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Title: Bobbie, General Manager - A Novel
Author: Prouty, Olive Higgins
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                  BOBBIE, GENERAL MANAGER



                          BOBBIE
                      GENERAL MANAGER

                         _A NOVEL_

                             BY
                     OLIVE HIGGINS PROUTY

                        [Illustration]

                       GROSSET & DUNLAP
                PUBLISHERS      ::      NEW YORK


                    _Copyright, 1913, by_
                 FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY

  _All rights reserved including that of translation into foreign
             languages, including the Scandinavian._

                       _TENTH PRINTING_

                  [Illustration: _March, 1913_]



                               TO
                         THE MEMORY OF
                            MY FATHER



Bobbie, General Manager



CHAPTER I


I am a junior in the H.C.H.S., which stands for Hilton Classical High
School, and am sixteen years old. I live in a big brown house at number
240 Main Street, and my father is a state senator in Boston. I am a
member of the First Congregational Church, which I joined when I was
thirteen, and am captain of the basket-ball team at the high school. I
have travelled as far east as Revere Beach, as far west as the Hoosac
Tunnel, on my way to Aunt Ella's funeral in Adams, and as far south as
New London, Connecticut, where I watched my oldest brother Tom row in
a perfectly stunning eight-oared boat-race on the Thames. I haven't
been north at all. I have had six diseases, including scarlet fever and
typhoid, with which I almost died last year, and as a result of which
am now wearing my hair as short as a child with a Dutch-cut.

I am not pretty, nor a bit popular with the boys. I can't play the
piano, and I never went to dancing-school in my life. Most of my
clothes are as ugly as mud, for I haven't any mother; and my hair has
always been as straight as a stick. They say that the kink that has
appeared in it since the typhoid won't last but a little while, so it
isn't much comfort. In fact, the only real consolation that I have
is a secret conviction which I keep well concealed in the innermost
compartment of my heart. No one knows of its existence except myself,
and I wouldn't be the one to tell of it for anything in the world. It
is on account of it, however, that I am writing the experiences of my
early life. I often think how valuable it would have been if William
Shakespeare had told us about his school-days or Julius Caesar had
described his family and what they used to do when he was a boy of
fifteen. Of course I may not be a genius; but facts point that way.
I hate mathematics, my imagination is vivid, my life is difficult
and full of obstacles, and my handwriting illegible. My Themes are
generally read out loud in English, and my quarterly deportment mark
is frightfully low. Moreover, if I am not a genius I shall be awfully
disappointed. Why, I think I should rather be a genius than to go
to a College Prom. It makes everything so bearable, from a flunk in
geometry, to not being invited to Bessie Jaynes' birthday-party last
week.

My life has not been an easy one. Ever since I can remember I have been
the mother of five children--two of them older and three younger than
myself. They all call me Bobbie for short, but my real name is Lucy
Chenery Vars.

Our house is a big ugly brown affair which Father built when we were
all babies and the business was prosperous. The house has twenty rooms
in it, and on the top an octagon cupola, which I have fixed up with
a fish-net and some old tennis rackets, and call my study. I have a
plaster cast of a skull up here, and a "No Trespassing" sign which
Juliet Adams and I stole out of old Silas Morton's blueberry-pasture.
It looks exactly like a college man's room now and I intend to do all
my writing up here. It is a perfectly lovely place for inspirations!
From my eight little windows I can see all over New England, and at
night every star that shines. It is simply glorious up here in a
thunder-storm, and when I have the trap-door once closed behind me,
with all my cares and troubles shut safely away down below, I feel as
if I could fly with the birds. I ought to write something wonderful.

In the first place I had better state that I haven't anything
distinguishing about me except my experience. I am middling tall--five
feet five inches, to be precise; middling heavy--112 pounds; and am
one of six children--four boys and two girls--without the honour of
being either the oldest or youngest. With Father there are seven of us;
with Nellie and the cook (when we have one) and poor little Dixie, the
horse, there are ten.

Father is a big, quiet, solemn man and is sixty-eight years old. He
is president of the Vars & Company Woollen Mills, has perfectly white
hair, and wears grey and white seersucker coats in the summer. Tom is
the oldest and is in business out West. We're all awfully proud of
Tom. He was a perfect star in college, and is making money hand over
fist with his lumber camps in Michigan. Alec, the next to oldest, is
struggling along in business with Father. Then I come, and next to me
the twins--Oliver and Malcolm, aged fifteen and perfect terrors. Last
is Ruthie; and after her, mother died and so there weren't any more.
_I_ was the mother then, and I was only a little over five. Father says
he used to put me on the dictionary in mother's chair at the table
when I was so little that Nellie had to help lift the big silver pot
while I poured the coffee. Well, I've sat there ever since, pushed the
bell, scowled at the twins and performed a mother's duty generally, as
well as I knew how.

It hasn't been easy. Ruthie isn't the kind of little sister who likes
to be petted or cuddled. The twins scorn everything I do or say. The
house is a perfect elephant to run (there are thirty-three steps
between the refrigerator and the kitchen sink) and our washings are
something frightful. Alec says we simply can_not_ afford a laundress,
and the result is that I spend most of my Saturday mornings in
intelligence-offices hunting cooks. Intelligence-offices are dreadful
on inspirations.

Ever since I can remember, the house has been out of repair--certain
doors that won't close, certain windows that have no shades, certain
ceilings that are stained and smoked. It's hard to give the rooms the
proper look when there are paths worn all over the Brussels carpet,
exactly like cow-paths in a pasture, and the stuffed arms of the
furniture in the parlour are worn as bare as the back of a little
baby's head I once saw.

When Tom wrote that he was going to bring Elise, his young bride,
whom we had never laid eyes on, to Hilton on their wedding trip, I
nearly had a Conniption Fit. I thought Tom must have lost his mind.
Any one ought to know what a shock our house would be to the kind of
girl Tom would choose to marry. The concrete walk that leads up to the
front door was dreadfully cracked, and the crevices were filled with
a healthy growth of green grass. The iron fountain in the centre of
the walk was as dry as a desert, and the four iron urns on the square
porch as empty as shells. The ninety feet of elaborate iron fence
that runs in front of the house needed a new coat of paint, and the
little filigree iron edging, standing up like stiffly starched Hamburg
embroidery around the top of the cupola, had a piece knocked out in
front. But Tom _would_ come, so I buckled down and made preparations.

I must explain a little about Tom. It isn't simply because he is the
oldest son that we all look up to him so much. Every one in Hilton
admires Tom. The _Weekly Messenger_ refers to his "brilliant career,"
and the minister at our church calls him "an exceptional young man." He
isn't a genius--he's too successful and everybody likes him too much
for a genius--but he's different from the other young men in Hilton.
When Father picked out some little technical school or other for Tom
to go to, Tom announced that he was awfully sorry but that he had made
up his mind to graduate from the biggest university in the country.
And once there, Tom had a perfectly elegant time! Every one adored
him. I saw him carried off once on the shoulders of a lot of shouting
young men, who were singing his name. Why, I was proud to be Tom Vars'
sister! He was captain of the crew, president of his class, a member of
a whole lot of societies, and when he graduated his name was printed
under the _magna cum laude_ list on the programme (I can show it to you
in my Souvenir Book) which meant that he was a perfect wizard in his
lessons.

Tom graduated the year that Father's business began to look a little
wobbly. Just when Father was looking forward, with a good deal of hope,
to his oldest son's help and coöperation, Tom ran up home for over
Sunday one day in May, and broke the news that after Commencement he
had decided to accept a position from his room-mate's rich uncle in
some wild and woolly lumber camps in Michigan. It just about broke poor
Father's heart. He couldn't enjoy the honours of Tom's Commencement.
But Tom went out West just the same--for Tom always carries out his
plans--he went, smiling and confident, with never a single reference
to Father's silence, ignoring absolutely the sad look in Father's
eyes. He went just as if he were carrying out Father's dearest hope;
and the funny part is, that inside of three years Tom had made Father
so proud of his hard work and steady success that the poor dear man's
disappointment faded away like mist before the sun, as they say in
Shakespeare or the Bible--I forget which. The whole scheme worked like
a charm, as Tom's schemes always do. There was faithful Alec to help
Father; and the rich uncle, who had no son of his own, was simply
aching to get hold of a fine, smart, clean young man like Tom Chenery
Vars to boost up to success.

Whenever Tom had a holiday, except Christmas when he came home, he
spent it in Chicago with his room-mate or the uncle. That is how he
happened to fall in with such a lot of fashionable people--not that Tom
ever boasted that his friends were fashionable, for Tom never blows his
own horn--but I knew they were, just the same. He used to send stunning
monograms to Ruthie and me for our collections, torn off from the notes
which his wealthy young-lady friends wrote to him; besides, when he
came home for Christmas he always had a pocketful of kodak pictures
to show us of his life in the West. They weren't _all_ taken in the
lumber camps. Some were snapshots of house-parties, which he'd been on,
and I assure _you_, I always took in the expensive background of these
pictures--carved stone doorways, perfectly elegant houses, lawns kept
like a park, and automobiles with chauffeurs sitting up as stiff as
ramrods. I hadn't much doubt, when Tom wrote that he was engaged to be
married to Miss Elise Hildegarde Parmenter, but that she was an inmate
of one of these millionaire mansions, and I was absolutely convinced
of it when I laid eyes on her photograph--one of those brown carbons a
foot square--and counted the six magnificent plumes on her big drooping
picture-hat. I knew that 240 Main Street, Hilton, Mass., would look
pretty worn and dingy alongside Sunny-lawn-by-the-Lake, which was
engraved in gold letters and hyphens at the top of Miss Parmenter's
heavy grey note-paper.

The minute Tom wrote that he was going to bring his elegant bride to
Hilton I button-holed Father and Alec one day after dinner, and told
those two men that the house had simply _got_ to be done over. It was
disgraceful as it was; it hadn't been painted since I could remember;
it was unworthy of our name. Father reminded me that the reason none
of us went to the wedding (Tom was married in California, on Elise's
father's orange ranch) was to save expense, as I already knew, and
merely to paint the house would cost the price of a ticket or two.

"Let us be ourselves, Lucy," said Father to me, "_ourselves_, child.
If Tom's wife is the right kind of woman, she will look within,
_within_, Lucy."

"Oh," I said, "but the inside is worse than the out, Father. The
wall-paper in the guest-room--"

Father interrupted me gently.

"Within our hearts," he corrected, touching his heavy gold watch-chain
across his chest. "Within our hearts, Lucy."

Father is a perfectly splendid man, but I knew that spotless hearts
wouldn't excuse smoked ceilings; and when, the next day being Sunday,
I saw Father drop his little white sealed envelope, which I knew
contained five perfectly good dollars, into the contribution box, I
didn't believe any heathen girl needed that money more than I.

I am going to tell about that first appearance of Elise's in detail.
But it's got to be after dinner, for fifteen minutes ago the big
whistle on Father's factory spurted out its puff of white steam (I
could see it from my north window before I heard the blast) and Father
and Alec will soon be driving up the hill in the phaeton, with the top
down and the reins slack over faithful Dixie's back. I must be within
calling-distance when Father strikes the Chinese gong at the foot of
the stairs. It's the first thing he always does when he enters the
house at noon. We all recognise his two strokes on each one of the
three notes as surely as his voice or step. Why, that ring of Father's
simply speaks! It is as full of impatience as a motorman ringing for a
truck to get off the track.

Father hates to wait for dinner. By the time he has taken off his
overcoat, and scrubbed up in the wash-room off the hall, he likes us
all to be seated at the table when he comes into the dining-room.
"Hello, chicken," he says to me. "Hello, baby," to Ruth. (He calls
Dixie "baby" too.) "Hello, boys," to the twins. Then he sits down at
the head of the table, opposite me, clears his throat as a signal, and
asks the blessing.

Father's blessing is always the same except when we have company.
I can tell how important the company is by the length of Father's
prayer. When Juliet Adams, my best friend, drops in for supper, she is
served the regular everyday family blessing, but when we have company
important enough to put on the best dishes, or at the first meal that
Tom is with us, Father keeps at it so long that the twins get to
fooling with each other under cover of the tablecloth. I wished Father
would omit the blessing entirely when Elise came, and family prayers
too. They're so old-fashioned nowadays; but I knew better than to
suggest such a preposterous thing. Father is a member of the Standing
Committee at our church, and has a lot of principles.

There he is coming now! I wish he could afford a new carriage. I'm
simply dying for one of those sporty little red-wheeled runabouts!



CHAPTER II


Among the first things I did in preparation for Elise's visit was
to set the twins to work on the lawn, and Ruthie to clearing up a
rubbishly-looking place back of the barn where there was a pile of old
boxes and barrel hoops.

I myself harnessed up Dixie, made a trip to the country, and brought
back three bushel-baskets full of rock ferns from the woods. Juliet
Adams helped me fill the iron urns the next day. I know very well that
red geraniums, hanging vines, and a little palm in the centre are
the correct plants for urns (there's a painting of one on the garden
scenery at our theatre here in Hilton) but as geraniums are a dollar
and a quarter a dozen, and the urns are perfectly enormous, I knew that
such luxuries could not be afforded. I also knew that it was out of the
question to work the fountain. I cleared out its collection of leaves,
soused it well with the hose, and was obliged to leave it in the middle
of the walk, out of commission, but at least clean. The tennis-court,
which hadn't been used for tennis for ten years, had now passed even
the potato-patch era and was a perfect mass of weeds. I paid the twins
five cents each for mowing it twice, and then set out the croquet set
with a string. I put a fresh coat of white paint on the wickets, and
though the ground was far too uneven for any practical use, the general
effect at a distance was not bad at all.

I spent two solid afternoons in the stable sweeping and cleaning as
if my life depended on it. We don't keep a man now. Dixie is the only
horse we own, and Alec does all the feeding and rubbing-down that Dixie
gets. Poor little Dixie, rattling around in one of the big box stalls,
can't give the place the proper air. It's a stunning stable--stalls for
eight horses and a big room filled with all sorts of carriages. They
are dreadfully out of style now (I used to play house in them when I
was ten and they had begun their dust gathering even then), but Father
says they were the best that could be bought in their day. I pinned the
white sheets that cover them down around their bodies as closely as I
could, so that Miss Parmenter couldn't see how out-of-date the dear old
arks were. I cleaned up all the harnesses and hung them up, black and
shining, on the wooden pegs. In an old sleigh upstairs I discovered
a girl's saddle, which I dusted and hung up in plain view by the
whip-rack; there's something so sporty about horseback riding! I was
bound to have Miss Parmenter know that at one time we were prosperous.

But most of my efforts of course went into the house. It was terribly
discouraging. We own loads of black walnut, and though I begged and
begged for a brass bed for the guest-room, Father was adamant. He had
allowed me to have the room repapered and _that_, he said, was all
that I must ask for. The new paper really was lovely. I picked it out
myself, pink roses on a light blue ground and a plate-rail half-way up.

I spent a lot of pains on the guest-room, carrying out the pink and
blue colour-scheme in every possible detail. I took the light blue
rose bowl off the mantel in the sitting-room and put it on the bureau,
for hatpins. I rehung my "Yard of Pink Roses" over the guest-room
mantel. My blue kimono I had freshly laundered and hung it up in the
closet. A pair of pink bedroom slippers were carefully placed beneath.
I found a book in the library bound in pink, entitled "Baby Thoughts,"
and put it on the marble-topped guest-room table alongside a magazine
and my work-basket on which I had sewed a huge blue bow and inside of
which I had placed my solid gold thimble. I also tied a smashing pink
and blue rosette on the waste-basket; and the half-dozen coat-hangers
which I was able to scare up out of Alec's and Father's closets
Ruthie wound with pink and blue ribbons. I didn't neglect the more
necessary details either. I paid thirty-five cents for a cake of pink
French soap; and the only embroidered towels we own I strung along in
a showy row on the back of the commode. In the tooth-brush holder I
placed a sealed Prophylactic tooth-brush, which I read in the _Perfect
Housekeeper_ should be found in every nicely appointed guest-room;
nor did I overlook the Bible, and candle and matches by the bed. The
_Perfect Housekeeper_ says that it is the little touches in your home,
such as a fresh bunch of flowers on the shelf in your guest-room, or
in cold weather a hot-water bag between the sheets, that count with
a guest. I was dreadfully sorry that it was too warm for hot-water
bottles.

I was in perfect despair about Nellie. Nellie is our second-girl and
has been with us for years. Nellie doesn't look a bit like a servant.
She has grey hair and wears glasses. People are always mistaking her
for an aunt. I wrote out a set of rules for Nellie, tacked them up over
the sink in the butler's pantry, and told her to study them during the
week before Tom and Elise were due to arrive. Here's a copy of them:

                           _Rule 1_

  When a meal is ready don't stand at the foot of the stairs and holler
  "Dinner!" Come to me and say in a low, well modulated voice, "Dinner
  is served, Miss Lucy."

                           _Rule 2_

  Be sure and call me _Miss_ Lucy, and Tom, _Mister_ Tom. Never plain
  Tom or plain Lucy. And so on through the family.

                           _Rule 3_

  When I ring the bell during a meal, don't just stick your head in
  through the swinging-door but enter all-over and find out what is
  wanted.

                           _Rule 4_

  Don't offer a last biscuit or piece of cake and say, "There's more in
  the kitchen."

                           _Rule 5_

  If any member of the family asks for any other member of the family,
  don't say, "They're in the barn, or down-cellar, or upstairs," but go
  quietly and find them yourself.

                           _Rule 6_

  Be sure and put ice-water every night into Mrs. Vars' bedroom when you
  turn down the bed.

                           _Rule 7_

  If you get the hiccups when waiting on the table, withdraw to the
  kitchen immediately and take ten swallows of water.

Nellie is a good-natured old soul. I can manage her beautifully, but
it took a head to do anything with Delia. Delia was the cook. I was in
the butler's pantry the day before Tom and Elise arrived, putting away
the family napkin-rings (for of course I know napkin-rings are tabooed)
when it occurred to me that we had got to have clean napkins for every
meal as long as Elise stayed. If she was with us a week that would make
a hundred and sixty-eight napkins in all, counting three meals a day
and eight people at the table. We owned just four dozen napkins and
that meant--I figured it all out on a piece of paper--that the whole
four dozen would have to be washed every other day. I went out into
the kitchen and explained it to Delia just as nicely and sweetly as I
could. She went off on a regular tangent. It was enough, she said, all
the extra style I was planning on, without piling on a week's washing
for every other day. She said she'd never heard of such tommyrot, and
if a napkin was clean enough for Tom and Tom's family, she guessed it
was clean enough for Tom's wife, whoever she was. I was simply incensed!

"We won't discuss it," I said with much dignity. "Not another word,
please, Delia," and I left the kitchen.

I heard her slam a kettle into the iron sink, and mutter something
about "another place," so I thought it better policy not to press my
point. I hate being imposed upon--there isn't a teacher at the high
school who can talk Lucy Vars into a hole--but I wasn't going to cut
off my own nose. So I went straight to the telephone, called up a dry
goods store and ordered ten dozen medium-priced napkins to be sent up
special. All the rest of the afternoon I sat at the sewing-machine
hemming like mad, and Nellie folded the things so that the machine
stitches wouldn't show. I knew that napkins should be hemmed by hand.

Tom and Elise were due at eight o'clock on a Wednesday night. I had it
planned that Father and Alec would meet them at the station and I would
remain at the house to greet them as they came in. I wished awfully
that we had a coachman and some decent horses, but I begged Father to
hire a carriage and he promised that he would. The suspense while I
waited for them to drive up over the hill was as awful as when I've
been sent for by the principal at the high school--kind of thrilly
inside and as nervous as a cat. I walked from room to room like a caged
animal, trying to imagine how the old house would look to a person who
hadn't lived in it forever. I lit the open fire in the hall, arranged
the books on the sitting-room table for the hundredth time, and watched
the piano-lamp like a hawk. It smokes the ceilings if you leave it
alone.

The twins, Oliver and Malcolm, stationed themselves in the parlour to
keep watch of the road. About half-past eight Oliver hollered out,
"They're coming, Bobbie!" and I went out into the hall and opened the
door. I saw the big bulky old depot carriage draw up to the curbing out
beyond the iron fountain, and I whispered to the twins, "Go down and
help with their bags!" They pushed by me; and a minute after, everybody
was in a confused bunch in the vestibule--Oliver and Malcolm with the
suitcases, Father and Alec, Ruthie hanging on to my skirt, and finally
Tom, big and handsome and natural!

"Hello, Bobbie, old girl," he said. "Hello, little Ruthiemus!" And
suddenly behind him Elise appeared--tall, pale as a lily, quiet, and
very calm. "Well, here they all are, Elise," Tom went on lustily,
"Malcolm and Oliver, and Bobbie who is the mother of us, and Ruthiemus
the baby."

Elise came forward, shook hands with the boys, and when she came to
me she kissed me. I'd never been so near such a perfectly gorgeous
Irish-lace jabot in my life. After she had leaned down and kissed Ruth
she said in the quietest, lowest voice I ever heard, while we all
stared, "I know you all, already, for Chenery has told me all about
you."

Chenery! How perfectly absurd! No one ever calls Tom anything but just
plain Tom. We all have Chenery for a middle name--it was mother's
before she was married--but it is only to sign. After that remark about
Chenery the silence was simply deathly, but Alec, who always comes
to the rescue, exclaimed, "Don't you people intend to stop with us
to-night? Usher us in, Bobbie."

There was none of the Vars hail-fellow-well-met, slap-you-on-the-back
spirit about that evening. We all distributed ourselves in a circle
about the sitting-room, exactly like a Bible-class at church, and
talked in the stiffest, most formal way imaginable. I don't know why we
couldn't be natural; but Elise, sitting there so perfectly at ease,
smiling and talking so gracefully made us feel like country bumpkins
before a princess. I was furious at her for making us appear in such
a light. Why couldn't Tom have married somebody like ourselves, some
jolly good sport who wouldn't be afraid to hurt her clothes? I knew
Elise Hildegarde Parmenter's style. She wore some of those high-heeled
shoes, like undressed kid gloves, and her feet were regular pocket
editions. If we had acted as we usually do when Tom comes home, all
talking and laughing at once, we'd have shocked this delicate little
piece of china into a thousand bits.

I was dreadfully surprised at Tom when he said, as if Elise was not
there, "Come on, Bobbie, bring in the apples."

You see it is one of our customs, the first night that Tom comes home,
to sit up awfully late and eat apples, Father paring them with an old
kitchen knife. But of course I wasn't going to have apples to-night,
of all times, passed around in quarters on the end of a knife. So I
said to Tom as quietly as possible, for really I was catching Elise's
manner, "Not apples to-night, Tom. I ordered a little chocolate.
I'll speak to Nellie." I had gotten out our best hand-painted violet
chocolate cups, told Delia to make some cocoa and whip some cream, and
had opened a fresh package of champagne wafers. Everything was all
ready on a tray in the dining-room, so I went out and told Nellie to
bring it in. When she appeared holding the big tray out before her I
had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. Nellie had never worn a
cap before and it didn't seem to go with her style. It was sticking
straight up on the top of her grey pug of hair like a bird on the
tip end of a flag pole. I saw Malcolm and Oliver begin to giggle. I
squelched them with a look and began stirring my chocolate hard.

"Hello, Nellie," said Tom, when the tray reached him, and though I'd
cautioned Nellie a hundred times to address Tom as _Mister_ Tom, she
got it mixed up in some stupid fashion, and replied, "How do you do,
Mister Vars," and Father who heard her come out with his name asked,
"Did you speak to me, Nellie?" Nellie replied, "No, I didn't. I was
speaking to Tom."

Late that first night, as I was turning out my light, and after I had
set my alarm-clock for quarter of six (for I thought I'd better get up
early and see how things were running) Malcolm and Oliver pushed open
my door and came in. Behind them was Alec on his way to bed.

"Hello, Bobbie," they said, grinning.

"Close the door," I whispered, and then I wrapped myself up in a down
comforter and crawled up on the bed. My brothers came over and all sat
down around me.

"Well," I said, "what do you think of her?"

"Did you see the diamond pendant?" Malcolm began. "It was a ripper!"

"Tom gave her that for a wedding-present," Oliver explained.

"He did!" I was amazed. "Plain Tom slinging around diamond pendants
like that!"

"He'll have to, to live up to being called Chenery. Did you get on to
that?"

"Did I? Isn't it too silly? I hate such airs! We stand for good plain
things and why couldn't Tom get something plain?"

"Oh, she's a blue-blood," said Oliver. "We're regular Indians beside
her."

"No, we're not, Oliver Vars," I flared back. "Don't you say that. I
shan't eat humble-pie for any one. We're just as good as she is. It's
brains that count."

"I bet a dollar she couldn't throw a ball straight; and she looks as if
she'd be afraid of the dark," said Malcolm.

"Oh, come ahead, you young knockers," interrupted Alec, who hadn't said
a word till now--Alec never says much and when he does it's always
nice--"Come along to bed, and let the General-manager here get a little
rest. Good-night, Bobbie," he said, coming up to me and giving me a
little good-natured shove, so that I toppled over on the bed. Oliver
and Malcolm each grabbed a pillow.

"Good-night, angel," they sang out as they lammed them at me hard. I
heard them dash out of the room and slam the door with a bang. Nice old
brothers! We Vars never waste much time in kissing, but we understand
all right.

The next morning I was down in the kitchen before Delia had her fire
made. About eight o'clock when we were all flaxing around as fast as we
could there suddenly broke out upon us a very queer noise. It sounded
like a cat trying to meow when it had a dreadful cold. It startled me
awfully and Delia gave a terrible jump.

"For the love of Mike, what's that?" said she.

I investigated, and after a little, I discovered the cause. Years ago
we had some sort of a bell system that connected with all the rooms,
with an indicator in the kitchen. We hadn't used it for a long time and
I supposed the whole system was as dilapidated as the stable. Whenever
we wanted Nellie for anything we found it easier to go to the back
stairs and holler. It occurred to me that the electrician who had put
in some new batteries the week before, for the front door bell, which
before Elise came was dreadfully unreliable, must have monkeyed with
the other bells too.

"Elise has rung for you," I said to Nellie, thankful with all my heart
that the old thing had worked. I knew that Tom was already downstairs,
so of course wasn't there to tell her that the old push-button didn't
mean a thing, and I was glad of that. Heaven knew there was enough else
to apologise for.

When Nellie came back I asked, "What did she want?"

"She wanted me to button up her waist and also to give me her laundry."

"Laundry!" gasped Delia. I never could understand why cooks hate
washing so.

"Yes," I said, turning to her, "laundry! I told Mrs. Vars," I went
on with much authority, "to put any soiled clothing she might have
in a pink and blue bag which I made to match the guest-room, for
this express purpose--for her to put her laundry in. That's only
hospitality." I crossed the room. "And now you may put breakfast on,
Delia," I finished, and went out.

After breakfast Nellie came to me and said, "Delia wishes to speak to
you in the kitchen."

My heart sank. I left Elise in the sitting-room talking in her lovely
soft way to Father and Alec. Delia was in the laundry standing by a
regular haystack of lacy lingerie. She was holding up the most superb
lace skirt I ever saw, rows upon rows of insertion and if you'll
believe me made every inch by hand.

"I just wanted to say," she began, "that I don't stay if I have to wash
these. They aren't dirty, in the first place, and what's more I'm not
hired to wash company's clothes, and what's more I won't. And what's
more still, I think you better hunt for another girl."

I couldn't have received more depressing news. I hated being ruled by a
cook, and I hated to let her go. I didn't have a soul to ask about it.
I didn't know what to do. I flared right up.

"The washing must be done," I said sternly. "_That's_ settled."

Delia dropped the skirt.

"All right. I'll do the washing to-day," she announced, "and I'll leave
to-morrow."

I just wanted to sit down and cry and cry and say, "O please be nice
about it and help us out. Please stay! O please, please, _please!_"
But I did no such thing. I bit my lip hard and replied, "Very well,"
and when I joined the others in the sitting-room, I was apparently as
undisturbed as a summer's breeze.

Things got no better as time went on. Elise didn't fit into our family
a bit. None of us was natural. Father didn't ring the gong when he
came in at noon and call up to me, "Slippers, chicken"; the twins
didn't fool under the tablecloth and call me "Snodgrass," "Angel" or
"Trolley" (because of my shape); Alec didn't tilt back on the hind legs
of his chair after dessert, with his hands shoved down in his pockets;
Ruthie didn't practice a note on the piano; even Tom was different.
At first he tried to whoop things up in the old Vars fashion, but he
gave it up after an attempt or two. We wouldn't respond. We balked like
stubborn horses, while all the time Elise kept right on being very
sweet and charming, but, oh my, cold and far away.

Her tact got on my nerves. I realised that she was trying to be nice,
but her appreciation of everything made me tired. Of course she had
seen grander houses than ours and yet she pretended to enthuse over
our old-fashioned mantels. "What fine woodwork in them," she'd say to
Father, "and what beautiful mahogany in those sliding-doors!" or, as
she gazed at our ornate black walnut bookcase, she would remark, "Black
walnut is becoming so popular!" Once she exclaimed, "How many books you
have!" and her eyes were resting on a row of black-bound town records
Father insists on keeping. When she and I attempted a miserable game
of croquet she remarked, "I think it is more fun having the ground a
little uneven." Heavens, I would have loved her if she had blurted out,
"Say, this is rotten! Let's not play." I despise insincerity.



CHAPTER III


One day at dinner (I've forgotten whether it was the first or second
day of Elise's visit, but anyhow it was before the ice was broken)
Father suggested that Tom take the new member of our family for a drive
in the afternoon with Dixie (he and Alec, could go out to the factory
by electrics), so as soon as Elise went upstairs to rest, as she always
did after dinner, I escaped to the barn, to hitch up. Alec doesn't have
much time to devote to Dixie and I gave that poor little animal such
a currying as he had never had before in his life. Then I drew up the
check two holes higher, dusted out the phaeton, and put in the best
yellow plush robe and lash whip.

Elise and Tom got back about half-past six. I was in the sitting-room
when Elise came into the house.

"Chenery has been showing me all the sights," she said. "I think Hilton
is lovely. I told Chenery we were staying too long. I'm afraid we're
late for dinner. But I'll hurry. It won't take me ten minutes to dress."

Dinner indeed! I wondered if she called the layout we had at noon
just lunch. We've always had supper at night and I hadn't intended
changing for Elise. But if she'd gone upstairs to dress for it, I'd
got to prepare something besides tea, sliced meat and toast, for all
the trouble she was taking. I flew to the kitchen. We had a can of
beef-extract, and I told Delia to make soup out of that. Then I sent
Ruth for some beefsteak, hauled down a can of peas for a vegetable, and
the sliced oranges which were already prepared would have to do for
dessert. I rushed to my room, put on my best light blue cashmere and
laid out Ruth's white muslin.

It was, after all, on the first day of Elise's visit that she took that
drive with Dixie, for _this_, I remember now, was the first evening
meal that she had had with us. An awful catastrophe took place during
the ordeal too. In the first place, having dinner at night added to
the strain the family were all under, and it may have been due to
the general atmosphere of uneasiness that made Nellie so stupid and
careless. I don't know how it happened, but when she was passing
the crackers to Elise, during the soup course, her cap got loose
somehow and fell cafluke on Elise's bread-and-butter plate. There was
an instant of dead quiet, and then Oliver, who just at that moment
happened to have his mouth full of soup, exploded like a rubber ball
with water in it. He shoved back his chair with a jerk, and coughing
and choking into his napkin, got up and left the room. Of course that
sent Malcolm off into a regular spasm, and little Ruth began to giggle
too. I could feel myself growing as red as a beet, but I didn't laugh.
No one laughed outright.

Elise was the first one to break the pause, and this is what she said:

"I've had the loveliest drive this afternoon," and then as no one
replied she went on, "Chenery took me around the reservoir. How old are
the ruins of that old mill at the upper end?"

Perhaps you think that that was a very graceful way of treating the
situation, but I didn't. We were all simply dying to laugh. We couldn't
think of old mills with that cap sticking on Elise's butter. However,
I heard Father at the other end of the table making some sort of an
answer to Elise, and all of us managed to control themselves somehow
or other. Nellie, red in the face, carried the bread-and-butter plate
away; Oliver sneaked back into his place; and I slowly began to cool
off. But of course it spoiled the meal for me.

As soon after the horrible occurrence as possible, I escaped up here to
my cupola, and Tom found me here before he went to bed. I knew he must
be disappointed at the way I was running things. I hadn't been alone
with him before, and when his head pushed up through the trap door and
he asked, "You here?" I didn't answer. I was sitting in the pitch dark
on the window-seat, but Tom must have seen my shadow for he came up
and stood beside me. He remained perfectly silent for a minute then he
said, "Aren't there a lot of stars out to-night!"

"Oh, Tom," I burst out, "I'm so sorry! Wasn't it awful? Everything's
going all wrong."

He sat down.

"It's all right, Bobbie," he said quietly. "Only I wish Elise might see
us as we really are. _Then_," he added, "you would see Elise as _she_
really is."

Tom didn't ask me how I liked her (he knew better than to do that),
and suddenly I felt sorry for my brother. I could have almost cried,
not because of the accident at dinner, not because of my failure, but
because Elise hadn't made us like her. I did so want Tom's wife to be
the same bully sort of person Tom was.

The crisis came the next day. At eleven o'clock in the morning, I found
Delia putting on her coat and hat, actually preparing to go.

"What does this mean?" I exclaimed.

"Can't you see?" she asked very saucily.

"But the washing. Have you--"

"No, I haven't, and what's more I'm not going to." She was spitting mad.

I stood there, just helpless before her.

"I have telephoned to all the intelligence offices," I said, "and
I can't get anyone to come until Saturday night. I thought, to
accommodate us, you might be willing--"

She cut me right off:

"Well, I'm not! No one accommodates me here, and I'm not used to being
treated like this. Two dinners a day and up until all hours!"

It didn't seem to me as if she had half so much to stand as I did.
I wished I could up and clear out too. I thought she was very
disagreeable to leave me in the lurch that way. But I didn't have any
words with her. I told her she might go as soon as she pleased. I hated
the sight of her standing there in the kitchen, which she had left all
spick and span, not as a kitchen should look at eleven in the morning
with half a dozen full-grown mouths to be fed at one o'clock.

I was on my way upstairs to break the news to Nellie when Elise called
to me from the sitting-room.

"Oh, Lucy," she said in her musical voice, "will there be time for me
to run over to the postoffice with some letters before lunch?"

I stalked into the sitting-room. She was sitting at the desk in her
graceful easy way, with a beautiful French hand-embroidered lingerie
waist on, that I'd be glad to own for very best. There were gold beads
about her neck, and her hair, even in the morning, was soft and fluffy
and wavy. She had her feet crossed and I took in the silk stockings and
the low dull-leather pumps.

I had a sudden desire to tear down all her beautiful appearance of ease
and grace.

"We don't have lunch at noon," I said bluntly. "We have dinner, just
dinner. We've always had dinner."

"Yes, I know," she began in her persistently pleasant way; "people do
very often, in New England."

I couldn't bear her unruffled composure.

"Oh," I said, bound to shock her, "it isn't because we're New England.
It's because we're plain, plain people. The rich families in New
England as well as anywhere, have dinner at night. But _we_," I said,
glorying in every word, "are _not_ one of the rich families. We have
doughnuts for breakfast, baked beans and brown bread Saturday nights,
and Saturday noons a boiled dinner. We love pie. We all just _love
it_. Father came from a farm in Vermont. He didn't have any money at
all when he started in. You see we're common people. And so's Tom. Tom
comes from just a common, common, _common_ family," I said, loving to
repeat the word.

She was sitting with her arm thrown carelessly over the back of the
chair, and her gaze way out of the west window. When I stopped to
see what effect my words had had she just laughed--a quiet pleased
laugh--and mixed up with it I heard her say, "Why, Chenery is the most
uncommon man I ever met." And she blushed like eighteen.

I went right on.

"We don't call him Chenery, either," I said. "We cut off all such
fringes. He's plain Tom to us. I know how the plain way we live
must impress _you_. I know you've been used to French maids, and
push-a-button for everything you want. I'm sorry for the shock you must
have got coming here. But you might as well wake up to the truth. You
see what a mess the house is in, and how Nellie won't call us Mister
and Miss, and how if she is on the third floor and she wants me she
just yells. And," I said, pointing out of the window, "there goes Delia
now. And there isn't a sign of a cook left in the house."

Elise sat up straight.

"Is she leaving without notice?" she exclaimed.

"Naturally," I laughed.

"How dreadfully unkind of her!"

"That's what I think, but Delia doesn't care if I do."

"Haven't you some one to help you out? What will you do?" Elise was
really excited.

"Do?" I replied grimly. "Oh, I'll duff in and cook myself, I suppose."

Elise put down her pen.

"I can make delicious desserts," she said. "Can't you telephone to
the family not to come home this noon? We can be ready for them by
to-night. I know how to make the best cake you ever tasted in your
life."

That's the way it came about. I took her out into the kitchen and
didn't try to cover up a thing. She could see everything exactly as it
was--smoked kitchen ceiling, uneven kitchen floor, paintless pantry
shelves. She could go to the bottom of the flour barrel if she wanted
to; and she did. Covered with an old apron and her sleeves rolled up,
she was first in the kitchen pantry looking into every cupboard, drawer
or bucket for powdered sugar; next in the fruit-closet feeling all the
paper bags, in search of a lemon; then calling to me in her musical
voice to come here and taste some dough to see if it needed anything
else; in the butler's pantry choosing just the plate she wanted for her
cookies; and actually underneath the sink, pulling out a greasy spider
for panouchie, which she was going to make out of some lumpy brown
sugar she discovered in a wooden bucket. I took grim pleasure in having
her see the worst there was. I wondered if she could stand the fact
that we didn't own an ice-cream freezer, when she suggested ice-cream
for dessert, nor possess a drop of olive oil for her mayonnaise. I
didn't care. I liked telling her the things we didn't have. When I
heard her burst into laughter in the butler's pantry, and pushing open
the swinging-door, saw her gazing at my set of rules tacked up over the
sink for Nellie, I made no explanation whatsoever. I was delighted to
have her read them. At sight of me she went off into regular peals.

Finally she gasped, with her finger on Rule 6, "She put--the ice--in a
hunk, in the big pitcher in the wash-bowl!" and the tears ran down her
cheeks.

I laughed a little then in spite of myself.

"Nellie's an old fool," I said and went back to my work.

It happened that Father and Alec had gone to Boston for the day on
business, and the last minute Tom had joined them, so the men wouldn't
be home until night anyhow. I called up the twins, just before their
fifth-hour period (I had cut school myself) and told them to get a bite
to eat at the high school lunch-counter. "I'll pay for it," I assured
them, for I knew the twins would jump at the chance of a free spread,
and as they had manual-training that afternoon, Elise and I were safe
from any interruption from the male section.

We had supper at half-past six as usual. It was very queer about that
meal. The awful strain we had all felt the same day at breakfast had
suddenly disappeared. Elise had suggested that we shouldn't tell any
one of Delia's departure, and on the outside everything was just as it
was in the morning, even to Nellie's ridiculous cap.

"These biscuits are good, Lucy," Father said suddenly, as he reached
for the plate. Father usually speaks of the food, but he hadn't done so
once since Elise had come.

"There's more in the kitchen," announced Nellie blandly.

"There's a whole panful," added Elise. "I'm awfully glad you like
them!" she exclaimed and then stopped short.

"There," I said, "I knew you'd let the cat out. Elise made them!" I
announced.

"Delia's left--" Elise hurried to say.

"And we--" I put in.

"We got supper!" she finished proudly.

"_You_ and Bobbie?" exclaimed Alec.

"Bobbie and _you_?" gasped Tom.

"Of course!" she said. "Bobbie scallopped the oysters."

"Give me some more," said Malcolm.

"Fling over the last biscuit," sang out Oliver. And in a flash Elise
picked up the little brown ball and tossed it across the fern-dish
straight as an arrow.

"Good shot!" said Oliver, catching it in both hands.

"Oh," piped up Ruthie, "make Malcolm stop. He took a cookie and it
isn't time for them."

Father just chuckled, and said, "Pretty good! pretty good!" And I tell
you it was simply glorious to be natural again!

"Don't eat too much," said Elise, "for dessert's coming and it's
awfully good."

"And chocolate layer-cake with it!" said I.

"Oh, bully!" shouted Malcolm and Oliver together.

"Say," asked Alec, "isn't this a good deal better than last night when
Nellie's cap fell into your butter?"

We all burst into sudden laughter and Nellie, who was filling the
glasses, had to set down the pitcher. She was shaking with mirth. We
laughed until it hurt; we simply roared; and suddenly Elise gasped,
when she was able to get her breath:

"Wasn't it funny? I was so frightened by you all then, I didn't know
what to say about that old cap. But now--O dear!" and suddenly she
turned to Ruth who sat next to her, put her arms around her and kissed
her. "Oh, Ruthie," she exclaimed, "isn't it _nice_ to know them all!"
And I couldn't tell whether the tears in her eyes were from laughing or
crying.

We stayed up late that night.

"Run and get my slippers," said Father to Ruth after supper; and all
the evening he lay back in his chair and watched us children while we
sang college songs to Elise's ripping accompaniment; and poked fun
at the twins because they'd just bought their first derbies. It was
eleven-thirty when we went up to bed.

"Come here a minute, Bobbie," whispered Elise to me, and I went into
the guest-room. "Do unhook the back of this dress." When I had finished
she said, "I'll be down at six-thirty" (we were going to get breakfast
too), "and don't you dare to be late! I'm going to make the omelet. You
can make the johnny-cake. Bobbie, isn't it nice Delia left?" And she
kissed _me_ as well as Ruth.

That night the boys all gathered in my room again. I wrapped up in the
down comforter, and we were just beginning to talk when Tom appeared.

"Hello," he said, smiling all over. He came in and closed the door.
"Well," he asked, "what do you think of her?" And I knew he asked us
because he so well knew what we did think. But just the same I wanted
to tell him.

I shot out my bare skinny arm at him.

"Tom," I said, "I think she's a corker!"

He first took my hand and then suddenly, very unlike the Vars, he put
both arms around me tight.

"Bobbie," he said in a kind of choked voice, "you're a little brick!"

And, my goodness, I just had to kiss Tom then!



CHAPTER IV


It has been nearly a whole year since I have written in this book of
mine. I've been too discouraged and heart-sick even to drag myself up
here into my cupola. I've aged dreadfully. I've been disillusioned of
all the hopes and dreams I ever had in my life. I've skipped that happy
period called girlhood, skipped it entirely, and I had hoped _awfully_
to go to at least one college football game before I was grey. I am
sitting in my study. It is a lovely day in spring. There are white
clouds in the sky, young robins in the wild cherry, but _my_ youth,
_my_ schooldays, _my_ aspirations are all over and gone.

Miss Wood said to me one day last winter--Miss Wood is my Sunday-school
teacher and was trying to be kind--"You know, Lucy, it is a law of
the universe for us all to have a certain amount of trouble before we
die. Some have it early, some late. Now _you_, dear, are having your
misfortunes when you are young. Just think, later they will all be
out of your way." Miss Wood hasn't had a bit of her share of trouble
yet. Why, she has a mother, a father, a fiancé, and a bunch of violets
every Sunday. She has perfectly lovely clothes, a coachman to drive
her around, and was president of her class her senior year in college.
Such blessings won't be half as nice, and Miss Wood knows it, when I'm
old and grey. I just simply hate having all my troubles dealt out to me
before my skirts touch the ground.

Our minister said to me that misfortune is the greatest builder of
character in the world. Well, it hasn't worked that way with me. I'm
hot-tempered and have an unruly tongue; I don't love a soul except my
brother Alec; and the only friend I have in the world is Juliet Adams.
I'm not even a genius--I've discovered that--and my religious beliefs
are dreadfully unsettled. Years ago I used to lie awake at night
and imagine myself in deep sorrow. I was always calm and sweet and
dignified then, beautiful and stately in my clinging black, and near me
always was a young man, a strong, handsome, clean-shaven young man in
riding clothes (I adore men in riding clothes) and I used to play that
this man was the son of the governor of the state. Strange as it might
seem, he was in love with me and when my entire family had suddenly
been killed in a railroad accident--I always had them _all_ die--this
man came to me in my lonely house and told me of his devotion. It
really made sorrow beautiful. But let me state right here that that was
one of the many empty dreams of my youth. When misfortune _did_ swoop
down upon me, I was not sweet and lovely, there was no man within a
hundred miles to understand and sympathise, there was nothing beautiful
about it. It was just plain hard and bitter. It's only in books that
trouble is romantic.

Elise visited us in the spring a year ago about this time (it seems
like a century to me) and my misfortunes began to pour in the following
fall, when I was a senior, and seventeen years old. That last year of
high school had started in to be a very happy one for me. Father had
finally allowed me to go to dancing-school; mathematics was a bugbear
of the past; and our basket-ball team was a perfect winner.

I loved dancing-school. It came every Saturday night from eight to
ten, and Juliet Adams used to call for me in her closed carriage and
drop me afterwards at my door. I remember that on that last Saturday
night I was particularly full of good-feeling, for I kissed Juliet
good-bye--a thing I seldom do--and called back to her as I ran up the
steps, "Good-night. See you at Church." I was never so unsuspecting in
my life as I opened the front door. But the instant I got inside the
house and looked into the sitting-room, I knew something was wrong. The
entire family was all sitting about the room doing absolutely nothing.
Father was not at his roll-top desk; the twins were not drawn up to the
centre table studying by the student-lamp; Alec was not out making his
Saturday night call; and, strangest of all, Ruthie was not in bed.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"Take your things off and come in, Lucy," said Father.

I didn't stir. My heart stood dead still for an instant. I grabbed hold
of the portière.

"Something has happened to Tom," I gasped, so sure I didn't even have
to ask.

I suppose I must have looked horribly frightened, for one of the twins
blurted out, in the twins' frank brutal way, "Oh, say, don't get so
everlastingly excited. Tom's all right, for all we know. So's every one
else. Do cool off."

Ruthie giggled. She always giggles at the twins, and I knew then that
my sudden fear had been for nothing. The angry colour rushed into my
face.

"Smarties!" I flung back at the twins with all my might.

"Oh, Lucy!" I heard Father murmur, and I saw Alec drop his eyes as if
he were ashamed of such an outburst from his seventeen-year-old sister.

"I don't care," I went on. "Why do you want to frighten me to death?
What's the matter with you all, anyway? What are you all doing? Why
isn't Ruthie in bed? Why are the twins--"

"It's all about _you_!" Malcolm interrupted in a sort of triumphant
manner.

"Me!" I gasped. "What in thunder--"

"Oh, Lucy!" Father again murmured.

"Well, what," I continued, "have you all been saying about _me_?" And I
sat down on the piano-stool.

Father cleared his throat the way he does before he asks the blessing,
and every one else was quiet. I knew something important was coming.

"Lucy," Father said, "we think the time has come for you to go to
boarding-school."

It hit me like a hard baseball and I couldn't have spoken if I were to
have died.

Father went on in his sure, unfaltering way.

"I have been considering it for some little while, and now as I talk
it over with the others--we always do that, you know--I am more
convinced of the wisdom of such a step than ever. Alec has been doing
some investigating, and Elise suggested in her last letter that Miss
Brown's-on-the-Hudson is an excellent school. I have, therefore,
communicated with Miss Brown and a telegram announces to me to-day
that a vacancy allows her to accept you, late as it is. Before worrying
you unnecessarily, I have made all arrangements. I have written to
Aunt Sarah, and she is willing to come and take your place here. So,
my dear child, I am only waiting now for your careful and womanly
consideration." I think he must have seen the horror on my face, for he
added gently, "You needn't decide to-night, Lucy. Think it over and in
the morning your duty will seem clear to you."

I have heard of people whose hair grows grey in a single night. It's
a wonder mine didn't turn snow-white during that single speech.
Boarding-school had never been intimated to me before. I had been away
from home for over night only twice in my life, and then stayed only a
week. Both times I had almost died of homesickness. I would as soon be
sentenced to prison or to death. Oh, I didn't want to go away! I didn't
want to! The silence after Father finished was awful. One of the twins
broke it.

"When Father told us about this to-night," Malcolm began importantly,
"we thought he was dead right. You see," he went on, "we want our
sister to be as nice as any other fellow's sister."

"Don't you 'sister' _me_," I managed to murmur, for I wasn't going to
be patronised by the twins who are a year younger than I am.

"Well, anyhow," said Oliver, the crueller one of the twins, "you
haven't got the right hang of fixing yourself up yet. You go round
with tomboys like Juliet Adams, and some others I might mention, that
fellows haven't any use for. High school is all right for _us_, but,
no siree, not for _you_. Some girls get the knack all right at home;
but look at yourself now! You wouldn't think a girl of seventeen would
twist her feet around a piano-stool like that!" I twisted them tighter.
"Even Toots" (that's Ruthie), he went on, "seems to carry herself more
like a young lady."

Ruth giggled at Oliver's last remark and I came back to life.

"I may be plain and awkward and gawky," I began, "and as homely as
a hedge fence, but let me tell you two children, if I spent my time
primping before the glass, and mincing up and down the street Saturday
afternoons before Brimmer's drug-store like your precious Elsie
Barnard," I fired, looking straight at Malcolm and bringing the colour
to his face, for he was awfully gone on Elsie, "or Doris Abbott, Mister
Oliver," I added, and Oliver flushed brilliant red, "you two wouldn't
have any stockings mended or any buttons on your coats or any lessons
either, for you know without me to explain every little thing you are
awful dunces!"

Father said, "Oh, come, Lucy, let us not quarrel;" Ruth went over and
sat on the arm of Oliver's chair (she always sides with the twins); and
my older brother Alec just looked hard at his magazine.

There was a long silence and then I got up and walked over to Alec. I
took the magazine out of his hand. I was calm now.

"Alec, what do _you_ think about my going away?" I said.

He looked up and smiled his kind, tired smile at me. Then he took my
hand but I drew it away quickly, turned and sat down on the arm of the
Morris-chair in which he was sitting, with my back square to him. His
gentle voice came to me from over my shoulder.

"Well, Lucy," he said, "you see, you've been working so hard for us
all here, for so many years, that I think, too, you've earned a little
vacation. You've been such a splendid mother to us--such a perfect
little housekeeper, that now I'd like to see you less hard-worked. We
don't want to cheat you of your girlhood. We want you to have all the
good times, and gaieties, and clothes, and things like that, that other
girls have."

Ah, yes! I saw finally. They were ashamed of me. Even Alec was ashamed
of me. I was not like other girls. I was plain and awkward and wore
ugly clothes. I wasn't pretty. They wanted to send me away as if I were
an old dented spoon to be straightened and polished at the jeweller's.
When Alec paused he put his arm over in front of me so that it lay in
my lap. At the touch of it the sobs seemed suddenly to rise up in my
throat, pressing after each other as if they were anxious to get out
into the air, and I rose quickly, pushed Alec's arm away and left the
room. They mustn't see--oh, no, they mustn't see me cry! I meant to
go to my bedroom and have it out by myself, but instead I rushed to
the kitchen and buried my face for a minute in the roller-towel. Then
before I let myself give way, I drew the dipper full of cold water and
swallowed those sobs back, forcing them with the strength of Samson.
You see I knew my sudden exit would leave an uncomfortable sensation
in the room back there, and I wouldn't have had one of them think I
was emotional for anything. So after a minute I went back. They could
see for themselves that there wasn't a tear in sight. Standing in the
doorway, facing them all, this is what I said, my voice as hard as
metal.

"Father, I shall be packed, and ready to go on Monday morning."

When I closed the door to my room that night I did not cry, although
my throat ached with wanting to. As I drew my curtain and looked out
into the dark night I thought of Juliet Adams, sleeping peacefully
like a child, and I realised how little she knew of sorrow. When the
big clock in the hall struck twelve I was kneeling before my bureau,
stacking my underclothes in neat little piles ready for my trunk. How
little I knew that what I then thought my pretty ninety-eight-cent
nightgowns, long-sleeved and high-necked, would about die of shame for
their plainness, before the beautiful lace and French hand-embroidered
lingerie represented at midnight spreads at school. I'm glad I didn't
know then that I would come to despise my poor faithful clothes.

I was piling my gloves into a box when there came a soft knock at the
door. Alec came in, in his red and grey bath-towel bath-robe.

"Not in bed yet?" he said gently, and came over and sat down near me
on the floor with his back against the wall, his knees drawn up almost
to his chin and his arms clasped about them. We sat there for a moment
silently, and I grimly folded gloves. Then, "Good stuff, Bobbie," he
said finally--and oh, so kindly--"Good nerve."

I turned and looked straight at him.

"No, Alec," I said, "there isn't anything good about it. It's horrid
feelings and hate that make me go."

He looked away from me as he always does when he disapproves, but he
put his hand on my shoulder and I was grateful for that touch.

I turned on him frantically and burst out, "Alec Vars, you are the
only one in this whole house I love--you and Father," I amended, for
we all adore Father. "You're the only one who is kind or thoughtful.
I've tried to do my duty in this place by you and the others, but I
guess I haven't succeeded. Now I'm going away and we'll see how the
twins enjoy a dose of Aunt Sarah." I paused, then added, "Look here,
Alec, don't let Ruth go out to the Country Club. She is pretty and the
older men--why, your friends talk to her and make her vain and hold
her on the arms of their chairs. Don't let _her_ go. And the twins--I
haven't told on them yet--but they're smoking! They're dead scared for
fear I'll tell Father, and I said that I should if I caught them at it
again."

"Good Bobbie, you'd keep us straight if you could, wouldn't you?"

"No, I wouldn't," I flared back. "It's hate I feel and--"

Alec put his hand over my mouth.

"What shall I do to you?" he laughed.

I rose abruptly, crossed the room and closed the window at my back.
There was a big lump in my throat and I stopped at the marble
wash-stand built into one corner of my room, and took a drink of water.
Then I went back to my glove-sorting. Finally I was able to ask,
"Alec, were you at the bottom of this?"

"Oh, I don't know," he smiled. "Possibly--I--or Will Maynard."

"Will Maynard!" I exclaimed. Dr. Maynard is a physician in our town,
and was a classmate of Alec's years ago in college. He has nothing to
do with _me_.

Alec picked up one of my gloves and began turning it right-side-out, as
he explained.

"We dropped into Grand Army Hall one afternoon a week or so ago when
you were playing a basket-ball game. I'd never seen you play before.
We stayed for a half an hour or more. Going home Will said to me, 'Why
don't you send that little wild-cat sister of yours away to school?'
I began to mull it over. Of course, Bobbie, old girl," Alec went on,
"I admire your pluck and spirit in basket-ball. I like to see you win
whatever you set out to. You played a fine game--a bully fine game;
but there are other things in life to acquire--other kinds of things,
Bobbikins." He stopped. "Oh, you'll like boarding-school," he said.

"I'll like Dr. Maynard not to butt into my affairs," I replied under my
breath; then I remarked, "I'm ready for that glove, please."

Alec passed it over and got up.

"Good-night," he said. "Oh, by the way," he added, "here is something
you may find a use for. Your tuition and board, of course, will be
paid for by Father, but I know there are a lot of extras--girl's
things--that you'll need. Possibly this will help." He dropped a piece
of paper into my lap and was gone before I could look up.

I unfolded the paper and saw a check dancing before my eyes for one
hundred dollars! I knew very well that we were as poor as paupers in
spite of our big house, and stable, as empty now as a shell. I knew
Father's business was about as lifeless as the stable, and that Alec
alone stood by him trying to give a little encouragement. Splendid
Alec! I fled after him. He was just groping his way up the stairs to
his third-floor room. I caught him and very unlike my even temperament
put my arms around him tight.

"O Alec," I blubbered, "it isn't because of the money; it's because of
_you_." Then I added, like a great idiot, "Oh, I _will_ try not to be
such a tomboy! I _will_ try to be worth something when I'm away, and
all the things you want me to be." And then because I hated to pose as
any kind of an angel, I turned, fled back to my room and locked the
door.

I made a great impression with my announcement the next day in
Sunday-school. Juliet could hardly believe me. She stared at me as
open-eyed and awestruck as if I had told her I was going to China. She
wouldn't sing the hymns, and during the long prayer she whispered to
me: "You'll be going to Spreads!" And later: "You'll have a Room-mate!"
And again: "Perhaps you'll be invited to House-parties!"

If I were about to be hanged it would be little comfort to me to be
told that in a few hours I would be playing on harps, walking streets
of gold and wearing wings. I didn't want to go away--that was the
plain truth. I preferred Intelligence-Offices to boarding-schools;
I preferred our big brown ugly old house, empty stable, out-of-date
carriages, cruel twins, and uncuddleble Ruth to spreads, room-mates
and house-parties. I wanted to stay at home! But I was bound that no
one should know that my heart was breaking; I was determined that
no one should guess that I was being sent away, boosted out of my
position, like the poor old minister in the South Baptist church. I
would go with my head up, and tearless! Only once did I give way, and
that was in poor little Dixie's furry neck when I threw my arms about
him in his stall. Poor little dumb Dixie! Poor pitiful dumb carriages
gazing silently at me. "_You'll_ miss me. _You'll_ be sorry," I said.

On that last grey Sunday afternoon I took my good-bye walk, through
Buxton's woods back of our house. I gazed for the last time on the
precious landmarks that I had grown to love--the two freak chestnut
trees, soldered into one like the Siamese twins; the hollow oak where
we used to dig the rich dark brown peet and find the big, slimy white
worms; the huge fallen pine, struck once by lightning, along whose
trunk and in among whose dead branches we used to play "ship" and
"pirate-boat." I walked alone--all alone. There was no romantic lover
in riding clothes, as in my dreams, to share my sad reflections. Only
a scurrying chipmunk or red squirrel, now and then, gazed at me with
frightened eyes, then scampered away; only the dead leaves under
my feet kept rhythm with my dragging steps. I was awfully lonely
and unhappy. It seemed to me that even the sombre sky and the dead
quietness of Sunday connived to add to my dreariness.

When I reached our iron gate on my return, it was nearly dark.
Dr. Maynard was just coming away from one of his frequent Sunday
afternoons with Alec and I met him by the fountain.

"Hello, little Wild-cat," he sang out cheerily. He always has called me
Wild-cat, though I never knew why. "Back from one of your walks 'all by
your lone'?" I think he copied that from Kipling. "Ears been burning?
Al and I have just been talking about you."

I had never as much as peeped in Dr. Maynard's presence before--he's
fifteen years older than I--but I couldn't bear his interference in
my affairs and I retorted, "I should advise you not to meddle with
wild-cats, Dr. Maynard!"

"Whew!" he whistled in mock alarm; and though it was not a pretty thing
for a girl of seventeen to say to a man whose hair was beginning to
turn grey, I finished hotly, "Or you'll get scratched!" and turned and
dashed into the house.



CHAPTER V


In thinking over my career at boarding-school I always recall three
remarks which were made to me in the smoky Hilton Station as I waited
for my train. Father and Alec and Juliet who, the dear old trump, had
actually cut school to see me off, were at the station.

