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Title: - To be updated
Author: Clara Louise Burnham, - To be updated
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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                             *SWEET CLOVER*

                     _A ROMANCE OF THE WHITE CITY_


                                   BY

                          CLARA LOUISE BURNHAM



                          BOSTON AND NEW YORK
                     HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
                     The Riverside Press, Cambridge
                                  1894



                            Copyright, 1894,
                        BY CLARA LOUISE BURNHAM.

                         _All rights reserved._



            _The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U.S.A._
         Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Company.



                       *By Clara Louise Burnham*

                          YOUNG MAIDS AND OLD.
                             DEARLY BOUGHT.
                             NO GENTLEMEN.
                            A SANE LUNATIC.
                               NEXT DOOR.
                      THE MISTRESS OF BEECH KNOLL.
                         MISS BAGG’S SECRETARY.
                              DR. LATIMER.
               SWEET CLOVER. A Romance of the White City.

                        HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.
                          BOSTON AND NEW YORK.



                              *CONTENTS.*

CHAP.

      I. Fair Harvard
     II. Uncle Adolph’s Letter
    III. A Morning Drive
     IV. Clover’s Announcement
      V. Miss Berry’s Visitors
     VI. The Unexpected Guest
    VII. On the Rail
   VIII. The Telegram
     IX. A Christmas Visitor
      X. Aunt Love’s Intercession
     XI. The Dedication
    XII. Gorham Page’s Commission
   XIII. May Day
    XIV. Clover’s Invitation
     XV. The Court of Honor
    XVI. A Massachusetts Celebration
   XVII. The Bronze Baby
  XVIII. Clover’s Diplomacy
    XIX. The Ferris Wheel
     XX. The Midway Plaisance
    XXI. Old Vienna
   XXII. On the Lagoon
  XXIII. The Hotel Dance
   XXIV. Dress Parade
    XXV. In the Peristyle
   XXVI. The New Year



                            *SWEET CLOVER.*



                              *CHAPTER I.*

                            *FAIR HARVARD.*


"Well, Jack," said Mr. Van Tassel, entering his son’s room at Cambridge,
"the deed is done. Behold you a full-fledged alumnus of glorious old
Harvard!"  The speaker grasped the young fellow’s hand, his face
expressing his pride and gratification.

"Yes, sir," answered the graduate, springing to his feet as he cordially
returned his father’s greeting, "full-fledged, but rather reluctant to
try my wings, I must confess.  It is hard to fly away from all this."

As he spoke, he glanced around the room, one of the most luxurious in
historic Holworthy.  Each familiar object seemed newly invested with
pleasurable association.  His eyes lingered upon a silver chafing-dish,
resting amid a lot of congenial litter on a mantelpiece.  Jack was
accustomed to admit modestly that when it came to manoeuvring with a
chafing-dish, he could not deny his own genius.

"You know it has been home to me for four years," he added
half-apologetically, as he pushed forward the easiest chair for his
father, who dropped into it.

"I know, I know," returned the latter, nodding. "I am glad college life
has been such a satisfactory experience to you.  I have felt the lack of
it myself often.  Well, yesterday was a glorious day," he continued,
with a reminiscent smile.  "Fine weather, fine people.  As good a climax
as you could have desired.  Those exercises around the tree are very
amusing," the smile broadening.  "I give you my word I didn’t know you
in that scramble.  I didn’t know my own boy.  You were the worst-looking
tramp of them all to begin with, Jack, and at the end you were the most
demoralized bundle of rags of the lot."

The speaker’s hearty laugh rang out.  It was a matter of course that
Jack should have been superlative in any college undertaking; but now a
pensive smile was the young man’s only response to his father’s mirth.
To-day’s reaction found him in a rather thoughtful and sentimental mood.

The Van Tassels had always been well-looking as a family.  Richard Van
Tassel was a handsome man of a florid thick-set type, and he admired
this sole remaining child the more that his physique was so dissimilar
to his own.  Tall, slender, athletic, Jack stood unconscious of his
father’s scrutiny, which took in every detail of his appearance, from
the wavy black hair scrupulously parted in the middle, to the feet
planted apart on the thick rug.  It was a delicate-featured, refined
face that the young fellow had, a transparent face that betrayed
feeling; that flushed with annoyance or radiated pleasure from brilliant
brown eyes and perfect teeth.  But now the eyes were shadowed; and when
they caught the father’s gaze after a half-minute’s abstraction, Jack
smiled with the gentle, winning expression which was his birthright, and
had uncalculatingly won for him every favor he had ever asked.

"Pardon me.  Did you speak?  My wits are wool-gathering to-day."

Mr. Van Tassel ceased his silent satisfied survey, and picked up a book
from a neighboring table. "I was about to ask you, what next?" he said.

"What next?"

"Yes; or perhaps I should say where next? I have business in Washington,
regarding the World’s Fair, which may detain me there some time.  Are
you with me?"

"No—a"—  Jack appeared to rouse himself with an effort from his mental
pictures.  "The fact is, I’ve a lot of invitations that I should like to
accept before I go back to Chicago."

"Very well.  We will postpone talking plans, then, until that time
comes.  You are to go abroad for a year if you like, you know."

"Yes, thank you.  I’ve a fancy that I would rather put off that trip
awhile."

"Why so?  A wedding journey in view later, perhaps?"

Jack did not appear to think this raillery required a specific answer.
He smiled again, in the thoughtful mood so foreign to him.

Mr. Van Tassel, however, had been glad of an opening for the question.
He listened with veiled eagerness for his son’s reply, and was
disappointed that none came.

When he spoke again, it was with new seriousness and a shade of
embarrassment.

"You must have met many charming women, during the past four years, who
are strangers to me," he said.

"Yes, I’ve met a lot of women," returned Jack with a patient sigh at
this irrelevance.  What were charming women to a man who was saying
good-by to his crew!

"But old friends are best still?" persisted his father.

"Yes, no doubt," responded the other, vaguely courteous.

"You haven’t forgotten the girls at home?" said Mr. Van Tassel.

"No,—no indeed," replied his son, shaking himself together with the
realization that he was playing poorly the part of host to this kindest
of fathers, for whom it was impossible in the nature of things to enter
into the subjects which were uppermost in Jack’s interest just now.
"How"—with spasmodic eagerness—"how are they all?"

"Who?  Anybody in particular?"

The young man stirred restlessly.  This was persecution.  "Oh no, my
Hyde Park friends generally."

"There is no especial news, I believe.  Mrs. Bryant fails very slowly, I
think; but of course I do not dare hint such a thing to her devoted
daughter."

"H’m.  Aren’t they all devoted?" asked Jack with waning vigor.

"Oh, Clover is the chief one.  She is son and daughter both, in that
family.  All responsibility falls on her.  A fine girl," said Mr. Van
Tassel emphatically.

"A pretty one, too," returned his son, stifling a yawn.  "Mildred is
coming along, though.  I thought she was after Clover pretty sharp, the
last time I was at home.  Growing to her hands and feet, you know, and
all that."

"You will be glad to see Clover again," said Mr. Van Tassel tentatively.

"Yes, very glad to see them all," was the reply, delivered with
conscientious heartiness.

"Not especially glad to see Clover?" continued Mr. Van Tassel; and now
it was impossible even for the preoccupied graduate not to see that his
father was, in his own words "driving at something."

He looked in surprise at the strong face thrown out against the dark
blue cushions of the chair, and straight into the steady gaze of the
gray eyes that had never looked unkindly on him.  Before he could speak,
the older man continued:—

"I had an idea that there was a boy and girl attachment between yourself
and Clover Bryant,—a preference on your part, perhaps on hers"—

Mr. Van Tassel’s face had never looked more attractive to his son than
now.  Its expression was so loving, so earnest, that Jack forebore to
laugh, as he at first felt inclined to do.

His father did not appear to think this a laughing matter.  Moreover his
attitude gave promise of consent and sanction in case such compliance
was called for.

"No, sir.  You were mistaken," answered the young man respectfully.
"There was never any sentiment there."

It was further mystifying to him that a shade of relief certainly passed
over his father’s face at this reply, and yet it might be explicable on
the ground that although Mr. Van Tassel would not refuse his son’s
wishes, he was glad to find that there was no question of a union
between his own family and one so poor and obscure as the Bryants.

"There might well have been a preference," was the grave answer.
"Clover, young as she is, is a pearl among women.  The Breckinridges
have just gone abroad for a year, and Mrs. Breckinridge, before she
left, told me that she had invited Clover to accompany them; but the
girl refused to leave her mother and the children.  Think of the way the
Breckinridges will travel, and what it cost her to refuse!"

"Whew, that was rough!  Clover is a brick," declared Jack, his eyes
bright enough now with their accustomed interest in life.  "It ought not
to be allowed.  Can’t we do something?  Get a trained nurse for Mrs.
Bryant, and invite her and the children to our house for the year?"

Mr. Van Tassel smiled at this outburst.  "We not only can’t do
anything," he returned, "but we mustn’t say anything.  Clover bound Mrs.
Breckinridge to secrecy, because it would be such a grief to Mrs. Bryant
to discover what her daughter had renounced for her."

"She’s strong, Clover is," said Jack, with an admiring shake of the
head.  "I shall be glad to see her again."

Then he asked his father a question regarding business, and the subject
of the Bryants was dropped.



                             *CHAPTER II.*

                        *UNCLE ADOLPH’S LETTER.*


Several weeks later, in the long, narrow back yard of one of a block of
wooden houses in Chicago, a girl was hanging out clothes on a line. An
occasional hot breeze blew the soft brown hair in stray locks across her
forehead, and the sun beat down from the glowing sky on her unprotected
head.

"Clover, Clover darling," called a weak voice from an open window,
"you’ve been out there so long!  Aren’t you almost through?  You will
get a sunstroke.  Do, at least, put on a hat."

The girl brushed her flying hair back with one hand.  "I’m all right,
mother," she called, her cheery tones contrasting pleasantly with the
sad voice.

"She is doing too much.  I know she is," murmured the feeble watcher
within, keeping her yearning gaze on the lithe young figure.  "Bless her
brave heart!"  The dim eyes filled.

The front door slamming broke in upon the mother’s meditations, and
another girl entered the shabby room where she sat.  She was a tall,
broad-shouldered young creature of seventeen, the face under her heavy,
half-falling brown hair flushed with heat, health, and happiness.  She
seemed to fill the room as she skipped up to the white-haired figure and
pressed the infantile curve of her peachy cheek against the pale face.

"Oh, I wish for the thousandth time that we could live nearer the lake,"
she said in hearty young tones.  "Every block one comes inland, one
feels the difference in heat.  Where is Clover?"

"In the back yard, hanging out clothes," was the anxious response.  "I’m
afraid for her, Mildred.  I wish you would take her a shade hat."

"Hanging out clothes!" repeated Mildred, amazed.  "What in the
world"—She did not wait to finish her sentence, but hastening into the
hall seized a broad-rimmed hat hanging there and hurried to the back of
the house.  Running down the steps, the dancing light quite gone from
her clear eyes, she approached her sister.

"What does this mean, Clover?" she exclaimed accusingly.

The elder, already highly colored, now looked uneasy.  "You know Mrs.
O’Rourke couldn’t come to-day to do the washing," she answered.

"No, but she can come Wednesday," retorted the younger, placing the hat
upon the sunny roughened hair of the head which was decidedly below her
own in height.

"Don’t stick the hat-pin into me," cried Clover, smiling up into the
displeased eyes.

"I don’t know but I will.  Just look at your fingers, all white and
parboiled!"

Clover clasped the offending hands behind her.

"What did you do it for?" asked the young girl severely.  "Here I’ve
been having the most elegant jouncy sail,—it is deliciously
rough,—sitting at my ease on a cushion, while you’ve been working like
this.  It isn’t a bit fair."

"All right.  Help me to hang up the rest of these clothes, and I’ll tell
you why I did it."

Mildred snatched up a small blouse waist and a couple of clothespins.
What was the use of cooling off on Lake Michigan if one must return to
this?  How the sun did broil down!

"Was Elsie with you?" asked Clover, as she pinioned the side of an apron
to the line.

"Yes, and Frank too.  Harry Billings took us all out."

"I’m afraid that the children will become something of a nuisance down
at the boat-house. Of course with you it is different; but the others
hang around and look wishful, and of course the young men are too
good-natured not to ask them. As for Frankie, he is such an amphibious
little animal, we can’t help his living down there."

"I only wish we all did live on the shore," grumbled Mildred.  "I never
shall be resigned to being so far from the lake."

"Oh, it is something to live in the country," rejoined Clover
comfortingly, "and Hyde Park is pretty all through."

"Country!  Hyde Park!" said Mildred scornfully. "You know it is all
Chicago now."

"To be sure; but the annexation is a novelty yet, so no wonder I had
forgotten.  However, what’s in a name?"

"Not much, perhaps," said Mildred, tired of reaching up in the hot sun,
and inclined to be pessimistic, "but since we have moved into the middle
of this dingy old block, we had better stop talking about living in the
country.  You haven’t told me yet why you took this last caprice.  We
can’t afford to go away and have a change in summer, I understand that;
but surely there is a difference between stark and staring mad.  There
are more sensible forms of recreation than to do a family washing on an
August day."

"I haven’t done the biggest, hardest pieces, you see," said Clover
gently.  "There, this is the last. Now let us go over under our tree and
talk a bit while we cool off."  She turned toward the house and sent a
reassuring kiss toward the figure seated in the window, and made a dumb
show of applauding her own performance, smiling gayly as she clapped her
hands.

"Sit down, Milly," she said, when they had reached the shade of the one
tree their yard boasted; but as soon as they were seated, the elder girl
fell silent, and clasping her hands behind her head looked up through
the foliage of the ragged oak, slowly dying as all its brothers and
sisters do in this region, pining for the old prairie isolation.

Mildred fanned herself with her hat, and regarded her sister half
crossly, half curiously.

"I hate to talk over bothers with you, Milly," said the latter at last;
"but I do have a lot of bothers lately."

Mildred wondered if it were imagination that she saw tears, gather in
the other’s eyes.  If they were tears, they were well trained to
obedience. Clover sank still farther back and lay upon the grass, and
any moisture that had crept forth retreated to its source.

"Is mother any worse?" Mildred asked in a hushed voice.

"No; although she is no better, and any suffering she may endure is the
hardest trial we can have to bear.  Other perplexities are trying in
proportion as they have relation to her, and all our perplexities must,
in the end, bear upon her.  How to conceal them is the study."

"What have you to conceal?  What?" asked Mildred quickly, her large,
childlike eyes full of wonder.  "Mother knows, she has to, that we
barely make both ends meet, and she thinks you are a perfect wonder, the
way you manage.  What is it, Clover?  Is it Frank’s education you are
worrying about again?  Goodness!  Don’t tell me you did the washing to
save up money for that?"  The speaker’s eyes widened with surprise and
disapproval.

Clover shook her head and smiled faintly.

"I’ve noticed lately that you aren’t half so jolly as you used to be."

Clover sat up with such suddenness as to make Mildred start.  "Has
mother noticed it?" she demanded.

"No, not that I know of.  You needn’t look so tragical.  I only mean you
are ever so much more thoughtful and old-womanish just lately than you
used to be.  I’m sure I don’t see why you should let yourself be
bothered if we’re all willing to live right down at the bottom of
everything, and I don’t make any fuss about wearing the same dress to
school until the girls must think I’ve grown into it."

"You have been good, Milly, just as good as you can be"—

"Pshaw, I’m nothing to what you are for goodness. We all have to feel
the pinch of poverty together," said Mildred with some grandiloquence;
"and in a place like Hyde Park it is easier to bear than it might be in
some other places.  All the old settlers know what father was, and that
his honor wasn’t lost when the money was.  Everybody we really care for
has been friendly to us since he died.  Just think, it is nine years
now, and we do manage to have some good times," finished the girl, quite
heroically she thought, since there were such a number of joys that she
yearned for and had to behold hopelessly in the possession of her more
fortunate companions.  "Come now," she added insistently, "you are still
guilty of that washing and not a word said to excuse yourself."

"Milly,"—the older girl looked into her sister’s eyes with an expression
full of loving trouble,—"I hate to tell you, but Uncle Adolph’s
allowance hasn’t come this month."

"It is a little late, that is all," said Mildred, but her face fell and
her heart began to beat unpleasantly.

"No," very sadly, "he has written mother that it will not come any more.
Fortunately I opened the letter as usual, and I have not shown it to
mother.  She thinks it is only delayed."

"But he owed the money to father," said Mildred vehemently.  "It was not
charity to us, it was a debt."

"Yes, but he simply says that on account of losses he will not be able
to let us have any more money, and we cannot force him."

"Mr. Van Tassel could.  Have you told him? He is so very kind to us."

"Yes, he is very kind; but there is nothing he could do about this."

"What shall we do?" asked Mildred blankly.

"That is what I have been asking myself for days past."

"That is why you did the washing!" said the younger slowly and with awe,
as though this thought did indeed bring home a realizing sense of the
situation.  "We are awfully—miserably poor," she added in a panic.

"Hush!  Not so loud," warned her sister.

"I shall have to leave school and help you do the housework, and Frank
can never have any education at all," declared Mildred despairingly.

"He will have to get a position in some store as a cash boy.  Mr. Van
Tassel will probably help him that much," she finished dismally.

"Hush!  Don’t keep bringing Mr. Van Tassel into it," said Clover
nervously.  "I can’t bear the thought of begging anybody for anything,
even influence."

"Then you have thought of something," exclaimed Mildred eagerly.

"No, I haven’t, I haven’t," rejoined the other hastily.  "Oh, Milly,
forgive me."  Her tone and gesture as she put one hand to her face and
quickly extended the other to her sister touched the latter with great
surprise.  Mildred took the hand and squeezed it between her own.

"Forgive you, you old darling," she said, tears springing to her eyes.
"What for, I wonder? Because you have three children to bring up and
work for when you are only twenty? or because you, the prettiest girl in
Hyde Park, have wizzled up all your poor fingers washing for us?  What
is it?  Oh, Clover dear!"

For Clover was crying in a hasty, furtive fashion, stifling her sobs,
and drying her eyes with light touches, fearing to make the lids redder.

"Because I couldn’t keep it from you, Milly. You see it doesn’t do any
good for me to bother you except to relieve me a little."

"And isn’t that something?" with anxious affection.  "Why, you make me
as vain as a peacock. I didn’t know I counted a bit.  I thought you had
to have somebody old, like mother or Mr. Van Tassel, to get any comfort
out of them."

"Now of course you feel as I do, Mildred," said the older sister, her
quick self-control regained.  "Nothing is any matter but to keep this
from mother."

"Well, I don’t see how we’re going to do it for any length of time."

Clover bit her lip.  "But as long as we can, we will."

"Of course.  Why, poor mother would be crushed!"  Then with a change of
tone, "Here she comes this minute, Clover Bryant!"

"And my eyes are so red!"

"Better not come out here, mother dear," cried Mildred, rising
precipitately and advancing to meet her.  "The—the clothes are so damp,
you’ll—you’ll take cold; and the sun is so hot, you’ll be—be"—

The mother, with her delicate face smiling beneath the prematurely white
hair, placed her arm around the tall girl as she met her, and together
they advanced, Mildred most reluctantly, to where Clover sat smiling and
striving to look indifferent.

"Have you come out to hear the jays scold?" asked the latter.  "There is
one up there now. Let me hang the hammock for you."  She sprang to her
feet.

Mrs. Bryant, without relinquishing her hold on Mildred, put the other
arm around her eldest daughter.

Clover flushed violently.  There was a look in her mother’s loving eyes,
the hint of a smile on her lips, which the girl recognized.  It was a
certain exalted expression of the dear lined face which her children had
seen before, and it always meant rising to an emergency.  The girl’s
heart contracted painfully.

The wet clothing on the lines flapped spasmodically behind the trio.
Unsteady board fences enclosed the narrow heated area.  The
poverty-stricken tree stretched its gaunt, ill-clothed arms aloft, and
the blue-jay’s harsh, jeering note added one more petty discomfort to
the surroundings.

"My dear little girls," said the gentle voice with unusual tenderness.

The sisters only regarded their mother in an apprehensive silence.

"I went to your room for something, Clover, and I found my letter from
Uncle Adolph.  I have just been reading it.  Don’t regret it.  I had to
know."



                             *CHAPTER III.*

                           *A MORNING DRIVE.*


In a city like Chicago, where events occur with phenomenal rapidity, two
or three years make great changes in a neighborhood.  Hyde Park, which
long hung back like a rebellious child loath to yield its independence,
had at last placed its reluctant hand in that of the mother city; but
with the suburb’s growing population there had already come a new state
of affairs.  It was no longer the case that everybody in Hyde Park knew
everybody else.  Those families who made homes there when but two trains
ran daily to and from town, felt, on the rare and rarer occasions of
meeting one another in a stranger crowd, the drawing of a tie tender as
that of kinship.

Mrs. Bryant belonged to this pioneer set, and so did Mr. Van Tassel.  To
those residents who had danced with them "long before the fire" at the
parties in the old Hyde Park hotel, this was reason sufficient why the
wealthy widower should manifest a continued interest in the friend of
his young manhood and her fatherless children. Those long-finished
polkas in the long-destroyed hostelry on the lake shore, where scattered
neighbors once met with the unconventional jollity of family reunion,
had left behind them a green memory in some hearts.

Florence Badger had been a fair little bud at those gatherings, and of
course Richard Van Tassel, her gay young partner, was not likely to
forget either her or his chum, Lewis Bryant, whom she afterward married.
The children of the two families had gone to school together and carried
the intimacy on to the next generation; and when Mr. Van Tassel’s wife
and daughter had been taken from him, more potent to comfort than any
other soul had been the gentle invalid, the friend of his youth, whose
lines for many years had fallen in hard places.

So, small wonder that the fine house on the lake shore and the shabby
home on the back street had kept up an interchange of civilities.  These
had been chiefly carried on by the young people until Jack had gone to
college.  After that it was to the Bryants that Richard Van Tassel liked
best to carry his boy’s letters, and talk over his haps and mishaps,
secure of sympathy.

Of late he had not been blind to the fact that the shabby home was
growing shabbier, but it was not an easy matter to bestow gifts here.
This very spring he had remarked that Clover’s eyes looked too large,
and that they rested with greater anxiety on her feeble mother.  He had
even hinted to Mrs. Bryant a trip up into Wisconsin or across the lake;
but she had parried the potential offer with gentle firmness.

Many a drive around the parks and boulevards did the invalid take with
her daughters in the glistening Van Tassel equipage, greatly to the
wonder of certain Hyde Parkers whose experience did not date back to
"before the fire."

The owner of the horses was away, that they knew.  Jack Van Tassel
graduated from Harvard this June, and his father had gone East for the
great occasion.  Now it was early August, and he had not returned.  "It
was so lovely of him," many said, "to give poor people like the Bryants
the use of his carriage while he was away.  A real charity. Not many men
would be so thoughtful."

These neighbors wondered if the freedom of the fine equipage extended to
the freedom of the house; but this they could not discover, for the
Bryants were not talkers unless surrounded by old friends. Hard
experience had taught even the young people reserve.  Nevertheless it
might have been a gratification to these curious ones to know that the
Bryants had never taken liberties at the Van Tassel mansion.  It had
even been interdicted always to the girls by their careful mother to
accept a general invitation to sit on the piazzas and rest, when they
came home from the sailing expeditions their souls loved.

The house was fascinatingly near the water, and the level lawns about it
cool with a fine mossy greenness.  The hammocks and rocking chairs on
the spacious piazzas gave alluring invitations to recline and study the
ever-changing coloring of the illimitable fresh-water sea; and the
elm-trees—not even on the boulevards were there such respectable
elm-trees as had here been coaxed to endure the harshness of bleak
lake-winds.

This being the case, it was hard, Clover and Mildred used to think, and
their little sister thought so still, that unless Jack happened to be on
hand to give them a specific invitation, they must pass this unused
luxury by, and trudge around the corner up the sunny main street, and so
on to the sandy roughness of the unpaved avenue they called home.  Still
they never thought of rebelling.  The rule was as fixed as those of the
Medes and Persians, and it must be a right one because mother made it.

On the very day that Clover, hard pressed by thoughts that ran in a
discouraging circle, disfigured her pretty hands by doing the family
washing, Mr. Van Tassel returned to Chicago.

On the following morning the sun was reflected brightly from the wheels
of his buggy as he drove a pair of well-groomed horses to the Bryant
house. Elsie Bryant, a girl of fourteen, saw him as he drew up before
the wooden walk.  With a little exclamation of delight she ran down the
flight of steps to greet him.

Mr. Van Tassel gathered the reins into one hand and reached the other
down to the child.

"How are you all, Elsie?  Mother about the same?  Oh, I’m sorry for the
headache.  Is Clover at home?  Will you tell her I have a business
errand to do this morning, and very much want her company on my drive?
Tell her she must indulge me. I can’t let her off.  I’ll come in later
to see Mrs. Bryant."

"Lucky Clover," thought Elsie as she ran obediently up the steps.  "I
just wish he had asked me."

And lucky Clover thought herself when she received the message.  She was
so tired of her own depressing thoughts!  The fresh air and the sight of
the kind familiar face would do her good.

When Mr. Van Tassel saw her run down the steps in her blue gown a few
minutes later, he descended from the buggy with middle-aged
deliberation.

"Welcome back," said Clover, trying to speak cheerily.  It seemed to her
that misfortune must have set an ugly visible mark upon her.

"Thank you for that.  Thank you for coming," said Mr. Van Tassel,
looking at her as their hands met as though he saw nothing unlovely.  He
assisted her into the buggy, and following, started the horses.

"Did Jack come with you?"

"No.  I thought that I might find him here. He expected to arrive about
now."

"Proud, happy Jack, I suppose," said the girl smiling.

"Rather a homesick Jack I fear he will be for a little while, unless he
has recovered already. You know the young man has a way of recovering
from depression."

"Jack and depression!  What an impossible connection of ideas," laughed
Clover.  It seemed wonderful to herself that she could laugh.  It was so
long since she had.  Three days is an interminable term of misery when
one is twenty.  They were bowling swiftly along Drexel Boulevard, beside
the rich foliage and flower-beds of the landscape gardener; the air was
clear and cool, and driving was quite a different thing when Mr. Van
Tassel held the reins in this light vehicle, from the same exercise by
favor of his solemn coachman, in the heavy and gorgeous carriage driven
at a rate suited to Mrs. Bryant’s sensitive condition.

Up Oakwood to Michigan Boulevard they sped, and soon the buggy stopped
before one of the splendid stone mansions on that avenue.

"I shall be but one minute," said Mr. Van Tassel as he dismounted, and
he kept his word.  When Clover saw the brevity of the message given to
the servant who answered his ring at the door, a faint wonder passed
through her mind that Mr. Van Tassel had thought fit to bring it in
person.

She was not inclined to quarrel with the fact, however, and when her
escort returned and the heads of the spirited horses were turned back to
the south, she inhaled a long breath of satisfaction.

"You have not found pleasanter weather than this where you have been, I
am sure," she said.

"No," he answered, "nor pleasanter circumstances. I have thought of you
a good many times though, Clover, and wished you might be with me."

He turned and looked into her eyes as he spoke, the innocent blue eyes
that returned his gaze fully. Her pretty lips parted in her interest.
"That was very good of you," she said sincerely.  "I would like to go to
every interesting place, so I am sure I should have echoed your wish.
Where was it?  At the seashore?"

"A part of the time,—yes."

"I wonder if I shall ever go East," exclaimed the girl with a sigh.
"New York, Boston, Philadelphia, I should like them to be something
beside names to me,—but what an idea!"  She broke off with a short
laugh.  Her thoughts had indeed, like unruly steeds, kicked over the
traces by which they had been harnessed to carry her by a safe road out
of a perplexing labyrinth.

"Not an absurd idea at all," said her companion quietly.

"Our lake looks very like the ocean, I suppose," she continued, after an
involuntary sigh.

"Not very much.  I don’t say it is not as beautiful," replied Mr. Van
Tassel loyally, "but the electric blues and translucent greens of Lake
Michigan have little in common with the deep, strong indigo, or
bottle-green, of old Ocean. There is as much variance in their
complexions as in their voices; as much difference between the sweep of
the fresh-water surf and the boom of the ocean’s tide, as between the
tones of a tenor and a bass voice."

"But, Mr. Van Tassel, think of the lake storms!" returned Clover, her
Chicago spirit piqued.  "I’ve stood on the lake shore many a time when I
could lean my full weight against the wind and be supported; and how
does the boom of the breakers, hammering the piers on those nights,
sound at your house?"

Mr. Van Tassel smiled.  "Well," he answered, "we will say like a _tenore
robusto_ in full force. But there again comes in the difference in
disposition.  When Lake Michigan becomes angry, it flies into a white
rage in a few minutes, and as soon as the spell is over calms down into
comparative placidity; while the ocean, slow to wrath, relaxes but
gradually, storming on with splendid fury under a dazzling sun."

"A difference greatly in favor of the lake, I should say," returned
Clover.

"Ah, but think of the terrors of Michigan’s caprices.  Smiling, even
seeming to dream in a happy reverie one minute, rocking its little
sailboats softly on its breast like a gentle mother, all at once with
appalling suddenness it flies into a passion, and while the fit is on
works havoc that inflicts long years of misery, though the very next
hour may find it dimpling again in gay carelessness of calamity.  Not so
with the ocean.  The sailor relies on its steady winds, and the honest
signs it hangs in the heavens for all to read, giving fair warning of
approaching danger."

"Why, Mr. Van Tassel!  As if you didn’t know that our sky hangs out
signs too, only, as Jack says, one must be brought up right on the lake
to understand them.  I had no idea you were such a poet, and so
disloyal."

As the girl made her warm protest, her companion threw back his head and
gave the hearty laugh that his friends liked to hear.

They had sped down Grand Boulevard, through Washington Park, and now
entered the Midway Plaisance.

What that name suggested to Chicagoans up to a short time ago was the
loneliest, most rural drive of their park system.  It even wound through
the woods at one point, making the refreshing variety of a curve in the
city of straight lines.

On this morning of the summer of ’89, when Mr. Van Tassel’s horses
turned into the broad avenue, their hoofs rang out in unbroken
stillness. Not another vehicle or human being was in sight. Birds glided
noiselessly among the trees that lined each side of the driveway.
Grassy fields stretched away in level, tranquil monotony in all
directions. It was the Midway Plaisance: but with no dull rhythmic beat
of drum to be the first greeting of each new arrival, no shadowing forth
of the scenes in the near future, when this unknown plot of ground
should become the rendezvous and rallying place of the civilized,
half-civilized, and savage nations of the earth.

It was the Midway Plaisance.  What’s in a name?  The words now signify
to millions a babel of tongues, a baffling concatenation of noises and
odors, a dizzying throng of sensations and emotions, a wondrous
collection of novel sights. Yet, a little while ago it was the Midway
Plaisance, and Richard Van Tassel chose to drive through it with this
young girl because he wished for solitude, and he could find no more
secluded and unfrequented spot.

"You must be introduced to the charms of the sea before you decide on
the question of my loyalty," he said.

"That will never be, I fear," she answered soberly.

"Never is a long time.  Hope for the best," said her companion cheerily.

"I do try to, but I haven’t Jack’s cork-like disposition."  A sadness
had crept into the girl’s tone in spite of herself.

"She is thinking of Mrs. Breckinridge’s invitation," decided Van Tassel.

"Your day will come.  Every man and woman has his opportunity," he
suggested.

"I hope you are right," answered Clover rather dispiritedly.

Her companion looked around at her tenderly, but her large eyes were
gazing between the horses’ heads.  "My poor little girl," he said, and
at his tone Clover glanced at him in surprise.  "Is the mother not so
well?" he asked.  "Something depresses you."

"I do not think she is worse," answered the girl slowly, but her eyes
moistened, and she looked away.

"I understand.  It is hard for you to be the head of the family.  You
will grow old before your time."

Clover became afraid that she should cry.  She looked resolutely at the
antics of a gopher on the fence.

"I have been growing young ever since we started," she answered lightly
at last.  "I did feel haggard with age early this morning."

She might have added, and at every hour of the night; for her novel
problems would not let her sleep.

"I hope you mean to tell me your troubles always," said Mr. Van Tassel.

"That is very good of you," returned the girl, turning her head and
giving her companion a faint April smile, "and very tempting too.  Even
though I am nearly certain that you cannot help me, I am weak enough to
wish to talk to you of what I must repress at home."

"I am glad to hear that," returned the other gravely, "gladder than I
can express."

So Clover told him of her uncle’s debt to Mr. Bryant, of the small
allowance he had consequently made her mother, and of the fact of its
cessation; and while she still talked, their swift horses left the
Midway Plaisance and entered Jackson Park, quiet and refreshing at this
hour of the morning.  The broad green field in its centre was studded
with haystacks whose perfume filled the air.  Robins, thrushes, and
catbirds lurked in the quiet groves, and swans sailed majestically on
the lakelets where soon the Eskimo canoes would be equally at home.

Adjoining the field of new-mown hay, ducks paddled along the still green
banks of another sheet of water, as contentedly as later in the same
spot their brothers would swim in the shadow of the white columns of a
treasure-house of painting and sculpture.

Mr. Van Tassel drove his horses through the site of future State
buildings, down past the pavilion which afterward the people of Iowa
beautified with their ingenious decorations.  Here, close to its gray
stones, he drew rein, and watched with his companion the gentle waves
break upon the sea wall.

Clover’s recital had drawn to a close, and now that it was over she
became for the first time embarrassed in the silence that followed, and
doubtful of her own wisdom in having accepted the relief of speech.  Her
companion was her mother’s best and oldest friend.  He had urged her to
confide in him.  His present silence was doubtless owing to a deep
consideration as to how he might be helpful to her; but he was a rich
man.  Clover had not thought of that till now.  Her only hope, so far as
her vague thoughts were formulated, had been that he might communicate
with Uncle Adolph more effectively than she herself.  Her cheeks grew
slowly, richly crimson.  He turned, and she dreaded what he might be
going to say.  When her timid eyes found his kind gaze, he extended his
hand to her.

"Do you trust me entirely, Clover?" he asked.

She was mystified, but as he evidently wished for her hand she placed it
in his.

"Yes, I—I"—she began incoherently, possessed by the suspicion that she
had been indelicate, and torn between the keen feeling of her mother’s
needs and her repugnance to receiving a gift she might seem to have
requested.

"Don’t be afraid, dear," he continued very kindly and quietly.  "If we
are both honest, we shall not hurt each other.  You have been frank.
Now it is my turn."



                             *CHAPTER IV.*

                        *CLOVER’S ANNOUNCEMENT.*


The next day Jack Van Tassel came home.  The first warning the Bryants
had of his arrival was in hearing the familiar whistle of a scrap from
Carmen, which was Jack’s particular call.

Only Clover and her mother were at home, Mildred having chaperoned the
younger children to a lawn party in the neighborhood.

"It is Jack!" cried Clover before the footstep had reached the steps.
She looked hopefully at her mother, who returned the significant gaze.

"He wouldn’t whistle," continued the girl with soft eagerness, "if he
weren’t—if he weren’t the same old Jack."

"I hardly feel equal to seeing him to-day," said Mrs. Bryant
tremulously.

"You shall not, dear," was the hurried response, as Clover ran
downstairs from her mother’s room where they had been sitting.  She
threw open the house door.

"Clover herself," exclaimed the visitor, laughing with pleasure, and
wringing her offered hand with painful cordiality.

"I’m glad you’ve come at last," she answered; "and you don’t look
sorry."

"Not a bit of it," was the breezy answer. "Where are Mrs. Bryant and
Mildred, and the small fry?  I want to see everybody."

"The girls and Frank will be inconsolable to miss your first call, but
they’ve gone to a children’s party; and mother, I am sorry to say, isn’t
able to see any one to-day."  While the girl spoke, her eyes alternately
met Jack’s with a sort of wistful gladness, and then fell away.  Her
face expressed the relief she felt to be thus standing and talking in
friendly, easy fashion with her old schoolmate.

"But come in and sit down," she added.  "You did not come home at
Christmas, so we have a whole year’s talking to do."

"Let us talk in the boat, Clover.  Sorry Mrs. Bryant isn’t well.  I’ll
call again when she can see me.  It is just right for a sail.  Don’t you
want to come?"

"Yes, indeed," returned the girl heartily.  "I have had only one sail
this summer.  Let me go and get my hat, and say good-by to mother."

She ran upstairs and presently returned.  Not a trace of yesterday’s
care appeared in her countenance as the two started out gayly on the
road they had often traveled together.

Hyde Park still bore traces of being a country village.  The young
people walked through fields of sweet clover and goldenrod, where now
massive hotels and blocks of granite and glass uprear. Chatting and
laughing, they hastened on toward the boat-house.

"It is pleasant to be back, I declare," said Jack heartily, looking with
affection over the billowy water, striped with greens and blues, which
had been his boyhood’s playground.  "Father says old friends are best,
and I believe he is right."

"Is he coming with us, this afternoon?" asked Clover half shyly.

"Why no," replied her companion, looking at her with undisguised
astonishment.  "You don’t mean to say father has developed a taste for
sailing while I have been off at the seat of learning?"

"He always liked it very well, didn’t he?"

"Why, I believe he always preferred driving. I told Michael to put the
Flirt in the water.  Yes, there she is.  Now for an old timer, Clover;
the wind is superb."

The girl followed the speaker out upon the pier, and, resting her hand
lightly in the one he offered, stepped into the boat.  Jack followed,
and they moved slowly along the little harbor and out through the narrow
opening between pier and breakwater, which has ushered so many boating
parties into the joys of a brisk voyage, and will do so no more forever.

Jack set the sail, and they began to move swiftly southward.  The breeze
was strong, and had already raised waves over which the boat sprang,
striking a billow before she cut it, with a splash which echoed in the
heart with a thousand invigorating memories.  It was going to be what
Mildred called a "jouncy" sail, and Clover, leaning back amid the boat’s
cushions, would have been supremely content could her mind have been set
at rest upon one point.

Jack, unconscious of her reservation, bared his head and, holding the
tiller with one hand, waved the other toward his companion.  "Now I am
at home," he declared.

Clover smiled and nodded in silence.  She regarded him with less
complacence than she had felt half an hour before.  It was passing
strange to feel a little shy and uncomfortable as she looked at
Jack,—not to be able to chaff him concerning the little mustache that
was a new acquisition, and which scarcely shaded his mouth.

The Flirt’s white wings bore them past the dark pines on the shore, past
the sea-wall of the pleasant park, and the canal which fed its little
lakelets.  Then on, past sandy beach and wild wood where the children
picked flowers in early summer, past sloughs where adventurous boys
skated in winter,—a deserted, unpromising, monotonously level bit of
country, surely, to be chosen as a cynosure for the eyes of all nations;
to be destined to become "the dazzling focus of a world’s activity."

Clover, as she gazed, saw only her old playground. No vision came to her
of a white city, lovely and unsubstantial as though fashioned from the
clouds of heaven, and holy because the offering of the best of men’s
hearts and brains.  No such foreshadowing came to blot out and lift her
above her personal hopes and fears.  She was recalled from absently
viewing the landscape by Jack’s cheery voice.

"Shall we put about?" he asked.

"Yes, we might as well," she replied, and as she lowered her head the
boom swung over.

"I hope you won’t get wet," he continued apologetically, for the spray
was flying high and higher. "This wind is growing to be too much of a
good thing.  You must excuse my preoccupation, but I’m trying not to let
you be drenched."

"Oh, never mind me," replied Clover.  "You know you always said I was
almost as good as a boy.  I’m not going to lose my reputation on account
of a few pints of water, I assure you."

"If I had only put in a reef," said Jack regretfully, "and you had your
waterproof."

But the lake was growing boisterous and the facts remained that they had
neither reef nor waterproof.

"I suppose we shall have to go in, but this is fine, Clover."

"Indeed it is; and does it really bring you to the conclusion that there
is no place like home? I am interested, for you see I don’t know any
place but home."

"Is that a fact?"  Van Tassel glanced at his companion with a
recollection of what his father had told him of her relinquished
European trip.

"Yes, I am narrow to the last degree.  I have never been out of my
native State."

Jack eyed the girl with admiring compassion.

"You’ve never even seen a hill, Clover."

"Never,—excepting the one in Lincoln Park."

Jack laughed.  "Which was carted there in wagons," he added.

"The things I’ve never done, and never seen, would fill a large volume,"
went on the girl, her soft hair, golden in the sunlight, blowing into a
halo around her forehead, as she leaned on her elbow among the cushions;
"but then I’m not sure I shouldn’t be as homesick, if I went away, as
May Frisbie was last summer.  Do you remember, while she was in
Switzerland, she wrote home: ’For real scenery give me Illinois!’  Ah,
here is some Lake Michigan!" for a dancing noisy wave had leaped above
the gunwale, a few spoonfuls vaulting saucily into the girl’s lap.

"Pardon me, Clover.  It is too bad; but we will be inside in a minute.
Sorry we had to be cut short in our career."

"Never mind, we’ve sailed while we sailed,—not dawdled along."

"And you will come with me again soon, I hope."

White-crested billows pursued them to the narrow opening in the
breakwater, as, wind-buffeted, the little craft entered the harbor.

When they landed, Jack left the boat-house janitor to take down his
sails, Clover put on her hat, and they walked up to the road together.

"All this time and not a word of congratulation," began Jack gayly, as
they started toward home.

Clover met his eyes with a quick, glad turn of her head, relieved from
the suspicion that had been filling her with apprehension; and
impulsively she put out her hand.

Her companion clasped it.  "Well, better late than never," he said.

"I am so glad!" she returned, low and excitedly, "I was afraid you
didn’t know it,—that perhaps your father hadn’t told you of our
engagement."

"What!  You engaged, Clover?" returned Jack in great astonishment,
pausing in his walk. "Why, of course I didn’t know it."  He shook her
passive hand again, and started on.  "I haven’t had a chance for any
talk with father yet, for when I dropped in at the office, this morning,
he had some old duffer with him.  I only meant just now to fish for
congratulations for myself, that my grind is over.  I’ve been receiving
a lot of them lately, you know.  Excuse the egotism. Now I understand
why you have seemed to have something on your mind this afternoon.  I do
congratulate him most heartily, whoever he is. He’s a happy man.  Do I
know him?"

Jack saw his companion turn pale to her lips, as he asked the question,
and her eyes amazed him by their piteous wistfulness as she raised them
to his.

"I have made a great—a great mistake to speak," she returned faintly,
"but I thought from what you said—and I hoped so you would not object!
He is," eagerly, "oh, he is happy, Jack. It is your father."

The young man stared blankly into the white face, then his own turned
red.  Through all the tan of seashore sun she could see the color rise,
and as the affectionate interest that had shone from his expressive eyes
gave place to a violent revulsion of feeling, it seemed to her that a
physical coldness crept around her heart.

"This is news to me," he said in a voice she did not know.  "I—I
wouldn’t have believed it of you, Clover."

The girl winced.  The contempt of her old playfellow was the severest
blow she had ever had to bear.  She walked fast under the stress of
feeling, and her companion kept pace with her.

"This is why she refused the Breckinridge invitation," thought Van
Tassel hotly.  "My poor, generous, blind father."

They kept silence for half a block, then Clover spoke again, recovered
calmness in her pale face.

"Your father said that if we were honest with each other, we should not
do wrong," she said clearly, "and we have been very honest.  He loves
me.  He wants to take all my cares upon himself.  Nearly all our means
of subsistence has recently been taken from us, and I was bewildered and
helpless when Mr. Van Tassel came to me with his love and generosity."

"An irresistible temptation, no doubt," replied Jack dryly.

"It _was_ a great temptation.  I have the future of three children in my
care, with all my inexperience; but the keenest pang in my helplessness
was mother’s condition."

"You are honest; if you were equally so with my father, I do not wonder
it occurred to his great heart to do as he has done."

The hot blood flew to Clover’s cheeks.  "You are wrong to insult me,"
she said, controlling herself with heroic effort, for her hurt youth
longed to seek relief in flight instead of waiting to parley.  "You will
soon know that Mr. Van Tassel loves me; and—and"—suddenly turning
suppliant, "when he told me so, and represented all that he could do for
me if I would consent to marry him, why should I have refused?  I did
not know it would make you so angry, Jack, and," with eager explanation,
"I do not care for anybody."

Her companion gave a short laugh.  "A nice lookout for my father," he
said curtly.

"You will not understand—you will not approve!" she said passionately,
in a low voice that began to tremble.  They were nearing her home now.
"It is hard for you; perhaps it is wrong to you.  So far as my own
happiness goes, I could give it all up for your sake, for your rights
are to be considered.  Ah, there is mother in the window.  She sees you,
Jack!"

The white head behind the window-pane inclined, and Van Tassel
mechanically lifted his hat.

"Do you see the peaceful look in her face?" went on the girl’s unsteady
voice.  "She has only looked like that since yesterday.  No," with new
strength, and no supplication in her manner as she unconsciously drew
herself up, "I will not waver. Say what you please to me.  Think what
you will of me; I can have but one thought, I must have but one, and
that is—mother!"

Van Tassel lifted his hat once more, as to a stranger.

"Not one friendly word?" she asked desperately, her breath coming fast.

"What do you want?" asked the other.  "That I should wish you
prosperity?"

"You surely do not wish me ill, Jack?"

"You have just declared your intention not to consider me.  What can my
wishes be to you? My only course is to efface myself," and without
another word of farewell Van Tassel bowed, and, turning on his heel,
hurried away up the street.



                              *CHAPTER V.*

                        *MISS BERRY’S VISITORS.*


Miss Lovina Berry stood on the stone doorstep of her square, white house
early one evening soon after the scene narrated in the last chapter.
The elm growing in her yard would have put to shame those so carefully
tended in front of the Van Tassel mansion a thousand miles away, and
more of the noble trees stood outside the white picket fence and shaded
the country road.

The flowers in her carefully weeded garden were homely and wholesome,
like her own placid face, as she stood, elbows in her hands, regarding
the neighbor who was in the act of departing from her hospitable roof.

"You’re sure ’t won’t inconvenience you a mite, Loviny?" asked the
latter, folding a brown paper parcel beneath her shawl as her anxious
upturned face met Miss Berry’s benevolent gaze.  "You won’t need the
pattern this week?"

"No, I sha’n’t need it this week," answered Lovina pleasantly; then, as
the other started off contentedly toward the little white gate, she
added in an equable, unvexed undertone: "but if I want it any time
within two months I shall have to come after it, that I know.  There
ain’t anybody slacker ’n you be, Ann Getchell, from one end o’ Pearfield
to the other."  Miss Berry continued to watch contemplatively the woman
whom she had characterized with such passionless severity, and suddenly
she saw her stoop.

"Your posies do smell so good, Loviny," Miss Getchell called back.  "I
s’pose you don’t care if I take some old man?"

Miss Berry smiled, and stepping deliberately off the stone advanced
toward her guest.  "Take any old man you can get, Ann.  I wouldn’t lay a
straw in your way."

"That’s an old joke, Loviny," returned the other with a sniff, breaking
a piece of the feathery stuff with its pungent sweet odor, while her
hostess with generous hand gathered the best the garden afforded, and
tying the nosegay with a bit of striped grass, bestowed it upon the
visitor, who buried her nose in its depths.

"You’re just as much of an old maid as I be, you know," added Miss
Getchell with an upward look.

"Just exactly, Ann.  I don’t know but more; more set in that direction,
as it were."

Miss Lovina’s lips twitched a little as she rested her arms on the gate
after her guest had gone out, but all her neighbors had reason to know
that the milk of human kindness became cream in her case, and Ann
Getchell had too often benefited by its richness to feel less than
content now. Indeed, as she turned a curve in the country road and
hugged closer her brown paper parcel, she soliloquized with much
satisfaction:—

"I wasn’t sure she’d let me have it.  Loviny always does set so much
store by what Mis’ Page sends her, and that dollman has got a style to
it that I hain’t seen anywhere else.  I can get it out o’ my old gray
poplin, I’m next to certain.  Them spots don’t show hardly at all on the
other side—Why, Mr. Gorham!"  The spinster started back with a short,
shrill screech.  "What a turn you did give me!  Why," clutching the left
side of her dress waist, "I’m all of a tremble.  You riz up so
unexpected from behind that rock that I—law!  I can’t hardly stand up."

The young man who had thus rudely interrupted an absorbing sunset dream
looked upon the ostentatiously perturbed speaker with some trouble in
his absent gaze.

"Pardon me, Miss Getchell.  The evening is so beautiful, I had thrown
myself down in the grass there to listen to the thrushes, and that
moment happened to decide I must be moving.  I did not hear your soft
tread approaching."

Over Miss Ann’s agitated countenance there stole a gratified expression.
This reference to her soft tread had a pleasing sound.  It was
characteristic of this young man to appear to compliment when no
proceeding was further from his thoughts.  More worldly-wise and
charming women than Miss Getchell had been similarly misled by him.
Nature in mischievous mood had added to his muscular physique the
features of a hero of romance, and launched him, a practical joke, upon
society.

The little woman tilted her thin head to one side with an arch air, and
lifted her sharp-nosed face toward his pensive eyes.

"Ain’t it a coincidence I should ’a’ met up with you just now?  I’ve got
a pattern under my arm this minute that your sister’n law sent Loviny
Berry.  I didn’t know as you was in town."

Her companion was anxious to pass on; but sense of duty forbade.  He had
startled Miss Ann.  It would be uncivil to leave her abruptly.

"I have but just arrived.  I’ve come down for a flying visit to Miss
Berry."

"Jus’ so.  I’ve jus’ come from there, as I said. You hain’t been down in
years, have you?"

"It is a long time for me to stay away from Pearfield.  Good"—

"Loviny didn’t say a word about expectin’ you," said Miss Ann curiously.
"Do you still like lawyerin’?"

"Yes, I like it.  Good evening, Miss Getchell."  He lifted his hat; then
as though compunction prompted the act, he advanced a step and shook
Miss Ann’s limp hand.  He was recalling that she had been kind to him in
a past when the quality of apples was not material, and the fruit on her
gnarly little trees had seemed desirable.

"Good evenin’," she answered.  "Come and see me if you’re stayin’ long
enough."

"Thank you.  I return to Boston almost immediately."

The young man pursued his way, relieved to be free again to give all his
attention to the soft summer sky where the light was fading; to the
bird-notes which were becoming disconnected and dreamy; to the scents
which rose gratefully from willows, and the thorny luxuriance of vines
that rioted over the stone wall at the roadside.

Miss Berry was still lingering at her gate when he approached the house.
She dropped her hands from her elbows and grasped the pickets of the
fence at sight of the face under the lifted hat.

"Why, Mr. Gorham!" she exclaimed, and opened the gate, her countenance
alight with pleased surprise.  "I was just thinkin’ about you this
minute, as I was standin’ here."

"Naturally.  I was a coming event, and I cast my shadow before."

The visitor shook the plump offered hand with no abstraction now in his
eyes, and his teeth gleamed beneath his mustache.  "I’ve no doubt I can
tell what you were thinking about, too."

"Like enough.  I s’pose lawyers know everything. Come into the house,"
said Miss Lovina hospitably.

"Not yet.  It is far too pleasant here.  Where is that old settee that
used to be under the oriole elm?  Why, there it is, of course, only
pushed to the other side," and the speaker started for the desired
haven.

"Come back, come back, Gorham Page.  Don’t you wade through the wet
grass!" exclaimed Miss Berry imperatively.

Her visitor turned around, laughing.  "That sounds natural, Aunt Love,"
he said.

"Well, perhaps it does," replied the other in half-laughing apology;
"but haven’t you learned good sense yet?  The dew’s a-fallin’, and that
grass ought to been mowed last week."

"Do you remember when I used to mow it for you?"

"I remember when you used to promise to," rejoined Miss Berry, the
corners of her mouth still twitching.  "Look here.  I ain’t goin’ under
that elm to set with my feet in the water."

"All right," replied Page, succumbing with a sigh, and casting a glance
toward the graceful branches of the tallest elm, behind which the new
moon glimmered in a primrose sky.  "What an evening!" he ejaculated.

"’M; dewy though," returned Miss Berry.

"I do like those old trees," said her guest slowly, continuing to gaze.

"So do the mosquitoes," replied Miss Berry inflexibly.  "Come up on to
the stoop."

Page, with a smile of amusement, followed his hostess to the piazza,
where she ensconced him in one rocking chair, and herself in another.

"Do the orioles still hold possession of that elm?"

"Yes."

"I’m glad of that.  The rest of the world may change, and must; but I’m
jealous of a hair’s breadth of change in Pearfield."

"Well, I don’t know.  The hang-birds squabble a good deal," remarked
Miss Lovina impartially.

Her guest laughed again.  The fact being that very few things in life
moved him to laughter, he was enjoying himself hugely.

"You are too practical; too unsentimental, Aunt Love," he asserted
argumentatively.

"Too unsentimental, hey?" responded Miss Berry, folding her hands over
the white apron that protected her striped gingham gown.  "That’s pretty
good from you.  What does it mean?  Have you repented o’ your singular
ways, and been fallin’ in love?"

"Oh, yes," responded the other, more seriously; then added simply, as
though stating an undeniable fact, "I am always falling in love."

"Then why don’t you get married?" asked Miss Lovina bluntly.  "I haven’t
heard a thing about you in so long, I didn’t know but what you was
married, only I hadn’t received any cake.  I didn’t believe you’d forget
me."

"No," said Page.  "If I could be as loyal to any girl as I am to you,
Aunt Love, I should certainly ask her if she would have me."

"But if you fall in love?" asked Miss Berry, perplexed.

"The trouble is I don’t stay in love," explained Page with simple
sincerity.  "I can’t help forgetting about the young lady in a little
while.  It really makes me blue sometimes.  Now this summer at Bar
Harbor I met a girl who was remarkably pleasant.  Pretty, clever, a good
talker.  Her tastes and mine coincided.  My mind was full of her when I
left the place."

"Have you heard from her since?" asked Miss Berry with interest.  This
certainly sounded encouraging.

"Oh yes.  I have sent her candy and flowers and books from time to
time," responded Page, beginning to look serious and abstracted.

"Then you write to each other?"

"Yes, oh yes, we do—yes.  Come to think of it, though," Page gave a
short uncomfortable laugh, "I believe I never answered her last letter.
I’ve forgotten.  I must look it up when I get back to town, if I can
remember it.  Aunt Love," brightening, "are those scalloped cookies
still in the tin box?"

"Child!  You haven’t had any supper!" Miss Berry sprang to her feet with
astonishing celerity, her plumpness considered.

The guest also rose.  "Yes I have, but I want a cookie."

"Then I’ll get it for you."

"No, no; that would spoil everything."  Page took his hostess by her
plump, comfortable arms and forced her back into her seat.

"There ain’t a bit o’ light in there," remarked Miss Berry resignedly.

"That was the condition of things when my aim for the cookies used to be
most unerring," returned the visitor, disappearing into the house.

He returned shortly, carrying in one hand a cookie which already had
lost from its side a generous semicircle, and in the other a round, deep
tin box which he placed at an impartial distance between his own chair
and Miss Lovina’s.

"Those are not my usual cookies," stated the latter, meditatively
regarding the box as her guest settled himself with a sigh of content.

Page smiled.  "That’s all right," he answered. "You know they never
were."

"Now I deny it, Gorham Page," rejoined Miss Berry warmly.  "I was never
one to make excuses all the time, and you can’t say I was; not
truthfully you can’t."

"These are exactly right, anyway," returned the other calmly.  "There
never was a cookie outside this house that tasted as good."

"Oh now, that’s silly, Mr. Gorham," returned Miss Berry with a pleased
smile.

"No, it is sound sense.  I feel old, and tired of things very often.  If
I could only get hold of one of these at such moments, I should be young
again in a minute, with an appetite for everything.  If you should some
day receive a telegram asking for a cookie, you may know that I need to
be rejuvenated, and mail me one at once."

"Have you forgotten my currant wine?" asked Miss Berry radiantly.

"Well, I guess not!  But you never let me know where you kept that."

His hostess laughed.  "No sir, indeed I didn’t. You set where you are,
and I’ll fetch it out."

She was as good as her word, and in a short time a little table stood at
Page’s elbow, and upon it a bottle and two glasses.

"I am sure I’m a big boy now," he laughed, as he poured the wine, "since
you trust me with this. I well remember the half glasses you used to
give me as a treat.  How many summers did we come here, Aunt Love?"

"Pretty near every year after you was ten years old till you went to
college."

A little silence fell between them, for it was that summer before Page’s
collegiate life began that his mother bade him a last good-by upstairs
in this very house, in the low-ceiled chamber where the branches of the
oriole elm cast their shadow.

"How’s your cousin Jack?  I wonder if he remembers Pearfield too,"
continued Miss Berry.

"Indeed he does.  He graduated from Harvard this year, and of course I
attended the Commencement. He asked for you, and I told him I didn’t
know half as much about you as I ought to; so when your business letter
reached me last week, I determined to answer it in person, and I hope
you will pardon what was unbusinesslike delay, for I could not arrange
to come at once."

"I feel as though I"—Miss Berry was beginning diffidently, when a small
dark whirlwind rattled the tin cake box, jostled the table, and leaped
frantically against Miss Lovina’s arm, upsetting some drops of wine upon
the clean white apron.

"Get out! get down!  Your paws are dirty!" she exclaimed, emphasizing
her unflattering protests with slaps at the panting, bounding, shaggy
terrier, who at last seated himself for an instant on his stump of a
tail, before rising to take a minute survey of the visitor’s pantaloons.

"Oh, you nuisance!" apostrophized Miss Lovina, wiping up the wine drops
with her handkerchief. "He’s been to get the cow with Obed.  He goes
every night, and he always races home like a mad thing, just as though
it had come over him up in the pastur’ that p’raps I’d give him the slip
and go off somewheres without him.  No sir, don’t you touch that cookie
box!" for the terrier’s eyes were gleaming through the mat of hair, and
his mobile nose worked hungrily, first toward Page’s hand, and then
toward the base of supplies.

