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: The Stingy Receiver
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 "The Stingy Receiver" ***

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



[Illustration: Frontispiece: The girl in her Norse glow and
blondness would have been a marked figure any where.]


THE STINGY RECEIVER



BY ELEANOR HALLOWELL ABBOTT

AUTHOR OF "MOLLY MAKE BELIEVE," "THE WHITE LINEN NURSE," ETC.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY

FANNY MUNSELL



NEW YORK

THE CENTURY CO.

1917



Copyright, 1917, by THE CENTURY Co.



Copyright, 1916, by THE CROWELL PUBLISHING COMPANY

Published, February, 1917


TO

KATHERINE K. ABBOTT

A GENEROUS GIVER

THIS BOOK IS AFFECTIONATELY

DEDICATED



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

The girl in her Norse glow and blondness would have been a
marked figure any where . . . Frontispiece

"Oh, drat you women!" he grinned sheepishly. "Well, go ahead!
One--two--three--four--five--six--seven--eight--nine--TEN!". . . 9

By craning his neck around the corner of the piano, he noted
with increasing astonishment that the rivulet sprang from the
black ferule of an umbrella . . . 87

"Excuse me, Miss Kjelland," he said; "but this is not a
picnic--it is a clinic" . . .99

As coolly as if she had been appraising a new dog or pussy,
Mrs. Tome Gallien narrowed her eyes to both the vision and
the announcement . . . 127



THE STINGY RECEIVER



I

"If I were fifty years old," said the Young Doctor quite bluntly,
"and found myself suddenly stripped of practically all my motor
powers except my pocketbook and my sense of humor; and was told
that I could make one wish----"

"But I am fifty years old," admitted the Sick Woman. "And I do find
myself stripped of practically all my motor powers, except my
pocketbook and my sense of humor!"

"Then for Heaven's sake--wish!" snapped the Young Doctor.

"Oh, my goodness!" mocked the Sick Woman. "You're not by any chance
a--a fairy god-doctor, are you?"

"Fairy god-doctor?" bristled the young man. "The phrase is an
unfamiliar one to me," he confided with some hauteur.

Quizzically then for a moment among her hotel pillows the woman lay
staring out through the open window into the indefinite slate-roofed
vista of Beyond--and Beyond--and Beyond. Then so furtively that the
whites of her eyes showed suddenly like a snarling dog's she glanced
back at the Young Doctor's grimly inscrutable face.

"You're  quite sure that it isn't a will you want me to make?
Not a wish?" she asked.

"Quite sure," said the Young Doctor, without emotion.

As two antagonists searching desperately for some weak spot in each
other's mental armor, the patient's eyes narrowed to the doctor's,
the doctor's to the patient's.

It was the patient who fled first from the probe.

"How many years can you give me?" she surrendered dully.

"I can't give you any! I can't afford it!" slapped the Young Doctor's
brisk, cool voice.

"How many years can you sell me, then?" roused the woman with the
first faint red flare of vigor across her cheek bones.

"Oh, I don't know," admitted the Young Doctor. Sagging back a little
wearily against the edge of the bureau, with his long arms folded
loosely across his breast he stood staring tensely down through
the woman's question into the actual case itself. "Oh, I don't
know," he admitted. "Oh, of course, if you had some one brand-new
interest to revitalize you? If the matter of congenial climate
could be properly adjusted? With all your abundant financial
resources? And all the extra serenities and safeguards that financial
resources can wrap a sick person in? Oh, I suppose one could almost
positively guarantee you--guarantee you,--oh, years and years," he
finished a trifle vaguely.

"Only that?" winced the woman. "Years and years?" she quoted
mockingly. "It isn't enough! Not nearly enough!" she flared with
sudden passion.

"Even so," smiled the Young Doctor. "That is a more definite
estimate than I could, equally honestly, make for the youngest,
friskiest child who prances to work or play every day through
the tortuous traffic of our city streets."

"Oh," said the woman with a flicker of humor in her tears.

"Oh," smiled the doctor without an atom of humor in the smile.

With her handsome gray head cocked ever so slightly to one side,
the woman's eyes seemed rather oddly intent on the Young Doctor
for an instant.

"How--how thin you are--and how hungry-looking," she commented
suddenly with quite irrelevant impudence.

"Thank you," bowed the Young Doctor.

"Ha!" chuckled the woman. "And I? 'How satiate-looking she is!' Is
that what you'd like to say?"

"You are perfectly welcome to look any way you wish," said the
Young Doctor with distinct coldness.

Indifferently then for a moment both doctor and patient seemed to
relax into the centric personal hush of the sick-room itself, with
its far outlying murmur of thudding feet, its occasional sharp,
self-conscious click of remote elevator machinery.

Then the doctor snatched out his watch.

"Well, what is it you want me to do first?" roused the Sick Woman
instantly.

"Make your wish!" said the doctor.

"Yes, I know," parried the woman. "But what do you want me to wish?
What kind of a wish, I mean, do you want me to make?"

As though personally affronted by the question, the Young Doctor
stepped suddenly forward.

"What kind of a wish do I want you to make?" he demanded. "Why, what
kind of a wish should I want you to make except an honest wish? Not
the second-hand, sanctimonious, reconsidered sort of wish that you
think you ought to make. But the first glad, self-concerned,
self-revitalizing whim that gushes up into your mind when anybody
springs the word 'wish' at you!"

"Oh!" brightened the woman. "That ought to be easy enough." The sudden
smile flooding into the very faintly distorted facial muscles gave
a certain shrewd, waggish sort of humor to the assertion. "Why
not?" she persisted speculatively. "Long life and happiness having
been logically eliminated from my impulses, and both faith and
fact having reasonably convinced me that all my loved ones are
perfectly well provided for in either this world or the next,
why shouldn't I wish for the one thing that will add most to my own
personal diversion? Oh, very well," she began to consider.
Whitely her eyelids drooped down across her turbid eyes. "Now
you count ten, Doctor," she murmured quite casually. "And when you
say ten I'll tell you the wish."

"This isn't a game, Mrs. Gallien!" bristled the Young Doctor.

Very languidly the woman opened her eyes wide.

"Oh, isn't it?" she asked. "Then I won't wish, thank you."

"What are you talking about?" scolded the Young Doctor.

"About getting well," conceded the woman. Languidly the white eyelids
closed again. "And if getting well isn't a game--I won't get well,
either," affirmed the woman.

With a gasp of irritation the Young Doctor snatched up his hat and
left the room.

But outside the door, neither up the hall nor down the hall, nor
across the hall, was the nurse waiting where he had told her to wait.



[Illustration: "Oh, drat you women!" he grinned sheepishly. "Well, go
ahead One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-TEN"]



With an audible imprecation he stalked back into the sick-room and
threw himself down into the first chair he could reach.

"Oh, drat you women!" he grinned sheepishly. "Well, go ahead!
One--two--three--four--five--six--seven--eight--nine--ten!"

As automatically almost as a mechanical doll the Sick Woman opened
her eyes.

"Oh, all right!" she smiled. "Now I will tell you the wish. But first
I must tell you that the thing I hate most in the world is an empty
twilight. And the thing I love best is a crowded shop. Oh, the joy
of shopping!" she quickened. "The fun, the fury of it! Buy, buy,
buy, while the light lasts and the money shines! But as for the
empty twilight?" she wilted again. "I wish--" her voice caught
suddenly, "I wish that the last mail of the day may never leave
me utterly letterless. And that I may always be expecting a package
by express!"

"Do you really mean it?" asked the Young Doctor without the slightest
trace of perturbance.

"Why, of course I mean it!" smiled the woman. "But do you dream for
a moment that you can guarantee that?"

"I can at least prescribe it," said the Young Doctor.

"You have more subtlety than I thought," drawled the woman.

"You have more simplicity than I had dared to hope," bowed the Young
Doctor.

Again, in shrewd half-mocking appraisement, the two measured each
other.

Then with a great, busy frown the Young Doctor turned to his notebook.

"Let me see," he estimated. "It was four weeks ago yesterday--that
you fell on the street."

"Was it?" said the woman indifferently.

"Mrs. Gallien," asked the Young Doctor with some abruptness, "just
exactly where is your home?"

"I have no home," said the woman.

"Yes, but you must live somewhere," bristled the Young Doctor.

"Only in my pocketbook and my sense of humor," quoted the woman
with frank mockery.

"But why make such a mystery about your domicile?" persisted the
Young Doctor.

"That's just it," said the woman. "I haven't any domicile to make a
mystery of! It's seventeen years since I've lived in what you call
a domicile.

"Where have you lived?" demanded the Young Doctor.

"Oh, on steamers mostly," conceded the woman. Very faintly the
pallid nostrils dilated. "I've been to Australia five times,"
she acknowledged. "And China twice. And Japan,--" she quickened.
"All the little vague outlying islands, all the great jostling
eager seaports! By steam, by paddle wheels, by lax, loose-flapping
rainbow-colored sails!" In sudden listlessness she turned her
cheek to the pillow again. "Wherever the sea is salt," she
murmured. "Wherever the sea is salt! Hunting, always and forever
hunting,--yes, that's it,--always and forever hunting for lights
and laughter and----"

"Pardon me," said the Young Doctor, quite abruptly. "But is your
husband living?"

"No," said the woman. "He died two years ago."

Inquisitively for a moment the Young Doctor studied the nerve-ravaged
face before him.

"Pardon me," he stammered. "But--but was it a great shock to you?"

"It was a great relief," said the woman, without emotion. "He had
been hopelessly insane for seventeen years."

"Oh!" jumped the Young Doctor, as though the thought fairly tortured
his senses.

"Oh!" speculated the woman quizzically, with the merciful outer
callousness which the brain provides for those who are obliged to
carry some one scorching thought for an indeterminate period of years.

As though in sheer nervous outlet the Young Doctor began almost at
once to pace the room.

"Seeing that there are no--no personal ties, apparently, to hold you
here--or drive you there," he said, "the matter of congenial
climate ought to be one that we can easily arrange."

With half ironic amusement the Sick Woman lay and watched his worried,
fluctuating face.

"The question of climate is all arranged!" she said. "The speed
that was stripped from my body last week, has at least been put
back into my brain. Just where I am going, just whom I am going
to take with me, just what I am going to do to amuse me, every last
infinitesimal detail of all the rest of my life," she smiled, "I
have planned it all out while you have been dawdling there between
the wardrobe and the bureau."

"Dawdling?" snapped the Young Doctor. Quite abruptly he stopped his
nervous pacing. "Well, where is it that you want to go?" he asked.

Musingly the woman's eyes stared off again into the window-framed
vista of the city roofs.

"On an island," she said. "Off the coast of South Carolina there is
a house. It is really rather a dreadful old place. I have not seen
it since I was a girl. It was old then. It must be almost a wreck
now. And the island is not very large. And there is no other house
on the island. Just this great rambling deserted shack. And six
battered old live-oak trees half strangled with dangly gray moss.
And there are blue jays always in the gray moss, and cardinal birds,
and unestimable squirrels. And there is a bedroom in the house forty
feet long. And in that bedroom there is a four-poster seven feet wide,
and most weirdly devised of old ships' figureheads, a smirking,
faded siren at one corner, a broken-nosed sailor at another,--I forget
the others--but altogether in memory I see it as a rather unusually
broad and amusing shelf to be laid aside on. And there, in the
middle of that great ship-figured bed, in the middle of that great
dingy sunken-cabin sort of room with its every ancient windowpane
blearing grayly into the sea, through deck-like porches so broad,
so dark, so glowering that no streak of cloud or sky will ever
reach my eyes again, nor any strip of gray-brown earth--I shall lie,
I say, in unutterable peace and tranquillity as other ghosts have
lain before me, 'forty fathoms deep' below all their troubles. And
always as I lie thus, there will be the sigh of the surf in my
ears. And the swell of the tide in my eyes. Eternally across my
windows fin-like wings shall soar and pass and gray mosses float and
flare."

"Cheerful!" snapped the Young Doctor.

"Yes. Isn't it?" beamed the woman.

With a gasp of surprise the Young Doctor turned and stared at her.

"Why, I really believe that you think so!" he stammered.

"Why, of course I think so!" said the Woman. "Why not?" she queried.
"A dimming candle glows brightest in a dark room!" Not a trace of
morbidness was in her voice, not a flicker of sentimentality. "And
besides," she smiled. "It is also my desire to remove myself as
far as possible from the main thoroughfares of life."

"I don't see why!" protested the Young Doctor.

"This is the 'why,'" said the woman. "Just as I fell that day,"
she smiled. "In my last conscious moment, I mean,--a hurrying
child stumbled and stepped on me." Once again the smile twisted
ever so slightly to one side. "And never any more while I live,"
said the woman, "do I care to repeat the sensation of being an
impediment to traffic." Very idly for a moment she seemed to
focus her entire interest on the flapping window curtain. "And I
shall name my house--name my house--" she mused. With sudden
impetuous conviction every lax muscle of her face tightened into
action. "Once--once in New England," she hurried, "I saw a
scarlet-gold tulip named 'Glare of the Garden'! For absolute
antithesis I shall call my house 'Gloom of the Sea!'"

"Do you wish to take your present young nurse with you?" asked the
doctor a bit abruptly.

The crooked smile on the woman's face straightened instantly into
thin-lipped positiveness.

"I do not!" said the woman. "I detest novices! Their professional
affectations drive me mad! I am born, weaned, educated, courted,
married, widowed,--crippled, in the moppish time it takes them to
wash my face, to straighten the simplest fork on my breakfast
tray! Every gesture of their bodies, every impulse of their minds,
fairly creak with the laborious, studied arrogance of an immature
nature thrust suddenly into authority! If I've got to have personal
service all the rest of my days for goodness' sake give me a big,
experienced nature reduced by some untoward reason to the utmost
terms of simplicity!" As quickly as it had come, the irritation
vanished from her face. "There is a chambermaid here in this
hotel--I love her!" said the woman. "She was a hospital superintendent
somewhere, once, until her deafness smashed it." As ingenuously as a
child's the tired, worldly-wise eyes lifted to the Young Doctor's
face. "I like deaf people," said the woman. "They never chatter,
I have noticed. Nor insist upon reading the newspapers to you. Being
themselves protected from every vocal noise that does not directly
concern them, they seem instinctively to accord you the same
sacristy. And besides," smiled the woman, "this ex-superintendent's
hair is as gray as mine. And I adore women whose hair is just
exactly as gray as mine. And also," smiled the woman, "her name
happens to be 'Martha'--and I have always craved the personal
devotion of someone named 'Martha'. And I shall pay her an extra
hundred dollars a month," smiled the woman, "to call me 'Elizabeth'.
Never in my life," said the woman, "have I ever had any food cooked
for my first name. Martha will do everything for me, you understand?"
she added quickly.

"Yes, but how do you know that she'll go with you?" asked the Young
Doctor dryly.

"How do I know that she'll go with me?" flared the woman. The
imperious consciousness of money was in the flare, but also the
subtler surety of a temperamental conviction. "Why, of course
she'll go!" said the woman. As definitely as though she had assumed
that sunshine would be sunshine, she dismissed the whole topic
from their conversation.

"Oh, all right," smiled the Young Doctor a bit ironically. "I am to
infer then that climate, locality, care, companionship, everything
has been arranged except your wish for a chronic Package by Express?"

"Oh, that is all arranged too!" boasted the woman.

"I don't see it," said the Young Doctor.

"I saw it," said the woman, "while you were straightening your
necktie! Oh, of course, the shops can never happen again." She
winced with real emotion. "All the gay, covetous fingering of
silk or bronze, the shrewd explorative sallies through aisles of
treasure and tiers of tantalization! But just the package part?"
She rallied instantly. "Oh, the package part I assure you is
perfectly easy, as long as memory lasts and imagination holds.
With a check book on one side of me and a few dollars worth of
postage stamps on the other, all I'll have to do," she laughed,
"is just to lie there on my back and study the advertising pages
of all the magazines. Every fascinating gown that cries for help
from a fashion catalogue! Every irresistible lawn mower that brags
of its prowess from the columns of an agricultural journal!
Ten cent packages of floral miracles, or ten dollar lotions
from the beauty shops! Certainly never again till the end of
time ought there to dawn a day when I haven't a reasonable
right to expect that something will arrive!

"And I shall have a wrangle boat, of course," babbled the woman
impishly. "What is it? Oh, 'motor boat' you call it? Oh, any old
kind of an engine,--I don't care, so long as it serves its purpose
of keeping a man and a boy busy all day long quarreling as they
always do just how to run it. And once a day, every late afternoon,
I shall send the wrangle boat to the mainland--way--way out beyond
the sky line of my piazza. And the instant that boat swings back
into vision again, just between the droop of the roof and the lift
of the railing, they will hoist a flag if there is anything for me.
And if there isn't--if there isn't?" Across her whimsical prophecy
indescribable irritation settled suddenly. "And if there isn't
anything, they need never return!" snapped the woman.

"Oh, of course, that's all right at first," mocked the Young Doctor.
"But in your original description of your island I remember no mention
of large storehouses or empty warerooms. After a while you know,
with things arriving every day or so. And the house, I infer, except
for the one big room you speak of, sustains no special acreage."

"Stupid!" rallied the woman.

"Oh, I see," puzzled the Young Doctor. "You--you mean that you're
going to give the things away? Hordes of young nieces, and poor
relations and all that sort of thing? Why--why, of course!"

