, "who is good? If my father
isn't good, what is good? If my father isn't good--what's the
use of anybody being good?"

Defiantly she lifted her eyes to the stars. And the stars
laughed at her! Distractedly she turned her ear to the Gulf and
heard the Gulf nudging the poor old launch in its ribs!

Then like the bumpy end of a dream, infinitely alarming,
irresistibly awakening, the little launch snubbed its nose into
wood in stead of a wave, and the voyage was over!

Gracing the upper step of a peculiarly water-logged and dilapidated
looking pier the yellow lantern flared down its wan welcome to
the voyagers' eyes. There was not a soul in sight, nor any sign
of human habitation except the lantern and the ruined pier.

"Truly it must be very lonesome for a lantern--living all alone
like this," observed the Brown Khaki Lady's faintly mocking
voice.

Then suddenly out of the further shadows where pier and land
presumably met, creeping low on its belly, and whimpering with [152]
excitement, emerged a little dark body edging frenziedly toward
them.

"Why--what the dickens?" cried Jaffrey Bretton. "Why, how in
thunder? Well, I should think Martha _had_  'got something'! Why
it's Creep-Mouse!" he shouted, and jumped ashore.

Scramblingly the Brown Khaki Lady followed after him.

"Here! Wait for me!" she begged.

As he swung round to help her a single phrase passed his lips.

"Pull down your hat-brim!" he ordered. "In this light your hair
looks almost crimson!"

Then man, and woman, and dog faded into the shadow.

With a grunt of indifference, Lost Man and the Outlaw resumed
their eternal job of tinkering with the engine. Shadows working
on shadows!

"Oh, a lot anybody seems to care what be comes of me!" quivered Daphne.
"Even Old-Dad didn't say 'Good-bye'. Even Creep-Mouse--didn't say
Howdy! What's it all about?" she questioned tartly. "What's--what's
[153] anything all about?" With a swift experimental impulse she slid
over to the edge of the fore-deck and tested the shallow tide with
one slender foot and ankle. In an other instant while the two men
wrangled she had slipped over into the water and was speeding up
the unknown beach. "I'll go find something of my own!" raged her
wild little heart. "Something that _will_ say 'Good-bye' to me!
Something that _will_ say 'Howdy!' Good--bad--living or
dying--something all my own!"

Indifferent to the clogging sand, impervious to the scratch and
snag, stumbling over wreckage, dodging through palmetto,
unconscious of her breathlessness, unhampered by her loneliness,
fired only by a strange sort of exhilaration, a weird new sense
of emancipation, she sped on through the excitant dark, till
tripping suddenly on some horrid slimy thing like the dead body of
a shark she pitched over head-first into a tangle of beach-grass,
and crawling out on all fours into the clean, sweet sand again,
crawled into the spurting flash of a revolver shot whose bullet
just barely grazed the wincing lobe of her ear. [154]

Tight as a vise a man's arms closed around her!

"My God!" gasped a man's voice, "I thought you were a panther
or a bear--or something!"

Struggling to free herself Daphne snatched her small flash-light
from her pocket and flamed it full on the man's face.

"Why--what the--the dickens?" she babbled hysterically. "Why--how
in the world?" she rallied desperately. "Well--I should think
Martha _had_ 'got something!' Why--why, it's the--the Kissing
Man!" she cried.

With widening eyes and a dropped jaw the man returned the stare.

"Y--you?" he stammered.

Fumbling round through the sand for his own larger lantern he
flashed a steadier flare of light upon the scene.

"What--are--you--doing here--and crawling on your hands and
knees?" he asked. His face was ashy gray.

"Why, I'm running away!" glowed Daphne. Her eyes were like stars,
the flush in her cheeks flaunting and flaming like a rose-colored
flag. [155]

"Running away?" quickened the man. "From what?"

"I don't know!" laughed Daphne.

"To--what?" questioned the man.

"I don't care!" laughed Daphne.

With another perceptible start the young man turned upon her.

"Don't you know it's not safe for you to be alone like this?" he
stormed. "Don't you know how wild this country is? Don't you know
there are bears and panthers and wild cats and snakes and----. And
I almost shot you," he repeated dully. "Except for this--this
infernal tremor in my right hand that everybody is trying to cure
me of--I should probably have killed you."

"Do you really mean," cried Daphne with a fresh shock of
excitement, "that except for just one little chance I might be
lying here dead this very minute? Dead and all over, I mean?
Tennis and parties and new hats and everything all over and done
with? As dead and all over as--as Noah?" she gasped.

"Yes," acknowledged the man.

Solemnly for a moment in the poignant awe of it all the jaded
worldly-wise face and the [156] eager ingenuous young face measured
this matter of life or death in the depths of each other's eyes.

Then for sheer woman-nature the girl edged a little bit nearer to
the poor man who had almost killed her. And for sheer man-nature
the man put his arm around the poor girl whom he had almost
killed. It was sheer Nature's nature though that blew a strand
of the girl's bright, fragrant hair across the man's lips.

With a sound like a snarl the man edged off again.

"Whew, but my nerves are jumpy!" he said. In the flare of the
lantern light the scar on his face showed suddenly with
extraordinary plainness, and as though a bit conscious of the
livid streak he brushed his hand casually across his mouth and
cheek bone. "Tell a fellow again," he said, "about this running
away business. What's the game?"

"It isn't a game at all," flared Daphne. "I tell you I'm running
away!" [157]

"But what about that stern parent of yours?" grinned the man.

"My father is more interested in another lady!" cried Daphne.
"He's all but forgotten my existence. Oh, of course I don't mean
he's deserted me," she explained with hysterical humor. "It's
merely that for the time being and for all time to come," she
quickened suddenly, "I've _got_ to have a life of my own!"

"It's an original idea," said the man.

At the faint tinge of mockery in the words all the hot,
unreasoning anger surged back into Daphne's heart again.

"Oh, you needn't make fun of me!" she cried. "And you needn't
try to stop me! I'm a Bretton, you know! And all the Brettons
are wild! Oh, awfully wild! I read it in the paper! And I--I'm
going to be the wildest of them all!"

"Just exactly--how wild--are you planning to be?" asked the man.
Simultaneously with the question he lifted the lantern and flashed
it like a spot-light on the girl's elfish beauty, the damp skirt
moulding her slender limbs, the bright disheveled hair slipping
[158] out from the prim little tarn, the sailor-collared blouse
dragged down just a little bit too far from the eager, unconscious
young throat! "Just exactly--how wild--are you planning to be?"

"Oh, as wild as _wild_!" gloated Daphne. "I'm going to have an
aeroplane! I'm going to have a--a----"

With an odd little laugh the man jumped to his feet, and held
out his hand to Daphne.

"Where I live," he chuckled, "aeroplanes grow on trees. You're
just the little girl I'm looking for! Come along!"

"Come along where?" laughed Daphne, with her hand already in his.

"Oh, just 'along--along!'" urged the young man with a laugh that
almost exactly duplicated her own. "For Heaven's sake never
spoil a good start by worrying about a poor finish!"

"You talk just a little bit like my father," winced Daphne.

"Maybe I talk like him," laughed the young man, "but I don't
walk like him! No more straight and narrow for me! You're
perfectly right, little girl, about this game of [159] being
good! I've tried it a whole month now--and believe me,
there's--nothing in it! Why, even the gods don't intend you to
be good!" he laughed. "When they proffer you sweets on a golden
plate they certainly can't expect you to refuse 'em!"

"I never ate from a golden plate!" laughed Daphne, as snatching
her little hand loose she jumped across the edge of a wave.

"Oh, please don't run away from _me! _" entreated the young man.
"Whoever you run away from--oh, please don't run away from _me_!
It isn't exactly fair, you know! It isn't----" Flashing his
lantern aloft he stood for a single instant with his slender,
fastidiously flanneled figure silhouetted incongruously against
the wild, primitive background of cactus and wreckage. Then in a
faint paroxysm of coughing, light and figure faded out.

"Oh, I forgot," cried Daphne. "Why, of course we mustn't run!"
All the excitement in her turned suddenly to tears. "After all,"
she confided impetuously, "running away on an island isn't so
awfully satisfying! No matter how far you ran it would always be
just [160] 'round and round!'" Compassionately she turned back
towards him.

"Oh, I don't know!" snapped the young man. "Some islands, you
know, aren't quite as round and round as others! This one for
instance----" With a spring he was at her side, his queer,
fascinating face thrust close to hers, his vibrant hands
thrilling her shoulders. "You--little--blessed baby!" he cried,
"if you're really looking for an adventure--let's make one! But
while we're about it--for Heaven's sake let's make it a whopper!
Let's--let's pretend that you are a beggar maid!" he laughed
excitedly, "and that I am a fairy prince!" Once again he flashed
his lantern across her lovely disheveledness. "'Pon my soul," he
exulted, "you look heaps more like a beggar maid than I do like
a fairy prince! But if I could prove that I was _your_ fairy
prince----"

"Yes--if you could prove that you were my fairy prince----" laughed
Daphne.

"Pumpkin coach--and all?" cried the man. His hands on her
shoulders were like electric shocks.

"Pumpkin coach and all!" whispered [161] Daphne. To save her soul
she could not have told just why she whispered.

With an odd little smile the young man released his hold on her
shoulders and snatched her hand again.

"Then come quick!" he cried.

Maybe it wasn't "running," but it was very much like it! Zig-zag
across the beach, up through the palmetto thicket, clattering
across an unexpected pile of old tin cans, out into the soft
sand again of a sheltered cove, a coral harbor, where blazing
with lights like a Christmas tree a big house-boat lay at its
moorings.

"There!" cried the young man, "the pumpkin coach!"

"Why--wherever in the world did it come from?" gasped Daphne.
Her heart was beating so that she could scarcely speak.
"Wherever--in the world?"

Swaying a little on her feet her shoulder brushed ever so
slightly against her companion's, and she turned to find herself
snatched into the steel-sinewed arms, the relentless dove-voiced
urgency of the first passion she had ever seen! This was no
hoydenish [162] tussle with an unnerved man who thought you were
a panther! This was no snub-nosed smother against the breast of a
boy who was trying to keep you from screaming! This was no idyl
of the Class Room, no airy persiflage of the poets! But Passion
itself! Raw Passion, too! A thing tender, terrifying, beyond her
wildest dreams of tenderness of terror! The desperate, determinate,
all but irresistible pleading of a man who was fighting if not
for life itself, at least for the last joy that his life would
ever know!