"H’m!  He evidently knows those cookies, and agrees with my estimate of
them," said the young man, breaking a piece and offering it to the dog
as he returned alertly from Miss Berry’s vigorous push.  The creature
swallowed the morsel, and at each mouthful Page took thereafter, became
convulsed throughout his rough body, then planted his four feet firmly
and expectantly, and emitted a little bark.  "This is an innovation,"
continued the guest.  "Pearfield does move, it seems, after all."

"Oh, well," sighed Miss Lovina, lifting the cookie box to a safe perch
on the table, "it’s none o’ my doin’.  Since the last season you spent
here I haven’t made it any reg’lar thing to keep summer boarders; but
last year a lady was here with her children, and nurse, and this dog.
They had him new for a plaything for the children, and they was too
little to like him.  He’s the livest thing, Blitzen is, that ever
walked, anyway.  No, I ain’t talkin’ to you.  Keep down!  And he scared
the children with his wild ways.  The upshot of it was, they all went
off and left him on my hands. Mrs. Siddall said it was so much trouble
to travel with him that if he bothered me I might give him away to
somebody in the village.  Humph!  That was all very well to say.  I’ve
given him to four folks already."

Page smiled and gave the dog another mouthful. "Wise Blitzen.  He knows
which side his bread is buttered on," was his comment.

"He wouldn’t stay tied up, nor shut up, no more ’n a witch," continued
Miss Berry, "and every time he’d come back, he looked rougher than the
last time; and when he’d catch sight o’ me, he’d act foolish and
actually laugh.  It’s a fact.  He’d grin till he showed every tooth in
his head.  Of course I gave in at last.  I had to. He’s a knowin’
critter," sighed Miss Lovina; "he knows everything on earth only just
that I don’t want him.  He’s set out to deny that, and he’ll stick to
it."

"He seems to be a fine dog of his kind," said Page.

"Yes.  They said he cost a lot o’ money," returned Miss Berry, regarding
the terrier dubiously. "I did think though, first off, that I should
never get to tell quick which was which end of him.  He hasn’t got tail
enough to wag, and he’s so rough and queer he’s given me a start many a
time barkin’ in the direction I didn’t expect.  What were we talkin’
about when Blitzen broke in?"

"I was asking pardon for my delay in responding about your business
matter.  I told you when I met you at the gate that I knew you were
thinking, as you stood there, that it was strange that I should be
neglectful of you."

"Well, I wasn’t.  I was wonderin’ if I’d done the right thing to bother
you about the matter anyway."

"Decidedly you did.  It is a problem I can solve for you with very
little trouble, I’m sure, if you will show me the papers you spoke of.
I have robbed the tin box shamefully and the light has gone; supposing
we go into the house and talk the matter over.  My time in Pearfield is
limited.  I sail for Germany next Saturday, and I have considerable to
do between now and then."

"Well, if you ain’t clever to me," said Miss Berry gratefully, as she
rose and led the way into the house, while Page followed with the
impedimenta of box and bottle, and the further embarrassment of Blitzen,
who writhed ingeniously about his legs, evidently intending to make
clear his adherence to one who could command cake at such an astonishing
time and place.



                             *CHAPTER VI.*

                        *THE UNEXPECTED GUEST.*


Miss Berry’s legal question was at last disposed of.  Page carefully
mapped out a plan of action for her, and explained each detail with
painstaking kindness.

"You are clever to me, Mr. Gorham," she repeated gratefully, when all
was made clear.  "Now I want to pay you exactly as any of your clients
would," she added, in a business-like tone.

"You can’t," he answered, throwing himself back in his chair, "for they
don’t any of them make such cookies as you do."

"Now please don’t joke," she begged, half-laughing.  "You’ve had the
cookies already."

"Of course, just a retaining fee as it were. Blitzen and I want some
more before I go to bed."

"But such an obligation," pleaded Miss Berry.

"Such a pleasure, Aunt Love," rejoined her lawyer.  "Now, to change the
subject, what is Pearfield’s opinion about the World’s Fair?  Where do
you think it ought to be held?"

"I don’t know enough about the different cities to say," returned Miss
Berry.  "I see by the papers some o’ the Western cities think they have
as good a right as anybody.  Chicago is after it. Such an idea!  As
though folks want to have to traipse way across the country to see the
Fair.  I don’t know much about public questions," continued Miss Lovina,
complacently smoothing her apron, "but I know enough to see that there
ain’t any sense in that notion, and reasonable folks won’t listen to it;
not but what Chicago’s a good deal of a city, I s’pose."

"Chicagoans have that idea," answered Page, smiling.  "I have a friend
who recently returned from Europe; and he says that one day in the
boat’s music-room he found on the table a book purporting to portray
only Chicago and its suburbs. There were pictures in it of Niagara Falls
and the Yellowstone Park."

"Do tell!" exclaimed Miss Berry, laughing. "Well, where do you want the
Fair to be, Mr. Gorham?"

"Oh, I feel as though New York were the proper place.  I think it is the
general feeling that it would be a risk to trust a matter like that to
Chicago.  There has been a very clever cartoon published recently in New
York, showing our principal cities represented as pretty women standing
in a semicircle around Uncle Sam waiting to see which shall receive a
bouquet which he holds in his hands labeled ’World’s Fair,’—that is,
they are all pretty women except Chicago, who is a half-grown, scrawny
girl, arrayed in an evening gown covered with a pattern of little pigs.
She has huge diamonds blazing in her breast and ears, her thin arms are
bare, and the hands she wildly stretches out to Uncle Sam wear white kid
gloves with one button at the wrist.  Her mouth is wide open, and she is
evidently vociferously demanding the prize, while New York, a beautiful
society girl, gazes at her with well-bred scorn.  For my own part, I
think New York may overdo the nonchalant business, and if she does, the
energetic maiden stands a good chance to gain her end."

"How do you suppose your cousin Jack likes to have his city made such
game of?" asked Miss Lovina.

"Oh, I fancy Jack has learned by this time to view the Garden City from
a Bostonian standpoint. I don’t know what his views are on the subject
of the Fair.  I have seen very little of him the last years."

"You are liable to make up for it in the year to come," said a new voice
suddenly.

Blitzen had already run growling toward a window, and now barked
furiously as Jack Van Tassel walked into the room and Miss Lovina and
her guest sprang to their feet.

"Forgive the intrusion," added the new-comer, in the handshaking that
ensued.  "I looked through the window and saw you sitting here so
comfortably, I thought it a pity to make you the trouble of coming to
the door.  Aunt Love, how are you?  You didn’t expect to see me here,
Gorham?"

"Where have you dropped from?  You were in Chicago day before
yesterday," rejoined his cousin.

"I don’t deny it.  Thank you, Aunt Love.  I used to like this rocking
chair when my feet wouldn’t touch the floor as I sat in it.  What do I
see?  If there isn’t the cookie box!"

"Yes, and you’re in great luck to come as soon as you have, for I was
just meditating another onslaught upon it."

"Well, if you two great boys ain’t as bad as you ever were!" exclaimed
Miss Berry in high delight, as she hastened to bring forth the currant
wine again for the delectation of her new guest.

"Perhaps you will explain yourself," remarked Page curiously, hospitably
reaching out the tin box and meanwhile making attempts to hold Blitzen
off with his foot; an effort which met the success attendant on similar
treatment of quicksilver.

"Why, I’ve come to see Aunt Love," responded Jack.  "Why shouldn’t I?"

Miss Berry looked at his brilliant, graceful face and figure admiringly.
"Why not, indeed?" she said, laughing.  "I was always good to you,
wasn’t I, Mr. Jack?"

"Too good.  Far too good.  I remember everything."

"That is all very well; but why did you bid me a long farewell a week
ago, and then turn around and come back again?" persisted Page.

Jack tossed off a glass of wine.  "Better than ever!" he exclaimed,
sending Miss Berry one of the caressing, admiring looks which warmed any
feminine heart toward which they were directed. Then he turned to his
cousin.  "Because, my dear Gorham, I have repented of my rejection of
your offer, and after I’ve talked over old times sufficiently with Aunt
Love, it is my intention to accompany you to Germany.  Do you accept my
apology?"

"Good enough," commented Page briefly, but with evident satisfaction.
"Your decision must have been sudden, though.  What was the matter? Did
Chicago grate upon your æsthetic sense in her scramble for the Fair?"

"She isn’t scrambling, that I know of.  She doesn’t need to.  She’ll get
the Fair all right. Any one can see with half an eye that Chicago is the
only place for it,—the foreordained place."

Page laughed quietly and skeptically, and there followed one of the
arguments of which every American citizen knows the pros and cons.

That night Miss Berry put her unexpected guests into two bedrooms which
communicated.  When her last good wishes for their comfort had been
expressed and good-nights said, the two men looked at each other as they
listened to her retreating footsteps.

"Of course," said Page, "if the explanation you gave me downstairs is
all you care to say, I’m satisfied."

The brightness had faded from Van Tassel’s face. He looked moody and
worn.

"No, I meant to tell you, of course," he answered, seating himself on
the side of the bed.  "I found when I reached home that father had
assumed charge of an orphan asylum, and I thought I should be better off
out of the way."

"What do you mean?"

"Exactly what I say.  He is going to marry the eldest member, in order
to facilitate matters."

"Uncle Richard is going to marry again, and you have quarreled with
him?"

Jack shook his head quickly.  "I don’t quarrel with father," he replied
briefly.

Page sat down in a blue chintz armchair by the window and pushed open
the blind; then recollecting that one of Aunt Love’s last warnings had
been not to do so on account of mosquitoes, he closed it again.

"Uncle Richard has been a widower for fifteen years," he said.  "He is
scarcely over fifty years old.  Aren’t you unreasonable to resent his
marrying?"

Van Tassel, his sombre eyes fixed on the palm-leaves in the ingrain
carpet, emitted an inarticulate sound.

"What more appropriate," continued his cousin, "than that he should
select a widow, even supposing she has children.  He has plenty of
money.  I can see how it would make you feel sore and change your home
feeling at first; but Uncle Richard has such a level head, you may be
certain that the lady is such a one as you will like after a time."

Jack gave a short, unmirthful laugh.  "The lady hasn’t any children.
What a pity you can’t see her!  She is a little girl who went to school
with me at home; and she has an invalid mother, some younger sisters,
and a brother on her hands."

Page raised his heavy eyebrows and gave a soft whistle.

"As they have nothing in the world, they have roped father in."

"That’s bad!" admitted the older man with some sympathetic disgust.
"Then you have quarreled with Uncle Richard, for of course you attempted
to dissuade him."

"Not at all.  I arrived home to find the engagement a fixed fact and all
the parties satisfied. What was there to be done?"

"You didn’t come away without saying anything?"

"No, no.  I wouldn’t do that, and I believe that in place of anything
else to be proud of, I shall always be proud of having had some
self-control in that last interview with father.  I knew all the time,
hot and angry as I was, that if I said to him what I felt, I should
repent of hurting him all my life.  He is the noblest man, the best
father, that ever lived."  The speaker’s eyes grew bright, and Page
believed it was with moisture.

"I’m glad to hear you say that," he rejoined heartily.  "You are right,
I know.  Uncle Richard is one man in a thousand, and it would be easy
enough to believe that even a young girl might feel a deep and romantic
attachment for him."

Van Tassel shook his head.  "You are all off again.  Say all you like in
praise of father, but"—

"But why be prejudiced?" suggested Page hopefully.  "This Miss—Miss"—

"Bryant."

"Why should you, on the circumstantial evidence of her family’s need,
decide that she is only mercenary?  Perhaps she loves"—

"And perhaps she doesn’t," interrupted Jack impatiently.  "She says she
doesn’t."

"What?"

"Yes, Clover is a very honest girl, and she was good enough to inform me
of the neutral state of her affections."

"Well, well!  I must say Uncle Richard is beginning to puzzle me.  He
has seen this girl grow up.  Is she so irresistibly beautiful?"

"What an idea!  No.  My father puzzles me too, I assure you, but I must
believe he loves her, and in the face of that, Gorham," Van Tassel
looked up with strong feeling in face and voice, "that dear old fellow
made sure that he wouldn’t be interfering with me before he spoke to
her. He came to me just before leaving Cambridge, and asked me if I
cared for her.  Of course I didn’t suspect anything.  It seemed only a
consistent carrying out of the desire he has always had to anticipate my
every wish.  He urged nothing, but persisted gently till he discovered
what he was after; and I tell you it touches me—in the light of present
circumstances it touches me to think about it.  He would have given up
his wishes; no one would ever have been allowed to suspect them, had
they conflicted with mine."  The speaker rose, crossed the room, and
stood with his back to his cousin, while he regarded the antlered cows
in a framed sampler executed by Miss Lovina’s mother.

"No wonder you are glad that you said nothing offensive at parting,"
remarked Page.

"Yes," replied Jack, turning back.  "I have been in twenty different
minds since taking the train for Boston, as to whether I do right or
wrong to go to Europe now.  Very few words passed between father and me
about it.  I had some hours to think before meeting him, after learning
what he had done, and I merely told him that Clover had told me of their
engagement.  He looked right at me and he understands me pretty well.
’Does it displease you, Jack?’ he asked. ’It surprises me, sir,’ I
answered, ’and it makes me feel that while matters are in the transition
state which is coming, I might perhaps as well put in that year abroad
you spoke of.’  He was silent for a minute, and I knew that, try as I
might, I couldn’t mislead him much as to my feelings, so I braced up and
spoke as naturally as I could, about how deeply I desired his happiness,
and said that if my staying at home would conduce to it, I would stay.
He thought a minute more, and then he said as quietly as he always says
everything, ’You had better go, Jack.’"

The speaker paid one more visit to the sampler with its angular green
trees.

After a minute Page broke the silence: "I believe you have decided
wisely.  I believe you had better come with me."



                             *CHAPTER VII.*

                             *ON THE RAIL.*


The following week the two sailed for Germany; but when home-coming time
for Page arrived, his cousin did not accompany him. Mr. Van Tassel had
married the month after his son left, and although his affectionate
letters held out an invariable welcome, they made it easy for Jack to
stay amid the novel scenes which allured him. Gorham Page, therefore,
was alone when he reëntered Boston, one day in the following August. The
sister-in-law with whom he made his home was, he knew, at the seashore,
and after a brief visit to her deserted flat, and a hasty repacking, he
took a cab for the Boston and Maine depot.

He was rather late for his train, and he boarded it to find it crowded.
Passing from one car to another in vain search for a seat, he descried,
standing in an aisle, a tall young girl, who attracted his attention at
once, by reason of her superb figure fashionably clothed in plainest
black, and the annoyance on her fresh face.  She held a satchel in her
hand, and was vainly endeavoring to appear indifferent, after a heated
appeal to a badgered conductor who had apparently sought relief from a
suffering public in deafness.

When Page, who was slightly short-sighted, approached near enough to
discern the impatient golden lights in her hazel eyes, and the underlip
caught beneath her teeth, he took in the situation, and gave one more
searching glance around the crowded day-car; the parlor car he had
already discovered to be hopeless.

"This is very uncomfortable," he said, addressing the girl and raising
his hat.  "I have not quite despaired of finding a seat.  Won’t you
follow me?"

"I have been all through," she answered, but she followed him.

The next car was packed with equal solidity; but Page moved forward, and
on the platform was motioned away by a brakeman.

"Back, please.  Next car’s a sleeper.  Takin’ it to Portland.  No
passengers."

"Is it locked?" asked Page, pushing by.

"No, ’t ain’t locked, but"—

Page interrupted the slow drawl decidedly, and put aside the detaining
hand.  "Oh, well, people can’t stand, you know," and with an encouraging
look around at the damsel in distress, who followed him with alacrity,
he opened the door of the Pullman, and ushered her into the luxurious
empty car.

"Thank you so much," said the girl gratefully, as she took possession of
one section and her benefactor seated himself across the way.

One by one a dozen other passengers came in and availed themselves of
this unexpected privilege, and the pessimistic conductor contented
himself by collecting fifty cents from each individual.

Page had an eye for beauty, and as his position made it possible to do
so undetected, he regarded his neighbor appreciatively.  The world is
full of pretty girls, thank heaven, but this one was unusual inasmuch as
she was built on such large lines as to make approval a matter of taste.
Page did approve.  He mentally called her a young Juno as he regarded
her flat back and fine shoulders, her clear healthy skin and the Cupid’s
bow of her upper lip.  Her thick brown hair was uncrimped and smoothly
brushed toward the coil at the back of her head.  She was what is called
in the parlance of the day a tailor-made girl, and her physique
suggested rowing and tennis.

Page thought this, and wished he had an excuse to speak with her.  The
fact that he had happened to do her a slight favor made this more than
usually impossible, so after a while he abandoned his regard of her
piquant profile, in favor of the landscape from his own window.

About now the conversation between two men in the section behind this
_fin de siècle_ maiden became loud enough to take half the car into
their confidence.  They were discussing the incongruous situation of the
World’s Fair; for in the previous April Uncle Sam had yielded, and
thrown his bouquet to that one of his daughters which, according to the
cartoonist, had clamored and importuned the loudest.  The crude,
unformed, ill-bred creature now had this treasure in her keeping, and
the righteous indignation and despair of those two New Hampshire men
filled the car.  What could be expected but national disgrace?  What was
the matter with the powers at Washington that they had not in some way
averted such a disaster?  A good many people thought it a joke; these
gentlemen could see nothing amusing in having our country held up to
ridicule.

As the discussion waxed and waned, Page listened to it perforce, at
first indifferently, then with more interest as he discovered that it
was affecting his fair neighbor.  He could see her cheek grow hot, could
see that she held herself with greater rigidity. She bit her lip from
time to time, and once she moved her head slowly around as if inclined
to glance at the noisy talkers; but half way her deep luminous eyes shot
their golden lightning straight into Page’s, and recovering herself she
turned back and looked ahead again.

The sunshine had begun to pour in at her window, and she suddenly seized
the blind to pull it down.  It fitted tightly after the manner of its
kind, and her first effort was not successful.  It was probably not a
case for assistance, as the young woman looked as though her muscle
would be equal to considerable strain, but Page spontaneously left his
seat.

"Allow me," he said, and drew the blind down.

The girl thanked him rather severely.  Page’s shipboard experience of
comparative informality with strangers was fresh upon him.  He spoke on
the impulse of the moment, feeling sure that the severity was not
intended for him.

"Wouldn’t you prefer to change seats with me? Perhaps you would be less
annoyed there by conversation as well as sunlight."

"You heard something of it, then," the girl exclaimed; "but I think they
have said all the ignorant, stupid things they can think of."

"I saw that the remarks were troubling you," said Page, seating himself
opposite in her section. "The Garden City has one champion, I’m sure."

"Dear, generous Chicago!" ejaculated the girl, and her youthful wrath
was very entertaining to her neighbor.  "It is the best thing that ever
happened to the country that we are to have the Fair. Perhaps," with
interest, "you are a Chicagoan?"

Page was obliged to deny this with a novel reluctance which amused him.

The girl gave the slightest toss of her head.  "I suppose the Eastern
people think we enjoy the prospect of being jostled, and crowded, and
having our streets torn up and our city extended, and all our comfort
taken away for two years while we live in a perfect Pandemonium.  No.
We do not enjoy it, but we do it as our duty because we know that we can
and shall do it well.  It is not best to trust such an enterprise to an
old, slow town."

Page regarded the speaker with curiosity and interest.  She spoke softly
but emphatically in a contralto voice, and did not look at him, but
beyond him.  It occurred to her companion that with her superb vitality
and unconscious audacity she might be a truer type of the triumphant
young city than that shown in the cleverly insulting picture which had
so tickled his imagination.

"I see you take a strong interest in the matter," he remarked.

"Yes.  My sister’s husband has been busy about it from the first; so I
have heard much concerning the subject; but then all Chicagoans are
interested. It is their way."

The evident pride with which the girl referred to this "way" caused Page
to declare meekly, as a means of raising himself in her estimation, that
he had relatives in Chicago.

"That will be very pleasant for you in ’93," she returned, with a slight
smile which made her face bewitching.

"I have been spending the last year with a Chicago cousin in Germany,"
continued Page. "He has taken a warm interest in every phase of the
discussion."

"Naturally," returned the girl; then having relieved her surcharged
heart she apparently recollected that she was prolonging an interview
with a strange man, and leaning back in her seat she took a copy of
"Life" from her satchel.  Fine streaks of sunshine sifted across the
sheet.

"Won’t you accept that shady seat?" asked Page.

"Thank you, no.  I am only going as far as R——-."

"That is my destination, too.  You might as well be comfortable."

The girl looked up again with some interest.

"Are you going to R——-?  Then I shall ask you to be kind enough to
direct me to the Ocean House. I am afraid that there has been a
misunderstanding, and that Mrs. Page—that the friend whom I am going to
visit does not expect me this morning."

The young man regarded her with a new expectancy. "I am going to the
Ocean House also, and, by another coincidence, to see a Mrs. Page.  She
is my sister."

His neighbor returned his gaze at first with surprise, then a demure
spirit of mischief danced in her eyes.  It had a brief struggle with
cautious propriety, but it conquered.  Caution usually did make a losing
fight in the case of this young lady.

"I wonder if you can be Gorham," she said slowly, and Page flushed to
his temples under the fascination of his own name.

"I am," he laughed.

"I know a lot about you," declared the girl quietly, and her companion
thought the dip in her upper lip when she smiled the prettiest thing he
had ever seen.

"That is unfair," he returned, "for I know absolutely nothing about
you."

"Very likely.  Your sister only came to Pearfield three weeks ago."

"Pearfield?  Have you been at Pearfield? How strange!"

"Oh, it is very simple.  My sister’s husband was not well,—he was all
tired out with the Fair business, and one thing and another, and the
doctor frightened him into thinking he must have absolute rest; so he
bethought him of this little village and Aunt Love.  Of course you know
Aunt Love?  She is one of your stanchest admirers. I am not at all sure
that when you take your hat off I shan’t see a little halo clinging to
your locks."

"Oh, come now.  That is too bad."

"Well, we went there the middle of June, and we have been there ever
since.  Three weeks ago, as I said, your sister came up—or your
sister-in-law, isn’t she?"

"Yes, but all the sister I have, so I claim her."

"I should think you would.  She is lovely. She and Blitzen have been the
bright spots in my summer."

"Oh, of course, Blitzen.  I had forgotten him."

"He is delightful.  So sympathetic!  Our temperaments are just alike."

Page listened with interest.  He could imagine the small dog and this
young woman in a romp. He could picture her, and he liked to, in a light
cambric gown, going at evening with Blitzen up into the pasture to get
the cow.

"Aunt Love has given him to me," continued the girl complacently.

Her companion smiled reminiscently.

"What does Blitzen say to the transfer?" he asked.

"I sometimes suspect he doesn’t know it," she returned seriously.  "I
mention it to him every day, though.  Mr. Van Tassel laughs at me, and
says that I needn’t expect to take the dog,—that Blitzen thinks I’m a
humbug."

Page was not listening.  "Mr. Van Tassel?" he repeated in blank
surprise.

"Yes.  Didn’t I say?  Excuse me.  He is my sister’s husband—and your
uncle.  I forgot that. The dearest man that ever lived."

Page felt staggered, and confusedly afraid that he should show the shock
he felt.  His eyes fell. This was one of that obscure family who had
"roped Uncle Richard in."  Like lightning there flashed across his mind
the consideration that beauty had made his uncle weak.

"Yes—ahem"—he stammered, for he feared it might have been long that he
had sat there dazed.  "I’m sorry to hear that my uncle is ailing.
Jack—his son knows nothing of it."

"No; it is Mr. Van Tassel’s wish that his son should not be informed of
his indisposition."  The girl’s reply sounded curiously stilted in
contrast to her previous ease of manner.  Page blamed himself for the
new coldness.

"Just like his unselfishness, isn’t it?" he returned cordially.  "I
can’t help thinking how surprised Hilda will be to see me appear with
you. She does not know when to expect me."

Mrs. Page was indeed surprised when the train stopped at R——, and she
stood on the platform and beheld her brother and her guest leave the car
together.  She was a vivacious little woman with a trim figure, and keen
blue eyes that looked out beneath her sailor hat, full of lively
interest in everything and everybody.  She pounced upon the pair, and
kissed them both with enthusiasm.

"How perfectly delightful!" she exclaimed. "I couldn’t help worrying a
little about you, Miss Bryant."  ("Oh yes, Bryant was the name," thought
Page.)  "I knew you were not familiar with Boston, and although I had
given you such detailed directions, I should have been frantic if you
hadn’t come out of the car just when you did.  Gorham, how did you
happen to find her? Did you go out to Pearfield?  How is Uncle Richard,
Miss Bryant?  There, Gorham, don’t let that stage go without us.  Not
the white one, the yellow.  Is there room for three?"

When they were in the stage that was to take them to the hotel, these
queries and many more were answered before the long extent of surf came
in sight, vividly blue beyond the firm white shore on which a foamy
lacework melted.

Mrs. Page ensconced her guest in a pleasant room near her own, and then
returned to her own quarters with an impatient hope that her brother
would seek her there.  She had not long to wait, and she welcomed him
eagerly.

"What do you think of my new acquisition?" she asked, as she gave him a
seat that commanded the ocean, and took one near by.

"I was greatly surprised."

"I thought you would be," said Hilda triumphantly; "but what do you
think of her?  Isn’t she handsome?"

"Very," answered Page, looking dreamily out upon the water.

"Haven’t you fallen in love with her, you wooden man?"

"Hardly, yet.  I suppose I shall, though," he added resignedly.

Mrs. Page laughed so gleefully that he smiled. "It is all the queerest
thing," she said with sudden serious zest.  "I was belated in every sort
of way about getting down here this year, and when I was finally ready
it suddenly came over me that Uncle Richard was with Aunt Love in the
character of a semi-invalid, and that it would be civil in me to call on
him once, as he had come to see me on his way through the city."

"It is odd that Jack hasn’t mentioned his father’s being at Pearfield,
or his not being well. To be sure, I haven’t seen Jack since last March,
still he would naturally have mentioned it in the few letters I’ve had
from him."

Mrs. Page lifted her finger impressively.  "Jack doesn’t know one word
about his father’s illness. Be sure you don’t mention it to him."

"Call it fatigue.  It isn’t illness, is it?"

"Why, Gorham Page, he had a stroke early this spring."

"No!  Why, that is too bad.  Surely it is wrong to keep it from Jack,"
said Page with a strong mental uprising of resentment against unknown
scheming Bryants.  Of course that innocent, inexperienced young creature
of the train would have no word in the matter.

"Well, I don’t know," returned his sister dubiously. "It was only a
warning, the doctors said, and I suppose Uncle Richard thinks he is all
right now with care; and there’s a wheel within a wheel there, Gorham.
Didn’t you notice to-day," lowering her voice dramatically, "that I
didn’t say a word about Jack?  Jack is a sore subject."  She nodded her
head several times by way of emphasis.

"I dare say," returned the other.  "The Bryants must have known that he
was very much cut up by his father’s marriage."

"Oh, they did; or the girls did.  The mother never was allowed to know.
I became very well acquainted with this child Mildred in the few days I
stayed at Pearfield, but she told me nothing.  Aunt Love told me the
whole story, for Mrs. Van Tassel had confided in her.  Aunt Love is
perfectly devoted to Uncle Richard’s wife."

"Humph!"

"They have been through a great deal in a year.  I suppose you heard
through Jack, though I knew nothing about it, that Mrs. Van Tassel’s
little brother and sister took scarlet fever and died in the same week."

"Yes, I knew that.  Jack felt it deeply.  I am sure he must have written
home very kindly about it.  It occurred only about a month after the
wedding."

"Very likely he did.  I don’t know.  Then Mrs. Bryant grew weaker and
weaker through the winter.  They took her South, and surrounded her with
every luxury, but in April she died."

"No.  I didn’t know that."

"Yes, she died very peacefully and happily; but she had not been gone a
fortnight when Uncle Richard had that stroke."

"What a procession of calamities!"

"I should think so.  Well, Aunt Love says the worst part of it is, that
Mrs. Van Tassel seems to connect all this misfortune with Jack’s anger
at her.  Something on the old idea of a curse, I suppose."

Page’s lip curled slightly under his mustache.

"I saw very little of Mrs. Van Tassel myself," continued his voluble
sister.  "Uncle Richard’s head was very easily tired.  He had to keep
very quiet, and she was with him constantly.  You never saw such
devotion."

"No doubt," said Page ambiguously.  "I can easily believe that she will
not allow him out of her sight.  It looks to me as if it were our duty
to inform Jack of his father’s condition."

"No, no.  I saw enough of Uncle Richard to discover his wishes about
that.  He does not want to have Jack hurried.  He does not consider his
condition in the least alarming."

Page’s face indicated his disapproval.  "So Mrs. Van Tassel is to
succeed in keeping Jack at a distance," he remarked.

"I don’t think it is her doing."

"Of course it is," said Page without heat. "Uncle Richard must know the
circumstances."

"He may suspect something, of course," replied Hilda, "but Aunt Love
tells me they do not avoid the subject of Jack at all.  Mrs. Van Tassel
speaks of him with perfect naturalness, whenever necessity demands, and
she has never told Uncle Richard of the angry parting that worried her
so. He never asked her about it."

"Wise Uncle Richard!  He knew better."  Page shook his head.  "It is a
bad business."

His sister demurred.  "I do not know that it is such a bad business for
Uncle Richard to have gained such a devoted nurse.  He needs it now. As
for Miss Bryant, I pitied the girl, cooped up there in that lonely,
monotonous village, and begged Mrs. Van Tassel to allow her to stay with
me a week or two.  She consented very willingly, even gladly.  I wanted
to give people a chance to look at her.  I’m a philanthropist.  The
sight of her will do a weakly person as much good as the sea air; and
she was"—

A knock at the door interrupted.  Mrs. Page gave her brother a knowing
little nod, and when she answered the call, it was her guest who
entered.  The girl had exchanged her black dress for one all white.

"You told me to come as soon as I was ready," she said, looking from one
to the other.

"Yes, I was in haste to have you see my view. Isn’t it a fine one?"

Mildred moved to the window, followed by Page’s unconscious, openly
admiring gaze.  He had risen at once upon her entrance and stood, his
hands resting on a chair-back, forgiving Mrs. Van Tassel’s arts for the
moment, in entire approval of her sister’s appearance.

Hilda, to whom her brother-in-law’s potential love affairs were a
constant entertainment, kept his ingenuous face in view, even while her
tongue rattled on.

"For a conscientious, well-intentioned man," she had once said to her
husband, "Gorham Page can be the most dangerous creature.  Any girl
receiving such a look as his would believe him deeply smitten.  Then he
will go on, getting acquainted with her in his way, inquiring into her
thoughts and opinions, even probing her hidden feelings, getting at the
real woman, as he calls it, and having exchanged theories with her for a
while, his mind will go mooning off, perhaps in the test of some new
thought she has suggested, while the girl, gradually neglected, is soon
as entirely forgotten as last year’s fashions.  It amounts to
unprincipled flirting, and yet he doesn’t suspect it in the least.  He
is too modest, really.  A queer paradox."

Hilda suddenly finished the description of a distant lighthouse, and
turning, walked straight up to her brother, who was still lost in
critical approval of the noble lines and curves of her guest’s tall
figure.

"But come," she said, smiling with significant sauciness into his face.
"We cannot live entirely on the beautiful things we can take in through
our eyes.  I fancy there is some dinner downstairs somewhere."

"Yes," agreed Page, stirring.  He had finished his soup before he
realized that there had been any personal intention in her speech.



                            *CHAPTER VIII.*

                            *THE TELEGRAM.*


Mrs. Page promised herself to keep a sharp lookout in behalf of the
young girl of whom she had assumed temporary charge.  At the very first
of those exclusive walks and sails which she foresaw, she meant to
reason with her brother, and indirectly to warn Mildred of his
idiosyncrasy. Her guest seemed wonderfully well-poised and
self-possessed for a girl of her age.  Doubtless she had already become
accustomed to admiration; but Gorham’s attentions would be of an unusual
sort.  Mrs. Page meant to keep an eye on him.

She was disappointed, however.  The very day following, he mentioned his
intention of returning to the city.

"You must have known that I only came down to call on you," he replied
to Hilda’s expressions of surprise and dismay.  "After such a prolonged
holiday as I have had, you surely didn’t suppose I was going to idle
away more time here."

"I think it is very shabby of you," pouted Mrs. Page, with no thought of
her own inconsistency. "Miss Bryant and I need you to entertain us while
Robert is away.  Don’t we, Miss Bryant?"

Mildred assented.  "It is hard to be deprived of both Blitzen and Mr.
Page," she said feelingly, and her hostess wished she had not appealed
to her.

Page regarded his sister thoughtfully.  "Shall I send you some books?"
he asked.  "Miss Bryant said last night that she had not brought any
books with her."

"You needn’t trouble yourself," returned Hilda quickly.  "His first
symptom of interest," she noted mentally.  "I know you," she added
aloud. "The lightest entertainment we could hope for would be Buckle’s
’History of Civilization.’  No. Leave us if you must; but don’t send us
any literature!"

So he departed, and Mrs. Page was left to sound his praises instead of
his defects, to her friend. After Mildred’s saucy speech, she was
determined that the girl should appreciate how far above the common run
of men this _rara avis_ of a brother was; and she rang the changes upon
his high principle, his conscientiousness, his unselfishness, until the
faint light of ironical amusement in her guest’s eyes arrested her.

"I wouldn’t have you think Gorham a prig," she added hastily.  "He is
the furthest from it."

Mildred’s week at the beach slipped quickly and pleasantly away, and
then she was recalled to Pearfield by her sister, who wrote that Mr. Van
Tassel felt so much stronger that he wished to return home at once.

Mrs. Page received one letter from the girl, after they reached Chicago,
descriptive of the journey, and the parting from Pearfield.  Blitzen,
she said, they were obliged to leave behind, as on the day of departure
he was nowhere to be found. Humiliating as it was to confess it, they
all believed he had heard the plans for his removal, and had gone into
hiding.

September passed and October was nearly gone, when one morning as he
opened his mail in his office, Gorham Page found a letter from his
cousin Jack.

It began by responding to some theories and warnings, which Page had
recently written him, relative to the unwholesomeness of beer-drinking.


DEAR GORHAM,—Your interesting and instructive letter just received.  It
has been an unusual length of time on the road, and it was an ill fate
that delayed your temperance lecture, and deprived me of that aid to
sobriety any longer than was necessary, in view of the rapidity with
which I am traveling the downward road.  It arrived, however, at a
critical period.  A friend in the pension, whose besotted fancy could
not rise from the miry slough in which intemperance has sunk her, has
just made me a philopena present. Instead of bestowing upon me some airy
and diverting German philosophy, or fascinating English tract, or an
elevating necktie,—instead of finding something which, in the guise of a
trifling gift, should have brought to a debauched young man blessed
suggestions of a reformed life and renewed respectability, she presented
me a beer mug with a painting of Lohengrin, Swan and Co. on the outside,
and a line or two of German words around the rim, having some reference
to Parsifal and the Holy Grail!

That of course drives the last nail into my coffin!  That puts me beyond
the pale of—water! In vain do you exclaim, "Be a man! Have some backbone
about you!  Be content to look at your new beer mug, without making
other use of it.  Keep it as bric-a-brac, dry, and always perpendicular!
Let its rigid uprightness be also that of your moral character.  Resist
the dreadful power of this unrighteous alliance of a refined taste for
æsthetic pottery with a depraved taste for strong drink!"

Alas, I cannot.  How appalling and yet how interesting it is to observe
how Fate inclines to kick a fellow when he’s down.  Everything conspires
against the reform of one who has fallen.

As to my own case, even if I could overcome my craving for liquor, I
should still be obliged to go right on drinking my pint of beer at
dinner every day, for it seems that the German words around the rim of
my mug are not "fast colors;" they come off gradually as I drink; and
after long-drawn-out attempts by the other process, I conclude that this
is the only way in which I can ever get any German into me, so I must go
on to the bitter end.  _Bitte sehr!_

I have decided to come home before the New Year.  I dread it, as you
know, but the plunge into the new family circle must be taken some time,
and I want to see my father.  I am sure he wants to see me, too, though
he doesn’t say much about it.  In a recent letter, he admitted that he
had not been very well during the summer.  Bless him!  I suppose _her_
griefs have shaken him very much.  Of course I’m sorry for her, but I
can’t be resigned to father’s having had to shoulder the Bryants’
affairs.  I tell you I am glad to know he is himself again.  His letter
made me feel an intolerable distance away.  Yes, I shall see him by the
New Year, whatever happens.


Page was folding this letter into its envelope, when a telegraph boy
entered the office.

"Want an answer?" he asked.

"Yes, sir."

So while his clerk signed, the lawyer tore open the message.  He started
as he read it, and a slow color rose over his face.

Taking a blank he scribbled an address, then added:—


Will be with you to-morrow evening.

GORHAM PAGE.


Making hasty preparations at the office and at home, he barely succeeded
in catching the limited train for Chicago.  When he was seated in his
section, he drew forth from his pocket the telegram that had startled
him, and read it again.


Mr. Van Tassel died suddenly at nine last night.  Can you come to us?

MILDRED BRYANT.


"Poor Jack!" thought Page; and the wheels seemed to repeat the words
like a refrain.  He disliked his own task, but it did not seem strange
to him that he had been summoned.  Mr. Van Tassel had no near relatives
in Chicago.  Page had had charge of his legal affairs in Boston.
Doubtless his address had been among the dead man’s papers, and Mrs. Van
Tassel’s advisers had suggested that he be sent for.

Page shrank repugnantly from encountering this woman, whom disaster
followed so relentlessly. He tried not to think of her.  Perhaps it
would not be necessary that they should meet at all; yet try as he
might, he could not prevent his imagination from picturing the siren,
who had succeeded in capturing the honest, cordial, fine-natured man,
whose death it was difficult to realize.  How would Jack bear it?  How
would his highly strung affectionate nature stand the strain? This woman
who had brazenly told him that she did not love his father had been the
one to stand near the latter’s deathbed; while the loving heart of the
son had been kept at a distance by her machinations.

For Page was now fully convinced that Jack had been deliberately
deceived as to his father’s condition, and he blamed himself hotly for
obeying his sister and refraining from intermeddling.

He said to himself that he ought to have talked with Miss Bryant about
the matter at R——. The thought of Mildred gave him no pleasure. She was
sister to the woman who had robbed Jack, and broken his heart.  He felt
a sudden conviction of Mrs. Van Tassel’s appearance.  She was an Amazon;
tall, commanding, bold-faced, loud-voiced, with a coarser repetition of
her sister’s beauty; and involuntarily he shuddered with anticipatory
disgust, and wished the next few days well over.

But this was being extraordinarily imaginative for Page, and he realized
it all at once, and opened the paper which he had bought, with the
newsboy shuffling along beside him as he hastened through the depot in
Boston.  But his thoughts would not concentrate upon the printed page;
rather they flew to Jack’s brilliant face,—the face which always said
that life was good,—and saw it suddenly stamped with white despair,
alone in a strange land.

The next day, arrived in Chicago, Page left the train at Hyde Park and
went to a hotel.  Half an hour afterward, he emerged and walked toward
the lake.  It was a dreary day, such as seldom comes in Chicago’s
October.  The lake was gray from recent rain, and an east wind was
whipping dead leaves from the elms, across the green lawn around the Van
Tassel house.

Page looked at the drawn curtains, walked up the steps to the crape-hung
door, and an unexpected lump rose in his throat, for he thought of Jack.
In that moment, there came to him a new loyal satisfaction in the fact
that he had come; that some one beside aliens would stand near Uncle
Richard.  It was with a strange mixture of grief and resentment that he
met the servant, and asked for Miss Bryant.

He looked around the well-remembered parlor, where the maid left him,
and noted that it was newly and fashionably furnished; but scarcely five
minutes had passed before Mildred entered the room, and walked straight
up to him with outstretched hand.

He returned the greeting with cold formality, and even in the shaded
room he could see that the girl’s eyes were swelled from weeping.

"I am so glad you could come," she said tremulously.  "Was it very
inconvenient?  We thought you would probably wish to attend the funeral
any way.  Mr. Van Tassel had so few"—she could go no further, but broke
down and wept into her handkerchief.

"Crocodile tears!" thought Page.  "It is more than likely that they have
everything between them.—Certainly, I should have wished to come," he
said aloud.

"Then—then," began Mildred, making an effort, "my sister wanted your
advice—she thought you would know best—Mr. Van Tassel trusted
you—Forgive me, but we have had such a shock"—she tried vainly to go on,
once, twice, then with a gesture turned and left the room.

The visitor moved to a window, and looked out through a crack of the
blind.

"I’m sorry they think it necessary to go through this sort of thing," he
thought cynically. "Now I suppose she will send the other one; and if
that was a preface!"  A sound behind him caused him to set his teeth,
and turn about with the coldest, blankest expression he could assume.
His eyes had grown accustomed to the dim light now, and he saw a
straight slight girl in black, standing and regarding him with the
saddest, loveliest countenance he had ever looked upon. Her large eyes
had shed all their tears, and her delicate lips had never smiled.  Her
rippled brown hair framed a colorless face, and her effect was less
pathetic than awe-inspiring in its pure unconscious dignity.

"This is Mr. Page?" she said, advancing and offering a hand which the
young man took mechanically.  "It was kind of you to come promptly.  I
felt that I must see you and you only, about—about Mr. Van Tassel’s
son."

She spoke in an even, emotionless voice, but Page noted a faint
trembling of her lips at the mention of Jack.

"You are the nearest relative, and you can best decide what should be
done."

Page was in all the confusion incident upon intense revulsion of
feeling.  He felt that he had not yet full command of his ideas; but the
spontaneous desire to help this exquisite young creature, to let neither
himself nor any one else wound her further, constituted his ruling
passion for the moment.

"You have sent no word to Jack as yet?"

"No.  As soon as your telegram came I decided to wait for you."

She had been waiting for him and he had filled the moments of his coming
with brutal contempt and criticism of her.

The tearless sadness of her voice went on: "It is better for the word to
go from you than from me."  Her eyelids fell.  "It will hurt Jack less.
I would"—she lifted her eyes again and gave Page a look that his heart
received as a pang.  "I would gladly give my life if it could procure
Jack one hour with his father, alive."

"I believe it sincerely," he answered.

The respect and sympathy of Page’s tone seemed to impel her to further
explanation.  "It was terribly sudden and unexpected," she said.  "No
one—the doctor himself did not believe in the possibility of such a
catastrophe.  He was feeling so well for him.  He was in the act of
speaking of it when he sank back.  His last word was ’happy.’"

She stood a moment, her eyelids dropped, in statuesque silence.  Page
watched her steady her tottering self-control.

"I had thought," she went on finally, "of a succession of cablegrams.
Could it be broken to your cousin a little more gently, so?"

"Yes, that will be best."

"And may I ask you to send them, without regard to cost?"

"Certainly.  What else can I do?  I beg you to let me be useful to you
in all ways that I can for Uncle Richard’s sake."

"Thank you.  I will give you the address of a neighbor, an old and dear
friend of Mr. Van Tassel, who has been most kind.  Perhaps he would be
glad to consult with you."

Page soon took his leave, and until the day after the funeral did not
again have opportunity to speak with the young widow.  Then she sent for
him and he went upstairs to the gay and delicate boudoir which Richard
Van Tassel had furnished for his young wife, whose black gown to-day
made the one dark spot amid its luxury.

She looked precisely the same as on the occasion of their first meeting
except that now, by daylight, Page could see more distinctly her
patient, marble beauty.

"I could not let you go East without thanking you," she said, greeting
him gravely.  "You have been very kind, and a great help to us."

The young man bowed, and murmured a polite platitude.  He could think of
nothing to say to her.

"Do you—I suppose you do expect your cousin to return home immediately."

"Yes.  I think he will come."

"One thing which I wanted to say to you this morning is that my sister
and I are going immediately to California to spend the winter.  You will
meet your cousin, very likely, upon his arrival?"

Page bowed.

"Will you kindly tell him that the house here is ready for him, that we
shall not return to it"—Mrs. Van Tassel’s even, formal utterance broke,
and she suddenly averted her head.  "Poor Jack!" she exclaimed.  "It
will make him suffer afresh to come back here, and who can comfort him?
It is the best I can do, though," she added suddenly, turning again
toward Page.  "You know there is not one person save Mildred to whom I
can speak of all this, and it is wrong to dwell upon sad and humiliating
subjects with a bright young girl."

She looked scarcely older than Mildred herself, Page thought, but he
eagerly offered himself as a confidant.

"I am glad Jack has you," she continued.  "I wish, oh, so deeply, that I
might do or say anything to alleviate his sorrow; but you see,"
appealingly, "the only thing I can do is to keep away.  Jack and I were
good friends once, but that is all over."

As Page a little later came downstairs to leave the house, Mildred
Bryant rose from a seat near the fireplace in the hall.  Her face looked
a little paler than was its wont, and faint shadows about her eyes told
of grief; but she was once more the self-possessed girl he had first
seen on the train.

"You are returning at once to Boston?" she asked.

"Yes.  I leave to-night."

"I saw by your face as you came downstairs that you think my sister
looks badly; but of course you do.  Well, I believe there is nothing
more, there are no more shocks that she can suffer—unless she should
lose me, and I fancy I am long for this world;" a shade of the girl’s
pretty ironical smile flitted over her lips; "but I could lose her," the
hazel eyes suddenly became bright with unshed tears; "and," with
vehemence, "I will not.  I am going, we are going away to search for
Clover’s girlhood.  It must come back.  She has been cheated out of it
too soon."

"Mrs. Van Tassel told me that you intend going West.  Southern
California will surely do her good."

"I hope so.  I am glad you have been here these last days.  It has been
a comfort to my sister."

"Do you really think so?" eagerly.

"Without doubt.  I observed that she seemed less anxious
about—everything, from the moment of your coming."

"The matter of telling Jack had preyed upon her," said Page
sympathetically.

He saw an indefinable change come over Mildred’s face.  "I suppose Jack
must bear his troubles like the rest of the world," she answered with a
tinge of hardness.  "We thank you very much for everything, Mr. Page,"
she added, holding out her hand, and the other clasped it warmly.

"I would not have failed to be here for any consideration, Miss Bryant.
I hope," looking into the girl’s eyes earnestly, "that the time may not
be far distant when I shall meet you and Mrs. Van Tassel again."

"Thank you," returned Mildred courteously, and the young man left the
house with a distinct sensation of disappointment because she had not
echoed his wish.  He could not avoid the suspicion that these young
women would now expect and wish to walk in a separate way from that of
all connections of his dear lost uncle.  He himself would henceforth be
classed with Jack, and, strange new disloyalty, the prospect was
unsatisfactory.

He turned his steps toward the office where he was going to await a
cablegram, and on his way undertook to analyze his own unreasonable
feelings. "They are nothing to me, those girls," he thought, while
memory presented in fresh hues that averted head leaning upon a white
hand in Clover’s spasm of impotent pity for Jack, and all of a sudden,
instead of theorizing, Page found himself dwelling with eager pride, as
if it were the climax of achievement in his life, on the fact that he
had been of assistance, of use, of comfort, to that fair, pale creature,
set in a sacred niche apart from all the other women in the world.

He recalled himself with cold surprise from this Scylla, only to fall
into the Charybdis of a reverie in which Miss Bryant’s face and bearing
were regal, as she declared that Jack must bear his trials like the rest
of the world.

Page threw back his head in self-impatience. "She is a fine, bright
girl, and I should like to know her better," he thought; "but there is
this comfort—in a couple of months I shall have forgotten all about her.
I couldn’t remember her if I tried."

Before evening he received the expected message from his cousin.  Jack
sailed from Bremen at once.



                             *CHAPTER IX.*

                         *A CHRISTMAS VISITOR.*


The national dispute finished regarding the location of the World’s
Fair, a local contest at once arose among Chicago’s citizens as to which
portion of the city was best fitted for the display.  The debate was
long drawn out.  Several sites were energetically lauded by their
several partisans, and their respective advantages were hotly maintained
and as hotly contradicted.  It was very interesting to Chicagoans, but
to the public outside it was a matter of indifference whether the North
Side, the West Side, or the South Side, should win the day.

Meanwhile a good many people—like Miss Berry, for instance—forgot that
such a thing as preparation for a World’s Fair was going on. She thought
it vastly more interesting that Jack Van Tassel had returned from
Europe, and that in his desolation instead of going to his father’s
deserted house he had begun to read law in his cousin’s office.

Miss Lovina’s association with Mrs. Van Tassel during the summer had
brought much food for thought into her quiet life; thought that haunted
her after the young wife had become a widow, and after Jack had come
home; his sore heart full of cold anger, so Miss Berry surmised, against
a woman whom she devoutly declared to be "one of the sweetest of God’s
creatures."

It was an exciting time to her when one November day she received the
letter from Gorham Page giving her hope that she need not always be
passive concerning a matter which, in her uneventful life, she had
greatly at heart.  She read:—


DEAR AUNT LOVE,—Jack Van Tassel has come back and is with me for the
present.  Of course he is very much shaken; and when I met him at the
dock I felt a good deal disturbed about him; but you know his excitable,
gay disposition.  He will doubtless soon recover from the shock, and
react from his present low state.  Naturally he wants to blame somebody
for his suffering, and I fear he is inclined to accuse Mrs. Van Tassel
of inconsiderateness in not sending for him last summer.  I never met
her excepting on the occasion of the funeral, so my defense has little
weight; but I recall that my sister said you esteemed her highly, and it
occurred to me to ask you to do what you can toward exonerating her when
you see Jack, which I dare say may be soon, as he has spoken of visiting
you in order to learn something of the last weeks of his father’s life.
Use your own discretion about this.  Jack will stay with me for a time,
and read law in my office for the sake of occupation.  His father’s
affairs were left in perfect shape.  His will divided the fortune into
three parts: one third is left to charities and certain relatives; one
third goes to Jack, and the other to Mrs. Van Tassel, with the exception
of an amount sufficient to make her sister independent, which he has
left to Miss Bryant.

Please say nothing of this letter, and believe me, with best wishes
always,

Cordially yours, GORHAM PAGE.


These lines had not been penned without some uncomfortable recollections
on the part of the writer of a day when he had himself received the
announcement of Aunt Love’s attachment to her young guest in a spirit of
impatient skepticism. Now that he discovered the strength of his desire
that Jack should be more yielding and credulous, the memory of his own
hardness was especially exasperating.

Miss Berry waited for her expected visitor with much interest, and each
day altered a little the form of the statement she intended to make him
when he came.  She had opportunity to make a variety of changes in her
programme, for weeks went by without a sign from him, and finally Miss
Lovina’s faith in his coming wavered.

Christmas day dawned in ideal fashion at Pearfield that year.  The sun
fell on swelling drifts of virgin snow.  The little town sparkled like
the village in a Christmas card, and just as the inevitable church spire
ornaments that souvenir, so the Congregationalist meeting-house stood in
a field of glistening white, as Miss Berry trudged up the shoveled path
to attend a service of song planned by the Sunday-school as a fitting
festivity for the morning.  There was a good attendance, and Miss Lovina
gave her neighbors, old and young, cheerful greeting as she regarded
complacently the holly wreaths which she had yesterday helped to place
in the church windows.

When the exercises were over she moved slowly down the aisle by the side
of Miss Getchell with whom she had promised weeks ago to eat her
Christmas dinner.  If there was something of the martyr concealed under
Lovina’s benevolent countenance as Miss Ann clutched her arm, the latter
would not be allowed to suspect it, and together they emerged from the
wide-open door; but once on the porch Miss Berry, with an exclamation of
surprise, shook herself free, and Miss Getchell’s astonished eyes beheld
her friend hasten down the steps towards some one who ascended to meet
her.

"It was a reg’lar young prince of a feller with grand eyes," Ann said
afterward, dramatizing the occurrence to her old homekeeping mother,
"and he took off his hat as he come up to Loviny as though she was
somebody great."  Miss Getchell’s curious ears could not grasp Jack’s
low-spoken question:—

"Are you going out to dinner anywhere, Aunt Love?"

Miss Lovina’s conscience would have done credit to any Puritan of them
all, but Jack had said "are" instead of "were," and she considered that
in a flash before responding heartily:

"Indeed I am not, Mr. Jack.  You’re just comin’ home with me and I’m
delighted.  Wait one second till I speak to one o’ my neighbors."

Jack suspected her as she turned back to Miss Getchell, but her evident
pleasure in his arrival decided him not to press the question.  He
turned his back while she hurriedly and emphatically accosted her
friend.

"I’m sorry it happens so, Ann, but"—

"Oh now, don’t say you won’t come, Loviny. Fetch the young man along and
welcome."

"Hush, don’t say a word.  It is Mr. Van Tassel’s son.  You remember.
I’ll make it up to you sometime,—I mean you’ll make it up to me.  You
see it can’t be helped.  Now don’t coax me, that’s a good girl; I can’t
possibly come, and don’t be mad with me, Ann, you see just how it is,"
and Miss Getchell allowed herself to be twitched into dumbness by
Lovina’s anxious grasp upon her arm, and departed on her lonely way in a
measure consoled by the consideration of two luscious mince pies which
Miss Berry had sent her as a gift the day before.

"I’ll bet a cookie she wishes she had ’em back now," she reflected as
she looked after the erect, tall form moving away beside Miss Berry’s
stout figure.  "I’m glad ’t ain’t me caught by a city feller like that
on Christmas day without any decent dinner to give him."

But Miss Getchell and Miss Berry were two very different people.  The
latter, as she walked along trying with some preoccupation to talk to
her guest, was filled with felicitation that Jack had chosen for his
visit the day when each heart is most inclined to gentleness, and in the
same breath she rejoiced that there were two roast chickens in the
larder at home prepared in a moment of dubiousness regarding Ann
Getchell’s cooking.  "If I don’t relish my dinner, I’ll have a good
supper," Miss Lovina had thought when she roasted them, and now the most
devout thanksgiving of the morning arose from her heart in consequence.

"This is my first glimpse of Pearfield in winter," said Jack, surveying
the blue-white shadows on the unspotted fields.  "I dreaded Christmas
this year, Aunt Love.  It occurred to me yesterday that I would come to
see you.  It is as I expected. ’Peace on earth’ doesn’t seem such a
satire here."

"You couldn’t please me better," replied Miss Berry.  "I’ve been some
expectin’ you, for Mr. Gorham told me you laid out to be in Boston a
while."

"Yes.  I have thought a great deal about Pearfield lately."  There was a
brief silence as the two moved on between snowy bulwarks thrown up by
the village ox-plow that morning.  "Do you never become lonely here,
Aunt Love?" asked her visitor at last.

"No, I don’t know as I do.  Pearfield’s a nice safe stiddy place and I’m
as busy as a bee all the time.  Once in a while there’s a tramp, but now
Blitzen attends to them in short order.  We all have our gifts,"
continued Aunt Love, desiring for the present to keep the conversation
impersonal, "and seems if Blitzen’s was appearin’ to go mad whenever he
wants to."

"Rather a questionable accomplishment, I should suppose."

"It is convenient sometimes, though, there ain’t any denyin’ it.
Blitzen does hate a tramp.  I believe if he was off in the woods a mile
he’d smell one, if he was comin’ towards the house; and no sooner does
one o’ the shif’less critters knock on the door and ask for a meal o’
victuals, than Blitzen’s there.  Even if I haven’t seen him for an hour
and haven’t the least idea where he is, he’ll be there soon’s the tramp
is, and barkin’ so the feller can’t hardly make himself heard.
Blitzen’s tramp-bark is queer," continued Aunt Love thoughtfully.  "It’s
mysterious to me where he gets his breath.  It ain’t just one bark after
another, but he runs ’em all together without any let up, and so loud
and long, it’s curious to me he don’t just choke to death and done with
it."

"Rather discomposing to the tramp, I imagine."

"Well, ’t is," admitted Miss Berry, one corner of her mouth smiling.
"Some stand it longer ’n others; but when one o’ the critters sticks to
it till I’m wore out with him, I never have to do but just one thing.  I
just look at Blitzen,—he’s always jumpin’ and whirlin’ around enough to
make a clock dizzy,—and I say, ’What’s the matter with the dog!’  Then I
close the door a little and look through it at the tramp and holler,
’You’ll have to excuse me, but that dog acts so queer I’—then, slam, I
shut the door.  It never fails to work. Takes away a tramp’s appetite
every time."

"I should suppose Blitzen might feel the weight of a boot under those
circumstances."

"Bless your heart, Mr. Jack, don’t you believe it!  A man would have to
be built like one o’ these centerpedes to have any luck tryin’ to kick
Blitzen when he’s on the rampage.  No sir, a tramp don’t like the idea
of a mad dog, and he needs all the legs he’s got to get over the fence
with.  I always step to the winder pretty certain what I’ll see.  A man
just lightin’ out for the road, and Blitzen after him, makin’ rosettes
of himself, bringin’ all four feet together at every bound and hollerin’
enough to croozle you."

Jack laughed.

"He’s a smart dog," went on Miss Berry in the tone of one who gives the
devil his due.  "He’s been a means o’ grace to me more ’n once, but I
won’t deny he’s talented.  Now after one o’ those whirlwind times, you’d
think he’d be so tuckered out he’d just have to lay down a spell and get
his wind back; but land, he never turns a hair.  All the time he’s
playin’ hydrophoby on that tramp he’s rememberin’ where he buried his
last bone, and he hasn’t any more ’n seen him over the fence when he
switches around mute as a mole, and digs in the ground just as pert as
though he’d never used any energy on anything else.  He needs
nourishment and he knows it."

