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Title: Enchantment
Author: MacGrath, Harold
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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ENCHANTMENT


      *      *      *      *      *      *

The Pocket Books


     A series designed to represent the three aspects of American
     romance,--adventure, mystery and humor

     THE AMETHYST BOX By Anna Katharine Green

     A detective story of a Newport wedding

     THE HOUSE IN THE MIST By Anna Katharine Green

     A tale of unexpected fortunes. Including also The Ruby and the
     Caldron

     ENCHANTMENT By Harold MacGrath

     Short stories of whimsical adventure

     THE PRINCESS ELOPES By Harold MacGrath

     An extravagant romance of a European Duchy

     THE MOTORMANIACS By Lloyd Osbourne

     Tales of the road and the automobile

      *      *      *      *      *      *


[Illustration]


ENCHANTMENT

by

HAROLD MAC GRATH

Author of
The Man on the Box, The Princess Elopes,
The Puppet Crown, etc., etc.



Indianapolis
The Bobbs-Merrill Company
Publishers

Copyright 1905
The Bobbs-Merrill Company

April

Press of
Braunworth & Co.
Bookbinders and Printers
Brooklyn, N. Y.



ENCHANTMENT

INCLUDING


A NIGHT'S ENCHANTMENT
    The Adventure of the Lady in the Closed Carriage

THE BLIND MADONNA
    The Adventure of the Golden Louis

NO CINDERELLA
    The Adventure of the Satin Slipper

TWO CANDIDATES
    An Adventure in Love and Politics

THE ENCHANTED HAT
    The Adventure of My Lady's Letter


TO
MRS. ANDREW J. COOPER



CONTENTS

                        PAGE

   A NIGHT'S ENCHANTMENT   3
   THE BLIND MADONNA      43
   NO CINDERELLA          81
   TWO CANDIDATES        117
   THE ENCHANTED HAT     161



A NIGHT'S ENCHANTMENT

THE ADVENTURE OF THE LADY IN THE CLOSED CARRIAGE


I

So much depended upon every one's utter lack of nervousness and
embarrassment that Shaw, the stage manager, decided that my presence at
the final rehearsal would only add to the tension, and was therefore
unnecessary. The "star" complained that her efforts to interpret my
lines to my satisfaction were wearing her thin, while the "leading man"
declared that he could not enter naturally into the spirit of the comedy
so long as he knew I was watching from across the front.

To tell the truth, I was not unagreeable. There were many things I
wanted to change, and I knew that if I once got headway I should have to
write the play all over; and that was not in the contract. My room was
better than my company. So Shaw gave me a card to The Players and left
me there in the care of a distinguished fellow dramatist.

We had a capital dinner, and our exchange of experiences would have made
a book equal in length to _Revelation_. What a time a fellow has to get
a manager to listen to a better play than he has yet produced! I'm
afraid that we said many uncomplimentary things about actors in general
and managers in particular. The actor always has his own idea, the
manager has his, and between them the man who wrote the play is pretty
well knocked about. But when the play is produced every one's idea
proves of some use, so I find.

In spite of the good dinner and the interesting conversation, I found
myself glancing constantly at my watch or at the clock, thinking that at
such and such a time to-morrow night my puppets would be uttering such
and such a line, perhaps as I wanted them to utter it, perhaps as they
wanted to utter it. It did not matter that I had written two successful
novels and a popular comedy; I was still subject to spells of diffidence
and greenness. Much depended upon this second effort; it was, or it was
not, to establish me in New York as a playwright of the first order.

I played a game of billiards indifferently well, peered into Booth's
room and evoked his kindly spirit to watch over my future, smoked
incessantly, and waited impatiently for Shaw's promised telephone call.
The call came at ten-thirty, and Shaw said that three acts had gone off
superbly and that everything pointed to a big success. My spirits rose
wonderfully. I had as yet never experienced the thrill of a curtain
call, my first play having been produced while I was abroad. If they
called me before the curtain my cup was full; there was nothing left in
the world but to make money, all other thrills having come and departed.
All at once I determined to run up town to the theater and steal in to
see the last act. So I called for my hat and coat, apologized to my
friend, and went forth into the night--and romance!

Gramercy Park is always still at night, quiet even in the very heart of
turmoil. Only an indefinable murmur drifted over from the crowded life
of Broadway. I was conning over some lines I thought fine, epigrams and
fragmentary philosophy.

"Hurry! We have only half an hour!"

The voice, soft and musical, broke the silence ere my foot had left the
last step. Amazed, I looked in the direction whence came this symphony
of vocal allurement. A handsome coupé, with groom and footman, stood at
the curb. A woman in evening gown leaned out. I stopped and stared. The
footman at the door touched his hat. I gazed over my shoulder to see if
any one had come out of the club at the same time as myself. I was
alone.

"Hurry! I have waited at least half an hour. We haven't a moment to
waste."

Some one in the upper rooms of the club lifted a shade to open a window,
and the light illuminated her features. She was young and very handsome.
A French wit once said that the whisper of a beautiful woman can be
heard farther than the loudest call of duty. Now, I honestly confess
that if she had been homely, or even moderately good-looking, I should
have politely explained to her that she had made a peculiar mistake. I
was somebody else. As it was, with scarce any hesitation I stepped into
the carriage, and the footman closed the door. To this day I can not
analyze the impulse that led me into that carriage: Fate in the guise of
mischief, Destiny in the motley and out for a lark, I know not which,
nor care.

"I am sorry to have kept you waiting," said I.

"I thought you would never come."

Thought I would never come? The coupé started off at a rate likely to
bring us under the vigilant eyes of the police. We pared the corner
neatly and swung into Broadway, going up town. The theaters were
emptying, and here and there the way was choked with struggling cabs;
but our driver knew his business, and we were never delayed more than a
moment. Not another word was spoken till we reached Thirty-fourth
Street. I was silent because I had nothing to say.

"One after another they came out. I thought you would never, never come.
I had all I could do to keep from going into the club after you!" She
tore off her long, white gloves and flung them (savagely, I thought)
into her lap.

Going into the club after me? Heavens! What a scandal I had escaped!
What the deuce was it all about, anyway? Who was I? What was expected of
me? My nerve lost a particle of its strength, but I could not back out
now. It was too late. I was in for some sort of excitement. I had always
been skeptical about mistaken identity. This was to be my conversion.

"You will never forgive me, I know, for waiting outside a club for you."
She snuggled over to her side of the carriage.

"Yes, I will!" I replied with alacrity. Who wouldn't forgive her? I
moved closer.

The blue light of the arc-lamps flashed into the window at frequent
intervals. Each time I noted her face as best I could. It was as
beautifully cut as a Cellini cameo, and as pale as ivory under friction.
You will laugh. "They are always beautiful," you will say. Well, who
ever heard of a homely woman going a-venturing? Besides, as I remarked,
it wouldn't have been an adventure if she had been homely, for I
shouldn't have entered the carriage. To be sure, I was proving myself a
cad for not enlightening her as to her error in the matter of
identification; but I was human and young, and rather fond of my
Stevenson, and this had all the charm and quality of the New Arabian
Nights.

"It is all so terrible!" Her voice was tense; there was a note of agony
in it that was real. She was balling her handkerchief, and I could see
that her fingers were long and white and without jewels, though I caught
the intermittent glimmer of a fine necklace circling an adorable throat.
What a fine chance for a rascal!

