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Title: Mr. Achilles
Author: Lee, Jennette
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 "Mr. Achilles" ***

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MR. ACHILLES


By Jennette Lee


1912



     To GERALD STANLEY LEE

     “To keep the youth of souls who pitch
     Their joy in this old heart of things;

     Full lasting is the song, though he,
     The singer, passes; lasting too,
     For souls not lent in usury,
     The rapture of the forward view.”



MR. ACHILLES



I

ACHILLES GOES TO CHICAGO

Achilles Alexandrakis was arranging the fruit on his stall in front of
his little shop on Clark Street. It was a clear, breezy morning, cool
for October, but not cold enough to endanger the fruit that Achilles
handled so deftly in his dark, slender fingers. As he built the oranges
into their yellow pyramid and grouped about them figs and dates, melons
and pears, and grapes and pineapples, a look of content held his face.
This was the happiest moment of his day.

Already, half an hour ago Alcibiades and Yaxis had departed with their
pushcarts, one to the north and one to the south, calling antiphonally
as they went, in clear, high voices that came fainter and fainter to
Achilles among his fruit.

They would not return until night, and then they would come with empty
carts, and jingling in their pockets coppers and nickels and dimes. The
breath of a sigh escaped Achilles’s lips as he stood back surveying the
stall. Something very like homesickness was in his heart. He had almost
fancied for a minute that he was back once more in Athens. He raised his
eyes and gave a quick, deep glance up and down the street--soot and
dirt and grime, frowning buildings and ugly lines, and overhead a meagre
strip of sky. Over Athens the sky hung glorious, a curve of light from
side to side. His soul flew wide to meet it. Once more he was swinging
along the “Street of the Winds,” his face lifted to the Parthenon on
its Acropolis, his nostrils breathing the clear air. Chicago had
dropped from him like a garment, his soul rose and floated.... Athens
everywhere--column and cornice, and long, delicate lines, and colour of
marble and light. He drew a full, sweet breath.


Achilles moved with quick, gliding step, taking orders, filling bags,
making change--always with his dark eyes seeking, a little wistfully,
something that did not come to them.... It was all so different--this
new world. Achilles had been in Chicago six months now, but he had
not yet forgotten a dream that he had dreamed in Athens. Sometimes he
dreamed it still, and then he wondered whether this, about him, were
not all a dream--this pushing, scrambling, picking, hurrying, choosing
crowd, dropping pennies and dimes into his curving palm, swearing softly
at slow change, and flying fast from street to street. It was not thus
in his dream. He had seen a land of new faces, turned ever to the West,
with the light on them. He had known them, in his dream--eager faces,
full of question and quick response. His soul had gone out to them and,
musing in sunny Athens, he had made ready for them. Each morning when
he rose he had lifted his glance to the Parthenon, studying anew the
straight lines--that were yet not straight--the mysterious, dismantled
beauty, the mighty lift of its presence. When they should question him,
in this new land, he must not fail them. They would be hungry for the
beauty of the ancient world--they who had no ruins of their own. He
knew in his heart how it would be with them--the homesickness for the
East--all its wonder and its mystery. Yes, he would carry it to them.
He, Achilles Alexandrakis, should not be found wanting. This new
world was to give him money, wealth, better education for his boys, a
competent old age. But he, too, had something to give in exchange. He
must make himself ready against the great day when he should travel
down the long way of the Piraeus, for the last time, and set sail for
America.

He was in America now. He knew, when he stopped to think, that this was
not a dream. He had been here six months, in the little shop on Clark
Street, but no one had yet asked him of the Parthenon. Sometimes he
thought that they did not know that he was Greek. Perhaps if they knew
that he had been in Athens, had lived there all his life from a boy,
they would question him. The day that he first thought of this, he had
ordered a new sign painted. It bore his name in Greek characters, and
it was beautiful in line and colour. It caused his stand to become known
far and wide as the “Greek Shop,” and within a month after it was put up
his trade had doubled--but no one had asked about the Parthenon.

He had really ceased to hope for it now. He only dreamed the dream, a
little wistfully, as he went in and out, and his thought dwelt always on
Athens and her beauty. The images stamped so carefully on his sensitive
brain became his most precious treasures. Over and over he dwelt on
them. Ever in memory his feet climbed the steps to the Acropolis or
walked beneath stately orange-trees, beating a soft rhythm to the
sound of flute and viol. For Achilles was by nature one of the
lightest-hearted of children. In Athens his laugh had been quick to
rise, and fresh as the breath of rustling leaves. It was only here,
under the sooty sky of the narrow street, that his face had grown a
little sad.

At first the days had been full of hope, and the face of each newcomer
had been scanned with eager eyes. The fruit, sold so courteously and
freely, was hardly more than an excuse for the opening of swift talk.
But the talk had never come. There was the inevitable and never-varying,
“How much?” the passing of coin, and hurrying feet. Soon a chill had
crept into the heart of Achilles. They did not ask of Athens. They
did not know that he was Greek. They did not care that his name was
Achilles. They did not see him standing there with waiting eyes. He
might have been a banana on its stem, a fig-leaf against the wall,
the dirt that gritted beneath their feet, for all that their eyes took
note.... Yet they were not cruel or thoughtless. Sometimes there came a
belated response--half surprised, but cordial--to his gentle “good day.”
 Sometimes a stranger said, “The day is warm,” or, “The breeze from the
Lake is cool to-day.” Then the eyes of Achilles glowed like soft stars
in their places. Surely now they would speak. They would say, “Is it
thus in Greece?” But they never spoke. And the days hurried their swift
feet through the long, dirty streets.

A tall woman in spectacles was coming toward him, sniffing the air a
little as she moved. “Have you got any bananas?”

“Yes. They nice.” He led the way into the shop and reached to the
swinging bunch. “You like some?” he said, encouragingly.

She sniffed a step nearer. “Too ripe,” decisively.

“Yes-s. But here and here--” He twirled the bunch skilfully on its
string. “These--not ripe, and these.” His sunny smile spread their
gracious acceptableness before her.

She wrinkled her forehead at them. “Well--you might as well cut me off
six.”

“A pleasure, madame.” He had seized the heavy knife.

“Give me that one.” It was a large one near the centre; “and this one
here--and here.”

When the six were selected and cut off they were the cream of the
bunch. She eyed him doubtfully, still scowling a little. “Yes. I’ll take
these.”

The Greek bowed gravely over the coin she dropped into his palm. “Thank
you, madame.”

It was later now, and the crowd moved more slowly, with longer pauses
between the buyers.

A boy with a bag of books stopped for an apple. Two children with their
nurse halted a moment, looking at the glowing fruit. The eyes of the
children were full of light and question. Somewhere in their depths
Achilles caught a flitting shadow of the Parthenon. Then the nurse
hurried them on, and they, too, were gone.

He turned away with a little sigh, arranging the fruit in his slow
absent way. Something at the side of the stall caught his eye, a little
movement along the board, in and out through the colour and leaves. He
lifted a leaf to see. It was a green and black caterpillar, crawling
with stately hunch to the back of the stall. Achilles watched him
with gentle eyes. Then he leaned over the stall and reached out a long
finger. The caterpillar, poised in midair, remained swaying back and
forth above the dark obstruction. Slowly it descended and hunched itself
anew along the finger. It travelled up the motionless hand and reached
the sleeve. With a smile on his lips Achilles entered the shop. He
took down an empty fig-box and transferred the treasure to its depths,
dropping in after it one or two leaves and a bit of twig. He fitted the
lid to the box, leaving a little air, and taking the pen from his desk,
wrote across the side in clear Greek letters. Then he placed the box
on the shelf behind him, where the wet ink of the lettering glistened
faintly in the light. It was a bit of the heart of Athens prisoned
there; and many times, through the cold and snow and bitter sleet of
that winter, Achilles took down the fig-box and peered into its depths
at a silky bit of grey cradle swung from the side of the box by its
delicate bands.



II

A BUTTERFLY SPREADS ITS WINGS

It happened, on a Wednesday in May that Madame Lewandowska was ill.
So ill that when Betty Harris, with her demure music-roll in her hand,
tapped at the door of Madame Lewandowska’s studio, she found no one
within.

On ordinary days this would not have mattered, for the governess, Miss
Stone, would have been with her, and they would have gone shopping or
sightseeing until the hour was up and James returned. But to-day Miss
Stone, too, was ill, James had departed with the carriage, and Betty
Harris found herself standing, music-roll in hand, at the door of Madame
Lewandowska’s studio--alone in the heart of Chicago for the first time
in the twelve years of her life.

It had been a very carefully guarded life, with nurses and servants
and instructors. No little princess was ever more sternly and
conscientiously reared than little Betty Harris, of Chicago. For her
tiny sake, herds of cattle were slaughtered every day; and all over
the land hoofs and hides and by-products and soap-factories lifted
themselves to heaven for Betty Harris. If anything were to happen to
her, the business of a dozen States would quiver to the core.

She tapped the marble floor softly with her foot and pondered. She might
sit here in the hall and wait for James--a whole hour. There was a bench
by the wall. She looked at it doubtfully.... It was not seemly that a
princess should sit waiting for a servant--not even in marble halls.
She glanced about her again. There was probably a telephone
somewhere--perhaps on the ground floor. She could telephone home and
they would send another carriage. Yes, that would be best. She rang the
elevator bell and descended in stately silence. When she stepped out of
the great door of the building she saw, straight before her, the sign
she sought--“Pay Station.”

But then something happened to Betty Harris. The spirit of the spring
day caught her and lifted her out of herself. Men were hurrying by with
light step. Little children laughed as they ran. Betty skipped a few
steps and laughed softly with them.... She would walk home. It was not
far. She had often walked as far in the country, and she knew the way
quite well.... And when she looked up again, she stood in front of the
glowing fruit-stall, and Achilles Alexandrakis was regarding her with
deep, sad eyes.

Achilles had been dreaming down the street when the little figure came
in sight. His heart all day had been full of sadness--for the spring in
the air. And all day Athens had haunted his steps--the Athens of dreams.
Once when he had retired into the dark, cool shop, he brushed his sleeve
across his eyes, and then he had stood looking down in surprise at
something that glistened on its worn surface.

Betty Harris looked at him and smiled. She had been so carefully brought
up that she had not learned that some people were her inferiors and must
not be smiled at. She gave him the straight, sweet smile that those who
had cared for her all her life loved so well. Then she gave a little
nod. “I’m walking home,” she said.

Achilles leaned forward a little, almost holding his breath lest she
float from him. It was the very spirit of Athens--democratic, cultured,
naive. He gave her the salute of his country. She smiled again. Then her
eye fell on the tray of pomegranates near the edge of the stall--round
and pink. She reached out a hand. “I have never seen these,” she said,
slowly. “What are they?”

“Pomegranates--Yes--you like some? I give you.”

He disappeared into the shop and Betty followed him, looking about with
clear, interested eyes. It was like no place she had ever seen--this
cool, dark room, with its tiers on tiers of fruit, and the fragrant,
spicy smell, and the man with the sad, kind face. Her quick eye
paused--arrested by the word printed on a box on the shelf to the
right.... Ah, that was it! She knew now quite well. He was a Greek man.
She knew the letters; She had studied Greek for six months; but she did
not know this word. She was still spelling it out when Achilles returned
with the small box of pomegranates in his hand.

She looked up slowly. “I can’t quite make it out,” she said.

“That?” Achilles’s face was alight. “That is Greek.”

She nodded. “I know. I study it; but what is it--the word?”

“The word!--Ah, yes, it is--How you say? You shall see.”

He reached out a hand to the box. But the child stopped him. A quick
thought had come to her. “You have been in Athens, haven’t you? I want
to ask you something, please.”

The hand dropped from the box. The man turned about, waiting. If heaven
were to open to him now--!

“I’ve always wanted to see a Greek man,” said the child, slowly, “a real
Greek man. I’ve wanted to ask him something he would know about.
Have you ever seen the Parthenon?” She put the question with quaint
seriousness.

A light came into the eyes of Achilles Alexandrakis. It flooded the
room.

“You ask me--the Parthenon?” he said, solemnly. “You wish me--tell
that?” It was wistful--almost a cry of longing.

Betty Harris nodded practically. “I’ve always wanted to know about
it--the Parthenon. They tell you how long it is, and how wide, and what
it is made of, and who began it, and who finished it, and who
destroyed it, but they never, never”--she raised her small hand
impressively--“they _never_ tell you how it looks!”

Achilles brought a chair and placed it near the open door. “Will
it--kindly--you sit?” he said, gravely.

She seated herself, folding her hands above the music-roll, and lifting
her eyes to the dark face looking down at her. “Thank you.”

Achilles leaned back against the counter, thinking a little. He sighed
gently. “I tell you many things,” he said at last.

“About the Parthenon, please,” said Betty Harris.

“You like Athens?” He said it like a child.

“I should like it--if they would tell me real things. I don’t seem to
make them understand. But when they say how beautiful it is--I feel it
here.” She laid her small hand to her side.

The smile of Achilles held the glory in its depths. “I tell you,” he
said.

The clear face reflected the smile. A breath of waiting held the lips.
“Yes.”

Achilles leaned again upon his counter. His face was rapt, and he spread
his finger-tips a little, as if something within them stirred to be
free.

“It stands so high and lifts itself”--Achilles raised his dark
hands--“ruined there--so great--and far beneath, the city lies, drawing
near and near, and yet it cannot reach... And all around is light--and
light--and light. Here it is a cellar”--his hands closed in with
crushing touch--“but there--!” He flung the words from him like a chant
of music, and a sky stretched about them from side to side, blue as
sapphire and shedding radiant light upon the city in its midst--a city
of fluted column and curving cornice and temple and arch and tomb. The
words rolled on, fierce and eager. It was a song of triumph, with war
and sorrow and mystery running beneath the sound of joy. And the child,
listening with grave, clear eyes, smiled a little, holding her breath.
“I see it--I see it!” She half whispered the words.

Achilles barely looked at her. “You see--ah, yes--you see. But I--I have
not words!” It was almost a cry.... “The air, so clear--like wine--and
the pillars straight and high and big--but light--light--reaching....”
 His soul was among them, soaring high. Then it returned to earth and he
remembered the child.

“And there is an olive-tree,” he said, kindly, “and a well where
Poseidon--”

“I’ve heard about the well and the olive-tree,” said the child; “I don’t
care so much about them. But all the rest--” She drew a quick breath.
“It is very beautiful. I knew it would be. I knew it would be!”

There was silence in the room.

“Thank you for telling me,” said Betty Harris. “Now I must go.” She
slipped from the chair with a little sigh. She stood looking about the
dim shop. “Now I must go,” she repeated, wistfully.

Achilles moved a step toward the shelf. “Yes--but wait--I will show
you.” He reached up to the box and took it down lightly. “I show you.”
 He was removing the cover.

The child leaned forward with shining eyes.

A smile came into the dark, grave face looking into the box. “Ah, he has
blossomed--for you.” He held it out to her.

She took it in shy fingers, bending to it. “It is beautiful,” she said,
softly. “Yes--beautiful!”

The dark wings, with shadings of gold and tender blue, lifted themselves
a little, waiting.

The child looked up. “May I touch it?” she asked.

“Yes--But why not?”

The dark head was bent close to hers, watching the wonderful wings.

Slowly Betty Harris put out a finger and stroked the wings.

They fluttered a little--opened wide and rose--in their first flutter of
light.

“Oh!” It was a cry of delight from the child.

The great creature had settled on the bunch of bananas and hung swaying.
The gold and blue wings opened and closed slowly.

Achilles drew near and put out a finger.

The butterfly was on it.

He held it toward her, smiling gently, and she reached up, her very
breath on tiptoe. A little smile curved her lips, quick and wondering,
as the transfer was made, thread by thread, till the gorgeous thing
rested on her own palm.

She looked up. “What shall I do with it?” It was a shining whisper.

Achilles’s eyes sought the door.

They moved toward it slowly, light as breath.

In the open doorway they paused. Above the tall buildings the grey rim
of sky lifted itself. The child looked up to it. Her eyes returned to
Achilles.

He nodded gravely.

She raised her hand with a little “p-f-f”--it was half a quick laugh and
half a sigh.

The wings fluttered free, and rose and faltered, and rose again--high
and higher, between the dark walls--up to the sky, into the grey--and
through.

The eyes that had followed it came back to earth. They looked at each
other and smiled gravely--two children who had seen a happy thing.

The child stood still with half-lifted hand.... A carriage drove quickly
into the street. The little hand was lifted higher. It was a regal
gesture--the return of the princess to earth.

James touched his hat--a look of dismay and relief battling in his face
as he turned the horses sharply to the right. They paused in front of
the stall, their hoofs beating dainty time to the coursing of their
blood.

Achilles eyed them lovingly. The spirit of Athens dwelt in their arching
necks.

He opened the door for the child with the quiet face and shining eyes.
Gravely he salaamed as she entered the carriage.

Through the open window she held out a tiny hand. “I hope you will come
and see me,” she said.

“Yes, I come,” said Achilles, simply. “I like to come.”

James dropped a waiting eye.

“Home, James.”

The horses sprang away. Achilles Alexandrakis, bareheaded in the spring
sunshine, watched the carriage till it was out of sight. Then he turned
once more to the stall and rearranged the fruit. The swift fingers
laughed a little as they worked, and the eyes of Achilles were filled
with light.



III

BETTY’S MOTHER HEARS A STORY

“Mother-dear!” It was the voice of Betty Harris--eager, triumphant, with
a little laugh running through it. “Mother-dear!”

“Yes--Betty--” The woman seated at the dark mahogany desk looked up,
a little line between her eyes. “You have come, child?” It was half a
caress. She put out an absent hand, drawing the child toward her while
she finished her note.

The child stood by gravely, looking with shining eyes at the face
bending above the paper. It was a handsome face with clear, hard
lines--the reddish hair brushed up conventionally from the temples, and
the skin a little pallid under its careful massage and skilfully touched
surface.

To Betty Harris her mother was the most beautiful woman in the
world--more beautiful than the marble Venus at the head of the long
staircase, or the queenly lady in the next room, forever stepping down
from her gilded frame into the midst of tapestry and leather in the
library. It may have been that Betty’s mother was quite as much a work
of art in her way as these other treasures that had come from the Old
World. But to Betty Harris, who had slight knowledge of art values, her
mother was beautiful, because her eyes had little points of light in
them that danced when she laughed, and her lips curved prettily, like a
bow, if she smiled.

They curved now as she looked up from her note. “Well, daughter?” She
had sealed the note and laid it one side. “Was it a good lesson?” She
leaned back in her chair, stroking the child’s hand softly, while her
eyes travelled over the quaint, dignified little figure. The child was
a Velasquez--people had often remarked it, and the mother had taken the
note that gave to her clothes the regal air touched with simplicity. “So
it was a good lesson, was it?” she repeated, absently, as she stroked
the small dark hand--her own figure graciously outlined as she leaned
back enjoying the lifted face and straight, clear eyes.

“Mother-dear!” The child’s voice vibrated with the intensity behind it.
“I have seen a man--a very _good_ man!”

“Yes?” There was a little laugh in the word. She was accustomed to the
child’s enthusiasms. Yet they were always new to her--even the old ones
were. “Who was he, daughter--this very good man?”

“He is a Greek, mother--with a long, beautiful name--I don’t think I can
tell it to you. But he is most wonderful--!” The child spread her hands
and drew a deep breath.

“More wonderful than father?” It was an idle, laughing question--while
she studied the lifted-up face.

“More wonderful than father--yes--” The child nodded gravely. “I can’t
quite tell you, mother-dear, how it feels--” She laid a tiny hand on
her chest. Her eyes were full of thought. “He speaks like music, and he
loves things--oh, very much!”

“I see--And did Madame Lewandowska introduce you to him?”

“Oh, it was not there.” The child’s face cleared with swift thought. “I
didn’t tell you--Madame was ill--”

The reclining figure straightened a little in its place, but the face
was still smiling. “So you and Miss Stone--”

“But Miss Stone is ill, mother-dear. Did you forget her toothache?” The
tone was politely reproachful.

The woman was very erect now--her small eyes, grown wide, gazing at the
child, devouring her. “Betty! Where have you been?” It was more a cry
than a question--a cry of dismay, running swiftly toward terror. It was
the haunting fear of her life that Betty would some day be kidnapped, as
the child next door had been.... The fingers resting on the arm of the
chair were held tense.

“I don’t think I did wrong, mother.” The child was looking at her very
straight, as if answering a challenge. “You see, I walked home--”

“Where was James?” The woman’s tone was sharp, and her hand reached
toward the bell; but the child’s hand moved softly toward it.

“I’d like to tell you about it myself, please, mother. James never waits
for the lessons. I don’t think he was to blame.”

The woman’s eyes were veiled with sudden mist. She drew the child close.
“Tell mother about it.”

Betty Harris looked down, stroking her mother’s sleeve. A little smile
of memory held her lips. “He was a beautiful man!” she said.

The mother waited, breathless.

“I was walking home, and I came to his shop--”

“To his shop!”

She nodded reassuringly. “His fruit-shop--and--oh, I forgot--” She
reached into the little bag at her side, tugging at something. “He gave
me these.” She produced the round box and took off the lid, looking into
it with pleased eyes. “Aren’t they beautiful?”

The mother bent blindly to it. “Pomegranates,” she said. Her lips were
still a little white, but they smiled bravely with the child’s pleasure.

“Pomegranates,” said Betty, nodding. “That is what he called them. I
should like to taste one--” She was looking at them a little wistfully.

“We will have them for luncheon,” said the mother. She had touched the
bell with quick decision.

“Marie”--she held out the box--“tell Nesmer to serve these with
luncheon.”

“Am I to have luncheon with you, mother-dear?” The child’s eyes were on
her mother’s face.

“With me--yes.” The reply was prompt--if a little tremulous.

The child sighed happily. “It is being a marvellous day,” she said,
quaintly.

The mother smiled. “Come and get ready for luncheon, and then you shall
tell me about the wonderful man.”

So it came about that Betty Harris, seated across the dark, shining
table, told her mother, Mrs. Philip Harris, a happy adventure wherein
she, Betty Harris, who had never before set foot unattended in the
streets of Chicago, had wandered for an hour and more in careless
freedom, and straying at last into the shop of a marvellous Greek--one
Achilles Alexandrakis by name--had heard strange tales of Greece and
Athens and the Parthenon--tales at the very mention of which her eyes
danced and her voice rippled.

And her mother, listening across the table, trembled at the dangers the
child touched upon and flitted past. It had been part of the careful
rearing of Betty Harris that she should not guess that the constant
attendance upon her was a body-guard--such as might wait upon a
princess. It had never occurred to Betty Harris that other little girls
were not guarded from the moment they rose in the morning till they went
to bed at night, and that even at night Miss Stone slept within sound of
her breath. She had grown up happy and care-free, with no suspicion of
the danger that threatened the child of a marked millionaire. She did
not even know that her father was a very rich man--so protected had she
been. She was only a little more simple than most children of twelve.
And she met the world with straight, shining looks, speaking to rich and
poor with a kind of open simplicity that won the heart.