"I should suppose he would get it some day," remarked Van Tassel, "in
the shape of poisoned meat."

"Law, they’ve tried that," said Miss Berry contemptuously.  "I’ve had to
laugh when I’ve picked it up in the yard and burned it.  It was such a
simple idea.  Why, if a tramp could come into the house and get one o’
ma’s white China plates with the gold band, and set some victuals o’
mine on it and pizen ’em, he might stand some chance. Blitzen puts on
more airs and frills every day about what he will eat and what he won’t;
but as for pickin’ up strange doin’s! he and I both rather prefer our
own cookin’ to other folks’s, anyway," finished Aunt Love with a little
conscious toss of her head.

The oriole elm was still bedecked with diamonds when the two entered
Miss Berry’s yard, and the branches of the pine trees were weighed down
with a soft, white burden.

In the distance, at the sitting-room window, Blitzen’s head could be
seen, and it bobbed convulsively as he barked an excited welcome to his
adored mistress.

"Such a time as I had to get away from him this mornin’," she said.  "He
knows Sunday as well as you do, but other days he expects to go to the
store with me, and from the first I expected trouble.  I thought I’d
begin to plan about an hour before service, so’s to slip off without his
knowin’ it; but Mr. Jack, I’m glad Salem days are gone and done with, or
that dog would be burned for a witch.  As sure as I’m talkin’ to you
this minute, he always knows what I’m thinkin’ about.  He acted meachin’
from the minute breakfast was over.  I was unusually clever to him too;
told him Merry Christmas, and snapped my finger to him; but sir, he
whined.  He just sat down and looked at me pitiful and whined. I really
believed the critter was sick, and felt of his nose; but it made me
jump; ’t was as cold’s a frog; and law, when I begun to go to church I
found he wa’n’t confined to the bed by a long chalk.  I say _begun_ to
go to church, ’cause that’s just what it was.  I’ve been back to this
house this mornin’ three different times," said Aunt Love impressively.
"The first time Blitzen wasn’t in sight anywheres, so I just thought I’d
seize the chance, and I turned the house-door key and hurried down the
path, puttin’ my shawl on and pinnin’ my veil as I went.  I hadn’t but
just got to the cross-roads when I spied him trottin’ slowly along as
still and pious as though he’d been sent for in a hurry to tend a dyin’
friend.  I suspicioned mischief, but still I wasn’t sure.  You can
usually tell somethin’ about a dog’s notions by his tail; but Blitzen
not havin’ any he gets the best o’ me there, and he knows it.  I tipped
along when I saw him, for thinks says I perhaps he’s settin’ out to head
me off at the store, and if that was his idea it just suited me; for
’twas the other cross-road that was the shortest way to church.  Well,
he started that path. Now," said Aunt Love argumentatively, as she
mechanically broke a long twig from a lilac bush, "I don’t s’pose you
believe any more ’n I do that Blitzen’s got eyes in his back, though why
he shouldn’t be equally blind in both ends is another o’ the mysteries;
but the very minute I set my foot, silent as the dead, mind you, into
the church road, that dog stopped and looked over his shoulder.  It was
a hang-dog look, but set.  I stopped too, and he smiled,—there, like
that," for Miss Berry had unlocked the house door and Blitzen had flung
himself upon her in an ecstasy, his white teeth gleaming once and again
as he lifted his lip in a canine grin.

The use of the lilac switch now became apparent as Miss Lovina, holding
her silk gown away with one hand, with the other belabored her adorer in
a business-like manner until he became penetrated with the idea that his
addresses were unwelcome.

"If ’t wa’n’t for whips, I shouldn’t have one frock fit to be seen," she
explained calmly, as Blitzen, unabashed, preceded them alertly into the
sitting-room, where he had been alternately napping and lamenting all
the morning.

"Yes, I had to bring that good-for-nothin’ home from the
cross-roads,—just drop your coat right off, Mr. Jack,—and I shut him up
in the shed and hasped the door.  Then I started off again.  I told you
he was a witch.  There must be some hole out o’ that shed that he’s made
himself, for I hadn’t got ten rods from the house before I found him
stealin’ along after me.  Yes, sir, you remember it very well;" and
Blitzen, whom the switching had not dispirited, now crept abjectly under
the sofa.  "The second time I tried the barn, but that turned out to be
a sieve too, so, though it’s against my rule, I was forced when I came
back the third time to lock him in the house.  He hasn’t broke a hole
through the house yet.  Yes, you better stay under there, you scamp!
Now you make yourself at home, Mr. Jack, while I put dinner on the
table."  Miss Berry, as she spoke, shook down the coal-stove, which she
had left to burn as little as possible in her absence.  She twitched one
damper in the back and one in the front.  "It’s cold as charity here,"
she remarked, "but we’ll soon heat up.  There’s some o’ those bound
Harpers you used to like to look at, with the pictures o’ the war in
’em; or there’s the Christian Union.  I’ll call you in a little while.
Want a few cookies now, just to stay your stomach?"

Jack smiled at the familiar question.  Aunt Love was one of those
comfortable folk who are always wanting to stay people’s stomachs,
especially children’s.  She had never thought it an odd or inconvenient
fact that boys are always hungry. What wonder that she was popular?  Her
visitor assured her that he would prefer to wait, and she hastened out
to the kitchen, her brain seething with plans to prepare a meal which
should deceive the visitor as to its impromptu nature.

With great celerity she tied a huge apron over her black silk gown, and
went to work.  Miss Berry’s friends, could they have looked on, would
have thought she had lost her wits; for never had she been known to pare
potatoes to such a reckless depth.  She exulted in her own rule never to
let the kitchen fire go out, and flew hither and thither with a
practiced deftness which allowed of no false move.  Once she stumbled
over some object and looked down impatiently.  It was Blitzen.

"I thought you was under the settin’-room sofa, you rascal.  If you dare
to hender me to-day!" she said hotly.  Blitzen knew there was danger in
her voice, but the chickens were beginning to send forth an appetizing
fragrance, and all his discretion could not keep him from joining in
such a novel romp as his staid mistress was making of getting dinner.
The consequence was that in a minute more Miss Lovina trod on his nimble
toe. The yelp he gave exasperated her.  She threw open the kitchen door.

"Go out!" she ordered sternly.

Blitzen rolled over on his back and lay there, limp, looking like a
gigantic caterpillar.  Miss Berry spoke once more in vain; then she
swooped upon him in a totally unprecedented manner, and in another
moment the terrier was picking himself out of a snowdrift to the tune of
the slamming of the kitchen door.

Jack could see him from his window, sitting in the path, scratching the
snow out of his ears, and reflecting on the mutations of this life.



                              *CHAPTER X.*

                      *AUNT LOVE’S INTERCESSION.*


When Van Tassel saw Blitzen describe an arc which had its beginning at
the kitchen door and its vanishing point in a snowdrift, the spontaneous
laugh which burst from him sounded strangely in his own ears.  It was
the first time he had laughed in such fashion since that October day
when Page’s cable messages had found him in Berlin.

He had been wondering, as he stood there by Miss Berry’s small-paned
window, whether Aunt Love’s prattle on the way home from church had been
for the express purpose of diverting him. He could not connect even that
extent of diplomacy with this friend of two of his childhood’s summers;
but supposing her anecdotes to have had that purpose, they had been
successful.  Jack felt content to be here.  The cold pure blankness of
this outside world, the absence of all necessity for exertion or
assumption of an interest he did not feel, were surpassingly restful.

He had known that a merry Christmas was not for him, and had shrunk from
either joining in or appearing to avoid the festivities of his Boston
friends; hence the idea of this postponed visit had come to him as a
deliverance, and been suddenly acted upon.

When Aunt Love finally presented herself again, smiling, red-cheeked,
and minus the apron, Jack found it awoke in him something like the
appetite of olden days to be led into the dining-room where a tempting
meal was spread.

The hostess heroically refrained from apologies concerning a certain
dryness of those twice-heated chickens, since it might be hazardous to
open the subject; and the cream gravy generously provided, with the
delicate mashed potato, hot biscuit, brandied peaches, and other
adjuncts of the impromptu meal, were delicious enough to divert the
attention of even the hypercritical from complaint.  A couple of mince
pies, the mates to those in Miss Getchell’s possession, and cups of
golden coffee with Alderney cream, finished a dinner calculated to put a
misanthrope into good humor, provided his pessimism did not arise from a
poor digestion.

It was a pleasure in itself to Jack to see what pleasure his presence
gave.  He had been most kindly and tactfully treated in the Page home;
but they were too conscious there of his sorrow, too comprehensive of
his state of mind.  Aunt Love was jolly.  She was so entirely absorbed
in the pleasant responsibility of making her guest materially
comfortable, that she seemed to have no room at present for other
thought; and her own wholesome appetite was infectious.  She talked of
summers long past, and evaded all reference to recent events.  Jack ate
a hearty dinner, and as Miss Berry watched him sitting opposite,
leisurely drinking and appreciating her coffee, she felt wrapped in an
atmosphere of content.

"You are going to let me help you clear this all away and wash the
dishes?" said Jack, as he finished.

His hostess laughed deprecatingly, looking at the hand with which he
raised his cup to his lips. She had been admiring the slender links in
his immaculate cuffs all through the dinner.  There was a facet-like
cutting in their gold that gave them a glisten which attracted her.

"No.  We’re both of us too much dressed up to wash dishes," she
remarked.  "I don’t care if they ain’t done for a week, Mr. Jack.  I’m
goin’ to enjoy myself with you, this afternoon.  You make yourself at
home in any part o’ the house but the kitchen for twenty minutes, and
then I’ll sit down with you.  I guess you haven’t forgotten your way
’round."

Jack regarded her with serious brown eyes. "Are there any moths in your
sitting-room carpet, Aunt Love?" he asked.

Miss Berry looked amazement, and even a little anxiety lest her young
friend’s brain had received more of a shock than she realized.  "What
makes you ask that?" she demanded, being careful to speak gently.

"I know a sovereign remedy, that’s all."

"I did, one time, have some trouble with that carpet," said Miss Berry
doubtfully, "but pepper’s good; I used that.  Camphor, too."

"Tobacco is excellent," declared Van Tassel, looking pensively into the
depths of his coffee cup.

A light of comprehension broke over Miss Berry’s face.

"Mr. Jack, do you smoke!" she exclaimed reproachfully.  "Do you shut
those shiny white teeth o’ yours on an old pipe-stem!  Oh, there never
ought a cigar to go into your mouth, never in the world.  Do you
_smoke_?"

"Well—on Fourth of July’s, and New Years, and Christmas, and—birthdays,
I do sometimes celebrate, and I thought if you wanted the moths kept out
of your carpet—  One thing really, Aunt Love, if cigar smoke is
disagreeable to you, you ought to have told me before betraying me into
such a dinner."

"It isn’t any more disagreeable to me than it is to any other woman of
good principles," returned Miss Berry firmly.  "’T isn’t a question o’
that. I can show you statistics, Mr. Jack."

"Yes, I have seen statistics," he answered, mildly.  "You haven’t time
to look them up just now, and I think I’ll walk out of doors a while and
discuss the movement cure with Blitzen, and ask him what part of the
chicken he’ll take."

"No, no, Mr. Jack.  There ain’t enough paths shoveled to make it
pleasant to go out around the house.  I let Obed go just as soon as he’d
done what was absolutely necessary this mornin’.  ’T ain’t that a
cigar’s unpleasant to my nose.  It’s my principles it hurts; but ’t
ain’t so bad if you only smoke one for an occasional recreation.
Remember you can’t suit me except by makin’ yourself entirely at home;"
and the hospitable woman arose from the table.  "If you don’t smoke now
in the sittin’-room, I shall feel bad."

So Van Tassel went back to his window and sent a few rings of fragrant
smoke into the air before putting on his hat and sallying down the
garden path.  He had not finished his cigar before he heard himself
called.

Miss Berry was standing in the open door, beckoning to him.  "Time’s
up," she said, smiling.

Jack smiled back and held up the cigar explanatorily.

"I know all about that.  Come in.  It’s a good smellin’ one," she added,
as her guest obediently returned to the piazza.  "If folks would burn a
few leaves o’ tobacco like that occasionally, it would be agreeable
enough, some like incense; but it’s a pity to have it at the cost of a
man’s poisonin’ his lungs."

Van Tassel followed her back to the sitting-room, where he took the
armchair she had arranged for him, and smiled to see that one of the
white and gold China saucers had even been sacrificed to receive the
ashes of that disapproved cigar.

He thanked her and took from his pocket a little dark velvet box.  "Here
is something I brought you as a Christmas gift, Aunt Love.  I had to get
it in a hurry last night and I don’t feel sure that it will please you."

Miss Berry opened the case and gazed at a hatpin of onyx set with a
conventional design of pearls.

"It’s good enough for an empress!" she exclaimed in ingenuous delight.
"Why, you’re too good, Mr. Jack.  I’m just gettin’ spoiled this
Christmas. I got another present out o’ the post-office last night," and
Miss Lovina took from her pocket another and smaller box which she put
into Jack’s hand.  "Velvet too, you see," she said, beaming, "and more
precious yet inside, just like yours."

Jack opened the case and found a gold thimble.

"And it’s big enough for me," announced the happy owner triumphantly; "I
didn’t know as gold ones grew big enough for workin’ hands like mine:
but you wouldn’t catch Mrs. Van Tassel givin’ anybody a thing they
couldn’t use."

Jack’s head was bent above the bauble.  "Oh, it is from her?"

"Yes," answered Aunt Love, recalled by his tone from her heedless flight
of enthusiasm. "This pin will always make me vain and happy," she added,
"and I thank you from my heart, Mr. Jack, for thinkin’ about me."

"You have been an important person in my thoughts this fall," said the
young man, as he handed her the thimble, "for you can tell me of my
father."

Jack looked thoughtfully at his cigar, and Aunt Love, from her
neighboring chair, looked at him.

"I will tell you," she said, after waiting a moment to see if her guest
wished to proceed.  "I will tell you everything I can.  Do you want to
ask me questions, or shall I just talk to you a little?"

"I want to know just how ill he was through the summer.  I was
deliberately kept in the dark."

Miss Berry was alert to perceive the resentment in the quiet tone.

"He wasn’t ill at all.  Not so to say real sick," she replied.  "His
head didn’t feel quite right after that light shock he got in the
spring, and he thought he was takin’ every precaution by comin’ out of
all the excitement of his busy life, right to this farm.  The doctor
said it was just the best thing he could do; and Mrs. Van Tassel"—

"Then he was not confined to his bed here?"

"No, indeed.  Not a day.  He had a steamer chair out under the big elm,
and it never seemed to fret him a bit to be idle; and his wife"—

"He used to write me from under that tree," said Jack thickly.

"Yes, indeed he did; and he liked to be read to, and to play backgammon;
and whenever Mrs. Van Tassel"—

"I ought to have been here to wait on him. What I was cheated out of!"

"But, Mr. Jack," Miss Berry spoke pleadingly, "you was trampin’ through
Switzerland, and just havin’ the best time of all.  Your father used to
have guide-books and atlases, and follow up what you were doin’ every
day.  Why, he entered into it, and enjoyed it just as if it was himself.
He didn’t know, and Mrs. Van Tassel didn’t know, that there wasn’t many
another summer comin’."

"It makes it especially hard," said Jack, still staring at the forgotten
cigar, dropped now into the saucer, "that I had been away from him four
years already.  The past summer is the one I should have spent with him.
It seems as though the regret and the loss could never be forgotten.
There never was such a father as mine."  The speaker’s features worked
convulsively an instant. "The world is only a big, barren desert,
without him, and I might have had all those months.  I might"—

Aunt Love used to feel an especial tenderness for Jack when she tucked
him into bed at night, because he had no mother to do it for him, and
she had often kissed the child after he was asleep, for the same reason.
Now his pale face in its pain and effort at self-mastery appealed to her
irresistibly.  In a moment she had slipped her arm around his shoulders,
and with her other hand drawn his head gently against her breast.

"I know you’ve been hurt awful bad, dear heart," she said, tears running
down her own cheeks, as she softly patted his hair.

For Jack, he did not stop to be astonished.  It was too comforting to
have the barriers of his self-restraint forcibly broken down.  From the
time when furtive bitter drops had added to the ocean’s brine, as he
meditated at evening on board the home-coming ship in cold November, no
loving human soul had dared till now to take his grief into full
companionship.  Aunt Love’s primitive, spontaneous method worked well.
It seemed the most natural thing in the world to her that he should weep
in her embrace, on the ample bosom of her black silk gown; and who shall
say what a comfort it was to Jack, with no spectators but the haircloth
chairs and sofa, to be held close in loving arms after weeks of lonely,
speechless heartache under a conventional exterior.

"You are very good to me," he said at last, and though he leaned back in
his chair, he continued to hold one of Aunt Love’s plump hands as though
she were a sort of anchor which he could not let go all at once.

"And now you’ve got to be patient with me just a minute, dear boy," said
his companion, "and listen to something you won’t like to hear, perhaps.
My conscience wouldn’t rest easy unless I told you a little about your
father’s wife."

"I know her," said Jack.  "I don’t want you to think I doubt her
kindness to him.  I am jealous of her.  That is all."

"Kindness ain’t just the word," persisted Aunt Love.  "I can imagine
your father livin’ through such a summer as last was, and havin’ a
pretty weary time of it, cut off from so much that had made his life
before.  Now I just want you to picture this young woman, a pretty,
girlish critter that had seen trouble enough to make her low-spirited if
she’d had a mind to be, just studyin’ to make the days pleasant for him.
She was cheerful in just such a stiddy way as a brook is; not much noise
about it, but always right there, singin’ if so be you want it.  She
played games with your dear father, or she read to him, or she waited on
him, or she just set and sewed and let him look at her, whichever
happened to suit his mood; and he bein’ always thoughtful and tender of
her, ’twas just a pleasure to see ’em together. She hunted up maps and
articles about places you was travelin’, and from sunrise till sunset
she just had one idea, and that was whether anything could make Mr. Van
Tassel any more comfortable than he was.  He was a happy man in spite of
the new weakness which might have made him miserable. Ain’t that
somethin’ for you to remember when you think of the woman that bears his
name? You know some kinds o’ clover brings the person that finds it good
luck.  I often used to think o’ that as I watched ’em together, and I
thought your father had found one of the best sort.  It’s a good name
for her.  Clover’s just like her, unpretendin’ and sweet, whether it’s
red or white; always cheerful and innocent, distillin’ honey for
mankind."  Miss Berry paused a minute before she went on: "The word
_father_ means a great deal to you, Mr. Jack.  It was the heavenly
Father that gave that lovely companion to soothe Mr. Van Tassel’s last
days; and the same all-lovin’ Father has permitted a great blow to fall
upon you; but the Holy One whose birthday we are keepin’ to-day said
that in this world we must have tribulation, and He told us, too, be of
good cheer.  The Saviour did overcome the world; there is a heaven, your
father has gone to it, and you and I are both bound for it.  It’s the
main concern we’ve got in life to get ready for it.  Let your sorrow
help you along, Mr. Jack, and don’t shut anybody out o’ your generous
heart, least of all the woman I’ve been talkin’ about."


Van Tassel took an eight o’clock train back to Boston that night.  He
walked to the station with a lighter step than the one that had carried
him from it.  Some subtle influence had softened him; some poisoned
rankling dart had been drawn away.  A crescent moon hung in the sky. The
quiet snowclad village suggested more than ever the idea of a Christmas
picture, and the song that the angels once sang, as they floated through
the starry heavens, seemed now to fall like a benediction from above:
"Peace on earth, good will to men."



                             *CHAPTER XI.*

                           *THE DEDICATION.*


Gorham Page thought he perceived a change for the better in the spirits
of his cousin, after that visit to Pearfield, but Jack said little about
the event.  It was well into the New Year, when the two happened to be
alone in the office one afternoon, that Jack mentioned his father’s
widow voluntarily for the first time since his return.

"Did I understand you to say, Gorham, that Clover sent word to me that
she should not return to the Hyde Park house?"

"Yes."

"Do you think it was because she felt enmity, or because she feared it?"

"Why, it is your house," said Page.  "It was left to you, as it turns
out."

"Yes, but what difference does that make?" returned the other, with a
tinge of impatience, the unreasonableness of which made his cousin
smile.

"She wished you to feel full liberty in coming back," said the latter.
"She broke down when she spoke of it, I remember."

"I don’t like that," asserted Jack, turning over the pages of
Blackstone.  "I don’t like to have Clover exiled from a comfortable
place, where she would like to be.  It is a dog-in-the-manger business
that doesn’t suit me in the least."

"I guess you needn’t worry about the matter," remarked Page.  "Mrs. Van
Tassel is in no condition to bear a Chicago winter."

"Do you mean she is ill?" asked the other, shutting the heavy book
suddenly.

"I don’t know.  She looks like alabaster, or something that would be
easily broken.  Miss Bryant was evidently much distressed about her."

Jack fell into a brown study.  It sounded strange to hear his cousin
speak of these old schoolmates by such names.  The idea of Clover,
jolly, laughing Clover, with her sunburned cheeks and dancing blue
eyes,—the idea that any one should speak of her as looking like
alabaster. And Miss Bryant!  It was a jest in itself to hear his serious
cousin refer in that tone, and by such a dignified title, to Mildred.
It was more than two years since Jack had seen the romping girl, whose
heavy hair would never remain in its braid, and who, it seemed, would
never cease outgrowing her clothes.

He thought of the sisters for some time, while Page went on with his
work.  He recalled the little boy and girl who had loved him, and gentle
Mrs. Bryant, whose mother-heart had always made him welcome equally with
her own children.  They had all gone now to that world which had lately
gained definite interest for him.  Had Clover and Mildred suffered
yearning and loss comparable to his?  The mere thought, tolerantly
admitted, gave him a new feeling toward his old comrades.

At last he spoke again.  "Where did Mrs. Van Tassel say they were
going?"

It was the first time he had given his friend her title.  Page observed
it.

"California," he answered sententiously.

"That doesn’t tell anything."

Page smiled slightly.  "Perhaps that is just what she considered," he
returned, and Jack thought that Gorham was a provoking, dry sort of
fellow.

"I’ll tell you what I’m going to do," he said, rising.  "I’m going to
Chicago."

"Are you?  Well, you are that favored species of individual who can
control his own movements."

"Yes.  They’ve ceased pulling hair out there, and have decided to locate
the Fair in Jackson Park, quite near our house, you remember."

"So I observed.  They have lost a good deal of time in controversy, it
strikes me.  They will have to scratch gravel now."

And this, if Mr. Page had only known it, was literally what had begun to
be done out there in Chicago, in the unreclaimed district which bordered
Jackson Park on the south.

Sand-dunes, and marshes, woodland and slough, had all to be effaced, for
a new earth must be offered in time to be the foundation for those
castles in the air, which were already creating in men’s brains.

As the scope of the proposed work unfolded and became clear, the time
began to seem nigh to hopelessly short for its accomplishment.  Of
public opinion in the East, the kindest expression continued
patronizing, amused, and skeptical; the average, contemptuous and
hostile.

But Chicago, which had formed a habit of making stepping-stones of
obstacles, now said "I will" with greater doggedness of purpose than
ever before, and sending steam dredges to invade the wilderness, began
the patient, laborious grubbing, which was necessary to excavate in one
place, and fill in in another.  Meanwhile the oldest inhabitant wandered
about, looking on, wondering and fascinated.  The maiden, going in
advance of the feller of trees, caught with her kodak a farewell glimpse
of the wood-road, that had furnished a foothold amid the sand for the
spring violets of her childhood.  The small boy looked longingly at the
sloughs, which had been first to freeze in autumn, and thought it a
thousand pities that Chicago had been so brave as to deserve the Fair.
The Eastern papers thought so too, and still exercised the virtue of
frankness to the fullest extent; but Chicago, with all her reputation
for talking, now had no time for such indulgence; but emulated Uncle
Remus’s famous tar-baby, who, it will be remembered, when Brer Rabbit
jeered at her once and again, still "ain’t sayin’ nothin’."  She only
grubbed away, and her citizens prepared themselves for the long pull,
the strong pull, and the pull all together, which should win ultimate
triumph.

When Jack arrived there, he found his city in all the excitement of work
and plans and anticipation. His father’s Scotch housekeeper, Jeanie, was
in possession as of old when he reached home, and gave him a reception
in which tears mingled with cordiality.  "It’s all different without
your father, Mr. Jack," she mourned, "but we must bear it,—we must bear
it."

Jack went through the house, finding changes in every room but his own.
In that one, every object was familiar.

Jeanie had nothing but good words for her young mistress.  She was ready
to praise her as long as Jack would have patience to listen.  Miss
Bryant, too, came in for a share of her voluble encomiums; but she did
not know where they were, for though Mrs. Van Tassel wrote her an
occasional note, she said they were moving about from place to place.

The upshot of Jack’s trip was, that he went back to Boston and his
cousin’s office, and waited for destiny to show him some natural way of
communicating his generous impulses to Clover.

So he lived through the winter, keeping up some interests in common with
certain of his classmates, and gaining a reputation for touchiness
regarding his native city, with whose exertions he felt a loyal and
filial sympathy.  It made him hot to read and hear frequent allusions to
prove that the public was still holding its sides with merriment over
the exquisite humor of the idea that upstart, pork-packing Chicago
should undertake to conceive and carry out a true World’s Fair, one fit
to follow the great similar achievements of the Old World nations, and
to be an adequate embodiment of the high ideas which gave birth to the
enterprise.

It was little mollifying to him to perceive that much of the sneering
had at least the merit of genuineness; that there was much sincere
incredulity of Chicago’s ability to rise to an occasion so remote from
her habits and experience.  With his Cambridge training, his youth, and
his years of absence from home, he might have sympathized in all this,
more with than against the Eastern element, but for his father’s active
labors, and his own knowledge of the men who had the matter in hand.

Only once Jack heard of Clover and Mildred during the summer that
followed.  He visited Miss Berry again, and heard from her that Mrs. Van
Tassel’s health was reëstablished, and that the sisters had taken a trip
to Alaska.  He asked her to convey to them, for him, an earnest
invitation to return to the homestead, whenever they pleased.

Once again, in the winter, he learned from the same source of
information that they had gone to Europe.  In June, Van Tassel and Page
took a trip through the English and Scottish lakes together.  Clover and
Mildred evidently wished to live a life apart.  Very well, it should be
as they pleased; but Jack could not help looking for them at each little
inn where his and Page’s horses stopped.  His father’s memory was still
a living, ever-present one, and persons so strongly associated with him
could not be forgotten.

In the autumn the young men came home to find the country absorbed in
Columbian celebrations. Red and yellow was as popular a combination as
red, white, and blue.  Columbus was pictured on every hand.  There was
no sameness, no fear of monotony about these representations. He was
shown thin and stout, old and young, fair and dark, narrow-visaged and
rotund of countenance. Meanwhile, the dedication in his honor drew on
apace.

The twentieth of October, Chicago was to be clothed in bunting, and the
great men of the country were to be drawn by prancing steeds through her
streets.  On the twenty-first, the Exposition buildings were to be
dedicated to their splendid use, and Jack Van Tassel told his cousin
that they must both be present at the ceremonies. Page demurred, but Van
Tassel had his way, and ten o’clock of that sunshiny, clear, Friday
morning found the two men entering the grounds, where a sense of
roominess was the first sensation, after struggling in the city’s crowd.

Jack felt his breast swell with pride in the fair scene, incomplete, yet
already inspiring; but he forbore from being the first to comment.  Let
the Boston man speak; and he finally did.  Page’s eyes slowly took in an
overwhelming impression of the general scheme,—of what had already been,
and what would be accomplished.  Then he spoke:—

"This is great—so far."

The words were balm to his companion.

Page went on.

"But Eastern men designed these palaces. Eastern art"—

"Now look here," burst forth Jack.  "Don’t try to apologize for
Chicago’s achievement.  She hasn’t got there yet, quite, of course, but
she is arriving.  She had sense enough to make this Fair a national and
not a local business.  You’re surely not surprised at that?  She
understood it that way from the first.  They are not all Chicago men who
have done this work, but be kind enough to remember that they are
Chicago men who have laid the brains of this country under contribution,
and whose indomitable energy has been the steam which has actuated the
vast machinery of construction from the beginning, and will do so to the
end.  Don’t explain it, my friend; just say it is stupendous, and pass
on."

Page, as he silently obeyed, remembered Mildred Bryant’s prophetic words
in the Portland train:—

"It is very fortunate for the country that we have taken the Fair."

It began to look that way; still herculean tasks remained.

Jack had received an invitation to witness the parade from the loggia of
the Mining building, and the cousins bent their steps thither, between
the lines of waiting spectators.  At present, the building was used as
barracks for troops.  The two glanced down the neat perspective of
soldier beds, as they ran up the broad flight of steps leading to the
gallery, then they came out upon the balcony that faces north, and
looked with interest upon the scene.  Flags in great numbers were flying
from every roof.  The waterways and Wooded Island lay before them in the
October sunlight.

They were talking of the names of buildings, and discussing the fabulous
measurements of the mountain called Manufactures and Liberal Arts, when
a new party appeared from the gallery doorway.  The new-comers advanced
to an arch a couple of rods from where the young men were standing, and
Jack, who was profoundly interested in his subject, merely received an
impression of beauty and fashion as he glanced at them, and then,
looking back, returned to his statistics.

"If they can only have good weather the coming winter," he went on, "the
thing will be ready May 1st, in spite of the croakers."

Soft laughter and happy voices came from beyond the massive masonry,
which half concealed their neighbors.

"Jack," said Page, in a low tone, "Mrs. Van Tassel and Miss Bryant are
with that party."

"No!  Why, I didn’t see them."

"Yes.  Mrs. Van Tassel has some kind of a gray and white dress on, and
Miss Bryant"—

"I want to get out of here, then."

Page answered him sharply.

"Is it your intention to play the role of Indian toward those ladies the
rest of your life?"

"No, nothing of the kind," returned Van Tassel uncomfortably.  "I am
more willing to see them than they probably are to see me.  I don’t
blame Clover, if she chooses never to meet me again.  I suppose she
remembers as clearly as I do some of the last things I said to her.
Whew!" for in changing their positions one member of the party had
stepped back into plain sight, "what a stunning girl they have with
them!"

"That was Miss Bryant," said Page.

"No, no.  You didn’t see the one I meant. Splendid creature; carried her
head as though the Fair was built expressly for her."

"Yes, that was Miss Bryant.  I have met her a number of times.  Perhaps
I had better go over and speak to her."

"Don’t think of it till I am out of the way," and Jack grasped his
cousin’s arm.  "That, Mildred?  Milly _Bryant_?" he added incredulously,
looking reminiscently into that young woman’s past, and seeing a
combination of tanned countenance, rough hair, and old clothes revealing
surplus wrist and ankle; a picture which refused to have relation to the
trim and elegant young creature who had caught his eye.

This revelation increased to a panic Jack’s desire not to intrude upon
these friends.  As though to enlighten him still further, Mildred
insisted that her sister should step back also, and see some vista,
which her own movement had brought into range.

Jack instinctively shrank more closely into the shadow of his pillar,
while Page sympathetically followed his example, and both stole glances
at Clover’s pleased, unconscious face; a changed face from that which
either of the men knew as hers. Jack saw in it the signs of a greater
maturity and life-experience, as well as the subtle charm which exists
in a lovely woman whose advantages are set off by tasteful and
fashionable attire.  Page saw what still seemed to him an angelic
countenance, only made earthly by the tints of healthy youth, alert with
interest; these smiling lips were but distantly related to the rigid,
delicate mouth he remembered.

Clover vanished again, recalled by her companions’ interest in a company
of cavalry who galloped in golden glory across a distant bridge.

"I wish I was out of this," exclaimed Jack. "They may all take it into
their heads to come over here any minute.  If the girls were alone, I
shouldn’t mind it.  They could behave as they pleased then; but with
mutual friends it would be very awkward for them.  Dick Ogden is in the
party.  I can hear his laugh this minute.  I’m going, Gorham."

"Very well, I too, then.  Here comes some governor and his staff."

"Yes, it is Russell.  The crowd is safe to cheer now and wave
handkerchiefs for live minutes.  It is our chance.  We sha’n’t be
noticed.  Come."

Jack started across the loggia with Page beside him.  As ill luck would
have it, the only one of the party by the balcony who turned idly
curious eyes to look after the pair was his friend Ogden.

"Why there’s—it _is_ Van Tassel!" ejaculated the latter.  "_Oh_, Van."

How Jack anathematized the cheerful, loud voice.  He turned a deaf ear
and hastened on.

"Van Tassel!" bawled the other.  "Here, what’s the matter with you?
They’re here, old fellow."

There is no creature so difficult to escape as the man who is convinced
he is doing you a favor.

Jack could hear the legs of his persecutor’s chair grate on the flooring
as he sprang to his feet.  He paused and turned around, knowing that if
he persisted, his misguided friend would not hesitate to pursue and
capture him in his zeal.

"They’re right here," repeated Ogden explanatorily, his ingenuous florid
face beaming.  "Wasn’t it curious you should have passed by, so near and
yet so far?"

Van Tassel and Page advanced, the former with a rigidly impassive
countenance.  It seemed long to him that he was crossing the ten feet of
balcony which lay between him and the young women whose reception he
feared sensitively.

Ogden, and doubtless their other friends, supposed them united by ties
of intimacy.  Much as he disliked to obtrude himself upon them, to
permit strangers to suppose that he was not pleased to meet these ladies
would set many tongues wagging and was not to be considered.  Better to
risk a snub than to appear disloyal to those his father had honored.

But he need not have feared.  Clover and Mildred were not the
inexperienced girls of his acquaintance.  They had taken in the
situation as keenly as he had done, and when he reached them were ready
to greet him and Mr. Page in a matter-of-course manner, calculated to
divert suspicion had any existed.  The circumstances, moreover, were
favorable.  The common interest of the parade at once claimed the
attention of all, and after Page had been introduced to the strangers of
the party, Jack drew a breath of relief that at any rate the ice was
broken.

He stood near Mildred, looking down upon the gay plumes, uniforms, and
prancing steeds of the procession, and wished she would address him. Was
this the girl who had always been eagerly ready to act as crew of his
boat, whose strong arms had not been of contemptible assistance in
bailing her out? who had received his invitations to sail in a thankful
spirit, being thereby richly repaid for her physical exertions?  She had
sometimes needed to be snubbed out of too energetic participation in his
own and Clover’s plans.  She had been a good fellow always, Jack
remembered, even if occasionally inconveniently effervescent in the
matter of animal spirits; had been an honest, fair antagonist, with a
brave love of sport.

It struck Van Tassel as very curious that he should be so meekly
desirous now of a crumb of friendly notice from one who had looked up to
him so long and loyally.

He wished he could forget some of those heated things he had said to
Clover on that miserable afternoon.  Of course she had repeated them to
her sister, and he felt uncomfortably sure that the memory of them was
even now seething beneath the jetted crown of Miss Bryant’s hat.

He envied Page the unconsciousness with which he could lean toward
either sister, making and receiving comments.  Clover’s sweet face moved
him with a tide of thought that gave his eyes a sad expression, which
she caught on the only occasion when she looked up into his face.

On the whole, it was an uncomfortable half-hour which Jack spent in that
loggia.  The talk and laughter of the others gave him a feeling of
remoteness and isolation.  He wanted Clover or Mildred to speak to him,
and they did not.  He could not address them without a bit of
encouragement. It was a relief to him when it was proposed to forsake
the interminable lines of militia which were filing by the
Transportation Building, and adjourn in search of luncheon.

Page seemed determined to accept Dick Ogden’s urgent invitation that the
cousins should continue of the party, and indeed Gorham started off
gayly with Mildred, as though it were a matter of course that Jack
should follow.  The consequence was that, feeling a good deal as though
the whole experience were a dream of the Thanksgiving variety, Van
Tassel found himself after a while placed next Clover at table.  On her
other side sat Dick’s mother, a lady remarkable for an imposing figure
and a fluffy pompadour of curling white hair.  As this personage
declared that the morning in the open air had given her an alarming
appetite and proceeded to apply her full attention to its demands,
conversation with her languished.  Jack observed this, and renouncing
the nightmare idea with an effort, endeavored to make necessity serve
him.

"You have been abroad all summer, I believe," he remarked to his
neighbor.

"Yes, longer than that," returned Clover.  Her self-possession seemed
untroubled; but in reality she suffered, too, from mingled emotions.
She pitied Jack, but resented the fact that circumstances had forced
them together, and his presence evoked memories overwhelmingly bitter
and tender.

"Gorham Page and I did the lake regions of England and Scotland this
year," he went on. "Did you happen to be in that vicinity?"

"No, we stayed in Switzerland during the summer months."

"You have seen much of the world in the last two years."

"Yes.  Mildred and I feel ourselves quite experienced travelers."

"Shall you be satisfied to settle down now for a time?"

"I can hardly tell.  We have formed a dangerous habit."

"Are you"—Jack looked busily into his plate—"Are you stopping at home—at
the old house?"

"We have no home yet.  We mean to settle down some day and make one."

"Why, have you parted with that dear old place, Mrs. Van Tassel?" asked
Mrs. Ogden sonorously, helping herself again to chicken salad.

"Mrs. Van Tassel finds it rather large for her purposes, I fancy,"
answered Jack quickly, "and our old housekeeper mourns her defection;
but we haven’t parted with the place.  I was there in January, Clover,
and Jeanie shed a few tears in her homesickness for you.  I haven’t seen
her yet this time.  Page and I only got in yesterday, and we went to the
Great Northern."

Jack did not add that this unusual step was taken because he hoped that
Clover and her sister might have returned and taken advantage of the
invitation he sent them long ago through Miss Berry.

"Do you know how steadily I have clung to Boston of late?" he continued.

"Aunt Love wrote me you were there with your cousin.  Are you going to
adopt it as your home?"

"No indeed.  You will think, Mrs. Ogden," leaning forward to speak
across Clover to her neighbor, "that Mrs. Van Tassel and I are very poor
correspondents.  Here we have both been roving about for the past year
and waiting to meet in order to learn details about one another’s
movements."

"You can’t tell me anything about young men as correspondents," replied
Mrs. Ogden feelingly. "When Dick is away, the most I ever expect from
him is a telegram every day or two."

"We’re a bad lot," admitted Jack.  "No," speaking again to Clover, "I am
a Chicagoan, and just now prouder than ever of the fact.  I fancy that
we shall all come home like straying chickens on May 1, ’93.  Of course
you intend to be here during the Fair?"

"Yes.  Mildred and I both anticipate it highly."

"I tell you, Mrs. Van Tassel," put in Mrs. Ogden, "if you don’t want to
use your house next summer, you can make a fortune renting it.  In that
situation, within walking distance of the grounds, you can get anything
you like to ask for it."

Clover for a second time was about to disclaim any right or title to the
homestead, but Jack besought her with a glance.

"I think we shall find it too convenient to be dispensed with," he said
hastily.

After luncheon the party separated; their invitations to the dedicatory
exercises in the Liberal Arts Building admitting them to different
situations.

The scene was such as one is glad to have assisted in for its uniqueness
if nothing more.  Even seeing scarcely made it possible to grasp the
vastness of an auditorium covering forty acres; through whose outer
corridors companies of cavalry passed now and then without making a
noticeable sound within.  Theodore Thomas’s orchestra with its attendant
singers, a company of six thousand in all, made but a little bright
bouquet in one spot, and the leader was obliged to telephone to the
platform half way down the hall in order to be informed when a speech
had ceased and a musical number might take its turn.

At the end of the building opposite from Thomas, the Mexican band
enlivened the meditations of the few thousands, fifteen or so, who were
hear enough to enjoy their martial strains. Mammoth banners and flags
made gay the grand arches that supported the roof, and each tassel on
those which were so decorated weighed as much as a woman.

Only a Brobdingnagian could have felt at ease in such surroundings, yet
wonderful order was maintained amid this largest audience ever gathered
together under one roof.

Clover and Mildred were near enough to the singers to hear the _pièce de
résistance_, Chadwick’s inspiring, moving ode, and as she listened
Clover’s eyes grew moist under the stress of the day’s emotions.

"Jack is evidently very friendly," she said that night to her sister,
when they were alone in their room at the Auditorium.

"He ought to be," returned Mildred shortly.

"He behaved very well and kindly," continued Clover.  "The situation was
odious."

"Odious.  I should think so," remarked Mildred. "I never disliked that
bawling Dick Ogden as I did when he kept on calling Jack like that.
Don’t begin to praise him to me," added the girl, turning toward her
elder a glowing face.  "After Jack Van Tassel has dragged around on his
knees a good long time I am going to forgive him. Not before."

Clover looked troubled.  "But it might all have been so awkward for us
had he chosen to behave differently," she protested.  "It is much easier
for us to lock injuries in our breasts that the world knows nothing of,
than it would be to have a gossiping set of people wondering and
staring. Jack has grasped the bunch of nettles and saved us from those
stings.  You can feel as you please about it, but I am grateful."

"I wish he would go away.  I wish he’d go to Kamschatka," exclaimed
Mildred hotly.  "I can’t rid myself, when he is present, of the idea
that he is considering how very differently we should be situated now if
it weren’t for dear Mr. Van Tassel."

"Well, it is true."

"Don’t be tiresome, Clover.  Of course it is true; but Jack has grown so
grave and quietly observing, I feel that I shall not be able to endure
having him about.  I like fine clothes and fashionable life generally,
and when I am soaring in my natural element, if Jack is going to give me
those meditative, suggestive stares, it will ruin my pleasure.  It is
just as if one had a string about a bird’s ankle and could twitch it
down whenever he liked."

"I think you feel so because you haven’t talked with him yet, Mildred.
You know Jack was always generous."

"Was he?" the young girl faced her sister. "Was he when he accused you
and insulted you?"

"Oh, I’ve forgiven him, Milly," returned the other gently, making a
repressive gesture.  "I have considered his standpoint a great deal
since then; and we enjoyed his father and benefited by him when the only
son was far away.  We even had the priceless privilege of serving him in
his last days, while Jack was unwittingly defrauded. Oh, I should not
have been at all surprised if he had been unable to take me by the hand
to-day. Don’t be hard on Jack."



                             *CHAPTER XII.*

                      *GORHAM PAGE’S COMMISSION.*


A few days afterward a bell-boy brought Gorham Page’s card to Mrs. Van
Tassel’s parlor.  It was followed shortly by the young man himself, who
felicitated himself upon his good fortune in finding her at home.

"My stay in Chicago will be so short, that had you been out I fear I
should not have met you again," he said.  "I am happy to see, Mrs. Van
Tassel," Gorham inspected her with kindly, short-sighted eyes, "that
travel has done all for you Miss Bryant hoped.  Your face has quite a
new color and contour."

"No, just my old one," she answered lightly, indicating a seat near her
own.  "I am sorry my sister is out; but she is a gay girl," with a
little smiling sigh.  "Wherever she is, somehow a number of engagements
seem to crop up."

"Yes.  One can see that she is a leader by nature.  I should like to
have seen Miss Bryant. However, my errand is with you especially
to-day."

"Oh, it is an errand that has brought you? How unflattering!"

"Not necessarily.  It argued nothing unflattering when John Alden
performed his famous errand to Priscilla."

Page looked argumentatively into his hostess’s amused eyes.

"Haven’t you gone a long way afield for a simile?" she asked.

"No, I think not.  I was quite as reluctant as poor John to accept the
mission."

"Then decline it even at this late hour.  I am the least curious of
women."

"Impossible."  Page shook his head.  "Miles Standish is waiting for me
over there at the Northern, and he is in a great state of mind."

"You tempt me to wish I had been out when your card came up.
Perfunctory visits are very uncomfortable.  I think you had better
return to your friend, and tell him that Priscilla would not allow you
to speak."

"I’m not making you uncomfortable, am I?" asked Gorham looking up and
half laughing. "You see it is this way.  I wanted to come to see you,
and as soon as Jack learned my intention, he burdened me with this
business.  He told me to be eloquent, and not being in the least so, I
am overwhelmed by my responsibilities.  I had a presentiment, and told
him so, that I should make a mess of the whole affair; but he insisted
upon trusting his messenger as blindly as the Puritan captain of old."

Page had a way of lapsing, as he talked, into a meditative manner.

"And do you insist upon refusing to be warned by John Alden’s failure?"
asked Mrs. Van Tassel.

"Oh, I mustn’t fail," he returned with prompt simplicity.  "That is, if
I do I shall take a room here in the Auditorium for the remainder of my
stay.  We all make rather a pet of Jack," he explained.  "The thought of
denying him or contradicting him presents itself somewhat in the light
of a catastrophe.  What do you think, Mrs. Van Tassel, of the effect on
the average character of a habit of success?"

Really, Clover thought this was one of the oddest men she had ever met;
but his question was so serious that she felt constrained to express an
opinion.

"I am afraid I am no student of character, but I should say it would
have a genial, developing effect."

"Yes, one thinks so at the first blush, and that continued failure would
dwarf the faculties.  One can hardly lay down a rule where exceptions
are so numerous; and of course success and failure are never accidents."

"I think they seem to be so very often."

"No," Page shook his head.  "Everything is the result of law."

"Then the character that dominates and commands success must grow by
what it feeds upon, and expand in its own sunlight.  I was right."

"Yes; but the flowers and fruits of a tropical sun are heavy in scent
and often coarse of flavor: while the flower that struggles for life and
develops in meagre warmth is like the New England arbutus, both strong
and delicate."

"People have such varying standards by which they measure success and
failure," said Clover. "That sort of scanty, hard-won success which
might be typified by the arbutus would scarcely be counted success by
many."

"True," said Page, nodding his head at her thoughtfully.  "There ought
to be some reliable touchstone which we could apply to every case."

"Surely there is," replied Clover.

Her guest brightened.  "You mean we should judge according to our best
education in right and wrong?"

She nodded.  "It amounts to that.  It seems to me that all that comes to
us is important only according to its effect on character."

Page looked at her with admiring approval. Here was a woman, a girl in
years, who had thought.

"Are your beliefs simply ethical," he asked, "or are you religious in
the usual acceptation of the word?"

"I suppose I understand you," she replied.  "I think if I could not say
that I am religious I should not be here to say anything.  I have stood
in places where ethical culture and humanitarianism would not have saved
me."

"Such testimony interests me very much," he answered, "especially from a
young and beautiful woman."

Clover colored with surprise at this bluntness. She need not have
shrunk.  Page was as usual making an impersonal statement as nearly
accurate as possible.

"I have not a particle of doubt," he continued, "that there is a world
of causes, and that ours is a world of effects.  Why should not the
universe have a soul as well as the human body?"

"Yes; only you do not state it well," returned Clover, entering into his
spirit of analysis.  "It is not the body that has the soul, but the soul
that has the body and will be through with it after a while."

Page bowed.  "I agree to that.  I believe in immortality.  We have been
sent upon this plane of existence; and to find out why is a problem of
daily interest."

"Yes.  Our wishes were not consulted when we came, and will not be
consulted when we go.  It seems evident enough to me that we are being
sent to school."

"Some of us appear to learn very little, though," remarked Page.

"Some of us are set one lesson many times," answered Clover slowly,
"until we learn it.  The hand must be unclasped many times before we
learn to relax our rigid hold on what we have considered our own.  It is
one great lesson of life, I have found, to learn to be relaxed.  You
know how much is said now by physical culturists on the subject of
letting go abnormal tension of the muscles of the body.  Isn’t the
correspondence interesting?  We can only have spiritual self-possession
when we relax the tension of our own wills and let the divine will sway
us."

"We are free agents, though," objected Page, "and we must behave as if
our own wills were all-powerful; else we should never accomplish
anything."

"Oh yes," agreed Clover; "but if one is firmly convinced that the higher
Power is omniscient, there is all the time an undercurrent of
acknowledgment that one is being directed, and it becomes second nature
to ask for the direction in all sorts of wordless ways."

"You believe in that sort of Providence, then?" asked Gorham curiously.
"I believe every one has a God—his own God."

"Yes; my God is a Father who thought it worth while to create me, and
therefore, I am sure, thinks it worth while to lead me through all the
ways I am to traverse.  He is close to me all the time. Whether I feel
that I am close to Him, depends entirely on myself."

Page regarded the speaker a moment in silence. Her face looked near to
heaven then, he thought. "Such faith comes more easily to women than to
men, apparently," he said at last.

"Why should it?  How strangely people behave and talk, or rather avoid
talking of spiritual things as if such subjects were superstitious.  I
suppose perhaps it is because I have had so many dear ones slip away
into the other world that it seems so real to me.  It has often been
said that death is the only certain event which we can count on; but
people will cease to shrink from it only when they cease to think of it
as death.  No wonder the love of life is strongly implanted.  It is all
we need look forward to.  The loneliness we have to suffer here," Clover
paused a moment, "is a part of the schooling."

"You have made good use of your experiences," observed Page.

"Not always," returned the other.  "Nevertheless, I believe that is the
chief thing we have to do,—to learn something above worldly wisdom from
our experiences little and great."

"So your theory regarding success and failure would simply be to decide
its real nature by its spiritual effect on a man."

"Yes," Clover smiled.  "You have thought of that before or you would not
have grasped so quickly what I meant."

Her visitor nodded.  "Yes, I have had a similar thought.  The greatest
apparent success may amount to a failure if it make a man more arrogant
and selfish than before; and the most dismal failure is a success if
only it brings with it an interior humility and willingness to be
taught."

They talked another quarter of an hour before Page arose and took his
leave.  He left his compliments and farewell for Miss Bryant, shook
hands with Clover, and reached the door of the room before he started
and turned back with sudden recollection.

"Why didn’t you remind me?" he said reproachfully.  "I haven’t done my
errand."

Mrs. Van Tassel smiled.  "Priscilla’s part was a passive one, if I
recollect rightly."

"But you also recollect the rough temper of Captain Standish.  I think
you are rather cruel."

"Oh, failure might have given you true humility."

"I make plenty of failures, thank you.  Please don’t let this be one of
them, and don’t judge Jack’s intensity of interest by my own.  May I sit
down once more?"  Page knotted his brow reminiscently.  "Jack outlined a
plan for me.  He suggested a number of arguments with which I was to
lead up to the main idea, but they are pretty well muddled in my brain
now."  Gorham gave a short, desperate laugh.  "After this confession of
weakness, Mrs. Van Tassel, you will be obliged, if only out of
generosity, to send me back with a ’yes.’  Now, let me see; I’m
confident this ought not to come first, but Jack wanted me to say that
he was certain that Uncle Richard left the homestead to him instead of
to you, at your own instigation."

Clover, who had not been able to imagine what was coming, acquiesced
gravely.  "Mr. Van Tassel would probably have acted as he did in any
case, but I wanted to make certain that Jack’s dear old home should be
secured to him."

"It humiliates Jack to feel that you avoid the place for fear he might
go there."

"This is an unpleasant errand for you, Mr. Page."

"Please don’t use that tone.  Jack means so well, I couldn’t refuse to
be the go-between.  He asks, he even begs, that if you intend to remain
in Chicago now, you will go back to your home.  It is comfortable.  All
your belongings are there. His father made every arrangement for you.
Jack feels sure he would be grieved to have you leave it. He himself is
going back to Boston.  The housekeeper is alone there and is pining for
you; I forget whether that was to be an argument, but the fact remains.
Jack thinks it would save a lot of talking among your friends if you
were to go on in the old way.  Naturally, he has no use for such a big
place.  It would be too lonely to endure under the circumstances, and it
is hardly the thing to leave the house tenantless year after year.  Of
course all this is under Jack’s supposition that you have no prejudice
against the home as a home.  If that is false"—

"No.  I have a strong attachment for the locality and the house itself.
Mildred has also."

"Then you will say yes; and I will promise to take my success as meekly
as you could desire."

"Shall I do it, Mr. Page?" asked Clover, looking perplexed.

"By all means, if you ask me.  Here is the Fair coming on, and the
difficulties of suiting one’s self in a home in Chicago are going to be
many, I fancy."

"I don’t want to think of that.  We should be able to find a comfortable
place."

"Then consider that suggestion unmade, and let me take your consent to
Jack.  Do you still hesitate?"

"Yes.  I had quite made up my mind to do without Jack, and this would
change all that."

"Jack does not at all wish to be dispensed with."

"I consider," said Clover with grave gentleness, "that I owe him any
favor he chooses to claim; but it seems quixotic on his part to call
this one."

"And yet he does.  We cannot always understand the vagaries of youth,
Mrs. Van Tassel."

"Jack was always willful," she returned, smiling sadly.  "Tell him I
thank him, Mr. Page, and that Mildred and I will talk it over."

An hour after Gorham’s departure, a note was brought to Clover.  It was
from Jack.  He said:—


I thank you for considering my proposition.  I have a feeling that in
the end you will not refuse me.  I have suffered for every unjust word I
ever said to you, Clover, and now the only peace possible for me is to
be in friendly relations with those my father loved.  Only when you are
living again under his roof shall I feel that I have won his forgiveness
as well as yours.  The selfish jealousy of you which has made my heart
sore has gone, and gratitude has taken its place.  We have both lived
long in two years, and suffered much. We can feel for each other.

Forgive your old comrade, JACK.


Clover’s tears fell upon this abrupt note, and her heart went out to her
friend.  She did not need now to talk the matter over with Mildred.  She
had decided to return to the home by the lake.

Jack went back to Boston without seeing her again; for although he
called, the sisters were both away.



                            *CHAPTER XIII.*

                               *MAY DAY.*


What Chicagoan will ever forget the winter of ’92 and ’93!  It was as
though the elements had joined with the majority who frowned down their
city’s audacious effort.  The newspapers recorded the storms and their
damage.  What an unthinkable thing it was to undertake a World’s Fair in
such a climate!  Certainly if one wanted an allegory of discomfort one
had but to visit the Garden City at that season, and witness the teaming
through torn-up streets, the building, and the elevating of railroad
tracks, while the sense of shortness of time sent men to labor and often
to die in exposed places when the mercury was lost below the zero mark.
Roads were either iron-bound, or deep in the mud of a thaw, and
blizzards descended furiously upon the glass portions of Exposition
structures, destroying in an hour the work of weeks.

As the first of May approached, more stinging grew the criticisms upon
the authorities who had failed to have the Columbian Exposition entirely
ready to keep its engagement; but though on the great day Chicago was
still in an undeniably uncomfortable condition of unfinished hotels and
bad weather, the White City rose like a perfect superb lily from its
defiling mud, and the great crowd that swarmed into Jackson Park on the
morning of May 1st found so much to marvel at that they were
good-natured and eager under a chill gray sky, and unmindful of the
clinging soil into which they sank at every step.

Jack Van Tassel had arrived in town a couple of days before, and after
registering at his hotel had called immediately at his old home.

The girls received him cordially, although he was unexpected.  One or
two letters had passed between Clover and himself during the winter, and
she now asked him to leave his hotel and take possession of his old
room.  He declined with thanks, stating that his plans did not yet
permit of a prolonged stay in the West, and that it would not be worth
while to make the change.

"I am afraid he saw that I hesitated when I asked him," said Clover to
her sister after the guest had departed.  "I wish we had known that he
was coming, then we could have thought the matter over and arrived at a
decision.  I really didn’t know whether I was doing a proper thing or
not."

Mildred, who had seen and been amused by her sister’s perplexity all
through the call, laughed mischievously.

"It is an odd thing if you can’t invite your son to visit you," she
said.

Clover regarded her helplessly, but she could not help smiling too.  "I
don’t know whether we should be outraging conventionality or not," she
repeated.  "He will be coming back again in a little while.  If only
Jeanie hadn’t deserted us. It was such an inconvenient season for her to
be overwhelmed with homesickness, but she said it was the first time
that she had not been really needed here."

"You remind me of Iolanthe," said Mildred wickedly.  "I couldn’t help
thinking of it all the time Strephon was here."  And then she sang:—

    "’I wouldn’t say a word that could be construed as injurious,
    But to find a mother younger than her son is very curious,
    And that’s the sort of mother who is usually spurious;
      Tara diddle, tara diddle, tol lol lay.’"


The color rose under Clover’s clear skin as she joined reluctantly in
her sister’s laugh.  "Perhaps we had better procure a dragon," she
suggested.

"Oh, wait a little," returned Mildred, loath to alter their present mode
of life.

But Jack, before he left, had agreed to call for his friends on the
morning of May 1st to take them to see the opening exercises in the new
city whose completed splendor they had not before beheld.

The three walked down through the grounds in the dull gray weather, and
joined the half million of souls who waited in the Court of Honor to see
President Cleveland touch the electric button.

Clover gazed at the white magnificence of architecture, and felt a
thrill at the solemn stillness pervading all, which the fine orchestral
music only accented.

"It seems to me like the story of Galatea," she said to Jack.  "We are
waiting to see the breath of life breathed into the statue."

Van Tassel looked down the Grand Basin to where the heroic Republic
stood veiled in white from the eyes of men.  The low-hanging sky hung
its pall above all.

"I think the button may start the clouds as well as the machinery," he
remarked.  "They look as though they were only waiting some signal to
pour down."

"We shall need a shower-bath to put out the fires of our enthusiasm,"
exclaimed Mildred, who looked as excited as she felt.  "Oh, Jack, aren’t
you glad you are a Chicagoan?  Aren’t you glad that we’ve gathered
goldenrod right in this very spot in front of the Administration
Building?"

Jack protested that he shared this subtle joy fully; and at the moment a
new shiver of expectation passed through the throng.  The music had
ceased.  The President had begun to speak.  It was a solemn moment, a
triumphant moment, when at last the electric button was pressed,
hitherto motionless machinery suddenly throbbed, and the vast pulses of
the stately, statuesque White City began to beat.