I wondered if she would have me arrested when she found out? Was I
married, single, a brother, a near friend? What the deuce was her
trouble? Ought I to kiss her? My double was a fortunate duffer. How I
envied him!

"Women are so silly sometimes. I do not know why I was dragged into
this," she said.

Dragged into what? Had a crime been committed, or had some one run away
with another man's wife? Heavens! we might be eloping and I not know
anything about it! I shivered, not with fear, but with a strange
elation.

"How could I have done it? How could I? Terrible!"

"It must be," I admitted readily. No, a woman does not elope in her
ball-gown. Perhaps we were going after the trunks.

"To think that he would force me into a thing like this!"--vehemently.

"I see that there is nothing left for me to do but to punch his head." I
thought I was getting on famously.

She gave me a swift, curious glance.

"Oh, I am brave enough," said I. I wondered if she had noticed that I
was a passably good-looking man, as men go.

"What is done is done,"--wearily. "Retrospection will do us no good."

"What do you wish me to do?" I asked presently.

It was like writing a composite novel, no one knowing what the other
chapters were about. I had already forgotten that I had written a play
which was to be produced the following night; I forgot everything but
the potent charm of the mystery which sat beside me and which I was
determined to unravel, as they say in detective stories.

"What do you wish me to do?" I repeated.

"I will tell you when the time comes. For your own sake, be advised by
me and do nothing rash. You are so impulsive."

For my own sake do nothing rash: I was so impulsive! My hand wandered
toward the door-latch, and fell. No! I would stick it out, whatever
happened.

"You are not afraid, are you?" she asked.

"Afraid of what?"--adroitly.

"I was right in waiting for you,"--simply.

Maybe; that remained to be seen.

We crossed under the Sixth Avenue "L," and the roar of a passing train
silenced us for a time. Who was I, anyway? Where were we going? Why
didn't she call me by some first name? So far she hadn't given me a clue
to anything. An idea came to me.

"Are you wise in taking me there to-night?" I asked. This was very
cunning of me.

She coughed slightly and peered from the window. "Ten blocks more! Oh,
if only we dared go faster, faster, and have it all over with!"

"A policeman would delay us no inconsiderable time," I cautioned. "And
think of its being reported in the papers! That wouldn't help matters.
They are bad enough as they are." Doubtless they were!

She said nothing.

"Courage, courage!" I said; "all will end well." At least I sincerely
hoped it would end well. I reached over and touched her hand. She
withdrew that member of an exquisite anatomy as suddenly as if my touch
had stung her. Once more I found myself in a maze. Evidently, whoever I
was, I did not stand on such terms with her as to be allowed the
happiness of holding her hand. And I had almost kissed her!

Then a horrible thought scorched me. I had more than a thousand dollars
in my wallet. I snuggled over to my side of the carriage. The newspapers
were teeming with stories of new bunko-games, and this might be one of
the classics of getting-rich-quick on other people's money. I slyly
buttoned up my coat. Anyhow, it was chilly.

On, on we rolled; light after light flashed into the window, gloom
followed gloom.

More than a thousand dollars was a large sum for an author to be
carrying about; and if the exploit turned out to be a police affair I
might be seriously questioned as to how an author came by so large a
sum. Yet, as I thought of her necklace, I felt my cheeks grow red with
shame. It's so hard to doubt a beautiful young woman! Still, the jewels
might not be real. There were many false gems in New York, animate and
inanimate. If her jewels were genuine, two years' royalties would not
have purchased the pear-shaped pearl pendant that gleamed at her throat.
If she was really an adventuress she was of a new type, and worth
studying from the dramatist's point of view. Had she really mistaken me?
Quite accidentally I touched her cloak. It was of Persian lamb. Hang it,
adventuresses don't go around in Persian lamb: not in New York. Ha! I
had it. I would find out what she was.

I leaned over quickly and kissed her cheek. There was not a sound, only
I felt her shudder. She wiped with her handkerchief the spot my lips had
touched. I was a cad and a wretch. When she did speak her tones were
even and low.

"I did not quite believe that of you."

"I could not help it!" I declared, ready to confess that I was an
impostor; and as I look back I know that I told the truth when I said I
could not help it. I didn't care where the carriage went, nor what the
end would be.

"And I trusted you!" The reproach was genuine.

I had nothing to say. My edifice of suspicions had suddenly tumbled
about my ears.

"I am sorry; I have acted like a cad. I am one," I said finally.

"I was helpless. One after another the men we trust fail us."

"Madam, I am a wretch. I am not the gentleman you have taken me for. I
have had the misfortune to resemble another gentleman."

"I never saw you before in all my life, nor any person that resembles
you."

I gasped. This was what the old dramatists called a thunderbolt from
heaven. I felt for my wallet; it was still in my pocket. Inconsistently,
I grew angry.

"Then, what the devil--!"

"Do not add profanity to ill-manners," she interposed. "Perhaps I have
no right to complain. There is the door, sir; you have but to press the
button, stop the driver, and get out. I am in a terribly embarrassing
position to-night, one which my own folly has brought me to. It was
absolutely necessary that a gentleman should accompany me in this
carriage to my destination. When you came forth from your club--the only
club the exact location of which I am familiar with--you appeared to be
a gentleman, one I could trust to accompany me. To attract your
attention, and at the same time arouse your curiosity, I had to resort
to equivocal methods. It is an adventure, sir. Will you see it to the
end, or shall I press the button?"

"Permit me to ask a question or two!" I was mightily confused at the
turn of things.

"Perfect confidence in me, or I shall open the door."

"In any other city but New York--"

"Yes or no!"--imperiously.

"Hang it, madam!"

Her hand went toward the electric button.

"To the end of the world, and no questions asked."

Her hand dropped. "Thank you,"--gently.

"Curiosity is something we can't help; otherwise I should not be here,
ass that I am! Chivalry isn't all dead. If you are in trouble depend
upon me; only I must be back in New York by to-morrow night."

"You will not leave the city. You have no fear?"

"I should not be here else."

"Oh, but you must be imagining all sorts of terrible things."

"I am doing some thinking, I'll admit. How easily a woman can make a
fool of a man!"

"Sometimes."

"I am a shining example. How you must have laughed at me! A pretty woman
has more power over a man's destiny than all the signs of the Zodiac put
together. And it's natural that he should want to kiss her. Isn't it?"

"I am not a man."

"A saint would have tripped. Put yourself in my place--"

"Thank you; I am perfectly satisfied."

"A beautiful woman asks me to enter her carriage--"

"And, thinking that I had mistaken you for some one I knew, you kissed
me!"--derisively.

"I wished to learn where I stood in your affections."

"A very interesting method of procedure!"

"And when I touched your hand you acted as if mine had stung you."

"It did."

"There's no getting around that,"--resignedly. "Shall I tell you frankly
what I at one time took you to be?"

"If it will relieve your mind."

"Well, I believed you to be some classic adventuress."

"And you are sure I am not?"

"Positive now. You see, I have considerable money on my person."

"Wouldn't it be wise for you to hand it over to some policeman to keep
for you till to-morrow? Do not take any unnecessary risks. You do not
dream into what I am leading you."

The carriage suddenly stopped.

"The journey is at an end," she said.

"So soon?"

A moment later the door opened, and I stepped out to assist her to
alight. She waved me aside. We stood in front of some millionaire's
palace. It was golden with illumination. Was it a wedding and was I to
be a witness? Or was some one making his will? Perhaps it was only a
ball or a reception. I stopped my cogitations. What was the use asking
myself questions? I should soon know all.

