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Title: The Disagreeable Woman - A Social Mystery
Author: Alger, Horatio, Jr.
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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      +------------------------------------------------------+
      |Transcriber's note:                                   |
      |                                                      |
      |The book, "Ships That Pass in the Night",             |
      |by Beatrice Harraden, mentioned in the forenote,      |
      |                                                      |
      +------------------------------------------------------+



THE DISAGREEABLE WOMAN.

A Social Mystery.

by

JULIAN STARR.


"Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still."
                                --_Fletcher._



[Illustration: Logo]

New York:
Copyright, 1895, by
G. W. Dillingham, Publisher,
Successor to G. W. Carleton & Co.
MDCCCXCV.

[All Rights Reserved.]



CONTENTS.


Chapter                                            Page
    I. A Social Mystery                               7

   II. The Mystery Deepens                           13

  III. Prof. Poppendorf                              19

   IV. Prof. Poppendorf's Lecture                    29

    V. A Conversation with the Disagreeable Woman    41

   VI. Count Penelli                                 50

  VII. Macy's                                        61

 VIII. The Professor in Love                         71

   IX. An Evening at the Boarding-House              82

    X. A Rustic Admirer                              93

   XI. A Poor Patient                               104

  XII. The Disagreeable Woman in a New Light        112

 XIII. Mrs. Wyman's Curiosity                       117

  XIV. The Quality of Mercy                         122

   XV. The Professor's Courtship                    128

  XVI. Sits the Wind in that Quarter?               139

 XVII. My Rich Patient                              150

XVIII. The Professor's Book                         156

  XIX. A Speech from the Throne                     162

   XX. A Startling Discovery                        169

  XXI. After Three Months                           174

 XXII. I Appeal to the Disagreeable Woman           181

XXIII. At Last                                      185

 XXIV. The Light of Hope                            189



TO MY READERS.


In reading Miss Harraden's charming idyl "Ships That Pass in the Night,"
it occurred to me that if there were Disagreeable Men there are also
Disagreeable Women. Hence this story.



THE DISAGREEABLE WOMAN.



CHAPTER I.

A SOCIAL MYSTERY.


"If I live till next July, I shall be twenty-nine years old," simpered
the young widow, and she looked around the table, as if to note the
effect of such an incredible statement.

"You look much older," said the Disagreeable Woman, looking up from her
tea and buttered toast.

There was a general silence, and the boarders noted with curiosity the
effect of this somewhat unceremonious remark.

Mrs. Wyman, the young widow, flushed and directed an angry and scornful
look at the last speaker.

"I am sure I am very much obliged to you," she said.

"You are quite welcome," said the Disagreeable Woman, calmly.

"You look older than I do," said the widow, sharply.

"Very possibly," said the Disagreeable Woman, not at all excited.

"Do you mind telling us how old you are?"

"Not at all! I have reached the age--"

All bent forward to listen. Why is it that we take so much interest in
the ages of our acquaintances? There was evidently a strong desire to
learn the age of the Disagreeable Woman. But she disappointed the
general expectation.

"I have reached the age of discretion," she continued, finishing the
sentence.

"Who is that woman?" I asked my next neighbor, for I was a new comer at
Mrs. Gray's table.

"Wait till after breakfast and I will tell you," he answered.

Mrs. Gray kept a large boarding-house on Waverley Place. Some fifteen
boarders were gathered about the large table. I may have occasion to
refer to some of them later. But first I will speak of myself.

I was a young medical practitioner, who after practising for a year in a
Jersey village had come to New York in quest of a metropolitan practise
and reputation. I was not quite penniless, having five hundred dollars
left over from the legacy of an old aunt, the rest of which had been
used to defray the expenses of my education. I had not yet come to
realize how small a sum this was for a professional start in the city. I
had hired an office, provided with a cabinet bedstead, and thus saved
room rent. For table board I had been referred to Mrs. Gray's
boarding-house, on Waverley Place.

"I boarded there once," said the friend who recommended me, "and found
not only a fair table but a very social and entertaining family of
boarders. They were of all classes," he continued, "from literateurs to
dry goods clerks, school-teachers, actors, and broken-down
professionals."

This description piqued my curiosity, and I enrolled myself as one of
Mrs. Gray's boarders, finding her terms not beyond my modest means.

But in his list of boarders he forgot--the Disagreeable Woman, who must
have come after his departure.

She was tall, inclined to be slender, with a keen face and singular
eyes. She never seemed to be excited, but was always calm and
self-possessed. She seemed to have keen insight into character, and as
may already be inferred, of remarkable and even perhaps rude plainness
of speech. Yet though she said sharp things she never seemed actuated by
malice or ill-nature. She did not converse much, but was always ready to
rebuke pretension and humbug as in the case of the young widow. What she
said of her was quite correct. I judged from her appearance that Mrs.
Wyman must be at least thirty-five years old, and possibly more. She
evidently did not intend to remain a widow longer than was absolutely
necessary.

She paid attention to every male boarder at the table, neglecting none.
She even made overtures to Prof. Poppendorf, a learned German, with a
deep bass voice and a German accent, whose green goggles and shaggy
hair, somewhat grizzled, made him a picturesque personality.

We all enjoyed the rebuff which Mrs. Wyman received from the
Disagreeable Woman, though it made us slightly afraid of her lest our
turns might come next.

But I am keeping my readers from my friend's promised account of the
lady who had excited my curiosity.



CHAPTER II.

THE MYSTERY DEEPENS.


"The first time I met the Disagreeable Woman," said my neighbor, who was
a commercial traveler, "was on my return from a business trip. Looking
about the table to see what changes had occurred in the family, I saw
sitting opposite to me a woman of somewhat unusual appearance, whose
caustic speech made her feared by the rest of the boarders. This was
three months since."

"What is her name?" I asked.

"Upon my word," he answered reflectively, "I am so accustomed to hear
her spoken of as the Disagreeable Woman that I hardly remember. Let me
see--yes, it is Blagden."

"And the first name?"

"Jane."

"Is it Miss or Mrs. Blagden?"

"I don't know."

"She has been here three months and you do not know," I said, in
surprise.

"Precisely."

"Did it never occur to any one to ask her?"

"Yes, Mrs. Wyman asked her one day."

"And what did she reply?"

"Whichever you please--it is quite immaterial."

"Do you think she has any reason to maintain secrecy on this point?"

"I think not. She probably takes the ground that it is nobody's business
but her own."

"How soon did she obtain her designation of the 'Disagreeable Woman?'"

"Almost immediately I judge. When I first met her she had been a member
of Mrs. Gray's household for a week, and already this was the way she
was spoken of."

"I suppose she does not live in the house?"

"No."

"Where then?"

"No one knows. She comes to her meals punctually, turning into Waverley
Place from Broadway."

"Has no one ever thought of following her home?"

"Yes. A young broker's clerk, on a wager, attempted to track her to her
lodging place. She was sharp enough to detect his purpose. When they
reached Broadway she turned suddenly and confronted him. 'Are you going
up or down Broadway?' she asked. 'Up Broadway,' he answered with some
hesitation, 'Then good evening! I go in the opposite direction.' Of
course there was nothing for him to do but to accept the hint, which was
certainly pointed enough."

"She must be a woman with a history," I said, thoughtfully.

"Most women have histories."

"But not out of the common."

"True. What now do you conjecture as to Miss Blagden's history?"

"I am utterly at a loss."

"Do you think she has had a disappointment?"

"She does not look impressionable. One cannot conceive of her as having
an affair of the heart."

"I don't know. One cannot always judge by the exterior."

"Do you think she has any employment?"

"If so, no one has been able to conjecture what it is."

"To me she seems like an advocate of Woman's Rights, perhaps a lecturer
on that subject."

"Possibly, but I know of nothing to throw light on her business or her
views."

"Do you think she is a woman of means?"

"Ah," said my friend, smiling, "you are really beginning to show
interest in her. I believe you are unmarried?"

The suggestion was grotesque and I could not help smiling.

"I should pity the man who married the 'Disagreeable Woman,'" I made
answer.

"I don't know. She is not beautiful, certainly, nor attractive, but I
don't think she is as ill-natured as she appears."

"Is this conjecture on your part?"

"Not wholly. Did you notice the young woman who sat on her left?"

"Yes."

"We know her as the young woman from Macy's. Well, a month since she was
sick for a week, and unable to pay her board. She occupies a hall
bed-room on the upper floor. Miss Blagden guessed her trouble, and as
she left the table on Saturday night put into her hands an envelope
without a word. When it was opened it proved to contain ten dollars,
sufficient to pay two weeks' board."

"Come, there seems to be something human about the Disagreeable Woman."

"Just so. To us it was a revelation. But she would not allow herself to
be thanked."

"That last piece of information interests me. My office practise at
present is very limited, and I find my small capital going fast. I may
need the good office of Miss Blagden."

"I hope not, but I must leave you. My employers have sent me an
orchestra ticket to Palmer's theatre."

"I hope you will enjoy yourself."

So we parted company. I went to my office, and spent a part of the
evening in searching among my medical books for some light on a case
that had baffled me. But from time to time my attention was distracted
by thoughts of the Disagreeable Woman.



CHAPTER III.

PROF. POPPENDORF.


Dinner was nearly over. The dessert had been succeeded by a dish of
withered russet apples, when Mrs. Gray, leaning forward a little, said:
"If the boarders will kindly remain a short time, Prof. Poppendorf has
an interesting communication to make."

The learned professor cleared his throat, removed his goggles for an
instant, and after wiping them carefully with a red silk handkerchief,
replaced them on a nose of large proportions.

"My friends," he said, "on Thursday next I am to deliver a lecture at
Schiller Hall, on Second Avenue, and I hope I may have the honor of
seeing you all present. The tickets are fifty cents."

"May I ask the subject of your lecture, Professor?" asked Mrs. Wyman,
with an appearance of interest.

"I shall lecture on 'The Material and the Immaterial,'" answered the
Professor, in a deep bass voice.

The boarders looked puzzled. The announcement of the subject did not
seem to excite interest.

"Shall you treat the subject in a popular manner, Prof. Poppendorf?"
asked the Disagreeable Woman, in a tone that did not necessarily suggest
sarcasm.

Prof. Poppendorf seemed puzzled.

"I do not know!" he answered, "if it will be popular--I hope it will be
instructive."

"Will there be any jokes in it, Professor?" asked Sam Lindsay, a
vocalist from an uptown Dime Museum.

"Jokes!" repeated the Professor, evidently scandalized. "It would not
be appropriate. The subject is metaphysical. If you want jokes you must
go to the variety theatre."

"True," said Lindsay, "or to the Dime Museums. We've got a man at our
place who will make you split your sides laughing."

"I have here some tickets," continued the Professor, "some tickets which
I shall be glad to dispose of in advance," and he drew out a package of
perhaps twenty-five. "Miss Blagden, I hope you will patronize me."

"You may give me two," said the Disagreeable Woman, drawing a dollar
bill from her pocket, and passing it to the Professor.

"You take two tickets?" said Mrs. Wyman, with a knowing smile. "I
suppose there is a gentleman in the case."

"You are mistaken," said the Disagreeable Woman, quietly.

"You don't want both tickets for yourself, surely?"

"No, I shall use neither of them."

"You will give them away, then?"

"I do not think so."

"Why, then--"

"Why then do I buy them? Out of compliment to our friend, Prof.
Poppendorf, who, I hope, will win a success."

"I thank you," said the Professor, "but I should be glad to have you
honor my lecture with your presence."

"I feel no particular interest in 'The Material and the Immaterial,'"
said Mrs. Blagden. "Besides I am not sure whether I should get any
clearer ideas respecting them from attending your lecture."

"You do not flatter the Professor," said Mrs. Wyman, appearing shocked.

"No, I never flatter any one. Why should I?" returned the Disagreeable
Woman.

"I like to be flattered," said the widow, simpering. "I like to be told
that I am young and charming."

"Even if you are not."

Mrs. Wyman colored, and looked annoyed. She evidently did not care to
continue her conversation with the Disagreeable Woman.

"Professor Poppendorf," she said, "will you allow me to suggest
something which will enable you to sell a good many tickets?"

"I should be very glad to hear," said the Professor, eagerly.

"Get Chauncey M. Depew to preside, and introduce you to the audience."

"I did ask him, but he could not come. He is engaged to preside at a
dinner given to the Yale Football Team."

"Does Mr. Depew kick football?" asked the young woman from Macy's.

"I think not," I ventured to say. "Gentlemen over forty seldom indulge
in athletics."

"I am so sorry you can't get Mr. Depew," said Mrs. Wyman. "I should so
like to hear him."

"You will hear _me_," said Prof. Poppendorf, with dignity, "if you will
kindly buy a ticket."

Mrs. Wyman looked embarrassed. She had a fair income, but carried
economy to a fine point.

"Perhaps," she said, with a hesitating glance at the person of whom she
spoke, "Miss Blagden will give me one of her tickets, as she does not
intend to use either."

"That wouldn't help the Professor," said Miss Blagden, quietly. "You had
better buy one of him."

The Professor evidently approved this suggestion.

Mrs. Wyman reluctantly drew from her pocket forty-five cents in change,
and tendered it to the Professor.

"I will owe you a nickel," she said.

"You can pay it any time, my dear lady," said the Professor, politely,
as he passed a ticket to the widow.

Nearly all at the table took tickets, but the young woman from Macy's
was not of the number. The price was small, but she needed gloves, and
could not spare even fifty cents.

"Prof. Poppendorf," said a young man, who was attached as a reporter to
one of the great morning dailies, "did I not hear you say once that you
knew Bismarck?"

"Ah! yes," said the Professor, "I was at the University with Bismarck."

"How nice!" said Mrs. Wyman, with girlish enthusiasm. "It must have been
a great privilege."

"I don't know," said Prof. Poppendorf, deliberately. "Bismarck was not a
great student. He would not study. Bismarck was wild."

"Did he drink beer?" asked the widow.

"Of course," answered the Professor, surprised; "why should he not? I
drank beer myself."

"Is it possible? I would not have believed it. Fie, Professor!"

"Beer is a very good thing," said the Professor, gravely. "There were
not many of the students who could drink as much as Bismarck."

"And did Bismarck care for young ladies?"

"I should think so. I had a duel with Bismarck myself about a young
_mädchen_."

More than one of the boarders smiled. It was so difficult to associate
the gray old Professor with anything that savored of gallantry.

"Oh, yes," he continued, "Bismarck was the devil among the girls."