Alec had said, "Go slowly, Bobbie, and know only the best girls," and I
had replied, pop-full of confidence, "Of course, Alec."

"And whatever else you do," exclaimed Juliet, "don't you dare to get a
swelled head, Lucy Vars." "I won't," I had assured her.

Father, dear kind Father, his hand on my shoulder, had commanded: "Dear
child, discover some one less fortunate than yourself and be kind to
her." And I had promised, tussling with the painful lump in my throat,
"I will, dear Father."

Father had slipped a paper bag into my hand then--a bag of lemon-drops
(Father always buys lemon-drops) and two sticks of colt's-foot. The
poor dear man had forgotten that I didn't like colt's-foot, but when
I opened the bag in the train and saw those two little brown sticks,
somehow I loved dear Father harder than ever. I put them into my
travelling bag very tenderly, and have kept them ever since.

I don't know how to explain my impressions of boarding-school. I
realise now that in spite of the pain at leaving home I did have
buried in the bottom of my heart dreams of the vague, unknown joys of
room-mates and spreads. Every young girl has such dreams, I guess. Even
as I sped along in the train, trying desperately to dissolve that lump
in my throat with Father's lemon-drops, I was wondering about the new
bosom friends I should make. Edith Campbell, an awfully popular older
girl in our town and a friend of Alec's, had been to a fashionable
boarding-school in New York ever since she was a child, and she was
forever bringing home girls to visit her, or whisking off herself to
ball-games and Proms with "a Room-mate's brother" or "a Best-friend's
cousin." I could hardly realise that I, Lucy Vars, was about to step
within the same fascinating circle. Fifty girls to eat and sleep and
walk with; fifty girls to choose my friends from; fifty girls to bring
home with me for over a holiday; fifty girls for me to visit; and fifty
girls with brothers or cousins at Harvard and Yale and Princeton.
Perhaps that very winter some college man would invite me to a Prom;
I would dance till morning, and become such a dazzling belle that by
Easter-time I would look upon the twins as mere _boys_. Probably by
summer I would be dashing about to house-parties, and talking to real
grown-up men over a cup of tea like Dolly in the "Dolly Dialogues."
Perhaps I would be president of my class at school, like Tom at
college. Perhaps--perhaps--oh, I am forced to smile at myself now as I
look back and see the funny little short-skirted, pig-tailed creature
that I was, sitting there in the train, gazing out of the window,
building my absurd little air-castles by the score, on the very way
to the destruction of every dream I ever had. I didn't make a single
friend at boarding-school. I didn't meet a man. Here it is almost
summer, and house-parties seem as remote from me as they did ten years
ago. I must try to explain why I made such a flat failure of things. It
isn't a pleasant story, but here goes:

The first instant that I stepped into that school I knew that I was a
curiosity to everybody there. Never shall I forget that first evening
when Miss Brown ushered me into the big school dining-room and seated
me beside her. It looked like fairy-land to me--red candles on a dozen
little round tables and all the girls in soft, light dresses with Dutch
necks. When I finally dared look up from my plate and glance round, I
thought I had never seen such beautiful creatures. I couldn't find a
homely girl among them; and such lovely hair as they had, done soft and
full and fluffy with large ribbon-bows tied at the back of their necks.
The girls at our table had the whitest hands and the prettiest soft
arms, with bracelets jingling on them.

After supper Miss Brown seated herself in a big armchair by a low lamp
in the drawing-room and read aloud from "Pride and Prejudice." The
girls all gathered about her and did fancy work on big hoops. I didn't
have any work and tried to make myself comfortable on a little high
silk-brocaded chair. I felt horribly embarrassed. Every time a girl
looked up from her work and scrutinised me from top to toe, I felt like
saying, "I know I'm a perfect mess. I see it. I know my hands are like
sandpaper, and my shoes thick-soled, and my dress a sight. I know my
hair is ridiculous braided and bobbed up with a black ribbon like a
horse's tail. I know it." I couldn't listen to a word that Miss Brown
was reading. I was awfully disturbed thinking about my trunk on its
way to me, filled with its queer collection, and wondering what in the
name of heaven I could put on the next night. My blue cashmere haunted
me like a bad dream. I think that first evening at boarding-school
was the first time I really missed having a mother. _She_ would have
known the blue cashmere was ugly; _she_ would have known that little
bronze slippers with stockings to match were the proper thing; _she_
would have known that girls at boarding-school wore Dutch necks and
wide ribbons tied low, at the back of their necks. I simply dreaded
unpacking that pitiful little trunk of mine. I wished it could be lost.

My room-mate's name was Gabriella Atherton, but when I entered the room
which I was supposed to share with her I wished she had been plain
Mary Jane. The bureau was simply loaded with silver things--silver
brushes and mirrors and powder-boxes, and at least three silver frames
with the stunningest men's pictures in them you ever saw. The walls
were covered with college flags, and the window-seat was banked with
college sofa-cushions. Why, I didn't know a single man, except high
school boys, great awkward creatures like the twins. I hoped Gabriella
wouldn't find out that I had never been to a college football game
in my life, nor been invited to one either. My one last hope for
consolation lay in the possibility that Gabriella was older than I. I
thought she must be at least twenty to know so many men. When we were
finally alone, getting ready to go to bed I asked her. My heart sank
when she announced that she was only sixteen. I know exactly how a
mother feels now when another person's baby born a month before hers
talks first and shows signs of greater intelligence. I remember I was
standing before my chiffonier braiding my hair for the night, pulling
it flat back as I always did and fixing it in one tight short little
braid, when Gabriella announced she was sixteen. Why, she looked old
enough to be married, and I--I gazed at my reflection--I looked like
poor Sarah Carew in the garret. No wonder the family wanted to send the
old spoon away to be polished. No wonder!

"One of the girls," Gabriella went on to say, "has had a Box from home.
She's asked the whole school to a Kimono Spread in her room. Do you
want to go?"

A Spread! My heart leaped! And then I got a glimpse of Gabriella in the
glass before me. She was a vision in a flowing pink silk kimono with
white birds on it. She had her hair fluffed up on top and tied with a
wide pink taffeta ribbon--she actually slept in it--and little pink
shoes on her feet.

"I guess I won't to-night, thanks," I said, not turning around, for I
didn't want her to see what a peeled onion I looked like; "the train
made me car-sick." And I snapped the elastic band around the end of my
braid.

After Gabriella had gone I turned out the light and crawled into the
little brass bed, which Miss Brown had said was mine; but I didn't
go to sleep. I just lay there listening to the muffled laughter and
chatter at the end of the hall. It was only nine o'clock and lights
were not due to be out until ten. I hated lying there wide awake and I
kept wondering how I could get dressed in the morning without letting
my room-mate see all my plain ugly things. Then I remembered that I had
left my common cheap little wooden brush, the shellac all washed off
with weekly scrubbings, on top of my chiffonier. I jumped up quickly
and hid it in the top drawer; then suddenly I turned on the light, sat
down in my horrid red wool wrapper, and wrote something like this to
Alec, blubbering and dabbing tears all through it:

 "_Dear Alec_,

  I'm here safely, I've met all the girls and they are perfectly lovely.
  I'm going to love it. My room-mate's name is Gabriella Atherton--isn't
  that a beautiful name?--and she is a perfect dear! I can't write long
  for I am due at a spread; so, so-long until I have more time. This
  place is full of corking girls. They would, however, consider the
  twins mere babes-in-arms. Tell Aunt Sarah that Father will want his
  flannel night-shirts as soon as there is a frost. They are in the
  all-over leather trunk in the storeroom. The girls will be wondering
  where I am, so good-night.

                      "Your enthusiastic
                                           "BOBBIE."

Then I went back to bed and bawled like a baby, until I heard
Gabriella at the door. Another girl was with her and I heard her say,
"Good-night, dear," and Gabriella call back exactly as they do in books
and as they did once in my dreams. "Good-night, sweetheart." Thereupon
I ducked my head down underneath the covers and pretended to be asleep.
A half-hour later, when I felt sure that Gabriella was dead to the
world, I opened my eyes and lay awake until almost morning.

But no one needs to think that I was homesick. Wild horses couldn't
have dragged me home. I was bound to stick it out or die and I tried
not to be a little goose and cry my eyes out. That wouldn't help me to
make the best girls my friends and I didn't mean to disappoint Alec if
I could help it. I was there for business and I meant to accomplish it.
Alec had said he admired that quality.

But Miss Brown's-on-the-Hudson was awfully different from the
Hilton Classical High School. They played basket-ball as if it were
drop-the-handkerchief: there was no regular team. We exercised by
walking two by two for an hour every afternoon. There wasn't the
slightest chance for me to shine in athletics.

I was robbed also of my hope of being a genius. There was a girl who
could write ten times better than I. It was after one of her poems
was read out loud in class, that I discovered I wasn't gifted in the
least. She was the marvel of the school, and whenever there were guests
she was asked to read her poems herself. They were the deepest things
I ever listened to--about the soul, and sorrow, and "swift sweet
death." She _looked_ like a genius too. She had jet black hair and
wore it in long curls tied loosely behind, big dreamy eyes, and pale
transparent skin. She wasn't very healthy and always wore black. Her
mother was an artist in Florence, and Lucia (think of it, _my_ name,
but pronounced so differently) Lucia had always lived in Italy until
she came to school. I tell you, as soon as I saw her and listened to
her poetry, I was terribly thankful that I had never let any one know
that I had ever thought _I_ could write. I got A on my compositions,
and A in everything else, but no one imagined that I was a genius.
They considered _me_ just a plain everyday shark. But I tried not to
be offensively smart. I flunked on purpose once in a while; I passed
notes in class whenever I could find any one to pass them to; I got
so I could turn off a "darn" as neatly as any of them, and pout and
say "The devil!" when I pricked my finger pinning down my belt. For I
was determined they shouldn't think me a "goody-goody" or a "teacher's
pet." I even crocheted a man's tie and pretended it was for a friend of
mine at a fashionable preparatory school in Massachusetts. I went so
far in my frantic endeavours, as to cut out from old magazines all the
pictures I could find of an actor, whom, by the way, I had never even
seen, and stuck them in the corners of the glass over my chiffonier.

Oh, I tried to be like the other girls. I knew they hadn't liked their
first impressions of me, but I tried to show them that I wasn't as
queer as I looked. I tried to be pleasant and accommodating; I tried to
be patient and bide my time; I tried--heaven knows I tried, Alec--but
it was no use. From the start it was absolutely no go. I couldn't
make even the _worst_ of those girls my friends. I tell you I did my
level best, but I hadn't the clothes, nor the silver bureau-sets, nor
the frames, nor the men's pictures to put into them, nor the college
banners, nor the mother to send me boxes of food from home. Those girls
treated me as if I were the mud under their feet. If I was in the room,
I might as well have been the bed-post for all the attention they paid
to me. If I was told to walk with one of them during "Exercise," that
one was pitied by the rest. They looked upon my clothes as if I were a
Syrian or Turk in strange costume. I used to get hot all over whenever
I had to appear in a dress they had never seen. And, O Juliet--good
old loyal Juliet--you were afraid I would be spoiled by admiration! I
simply have to chortle with glee when I think of your warning to your
old chum. A swelled head! My _eyes_ got swollen instead, old Jule, with
tears! And Father--dear Father--there wasn't a single soul for me to be
kind to. _I_ was the most miserable one in the whole school, the most
unpopular, the most forlorn. And there's the truth in black and white.

After about five weeks of an average of ten insults a day, I got tired.
Too long a stretch on the diet of humble-pie doesn't agree with me.
There's an end to every one's patience. One day in late November little
Japan up and fought; and once started, there was no stopping her. You
see the girls had gotten into the habit of asking me to help them with
their lessons. At first I was pleased, for I naturally thought that if
they would let me see their stupid minds, they would admit me into a
few of their intimacies and secret affairs--and oh, I did long to be
friends with them! But I discovered they had no such intention.

One night I went into Beatrix Fox's room, by appointment, at quarter of
ten. She was waiting and ready for me, but I could see the remains of
a spread on the table and desk--crumbs, nutshells, olive-stones, and a
half-eaten bunch of Tokays.

"Oh, here you are!" said Beatrix, and with no attempt at concealment,
she went on. "I've been having half a dozen girls to a spread," she
said. "But I told them to leave one piece of cake for _you_, Lucy. Here
it is. Now let's get at the Latin."

I was awfully insulted. Beatrix Fox nor any one else had ever seen the
least fire or spunk in Lucy Vars before that night, but I couldn't hold
in a minute longer. I took the delicious piece of chocolate layer-cake
and went over to the waste-basket. I threw it in. "There's your cake!"
Beatrix stared as if I had gone crazy. "There's your old cake, Beatrix
Fox!" I repeated, and went out of the room.

After that night I was a changed person. I couldn't be touched with
a ten-yard pole. I became a regular bunch of fire-crackers--spurting
and going off in everybody's face and eyes at the least spark. And
oh, to speak out my mind, and to spit out my feelings at last, was
simply glorious! It was like getting the rubber-dam off your tooth
after a three hours' sitting at the dentist's. After that experience
with Beatrix, there was no more Cicero translated nor French sentences
corrected by Lucy Vars for a single one of those stupid-minded,
rattle-brained young ladies. I made a notice on pasteboard in black ink
and hung it on my door. It read: "A PUBLIC TUTOR CAN BE OBTAINED FROM
MISS BROWN. DON'T APPLY HERE! LUCY CHENERY VARS." The girls thought the
sign was perfectly horrid and I was glad of it. I wanted to be horrid.
I revelled in it. I wanted to be horrid to everybody who had been
horrid to me.

Once during "Written Exercise," I wrote a whole page of Latin
Composition wrong, so that little cheating snobbish Barbara Porter
next to me might copy it off on her paper and pass it in. At the bottom
of _my_ sheet I wrote, "I've made these mistakes on purpose. You may
give me zero." Miss Brown, in a long talk in her private office, told
me it was not a kind thing for me to do. But I didn't care. I had let
Barbara Porter copy my Latin Comp for five weeks without a murmur, and
she had never put _herself_ out to be kind to _me_. I wasn't going to
be anybody's door-mat!

At Thanksgiving all the girls "double up," which means that the ones
who live far away spend the holiday with the ones who live near. Of
course no one wanted me. Gabriella, who at times tried to be nice to
me, felt conscience-stricken, I suppose, for she said to me one day
when we were dressing, "It's too bad you're going to be here alone,
Lucy. Don't you suppose Miss Brown would let you to come down to
East Orange" (Gabriella lived in East Orange, New Jersey) "and eat
Thanksgiving dinner with us?"

I replied maliciously, "Why, I'm sure Miss Brown would let me spend the
entire three days with you, Gabriella."

Gabriella hedged then, as I knew she would. "Oh, I'm so sorry. I'm
taking Grace and Barbara home with me, and there's a dance I do want to
go to--and--if you--"

"O Gabriella," I broke in, "don't be alarmed. I shan't burden you for
one little tiny minute. I just wanted to frighten you. I wouldn't give
your friends at home such a shock as the sight of me would be, for
anything in the world. I shall enjoy, on the other hand, the quiet of
this room after my charming room-mate has departed."

That's the way I talked but I wrote home: "Gabriella wants me awfully
to spend Thanksgiving with her. There is a dance and all sorts of
plans, but in spite of all her urging I've refused. There's quite a
bunch of us staying here" (the bunch were teachers), "and jolly spreads
and sprees in store."

I didn't want my family to know--kind Alec, the arrogant twins, pretty
Ruth, and Father who used to be so proud of me--I didn't want them to
know what a poor little Cinderella I was. When I went home I wanted
every one to think I had had a glorious time at school, as all girls
do. I wanted my family to open their eyes and say, "My, how you're
changed!" and every one at church to whisper when I came in a little
late, "There's Lucy Vars home! Hasn't she grown up?" I wanted Dr.
Maynard to raise his hat to me when he met me on the street, and call
me Miss Vars. I wanted Juliet to gaze at me with envy. If there was any
real silver underneath the tarnish on me I was bound it should shine
when I went home at Christmas. And so it happened that I made up my
mind that if I couldn't make friends with my new schoolmates I could at
least learn something from them. I used to observe them very carefully
and jot down important points in my memory. Even the things that I
derided to their faces, I meant to copy when I went home. My brain
became a regular copybook of rules.

"My skirts," I recorded, "should be below my shoe-tops, not above.

"The way to keep a waist down, is to fasten it with a safety-pin
behind and a long black steel pin in front.

"My nails should be as shining as a dinner-plate.

"A shining face is not supposed to be pretty.

"Powder is used to remove shine, and isn't wicked like rouge.

"Girls of seventeen use hairpins and rats, and keep their hats on with
hatpins instead of elastics.

"Mohair and gingham underskirts and Ferris waists are not worn by girls
of seventeen.

"Huge taffeta bows underneath the chin, on the hair, or anywhere in
fact, is the rubber-stamp for a girl of my age.

"Automobiles, actors, college football, and allowances are popular
subjects for conversation.

"Don't break crackers into your soup.

"Don't butter a whole slice of bread.

"Don't cut up all your meat before beginning to eat."

I used to watch Gabriella dress like a hawk. She had lots of clever
little tricks, like pinning up her pompadour to the brim of her hat, or
rubbing her cheeks with a hair-brush to make them rosy. She used to put
a little cologne just back of her ears, which I thought very queer, and
she was forever asking me if I could see light through her hair. Every
week she gave her face what she called a cold-cream bath. She said her
mother always did, after riding in the automobile.

I planned to spend every cent of Alec's one hundred dollars on clothes.
I did all my shopping in New York. I adored New York! Saturday
afternoons when the other girls went to the matinée, the chaperone
allowed me to spend the time in the big department stores. I didn't
buy anything--just looked and looked, priced and priced, and when I
had a nice clerk, tried things on. Once I had my nails manicured, so
I would know how; once I went to a Fifth Avenue hair dresser, who
charged me a dollar and a half to make me look like a sight; and one
day I bought Father a necktie for fifty cents and Alec a scarf-pin for
seventy-five. That is all I spent until just before Christmas when I
blew in the whole hundred. For, you understand, it was not to impress
the girls at school, but the people at home, that I bought my new
outfit. It was not until after I had made a great many estimates and
carefully planned it all out on a piece of paper that I asked one of
the younger teachers, who I thought had good taste, if she would help
me buy a few trifling clothes on the following Saturday.

We started on the early train and reached New York at nine o'clock. I
think that Saturday was the happiest day of my life! I bought a suit
for thirty-five dollars at Kirby's; a hat marked down to ten dollars
at Earl & Kittredge's; a silk dress for twenty-five dollars; a spotted
veil for fifty cents; a barette for twenty cents; pumps for four
dollars; one pair of silk stockings for one dollar, and so on. I had
just seven dollars and sixty-seven cents left after I had bought my
last purchase--a lovely red silk waist for travelling. My suit was dark
blue, my boots tan with Cuban heels, and my blue velvet hat had two
reddish quills in it. I was awfully pleased with my selections, and I
confided to Miss Davis, the teacher, that I wasn't going to wear any of
the things until the very day I started for home.

"And now," I said, "I'm going to take you to luncheon, Miss Davis,
after which I want you to be my guest at a matinée."

It was simply grand to have money! It makes you feel like a queen to
fling it around as if it were paper. After I had spent almost a hundred
dollars Miss Davis thought I was an heiress in disguise, and to carry
out the part I left the whole of fifty cents as a tip for our waiter at
luncheon. I told Miss Davis to pick out the most popular play in New
York for us to see. We bought the best seats in the house.

Never, never as long as I live shall I forget those two hours and a
half of perfect happiness! I'd never seen anything but vaudeville in my
life, and I almost cry now when I think of that play. It was perfectly
grand. The hero kept looking right straight at me all the time and what
do you think? What do you suppose? He was the very actor whose pictures
I had cut out and stuck in my mirror! He was Robert K. Dwinnell, and I
hadn't known until I was inside the theatre and looked at the program
that he was in New York. It seemed to me too strange a coincidence to
be true. I don't believe in omens, but Miss Davis told me afterward
she hadn't the slightest idea that I had been collecting his pictures.
After that play I could hardly speak. The queer grey light of day after
the glow of the footlights, didn't seem real. Boarding-school and all
the girls seemed trifling. I couldn't think of anything except Robert
Dwinnell and that play all the way back in the train. I felt that I was
the beautiful heroine instead of Lucy Vars. I felt her joy at meeting
her lover instead of my anguish at going back to a lot of unfriendly
girls. I lived and breathed in the action of the plot I had just seen.
I couldn't get away from it. Before I boarded the train that night I
dragged Miss Davis into a small shop which we passed on the way to the
station, and with the last fifty cents of Alec's one hundred dollars I
bought a real picture of Robert Dwinnell. The picture is here now in
this very cupola, in the top drawer of my desk and is the only comfort
that I have. Mr. Dwinnell is sitting on the edge of a table swinging
one foot, just as he did in the play--I remember the place in the third
act--and his eyes are looking right at me.

I wonder, oh, I wonder sometimes, if he and I will ever meet.



CHAPTER VI


It was about a week before the Christmas vacation that my last outbreak
at boarding-school occurred. It was one noon after lunch when I was
passing through the hall on my way upstairs. I had to go by Sarah
Platt's room, where the little clique of girls I had once longed to be
one of, used often to congregate after luncheon before the two o'clock
study-hour. They were gathered there to-day, talking and laughing
together in their usual mysterious manner, and I wondered vaguely as
I went by, what they were discussing now. I never allowed myself to
listen intentionally, but the conversation of those girls, who were
still strangers to me, always fascinated me, and I confess I used to
overhear all that I could without being dishonourable. As I sauntered
by the half-closed door of that room I recognised the voice of Sarah
Platt herself, who of all the girls I had aspired to make my best
friend. Sarah was a dashing kind of girl and would show off to awfully
good advantage before my family if I had invited her to visit me.

"Well," I heard her say, "I think Miss Brown is taking her in on
charity."

I knew Sarah must be referring to me and I stopped stock-still.

"Why, she hasn't _anything_, and this horrid place is probably a palace
to her!"

I flushed with rage. Palace nothing!

"I think," said a little Jewess by the name of Elsie Weil, "it's too
bad for Gabriella. I'd hate to have such a room-mate forced on _me_."

"I don't think Miss Brown ought to take such a girl in at all and make
us who pay a thousand dollars a year be intimate with a person we never
can know socially," drawled Sarah Platt. "It's hard on her too," she
finished patronisingly.

"Oh, don't mind about _me_," I breathed, ready to explode.

"I'm just tired," another girl broke in, "of having all the teachers,
and Miss Brown too, talking and lecturing to us about being nice to
_Lucy, Lucy, Lucy_ all the time."

"And the spite and scorn that the child puts on lately," added Sarah,
"is perfectly absurd. As if she had anything to back it up!"

"I know," went on the little Jewess, "her family can't be much. You can
see that. Did you ever notice the row of old-fashioned family pictures
on the back of her chiffonier?"

At that I caught my breath. My dear good family! And without waiting to
hear another word I flung open the door. There were six or seven girls
before me crowded together in a bunch on a couch in the corner. I felt
myself grow suddenly calm as I stood there before them not saying a
word, and they staring back at me as if I were an apparition.

"I heard every single word you said," I began slowly, "every single
word!" Then my thoughts collected themselves and filed by in the order
of soldiers on parade. "I don't care a straw for your opinions. I
feel above every one of you. It makes me smile to think I would be
the least disturbed by common and uneducated westerners," for Sarah
lived in Missouri, "or Jews!" I spat at Elsie Weil. "You needn't any
of you trouble about being kind to me. I don't want your kindness. I'm
perfectly indifferent to every one of you. I am _not_ here on charity;
and as for the pictures on my chiffonier, if you don't like them, lump
them, or else keep your eyes at home." I knew I was acting unladylike
but I was fired up and couldn't help going on. "My family may not have
fashionable photographs, my clothes may be as ugly as mud, but if you
_knew_ who my older brother is, if you _knew_ who my father is, if you
_knew_! My father is president of the Vars & Company Woollen Mills; my
father is a director in the Hilton County Savings Bank; my father is a
state senator; my father--oh, I shan't tell you all he is, because you
haven't got enough brains to appreciate it. It would be like telling
monkies about Abraham Lincoln!" I stopped just a moment, but no one
spoke. All those girls huddled together in a bunch just kept on staring
as they would at a rearing horse in a parade, meekly from the sidewalk.
"You don't know about anything but clothes and theatres. And let me
tell you once for all I don't want anything of _any_ of you." Sarah
Platt opened her mouth to speak. I cut her off short. "Keep still,
Sarah Platt," I said. "Don't you dare address one word to me!" Oh,
I wanted to do something insulting, like sticking out my tongue, or
making an ugly face. But instead I just said, "And don't one of you in
this room ever assume to speak one word to me as long as you live!" And
I turned, stalked out of the room, and went straight upstairs.

I don't know how I could have said anything so horrid as all that, and
I seventeen years old, but somehow it is always easier for me to roll
off spiteful things than anything sweet and kind. I am always less
embarrassed about it. Poor Alec would have been awfully disappointed to
have heard such an outburst from his sister. Father would have said,
"Oh, Lucy!" The arrogant twins wouldn't have wanted to own me. Only
my dear old chum Juliet Adams would have been proud. She would have
exclaimed, "Bully for you, Bobs!"

When I reached my room on the next floor, I calmly opened the door and
went in. Gabriella was standing by her desk. I never shall forget how
she looked--perfectly white and staring at me horribly. I wondered what
ailed her, for she couldn't have heard my tirade on the floor below.

"What's the matter, Gabriella?" I asked.

"Oh, Lucy," she began, then sank down in a chair by her desk, leaned
forward with her head buried in her arms, and began to cry dreadfully.

I went over to her.

"Gabriella," I said, sorry for her somehow, for though she was one
of Sarah Platt's clique she had not been talking about me; she was,
after all, my room-mate, and at least she let me see her cry. "Please,
Gabriella, tell me what it is."

"Miss Brown," she choked, "wants--" she stopped, then wailed, "_you_!"

"Me?" I groped blindly. Me? Had my awful words been telegraphed to Miss
Brown's office? Did she know already? I couldn't follow. Things were
happening too rapidly. "Me, Gabriella," I asked. "But what for? Please
stop crying and tell me."

I could barely catch a few words amidst her violent sobs.

"_My_ father," she said. (I knew Gabriella's father had died the winter
before when she was away at school.) "A telegram," she stumbled on, and
I waited, "_your_ father--"

My father!

I went to Gabriella quickly, put my arm about her and leaned my head
down close to hers.

"Listen, Gabriella. Be quiet for just one minute and answer me. Did you
say _my_ father?" and then in a fresh torrent of sobs I heard her "Yes."

I left her crying there and went down through the long corridors to
Miss Brown's office. I passed Sarah Platt's room without knowing it. I
even passed some one in the hall but I have no idea who it was. I kept
thinking, "This is your first test. Be ready and don't break."

Miss Brown was at her desk. She started a little when she saw me, then
smiled--how could she smile--and said, "Oh, Gabriella found you. Come
here, dear," and she put out her hand. I closed the door and then
backed up against it. I couldn't go near Miss Brown. I didn't want her
tissue-paper sympathy.

"What's happened to my father, Miss Brown?" I asked. "You can tell me
the very worst right off."

She didn't hedge any more.

"He is very, very ill," she replied, going straight to the point as I
liked to have her.

"Does that mean," I said, "that he is--is--" I couldn't say it--"is
worse than very ill?" I finished.

"No," she replied. "No, Lucy. Your father is still living. I have just
called up your brother by long distance telephone and they want you
to come home immediately. It is your father's heart." Then she added,
looking at me firmly, as if she were upholding me by the hand: "It is a
long trip. You must be prepared for the worst, Lucy." I didn't answer
and she turned to her desk, picked up a piece of paper and passed it to
me. "Read it," she said. "It is a telegram for you."

I looked down and these words greeted me like dear, comforting friends:

"_Stand up, Bobbie. Be brave. We need you to be strong. Alec._"

It was just as if my dear brother Alec were suddenly there like
a miracle in the room beside me, and _now_, at last, I would not
disappoint him.

I looked up at Miss Brown.

"When is there a train?" I asked calmly; but to myself I was saying
over and over again, "Stand up. Be brave. They need you to be strong."

Miss Brown came over to me, and I must say I've always liked her from
that day to this. She didn't say anything silly or comforting to me.
That would all have been so useless. She just took my hand in a man's
sort of way and held it firmly a minute in hers, "Your brother will be
proud of you," she said. That was all, but do you think then I would
have failed?

"We will go upstairs and pack," she added immediately, and I followed
her, bound now to control myself or die.

I don't know how I ever got started. I only know there was a confused
half-hour of packing, with Miss Brown helping and Gabriella close by
me all the time. Gabriella couldn't seem to do enough. I saw her slip
her pink kimono into my suit-case; I saw her pin one of her beautiful
pearl bars on my red silk waist. She got out my new blue suit and
brushed it; my new hat with the red quills; and while I combed my
hair, she laced my new tan shoes. I understood that it was her way of
telling me how sorry she was, for every once in a while she'd have to
stop and cry. Once she said, "Oh, I am so sorry I've been so mean. I
hope--oh, I do _hope_ you'll come back, Lucy." But I didn't care now.
It was too late. All my thoughts were with my family who needed me.
I gathered their dear pictures together in a pile and put them in my
suit-case--Father's picture too, but I didn't trust myself to look at
it. Dear Father--but I didn't dare let myself think, just at first.

I felt in the air that all the girls knew my news about as soon as I
did. Of course they didn't come near me. Even if I had been popular I
don't believe they would have come. Sorrow somehow builds up such a
barrier, and the one or two girls I met in the corridors kept close to
the other wall and tried to avoid meeting my eyes. Gabriella and Miss
Brown and the English teacher, whom I had always hated, saw me off. I
begged to take the trip alone and Miss Brown finally allowed it.

I thought of everything during that journey, and the more I thought
the more I trusted myself to think, I don't know what made me so
clear-headed and fearless, but I'd run my thoughts right up to any hard
truth, and they wouldn't balk; they'd go right over. My mother had died
when I was so little that I did not remember it and so this was the
first test I had ever had. Perhaps--oh, perhaps,--I faced it clearly
and squarely--perhaps when I was met at the station they would tell me
that I had come too late. I knew now that I wouldn't give way. Some
great wonderful strength was in me and I wasn't afraid of myself. My
home-coming was very different from the one I had planned, but when we
drew near to the familiar old station I just said, "Be strong," and I
knew that I should.

Dr. Maynard was at the station to meet me. The minute he got hold of my
hand he said, "It's all right. You're not too late."

"That's good," I replied, but somehow I couldn't feel any more joy than
sorrow. I remember, in the carriage, I asked lots of straight-forward,
businesslike questions and Dr. Maynard answered me in the same way.
There was no hope. The end might come at any moment. When he stopped
before our door and helped me out, he said, "Bobbie, you're a brave
girl." But I wasn't. I couldn't have cried. I didn't know how.

I went into the house while Dr. Maynard stopped to hitch and blanket
his horse. I found the twins and Ruth and Aunt Sarah all in the
sitting-room. It didn't come to my mind then, but now, as I remember
it, it was all very different from the triumphant entry I had planned.
No one jumped up to greet me, and my new suit and tan shoes and hat
with the quills were all unnoticed even by myself. The twins came
forward and kissed me--not embarrassed as they usually are, but
scarcely realising it. They didn't say anything, just kissed me and
turned away. Ruth lay prostrate on the couch. She didn't stir at sight
of me and I went up to her and kissed her on the temple. At that she
buried her face deeper into the cushions and began to sob. Aunt Sarah
looked as if she had been crying for weeks. She sat quietly rocking
by the west window and her big, dyed-out, blue eyes were swimming
in tears, brimming over, and running down her wrinkled face. It's
something awful to me, to see a grown person cry. It's like an old
wreck at sea, and I just couldn't kiss her. Everybody so horrible and
silent and dismal, was worse somehow than death, and just for a moment
I stood kind of helpless in the middle of the room. Then the door into
the library opened and I saw my dear tired, patient Alec, and suddenly
his arms were around me tight, holding me close--close to him and I
heard him murmur, "Good Bobbie, good, brave Bobbie," and oh, if I can
hate people awfully, I can love them too. When he let me go, he said
calmly, "Don't you want to come and see Father?" and I followed him
upstairs.

Dr. Maynard led me to the side of Father's bed and I took one of
Father's dear, familiar hands in mine. Alec sat down on the other side
and for a while we three waited silently until Father should wake
up. I wasn't frightened. It all seemed very natural, and none of the
heart-breaking thoughts that came to me all during the weeks after
he left us came to me then. It really seemed almost beautiful to be
waiting there until Father should wake up. When finally he opened his
eyes and saw me, he smiled, and pressed my hand a very little. Then he
spoke.

"Lucy!" he said; and after a long pause, "Do you like school?" he
asked, just as naturally as if we were having a nice little talk
downstairs.

"Oh, yes, dear Father, I do!" I answered, and he pressed my hand again.
It didn't strike me so very deeply then that my last word to my father
was a lie, but afterward I used to cry about it for hours and hours.
After a moment my father turned to Alec, "Stand by the business, my
son," he murmured.

And without a moment's hesitation my brother promised, "I will, Father."

I didn't think Father would say anything more, for he closed his eyes
again, but after a while he opened them and I saw he was actually
noticing my hat and red waist, and the pearl pin Gabriella had given
me. He smiled and I heard him murmur, "Pretty!" That was all; and
oh, since, I have been so glad that my new clothes did so much more
than I had ever hoped. For that was the last word my father said. I
felt his hand grow limp in mine, and just then Dr. Maynard touched my
shoulder and led me quietly away. He told me to lie down on the bed in
the guest-room. I obeyed him and when, a little later, he came to me
I understood the message in his eyes. I didn't feel the awfulness of
it then nor I didn't have the least inclination to cry. I lay there
very quietly for half an hour, then of my own accord I got up and went
downstairs.

I found Aunt Sarah by the window still crying without the grace of
covering her tear-stained face. The twins were not there. Ruth jumped
up when I came in and clung to me frantically.

"Aunt Sarah," I asked, annoyed, "_why_ do you sit there and cry?"

"Unnatural girl," she answered, "have you no heart, no tears? Don't you
know your father has died?"

At those awful words poor little Ruth clung to me still tighter and
wailed, "Oh, send her away, make her go off!"

I replied to my aunt, "Aunt Sarah, don't you know you shouldn't speak
like that before Ruth? I'm surprised."

A little later Alec came quietly into the room. Poor Ruthie flung
herself upon him just as she had upon me, and as he held her and patted
her shoulder, he said, looking at me in a way that made me stronger,
"Lucy, you will find Oliver in the alcove under the stairs. Go to him
and give him something to do."

Poor Oliver was crying as only a boy of sixteen who isn't used to it
can, I guess--dreadfully uncontrolled. He was sitting on the leather
couch, leaning forward with his face in his hands. I went straight
over to him and sinking down beside him, put my arms right around him.
Poor Oliver--poor big broken Oliver! All the hate in my heart for that
cruel twin rolled right away when I felt his great big body leaning up
against me. I loved him just as if he were my son come home. We sat
there together a long while--just Oliver and I--and finally when he
was a little quieter he managed to say, "Don't--don't tell Alec and
Malcolm--that I--I--"

"Of course I won't, Oliver," I assured him, and then I added just as if
nothing had happened, "My trunk is still at the station, Oliver. I need
it awfully. Here's the check. It's dark out now. Will you go down and
see about it?"

He looked away and replied in a voice that tried to sound natural,
"Sure, I'll go," and stood up and blew his nose very hard. I saw him
glance into the mirror over the fireplace. Then, "Will you get my
overcoat and hat?" he asked shamefacedly. When he went out of the house
he had the visor of his cap pulled well down over his eyes, and his
hands shoved deep into his pockets. We hadn't said a word about Father.

As for myself, I don't know what was the matter. I honestly didn't seem
to feel a thing. I was just like a soulless machine. During the three
following days I wrote notes, sent telegrams, saw about a black dress
for Ruth, Aunt Sarah and myself, planned good nourishing meals for
the family, went on errands, and "picked up" every room in the house,
for they certainly looked awful. I didn't sleep and I wasn't hungry.
I was wound up pretty tight, I guess, for it took me a long while to
run down. On the second afternoon Dr. Maynard took me out to drive and
then shut me up in my bedroom with the curtains all drawn tight and a
little white sleeping-powder to take in fifteen minutes if I didn't
go to sleep. I took the powder and stayed awake all night besides.
Once during those blind, confused three days Juliet came to see me, to
tell me how sorry she was I suppose, but I wasn't glad to have her.
I remember I just said, "Hello, Juliet, how's basket-ball and high
school?" I wasn't glad to see even Tom and Elise. When Elise held me
tight in her arms and whispered, "Poor little Bobbie!" I felt like a
hypocrite, and pulled away. Every time the door-bell rang and I knew
that it was some one else who had come to try and comfort us, I wanted
to lock myself in my room. My head ached and my eyes felt like chunks
of lead. But I didn't want sympathy. I didn't need it.

The end came the night after the funeral. It hadn't occurred to me but
that I would go back to boarding-school after Christmas. We were all in
the sitting-room--all but Aunt Sarah who finally had stopped crying and
was recuperating in her bed upstairs. Tom and Alec were discussing all
sorts of plans, and I remember that Dr. Maynard, who seemed to be one
of the family now, was there too. I wasn't following the conversation
very closely, and suddenly I heard Tom say, "Well certainly the sooner
Aunt Sarah packs up, the better."

"Why, who then," I asked, "will take her place?"

Alec looked up.

"What do you mean, Bobbie," he asked. "You'll be here, won't you?"

"Why, no. I shall be at boarding-school," I replied.

At that Ruth suddenly flopped over on the couch and began her usual
torrent of crying. "I hate Aunt Sarah! I hate Aunt Sarah! I hate Aunt
Sarah!" she wailed.

"The whole fall was rotten!" put in Malcolm. "Do you mean to say, Lucy,
that you're going back to that school?" he fired.

"I guess your duty is _here_, Bobbie, old girl," said Tom; and Elise
got up and came over to my chair.

"I know how hard it is to give up school," she said sweetly, "but they
do need you, don't they, dear? Later, perhaps--"

"Well, I must say," interrupted Oliver, who was master of himself
without any doubt now, "if this isn't the greatest! Look here, Alec,"
he asked, "do you intend to allow Bobbie to neglect us in this fashion?"

And Alec, dear Alec, across the room just smiled and said, looking
straight at me, "I am going to let her do as she thinks best," and his
eyes were full of kindness.

I got up then. My knees were trembling. I thought at last I was going
to break down and cry. They wanted--oh, finally my family wanted me! I
didn't know whether to trust my voice or not.

"Well," I said a little wobbly, trying to smile back at Alec, "I'll
think it over." And as soon as I could, I sneaked out of the room, on
the pretense of getting a drink of water. I went into the little back
hall off the kitchen, took an old golf cape that was hanging there,
threw it over my shoulders, and went outdoors. It didn't seem as if I
could get my breath inside the house. It was dark, the stars had come
out, and I went out of the back gate, walking as hard and fast as I
could. I knew I must do something, for as wicked as it seems I was
almost crazy with happiness, and I was afraid that at any moment, now
at the very last, I should give up entirely, lie down at the side of
the road and cry and cry. I almost ran as I hurried along, and all the
time I kept saying, "Hold on. Be strong. Don't let go." Yet I knew the
storm was gathering and I was losing my grip. I didn't plan to go to
Juliet's house, but suddenly I saw it looming up in front of me, and
it occurred to me to stop and tell Juliet my beautiful good news. So I
hurried to the back door and burst into the kitchen. The Adams's cook
gave an awful start.

"Good Lord!" she exclaimed.

"Hannah," I asked, and my voice was strange and hoarse, "where's
Juliet?"

"Why, at dinner," gasped Hannah, staring at me. "What is it, Miss Lucy?"

"Tell her to come up to her room," I managed to say, and in our usual
informal way I dashed up the back stairs to Juliet's room, which I
knew so well. I waited impatiently in the dark and in a minute I heard
Juliet pounding up the stairs. Then I saw her coming through the hall,
her white napkin in her hand. I grabbed her.

"Juliet," I cried, "Juliet, I'm not going back to boarding-school! They
want me here! I'm so happy I don't know what to do. It's horrible to be
happy but I am, I _am_!" And then it struck me so funny to be happy on
such a day that I laughed! I laughed simply dreadfully. All my pent-up
feelings burst forth then, and I laughed till I cried. I could hear
myself laugh and that made me laugh more, and then Juliet looked so
queer and thunderstruck that that added to it. Pretty soon Mrs. Adams
was there and they were putting cold water on my face, which struck me
as the hugest joke I ever heard of, for they must have thought I was
hysterical. I laughed so hard that actually I hadn't enough will or
strength left to stop if I tried--I, who am usually so controlled. I
got down on the floor finally, and then I don't remember anything more.

When I woke up it must have been hours later, for I was all undressed
lying quietly in Juliet's bed, and there was Mrs. Adams going out of
the door, and there--yes--there was Dr. Maynard behind her. There was
a low light on the table by the bed and beside it sat my dear stolid
Juliet. I thought at first I would burst out laughing again to see her
sitting there with her funny little tight pig-tails braided for the
night, with me in her bed getting her sheets all hot. Just then she
looked up.

"Hello, Bob," she said in her commonplace, natural way. "Want a drink
of water?" and she came over and gave me a little sip out of a glass. I
didn't remember anything then, only that it was good to have old Juliet
around.

"There was no one as nice as you at school, Juliet," I said.

"I guess that's a merry jest," she replied in her usual way. She took
the glass away and I heard her go out of the room. I lay there very
quietly and watched the dim light flickering. There was a little clock
somewhere that was ticking quietly.

Then--oh, then I came back to life, and suddenly the thought of my
dear, dear father returned to me. I began to cry softly for the first
time, and finally fell asleep.

As I sit here this soft spring day and listen for the noon-whistle on
Father's factory to blow, I shall not wait for the sight of Dixie and
the phaeton coming up the hill, for Alec will be alone and I hate to be
reminded of too many places left empty by Father. Father had so many
favourite chairs. In every room in the house it seems as if he had his
special place. And his roll-top desk closed and locked, his various
pairs of shoes and slippers which he used to keep underneath all put
away, makes the dear spot look as if it were for rent. I hate the
neat orderly air of the sitting-room. It seems to be reproaching me.
Father used to love to fill the room with all kinds and descriptions
of papers. Everything, from a folder left at the front door directed
to "The Lady of the House" to year-old newspapers, Father wanted
preserved. There were three piles of the _Scientific Machinist_, four
feet high, stacked up in one corner. I used to beg Father to let me
carry off those _Scientific Machinists_ at least--they collected dust
fearfully--but he wouldn't allow me even to suggest such an idea. So
on my own responsibility one day, I stealthily took away some of the
bottom ones and packed them in the storeroom. I knew he'd never miss
them and the pile was growing. Every month I'd clear out the paper
case, preferring to annoy the kindest father a girl ever had to having
an untidy room. I cry when I think of the kind of daughter I was; I
cry and cry in the middle of the night. I wasn't good! I wasn't good!
I write it down for every one to see. Of course it's too late now,
but I've taken down the muslin curtains from Father's room, and the
lace ones from the sitting-room. Father never approved of hangings
of any kind. I don't allow the cat in the front of the house. I
haven't destroyed a single folder, pamphlet or catalogue. The pile of
_Scientific Machinists_ I wouldn't move from the corner for anything in
the world.

Oh, Father, if you were only here to be pleased; if you were only here
to scatter papers around; if you were only here to ring the gong for
dinner, call Ruthie "baby," me "chicken," say "Hello, boys!" to the
twins, and then sit down opposite me, clear your throat and ask the
blessing; if you were here again I would be a better oldest daughter. I
wouldn't tease for a rubber-tired runabout, for new wallpaper, nor for
that brass bed for my room.

I don't know where you are, nor where my mother is, but somehow up here
in this cupola on a starry night, when I sit on the window-seat, lie
flat back with my head out of the open window, and look up into that
great dome of a sky, I feel as if you two may be together somewhere,
perhaps seeing me.

But I don't _know_. There are times when I'm dreadfully doubtful; there
are times that I don't believe anything. I think I may be an atheist!
I have never discussed the subject with anybody, but occasionally it
comes to me, just as the fear used to come that I was adopted, that
religion is all a lie. I know I'm a member of the church, and it may be
horribly wicked of me, but once in a while right in the middle of my
prayers at night, I'll stop and think, "Perhaps no one is hearing me at
all."

Really, I wonder sometimes if any other girl ever had such awful
thoughts.



CHAPTER VII


One day last fall I received an important letter from Oliver. The twins
are in college now, perfectly great fellows and awfully prominent. I
don't know what they don't belong to down there at that university;
and good-looking--well, I just wish Gabriella or Sarah Platt or horrid
little Elsie Weil could lay their eyes on Oliver's last photograph.
He's stunning! The big loose baggy clothes that college men wear, suit
those two boys perfectly, and though I refuse to put on the worshipful
air that Ruth assumes in the twins' presence, I'm just exactly as proud
of my brothers as any girl in this world. Oliver is the better-looking
of the two and the more athletic. He's a member of the crew now, and
it gave me an awfully funny feeling up and down my spine when I saw my
younger brother's picture in one of the Boston papers. Malcolm is the
more studious, wears glasses and sings in the Glee Club. He isn't "a
greasy grind" at all--not that sort, but he never gets into scrapes or
mix-ups, and doesn't seem to need so much money.

Money was what Oliver's important letter to me was about. Usually he
wrote to Alec but this time he appealed to me. When I tore open his
letter at the breakfast table and started to read it out-loud to Alec
and Ruthie as usual, I was confronted with great printed notices at
the top and on the margins--PRIVATE! PERSONAL! DO NOT READ OUT LOUD!
SECRET! and so forth. I assure you I shuffled that letter back into its
envelope as quickly as I could and waited for a quiet hour by myself.
This is what the letter said:

  "_Dear Bobbie_,

  "This is _very_ important. So shut the door and read it carefully.
  I'm writing to you because you have influence with Alec, and you've
  _got_ to use it. Alec doesn't seem to realise the demands on a man
  down here. When he and Tom were at college they had all the money
  they wanted, and they don't in the least understand the mighty
  embarrassing position it puts a fellow in to have _no cash_. I get
  pretty sick of sponging. There are certain class and society dues,
  Athletic Association fees, etc., that any kind of a good fellow must
  ante up on. Alec doesn't in the least appreciate the situation. He's
  getting mighty close lately, it seems to me, and every time he sends
  me my measly monthly allowance, he seems to think it's a good chance
  to drool out a sermon on economy. Economy! Heavens, I've been known
  time and time again to walk out from town after the theatre, to save a
  five-cent car-fare. I've been to some of the swellest dances that are
  given in a hired dress-suit. _Of course_ I had to have some evening
  clothes. _You_ would know that.

  Now look here, Bobbie, it so happens that I've got to have something
  that resembles a hundred dollars! Don't jump. I'll pay it all
  back--every cent. But it's serious, and I _must have it_. If you can't
  get it from Alec, can't you borrow it out of the Household Account
  which you have charge of? I'll make it right with you in a week or so,
  and be more than grateful.

                                "Your affectionate brother,
                                                           "OLIVER."

  "P. S.

  "Don't let Malcolm know I need this money, nor tell Alec what you
   want it for. And by the way, I must have seventy-five of the hundred
   by December third at the latest _absolutely_. Understand this is no
   ordinary matter. If I don't get the money somehow it will mean public
   disgrace. Comprenez-vous?"

Now Oliver knew as well as I that we were dreadfully poor. Ever since
Father died, Alec had made it very plain to us that we were on the
ragged edge of financial disaster. We had never been what any one could
call prosperous--at least not since I could remember--but when Alec
took hold of the reins at Father's woollen mills he found things in
a pretty bad condition, I guess. He explained to Malcolm and Oliver
just exactly how uncertain our financial future was, before they even
started in at college. He told them that they must let it be known,
early in their college course, that they couldn't afford the luxuries
of well-to-do men's sons. He said that college must mean to them a
period of serious preparation. It was only due to Tom's generosity, he
explained, that it was possible for the twins to go to college at all.
Tom assumed the responsibility of the twins' tuition. "And sometime,"
announced Alec emphatically, "both you boys are to pay back that
loan, every cent." "Sure. Certainly. Count on us!" were the replies
they made. They were overwhelming in their assurances. There was no
grumbling _then_ when Alec preached to them about economy.

It was just before the twins went to college that we were all put on
an allowance. Alec called us together one day in the sitting-room and
we talked it over. Alec conducts those discussions of ours with a lot
of ceremony. He sits in Father's big chair and allows each one of us
to state his or her opinion, while the rest sit quietly and listen.
Even little Ruth may say what she thinks and no one is allowed to break
in or interrupt. Alec is the jury and the judge all in one, and when
he has heard both sides and weighed the question carefully he makes
the decision. Tom is the higher court, but I've never known Tom once
to disagree with Alec's verdict, so it doesn't do much good to appeal
your case. At that meeting in the sitting-room it was arranged that
Ruth and I should receive each twelve dollars a month, and when it came
to the twins we all agreed that they ought to have a great deal more
than two girls living at home. Alec said that he would start them on
twenty-five apiece, and out of that amount everything, except board and
room and doctor's bills, should be paid. At the same time Alec also
arranged a household allowance, and I was very proud when he appointed
me keeper of the Household Account. I was glad he thought me old and
able enough for such a position and was bound to prove myself worthy.
Every month he made out a check to me for fifty dollars and put it in
the bank under my name. I paid the grocery and provision bill on the
tenth of every month, submitted a report of the different items to Alec
on a long ruled sheet of paper, which he, when he had time, examined
and O.K'd. He impressed upon me again and again the absolute necessity
of keeping the Household Account separate from my own. He told me in
a long talk how awfully dishonest it would be if I ever used a single
cent of that deposit for anything but household expenses. He went so
far as to give me examples of cashiers in banks who were put in prison
because they borrowed a little money now and then from the bank for
their own use, fully intending to pay it back as soon as they could.
So you see that when Oliver suggested my borrowing from the Household
Account it was entirely out of the range of possibility to consider
such a thing.

I felt sorry for Oliver. I knew exactly how much he must have wanted
a dress-suit. It seemed to me a perfect shame to have two corking
fine fellows like the twins cheated out of friends and good times and
popularity--like myself at boarding-school--because they couldn't
afford the proper clothes or pay their shares on spreads and theatre
parties. A hundred dollars was an awfully lot but I put Oliver's letter
into my work-bag the evening of the day it came and went down into the
sitting-room after supper to join Alec by the drop-light on Father's
desk. Every evening I sewed while Alec worked on the factory books.
Alec didn't talk much lately. He didn't seem to want to. He was usually
too tired for anything but bed, when he finally closed the big ledgers,
but I was always there beside him just the same. The twins sent their
laundry home every two weeks in an extension-bag, and it's quite a
job keeping two strapping college boys sewed up. To-night as I weaved
in and out across a delicate little hole in a mauve-coloured sock of
Oliver's it looked to me as if it were an expensive sock: it had silk
clocks embroidered up the side. I was so busy, planning just how I
would approach Alec for that hundred dollars, that he startled me when
he turned around in Father's revolving desk-chair.

"Bobbie, I want to talk with you," he said.

"All right," I replied gladly. "Go on." Perhaps, I thought to myself,
there will be a chance to introduce Oliver's letter.

Alec folded his hands on the slide of the desk drawn out between us.

"We're spending too much money," he said simply.

I had heard that same sentiment expressed so often that I wasn't deeply
impressed. I had observed in spite of Alec's continued talk about
economy that there was always enough to pay the bills. I continued
sewing.

"Of course; I know," I said, trying to appear sympathetic.

"No, Bobbie," Alec replied; "I don't think you do. It is different this
time. Will you stop sewing?"

"What do you mean?" I asked, dropping my work in my lap.

"Bobbie," Alec said, "perhaps you will understand the seriousness of
the situation when I tell you that I do not think that we ought to live
in such a big house."

"Not live here?" I exclaimed.

"I'm afraid not, Lucy. It's a big place to keep up for just you and me
and Ruth. We can't afford it."

"Has the business failed, Alec?" I interrupted with kind of a sick
feeling in my stomach.

"Certainly not," he said in an annoyed sort of manner as if he had not
liked me to ask. "We're simply living way beyond what we can afford;
that's all. We've got to cut down. I don't know how long it may take
to make a favourable sale of this house, but in the meanwhile we can't
afford to keep two servants. I'm sorry, Lucy; I'm sorry; but it's a
matter of economy _to-day_, not economy _to-morrow_. I've thought it
all out," my brother continued, beginning now to pace up and down the
room. "I know Nellie has been with us twenty years. We shall miss her;
but she's not strong, she can't cook or wash. We must have a good young
Irish girl--five dollars a week--not more. It means a big change this
time, you see. I had hoped to avoid such a course as this, but if we
are to escape a worse catastrophe--"

I don't know what Alec went on talking about as he walked up and down
that sitting-room floor; I don't know how long he continued explaining,
and trying to make clear to me the seriousness of our situation; I
don't know; I really _don't know_. I sat stunned and silent in my
chair, not stirring a muscle. _Sell our home!_ Why, Father had built
it. I had been born in it. _Dismiss Nellie!_ Why, Nellie had known my
mother. Nellie was part of the foundation of our lives. I couldn't take
in the succeeding facts because those two were stuck in my throat. I
felt like crying out, "Don't, don't cram any more in. I'm choking!" But
Alec kept right on.

"The stable, of course, I shall close immediately. We mustn't keep a
horse. I shall have to get rid of Dixie."

It isn't a nice figure, but at that last announcement I gulped up all
that I had tried to swallow before.

"O Alec," I interrupted, "poor little Dixie! Please, please, _please_
don't sell Dixie!" I pleaded. "Please don't sell our home," I cried.
"Why, where shall we live? Don't send Nellie away. Don't! Don't! I'll
do anything! I won't buy a stitch for myself. And I'll work--I'll work
my hands to the bones! I can earn something. But oh, don't sell dear,
poor little Dixie." I leaned forward suddenly and burst into tears.
"Oh, everything has always been hard in my life--hard, hard, hard!" I
sobbed.

Alec came over and stood in front of me perfectly silent. He hadn't
seen me go into a passion like this for years. I could feel his tired
kind gaze burrowing through my two hands that covered my face. I wished
he wouldn't look so troubled and sad, for though I didn't glance up, I
knew exactly how disappointed in me he was--how shocked by my tears.
For a full half-minute he said nothing. He waited until I was perfectly
quiet, then he spoke very gently.

"Why, Bobbie," he said, "ever since the day that you came from
boarding-school when Father was so ill, and I came into the room and
found you strong and calm and self-possessed, ever since then I have
thought of you as _my partner_." He stopped. "But perhaps this--_this_
is too much. Perhaps--"

"No, Alec," I said, ashamed; "no, it isn't too much. Just wait a
minute, please."

"I will," said Alec kindly, and walked over to the window.

I guess it might have been two minutes he waited. His back was toward
me when I mopped my eyes, when I tucked my handkerchief into the front
of my shirt-waist and stood up. I summoned all my strength. Alec is my
commander-in-chief, and I tried to rally my forces before him. I must
not be a coward before Alec. I took up my sewing.

"I won't be so foolish again," I remarked evenly. "You can tell me
_anything_ now."

And my general replied, "That's the sort," and smiled. "As to the
twins," he went on, taking me at my word, "here's a letter stating
the situation to them." He gave a short laugh with no joy in it. "The
twins' allowances are going to be cut down almost half!"

"The twins!" I had completely forgotten Oliver's letter. "The twins!
Can't you possibly--O Alec, college boys need so much and--Oliver, you
know--"

"I'm tired of Oliver's extravagances," burst forth Alec impatiently. "I
don't want to hear another word from Oliver about money. If he can't
get along on the amount I am able to send, he can come home and go into
the mill."

Just here the cheerful honk-honk of Dr. Maynard's automobile sounded
outside the window. Alec went to the door and let him in. As Dr.
Maynard entered the room he brought in a big breath of fall evening.

"Hello," he said. "What are you two up to? Come on, Al, put on an
overcoat and come out for a run around the reservoir. I've got my
engine working like a bird again."

"Thanks, Will, wish I could," said Alec with that tired smile of his,
"but I've got a lot of work on hand to-night. I think I'll send Bobbie."

"All right! Fine!" said Dr. Maynard, and though I didn't have much
heart for going, I knew that Alec didn't want to talk with even Will
Maynard to-night, so without a word I went for my things that were
hanging in what we called the "Black Closet."

I was glad to escape for a minute to the protecting dark. I stood
pressing up against the old overcoats and ulsters, waiting for my eyes
to appear less swollen, and wondering why Oliver needed seventy-five
dollars by December third. The vision of Oliver in overalls at work
in the mills, disgrace, no home, no Nellie, no Dixie, rags, poverty,
wriggled before my eyes like moving pictures. I took hold of the
nearest garment at hand and pressed it against my face. It happened to
be Father's old overcoat. I recognised it by the feeling, for often
I had groped for it when Father had been alive and brought it out to
him waiting in the hall. I reached up to-night and touched the dear
familiar, worn, velvet collar. "O Father," I whispered, "everything is
tumbling down. What shall I do about Oliver?" Probably another girl
would have breathed a little prayer to God but I make all _my_ requests
of Father. It seems to me that Father is more likely to take a personal
interest in my affairs than any one else in heaven.

"What are you up to?" Dr. Maynard sang out; and I called back,
"Coming," and hustled into my warm overshoes.

It was a beautiful dark starry night, and I wished Alec could have felt
a little of the cold air on his hot head. I love an automobile! I'm
never happier than when I'm sitting with my two hands on the wheel, one
toe on the gas, the other on the brake, a heel on the little pedal that
makes the old machine snort up a hill like a horse dug in the side with
a spur. But to-night I didn't care to run the car. I suppose I wasn't
a very entertaining companion, for on the way home, after we had been
out about an hour, Dr. Maynard asked in his friendly manner:

"What is it, Bobbie? You're leaving it to me to have most of the fun
to-night."

"Dr. Maynard," I exclaimed, "I'd give anything in the world if I were a
man and could earn some money."

"What profession would you follow?" he laughed at me.

"I'm serious. Has Alec ever told you much about the business?"

"Not much, but I know he's been disturbed about something lately."

"Well," I said, "there's one of those pictures in that big Doré book
with illustrations of the Old Testament, that reminds me of the Vars'
affairs. It's a picture of Samson, and he's standing in a great huge
kind of hall, pushing down two perfectly enormous stone pillars. The
walls and the ceiling and the roof are all caving in--people headfirst,
arms, legs, great blocks of granite, children, men,--oh, everything you
can think of--tumbling down in horrible confusion. That picture used to
give me the nightmare; and now it seems to me as if some old giant of a
Samson had gotten down underneath us. All our underpinnings are giving
way and we're all falling down--headfirst a thousand feet, smash, on to
rock-bottom."