"Oh, little girl!" he pleaded, "I'm mad about you! Do you doubt
it? Absolutely mad!" His question marks were kisses, his
exclamation points, more kisses. "Ever since that night, only
six weeks ago, was it, when I stumbled on you in the hotel? I
was drunk then, wasn't I? Well, I'm sober enough now! But drunk
or sober there hasn't been a minute since, day or night, when I
haven't been trying to follow you! Give me your lips!"

"I won't!" said Daphne.

"I tell you I can't live without you," urged the man. "I won't
live without you! Your father's quite right, I haven't got a
whole lot [163] of time, but think how we'd pack it! Hawaii,
Japan, the moon if you'd crave it! 'Eat, drink and be merry'--and
to-morrow you still live! It's only I that have got to die! You
shall love me, I say! You _shall_! Merciful God! Am I to live
like a spoiled child all my days and be robbed at this last of
the only real thing I ever wanted?"

"My--my father----" struggled Daphne. It was a struggle of soul
as well as body.

"Your father is a real man," conceded the vibrant, compelling
voice, "but he's only a real man, and with a real man's needs.
There's bound to be another woman sometime. There's another
woman even now you say? What place then is left for you? But
come with me, I say, and as long as there's breath left in my
body you shall be first, last and only! And after that----" he
shivered ever so slightly, "Mrs. Sheridan Kaire won't have to
worry, I guess, overmuch about anything. Oh, I've been a devil,
I know! I don't deny it! I----"

"You--you mean you've kissed other women?" cried Daphne,
"Like--this?"

"Yes--several--other--women," winced [164] the insatiate lips,
"but not like this! Or this! Or _this_!"

"I won't give you _my_ lips," said Daphne.

"You little spit-fire!" exulted the man. "You--you young
panther! _You blessed little pal_! You and I together--and the
world well lost!"

With a catch of his breath that was almost a sob he tilted her
chin towards the light and stared deep into her young unfathomable
eyes. His own eyes were hot with tears, and the scar across his
cheek twitched oddly at the dimple.

"Wanted--to--be as wild as an aeroplane, did you?" he questioned
with extraordinary gentleness. "And they crucified you for a
wanton in the Halls of Learning! Also in the Sunday supplement
next to the Comic Section!" At the answering shiver of her body
something keener than tears glinted suddenly in his eyes. But
his voice never lifted from its gentleness. "And they always
will crucify you, little girl," he said, "in this fuddy-duddy
boarding school world you've been living in! As long as you
live, little girl, some prude will be mincing forward [165] from
time to time to see if the nails are holding the cross itself still
in the full glare. But the bunch I run with, little girl, would
rate you as a saint! Call it a wild bunch if you want to, but
wouldn't you rather be laughed at for a saint than spat at for a
devil?"

"Y-e-s," quivered Daphne.

"Then come!" said the man.

Daphne did not stir.

Once again the vibrant fingers stroked along her pulsing wrist.
"What you need," crooned the persuasive voice, "for what
ails--you, is to whoop things up a bit, not whoop 'em down. Which
statement," he grinned, "though it may not spell righteousness,
remains at least the truth. So come!" he quickened. "And if you
want to go wild, we'll go wild! And if you want to go tame,
we'll go tame! Heaven or hell, I don't care--as long as it's
together!"

From the glittering house-boat in the little bay a bell tolled
out its resonant news that the hour was eight o'clock.

"Hurry up!" urged the man with the faintest possible rasp of
anxiety in his voice. "For Heaven's sake if we're going let's go
while [166] the going is good! No bungling! No fiasco! All I want
from you," he turned and confided with sudden intensity, "is your
promise that if we do start you'll see the thing through! My
honor not to make a fool of you pledged against your honor not
to make a fool of me! Girls are so unreliable."

"'Girls?'" winced Daphne.

From the glittering house-boat a woman's laugh rang out with
curious congruity.

But when Daphne winced this time, she was in a lover's arms
again, encompassed by a lover's tenderness, coaxed by a lover's
voice.

"Oh, I don't pretend for a moment," crooned the persuasive
voice, "that I've got just the crowd on board that I would have
chosen for this particular sort of get-away. Nevertheless----"
With a chuckle that would have been brutal if it had not been so
exultant he bent down and brushed his lips across Daphne's
throbbing temple. "Nevertheless," he chuckled, "of all the
crowds that ever crowded anybody, this one represents perhaps
the one most ready to eat from my hand. I haven't got much
sense, it seems, nor yet a long life, but what I have got," he
[167] laughed out suddenly, "I've got for fair! And that's money!"
In a silence that was almost sinister he stood for an instant
staring off at the house-boat's gay-lanterned outline against
the dark fluttery palms. "Thought they'd yank me back from all
this did they?" he questioned hotly. "Back to an old Board
Meeting in a New York snow-storm? Not much! 'If you want your
damned old library,' I wired 'em, 'come ahead down here and
thrash it out where a fellow can argue without frost biting his
tongue, and be catching a tarpon or two on the side at the same
time.' Wired 'em tickets and everything, the whole damned
outfit, architect and all! Heap-sight easier though than going
back to New York! But if I don't want to give 'em the library,"
he grinned with sudden malice, "I don't have to, you know--even
now! There's nothing in my father's will, I mean, that compels
me to give it. My father's will merely suggests that I give it,
advises me to give it, 'with such subsequent moneys,' he quoted
mockingly, 'as may comprise my estate' at the time I cash in.
But of all the big stiffs," he shuddered, "that I ever saw, [168]
Claudia Merriwayne leads them all, not even excepting her new
Dean or her Oldest Trustee!"

"Claudia--Merriwayne?" gasped Daphne.

"Oh, of course, in my day," persisted Kaire, "I have had grace
at my table, and some disgrace now and then! But Greek? And
Latin? and Doric columns? And the 'influence of concrete on
young character?' _Why where are you_?" he turned and called
suddenly through the darkness. Gropingly his arms reached out
and snatched her to him again, and for the first time she
yielded limply, and lay like a bruised rose against his breast.
"Why, I can't even hear you breathing!" he cried. "Why, you
might be dead, you are so still! And your little hands are like
ice! And----"

"Did--you--say--that--that Miss Claudia Merriwayne--was on that
boat out there--with you?" faltered Daphne.

"Why, yes," shrugged the man, "I think that's the lady's name.
Why--why, shouldn't she be there? All the colleges are closed
now, aren't they, for the Christmas holidays? Why, surely you
don't mean that you care?" he [169] laughed. "That you don't
like my having the dame?"

"_Care_?" hooted Daphne. Like a wraith suddenly electrified all
the fire, the nerve, the sparkle, the recklessness came surging
back to her!

Through every quiver of his overwrought nerves he sensed the
strange almost psychic change come over her, a brighter gold to
the hair, a deeper blue to the eyes, a quicker pulse in the
slender throat. Every tender line of her thrown suddenly into
italics, every minor chord crashing into crescendo! If she had
been beautiful in the rompish escapade of the beach, and the
single wistful silence of the moment before, her beauty was
absolutely maddening to him now.

With a little quick cry that was almost like a challenge she
reached up and touched him on the shoulder. It was her first
caress.

"Oh, all right! I'll go with you!" she cried excitedly. "But on
one condition only!"

"A hundred conditions!" quickened the man, "so long as you make
them before we start!"

"It's about our 'start' that I'm making this [170] one!" cried
Daphne. Her flesh was flaming with blushes but neither her heart
nor her mind knew just why she blushed. "It's--it's about your
drunkenness!" she flamed. "After we're man and wife, with my
faults as well as yours, we'll have to do the best we can, think
it out, fight it out, maybe we can get somebody to help us! But
until we're man and wife, I must not be embarrassed--or
humiliated! Badness that knows that it's badness, that's one
thing! But silliness that doesn't know it's silliness, I just
couldn't stand it, that's all!" Shrewdly her young eyes narrowed
to his. "You're--you're quite right what you said on the beach
just now! No one can guarantee his ending! But it's an awful
goose, Sheridan Kaire, who doesn't guarantee his start! So if I
pledge you, Sheridan Kaire," flamed the proud little face, "that
once started I _will_ see the whole thing through, it is pledged
on the understanding that you will protect the--the dignity of
that start?"

Across the man's impatient face a dark unhappy flush showed
suddenly. [171]

"I get you!" he said. "I will be very careful about my drinking."

"But as to a pledge from you," cried Daphne, "that you wouldn't
back out and make a fool of _me_--why, it just never would have
occurred to me to ask it! It doesn't occur to me even now! Why--why
should you make a fool of me?" she questioned. "Why, how could you
make a fool of me? You love me, don't you?" she triumphed.

"I--love--you," said the man.

"Oh, all right, then!" cried Daphne. "'Nuff said! Let's go!"

Snatching a silver whistle from his white flannel pocket the man
blew sharply once--twice--three times. Simultaneously with the
signal a slight commotion was visible on the house-boat.

"They'll be over for us right away," said the man. "Just as soon
as they can get the little boat launched."

With her small hand slipped into his, Daphne stood pawing the
sand like a pony while she watched the operations.

"Will it be--_my_ house-boat?" she thrilled. [172]

"It will be your house-boat," smiled the man.

"And my gay lanterns?" danced Daphne.

"And your gay lanterns," smiled the man.

"And my money?" cried Daphne. "And my library?"

"And your _everything_," smiled the man.

With an absolutely elfish cry Daphne threw back her head and
began to laugh.

"Oh, I'm not a bit afraid to go with you!" she laughed. "Maybe I
ought to be! But I'm not! I'm not! Maybe it's because I'm too
excited to be afraid! Maybe it's because," she flamed, "I am never
going to be afraid of anything--ever any more! Oh, I'm an--awful
kid," she paled and flamed again, "I don't even know just what
marriage is! But--" Wild as the humor of nymph or faun the queer
little cry burst from her lips again. "But I know I must never
deceive you!" she cried. "I know that much at least! So--so
maybe you won't want to take me," she cried, "when I tell you
that Miss Claudia Merriwayne was the President who expelled me
from college!"

"_What_?" snapped Sheridan Kaire. "The [173] devil you say!
_What_? Oh, so that's why you were willing to come? Just to get
even? Just to----Now I must have been some thick," he frowned,
"not to have sized up that that was the bunch who expelled you
from college. Thicker even than I thought I was! Seeing only your
picture in the paper, sizing up only your name!" Then quite
suddenly he put back his head and began to laugh. "Of all the
comic operas!" he hooted. "Of all the Heaven-sent situations!
We'll give them their old library or not just as you say," he
hooted. "Well----" Then with a gesture that seemed to be all
ardor and no gentleness he reached out and drew her back to him.
"I don't care why you come," he cried, "as long as you come!"