Clover and Mildred unconsciously clasped hands, and their breath came
fast as they stood facing the majestic Peristyle, its marble columns
surmounted by the solemn, glad, immortal declaration: "Ye shall know the
truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Jack stood beside them, his head bared before this beginning of a new
era; for at the touching of the signal, down fell the veil from the
golden Republic, up streamed the enormous jets of water from the
fountains; color and movement thrilled along the roofs of the snowy
palaces; flags of all nations unfurled gayly from myriad staffs; the
boom of artillery thundered from the lake side; and as the multitude,
swayed by mighty feeling, rent the air with cheers, the sun burst from a
cloud and blessed the scene with new splendor. The World’s Columbian
Exposition had opened.


Van Tassel accepted Clover’s invitation to dinner that afternoon when
they reached home, chilled with much standing about in the spring wind.

The impersonal common interest of the day had done much toward
reëstablishing the old easy relation among the trio.

"So Jeanie felt a call to visit her own kin, did she?" said Jack as they
sat at table.  "She is so much a part of the house I miss her."

"Yes; she could not be tempted from her project even by the prospect of
the Fair.  ’What do I want with the Fair?’ she asked contemptuously.
’Chicago’s just got unbearable since they started it.’  But she wanted
me to promise to take her back when all the excitement is over and she
returns to America," said Clover.  "Of course we miss her very much; but
at present we get on finely."

"Yes," remarked Mildred, "I don’t know that Jeanie would be pleased to
know how well.  I believe she was right.  No doubt a person of her sort
would be more fatigued than interested by the Fair."

"I was wondering this morning," said Jack, "while we were waiting down
there, what Aunt Love would say to it all."

Clover smiled.  "I think Chicago and everything connected with it seems
as far off to her as the Sandwich Islands;" but as she spoke a novel
thought came into her mind, and after Jack had gone she imparted it to
Mildred.

"I have had a brilliant idea," she announced.

"That is nothing new," returned her sister. "A quarter, please," holding
out her hand.

Clover loftily ignored both the compliment and the request for prompt
recompense.

"We can’t selfishly keep this comfortable house just for our own two
selves the next six months."

"I could, just as easy," returned Mildred nonchalantly, dropping into an
armchair.  "Aren’t you glad now that we have lived a life of resorts for
two years, and are not under obligations to anybody?  Moreover, that we
haven’t had time to make any intimate friends anywhere?  Why, everybody
we know here has either rented his house and fled, or is wondering how
servants and expenses are to be managed through the summer."

Clover looked serious.  "I feel that we ought to do exactly what Mr. Van
Tassel would do if he were alive."

"Yes, that is so," agreed Mildred promptly; "but I don’t see how you are
going to find that out."

"Why, it is perfectly plain that he would entertain his near relatives."

Mildred raised her eyebrows thoughtfully.  She began to sing softly
again from Sullivan’s opera:

    "’To say she is his mother is an utter bit of folly,
    Heigh-ho, our Strephon is a rogue!
    Perhaps his brain is addled and it’s very melancholy,
      Taradiddle’"—


"Stop that nonsensical song."

"My dear, Gilbert never writes any nonsense. It gives me the utmost
pleasure to warble his lays. He is the only librettist in the world who
says just what he wants to say, and it happens to rhyme. Pardon me if I
appeared to be personal.  That was another happening.  So you think you
ought to have sonny at home.  Anybody else?"

"Certainly.  Mr. Page."

Mildred pursed her lips into a noiseless whistle.

"Mr. Van Tassel’s sister’s child," went on Clover firmly.  "He has a
right to expect an invitation.  What is the matter?  Don’t you like
him?"

Mildred made her favorite grimace of faint repugnance, and her head
dropped to one side. "I’ve had a good deal of him by proxy," she
answered.  "I’m very much afraid he’s a worthy young man."

"Well, what of it?"

"Oh, you know I can’t endure worthy young men," smiled the girl
provokingly.

"Jack says he is a noble fellow," declared Clover with dignity.

"Of course; but alas, if that was only one of those things that go
without saying!  His sister-in-law adores him madly.  Well, then we are
to have sterling cousin Page.  Anybody else?  It seems to me you are
drawing about us a possibly charming, but certainly unconventional
family circle."

"No, no.  There are the other Pages.  Of course we must ask the married
brother, just as much as Gorham, and we are under obligation to Mrs.
Page for kindness to you."

"So she is to be the chaperone.  Is it your expectation that she will
wish to stay here all summer?  What a perfect goose you were, Clover,
not to have your bright idea before you let Jeanie go.  After you have
thought up three meals a day for guests, for about three months, your
opinion of the brilliance of that idea will probably decline and fall."

"Just wait," said Clover triumphantly.  "You haven’t even heard my
bright thought yet.  It is Aunt Love."

Mildred looked into her beaming eyes uncomprehendingly.  "It is nothing
to me," continued Clover, "whether Mrs. Page stays one week or six.  I
am going to ask Aunt Love to come and take Jeanie’s place all summer."

"Do you suppose she will do it?"

"Yes, I do.  I shall ask her, anyway, before one day more passes over my
head,—that is, if you agree, Mildred."

"Oh, if I agree!" repeated the latter with light scorn.  "I notice you
didn’t trouble yourself to consult me about Strephon and cousin Page."

"You would like to have Aunt Love, of course," persisted Clover.

"Yes; but she must be sure to bring Blitzen."


There was only one subject discussed throughout the length and breadth
of Pearfield, twenty-four hours after Mrs. Van Tassel’s letter reached
Miss Berry.

Lovina Berry was going to the World’s Fair. Pearfield would be
represented, after all.  It was a dangerous undertaking.  Everybody felt
that. The postmaster made himself quite unpopular by doubting whether
Loviny ran more risk from desperate characters in Chicago than she would
in any other large city; but his heretical opinion was accounted for by
a well known contrariness of nature.

Many and solemn were the leave-takings and warnings bestowed upon Miss
Berry at the outset of her pilgrimage.  She was somewhat astonished
herself at her own calmness at the prospect.

"It must be I don’t sense it," she declared as she gave her lisle-thread
glove a parting wave from the car window.  She had planned by letter to
have Gorham Page meet her in Boston, and take her to an inexpensive
boarding-house where she might remain until she was fitted out for her
wonderful trip.

It was a tired and harassed woman that Page met that afternoon, hugging
to her, as she stepped from the car, a straining, excited, furry bundle
that jumped eagerly to the end of his chain as she permitted him to leap
down.

"Such a time as I’ve had this day," she ejaculated.  "I guess I’ve broke
most o’ the laws ever made by God and man.  By good luck I knew the
conductor,—he came from near our place, and he, seein’ that Blitzen
rampaged dreadful in the baggage-car, let me hold him in my lap.  I lost
my temper before I’d been out o’ Pearfield half an hour, and I haven’t
found it since.  I’m just tuckered out.  Miss Bryant made a great point
o’ my bringin’ Blitzen, but law, before I’d have the care o’ him from
here to Chicago I’d give up the whole undertakin’."  Miss Berry looked
anxiously at the dog as he bobbed about at the end of his tether as
though to expend the energy stored in his lively legs during hours of
inaction.  "I don’t know how I could leave him in Boston," she added,
"and yet"—

Page smiled.  "You know very well if you left him he would walk on the
ties to Chicago.  Don’t worry, Aunt Love, I’ll send him safely for you.
You shall not have any trouble."

Miss Berry looked half hopeful, half incredulous.

"Yes, by express.  It will be all right," and Page held open the door of
a cab, into which Miss Berry stepped with the nervous and astonished
Blitzen again caught in her strong clasp.

"I haven’t thanked you a word," she said when the horse had started,
"but you can’t think what a help it’s been to me to have you manage
about the boardin’ place and all."

"Hilda wouldn’t hear to your going anywhere but straight to her,"
returned Gorham.

"Oh, that is too much," exclaimed Miss Lovina, flushing with pleasure;
and the warm welcome she received when she arrived at Mrs. Page’s dainty
apartment completed her relief from care and embarrassment.

"I’m sure you never counted on Blitzen," Miss Berry said anxiously, in
return to her hostess’s greeting.

"But I am glad to see him," responded Hilda. "It is well known that a
dog who can wag his tail can knock over lots of valuables in a flat, but
Blitzen is a safe and welcome guest."

"We’ll let him run in the street all he wants to.  Perhaps he’ll get
lost," said Miss Lovina, regarding the small animal darkly in spite of
the confiding and questioning gaze he was bending upon her, as though
begging to understand to-day’s erratic movements.

"Much more likely to be stolen," remarked Gorham.  "I had better send
him on to Chicago very soon."

Mrs. Page proved of great assistance to Miss Berry in adding the right
articles of dress to her wardrobe, and completing her preparations.  It
was with a light heart that Aunt Love finally shook hands with Page
after he had settled her comfortably in her section of the Chicago
train, and when the latter glided slowly and smoothly from the station,
Miss Berry leaned back in the cushioned seat and felt happy though
excited. She had never been in a sleeping-car before, and every
convenience about her excited her wonder and admiration.

She was traveling at Mrs. Van Tassel’s expense, and simply followed the
explicit directions Page had given her; so she went into the dining-car
for her meals, a proceeding which filled her with wonder.  Her practical
soul yearned to examine the compact kitchen arrangements.

Gorham had charged the porter to attend to her wants, accompanying the
exhortation with the only sort of persuasion which appeals to the
species, and innocent Aunt Love was in consequence gratefully impressed
by her new friend’s assiduous attentions.

There is no denying that the gentleman of color had something to endure
from the time the train crossed the last state line and entered
Illinois. It had been impressed upon Miss Berry that she was to alight
at Hyde Park, and her porter earned the money Mr. Page had given him
before that station was reached.

"You don’t want to get out till you’ve passed the World’s Fair," he said
at last in desperation; and Miss Lovina clung to this definite clue with
such concentration that when the usual stentorian announcement was
made—"World’s Fair Buildings on the right," she scarcely cast a glance
toward the labyrinth of roofs and domes, but clasped the handles of her
bag and shawl-strap, and sat on the extreme edge of the seat.

Soon the porter arrived, took possession of Miss Berry’s belongings, and
in another minute she stood on the platform, where Mrs. Van Tassel and
Miss Bryant met her with open arms.

At least one of Mildred’s hands was extended in welcome.  The other kept
firm hold of a chain to which Blitzen was attached.  Instantly the
little dog’s leaps and grins monopolized the attention of all three.  He
whined, he actually howled in the fullness of his joy at finding the
mistress he had despaired of seeing again.

"For gracious sake!" exclaimed Miss Berry, much embarrassed.  "There,
there;" she stooped and patted the terrier sparingly.  "Yes, here’s my
trunk-check, Mrs. Van Tassel.  My, but you do look well, child.  For
pity’s sake, Miss Mildred, take the chain off’n that dog, and maybe he
won’t trip me up.  Be still, can’t you?"

Mildred laughed as she stooped and unfastened the hook from the smart
new collar which had gilded Blitzen’s misery since his arrival.  "Yes,
he will not need chains now," she answered; "but we have had to keep him
a prisoner for fear he might go back to Boston.  It would have been such
a pity for you to cross each other on the way."



                             *CHAPTER XIV.*

                         *CLOVER’S INVITATION.*


Those who wished to continue to point out the defects in Chicago and her
Fair had ample opportunity through a large part of the month of May. It
was indeed Chicago’s Fair then; no one else claimed it.  The exhibits
were not all in place, the electric effects were not complete, the
weather was cold, Orientals had to wear American overcoats above their
white gowns, and they sneezed lugubriously under their turbans.  The
pleasantest spots in the White City at that season were the open fires
in the dignified or dainty club-houses known as State buildings.  Only
the Eskimos were really comfortable, and some of those poor women wished
the incoming and outgoing visitor would not allow the northeast wind
continuous entrance to their homes.

But the month was nearly out by the time Miss Berry arrived in Chicago.
It was the beginning of that marvelous summer whose weather every
Chicagoan will always proudly consider an exhibit worthy to be ranked
with any wonder it shone upon.  The natural elements, like the human
ones, gradually admitted that the Columbian Exposition was not only a
worthy but an overwhelming success, and in place of buffeting wind and
destructive storm, sent week after week a warm blue sky and a cool east
breeze to add the crowning charm to the White City’s bewildering
loveliness.

Had the human element been as prompt in succumbing, thousands of those
who strove in the madding crowd of October might have reveled instead in
the fresh beauty of June; but the general confidence had not yet been
gained.  The same journal which had pictured the vulgar young city
vociferating for the World’s Fair bouquet had not yet declared that it
took off its hat to Chicago, adding that all other shows bore the
relation to the Columbian Exposition which Jersey City did to Imperial
Rome.  A comparatively small army of explorers came from the East as
yet, to spy out the land and carry back reassuring reports to their
skeptical or timid friends.

Miss Berry, in her comfortable, novel quarters, was from the first
charmed with her surroundings. The bright bracing air, the frequent
tally-ho coaches that passed the door, their scarlet-coated buglers
piping with cheerful unsteadiness, the expanse of tumbling blue-green
water that constantly gladdened her eyes, all seemed as festive as the
fine house which was her temporary home.  She enjoyed the playing of the
orchestra every morning on the piazza of an adjacent hotel, and was soon
able to hum "After the Ball," that unavoidable, omnipresent
accompaniment of the World’s Fair summer.

Only one thing puzzled her for the first few days after her arrival, and
this perplexity she set at rest one cool evening, by watching her
opportunity and walking clandestinely to the sands at the back of the
Chicago Beach Hotel.  Here she stooped to the water’s edge, dipped her
finger in an incoming wave and transferred it to her mouth.  Tasting it
critically, she looked thoughtful, and after a moment repeated the
operation.

"I suppose I’ve got to believe it," she murmured, rising.  "’T ain’t
salt."

The more cultivated and traveled one was, the more wonderful and
beautiful the White City seemed to him.  Upon a woman of Miss Berry’s
narrow worldly experience, its unique characteristics dawned but slowly.
For some weeks it is quite certain that the housekeeping duties which
Clover at once placed in her hands were more attractive to the good
woman than the marvels which lay so near her.  She was not insensible to
the privilege of being within walking distance of Jackson Park, and now
and then she made pilgrimages thither.

"It’s somethin’ like knowin’ there’s a big plum puddin’ standin’ near
by, and that whenever I want to, I can go and pull out a plum;" she
said; "but law! it would take a whole lifetime to see what they’ve got
down there, and every time I go I realize it more."

Clover carried out her hospitable intention as soon as Aunt Love was
fairly domesticated; and one morning a letter from her was handed to
Mrs. Page at her breakfast-table.

Her family had just been talking about the World’s Fair, and Jack had
been answering questions concerning the best locality in which to secure
accommodations.

"There is nothing like having an ardent Chicagoan in the house to make
one attend to these matters in time," remarked Mrs. Page.

"I am very much afraid you will find you are not in time," returned Jack
discouragingly.  His advice, given a couple of months before, had not
been heeded, and he now proceeded to state a series of facts and figures
which were rather appalling.

"You will have to do something about it, Jack," remarked Mrs. Page’s
husband, who is not so designated on account of any inferiority.  He was
a stout, sandy-haired individual with a good digestion and disposition,
who was accustomed to allow Hilda and Gorham to think for him in all
matters not related to the wholesale dry-goods business in which he was
engaged.  "You say we ought to see the Exposition," he went on placidly,
"and it is your affair, in the interests of hospitality, to tell us
where in—Chicago we can find the proper quarters."

"I impressed upon you some time ago that you ought to attend to it,"
returned Jack rather stiffly. The air of lightness and condescension
with which his cousin always treated the subject of the Fair grated upon
him.

"Yes, he did, you know, Robert," declared Mrs. Page, always inclining,
like most of Jack’s feminine friends, to side with him.

It was at this juncture that the arrival of the mail created a
diversion, and Hilda opened Clover’s letter.

She glanced down its pages.  "Why, how lovely! How kind!" she ejaculated
from time to time. "Listen to this.  You are all interested.  It is from
Mrs. Van Tassel."


MY DEAR MRS. PAGE,—I have been wishing for some days to find the right
moment in which to thank you for your kindness both to Aunt Love and me
in rendering her so much assistance in coming to us.  She seems happy
and at home already. I am the more pleased to have secured her that it
makes it easy for me, in the absence of my old housekeeper, to entertain
guests during the coming eventful summer.  I hope you and your husband
have not already committed yourselves to another plan for seeing the
Fair, for our house is most conveniently situated, and my sister and I
would be pleased to have you come to us.  Will you extend my invitation
to your brother as well? As for Jack, it is not necessary, I am sure,
for me to write a separate invitation to him.  His room is ready for
him, and I count upon his taking possession of it for as long a time as
he can make it convenient.  Indeed, I wish you all four to choose your
own times and seasons for coming, for I have no plan to entertain any
one else, and I beg you to consider the house always open to you, and a
sincere welcome always ready.

Mildred wishes me to send you her love, and we both hope soon to receive
favorable word of your plans.  Cordially yours,

CLOVER B. VAN TASSEL.


Mrs. Page, upon finishing, let her pleased gaze rove from one to another
of her three companions. Jack’s face was eager and happy, Gorham’s
interested, but her husband was the first to speak.

"I foresee that I am going to fall in love with that woman," he
remarked, breaking open his third muffin and handing his cup to the maid
for a second cup of coffee.  "That is a charming letter."

"Just an ordinary Chicago production," said Jack exultantly.  "What do
you say, old Reliable?" he added, turning toward Gorham.

"We are in great luck," returned the latter.

"Now, I will admit," said Jack, "that I have been trying to provide for
us all at the Chicago Beach; but I will cease my struggles gratefully."

"When do you want to go, Hilda?" asked Robert Page.

"When can you go, is a more pertinent question," she answered.

"July will, I suppose, be the best time. Would it be heresy, Jack, to
inquire if the thermometer in Chicago rises above sixty-five degrees in
July?  I have understood that it does."

"I know of no city in the country where there is no hot weather in
summer," returned Jack shortly.  "Chicago is, however, a summer resort."

"I suppose you mean a place where summer resorts.  That is what I have
heard."

"Perhaps you would better not risk your life there."

"Tut, tut, my boy.  I am going to see the writer of that whole-souled
letter."

Jack, who had already excused himself from the table, here left the room
without deigning a reply, and Mrs. Page immediately looked toward her
brother.

"What do you think, Gorham?  Of course this is a delightful invitation,
but ought we to accept it?"

"I don’t quite see your objection," he answered.

"It is charming of Mrs. Van Tassel, but it is so evidently a sense of
duty which impels her to give such an invitation to a mere acquaintance
like me, and a stranger like Robert."

"Look here," remarked the latter, looking up vaguely.  "I don’t think I
want any flaws picked in that invitation."

"Now you keep still, Robert, like a dear.  You don’t know her at all,
and Gorham does.  She is just doing this in Uncle Richard’s name; I know
it, and I am not willing to impose upon her."

"May I see the letter once again?" asked Gorham.

"Certainly;" Mrs. Page handed it to him with alacrity.  He read it
through from beginning to end.  It sounded like Clover.  He could hear
her pleasant voice in every phrase.

"She is a thoughtful, deliberate sort of person," he said as he handed
the letter back.  "Whatever her motive is, it is a sufficient one, and
one thing that would influence me to advise you to accept is the effect
on Jack.  Their relations have been a little strained, and I think it
would make things still pleasanter than they are now, if Mrs. Van Tassel
and Miss Bryant were to become better acquainted with his people."

"Yes, that is what I think," remarked Mr. Page; but his wife frowned
upon him.

"You, and Robert, and Jack, go," continued Gorham.  "I won’t.  That
would be rather too much of a good thing; but I can get a room at the
Beach Hotel, and that is near by.  I propose to spend a good deal of
time at the Fair.  I want to go through it with some degree of
thoroughness. Of course no one will really see half of it.  I understand
that, giving one minute to each exhibit, it is estimated that it would
take thirty-two years for a man to get around."

His brother groaned.  He was stout and not energetic save in the matter
of wholesale dry-goods.

"Thank Heaven it won’t take thirty-two years to see Mrs. Van Tassel," he
remarked devoutly.

There were no doubts or scruples in Jack’s mind as to accepting his
invitation, at least for the present.  Indeed, this reconciliation
between himself and the Bryants, as he still often found himself calling
his old friends, altered the whole trend of his life.  He felt a new
satisfaction in living; a new desire for home; a willingness which
amounted to necessity to shake the dust of Boston from his feet, and
once more to make of Chicago a permanent abiding-place.  His sense of
loneliness, an aching one still at times, abated.  His own place waited
for him.  The friendship of these cousins, kind and helpful in their
way, could never be to him like that of those girls, the only sisters he
had ever known, who had so long divided with him his father’s affection
and care.  He was going home.  It was the first sensation of the sort
that he had had for years.

He did not try to conceal his satisfaction from Mrs. Page when he said
to her his _au revoir_.  He expressed sincere gratitude for her kindness
and hospitality, but she saw that he was not sorry to have no plan for
returning to Boston, and felt a little piqued despite Jack’s enthusiasm
over the plan which would soon make them a reunited family party.

"I have not seen Jack so gay since Uncle Richard died," she said that
night to Gorham.

"No.  His alienation from Mrs. Van Tassel and her sister has worried him
a good deal, I know," responded Page.  "This final burial of the hatchet
must be a great relief to a fellow so sensitive as Jack is."

But this explanation was not sufficient to account to Mrs. Page for Van
Tassel’s jubilant spirits.  He had not sprung up three stairs at a time,
and whistled and sung over his packing, just because of obtaining the
forgiveness of two young women whose feelings he had outraged.

"Men are stupid," she soliloquized.  "I know that Jack is in love."

With this truly feminine solution of her cousin’s conduct she was the
better satisfied because she would so soon have opportunity of verifying
her own perspicacity by ocular proof.  But her diagnosis would have been
a surprise to Jack.  No lover-like haste mingled with the impatience he
felt at the lateness of his train on the June afternoon when he reached
Chicago; and when finally he found himself on the familiar home street,
even its unfamiliarity seemed representative of the pleasant new state
of things which had come into his life.  His flying visit during the bad
weather of six weeks before had not shown the old neighborhood in its
present finished condition.

Van Tassel smiled as a coach and six rattled by him, the notes of its
"mellow horn" breaking in impertinently upon the strains of an orchestra
at the adjacent fashionable hotel.  "Can this be quiet little Hyde
Park?" he asked himself.

How the long June evenings of his boyhood came back to him as he
sauntered down the changed street!  How the thrushes used to sing here
at this hour!  How the boys and girls who could muster anything to
navigate, from a scow to a trim canoe or sailboat, used to launch their
craft, early in these long evenings, and sometimes lashing the boats
together, a dozen in a row, would drift over the rocking waves and sing
by the hour beneath a moon which electricity had not yet forced out of a
long-established business!

The wild shore was changed, cultivated, and trimmed into order according
to fashion now, like the young people who once disported over it in free
country fashion.

Jack could not whistle the scrap from "Carmen" against the insistent
rhythm of "After the Ball" which was being performed by a uniformed
functionary from the hotel who passed him under the old familiar elms.

But Clover was on the piazza to meet him, a gracious genius of home in
her blue gown, with the welcoming light in her eyes.

"I told you not to stay for me," said Jack, coming up the steps, his hat
in his hand.

"I know," returned Clover, looking down into his happy, handsome face.
"I stayed for my own sake as well as yours.  I have been at the Fair all
day, and did not feel like going down this evening. Mildred went from
town with the Ogdens on their drag to take supper in Old Vienna.  She
wished me to give you an extra shake of the hand for her."

"Thank you, Clover," he answered, and he held her hand a moment as they
interchanged a look that had in it reminiscence, but reminiscence from
which all bitterness was gone.  The sweet summer air seemed throbbing
with their love for him with whom every part of this home was connected.

Miss Berry appeared at the house door.  She started at the pretty
tableau she saw, and the pure white Christmas when she pleaded for this
woman with a heart-sore man passed like a vision across the fair June
scene.

She would have withdrawn, but Van Tassel saw her.  "How do you do, Aunt
Love?" he said, and then she came forward to return his cordial
greeting.

"Isn’t this a queer thing, for me to be in Chicago, Mr. Jack?"

"It is just as it should be," he returned.  "Now when we get Gorham and
Mr. and Mrs. Page here, we shall be a complete party."

"Mr. and Mrs. Page promise me July," said Clover, "but your cousin
Gorham seems to think he would better stay at the hotel.  We won’t
quarrel with him at this distance."  She smiled. "Well, Jack, will you
go upstairs?  Is it to be hammock or Fair this evening?"

"I can scarcely wait till to-morrow for the Fair, yet I don’t like to
leave you at once."

"Don’t mind that.  I should enjoy seeing your first view, and should
have saved myself for to-night except that I could not escape personally
conducting a friend to-day who was very kind to us last year."

"Come in and eat something first, Mr. Jack," said Miss Berry, so
anxiously that Van Tassel laughed.

"I am sure, Aunt Love, if I have the good luck to meet you in heaven,
the first thing you will do will be to urge upon me some manna or
angel’s food, or whatever may be on the bill of fare."

"Hush, child.  Come straight in, for daylight is precious."

"Thank you, but I knew that, and so I took lunch in the train.  I
expected only to carom on the house as it were, and then make a bee-line
for the great show.  We did have the first view of it together, Clover,
you know."

The dimple dipped in Clover’s cheek just as of old.  "It will seem
different to you to-night," she answered.  "That was impressive and
solemn; but now—  No, I won’t be so foolish as to try to describe what
is incomparable.  I will only say, Go. You will be grateful for whatever
feeble standards of comparison you have gained by travel."



                             *CHAPTER XV.*

                         *THE COURT OF HONOR.*


Jack jumped into a Beach wagon as it rolled along from the hotel, and
drove down East End Avenue, approaching the gigantic failure known as
the Spectatorium, whose bulky, half-clothed skeleton upreared against
the sky like a type of blighted hope.

Following Clover’s advice, he entered the Park at the Fifty-seventh
Street entrance.  A band was playing on its aerial perch above the
Eskimo village, and Jack smiled to hear the gay, assured strains of
"After the Ball" soaring above a vigorous drum accompaniment.  He walked
across the bridge and looked down where the Eskimos in their white robes
with the peaked hoods propelled their slender canoes noiselessly amid
the darkening shadows of the willows.

Straight before him to Michigan’s brink stretched an electric-lighted
avenue, flanked on one side by State buildings, and on the other by that
lion-guarded Greek Palace of Art whose columns, even pictured, send a
thrill of grateful delight to the hearts of those who have passed within
its portals.

The fresh verdure of the lawns showed living green, as Jack passed on to
the right until he gained the waterside of the Art Building, and there
paused to gaze across at the edifices on the opposite shores.  Towers
and domes of all shapes and sizes showed amid the June foliage.  Every
beauty of form and tint surrounded him, divided by broad spaces of
rippling water.  He was in a city of preternatural loveliness.  What
wonder that a noiseless boat came gliding to his feet in answer to his
wish to explore these distant, fairy vistas.  He stepped within, and
silently the little craft sped on.

The white loveliness of Brazil, the alabaster lace work of the poetical
Fisheries,—Van Tassel glanced over his shoulder as they were left
behind, and in a minute more the lofty, winged angels of the Woman’s
Building blessed his sight.

The dainty conceits of Puck and the White Star melted from his vision to
make way for the glories of the Horticultural treasure house, surmounted
by its illuminated crystal dome.  Lilies, red, yellow, and white, were
asleep in the stone-guarded lakelet, upon which smiled the wreathed
marble beauty of women and babies on the façade; and in contrast, next
sprang to life in electric light the alert equestrian figures of cowboy
and Indian controlling restive steed, and peering forth into the night.

But an exclamation escaped Van Tassel’s lips as the Transportation
Building was passed, and the arched grandeur of the Golden Door shone
down upon him.  The launch turned, and thus ideally, without sound or
effort, he was borne on between Wooded Island and the homes of Mines and
Electricity, approaching the vast expanse of the Liberal Arts building,
only to turn smoothly again beneath the bridge, and glide on toward that
Mecca of all Exposition pilgrims, the unique Court of Honor.

Jack had stood there once in a still, chill time of waiting, and had
seen the dead marble city quickened to life.  Now the heart which began
to beat that day had made all the whiteness to glow.  He forgot to
breathe as, passing beneath the last bridge, he emerged where the sea
horses reared wildly above cascades that went splashing down the stone
steps beneath Columbia’s triumphal barge.

Through pink and purple, the rippling opaline water in the Grand Basin
was losing its sunset hues, and paling, as the fairy boat passed on. The
gold of the statue of the Republic was turning to silver.  The figures
on the snowy palaces that faced the four sides of the lagoon still stood
white against the darkening background.  Angels poised on soft, strong
wings, seemed vivified as the day died.  Jack saw their beckoning hands
through a mist.  He heard the penetrating tones of their silver trumpets
through the lingering sweetness of a serenade that proceeded from a
distant pavilion.  Strange influences were about him, and he was glad
that no mortal friend stood by.

His father had worked and planned and striven for this.  Did he see the
result?  Could he know the success that had crowned the efforts of his
confreres?

Suddenly, across the spontaneous regret that sprang in Jack’s heart at
the realization of what Death had snatched from his loved one, came an
idea which was like a glimpse of new light.  Since such a miracle of
beauty as now lay about him was possible in this lower world, might it
not be indeed true—

Jack’s thoughts became confused.  They had followed so long and
yearningly out into that unknown country where his father had gone, and
about which he had never before troubled himself, that he had grasped
for his own consolation a belief that it was a reality; and now
something in this stately and beautiful place built with men’s hands
made him recall vaguely the Bible declaration:—

"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart
of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."

It was with reverence and a species of awe that Van Tassel gazed about
him.  The Court of Honor had given him his first approach to a
realization of the possibilities of the Celestial City.

Only gradually the details of his surroundings impressed him.  His boat
glided toward the Peristyle, and he began to notice that the water was
picturesque with gondolas, propelled by their bright-sashed oarsmen.

Beneath a massive arch he could look out upon the great lake, his lake,
his old playmate, now grown grandly alien as guardian of this mystical
city.  He knew every tone of its voice.  He had braved it in its stormy
strength, and gone to sleep at night to its lullaby.

Now its surf, breaking against the outer stones, appealed to his moved
heart in the song of a past gone forever, and he did not know whether
its proximity, the voice of this single friend in a place of strangers,
gave the crown of pain or of joy to his tender ecstasy.

And now the royal palaces so lavishly decorated with painting and
sculpture began to assume their further nightly decoration of jewels.
Tiny incandescent lights ran swiftly in diamond necklaces and diadems
about cornice and pediment of buildings, and glittered in long lines
close above the waters of the lagoon.  The crown of the Administration
dome shone out in immobile fire, while torches of flame, "yellow,
golden, glorious," flared across its façades.

Van Tassel had no well-meant descriptions of this view to contend
against.  No one had endeavored to prepare him for what he was to see.
To him these wonders were appearing for the first time; one after
another spontaneous, unexpected change of scene forming a _crescendo_ of
loveliness. More and more unreal grew the fairy spectacle. Less and less
did he try to realize the impossible fact that he was in a familiar
locality.

He left the boat mechanically because his quiet
fellow-passengers—figures also of a dream—did so; and when he paused
again, he was standing near a giant horse and plowboy near the water’s
edge.  Behind him stretched the spaces of lawn in front of the Liberal
Arts edifice, softly green in the rays of many arc-light moons.  He
gazed westward toward the Administration Building, before which three
great fountains played, and suddenly its regal jeweled dome became more
splendid in the surrounding darkness.  The cameos upon its surface shone
out clear-cut and white in the night. A moment thus, then the carving
disappeared, and again the electric jewels stood alone against the sky.
That magic, all-revealing light flitted to rest upon the great central
fountain where the Muses propelled the barge of Progress through
musically plashing waters; and while the erect figure in the chair of
state still looked proudly out into the night, all other brightness
faded. Even the jewels vanished.  The palaces stood dark and mysterious
beneath the stars.  All at once a light was thrown upon the group which
surmounted the Peristyle.

Columbus in his four-horse chariot shone white above the shadowy
columns, driving in from the broad waters toward distant, glowing,
advancing Columbia.

Van Tassel, spellbound, yielded still more to the mystery of the place
and hour, and a subdued murmur caused him to glance again westward. The
fountains which flanked the great barge on either side had ceased to
play, while a strange beam of light shot heavenward from either one. At
last at the foot of the beam a bright liquid bubbling began, which
seemed to gather strength, and at last leaped from both fountains high
in air. This vivid red changed to violet, to gold, to emerald, to molten
silver, breaking in brilliant showers and mists.  Apart from the lofty
middle jet in each one, circled low whirls of bright water with such
swiftness as to stand like sheaves of wheat placed in a ring about the
central cascade.

Van Tassel wished to have a fairer view of both fountains, and changed
his position to another side of the great horse.  Around him were other
shadowy beings whom he did not regard.  Near his new standpoint and
rather in his way was a woman seated.  He did not look to see upon what
she sat.  In his present state of mind he would have supposed it a
throne had he thought about it at all; but he did not think about it,
and the throne was in his way, so he unconsciously leaned slightly upon
it in his effort to see.

The figure in the chair turned her head.  "Did you find them?" she
asked, then added coldly, "Excuse me," and turned back again.

Van Tassel started like a somnambulist wakened from sleep.  Another
familiar voice had spoken to him out of the past.  At the same moment
the search light which had been upon the Quadriga sped to the angel
above the pediment of the Agricultural Building.  So light her poise, so
strong her wings, so beneficent her outstretched arms, it seemed
impossible in that mystical irradiation that she should not quit her
lightly touched support and float downward to waiting mortals.

A need for sympathy upsprang in Van Tassel’s heart.  Involuntarily he
spoke:—

"Is that not beautiful, Mildred?"

"Jack!"  The exclamation in amazed tones as the girl sat up alertly in
her wheeled chair.  "I was just wondering if you had come.  When did you
arrive?"

He took the hand she offered.  "I don’t know," he answered slowly.  "Do
you see that angel?"

"Indeed I do.  That is my angel."

"Our angel then.  Let me share it."

"You shall," replied the girl generously.  She waited a moment in
smiling silence; "but that isn’t our hand," she added at last.  "That is
mine.  Haven’t you had it a good while, considering it is a loan?"

"Have I?  Well," and Jack slowly released it.

"I am in dreamland, Mildred.  I am glad to meet you here, whether you
are a reality or not."

"Oh!  You remind me of those creepy shades in Vedder’s picture where one
asks the other who he is and the second answers shiverily that he
doesn’t know.  ’I only died last night,’ is what he was inconsiderate
enough to reply.  I have never forgiven him."

Jack stood at her side and leaned an arm on the back of her chair.

"This is a sort of No Man’s Land too," he answered, "and when it grows
dark here one feels that these marble creatures gain life.  See that
population on the Peristyle!  They belong here. We are only strangers."

"I see the spell of the White City is upon you, else you would certainly
express some surprise at finding me alone."

"It is only one of the good and wonderful things that have befallen me
to-night.  It seems perfectly natural.  I needed you, Mildred.  I needed
some tie to the time in which life was worth living to assure me that it
is so still, and that there is perhaps more use in it than there would
be in sinking into the opal water and dying rapturously in this
enchanted place."

"Why Jack, kindred spirit; you have it as severely as we have!"

The girl extended her gloved hand impetuously, and Van Tassel accepted
it with alacrity.

"Are you going to take it away again immediately?" he inquired, slowly
waking to the situation. "I was enjoying holding it before more than I
realized until I was bereft.  One must have sympathy in a place like
this."

"Oh I know it," she said, speaking hastily as she withdrew her hand and
looked over her shoulder apprehensively, "and I am afraid every second
that Mr. Ogden will come back.  When our party left Old Vienna, we
separated and promised to rendezvous by the plow-horses, _I_ thought,
but Mr. Ogden understood that it was to be at the Liberal Arts entrance,
and he has gone now to see if they are there.  My chair-boy is over
yonder resting his weary bones on the steps.  I never can endure to have
the poor things stand around any more than they have to."

"I trust the Liberal Arts entrance is a sufficiently ambiguous term to
detain our friend some time," returned Jack.  "Isn’t there some white
magic that could be practiced on him?  Of course no black art would be
possible here, but I must say I should have to come down by easy stages
before I could converse with Ogden to-night, and I don’t want to leave
you."

"I don’t want you to, either.  I—I especially don’t.  And I told Mr.
Ogden that if we met you here I should have to go with you—  Yes, I put
it that way, for I told him we expected you, and it wasn’t quite the
thing for me to come away; but of course I hadn’t the least idea we
_should_ meet you."

"And you told him that too, I suppose," remarked Jack dryly, all his
dreaminess departed. "You declared it would be your duty to go with me
if we did meet, but of course such a calamity for Ogden was improbable.
I know just how you put it.  Girls know how to smooth a man the right
way.  Now that we have met, and Ogden is out of the way, you tell me you
especially want me to remain with you, and don’t want him."

Mildred looked up at the speaker, and after a moment burst into a
mirthful laugh.

"Where is our angel?" she asked.

Jack glanced across the lagoon, but all was shadow save for the rosy
glow in the colonnade of the Agricultural Building.

"Vanished!" exclaimed Mildred.  "Frightened back by your naughty temper
just as she was about to fly down to us."

"I don’t like to think of you as the least bit of a coquette," said Van
Tassel.

"Then don’t.  It is extremely disrespectful. Oh, Mr. Ogden, you are back
again.  The unexpected always happens, you see, and truth is stranger
than fiction.  Here is Mr. Van Tassel, after all."

"Well, Jack."  The two men greeted each other, each endeavoring to
conceal his dissatisfaction. "It is possible to find a needle in the
haymow, then," said Ogden.  "Miss Bryant told me you were expected about
now.  Your first visit? What do you think of our little show?"

"Can’t say yet," returned Jack shortly.  "I am just going to see another
part of it."

"The fireworks, I suppose.  They will start, now the fountains have
stopped."

"Fireworks?  No!" exclaimed Van Tassel in genuine repugnance.  What
sacrilege for pyrotechnics to paint the lily!  His eyes fell upon a
revolving globe of light inside a window of the Electricity Building.
Its color changed with each revolution.  "I think I will wander over in
that direction," he said.

"The fireworks are always fine," remarked Mildred.  "Are you sure you
would not prefer to come to the lake shore and see them?  The
reflections in the water give beautiful effects."  As she spoke, the
girl left her wheeled-chair.

"Oh, don’t rise, Miss Bryant," begged Ogden hastily.  "I will find our
pusher.  The rest of the party did understand that we were to come to
the Liberal Arts entrance.  They will meet us at Baker’s Chocolate
House."

"Don’t let me detain you," said Van Tassel courteously.  The electric
jewels were again running in lines of light around the buildings.  Jack
could see the expression in Mildred’s face as she stood before him.

She waited a moment and Ogden stepped aside to find the guide.

"I don’t want to see a rocket go sputtering over this place," explained
Jack, for the girl’s eyes demanded something.

She gave a short laugh.  "You poor, provincial Bostonian," she remarked.
"Go your way; and when you discover what the fireworks of the White City
really are, perhaps your fastidiousness will not be shocked.  Certainly,
Mr. Ogden, I am ready.  _Au revoir_, Jack."

"Good-by, old fellow," said Ogden, as Mildred resumed her position in
the chair.  He was beaming again with relief from the apprehended loss
of Miss Bryant’s society.

Van Tassel moved away in the opposite direction from that they took: but
no amount of attempted concentration on his surroundings would restore
to him the dreamy delight of half an hour ago.  He saw continually the
reproach and surprise in Mildred’s eyes.

"What right had I to take her away from Ogden?" his thoughts protested.
"It was all nonsense for her to think that hospitality demanded it."

Then his reflections passed over from the indignant hazel eyes to Miss
Bryant’s cavalier.  The latter’s uneasy devotion had been apparent even
in the few phrases Jack had heard him say.  The eagerly bent head, the
short nervous laughs with which he interspersed his sentences told the
story: and instantly curiosity leaped up in Van Tassel’s heart as to
Mildred’s real sentiments toward her admirer.

She had said she especially wanted Jack not to leave her to-night.  What
did that mean?  Jack walked a little faster because he suddenly knew
that it was the fact that she had said that, coupled with Ogden’s
lover-like manner which had made him hold aloof.

He had made a point of giving Ogden his chance, and now he felt ashamed
of it.  Why should he have felt injured because Mildred had a lover?
Probably she had a dozen, and what wonder if she had?

He felt humiliated, and convicted of disloyalty. Milly Bryant had wanted
defense from something, and had appealed to him in vain.

Jack had passed along the side of the Electrical Building and crossed
the bridge to Wooded Island by this time, and, deciding to postpone
further exploration, determined to walk straight up through the Cornell
Avenue entrance and go home.  But as thousands of people, know to the
cost of their groaning muscles, getting on Wooded Island and getting off
it are two very different things.  Jack wandered about for some time
before he found another bridge, and when he did so, it led off to the
east, and his aimless walk brought him to the lake shore. Cannon-like
reports were sounding upon the air, and superb bombs bursting high above
the water broke into lavish showers of emeralds, rubies, and diamonds.
The shore was black with a watching multitude, and Van Tassel found
himself drawn to its outskirts to watch and wonder with the rest.
Volcanoes and serpents of flame, bouquets of a hundred rockets at once,
filled the night with brightness, paling the stars, and illuminating the
surging water; and when a succession of fiery white cascades slowly
unrolled their graceful curves and stood poised in air, showering a
light as of day upon the scene, Jack joined in the cheers that, with
whistles from a congregation of boats saluted the gorgeous spectacle.

"I’m a fool," he said, as he resumed his walk northward.  "I am sure
Mildred would have given me her hand again on that."



                             *CHAPTER XVI.*

                     *A MASSACHUSETTS CELEBRATION.*


"I see by the paper there’s some sort o’ doin’s at the Massachusetts
house to-day," observed Miss Berry to Clover, as the two stood in the
dining-room one morning after breakfast was over.

"A day when you ought to visit the Fair then, surely," replied her
companion.

"Why, yes.  I don’t know but I will," returned Miss Lovina ruminatively.

"And you ought to make an early start, Aunt Love.  You are not the only
loyal Yankee in town."

"Just so," said the housekeeper placidly.  "Mrs. Van Tassel, we must
have a chocolate puddin’ pretty soon.  Mr. Jack was fond o’ chocolate
from a child. I well remember"—

"Yes, I want to hear all about it some time; but you know how hard it is
for you to get an early start for the Fair.  Let me attend to your
department to-day, and you go down to the Massachusetts house and have a
good time."

"My dear, I shall get there in good season. Don’t you worry a mite.
Independence is won. The country’s safe and my bein’ on hand at just
such a minute don’t signify.  I’d rather go through my reg’lar routine.
I’m happier that way."

Thus it was that when Aunt Love stepped leisurely through the Cornell
Avenue turnstile, taking her way down between Kentucky and West Virginia
and around Pennsylvania’s edifice, she saw that the Massachusetts
Building was surrounded by a crowd.

"That’s clever," she murmured, in nowise disturbed by the evident fact
that she could not approach near enough to hear the speeches. "There’s
plenty o’ folks to show an interest."

The wreathed façade of New York’s palatial home rose beside her, and she
ascended the broad marble steps, passed through the hall, and out upon
the eastern porch.  A fountain plashed coolly in its centre, wicker
rocking-chairs stood about, dull blue portières were looped between its
pillars. Miss Berry was warm and tired from her walk. The chairs looked
inviting.  She sank into one of them, and listened to the lulling tone
of the fountain while she looked across the street at the more energetic
patriots or more curious idlers, who lined the way to the Hancock house
in the hope of seeing the dignitaries of the occasion pass in and out.

A fine band stationed in the yard of the mansion began to play
inspiringly.  As Miss Berry grew refreshed under the influence of the
silvery falling water and her comfortable chair, her anxiety to see and
hear increased.  Her point of view was unsatisfactory, and yet the idea
of joining the crowd of spectators was not attractive.

"I wonder if they’ll let you go upstairs in this grand, big place," she
pondered.  "One o’ those blue fellers’ll stop me quick enough if I
can’t. They know a good deal better what a body can’t do than what she
can."

Miss Berry might be excused for grumbling. She had made her acquaintance
with the Fair City at a date before the Columbian Guards had learned
their points of compass; and she would have to become lighter on her
feet before she could forgive them the unnecessary walking which their
blundering directions had caused her to perform.

She left the shady stone porch, and, passing through the spacious
apartment which led to the hall, began to ascend the stairs.  No one
protested, and she took courage to remark her surroundings.

"The New Yorkers seem to like any color so it’s red," she mused, noting
the Pompeian glow of the wall.  Of course a Massachusetts woman on this
day must not be uncritical of her neighbor’s efforts.

But when Miss Lovina entered the banquet hall she stood amazed.  Only
for a moment, however. It was an unrighteous place.  She felt it.  She
refused to be dazzled by its prismatic glass and its painted cherubs.
There was an unholy luxury, a theatrical suggestion about its velvet
boxes.  Miss Berry, looking straight before her, hastened swiftly as she
dared across its polished floor and through the light room beyond, out
upon an upper balcony which overlooked the festivities of her own
substantial and respectable State.

Yes, Miss Berry could breathe out here.  Coming from the seductive
shadow of the dim hall, the sunlight seemed doubly clear.  The heavenly
blue of the firmament bent above snowy and golden domes, flying flags,
and winding waterways, while the bewitching sparkle of Lake Michigan’s
electric blues and peacock greens seemed more vital as one listened to
the rhythmic harmonies poured forth on the summer air by the musicians
below.  It was a season of delight.  The whole atmosphere seemed charged
with gayety.

A man leaning his elbows on the rail of the balcony was thinking this
when Miss Lovina emerged from the doorway.  She glanced at him, then
glanced again, then gazed.

"Of course ’t ain’t him; but if it don’t look like him!" she mused.

The more she looked, the stronger grew the resemblance of that back to
one she knew.  The man was interested in the celebration over the way.
Why should she not stand beside him a minute?

Acting on the impulse, Aunt Love also leaned her arm on the rail, and
waited a second before stealing a furtive curious look at her neighbor’s
face.  Their eyes met.  In a moment both her hands were being shaken.

"For the land’s sake, Mr. Gorham!"

"Hurrah for us," he answered, laughing.  "To think that I should have
come unexpectedly upon this celebration and you.  What more could a
Bostonian ask?"

"You might ask to be in the Massachusetts house instead of over here in
Gotham."

"I fancy only invited guests go in there to-day; but at any rate I have
only just arrived, and this is a fine place for the general effect.  So
that is the old Hancock house."

"Yes.  I remember the real one very well."

"How well the grounds look.  I am anxious to get in.  You have visited
it, of course."

"Yes, I have.  I must say to you, Mr. Gorham, I had to laugh to see some
o’ the stuff they’ve put in a glass case over there.  I’ve got some
things in my attic in Pearfield they could have had and welcome."

"Perhaps they would have been glad of them," remarked Page.

Miss Berry laughed.  "I never thought before o’ puttin’ Aunt Jerushy’s
old calash under glass for a show," she said.  "It would ’a’ looked
simple to me; but there’s papers in one o’ the downstairs rooms that are
interestin’.  There’s no doubt about it.  It does make a body’s blood
boil to see the old superstitions down in black and white, and think o’
the past sufferin’s of innocent folks.  There’s one paper there makin’
out a case against some poor critter for havin’ dealin’s with the devil,
’way back in Salem times."

"I want to see everything in that house," returned Gorham, with
anticipatory relish.

"Well, give an account of yourself," said Miss Berry, after a moment’s
silence.  "Have you been to Mrs. Van Tassel’s?"

"No, not yet."

"But you are comin’, ain’t you?"

"To call, certainly."

"But you’ve been invited to stay?"

"Yes, I know; but I have taken a room at the Beach."

"Why, what’s that for?  Mrs. Van Tassel will think that’s queer."

"She will have guests enough without me."

"It is your Uncle Richard’s house," persisted Miss Berry.

"Yes, that is just the trouble," returned Page quietly.

Aunt Love sighed.  "Well, I was ’lottin’ on helpin’ to make you all
comfortable."

"I haven’t a doubt of it, you dear soul.  Be sure that only stern
principle drives me from under your wing, and please get me an
invitation to dinner soon, won’t you?  How is Jack?"

"He’s lively.  I heard ’em at breakfast talkin’ about all comin’ down to
the illumination tonight."

"I wonder if I might join the party."

"Of course.  Nobody knew you were comin’ out so soon."

"I didn’t expect it myself.  It was a sudden determination."

"They are goin’ to have their supper down here at six o’clock, I heard
’em say at breakfast, at the Marine—Caffy, I think they call it.  At any
rate I know the house first-rate; and if ’t wan’t for the Art Buildin’ I
could show it to you from here.  It’s brown, and that’s queer enough in
this place, and then it’s all covered with candle snuffers.  Just as
soon as I once sensed it that the Columbian Guards were put here to look
pretty and didn’t know where anything was, I made up my mind if I didn’t
learn the g’ography o’ the place I’d be a cripple; so I buckled down to
it and I’m most ready to stand an examination. Miss Bryant told me when
I first came down that if I’d just take the opposite direction to what a
Guard told me, I’d find myself all right; and that did work pretty well,
but it’s better yet to know your own way around and not have to make
calculations."

Page nodded smilingly.

"It does beat all," Aunt Love went on, "how when you’re at this north
end o’ the Fair, the Art Buildin’ is just across the street from
everything.  It does seem sometimes as if it hadn’t any end; and when
you once get into it.  My!"

"Yes, I suppose so," said Page, "but," he added with the courage of a
new-comer, "I propose to see all that’s in it; and speaking of
thoroughness, have you looked over this building?"

"I just glanced as I came along," replied Miss Berry cautiously.  "It’s
pretty worldly and glitterin’, just like the folks that built it.  That
hall in there with the slippery floor"—

"A ball-room, yes.  Let us go back and examine."

"Oh, it’s a ball-room, is it!" said Miss Berry, following the young man
back into the lofty apartment where sunlight sifting through caught in
the prismatic chandeliers and lay in rainbows on the floor.

They stood at the rope-guarded door of the dainty tea-room.  Page
pointed out to his companion the beauties of wreathed pillars and mural
decorations in the lofty hall, but he observed that the light of
suspicion still shone in her eyes.

"Let us try the roof, Aunt Love," he remarked. "You can see the Hancock
house again from there, and I’m sure you will be more comfortable."

"Oh, I know this is all elegant, Mr. Gorham, and it’s a great thing to
have such riches opened up for everybody to see.  Why, downstairs
there’s a gold piano, and velvet and silk curtains; but folks don’t want
to set their hearts on gold pianos and diamond chandeliers.  You ain’t
goin’ to take that elevator, are you?" she added, dropping her
virtuously impersonal tone for one of anxiety.

"Certainly.  You must have learned the importance of economizing steps
here."

"Better get lame from walkin’ than break your leg in a fallin’
elevator," remarked Miss Berry. "Accidents in the papers do scare a
body."  But she consented to run the risk, and soon was standing beside
Page in one of the square towers on the roof, with the Fair City spread
out around them.

"I suppose you have visited the Midway," remarked Page, looking over to
where the Ferris wheel revolved, slowly and steadily.

Miss Berry threw up both her hands.  "Yes, all I want to," she returned
sonorously.

"Don’t say that.  I expect you to pilot me to all the shows."

"You’ll be disappointed, then.  Civilization’s good enough for me.  If
I’d had a call to minister to naked savages, I s’pose I’d ’a’ been given
grace to conquer; but to listen to ’em yell, and see ’em dance, is a
mighty queer thing for Christians to seek for entertainment, it seems to
me.  If I could go into that Pleasance with plenty o’ hot water and
Castile soap, and some sensible clothes, and could help those poor
critters to a more godly way o’ livin’ that would be a different thing;
but when I want a good time I ain’t goin’ to try to get it bein’ trod on
by camels and yelled at by Turks, all the time smellin’ smells I don’t
know the name of and would be afraid to.  No, sir."

Page laughed.  Miss Berry looked as though Michigan’s breezes were
powerless to cool her.

"Perhaps the Midway Plaisance is an acquired taste," he said.  "You may
like it better, later."

"No, I’ve seen enough of it if I can’t be a missionary, but I’m glad all
the natives have got it warm at last, anyway."

"Which natives?"

"Oh, all those foreign folks.  They’re all natives of some place, I
s’pose, and they do say when ’t was rainy and cold and muddy they had a
forlorn time of it in the Pleasance."

"Yes; we used to read about it, and my brother Robert nicknamed the
street then the Mudway Nuisance.  We all laughed at the joke but Jack.
It is against Jack’s principles to jest at sacred things like Chicago
and her Fair.  I shall have to get him to show me the fine points of the
Midway. He won’t refuse me."

"No, indeed.  There’s plenty that like it.  The place gets more crowded
every day.  Why, Mr. Gorham," Miss Berry dropped her rather sad, musing
tone, and spoke feelingly.  "That Midway is just a representation of
matter, and this great White City is an emblem of mind.  In the Midway
it’s some dirty and all barbaric.  It deafens you with noise; the worst
folks in there are avaricious and bad, and the best are just children in
their ignorance, and when you’re feelin’ bewildered with the smells and
sounds and sights, always changin’ like one o’ these kaleidoscopes, and
when you come out o’ that mile-long babel where you’ve been elbowed and
cheated, you pass under a bridge—and all of a sudden you are in a great,
beautiful silence.  The angels on the Woman’s Buildin’ smile down and
bless you, and you know that in what seemed like one step, you’ve passed
out o’ darkness into light."  Aunt Love paused thoughtfully.  "It’s come
to me, Mr. Gorham, that perhaps dyin’ is goin’ to be somethin’ like
crossin’ the dividin’ line that separates the Midway from the White
City.  I’ve asked myself when I’ve passed under that bridge and felt the
difference down so deep, what did make it so strong?  ’T ain’t only the
quiet and the grandeur o’ those buildin’s compared with the fantastic
things you’ve left behind; I believe it’s just the fact that the makers
o’ the Fair believed in God and put Him and their enlightenment from Him
into what they did; and we feel it some like we’d feel an electric
shock."

Page nodded.  "You make me more interested than ever in my prospect of
sightseeing," he said. "Now I propose that you show me the way to that
café where you say the others will come this evening, and we will take
lunch together there.  Not a word of objection, Aunt Love.  This is a
great day.  United we stand, divided we fall.  Let us charge on the café
under the candle-snuffers."

The two friends descended to the street, and Page, submitting to Miss
Berry’s guidance, was led through the archway running beneath the
eastern corridor of the Art Building.  "I won’t attempt to take you
through the buildin’ itself," said Miss Berry, "’cause I know well
enough I shouldn’t get you through before the middle o’ the afternoon;
partly ’cause you’d stop to look at the statuary, and partly ’cause the
first thing I always do when I get in there is to lose myself. I’ve
thought, up to this summer, that I had a pretty good bump o’ locality;
but land! let me turn around in that place a few times and all those
signs, ’East Wall,’ ’North Wall,’ and the rest, don’t mean any more to
me than Greek would.  You’ll see how ’t is when you try it."

Page was only half listening.  He paused by the brink of the water,
fascinated by the sparkling, shining, noonday beauty before him.
Gondolas were stealing from beneath the bridges, and electric launches
passing and repassing silently and smoothly over the changing waves.

"We must get into one of those boats, Aunt Love," he said with
enthusiasm.

"You can’t sail to the restaurant.  That’s right over yonder," observed
Miss Berry practically, indicating with her parasol the many-towered
roof of the Marine Café.

Page sighed.  "Do what you like with me," he answered resignedly.  "I
can see already that the summer will be too short."

"If your breath ain’t, that’s all you need fret about," returned Miss
Lovina, as they started eastward, along the bank of the pond.  "Many’s
the time in the last weeks I’ve wished I only weighed one hundred.
Don’t those ducks and swans have it comfortable?"

Page watched the undulating motions of the pretty birds that eyed them
as they passed.

"No, I didn’t bring my lunch; hadn’t the least notion o’ stayin’,"
replied Miss Berry over her shoulder, to the graceful followers who soon
veered away, secure of dining sumptuously every day.

"These here steps," remarked Aunt Love, as she climbed up to Costa
Rica’s entrance and down on the other side, "do seem an awful
aggravation when you’re tired, which I ain’t now, of course.  There’s no
gettin’ out of ’em except by walkin’ all around Robin Hood’s barn."

Page found his companion surprisingly intelligent as to the names of the
buildings they passed lingeringly on the way to the café, and once
arrived at that haven, they proceeded to take a leisurely lunch, after
which Miss Berry allowed herself to be easily persuaded to ride around
the lagoon in an electric launch.

Page found so much to interest him in this initial trip, the quiet
gliding motion, cool air, and constantly stimulating panorama were so
charming, that he scarcely knew when to abandon this certain good for
one more doubtful.  At last, however, he and Miss Berry found themselves
roaming beneath the gilded towers of the Electricity Building. Miss
Lovina gazed benevolently and uncomprehendingly upon one and another
evidence of marvelous achievement, waiting patiently whenever Page
paused to examine and question.

"There’s one place here," she volunteered at last, "where I will say for
’em they’ve done a cute thing.  They’ve harnessed chain lightnin’ so it
pulls up and down a zigzag path just as tame as my cow’ll go to pasture.
Come and see it, Mr. Gorham."

So Page was piloted through the spectacular southeast portion of the
building, where color and movement thrilled through every phase of
intensity, from the steady glow of the living green pillars of the
Egyptian temple, to the various whirling globes and wheels, and the
racing bubbles of changing light which sped along their irregular
tracks.

"Ah, here are the telephones," remarked Page.