"Why, what do you mean, Bobbie?" laughed Dr. Maynard, amused.

"I mean," I replied--though perhaps I ought not to have told--"I mean,
that Alec is going to sell the house and Dixie and we're going to keep
only one girl. I mean that the business is on the ragged edge of
nothing, and that we're as poor as paupers."

Dr. Maynard slowed down our speed to ten miles an hour.

"Al's a plucky fellow," he said. "I hadn't an idea!" Then he added,
"_You_ want to help?"

"Well," I replied, "I've got to have a lot of money right off, and I
don't like to ask Alec. It's for an emergency," I added. "Can you think
of any possible way for a girl who can't do a thing on earth but scrub
and darn stockings, to earn a fortune?"

I think we ran about a mile before Dr. Maynard spoke. Then when he did,
he seemed to be almost apologising for his scheme, which seemed to me
perfectly lovely.

Dr. Maynard has stacks of money and since his mother died, lives all
alone in the big, white-pillared house where he was born. Eliza, their
old servant, takes care of him. "But," he explained to me, "cooking and
cleaning are Eliza's strong points. Now there are lots of odds and ends
she doesn't have time for. She never liked to sew, and I have a pretty
hard time keeping socks mended, and linen, and towels, and such things
in good condition. I hire a woman now by the day once in a while. But
I'm sure I'm way behind now. If the scheme appeals to you at all, I'll
have Eliza lay out a pile of stuff that needs a few stitches, and you
can sew on it at odd moments. Just keep track of your time and I'll pay
you--well, you seem to be a fairly busy person, I'll pay you double
what I'm paying now which would be about fifty cents an hour."

"Dr. Maynard," I said, "I think you're the very kindest man I ever
knew!"

"Oh, no," he broke in, "this is purely a business transaction."

"But," I went on, "fifty cents is a lot too much. That would be giving
me money."

"Well, let it be understood," he said, "I'm not giving you
anything. You're earning it in just as businesslike a manner as a
stenographer--or Eliza. I'd like you to keep an accurate account of
your time, please, and send me an itemised bill. I said fifty cents and
I stick to it. Shall I come over to-morrow with your first relay?"

I thanked Dr. Maynard with my whole heart. I was so relieved I didn't
know what to do.

"Would you mind," I said as he opened the front door for me, "waiting
just a minute? I've a note upstairs that I wish you'd mail on your way
home."

I dashed up to my room, directed an envelope in mad haste to Oliver,
and on a half-sheet of note-paper I scratched:

  "In spite of Alec's news I may be able to scare up some of the money.

                                                      "BOBBIE."

Alec had half a dozen letters for Dr. Maynard to mail also, and I had
the satisfaction of laying my note to Oliver on top of the announcement
which cut his allowance in half. After the door had closed and Alec and
I were alone, I went and kissed my brother good-night.

"Good-girl," he said wearily; "the ride brightened you up."

"Yes," I replied; "and I know we're going to come out all right, Alec."
And I felt that we should, now that I was going to put _my_ shoulder to
the wheel.



CHAPTER VIII


Two days later I received a frenzied reply to my note to Oliver. The
words were underscored, smeared, repeated, blotted and scratched out.
I never read such a letter. I think Oliver swore in it. At any rate
my heart almost stood still when the words "for God's sake" struck at
me like swords from the white paper. I knew at least that Oliver was
terribly in earnest. I read and re-read the letter, then locked it away
in the cupola in the lowest drawer of my table-desk. No one shall ever
see it; no one shall ever know what it contains--no one but Oliver and
me. I shall never tell Alec, nor his own twin Malcolm, nor even his
wife, if he should ever marry. This is between Oliver and me. He had
chosen to tell his older sister about his trouble to the exclusion of
every one else, and she would prove to him that he had rightly placed
his faith.

I don't want to imply that Oliver had been really dishonest. I am sure
he had not been that, but it seems that he was treasurer of something
or other down there at college, and had boggled the accounts. He never
could keep money straight. Perhaps he had borrowed a little of it--like
the bank clerk Alec told me about--and now suddenly he discovered
there was more of a shortage than he could make good. He wrote that on
December third he must make a report, and if he couldn't account for
seventy-five dollars short in the treasury--well--There followed six
dashes with three exclamation points at the end.

I wrote back I'd get that seventy-five dollars for him or die.

I scraped money out of every hole and corner I could find. I sold my
lavender liberty automobile veil to Juliet Adams for a dollar and
a half, and Ruth bought my rhinestone horse-shoe pin, which I paid
three-fifty for, for seventy-five cents. I didn't spend a single penny
of my own allowance for November and begged Alec for five dollars which
I told him, without a quiver, that I'd got to have for the purpose of
buying some new stuff for the kitchen. But most of the money had to
come from Dr. Maynard. I sewed like mad. Locked in my bedroom with
the alarm-clock keeping track of my time I simply devoured holes.
I was like a hungry animal. I couldn't get enough of them--and the
bigger they were the better they satisfied me. Socks by the dozens;
table-clothes gnawed by rats; napkins worn to shreds; blankets to be
rebound; sheets to be hemmed; _anything_ that required a needle, I
welcomed with rejoicing.

But of course a man doesn't need more than three dozen socks on hand,
five dozen perfectly whole towels and ten table-clothes. There is an
end to a bachelor's equipment, and even after I had finished mending
with gummed paper a whole music-rack full of old sheet-music Dr.
Maynard used to sing, I had earned only twenty dollars.

I was very unhappy when Dr. Maynard passed me my last receipted bill.
He was looking at me out of the corner of his eye.

"Well," he said, "does this close our business transactions? Are you
all fixed up now?"

I shook my head and blushed, ashamed somehow to be in need of so much
money.

"Oh, I know," I hastened to say, "that there's no more work you can
give me, and I do thank you--I do really."

"Let's see," Dr. Maynard said. "Let's see. What kind of a hand do you
write? If it's plain and legible, I don't know but what I'll engage you
to copy some old letters of my mother's--written to me when I was a
small boy at school. The ink is fading and I want them preserved."

"Dr. Maynard," I exclaimed, "I don't know what I'd do if it wasn't for
you!" There were almost tears in my eyes I was so grateful.

"Nonsense," he laughed. "But what do you want so much money for?"

"A bill--for some dresses I had made, and I don't want to bother Alec."

Dr. Maynard gave a long low whistle.

"Oh, I see." Then quite seriously he added "Better tell him, Bobbie."

"Dr. Maynard," I said, "if you mention one single word of this to
Alec, you don't know the harm you'll do. You don't know!" Why, if Alec
had gotten wind of what Oliver had done, there wouldn't be a scrap
of lenience shown that poor twin. It would mean clattering looms for
Oliver, as surely as the electric chair for a murderer; and I was
absolutely fierce in my determination that that brother of mine should
graduate from college, as well as all the others. Before Dr. Maynard
went home that afternoon he had promised he would not tell Alec a word
about our business transactions.

I enjoyed the copying. Dr. Maynard's mother must have been a perfectly
lovely woman. She used to write to her son every Sunday, and oh, such
sweet companionable little notes--all about what was going on in the
town, and always at the end just a sentence or two about honour and
ideals, and how she believed in her son and missed him. If Oliver had
had a mother to write to him like that--to tell him how she wanted
him to grow up in the image of his honoured father who had died, who
rejoiced at every success he had, who sympathised at every failure--if
Oliver had had a mother to write him letters every Sunday evening by
the firelight, I don't believe he would have ever gotten into such a
difficulty. I wondered if mothers wrote letters like these to their
daughters. Of course they must.

Every once in a while, I would run across a reference to my own mother
(for Mrs. Maynard was her neighbour) and, really, it was a little like
seeing her for just a minute.

I know I'm neglecting my story, but I must tell about one special
letter of Mrs. Maynard's, because it referred to me. It didn't happen
to be written to her son but to a woman friend whom I didn't know.
It was a chatty letter, that related all the important events and
happenings in the town, very long and full of the littlest details you
can imagine. It was on the fourth thin sheet that I ran across this:
"And our dear neighbour Mrs. Vars has a little daughter three weeks
old," I deciphered. "She has named her Lucy for herself. I went in to
see her last week and took her a jar of my quince jelly. She is a very
happy woman. She has always wanted a little girl. When she took the
little baby in her arms she said with tears in her eyes, 'My little
daughter and I are going to be "best friends" all our lives.'"

I read that precious sentence over and over again. My mother and I
'best friends all our lives'--and oh, I couldn't remember her smile.
'Best friends all our lives'--and she had gone before we could share a
single secret. I leaned right forward over my copying and cried, "If
you'd lived I wouldn't care if we were poor. If you and I were 'best
friends,' I wouldn't care if I never had a good time. Oh, if you were
here! If you were here!"

And yet, although I cried so hard, I was strangely happy that evening.
Of course I don't believe in miracles. They don't happen nowadays, and
yet it seems almost as if my mother might have sent that message to
me, to console me in my struggle, to tell me that I wasn't all alone.
I gazed at her picture--the only one she had ever had taken--under its
cold glass over my bed, before I went to sleep that night. It is a
profile, clear-cut and a little sad. They tell me she was only nineteen
in the picture--my age, just my age now.

"My best friend," I whispered, "my best friend all my life!"

As the dreary days wore on, all the sympathy that I possessed yearned
over my patient brother Alec. But I couldn't help him any. Time and
time again I tried to cheer him up, but my attempts fell flat. There
was a time when Alec used to go out among the young people in Hilton
quite a good deal, but I observed that lately he had nothing but
business engagements to take him away.

Alec had never talked to me about a certain young lady named Edith
Campbell--I don't know that he had ever mentioned her name to me--but
I knew that he had always entertained a sneaking admiration for her.
Since father died he hadn't seen her so much and I had been glad of it.
I don't like Edith Campbell. There is so much show about her, and she
always contrives to make Alec look so forlorn and pathetic. I remember
one morning not long after Alec's serious talk with me, that he went
out of the door gloomier than ever with his green felt bag filled with
the ledgers that he'd been working over till midnight. Just as he was
going down the front steps who should appear but Edith Campbell in
a sporty little rig, driving a new cob of hers--round and plump and
shiny. She had some little out-of-town whippersnapper of a man beside
her, and as she drew her horse to a standstill right by Alec, she
looked trig and sporty enough for the front cover of a magazine. She
gave Alec a play salute from the brim of her perky little hat, and my
poor tired brother took off his limp grey felt. He went over and leaned
one hand on the horse's brilliant flank, and gazed up at Edith. His
overcoat that used to be black looked greenish in the bright sunlight
and the velvet collar was worn about the edges.

"Hello, Al Vars!" exclaimed Miss Campbell. I could hear her through
the open door, hidden behind the lace. "I haven't seen you for _one
age_. You ought to come out of that shell of yours. Al _used_ to be a
pal of mine," she laughed to the man beside her and introduced them.
The stiffly-starched little out-of-town man gave Alec a hand gloved in
yellow dog-skin and Alec turned and said something I couldn't hear to
Miss Campbell. She called her reply back over her shoulder as she drove
off. "Sorry, Al. Can't. Too bad. I'm going to Florida with Mother and
Dad for the winter next week!"

Alec stood forlorn in the middle of the street, watching her descend
the hill. The back of the highly-shellacked little waggonette flashed
in the sunlight. Miss Campbell sat erect, sleek as her horse. My
feelings grew savage against her, and when Alec finally shifted the
heavy green bag to the other hand and moved slowly off down the street
toward the factory I wanted to run after him and tell him she wasn't
worth a single thought of his. I wished that my life-long devotion
might make up for this single morning's sting of Edith Campbell's
heartless exhibition of prosperity. But it couldn't. It couldn't break
through my brother's brooding silence for even an interval.

Ruth took our change of circumstances very philosophically at first.
Ruth is sixteen now, and awfully pretty. She has boy-callers about
three times a week. She's very popular. She can sing like a little
prima-donna, and can dance a cake-walk like a young vaudeville
performer. The twins think Ruth is the cleverest little creature alive.
She's a very independent sort of girl. No one can give any advice to
Ruth on what is the proper thing for her to wear; no one can tell _her_
what is the correct way for girls of sixteen to act; at least, _I_
can't. Ruth loves fashion and style. She was glad to have Alec dispose
of Dixie.

"Why," she said to me in her little sophisticated way, "Dixie is
eating his _head_ off, and he _limps_! I'd be ashamed to be seen at a
funeral driving Dixie! You may have noticed _I_ never use him." She
was delighted to learn that Alec was going to sell the house. "For he
says," she announced to me gleefully, "that perhaps _now_ we can live
in one of those darling little shingled houses on the south side. Those
houses have the loveliest little dens in them with a stained-glass
window, where I could have my callers. I just hate the parlour here.
There's a big new crack over the marble mantel, and I have a dreadful
time making people sit with their backs to it."

"And Nellie?" I questioned.

"Good riddance, I think. She's the bane of my life, and she hasn't a
scrap of style. She's been here so long she thinks she can boss me as
if she were my mother."

Ruth's chief source of sorrow was the announcement that she couldn't
attend dancing-school. That brought the tears and for three days she'd
hardly speak a word. When I told her that she ought to be cheerful for
Alec's sake, she slammed the door in my face and told me not to preach.

I am afraid Ruth and I aren't very congenial sisters. I try very hard
to be helpful and sympathetic, for Ruth, of course, is as motherless as
I am. But she's a difficult younger sister. She never wanted me to take
her to places when she was a little girl. She hates to be petted. It
troubles me a little to think we aren't closer friends, because we each
are the only sister in the world that the other has.

It was Ruth who stepped in and upset my whole scheme with Dr. Maynard.
She can be dreadfully annoying, and cause as much trouble as any
grown-up person I ever knew. It was when I was within ten dollars of
the end of my struggle. I had finished the copying, and now I was
working Dr. Maynard's initials on about everything that that man owned.

It was on a Saturday afternoon, and Juliet Adams, who had come down
from college to spend Sunday with her family (Juliet goes to a girl's
big college now), had dropped over to see me. I was sitting by the west
window sewing on some things of my own, for of course all Dr. Maynard's
work I was careful to do in private. Ruth was upstairs getting dressed
to go out to a party with one of her numerous boy-friends. Suddenly,
with her hair down her back, and dressed only in her white petticoat
and dressing-sack, she appeared in the doorway.

"Got a thimble?" she asked. "I want to baste in a ruching," and without
asking leave she grabbed my work-bag that was on the couch. It was open
and she caught hold of it in such a way that the contents all went
tumbling out on the floor. A dozen new socks done up in balls, on which
I had been working initials, rolled out in all directions. The red
monogram stared me in the face.

"I'll pick them up," I said hurriedly, but Ruth was too quick for me
and she pounced upon them before I could stop her. Very little of
importance escapes Ruth.

"W. F. M.!" she exclaimed. "Who's that? W. F. M.! As I live, on _every_
one of them! Who's W. F. M.?" She unrolled one pair. "Men's socks too,"
she said, holding them up to plain view. "W. F. M.!" Then suddenly she
broke into hilarious laughter. "I have it!" she burst out, waving the
socks over her head and triumphantly dancing around the room. "William
Ford Maynard! W. F. M. William Ford Maynard!"

"Stop, Ruth!" I cried, my old anger beginning to surge up in me.
"_Stop_, I tell you!"

But Ruth was deaf to me. She simply kept on tearing around the room
like a wild Indian. "How do you do, Mrs. Maynard," she shouted at me in
silly school-girl fashion, and amidst her mad laughter sang out, full
of derision, "Juliet, let me introduce Mrs. William Ford Maynard!"

I was standing up in a minute and was at Ruth with all my might and
main. I was firing mad.

"Ruth Chenery Vars," I cried, "stop, _stop_, STOP!" and then suddenly
there was Alec standing quietly in the doorway in his overcoat and hat.

Ruth and I went out like flames.

There was a dead silence for an instant, then Alec asked quietly:

"What does this mean?"

Ruth answered him.

"I tipped over Lucy's work-bag and all these men's socks fell out.
Every one of them is marked with Dr. Maynard's initials, and Lucy got
mad because I made fun of her."

"Will's initials, Lucy?" asked Alec perplexed.

"Yes, W. F. M.," went on Ruth delightedly. "See?" She gave the socks to
Alec. "Nobody is W. F. M. in this town, but William Ford Maynard," she
finished and sat down on the piano-stool in a satisfied way, as if she
had cleared _herself_ of any blame, and now was ready for some fun.

I think it was here that Juliet got up and slipped out of the room.
Anyhow I know she wasn't there during the whole interview.

"Well, Lucy?" said Alec, looking at me.

"I was paid for it," I exclaimed. "I was paid for every single initial
and every single stitch I ever took for him! Oh, there was nothing
sentimental about it. Ruth makes me sick! I did it simply to earn
money."

Alec looked down at the initials.

"How much were you paid?" he asked.

"I was paid," I went on, still on the defensive, "I was paid fifty
cents an hour. It was all business from beginning to end. Oh, there was
nothing silly in it!"

"Fifty cents an hour?" Alec repeated.

"Oh, yes," I said. "Ruth is absurd. I made out bills and receipts and
everything. It was absolutely businesslike."

"And how much has Will already given you?"

The colour for some reason rose to my cheeks. Alec looked as if he
wasn't pleased and I was suddenly ashamed.

"About--sixty dollars," I murmured.

"Sixty dollars!" Alec flashed. "Why did you need so much money?" he
asked me sternly.

I saw my danger then. It was as if I had had my hands on the
steering-wheel of Dr. Maynard's automobile, and suddenly saw an
enormous limousine headed for me around a curve.

"Why," I stammered, trying to keep calm, "I thought the business was
doing so--poorly, that I--I--"

"Why did you think it necessary not to tell me about this--enterprise
of yours?" asked Alec.

The limousine kept coming straight for me, you see.

I hesitated just a moment. I had no idea of telling about Oliver. After
you've worked for a cause, you'll protect it if it kills you. But I
was at a loss to know which way to turn, and I had to act quickly. An
inspiration came to me. It wasn't a good one, but I was excited.

"I borrowed seventy-five dollars from the Household Account. I had a
dressmaker's bill of my own to pay that had stood a long while, and
so--now I'm trying to make it up."

Alec dropped the socks as if they had been hot. He didn't say a single
word. He just stood there and stared and stared. I glanced up for a
fleeting second and Alec's eyes were terrible. The vision of them
remained with me for days, just as the image of the sun will dance
before your eyes after you have gazed at its piercing light for an
instant. I turned and looked quickly out of the window. The clock in
the hall struck five. I counted it to myself. The last stroke died
away, and still Alec stood and stared. He seemed to be willing me
to bow down in remorse and shame. I couldn't help it. I tried and I
couldn't. I wasn't guilty--oh, no, Alec, I wasn't guilty--but suddenly
a hot wave spread over me up to my temples and I hung my head before my
brother's condemning gaze.

He turned away then, and without a word went out into the hall.

I didn't know a silence could be so eloquent; I didn't know a silence
could hurt. It sobered even Ruth. She slunk quietly upstairs. And when
I discovered I was quite alone, I drew a long breath. Then I got up,
gathered the poor socks that had caused so much trouble together in a
pile and put them back into my work-bag.

I didn't go down to supper that night. Alec knocked on my bedroom door
about nine o'clock, and came in.

"Please put the household check-book on my desk," he said shortly; "I
will take charge of it hereafter."

"Very well," I replied, perfectly calm; and a thick heavy curtain fell
quietly down between Alec and me like the curtain after the last act at
the theatre.



CHAPTER IX


How can I tell about the days that followed--black, blinding days with
Alec's silent displeasure following me wherever I went, Ruth looking at
me askance and avoiding an encounter, and I, firm, uncommunicative, and
dismal as the grave?

To save Oliver from disgrace cost me a big price. I paid Alec's
confidence and respect to buy Oliver's honour. Sisters ought not
to have preferences among their brothers, but, Father, you know,
_you_--before whom now there is no deceiving or pretending--you know
that there is no one in the world to me like Alec. Why, Oliver and I
used to fight like cats and dogs. Ruth is Oliver's favourite. I don't
know why I was putting myself to so much trouble for Oliver, breaking
my heart to save his reputation. Father would have put Oliver into the
mills; Tom would have put him there; Alec also; but at night when I
look at the sad profile over my bed, that face which only until lately
had been simply an old-fashioned picture of my mother, I wonder what
_she_ would have done. I know Mrs. Maynard would have sold her soul
to protect _her_ son's reputation. Perhaps I was saving Oliver from
disgrace for the sake of my "best friend." At any rate there was no
going back now.

Meal-time of course was dreadful. There was no connected conversation.
The clatter of the slumpy general-housework girl, as she piled up our
plates and took them away, was more annoying than ever, when we all
simply sat and listened. It's a difficult thing, too, to ask for the
bread, and avoid glancing at the person who passes it. I didn't join
Alec in the sitting-room any more by the drop-light; I didn't hurry
downstairs to meet him at noon; I didn't ask him if he were tired.

"Please, Alec, say _something_!" I said, almost desperate, at the end
of the third day.

I didn't know Alec could be so hard and unforgiving. His reply made
me feel awfully sympathetic and kind toward Oliver, or any one else
who might have made a mistake. It seems that, besides shattering my
brother's entire confidence in my honesty, I had shocked his sense of
propriety in accepting money from Dr. Maynard. To call it a business
transaction appealed to Alec as absolutely absurd. He assured me that
he was going to pay every cent of Will's money back to him. I started
to reply, but Alec shrugged his shoulders and turned away.

"I don't want to talk about it, Lucy. Let us not argue about a matter
in which your honesty and reliability is so involved. I had such faith
in you! I could have forgiven you your lack of pride--your utter
ignorance of the proprieties in spite of your nineteen years, in
accepting sixty dollars from a friend! But you have been dishonest. You
knew as well as I the seriousness of your offence when you borrowed
from the Household Account placed in your name at the bank. No, please,
do not answer me. For what is there for you to say?"

I didn't know. I went upstairs--not to cry, not to grieve, but to
sit down in my black walnut rocker by the window and think bitter
thoughts. I didn't care if I had been improper; I didn't care if
Alec was unjust and willing to believe the worst of me; _I didn't
care_! I had sixty good, crisp dollars tucked safely away in a little
chamois bag in the bandbox where I keep my best Sunday-go-to-meeting
hat, and when my allowance came due on December first I should have
seventy-five. I didn't care if all the world turned against me. I had
accomplished what I had set out to do, and no one could rob me of my
victory anyhow.

I had it all planned that on December first I would deposit the
seventy-five dollars in the bank and make out a check for Oliver
immediately. But something happened which made quicker action necessary.

When December third, Oliver's fateful day, was about a week off I
received another letter from him. In his haste, in directing it, he had
omitted the state, and the letter had travelled to a Hilton, New York,
which I never knew was on the map, before it found its way to me three
days later.

  "The business meeting has been set forward to November twenty-sixth,
  so you better send the check on the twenty-fourth, at the latest.
  You've been a trump to get it for me, and if you're good, I'll have
  both you and Ruth down for a game sometime, with a spread in my room."

I didn't read any farther. I reached for my calendar. I found the
twenty-sixth. I followed the column up to the days of the week. Yes--as
sure as I was alive--Saturday! To-day was Saturday. To-day was
November twenty-sixth! Oliver must have seventy-five dollars to-day!

It was nine o'clock. Alec was at the factory. Ruth was not in the
house. I went down to the roll-top desk and found a timetable. There
was a train at nine-fifty. It didn't take me an instant to decide
that I would deliver that money to Oliver myself. I would go down to
that college town, hunt that boy up, and place my little packet of
seventy-five hard-earned dollars in his hands.

I put on my hat and coat--the same old black coat, by the way, that I
had had dyed when Father left us--instructed the general-housework girl
to tell Alec that I wouldn't be home for lunch, and hurried over to Dr.
Maynard's. I buried all the pride I ever had (which Alec had said was
a small amount) and pulled the big front bell. I was glad when Eliza
said the doctor was in. I had never called there before, and I refused
to enter even the hall. I had come to beg for money and it seemed more
correct to stand on the doorstep. I had made up my mind after Alec's
cutting speech that I would never take another cent from Dr. Maynard
as long as I lived. But I had to, you see. My allowance wasn't due for
five days. I simply had to have nineteen dollars immediately--four for
my railroad fare and fifteen for Oliver. I wasn't going to have that
twin even fifteen dollars dishonest. I wasn't going to fail now, at the
eleventh hour, even if it cost my reputation.

"Hello," said Dr. Maynard in the doorway. "Good morning! It isn't often
I have calls from young ladies so early. Come in!"

"No," I replied. "No, thanks." I stopped a minute then I said, "I know
you'll be very much surprised. I know I'm going to do a very improper
thing. I must seem to have no pride at all, but--but--can you lend me
nineteen dollars?" My cheeks were burning red. Dr. Maynard folded his
arms and leaned up against the casement of the door. I could see him
smiling. "I'll pay you back," I went on bravely, "in four days--at
least fifteen dollars of it. The rest I can give you on January first."

Dr. Maynard sat down on the doorstep and made a place for me.

"Sit down, Bobbie," he said.

"I can't," I replied; "I'm in a hurry."

Dr. Maynard stood up again--he's always very polite with me--and
refolded his arms.

"Alec came over last night," he went on, "and it seems, Lucy, that Al
didn't approve of our little game. He took it a little more seriously
than we did, and perhaps it's better, after all, if you're in any sort
of difficulty to go straight to your brother, if you've got as good a
one as Alec."

"Aren't you going to lend it to me?" I asked point-blank.

"Well, now, you see," Dr. Maynard smiled, "Al didn't tell me the story,
but he implied that you had explained the whole thing to _him_; and of
course, Bobbie, if he, your brother, doesn't approve of your cause--"

"I told him a lie," I interrupted; "I told him I'd just the same as
stolen seventy-five dollars from the Household Account, which he put
me in charge of; and I haven't at all. I simply haven't! I shan't ever
need any more money after to-day. I'll never ask another favour after
this, but I've got to have it. _I've got to!_ If it would do any good
to get down on my knees and beg, I'd do it. But it seems to me when I
debase myself by asking you for money right out of a clear sky, you
must know it's awfully important. Alec tells me I've been improper even
to earn money from a friend. It must be worse to beg it. But I don't
care--I _don't care_--just so you give it to me, and quick, because
I've got to take a train."

Dr. Maynard looked very sober and serious for him.

"Can't you tell me what you need it for?" he asked.

For a moment I was tempted, but men are so queer and severe with boys
who make mistakes, so terribly correct about honesty, how did I know
but perhaps Dr. Maynard, too, would think Oliver ought to go into the
mills.

I shook my head.

"I can't," I said; "I wish I could,--but, I'm sorry, I can't."

"How much do you need for your railroad fare?" he inquired,
irrelevantly, and when I had told him he asked, "And what time does
your train leave?"

"At nine-fifty," I burst out impatiently; "and I shall lose it if you
don't hurry. We are wasting time. Oh, please decide quickly."

He didn't answer for a minute. He was biting his under lip, beneath
his moustache, and gazing far away beyond my head. His arms were still
folded.

"Four dollars; the nine-fifty," he contemplated out loud, unmindful of
my precious minutes.

The frown between his eyes looked dreadfully unfavourable to me. I
stepped toward him, and looking up to him on the step above I said,
"Dr. Maynard, I copied all those letters of your mother's, and it seems
as if I almost knew her now. I just know _she_ would think my cause was
worthy."

Dr. Maynard simply adored his mother, and I suppose it was the sudden
thought of her that brought a kind of mist into his eyes. He stepped
down beside me, took out his leather bill-book, and passed me two
ten-dollar bills. "Then, Bobbie, here it is!" he said gravely.

I thanked him quietly, opened my bag, and put them away.

I have always thought Dr. Maynard was a mind-reader. His next speech
simply staggered me.

"I should go to the train immediately," he said; "the nine-fifty will
be crowded this morning, with people going to the game. And by the way,
if by any chance, you have a notion of passing through any college town
on the day of a big football game, you'll find it very confusing. Why
not let me go with you? I'll ask no questions. Or will the twins meet
you?"

"How did you know? How did you guess?" was on the tip of my tongue; but
I replied instead, "Oh, thank you. I _must_ go alone. I shall be back
by dark--and--and some one will meet me," I stammered.

All the way to the station I kept thinking, "Why couldn't Alec have
believed me worthy of good motives too? Why couldn't Alec have surmised
and understood? Why couldn't it have been my brother who trusted and
had faith?"

Before I bought my ticket I sent a telegram to Oliver, so he wouldn't
be passing away with anxiety. "_Coming to-day. Bobbie_" I said, and
five minutes later sank into a seat in the train with a sigh of relief.

It was nearly twelve o'clock when the last friendly, blue-coated
policeman left me with a pleasant nod near the end of my destination.
I didn't have a bit of difficulty changing trains, crossing Boston
and weaving my way in and out and up and down a labyrinth of subway
passages and various street-car lines. Everybody was awfully helpful
and as long as I have a tongue I could travel around the world, I
believe, without the least bit of trouble. It wasn't until I neared the
end of my journey that I felt any nervousness at all. Oliver roomed
at number 204 Grey Street and as I reached the nineties my uneasiness
became quite apparent. I could feel it in my chest, as if I were
hungry. I did hope Oliver would be in. I did hope I was doing the right
thing. Probably my growing excitement was a little due to the gala
spirit of the football day. It pervaded everything. It thrilled me.
Crowds of people with steamer-rugs and overcoats over their arms had
thronged the trains and street-cars all along my route--a good-natured
crowd, prosperous-looking young men and stunning girls wearing great
bunches of flowers and carrying flags. Everybody was excited, even down
to the small boys selling programmes and banners in the square I had
just left; everybody glowed with enthusiasm and with the foretaste of
a triumph. I had never been to a football game in my life, and I had
always wanted to. Perhaps Oliver would take me; perhaps we would have
lunch together somewhere! I should adore to see the college buildings!
Possibly--oh, possibly, he would introduce me to some of his friends!!
The thought of the thrilling things that might be in store for me made
me swallow to keep myself calm. As I hurried along Grey Street I was so
excited that I somehow wished that the wonderful time was all over, and
that I was speeding safely and victoriously home again, wearing a faded
bunch of chrysanthemums that Oliver would buy for me, and hoarding in
my memory the brand-new acquisition of a real College Football Game.

I was rather disappointed in the appearance of number 204. It was a big
brick building and not at all my idea of a College Dormitory. It was
just as plain and ordinary as it could be, with the door opening right
square on to the brick sidewalk, and a horrid little tailor-shop and
drug-store opposite. I didn't know what I ought to do. The big front
door was wide open, and I could see into the hall. It looked like a
prison--all brick and masonry, and bare granolithic stairs with an iron
railing. I didn't know whether to go in or not. If there had been a
policeman in sight I would have asked his advice, or an old lady, or
a girl, but there was only a very good-looking young man on the other
side of the street, so I rang the bell and waited. No one came. I rang
again; I rang that old bell--at least I pushed the button--six times!
No one answered, so I finally started up the stairs. Perhaps I was
waiting at the basement door (the interior certainly looked like a
cellar) and the parlours or reception-rooms were possibly on the floor
above. It was while I was standing, hesitating on the second landing,
gazing up interminable flights of cement stairs and brick walls,
wondering how in the world I could dig Oliver out of such a tomb, that
a door opened somewhere up above and down those stairs--bump-bump,
clappity-clap, pell-mell, like ten barrels falling down one over
another, shouting, laughing, guffawing--I heard what I thought must be
a regiment charging down upon me. I drew back a little into the corner
and suddenly four men--four stunning young college men appeared before
me.

They all stopped shouting as if I had been a vision, and though they
didn't say a word I could feel they observed me with a start of
surprise as if young ladies in their corridors were a great curiosity.
I blushed for no particular reason; they passed on quietly down the
stairs; and would have left me there without a word if I hadn't spoken.

"Excuse me," I said to the back of the last young man. "Could you tell
me--I'm sorry to stop you--but does Oliver Vars room here?"

They all halted and looked up at me. I blushed worse than ever. I
suddenly felt as if I ought not to have been there, and though the
young men were just as courteous and polite as they could be I was
awfully embarrassed.

"Why, yes, he does room here," said the young man nearest me, taking
off his hat. "Did you want to see him?"

"Yes," I stammered. "It's--it's very important. I'm sorry but I--"

"That's all right," he assured me quickly, for I guess he heard my
voice tremble; "I'll find him for you." And oh, he had the nicest,
straightest, cleanest look. "You go on," he said to his friends; "I'll
be with you in a minute." Then to me, "Vars rooms here, but I am about
sure he's out now. If you'll come with me perhaps--Must you see him
right off?" he inquired.

"Oh, yes, thank you. I must. I _must_! I've come on the train to see
him. I've got to see him if I sit here and wait for him."

"Oh, I'll get him all right," the young man said. "We haven't much of
a place here to wait, but if you'll come with me, we'll find him," he
assured me.

He stepped back to let me pass out in front of him to the street, and
once on the sidewalk, he fell behind me a moment so that he might walk
next to the curbing. Oh, that young man had beautiful manners! I'll
always remember them. It was just the noon hour and he met lots of men
that he knew. To each one he raised his hat as if he'd had a princess
with him. They returned his bow in the same manner, with a curious look
at me.

"They think," he laughed pleasantly, "I'm taking you to the game this
afternoon!"

I flushed. I wanted to say, "I wish you were." If I had been the pretty
girl whom we had just passed, in the black lynx, with a little round
fur hat with a red flower on it, it would have been easy to smile,
glance sidewise, and say pretty things. But from under my black felt
sailor, side glances wouldn't be attractive. I kept my eyes straight
ahead. "You can explain to them afterward," I said.

He left me in a drug-store. "I'll get him!" were his last words as he
raised his hat.

I waited three quarters of an hour. It was after one o'clock when I
saw Oliver push open the big plate-glass door. He had been hurrying.
His face was red, his eyes startled and frightened, his hair tossed a
little under the cap he wore. At sight of me he stopped, then strode up
to me, where I was sitting on a stool by the soda-fountain.

"You!" he gasped. "You! For heaven's sake, Bobbie, what are you here
for?"

"I telegraphed," I explained. "Didn't you--"

"No," he broke in, "I've had no telegram. What's the trouble anyhow?
Who's dead? Who--"

"Why, Oliver," I replied calmly, "nobody's dead." Then in a lower tone,
"I've come with the money," I said.

"The money! Why didn't you mail it?" he fired.

"Your letter didn't come till this morning, and--isn't the meeting
to-day?"

"Oh, yes," he said still annoyed; "but there was no such rush. I've
managed to borrow enough to fix _that_ up. Oh, I knew I better not rely
on your getting it here, and so a friend of mine lent me enough to tide
me over." We had moved away from the soda-fountain and were talking in
low tones beside a display of fancy soap.

"Then why--?" I began.

"Oh, because," he took me up, "I've got to pay Holmes back. No man of
any respect owes money to a friend for a longer time than he can help.
But Holmes didn't expect it till next week. It was absolutely crazy,
your coming way down here. You went to my room, didn't you? What do
you suppose the men will think? Do you know who it was told me you were
here? Blanchard! Blanchard! A Senior! One of the biggest men here!
Heavens, when he told me a girl wanted to see me--You don't have any
idea of propriety, Lucy!"

"Oliver Vars," I returned, "I've brought seventy-five dollars down here
in this bag for you, and you had better stop talking like that to me.
If it wasn't for me and my impropriety, you'd be working in the mills,
let me tell you. And I don't know but what it would be better. If Alec
knew what you'd done--if Tom knew--"

Oliver's attitude changed immediately.

"Oh, I know," he interrupted. "It's been bully of you, Bobbie. I tell
you I appreciate it. I suppose you had a hard time squeezing even such
an amount out of old Al, and just now too, when business is so rotten.
But I'll pay you back some day, you'll see. You've helped me out of a
devil of a scrape. I'm going to have you down to a game or a tea soon."

"There's a game this afternoon!" I exclaimed. "Oh, Oliver--I've never
seen a football game."

My brother frowned. "I'm more than sorry, but I'm taking some one this
afternoon. Malcolm and I, two other fellows and four girls, a party of
eight of us, are all going together."

"Couldn't I sit alone somewhere, off in a corner? I wouldn't mind a
bit. I want to see the crowds and be able to say that I have been. Oh,
I'd love to hear the cheering. You could call for me afterward, and--"

"Oh, no, Lucy; oh, no. That's out of the question. Why even if I could
get a ticket, which I can't, it wouldn't do. You don't understand in
the least."

There was something about the way Oliver glanced at my old rusty laced
boots that made me say fiercely, "I don't suppose I'm dressed well
enough!"

"Oh, it isn't that--not at all," he assured me, and suddenly I felt
that it was. "Of course it isn't, though the girls do put on the best
things they have. It's simply that no girl ever goes alone to a game."

"Well, then, here's the money," I said in a hard voice.

"Say, Bobbie, I'm awfully sorry. If you only had let me know. If you
only--"

"Oh, never mind," I interrupted.

A young man in a grey sweater entered the store. Oliver glanced
around at him, then flushed and finally raised his cap. The young man
returned the bow generously. If I had been less sensitive I wouldn't
have noticed how Oliver stood so as to shield me from the young man's
gaze. If I hadn't walked that three blocks and a half with that
young god Blanchard, whoever he was, I wouldn't have minded Oliver's
half-apologetic bow. Mr. Blanchard hadn't been ashamed of me; _he_
hadn't hidden me; _he_ hadn't flushed when he met his friends. I wanted
to get away from Oliver as soon as I could. I wanted to go home.

"Well, I might as well be starting along," I said. "I found my way down
here without any trouble, and I guess I'll get home all right."

"Say, Bobbie, I'm more than sorry. I wish I could put you safely on
the Hilton train, but I've got to rush like mad as it is--change my
clothes, get some food, and call for Miss Beresford, all before two
o'clock. So if you're sure--"

"I am," I tucked in.

"I'll put you on the electric car. Say--" his face brightened, "don't
you want some hot chocolate?"

"Oh, I couldn't, Oliver. No thanks. Please."

I was glad to be alone again. I was glad of the protection of the
crowds and the stream of strange faces. I sat in the corner of the car,
where Oliver had left me, with a hard look about my mouth--at least I
felt as if it were hard. There is no such thing as reward. Everything
in life is unfair. Who was Miss Beresford? Would she wear coon-skin and
velvet? Would Oliver buy her a stunning bunch of flowers to wear at
her waist? Perhaps one of the actual dollars that I had earned would
purchase a little flag for her to wave. Why should I pay for Miss
Beresford's good time? Why should I have to work so hard, and wear ugly
black? Why should I be going home--hungry and faint, and ashamed--while
every one else was thronging in the other direction?

It was while I was changing cars, standing alone on the edge of the
sidewalk, taking in all I could see of the excitement, that my eyes
fell on a stunning creature in a long luxurious fur coat. She wore a
huge bunch of violets, as big as a cauliflower. A great big sweeping
plume streamed out behind. She was bubbling with laughter, and the
young man striding along beside her was laughing too. They were a
lovely pair, both of them full of the joy of living. The girl (I looked
twice to make sure) was some one I knew. The girl, as sure as I was
alive, was no other than Sarah Platt--Sarah Platt, whom I had longed to
know at boarding-school; Sarah Platt who had always scorned the very
sight of Lucy Vars; Sarah Platt whom finally I had almost spat upon as
contemptible and mean. A half an hour ago, Oliver had tried to hide
me, and now I tried to hide myself. I slunk behind a telegraph-pole.
Sarah swept by like a gilded chariot; I heard her voice; I smelled the
odor of her violets. "She'll always be glorious and happy," I thought
savagely. "She'll always have a good time. She'll marry that young
man. I know she will. And I--I'll always be poor and miserable and
forgotten."

It was half-past two when I re-entered the big station, inquired of
a news-stand girl the way to the restaurant, and found my way to the
lunch counter. Instead of luncheon with Oliver, at a small table in
some darling little college-town restaurant, I hoisted myself up on a
stool and ordered a ham sandwich and a cup of coffee. The girl who drew
the steaming black liquid out of the shining metal tank looked sour
and dissatisfied. She slopped some of it on the saucer as she shoved
the thick crockery toward me. She slammed down my check and slung a
towel up over her shoulder with a sort of vehemence that expressed
my feelings exactly. I don't know why she was so miserable; I never
knew; but I sympathised just the same. When she dropped a glass and it
shattered and broke at her feet, she merely shrugged her shoulders,
and kicked the pieces as if she didn't care a rap if the whole station
fell down and broke. Oh, I just loved that girl, somehow. I knew she
thought life was cruel, hard as iron, and terribly unjust. I wasn't the
only one who at that moment was not cheering with the crowds at the
football game. I wasn't the only wretched person in the world.



CHAPTER X


About a week after I had been down to see Oliver, I observed that
something strange had come over Dr. Maynard. The first time I noticed
it was the day I hailed him when he was passing the house one noon,
and gave him an envelope with my December allowance sealed up inside.
I explained it was in part payment of the loan he had made me the
week before. He didn't laugh; he didn't even smile; he was as solemn
as a judge, as he took that envelope and put it in his breast-pocket.
Usually there is a joke on the tip of Dr. Maynard's tongue. He is
always saving situations from becoming serious by a bit of fun. I never
knew what it was to feel uncomfortable with Dr. Maynard. The next day
when he passed me alone in his automobile, when I was coming home from
downtown, it flashed upon me as very odd that he didn't stop and take
me in as usual. Then it occurred to me that he hadn't taken me out
for a ride, for days. I got to thinking! The next Sunday at church
he and Alec seemed friendly enough, but I observed that Dr. Maynard
didn't drop in on us in the afternoon. The grave look that had come
into his eyes when he passed those two bills to me that morning on his
front porch, the solemn tone in his voice when he said, "Then, here
it is, Bobbie," seemed to be there every time he spoke to me. I was
sorry. It made me uneasy. It didn't seem as if I could bear it if Dr.
Maynard should go back on me--along with the business, and Alec, and
everything and everybody I ever cared a cent about.

I wondered what was the cause of Dr. Maynard's coolness. Perhaps he
felt that Alec was blaming him for allowing me to take so much of his
money; perhaps he was nursing the idea that he was responsible for the
strangeness between my older brother and myself; or else, possibly Dr.
Maynard thought that since I had committed such an unheard-of act as to
ask him for money I would naturally feel embarrassed and ill-at-ease in
his presence. But that was all nonsense. I didn't regret a thing that I
had done. In spite of what Alec might consider my shocking impropriety,
I didn't feel ashamed. I adored Dr. Maynard's cheerfulness! It seemed
as if I must go and tell him that the only fun I had left now was
the fun I had with him. I used to love his jokes and merry-making.
I believe Dr. Maynard could make the worst catastrophe in the world
a lark, if he wanted to. Why, whenever we had a puncture in the
automobile, Dr. Maynard was so good-natured about it that any one would
have thought he enjoyed punctures. "You've got a flat tire, George,"
he'd sing out to me (he calls me George when I am running the car), or,
"Sorry, Miss; sounds mighty like a blow-out," he'd say, if he happened
to be at the wheel; and while he was jacking-up, I'd flax around
and unlock the tools. Before he had the shoe off, I was ready with
the new inner tube, and thirty minutes from the time we had stopped
we were zinging along again as good as new. Most of the sunshine in
my life--literal sunshine and the other kind too--came through Dr.
Maynard.

As I became more and more convinced that he was acting queerly, I began
to realise how kind he had been to me. I suppose Dr. Maynard is really
a better friend of mine than Juliet Adams, to whom I write twice every
week, and for whom I make a stunning Christmas present every year. He
has surely done more to fill my heart with gratitude and everlasting
appreciation. It flashed upon me, one day, that I had never done a
thing in my life, without pay, for Dr. Maynard. I began thinking
and thinking what a girl of nineteen could do anyhow, for a man of
thirty-five, who lives all alone and has all the money he wants.

It was when I was working on Juliet's Christmas present that it
occurred to me that possibly it might please an older man, who didn't
have any family, if some one gave _him_ a Christmas present. The more
I thought about it the better I liked the idea. It seemed to me a
delicate way of expressing my thanks to Dr. Maynard for all that he had
done.

I had an awful time deciding on the present. First I wanted to buy
a wind-shield for his automobile but the price of wind-shields is
something terrific. Fur robes, automobile clocks, a Gabriel horn all
were delightful possibilities, but beyond the limits of my purse.
My oldest brother Tom likes books, I always give Alec socks or
handkerchiefs. The twins adore sofa-pillows for their rooms. Sofa
pillows! Would Dr. Maynard like a sofa-pillow for his room? For a week
I hesitated between a sofa-pillow and a hand-embroidered picture frame,
but finally decided on the pillow.

I knew exactly how I was going to make it. I had seen one of my
friends, who attends a big boarding-school near Philadelphia,
embroidering a perfectly stunning one at Thanksgiving for a college man
she knew. I copied hers. Of course I realised that Dr. Maynard had been
out of college for years, but he is very loyal to his Alma Mater. He
told me all about the fifteenth reunion he attended last June as soon
as he got home, and seemed awfully enthusiastic. So I bought and had
charged to myself, two yards of the most expensive and shiniest satin
in the Hilton stores, had it stamped on one side with the seal of Dr.
Maynard's college, and on the other with his initials and the numerals
of his class beneath. It wasn't very complimentary to Dr. Maynard
I suppose, but as I worked, I wondered if I would ever embroider a
sofa-pillow for a real college man. I wished this one was destined for
some one who was in college now. I should have enjoyed the thought that
a pillow made by my hands would be piled high on a couch in the corner
of a college boy's room, beneath posters and signs and flags, and that
college men would lean up against it and play banjos and guitars. I
wished I had half an excuse for making a sofa-pillow for Mr. Blanchard.
Dr. Maynard graduated perfect ages ago, in the class of '90--three
years before the World's Fair in Chicago, which is one of my earliest
recollections. The pillow that I copied mine from has on it a big '09,
and Mr. Blanchard is a member of the class of '06. I had only to turn
my pillow upside down and it would have been perfect for Mr. Blanchard.

After I had finished the embroidery, I bought the best down-pillow
for the thing that I could find--for I wasn't going to skimp on Dr.
Maynard's Christmas present, after all his generosity--and also a heavy
black silk cord to go around the edge. I must confess when it was all
done--the black letters standing up so that they cast a shadow on the
red satin, and the surface as round and full as a raised biscuit--I
must confess it was perfectly lovely. I think Mr. Blanchard would have
liked it very much. I wrapped it up very carefully in tissue paper,
over that a layer of brown paper held together by pins, and put it well
out of sight on my closet shelf. I was determined that Ruth shouldn't
see it.

Christmas used to be a great day with us. Tom always came home from
the West; and we had fricasseed chicken for breakfast; turkey and
pies for dinner; figs, nuts and Malaga grapes for supper. We never
celebrated with a Christmas tree (we considered them childish) and
the younger ones of us--Ruth and I and the twins--never hung our
stockings. Since Mother died there was no one to keep up the fiction
of Santa Claus, and I remember we used to feel awfully set-up and
superior at the church supper on Christmas Eve when we, with grown-ups,
knew that the person in the old red coat and white beard was just the
Sunday-school superintendent dressed up. We always opened our presents
in the sitting-room directly after breakfast. Each member of the family
had a chair of his own, with his presents piled in it. When we all
finally got started on the opening, I don't know whether we were more
interested in seeing the presents we had given, opened, or opening the
ones we had received. It was a wonderful hour anyhow, and I can't even
remember it without getting a thrill.

It's different now; everything is different--Memorial Day, Fourth of
July and Thanksgiving--with Father gone. We can't seem to fill up the
rooms without Father. When we try to celebrate a holiday I think it
must be something like acting or preaching to an empty house. Father
was a beautiful audience, and his applause made the day worth while.
Since Tom has been married he hasn't been here for Christmas either.
Elise's family wants her with them. Besides, she has two little
daughters now and can't possibly come East anyhow. You can imagine with
only Ruth, the twins, heart-sick Alec, and me--no Dixie, no Nellie, no
money for presents, and the "For Sale" sign still outside the parlour
window--it wasn't a very merry Christmas for the Vars family. It just
dragged, I can tell you. I had to cook the dinner myself because
Bridget, the general-housework girl, had too soft a heart to disappoint
her second cousin, who had invited her to spend the day with her.
Ruth and the twins started off on a skating-party about three in the
afternoon, after we'd done up the dishes together. As soon as I was
sure they were all safely out of the way--Alec was sound asleep on the
third floor--I stuck on my red tam and sweater, and took my present
over to Dr. Maynard.

I was dreadfully afraid I'd meet some one I knew on the way, and they'd
inquire what I had in the bundle. It was the awkwardest thing I ever
attempted to carry in my life. Try it sometime. When I struggled up to
Dr. Maynard's front door, I wondered if he had been watching me from
the windows, and asking himself what in the name of heaven was coming
now. But he wasn't at home. Eliza who came to the door explained that
Dr. Maynard had gone out horseback riding, but wouldn't I come in and
wait?

I thanked Eliza--I'd never been inside Dr. Maynard's house before--and
entered the hall. She showed me into a big square room at the left, and
told me to sit down.

"I won't stop, I think," I said. "I'll just leave this. It's a
Christmas present for Dr. Maynard. Don't tell him who left it. There's
a card inside."

"I'll lay it right here on his desk," said Eliza, grinning with
pleasure.

She'd no sooner put my bundle down than I heard the clatter of horse's
hoofs on the hard driveway outside.

"I believe he's coming," I exclaimed. "How lucky! I'll wait."

After Eliza had gone back to the kitchen and I was alone, I gazed about
the room. It was a dark, dull room with bronze-coloured walls. Low,
black walnut bookcases were built in around two sides, and over them
hung two solitary pictures--steel engravings of battle scenes. There
were several huge leather armchairs, and a bare leather couch in one
corner. There wasn't a single sofa-pillow on it. I didn't believe Dr.
Maynard liked sofa-pillows after all. Everything was so big and dark
and stiff in that room, I was afraid a pillow would look out of place.
I walked over to Dr. Maynard's desk. It was just like the room--nothing
pretty on it--a book or two, a big bronze horse, a piece of black onyx
for a paperweight. There was also a small, dark leather frame, and in
it a kodak picture of Alec on horseback. The horse was poor dear little
Dixie, who had gone away. I remembered when Dr. Maynard had taken that
picture. It was in our back yard last summer. The smoke-bush had been
in full plumage. Just before he snapped the picture, he had called to
me, "You get into it, too, Bobbie. Stand up here, in front, by Dixie's
head." And there I was, as sure as life, pinching the dear little
horse's soft under lip, and smiling at Dr. Maynard.

As I stood looking at the picture, wondering where Dixie had gone--for
Alec hadn't told me and I dreaded to ask--Dr. Maynard passed by the
window by my side. He was coming in from the stable by way of the front
door, and Eliza would have no opportunity for telling him that he had
a caller. As I heard him fitting his key into the lock of the outside
door, it occurred to me that it would be fun to hide. I glanced around
the room. There wasn't a drapery in sight. There wasn't a hanging of
any description that I could crawl behind. So finally I dashed into
what proved to be a closet--dark as pitch.

Dr. Maynard didn't stop in the hall. He didn't call Eliza. He came
directly toward the library door and entered the room. The sun was
just setting, and a few last rays came slanting through the windows.
They burnished the room like magic brass-polish. The bronze-coloured
walls shone like dull copper; the brown leather armchairs, the black
walnut woodwork, the old camel-shaded rugs were absolutely golden. As
Dr. Maynard stood in the late sunshine in his khaki coloured riding
things, his face all aglow and ruddy with the cold, he too glowed
like everything else. He looked very handsome in his riding boots (I
could see him through the crack in the door) and much sportier than in
automobile goggles and a visored cap.

He tossed down his riding whip and soft felt hat in a chair, rubbed his
bare hands together as if they were cold, blew through his fingers,
then abruptly flung himself full length on the leather couch. He
clasped his two hands underneath his head, and lay there with his eyes
wide open, staring up at the ceiling. I hoped he wouldn't keep me
waiting long. A small travelling clock on the desk struck four-thirty,
and he turned toward it. It was then that he saw the big white bundle
resting on his blotter. He frowned a moment, as his gaze fell upon it
(I was shaking with laughter) then got up and walked over to it. He
picked it up, turned it over, and laid it down again. He examined the
outside closely--for an address, I suppose--gave it up, then shoving
his hands into his pockets, stood looking down at the bundle, as if
some stranger had left a baby at his door and he didn't know what
to do with it. Finally, he decided to open the thing at least, and
began taking out the pins. Beneath the brown paper was the layer of
white tissue paper, tied with red Christmas ribbon. I didn't think
Dr. Maynard would ever get beneath that tissue paper. You would have
thought that there was something explosive inside. He lifted up the
rustling package gingerly by the red ribbon and looked it all over. My
card was hanging from the under side. Dr. Maynard took it off at last
and read it.

It was a plain white card with simply the words: "Merry Christmas to
W. F. M. from his discharged chauffeur, George." Dr. Maynard gazed at
that card as if there had been volumes written on it. He turned it
over, searched on the back, and examined again its face. Then he went
to the window, put the shade up to the top, and came back to the desk.
His back was toward me; I couldn't see the expression on his face as he
folded back the tissue paper, and my pillow finally shone up at him. He
didn't speak nor make a single sound as he stood looking down at the
initials and his class numeral. He didn't stir--just looked until the
silence grew uncomfortable. Suddenly he sat down in his desk-chair,
leaned forward, picked up Alec's picture and began looking at that in
the same awfully still, quiet way. I couldn't bear it a minute longer.
The tensity was something like a shrill, long-drawn-out note on a
violin. I can't explain it, but it made me want to scream.

Suddenly I burst out upon him.

"Well," I exclaimed, "do you like it?"

He wheeled about, as if he'd heard a shot.

"Lucy!" he said, "Where did you--?"

"In the closet," I interrupted, "watching."

He still had the picture in his hands. He glanced at it, then laid it
down, and for the first time in my life I saw the dark colour come into
Dr. Maynard's face. He came over to me.

"Did you make it?" he asked me quietly.

"Every stitch for you!" I said, laughing.

He didn't answer at first. He just kept looking at me, with that queer,
new look of his. He didn't joke. His eyes didn't twinkle with fun. When
he spoke his voice trembled. He took one of my hands very kindly and
gently in both of his cold ones.

"You have made my Christmas the very happiest one in my life, Lucy," he
said solemnly.

I glanced up surprised. I wish I could write down how his eyes looked.
I can't. I only know I was suddenly afraid. I drew my hand away and
laughed, for no reason. I was actually embarrassed before Dr. Maynard!

"I guess I must go," I said nervously. The sun had set and the glow had
all gone out of the room.

Dr. Maynard didn't answer me. He just stood there like a stone man. Oh,
I think that silences are the most awfully eloquent things in the world!

"It's getting dark," I added desperately.

Without a word Dr. Maynard went to the library door and opened it. I
followed. Then to the front door and opened that. He stood holding it
back, still not speaking (but I could feel his gaze burning into me)
and I sped past him out into the dusk, like a wild bird out of a cage.

I don't know how I got home. I half ran, half stumbled along the frozen
road. My heart was thumping, and though I wasn't a bit cold (my cheeks
fairly burned) my teeth chattered as if I were chilled through. When I
reached the house there was a funny, choking feeling in my throat, and
I dashed up to my room and locked myself in.

       *       *       *       *       *

All this last took place not eight hours ago and it is very late
Christmas night.

When I write down what has happened it seems absurd to be excited.
But when I think of it--when I close my eyes, see his gaze, hear his
voice, I can't sleep. So I have climbed up into my cupola. I have been
sitting looking up at the stars. They are very bright to-night. There
are millions shining.

I can see most all the houses in Hilton from my eyrie. They are dark
now. It is after twelve. But there are two windows aglow. I can see
them shining, side by side like eyes, through the bare limbs of our
apple orchard. They are western windows, in a white house, and eight
hours ago the setting sun shone into them, upon Dr. Maynard in his
riding clothes. I wonder what he is doing so late.

It's a lovely night--cold, clear and so still. I'd like to walk twenty
miles before morning. I'd like to fly a thousand.

O Father, I don't know why it is--it doesn't seem right, for the awful
shadow is still over our house and Alec hasn't smiled all day--but
this--oh, this is _my_ happiest Christmas too!



CHAPTER XI


On a certain night in April I was in the sitting-room trying to keep
awake until Alec came home. His train was not due until midnight. I was
awfully anxious to wait up for him, but at ten o'clock I was so sleepy
that I couldn't keep my eyes open another minute. So I went to Father's
roll-top desk and scribbled this on a piece of paper: "_Dear Alec--Be
sure and stop at my room when you come in. Bobbie_," and fastened it
with a wire hairpin on the light that I left burning.

Alec and I were on friendly terms again, and the whole world was
smiling for me. I didn't care if the "For Sale" was still hitting me
in the face every time I entered the yard, since Alec had put me back
in charge of the Household Account. I might have known my cheque-book
wouldn't have lied for me. Alec didn't get around to look into my
bookkeeping until about the first of January, and then he was so
delighted to discover that I hadn't failed in my trust, after all, that
he couldn't reinstate me quickly enough. It was so good to be friends
again, such a relief to have his faith in me restored and made whole,
that I guess he didn't want to risk urging me to explain what I really
wanted the seventy-five dollars for. "I know you'll explain all about
it, sometime," he said. And I replied, "Sometime, Alec." That was the
way our quarrel ended. The next morning I walked to the factory with my
brother; the next evening I sat with him by the drop-light and when he
went to bed I carried to his room some hot milk and crackers so that
he would sleep. Since then we have been nearer to each other than ever
before.

There is something beautiful about our relations. I'd die for Alec. I
don't believe there ever has been a brother and sister more congenial
than Alec and I. I know just how to please him, and he knows better
than any one in this world how to manage me. There isn't a prouder girl
alive than I, when Alec confides his business affairs to me. I do not
understand them very well. Companies and Coöperations, Preferred and
Common Stock, Bonds and Bank-notes are all a perfect jumble in my mind.
But I've learned long ago, that nothing will shut a man up more quickly
than a comment on a girl's part that shows him how ignorant she is.
So now I keep still; listen as hard and closely as I can; sympathise
with my whole heart when Alec is worried, and rejoice with him when
he announces that some Boston bank or other has lent him twenty-five
thousand dollars, although I _am_ frightened to death of borrowing. I
never give my brother a chance to scoff at a girl's comprehension of
business transactions. The result is, he talks to me by the hour, and
thinks I understand a great deal more than I do.

Ever since last Christmas Alec has been running down to New York about
every two weeks. There was a big order that he was trying to secure,
besides some sort of an arrangement he wanted to work up with some rich
men down there to increase the capital stock of the business, I think
he said. I have an idea, though I never asked, that if he could have
worked that arrangement it would have saved the business from peril of
failing. Alec used to stay in New York about three days usually, and
always came home a little more worried, anxious, and discouraged than
when he started.