"Oh, no!" said the woman. With suddenly narrowing eyes her whole
face turned incalculably shrewd and cold. "Oh, no! I am all through
giving anything away!" Defiantly for an instant she challenged the
Young Doctor's silence, then sank back with frank indifference into
her pillows again. "Worldly as I am," she smiled very faintly, "and
worldly as my father and mother were before me, and their father
and mother, doubtless, before them, there is one little prayer that
I shall never forget,--and I found it, if the fact interests
you, inscribed painstakingly in faded violet ink in the back
of my grandfather's first check book, before, evidently,
either wealth or worldliness had quite begun to set in. And
this is the little prayer:

"If fortune and finance should so ordain that I may never be any kind
of a giver, Heaven grant that at least I may not be a stingy receiver
but share unstintedly with such benefactor as may favor me the
exceeding happiness which his benefaction has most surely conferred
upon me!"

Once more the faint smile twisted into cynicism. "That's it," said
the woman. "I'm tired of _stingy receivers_!"

"I--I'm afraid I don't get you," said the Young Doctor.

"Don't you ever get anything?" snapped the woman explosively.

It was the Young Doctor's turn to flare now. "Oh, yes," he said.
"Sometimes I get awfully tired of the vagaries of women!"

Out of her nerves rather than her mirth the woman burst out laughing.

"You are so young!" she said.

"Not as juvenile as your vagaries," protested the Young Doctor.

"But my vagaries are not juvenile!" insisted the woman. "They are as
old and ingrained as time itself. For seventeen years," quickened
the woman, "I have been 'gathering gifts' from all over the world,
ripping things out of impersonal wholesale, as it were, to apply
them as best I might to this person's, or the other's, individual
need. Say, if you want to, that I have had nothing else to do on my
travels except to spend money, yet the fact remains that as far as
my own personal satisfactions are concerned in the matter of giving,
I have been pouring presents for seventeen years into a bottomless
pit. Never once, I mean," smiled the woman, "never once, yearning
over the abyss as the gift went down, have I ever heard the
entrancing thud that a gift ought to make when it lands on real
appreciation. Never!"

"Well, you are a cynic!" conceded the Young Doctor.

"I admit it," said the woman. "Yet even a cynic may be fair-minded."
For the first time in her tired, sophisticated face, shrewdness and
irony were equally routed by sheer perplexity. "I've thought it all
out as decently as I could from the other person's point of view," she
puzzled. "I see his side, I think. I have no legal, constitutional
right, of course, to demand a person's gratitude for any gift which
is purely voluntary on my part. Lots of people in all probability
would infinitely rather not have a gift than be obliged thereby to
write a 'Thank you' for it. Against such a person's wish and
inclination, I mean, I've no right to pry 'Thank you's' out of him,
even with gold-mounted golf sticks or first editions. I've no right
to be a highwayman, I mean. Even if I'm literally dying for a
'Thank you' I've no more right, I mean, to hold up a person with
a gift than I'd have to hold him up with a gun."

"Then what are you fussing about?" asked the Young Doctor.

"I'm fussing about the hatefulness of it," said the woman. All the
shrewdness came suddenly back to her face. "This is what I mean!"
she cried sharply. "When I stay in Paris three months, for instance,
to collect a trousseau for the daughter of a man who meant something
to me once in my youth, and receive in due time from that girl
a single page of gothic handwriting thanking me no matter how
gushingly for my 'magnificent gift,' I tell you I could fairly
kill her for her stingy receiving! Not a word from her about
hats, you understand? Not a comment on shoes! Not the vaguest,
remotest mention of chiffon veils, silk stockings, evening gowns,
street suits, mink furs, anything! Just the whole outfit, trunk
after trunk of 'em, all lumped in together and dismissed perfectly
casually under the lump word 'gift!' and it wasn't just a 'gift'
that I gave her, you understand?" said the woman with a sudden
real twinge of emotion. "Almost nobody, you know, ever gives just
a 'gift.' What I really gave her, of course, was three whole
months of my taste, time, temperament! Three whole months of my
wanting-to-give! Three whole months of a woman's dreams for a young
girl! What I really gave her, of course, was the plaudits of her
elders, the envies of all her girl chums, the new, unduplicatable
pride and dignity of a consciously perfect equipment! What I really
gave her, of course, was the light in her bridegroom's eyes when
he first saw her merge a throb of mist and pearls through the gray
gloom of the cathedral chancel! What I really gave her of course
was the----"

"Yes, but you surely know that she appreciated the gift," deprecated
the Young Doctor.

"Why, of course she appreciated the gift!" snapped the woman. "But
what I'm trying to find is some one who'd appreciate the giver!
Anybody can appreciate a gift," she added with unprecedented scorn.
"Pleased?" snapped the woman. "Why, of course, she was pleased!
The only thing I'm fussing about is that she was too stingy to
share her pleasure with me! The fire I worked so hard to light,
lit all right, but simply refused to warm me! That's it! Why! Did
she note by one single extra flourish of her pen that the lining
of her opera cloak was like the petalling of a pink Killarney rose?
Or that the texture of her traveling suit would have made a
princess strut with pride? When she lumped a dozen Paris hats into
the one word 'nice' did she dream for one single instant that she
had lulled my perfectly human hunger to know whether it was the
red one or the green one or the gold which most became her ecstatic
little face? Did it ever occur to her to tell me what her lover
said about the gay little brown leather hunting suit? Six months
hence, freezing to death in some half-heated palace on the Riviera,
is there one chance in ten thousand, do you think, that she will
write me to say, 'Oh, you darling, how did you ever happen to think
of a moleskin breakfast coat and footies?' And again!" scolded the
woman. "When a stodgy old missionary on his way back to Africa
relaxes enough on a mid-ocean moonlight night so that it's fun a
month later to send him a mule and cart just to keep his faithful,
clumsy old feet off the African sands, do you think it's fun for
him to send me eight smug laborious pages complimenting me--without
a moon in them,--on 'the great opportunities for doing good which
my enormous wealth must give me,' and commending me specially 'for
this most recent account of my stewardship which I have just
evidenced in my noble gift'?" For one single illuminating flash
humor twitched back into the woman's eyebrow. "Stewardship--bosh!"
she confided. "On a picture post card--with stubby, broken-nosed
pencil--I would so infinitely rather he had scribbled, 'Bully for
you, Old Girl! This is some mule!'"

With a little sigh of fatigue she sank back into her pillows. "'More
blessed to give than to receive?' Quite evidently!" she said.
"Everywhere it's the same! People love pictures and never note
who painted them! People love stories and never remember who
wrote them! Why, in any shop in this city," she roused, "I wager
you could go in and present a hundred dollar bill to the seediest
old clerk you saw--and go back in an hour and he wouldn't know
you by sight! 'The gift without the giver is bare?'" she quoted
savagely. "Ha! What they really meant was 'The giver added to
the gift is a bore?'"

"Well, what do you propose to do about it?" quizzed the Young Doctor
a bit impatiently.

"I propose to do this about it!" said the woman. "I propose to
become a reformer!"

"A reformer?" jeered the Young Doctor.

"Well, then--an avenger! if you like the word better," conceded
the woman. "Oh, I shall keep right on buying things, of course,"
she hastened mockingly to assure him. "And giving things, of
course. One could hardly break so suddenly the habit and vice of
a life time. Only I shan't scatter my shots all over the lot any
more. But concentrate my deadliest aim on one single individual.
Indeed, I think I shall advertise," mocked the woman. "In that
amazing column of all daily papers so misleadingly labeled 'wants'
instead of able-to-haves I shall insert some sort of a statement
to the effect that:

"An eccentric middle-aged woman of fabulous wealth, lavish generosity,
and no common sense whatsoever, will receive into her 'lovely
Southern Home' one stingy receiver. Strictest reference required.
Object: Reformation or--annihilation."

"It would be interesting to see the answers you'd get!" rallied the
Young Doctor with unwonted playfulness.

Almost imperceptibly the woman twisted her eyebrows. "Oh, of
course, I admit that most of them would be from asylums," she
said. "Offering me special rates. But there's always a
chance, of course, that--that--" Straight as a pencil-ruling
both eyebrows dropped suddenly into line. "But I'm quite used
to taking chances, thank you!" she finished with exaggerated
bruskness.

"What else do you propose to take?" asked the Young Doctor a bit
dryly.

"_You!_" said the woman.

At the edge of the bureau the Young Doctor wheeled abruptly in his
tracks.

"Well, you won t!" he said. His face was quite white with anger.

"Why not?" drawled the woman. As ruthlessly as a child she seemed to
be estimating suddenly the faintly perceptible shine of the man's
shoulder seams. Only the frankness of the stare relieved it of
its insolence. "Why not?" she said. "Is your practice here so
huge that you can totally afford to ignore a salary such as I would
give you?"

"Nevertheless," winced the Young Doctor, "even _you_ cannot buy
everything!"

"Can't I?" smiled the woman. In passionate willfulness and pride
her smile straightened out again into its thin-lipped line. "But
I need you!" she asserted arrogantly. "I like you! If I had had
my choice of every practitioner in the city, I--I!" With a
precipitous whimper of nerves the tears began suddenly to stream
down her cheeks. "There is--there is something about you," she
stammered. "In a--in a trolley car accident, in a steamer panic,
out of a--out of a thousand," she sobbed, "I instinctively would
have turned to you!" As abruptly as it had come, the flood of
tears vanished from her face, leaving instead a gray-streaked
flicker of incredulity. "Why, I don't even know how I did happen
to get you!" she admitted aghast. "Out of all the doctors in the
city--it must have been intended! It must! If there's any Providence
at all it must arrange such details! How did I happen to get you?"
she demanded imperiously.

For the first time across the Young Doctor's lean, ascetic face an
expression of relaxation quickened.

"Well if you really want to know," he said. "As you were being
lifted out of your carriage at the hotel door, I was just coming
out of the Free Lunch----"

"Hunger or thirst?" scoffed the woman.

"None of your business," smiled the Young Doctor.

"Oh, and besides," rallied the woman instantly. "I thought, likely
as not, that there might be some girl. Somebody you could coach!
About my passion for shopping, I mean! I don't care who gets the
things! If there's anybody you like, she might just as well be
the one!"

"Thank you," rebristled the Young Doctor. "But I don't happen to
know any girls!"

"Good enough!" said the woman. "Then there's nothing at all to
complicate your coming!"

"But I'm not coming!" stared the Young Doctor. The pupils of his
eyes were dilated like a deer's jacked suddenly with an infuriating
light.

"But you are coming," said the woman without a flicker of emotion.
"Day after tomorrow it is. At three-thirty from the Pennsylvania
Station."

"I'm not!" said the Young Doctor.

"You are!" said the woman.

When it comes right down to the matter of statistics, just how many
times in your life you've had your own way and just how many times
you haven't, Mrs. Tome Gallien was not exaggerating when she boasted
to the Young Doctor that she was quite in the habit of having her
own way. She certainly was! In the majority of incidents she had,
indeed, always had her own way. And in the majority of incidents
she had her own way now. That is to say, that the South Carolina
train did leave the Pennsylvania Station at just exactly the time
she said it would. And Martha the deaf was on that train. And she,
herself, was on that train.

But the Young Doctor was not.

"Not much! _Not much!_" was the way the Young Doctor said it, if you
really want to know.

But he said very little else that afternoon. To be perfectly frank
his luncheon had been very poor, and his breakfast, before that,
and his dinner, before that. Further reiteration would be purely
monotonous. Moreover, on this particular February day the weather
was extravagantly Northern, his office, as cold and dark and bleak
as some untenanted back alley, and his general professional prospects
as dull as, if not indeed duller than, the last puff of ashes in
his pipe. Yet even so he counted his situation ecstasy compared to
the thought of being dragged South by the wrapper-strings of a
gray-haired invalid-woman as headstrong as she was body-weak. "Not
much!" Long after there was no tugging warm taste left in his pipe
he was still tugging at the phrase. "Not much!"

But Mrs. Tome Gallien on her fine train scudding South was even more
chary of words than he when it came to her own comment on his
defection.

"Idjot!" she telegraphed back from Washington.

The operator who repeated the message over the telephone was frankly
apologetic.

"Yes, Doctor," explained the metallic voice. "That's just exactly
the way we received it. It isn't even 'idiot'" argued the voice.
"Because we wired back for verification. 'I-d-j-o-t!' That's what
it is. Maybe it's a--a code word," condoned the voice amiably.

It certainly was a "code" word. And the message that it sought to
convey was plainly this:

"How any young struggling practitioner in a strange city, with not
only his future to make but even his present, how such a one has
got the nerve, the nerve, I say, to refuse a regular salaried
position and all expenses, all expenses, mind you, in a salubrious
climate, and with a lady,--well, with a lady whom other men
infinitely wiser and more sophisticated than he have not found
utterly devoid perhaps of interest and charm?"

Talk about being packed "cram-jam?" Surely no week-end suitcase
could ever have bulged more with significance than did this one
tiny telegram "Idjot!" And equally surely its context "dressed"
the Young Doctor's mind quite completely for almost a week.

But the great square white envelope that arrived in due time from
Mrs. Tome Gallien had nothing in it at all except a check. No
reproaches, I mean, no upbraidings, no convalescent rhapsodies of
gratitude even. Just a plain straightforward unsentimental black
and white check covering so many professional visits at so much
a visit. A man might have sent it. A perfectly well man, I mean.

"And so the episode ends," mused the Young Doctor with distinct
satisfaction.

But it didn't end so, of course. Women like Mrs. Tome Gallien were
not created to end things but to start 'em. Of such is the kingdom
of Leaven.

It was on the following Thursday that the grand piano arrived at the
Young Doctor's office.

Now the Young Doctor's office might easily have accommodated more
patients than it did. But piano movers are almost always so fat.
Puffing, blowing, swearing, tugging,--the whole dingy room seemed
suddenly packed with brawn.

"But it isn't my piano!" protested the Young Doctor from every
chair, desk, table, of his ultimate retreat. "It _isn't_ my piano!"
he yelled from the doorway. "It isn't my piano!" he scolded through
the window.

But it was his piano, of course! The piano movers swore that it was.
The piano warerooms telephoned that it was. . . Worst of all, the
piano itself on one plump ankle flaunted a tag which proclaimed
that it was. And the proclamation was most distinctly in Mrs. Tome
Gallien's handwriting.

"For Dr. Sam Kendrue," it said. "As a slight token of my appreciation
and esteem."

"'Appreciation?'" groaned the Young Doctor. "'Esteem?'" In the first
venom of his emotion he sat right down and wrote Mrs. Gallien just
exactly what he thought of her. And of it. "It" being of course the
piano.

"Whatever in the world," he demanded, "would I do with a piano? Oh,
of course it's very kind of you and all that," he conceded with
crass sarcasm. "But I have no possible floor space, you understand,
beyond my office and the very meager bedroom adjoining it. And
with a quarter of a ton's worth of wood and wire plunked down thus
in the exact center of my office it leaves me, I assure you, an
extraordinarily limited amount of elbow-space unless it be a sort
of running track that still survives around the extreme edges of
the room. And moreover the piano is of rosewood, as you doubtless
already know, and all inlaid with cherubim and seraphim snarled up
in wreaths of lavender roses. Now Botany I admit, is distinctly out
of my line. But the cherubim and seraphim are certainly very weird
anatomically.

"And not knowing one note from another,--as indeed I remember telling
you quite plainly at an earlier date, well,--excuse me if I seem
harsh," he exploded all over again, "but whatever in the world
would I do with a piano?"

As ingenuously insolent as a child's retort came Mrs. Tome Gallien's
almost immediate reply.

"Yes! What would you do? That's just exactly it! I thought I'd get
a rise out of you!" said Mrs. Tome Gallien. "Across my dulled
horizon a whole heap of most diverting speculations have suddenly
begun to flash and brighten. 'Whatever in the world' _would_ you
do with a piano?"

"I can at least return it to the warerooms," wrote the Young Doctor
with significant brevity.

"Oh, no, you can't!" telegraphed Mrs. Tome Gallien. "Apropos slight
defect and large mark-down merchandise rated non-returnable."

While he was yet fuming over this message Mrs. Tome Gallien's special
delivery letter overtook her telegram.

"Don't struggle," urged Mrs. Tome Gallien. "After all, my dear young
antagonist, when it comes right down to brass tacks, it isn't so
much a question of just what you are going to do with the piano as
it is of--just what the piano is going to do with you. Because of
course, do something it certainly will! And the madder you get of
course the more it will do! And the madder you get of course the
sooner it will do it! And----

"Oh, lying here flat on my back in all this damp, salty, sea-green
stillness,--tides coming, tides going,--sands shifting,--sea-weeds
floating,--my whole wild heedless Past resolves itself into one
single illuminating conviction. It's the giving people appropriate
gifts that stultifies their characters so, pampering their vanities,
and clogging alike both their impulses and their ink! Yes, sir!

"Why, goodness, Man! If I had crocheted you slippers would it have
joggled you one iota out of the rut of your daily life? Or would
even the latest design in operating tables have quickened one single
heart-beat of your snug, self-sufficient young body? Or for forty
stethoscopes do you imagine for one tiny instant that you would
have written me twice in five days?

"But if one can only make a person mad instead of glad! Now that's
the real kindness! So invigorating! So educative! So poignantly
reconstructive! Because if there's one shining mark in the world
that Adventure loves it's a--shining mad person. Even you, for
instance! Having made no place in your particular rut for 'quarter
of a ton of wood and wire' the advent of such a weightage is just
plain naturally bound to crowd you out of your rut. And whoever
side-steps his rut for even an instant? Well, truly, I think you
deserved just a wee bit of crowding.