"Yes; do you know, Mr. Gorham, till I came to Chicago I’d never seen a
telephone?  I find folks don’t make anything of ’em here.  Mrs. Van
Tassel ain’t any more afraid of her telephone than she is of her sewin’
machine.  When I first came I used to jump a foot every time that sharp
little bell rung; but I made up my mind that I was havin’ advantages,
and that I wasn’t goin’ to slight ’em.  I made up my mind I was goin’ to
speak into that box, no matter how fast the chills traveled up my back,
and I did it; it makes me as weak as a kitten yet, but I just will be up
with the times I live in if I get a chance; and ain’t a telephone a
perfect wonder now?"

"It is, indeed, and they are improving them all the time.  I see there
is a long-distance telephone. How should you like to talk to New York?"

"I shouldn’t like to make a fool o’ myself that way or any other, Gorham
Page."

"But really, Aunt Love"—

"Save your breath, Mr. Gorham.  I know this buildin’s full o’ queer
doin’s and it’s a good place to play jokes on a body, but there’s limits
to even a greenhorn’s credulity."

"I was never more in earnest, I assure you.  It is possible to talk to
New York."

Miss Berry regarded her companion severely. "Then it’s blasphemous.
That’s all I’ve got to say."

"Why, I don’t see that."

"Do you s’pose the Lord would have put New York a thousand miles away
from Chicago if he’d expected ’em to talk to each other?"

Page laughed.  "I never thought of that before as a reason for the
antagonism between the two cities.  Nonsense, Aunt Love; the world
moves, and you must move with it.  You shall speak to New York and be
proud of yourself ever afterward. You know it is to be expected that
science will do everything possible toward annihilating space."

Page ascended the steps toward a silk-curtained cabinet; a uniformed boy
opened its glass door.

After remaining in the closet a minute and speaking a few sentences into
the telephone, he beckoned to Miss Berry who had remained standing at
the foot of the steps looking very apprehensive.

"Now, Aunt Love," he said encouragingly, as she slowly approached, a
do-or-die expression on her face.  Had Miss Berry been of the Romish
church instead of being a "Con’regationalist in good and regular
standing," she would assuredly have crossed herself before entering that
tasteful little apartment.

Page smiled into his mustache as he placed the receiver in her hand,
fervently wishing that he might hear both sides of the impending
dialogue.

"Mr. Gorham," said Miss Berry, addressing him over her shoulder
impressively, "think of the miles, the hours, I traveled; the rivers and
lakes I crossed; the mountains I tunneled"—

"Yes, yes, Aunt Love; but don’t keep our New York friend waiting."

"I feel prickly, Gorham.  I think I’m goin’ to faint."

"Oh no, you’re not.  Just say Hello," returned Page cheerily, his eyes
twinkling.

"Hello," quavered Miss Lovina, and promptly the answer came:—

_New York_.  Is this Miss Berry?

_Miss Berry_.  How did you know my name?

_New York_.  A gentleman just told me to expect you.  I am happy to meet
you, or to hear you, all the way from New York.

_Miss Berry_.  Go away!

_New York_.  Aren’t you a little unreasonable, madam?  I’m a good way
off already.

_Miss Berry_.  How am I to be sure you ain’t in the next room, sir?

_New York_.  Do you hear me so distinctly?

_Miss Berry_.  It is the most wonderful thing in the world if you are
real.

_New York_.  Oh, I am real, I assure you, madam.  I see you have been
making trips to the Midway, and your confidence in human nature is
shaken.

_Miss Berry_.  You’re just right there.  I should like to talk to you
about the Midway.  Have you been to the Fair yet?

_New York_.  No; and alas, I’m afraid I’m not coming; but if I do, I’m
going to the Midway the first thing.

_Miss Berry_.  Now, young man, you just stand there a minute, and I’ll
convince you—"Hey?" for Gorham was pulling her sleeve.

"There are some more people waiting to speak, Aunt Love."

"What?  Oh," Miss Berry looked dazed, relinquished the receiver, and
moved like a somnambulist out of the cabinet.

"You might have said good-by to your new friend," suggested Page.

"Mr. Gorham, tell me," spoke Aunt Love beseechingly.  "If I was ever
good to you, if you ever liked my cookies, tell me the truth.  Was that
all hocus-pocus, or was it genuine?"

"Why, it was genuine, Aunt Love.  It is done every day in business."

"Well," Miss Berry stepped off energetically. "All is, then, I’ve capped
the climax o’ my life. I don’t calc’late to ever call anything wonderful
again."

But she did.  Page took her upstairs to the gallery where a door opened
by magic when her foot touched the threshold; where the tel-autograph
reproduced a writer’s chirography while transmitting his thoughts; where
a metal rod, passing along a person’s spine, caused blue flames to leap
forth, crackling and spitting in Mephistophelean fashion, a cure which
Miss Berry thought worse than any known disease.  She saw there, too,
the smallest steam-engine in the world, reposing its miniature
perfection in a walnut shell, and displaying its exquisite mechanism
only beneath a magnifying glass.

But the cooking of food and the hatching of chickens by electricity
appealed to Aunt Love so engrossingly that, after repeated vain efforts
to woo her away from both these attractions, Page finally took his leave
of her there, and his parting view showed Miss Berry gazing through the
side of an incubator where chicks were in every stage of existence, from
the first thrust of a yellow beak through the eggshell, to the freed and
bedraggled little wretch whose sole aim in life seemed to be to half hop
and half tumble across the incubator until its wet body rested directly
upon an incandescent light.  These eventful journeys, with their
apparently suicidal goal, so absorbed Miss Berry that she could do
little more than wave her hand after Page as he set briskly off for
pastures new.



                            *CHAPTER XVII.*

                           *THE BRONZE BABY.*


Somebody says that we only really live when we do not know that time is
passing.  If that be true, Miss Berry lived intensely during the period
she passed in the gallery of the Electricity Building that afternoon.

"I wonder how late it is!" she asked herself at last with a start.  "The
folks’ll think I’m lost. I must hurry home directly."

But she sighed as she said it.  To "hurry home" from this city of
magnificent distances was but a form of words.

"If I could only borrow the wings off ’n some o’ those angels!" she
murmured as she hastened down the nearest flight of stairs; but doubtful
as she was of the lateness of the hour, she could not keep her mind from
straying back to the strange scenes in the miniature world she had been
watching.  Next the incubator had been a little sandy inclosure in the
midst of which stood a small curtained house where the young chickens
could be brooded at will, and across whose front ran the defiant legend,
"Who cares for mother now!"

"I wonder how soon electricity’ll take the place o’ folks," she mused.
"Seems if ’t won’t take long. Yes, yes," she went on in answer to a
faint peeping that came from beneath her wrap, "we’ll get home some time
to-night," and she hurried faster still, a pleased smile breaking over
her face; for Aunt Love was not alone.  She had at the present moment
one of those emancipated chicks in a pasteboard box pressed to her side.

"I believe I’ll take the Internal Road, and then the cars," she said to
herself.  "There’ll be an awful crowd at Sixtieth Street, but I can
stand consid’able squeezin’.  I know I’m late."

She was late.  Not that it mattered.  She was to dine in solitary state
that evening in any case; but she had meant to reach the house in time
to carry the information of Mr. Page’s arrival and his plan to meet his
friends; and in this she was disappointed.  Only Blitzen was left at
home to give her his customary boisterous greeting, and she had before
her the difficult task of explaining and introducing to him her ball of
yellow fluff and impressing its sacredness upon his volatile mind.

Jack was the first to arrive at the rendezvous that evening, and to his
satisfaction Mildred was second.  She sauntered up to the steps
accompanied by a young army officer at whom Jack stared down from his
post on the balcony.  He had, however, sufficient self-control to
swallow his discontent.  Mildred had somehow taught him this
self-control in the short space of a week, and he managed to walk to
meet her with an air of nonchalance suited to that with which she slowly
mounted the steps after dismissing her escort.

"Who is the military?" he asked lightly.

"A cousin of Helen Eames.  He has been showing us over the Battle Ship."

"Indeed?  I was there this afternoon too."

"Were you?  It is awfully stuffy down below in that museum, isn’t it?
Our party was glad to retreat to a private room and have a sherry
cobbler.  Everything is beginning to be crowded now."

"What interests me," said Jack, placing a chair by one of the tables for
Mildred as he spoke, "is to know how soon you are going to give me a
day."

"Oh, any time," returned the girl as she seated herself.

"Any time!  That is what you always say, but when I try to pin you down
you slip away."

"Wouldn’t anybody?" smiled the other.  There was something about the
curves at the corners of Mildred’s upper lip and its downward dip in the
middle that made her smile more provoking than other girls’.

"There!  You are slipping away again."

"No, indeed.  I am far too tired and this is too comfortable."

"You have had an engagement every day since I have been here.  You can’t
deny it.  What sort of a way is that to treat a guest?"

"You aren’t my guest, you are Clover’s."

"Clover is a daisy and always was," exclaimed Jack, regardless of
paradox.  "She is the sweetest girl in the world."

"Of course," returned Mildred, raising a glass of water to her lips as
coolly as though she liked this.

"I ought to have gone with you that first evening," said Van Tassel
gloomily.

Mildred set down her glass and looked at the speaker with an
unfathomable expression as she spoke slowly:—

    "’There is a tide in the affairs of men
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to’"—


"Would it, Mildred?" Jack broke in with a sort of earnest excitement.
"Would it have led on to fortune?"

The girl colored under the glowing gaze.

"If I had gone with you, would you have had fewer engagements and more
time for me since then?"

"How can I tell?" she returned, with a low laugh of enjoyment.  Jack was
fairly dramatic. He was really entertaining.

"I didn’t know exactly what my feeling was then; but I knew afterward,"
he went on.  "Ogden wasn’t any part of our past.  I didn’t want to share
you with him that night."

"He didn’t want to share me with you either, so you were both
satisfied," returned Mildred demurely.

"Was he satisfied?" asked Van Tassel savagely. "Methinks not.  I notice
that whatever your engagements have been this week, he has not been in
them."

"How observing you are!"

"Yes.  He is done for.  It would be interesting to know how many scalps
that makes, Mildred."

"Look here, Jack," the girl was not smiling, and her eyes darkened as
she met his; "if you will practice conservation of energy now, I will
give you a capital opportunity to air your talents in amateur
theatricals next winter.  You are the very man we have been looking
for."

"Can I make love to you?"

"That depends on your versatility."

"Or my patience in standing in line.  I’ve been standing in line all the
week.  Don’t you think it is about time I got there?"

"What do you call this?" Mildred gave him a tantalizing glance from
under her half-dropped lids.  "I arrive early at the rendezvous.  We sit
_tête-à-tête_, and how do you make use of the time?"

Color flashed all over Jack’s face.

"I am a fool," he agreed.

"That must be why you always speak the truth so indiscreetly.  I never
thought of that as the reason, really.  Now let us decide what to order
before Clover comes.  What can make her so late?"

The fact was that Clover, wanting to stop a minute to look at some
pieces of old china and silver in the Louisiana house, had had the usual
curious experience in World’s Fair minutes.  In a city of enchantment,
how could it be expected that sixty seconds should be of the
conventional length? She had set aside plenty of time also just to walk
through the middle of the Art Building; and as every woman knows, it was
always impossible to pass so near "The Young Athlete" without pausing,
if but for a brief acknowledgment.

Gorham Page had just been admiring the bronze, and had stepped aside to
look at the photographs on a neighboring table when Clover advanced.  He
was short-sighted, and she wore an Eton suit and a sailor hat, the garb
of ninety-nine out of every hundred women in the summer of ’93; but he
knew her at once, and paused.  After a moment’s watching he approached
her.

She colored faintly with surprise as she returned his greeting.

"The subtle differences in the nature of man and woman are more
interesting than the obvious ones," he said.

"What are you leading up to now?" she asked. "I expected your first
words to be an explanation or an apology, or both.  How does it happen
that this is the place where we first meet?"

"You were very, very kind, Mrs. Van Tassel, and I hope I assured you of
my appreciation in my letter; but I found I could get a room at the
hotel near you, and then affairs taking a favorable turn I left Boston
suddenly, and none too soon; none too soon; I have been here all day.
How stupendous it is!  You are on your way to the Marine Café.  May I go
with you?"

"Oh, you have seen Jack, or my sister."

"No."

"Then how comes it that you are so well informed?"

"Happily for me, I ran across Aunt Love."

"Oh, that explains her prolonged absence perhaps. Usually it is hard for
us to persuade her to spend a whole day down here.  We must hurry a
little, I think."  Clover laughed.  "Hurrying is the normal condition of
people who try to keep appointments at the Fair."

They threaded their way amid groups and figures in plaster and marble,
and emerged from the southern entrance.

"What I started to speak of when I first met you was the contrast of a
man’s and woman’s way of approaching that bronze," said Page.  "I went
up to it and especially noticed the muscles and veins of the man’s hand
and the truthful way the fingers sink into the flesh of the baby it
supports. You approached it and took hold of the baby’s hand and patted
his leg.  Now why didn’t I want to pat that little fellow’s fat leg?"

"I give it up," laughed Clover.  "I can only say you had very poor
taste."

"No, there is a deep reason for the difference. Of course it is a
woman’s nature to pet a baby."

"What a deep discovery!  I congratulate you on the result of your
explorations.  Do you think you shall write a book about it?"

"I amuse you, Mrs. Van Tassel."

"Yes, you do, I won’t deny it."  Clover was a trifle ashamed of having
been caught in her loving ebullition toward the soft bronze, and was
willing to laugh it away.

"Still it is interesting," Page went on musingly, "to observe how
affection is outward with women and inward with men."

"That doesn’t sound complimentary to us, Mr. Page. I hope you mean
well."

Gorham’s pensive eyes met her merry ones.  "Yes. I revere the wise
arrangement by which it takes a man and a woman to make one complete
being; and the more I observe and understand refined human nature, the
more I think I see the possibilities, and what it was intended that
marriage should be.  You are a good walker, Mrs. Van Tassel."

"Yes; I am thinking how impatient Mildred and Jack will be with me.  I
will give you a subject for your analytical mind.  Make a record of the
broken appointments at the World’s Fair and discover the reasons for
them.  You would have a psychological study of absorbing interest."

"All phases of human nature are interesting."

"Even that where vials of righteous wrath are poured out upon you for
delinquency when you know you haven’t any defense to offer?  You are my
defense this time."

"What do you want me to say?"

"Oh, I wouldn’t trust you to say anything.  I am morally certain that
you would tell the truth."

"That isn’t so very damaging, is it?"

"Why, certainly.  You would tell them that I stopped to make love to the
bronze baby; and if Mildred heard that, hungry as she is by this time,
you would soon have to formulate exceptions to your rule that women are
all affection outwardly. By the way, what a fortunate experience yours
must have been."

Page smiled philosophically, and looked approvingly at his light-footed
companion.

They arrived at the café shortly after Mildred had directed her
companion’s attention to the menu, and the apparition of the unexpected
guest entirely diverted from Clover any comment upon her tardiness.

The cordiality of his welcome pleased Page. He could not know the reason
for the nervous energy of his cousin’s greeting.  The four sat for an
hour at table and then took their way by boat to the Court of Honor,
where they remained in the launch during the playing of the fountains.
Clover, sitting next Page, watched his attitude toward this first view
of the evening’s spectacle with some curiosity.

He caught her amused gaze once as it rested upon him.

"Sumptuous!  Delicate!  Wonderful!" he said, breaking a long, absorbed
silence.

"What?" returned Clover.  "But you haven’t suggested yet going down
beneath the electric fountains to find out the why and the how of it
all; and I am sure you will not rest until you have been on the roof of
the Manufactures Building and made friends with the man who manipulates
the search light."

"No."  Page smiled vaguely and shook his head. "I do not want to go
behind the scenes."

"Then the Court of Honor is a wonderful place," said Clover.

"Poetical!  Marvelous!" gasped Page.

A gondola decked with soft lanterns stole by. One gondolier swept his
oar lazily through the water, the other stood with his hand caught in
his bright sash, and poured forth the "_Dammi encor_" from "Faust" with
true musical intensity.

Again Clover and Page looked into one another’s eyes, but there was no
badinage this time in her glance.  It was a place of dreams.  Showers of
golden mist fell beneath the stars.  The massive buildings softened away
into distant shadowy suggestion.  The sculptors’ creations shone out
thrillingly.

In heavenly beauty stood the Agricultural Hall with its foreground of
gleaming water, the pure white of its columns defined against the
tempered rose-color of its inner wall,—a vision glowing and pure; as far
above its sister palaces in beauty as its use was set apart from theirs;
for here were displayed the works of God rather than the imperfect
marvels of man’s handiwork.

Amid the majestic splendor of the night rolled the passionate appeal of
the gondoliers’ love-song, become an impersonal voice now as the boats
drifted apart.  Little wonder that Page forgot to be abstractly
analytical, and that the soft spontaneous sympathy of his companion’s
eyes exercised enchantment borrowed from the environment.  He smiled
upon her with a bright tenderness which transfigured his thoughtful
face.

For a long time they were silent, but when he gave her his hand as she
stepped from the launch, he spoke out of the depths of his enjoyment:—

"That was a never-to-be-forgotten experience for me."

"I think no one ever forgets his first evening in the Court of Honor,"
returned Clover.

"Well, what are we going to do now?" asked Mildred, as they ascended the
steps.  "My!  How the wind has sprung up from the lake.  They will
hardly dare to have the fireworks."

"Then let us take a brisk constitutional home," proposed Jack.

"Come, children.  Follow your leader," commanded Mildred, turning and
addressing Clover and her companion.

"Hurry her by the chocolate houses, Jack," said Clover; "that is, if you
can."

"He can’t," returned Mildred.  "I have my eye on Baker’s now."

She insisted that they all stop and partake of the cup, more potent than
tea to cheer when the east wind blows, served by the pretty, uniformed
girls, who by this time in the evening were inclined to be pessimistic
and severe, small blame to them.  They must easily believe that the
human body is largely liquid.

Leaving the little circular temple, the quartette started up the lake
shore on the stone walk.  The dark waves were tumbling and dashing,
tipped with foam in the sudden gale.  The battle-ship and large
excursion boats were gay with electric lights.

"Oh, Mrs. Van Tassel!" exclaimed Page.  "See the search light on the
Quadriga."  They turned to view the group with its mounted heralds and
champing, prancing horses, distinct and unearthly fair in the
surrounding blackness.

"Could we walk home backward, do you think?" he asked.

"No," replied Clover.  "I can answer with certainty, for I’ve tried it
more than once."

"I suppose we do in course of time get past the Manufactures Building?
What an incomprehensible, colossal thing it is."

"Yes, a good deal more so to me now than it was a month ago."

"Have mercy!" exclaimed Page with a groan.

Mildred and Jack were walking in front of them.

"Isn’t this like old times, Mildred?" asked the latter with a relish,
clapping his hat on tighter as the sweep of the wind threatened it.

"Just about as unlike as we could imagine. Sorry to disagree with you,
Jack."

"Don’t mention it.  You don’t disagree with me, my child.  I have
enjoyed this first evening with you immensely."

"First evening is pretty good, isn’t it?" suggested the girl, and they
both laughed.  "You didn’t use to quarrel for my society," she added.

"I want you to understand that I wasn’t quarreling with you there, a few
hours back, at the Marine Café."

"Oh!"

"No, I was merely making the excusable protest of an old
friend,—speaking in a brotherly way, you know."

"Oh, it won’t do, Jack."  He knew exactly how she was smiling in the
darkness.  "It is my unalterable rule never to be a sister to any of
them. I can’t break over it for you."

"Them!" ejaculated her companion.  "I don’t thank you to class me with
Tom, Dick, and Harry, and the rest of these late arrivals.  Remember, I
was the first-comer into your friendship."

"You were a pretty good sort of fellow."

"Yes; you probably can’t conceive of what a healing thought it is to me
now that I have snubbed you many a time, young lady.  I had to. Your
attentions were so persistent in those days. Yes, mademoiselle, I had to
hold you off, or I should never have had any peace of my life.  I
remember it well.  Perhaps you don’t."

"Oh yes, I do, perfectly," sighed Mildred. "Wasn’t the Flirt the
stanchest little dear that ever spread a sail; and to think that is all
over! I don’t feel nearly so much elation over going with Mr. Eames on
that yacht party to-morrow as I used to in nagging you into consent that
I should sail the Flirt."

"Is that the infantry officer?"

"Yes; and he is very nice.  I should like you to meet him.  If I knew
him a little better I would have procured you an invitation.  You should
remember that virtue is its own reward.  If you had not preferred
smoking in the hammock to coming into the parlor and making yourself
agreeable the other evening when Helen Eames and her mother were
calling, they would surely have asked you to join the party.  ’If you
would be loved, be lovely.’  That is what my mother used to tell me."
Mildred laughed to herself.

"Then why don’t you obey her?" returned Jack curtly.

"I don’t want to be loved," returned the spoiled girl.  "I’m loved too
much already."

After this they marched in silence for a time, their springy steps
carrying them by the foreign buildings, Ceylon, France with its green,
fountain-sprayed court, Spain, and Germany.  It was not until they
turned beside Iowa’s pavilion and left behind them the waves dashing on
the sea-wall that Mildred spoke again.

"It gives me the blues, Jack, every time I see our boathouse stranded
high and dry behind that nightmare of a Spectatorium."

"I don’t see how you can call anything dry that is as full of beer as
that is."

"Oh," exclaimed the girl indignantly, "what a fall from its old estate!
To think of our playhouse being turned into a saloon!  Do you remember
the dance it was christened with?  I was allowed to go, and you made me
perfectly happy by waltzing with me once."

"Humph!" returned the other.  "And now it is a great question whether
you would make me perfectly happy by waltzing with me once."

"Oh, Jack," Mildred laughed out now, "don’t be cross.  Don’t grudge a
girl her ’little brief authority.’  My observation of life has taught me
that her queenship is brief enough.  She blossoms out of awkward
childhood into an attractive womanhood, and then after a little space
yields up her sweet liberty to some lord of creation whom she has to
pacify and wait on ever afterward. Moral: Let her keep her authority as
long as possible."

"You seem to have been rather unfortunate in your married masculine
acquaintance," returned Van Tassel drily.

A sudden thought sent the color flying to Mildred’s face, and her
customary complacent poise was shaken.

"There was one exception," she said, so timidly and meekly that her
companion was struck by the change; but she had not the courage to be
more specific, and there was no need.  Jack understood her.

When the four reached home they found Miss Berry in the sitting-room
reading by the light of a lamp.

Blitzen was sitting on a rug, and did not, as usual, run to meet them.
On a chair reposed a bird-cage with some white stuff in it.

"What is this, Aunt Love?" asked Clover. "Have you some new pets?"

"I’ve got one," returned Miss Berry, smiling placidly.  "I’ll give you
all three guesses.  It’s a World’s Fair souvenir."

"Tell us, Blitzen," said Mildred, kneeling on the rug beside the small
dog and shaking his tousled head; but Blitzen, as soon as he could free
himself, withdrew in unwonted dignity.  Evidently there was that within
him to-night which could not brook flippancy.

"A live souvenir?" asked Clover, perplexed.

"Mr. Gorham can guess," remarked Miss Lovina, glancing again down the
columns of her newspaper, and shaking in a comfortable silent laugh.

"I?" said Page; then, after a moment’s cogitation, "You surely didn’t
bring home one of those chickens?"

"I did.  In that cage, my dears, there is an electric chicken."  Miss
Berry looked over her spectacles impressively.  "The same power that
runs the inter-internal railroad and shines in the rainbow fountains,
don’t disdain to hatch a chicken.  If you doubt it, there’s the
chicken."

She gestured toward the bird-cage.

"I brought it home in a box; and I said to myself that most everybody
had an old cage, so I went up garret, and there I found that one.  On
Blitzen’s account I thought best to use a cage to-night."  Her gaze
descended on the terrier, whose head descended beneath it.

"Blitzen," asked Jack with deliberate, stern solemnity, "what do you
think of the chicken?"

Blitzen rose with a crushed air, and slowly, as one who would not
attract attention, crept across the room and retired under a remote
sofa.

A shout of laughter followed his unostentatious disappearance.

"We’ve had some words," explained Aunt Love.  "He barked cruel at the
poor little thing when he first saw me with it."

"Have it out, have the chicken out," said Mildred; and Miss Berry,
yielding to the general urgency, produced her prize from the depths of
the cotton wool.  It began to struggle and peep vigorously as soon as
its beady eyes saw the light, and there came a muffled howl from under
the sofa.

"What are you going to name it?" asked Clover.

"I don’t know what name would be good enough for such a smart critter."

"Why, Electra, of course," remarked Jack. "Nothing less for such a star
among chickens."

"Sounds well and suitable," observed Miss Berry placidly, "whether it
means anything or not."

"I wonder if it has any unusual springs," said Mildred.  "If I should
touch the button do you suppose it would give us a rest?" She advanced a
finger toward one of the bright eyes, but Miss Berry removed her
squeaking prize from harm, and tucked it away again in the cotton from
which it struggled several times before finally settling down with a
diminuendo of peeps.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII.*

                         *CLOVER’S DIPLOMACY.*


Mr. and Mrs. Page arrived duly, even a little earlier than they had at
first anticipated.  Jack met them at the station and drove with them to
their destination.

"You see it was simply impossible, Mrs. Van Tassel, for my wife to curb
her impatience after Gorham began to write home," said Mr. Page to his
hostess in explanation of their change of plan. "Gorham doesn’t very
often gush, as perhaps you know."

"And I assure you that Mr. Page was not difficult to persuade," added
Hilda.  "Your last kind letter determined us.  And I am really in
Chicago!" she went on, looking about her.  "Jack, congratulate me!"

"I do, sincerely.  I think you, Hilda, will appreciate your advantages."

Mr. Page gave his contagious, quiet chuckle. "That is the way he goes
on," he said, turning to Mildred.  "Jack is very severe on me always.  I
am going to show you, Miss Bryant, several lists of adjectives,
carefully prepared, very carefully and thoughtfully, one for every day
in the week, that I am intending to use on the World’s Fair to mollify
my cousin."

"You might have trusted safely to the inspiration of the moment,"
returned Mildred gayly.

"Oh, you don’t know Jack.  One single false move, one expletive out of
place, and it would be all over with me."

"Poor Robert, I feel for you," remarked Van Tassel.

"Why, that is mysterious," replied his cousin. "Anybody who
compassionates me just now doesn’t understand economizing his emotions."
The speaker sank back in his roomy wicker chair and took a glass of
lemonade from a salver which Miss Berry was passing to the company.  The
crushed ice jingled pleasantly against the crystal, and the couple of
straws that emerged from each glass were alluring to a stout and thirsty
man.  "Aunt Love, it is very pleasant to see you here," he added. "We
shall have to renew our old acquaintance. We had no time in Boston."

"That’s so, Mr. Page.  I guess I can jog your memory about a good many
things."

When later the husband and wife were shown to their own room and the
door was closed, Robert looked at Hilda with large eyes.  "Whew!" he
said softly.  "Uncle Richard was all right.  What pretty women!"

"I told you so.  I told you that Mildred was a perfect Juno, and that
you were very unfortunate to be out of town when she spent that week
with me at the beach.  As for Mrs. Van Tassel"—

"Why, she’s an angel,—she’s an angel!  I knew it from her letter.  I
felt it in my bones."

"As if you knew anything about your bones, you dear old cushion.  Stop
praising those girls,—calling one a goddess and one an angel.  Come and
apostrophize the lake.  Isn’t it beautiful?"

"It was you who called Miss Bryant a goddess, remember.  Yes, this is
every bit as good as the ocean, for all I see," walking to the window
and putting an arm around his wife’s waist.  "We are in great luck,
Hilda," continued Page, glancing about their spacious room.  "This isn’t
much like the discomforts we read about in connection with World’s Fair
visiting.  I don’t wonder," he added after a pause, "that Jack was cut
up by being at cross purposes with those girls."

"H’m.  There is one exhibit I have come out here to see that isn’t
inside the White City," returned Hilda.  "I’ve come to discover which
one of them Jack is in love with."

"Both, of course.  How can he help it?" replied her husband promptly.

Gorham took it upon himself to launch his brother and sister on their
Fair pilgrimage that very evening.

When they came home again, hours later, Clover and Jack were sitting
alone in the parlor and rose to meet them as they entered the room.
Their tired, excited faces were a study.

Hilda dropped into a chair.  "Well," she exclaimed, "I never expected to
go to heaven till I died; but I’ve been there."

"Jack," added Robert meekly, "get in your fine work now.  I’ve nothing
to say, absolutely nothing.  I’ve dropped my jaw so often since six
o’clock that it isn’t in working order, any way."

"Say no more," returned Van Tassel, waving his hand grandiloquently.
"We Chicagoans are nothing if not magnanimous."

"I thought I knew what I was going to see, that is the queer part of
it," said Page, looking perplexed; "but it seems I didn’t know anything
at all about it.  I feel there is an unlimited feast in store for me,
Mrs. Van Tassel."

Clover smiled at his enthusiastic tone.  "You are in the first-day frame
of mind, I see."

"What is that?"

"Oh, eagerness and hopefulness."

"And what is the second?"

"Despair; yes, overwhelming, stony despair."

"What is the third?  Suicidal tendency?"

"No indeed.  Resignation.  At first one expects and determines to see
everything; soon finds that to be so impossible that he yields to his
bewilderment, and at last accepts the inevitable and sets himself to see
what he can, and be rapturously content therewith."

"Thank you, thank you!  Forewarned, forearmed. Perhaps we may even skip
the second stage."

A few days later, Clover, her guests having scattered on various quests,
went to the noon orchestral concert in Festival Hall.  This wonderfully
generous free exhibit attracted a large audience, many of whom embraced
it as an opportunity to rest from the fatigues of sight-seeing, while
many others, coming perhaps from the country where "hearing a band" was
a rare privilege, were drawn thither by the hope of attractive music.

Possibly one half the number came intelligently to the feast, and
greeted the conductor when he entered upon the stage.  Clover joined in
the applause as Theodore Thomas passed before his players with that
quiet, characteristic grace, which has power to thrill with anticipation
a greater number of America’s music-lovers than the movement of any
other man.

It interested her as it had many a time before, this summer, to note the
effect upon certain of the audience of the number with which the
programme opened.  She saw pleased hopefulness give way to apathy in
many faces, as strange harmonies and dissonances fell upon uncultivated
ears.  She noticed one patient-faced countryman who waited through two
numbers, evidently discovering nothing but a wilderness of sound.  He
then examined his programme, and not finding "After the Ball" on it,
arose and departed from the hall more in sorrow than anger.

Blessings on the man, by the way, who introduced the noiseless paper on
which those programmes were printed.  There were two girls sitting next
to Clover, chewing gum while they listened for some melody they could
recognize, and Clover congratulated herself that all the foldings and
drummings of their programmes were inaudible; but alas, as soon as the
maidens discovered that the music they were hearing was unworthy the
name, they cheerfully set about doing the next best thing, which was to
prepare for the afternoon’s campaign. This was a free concert anyway, so
no matter if it wasn’t worth much.  They would not leave at once,
because this was a better place to rest than they would be likely to
find soon again; so they unfolded their maps of the grounds, not printed
on absorbent paper, far from it, and proceeded to discuss their plans.

Clover caught sight of Jack standing across the hall.  He discovered her
at the same moment. His concentrated look flashed into a smile as they
exchanged nods.

At the close of the number he came around to where Clover sat in the
front row of the circle, and leaned his arm on the railing in front of
her.

"How handsome Jack can look, when he is happy and interested," she
thought, and instantly became aware that her neighbors had ceased their
planning, and were nudging each other in silent absorption.

"Wasn’t that great!" he exclaimed.  "Are you going over to the Music
Hall this afternoon?"

"Indeed I am.  They are going to play the Tschaikowsky Symphony."

"That settles it.  Suppose we go up in the wheel after lunch, and then
go over to the concert together."

"All right.  I’d like to.  Why, there is Mildred on the left, down there
near the front.  I didn’t know she was coming."

"Nor I.  Shall I go and speak to her?"

In a minute Jack was back, just as the music began again.  The girls who
had constituted the thorn in Clover’s side during the first half of the
programme had left their seats as soon as he moved away, so he came in
and took the place beside Clover.

"Mildred says she will go with us," he whispered.

When the Intermezzo was finished, Clover spoke.

"Did you ask Mildred to join us?" she asked.

"No, she proposed it," returned Jack, and there was a pleasure in his
eyes which did not escape his companion.

"You mentioned last night in our talk that you hadn’t seen much of
Mildred since you came; that she was too much of a belle for your
comfort."

"Yes.  It is simply surprising to find her here alone."

Clover’s eyes twinkled.  She had mentioned to her sister, this morning,
that she meant to meet Jack at the noon concert.

"Well, you leave her to me.  No matter what I say, don’t contradict me.
Promise?"

"What’s up?" asked Van Tassel doubtfully.

"Oh, Mildred’s conceit and a few other things that ought to come down.
I want you to myself a part of the time, Jack."

Her companion met her laughing glance.

"I am yours to command, Clover, always."

"Don’t forget, then," she answered.

When the concert was over, Mildred came slowly up the aisle, superb as
usual in her consciously unconscious carriage.

"Well," she said to her sister as they met, "where are we to lunch?"

"Are you going to lunch with us?" asked Clover in well-affected
surprise.

"Of course I am," returned the younger with a half-pouting smile flung
at Jack; "and I am going in the Ferris Wheel with you too.  I haven’t
been up in it yet."

"Why, I don’t see how you possibly can, Mildred," said Clover coolly.
"I heard you promise Mr. and Mrs. Page to meet them in the Art Gallery
at two o’clock, and show Mrs. Page some of our favorite pictures."

Mildred expected some protest from Jack, and was disconcerted that none
came.  "I only told them that if I was at the south entrance at two
o’clock I would act as their cicerone," she answered.

"Well, my dear, having said so much," suggested Clover gravely, "I think
the least you can do is to be there, considering that they are our
guests."

Still Jack did not interfere.  Mildred could not forbear hurling one
glance at him from beneath her eyelashes, but it might have been a gaze.
Van Tassel was absently viewing the dispersing audience.

Her eyes and cheeks burned as they had on the night he refused to
accompany her to witness the fireworks, but as on that occasion she
carried the matter with a high hand.

"Very well, then you have lost my company at lunch, too.  You and Jack
would be sure to make me late, dawdling at table.  _Au revoir_," and as
they nodded to her, she swept away.

Clover looked at her companion and tried to repress the mirthful laugh
that bubbled over her lips.

"Jack, you wouldn’t be human if you hadn’t enjoyed that."

"Then I must be inhuman," he responded rather ruefully, "for I give you
my word I’m scared almost to death."

"Don’t you worry, mon ami; I know Mildred to the depths of her noble,
generous, overbearing, over-indulged soul."

"I don’t suppose you realize, Clover," Van Tassel spoke low and jerkily,
"but I care very much; absurdly much, you might think, considering the
shortness of the time."

Clover looked into his flushed face, and the merriment in her sweet eyes
was quenched.

"Dear Jack," she said, laying her hand lightly on his arm, "whatever you
wish, I wish.  Trust me.  No harm has been done.  Do you want my
advice,—the advice of one who knows?"

"Yes, I do."

"Then don’t let Mildred suspect what you have told me.  The round world
is just a rattle to her now.  You are one of the bells on it that jingle
for her amusement when she moves you.  There are Katherines in existence
still, and Petruchios are wholesome teachers for them."

"Imagine me cracking a horsewhip at Mildred!"

"Out, please!" roared a Columbian Guard, exasperated by the sight of
these two loiterers, after the remainder of the audience had drifted
away.  "As if there wasn’t any other place on the grounds to spoon but
just this," he muttered.

Mildred, to her credit be it said, devoted her afternoon to Mrs. Page
with as cheerful courtesy as though she bore no grudge in her mind
against the world.  Mr. Page left them together and went off somewhere
under his brother’s guidance.  It was nearly dinner-time when he drove
up to the house in a Beach wagon, and found Mildred swinging idly in a
hammock on the piazza.

"Your wife is taking a nap," she announced, as he came up the steps.

"Fortunate woman!" he responded, sinking wearily upon a wicker divan.
"The only interest I’ve had for hours in any exhibit was as to whether
there was a chair in it; but Gorham is a terrible fellow.  Merciless.
Each building being one thousand miles from every other building makes
it hard lines.  I threatened more than once to trip over one of those
chains that say ’Keep off the grass,’ and refuse to get up again."

"You and your brother should have taken one of those double chairs."

"Oh, there wouldn’t have been any room for Gorham," and the jolly man
laughed.  "I suppose you have done the Plaisance."

"Partly, yes."

"Gorham and I went into the Dahomey village, this afternoon.  Some of
those savages were unpleasantly personal.  Good afternoon, Aunt Love,"
as the housekeeper appeared on the veranda.  "I was just telling Miss
Mildred how those children of nature in the Dahomey village injured my
finer feelings to-day.  One of them came for me with a big carving
knife, yelling ’Big man, fat man,’ and going through the pantomime of
taking a slice off my sacred person."

"Dirty critters!" remarked Miss Berry sententiously.

"Isn’t it a funny paradox to see an incandescent light over the door of
each hut?" went on Page.  "There was one big fellow squatted down in the
sun, off by himself, playing on a rough sort of a harp, and singing
monotonously something that sounded like ’Come away, come away,
Chicago.’  I tried to write down the pitches he sang, and that amused
him immensely.  His ivories would have made a perfect dentist’s sign. I
gave him a dime or so to repeat the performance, a sufficient number of
times, and he was delighted, and kept saying ’Chicago beer.’"

"Yes," returned Miss Berry bitterly.  "They have to come to a Christian
land for that."

"Wait till you see the South Sea Islanders," said Mildred.

"We did.  Fine, aren’t they?  There is an exhibition of drill and muscle
worth seeing."

"And that _café-au-lait_ skin!" exclaimed Mildred. "I am entirely
spoiled for white beauties."

"Let ’em wear somethin’ more ’n a straw wreath and a piece o’ calico
then," remarked Miss Berry.

"But Aunt Love," suggested Page, "you must remember how clothing that
brown skin is. I am sure you must admit it is an improving sight to see
one of those heavy-eyed beauties sit cross-legged, and absently scratch
one great toe while she sings."

"What are you all laughing about?" asked Hilda, coming out upon the
piazza in the freshness of a light organdie gown.

"Your husband has been to the Midway," returned Miss Berry.  "Don’t be
surprised at anything he may say or do; and I don’t believe we’d better
wait for Mr. and Mrs. Van Tassel any longer, for dinner was ready when I
came out here."

"I don’t understand Clover’s staying so," remarked Mildred, leaving the
hammock and trying not to speak severely.

"I go, I fly, to make myself presentable," said Page, slowly dragging
himself up from his comfortable resting-place.

After dinner Mildred made an opportunity to address the housekeeper
privately.  "For pity’s sake, Aunt Love, when you are going to speak of
Jack and Clover as you did this evening, don’t say Mr. and Mrs. Van
Tassel."

"Why not?" asked Miss Lovina with exasperating unconsciousness.

"Why, it sounds so—so—absurdly married."

Miss Berry smiled.  "What shall I say then?"

"Mrs. and Mr. Van Tassel, of course," replied Mildred, making an effort
to speak with a suavity she did not feel.

"Well, if that ain’t a new idea.  Mrs. and Mr.! Do tell!" said Miss
Berry good-naturedly.  "Oh, I’ll learn a deal of etiquette to take back
to Pearfield.  It’s enough to do a body good to see Mr. Jack and your
sister so much to each other, ain’t it?  Seems if they have lots o’
pleasure together now; just as it should be."

"I don’t know that they are together so very much," returned Mildred
coolly.

"That’s ’cause you’re off so much o’ the time. Why, they’re just the
best friends that ever was; and Mrs. Van Tassel, she’s gone back before
my eyes from a grave woman full or care to a merry girl just as free as
a bird.  It does me good, Miss Mildred.  It does me so much good, I’m
’most afraid I shall grow fat on it."

Mildred’s bright eyes looked thoughtful for a second, as though she were
digesting the housekeeper’s words.  "There is Blitzen, barking," she
exclaimed, and both hastened to see whether Electra’s nervous system was
receiving some fresh shock.

Gorham Page strayed over from the hotel, as was his habit after dinner,
and found the family disposed in various comfortable chairs and hammocks
about the piazza.

The autocratic Miss Bryant was feeling a trifle sore, although she did
not dream of acknowledging to herself that it was because Clover and
Jack still remained away, and in the present sensitive state of her
self-love it was a new affront that Gorham did not at once seek her
side, but after bowing to her, settled down beside Mrs. Page, who closed
the book she was reading upon her finger as a marker.

"Yes indeed, the afternoon was delightful," she said, in answer to his
question.  "Mildred and I had a charming time among the pictures.  You
nearly committed fratricide.  Do you see poor Robert fast asleep over
there?"

"This will do him a world of good.  Train down his flesh, and strengthen
his muscle; though the poor old chap did say, before we decided to come
home, that he had walked so long his feet splayed out like the camels’
every time he set them down."  Page laughed reminiscently.

"Camels?  Did you go into Cairo Street?"

"No, to the Bedouin village; the Wild East show."

"Very well.  You have just saved your lives. I understand that Cairo
Street is one of the plums of the Plaisance, and if Robert had gone
without me, I should have been highly offended."

"Yes, he is well trained.  I wonder if my wife will find me as
thoughtful.  I am afraid not."

Hilda laughed at the sincere meekness of his tone.  "No, I’m sure she
won’t, for the simple reason that you will never have one."

"I should be sorry to think that."

"Then why don’t you do as nine out of every ten men in your place would
do?"

"You mean fall in love?  You know, Hilda, how often I’ve done that."

Mrs. Page laughed again at the gently remonstrant tone.  "Your sort of
falling in love isn’t worth two straws," she declared scoffingly.
"Don’t take that into consideration at all.  The next woman you meet who
satisfies you intellectually, propose to her.  If she accepts you, marry
her.  I don’t believe you would make her very unhappy. You wouldn’t if
you were as kind a husband as you are a brother."

"Thank you.  You might give me a written recommendation.  See how
handsome Miss Bryant’s face looks against that golden pillow."

"Yes; it is a proof of your hard heart that you withstand her."

"I don’t withstand her.  You have no idea how much I enjoyed an
afternoon I had with her at the Fair last week; but Jack was remarkably
short with me that evening, and I fancied I had trespassed on his
preserves."

"Not a bit of it.  He must be a dog in the manger."

"Why, I’m very sure he is hard hit in that direction."

"Oh, where are a man’s eyes, I wonder!  I haven’t been here very long,
but long enough to discover the truth."

"I suppose you want me to ask you what truth?"

"No, I don’t, my dear."  Mrs. Page reopened her book.

"You are not hinting at—at—Mrs. Van Tassel?" Gorham spoke in a hushed
tone.

"Just observe for yourself," said Hilda sententiously.

"You ought not to have such a thought."

Mrs. Page looked up, wondering at this severity. "Why, if you please?
You surely haven’t an idea that that young creature is going to
sacrifice the rest of her life to a memory of duty done?"

"But Hilda, that is repugnant!" Page rose suddenly, and his sister’s
gaze followed him as he moved away.  It was very unusual for him to show
so much feeling.  "Wouldn’t it be a strange, strange thing if after
waiting all these years Gorham should love at last and love hopelessly?"
She banished the query with a sigh.  Sober second thought assured her
that her brother had not meant more than he said.  The idea that Jack
might wish to marry his father’s widow was distasteful to him, and that
was all.

Page approached Mildred, little realizing how indefensible she
considered it that he had not done so some minutes previous.  She was
too glad of his presence, however, to punish him.  It would never do for
Jack to come home and suppose that she had not been holding court.

"What beautiful evenings you have in Chicago," he began.  "May I take
this chair?" drawing one near the hammock in which she was sitting
against a nest of pillows, her foot touching the floor gently as she
rocked.

"Yes, I never tire of seeing the moonlight on the water as it is shining
to-night.  When I was a little girl it was a great treat to me to be
allowed to spend a summer evening on this piazza, and I enjoy it
scarcely less now."

"You enjoy it very seldom, I observe."

"Yes, of course there are lots of engagements this summer, and a quiet
evening at home like this seems very welcome occasionally.  One likes
too, sometimes, to renew acquaintance with the moon. After living among
rosy, violet, pale green, and white search lights, and all sorts of
spectacular electrical effects so much, one comes back to moonlight on
the water as to an old friend."

The girl clasped her hands above her head upon the down pillow, and
allowed Page to look at her, which he was not slow to do.

"I miss your sister and Jack, this evening. Where are they?"

"Columbus knows!  Since the authorities have been Barnumizing the Fair,
as they call it, one is led on to stay, and stay, and stay, to see this
race or that dance or the other illumination.  I left them after the
noon concert."

"You were there, then.  Of course you are fond of music."

"I enjoy it very much, although Clover says I don’t.  She and Jack are
cranks about it.  I am not."

"They have one strong predilection in common, then."

Mildred did not reply; and Page continued: "The effect of music upon a
person who is in sympathy with it is an interesting study.  Those
involuntary chills that pass over one under the moving influence of good
music are rather annoying to me. I do not wish to be moved
uncontrollably by anything.  I wish to decide just how deeply to feel on
any subject.  Do you know what I mean?"

"Yes, exactly."  The decision of the girl’s reply rather surprised her
companion.  She let him look deep into her luminous eyes set in the
moonlight fairness of her face.  "And further than agreeing with you in
the desirability of the principle," she added, "I carry the theory into
practice."

"Do you mean to say that you are always able to let your head decide
what your heart shall feel?"

"Invariably."

"But that is no common characteristic in a woman.  With women the heart
speaks first usually."

"Not in the case of the well-balanced woman."

"Then perhaps you can tell me," said Page, much surprised and
interested, "perhaps you will be good enough to tell me what your ideas
are concerning love.  There, too, do you think it possible for the head
to speak first?"

Mildred let a repressed laugh burst its bounds. "Do you mean, do I think
it possible to fall in love head first?"

"Forgive me if I ask too much; but it seems to me very helpful to
compare notes with one whose aims and desires are similar to your own."

"Oh, I don’t mind telling you, Mr. Page," said the girl, sobering.  "My
ideas on the subject are clearly formulated, and I know of no reason why
I should not impart them to one who will be appreciative.  I believe a
woman can decide what characteristics would be sympathetic with hers,
and when she is sufficiently acquainted with a man to discover if he is
possessed of those qualities, she can give rein to her heart, and love
him"—the speaker suddenly extended her white hands before her—"love him
with all her soul!"

The sudden thrill in her movement and in her low contralto voice
electrified her listener by its unexpectedness.

"But can one always love where the head dictates?" he asked; "that is
the question."

"Undoubtedly; for when one finds the combination she seeks, she will
discover that she has loved it already.  I will tell you, Mr. Page, you
tempt my confidence because you captivate my judgment. I will describe
to you the man I await.  He must be good to look upon, for I value
beauty of form; but he must be cool and steady of brain, must love to
think, to analyze, to look upon life not as a plaything but as something
the laws of which must be studied and explored continually.  Incidents
which appear trifling to others, to him will suggest a thousand
questions.  He must in short be a student of human nature whose
researches I may, by-and-by, as I grow wiser, assist.  Oh, proud, happy
destiny!"  She paused as though overcome, and grasping the sides of the
hammock looked with a quick turn of her head toward the moonlight.

Page regarded her in silence, then leaned toward her in his earnestness.
"A man like that is not found every day, Miss Bryant; but I congratulate
you on your high standard; for the being you describe has surely a great
heart to throb for humanity as well as the head to study it, and your
affections will not be starved, I am sure of that."

Mildred grasped the hammock closer and caught her lip between her teeth.
Page’s unconsciousness had turned the tables, and she had sufficient
sense of humor, in spite of her vanity, to make it difficult not to
smile as he walked unseeing around her net, and it fell, enveloping her
own saucy head.



                             *CHAPTER XIX.*

                          *THE FERRIS WHEEL.*


It was half past nine when the wagonette bringing Clover and Jack
stopped before the house.  They were received with a chorus of
questions, in which Mildred was too clever not to join.  She was glad
that Van Tassel must see Gorham seated near her, apart from the others,
confidentially discoursing in the moonlight, even though Jack did not
seem to observe it.  He seated himself on the step near Mrs. Page, and
leaned against a railing.

"We have had a fine time!" he exclaimed with what Mildred’s practiced
ear recognized as unmistakable sincerity.

"Oh, the German village by moonlight, Milly!" added Clover, taking a
place near her sister.  "You really ought to see it."

"We ought to have been there, Mr. Page," said Mildred regretfully.

"I doubt if I could have had a pleasanter evening anywhere," he
returned; and if Miss Bryant had had power to decorate him she would
have done so on the spot for that timely speech.  She trusted Jack had
heard it.

"We sat there at table, you know," went on the latter, "and saw the moon
come up over those quaint old gables.  Oh, it was fine.  I declare, we
didn’t know where we were.  Did we, Clover?"

"I thought you were quite certain by the alleged German you entertained
me with."

"Alleged German!  Well, if this isn’t sad! There I wasted Heine’s poems
by the yard on you. Ungrateful girl!  You will never know all the sweet
things that were said to you to-night."

"I know you drank a lot of beer and smoked too many cigars."

"Of course, being in Rome I complimented the inhabitants by imitation."

"Mr. Jack," spoke Miss Berry reproachfully, "I remember well that you
said once you only smoked on holidays and birthdays."

"Certainly, Aunt Love, that is my rule still.  I never break it."

"Whose birthday is this?" demanded Miss Berry, somewhat taken back.

"How should I know?  Somebody’s, surely."  Jack looked up innocently.
"I never show favoritism."

"Oh!" groaned Gorham, rising.  "I can’t stay here.  Discipline him, Aunt
Love.  I am going to my uncontaminated roof-tree."

"Let us all take Gorham home," suggested Jack, also rising.  "I’m afraid
to be left here with Aunt Love’s righteous wrath.  Come, all of you.
Nobody is too tired to walk to that music."

For the band on the hotel piazza was playing the Washington Post March,
which by midsummer was running neck and neck with "After the Ball."

"Come, Robert," said Hilda, shaking the somnolent form in the hammock.

"Hey?  What?  Don’t disturb me.  I can die here as well as anywhere.
What!  Walk home with Gorham?  Do you take me for an idiot? Music and
moonlight!" with deep scorn.  "Oh, go to!  Woman, stand aside, or I
shall do you an injury.  Don’t tempt a desperate man."

"Dear Robert doesn’t seem to care to come with us," laughed Mildred
_sotto voce_ to Jack. She was determined that none other than he should
walk by her side to the hotel, and of course she had her way.

An hour later she came into Clover’s bedroom, brushing her long hair.
Her white wrapper fell open at the neck, disclosing her handsome throat,
and she looked particularly beautiful to her partial sister.

"Where else did you and Jack go to-night beside the German village?" she
asked.

"Nowhere."

"You took supper there and stayed all the evening?"

"Yes.  We really couldn’t tear ourselves away. It was like being in some
romantic old story."

Mildred smiled and hummed her favorite bit from Iolanthe.

"No indeed," answered Clover.  "I am not his mother.  He doesn’t pretend
that I am, and he doesn’t wish me to be: so your little song doesn’t fit
the case at all."

She did not look at her sister, but went on with her effort to braid her
rebellious hair.  Mildred ceased humming.

"I wish my hair was curly," she said at last.

"We all have our gifts," replied Clover.  Mildred thought her tone
sounded unusually complacent. It was a novel experience to feel aught
but compassion, or tenderness, or reverent admiration for Clover, but
now she suddenly found herself regarding her for the first time as
another girl like herself, and observing her attractions with new eyes.

"What a pretty foot you have, Clover," she said, looking at her sister’s
slippered feet.

"Not a bit better shaped than yours, my dear. Let us have a select
little mutual admiration society."

"But mine are large," returned Mildred, sitting down and thrusting forth
her slippers for inspection.

"So are you," suggested Clover.

"But isn’t it strange that people never consider that, in speaking of a
woman’s foot?  She must have small feet irrespective of her size, or
else they had better never be seen or mentioned.  In old novels a man
sometimes keeps his beloved’s slipper under a glass case.  What a
formidable piece of furniture my lover will have when he gets a glass
case for mine."

"Foolish child!  You are proportioned just right."

"Perhaps; but what I say is that the consensus of opinion decides that I
ought not to be.  Shoe men fall in with that idea.  Dainty shoes are
small shoes.  I tell you fame and wealth awaits the shoe-dealer who
becomes inspired with the idea that large women want pretty shoes too."

"You seem to have made Mr. Page have a delightful evening," remarked
Clover.

"Yes; he didn’t ask for one of my slippers, though.  Fancy sterling
cousin Page ordering a glass case!"

Clover smiled in answer to Mildred’s laugh.

"What did you talk about?"

"Oh, weights and measures, as usual.  I wasn’t in the mood to be good,
and I tried conscientiously to make a fool of our friend."

"Mildred!"

"No harm done; I didn’t succeed.  He made one of me instead.  This has
been what you might term an off day for your little sister."

"What do you mean?  How did he make a fool of you?"  Clover turned with
so much curiosity in her gaze that Mildred rose quickly.

"I’ll never tell you,—or hardly ever.  Perhaps when we are both
married."

Clover turned back to the glass, and Mildred was a little dismayed.  The
words had slipped out unthinkingly.  Until this evening she had agreed
in her sister’s acceptance of the fact that her life could not be like
that of other girls.

"Good-night," she said, standing back of Clover and meeting her eyes in
the mirror.

"Good-night," returned the other.

Mildred kissed her cheek.  "Do you like me?" she asked softly.

"Pretty well," Mrs. Van Tassel smiled.  "Lots better than you deserve."

The younger sister went to her room satisfied. Arrogant and autocratic
she might be to her slaves, but Clover’s approval was the necessary
sunshine in which her life blossomed.

Van Tassel had to put a guard upon his lips in the next days.  He was
trying to follow Clover’s advice not to ask Mildred again to go to the
Fair with him.  It made the case harder, inasmuch as he could not help
feeling that now she expected it. He noticed that she did not make
outside engagements as much as before; but was oftener at home, either
sitting about the piazzas in gowns which Jack thought the most becoming
that ever girl wore, or else romping with Blitzen and paying
exasperating attention to Electra, who was fast developing into the most
self-assured and exacting chicken of the Columbian year.

The following sort of scene was sometimes endured in anguish by the
lover who was disciplining his lady to order.

Jack was one morning reading the newspaper on the piazza, Mildred
sitting in the hammock, and Clover and Hilda training the
morning-glories.

"Why don’t I go to the Fair?" Mildred said, addressing the lake,
resplendent with miles of diamonds.

Jack’s hand closed on his paper in his longing to accept the challenge;
not being at all certain that he would not receive a negative if he did,
but still yearning to try his luck.

"Is it a conundrum?" asked Clover.  "I can give a guess, if you like."

"Thank you; you’re always so kind, dear. Come, and go up in the Ferris
Wheel with me, Clover.  If you will, that will decide me."

"I couldn’t, really.  I’m glad I have been. One must go, of course; but
twice, no, I couldn’t."  Clover passed near Jack, who threw an imploring
glance at her behind his paper.  "I can feel my hair whitening!" he
murmured; but Mrs. Van Tassel frowned warningly upon him.

"What a pity you didn’t say something about it before Robert went," said
Hilda.  "I think he means to go in the wheel to-day, as that is one of
the things I can’t bring my mind to do."

"But you will have a hundred chances, Milly dear.  Some of our friends
are always going," added Clover comfortingly.

"Oh, don’t trouble yourself," remarked Mildred with nonchalance.  "I
assure you I can go when I like," and she rose and sauntered into the
house, followed by Hilda.

Clover laughed softly into the pink lips of a morning glory which she
held in her hand.

"This may be very good fun for you," said Van Tassel, his unread paper
dropped, "but let me tell you it is making an old man of me."

"Do your own way then, Jack, and live to repent of it."

"But I don’t want to have to repent."

"Then behave as though you had some backbone. Remember Petruchio."

"Oh, that will do to say!  Petruchio was married."

"All right.  I wash my hands of you."

"No, no, don’t, Clover."

Clover took pity on the clouded face.

"I’ll give you a little bit of comfort, Jack," she said, gazing down at
him knowingly.

"Angel!"

"Oh, it is only a wee, wee bit; but Mildred is uncomfortable."

"I should think that was wee," returned Van Tassel, his face falling.

"I don’t know.  It is the first time any man ever affected her that
much."

"A very poor recommendation, I should think," remarked Van Tassel.

"Oh, Jack," Clover laughed, "I can see you would have had an awful time
without me."

"I am having an awful time with you, Clover."

"Then gang your ain gait any time"—

"And may God have mercy on my soul, I suppose you mean," added Jack
ruefully.

It was his habit to have flowers sent to the house almost daily, and
Clover often wore his roses; Mildred never.  Van Tassel asked her once
if she never wore flowers, and she answered indifferently that she often
did.

"I have never happened to see you with any on," he said.

"Indeed?" she returned with one of her characteristic smiles.  "Then
that must be because you never sent me any.  Now don’t look like that.
Jack.  If you should send me flowers, now, do you know what I should do
with them?"

"Pitch them out the window, probably."

"No; for that would disfigure the lawn, and Clover is very particular
about the lawn.  I should present them to Aunt Love."

So Jack only gave one impotent look into her starry eyes, and continued
to send his lavish floral gifts impersonally to the house.

But one morning Mildred came down with some sprays of heliotrope
fastened in her dress.  Van Tassel was delighted; but acting with blind
faith in Clover, he did not appear to notice the concession.  He had won
several words of commendation from his mentor for the manner in which of
late he had been playing his role.  He had even called upon Mildred’s
friend, Miss Eames, in response to the latter’s invitation, and had gone
with her one day to the Art Gallery, and after coming home praised her
discriminating and intelligent taste.  It seemed to him an eternity
since he had asked Mildred to go anywhere with him.