Her mother, watching the clear eyes, had a sudden pang of what the
morning might have been--the disillusionment and terror of this
unprotected hour--that had been made instead a memory of delight--thanks
to an unknown Greek named Achilles Alexandrakis, who had told her of
the beauties of Greece and the Parthenon, and had given her fresh
pomegranates to carry home in a round box. The mother’s thoughts rested
on the man with a quick sense of gratitude. He should be paid a thousand
times over for his care of Betty Harris--and for pomegranates.

“They are like the Parthenon,” said the child, holding one in her hand
and turning it daintily to catch the light on its pink surface. “They
grew in Athens.” She set her little teeth firmly in its round side.



IV

AND ACHILLES DREAMS

Achilles, in his little shop, went in and out with the thought of the
child in his heart. His thin fingers flitted lightly among the fruit.
The sadness in his face had given way to a kind of waking joy and
thoughtfulness. As he made change and did up bags and parcels of fruit,
his thoughts kept hovering about her, and his lips moved in a soft
smile, half-muttering again the words he had spoken to her--praises of
Athens, city of light, sky of brightness, smiles, and running talk....
It was all with him, and his heart was free. How the child’s eyes
had followed the words, full of trust! He should see her again--and
again.... Outside a halo rested on the smoky air--a little child, out of
the rattle and din, had spoken to him. As he looked up, the big, sooty
city became softly the presence of the child.... The sound of pennies
clinking in hurried palms was no longer harsh upon his ears; they
tinkled softly--little tunes that ran. Truly it had been a wonderful day
for Achilles Alexandrakis.

He paused in his work and looked about the little shop. The same
dull-shining rows of fruit, the same spicy smell and the glowing disks
of yellow light. He drew a deep, full breath. It was all the same, but
the world was changed. His heart that had ached so long with its pent-up
message of Greece--the glory of her days, the beauty of temples and
statues and tombs--was freed by the tale of his lips. The world was
new-born for him. He lifted the empty fig-box, from which the child
had set free the butterfly that had hung imprisoned in its grey cocoon
throughout the long winter, and placed it carefully on the shelf. The
lettering traced along its side was faded and dim; but he saw again the
child’s eyes lifted to it--the lips half-parted, the eager question and
swift demand--that he should tell her of Athens and the Parthenon--and
the same love and the wonder that dwelt in his own heart for the city of
his birth. It was a strange coincidence that the child should have come
to him. Perhaps she was the one soul in the great, hurrying city who
could care. They did not understand--these hurrying, breathless men and
women--how a heart could ache for something left behind across the
seas, a city of quiet, the breath of the Past--sorrow and joy and sweet
life.... No, they could not understand! But the child--He caught his
breath a little. Where was she--in the hurry and rush? He had not
thought to ask. And she was gone! Only for a moment the dark face
clouded. Then the smile flooded again. He should find her. It might
be hard--but he would search. Had he not come down the long way of the
Piraeus to the sea--blue in the sun. Across the great waters by ship,
and the long miles by train. He should find her.... They would talk
again. He laughed quietly in the dusky shop.

Then his eye fell upon it--the music roll that had slipped quietly to
the floor when her eager hand had lifted itself to touch the butterfly,
opening and closing his great wings in the fig-box. He crossed to it and
lifted it almost reverently, brushing a breath of dust from its leather
sides.... He bent closer to it, staring at a little silver plate that
swung from the strap. He carried it to the window, rubbing it on the
worn black sleeve, and bending closer, studying the deep-cut letters.
Then he lifted his head. A quick sigh floated from him. Miss Elizabeth
Harris, 108 Lake Shore Drive. He knew the place quite well--facing the
lake, where the water boomed against the great break-water. He would
take it to her--to-morrow--the next day--next week, perhaps.... He
wrapped it carefully away and laid it in a drawer to wait. She had asked
him to come.



V

THE GREEK PROFESSOR LAUGHS

To Mrs. Philip Harris, in the big house looking out across the lake, the
passing days brought grateful reassurance.... Betty was safe--Miss Stone
was well again--and the man had not come.... She breathed more freely
as she thought of it. The child had told her that she had asked him.
But she had forgotten to give him her address; and it would not do to
be mixed up with a person like that--free to come and go as he liked.
He was no doubt a worthy man. But Betty was only a child, and too easily
enamoured of people she liked. It was strange how deep an impression
the man’s words had made on her. Athens and Greece filled her waking
moments. Statues and temples--photographs and books of travel loaded
the school-room shelves. The house reeked with Greek learning. Poor Miss
Stone found herself drifting into archaeology; and an exhaustive study
of Greek literature, Greek life, Greek art filled her days. The
theory of Betty Harris’s education had been elaborately worked out by
specialists from earliest babyhood. Certain studies, rigidly prescribed,
were to be followed whether she liked them or not--but outside these
lines, subjects were to be taken up when she showed an interest in them.
There could be no question that the time for the study of Greek history
and Greek civilisation had come. Miss Stone laboured early and
late. Instruction from the university down the lake was pressed into
service.... But out of it all the child seemed, by some kind of precious
alchemy, to extract only the best, the vital heart of it.

The instructor in Greek marvelled a little. “She is only a child,” he
reported to the head of the department, “and the family are American of
the newest type--you know, the Philip Harrises?”

The professor nodded. “I know--hide and hoof a generation back.”

The instructor assented. “But the child is uncanny. She knows more about
Greek than--”

“Than _I_ do, I suppose.” The professor smiled indulgently. “She
wouldn’t have to know much for that.”

“It isn’t so much what she _knows_. She has a kind of _feeling_ for
things. I took up a lot of photographs to-day--some of the _later_
period mixed in--and she picked them out as if she had been brought up
in Athens.”

The professor looked interested. “Modern educational methods?”

“As much as you like,” said the instructor. “But it is something more.
When I am with the child I am in Athens itself. Chicago makes me blink
when I come out.”

The professor laughed. The next day he made an appointment to go himself
to see the child. He was a famous epigraphist and an authority in his
subject. He had spent years in Greece--with his nose, for the most part,
held close to bits of parchment and stone.

When he came away, he was laughing softly. “I am going over for a year,”
 he said, when he met the instructor that afternoon in the corridor.

“Did you see the little Harris girl?” asked the instructor.

The professor paused. “Yes, I saw her.”

“How did she strike you?”

“She struck me dumb,” said the professor. “I listened for the best
part of an hour while she expounded things to me--asked me questions I
couldn’t answer, mostly.” He chuckled a little. “I felt like a fool,” he
added, frankly, “and it felt good.”

The instructor smiled. “I go through it twice a week. The trouble seems
to be that she’s alive, and that she thinks everything Greek is alive,
too.”

The professor nodded. “It’s never occurred to her it’s dead and done
with, these thousand years and more.” He gave a little sigh. “Sometimes
I’ve wondered myself whether it is--quite as dead as it looks to you and
me,” he added. “You know that grain--wheat or something--that Blackman
took from the Egyptian mummy he brought over last spring--”

“Yes, he planted it--”

“Exactly. And all summer he was tending a little patch of something
green up there in his back yard--as fresh as the eyes of Pharaoh’s
daughter ever looked on--”

The instructor opened his eyes a little. This was a wild flight for the
head epigraphist.

“That’s the way she made me feel--that little Harris girl,” explained
the professor--“as if my mummy might spring up and blossom any day if I
didn’t look out.”

The instructor laughed out. “So you’re going over with it?”

“A year--two years, maybe,” said the professor. “I want to watch it
sprout.”



VI

ACHILLES CALLS ON BETTY HARRIS

In another week Achilles Alexandrakis had made ready to call on Betty
Harris. There had been many details to attend to--a careful sponging
and pressing of his best suit, the purchase of a new hat, and cuffs and
collars of the finest linen--nothing was too good for the little lady
who had flitted into the dusky shop and out, leaving behind her the
little line of light.

Achilles brushed the new hat softly, turning it on his supple wrist with
gentle pride. He took out the music-roll from the drawer and unrolled
it, holding it in light fingers. He would carry it back to Betty Harris,
and he would stay for a while and talk with her of his beloved Athens.
Outside the sun gleamed. The breeze came fresh from the lake. As he made
his way up the long drive of the Lake Shore, the water dimpled in the
June sun, and little waves lapped the great stones, touching the ear
with quiet sound. It was a clear, fresh day, with the hint of coming
summer in the air. To the left, stone castles lifted themselves sombrely
in the soft day. Grim or flaunting, they faced the lake--castles from
Germany, castles from France and castles from Spain. Achilles eyed them
with a little smile as his swift, thin feet traversed the long stones.
There were turrets and towers and battlements frowning upon the
peaceful, workaday lake. Minarets and flowers in stone, and heavy marble
blocks that gripped the earth. Suddenly Achilles’s foot slackened its
swift pace. His eye dropped to the silver tag on the music-roll in his
hand, and lifted itself again to a gleaming red-brown house at the left.
It rose with a kind of lightness from the earth, standing poised upon
the shore of the lake, like some alert, swift creature caught in flight,
brought to bay by the rush of waters. Achilles looked at it with
gentle eyes, a swift pleasure lighting his glance. It was a beautiful
structure. Its red-brown front and pointed, lifting roof had hardly
a Greek line or hint; but the spirit that built the Parthenon was in
it--facing the rippling lake. He moved softly across the smooth roadway
and leaned against the parapet of stone that guarded the water, studying
the line and colour of the house that faced him.

The man who planned it had loved it, and as it rose there in the light
it was perfect in every detail as it had been conceived--with one little
exception. On either side the doorway crouched massive grey-pink lions
wrought in stone, the heavy outspread paws and firm-set haunches resting
at royal ease. In the original plan these lions had not appeared. But
in their place had been two steers--wide-flanked and short-horned, with
lifted heads and nostrils snuffling free--something crude, brusque,
perhaps, but full of power and quick onslaught. The house that rose
behind them had been born of the same thought. Its pointed gable and its
facades, its lifted front, had the same look of challenge; the light,
firm-planted hoofs, the springing head, were all there--in the soft, red
stone running to brown in the flanks.

The stock-yard owner and his wife had liked the design--with no
suspicion of the symbol undergirding it. The man had liked it
all--steers and red-brown stone and all--but the wife had objected. She
had travelled far, and she had seen, on a certain building in Rome, two
lions guarding a ducal entrance.

Now that the house was finished, the architect seldom passed that way.
But when he did he swore at the lions, softly, as he whirred by. He had
done a mighty thing--conceived in steel and stone a house that fitted
the swift life out of which it came, a wind-swept place in which it
stood, and all the stirring, troublous times about it. There it rose
in its spirit of lightness, head up-lifted and nostrils sniffing the
breeze--and in front of it squatted two stone lions from the palmy days
of Rome. He gritted his teeth, and drove his machine hard when he passed
that way.

But to Achilles, standing with bared head, the breeze from the lake
touching his forehead, the lions were of no account. He let them go. The
spirit of the whole possessed him. It was as if a hand had touched him
lightly on the shoulder, in a crowd, staying him. A quick breath escaped
his lips as he replaced his hat and crossed to the red-brown steps. He
mounted them without a glance at the pink monsters on either hand. A
light had come into his face. The child filled it.

The stiff butler eyed him severely, and the great door seemed ready to
close of itself. Only something in the poise of Achilles’s head, a look
in his eyes, held the hinge waiting a grudging minute while he spoke.

He lifted his head a little; the look in his eyes deepened. “I am
called--Miss Elizabeth Harris--and her mother--to see,” he said, simply.

The door paused a little and swung back an inch. He might be a great
savant... some scholar of parts--an artist. They came for the child--to
examine her--to play for her--to talk with her.... Then there was the
music-roll. It took the blundering grammar and the music-roll to keep
the door open--and then it opened wide and Achilles entered, following
the butler’s stateliness up the high, dark hall. Rich hangings were
about them, and massive pictures, bronzes and statues, and curious
carvings. Inside the house the taste of the mistress had prevailed.

At the door of a great, high-ceiled room the butler paused, holding back
the soft drapery with austere hand. “What name--for madame?” he said.

The clear eyes of Achilles met his. “My name is Achilles Alexandrakis,”
 he said, quietly.

The eyes of the butler fell. He was struggling with this unexpected
morsel in the recesses of his being. Plain Mr. Alexander would have had
small effect upon him; but Achilles Alexandrakis--! He mounted the long
staircase, holding the syllables in his set teeth.

“Alexandrakis?” His mistress turned a little puzzled frown upon him.
“What is he like, Conner?”

The man considered a safe moment. “He’s a furriner,” he said, addressing
the wall before him with impassive jaw.

A little light crossed her face--not a look of pleasure. “Ask Miss Stone
to come to me--at once,” she said.

The man bowed himself out and departed on silken foot.

Miss Stone, gentle and fluttering and fine-grained, appeared a moment
later in the doorway.

“He has come,” said the woman, without looking up.

“He--?” Miss Stone’s lifted eyebrows sought to place him--

“The Greek--I told you--”

“Oh--The Greek--!” It was slow and hesitant. It spoke volumes for Miss
Stone’s state of mind. Hours of Greek history were in it, and long rows
of tombs and temples--the Parthenon of gods and goddesses, with a few
outlying scores of heroes and understudies. “The--Greek,” she repeated,
softly.

“The Greek,” said the woman, with decision. “He has asked for Betty and
for me. I cannot see him, of course.”

“You have the club,” said Miss Stone, in soft assent.

“I have the club--in ten minutes.” Her brow wrinkled. “You will kindly
see him--”

“And Betty--?” said Miss Stone, waiting.

“The child must see him. Yes, of course. She would be heart-broken--You
drive at three,” she added, without emphasis.

“We drive at three,” repeated Miss Stone.

She moved quietly away, her grey gown a bit of shimmering in the
gorgeous rooms. She had been chosen for the very qualities that made
her seem so curiously out of place--for her gentleness and unassuming
dignity, and a few ancestors. The country had been searched for a
lady--so much the lady that she had never given the matter a thought.
Miss Stone was the result. If Betty had charm and simplicity and
instinctive courtesy toward those whom she met, it was only what she saw
every day in the little grey woman who directed her studies, her play,
her whole life.

The two were inseparable, light and shadow, morning and night. Betty’s
mother in the house was the grand lady--beautiful to look upon--the
piece of bronze, or picture, that went with the house; but Miss Stone
was Betty’s own--the little grey voice, a bit of heart-love, and
something common and precious.

They came down the long rooms together, the child’s hand resting lightly
in hers, and her steps dancing a little in happy play. She had not heard
the man’s name. He was only a wise man whom she was to meet for a few
minutes, before she and Miss Stone went for their drive. The day was
full of light outside--even in the heavily draped rooms you could feel
its presence. She was eager to be off, out in the sun and air of the
great sea of freshness, and the light, soft wind on her face.

Then she saw the slim, dark man who had risen to meet her, and a swift
light crossed her face.... She was coming down the room now, both hands
out-stretched, fluttering a little in the quick surprise and joy. Then
the hands stayed themselves, and she advanced demurely to meet him;
but the hand that lifted itself to his seemed to sing like a child’s
hand--in spite of the princess.

“I am glad you have come,” she said. “This is Miss Stone.” She seated
herself beside him, her eyes on his face, her little feet crossed at the
ankle. “Have you any new fruit to-day?” she asked, politely.

He smiled a little, and drew a soft, flat, white bit of tissue from his
pocket, undoing it fold on fold--till in the centre lay a grey-green
leaf.

The child bent above it with pleased glance. Her eyes travelled to his
face.

He nodded quickly. “I thought of you. It is the Eastern citron. See--”
 He lifted the leaf and held it suspended. “It hangs like this--and the
fruit is blue--grey-blue like--” His eye travelled about the elaborate
room. He shook his head slowly. Then his glance fell on the grey gown
of Miss Stone as it fell along the rug at her feet, and he bowed
with gracious appeal for permission. “Like the dress of madame,” he
said--“but warmer, like the sun--and blue.”

A low colour crept up into the soft line of Miss Stone’s cheek and
rested there. She sat watching the two with slightly puzzled eyes. She
was a lady--kindly and gracious to the world--but she could not have
thought of anything to say to this fruit-peddler who had seemed, for
days and weeks, to be tumbling all Greek civilisation about her head.
The child was chatting with him as if she had known him always. They had
turned to each other again, and were absorbed in the silken leaf--the
man talking in soft, broken words, the child piecing out the
half-finished phrase with quick nod and gesture, her little voice
running in and out along the words like ripples of light on some dark
surface.

The face of Achilles had grown strangely radiant. Miss Stone, as she
looked at it again, was almost startled at the change. The sombre look
had vanished. Quick lights ran in it, and little thoughts that met the
child’s and laughed. “They are two children together,” thought Miss
Stone, as she watched them. “I have never seen the child so happy. She
must see him again.” She sat with her hands folded in her grey lap, a
little apart, watching the pretty scene and happy in it, but outside it
all, untouched and grey and still.



VII

TO MEET THE “HALCYON CLUB”

Outside the door the horses pranced, champing a little at the bit, and
turning their shining, arching necks in the sun. Other carriages drove
up and drove away. Rich toilets alighted and mounted the red-brown
steps--hats that rose, tier on tier, riotous parterres of flowers and
feathers and fruit, close little bonnets that proclaimed their elegance
by velvet knot or subtle curve of brim and crown. Colours flashed,
ribbon-ends fluttered, delicately shod feet scorned the pavement. It was
the Halcyon Club of the North Side, assembling to listen to Professor
Addison Trent, the great epigraphist, who was to discourse to them on
the inscriptions of Cnossus, the buried town of Crete. The feathers and
flowers and boas were only surface deep. Beneath them beat an intense
desire to know about epigraphy--all about it. The laughing faces and
daintily shod feet were set firmly in the way of culture. They swept
through the wide doors, up the long carved staircase--from the Caracci
Palace in Florence--into the wide library, with its arched ceiling and
high-shelved books and glimpses of busts and pedestals. They fluttered
in soft gloom, and sank into rows of adjustable chairs and faced sternly
a little platform at the end of the room. The air of culture descended
gratefully about them; they buzzed a little in its dim warmth and
settled back to await the arrival of the great epigraphist.

The great epigraphist was, at this moment, three hundred and sixty-three
and one-half miles--to be precise--out from New York. He was sitting
in a steamer-chair, his feet stretched comfortably before him, a
steamer-rug wrapped about his ample form, a grey cap pulled over his
eyes--dozing in the sun. Suddenly he sat erect. The rug fell from his
person, the visor shot up from his eyes. He turned them blankly toward
the shoreless West. This was the moment at which he had instructed his
subconscious self to remind him of an engagement to lecture on Cretan
inscriptions at the home of Mrs. Philip Harris on the Lake Shore Drive,
Chicago, Illinois. He looked again at the shoreless West and tried to
grasp it. It may have been his subconscious self that reminded him--it
may have been the telepathic waves that travelled toward him out of the
half-gloom of the library. They were fifty strong, and they travelled
with great intensity--“Had any one seen him--?” “Where was he?” “What
was wrong?” “Late!” “_Very_ late!” “Such a punctual man!” The waves
fluttered and spread and grew. The president of the club looked at the
hostess. The hostess looked at the president. They consulted and drew
apart. The president rose to speak, clearing her throat for a pained
look. Then she waited.... The hostess was approaching again, a fine
resolution in her face. They conferred, looking doubtfully at the
door. The president nodded courageously and seated herself again on the
platform, while Mrs. Philip Harris passed slowly from the room, the eyes
of the assembled company following her with a little look of curiosity
and dawning hope.



VIII

AND GIVE A SIMPLE LECTURE

In the doorway below she paused a moment, a little startled at the
scene. The bowed heads, the bit of folded tissue, the laughing, eager
tones, the look in Miss Stone’s face held her. She swept aside the
drapery and entered--the stately lady of the house.

The bowed heads were lifted. The child sprang to her feet. “Mother-dear!
It is my friend! He has come!” The words sang.

Mrs. Philip Harris held out a gracious hand. She had not intended to
offer her hand. She had intended to be distant and kind. But when the
man looked up she somehow forgot. She held out the hand with a quick
smile.

The Greek was on his feet, bending above it. “It is an honour,
madame--that you come.”

“I have come to ask a favour,” she replied, slowly, her eyes travelling
over the well-brushed clothes, the clean linen, the slender feet of the
man. Favour was not what she had meant to say--privilege was nearer it.
But there was something about him. Her voice grew suave to match the
words.

“My daughter has told me of you--” Her hand rested lightly on the
child’s curls--a safe, unrumpled touch. “Her visit to you has enchanted
her. She speaks of it every day, of the Parthenon and what you told
her.”

The eyes of the man and the child met gravely.

“I wondered whether you would be willing to tell some friends of
mine--here--now--”

He had turned to her--a swift look.

She replied with a smile. “Nothing formal--just simple things, such as
you told the child. We should be very grateful to you,” she added, as if
she were a little surprised at herself.

He looked at her with clear eyes. “I speak--yes--I like always--to speak
of my country. I thank you.”

The child, standing by with eager feet, moved lightly. Her hands danced
in softest pats. “You will tell them about it--just as you told me--and
they will love it!”

“I tell them--yes!”

“Come, Miss Stone.” The child held out her hand with a little gesture of
pride and loving. “We must go now. Good-bye, Mr. Achilles. You will come
again, please.”

“I come,” said Achilles, simply. He watched the quaint figure pass
down the long rooms beside the shimmering grey dress, through an arched
doorway at the end, and out of sight. Then he turned to his hostess
with the quick smile of his race. “She is beautiful, madame,” he said,
slowly. “She is a child!”

The mother assented, absently. She was not thinking of the child, but of
the fifty members of the Halcyon Club in the library. “Will you come?”
 she said. “My friends are waiting.”

He spread his hands in quick assent. “I come--as you like. I give
pleasure--to come.”

She smiled a little. “Yes, you give pleasure.” She was somehow at ease
about the man. He was poor--illiterate, perhaps, but not uncouth.
She glanced at him with a little look of approval as they went up the
staircase. It came to her suddenly that he harmonised with it, and
with all the beautiful things about them. The figure of Professor Trent
flashed upon her--short and fat and puffing, and yearning toward the top
of the stair. But this man. There was the grand air about him--and yet
so simple.

It was almost with a sense of eclat that she ushered him into the
library. The air stirred subtly, with a little hush. The president
was on her feet, introducing Mr. Achilles Alexandrakis, who, in the
unavoidable absence of Professor Trent, had kindly consented to speak to
them on the traditions and customs of modern Greek life.

Achilles’s eyes fell gently on the lifted faces. “I like to tell you
about my home,” he said, simply. “I tell you all I can.”

The look of strain in the faces relaxed. It was going to be an easy
lecture--one that you could know something about. They settled to soft
attention and approval.

Achilles waited a minute--looking at them with deep eyes. And suddenly
they saw that the eyes were not looking at them, but at something far
away--something beautiful and loved.

It is safe to say that the members of the Halcyon Club had never
listened to anything quite like the account that Achilles Alexandrakis
gave them that day, in the gloomy room of the red-fronted house
overlooking the lake, of the land of his birth. They scarcely listened
to the actual words at first, but they listened to him all lighted up
from far away. There was something about him as he spoke--a sweeping
rhythm that flew as a bird, reaching over great spaces, and a simple joy
that lilted a little and sang.