"Follow me," she said, as she lightly mounted the steps.

I followed.... Here, in New York, the most unromantic city in all the
wide world! I was suddenly seized with nervousness and a partial failure
of the cardiac organs to perform their usual functions.

She turned to me. "There is yet time."

"Time for what?"

"Time to run."

"There was a moment.... Lead on,"--quietly. I thought of the young man
with the cream tarts.

She touched a bell, and the door opened, admitting us into the hall. A
servant took our belongings.

"Dinner is served, miss," said the servant, eying me curiously, even
suspiciously.

It appeared that I was to dine! What the deuce did it all mean? A dinner
at suppertime! A very distressing thought flashed through my mind.
Supposing she had known me all along, and had lured me here to witness
some amateur performance. I shuddered. I flattered myself. There was no
amateur performance, as presently you shall see. I followed her into the
dining-room. Fortunately, I was in evening dress. I should at least be
presentable, and as cool as any man in the room. Comedy or tragedy, or
whatever it was going to be, I determined to show that I had good blood
in me, even though I had been played for a fool.

Around a table covered with exquisite linen, silver and glass sat a
party of elegantly dressed men and women. At the sight of us the guests
rose confusedly and made toward us with shouts of laughter, inquiry and
admiration. They gathered round my companion and plied her with a
hundred questions, occasionally stealing a glance at me. I saw at once
that I stood among a party of ultra-smart people. Somehow I felt that I
represented a part in their mad pastimes.

"Where did you find him?" cried one.

"Was it difficult?" asked another.

"I'll wager he didn't need much urging!" roared a gentleman with a
rubicund nose.

"He is positively good-looking!" said one woman, eying me boldly.

I bowed ironically, and she looked at her neighbor as if to say: "Why,
the animal understands what I say!"

"My friends," said the girl, waving her hand toward me, "I have paid my
detestable forfeit." Her tones did not bespeak any particular
enjoyment.

A wager! I stood alone, my face burning with chagrin. I could feel my
ears growing, like the very ass that I was. A wager!

"To table!" cried the gentleman with the rubicund nose. Evidently he was
host. "We must have the story in full. It certainly must be worth
telling. The girl has brought home a gentleman, I'm hanged!"

The guests resumed their chairs noisily.

The girl faced me, and for a space it was a battle of the eyes.

"Will you do me the honor?" she said half-mockingly, nodding toward the
only vacant chairs at the table.

"Would it not be wise for me to go at once?" I asked quietly.

"If you do not sit at the table with me I lose. But please
yourself,"--wearily. "It has all been very distasteful to me."

"I will stay to the bitter end. My conceit and assurance need a
drubbing." I offered her my arm. All eyes were centered upon us. She
hesitated. "We might as well go through this ordeal in a proper spirit
and manner," I said. I rather believe I puzzled her.

She flushed slightly, but laid her hand on my arm, and together we
walked over to the vacant chairs and sat down. The laughter and hum of
voices ceased instantly.

In faith, I was becoming amused. They were going to have their fun with
me; well, two could play at that game.


II

The host rose, and, leaning on his fingertips, he addressed me: "Sir,
all this doubtless strikes you as rather extraordinary."

"Very extraordinary," I replied.

"To dine under such circumstances is not accorded to every man."

"To which do you refer: the honor or the _modus operandi_?"

"Both. Now, an explanation is due you."

"So I observe,"--gravely.

"The pleasure is mine. To begin with, permit me to introduce you to my
guests." One by one he named them, the ladies and gentlemen. I had heard
of them all. Money had made them famous. "As for myself, I am Daniel
Ainsworth; this is my home. I dare say you have heard of me."

"I have won money on your horses, sir,"--with all the gravity of
expression I found possible to assume.

My remark was greeted with laughter.

My host, composing his lips, resumed. "And now, sir, whom have I the
honor to address?"

"I am the author of many a famous poem,"--tranquilly.

"Ah!"

"Yes; anonymous. Sir, my name would mean nothing to you or your guests:
I am poor."

There was a trace of admiration in the girl's eyes as she turned her
head. "Besides," I went on, "I want a little revenge."

"Good!" bawled my host; "good! You're a man of kidney, sir. A gentleman
is always a gentleman; and I do not need to look at you twice, sir, to
note that my niece's choice has been a happy one."

"You have not introduced me to your niece," said I, "who is, next to
myself, the most important guest at the table."

"Hang me! The young lady at your side is Miss Helen Berkeley, the best
horsewoman in the state, if I do say so myself."

Great applause, as they say in the press gallery. I looked squarely at
the girl, but she was busy turning round her empty wine-glass.

"I appreciate the honor, sir," I said; "but now will you favor me with
the _modus operandi_, or, to be particular, the reason of all this
mystery?"

"I approach that at once. This is leap year, as you will recollect. On
January first I gave a leap-year party, and in the spirit of fun each
lady present declared her intention of bringing to a series of late
dinners a gentleman whom none of us knew, either by sight or by
reputation. He was to be lured into a carriage by some story or other,
and was not to know the true state of things till he sat at the table.
My niece was the last on the list. Those who backed down were to give a
house-party of a week's length. Women detest house-parties, and that is
the one reason why this comedy has gone down the line without a failure.
This is the eighth dinner. Each lady present has fulfilled her
obligation to the year. We have had some curious specimens of humanity:
a barber, a mild lunatic, a detective who thought he was on the trail of
some terrible crime, an actor, a political reformer, and an English
groom who palmed himself off as a lord. The actor and yourself, sir, are
the only men who seemed to possess any knowledge of the various uses of
dinner forks."

"You haven't seen me eat yet," I interpolated. All this was highly
amusing to me. I was less a victim than a spectator.

"You will do us the honor of permitting us to criticize your knowledge
of the forks," laughed Ainsworth. "Now, Nell, tell us how you lured Mr.
Anonymous into your carriage."

Very quietly she recounted the tale. She omitted but one incident.

"In front of a club!" cried the ladies in unison. "Why in the world
didn't we think of that?"

"Miss Berkeley has omitted one thing," said I maliciously.

"And, pray, what?" asked Miss Berkeley's uncle.

"Remember," she whispered, "you are supposed to be a gentleman."

I took umbrage at the word "supposed."

"Miss Berkeley must tell you what she has omitted in the course of her
narrative."

"And I refuse to tell."

"Hang it, Nell, I'll wager Mr. Anonymous kissed you!" cried her uncle.

"Caught!" cried one of the ladies.

"Allow me a word," I interposed. I was already sorry. "There was a
method in my action which must not be misconstrued. I believed, for a
moment, that Miss Berkeley might be a new species of bunko-steerer. If
she objected noisily to my salute I should find my case proved; if she
cried, I was wrong."

"And?"

"She did neither. She rubbed her cheek."

"I'll warrant!" my host bawled. "Oh, this is rich! A bunko-steerer!"

"Miss Berkeley," I whispered, "we are quits."

"Not yet,"--ominously.

It was almost time for me to go!

"I was going to ask your pardon," said the uncle in his hunter-voice;
"but I think you have been paid for your trouble. Is there anything you
would like?"

"Three things, sir."

"And these?" he asked, while every one looked curiously at me. I was
still an unknown quantity.

"My hat, my coat, and the way to the door, for I presume you have no
further use for me."

My reply appealed to the guests as monstrous funny. It was some time ere
the laughter subsided. My host seemed threatened with an attack of
apoplexy.