"Oh, won't it be glorious," danced Daphne, "to surprise them so!
I'm going to pull my hair way down over my face like this and
this," she illustrated with eager fingers, "so that they won't
know me at all until I'm ready--I'll look so wild!"

"Everything's going to be glorious!" said the man. "H-st! Here
comes the launch!"

Like an excited child Daphne ran to meet [174] it. Close at her
shoulder followed the man. Glancing back at him swiftly through
the bright maze of her hair, a single challenge, half mischievous,
half defiant, flashed from her lips and eyes.

"Glorious! Glorious! _Glorious_!" she laughed. "But I will--never
give you my lips!"

All defiance and no mischief, the man's laugh answered the challenge.

"I sha'n't--care what--you give me," he said, "when I'm once
fixed so that I can take what I want!"

With a swish of keel and sand the little launch landed at their
feet.

The nattily uniformed sailor who manned the launch was too well
trained in his master's service to show a flicker of surprise or
curiosity concerning his master's errands. But a master's
weakness being only too often the man's, the only blunder of his
ten years service slipped now from his faintly alcoholic lips.

"Good evening, Dighton!" nodded his master. [175]

"Good evening, sir!" saluted the man with punctilious formality.

"Here, fix those cushions a little better!" pointed his master
as he helped the vague white figure into the boat. "Here, Dighton,
give the lady a hand!"

Lifting his eyes for the first time to the little lady's laughing
face peering out half-affrighted from her bright disheveled hair,
Dighton the man gave a purely involuntary gasp, and stumbled a
bit clumsily over some shadowy obstacle.

"That's all right, Dighton," laughed his master. "She's got the
looks to knock most any man over! Your new Mistress, Dighton!"
he called out proudly.

"Your--your new Mistress?" bungled the man's addled lips.

Scarcely sensing the unhappy twist, but lashed like a whip by
the single expletive and ghastly silence that followed it,
Daphne curled up in her cushions and prattled her excitement
into space.

"Oh, what a night!" she cried. "Oh, what tall cocoanut palms!
Oh, what bright stars! Oh--oh--oh, whatever in the world shall I
[176] do about clothes?" she questioned precipitously. Gayer and
gayer her little laugh flashed from her lips. "Why, just for common
humanity," she gloated, "Miss Merriwayne will have to lend me a
nightie! And shoes and stockings! And a dress! Oh, won't I look
funny in Miss Merriwayne's great big clothes?" Dismayed at the
unbroken silence she turned and stared up wondering-eyed at the
furious, frowning man beside her. "Why--what's the matter
Sheridan Kaire?" she whispered. "You look so--sort of--as though
your face hurt? Does it?" With her eyes drawn as though by some
irresistible fascination to the pale zig-zagged outline of his
scar, she asked the one childish question that was left on her
lips. "Whoever hurt you so?" she questioned. "Was it in a--a
brave war or something? How ever in the world could----"

"Hush!" snarled the man. "For God's sake, hush!" Then in
passionate contrition he bent down through the darkness and
touched his lips to her finger tips. "Forgive me," he pleaded,
"my nerves _are_ jumpy!"

Brightly the house-boat loomed up before [177] them. In another
moment they would be alongside.

Once more the man bent down to the little figure beside him.

"Just once," he demanded, "from your own lips, I want to hear
it! It wasn't I who incited you to run away--was it? It was
your own idea, I mean? You'd already made up your mind for some
sort of a running--before you stumbled on me? I'm simply the
direction you decided to run in?" For a single instant across
his worldly young face the question of his own responsibility
flecked his lean features into an almost exaggerated asceticism.
"I'm not specially anxious, you know, to pose as a seducer of
the young."

"As a what?" questioned Daphne.

Then softly thudding into the big house boat's side the little
launch finished its journey, and only the chance of laughter was
left to either the man or the girl.

"Bang!" flew a little ladder to the launch. "Creak!" strained a
rope. With a patter of soft-soled feet a half dozen white-sailored
forms came running! A dark blue officer peered down from the deck!
An extra [178] lantern flashed! And another! And another! From some
far shadowed corner a piano and violin swept blithely into melody!

Then through hands and lips infinitely more discreet than
Dighton's, but eyes not nearly so blank, the sparkling,
spirited, utterly disheveled, utterly unexplainable little
figure followed the master of the house-boat to the luxuriant,
softly lighted cabin, where gathered round an almost priceless
mahogany table two frowning, serious-minded women, and three
frowning serious-minded men sat pouring over a great flare of
blue prints.

"Nothing," affirmed President Merriwayne's clear, incisive voice
at the moment, "nothing--I believe, so affects the human mind as
a noble appearance."

With a laugh about as mirthless as a maniac's, but a humor
fairly convulsed with joy, Sheridan Kaire took a single glance
at Daphne, and drew her into the room.

"Behold, Ladies and Gentlemen," he announced, "my Pirate Queen!
The future arbiter of my fortunes!"

From the priceless mahogany table five chairs jerked back as
though by a single thud. [179]

Five pairs of eyes flared suddenly on Daphne, lapped up the
beauty of her, the disheveledness, the audacity, and blinked
their lids with astonishment.

"Is--is it dramatics?" quavered the older lady's fine patrician
voice. "What a--what a child!"

"Dramatics?" bridled Miss Merriwayne. As though the unrecognized
figure before her was deaf, dumb, blind, she lifted her lorgnette
in frowning scrutiny. "Some of the poor whites down here are
extraordinarily good looking," she conceded, "but don't you really
think, Mr. Kaire, that your jest is just a little--little----"

"Jest?" said Sheridan Kaire.

From the deck just above their heads the thud of a dragging
anchor rope sounded suddenly, and the sharp cry of orders passed
from one sailor to another.

"In ten minutes at least," laughed Kaire, "or in five, Heaven
knows if we can make it, we shall _all_ be off!" With a quite
unnecessary air of diablerie he turned and chucked Daphne under
the chin.

From the further side of the lamp, beyond [180] the unmistakable
architect, beyond the unmistakable trustee, a figure not yet
distinct, rose slowly into view. It was John Burnarde. Very
courteously he advanced towards his host. Not a muscle of his
face twitched, not an accent of his voice either lifted or fell.

"Truly, Mr. Kaire," he suggested smilingly as one might have
smiled at a maniac, "don't you think perhaps it might be better
to finish the discussion outside? No matter what a bachelor may
contend his rights to be as regards his personal affairs with
women, you will hardly insist, I think, on pursuing said affair
while my mother and President Merriwayne remain your guests?
Surely, tomorrow, when you are more yourself again----"

"I am not drunk!" flared Sheridan Kaire, "and what's more you
haven't seen me drunk this whole week more than once! Or, at
most, twice!"

"Drunk or sober," said John Burnarde quite unflinchingly, "I
request that you do not involve us in any of your escapades!"

"Escapades?" scoffed Kaire. "You----"

From the shadow to which she had partly [181] retreated, Daphne
sprang out, and brushed the bright hair from her eyes.

"Why John!" she cried, "don't you know me? It's Daphne! Daphne
Bretton!"

"_What_?" staggered the new dean. "You? Why, Daphne! Why----"

"What difference is it to you who it is?" interposed Kaire a bit
roughly.

But before anybody could answer the President herself had jumped
to her feet.

"_You_, Daphne Bretton?" she gasped accusingly. "_You_?
What--are--you--doing here? Isn't it enough that you have disgraced
your college without adding this fresh escapade to your career?
What--what wild, unprincipled doings are you up to now? Is there
no shame in you? No----" With an imperious gesture she turned to
her host. "Surely, Mr. Kaire," she implored him, "you are not in
earnest about this girl? Are we really to understand for one
moment that you contemplate allying yourself with this girl?
Putting the stewardship of your great fortune in her hands? A
girl with such a history? A girl with such a character?"

"Miss Bretton's character is not under [182] discussion here," said
John Burnarde decisively.

"Once again," snapped Sheridan Kaire, "I ask what affair Daphne
Bretton's character is to you?"

"It's this to me," began John Burnarde with his tortured eyes
fairly raking the beloved young face before him. ('What _was
she_ doing here?' ached every pulse in his body. So lovely, so
irresponsible, so strangely all alone with this notorious young
roue.) "It's this to me," he repeated dully, glanced back for a
single worried second at his frail mother's dreadful pallor, and
crossed his arms on his breast. "_What_ is it to me, Daphne?" he
asked.

"It's this to him," said Daphne fearlessly. "He liked me a
little, but when the trouble came, it had to stop. It wasn't his
fault! My father said it wasn't his fault! There were merely
other things--other people, that had to be considered. It's all
right. It's quite all right!" Defiantly the little chin lifted.
"Quite all right! I'm going--away--with Sheridan Kaire!"

With a piteously vain effort John Burnarde's mother struggled to
reach her crutch [183] and lapsed helplessly back into her chair
again. Only her white up-turned face betrayed her shock.

But for once in his life John Burnarde did not notice his mother.

"Oh, no--no!" he cried. "You don't know what you're doing! A
lovely--lovely--young girl like you to give yourself to a man
like Kaire with a reputation so notorious that----"

"I'm not too notorious--I notice--for you people--to beg libraries
from," drawled Sheridan Kaire. Then quite suddenly he leaned back
against the wainscoating of the cabin and began to laugh sardonically.
"Jabber all you want to," he said. "It's a good way to pass the
time! Just a minute more now and we'll be off, beating it for Key
West or Galveston--or any other place where the parsons are thickest
and quickest! Miss Daphne Bretton and Mr. Sheridan Kaire--heavily
chaperoned by President Claudia Merriwayne! All the newspapers
will lean heavily on that chaperone item! So square it any way
you want to with your college, Miss Merriwayne!" he bowed. "Now
that you [184] have squared it with Daphne!" More hilariously
yet he yielded to his mirth, and called loudly for the Steward.
"Champagne for everybody, to-night!" he ordered. "Guests, crew,
cabin boys, everybody! If the cat won't drink it, drown him in
it! Drat libraries!" he shouted lustily. "_This is_ my Bachelor
Dinner!"

Swishing like a serpent's hiss, Miss Merriwayne started for her
cabin. As she passed Daphne she drew her skirts aside with a
gesture that would have been sufficiently insulting without any
further action. But her tongue refused to be robbed of its own
particular reprisal.

"As I have remarked once before," she murmured icily, "you--you
little wanton!"

"_Not so fast_!" cried a new voice from the doorway. Towering,
white head and brown shoulders over everybody, Jaffrey Bretton
loomed on the scene.