He drew for them the Parthenon--the glory of Athens--in column and
statue and mighty temple and crumbling tomb.... A sense of beauty and
wonder and still, clear light passed before them.

Then he paused... his voice laughed a little, and he spoke of his
people.... Nobody could have quite told what he said to them about his
people. But flutes sang. The sound of feet was on the grass--touching
it in tune--swift-flitting feet that paused and held a rhythmic measure
while it swung. Quick-beating feet across the green. Shadowy forms.
The sway of gowns, light-falling, and the call of voices low and sweet.
Greek youth and maid in swiftest play. They flung the branches wide and
trembled in the voiceless light that played upon the grass. The foot
of Achilles half-beat the time. The tones filled themselves and lifted,
slowly, surely. The voice quickened--it ran with faster notes, as one
who tells some eager tale. Then it swung in cradling-song the twilight
of Athens--and the little birds sang low, twittering underneath the
leaves--in softest garb--at last--rose leaves falling--the dusky
bats around her roof-tops, and the high-soaring sky that arches
all--mysterious and deep. Then the voice sank low, and rang and held
the note--stern, splendid--Athens of might. City of Power! Glory, in
changing word, and in the lift of eye. Athens on her hills, like great
Jove enthroned--the shout, the triumph, the clash of steel, and the feet
of Alaric in the streets. The voice of the Greek grew hoarse now, tiny
cords swelled on his forehead. Athens, city of war. Desolation, fire,
and trampling--! His eye was drawn in light. Vandal hand and iron
foot!...

Who shall say how much of it he told--how much of it he spoke, and how
much was only hinted or called up--in his voice and his gesture and his
eye. They had not known that Athens was like this! They spoke in lowered
voices, moving apart a little, and making place for the silver trays
that began to pass among them. They glanced now and then at the dark man
nibbling his biscuit absently and looking with unfathomable eyes into a
teacup.

A large woman approached him, her ample bust covered with little beads
that rose and fell and twinkled as she talked. “I liked your talk, Mr.
Alexis, and I am going over just as soon as my husband can get away from
his business.” She looked at him with approval, waiting for his.

He bowed with deep, grave gesture. “My country is honoured, madame.”

Other listeners were crowding upon them now, commending the fire-tipped
words, felicitating the man with pretty gesture and soft speech,
patronising him for the Parthenon and his country and her art. ... The
mistress of the house, moving in and out among them, watched the play
with a little look of annoyance.... He would be spoiled--a man of that
class. She glanced down at the slip of paper in her hand. It bore the
name, “Achilles Alexandrakis,” and below it a generous sum to his order.
She made her way toward him, and waited while he disengaged himself
from the little throng about him and came to her, a look of pleasure and
service in his face.

“You speak to me, madame?”

“I wanted to give you this.” She slipped the check into the thin
fingers. “You can look at it later--”

But already the fingers had raised it with a little look of pleased
surprise.... Then the face darkened, and he laid the paper on the
polished table between them. There was a quick movement of the slim
fingers that pushed it toward her.

“I cannot take it, madame--to speak of my country. I speak for the
child--and for you.” He bowed low. “I give please to do it.”

The next moment he had saluted her with gentle grace and was gone from
the room--from the house--between the stone lions and down the Lake
Shore Drive, his free legs swinging in long strides, his head held high
to the wind on the opal lake.

A carriage passed him, and he looked up. Two figures, erect in the sun,
the breath of a child’s smile, a bit of shimmer and grey, the flash and
beat of quick hoofs--and they were gone. But the heart of Achilles sang
in his breast, and the day about him was full of light.



IX

BETTY LEAVES HER GODS

Little Betty Harris sat in the big window, bending over her gods
and goddesses and temples and ruins. It was months since, under the
inspiration of the mysterious, fruit-dealing Greek, she had begun her
study of Greek art; and the photographs gathered from every source--were
piled high in the window--prints and tiny replicas and casts, and
pictures of every kind and size--they overflowed into the great room
beyond. She was busy now, pasting the photographs into a big book.
To-morrow the family started for the country, and only as many gods
could go as could be pasted in the book. Miss Stone had decreed it and
what Miss Stone said must be done.... Betty Harris looked anxiously at
Poseidon, and laid him down, in favour of Zeus. She took him up in her
fingers again, with a little flourish of the paste-tube, and made him
fast. Poseidon must go, too. The paste-tub wavered uncertainly over the
maze of gods and found another and stuck it in place, and lifted itself
in admiring delight.

There was a little rustle, and the child looked up. Miss Stone stood in
the doorway, smiling at her.

“I’m making my book for the gods,” said the child, her flushed face
lighting. “It’s a kind of home for them.” She slipped down from her
chair and came across, holding the book outstretched before her. “You
see I’ve put Poseidon in. He never had a home--except just the sea, of
course--a kind of wet home.” She gave the god a little pat, regarding
him fondly.

Miss Stone bent above the book, with the smile of understanding that
always lay between them. When Betty Harris thought about God, he seemed
always, somehow, like Miss Stone’s smile--but bigger--because he filled
the whole earth. She lifted her hand and stroked the cheek bending above
her book. “I’m making a place for them all,” she said. “It’s a kind of
story--” She drew a sigh of quick delight.

Miss Stone closed the book decisively, touching the flushed face with
her fingers. “Put it away, child--and the pictures. We’re going to
drive.”

“Yes--Nono.” It was her own pet name for Miss Stone, and she gave a
little quick nod, closing the book with happy eyes. But she waited a
moment, lugging the book to her and looking at the scattered gods in the
great window, before she walked demurely across and began gathering them
up--a little puzzled frown between her eyes. “I suppose I couldn’t leave
them scattered around?” she suggested politely.

Miss Stone smiled a little head-shake, and the child bent again to her
work. “I don’t like to pick up,” she said softly. “It’s more interesting
not to pick up--ever.” She lifted her face from a print of Apollo and
looked at Miss Stone intently. “There might be gods that could pick
up--pick themselves up, perhaps--?” It was a polite suggestion--but
there was a look in the dark face--the look of the meat-packer’s
daughter--something that darted ahead and compelled gods to pick
themselves up. She bent again, the little sigh checking itself on her
lip. Miss Stone did not like to have little girls object--and it was not
polite, and besides you _had_ to take care of things--your own things.
The servants took care of the house for you, and brought you things to
eat, and made beds for you, and fed the horses and ironed clothes... but
your own things--the gods and temples and scrapbooks and paste that you
left lying about--you had to put away yourself! Her fingers found the
paste-tube and screwed it firmly in place--with a little twist of the
small mouth--and hovered above the prints with quick touch. The servants
did things--other things. Constance mended your clothes and dressed you,
and Marie served you at table, and sometimes she brought a nice little
lunch if you were hungry--and you and Miss Stone had it together on the
school table--but no one ever--ever--_ever_--picked up your playthings
for you. She thrust the last god into his box and closed the lid firmly.
Then she looked up. She was alone in the big room... in the next room
she could hear Miss Stone moving softly, getting ready for the drive.
She slipped from her seat and stood in the window, looking out--far
ahead the lake stretched--dancing with green waves and little white
edges--and down below, the horses curved their great necks that
glistened in the sun--and the harness caught gleams of light. The
child’s eyes dwelt on them happily. They were her very own, Pollux and
Castor--and she was going driving--driving in the sun. She hummed a
little tune, standing looking down at them.

Behind her stretched the great room--high-ceiled and wide, and furnished
for a princess--a child princess. Its canopied bed and royal draperies
had come across the seas from a royal house--the children of kings
had slept in it before Betty Harris. The high walls were covered with
priceless decoration--yet like a child in every line. It was Betty’s
own place in the great house--and the little room adjoining, where Miss
Stone slept, was a part of it, clear and fine in its lines and in the
bare quiet of the walls. Betty liked to slip away into Miss Stone’s
room--and stand very still, looking about her, hardly breathing. It was
like a church--only clearer and sweeter and freer--perhaps it was the
woods--with the wind whispering up there. She always held her breath to
listen in Miss Stone’s room; and when she came back, to her own, child’s
room--with its canopied bed and royal draperies and colour and charm,
she held the stillness and whiteness of Miss Stone’s room in her
heart--it was like a bird nestling there. Betty had never held a bird,
but she often lifted her hands to them as they flew--and once, in a
dream, one had fluttered into the lifted hands and she had held it close
and felt the wind blow softly. It was like Miss Stone’s room. But Miss
Stone was not like that. You could hug Nono and tell her secrets and
what you wanted for luncheon. Sometimes she would let you have it--if
you were good--_very_ good--and Nono knew everything. She knew so much
that Betty Harris, looking from her window, sighed softly. No one could
know as much as Nono knew--not ever.

“All ready, Betty.” It was Miss Stone in the doorway again. And with a
last look down out of the window at the horses and the shimmering lake,
the child came across the room, skipping a little. “I should like to
wear my hat with the cherries, please,” she said. “I like to feel them
bob in the sun when it shines--they bob so nicely--” She paused with a
quick look--“They _do_ bob, don’t they, Nono?”

“I don’t think I ever noticed,” said Miss Stone. She was still smiling
as she touched the tumbled hair, putting it in place.

“But they _must_ bob,” said Betty. “I think I should have noticed your
cherries bobbing, Miss Stone.” She was looking intently at the quiet
cheek close beside her own, with its little flush of pink, and the
greyness of the hair that lay beside it. “I notice all your things,
Nono,” she said softly.

Miss Stone smiled again and drew her to her. “I will look to-day, Betty,
when we drive--”

The child nodded--“Yes, they will bob then. I can see them--even with
my eyes not shut, I can see them bob--Please, Constance--” She turned to
the stiff maid who had come in--“I want my grey coat and red-cherry hat.
We’re going to drive--in the sun.”

The maid brought the garments and put them on with careful touch, tying
the strings under the lifted chin.

The child nodded to her gaily. “Good-bye, Constance--we’re going for a
drive--a long drive--we shall go and go and go--Come, Miss Stone.” She
took the quiet hand, and danced a little, and held it close to her--down
the long staircase and through the wide hall--and out to the sunshine
and the street.

James, from his box, looked up, and the reins tightened in the big
hands. The horses pranced and clicked their hoofs and stood still; and
James, leaning a respectful ear, touched his hat-brim, and they were
off, the harnesses glinting and the little red cherries bobbing in the
sun.



X

FOR A LONG DRIVE

Betty Harris sat very still--her hands in her lap, her face lifted to
the breeze that touched it swiftly and fingered her hair and swept past.
Presently she looked up with a nod--as if the breeze reminded her. “I
should like to see Mr. Achilles,” she said.

“Not to-day,” answered Miss Stone, “we must do the errands for mother
to-day, you know.”

The child’s face fell. “I wanted to see Mr. Achilles,” she said simply.
She sat very quiet, her eyes on the lake. When she looked up, the eyes
had brimmed over.

“I didn’t mean to,” said the child. She was searching for her
handkerchief and the little cherries bobbed forward. “I didn’t know they
would spill!” She had found the handkerchief now and was wiping them
away, and she smiled at Miss Stone--a brave smile--that was going to be
happy--

Miss Stone smiled back, with a little head-shake. “Foolish, Betty!”

“I didn’t expect them,” said the child, “I was just thinking about
Mr. Achilles and they came--just came!--They just came!” she repeated
sternly. She gave a final dab to the handkerchief and stowed it away,
sitting very erect and still.

Miss Stone’s eyes studied her face. “We cannot go to-day,” she said,
“--and to-morrow we start for the country. Perhaps--” she paused,
thinking it out.

But the child’s eyes took it up--and danced. “He can make us a visit,”
 she said, nodding--“a visit of three weeks!” She smiled happily.

Miss Stone smiled back, shaking her head. “He could not leave the
fruit-shop--”

But the child ignored it. “He will come,” she said quickly, “and we
shall talk--and talk--about the gods, you know--” She lifted her eyes,
“and we shall go in the fields--He will come!” She drew a deep sigh of
satisfaction and lifted her head.

And Miss Stone, watching her, had a feeling of quick relief. She had
known for a day or two that the child was not well, and they had hurried
to get away to the fields. This was their last drive. To-morrow the
horses would be sent on; and the next day they would all go--in the
great touring car that would eat up the miles, and pass the horses, and
reach Idlewood long before them.

No one except Betty and Miss Stone used the horses now. They would have
been sold long ago had it not been for the child. The carriage was a
part of her--and the clicking hoofs and soft-shining skins and arching
necks. The sound of the hoofs on the pavement played little tunes for
Betty. Her mother had protested against expense, and her father had
grumbled a little; but if the child wanted a carriage rather than the
great car that could whir her away in a breath, it must be kept.

It made a pretty picture this morning as it turned into the busier
street and took its way among the dark, snorting cars that pushed
and sped. It was like a delicate dream that shimmered and touched the
pavement--or like a breath of the past... and the great cars skimmed
around it and pushed on with quick honk and left it far behind.

But the carriage kept its way with unhurried rhythm--into the busy
street and out again into a long avenue where great houses of cement and
grey stone stood guard.

No one was in sight, up and down its clear length--only the morning sun
shining on the grey stones and on the pavement--and the little jingling
in the harness and the joyous child and the quiet grey woman beside her.

“I shall not be gone a minute, Betty,” said Miss Stone. The carriage had
drawn up before the great shadow of a house. She gave the child’s hand a
little pat and stepped from the carriage.

But at the door there was a minute’s question and, with a nod to Betty,
she stepped inside.

When the door opened again, and she came out with quick step she glanced
at her watch--the errand had taken more than its minute, and there
were others to be done, and they were late. She lifted her eyes to the
carriage--and stopped.

The coachman, from the corner of his eye, waited for orders. But Miss
Stone did not stir. Her glance swept the quiet street and came back to
the carriage--standing with empty cushions in the shadow of the house.

The coachman turned a stolid eye and caught a glimpse of her face and
wheeled quickly--his eye searching space. “There wa’n’t nobody!” he
said. He almost shouted it, and his big hands gripped hard on the
reins.... His face was grey--“There wa’n’t nobody here!” he repeated
dully.

But Miss Stone did not look at him. “Drive to the Greek’s. You
know--where she went before.” She would not give herself time to
think--sitting a little forward on the seat--of course the child had
gone to the Greek--to Mr. Achilles.... They should find her in a minute.
There was nothing else to think about--no shadowy fear that had leaped
to meet the look in James’s face when it turned to her. The child would
be there--

The carriage drew up before the shop, with its glowing lines of fruit
under the striped awning, and Miss Stone had descended before the wheel
scraped the curb, her glance searching the door and the dim room beyond.
She halted on the threshold, peering in.

A man came from the rear of the room, his hands outstretched to serve
her. The dark, clear face, with its Greek lines, and the eyes that
looked out at her held a welcome. “You do me honour,” he said. “I hope
Madame is well--and the little Lady--?” Then he stopped. Something
in Miss Stone’s face held him--and his hand groped a little, reaching
toward her--“You--tell me--” he said.

But she did not speak, and the look in her face grew very still.

He turned sharply--calling into the shop behind him, and a boy came
running, his eyes flashing a quick laugh, his teeth glinting.

“I go,” said the man, with quick gesture--“You keep shop--I go.” He had
taken off his white apron and seized a hat. He touched the woman on the
shoulder. “Come,” he said.

She looked at him with dazed glance and put her hand to her head. “I
cannot think,” she said slowly.

He nodded with steady glance. “When we go, you tell--we find her,” he
said.

She started then and looked at him--and the clear colour came to her
face. “You know--where--she is!”

But he shook his head. “We find her,” he repeated. “You tell.”

And as they threaded the streets--into drays and past clanging cars and
through the tangle of wheels and horses and noise--and she told him the
story, shouting it above the rumble and hurry of the streets, into the
dark ear that bent beside her.

The look in Achilles’s face deepened, but its steady quiet did not
change. “We find her,” he repeated each time, and Miss Stone’s heart
caught the rhythm of it, under the hateful noise. “We find her.”

Then the great house on the lake faced them.

She looked at him a minute in doubt. Her face broke--“She may have
come--home?” she said.

“I go with you,” said Achilles.

There was no sign of life, but the door swung open before them and they
went into the great hall--up the long stairway that echoed only vacant
softness, and into the library with its ranging rows of perfect books.
She motioned him before her. “_I_ must tell them,” she said. She passed
through the draperies of another door and the silence of the great house
settled itself about the man and waited with him.



XI

TWO MEN FACE EACH OTHER

He looked about the room with quiet face. It was the room he had been
in before--the day he spoke to the Halcyon Club--the ladies had costly
gowns and strange hats, who had listened so politely while he told them
of Athens and his beloved land. The room had been lighted then, with
coloured lamps and globes--a kind of rosy radiance. Now the daylight
came in through the high windows and filtered down upon him over brown
books and soft, leather-covered walls. There was no sound in the big
room. It seemed shut off from the world and Achilles sat very quiet, his
dark face a little bent, his gaze fixed on the rug at his feet. He was
thinking of the child--and of her face when she had lifted it to him out
of the crowded street, that first day, and smiled at him... and of their
long talks since. It was the Child who understood. The strange ladies
had smiled at him and talked to him and drank their tea and talked
again... he could hear the soft, keen humming of their voices and the
flitter of garments all about him as they moved. But the child had sat
very still--only her face lifted, while he told her of Athens and its
beauty... and he had told her again--and again. She would never tire of
it--as he could never tire. She was a child of light in the great new
world... a child like himself--in the hurry of the noise. A sound came
to him in the distant house--people talking--low voices that spoke and
hurried on. The house was awake--quick questions ran through it--doors
sounded and were still. Achilles turned his face toward the opening into
the long wide hall, and waited. Through the vista there was a glimpse
of the stairway and a figure passing up it--a short, square man who
hurried. Then silence again--more bells and running feet. But no one
came to the library--and no one sought the dark figure seated there,
waiting. Strange foreign faces flashed themselves in the great
mirror and out. The outer door opened and closed noiselessly to admit
them--uncouth figures that passed swiftly up the stairway, glancing
curiously about them--and dapper men who did not look up as they went.
The house settled again to quiet, and the long afternoon, while Achilles
waited. The light from the high windows grew dusky under chairs and
tables; it withdrew softly along the gleaming books and hovered in the
air above them--a kind of halo--and the shadows crept up and closed
about him. Through the open door, a light appeared in the hall. A moving
figure advanced to the library, and paused in the doorway, and came
in. There was a minute’s fumbling at the electric button, and the soft
lights came, by magic, everywhere in the room. The servant gave a
quick glance about him, and started sternly--and came forward. Then he
recognised the man. It was the Greek. But he looked at him sternly. The
day had been full of suspicion and question--and the house was alive to
it--“What do you want?” he said harshly.

“I wait,” said Achilles.

“Who told you to come?” demanded the man.

“I come. I wait,” said Achilles.

The man disappeared. Presently he returned. “You come with me,” he
said. His look was less stern, but he raised his voice a little, as if
speaking to a child, or a deaf man. “You come with me,” he repeated.

Achilles followed with quick-gliding foot--along the corridor, through
a great room--to a door. The man paused and lifted his hand and knocked.
His back was tense, as if he held himself ready to spring.

A voice sounded and he turned the handle softly, and looked at Achilles.
Then the door opened and the Greek passed in and the man closed the door
behind him.

A man seated at a table across the room looked up. For a minute the two
men looked at each other--the one short and square and red; the other
thin as a reed, with dark, clear eyes.

The short man spoke first. “What do you know about this?” His hand
pressed a heap of papers upon the desk before him and his eyes searched
the dark face.

Achilles’s glance rested on the papers--then it lifted itself.

“Your name is Achilles?” said the other sharply.

“Achilles Alexandrakis--yes.” The Greek bowed.

“I know--she called you Mr. Achilles,” said the man.

A shadow rested on the two faces, looking at each other.

“She is lost,” said the father. He said it under his breath, as if
denying it.

“I find her,” said Achilles quietly.

The man leaned forward--something like a sneer on his face. “She is
stolen, I tell you--and the rascals have got at their work quick!” He
struck the pile of papers on the desk. “They will give her up for
ten thousand dollars--to-night.” He glanced at the clock on the wall,
ticking its minutes, hurrying to six o’clock.

The dark eyes had followed the glance; they came back to the man’s
face--“You pay that--ten thousand dollar?” said Achilles.

“I shall be damned first!” said the man with slow emphasis. “But we
shall find them--” His square, red jaw held the words, “and _they_ shall
pay--God! They shall pay!” The room rang to the word. It was a small
bare room--only a table and two chairs, the clock on the wall and a
desk across the room. “Sit down,” said Philip Harris. He motioned to the
chair before him.

But Achilles did not take it, he rested a hand on the back, looking down
at him. “I glad--you not pay,” he said.

The other lifted his eyebrows. “I shall pay the man that finds her--the
man that brings her back! You understand that?” His bright, little
glance had keen scorn.

But the face opposite him did not change. “I find her,” said Achilles
again.

“Then you get the ten thousand,” said the man. He shifted a little in
his chair. They were all alike--these foreigners--money was what they
wanted--and plenty of it. The sneer on his face deepened abruptly.

Achilles’s glance was on the clock. “It makes bad--to pay that money,”
 he said. “When you pay--more child stole--to-morrow, more child
stole--more money--” His dark hand lifted itself out over the houses of
the great city--and all the sleepy children making ready for bed.

The other nodded. His round, soft paunch pressed against the table and
his quick eyes were on Achilles’s face. His great finger leaped out and
shook itself and lay on the table. “I--will--not--give--one cent!” he
said hoarsely.

“You be good man,” said Achilles solemnly.

“I will not be bullied by them--and I will not be a fool!” He lifted
his eyes to the clock--and a look passed in his face--a little whirring
chime and the clock was still.

In the silence, the telephone rang sharply. His hand leaped out--and
waited--and his eye sought Achilles--and gathered itself, and he lifted
the dark, burring Thing to his ear.



XII

THE TELEPHONE SPEAKS

Slowly the look on his face grew to something hard and round and bright.
His lips tightened--“is that all?--Good-bye!” His voice sounded in the
tube and was gone, and he hung up the receiver. “They make it twenty
thousand--for one hour,” he said drily.

Achilles bent forward, his face on fire, his finger pointing to the
Thing.

“They are right there!” said the man. He gave a short laugh--“Can’t
trace them that way--we have tried--They’ve tapped a wire. Central is
after them. But they won’t get ‘em that way. Sit down and I will talk
to you.” He motioned again to the chair and the Greek seated himself,
bending forward a little to catch the murmur and half-incoherent jerks
that the man spoke.

Now and then the Greek nodded, or his dark face lighted; and once or
twice he spoke. But for the most part it was a rapid monologue, told in
breathless words.