"My dear sir," said he, "I beg of you to remain, not as a source for our
merriment, but as the chief guest of honor. I believe you have won that
place."

I turned to Miss Berkeley. "Do you bid me remain?"

Silence.

I placed my hand on the back of my chair, preparatory to sliding it from
under me. She stayed me.

"Do not go,"--softly. "I haven't had my revenge."

I sat down. I was curious to learn what color this revenge was going to
take. "Mr. Ainsworth, my compliments!"--raising my glass, being very
careful not to touch the contents.

"Bully!" cried my host, thumping the table with his fist. "James, a
dozen bottles of '96. There's a gentleman,"--nodding to those nearest
him; "you can tell 'em a mile off. A little shy of strangers,"
humorously falling into horse-talk, "but he's money coming down the
home-stretch."

Then everybody began to talk at once, and I knew that the dinner proper
was on the way.

"Aren't you just a little above such escapades as this?" I asked of the
girl.

"Do not make me any more uncomfortable than I am," she begged. "But
having gone into it I had too much courage to back down."

"The true courage would have been to give the house-party."

"But men always insist upon your marrying them at house-parties."

"I see I have much to learn,"--meekly. "And the men are right."

"What an escape I have had!"

"Meaning house-parties, or that I am a gentleman?"

"If you had not been a gentleman! For, of course, you are, since my
uncle has so dubbed you. If you had not been a gentleman!"

"If you had not been a lady! If you had been a bunko-steerer! And I do
not know that you are not one still. Do you believe me? I kept my hand
on my wallet pocket nearly all the time."

"I understood you to say that you were poor."

"Oh, I mean that I am too poor to hunt for excitement in bizarre
things."

"Confess that you look upon me with a frank contempt!"--imperiously.

"Never!"

"That in your secret mind you write me down a silly fool."

"Allow me to quote Dogberry--'Masters, remember that I am an ass; though
it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass!' Thus, I may
not call you a fool. Besides, it would be very impolite."

"You neither eat nor drink. Why?"

"I demand to retain some of my self-respect."

She leaned on her elbows, her chin in her palms. She had wonderful eyes,
and for as long a time as a minute these eyes impaled me on barbs of
light. "You must think us a pack of fools."

"Oh, indeed, no; only rich."

"That is almost an epigram,"--warningly. "You will lead me to believe
that you belong to smart society in some provincial town."

"Heaven forfend!"--earnestly.

"But speak all the thought. Nothing prevents truth from either of us
to-night."

"All of what thought?"

"We are not fools, only rich."

"Well, I lower the bucket, then; and if I can bring truth to the top of
the well you will promise not to blush on beholding her?"

"I promise."

"It is maddening and unhealthy to be rich and idle. The rich and idle do
such impossible things in the wild effort to pass away the dragging
hours. Society is not made up of fools: rather knaves and madmen. Money
and idleness result in a mild attack of insanity."

"Thanks."

"You are welcome. Shall I lower truth along with the butter of
flattery?"

"You may lower the butter of flattery. So that is how the great public
looks upon us?"

"Yes, in a way; while it envies you."

"I have always been rich. What is poverty like?"

"It is comparative."

"It must be horrid."

"Poverty is ugly only when man himself is the cause of it."

"Another epigram. I have always been under my uncle's care,"--with the
slightest droop of the lips.

"Ah! His knowledge ends at the stable and begins at the table: horses
and vintages. If a woman had crossed his path he would have been a great
man."

"Poor Uncle Dan! To him I am his favorite filly, and he has put huge
sums on me to win the ducal race. Everybody says that I'm to marry the
Duke of Roxclift."

"And you?" I do not know why my heart sank a little as I put this
question.

"I? Oh, I'm going to balk at the quarter and throw the race. To-night,
what would you have done in my place?"

"Hailed a gentleman exactly like myself."

She dallied with a rose, brushing it across her lips. "I do not know
why I desire your good opinion. Perhaps it's the novelty of sitting
beside a man who does not believe in flattery."

"Flattery is a truth that is not true. I think you are charming,
beautiful, engaging, enchanting, mystifying. I can think of no other
adjectives."

"If flattery is a truth that is not true, then all your pretty
adjectives mean nothing."

"Oh, but I do not flatter you. Men flatter homely women--homely women
who are rich and easily hoodwinked. What I have offered you in the line
of decorative adjectives your mirror has already told you time and time
again. If I said that you were witty, scholarly, scientific, vastly and
highly intellectual, not knowing you any better than I do, that would be
flattery. Do you grasp the point?"

"Nebulously. You are trying to say something nice."

"We are getting on capitally. When I left the club to-night the wildest
stretch of my fancy would not have placed me here beside you."

"Yes,"--irrelevantly, "most of us are mad. Everything is so monotonous."

"To-night?"

"Well, not to-night."

"You have not yet asked me who I am."

"Then you are somebody?"--drolly. She contemplated me, speculatively as
it were.

I laughed. This was the most amusing and enchanting adventure I had ever
had the luck to fall into. "The world thinks so," I replied to her
question.

"The world? What world?"

"My world ... and a part of yours."

"Are you one of those men who accomplish something besides novel
dinners?"

"So I am led to believe."

"In what way?"

"Ah, but that is a secret."

She shrugged. Evidently she was incredulous. "Are you an actor?"
suddenly recollecting where she had picked me up.

"Only in 'All the world's a stage.'"

"I will ask you: Will you do me the honor of telling me who you are?"

"My self-respect denies me that pleasure."

"Fiddlesticks!" This was very human.

"Is it possible that I am interesting you?"--surprised.

"You are a clever man, whoever and whatever you are. Where did you learn
to read a woman so readily? Who told you that when you confront a woman
with a mystery you trap her interest along with her curiosity? Yes, you
are clever. If you told me your name and your occupation I dare say I
should straightway become bored."

"Truth still shivers on the well's edge."

She nibbled the rose-leaves.

"Does your interest in episodes like to-night always die so
suddenly?"--nodding toward the others, who had long since ceased to pay
me any particular attention.

"Nearly always."

"Very well; since they have forgotten us let us forget them." I leaned
toward her, and my voice was not so steady as it should have been. "In
what manner would it benefit me to tell you my name and what my
occupation in the great world is? Would it put me on the list of your
acquaintance?"

She eyed me thoughtfully. "That depends."

"Upon what?"

"Whether you were worth knowing. I addressed other gentlemen in front of
your club. They politely said I had made a mistake."

"They were old or married."

"That wasn't it."

"Then they didn't see you in the light, as I did."

"What difference would that have made?"

"All the difference in the world. But you have tabooed flattery. I see
that I should have been a barber, a mild lunatic, or a detective."

"You would have been easier to dispose of."

I directed my gaze toward the door, and she surrendered a smile.

"You might be worth knowing,"--musingly.

"I promise to be."

"I shall give it thought. I should never forgive myself if I were the
indirect cause of your joining this carnival of fools."

"I see that I shall last longer in your thoughts as the Unknown."

"Eat," she commanded.

"I am not hungry; I have dined."

"Drink, then."

"I am not thirsty."

She took my glass and poured the contents into hers, then handed it to
me. "Now!" she said.

"Why?"

"You make me think of Monte Cristo: what terrible revenge are you going
to take?"

"It will be upon myself: that of never forgetting you."

"One single sip!"

I accepted the glass and took one sip. "Now I have lost what I desired
to retain--my respect. So long as I touched nothing at this table I held
the advantage. My name is--"

She put her hands over her ears. "Don't!"