"So Heigho, Cross Laddie! And rustle round as fast as you can to get
yourself a new necktie or a hair-cut or a shine! 'Cause something
certainly is going to happen to you! Happen right off, I mean! Even
now perhaps! Even----"

With a grunt of disgust the Young Doctor jumped up and began to pace
his office,--what was left of his office, I mean, around the extreme
edges of the room. And the faster he paced the madder he grew.

"Oh, the fantasia of women!" he stormed. "The--the exaggeration!"

He was perfectly right--Mrs. Tome Gallien was often fantastic, and
certainly quite exaggerative anent the present situation.

The threatened "adventure" did not happen at once! It didn't happen
indeed for at least two hours!

Yet the fact remains, of course, that the big piano was at
the bottom of the adventure. Science no doubt would have
refuted the connection. But Fancy is no such fool. Surely if
there hadn't been a big piano the Young Doctor would never
have worked himself up into such a bad temper on that particular
afternoon. And if he hadn't worked himself up into such a bad
temper he never would have flounced himself out into the dreary
February streets to try and "walk it off." And if he hadn't tried
so hard to "walk it off" he never would have developed such a
perfectly ravenous hunger. And if he hadn't developed such
a perfectly ravenous hunger he never would have bolted at just
exactly six o'clock for the brightest lighted restaurant in
sight. And it was on the street right in front of the brightest
lighted restaurant that the adventure happened.

Even Fancy, though, would never have boasted that it was
anything except a very little adventure. Skies didn't fall, I
mean, nor walls topple, nor bags of gold roll gaily to the
Young Doctor's feet. Just a car stopped,--a great plain,
clumsy everyday electric car, and from the front platform of
it a girl with a suitcase in one hand, a hat box in the
other, and goodness-knows-what tucked under one elbow, jumped
down into the mud.

Even so the adventure would never have started if the
goodness-knows-what hadn't slipped suddenly from the girl's elbow
and exploded all over the street into a goodness-knows-how-many!
It would have been funny of course if it hadn't been so clumsy.
But even while deprecating the digital clumsiness of women, the
Young Doctor leaped instinctively to the rescue. There were
certainly enough things that needed rescuing! Toys they proved to
be. And such a scattering! A brown plush coon under the wheels
of a stalled automobile! A flamboyant red-paper rose bush trampled
to pulp beneath a cart horse's hoofs! A tin steam engine cackling
across a hobbly brick sidewalk! A green-feathered parrot disappearing
all too quickly in a fox terrier's mouth! A doll here! A paint
box there! And the girl herself standing perfectly helpless in
the midst of it all blushing twenty shades of pink and still
hanging desperately tight to the leather suitcase in one hand
and the big hat box in the other.

"And it isn't at all that I am so--so stupid!" she kept
explaining hectically. "But it is that when an accident
occurs so in English I cannot think in English what to do! If
I put down my suitcase!" she screamed, "a dog will bite it!
And if I drop my box a trample might get it!"

It was not until the Young Doctor had succeeded in
reassembling owner and articles on the safe edge of the
curbing that he noticed for the first time how tall the girl
was and how shiningly blonde. "Altogether too tall and too
blonde to behave like such an idiot!" he argued perfectly
illogically. With a last flare of courtesy he sought to end
the incident. "Were you going to take another car?" He
gestured toward her crowded hands.

"Oh, no," said the girl with a wave of her hat box. "I was
going to that restaurant over there."

"Why so was I," said the Young Doctor very formally. "So if
you wish I will take your suitcase for you. That will at
least help a little."

Without further parleying they crossed the snowy street and
still all a-blow and a-glow with the wintry night bore down
upon the snug little restaurant like two young guests of the
north wind. In fact as well as effect the room was brightly
crowded and seemed to flare up like a furnace blast into
their own chilled faces. A trifle dazzled by the glare
perhaps they faltered suddenly in their tracks. For one
single conspicuous instant,--blonde as the moon, swarth as a
pine tree's shadow,--they stood staring helplessly here,
there, everywhere into a blur of frankly upturned faces. Then
without an atom's warning a lone woman at the small table
just in front of them jumped to her feet.

"Why, of course, you poor dears!" she beamed. "You want to
get seats together!" And fled, still beaming, to the one
remaining vacant seat at a far table in the corner.

A graven image could scarcely have helped grinning at the
absurdity of the incident. And the Young Doctor was by no
means a graven image. As for the girl, she giggled out right,
and with an impulse scarcely American pulled out the Young
Doctor's chair for him before she, herself, darted down into
the more crumpled place which the other woman had just
vacated. "After all," she conceded shruggingly, "it is not of
such a consequence!" Only the flaming color in her cheeks
belied her nonchalance.

With his left hand reaching for the menu and his right hand
exploring his pockets, the Young Doctor sought to show that
he also was perfectly nonchalant.

"It--it's been a--a very cold day, hasn't it?" he essayed
experimentally.

From her own frowning contemplation of the card before her
the girl lifted her amazingly blue eyes.

"No-o," she said. "I think the chicken soup would be more of
a taste than the bouillon."

"What I remarked," persisted the Young Doctor, "was that the
weather--the weather--" With his right hand still in his
pocket, a most curious expression of shock passed suddenly
over his face. His pocketbook was gone! Quite desperately he
studied the distance to the telephone booth, the quickest
path to the door,--any direction, any excuse that would
snatch him soonest out of the horrid predicament of finding
himself penniless at a perfectly strange restaurant in the
company of a perfectly strange girl. Yet if he did bolt thus
without explanation, as was certainly his most immediate
impulse, what possible inference could the girl draw, except
something crudely harsh and derogatory to her own frankly
guileless personality. With a quite unwonted flush at his
cheek bones he decided to make explanations. "Excuse me," he
grinned with a sharp edging back of his chair, "but it will
not be my pleasure after all to--to sample the chicken soup
with you. Some mutt back there--while I was picking up those
cursed toys--" Quite frantically again he began to rummage
through all his pockets. "Some mutt has pinched my pocketbook,"
he finished perfectly simply.

"What?" cried the girl. "What?" With her eyes still staring
blue and wide, she reached out a slim, strong detaining hand
to his sleeve. "You mean that you cannot thus have any
supper?" she frowned. "And the night also so dark and so
cold? Why, what nonsense!" she beamed suddenly. "I have
moneys to drown! No? Is it 'to burn' that you say?" she
corrected herself. And thrust her own purse at him. Chucklingly
like a child she began to rock herself to and fro. "Certainly
it is all of a very great fatedness!" she reveled. "First you
pick up my shoppings for me! And now it is that I pick up your
supper for you! What? No?" she stammered as the Young Doctor
quite curtly refused the purse and rose very definitely to his
feet. Across the translucent blondness of her upturned face
astonishment, incredulity, glowered suddenly like a dark shadow.
"What? No? Is it then so correct?" she protested. "Is it kind?
Is it senselike? That for so small a trifle you should--'snub'
is it that you say, a stranger in a strange land? Certainly it
was not of my boldness," she quickened. "But of the boldness of
that demented woman yonder, that I sit here!" Then as suddenly as
it had come all the shadow vanished from her face leaving
just laughter again and a vaguely provocative sort of
challenge. "Oh, go if it seems most best to be of such a
silliness!" she said. "But if you go I shall certainly laugh!
Laugh with loudness, I mean! Right out! And like this, with
the handles of my knife and fork," she threatened to illustrate,
"I will beat upon the table while I laugh! Bah!" she gesticulated
encouragingly towards the deserted chair, "What is the price of
a supper between two gentlemans?"

"Oh, of course, if you feel like that!" conceded the Young
Doctor as he slipped back into his seat. "Quite frankly," he
admitted, "I should hate to be even the innocent cause of
your beating upon the table with the handles of your knife
and fork. So if you really and truly think I look honest," he
confided with an exaggerated resumption of interest in the
bill of fare. "Let me see. Sixty cents, is it? And the tip?
And two cents for a postage stamp? Yes, I surely ought to be
able to return that much by at least noon to-morrow." Without
a flicker of expression he lifted his dark eyes to hers.

Without a flicker of expression she resumed the conversation
at the exact point apparently where she had been most reluctant
to leave it off.

"And so," she brightened. "After the chicken soup, would it
not seem to you, for instance, that turkey would be infinitely
more chic than--than corned beef?"

Quite regardless of his possible negative she turned quickly
and summoned a heavy-faced waitress to her.

"Behold it is now a dinner party!" she confided blithely to
the perfectly indifferent woman. "The soup, the turkey, the
best of your salads, the blackest of your coffee! Everything
very chic!"

"Very what?" queried the waitress.

"Very quick!" interposed the Young Doctor.

Once again without a flicker of expression the dark eyes and
the blue challenged each other across the narrow width of
white table cloth.

Then the owner of the blue eyes reached out and drained her
glass of ice water at a single draught.

"Ah!" she shivered. "I also am in more hurry than you. But it
would not seem to me polite to nag about it."

"Oh, I beg your pardon," stammered the Young Doctor, and
retreated in turn to his own glass of ice water. It was not
until the soup course was almost over that he succumbed to
any further conversational impulse, and even then indeed it
was formality rather than sociability that drove him to the
effort. "Seeing that you are so kind," he succeeded in
enunciating. "And so--so trusting," he relaxed ever so
slightly, "the least I can do certainly is to identify
myself. My name is Sam Kendrue. And I am a doctor."

"So-o?" conceded the girl without enthusiasm. Quite frankly
she made it clear that the waitress approaching with the
turkey was the only fact in the world that concerned her at
that immediate moment. Yet as one who would conscientiously
acknowledge on second thought that no honest bit of information
was ever really to be scoffed at, she laid down her knife and
fork presently and surveyed the Young Doctor with a slightly
reviving interest. "Sam? Sam Kendrue?" she repeated painstakingly.
"My name is Solvei Kjelland!" she announced with brisk
matter-of-factness, and resumed her eating.

"Your name is--what?" puzzled the Young Doctor.

"Solvei Kjelland," she smiled ever so faintly. "S-o-l-v-e-i,"
she spelled out as one quite familiarly accustomed to such a
task. "K-j-e-l-l-a-n-d. I am a Norwegian!" she flared up
suddenly with the ecstatic breathlessness of one who confides
a really significant surprise.

"A Norwegian?" rallied the Young Doctor. For the first time,
behind the quick shield of his hand, a little teasing smile
began to twitch. "Really, you--you surprise me!" he recovered
with an almost instantly forced gravity. "From your accent
now, I had supposed all along that you were--er--Celtic!"

"Celtic?" queried the girl. Then with one shrewd glance at
the Young Doctor's immobile face she burst out laughing. It
was not a loud laugh. It was indeed a very little laugh, and
most distinctly musical. But in that instant the whole
attention of the room seemed to focus itself suddenly on that
one helpless little table.

"Is there anything specially peculiar looking about us, I
wonder?" bristled the Young Doctor. "Or rather, about me, I
should say?" he corrected himself quickly. "Even that--that
philanthropic woman," he fumed, "who vacated this table for
us! Well, of course I wouldn't say exactly that she was
climbing up on the rungs of her chair, but----"

"Oh, that's nothing," said the girl with unruffled nonchalance.
"She's been staring at us all of the evening. Everybody's been
staring at us all of the evening," she added amiably. Very
daintily, but none the less expeditiously, as she spoke, she
began to turn her attention to the crisp green salad at her
plate. "It is because we are both so tall and fine," she
confided without an atom of self-consciousness.

"Oh, well, really, speak for yourself!" flushed the Young Doctor.

"For myself?" she repeated a bit speculatively. Once again,
in a moment of temporary arrestment, she laid down her knife
and fork to scrutinize the Young Doctor's face. "Oh, no," she
reassured him almost at once. "You are most tall and fine
too! And so brune to my blonde!" she confided as she took up
her fork again. "Certainly it is most striking of us," she
mused at last more to the lettuce than to the Young Doctor.
"But that poor womans over there?" she rallied transiently.
"Everywhere one goes it is the same. 'Old--old maid' is it
that you call her? So sad! So neglected! So 'romanticks' is
it that you say? Everybodys she sees she thinks it is young
lovers! But personally," said the girl, "I am still very
hungry. Let us take what dessert is proffered."

"Oh, of course," acquiesced the Young Doctor. "If I've got to
be--if we've got to be--stared at, I mean, it would certainly
be quite as comfortable to have something to do."

"Perfectly," smiled the girl. "So as we wait for the ices and
the pies let us see what is survived of the toys." And before
the Young Doctor could dissuade her she had lifted her awkwardly
retied bundle to the level of the table, and was earnestly
studying out the relative damages of the green-feathered parrot
and the tiny tin railroad train. To confirm apparently what was
her own suspicion in the matter she handed the railroad train
to the Young Doctor for investigation.

And because the Young Doctor was naturally and sincerely
inquisitive about anything that was broken he bent his dark
head to the task with a sudden real gasp of relief, and for
the next five minutes at least all possible awkwardness
between them seemed merged, then and there, into the easy
give-and-take argument of a thoroughly familiar and accustomed
association.

Once again their small table became the cynosure of all eyes.
The dark Young Doctor alone was quite sufficiently striking
looking. And the girl in her Norse glow and blondness would
have been a marked figure anywhere. But together? And now? At
this very minute? So anxious, so painstaking, so brooding? If
the room had thought them shy "young lovers" a scant half
hour before, goodness knows what it thought them now!

The woman in the corner had most certainly reconstructed her
original impressions. On the way out from her own unsocial
supper she stopped impulsively just behind the Young Doctor's
chair to watch his rather surprising manipulation of the
fractured toy engine wheel. Her face was by no means unpleasant,
but almost exaggeratedly friendly in a plaintive, deprecating
sort of way.

From their focus on the Young Doctor's hands her pale eyes
lifted suddenly to the girl's glowing face, and she held out
a small paper bagful of pink-frosted cakes.

"Take those home," she said, "instead of the poor broken toys!"

"Why--why, thank you!" laughed the girl.

"How--how old are your little ones?" asked the woman quite
irrelevantly.

"Eh?" jerked the Young Doctor. From his joggled hands the little
tin railroad train crashed down into his plate.

With her hands clapped playfully to her ears the girl looked
thoughtfully up at her accoster.

"Why, Lisa is four," she said quite simply. "And Jonathan is six,
and----"

"Oh, have you got a 'Jonathan'?" kindled the woman. Her sallow
face was suddenly quite transfigured with light. "And does he
look like you?" she cried. "Or," sweeping the table with
another deprecating glance, "or does he take after his father?"

"Take after his father?" repeated the girl in frank perplexity.
Her own sweeping glance of her companion's face did not seem
somehow to elucidate the mystery. "'Take?' 'Take after his father?'"
she flamed. "I do not know the idiot--the idio--the--idiom!" she
corrected herself triumphantly.

A little bit perplexed herself, the amiable stranger began
suddenly to button up her coat. "Well, good night!" she
beamed. "Good night! Good night! I hope you may both live to
enjoy to the uttermost the full merits of your little family!"

"Eh?" jumped the Young Doctor. White as a sheet he was suddenly
on his feet, and for the first time that evening a real-looking
smile had twisted itself across at least one side of his
thin-lipped mouth.

"Madam!" he bowed, "neither this young lady here nor I have ever
laid eyes on each other before! Nor is it remotely probable
indeed that in the normal course of events we should ever lay
eyes on each other again! But if you persist so," he bowed,
with a purely nervous glance at his watch, "but if you persist
so--in your--in your--" he floundered futilely. "We shall
doubtless be lying in the same grave by midnight!"

Without even a gasp then he snatched up the girl's purse, her
suitcase, her hat box, his own coat and hat, and bolted for
the cashier's desk.

Close behind him, clasping her scattered toys as best she
might to her breast, followed the blonde Norse girl.

Even when they had finally reached the electric light post on
the farthest corner of the street, the color was only just
beginning to flush back into the Young Doctor's cheek bones.

"If you will now give me the address," he said tersely, "to
which I can forward the supper money, I will put you on a
street car."

"Oh, the address of course is of perfect simplicity," conceded
the girl. "But I do not care for you to put me on a street car,
thank you!"

"Why, certainly I shall put you on a street car!" insisted the
Young Doctor. He was really quite sharp about it. "Almost
everything goes by here--if you only wait long enough," he
shifted a bit uneasily, as he set down both box and suitcase
with a most decided thump.

Silently then for what seemed to him an interminable time they
stood there on the icy, wind-swept curbstone staring out into
the passing green, red, yellow, lights.

"Pretty, is it not!" commented the girl at last.

"'Pretty?'" shivered the Young Doctor. "Why, yes, of course,
suppose so. But which car?" he laughed impatiently. "For Heaven's
sake, don't you know where you want to go?"

"Of course I know where I want to go!" flared the girl. With a
little light touch on his sleeve she pointed off to another
electric light post on a side street. "There!" she said. "That
little pleasant fifth house from the end! That is where I am at
boarding!"

"Well, why didn't you say so!" flushed the Young Doctor. Very
vehemently once more he snatched up her suitcase and her hat box.

With a shrug of her fine athletic shoulders the girl laughed right
out loud into his frowning eyes.

"When a man is of such a positiveness as you are," she confided
impishly, "it is a privilege to reduce his national characteristics.
Ever for one single instant do you ask me, 'Have you finish your
food?' or, 'Do you want to be put on a car?' But always at your
first wish you hurry out and scoot, crying, 'I put you on a car!
I put you on a car!'" With a little sniff of scorn she turned
on her heel and started off at a fine stride toward the house
to which she had just pointed.

It was the Young Doctor now who followed precipitously after.

The street was certainly a quaint, old-fashioned one, and the
boarding house in question by no means lacking in a fine though
dingy sort of dignity.