"Oh--Hades!" sighed the master of the house-boat.

"_Not so fast, anybody_!" begged Jaffrey Bretton. If the smile
on his face was just a little bit set it was at least still a
smile. [185] Quite casually above the spurt and flare of his
inevitable match and his inevitable cigarette his shrewd glance
swept the gamut of startled faces. "_What's_ all the rumpus
about?" he quizzed. Simple as the question was it seemed for
some reason or other to put a queer sort of pucker into
everybody's pulses.

("Oh, what a place!" shivered the oldest trustee. "Why did we
ever come?") ("Oh, what a man!" quivered the architect. "I wish
I had designed him!")

Ignoring all other pulses, Jaffrey Bretton turned to Miss
Merriwayne. With sincere and unaffected interest he appraised
the majestic if somewhat arrogant bloom of what had been only a
mere bud of good looks and ambition twenty years before.

"You are certainly very handsome, Clytie," he affirmed.

"'Clytie?'" gasped the oldest trustee.

"C-Clytie?" stammered Daphne.

"Miss Merriwayne and I were boy and girl friends together,"
observed Bretton with unruffled blandness. "But for the moment
it is not personal reminiscence that concerns me most."
Towering, dominant, absolutely [186] relentless, but still serene,
he blocked Miss Merriwayne's exit. "Just--what, Clytie," he asked,
"were you calling my little girl?"

"You heard what I called her, Mr. Bretton!" said Miss
Merriwayne. "I called her a wanton!"

Above the flare of a fresh match and a fresh cigarette Jaffrey
Bretton restudied her face.

"And--do--you--find it convenient now to retract it?" he asked.

"I am not in the habit of retracting my statements," said Miss
Merriwayne.

"S--o?" mused Jaffrey Bretton. As though by pure accident, his
eyes strayed to the blue prints on the table. "What have we
here?" he smiled, "building plans?"

Sardonically from his own particular silence Sheridan Kaire's
laugh rang out.

"Those are the plans for the new library," he confided, "that
your daughter and I are considering giving to her--to her Alma
Mater!"

Humor for humor Jaffrey Bretton's laugh answered his. "Good
stuff!" he said, "the one bright thought!" [187]

"And you?" he addressed one stranger, "are the--the possible
architect?"

"I am," conceded the architect.

Very definitely Jaffrey Bretton drew back a little from the door
and pointed to the passageway. "Trot along!" he smiled. "And
you?" he asked the old gentleman.

"I am Miss Merriwayne's oldest trustee," asserted that dignitary
with some unctuousness.

"Trot along!" smiled Jaffrey Bretton.

With punctilious courtesy he waved the Dean's lovely old mother
after them. "For the moment," he begged her, "you will pardon my
peremptoriness? The thing that remains to be said is said best
to the least numbers."

"But I--I like--your little girl!" protested the frail but
determinate aristocrat.

"So do I!" smiled Bretton, but nodded her out.

"Who are you?" demanded Bretton of the only man but Kaire who
remained.

"I am John Burnarde!" said the man, quite invincibly.

"I thought so!" said Bretton.

"And as Miss Merriwayne's rather special [188] representative at
this time," added John Burnarde, "I refuse to leave the room while
she remains!"

"Oh, I like _you_!" said Bretton. "I've always rather liked you!
But whether I did or not!" he crisped, "you've _got_ to stay!
You and Miss Merriwayne, and Daphne, and myself!" With a toss of
his white hair he flung a message to the master of the house-boat.
"Sorry to bully your guests so, Kaire!" he said. "But not knowing
the plan of your boat, and being too formal to rummage around very
much," he added dryly, "this cabin seemed somehow the surest place
for a rather private conversation. . . . Shall you still remain
with us as our host?"

"I certainly shall!" snapped Kaire.

"You are perfectly welcome," smiled Jaffrey Bretton. "And you
notice, perhaps--that the engine has not started?"

"I notice only too damned well," said Kaire, "that the engine
has not started!"

Out of the shadowy curve of Sheridan Kaire's jealous arm Daphne
sprang suddenly forward.

"Oh, Old-Dad!" she besought him, [189] "please--Please--don't make
such a fuss! What's the good of it? What's the use? If I'm bad,
I'm bad! And--unless I'm going crazy, too--what is there left
but _fun_?"

"But you see you're all wrong," smiled her father. "You're not
'bad' at all! Without any question whatsoever you're the goodest
person here!"

"Oh--Old-Dad!" scoffed Daphne.

"But I mean it," said her father. "The little fracas at college
was only a mistake. Richard Wiltoner's mistake, indeed, rather
than yours--except in so far as you dared him into the making of
it. Oh, shucks!" shrugged her father. "Everybody makes mistakes!"

"Not mistakes like mine!" flared Daphne.

"Oh, yes, they do," smiled her father. "So, please, I beg of you
don't go bad just on that account! Truly, you'd be surprised if
you knew how many staid grown people of your acquaintance have
made very similar mistakes. Now take Miss Merriwayne and myself,
for instance. Twenty----"

With a gasp of horror Miss Merriwayne reached out and touched
him on the arm. Her face was stark, but even now she did not [190]
lose altogether the poise so long and laboriously acquired. "Some
other time--some other day," she essayed desperately, "I will be very
glad to--to discuss old days with you. But now--this moment--your
remarks--your suggestions are--are ribald. Have you no--no honor?"
she implored him.

"None--any--longer that conflicts with my daughter's honor,"
said Jaffrey Bretton. To the several pairs of startled eyes
raised to his, Jaffrey Bretton gave no glance. Every conscious
thought in his body was fixed at the moment on Daphne. "Come
here, Honey," he said.

With embarrassment but no fear Daphne came to him.

"Let me pass!" ordered Miss Merriwayne.

"It is not convenient," said Jaffrey Bretton.

Across Daphne's tousled head, past Claudia Merriwayne's statuesque
shoulder, he stared off retrospectively into space. "What I have to
say," he confided, "will take only an instant . . . . Twenty years
ago," he mused, "Miss Merriwayne and I were trapped in a situation
quite astonishingly similar to Daphne's college tragedy. . . . Except
that [191] in our case there were four thoughtless youngsters involved
instead of two--and infinitely more kissing. . . . Let me see,"
he turned suddenly to Daphne. "In your case I believe there was
no kissing?"

"I should think not!" raged Daphne.

"U-m-m-m," mused her father. "Well--there was certainly _some_
kissing in ours."

"This is outrageous!" cried Miss Merriwayne. "Let me pass!"

With a smile that would have been insolent if it had not been so
brooding, Jaffrey Bretton spread his arms across the doorway.

"You are a bigger girl, Clytie, than you used to be," he said.
"You can't slip out of this situation quite as easily as you
slipped from the other."

With a shrug of his shoulders he turned and stared into space
again. When he glanced back at his companions it was with just a
little bit of a start.

"Oh, yes--I forgot," he said. "There was a door--that time,
that wasn't blocked. And the other boy jumped through the
window. . . . What possible haven was there left," he asked,
"for the panic-stricken little [192] room-mate except in my arms?
She smelt of violets, I remember," he mused, "and her throat was
very white. Nobody ever knew about the presence of the other boy.
And only the four of us knew about Cly--'Miss Merriwayne' I would
say. But if Miss Merriwayne had come back," he quickened ever so
slightly, "and acknowledged frankly that she, also, had been
present, the school authorities, I suppose, would hardly have judged
the unintentional tete-a-tete as harshly--as they did. . . . Even at
the eleventh hour, if she had been willing to come back and
acknowledge it or at the twelfth for the matter of that--or
even at one o'clock or two, while the outraged Powers harangued
on the case . . . . But by three o'clock, that timorous little
room-mate, seeing no other exit, slashed a door through her
little white throat and fled away.

"So you see, Daphne," he smiled, "that even across a mistake
like _that_----"

"You mean," blanched Daphne, "that----"

Like a man straining very slightly toward more air the new
Dean's throat muscles lifted. [193]

On Kaire's face alone the grin remained half a grin, anyway.

     "Sailed away from a sinking wreck
     With a--something--something--on her deck,"

he quoted diabolically.

"_Hush_!" warned Jaffrey Bretton.

"I had my own life to consider!" flared Claudia Merriwayne.

"You had your own life to consider," bowed Jaffrey Bretton.

"My people were very poor!" flared Claudia Merriwayne. "They had
made great sacrifices to educate me! Already, even then, my
chances of future academic distinction were the sole topics in
my home!"

"Already," acquiesced Jaffrey Bretton, "your chances of future
academic distinction were the sole topics in your home! . . .

"So you see, Daphne," he turned and readdressed his little girl
suddenly, "so you see that, even across a mistake like _that_,
people may yet achieve real honors and much usefulness!"

Like a man a little bit weary, his arms [194] dropped down to his
sides again, but his figure still blocked the doorway.

"That is all, Clytie," he bowed. "And you may rest assured, of
course, that neither Daphne nor Mr. Kaire nor I will ever repeat
the little anecdote which I have just quoted--unless Daphne herself
shall contend that Richard Wiltoner should know. . . . Mr. Burnarde,
of course, needs no guarantees, having already proved with fearless
courtesy that your interests are his."

With frank cordiality he swung about and held out his hand to
Burnarde.

"The best of luck to you, Burnarde! in all things!" he smiled.
"If Fate had ordained you to marry my little girl, you certainly
would have made a fine Friend-in-Law for me as well as an
honorable lord and master for Daphne! . . . And after the first
haste of the honeymoon was over what good times we would have
had together--you and I! Winter nights and an open fire!--our
books--our pipes--a plate of apples--a jug of cider--and the
Classics! With Daphne sitting low--somewhere on a little
stool--just a little bit off, somehow, on the edge of it all?
Very [195] beautiful? Very miraculous? Very soul-satisfying to
the eye--service of your senses? Darning your stockings, perhaps?
Or freshening up your second-best dress suit? With her little
bright head cocked ever so slightly to one side, listening,
yearning, starving for the 'Pipe of Pan' which neither you nor
I, Burnarde, will ever hear again nor recognize, probably, if we
did. . . . You chaps, Burnarde, whose hearts grow in the shape
of Books--you chaps who mix the best ink-knowledge of the world
with your own good blood--you love very purely, very ideally. No
man could fail to trust you. But, Youth, Burnarde, brooks no
rivals, either of work or play. And in the decision between two
women--which more men have to make than any woman, thank God,
ever guesses--you have chosen, I think--very wisely!"

Crackling with starch Miss Merriwayne swung sharply around.