"Oh, Professor, I am shocked! You should not use such a word as devil at
the table."

"What, then, do you call him?" asked Prof. Poppendorf.

"He is not mentioned in polite society. But tell us about the duel--were
you wounded?"

"You see that scar," said the Professor, pointing to a slight
disfigurement of his left cheek. "That was given me by Bismarck."

"Oh, how interesting! It is almost like seeing Bismarck himself."

"Prof. Poppendorf," said the Disagreeable Woman, "why do you not lecture
on Bismarck, instead of the dry subject you have announced?"

"You admire Bismarck, then, my dear lady?"

"Not at all."

"But I don't understand."

"The people are interested in him. They don't care for the 'Material and
the Immaterial.'"

"That is a good suggestion, Professor," said the widow. "I would much
rather hear about Bismarck. _I_ admire him. Why do you not, Miss
Blagden?"

"Because he was a second-hand autocrat," said the Disagreeable Woman.

"Again I do not understand," said the Professor.

"He was the servant of the Emperor. His authority did not come from the
people."

There was some further conversation, and Prof. Poppendorf promised that
his next lecture should be upon Bismarck.



CHAPTER IV.

PROF. POPPENDORF'S LECTURE.


We all sat at supper on Thursday evening. There was a general air of
expectation. It was on this evening that Prof. Poppendorf was to give
his lecture. We all gazed at him with more than ordinary interest. The
old Professor, gray and grim-visaged, sat more than usually erect, and
his manner and bearing were marked by unusual dignity. He felt himself
to be the hero of the hour.

I have neglected to say that Mrs. Wyman had been transferred to the seat
adjoining mine. As she could not do without masculine attention I
suspect that this arrangement was prompted by herself. Henceforth I was
favored with the greater part of her conversation.

"I am quite looking forward to Prof. Poppendorf's lecture!" she said.
"You are going, are you not?"

"I think so, but I can't say I am looking forward to it. I fancy it will
be dry and difficult to understand."

"You think he is a learned man, do you not?"

"Very probably--in certain directions."

"Dr. Fenwick, I am going to ask a favor of you."

"I hope it isn't money," thought I, "for I was beginning to have some
anxiety about my steadily dwindling bank account."

"Name it, Mrs. Wyman," I said, somewhat nervously.

"I am almost ashamed to say it, but I don't like to go to the lecture
alone. Would you mind giving me your escort?"

"With pleasure," I answered.

My answer was not quite truthful, for I had intended to ask the young
woman from Macy's to accompany me. She was not intellectual, but she had
a fresh, country face and complexion; she came from Pomfret,
Connecticut, and was at least ten years younger than Mrs. Wyman. But
what could I say? I had not the moral courage to refuse a lady.

"Thank you very much. Now I shall look forward to the evening with
pleasure."

"You are complimentary. Do you expect to understand the lecture?"

"I don't know. I never gave much thought to the 'Material and
Immaterial.'"

"Possibly we may understand as much about the subject as the Professor
himself."

"Oh, how severe you are! Now I have great faith in the Professor's
learning."

"He ought to be learned. He certainly has no physical beauty."

Mrs. Wyman laughed.

"I suppose few learned men are handsome," she said.

"Then perhaps I may console myself for having so little learning. Do you
think the same rule holds good with ladies?"

"To a certain extent. I am sure the principal of the seminary I attended
was frightfully plain; but I am sure she was learned. Prof. Poppendorf,
have you sold many lecture tickets?"

"Quite a few!" answered the Professor, vaguely.

"Are you going to attend the lecture, Miss Blagden?" asked the widow.

"Miss Canby and I have agreed to go together."

Miss Canby was the young woman from Macy's. The Disagreeable Woman
finding that she wished to attend the lecture, offered her a ticket and
her company, both being thankfully accepted. So that after all my
escort was not needed by the young woman, and I lost nothing by my
attention to the widow.

We did not rise from the table till seven o'clock. Mrs. Wyman excused
herself for a short time. She wished to dress for the lecture. The
gentlemen withdrew to the reception room, a small and very narrow room
on one side of the hall, and waited for the ladies to appear. Among
those who seated themselves there was the Disagreeable Woman. She waited
for the appearance of the young woman from Macy's, whom she was to
accompany to the lecture. Somehow she did not seem out of place in the
assemblage of men.

"You did not at first propose to hear Prof. Poppendorf?" I remarked.

"No; I shall not enjoy it. But I found Miss Canby wished to attend."

"We shall probably know a good deal more about the Material and the
Immaterial when we return."

"Possibly we shall know as much as the Professor himself," she answered,
quietly.

"I am afraid you are no hero worshiper, Miss Blagden."

"Do you refer to the Professor as a hero?"

"He is the hero of this evening."

"Perhaps so. We will see."

Prof. Poppendorf looked into the reception room previous to leaving the
house. He wore a long coat, or surtout, as it used to be called--tightly
buttoned around his spare figure. There was a rose in his buttonhole. I
had never seen one there before, but then this was a special occasion.
He seemed in good spirits, as one on the eve of a triumph. He was
content with one comprehensive glance. Then he opened the front door,
and went out.

Just then Mrs. Wyman tripped into the room, closely followed by Ruth
Canby. The widow was quite radiant. I can't undertake to itemize her
splendor. She looked like a social butterfly.

Quite in contrast with her was the young woman from Macy's, whose garb
was almost Quaker-like in its simplicity. Mrs. Wyman surveyed her with a
contemptuous glance, and no doubt mentally contrasted her plainness with
her own showy apparel. But the Disagreeable Woman's eye seemed to rest
approvingly on her young companion. They started out ahead of the rest
of us.

"What a very plain person Miss Canby is!" said the widow, as we emerged
into the street, her arm resting lightly in mine.

"Do you refer to her dress or her face and figure?"

"Well, to both."

"She dresses plainly; but I suspect that is dictated by economy. She has
a pleasant face."

"It is the face of a peasant."

"I didn't know there were any peasants in America."

"Well, you understand what I mean. She looks like a country girl."

"Perhaps so, but is that an objection?"

"Few country girls are stylish."

"I don't myself care so much for style as for good health and a good
heart."

"Really, Dr. Fenwick, your ideas are very old-fashioned. In that respect
you resemble my dear, departed husband."

"Is it permitted to ask whether your husband has long been dead?"

"I have been a widow six years," said Mrs. Wyman, with an ostentatious
sigh. "I was quite a girl when my dear husband died."

According to her own chronology, she was twenty-three. In all
probability she became a widow at twenty-nine or thirty. But of course I
could not insinuate any doubt of a lady's word.

"And you have never been tempted to marry again?" I essayed with great
lack of prudence.

"Oh, Dr. Fenwick, do you think it would be right?" said the widow,
leaning more heavily on my arm.

"If you should meet one who was congenial to you. I don't know why not."

"I have always thought that if I ever married again I would select a
professional gentleman," murmured the widow.

I began to understand my danger and tried a diversion.

"I don't know if you would consider Prof. Poppendorf a 'professional
gentleman'," I said.

"Oh, how horrid! Who would marry such an old fossil?"

"It is well that the Professor does not hear you."

Perhaps this conversation is hardly worth recording, but it throws some
light on the character of the widow. Moreover it satisfied me that
should I desire to marry her there would be no violent opposition on
her part. But, truth to tell, I would have preferred the young woman
from Macy's, despite the criticism of Mrs. Wyman. One was artificial,
the other was natural.

We reached Schiller Hall, after a long walk. It was a small hall,
looking something like a college recitation room.

Prof. Poppendorf took his place behind a desk on the platform and looked
about him. There were scarcely a hundred persons, all told, in the
audience. The men, as a general thing, were shabbily dressed, and
elderly. There were perhaps twenty women, with whom dress was a
secondary consideration.

"Did you ever see such frights, Doctor?" whispered the widow.

"You are the only stylishly dressed woman in the hall."

Mrs. Wyman looked gratified.

The Professor commenced a long and rather incomprehensible talk, in
which the words material and immaterial occurred at frequent intervals.
There may have been some in the audience who understood him, but I was
not one of them.

"Do you understand him?" I asked the widow.

"Not wholly," she answered, guardedly.

I was forced to smile, for she looked quite bewildered.

The Professor closed thus: "Thus you will see, my friends, that much
that we call material is immaterial, while _per contra_, that which is
usually called immaterial is material."

"A very satisfactory conclusion," I remarked, turning to the widow.

"Quite so," she answered, vaguely.

"I thank you for your attention, my friends," said the Professor, with a
bow.

There was faint applause, in which I assisted.

The Professor looked gratified, and we all rose and quietly left the
hall. I walked out behind Miss Canby and the Disagreeable Woman.

"How did you like the lecture, Miss Blagden?" I inquired.

"Probably as much as you did," she answered, dryly.

"What do you think of the Professor, now?"

"He seems to know a good deal that isn't worth knowing."



CHAPTER V.

A CONVERSATION WITH THE DISAGREEABLE WOMAN.


One afternoon between five and six o'clock I was passing the Star
Theatre, when I overtook the Disagreeable Woman.

I had only exchanged a few remarks with her at the table, and scarcely
felt acquainted. I greeted her, however, and waited with some curiosity
to see what she would have to say to me.

"Dr. Fenwick, I believe?" she said.

"Yes; are you on your way to supper?"

"I am. Have you had a busy day?"

As she said this she looked at me sharply.

"I have had two patients, Miss Blagden. I am a young physician, and not
well known yet. I advance slowly."

"You have practised in the country?"

"Yes."

"Pardon me, but would it not have been better to remain there, where you
were known, than to come to a large city where you are as one of the
sands of the sea?"

"I sometimes ask myself that question, but as yet I am unprepared with
an answer. I am ambitious, and the city offers a much larger field."

"With a plenty of laborers already here."

"Yes."

"I suppose you have confidence in yourself?"

Again she eyed me sharply.

"Yes and no. I have a fair professional training, and this gives me some
confidence. But sometimes, it would be greater if I had an extensive
practise, I feel baffled, and shrink from the responsibility that a
physician always assumes."

"I am glad to hear you say so," she remarked, approvingly. "Modesty is
becoming in any profession. Do you feel encouraged by your success thus
far?"

"I am gaining, but my progress seems slow. I have not yet reached the
point when I am self-supporting."

She looked at me thoughtfully.

"Of course you would not have established yourself here if you had not a
reserve fund to fall back upon? But perhaps I am showing too much
curiosity."

"No, I do not regard it as curiosity, only as a kind interest in my
welfare."

"You judge me right."

"I brought with me a few hundred dollars, Miss Blagden--what was left to
me from the legacy of a good aunt--but I have already used a quarter of
it, and every month it grows less."

"I feel an interest in young men--I am free to say this without any
fear of being misunderstood, being an old woman--"

"An old woman?"

"Well, I am more than twenty-nine."

We both smiled, for this was the age that Mrs. Wyman owned up to.

"At any rate," she resumed, "I am considerably older than you. I will
admit, Dr. Fenwick, that I am not a blind believer in the medical
profession. There are some, even of those who have achieved a certain
measure of success, whom I look upon as solemn pretenders."

"Yet if you were quite ill you would call in a physician?"

"Yes. I am not quite foolish enough to undertake to doctor myself in a
serious illness. But I would repose unquestioning faith in no one,
however eminent."

"I don't think we shall disagree on that point. A physician understands
his own limitations better than any outsider."

"Come, I think you will do," she said, pleasantly. "If I am ill at any
time I shall probably call you in."

"Thank you."

"And I should criticise your treatment. If you gave me any bread pills,
I should probably detect the imposture."

"I should prefer, as a patient, bread pills to many that are
prescribed."

"You seem to be a sensible man, Dr. Fenwick. I shall hope to have other
opportunities of conversing with you. Let me know from time to time how
you are succeeding."

"Thank you. I am glad you are sufficiently interested in me to make the
request."

By this time we had reached the boarding-house. We could see Mrs. Wyman
at the window of the reception room. She was evidently surprised and
amused to see us together. I was sure that I should hear more of it, and
I was not mistaken.

"Oh, Dr. Fenwick," she said playfully, as she took a seat beside me at
the table. "I caught you that time."

"I don't understand you," I said, innocently.

"Oh, yes, you do. Didn't I see you and Miss Blagden coming in together?"

"Yes."

"I thought you would confess. Did you have a pleasant walk?"

"It was only from the Star Theatre."

"I see you are beginning to apologize. You could say a good deal between
Waverley Place and the Star Theatre."

"We did."

"So I thought. I suppose you were discussing your fellow boarders,
including poor me."

"Not at all."

"Then my name was not mentioned?"

"Yes, I believe you were referred to."

"What did she say about me?" inquired the widow, eagerly.

"Only that she was older than you."

"Mercy, I should think she was. Why, she's forty if she's a day. Don't
you think so?"

"I am no judge of ladies' ages."

"I am glad you are not. Not that I am sensitive about my own. I am
perfectly willing to own that I am twenty seven."

"I thought you said twenty-nine, the other evening?"

"True, I am twenty-nine, but I said twenty-seven to see if you would
remember. I suppose gentlemen are never sensitive about their ages."

"I don't know. I am twenty-six, and wish I were thirty-six."

"Mercy, what a strange wish! How can you possibly wish that you were
older."

"Because I could make a larger income. It is all very well to be a young
minister, but a young doctor does not inspire confidence."

"I am sure I would rather call in a young doctor unless I were _very_
sick."

"There it is! Unless you were very sick."

"But even then," said the widow, coquettishly, "I am sure I should feel
confidence in you, Dr. Fenwick. You wouldn't prescribe very nasty pills,
would you?"

"I would order bread pills, if I thought they would answer the purpose."

"That would be nice. But you haven't answered my question. What were you
and Miss Blagden talking about?"

"About doctors; she hasn't much faith in men of my profession."

"Or of any other, I fancy. What do you think of her?"

"That is a leading question, Mrs. Wyman; I haven't thought very much
about her so far, I have thought more of you."

"Oh, you naughty flatterer!" said the widow, graciously. "Not that I
believe you. Men are such deceivers."

"Do ladies never deceive?"

"You ought to have been a lawyer, you ask such pointed questions.
Really, Dr. Fenwick, I am quite afraid of you."

"There's no occasion. I am quite harmless, I do assure you. The time to
be afraid of me is when you call me in as a physician."

"Excuse me, doctor, but Mrs. Gray is about to make an announcement."

We both turned our glances upon the landlady.



CHAPTER VI.

COUNT PENELLI.