On this morning she waited for some remark upon her decoration, but none
came.  Matters had become serious if such condescension was not going to
be gratefully received.  The family usually sauntered out upon the
piazza after breakfast, and Van Tassel took his paper with him to-day as
usual. He was alive in every nerve to the fact that Mildred had on a
street dress, which meant the Fair. He wondered profoundly, as he always
did, what her plans were and whom she was going with, but he gazed
unseeingly into his paper, and was dumb.

All of a sudden, a sort of electric shock seemed to pervade the air
about him.  Mildred was standing at his side.

"Did you notice how perfect this heliotrope is?" she asked, looking
down, not at him, but at the blossoms on the lapel of her jacket.

"It is pretty," he answered, wondering how soon his evil star would lure
him on to say the wrong thing.

His apparently indifferent manner piqued her still further.  "If you
feel very good, and are sure you are going to be good all day, I will
give you a piece," she said, separating one spray from its fellows.

Van Tassel sprang to his feet, and in a second Mildred’s fingers were
upon his coat.

"The round world is just a rattle to her, and you are one of the bells
on it that jingle when she moves you."

Clover’s words were sounding warningly in his ears.  He could not help
it.  He only prayed to jingle in tune, for moved he was to the depths of
his being.

"You like heliotrope very much?" he asked, not daring to look below her
cool, fair forehead.

"Yes.  Sometimes, I think, best of all; but," with a sigh, "it goes
quickly."  And she dropped her hands and moved back.

"Like all the happiest moments of life," said Jack, and something leaped
from his brown eyes that actually surprised Mildred, coming out of the
long train of indifferent days.

"Oh, if Jack is like that," she thought, and a new respect grew in her
for the man who ruled himself, and refused to submit to her caprice.

"It is a clear day, Mildred.  Let us go up in the Wheel," he said.
"Have you made the trip yet?"

"No, but I have a new idea about it.  I’m sure it will make me dizzy.
It did Clover; and I think I shall be afraid, too."

"Don’t give up going.  I’m sure you will not be afraid.  It is an
absolutely steady, safe motion, and the changing view is unique."

"No, indeed; I wouldn’t give up going, only I think I would rather go
alone.  I don’t want any one to behold my weakness."

"Oh, very well."  Van Tassel made a gesture of indifferent assent, sat
down, and returned to his paper.  The little incident of the heliotrope
had done more to convince him of Clover’s wisdom than all her sage
words.  Its perfume stole up to him as he sat reading the same line over
twelve times.

Mildred moved away, outwardly calm, inwardly vexed with Jack for his
ready acquiescence.

She went into the house and met Clover.  "Going to the Fair?" asked the
latter.

"Yes, I think so."

"Wait half an hour or so, and go with us."

"I don’t believe you will take my way, for I am going in the Wheel."

"With Jack?"

"No, alone."

"Mr. Page wants to go again.  Let me ask him. He is upstairs writing a
letter."

"Don’t speak to him for anything."

"But I don’t want you to go to the Midway alone, Milly.  Hilda and both
Mr. Pages and I are going to the Anthropological Building together. Do
put off the Wheel, and come with us."

"No, I thank you.  Our friend Gorham will be in his element, getting
your mental and physical strength tested up there in the gallery.  I
wouldn’t be in that revel for anything," and Mildred ran upstairs.

Clover passed out upon the piazza.

"Is Mildred going to the Fair?" asked Van Tassel, looking up quickly.

"Yes.  I do wish for once, Jack, you had asked to go with her, for she
is bound for the Ferris Wheel."

"I did."

"And she refused?" exclaimed Clover in surprise and exasperation.  "Was
there ever such an incomprehensible"—

"But she gave me this."  Van Tassel exhibited his flower.

Clover looked interested.  "Well, then, we are getting on," she said,
much pleased.  "Go on being an icicle, Jack.  It is the only way.  Don’t
for the world urge her to let you accompany her, even though I don’t
like her to go alone.  In the first place she would only retreat as you
advanced, and in the second it would probably be salutary for her to
stick among the clouds of heaven for a few hours, so I won’t worry about
the Wheel."

Jack took his hat, lying on the chair beside him. "I think I will go on
down," he said.  "There is a bare possibility, you know, that I may meet
Mildred.  If she should be later than you expect in coming home, you
would better think of me as being the trap than of the Wheel."

"You won’t meet," sighed Clover.  "What a foolish girl she is!"

To tell the truth, Mildred could not resist a certain suspicion of her
own foolishness, as she emerged upon the piazza a few seconds later,
ready to start.  She was conscious of disappointment that Jack was not
in sight.  It was a warm day, and starting off alone was not
inspiriting. It required all her pride to pursue her intention.

"You won’t have a good time," prophesied Clover, and that strengthened
her waning determination; so with a light response she set forth.

The Midway was a seething mass of humanity when she reached it, and she
had hardly entered the street when she met her friend, Helen Eames. The
latter greeted her eagerly, and began to talk about an entertainment
Mildred had attended recently with Jack at her house.

Helen was voluble, and Mildred resented the tone in which she spoke of
Jack, so she parted with her friend as soon as civility permitted, and
passed on.

She began to feel that she was doing an absurd thing, to be forlornly
and doggedly pursuing her way among the motley crowd, to the monotonous,
rhythmic beat of drum, and the sing-song of strange voices.

Above their village the South Sea Islanders were pounding out their
measures from a hollow log, and across the road the daintier Javanese
rang muffled music from gongs and tinkling bells. Scenes and sounds had
grown familiar to Mildred, but to-day she found neither truth nor poetry
in them.  Indian, Turk, and Bedouin passed her by, but she kept eyes
ahead on the mammoth wheel, circling with ponderous deliberation.  All
she wished was to keep her word, take the skyward trip, and return home.

"All the girls are delighted with Mr. Van Tassel," Helen Eames had said.

"Silly thing!  Does she suppose I will tell him?" thought Mildred, too
absorbed in her own cogitations to note the "vera gooda, vera nice, vera
sheep," of the jewelry venders, the stentorian exhortations to enter the
dance houses and theatres, or the incessant "hot! hot! hot!" of those
that offered the thin waffle-like Zelabiah.

Mildred did not like to find in her own heart the wish that Van Tassel
had been with her, that Helen Eames might see him in his proper place
this morning.  She must indeed have fallen from her high estate if she
could wish to display an admirer to another girl.  All men were her
admirers.  It had been a foregone conclusion so long that she had never
been obliged to harbor a thought of jealousy or rivalry, and she
instantly challenged and condemned this novel weakness.

The Midway Plaisance was a strange place for introspection, yet
Mildred’s thoughts were sufficiently absorbing.  People were always apt
to turn and look a second time at her exceptionally vigorous young
beauty, but she passed on to-day, totally unconscious of the glances
bent upon her.

Might it be true that she had finally alienated Jack by her persistently
capricious treatment? "All the girls admired him!"  He did not fancy any
of them, she was sure.  If he cared for any woman, it was Clover; and
then the girl coolly and impartially compared her gentle, sympathetic,
tender sister with herself.  Mildred possessed a clear head, and as she
dwelt upon her own and Clover’s characteristics, a sermon seemed
preached to her amid that crowded babel, in a small voice which the
noisy tongues could not drown.

"How would it be possible for a man in his senses to prefer me?" she
thought, raising her eyes to a delicate, bell-hung minaret that pierced
the cloudless sky.  This novel humility impressed her with gravity.

But she had reached her destination.  She moved up with the line to the
ticket office that lay directly in her path, and bought her bit of
pasteboard mechanically.  In a moment more the movement of her
fellow-passengers had brought her to the base of the wheel.  Those who
have stood in that position know the effect of looking straight up.
Mildred, already feeling small, experienced a painful physical sense of
being overwhelmed.  The monster had paused for its cars to be filled,
and she shrank from the prospect before her with unprecedented
sensations.  If she allowed herself to be shut up in that glass cab, it
meant that two flights of two hundred and fifty feet skyward must be
taken ere she could regain her liberty.

"I believe I am trying to be nervous," she said to herself coldly.  "I
did not know I was speaking truth to Jack this morning."

Oh, if only she were not the vainest and most obstinate of girls, this
trip would be a pleasure instead of a pain!

The faint, steady color in her cheeks faded, but she walked into the car
determinedly, and taking one of its swinging chairs looked steadily
through the glass front.  The seats filled, the door was closed, and the
scarcely perceptible motion began.

The roof of the next car began to swing into view.  The inexorableness
of the journey began to impress itself upon Mildred’s mind.  She was
trying to turn away from the thought, when a well-known voice set her
beating heart to throbbing faster.

"Why, this is fortunate," it said, with studied carelessness.

She started and lifted her eager eyes.  There was Jack Van Tassel
looking down upon her, triumphant, but as usual uncertain of his
reception.

It has been said before that Mr. Van Tassel was a good-looking young
man; but the radiance which seemed to Mildred now to invest every
feature of his face, and each dark hair of his head, was certainly the
figment of an excited imagination.

"Why, Jack," she gasped, and clasped her hands tightly in her lap for
fear they might tell too much.

"You are pale," he said, and stooped with tender concern.

"Why—the sun was pretty warm, didn’t you think?" she returned.

Jack did think so.  He had had considerable time in which to test it,
dodging from one side of the Plaisance to the other in that crowd, where
every one knows that his best friend had a faculty of dissolving from
view even when he was supposed to be safely at one’s side.

"Our poor heliotrope!" he said, glancing down at their decorations.

Mildred followed his gaze.  The sprays on her jacket looked, she
thought, much as she felt five minutes ago.  "Let us throw them away,"
she answered, starting to withdraw the pin.

"Never," said Jack promptly, and the girl hesitated, then dropped her
hand.

"Turn this way," he added.  "See the University buildings,—a fine
massive gray city that is going to be!  Doesn’t it seem strange to think
that college will ever be venerable and have traditions?"

From this time their attention was fully occupied with the panoramic
view.  The crowd of sightseers in the Plaisance became a congregation of
umbrellas and parasols, ever lessening in size, and whitened in patches
where a number of faces were upturned at once to behold the gyration of
the wheel.  The strange colors and shapes in architecture brought from
many lands stood in startling conjunction on either hand.  Beyond
stretched the Fair city with its winding waterways, held safe in the
great azure crescent of Lake Michigan’s embrace.

Mildred’s eyes sparkled with interest and pleasure. The color had
returned to her face, and her spirits to their natural level.  When
their car again neared earth she was glad, not sorry, that another
circuit was in prospect to help her to a more satisfactory view of what
had seemed but a tantalizing glimpse.

"The deed is done," said Jack, as at last the exit door of the car was
opened, and the passengers passed from under the gigantic steel web and
set foot on solid earth once more.  "What is next on your programme?"

"I was going home," answered Mildred, rather hesitatingly.

"World’s Fair finished?" asked Jack with a smile.

"I have seen almost everything in the Plaisance that I care for."

"But I haven’t."

"What do you mean?  Are you hinting?"

The girl smiled too, and somehow her expression was not so exasperating
as at other times.

"Yes, I am hinting."

"Out with it, then.  Speak up like a little man."

"Sometimes when I have spoken up like a little man you have made me feel
like a little donkey."

"I don’t see how you can like me at all, Jack," returned Mildred
naïvely.  "I made up my mind this morning that I was going to try to be
more like Clover."

"Capital scheme!" exclaimed Van Tassel, with so much enthusiasm that
Mildred felt disconcerted.

"I don’t suppose the leopard can change his spots, though," she
returned, rather stiffly.

"Let us go to Hagenbeck’s and see," suggested Jack.

"It is rather far from here if we are going to do the shows with any
system."

"Do you wish to, Mildred?  Don’t let me bore you."

"It only bores me to have you want me to be like somebody else."

Jack’s lips drew together in an inaudible whistle, and it needed all
Clover’s warnings to aid him in holding the rein over himself.  They
were aimlessly walking east.

"But I honestly don’t blame you," she added. "I have done nothing to
make it pleasant for you here.  In your own home it didn’t seem
necessary to treat you like a guest."

"You are right.  There was no necessity in the matter; there isn’t now.
Perhaps you really wish to go home."

"Clover wouldn’t go if she did wish it," Mildred smiled at him with a
sidelong glance, "and so I will stay."

"Not with me," said Jack, lifting his hat and looking very firm as he
paused in the road.

"Then you take it back that you wish me to be like little sister?"
Mildred also paused, still smiling at him with her chin lifted.

"I want you to be honest."

"I am honest.  I want to stay, you uncivil man."



                             *CHAPTER XX.*

                        *THE MIDWAY PLAISANCE.*


The magic carpet in the Arabian Nights which transported its owner from
one country to another, remote, in the space of a few seconds, was the
property of all visitors to the Midway Plaisance. Mildred and Jack spent
a little time amid the Swiss Alps, the former amusing herself by picking
out for Jack’s benefit localities where she and Clover had traveled.
Then they looked in at the Bedouin Encampment and saw an old woman
making bread.  She whirled the dough on one hand until it spread into a
very thin sheet.  This she flapped over a cushion and from thence
transferred it to the top of an inverted iron basin, where it baked
above burning sticks.  It looked when cooked like a delicate cracker, as
it was broken up and passed around to the spectators.

A gigantic black, clothed entirely in red from his high leather boots to
the rope-like twists of cloth about his head, lay stretched on a divan
beside another fire smoking a narghileh.

"The bread is coming this way," remarked Mildred apprehensively.  "Let
us go into that door and see what is there."

Jack followed her.  "This room, Miss Bryant, is taken from a Damascus
palace," he said.  "I am surprised that you didn’t recognize it at once.
Observe these pieces of silver set into the walls, and the lavish number
of mirrors.  I believe a periodical lecturer appears in here."

"How much nicer to have it to ourselves, and guess about it.  I have
been standing so long, I can guess very closely what these
gold-embroidered velvet divans are for," and Mildred stepped up on the
dais at the end of the room and seated herself.

The ceiling was lofty, and in the centre of the room a fountain played.
Beyond it was another dais surrounded by divans.  The floors were
covered with rugs.  Outside, two Bedouins fenced with curious swords,
the handles wrapped with twine, waving their small brass shields
meanwhile with ostentatious gestures as they deliberately stepped about.
Increasing in concentration and swift fury to the climax of the play,
they paused unexpectedly, and seating themselves on the ground, fell to
rolling cigarettes and making coffee over the small fire beside which
lay the immobile black.

Shrill and dull arose the rhythm of the flageolets and the tambours.
The click of castanets told that the dark-eyed women were dancing.

While Mildred and Jack still rested, an Arab in loose robes came in, and
going to the fountain bathed his face and hands and dried them on a
purple silk towel striped with yellow.

"How nice of him," said Mildred, acknowledging this touch added to the
picture.

As they were passing out, one of the Bedouins, the cloth from his
twisted turban hanging about his shoulders, paused near them with a baby
in his arms, a curly-headed tot of a year old, around whose big brown
eyes were drawn lines of artificial black. Mildred looked gently upon
the child, and the father, smiling with pride and pleasure, glanced from
one to the other; so she patted the baby.

"She is very pretty," she said, and he understood. His large gaze grew
soft, and he nodded. Mildred looked at the dancing women with more
interest.  One of them, her chin tattooed with blue, was pointed out to
her as the baby’s mother.

A realization of the probable hardships and homesickness endured by
these people in all the changes of scene and weather they had undergone
assailed her; but it did not do to dwell too long on that side of life
in the Plaisance.  She only turned her sweetest smile once more on
father and child, patted the baby’s cheek, and followed Jack out.

To him it mattered little where they went. Each scene gained a glamour
which, could the managers of the various enterprises have purchased it
as a permanent adjunct to their attractions, would have ensured their
fortunes.  Passing from Arabia to the electric-lighted palms of the
Moorish Palace, Van Tassel was prepared to admire everything. The
labyrinth of mirrors which might in some moods have impressed him as a
tiresome device, now triumphantly vindicated their right to be, by
presenting him a hundred Mildreds so like the original as to be an
embarrassment of riches.  Even the wax figures above stairs were
interesting.  The rise and fall of the Sleeping Beauty’s gentle breast
was a marvel.

From the various tricks and optical illusions of the Moorish Palace they
betook themselves to Hawaii, and stood together in darkness on the
borders of a lava lake from whose centre shot living flames from the
volcano’s heart toward the lurid sky.

A priest, a shadowy figure, came forth among the gray rocks, and chanted
a prayer to the dreadful goddess of fire.  In the remote distance
gleamed the peaceful blue waters of the Pacific.  Jack would have been
willing to stand for hours here by Mildred, in the weird dusky silence
broken only by the monotonous chant, for the longer one lingered the
more perfect grew the illusion; but she took him away presently, and in
a trice the island of Hawaii had vanished and Egypt was gained via the
western entrance to Cairo Street.

They passed in before the Temple of Luxor, in front of which a
brazen-lunged American showman was reeling off a highly-colored
description of the attractions within.

"Mummy of Rameses about the fifth on your right!" repeated Jack,
laughing.  "Let us postpone Rameses until he can be located a little
more definitely."

"Yes, I want you to see the Soudanese pickaninny," said Mildred, and
they went over to the tent where the jolly little black baby hopped
about among her elders, shaking the girdle of feathers and shells about
her hips and dimpling with delight in the applause and laughter she
called forth. More interesting than the Soudanese were the Nubians, who
came in from the dark huts adjoining, and danced in the same tent.  One
of these in particular attracted Jack’s eye.

"What a splendid woman, Mildred!" he exclaimed. "What an artist’s model
she would make."

The object of his admiration was tall, straight as an arrow, dressed in
a long robe of white, and wore large hoop earrings.  She had symmetrical
features of haughty mould, and was very dark, with thick crinkled black
locks free from the feathers, shells and twine, braided among the
Soudanese tresses.  She was an impressive figure standing immovable upon
the stage among the dancers.

"Like a splendid bronze!" said Jack, gazing at the delicate proud face
with all his eyes.  The Nubian smiled, disclosing the most perfect teeth
imaginable, and Van Tassel regarded her with growing admiration.

"I tell you, Mildred," he said enthusiastically, "if that woman could
have been brought up in a different environment she would have been
superb. Fancy having her well-trained for a servant? How would you like
her to pass you your coffee at breakfast?"

Mildred laughed.  "What a pity that I am not a reporter," she said as
they left the tent.  "You could be worked into a taking newspaper
article, Jack.  A young scion of one of Chicago’s well-known families is
maturing a plan to abduct the chief of the tribe of Nubians in Cairo
Street.  It is feared there will be an uprising, and so forth, and so
forth."

"A feminine chief?  I don’t blame them."

"No, sir.  Your superb bronze woman, your artist’s model, is Mohammed
Ali, the chief of the Nubians."

Jack looked incredulous.  "You expect me to believe that?"

"Not if you wish to go back and inquire.  It is true, though.  Mohammed
is a friend of mine.  He was good enough, when Clover and I looked into
his hut, to show us how he polishes those perfect teeth of his with a
little stick.  Did you ever see anything so shining?  You can buy his
photograph, if you like, at one of these booths, and keep it as a
memento of Mr. Van Tassel’s"—

"Look ou-at.  Look ou-at for Mary Anderson," called a donkey boy in a
blue gown.

"You wouldn’t run over me, would you, Toby?" asked Mildred.

The boy trudging by through the crowd, showed his ivories in a smile of
recognition, and urged his little white donkey onward in the narrow,
crooked, brick-paved street.

Such a throng, such a noise, only the memories of the experienced can
witness to.  Camels swung along between the irregular houses, the
warning cries of their drivers mingling with the monotonous sing-song of
the venders in the closely packed booths.

Egyptian flower girls, veiled to the eyes, plied their trade.  A
conjurer pushed his way amid the gazers, a hen’s egg sticking in his eye
and another clinging behind his jaw.  The rhythm of the Midway sounded
from two drums slung at either side of a gaudily caparisoned camel, and
was sung monotonously from the booth of the much-vaunted Oriental
sweetmeat:—

    "Alla gooda bum-bum,
    Vera nice candy,
    Beautifula bum-bum,
    Vera good candy,"

repeated _ad libitum_ by the swarthy Arab presiding.

Mildred and Jack glanced into the showcases as they passed onward, the
former restraining her companion from purchasing specimens of brasswork,
filigree silver, ornaments, and embroidery. But once Mildred exclaimed
with pleasure over a small hanging-lamp of dull silver.

"I will take it," said Jack to the instantly voluble salesman.

"Not for me; no don’t," protested his companion.

"You must have a souvenir," returned Van Tassel, smiling over the word
which had grown hateful by iteration to all Fair-goers.

"Please don’t get it," said the girl; but the very tassel on their
Oriental’s fez was active in his zeal to wrap up the parcel for this
gentleman who did not bargain.

The foreign fashion of changing a price by the beating-down process was
one with which many Americans amused themselves when they found it was
expected; but Jack was in that state of mind when an article which had
the rare fortune to please Mildred was above rubies.

She dissembled her satisfaction, however.  "If I had let you buy
everything you have started to since we came into the street, we should
have had to charter a donkey," she began.

"Look ou-at—look ou-at for Yanka Doodoo," bawled Achmet, the donkey boy,
directly upon them.

"I don’t like to feel that I mustn’t admire anything," finished the girl
as Jack stepped between her and the little quadruped who carried a
much-excited and curled maiden of five.

"I like this lamp so much, I don’t know that I shall let you have it,"
responded Van Tassel serenely, as he took the package.  "Look up,
Mildred.  What a deep blue the sky gets between those irregular roofs."

"Only one of us can look up at a time, while the other keeps watch of
the menagerie."

"There appears to be an extra crowd yonder," remarked Jack.

"Oh, that is the camel-stand.  Hear the people laughing.  How can
anybody be willing to furnish so much amusement to the public as to
mount one of those beasts?  There is always just such a crowd there."

"Well, are we through here?" asked Van Tassel.

"What?  Are you weary of Cairo Street?"

"Not if you are not; but it is rather warm, and there is a good deal of
a mob, and I have inhaled enough attar of roses to last until my next
incarnation.  I thought perhaps you might be tired, standing."

"I am."

"There isn’t a place to sit down, either," said Jack, looking around.

"That is just what almost every one thinks. I don’t know how soon people
will find out my enchanted palace, but they hadn’t done so last week."

"Well, now, an enchanted palace is exactly what I am looking for,"
returned Van Tassel hopefully.  "How did you learn the open sesame?"

"The open sesame is"—Mildred paused apologetically. "I am sorry to have
to say it, but it is the only prosaic feature,—the open sesame is
fifteen cents."

They moved along toward the crowd by the camel stand, and here in the
noisiest, busiest portion of the winding street, Mildred led her
companion into an open door which revealed a long, blank corridor.  The
dragon guarding it was a most commonplace American.  Most people whose
curiosity led them to look into the uninviting hallway were quickly
frightened off by the placard stating the fifteen-cent admission fee.
There was so much to see, and time and money were so limited, little
wonder that the obvious attractions of the street decided them not to
explore this side-show.

Mildred and Jack, leaving the din and bustle behind, pass the easily
placated dragon, and at the end of the low, empty corridor found
themselves in and open, floored court, out of which led a flight of
stairs.  A large earthen jar filled with water stood at one side over a
smaller vessel into which the water filtered in crystal drops through
the porous clay.  Palms and lilies stood about, and edged the entire
length of the staircase.  It was very quiet here, and Van Tassel looked
about him curiously.

Mildred gave him a smiling glance of mystery, "Let us go up and see
Sayed Ibrahim," she said.

"Look here," returned Jack, frowning and smiling, "you are altogether
too sophisticated."

"Sayed doesn’t think so," answered the girl, and they proceeded
upstairs.  Entering a hallway where was a heavy bronze door of fabulous
age and richness of design, they were met by a tall handsome Oriental in
robes and fez, whose melting eyes lighted as they recognized Mildred.
He bowed low.

"How do you do, Sayed Ibrahim; I have brought another friend to see the
beautiful house."

He bowed again and held aside a portière of cloth-of-gold.  The visitors
passed within and found themselves in a spacious shadowy room with lofty
arched ceiling.  The windows were unglazed and shielded by curious
hand-carved lattice work. Thick rugs were upon the floor, and small
tables inlaid with pearl and ivory stood about.  On a larger one were a
number of tiny and precious coffee cups, held in little brass stands.
Long-stemmed pipes hung upon the walls, and divans or cushions upon the
floor invited to repose.  Rich portières divided the suite of rooms one
from another.

The light was dim, coming out of the glaring street, and the colors in
rugs and hangings were tempered in the wonderful Oriental weaving. There
were no other visitors.  Jack looked at the swarthy cicerone who stood
ready to answer their questions.

"I do not wonder," he said to Mildred, "that you call this mysterious
spot enchanted.  It is a chapter out of the Arabian Nights."

"Yes; are you ready to come back to the nineteenth century?  The
nineteenth century in Egypt, you know.  I wouldn’t make your fall too
sudden and profound."

Mildred moved to the broad window-seat which was covered with a rug, and
smiled at the Arab. It was a language he understood as clearly as the
Harvard graduate, and he hastened forward and threw open the lattice.

Van Tassel seated himself opposite Mildred, and together they looked
down upon the madding crowd.

Their position was just opposite the camel stand, and from their height
they commanded a view of the kaleidoscopic life of the street.  The
bystanders pressed about the cushions upon which the camels knelt to
take on or be relieved of their burdens, and seemed to find
never-failing entertainment in the behavior of those intrepid passengers
who embarked for the adventurous journey to the end of the street and
back again.

Mildred and Jack in their romantic eyrie held their sides with laughter
over the absurdities enacted before their eyes.

"If any trip ever deserved the name of pleasure exertion, that is the
one," said Mildred, wiping her eyes, while she watched two girls who
evidently took their lives in their hands as they seated themselves on
the cushioned back of one of the patient beasts.  The Arab driver cried
out, and tapped the creature on the neck.

"Now then," said Jack, "see the ship of the desert let out the reefs in
its legs!"

Shrieks arose from the maidens at the first ascent, wilder and wilder
cries and clutchings at the second and third, and by the time the animal
had reached the stature of a camel and swung away, the whole crowd was
uproarious, only quieting to observe the next pair embark.

"Miss Amelia Edwards says the camel is a beast that hates its rider,"
said Jack.  "I wonder what are the private prejudices of the Cairo
Street variety."

"As if you couldn’t see!" answered Mildred. "It wouldn’t be half so
funny if the camels didn’t curl their lips and look so supercilious all
the time those idiots are shrieking so.  ’What fools these mortals be!’
is the sentiment their faces express chronically.  Poor things!  Just
think, that they are only intended to kneel once or twice a day, and
here they have to go down every three minutes. How they would execrate
Columbus if they only knew how!  Oh, look at that old lady!  It is a
shame to let her go," added Mildred.  "They will laugh at her, too."

"Never mind.  She will be the heroine of Perkins Point, or wherever it
is, all the rest of her life."

"She looks scared, Jack.  Oh, dear! her bonnet is falling off.  I wish
she wouldn’t.  Why, there are Clover and Mr. Page!  Do you see them?
Let us go out on the balcony."  Mildred left the window-seat, and Jack
followed.

"Is there a balcony?  Why didn’t you say so?"

"Because I am economical of my pleasant surprises."  The watchful Sayed
threw open double doors of the lattice work, and revealed a small,
square balcony upon which the visitors stepped into the sunlight.  The
fanciful minarets and spires of the street gleamed against an azure sky.

Clover and Gorham had paused just below, also interested in the
venturesome old lady, who was followed by cheers as her scornful camel
bore her up the street.

Jack took advantage of the temporary lull that followed, to whistle the
bit from "Carmen."

Clover instantly looked up and called the attention of her companion.

Mildred beckoned.

"Clover knows the way," said Jack.

"Most certainly she does.  We Chicagoans aren’t Fair visitors.  We are
Fair livers."

"Don’t be so toplofty, mademoiselle.  What am I, if not a Chicagoan?"

"Oh, a sort of deserter."

"’I deny the allegation and despise the allegator.’  I am going to marry
a Chicago girl, and live here all my days."

"Have you asked her?"

Van Tassel, perhaps reminded by the neighborhood of his mentor, forbore
from replying to the saucy smiling eyes, and here Clover and Gorham
appeared at the door of the balcony.

"Come out," said Mildred, "it holds five.  Is this the way you visit the
Anthropological Building?"

"Why, this is all right," answered Page. "’Midway Plaisance, Department
M. Ethnology.’  Look on the catalogue, and you will see this is all a
part of the Anthropological exhibit."

"And apart from it," suggested Mildred, "which certainly is in its
favor.  I thought you would see enough ghastly pictures and graveyards
and mummies in a short time."

"The exhibits in the gallery are wonderful and beautiful," said Clover.
"I don’t believe you know what you are talking about."

"I do, my dear.  I have oh’d and ah’d over them all, from the dainty
infinitesimal sea creatures on pink cotton to the mammoth.  I felt so
much obliged to him.  He really made me feel small.  Then the realistic
cliff, with the birds and beasts artistically disposed, and the
waterfall and flowing brook.  I’ve seen them.  How long have you been
here?"

"Not very long.  We have been watching the antics of the women on the
camels, and the long-legged men on those tiny donkeys."

"A great deal of human nature comes out in Cairo Street," said Page with
interest.  "One sees a great variety of motives, and many grades of
self-control by that camel stand.  See that little woman going now to
take a trip.  Is it amusement she’s after?  Not at all.  Note the
determination in her face.  Duty calls and she obeys. Dollars to
doughnuts she doesn’t scream, Jack."

"I’m out of doughnuts; but I’ll bet you the supper she does.  I haven’t
seen a quiet one yet."

"Done!  You will see one now."

"That girl is from the East," said Mildred.

"I am sure of it," returned Page, gazing with pleased curiosity at his
protégée, who stood waiting her turn; "but what brings you to that
conclusion?"

"The trimming of her hat looks as if it were nailed on.  They say all
Boston women’s bonnet trimmings are nailed on."

"She is a character," said Page.  "Now I would like to know what her
motive is in riding that camel."

Jack guffawed.  "I am sure you would.  You will be asking her the next
thing we know."

"Well, it is no idle one, I’m sure of that."

"Perhaps she is a school teacher," suggested Van Tassel, "and wants to
go home and tell her scholars how pitch-and-toss in Cairo Street differs
from the usual game."

"There she goes," said Clover, and they all watched the fair-faced girl
approach and mount a camel whose expression for utter boredom rather
outdid its neighbors.  At the driver’s cry it gathered itself
convulsively.  The rider lurched forward.  Her back was to the watchers
on the balcony, but they could not hear a sound from her.  She lurched
backward, still without a cry, and they were not surprised when the
camel swung around to see her face still set in its determined and
composed lines while the crowd looked on in silence.

"I shall enjoy that supper very much, Jack," said Gorham.

"You haven’t won it yet.  Wait till she comes back.  When his Nibs
kneels down is the time a girl’s lungs really come into play.  After she
thinks every joint in his body has doubled up there comes one unexpected
plunge that fetches the most dignified of them every time.  They say a
sailor came in here the other day and after riding one of our humped
friends said that the camel played cup-and-ball with him the whole
length of the street, and only missed him twice."

In a few minutes, back came Gorham’s heroine, still composed as she
rocked back and forth clinging to the rope which the driver had handed
her for a support.

"Now that supper hangs in the balance," remarked Page.

"I’m safe enough," returned Jack nonchalantly, "and I assure you my
appetite is in prime condition."

The camel, slowly winking and holding his nose aloft, approached his
cushion, and began the series of spasmodic collapses which made its
rider look as though at the mercy of a rocking-chair gone mad.  She
pitched wildly, but valiantly held her peace.  Even Jack had to admit
that she did not make a murmur, and all his protests against playing off
a dumb girl on him were unheeded as Page gazed benignly down on the
young woman, who smiled sweetly and triumphantly as she rejoined her
friends.

"Five minutes of four," said Mildred.  "The wedding procession will soon
pass.  Aren’t we fortunate to have the balcony?  Do you see, other
people are daring to visit the house and taking our window-seat?"

"Your window-seat!  That is pretty good," said Clover, turning toward
the speaker with an arch smile.  "We thought that was our window-seat,
didn’t we, Jack?"

She saw the color flash over her sister’s face in the instant before the
girl controlled herself.  She wondered if Jack had seen the novel
evidence of feeling before Mildred turned to him coolly.

"So you have been here before," she remarked. "Why didn’t you mention
it?"

"Clover and I looked in a short time only, the evening we took supper in
Germany," answered Van Tassel.  "I did not examine the curious place at
all then, so this is really my first view of it."

Clover turned away to conceal her amusement. Jack in his embarrassment
had implied all she could have asked from the disciplinary standpoint.

But now the attention of the quartette was claimed by the wedding
procession, which was seen coming down the street, the camels nearly
hidden under their gaudy, bulky trappings, and the din of the tom-toms
filling the air.  When the music, dancing, and sword play were ended,
Mildred spoke to her sister.

"What have you done with Mr. and Mrs. Page?"

"They went to the Chinese theatre, and we have promised to meet them in
Old Vienna and take supper there."

"Our dear Jack will have to take supper with us now," declared Gorham
cordially.

"I suppose," said Van Tassel, addressing Mildred, "that Old Vienna is an
oft-repeated experience to you?"

"At least I shall not pretend that it is a novelty," she answered
without looking at him, and Jack was silent.  He even colored, but it
was not with proper contrition.  It was a flush of pleasure that
overspread his countenance as his brown eyes sent a quick glance into
Clover’s.



                             *CHAPTER XXI.*

                             *OLD VIENNA.*


"How remarkable that you met Mildred," said Clover to Jack, after the
four had wended their way out of Cairo and turned west.

"It was a lucky chance," replied Van Tassel.

"Where did you meet?"  The fun in his face gave Clover her first
suspicion.

"In the Ferris Wheel.  Wasn’t it a coincidence that we should have
chosen the same cab?  And I’ll tell you in confidence, Clover, that I
think Mildred was considerably impressed with his Wheelship."

"Why should you make a confidence of that?" asked Mildred nonchalantly.
"We are all impressed, aren’t we?"

"Not to the verge of pallor, Milly."

"Don’t call me Milly.  No one does that but Clover."

"Were you really frightened, Mildred?" asked her sister with much
interest.

"Why do you ask me?  Ask Jack.  He evidently knows all about it."

"No, I insist on referring you to Mildred herself. She scorns petty
deceits of all kinds.  I cannot be relied on to tell the absolute
truth."

Mildred looked at the speaker with a dangerous sparkle in her eyes.
"Why don’t you give Clover her present?" she asked suddenly.

"A present for me?  Why, hurry," exclaimed Clover.  "What new
extravagance have you been committing, Milly?"

"It isn’t I this time, it is Jack.  He has bought you the most adorable
little silver hanging-lamp you ever saw.  Open it, Jack; or shall we
wait till we are seated in Old Vienna?"

"You told him I wanted it, you naughty girl."

"No, I didn’t."  Mildred was bubbling over with mischievous satisfaction
in Van Tassel’s struggles to look bland.  "It was purely spontaneous on
his part.  I even went so far as to urge him not to get it.  Didn’t I,
Jack?"

Van Tassel’s reply was scarcely audible; but they had reached the guard,
who with puffed sleeves and feathered hat stood motionless, spear in
hand, before the entrance to the Vienna of two hundred years ago.

Inside they found the Pages, standing before one of the many open shops
which formed the first floors of the weather-stained, peaked, and
turreted houses.

"Hilda is buying a spoon," announced Mr. Page as his friends approached;
"but that goes without saying.  I have kept careful count, and this is
the seventy-seventh she has purchased while with me. Of course there may
be others.  I can’t tell what pleasant surprises may be awaiting me when
we get home."

"How was the Chinese theatre?" asked Gorham, while Clover and Mildred
gravitated naturally to Mrs. Page’s side to lend her their aid in
deciding between the merits of two spoons she was examining.

"Immense; you must go."

"You mustn’t go unless you want to be driven crazy with noise," put in
Hilda.  "Robert says I am deficient in the sense of humor, but you
positively can’t think in that place.  There was a Chinese-American in
the audience acting as an interpreter, and I suppose he saw that Robert
was interested; so he just stayed with us, and put the crowning touch to
the confusion by explaining the play at a pitch to be heard above the
squealing music and the shrieking actors."

"Women’s parts all taken by men, of course," explained her husband, "and
they jabber in a high monotonous falsetto without any change of
countenance except an occasional attack of pathetic strabismus. Two
lovers meet after a separation of ten years.  They start, then with two
simultaneous squeaks fall backward in a swoon, feet to feet, and lie
there with their elaborately dressed heads sticking up in the air, while
a supe runs in with wooden supports which he tucks under their necks.
The interpreter explained: ’Of course they cannot spoil their hair!’
Ha! ha!  It was great; and as for the costumes and hangings, they would
stand alone for the gold and silver embroidery in them. Confess, Hilda,
they were consoling."

"Yes, they were; and so was the baby we saw upstairs in the Joss-house.
He was ten months old, with a black tuft of hair on top of his head
exactly like the Chinese dolls, and was dressed in green silk trousers
and a red silk shirt."

"You must have wanted to steal him," said Mildred.

"That is what his mother thought, I am sure. He lay asleep in a little
wagon, and when she heard me exclaim, she flew out from behind a curtain
with a very suspicious expression on her pretty face. Yes, she was
really pretty, and dimpled, and young; and her hands were loaded with
rings.  Robert, just look here one minute.  Don’t you think the filigree
handle is the prettier?"

"My dear, I ate too many bananas once, and have never since been able to
endure the sight of them.  If you knew the sentiments with which a
souvenir spoon inspires me, you would tremble."

"I will take the filigree one," said Mrs. Page, with a sigh of relief.

The six ate supper together at a table pleasantly distant from the fine
German orchestra. Feathery bits of white cloud scudded over the blue
above them.  Picturesque gables and weather-beaten façades illuminated
with the decorations of a bygone time closed them in from the outside
world with such an atmosphere of antiquity, that even the dignified
beauty of Handel’s Largo, as its stately measures pealed forth on the
evening air, seemed an anachronism.

Mildred sat at Jack’s right hand.

"What shall I put down for you?" he asked, looking up from the order he
was writing.  "I found nothing on the card injurious enough to be
appropriate."

Mildred smiled slightly as she glanced over the menu.

"You deserved a worse punishment than that," she answered.

"It is true it was no great punishment.  I should like to give Clover
all Cairo Street if she wants it."

Clover was sitting opposite between the other men, and the music
effectually concealed from her the above colloquy.

"Hurry up, Jack," she said, leaning forward; "they keep you waiting
forever here.  Give her bread and milk if she can’t decide.  It is good
for the young."

While the party were waiting for their meal to be brought, Jack, now at
ease in the situation, produced the silver lamp, which received much
praise as it was passed about.

Gorham, Mildred’s other neighbor, turned to her. "Your sister suggests
that you must have practiced much self-control," he remarked.  "She says
this is just the sort of lamp you have been searching for."

"Do you hear that, Jack?" asked Mildred demurely. "I am afraid Jack does
not appreciate me, Mr. Page."

Mildred, ever since the evening of her confidential talk with Gorham,
had carried the half-nettled, wholly amused consciousness that he was
regarding her with considerations of her search for that affinity she
had described.  She felt sure he would not repeat their talk to Jack;
but if he should! The thought brought a stinging red to her cheeks.

Page was not thinking of her now, however. This little circumstance of
the gift of the lamp impressed him.  That Jack should, while with
Mildred, buy this bauble which the latter coveted and give it to Clover,
looked as though Hilda’s convictions might be correct.  As he caught a
serene glance from Clover’s violet eyes it suddenly seemed to him very
improbable that an impressionable fellow like his cousin should not
dream by day and night of that pure and beautiful face.

Jack was not worthy of her, he could not precisely state to himself why;
and he ran over his acquaintances in his mind to see if he could find
one the consideration of whom would rouse less antagonism.  He had not
succeeded when the waiter appeared with the supper.

"What are you indefatigable people going to do next?" asked Robert Page,
lighting a cigar when their meal was finished.  "I am extremely
comfortable and good-natured now, but I warn you I shall turn dangerous
if any one suggests the illumination.  To be asked just to step over
from Old Vienna to the Court of Honor sounds pleasant. It was played on
me once when I was a tenderfoot; but I’m not to be roped into any such
pilgrimage to-night.  If I wasn’t a married man, I should sit right here
and listen to the music, and see the Wheel go round, until it was time
to go to my little bed."

"What nonsense!" remarked Hilda.  "If you weren’t married you would be
urging me to go with you in a gondola."

"My dear, where would be the use?  You know the gondolas are all
bespoken by this time.  What a sweet consciousness it is, by the way,"
added Page, sighing restfully.

"We are going, though, some night," returned his wife.  "Before we leave
the White City, you must take me in a gondola and hold my hand."

"See the lengths to which this woman’s frenzy for spoons carries her!
Why, I’ll hold your hand now, my dear.  Any suggestion which presupposes
so little exertion as that will find me in an affirmative state of mind
every time."

Hilda glanced at his offered hand scornfully. "We haven’t the
stage-setting," she replied.  "Be careful, Robert Page, or you will
frighten Mildred out of getting married at all."

"Is that true, Miss Mildred?  Oh, I don’t believe it.  You are so
level-headed you must see the situation in the right light.  Did you
ever hear the simile of the horse-car?  When a man is trying to catch a
horse-car and afraid it is going to escape him, he waves his arms,
shouts, hurries, and disturbs himself generally.  After he has caught
the conveyance, if he continued to behave in the same perturbed fashion
he would be set down as a lunatic.  You see the point, of course?"

Mildred pursed her lips and shook her head. "You are a very audacious
man," she answered.

"Now Jack isn’t smoking," continued Page argumentatively.  "That
indicates the restlessness of the man who is afraid he will arrive too
late at the street corner."

"It indicates that I am not going to stay here," returned Van Tassel.

"Whither away, restless one?"

"You will have to ask Miss Bryant.  She is showing me the World’s Fair
to-day."

"Not after your perfidious behavior," said Mildred.  "I was too
sophisticated, was I?  Oh, for shame!"

"Do you speak to me of perfidy!" exclaimed Jack.

"Well, sha’n’t we all go somewhere together?" suggested Gorham.

"No, I think we sha’n’t, dear brother," replied Robert mildly.

"Do you want to stay, Hilda?" asked Gorham. "Aren’t you growing tired of
hearing Zwei Bier? Come with us."

"No, thanks.  I will stay here until it bores me, and then I will give
Robert his choice of selecting another souvenir spoon or taking me out."

So the other four left their seats and moved away to the martial strains
of Die Wacht am Rhein.

Clover found herself beside Jack a moment.

"It was a shame about the lamp," she murmured.

"What?" returned Van Tassel, looking uncomfortably into her roguish
eyes.

"I saw how it was.  Too bad; but that is another thing she will repent
at leisure."

"How did you know?"

"By Mildred’s impish dimple.  She has one just above her lip that never
shows except when she is in mischief.  At first I was taken in; but
after a moment I saw the imp, and then I knew."

"What a wonderful sight the Wheel is with its double row of electric
lights," said Mildred to Gorham.

"What—yes; it has been rather warm," he replied; this irrelevance being
due to the effect upon him of observing Clover’s murmured colloquy with
Jack.

Mildred stared.  When she made a remark to a man, she was accustomed to
find him attentive.

Page continued with another inexcusable speech.

"I wonder if perhaps Mrs. Van Tassel would like to go somewhere with
Jack."

"I believe Jack considers himself otherwise engaged this evening,"
returned Miss Bryant with hauteur.

"Oh—oh yes."  Gorham’s eyes fell upon the speaker with an expression
which suggested that he had just become aware of her, and until this
moment had been talking to himself.

A light broke upon Mildred.  There was but one possible explanation of
such ignoring of her own preëminent right to homage.

"They are both in love with her!" she thought, and the slight pang that
came with the idea surprised her.

Clover and Jack, with the laughter on their lips, stepped forward and
joined the others.

"Have you any wish, Mrs. Van Tassel?" asked Page.

"No, let us drift until something tempts us."  They soon lost sight of
Mildred and Jack in that stream of humanity which flowed in both
directions along the Midway between the soft arc-moons. They left behind
them the great Wheel, slowly revolving in sparkling light as though,
sweeping through the heavens, myriad stars had caught thickly along its
edges and were borne on to earth.

"Let me carry that precious lamp," said Page, taking Clover’s parcel.

"I would not let Jack keep it, for fear he might give it to Mildred,"
she explained.

Her companion looked surprised.

"Jack is a little weak and indulgent where Mildred is concerned," said
Clover.

Page did not know what to reply.  Hilda had assured him in days past
that no one could help seeing that Mrs. Van Tassel was unwilling Jack
should ask Mildred to go to the Fair with him, and now this frank avowal
of jealousy perplexed him greatly.

"But what—what mystifies me, Mrs. Van Tassel," he said hesitatingly, "is
that you should care for a gift—but there are limits to a man’s right to
express his thoughts."

Clover laughed out mirthfully.  "Analyze me. I am perfectly willing,
only it will necessitate exposing the fact that my sister is a very
saucy girl."

Page regarded her so earnestly that he nearly stumbled over a wheeled
chair that grazed him.

"I don’t understand it at all," he said seriously.

"Of course not.  Well, I will tell you.  Jack bought this lamp for
Mildred; and she, to punish him for some offense, forced him to give it
to me in the way you heard.  She doesn’t know that I saw through it; but
now I do not propose that she shall have the fun and the lamp too."

Page found the Midway grow a trifle cheerier under this disclosure.  "Of
course not," he answered; then, after a moment’s thoughtfulness: "That
was a strange prank for your sister to play," he added.  "I fear I
shouldn’t have known how to yield as easily to the joke as Jack did."

"Oh, he stuttered a good deal, poor fellow," laughed Clover.  "Mildred
is a spoiled child."

"Not so superficial, though, as one would at first believe," returned
Gorham.  "There is plenty of depth to her nature.  Society educates a
girl to seem shallow, that is all."

Clover looked surprised and pleased.  She glanced at Page with quick,
responsive feeling.

"It is very nice of you to see through Mildred," she said, and Page felt
a strange glow under her approval.

"The folly of Hilda," he thought, "in supposing this woman could be
jealous of another!"

There was something too in the quiet joyousness of her sphere which
assured him that whatever were her sentiments for Jack, she was not
longing for his society now.  She was content, he felt it, and the
knowledge was bliss to him.

"I wonder how soon we are going to be attracted," remarked Clover, after
they had walked a minute in silence.

Page turned to her suddenly.  "What do you mean by that?" he asked so
eagerly that the surprised color rushed to his companion’s face.

"Why, we were waiting, weren’t we, for one of these side shows to tempt
us beyond the point of resistance," she answered, with the glibness with
which a woman can skim over a moment which threatens too much.

"Well, to tell the truth I had forgotten what we were doing beyond
sauntering together in this very interesting, motley crowd.  Isn’t it
strange how completely alone we are in such a place?"

"Or might be, if it were not for the wheeled chairs," said Clover.  "It
isn’t safe to become introspective here."

"Was I?" anxiously.  "Have I been silent, Mrs. Van Tassel?  My thoughts
often play me tricks.  Hilda is always saying that I am ’queer.’  I
don’t know just what she means, but if you would be kind enough to
mention it if I do anything you don’t like, I should be—it would be a
great favor."

"You are very flattering," returned Clover, turning away to smile.
"What a temptation you offer me!"

"Then I do offend you?" he exclaimed with frank consternation.

"No, no, I didn’t mean that.  I was only thinking what a temptation you
hold out to a woman to mould a fellow-creature into the form she likes.
But I know what an ignis fatuus that alluring idea is.  Men do not alter
themselves to please women."

"I should say," returned Page ruminatively, "that you are wrong.  I know
that Hilda has changed Robert in many ways, materially."

"By the force of years of influence, yes; but your brother did not know
what was going on.  I am certain of that."

"I should suppose," said Page earnestly, "that a man could not rest in
the knowledge that he was doing something offensive to the woman he
loves."

"Yes, you would suppose so," agreed Clover. "My knowledge of the truth
is gathered from observation, not experience, as you know.  I reverenced
Mr. Van Tassel too completely to think of desiring to change him.  In my
married life it was myself I wished to alter; but I have seen a good
deal of young married people, and—well, tell me, Mr. Page, did you ever
hear Hilda say that she would be glad if her husband did not smoke?"

"Yes," replied Gorham, and said no more.

"Now I begin to feel a strong temptation, Mr. Page.  How is it with you?
Are you prepared to resist the Javanese village?"

"I have not been in there."

"Oh, you mustn’t miss that.  I wonder you have been able to pass that
charming, fantastic, bamboo entrance.  The lightness and simplicity of
this life makes it to me the most charming in the Plaisance."

They entered the gateway and came suddenly upon the quiet attractions of
the dainty straw village.  Yes, it was still, here; still enough to hear
the muffled music of the water-wheel.  Clover and Page stood a moment in
the hush, listening to its tinkle, and the plashing of the wavelets.  A
small, soft-footed Javanese occasionally passed them.

"I wish that I smoked," broke out Gorham suddenly.

"Here will be an opportunity," returned Clover. "You will be offered
cigarettes at every turn in Java."

Page’s seriousness was unmoved.  "I want you to believe that I would
give it up if you asked me."

Mrs. Van Tassel’s serene heart quickened its pace, but she laughed.
"Isn’t it a pity that I shall have to remain incredulous?" then she
hastened on, vaguely afraid of her companion.  "Don’t misunderstand me,
please.  I was not criticising your brother a minute ago.  Do you know
you have formed a shocking habit of frankness in me? You have searched
out my thoughts and opinions so many times that now you have only to
suggest a subject and I pour out my ideas.  I think I ought to have kept
my observations to myself on this topic; but since I have said so much,
I don’t wish to leave you with the notion that I think your brother and
men like him monsters of selfishness. A woman makes an absurd mistake to
marry a smoking man, and then to be grieved because he refuses when she
artlessly requests him to give up the habit; but a girl nearly always
thinks that all she need do is to marry a man in order to make him over
into anything she likes.  I tell you, Mr. Page, it is the result of my
observations that all the voluntary changes a man makes at the request
of his beloved are made before—before he catches the horse-car."

Gorham smiled.  "But I don’t think Robert ought to smoke, since Hilda"—

"Pardon me.  I am going to defend the absent. Did he smoke while they
were engaged?"

"Yes."

"Very well.  Now, do you wish to hear some words of wisdom?"

"Yes, indeed."

"Here they are.  If Hilda disliked tobacco, she should have said so,
then; and she probably did. When she found Mr. Page would not give up
the habit, she should have weighed the question in her mind as to
whether the matter of smoking were going to affect her happiness
seriously.  If she thought it would, she should have broken her
engagement.  The great point is, that if she decided to marry him she
should have realized that she took him as he was, tobacco and all, and
would be likely to have rather more than less of it for the rest of her
life."

"A man is a selfish brute," remarked Gorham.

"Sometimes; but he has the same right a woman has to choose between his
habit and his love; that is, if the woman speaks in time."

"Hilda does not particularly dislike cigar smoke," said Page, "but she
thinks smoking is bad for Robert.  I wonder if all men are as
thick-skinned as you say.  Now, there is Jack.  Do you believe he would
not fling all his cigars into the lake for—for you?"

"Yes, indeed; so long as there were plenty more to be had."

"No, Mrs. Van Tassel, be serious; and for the moment pardon
personalities.  If Jack were engaged to you"—

He waited, gazing at Clover.  She smiled at him and said, "Well, if Jack
were engaged to me?"

Page swallowed some impediment to speech.

"And you should earnestly ask him not to smoke, can you doubt the
result?"

Clover shrugged her shoulders.  "No, I am afraid I can’t.  Jack is a
gentleman, and such an impulsive, affectionate fellow, I know pretty
well what he would do, supposing of course that he were very earnestly
and deeply in love with me."

"Which he is, of course."  The dismal exclamation broke from Page
unawares.

Clover stared at him.  "Oh no, he isn’t," she said gently, after a
minute.

"What!"

"No, indeed.  Jack and I always were good comrades, and always will be,
I hope."

Page suddenly took both her hands excitedly, and laughed aloud.

"Pardon me," he said, sobering suddenly.  "I was forgetting where we
were."  He drew her hand within his arm and they started to walk.
"Pretty little light things these bamboo houses are," he continued.
"What a gentle life they suggest.  I don’t know exactly why I am so glad
to hear what you tell me, Mrs. Van Tassel.  I was under a mistaken idea
that you and Jack were—and it is no reflection upon Jack that I am
relieved.  He is a fine fellow.  There is no man I like better; so it
is—it is really difficult for me to explain why—why"—

"Never mind trying, Mr. Page," returned Clover, smiling softly at a cage
of doves outside a cottage door.  "It isn’t necessary," she added
demurely, "to label every feeling one has."

"It is a sort of habit of mine," he returned apologetically.  "What is
this long straw building?"

"The theatre."

"Will you come in?"

"Yes; I have not visited it, but I hear it is interesting."

So they entered the well-filled hall just as the performance was
beginning, and were fortunate enough to find seats near the stage.  At
both sides of the latter were placed rows of puppets with grotesque
faces, featured like the masks worn by most of the actors.  At the back
of the stage were ranged the musicians, sitting cross-legged in rows
before their highly ornamented instruments. These were soft-toned gongs,
bells, and strings of strange fashion, and instead of being solely
noticeable for rhythm, like most of the music of the Midway, one heard
from this orchestra plaintive harmonies and cadences which seemed but an
amplification of the minor pleading in the water-wheel’s play.

The curtained entrances at the side back of the stage looked too small
and low to admit the actors, but there was room and to spare even for
the men, and still more for the dainty brown dancing-girls who soon
glided forth.  They were exceedingly pretty and graceful, dressed in
gold-embroidered velvet trousers to the knee, and short skirts. Their
dimpled shoulders and arms were bare, and their fringed sashes were used
to fling over their wrists in the fascinating monotonous gestures with
which they pointed their little hands as they stepped about in their
white-stockinged feet.

The performance was all in pantomime, the lines being read by some one
hidden behind a screen in the centre of the stage.  The orchestra men in
their calico gowns and turbans often smiled at some sally of the clown;
but Clover and Page did not need to comprehend in order to be amused.
There was something tenderly comical in the pompous movements of the
little people gesturing in stiff, studied fashion.  From time to time
the dancing-girls would appear, gliding hither and yon, and posing to
the tinkling music.

"This is surprisingly pretty," said Page.

"I want one of those brown girls to take home as bricabrac," returned
Clover.  "Aren’t they the roundest, prettiest little creatures!  Really,
the whole thing seems strange enough to be a sight in fairy-land; and do
you hear that enchanting rustle of trees above our heads?"

The light summer breeze was stirring the dried straw and grass that
thatched the roof, with the lulling effect of wind in a forest.

"I am enchanted, I admit," answered Gorham.

After the play they walked about the village, among the houses where the
little inhabitants sat upon their piazzas and sang, or talked, or rested
silently.

"I shall never see such a reposeful place again," said Gorham, when at
last they passed out beneath the bamboo arch into the turbulent street.
"I should like to prolong that experience indefinitely."

"You can repeat it," suggested Clover.

"I should like to believe that; but one seldom has so much enjoyment in
the same space of time as I have had this evening.  I feel grateful to
you for showing me all that."

They passed down the remainder of the Midway and under the last viaduct.
Walking north around the end of the Woman’s Building, they stood a
moment arm-in-arm by the lagoon, and watched the quiet boats glide by,
then slowly began the homeward walk.

"You did not tell me," said Page, "what you knew Jack would do in our
supposed case."

"Haven’t we finished yet with the sins of smokers?"

"I don’t know.  Perhaps we have.  Were you going to say that you
believed Jack would give up the habit at the request of the woman he
loved?"

"I was going to say that he would promise to. Yes, I am quite sure what
Jack would do, for I have known men of his kind to do the same thing.
His fiancée—I, for example"—

"No, say your sister; although he is not at all her kind."

"Why, what is the matter with poor Jack, Mr. Page?" asked Clover rather
resentfully.  "In what category do you place him, pray?"

"I place him high enough," returned Gorham hastily.  "I only refer to a
woman’s fancy, and I have an idea that Miss Bryant would prefer a more
sober, studious man."

"Why, I can’t imagine what makes you think that!"

"It doesn’t matter," said Page.  "It can’t hurt her at all for us to
engage her to him for a few minutes.  You are not going to say that Jack
would make a promise and break it?  If you think that, you rate him
lower than I do."

"He wouldn’t mean to.  This is about the way it goes, or the way I have
known it to go. Supposing Mildred to be engaged to Jack, she might tell
him she wished he did not smoke; that she disapproved it for many
reasons.  He would probably reply that he hoped she would not ask him to
give it up, for if she insisted of course he should comply with her
wishes.  This would make such an appeal to her tenderness that she would
forbear objecting awhile, feeling sure, poor thing, that her lover was
completely in her power; but after a time, inclination and conviction
both urging her, she would return to the subject.  She might say, for
instance, that she could not help wishing strongly that he would give up
this habit, and that Clover had said no man would do it for any woman.
At this Jack would flare up.  How could Clover be guilty of such a
speech!  She had evidently never known any man who loved a woman as he,
Jack, adored her, Mildred.  He would die for her.  It would be a
pleasure to him to give up this comparatively slight gratification for
the sake of proving his affection for his beloved.  Great elation on the
part of Mildred.  Lying low on the part of Clover.  Jack stops smoking,
and is ostentatiously careless and cheerful.  Mildred flatters him
gratefully.  He assures her that he does not care if he never sees a
cigar again, and is glad if such a trifling sacrifice pleases her.

"Some day, perhaps before their marriage, perhaps after, it depends upon
the length of the engagement, Jack, after dinner, lights a cigar with a
friend.  Mildred protests gently.  He answers reproachfully.  Of course
she knows the habit is entirely broken up, she surely is not going to be
puritanical and unreasonable because once in a way he lights a cigar as
she would eat confectionery? She still feels uneasy, but is rather
ashamed to show it.  He puts his arm around her, tells her she is a nice
little girl, and came just in time to save him from smoking to excess,
and he thanks her for it."