"I consider it exceedingly impertinent," she affirmed, "for you
to link my name with Doctor Burnarde's in any way at just this
time! There is not the slightest excuse for it, not the
slightest justification." [196]

"It was Doctor Burnarde's--mother that I referred to," smiled
Bretton, and bowed both the Dean and the President from the
room.

If the little gasp that slipped from his lips expressed
relaxation as did Daphne's sharp sigh, or Kaire's somewhat
breathy grin, such relaxation was at least quite mutually
curtailed. Without any hesitancy whatsoever the cabin door
closed very definitely behind Miss Merriwayne, and from the
clicking lock Jaffrey Bretton extracted the key and threw it
down on the mahogany table.

"Now for--_you_, Sheridan Kaire!" he said.

"I am all here," grinned Kaire. "Also--incidentally, there are
other keys to the cabin door."

"Why, of course there are other keys to the cabin door,"
conceded Bretton with perfect good humor. From his own pocket as
he spoke he drew forth a bunch of keys, freed them from their
controlling ring, and tossed them in confused and confusing
muddle after the cabin key. "Any of us can get out of this cabin
in two minutes," he confided. "But it is not my intention that
anybody should bolt from it in much less time than that. [197] Many
a man has cooled his original purposes in the time that it takes
to fit an unfamiliar key to a perfectly familiar lock. Also,
while we are rating incidental things, it does not seem best to
me that, with Lost Man and Alliman waiting in the launch, we
should run any risk of being rushed from outside. If one of us
should sneeze, for instance--or raise his voice in any special
emphasis?--Alliman is so deplorably impulsive with his shot-gun."

"I get you!" said Kaire. "There is not to be any fuss."

"You get me perfectly," bowed Bretton. "Now for the--the
discussion." Quite casually he walked over to the mahogany
table, sat down, took a single interested glance at the blue
prints and swept them all aside. "Let's all be seated," he said.

Very reluctantly Daphne came forward into the light and slid
down into the chair opposite him.

"I--I look so funny," she deplored.

"You certainly do," said her father. "Yet I would be willing to
wager," he smiled quite unexpectedly, "that of all the variant
ladies who have been entertained in this room there [198] has never
been a lovelier one or--one more tempting."

"_Sir_?" bridled Kaire. With the dark flush rising once again to
his cheek-bones he sprang forward to the table and perched
himself on the edge of it with a sinister sort of nonchalance.
"_Sir_?" he repeated threateningly.

"Oh, don't concern yourself for a moment with my daughter's
tender sensibilities," begged Bretton. "Their conservation--you
must understand--is still in my hands."

Somberly for a moment each man concerned himself with the
lighting of a fresh cigarette.

Then Bretton jerked back his chair.

"Just what was your plan, Kaire?" he asked.

"I had planned," said Kaire, without an instant's hesitation,
"to take Daphne to the first port we could make and marry her
any old way she wanted to be married."

"Why?" asked Bretton.

"_Why_?" snarled Kaire. "_Why_? Well, what an extraordinary
question! Why does any man marry any woman?"

"For so many different reasons," said [199] Bretton, "that it
rather specially interested me to hear just what yours were."

"Why, I'm crazy about her!" flushed Kaire. "Utterly mad! Never
saw anything in my life that I wanted so much!"

"Well--_you can't have her_!" said Bretton.

"By the Lord!--I _will_ have her!" cried Kaire. "Why--why
shouldn't I have her?" he demanded. "Fate fairly threw her into
my arms just now, didn't it? I didn't know you people were here!
I didn't know where in thunder you people were!--or how I was
going to find you with your blooming old dog! Sitting on the
beach I was, all in the dark--and--and the girl comes crawling
right into my arms! 'Most shot her, I did!--thought she was some
kind of a varmint! Thought----"

"Daphne----" said her father.

With an impetuous gesture Kaire flung the interruption aside.

"She'd have run away with someone!" he cried. "Not to-night, of
course! But soon! Next week! Next month! She was all primed for
it! And you can't stop 'em when they once get started!--not the
high-spirited [200] ones!--not when they're hurt and mad, too! And
she might have done a heap sight worse than run away with me! I'm
going to worship her! I'm going to give her everything she
wants! I'm going to take her every place she wants to go! Why,
six months from now she won't even remember that she went to the
damned old college! Six months from now she'll think that being
expelled from college was something she read in a comic paper!
And I'm--going--to take--her," he said, with a suddenly lowered
and curiously sinister positiveness, "whether you like it or
not!--because she has given me her word!"

"Is that true, Daphne?" asked her father.

Like a little white whirlwind Daphne jumped to her feet.

"Why, of course it's true, Old-Dad!" she stormed. "Live or die,
sink or swim, I have given Mr. Kaire my solemnest word that I
will marry him!"

"An absolutely--unconditional word?" probed Bretton.

"On one condition only!" triumphed Daphne. [201]

"And that condition----" drawled her father.

"Is a matter of confidence between your daughter and me,"
interposed Kaire hastily.

"I respect the confidence," said Bretton. "But only a fool could
fail to make half a guess of what that condition was. . . . You
are keeping unconscionably sober."

"What I keep is my own business!" snapped Kaire.

"Per--haps," conceded Bretton. Quite casually, as one whom
neither Time nor Circumstance particularly crowded, he picked up
an ivory paper cutter from the table and studied it with some
intentness before he spoke again.

"Just what--were you doing on Martha's Island to-night, Kaire?"
he asked.

"What were you doing yourself?" quizzed Kaire.

"Do you trade your answer for mine?" smiled Bretton.

"Certainly!" said Kaire.

"I was there because Martha sent for me," said Bretton. "I
thought she was in some sort of trouble. I had no idea it was
about you [202] and the dog. . . . You were a brick about the dog,
Kaire!" he brightened abruptly. "And I sha'n't soon forget it!
_But you can't have my daughter!_"

Unflinching eye for unflinching eye, Sheridan Kaire answered the
challenge.

"I most always look Martha up when I'm down this way," he
confided informationally. "I knew Martha in Paris twelve years
ago."

"And loved Martha in Paris twelve years ago?" murmured Bretton.

"Everybody loved Martha in Paris twelve years ago, you know!"
shrugged Kaire.

"No, I didn't know," said Bretton. "I was in New Zealand about
that time. It was at an insane asylum in Chicago that I first
saw Martha."

"At an insane asylum?" frowned Kaire. "I knew she'd gone queer,
but I never knew it was as queer as that."

"It was quite as queer as that," said Bretton, a bit dryly.
"Right in the midst of one of her best vaudeville acts, it
seems, she went into hysterics because a man in the front row
had on a red tie--and on the way home to her hotel she fainted
in her carriage at a scarlet [203] hat in some brilliantly lighted
shop window. So they shut her up. And a medical friend of mine
was quite a bit interested in the case. Most extraordinarily
simple his explanation was. No Indian massacres involved, no
hidden Bluebeard Chambers. Something as trivial, perhaps, as a
kitten's cut foot bleeding across a child's first white dress--a
nervous injury so trivial that no one had stopped to investigate
it. . . . But thirty years afterward, when Life got ready to
smash her, it went back thirty years and smashed her there!
Seems sort of too bad though," mused Bretton, "to have to be
shut up just because you can't digest red. Some people, you
know, can't digest oysters. And at least two friends of mine
experience an almost complete mental stoppage at the very
mention of Suffrage. Yet _they_ are still at large! . . . So we
got Martha out of the asylum," he quickened, "and reinvested her
life and her fortunes in an all-green jungle, where, except for
a curious impression that I am her benefactor, and the unspoken
but doubtless persistent apprehension that she may even yet
sight the crimson of a gay yacht-cushion or [204] the flare of a
tourist's sweater and revert to chaos again, she seems to me
perfectly normal." With a little grim smack of his lips he
seemed to bite off the end of his narrative. "And that, Sheridan
Kaire," he snapped, "is the full and complete account of my
acquaintance with Martha. . . . But yours----" he attested very
slowly, very distinctly, "was not the full and complete account
of yours!"

With his voice as quiet as a knife Kaire swung round from his
table corner.

"Since when, Mr. Bretton," he asked, "has it been considered
healthy for one man to call another a liar?"

"Whatever worry you have about the healthiness of anything,"
smiled Bretton, "should concern yourself, I think--rather than
me. . . . No one will ever shut _me_ up," he smiled, "because,
like poor Martha, I also am just a little bit color-mad! 'Seeing
red' though isn't what bothers me, you understand?--it's seeing
_yellow_!"

"You think I have a yellow streak?" flushed Kaire.

"Most of us have," smiled Bretton. "But [205] yours--at the
moment--looks to me unduly broad!"

"Why, Old-Dad!" flamed Daphne. "How can you speak so to--to the
man I'm going to marry?

"But you see--you're not going to marry him!" smiled her father.

"I tell you I am!" flamed Daphne. "I have given my word!"

"And she'll keep it, too!" triumphed Kaire. "High-strung kids
always do, somehow! Whatever else they smash--china, hearts,
laws--they never seem to break their words!--not before they're
twenty, anyway!" he grinned with sudden diablerie. "And Daphne
is only eighteen!"

"Hanged if you're not rather an amusing cuss!" admitted Bretton.
Very coolly he narrowed his eyes to the insolent young face
before him. "I--I recognize your charm! Two parts devil to one
part imp--and all the rest of it. The mysterious fascination of
your scar with every emotion you feel in the World traveling up
and down its white track--in an open car! Truly, I'm sincerely
sorry about your health!" [206]

"Oh, quit twitting about my lungs!" snarled Kaire.

"Lungs?" questioned Bretton with faintly raised eyebrows.
"Lungs? Oh, dear me--there are several other things about your
looks--besides lungs--that I don't like!" Mercilessly, but not
maliciously, he jumped up and crossed to a spot directly
confronting Kaire. "With your waggish humor," he said, "and
your inherently sportsmanlike instincts, you might have made a
pretty good lad if you'd only started earlier." Piercingly his
eyes probed into Kaire's. "But my little girl," he said,
"isn't--going--to pay--because you didn't start earlier!"

With an oath Kaire sprang to his feet.

"I'm not the only man in the world who's been wild!" he cried.
"And you know it--if anybody does!"

"You're the only man I think of at the moment," said Bretton,
"who isn't pretty sorry about it when it comes to offering his
stale hand to the first real woman of his life."

"Is--that--so?" sneered Kaire.