This time he had been away almost two weeks. I had had only one short
note from him written the day after he left home. Since then I had not
heard from him until his telegram had arrived announcing he would reach
Hilton on the midnight from New York.

It was a cold blustering night for April, and before I went to bed
myself, I went up into Alec's third-floor room, turned on the heat,
filled a hot-water bag and stuck it down between the cold sheets of his
bed.

I must have been sleeping very soundly when Alec stole into my room
at twelve-thirty. I didn't know he was in the house, until I felt his
hand on my shoulder and his gentle, "Hello, Bobbie!" I woke up with a
glad start and found him sitting on the side of my bed. "My, what a
sleeper!" he said and leaned down and kissed my forehead.

I knew from the first whiff that Alec must have been sitting in the
smoking-car (he doesn't smoke himself) and I drew in a fine, long
breath before I spoke.

"Oh, Alec," I exclaimed, "how beautifully New Yorky you smell!"

"Do I, funny Bobbikins?" he laughed at me, and at the sound of that
name which Alec had not called me by for six months, a thrill of new
courage ran through me.

I sat up.

"Alec," I said, "you've brought good news. I _know_ it! I _know_ it! I
knew we couldn't fail. I've felt it all along. I knew Father's dear old
business wouldn't go back on us. I had a feeling that _this_ trip to
New York would be a lucky one."

"I've been farther than New York, Bobbie. I've been to Pinehurst, North
Carolina," Alec announced.

"To Pinehurst! Mercy! Whatever in the world--do tell me _every_ word.
I'm simply crazy to hear all about it."

"Well--" he began. "Say, Bobbikins," he broke off, "would you be very
much surprised to know that it is--all right between Edith and me?"

Alec might as well have struck off on a tangent about George Washington
or Joan of Arc.

"Edith?" I gasped.

"Yes," went on Alec gently; "Edith Campbell. Of course you've known
I've cared for no one else for the last ten years. The business and our
large family have always made it seem rather hopeless. But when I was
in New York I had a common little picture post-card from Edith, who was
at Pinehurst, and your disgraceful old brother here dropped everything
and went down there. I was there for six whole days, and she and her
family and I all came home together to-night after two rather nice
days in New York. She's actually got a ring in a little blue velvet
box which she's going to wear for me a little later, Bobbie." He tried
to say it lightly but his whole voice was exulting. "You see, I had to
come in and tell my partner, didn't I? She would have to know first of
all about such a great piece of news."

He stopped and I sat perfectly silent, stunned for an instant, not
knowing quite what had struck me and knocked me down with my breath
all gone. Alec waited and I tried to jump up, as it were, and speak, so
he would know I wasn't dead.

"Why, Alec Vars!" I managed to gasp, and then the horror of his news
flashed over me. The man I loved best in the whole world had just
told me that he was engaged to be married to a girl whom I abhorred!
I wanted to scream; I wanted to bury my face in my pillow and cry; I
wanted to say, "Oh, go away, go away, Alexander Vars. Leave me alone.
I want to die." But instead I remarked quite calmly, "You engaged? To
Edith Campbell? My goodness, but I'm surprised." And then warned by the
choke in my voice, I switched off into something commonplace. "Say,
would you mind," I said jovially enough, "just removing your hundred
and seventy-five pounds off my left foot there? You're crushing the
bones in it."

Alec leaned forward and kissed me hard.

"You little brick of a Bobbie! I knew you'd take it like a soldier."

I gulped down a disgusting sob.

"But wasn't I the goose," I hurried like mad to say, for I was afraid
I'd break down and bawl like a baby before his very eyes, "wasn't I the
little goose to think it was the business that made you so happy?"

"Oh, the business," Alec announced, "is bound to succeed _now_."

"Sure," I broke in hastily, "just bound to. It's awfully nice, all
around, isn't it? And I--" I floundered on, "I am just--just _pleased_!"

The hall clock struck one. I grasped the blessed sound like a sinking
man.

"Is that twelve-thirty, one, or one-thirty? I haven't the ghost of
an idea," I said lightly. Then desperately, at the breaking point, I
gasped, "Is it cold out?"

Alec patted my hand.

"Brave girl! I understand. But don't you worry. Everything will work
out all right. Now I'll say good-night."

I think Alec must have seen I couldn't hold in much longer. I was,
in fact, using every atom of strength that I possessed to fight that
pushing, shoving, tumbling crowd of lumps and sobs in my throat. Just
as Alec was closing my door I managed to call after him, so that he
might know that I wasn't crying, "Be sure and turn out the lights."

"All right, General-manager."

"And say," I added, "you know I think it's perfectly fine."

"Surely! Good-night."

Then my door closed, and I sank down on my pillow, opened the gates
wide, and let the torrent of sobs rush through.

Can any one realise the torture of my mind during the long dark hours
of that night? I hardly can realise it now, myself. The fact, "ALEC IS
ENGAGED TO EDITH CAMPBELL!" glared at me horribly as if it were printed
in enormous white letters on a black ground, like a big sign on a
factory, and I stared and stared, hypnotised, beyond power of thought.
I was so stunned and overcome by the fact itself that at first I was
unable to comprehend what it would mean to me. I hated Edith Campbell.
All my life I had hated her. She had always treated Alec like the dirt
under her feet--forever flaunting Palm Beach and Poland Springs in
his face and eyes, parading to church every other Sunday with smart
stylish-looking men and planting them down in the pew two rows in front
of ours to show them off.

Of course I had guessed that Alec had liked Edith Campbell. As long
ago as I can remember he used to call on her when she came home from
her fashionable New York boarding-school. Alec invited her to be his
special guest, at his Class-Day, when he graduated from college. But
she elected to go with somebody else, and pranced down there with a
millionaire's son. Poor Alec didn't invite any other girl. I was in
knee skirts then, but I was old enough to hate her for it. Not that I
wanted such a creature to be nice to Alec. I didn't. I knew my brother
was miles too good for her, but I couldn't bear to have such a flashy,
worldly, inferior girl show scorn toward a prince. I never understood
why Alec had admired her. She's absolutely opposite from my brother in
every possible way. She has the most confident, cock-surest manner I
ever witnessed. Her clothes are dreadfully flashy and her father is a
mere upstart who squeezes money out of everybody he knows. Hilton used
to criticise Edith Campbell before it commenced bowing and scraping
to her. When she came home from boarding-school, she let it be known
that her intimate friends lived outside of Hilton. She advertised that
she visited at some of the big places in the Berkshires. She merely
tolerated Hilton and its people.

Oh, I hate her! I never saw why men ran after her so frantically. It
used to make me absolutely sick when the younger girls in Hilton got
the Edith Campbell craze. They used to try to copy everything she wore.
But _I_ didn't. I wouldn't as much as turn my head to look at her. I
was delighted when Alec stopped going to see her. I had thought, when
Alec announced his engagement to me, that that little romance of his
had been dead and buried for five years. It hadn't even worried me.

When I awoke the morning after Alec told me his astonishing news, and
saw the sun shining in a square on the wall opposite me, I lay very
still for a moment. "You've had a horrible dream," I said. "Alec didn't
come home last night. Just a minute, and things will get themselves
fixed." I sat up, but the dream didn't fade. There was the tell-tale
towel with which I had bathed my eyes; there the glass of water; there
the dissipated-looking candle burned down to its very last; here the
confused tossed bed-clothes, and when I staggered to the mirror, there
were my swollen red eyes and awful tangled hair. I dressed slowly, with
a very heavy heart, and unable to cry any more, smiled at myself once
or twice in the glass out of grim spite.

I had not gone to sleep until it had begun to grow light. I remembered
now. And it was nine o'clock when I went downstairs for an attempt at
breakfast. Ruth was devouring eggs when I went into the dining-room.
I had thought she would be at school, but I had forgotten that it was
Saturday. Alec had already gone to the factory. His eggy plate and
half-filled coffee-cup stood at his deserted place.

"My, but you're late," said Ruth, emptying the cream-pitcher into her
coffee. "Say, isn't it corking about Alec? We've been sitting here
hours talking about it. I think it's simply dandy. Just imagine--Edith
Campbell!"

I became very busy fixing my cuff-link, for I was ashamed of my swollen
eyes; but Ruth was sure to see them. She glanced up.

"I might have known you'd take it like that," she broke out, though I
hadn't said a word; "always acting like a thunder-cloud, and throwing
wet blankets on everything. Now why in the world shouldn't Alec get
married?"

"I didn't say he shouldn't," I murmured.

"Well," went on Ruth, "Edith Campbell is _great_. I can't get over
the fact, that with all the men she's known, she likes Alec better
than any of them. She's dreadfully popular. I'll bet she's had a dozen
proposals. Oh, I think Al's done awfully well. The Campbells have piles
of money. I know her younger sister Millicent, and their house beats
anything I ever saw. You ought to see it. And besides, Edith Campbell
is the best-looking thing! She's stunning on a horse."

Ruth always antagonises me when she talks about people she admires.

"_I_ think," I said in a low voice, "that Edith Campbell is common and
loud and vulgar."

"Oh, nonsense!" retorted Ruth. "I'm simply wild about the whole thing.
The Campbells are going to do this tumbledown old ark all over, for a
wedding present, and Al says her father is going to insist on Edith's
bringing her horses with her. I don't call that common or vulgar. I
call it generous!"

"Is she going to live here?" I gasped.

"Of course she is. Where else? And Alec says that you and I will each
have a perfectly lovely room, and divide our time between here and
Tom's. I tell you what, I'm glad for one, that we won't have to live
like pigs any more. Edith Campbell is used to piles of servants!"

I don't know why Ruth's words made me so terribly angry.

"Ruth Chenery Vars," I said, "I hate Edith Campbell, and I'll never
live under the same roof with her. I never will. Do you hear me? I
never will!"

Ruth glanced up and met my fiery eyes.

"Mercy," she said, simply disgusted, "why get so everlasting mad?"

I shoved back my chair and left the table quietly, hurried up the
stairs straight to my disheveled room, and locked the door tight.
My mind was clear now all right; I could comprehend the meaning of
the awful black and white sign _now_, without any difficulty. I was
no goose not to know perfectly well that Alec's engagement meant
that Miss Lucy Vars would be requested to hand in her resignation as
General-manager, Keeper-of-the-Household-Account, Bosser-of-the-meals,
Mother-of-the-family, and oh, too, Partner-of-Alec. Why, I had poured
the coffee at our table ever since the day Father had put me there
in Mother's empty chair. I had always sat there, pushed the bell,
and told the maid to take off the plates for dessert. My place had
always been opposite Father, and after he had gone, Alec had sat
there. Ever since, he and I had held the reins together. There wasn't
a chair nor a rug, nor a table in the house that I hadn't put in
position. There wasn't a pound of sugar, nor a half-dozen oranges
in the pantry that I had not ordered. For five years there hadn't
been a servant engaged by any one but me. Now, suddenly, all such an
arrangement was to be at an end. Ruth was delighted; Alec was supremely
happy; the twins, who worship anything that means more cash, would be
transported with joy. Everybody, in fact, would delight in a change in
administration--everybody but the poor old dethroned ruler, who was
locked in her desolate room trying to find consolation in vigorously
making her bed.

When Alec came home at noon I saw him scanning my impassive face, for I
had not been crying since the night before, and the trace of tears was
gone. After our regular Saturday boiled dinner he asked me to come into
the sitting-room. He closed the doors carefully and sat down beside
me on the couch. I wished he wouldn't take my hand for it was chapped
and red, and of course he had held hers, for which he had bought the
beautiful ring in the little blue velvet box, and hers would be soft
and white. I drew mine away. Alec talked to me gently and told me
about the arrangements. I heard him say with a dull shock, that they
would be married in the early fall. I remember wondering how they had
decided such details in the course of ten days. I soon discovered that
they had managed to go over the whole ground. There seemed to be no
question undecided, no points untouched. Ruth, he said, would start
in at boarding-school in the fall; the twins of course would continue
at college and their vacations would, as usual, be spent at home. He
repeated what I already very well knew that after the twins graduated
they would probably go out West and start into one of Tom's lumber
camps.

"So there'll just be me left," I hurried to say, kind of to help him
out.

"And, of course, _you'll_ live right along here with us," he said,
"except, once in a while, when Tom and Elise want you there with them."

"I'm worse to dispose of than a mother-in-law," I half laughed, sorry
in a moment that I had spoken so, for Alec looked hurt, and exclaimed,
"Oh, Bobbie dear!"

"Oh, I'll try, Alec, I really will," I reassured him, for Alec always
brings out the best in me.

"And go and see Edith very soon?" he said, following me up cruelly.
"She'll be expecting you."

"Oh, yes, I'll try," I murmured, biting my trembling under lip.

"Good girl! I knew I could count on you. You'll like Edith," he said.
"And she wants to be awfully kind to you and Ruth. I know you'll try
and make it easy for her, Bobbie," he added, and left me as cheerfully
as a summer's breeze.

Late that afternoon, about five I think, I started out for a walk in
Buxton's woods, a quarter of a mile back of our house. I hadn't been
gone very long when I heard a step behind me, and turning around I saw,
mounted on her stunning black Kentucky thoroughbred, Edith Campbell,
coming toward me. I wanted to run away, to hide perhaps behind a tree
and let her pass, but I couldn't for she had caught sight of me.

"Hold on," she called. "Wait a minute," and she drew up beside me.
"Hello, Lucy," she said in her familiar, breezy way. "Now isn't this
luck?" Her dark, crisp hair was neat and firm beneath the little black
derby--an affectation in dress that no one wears riding in Hilton
except Edith Campbell. She didn't have them on to-day, but usually she
wears long green drop-earrings, screwed on, I think--too New Yorky for
anything. "Wait a jiffy," she laughed, "and I'll walk along with you.
Pierre here, can mosey along behind." She sprang down from her saddle
like a sporty horse-woman, came up and thrust out a gauntlet-gloved
hand to me. She gave me a Hercules grip. "Has Al told you?" she asked,
plunging straight ahead, with no delicacy.

"Yes, he has," I stammered, "and--I congratulate you both," I finished
desperately.

It did sound stiff and formal and schoolgirlish, but I was angry
with Edith Campbell when she laughed at me and exclaimed, "You funny
old-fashioned child!"

She arranged one pair of reins over her horse's neck and used the other
pair for a lead, slipping her arm through the loop.

"Come on now, let's walk," she said and put her free arm through mine,
a familiarity from the wonderful Edith Campbell for which even sensible
Juliet would envy me. _I_ wanted to edge away from her. "Alec," she
went on, "thinks the world and all of you, Bobbie," (as if she had to
inform me!) "and I want you to know right off, you won't be losing a
brother, simply gaining a sister." (Usual, meaningless words! As if
Ruth wasn't more than enough anyhow.) "And another thing," she ploughed
ahead, "there will always be a room in our house for Bobbie. One of the
things I told Alec was that he must look out for his sisters."

"Alec would do that anyway," I said.

"Of course. Nice old Al! He's as good as gold."

I couldn't bear her patronising manner. She has always treated Alec
like that, just because she had money and he had nothing but goodness.
I turned to her seriously.

"Miss Campbell," I asked, "how did you come to want to marry Alec?"

"You amusing chicken!" she laughed, then pinching me disgustingly on
the arm, she added in a sly way, "You wait, you'll know when the right
one comes."

I flushed but held my peace.

"I was only wondering," I said. "Alec has so little money, and you--I
mean our business--our success is so uncertain."

"Alec is bound to succeed _now_," she replied in her cock-sure way. "I
told Al there was no such word in my vocabulary as failure. Besides
_Father_ is going to look into the business, and Father never touched a
thing that wasn't successful."

"Your father!" I gasped with the colour again in my face. Her father
used to collect junk-iron. "Our business!"

"Oh, come, come. Just like Al at first. This Vars pride! Don't you see,
my dear, that, independent of weddings, a man can put a little life
into a dead business if he wants to?"

"My father's business isn't dead," I exclaimed, now filled with
indignation.

"Oh, come, Bobbikins!"

"Don't call me that, please," I said and drew away my arm.

"Tut, tut! Come now! You and I are going to be friends." She treated
me as if I were aged five. "You know," she went on, "when I come, I
think there'll be an extra saddle horse, in one of the stalls in your
stable." She used that mysterious tone you do to children when talking
about Santa Claus. "I think if you will look very hard you will find
your initials on him somewhere, Bobbie."

"I wouldn't touch it, Miss Campbell. I wouldn't touch one hair of the
horse; and please call me Lucy."

We were breaking out of the narrow wood-path, and coming to a travelled
road. We walked in silence till we reached the highway. It was almost
dark. Suddenly Edith Campbell spoke.

"I must be hustling homeward," she said glibly, and as if nothing
unpleasant had occurred between us she asked, "Lend me your hand, will
you, Bobbie, please?"

I helped her mount, in silence.

"That's the way," she said. "Thanks. Now look here, poor little
childie," she broke off, looking down at me like a queen from her
saddle, "whenever you're ready to be friends, remember, so am I. All
right, Pierre!" and she cantered off in the dusk.

I stood quite still for a moment, and then right to that lonely, empty
road, I said out loud, "I can't live with her. I can't--I can't! Dear
Alec, I tried. Dear Father and Tom and Elise, I tried, but I can't, I
can't!" And all the dark way home, all the long night through, I ran
over and over the words like a squirrel in a revolving cage.



CHAPTER XII


For three days and nights I wandered over the ruins of my life, back
and forth, helpless, almost driven mad by the horror of it; and then at
last Dr. Maynard came. I had not realised that he had been out of town.
I had been so stunned by Alec's announcement that I had not missed him.
He had been down to Baltimore for three days attending some sort of
a medical conference and I had not known that he had been outside of
Hilton.

Dr. Maynard and I were as good friends as ever now. Three whole months
had passed since that Christmas Day when he discovered my sofa-pillow
on his desk, and I had come to the conclusion that he had been merely
surprised into his queer behaviour that day. He had never shown a scrap
of the same emotion since. I remember the very next time I saw him he
had dropped that newly acquired gravity of his. Somehow I had been
disappointed. When he referred to my pillow in his old natural, jovial
way, I had been hurt. "I tell you what," he had said, "I feel like an
undergraduate again. Nice girl like Lucy Vars making me a pillow for
my room! Won't you come to my Class-Day?" he had laughed. It was I
who had flushed then. I managed to throw back some sort of a careless
rejoinder, but I tell you, I didn't waste any more madly happy moments
on Dr. Maynard. Grey-haired old bachelor! He was old enough to be my
uncle anyhow! We had resumed our automobile rides just as naturally
as if he'd never acted queerly at all. We took up our jolly repartee,
returned to our old plane of good-comradeship, exactly as if I had
never seen him gaze at my picture, and heard his voice tremble when he
told me I had made his Christmas the very happiest in his life. _I_
didn't care. I was glad of it. I had never wanted Dr. Maynard for a
lover! But I wanted him for a friend.

I don't believe I quite appreciated how much I wanted him, until he
came back from Baltimore and discovered me wandering about my ruins
like a maniac. When I found myself bundled up in Father's old ulster,
again beside him in his automobile, flashing through the cool night
air, a great wave of relief ran over me. Dr. Maynard has seen me
through so much trouble, brought me safely over so many difficulties,
that it was a comfort just to sit beside him in silence. When we had
reached a good clear stretch of road, he settled down comfortably
behind the wheel.

"Now go ahead," he said heartily; "the whole story, please," and I knew
that Alec had broken his news to him.

"Well," I started in, "since you've been gone, there's been a dreadful
earthquake around here." (Dr. Maynard and I adore to talk in similes.)
"My house has been smashed up, and I'm a pitiful refugee. I am cold and
hungry and without a home."

"I've come with supplies," laughed Dr. Maynard, taking it up
delightfully. "I'm a little late, but I've brought bread and meat and a
tent, and want you to crawl in and warm up."

"I can't live with her, Dr. Maynard. I can't!" I broke out, too
heart-sick to play with similes any more. "I hate her and I can't help
it. She's taken Alec away, she's pushed herself into my dear father's
business, and there's no place for me, as I can see, anywhere."

"Tell me all about it," said Dr. Maynard, and I related every single
word of my whole pitiful story, growing sorrier and sorrier for myself
as I went along, and finally at the end breaking down completely,
repeating my old time-worn phrase, "I can't live with her. I can't,
can't!" I covered my face with both hands. There were tears trickling
down my cheeks.

Without a word of advice or comfort, Dr. Maynard shut off the power and
brought the car to a standstill by the side of the bleak country road.
He took hold of my hands and gently drew them away from my face down
into my lap. Then in a low voice with the play and banter all gone out
of it he said, "Could you live with _me_, Lucy?"

"Oh, yes," I replied quickly enough, "fifty times easier!"

Perhaps he smiled, for he added half laughing and yet gravely, too, "I
would like to have you, if you want to."

"I only wish I could," I said desperately.

And then very seriously and very solemnly he told me his story. I can't
say that I was exactly surprised. I had half guessed it for the last
two years; but then I had half guessed a lot of preposterous things
that never came true. "I talked with Alec last night," I heard Dr.
Maynard telling me gently, "and if you would like--that is if you want
to come with me, Lucy, your brother would be glad to have you, I am
certain. This isn't the only talk Alec and I have had about you. I
wanted to speak to you about this last fall, but Al thought it better
to wait. And I wanted to speak again after--the sofa-pillow, and again
Al couldn't quite make up his mind that you had grown up, and wanted me
to wait again. So I did. You see," he smiled, "it isn't a _new_ idea
with me."

I listened calmly as Dr. Maynard went on talking in his quiet,
unexcited manner. I didn't interrupt his long, well-planned speech.
I simply sat dumb with my hands clasped tightly in my lap. I don't
remember that I felt a single sensation during the entire explanation
except at the end a kind of shock as I thought to myself: "So after all
it's going to be just Dr. Maynard!" For when he had finally finished,
I said evenly, with the moon standing there like a clergyman before
us, and all the watching stars like witnesses behind, "I will come,
Dr. Maynard," and I added, "and I think you are the very kindest man I
know." For you see he had offered me his home, his protection, and his
love, he said, for all my life.

There was something awfully silent and ominous about the gentle still
way he turned the machine around and started for home. It was entirely
different from what I had guessed might take place. In the dreams that
I had woven I had never accepted Dr. Maynard. I had been grateful
for his devotion, honoured by his proposal, deeply sorry for his
disappointment, but like the girl in an old play called "Rosemary," my
heart belonged to one who possessed youth and passion. In those absurd
imaginings of mine I used to frame letters which I should write to
Juliet Adams about poor Will Maynard. I used to plan just how I should
break the news to my brother Alec. But now--Oh, now, I couldn't write
Juliet at all; I couldn't tell Alec; I couldn't tell any one about
my first proposal. I had accepted it in the first half-hour. There
was nothing thrilling about it. I sat like a stone image beside Dr.
Maynard. I couldn't speak.

"It took you an awfully long while to grow up," he said at last, half
laughing. "I've actually grown grey waiting for you. Alec said to me
the first time, 'Wait till she's nineteen,' and then, 'Good heavens,
Will, she's nothing but a child yet. Wait till she's twenty,' and
so on, and so on. Awful hindrance, because for the last two years
I've been wanting to do some important research work in Germany. But
I couldn't leave you to the wolves. How did I know but that some
good-looking young chap would come along and snatch you up? But now,
we'll go to Germany together, and, Lucy," he said, "Lucy--" but I
didn't want Dr. Maynard to grow serious. I think he must have seen me
kind of cringe away for he broke off lightly enough, "and perhaps some
fine day the refugee and I will be seeing Paris together."

I stole into the house that night very quietly, crept up to my room and
closed the door without a sound. I wanted to be alone. I was suddenly
filled with a kind of panic-stricken wonder, for there had been actual
tears in Dr. Maynard's eyes when he took my hand at the door (I hadn't
known how to say good-night to him), a tremble in his voice that awed
and frightened me. He acted very much as he had about my Christmas
present. It had made me happy then, but, you see _then_ I hadn't just
promised to marry him. Oh, I hated having him look so serious and
solemn about it, and now as I stood a moment with my back against my
closed door, my hat and coat still on, I pressed my two cool hands
against my burning cheeks and tried to comprehend a little of what it
all meant. Suddenly I crossed the room, pulled on the gas by my bureau,
leaned forward and gazed grimly at my familiar old face in the glass
before me. So this was what was to become of Lucy Chenery Vars, I
thought calmly; this was her story; this was her end; and oh, to think
that all the beautiful unknown future of the person in the glass before
me was wiped out and decided in one fell swoop, made me want to throw
my arms about her image and kiss her for pity. I turned away.

Of course I liked Dr. Maynard--I had always liked him. And his big,
empty, white-pillared house was in the very town, on the very street of
my dear beloved home. There was a place for me there. Alec had given
Dr. Maynard to understand that there would be no objection from him.
Probably it seemed to Alec a good way to dispose of me. Oh, there was
everything in favour of the arrangement. I had always longed to go
to Europe. Germany and Paris were sparkling ahead, and here--_here_
nothing but the nightmare of Edith Campbell everywhere I turned. I drew
a long breath--there was no other course for me to follow--looked once
more sadly into the glass, pulled down my curtain and began to get
ready for bed.

I never shall forget that night. I don't believe I slept at all. I
don't know what time it was when I got up and, lighting my candle, sat
down at my desk, shivering in my long white nightgown. I just sat
and sat; and gazed and gazed; and thought and thought; and dropped, I
remember, little drops of melted wax along my bare arm, as I turned
over my problem in my mind. "If only I didn't actually have to marry
him!" I said out loud and turned and sank again into troubled silence.
I got up once and carried the candle close to the cold, glass-covered
picture of my mother that hung over my bed. Why did she have to die
so long ago? What would she say--she who was to have been my best
friend--what would she say if she could turn that clear-cut profile
around and let me look into her eyes? I didn't know. I hadn't been old
enough to remember even her smile. Shouldn't a girl be glad on the
night of her betrothal? Shouldn't there be ardent looks, passionate
words, tender caresses for her to live through again in thought?
Shouldn't she long for the sight of the man whom she had promised to
marry? "What shall I do, Father?" I said out loud. "What shall I do?"
But only my clock answered me with its steady, unintelligible tick.
No one could help me--no one in the wide world. I asked them, and
they couldn't. Even Edith Campbell had said, "you'll know"; but oh, I
didn't, I didn't.

So that is why, near morning, I got up again, went to my desk, opened a
little secret drawer, and took out a picture. The picture was the one I
had bought in New York after I had seen Robert Dwinnell at the theatre
in the afternoon. Of course it is silly and very absurd for a girl of
my years to treasure a picture of an actor in a secret drawer in her
desk. I can't help it. That picture had been my ideal for almost five
years now. It wasn't the actor that I liked so much (for of course I
have been told that actors aren't nice); it wasn't Robert Dwinnell
himself I admired. It was simply the jolly look in his eyes and the way
he had--I remembered it so well--of striding across the stage, sitting
carelessly on the edge of a table and swinging one foot. It had just
about torn the heart out of me to watch that man make love. He had a
kind of lingering way with his hands, and with his eyes too, every time
the heroine was in his presence. Even before he had proposed to her, I
knew he adored her and afterward--oh, really I think Robert Dwinnell
must have loved that actress off the stage as well as on. Dr. Maynard's
hands had never lingered about my shoulders when he helped me on with
a coat; he had never gazed at me eloquently across a crowded room;
and even after I had promised to marry him he hadn't crushed me to
him in any mad wave of joy. I gazed for a whole half-minute at Robert
Dwinnell's picture. I forgot all my problems for a little while--I
forgot everything in the memory of that man's image. Call it absurd
if you want to, ridiculous and impossible, but when I raised my eyes
at last and rose, clear as the day that was just breaking, bright as
a new-born vision, I knew--I _knew_ I couldn't marry just everyday,
kind Dr. Maynard. It was just as if Robert Dwinnell had gotten up from
out of that picture, walked over to me, taken my hand and said, "You
must wait for some one like me." And I looked up and knew that I must.
It was like a miracle, and I shall never forget the sudden trembling
assurance in my heart, as I found my way to my desk and in the light of
that lovely new morning, drew out a sheet of paper and wrote to Edith
Campbell and told her I was ready to be friends. For suddenly, brought
face to face with the thrilling image of the man of my dreams, I was
ready to live with twenty Edith Campbells. Of course, _of course_,
I couldn't marry Dr. Maynard, and with a little pang of regret or
something like it in my heart, I finally wrote him this note:

  "_Dear Dr. Maynard_,

  The refugee has thought it all over very carefully and has decided to
  gather the pieces of her house together and rebuild on the same spot,
  like San Francisco."

Then I added, dropping all play and with something I knew to be pain:

  "I can't do it, Dr. Maynard, I've tried and I can't. But you'll always
  be the very kindest man I know.

                                           "LUCY CHENERY VARS."

"_Now_ if you don't come!" I said to the picture, and leaned forward
and buried my head in my arms.

So that is how it happened that Dr. Maynard went away to Germany alone
and I remained at home to fight my battle. It was a dull, grey morning
that he sailed, some three weeks after that wakeful night of mine, and
I was sitting alone in my room at precisely eleven o'clock--the sailing
hour--trying to imagine Dr. Maynard down there in New York on the big,
white-decked liner, waving good-bye in his Oxford grey overcoat.

I was wondering if the nicest, cheerfullest steamer letter I could
write had reached him when suddenly Mary, the general-housework girl,
pushed open my door and shoved in a long white box that had come
by express. I opened it wonderingly and gasped at the big mass of
fresh red roses that met my gaze. I lifted them into my arms. It was
exactly as if the kindest man I know had thrown them to poor me upon
the shore, just at the moment that the big boat was pulling out, and I
had caught them safely in my arms. There was a little limp card that
came with them. The stick had all come off the envelope and it fell
out on the bed like a loose rose petal. I leaned and picked it up. The
ink had begun to run a little as if the message had been written on
blotting-paper, but I could make it out all right. The three little
words brought burning tears to my eyes.

The card said: "For plucky San Francisco."



CHAPTER XIII


Many months have passed since Dr. Maynard went to Europe. There have
been two crops of chestnuts for me to gather alone in October since
he sailed away--two dull, grey, unimportant Christmas nights since my
ridiculous happiest one. Edith has been in command of my father's house
for so long now that all the difficult adjustments have been made, the
machinery is running without an audible squeak, and the house itself
has developed into a plant as imposing and prosperous as a modern
factory. As I write to-day I am sitting in my elaborate new bedroom,
built on over the new porte-cochère--my old room was cut up into two
baths and a shower--and am surrounded with rose cretonne hangings, lacy
curtains, and delicately shaded electric lights.

Even the people in my life have changed so radically that I hardly
recognise them as the ones that I once worked and cared for. Ruth
has grown into a charming young lady; the twins have graduated from
college and are earning their own way--Malcolm in New York and Oliver
in a lumber camp out West; Tom is middle-aged; Elise, whom I visited
last winter, is becoming a little stout and her hair is sprinkled
through with grey; Alec has buried his personality in Edith; nothing
is as it was. Even Hilton is different. The old Brooks Hotel on Main
Street, where George Washington once stopped for over night, has
been torn down; there's a new postoffice, a new City Hall; there's a
double-tracked electric-car line to Boston. There are two taxicabs
in the town now and a new theatre. Dr. Maynard's house looks like a
tomb. The wisteria vine is the only live thing about it. Like hair it
keeps on growing after death--winding, coiling, across the doors and
window-panes with no hand to push it back. A young man just graduated
from medical school has taken Dr. Maynard's practice; and as for kind,
gentle Dr. Maynard himself I begin to doubt if such a person ever
existed. When he went away he sold his automobile to Jake Pickens, a
plumber down on Blondell Street, and to-day as I glided grandly by
in Edith's limousine I observed Mr. Pickens wheezing up Main Street,
chugging along with awful difficulty. The poor old machine looked about
ready for the junk heap. A great wave of pity for it swept over me that
brought tears to my eyes. Oh, I wish I could have kept right straight
on with my old story. But I suppose everything has got to change,
houses and towns and automobiles, as well as people and their histories.

I can hardly believe it was only two years ago that I used to climb
into the cupola and lock myself away from everything below. There _is_
no cupola now. It was cut off, like an offending wart. I was surprised
to discover what a perfectly enormous thing it was as it stood upon
the lawn waiting to be carried off. It reminded me of a horse that has
fallen down on the pavement--symmetrical enough in its proper position,
but dreadfully awkward and absolutely colossal sprawling about on the
ground. Why, it took four horses to drag it up to old Silas Morton's.
Silas Morton is a farmer up near Sag Hill and he bought my sacred
temple for fifteen dollars. He uses it for a hen-house! It seemed to
me like sacrilege, but the hens laid eggs in it, Mr. Morton said,
as if they were possessed. The upper part of the window-panes in the
cupola are made of yellow stained-glass, and he thinks--Silas Morton
is kind of an inventor--that the hens have an idea it's sunshine and
that spring is coming. I tell him the cupola is inspired. I saw a
picture once of a common little farmhouse where Mrs. Eddy wrote her
book, "Science and Health." If my book were to be published, and some
photographer took a picture of the house in which I wrote it, I guess
that old hen-coop would win the prize for an odd spot in which to have
an inspiration.

With the cupola gone and the French roof entirely obliterated, the
iron fence and the iron fountain sold to a junk man, a spreading
porte-cochère at one side of the house, a billiard-room at the
other, low verandas like a wide brim to a hat surrounding the entire
structure, and everything painted a bright yellow trimmed with green,
you never in this world would recognise 240 Main Street, once brown and
square and ugly. There's a new stable a quarter of a mile back of the
house; there are lawns where the vegetable garden used to be; the old
apple orchard is now a sunken garden with a pool in the centre. As I
write I can hear the trickle of a stream of water that spouts out of
the little artificial pond, and catch the prosperous sound of the hum
of a lawn-mower run by a motor. The name that Edith has chosen to give
to all this grandeur is "The Homestead." It is engraved at the head
of every sheet of note-paper in the establishment. The Homestead! You
might as well call Windsor Castle the "Bide a Wee" or the "Dewdrop Inn"
as this glaring, officious, stone-gated palace anything that suggests
plainness and sweet homely comfort. The last time I wrote to Juliet I
drew a big black ink line through the words "The Homestead" and wrote
above "The Waldorf-Ritz-Plaza."

I've tried not to interfere with the changes Edith has made. I will
confess I appealed to Alec about the apple orchard. But it was of no
use. It seemed a shame to me, to go among that little company of old
friends--twenty or thirty bent and bowing apple-trees grown up now side
by side, touching branches and blooming together beautifully every
spring just as if they were not far too old to bear anything to be
called a harvest. I told Alec that I thought an apple orchard and a
stone wall with poison ivy climbing over it was the loveliest garden
for a New England homestead that any one could lay out. Alec must
have told Edith, for the next day she asked me, in her laughing way,
if I wouldn't like chickens scratching in the front yard, and yellow
pumpkins piled on the back porch. New England homesteads even managed,
she added, to keep pigs near enough the house so that the family could
breathe the healthy odour in the parlour. "Dear child," she said, "of
course we can't let the place be run over with poison ivy! How funny
you are!" And the apple-trees came down. There are formal paths in
the apple orchard now, the imported shrubs are tagged with labels,
the pond is lined with cement. I simply have to escape to the woods,
every once in a while, to make sure that nature is still having her way
somewhere in the world.

You must think from this description that Edith Campbell is something
of an heiress. Now that word to me has a kind of aristocratic sound,
and so I prefer to say in regard to the Campbells, that they have
simply oodles and oodles of money. I hate the word "oodles," but it
just fits Edith Campbell. It describes her worldly possessions to a
T. Her father, old Dave Campbell, is rolling up a fortune that is
attracting attention. Why, the cost of all the improvements on old
"two-forty" here didn't make a dent in his bank account they say. Alec
tells me that if it wasn't for Mr. Campbell, Father's woollen business
would not have endured another twelve months. Mr. Campbell has gone
into the business heart and soul, and I don't know whether to be glad
or sorry. Father never had any use at all for Mr. Campbell. He used to
call him "scurvy." I remember the word because as a child I thought
it a funny adjective to apply to a man who had a perfectly flawless
complexion. I had to muster up all the control I had when I first saw
David Campbell's big, fat, voluminous body occupying Father's revolving
desk-chair in the private office down at the factory. I didn't think
Father would like it. But Alec says that Father would much prefer to
have Mr. Campbell elected as a president of the Vars & Company Woollen
Mills than that any concern bearing his, Father's, name should fail
to pay its creditors a hundred cents on the dollar. Perhaps he would;
I don't know much about business. Anyhow I try to be nice to Mr.
Campbell.

I try to be nice to Edith, too. It isn't easy. I don't like her, and
I don't like her methods, but I don't tell her so. We don't quarrel,
although we mix about like oil and water. Of course Edith has her good
points. For instance she is the most generous person I ever knew, and
she's good-nature itself. She'll take an insult from you, pay you back
in your own coin and then exclaim: "Oh, come on, let's not fight.
There's a dear! Let's go to the matinée this afternoon." She has a
lot of practical ability too. She's a born manager, and as systematic
as a machine. The trouble with Edith is her ambition. She wants to
stand at the head of all society in the world, and to get there she
is ready to work till she drops. Just as soon as she struggles up on
top of one heap of people she begins on another, and so on. I don't
know where she'll stop. Juliet Adams' mother told me that she could
remember when people in Hilton didn't like to invite Mrs. Campbell to
their houses. That was years ago, of course, for now they thank their
lucky stars if they are invited to hers. There used to be, and are
still, lots of beautiful country places sprinkled around Hilton. These
summer people never mingled very much with Hiltonites, but as soon as
Edith was able to walk she was bound to mingle with them. Well, she
has realised that ambition. The summer colony, which is the set that
gives social distinction to Hilton, includes Edith in all of its big
functions now, in spite of the damning fact that she is a "native" and
an "all-the-year-round."

Edith's social activities are simply marvellous to me. She has her
plan of campaign--the various combinations of people to be invited to
dinner-parties, bridges, or small teas, all mapped out and written
down in a book at the beginning of each season. Then she manages to
inveigle, by means of big fat cheques, I imagine, lions--pianists, and
authors, and lecturers, whom everybody wants to see and hear--to act as
her guest of honour. So her parties are always rather popular, you see.
Oh, Edith is clever. She may not understand my nature very well, but
to the likes and dislikes, pet ambitions and pleasures of human-nature
generally she can cater to the queen's taste.

She has fairly hypnotised Ruth. My little sister thinks there is no one
like her. As soon as Edith married Alec, she took complete possession
of Ruth, provided her with a lot of lovely clothes and sent her off,
for the first winter, to a fashionable boarding-school in New York.
After eight dazzling months of that sort of life she ordained that
Ruth should return to Hilton and "come out." Last fall she gave her a
reception that fairly thrilled the town. Edith's word is sacred law
to Ruth; Edith's opinion the ultimatum to any doubt on any question
whatsoever. _I_ am a mere speck on Ruth's outlook on life; _my_ ideas
don't count; I am so old-fashioned and so easily shocked; I don't
know what style is; I don't possess a scrap of what Edith calls
social-sense. Perhaps as much as anything else it is Edith's complete
possession of Ruth that hurts me. It seems a shame that she couldn't
have been satisfied with Alec. I don't see why she had to rob me of my
only sister too. I don't cry about it (I won't let myself) but I think
I've missed my own mother more since I was twenty than before I was
ten. It may be a comfort to mothers whose little children have grown
out of the helpless age to know this from a grown-up daughter.

I don't know what to say to you about my brother Alec. I wonder
sometimes what has become of him. I see him, I hear him speak, I
reply, but I might as well be gazing at his picture and talking with
him over the long distance 'phone. I have no idea what he thinks
about this new life of ours. He doesn't confide in me any more; we
are almost strangers now. Of course I should expect him to be loyal
to his wife--he's such a thoughtful man that he wouldn't hurt Edith's
feelings for anything--but I wonder and wonder where all his old
qualities have gone. Alec used to be so firm and determined, so frugal
and economical. Are those qualities still smouldering away down deep
in him somewhere, or when Edith took possession of his house, did she
take possession of his soul too, and sweep out everything she didn't
like, just as she cut off the cupola and sold the iron fence? Some men
let women do that with them, especially if it's a woman they've wanted
terribly for a dozen years, and never thought themselves good enough
for her to accept. Why, Alec simply wants to please Edith and her
family in every human way that he can. I have an idea that he feels so
grateful to Edith for accepting him, and to Mr. Campbell for saving the
business, that he doesn't dare disagree with a single solitary thing
the Campbells ever do or think or suggest. I believe my brother is so
overcome by living in such continual grandeur, sleeping in a bed with
gold trimmings--Napoleonic, Edith says--bathing in a bathroom with
Florentine tiles, entertaining all the big bugs within a hundred miles,
and travelling to the office every morning in a limousine, that he
feels that he must have been a mere worm when Edith picked him up. _I_
think he's more of a worm _now_! Anyhow he doesn't show any backbone.

Sometimes at the table I glance at him across the flowers, and once
in a long, long while there's a look in his eyes when they meet mine
that I recognise as my dear brother's. Usually it's when Ruth and Edith
are discussing society; and after one of these clandestine meetings
of Alec's and mine across the flowers, I always come up here to my
room wonderfully comforted, with a feeling that I am not absolutely
deserted, after all.

Perhaps that sounds as if I were unhappy. Please do not think so,
because I'm not. I'm _bound_ not to be. I should be ashamed of myself,
if just because I happened to be ousted from my job and didn't fancy my
successor, I simply "went out into the back yard and ate worms." That
isn't what I'm doing at all. Once Alec was married and I had made up
my mind that I couldn't run away to New York and earn my way, or hire
a house of my own and live by myself, I buckled down and did my level
best to adjust my likes and habits to the conditions of Edith's reign.
One can get used to anything, I believe. I accepted Edith as a person
ought to accept any circumstance that can't be avoided. What if her
ambitions do seem to me unworthy? What if she has crowded me out of my
little niche? What if the customs and the things I liked are desecrated
before my very eyes? All this will not cripple me, as a chance railroad
accident might. I'm not enduring physical torture. I can still see,
and hear, and use my two unhampered feet for long sweet walks in the
country. What if, indeed, Edith has robbed me of Alec, and Ruth too?
She cannot rob me of the joys of out-of-doors, the messages to me in
books, the thrill I feel at the sound of distant music.

I can generally find several hours every day when I am able to steal
away somewhere by myself with a book. I never had much time to read
when I was younger and no one to suggest and guide as I grew up. I
had never read _Vanity Fair_ even, nor _Silas Marner_, nor _David
Copperfield_. So after Alec was married, I made it my task to catch
up with other girls of my age. I have my nose buried inside a novel
most all of the time now. At first I used to drive myself to it, allot
myself a certain number of chapters to read each day and accomplish
it as if it were a stint. Now I simply devour a book in great hungry
bites and wish there were more when I am finished. I don't know what
I should do if I hadn't learned to love to read. I wonder if it would
open up other sources of joy if I should learn to appreciate symphony
or Italian Art. Perhaps Beethoven and Leonardo da Vinci, mere names to
me now, would become as individual and inspire me with their messages
as deeply as dear old Stevenson, whom I couldn't live without.

I think you must have surmised by this time that I haven't proved a
great belle in society. You're exactly right. In the first place I
hate bridge! Whenever I attempt to play, I get hot all over, and I wish
I could unhook my tight collar and roll up my prickly sleeves. When
it comes my turn to play, and I find myself desperately at a loss to
know whether to trump or not--my partner looking daggers at me across
the table and everybody waiting in dead silence--I simply give up
all responsibility in the matter, repeat to myself: "Eenie, meenie,
mynie moe, Catch a nigger by the toe," etc., and fling down the card
that's "it," in utter abandon. Of course, that isn't good bridge,
and Edith says I'll never make a player. She says I don't possess
any more card-sense than social-sense. I wonder what kind of sense I
do possess anyhow! It was a big consolation when I learned that the
emptiest-headed women often make the best card players, simply because
no superfluous ideas are at work in their brains to interrupt the train
of concentrated card thought.

I'm not much more successful in conversation than I am in bridge. I
seem to be always on the outside of women's intimacies somehow. Edith's
set know one another so confidentially--keep tabs on the gowns, the
hats, the jewellery, the number of servants each one has, and guess
at one another's incomes. And then they use such a lot of mysterious
signs! Sometimes raised eyebrows, a little nod toward a person's back,
very tightly pursed lips, somebody abruptly twirling her two thumbs,
will set off a whole roomful into peals of laughter, while I simply sit
dazed and blank. It's just so with Ruth's younger crowd too. They're
always giggling or making unintelligible remarks. You see I'm a kind of
an in-between age, not old enough for Edith's set, nor young enough
for Ruth's. The girls I used to know in the high school have not proved
to be of the fashionable society here in Hilton, and Edith won't let
me have them at the house. I've drifted away from most of them, except
Juliet Adams, who is doing settlement work in New York, and I can't
find any one to take their place.

I've come to the sad conclusion that I'm not popular with men either.
At the little dances given here in Hilton occasionally, I'm not a
wall-flower, possibly because I'm Edith Vars' sister-in-law, but I'm
never "rushed." I can't be very brilliant in conversation at a dance
when I'm anxiously watching for some kind, charitable soul to deliver
my partner from the fear of two numbers in succession with me. And I
have a sneaking conviction that I don't dance very well. You see all
Ruth's set "Boston" to a waltz and two-step, and I don't know how. When
a man is good enough to ask me to dance it seems too bad to make him
exercise until he perspires. No one knows that I don't enjoy dances
very much. It looks as if I were having a good time, I suppose, but
down in my heart I'm worried and afraid.

At first I used to be eagerly on the lookout for my ideal--for a
fleeting glimpse of a face that resembled the picture locked away in my
secret desk-drawer. But such a quest is mere nonsense. I go to Boston
to shop with Edith quite often; but never, in all the trains, railroad
stations, restaurants, or elevators in law-office buildings (where one
runs across so many good-looking men) have I seen even once the face
of my desire. Why, I searched for that face throughout Oliver's and
Malcolm's entire class when they graduated from college; I look for it
among the new young men that come to call on Ruth, but I can't find it.
Yet if I ever do marry, the man must be born by this time, I suppose.
Sometimes, especially when I listen to music, I wonder where he is, in
just what city, what house, what room he is sitting at that particular
moment. I smile to think how unconscious he is of me, who some day will
fill his life completely, and how surprised he'd be if he knew that I
was loving him even now.

I wonder what he's doing this very minute--three o'clock on a Saturday
afternoon. Perhaps he's playing golf in a Norfolk Scotch tweed; perhaps
he's oiling an engine in blue overalls; perhaps he's at the point of
death with typhoid fever and is lying in bed with a thermometer in his
mouth, and I am going to lose him! Oh, I hope he will be spared! I'll
love him, overalls and all, and be proud too, to stand at the back-door
and wave my apron when his train goes by, just as they do in magazine
stories. I don't believe, after all, I'm a bit ambitious when it comes
to marrying.

I suppose every reader of this résumé chapter of mine is simply
skipping paragraphs by the dozen in the fond hope that he'll run across
some exciting reference to Dr. Maynard. People are always so suspicious
of an old love-affair. Let me relieve your mind. As much as you may
be disappointed, I must announce that I am not reserving any sweet
sentimental morsel, for a climactic finale. Far from it. I haven't got
it to reserve. I only wish I had. A sweet memory is such a comforting
possession, a thrilling romance of the past such a reassurance. But it
is very evident that Dr. Maynard has no intention of providing me with
sweet memories or thrilling romances. All the balm and comfort that his
proposal may have given me in the beginning he has destroyed by being
hopelessly commonplace ever since. I wish you could read his letters!
Impersonal? Why, they might easily be addressed to a maiden aunt. Never
once has he referred to that starry night, when he asked me to go to
Germany with him; never intimated that he wished that I were there to
see the castles on the Rhine, or hear the music in the gardens above
Heidelberg; never asked, as any normal man would do, if I had changed
my mind. Not that I have in the least. I haven't! Only it seems to me
almost impolite not as much as to inquire.

Dr. William Ford Maynard is becoming quite well known here in America.
There have been several articles already in the magazines about him
and the remarkable results of his scientific research. I ought to
be flattered to receive envelopes addressed to _me_ from _him_ at
all, I suppose. We write about once a month. His letters are full
of descriptions of pensions, and cafés, and queer people at his
boarding-place. I know some of his guinea-pigs by name--the ones who
have the typhoid, the scarlet-fever, and the spinal meningitis; the
convalescents, the fatalities, and the triumphant recoveries are
reported to me monthly. But as honoured as I ought to feel, I suppose,
to share the results of this man's famous work, the truth is I don't
enjoy his letters one bit! I am glad I was foresighted enough not to
marry such a passionless man. I never would have been satisfied. I see
it clearly now.

My letters to him are regular works of art. I'm bound not to let him
pity me, at any rate, and if he can write cheerful and enthusiastic
descriptions so can I. To Dr. Maynard I am simply delighted over our
burst into prosperity and social splendour. Edith's improvements on the
house I rave over. I describe bridge parties, teas and dances as if I
gloried in them. I refer to various men--mostly Ruth's suitors, I must
confess--frequently and with familiarity. I am simply "Living," with a
big capital L, in my letters to Dr. Maynard, and my stub pen crosses
its T's and ends its sentences with great broad, militant dashes that
are bold with triumph.

Once only did Dr. Maynard condescend to refer to the past, and that
was in a little insignificant postscript at the end of a long humorous
description of a German family that he saw in a café. This is what he
wrote, all cramped up in a little bit of space, after he had signed his
name:

  "How is San Francisco progressing in her reconstruction? Does she need
  any outside help in building up her beautiful city? Please let me know
  when she does!"

I tell you I wrote him the gayest, most flippant little note I could
compose--all about how busy I was with engagements, etc., etc.; and
then after I had signed my name, along the margin of the paper I said:

  "About San Francisco--she is progressing wonderfully, she doesn't
  need any help from any one, unless possibly lead weights to keep
  her from soaring. The earthquake did her good. She's becoming very
  modernised and when you see her next I doubt if you recognise her on
  account of all the changes. Is Lizzie better? Or was it Nibbles who
  had the typhoid?"

If Dr. Maynard couldn't afford a fresh sheet of paper, go upstairs and
shut himself in his room, and ask me seriously and quietly if I were
unhappy or lonely, I would starve first before I'd ask bread of him.

I have it all planned just how I shall treat Dr. Maynard when he comes
home--very distantly and as if so much society had made me a little
blasé. When his name is sent up I shall keep him waiting in the little
gold reception-room for about five minutes, and then glide into his
presence, in a long clinging crêpe-de-chine dress. After I have shaken
hands and said, "How pleasant it is to have you with us again," I'll
ring for tea, then go back and sit down in the carved Italian armchair
with the high back, dangle the ivory paper-cutter in one hand the way
Ruth does, and inquire what sort of a passage he has had.

If he should come this year I've just the gown to wear. It's black,
with a gold cord around the waist. I look about twenty-nine in it, and
awfully sophisticated.



CHAPTER XIV


Ruth's coming-out party cost over two thousand dollars, they say. Her
dress alone was made by a dressmaker in Boston who won't "touch a
thing" under a hundred and fifty; and Edith's--shimmering blue, draped
with chiffon covered with green spangles, and here and there a crimson
one (it looked just like the shining sides of a little wet brook
trout)--simply spelled money.

I tell you the whole party lived up to the gorgeousness of Edith's
gown too. There were orchids frozen in ice, for a punch bowl, in the
dining-room; Killarney roses by the dozens in the reception-room;
chrysanthemums in big round red bunches in the living-room; and the
stairway was wound with smilax and asparagus fern, with real birch
trees--silvery bark and all--at intervals of four or five feet. There
were extra electric lights, extra maids, extra everything; and on
the morning of Wednesday, the twenty-fifth of October, there arrived
a whole squad of caterers from Boston with cases large as trunks
filled with pattie shells, a thousand tiny brown pyramids of potato
croquettes, tanksful of mushrooms, crab meat, and sweet-breads,
cratesful of Malaga grapes and actual strawberries imported from
somewhere which they dipped in white fondant and then set away to cool
in little frilled paper holders, all over the butler's pantry.

It took Edith and Ruth two solid weeks of discussion and consultation
to complete the invitation list. You see Edith was careful to give the
party early in the fall before the summer colony had gone back home
to its winter quarters. After the reception itself there was to be a
small dance, and the elect were invited to remain. It was a source of
satisfaction to Edith that only a dozen native Hilton men were invited
to the dance, and but eight girls. Of course such partiality and
ruthless slight and scorn of the people of her own native city caused
a good deal of feeling in Hilton, but I observed that most every one
who was invited to the reception came, in spite of the fact that they
had been omitted from the dance to follow. Every living woman in Hilton
was anxious, I suppose, to prove by her presence that she had the
distinction of a portion of the engraved invitation at least.

I remember one name was under discussion for a week--a Mrs. Hugh
Fullerton who was simply crazy "to get into things," Edith said--an
officious, showy little bride from the West, she explained, who had
married that young Yale graduate, Hugh Fullerton. Hugh Fullerton had
been invited everywhere before he was married. He had been in Hilton
only three years, but he had taken well. New young men usually do
take well in Hilton. It's the women and the girls who have to climb
and scramble. Mr. Fullerton was from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and was
learning the boiler business in the Hilton Boiler Works. He was a fine,
tall, athletic, bronzed sort of fellow; Edith used to invite him to
The Homestead very often; he'd ridden every one of her hunters; he was
supposed to be one of her favourites. Then he married, and Edith's
invitations came to an abrupt end. I had never seen Mrs. Fullerton,
but I felt sorry for her.

"She has been married only since June," I said to Edith; "why not
invite the poor thing to the dance? What harm would it do? She may be
a little homesick way on here in the East, and it might cheer her up a
lot to have a little distinction if she's so awfully anxious for it."

"Bobbie, dear child, I'm not running an institution for homesick
girls," replied Edith. "I know what I'm about. I rather liked the
girl at first, I confess. She's got a lot of style, but she simply
isn't being taken up--that's all. The Ogdens live in St. Louis in the
winter and this Mrs. Fullerton lived there before she was married. The
Ogdens know everybody in St. Louis of any importance, but they never
even heard of Mrs. Fullerton. I'm not going to try to float a girl in
society, whom I know nothing about. You may be sure of _that_."

"I should think your position would be secure enough after a while, for
you to show a little independence," I murmured.

"Independence! Why, child, I'm inviting her to the reception, as it
is. Anyhow what can _you_ know about it? I'll settle the invitations,
dearie." That was an example of the manner with which my ideas were
usually treated.

There was a house-party planned at The Homestead in addition to the
tea and dance. Edith always does a thing up good and brown. She wrote
to about a dozen out-of-town people and invited them to become the
guests of the house for over the twenty-fifth. These consisted of
boarding-school friends of Ruth's, several of Edith's; and Oliver and
Malcolm, who of course came home for the event, provided a generous
supply of men from their crowd at college.

The three automobiles were kept busy meeting trains all the day before
the tea, and the expressmen were tramping up and down the stairs with
dozens of various trunks of all styles and sizes. The guest-rooms in
The Homestead looked very festive, all decked out in real lace and
silver, with Edith's best embroidered trousseau-spreads stretched out
gorgeously upon the beds. It really grew quite exciting as the time for
the tea drew near--even I felt a little of the pervading delight. Of
course I hated meeting so many new people, but everybody's attention
was centered upon Ruth, and I was perfectly free to withdraw to my room
at any time I desired. I, thank goodness, was only Ruth's sister.

The tea was on a Wednesday, October twenty-fifth, from five until
seven o'clock. Edith had bought a lovely dress for me--pink and soft
and shining--and about three o'clock she sent the professional hair
dresser, who had been spending the day at the house, to puff and marcel
Bobbie, she said.

I hardly knew myself when I gazed into my mirror after I was all
dressed. My hair was done up high like a queen's, and there were two
little sparkling pink wings in it. My dress was cut into a V in front,
and my neck looked so long and slender with my hair drawn away from its
usual place in the back, and piled up in a soft puffy pyramid on top,
that I seemed almost stately. I just wished Dr. Maynard could see San
Francisco then!

As I walked out into the hall, my train made a lovely sound on the
soft oriental rugs. I stood at the top of the stairs and gazed about
me. Everything was in readiness--maids in black and white stationed
at the bedroom doors, the musicians below already beginning to tune
their instruments, the dark draperies drawn, a soft illumination
of electricity everywhere, and the faint delicious odour of coffee
mixed with the perfume of roses. I was overwhelmed with the spirit of
prosperity that filled every corner and cranny of my father's house.
I wondered what Father would think of it all--big, calm, quiet Father
whose tastes were so plain, habits so simple, and whose words of
advice to us his children always so eloquent with the wickedness of
extravagance. I put him out of my mind just as quickly as I could. I
didn't want to think of him just now. I wanted to have a good time for
once in my life; I wanted everybody to see that I wasn't shy and quiet
and plain; I wanted to be clever and admired; and I would be too! I
caught a glimpse of myself, whole length, in the long hall-mirror. My
cheeks were flushed and rosy, my eyes were dark and bright. I really
believed I was pretty! I could have shouted, I felt so happy. I ran
down the side stairway, that leads to the hall off the porte-cochère,
through the chrysanthemum-laden living-room and hall, into the
rose-perfumed reception-room, where I found Edith and Ruth ready for
the first arrival. I felt suddenly generous-hearted toward all the
prosperity and luxury that made such a palace of our old house and such
a new creature of me. I wanted to tell Edith how lovely I thought it
all was.

I had more reason than ever to feel grateful to Edith about an hour
later. It was at the very height of the afternoon rush, about quarter
past five. I happened to be standing just back of Edith, waiting for a
chance to offer her some lemonade which one of the ladies assisting had
been thoughtful enough to send to her by me. There was a long line of
women that stretched way out into the hall, just like a line in front
of a ticket window at the theatre, each waiting her turn for a chance
to shake hands with Edith, though most of them she sees every time she
goes out anyhow. Edith was very gracious and cordial this afternoon.
I've heard very often that she makes a lovely hostess. I watched her
closely, trying to see just where the charm lay.

"Ah, good afternoon! Mrs. Fullerton, I believe?" suddenly broke in
on my reflections, and I glanced up quickly, curious to see the poor
little neglected bride whom I championed. There really was nothing very
poor nor very neglected about her appearance. I couldn't see her face
beneath her plumed picture-hat, but her costume was very costly and
elegant--a lot of Irish lace over something dark.

"Yes, Mrs. Hugh Fullerton," she replied effusively. "Hugh has told me
so much about his good times here at The Homestead, Mrs. Vars, and how
kind and cordial you've been to him, and I _do_ want to thank you.
Haven't you a gorgeous afternoon? I'm so glad to meet you, after all
Hugh has said. Why, I know some of your horses by name even--Regal, for
instance--the one that threw Hugh--do you remember?"

Edith's manner cooled, hostess though she was.

"Regal has thrown so many!" she remarked. "Ruth, Mrs. Fullerton," she
finished.