The great Philip Harris had no hope that the ignorant man sitting before
him could help him. But there was a curious relief in talking to him;
and as he talked, he found the story shaping itself in his mind--things
related fell into place, and things apart came suddenly together. The
story ran back for years--there had been earlier attempts, but the child
had been guarded with strictest care; and lately they had come to feel
secure. They had thought the band was broken up. The blow had fallen out
of a clear sky. They had not the slightest clue--all day the detectives
had gathered the great city in their hands--and sifted it through
careful fingers. A dozen men had been arrested, but there was no clue.
The New York men were on the way; they would arrive in the morning, and
meantime the great man sat in his bare room, helpless. He looked into
the dark eyes opposite him and found a curious comfort there. “The child
knew you,” he said.

“Yes--she know me. We love,” said Achilles simply.

The other smiled a little. It would not have occurred to _him_ to say
that Betty loved him. He was not sure that she did--as he thought of it.
She had always the quick smile for him--and for everyone. But there had
been no time for foolishness between him and Betty. He had hardly known
her for the last year or two. He shifted a little in his place, shading
his eyes from the light, and looked at the Greek.

The Greek rose, and stood before him. “I go now,” he said.

Philip Harris made no reply. He was thinking, behind his hand; and his
mind, wrenched from its stockyards and its corners and deals, seemed to
be groping toward a point of light that glimmered somewhere--mistily. He
could not focus it. The darkness tricked him, but somehow, vaguely,
the Greek held a clue. He had known the child. “Don’t go,” said Philip
Harris, looking up at last.

“I find her,” said Achilles.

Philip Harris shook his head. “You cannot find her.” He said it
bitterly. “But you can tell me--sit down.” He leaned forward. “Now, tell
me--everything--you know--about her.”

The face of Achilles lighted. “She was a nice child,” he said blithely.

The man smiled. “Yes--go on.”

So the voice of Achilles was loosened and he told of Betty Harris--to
her father sitting absorbed and silent. The delight of her walk, her
little hands, the very tones of her voice were in his words.

And the big man listened with intent face. Once the telephone rang and
he stopped to take down something. “No clue,” he said, “go on.” And
Achilles’s voice took up the story again.

His hands reached out in the words, quick gestures made a halo about
them, lips and smiles spoke, and ran the words to a laugh that made the
child’s presence in the room.

The father listened dumbly. Then silence fell in the room and the clock
ticked.

And while the two men sat in silence, something came between them and
knit them. And when Achilles rose to go, the great man held out his
hand, simply. “You have helped me,” he said.

“I help--yes--” said Achilles. Then he turned his head. A door across
the room had opened and a woman stood in it--looking at them.



XIII

EVERYONE MUST PAY

Achilles saw her, and moved forward swiftly. But she ignored him--her
eyes were on the short, square man seated at the table, and she came
to him, bending close. “You must pay, Phil,” she said. The words held
themselves in her reddened eyes, and her fingers picked a little at the
lace on her dress... then they trembled and reached out to him.

“You _must_ pay!” she said hoarsely.

But the man did not stir.

The woman lifted her eyes and looked at Achilles. There was no
recognition in the glance--only a kind of impatience that he was there.
The Greek moved toward the door--but the great man stayed him. “Don’t
go,” he said. He reached up a hand to his wife, laying it on her
shoulder. “We can’t pay, dearest,” he said slowly.

Her open lips regarded him and the quick tears were in her eyes. She
brushed them back, and looked at him--“Let _me_ pay!” she said fiercely,
“I will give up--everything--and pay!” She had crouched to him, her
groping fingers on his arm.

Above her head the glances of the two men met.

Her husband bent to her, speaking very slowly... to a child.

“Listen, Louie--they might give her back to-day--if we paid... but they
would take her again--to-morrow--next week--next year. We shall never be
safe if we pay. Nobody will be safe--”

Her face was on his arm, sobbing close. “I hate--it!” she said brokenly,
“I _hate_--your--money! I want Betty!” The cry went through the
room--and the man was on his feet, looking down at her--

“Don’t, Louie,” he said--“don’t, dear--I can’t bear that! See, dear--sit
down!” He had placed her in the chair and was crooning to her, bending
to her. “We shall have her back--soon--now.”

The telephone was whirring and he sprang to it.

The woman lifted her face, staring at it.

The Greek’s deep eyes fixed themselves on it.

The room was so still they could hear the tiny, ironic words flinging
themselves spitefully in the room, and biting upon the air. “Time’s
up,” the Thing tittered--“Make it fifty thousand now--for a day. Fifty
thousand down and the child delivered safe--Br-r-r-r!”

The woman sprang forward. “Tell them we’ll pay, Phil--give it to
me--Yes--yes--we’ll pay!” She struggled a little--but the hand had
thrust her back and the receiver was on its hook.

“We shall _not_ pay!” said the man sternly, “not if they make it a
million!”

“I think they make it a million,” said Achilles quietly.

They looked up at him with startled eyes.

“They know you--rich--” His hands flung themselves. “So rich! They
_make_ you pay--yes--they make everyone pay, I think!” His dark eyes
were on the woman significantly--

“What do you mean?” she said swiftly.

“If you pay--they steal them everywhere--little children.” His eyes
seemed to see them at play in the sunshine--and the dark shadows
stealing upon them. The woman’s eyes were on his face, breathless.

“They have taken Betty!” she said. It was a broken cry.

“We find her,” said Achilles simply. “Then little children play--happy.”
 He turned to go.

But the woman stayed him. Her face trembled to hold itself steady under
his glance. “I want to save the children, too,” she said. “I will be
brave!”

Her husband’s startled face was turned to her and she smiled to it
bravely. “Help me, Phil!” she said. She reached out her hands to him and
he took them tenderly. He had not been so near her for years. She was
looking in his face, smiling still, across the white line of her lip. “I
shall help,” she said slowly. “But you must not trust me, dear--not too
far.... I want my little girl--”

There were tears in the eyes of the two men--and the Greek went softly
out, closing the door. Down the wide hallway--out of the great door,
with its stately carvings and the two pink stone lions that guarded
the way--out to the clear night of stars. The breeze blew in--a little
breath from the lake, that lapped upon the breakwater and died out.
Achilles stood very still--lifting his face to it. Behind him, in the
city, little children were asleep... and in the great house the man and
the woman waited alone--for the help that was coming to them--running
with swift feet in the night. It sped upon iron rails and crept beneath
the ground and whispered in the air--and in the heart of Achilles it
dreamed under the quiet stars.



XIV

THE PRICE ACHILLES PAID

The little shop was closed. The fruit-trays had been carried in and the
shutters put up, and from an upper window a line of light gleamed on the
deserted street. Achilles glanced at it and turned into an alley at the
side, groping his way toward the rear. He stopped and fumbled for a knob
and rapped sharply. But a hand was already on the door, scrambling to
undo it, and an eager face confronted him, flashing white teeth at him.
“You come!” said the boy swiftly.

He turned and fled up the stairs and Achilles followed. A faint sense
of onions was in the air. Achilles sniffed it gratefully. He remembered
suddenly that he had not eaten since morning. But the boy did not
pause for him--he was beckoning with mysterious hand from a doorway
and Achilles followed. “Alcie--got hurt,” whispered the boy. He was
trembling with fear and excitement, and he pointed to the bed across the
room.

Achilles stepped, with lightest tread, and looked down. A boy, half
asleep, murmured and turned his head restlessly. A red-clotted blur ran
along the forehead, and the face, streaked with mud, was drawn in a look
of pain. As Achilles bent over him, the boy cried out and threw up a
hand; then he turned his head, muttering, and dozed again.

Achilles withdrew lightly, beckoning to the boy beside him.

Yaxis followed, his eyes on the figure on the bed. “All day,” he said,
“he lie sick.”

Achilles closed the door softly and turned to him. “Tell me, Yaxis, what
happened,” he said.

The boy’s face opened dramatically. “I look up--I see Alcie--like
that--” his gesture fitted to the room--“He stand in door--all covered
mud--blood run--cart broke--no fruit--no hat.” The boy’s hands were
everywhere, as he spoke, dispensing fruit, smashing carts and filling up
the broken words with horror and a flow of blood. Achilles’s face grew
grave. The Greeks were not without persecution in the land of freedom,
and his boy had lain all day suffering--while he had been lost in the
great house by the lake.

He took off his coat and turned back his sleeves. “You bring water,” he
said gently. “We will see what hurts him.”

But the boy had put his supper on the table and was beckoning him with
swift gesture. “You eat,” he said pleadingly. And Achilles ate hastily
and gave directions for the basin of water and towels and a sponge, and
the boy carried them into the room beyond.

Half an hour later Alcibiades lay in bed, his clothes removed and the
blood washed from his face and hair. The clotted line still oozed a
little on the temple and the look of pain had not gone away. Achilles
watched him with anxious eyes. He bent over the bed and spoke to him
soothingly, his voice gentle as a woman’s in its soft Greek accents;
but the look of pain in the boy’s face deepened and his voice chattered
shrill.


They watched the ambulance drive away from in front of the striped
awning. Achilles held a card in his thin fingers--a card that would
admit him to his boy. Yaxis’s eyes were gloomy with dread, and his
quick movements were subdued as he went about the business of the shop,
carrying the trays of fruit to the stall outside and arranging the
fruit under the striped awning. He was not to go out with the push-cart
to-day. There was too much work to do--and Achilles could not let the
boy go from him. Later, too, Achilles must go to the hospital--and to
the big house on the lake, and someone must be left with the shop.

So he kept the boy beside him, looking at him, now and then, with deep,
quiet eyes that seemed to see the city taking its toll of life--of
children--the children at play and the children at work. This land that
he had sought with his boys--where the wind of freedom blew fresh from
the prairies and the sea... and even little children were not safe! He
seemed to see it--through the day--this great monster that gathered them
in--from all lands--and trod them beneath its great feet, crushing them,
while they lifted themselves to it and threw themselves--and prayed to
it for the new day--that they had come so far to seek.

But when Achilles presented his ticket for the boy, at the hospital
door, it was a woman of his own race who met him, dark-eyed and
strong--and smiled at him a flash of sympathy. “Yes--he is doing well.
They operated at once. Come and see. But you must not speak to him.” She
led him cautiously down the long corridor between the beds. “See, he is
asleep.” She bent over him, touching the bandage. Beneath it, the dark
skin was pallid, but the breath came easily from the sleeping lips.

She smiled at Achilles, guiding him from the room, ignoring the tears
that looked at her. “He is doing well, you see. It was pressure that
caused the fever, the bone was not injured. He will recover quickly.
Yes. We are glad!”

And Achilles, out under the clear sky, raised his face and caught the
sound of the city--its murmured, innumerable toil and the great clang
of wheels turning. And he drew a deep, quick breath. A city of power
and swift care for its own. The land of many hands reaching out to the
world. And Achilles’s head lifted itself under the sky; and a mighty
force knit within him--a deep, quiet force out of the soul of the
past--pledging itself.



XV

THE POLICE MOVE

Life was busy for Achilles. There were visits to the hospital--where he
must not speak to his boy, but only look at him and catch little silent
smiles from the bandaged face--and visits to the great house on the
lake, where he came and went freely. The doors swung open of themselves,
it seemed, as Achilles mounted the steps between the lions. All the
pretty life and flutter of the place had changed. Detectives went in and
out; and instead of the Halcyon Club, the Chief of Police and assistants
held conferences in the big library. But there was no clue to the
child!... She had withdrawn, it seemed, into a clear sky. James had
been summoned to the library many times, and questioned sharply; but his
wooden countenance held no light and the tale did not change by a hair.
He had held the horses. Yes--there wa’n’t nobody--but little Miss Harris
and him.... She was in the carriage--he held the horses. The horses?
They had frisked a bit, maybe, the way horses will--at one o’ them
autos that squirted by, and he had quieted ‘em down--but there wa’n’t
nobody.... And he was the last link between little Betty Harris and the
world--all the bustling, wrestling, interested world of Chicago--that
shouted extras and stared at the house on the lake and peered in at
its life--at the rising and eating and sleeping that went on behind the
red-stone walls. The red-stone walls had thinned to a veil and the whole
world might look in--because a child had been snatched away; and the
heart of a city understood. But no one but James could have told what
had happened to the child sitting with her little red cherries in the
light; and James was stupid--and in the bottomless abyss of James’s face
the clue was lost.

Achilles had come in for his share of questioning. The child had been
to his shop it seemed... and the papers took it up and made much of
it--there were headlines and pictures... the public was interested. The
tale grew to a romance, and fathers and mothers and children in Boston
and New York and London heard how Betty had sat in the gay little
fruit-shop--and listened to Achilles’s stories of Athens and Greece, and
of the Acropolis--and of the studies in Greek history, and her gods and
goddesses and the temples and ruins lying packed in their boxes waiting
her return. The daily papers were a thrilling tale--with the quick touch
of love and human sympathy that brings the world together.

To Achilles it was as if the hand of Zeus had reached and touched the
child--and she was not. What god sheltered her beneath a magic veil--so
that she passed unseen? He lifted his face, seeking in air and sun and
cloud, a token. Over the lake came the great breeze, speaking to him,
and out of the air a thousand hands reached to him--to tell him of the
child. But he could not find the place that held her. In the dusky shop,
he held his quiet way. No one, looking, would have guessed--“Two cen’s,
yes,” and his swift fingers made change while his eyes searched every
face. But the child, in her shining cloud, was not revealed.

When he was summoned before the detectives and questioned, with swift
sternness, it was his own questions that demanded answer--and got it.
The men gathered in the library, baffled by the search, and asking
futile, dreary questions, learned to wait in amusement for the quick,
searching gestures flung at them and the eager face that seemed to drink
their words. Gradually they came to understand--the Greek was learning
the science of kidnapping--its methods and devices and the probable plan
of approach. But the Chief shook his head. “You won’t trace these men
by any of the old tricks. It’s a new deal. We shall only get them by a
fluke.” And to his own men he said, “Try any old chance, boys, run it
down--if it takes weeks--Harris won’t compromise--and you may stumble
on a clue. The man that finds it makes money.” Gradually they drew their
lines around the city; but still, from the tapped wires, the messages
came--to them, sitting in conclave in the library--to Philip Harris in
his bare office and to the mother, waiting alone in her room.

At last she could not bear it. “I cannot hold out, Philip,” she said,
one day, when he had come in and found her hanging up the receiver with
a fixed look. “Don’t trust me, dear. Take me away.” And that night the
big car had borne her swiftly from the city, out to the far-breathing
air of the plain and the low hills. In her room in the house on
the lake, her little telephone bell tinkled, and waited, and rang
again--baffled by long silence and by discreet replies.... The tapped
wires concentrated now upon Philip Harris, working by suggestion, and
veiled threat, on his overwrought nerves till his hand shook when he
reached out to the receiver--and his voice betrayed him in his denials.
They were closing on him, with hints of an ultimatum. He dared not
trust himself. He left the house to the detectives and went down to the
offices, where he could work and no one could get at him. Every message
from the outside world came to him sifted, and he breathed more freely
as he took up the telephone. The routine of business steadied him. In a
week he should be himself--he could return to the attack.

Then a message got through to him--up through the offices. The man who
delivered it spoke in a clear, straight voice that did not rise or fall.
He had agreed to give the message, he said--a hundred thousand paid
to-day, or no communication for three months. The child would be taken
out of the country. The men behind the deal were getting tired and would
drop the whole business. They had been more than fair in the chances
they had offered for compromise.... There was a little pause in the
message--then the voice went on, “I am one of your own men, Harris,
inside the works--a man that you killed--in the way of business. I
agreed to give you the message--for quits. Good-bye.” The voice rang off
and Philip Harris sat alone.

A man that he had killed--in the way of business--! Hundreds of them--at
work for him--New York--Cincinnati--St. Louis. It would not be easy--to
trace a man that he had killed in business.

So he sat with bent head, in the circle of his own works... the network
he had spread over the land--and somewhere, outside that circle, his
child, the very heart, was held as hostage--three months. Little Betty!
He shivered a little and got op and reached for a flask of brandy and
poured it out, gulping it down. He looked about the room ... inside now.
He had shut himself in his citadel... and they were inside. The brandy
stayed his hand from shaking--but he knew that he had weakened. His mind
went back to the man he had “killed in business”--the straight, clear
voice sounding over the ‘phone--he had not wanted to ruin him--them,
hundreds of them. It was the System--kill or be killed. He took his
chance and they took theirs--and they had gone down.



XVI

A CLUE GOES TO SLEEP

The morning was alive in the hospital. The sun glinted in. Pale faces,
lifted on their pillows, turned toward it; and Achilles, passing with
light step between the rows, smiled at them. Alcibiades was better. They
had told him, in the office, that he might talk to him to-day--a little
while--and his face glowed with the joy of it.

The boy hailed him, from far down the ward, his weak voice filled with
gladness, and Achilles hurried. He dropped into the chair beside him
and took the thin hand in his strong, dark one, holding it while he
talked--gentle words, full of the morning and of going home. The boy’s
eyes brightened, watching his father’s face.

“Pain--gone,” he said, “--all gone.” His hand lifted to his forehead.

Achilles bent forward and touched it lightly, brushing the hair across
it. “You are well now,” he said gratefully.

The boy smiled, his dark eyes fixed absently on his thoughts. “They--bad
men!” he said abruptly.

Achilles leaned forward with anxious look, but the boy’s eyes were
clear. “They run down,” he said quietly, “--and go fast--like wind--I
try--I run. They shout and hit cart--and swear--and I lie on ground.”
 His lifted eyes seemed to be looking up at some great object passing
close above him... and a look of dread held them. He drew a quick
breath. “They bad men--” he said. “Little girl cry!”

Achilles bent forward, holding his breath. “What was it--Alcie?”

The boy’s eyes turned toward him trustingly. “They hurt bad,” he said.
“I try--I run--”

“And the little girl--?” suggested Achilles gently. His voice would not
have turned the breath of a dream; but Alcibiades wrinkled his forehead.

“She cry--” he said. “She look at me and cry--quick--They hurt that
little girl. Yes--she cry--” His eyes closed sleepily. The nurse came
forward.

“Better not talk any more,” she said.

Achilles got to his feet. He bent over the boy, his heart beating fast.
“Good-bye, Alcie. To-morrow you tell me more--all about the little
girl.” The words dropped quietly into the sleeping ear and the boy
turned his face.

“To-morrow--tell--about--little girl...” he murmured--and was asleep.

Achilles passed swiftly out of the hospital--through the sun-glinting
wards, out to the free air--his heart choking him. At the corner, he
caught a car bound for the South side and boarded it.

And at the same moment Philip Harris, in his office in the works, was
summoning the Chief of Police to instruct him to open negotiations with
the kidnappers.

But Achilles reached the office first and before noon every member of
the force knew that a clue had been found--a clue light as a child’s
breath between sleep and waking, but none the less a clue--and to-morrow
more would be known.

So Philip Harris stayed his hand--because of the muttered,
half-incoherent word of a Greek boy, drowsing in a great sunny ward, the
millionaire waited--and little children were safer that night.



XVII

PHILIP HARRIS WAKES UP

But the surgeon, the next morning, shook his head peremptorily. His
patient had been tampered with, and was worse--it was a critical
case--all the skill and science of modern surgery involved in it... the
brain had barely escaped--by a breath, it might be--no one could tell
... but the boy must be kept quiet. There must be no more agitation.
They must wait for full recovery. Above all--nothing that recalled the
accident. Let nature take her own time--and the boy might yet speak out
clearly and tell them what they wanted--otherwise the staff could not be
responsible.

It was to Philip Harris himself that the decree was given, sitting in
the consulting-room of the white hospital--looking about him with quick
eyes. He had taken out his cheque-book and written a sum that doubled
the efficiency of the hospital, and the surgeon had thanked him quietly
and laid it aside. “Everything is being done for the boy, Mr. Harris,
that we can do. But one cannot foresee the result. He may come through
with clear mind--he may remember the past--he may remember part of
it--but not the part you want. But not a breath must disturb him--that
is the one thing clear--and it is our only chance.” His eyes were gentle
and keen, and Philip Harris straightened himself a little beneath them.
The cheque, laid one side, looked suddenly small and empty... and the
great stockyards were a blur in his thought. Not all of them together,
it seemed, could buy the skill that was being given freely for a Greek
waif, or hurry by a hair’s breadth the tiny globule of grey matter that
held his life.

“Tell me if there is anything I can do,” he said. He had risen and was
facing the surgeon, looking at him like a little boy--with his hat in
his hand.

The surgeon returned the look. “There will be plenty to do, Mr. Harris.
This, for instance--” He took up the cheque and looked at it and folded
it in slow fingers. “It will be a big lift to the hospital ... and the
boy--there will be things later--for the boy--”

“Private room?” suggested the great man.

“No--the ward is better. It gives him interests--keeps his mind off
himself and keeps him from remembering things. But when he can be
moved, he must be in the country--good food, fresh air, things to amuse
him--he’s a jolly little chap!” The surgeon laughed out. “Oh, we shall
bring him through.” He added it almost gaily. “He is so sane--he is a
Greek!”

Philip Harris looked at him, uncomprehending. “How long before he can be
moved?” he asked bluntly.

The surgeon paused--“two weeks--three--perhaps--I must have him under my
eye--I can’t tell--” He looked at the great man keenly. “What he really
needs, is someone to come in for awhile everyday--to talk with him--or
keep quiet with him--someone with sense.”

“His father?” said Philip Harris.

“Not his father. It must be someone he has never seen--no memories to
puzzle him--yet. But someone that he might have known always--all his
life.”

“That is Miss Stone,” said Philip Harris promptly.

“Does he know Miss Stone?” asked the surgeon.

Philip Harris shook his head. “No one knows Miss Stone,” he said; “but
she is the friendliest person in all the world--when I get to heaven, I
hope Marcia Stone will be there to show me around--just to take the edge
off.” He smiled a little.

“Well, she is the person we want--can she come?”

“She sits at home with her hands folded,” said Philip Harris. He waited
a minute. “She was my little girl’s friend,” he said at last. “They were
always together.

“I remember--” The surgeon held out his hand. “Let her come. She will
be invaluable.” His voice had a friendly ring. It was no longer a
millionaire that faced him--handing out cheques--but a father, like
himself. There were four of them at home, waiting on the stairs for him
to come at night--and he suddenly saw that Philip Harris was a brave
man--holding out for them all--waiting while the little fleck of grey
matter knit itself. He looked at him a minute keenly--“Why not come in
yourself, now and then,” he said, “as he gets better? Later when you
take him away, he will know you--better for him.”

So the ward became familiar with the red face and Prince Albert coat
and striped trousers and patent leather shoes, crunching softly down
the still, white room. It was a new Philip Harris, sauntering in at
noon with a roll of pictures--a box of sweets, enough candy to ruin the
ward--a phonograph under one arm and a new bull pup under the other. The
pup sprawled on the floor and waked happy laughs up and down the ward
and was borne out, struggling, by a hygienic nurse, and locked in the
bathroom. The phonograph stayed and played little tunes for them--jolly
tunes, of the music hall, and all outdoors. And Philip Harris enjoyed it
as if he were playing with the stock exchange of a world. The brain that
could play with a world when it liked, was devoted now, night and day,
to a great hospital standing on the edge of the plain, and to the big
free ward, and to a dark face, flashing a smile when he came.