"It's--so," said Bretton very quietly. With a single glance at
Daphne he turned to Kaire [207] again, struck another match, lit
another cigarette. "Love isn't an overcoat, you know, Kaire," he
said. "It's underclothes! The White Linen of Life! And there seems
to be something--peculiarly and particularly offensive to a fastidious
body--in being proffered personal linen which still retains even
the scent--let alone the sweat of a previous relation . . . . The
Almighty, our Mothers, and our Ministers, may forgive us our slovenly
dinginess or our careless laundrying, being all of them more or
less Museum Collectors and interested inherently in our historical
values or the original fineness of our weave-or the ultimate
endurance of our warp and woof. But the Almighty--and our
Mothers--and our Ministers--don't have to _wear_ us, Kaire!
Not next to their skins! Don't have to sleep with us--wake with
us--live with us--die with us!" The hand that held the cigarette
trembled very slightly, the eyes that glanced back again at Daphne
were dark and poignant with pain. "You are perfectly right, Kaire!
No man knows better than I the mess that a chap may make of his
life--nor how poor the fabric that I, personally--in [208] the common
experience of men--will have to offer the woman I love . . . . very
worn it will be, very frayed!--but at least it has been cleansed
in the bitter tears of regret!"

"Is that--so?" sneered Kaire.

"It is--so," persisted Bretton. "And God knows that neither
Piety nor Wit nor anything in the world but sheer Good Luck
pulled me ashore in time. But, like other half-drowned men, I
suppose, I had neither wit nor time to choose my landing. Rocks,
sands, valleys, mountains, all looked like miracles to me. So,
mistaking austerity for purity, and severity for integrity, I
married a woman to whom the slightest caress was a liberty, and
marriage itself a sacrilege. In being sorry for myself I have
not altogether, I trust, failed to be sorry for her. We are made
as we are made. But it is only natural I suppose--that I should
like my daughter to be a Good Lover. I believe in Good Lovers.
But no one can make a good lover who is mated to a poor one!"

"I'll risk the kind of Lover I am!" cried Kaire.

"_I won't_! affirmed Bretton. [209]

"There are also some things that I won't do!" grinned Kaire. "I
won't release your daughter from her promise!"

"She doesn't love you, you know?" warned Bretton. "Even granting
perfectly frankly that you have excited her wonderment,
'wonderment' isn't love. We're all of us put together on a more
or less hasty plan, I suppose, but just because some forgotten
basting thread gives us an odd tweak now and then doesn't mean,
you know, that the actual seams of our existence are ripping any."

"I don't care what anything means," said Kaire, "as long as
Daphne has given me her promise to marry me."

"But the promise is so hysterical," argued Bretton. "The sublime
adolescent idiocy of the Boy on the Burning Deck, with fame for
one generation and caricature for eternity."

"I'm not interested in eternity," said Kaire.

"What are you interested in?" asked Bretton.

"In--myself!" said Kaire.

Very soberly for a moment Bretton frowned off into space.

"Kaire," he resumed at last rather quickly, [210] "you are making
a brutal mistake. Listen! There is a lad up North who was made for
Daphne!--a fine lad!--a clean lad! With young energies to match
her young energies! And young mysteries to mate her young
mysteries! And young problems to steady her young problems!
Across the mutual innocence of their little disaster it is
absolutely inevitable that each should have received a peculiarly
poignant sex-image of the other. Except for you--except for
_this_--who knows but what----"

"There will be time enough for that when I am through," said
Kaire. "Six months--ten--a year at the most."

"When you are through?" said Bretton very quietly. "The tender
soul of a young girl who marries a man like you--is not over-apt
to survive the experience."

Defiantly and unscrupulously Kaire delivered his ultimatum.

"It is not my responsibility," he said, "where any train goes
after I get off!"

"That is your last word?" asked Bretton.

"It is my last word," grinned Kaire.

"And yours, Daphne?" quizzed her father. [211]

"I will not break my word!" persisted Daphne. "I will not! I
will not!" Her cheeks were raging red as though with fever, her
eyes oddly aglint. "I will not! I will not!" she repeated.

"All right then, Kaire," said Jaffrey Bretton. "I'm going to
smash you!"

"Oh, no, you won't!" laughed Kaire. "That's the limitation of
good men like you! You'll think you're going to smash me!--you'll
have every intention indeed of smashing me!--push me way to the
edge!--but never quite over! Something won't let you! Honor, I
believe you call it."

"I--am--going--to push you--over the edge," said Bretton. "I am
going to send for Martha."

"Martha?" cried Kaire. His face was suddenly ashy gray. Then
abruptly his laugh rang out again.

"There hasn't been power in heaven or earth for ten years," he
scoffed, "that could bring Martha out of her green jungle when
even so much as the smoke of a yacht showed on her horizon! Even
if she could slip by [212] her attendant!" he scoffed, "or her
Chinese cook!--or----"

"Martha is in the passageway--just outside," pointed Bretton.
"About three feet, I should think, from where you are standing!"

"_What_?" staggered Kaire.

"And I am going to push Martha to the edge and over," said Bretton
very quietly. "And you to the edge and over--and jump in after you
with every wallowing truth I know--if by so doing, the little girl
I begot in bewilderment and ignored in indifference--but have
found at last in love and understanding remains on the safe side!"

With eyes half crazed Daphne stood staring from her father's grim
face to Sheridan Kaire's blanching features.

"Do you mean----" she gasped, "that there is another woman?
Someone who has a--a claim? Someone who----"

"We will let Martha tell her own story," said Jaffrey Bretton.
Very softly he stepped to the table and began to rummage among
the loose keys. "I have tried not to act impulsively," he said.
With unmistakable significance he glanced back at Kaire. "It will
[213] take me at least a minute, Kaire," he said, "to fit a key
to this door. . . . As I have remarked once before--many men
have found time to change their minds in a minute."

"I have better things to do in a minute than change my mind!"
boasted Kaire. As stealthily as a cat he slipped round the table
to Daphne and took her in his arms while Jaffrey Bretton
tinkered with the lock.

"Oh, my little beautiful!" he implored her. "My white--white
darling! My lily girl! The only sweet--the only decent love I've
ever known! You won't fail me now, will you? I have not failed
_you_! I never claimed," he besought her, "that there had never
been any other women! Surely you're not going to hold any silly
Past against me? You, my good angel! My----" Unconsciously his
excited voice slipped from its whisper. "From to-day on!" he
vowed. "From----"

"From what time to-day on?" asked Bretton a bit dryly.

Vaguely through the opening door loomed the white figure of a
woman with her elbow crooked across her eyes. Except that the [214]
lamp in the cabin was not unduly bright she might have been any
normal person shielding her dark-attuned optic nerves from some
unexpected glare. Yet the tropical pallor that gleamed both
above and below the crooked elbow was oddly suggestive of
floridness, and the faded muslin gown of a skirt-and-sleeve
fashion ten years outlawed, molded her sumptuous figure with all
the sleek sensuousness of satin.

"Martha," said Jaffrey Bretton very gently, "this cabin is hung
with crimson, cushioned with crimson, carpeted with crimson!
Will you still come if I ask you to?"

"It ees as I have said, Mr. Bret-ton," answered the faintly
foreign voice.

Then Kaire with a cry sprang forward and slammed the door in the
woman's wincing face.

"Stop! Stop, Bretton!" he begged. "Just a minute! Just a
minute!--give me one tiny little more minute to think!" His
forehead was beaded with sweat his hands shaking like aspens.

"I have one more minute I will be very glad to give you," said
Bretton. [215]

Like a person distracted, Kaire stood staring all around him.
Half askance from over his shoulder his glanced flashed back at
Daphne, wavered an instant, and settled again on her face with a
curious sort of gasp.

"Do--do you _still_ hold to your word?" he stammered.

Fevered, frightened, strangling back her sobs as best she could,
Daphne lifted her strained but indomitable little face to his.

"I--will--not break my word!" she smiled.

On Sheridan Kaire's incongruous, dissolute face, a smile as
tortured-sweet as hers quickened for a single unbelievable
instant and was gone again. As one puzzled only, he turned back
to Bretton, and stood staring almost vacantly into the older
man's impatient eyes. Then quite abruptly he turned and started
toward the door.

"I--I feel a little faint," he said. "A little queer. . . . I
will be back in a moment!"

With a sharp bang the door shut behind him. In the passage
outside they heard a single rough word, a woman's imperious
protest, the soft thud of feet on a thick carpet, and a cabin
boy's shrill call. [216]

On the carved mahogany shelf in the cabin the clock went on
about its business--one minute--three--five--ten. Through the
open portholes a faint breeze sucked at the crimson silk
curtains, and ripple to creak, and creak to ripple, the
houseboat yearned to the tide and the tide to the houseboat.

Daphne's eyes never left the clock. Weirdly exultant, excitantly
heroic, she kept the ill-favored tryst.

Blurred in the smoke of his cigarette, Jaffrey Bretton's vivid
white head merged like a half-erased drawing into the big
shimmering mirror behind him. It was just as well, perhaps, that
the twist of his mouth was hidden from Daphne's eyes.

There was no sound of voices in the outer passageway to herald
Sheridan Kaire's return: just a little stumble on the edge of a
rug--an unwonted fumble with the door handle. It wasn't defiance
that backed him up now against the support of the wainscoating,
but a very faint uncertainty in his legs. There was nothing
uncertain, however, about his face. Geniality, not to say,
jocularity, [217] wreathed it from ear to ear and from brow to chin.

"Sorry to have kept you waiting so long, dear--dear people," he
beamed. "But a Host has so many responsibilities . . . . Overseeing
the pantries and the--the libraries and the ladies!" he beamed.
"Why--why, I can't help my way with the ladies!" he turned and
explained with half-mocking anxiety to Jaffrey Bretton's absolutely
inscrutable face. "Always, ever since I was a little boy," he
deprecated, "I've been the Village cut-up! So was my father before
me, and his father before--before me. Too bad, isn't it?" he
questioned sharply. "Such a nice family! And so lively!" At an
unexpected glimpse of his face in the mirror he turned back to meet
Daphne's staring face. "Now this scar of mine, darling--darling,"
he confided dramatically, "you want to know where I got it? All
the ladies always want to know where I got it! Just as soon as a
lady gets up her courage to ask me about it," he chuckled, "then
I always know she's really beginning to think of me! You asked if I
got it in a 'brave war,'" he chuckled. "Sure I got it in [218] a
brave war. Only the brave deserve--affairs," he parodied lightly.
"It was in Smyrna," he confided, "when I was eighteen. I--I made
a little poem about it:

     "'There was a young Princess of Smyrna,
     Of love I endeavored to learn her,
     But her father in hate cleft a seam through my pate,
     Now wasn't that the deuce of a turn-a?'"