"Very well: the woman tempted me."

"Haven't you a better epigram?"

"Perhaps I am saving them."

"For what?"

"Who knows that I am not writing a play?"

"I live here; a card will find me on Thursdays after four."

"I will come Wednesdays, thereby saving you the trouble."

"That is not wit; it is rudeness. Do not come either Thursdays or
Wednesdays."

"How shall you know who it is?"

"Trust a woman."

"Ah, here comes the butler with the liqueurs. I am glad. Presently I
should be making love to you; now I am about to be free."

"Are you quite sure?"--with a penetrating glance. I believe she knew the
power of her beauty.

"Well, I shall be free to go home where I belong,"--compromising.

And I rose. Perhaps the drollest episode of the dinner took place as I
started for the door.

"Ever heard of Starlight?" cried Uncle Daniel down the room. "No? Well,
she's down on the winter books at fifty to one. Stack your money on her
now; it's a hunch."

"Thank you," said I. I did not have the courage to ask him what a
"hunch" was.

"Good night," said I to the girl, bowing.

"Good night," smiling.

I wonder if she knew that I had stolen the rose? On the way home my mind
returned to my play. Had the fourth act gone off as smoothly as the
others?

What a girl for a man!


The curtain fell on the first act, and the thrilling sound of beating
hands came to me dimly.

"They are calling for you," said Shaw excitedly.

"What am I to do?"--nervously.

"What? Haven't you thought out something to say?"--disgustedly.

"Nary a word!"

"Well, just lead out Miss Blank and bow. You're not an old hand, so they
will let you off without a speech."

So I led the young woman who had helped to make me famous to the
footlights, and bowed. I do not know what caused me to glance up toward
the left upper proscenium, but I did so ... and felt my heart stop and
then throb violently. It was Miss Berkeley. Heaven only knows how long I
should have stared at her but for the warning pressure of the actress'
hand over mine. We disappeared behind the curtain. I was confused by
many emotions.

While the hands were shifting about the next "set" a boy handed me the
crumpled margin of a program. I unfolded it and read: "Will 'Mr.
Anonymous' do Miss Berkeley the honor of visiting her box?"

"Mr. Anonymous" presented himself forthwith. Miss Berkeley was with an
elderly woman, who proved to be her grandaunt. I was introduced.

"Aunty, this is the gentleman I told you about. Isn't it terrible?"

"Terrible? I should call it wholly enchanting. Sir, you will pardon the
child for her wildness. My nephew doesn't know as much as his celebrated
horses. Now, go ahead and talk while I look over the audience."

If only all elderly ladies were as thoughtful!

"And I have read your books; I have witnessed your play!" Miss Berkeley
said.


"Thursday, after four?"

"No. Everybody calls then. Come Wednesday."

"I have a confession to make," said I. "You dropped a rose on the floor
last night. I stole it. Must I return it to you?"

"I never do anything without a purpose," was all she said.

So I kept the rose.



THE BLIND MADONNA

THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN LOUIS


It had rained all day, a miserable drizzling rain, cold and foggy.

The horses had remained in the stables, the dogs in the kennels, and the
fox in the chicken-coop. I stole out during luncheon to take a look at
Master Reynard. He looked shamefaced and bedraggled enough, shut up in
that coop. I felt sorry for him, and told Mrs. Chadwick so.

"At least you might have given him a chicken for company," I said. "He
looked disgusted with life."

Mrs. Chadwick smiled and remarked that she would see that Master Reynard
had his chicken.

"Do you think he would prefer it broiled or baked?"

From then on I had played ping-pong, bridge and billiards, and made
violent love to three or four married women because it was safe, and
easy, and politic--and exciting. I had an idea for a story, but needed a
married woman's opinion as to how it should properly end.

The end was still hidden in a nebulous uncertainty as the colonel (our
host) led us men into the armory, with its huge fireplace, its long
basswood table upon which we had at various times carved our initials,
its gunracks and trophies of the chase. A servant passed around fine
Scotch and brandy and soda, with which we proceeded to tonic our
appetites; for dinner was to be announced within an hour. I took out my
penknife and went on with my uncompleted carving.

Renwood, who owned a fine racing-stable, brought up the subject which
had interested us during the mail hour that morning: the losses which
Cranford had suffered in an exclusive gambling house in New York City.

"Thirty thousand is a fat lump to lose this side of the Atlantic,"
Renwood observed.

"Not beyond the Rockies," added Collingwood, who had done some fancy
mining in Nevada. "I saw Judge Blank lose seventy-five thousand at faro
one night in Carson City."

"What did Cranford play,--roulette or faro?" I asked.

"The papers say roulette," replied Renwood. "It's a bad game. There is
some chance at faro, if the game is square. But roulette; bah! It is
plain robbery."

"The blind Madonna of the Pagan, as Stevenson called chance," mused the
colonel, lighting a cigar. "I often wonder if gambling is not as much a
particle of our blood as salt. Perhaps you have all wondered why I never
have kept a racing-stable, why I play bridge and poker for fun. I
remember--"

Chairs moving noisily in the colonel's direction interrupted him. I
doubled up my knife and carried my Scotch to his end of the table.

"If it's a story, Colonel," said Old Fletcher, navy, retired, "let's
have it."

The colonel took out his watch and eyed it critically.

"We have just three-quarters of an hour. Did you ever hear of how I
broke one of the roulette banks at Monte Carlo?"

"Why, you old reprobate!" exclaimed Fletcher; "you've just told us that
you never gambled."

"I merely said that I do not," replied the colonel.

"Broke the bank?" cried Renwood. "You never told me about that."

"I have never told any one. I ought not to tell you--"

"You can't back out of it now," said I.

"Not in a thousand years," echoed Fletcher. "If you took any gold away
from Monte Carlo, I want to hear all about it."

"Very well," acquiesced the colonel; "but the tale must not go beyond
this armory;" and he looked at me as he said it.

"Oh, I shouldn't mention any names," I declared; "and I should twist it
around some."

There was an interval of silence, broken only by the rattling of the
ice in Collingwood's glass.

Our host was a man of about forty-eight. His hair was white, but his
face was youthful and amazingly handsome; and I knew many a woman who
envied Mrs. Chadwick, even as many a man envied the colonel. I never saw
a handsomer pair, or a pair so wrapt up in each other. I shall let the
colonel tell his own story, which needs no embellishments from me.


In the spring of 1887 I packed up and took passage for England. The
slump in Wall Street the preceding winter had left me with only seven
thousand in cash, and this estate heavily mortgaged. The only way I
could save the seven thousand and what remained of the property was to
get away from the Street.

I made my sister a short visit. I had been one of the ushers at her
wedding, and her husband, Lord Rexford, thought I was a jolly good lad
because I was the only sober man at the bachelor dinner at the
Richmond. This was due to a little invention of my own which I acquired
at Harvard in my college days: putting plenty of olive oil on my salad.
I played golf over his lordship's course, fished and hunted over his
really fine preserves; and in return told him not to invest in Southern
Pacific till the following year.

It was my misfortune to run into Jack Smeed in London. He was a
classmate of mine, and one of the best fellows that ever lived. But he
was the most splendid spendthrift I ever came across. He showed me Paris
as few foreigners have seen it.

At that time he was a famous war correspondent, art critic and poet. He
inveigled me and my seven thousand to Dieppe. It was still summer. One
night we visited a gambling casino. I had gambled in stocks, but had
never played straight gambling, thinking it too tame a sport for a
speculator. Tame! I smile these days when I think of my adventure; but
heaven knows I did not smile then.