XVIII

“ONCE--I--SAW--”

Miss Stone sat by the boy on the lawn at Idlewood. A great canopy of
khaki duck was spread above them, and the boy lay on a wicker couch that
could be lifted and carried from place to place as the wind or the sun,
or a whim directed.

Five days they had been here--every day full of sunshine and the
fragrance of flowers from the garden that ran along the terraces from
the house to the river bank, and was a riot of midsummer colour and
scent. The boy’s face had gained clear freshness and his eyes, fixed on
Miss Stone’s face, glowed. “I like--it--here,” he said.

“Yes, Alcie.” Miss Stone bent toward him. “You are getting strong every
day--you will soon be able to walk--to-morrow, perhaps.” She glanced at
the thin legs under their light covering.

The boy laughed a little and moved them. “I can walk now--” he declared.

But she shook her head. “No, I will tell you a story.” So her voice went
on and on in the summer quiet--insects buzzed faintly, playing the song
of the day. Bees bumbled among the flowers and flew past, laden. The
boy’s eyes followed them. The shadow of a crow’s wing dropped on the
grass and drifted by. The summer day held itself--and Miss Stone’s voice
wove a dream through it.


When the boy opened his eyes again she was sitting very quiet, her hands
in her lap, her eyes fixed on the river that flowed beyond the garden.
The boy’s eyes studied her face. “Once--I--saw--you--” he said. His hand
stole out and touched the grey dress.

Miss Stone started. They had waited a long time--but not for this. “Yes,
Alcie, once you saw me--go on--”

“--saw you--in a carriage,” finished Alcie, with quick smile. “You ride
straight--you--straight--now.” He looked at her with devoted eyes.

“Yes.” She was holding her breath, very evenly--and she did not look at
him, but at the distant river. They seemed held in a charm--a word might
break it.

The boy breathed a happy sigh--that bubbled forth. “I like it--here,” he
said dreamily.... Should she speak?

The long silence spread between them. The bird sang in the wood--a
clear, mid-summer call.

The boy listened, and turned his eyes. “A little girl--with you then,”
 he said softly, “in carriage. Where is little girl?” It was the first
question he had asked.

She swayed a little--in her grey softness--but she did not look at him,
but at the river. “You would like that little girl, Alcie,” she said
quietly. “We all love her. Some day you shall see her--only get well and
you shall see her.” It was a soft word, like a cry, and the boy looked
at her with curious eyes.

“I get well,” he said contentedly, “I see her.” He slipped a hand under
his cheek and lay quiet.


“Doing well,” said the surgeon, “couldn’t be better.” He had run down
for the day and was to go back in the cool evening.

He stood with Philip Harris on the terrace overlooking the river. Harris
threw away a stump of cigar. “You think he will make complete recovery?”

“No doubt of it,” said the surgeon promptly.

“Then--?” Philip Harris turned a quick eye on him.

But the man shook his head. “Wait,” he said--and again, slowly, “wait.”

The darkness closed around them, but they did not break it. A faint
questioning honk sounded, and Philip Harris turned. “The car is ready,”
 he said, “to take you back.”



XIX

A WOMAN IN THE GARDEN

“When it comes, it may come all at once,” the surgeon had said, “and
overwhelm him. Better lead up to it--if we can--let him recall it--a bit
here--a bit there--feel his way back--to the old place--to himself.”

“Where my child is,” said Philip Harris.

“Where your child is,” repeated the surgeon, “and that clue runs through
the frailest, intangiblest matter that fingers ever touched.” He had
looked down at his own thin, long, firm fingers as if doubting that they
could have held that thread for a moment and left it intact.

Philip Harris moved restively a little, and came back. “There has not
been a word for seven weeks,” he said, “not a breath--”

“They told you--?” said the surgeon.

“That they would wait three months! Yes!” Philip Harris puffed fiercely.
“It is hell!” he said.

“The boy is better,” said the surgeon. “You have only to wait a little
longer now.”

And he was whirred away in the great car--to the children that needed
him, and Idlewood had settled, in its charmed stillness, into the
night.... No one would have guessed that it was a state of siege
there--the world passed in and out of the big gates--automobiles and
drays and foot passengers, winding their way up to the low, rambling
house that wandered through the flowers toward the river and the wood.
Windows were open everywhere and voices sounded through the garden.

In one of the rooms, darkened to the light, the mistress of the house
lay with closed eyes. She could not bear the light, or the sound of
voices--listening always to hear a child’s laugh among them--the gay
little laugh that ran toward her in every room, and called.

She had shut herself away, and only Philip Harris came to the closed
room, bringing her news of the search, or sitting quietly by her in the
darkness. But for weeks there had been no news, no clue. The search
was baffled.... They had not told her of the Greek boy and the muttered
words.

“Better not trouble her,” the physician had urged. “She cannot bear
disappointment--if nothing comes of it.”

And no word filtered through to the dim room... and all the clues
withdrew in darkness.

Out in the garden Alcibiades and Miss Stone worked among the flowers. It
was part of the cure--that they should work there among growing things
every day--close to the earth--and his voice sounded happily as they
worked.

The woman in the closed room turned her head uneasily. She listened a
moment. Then she called.... Marie stood in the doorway.

“Who is _there_--Marie--in the garden?”

The maid stole to the window and peered through the shutters. She came
back to the bed. “It’s a boy,” she said, “a Greek boy--and Miss Stone.”

“Why is he here?” asked the woman, querulously.

The maid paused--discreet. She knew--everyone except the woman lying
with closed eyes--knew why the boy was here.... She bent and adjusted
the pillow, smoothing it. “He is someone Mr. Harris sent down,” she
said, “someone to get well.”

There was no reply. The woman lay quiet. “I want to get up, Marie,” she
said at last. “It is stifling here.”

“Yes, Madame.”

The windows were opened a little--the light came in slowly, and
Mrs. Philip Harris stepped at last into the loggia that led from her
windows--out toward the garden. Grapevines climbed the posts and tendril
shadows were on the ground beneath. They rested on the frail figure
moving under them toward the light.

Marie hovered near her, with pillows and a sunshade, and her face full
of care.

But the woman waved her back. “I do not need you, Marie. Here--I will
take the sunshade. Now, go back.” She moved on slowly. The voices had
died away. In the distance, she saw Miss Stone, moving toward the wood,
alone. She paused for a moment, watching the grey figure--a little cloud
passed across her face. She had not seen Miss Stone--since... she did
not blame her--but she could not see her. She moved on slowly, the
light from the sunshade touching the lines in her face and flushing them
softly. Suddenly she stopped. On a low couch, a little distance away, a
boy lay asleep. She came up to him softly and stood watching him. There
was something in the flushed face, in the childish, drooping lip and
tossed hair--that reminded her. Slowly she sank down beside him, hardly
breathing.

All about them, the summer went on--the quiet, gentle warmth and the
fresh scent of blossoms. The boy murmured a little, and threw out an
arm, and slept on. The woman’s eyes watched the sleeping face. Something
mysterious was in it--a look of other worlds. It was the look of
Betty--at night... when she lay asleep. It certainly was from some other
world. The woman bent forward a little. The dark eyes opened--and looked
at her--and smiled. The boy sat up. “I sleep,” he said.

He rubbed his eyes, boyishly, smiling still to her. “I very sleepy,” he
said. “I work.” He rubbed his arms. “I work hard.”

She questioned him and moved a little away, and he came and sat at her
feet, telling her of himself--with quiet slowness. As she questioned him
he told her all that he knew. And they chatted in the sunshine--subtly
drawn to each other--happy in something they could not have said.

The boy had grown refined by his illness--the sturdy hands that had
guided the push-cart had lost their roughened look and seemed the shape
of some old statue; and the head, poised on the round throat, was as if
some old museum had come to life and laughed in the sun. If Mrs. Philip
Harris had seen Alcibiades shoving his cart before him, along the
cobbled street, his head thrown back, his voice calling “Ban-an-nas!”
 as he went, she would not have given him a thought. But here, in her
garden, in the white clothes that he wore, and sitting at her feet, it
was as if the gates to another world had opened to them--and both looked
back together at his own life. The mystery in the boy’s eyes stirred
her--and the sound of his voice... there was something in it... beauty,
wonder--mystery. She drew a quick breath. “I think I will go in,” she
said, and the boy lifted himself to help her--and only left her, under
the loggia, with a quick, grateful flash of the dark smile.

Mrs. Philip Harris slept that night--the chloral, on the little table
beside her, untouched. And the next day found her in the garden.

All the household watched--with quickened hope. The mistress of the
house had taken up her life, and the old quick orders ran through the
house. And no one spoke of the child. It was as if she were asleep--in
some distant room--veiled in her cloud. But the house came back to its
life. Only, the social groups that had filled it every summer were not
there. But there was the Greek boy, in the garden, and Miss Stone, and
Philip Harris whirring out at night and sitting on the terrace in the
dusk, the light of his cigar glimmering a little, as he watched the
Greek boy flung on the ground at his feet, his eyes playing with the
stars. He knew them all by name under the skies of Greece. Achilles had
taught them to him; and he counted them, like a flock, as he lay on the
terrace--rolling out the great Greek names while they girdled the sky
above him in a kind of homely chant.

When the boy had gone to bed Philip Harris remained smoking thoughtfully
and looking still at the stars. He had had a long talk with the surgeon
to-day and he had given his consent. The boy was well, he admitted--as
well as he was likely to be--perhaps. Give him three more days--then, if
nothing happened, they might question him.

Philip Harris threw away his cigar--and its glimmering light went out in
the grass. Overhead the great stars still circled in space, travelling
on toward the new day.



XX

THE TEST IS MADE

“I will ask the questions,” Achilles had said, in his quiet voice, and
it had been arranged that he should come to Idlewood when the surgeon
gave the word.

He arrived the next night, stepping from the car as it drew up before
the door, and Alcibiades, standing among the flowers talking with Miss
Stone, saw him and started and came forward swiftly. He had not known
that his father was coming--he ran a little as he came nearer and threw
himself in his arms, laughing out.

Achilles smiled--a dark, wistful smile. “You are grown strong,” he said.
He held him off to look at him.

The boy’s teeth gleamed--a white line. “To-morrow we go home?” he
replied. “I am all well--father--well now!”

But Achilles shook his head. “To-morrow we stay,” he replied. “I stay
one day--two days--three--” He looked at the boy narrowly. “Then we go
home.”

The boy smiled contentedly and they moved away. Early the next morning
he was up before Achilles, calling to him from the garden to hurry and
see the flowers before the mist was off them, and showing him, with
eager teeth, his own radishes--ready to pull--and little lines of green
lettuce that sprang above the earth. “I plant,” said the boy proudly. “I
make grow.” He swung his arm over the whole garden.

Achilles watched him with gentle face, following him from bed to bed
and stooping to the plants with courteous gesture. It was all like home.
They had never been in a garden before--in this new land... the melons
and berries and plums and peaches and pears that came crated into the
little fruit-shop had grown in unknown fields--but here they stretched
in the sun; and the two Greeks moved toward them with laughing, gentle
words and quick gestures that flitted and stopped, and went on, and
gathered in the day. The new world was gathering its sky about them;
and their faces turned to meet it. And with every gesture of the boy,
Achilles’s eyes were on him, studying his face, its quick colour running
beneath the tan, and the clear light of his eyes. Indoors or out, he was
testing him; and with every gesture his heart sang. His boy was well...
and he held a key that should open the dark door that baffled them
all. When he spoke, that door would open for them--a little way,
perhaps--only a little way--but the rest would be clear. And soon the
boy would speak.

In the house Philip Harris waited; and with him the chief of police,
detectives and plain-clothes men--summoned hastily--waited what should
develop. They watched the boy and his father, from a distance, and
speculated and made guesses on what he would know; for weeks they had
been waiting on a sick boy’s whim--held back by the doctor’s orders.
They watched him moving across the garden--his quick, supple gestures,
his live face--the boy was well enough! They smoked innumerable cigars
and strolled out through the grounds and sat by the river, and threw
stones into its sluggish current, waiting while hours went by. Since the
ultimatum--a hundred thousand for three months--not a line had reached
them, no message over the whispering wires--the child might be in
the city, hidden in some safe corner; she might be in Europe, or in
Timbuctoo. There had been time enough to smuggle her away. Every port
had been watched, but there was the Canadian line stretching to the
north, and the men who were “on the deal” would stop at nothing. They
had been approached, tentatively, in the beginning, for a share of
profits; but they had scorned the overture. “Catch me--if you can!” the
voice laughed and rang off. The police were hot against them. Just one
clue--the merest clue--and they would run it to earth--like bloodhounds.
They chewed the ends of their cigars and waited... and in the garden
the boy and his father watched the clouds go by and talked of Athens and
gods and temples and sunny streets. Back through the past, carefree they
went--and at every turn the boy’s memory rang true. “Do you remember,
Alcie--the little house below the Temple of the Winds--” Achilles’s
eyes were on his face--and the boy’s face laughed--“Yes--father.
That house--” quick running words that tripped themselves--“where I
stole--figs--three little figs. You whipped me then!” The boy laughed
and turned on his side and watched the clouds and the talk ran on...
coming closer at last, across the great Sea, through New York and the
long hurrying train, into the grimy city--on the shore of the lake--the
boy’s eyes grew wistful. “I go home--with you--father--?” he said.
It was a quick question and his eyes flashed from the garden to his
father’s face.

“Do you what to go home, Alcie?” The face smiled at him. “Don’t you like
it here?” A gesture touched the garden.

“I like--yes. I go home--with you,” he said simply.

“You must stay till you are strong,” said the father, watching him. “You
were hurt, you know. It takes time to get strong.... You remember that
you were hurt?”

The words dropped slowly, one by one, and the day drowsed. The sun--warm
as Athens--shone down, waiting, while the boy turned slowly on his
side... his eyes had grown dark. “I try--remember” His voice was half a
whisper, “--but it runs--away!” The eyes seemed to be straining to see
something beyond them--through a veil.

Achilles’s hand passed before them and shut them off. “Don’t try, Alcie.
Never mind--it’s all right. Don’t mind!”

But the boy had thrown himself forward with a long cry, sobbing.
“I--want--to--see,” he said, “it--hurts--here.” His fingers touched
the faint line along his forehead. And Achilles bent and kissed it, and
soothed him, talking low words--till the boy sat up, a little laugh on
his lips--his grief forgotten.


So the detectives went back to the city--each with his expensive
cigar--cursing luck. And Achilles, after a day or two, followed them.
“He will be better without you,” said the surgeon. “You disturb his
mind. Let him have time to get quiet again. Give nature her chance.”

So Achilles returned to the city, unlocking the boy’s fingers from his.
“You must wait a little while,” he said gently. “Then I come for you.”
 And he left the boy in the garden, looking after the great machine that
bore him away--an unfathomable look in his dark, following eyes.



XXI

A CONNOISSEUR SPEAKS

The next day it rained. All day the rain dripped on the roof and ran
down the waterspouts, hurrying to the ground. In her own room the
mistress of the house sat watching the rain and the heavy sky and
drenched earth. The child was never for a minute out of her thoughts.
Her fancy pictured gruesome places, foul dens where the child sat--pale
and worn and listless. Did they tie her hands? Would they let her run
about a little--and play? But she could not play--a child could not
play in all the strangeness and sordidness. The mother had watched the
dripping rain too long. It seemed to be falling on coffins. She crept
back to the fire and held out her hands to a feeble blaze that
flickered up, and died out. Why did not Marie come back? It was three
o’clock--where was Marie? She looked about her and held out her hands to
the blaze and shivered--there was fire in her veins, and beside her
on the hearth the child seemed to crouch and shiver and reach out thin
hands to the warmth. Phil had said they would not hurt her! But what
could a man know? He did not know the sensitive child-nature that
trembled at a word. And she was with rough men--hideous women--longing
to come home--wondering why they did not come for her and take her
away... dear child! How cruel Phil was! She crouched nearer the fire,
her eyes devouring it--her thoughts crowding on the darkness. Those
terrible men had been silent seven weeks--more than seven--desperate
weeks... not a word out of the darkness--and she could not cry out to
them--perhaps they would not tap the wires again! The thought confronted
her and she sprang up and walked wildly, her pulses beating in her
temples.... She stopped by a table and looked down. A little vial lay
there, and the medicine dropper and wine glass--waiting. She turned her
head uneasily and moved away. She must save it for the night--for the
dark hours that never passed. But she must think of something! She
glanced about her, and rang the bell sharply, and waited.

“I want the Greek boy,” she said, “send him to me!”

“Yes, madame.” Marie’s voice hurried itself away... and Alcibiades stood
in the doorway, looking in.

The woman turned to him--a little comfort shining in the sleepless eyes.
“Come in,” she said, “I want to talk to you--tell me about Athens--the
sun shines there!” She glanced again at the hearth and shivered.

The boy came in, flashing a gleam through the dark day. The little
sadness of the night before had gone. He was alive and lithe and happy.
He came over to her, smiling... and she looked at him curiously. “What
have you been doing all day?” she asked.

“I play,” said Alcibiades, “I play--on flute--” His fingers made little
music gestures at his lips, and fell away. “And I--run--” he said, “I go
in rain--and run--and come in.” He shook his dark head. Little gleams of
moisture shone from it. The earth seemed to breathe about him.

She drew a quick breath. “You shall tell me,” she said, “but not here.”
 She glanced about the room filled with sickness and wild thoughts--not
even the boy’s presence dispelled them. “We will go away somewhere--to
the gallery,” she said quickly, “it is lighter there and I have not been
there--for weeks.” Her voice dropped a little.

The boy followed her through the hall, across a covered way, to the
gallery that held the gems--and the refuse--that Philip Harris had
gathered up from the world. She looked about her with a proud,
imperious gesture. She knew--better now than when the pictures were
purchased--which ones were good, and which were very bad; but she could
not interfere with the gallery. It was Philip’s own place in the house.
It had been his fancy--to buy pictures--when the money came pouring in
faster than they could spend it--and the gallery was his own private
venture--his gymnasium in culture! She smiled a little. Over there, a
great canvas had been taken down and carted off to make room for the
little Monticelli in its place. He was learning--yes! But she could not
bring guests to the gallery when they came to Idlewood for the day. If
he would only let a connoisseur go through the place and pick out
the best ones--the gallery was not so bad! She looked about her with
curious, tolerant smile.

The boy’s gaze followed hers. He had not been in this big room, with the
high-reaching skylight, and the vari-coloured pictures and grey
walls. His dark eyes went everywhere--and flashed smiles and brought
a touch-stone to the place. Eyes trained to the Acropolis were on the
pictures; and the temples of the gods spoke in swift words or laughed
out in quick surprise.

The mistress of the house followed him, with amused step. If Phil could
only hear it! She must manage somehow--Phil was too shrewd and practical
not to see how true the boy was--and how keen! That great Thing--over
the fireplace--Chicago on her throne, with the nations prostrate before
her--how the boy wondered and chuckled--and questioned her--and brought
the colour to her face!... Philip had stood before the picture by the
hour--entranced; the man who painted it had made a key to go with it,
and Philip Harris knew the meaning of every line and figure--and he
gloried and wallowed in it. “That is a picture with some sense in it!”
 was his proudest word, standing before it and waving his hand at the
vision on her throne. She was a lovely lady--a little like his wife,
Philip Harris thought. Perhaps the artist had not been unaware of this.
Certainly Mrs. Philip Harris knew it, and loathed the Thing. The boy’s
words were like music to her soul, under the skylight with the rain
dripping softly down. She had thought of covering the Thing up--a velvet
curtain, perhaps. But she had not quite dared yet.... Across the room
another picture was covered by a curtain--the velvet folds sweeping
straight in front of it, and covering it from top to bottom. Only the
rim of the gilt frame that reached to the ceiling, glimmered about the
blue folds of the curtain. The boy’s eyes had rested on the curtained
picture as they passed before it, but Mrs. Philip Harris had not turned
her head. She felt the boy’s eyes now--they had wandered to it again,
and he stood with half-parted lips, as if something behind the curtain
called to him. She touched him subtly and drew his attention--and he
followed her a minute... then his attention wandered and he gazed at
the deep folds in the curtain with troubled eyes. She hesitated a
moment--and her hand trembled. It was as if the curtain were calling
her, too, and she moved toward it, the boy beside her.... They did not
speak--they moved blindly and paused a breath... the rain falling on the
skylight. The boy flashed a smile to her. “I have not see it,” he said.

She reached out her hand then and drew back the curtain. “It is
Betty--my little girl--” she said, “she has gone away--” She was talking
aimlessly--to steady her hands. But the boy did not hear her--he had
stumbled a little--and his eyes were on the picture--searching the
roguish smile, the wide eyes, the straight, true little figure that
seemed stepping toward them--out from behind the curtain.... The
mother’s eyes feasted on it a moment hungrily and she turned to the boy.
But he did not see--his gaze was on the picture--and he took a step--and
looked--and drew his hand across his eyes with a little breath. Then he
reached out his hands, “--I--see--her,” he said swiftly. “She look at
me--on ground--she cry--” His face worked a minute--then it grew quiet
and he turned it toward her. “I see--her,” he repeated slowly.

She had seized his shoulder and was questioning him, forcing him toward
the picture, calling the words into his ear as if he were deaf, or far
away--and the boy responded slowly--truly, each word lighting up the
scene for her--the great car crashing upon him, the overthrow of his
cart, the scattered fruit on the ground, and the Greek boy crawling
toward it--thrust forward as the car pushed by--and his swift, upward
glance of the girl’s face as it flashed past, and of the men holding her
between them--“She cry,” he said--as if he saw the vision again before
him. “She cry--and they stop--hands.” He placed both hands across his
mouth, shutting out words and cry.

And the mother fondled him and cried to him and questioned him again.
_She_ had no fear--no knowledge of what might hang in the balance--of
the delicate grey matter that trembled at her strokes... no surgeon
would have dared question so sternly, so unsparingly. But the delicate
brain held itself steady and the boy’s eyes were turned to her--piecing
her broken words, answering them before they came--as if she drew them
forth at will--

The door opened and she looked up and sprang forward. “Listen, Phil.
He saw Betty!” Her hand trembled to the boy. “He _saw_ her--_that last
day_--it must be--tell him, Alcie--”

The boy was looking at him smiling quietly, and nodding to him.

Philip Harris closed the door with set face.



XXII

“WHAT DID YOU SEE?”

“What did you see--boy?” Philip Harris stood with his legs well apart,
looking at him.

The boy answered quickly, his quick gesture running to the picture above
them, and filling out his words. He had gathered the story of the child
as the mother had gathered his--and his voice trembled a little, but it
did not falter in the broken words.

Philip Harris glanced up. The rain on the skylight had ceased, but the
room was full of dusk. “There is not time,” he said, “to-night--You must
rest now, and have your dinner and go to bed. To-morrow there will be
men to question you. You must tell them what you have told us.”

“I tell them,” said the boy simply, “--what I see.”

So the boy slept quietly... and through the night, messages ran beneath
the ground, they leaped out and struck wires--and laughed. Men bent
their heads to listen... and spoke softly and hurried. Cars thrust
themselves forth, striking at the miles--their great bulk sliding on.
The world was awake--gathering itself... toward the boy.