Mrs. Gray was a lady of the old school. She was the widow of a merchant
supposed to be rich, and in the days of her magnificence had lived in a
large mansion on Fourteenth Street, and kept her carriage. When her
husband died suddenly of apoplexy his fortune melted away, and she found
herself possessed of expensive tastes, and a pittance of _two_ thousand
dollars.

She was practical, however, and with a part of her money bought an old
established boarding-house on Waverley Place. This she had conducted for
ten years, and it yielded her a good income. Her two thousand dollars
had become ten, and her future was secure.

Mrs. Gray did not class herself among boarding-house keepers. Her
boarders she regarded as her family, and she felt a personal interest in
each and all. When they became too deeply in arrears, they received a
quiet hint, and dropped out of the pleasant home circle. But this did
not happen very often.

From time to time when she had anything which she thought would interest
her "family," she made what might be called a "speech from the throne."
Usually we could tell when this was going to take place. She moved about
a little restlessly, and pushed back her chair slightly from the table.
Then all became silent and expectant.

This morning Mrs. Wyman augured rightly. Mrs. Gray was about to make an
announcement.

She cleared her throat, and said: "My friends, I have a gratifying
announcement to make. We are about to have an accession to our pleasant
circle."

"Who is it?" asked the widow, eagerly.

Mrs. Gray turned upon her a look of silent reproof.

"It is a gentleman of high family. Count Antonio Penelli, of Italy."

There was a buzz of excitement. We had never before had a titled fellow
boarder, and democratic as we were we were pleased to learn that we
should sit at the same board with a nobleman.

Probably no one was more pleasantly excited than Mrs. Wyman. Every male
boarder she looked upon as her constituent, if I may use this word, and
she always directed her earliest efforts to captivate any new masculine
arrival.

"What does he look like, Mrs. Gray?" she asked, breathless.

"He looks like an Italian," answered the landlady, in a practical tone.
"He has dark hair and a dark complexion. He has also a black moustache,
but no side whiskers."

"Is he good looking?"

"You will have to decide for yourselves when you see him."

"When shall we see him?"

"He is to be here to-night at supper."

"The day will seem very long," murmured the widow.

"You seem to regard him already as your special property."

This of course came from the lips of the Disagreeable Woman.

"I presume you are as anxious to see him as I am," snapped Mrs. Wyman.

"I once knew an Italian Count," said Miss Blagden reflectively.

"Did you? How nice!"

"I do not know about that. He turned out to be a barber."

"Horrible! Then he was not a count."

"I think he was, but he was poor and chose to earn a living in the only
way open to him. I respected him the more on that account."

Mrs. Wyman was evidently shocked. It seemed to dissipate the halo of
romance which she had woven around the coming boarder.

"Count Penelli did not appear to be in any business?" she asked,
anxiously, of the landlady.

"He said he was a tourist, and wished to spend a few months in America."

The widow brightened up. This seemed to indicate that he was a man of
means.

Prof. Poppendorf did not seem to share in the interest felt in the
Count.

"I do not like Italians," he said. "They are light, frivolous; they are
not solid like the Germans."

"The Professor is solid enough," said Mrs. Wyman, with a titter.

This could not be gainsaid, for the learned German certainly tipped the
scales at over two hundred pounds. There was a strong suspicion that he
imbibed copious potations of the liquid so dear to his countrymen,
though he never drank it at table.

"The poor man is jealous," continued Mrs. Wyman, making the remark in a
low tone for my private hearing. "He thinks we won't notice him after
the Count comes."

This might be true, for Prof. Poppendorf was our star boarder. He was
not supposed to be rich, but his title of Professor and his ancient
intimacy with Bismarck, gave him a prestige among us all. When he first
came Mrs. Wyman tried her blandishments upon him, but with indifferent
success. Not that the grizzled veteran was too old for the tender
passion, as we were soon to learn, but because he did not appreciate the
coquettish ways of the widow, whom he considered of too light calibre
for his taste.

"Don't you think the Professor very homely?" asked Mrs. Wyman, in a
confidential whisper.

"He certainly is not handsome," I answered. "Neither is Bismarck."

"True, but he is a great man."

"We should respect him on account of his learning--probably much more so
than the Count whom we are expecting."

"That may be. We don't expect noblemen to be learned," said the widow,
disdainfully.

Immediately after breakfast she began to sound Mrs. Gray about the
Count.

"When did he apply for board?" she asked.

"Yesterday afternoon about four o'clock."

"Had he heard of you? What led him here?"

"I think he saw the sign I had out."

"I should have supposed he would prefer a hotel."

"He's staying at a hotel now."

"Did he say at what hotel? Was it the Fifth Avenue?"

"He did not say. He will move here early this afternoon."

"And what room will he have?"

"The back room on the third floor--the one Mr. Bates had."

"I should hardly think that room would satisfy a nobleman."

"Why not? Is it not clean and neat?"

"Undoubtedly, dear Mrs. Gray, but you must admit that it is not stylish,
and it is small."

"It is of the same size as the Professor's."

"Ah, the Professor! He is not a man of elegant tastes. I once looked
into his room. It smells so strong of tobacco, I could not stay in there
ten minutes without feeling sick."

"I think the Count smokes."

"Perhaps he does, but he wouldn't smoke a dirty clay pipe. I can imagine
him with a dainty cigarette between his closed lips. But, Mrs. Gray, I
am going to ask you a great favor."

"What is it?"

"Let me sit beside the Count. I wish to make his acquaintance. He will
be reserved and silent with most of the boarders. I will try to make him
feel at home."

"I thought you wished to sit beside Dr. Fenwick."

"So I did, but he and I are friends, and he won't mind my changing my
seat."

When I came to supper that evening I was not wholly surprised to find
myself removed to the opposite side of the table, but this I did not
regret when I found that I was now next neighbor to the Disagreeable
Woman.

In my old seat there was a slender young man of middle height, with dark
eyes and hair. Mrs. Wyman had already established herself in
confidential relations with him, and was conversing with him in a low
tone.

"I suppose that is the Count," I remarked.

"At any rate he calls himself so. He has deprived you of your seat."

"Not only that but Mrs. Wyman has transferred her attentions to him."

"Doubtless to your regret?"

"Well, I don't know."

"She is scarcely off with the old love before she is on with the new,"
quoted Miss Blagden, with an approach to a smile.

"Perhaps you will console me," I ventured to suggest.

"I can't compete with Mrs. Wyman in her special line."

"I quite believe that," I said, smiling.

After supper the widow fluttered up to me.

"The Count is charming," she said, with enthusiasm. "He has a large
estate in the South of Italy. He has come here to see the country and
get acquainted with the people, and he may write a book."

"He doesn't seem overstocked with brains," observed the Disagreeable
Woman. But Mrs. Wyman had fluttered away and did not hear her.



CHAPTER VII.

MACY'S.


One day I dropped in at Macy's. I wished to make some trifling purchase.
Possibly I could have bought to equal advantage elsewhere, but I was
curious to see this great emporium. Years before, I had heard of it in
my country home, and even then I knew just where it was located, at the
corner of Fourteenth Street and Sixth Avenue.

Curious as I had been about the place, I had actually spent three months
in New York and had not visited it. It was something of a shock to me
when I first learned there was no Macy, that the original proprietor had
vanished from the stage and left his famous shop in charge of men of
alien race and name. Macy had become _nominis umbra_--the shadow of a
name. Yet the name had been wisely retained. Under no other name could
the great store have retained its ancient and well-earned popularity.

I made my purchase--it was trifling and did not materially swell the
day's receipts--and began to walk slowly about the store, taking a
leisurely survey of the infinite variety of goods which it offered to
the prospective purchaser.

As I was making my leisurely round, all at once I heard my name called
in a low but distinct tone.

"Dr. Fenwick!"

I turned quickly, and behind the handkerchief counter I saw the young
woman from Macy's, whose pleasant face I had seen so often at our table.

She nodded and smiled, and I instantly went up to the counter.

I was sensible that I must not take up the time of one of the
salesladies--I believe that the genteel designation of this
class--without some pretense of business, so, after greeting Ruth Canby,
I said:

"You may show me some of your handkerchiefs, please."

"Do you wish something nice?" she asked.

"I wish something cheap," I answered. "It doesn't matter much what a
forlorn bachelor uses."

"You may not always be a bachelor," said Ruth, with a suggestive smile.

"I must get better established in my profession before I assume new
responsibilities."

"These handkerchiefs are ten cents, Dr. Fenwick," said Ruth, showing a
fair article.

"I think I can go a little higher."

"And these are fifteen. They are nearly all linen."

"I will buy a couple to try," I said, by way of excusing my small
purchase.

The young lady called "Cash," and soon a small girl was carrying the
handkerchiefs and a fifty cent piece to the cashier. This left me five
minutes for conversation, as no other customer was at hand.

"So you are in the handkerchief department?" I remarked, by way of
starting a conversation.

"Yes."

"Do you like it?"

"I should prefer the book department. That is up-stairs, on the second
floor. My tastes are _litery_."

I am sure this was the word Ruth used. I was not disposed to criticise,
however, only I wondered mildly how it happened that a young woman of
literary tastes should make such a mistake.

"I suppose you are fond of reading?"

"Oh, yes, I have read considerable."

"What, for instance?"

"I have read one of Cooper's novels, I disremember the name, and the
Gunmaker of Moscow, by Sylvanus Cobb, and _Poe's_ Tales, but I didn't
like them much, they are so queer, and--and ever so many others."

"I see you are quite a reader."

"I should read more and find out more about books if I was in the book
department. A friend of mine--Mary Ann Toner--is up there, and she knows
a lot about books and authors."

"Do any authors ever come in here, or rather to the book department?"

"Yes; Mary Ann told me that there was a lady with long ringlets who
wrote for the story papers who came in often. She had had two books
published, and always inquired how they sold."

"Do you remember her name?"

"No, I disremember."

I should like to have given her a hint that this word is hardly
accounted correct, but I suspected that if I undertook to correct Miss
Canby's English I should have my hands full.

"Do you think you stand a chance to get into the book department?"

"Mary Ann has agreed to speak for me when there is a vacancy. Do you
often come into Macy's, Dr. Fenwick?"

"This is my first visit."

"You don't mean it? I thought everybody came to Macy's at least once a
month."

"Truly it looks like it," said I, looking about and noting the crowds of
customers.

"I hope you'll come again soon," said Ruth, as she turned to wait upon a
lady.

"I certainly will, Miss Canby. And it won't be altogether to buy goods."

Ruth looked gratified and smiled her appreciation of the compliment.
Certainly she looked comely and attractive with her rather high-colored
country face, and I should have been excusable, being a bachelor, in
letting my eyes rest complacently upon her rustic charms. But I was
heart-proof so far as Ruth was concerned, I could not think of seeking
a _litery_ wife. No, she was meant for some honest but uncultured young
man, whose tastes and education were commensurate with hers. And yet, as
I afterwards found, Ruth had made an impression in a quarter quite
unexpected.

I was not in search of a wife. It would have been the height of
imprudence for me, with my small income and precarious prospects, to
think of setting up a home and a family in this great, expensive city.
Yet, had it been otherwise, perhaps Ruth would have made me a better
wife than some graduate of a fashionable young ladies' seminary with her
smattering of French, and superficial knowledge of the various ologies
taught in high-class schools. The young woman from Macy's, though she
probably knew nothing of political economy, was doubtless skilled in
household economy and able to cook a dinner, as in all probability my
wife would find it necessary to do.

As we entered the room at supper, Miss Canby smiled upon me pleasantly.

"I hope you are pleased with your handkerchiefs, Dr. Fenwick."

"I have not had occasion to use them as yet, thank you."

"Aha, what is that?" asked Prof. Poppendorf, who was just behind us.

"Dr. Fenwick called to see me at Macy's," answered Ruth.

Prof. Poppendorf frowned a little, as if not approving the visit.

"Do you have gentlemen call upon you at Macy's, Mees Ruth?" he asked.

"Only when they wish to buy articles," said Ruth, smiling and blushing.

"What do you sell, Mees Ruth?"

"Handkerchiefs, Professor."

"Do you have any like this?" and he pulled out a large red silk
handkerchief.

"No, I have only white linen handkerchiefs."

"I haf never use any but red ones, but I might come in and see what you
have."

"I shall be glad to show you what I have, Professor."

Prof. Poppendorf was soon engaged in the discussion of dinner. He had a
good German appetite which never failed. He seldom talked much during a
meal, as it would interfere with more important business.

Now that I had changed my place at the table, I sat on one side of the
Disagreeable Woman, and Ruth Canby on the other. Next to Ruth sat the
Professor, but for the reason already stated, he was not a social
companion.

Just opposite sat Mrs. Wyman and Count Penelli. So far as I could judge,
he was a quiet young man, and had very little to say for himself. Mrs.
Wyman, however, kept plying him with questions and remarks, and did her
best to appear on terms of intimate acquaintance with him. Some
fragments of her conversation floated across the table.

"You have no idea, Count, how I long to visit Italy, your dear
country."

"It is ver' nice," he said, vaguely.

"Nice? It must be lovely. Have you ever seen the Bay of Naples?"

"Oh, _si_, signora, many times."

"It is charming, is it not?"

"_Si_, signora, it is beautiful."

"And the Italian ladies, I have heard so much of them."

"I like ze American ladies better."

"Do you, indeed, Count? How gratifying! When do you expect to return to
Italy?"

"I do not know--some time."

"I hope it will not be for a long time. We should miss you so much."

"The signora is very kind."

This will do for a sample of the conversation between the Count and the
widow. Though several years his senior, it looked as if she was bent on
making a conquest of the young nobleman.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE PROFESSOR IN LOVE.


I was sitting in my office one morning waiting for patients, much of my
time was passed in this way, very often I waited in vain. The modest
sign which I was allowed to put on the outside of the house,


     DR. JAMES FENWICK


didn't seem to attract attention. Of the little practise I had, at least
a third was gratuitous. Yet I was expected to pay my bills, and when my
little stock of money was exhausted there seemed a doubt as to whether
the bills would be paid at all.

One day I was summoned to a house where a child of three was struggling
with croup. It was a serious case, and I gave up my time to the case.
After several hours I succeeded in bringing the child round and
pronouncing her out of danger.

When I sent in my bill, the mother said:

"Dr. Fenwick, Mary is but three years old."

"Indeed!" I returned.

I failed to understand why I should be informed of this fact.

"And," continued the mother, "I don't think any charge ought to be made
for a child so young."

I was fairly struck dumb with amazement at first.