But the doorbell that the girl rang and rang brought no reassuring
answer. Fumbling anxiously in her purse for a moment, she threw
out her hands with a little gesture of dismay.

"It is that I must also have mislaid my key," she frowned. Then
like a flash of pale sunshine her smile seemed to drive every
possible shadow from her mind. "Oh, well," she cried. "It is
after all only a scarce seven o'clock. Some one in not many
minutes will surely come. And meanwhile," she glowed. "Of such
a fine night! I will just sit down here very happy and take the
air!"

"Take the air?" gasped the Young Doctor. Quite unconsciously as
he spoke he reached up and drew his fur collar a little bit
closer about his neck.

But already the girl had dropped casually down on the top step
and opened the throat of her own dark-fur red coat as one who
was fairly thirsting for air.

"Good night!" she said briskly.

"Good-by!" said the Young Doctor. Before he had even reached
the lower step he was congratulating himself that the incident
was now safely ended,--"comfortably ended," he meant, instead
of awkwardly, as it might so easily have been. "Foreigners were
often so irrational," he considered. Even as he considered, he
turned in spite of himself to investigate the sudden unmistakable
rustle of a paper bag. His suspicion was frankly confirmed.

"See!" brandished the girl triumphantly. "The little pink cake
of the foolish woman!" With an unmistakable chuckle of joy her
white teeth met through the treasure.

In the flash of a second, the perfectly idiotic impulse of a
joke, the Young Doctor lifted a warning finger at her.

"You realize of course that you are eating a--a misapprehension?"
he admonished her with really terrifying severity.

"A misapprehension?" jumped the girl. Very painstakingly then
and there she began to explore the remaining piece of cake in
her hand, tugging at its sponginess, peering under its frostedness.
Then suddenly with a little quick gasp of relief she popped the
sweet morsel into her mouth and smacked her lips upon it "Oh,
no," she beamed. "It tastes perfectly all right to me!"

Like a word slipping hopelessly down a poem toward whatever chosen
rhyme its Poet has already in mind, the Young Doctor suddenly
found himself bumping rather perilously close to the one big wild
hoot of laughter that had evidently been lurking for him in the
situation even from the very first. In a really desperate effort
to fend himself as long as possible from such an undignified
disaster he hastened in all sincerity to rewrap himself in his
stiffest professional manner.

"Well, what about this 'Lisa' and 'Jonathan' business?" he
questioned with unmistakable reproach.

"Oh, shucks!" shrugged the girl. "This tiresome Lisa and Jonathan,
their whole parents are bakers! But as for me," she lowered her
voice, and thrust out her hands with a soft, appealing gesture.
"But as for me, until to-night, for four whole weeks I cry such
salt into my food I cannot eat! Homesickness, yes!" she nodded
with a quick little catch of her breath. "In all the world no
one to speak with except one fat lady and one thin lady and Lisa
and Jonathan and Peter, and--" In an extra impulse of confidence
not unmixed evidently with a certain flare of pride she slid
forward a little on the step. "I am Montessori!" she said.

"What?" snapped the Young Doctor. "Why, what nonsense!" he said.
"Why, what are you talking about? 'Montessori' is a--a system!
And she's an Italian, too, I mean."

"Yes, truly so," conceded the girl. "And in time if the homeache
can be assuaged I shall then learn the system--and remain yet a
Norwegian."

"Oh, you mean you are a Montessori student?" brightened the Young
Doctor.

"Even so," said the girl. "I cannot wait to learn everything.
From here, after I have duly studied little Lisa, little Peter,
and all the others, whose minds most happily are of a perfect
brightness, I must then go on to the sadder schools, and to that
most wonderful place in your Massachusetts where such first brain
work of all was made on the little children. It is that in Norway,"
she winced, "I have a little brother. Our father makes much money,"
she added with apparent irrelevance. "And spends much and gives
much. And once he married him a new wife, and there are many new
children. And one of them, this little little brother, so gold,
so blue, so pinky, all day long he sits and--isn't," she finished
perfectly simply.

"Why--why, that's too bad," said the Young Doctor.

"Yes, very bad," mused the girl. "But some of these ideas here are
of a great cleverness. I do not of course get any of it right yet,"
she acknowledged. "But some of it is quite sporting like a game.
With these toys, now," she pointed, "and all glad things like
industries, and the live cat, and the dog, and grasses and the
flowers, you leave the little child quite loose, it seems, only
watching him, watching him very close, one day, two days, a
hundred if it seems best. And wherever he shall in finality--in
finality--'gravitate,' is it that you say? to the sweet flowers,
or the wood blocks, or the gay, smoothen cat, _there_ it is that
the one big chance of his salvation will most surely be found.
But the engine, or the blocks or the smoothen cat must not be
forced on him, it is so you understand? Of such there would make
no message to his development. But out of _everything_, it is,
that he himself must gravitate to it!"

In the tense sweet earnestness of her up turned face, the eager,
unconscious nearness of her occasional gesture, the far remoteness
of her subject, the sting of the winter night, the glare of electric
light over all, it dawned on the Young Doctor a bit startlingly
that he was frowning down into the eyes of a particularly beautiful
woman, and for some quite unreasonable reason his cheeks began
suddenly to burn like fire. It was as though having all his life
long for one conscientious reason or another denied himself "wine
when it was red," he found himself now, most humiliatingly, with
_ice_ itself going to his head. And just because he was so thoroughly
unaccustomed to having anything go to his head, it went quite
uproariously in fact, changing for that one moment his whole facial
expression. And the instant his facial expression was changed of
course he looked like a different man. And the instant he looked
like a different man of course he began to act like a different man.

"And does this wonderful theory of yours apply only to poor little
children?" he asked with slightly narrowing eyes. "Or am I to
infer?" he laughed. "Or am I to infer that after a whole year of
flaunting city, a whole year of barren indifference to it, my
amazing gravitation to you this evening is positive Montessori
proof that with you and you only rests my life's best salvation?"

Then without the slightest intent of doing it, without even the
slightest warning to himself that he was going to do it, he swooped
down suddenly and kissed her on her lips.

With a little gasp of dismay the girl stumbled to her feet. There
was nothing blonde now about her. Towering up on the step just
above him she was like a young storm-cloud all flame and shadow!

"Oh, what have I done that you should act thus?" she demanded. With
the tears streaming down her face she lashed him with furious
accusations. "You are one of these devils!" she cried. "You are a
wild persons! Was it my fault?" she demanded, "that my bundles burst
from the car? Was it my fault," she demanded, "that restaurants
cannot block foolish women from their food? Was it my fault that
I paid for your stupid supper?"

Neither defending himself nor seeking relief in flight, but with
a face fully if not indeed more shocked than hers the Young Doctor
sank down on the step at her feet, and with his head in his hands
sat rocking himself to and fro.

"No, it isn't your fault!" he assured her and reassured her. "Nor
is it exactly my fault!" he insisted. "But the fault of that damned
piano!"

"The fault of that damned what?" quoted the girl a bit stridently.

But the face that lifted to hers was frankly the face of a
stricken man. Only a chill added to repentance could have altered
so any human countenance.

"On the honor of a man freezing to death!" he attested. "There is
no blame to be attached to anything in the world--except to a
grand piano."

"What is it that you mean?" puzzled the girl. "I am more furious
with you than devils. But I must hear everything."

"I mean," sneezed the poor Young Doctor, "that I am looking for
a kind home for a grand piano!" Even to himself his words sounded
far away and altogether the words of a stranger. It was indeed as
though he had been thrust quite unrehearsed into the leading part
of a roaring farce which was already halfway through its evening
performance. A fearful spirit of bravado seemed really his one
chance of making any possible "get-away" with the whole mad
situation. But even an irate audience could not have misjudged
for a moment the acute distress and anxiety behind the bravado.

"It is just this way," he began all over again. "A perfectly
dreadful woman drove me out of my office to-night--with a grand
piano!" From the stony expression, however, in the girl's face
this did not seem to be just the cue that she was looking for.
In the wisest impulse of his life he decided suddenly to throw
himself upon her sense of mercy rather than upon her sense of
humor. "Truly it is this way!" He jumped up and implored her
to believe him. "I am as new as you almost, in this big city.
Equally with you perhaps I suffer what you call homeacheness!
It is very hard to get a good start in a strange place. Lots of
charity chances and all that. But very little money. I had a real
patient once, though!" he bragged ironically. "A very rich woman,
awfully nice and all that. But I hate her. Every chance that she
gets she torments me. She has a sort of theory, I think, that
tormenting is very stimulating to the nervous system. It certainly
is. We fight like young cats and dogs! And yet as I say she is
awfully nice. And when she went away she paid me not only justly
but mighty generously for my brief services. It cancelled almost
a year's debts. But she was horridly mad because I wouldn't go
with her,--as a kind of a trained, tame attendant you know. But
I told her I couldn't leave my office. So she sent me a grand
piano, the wretch!" he finished with flaming anger.

To the step just below him the girl tripped down and turning
about stood peering up into his face with a rather disconcerting
intensity.

"Here am I," she gasped, "who suffer and languish for a 'grand
piano' as you call it. And you?" As though in real pain she began
to wring her slim hands together. "And you? A lady gives you a
grand piano and you curse her as a wretchedness!"

"Yes, I know," deprecated the Young Doctor. "But you see there
isn't room in my office for both the piano and myself! My office
is too small, you see. And with the piano filling up the whole
center of the room? Why, it's absurd!" he quickened. "It's rotten!
Patients who come don't know whether they've come for a music lesson
or to be lanced! And besides," he added as his most culminative
grievance, "I don't know one note from another! And the woman knew
that I didn't! And worse than anything there are hordes of the most
indecent little cupids appliqued or something all over the front of
the thing!"

"Surely, something could be done," suggested the girl with a vague
sort of farawayness in her blue eyes.

"Yes, that's just it!" remarked the Young Doctor, flushing. "I've
already done it!"

Abjectly with his bared head bowed before her he stood as one
awaiting just sentence.

"Of a personally," said the girl with her own cheeks spotting
bright red. "Of a personally--I do not quite see the connection."

"Why the connection is perfectly clear!" insisted the Young
Doctor. "She sent me the piano on purpose to crowd me out of
my office! She wanted to crowd me out of my own office! She dared
to affirm even that I needed to be crowded out of my own office!
She tried to make me mad! She wanted to make me mad! She had the
cheek to suggest, I mean, that nothing really interesting ever
would happen to me until I once did get good and mad!" As though
temporarily exhausted by his tirade he sagged back for a moment
against the railing of the steps. His face did look a bit white
and his teeth were almost chattering. "Well, I certainly did get
good and mad this afternoon," he affirmed with a wry sort of
apology. "And because I was so blooming mad I dashed out for a
tremendous walk. And because I took such a tremendous walk I
developed an appetite like forty tigers. And because I developed
an appetite like forty tigers I rushed for the first restaurant I
could find. And because I rushed for the first restaurant I could
find I happened to see you at the exact moment when----"

"Oh, stop, stop, stop!" laughed the girl with her hands clapped
suddenly over her ears. "It is all too much like the--like 'The
House that the Jack-Man built!'"

"Well, at least," grinned the Young Doctor, "it seems to be 'The
Adventure that the Grand Piano Threatened.'"

"The--the Adventure?" puzzled the girl.

"Why, yes," insisted the Young Doctor. "That's what this Mrs. Tome
Gallien prophesied you know, that the piano would bring me an
adventure! So you, very evidently, are the----"

"What? I?" stammered the girl. A flush of real pleasure glowed
suddenly in her face and faded again as quickly as it had come.
"Oh, no!" she said with some hauteur, "You--you----"

"Oh, truly!" begged the Young Doctor. "I'm most awfully sorry
for what I did! I can't think what possessed me! I must have gone
quite mad for the moment! Why, really," he flushed, "I don't know
whether you'll believe me or not--and maybe it's something anyway
to be more ashamed of than to brag about,--but truly now," he
floundered, "I haven't kissed a girl before since--since I was
very little!" With a sudden quick jerk of sheer awkwardness he
snatched a card from his pocket and handed it to her. "There!
There's my address!" he cried. "And to-morrow if you'll only send
me the word I'll jump off the bridge or throw myself under a truck,
or make any other sort of reparation whatever that happens to occur
to you. But to-night," he grinned, "I've simply got to get warm!"
And started down the steps.

But before he had quite reached the sidewalk the girl had overtaken
him and placed a detaining hand on his coat sleeve.

"How old is she?" questioned the girl.

"Who?" said the Young Doctor. "Oh, the woman? She's old enough to
be your mother."

"I'm twenty-one," conceded the girl.

"Well, she's fifty," affirmed the Young Doctor.

Across the girl's translucent face a dozen conflicting emotions
seemed surging suddenly. "So?" she laughed. "So?" she repeated
experimentally, "If only you had not been so--so _bad_," she sighed.
"Well, about that piano," she ventured with a certain unwonted
shyness. "In a world of so much racket is it not a pity that any
harmonies should lie dumb? Is it--is it a good piano?" she asked
quite abruptly.

"Why, for heaven's sake, how do I know?" demanded the Young Doctor.
"It may be a--a Stradivarius!" he floundered wildly. "But it looks
to me like the--like the devil!"

"If I could only see it," whispered the girl, "I could tell in a
minute of course."

"If you could only see it?" scoffed the Young Doctor. Then,
"Well--well--why not?" he acknowledged a trifle tardily, but
with indisputable common sense.

"I have an aunt here," mused the girl, "who has a rheumatism in
her elbow, I think it is. On Friday afternoon next--if the
rheumatism perhaps should be sufficiently bad?" Flushed with the
anticipatory ardor of a musician she lifted her eyes to his.

"Why, capital!" acquiesced the Young Doctor. For the instant the
whole suggestion struck him as being extraordinarily apt. "Well,
good-by then," he laughed, "until Friday afternoon!" And vanished
into the night.

He was still a long, cold distance from home. But by the time he
had finally reached there his pulses were ringing with fire rather
than with frost. And as soon as he had started a bright roaring
flame in his stove, and concocted for himself a most luscious and
steamsome drink, and driven his frosted toes into the farthest
corners of some moth-eaten old fur slippers, he sat right down
in a great spirit of diablerie to tell Mrs. Tome Gallien just what
he thought of her.

"I hope you're  satisfied!" he began quite abruptly in a firm and
emphatic black hand writing. "Driven out into the winter streets
by your most charming gift, I have in four short hours walked
eleven miles; supped in a conspicuous restaurant with a perfectly
strange girl and at her expense; been branded publicly for all
time, first as the girl's beau and later as her husband and the
father of certain imaginary children; and have also in due time,
still included in the original four hours, you understand, kissed
said girl 'Good-night' on her own doorstep in the full glare of
a city electric light,--and am now at ten-thirty P. M. of the
aforesaid Monday evening waiting patiently in my room until Friday
afternoon next when, heavily chaperoned by some kind of a relative
with rheumatism, the said Adventure will appear to investigate the
piano--and myself.

"Once again, in the language of my opening sentence, and with all
due respects, I repeat, 'I hope you're satisfied'!"

Then quite contented both in fancy and in fact he settled down to
kill time and cure patients until Friday.

But the intervening days it seemed were not to be bereft entirely
of sensations either confusing or bizarre.

On Wednesday night he heard from Mrs. Tome Gallien. And by
telegram.

"Bungler!" wired Mrs. Tome Gallien. "What in creation have you
done? The adventure intended for you does not arrive till Saturday,
office, four o'clock."

The message happened to be delivered in writing this time, a
flaunting yellow page, and, still clutching it tight by one
twittering corner, the Young Doctor dropped down into the first
chair he could reach, and with his chin dropped low like an old
man's on his breast sat staring for an interminable time into his
glowing fire.

Then quite suddenly at nine o'clock, with the funny new smile
that he seemed to have acquired somewhere recently, he walked over
to his telephone, fumbled a minute with the directory, experimented
at least two minutes with Central's temper, located Miss Solvei
Kjelland, and addressed her in his most formal manner.

"Miss Solvei Kjelland?" he questioned.

"S-o," said the familiar voice at the other end of the wire.

"This is Doctor Kendrue," he growled. "Dr. Sam Kendrue."

"So?" conceded the voice without a vestige of affright.

"It seems, Miss Kjelland," he stammered, "that there has been some
sort of a--of a--well, misunderstanding about Friday afternoon.
It is all a mistake, it seems, about your being The Adventure!
Mrs. Gallien indeed has just telegraphed to that effect. The
'Real Adventure,' it appears, is not due at my office until four
o'clock on Saturday!"

"S-o?" conceded Miss Solvei Kjelland. If she seemed to be
swallowing rather extra hard once or twice the sound was not
sharply discernible certainly from the little fluttering swallow
of the telephone instrument. "So?" she repeated blithely. "Well,
that is all right. The piano keeps! And the Saturday afternoon
is just as good to me as the Friday! And I am all as curious
with joy as you to see what it is, this Adventure that is more
nice than me! Good night!"

"Good--night!" admitted the Young Doctor.



II

That the Young Doctor bought himself a new blue serge suit for
Saturday was no indication whatsoever that he looked forward to
that day with any pleasurable anticipation. Lots of people "doll-up"
for disaster who couldn't even be hired to brush their hair for joy.

Quite frankly if anybody had asked him about it, the Young Doctor
would have rated Mrs. Tome Gallien as a disaster.

If pressed further for justification of such a rating he would
have argued that any rich woman who couldn't sleep was a disaster!

"Oh, it's all well enough for poor people," he would have admitted,
"to put in the long night watches mulling over the weird things
that they'd like to do. But when a person is actually able to leap
up at the first gay crack of dawn and finance the weirdest fancy of
his night!