"Oh," went on Mrs. Fullerton to Ruth, not at all abashed, "I've met
Miss Vars already. A bride remembers everybody new she meets, you know,
and then of course I couldn't help but remember _you_." There was
something hauntingly familiar about Mrs. Fullerton's manner and voice.
I put the lemonade on a table near by and drew nearer. "It was at Mrs.
Jaynes' bridge-party last week," she went on; "don't you remember? We
played at the same table, Miss Vars."

"Did we?" inquired Ruth in her sweet, icy, little way; "I don't
remember."

"Of course," flushed Mrs. Fullerton. "Débutantes meet so many new
people. I know just how it is--I was there once myself. I don't wonder
one bit. I remember _I_ couldn't keep even the men straight, to say
nothing of the women."

"O Lucy," suddenly exclaimed Edith, catching sight of me, "this is Mrs.
Fullerton. My other sister, Miss Vars, Mrs. Fullerton. She'll take you
to the dining-room and serve you some tea or an ice."

I raised my eyes to Mrs. Fullerton's. No, I hadn't been mistaken. I
should have recognised that voice in China. Mrs. Fullerton's mouth
opened in amazement as she gazed at me.

"Lucy Vars," she finally ejaculated. "Lucy Vars! Why, Lucy, don't you
remember Sarah Platt?"

"Yes, I remember," I nodded.

"How lovely! How perfectly lovely!" exploded Sarah. "Why, Mrs. Vars,"
she sparkled, "Lucy and I are old pals! Isn't it too nice for
anything? We were at Miss Brown's-on-the-Hudson the same year, and I
guess if you've ever been to boarding-school yourself, you know what
that means. Why, Lucy, you old trump, how are you anyway? I'm simply
pleased to pieces!" And the once much-envied Sarah Platt of years ago,
the successful, the glorious Sarah Platt, enveloped me at last in a
huge schoolgirl embrace!

"Hypocrite!" I thought.

"I'd lost track of Lucy completely," she went on to Edith and Ruth,
linking her arm familiarly through mine. "I'd forgotten your home was
in Hilton, though I certainly knew it was in Massachusetts somewhere.
Wasn't it stupid? Here I've been living for three months in the same
place with you, Lucy Vars, and never knew it! Here you were all the
time a sister to Mrs. Alexander Vars, whom Hugh wrote me so much about
that I almost grew jealous," she laughed. "Isn't this world just the
smallest place you ever heard of, Mrs. Vars? You must come right over
and see me, Lucy, and make up for lost time, and I hope you'll both
come with her," smiled Sarah upon my sisters; "I'd simply love to have
you."

We moved away toward the dining-room.

"Oh, Lucy," went on Sarah, "I am so glad to see you again! It's just
like discovering somebody from home. I haven't any friend here my own
age at all. You've grown so pretty! You're looking splendid; and aren't
your sister and sister-in-law just stunning!"

I drew my arm away from Sarah's. I remembered what she had thought
about my family once.

"Don't leave me," she exclaimed, "please, or I'll perish. Stay while I
have my ice. I don't know one soul in that dining-room."

Life works out its patterns very cunningly, I think. Once I had hidden
in shame behind a telegraph-pole from this majestic creature; once
she had looked upon me as mean and insignificant, unworthy of even
her pity; now she actually plead for my favour, toadied to my family,
palavered me with flatteries. I drew in deep breaths of satisfaction.

"Dear, dear life, how kind and just you are after all!" I said half an
hour later, gazing into my mirror, in my own closed room. "_My_ day
is dawning now--mine, mine, at last! And I'm so happy! I'm going to
have a wonderful time at the dance to-night. I feel it. Oh, it's good
after all to have money and prosperity; it's good to wear soft, pink
shimmering dresses that are becoming and make people gaze and whisper;
it's good to hold such a position in a community that even Sarah
Platts bow and scrape and try to please; it's more than good--it's
exhilarating!"

I went out into the hall and started to go down the main stairway. It
was deserted now. The hour was seven-thirty, just before the men were
due to arrive for the supper and the evening celebrations to follow.

Half-way down this stairway, on the landing, there is a large portrait
of my father. Amid all the preparations going on in the house I had
not known that Edith had had the electricians adjust a row of shielded
electric lights at the top of the heavy frame of Father's picture. The
portrait had always hung on the landing where the light is very dim.
We had had it for years. It was painted when we were prosperous, but
I had never examined it very closely. It was an awfully black sort of
picture, and before Ruth's tea I could not have definitely said whether
Father was standing or sitting in it. I didn't know that a row of
lights could make such a difference. As I turned on the landing that
night and came suddenly upon the painting I stopped stock-still. Why,
it wasn't a picture! I didn't see the frame, nor the canvas, nor the
paint. It was Father, dear Father himself, sitting at his roll-top desk
down in the sitting-room. I could see every little wrinkle in his face,
the crows-feet at the corners of his eyes, the fine, tired-looking
lines along his forehead. He was sitting in his big leather armchair,
and I remembered exactly how the leather had worn brown and velvety
like that, along the edges. As usual he wore across his breast his
heavy gold watch-chain, with the black onyx fob--the one he used to let
me play with in church, when I was very little--and in one hand, which
was resting easily along the arm of the chair, Father held his glasses
just as he used to hold them when he took them off to glance up at me
before I dashed off to dancing-school on Saturday nights. "Can't you
keep that hair a little smoother?" he'd say to me, and "Isn't there
a good deal of trimming on that dress? Your mother always wore plain
things with a little white at her neck. Keep your tastes simple, my
girl, and your clothes neat and nicely sewed." They were plain, homely
words. Any man could say them, but as I remembered them that night,
they seemed terribly sweet--almost sacred--and I backed up against
the wall, and stared at Father there before me, with tears in my eyes.
He would not have liked the sparkling wings I was wearing in my hair.
The dress that Edith had given me--all shining satin, wasn't like my
mother's with a little white at the neck. The silent, sad expression in
my father's eyes smote me. He was gazing straight at me, down into my
heart. I almost saw his lips move. The words of the verse that he used
to repeat so often at our morning prayers after breakfast, I seemed to
hear again: "Children, how hard it is for them that trust in riches to
enter into the Kingdom of God." Father was always quoting things from
the Bible about vanity and riches. His heroes were always big, simple,
honest men like Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin. As I stood and
stared at Father's picture the musicians began to play some soft,
dreamy melody, and just then Alec from above caught sight of me leaning
up against the wall.

"Hello," he called cheerfully; "how do you like the new lights on the
picture?" And he came tripping down all dressed up in his evening
clothes to join me. I don't believe Alec had seen the portrait lighted
before either, for he stopped short beside me when he came in full view
of it. He was speechless for a moment. Really those lights made Father
look as if he could answer if we spoke to him. He seemed to be actually
sitting there amid all the luxury and splendour he had so despised.
Alec came over beside me. He took my hand in his and for a long sweet
half-minute, my old partner and I stood there together on the landing
and gazed up into Father's noble eyes.

"It's miraculous," breathed Alec, softly, at last.

I couldn't answer. It _was_ miraculous. I wished I was in my ugly old
blue cashmere and could crawl up into Father's lap.

I didn't know anybody was coming up the stairs till suddenly Alec
dropped my hand and left me.

"Hello--hello there," he called out jovially. "Come right up, Mr.
Campbell. Just gotten here, haven't you? Everything's gone in tip-top
shape so far. We're looking pretty fine around here, aren't we? Bobbie
and I were passing judgment on Edith's new lights. Here, let me take
that coat. Edith discovered that this old portrait of Father was by an
artist who has a reputation now, so she had it properly lighted. It is
marvellous what a really excellent likeness it is. Come and tell us
your opinion."

I slunk away to my room quietly.

All that evening amid the babble of voices and din of violins, pianos
and cornets, while girls in gorgeous raiment sat beneath Father's
picture between dances with their partners on the top stair of the
landing, and just below men gathered around the punch-bowl; while Edith
and Ruth shone in jewels, and old Dave Campbell blatantly exhibited the
latest improvements in the house to all his friends, Father looked down
upon it all from his lofty position silently, disapprovingly, a look of
censure in his eyes that I couldn't seem to escape. My little hour of
triumph was snuffed out by Father's gaze like a candle in a tempest;
my sudden self-satisfaction, my burst of eager joy in prosperity and
position, born to feel the throb of life but for an hour.

I didn't enjoy the dance. I couldn't. I tried once or twice to
"enter in," but it was masquerade. There had been champagne served
at the supper. Girls as well as men were full of the spirit of mad
merry-making. Everybody was having a glorious time--everybody but me.
I hated the hilarious laughter. I don't mean to imply that any one
became intoxicated, I don't think they did exactly, but just the same
the whole affair seemed to me like a debauch going on in my father's
house beneath his very eyes. I stole up to the landing about eleven
o'clock when the music was still shrieking, Ruth's cheeks burning with
excitement, Oliver laughing so loudly that I could hear him above the
music, and switched off the lights above Father's picture. He shouldn't
look on at such festivities--mute, unable to speak his mind, tied there
in his chair, helpless and forgotten--he shouldn't if I could help it!

Late that same night--or it must have been the next morning--anyway
after every one was quiet, and the house was finally dark I stole out
of my room and crept quietly down on the landing. The house was dead
still. I heard the big clock with the chimes strike a half-hour, and a
second after all the other clocks reply. I was in my nightgown wrapped
around with an eiderdown bath-robe. I found my way stealthily to the
little button behind the portrait. I pushed it. There was a little
click and suddenly Father was before me! I went back and sat down on
the lowest stair, close up to the railing, and looked up into his
comforting eyes. No one had known that I had spent the last six dances
shut up in my room. No one had missed me. I had had a horrid time, but
no one cared.

There were the remains of the orgy of the night before scattered all
about Father's feet--a discarded bunch of violets, a torn piece of
chiffon, a half a macaroon, a girl's handkerchief. As I sat there
and wondered how Ruth and the twins and Alec could all go peacefully
to sleep, unmindful of their strict and rigid bringing-up, forgetful
of Father left here in the midst of the confusion of the things he
preached against, I heard from somewhere, way off, a queer long laugh.
I listened intently, and in a moment I could catch the rumble of voices
from behind closed doors. I wondered who could be awake at such an
hour, when a door opened downstairs, and as plain and distinct as day,
a man's voice exclaimed, "Come on, boys, we'll have to carry old Ol up.
Lend a hand, one of you chaps who can walk straight, and don't make any
noise. Wake up, Oliver, old pal. We're going to bed." I heard a horrid
guttural sort of rejoinder from Oliver, and I shuddered. Some of the
men must have been sitting up in the dining-room and drinking! I knew,
oh, I knew now, that Oliver must be intoxicated! I was in my nightgown.
There was no time to turn out the lights over Father's picture, to
shield Father from the awful sight of his son, drunk--horridly,
helplessly drunk, being carried upstairs to bed. I glanced up at Father
shining there in his frame. He was looking straight down the long broad
stairway. In another minute Oliver and Father would meet face to face.
I turned and fled back to my room.



CHAPTER XV


Four months later. Twelve o'clock at night. Wrapped up in my eiderdown
bath-robe. Sitting at my desk.

It is midnight. I cannot sleep. I have been lying wide awake, listening
to a strong April wind, howling around the corner of the house, for
two hours! I've repeated the twenty-third Psalm over and over again.
I've imagined a flock of sheep going over a stile (though I never saw
it done) for ten minutes solid. I've swallowed two Veronal tablets.
It's useless. I surrender. I don't want to get up. I shall have an
awful headache to-morrow, besides heavy lead weights behind my eyes;
and to-morrow--to-morrow of all days--I want to be fresh and bright and
as beautiful as nature can make me. Moreover, I'd rather not write.
But I can't read. There has never been a book printed that could hold
my thoughts to-night. My mind goes back to the events of the day like
steel to a magnet. I've tried solitaire, and ended by pushing the silly
cards on the floor. You see something has happened--something big and
actual and real!

I have seen Dr. Maynard!

I have met him face to face, talked with him, laughed with him, walked
with him from Charles Street to the sunken garden, sat with him by the
fountain. I am beside myself with excitement. I had better tell how it
all happened. If I get it out of my system I may be able to snatch
a little sleep, and I _must_ sleep. I have an important engagement
to-morrow at three.

It occurred at four o'clock this afternoon. I had bought a bunch of
primroses from a man on the street five minutes before. I was on my
way home from a shopping tour, and with my pretty early-spring flowers
tucked in at my waist, and my hands full of packages, I turned up
Charles Street as unconcerned as you please. At the corner I bowed to
our minister's wife, and the remains of the smile were still on my
face, I suppose, when I saw Dr. Maynard. I didn't know that he was on
this side of the ocean, and when I observed him coming down the steps
of the postoffice--vigorous and strong and buoyant--I stood still in
my tracks, and the remains of the smile turned into something startled
and afraid. Dr. Maynard approached me all aglow, stretched out his hand
and took mine in a warm, firm grasp. A thrill went through me like a
knife. He was as natural as day, beautifully tanned, smiling, big,
broad-shouldered as ever, and yet different--oh, awfully different.

"Hello, Bobbie," he said in his hearty old voice, and I looked back at
him, perfectly white--I could feel that I was--and speechless. "Don't
be a goose. It's just Dr. Maynard," I tried to reason with myself.

"Am I speaking to Miss Lucy Vars?" I heard asked of me. "Miss Lucy
Chenery Vars, of 240 Main Street, Hilton, Mass.?"

I nodded, and somewhere down there in the chaos in my chest, I found my
poor little voice. "Is it _you_?" I asked shakily.

"Well, I'm not quite sure. Nothing looks very natural around here. I'm
beginning to think I'm somebody else."

"Well, I _am_ surprised!" I exploded. "I certainly _am_ surprised!
Why, I never _was_ so surprised!" I stopped a minute. Dr. Maynard was
smiling right down into my eyes. "I never was so surprised in all my
life!" I repeated, as if I hadn't another idea in my head.

He leaned down just here and picked up a half-dozen bundles, more or
less, that I had dropped when we shook hands.

"I better help you carry some of these home, hadn't I?" he suggested.

"Oh, yes, _do_," I replied eagerly, and somehow we managed to walk back
to the house together.

I don't know through what streets we went, past what houses. I can
scarcely recall of what we talked. "He's come home! He's come home!
He's come home!" kept ringing in my ears over and over again, like
jubilant chimes. "Dr. Maynard has come home!" And whenever I looked
up and saw him smiling down at me--so naturally, so beautifully--it
seemed as if I should have to make a pirouette or two, right there on
the sidewalk. Every time he laughed I wanted to shout; every time he
remarked upon a new building or a new house, and especially when he
exclaimed, "Good heavens! What have we here?" at the sight of one of
the taxicabs, I wanted to turn a handspring. When he first came in view
of 240 Main Street and stood stock-still in his tracks, and gasped,
"Where's the cupola, and the French roof, and the iron fountain, and
the barn, and the apple orchard?" I wanted to throw my arms around
him for joy. I must have felt like a dog at the sight of his beloved
master whom he hasn't seen for months. It was so intoxicating to have
Dr. Maynard beside me again that it seemed as if I must express my joy
by jumping up on him, and half knocking him down. Which, of course,
I didn't do. My voice broke a dozen times, my underlip trembled, my
cheeks burned with excitement, but otherwise I walked along as sedately
as if it were an everyday occurrence to run across a man I believed was
hopelessly buried in a laboratory in Europe.

It was in the sunken garden that the most important part of our
conversation took place. You remember, don't you, that in my letters
to Dr. Maynard I had always been enthusiastic over the improvements
Edith has made on old 240. So now it was with apparent pride that I
led my old friend down the granolithic steps into the one-time apple
orchard. I showed him the cement-lined pool in the centre, the Italian
garden-seat, the rare shrubbery now bound up in yellow straw, with
something like delight. I was so full of exultation at the mere sight
of dear, kind, understanding Dr. Maynard that I could have rejoiced
about anything. When I exclaimed, "And there's a squash-court connected
with the garage, and a tennis-court as _smooth_ as _glass_ beside the
stable; and where the old potato-patch used to be, there's a pergola!"
my eyes fairly sparkled. "That sun-dial over there," I boasted, "was
designed especially for Edith; and oh, there's the dearest, slimmest
little stream of water that spouts out of the centre of the pool, in
the summer. You ought to see it!" I was all enthusiasm. Edith wouldn't
have recognised me. Ruth would have thought I had lost my reason. Even
Dr. Maynard looked at me curiously.

"It certainly is all very fine, I've no doubt," he remarked.

"Yes, isn't it?" I exclaimed.

"But I must confess," he went on. "_I_ never objected to the old apple
orchard. Just about where the pool is now, there used to grow the best
old Baldwins I ever tasted."

"Oh, my," I scoffed, "you ought to see the bouncing big Oregon apples
Edith buys by the crate."

Dr. Maynard shook his head and smiled. Then he came over and sat down
beside me on the Italian seat.

"Well, well," he sighed, "I suppose old Rip must get used to the
changes that have taken place since he's been asleep--squash-courts
and pergolas, great sweeping estates with granolithic drives and
sunken gardens; new hotels; new postoffices; instead of the roomy,
old-fashioned livery-stable hacks, taxicabs; instead of good old snappy
New England Baldwins, apples imported from Oregon; and instead of a
girl in a red Tam-o-Shanter and her father's old weather-beaten ulster,
sitting behind the wheel of a little one-lunger automobile, running it,
in all sorts of weather, like a young breeze--instead of that girl,"
said Dr. Maynard, looking me up and down closely, "a very correct and
up-to-date young lady in kid gloves and a veil, a smart black and white
checked suit, a very fashionable hat (_I_ should call it), with a bunch
of primroses, to cap it all, pinned jauntily at her waist."

I blushed with triumph.

"I've just about come to the conclusion," added Dr. Maynard in a kind
of wistful voice, "that I don't know San Francisco at all now."

"Well," I laughed waveringly, "I do hope you'll find it a little more
civilised than it was before."

"_I_ never thought it was uncivilised," said Dr. Maynard quietly; "_I_
rather enjoyed it just as it was, to tell the truth. I shall be sorry
to find many changes in it because I shall have to become acquainted
with it all over again and my time is so short."

"Short?" I exclaimed. I don't know why I had drawn the sudden
conclusion that Dr. Maynard had come back to stay. His very next words
put an end to my little half-hour of jubilance like the announcement of
a death.

"Yes," he said; "I'm sailing back to Germany in two weeks. I was
appointed an executor of a distant relative's will, and it seemed
necessary to come to New York and attend to it. Of course I couldn't
be so near--San Francisco, without coming to see how it prospered
after the earthquake. I'm glad to find you so happy, Bobbie. You've
richly earned all this," he glanced around the display that surrounded
us, "both you and Al, and it's really fine that the change in your
circumstances came about, when _you_, Lucy, were still a young
girl, and just ready to appreciate and enjoy good times, and pretty
surroundings, and new young people. Sometimes the apparent catastrophes
work out for our best happiness. You _are_ happy, aren't you, Bobbie?"

"Oh, yes--perfectly happy," I flashed indignantly.

"I thought so. Your enthusiasm brims over in your letters. Well, well,"
twitted Dr. Maynard, "who ever would have thought Al's little sister,
whom I used to call 'wild-cat,' would turn into a society girl--a
mighty popular one too, if _I'm_ any judge. Parties and engagements
all the time, I suppose. Now I'm just curious enough to wonder," went
on Dr. Maynard teasingly, while my feelings, hurt and enraged, were
working up to one of their habitual explosions, "which one of all
those admirers I hear mentioned in your letters sent you your pretty
primroses _this_ morning."

"No one sent them," I blurted out. "If you _must_ know, I bought them
myself five minutes before I saw you. Those men in my letters were
Ruth's friends, not mine."

Dr. Maynard glanced at me sharply.

"Oh," I went on fiercely, "I'm glad to know if you think that I'm
happy. It shows how well you understand me. Happy! I'm perfectly
miserable, if you want to know the truth. I hate and loathe and despise
all this display you say I've so richly earned. I hate parties, and
splurge, and sunken gardens, and pergolas, and I haven't a single
solitary admirer in the world. I thought you knew me, but I see you
don't. I thought if you ever came back _you'd_ understand, but you
don't--not one little single bit. I thought _you_--_you_--"

I stopped abruptly. There's no use trying to hide tears that run
shamelessly down your cheeks. It was absolutely necessary for me to
ask for my bag which Dr. Maynard held, and produce a handkerchief. He
didn't say anything as I mopped my eyes. I thought perhaps he was too
shocked to speak. He didn't offer me a single word of comfort--just sat
and waited. I didn't look at him; and still with my face turned away I
said, subdued, apologetically, "I don't see what is the matter with me
lately. You mustn't mind my being so silly. I'm always getting 'weepy'
for no reason at all." I opened my bag, tucked away my handkerchief, as
a sign that the storm was over, and stood up. "I hope you won't think
that I usually act this way with--with all those admirers of mine," I
added, smiling.

Dr. Maynard ignored my attempt at humour.

"Lucy," he said quietly, but in a voice and manner that made me start
and catch my breath, "my real reason for coming to America wasn't
the will. It was you." He stopped and I looked hard into the centre
of the dry pool. "I mistrusted some of your letters lately, though I
confess not at first--not until last fall. You've been overdoing your
enthusiasm this winter, Bobbie. So I decided to come over and find out
for myself if you had been trying to deceive me. The will offered a
good excuse, so here I am. And you _have_ been deceiving me--for two
whole years. Why, Bobbie," he said very softly, "what shall I do to
you?"

I glanced up and saw the old piercing tenderness in his eyes.

"Don't be kind to me," I warned hastily; "not _now_--not for anything.
_Please_, or I shall cry again."

I heard Dr. Maynard laugh the tenderest, gentlest kind of laugh, and
in a second both his arms were around me. Yes, both Dr. Maynard's arms
were close around me! I didn't cry. I just stayed there quiet and still
and safe; and I've been there in imagination about every moment since.

When he finally let me go he said simply, but in a queer trembling
voice, "Will you go to drive with me to-morrow afternoon at three, way
off into the country, away from pergolas and cement pools, and people?"

I nodded, unable to speak.

"All right. I'll be here. Good night," he said gently, and turned
abruptly and left me there alone in the garden.

I watched him hurry up the garden-steps and out of the gateway. He
turned once and waved his hand to the pitiful little wind-blown
creature he left behind in the bleak unbeautiful garden. I felt as
if he had torn me from my moorings and that I must toss and drift in
strange unknown seas until to-morrow at three.

I managed to gather my bundles together somehow, and come up here to
the house. My cheeks were flaming when I opened the door. I left my
packages in a chair in the hall and hurried up here to my room as
quickly as I could. Once here I locked my door tight and threw off my
things. "Oh, don't be silly; don't be absurd," I said, and buried my
face in the dark of my arms on my desk. "It's just Dr. Maynard," I went
on later, "and you know how you felt two years ago. Oh, be reasonable.
Be calm." But all the time that I was talking sense to myself, I
was feeling strong arms about my shoulders, and a kind of sinking,
fainting, going-out feeling that people must experience when they lose
consciousness, would steal over me so that I couldn't think.

Finally to put an end to my nonsense I opened a secret compartment and
took out Robert Dwinnell's picture. _He_ would cure me of my delusion;
_he_ would keep me true to my ideals. I gazed at Robert Dwinnell for a
solid sixty seconds, then deliberately, straight across the forehead,
down the nose, through the very smile that once had thrilled me, I tore
that poor picture into a thousand bits, and dumped the remains into the
waste-basket. It was a dreadful act. I felt like a murderess. I don't
know what made me do it, but Robert Dwinnell had lost his charm. Dr.
Maynard, glowing with health, his eyes fierce with a tenderness that
actually hurt, made my poor old idol look flat and insipid.

Some time later--ten minutes perhaps--an hour--I don't know--a maid
knocked and asked if I were coming down to dinner. I got up and
followed her mechanically, and for the life of me I don't know whether
there was roast-beef or lamb.

Now I am again locked in my room, and my soul is actually on fire. It
is as dark as death outdoors. Every one in the house is asleep. But I
am sitting here gazing at a little faded picture of an automobile which
I finally discovered in an old souvenir-book of mine. That little speck
there is Dr. Maynard and I am going to see him to-day at three!



CHAPTER XVI


Ever since I can remember having any ideas on the subject at all,
I have always longed to be married in one of those dark, little
tucked-away chapels in some cathedral or other, in France or England,
like a girl I read about in a book. Perhaps a late afternoon service
would be going on up near the big altar; candles would be burning;
the priest would be chanting queer minor things; poor women would be
stepping in, crossing themselves, to say a prayer; and, all unconscious
of me, nearly hidden by the big stone pillars, tourists would be
tip-toeing about, gazing at the rose-window and the towering arches.
There would be footfalls and whispers in the nave. Echoes everywhere.
I should have loved the echoes! "But then," Edith said, "you wouldn't
have had a sign of a wedding present, and you can't furnish your house
with echoes, crazy Bobbs."

If ever there was a wedding opposite to my ideal of one, it was mine.
For of course I am married to Dr. Maynard.

You aren't surprised, I know. It was all decided that afternoon at
three, and two weeks later when Will sailed back to Germany it wasn't
in imagination that I stood on the dock and waved him good-bye. I
was there soul and body this time, and I followed with my fluttering
handkerchief every motion that he made with his hat and great spoke of
an arm. I watched him till he faded out of sight, and then with Ruth
and Edith, who went to New York with me, I returned to the shops to buy
my trousseau.

Will had to be back in Germany on May first to deliver a lecture before
a very learned assembly of scientists and doctors. They wanted him to
tell them about a few of his experiments with his guinea-pigs. It was
a great compliment for so young a man, and an American besides, to
receive an invitation to address a body of old-world sages. Of course
he couldn't disappoint them, but he told me that by the middle of
August he would be sailing back again and after a simple little wedding
in the dead quiet of midsummer, he would at last carry his refugee back
with him to Europe. He was not going to begin work until October. We
planned to travel till then.

"So, after all," said Will to me that afternoon at three o'clock,
"after all, some day--oh, Lucy--perhaps some day--" and _this_ time it
was I who finished the sentence.

"Yes, perhaps some day," I said sparkling, "the refugee and you will be
seeing Paris together."

Our plans would have been lovely if they had worked out; but they
didn't. I haven't seen Paris yet, and there's no prospect that I
shall until Will's Sabbatical year comes around. We're going across
then, he says, if we have to work our way on a cattle ship. You see
Will no sooner got back there to Germany and delivered his lectures
to those old sages, than the medical department of one of the biggest
universities here in America sent him an invitation to become a member
of their faculty. The position was quite to his taste, he wrote me.
He could keep right on with his experimenting and guinea-pigs to his
heart's content--the university had wonderfully equipped laboratories,
the best in America--and what did I say? What _should_ I say to a
person whose very picture that had been taken for just me to put on my
bureau, had appeared in two magazines that month? Such an insignificant
tail to the big lion as I, ought cheerfully to go wagging to the North
Pole or the Sahara Desert. Of course I didn't say a word.

I never saw anything like the way the magazines burst forth in sudden
praise of Will. His appointment to the faculty of the university
was reported in every paper published. I didn't know whether my
emotions were of pride or fear. After reading an account of what Dr.
William Ford Maynard had accomplished and how high his position was
in the scientific world, and then, immediately following, seeing the
announcement of his engagement to Miss Lucy Chenery Vars, of Hilton,
Mass., I was filled with a good deal of apprehension.

Edith was delighted with my engagement. To boast of William Ford
Maynard as a future brother-in-law was a great feather in her cap. The
plans for an elaborate wedding were formed and crystallised before I
had gotten used to wearing my engagement ring. I didn't want a big
wedding, but it seemed useless to remonstrate. You see I was under
obligations to Edith. All my linen, stiff gorgeous stuff with heavy
elaborate monograms, she had given me; bath towels two yards long
which I despise, sets of underwear all ruffles, fol-de-rols and satin
rosettes, she had bestowed upon me; also my solid silver service,
Sheffield tray and flat silver were gifts from Edith. I didn't like my
flat silver. The design is awfully elaborate, representing a horn of
plenty overflowing with pears and grapes and apples. Edith, however,
thought it was stunning. I didn't like my wedding invitations, thick
as leather, engraved in enormous block letters, my name staring at me
like a sign over a store and a whole pack of cards besides. But Edith
did. I didn't want the ceremony to take place in the Episcopal church
which Edith has been attending lately, with a boys' choir preceding
me up the aisle, when I've always been a plain straight old-fashioned
Congregationalist. I didn't want eight bridesmaids of Edith's choosing,
selected from the most prominent families that she could find. I didn't
want all society invited. But I soon discovered that my wedding was to
be Edith's party, not mine.

On the morning of the fifth day before the great occasion I was in the
Circassian walnut guest-chamber looking at the overwhelming display
of wedding presents. The original furniture had been moved into the
stable and a low wide shelf covered with heavy white damask ran around
the entire room. Edith had put all the cut-glass together in the
bay-window, and under the glare of a dozen extra electric lights it
sparkled bright and hard. There were two enormous punch-bowls, a lamp,
a vase big enough for an umbrella-stand, thirteen berry dishes, baskets
and candlesticks, two ice-cream sets, two dozen finger-bowls and six
dozen glasses. I hate cut-glass!

"Lucy, Lucy, you up there?" somebody called as I gazed.

"I suppose so," I sang back, and I heard Edith coming up the stairs. I
hadn't a doubt but that she would be staggering under a fresh load of
presents and I wasn't mistaken. She appeared with a regular Pisa Tower
of them, extending up to her eyes.

"How's this for a haul?" she gasped. "Come on, my dear, hustle up and
see what you draw." Then she added, "Gracious, Lucy, where in the world
did you resurrect that old dress? Don't you know every one will be
dropping in at all hours during these last days?" Edith herself was
fairly dazzling in stiff crackling white linen.

"It was so comfortable," I murmured, "and it has no bones in the
collar."

"I should say it hadn't! Your bridesmaids will be here any minute.
Hurry up and look at these things, and then go and get yourself fixed
up. _Do._"

I began silently on the bottom box, cut the string, removed the cover,
and from beneath the tissue-paper drew out a red flannelette bag.

"It's another plateau," I said wearily before I unpulled the
draw-string. I had seven already.

"A plateau! From the Elmer Scotts!" She tossed the cards over to me
contemptuously. "That girl visited me for two weeks before I was
married. They have loads. A plateau! Only the six-fifty size at that,
and--how disgusting--_marked_!"

I didn't know the Scotts from Adam. Half my presents were from Edith's
friends. I didn't see why the Scotts should give me anything.

"Why, they were invited to the reception, my dear!" said Edith,
scandalised. "Come, pass it over! Here goes for three hundred and
seventy-two," and she tore off a little number from a sheet of others,
touched it with the tip of her tongue and slapped it on to the face
of the plateau. She listed it under S in a small book and placed it
with my seven other plateaus on the silver table. I hadn't liked
putting them all together. "But, nonsense," Edith had said. "Don't
you see, little simpleton, if they are together, people can tell how
many plateaus you have at a glance? My goodness, three hundred and
seventy-two presents so far and three more days yet! I'll bet you
get five hundred. Dear me, Lucy," she broke off, "there come your
bridesmaids. Do go and change your dress. Put on the embroidered mulle;
and hurry, child."

I suppose my blue checked gingham did look faded and plain, but I
went to my room with a great swelling loyalty in my heart for every
plain thing in the world. I hung my blue gingham in the closet almost
tenderly. Already my wedding costume was there, staring at me from the
corner--shining satin and expensive lace, little sachet bags sewed
into the lining, and, on the belt inside, the name in gold letters
of one of the most fashionable dressmakers in New York. I was gazing
at it, wishing with all my heart that I hadn't got to take the place
of the tissue-paper now stuffed into the waist and sleeves, when my
sister-in-law suddenly appeared at the door.

"Hurry, Bobbie," she said. "Hurry, do. Your bridesmaids are all here
and the Leonard Jacksons have brought over the John Percivals in their
car. Don't forget the Jacksons gave you the dozen silver coquilholders,
and the Percivals the Dresden service plates. Be nice to Mrs. Percival.
She's going to be one of your neighbours next year. I must run along.
They'll be wondering." She started to go, but turned back and added,
"Why in the world aren't you more enthusiastic, Lucy? You ought to be
the happiest girl in the world, _I_ think. I never saw a more elaborate
trousseau or a costlier layout of presents in my life. I can't imagine
what else you want!"

A maid knocked outside the door and spoke to Edith. I didn't hear the
message, but Edith gave a little exclamation and hurried away.

"The King Georges or the Kaiser Wilhelms in their aeroplane, no doubt,"
I muttered, and made a face at my wedding-gown as I yanked down my
embroidered mulle.

I am going to skip the details of my wedding--the broiling condition
of the thermometer, the sweltering bridesmaids, the crowds, the push,
the funny grown-up feeling in my heart when Alec and Tom kissed me
good-bye so gently, the joy when the train finally gave a snort and a
jerk, and I knew that Edith in her pearls and satin couldn't possibly
follow. I am so anxious to describe the funny old brown house that
Will and I leased in the shadow of chemistry buildings, law-schools,
and dormitories down here in this university town, and the life--the
curious, happy, contented life that I drifted into--that I do not want
to waste any time.

The week after my wedding Edith sailed with Ruth for four months in
Europe. That is how it happened that she wasn't on the ground to
superintend the choice of a residence for Will and me. I knew very well
that Edith would never have countenanced for a minute the house that we
finally decided to rent for the winter. It was a brown, square affair,
a door in the middle with a window on each side, not colonial in the
least, nondescript as it could be, with a slate French roof. Will and I
thought it would answer the purpose, however--even though the bathtub
was tin--and moved into it when the brick sidewalk was sprinkled with
yellow maple-leaves, and the gutter was collecting dry ones.

I didn't know a soul in the town. I didn't know the name of a single
street except our own. I didn't know where to go to buy even a spool of
thread. But I wasn't homesick--oh, no, I wasn't homesick. You see I had
forgotten the joy of my own kitchen and pantry; I had forgotten what
a collander looked like; I had forgotten how sweet a row of cups are
hanging by their handles, underneath a shelf edged with scalloped paper!

I enjoyed acting as my own mistress too; though I am sure if Edith
had known what I was up to, she would have left all the pleasures
of Paris to set me in the right path. For I didn't even unpack some
of my wedding presents. They didn't fit in very well with Will's
furniture which he had freighted down from the old white-pillared
house in Hilton, and every sliver of which I simply adored. It wasn't
colonial furniture, understand, which is so fashionable nowadays, but
black walnut of the seventies--high-backed armchairs and sofas and
marble-topped bedroom tables. There were funny old steel engravings of
the United States Senate, battle scenes, and Abraham Lincoln, besides
some big heavy bronzes that Will told me were very valuable. The
sideboard was black walnut like everything else and Edith's elaborate
silver service made it look so out-of-date that I put on it instead
my own mother's old coffee-pot--the one that used to be so heavy for
me--and our old-fashioned silver water pitcher with four high goblets
to match. I didn't even unlock my enormous chest of silver. Alec had
let me take from the safe at home the forks and darling thin spoons and
knives that had always been in our family. It was like sheltering old
friends under my roof to care for them again.

Edith would have hated the life I drifted into. She would have called
it "a mere existence" or "worse than the frontier." From September to
February, I didn't go to a single luncheon, tea, or bridge! People had
called--members of the faculty, I suppose, I'm sure I don't know, for
the cards were mere names to me and I was always out when they were
left. You see one evening I had run across something in a pamphlet of
Will's on our living-room table that set me to thinking. The pamphlet
was a sort of bulletin of lectures given by different professors in
the college. There was a star after several of the announcements and
at the bottom of the page it said, "Open to the Public." I hadn't a
notion whether it was the right thing for me to go to them or not, but
one rainy afternoon I hunted up Tyler Hall and Room twenty-one on the
second floor and slunk into one of the back chairs at five minutes to
three, very much frightened and wondering if I would be turned out. The
lecture was the second or third of a series given by a Dr. Van Breeze
on something in philosophy. I didn't understand more than about two
sentences, but no one seemed to question my right to sit there, and I
felt ten times more comfortable than I ever had at bridge parties in
Hilton.

You see I have never been to college. Although I hated boarding-school
with all my heart and soul, I have always had a sneaking idea I might
have done better at college. I always liked to study and when I became
aware of the fact that Juliet--who, though the best and staunchest
girl in the world, was never very brainy--was soaring above me in
knowledge, I used to be a little envious. It may seem odd to you for a
married woman to be trotting across a campus every other day to attend
lectures in class-rooms, as if she were an undergraduate, but after
my first plunge into that discourse on philosophy by Dr. Van Breeze I
never missed a single lecture in the series. I went the next week and
the next and the next; and also bolted bravely into a series of French
lectures every Monday afternoon. I liked just to sit and breathe the
air of those class-rooms. I liked the long line of blackboards covered
with unintelligible words that belonged to a previous lecture, the row
of felt erasers, the smell of dry chalk-dust. I liked sitting in those
studious-looking chairs with a big arm on one side. It was as strange
and foreign as a new country in those class-rooms, with the bare
maple-tree branches grazing the window-pane, and in my ears the music
of the French language which I hadn't heard since I left high school. I
was a thousand, thousand miles away from the atmosphere of limousines
and Edith, five hundred and two wedding presents, and a wedding-dress
that cost two hundred dollars. It was like a distant echo from another
world when I received an invitation for a bridge one day from a Mrs.
Percival. It had completely escaped my mind that she was one of the
individuals who had given me a dozen Dresden plates. Even if I had
recollected I shouldn't have accepted the invitation. Why should I put
handcuffs on myself again, now I was once free from a bondage that I
loathed? I sent a very proper note of regret to Mrs. Percival, pleading
a previous engagement. It was true. An old white-haired gentleman whom
I often met at Dr. Van Breeze's lectures had asked me to sit beside him
that particular afternoon at three o'clock in Tyler Hall.

I didn't tell Will about the lectures. He was usually busy at the
medical school daytimes, and I was always at home when he arrived at
six. I was ashamed to confess to Will that I, who never studied a
science in my life, was presuming to attend lectures on the Geology
of Fuels and Fluxes (for I took in everything that was starred), the
Influence of Science upon Religion, and something about the Law of
Falling Spheres. I hated to have him laugh at me, so I kept absolutely
quiet on the subject of my ridiculous search for knowledge. I didn't
even tell him about my new acquaintances.

The white-haired old gentleman and I developed quite a friendship.
Every Thursday we used to walk home together as far as the Library,
and he would explain things in the lecture that I didn't understand.
He called me Pandora in fun because I was so inquisitive and couldn't
bear to let things unknown to me alone. Once in a while a queer little
man in a frock coat and a soft artist's tie would join us, and a
woman--a Miss Avery in an ugly brown suit and a stiff linen collar
like a man's. They used to think that my questions were the drollest
things they had ever heard in their lives; but I couldn't help but feel
that the sweet old man took quite a fancy to me. He gave me a book
once on philosophy, by a famous scholar, and another time he asked me
to come to his house to meet his wife. Naturally I didn't go, for I
wouldn't have let any one guess I was Mrs. William Ford Maynard for all
the wives in creation. It was a funny existence to drift into, wasn't
it--cake and snow-pudding in the morning (I loved to mess about in the
kitchen); economics, geology, philosophy and French in the afternoon;
and evenings our open fire and cribbage with dear old Will, by the
light of our big bronze lamp? It was a happy existence too.

I found something in those lectures of Dr. Van Breeze's which I had
lost a long time ago. It was a precious thing and at first I didn't
recognise it. You see every once in a while Dr. Van Breeze would
say something that was better than anything I had ever heard in any
church. I wasn't sure that I quite understood him, so I asked the old
gentleman. It was a great eye-opener to me when I learned that such a
great thinker as Dr. Van Breeze had a religion.

"Why, even _I_ don't believe anything," I told my white-haired friend.

His little eyes twinkled at that. "And proud of it too, I'll wager," he
laughed.

I blushed, for I think I did feel rather superior, just as I had felt
wise when I knew there was no Santa Claus. Juliet and I had talked
quite a good deal about religion. She took a course in "Bible" at
college, which seemed to knock all the inspiration and the miracles out
of it for her; and when it came to her course in philosophy, well--she
said that she thought that ministers were a very credulous lot of men.
She said you couldn't argue with them because they always wanted to
prove things by quoting the Bible, while there existed simply dozens of
other worthy reference books. She said that she preferred to rely on
great scholars and philosophers for truth, rather than on men who only
looked in _one_ book for information. Naturally I didn't want to keep
on believing in a fallacy, simply because I had never been to college.
Childish as it may seem at first, I used to feel awfully unanchored
not to say my prayers at night; but of course such a custom was silly,
if I really was an unbeliever. I told my white-haired old friend in
defence of my shocking statement (which by the way didn't shock him at
all) that he might laugh, but anyhow I was backed up by scholars and
philosophers, who since the year one had all been busy trying to prove
that there wasn't anything in religion to believe.

"Why, my dear mistaken Pandora," smiled my friend. "On the contrary,
philosophers have all been trying to prove there _is_ something to
believe, of some nature or other."

"Really?" I exclaimed. "It would be a big relief to me--but are you
sure?"

"Did you ever hear of Benedict Graham?" he replied. Of course I
had--every one has. He's at the head of the philosophy department at
this university. The next week my friend presented me with Benedict
Graham's "Introduction to Philosophy." I thought such a book would be
way beyond my understanding, but it wasn't. I used to read a chapter
or two by myself and then talk it over with my friend afterward. He
made everything very simple to me and seemed besides to be an awfully
well-informed old gentleman. I didn't think even Juliet could scoff
at him, though he did _believe_ a lot of things. After a week or
two I felt rather ashamed at having so loftily pronounced myself an
Unbeliever. I am no such thing! I can't tell you exactly what I am. I
really don't know. But so long as minds ten times bigger and greater
than mine (like Dr. Van Breeze and Benedict Graham, and lots of those
learned old Greeks and Germans) so long as such intellects entertain
the idea that there is _something_ of _some_ nature to believe in, I
tell you, I'm going to believe in it with all my might and main.



CHAPTER XVII


Edith didn't remain in Europe as long as she expected. She dropped
down upon us one night, with Ruth trailing on behind, as unexpectedly
as a falling star. I had just had a letter that said that she and Ruth
and Alec--my brother had since joined them--were all installed in a
fashionable hotel in Paris for six weeks. You can imagine my surprise
when Edith and Ruth appeared at my front door.

Will and I were playing cribbage. He had laid down his big book; I had
put aside my sewing; and the four little pegs on the cribbage-board
had already run the course twice. We always play five games of
cribbage every night before we go upstairs to bed. We call it our
sleeping-powder. Will had just dealt the cards--it was almost nine
o'clock--when the door-bell rang. Old Delia had creaked up to bed ages
ago, so Will went to the door himself. I didn't bother even to uncurl
my feet--I was sitting Turkish fashion--for I thought it must be the
expressman. I yawned and waited.

I heard Will say, "Hello! hello! Well, well, of all--When did
you--Where--" and a moment later, resplendent in a long sealskin coat,
a sealskin hat, a perfectly enormous muff and a gold chain purse, Edith
pushed into our hall, eyes simply sparkling and cheeks aglow.

"Hello, Turtle-doves!" she exclaimed. "Hello, Brother Will! Hello, Mrs.
Bobbikins!"

I started up.

"Of all things!" I ejaculated.

Edith kissed me through a prickly veil. Ruth kissed me too. Ruth was
simply overwhelming in a huge blue hat with not less than six blue
ostrich plumes. They both kissed Will. We all began to laugh.

"We _knew_ you'd be surprised," said Ruth.

"But I thought--" I began.

"Where's Alec?" asked Will.

"Why in the world--" I tucked in.

"Listen! Wait!" commanded Edith. "_I'll_ explain. We thought," she
said, gurgling with mirth, "it would be great fun to surprise you, so--"

"Alec got a cable last week--" put in Ruth.

"From my dad," Edith went on. "Business! Wasn't it disgusting when
we weren't planning to sail for six weeks? Al had to go right on to
Chicago--and The Homestead--"

"We had the bridal suite on the _Mauretania!_" I heard Ruth exclaim to
Will.

"--isn't open," finished Edith. "The servants are scattered to the four
winds. I've written to them, but of course they haven't had a chance to
open things up yet. So we thought it would be fun to--"

"To pop in on you!" giggled Ruth.

"Can you put us up?" snapped Edith.

"Of course! How nice!" I tried to say cordially, with the image of
my cold, unused, north guest-room dancing before my eyes, the floor
covered with newspapers, two cut-glass punch-bowls, thirteen berry
dishes and seven vases. "_Of course_ I can put you up. Take off your
things."

Will produced two dining-room chairs and Edith and Ruth buried them
in no time beneath a stack of coats, hats and muffs. Edith was
gowned--slick as a black suede glove--in a tight-fitting, broadcloth,
one-piece dress, Irish lace at neck and wrists. Ruth's new Parisian
hair was simply glorious. They strutted into our comfortable
living-room like two peacocks, Edith surveying the walls and ceilings
as if she were examining the dome of the Boston State-house.

"So this is where you coo!" she said in her horrid patronising manner.
Imagine Dr. William Maynard of the medical department of one of the
biggest universities in the country cooing! I blushed for Will. He
pushed up a chair. It chanced to be one of Father's old morocco
leather armchairs I had found in the storeroom at home. Edith made
opera-glasses of her two hands, and pretended to gaze intently at the
poor old piece of furniture.

"Hello, old friend!" she said, and made a mock salute. "You look
familiar. Back into service again, hey? 'Comfy' anyhow!" she finished
and settled into it.

"What sort of a passage was it?" asked Will, and for the next half-hour
we listened to an account of a perfectly disgusting customs officer in
New York, who made Edith pay one hundred and ninety-five dollars on a
half-dozen mere gowns that already were simply worn to shreds.

It was when Will had gone to the kitchen for some water that Edith
leaned forward and said to me:

"How'd you happen to take _this_ house, my dear? And don't you dress
for dinner, Lucy?"

"Oh," I said, "this? It's short and I can hook it up myself."

"I just _knew_," chimed in my own sister Ruth, "that Lucy would be one
of those to get slack after she was once married. Now I've always said
that _I_--"

"I didn't know," broke in Edith in a sudden burst of laughter, "that
there were any houses left nowadays that had those funny old-fashioned
storm-doors that you hook on every winter."

"Trust Lucy to pick out the oldest shack in the town," tucked in Ruth,
touching the surface of her perfect coiffure with light fingers, and
glancing sideways at herself in an old gilt-framed mirror on the wall.

"By the way, Lucy," Edith added, piling it on, I thought, a bit too
thick, "people aren't using doilies under ornaments any more. Where are
all those stunning plateaus?"

"Dear me," I laughed, bound to be good-natured, "I'd completely
forgotten the plateaus. They must be in one of the barrels we haven't
opened."

"Haven't opened! I _never_ saw any one like you. Haven't opened! It
certainly is a good thing that I've come home."

It was with a sinking heart that I took Edith and Ruth up to the
guest-room in which I had put one of Will's black walnut bedroom sets.

"If I'd only known you were coming!" I began going up the stairs trying
to explain. "The bureau is chuck-full of silver things--we ought to
have a safe. And the closet--all my good dresses are there. We have
so little closet-room in this house. In the morning I'll clear it
out. I know you'd like separate beds too, but when Will's things were
all unpacked there wasn't room for much new furniture. And I'm sorry,
Edith, that you haven't a bath connected. We have only one bathroom in
the entire house and even that--"

Edith wouldn't let me finish. We were in the guest-room now. Her eyes
were on the cut-glass in the corner.

"I ought never to have gone to Europe," she announced. "Never in this
world!"

I wished she had never come home, and when I kissed her good-night,
all the old rancour and rebellion, dormant for so long, was raging in
my heart. I stole downstairs after I was undressed, pulled out Edith's
silver service from underneath the stairs and put it on the sideboard;
I unlocked Edith's chest of silver, and began laying the breakfast
table with the horns-of-plenty; I dragged out some elaborate breakfast
napkins; I hauled down from the top shelf of the pantry a Coalport
breakfast-set. At one A. M., when I was crawling back stealthily to our
room, I had to pass the guest-chamber door. I heard voices, and stopped
a moment.

"It's human nature for a man, single or married, to prefer a woman in
pretty clothes, whoever she is," said Edith.

"Of course," Ruth agreed. "When she came in to say good-night did you
see the horrid old red worsted bedroom slippers she had on?"

"And moreover," Edith went on, "a man likes an attractive house--pretty
pictures, pretty ornaments, a place where he is proud to bring his
friends."

"Naturally."

"A man likes to be proud of his wife too," went on the sage, "proud
of her friends, of her place in society. Now Lucy--absolutely _no_
social-sense--not a spark. No doubt, if she's made any friends at all,
they're the grocery-man and the seamstress, or the woman who washes her
hair."

Ruth giggled.

"Now _you_, Ruth," Edith pursued, "are a girl after my own heart.
_You_ are the kind to be the wife of a famous man. _You_ could be Mrs.
William Maynard with the right sort of go."

I had to smile at the thought of Ruth and Will. Will hates false
things--puffs and brilliantine; he hates fluffy negligees, and silly,
high-heeled unwalkable shoes; he hates fuss and feathers. I passed on
down the hall.

"It will take more than Edith Campbell and my young sister Ruth to
disturb me, I guess," I said to myself as I turned out several flaring
gas-jets in the hall and bathroom, left by those two extravagant
creatures to burn all night.

Edith awoke the next morning armoured for battle. I could see it in her
eyes and feel it in her manner. I knew it was to be no slight skirmish,
but a well-thought-out and carefully-planned campaign. I knew it was
to be a serious engagement because neither she nor Ruth criticised a
single thing for the next two days. If they were shocked and surprised,
I knew it only by raised eyebrows, critical smiles or covert glances.
I hated their silence. I felt as if the entire foundation of my life
was stealthily being honeycombed with tunnels, laid with bombs and
dynamite, and I wondered a little uncomfortably when Edith would light
the fuse. Edith is wonderful in some ways, as you know. At a hotel or
on a steamer she catches on to the right people to know within the
first twenty-four hours, and by the third day she's playing bridge with
them. As soon as ever her half-dozen pieces of baggage had arrived, she
donned a Paquin three-piece velvet suit and set out to call on Mrs.
Percival. That night the explosion took place.

"I called on Mrs. Percival this afternoon," she began after dinner.
"She says, Lucy, that you never returned her call."

Will had gone to a lecture that evening. Ruth was playing solitaire in
front of the fire.

"Has Mrs. Percival called on me? I didn't realise it," I replied.

"Not only has Mrs. Percival called, but every one else who should.
That impossible servant of yours said that all these people had
called." Edith took down the brass jardinière where I deposit all my
visiting-cards. "She said that you were never in afternoons and had not
seen _one_ of them. Where under the heavens were you, Lucy?"

I felt ashamed to tell Edith about the lectures, so I said instead:

"Oh, anywhere--walking, shopping--_anywhere_. I never stay in
afternoons. I can't bear to."

"How many of those calls have you returned?" cross-examined my
sister-in-law.

"Well--I am _going_ to return them all," I began. "They're such
strangers to me that I've been putting it off. You know how I hate
making calls anyway. But of course--"

Edith interrupted me.

"_The_ people in this town are the ones connected with the university.
I have always heard that. You've had every opportunity to know them.
They've all called on account of Will. You've simply thrown away chance
upon chance. Here are the Philemon Omsteds' cards. Mrs. Percival says
that Dr. Omsted is awfully queer--kind of a socialist--but that Mrs.
Omsted's musicales are the selectest things given. Here are Mrs. Daniel
Haynes McClellan's cards, the Bernkapps, Madame Gauthier. I found out
from Mrs. Percival, indirectly of course, that all these people are
_in_ things. Mrs. Benedict Graham--even _she_ has called on you. And
Mrs. Percival says that _she_ was a Granville--daughter of President
Emeritus Granville. Dr. Graham is an awfully prominent man himself.
Surely you've heard of Benedict Graham, Lucy. Surely--"

"Of course!" I interrupted. "Every one has, Edith, and I'm reading his
book, but I'd be frightened to death to go up and pull the Benedict
Grahams' bell. I couldn't!"

"You ought to be married to a clerk or a barber, and then you wouldn't
need to. I should hate to think I had married a man whom I couldn't
live up to. Every one has heard of Will. He has been talked about all
over the country. But what about his wife? Who is she?" Edith's words
were beginning to cut now and I bit my lip. "There was a tea this very
afternoon to which Mrs. William Maynard ought to have been invited.
Were you?"

I shook my head.

"Of course you weren't, nor last week to a musicale that Mrs. Omsted
gave, and I'll bet you had nothing whatsoever to do with the Charity
Bazaar that the younger women in the university set get up every
Christmas. Do you think a man wants to be married to a person who is
not received--absolutely ignored, as if something was the matter with
her? Whom in the world do you know here, anyway? Any one at all?"

Pictures of the little man with the soft tie, the dear white-haired
old gentleman whose name I did not even know, and Miss Avery, all
impossible I knew to Edith, flashed before my eyes. So I shook my head
and Edith went on.

"And the house--it's simply impossible! Such a location! Why, no one
lives in this part of town. You would think that Will couldn't afford
anything better, but he can. You ought to have two maids. And why under
the heavens all this old furniture? People don't use black walnut any
more, and that old narrow, square dining-room table is simply beyond
words!"

"And you have no butler's pantry nor back stairs," put in Ruth.

"And you ought to make your maid wear black afternoons."

"And turn down the beds," added Ruth.

"It's _my_ house," I began. "If you don't like it--" I got up quickly
and started to leave the room.

"Oh, come, Bobbikins," Edith said in her persistently cheerful way.
"Don't get cross. I was only trying to be helpful." Then she went on:
"I found this on the floor, by your desk. I couldn't help but see it.
It's an invitation for dinner from Mrs. Benedict Graham. I can't
understand why she invites you if you've never returned her call, but
of course it's on account of Will. I can't imagine your not accepting
this invitation and yet I heard you say that next Thursday, the sixth,
the very evening of this dinner, you and Will had tickets for the
theatre."

"Yes, we've been planning to go on that particular night for three
weeks. It's a little secret anniversary of ours," I said sullenly; "and
we're going too. Why should you, Edith, come here and try to upset the
whole universe? We're happy. Will is satisfied. He loves things simple.
I wish you'd leave us alone. Will doesn't care a scrap about society,
and I hate it, hate it, hate it!" I was on the verge of bursting into
tears.

"Well, if there's going to be a scene, excuse _me_, please," said Ruth,
and started to leave the room.

"If you're through with that card-table, please fold it up and put it
in the closet," I said to Ruth with my eyes full of fire. "I haven't
got six servants."

"Whew!" whistled Ruth and began gathering up her cards.

"I should think," calmly went on Edith like a repeating alarm-clock,
"you'd like your husband to be _proud_ of you."

"Oh, please--please--" I fired back, and then suddenly, too full to
speak, I turned abruptly and fled up the stairs to my room.

The sweet darkness enveloped me. I drew a chair to the window. _Will_
would ask her to mind her own affairs; _Will_ would talk to her; _Will_
would tell her how he hated her mean ambitions, how he abhorred her
contemptible snobbishness; _Will_ would defend and stand up for me;
_Will_ would fix her! "Just wait for _Will_!" I said, and listened for
his step on the sidewalk outside and the sound of his key in the latch.
I heard him come in about half past ten. It was almost twelve when he
came up to me.

"Not in bed?" he asked gently and leaned down and kissed me. "Edith was
downstairs when I came in and we've been talking. I don't know but what
we ought to keep two maids, Bobbie dear," Will said, and I felt as if
I had been struck. Will went over and lit the gas. "I guess we might
as well postpone our theatre party for next Thursday," he went on. "I
think, after all, we'd better go to the Grahams' dinner. By the way,"
he broke off, "didn't you get an invitation to the Omsteds' affair last
week?"

"No, Will, I didn't," I said dully.

"Perhaps you'll find time to pay back a few of those calls some time
pretty soon, Bobbie dear," he said to me. And that morning about four
A. M. I cried myself to sleep.

Edith went to the dinner too. She had Will telephone and fix it up
someway. I don't know how nor I didn't ask. I was very miserable,
very unhappy. My heart was heavier than it had been for a whole year.
"Will wasn't satisfied, Will wasn't proud, Will was ashamed of me,"
rang in my ears from morning till night. During the few days that
still must be lived before Thursday the sixth at seven o'clock, Edith
exhibited the usual kindness and gentle consideration of any victor
over the vanquished. I didn't make another plea. I was as resigned as
a fatalist, and as unmurmuring as a stoic. I wrote my acceptance at
Edith's dictation without a word, and silently fought the tears that
came to my eyes, as I sealed the envelope.

"O Bobbie," said Will gently, "don't worry so about it, dear. You
weren't so frightened about your own wedding."

"Exactly," said Edith. "And I've had dinners at The Homestead just as
grand as this. You're simply out of training. People won't notice you
so much as you think anyhow. Just act slowly, and don't try to talk.
That's all. _I'll_ be there and you can 'lean on me, grandpa.' _You'll_
be all right," she assured me grandly.

I couldn't explain to Will and Edith how I felt about that dinner at
the Grahams'. They wouldn't understand. Of course I had been to Edith's
parties at The Homestead, but then I was simply Lucy Vars; and now I
was Mrs. William Ford Maynard. Everybody in Hilton had accepted Lucy
Vars long ago as a queer, quiet sort of shy little mouse, and treated
her as such. She was used to it. But here, no one had as yet discovered
Mrs. William Ford Maynard. She had been living for six, beautiful,
unmolested months in idyllic secretion. But she had been run down at
last, she must give herself up like a hunted convict, and by Thursday
at midnight all of Dr. Maynard's learned associates would know just
what sort of insignificant little person he had married. Oh, if only
for Will's sake I had been born clever and brilliant; if only I had
possessed a little of Edith's style; Ruth's _savoir faire_. Do you
wonder then, that I trembled in anticipation of this occasion? Ruth's
coming-out party, my wedding, a dozen dinners of Edith's, were as
doll's tea-parties as compared to this, when Mrs. William Ford Maynard
must come forth from her hiding-place and meet this test of a searching
inspection.

I shall never forget the faint, sickening feeling inside of me as
we stood waiting for admittance before the big colonial house. We
must have been the last ones to arrive. A babble of voices in the
drawing-room at the left greeted us as we entered. We walked up the
old colonial stairway, and into a big bedroom at the top with a black
walnut bedroom set. I noticed that even in my fright.

"Mercy, child, don't take off your gloves," whispered Edith to me.

"I _hate_ them," I said, and ripped my arms bare. I wore a light
blue silk dress with a Dutch neck, in spite of Edith in her low-cut
ball-gown plastered over with glittering black spangles. My hair was
done in its usual everyday knot at the back of my neck, bobbed up in
the last five minutes after Ruth's sixth attempt at dressing it in the
"new way." Edith looked like a fashion-plate: she had a perfect figure;
her neck is marvellous; she wore diamonds and a string of pearls.