Very well. Smeed aroused the latent gambler's blood in my veins, and I
began to play.

"Never play a system," said Smeed one night, after having won something
like ten thousand francs. "Systems make gambling a vice. Take your
chance on any old number, if it's roulette. If you are lucky you will
win, no matter where you play. Systems and suicides were born of the
same mother."

A week later he received one of those historic telegrams, calling him to
some African outbreak, or Indian, I can't recall which. At any rate, it
left me alone in Dieppe. I had been passably fortunate at roulette; that
is to say, I invariably won back what I lost. I believe I had about five
thousand of the original seven. Dieppe is very enticing in the summer:
the bands, the hotels, the handsome women, the military and the sea.

The night after Smeed had gone I sauntered over to the tables and played
a modest stake, won and lost, won and lost again. The blind Madonna was
merely flirting with me, luring me on.

I suddenly threw restraint to the winds, and plunged. I won heavily,
and then began to lose. Unconsciously I had discovered a system, and
like a stubborn fool I stuck to it--29 and 26. Neither of these numbers
came up till more than four thousand of my capital had taken its place
at the croupier's elbow. I had been sensible enough to leave some of my
money at the hotel.

I went away from the tables, perspiring and burning with fever. I cursed
the blind Madonna, and counted over the money I had remaining. It was
exactly seven hundred. This would pay my passage home.

But the spirit of gambling ran riot in my veins. Besides, I thirsted for
revenge. What! give up? Bah! all or nothing!

I returned, and placed the seven hundred on black. I won. I stuffed the
original stake in my pocket and put the winnings on the odd. I won
again. I had twenty-one hundred; so I stopped and watched the game. I
observed a handsome young boy plunging madly; he was losing, but in a
lordly fashion.

When I got back to my room I flipped up a coin to see whether I should
stay in Dieppe or leave in the morning for Paris, where my sister was a
guest of the wife of one of the British _attachés_.

When a man gambles he wants to do it thoroughly. Heads, I was to go;
tails, I was to remain and buck the tiger. Heads it fell; and I packed
my trunk. No more of the blind Madonna for me, I vowed. I had had
enough, perhaps more than enough. But one does not lose the habit
overnight.

On the way from Dieppe to Paris a veiled woman entered my carriage,
which was third, nothing else being obtainable. Rather, she entered
immediately after I did. She was accompanied by a young man of
twenty-one or two. His face was good to look at, but at present it was
marred by sullen chagrin and despair. Occasionally I saw the girl's
hands close convulsively. These hands were so beautifully small and
white that I was anxious to see their owner's face; but this pleasure
was denied me.

Presently she addressed me in German, inquiring the time we should
reach Paris.

I don't know what possessed me, but I replied in French that I did not
understand German. She repeated the question in French, and I answered.
The young man took out his fob, and I could see that his watch was gone.

Half an hour passed. I tried to read the magazines, but invariably found
myself gazing in the direction of the girl. After a space I heard her
address the young man in German.

"What have you done? What have you done?" It was a very pathetic voice,
verging on tears.

"Curse it, what's the use of taking on so? The money's gone; sniveling
won't bring it back." He thrust his hands into his pockets and scowled
at his boots. Suddenly he raised his eyes and stared suspiciously at me.
Evidently an idea struck him. "Betty, perhaps this fellow opposite can
understand German."

I never turned a hair. Somehow I was positive that he was the girl's
brother. And just then it occurred to me that I had seen his face
before, but where, I could not tell.

"But what shall we do? You dare not write home, and I have given you all
but passage money, and I will not let you have that."

She was not German, but she spoke that language with a sweetness and
fluency impossible to describe.

"But the pater will stand another call from you," the youth declared.

"And immediately suspect the cause. Oh, that you should do such a thing!
And I trusted you! Something told me not to let you carry the money."

"Oh, bother!" This was said in good English; and I looked over the top
of my magazine.

"What made you do it?" wailed the girl. "Six thousand pounds, and father
gave five of it to you to buy consols with. It will break his heart, and
mother's too. It was all the ready money he had."

"Curse it, I'd have broke the bank in another moment. But 17, 20 and 32
never came up till all my cash was gone. Why, I had the maximum on
black, even, the second dozen, and 20, one play. If it had come up I'd
have broke the bank."

"But it didn't come up; it never does. What will you do? What excuse
will you have?"

"I can tell the pater that I was robbed,"--lamely.

"You wouldn't lie, Dick!"

"Oh, of course not. I'll get it of old Uncle Lewis. My chance at the
estate is worth twenty times six thousand. Damn the luck!" The youth
swore softly in his native tongue, and I could see the sparkle of a tear
behind the girl's veil.

Ah! I recollected. It was the young fellow whom I had seen at the
Casino, plunging heavily. These roulette wheels were pretty gruesome
things. I congratulated myself on being out of it. But I passed the
congratulations a little too early, as will be seen. Your Uncle Lewis, I
thought, would never get his pawnbroker's claws on any of my property.

When I arrived in Paris I never expected to see them again. But the
blind Madonna of the Pagan is not always concerning herself with
roulette banks.

I remained in Paris till February. My sister helped me out of her
private purse. Probably she would not have done so had she known how
deeply I had pledged the old homestead. I began to feel like myself
again. I cabled my brokers to buy July wheat, and mailed a thousand for
margin.

From Paris I went to Nice. I met some Americans there. The gambling
fever seemed to possess them all. I was dragged into the maelstrom. I
became mad and unreasoning.

I arrived at Monaco with exactly one hundred louis. By this time I had
mortgaged the estate to the last penny. I was nearing that precipice
over which all gamblers finally tumble: ruin. Ruin makes a man reckless,
defiant, devil-may-care. Heavens! what luck I had had! The gold had
melted away "like snow upon the desert's dusty face."

Right in the middle of this fever came a call from Wall Street for more
margin. I cabled back to my brokers to go, one and all, to the hottest
place they could think of. I dared not ask my sister for any assistance,
for she abhorred gambling of all kinds. Besides, I had some pride left.
You wouldn't have believed all this of me, would you? But it is all true
enough.

I had very serious thoughts of cashing in all my checks, and making the
prince pay for my funeral. I shook my fist at his yacht which lay in the
harbor below.

I made an inventory, and found that I possessed one hundred louis, and
some twenty-odd pieces of miscellaneous coin. I wandered about till
night, when I ate a remarkably good dinner, topping it off with a pint
of chambertin and champagne mixed. This gave me a splendid courage.

At ten I took a promenade through the gardens and listened to the band,
which is one of the finest in the world. They were playing Strauss
waltzes. It was warm. To the north lay the mountain, to the south the
Mediterranean trembled in the moonlight; the lights of the many private
yachts twinkled. It was a mighty fair world--to those of cool blood and
unruffled conscience. I jingled the louis, smoked three or four cigars,
then directed my steps toward the Casino.

I immediately sought out that table which is close to the famous
painting of the girl and the horse. I forget what you call the picture.
The croupier was wizened and bald. Somehow I fancied that I saw 29 in
the construction of his eyes and nose. So I placed a louis on that
number. I won. Immediately I put fifty louis on the odd and fifty on the
black, leaving my winnings on the lucky number. The ball rolled into
zero. Very coolly I searched through my pockets. I put what silver I
found on black. The ball tumbled into number 1, which is red.