"Oh, of course," he was honest enough to acknowledge. "Poor Mrs.
Tome Gallien would never again while life lasted be able to 'leap
up' at _any_ hour of the day or night! And she doubtless in her
fifty eccentric years _had_ given extravagantly to no end of people
who had proved themselves the stingiest sort of receivers! And her
sense of humor even in her remotest, happiest youth must have been
of course essentially caustic!

"But how any woman could reach a point so sick, so vindictive, so
caustic, so rich, that still unable to strip herself of her lifelong
passion for giving she should evolve the perfectly diabolic idea of
giving people only the things that they didn't want--only the things,
indeed, that she was absolutely positive they didn't want? Such as
pianos! Grand pianos! Huge rosewood chunks of intricate mechanism
and ornate decoration and Heaven knows what expense--crammed down
into the meager crowded office of some poor struggling young doctor
who didn't know a note from a gnat! Himself of course being the
young doctor!

"Thought it was funny, did she? Thought it would really drive him
outdoors for sheer rage into some sort of an enlivening adventure?
That was her theory, was it? Well it _was_ funny. And it _had_
driven him out to meet a rather particularly enlivening sort of
adventure! Which adventure in the person of a Miss Solvei Kjelland
was now due at his office by her own insistent appointment, on
Saturday afternoon at four o'clock. But this Miss Solvei Kjelland,
it seems, was not the Adventure which Mrs. Tome Gallien had already
arranged for him for Saturday afternoon, same hour, same place?"

Into his muddled mind flashed transiently a half-forgotten line
of a novel to the effect: "Heaven help the day when the mate you
made for yourself and the mate God made for you happen to meet!"

"Well, if it really came to a show-down between his Adventure and
Mrs. Tome Gallien's?"

Quite unexpectedly his mouth began suddenly to twitch at one
corner. Speaking of "caustic humor" it was barely possible that
the Young Doctor had just a tiny bit of caustic humor himself.
When a man smiles suddenly on one side of his mouth it is proof
at least that he sees the joke. Nobody ought to be expected to
smile on both sides till he feels the joke as well as sees it.

Certainly the poor Young Doctor was not feeling very much of
anything at just this time except a sense of impending doom.

But in this sense of impending doom flickered the one ray of
light that at least he knew what his own Adventure was: she was
young, lithe, blonde, why as tall as himself, almost! A trifle
unconventional, perhaps? Yes, even a good bit amazing! But
thoroughly wholesome! And human? Yes that was just it, so
deliciously and indisputably human!

But Mrs. Tome Gallien's Adventure? A woman like Mrs. Tome Gallien
wouldn't stop at anything! It might be a pair of llamas from
Peru! Or a greasy witchy-gypsy to tell his fortune! Or a homeless
little jet-black pickaninny with a banjo and--consumption! Or--or
an invitation even to lecture on physiology at a girls school!
But whatever it proved to be he might just as well realize now
that it would be something that he hated. Mrs. Tome Gallien in her
present mood would certainly never seek to lull him with a "glad"
as long as she saw any possible chance to rouse him with a "mad"!

"Well, he wouldn't get mad yet, anyway!" he promised himself with
unwonted whimsicality. "And if it _was_ llamas--which perhaps on
the whole would be his preference out of the various possibilities
anticipated--they would at least, judging from the woolly pictures
in the geographies, be free from any possible danger of barking
their shins against the sharper edges of the piano. Whereas a
committee of any size come to request a series of lectures on----"

Thus with one form or another of light mental exercise did he try
to keep his brain clear and his pulse normal for the approaching
Saturday.

But Saturday itself dawned neither clear nor normal. Rain, snow,
slush, wind, had changed the whole outdoor world into a blizzard.

It was one of those days when anything might blow in. But how in
the world would it ever blow out again? With this threat of
eternity added to uncertainty the Young Doctor decided quite
impulsively to dust his desk, and investigate his ice-chest. To
his infinite relief he found at least very little food in the
ice-chest. Whatever happened it could not possibly prove a very
long siege! A half pound of butter, a box of rusks, a can of
coffee, six or seven eggs, divided up among any kind of a committee,
or even between two llamas? At the increasing excitability of his
fancies he determined very suddenly to sober himself with hard
reading.

With this intent, as soon as he had finished his breakfast he
took down from his bookcase a very erudite treatise on "The Bony
Ankylosis of the Temporomandibular Joint" and proceeded to devote
himself to it. "Now here was something serious. Thoroughly
serious. Science! Heaven be praised for Science!"

By noon, indeed, he was so absorbed in "The Bony Ankylosis of
the Temporomandibular Joint" that he quite forgot about
luncheon. And at three o'clock he looked down with a glance
of surprise to see that the toes of his boots were dipping
into a tiny rivulet which seemed flowing to him from the farther
side of the room. By craning his neck around the corner of the
piano he noted with increasing astonishment that the rivulet
sprang essentially from the black ferule of an umbrella, and
that just beyond the dripping black ferule of that umbrella
was the dripping black ferule of another umbrella, and beyond
that, still an other!

Jumping joyously to his feet he made three apologies in one
to the group that loomed up before him.

"Why, I beg your pardon," he began to the wheezy old man who
sat nearest him. "Really I--I--had no idea," he explained
painstakingly to the small freckled boy just beyond. "With all
this wind and everything--and the way the rain rattles against
the window," he stammered to the crape-swathed woman in the
far corner. None of these was presumably Mrs. Tome Gallien's
Adventure, but it was surely adventure enough of itself on the
old oak settle, where almost no one ever sat even on pleasant
days, to behold three patients sitting crowded--and in a blizzard!
"I was so absorbed in my book!" he boasted with sudden nonchalance.

"Oh, that's all right, sir," wheezed the Old Man. "I was just
waitin' for a car. And it looked drier in here than where I was
standin' outdoors."



[Illustration: By craning his neck around the corner of the
piano, he noted with increasing astonishment that the rivulet
sprang from the black ferule of an umbrella.]



And "Say, Mister, do you pull teeth?" questioned the small
freckled boy.

But the Crape-Swathed Lady was a real patient. Though goodness
knows the Young Doctor would gladly have drawn either the old
man or the small boy in her place. All his life long he had
particularly disapproved of "mourning." It was false, spiritually,
he thought. It was bad, psychologically. Everybody knew of course
that it was unwise hygienically. But worst of anything perhaps
the woman before him now made him think of a damp black cat.

It was perfectly evident, however, that the lady herself cherished
no such unpleasant self-consciousness.

With perfect complacency at his request she came forward to the
light, or at least to such light as the storm-lashed window allowed
and, still swathed as blackly from view as any harem lady, stated
her case.

"I have such a pain--here," she pointed with black-gloved hand
toward her black-veiled face.

Did she also take him for a tooth puller? mused the Young Doctor.
With all haste he sought to settle the matter at once. "If you
will kindly remove your--er--bonnet--is it that you call it?"
he asked.

Compliantly the unpleasant black-gloved hands busied themselves
for a moment with pin or knot until emerging slowly from its
dank black draperies there lifted at last to the Young Doctor's
gasping stare the most exquisitely-featured, dreamy-eyed young
brunette face that he had ever seen outside a Salon catalogue.

"Here! Just here is the pain!" pointed the black-gloved finger to
a spot right in front of the most absurd little ear.

"Bony Ankylosis of the Temporomandibular Joint!" gasped the Young
Doctor just like a swear. Even as scientifically as he touched
the pain-spot he felt his own wrist wobble most unscientifically
with the contact. It was no wonder perhaps that the dark eyes
before him dilated with a vague sort of alarm.

"Is it--is it as bad as that?" faltered his patient.

"Why, it isn't that at all!" hastened the Young Doctor with a
sudden resumption of sagacity. "It's probably just a sort of
rheumatism. What made me cry out so was just a mere funny
coincidence. This particular kind of pain being a subject that
I--that I--if I may say so--have been giving rather special
attention to lately."

"Oh, then I trust that I have come to just the right person,"
smiled the dark eyes with a kindling surface-sweetness that
seemed nevertheless quite frankly bereft of any special inner
enthusiasm.

"We will certainly hope so!" flushed the Young Doctor. "How about
this pain--?" he began quite abruptly.

"It hurts me when I eat," said the girl. Her voice was very
low and soft and drawling. "And when I drink. And when I talk,"
she confided. "But especially when I sing."

"Oh, you sing?" questioned the Young Doctor.

"Yes!" said the girl. For the first time her classic, immobile
little face was quick with a very modern emotion.

"Personally," confessed the Young Doctor, "I should like very
much to try a little experiment on you if you don't mind. It will
help me, even if it hurts you."

"As you wish," acquiesced the girl with the same imperturbable
little smile.

From his precipitous retreat into the other room he returned
after due delay with a plate of rusks and a steaming hot cup
of coffee.

"It's such a horrid day," he said. "And you look so wet and cold,
perhaps a taste of coffee wouldn't come in altogether amiss. But
it's these rusks that I'm really interested in. I want you to
bite down hard on them. And then presently perhaps I will ask you
to sing so that I may watch the--Oh, by the way," he interrupted
himself irrelevantly. "I neglected, I think, to ask your name."

"My name," said the girl, "is Kendrue."

"What?" questioned the Young Doctor. "Why that is my name," he
smiled.

"Yes, I know," murmured the girl. "Coincidences of that sort
are certainly very strange. It was one of the first things my
aunt spoke of when I asked her advice about what physician to go
to. I am a comparative stranger in the city," she added a bit
shiveringly. "But didn't my aunt tell you I was coming?" she
quickened suddenly. "Didn't my aunt, Mrs. Tome Gallien, write
you--or something--that I was coming?"

"Mrs. Tome Gallien?" jumped the Young Doctor. Chaotically through
his senses quickened a dozen new angers, a dozen new resentments.
A girl? So this was Mrs. Tome Gallien's threatened "Adventure,"
was it? Of all the spiteful possibilities in the world, now wasn't
this just like the amiable lady in question to foist another girl
into a situation quite sufficiently embarrassed with "girl" as
it was! "Is--is Mrs. Tome Gallien your--aunt?" he demanded with
such sudden stentorious sternness that even the most bona fide
blood-relation would hardly have acquiesced without pausing an
instant to reconsider the matter.

"Well, not of course, not exactly a real aunt," admitted the girl.
"But I have always called her my aunt. We have always been very
intimate. Or rather perhaps I should say she had always been very,
very kind to me. And now, since my father--" With the unmistakable
air of one who strives suddenly to suppress an almost overwhelming
emotion she pointed irrelevantly to the piano and waved off the
plate of rusks and the cup of coffee which the Young Doctor still
stood proffering. "You must excuse me if I--if I--seem distrait,"
she stammered. "But in addition to the very real annoyance that
this little pain in my jaw is giving me I am--I am so bewildered
about that piano! Where did you get it?" she asked quite bluntly.

"Why it came from Such-and-Such warerooms I believe," admitted the
Young Doctor with as much frankness as he could summon at the moment.

With a little soft sigh the girl reached out and touched the dark,
gleaming woodwork.

"I thought so," she whispered. "And--oh, how you must love it!
It is certainly the most beautiful instrument that I ever saw
in my life! The most melodious, I mean! The most nearly perfect
sounding-board! An utter miracle of tone and flexibility as an
accompanist to the human voice!"

"U--m--mmmm," said the Young Doctor.

"For two months," persisted the girl, "I have been haunting
the warerooms you speak of! For two months I have been moving
heaven and earth in an effort to possess it! But my means being
temporarily tied up," she shivered again ever so slightly, "I was
not able immediately to--" With that odd, inert little smile she
reached out for the plate of rusks and took one as the Young Doctor
had requested. "Yes, here is the pain," she explained conscientiously.
"But only last week," she winced, "on my birthday it was! I had
every reason in the world to believe that Mrs. Tome Gallien was
going to give the piano to me! She has given me so many wonderful
things! But she sent me instead the deed to a duck blind down
somewhere on the South Carolina coast,--shooting, you know? And
dreadful guns! And dogs! And all that! I, who wouldn't even hurt
a sparrow, or scare a kitten!"

With his hands clapped to his head the Young Doctor swung around
suddenly and started for the window.

"Was this a comic opera? A farce? A phantasy of not enough work
and too much worry? Was every mention of Mrs. Tome Gallien's name
to be a _scream_? As long as life lasted? As long as--?" Startled
by a tiny gasp he turned to find his little visitor convulsed with
tears but still struggling bravely to regain her self-possession.
"Oh, please don't think I'm always as--as weak as this," she
pleaded through her sobs. "But with pain and disappointment and
everything happening so all at once. And with my big loss so
recent----"

"How long ago did you lose your father?" asked the Young Doctor,
very gently.

"My father?" stammered the girl. White now as the death she
mourned she lifted her stricken face to his. "Why it wasn't
father I was talking about," she gasped. "It was my husband."

"Your husband?" cried the Young Doctor. Two minutes ago was
_this_ the situation that he had cursed out as a farce, a comic
opera? This poor, stricken, exquisite, heartbroken little widow,
tagged out by Mrs. Tome Gallien as an "Adventure" and foisted
on his attention like some gay new kind of a practical joke? It
was outrageous! he fumed. "Inexcusably brutal!"

"Colorado--is where it happened," he had to bend his head to
hear. "Almost a year and a half ago," strangled the poor little
voice, "and we hadn't been married a year. Lung trouble it was,
something dreadfully acute. Mrs. Tome Gallien did everything.
She's always done everything. It's something about my father I
think. Oh, ages and ages ago they were lovers it seems. But--but
she chose to make a worldier marriage. And later, my father--why
she bought my whole trousseau for me!" suffered the sweet voice
afresh. "Went to Paris herself for it, I mean!"

Across the Young Doctor's memory a single chance sentence came
flashing back "The daughter of a man who once meant something to
me in my youth." So this was the girl? The little "Stingy Receiver"?
Among all Mrs. Tome Gallien's so-called "stingy receivers" the one
unquenchable pang in an otherwise reasonably callous side? Precious
undoubtedly, poignant, eternally significant, yet always and forever
the flesh that was not of her flesh nor the spirit quite of her
spirit. Familiar eyes--perhaps? An alien mouth? A dimple that had
no right, possibly, haunting a lean, loved cheek line? Fire, flame,
ice, ashes? A torch to memory, a scorch to hope! But whose smile
was it, anyway? That maddeningly casual and inconsequent little
"Thank You" smile searing its way apparently with equal impartiality
across chiffon or crape,--a proffered chair, or eagerest promise
of relief from pain? Had Mrs. Tome Gallien's life, by chance, gone
a-wreck on just that smile? And why in Heaven's name, if people
loved each other, did they let anything wreck them? And back of
that--what did people want to love each other for anyway? What good
was it? All this old loving-and-parting-and-marrying-some-one-else
fretting its new path now all over again into chiffon-and-crape!
"Bony-Ankylosis-of-the-Temporomandibular-Joint!" At the very taste
of the phrase his mind jumped out of its reverie and back to the
one real question at hand. "If you please, now!" he implored his
visitor. "Just a little of the coffee! Just a crunch or two of the
rusk!" Urgently as he spoke he began proffering first one and then
the other. "And this crying?" he persisted. "Does this also hurt
you?"

From the doorway beyond him he sensed suddenly the low sound of
footsteps and looked up into Solvei Kjelland's laughing face. Blue
as a larkspur in a summer hail-storm, crisp, shimmery, sparkling
with frost, even her blonde hair tucked into a larkspur-blue storm
hat, she stood there shaking a reproachful finger at both the Young
Doctor and his patient.

"Oh, Ho! For what a pity!" she laughed. "If you had but told me
that Mrs. Tome Gallien's adventure was to be a picnic then I also
could have brought the food!"



[Illustration: "Excuse me, Miss Kjelland," he said; "but this
is not a picnic--it is a clinic."]



"Picnic?" frowned the Young Doctor. Before the plaintive bewilderment
in the dark eyes that lifted at just that instant to his an unwonted
severity crisped into his voice. "Excuse me, Miss Kjelland," he
said; "but this is not a picnic--it is a clinic."

"So? Who is a clinic?" cried Solvei Kjelland perfectly undaunted,
and swished bluely forward to join them. "It is not of course of a
propriety, Doctor Kendrue," she laughed, "that I should come thus
without the sick aunt! But in a storm so unwholesome for aunt is it
not best that I buy some good medicine?" In a shimmer of melting
snowflakes she perched herself on the arm of the first chair she
could reach, and extracting the familiar little purse from her
big blue pocket handed the Young Doctor a one-dollar bill. "Medicine
for the sick aunt!" she commandeered gaily. Then with only the most
casual glance at the piano she whirled around to scrutinize the
desolate little figure before her. If she noticed the tears she
certainly gave no sign of it.

"Ah! It is as I thought!" she triumphed. "Most surely in my mind
did I say that you would be a girl!" In one sweeping blue-eyed
glance she seemed to be appraising suddenly every individual
tone and feature of the dark, exquisite little face that lifted
so bewilderedly to hers. Then quite unexpectedly a most twinkling
smile flickered across her own sharply contrasted blondeness and
like a fine friendly child she held out her hand in greeting.
"Most certainly," she conceded, "you are more cute than I! But
also in some ways," she beamed, "I am of course more cute than you!"

While the Young Doctor waited for the skies to fall, he saw instead,
to his infinite amazement, that the little brunette though still
bewildered was returning the handshake with unquestionable
cordiality. "Awfully well-bred women were like that," he reasoned
quickly. "No matter how totally disorganized they might be by
silly things like mice or toads you simply couldn't faze them
when it came to a purely social emergency." And in a situation
which had thus precipitously reached a point so hopelessly
non-professional there seemed after all but one thing left for
him to do.