In the morning they questioned him--they set down his answers with
quick, sharp jerks that asked for more. And the boy repeated faithfully
all that he had told; and the surgeon sitting beside him watched with
keen eyes--and smiled.... The boy would hold. He was sound. But they
must be careful... and after a little he sent him into the garden to
work--while the men compared notes and sent despatches and the story
travelled into the world, tallying itself against the face of every
rogue. But there were no faces that matched it--no faces such as the
boy had cherished with minute care... as if the features had been
stamped--one flashing stroke--upon his brain, and disappeared. There
could be no doubt of them--the description of the child was perfect--red
cherries, grey coat--and floating curls. He seemed to see the face
before him as he talked--and the face of the big man at her left, with
red moustache and sharp chin--and the smaller man beside her, who
had clapped his hand across her mouth and glared at the boy on the
ground--his eyes were black--yes, and he wore a cap--pulled down, and
collar up--you only saw the eyes--black as--The boy had looked about him
a minute, and pointed to the shoes of the chief of police gleaming
in the sunlight--patent leathers, and dress suit, hurried away from
a political banquet the night before. The men smiled and the pencils
raced.... There had been another man who drove the machine, but the boy
had not noticed him--his swift glance had taken in only the child, it
seemed, and the faces that framed her.

A little later they drove into the city--the boy accompanying them, and
the surgeon and Achilles, who had hurried out with the first news and
had listened to his son’s story with dark, silent eyes. He sat in the
car close to Alcibiades, one hand on the back of the seat, the other
on the boy’s hand. Through the long miles they did not speak. The boy
seemed resting in his father’s strength. It was only when they reached
the scene of his disaster that he roused himself and pointed with
quick finger--to the place where he had fallen.... He was pushing his
cart--so--and he looked up--quick--and his cart went--so!--and all his
fruit, and he was down--looking up--and the car went by, close.... Which
way?--He could not tell that--no.... He shut his eyes--his face grew
pale. He could not tell.

The street forked here--it might have been either way--by swerving
a little. And the police looked wise and took notes and reporters
photographed the spot and before night a crowd had gathered about
it, peering hopefully at the pavement where Alcibiades had lain,
and pointing with eager fingers to bits of peel--orange and
banana--scattered by the last passer-by, and gazing at dark stains on
the pavement--something that might be marks of blood--after ten weeks of
rain and mud and dust!


Achilles and the boy returned to the shop. “I want to go home,” the boy
had said, as the car turned away, “I--go--home--with you, father.” So
they had drawn up at the little fruit shop; and Yaxis in the door, his
teeth gleaming, had darted out to meet them, hovering about them and
helping his brother up the stairs and out to the verandah that ran
across the windows at the rear. Down below, in tin-can backyards of the
neighbours, old bottles and piles of broken lumber filled the place;
but along the edge of the verandah, boxes of earth had been set, and the
vines ran to the top, shutting out the glare of the brick walls opposite
and making a cool spot in the blank heat.

Alcibiades looked at the vines with happy eyes. “They grow,” he said
softly.

Yaxis nodded and produced a pot of forget-me-nots. He had been tending
them for three weeks--for Alcie. They bent over the pot, blue with
blossoms, talking eager words and little gestures and quick laughs. And
Achilles, coming out, smiled at the two heads bending above the plant.
Yaxis had been lonely--but now the little laughs seemed to stir softly
in the close rooms and wake something happy there.



XXIII

ACHILLES HAS A PLAN

The next day, life in the little shop went on as if there had been no
break. With the early light, Yaxis was off, to the south, pushing his
tip-cart before him and calling aloud--bananas and fruit and the joy of
Alcibiades’s return, in his clear, high voice.... In the shop, Achilles
arranged the fruit--great piles of oranges, and grape fruit and
figs--and swung the heavy bunches of bananas to their hooks outside,
and opened crates and boxes and made ready for the day. By and by, when
trade slackened a little, he would slip away and leave Alcibiades in
charge of the shop. His mind was busy as he worked. He had something
to do that would take him away from the shop--every day for a while, it
might be--but the shop would not suffer. Alcibiades was strong--not well
enough, perhaps, to go out with the new push-cart that had replaced the
old one, and waited outside, but strong enough to make change and fill
up the holes in the piles of oranges as they diminished under the swift
rush of trade.

Achilles’s eyes rested on him fondly. It had been lonely in the
shop--but now the long days of waiting were repaid... they had their
clue. Even now the detectives might have followed it up. The little lady
would be found. He hurried over the last things--his heart singing--and
called the boy to him.

“I go away,” he said, looking at him kindly. “You stay in shop--till I
come.”

“Yes, father.” The boy’s eyes were happy. It was good to be in the
close, dark, home place with its fruity smell and the striped awning
outside. “I do all right!” he said gaily.

The father nodded. “To-morrow you go with push-cart--little way--every
day little way--” He waited a moment while the boy’s face took in
the words--he spoke with slow significance--“Some day you see--those
men--then you run--like devil!” he said quickly, “you tell me!”

The boy’s teeth made a quick line of light and his face flashed. “I
tell--quick!” he said, “I know those men!”

He left the shop and was lost in the crowd. He was going first to the
city hall for news--then he would seek Philip Harris. The plan that he
was shaping in his mind needed help.

But at the city hall there was no news. The chief of police seemed even
a little irritated at the sight of the dark face and the slim, straight
figure that stood before him. He eyed it a moment, almost hostilely;
then he remembered Philip Harris’s command and told the man what steps
had been taken and the reports that had come in thus far through the
day. The Greek listened without comment, his dark face smouldering a
little over its quick fire. “You find nothing?” he said quietly.

“Not a damn thing!” answered the chief.

“I go try,” said Achilles.

The man looked at him. Then he laughed out. The door opened. It was the
detective in charge of the case. He glanced at Achilles and went over
to the chief and said something. But the chief shook his head and they
looked carelessly at Achilles, while the chief drummed on the desk.
Achilles waited with slow, respectful gaze.

The detective came across to him. “No news,” he said.

Achilles’s face held its steady light. “I think we find her,” he said.

The inspector did not laugh. He studied the man’s face slowly, whistling
a little between his teeth. “What’s your plan?” he said.

Achilles shook his head. “When I see those men--I go follow.”

The detective smiled--a little line of smile... that did not scorn him.
“When you see them--yes!” he said softly.

The chief of police, listening with half an ear, laughed out. “Catch
your hare, Alexander!” He said it with superior ease.

Achilles looked at him. “I catch hair?” he asked with polite interest.

The chief nodded. “You catch your hare before you cook it, you know.”

Achilles ran a slim, thoughtful hand along his dark locks and shook them
slowly. The conversation had passed beyond him.

The detective smiled a little. “Never mind him, Alexander. Anything that
you find--you bring to me--right off.” He clinked a little money in his
pocket and looked at him.

But Achilles’s gaze had no returning gleam. “When I find her,” he said,
“I tell you--I tell everybody.” His face had lightened now.

The detective laughed. “All right, Alexander! You’re game, all right!”

Achilles looked at him with puzzled eyes. “I go now,” he said. He moved
away with the smooth, unhurried rhythm that bore him swiftly along.

The eyes of the two men followed him. “You’re welcome to him!” said the
chief carelessly.

“I don’t feel so sure,” said the other--“He may do it yet--right under
our noses. I’ve done it myself--you know.”

The chief looked at him curiously.

“_I_ used to do it--time and again,” said the man, thoughtfully. “_I_
couldn’t ‘a’ told you--_how_. I’d study on a case--and study--and give
it up--and then, all of a sudden--pop!--and there it was--in my head.
I couldn’t have told how it got there, but it worked all right!” He
lighted a cigar and threw the match from him, puffing slowly. “I’d do
it now--if I could.” He was lost in thought. “There’s something in
his eyes--that Greek. I’d like to be inside that black skull of his a
minute.” He sauntered across the room and went out.

The eyes of the chief of police looked after him vaguely. He drew a
column of figures toward him and began to add it--starting at the bottom
and travelling slowly up. He was computing his revenues for the coming
year.



XXIV

IT FLOATS A LITTLE

Achilles found Philip Harris at luncheon, and waited for him to come
back, and laid his plan before him.

The millionaire listened, and nodded once or twice, and took up the
receiver and gave an order. “He’ll be at your place every day,” he said
to Achilles as he hung it up. “You tell him what you want--and let me
know if there’s anything else--money--?” He looked at him.

But Achilles shook his head. “I got money,” he said quickly. “I get
money--six--seven dollar--every day. I do good business!”

The millionaire smiled, a little bitterly. “I do good business, too; but
it doesn’t seem to count much. Well--let me know--” He held out his hand
and Achilles took it and hesitated and looked at the seamed red face
that waited for him to go--then he went quietly out.

He would have liked to speak swift words of hope--they rode high in his
heart--but something in the face put him off and he went out into the
sunshine and walked fast. He looked far ahead as he went, smiling softly
at his dream. And now and then a man passed him--and looked back and
smiled too--a shrew, tolerant, grown-up smile.


At ten o’clock the next morning Philip Harris’s big touring car drew
up in front of the striped awning; it gave a little plaintive honk--and
stood still. Achilles came to the door with swift look. He turned back
to the shop. “I go,” he said to Alcibiades, and stepped across the
pavement, and was off.

At two o’clock he returned to the shop, his face covered with big beads
of perspiration, his hat gone and his eyes shining--and, without a word,
he went about the shop with his wonted air of swift-moving silence.
But the next day he was off again, and the next; and Alcibiades grew
accustomed to the long car slipping up and the straight, slim figure
sliding into it and taking its place and disappearing down the street.

Where Achilles went on these excursions, or what he did, no one knew.
Promptly at two each day he returned--always dishevelled and alert, but
wearing a look of triumph that sat strangely on the quiet Greek reserve.
It could not be said that Achilles strutted as he walked, but he had an
air of confidence, as if he were seeing things--things far ahead--that
were coming to him on the long road.

The boys could not make him out... and their loyalty would not let them
question him. But one day Yaxis, resting on the parapet that overlooked
the lake, his cart drawn a little to one side, his hat off and his face
taking in the breeze, saw a strange sight. It was a wide roadway, and
free of traffic, and Yaxis had turned his head and looked up and down
its length. In the distance a car was coming--it was not speeding.
It seemed coming on with little foolish movements--halting jerks and
impatient honks.... Yaxis’s eye rested on it bewildered--then it broke
to a smile. Father was driving! The chauffeur, beside him, with folded
arms and set face had washed his hands of all responsibility--and the
face of the Greek was shining. The great machine swerved and balked and
ran a little way and stopped--Yaxis laughed softly. The chauffeur bent
over with a word, and the thing shot off, Achilles with intent back,
holding fast by both hands his face set and shining ahead. Up and down
the roadway, the thing zigzagged--back and forth--spitting a little and
fizzing behind. Like a great beast it snarled and snorted and stood
out and waited the lash--and came to terms, gliding at last, by a touch
along the smooth road--the face of Achilles transfigured in a dream....
The Acropolis floated behind him in the haze. The wings of the morning
waited his coming and his hands gripped hard on the wheel of the world.
Yaxis watched the car as it flashed and floated in the sun and was
gone--down the roadway--around the distant corner--out of sight, with
its faint triumphant “honk-honk-honk!” trailing behind.

With a deep smile on his face Yaxis wheeled his cart into the roadway
and pushed briskly toward home, his mind filled with the vision of his
father and the flying car.

The next day coming down the steps of a house and counting slow change,
he looked up with a swift glance--something had passed him; for a moment
he had only a glimpse--something familiar--a kind of home sense--then
the figure of Achilles flashed out--the car shot round a corner. He sped
to the corner and looked down the long road--no one--only two rows
of poplars with their silvery, stirring leaves, and not a soul in
sight--and respectable houses on either side watching, as if nothing
had happened, or ever would. Yaxis returned to his cart, wiping the fine
moisture from his forehead. Every day now, his glance travelled about
him as he pushed his cart along the quieter streets where his route lay.
And often at the end of long vistas, or down a side street, he caught a
glimpse of the shooting car and the dark, erect figure poised forward on
its seat, looking far ahead.

At home, in the dusky interior, Achilles moved with sedate step, his
hair combed, his slim hands busy with the smooth fruit. Yaxis, in the
doorway, looked at him with curious, wistful eyes.

Achilles glanced up and nodded, and the little smile on his dark face
grew. He came forward. “You had good day?” he said.

“Yes, father....” The boy hesitated a moment, and dug his toes--and
flung out his hands in quick gesture. “I see you!” he said. “You go in
massheen!”

Achilles’s glance flashed and grew to a deep, still smile. “You see
that machine? You see me drive him? _I_ make that machine go!” His chest
expanded and he moved a few free steps and paused.

The boy’s eyes rested on him proudly. Around them--out in the grimy
street--the world hurried and scuffled and honked; and in the little
back shop the father and the boy faced each other, a strange, new, proud
joy around them. “I drive that machine,” said Achilles softly.



XXV

AND STARTS OFF

Achilles came to the door of the shop and looked out. A car had driven
up to the sidewalk--a rough, racing machine with open sides and big
wheels--and the driver, a big man in a white cap and rough linen suit,
was beckoning to him with his hand. Achilles stepped across the walk,
and stood by the machine with quiet, waiting face.

The man looked him over, a little as if he owned him--“I want some
fruit,” he said quickly, “--oranges--grapes--anything--?” His glance
ran to the fruit on the stall. “Get me something quick--and don’t be all
day--” His hand was fumbling for change.

“I get you best oranges,” said Achilles. He snapped open a paper bag and
turned to the heaped-up fruit. Then his eye paused--a boy was breaking
through the crowd--hatless, breathless--and calling him with swift
gesture.

Achilles sprang forward. “What is it, Alcie?” His eye was searching the
crowd, and his hand dropped to the boy’s shoulder.

“There they are!” gasped the boy. “_There!_”

Achilles’s eye gleamed--down the street, a little way off, a car was
wheeling out from the curb--gathering speed.

Achilles’s eyes flashed on it... and swept the crowd--and came back.

The man in the white cap by the curb was swearing softly. He leaped
with two steps, from the panting car to the stall and began gathering
up oranges. “Here--” he said. Then he wheeled--and saw the Greek
fruit-dealer flashing off in a car--_his_ car. “Here--you!” he shouted.

But Achilles gave no heed--and the boy, urging him on from behind,
turned with swift smile--“He take your car--” he said, “he need that
car!”

But the white-capped man pounced upon him and shook him by the
shoulder--watching his car that was threading fast in the crowded
traffic. He dropped the boy, and his hand reached up, signalling wildly
for police--a city service car sprang from the ground, it seemed. The
white-capped man leaped in and they were off--honking the crowd... heavy
drays moved from before them with slow, eternal wheel--the white cap
swore softly and leaned forward and urged... and the dark, Greek head
bobbed far ahead--along in the crowd--the big, grey racer gathering
speed beneath. Achilles was not thinking of the pursuit, yelling behind
him--he had no thoughts--only two eyes that held a car far in the
distance, and two hands that gripped the wheel and drove hard, and
prayed grimly. If his eye lost that car! It was turning now--far ahead
and his eye marked the place and held it--fixed. His car jolted and
bumped. Men swore and made way before him, and noted the hatless head,
and looked behind--and saw the police car--and yelled aloud. But no one
saw him in time, and he was not stopped. He had reached the corner where
the car disappeared from sight, and he leaned forward, with careful
turn, peering around the corner. They were there--yes! He drove
faster--and the great, ugly car lifted itself and flung forward and
settled to long sliding gait. The car ahead turned again in the whirling
traffic--and turned again. But Achilles’s eye did not lose its track...
and they were out in the open at last--the plain stretching before
them--no turn to left or right--and the machine Achilles drove had no
equal in the country. But Achilles did not know his machine. Good or
bad, it must serve him and keep his men in sight--but not too near--not
to frighten them! They had turned now and were glancing back and
they spoke quickly. Then they looked again--at the flying and hatless
head--and saw suddenly, on behind it, the service car leap softly around
the corner into the white road. They looked again--and laughed. They
turned and dropped the matter. “Some damn fool with a stolen car.”



XXVI

AND RACES FOR THE CLUE

Under the great bowl of sky, in the midst of the plain, the three cars
held their level way--three little racing dots in the big, clear place.
They kept an even course, swaying to the race on level wings that swept
the ground and rose to the low swale and passed beyond. Only the long
free line of dust marked their flight under the sun.

The men at the front, in the car ahead, did not look back again. They
had lost interest in the race pressing behind--most anxiously, they had
lost interest in it. They wished, with a fervent wish, that the two cars
driving behind them should pass them in a swirl of dust--and pass on out
of sight--toward the far horizon line that stretched the west. They were
only two market gardeners returning from business in the city. If they
drove a good car, it was to save time going and coming--not to race with
escaping fugitives and excited police. They had no wish to race with
excited police--fervently they had no wish for it--and they slackened
speed a little, drawing freer breath. Let the fellow pass them--and his
police with him--before they reached a little, white, peaceful house
that stood ahead on the plain. They did not look behind at justice
pursuing its prey... they had lost all interest in justice and in the
race. Presently, when justice should pass them, on full-spreading wing,
they would look up with casual glance, and note its flight over the far
line--out of sight in the distant west. But now they did not know of its
existence.

And Achilles, pressing fast, had a quick, clear sense of
mystery--something that brooded ahead--on the shining plain and the
little, white house and the car before him slackening speed. _Why_
should it slow down?--what was up? Cautiously he held his car, slowing
its waving gleam to the pace ahead and darting a swift glance behind,
over his shoulder, at the great service car that leaped and gained on
him lap by lap. It would overtake him soon--and he _must_ not pass the
car ahead--not till he saw what they were up to. Would they pass that
little white house--on the plain--or would they turn in there? The
wind hummed in his ears--his hair flew--and his hand held tense to
the wheel--slowing it cautiously, inch by inch--slackening a
little--slackening again with quick-flung, flashing glance behind--and a
watchful eye on the road ahead... and on the little white house drawing
near on the plain. It was a race now between his quick mind and that
car ahead and the little white house. He must not overtake them till the
little house was reached. The car behind must not touch him--not till
the house came up. There was a wood ahead, in the distance--his mind
flew and circled the wood--and came back. They had reached the little
house asleep in the sun. They were passing it, neck and neck, and the
car beside him swerved a little and slackened speed--and dived in at the
white gate. Achilles shot past--the free road ahead. The machine under
him gathered speed and opened out and laughed and leaped to the road and
lay down in the thick dust, spreading itself ahead. He could gain the
wood. He should escape--and the clue was fast.

Behind him, the service car thundered by the little house asleep. But
the police did not glance that way--nor did the big, white-capped man
glance that way. _His_ eyes were fixed on the racer ahead--dwindling to
a speck in its cloud of dust. He pushed up his visor and laughed aloud.
“Give it up!” he said genially, “give it up!--you can’t catch _that_
car!--I know my own car, I guess!” He laughed again. “We shall find it
somewhere along the road--when he is through with it!”

But the face beside him, turning in the clouding dust, had a keen look
and the car kept its unbroken speed, and the plain flashed by. “He’s in
too big a hurry--” said the driver sternly. “I want a look at that man!
He knows too much.”


Too much! The heart of Achilles sang again--all the heart of him woke
up and laughed to the miles. He had found his clue--he had passed the
little hundred-thousand-dollar house, and the police in their big,
bungling dust had passed it, too. Nobody knew--but him... and he should
escape--over the long road... with the big machine, under him, pounding
away.



XXVII

THE LITTLE WHITE HOUSE

In an angle of the wood the dust-covered policeman and the white-capped
man came upon the racer, turned a little from the road, and waiting
their arrival. It had a stolid, helpless look--with its nose buried deep
in underbrush and the hind wheels tilted a little in air. Once might
almost fancy it gave a little, subdued hiccough, as they approached.

The white-capped man bent above it and ran a quick hand along the side,
and leaped to the vacant seat. The beast beneath gave a little snort
and withdrew its nose and pranced playfully at the underbrush and backed
away, feeling for firm ground behind. The man at the wheel pressed hard,
leaning--with quick jerk--and wheels gripped ground and trundled in the
road. It stopped beside the service car and the two men gazed doubtfully
at the wood. Dusty leaves trembled at them in the light air, and
beckoned to them--little twigs laced across and shut them out. Anywhere
in the dark coolness of the wood, the Greek lurked, hiding away. They
could not trace him--and the wood reached far into the dusk. He was
undoubtedly armed. Only a desperate man would have made a dash like
that--for life. Better go back to town for reinforcements and send the
word of his escape along the line. He would not get far--on foot! They
gave another glance at the wood and loosed their cars to the road,
gliding smoothly off. The wood behind them, under its cover of dust,
gave no sign of watching eyes; and the sun, travelling toward the west,
cast their long, clean shadows ahead as they went. In the low light, the
little, white house in the distance had a rosy, moody look. As they drew
nearer, little pink details flashed out. An old man behind the picket
fence looked up, and straightened himself, and gazed--under a shading
hand. Then he came along the driveway and stood in the white gate,
waiting their approach. He had a red, guileless face and white hair. The
face held a look of childish interest as they drew up. “You got him?” he
asked.

The service man shook his head, jerking his thumb at the racer that came
behind. “Got the car,” he said. “He got off--took to the woods.”

“That so?” The old man came out to the road and looked with curious eyes
at the big racing-machine coming up. “What’d he do?” he asked.

“He stole my machine,” said the white-capped man quickly. He was holding
the wheel with a careful touch.

The old man looked at him with shrewd, smiling eyes--chewing at some
invisible cud. The service man nodded to him, “There’ll be a reward out
for him, Jimmie--keep a watch out. You may have a chance at it. He’s
hiding somewhere over there.” He motioned toward the distant wood.

The old man turned a slow eye toward the west. “I don’t own no
telescope,” he said quaintly. He shifted the cud a little, and gazed at
the plain around them--far as the eye could see, it stretched on every
side. Only the little, white house stood comfortably in its midst--open
to the eye of heaven. It was a rambling, one story and a half house,
with no windows above the ground floor--except at the rear, where one
window, under a small peak, faced the north. Beyond the house, in that
direction, lay lines of market garden--and beyond the garden the wide
plain. Two men, at work in the garden, hoed with long, easy strokes that
lengthened in the slanting light. The service man looked at them with
casual eye. “Got good help this year?” he asked.

The old man faced about, and his eye regarded them mildly. “Putty good,”
 he said, “they’re my sister’s boys. She died this last year--along in
April--and they come on to help. Yes, they work putty good.”

“They drove in ahead of us, didn’t they?” asked the service man, with
sudden thought.

The old man smiled drily. “Didn’t know’s you see ‘em. You were so
occupied. Yes--they’d been in to sell the early potatoes. I’ve got a
putty good crop this year--early potatoes. They went in to make a price
on ‘em. We’ll get seventy-five if we take ‘em in to-morrow--and they
asked what to do--and I told ‘em they better dig.” He chuckled slowly.

The service man smiled. “You keep ‘em moving, don’t you, Jimmie!” He
glanced at the house. “Any trade? Got a license this year?”