I was, in the parlance of the day, absolutely strapped. My dinner had
not been paid for, even. I lit a cigar. I even recalled seeing an actor
play this piece of bravado. I arose from my chair, and flecked the ashes
from my shirt bosom. I stared at the girl and the horse for a brief
space and felt of my watch! Hello! I still had that, and with its jewels
it was worth about four hundred dollars. I hurried back to the hotel and
saw the proprietor. After an hour's dickering he consented to loan me
five hundred francs on it. I wisely paid my bill for three days in
advance.

I returned to the Casino.

"Monsieur," said a handsome woman, whose eyes had proved pitfalls for
many an unwary one, "only one louis, and look! I know a way to make
Monsieur le Croupier push the rake toward me. Eh?"

"Here," said I, giving her the louis. She flew away, and I laughed.
Gambling never had any dignity or disinterestedness.

Of all those I had left at the table only three remained. The other
faces were new. And how that pile of gold and bank-notes at the side of
the croupier had grown!

A crabbed old lady arose, crumpling her system card in her hand, and I
popped into her vacant chair. I cast about a casual glance. Seated next
to me was a very beautiful young girl. She was alone, and appeared most
emphatically out of place in this gilded Hades. Her eyes were blue and
moist and starlike, but there was fever in her cheeks and lips. There
was very little gold before her, and this dwindled as I watched. She was
playing 17, 20 and 32, persistently and doggedly; and each time the rake
drew in her money I could see her delicate nostrils quiver and her lips
draw to a thin line. From time to time she cast a hasty glance over her
shoulder, a shamed and hunted look. In watching her I came very near
forgetting why I was seated at the table.

"Make your game, gentlemen; make your game,--the game is made."

Whirr-rr-rr! went the evil sphere. It dropped into 20. The girl at my
side gasped, but too soon. The ball bounded out, and zig-zagged till it
rolled complacently into the zero. The young girl had played her last
louis and lost. A chivalric impulse came to me to thrust half of my
money toward her. I had done as much for a woman of the half-world. But
the gambler's selfishness checked the generous deed. The blind Madonna
was biding her time, as you shall presently see.

The girl arose, brushing her eyes. She turned, and in a moment had
disappeared in the moving throng of sightseers.

"Make your game, gentlemen!"

I came back to the sordidness of things. 17, 20, 32; where had I seen
this combination before?--Good heavens, that was not possible!

Where was her brother? If this should be the girl of the railway coach!
I half arose, as if to follow. Chance whispered in my ear: "Of what
use?" I laid a stake on 29. In less than forty minutes I had nothing
left but three days' board at the hotel. I fingered my gold
cuff-buttons. The rubies were at least worth two hundred francs--No; I
would not part with them. They were heirlooms. They should be buried
with me.

I forgot all about the beautiful girl and her despair. I, Robert
Chadwick, of an old and respected family, once wealthy, had reached the
end of my rope. It would make interesting reading in the papers. Not a
penny to my name, not a roof over my head, unless I swallowed my pride
and begged of my sister. I could send home for nothing, because I had
nothing.

"Make your game, gentlemen," said the bald-headed croupier.

I sat there, stupidly watching the ball. It rolled into zero, and the
fat English brewer added three hundred and fifty louis to his ill-gotten
gains. I experienced the wild desire to spring upon him and cram his
wealth down his fat throat. What right had he to win when he had
millions backing him? I felt through my clothes again, and the croupier
eyed me coldly.

"Never mind, monsieur," I said to him, with a snarling laugh; "I have
paid for my chair to-night."

"Twenty-nine wins, black and odd!"

My number! It repeated. The brewer laughed as he heard my oath.

"Here is your louis, monsieur," cried a voice over my shoulder. A louis
dropped in front of me. I looked up. It was the irregular lady to whom I
had given the gold upon entering.

I threw a kiss at her as she danced away. She had won three thousand
francs at red-and-black. I spun the coin in the air and let it rest
where it fell. From where I sat it looked as if it had split upon 17 and
20. Twenty came up, and I expected to receive at least half the stake.
But the croupier warned me back with the rake. He and an attendant
peered searchingly at the coin, then beckoned to me to observe. The
breadth of a hair separated the rim of the coin from the line. I had
lost.

"Damnation!" I arose and made my way through the crowd. I gained the
outer air, biting my mustache. Till that moment I had never measured the
extent of my vituperative vocabulary. I swore till I was out of breath.
I cursed Smeed for having aroused the gambling devil in my veins; I
cursed my lack of will power; I cursed the luck which had followed me
these ten months; I cursed Wall Street, which had been the primal means
of bringing me to this destitution. Oh, I tell you, gentlemen, that fury
burned up at least five years of my life. I must have gesticulated
extravagantly, for a guardian of the peace approached me.

"Monsieur has lost?" he inquired mildly.

"What the devil is that to you?"

"Oh, I could find monsieur a ticket back to Paris, if he so desires."

"Cheaper than burying me here, eh? Well, you go along with you; I am not
going to cut my throat this evening; nor to-morrow evening." And I made
off toward the terrace.

I sat down on one of the seats, lit my last cigar, and tried to
contemplate the mysterious beauty of a Mediterranean night. At this
moment Monte Carlo seemed to me both a heaven and a hell. Unluckily, as
I turned my head, I saw the glittering Temple of Fortune. I spat,
cursing with renewed vigor. It was surprising how well I kept up this
particular kind of monologue.

Where should I begin life anew? In the wheat country, in the cattle
country, or in the mines? I had a good knowledge of minerals and the
commercial value of each. It wasn't as if I had been brought up with a
golden spoon. I knew how to work, though I had never done a stroke
outside of Wall Street. If only I had not mortgaged the estate! Useless
recrimination! Bah! I had three days at the hotel. I could eat, and
sleep, and bathe.

The band stopped; and it was then that I became conscious of a sound
like that of sobbing. Across the path I discovered the figure of a
woman. She was weeping on her arms which were thrown over the back of
the seat. The spot was secluded. Just then some yacht below sent up a
rocket which burst above us in a warm glow--It was the young woman I had
seen at the table. I arose to approach her, when I saw something
glittering at her feet. It proved to be a solitary louis. I stooped and
picked it up, joyful at the chance of having an excuse to speak to the
girl.

"Mademoiselle, you have dropped a louis."

"I, monsieur? Oh!" Evidently she had recognized me. "I have dropped no
gold here,"--striving to check the hiccoughs into which her sobs had
turned.

"But I found it close to your feet," I explained.

"It is not mine, monsieur; it is not mine! Leave me."

"You are in trouble?" I addressed this question in English.

"You are English?"--as one who grasps at a straw.

"Almost; I am an American. I observed you at the Casino to-night. You
have suffered some losses," I suggested gently.

"That is my affair, sir!"--with sudden dignity.

"May I not offer you some aid?" I asked, forgetting that, if anything, I
was worse off than she could possibly be. I turned the louis over and
over. What a terrible thing gambling was! "My proposal is perfectly
honorable. I am a gentleman. You have committed a folly to-night, a
folly which you have never before committed and which doubtless you
will never commit again. Where is your brother? Are you here alone,
without masculine protection?"

"My brother?"

The rockets soared again; and the agony written on the girl's face
excited something stronger than pity. I fumbled in a pocket and drew
forth a card.

"My name is Chadwick; permit me--" Then I laughed insanely, even
hysterically. "I beg your pardon! I was about to offer you material
assistance. I haven't a penny in the world, and nothing of value save a
pair of cuff-buttons. In fact, I don't see how I am to leave this
wretched place."