"Miss Kjelland!" he essayed with a really terrifying formality,
"This is Mrs. Kendrue!" The instant the phrase had left his
lips his very ears were crimsoning with the one possible
implication which Miss Solvei Kjelland would draw from such
an announcement, and more panic-stricken than any woman would
have been with a mouse he turned and fled for his medicine
cabinet in the very farthest corner of the room.

"Your wife?" faltered Solvei Kjelland in frank astonishment.
"S-o?" she laughed. "And I have only just come! Mix me a
quarter's worth more of the good medicine, Mr. Doctor!" she
called back over her shoulder, and dropped down on the low
stool at the other girl's feet. "Now about this piano!" she
began precipitously.

"I am not Doctor Kendrue's wife!" protested the little black
figure bewilderedly. "Why--why I thought you were his wife,"
she confided with increasing confusion.

From the direction of the medicine cabinet the sound of some
one choking was distinctly audible. Both girls rose instinctively
to meet--only the Young Doctor's perfectly inscrutable face.

"Who now is eating a Miss--mis-apprehension?" beamed Solvei.

"Mrs. Kendrue is a patient of mine," affirmed the Young Doctor
with some coldness.

"O-h," conceded the Norse girl with equal coldness. "A patient?
That is most nice. But--" As though suddenly muddled all over
again by this latest biographical announcement she threw out
her hands with a frank gesture of despair. "If this should be
a patient," she implored, "who then is the 'Other Adventure'?"

Behind the little black figure's back the Young Doctor lifted
a quick warning finger to his lips.

"S-s-h!" he signaled beseechingly to her.

On Solvei Kjelland's forehead the incongruous frown deepened
from perplexity into something very like impatience.

"Well certainly," she attested. "You are of a great sobriety
in your office, but most wild on the doorstep. As for me," she
confided, "it is of the piano and the piano only that I care!"

"That's just it," said the Young Doctor, "it is of the piano and
the piano only that Mrs. Kendrue cares!"

With her finger-tips already touching the ivory keys the Norse
girl swung sharply around.

"What is that?" she demanded.

With a sudden impish conviction that Mrs. Tome Gallien, being
already responsible for so many awkward situations in the world,
might just as well now be responsible for everything, the Young
Doctor gathered breath for his latest announcement.

"Mrs. Kendrue," he smiled with studied calm, "is the niece,--as
it were, of the lady who gave me the piano."

"What," stammered both girls in a single breath.

But it was the little widow's turn this time to be the most
dumfounded. "What," she repeated with a vague new sort of
pain. "What? You mean that Mrs. Tome Gallien gave _you_ the
piano--when--when she knew how I had been longing for it all
these months? Been haunting the warerooms day after day!" she
explained plaintively over her black shoulder to the other girl.
"Why--why do _you_ love music so?" she demanded with sudden
vehement passion of the Young Doctor. "Are you a real musician,
I mean?"

"On the contrary," bowed the Young Doctor, "I am as tender-hearted
about pianos as you are about ducks. Nothing under Heaven would
induce me to lay my rough, desecrating hand upon a piano." In an
impulse of common humanity he turned to allay the new bewilderment
in Solvei Kjelland's face. "This allusion about ducks," he explained,
"concerns another little idiosyncrasy of Mrs. Tome Gallien's."

"Yes!" quickened the little widow. "When she sent Doctor Kendrue
this wonderful piano she sent me a--a dreadful duck blind--way
down somewhere in South Carolina!"

"What is that?" puzzled Solvei Kjelland.

"Why a place to shoot!" snapped the Young Doctor. "Wild ducks,
you know! 'Quack-Quack!' A--a sporting camp!" His whole face
was suddenly alight.

"O-h! And this little Mrs. Kendrue does not sport," reflected
Solvei. In another instant her own face was all alight too.
"Oh, of what a nonsense!" she laughed. "Of what a silliness!
It is of course a mistake, most funny, most conflictable! In
some way it is that the gifts should get mixed in the mails!"

"Oh, no!" wagged the Young Doctor's head. "Oh, no!" he
reiterated with some emphasis. "Careless as I assure you many
of the post-offices are there is very little likelihood of a
grand piano and a duck blind getting mixed in the mails."

"O-h," subsided the Norse girl, but only for an instant.
"What my idea should be," she resumed cheerfully, "and what
the idea of my aunt should be, is that if you would let us
take the piano--one month, two months, three, we would in
return give you some lessons in this music, either in the piano
or of the vocal."

"U-m-m," said the Young Doctor, "Yes--yes, of course that
would undoubtedly be very humanizing and all that, but with
so much unexpected competition, as it were, one must move
very,--er--slowly in the matter. Just what--just what would
be your idea, Mrs. Kendrue?" he turned and asked quite abruptly.

"My idea?" flushed the little widow. "Why--why, of course I
didn't have any idea because I didn't even know that you
possessed the piano until just now. But if you are still
willing to part with it after--after the estate is settled,"
she hurried with evident emotion, "why, then--perhaps--I--"
Yearningly as she spoke she stepped forward to the piano and
fingered out one chord after another, soft, vibrant, experimental,
achingly minor, a timid, delicate nature's whole unconscious
appeal to life for help, love, tenderness.

"Dear me!" mused the Young Doctor.

"Oh! Do you play?" cried Solvei Kjelland ecstatically.

"Oh, no," deprecated the little widow. "I just sing. Do _you_
sing?" she in turn demanded as though her very heart jumped
with the question.

"Oh, no," said Solvei Kjelland, "I just play." Yearningly she
in turn stepped forward and struck a single chord. But there
was nothing soft or minor about this one chord. Sharp, clear,
stirring as a clarion call it rang out through the dingy room.

"Oh, dear!" thought the Young Doctor.

And as though flaming then and there with the musical fervor
so long suppressed the Norse girl swung impetuously round upon
her companion. "You do not play! And I do not sing! So let us!"
she cried excitedly and dropping down on the piano stool seemed
literally melting her fluent finger-tips into ivory-key and melody.

Indefinitely for a brilliant, chaotic moment or two, chord
heaped upon chord and harmony upon harmony, and then suddenly
to the Young Doctor's musically untutored mind it seemed as
though the crashing waves of sound were literally parting on
either side to let a little tune come through. And such a
"pleasant familiar tune" he rated it delightedly. He didn't
remember that Verdi wrote it. He didn't stop to consider that
it was from Trovatore. All he cared was that it was a tune,
and a tune that said things, and a tune that always said the
same things whether you heard it chopped through a hurdy-gurdy
on an asphalt pavement or roared stentoriously by a band at the
beach. "Home to our Mountains!" was what it said, and oh, other
things too, undoubtedly, but that was all that really mattered,
"Home to our Mountains!"

It was perfectly evident, though, that the little widow cared who
wrote it, and what it was from, and where it was going to! With
thrilling sweetness, astonishing technique, and most amazing
volume, her rich contralto voice rang suddenly through the room.
And in the precipitous jump of his heart was it any wonder that
the poor Young Doctor couldn't have told for the life of him
whether the mischief was all in one girl's voice or another
girl's finger-tips, or partly in the voice and partly in the
finger-tips--or--? "Home to our Mountains," soared the lovely
voice, then quivered suddenly, like some wounded thing, and
with her hands pressed tightly to her cheek, the little singer
sank weakly down in the first chair she could reach.

"Why, what is it!" jumped the Young Doctor.

Through a haze of tears the dark eyes lifted to his. "Oh, nothing
special," faltered the little singer. "Just everything!"

With an irrelevant crash of chords Solvei Kjelland swung
sharply round from the piano.

"Who is this Mrs. Tome Gallien, anyways?" she demanded fiercely.
"And where is her habit? And what good is she? To hold back from
people thus the things they want and stuff them all choke-up
with what they don't want,--it is a scandal I say! It is a
monstrosity!" With a quick, jerky sort of defiance she rose
to her feet and commenced straightening her blue hat and
tightening up her blue collar. "I am a failure as One Adventure,"
she laughed. "And I also get nothing! Neither the piano, nor the
medicine for the sick aunt. Give me the address of this woman,"
she demanded. "And I will write to her in my leisure and tell
her what my thoughts of her should be!"

"Do!" urged the Young Doctor. "Nothing would please her more!
When a woman has the ego that Mrs. Tome Gallien has there's
nothing in the world that tickles her vanity so as to hear just
what people think of her, be it good, bad, or indifferent." With
deliberate malice he tore a leaf from his notebook, scribbled
the desired address on it and handed it to the Norse girl. "If
it doesn't do anything else," he commended her with mock gravity,
"it may at least draw the fire!"

"'Draw the fire'?" repeated the Norse girl a bit perplexedly.
Then as though to shrug all perplexity aside she turned suddenly
to the young widow. "As for you--" she beamed. "You are a cunning
little thing! And I loves you!" With unmistakable tenderness she
stooped and kissed the astonished little singer on the forehead.
"And I hope you will soon be of a perfect wellness," she coaxed.
"And sing the perfectly whole songs to whatever piano it is that
you should love the best! As for me?" she called briskly to the
Young Doctor. "It is that you understand I am perfectly resigned?"

"Resigned to what?" frowned the Young Doctor.

"Oh, this language!" laughed Solvei. "Do you know your own words?
To? Of? It is the _from_ that I would say! Complete _from_ the
Adventure I am resigned!"

"S-s-h! S-sh!" warned the Young Doctor's frowning face once more.
Almost anxiously he accompanied her to the door. "S-sh--s-s-h!"
he implored her. "The poor little girl must never know of Mrs.
Tome Gallien's audacity in sending her here as an 'Adventure.'
With all the sorrow she's in just now, and the pain--"

"Yes, quite so," acquiesced Solvei Kjelland with perfect docility.
Then all of a blue-blonde flutter in the open doorway she turned
to call back her blithe "Good-by."

"Good-by, Doctor and Mrs. Kendrue!" she called. "What? _No_?"
she flushed at the very evident consternation in both uplifted
faces. "Good-by then, Mrs. and Doctor Kendrue!" she revised her
adieus hastily. "_What_? _N-o_?" she flared with her first real
sign of impatience. "Well then, good-by, Mrs. and _not_ Doctor
Kendrue!" she finished triumphantly, and vanished into the
snowstorm. Turning back to his somber office and his sad little
patient it seemed suddenly to the Young Doctor as though the first
blue bird had fled, leaving only a single black iris bud to presage
spring for the garden. "Blue birds were darlings!" quickened
the Young Doctor. "And yet?" Poignantly to his memory revived a
misty May time years and years ago when he had sat cross-legged
in the grass a whole day through--to watch the unfolding miracle
of a black iris bud!

In consideration of the particular speed and energy which Solvei
Kjelland applied that afternoon to her homeward plunge through
jostling traffic and resonant subways it is of interest to note
that the first thing she did on reaching her room was to sit right
down in her Larkspur-Blue coat and hat and investigate the word
"leisure" in her English Dictionary. Out of all the various
definitions given, "vacancy of mind" seemed to suit her fancy
best. "In the vacancy of my mind is it that I have promised for
this writing?" she questioned. "Of a very good wellness then!
When else should my mind or my heart be more vacated than now?"

True to this impulse she sat down that very evening to tell Mrs.
Tome Gallien just exactly what she thought of her. On some very
pale, pale yellow note paper, with the blue ink which she adored,
and in the spirited handwriting so characteristic of her nationality,
the very page was a blonde flare of personality.

MRS. TOME GALLIEN,

DEAREST MADAM (she wrote):

How do you do's, And I know all! Do not do it, I say. Do not do it.
They do not like it and if you so persist in thus teasing of them
you will most certainly defeat the one object which I am of an
inclination to suspect that you have tucked away in one side of
the mind. Is it not so?

You are of course very clever and of much wealthiness and some
pain. And, it is of course very diverting and most droll lying
thus to plan how one may yet motivate the destinies, is it, that
you say?

And it is doubtless as you well think--the little widow lady has
mourned too long, and is too delicate of the indoors, and moons
too much over the singing-voice. And this Young Doctor in his own
turn he also is a mistake, so sarcasms, so severe, and hates all
womans and all pianos both, except for minutes. And you have thought
that if thus across the little pain in the lady's bone these two
could be brought to scold about the pianos and the blind ducks
much good might yet come and of a most loving adjustingment?

But no, Madam it is a great mistake! These people are not at all
as bright as you think. And also in their hearts is there none of
that most happy greed which makes all comical things as they come
one joke! No! It is only that they see in your gifts one great
make-them-mad which if you persist in so doing with other comics
will make them cold with hate and humiliation for each other. And
when you tag the poor little lady as an Adventure you have yet
outraged complete the chivalries of the Young Doctor so that he
cannot even see in his sense that even so little a widow may yet
be a very great Adventure.

Do not do it, I say! Do not do it! It is cruel. And there is no
law but your own honor that can stop it.

If the malice is so formed that you cannot stop it but must
persist in this most foolish custom of giving people the things
what they do not want I would respectfully suggest that you send
them to me.

I am young. I am strong. And very laughing. If you can find anything
in the world at just this time that I do not want _I dare you to
send it to me!_

Yours very truly,

SOLVEI KJELLAND.

Being satiate then with justice and the English language Solvei
reverted once more to the pursuit of juvenile pedagogics and the
general discussion of human events with her own aunt and in her
own tongue.

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, nothing except pedagogics and
the aunt even remotely threatened her horizon. And by Thursday
every gesture of her fine young body, every changing expression
of her fine young face, seemed frankly indicative of some seething
inner triumph that as yet remained unspoken. By Friday night,
however, even this self-control slipped its leash, and she closed
her eyes for sleep with a very distinct and definite expression of
emotion. "Ah!" she laughed, "that Gallien lady down yonder is good
and fixed! Yes!"

It was not until Saturday night, late, by special delivery, that
Mrs. Tome Gallien's answer came.

Stumbling sleepily down the stairs just be fore midnight to answer
the doorbell that no one else seemed awake to answer, Solvei
Kjelland received the insignificant looking envelope into her
own hands. Small as it was, heavily overshadowed by special delivery
postage, and almost quaveringly directed in a pale, fine writing
it might well have suggested to anybody a suppliant for mercy, or
at least for pity.

With a first faint twinge of remorse Solvei tore it open to
discover no contents whatever--except a railroad ticket to the
little mainland town in South Carolina where Mrs. Tome Gallien
had established her official address.

Scowlingly for a moment and in dumb perplexity the girl stood
shifting from one slippered foot to another in a really desperate
effort to decipher each word, phrase, comma, asterisk, in the
momentous little document be fore her. Then quite suddenly a smile
that was by no means mirthful flashed brilliantly across her blue
eyes and her gleaming teeth.

"_Stinged_!" said Solvei Kjelland, and gathering her big gray blanket
wrapper a little bit closer around her fled back precipitously to
her bed.

With the first faint ray of morning light perhaps she might have
waked to an instant's reassuring conviction that the whole ticket
episode was a dream if only her subconscious deductions from that
episode had not waked first on her lips like a wry taste. "The one
things in the world that I did not want--at just this time? That
lady is a witchess!" was the phrase that waked on her lips.

It was not until early the following week, however, that she called
up the Young Doctor to tell him the news.

"How do you do?" she telephoned. "This is Solvei Kjelland. And I
am to say good-by."

"Good-by? Why, what do you mean?" questioned the Young Doctor's
frankly surprised voice.

"It is that I am going away," said Solvei, "on a little--what it
is you would call a trip."

"Oh," said the Young Doctor. "Where?"

If the statement could ever be made that a Person "shrugged" his
voice Solvei certainly "shrugged" hers.

"Oh, through the tunnel!" she said. "And then off!"

"Yes, but where?" persisted the Young Doctor.

"Oh, to the Southern Carolines to visit this Mrs. Tome Gallien,"
sing-songed the girl as one who had rehearsed the line even to
the point of monotony.

"What?" cried the Young Doctor. "Why--why, what do you mean?"

"Mean?" bridled Solvei instantly. "For why should it be a meanness?
Is not this Mrs. Tome Gallien as fine a lady as I? Am I not as
fine a lady as Mrs. Tome Gallien? For why if two ladies like to
visit it should not be so? Have I not explain it all to the sick
aunt?"

"Yes, but do you really mean that you wrote to Mrs. Tome Gallien?"
stammered the Young Doctor. "What did you say? For Heaven's sake
what did you say?"

"What I did say should be sealed in my own heart," affirmed Solvei
with some coldness.

"Yes, but my dear child!" protested the Young Doctor. "You don't
seem to have any idea of just what you're  going to! It's not at
all a cheerful sort of place you understand. Why even its name you
know is 'Gloom of the Sea.'"

"Even so," said Solvei, "there is no special pain in that. In my
time have I not already seen several Glooms of the Land? Why then
should I not, for sheer geography, start out to investigate a 'Gloom
of the Sea'?"

"Yes, but it's a--it's a Desert Island, you know!" persisted the
Young Doctor.

"So-o?" brightened Solvei. "And will there then be camels? N-o?"
With a soft sigh of regret her whole personality seemed to fade
for a moment into the indeterminate blur and buzz of crossed
telephone wires. Then clear as a bell her voice rang out again.
"And have you seen the little sad lady once more?" she asked.

"Why she's here in my office now," said the Young Doctor. "She
has to come almost every day."

"So?" mused the Norse girl. "And will it take the long time
perhaps to mend the little pain in the bone?"

"I certainly hope so!" laughed the Young Doctor. And for the
first time since she had heard it there was no irony in the laugh
but sheer boyish happiness.