Then I said, "The age of the patient has nothing to do with a
physician's charges. Where did you get such an extraordinary idea?"

"I don't have to pay for her on the horse-cars."

"Madam," I said, provoked, "I will not argue with you. You ought to know
that no physician treats children free. If you were very poor, and lived
in a tenement house, I might make some discount, or leave off the charge
altogether."

"But I don't live in a tenement house," objected the lady, angrily.

"No; you have the appearance of being very well to do. I must distinctly
decline abating my charge."

"Then, Dr. Fenwick," said the mother, stiffly, "I shall not employ you
again."

"That is as you please, madam."

This seemed to me exceptionally mean, but doctors see a good deal of the
mean side of human nature. Rich men with large incomes keep them out of
their pay for a long time, sometimes where their lives depended on the
physician's skill and fidelity. Oftentimes I have been so disgusted
with the meanness of my patients, that I have regretted not choosing a
different profession. Of course there is a different side to the
picture, and gratitude and appreciation are to be found, as well as the
opposite qualities.

I had been waiting a long time without a patient, when a shuffling sound
was heard on the stairs, and a heavy step approaching the door.

Next came a knock.

Instead of calling out, "Come in!" I was so pleased at the prospect of a
patient, that I rose from my seat and opened the door, myself.

I started back in surprise. For in the heavy, lumbering figure of the
new arrival I recognized Prof. Poppendorf.

"Prof. Poppendorf!" I exclaimed.

"_Ja_, doctor, it is I. May I come in?"

"Certainly."

Supposing that he had come to consult me on the subject of his health, I
began to wonder from what disease he was suffering. Remembering his
achievements at the table I fancied it might be dyspepsia.

The Professor entered the room, and sank into an armchair, which he
quite filled from side to side.

"I suppose you are surprised to see me, Herr Doctor," began the
Professor.

"Oh, no. I am never surprised to see anybody. I had not supposed you
were sick."

"Sick! Oh, no, I'm all right. I eat well and I sleep well. What should
be the matter with me?"

"I am glad to hear such good reports of you."

Was I quite sincere? I am afraid it was a disappointment to learn that
my supposed patient was in no need of advice.

"_Ja_, I am well. I was never better, thank God!"

"Then I am to consider this a social call," I said with affected
cheerfulness. "You are very kind to call upon me, Prof. Poppendorf. I
appreciate it as a friendly attention."

"No, it is not quite dat."

"Is there anything I can do for you?"

"I come on a little peezness."

I was puzzled. I could not understand what business there could be
between the Professor and myself.

"I shall be glad to hear what it is."

"You see, I thought I would ask you if you were courting Mees Ruth
Canby, if you mean to make her your wife?"

I dropped into the nearest chair--I had been standing--in sheer
amazement. To be asked my intentions in regard to the young woman from
Macy's was most astonishing, and by Prof. Poppendorf, too!

"Did Miss Canby send you here to speak to me?" I asked, considerably
annoyed.

"Oh, no! she knows nothing about it."

"I can't understand what you have to do in the matter, Prof.
Poppendorf. You are neither her father nor her brother."

"Oh, _ja_, you are quite right."

"Then why do you come to me with such a question?"

"I thought I would like to know myself."

"I deny your right to speak to me on the subject," I said, stiffly. "If
now you had a good reason."

"But I have a reason," protested the Professor, earnestly.

"What is it?"

"I lofe her myself. I wish to make her my frau."

This was most astonishing.

"You love her yourself?"

"_Ja_, Herr Doctor."

"And you want to marry her?"

"_Ja._"

"But you are an old man."

"Not so old," said he, jealously; "I am only a little over sixty."

"And I think she cannot be over twenty-one."

"But I am a good man. I am strong. I am well. Look here!" and he struck
his massive chest a sturdy blow, as if to show how sound he was.

"Yes, you seem to be well."

"You have not told me, Herr Doctor, if you lofe Mees Ruth," he said,
uneasily.

"No, I don't love her."

"But you called to see her--at Macy's."

"I called to buy some socks and handkerchiefs."

"Was that all?" he asked, with an air of relief.

"It was all."

"Then you do not wish to marry Mees Ruth?"

"I do not wish to marry any one. I am not rich enough. Are you?"

"I have just engage to teach philosophy at Mees Smith's school on
Madison Avenue. Then I have my private pupils. Ah, _ja_, I will make
quite an income," he said, complacently. "Besides, Mees Ruth, she is a
good housekeeper."

"I do not know."

"She will not wish to spend money," he said, anxiously.

"I think she was brought up economically."

"_Ja_, dat is good. All the German frauleins are good housekeepers. Dey
can cook and keep house on a little money."

"Were you ever married, Professor?"

"_Ja_, long ago, but my frau she not live very long. It is many years
ago."

"If you married Miss Canby would you still board here?"

"No, it would cost too much money. I would hire an apartment--what you
call a flat, and Mees Ruth would keep the house--she would wash, she
would cook, and--"

"Take care of the babies," I added, jocularly.

"Dat is as God wills."

"Have you spoken to Miss Ruth on the subject?"

"No, not yet. I wish to speak to you first--I thought you might want to
marry her yourself."

"You need have no anxiety on that subject; I never thought of such a
thing."

"Dat is good. I feel better."

"Have you any idea that Miss Canby will agree to marry you?"

"I do not know. I am a Herr Professor," he said, proudly.

In Germany there is a high respect felt for titles of every kind, and
the Professor evidently thought that his official dignity would impress
the young woman from Macy's.

"Still, you are so much older than she, that she may not at first like
the idea."

"You think she refuse me--that she gives me the mitten?" he said,
uneasily.

"If you propose too quick. Will you take my advice?"

"_Ja, ja!_"

"Then don't propose at once. Let her get accustomed to your attentions."

"What shall I do first?" he asked, anxiously.

"Suppose you invite her to go to the theatre with you?"

"_Ja_, dat is good!"

"Perhaps you could take her to hear Patti?"

"No, no. It cost too much!" said he, shaking his head.

"Then you might invite her to the Star Theatre to see Crane."

"So I will."

He rose and shuffled out of the office in a very pleasant humor. He felt
that there was no obstacle to his suit, now that I had disclaimed all
intention of marrying the young woman from Macy's.



CHAPTER IX.

AN EVENING AT THE BOARDING-HOUSE.


The confidence which Prof. Poppendorf had reposed in me, naturally led
me to observe his behavior at table to the young woman from Macy's.
There was a difficulty as I had to look round the "Disagreeable Woman,"
who sat next to me. Then I could not very well watch the Professor's
expression, as his large, green goggles concealed so large a part of his
face.

He still continued to devote the chief part of his time to the business
of the hour, and his eyes were for the most part fixed upon his plate.
Yet now and then I observed he offered her the salt or the pepper, a
piece of attention quite new to him. I had some thought of suggesting
to Miss Canby that she had awakened an interest in the heart of the gray
old Professor, but it occurred to me that this would be hardly fair to
the elderly suitor. It was only right to leave him a fair field, and let
him win if Fate ordained it.

On Wednesday evenings it was generally understood that the boarders,
such at any rate as had no other engagements, would remain after supper
and gather in the little reception-room, till the dining-room was
cleared, spending the evening socially.

On such occasions Mrs. Wyman would generally volunteer a song,
accompanying herself if there was no one else to play. She had a thin,
strident voice, such as one would not willingly hear a second time, but
out of courtesy we listened, and applauded. The widow had one who fully
appreciated her vocal efforts, and this was herself. She always looked
pleased and complacent when her work was done.

It was on the first Wednesday after the Count's arrival that she induced
him to remain.

"Don't you sing, Count?" she asked.

"Very little, madam," he said.

"But you are an Italian, and all Italians are musical."

He uttered a faint disclaimer, but she insisted.

"Do me a favor--a great favor," she said, persuasively, "and sing some
sweet Italian air, such as you must know."

"No, I don't sing Italian airs," he said.

"What then?"

"I can sing 'Sweet Marie.'"

"I am sure we shall all be glad to hear it. I sometimes sing a little
myself--just a tiny bit."

"I shall like much to hear you, signora."

"I shall feel very bashful about singing to an Italian gentleman. You
will laugh at me."

"No, no, I would not be so rude."

"Then perhaps I may. Our friends always insist upon hearing me."

So at an early period in the evening she sang one of her routine songs.

I watched the Count's face while she was singing. I was amused. At first
his expression was one of surprise. Then of pain, and it seemed to me of
annoyance. When Mrs. Wyman had completed the song she turned to him a
look of complacent inquiry. She was looking for a compliment.

"Didn't I do horribly?" she asked.

"Oh, no, no," answered the Count, vaguely.

"It must have seemed very bad to you."

"No, no--"

"Do you think it was passable?"

"Oh, signora, I never heard anything like it."

"Oh, you naughty flatterer," she said, smiling with delight. "I am sure
you don't mean it."

"Indeed I do."

I was sitting next the Disagreeable Woman.

"The Count has more brains than I thought," she said. "I quite agree
with him."

"That you never heard anything like it?" I queried, smiling.

"Yes."

"Miss Ruth," I said to the young woman from Macy's, "do you never sing?"

"I used to sing a little in my country home," she admitted.

"What, for instance?"

"I can sing 'Annie Laurie'."

"Nothing could be better. It is a general favorite. Won't you sing it
to-night?"

"But I cannot sing without an accompaniment," she said, shyly.

"I am not much of a musician, but I can play that."

With a little more persuasion I induced her to sing. She had a pleasant
voice, and while I cannot claim for her anything out of the common on
the score of musical talent, she rendered the song fairly well. All
seemed to enjoy it, except Mrs. Wyman, who said, in a sneering tone:

"That song is old as the hills."

"It may be so," I retorted, "but the best songs are old."

"It was very good," said the Count, who really seemed pleased.

This seemed to annoy the widow.

"You are very good-natured, Count, to compliment such a rustic
performance," she said.

"But, signora, I mean it."

"Well, let it pass! She did her best, poor thing!"

"She is a nice girl."

"Oh, Count, she is only a young woman from Macy's. She was born in the
country, and raised among cabbages and turnips."

He seemed puzzled, but evidently regarded Ruth with favor.

Meanwhile, Prof. Poppendorf had listened attentively to the song of the
maiden on whom he had fixed his choice.

"Mees Ruth, you sing beautiful!" he said.

Ruth Canby smiled.

"You are very kind, Prof. Poppendorf," she said, gratefully.

"I like your singing much better than Mrs. Wyman's."

"No. You mustn't say that. She sings airs from the opera."

"I like better your leetle song."

By this time Mrs. Wyman had succeeded in extracting a promise from the
Count to sing.

"Dr. Fenwick," she said, "can't you play the accompaniment for the
Count?"

"What is the song?"

"'Sweet Marie'."

"I will do my best. I am not professional."

So I played and the Count sang. He had a pleasant, sympathetic voice,
and we were pleased with his singing.

"Oh, how charming, Count!" said Mrs. Wyman; "I shall never dare to sing
before you again."

"Why not, signora."

"Because you are such a musical artist."

"Oh, no, no, signora!" he said, deprecatingly.

He was persuaded to sing again, and again he pleased his small audience.

"Miss Blagden, won't you favor us with a song?" asked Mrs. Wyman, in a
tone of mockery.

"Thank you," said the Disagreeable Woman, dryly. "There is so much
musical talent here, that I won't undertake to compete with those who
possess it."

"Prof. Poppendorf, don't you ever sing?" asked the widow, audaciously.

"I used to sing when I was young," answered the Professor, unexpectedly.

"Then _do_ favor us!"

He seated himself at the piano, and sang a German drinking song, such as
in days gone by he had sung with Bismarck and his old comrades at the
university.

There was a rough vigor in his performance that was not unpleasant. No
one was more surprised than Mrs. Wyman at the outcome of what she had
meant as a joke.

"Really, Professor," said the Disagreeable Woman, "you are more
accomplished than I supposed. I like your song better than I did your
lecture."

Prof. Poppendorf removed his glasses, and we saw in his eyes a
suspicious moisture.

"Ah," he said, not appearing to hear the compliment, if it was a
compliment, "it brings back the old days. I have not sing that song
since I was at the university with Bismarck. There were twenty of us,
young students, who sang it together, and now they are almost all gone."

This ended the musical performances of the evening. After this, there
was conversation, and later Mrs. Gray provided ice-cream and cake. It
was Horton's ice-cream, and the plates were small, but we enjoyed it.

Before we parted, the Professor found himself sitting next to Ruth
Canby.

"Do you ever go to the theatre, fraulein?" he asked.

"Not often, Professor. I cannot go alone, and there is no one to take
me."

"I will take you, Mees Ruth."

The young woman from Macy's looked amazed. She had not dreamed of such
an invitation from him. Yet she was very fond of the stage, and she saw
no reason why she should not accept.

"You are very kind, Professor," she said. "I did not think you cared
for the theatre."

"I would like to go--with you," he said, gallantly.

"Then I will go."

"It will be like going with my grandfather," she thought.



CHAPTER X.

A RUSTIC ADMIRER.


Sunday was always a lonely day to me. In the country village, where I
knew everybody, I always looked forward to it as the pleasantest day of
the week. Here in the crowded city, I felt isolated from human sympathy.
I accustomed myself to attending church in the forenoon. In the
afternoon I took a walk or an excursion.

At the boarding-house even it was dull and less social than usual. Such
of the boarders as had friends near the city were able to absent
themselves after breakfast. Among the faces that I missed was that of
the Disagreeable Woman. Sometimes she appeared at breakfast; but never
at dinner or tea. Though she never indulged in conversation to any
extent, I think we all missed her.

One Sunday afternoon, soon after the gathering described in the last
chapter, I walked up Fifth Avenue to Central Park. It was a pleasant day
and many were out. Through the magnificent avenue I walked in a
leisurely way, and wondered idly how it would seem to own a residence in
this aristocratic street. I could not repress a feeling of envy when I
thought of the favored class who dwelt in the long line of palaces that
line the avenue. Their lives seemed far removed from that of a
struggling physician, who was in daily doubt how long he could maintain
his modest style of living in the crowded metropolis.

Arrived at Fifty-ninth street I sauntered toward the menagerie. This is
the favorite resort of children, and of young persons from the country.
Perhaps I, myself, might be classed among the latter. I did not care so
much, however, to observe the animals as the visitors. I had a hope that
I might see some one whom I knew.

At first I could see no familiar face. But presently I started, as my
glance fell on the short and somewhat plump figure of the young woman
from Macy's.