"Well?" said Gorham, as she paused.

"Well, that occasional cigar soon becomes a daily one, or one of a daily
half-dozen."

"Mrs. Van Tassel!  How cynical you are!"

Clover laughed.  "Oh no, not cynical.  Jack was honest in his
expectation to give up his pet indulgence.  He reasoned himself into
thinking his course was right."

"I can’t believe it is always so."

"Always, Mr. Page," returned Clover, nodding wisely.  "Men have died and
worms have eaten them, but not for love.  Men have given up tobacco and
endured the torment it entails, but _not—for—love_!"

"I never wished before that I was a smoker," said Page musingly, "but I
suppose it would be rather foolish to cultivate the appetite merely to
deny it."

"A piece of braggadocio which would be sure to reap the reward of
failure," replied Clover.

"Don’t say that, or you will tempt me to experiment.  My first cigar
made me dreadfully ill when I was twelve years old, and my father
counter-irritated my internal misery with an outward application; so I
didn’t try it again for some time. In the past year I have occasionally
yielded to Jack’s urgency and smoked a cigar, but it doesn’t interest
me.  I forget about it, and it goes out."

"By all means let well enough alone," laughed Clover.

"Do you object to the use of tobacco?" asked Page earnestly.

"In you I should," answered the other, her eyes shining in the darkness.

"I wish I could give it up," he replied simply.



                            *CHAPTER XXII.*

                            *ON THE LAGOON.*


Mildred and Jack, when they discovered that they had lost their
companions, made no effort to find them.

"It is a great bore for more than two to try to keep together in this
place.  Don’t you think so?" asked Van Tassel.

"It is very difficult, certainly," agreed the girl. "Isn’t it strange to
look about this wonder-world of a street and realize that it is just the
Midway Plaisance?  Recall the old driveway at this hour."

"Yes; early evening was its most populous time too; but even then, how
quiet it was.  What a wild idea it would have been to expect to see
Turkish dancing-girls, half-naked Dahomeyans, and all the rest, living
in those still, green fields.  Have you been in to Hagenbeck’s and seen
the marvelous trained animals?"

"Yes; but it is a rather creepy pleasure to watch lions, tigers, bears,
and leopards walking around that one solitary man and hissing
threateningly at him even while they obey."

"The one moment when I found my breath short was when the trainer made
five lions lie down on the ground, and threw himself on his back upon
them as though on a rug.  He flung his arms out and caressed their great
noses.  I tell you, I didn’t like him to let those beasts out from under
his eyes."

"That was thrilling, I remember; but I felt for the lions sometimes,
too.  I didn’t like to see them demean themselves.  When one had to hold
the end of a rope in his teeth and swing it to let a hound jump, it
seemed rather small business to demand of the king of the forest."

When the two friends, stopping often by the way to watch some curious
object of interest, reached the Japanese bazaar, they went in for a few
minutes.  By the time they emerged, the twilight had wholly faded.

"See your kings of the forest!" exclaimed Jack.

Mildred looked across the street.  There in mid-air, apparently
suspended like Mahomet’s coffin, the iron cage above the entrance to the
Hagenbeck arena was brilliant with electric light.  Five great lions
were within, and the strange effect, in the surrounding darkness, was
heightened when the trainer, whip in hand, entered and closed the door
behind him.  In a shorter time than it takes to tell it, Jack and
Mildred found themselves in the centre of an ever-growing crowd, all
with upturned faces watching the wondrous apparition.  The magnificent
beasts glided lithely back and forth, watching the trainer, who,
exciting them more and more by the whip which he cracked in the air,
adroitly avoided being knocked down as they bounded about him, passing
and repassing one another with increasing swiftness.

"A great advertisement," remarked Jack; then, as Mildred moved and
turned her head, "Are you being uncomfortably crowded?" he asked.

"Never mind, it is worth it!" she said, rather breathlessly, as a big
fellow, uncouth in his open-mouthed wonder, unconsciously shoved her
against her companion.

Van Tassel drew her in front of him and placed his arm between her and
the countryman.  The latter still pressed, but feeling an obstruction
firm as a bar of iron, turned his admiring countenance vaguely around
toward Van Tassel.

"Well, I vum," he exclaimed.  "Ever seen anything like that before?
Wife and I never did. Them lions hangin’ betwixt earth and heaven
shakin’ their manes at that feller, and he dodgin’ around out o’ their
way as cool as a cucumber! It’s wife’s aim to tell the truth when we get
home, and it’s mine, too.  It’s both our aims; but we might’s well lie.
There won’t anybody believe this."

"It is amazing," said Jack; "but you can see as well in one place as
another.  Would you kindly push the other way?"

"They’re a-hunchin’ us on this side too," explained the man; then
continued to gape, oblivious of his surroundings.

The trainer placed a white and gold chair in the centre of the cage, and
made one of the lions spring into it.  The creature placed its powerful
forepaws on the chair-back, and waved its graceful tail from side to
side.  Another of the beasts reared on its hind legs high above the
trainer’s head, resting its paws against the iron bars; and its roar
resounded through the crowded street.

The trainer motioned the sitting lion from the chair, shot a revolver
twice into the air, left the cage, and lo! the wondering spectators were
gazing into blank darkness.

"Another dream over," said Jack into the ear so close to him.

The tightly hemmed-in mass of humanity slowly dissolved into its
integral parts.

"They ought to have a packed house after that," remarked Mildred.

"Shall we swell the number?"

"Not unless you wish it."

"I don’t.  I wish something else very much. Will you answer as meekly
and civilly when I ask it?"

They had begun again their walk eastward.

"I don’t know."

"Oh, that is not encouraging."

"It is wise, though.  I was brought up never to be afraid to confess
that I didn’t know a thing."

"I want you to go with me in a gondola.  Compare my humility with Robert
Page’s _sang-froid_."

"A gondola will be even more difficult to catch by this time than a
horse-car," suggested the girl.

Jack looked at her, but her piquant smiling face taught him renewed
patience.

"Then you will not run much risk in promising," he answered.  "Shall we
leave it to Fate to decide? If we find a gondola easily, will you go?"

"Yes, indeed."

As they left the Plaisance and came around the Woman’s Building, a
sun-burst of fire in the east illuminated the sky.

"A salute to royalty," said Jack.  "Queen Mildred has arrived."

The white light faded, to be followed by dazzling green, ruby, and gold,
as one bomb followed another, to burst above the lake and cast abroad in
the heavens fountains of jewels that rained down in glittering showers.

"Now, let us see if Fate is good-natured," said Van Tassel, leading his
companion toward the nearest gondola-landing.  A graceful willow hung
above and obscured it.

"I must laugh at you, Jack," said the girl, suiting the action to the
word.  "The idea of expecting to find a gondola now, way over here."

"Stranger things have happened.  Suppose," suddenly standing still and
looking down into her eyes,—"suppose you should say that you wish it.
Just for luck, you know."

"I never wish for impossibilities."

"Do you expect me to believe that?"

"Well, I try not to."

"But wish for this.  You know it is possible to have strawberries in
January."

"What a great boy you are still, Jack.  Very well, I wish that two
gondoliers may have been attacked by an unusual access of laziness this
evening, have denied their craft to all applicants, and skulked over
here away from the crowd, and that they may be waiting for us now in the
shadow of the willow.  Any more midsummer madness you would like me to
indulge in?"

Van Tassel led her down the bank.  "Behold!" he said.  "Mildred, what a
witch you are!  This is necromancy."

The girl stood with lips parted, for the waiting gondoliers sent their
graceful craft to her feet. She put her hand in Jack’s and stepped
within. In a moment Van Tassel was beside her, and they had glided away.

The lagoon rippled in a light breeze.  Along the edge of Wooded Island
the sedges dipped in the waves.  Here and there on the bank a group of
water-birds showed white, as a neighboring electric light touched the
soft plumage beneath which their heads nestled.

Jack wanted his companion to speak first, but she kept silence long.

"Is the sorceress enjoying herself?" he asked gently, at last.

Mildred returned his gaze as she leaned back in her cushioned corner.

"I am a philosopher," she answered.  "I am being kidnapped, but I might
as well enjoy it."

"Well, that is pretty good.  I should say"—

"I don’t want to hear anything you have to say. I am convinced that you
are the most designing creature alive.  Ask your minions to sing,
please."

Jack longed that he might know the thoughts that flitted white-winged
through his companion’s mind as their boat glided on, to the gondoliers’
song.

This ceased as they entered the Court of Honor, grown dusk now in
preparation for the second playing of the electric fountains.  Half the
weary sightseers had gone home; no black crowd lined the railings around
the Grand Basin.

The rainbow jets sprang triumphant skyward. An invisible orchestra lent
their colors richer meaning and beauty.

"Do you remember the song that Clover sang last night?" asked Jack,
leaning a little toward his companion.  "It suddenly came to my mind
then as the water shot up.  Those lines,—

    ’I share the skylark’s transport fine,
    I know the fountain’s wayward yearning,
    I love—and the world is mine!’

Clover says that is a man’s song.  I don’t agree with her.  A woman may
be angel enough to feel divine fullness of content simply in loving; but
a man who loves must be loved again, or else feel that nothing is
his,—nothing; there is no beggar so poor as he.  Isn’t it so?"

The earnest tone thrilled close to Mildred’s cheek. She caught her
breath quickly.  "I—I don’t know," she said, nervously surprised.

"Still true to your bringing up," remarked her companion, controlling
himself with a strong will as he felt her shrink, and leaning back with
a short laugh.  "Not afraid to say you don’t know, when such is the
case.  Well, I can only speak for myself.  When I love and am loved I
will agree with the poet,—I would even sing with her if I could:

    ’For soft the hours repeat one story,
    Sings the sea one strain divine,
    My clouds arise, all flushed with glory,
    I love—and the world is mine!’"


Mildred was startled.  What a lover Jack would make!  He was not
Clover’s.  She was sure of it now, but the thought brought no elation,
rather a new, timid humility, which made her seem strange to herself.

She felt her companion’s dark eyes upon her, and her usually ready
tongue was mute.

Van Tassel did not know whether to gather courage or alarm from her
silence as they sat there side by side.  The gondoliers slowly propelled
the boat, keeping in view of the fountains’ tossing banners of liquid
light.

"Tell me what you are thinking, Mildred," he urged, at last.

"I am not thinking.  Do you ever come to such times?  I do always in
this spot.  Perhaps it is because I have no thoughts to match such
unearthly beauty.  At all events I never think, here. I feel.  I
absorb."

"Yes, that is it," answered Jack simply.

"Give me the Peristyle," said Mildred, "and what I can see from it, and
sweep all the rest of the Fair away if you like.  I don’t love many
things in this world beside Mildred Bryant, but the Peristyle is one of
them."

It was a novel speech from her, and in a novel tone.  The low cadence of
her voice had lost the laughter or imperiousness which usually
characterized it.

Jack was silent for a time.  "Are you warm enough?" he asked at last.

"Yes; but I think we had better go home."

"Aren’t you comfortable?"

"Oh, certainly, and it was very kind of you, Jack, to take so much
trouble."

This gentleness alarmed Van Tassel more than any amount of coldness or
impertinence would have done; but he fought off dejection.

"I have given you one thing, then, that you can’t hand on to Clover," he
said lightly.

The fountains leaped a last time and fell, dropping lower and lower,
till only the white sea foaming about Columbia’s barge was left.  Soft
radiance again lit up water and sculpture.

Mildred longed to be at home; and soon she and Jack entered a wagonette
at the Park gate and were driven to the house.  When they arrived, the
orchestra at the hotel was playing the music of Carmen.

"There is a delicate compliment to you, Jack," she suggested, as they
ascended the steps.

"Yes; but must you go right in?" for she showed symptoms of leaving him.

"It has been a long day," she answered, lingering with an unusual gentle
compliance from which he gathered no hope.

"You are tired," he said, with tender contrition. "I have had you so
long, and yet—when should I be ready to let you go!  Oh, Mildred,—is it
any use?" he burst forth suddenly, in a low tone, seizing both her hands
and holding them with painful tightness.

A fluttering and wild, loud peeping came from the tangle of vines near
which they stood, and a small dark object half fell, half flew down past
their heads to the grass below.

Mildred started.  "It is Electra,—a falling star."  She laughed
nervously.  "I am glad she fell, else I might be crying now instead of
laughing. It would be such a serious unhappiness to me if I should cause
you pain, Jack," she added brokenly. "You are so different from anybody
else."

"I am answered," he said briefly and steadily; but he did not loosen her
hands.  "I am going to ask a great deal of you now, Mildred.  Can you
forget what I have said?"

"I—I am afraid not."

"Please try to; I will help you."

"Help me?" repeated the girl, bewildered.

"Yes, for everything between us shall be the same as before.  To-morrow
morning you will say to yourself that you had a dream.  That is all."

"Very well."  The girl regarded him questioningly. "I hope you are
not—are not thinking that I might—might speak of it?"

Jack threw his head back and gave an excited laugh before suddenly
growing grave and gazing ardently into her eyes.

"Speak of it?  What would it be to me, my darling, if every one knew,"
he said with swift ardor.  "I love—but the world is not mine. That is
the whole story, and the only peace for you is to forget it."

Her head drooped under his look.

"I am dreadfully tired, Jack," she said faintly.

"Yes, dear, go, and forgive me."  He kissed her hands passionately and
released them.  She passed into the house, her head and heart pulsing.
Bewilderment was her chief sensation.  The finality with which Jack
seemed to accept defeat was so at variance with his manner.

She stole upstairs silently to her room, closed the door, and turned up
the light.  Then she went to her mirror and questioned her own pale face
with wistful eyes.

"I haven’t expected it.  I didn’t know it was coming this time," she
said, answering some thought.  "Is Jack really so unselfish as that? Can
he care for me enough to—and then cover his disappointment with gayety
to save me pain?"

His loving words rang in her ears, her hands still felt the wild
pressure of his, and the warmth of his kisses.  No one had ever received
failure so before.  No man had ever dared to call her "darling."  A look
that was almost fear came into the eyes that gazed back from the mirror.
How had Jack contrived to make himself seem victor instead of
vanquished?

He had not even pressed his suit; he had not begged her to try to love
him.  How nobly he had spared her,—but how audaciously he had treated
her!

The color was flowing back to her cheeks.  Mildred could no longer study
that face in the glass. She turned away, weary, perplexed, troubled by
the restless beating of her heart.

"I will get to sleep as quickly as possible.  He told me to believe it a
dream.  I must try to take it all as Clover would."

The thought of her sister was like calling up the image of a saint.  She
had not been the object of Jack’s adoration, after all.  How strange,
strange! How much better it would have been for him.  Not that Clover
would have married him, but it would have been good for him merely to
love her.  Fevers, perplexities, could not come where Clover was; and
with this thought came a great longing to breathe Clover’s cool,
wholesome atmosphere.  Mildred slipped into a wrapper, and without
pausing to think further, crossed to her door.  There was but a dim
light within.

She spoke her sister’s name very softly, not to wake her if possibly she
might be asleep; but Clover herself in an instant opened the door.

"I thought I heard you come in, Milly."

"Why, what are you doing here, all dressed, in the dark?" asked the
younger, entering.

"Thinking."  Clover laughed.  "It sounds amusing, doesn’t it; but the
music was pleasant and my window especially enticing.  I felt rather
tired when I reached home a little while before you, and meant to be
asleep by this time, but here I am, you see."

"Let me come and think too," said Mildred; "or rather, let me come where
I can’t think."

The two sisters sat down in the large bay window overlooking the lake.

"Haven’t you had a pleasant day?" asked Clover.

"I’ve had all sorts of a day.  How has yours been?"

"Delightful."

"You are my despair, Clover.  Things are always delightful to you."

Clover heard the depression in her sister’s voice, and wondered; her
thoughts flew to Jack too, and she questioned what mood the day might
have left him in.  "Oh no," she answered, "but those nut-brown maids in
the Javanese theatre would put any one into good humor.  When they
dance, you can no more help laughing than if you were being tickled with
a feather.  Such dear, cunning, absurd motions as they make, their
little bits of mouths looking so serious all the time."

"You take such an interest in everything," said Mildred wistfully.  "It
is because you have ’a heart at leisure from itself.’  I have never
longed for that sort of a heart as I have to-day.  For quite a while it
has been slowly dawning upon me that I am more self-centred than most
people; but to-day Gorham Page gave me the final blow."

"Mr. Page?  Why, you astonish me.  He has a high opinion of you.  He was
saying to-day how much deeper and more earnest you were"—

"For mercy’s sake," exclaimed Mildred, flushing to her ears, "don’t tell
me what he said!"

"Why?  Are you too conscientious to accept a compliment when you haven’t
a ’trade’?"

"I have plenty of ’trades.’  Jack never talks about you without using
superlatives."

"Dear Jack.  He is far too appreciative," returned Clover, wishing it
were light enough to see how her sister accepted this; "but you haven’t
told me how Mr. Page hurt you."

"No, it was the truth that hurt me."

"Mr. Page is a very good representative of that," smiled Clover.

"We were coming out of Old Vienna, and you and Jack fell behind to speak
to one another, and I addressed Mr. Page.  He looked at me vaguely, and
answered at random.  Well, it was the way that trifle affected me that
made me see Mildred Bryant as I had never seen her before.  I was deeply
offended, yes, angry, that the important favor of a remark from my lips
should be disregarded.  Oh, Clover, the disgrace of it!"

The speaker’s voice was unsteady, and she suddenly covered her face with
her hands.

Clover leaned forward and put a hand on her knee.

"Isn’t it beautiful," she said earnestly, "to find yourself shrinking
from sin?  It is so safe to condemn it in ourselves.  Hatred of evil is
only treacherous when we feel it for the mistakes of others."

"The worst of it was that I knew I should have felt less injured had it
not been that another woman was what was preoccupying his attention. He
was thinking of you, and I resented it.  I couldn’t live if I didn’t
tell you.  It proved to me that I was growing into a regular—oh, a
regular octopus.  Everything must be absorbed to feed my vanity, and
especially every man."

"Why, Mildred, I am so glad for you," said Clover simply, her cool tones
falling on the other’s scornful heat and extinguishing its fire. "We
have to come to these places, you know, for we mustn’t be left in our
badness, and a little light is let in at a time as we can bear it."

"But I can’t bear it," exclaimed Mildred wildly, "for it is second
nature to me to be vain and exacting."

"You won’t indulge it now."

"Yes, I shall."

"Not so carelessly as before.  All this is what comes into the battle of
life.  One part of our dual nature loves our evils and the other hates
them.  You can have God’s help if you ask it, you know, and you will
find how little and how deceptive the progress will be that you make
without Him."

"Your battle seems won, Clover."

"I am in one of the peaceful places now, and I am very happy and
grateful.  I wasn’t given your tempestuous nature, dear, so our
experiences always are and will be different.  The Father in mercy lets
us develop as irresponsibly as the plants until we get such a glimpse
into our souls as you had to-day; but then responsibility begins.  It is
sinning against light that warps and distorts us."

"I wonder if it would be good for me to be married," said Mildred
musingly.  "When girls are married, they haven’t much time to think
about themselves."

"It is good for every girl to marry when she truly loves a man who is
unexceptionable," returned Clover, smiling at her own triteness.  "But
you remember the girl must ask herself, not Can I live with this man?
but Can I live without him?"

"Then I should certainly never marry.  You didn’t do that, Clover."

Clover looked musingly out at the window. "No; I didn’t do that.  I
often think of that little ignorant girl who married dear Mr. Van
Tassel. I don’t know whether I did right or not; but at the time I
thought I did, and that is all I have any concern with; but I was not in
freedom.  You are in freedom.  The Can I live without him? ought to mean
Can we be more useful together than we could apart?"

"Why, you don’t leave a girl any comfort in thinking about herself at
all," complained Mildred, half in tears.

"There isn’t much comfort in it, that is a fact," returned Clover,
smiling.  "You are tired, dear; go to bed now."

They rose, and Mildred took the smaller woman in her arms and their
cheeks clung together.  "I am unhappy, Clover," she said, with plaintive
surprise at the fact.

"It is so restful," replied the other, "to think you have all eternity
before you.  Even if we only make a beginning here, it will be all
right."

"I like your arms around me," said Mildred. "Let me sleep with you
to-night."



                            *CHAPTER XXIII.*

                           *THE HOTEL DANCE.*


It was Gorham Page’s habit to drop in at the Van Tassel house before
making his nearly daily visit to the Fair.

One morning, as he ascended the steps, his sister met him.  "I hoped you
would come," she said.  "I want to be condoled with.  Robert’s foot has
descended.  We are going home."

"Oh, I am sorry," replied Gorham, taking the chair she offered him; "but
can’t some arrangement be made?"

"No.  Robert has said ’positively;’ and when he says ’positively,’ I
never waste any more nervous force.  Poor, dear boy, he wants to stay as
badly as I do, but we have been here longer than we expected already,
and after all I would rather go back than to give up the apartment and
go to the poorhouse, which he says is the alternative."

"I must go to Boston before long," said Page. "Wouldn’t you like to stay
and go back with me?"

"Let Robert go home alone?"

"Yes."

"No, I thank you," with a firm shake of the head.  "I shouldn’t care for
the Fair without Robert."

"That is nice," remarked Gorham, regarding her attentively.  "I think I
should like my wife to feel like that."

Hilda laughed.  "Oh, that vague and shadowy wife of yours!  Once I
believed in her.  Too bad that such a good-natured match-maker as I
would have been should be burdened with such an impossible brother as
you.  I have lost all my interest in you, and have transferred it to
Jack."

Gorham smiled pensively, and struck the palm of one of his hands with
the knuckles of the other. "You think yourself very clever about Jack,
don’t you?"

"It goes without saying that I am clever, of course, but this occasion
does not demand much insight.  If they were a trifle more secret in
their chats in corners and their exchange of masonic signals, I should
think, perhaps, I was a treacherous guest to mention them; but they
enjoy their little comedy, and are perfectly willing others should.  I
think it is unkind in them not to come out openly and allow me to give
them my blessing before I go."

"I must say, Hilda, I don’t enjoy hearing you use that tone about Mrs.
Van Tassel."

"What is the matter with my tone?" asked Hilda.

"It is light," answered Page, with grave simplicity.

His sister stared a moment, then burst into laughter.  "What crotchet
have you taken now?" she asked.  "Doesn’t the match please you?"

"It is not a match.  You are laboring under a false idea.  If Mrs. Van
Tassel should ever distinguish a man in the way you are speaking of, it
will come to our knowledge in a different manner from the one you
describe.  We are talking in low tones in a corner now; but we are not
sentimentally interested in one another."

"An unanswerable argument," said Hilda good-naturedly.  "You needn’t
take the matter _au grand sérieux_.  I am profoundly grateful to Mrs.
Van Tassel, and think her one of the most charming women I ever knew."

Page’s countenance, which had been grave to sternness, relaxed until,
slowly smiling, he looked into his companion’s eyes and beamed mutely
upon her.

Hilda noted the change with private astonishment, and determined to
experiment.

"She is so refined," she added after a pause.

"The perfection of refinement," said Page.

"And very graceful."

Gorham nodded.  "It is a pleasure to see her move, is it not?"

"She has plenty of spirit too, and wit."

"Yes, indeed.  In whatever company she is, she makes her mark."

"And it is never a black and blue one either," responded Hilda, passing
her handkerchief over her lips as she returned the rapt gaze of the
earnest face drinking in her words.  "There is so much in that.  Her wit
could never hurt.  Her uniform, considerate kindness is her most
prominent trait."

"Yes," responded Page, faithfully antiphonal. "Only a pure, true heart
like hers could prompt such behavior."

"There is a subtle charm and stimulus in her society."

"And a restfulness, a satisfaction.  It is hard to word it, but you have
felt it; you recognize it. One can only say, it is good to be in her
presence."

Hilda pushed back her chair so suddenly that her companion started.
"Gorham Page," she said, gazing at him with sparkling eyes, and rising,
"don’t you see what has happened?"

"No," he answered, removing his fixed gaze and pushing aside the vines,
the better to peer about.

"Not out there!" exclaimed his sister.

"Oh," he answered mildly.  "I thought perhaps Blitzen had killed
Electra."

Mrs. Page burst into laughter.  Peal after peal broke from her, and she
clasped her hand to her side.

Robert appeared on the scene.

"It is time you arrived," said Gorham, vaguely smiling.  "I haven’t the
least idea what ails Hilda."

Mrs. Page dropped her head on her husband’s shoulder.

"Gorham thought—thought that—that perhaps Blitzen—had killed Electra,"
she gasped.

"How intensely amusing," remarked Robert. "This girl is tired to death,
Gorham," he went on, patting his wife’s convulsed shoulder.  "She thinks
she doesn’t want to go home, but I know it is time. Mrs. Van Tassel
urges our remaining.  What a spirit of sunshine she is!  If ever there
was an angel in a house, she is one."

Hilda lifted her head, to look at Gorham’s face. She found it beaming
upon his brother with tender delight, and falling back she relapsed into
another spasm of laughter.

"Stop this, stop this," said her husband, giving her a little shake.

"I am really afraid Hilda isn’t well," said Gorham with concern.  "I am
sorry if she is too tired, for I wanted to see if you all wouldn’t like
to come over to the dance at the hotel to-night."

"That is sensible, profoundly sensible," remarked his brother.  "What
could finish off a day at the Fair more appropriately than a dancing
party!"

"You’ve got to go, Robert," said Hilda, wiping her eyes.  "It will be
lovely.  We will smoke on the piazza, and watch the others through the
windows."

"Yes, I know how you enjoy looking on at a dancing party."

"Yes, thank you, Gorham, we will come," continued Mrs. Page
relentlessly.  "I shall just go down to the Court of Honor for one last
look," she added, sighing.  "I will go up in that little balcony at the
corner of the Electrical Building, and gaze once more down the stately,
spacious square.  I shall see the peacock-blue lake through the columns
of the Peristyle, look up into the Italian sky roofing all, and say my
prayers or sing the doxology; then I shall come home and pack.  Oh,
Robert, how can we leave it all!"

That evening Jack entered the parlor and found Clover leaning back in an
armchair.  He dropped into a seat beside her.

"You look fitter to adorn some marble shrine in the White City than to
decorate a humdrum, mortal home," he remarked, regarding her thin gown
approvingly.

"I believe I never saw you before in a dress-suit," she answered lazily.
"You look very neat, my dear.  That is what mother used to say to us to
suppress our vanity, when we were in festive array.  It is rather
amusing to see Fair pilgrims in evening dress, isn’t it?"

"Where is Mildred?" asked Van Tassel, looking about.

"She will be here directly.  If my sister were entirely costumed at any
appointed time, I should be anxious about her."

"I haven’t had a chance to confess before," went on Jack, low and
hastily.  "I spoke to her too soon, after all.  I need a keeper."

"Oh, Jack!  I’m sorry."

Clover looked dismayed, and her tone was heart-felt.

"The milk is spilled, though; there is no going back.  Didn’t she tell
you?"

"No, indeed.  When did it happen?"

"The night we took the gondola ride."

"Days since, then.  You are a wonder, Jack. Are you going to stay here
and live it down?"

"I am going to stay here if you will let me."

"Let you?  It is your home.  Oh Jack, I am afraid of your tone.  You
haven’t given up.  I must tell you, though, that Mildred would be
honest, uncompromisingly honest, in a serious matter like that.  She is
not a coquette."

"I know it."

"If she doesn’t love you, you do not want her."

"I don’t know whether she loves me or not, and I don’t believe she knows
any better."

As his handsome, frank eyes looked up at her, Clover’s heart swelled
with the approval and admiration she felt.

"We must relax to it," she said involuntarily.

"Or brace up to it," he replied, with his brilliant smile; "but it is
too late now for the Petruchio act, Clover.  I have literally and
figuratively given myself away."

"Yes," said the other simply; "what you have to do now is to leave her
in freedom.  The Lord loves you both alike.  If He does not give you
Mildred, it will be because that marriage would stand in the way of your
real advancement."

"Do you really believe that?" Van Tassel regarded her in curiosity and
surprise.

"Why, Jack, think it out some time.  How can it be any other way?" she
answered, speaking hastily, for she heard a rustle on the stairs; and a
moment after her voice ceased, Mildred came into the room.

She was dressed in a pale violet gown, which revealed her superb neck,
and she pulled long gloves up over her bare arms as she came.

Jack sprang to his feet.  How could she help liking the homage in his
eyes?

"I know I haven’t kept you waiting," she said brightly, "for Mrs. Page’s
light is still burning, and of course it will take her some little time
to wake up Mr. Page."

Hilda’s feet, in their little black satin slippers, came flying down the
stairs as she spoke.

"Is Robert in a hammock?" she exclaimed apprehensively.  "I meant to
stick them both full of pins, but I haven’t had time.  That poor dear
man has done a lot to-day, in spite of all my warnings. I expect he will
sleep from here to Boston, when we get started.  You two girls look
perfectly lovely.  I shall wake him up with that information."

As they were all finally setting out, Gorham Page came up the walk.

"I thought I would wander down and make sure of you," he said to Clover,
as he turned back beside her.

"You were sure of us," she returned.  "I have not danced for five years.
It seems to me I should never have thought of it again but for your
invitation."

"You do not care for the amusement, then?"

"Clover Bryant used to care greatly," she said, smiling; "but perhaps
Mrs. Van Tassel has forgotten how to dance."

They found the long, spacious piazza of the hotel gay with promenaders.

Robert Page groaned.  "How marvelous is the endurance of man and woman
kind," he remarked. "How many of these people do you suppose have been
doing the Fair to-day?"

"You mustn’t talk about the Fair," returned his wife.  "It is fortunate
for you that the diversion came up, else I should have spent this
evening weeping because I have said good-by."

"Have you come over here with the notion that I am going to dance?"
asked Page mildly.

"No, I haven’t the least idea you will.  I wouldn’t ask it, since you
were foolish enough to tramp miles to-day."

"How could I help that, my dear, with the awful ’last chance’ sensation
hanging over me?"

The orchestra in the hotel parlor began to play. Jack Van Tassel came up
to where the husband and wife were sitting.

"Are you going to dance, Hilda?"

"Apparently not," she answered gayly.

"Give me this, won’t you?"

"Oh, you don’t need to.  Why, where are Mildred and Clover?"

"They are sitting over yonder.  They have many friends here.  It seems
to me this is rather a peculiar way for you to treat my invitation."

"No, Jack," said Page, with a heart-rending sigh. "The old man will have
to dance once.  ’Let it be soon,’ as the song says.  Come, my love,
weary and footsore, let us tread the dreamy maze together."

"Robert really wants to dance," said Hilda to Van Tassel confidentially.
"The music inspires him.  I haven’t the heart to refuse.  Thank you.
Perhaps later we can have a turn."

"Now, wasn’t that sweet of Jack and exactly like him?" asked Hilda, when
they had drifted in among the floating couples.  "He was afraid you were
going to be immovable; and the very first dance, when of course you
would suppose he would ask Mildred"—

"Or Mrs. Van Tassel, according to your theories."

"My dear, I am shaken on my theories.  I may have been wrong.  I hope I
have been.  What do you think, Robert?"

"I can’t tell any of my thoughts while I am dancing, Hilda.  Don’t ask
it.  If you do, I shall probably step on your foot.  I have the greatest
sympathy with the man who, when his partner insisted on talking to him
in a round dance, replied as follows: Yes, two, three; one, no, three;
one, two, yes; and so forth."

"What a goose you are, dear; but you dance as well as you ever did, if
you have forgotten how to say sweet nothings during a waltz."

"Pray remember how much more breath I used to have.  The spirit is
willing still, but the flesh is too many for me."

"There go Gorham and Clover," said Mrs. Page with some excitement,
pausing in the dance, and taking her husband’s willing arm.  "Robert, I
want you to watch Gorham to-night," she added impressively.

"More mysteries?" returned Page plaintively. "I don’t see anything out
of the way about him. He is rather stunning in a dress-suit."

"I wonder if Clover thinks so," responded Hilda significantly.

"Oh, you are only marrying him again," remarked her husband, with an air
of enlightenment. "If all your plans succeeded, I don’t know what would
become of Gorham.  He couldn’t even take refuge in Utah, for I
understand the Mormons are discouraging plural marriages."

"You can chaff, Robert; but mark my words, some day you will look back
to this evening and exclaim over my cleverness.  I haven’t told you all
I know.  I have proofs, if I chose to"—

"Yes, my dear, your fate is the common one of those who cry ’Wolf’ too
often.  I’ve heard your proofs before."  Then squeezing his wife’s hand
against his side, he added, "There isn’t another Hilda for poor Gorham,
so how can I take a breathless interest in his prospects?"

Mrs. Page was mollified, of course; but she shrugged her shoulder.  "I
don’t understand how you can see those four people together and not
weave romances.  Now, for instance, I am burning to know why Mildred and
Jack are not dancing this first dance together, instead of with
Lieutenant Eames and his cousin.  I dare say poor Jack lost his chance
by coming to take care of me."

But Hilda was wrong.  A little circle of friends had gathered about
Clover and Mildred as soon as they appeared on the hotel piazza, and
Mildred saw at once in Jack’s quiet withdrawal that he did not intend to
ask any favor for himself.  She liked this in theory, but it half-vexed
her to find herself alertly cognizant of his every movement even while
she chatted and laughed with her other friends. She saw him approach
Hilda, and wondered if he were asking her to dance; then, when the
latter moved away into the hotel with her husband, Mildred talked
volubly to Eames in order to prevent his having an opportunity to offer
himself for her partner.  These dances were informal.  There were no
printed programmes.  She wished to give Jack time to return to their
group and claim her before the lieutenant should.

How exasperatingly deliberate his motions seemed to her, as he sauntered
along!

"I can easily believe what you say, Mr. Eames," she said glibly.  "The
papers print a great many of the amusing blunders that are made, and I
am sure they are not exaggerated, by my own experience.  There were two
women standing near me in front of the Manufactures Building the other
day, and one said to the other: ’Oh, look at that big statute of
Liberty; do you suppose it’s solid gold?’  ’No!’ replied the other
scornfully, ’it’s holler.  If that was solid gold it would be worth ten
thousand dollars.’  Then this sophisticated one turned to me.  ’Can you
tell me where the Court of Honor is?  Is it in the Administration
Building?’  I answered that this was the Court of Honor, and I suppose I
gestured generally, for she looked down at the Basin and then at me with
a pitying smile.  ’Oh no,’ she said, ’that is the lagoon.’"

Why _would_ Jack stop to look in at the window? How slow he was!  "Oh
yes, and, Mr. Eames, was there any truth in that story I read about the
battle-ship?  Somebody says, you know, that although it looks so solid
and impressive, an angry man could do it considerable damage with a
crowbar, and I read lately about some country people who were visiting
it.  While they were exploring, the ship’s bells rang, and coincidently
the whistle of a neighboring tug began to blow.  The story said those
poor people thought the boat was going to start and rushed for the
gang-plank, panic-stricken.  One man fell into the water, and a woman
broke her ankle.  It ought not to be amusing, but it is."

"Ha, ha," responded Eames, "there is a grain of truth in it;" (Jack was
drawing near) "the rest is the reporter’s imagination.  I can tell you
what was the foundation of that yarn."  (Jack approached and stood near
the speaker.)  "Won’t you dance this with me, Miss Bryant, and I will
initiate you into some of the methods of newspaper men as discovered by
the officer-of-the-day at Jackson Park."

They moved away, and Helen Eames, who had audaciously escaped a would-be
partner in the hope of this very event, fell to Jack’s lot.

She was a vivacious, jolly girl, and a man was not obliged to talk much
while with her, so Van Tassel yielded to her determination to detain him
at her side as long as was feasible.

Mildred, promenading with her partner on the piazza after the dance,
passed them sitting near the water where one could see, down the curve
of the lake, the fireworks of the White City bursting in starry
brilliance.  Far out upon Michigan’s breast shone a row of steady
lights, beside which, as on a liquid boulevard, the illuminated
passenger-boats plied up and down.

Van Tassel was playing with his companion’s fan, and laughing as though
he were well entertained, at the moment Mildred passed by.

The sight did not please her.

"It is all my monumental vanity," she thought. "I am glad Jack isn’t one
of the sort of men who stand around in corners and watch one
tragically."

She had danced several times when Clover, left near her by Gorham Page
while he went to bring her a glass of water, addressed her.

"You haven’t danced with Jack once," she said, with hasty reproach.

"Haven’t I?" Mildred raised her eyebrows.

"But aren’t you going to, dear?"

"Not unless he asks me, darling."

Clover stared, then turned away to smile.  She had not often seen
Mildred in such an ill-humor.

"Poor, dear, unconscious Petruchio," she reflected. "I wonder if he is
building better than he knows."

Here Page returned with the water, and she could say no more, even if
she wished.  Moreover, Gorham now addressed Mildred, to claim the dance
for which the strains of the Washington Post March were already sounding
assertively.

Jack had this two-step with Hilda, and when it was over he brought her
to a seat near those which Mildred and Gorham had taken on the piazza.

"Mildred," remarked Hilda, "this young man does know how to dance."

Van Tassel bowed until the parting in his hair was visible.

"That is nice," returned Miss Bryant languidly.

"The fireworks are over," continued Hilda. "That awful word ’nevermore’
is hanging over everything for me to-night.  I meant to be out here to
see the last piece, but I wasn’t,—that superb volcano, or mine, or
whatever name they try to describe it by.  I want you all to think of me
with compassion every time you see it hereafter. Where do you suppose
Robert is?"

"Perhaps I ought to know," suggested Gorham. "I will hunt him up if you
will allow me, Miss Mildred."

"I’ll go with you," said Mrs. Page.  "It is rather cool here to sit
still after dancing.  You will excuse me, Jack?  I think I ought to let
poor Robert off now, and take him home."

It was the first time Mildred and Jack had been alone together since the
memorable evening.

"May I have the next dance?" asked Van Tassel abruptly.

"If you like," answered the girl carelessly. "Haven’t you had enough
dancing?"

"I haven’t had any," he answered briefly; and Mildred told herself that
the demon of her vanity had received what it craved, so warm a sensation
of satisfaction stole around her heart.

"I thought I would make myself safe before one of your other friends
espied you here; but if you are tired"—

"I am never tired—physically," said the girl, with a slow smile.

"I was only going to say that I would be content to sit out the next
with you; although we have not danced together since that night in the
boathouse."  Jack smiled.  "Do you remember what you told me?"

"Oh yes.  You made that child very happy. She owes you a dance."

"These surroundings are strange.  Have you been thinking of it?"

"Yes.  Only last year this ground was a tangle of goldenrod and
willow-trees.  How many times we have gone bathing on that beach!  It
was as good a playground for jolly youngsters as could be imagined; and
now"—

She paused.

"Now, the music has commenced," suggested Jack, rising.  "In
consideration of the manner in which I have effaced myself so far, you
should allow our dance to begin promptly."

They entered the parlor by the door which leads from the east piazza.
She put her hand in his, and they glided away over the polished floor
among the pillars with their vine-like wreaths of electric lights.

Amid the scattering groups which, outside, watched the dancers through
the windows, was one spectator who was seeing a conventional dancing
party for the first time in her life.  It had suddenly occurred to
Robert Page that it would be worth the exertion of going after Aunt Love
to see her view this pretty scene; and when Hilda and Gorham reached the
front entrance of the hotel in their search for Robert, they found him
ascending the steps with Miss Berry.

"The young ladies did ask me if I didn’t want to come over, and I
thought I should feel out o’ place," she said; "but Mr. Page, he just
made me, so here I am."

"Now, come to this window," said Robert, "and tell me what you think of
that."

The others clustered around Miss Lovina, as she murmured and exclaimed
in her surprise.

"I never approved o’ dancin’," she said.  "I never saw any before.  Mr.
Gorham, do you remember that hall in the New York Buildin’?  That must
be temptin’ to young critters when it’s lighted up, and the music’s
a-playin’.  Why," eagerly, "see Miss Mildred and Mr. Jack.  My, don’t
they go pretty!  And there’s Mrs. Van Tassel herself and some feller.
Why," turning suddenly upon Gorham, "why ain’t you in there dancin’ with
her?"

"I have danced with her twice," he answered. "I mustn’t be a monopolist,
although it is a temptation.  She is by far the best dancer here."

Upon this Hilda pressed her small satin shoe against her husband’s foot,
and he obtusely moved it out of her way.

"Well, I declare," exclaimed Miss Berry, gazing in ever-warming
admiration, "if it ain’t enough to make a body want to be young and
pretty.  To think this is the real, wicked thing itself, and I ain’t
shocked.  What’s the matter with me, Mr. Gorham?"

"Considering your prejudices and traditions, it is a little odd.
Perhaps it is because you cannot associate an idea of evil with anything
you see Mrs. Van Tassel engaging in."

Here Mrs. Page again endeavored to gain her lord’s sympathy, with the
result that he ejaculated: "Where would you like to have me put my feet,
Hilda?"

"Why don’t you go in there and dance, Mr. Gorham?" pursued Miss Berry.

"Am I so young and pretty that you want to see me?  Well, if Hilda is
willing to favor me."

"Oh certainly, so long as Robert doesn’t care to go home.  _Au revoir_,
dears."

"Now, then," Aunt Love turned upon her companion argumentatively, "are
you perfectly willin’ a man should put his arm around your wife’s
waist?"

"On the contrary, I should object seriously."

"How about that, then?" Miss Berry gestured toward the hall.

"For a man to place his hand on a woman’s waist to steady and support
her is not to put his arm around her.  There are too many other things
for a couple to think of in guiding themselves successfully through a
crowd of dancers to allow of their usually being conscious of the
intimacy of their position.  Don’t be afraid to admire the dancing, Aunt
Love.  It can be abused, like everything else; but it is an excellent
exercise, inculcating grace, strength, and good manners."

"Well, now, I’m goin’ to tell some folks I know what you say.  Ain’t
your wife just as light as a fairy, and don’t your brother look handsome
to-night?  No, sir, there ain’t any folks here as good-lookin’ as ours."

When the waltz was finished, Gorham Page and Hilda approached Clover and
told her that Aunt Love was without.  She excused herself from her
partner to go with them, and soon afterward Gorham walked home with her.

"Thank you so much for coming," he said, when he was bidding her
good-night.

"I am sure we have all to thank you," she answered.  "Isn’t it hard to
be reconciled to letting your brother and Hilda go?  We have been such a
pleasant party."

"Yes," returned Page, looking down at her as she stood in her white
wrap, an unconsciously adoring expression in his eyes; "this summer is
an experience that one could wish would never end. Going away," he
smiled vaguely, "leaving you, having these weeks come to an end, is
almost as difficult to grasp in prospect as the thought of death."

Clover laughed softly.  "We won’t borrow trouble," she said.
"Good-night."



                            *CHAPTER XXIV.*

                            *DRESS PARADE.*


"Do you think Jack enjoyed himself?" asked Clover, when her sister
crossed the hall to her room that night for the usual last word before
retiring.

"I suppose he did.  How anxious you are about Jack all the time!  You
make an absolute fetish of him.  It used to mislead me."

"Did it?"  Clover smiled, and turned back to her dressing-table.

"Yes, indeed, and no wonder.  It is a good thing, however, that I was
mistaken, else I’m sure there would have been coffee and pistols ordered
for two. I want your opinion, Clover, on a delicate question. Supposing
a man of some strength of character spends a whole evening at a dance
following about after a woman, smiling pensively at her face, or the
back of her head, or her shoulder, or whatever of her he can get to
smile at, and finding spots of vantage from which he can behold her
dance when he is not dancing with her himself.  Supposing he flies about
to bring her glasses of water, and wraps, and fans, and performs all the
other offices which are usually the privilege of her partners, driving
said partners to the last pitch of exasperation. What, I ask you, is the
matter with that man?"

Clover turned her tender glance upon her sister, marveling that the
spirit of mischief could be so rampant in her eyes.

"Dear," she said reproachfully, "that man is very deeply in love."

"That is what I supposed myself," replied Mildred demurely; "but I
wanted to be sure I didn’t exaggerate."

"Too seriously so for you to make merry over it," continued Clover,
shaking her head.

"Well, if you aren’t a pair of you!" exclaimed Mildred, bursting into
laughter, which she endeavored to repress out of consideration of the
lateness of the hour.  Then she seized her sister’s astonished face
between her hands and kissed her repeatedly.  "I suppose there isn’t
another man in the world beside Jack Van Tassel, is there?  How glad I
am, I am not attached to him; I should be wildly jealous."

"Oh—let me go, Mildred.  I didn’t know you meant—I didn’t know that any
one noticed"—  Clover was as red as her namesake, and looking everywhere
except at her sister.

"Noticed!  Why, my dear, he was a perfect spectacle.  I fancy everybody
in the room noticed except himself.  He doesn’t know what is the matter
with him, either.  He asked me once, when we were out on the piazza, if
there wasn’t some malaria here.  He isn’t able to sleep of late, and his
appetite isn’t right."  Mildred went off into a peal of laughter.

"Hush.  Do please hush, Milly," implored poor crimson Clover in an
agony.  "Supposing Hilda should hear you and come in.  She will.  Oh,
_please_."

"He said he thought he should take—oh dear, I’m hurting myself—he
thought he should take quinine!" Mildred wiped her eyes; "and I said—I
was of the opinion—oh my! that something sweet would help him more;
extract of Clover, perhaps."

"Mildred, tell me instantly you didn’t say that!"

"Well, not quite so much as that; but he tempted me dreadfully."

"Go to bed, Milly.  Go to bed straight off.  It is late."

"All right; but isn’t it funny?" pleadingly.

"No.  I do not think it funny at all."

"Oh, you must; that big, absent man, vainly mooning around among his
data"—

"Well, if you will only go away; perhaps—it’s a little—  There, I have
turned the gas out.  You will have to go."

"I am about to set up a Gorham to match your Jack," said Mildred
irrepressibly.  "I am going to see that you treat the poor man right,
and help him diagnose his symptoms.  I am going to give you reproachful
glances and him tender ones.  I shall have to tell him they’re tender,
though"—  But here Clover succeeded in pushing her over the threshold
and closing the door upon her.

The following day Mr. and Mrs. Page took their departure, the latter
more reluctant than ever to leave so many objects of interest.

"Ain’t it lonely without ’em?" said Aunt Love that night to Clover,
after dinner.  "I don’t know but you’ll want to ask Mr. Gorham over here
to help fill up the gap," she suggested rather timidly.

"No, I think we won’t disturb his arrangements," replied Clover quietly.
"I suppose he can’t stay here very much longer any way."

Miss Berry went to the back door to give Blitzen and Electra their
supper, and arbitrate between them while they ate it.

"She won’t ask him over.  H’m!" she soliloquized, arranging two dishes
of scraps, while the two pets barked and chirped expectantly.  Then she
seated herself on a step to watch their proceedings.

"That looks like it," she continued in her own thoughts.  "Well, if this
is what he’s been waitin’ for, thirty odd years, I don’t feel to blame
him. Now you get back, Electry.  Blitzen ain’t a-goin’ to stand
everything.  Sometimes it does seem’s if you had the most cheek of any
critter in feathers. Well, look at that now!" for Blitzen, exasperated
at a raid upon his plate, jumped at the chicken, who quick as thought
hopped on his back, and clung to her perch by means of claw and wing
while the terrier raced in a mad circle.

Aunt Love’s hearty laugh rang out as she watched Blitzen’s fruitless
efforts to disembarrass himself.  At last he lay down and rolled over,
and Electra, squawking excitedly, ran back to her plate.

She was not pursued.  The terrier ever afterward regarded her as
something uncanny, and so far as possible refrained from acknowledging
her existence.

An event of general interest during the Fair summer was the visit to the
Exposition of the West Point cadets.  Cro’ Nest itself is scarcely more
immovable from its position among the Highlands of the Hudson than these
pets of Uncle Sam; but it is a matter of history that they and their
paraphernalia were transferred to the Philadelphia Centennial, and now
again with much form and ceremony their camp was set up in the green
plain adjoining the Government Building on the shore of Lake Michigan.
They arrived one dazzling afternoon, which began serenely calm, but
toward evening gave the guests a northeast wind which sent white-capped
waves rushing landward, and shook the tents in the new company-streets.

Starting from the Terminal Station, the young soldiers marched through
the streets of the White City, preceded by their famous band, and as
they proceeded looked neither to the right nor the left at the widely
noised marvels surrounding them, but kept eyes front as though still
treading their own quiet, elm-lined avenues, while the waiting crowds
cheered and cheered again the elegant precision of their movements.

In an hour, gray-coated sentinels were again walking post in this new
Camp Sheridan, alertly conscious of their routine business, and
apparently without a thought of the surroundings beyond the camp.

Mildred Bryant felt considerable interest in the cadets, and assumed
much more.  "Helen Eames says that no matter how good a time a girl may
have, she can never have as good a one as if she had spent a summer at
West Point," she announced to Van Tassel one day, on the occasion of
their being together.  She felt that he made these occasions rare, and
at times the fact touched her. At others she said to herself, "He is
getting over it."

"Then why don’t you go there?" asked Jack. "I don’t know who has a
better right to the flowers of life."

"I did think of getting Clover to take me next summer, but now, wonder
of wonders, the mountain has come to Mahomet.  Don’t you want to go down
to parade to-night?"

"Yes; I don’t know just how to make you comfortable, though.  The mob is
something marvelous.  I looked over their heads a minute last night, but
being in the sixth or seventh row, concluded the game wasn’t worth the
candle."

"Ah, that is where the convenience comes in of having a military
friend," returned Mildred gayly. "We shall not need to mingle with the
_hoi polloi_. Won’t you come too, Clover?" as her sister entered the
room.

"Where?"

"To see dress parade this evening."

"Yes, I am going.  Mr. Page has already asked me."

"I don’t believe you had better try to get along without me.  Jack and I
are going to meet Mr. Eames on the steps of the Army Hospital at a
quarter before six.  There is a great crowd."

"Thank you.  Perhaps we will be there.  Did you hear Aunt Love’s comment
last night?  She said that in the afternoon she ran into an impassable
throng near the Administration Plaza, and after vainly trying a long
time to get through, she finally found the attraction was only a lot of
schoolboys drilling.  If those important young heroes could have heard
her scornful tone!"

When Clover had left the room, Jack spoke again.  "Since you have an
appointment with Eames, I withdraw, Mildred.  I don’t see why you asked
me."

"He said I might bring my friends," she replied. "Do come, Jack."

Van Tassel looked straight into her eyes, and smiled with an expression
which seemed to the girl both brave and hopeless.

"Won’t you?" she persisted.

"Of course," he answered.

In the afternoon, Clover walked to the Park, and entering back of Texas
walked down the northern avenue of State buildings.  The usual crowd was
flocking in and out of Mount Vernon, but she crossed the street to New
Jersey’s charming home, and entered.  It was entertaining a large number
of sightseers, note-book in hand, who jotted down their inventories.
Clover wished she might look over the shoulder of one woman, with a
harassed but determined countenance, whom she met in the cosy west room
downstairs.  She wondered how this anxious one would be able to transfer
to paper the charm of its quiet comfort, with the breezy foliage waving
near its half-closed green blinds and casting shadows on the dainty
white curtains.

It was all familiar ground to Clover, so she went upstairs and seated
herself in a corner of the deep, luxurious sofa which commanded a view,
down through the open gallery, of the front door.

People came, looked, commented, passed into the dainty blue chintz
bedroom, emerged smiling, and went away.

Many had appeared, climbing the stairway with various degrees of toil,
before the figure she awaited came into view.  This one sprang up the
steps alertly, with a serious expression, which brightened to pleasure
at sight of her.

"Have I kept you waiting?" he asked eagerly. "I came around from the
Cliff Dwellers by the Intramural road, and we had a stoppage of several
minutes.  I have been very anxious."

"I am sorry for that," answered Clover, as Page seated himself beside
her.  "I thought you knew that I am always content in this house.  I
should move down here and live, if they would let me.  I have been
fancying that I was holding a reception as the visitors came and went.
I wonder if any pilgrim to the Fair has a soul so dead as not to covet
this house."

"I didn’t know you liked it so much," said Gorham, as though the fact
were of serious importance.  "Perhaps you would enjoy having tea here."

"Tea in the New Jersey Building?  What a pleasure!  But why do you
tantalize me?"

"I think we can.  The lady manager from New Jersey is a near relative of
mine.  Excuse me a minute and I will try the magic of her name."

Page went downstairs, and in five minutes returned.

"The house is mine, practically," he declared, smiling.  "I herewith
present it to you."

"How delightful!  And the tea?"

"Is near by."  Gorham went to one of the locked doors on the east side
of the hall and knocked.  Presently he ushered Clover into this
exclusive nook, and the door closed behind them.

It was an appetizing little supper that was shortly set before them on
the daintily clothed round table.

"You have gratified one of my pet ambitions," said Clover.  "Now I shall
always feel a small proprietorship as well as a great affection for this
house.  I am really breaking bread at its board."

"You spoil your friends by the pleasure you make it to contribute a
little to your happiness," returned Gorham, his eyes resting upon her
with the utmost satisfaction.

"This room is as charming as the rest," remarked Clover, looking about
at its ruddy decorations; "and the remoteness one feels from everything
confusing, or noisy, or soiling, can only be appreciated by those who do
not live in the midst of a large, well-kept park.  I amused myself while
waiting for you by searching for the fewest words that will describe the
faces of Fair visitors.  I decided upon ’tired’ and ’pleased.’  Not
’delighted;’ they are too weary for that,—but just ’pleased.’"

Page looked away and considered the idea, as Clover had intended he
should.

"Do you know Mildred gives us the opportunity to find good places at
parade under Mr. Eames’ wing?" she suggested after a minute.

"Oh, I am glad to hear that.  I don’t quite understand what makes the
cadets such a fad.  No; one can’t call it a fad either, for there is no
sudden interest in them, they are always lionized.  Since they have been
here, I notice that people go hours before the time for parade for the
sake of securing good places, and then wait patiently; so I have been
wondering this afternoon how I could fix it for you to get a view of the
ceremonies.  It will be very pleasant to have Mr. Eames’ assistance."

"Then comes in that awful word again," laughed Clover.  "We shall have
to hurry a little."

Page sighed unconsciously.  "Is this very good tea?" he asked, as they
finally rose from the table. "I am not a connoisseur."

"Very nice indeed."

"I thought it must be.  I never enjoyed any tea so much in my life."

"Then we are very much obliged to each other, aren’t we?" said Clover
gayly, and consuming her watch, she reminded her companion again of the
hour of the appointment, and they hastened away.

They arrived at the hospital steps just as the others were leaving.

"Oh, you loiterers," was Mildred’s greeting.

"Don’t you see our breathless condition?" returned Clover.  "How can you
have the heart to reproach us?  How do you do, Mr. Eames?  We are very
grateful to you.  What a hopeless throng that looks like!"

"Let me take some of those camp chairs," said Gorham, suiting the action
to the word.

Mr. Eames led his party towards the officers’ tents. They had to force
their way through serried ranks of gazers, who were held back with
difficulty by the blue-coated sentinels from the camp of "regulars" near
by.  The sentinel saluted Eames as he passed, and the lieutenant stood
still and allowed his friends to file before him to the reserved places
before the officers’ tents.  There they found Helen Eames, who welcomed
them radiantly, fixing cordial eyes on Jack in a manner not lost upon
Mildred.  The latter did not enjoy this effusiveness.  She did not wish
to marry anybody, but at the same time she did not like to have any
other girl try to appropriate her especial friends.

However, her attention was soon momentarily distracted by the novel
sights before her, and the usual questions began to flow.

Eames was most willing to answer them. Before long the band marched out
upon the plain, and the evening’s ceremonies had begun.  The cadets, a
shining assembly, marched forth from the company-streets and fell into
line.

The band, playing The Thunderer, marched up and down the plain before
the motionless ranks, and one to whom the West Point forms were familiar
asked himself if it must not all be a dream. Here were the same camp,
the same cadets, the same band; but where were the mountains, the huge
old elms, the river?—instead, the Government Building, the Fisheries,
the Battle-Ship, and Lake Michigan.

To Mildred the very sight of the band was not thrilling from all it
implied, but she soon found herself absorbed in interest and admiration.

Once she turned around to Jack, who stood behind her.

"I think I must go to West Point, after all."

"Indeed, you must.  It is perfectly lovely," exclaimed Miss Eames.
"There, you see, that is the adjutant now, advancing to the
officer-in-charge;" and she proceeded volubly to explain the tactics
which followed.

"I think I shall have to know some cadets," remarked Mildred, turning to
Eames.

"That will be very easy; and when you know one, you will know all.  They
can talk only on one subject," was the rather stiff reply.

Mildred was perfectly aware that the young lieutenant admired her.  She
saw that her proposition was displeasing to him; but what she did not
know was that he had not yet recovered from that profound fall which
results from exchanging the chevrons of a first-class man for the
shoulder-straps of a second lieutenant.  That young officer must indeed
have a seared conscience who can lay his hand on his heart and declare
that he entertains only cordial sentiments for a cadet of the first
class when their ways chance to cross.

"You refused to attend the cadet ball with me at the New York Building
to-night," added Eames reproachfully.

"Why, of course; in my ignorance.  Wasn’t it stupid of me?  Oh, what are
they running for? Isn’t that pretty?  Wouldn’t you like to be a cadet
again, Mr. Eames?"

"Heaven forbid!" ejaculated that officer devoutly. "I am waked up by
reveille yet.  Hope I shall get over it some time."

"Mildred is contracting cadet fever, Mr. Van Tassel," declared Helen,
looking up at Jack in a way which Miss Bryant noted resentfully, in
spite of her preoccupation.