"You do not seem quite to get the ideas of this little trip that
I should make," she reproached him briskly. "It is not just that
I go! But that I stay! It is not just for the once it would seem
but for the all time that this lady so desires me! The ticket
that she so kindly sends is but one-sided. It does not return."

"Ticket?" exclaimed the Young Doctor. "Why, this is preposterous!
You don't really mean it, surely? There's nothing that can make
you go, you know!"

"So?" said Solvei. "Did I not make the dare to her? Should I not
pay? Is it not then as you say? I have drawn the fire!" Across
the astonishing gravity of her tone a most joyous laugh broke
suddenly. "Your words are of such a mixedness," she laughed.
"Drawn? Drawn? Is it not rather as the strong banks would say,
Miss Solvei Kjelland by one lady from the South has been withdrawn
from the circulations? But I adore this America!" she confided
blithely. "Always around every corner there is something that you
did not first expect when you curled that corner."

"Yes, I know," admitted the Young Doctor. "But what about all
this Montessori study and everything? Are you going to chuck it?
And the little brother? The little lad who isn't?" he asked with
real regret.

"It will all keep," said Solvei. "It is only what is, it would
seem, that should pass."

"Oh, but Miss Kjelland," insisted the Young Doctor, "this whole
thing is absurd! I--I believe you're  making it all up, just for
a joke! If you're  going to be home next Sunday afternoon couldn't
I come around and--and laugh the thing out with you?"

"Next Sunday afternoon?" mused Solvei, with the manner of one who
pauses for an instant to count the days on the fingers. "And this
now, this minute, is a Tuesday?" she questioned, still speculatively.

"Yes," agreed the Young Doctor.

"No! It will not be possible!" said Solvei. "I leave!"

"Yes, but when?" asked the Young Doctor.

"Now," said Solvei. "Already it is that I can hear the taxicab
adding at the door."

"What?" cried the Young Doctor.

"Under the river!" waved Solvei's clear young voice. "Under the
river, Dr. Sam Kendrue!"

Like a gigantic gray-brown wonder bulb the northern winter is
dumped down thus at will into the sunny, plushy forcing frame of
a New York Pullman to bloom in perfect scent and glory only one
day, two days, three days later in some welcoming Southland.

If Solvei Kjelland was astonished, however, at the first bland
sights that met her blizzard-habituated eyes it is only fair to
say that Mrs. Tome Gallien in all her years of experience in
every kind of a Southland had never seen any thing that astonished
her as much as the sight of Solvei Kjelland.

Fuming helplessly in her great mahogany bed with its weird-carven
bed-posts of pirate and sailor and siren, the sick woman lay
staring blankly from the ceiling to the piazza railing and from
the piazza railing to the dull gray sea when the vision first
burst upon her.

"Why--why--Martha!" she screamed to her deaf woman. "There is a
bright blue girl in the wrangle boat! And nobody is wrangling!
They are coming right along, I mean! Scudding! And the girl is
running the engine!"

From her own quick glance at the scene the deaf woman's answering
voice came back as calm, as remote, as de-magnetized as the voice
of an old letter.

"You sent for a girl to come, I believe," said the deaf woman.

"Yes, I know," fumed Mrs. Tome Gallien. "But I hardly dreamed for
a moment that she really would!"

"What?" said the deaf woman.

"Never--dreamed--that--she--would!" repeated Mrs. Tome Gallien
as economically as she could.

"Most things that you send for--seem to come," monotoned the deaf
woman by no means unamiably. "There's no room left in the storeroom
now for the last box of Japanese bric-a-brac, or the French wedding
gown or the new-fangled fireless cooker. Where shall we put the
girl?"

"In the fireless cooker!" snapped Mrs. Tome Gallien.

From the vague acquiescent smile on Martha's face it was evident
that she sensed the spirit if not the words of the suggestion.

The next direction however was startlingly clear. With a quite
unmistakable gesture Mrs. Tome Gallien pointed toward the stairs.

"Martha! Go to it!" she screamed.

To a person lying in bed voices travel so much quicker than do the
owners of the voices. Through what seemed an eternity then of time
and noise, boat-keels grounding, men grumbling, boys shouting,
women chattering, the sick woman waited in the lonely hush of her
immediate surroundings with a very perceptible shiver of nervousness
flashing from moment to moment across her spine.



[Illustration: As coolly as if she had been appraising a new dog
or pussy, Mrs. Tome Gallien narrowed her eyes to both the vision
and the announcement.]



Then all a-glow and a-blow and theatrically incongruous like some
splendid young Viking of Old rigged out in a girl's blue and
ultramodern rain-coat, the stranger loomed up suddenly at the
foot of the bed with Martha's portly white figure backgrounding
every radiant flutter and line of the blue and gold silhouette.

"I am come!" said Solvei Kjelland.

As coolly as if she had been appraising a new dog or pussy Mrs.
Tome Gallien narrowed her eyes to both the vision and the
announcement.

"Certainly you are a very good-looking young person!" she
conceded at last. "But of such an ungodly name! Is there no
way to overcome it?"

"Over--come it?" puzzled Solvei for a single shadowed instant.
"Oh, that is most easy," she brightened, almost at once. "Solway
it is as though it was. And Ch-Chelland."

"You may call me 'Elizabeth,'" said Mrs. Tome Gallien without
the flicker of an eyelash.

"E-lee-sa-buth?" repeated the girl painstakingly.

"Oh, I suppose that will do," sighed Mrs. Tome Gallien, struggling
up a little bit higher on her pillows. "But whatever in the world
made you come?" she demanded tartly.

But if the question was like a dash of cold water, Solvei's reaction
to it was at least the reaction of a duck's back.

"You mean you did not really want me?" she preened and fluttered.
Her voice was ecstasy, her eyes like stars.

"I certainly did not," sliced Mrs. Tome Gallien's clear incisive
voice.

"Oh, of what a joyousness and retribution!" beamed Solvei. "Of
what a gloriosity! As the shooting camping is to the sad little
lady, and the piano to the Young Doctor,--so thus am I to you!
What then shall happen to everyone of us is yet on the lap of the
gods! Let us kiss!" she suggested as one prize fighter might
proffer his hand to another.

"I am not a kisser, thank you," said Mrs. Tome Gallien with some
coldness.

"So-o?" acquiesced the girl softly. If her spirit faltered for
an instant, her blue eyes fortunately faltered no lower than the
great clutter of boxes that flanked Mrs. Gallien's bed in every
direction. "For why are there so many boxes?" she looked up
suddenly to ask with a smile that would have disarmed a Tartar.

"Why--why those are just some things I've been buying lately,"
relaxed Mrs. Tome Gallien ever so slightly. "There isn't so very
much to do here, some days, except just to read the advertisements
in the back of the magazines--and send for things. Martha hates
it!" she added with a sudden wry glance at Martha's impassive face.

"O-h!" said Solvei. And the word was divided absolutely evenly
between praise of the boxes and disparagement of Martha.

The boxes seemed to have heard their part of it anyway. The string
on a huge brown paper package burst suddenly as though for sheer
excitement.

"Martha will show you to your room," said Mrs. Tome Gallien quite
imperviously. "And whatever else you try to jar, pray don't waste
your energies trying to jar Martha. By a most merciful dispensation
of Providence her sensibilities have been wrapped in a cotton
batting silence for the past twenty years. You may in time learn
to understand me," she smiled faintly with her first kindness. "But
you will never understand Martha. Come back to me after supper,
if you wish. And wear something blue if you have it. I like you
in blue."

It was long after supper when Solvei returned. But at least she
was in blue, and a very neat and trim blue it was and essentially
boyish with its soft collar rolling back sailor-wise from her
slender throat. Like one fairly consumed with the winter novelty
of boats and beaches, too full of a hundred new excitements to
speak, she dropped down on the low footstool by Mrs. Tome Gallien's
pungent, smoky, lightwood fire, and with her blue elbows on her
blue knees and her white chin cupped in her white hands, sat
staring wide-eyed at her hostess. The whole breathless significance
of youth was in her face. Youth struggled eternally for its own
best self-expression. But when she spoke, a single sentence only
burst from her lips.

"What was in that big brown bundle-box that should burst so?" she
asked with a sudden elfish impudence.

But instead of being annoyed by the question, Mrs. Tome Gallien
seemed on the contrary to be rather amused with it.

"You like boxes?" she asked with a faintly quizzical lift of her
eyebrows.

"Boxes?" flamed Solvei. "It is like the new day! When the string
breaks--it is the dawn! 'What should there then be in it?' jumps
the heart. What is there yet that will come?"

"Oh, dear me," smiled Mrs. Tome Gallien. "If you feel like that
about it by all means come and open it. I forget myself what is
in it, there are so many. Nuts maybe," she laughed, "or a new
carpet sweeper. Or a sable muff even!"

With all the frank eagerness of a child Solvei Kjelland jumped
up to investigate the mystery, and like a kitten snarling itself into
worsteds disappeared for the moment into interminable pale-colored
tissue papers, only to emerge at last brandishing on high the
plumpest, gaudiest, altogether most hideous hand-embroidered
sofa pillow that human eyes were ever forced to contemplate.

"It is not nuts," said Solvei Kjelland. In another moment she had
clasped the pillow to her breast. "Oh, of what a horror!" she
laughed. "And how beloved! Is it the work then," she demanded, "of
a blind one? Or of one crazy? Or of one both blind and crazy?" Back
of the laughter and the question was a sincere and unmistakable
concern.

"A clergyman's widow makes them," confided Mrs. Tome Gallien.
"Somebody over in Alabama,--I saw the advertisement in a country
newspaper. I take a whole lot of country newspapers for just that
sort of amusement," she added a bit drily. "There seems to be such
an everlasting number of bunglers in the world who are trying so
desperately hard to make a little money. This woman I believe is
trying to send her boy to college."

With the pillow extended precipitously to full arm's length Solvei
sat for a moment staring from the chaotic embroidery to Mrs. Tome
Gallien's perfectly composed face.

"Could a boy come to any of the good that should go to college on
a pillow like that?" she demanded uproariously, while all the
laughing curves of her mouth seemed reaching suddenly up to fend
off the threat of tears in her eyes. Once again she clasped the
pillow to her breast. "Oh, the bridge that it does make into the
other's life!" she cried. "Can you not see all at once, the house,
the desolation, the no store anywhere with fine goods to compare
with! The boy so thin, so white, so eager perhaps, so watching of
every stitch! That most dreadful magenta? Will there be by the
grace of the good God a chance perhaps for the Latin? That screaming
oranges? Should it be humanly possible that so much joys as histories
and boots might yet be in the same world with the Latin. And the
mother? So pricked with needles? So consumed with hopings----"

"You--you see it, do you?" drawled Mrs. Tome Gallien.

"See it?" flamed Solvei. "I _am_ it!" With the gesture of one who
sought suddenly to hide her emotion she swung around abruptly
toward the other side of the room. "What else is there then?"
she asked, all laughter and mischief again. "That box so wooden,
so busted at the top? Is that also a bridge to some other livings?"

"If you choose to call it so," nodded Mrs. Tome Gallien. A frankly
quizzical invitation to explore was in the nod.

Solvei certainly needed no urging. In another instant down on
her knees before the great wooden box, she was slowly extracting
from wads of excelsior, piece after piece of the most exquisitely
delicate and transparent turquoise blue china beaded in gold and
airily overwrought with soaring sea gulls. There was a big breakfast
cup, and a middle-sized breakfast cup, and a big plate, and a
middle-sized plate, and a cereal saucer and another cereal saucer,
and a most stately little coffee pot and all the other attendants
and attendants to attendants which Fashion assigns to just that
sort of a service.

"Oh, it is for the fairies then?" gasped Solvei. "Or a Princess?"
Deftly as she spoke she pulled a great white sheet of paper to her
and spread it on the floor as a cloth. "No!" she quickened. "It is
for lovers! See? The first breakfast of the new home?" As cautiously
as though she had been handling butterfly wings she began to dramatize
the scene, the big plate there, the middle-sized plate here, a man's
elbow-room, thus, a woman's daintiness, so! In the ingenuousness of
her own visualization she lifted the bride's cup to her lips and
sipped an ecstatic draught from it.

"Mocha or Java?" mocked Mrs. Tome Gallien.

"Joy!" said Solvei Kjelland.

In a sudden fit of abstraction then the girl struggled slowly to
her knees and knelt thus staring very thoughtfully all around her.

"So is it then with all these boxes?" she asked. "That from this
desert island lying so you would make constantly such little bridges
across to other people's livings? In time, it is, I mean, as soon
as you should bear to part with them you would build even these most
Heavenish dishes across to some young happiness? But will such a
young happiness ever take the troubles to cross back to you?" she
demanded with sudden fierceness. "That is it, I say! That is it! A
prattling note perhaps? A praise-you for being so rich? But do they
ever yet write more late to tell that the gift is still well, that
it has made new joy that very morning perhaps, that even yet after
one month, six months, twenty, it is still so dear?"

"They never have," admitted Mrs. Tome Gallien.

In utter irrelevance the girl sank back on her heels and crossing
her arms on her breast began to rock herself joyously to and fro.

"Oh, I do love this place so!" she confided. "I do love it so! And
if you should then keep me," she beamed. "And I should be quite
pleasant,--there is a lawn mower I read in yesterday's paper! Most
wonderful it is, and runs by the gasolene, so that all one needs to
do is to follow singing gaily. Could you send for such?"

"A lawn mower?" sniffed Mrs. Tome Gallien. "You noticed, I trust,
that there was no nice grass whatsoever on this island?"

"Yes, that is most so," admitted Solvei. "Neither equally is there
any young happinesses or bare-toed boys making for Latin. But if
we were possessed of such a lawn mower and its wonderfulness we
could at least make the fine green lawns in the mind."

"Solvei!" snapped Mrs. Tome Gallien, "I am dreadfully afraid that
I am going to like you! But before I actually commit myself," she
frowned, "I want to ask you one question. Are you in the habit of
letting strange young men kiss you?"

"What?" jumped Solvei.

Very significantly Mrs. Tome Gallien repeated the question. "Strange
young men?" she revised it. "Are you in the habit of letting strange
young men kiss you?"

"Oh!" flushed Solvei. "It is then the Young Doctor that you mean?
Was it so that he thus confessed it to you?" she questioned a bit
bewilderedly. "So shamed he was, so worried, I had not just thought
that he should tell. Yes, it is as you say he is one most strange
young man."

"Yes, but you?" persisted Mrs. Tome Gallien. "How did you feel
about it? That's what I want to know!"

"How should I feel?" laughed Solvei. "Why it was so mad I was,
so strong, I could have crushed him on the steps! And then suddenly
I see his face! Bah!" shrugged Solvei. "I have one father and nine
brothers and all the world is most full of men! It is not from such
a face as the Young Doctor's that any evil should come. It is just
as I have said, one very sad accident!"

"It does not seem to be just the sadness of the accident that
lingers longest in your mind," drawled Mrs. Tome Gallien.

With her chin tip-tilted and her eyes like stars the girl met the
sarcasm without a flicker of resentment.

"No!" she laughed. "It is not the sadness of the accident that
remains longest in the mind!"

"U-m-mmmm," mused Mrs. Tome Gallien. "All the same," she resumed
with sharpness, "I certainly think it was most cruel, most brutal
of him, not to make the trip down here with me! It would have done
him good," she insisted. "Just the mere balmy change of it! He is
so grim!"

"Oh, but he cannot help the being grim," flared Solvei. "He is so
poor and so wanting things! How should he yet achieve them except
by sticking close to that most saddest of all truths that the only
ways to get ahead is to stay behind and attend to one's business?"

"Solvei!" asked Mrs. Tome Gallien quite abruptly. "Have you gotten
the impression in any way that the Young Doctor was--was attracted
at all to my little widow friend?"

"Oh, of a surety!" attested Solvei. "He is I think what one would
say 'crazy' of her."

"Oh, I hardly dare to hope that," mused Mrs. Tome Gallien. "But of
course--" In some far-away speculation the sentence faded suddenly
off into silence. "She will of course be very rich some day, I
suppose," she resumed a bit haughtily. "I shall, I suppose, make
her my heir."

"S-o?" said Solvei Kjelland.

"Solvei!" snapped Mrs. Tome Gallien with another spurt of abruptness.
"Speaking of 'attending to one's business,' if _you_ should decide
to stay here and make _me_ your business, what do you think you
could do for me?"

"Oh, I could do the reading aloud," brightened Solvei instantly.
"And I could thus open the boxes! And I could run the wrangle boat!"
she quickened and glowed. "And also if it should so seem best I
could scrub the blue flannel crockings from the Wrangle Boy's neck!"

"On the whole--as a really steady employment," conceded Mrs. Tome
Gallien, "suppose we begin on the reading aloud. I adore being read
to."

"Oh, I am very fine on this reading aloud!" preened Solvei.
"So dramatic is it that you say? So intensed?" With absolute
self-assurance she picked up the only book in reach, it happened
to be the "Golden Treasury," and just out of sheer temperamental
eagerness selected the biggest-looking poem she could find. "It
should be an 'Ode,' is it that you call it?" she confided. "And
it is about--about--? I do not know such words," she faltered for
a single second only and passed the page to Mrs. Tome Gallien.

"Oh," said Mrs. Tome Gallien, "Wordsworth, you mean. 'Ode on
Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.'"

"S-o?" conceded Solvei. "All that? It is not certainly of a poetry
sound but more--later perhaps it will tell. All the rest is most
easy looking.