She was not alone. With her walked a tall, sun-burned young man, who was
evidently from the country. She leaned confidingly upon his arm, and her
face was radiant. He was evidently an old friend, perhaps a lover. He,
too, looked contented and happy. Were they lovers? It looked like it. If
so, the matrimonial plans of Prof. Poppendorf were doomed to
disappointment. Delicacy dictated my silent withdrawal, but I confess
that my curiosity was aroused, and I resolved to gratify it.

Accordingly I pressed forward and overtook the young woman from Macy's
and her escort. She looked up casually, and a little flush overspread
her face when she recognized me.

"Dr. Fenwick!" she said, impulsively.

I turned and lifted my hat.

"I am glad to meet you, Miss Canby!" I said.

At the same time I looked inquiringly at her escort.

"Stephen," she said, "this is Dr. Fenwick from our boarding-house."

"Proud to know you, sir," said the young man, offering his hand.

I shook it heartily.

"You have not mentioned your friend's name, Miss Canby," I said.

"Excuse me! I am very neglectful. This is Stephen Higgins from our town.
I used to go to school with him."

"I am glad to make your acquaintance, Mr. Higgins."

"Same to you, sir."

"I suppose you are on a visit to the city, Mr. Higgins."

"Yes, sir. I came here to spend Sunday, and see Ruth."

"I presume you have been in the city before?"

"Not for five years. It's a pretty smart place. I'm so turned round that
I hardly know which way to turn."

"You will have a good guide in Miss Canby."

"In Ruth, yes."

"I wish I could go round with him all the time he is here, Dr. Fenwick,
but to-morrow I shall have to go back to my work at Macy's."

She gave a little sigh as she spoke.

"Do you intend to stay long, Mr. Higgins?"

"Only a day or two. It's pretty expensive stayin' in York."

"I want him to stay over till Tuesday, Dr. Fenwick. He can't see much if
he goes home to-morrow."

"If you could be with me, Ruth--"

"But I can't, so it's no use talking about it."

"Wouldn't Mr. Macy give you a day off?"

"If I could find him perhaps he would," she said, laughing.

"Why can't you find him? Isn't he at the store every day?"

"Mr. Macy is dead, Stephen."

"Then how can he keep store?" asked Stephen, bewildered.

"Somebody else runs it in his name?"

"Don't let me interfere with your plans," I said, feeling that perhaps I
might be in the way.

They both urged me to stay, and so I did.

By this time all the attractions of the menagerie had been seen, and I
proposed to walk to the lake.

"How would you like to live in the city, Mr. Higgins?" I asked.

"First rate, if I could find anything to do."

"What is your business at home?"

"I work on father's farm. Next year, as father's gettin' feeble, I may
take it on shares."

"That will be better, perhaps, than seeking a situation in the city."

"I should like to be here on account of Ruth," he said, wistfully.

She smiled and shook her head.

"There's nothing for me to do in the country," she said.

"I might find something for you to do," he said, eagerly.

Then I saw how it was, and felt inclined to help him.

"Do you like Macy's so well, then?" I asked.

"I don't know," she answered, thoughtfully, "I like to feel that I am
earning my living."

"You wouldn't need," commenced Stephen, but she checked him by a look.

"You might not like to part with the Professor," said I, mischievously.

Stephen took instant alarm.

"What Professor?" he asked.

"Professor Poppendorf. He is a German, a very learned man."

"And what have you got to do with the Professor, Ruth?" he asked,
jealously.

"Oh, you foolish boy!" she said. "You ought to see him."

"I don't want to see him."

"He is an old gentleman, most seventy, and wears green glasses."

Stephen looked relieved.

"By the way, did you have a pleasant evening with the Professor at the
theatre the other evening, Miss Canby?"

It was very reprehensible of me, I know, but I felt a little
mischievous.

"Did you go to the theatre with him, Ruth?" asked Stephen,
reproachfully.

"Yes, I am so fond of the theatre, you know, I could not resist the
temptation."

"What did you see?"

"I went to see Crane in the Senator. Where do you think we sat?" and
she laughed.

"I don't know."

"In the upper gallery. The idea of asking a lady to sit in the top of
the house!"

"The Professor is a German, and all Germans are frugal. I presume he
thought you would be perfectly satisfied. Did the Professor appear to
enjoy the play?"

"Very much. He did not always understand it, and asked me to explain it
to him. Now and then he burst into such a loud laugh that I felt quite
ashamed. Then I was glad that we were in the top gallery."

"When the play was over did he invite you to take an ice-cream at
Delmonico's or Maillard's?"

"No, but he invited me into a saloon to take a glass of lager."

Here she laughed again.

"Evidently the Professor is not a ladies' man. Did you accept the
beer?"

"As if I would!"

"Poor man! you deprived him of a pleasure."

"No, I did not. He left me on the sidewalk while he went in and took his
beer."

"I hope you won't go to the theatre with him again," said Stephen, in a
tone of dissatisfaction.

"You can rest quite easy, Stephen, I won't."

"What made him ask you to go?"

"You will have to ask him, Stephen. If you will come round to supper
this evening, I will introduce you to him. There will be plenty of room,
as some of our boarders are always away on Sunday."

Stephen felt a little bashful at first, but finally yielded to
persuasion and took his place at the table in the seat of the
Disagreeable Woman.

After seeing the Professor he got over his jealousy. The old German
scholar hardly suggested a young Lothario, and his appearance was not
calculated to excite jealousy. Prof. Poppendorf removed his goggles the
better to observe Ruth's friend, but did not appear to be disturbed.
That Ruth should prefer this young rustic to a man of his position and
attainments, would have seemed to him quite out of the range of
probability.



CHAPTER XI.

A POOR PATIENT.


I was accustomed to remain in my office till about four o'clock in the
afternoon waiting for possible patients. It was a long and weary wait,
and oftentimes not a caller rewarded me. I suppose it is the usual
fortune of young medical practitioners who are comparatively unknown.
When four o'clock came I went out for a walk. Generally my steps tended
to Sixth Avenue where there was some life and bustle.

I was compelled to practise the most rigid economy, but I could not deny
myself the luxury of an evening paper. I would buy either the _Sun_ or
_World_, each of which cost but a penny. One little newsboy came to
know me, and generally lay in wait for me as I emerged from a side
street. He was a bright, attractive little boy of ten, whose name I
found to be Frank Mills. His clothing was well-worn but clean, and his
whole appearance was neat, so that I judged he had a good mother.

Usually Frank's manner was cheerful, but on the day succeeding my visit
to the Park I found he looked sober and his eyes looked red as if he had
been crying.

"What is the matter, Frank?" I asked.

"My sister is sick," he said, sadly.

"Is it an older sister?"

"Yes; she works at O'Neil's dry goods store. She has been sick two
days."

"What is the matter?"

"Mother thinks it is a fever."

"Have you called a doctor?"

"N--no," answered Frank.

"Why not?"

"We haven't any money to pay a doctor. We are very poor, and now that
sister isn't working I don't know how we shall get along. There is no
one to earn money except me, and I don't make more than thirty cents a
day."

"If I were rich, Frank, I would help you."

"I am sure you would, sir, for you look like a kind gentleman."

This simple tribute went to my heart. The boy felt that I was a friend,
and I determined that I would be one so far as I was able.

"Still I can do something for you. I am a doctor, and if you will take
me round to your house I will look at your sister and see if I can do
anything for her."

The boy's eyes lighted up with joy.

"Will you be so kind, sir? I will go with you now."

"Yes, Frank, the sooner the better."

I followed him for perhaps a quarter of a mile to a poor house situated
on one of the side streets leading down to the North River. The street
was shabby enough, and the crowd of young children playing about showed
that it was tenanted by poor families, rich in children if nothing else.

Frank stopped at one of these houses and opened the door into a dirty
hall.

"We live on the top floor," he said, "if you won't mind going up."

"I shall mind it no more than you, Frank," I said. "I am still a young
man."

We climbed three staircases, and stood on the upper landing.

"I'll go in and tell mother I have brought a doctor," said Frank. "Just
wait here a minute."

He opened a door and entered. He came out again almost immediately. He
was followed by a woman of perhaps forty, with a pleasant face, but
looking very sad.

"Welcome, doctor," she said. "Frank tells me you were kind enough to
offer us your services."

"Yes, I am glad to do what I can for you."

"This is my daughter. I feel very much worried about her."

The daughter lay on a bed in an inner room (there were but two). She was
pale and looked ill-nourished, but in spite of the delicacy of her
appearance, she was pretty.

"Alice, this is the doctor," said her mother. Alice opened her eyes
languidly, and tried to smile.

"Let me feel your pulse," I said.

The pulsations were slow and feeble.

The mother fixed her eyes upon me anxiously, and awaited my verdict.

"Your daughter is quite run down," I said. "She has very little
strength, but I do not find any positive indications of disease."

"You are right, no doubt, doctor," said the mother with a sigh. "She is
a delicate girl, and I am sure she was overworked."

"She is employed in a dry goods store, Frank tells me."

"Yes, she is at O'Neil's. They are very considerate there, but it is
hard to be standing all day."

"It would be hard for any one. I am a man and strong, but I don't think
I could endure it. She ought to have two weeks' rest, at least, before
returning to work."

"I am sure you are right, doctor," said Mrs. Mills, "but how can it be
managed? We have but two breadwinners, Frank and Alice. Frank, poor boy,
brings in all he can, but Alice earns six dollars a week. It is upon
that that we depend for our living. It is a hard thing to be poor,
doctor."

"Indeed it is," I answered.

"You speak as if you know something about it."

"I do. I am a young physician, with very little money, and few patients.
Life with me is a struggle, as it is with you."

I was well dressed--that is a necessity with a professional man, who
must keep up appearances--and this perhaps made it difficult for Mrs.
Mills to believe that I was really poor.

"What do you prescribe, doctor?"

"No medicines are needed. What your daughter needs most is strengthening
food--to begin with a little beef tea."

Mrs. Mills looked embarrassed. I understood her embarrassment. What I
ordered was simple enough; but where was the money to come from, to
supply the sick girl's needs?

"I can make some beef tea," she said, after a pause, "and some bread."

"It is just the thing," I said, cheerfully.

"Then you don't think she needs any medicine?"

"No."

There was still that anxious look on the mother's face. Alice was the
breadwinner, and she was sick. How were they to live?

An idea came to me.

"I will call again to-morrow morning," I said, cheerfully.

"You are very kind, doctor. I should like to pay you, but we are so
miserably poor."

"Don't let that trouble you for a moment. I can give you some of my
time, for of that I have plenty."



CHAPTER XII.

THE DISAGREEABLE WOMAN IN A NEW LIGHT.


I have said that I had an idea. The destitute condition of this poor
family weighed upon me, and excited my sympathy. With my scanty means I
could give them only advice, but could I not secure help from others.

Mrs. Gray, my landlady, would perhaps furnish a supply of food, but
though a good woman in the main she was not inclined to be charitable.
She was inclined to be suspicious of those who applied to her for help,
and I did not want to subject Mrs. Mills to any new sorrow or
mortification. Among my fellow boarders, I could not think of one to
whom I could apply, except--well, yes, except the Disagreeable Woman.
Under her cynical exterior I suspected there was a sympathetic heart,
though I believe that I alone gave her credit for it. I resolved to
speak to her about my poor patient.

As the reader already knows, I sat next to Miss Blagden at the table.
Toward the close of supper I said in a low voice: "If you will allow me,
Miss Blagden, I will walk with you a short distance after supper. I have
something to say to you."

She looked surprised, but answered promptly, "I shall be glad of your
company."

This was the most agreeable speech I had heard from her since our
acquaintance commenced.

Nothing more was said till I found myself walking by her side toward
Broadway.

"Now?" she said, expectantly.

"I am going to take a liberty," I said. "I am going to try to interest
you in a poor family. I of course know nothing of your means, but my own
are so limited that in spite of my profound sympathy I can only give my
medical services, while more is needed."

"Go on, doctor," she said, and there was unwonted kindness in her tone.

I told her the story in brief words, and she seemed interested.

"Your young patient has no organic disease?" she inquired.

"None whatever. She is ill-nourished, and works too hard. That is the
whole story."

"They are very poor."

"You can judge. Their income cannot be more than seven dollars and a
half, and of this the girl earns six dollars. Her sickness will entail
some outlay, and there is only the boy to earn money now."

"It is very sad, doctor. How little we whose wants are provided for
know of the sufferings of the poor! But fortunately," she added, and a
rare smile lighted up her features and made her positively attractive,
in spite of her name, "fortunately there is a remedy. When do you see
this poor family again?"

"I shall call to-morrow morning after breakfast."

"And in the meantime do you think they will suffer for the lack of
food?"

"It may be so. I don't think they have much money in the house?"

"Do you think you could make it convenient to call there this evening?"

"Yes, I am sure I could. Their poor home is less than half a mile
distant from our boarding-house."

"Then, doctor, be kind enough to hand them this."

She drew out her purse and handed me a five dollar bill.

I suppose I showed the joy I felt.

"Miss Blagden," I said, "you could not give me a more agreeable
commission."

"I believe it, doctor."

There was an unwonted softness in her tone, and her smile was positively
attractive.

How could we call her the "Disagreeable Woman?"



CHAPTER XIII.

MRS. WYMAN'S CURIOSITY.


I was passing our boarding-house on my return from the walk with Miss
Blagden when Mrs. Wyman tapped on the window, and opened it.

"I saw you!" she said, in a bantering tone.

"At supper?"

"No, I saw you walking away with Miss Blagden. So you are smitten at
last!"

I smiled.

"I assure you," I said, "there is nothing between us."

"You seem uncommonly attentive," and I thought there was something of
pique in her tone.

"What can I do?" I answered. "You have forsaken me, and devote yourself
to the Count."

"As if I could forget you!" she said, in a sentimental tone.

If she had known how utterly indifferent I was to her favor or disfavor
she would hardly have been complimented. She had transferred her
attentions to Count Penelli, but she still wished to retain her hold
upon me.

"By the way," she said, suddenly, "are you going to hear Patti during
her present engagement?"

"Do you take me for a millionaire?"

"Her prices are frightful!" she said, thoughtfully. "Of course I cannot
go without an escort."

"If you will secure two tickets, I will accompany you."

"Thank you, but I am so poor. Still I dote on music, and I would buy my
own ticket."

I shrugged my shoulders, and declined to take the hint.

"Very probably the Count will wish to go. He is an Italian, you know,
and would have the advantage of understanding the language."