I followed her down the stairs very carefully, lest I trip in my little
French-heeled satin slippers or lose the silly things altogether. My
heart was in my mouth. "What shall I say when I am introduced? What
shall I say? What shall I say?" I kept thinking in a panic and watched
Edith sweep across the hall in her most impressive manner. I waited an
instant. A minute more and Will was announcing, "And this is my wife,
Mrs. Graham." My heart fluttered as it used to at parties at home.

The grand lady smiled upon me. She took my hand.

"So this is _Mrs._ William Maynard," she said. "I'm glad you could
come. We all know Dr. Maynard so well--we're so proud to have him one
of us--that I am glad to meet _you_." Was she thinking how funny and
young I looked? Was she saying "What a strange little insignificant bit
of thing indeed for such a man as William Maynard!" I wished, after
all, I had had my hair marcelled.

"I want Dr. Graham to meet you," my hostess continued and, leaning
over, touched the great philosopher on the shoulder with her fan. He
was talking to Edith. "Benedict, my dear." He turned. "Mrs. Maynard!"

I trembled in my shoes and raised my eyes.

"You!" I gasped and stepped back. Dr. Benedict Graham--_the_ Dr.
Benedict Graham--was no other than my dear sweet old white-haired
gentleman of the philosophical lectures! His hands went out to me--both
of them--and gathered my ten cold trembling fingers in his warm grasp.

"You?" he repeated with the sweet light of recognition in his eyes.
"You! _Pandora!_ Julia," he said to Mrs. Graham, "Mrs. Maynard is
Pandora of whom I have told you, my little friend who takes a walk
with me every week. Well--well," he chuckled. "Well--well." Then to
astonished Will he exclaimed, "Your wife and I are old friends," and
oh, I could have kissed him!

The colour rushed back into my cheeks. My hand was in Mrs. Graham's
again, and when I looked around the room I found I stood in a little
circle--every one's eyes, like the lights, upon me. It was like a
surprise-party, or a fairy story, or some trick worked by a skilful
magician. First my eyes fell upon Dr. Van Breeze; and then, in a flash,
on Monsieur Gauthier, who gave the French lectures; and suddenly coming
toward me was the funny little man with the soft wide tie. He wore it
even to-night. He took my hand cordially and Will exclaimed, "Do you
know her too, Mr. Omsted?"

It all happened in a minute. I can't tell it quickly enough. "She has
read one of my books from cover to cover," I heard Dr. Graham laugh,
eyes twinkling into mine; and I think it was just after that remark
of Dr. Graham's that Monsieur Gauthier stepped forward and bowing
before me in the dearest, Frenchiest manner in the world, said in his
own language with every one listening, "I have never been presented
to Mrs. Maynard, but if I am not mistaken I think I have observed her
face at my Monday afternoon lectures. Is it not so? Always the same
chair--third from the back, two removed from the aisle--always the
same. It has been a pleasure to see you there each week."

I understood every word. I didn't lose a phrase. The warmth, the light,
those words in French, everybody's eyes upon me acted like just enough
champagne.

"_Merci, Monsieur_," I dared to say and swept him a little bow. I can
hear now my voice and those two little French words falling upon the
silence of that room like a noise on a still night. I don't know how
I ever presumed to speak in French. I would have thought it affected
in any one else, but at that exultant moment I could have mimicked
Chinese. Two words in a foreign language I know should not be very
amazing (any one could do it) but I could feel a little murmur pass
among the people after I had spoken that was something--a little--like
the applause at the theatre. A moment later the talking began again;
I was being introduced at left and right; my own voice and laughter
mingled with the general babble. It was exactly as though I had taken
my plunge, come safely to the surface and now was swimming along with
long even strokes with the others for the shore. Edith looked at me
astonished. Will observed me as though I were a stranger. Easy words
came to my lips, my cheeks burned, and every one was so kind--so good
to me, that I forgot my dress, my hair and my French-heeled shoes.

I don't mean to imply that I was the belle of the evening. Of course I
wasn't. It would be absurd for a mere slip of a girl, married though
she was, to come among learned men and sages and have them all turning
their attention and thought upon her. Even if she had been pretty,
and skilful in the art of smiles and glances, which I am not, such an
event would be amazing. I only mean to say that I didn't feel awkward
nor wonder where to put my hands between the courses. I was placed at
the left of Dr. Graham and felt as easy as if I were sitting beside
my own father. The dinner, it seemed, was in honour of Dr. Van Breeze
on account of his book about to be published, consisting of the very
lectures he had been delivering in Tyler Hall. The talk centred about
the book a good deal and though I didn't contribute a single idea to
the conversation I understood perfectly what was being discussed. But
I do not think Edith enjoyed herself. She was over-jewelled, in the
first place, and kept running on to Dr. Omsted, who, you know, is a
kind of socialist, about the gorgeous bridal suite on the _Mauretania_,
the one hundred and ninety-two dollars duty she had to pay, and of
how she smuggled in a thousand-dollar pearl necklace, until I was
embarrassed.

We went home about ten-thirty. Just at the door as we were going out
Mrs. Philemon Omsted stopped me. Will had me by the arm. Edith was just
in front.

"Mrs. Maynard," she said to me, "just a moment, please. I have been
very glad to meet you. And, by the way, Easter Monday I am giving a
small musicale. Mrs. Graham is to pour for me. I should be delighted if
you will assist."

I thanked her quietly (but oh, in my heart I could have crowned her
with flowers) and passed out to our hired carriage.

I sat in the middle between Edith and Will. We drove away in silence,
my heart singing, and my cheeks warm with excitement. Will pressed my
arm with his bare hand hidden underneath the folds of my party-coat. I
could feel his joy. It was Edith who spoke first.

"What a miserable stuffy little carriage," she said; then after a
moment, "Those people may have brains, but I don't think I ever saw
such a lot of frumpily dressed women in my life."

Will leaned forward then, and said playfully, but with a queer little
sure sound in his voice, "What was your impression of Mrs. William
Maynard?"

"Of Bobbie?" Edith asked raising her eyebrows, disgusted with Will's
little streak of fun.

"Of Mrs. William Maynard," he corrected; then in a low voice he added,
"Of Mrs. William Maynard, of whom I am so proud!" and I had to draw
away my hand to wipe away two silly tears.



CHAPTER XVIII


It used to be a source of great anxiety to Father that none of his
children was married. He had a notion that the only way to make a
family name a strong one was by increase. When Tom and Alec were
scarcely out of college and the twins were still in short trousers,
Father announced that he was going to present to the first grandson
bearing the name of Vars, a check for three thousand dollars. We
treated it a good deal as a joke then and used to poke a lot of fun at
the boys about it. That was a long time ago--before Father died--and
when we found the same offer written out in plain black and white in
Father's will we were a little surprised and a little touched too,
realising how dreadfully in earnest the poor dear man must have been
about it, and how disappointed. According to his instructions, however,
the three thousand dollars was put away at interest to await the coming
of the first Vars heir.

At the beginning of this chapter three of us were married--though of
course I didn't count, being a girl--and still the three thousand
dollars remained unclaimed. Poor unlucky Elise had had four girls,
and Edith hadn't had a baby of any kind. However, we all knew if ever
such an event should take place in Edith's career it would be the most
important occasion in the entire annals of the family. And we weren't
mistaken. Edith had been married several years when the wonderful
preparations were begun. One would have thought she was the Queen
of Holland. Everybody in Hilton seemed to vie one with another in
embroidering tiny martingales, knitting worsted blankets, or scalloping
flannel shawls for Edith Vars' baby. The nursery that she had had built
on the sunny side of Father's house four years before fairly bloomed
into pink and white equipment. You had only to spend a half-hour there
to discover what a popular person Edith was and what a select place
in society she had at last attained. She was more than accommodating
about telling from whom each little gift had come. For instance the
superb baby-dress with Irish insertion Mrs. Alfred Sturtevant brought
over herself yesterday; the elaborate hand-embroidered bassinette
sheets were from Mrs. Barlow--_the_ Mrs. Barlow, you understand; the
silk puffs, silk socks, silk caps from Beatrice, Phyllis and Bernice.
A hand-made, finely-worked Christening dress of Alec's, proving the
family's prosperity thirty-five years ago (Edith herself had risen from
the sod, you know; you may be sure _her_ Christening dress wasn't on
exhibition) had been rooted out of an old trunk in the storeroom. The
most expensive "Specialist" within reach had been engaged, and a nurse
from Boston was to remain for four months at the rate of twenty-five a
week. You could trust Edith to do the thing up in the proper style; you
could trust her also to carry away that three thousand dollars premium
in Father's will. She felt cock-sure of it herself. Things had always
come her way, hadn't they? _She_ never did the ignominious thing, did
she? Poor Elise and her four little girls she had always held in the
lowest esteem. Fate simply wouldn't allow Edith Vars' baby to be a
girl. Every one said so. Even I was convinced.

Alec treated Edith as if she were the centre of the universe. When
the shocking news about Oliver reached us, Alec's chief concern was
in regard to the effect of the news upon poor Edith. It was two years
after that first dinner of ours at Dr. Graham's that the knowledge of
my brother Oliver's latest escapade reached me one morning in early
April.

I was diligently dusting the black walnut bookcases in our sunny
living-room. I sat down in the nearest chair at hand, perfectly stunned
for a moment, my jaw hanging open, no doubt, and read through the
letter containing the fatal news at least three times before I had the
strength to get up. The first thing I did was to hang up the square
piece of hem-stitched cheese-cloth at the head of the cellar stairs;
then I went and hunted up a time-table. There was a train due to leave
for Hilton at eleven-ten. Will had left early that morning, for he had
a nine o'clock recitation, so he wasn't at home when Alec's letter
came. But I knew that nothing less than a death in the family could
drag him away from his precious clinic the next day, so I hurried off
for the train alone. I stuck a note of explanation into the dish of
ferns on the middle of the dining-room table:

  "_Dear Will_,

  "I've had a letter from Alec. Oliver was married to a Madge Tompkins
  in February! He's bringing her to Hilton to-night. This is all I know
  about it. Will try to be back before Sunday.

                                                  "BOBBIE."

During the last half-year Oliver had been superintending a gang of
granite workers in a little town in Vermont. City life hadn't seemed
to agree with Oliver's purse very well, and the diversions of the
several middle-western cities, in each of which Oliver had made a great
hit with all the nicest girls and their mothers, had interfered with
his business hours. It was after he had tried six or seven positions,
starting with banking in Pittsburg, and ending up with shipping
automobile tires in Akron, Ohio, that Tom and Alec deposited Oliver,
with scarcely a cent to his name, in Glennings Falls, Vermont, where
the possibilities for spending money were rather limited.

Poor Oliver! I felt awfully sorry for him. He's such a
brilliant-appearing fellow! It seemed to me as if he had struck an
awfully hard run of luck since he graduated from college. He really
is a civil engineer, but fate has swerved him into other lines, which
I think is the cause of his checkered career. He always loved to
build bridges and dams and toy railroads even as a small boy. After
he finally succeeded in squeezing through college he conceived a
foolish notion--foolish according to Tom--to take a course in Civil
Engineering at Cornell. Of course he didn't have anything else to
study--no bugbears like English Composition, Latin or Greek, so perhaps
that is why he did so well in the Engineering. Anyhow he passed the
examinations with some kind of an honour--the only one, poor boy, that
he had ever been able to boast of in his life. Tom, who had pooh-poohed
the idea of Oliver's wasting a year at Cornell, finally gave up his
plan of putting the boy to work in his lumber camps, and Oliver started
forth, hopes high and spirits aglow, to accept an engineering job
in Arizona. On the way out, at Pittsburg, he stopped off to visit an
old college friend for a fortnight, and at the end of the first week
he wrote that he had struck a "gold mine." His friend's father was
prominently connected with half a dozen banks in Pittsburg and had
offered him a position. I could have told the friend's father that
Oliver would never make a banker, but he found it out himself in a
little while.

After Oliver left Pittsburg everything went wrong with him. No civil
engineering jobs presented themselves, no more friends' fathers, no
more "gold mines" seemed to be available. After that Oliver became a
regular rolling-stone. He couldn't seem to keep any of his positions,
or he wouldn't, I don't know which. He tried everything. It was
manufacturing automobile parts in Toledo; selling motorcycles in
Buffalo; making out orders for plumbers' supplies in Cleveland. He
fizzled miserably each time. He never had any money. He was forever
sending to Tom or Alec for a check for fifty until his salary was due.
He was forever running down to New York or over to Chicago for a class
reunion or a dance. He was forever writing to me vivid descriptions of
new "queens" he had met.

It was when Tom and Alec had to pay fourteen hundred and fifty dollars
for a "swell" little last season's roadster that Oliver had secured at
a wonderful bargain from a friend of his in Akron (this was when he was
a shipping clerk in a tire factory) and in which he had been sporting
about through the streets of the place at a speed of thirty an hour,
that he was summoned to the court of his older brothers, and after due
consultation was sent up to Glennings Falls, like a convict, to work in
the mines. His roadster was sold at a terrible sacrifice, he said, and
that fact seemed at the time to be his greatest regret.

I could have cried for Oliver. There would be no "queens" in Glennings
Falls; there would be no Sunday-night Lobster-Newbergs over a
chafing-dish; there would be no stunning "visiting girls" whom he met
at Class-Day or in Pittsburg when he was there, or in Toledo, Cleveland
or Buffalo, for him to call on until eleven P.M.

When I arrived in Hilton, Alec was at the station in the automobile
to meet me (I had had just time to 'phone him that I was coming) and
Tom who had come flying on from the West the minute Alec's shocking
telegram had reached him was there too. Malcolm had caught the midnight
from New York and was waiting on the veranda when we ran up under the
porte-cochère. It was really a family reunion, but all the joy of
seeing each other again was buried beneath the horror and consternation
in our hearts. Oliver's act was astounding. We're not an erratic
family. We never figure in accidents or tragedies of any kind. We hate
notoriety.

"And besides all the horrid publicity of a secret marriage," said Ruth,
"Edith says the creature is too _common_ for anything." Ruth dangled
a dainty velvet pump on the tip of her toe as she made this remark.
We were gathered in the room that used to be the sitting-room, all of
us--Tom, Malcolm, Edith, Alec, Ruth and I. We had been talking for an
hour.

"Common!" took up Edith. "She's absolutely impossible, I tell you!
We stopped off to see Oliver for an hour on our way to the Green
Mountains," she explained to me, "last fall, in the automobile. He
didn't know we were coming. It was Sunday and he had some dreadful
little frowzy-headed creature in tow, I'm sure her name was
Tompkins--silly, simpering little thing--perfectly enormous pompadour
and a cheap Hamburg open-work lingerie waist, over bright pink--oh,
horribly cheap! I can't begin to tell you!"

"Well--well--we must try to make the best of it," said Tom lightly.

"Best of it!" scoffed Edith. "Well, if Oliver thinks for one minute
that I am going to throw open my house to his precious Madge
Tompkins he's greatly mistaken. Ruth is having a large bridge party
Thursday--ten tables. This affair has simply got to be kept quiet
until after that. Breck Sewall is coming up from New York to spend
Sunday. You all know he's paying marked attention to Ruth, and the
Sewalls--Heavens!--they're particular to a degree! Oh, we mustn't let a
single word of this miserable affair leak out--not a single word! Oh,
when I think of it, I just want--"

"Come, come, Edith," interrupted Alec. "Gently, dear. Gently, you know."

"Well, if any of you expect _me_," Edith went on, "to have that common
person here, I must tell you that I can't--I simply can't! I'm not in a
condition to endure it. I--"

"Now look here, dear," Alec said soothingly, "no one expects you to.
Everything will be exactly as you wish."

Oh, he would have stopped the sun from rising if Edith had requested
it. I've never witnessed such dog-devotion as Alec shows to Edith.
He can't be five minutes late to an appointment with her, without
telephoning a plausible excuse, or sending a special messenger. She has
him wonderfully trained. You ought to see him run around and put down
windows, raise shades, carry chairs or rush upstairs for her work-bag
which she forgot and left on her bureau just before dinner.

At about five o'clock that afternoon Malcolm, who had been haunting the
station all day in the hope of meeting Oliver and his companion, and
hurrying them quietly into a closed carriage as soon as possible, burst
in upon us, all excitement.

"What in the world is the matter now?" exclaimed Ruth.

"Have they come?" asked Alec.

"Has any one heard of it?" gasped Edith.

"Heard of it! It's gotten into the papers!" Malcolm announced.

Tom and Alec both got up.

"Very bad?" asked one of them, and Edith sprang forward like a cat and
snatched the paper out of Malcolm's hand.

"On the front page," said Malcolm. "Here! There it is. Oh, no one can
miss it."

"Heavens!" Edith ejaculated as her eyes fell upon the headlines.

"Read it," commanded Tom.

  "Romantic Love Affair of Oliver Chenery Vars ends in an Elopement. Son
  of William T. Vars, former President of the Vars & Co. Woollen mills
  of this City Marries his Landlady's Daughter."

She stopped short.

"Go on," said Tom in a low voice.

"Hadn't _I_ better?" suggested Alec.

But Edith continued:

  "The friends of Oliver Chenery Vars will be surprised to learn of
  his marriage to Miss Madge Tompkins of Glennings Falls, Vermont. For
  the past year young Vars has been connected with the Glennings Falls
  Granite Works, and the attachment between himself and Miss Tompkins,
  daughter of Mrs. Ebenezer Tompkins, a widow with whom he boarded, has
  been a matter of some concern to the Vars family. The news of his
  marriage, which is said to have taken place last February, comes as
  a total surprise and few particulars are known. However, it has been
  ascertained that the young lovers have been forgiven and that they
  will be the guests of the Alexander Vars at The Homestead for the
  remainder of the week. The new Mrs. Vars is but eighteen and carried
  off the blue ribbon in the Pretty Girl contest at the Glennings Falls
  Agricultural Fair last September."

"How perfectly disgusting!" broke in Ruth.

"Rotten!" muttered Malcolm.

Edith couldn't speak. The paper fluttered to the floor and Alec went
over and put her gently in a chair. Tom scowled and looked hard out of
the window. We sat in silence for a full half-minute, then Tom turned
suddenly.

"Look here," he said, "here he comes! Here Oliver comes!"

I leaned forward quickly, picked up the discarded paper and thrust it
under my elbow on the table.

Oliver was alone. I shall always remember how he looked on that spring
evening as he swung along, overcoat open and flapping in the wind,
head held high and brow smooth and cloudless. His step was as sure and
firm as when he joined us all after he had received his diploma on his
graduation day at college. My heart went out to him--poor Oliver always
getting into trouble, gifted and talented in a way (he can sing like an
angel) awfully good-looking and lovable (he has friends everywhere),
poor Oliver--what would become of him? I heard his step on the veranda,
and a minute later he was standing, six feet high, smiling and
confident in the door of the library. There is something irresistible
about Oliver's smile. If he had only looked at me I should have smiled
back, but his eyes rested on Tom.

"Hello, everybody!" he said. "Hello, Tom! Mighty good of _you_ to come
way on East. Well, well," he glanced swiftly around the room, "all
here, aren't you?" Then he added, "Well, what do you think?"

"Seen the paper?" inquired Tom.

"Is it in the paper?" asked Oliver, and Malcolm pulled the horrible
thing from beneath my elbow and thrust it into Oliver's hands. I
watched Oliver closely. I saw the slow, dark colour spread over his
face and across that cloudless brow of his. I saw his eyes travel once
through the article and then go back and retrace each painful word of
it again. When he had satisfied himself he laid the paper down and
looked up.

"Well, it's true," he said, and six pairs of eyes glowered upon him.

"What explanation have you for this--step of yours?" asked Tom.

Oliver's confidence fell away a little. He picked off a bit of lint
from the sleeve of his coat.

"Oh, why hash the whole thing over?" he said. "I'm married all right.
What's the use--of course I'm sorry it is in the paper."

"Sorry!" sniffed Ruth.

"But _I_ didn't let it out. Hang it all," he broke off, "you bury me in
a hole like that--she was the only girl worth looking at. _I_ didn't
want to go to Glennings Falls. It was _your_ plan."

"You had had six other positions before we resorted to Glennings
Falls," fired Alec.

Oliver flushed.

"Oh, well--if you've all made up your minds to be disagreeable! I left
Madge at the station to come up in a carriage," he explained. "She'll
be here in five minutes. I hope at least you'll be decent to _her_."

"Decent to _her_, Oliver Vars!" Edith had found her voice, "I guess you
better begin and think how _you_ can be decent to _us_. Do you know
what you've done? You've simply ruined our reputations and just when
Breck Sewall--oh, you've disgraced us all! I shall never want to hold
up my head again, and Ruth has invitations out for a big bridge. Madge
Tompkins! Don't ask _me_ to be decent to _her_. She'll never spend a
night under _this_ roof as long as _I_ live. Oh, I've seen her--common
little--"

"Be careful," shot back Oliver, flushed and angry now. "Madge's father
was a minister, an educated gentleman, when yours at that period of his
career was collecting scrap iron and junk from people's back yards!"

Edith grew red. The early life of her iron-king father had always been
a sore point with her. I don't know what she would have done; perhaps
literally have scratched Oliver's eyes out, if Tom hadn't interrupted.

"Oh, come. None of this," he said. "Oliver, you were hasty in what you
said; and, Edith, let us see the young lady before we pass judgment on
her. I think she's coming. At least here is a carriage."

It was very touching to me when Oliver went down to the carriage at
the curbing and helped out the girl whom of all the hundreds (for
Oliver could have had almost any one: Women adored him) he had chosen
to honour the most highly. She was short and a little shabby with a
sort of cheap flashiness that you could see a hundred yards away. I
knew particular, fastidious Oliver must feel a little ashamed of the
wrinkled checked suit she wore, the big-figured gaudy lace veil over
her hat, the dingy white ostrich plumes. I felt very sorry for Oliver
when at the library door she stepped back to let him enter, and he said
gently, "_You_ first, Madge." She stumbled in smiling and confused.
She really was rather impossible: pretty in a way, but oh, miles and
miles away from everything that is essential to a good taste and good
manners. She wore white kid gloves and patent-leather slippers that
pinched her feet. There was a celluloid comb in the back of her hair
with rhinestones in it.

"Well, here they are, Madge!" said Oliver heartily.

Her first words jarred us.

"I guess we surprised you some," she laughed.

"Well--it was unexpected," said Tom finally.

She giggled at that; then she asked, trying to appear at ease, "Well,
aren't you going to introduce me around, Oliver?"

It was very painful. She gave her fingers to us in a ridiculous
fashion. "Pleased to meet you!" she said like a machine after each
name, and then after I, the last one, had dropped her hand, in a moment
of deep confusion she remarked, glancing around the room, "Oh, my, I
think your house is just grand!"

Malcolm coughed; Oliver flushed.

"Did you have a long trip?" I asked.

"Just dreadful," she replied eagerly. "The dirt was something awful. We
came up in a parlour-car. I just love parlour-cars! We've been staying
at an elegant hotel in New York."

"Sit down, won't you?" said Malcolm kindly. He pushed up a chair and
she glanced at him archly.

"Thank you ever so much!" Then she added coyly, and my heart bled
for her poor pitiful attempt, "I know _you_. _You're_ Malcolm. I was
awfully gone on your photo once." She giggled again. Alec took out a
large white handkerchief and wiped his brow. Malcolm shifted uneasily
to his other foot, and she added confidentially, "It was something
awful the way it used to make Oliver jealous."

At that moment Edith swept up before her. "I think I met you once," she
began loftily.

"I remember," said Madge. "You came through in a big auto. My, but I
thought Oliver had some stylish folks!"

"I'm extremely sorry that our rooms are all filled to-night," went on
Edith grandly, "and that it will be impossible for me to ask you to
remain."

Madge reddened. "I wouldn't trouble you for anything," she apologised.

"No," said Oliver and his voice shook with scorn, "we wouldn't trouble
you. Madge, please wait for me a moment on the veranda." She looked
up frightened. "Yes," he said, and she rose and without a word walked
out of the room. Oliver closed the door. He was red in the face with
indignation.

"Thank you all for your kindness," he said very scathingly; "I'm sure
I'm very grateful. If this is what it means to be a member of a family,
let me be free of it."

Tom got up. "Well--" he drawled, "if you can get along without us, why
we--"

"Very well," retorted Oliver. "Very well, if that's your answer. I've
thrown up the charming job at Glennings Falls anyway. I'm not so
everlasting dependent as you have an idea. I'm off, and thank heaven!
It's too bad if I've interrupted Ruth's bridge party. It's really too
bad. I'm through with the whole lot of you. I'm through!" He turned.
The door slammed. The room trembled to the very ceiling and a gust of
wind snatched a pile of loose papers on the table and whirled them on
to the floor. We heard the angry bang of the outer door and Oliver had
gone.

That evening I wired to Will: "_Three of us will arrive to-night.
Bobbie._"



CHAPTER XIX


The minute I heard Oliver explode out of that house of ours, and swing
down the street--proud, angry, indignant, with that ridiculous little
creature running on behind--I felt that he was headed straight to
unhappiness and disaster. I understand Oliver pretty well, and knew
that he saw, as plainly as any of us, all the crude rough corners of
the little country girl, to whom he had been attracted, and married in
some mad impulsive moment. After listening for half an hour to a lot of
plagiarisms from Tom and Alec such as, "He must paddle his own canoe,"
"Experience is the best teacher," etc., I slipped out of the house and
down to the station.

I told Will about it late that night.

"I found them sitting on a bench in the waiting-room. They weren't
speaking. She had been crying. Oliver was glum and very silent. I think
he was feeling awfully sorry that he had married her--I do really--and
I don't know whether I felt sorrier for him or for her. So right then
and there I decided to bring them home with me. We _must_ do something,
Will. We _must_. I finally wormed it out of Oliver that he was down to
his very last one hundred dollars and not a single thing in sight. I
know as well as you that Madge is a difficult proposition, but we've
got to have her for a sister-in-law whether we like it or not. I know
that our reputations are all tangled up in this thing, but a snarl will
never get untangled unless somebody begins to pick it apart. Will, I'm
so glad that you have got a mind that is concerned with the ailments
of guinea-pigs rather than society and what people think. For you see,
dear, I've told Oliver that he and Madge shall stay right here with us
until something turns up for Oliver to do."

"But, Bobbie, my dear girl," said Will, "have you forgotten that for
Commencement week we have invited Dr. Merrill, who is to receive an
honorary degree, and his wife to be our guests?"

"No, Will dear, I haven't forgotten it, nor that I was giving my first
really-truly little dinner next Wednesday; but I know that Oliver is
my own brother and that I've simply got to stand by him and see him
through."

Three days later I received a scathing letter from Edith:

  "I suppose that you are posing as the Good Samaritan. We all think you
  acted very unwisely and not at all for Oliver's best good. You may be
  interested to know that the doctor says he wouldn't have allowed me
  to keep the girl here for one minute. I am still in bed, as it is,
  from the bad effects of the shock of the whole affair. I made Alec
  write something for the paper yesterday, denying the report that we
  were entertaining the couple here. On the contrary I have let it be
  known that I do not intend to recognise the new Mrs. Vars at all. It
  is the only safe policy. If you want to know _my_ opinion, _I_ think
  you are extremely foolish to have taken that girl into your house for
  one night even. You'll simply kill yourself socially. Remember you're
  a new member in the circle in which you are moving and will be known
  and judged by the friends and connections you have. It's a shame when
  you've just got started on the right path to ruin your chances, and
  Will's too. However, it's your affair. Do as you please."

"Oh, thanks," I said and stuffed the charming epistle into the kitchen
stove.

My real difficulty however lay with Madge herself. The poor deluded
girl had been brought up to believe that she was irresistibly charming.
There hadn't been a prettier girl than she in Glennings Falls. She
could boast of more "best young men," as she called them, than any girl
I ever knew. Four young aspirants, before Oliver had appeared, had
proposed to her, and she was only nineteen. Her father, a man of enough
education to be a minister, had died of consumption, when Madge was a
baby. Since then, she and her mother had managed to make a living by
boarding some of the foremen and superintendents at the quarries. They
had always had the distinction of entertaining the owner of the granite
works whenever he came to Glennings Falls for a yearly inspection.
It was he who had procured a position for Madge "to wait on table"
summertimes at one of the big mountain hotels. There she had picked up
a great many ideas on style and fashion, and copied them now in cheap
exaggerated imitation.

The first evening after her trunk arrived at our house, she appeared
decked out in a fearful display of lace and flashy finery, redolent
with cologne, and manners that matched her clothes. She talked
incessantly. Her lace and perfumery seemed to give her confidence.
She discoursed volubly on New York, and aired her newly-acquired
knowledge of hotel life in a way that was pitiable. Even Will, quiet
and dignified, failed to impress Madge. All the scientific knowledge in
the world could not awe the little village coquette into silence. She
even dangled her ear-rings at solemn old Will and tried to flirt with
him. It was not Madge who appeared ill-at-ease; it was the rest of us
who squirmed in our boots, blushed at her mistakes, coughed, gulped
down desperate swallows of water to cover our confusion. She was quite
unconscious of the horrible burlesque she was playing. As the days
went on, the more silent the rest of us became, the more she prattled.
The more we failed to appreciate her loveliness and wit, the more
toggery she pulled out of her trunk and exhibited for our benefit, the
crimpier grew her hair, the higher, if possible, became her pompadour,
the noisier her laughter. Once I humbly suggested that she leave off
her ear-rings on a certain occasion when we were going shopping. She
treated my interference with utter scorn, and appeared half an hour
later ready to accompany me to the market, with two large pearls
screwed securely into the lobe of each ear. "Every one wears them in
New York," she announced.

I didn't know what to do with the child. For two weeks I rose every
morning and went downstairs to a painful ordeal at breakfast; for two
weeks I saw Oliver flush and try to keep his eyes from meeting mine
when Madge opened her mouth to speak; for two weeks I saw a threatening
frown hover about Oliver's brow. I began to despair. Then suddenly, one
evening, I found my poor brother in the gloomy living-room, brooding
over an open fire. His head was in his hand, his elbow on his knee. I
hadn't spoken to Oliver directly about Madge. I didn't now. I simply
said very gently, "Want me to read aloud to you?"

"She wasn't like this at Glennings Falls," he burst out miserably, not
stirring. "I want you to know it, because, well--I suppose you wonder
why I ever was attracted to her. I wonder sometimes myself now--" He
stopped a moment, then went on, talking straight into the fire. "I used
to see a lot of her, you see. Every night and every morning. She used
to pack my lunch and bring it up to me to the grove near the works
every noon. I used to look forward to having her come--a lot. Glennings
Falls is the deadliest hole you ever struck, and well--Madge was bright
and full of fun. She isn't herself now. She wasn't like this. She was
just as natural and simple. Upon my word," he broke off, "I've seen a
lot of girls, one time and another, winners too, but somehow they none
of them took such a hold on me as Madge. I thought she'd learn quickly
enough, as soon as I got her down into civilisation, and so--anyway, I
married her. Since--Well, it's no go, that's all. It's been bully of
you to take her in, but I see clearly enough it can't work. Of course I
mean to stick to her," he went on. "_Of course._ I suppose I've simply
got to find a job out West somewhere, a long way off from everything
and every one I know or--care about, and clear out. I mean to do the
right thing." Then raising his eyes to mine he said with a queer,
forced smile, "I guess _my_ fun's all over, Bobbie."

"Oh, no, no, _no_, it isn't." I said fiercely. "Don't say that." I put
my hand on his shoulder. "No, it isn't, Oliver," and suddenly, because
I couldn't bear to see Oliver unhappy and despairing, because my voice
was trembling and there were tears in my eyes, I went quickly out of
the room and upstairs.

I was surprised on passing the guest-room to hear muffled sobs. I
stopped and listened, and then, quite sure, I abruptly knocked and
immediately opened the door. I was amazed to discover Madge face
downward on the bed in tears.

"Why, what's the matter?" I exclaimed. I had never seen anything but
arch glances in her eyes before.

"I want to go home! I want to go home! They're not ashamed of me at
home!" she wailed.

I closed the door and went over to her.

"I just hate it here, I just hate it!" she went on. "Oliver thought I
was good enough at home." She was crying all the time and each sentence
came brokenly. "Oh, I wish I'd never _heard_ of Oliver Vars," she
choked. "I've tried and tried to be like his folks but he finds fault
with every single thing I do, or wear, or say, or think, and I'm going
home. I think his people are all stuck-up, horrid old things anyway and
I just hate it, hate it, _hate it here_. Oh, go away, go away!" she
cried out at me in a torrent of sobs.

Instead I sat down beside her.

"Look here, Madge," I said sternly. "Stop talking like that. Stop it.
You can't go home. Don't you know you're married? Why, it's perfectly
absurd!"

The sobbing stopped suddenly and she lay still with her nose buried in
the down comforter. I went on talking to the cheap rhinestone comb in
the back of her head.

"I've got something to say to you," I said, "and I want you to listen.
I've been wanting to talk to you ever since you came to this house, and
now I'm going to do it. You say Oliver finds fault with you, and let
me tell you I don't blame him a bit. He certainly has reason to. Why,
I never have run across a young lady who knew so little about things
as you do. You don't know how to do anything properly. Your clothes
are atrocious, and your manners--your self-assured manners here in my
house are inexcusable. You're only a young girl of nineteen years who
never has had any experience nor seen anything of the world. I don't
blame you, understand. It isn't your _fault_ that everything you do or
say or wear makes us all blush with shame; but it does--it does, Madge.
Why, I had to give up inviting some people here to dinner because I was
afraid of the breaks and the horrible remarks you might make before my
friends. Edith wouldn't have you in her house. That's the bald truth
of it, my dear. You might as well know how we feel. It may sound cruel
and hard, and I wouldn't say these things to Oliver's wife if she had
come here modest, unpretentious, and anxious to learn; but she didn't,
I should say she didn't! The worst ignorance in the world is that which
parades itself up and down thinking itself very grand and elegant while
all the lookers-on are laughing up their sleeves. That's what you've
been doing, Madge." I stopped a moment to give the poor girl a chance
to say something.

"Go away--go away--_go away_!" she burst out at me, turning her head
enough to let the words out into the room. "Oh, go away!"

I stood up.

"No, Madge," I replied calmly. "I shan't go away, and neither shall
you. You don't seem to know what's best for yourself, so I will tell
you. You're going to stay right here with me, and work and study and
learn. You are married to Oliver Vars and you're to make a success
of it if it kills you; and it won't kill you. You're going to make
him and the rest of us all proud of you before you get through and
I am going to help you. Do you hear me? We're going to work it out
together. You've got it in you. I know you have. I _see_ you have," I
lied. "You're a fine girl underneath. Don't you remember up there in
Glennings Falls how you used to bring Oliver his lunch at noon? He has
told me all about it--how nice you were, I mean--and how sure he was
that you would learn as soon as you came down here. Well--you're going
to begin to-night. Hereafter you'll do exactly as I say."

"Go away!" came again from the depths of the down comforter.

I ignored it entirely.

"Get up now and bathe your eyes," I said cheerfully. "Dinner will be
ready in half an hour. I want you to wear the white muslin you had on
this morning and no ear-rings. Remember," I added distinctly, going to
the door, "remember, absolutely no ear-rings to-night, please."

But Oliver and Will and I had dinner alone that evening. "She won't
come down," Oliver had announced gloomily. "She's in an awful state.
She's crying. She wants to go home," he said, and my heart sank for I
knew I had played my last card and lost.

That night Will had brought home the long-looked-for good news of a
position for Oliver. We discussed it quietly at dinner--the three of
us with Madge crying upstairs. A friend of Will's, a civil engineer,
had said that if Oliver cared to go down into South America to some
God-forsaken spot in the Argentine Republic--no place for a woman, by
the way--there was an engineering job down there waiting for somebody.
The job would take some five or six months; there might or might not be
any future--Will's friend couldn't say.

"I'll go. I'll go right off," said Oliver. "Madge is unhappy and wants
to go home anyway. I'm sure it's best. It was all a mistake," he
admitted sadly to Will, "my taking her away from Glennings Falls. I
might have known it wouldn't work." I stared hard at a saltcellar. Will
began carving the steak silently. "You can go ahead now and have your
people here for Commencement," observed Oliver; "Madge and I will both
be gone in a week. I'm relieved it's settled," he added gravely.

It was during our dessert, after Delia had taken up a tray to Madge,
that I was told that Mrs. Vars wanted me in her bedroom. I excused
myself and slipped upstairs quietly. Madge was in bed; her hair was
parted, braided neatly down her back; her tears were dried; her plain
little nightgown buttoned at her throat. I had never seen her look so
pretty. Her dinner stood beside her bed untouched.

"You wanted me?" I asked.

"Yes," she replied. "I'm not going home. I'll do anything you tell me,"
she said.

And she didn't go home. We packed Oliver off alone for South America,
the next week, and as I rode back from the station in the open car with
his slip of a wife beside me, on my hands for the next half year, I
drew my first long free breath. Oliver, I recognised, had been more of
a responsibility on my mind than Madge. My way was clear now. Lessons
could begin any day, and no one will ever know what earnestness and
determination went into the task that I had undertaken. From the
beginning I took it absolutely for granted that since our stormy talk
that evening in the guest-room our relations thereafter would be those
of scholar and teacher; my authority would be unquestioned.

I overhauled the child's entire wardrobe with the freedom and cruelty
of a customs officer. The cheap lace things I sent to the Salvation
Army. The rhinestone comb I dropped into the stove before her very
eyes. Ear-rings, jingling bracelets, glass beads, enameled brooches,
I put in a box in the storeroom. A much-treasured parasol made out of
cheap Hamburg embroidery I presented to Delia. Even Madge's toilet
accessories were somehow done away with. Her elaborate hand-mirror
with decorated porcelain back and hair-brush to match were replaced
by a set of plain white celluloid that could be scrubbed with safety
every week. The perfumery was poured down the bathroom sink. As soon
as I was able, I purchased for Madge a few plain white shirt-waists
with tailored collars, and a "three-fifty" stiff sailor hat made of
black straw. When the crimp had all been soaked out of her hair, a
wire pompadour supporter, three side-combs, eighteen hairpins, a net, a
switch that didn't match, two puffs and a velvet bow had been extracted
from her coiffure, I parted the little hair that remained and rolled
it into a bun about as big as a doughnut in the back of her neck. She
looked as shorn as a young sheep that has just been clipped. Her eyes
fairly stared out of her head. I discovered that they were large and
blue, with long lashes. Her features, unframed by the dreadful halo of
hair, were flawless--small and finely cut. After I had gotten all the
dreadful veneer off of the child she reminded me of a lovely old piece
of mahogany discovered in some old attic or other, after the several
coats of common crude paint have been scraped off and the natural grain
finally appears perfect and unharmed.

She looked on at her metamorphosis, and at the cruel ravage of her
treasures, passive and apparently indifferent. After her surrender
to me she had no spirit left. She accepted my rule with a meekness I
couldn't understand. After that night in the guest-room she became a
different creature. She dropped her little airs and affectations as
abruptly as if they were a garment that she could hang up and leave
behind her in the closet. She became dumb at our table, and with Will
actually shy and frightened. I thought her sudden change was due to
ill-temper, and I bullied the poor beaten little creature terribly. I
domineered, tyrannised, scorned and mocked. I didn't dare be tender,
for I was convinced that success lay only in complete submission. Poor
little "alone" thing--I did feel sorry for her at times! Her eyes were
often red from crying. She didn't eat very much and her cheeks grew
pale before my sight. She used to sit sometimes for an hour at a time
without saying a word, until I longed to put comforting arms about her.
When she accompanied me to the market several weeks after Oliver had
gone away--quiet, silent, subdued, Glennings Falls would never in the
world have recognised their gay sparkling little village coquette who
had had a word, a nod, and a smile ready for every one who passed.

Oliver had been gone about six weeks when Madge told me her astounding
news. I didn't know what to say to her for a moment. I was awfully
surprised. She seemed such a baby, and I suppose it always comes with a
jolt when you first realise your younger brother is actually a man. I
was amazed too that such an apparently weak little thing as Madge had
so pluckily kept her big secret to herself for so many weeks. She had
known of it before Oliver had gone away, but she hadn't liked to tell
him, she confessed. He had left her without as much as a premonition of
the truth, and it was because of what was waiting for her in the future
that she had been frightened into staying with me. She hadn't known
what else to do. I stared at her open-eyed. It was when I saw her under
lip tremble like a little child's and two tears fall splash upon her
wrist, that I put out my hand and drew her down beside me on the couch.
She leaned against me and began to cry in earnest then.

"Oh, don't, don't cry, Madge," I pleaded quietly. "Please! I'm just as
glad as I can be, dear," I said. "Everything will be all right. Don't
be afraid." But still she sobbed. "Listen; I've been wanting to tell
you for days how well you're doing--even Will remarks on it. Please,
please don't cry, Madge. Why, I hadn't an idea of _this_. I didn't
dream of it. But we'll see you safely through. Oh, Madge, don't cry so
hard. Listen, my dear girl, you can go home to-morrow if you want to."

Suddenly she turned and buried her head on my shoulder. Her hand sought
mine and held it tight. She clung to me as if she needed me very much.

"I don't want to go home. I'd rather stay right here with you," she
sobbed.

My arms went around her. Remember I have never had many friendships
with girls. Staunch, true, loyal Juliet would nurse me through the
smallpox if necessary, but she doesn't like to be kissed. Years ago
when we stayed all night at each other's houses we slept on the extreme
opposite edges of the bed and if one of my elbows as much as grazed
Juliet's shoulder-blade, I was vigorously poked in the ribs and told
to get over to my side. My younger sister Ruth had not sought one of
my hands since she was able to walk alone. She would rather cry into a
pillow than on my shoulder. If there had ever been any doubt about my
loving this little helpless creature, who turned to me now in her hour
of fear and dread, it was entirely dispelled during that half-hour on
the couch in our living-room.

It was after that day that our best work began. I continued stern and
severe with Madge, but there was unmistakable affection underneath.
I resorted to every device in the world for my little protegée's
education. I laugh as I look back to some of the drills and tests I
put her through. Fridays, for instance, were our shopping days in
Boston. Department stores are regular educational institutions. It
wasn't a month before Madge was able to detect machine embroidery from
hand-work; imitation Irish crochet from real; coarse linen from fine.
We spent hours at "window-gazing." In that old, popular childhood game
of "Choosing," Madge became quite an adept. I used to make her pick out
the suit, or the hat, or the piece of dress-goods in a window display
which was the most conservative, and verify her choice by my selection.
Conservatism I preached to her from morning till night, and she got so
she could recognise it a block away. Homeward-bound from those Friday
shopping days, I would indicate an individual opposite to us in the
car, and that evening a vivisection of her toilet would take place
in our library. I have often felt sorry for the poor mortals whose
oversupply of imitation fillet, high-heeled ill-kept pumps, or spotted
veil we so severely criticised; for the young girls--gay, unconscious
creatures--who laughed too freely, talked too loudly for our fastidious
requirements.

Madge's table-manners had been shocking. She mashed her food with
the prongs of her fork and poured gravy over her bread; she ate
enough butter for three men. We used to have written examinations on
table-manners. After she had progressed so that she could eat a poached
egg without daubing the entire plate, and a half-orange with a spoon
without sprinkling the front of her waist with drops of yellow juice,
I advanced her to my place at the table. For a month she sat opposite
Will and played at hostess. She offered the bread; she inquired if any
one would have more of the dessert; she learned to address Delia with
consideration. I left it to my pupil to suggest that we adjourn to the
living-room at the close of our meals. I made her pour the coffee into
our tiny best china cups.

The effect of all this training upon myself was as miraculous as
upon Madge. You don't know what confidence in a subject it gives you
to teach it. I honestly believe Madge did Will and me about as much
good as we did her. Our meal-times became regular little models of
perfection--quiet voices, good conversation, and manners fit for
a queen. I began to dress every evening for the ceremony, as an
example for Madge, and it was then that Will who entered into the
game beautifully began changing every night into a dinner coat. The
fussy little frills--candlelight and coffee served in the living-room,
which I had spurned after leaving Edith--I returned to for Madge's
sake. For her (for I discovered that my pupil considered me as a model
of all that is proper and correct) I dressed myself with greatest
care--spotless white kid-gloves, carefully adjusted veil, neat and
well-kept boots--and sallied forth to pay some calls. As an example to
Madge I invariably inquired what time Will would return in the evening
and made a point of arriving at the house at least a half-hour before
him, so that he might find me calm, quiet and freshly attired, like a
lady leisurely awaiting her lord, in an apartment as neat and well-kept
as the library of his Club. I didn't allow myself to slump awkwardly
into a comfortable chair in his presence, nor yawn and stretch my arms.
I even tucked away the horrid, red worsted bedroom slippers and from
my supply of unused negligees drew forth a blue china-silk kimono.
There was a pink one like it which I gave to Madge. Her eyes sparkled
as they fell upon it. "Save it till Oliver comes," I said, and I, who
had scoffed in my heart at Ruth's and Edith's conversation which took
place in that same guest-room of mine eight months before, repeated
their very words, as if they had left them printed on the walls. "You
mustn't be the kind to grow careless before your husband. A man likes
a woman to be dainty whether he is married to her or not. A man likes
to be proud of his wife," I repeated parrot-like. Oh, you see, there
was more than one conversion taking place that spring in the ugly brown
house in the unfashionable street, and the greater of these was not, in
my estimation, that of the little country girl from Glennings Falls,
Vermont.



CHAPTER XX


Will and I used to run up to Hilton for over Sunday very often. But
when Edith found out that Oliver had gone to South America and Madge
had remained with us, she wrote to me immediately and warned me never
to attempt "to cram the girl down her throat." She had no idea of
_ever_ recognising Oliver's wife as any connection of _hers_. If Will
and I came up to Hilton she must ask us to leave our preposterous
protegée behind.

I didn't see that it would hurt Edith any to be formally courteous
to Madge. She needn't have become intimate. I didn't expect Madge
to be invited everywhere I went. I didn't take her anywhere with me
in my social life at the university. But I did think that Edith was
neglecting her duty as a woman to ignore Alec's own brother's wife,
whoever she was. It was almost inevitable to avoid the growth of a
feeling of hostility between Edith and me; but I did want to escape
an open break. I didn't want to quarrel about Madge, so whenever I
saw Edith I tried to overlook the existence of any bone of contention
between us. I made a point of running up to Hilton very often for the
day, and tried to refer to Madge in a natural, open, frank sort of
manner that made little of the seriousness of the situation. I didn't
go to Hilton to court trouble, I assure you. I made my fortnightly
trips for the express purpose of promoting family peace and harmony.

The arrival of Edith's baby was only about a month off when I went up
to carry her a little afghan I had crocheted. I found her unpacking
some baby scales and the most elaborate weighing basket I ever saw. It
was all beruffled and trimmed with artificial rosebuds around the edge.
It was when I stood off and admired it that I remarked with a sigh, and
in the most offhand way in the world, that I guessed Madge's baby would
have to be weighed on the kitchen scales if at all. I meant it as a
kind of tribute to Edith's basket. Besides I thought it a good idea to
refer to Madge's expectations. It seemed more friendly to the family to
take them into my confidence in such a matter.

You would have thought a bomb had gone off in the room.

"That creature going to have a baby!" Edith exclaimed.

"Yes," I said. "Just think of it! Oliver with a little son or daughter!"

Edith turned suddenly upon me.

"Oh, I see!" she flashed. "I see! A son indeed! So that's the story! I
suppose the girl has her eyes on that three thousand, without doubt.
Designing little minx!"

"Why, your baby comes first, Edith," I replied. "Of course if you
shouldn't get the prize, I think Madge could make pretty good use of
three thousand dollars. She probably needs it more than you."

"Oh! So you hope I won't have a boy! That's it. Very well. We'll see.
You hope--"

"Why, Edith," I interrupted, "I don't hope anything of the sort. I--"

"We'll see if this girl of Oliver's has any right to that money,"
Edith went on excitedly. "We'll see about that. When is her precious
baby expected? Too soon for decency's sake, I suppose--horrid, common
little--"

I flushed. "Edith Vars," I fired, "don't you imply anything like that
about Madge. Don't you _dare_!"

I was angry now and Edith knew it. She seemed to glory in it, for she
prodded me again with another false accusation against Madge, and
before I could stop it we were quarrelling dreadfully. I don't remember
all we said to each other that morning in Edith's room, but I know our
words came thick and fast; I know our voices shook with our fury, and
that we glared at each other across the expanse of the snowy bed with
actual hatred in our eyes. It all ended by Edith's suddenly flinging
herself face down upon the pillows, and bursting into awful sobs. Not
until then did I realise that my sister-in-law was not well, nor quite
herself these days--I had never seen her cry before in my life--and
frightened I went out of the room to call for help.

That noon Alec sent for a doctor, and half an hour later it was
announced that Edith had a temperature. A trained nurse appeared at
four o'clock and Alec called me into the library.

He was dreadfully concerned about the consequences of my news in regard
to Madge; I shouldn't have mentioned it, it seems; it might be the
cause of the most dreadful results--he couldn't tell. Edith was very
excitable just now. I ought to have known better. He blamed me wholly.
I had been careless, inconsiderate and cruel. I had better leave for
home as soon as possible. The thought of me in the house annoyed and
disturbed Edith even now; she had inquired three times if I had gone.
Alec had ordered the automobile; I could catch the five-thirty if I
hurried. He wished I hadn't come to see Edith at all; she had been
so well; everything had appeared very favourable before my arrival;
Alec couldn't understand my attitude toward Edith anyway; she had done
everything for Ruth and me (had I forgotten my wedding?) and I paid her
back with gratitude like this!

I didn't reply to my brother. Alec and I had travelled too many
miles in opposite directions to understand each other now. A bitter
antagonism arose in my heart against Edith. I should have quarrelled
with Alec too had I opened my mouth to speak. I went out and got into
the automobile without a retort, and as I whisked out of the driveway
and looked back at Edith's curtained windows, a wicked wish was born in
my heart. I said to myself, "I hope it _will_ be a girl. 'Twould serve
her exactly right."

It was, however, a pretty discouraged ambassador of peace who crawled
back to her little brown refuge that night about eight o'clock. Will
was sitting by the fire reading a big book, his hair all ruffled up
as it always is when he reads. Madge had gone upstairs to bed. The
comfortable lamp-light, the dear, homely black walnut furniture, Will's
quiet sympathy, never seemed more precious to me than that night.

"O Will," I said tearfully when he kissed me, "I've quarrelled with
Edith and Alec. And, oh, dear, it was the last thing in the world I
meant to do."

"Tell me about it," he said and laid aside his big book. I took its
place on the arm of his chair, and told him my story. After he had rung
up Edith's doctor by telephone and found that there wasn't cause for
alarm, he came back to me and called me "young wildcat" which sweet
words were music to my ears. I knew at the sound of them that Will
didn't consider the quarrel serious. "It will all blow over in a week.
You see!" he laughed, and I went to sleep comforted.

But it didn't blow over. That fateful visit of mine marked the
beginning of an understood family war. Clouds of trouble grew thicker
instead of blowing away. The very next evening I received a brief
note from Alec asking that I postpone any more visits to Hilton until
after Edith's illness. Ruth wrote she couldn't understand me in the
least; she thought it was dreadful that Madge was going to have a child
anyway, but if she got Father's three thousand dollars it would be the
unjustest thing that ever happened! Tom--even fair-minded Tom from
out West--told me to remember that Oliver's marriage had been rather
out-of-order, and asked me if I was championing a cause I could call
worthy. When Ruth ran across me one day in town a fortnight later she
treated me like a bare acquaintance. Alec went so far as to cancel
a Saturday golf engagement with Will. Long distance telephone calls
between our houses came to an abrupt end. Malcolm from New York bluntly
referred to the "family row."

I didn't tell Madge about the trouble brewing in our family. I never
even imparted to her the knowledge of the premium to be paid for the
first Vars grandson. Silently I sat with her sewing by the hour on her
meagre little outfit of five nainsook slips, three flannel Gertrudes,
two bands, two shirts, and three flannellette night-gowns, with never
a word of my eager thoughts. I became very loyal to the cause I had
chosen to defend. It didn't trouble me that our little baby-clothes
were so much plainer than Edith's, for night and day, day and night,
I was hoping against hope, wishing against chance, willing and
frantically demanding that Madge's splendour might lie in her victory.

You can imagine the ecstatic state of excitement I was thrown into when
the news of the arrival of Edith's nine-pound daughter reached me some
six weeks after my last visit to Hilton.

I must have felt a good deal like the supporters of a weaker foot-ball
team when their side makes the first touchdown. I could have thrown
up my hat with joy; I could have shouted myself hoarse. Madge had an
opportunity! Madge had a chance! It seemed too good to be true, and I
longed to share with Madge the triumph so nearly hers. But Will was
afraid she might worry and fret about it,--there was, of course, the
possibility of disappointment,--so I followed his advice and kept on
building my air-castles in secret.

It was on November twenty-first that Madge's little child was born.
We had written to Oliver in June and he had started on his homeward
journey as soon as Madge's belated letter reached him, some time in
August. He had tramped a hundred miles down a tropical river, had
lain sick for five weeks with a fever in a native camp, had dragged
himself in a weakened condition twenty miles farther on to the coast,
and finally had caught a slow-travelling freight-boat bound for Spain.
Blown out of its course, becalmed, disabled by a terrific storm, Oliver
never saw the coast of Europe until well into November. His mite of a
child was two weeks old before he reached home.

Oliver had done well down there in South America. Reports of his
ability had reached the Boston office months before Oliver himself
appeared. It seems that Oliver's chief had written a long letter
telling all about the ingenuity which young Vars had shown in working
out some technical problem connected with a suspension bridge down
there. I told you Oliver's line was civil engineering. The Boston
office informed Will they had offered Vars a good position right here
at home with a salary that he could live on. I was delighted, and as
soon as we learned that he had started for God's country, I began to
hunt up apartments.

I wanted Oliver to see for himself and _by_ himself what a perfect
little housekeeper--what a lovely little creature, simple as she was,
he had chanced to pick out up there in the mountains of Vermont. I
honestly began to fear Oliver wouldn't appreciate half of the delicate
points that Madge had developed. I wished I could give my brother a
course of training too. He is the kind to be rather impolite inside
the walls of his own domain. I selected for Madge and Oliver a suburb
where the rents were not high, about half an hour by trolley from
Boston. I planned to have Madge well established in her own five sunny
little rooms before the arrival of either her husband or child. From
my safe-full of silver and attic-full of Will's furniture, which I
couldn't use, I could easily have set up two brides at housekeeping.
I sent over a whole load of things from our house to Madge's and we
spent days afterward settling the darling little rooms. On November
twenty-first I went over to the apartment alone. Madge had complained
of not feeling very well and I didn't want her to get all tired out
before she actually moved the following week. The kitchen utensils were
waiting to be washed and set in rows on the cupboard shelves, so I
started out straight after breakfast and spent the whole day "playing
house" there alone. I didn't get back until after seven o'clock at
night. Will must have been watching for me, for he met me at the
door. The instant I entered the house I knew something unexpected had
happened. There was a white pillow on the couch in the living-room. I
smelled ether.

"Will," I said all weak in my knees, "where's Madge? What's happened?"

He closed the living-room door and turned up the gas.

"She's all right, dear. We didn't send for you, because there was
nothing you could do. I was here all the time."

"You mean--" I began. "Will," I said, and then my mind leaped over a
league of details to one question, and after I had asked it Will took
my hands and replied gently:

"No, dear, a sweet little girl."

I couldn't answer at first. I crumpled down in a heap in Will's big
chair.

"It was the only thing I ever really, really wanted," I said brokenly.
"Oh, Will, I can't believe fate would be so unkind! Tell me again--did
you say a girl--really a _girl_?"

"Yes, dear, a fine, perfect, lovely little girl."

I stared straight in front of me.

"Isn't it too bad, too bad, too bad," I said. "Oh, Will!" I broke out,
and began to cry.

Will came over and put his arms around me.

"Why, Bobbie dear," he said sadly, "I should think the little kiddie
was yours."

I couldn't have been more disappointed if it had been. All the
victorious telegrams, all the confident, buoyant notes to the different
members of the family were more than useless now. The poor little
mite of humanity wrapped up in a piece of flannel upstairs in the
sewing-room in the clothes-basket, which Madge and I had lined with
muslin, had shattered all my plans--had frustrated its poor little
mother's only chance for glory.

It was all I could do to muster up a smile for poor, broken, beaten
Madge herself, when the nurse ushered me into her bedroom the next day.
I was glad when I saw her smiling up at me from the pillows that I had
not confided my eager hopes to her.

"Oh, Lucy," she said to me, "it's a girl! I knew you hoped it would be
a little girl, because you were so happy when Edith's baby came. And
I--"

"Are you glad?" I asked tremblingly, feeling like a hypocrite before an
angel.

"I--oh, I _prayed_ for a girl. I wouldn't know what to do with a boy.
My dolls were always girls."

It wasn't until I ran across Edith, most unexpectedly, several days
later in town, that I woke up to the fact that that little girl of
Madge's was a blessing in disguise. Edith's daughter was then about
three months old and she was flitting about again as gay as ever,
feathered and furred, stepping like a horse who has just had a good
rub-down. I had seen her several times in the last month. She does all
her shopping in Boston and I am often there myself. Of course we had
spoken, even chatted on impersonal subjects as we chanced to meet here
and there. On this particular day we happened to find ourselves in the
drapery department of a large department store both waiting for the
elevator to take us to the street.

"Oh, how do you do?" she said to me loftily. "Gorgeous day, isn't it?"

"Fine," I replied.

And then she asked evasively, her curiosity getting the better of her.
"How's everything at your establishment?"

"Oh, all right. I have a note already written to you. There's a new
member in our family, you know."

I saw the colour rush to Edith's face.

"No!" she exclaimed. "Really?" Then arming herself against a dreaded
blow she gasped, "Which is it?"

"A girl," I hated to announce; "born Thursday."

"A girl! Did you say a girl?" Edith's voice broke into a nervous
laugh. "Lucy Vars, has Oliver's wife a little girl? Is she dreadfully
disappointed? How is she? When was it? How much does it weigh? A girl!
Well, well, is it _possible_?" Her eyes were fairly glowing now.

I followed her into the elevator.

"You mean it? You aren't fooling? This isn't a joke?" she exclaimed as
we dropped a floor.

"No," I assured her.

"Poor thing! Poor thing!" she ejaculated with sparkling eyes. "A girl.
A girl!" She found my hand and gave it an eager little squeeze. "Won't
Oliver be just too cute with a daughter?" she bubbled.

By the time we reached the ground floor, she had slipped her arm
through mine.

"You've got to come and have lunch with me, Bobbie Vars," she said.
"Let's let bygones be bygones. I hate fights. I'm tired to death
putting myself out to be disagreeable. Heavens! I can hardly wait
to tell Alec. A little girl!" She led me out into the street. "I'm
starved," she ran on. "We'll blow ourselves to the best luncheon in
this town. I want to know _all_ the details--every one. Do you know I
felt in my bones she would have a daughter, and I simply never make
a mistake; and by the way, way down in my boots, _I_ wanted a girl
myself. I _said_ I preferred a boy, but that was talk. You can dress
girls up in such darling clothes. That's what I'm telling people
anyhow," she confided frankly. "Remember, should any one ask."