Precipitately and without the slightest warning he plunged down
into a chair and began to whimper maudlinly while with one
uncertain finger tip he traced and retraced the twitching,
zig-zagged scar. "It--it isn't nice, is it?" he babbled idiotically.
"And I was such a pretty boy? . . . Ladies shouldn't ask such
questions," he babbled. "Not just as you're going to kiss 'em.
It--it makes dead faces floating between! It--isn't nice! Oh,
Daphne darling--darling----"

But with a little scream of release Daphne's hand was already on
the door knob.

"Oh, come quick, Old-Dad!" she cried. "It's _all over_! It's all
canceled! He's broken _his_ promise! He's----" [219]

In a single bound her father was at her side.

"Oh, I hope I haven't said anything that I shouldn't have!"
babbled Kaire. With a desperate effort he struggled to his feet
and raised his arms after the manner of one who is just about to
lead a cheer. "Now, all together, ladies and gentlemen!" he
cried.

     "There was a young lady from Smyrna,
     Of--of Smyrna----"

Across his flaccid mouth the odd little smile tightened suddenly
in a single poignant flash of bewilderment and pain. "Oh, you
Little Good Works Business!" he grinned. "You--you----"

Then, before their startled eyes, he pitched over headlong on
the table, gave a queer twitch of his shoulders, and lay very
quiet, with a little flush of blood spreading redder and redder
from his lips.

But before Jaffrey Bretton could snatch Daphne from the sight,
her overtaxed brain had collapsed into delirium. Dodging down
the narrow passageway with the dreadful [220] little burden in
his arms he stumbled almost immediately on Martha's crouching
figure.

"Martha!" he cried. "There's something redder than curtains in
the cabin back there! Run and get Kaire's man!"

"Kaire's _man_?" scoffed the woman shrilly. Robbed in that
single instant of all her inhibition she turned and sped madly
for the reddest thing that she would ever know, every thought in
her awakened brain, every flash of her jeweled hands keyed
suddenly to service.

Close behind her a cabin boy came hurrying. Champagne and
crystal glasses were on his tray.

Roused from a half-completed nap Kaire's man came running to the
scene.

Like an old hound scenting disaster Lost Man himself loomed
unexpectedly in the doorway. With his great tunic-swathed height,
his sharply dilating nostrils, he seemed bristling suddenly with
some strange new sort of authority. For a single instant his beetling
brows glowered to the stark, startled faces around him. Then out
of--God knows what stained-glass memories--out of God knows [221] what
chanceled associations he burst forth resonantly into the opening
lines of the Episcopal burial service.

"'I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith the Lord. He that
believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And
whosoever liveth----'"

With a gasp from his own frazzled nerves Jaffrey Bretton pushed
mercilessly past him.

"Oh, cut it out, Lost Man," he cried. "This isn't death--yet!
Kaire's man knows just what to do, and has got a chance to do
it--probably--even one or more times yet! Go get the launch
ready, you and Alliman! If there's nothing here we can do, we'll
go _quick_!"

"Where?" stared Lost Man.

"Back to our own island, you idiot!" snapped Bretton. "And pack
up everything we've got! And catch that coast steamer in the
morning! We're going North," he paled, "as fast as we can get
there! I want a brain specialist for my little girl!" Stumbling
along after Lost Man with his babbling burden in his arms, he
stepped down into the waiting launch. [222]

Already with his gnarled calloused hands Alliman the outlaw was
wringing strange cries from the reluctant engine. Up from a
somber shadow in the bow the brown khaki lady lifted a startled
but unquestioning face.

"Let me hold her!" insisted Lost Man. "I know how to hold
'em--the little lambs!" Like some vaguely parodied picture of
"The Good Shepherd" the old man gathered the little limp figure
into his arms, and retreated to the stern of the boat.

Half resentful, half relieved, Bretton hesitated an instant and
then merged himself into the shadowy bow.

With a grunt of triumph Alliman started the launch gulfward.
With creaks and groans and puffy sighs the old engine rallied to
the task. Except for the chop of waves against the bow, the
trickle of tides at the stern, no other sound broke the black
silence except Lost Man's crooning monotone.

"There--there--there--there--there," crooned Lost Man.
"There--there--there--there--there!" When he wasn't saying
"There--there--there," he seemed to be trying to sing. Very
laboriously, very [223] painstakingly, word by word and note by note
he was straining very evidently to dig up something from his memory.

     "Bring to--little children (he struggled)
        Visions--sweet--of Thee,
     Guard the sailors tossing (he quavered)
        On the--the deep blue sea."

Along the whole dark shadowy length of the launch, the Outlaw's
face alone shone wanly bright and reasonably clear-featured in
the flare from the engine. Bloodless as the salt-pork that he
fed on, dank-haired as the swamps and glades that encompassed
him, brooding on Heaven knows what Past or what Future--a single
convulsive tremor passed his pipe-clenched lips.

"Say, Boss," he said, "on them home runs of Baker's, was they
straight-away hits? Or did they go over some fence?" [224]

III

IT WAS the Northern March--very cold, very snowy, very blustery,
when Daphne woke from her last bad dream.

Brisk, bleak, absolutely literal, the frosted roofs and gables
of a pleasant suburban landscape gleamed sociably at her through
every casement window.

No squawking pelicans screeched like steam-whistles into her
splitting eardrums. No interminable flights of sea gulls dragged
their sharp-feathered wingpoints across her naked eyeballs. On
the slime and stench of a dead shark's body her little foot had
forever stopped slipping.

"Why--why, how--perfectly extraordinary!" woke Daphne.

It seemed to be a pretty room. A little too neat, perhaps, a
little too impersonal, to be one's very own. But by no means as
plushily impersonal as a hotel, and by no means as poison-neat
as a hospital. [225]

"Wherever--in--the world--am I?" puzzled Daphne.

Very cautiously, very experimentally, she began to investigate
her most immediate surroundings.

"I am at least in a very pretty--pale blue--wadded silk wrapper,"
she discovered with eminent satisfaction. "Also, on an astonishingly
comfortable couch with at least a hundred pillows. . . . Oh--I hope
the bow on my pigtail matches my pale blue wrapper!" she quickened
expectantly. But there was no pigtail. Shockingly to her uplifted
hands her short-cropped head loomed round and crisp and fluffy as
a great worsted ball. "Oh, dear--oh, dear--oh, dear!" she gasped.
"If I am dead and born again--I am a boy!" Wilting down discouragedly
into her "hundred pillows" one slender hand dropped weakly to the
floor. "Life is very empty," she said. "Everything in life is very
empty--everything." Along her sluggish spine a curious little
thrill passed suddenly. "There is a nose in my hand!" she gasped.
"A _lovin'_ nose! Creep-Mouse!" she cried out [226] desperately. "Is
it--possible that it's your lovin' nose?"

"Perfectly possible!" thudded Creep-Mouse's essentially
practical tail. "Perfectly possible," swished and fawned the
bashful little fur body.

"This is certainly very extraordinary," struggled Daphne. "Instead
of being anything that I thought it was, it is quite evidently
some sort of a bewitchment. I am a boy! But Creep-Mouse is still
Creep-Mouse! I who went to sleep _real_ have waked up in a Fairy
Story! But _what_ Fairy Story?" she shivered. "And _what_ page?"

Quite inadvertently her eyes strayed to the little white table
at the head of her couch. In the middle of the table shone a
silver bell.

"It would be interesting," mused Daphne, "to ring that bell and
see who comes! If it's the 'Hunch-Backed Pony'--then I'll know,
of course, that I'm in the Russian Fairy book. And if it's Snow
White--" very cautiously she struggled up from her pillows and
reached for the silver bell. "But I must ring you very--little-y,"
she faltered in her weakness. "So that whatever comes will
surely [227] be very little." Then with an impetuous wilfulness
that surprised even herself she grabbed up the bell with both hands
and rang it and rang it and _rang_ it!

In the corridor somewhere a door slammed and footsteps came
running--running! Her doorhandle turned! A portiere wrenched
aside!

"It's the seven bears story--_life size_!" she screamed. And
opened her eyes to Richard Wiltoner. Like a silver bomb the bell
whizzed by his head. "Get out of my room!" she screamed. "Get
out of my room before I'm expelled again!"

"Silly!" laughed Richard Wiltoner. "I'm visiting in your house!
They told me to answer your bell!"

"My house?" collapsed Daphne. "Don't blame this house on me! I
don't even know where I am!"

"Why, you're in your own home!" laughed Richard Wiltoner. "Just
wait a minute and I'll call your people. . . . Everybody rushed
outdoors to help a horse that fell on the ice."

"Fell on the ice? How nice," mused Daphne. "Why--why, I can rhyme
again!" [228] she exulted suddenly with softly clapping hands.
"Why, I'd forgotten all about it!" Then a little bit bewilderedly
the white brow clouded. "Richard," she asked, "you--you said
'everybody' rushed out. What do you mean--'everybody'?"

"Why, your father, Mr. Bretton," said Richard, "and Mrs.
Bretton."

"'Mrs. Bretton?'" jumped Daphne. Very limply she sank back into
her pillows again. "Oh, I knew it," she said. "I've waked in the
wrong story!" Quite severely she seemed to hold Richard
responsible for the mistake. "Oh--no, Richard," she corrected
him. "In the story I belong in there's no Mrs. Bretton. Just Mr.
Bretton!--Mr. Jaffrey Bretton!--a tall man," she endeavored to
illustrate, "with snow-white hair!"

"The very lad," laughed Richard, "and Mrs. Bretton. She's a
brick! She's got red hair. Oh, I didn't mean to be funny!" he
apologized hastily.

"Funny?" flamed Daphne. Flushing, paling, flushing again--a dozen
conflicting emotions seemed surging through her brain. [229]
"Richard?" she questioned. "Have you ever lost anything?"

"I've lost both my parents," said Richard, "and three sisters--and
I don't remember any of them."

"Haven't you anything left?" asked Daphne.

"I've got one brother," said Richard. "The crippled brother, you
know? And my horse, Brainstorm."

"Do you love them?" questioned Daphne.

"I love Brainstorm," said Richard.

"I've had trouble, too," sighed Daphne. "I've lost my father and
my hair."

"Someone seems to have found your father," laughed Richard in
spite of himself. "But whatever in the world have you done with
your hair?"

"That's just it, Richard," said Daphne. "Will you look in the
top bureau drawer?"