"True."

"As a nobleman he is doubtless above money considerations."

"You are mistaken. He is the heir to great estates, but he is out of
favor with his father, and has to live on a very small allowance. It is
a pity, isn't it?"

"He might work at some business, and replenish his purse."

"But you must remember he is a nobleman. His rank debars him from many
positions that would be open to a common man."

"I am glad that I am not a nobleman, then."

"Ah, he might not object to being a doctor if he were trained to that
profession. I wish there were any way of getting a ticket to Patti,
without such a monstrous outlay. Can't you think of any way?"

"Mr. Blake is connected with a morning paper. Perhaps he may be entitled
to a Press ticket."

"Thank you, Dr. Fenwick. That is an excellent suggestion. I will speak
to him to-morrow morning. Where are you walking, if I may ask?"

"To see a poor patient. Will you accompany me?"

"No, no, I should be afraid of catching some horrid fever or something."

"The family is poor, and stands very much in need of assistance."

"How will they pay you, then?"

"They won't pay me. I shall not ask any compensation."

"I think you are foolish to waste your time on such people. They can't
benefit you."

"I can help them."

"You will never get rich in that way."

"I do not expect to. I shall be satisfied if I can make a living. If
you feel inclined to be charitable, I can recommend Mrs. Mills as
deserving all the help you are inclined to bestow."

"I positively haven't a cent to spare. Besides it would make it all the
more difficult to hear Patti."

Mrs. Wyman closed the window. The conversation had taken a turn which
she did not relish.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE QUALITY OF MERCY.


When I knocked again at the door of Mrs. Mills, she opened it and
regarded me in some surprise.

"Did you think Alice would be worse?" she asked.

"No, but I am commissioned by a charitable lady, one of my fellow
boarders, to give you this."

She took the bill which I offered her, and her face lighted up with joy.

"It is a godsend," she said. "I was feeling very anxious. We had but
twenty-five cents in the house."

"This will help along."

"Indeed it will. How kind you are, doctor," and her eyes filled with
grateful tears.

"I would like to be kind, but my ability is limited."

"And who is this lady to whom I am indebted?"

"We call her the Disagreeable Woman."

She looked very much surprised.

"Surely you are jesting, doctor."

"No; she is a social mystery. She is very blunt and says many sharp
things."

"But she sends me this money. She must have a good heart."

"I begin to think so. It would surprise all at the table if they knew
she had done this."

"I shall think of her as the Agreeable Woman."

"Now, Mrs. Mills, I am going to give you some advice. What your daughter
needs is nourishing food. Use this money to provide it not only for her
but for yourself."

"I will--but when this is gone," she hesitated.

"We will appeal to the Disagreeable Woman. What has your daughter
taken?"

"I have given her some beef tea."

"That is good as far as it goes. Do you think she could eat a bit of
steak?"

"I will ask her."

Alice seemed so pleased at the suggestion that Frank was dispatched to
the butcher's for a pound of sirloin steak, and a few potatoes. Soon the
rich and appetizing flavor of broiled steak pervaded the apartment, and
a smile of contentment lighted up the face of the sick girl.

"Now mind that you and Frank eat some too," I said. "I will see you
to-morrow morning."

I made a report to Miss Blagden at breakfast.

"If you had seen how much pleasure your gift gave, you would feel amply
repaid," I said to her.

"Doctor," she said, earnestly, "I thank you for mentioning this case to
me. We are so apt to live for ourselves."

"I also mentioned the case to Mrs. Wyman," I added.

"Well?" she asked, curiously.

"She said she was very poor, and wanted to buy a ticket to Patti's
concert."

Miss Blagden smiled.

"I am not surprised to hear it," she said. "Did you ever hear Patti, Dr.
Fenwick?"

"No, Miss Blagden. I am new to the city, and I am cut off from expensive
amusements by my limited means."

"Do you like music?"

"Very much. When Patti gives a concert at fifty cents, I may venture to
go."

At supper Miss Blagden placed something in my hand.

I looked at it, and found that it was a ticket to Patti's concert on the
following evening. It would give me admission to the most expensive
part of the house.

"You are very kind, Miss Blagden," I said, in grateful surprise.

"Don't mention where you got it. You may consider it in the light of a
fee for attendance upon your poor patient. By the way, how is she? Have
you been there to-day?"

"Yes; she is doing well, but is in a great hurry to get well. The rent
comes due next week, and--"

"How much is it?" asked Miss Blagden, interrupting me.

"Seven dollars."

She drew a ten dollar bill from her pocket-book and extended it to me.

"Give that to Mrs. Mills," she said.

"You make me very happy as well as her; I am beginning to find how kind
and charitable you are."

"No, no," she said gravely. "There are few of us of whom that may be
said. How soon do you think your patient will be able to resume work?"

"Next Monday, I hope. She is gaining rapidly."

"How thick you are with the Disagreeable Woman!" said Mrs. Wyman, when
she next met me. "Don't fail to invite me to the wedding."

"On one condition."

"What is that?"

"That you invite me to your wedding with the Count."

She smiled complacently and called me a naughty man. I wonder if she
aspires to become a Countess.



CHAPTER XV.

THE PROFESSOR'S COURTSHIP.


"What a guy!"

The busy day at Macy's was over. Troops of young women passed through
the doors, in street costume, and laughing and chatting, made their way
up or down Sixth Avenue, or turned into Twenty-third street. Among them
was Ruth Canby, and it was to her that her friend Maria Stevenson
addressed the above exclamation.

Ruth turned to observe the figure indicated by her friend, and was
almost speechless with surprise.

At the corner leaning against the lamppost was a figure she knew well.
The rusty overcoat with its amplitude of cape, the brown crushed hat,
the weather-beaten face, and the green goggles were unmistakable. It was
Prof. Poppendorf. He was peering in his short-sighted way at the young
women emerging from the great store with an inquiring gaze. Suddenly his
eyes brightened. He had found the object of his search.

"Mees Ruth!" he exclaimed, stepping forward briskly, "I haf come to walk
home with you."

Ruth looked confused and almost distressed. She would gladly have found
some excuse to avoid the walk but could think of none.

"Maria!" she said, hurriedly, "it is an old friend of the family. I
shall have to leave you."

Her friend looked at the rusty figure in amazement.

"Oh, well, Ruth," she said, "we will meet to-morrow. So long!"

This was not perhaps the way in which a Fifth Avenue maiden would have
parted from her friend, but Maria Stevenson was a free and easy young
woman, of excellent heart and various good qualities, but lacking the
social veneering to be met with in a different class of society.

"How provoking!" thought Ruth, as she reluctantly took her place beside
the Professor, who, unlike herself, seemed in the best of spirits.

"I haf waited here a quarter of an hour to meet you, Mees Ruth," he
said.

"I wish you hadn't," thought Ruth, but she only said, "I am sorry to
have put you to so much trouble."

"It was no trouble, I assure you, Mees Ruth," said her elderly companion
in as genial a tone as his bass voice could assume.

"Let us cross the street," suggested Ruth.

She wished as soon as possible to get out of sight of her shop
companions, who were sure to tease her the next day.

"With all my heart," said the Professor. "I should wish to be more
alone."

They crossed Sixth Avenue, and walked down on the west side. Ruth was
wondering all the while what on earth could have induced the Professor
to take such pains to offer her his escort. She did not have long to
wait.

"I haf something very particular to say to you, Mees Ruth," said the
Professor, gazing fondly at her through his green goggles.

"Indeed!" returned Ruth, in great surprise.

"Yes, Mees Ruth, I haf been feeling very lonely. I am tired of living at
a boarding-house. I wish to have a home of my own. Will you marry me?
Will you be my frau--I mean my wife?"

Ruth Canby stopped short. She was "like to drop," as she afterwards
expressed it.

"Marry you!" she repeated, in a dazed way.

"Yes, Mees Ruth, dear Mees Ruth, I want you to be my wife."

"But, Professor, I could never think of marrying a man so----" old she
was about to add, but she feared it would hurt the Professor's feelings.

"I know what you would say, Mees Ruth. You think I am too old. But I am
strong. See here!" and he smote his large breast vigorously. "I am
sound, and I shall live many years. My father lived till eighty-five,
and I am only sixty-five."

"I am only twenty."

"True! you are much younger, but no young man would love you so fondly."

"I don't know," said Ruth.

"Perhaps you think I am poor, but it is not so. I haf a good income, and
I haf just been appointed to gif lectures on philosophy in Miss Green's
school on Madison Avenue. We will take a nice flat. I will furnish it
well, and we will haf a happy home."

"Thank you very much, Prof. Poppendorf," said Ruth, hurriedly. "Indeed
I feel complimented that such a learned man and great scholar should
wish to marry me, but I am only a simple girl--I have not much
education--and I should not make a suitable wife for you."

"Do not think of that, Mees Ruth. I will teach you myself. I will teach
you Latin and Greek, and Sanscrit, if you please. I will read my
lectures on philosophy to you, and I will make you '_une femme
savante_,' so that you can talk with my brother Professors who will come
to see me. You can cook, can you not, Mees Ruth?"

"Yes, I know how to cook, but--"

"Ah, that is well," said the Professor, in a tone of satisfaction. "All
the German ladies can cook. Frau von Bismarck, the wife of my old
friend, is an excellent cook. I haf dined at Bismarck's house."

"But," said Ruth, firmly, "I can not think of becoming your wife, Prof.
Poppendorf."

"Ach, so!" said the Professor, in a tone of disappointment. "Do not make
such a mistake, my dear Mees Ruth. Is it nothing to become Mrs.
Professor Poppendorf. You will take a good place in society. For I
assure you that I am well known among scholars. I am now busy on a great
work on philosophy, which will extend my fame. I will make you proud of
your husband."

"Indeed, Prof. Poppendorf, I do not doubt your learning or your fame,
but I can not marry a man old enough to be my grandfather."

"So, I am not so sure about that. I am old enough to be your father,
but--"

"Never mind! We will not argue the point. I hope you will say no more. I
can not marry you."

"Ah! is there another? Haf I a rival?" demanded the Professor, frowning
fiercely. "It is that Dr. Fenwick?"

"No, it is not."

"I do not think he would care to marry you."

"And I don't want to marry him, though I think him a very nice young
gentleman."

"Who is it, then?"

"If you must know," said Ruth, pettishly, "it is that young man who took
supper with us not long ago."

"The young man from the country?"

"Yes."

"But what do you see in him, Mees Ruth. He is a _yokel_."

"A what?"

"He is a very worthy young man, I do not doubt, but what does he know?
He is a farmer, is he not, with no ideas beyond his paternal acres?"

"Prof. Poppendorf, I will not have you speak so of my Stephen," said
Ruth, while a wave of anger passed over her face.

"Ah, that is his name. Stephen. Pardon, Mees Ruth! I do not wish to say
anything against this rural young man, but he will never give you the
position which I offer you."

"Perhaps not, but I like him better."

"Ach, so. Then is my dream at an end; I did hope to have you for my
frau, and haf a happy home and a loving companion in my declining
years."

His tone seemed so mournful that Ruth was touched with pity and remorse.

"Prof. Poppendorf," she said, gently, "you must not be too much
disappointed. There are many who would appreciate the honor of marrying
you. Why do you not ask Mrs. Wyman?"

"She is a butterfly--a flirt. I would not marry her if there were no
other woman living."

The young woman from Macy's quite agreed with the Professor, and it was
not without satisfaction that she heard him express himself in this
manner.

"Well," she continued, "then there is Miss Blagden. She is of a more
suitable age."

"The Disagreeable Woman. What do you take me for, Mees Ruth? She is too
strong-minded."

"Perhaps so, but I am sure she has a kind heart."

"I should never be happy with her--never!" said the Professor,
decidedly.

"Were you ever married, Professor?" asked Ruth with sudden curiosity.

"Yes, I was married when I was thirty--but my Gretchen only lived two
years. I haf mourned for her more than thirty years."

"You have waited a long time, Professor."

"Yes; till I saw you, Mees Ruth, I never haf seen the woman I wanted to
marry. Perhaps," he added with sudden hope, "this young man, Stephen,
does not wish to marry you."

"He will be only too glad," said Ruth, tossing her head. "He offered
himself to me a year ago."

"Then there is no hope for me?"

"None at all, Professor."

They had reached Waverley Place, and so there was no time for further
conversation. As they came up the stoop Mrs. Wyman saw them through the
window. She was in waiting in the hall.

"Have you had a nice walk _together_?" she purred.

"How I hate that woman!" said Ruth to herself.

She ran up stairs and prepared for supper.



CHAPTER XVI.

SITS THE WIND IN THAT QUARTER.


Of course I attended the Patti concert. The seat given me was in the
best part of the house, and I felt somewhat bashful when I found that
all my neighbors wore dress suits. My own suit--the best I had--was
beginning to show the marks of wear, but I did not dare go to the
expense of another.

My next neighbor was an elderly gentleman, bordering upon sixty. In the
twenty minutes that elapsed before the rise of the curtain we fell into
a pleasant conversation. It was pleasant to find that he was becoming
interested in me.

"You enjoy Patti?" he said. "But then I hardly need ask that. Your
presence here is sufficient evidence."

"I have no doubt I shall enjoy Patti," I answered. "I have never heard
her."

"Indeed? How does that happen?"

"Because I have been only three months in New York. I came here from the
country, and of course I had no chance to hear her there."

"Excuse my curiosity, but you do not look like a business man."

"I am not. I am a practising physician."

"Indeed!" he replied, with interest. "I wish you could cure my
rheumatism."

"I should like a chance to try."

This was a little audacious, as probably he had his own family
physician, but it came naturally upon his remark.

"You shall try," he said, impulsively. "My family physician has failed
to benefit me."

"It may be so with me."

"At any rate I will try you. Can you call at my house to-morrow at
eleven o'clock?"

"I will do so with pleasure."

He gave me his card. I found that his name was Gregory Vincent, and that
he lived in one of the finest parts of Madison Avenue. It occurred to me
that he was perhaps imprudent in trusting an unknown young physician,
but I was not foolish enough to tell him so.

"I will call," I said with professional gravity, and I entered the name
and engagement in my medical note-book.

Here the curtain rose, and our thoughts were soon occupied by the stage.

When the concert was over, my new friend as he shook my hand, said, "I
can rely upon your calling to-morrow, Dr. Fenwick?"

"I will not fail you."

"I don't know how it is," he said, "but though we are strangers I have a
prophetic instinct that you can help me."

"I will do my best, Mr. Vincent."