In spite of the many things about Edith I do not like, she has some
splendid qualities. "Look here," she ejaculated abruptly, "I believe
I'll send that poor little creature of Oliver's some flowers. I don't
suppose she has many. Come on in here, Bobbie, and help me pick out
something stunning!"

Next Wednesday Ruth 'phoned from town. Friday she came out for dinner,
and not very long afterward, the expressman left a lovely embroidered
baby's coat and cap "for the dear little daughter," it said on Edith's
visiting-card in her bold unmistakable handwriting.

It was Oliver himself, who had been at home about two days, who opened
the package. He and I were alone in the living-room. He flushed when
his eyes fell upon the card.

"So Edith--" he began.

"Yes," I assured him; "and the roses on Madge's bureau are from Edith
too."

He flung the card down on the table and came over and stood before me.

"Look here, Bobbie," he said. "I must have been completely run down or
something, before I went away. I don't know what ailed me. Everything
bothered me horribly and to think I took it out so on poor little
Madge. Why, Madge--Say, Bobbie, isn't Madge--" He stopped. "Pshaw!" he
went on, "I've known a lot of girls in my day but not one to come up to
Madge. Did I ever tell you how she can cook? Like a streak! You ought
to see her arrange flowers in the middle of the table. Looks as if they
were growing! Madge is worth twenty society girls. Could Ruth run a
vegetable garden, do you think? Could her boarding-school friends go
into the village store and run the accounts when the regular girl's off
on a vacation? Madge can! I knew she would learn city ways and manners
quickly enough once she was here. I _knew_ it. And say--isn't she
pretty? Isn't she simply--lovely with the kid? Humph--" he broke off,
picking up Edith's card and tossing it down again. "I knew the family
couldn't help but like Madge once they knew her, and I'm mighty glad!"

"So am I, Oliver. She's got the loveliest, sweetest disposition!
Sometimes I've been afraid that _you_ would be the one not to
appreciate it. She's thinking a lot how to make you happy, Oliver.
Her head is full of schemes and little devices to please and satisfy
you; and I've been wondering if you've been thinking up little ways to
please her. Sometimes married people take it for granted that schemes
and methods and contrivances for happiness are superfluous, if they
love each other; but _I_ believe that new love needs just about as much
care and tending as that little helpless baby in there. I hope you
think so too, Oliver."

"I don't know as I'd thought much about it. I'm not much of a
philosopher on such subjects. Things come to me in flashes, and they
stick too. I remember the last time I ever had a real good old time
with the college crowd was at Ruth's party, two or three years ago.
I drank more than was good for me that night and when I came to go
upstairs about four A. M., right there on the landing waiting for me
was Father. Somebody had left his picture lighted up, you know, and it
was absolutely gruesome how he stared down at me out of his frame--like
a ghost or something. I never forgot it. I tried to get the fellows to
put out the light, but they couldn't find the switch. It was horrible
to struggle up in front of Father in my condition--I can't explain it;
but from that day to this I've never been able to enjoy that sort of a
time since. I've never taken more than I should since that night, and
I never shall again. I'm sure of myself now."

"Isn't it splendid to live on in the way Father does?" I remarked
quietly.

"Well," went on Oliver, "the first sight of Madge in there with the
baby was like that lighted picture of Father. Do you know what I mean?
It flashed over me, 'Heavens, I've got to amount to something now
_anyhow_,' and those flashes stick, as I said. I _shall_ amount to
something. See if I don't!" He stopped a moment, embarrassed. "I don't
know as you understand at all about that picture of Father, and Madge
in bed in there, as if they had any connection. They haven't, only--"

"I do understand, Oliver," I said; "I do perfectly. And I'm so glad and
happy and proud! I always felt you had it in you!"

About a week later Edith called me up from Boston.

"Hello," she said. "You, Bobbie? It's Edith. Ruth and I are in town.
We've just had lunch. I've got to go to the tailor's at two, but we
thought later we might come out and see the baby." ("It's Edith," I
whispered excitedly to Will with my hand over the receiver.) "Will it
be all right?"

"Surely," I called back. "Come right ahead."

"Is Madge able to see people yet?" ("She wants to see Madge," I told
Will.) "Oh, yes! She comes downstairs every afternoon now. We'll expect
you--good-bye."

I hung up the receiver, and went into the butler's pantry to prepare my
tea-tray. Ten minutes later I casually remarked to Madge:

"Oh, by the way, Edith and Ruth are coming out this afternoon. I think
I shall ask you to pour tea, Madge."

"All right," she replied quietly, like a little stoic. "I understand.
I'll do my very best, Lucy."

I felt something of the same tremulous pride of a mother listening
to her daughter deliver a valedictory at a high school graduation,
as I watched Madge at the tea-table that afternoon. Her parted hair,
simply knotted behind, pale cheeks tinged with a little colour, her
frail hands among the tea-cups, her shy timid manner, were all lovely
to behold. Oliver, from the piano-stool, glowed with pride; Edith and
Ruth, from the couch, could not fail to appreciate the careful, calm,
and correct collection of napkin, plate, tea-cup and spoon. Edith has
a great faculty for observation. I knew she was sizing up Madge out of
the corner of her eye, even as she rattled on to me on the wonders of
the little niece in Hilton whom I had never seen.

She and Ruth stayed until just time to connect with the six-thirty
train for Hilton. It was closeted in my room that Edith said to me in
her erratic way, "My dear, I never saw such a change in any living
_mortal_. Do you realise that having that baby has simply made that
girl over? It's wonderful--put refinement into her. Why, really, one
wouldn't guess the child's origin _now_. Listen to me. I've decided
to invite the whole family bunch, as usual, for Christmas (one may as
well be forgiving in this short life, I've concluded); so I came to
have a look at Madge. She isn't half bad, you know. I had a nice little
chat alone with her when you were showing Ruth the baby. She says she
was simply crazy for a girl, and I think she means it. She isn't as
impossible as I feared--not half. All she needs are some clothes and
I've gotten it into my head to take her to my own dressmaker in town.
One may as well be generous, Lucy. Besides, if the girl comes to the
house at Christmas she must dress decently. I've a good mind to take
the little thing in hand myself and polish her up a little. She's
pretty enough. You see," Edith broke off, "Breck Sewall will probably
be around Christmas-time--won't it be wonderful if he should marry
Ruth?--and I simply had to have a look at Madge before inviting her.
However, I really think she'll do."

The instant the door had closed on Edith I rushed back to Madge. I
threw my arms about her.

"You've passed your preliminaries, dear child!" I said and kissed her
hard.



CHAPTER XXI


Did you ever attempt to buy a lot of fifteen thousand feet at fifty
cents a foot, and build a house on it of twelve rooms, three baths, a
shower, a sleeping-porch and a small unpretentious garage for fourteen
thousand dollars? This isn't an example in mental arithmetic, but it
was a problem Will and I laboured over every March and April for three
successive springs, before deciding each year to stay on for another
twelve months in our old rented brown box, gas-lighted and tin-tubbed.
I am not going to explain how such a problem can be solved, because
frankly I don't know.

Will is a regular miracle-performer in some lines. He'll work for
hours over some knotty proposition in his laboratory, and come home
from the hospital simply glowing with enthusiasm over the successful
onslaught of a squad of his well-trained microbes upon an unruly lot of
beasts who were making life miserable for a poor man almost dying with
carbuncles. The medical journals describe Dr. William Ford Maynard's
accomplishments as miraculous. However, I can vouch that he is utterly
unable to perform any feats with wood and plaster and plumbers'
supplies. Two hours working over our house-plans used to exhaust Will
more than four days solid in his laboratory. He said there was more
hope in discovering the haunts of the wary meningitis microbe than in
finding a contractor who would build us a house at our price.

Will and I adored our first little home, of course, but then there were
disadvantages. Every time it rained I had to put a basin in the middle
of my bed--in case the roof leaked--and the fireplaces did smoke when
you first lit them, and the kitchen stove did need a new lining. The
owner was awfully disagreeable about repairs, and after we had been
vainly pleading for three months solid for a new brick or two in a
disabled chimney, which threatened to burn down the house, we began
to consider moving. We didn't intend to build. We thought it would
cost too much. We didn't even intend to buy. We simply wanted to find
something better to rent.

Rummaging about among second-hand houses is very depressing, I can tell
you. Some of the same old arks that had been on the market when we
were first married, were still without a master, like certain wrecks
of servants who haunt intelligence-offices. Dilapidated run-down old
things--I hate the very thought of them! They have a musty, dead-rat
sort of odour that's far from welcoming when you enter their darkened
halls. You always wonder if it's the plumbing and ask why the last
people left. And oh, the closets in those houses--little, black horrid
holes! I used to pull open their doors, and time and again find some
sort of human paraphernalia left behind on one of the hooks--a man's
battered straw hat, or once, I remember, a solitary pair of discarded
corsets. Spattered places in the bedrooms, paths worn on the hardwood
floors, ink spots, grease spots, and on the walls an accurate pattern
of the arrangement of the last family's pictures, actually offended
me. I've heard that robins will never take possession of a last year's
birds' nest. I know exactly how they feel about them. Oh, it isn't
inspiring to hunt for a home among other people's cast-offs. Will
and I were awfully discouraged after we had inspected the fifteenth
impossibility--a dreadful affair with high ceilings, elaborately
stencilled, and in the corners of each room little arched plaster
grooves designed for statuary. For six months Will and I searched in
vain for the sweet, clean little ready-made cottage of our dreams,
shining in a fresh coat of white paint, its perennial garden in
full-bloom, waiting for two nice home-loving people like ourselves to
open its gate, stroll up its flag-stoned walk, and claim it for our own.

On our way home from impossibility the fifteenth, we took a street
that had just been cut through some new land where little brand new
houses were springing up like mushrooms. There was one, a tiny plaster
house trimmed with light green blinds with half-moons cut in them, that
I thought was simply adorable. It wasn't completed; I could see the
workmen through the open windows. The temporary pine door stood open.

"Let's go in, for fun," I suggested, and Will helped me up the inclined
plank that led to the little front stoop.

We stayed for a whole hour in that house! It was like gazing on sweet
sixteen; it was simply refreshing; we didn't know anything so lovely
existed. There was a darling little bathroom with open plumbing, and
a shining porcelain tub. There was a marble slab for mixing in the
pantry. The bedrooms were painted white. The closets, tiny though they
were, smelled of fresh plaster. Will got into conversation with the
contractor while I amused myself by planning which room I would choose
for ours. But the house wasn't for rent. A man who ran a fish-market
was building it. I saw Will get out an old letter and begin figuring on
the back of the envelope. That place, lot and all, wasn't going to cost
that fish man but ten thousand dollars--Will told me that night that we
could own a house that cost fourteen thousand and still save money on
our rent. I was excited. We didn't look at another house to hire. We
dropped them as if they were infected. The very next Saturday afternoon
we set out to search for lots.

We weren't very particular at first. Any little square of ground that
we looked at with the idea of possible ownership seemed perfectly
lovely to me; anything with a tiny glimpse of horizon, and a place
in the back for a garden, was like a little piece of heaven. We were
both awfully easily pleased the first month. There were so many pretty
places to build on, we simply didn't know which one to choose. Then one
day the agent sent us up to look at some land that had just been put on
the market at sixty cents a foot. Of course it was more than we could
pay, and we went to inspect it simply out of idle curiosity. The result
was that the next day among that whole townful of open spaces and green
fields, there was only one solitary spot that Will and I wanted for our
own. You see after we had once climbed up on to that expensive little
hilltop and looked off and seen the view--a round bowl of a lake with
a clump of pines beside it, and beyond, a hill with a long ribbon of
road leading up to a real New England white farmhouse with a splash
of red barn beside it, we couldn't think kindly of any other spot in
town. After we had sat down on the stone wall that ran right square
through the back of the lot, and watched a glorious sunset reflected
in the lake below, Will said, "By Jove, we'll have this!" There were
six old apple-trees on the lot, a wild cherry and a dear little waif of
a pine-tree. Will and I made a solemn vow to each other that we would
build a cheap house, and get along a while longer with one maid for the
sake of that lovely sunset every night when we ate supper. I said I'd
as soon live in a lean-to. Will said we'd live just where we were for
another year until we could afford to put up even a lean-to. We bought
the darling of our hearts seven days later. It used up over two-thirds
of our fourteen-thousand-dollar house fund.

We ate picnic suppers on our stone wall, and winter-times drank hot
coffee there boiled over a tiny bon-fire built in the rocks, for three
solid years before we began to dig the cellar of our lean-to. I had
hollyhocks and a whole row of Canterbury-bells flowering in our garden
for two springs before there was a door and some steps to lead out to
it. It's all very well to vow you'll build a cheap house, but it's
another thing to do it. Of course we had to have plumbing and heat;
electric light fixtures seemed a necessity too, as well as a few doors
here and there.

Will and I literally laboured over those plans. They had to undergo a
dreadful series of operations. Every spring when it seemed to us as if
we couldn't endure another summer cooped up in our noisy, stone-paved,
double-electric-car-tracked street, I'd haul down the architect's
blue-prints and stretch them out on a card-table. We amputated so
much from those plans I wondered they held together. Of course the
shower-baths and the garage, oak floors, and a superfluous bathroom
came off as easily as fingers; but when we began cutting out partitions
here and there, a treasured fireplace or two, two closets, and even the
back stairs, I tell you it was ticklish! Even when we'd shaved off two
feet from the length of the living-room, four from the dining-room,
and squeezed our hall so that it was only nine feet wide, even then
we couldn't find a generous-hearted builder who would even try to be
reasonable in his charges.

Our house wasn't, by the way, anything like the fish man's. It wasn't
a plaster house with light green blinds, with half-moons cut in them.
It seemed to our architect (and to me too, as soon as he suggested
it) that the most New England type of house possible--flat-faced,
clapboarded, painted white, a hall in the centre and a room on each
side, would fit in with those apple-trees better than anything quaint
or original. Oh, ours was just the housiest house possible, with
nothing odd about it like oriel windows, or diamond trellises, or
unexpected bays and swells.

The first day the plans arrived I did some measuring, and cut out of
cardboard on the same scale as the plans, patterns of our furniture.
That night Will and I moved into our paper house, shoving the
furniture around the rooms with lightning speed, shifting hall-clocks,
davenports, and grand pianos from parlour to bedroom with surprising
little effort. Why, I rearranged my rooms time and time again before I
ever stepped foot in them. If you'll believe me, I made a complete new
bedroom set for the nursery, and a little crib which I placed between
the windows, when the real room was only a square block of air above
the apple-trees.

You can imagine how excited we were when at the end of three years
we finally signed the contract with McManus & Mann, Contractors
and Builders. We were simply house-crazy by that time. I wanted to
celebrate the important occasion somehow, so I went down to Mr.
McManus's office and ordered several bundles of six-foot-length laths,
such as are used in plastering a room, to be sent up to our lot on
Saturday morning. Will and I always spend Saturday afternoons together,
and, provided with the roll of plans, a yard-stick, a hatchet and my
lunch-basket packed with tea and sandwiches, we started out about two
P. M. to lay out our house, life size, with the laths on the very
spot where it was so soon now to stand. By five o'clock I was serving
tea before the fireplace in the living-room, and apple-blossom petals
were blowing through the kitchen and hall partitions into the very
cream-pitcher by my side.

It was just when the water over my alcohol stove had begun to boil
that our first guests arrived. Dr. Van Breeze is married now, and his
wife, Alice, and I are very good friends. For the three years that Will
and I had been working on house-plans she had followed the changes in
them as if they were hers. So I 'phoned her that I should be delighted
if she and George (George is Dr. Van Breeze) would take tea with us
Saturday afternoon at four-thirty in our new house. When they appeared
in their touring-car at the foot of our hill, I saw that dear Dr.
Graham and Mrs. Graham were in the back seat, and I dashed through the
living-room wall and down to the road to meet them. Ten minutes later
the Omsteds arrived strolling up the hill from their house which is
the nearest one to ours. Will had already arranged boulders for chairs
around the fireplace, and my dainty little sandwiches and tiny cream
puffs were laid out neatly on plates covered with fresh napkins. The
tea was hot and strong and fragrant; the decorations of six trees full
of apple-blossoms, lovely to behold; the illumination of a pink and
blue sunset, reflected in the lake below, more beautiful than a hundred
electric lights.

After we had drank tea and eaten the last cream puff, I invited my
guests to inspect the house. Every one entered into my little game.
Dr. Omsted made us all respect the partitions as if they existed;
George Van Breeze insisted on walking up the front stairs; and dear
Dr. Graham found a grasshopper somewhere and exclaimed chuckling, "Oh,
my dear Pandora" (he still calls me that silly name), "what of your
housekeeping? I saw dozens of these in your pantry!"

Oh, it was just the nicest house-warming in the world. I like every
one of Will's friends; they may be awfully learned, but they seem just
plain natural and unpretentious to me. They stayed until nearly six
o'clock. We waved them good-bye from our front door. When they all had
disappeared over the brow of the hill, Will drew me into our hall and
kissed me, just as if there had really been walls. Then he came into
the living-room and helped me clear up.

I haven't mentioned yet the thorn I keep hidden in my heart and carry
everywhere I go. I don't like to talk of it because Will doesn't like
to have me, but it robs every joy I have of completeness. As Will and I
strolled home that night perhaps we ought to have been very happy. We
had the best and pleasantest friends in the world--I granted it; ground
for our dream-house was to be broken on Monday morning; we had been
married four years, and loved each other more than ever.

"Oh, Will, four years--four long years," I exclaimed, and sighed.

"Pshaw," he replied, and changed the subject.

Ever since Madge's little baby was born, I've wanted one of my own. I
didn't care before that, but when I held the warm little thing in my
arms for minutes at a time, dressed it, cared for it when the nurse was
out, and listened to its poor pitiful little cry in the middle of the
night, something seemed to spring open in me that I can't close.

I want a little daughter-companion of my very own! I want to wash her,
and dress her and take her out with me. I want her to sit with me rainy
afternoons in her little rocking-chair and play while I sew. I want her
to tell me all her secrets, and I want to give her all the love, all
the good times and pretty things a little girl wants. When Madge brings
over her Marjorie, and I see her clinging to her mother's knee when I
come into the room, I'd give anything in the world to have some little
girl cling to _me_ like that! Will has always loved children; he has
wanted them even longer than I, though he never told me. Will affects
indifference on the subject, but he doesn't deceive me in the least. I
know the lurking hunger is always in his heart as it is in mine.

Why I was so especially down-hearted to-night as we walked home from
our tea-party on the hilltop was on account of a remark of Alice Van
Breeze's thrown off in her quick, careless fashion. I think Will kissed
me in the hall to soothe a little of the hurt of Alice's unconscious
words. People who have babies of their own don't guess how many times
they stab those who haven't.

"What an ideal place this is for children!" Alice had exclaimed. "Such
air! Such sunshine! If you don't mind, Lucy," she had caught herself
up, "I shall bring Junior up here often to get some tan in your
adorable garden."

"Do," I had said, looking away.

"How is the little chap?" Will had asked her kindly. Will can't even
talk about a child without a little note of tenderness in his tone.

"Oh, he's perfect!" Alice had laughed. "The very world revolves about
him. Why, we're prouder of that little bundle of bones and flesh than
of his father's latest book!"

I didn't look at Will and Will didn't look at me. We're so filled with
pity for each other at such moments (and there are many of them) that
we can't bear to gaze upon the hurt look in the other's face.

Our whole sad little story can be traced in our house-plans. When we
first decided to build, we talked bravely _then_ about the nursery
on the sunny side; it looked out towards the south and east; it was
large and airy, with four big windows, and a fireplace for chilly
nights. When the first sketches arrived the room was plainly labelled
in printed letters, and I remember that the mere word gave me a queer
thrill of joy. I had, as you know, immediately made patterns of the
nursery furniture, placed the paper crib in position, and estimated the
number of steps from my bed to the baby's. I had had it beautifully
planned for contagious diseases: Will could move into the guest-room,
and I and the sick children could be absolutely isolated from the
rest of the house, in two lovely rooms with a bathroom of our own.
But I needn't have planned on children's contagious diseases. There
will never be any little children with measles, or chicken-pox, or
whooping-cough in our house, to take care of. I am sure of it now. On
the last roll of plans which our architect submitted to us the word
printed across the face of the southeast room had been changed from
Nursery to Chamber! I think Will must have requested it and I knew then
with awful finality that even Will had given up hope. I never asked how
or why the room's name had been changed. I simply understood without
asking and cried it out by myself in my room. The next day I burned the
nursery paper furniture--the crib, the folding yard, the toy-case like
Edith's--in the kitchen stove, with a pang as big as if they had been
real.

After that I called the southeast chamber, "Ruth's room." I had always
secretly hoped that Ruth would live with me if ever I had a house of
my own. I had hoped it ever since Alec had married Edith. It hadn't
come to pass--it never would. Ruth is so fastidious. But she has spent
a night with me very often so I decided to make over the room that no
little child seemed to want to occupy, for my only sister. It really
was easier to refer to the room as Ruth's. I was glad, after the first
shock, that Will had made the change. The evident question and pity
in people's eyes when we had called it by its old name had become
unpleasant for both Will and me.

I grew very philosophical about my disappointment as time went on.
I didn't mean to allow it to shadow my whole life. There was lots
else to be thankful for. But that night after our little tea-party my
philosophy seemed to leave me. It always does when I'm a little tired
and need it most. I couldn't keep up any kind of conversation at dinner
that night. I tried, but I couldn't. My thoughts got to travelling
the wellworn path that they will stray away to every once in a while
in spite of me, and it's always Will who comes to my rescue and pulls
them back on to safe sure ground, before they lose themselves in utter
dejection.

"Let's play some cribbage!" he suggested lightly after dinner.

I laid down my useless embroidery and listlessly drew up to the
table. We played three games without an interruption. I won them all.
Then just as Will was dealing for a fourth game I had to get out my
handkerchief and wipe my eyes.

"Oh, my dear girl!" said Will accusingly.

"I know it, but I can't help it!" I replied. "It seems _too_ cruel!
I simply can't bear not to use the room we built the house around. I
wish we could find a little child somewhere that we could--borrow. You
see, Will, a woman, to be really happy, seems to require a family to
take care of, unless she's a genius--an artist or a poet, or something
like that, which I'm not. Why, Will," I broke out, "I'm getting so I
don't like to hear about other people's children--or see them or want
them around. When Alice spoke about bringing her baby into my garden it
seemed as if I'd simply have to find _somewhere_ a little creature of
our own to play with the flowers I've planted. Don't I _know_ it's a
perfect place for children? Don't I know it? And does she think we also
wouldn't be prouder of a little child than of your discoveries? Oh,
Will, I know how disappointed you are. You won't say it but I know it's
awfully hard for you too."

"Nonsense," Will scoffed. "What's hard about it? I've got you, haven't
I? You and I are the two best children at playing games in a garden
that _I_ ever saw. _I'm_ perfectly satisfied. Come ahead, cut the
cards. I'm about to beat you now at five games of crib."

I shook my head and looked away.

"You're mistaken," Will went on, "if you think _I'm_ envying anybody
anything. I've yet to meet two people happier than we. Children are
pleasant enough incidents in life," Will went on, "but don't you
draw any wrong conclusions that happiness is dependent on them. It
isn't. Look at Dr. and Mrs. Graham. They never had any, and two more
congenial, more contented, happier people never existed--except perhaps
ourselves. Dr. Graham has too much sound thought to allow the denial
of any _one_ of the supposed blessings of life to disturb his peace.
And so have we, Bobbie, don't you think? Some of the very best people
in the world, some of those who have accomplished the most effective
work, never had children. It isn't the first question we ask about a
great man or a good woman. I might have reason to complain if I didn't
have my health or a good sound mind, or if after these few precious
years together, I lost _you_. But as it is--well, please don't ever
say again, young lady, that our present conditions are hard for me.
Hard--Nonsense!"

Dear Will! I'd heard this same little speech of his dozens of times
before. When he tries so hard to cheer me it seems too bad not to
respond; so I smiled now.

"Will Maynard," I said, "you don't deceive me for one minute by all
this talk! Don't think you do! _I_ know--_I_ understand. But I'll say
this--and I've said it a hundred times before--you certainly _are_ the
kindest man I ever knew."

"Bosh!" he laughed.

"Yes, you are--yes, you are. And I guess if I've got you I'd better
not complain." I put away my handkerchief. "It's all over now," I
announced, "and I'm ready to beat you at those five games of crib."

He dealt the cards and for five minutes we played in earnest; then
suddenly Will reached across and took my hand.

"Who says you and I aren't perfectly happy?" he asked.



CHAPTER XXII


It wasn't a week after that Sunday afternoon of ours on our darling
hilltop that I received a letter from Ruth announcing her intention of
paying me a visit. I was amazed.

Ruth usually prefers to visit at houses where she can stay in bed until
ten o'clock in the morning and sink luxuriously into an upholstered
limousine fitted up with plum-coloured cushions and a bunch of fresh
flowers, every time she goes out of doors. She isn't the type who likes
making her own bed and helping with the dishes--not that I require such
toll from a guest; but you know our house has only one bathroom and
Ruth says a tin tub always looks greasy. She says that black walnut
furniture has a depressing effect on her, and assures me that she
doesn't dare turn over in my guest-room bed for fear the head of the
thing--a big towering mass of black walnut blocks and turrets--will
fall down on top of her in the night. Ruth suffered the hardships of
my establishment only when it was necessary. Whenever a taxicab did
draw up to my door and deposit my dressy sister for the night, I knew
that it was because she had an early appointment with her tailor the
next morning, or had missed the last Hilton Express. I didn't remember
that Ruth had ever spent a single night under my roof for the mere
friendliness or sisterly love of sleeping between my embroidered
sheets. Ruth has a very sensitive temperament--so sensitive that
certain combinations of colour will affect her spirits. My guest-room
has mustard-coloured walls with reddish fleur-de-lis.

Ruth is an extraordinary girl. She doesn't seem a bit like a Vars.
We're such a conventional and just-what-you-would-expect kind of
family. Ruth contrives somehow to shroud herself in a veil of mystery
and create an impression everywhere she goes. I guess she's the most
discussed girl in all Hilton. She affects heliotrope shades in her
clothes, combining several tones in one gown, and wears large, round,
floppy hats. She always manages to select big stagy chairs to sit in,
that set her off as if she were a portrait. I have to pinch myself
every once in a while to make sure she isn't a foreign adventuress of
some kind with an exciting past, instead of just my common ordinary
little sister Ruthie. She has the queerest ideas on life and love
that I ever heard talked outside of a book, and she preaches them
too. I don't know how she dares; but somehow a little wickedness,
a little cynicism, from so very pretty a girl seems simply to add
to her piquancy and charm. Ruth dabbles in every artistic line that
exists--sings with the finish of a prima-donna and loves to improvise
by the hour on the big drawing-room piano at home, while some love-lorn
suitor sits in silence in the half-dark and worships. She's clever
at drawing--has designed book-plates for all her friends, besides
having modelled in bas-relief several of their portraits in clay. She
writes poetry too. She never read any of it to _me_; I suppose I'm not
sympathetic enough for it; but I got hold of some of her papers once
and spent a whole hour with them. I never knew till then what deep
ideas Ruth really has! I copied several of the verses and Bob Jennings,
who is an instructor in English at the university down here, said they
were "full of promise."

When Ruth's letter arrived announcing her proposed visit, my only
sorrow lay in the fact that her room in the new house wasn't ready.
I was going to have it papered in lavender chambray and had already
selected a wisteria design in cretonne for the hangings. It was going
to be the most artistic room in the house. I wasn't going to hang a
single picture on the walls (no pictures is Ruth's latest fad) and the
furniture was going to be plain colonial mahogany. It's queer how all
the family pay homage to Ruth. She's younger than I, by three years,
but I've always longed for her approval. I used to criticise her
extravagance, and tell her she was vain and selfish, but down in the
bottom of my heart I've always thought Ruth was wonderful. Will makes
fun of me for laying out my best linen every time Ruth comes to see us.
It _is_ foolish, but I don't want Ruth to think that I don't possess
any of the fine points of the people she most admires. I began to plan
to make her first real visit with me as much of a success as I knew
how. Ruth likes to have parties planned ahead for her, so I decided to
invite the Van Breezes to dinner one night, and Bob Jennings another.

Bob is a perfectly splendid young man and awfully good-looking. I
was sorry that Ruth had to meet him for the first time in the unkind
surroundings of our house. Setting, background, atmosphere, influence
her so much. If she sees a man for the first time in company with
black walnut and marble-topped tables, she is apt to think him as
offensively old-fashioned as the furniture. And I did want to prove to
Ruth that there existed a decent man with several degrees to his name,
who knew how to dress properly for dinner and converse intelligently on
the latest opera.

Will and I both met Ruth at the station when she arrived. She kissed
me and gave both her hands to Will in her most engaging manner. She
presented him later with three trunk checks. I was flattered. I was
glad that there happened to be several teas on hand, and a musicale at
the Omsted's that week. I would show Ruth that all our friends didn't
live in ugly brown French-roofed houses, and that she hadn't brought
all her pretty gowns to my house in vain.

But here I was disappointed. After dinner Ruth announced, "Oh, no; I
couldn't. Don't make any engagements for me, please. My time won't be
my own while I'm here. I didn't mention in my letter that Breck Sewall
is coming up from New York to-morrow. He has invited me to several
things in town. I thought it would be simpler for me to spend my nights
here, than to go back so many times to Hilton."

I didn't say a word, but my heart skipped a beat, I think. I had
thought the affair with Breck Sewall had blown over. The Sewalls
haven't occupied their summer place near Hilton for three years.
It hadn't occurred to me that Ruth's visit could have any possible
connection with Breck Sewall. Ruth knew that Will and I disapprove of
him; she knew the sound of his very name was unwelcome in our house. I
felt like telling Ruth to go upstairs, lock up her precious trunks,
and go home. Once I would have spat out something nasty to my sister
about accepting attentions from a man she knew was not nice, but now I
was too anxious to become her friend to quarrel with her on the first
night she arrived. I had learned that the safest course for me to
follow was simply not to oppose Ruth in anything.

It was Will, turning from fastening the windows, who blurted out
bluntly, "Are you still keeping up your connections with that man?"

Ruth smiled, raising her eyebrows a little, and then folded her hands
behind her head, her pretty arms bare to the elbows.

"Don't you approve of him, brother William?" she inquired archly as if
she didn't care a straw whether he did or not.

"Do _you_?" asked Will.

Ruth laughed an amused, silvery laugh and replied lightly, "I am
engaged to be married to Breck Sewall, I suppose, if that answers you."

Will didn't say a word for a minute. Then, "I am sorry to hear that,"
he replied shortly.

"Really?" smiled Ruth. "Breck and I shall certainly miss your blessing,
William." She always calls him William when she's making fun of him.
I don't see how she dares to mock a man so much wiser and older than
she, but Ruth would deride the President of the United States if he
interfered with her little schemes.

Will replied; "You're too fine a girl to make such a mistake, Ruth."

She rippled into another laugh and my cheeks grew warm with
indignation. She leaned forward and selected a chocolate-cream from a
box of candy on the table.

"That's a very prettily veiled compliment, William, and I thank you,"
she said. She nibbled a bit of her candy as she spoke.

She was awfully exasperating, sitting there so gay and unconcerned.
Will stepped up to her chair and I could tell from his voice that he
was angry.

"I know all about Breck Sewall," he said. "He's not the kind of man for
any nice girl to associate with. He spent a year at this university. He
was expelled, not only because he could not keep up in his courses, not
only because he was brought home time and time again too disgustingly
drunk to stand alone, not only because of these things, but because of
another and more disreputable affair. I think you ought to know about
it before this goes any further. It was an affair with a girl. There
was no doubt about it. He acknowledged the whole thing. Why, Ruth, he
isn't the kind of man for you even to speak to!" Will said. "Sometime I
will tell you the whole story--sometime--if it's necessary."

Ruth took another bite of her chocolate-cream.

"Do _now_," she smiled, "if it amuses you. But it will be no news
to _me_. I know all about that college affair of Breck's. He has
told me the whole story himself. I know the girl's name and all the
particulars. Breck isn't afraid to tell me the truth. Nothing in the
world shocks me, you know," she announced with bravado. "Did you think
I was so narrow-minded and hemmed in by prejudice not to overlook the
follies a man may have committed when he was hardly more than a boy?
I don't care what Breck did before he knew me. What other awful news
have you to break to me, William?" Ruth inquired sweetly.

Will stared at Ruth as if she were something he never knew existed.

"Nothing else," he said shortly, "if that isn't sufficient."

There was an uncomfortable silence. My sister must have felt a little
uneasy under the gaze of Will's astonished eyes; for when she had
finished her candy, daintily touched her lips with her bit of a white
handkerchief, tucked it away, and spoke again, her manner towards him
had changed.

"Will," she said, "I'm so different from any one you ever knew that you
can't understand me, can you? Now I know you told me just now about
that little unfortunate affair of Breck's because you want me to be
happy. And I do appreciate your interest in me--I do really. Of course
I have no mother," she put in quite tragically; "I never had. Perhaps
that is why I am so different from other girls. I'm not shocked at the
things young girls are brought up to be shocked at. I don't tremble at
the sound of unadulterated truth and bare facts. I am aware of it. I
am not living under the false illusion that the man I am to marry is
perfect. I know he isn't, and I am content. Why, the very qualities
I require in a man preclude at least a few of the supposed virtues.
Perhaps, Will," said Ruth patronisingly, "you do not understand a man
of Breck's tempestuous nature. _You're_ so scientific. It's easy for
you to stay within the narrow path. But you shouldn't be severe on
others."

"Do you love Breck Sewall?" asked Will point-blank.

"Oh, _love_!" Ruth shrugged her shoulders. "Love would be the last
thing I would marry a man for. I'm not as short-sighted as that. Love
may last a year, or two perhaps, but it is not enduring. I marry for
sounder reasons than love. You must know that the Sewalls are immensely
wealthy. Their position is as established as royalty in England.
Oh, you see," laughed Ruth, standing up and walking over toward
the bookcase, "how dreadfully worldly and wicked I am! Have you La
Rochefoucauld? Let me read you a little saying of his."

"No, not dreadfully worldly--not dreadfully wicked, Ruth," said Will;
"only dreadfully young, I think."

Ruth hates to be accused of youth.

"But old enough to marry whom I please, William, perhaps," she flashed.

"Oh," scoffed Will, "that doesn't require much age, nor much wisdom.
You are young enough to think it rather clever and smart to scorn
virtue, make fun of love, and pretend to marry a man for his wealth and
position. It sounds so bookish and so sophisticated!"

Ruth would not have deigned to respond to such an insulting assault
as that if I had made it, but to Will she replied, "You're mistaken
there. I've thought and read on this subject. I'm not so young as you
think." She walked over to the mantel and leaned her back against the
white marble, then folding her arms across her chest, like a judging
goddess, she continued: "I believe, and several people of reputation
agree with me, that the most important thing to consult in considering
marriage is one's temperament. Ask yourself what your tastes are and
then see if the new life will gratify them. Temperament never changes.
If you love music when you are twenty, you will love it when you are
forty. Well, I have studied my nature very closely. I know what pleases
it. I know what annoys and disturbs it. I'm different from the others
in our family. I often wonder from whom I inherit my peculiarities. I
love beautiful music, beautiful pictures, soft rugs, fine furniture,
delicate lace at the windows. Low, artistic lamp-light, the comings and
goings of soft-footed unobtrusive servants, a dinner perfectly served,
exquisite china, old silver, exclusive people--all such things give me
actual physical pleasure. I enjoy position and influence. My nature
grows and expands under recognition. It dries up and dies under slight
and disregard. The people I envy most in the world are those who are
born in high positions. I can't alter my birth, but I have been invited
to become a member of a prominent and influential family, and as one of
that family I shall be invited and received everywhere, without any of
the humiliating striving. I'm proud, you know. I despise toadying. I
don't want to work for social position. I want it placed upon me, like
a king his crown. Why, Will, Breck Sewall can supply my nature with
everything it demands. Why shouldn't I marry him?"

"Can Breck supply your intellect with what it demands?" asked Will.

Ruth laughed good-naturedly.

"Poor Breck! Poor old maligned Breck! He isn't exactly intellectual,
I agree, but don't you worry, Will, I shall find congenial minds
enough in his circle. The Sewalls entertain all sorts of interesting
professional people--the top-notchers, I mean. My intellect won't
suffer. Where is the woman, anyhow, who discusses her soul with her
husband? How can a woman read poetry with a man who has just been
grumbling at the price of her prettiest gown?" Ruth shuddered. "No, no!
Please! I prefer not. But I shan't be lonely. Never fear." She gave
Will a meaning look from beneath her eyebrows and added in a sort of
bold, daring way, "There will be some one."

I don't know why Ruth loves to preach such wickedness. She doesn't mean
half she says. I waited for the walls to fall. Will abhors married
women who attempt to flirt with other men. Ruth waited too for the
clap of thunder she thought must follow her startling implication.
But when Will spoke there wasn't a trace of anger in his voice--just
disgust--just plain unflattering disgust. "Come, Lucy," he said to me;
"I've had about enough of this. Let's go upstairs to bed."

The Sewalls are the high-muck-a-mucks of the Hilton summer colony.
They're New York people and their place, just outside Hilton,
reminds me of the castles that give distinction to so many otherwise
nondescript little towns in Europe--not in age, for I can remember when
the Sewalls' place was rough cow-pasture land, but in its relation
to the town and the surrounding country. It's Hilton's show-place.
We always point it out to strangers when we take them on their first
drive. The wrought-iron gates cost five thousand dollars; the distance
around the house and adjoining buildings added together measures half a
mile; the big entrance hall, we state (and we're proud of our knowledge
too) is hung with old tapestries and furnished in carved English oak.

After Mrs. F. Rockridge Sewall's advent, there was established among
the Hilton summer colonists a new law of society. You were either of
the elect or of the rejected; you were either entertained by Mrs. F.
Rockridge Sewall or you were an ignominious nobody. There existed no
self-respecting middle position in Hilton after Mrs. Sewall arrived
in mid-July with her retinue of some twenty-odd servants, her four or
five automobiles, and half-dozen hunters. Mrs. Sewall was for some time
a very disturbing factor in Edith's life. The lights of a ballroom,
the sound of dance-music, however lovely they may be, are absolutely
irritating to my sister-in-law, if seen and heard from the outside.
It took two long discouraging seasons of scheming, manipulating, and
rather bold attacking, before Edith gained the proper kind of entrance
to the hallowed ground inside those five-thousand-dollar wrought-iron
gates. It was really due to Ruth that she was admitted then. Young
Breckenridge Sewall had chanced to see a stunning young creature
in lavender and grey at a garden-party at Mrs. Leonard Jackson's,
one afternoon late in August, during his mother's second season at
Grassmere, the name of their place in Hilton. He had only to see Ruth
once to beg for an introduction. That is the way it is with every
man across whose field of vision my sister steps. I think that Ruth
is the loveliest production that Hilton, or Hilton's environs, ever
produced; and Breckenridge Sewall thought so too. Three weeks after
that introduction at Mrs. Leonard Jackson's Ruth rushed in upon Edith
one Friday noon and announced, "I'm invited to a house-party at the
Sewalls'! One of the out-of-town guests has disappointed Mrs. Sewall
at the last moment and Breck wants me to fill in!" Before the Sewalls
went back to New York that fall, Ruth was the most distinguished young
lady in all Hilton. She was pointed out everywhere she went as the
girl to whom Breck Sewall was paying such marked attention; she burst
into notoriety; and Edith's position was at last made secure. Trust
Edith to squeeze into the limelight along with Ruth. I don't know how
my sister-in-law manages such things but it was clear sailing for her
after Breck's discovery.

That man rushed Ruth for two years and a half before there was any word
from my sister about an engagement. During the summer he used to call
on Ruth about six evenings a week, and as Edith made us all go upstairs
(this was before I was married) on the nights that Breck came, by nine
o'clock, it got to be a nuisance. At first I remember we were all a
little flattered by the young millionaire's attention to our pretty
Ruth and even I used to feel a thrill of pride at the thought of such a
brilliant match in our quiet midst.

Breck didn't propose to Ruth till after I was married. She came in
from a long motor run one Sunday in July, when Will and I happened
to be in Hilton, and told us the news before she even took off her
hat. I remember it very well for there followed one of our dreadful
family discussions. By that time Will and I, and Alec too, had begun
to feel a little doubt as to Breck's desirability. We had always
heard rumours about his habits, but Edith prized Breck's attentions
to Ruth so highly, that Alec had neglected a thorough investigation.
He thought that Breck didn't intend to marry Ruth anyway, called it
a summer affair and trusted that time would cure them both of their
fancy. So when Will came out with a few telling facts detrimental
to Breck Sewall's character, Edith was simply furious. She told me
that I shouldn't come back meddling after I was married. Ruth loved
Breck Sewall--she was sure of it; we might be the cause of wrecking
the child's happiness for life if we interfered. Alec looked awfully
distressed as we talked but he didn't rise up in indignation, stampede
as he should have, and swear that no sister of his should ever marry
a man with Breck Sewall's reputation, so long as he lived. Alec is
awfully ineffectual when Edith is around.

I don't know how it all would have come out, if Mrs. Sewall hadn't
interrupted matters. Suddenly, right in the midst of the thickest
of our discussion, three or four days after Ruth's announcement,
Mrs. Sewall decided to go abroad. She closed up her summer mansion,
mid-season though it was, barred the windows, locked the gates, and
sailed away to Europe, Breck and all. She didn't come back for two
years, and even then she didn't come back to Hilton. The excitement
about Breck and Ruth died down like fire, and about as suddenly. He
didn't even write to Ruth after three or four months, and just before
Ruth came down to visit me and announced her startling piece of news,
I had read that Breckenridge Sewall was reported engaged to his cousin,
Miss Gale somebody or other, a débutante of last season.

Ruth's news was an awful shock to me. I knew without being told how
jubilant Edith would be, how helpless Alec in the face of what seemed
to both the women of his household such a brilliant victory. I didn't
know what to do. It didn't seem as if I could stand by and watch my
own sister marry the kind of man Will said that Breck Sewall was. I
lay awake a long while that night after Ruth's arrival at our house,
wondering what under heaven I, whose ideas on life my sister considered
so provincial--what there was that _I_ might do to swerve her from her
purpose.

I could hope for no help from Will. Ruth had thrown him utterly out of
sympathy with her. He washed his hands of the whole affair; he told me
so that night when we came upstairs to bed, and I knew by his manner
to my sister the next morning at breakfast, courteous enough though it
was, in what contempt he held her. I told Will I couldn't send Ruth
back to Hilton, and, as distasteful as I knew Breck Sewall's coming to
our door would be to him, I hoped he would let me keep Ruth with me as
long as she would stay. I didn't have any plan, any deep-laid scheme.
It simply seemed to me that it must have been an act of heaven that
Ruth had been sent to me during such a critical period in her history,
and I didn't want to fly in the face of Providence.

I began by being just as nice and kind to her as I knew how. I didn't
offer one word of opposition; I didn't advise; I didn't criticise; I
appeared even to welcome her suitor when he first arrived to carry my
sister in town to dinner and the theatre; I chatted with him pleasantly
while she put on her party coat upstairs. I served Ruth breakfasts in
bed at eleven A. M.; and admired and praised all her gowns and lovely
fol-de-rols as she dressed every afternoon in preparation for her lover.

For five days Ruth blandly carried on her love-affair in our house,
going and coming at her own sweet time, accepting our hospitality as
a matter of course, while she bestowed her rarest smiles upon a man
whom she knew Will considered disreputable and whom therefore I could
not approve of. For five days she lunched, motored, and dined with
Breck Sewall, and in between times talked with him over the 'phone for
twenty-minute periods. I despaired. I didn't see any way out, and as
the days went on and the house became more and more perfumed by Breck
Sewall's roses and violets and valley-lilies, I began to give up hope.

On the sixth day I received a letter from Edith:

  "Ruth would go down to you. I told her that neither you nor Will liked
  Breck Sewall and it wouldn't be a bit pleasant. Alec and I are both
  very much pleased about the engagement, because Ruth really loves
  Breck Sewall with all her heart, and since his renewed attentions, the
  dear girl has been simply radiant. I write this because I'm afraid
  that you'll try to poison Ruth's mind against the man she loves. We
  all want her to be happy, I'm sure, and I think you would assume a
  lot of responsibility in trying to stop a girl from marrying the only
  man she ever has cared for or ever will. She likes to boast that
  she doesn't love Breck. It's pose. I, who have been with Ruth so
  intimately for so long, know she is _wild_ about Breck Sewall, and
  loves him madly. Don't meddle with it, Bobbie. I'd hate to be to blame
  for _my_ sister's broken heart."

That letter of Edith's set me to thinking. It hadn't occurred to me
that Ruth was simply _pretending_ to marry for position. I didn't think
that such a repulsive creature as Breck Sewall could inspire anything
so divine as love in my sister's heart. And yet, perhaps--how did I
know (I understand Ruth so little anyway)--how did I know--perhaps
Edith was right. Perhaps, after all, Ruth was simply trying to conceal
her love by contempt and scorn of it. It wouldn't have made any
difference as to my opposition, but it would have cleared Ruth of
unworthy motives, at any rate. I was determined to find out.

She had told me when she left the house at three that afternoon
that she and Breck were going to motor to somebody's place on the
north shore and would not be back until late in the evening. It was
eleven-thirty when I finally heard Breck Sewall fumbling with the
lock and a minute later I caught the odour of his cigarette, as I lay
waiting for it in bed. I knew then that he and Ruth were established
in the living-room for their usual half-hour alone before he bade her
good-night. I don't suppose it was a very honourable thing to do,
but after about five minutes I got up, put on a wrapper, and crawled
quietly down to the landing, stepping over the third step which
creaks awfully. It was pitch dark in the corner near the wall; there
was no danger of being seen from below; and I stood perfectly still,
eavesdropping for all I was worth. Ruth had lit one dim burner by the
piano and from my balcony I could plainly see Breck Sewall, low as the
light was, ensconced in a corner of our davenport-sofa.



CHAPTER XXIII


He was making himself entirely at home. He had crossed his feet and
had placed them square in the middle of the mahogany seat of my nice
little Windsor chair, which he had drawn up in front of him. His toes
pointed to the ceiling; his cigarette pointed there too; for he had
comfortably pillowed his greasy old head (Breck's hair is jet black and
always looks as if it was wet) on the top of the low back of the sofa.
The smoke that he blew at times from his nose went straight up like
smoke from a chimney on a windless day. I didn't think it was a very
pretty attitude for a man to assume in the presence of a young lady.
His hands were stuffed in his trousers pockets, and when he spoke the
only trouble he went to was to roll his head in Ruth's direction. He's
anything but good-looking. He has half-closed eyes like a Chinaman's,
and a yellow, unpleasant complexion.

"Come on over here," I heard him say in that kind of guttural voice a
man uses when he tries to talk with a cigarette in his mouth, and I saw
him shift up one shoulder to motion Ruth to sit down beside him.

I couldn't see my sister but I heard her reply. "I don't feel like it
to-night, Breck," she said.

Breck smoked in silence for half a minute, then he asked, removing his
cigarette, "Say, what's the matter with you to-night? Are you back
again on that old subject which your precious saint of a professor
here raised up out of the past? Haven't I explained that to you a dozen
times?"

"I wish you wouldn't refer to members of my family in such a way,"
replied Ruth. "It isn't respectful to me. You're not marrying beneath
you, as your manner sometimes seems to imply. My brother-in-law whom
you choose to call a saint is a noted man, if you only read enough to
know it, Breck. Oh, no, I'm not thinking about that college affair of
yours. I'm not a jealous kind of girl. You know that."

"Well, what is it then? It gets _me_ what I've done to deserve such
treatment. Weren't they the right kind of flowers?"

"Don't be absurd, Breck. As if ornaments or flowers were what I
required! I'll tell you what's the matter, if you want to know," said
Ruth. "It's simply this: I don't think you're treating your engagement
with proper respect. It seems out-of-order to me that I should have
told my family about our intentions before you have told yours. It
isn't a bit as it should be. I hate even to speak about so delicate a
thing--but, Breck, why hasn't your mother written to me? Why hasn't
she set a day for me to come and see her? Here _my_ family are all
recognising _you_ as a future member of their group, while your family
haven't even as much as made a sign."

"Oh, now, now," replied Breck soothingly. "That's it, is it? Don't
you worry, little one. The mater will come around, all right. Give
her time. For my part, though, I'd rather step into the Little Church
Around the Corner and get it over with in a swoop."

If Ruth was sitting down, I'll wager she stood up now. Her reply came
like lightning.

"Breck Sewall," she exclaimed, "that's the third time in a week that
you've suggested eloping to me! I wish you'd stop it. It is absolutely
insulting!"

Breck looked up surprised.

"Insulting?" he repeated dazed.

"Exactly. Insulting," went on Ruth in hot haste. "I'm not a
servant-girl. I require all the proprieties that exist, understand.
Why," she added, "until your mother recognises me publicly as your
fiancée, I'll never marry you as long as I live!" She stopped suddenly.
I knew she was very angry, for Ruth.

Breck chuckled in a horrid insulting sort of way, and lay down his
cigarette.

"Say," he broke out, putting his feet down on the floor, leaning
forward with his elbows on his knees and rubbing his two hands
together, "say, you're simply stunning when you're mad." He was looking
at Ruth as if he'd like to gobble her up. "You're glorious! You're
great! Most of 'em cry and make sights of themselves, but you--you--"
He got up. He strode over to Ruth. I suppose she was simply too
stunning, too glorious, too great to resist. I don't know. The portière
hid her and I was glad of it. I shouldn't enjoy seeing Breck Sewall
as much as lay a finger on my sister. I closed my eyes and waited. I
should have been afraid of a man like that, myself, but I suppose Ruth
suffered herself to be kissed by him with the indifference that she
offers her cheek for the same caress to a girl. When she spoke again
her anger seemed to have spent itself.

"You're very silly, Breck," she said.

"And you--you're as cold as a little fish," he replied as tenderly as
he knew how. I really think he loved Ruth, though I was convinced that
she didn't have an emotion of any kind for him. "But I'll wake you up,
you little marble statue," he went on. "I'll make you care for me.
Women are all alike. See if I don't."

"It's more important," I heard Ruth reply, "to make your mother care
for me. You see, Breck, if we hope to get married in October you had
better tell her your news as soon as possible. Why not to-night when
you go back to the hotel? She has been here now three days with you
and if she wants me to call I can go to-morrow, or the next day,
before I go home. You say she came on so as to make arrangements to
open Grassmere this year. Certainly the engagement must be announced
immediately, so that I shall be received by your mother properly this
summer."

"You seem to care more about my mother than about me," objected Ruth's
lover.

Ruth laughed prettily.

"Poor abused creature!" she mocked. "Poor sulky boy! If I showed my
feelings for you, Breck, all the time, you wouldn't care for me half
so much. I understand men. You call me a little fish and that's what I
am--always slipping out of your fingers, always evading capture, for I
know that once a man gets his fish and puts it in his little basket,
the cat can eat it then for all he cares."

"You're a clever little piece," said Breck admiringly. "Half the time I
don't know what you're driving at."

Just here I saw Ruth walk over to the table and pick up Breck's gold
cigarette box. I don't remember that I have ever been so shocked in
my life as when, staring like a cat out of my dark corner, I saw my
sister--my own little sister Ruth, over whose bed hung the pure,
clean-cut profile of my mother, in whose heart must dwell the memory
of the best, the noblest, the finest father a girl ever had--select a
cigarette, light it, and actually place it between her lovely lips! I
wanted to call out, "Ruth Chenery Vars, what are you doing? Have you
lost your mind? Are you crazy?" I saw her sit down on the corner of the
sofa that Breck had left empty and lean her head back in much the same
luxurious fashion. I saw her blow a fine little ribbon of smoke up to
the ceiling. I waited until I saw Breck cross the room to her side, and
then, too sick to endure the awful spectacle another instant, I turned
and groped my way upstairs to bed.

I couldn't sleep for hours and hours. I turned over at intervals of
four to eight minutes, until it began to grow light. I may have dropped
off into semi-consciousness. I don't know. Anyhow my dreams were one
continuous nightmare of my waking vision. Had it been Ruth whom I
had seen with my own eyes smoking a cigarette in my living-room? Had
it been my own little sister? Had she done it before? Did she do it
often? If I had been anxious to save Ruth from Breck before my horrible
discovery, now I was determined. She shouldn't share such a life as
his. She shouldn't! She shouldn't! I waited impatiently for the morning
light. I was eager to be about my undertaking. I had a disagreeable
task before me, and haunted by the dread of it, very much as we are
visited by the fear of an operation that must be undergone, I wanted to
get it over with and out of the way as soon as possible.

After Will had left for the university and I, as usual, had carried
the breakfast-tray to Ruth (lying as sweet and fresh as a carnation
in her white sheets--you would never have dreamed she had ever
tasted a cigarette) I went upstairs to my room, put on my best
eighty-five-dollar Boston tailor-made suit, and grimly set out for town.

It was ten-thirty when I sent up my name to Mrs. F. Rockridge Sewall
at the Hotel St. Mary, where I knew Breck had been stopping since
his arrival in town. The clerk behind the yellow onyx counter that
enclosed the office of this exclusive hotel, had informed me that Mrs.
Sewall had just breakfasted and therefore could assure me that she was
in. He asked for my card and summoned a bell-boy. I withdrew to the
rose-brocade writing-room at the left, and five minutes later into the
envelope in which I placed my card I slipped a note that read something
like this:

  "_My dear Mrs. Sewall_,

   "It occurs to me that you may not remember who I am from my card, or
   if so, be quite at a loss to know what prompts this call. I have come
   to consult with you on a matter that concerns your son, and would be
   greatly obliged if you will see me.

                                          "LUCY MAYNARD."

I must confess my heart acted like a trip-hammer, as I waited for
my answer. I experienced a moment of misgiving and apprehension, as
I gazed at the pattern of the rose brocade on the walls. I had not
confided to Will my intention of a consultation with Mrs. Sewall,
and just for a moment as I sat there on the edge of a formal little
gilt-trimmed chair, I wondered if my intuitions were leading me into a
dreadful social blunder.

"She will see you; suite thirty-three. The boy will show you up,"
suddenly broke in on my reflections, and in another moment I was
silently shooting up the elevator shaft, gazing at a row of brass
buttons on the bell-boy's coat and estimating their number, to keep
myself calm.

The room into which I was conducted was empty when I entered it--a
typical hotel-suite drawing-room, furnished with elaborate and very
puffy looking stuffed furniture. I chose the only straight chair in the
room, and sat down and waited again. I had met Mrs. Sewall only once in
my life, quite formally at a party of some sort at Edith's. We may have
exchanged a half dozen words, not more. I had never been invited to
her grand house, and most of my knowledge of the lady had come through
hearsay, and the social columns in the papers. It was necessary to keep
my mind pretty closely fastened on the cigarette spectacle, or else
I might have lost courage, and quietly withdrawn before Mrs. Sewall
appeared. She kept me waiting in torture for at least fifteen minutes
(I can tell you the subject of every one of the engravings on the
wall, I am sure) but the queer thing is, that when she finally joined
me and I rose to speak, I forgot to be afraid. Will says that such an
experience is very common with him in making an after-dinner speech.

"You don't know me, Mrs. Sewall," I began.

"I fear I do not," she replied, smiling formally. She was dressed very
plainly, but elegantly too. Her iron-grey hair looked as if it were cut
out of marble not a wisp astray; and you simply felt, so perfect was
everything about her, that the nail of her little finger was as nicely
pointed, polished, and pinked as all the rest.

"But your card," she went on, "your name sounds familiar."

Of course it did--she probably had seen it signed after Will's articles
in the magazines, I thought--but I replied simply, "You met me before
I was Mrs. William Ford Maynard--in Hilton--several years ago. My name
was Lucy Vars."

I was quite prepared for the expression of hostility that crossed Mrs.
Sewall's face at this remark.

"Vars," she repeated a little vaguely. "Oh, yes, I remember. There was,
I believe, a Ruth Vars. Are you related?" Then as if she had forgotten
it up to this time, she suddenly asked, "Won't you sit down?"

I thanked her and did so, she herself sinking into a voluminous tufted
armchair opposite.

"I am Ruth Vars' sister," I explained, "and it is about Ruth and your
son that I have come to talk with you."

Mrs. Sewall raised her brows.

"Your sister? My son? Really? How extraordinary!"

"Why, yes. You must know," I went on, "that your son is seeing a great
deal of Ruth lately."

Mrs. Sewall smiled in a very patronising manner and replied, "It is
very difficult for a mother to keep track of all a young man's fancies."

"This is more than a fancy, Mrs. Sewall. Ruth and your son are engaged
to be married," I announced calmly.

A slight flush spread over Mrs. Sewall's face to the very roots of her
marcel wave, but her voice showed no emotion when she spoke.

"Would it not have been more delicate to have allowed my son to have
told me this piece of news," she asked me cuttingly.

"I was not thinking much about the delicacy of my call, I'm afraid."

"Evidently," she agreed.

"I have come simply to find out if you approve of this engagement and,
if not, what we can do about it."

Mrs. Sewall looked me up and down deliberately, then:

"You seem to be a very courageous young person," she said, "but I fear
this interview cannot alter my opinion. Your sister is no doubt a
very charming young girl, but I have other ambitions for my son, Mrs.
Maynard."

"I thought so. I guessed it from a conversation I overheard, and
that is why I have come this morning. I thought we could work better
together than alone."

"I plainly see," said Mrs. Sewall, gazing pityingly upon me, "that it
will be necessary to be quite blunt with you. Did you never suspect
that I closed Grassmere three years ago, simply to separate my son from
your sister? As soon as I learned that my son actually intended to
marry Miss Vars I was forced to take him to a different environment.
When you consider that I have fought against this attachment for so
long, you will see how absurd it is for you to hope to win my approval
now, however bold your attempt."

"Oh," I flushed, "it isn't to win your approval that I am here. You
have misunderstood me. It is to win, or rather to assure myself of your
disapproval. You see I'm not in favour of the marriage either."

"You're not in favour of it?" Mrs. Sewall ejaculated.

"I'm not in favour of it," I repeated. "Ruth doesn't love your
son. She's marrying for position--and I want to save her from such
unhappiness. I don't want her to marry any one she doesn't love," I
hastened to add.

"Well, well," Mrs. Sewall interrupted, "this is a novel experience for
me. I wonder," she broke off in a sudden burst of friendliness, sarcasm
and patronage gone from her voice, "I wonder I never discovered you in
Hilton, Mrs. Maynard." Then she added with an amused twinkle in her
eyes, "You are rather unlike your very enterprising sister-in-law, Mrs.
Alexander Vars."