The old man shook his head. “Bone dry,” he said, chewing slowly. “Them
cars knocked _me_ out!” He came and stood by the racer, running his hand
along it with childish touch.

The service man watched him with detached smile. The old man’s silly
shrewdness amused him. He suspected him of a cask or two in the cellar.
In the days of bicycles the old man had driven a lively trade; but with
the long-reaching cars, his business dribbled away, and he had slipped
back from whiskey to potatoes. He was a little disgruntled at events,
and would talk socialism by the hour to anyone who would listen. But
he was a harmless old soul. The service man glanced at the sun. It had
dipped suddenly, and the plain grew dusky black. The distant figures
hoeing against the plain were lost to sight. “Hallo!” said the service
man quickly, “we must get on--” He looked again, shrewdly, toward the
old man in the dusk. “You couldn’t find a drop of anything, handy--to
give away--Jimmie?” he suggested.

The old man tottered a slow smile at him and moved toward the house.
He came back with a long-necked bottle grasped tight, and a couple of
glasses that he filled in the dimness.

The service man held up his glass with quick gesture--“Here’s to you,
Jimmie!” he said, throwing back his head. “May you live long, and
prosper!” He gulped it down.

The old man’s toothless smile received the empty glasses; and when the
two machines had trundled away in the dimness, it stood looking after
them--the deep smile of guileless, crafty old age--that suffers and
waits--and clutches its morsel at last and fastens on it--without joy,
and without shame.



XXVIII

INSIDE THE LITTLE HOUSE

The two figures amid the rows of the marked garden paused, in the
enveloping dusk, and leaned on their hoes, and listened--a low, peevish
whistle, like the call of a night-jar, on the plain, came to them.
Presently the call repeated itself--three wavering notes--and they
shouldered their hoes and moved toward the little house.

The old man emerged from the gloom, coming toward them. “What was it?”
 asked one of the figures quickly.

The old man chuckled. “Stole a racer--that’s about all _they_
knew--_you_ got off easy!” He was peering toward them.

The larger of the two figures straightened itself. “I am sick of it--I
tell you!--my back’s broke!” He moved himself in the dusk, stretching
out his great arms and looking about him vaguely.

The old man eyed him shrewdly. “You’re earning a good pile,” he said.

“Yes, one-seventy-five a day!” The man laughed a little.

The other man had not spoken. He slipped forward through the dusk.
“Supper ready?” he asked.

They followed him into the house, stopping in an entry to wash their
hands and remove their heavy shoes. Through the door opening to a room
beyond, a woman could be seen, moving briskly, and the smell of cooking
floated out. They sniffed at it hungrily.

The woman came to the door. “Hurry up, boys--everything’s done to
death!”

They came in hastily, with half-dried hands, and she looked at them--a
laugh in her round, keen face. “You _have_ had a day!” she said. She
was tall and angular, and her face had a sudden roundness--a kind of
motherly, Dutch doll, set on its high, lean frame. Her body moved in
soft jerks.

She heaped up the plates with quick hands, and watched the men while
they ate. For a time no one spoke. The old man went to the cellar and
brought up a great mug of beer, and they filled their pipes and sat
smoking and sipping the beer stolidly. The windows were open to the
air and the shades were up. Any one passing on the long road, over the
plain, might look in on them. The woman toasted a piece of bread and
moistened it with a little milk and put it, with a glass of milk, on a
small tray. The men’s eyes followed her, indifferent. They watched
her lift the tray and carry it to a door at the back of the room, and
disappear.

They smoked on in silence.

The old man reached out for his glass. He lifted it. “Two weeks--and
three more days,” he said. He sipped the beer slowly.

The larger of the two men nodded. He had dark, regular features and
reddish hair. He looked heavy and tired. He opened his lips vaguely.

“Don’t talk here!” said the younger man sharply--and he gave a quick
glance at the room--as a weasel returns to cover, in a narrow place.

The big man smiled. “I wa’n’t going to say anything.”

“Better not!” said the other. He cleared his pipe with his little
finger. “_I_ don’t even think,” he added softly.

The woman had come back with the tray and the men looked up, smoking.

She set the tray down by the sink and came over to them, standing with
both hands on her high hips. She regarded them gravely and glanced at
the tray. The milk and toast were untouched.

The old man removed his pipe and looked at her plaintively. “Can’t ye
_make_ her, Lena?” he said. His high voice had a shrill note.

She shook her head. “_I_ can’t do anything--not anything more.”

She moved away and began to gather up the dishes from the table,
clearing it with swift jerks. She paused a moment and leaned over--the
platter in her hand half-lifted from its place. “She needs the air,” she
said, “and to run about--she’s sick--shut up like that!” She lifted
the platter and carried it to the sink, a troubled look in her eyes. “I
won’t be responsible for her--not much longer,” she said slowly, as she
set it down, “not if she doesn’t get down in the air.”

The men looked at each other in silence. The old man got up. “Time to go
to bed--” he said slowly.

They filed out of the room. The woman’s eyes followed them. Presently
the door opened and the younger man returned, with soft, quick steps. He
looked at her. “I want to talk,” he said.

“In a minute,” she replied. She nodded toward the cellar. “The lantern’s
down there--you go along.”

He opened the door and stepped cautiously into blackness, and she heard
a quick, scratching match on the plaster behind the closed door, and his
feet descending the stairs.

She drew forward the kettle on the stove and replenished the fire, and
blew out the hand lamp on the table. Then she groped her way to the
cellar door, opening it with noiseless touch.

The young man waited below, impatient. On a huge barrel near by, the
lantern cast a yellow circle on the blackness.

The woman approached it, her high-stepping figure flung in shadowy
movement along the wall behind her.

“You can’t back out _now_!” He spoke quickly. “You’re weakening! And
you’ve got to brace up--do you hear?”

The woman’s round face smiled--over the light on the barrel. “_I’m_ all
right,” she said. She hesitated a minute.... “It’s the child that’s
not all right,” she added slowly. “And tonight I got scared--yes--” She
waited a breath.

“What’s the matter?” he said roughly.

She waited again. “She wasn’t like flesh and blood to-night,” she said
slowly. “I felt as if a breath would blow her out--” She drew her hand
quickly across her eyes. “I’ve got fond of the little thing, John--I
can’t seem to have her hurt!”

“Who’s hurting her?” said the man sharply. “_You_ take care of her--and
she’s all right.”

“I can’t, John. She needs the outdoors. She’s like a little bird up
there--shut up!”

“Then let her out--” said the man savagely. “Let her out--up there!” His
lifted hand pointed to the plain about them--in open scorn. He leaned
forward and spoke more persuasively, close to her ear--“We can’t back
out now--” he said, “_the child knows too much_!” He gave the barrel
beside them a significant tap. “We couldn’t use _this_ plant again--six
years--digging it--and waiting and starving!” He struck the barrel
sharply. “I tell you we’ve _got_ to put it through! You keep her out of
sight!”

“Her own mother wouldn’t know her--” said the woman slowly.

He met the look--and waited.

“I tell you, I’ve done everything,” she said with quick passion. “I’ve
fed her and amused her and told her stories--I don’t _dare_ keep her any
longer!” She touched the barrel beside them--“I tell you, you might as
well put her under that.... You’ll put her under for good--if you don’t
look out!” she said significantly.

“All right,” said the man sullenly, “what do you want?”

She was smiling again--the round, keen smile, on its high frame. “Let
her breathe a bit--like a child--and run out in the sun. The sun will
cure her!” she added quickly.

“All right--if you take the risk--a hundred-thousand-dollars--and your
own daughter thrown to the devil--if we lose--!... You know _that_!”

“I know that, John--I want the money--more than you want it!” She spoke
with quick, fierce loyalty. “I’d give my life for Mollie--or to keep
her straight--but I can’t kill a child to keep her straight--not _this_
child--to keep her straight!” Her queer, round face worked, against the
yellow light.

He looked at it, half contemptuously, and turned to the barrel.

“See if everything’s all right,” he said. “If we’re going to take
risks--we’ve got to be ready.”

The woman lifted the lantern, and he pushed against the barrel. It
yielded to his weight--the upper part turning slowly on a pivot.
Something inside swashed against the sides as it turned. The man bent
over the hole and peered in. He stepped down cautiously, feeling with
his foot and disappearing, inch by inch, into the opening. The woman
held the light above him, looking down with quick, tense eyes... a hand
reached up to her, out of the hole, beckoning for the lantern and she
knelt down, guiding it toward the waving fingers. A sound of something
creaking--a hinge half turned--caught her breath--and she leaned
forward, blowing at the lantern. She got quickly to her feet and groped
for the swinging barrel, turning it swiftly over the hole--the liquid
chugged softly against its side--and stopped. Her breath listened up
into the darkness. The door above creaked again softly--and a shuffling
foot groped at the stair. “You down there--Lena?” called an old voice.

She laughed out softly, moving toward the stair. “Go to bed, father.”

“What you doing down there?” asked the old voice in the darkness.

“Testing the barrel,” said the woman. “John’s gone down.” She came to
the foot of the stair. “You go to bed, father--”

“_You_ better come to bed--all of ye,” grumbled the old man.

“We’re coming--in a minute.” She heard his hand fumble at the door--and
it creaked again--softly--and closed.

She groped her way back to the barrel, waiting beside it in the
darkness.



XXIX

UPSTAIRS

When the man’s head reappeared, he came up briskly.

“All right?” she asked.

“All right,” he responded.

“Did you test the other end?”

“Right enough--” said the man. “Safe as a church! The water barrel in
the garden stuck a little--but I eased it up--” He looked back into the
hole, as he stepped out. “Too bad we had to take _her_ down,” he said
regretfully.

“The police _might_ ‘a’ stopped,” said the woman. “You couldn’t tell.”

They swung the barrel in place, and blew out the lantern, and the man
ascended the stair. After a few minutes the woman came up. The kitchen
was empty. The fire burning briskly cast a line of light beneath the
hearth, and on the top of the stove the kettle hummed quietly. She
lighted a lamp and lifted the kettle, filling her dishpan with soft
steam.... Any one peering in at the open window would have seen only a
tall woman, with high shoulders, bending above her cloud of steam and
washing dishes, with a quiet, round face absorbed in thought.

When she had finished at the sink and tidied the room, she took the lamp
and went into the small hall at the rear, and mounted the steep stairs.
At the top she paused and fitted a key and entered a low room. She put
down the lamp and crossed to the door on the other side--and listened.
The sound of low breathing came lightly to her, and her face relaxed.
She came back to the bureau, looking down thoughtfully at the coarse
towel that covered it, and the brush and comb and tray of matches. There
was nothing else on the bureau. But on a little bracket at the side the
picture of a young girl, with loose, full lips and bright eyes, looked
out from a great halo of pompadour--with the half-wistful look of youth.
The mother’s eyes returned to the picture and her keen face softened....
She must save Mollie--and the child in the next room--she must save
them both.... She listened to the child again, breathing beyond the
open door. She looked again at the picture, with hungry eyes. Her own
child--her Mollie--had never had a chance--she had loved gay things--and
there was no money--always hard work and wet feet and rough, pushing
cars.... No wonder she had gone wrong! But she would come back
now. There would be money enough--and they would go away--together.
Twenty-five thousand dollars. She looked long at the pitiful, weak,
pictured face and blew out the light and crept into bed.... And in the
next room the child’s even breathing came and went... and, at intervals,
across it in the darkness, another sound--the woman’s quick, indrawn
breath that could not rest.



XXX

ASLEEP

In the morning the woman was up with the first light. And as the men
came grumbling in to breakfast, the round face wore its placid smile.
They joked her and ate hastily and departed for the open field. It was
part of a steady policy--to be always in the open, busy, hard-working
men who could not afford to lose an hour. The excursion had been a
quick, restless revolt--against weeks of weeding and planting and
digging.... But they had had their lesson. They were not likely to stir
from their strip of market garden on the plain--not till the time was
up.

As the woman went about her work, she listened, and stopped and went to
the door--for some sound from upstairs. Presently she went up and opened
the door... and looked in.

The child lay with one hand thrown above her head--a drawn look in
the softly arched brow and half-parted lips. The woman bent over her,
listening--and placed her hand on the small wrist and counted--waiting.
The eyes flashed open--and looked at her. “I thought you were Nono,”
 said the child. A wistful look filled her face and her lip quivered a
little--out of it--and steadied itself. “You are Mrs. Seabury,” she said
quietly.

“Yes,” said the woman cheerfully. “Time to get up, dearie.” She turned
away and busied herself with the clothes hanging from their hooks.

The child’s eyes followed her--dully. “I don’t think I care to get up,”
 she said at last.

The woman brought the clothes and placed them by the bed, and smiled
down at her. “There’s something nice to-day,” she said casually. “We’re
going outdoors to-day--”

“_Can_ I?” said the child. She flashed a smile and sat up. “Can _I_
go out-of-doors?” It was a little cry of waiting--and the woman’s hand
dashed across her eyes--at the keenness of it. Then she smiled--the
round, assuring smile, and held up the clothes. “You hurry up and dress
and eat your breakfast,” she said, “--a good, big breakfast--and we are
going--out in the sun--you and me.” She nodded cheerfully and went out.

The child put one foot over the edge of the bed and looked down at it--a
little wistfully--and placed the other beside it. They were very dark,
little feet--a queer, brown colour--and the legs above them, were the
same curious brown--and the small straight back--as she stepped from
the bed and slipped off her nightgown and bent above the clothes on the
chair. The colour ran up to her throat--around it, and over the whole
sunny face and hands and arms--a strange, eclipsing, brown disguise.
There had been a quick, sharp plan to take her abroad and they prepared
her hastily against risks on board the steamer. The plan had been
abandoned as too dangerous. But the colour clung to the soft skin; and
the hair, cropped close to the neck, had a stubby, uncouth look. No
one seeking Betty Harris, would have looked twice at the queer, little,
brownie-like creature, dressing itself with careful haste. It lifted a
plaid dress from the chair--large squares of red and green plaid--and
looked at it with raised brows and dropped it over the cropped head. The
skirt came to the top of the rough shoes on the small feet. Betty Harris
looked down at the skirt--and smoothed it a little... and dropped on her
knees beside the bed--the red and green plaids sweeping around her--and
said the little prayer that Miss Stone had taught her to say at home.



XXXI

A BUTTERFLY FLIGHT

She came down the stairs with slow feet, pausing a little on each stair,
as if to taste the pleasure that was coming to her. _She was going
out-of-doors--under the sky!_

She pushed open the door at the foot and looked into the small hall--she
had been here before. They had hurried her through--into the kitchen,
and down to the cellar. They had stayed there a long time--hours and
hours--and Mrs. Seabury had held her on her lap and told her stories.

She stepped down the last step into the hall. The outside door at
the end was open and through it she could see the men at work in the
garden--and the warm, shimmering air. She looked, with eager lip, and
took a step forward--and remembered--and turned toward the kitchen.
Mrs. Seabury had said she must have breakfast first--a good, big
breakfast--and then.... She opened the door and looked in. The woman was
standing by the stove. She looked up with a swift glance and nodded to
her. “That’s right, dearie. Your breakfast is all ready--you come in and
eat it.” She drew up a chair to the table and brought a glass of milk
and tucked the napkin under her brown chin, watching her with keen,
motherly eyes, while she ate.

“That’s a good girl!” she said. She took the empty plate and carried
it to the sink. “Now you wait till I’ve washed these--and then--!” She
nodded toward the open window.

The child slipped down and came over to her and stood beside her while
she worked, her eyes full of little, wistful hope. “I’ve most forgot
about out-of-doors,” she said.

“Oh, you remember it all right. It’s just the same it always was,” said
the woman practically. “Now I’ll stir up some meal and we’ll go feed the
chicks. I’ve got ten of ‘em--little ones.” She mixed the yellow meal
and stirred it briskly, and took down her sun-bonnet--and looked at the
child dubiously. “You haven’t any hat,” she said.

The child’s hand lifted to the rough cropped hair. “I did have a
hat--with red cherries on it,” she suggested.

The woman turned away brusquely. “That’s gone--with your other
things--I’ll have to tie a handkerchief on you.”

She brought a big, coloured kerchief--red with blue spots on it--and
bound it over the rough hair--and stood back and looked at it, and
reached out her hand. “It won’t do,” she said thoughtfully. The small
face, outlined in the smooth folds, had looked suddenly and strangely
refined. The woman took off the handkerchief and roughened the hair with
careful hand.

The child waited patiently. “I don’t need a hat, do I?” she said
politely.

The woman looked at her again and took up the dish of meal. “You’re all
right,” she said, “we shan’t stay long.”

“I should _like_ to stay a long, _long_ time!” said Betty.

The woman smiled. “You’re going out every day, you know.”

“Yes.” The child skipped a little in the clumsy shoes, and they passed
into the sunshine.

The woman looked about her with practical eyes. In the long rows of the
garden the men were at work. But up and down the dusty road--across the
plain--no one was in sight, and she stepped briskly toward an open shed,
rapping the spoon a little against the side of the basin she carried,
and clucking gently.

The child beside her moved slowly--looking up at the sky, as if half
afraid. She seemed to move with alien feet under the sky. Then a handful
of yellow, downy balls darted from the shed, skittering toward them,
and she fell to her knees, reaching out her hands to them and crooning
softly. “The dear things!” she said swiftly.

The woman smiled, and moved toward the shed, tapping on the side of her
pan--and the yellow brood wheeled with the sound, on twinkling legs and
swift, stubby wings.

The child’s eyes devoured them. “They belong to you, don’t they?” she
cried softly. “They’re your _own_--your very own chickens!” Her laugh
crept over them and her eyes glowed. “See the little one, Mrs.
Seabury! Just _see_ him run!” She had dropped to her knees
again--breathless--beside the board where they pushed and pecked and
gobbled the little, wet lumps of the meal, and darted their shiny black
bills at the board.

The woman handed her the pan. “You can feed them if you want to,” she
said.

The child took the basin, with shining eyes, and the woman moved away.
She examined the slatted box--where the mother hen ran to and fro, with
clucking wings--and gave her some fresh water and looked in the row
of nests along the side of the shed, and took out a handful of eggs,
carrying them in wide-spread, careful fingers.

The child, squatting by the board, was looking about her with happy
eyes. She’d almost forgotten the prisoned room up stairs and the long
lonesome days. The woman came over to her, smiling. “I’ve found seven,”
 she said. The child’s eyes rested on them. Then they flitted to
the sunshine outside.... A yellow butterfly was fluttering in the
light--across the opening of the shed. It lighted on a beam and opened
slow wings, and the child’s eyes laughed softly... she moved tiptoe...
“I saw a _beautiful_ butterfly once!” she said. But the woman did not
hear. She had passed out of the shed--around the corner--and was looking
after the chickens outside--her voice clucking to them lightly. The
child moved toward the butterfly, absorbed in shining thought. “It was
a _beautiful_ butterfly--” she said softly, “in a Greek shop.” The wings
of the butterfly rose and circled vaguely and passed behind her, and
she wheeled about, peering up into the dark shed. She saw the yellow
wings--up there--poise themselves, and wait a minute--and sail toward
the light outside.... But she did not turn to follow its flight--Across
the brown boards of the shed--behind a pile of lumber, against the wall
up there--a head had lifted itself and was looking at her. She caught
her breath--“I saw a butterfly once!” she repeated dully. It was half
a sob--The head laid a long, dark finger on its lip and sank from
sight.... The child wheeled toward the open light--the woman was coming
in, her hands filled with eggs. “I must carry these in,” she said
briskly. She looked at the child. “You can stay and play a little
while--if you want to. But you must not go away, you know.”

“I will not go away,” said the child, breathless.

So the woman turned and left her--and the child’s eyes followed her.



XXXII

AND A VOICE

“Can you hear me, little Miss Harris?” The voice came from the dusky
shed, high up against the wall.

But the child did not turn her head. “Yes--Mr. Achilles--I can hear you
very well,” she said softly.

“Don’t look this way,” said the voice. “Get down and look at the
chickens--and listen to what I tell you.”

The child dropped obediently to her knees, her head a little bent, her
face toward the open light outside.

The woman, going about her work in the kitchen, looked out and saw her
and nodded to her kindly--

The child’s lips made a little smile in return. They were very pale.

“I come to take you home,” said the voice. It was full of tenderness and
Betty Harris bent her head, a great wave of homesickness sweeping across
her.

“I can’t go, Mr. Achilles.” It was like a sob. “I can’t go. They will
kill you. I heard them. They will kill _anybody_--that comes--!” She
spoke in swift little whispers--and waited. “Can you hear me say it?”
 she asked. “Can you hear me say it, Mr. Achilles?”

“I hear it--yes.” The voice of Achilles laughed a little. “They will
not kill--little lady, and you go home--with me--to-night.” The voice
dropped down from its high place and comforted her.

She reached out little hands to the chickens and laughed tremulously. “I
am afraid,” she said softly, “I am afraid!”

But the low voice, up in the dusk, steadied her and gave her swift
commands--and repeated them--till she crept from the dim shed into the
light and stood up--blinking a little--and looked about her--and laughed
happily.

And the woman came to the door and smiled at her. “You must come in,”
 she called.

“Yes--Mrs. Seabury--” The child darted back into the shed and gathered
up the spoon and basin from the board and looked about her swiftly. In
the slatted box, the mother hen clucked drowsily, and wise cheeps from
beneath her wings answered bravely. The child glanced at the box, and up
at the dusky boards of the shed, peering far in the dimness. But there
was no one--not even a voice--just the high, tumbled pile of boards--and
the few nests along the wall and the mother hen clucking cosily behind
her slats--and the wise little cheeps.



XXXIII

“WAKE UP, MRS. SEABURY!”