Congratulating myself on my new and promising patient, I made my way
into the lobby. There presently I met Mrs. Wyman and Count Penelli. I
learned later that she had purchased two cheap seats and invited the
Count to accompany her. They had not distinguished me in the audience, I
was so far away from them.

"Dr. Fenwick!" exclaimed Mrs. Wyman, in surprise. "I thought you said
you were not coming."

"I changed my mind," I answered, smiling. "Of course, you enjoyed the
concert?"

"Did I not? But where were you sitting?"

"In the orchestra."

"What! Among the millionaires?"

"I don't know if they were millionaires. I was ashamed of my appearance.
All wore dress suits except myself and the ladies."

"It seems to me, doctor, you were extravagant."

"It does seem so."

I did not propose to enlighten Mrs. Wyman as to the small expense I was
at for a ticket. I could see with secret amusement that her respect for
me was increased by my supposed liberal outlay. In this respect I showed
to advantage beside her escort who had availed himself of a ticket
purchased by her. She had represented that the tickets were sent her by
the management.

"The Count had an advantage over us," said the widow. "He could
understand the language."

"_Si_, Signora," said the Count, with a smile.

"It wasn't the words I cared for," said I. "I should enjoy Patti if she
sang in Arabic."

"Well, perhaps so. Were you ever in Italy, doctor?"

"No, the only foreign country I ever visited was New Jersey."

"Is New Jersey then a foreign country?" asked the Count, puzzled.

"It is only a joke, Count," said the widow.

"And a poor one, I admit."

"The Count had been telling me of his ancestral home, of the vine-clad
hills, and the olive trees, and the orange groves. Oh, I am wild to
visit that charming Italy."

"Perhaps you may do so some day, my dear Mrs. Wyman," said the Count, in
a soft tone.

The widow cast down her eyes.

"It would be too lovely," she said.

When we reached the boarding-house, the Count asked, "May I come up to
your room, Dr. Fenwick?"

"Certainly. I shall be glad to have you do so." My room was a small one.
I should have had to pay a higher price for a larger one. However, I
gave the Count my only chair, and sat on the bed.

"Is it permitted?" he asked, as he lighted a cigarette.

"Oh, yes," I replied, but I only said so out of politeness. It was
decidedly disagreeable to have any one smoke in my chamber in the
evening. I could, however, open the window afterwards and give it an
airing.

"Mrs. Wyman is a very fine woman," said the Count, after a pause.

"Very," I responded, briefly.

"And she is rich, is she not?" he asked, in some anxiety.

"Sits the wind in that quarter?" I thought. "Well, I won't stand in the
way."

"She seems independent."

"Ah! you mean--"

"That she has enough to live upon. She never seemed to have any money
troubles. I suppose it is the same with you, you no doubt draw a
revenue from your estates in Italy?"

"No, no, you make a mistake. They belong to my father, and he is
displease with me. He will send me no money."

"Are you the oldest son?"

"_Si_, signor!" but he answered hesitatingly.

"Then you will be all right some day."

"True, doctor, some day, but just now I am what you call short. You
could do me a great favor."

"What is it?"

"If you could lend me fifty dollar?"

"My dear Count, it would be quite impossible. Do you think I am rich?"

"You pay five--six dollar for your ticket to hear Patti."

"It was imprudent, but I wished to hear her; now I must be careful."

"I would pay you when I get my next remittance from Italy."

"It will not be possible," I answered, firmly. "Have you asked Prof.
Poppendorf?"

"No! Has he got money?"

"I think he has more than I."

"I have a special use for the money," said the Count, but I did not ask
what it was.

Presently the Count rose and left me. It took twenty minutes to clear
the room of the vile smell of cigarette smoke.

"After all," thought I, "there is a chance for Mrs. Wyman to become a
Countess, that is if he is a real Count." Upon this point I did not feel
certain.

"Well, did you enjoy Patti?" asked Miss Blagden at the breakfast table.

"Immensely. Why did you not go?"

"Because I have very little taste for music," answered the Disagreeable
Woman.

"Mrs. Wyman was there."

"She sings," said Miss Blagden, with a slight smile.

"Yes, the Count was with her."

"Humph! where did they sit?"

"In the upper part of the house somewhere. I felt myself out of place
among the Four Hundred. But it brought me luck."

"How is that?"

"I secured a patient, a Mr. Gregory Vincent of Madison Avenue."

"Was Gregory Vincent there? How did you make his acquaintance?"

"He was my next neighbor. He seemed to take a liking to me, confided to
me that he was a victim of rheumatism, and I am to assume charge of his
case."

"I am very glad," said Miss Blagden, heartily. "Do your best to cure
him."

"I will."

"And don't be afraid to send him in a good bill."

"I am sure he will pay me liberally."

"It may be your stepping stone to success."

"Thank you for your kind interest."

"And how is your poor patient--Alice Mills?"

"Quite well now, but I wish she were not obliged to spend so many hours
in a crowded store."

"When do you call there again?"

"I may call this morning."

"I will go with you. I have a plan for them."

Miss Blagden accompanied me to the poor house. She was so kind and
gentle that I did not understand how any one could call her the
Disagreeable Woman.

In a few days, thanks to her, Mrs. Mills was installed as housekeeper to
a wealthy widower in Fifty-seventh street. Alice was made governess to
two young children, and Frank was provided with a home in return for
some slight services.



CHAPTER XVII.

MY RICH PATIENT.


When I was admitted to the house of Gregory Vincent, I was surprised by
its magnificence. It has been said that there are few palaces in Europe
that compare in comfort and luxury with a first class New York mansion.
I have never been in a palace, and Mr. Vincent's house was the only
aristocratic house which I had had an opportunity to view. But I am
prepared to indorse the remark.

I handed my card to the liveried servant who opened the door.

"Dr. Fenwick," he repeated. "Yes, sir; you are expected."

He led me upstairs into an elegant library, or sitting-room and library
combined. Here sat my acquaintance of the evening before, with his foot
swathed in bandages and resting on a chair, while he was seated in a
cosy arm-chair.

"Good-morning, doctor," he said. "I am glad to see you. You see that I
am in the grasp of my old enemy."

"We will try to rout him," I said, cheerfully.

"That sounds well, and encourages me. Do you know, Dr. Fenwick, that
without any special reason I feel great confidence in you. You are a
young man, probably not more than half as old as my regular physician,
but he has not been able to do me any good."

"And I hope to be able to do so."

"I suppose you have had experience in such cases?"

"Yes, I have an old aunt who had suffered untold tortures from
rheumatism. She put herself under my charge, and for her sake I made an
extensive study of rheumatic cases and remedies."

"Well?" he asked, eagerly.

"I finally cured her. It is now three years since she has had a twinge."

"Good! My instinct was correct. That gives me hopes of success under
your charge. Don't be afraid to lose your patient by effecting a speedy
cure. I will make you a promise. When you have so far cured me that I am
free from rheumatic pains for three months, I will hand you a check for
a thousand dollars."

"A thousand dollars!" I repeated with sparkling eyes. "That will indeed
be an inducement."

"Of course I shall pay you your regular fees besides."

I could hardly credit my good fortune. I was like one who had just
received intelligence that I had drawn a large sum in the lottery. I
determined to win the promised check if there was any chance.

I began to question Mr. Vincent as to his trouble. I found that it was a
case of rheumatic gout. A difficult case, but very similar to that of
my aunt. I resolved to try the same treatment with him.

I wished to ask some questions, but he forestalled them.

"I have no wife," he said. "I was left a widower many years ago. My
niece and myself constitute our whole family."

"Don't you feel lonely at times?" I asked.

"Yes. My niece has her friends, suited to one of her age, but little
company for me. If I had a nephew now--like yourself--it would cheer me
up and give me a new interest in life."

"I wish you were my uncle," I said to myself.

"I am an old man, but I have great interest in young company. I think it
was that that drew me toward you at Patti's concert. When I learned that
you were a physician I saw that I could make it worth your while to call
on an old man. I hope you are not a very busy man."

"Not yet," I answered, guardedly. I felt that it would be unwise to let
him know how far from a busy man I was.

"Then you will be able to call upon me every day."

"I will do so gladly, but it will not be necessary--from a medical point
of view."

"No matter! I shall be glad to have you come, and of course I pay for
your time. It will be an advantage, no doubt, to have your patient under
constant observation."

"That is true."

"Now I won't put you to the trouble of keeping an account of your
visits. I will agree to pay you twenty-five dollars a week if that will
be satisfactory."

Twenty-five dollars a week! Why I scarcely made that sum in fees in a
month.

"It is more than I should think of charging," I said, frankly.

"Then it _is_ satisfactory. Your money will be paid you at the end of
every week."

When I left the house I felt as if I had suddenly come into a fortune.
Now I could see my way clear. The little stock of money which still
remained to me would suffer no further diminution. On the contrary, I
should be able to add to it.

It is said that there comes to every man once in his life a chance to
succeed. Apparently mine had come to me, and this chance had come to me
through the Disagreeable Woman.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE PROFESSOR'S BOOK.


For some weeks matters went on quietly at our boarding-house. Prof.
Poppendorf, in spite of the failure of his matrimonial schemes, ate,
smoked, and drank as tranquilly as ever. Ruth was grateful to him that
he had accepted her refusal as final, and disturbed her no more. They
still sat near each other at the table, but there was never anything in
his manner to indicate that there had been any romantic passages between
them.

The Disagreeable Woman remained as great a mystery as ever. Sometimes
she was absent for three or four days together. Then she would suddenly
reappear. No one ever asked where she had been. It would have taken rare
courage to do that. Nor did she ever volunteer any explanation.

Whether she possessed large means or not no one could conjecture. She
always paid her board bill, and with unfailing regularity, at the end of
every week. Her dress was always plain, but oftentimes of costly
material. She seldom indulged in conversation, though she was always
ready with an answer when spoken to. Perhaps I may mention as exceptions
to her general rule of reticence the young woman from Macy's and myself.
She seemed to feel more kindly toward us than toward any of the others.

There had been various attempts to find out where she lived. None had
succeeded. One day Mrs. Wyman asked the question directly.

"Where do you live, Miss Blagden, if you will allow me to ask?"

"I will allow you to ask," returned the Disagreeable Woman, coolly. "Do
you propose to call on me?"

"If you will permit me."

"It is hardly necessary. We meet at the table every day. I am a hermit,"
she added after a pause, "I do not care to receive visitors."

"I once heard of a hermit who lived in one of the cottages on the rocks
near Central Park," said the widow, rather impertinently.

"I don't live there!" said the Disagreeable Woman, composedly.

"Of course not. I did not suppose you did."

"Thank you. You are right as usual."

If Miss Blagden meant to be sarcastic, nothing in her tone revealed it.
She had warded off the attack dictated by curiosity.

Whether Miss Blagden was rich or not, she was always ready to contribute
to any public or private cause. When Prof. Poppendorf announced that he
was about to publish a book, enlarged from his lecture on "The Material
and The Immaterial." Miss Blagden subscribed for two copies.

"One is for you, Dr. Fenwick!" she said, in a low tone.

"Thank you, Miss Blagden. You are very kind. Am I expected to read it?"

"If you can," she responded with a grim smile.

The other boarders were asked, but each had some excuse.

"I have just bought a new hat," said Mrs. Wyman.

"I no understand English," said the Count.

"Do you think I ought to subscribe, Miss Blagden?" asked Ruth.

"No, child. Why should you? You have a use for your money. Besides, you
would not understand it. If you wish, I will buy one for you?"

"No, thank you, Miss Blagden. It would be of no use to me, but I
thought the Professor would think it friendly."

She could not explain that she wished to make amends for refusing his
suit, for she had with rare delicacy abstained from mentioning the
learned German's uncouth courtship. Perhaps Miss Blagden, who was very
observing, penetrated her motive, for she said: "There is something in
that. Subscribe, and I will pay for the book."

Upon this Ruth gently told the Professor that she would take a copy.

He was surprised and delighted.

"By all means Mees Ruth, but perhaps I should give you one."

"No, no, Prof. Poppendorf. I want to show my interest in you--and your
book."

"You are so good. I will give you the first copy."

"Thank you," said Ruth, shyly.

"What do you want of the old fossil's book?" asked Mrs. Wyman later,
when the Professor was out of hearing. "I suspect that you are in love
with the Professor."

"No, you don't suspect that," said Ruth, composedly.

"At any rate he seems struck with you."

"I suppose I am either material or immaterial," returned Ruth, laughing.

"You went to walk with him one evening."

"I am afraid you are jealous, Mrs. Wyman."

The widow laughed and the conversation ended.



CHAPTER XIX.

A SPEECH FROM THE THRONE.


It was some time since Mrs. Gray had made any communication to the
boarders.

But one evening she seemed laboring under suppressed excitement.

"Something is up," said Mr. Blake, the young reporter who sat on my
left, the Disagreeable Woman being on my right.

"We shall have it after supper," I answered.

Mrs. Gray always waited till the last boarder had finished his meal. It
was one of the unwritten laws of the boarding-house.

The last boarder on this occasion was Professor Poppendorf. He was the
heartiest eater, and we usually had to wait for him. When he had taken
the last sip of beer, for in consideration of his national tastes he was
always supplied with a schooner of that liquid which is dear to the
Teutonic heart, Mrs. Gray opened her mouth.

"My friends," she said, "I have a letter to read to you."

She opened a perfumed billet, adjusted her spectacles, and read.

"It is from Mrs. Wyman," she said, "and it is at her request that I read
it."

We had already noticed that neither Mrs. Wyman nor the Count was
present.

Mrs. Gray began:


"MY DEAR MRS. GRAY:--For three years I have been an inmate of your happy
home. I have come to feel an interest in it and in all whose
acquaintance I have made here. I had no thought of leaving you, but
circumstances make it necessary. Let me say at once that I have
consented to marry Count di Penelli. You who are familiar with his fine
traits and aristocratic bearing will hardly be surprised that I have
been unable to resist his ardent entreaties. I had indeed intended never
to marry again, but it was because I never expected to find one who
could take the place of my dear departed first husband. The Count and I
leave by an early train for Philadelphia where the ceremony will be
performed. We may remain there for a few days. Beyond that our plans are
not arranged. We would have had a public wedding and invited our
friends, but as the Count's family are in Italy and cannot be present,
we thought it best to have a simple private ceremony. When we go to
Italy next summer there may be another ceremony at the Penelli Castle in
Southern Italy.