     "There was--some time" (she began) "when--when
        meadows, groves, also streams,
     "The earth and all things perfectly--ordinary
     "To me did--did seems
     "Ap-pareled--"

I do not know that word and here is another--

     "in ce--les--tial lightings,
     "The----"

"Yes--anybody could see at once that you are a remarkable reader!"
slashed Mrs. Tome Gallien's coolest, thinnest voice. "The picture
it suggests of our long spring evenings together is----"

With a startled glance upward Solvei detected for the first time
the actual glinting mockery in the older woman's eyes. "What is
it?" she stammered. "What?" Still like some one more bewildered
than hurt she struggled to her feet. "Even as from the first," she
questioned, "is it that you are making the sport of me when I wish
so hard to do the things that would please you? Through and through,
is your heart then so cruel?" she demanded, "that it must make
mockerings of the confused and the far-from-homes?"

"Oh, Solvei!" cried the older woman suddenly. "Smile again! Laugh
again! I can't bear it! It's as though the sun had died! It's as
though the moon had gone! If you are angry and leave me, I shall
be left all alone again with just the fog and the sea! I am a brute,
and I know it! But oh, if you will only just smile again! Even just
once, I mean! Oh, my poor dear little girl," she implored her. "Oh,
my poor dear touchy little blonde girl!"

"I am not a 'poor--poor little blonde girl,'" asserted Solvei with
some spirit. "I am indeed as I said, very young, very strong. And
very laughing," she insisted without even the remotest flicker of
a smile.

"Are you young enough and strong enough and laughing enough to come
over here and sit on my bed?" rallied Mrs. Tome Gallien.

"I am young enough and strong enough and laughing enough to do
anything!" said Solvei Kjelland.

Stiff and stern as a ramrod she went over and sat on the side
of the Sick Woman's bed.

Without an atom of self-consciousness or embarrassment both
women began all over again to study each other's faces.

"Could I put my hand on your yellow hair?" asked Mrs. Gallien
at last quite surprisingly.

"You could put your hand on my yellow hair," said Solvei.

"If I should apologize fairly decently for existing at all,"
experimented Mrs. Tome Gallien a little further, "would you be
willing to kiss now?

"I should never be willing," sighed Solvei, "to kiss any lips that
tasted of mockerings."

"What would you be willing to do?" ventured Mrs. Tome Gallien.

"What would you want me to do?" relaxed Solvei ever so slightly.

Through Mrs. Tome Gallien's busy brain a dozen possible answers
tested themselves one against the other.

"Well, would you be willing to--to tell me a little story?" she
chose as the most promising one.

"Tell you a little story?" queried Solvei. Once again her whole
face darkened with suspicion.

"Yes, about my little island," hurried Mrs. Tome Gallien. "It
was dark when I came and they put me right into this bed. I do
not leave my bed, you know."

"What?" quivered Solvei. "This most beautiful little island, you
have not seen it--since you came?" In the very tensity of the
question all the blue seemed to surge back suddenly to her eyes,
all the pink to her cheeks. "Why of a sureness," she cried, "will
I tell you about this little island!" Softly then for a moment she
patted her skirts and recrossed her slippered feet and fumbled with
the big silk tie that closed her collar. Then quite geographically
she began her narrative. "First of all," she explained, "it is a
round little island."

"Really, you surprise me," said Mrs. Tome Gallien purely
automatically. "So many islands are square."

"And there are fish upon it!" glowed the narrator.

"Oh, surely not upon it?" shivered Mrs. Tome Gallien.

"And there are seven monstrous what you call 'live-oak' trees
dripping with gray beards,--it is most terrible," gloated the
narrator. "And in one tree alone have I seen with my own eyes
seven most scarlet birds and two blue birds. And in yet another
tree there is a fine snake.--And all along by what you should call
the edge of the porch blue violets are coming. And on the roof
where the wrangle boat sleeps there is an green vine that shall
yet be yellow and sweet, Martha tells. And--and--" Around the
corners of the girl's red lips a faint little smile showed
suddenly. "And there is one little black pig, so grunting!"
she announced with rapture. "And--and----"

So the sweet, eager, revitalizing young voice ran on till Martha
herself appeared to announce Sleeping Time, and Mrs. Tome Gallien
whose "sleeping time" for years had been a farce of ghost and
specter dozed off before she was even half undressed to dream
like a child of budding violets and flitting birds and a glow
that should be of jessamine instead of gold.

Hours fall so easily out of a day, days out of a week, weeks out
of a month!

The jessamine glow did come in its own good time as did also
various other things which Nature had ordained, March winds,
March rains, March tides, March sunshine.

Other wonders came too that were of course Mrs. Tome Gallien's
ordaining rather than Nature's fabulous shoppings from all the big
marts of the world, and little pitiful, home made products from
backwoods settlement or lonely prairie.

Once and for all time relieved of the hazardous task of reading
aloud to a capricious invalid, Solvei came and went like a young
Sea Breeze, whistling through the halls, singing through the rooms,
sweeping across the island, frolicking on the water. If it was
fair to rate her as a rather exceptionally clever and daring young
navigator on the sea of fact it was only fair to acknowledge her
equally clever, equally daring in the realms of fancy. Smiling
knowingly into Martha's silences, laughing at the wrangle boat man
or boy, waving a slim hand in and out of Mrs. Tome Gallien's narrow
sea-blue vista, scudding to and from the mainland on interminable
errands, or curled up for long cozy evenings on the foot of Mrs.
Tome Gallien's bed to visualize their mutual magic path across one
new box or another into "other people's livings," Solvei Kjelland
as a companion was frankly a success.

Then one day very late in March, or even the first of April,
something came which was partly of Nature's ordaining and partly
of Mrs. Tome Gallien's, though most thoroughly a surprise to the
latter one concerned.

It was a letter from Dr. Sam Kendrue. And very Northern. Whatever
the New York winter had been it was plainly evident that the New
York spring was still exceedingly cold.

MRS. TOME GALLIEN,

DEAR MADAM (said the letter):

As it seems best to me at just this time that Mrs. Kendrue should
supplement her treatment with a trip South, it is my intention to
accompany her. In view of this fact I will take the liberty of
calling upon you on Tuesday next. Trusting that your island
experience has proved beneficial to your health,

I am, Yours truly, etc., etc.

"U-m-mmmm," smiled Mrs. Tome Gallien. But before the dull, fretted
bewilderment in Solvei Kjelland's face, her smile sharpened
suddenly into impatience. "Why surely, Solvei," she scolded. "With
all your English you might at least understand that."

"N-o," shifted Solvei from one slim ankle to the other. "It does
not seem to me of any understanding whatever--whether it should
be Dr. Sam Kendrue's Mrs. Kendrue who comes or just Mrs. Kendrue's
Mrs. Kendrue?"

"O-h, of course," rallied Mrs. Tome Gallien's good nature. "One
could hardly expect them to be married by now, or even engaged
perhaps. But at least they must be awfully interested! How about
your poor hardworking young doctor _now_?" she gloated; "couldn't
take the tiniest holiday for a poor old gray-haired, crippled
creature like me! But has got time to burn when it comes to some
little soft dark-eyed thing with a creak in her singing-voice!"

"Love is sure some pranks," admitted Solvei.

"_A_ prank," corrected Mrs. Tome Gallien.

"A prank," repeated Solvei with perfect docility.

From the increasing sweetness of her day dreams Mrs. Tome Gallien
turned idly to the calendar on the table by her bedside. The
week's page had not been torn off, nor the week before that,
if the whole truth must be known.

"Why, Good Lack!" she jerked suddenly. "To-day is Tuesday!"

"So?" jumped Solvei.

Both women turned simultaneously toward the clock.

"It will take you half an hour to make the mainland and that
train!" cried Mrs. Tome Gallien. "And for goodness sake, brush
your hair! And change those old sea-faring clothes."

"I will not brush the hair," tossed Solvei's bright wind-blown
head. "Always it is my preference to wear it thus hither-and-hang!
Nor will I part ever from my friend this old blue jersey! And even
so--if the sun does not fade between the here and the mainland I
may yet achieve three new freckles on my nose!"

"Don't argue!" fumed Mrs. Tome Gallien. "Just hurry!"

"It is only when one hurries that one has time to argue," persisted
the girl.

"Oh, stop your nonsense!" ordered Mrs. Tome Gallien.

"Whose nonsense will then be left to us?" flared Solvei. "But do
not thus make all this extra worrisome," she admonished with sudden
gentleness. "Time is always more fat than you think! But for two
such fancy fine packages as I go now to fetch," she flared again
ever so slightly, "there will not be room also in the boat for
the face of the wrangle boat man nor yet for the legs of the boy.
It is alone I insist that I should go!"

"For mercy's sake!" fretted Mrs. Tome Gallien. "I don't care how
you go, if you'll only go!"

Without further parleying, Solvei started for the stairs. In
another minute with a few jumps and slides she had reached the
front door. Once outside, it took but a fraction more of time to
settle the wrangle boat man and boy.

"Sitting here in perfect peace on the shore," she admonished them,
"watch thus how one isolated person with no words but oil can
make a boat prance on the waves! All aboard!" she called back
exultantly to them.

With a chug like a great, pounding heartthrob the wrangle boat
sprang for the sea. Just for a moment then at the last signaling
point Solvei lifted her hand in unfailing cheeriness to the sick
woman and the deaf woman left behind, and turned her own
inordinately sharpened young senses toward the mainland.

But when the ructious little wrangle boat drew up a half hour
later alongside the dilapidated mainland wharf before an admiring
audience of jet black pickaninnies and mangy hounds there was
only one passenger waiting impatiently there, and that passenger
was Dr. Sam Kendrue.

"How do you do, Dr. Sam Kendrue?" said Solvei.

"How do _you_ do, Miss Solvei Kjelland?" grinned Doctor Kendrue.

With more agility than one might have dared to hope for from
one who boasted so much winter in his blood, the Young Doctor
snatched up his valise, jumped down into the wrangle boat and
pushed off.

To avoid running into a sunken rowboat and a floating snag, Solvei
was compelled to start her engine, and turn sharply out to sea.

"Where then is your Mrs. Kendrue?" she called a bit breathlessly
above the lap of wind and water.

"It is my Mrs. Kendrue that I have come to get!" said the Young
Doctor.

With a little oil can poised abruptly in midair, Solvei opened
the same old bewildered blue eyes at him.

"Oh, no," she hastened to disillusion him. "Your Mrs. Kendrue is
not yet on our island."

"No, of course she isn't," laughed the Young Doctor. "And there's
a jolly good reason why, and the reason is--because she's right
here in the boat!"

"What?" stammered Solvei. With frenzied haste she began very
suddenly to oil everything in reach. "What?" she repeated vaguely.

"I mean just what I say," said the Young Doctor, and made a slight
move as of one who would cross one cramped knee over the other.

With all the joy of a foreigner easing his dictional panic with
an idiom, Solvei snatched out at the first phrase she could think
of that had a familiar word in it.

"Sit down! You're rocking the boat!" she screamed.

"Silly!" said the Young Doctor. "I was once in a boat before!"
Quite wretchedly he began then and there to try and recover his
old manner, the irony, the mocking. "Really, Miss Kjelland," he
ducked as a great cloud of spray went by him. "Really Miss
Kjelland, you're awfully rough with boats! Oh, but Solvei," he
broke through again in spite of himself. "You understand what I'm
trying to say, now don't you?"

"No, I don't," said Solvei Kjelland with her great blue eyes
staring straight ahead through the veil of her windblown hair
at some far focal point just over the wrangle boat's prancing bow.

Once again a great cloud of spray missed the Young Doctor by the
width only of his dodge.

"And how is it then about Mrs. Kendrue's Mrs. Kendrue?" asked
Solvei quite suddenly out of the gusty sky.

"Oh!" said the Young Doctor with the most surprising revival of
cheerfulness. "Why--why she's gone on down to investigate her new
duck blind with the rest of her party. There's a tenor, it seems,
who is rather,--well, contenting. You could hardly use any other
word with her, she's so awfully inexpressive. Anyway it's a
diverting friendship for her, though whether the tenor can
hit a high duck as niftily as he can hit a high note, remains
of course to be seen."

"S-o?" said Solvei with indifferent interest. "And is the piano
well?"

"Oh, fairly well," conceded the Young Doctor. "But if ever I saw
a piano that needed a mother's care! I had to board it out,
you know?"

"S-o?" crooned Solvei's sweet low voice.

It was astonishing though how soon the sea calmed down after
that. At least there was no more spray.

Skirting round at last along the sunny sheltered side of the
little island instead of splashing boldly up to the regular
landing as was her usual custom, it seemed indeed as though
Solvei was suddenly trying to feed out serenity to the man
before her. The floating gray moss of the live-oak trees was
certainly serene, the twitter of birds, the soft, warm drone
of insect. Without an interrupting word she drove the boat's
nose into a roughly improvised harbor of floating logs and a
raft, jumped out upon the raft and beckoned the Young Doctor to
follow her.

But at the first soft-padded thud of his foot on the turf it was
the Young Doctor himself who broke the vocal silence.

"Oh, but Solvei!" he protested. "You've got to know that you are
the only Mrs. Kendrue that I want!"

"S-o?" queried Solvei, glancing back with a vaguely skeptical smile
across her blue jersey shoulder.

"Oh, of course," admitted the Young Doc tor, "just right away
at the very first I didn't know it perhaps. You were so--so,--well,
so sort of unusual," he flushed, "and so awfully independent! About
the Adventure and the Little Widow and everything, you made it so
perfectly plain you didn't need me that it wasn't till you'd actually
gone that I half woke up to the fact how much I needed you! Why,
Solvei, after you ran away the city was like a gray fog with no
light in it, no laughter, no anything! The days were a week long,
the nights, a month! Is it any wonder that I should feel as though
I'd loved you for almost ever and ever? Why, if it hadn't been for
my work, and the knowledge that work and work only could bring me
to you--? Oh, I know it's awfully sudden and everything!" he persisted
desperately. "But why people prate so everlastingly about 'Love at
first sight' and never make any talk at all about 'Love at first
absence'! Solvei you've simply got to understand!" he cried out.

In her few steps lead of him the girl stopped suddenly and turned
around.

"But of what good is it that I should understand?" she asked with
a little appealing gesture of her hands. "In my far Norway is it
not that I have still the cause of the little brother? And here?"
she puzzled, "How could I yet leave Elizabeth?"

"Elizabeth?" questioned the Young Doctor.

"Mrs. Tome Gallien," explained the girl.

"Elizabeth?" repeated the Young Doctor with increasing astonishment.
"You mean you are such friends as that?"

"Yes," nodded the girl. "I am such friends as that."

Across the lovely earnestness of her face sun and shadow flickered
intermittently. Softly her blue eyes brooded. Her bright gold hair
was like a flame. In all that sunny, singing island there was no
radiance like her unless perhaps it was the blue bird who flashed
through the gray moss just beyond her.

"I cannot leave the little brother," she said. "Nor can I leave
the Elizabeth." As though kindled by the spring's own sweet her
whole musing face flamed suddenly with joy. "Nor yet.--I am so
greedy!" she cried, "_nor yet can I leave you_!"

All unbeknown then to Mrs. Tome Gallien or even to Martha, they
crept up the stairs at last to Mrs. Tome Gallien's room, where
with the poor Young Doctor relegated ignominiously behind her,
Solvei chose for her own whimsical purposes to make her dramatic
entrance.

"Good afternoon to you, then, Elizabeth!" she hailed casually to
the impatient Sick Woman on the bed. "This of a surety is

     'One time when meadows, groves, also streams,

      To me--did seems

      A--apparelled in celestial lightings!'"

"What?" gasped Mrs. Tome Gallien. "Why, what makes your cheeks
so red?" she demanded suddenly.

"I got kissed again," said Solvei.

"What?" snapped Mrs. Tom Gallien.

"They did not come," said Solvei. "No such Kendrues combination
as you suggested. Nothing came!" said Solvei. "Except just one
big package for me!"

"For you?" frowned Mrs. Tome Gallien.

"For me!" shrugged Solvei. "And though it should be hard yet to
tell just what livings it shall lead to--it shall at least lead
to much lovings."

"What?" puzzled Mrs. Tome Gallien.

"This is it!" said Solvei, and dragged the Young Doctor into the room.

"_What_?" screamed Mrs. Tome Gallien.

"It is for _me_! You understand?" beamed the girl.

In the convulsive laughter that overtook the Young Doctor he did
not at the moment notice Mrs. Tome Gallien's face.

But there was no laughter of any kind in Mrs. Tome Gallien's face,
only shock, and a most furious rage.

"So it is thus you have been deceiving me?" she cried out to Solvei.
"All this time that you knew what my heart was fixed on, my hopes,
my everything! All this time that you have been here a guest in my
house! And quite safe I supposed from any such----"

"Oh, now really, Mrs. Gallien!" interposed the Young Doctor's
grimmest, sternest voice.

"Oh, of what a nonsense!" laughed Solvei. "There is no blames
anywhere--unless it should be to this Montessori theory! Out of
the whole wide world is it not that a child must gravitate to his
own wantings? It cannot be chosen for him?"

Then with all the young laughter gone from her face she reached
out her slim brown hand to the Young Doctor's reassuring clasp and
led him to the bed.

"Elizabeth," she said. "You are rich and you are sick and you are
sometimes very cross. But you cannot buy the loving! Here then are
two children who would love you all your life long--all their lives
long. If you thus furiously so refuse the gift, who then is the
stingy receiver?"

"What?" stammered Mrs. Tome Gallien. "What?" Across her haggard,
rage-stricken face a smile of incredulous enlightenment flickered
suddenly. "What?" she surrendered. "You--you--_rascals_!" And held
out her aching arms to them.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Stingy Receiver" ***

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