"I never before noticed how objectionable Helen’s ways with men are,"
she thought.  "I know Jack wishes she wouldn’t look at him like that."

"I suppose so, Miss Eames," replied Van Tassel. "I am trying to find out
what it is that is so fetching about those all-conquering youngsters."

But Jack need not have tried.  No male civilian under forty was ever
known to discover.

"What is cadet fever?" asked Mildred, "and what is the microbe; a
bell-button?  I haven’t one yet."

The "double-timing" companies had retreated down the streets of camp,
and the cheering crowds of spectators quieted.  Many of them moved
toward the lake shore; for in a short time it had been learned that the
cadets would next march to supper preceded by the drum corps; and any
ceremony which they performed, no matter how simple, drew a curious
throng.

"What is the matter?  What are they going to do now?" asked Mildred.

"Going to the Clambake to supper," replied Eames.

"Then I am going to the Clambake to supper," announced Miss Bryant.

"I think you would not enjoy it," said Eames shortly.

"I know I shall," responded Mildred, with her glorious smile.

"I am so sorry I shall have to leave you," remarked Helen.  "I have a
number of friends among the first class.  They were yearlings when I was
at the post.  I have promised to attend the festivities with one of them
to-night.  Do come and see me, Mr. Van Tassel," holding out her hand.
"Remember you owe me a game of tennis. I assure you, you would not beat
all the time. Are you coming with me, Fred?"

"I believe not, unless you want me.  If these people are determined to
go to the Clambake, I think I shall have to go too; but remember, you
are to save a two-step for me to-night."

"_Au revoir_, then;" and Miss Eames, her last glance for Jack, moved
away.

"We won’t go with Mildred," said Clover, "for we have had tea recently,
and aren’t hungry yet. You would never guess where, either.  Good-by,
Mr. Eames.  We are all greatly indebted to you."

"Indeed we are," said Gorham, shaking hands cordially with the
lieutenant.  "That was a most interesting sight.  I congratulate you on
being one fit to survive that tremendous training. This is the show
side, but I know something of the other."

"Where did you have tea; where?" demanded Mildred, smiling into Gorham’s
serious face.  He instantly smiled back.  Those cold, abstracted eyes of
Page’s had learned a new look recently, as though so much sunshine had
warmed his heart that there was an overflow.

"It would make you so discontented with the Clambake, dear," suggested
Clover with mischievous deprecation.

"Why, I _will_ know."

"The New Jersey house."

"You selfish creatures!  Aren’t they?" exclaimed Mildred, calling upon
Eames and Van Tassel to witness.

"Yes, we are," laughed Gorham, as he and Clover turned away.  "We know
it."

Mildred, her companions on either side of her, began her walk northward.
Eames wished cordially that Jack would remember an engagement. Jack
wished sincerely that he knew what Mildred wanted him to do.
Unconsciously fulfilling the lieutenant’s desire, he spoke:—

"I suppose I really ought to be at home attending to some correspondence
I have been putting off, instead of loitering at the Clambake."

Eames answered without giving Mildred time to speak.  "I shall be most
happy to take Miss Bryant home after her curiosity is satisfied."  Van
Tassel’s jealous ears detected the eagerness in his polite tone.

"But supposing my curiosity is not gratified by the time you are obliged
to go and array yourself gorgeously for the evening?  No, Jack, I am
sorry for you, but Mr. Eames is engaged elsewhere."

"It need not be for some hours yet," protested the lieutenant.

Mildred shook her head firmly.  "I couldn’t think of allowing you to
assume the care of me in addition to all your other responsibilities
this evening."

"Very well," said Jack.  "When it comes to a matter of letter-writing,
my conscience never requires very much soothing."

When they reached the Clambake, two cadets were just issuing therefrom.
Their hands went up in an instant salute to Eames, who had for the
moment preceded his friends.

"I suppose there is a great deal of eating and running being done
to-night," remarked Jack.

"But where are they?" asked Mildred aggrievedly, as they entered the
busy, noisy eating-room.

"The cadets mess upstairs," returned Eames, with latent satisfaction.
"Did you suppose they fell in here with the general company?  You don’t
know much of military discipline, Miss Bryant."

"Never mind; if they are going to run up and down that staircase all the
time, as they are doing now, I shall see a great deal of them."

"There isn’t much order to-night," remarked the lieutenant.  "The cadets
own the Fair for the moment, and permits have been issued _ad libitum_."

But supper had scarcely been brought to the three friends when, with a
grand clatter on the bare staircase, the remainder of the corps came
hurrying down, walked out the door, and quickly forming in ranks marched
back to camp.

"Now, does that pay for mingling in this drove of people and getting
half-served?" asked Jack, with disdain.

"Fully," exclaimed Miss Bryant, with enthusiasm. "Without those absurd
straps around their faces, one can see what beautiful creatures they
are."

"Well, I’m glad," returned Van Tassel shortly.

"I am resigned to your interest in the cadets," said Eames, "if it
brings you to West Point, for I am likely to get a detail there next
year."

Jack took no part in the animated discussion that followed.

"Don’t look bored, Jack," said Mildred at last. "Ask Mr. Eames
questions, as I do."

"There isn’t any need.  You have covered the ground.  You are mistaken
about my being bored. This is my expression when I am absorbing
stimulating information."

"Then he should abstain from stimulants. Don’t you think so, Mr. Eames?"

They arose from the table, and going out into the arc-lighted street,
walked slowly west.

When they reached Brazil, Mildred declared her desire to go into the
building.

"I suppose I ought to leave you," said Eames reluctantly, "but perhaps
if you remain in the grounds I may meet you again."

"What is going on?" asked Van Tassel.

"Several things.  A procession of illuminated boats in honor of the
cadets, a concert by the West Point band outside the Michigan house,
illumination of all the State buildings and dancing in many of them, but
notably New York, all for the cadets.  You will be likely to hear enough
of those young men and see enough of them if you remain, Van Tassel."

"Oh, we can’t," smiled Mildred demurely, as she gave her hand to the
lieutenant.  "We have important letters to write."

The "we," even in jest, was music to Jack.  He turned to her as they
ascended Brazil’s steps. "Well, are you ready to come back to civil
life?"

"Haven’t I been civil all the time?  And you," reproachfully, "were
going to leave me."

"Only out of regard to Eames."

"I think you might have more regard for me than for him."

"I have.  I thought you knew it."

Mildred did not answer.  They had reached the large salon which was the
second floor of Brazil’s home, and from thence ascended the spiral iron
staircase leading to the roof.  Mounting another short flight of steps,
they entered one of the four towers, and standing between its white
pillars looked down on the enchanting vision of early evening in the
White City,—the sum of imaginable loveliness.

The imposing façades of its palaces were now pure but not dazzling; the
green trees and flowering shrubs of Wooded Island were hung with
thousands of fairy lights; the long, bridge-spanned canals wound away
into distant mysterious vistas, where tower on tower still rose far as
the eye could discern; and, queen above all, stood the flamy curves of
the coronet of Administration.

The columns of the Art Palace were mirrored in the lagoon, and near and
far upon the water’s breast lay little boats, gay with lights, in
readiness for the procession soon to take place; their chains of colored
globes faithfully reflected in the depths below.

Distant bells were chiming; from one of the boats the tinkling melody of
a mandolin floated up to the watchers in the lofty tower; all else was
still, as though the peerless scene were indeed something supernatural,
evoked for a moment’s breathless rapture, and fated to disappear
forever.

Neither Mildred nor her companion spoke for a time.

"Once you gave me your hand when we lived such an experience as this
together," said Jack at last, withdrawing his gaze and looking at
Mildred in the twilight.

She hesitated, then extended her hand frankly. "So I will again," she
answered, with an effort at her old air of good-comradeship.  "I am a
great believer in handshaking."

Van Tassel only looked at her without accepting the favor, and shook his
head slowly.  "No," he said, as though to himself, "I cannot be
satisfied with it."

Mildred blushed as her hand dropped.  "You said," she returned low and
swiftly, "that everything should be as it was before."

"Yes, I did, because I was inexperienced.  I have never been in love
with any one else, and I didn’t know how it was going to be.  I have
become better acquainted with myself since that night and can speak with
more intelligence.  I find myself hoping, even though I say over every
day that there cannot be the slightest hope for me, because you know me
well, and by this time the truth would be evident to you.  If it were in
my favor you would tell me, wouldn’t you?"

The girl gave him one fearful glance, and looked away.

"You would, of course?" he said, with sudden excitement, seizing the
hand he had refused. "Mildred, I love you!  I love you!  I do not say it
to you every hour, but I think it with every breath.  You would not make
me wait one moment if"—

"Oh, how can you, Jack?  Why must you love a girl so unworthy?"  She
shrank closer to the railing.  "I told you,—I tried to warn you,—I told
you that I do not love anybody but Mildred Bryant."

Before she ceased speaking, Van Tassel had released her and recovered
himself.

"And the Peristyle," he added steadily, "you are forgetting that."

She did not smile, and her lips quivered.

"So long as my only rivals are your sweet self and the Indians,
Helmsmen, _et. al._, who view the country from the top of the Peristyle,
I cannot despair.  Perhaps I ought to, dear, but I can’t."

Mildred wondered if her companion were really so pale as the shadows
made him appear.

"Hope springs eternal in the human breast, and I am going to hope until
you announce your engagement to me.  Then, until I receive your wedding
cards, I shall look to see you find that engagement a mistake.  And if
you are married," Jack paused; "I don’t know.  My mind turns blank when
it occurs to me that you might marry another man."

"I am not worth it.  I am not worth it," repeated the girl.

"Have I made you unhappy?  Shall I go away? Will my presence be a burden
to you now?"

"No."  Mildred looked at him piteously.  "I think I have a stone in here
instead of a heart," she said, pressing her side, "but stay with me
and—and keep the others away.  I don’t need to tell you how much I like
you, Jack.  If only it were safe to say what you want me to when I only
like you, and value you, and respect you more than any other man"—  She
paused, unable to proceed.

He turned to her, tender consideration in his tone.

"That is a great deal, Mildred.  I must try not to forfeit it."



                             *CHAPTER XXV.*

                          *IN THE PERISTYLE.*


The next morning, before seven o’clock, Miss Berry, while busy arranging
matters in the dining-room preparatory to breakfast, was summoned by a
maid to the back door with the word that a gentleman wished to see her.

To her great surprise, it was Gorham Page who stood waiting on the path.

"Well, well, Mr. Gorham, ain’t the days long enough for you?" she asked,
smiling, as she came out of the door.  "This is new manners for you. Go
’way, Blitzen.  Look out, Mr. Gorham, his paws must be wet."

"I didn’t want to disturb the house by ringing the bell," explained
Page, "and I knew you would be likely to be about by this time.  A very
unfortunate thing has occurred;" he looked annoyed as he spoke.  "I have
received a sudden call to St. Louis by a client I cannot neglect, and
the business requires that I should spend the whole day in town before I
go.  Mrs. Van Tassel has promised to go down to the Fair with me this
morning on the Whaleback.  I want you to explain to her how seriously I
regret breaking the engagement.  I am really very much put out by the
necessity."

Miss Lovina smiled as she broke a twig from the maple under which they
were standing. "Ain’t you comin’ back at all?" she asked.

"Why, certainly I am coming back," replied the other severely.

"Oh," remarked Miss Berry innocently.  "I thought perhaps you wanted me
to say good-by to ’em for you."

"No, indeed; nothing of that kind.  I may be detained a week or ten
days, but I wanted Mrs. Van Tassel to understand that no trivial
circumstance would deter me from taking the boat trip with her and Miss
Bryant as we planned.  I would—I would give a great deal not to be
obliged to leave."

"Mrs. Van Tassel won’t lay it up against you," remarked Miss Berry.

"No, I dare say not," said Page abstractedly. "I mustn’t wait," he
exclaimed, after a moment’s reverie.  "Tell her, Aunt Love, how sorry I
am; put it strong.  I thought I would see you instead of leaving a note,
for writing is so formal; and oh, by the way, tell her if she forgives
me and understands the situation, how glad it would make me to receive a
word from her to that effect.  This is my address," thrusting a card
into Miss Berry’s hand.

"What’s the use?" asked Miss Lovina, her shoulders shaking in a laugh.
"You know you’re always forgettin’ girls.  If you should get a letter
signed Mrs. Van Tassel, you’d scratch your head and say ’Van Tassel?
Van Tassel?  Where have I heard that name before?’"

"This is no time to joke," he returned hurriedly.  "I trust you to
deliver my messages faithfully.  Don’t make light of the matter.
Good-by;" and with a hasty bow Page moved briskly away.

Miss Berry looked after his departing figure with some exasperation.

"I hope I do him an injustice," she murmured, "but it’s my opinion he
hasn’t found out yet that he’s lovin’ a woman instead o’ worshipin’ a
saint. I don’t want to be profane, but I must say I’m reminded of Ann
Getchell’s brother.  He used to say that he liked a fool, but a darned
fool he never could stand."

Clover and Miss Berry sometimes began breakfast before the other and
sleepier members of the family appeared on the scene.  This was one of
the mornings; and while Clover poured the coffee, Aunt Love embraced her
opportunity.

"You can’t guess who’s been here already," she began.

"No; tell me.  Don’t make me guess.  The day is too new."

"Now you look just fresh and bright enough to guess anything."  Miss
Berry gazed affectionately at her as she spoke.

"I saw Mr. Page going down the street," said Clover, as she set a
steaming cup on the waitress’ tray.  "Could it have been he?"

"Yes; but you’d never ’a’ guessed him, would you?  He come over to get
me to tell you that he’s called away on important business, and regrets
very much breakin’ his engagement with you this mornin’ about goin’ on
the Christopher Columbus."

Clover’s transparent skin flushed, but she looked coolly into her
informant’s eyes.  "He does not see us again, then?"

"Law yes, in a few days he does"—

"Lena," said Clover to the maid, "please tell Katie to keep the other
things hot for a while.  Miss Bryant and Mr. Van Tassel are both a
little late. I will ring when I want you."

The moment the door had closed behind the girl, Clover’s face changed.
"Tell me all about it," she said.

"Ain’t it a pity that gump can’t see her this minute?" thought Aunt
Love.  "Even if he’s a darned one, I guess he’d get a glimmer o’ sense."

"Why, he was the most distressed bein’ you’d want to look at," she
returned, "just ’cause he couldn’t stay and go with you on that boat.
You’d think he’d never seen a sign o’ the Fair,—not that he said a word
about that, he was all taken up with the disappointment o’ not goin’
with you."  Aunt Love was determined to make the most of Gorham’s behest
to "put it strong."

Clover’s face had quieted, and she was occupied in stirring her coffee.

"I told him I guessed you wouldn’t be overly hard on him, and he told me
to ask you, pervided you did forgive him, to write and tell him so to
this address."

Clover looked up quickly as she accepted the card.

"How long will he be gone?"

"A week or ten days, I think he said.  Law, if I’ve forgotten anything
he told me, I shall need the prayers o’ the con’regation.  Strange,"
continued Miss Berry slyly, "that I haven’t ever seen anything so severe
about you that Mr. Gorham should look all beside himself at breakin’ a
light, triflin’ promise to you through no fault or his."

"I will write in three or four days," said Clover musingly.  "That will
divide the time."  Then she looked up, and met Aunt Love’s eyes fixed on
her with an expression that made her glance away.

"He’s a none-such," said Miss Berry.  "I guess you better let him off
easy, Mrs. Van Tassel."

"Oh yes," returned Clover with some confusion. "I will ring for the
breakfast now, Aunt Love. We will not wait any longer."

Gorham Page came home to his hotel in St. Louis a few days afterward,
tired and enervated by the excessive heat, and requiring to remember all
his philosophy not to anathematize the fate which had snatched him from
the feast spread upon the shores of Lake Michigan.  A little later in
the season, during the Congress of Religions, the gentle Dharmapala was
riding upon the lagoon one evening, where his snowy silken robes seemed
more in place than the close-fitting black of his companions.  Looking
about him in the waning light where all was melody, harmony, and beauty,
he said:—

"All the joys of heaven are in Chicago."

This sentiment of the lovable Singhalese Page would have echoed, had the
anachronism been possible.  A sort of chronic yearning and
dissatisfaction possessed him, and the heat in St. Louis being a
tangible discomfort, he dwelt to himself upon the superior vitality in
the air of the lake region, and laid his discomfort at the door of the
weather. It was his custom, as soon as he entered the hotel, to inquire
for letters; and to-day he received one in a feminine handwriting.

The clerk noticed the expression of his face as the missive was handed
him.

"That fellow can’t sing ’The letter I looked for never came,’" was his
comment.

Gorham’s sensations, as in his room he opened the square envelope with
religious care, were of a chaotic nature, which required analysis.  He
even went so far as to hold the folded sheet a moment and look at the
opposite wall with an effort at introspection; but the insistent desire
to possess himself of those written words engulfed all other
considerations.

The letter was gentle and friendly like the writer herself.  It
compassionated him on the fact which Chicago papers reported, of a hot
wave in St. Louis; and described her sight of a great Maharajah, the
nabob then visiting the Fair, who, resplendent in cloth-of-gold robes
and pale green turban, passed in state with his suite about the grounds.
Jack had surveyed him, and with democratic audacity dubbed His Highness
"that chocolate duffer."

The little letter closed with these words:—

"I am alone in the house; even the servants are away.  It is rather a
desolate sensation; and yet some people profess to feel more keenly the
loneliness of being in a crowd of strangers, than that of being entirely
by themselves.  The former is your sort of loneliness at present.  I
wonder if you dislike it?  I wonder—you always seem so sufficient unto
yourself, so much more a man of intellect than of heart—I wonder if you
ever feel, as I do more and more strongly every day, our dependence on
each other?"

There was nothing more save the conventional ending.  Page scarcely
glanced at the signature. Something seemed to mount to his head, as his
eyes dwelt fascinated upon the last sentence recorded. The sweetness of
his instant interpretation of it so possessed and intoxicated him that
no other thought could obtain entrance.  All the processes of his system
seemed arrested for one overwhelming moment, then the pulses, reacting,
sent the blood boiling through his veins.

Mechanically he rose, and going to the bureau began throwing articles of
clothing into an open valise near by.

Recollecting himself, and duties still undone, he stopped these
premature preparations and, the valise happening to be the object under
his vision, he gave it the most prolonged amorous gaze that ever fell to
the lot of insensate leather.  Then catching up the letter again, he
read it over and over.

That evening a messenger boy ran up the Van Tassel steps, and five
minutes afterward Clover was smiling and frowning in perplexity over a
telegram addressed to her.


I shall come back at the first possible moment.

GORHAM PAGE.


Aunt Love had brought her the message, and she in her mystification read
it aloud.  Something in Miss Berry’s glance, as she met her eyes, made
her color rise finely.

"You need not speak of this to Mildred," she said after a pause, with
dignity.  "I—I do not quite understand it."

"I don’t either," thought Miss Berry, discreetly moving away.  "Either
he’s even more kinds of a gump than I thought, or else he’s come to his
senses with a crash.  I always knew when Gorham Page did start out to
love a woman somethin’ had got to break; and it ain’t goin’ to be his
heart now, thank the Lord.  What a pair they will make! My, my!"

Page returned on the second day toward evening. He hoped fate would
favor him by sending Mildred and Jack to the illumination that night.
It did not occur to him that Clover might have gone too until he neared
the house.  Then the thought brought dismay.  He had schooled himself
for days to work and conquer among dry-as-dust details of his
profession.  Now, it seemed impossible to wait a matter of hours.

There was no one on the piazza when he ascended the steps, and the
evening being fine the fact appeared sinister.  Miss Berry answered his
ring at the bell.

"Oh, it’s you, is it?" was her greeting.  "Glad to see you back, Mr.
Gorham.  It hasn’t seemed right not to have you runnin’ in every day."

"It is good to be here again; but I am afraid you are alone to-night."

"Yes, the young folks are down to the Fair, as usual."  Miss Berry’s
keen eyes saw the disappointment in the earnest face.  "I s’pose like as
not you wouldn’t feel like goin’ down any way, wore out as you must be
with all that heat."

"I would go gladly, if there were any chance of meeting them; but the
people you want to meet are the ones you do not happen upon at the
Fair."

Miss Lovina looked at him with a shrewd smile. "Then I guess you’ll give
me a good mark for once; for it happened to come over me that you might
get home to-night, and I said as much to Miss Mildred.  I asked her
where they’d be, and she agreed to stay by one o’ the big horses till
the illumination was over."

"What time is it?" asked Page with sudden haste, wringing Miss Lovina’s
hand cordially.

"Oh, you’ve got time, I guess," observed Aunt Love, with a comfortable
chuckle.  "Now haven’t I got a head for somethin’ more ’n cookies, Mr.
Gorham?"

"If I should stop to compliment you as you deserve, I should miss the
appointment," was the hearty response, as the young man lifted his hat
and hurried down the steps.

The boy in the driver’s seat of the Beach wagon just passing did not
bear even a faint resemblance to any conventional idea of Cupid; yet
surely no power less than that of the little god could have sent that
conveyance exactly at the moment it was needed.  Page felicitated
himself on the occurrence; and in the whole history of the Fair it is
doubtful whether better time was made by a pedestrian than his record
to-night between the Sixtieth Street entrance and the Court of Honor.

But for all his haste, when he reached the giant horses his friends were
not there.  He rushed from one to the other with frantic energy, but in
vain.  No familiar face and form rewarded his search.

The Grand Court was lighted.  The first playing of the electric
fountains was over; perhaps had been over for some time.  Page was too
dispirited to look at his watch.  For him the surroundings were stale,
flat, and unprofitable,—another proof that the Kingdom of Heaven is a
condition rather than a place.  He was just about moving away with a
sense of disappointment which he condemned as unreasonably keen, when
there loomed up before him a vision more beautiful to his eyes than the
most lovely sculptured angel in the neighborhood.

"Well, Jack," he exclaimed, taking his cousin’s hand, "here you are!  I
was just looking for you."

Van Tassel smiled at the eager reception.

"Thought we had flown, did you?  So we have, a little way.  The girls
are sitting over yonder. Mildred has been sending me on periodical
scouting expeditions, lest you might come down.  Glad to see you back.
Business go all right?"

"Yes, I’m all right, thanks.  Didn’t quite get a sunstroke."

Van Tassel was striding along to keep pace with Gorham, who had
instantly started in the direction Jack indicated.  The latter smiled,
and did not make a further attempt at conversation until the settee was
reached where Clover and Mildred were waiting.

"You did come," said the latter pleasantly. "We thought you might hunt
for us."

"It was so kind of you," exclaimed Page gratefully, as he greeted them
both.  "Now I can draw a long breath."

The four exchanged a few commonplaces concerning his trip, and then
Mildred changed the subject.

"We have cards for a reception at the Woman’s Building to-night, and we
have been in a dozen minds about going: but I think it would be pleasant
to look in."

Gorham glanced tentatively at Clover.  He had not been gazing at her
this evening as was his wont, and Mildred observed the change.  "It
would be pleasant," he said, without enthusiasm. "Don’t let me detain
you, of course.  I haven’t been here for what seems to me a very long
time, and I don’t feel inclined to go indoors.  Do you especially wish
to attend the reception, Mrs. Van Tassel?"

"No—in fact"—

Mildred spoke quickly, for she felt her quiet sister’s embarrassment.
"The truth may as well be told, Mr. Page.  Just previous to your
appearance she had flatly refused even to approach the Woman’s Building;
so she cannot put on airs about relinquishing a pleasure."

"Then we might divide," suggested Page, with so much alacrity that
Mildred smiled; but the smile was fleeting.  She had risen, and was
standing behind her sister.  Now she placed a hand on her shoulder.

"Oh, my friends, look!" she cried suddenly, lifting her hand toward the
east.  The moon was rising behind the Peristyle.  Deep in the soft sky
it shone between the lofty white columns and cast a silver sheen across
the summer lake.

"This is Greece, and that is the Mediterranean!" exclaimed Jack.

Mildred, after a moment of gazing, stooped and dropped a light kiss on
her sister’s cheek.

"Good-by, Clover."  Then, with a loving pressure of the other’s
shoulder, she added in a jealous whisper: "My Clover."

As the other two moved away, Clover and Gorham rose simultaneously.  "I
believe we had the same thought," he said, looking at her with happy
eyes.

"Mine was to go to the Peristyle," she answered.

"And mine."

She took his offered arm; they started down the half-deserted walk, and
quickly came one of the magic changes of the place.  The lights
vanished, and the colossal moonlit gateway of the Peristyle gained new
majesty.

"At last I can thank you for your letter," said Page.

"Were you glad to get it?  I am afraid it was not much of an epistle."

"As if any word you would write could be anything but precious!  It
breathed of you in every line.  All things are made new since I read it.
My whole life, all my powers, every worthy thing I may ever attain, are
yours.  Is it possible that you are really going to accept them, that
you can care for me, Clover?"

She felt his strong arm tremble under her hand, and it thrilled her; but
she was silent, and his impetuous speech rushed on.

"I have had to hold under with an iron will all my thoughts, the
contradictions, the hopes and fears, of the last few days.  Last night I
dreamed of this.  We were walking together somewhere, and the moon shone
on the water.  I asked you to marry me, and you looked at me pityingly
and said—No. I reminded you of your letter, but still you shook your
head.  Clover!"

He spoke her name with tender appeal.  They drew near the Peristyle and,
stepping within, walked slowly down the wondrous vista of fluted columns
beneath the clusters of flower-like lights.

"My letter?" she repeated softly.  "How could you value that trivial
little letter so much?  What was there in it?  I do not even remember."

Page stood still, to look in amazement into her face; but even in his
surprise it did not occur to him that she might be resorting to
subterfuge.

"I have the letter here," he said simply, thrusting his hand into an
inside pocket.  "We will see."

Clover crimsoned to her throat.  She did not wish to see the letter.
She suddenly feared it. What trick had been played upon her?  Could
Mildred—  Oh, impossible!

Gorham unfolded the sheet before her reluctant gaze.  Then with sudden
haste she took it from him, opened it, and read the closing lines.  Her
breath came freer.

"Oh yes," she said, smiling in her relief.  "I wrote that."

Gorham unconsciously received the paper into his hand.  He was
scrutinizing her face.  "What did you mean by those words?" he asked.

"Why, nothing," she answered, surprised and affected by his
agitation,—"nothing except what I said.  Let me read it."

"Those last words," said Page briefly, indicating them.

Clover read obediently aloud.

"I wonder—you always seem so sufficient unto yourself, so much more a
man of intellect than of heart—I wonder if you ever feel, as I do more
and more strongly every day, our—dependence."  The voice gradually
lowered, then paused; Clover cast one beseeching, troubled glance up
into her companion’s face.  It was as pale as hers was glowing.

"We always have been so impersonal.  Of course I meant people in
general," she finished, low and quickly.

Page gave her a sad smile.  "We have theorized and speculated together a
great deal, I know.  So this was only one more speculation, was it?"

"Why, Mr. Page!" said Clover, scarcely above the breath that was failing
her.  "How could you think"—

"I don’t know now, myself," he answered with simplicity.  "I suppose I
was so suffused with love of you that this one hint at reciprocation set
my head aflame, and brought on an attack of emotional insanity.  I ask
your pardon; but all the same, Clover, I am not ashamed, and I cannot
regret it. It was my good angel who held your little hand while you
wrote that, for it gave me moments of such happiness as I never knew
before, and perhaps never shall again."

Clover wanted to speak and could not.  She thought if he would move, or
take his gaze from her face, her courage might rise.  She lifted her
eyes, but only far enough to note that the electric fountains were
flinging their jets of color aloft; the water taking new shapes each
moment with bewildering grace and rapidity.

"I never thought of you before as a woman whom it would be right for a
man to ask to come down beside him; I did not know that my heart was
reaching out toward yours until that day of the letter.  Would you mind
telling me, Clover, how long you have known that I loved you?"

Clover drew a long, involuntary breath.  "I did not know it," she said
at last, looking up at him bravely; and when once her eyes were held in
that compelling gaze, she did not wish to escape.  "I only—hoped it,"
she finished.

The fountains fell and vanished.  The dainty flame-blossoms in the
remote sculptured nooks overhead still added their soft radiance to that
of the moon.  The lovers were alone in that colossal aisle, that
pillared temple, where for one transcendent moment they stood heart to
heart.  It was the period of shadow in the Court.  At the other end of
the lagoon, far away through spaces of darkness, the gemmed dome of
Administration lifted its cameos and starry crown against the heavens.
From the distance of the lighted Peristyle the deep surrounding shadows
gave a supernatural effect to this single lighted edifice, whose
triumphant angels seemed to move in the waving illumination thrown over
them from flaming torches.  It was an aerial castle, with no affinity
for earth; an exalting vision such as visited the prophets of old.

"Earlier in the evening," said Page, almost too deeply moved to speak,
"I would willingly have turned from the Court of Honor.  I could not
find you, and its company of angels was incomplete. Now, heaven itself
lies here.  I ought to be a good man, my darling.  You will help me.  It
is a debt I shall owe for ever more."



                            *CHAPTER XXVI.*

                            *THE NEW YEAR.*


The reception at the Woman’s Building proved attractive.  It was late
when Mildred and Jack returned home that night.  All was still about the
house.  They parted in the usual friendly fashion, which both sought to
make easy, and each felt to be constrained.

Mildred went quietly to her sister’s door and listened.  All was still.
"Then she has been at home some time," thought the girl.  "Good! That
speaks volumes.  Poor fellow, I’m sorry for him."  The _frou-frou_ of
her dress as she turned away almost drowned the voice that spoke her
name.  Not quite, however.  She turned the handle of the door.

"Did you call me, Clover?"

"Yes; come in."

"I didn’t mean to disturb you."

"Oh, I can’t go to sleep.  I don’t want to."

The speaker put out her hand, and drew Mildred down on the side of the
bed.  The latter’s eyes widened in their effort to penetrate the
darkness.

"Something did happen, then?"

"Yes, it is all right," answered Clover, and her soft, glad tone pierced
to her sister’s heart.

"What do you mean by that?"

"He does love me!"  What a different voice was this from the one in
which she had said the same words to Jack Van Tassel five years ago!

"Of course; but, Clover, surely you don’t love him!" exclaimed the
other, aghast.

For answer, Clover took the hand she held and pressed it against her
breast.  "With every throb," she said slowly.

Mildred stared, then threw herself face down on the pillow and wept with
abandon.

"Dearest, please don’t," exclaimed Clover, shocked.

"I must," sobbed the other.  "Oh, why did we ever see him!  You are all
I have in the world. I hate anybody who takes you away from me."

"Nobody can, dear.  You know that," returned Clover, distressed by this
rare flood.  She slipped her arm around the recumbent form, and
interspersed her words with loving pats.  "I am so disappointed, Milly.
I thought you would be as happy as I am."

"I am never as happy as you are," answered the other.  "I know this is
abominable, but I’ve got to be selfish this once.  I’m just envious and
miserable, Clover.  Why should you always be blessing people and I
never?  My heart is heavy, and it hurts me all the time."

In an instant Clover sank her joy in loving compassion.  It was the
first admission concerning Jack that Mildred had ever made.

"My poor darling, I am so sorry," she said feelingly, "and I do not see
that you have done any wrong.  Instead, you have been true to yourself.
Anything else would have been a dreadful mistake."

Mildred was so surprised that she stopped crying suddenly.  "Then Jack
has told you?" she said without lifting her face, a belated sob
struggling in her throat.

"Yes.  Shouldn’t you prefer to have him go away?"

"No, not unless he wishes it.  I would rather he stayed."

"Things will come right for you, dearest.  They always do when one is
trying to live up to her standards, and to do the best she knows how.
Perhaps I have made you feel that even I thought you ought to marry him.
If I have, please forgive me for adding to the cruelty of your position.
I ought to have known that you would be glad, too, if it could have been
Jack."

Mildred rose to a sitting position.  "Let us forgive mutually," she
said, wiping her eyes.  "I am mortally ashamed of myself for bothering
you at such a time.  Wait till to-morrow morning and see me redeem my
character by my treatment of that—thief!"  She stooped and kissed her
sister passionately.  "Why should I blame him, when I know that I would
not look at any woman but you if I were a man?  What a lot of trouble it
would have saved me, by the way!"

"I don’t know," returned the other with a smile.  "You see I should have
been forced to refuse you."

"That is just like saying you love him better than me," with quick
suspicion.

"No, no; only better than that man you were going to be."

"Well," said Mildred, shrugging her shoulder in a characteristic
gesture, "I rather think I should enjoy the refreshing change of being
refused once or twice.  As for you,—as if I should mind your refusal!  I
should simply kidnap you."  She stooped, and laid her cheek against
Clover’s once more.

Aunt Love was a happy woman next day.  She was quite a heroine in the
small family jubilation.

"All my life I shall owe you twelve added hours of happiness," Page said
to her, when she gave him a rousing kiss.

"Well, Mr. Gorham, you know I always was good to you," she responded
radiantly, and contented herself all day by drawing Mildred off into
corners to discuss this and that detail of "his" and "her" behavior
during the past weeks; "trifles light as air," but "confirmation strong"
to Aunt Love of a good time coming, and which she dwelt upon with such
profound delight and secrecy that Mildred had not the heart to refuse
her an audience for all the asides she chose to make.

Gorham Page allowed himself a brief period in which to realize his
happiness before returning to Boston, but his energies now turned
willingly toward his work as the means by which he could soonest carry
Clover to his own home and hers; and before he left, it had been
arranged that they should be married the following spring.

The day before the one set for his departure, Jack came out to Clover,
who was sitting with some fancy work on the piazza.  Page was at the
hotel, writing business letters.

"Gorham says your cigars are too strong to be good for you," she said,
looking up as he struck a match.

"Yes, he has let out from the shoulder lately," returned Jack, puffing
his cigar alight.

"Do listen to him, Jack," said the other pleadingly.  "Don’t injure your
health."

"What is my health good for?" asked the young fellow, dropping down on
the edge of the piazza, upon which he extended one leg, while he
embraced the other knee as he leaned against a pillar.

"Don’t talk that way," said Clover.  Van Tassel had never heard her use
so acute a tone, and he was surprised on looking up to see her eyes
swimming.  "It is wicked when one has friends who love him as yours do
you."

"All right, Clover.  Thank you.  I am listening to Gorham.  This cigar
that I have here"—he removed it from his lips, and regarded it through
contracted lids—"might have become sauerkraut by a little different
process of handling."  He smoked a minute in silence, then said:
"Mildred has gone away, hasn’t she?"

"Yes; she has gone to spend a day or two with Helen Eames.  Helen has
been urging her all summer."

"I think I’ll go back with Gorham to-morrow," added Van Tassel briefly.

"Why, Jack!"  Clover dropped her work and gazed at him.

"Yes, I’ll go back."  The young man flipped the ash from his cigar off
into the grass.

"Do you feel that you have seen the Fair?"

"Yes, too many Fairs."  Jack smiled rather dolefully as he glanced up
toward the blue eyes.

"I can’t urge you to stay," said Clover sadly.

"Oh, perhaps I’ll come back," remarked the other cheerfully, "when I get
my second wind, as it were.  The first supply has been about knocked out
of me."

"You don’t look well."

"Oh yes, I am well enough."

"You have behaved like an angel, Jack."

He laughed.  "I feel a little like one of those angels on the side of
the Transportation Building,—the sort you can pass under a door without
touching their buttons, you know."

"Did you plan to go without saying good-by to Mildred?"

"Oh no."

"I’m glad of that.  It would hurt her."

"No.  I will run up to the Eameses this evening and kill two birds with
one stone.  I ought to say good-by to Miss Eames.  She has been very
kind to me.  That is," looking up inquiringly, "if you and Gorham can
spare me on your last evening. How is that?"

There was dew again in the violet eyes.  "It does not seem right for me
to be happy when you are not, Jack," Clover said, unconsciously clasping
her hands together.  "If I could only say something that would stay with
you as a comfort!  I am afraid to seem to preach when my own lot is what
it is.  You are plucky and have plenty of self-control, but I hope you
will not try to lean only on your own strength.  We can all have faith
that, so long as we do right, the outcome will be the best thing for us,
whatever it is."

"I’m not kicking," said Jack quietly, "but I am going away because I
believe it is the best thing both for Mildred and me."

"Does she know your intention?"

"No.  It is rather sudden.  I only took it to-day. I have staid here
long enough to bring things the way I want them if it were on the cards.
Now, I will do the next best thing."

A couple of days afterward, Mildred returned from her visit.  She came
breezily into the room where her sister was sitting.

"Oh, I am so glad to see you!" exclaimed Clover, starting up and kissing
her.

"Let us look at you," said Mildred, holding her off and scrutinizing her
with bright, audacious eyes.  "No, they are not red," she continued; "I
thought I might be coming home to a Niobe."

"They are both gone," said Clover plaintively.

"Yes."  Mildred turned away to a mirror, and began removing her
hat-pins.  "I have been kept so busy consoling Helen Eames that I
couldn’t come home any sooner to dry your tears."

Her sister look at her inquiringly.  Was there any bravado in this
disappointing gayety? Apparently not.  Mankind loves a lover, and
Clover, especially loving this lover, felt tempted to resentment; but
might it not be that Mildred indeed felt more light-hearted than for
months past? Why should she be blamed, if she found relief in the
knowledge that her home was free from a presence which had been in a way
a constant reproach?

"I wish Jack did care for Helen Eames," returned the elder,
unconsciously sighing.

"Yes; wouldn’t it be convenient?"

"I’m glad you’ve come home, Milly.  The house has seemed so empty."

"Oh, but what lovely flowers!" exclaimed the latter, espying a great
bowl of roses in a shaded corner.  "Why didn’t you tell me?"

"They are not yours, my dear."  Clover smiled at her work.  "They came
last night."

"They are beautiful.  Did brother actually remember to have such a sweet
substitute sent you on your first lonely evening?  I am proud of him.
What else interesting has happened?"

"Nothing, I think.  Gorham received a characteristic letter from Robert
just before he left.  He gave it to me to keep, with one that came from
Hilda.  Perhaps you would like to see it?"

"Indeed, I would.  Nice, jolly Mr. Page!  I wish they lived next door."

Mildred took the letter Clover handed her. "I’m going to read it aloud.
It probably says nice things about you.

"DEAR GORHAM,—So you have won that sweet woman!  Blessings on you, my
boy!  I may be partial, but I believe you are somewhere near good enough
for her.  Truth compels me to state, however, that your gain is my loss,
owing to the overweening satisfaction it is to Hilda.  In an evil
moment, I underrated her prescience when she prophesied this happy
event, and the consequence is that I am considering living at the club
until the first blush of her triumph passes over.  It flavors the
matutinal oatmeal and the after-dinner coffee. I cannot indulge in a
short nap without encountering a tall nightmare in which the wife of my
bosom pops out from unexpected corners and ejaculates ’I told you so.’
She sits opposite me now, writing a letter to go with this.  I know
those are burning words that are growing with such swiftness.  I can
almost hear the paper hiss.  However, I am just as pleased as she is.
Please give Clover my love,—you see I am not slow to use my privilege in
naming her,—and tell her I am sure the world will be a better place for
such a home as you and she will make in it.  Indeed, I feel more than I
can say on the subject.

"With kind regards to all,
       "Your brother,
              "ROBERT."


With the early autumn came the Parliament of Religions,—the congress
which, among the many that preceded and followed it, proved, to the
general surprise, to be the one of greatest interest to the public.
Miss Berry was indefatigable in her attendance; and her young ladies
were often with her.  The names of those Orientals, whose words she
listened to as to music, were impracticable to her; but their dark faces
and graceful gestures were fixed in her mind forever.  Aunt Love was one
of thousands whose complacent generalization of "the heathen" received a
blow.

Clover did her share in the entertaining of some of these scholarly
delegates from the far East; and Mildred found a totally novel sauce
piquante in the society of a handsome coffee-colored Indian, who wore a
pink silk turban and mouse-colored robe, and talked transcendental
philosophy in the purest English while gazing at her from long,
beautiful eyes.

Lieutenant Eames had rejoined his regiment, whether or no hiding a
heart-wound, Clover did not know.  Mildred said nothing.  October, the
busiest, gayest month of the Fair, came on.  Such of society as had
hitherto been obdurate, now returning from seashore and mountains, made
one united, belated rush for the widely extolled Exposition. The climax
of attendance during one day came on October 9th, Chicago’s own
celebration, the anniversary of the great fire, when more than seven
hundred and fifty thousand persons were in the grounds. The effect, when
one could rise to a slight eminence and look down, was such as is
observed in a trap so full of flies that there is only a general stir
and movement among the mass; no form is visible.

The day was faultless.  Not a cloud flecked the azure against which
shone the groups of the Agricultural Building, that one edifice which
interposed no roof between its superb statuesque decorations and the
revealing blue of the firmament.  The three mammoth fountains at the end
of the Court of Honor played in dazzling sunshine, filling the air with
crystals.

Clover and Mildred were present, attended by the Pink Turban, splendid
in his unconsciousness of being regarded on all sides as a sort of
embodied apotheosis of the Midway.

The ceremonies of the day began with what Clover’s chair-boy naïvely
called a procession of "the hussies," although the Chicago Hussars might
have taken exception to the term.  From that moment until late evening,
the interest was not permitted to flag.  A tightrope-walker in cavalier
costume ran and pirouetted high in air before the Peristyle, the scarlet
and gold of his costume showing jewel-like against the pure columns.

A large chorus sang national hymns.  The young liberty-bell pealed.
Hundreds of children in fancy costumes marched around the lagoons; but
the magnitude of the crowd defeated its own entertainment by the fact
that the procession of elaborately prepared floats could not force their
way through the avenues.

It was all very wonderful, but greatest of all was the fabulous splendor
of the night display.  The Van Tassel party viewed it from the roof of
the New York Building.  Surely, Chicago had earned the right to
celebrate herself by bombardments of colored fire, if so it pleased her,
and she did so this evening on a scale which trebled previous efforts,
and made the heavens as luminous as on that night, twenty-two years ago,
when she was the victim instead of the instigator of her pyrotechnics.

Once more the city meant to distinguish the World’s Fair by novel and
striking accompaniments to its intrinsic grandeur.  It was intended that
its close should be attended with a metaphorical flourish of trumpets;
but close upon this last day, shame and affliction visited Chicago in
the murder of its mayor, and all festivities were renounced.  The last
hours of the existence of the Dream City were mournfully quiet.

"A bubble is always most beautiful just before it vanishes," Mildred
said to Clover, as they stood together in the Court of Honor on that
afternoon, waiting for the fateful moment.

"It never looked more lovely," replied Clover. They spoke softly, as in
a holy place, and with one accord looked up at the infinite message in
carven letters, the significant legacy of the summer’s grand
experience:—

"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

A strain of solemn sweetness sounded through the harmonies that poured
without ceasing from the orchestra in a neighboring pavilion, touching
every heart in that waiting throng.

The rays of the low-hanging sun shot for one moment past the side of the
Administration Building, gleamed through the waters of the fountain, and
traveled a swift path across the lagoon to illume for an instant the
golden Republic.

"It is the swan-song!" exclaimed Mildred.

A long, sullen roar sounded from the east.  It was the first peal of the
salute which bade the Dream City vanish.  The sisters clasped hands, as
they had once before in the selfsame spot.  The eyes that had sought
each other, dark with excitement and anticipation, that day, now saw
through mists of tears.  The myriad flags they had seen unfurled in
gladness now with one accord slipped down from sight, and the music died
as the message from the cannon’s mouth told the country around that all
was over.

Jack had been with them on the opening day. Mildred could recall how
earnest and handsome he looked, standing with his hat off, carried away
by the spirit of the occasion.  A great wave of compassion swept over
her heart, and mingled with the yearning and sense of loss in the air.
The weather was chill now and cloudy.  She was glad to slip her arm
through Clover’s and hurry home.

Soon after this, Aunt Love returned to Pearfield. There was some
discussion as to whether she should take Blitzen; but that sagacious
animal, as was usual when anything inimical to his interests was in the
air, seemed fully aware of her doubts, lost his high spirits, haunted
her like a silent ghost, walked when she walked, sat when she sat, and
whined as he gazed at her, until the persecuted woman yielded to his
mute entreaties.  Electra stayed, and remained the heroine of her
latticed inclosure,—an additional reason for Blitzen to prefer returning
to his native heath.

Aunt Love’s farewell was by no means a sad one.  She was radiant as she
remarked how soon Clover would be her neighbor.

"And in that way we’ll get you, too," she said to Mildred; but that
young woman demurred.

"Of course she will come," said Clover.

"I’m not sure," persisted the younger.

"Well now, my dear," said Miss Berry in parting advice, "don’t you
wander through the woods too long and take up with a crooked stick at
last; but, whatever you do, marry a man o’ your own color, who wears a
hat and coat instead of a turban and a bath wrapper.  Remember that."

"I don’t know," responded Mildred, with a teasing smile.  "The Pink
Turban says he has a pair of very handsome diamond earrings.  Perhaps,
if I should have my ears pierced, he would let me wear them a part of
the time."

"Go ’way!" exclaimed Miss Berry, with a repudiatory gesture.

The old Scotch housekeeper soon returned, joyful to be back again, and
felicitating herself that the Fair was safely over; and life might have
been supposed to move on as before, but it did not.

Clover had come into a new state of existence, the deep, constant joy of
which she never expressed in words.  Except for the framed photograph on
her dressing-table, Mildred might have believed her equable sister to be
unchanged in thought as well as habit; but Mildred’s own mode of life
was noticeably changed this season.  The winter was a hard one.  Cold
weather set in in November, and the reaction from the great business
activity of the year before caused a depression cruelly felt among the
poor.  Charitable work was the order of the day, and Mildred entered
into it heart and soul.

"Slumming was never so fashionable," she said; and thus lightly
accounting for the new direction of her energy, she learned novel views
of life, which would modify her character in all time to come. Clover
was her efficient aid, and her friend Helen Eames sometimes went on
these expeditions too, under the shadow of her wing.

It was rather a grievance with Helen that Mildred never of her own
accord referred to Jack, and if questioned, made brief replies.  Mr. Van
Tassel was a Chicago man and belonged here.  He was, in Helen’s own
phraseology, "perfectly fascinating," and not to be lightly dropped.
She intended to keep herself posted as to the probabilities of his
return; but Mildred early nipped her plans in the bud.

"We can’t reckon on Mr. Van Tassel as a Chicagoan any more," she said.
"He is reading law very earnestly now in Boston, and he has lived there
so many years, it is home to him.  Besides that, he is devoted to
Clover, and when she is married to his cousin, that will be another tie
to keep him at the East."

Upon which Miss Eames grew thoughtful, and fortune shortly after
throwing in her way an invitation to visit a friend in Boston, she
incontinently dropped her pilgrimages amid Chicago’s back streets, and
departed on the most limited train available.

Soon afterward, Mildred received a gay letter from her.  Mr. Van Tassel
had called, and had been one of the theatre party her hostess had given
the night before.  She was having a charming time, and hoped dear
Mildred would not take something in those dreadful basements before she
could return to help her again.

"Wouldn’t it be strange," Clover asked, when her sister showed her the
letter, "if little Helen should catch Jack’s heart on the rebound, after
all?"

Mildred returned her look with unusual gravity. "Are men’s hearts so
unfaithful, do you think?" she asked seriously.

"Sometimes," answered Clover, "when they despair; and women’s, too."

"Then they are unworthy," Mildred said quietly.

No winter ever suffered more than this by contrast with the summer.  In
public print and by private hearsay, the bitter needs of the poor
surrounded one.  The corpse of the White City lay wrapped in a
winding-sheet of snow.  The sisters never entered the grounds from the
afternoon its spirit departed.  They looked askance, in passing, at the
buildings, with their cold, silent surroundings, where so recently all
had been life and warmth.  The same domes and façades upreared under the
cold sky.  One could only say as he does in glancing tenderly and sadly
at a dear, dead face: "How natural it looks!"

Little wonder that plans were innumerable for preserving a portion of
that dream of beauty, to be resuscitated and to become the joy of one
more summer; but the work of spoliation had begun, and would march on
inexorably.

"Miss Mildred has grown awful quiet, Mrs. Van Tassel," said old Jeanie
one day in confidence. "It’s a wrong you’re doing her, I’m thinking,
letting her quench all her bright spirits in those holes she visits."

"I think not, Jeanie," Clover replied.  "Miss Mildred is having a deep
experience; but we can’t help the sorrow in the world except by coming
close to it."

"I saw tears in her eyes the other night," whispered Jeanie profoundly,
"and I asked the poor child why, and what do you suppose she answered?"

"I suppose she had the heartache over some of our new friends."

"Maybe; but if she did, she wouldn’t acknowledge it.  She said ’t was
because the Chicago Beach Hotel was closed for the season, and there
couldn’t be any dances there!"

Clover smiled.  "That sounds as if her spirits had not all departed,"
she remarked.

But she had been quick to observe the alteration in Mildred.  Sometimes
she hoped that Jack’s absence had wrought the fulfillment of his desire,
but she did not seek to probe her sister’s feeling. If unseen influences
were expanding the entrance to the holy of holies in the young girl’s
heart, what right had she to interfere?  Sometimes she feared Mildred
was depressed by the prospect of a marriage which would break up this
home. Whatever the cause, the fact remained that her sister’s interest
in society had waned, and the part she kept up in it was perfunctory,
and did not extend beyond those efforts which courtesy demanded.  She
had never been more companionable with Clover, however, and the latter
had never enjoyed her so much.

Thus matters stood when the New Year was ushered in.  The day was clear
and bright, and many thousands took advantage of the fact that Jackson
Park passed back to-day into the public jurisdiction.  Curiosity seekers
and vandals poured down the strangely mute Midway Plaisance and through
the avenues of the Park.  Clover and Mildred did not swell the number
who gayly parodied "After the Ball."

And now was to come the long pull and the strong pull of winter.
Mildred wondered in her own mind why the prospect should look so very
dreary.  No other season had ever seemed like it. Doubtless it was her
new and close acquaintance with the griefs of others that had changed
the world, and made life a novel sort of struggle.

The new year was less than a week old when Clover received a letter from
Jack, announcing his intention to make them a call.

"I won’t give any excuses," he wrote; "I admit that I am coming simply
because I want so much to see Mildred and you that I believe I shall do
better work after indulging in that pleasure."

"Loyal as ever," said Clover, looking up, and Mildred did not raise her
eyes from her work, but she was smiling.

Jack had said he could not set a precise time for his arrival, but that
in a few days they might expect him to drop down.

When his determination had been taken, Van Tassel pushed forward his
preparations with all haste, and his restlessness did not quiet until he
found himself, in the early evening of the 8th of January, walking down
the old familiar home street once more.  As he reached the corner, he
suddenly observed that clouds of smoke mingled with large red cinders
were rolling up from the south.

"Must be a fire in the Fair grounds," he thought.  "I wonder if the
girls know."

They were coming out of their door, with their outside wraps on, when
Van Tassel came up the steps, and they gave him a greeting in which
excitement and cordiality mingled.

"There is a fire in the Fair," they all three said at once.

"You will take me down there, Jack," exclaimed Mildred.  "Clover was
going, but she hasn’t been well and she ought not to."

Clover protested faintly, suggesting some of the rites of hospitality
for Jack’s benefit; but he would hear nothing save carrying out
Mildred’s wishes, and after taking a moment to deposit his bag in the
hall, he set off beside her.

"How is Gorham, I wonder?" murmured Clover with a comical little smile
and plaintive raised eyebrows, as she looked after the figures
retreating into the dark.  "I feel as if I had been in a whirlwind."
She looked toward the once gay hotel; now, its many sightless eyes gazed
blankly southward.  "I will go there," she exclaimed with sudden
determination; and reëntering the house, she called Jeanie, and made her
hurry into her wraps.  The housekeeper obeyed, with many a fussy groan
over her mistress’ caprice, and soon they were walking northward.

They ascended the dark stairway to the piazza of the hotel, and peered
through the door at the office, where one dim light showed.  Clover was
a bit frightened, but she knocked on the glass.  A man appeared behind
the office desk, and, picking up the lantern which was the vast hotel’s
single attempt at illumination, advanced through dark spaces, casting
strange shadows on the marble floor as he came.

"May we look at the fire from here?" asked Clover, wishing Gorham were
with her rather than Jeanie.

"Yes; I see they’ve got a fire down there," the man remarked
imperturbably, but he stood back for them to enter, and then clanged the
heavy door behind them.  It echoed in the big empty hall, and Jeanie
looked so discomfited that Clover smiled, though she herself thought the
situation rather eerie.

The last time she had stood here, the place had been ablaze with
electric light, and gay with music and guests.  She had ascended with
her friends to a balcony to view the lighted White City in the zenith of
its beauty, and to revel in the fiery marvels which mirrored themselves
in the lake. It flashed into her memory how enthusiastic the crowds had
been over the rising of a slender cylinder of light which poised itself
aloft, then slowly unrolled until the stars and stripes appeared in the
heavens.  She could hear again the patriotic salutes from a congregation
of boats as Old Glory sailed away across the lake.

Now, all was hushed and dark.  A second man, who appeared in the office,
struck a match and lit another lantern, by whose light he proceeded to
pilot the two women upstairs.

Jeanie muttered and grunted to such an extent that Clover relented after
the ascent of three flights, and the old man led her to the window of
one of the white-sheeted bedrooms, from which she eagerly looked.

"Oh, Jeanie, I am sure it is the Peristyle!" she exclaimed, gazing
horror-struck on the volume of fire and smoke visible through the bare
ribs of the Spectatorium.  "What will—what will Mr. Page say!"
Involuntarily she pressed her hand on her beating heart, seeming to hear
the roar of those cruel flames.

Meanwhile Mildred and Jack had caught a train, which they left at
Sixtieth Street.  The young man was glad that the tension of his
anticipations had been relieved by the unconventional circumstances of
his welcome.  To be joined with Mildred in the present excitement was
far preferable to the doubtful home evening he had looked forward to.
Arm in arm they pressed forward against the cold lake wind toward the
shore, and did not pause until they had neared the Music Hall.

Only once Mildred spoke as they hurried on. "I am afraid," she said
breathlessly, "that it is the Peristyle."

"It looks like it," said Jack briefly.  The hoofs of galloping horses
smote the hard ground, and the puffing of fire-engines was borne to
their ears before they reached the scene of confusion. There they stood
still, Mildred clinging with both hands to Van Tassel’s arm, her wide,
horrified eyes fixed on the blazing Casino, the building into which the
Peristyle merged at the southern end, as it did into Music Hall on the
north.

The lagoon was coated with a thin sheet of ice, across which the sparks,
after circling around the head of the golden goddess, whirled up the
Court of Honor in lines of fire.

Above, the wind bore the glowing brands swirling over the great
neighboring buildings.  Streams of water fell with no quenching power
into the flames.

"Why don’t they bend all their energies to saving the Peristyle?"
exclaimed Mildred.

"That is what they are doing now.  See?"

The dauntless firemen were fighting the flames at close range.  A dozen
streams of water at once were directed upon the Peristyle; but in vain.
The walls of the Casino crashed in; devouring tongues of fire fastened
upon the first noble pillar and ate upward.

Van Tassel felt his companion shudder in her furs, and put his hand on
hers.  The crowd that had gathered in the very spot where they cheered
the summer’s pyrotechnic display were strangely motionless and silent,
watching with fascinated eyes and saddened faces as the fire crept
upward, leaping from pillar to pillar, ascending toward the statues
which stood serene and fair above smoke and flame long after the
watchers expected them to succumb.  At last, each white figure in turn,
seeming suddenly to become aware of its environment, wavered on its
pedestal, hesitated, and with one shrinking look below, plunged downward
into the fiery chasm.

"Jack!" gasped Mildred, shivering from head to foot, her dilated eyes
never leaving the heart-rending sight.

For an instant, free of smoke and illumined gloriously, shone out for a
last time the heavenly promise:—

"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

"The Quadriga!" groaned Van Tassel, for the grand arch was seized upon,
and swiftly melted away in the furnace.  No search-light of the summer
ever compared in grandeur with the effect that succeeded to the
crumbling of the staff below the famous group, the pride of the noble
Peristyle. The iron skeleton supports, laid bare, were invisible in the
night.  Columbus, his chariot, the outriders with their banners, and the
spirited horses led by maidens, stood triumphant in the vivid light.  It
was a sight of supernatural beauty.  In the glare of the leaping flames
the snow-white horses seemed to stir restlessly and paw the air, as they
arched their necks and gazed proudly down into the glowing chasm.

"Jump, oh, jump!" cried Mildred; then, unable to endure the impending
catastrophe, her nerves strained to the utmost, she turned with a wild
movement, and sobbing, hid her head on Jack’s breast.

He put his arms around her.

"The—the Peristyle has gone!" she exclaimed chokingly,—"gone back—to
heaven!"

"Yes, darling," he answered close to her ear. "My rival.  Forgive me,
but you are making me so happy I can’t realize anything except that I
have you in my arms.  What does it mean? only that you are overwrought?"

Mildred lifted her face slightly, but away from the burning pyre.

"Your rivals are all gone, Jack," she said, as steadily as she could
speak.  "Even I do not count."


Half an hour afterward, Clover heard them enter the house, and hurried
down to the parlor.

When she pushed aside the portière and entered, she paused in amazement
and her heart leaped up, for Jack’s arms were about Mildred and his lips
were pressed to hers.

They saw her, and in another instant she was beside them, her hands
clasped in theirs.

As she gazed at her sister, mute for joy, Mildred regarded her with a
tender version of her beautiful smile.

"I believe," she said, "this lifts the last cloud from Clover’s
horizon."

"Yes," answered the latter rather unsteadily; "the world never looked so
bright to me as now. I think, Jack," turning to him, her face aglow,
"heaven itself must have grown happier to-night."

Van Tassel’s eyes shone wistfully.  "I hope he knows," he answered
gently.



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