"I cannot tell when I shall return to New York. Probably I shall never
again be an inmate of your happy home. The Count and I may take a flat
up-town--a whole house would be too large for us. But I shall--we shall
certainly call on our old friends, and I trust that the ties that bind
us together in friendship may never weaken.

"I shall soon be the Countess di Penelli. But once more and for the last
time, I subscribe myself

"Your faithful and devoted
"LETITIA WYMAN."


We listened to the reading of the letter in silent excitement. Then
there was a chorus of exclamations.

"Did you ever?" ejaculated the young woman from Macy's.

"I am not surprised," said the Disagreeable woman, calmly. "Mrs. Wyman
has been courting the Count ever since he came here."

"You mean that he has been paying his attentions to her," suggested Mr.
Blake, the reporter.

"No, I mean what I say."

"She says she had no thought of marrying again."

"Mr. Blake, you are a young man. You don't understand women, and
particularly widows. Probably there is not a gentleman at the table whom
Mrs. Wyman has not thought of as a matrimonial subject, yourself not
excepted."

Mr. Blake was a very young man, and he blushed.

"She would not have married me," growled the Professor.

Most of us smiled.

"Are you pledged to celibacy, Professor?" asked the landlady.

"No, madam. If a certain young lady would marry me I would marry
to-morrow."

Ruth Canby blushed furiously, and was indignant with herself for doing
so, especially as it drew all glances to her.

"Let us hope you may be successful in your suit, Professor," said Mrs.
Gray.

"Thank you, my dear lady; time will show."

Miss Blagden turned her searching glance upon the flaming cheeks of Ruth
and smiled kindly. If there was any one at the table whom she liked it
was the young woman from Macy's.

"I suppose there is no doubt about his being a Count," suggested Mr.
Blake.

"I should say there was a good deal of doubt," answered the Disagreeable
Woman.

"Do you really think so?"

"It is my conjecture."

"Oh, I think there is no doubt about it," said the landlady, who prided
herself on having had so aristocratic a boarder.

"I am a loser by this marriage," said Mrs. Gray. "I have two rooms
suddenly vacated."

"A friend of mine will take one of them," said Mr. Blake, the reporter.
"He has been wishing to get in here for a month."

"I shall be glad to receive him," said Mrs. Gray, graciously.

The other room was also taken within a week.



CHAPTER XX.

A STARTLING DISCOVERY.


Usually I secured a morning paper, and ran over the contents at my
office while waiting for patients.

It was perhaps a week later that I selected the _Herald_--I did not
confine myself exclusively to one paper--and casually my eye fell upon
the arrivals at the hotels.

I started in surprise as I read among the guests at the Brevoort House
the name of Count di Penelli.

"What!" I exclaimed, "are our friends back again? Why is not the
Countess mentioned? Perhaps, however, the Count has left his wife in
Philadelphia, and come on here on business."

It chanced that I had occasion to pass the Brevoort an hour later.

I was prompted to call and inquire for the Count.

"Yes, he is in. Will you send up your card?"

I hastily inscribed my name on a card and sent it up to his room.

The bell-boy soon returned.

"The Count will be glad to see you, sir," he said. "Will you follow me?"

"He is getting ceremonious," I reflected. "I thought he would come down
to see me."

I followed the bell-boy to a room on the second floor.

"Dr. Fenwick?" he said, as the door was opened.

I saw facing me a tall, slender, dark-complexioned man of about
forty-five, a perfect stranger to me.

"I wished to see Count di Penelli," I stammered, in some confusion.

"I am the Count," he answered, courteously.

"But the Count I know is a young man."

"There is no other Count di Penelli."

"Pardon me!" I said, "but a young man calling himself by that name was
for two months a fellow boarder of mine."

"Describe him, if you please," said the Count, eagerly.

I did so.

"Ah," said the Count, when I concluded, "it is doubtless my valet, who
has been masquerading under my title. He ran away from me at the West,
nearly three months since, carrying with him three hundred dollars. I
set detectives upon his track, but they could find no clue. Is the
fellow still at your boarding-house?"

"No, Count, he eloped a week since with a widow, another of our
boarders. I believe they are in Philadelphia."

"Then he has deceived the poor woman. Has she got money?"

"A little. I don't think she has much."

"That is what he married her for. Doubtless he supposed her wealthy. He
had probably spent all the money he took from me."

"I hope, Count, for the sake of his wife, you will not have him
arrested."

Count di Penelli shrugged his shoulders.

"I will let him go at your request, poor devil," he said. "Why did she
marry him?"

"For his title."

"Then the heart is not concerned?"

"I never discovered that Mrs. Wyman had a heart."

"Probably both will be heartily sick of the marriage, perhaps are so
already."

"Thank you for your information, Count."

"And I thank you for yours. Good-morning!"

I said nothing at the boarding-house of the discovery I had made. Why
should I? So far as the rest of the boarders knew Mrs. Wyman was a
veritable Countess.



CHAPTER XXI.

AFTER THREE MONTHS.


The curtain falls and rises again after an interval of three months.

There have been some changes in our boarding-house. Prof. Poppendorf
still occupies his accustomed place, and so does Miss Blagden. The young
reporter still sits at my left, and entertains me with interesting
gossip and information about public affairs and public men with whom he
has come in contact.

But the young woman from Macy's has left us. She has returned to her
country home and is now the wife of her rustic admirer, Stephen Higgins.
I think she has done wisely. Life in the great stores is a species of
slavery, and she could save nothing from her salary. When Prof.
Poppendorf heard of her marriage, he looked depressed, but I noticed
that his appetite was not affected. A true Teuton seldom allows anything
to interfere with that.

Mrs. Gray has received two or three notes from the Countess di Penelli.
They treated of business matters solely. Whether she has discovered that
her husband's title is spurious I cannot tell. I hear, however, from a
drummer who is with us at intervals, that she is keeping a
boarding-house on Spring Garden street, and that her title has been the
magnet that has drawn to her house many persons who are glad in this way
to obtain a titled acquaintance.

As for myself I am on the high road to a comfortable income. I was
fortunate enough to give my rich patient so much relief that I have
received the large check he promised me, and have been recommended by
him to several of his friends. I have thought seriously of removing to
a more fashionable neighborhood, but have refrained--will it be
believed?--from my reluctance to leave the Disagreeable Woman. I am
beginning to understand her better. Under a brusque exterior she
certainly possesses a kind heart, and consideration for others. Upon
everything in the shape of humbug or pretension she is severe, but she
can appreciate worth and true nobility. In more than one instance I have
applied to her in behalf of a poor patient, and never in vain.

Yet I am as much in the dark as ever as to her circumstances and
residence. Upon these subjects I have ceased, not perhaps to feel, but
to show any curiosity. The time was coming, however, when I should learn
more of her.

One day a young girl came to my office. Her mother kept a modest lodging
house on West Eleventh street, and she had been my patient.

"Any one sick at home, Sarah?" I asked.

"No, doctor, but we have a lodger who is very low with a fever. I think
he is very poor. I am afraid he cannot pay a doctor, but mother thought
you would be willing to call."

"To be sure," I said, cheerfully, "I will be at your house in an hour."

An hour found me ringing at the door of Mrs. Graham's plain lodging
house.

"I thought you would come, Dr. Fenwick," said the good woman, who
personally answered the bell. "You come in good time, for poor Mr.
Douglas is very sick."

"I will follow you to his room."

He occupied a small room on the third floor. It was furnished in plain
fashion. The patient, a man who was apparently nearing fifty, was
tossing restlessly on his bed. Poorly situated as he was, I could see
that in health he must have been a man of distinguished bearing.
Poverty and he seemed ill-mated.

"Mr. Douglas," said the landlady, "this is Dr. Fenwick. I took the
liberty of calling him, as you are so ill."

The sick man turned upon me a glance from a pair of full, black eyes.

"Dr. Fenwick," he said, sadly, "I thank you for coming, but I am almost
a pauper, and I fear I cannot pay you for your services."

"That matters little," I replied. "You need me, that is enough. Let me
feel your pulse."

I found that he was in a high fever. His symptoms were serious. He
looked like a man with a constitution originally strong, but it had been
severely tried.

"Well?" he asked.

"You are seriously ill. I am not prepared just now with my diagnosis,
but I can tell better in a day or two."

"Shall I be long ill?" he asked.

"It will take time to recover."

"Shall I recover?" he asked, pointedly.

"We will hope for the best."

"I understand. Don't think I am alarmed. Life has few charms for me. My
chief trouble is that I shall be a burden to you and Mrs. Graham."

"Don't think of me, I have a fair practise, but I have time for you."

"Thank you, doctor. You are very kind."

"Let me put down your name," I said, taking down my tablets.

"My name is Philip Douglas."

I noted the name, and shortly left him.

I felt that in his critical condition he ought to have a nurse, but
where was the money to come from to pay one?

"He is no common man," I reflected. "He has been rich. His personal
surroundings do not fit him."

Somehow I had already come to feel an interest in my patient. There was
something in his appearance that set me wondering what his past could
have been.

"It must have been his misfortune, not his fault," I decided, for he
bore no marks of dissipation.

Under favorable circumstances I felt that I could pull him through, but
without careful attendance and generous living there was great doubt.
What should I do? I decided to speak of his case to the Disagreeable
Woman.



CHAPTER XXII.

I APPEAL TO THE DISAGREEABLE WOMAN.


"Miss Blagden," I said when the opportunity came, "I want to interest
you in a patient of mine--a gentleman to whom I was called this
morning."

"Speak freely, doctor. Is there anything I can do for him?"

"Much, for he requires much. He is lying in a poor lodging-house
grievously ill with a fever. He has little or no money, yet he must once
have been in affluent circumstances. Without a trained nurse, and the
comforts that only money can buy, I fear he will not live."

"It is a sad case. I am willing to cooperate with you. What is your
patient's name?"

"Philip Douglas."

"Philip Douglas!" she exclaimed, in evident excitement. "Tell me
quickly, what is his appearance?"

"He is a large man, of striking appearance, with full, dark eyes, who
must in earlier days have been strikingly handsome."

"And he is poor, and ill?" she said, breathless.

"Very poor and very ill."

Her breath came quick. She seemed deeply agitated.

"And where is he living?"

"In No. -- West Eleventh Street."

"Take me there at once."

I looked at her in amazement.

"Dr. Fenwick," she said, "you wonder at my excitement. I will explain
it. This man, Philip Douglas, and I were once engaged to be married. The
engagement was broken through my fault and my folly. I have regretted it
many times. I have much to answer for. I fear that I wrecked his life,
and it may be too late to atone. But I will try. Lead me to him."

I bowed gravely, and we set out.

Arrived at the lodging-house I thought it prudent to go up alone. I
feared that excitement might be bad for my patient.

He was awake and resting more comfortably.

"How do you feel?" I asked.

"Better, doctor. Thanks to you."

"Have you no relatives whom you would wish to see--or friends?"

"I have no relatives in New York," he said.

"Or friends?"

He paused and looked thoughtful.

"I don't know," he answered, slowly. "There is one--I have not seen her
for many years--but it is impossible, yet I would give my life to see
Jane Blagden."

"Why not send for her?"

"She would not come. We were friends once--very dear friends--I hoped
to marry her. Now I am poor and broken in health, I must give up the
thought."

"Could you bear to see her? Would it not make you ill?"

"What do you mean, doctor?" he asked, quickly.

"I mean that Miss Blagden is below. She wishes to see you."

"Can it be? Are you a magician? How could you know of her?"

"Never mind that. Shall I bring her up?"

"Yes."



CHAPTER XXIII.

AT LAST.


Jane Blagden paused a moment at the entrance to the room, as if to
gather strength for the interview. I had never seen her so moved. Then
she opened the door and entered with a firm step.

He lay on the bed with his eyes fixed eagerly on the door. As she
entered he tried to raise his head.

"Jane!" he exclaimed, eagerly.

She placed her hand for a moment on her heart, as if to still its
throbbing. Then she walked quickly to the bed.

"Philip!" she said.

"At last!" he cried, in a low voice.

"Can you forgive me, Philip, dear Philip?"

"If there is anything to forgive."

"There is--much. I am afraid you have suffered."

"I have."

"And so have I. Since we parted I have been lonely--desolate. I let my
pride and my obstinacy come between us--but I have been punished."

She had drawn a chair to the bed-side, and sitting down took his hand in
hers. It was hot, feverish.

"You are very ill, I fear."

"I shall be better now," he murmured. "It is worth much to have you
beside me."

I looked at the face of the Disagreeable Woman. I saw upon it an
expression I had never seen before--an expression that made her look ten
years younger. I could not have believed in the tenderness, the
heart-warmth which it showed.

"Philip," she said, "you must get well for my sake."

"And if I do?" he asked, eagerly.

"It shall be as you wish."

He closed his eyes, and a look of happiness and content lighted up his
features. But soon there was a change. It was evident that the
excitement had been too much for him.

"Miss Blagden," I said, "I think you must go. Our patient is too weak to
stand any more excitement or agitation."

"Can I not stay here as his nurse?" she pleaded.

"It will be better to have a trained nurse--one who will not agitate
him."

"As you think best, doctor," she said, meekly, "but I will stay in the
house. How soon can you send a nurse?"

"Within an hour."

"Do so, and I will stay here till then. If he wakes I will leave the
room."

Within an hour a trained nurse was installed in the sick chamber. Miss
Blagden made an arrangement with Mrs. Graham to occupy a room which had
fortunately been vacated the day previous. It was small and
uncomfortable, but she cared little for this.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE LIGHT OF HOPE.


Then commenced the struggle with disease. Philip Douglas was very ill. I
had not exaggerated the danger. He was unconscious most of the time, but
in spite of that he seemed to have a dim consciousness that there was
some good in store for him.

While he was unconscious Miss Blagden felt at liberty to spend a part of
her time in the room. She assisted the nurse, and waited patiently for
the patient's amendment.

For three days it was a matter of doubt whether he would live or die. I
gave up all other patients for him. I had become almost as anxious as
Miss Blagden. I watched Philip Douglas narrowly to note any change
either for the better or worse. It was a long and wearisome vigil. I was
waiting for the crisis.

At length it came. He began to breathe more freely, though still
unconscious. I noticed a change for the better in his pulse. Her eyes as
well as mine were fixed upon the sick man. Finally her eyes sought my
face with eager questioning.

"Is there a change?" she asked.

"Yes, he will live."

"Thank God!" she breathed, fervently, and a look of grateful joy lighted
up the face of the Disagreeable Woman.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

Obvious typographic errors have been corrected.





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