The child lay with her hands clasped, breathing lightly. The sound of
voices came drowsily from the kitchen... she must not go to sleep! She
sat up and leaned toward the little window that looked out to the north.
Through the blackness the stars twinkled mistily, and she put her foot
carefully over the edge of the bed and slipped down. The window was
open--as far as the small sash allowed--and a warm, faint breeze came
across the plain to her. She leaned against the sill, looking out. It
was not far to the ground.... But she could see only vague blackness
down there, and she looked again up to the twinkling stars.... They were
little points of light up there, and she looked up trustfully while
the warm wind blew against her. Her heart was beating very hard--and
fast--but she was not afraid.... Mr. Achilles had said--not to be
afraid--and he was waiting--down there in the blackness to take her
home. She crept back to bed and lay down--very still. In the room below
there was a scraping of chairs and louder words--and footsteps....
Someone had opened the door under her window and the smell of tobacco
came up. Her little nose disdained it--and listened, alert. Footsteps
went out into the night and moved a little away on the gravel and came
back, and the door closed. She could hear the bolt click to its place
and the footsteps shuffle along the hall. The voices below had ceased
and the house was still--she was very sleepy now. But he had said--Mr.
Achilles had said.... She winked briskly and gave herself a little pinch
under the clothes--and sat up. It was a sharp little pinch--through many
thicknesses of clothes. Under the coarse nightgown buttoned carefully to
the throat, she was still wearing the red and green plaids and all
her day clothes. Only the clumsy shoes, slipped off, stood by the bed,
waiting for her. Her hand reached down to them cautiously, and felt
them--and she lay down and closed her eyes. There was a step on the
stairs--coming slowly. Betty Harris grew very still. If Mrs. Seabury
came in and stood and looked at her... she must cry out--and throw her
arms around her neck--and tell her _everything_! She could not hurt Mrs.
Seabury.... Mr. Achilles had said they would not hurt her. She had asked
him that--three times, herself--and Mr. Achilles had said it--no one
should hurt Mrs. Seabury--if Betty went away.... She held her breath....
The footsteps had come across the room--to her door--they waited
there... then they moved on--and she drew a free breath. Her heart
thumped to the vague movements that came and went in the next room--they
pottered about a little, and finally ceased and a light, indrawn breath
blew out the lamp--a hand was groping for the handle of her door--and
opening it softly--and the bare feet moved away. The bed-springs in the
next room creaked a little and everything was still. Betty Harris had a
quick sense of pain. Mrs. Seabury was kind to her! She had been so kind
that first day, when they brought her in out of the hot sun, and she had
stumbled on the stairs and sobbed out--Mrs. Seabury had picked her up
and carried her up the stairs and comforted her... and told her what it
meant--these strange harsh men seizing her in the open sunshine, as they
swept past--covering her mouth with hard hands and hurrying her out of
the city to this stifling place. She loved Mrs. Seabury. Perhaps they
would put her in prison... and _never_ let her out--and Mollie would not
get well. The child gave a little, quick sob, in her thought, and lay
very still. Mollie had been good once, and wicked men had hurt her...
and now her mother could not help her.... But Mr. Achilles said--yes--he
said it--no one should hurt her.... And with the thought of the Greek
she lay in the darkness, listening to the sounds of the night.... There
was a long, light call somewhere across the plain, a train of heavy
Pullmans pushing through the night--the sound came to the child like a
whiff of breath, and passed away... and the crickets chirped--high and
shrill. In the next room, the breathing grew loud, and louder, in long,
even beats. Mrs. Seabury was asleep! Betty Harris sat up in bed, her
little hands clinched fast at her side. Then she lay down again--and
waited... and the breathing in the next room grew loud, and regular,
and full.... Mrs. Seabury was very tired! And Betty Harris listened,
and slipped down from the bed, and groped for her shoes--and lifted them
like a breath--and stepped high across the floor, in the dim room. It
was a slow flight... tuned to the long-drawn, falling breath of the
sleeper--that did not break by a note--not even when the brown hand
released the latch and a little, sharp click fell on the air.... “Wake
up, Mrs. Seabury! Wake up--for Mollie’s sake--wake up!” the latch said.
But the sleeper did not stir--only the long, regular, dream-filled,
droning sleep. And the child crept down the stair--across the kitchen
and reached the other door. She was not afraid now--one more door! The
men would not hear her--they were asleep--Mrs. Seabury was asleep--and
her fingers turned the key softly and groped to the bolt above--and
pushed at it--hard--and fell back--and groped for it again--and
tugged... little beads of sweat were coming on the brown forehead. She
drew the back of her hand swiftly across them and reached again to the
bolt. It was too high--she could reach it--but not to push. She felt for
a chair, in the darkness--and lifted it, without a sound, and carried
it to the door and climbed up. There was a great lump in her throat now.
Mr. Achilles did not know the bolt would stick like this--she gave a
fierce, soft tug, like a sob--and it slid back. The knob turned and the
door opened and she was in the night.... For a moment her eyes groped
with the blackness. Then a long, quiet hand reached out to her--and
closed upon her--and she gave a little sob, and was drawn swiftly into
the night.



XXXIV

THE FLIGHT OF STARS

“Is that you, Mr. Achilles?” she asked--into the dark.

And the voice of Achilles laughed down to her. “I’m here--yes. It’s me.
We must hurry now--fast. Come!”

He gripped the small hand in his and they sped out of the driveway,
toward the long road. Up above them the little stars blinked down, and
the warm wind touched their faces as they went. The soft darkness shut
them in. There was only the child, clinging to Achilles’s great hand and
hurrying through the night. Far in the distance, a dull, sullen glow lit
the sky--the city’s glow--and Betty’s home, out there beneath it, in the
dark. But the child did not know. She would not have known which way the
city lay--but for Achilles’s guiding hand. She clung fast to that--and
they sped on.

By and by he ran a little, reaching down to her--and his spirit touched
hers and she ran without fatigue beside him, with little breathless
laughs--“I--like--to run!” she said.

“Yes--come--” He hurried her faster over the road--he would not spare
her now. He held her life in his hand--and the little children--he saw
them, asleep in their dreams, over there in the glow.... “Come!” he
said. And they ran fast.

It was the first half hour he feared. If there was no pursuit, over the
dark road behind them, then he would spare her--but not now. “Come!” he
urged, and they flew faster.

And behind them the little house lay asleep--under its stars--no sign
of life when his swift-flashing glance sought it out--and the heart of
Achilles stretched to the miles and laughed with them and leaped out
upon them, far ahead.... He should bring her home safe.

Then, upon the night, came a sound--faint-stirring wings--a long-drawn
buzz and rush of air--deep notes that gripped the ground, far off--and
the pulse of pounding wheels--behind them, along the dark road.... And
Achilles seized the child by the shoulder, bearing her forward toward
the short grass--his quick-running hand thrusting her down--“Lie still!”
 he whispered. The lights of the car had gleamed out, swaying a little in
the distance, as he threw his coat across her and pressed it flat. “Lie
still!” he whispered again, and was back in the road, his hand feeling
for the great banana knife that rested in his shirt--his eye searching
the road behind. There was time--yes--and he turned about and swung into
the long, stretching pace that covers the miles--without hurry, without
rest. The roar behind him grew, and flashed to light--and swept by--and
his eye caught the face of the chauffeur, as it flew, leaning intently
on the night; and in the lighted car behind him, flashed a face--a
man’s face, outlined against the glass, a high, white face fixed upon
a printed page--some magnate, travelling at his ease, sleepless...
thundering past in the night--unconscious of the Greek, plodding in the
roadside dust.

Achilles knew that he had only to lift his hand--to cry out to them, as
they sped, and they would turn with leaping wheel. There was not a man,
hurrying about his own affairs, who would not gladly stop to gather
up the child that was lost. Word had come to Philip Harris--east
and west--endless offers of help. But the great car thundered by and
Achilles’s glance followed it, sweeping with it--on toward the city and
the dull glow of sky. He was breathing hard as he went, and he plunged
on a step--two steps--ten--before he held his pace; then he drew a deep,
free breath, and faced about. The knife dropped back in his breast,
and his hand sought the revolver in his hip pocket, crowding it down a
little. He had been sure he could face them--two of them--three--as
many as might be. But the car had swept on, bearing its strangers to
the city... and the little house on the plain was still asleep. He had a
kind of happy superstition that he was to save the child single-handed.
He had not trusted the police... with their great, foolish fingers. They
could not save his little girl. She had needed Achilles--and he had held
the thread of silken cobweb--and traced it bit by bit to the place where
they had hidden her. He should save her!

He glanced at the stars--an hour gone--and the long road to tramp. He
ran swiftly to the child in the grass and lifted the coat and she leaped
up, laughing--as if it were a game; and they swung out into the road
again, walking with swift, even steps. “Are you tired?” asked Achilles.
But she shook her head.

His hand in his pocket, in the darkness, had felt something and he
pressed it toward her--“Eat that,” he said, “you will be hungry.”

She took it daintily, and felt of it, and turned it over. “What is it?”
 she asked. Then she set her small teeth in it--and laughed out. “It’s
chocolate,” she exclaimed happily. She held it up, “Will you have a
bite, Mr. Achilles?”

But Achilles had drawn out another bit of tin-foil and opened it. “I
have yet more,” he said, “--two--three--six piece. I put here in my
pocket, every day--I carry chocolate--till I find you. Every day I say,
‘she be hungry, maybe--then she like chocolate’--”

She nibbled it in happy little nibbles, as they walked. “I didn’t eat
any supper,” she said. “I was too happy--and too afraid, I guess. That
was a long time ago,” she added, after a minute.

“A long time ago,” said Achilles cheerfully. He had taken her hand
again, and they trudged on under the stars.

“Nobody must hurt Mrs. Seabury!” said the child suddenly.

“I tell you that,” said Achilles--he had half stopped on the road.
“Nobody hurt that good lady--she, your friend.”

“Yes, she is my friend. She was good to me.... _She_ had a little girl
once--like me--and some bad men hurt her.... I don’t think they stole
her--” She pondered it a minute--“I don’t seem to understand--” she gave
a little swift sigh. “But Mrs. Seabury is going to take her a long, long
way off--and keep her always.”

Achilles nodded. “We help her do that,” he said. “They don’t hurt that
good lady.”

His eyes were on the stars, and he lifted his face a little, breathing
in the freshness. A swift star shot across the sky, falling to earth,
and he pointed with eager finger. The child looked up and caught the
falling flash, and they ran a little, as if to follow the leaping of
their hearts. Then they went more slowly, and Achilles’s long finger
traced the heavens for her--the Greek gods up there in their swinging
orbits... the warm, August night of the world. Betty Harris had never
known the stars like this. Safe from her window, she had seen them
twinkle out. But here they swept about her--and the plain reached
wide--and close, in the darkness, a hand held her safe and the long
finger of Achilles touched the stars and drew them down for her... Orion
there, marching with his mighty belt--and Mars red-gleaming. The long,
white plume of the milky way, trailing soft glory on the sky--and the
great bear to the north. The names filled her ears with a mighty din,
Calliope, Venus, Uranus, Mercury, Mars--and the shining hosts of
heaven passed by. Far beyond them, mysterious other worlds gleamed and
glimmered--without name. And the heart of the child reached to them--and
travelled through the vast arches of space, with her dusty little feet
on the wide plain, and a hand holding hers, safe and warm down there in
the darkness. Her eyes dropped from the stars and she trudged on.

When Achilles spoke again, he was telling her of Alcibiades and Yaxis
and of the long days of waiting and the happiness their coming would
bring--and of her father and mother, asleep at Idlewood--and the great
house on the lake, ready always, night and day, for her coming--

“Do they know--?” she asked quickly, “that we are coming?”

“Nobody knows,” said Achilles, “except you and me.”

She laughed out, under the stars, and stood still. “We shall surprise
them!” she said.

“Yes--come!” They pressed on. Far ahead, foolish little stars had
glimmered out--close to the ground--the fingers of the city, stretching
toward the plain.

Her glance ran to them. “We’re getting somewhere--?” she said swiftly.
“We’re getting home!” Her hand squeezed his, swinging it a little.

“Not yet--” said Achilles, “not yet--but we shall take the car there.
You need not walk any more.”

She was very quiet and he leaned toward her anxiously. “You are not
tired?” he asked.

“No--Mr. Achilles--I don’t think--I’m tired--” She held the words
slowly. “I just thought we’d go on forever, walking like this--” She
looked up and swept her small hand toward the stars. “I thought it was
a dream--” she said softly--“Like the other dreams!” He felt a little,
quick throb run through her, and he bent again and his fingers touched
her cheek.

“I am not crying, Mr. Achilles,” she said firmly, “I only just--”
 There was a little, choking sound and her face had buried itself in his
sleeve.

And Achilles bent to her with tender gesture. Then he lifted his head
and listened. There was another sound, on the plain, mingling with the
sobs that swept across the child’s frame.

He touched her quietly. “Someone is coming,” he said.

She lifted her face, holding her breath with quick lip.

The sound creaked to them, and muffled itself, and spread across the
plain, and came again in irregular rhythm that grew to the slow beat of
hoofs coming upon the road.

Achilles listened back to the sound and waited a minute. Then he covered
the child, as before, with his coat and turned back, walking along the
road to meet the sound. It creaked toward him and loomed through the
light of the stars--a great market wagon loaded with produce--the driver
leaning forward on the seat with loose rein, half asleep. Suddenly he
lifted his head and tightened rein, peering forward through the dark at
the figure down there in the road. Achilles held his way.

“Hello!” said the man sharply.

Achilles paused and looked up--one hand resting lightly on his hip,
turned a little back--the other thrust in his breast.

The man’s eyes scanned him through the dimness. “Where you bound for?”
 he asked curtly.

“I walk,” said Achilles.

“Want a job?” asked the man.

“You got job for me?” asked Achilles. His voice had all the guileless
caution of the foreigner astray in a free land. The man moved along on
the seat. “Jump up,” he said.

Achilles looked back and forth along the road. “I think I go long,” he
said slowly.

The man gave an impatient sound in his throat and clicked to the horses.
The heavy wagon creaked into motion, and caught its rhythm and rumbled
on.

Achilles’s ears followed it with deepest caution. The creaking mass of
sound had passed the flat-spread coat without stop, and gathered itself
away into a slow rumble, and passed on in the blurring dark.

Beyond it, the little, low lights still twinkled and the suburb waited
with its trailing cars.

But when he lifted the coat she had fallen asleep, her face resting on
her arm, and he bent to it tenderly, and listened.



XXXV

AND CLANGING CARS

He looked up into the darkness and waited. He would let her sleep a
minute... there was little danger now. The city waited, over there, with
its low lights; and the friendly night shut them in. Before the morning
dawned he should bring her home--safe home.... A kind of simple pride
held him, and his heart leaped a little to the stars and sang with
them--as he squatted in the low grass, keeping guard.

Presently he leaned and touched her.

She started with a shiver and sprang up, rubbing her eyes and crying
out, “I--had--a--dream--” she said softly--“a beautiful dream!” Then her
eyes caught the stars and blinked to them--through dusty sleep--and she
turned to him with swift cry, “You’re here!” she said. “It’s _not_ a
dream! It’s _you_!”

And Achilles laughed out. “We’re going home,” he said, “when you’re
rested a little.”

“But I’m rested _now_!” she cried. “Come!” She sprang to her feet, and
they journeyed again--through the night. About them, the plain breathed
deep sleeping power--and the long road stretched from the west to the
east and brought them home.

Each step, the city lights grew larger, and sparkled more, and spread
apart farther, and a low rumble came creeping on the plain--jarring with
swift jolts--the clang of cars and lifting life... and, in the distance,
a line of light ran fire swiftly on the air, and darted, red and green,
and trailed again in fire... and Achilles’s finger pointed to it. “That
fire will take us home,” he said.

The child’s eye followed the flashing cars--and she smiled out. The
first light of the city’s rim touched her face.

“Just a little farther!” said Achilles.

“But I am not tired!” said the child, and she ran a little, beside him,
on the stone pavement, her small shoes clumping happily.


Achilles lifted a swift hand to a waiting car. The car clanged its
gone--impatient. A big conductor reached down his hand to the child.
The bell clanged again and they were off--“Clang-clang, clear the track!
Betty Harris is going home--This is the people’s carriage--Going home!
Going home! Clear the track--clang-clang!” Through the blinking city
streets they rode. Safe among the friendly houses, and the shops and the
stores, and the people sleeping behind their blinds--all the people
who had loved the child--and scanned the paper for her, every day--and
asked, “Is Betty Harris found?”... Going home! Going home!... They would
waken in the morning and read the news and shout across the way--“She’s
been found--yes--a Greek! He brought her home! Thank God. She’s found!”

And little Betty Harris, leaning against the great shoulder beside
her, nodded in the car, and dreamed little dreams and looked about her
hazily.

The conductor came and stood in front of them with extended hand, and
rang the fares, and cast an indifferent, kindly glance at the Greek and
his child travelling by night.... He did not guess the “scoop” that his
two little nickels rang out. The child with roughened hair and clumsy,
hanging shoes, was nothing to him--nor to the policeman that boarded
the car at the next corner and ran his eye down its empty length to
the Greek, sitting erect--with the child sleeping beside him--her dark,
tousled head against his arm.

The conductor came again, and touched Achilles on the shoulder and bent
to him. “You change here,” he said. He was pointing to a car across
the square--“You take that,” he said. “You understand?” He shouted a
little--because the man was a foreigner--and dark--but his tone was
friendly. And Achilles got to his feet, guiding the sleepy child down
the rib-floored car that shook beneath them.... And the conductor and
policeman watched the two figures vanish through the door--and smiled
to each other--a friendly smile at foreign folks--who travel in strange
ways--and go among us with eager, intent faces fixed on some shining
goal we cannot see... with the patience of the centuries leaning down to
them, and watching them.



XXXVI

THE TELEPHONE AGAIN

In the middle of the square, Achilles stopped--a lighted sign had caught
his eye. He hurried the child across the blur of tracks to the sign, and
opened a door softly. A sleepy exchange-girl looked up and waited
while Achilles’s dark fingers searched the page and turned to
her--“Main--four-four-seven--”

She drawled sleepily after him--“Go in there--number four.”

Achilles, with the child’s hand in his, entered the booth and closed the
door. Little noises clicked about them--queer meanings whispered--and
waited--and moved off--the whole night-life of the great city stirred in
the little cage.... “Go ahead--four!” called the girl lazily.

Achilles lifted the black tube. The child beside him pressed close, her
eyes fixed on the tube. Achilles’s words ran swift on the wire, and her
eager face held them--other words came back--sharp--swift. And the child
heard them crackle, and leap, and break and crackle again in the misty
depths--and she touched Achilles’s arm softly--“They must not hurt Mrs.
Seabury--?” she said. “You tell them not to hurt Mrs. Seabury!”

Achilles’s hand pressed her shoulder gently. “Yes--I tell--they know.”
 It was a swift aside--and his voice had taken up the tale--“That
woman--you not take that woman.... You hear? Yes--she good woman!”

“Tell them to look in the cellar!” said Betty. She had pressed closer,
on tiptoe. “There is a hole there--under a barrel--and a barrel in the
garden. You tell them--”

His eye dropped to her. “In cellar? You say that?”

“Yes--yes--” Her hands were clasped. “They took me there! You tell
them!”

Achilles’s eye smiled. “Hallo--_you look in cellar_!... What you
say?--no--I don’t see it. But you look in cellar--yes! They make
tunnel--yes!” He hung up the receiver and took her hand. “Now we go
home,” he said.

They passed swiftly out, dropping payment--into a sleepy, unseeing
palm--and crossing the square to the car that should carry them home.
There were no delays now--only swift-running wheels... a few jolts and
stops--and they were out again, beneath the stars, hurrying along the
great breakwater of the lake--hurrying home.... The big, red-brown house
thrust itself up--its gables reaching to thin blackness--and, suddenly,
as they looked, it was touched lightly, as with a great finger, and the
dawn glowed mistily up the walls.

They crossed swiftly and mounted the steps, between the lions, the
child’s feet stumbling a little as they went, but Achilles’s hand held
fast and his touch on the bell summoned hurrying feet... there was a
fumbling at the chains--a swift, cautious creak, and the door swung
back. “Who is it?” said a voice that peered out. The dawn touched his
face grotesquely.

“It’s me!” said the child. “It’s Betty Harris, Conner.”

The man’s face fell back. Then he darted forward and glared at the
child--through the mysterious, dawning light--on the dark, tender face
and the little lip that trembled--looking up--“My God!” he said. He had
darted from them.

The door was open wide and the two glided in silently, and stood in the
emptiness. Achilles led the child to a great divan across the hall and
placed her beside him--her little feet were crossed in the rough shoes
and her hands hung listless.

Behind a velvet curtain, the butler’s voice called frantic words--a
telephone bell rang sharply and whirred and rang a long fierce call and
the butler’s voice took it up and flung it back--“Yes, sir. She’s
here! Yes, sir--that’s what I said--she’s a-settin’ here, sir--on the
sofa--with the furriner--yes, sir!” He put his head around the velvet
curtain. “Will you speak to your father, Miss?”

His awe-struck hand held the receiver and he helped the strange, little
figure to its seat in front of the ‘phone. She put the tube to her lips.
“Hallo, Daddy. Yes, it’s Betty.... Mr. Achilles brought me, father....
Yes--yes--your little Betty--yes--and I’m all ri-i-ght....” The receiver
dropped from her fingers. She had buried her face in her arms and was
sobbing softly.



XXXVII

THE BIG BED

Achilles sprang forward. “She’s all right, Mr. Harris--all right!” His
hand dropped to the trembling shoulder and rested there, as his quiet
voice repeated the words. He bent forward and lifted the child in his
arms and moved away with her. But before he had traversed the long hall,
the little head had fallen forward on his shoulder and the child slept.
Behind the velvet curtain, the voice of Conner wrestled faintly with
the telephone and all about them great lights glowed on the walls; they
lighted the great staircase that swept mistily up, and the figure of
Achilles mounting slowly in the stately, lonely house, the child in his
arms. His hand steadied the sleeping head with careful touch, against
his shoulder.... They were not jolting now, in heavy cars, through the
traffic streets--or wandering on the plain.... Little Betty Harris had
come home.

Above them at the top of the long stairs, a grey figure appeared, and
paused a moment and looked down. Then Miss Stone descended swiftly, her
hands outstretched--they did not touch the sleeping child, but hovered
above her with a look--half pain--half joy.

Achilles smiled to her--“She come home,” he whispered.

She turned with quick breath and they mounted the stairs--the child
still asleep... through the long corridor--to the princess’s room
beyond--with its soft lights--and great, silken hangings and canopied
bed, open for the night--waiting for Betty Harris.

Achilles bent and laid her down, with lightest touch, and straightened
himself. “We let her sleep,” he said gently. “She--very tired.”

They stood looking down--at the brown face and the little, tired lip and
sleeping lids.... Their eyes met, and they smiled.... They knew--these
two, out of all the world--they knew what it meant--that the child was
safe.


And out in the glowing dawn, the great car thundered home, and Betty
Harris’s mother looked out with swift eyes.

“See, Phil--the sun is up!” She reached out her hand.

“Sit still, Louie--don’t tremble so--” he said gently. “She is safe
now--They have brought her home. She’s there, you know, asleep.” He
spoke slowly--as if to a child.... He was gathering up the morning in
his heart--this big, harsh, master of men--his little girl was safe--and
a common Greek--a man out of the streets--peddling bananas and calling
up and down--had made his life worth living. His big, tense mind gripped
the fact--and held it. Something seemed speaking to him--out of the
east, over there, past the rushing car.... A common Greek.... He had
flung his wealth and hammered hard--but somehow _this_ man had loved
her--_his_ little girl!

“Phil--?” she said softly.

“Yes, dear?”

“Are we almost home?”

He looked out. “Half an hour yet--sit still, Louie--!” He held her hand
close. “Sit still!” he said--and the miles slipped past.

“She is there--Phil! Yes? They wouldn’t lie to me. All these weeks!”
 she said softly. “I don’t think I could bear it much longer, Phil!” The
tears were on her cheeks, raining down and he put his rough face against
her, adrift in a new world.

And over the great lake the sun burst out, on a flashing car--and the
door flung wide to Betty Harris’s mother, flying with swift, sure foot
up the great, stone steps.... “This way, ma’am--she’s in here--her own
room--this way, ma’am.”

She was kneeling by the great canopied bed, her head bent very low. The
brown face trembled a breath... the child put up a hand in her dream,
“Mother-dear!” she said--and dreamed on....


THE END





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