Flushing forty colors Richard opened the top bureau drawer. He
was handsome enough when he wasn't embarrassed. But under
embarrassment he glowed like stained glass with a light behind
it. "There are [230] ribbons here," he pawed. "And--and things!
But no hair!"

"Oh, isn't it--awful?" shivered Daphne. "Well, is there a hair
brush? I would so like to look all right when my--my stepmother
comes."

"Just as though she hadn't seen you looking all kinds of wrong
for weeks and weeks!" scoffed Richard. But very obediently he
brought the hair brush.

"Just where do you think you'd better begin?" worried Daphne.

"I?" stammered Richard. "I?" With a wild little lunge he
commenced the attack.

"My! But you're bumpy!" winced Daphne. "Don't you think that
maybe it would be better to use the bristly side of the brush?"

"Oh, I say!" apologized Richard, "I _am_ rattled!" With
reconstructed acumen he resumed the task.

"Oh, _that's_ nice," purred Daphne. "In a book I was reading
there was the funniest thing--the husband in it was always
brushing his wife's hair."

"How funny!" acquiesced Richard.

"Oh--awfully funny," purred Daphne. "I [231] guess there's a good
deal more to this marriage-business," she observed sagely, "than
some of us had supposed."

"Very likely," admitted Richard.

"Less nonsense, I mean," reflected Daphne. "But more hair-brushing--and
putting away winter clothes, and----"

"Oh, I wish I had a wife," hooted Richard, "to put away my
winter clothes!"

"I wish you had!" laughed Daphne. For the first time her mind
went back to her little college tragedy with purely historical
interest instead of pain. "Oh, I wish you had! That dress suit
you bumped my nose against smelled so strong of camphor--I
couldn't get it out of my nostrils all winter! Why, we're both
laughing!" she exclaimed with sudden astonishment.

"Why shouldn't we?" argued Richard Wiltoner. In the midst of the
reflection a most curious expression flashed across his eyes.

"_Wouldn't_ it have been funny," he said, "if you _had_ married
me--that time I asked you?"

"We'd have fought like cats and dogs, I suppose," said Daphne. [232]

"But at least," laughed Richard, "you would have been putting
away my winter clothes--just about now."

"And you--" retaliated Daphne.

"I'm already--brushing your hair!" laughed the boy.

"Let's never marry anybody," suggested Daphne. "Not for years!"

"I can't!" said Richard. "Not for years and years and years!--not
to make a girl comfortable, I mean! There won't be any
money. . . . There's my brother, you know; and I've got so
many animals. . . . It's queer about animals," he stammered,
"you--you can't fail the old ones when they're old, and you can't
fail the young ones when they're young. It's like any other kind of
family, I suppose," he smiled. "All fun and all responsibility!
But never any time! And never any money!" Quite furiously he
resumed the hair-brushing. "Oh, after all," he remarked, "_this_
isn't so awfully different from getting the snarls out of
Brainstorm's mane. Only Brainstorm's mane is brown. And yours?"
With a cry of sheer joy he stood off and surveyed his handiwork.
"And yours--" he laughed, [233] "looks like a bunch of short-stemmed
jonquils!"

"Oh, how--awful!" cried Daphne.

"No, it's cunning," flushed Richard.

A little bit teased by the laugh, Daphne met her own embarrassment
with a fresh command.

"Oh, please--run quick now," she begged, "and tell my people as
you call them--that a Lady-Who-Has-Been-Long-Away--sends her
love and is home again!"

"You're too slow with your invitation," called her father's
voice from the doorway. "We've already arrived!" With a most
curious merge of excitement and serenity Jaffrey Bretton and the
Intruding Lady walked into the room.

"How do you do?" said Daphne, with the faintest possible tinge
of formality.

"Why, very well indeed," said her father, a bit casually. "How's
yourself?" His more immediate attention at the moment seemed
fixed on Richard and the waving hair brush.

"Oh, I'm all right," drawled Daphne very evenly. Then, with all the
sudden tempestuous intensity of a child, she threw her arms [234]
in the air. "Only, I don't see--even yet," she cried, "just what
Richard Wiltoner is doing here."

With a quite unexplainable laugh her father dropped down on the
edge of her couch.

"Why it's--it's about potatoes!" he laughed. "Richard is getting
to be some farmer! He's written a magazine article about some
new potato scheme of his. It's very interesting! I like
experiments! I'm going to finance it. Not much, you know, but
just a little. Just enough to take the strain off--and leave the
push on. We'll go over in the spring when it's planting time,"
he began to laugh all over again, "and see that the experiment
is started properly."

Quite severely Daphne drew back into her pillows. "I don't think
it's very nice of you, Old-Dad," she said, "to laugh so at
Richard's farming. Farming is a very--very noble profession, I
think."

"It certainly is," conceded her father.

"And have you rabbits, Richard, as well as potatoes?" she
questioned with unbroken [235] gravity. "And will there be
jonquils? And new pigs?"

"There's liable to be 'most everything by that time," admitted
Richard.

"Oh, all right then," brightened Daphne. "I think I'll come,
too! I've thought a good deal about potatoes, myself!" With a
little sigh, half fatigue, half contentment, she glanced up at
her father just in time to intercept the glance of "white magic"
that passed between him and the Intruding Lady. In an instant
her little spine stiffened again. "Only--Richard," she smiled up
bravely, "we unmarried people must surely stand by each other!
Even after you go away maybe you'll write me about the rabbits
and things? It's just a little bit lonely sometimes," quivered
the smile, "to be the only unmarried person in the house."

With a perceptible quiver of her own smile the Intruding Lady
came forward and dropped down on the couch just in front of Old-Dad.

"Oh, Little Girl," she said, "don't you think you're ever--ever
going to like me any?" [236]

"Why, I like you now," whispered Daphne.

"And I'd like to like you--lots--only----" A bit worriedly the
fluffy head turned and re-turned on its pillows. "Only--I don't
understand," fretted Daphne, "about your having so many honeymoons."

"So many 'honeymoons?'" smiled the Intruding Lady. "Why, I'm
thirty-two years old! And this is the very first honeymoon I've
ever had in my life!"

"Why--why, you said you were on a honeymoon--down South!"
frowned Daphne.

"So I did!" laughed the Intruding Lady. "And so I was! But I
never said it was _my_ honeymoon!"

"Old-Dad--thought it was your honeymoon!" accused Daphne.

"Yes--I meant him to!" laughed the Intruding Lady. "Just for a
little while I meant him to! . . . We'd had such a quarrel--ever
since the winter before! Love at first sight it seemed to be!--and
quarrel at first sight too!"

"Oh, dear me--dear me," worried Daphne. "The more I hear about
this 'Love' the more [237] complicated it seems. There's even more
study to it--I believe--than going to college."

"Oh, a great deal more study to it than going to college!"
attested the Intruding Lady.

"But _whose_ honeymoon--was it?" persisted Daphne.

"Why, it was the honeymoon," mused the Intruding Lady, "of a
very silly little chorus girl and an unduly wise New York
magnate. He was very much pleased with everything about her, it
seemed, except her Grammar--so I was brought along to mend the
Grammar. Now wasn't that a perfectly idiotic thing to do?" she
turned quite unblushingly to ask Old-Dad. "Where there are so
many perfectly beautiful things to learn on a honeymoon to waste
any time learning Grammar? Oh, of course, I know perfectly
well"--she re-turned a bit quickly to Daphne--"that it was very
wrong indeed of me to run away from them--that it caused the old
magnate, at least, a considerable amount of anxiety. Only, of
course, I never dreamed for a moment," she acknowledged, "that
the yacht would go off without me! I merely [238] thought," she
blushed, "I merely heard," she blushed, "that that was Jaffrey
Bretton's Island."

"And you found him with me!" giggled Daphne, "all cuddled up in
the sand."

"Yes," blushed the Intruding Lady.

With the cloud still on her brow Daphne studied the Intruding
Lady's face with an entirely brand-new interest.

"But, how ever in the world," she demanded, "could anybody
quarrel with my father?"

As though wanting to give full consideration to the question,
the Intruding Lady glanced back at her husband before she
essayed to face Daphne again.

"Why, really," she answered, "don't you suppose--that perhaps--it's
because he's so tall?"

"Hardly," said Daphne.

"Well, then--maybe," mused the Intruding Lady, "it's because
he's so--so funny?"

"Not at all," said Daphne.

"Well--just possibly--of course," smiled the Intruding Lady,
"it's because I have red hair!" [239]

"Now you're talking!" said Jaffrey Bretton.

But no smile ruffled Daphne's gravity.

"Were you a--a sort of a teacher?" she questioned.

"Yes, a sort of a teacher," admitted the Intruding Lady.

"Where?" asked Daphne.

"Oh, on houseboats and yachts and things," smiled the Intruding
Lady. "Just a sort of traveling teacher. That's why I didn't
quite understand your father at first--I suppose," she
acknowledged. "Our lives were so far apart."

"Do you think you understand me?" whispered Daphne.

"Oh, I understand you perfectly," smiled the Intruding Lady.

"Then what are you going to teach me?" quivered Daphne. "There
are so many things I want to know! Who Lost Man was! Why people
like the Outlaw _are_! Did--did Sheridan Kaire--break his word
on purpose to free me?"

From the Intruding Lady's merry eyes a most astonishing tear
rolled suddenly.

"First of all, Little Girl," she said, "I'm going [240] to try
very--very hard to teach you to love me!"

"I'm--I'm enjoying my first lesson very much thank you," smiled
Daphne faintly.

"Heaven bless my soul!" cried her father quite abruptly, "I'd
forgotten all about smoking!" Adroitly with match and cigarette
he proceeded to remedy the omission, brooding thoughtfully all the
while on his daughter's wistful young face the positive, generous
womanliness of his own chosen mate the splendid clean-limbed,
clean-souled promise of the young lad before him. With more emotion
than he cared to show he bent down suddenly and gathered Creep-Mouse
into his arms. "There--there isn't a man in the world," he affirmed,
"who has as good a--as good a dog as I have!"

"'Dog?'" deprecated Richard Wiltoner quite unexpectedly. "'Family I
guess is what you mean!'"

"But even yet," questioned Daphne worriedly of the Intruding
Lady, "everything's been so sudden and queer--even yet I don't
quite seem to realize just how you figure in my story?" [241]

"Why, I don't suppose I figure at all," smiled the Intruding
Lady very modestly, "except in so far as I do my bit towards
making a Happy Ending.

"'Happy Ending?'" quickened Jaffrey Bretton. "Why this--is just
the Happy Beginning!"

THE END.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Old-Dad" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home