"Yes," I smiled, "perhaps a little. I have rather old-fashioned ideas
on marriage, I suppose."

"I trust," Mrs. Sewall went on, "that you are sincere in saying you are
opposed to this affair between your sister and my son."

"Sincere? Oh, yes, truly. Perfectly sincere." I blushed in spite of
myself.

"I believe you--oh, I believe you," Mrs. Sewall reassured me quickly.
"I know without your saying so that there may be other grounds why you
object to your sister's engagement. You know," she smiled, "there is a
different code of morals for every class of society that exists."

"I know," I murmured.

"But we won't go into that. It is sufficient that you _do_ object.
And now that we discover ourselves to be, instead of enemies, fellow
soldiers, fighting together on the same side for the same cause, I am
going to be very frank and tell you how low my ammunition is. I am
powerless to do anything to influence this affair, I fear. A mother's
wishes are of little account these days--my advice, my desires, not
worth consideration. There are some things, I am learning, that I
cannot control. A determined and hot-tempered young man in love with an
ambitious girl, who sees wealth and position in her lover's proposals,
is a combination beyond hope of breaking up."

"Oh, no, it isn't," I interrupted.

She shook her head.

"I have opposed and opposed. My son knows my hostile and bitter
attitude toward the whole affair. It does not make the slightest dent
upon his intentions. I have talked by the hour; I have cajoled; I have
threatened; but to no avail. Mrs. Maynard, my son ought to marry a girl
with money. His fortune is greatly overestimated, and until he ran
across your sister again--oh, by the merest chance three months ago on
Fifth Avenue--he was devoted to his cousin, Miss Gale Oliphant, whom
you may have read about when she made her brilliant début last season.
I heartily approve of such a match--appropriate in every way."

"Of course," I tucked in. "Why, Ruth has barely enough to buy her
necessary clothes."

"Exactly," Mrs. Sewall sighed. "Oh, I don't know how it all will work
out; I really don't know. At least your sister is a nice girl. My son
might have chosen some one who wasn't educated or cultured--he has had
so many fancies--and I shall have the satisfaction also, I suppose, of
having avoided the notoriety of an elopement. My consent was forced
from me, but it seemed the only way."

"Have you consented?" I asked alarmed.

"Reluctantly. Why, I could do nothing else. Breckenridge threatened a
month ago that if I didn't consent he would elope with Miss Vars. At
least, if the marriage _must_ take place, it had better be decently.
When he disappeared from home a week ago, I thought the worst had
happened. I was so relieved when I placed my son at this hotel and
found he was still single, that I decided to accept the inevitable
with as much grace as possible now that I had been given a second
opportunity. Breckenridge says your sister will marry him at any time
if he but says the word, and he assures me he _will_ say it unless my
note of welcome reaches Miss Vars--to-morrow. So--" She shrugged her
shoulders.

"That isn't true!" I replied. "Not a word of it! Ruth wouldn't elope
for anything in the world. She's awfully proud, Mrs. Sewall. I ought
not to have done it, but I listened to a private conversation between
Ruth and your son. I heard Ruth say, when your son suggested a secret
marriage, that the idea was absolutely insulting to her. She was
awfully angry, and that was only last night at eleven o'clock."

"You heard her say that? Last night? You are sure?"

"Yes," I went on quickly, "and what is more I heard her say she would
never marry Breck in this world till you accepted her publicly as his
fiancée. It was when I heard that, that I decided to come and talk with
you."

"Breckenridge has been misrepresenting the situation," Mrs. Sewall
remarked.

"Ruth _is_ ambitious," I went on. "Ruth _is_ fond of wealth and
position, but she's the proudest girl I ever knew. I thought if you
understood how important a part _you_ and your attitude played in the
engagement, you could act accordingly. Ruth would break it off herself,
if--it sounds awfully disloyal to her--but if you made the situation
uncomfortable enough for her. I'm sure of it."

Mrs. Sewall got up and walked over to the little mahogany desk.

"I was afraid the maid had already mailed it," she exclaimed, holding
up the little square envelope with Ruth's name and my address upon it.
"It was a note of--" she smiled wryly--"of welcome to your sister. How
fortunate," she added, "that you called just when you did. It throws a
different light on the matter."

I remained with Mrs. Sewall until nearly twelve o'clock. We talked
the situation threadbare before I left. I told her all I knew of
Ruth's hopes and visions of the future. I repeated my sister's speech
to Will of the peculiar demands of her temperament. I discussed her
as freely as if she were a patient with important symptoms, and Mrs.
Sewall the physician. I explained the situation in Hilton, Edith's
influence upon Ruth, at what a high value my sister-in-law placed Mrs.
Sewall's recognition, how persistently she preached the advantage of a
connection by marriage. In the face of the force of Edith's influence,
I pointed out Ruth's saving traits of pride and self-esteem. Ruth was
as haughty as the highest. I enlarged on the absolute impossibility of
an elopement as far as my high-spirited sister was concerned. Oh, I
urged Ruth's humiliation as the only hope for success!

Before I left I had the satisfaction of seeing Mrs. Sewall tear up my
sister's card of introduction to the Sewall family, and deposit the
remains in the waste-basket. As I rose to go Mrs. Sewall took my hand
in both of hers. Edith, I am sure, would have been surprised if she
could have witnessed such intimacy between grand Mrs. F. Rockridge
Sewall and Bobbikins.

"I am so glad you came," she said. "I owe you so much. I haven't
entirely decided on my exact course, but if you later hear of my
opening Grassmere, do not be surprised. There may be method in my
madness."

"I'll leave it all with you," I reassured her. "Only I hope you won't
make it any worse for Ruth than necessary."

"I won't, my dear; and by the way, sometime when you are in Hilton,
will you let me know? Or by any chance in New York? After this we
surely must be friends."

"Instead of connections?" I asked.

"You would be delightful as both," she laughed, and I bade her
good-bye.

I felt like a traitor that night at dinner. Ruth never seemed sweeter.
She had explained as she sat down to our evening meal that she was
going to visit with Will and me alone that night. She was returning to
Hilton in two days and she had told Breck that one evening at least,
she intended to devote to her sister. I felt dreadfully guilty. But
for me, her long-looked-for, much-coveted note of welcome from Mrs.
Sewall would now be on its way to her; but for me, her bright visions
of a social position being placed upon her head like a crown would have
become a reality. I wished she wouldn't keep on piling coals of fire
upon my head. She started in on her appreciation of my hospitality
right after dinner. She said she would always remember her nice little
breakfasts that I had served her in bed, whatever her future life might
be (and she implied that it promised to be rather grand); she remarked
she hoped I didn't believe all that she said to Will the first night
she was with us; she assured me that my quiet and gracious acceptance
of Breck had made an impression that she would never forget. She kissed
me good-night of her own accord.

I told Will about my call on Mrs. Sewall as soon as we were safely in
our room. I wanted to get the secret knowledge of it off my mind. I was
beginning to feel a little apprehensive and doubtful. I really don't
know what right I have to snatch Ruth's life away from her and treat it
as if it were mine. But Will always reassures me.

"Well," he said, "if you do succeed in breaking off this disreputable
affair, Lucy, I'll take off my hat to you, and so will Ruth--some day."

"Oh, do you think she will?" I asked relieved.

"Know it. My, but what a girl I did marry! You _do_ take the bull by
the horns. If you had had a son what a staver he would have been."

I forgot Ruth and her affairs in a twinkling.

I wilted like a flower plucked from its stem.

"You used to say that in the simple future, and now it's past
subjunctive," I trembled.

Will laughed at me. "Don't like my tenses! What a particular person!
Well, how's this? Here's a sentence in the simple present. It always
has been present tense, always will be present." He leaned and
whispered something in my ear.

"Pooh!" I scoffed, smiling for his sake. "That's too easy. It's the
first tense of the first verb given in every grammar of every language
in the world!"



CHAPTER XXIV


It was five months later, sometime during the last of September, that
I again heard directly from Ruth and her love-affair with Breckenridge
Sewall.

Miss Kavenaugh, the dollar-and-a-half-a-day university seamstress,
had come to help me with my muslin curtains. Miss Kavenaugh is a very
much-sought-after lady, and when I am able to secure her for a day,
I give up everything else, sit down and sew with her. She plans,
cuts and bastes, and I run the chain-stitch machine like mad. We had
been working since eight A. M. in my darling new bedroom that looks
out on my row of late dahlias. I could hardly keep my eyes on the
machine-needle because of the distracting flame of several maple-trees
against some dark green cedars across the lake. Will and I had been in
our new house about two weeks and we adored it! I was perched on the
step-ladder at the particular moment the telephone bell rang, hanging
the last muslin curtain in the room we called Ruth's. Miss Kavenaugh
was puttering with the cretonne overhangings, pulling and patting them
as tenderly as if they had been dainty dresses hung up on forms.

It was Ruth on the telephone calling me from town.

"I'm in here shopping," she said. "Can you possibly come in and have
lunch? Do, if you can. I want to see you."

Now whenever Ruth did honour me with an invitation to luncheon it was
in quite a different manner. To-day she actually asked me to set the
hour and seemed inclined to adapt her plans to mine. I didn't want to
leave Miss Kavenaugh in the least (she couldn't give me another day for
a week), but if Ruth was as anxious to see me as all that, I decided I
had better meet her if it broke a bone. I told her I would be at the
appointed place at one-thirty.

Since June, Will and I had been buried in a little out-of-the-way spot
in Newfoundland. The few letters that I had received had scarcely
mentioned Ruth's affairs. Only one from my sister herself early in July
had given me any inkling that Mrs. Sewall was acting on my suggestion.
In that letter Ruth had briefly said that her engagement to Breck would
probably not be announced till fall, and asked me to say nothing about
the matter to any one. I was delighted not to.

Ruth was looking as pretty as ever, when I finally found myself
sitting opposite to her at one of the side tables in the dining-room
of the only hotel in town where she will condescend to eat. If she had
anything of importance on her mind she certainly exhibited no outward
agitation. She was dressed in a scant, tailor-made white serge suit,
and had on a big, floppy, soft, fur-felt hat, which no other woman I
know would have attempted to wear. It was lavender in shade and the
brim drooped as if it had lost all its stiffening. Around the crushed
crown was tied a piece of hemp rope. I never saw a hat like it in
any shop. Ruth is always discovering odd, outlandish "shapes" in the
millinery line and trimming them up with things no one ever thought of
putting on a hat before. This particular creation looked as if it had
been blown on to Ruth's head, but I must say it had landed at just the
right angle to reveal a bit of her pretty hair, and to frame her face
in a halo of soft mauve.

"What shall we eat?" asked Ruth in a bored little way, and tossed
me a menu. After we had decided on mock-turtle soup, sweet-breads
a-la-something, little peas, and Waldorf salad (Ruth isn't the kind
to pick up a ham-sandwich and cup of coffee at a lunch-counter, I can
tell you) and the superior-looking waiter had departed, Ruth opened her
shopping bag and tossed two dress samples down upon the white cloth.

"What do you think of these?" she asked nonchalantly.

I wondered if Ruth had dragged me all the way in town, occupied and
busy as I had been at home, to show me dress samples. Always the
psychological moment to share a confidence, or to announce a startling
piece of news, is after the waiter has departed with your order. But
Ruth took her own time.

"I'm trying a new tailor," she went on. "I've ordered the
black-and-white stripe. It's very good in the piece. By the way, don't
you prefer butter without salt? Waiter!" Ruth is very imperious when
she is in a hotel. Clerks and maids and bell-boys simply fly to obey
when Ruth gives an order. We were supplied with crescents, corn-muffins
and slim brown-bread sandwiches, fresh butter, ice-water and two
napkins apiece, before a man lunching alone at the next table could get
his glass refilled.

It wasn't until we were well started on our elaborate menu, that Ruth
thought best to gratify my curiosity. It was while she was pouring the
tea, and after I had given up hope that she had anything thrilling to
announce to me after all, that she asked, "Sugar, I believe?" and then
as she dropped one little crystal cube into the cup added, "Oh, by the
way, I've broken my engagement to Breck Sewall."

I didn't show a trace of wonder or surprise.

"Is that so?" I said, as if I didn't much care if she had, and then
after I had taken a swallow of tea I asked, "How did that happen?"

"Oh, I simply decided to," Ruth replied shortly; and as if the subject
were closed, she inquired, "How's the new house?"

I was simply aching to ask a few questions, but I didn't allow myself
even one.

"Oh, it's very nice," I replied; "we've been in it two weeks now."

"How did the lavender room turn out?" asked Ruth, travelling away as
fast as possible from the subject of her engagement.

"_Your_ room, Ruth, you mean," I replied patiently. "Very well, I
think."

"Is it finished yet? I mean could any one sleep in it--to-night?"

"Will you come home with me, Ruth?" I asked eagerly.

"I thought I might--possibly, if you'd like to have me, and if you
have an empty bed. At least," she added, "I'm not going back to The
Homestead."

"Oh, you're not!" I replied, vaguely wondering if it were the tailor
who was keeping her or the manicurist. "Well, I can lend you a
nightgown and you can buy a tooth-brush."

"Oh, my trunk is at the station," said Ruth. "I was determined to go
somewhere. You see things are not very pleasant for me just now in
Hilton. Besides, Edith and I have quarrelled."

It wasn't very charitable to rejoice at such an announcement; it wasn't
very noble of me, I suppose, to delight that conditions at Hilton were
too disagreeable for Ruth to remain there; but remember I had always
wanted to shelter my sister--remember I had always been jealous of her
loyalty and devotion to Edith, and remember, also, ever since the plans
of our house had been put on paper, I had hoped and almost prayed that
_some one_ would wish to sleep in the southeast chamber.

I reached for a biscuit to help conceal my feelings.

"Well," I said steadily, "your room is ready, and you're free to use it
or not, as you wish."

"It won't be for very long," apologised Ruth, "and perhaps I can
help you settle. You mustn't let me be the least bother. I haven't
forgotten, you know," she said smiling, "how to wipe dishes."

"Didn't there used to be a lot of them in the old days at home," I
remarked.

"And wasn't I horrid?" she followed up in a sudden burst of generosity.
"Wasn't I horrid about helping? I was never very nice to you, I'm
afraid, Lucy."

"Of course you were!" I scoffed.

"Oh, I know I wasn't, but you used to be awfully rabid. It seems to me
you've improved a great deal in that respect since you were married.
I noticed it when I visited you last spring." She stopped a moment.
Then, "I want to tell you," she went on, "that I think you were
awfully decent about Breck Sewall. You may not have liked him, but I
appreciated your not trying to urge and influence me, the way Will did.
If you had mixed yourself up in the affair too much I wouldn't feel
like coming to you now."

I lowered my eyes as a hypocrite should.

"Of course not," I murmured ashamed.

Suddenly Ruth shoved her tea-cup to one side, her plate to the other,
and folding her hands on the table in front, abruptly launched out into
the midst of the details of her broken engagement.

"Edith," she began, "is willing to humiliate herself to any degree for
the sake of a promotion in the social world. Now I'm too proud to stoop
to some things. Edith actually advised me to marry Breck without Mrs.
Sewall's approval. She said Mrs. Sewall would be sure to come around
once the affair was settled. Could you imagine me in such a position?"

"Oh," I said, "didn't Mrs. Sewall approve?"

"Haven't you heard?" asked Ruth. "Every one else has. It has been
anything but pleasant. When I wrote you that my engagement wouldn't
be announced till fall it was simply because I hadn't heard from Mrs.
Sewall. Breck said he hadn't told his mother and I believed him. She
was ill or something, and I was willing to wait until it seemed wise
to break the news to her. I was willing to meet her half-way, you
see. I meant to be patient with Mrs. Sewall. Of course I realise I
have no money nor position; but I won't be insulted by any one! She
opened Grassmere in August, and brought along with her a young niece
of hers, a Miss Oliphant--a silly creature, I thought; and she set in
entertaining for her as she's never entertained before. Hilton has
never been so gay, and everyone who was within the range of possibility
was invited to Grassmere--everybody except Edith and me. Think of it!
Think of the insult! It was the most pointed thing you ever saw. Edith
is simply furious. Mrs. Sewall avoids her everywhere she sees her, and
me too for that matter. _I_ don't mind so much. It is Edith whom it
stings so. _I_ simply long for a chance to cut Mrs. Sewall. That's _my_
attitude. However I don't enjoy being gossiped about, and all Hilton is
buzzing. Oh, it's horrid!"

"I should say so," I murmured, stunned by the disaster I had caused.

"Well, during it all Breck has kept right on coming to see me--late
every night after his social engagements at Grassmere. That was the
feature I hated most, and the one that Edith, on the other hand, clung
to as our only hope of salvation. But I'm not the kind to become the
secret fancy of any man, even if he is the King of England. If I'm not
good enough for his mother to recognise, then I don't want anything of
him. Anyhow I consider myself, from the point of view of culture and
education, superior to the Sewalls!"

"Of course," I agreed.

"The whole thing has made me sick and tired of the social game,"
ejaculated Ruth. "I don't believe there's any such thing as pure,
unadulterated friendship between people who are socially ambitious.
Why, some of the girls, who I thought were my best friends, have been
acting very cool and offish since they've observed Mrs. Sewall's
attitude towards me. And both Edith and I are omitted from lots of
other people's parties besides the Sewalls, simply because Mrs.
Sewall and Miss Oliphant are often the guests of honour. Oh, I think
that all women are vain and selfish and insincere, and, if sometimes
they _appear_ thoughtful or sacrificing, it's simply because such an
attitude toward someone will help them up another rung on the ladder.
I'd like to get away from society for a while. It almost seems," Ruth
added vehemently, "as if I'd like to enter a convent!"

"Oh, I'm awfully sorry, Ruth," I began.

"There's nothing for _you_ to be sorry about. You couldn't help it. If
I only had more money," Ruth went on, "I'd travel. I'd escape this sort
of life. But what can any one do on my income? Eight hundred dollars!
And I won't take any more from Edith."

"Did you quarrel very badly?" I dared to ask.

"Oh, quite. She went into an awful passion when I told her that I'd
broken the engagement. She called me a short-sighted little fool!
Breck, you see, wanted me to marry him in spite of his mother. Imagine
me eloping! I wouldn't do such a vulgar thing. Edith said that her
mother had run off with her father (imagine comparing me to that
impossible Mrs. Campbell!) and that if I didn't marry Breck everybody
would think _he_ had gotten tired of _me_--cast me off, and all that
sort of thing. I don't get angry often, but I gave Edith a piece of my
mind that I guess she'll remember for a long time, and Alec didn't like
it a bit. So this morning I just decided to decamp."

"But of course Breck will follow you," I suggested cheerfully.

"Oh, no, he won't. I've quarrelled with him too." Ruth smiled. "I
seem to have quarrelled with everybody. But Breck threatened, and
threats never have the least effect on me. He really did want to marry
me, in spite of what people said about his marked attentions to this
Oliphant girl. He was crazy to marry me. Things got to an awful pitch
of excitement and one night three days ago, he said that if I wouldn't
run off with him in the dark like some common girl in a newspaper
story, and get married by a country parson along the road somewhere,
he wasn't going to spend any more of his time waiting around. He said
that Gale--that's Miss Oliphant--would marry him, mother or no mother;
she had some heart and feeling in her. I told him that _I_ on the other
hand wouldn't lower my self-respect one iota, for love, or position,
or any other reason. And so ... well, here I am, with all my bridges
burned. By the way," Ruth broke off, "please don't ask me to discuss
this matter with Will. He was too intolerant last spring for me to care
to talk it over with him now."

"You needn't mention it to him," I assured her.

"You can imagine," said Ruth, "that I'm not feeling very much like
talking about it to any one."

"I understand, and we won't refer to it at all. I know how hard it is,
Ruth,--but time--"

"Oh, time!" replied my sophisticated sister. "There's no scar on my
heart for time to heal. You see now, don't you, how safe it is to keep
such affairs strictly in the region of one's head."

Two or three weeks later I received a letter from Mrs. Sewall. I didn't
know her writing but I saw Grassmere engraved on the envelope, so I
suspected before I broke the seal.

  "_My dear Mrs. Maynard_,

  "You will be interested to know that the engagement of Miss Gale
  Oliphant to my son is to be publicly announced on Wednesday next.
  But for you I am afraid this very happy alliance might not have been
  arranged. Relying absolutely on what you told me I could expect from
  your sister I have acted on your suggestion, with these results. I was
  sorry to treat so lovely a girl as your sister seems to be in so cruel
  a manner, but such an object-lesson seemed to me the most effectual
  way of showing what a future relation with me might prove to be. Let
  me say I think she is a very fine-principled and high-minded girl, and
  another season when I shall return to Grassmere with my son and his
  bride I trust I may see a great deal of her. Another season I hope I
  may set everything right with Mrs. Alexander Vars also, whom it seemed
  necessary to sacrifice for a little while to our cause, if, in fact, I
  cannot do something toward reparation this year in the few weeks left
  before I return to New York. Let me add with all heartiness that I am
  particularly anticipating the pleasure of entertaining, sometime soon,
  an old fellow-soldier of mine.

                                         "Sincerely,
                                   "FRANCES ROCKRIDGE SEWALL."

"Take off your hat," I said to my husband late that night. "You
promised you would. The engagement is broken. Breck Sewall is going to
marry his cousin, and Ruth is in bed in the southeast chamber."

During the weeks immediately following Ruth's decision in regard to
Breck Sewall, she became an absorbingly interesting proposition,
to herself. For the first month she wouldn't show any interest in
anything outside her own problem. Ruth has admirers where-ever she
goes and under any circumstances; and as soon as it was learned that
she was staying with me the telephone began to ring every day--the
door-bell every night or so with would-be suitors. But Ruth wouldn't
see any of her callers or accept any invitations. She assumed such a
blasé and indifferent attitude toward life that it worried me. She
used to take long walks alone over the hills and improvise by the
hour by firelight in our living-room. Evenings after dinner she spent
in her own room reading Marcus Aurelius, Omar Khayyam, Oscar Wilde
and Marie Bashkirtseff. I used to find the books missing from the
book-shelves, and discover them on the couch in Ruth's room later. A
drop-light arranged on a small table by the head of the couch, a soft
down quilt wrapped around a china-silk negligee, and Ruth nestled
down inside of all that, was the picture to which Will and I always
sang out good-night when we closed our door at ten P.M. She used to
devote several hours a day to writing, but whether it was a novel or
an epic poem that she was so busy about, I didn't know. She kept her
papers safely locked away in her trunk and I didn't like to intrude on
her intimacy. I think Ruth rather enjoyed herself during these first
days after the settlement of her affair with Breck. Her newly-won
independence, her freedom, brought about entirely by her own will
and volition, filled her with a little self-admiration. She appealed
to herself as rather an unique and remarkable young person, bearing
the interesting distinction of a broken engagement. She was young
and fresh and lovely, and belonged to no one; her future lay in her
own hands; she didn't know what she should do with it, but it was
hers--hers alone, and full of all sorts of exciting possibilities.

"I don't want to see anything more of men for a long time," she would
say. "I haven't decided yet what I'm going to go into, but I want to
_do_ something. I want to see all sides of life. I have had enough of
society and bridge and silly girls who only want to get married. I'm
seriously considering settlement work in New York. Sometime I'd like to
go to Paris and study sculpture."

At the end of Ruth's third week with us--one Saturday night, I believe
it was--the door-bell rang about eight o'clock. The maid answered it
and when she came upstairs and passed by the door of Will's study
(which is a little room over the front door and where we sit evenings)
I said with a sigh of relief, "Thank goodness, it's for Ruth. I did
want to finish this ruffle." And a moment later I added, "I wonder what
excuse she'll send down to-night."

I was surprised five minutes later by Ruth's appearance in the doorway.
She had put on a favourite gown of hers--crow-black meteor satin, so
plain it had kind of a naked appearance, with a V-shaped neck that
showed a bit of Ruth's throat. There wasn't a scrap of any kind of
trimming on it.

"Will you hook this up please?" she asked, and when I had finished,
"Thanks," she said, and with no explanation went downstairs.

"I wonder who it can be!" I exclaimed after she had departed. "It's the
first one she has seen."

Will looked up and smiled.

"Oh, it's just a _man_. Rest assured that this pose of Ruth's can't
last much longer. Three weeks of a diet that excludes all forms of
masculine admiration is a long fast for Ruth. They'll be calling here
thick and fast now."

But it wasn't just a man! About nine-thirty I stole down the back
stairs to get two pieces of chocolate cake and two glasses of milk for
Will and me. I peeked into the front hall before crawling back again.

"Will," I said two minutes later, "leaning up against the Chippendale
chair in the hall is a man's walking-stick and it has got a plain
silver top like Bob Jennings'. I introduced Bob to Ruth last week at a
Faculty Tea and he walked home with her, before I was ready to leave.
It does seem odd that he didn't send cards up to us too, doesn't it?"

It was almost eleven o'clock before I heard the front door close and
Ruth snapping off the lights in the living-room. Will was staying up
late to-night, and I had put on a soft wrapper and curled up in the
Morris-chair with a magazine. The door was slightly ajar, and as Ruth
passed it on her way to bed she stopped just outside, and asked softly:

"Are you both still up?"

"Surely," I replied. "Come in."

She came over and stood by the table where Will was working.

"Can you be torn away from your precious books for a while, Will?" she
asked sweetly.

"Of course I can," he replied.

"Because," Ruth went on, "I want to tell you something." She paused.

"Yes?" encouraged Will. "Fire away."

"I suppose," Ruth continued, "you two are wondering when I am going
home. I've been here nearly a month now and I ought to decide what I am
going to do. I'd like your advice if you're not too busy."

"Certainly I'm not," Will responded heartily.

Ruth can be very complimentary and deferential when she chooses. She
chose so to be now. Will closed his books. Ruth was standing by the
table; her tapering finger-tips just reached the mahogany surface, she
leaned lightly on them; her face was in the shadow, for the only light
was Will's low reading-lamp, and her arms suddenly appearing out of the
dark were startlingly white and pretty.

"It was Mr. Jennings who called to-night," she went on. "I saw him
because he rather interested me last week when I met him at one of your
Faculty Teas. I was talking with him to-night a little about my life.
It came in after I had read him a few of my verses, which he said he
would be kind enough to give me his opinion about, when I told him last
week that I wrote a little. He suggested a plan that rather appealed
to me. I don't know what you think of it, but he says that there are a
lot of girls who take special courses here at Shirley (Shirley is the
girls' college connected with the university) and that, even though I'm
not a college girl, he thinks he could arrange for me to take a course
or two in poetry and literature. He wants me to develop my talent.
Oh, I'd love to do it!" Ruth exclaimed, suddenly enthusiastic. "Mr.
Jennings is _so_ encouraging! He thinks I really might write something
worth while some day. I've always thought that poetry was the very
highest form of expression. Mr. Jennings thinks so too. He says, Lucy,
that you attend certain courses connected with the university that
would be excellent for me. He says that I could go to some of those
afternoons with you perhaps. He's going to get the Shirley catalogue
and lay out a course of study for me. Do you suppose, Will, that you
could find a place for me to room somewhere around here?"

"To room, Ruth? Why, we should want you to stay right here with us," I
exploded.

"Oh, of course," Ruth scoffed, "I couldn't break in on you and Will
that way."

"But, Ruth," I began.

"Oh, no, Lucy, I wouldn't do that. I've been fifth wheel at The
Homestead for years, but I don't intend to be here."

"Nonsense," said Will; "we'd like to have you. Lucy spent a lot of time
preparing that room you're in and--"

"No. Please. I shan't listen. Why, you haven't even talked it over.
Wait till morning anyway. I simply came in to ask your advice on my
turning into a 'blue-stocking.' Do you think it absolutely ridiculous?"

We thought it was splendid--both Will and I. We talked and planned
and built air-castles with Ruth till after midnight. She even read us
some of her pretty verses and before she went to bed at one A. M. she
had already become a poetess of renown with contributions appearing
frequently in the most exclusive magazines.

A new-found genius slept in the southeast chamber that night, and at
seven A. M. when the sun and I crawled into her room together we found
her fast asleep with one hand tucked cosily under her cheek. Her hair,
which is neither blonde nor brown but kind of a dull mouse-colour and
almost mauve when she wears the right shade, was braided and flung up
back over the pillow. Upon the pillow beside her lay her left hand
upturned and free from jewellery of any kind. That upturned hand had
kind of an appealing, wistful expression about it that made me want to
cry. Somehow the sight of Ruth's bare unpromised hand making the only
dent on the surface of the pillow by her side filled me with a wave of
thanksgiving. She breathed softly, regularly, her violet-tinted eyelids
quivering a little, a half-smile lingering in the corners of her mouth.
A fly lit on Ruth's chin and, unmolested, walked audaciously up along
the flushed, velvety surface of her cheek. It stopped just beneath
her long-curved eyelashes. She didn't stir--just kept on with her
even, measured breathing and her steady sleep. I frightened that bold
creature away with a wave of my hand. I honestly believe that Breck
Sewall hadn't disturbed my sister any more than the fly on her cheek.
She seemed to me the most superbly virginal creature I had ever gazed
upon.

I sat down and touched her shoulder softly.

"It's morning," I said, and when she was entirely awake I continued,
"It's morning, and you wanted us to wait till morning. We've talked
it all over together alone and we both still want you to stay with
us as long as you possibly can. Why, Ruth, we built this room for
_you_--especially for _you_--and I do hope you'll like it well enough
to stay."

"It's prettier than my room at Edith's," replied Ruth. Then suddenly
she put out her hand and touched my knee. "Lucy," she said, "I'm
_crazy_ to stay. I'd _hate_ a stuffy boarding-house."

"Of course you would!"

"This is so adorably fresh and clean and simple. Have you and Will
really talked it all over? I think I ought not to stay, but I'll
promise not to be the least bother in the world."

"Bother!" I exclaimed.

"I'll be busy with my studies daytimes and keep out of the way
evenings. Really," she asked, "do you want me?"

"We really do," I said solemnly.

She turned and suddenly sat up beside me on the edge of the bed. She
was a lovely creature with her long thick hair, her white arms, and her
pretty, soft, beribboned nightgown falling off one shoulder. She seemed
too lovely to be my sister. She flung one arm around my shoulders.

"Lucy," she exclaimed, "from this time on, I'm going to be nice to you."

I don't remember that Ruth had ever before put her arm around me of
her own accord. A lump came in my throat. Tears blinded me. I got up
hastily and began putting down the windows.



CHAPTER XXV


If you want to know what became of Ruth I'll tell you--I'll tell you
right off. She fell in love with Bob Jennings. She fell awfully in love
with him--absorbingly, overwhelmingly in love. Ruth, the lofty, the
high, the pedestalled! Ruth who prided herself on her coolness and her
circumspection, Ruth who boasted that fate had foreordained a brilliant
marriage, lost her head over a young college instructor who taught
English composition to freshmen and sophomores, at a salary something
less than three thousand a year. It simply proves that the eternal
feminine will crop out, however much it has been choked and blighted,
just like a dry bulb that's been kept in a damp dark cellar all winter.
Once you put it in the sun and warmth, and give it a little water, it
just can't help but grow up bright and green--brilliant rank green,
full of juicy stalks and buds. Why, Ruth got to be such a normal sort
of girl that she blushed every time Bob's name was mentioned. Ruth the
invulnerable! She even lost her appetite--of all ordinary things--and
great circles appeared under her eyes. The most astounding feature to
me was that Ruth fell in love before she was asked to. Imagine that if
you can. Ruth the haughty! The bulb began to send out shoots like a
common onion or potato, before invited by the sun. Things came to such
a pass that Will finally touched on the delicate subject with Bob. We
thought the man must be blind, crazy or heartless, not to have seen
the tell-tale symptoms in Ruth's manner long before circles began to
appear. But Will found that Bob was simply penniless. This university
pays salaries about large enough to keep two canaries alive, and Bob
told Will that though he had loved Ruth ever since the day he first saw
her, he couldn't say a word to her about it, because he already had a
mother quite alone and dependent living with him, besides a sister he
was trying to put through college, and he knew Ruth was a girl who had
been used to luxuries.

Bob is a kind of dreamy sort of man. He says the simplest things in
a way that thrills you. His letters, even his notes accepting dinner
invitations (and such are the only kind I have ever received) have a
kind of "way" with them--exclamation points here and there, single
words, capitalised and perioded, to express a whole sentence. Oh, Bob
is awfully individual; but he'll never be rich. He's a teacher, in the
first place; and in the second, he hasn't a father with a fortune. When
I realised that Ruth loved Bob Jennings, I was worried about those
demands of that temperament of hers--the soft-footed, unobtrusive
servants, the exquisite china, the fine lace, the dinners perfectly
served, all those expensive things that Bob couldn't supply in a
lifetime. If only Bob had had Breck's fortune, or Breck had had Bob's
poetic soul, everything would have been all right; for I am sure Ruth
would have eloped with Bob Jennings the first time he asked her.

I realised that Ruth was thinking seriously about Bob Jennings when
she began inquiring of Will about the salaries of instructors at the
university. Later she asked me how much rents were, in this section
of the country. She was perfectly aware from the very beginning that
Bob earned just about enough to afford an apartment the size of
Oliver's and Madge's, which she had formerly pronounced "cunning" but
"impossible." If Ruth, as she boasted, confined matrimonial questions
to the region of her head she ought to have sent Bob on his way the
very instant that she learned these salient facts about him. But she
didn't. She kept right on seeing him, night after night, as if he were
a millionaire who could supply her every desire by merely dashing off
his signature. She kept on reading her poetry with him, discussing art
and literature by the hour, and quoting him to me all the next day as
if he were an authority. Ruth simply lost her equilibrium over Bob. I
don't believe she had ever seen a man like him before. He certainly is
different from Breck Sewall, packed with sentiment, full impressions
and delicate sensibilities. I overheard him talking with Ruth about
women smoking once. He said you might as well deface a beautiful
picture by painting cigarettes in the angels' mouths. I suppose it
might have been the fact of being classed with the angels that "took"
Ruth so. Anyhow she wanted Bob for her own, salary or no salary; she
wanted him so badly that we couldn't even joke on the subject in her
presence. By Christmas-time the situation was tragic.

The quarrel with Edith, as all quarrels with Edith are sure to be, had
been of short duration. The fact that Mrs. Sewall had invited her to
assist at a tea before her final departure from Hilton had assuaged
her grievances somewhat in that quarter. Moreover a startling piece
of news in the New York papers in early December, ten days before the
Oliphant-Sewall wedding was to take place, had vindicated Ruth's course
of action even in Edith's eyes, beyond a shadow of doubt. It seems that
there was already a Mrs. Breckenridge Sewall. Breck had, after all,
been more decent than Will thought. He had married the girl whom he had
known in college, and it was she who was now bringing suit against the
groom-to-be. So as there existed nothing but kindly feelings between
Edith and Ruth now, there was no reason why Ruth should not have spent
the holidays in Hilton, but she simply wouldn't give up a single hour
with Bob Jennings. He always came Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and
Sundays. Our electric-light bill, dim as Ruth prefers the room to be,
was a dollar extra a month, after Bob began to call.

I was glad to have Ruth with me during the Christmas vacation.
Otherwise I should have been all alone. Early in December Will had gone
to a medical conference of some kind in Chicago, and just as he was
about to start for home, some big physician out there called him in, in
consultation, on the case of a little boy, who had some awful thing the
matter with his spine. He was the son of a millionaire, and experts and
specialists from all over the country had given up hope of recovery.
The father was just about crazy and when Will suggested some radical
treatment of his own which he had tried out successfully on one of
our little guinea-pigs, he wrote that that father simply clung to him
bodily, got hold of him with his hands and told him he could have every
cent of money that he possessed in the world if he'd only give him
back his son. So Will stayed. He would have stayed if the man had been
a pauper, if he'd loved his little boy like that. You see it is just
the way Will would feel about _his_ son. He understood. I wanted him
to stay too. I was only sorry that, after all the long nights he had
to sit up by the little chap's bed (for first there was an operation
before Will began his treatment; and Will wouldn't leave much to the
nurses), after the weary nights, the doubtful dawns, the long uncertain
journey to the day of the crisis, I was only sorry that Will couldn't
bring the little boy he saved home with him (if he saved him) for ours
to keep and love. He fought for the life of that child. He wanted it to
live awfully; and I, hundreds of miles away, would wake often in the
night during the long struggle--at three, at four, at seven when it
grows light--and wonder, and hope, and, I suppose you'd call it, pray.

It was just before Christmas that my dread and fear about that little
boy's life in Chicago became intermingled with a thrilling hope
that was very much nearer home. My startling realisation came so
unexpectedly to me after all the waiting, so undreamed, so miraculously
a gift of heaven, that I couldn't believe at first that there was any
real substantial fact about it. I couldn't, or I wouldn't, I don't know
which. I dreaded disappointment. But oh, the mere possibility of such
a joy being mine at last, made me so happy that I couldn't help but
show a jubilant spirit in my letters. I wrote to Will that somehow,
suddenly, I felt that that little boy out there was going to get well;
I'd been as doubtful as he last week, but now, unaccountably, I was
sure that the dear little fellow was going to live to grow up. I
didn't tell Will _why_ I felt so (it was such a silly woman's reason)
but I kept on writing it over and over again, every day, as I woke each
morning with the reassurance that the thing I wanted more than anything
in the world was coming true.

I never thought I was superstitious, but you know how over-particular
and over-careful you are about anything that's awfully important. Your
anxiety borders on superstition before you know it, and when somebody
accuses you, you simply don't care, you're so eager to have everything
propitious. Well, I somehow got to believing that that child's life
in Chicago that Will was striving so hard to save and the life of my
hidden joy had something to do with each other. The idea obsessed me;
I couldn't get it out of my head, fanatical and ridiculous as I knew a
sensible person would call it, and I kept writing to Will as if that
millionaire's son were mine. Will said it was a good thing that he
wasn't a practising physician if I took his cases so much to heart as
all that; but, just the same, he told me that my letters did fill him
with hope and courage.

All during this period, while Ruth was eating out her soul for Bob, and
Will was eating out his soul for the little sick boy, and I was eating
out my soul for a gift I'd have died to possess for a day, no one would
have guessed from Ruth's and my pleasant good-mornings, our casual
calm and undisturbed conversations at meal-time, and Will's cheerful
paragraphs, that we were all living through crises. Ruth and I with our
anxieties grew very near to each other at this time. She was a lot of
comfort to me and I tried to appreciate the feelings of a proud girl
in love with a man who has not spoken. During the evenings that Bob
called I sat up alone in Will's study, embroidering a centrepiece for
the dining-room table. Evening after evening my fingers fairly ached to
get out the rustling tissue paper patterns that Madge had left. But I
wouldn't let myself--I wasn't going to be heart-broken--I wouldn't let
myself put a needle to a single bit of nainsook.

It was on Saturday, January fifteenth, at ten o'clock at night, that
Will's special delivery letter came. My fingers trembled as they tore
at the envelope. I closed the study door to be alone. "If the little
boy has died," I said out loud, "I mustn't be superstitious. I simply
mustn't." But oh, he hadn't died! He hadn't died! Will's letter was one
triumphant song from beginning to end. The little boy had passed the
crisis; he was going to live; and live strong and well and normal. The
miracle had been performed; the serum had done its magic part; there
had been just the response that Will had dared to rely on; everything
had been gloriously successful; and he was coming home in five days!

I let myself be just as superstitious then as I wanted. I had said if
that little sick boy lived, so would my hopes, and I believed it. I
lit a candle and went up into the unfinished part of our attic where
there is a lot of old furniture packed away. It's rather a spooky
place in the dark, and cold too, but I didn't notice it to-night. 'Way
over in the corner stood the little old-fashioned cradle that belonged
to Will's mother--one of those low, wooden-hooded ones with rockers,
that you can rock with one foot. I had always planned to use that.
It's so quaint and dear and old-fashioned. In the cradle in a green
pasteboard box was a whole bundle of Will's baby-clothes--the queerest,
finest little hand-made muslin shirts, and dresses with a lot of stiff
embroidery and ruffles.

I had no idea what time it was when later I heard Ruth calling me from
below.

"Lucy, Lucy! Are you up there?"

"Yes," I answered. "What time is it?"

"Why, it's after midnight! _What_ are you doing?"

"Oh, looking up some old stuff. I'll be right down."

I met her on the stairs. I felt guilty. I was afraid that joy was
written all over my face. I might as well have just left the arms of a
lover.

"Oh, Ruth," I exclaimed, "isn't it _fine_? That little boy in Chicago
is going to live! I've had a special delivery from Will. Isn't it
_great_? He's going to get well!"

"That's splendid," said Ruth, and then, eyes sparkling, voice
trembling, she exploded, "Oh, Lucy, Bob has just gone! We're engaged!"

I blew out the candle for safety's sake, and put my arms about my
sister.

"Really, Ruth?" I exclaimed, and we sat down side by side on the dark
stairs.

"He's cared for me all along, _all_ the fall--_all this time_! Of
course we both couldn't help but know it! But Bob--he's just that
honourable he wouldn't say a word till he told me all about his
circumstances and--everything. Circumstances! Oh, dear, I--What do you
think of Bob, Lucy?" she broke off.

"I've always said that, next to Will, I'd rather marry Bob than any man
I've known," I replied heartily.

"And does Will like him?" quivered Ruth.

"Will calls Bob the salt of the earth. _Everybody_ likes Bob Jennings,
Ruth!"

"I know they do. I know it. I don't see how I ever got him. You know
all the men in his classes simply adore him! His courses are awfully
popular. He's going to have juniors and seniors next year. The
President stopped Bob the other day in the street and complimented him
on his work. Oh, Bob is going to go right to the top! And he isn't a
bit spoiled. His dear old silver-haired mother worships him just like
everybody else. Do you know, Bob was afraid I wouldn't want her to live
with us--she's the loveliest old lady--of course I do! And he thought,
besides, I'd hate an apartment and one maid. But he didn't know me.
My nature isn't the kind that requires 'Things.' If it didn't have
sympathy and understanding and inspiration, it's the kind that would
simply shrivel up and die. But Bob, he responds in just the right way,
to every side of my temperament. It's wonderful!"

"Isn't it?" I agreed. "Why, we're all happy to-night! Will because of
the little boy, and you because of Bob, and I because--" I hesitated
just a moment, and then in the pitch-dark of the back stairs I confided
to Ruth, "because the southeast chamber has a waiting-list."

"A waiting-list?" queried Ruth.

"Yes, I was upstairs when you called, seeing if Will's little
old-fashioned mahogany cradle would do."

"Oh, really!" said Ruth not very much impressed after all. "Of course.
My room _was_ meant to be the nursery. I remember now. Well, I suppose
you're glad, and there'll be a vacancy all right for some one to fill
in June. We're going to be married right after Commencement. We've got
it all planned. Isn't it exciting?" she exclaimed, eager on the trail
of her own happiness. "We're not going to Europe, or anything grand
like that. We're going to begin by saving. With my eight hundred a year
and Bob's salary, and a little he has besides, our income will be about
four thousand. We're going to have a lovely honeymoon! Bob likes the
word 'honeymoon' though no one uses it now. Bob's so funny! We're going
to camp out all alone for a whole month on a little lake we know about
in the Adirondacks and I'm going to cook while he cuts wood. Bob didn't
know I could cook. Why, he was awfully surprised when he discovered how
practical I am, and that I trim all my own hats even now. Lucy, don't
you think that Bob's _awfully_ nice-looking?" she asked and pressed my
hand.

"Yes I do. I've always told Will that Bob was the best-looking man on
the faculty," I replied and pressed back.

An hour later we groped down the stairs together. It was two o'clock in
the morning. The light in the study was still going and I went in and
turned it off.

At my door Ruth begged, "Come on into my bed, Lucy. I shall never be
able to get to sleep to-night."

"All right. In five minutes," I agreed.

When I went into Ruth's room she was sitting by the window ready for
bed, her long hair braided, and a knitted worsted shawl wrapped around
her white shoulders.

"Well, Ruth, it's half-past two," I said.

"Bob's coming at nine o'clock, before his first recitation," remarked
Ruth dreamily. "That's six hours, isn't it?"

"And a half," I smiled.

"Oh, Lucy," suddenly exclaimed Ruth, standing up before me, "I'm
terribly happy!"

"Are you? Well, so am I!" I replied.

"It just seems as if I'd have to open a window and let off steam
somehow!" said Ruth.

"Well, let's!" said I.


THE END

       *       *       *       *       *


  JOHN FOX, JR'S.

  STORIES OF THE KENTUCKY MOUNTAINS

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset and Dunlap's list.


  THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE.

  Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

[Illustration]

The "lonesome pine" from which the story takes its name was a tall tree
that stood in solitary splendor on a mountain top. The fame of the pine
lured a young engineer through Kentucky to catch the trail, and when
he finally climbed to its shelter he found not only the pine but the
_foot-prints of a girl_. And the girl proved to be lovely, piquant, and
the trail of these girlish foot-prints led the young engineer a madder
chase than "the trail of the lonesome pine."


  THE LITTLE SHEPHERD OF KINGDOM COME.

  Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

This is a story of Kentucky, in a settlement known as "Kingdom Come."
It is a life rude, semi-barbarous; but natural and honest, from which
often springs the flower of civilization.

"Chad," the "little shepherd" did not know who he was nor whence he
came--he had just wandered from door to door since early childhood,
seeking shelter with kindly mountaineers who gladly fathered and
mothered this waif about whom there was such a mystery--a charming
waif, by the way, who could, play the banjo better that anyone else in
the mountains.


  A KNIGHT OF THE CUMBERLAND.

  Illustrated by F. C. Yohn.

The scenes are laid along the waters of the Cumberland the lair of
moonshiner and feudsman. The knight is a moonshiner's son, and the
heroine a beautiful girl perversely christened "The Blight." Two
impetuous young Southerners' fall under the spell of "The Blight's"
charms and she learns what a large part jealousy and pistols have in
the love making of the mountaineers.

Included in this volume is "Hell fer-Sartain" and other stories, some
of Mr. Fox's most entertaining Cumberland valley narratives.


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  STORIES OF RARE CHARM BY

  GENE STRATTON-PORTER

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset and Dunlap's list.


  THE HARVESTER.

  Illustrated by W. L. Jacobs

[Illustration]

"The Harvester," David Langston, is a man of the woods and fields, who
draws his living from the prodigal hand of Mother Nature herself. If
the book had nothing in it but the splendid figure of this man, with
his sure grip on life, his superb optimism, and his almost miraculous
knowledge of nature secrets, it would be notable. But when the Girl
comes to his "Medicine Woods," and the Harvester's whole sound,
healthy, large outdoor being realizes that this is the highest point
of life which has come to him--there begins a romance, troubled and
interrupted, yet of the rarest idyllic quality.


  FRECKLES. Decorations by E. Stetson Crawford

Freckles is a nameless waif when the tale opens, but the way in which
he takes hold of life; the nature friendships he forms in the great
Limberlost Swamp; the manner in which everyone who meets him succumbs
to the charm of his engaging personality; and his love-story with "The
Angel" are full of real sentiment.


  A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST.

  Illustrated by Wladyslaw T. Brenda.

The story of a girl of the Michigan woods; a buoyant, lovable type of
the self-reliant American. Her philosophy is one of love and kindness
towards all things; her hope is never dimmed. And by the sheer beauty
of her soul, and the purity of her vision, she wins from barren and
unpromising surroundings those rewards of high courage.

It is an inspiring story of a life worth while and the rich beauties of
the out-of-doors are strewn through all its pages.


  AT THE FOOT OF THE RAINBOW.

  Illustrations in colors by Oliver Kemp. Design and decorations by
  Ralph Fletcher Seymour.

The scene of this charming, idyllic love story is laid in Central
Indiana. The story is one of devoted friendship, and tender
self-sacrificing love; the friendship that gives freely without return,
and the love that seeks first the happiness of the object. The novel is
brimful of the most beautiful word painting of nature, and its pathos
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May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list.


  LAVENDER AND OLD LACE.

[Illustration]

A charming story of a quaint corner of New England where bygone romance
finds a modern parallel. The story centers round the coming of love
to the young people on the staff of a newspaper--and it is one of the
prettiest, sweetest and quaintest of old fashioned love stories, * * *
a rare book, exquisite in spirit and conception, full of delicate
fancy, of tenderness, of delightful humor and spontaneity.


  A SPINNER IN THE SUN.

Miss Myrtle Reed may always be depended upon to write a story in
which poetry, charm, tenderness and humor are combined into a clever
and entertaining book. Her characters are delightful and she always
displays a quaint humor of expression and a quiet feeling of pathos
which give a touch of active realism to all her writings. In "A Spinner
in the Sun" she tells an old-fashioned love story, of a veiled lady who
lives in solitude and whose features her neighbors have never seen.
There is a mystery at the heart of the book that throws over it the
glamour of romance.


  THE MASTER'S VIOLIN.

A love story in a musical atmosphere. A picturesque, old German
virtuoso is the reverent possessor of a genuine "Cremona." He consents
to take for his pupil a handsome youth who proves to have an aptitude
for technique, but not the soul of an artist. The youth has led the
happy, careless life of a modern, well-to-do young American and he
cannot, with his meagre past, express the love, the passion and the
tragedies of life and all its happy phases as can the master who has
lived life in all its fulness. But a girl comes into his life--a
beautiful bit of human driftwood that his aunt had taken into her
heart and home, and through his passionate love for her, he learns the
lessons that life has to give--and his soul awakes.

Founded on a fact that all artists realize.


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  THE KIND THAT ARE MAKING THEATRICAL HISTORY

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list.


  WITHIN THE LAW. By Bayard Veiller & Marvin Dana.

  Illustrated by Wm. Charles Cooke.

This is a novelization of the immensely successful play which ran for
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The plot of this powerful novel is of a young woman's revenge directed
against her employer who allowed her to be sent to prison for three
years on a charge of theft, of which she was innocent.


  WHAT HAPPENED TO MARY. By Robert Carlton Brown.

  Illustrated with scenes from the play.

This is a narrative of a young and innocent country girl who is
suddenly thrown into the very heart of New York, "the land of her
dreams," where she is exposed to all sorts of temptations and dangers.

The story of Mary is being told in moving pictures and played in
theatres all over the world.


  THE RETURN OF PETER GRIMM. By David Belasco.

  Illustrated by John Rae.

This is a novelization of the popular play in which David Warfield, as
Old Peter Grimm, scored such a remarkable success.

The story is spectacular and extremely pathetic but withal, powerful,
both as a book and as a play.


  THE GARDEN OF ALLAH. By Robert Hichens.

This novel is an intense, glowing epic of the great desert, sunlit
barbaric, with its marvelous atmosphere of vastness and loneliness.

It is a book of rapturous beauty, vivid in word painting. The play has
been staged with magnificent cast and gorgeous properties.


  BEN HUR. A Tale of the Christ. By General Lew Wallace.

The whole world has placed this famous Religious-Historical Romance on
a height of pre-eminence which no other novel of its time has reached.
The clashing of rivalry and the deepest human passions, the perfect
reproduction of brilliant Roman life, and the tense, fierce atmosphere
of the arena have kept their deep fascination. A tremendous dramatic
success.


  BOUGHT AND PAID FOR. By George Broadhurst and Arthur Hornblow.
  Illustrated with scenes from the play.

A stupendous arraignment of modern marriage which has created an
interest on the stage that is almost unparalleled. The scenes are laid
in New York, and deal with conditions among both the rich and poor.

The interest of the story turns on the day-by-day developments which
show the young wife the price she has paid.


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  GROSSET & DUNLAP'S

  DRAMATIZED NOVELS

Original, sincere and courageous--often amusing--the kind that are
making theatrical history.


  MADAME X. By Alexandre Bisson and J. W. McConaughy. Illustrated with
  scenes from the play.

A beautiful Parisienne became an outcast because her husband would not
forgive an error of her youth. Her love for her son is the great final
influence in her career. A tremendous dramatic success.


  THE GARDEN OF ALLAH. By Robert Hichens.

An unconventional English woman and an inscrutable stranger meet and
love in an oasis of the Sahara. Staged this season with magnificent
cast and gorgeous properties.


  THE PRINCE OF INDIA. By Lew. Wallace.

A glowing romance of the Byzantine Empire, presenting with
extraordinary power the siege of Constantinople, and lighting its
tragedy with the warm underglow of an Oriental romance. As a play it is
a great dramatic spectacle.


  TESS OF THE STORM COUNTRY. By Grace Miller White. Illust. by Howard
  Chandler Christy.

A girl from the dregs of society, loves a young Cornell University
student, and it works startling changes in her life and the lives of
those about her. The dramatic version is one of the sensations of the
season.


  YOUNG WALLINGFORD. By George Randolph Chester. Illust. by F. R. Gruger
  and Henry Raleigh.

A series of clever swindles conducted by a cheerful young man, each
of which is just on the safe side of a State's prison offence. As
"Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford," it is probably the most amusing expose of
money manipulation ever seen on the stage.


  THE INTRUSION OF JIMMY. By P. G. Wodehouse. Illustrations by Will
  Grefe.

Social and club life in London and New York, an amateur burglary
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of Leisure," it furnishes hours of laughter to the play-goers.


GROSSET & DUNLAP, 526 WEST 26TH ST., NEW YORK



  B. M. Bower's Novels

  Thrilling Western Romances

  Large 12 mos. Handsomely bound in cloth. Illustrated


  CHIP, OF THE FLYING U

A breezy wholesome tale, wherein the love affairs of Chip and Delia
Whitman are charmingly and humorously told. Chip's jealousy of Dr.
Cecil Grantham, who turns out to be a big, blue eyed young woman is
very amusing. A clever, realistic story of the American Cow-puncher.


  THE HAPPY FAMILY

A lively and amusing story, dealing with the adventures of eighteen
jovial, big hearted Montana cowboys. Foremost amongst them, we find
Ananias Green, known as Andy, whose imaginative powers cause many
lively end exciting adventures.


  HER PRAIRIE KNIGHT

A realistic story of the plains, describing a gay party of Easterners
who exchange a cottage at Newport for the rough homeliness of a Montana
ranch-house. The merry-hearted cowboys, the fascinating Beatrice, and
the effusive Sir Redmond, become living, breathing personalities.


  THE RANGE DWELLERS

Here are everyday, genuine cowboys, just as they really exist. Spirited
action, a range feud between two families, and a Romeo and Juliet
courtship make this a bright, jolly, entertaining story, without a dull
page.


  THE LURE OF DIM TRAILS

A vivid portrayal of the experience of an Eastern author, among the
cowboys of the West, in search of "local color" for a new novel. "Bud"
Thurston learns many a lesson while following "the lure of the dim
trails" but the hardest, and probably the most welcome, is that of love.


  THE LONESOME TRAIL

"Weary" Davidson leaves the ranch for Portland, where conventional
city life palls on him. A little branch of sage brush, pungent with
the atmosphere of the prairie, and the recollection of a pair of large
brown eyes soon compel his return. A wholesome love story.


  THE LONG SHADOW

A vigorous Western story, sparkling with the free, outdoor, life of a
mountain ranch. Its scenes shift rapidly and its actors play the game
of life fearlessly and like men. It is a fine love story from start to
finish.


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  THE RULES OF THE GAME. Illustrated by Lajaren A. Hiller

The romance of the son of "The Riverman." The young college hero goes
into the lumber camp, is antagonized by "graft" and comes into the
romance of his life.


  ARIZONA NIGHTS. Illus. and cover inlay by N. C. Wyeth.

A series of spirited tales emphasizing some phases of the life of the
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  THE BLAZED TRAIL. With illustrations by Thomas Fogarty.

A wholesome story with gleams of humor, telling of a young man who
blazed his way to fortune through the heart of the Michigan pines.


  THE CLAIM JUMPERS. A Romance.

The tenderfoot manager of a mine in a lonesome gulch of the Black Hills
has a hard time of it but "wins out" in more ways than one.


  CONJUROR'S HOUSE. Illustrated Theatrical Edition.

  Dramatized under the title of "The Call of the North."

Conjuror's House is a Hudson Bay trading post where the head factor is
the absolute lord. A young fellow risked his life and won a bride on
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  THE MAGIC FOREST. A Modern Fairy Tale. Illustrated.

The sympathetic way in which the children of the wild and their life
is treated could only belong to one who is in love with the forest and
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  THE RIVERMAN. Illus. by N. C. Wyeth and C. Underwood.

The story of a man's fight against a river and of a struggle between
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  THE SILENT PLACES. Illustrations by Philip R. Goodwin.

The wonders of the northern forests, the heights of feminine devotion,
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of the Indian, are all finely drawn in this story.


  THE WESTERNERS.

A story of the Black Hills that is justly placed among the best
American novels. It portrays the life of the new West as no other book
has done in recent years.


  THE MYSTERY. In collaboration with Samuel Hopkins Adams
               With illustrations by Will Crawford.

The disappearance of three successive crews from the stout ship
"Laughing Lass" in mid-Pacific, is a mystery weird and inscrutable. In
the solution, there is a story of the most exciting voyage that man
ever undertook.


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  STORIES OF WESTERN LIFE

May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list


  RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE, By Zane Grey.

  Illustrated by Douglas Duer.

In this picturesque romance of Utah of some forty years ago, we are
permitted to see the unscrupulous methods employed by the invisible
hand of the Mormon Church to break the will of those refusing to
conform to its rule.


  FRIAR TUCK, By Robert Alexander Wason.

  Illustrated by Stanley L. Wood.

Happy Hawkins tells us, in his humorous way, how Friar Tuck lived among
the Cowboys, how he adjusted their quarrels and love affairs and how he
fought with them and for them when occasion required.


  THE SKY PILOT, By Ralph Connor.

  Illustrated by Louis Rhead.

There is no novel, dealing with the rough existence of cowboys, so
charming in the telling, abounding as it does with the freshest and the
truest pathos.


  THE EMIGRANT TRAIL, By Geraldine Bonner.

  Colored frontispiece by John Rae.

The book relates the adventures of a party on its overland pilgrimage,
and the birth and growth of the absorbing love of two strong men for a
charming heroine.


  THE BOSS OF WIND RIVER, By A. M. Chisholm.

  Illustrated by Frank Tenney Johnson.

This is a strong, virile novel with the lumber industry for its central
theme and a love story full of interest as a sort of subplot.


  A PRAIRIE COURTSHIP, By Harold Bindloss.

A story of Canadian prairies in which the hero is stirred, through
the influence of his love for a woman, to settle down to the heroic
business of pioneer farming.


  JOYCE OF THE NORTH WOODS, By Harriet T. Comstock.

  Illustrated by John Cassel.

A story of the deep woods that shows the power of love at work among
its primitive dwellers. It is a tensely moving study of the human heart
and its aspirations that unfolds itself through thrilling situations
and dramatic developments.


_Ask for a complete free list of C. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction_

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       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes

  --Quotation marks in the letters have been retained as published.
  --Variations in hyphenation have been maintained.
  --Assumed printer's errors have been changed.
  --Italicized words and phrases are presented by surrounding
    the text with _underscores_.

       *       *       *       *       *





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