This odd confession aroused her interest.

"You have lost all your money, too?"

Too! So I had read shrewdly. She was in the same predicament as myself.

"Yes. Won't you accept this louis?"

"A single louis?" She laughed wildly. "A single louis? What good would
that do me?"

"But where is your brother?"

"He is ill at the hotel. Oh, I am the most unhappy woman in the world!"
And her sobbing broke forth afresh.

"Pardon my former deception, but I understand German perfectly well."

"You?"

"Yes. I was a passenger in the same coach which brought you from Dieppe
to Paris last fall. Perhaps you do not remember me; but I recollect the
conversation between you and your brother. He has gambled away money
which did not belong to him--even as I have gambled away my patrimony
and the family roof."

"And I--and I have done the same thing! Thinking that perhaps I, having
never gambled, might be lucky enough to win back what my brother lost, I
have risked and lost the money realized on my jewels for passage home!"

"Use this louis to send home for money," I urged.

"I dare not, I dare not! My father would disown my brother; and I love
my brother!"

Sisters, sometimes, are very fond beings.

Suddenly she raised her despairing face to mine.

"You,--you take the louis and play it; you!"

"I?"

"Yes, yes! Certainly it must be lucky. Play it, sir; play it!"

I caught her enthusiasm and excitement.

"I will play it only on one condition."

"What is that?" she asked, rising. There was a bit of distrust in her
tones.

"That you shall--"

"Sir, you said you were honorable!"

"Let me complete the sentence," said I. "The condition is that you shall
stand beside me and tell me what to play."

She was silent.

"And share good fortune or bad."

"Good fortune or bad," she repeated. She hesitated for a moment; then
made a gesture. "What matters it now? I will go with you, and do as you
desire. I shall trust you. I believe you to be a gentleman. Come."

So together we returned to that fatal room and sought out the very
table where we had suffered our losses.

"How old are you?" she asked quietly.

"Twenty-nine."

"Play it, play it!" She flushed, and then grew as pale as the ivory ball
itself.

"Make your game, gentlemen!" cried the croupier. A phantom grin spread
over his face as he saw me. I laid the louis on 29. "The game is made!"
The ball whirred toward fortune or ruin.

I shut my eyes, and became conscious of a grip like iron on my arm. It
was the girl. Her lips were parted. You could see the whole iris, so
widely were her eyes opened. So I stared down at her, at the ringless
hand clinging to my arm. I simply would not look at the ball.

"Twenty-nine wins, black and odd!" sang out the croupier. He nodded at
me, smiling. The croupier is always gracious to those who win, strange
as this may seem.

I made as though to sweep in the winnings, but the pressure on my arm
stayed the movement.

"Leave it there, Mr. Chadwick; do not touch it!"

Ah, that blind Madonna! The number repeated, and the gold and bank notes
which were pushed in my direction seemed like a fortune to me. I turned
to her, expecting her to faint at the sight of this unprecedented luck.
No! her face was as calm as that of one of the marble Venuses. But her
hand was still tense upon my arm. As a matter of fact, my arm began to
ache, but I dared not call her attention to it.

"Wait!" she said. "Skip one."

I did so.

"I am twenty-three; play a hundred louis on that number."

I placed the stake. My hands trembled so violently that the gold tumbled
and rolled about the table. I gathered it quickly, and replaced it as
the croupier bawled out that the game was made.

What a terrible moment that was! I have seen action on the
battle-field, I have been in runaways, fires, railroad accidents, but I
shall never again know the terror of that moment. How she ever stood it
I don't know.

If you have played roulette you will have observed that sometimes the
ball will sink to the lower rim, but will not drop into the little
compartments intended for it; that is to say, it will hang as if in mid
air, all the while making the circle. Well, the ball began to play us
the agonizing trick. Twice it hung above 23; twice it threatened zero.
Heavens! how I watched the ball, how the girl watched it, how all save
the croupier watched it! Then it fell--23!

"Put it all on black," she whispered. It was all like clairvoyance.

Black won; again, and again!

"Gentlemen, the bank is closed," said the croupier, smiling. He put the
ball in the silver socket.

I had actually and incontestably (even inconceivably!) broken the bank!
I was, for the moment, dumfounded. How they crowded around us, the
aristocrats, the half-world, the confirmed gamblers, the sightseers and
the hangers-on! From afar I could hear the music of the band. They were
playing a _polonaise_ of Chopin's. I was like one in a dream.

"They are asking you where to send the gold," she said.

"The gold? Oh, yes! to the hotel, to the hotel!"--finding my senses.

An attendant put our winnings into a basket, and, in company with two
guardians of the peace, or gendarmes, if you will call them so, preceded
us to the hotel.

"To your brother's room?" I asked.

"At once! I feel as if I were about to faint. Mr. Chadwick, my name is
Carruthers. Will you go to my brother's room with me and explain all
this to him?"

I nodded, and was about to follow her with the attendant who still
carried our gold, when a voice struck my ear,--a voice which filled me
with surprise, chagrin and terror.

"So, I have found you!"

A handsome woman of thirty-five stood at my side. Anger and wrath lay
visibly written on her face and in her eyes. My sister! She did not
appear to notice the young girl beside me, who instinctively shrank from
me at the sound of my sister's voice.

"So, I have found you! I had a good mind to leave you here, you wretched
boy! You have wasted your patrimony, you have lost over these abominable
gaming-tables the house in which we both were born. I have heard all;
not a word of excuse! And yet I am here to give you money enough to
reach home with. I heard all about you at Nice."

In spite of my keen chagrin, I found my voice.

"My dear sister, I thank you for your assistance, but I do not need it.
I have just this moment broken one of the banks at the Casino." I
beckoned the attendant to approach. I lifted back the cover. My sister
gasped.

"Merciful heavens! how much is in there?" she asked, overcome at the
sight of so much money. The sudden transition from wrath to amazement
made me laugh.

"Something like seventy thousand, my dear Nan."

"Pounds?" she cried.

"Dollars!"

"And who is this young woman?"--suddenly, and with not unjust suspicion.

Miss Carruthers flushed. My sister had a way of being extraordinarily
insolent upon occasion. But evidently Miss Carruthers came of equally
distinguished blood. She lifted her head proudly, and her eyes flashed.

"As I have no desire to enter into your family affairs," she said
haughtily to me, "I beg of you to excuse me." She made as though to
leave.

"Wait!" I implored, striving to detain her. Somehow I felt that if she
went I should never see her again.

"Let me go, Mr. Chadwick; I have only the kindest regards for you."

"But the money?"

"The money?" echoed my sister.

"Nan," said I indignantly, "but for this young lady, who, I dare say,
comes of as good a family as ours-- Well, if it hadn't been for her you
might have carried me home in a pine box."

"Robert!"--aghast.

"Miss Carruthers is a lady," I declared vehemently.

"Carruthers? You are English?" asked my sister, her frown smoothing.
"You will certainly pardon me if I have been rude; but this brother of
mine--"

"Is a very good gentleman," Miss Carruthers interrupted. "My name is now
known to you; yours--"

"Is Lady Rexford,"--with a tilt of the chin.

Miss Carruthers bent forward.

"Of Suffolk?"

"Yes-- Merciful heavens! you are of the Carruthers who are my neighbors
when I am at home! I know the judge, your father, well."

"My father!" The burden of her trouble came back to her, the reaction
from the intense excitement of the preceding hour. She reached out her
arms blindly, and would have fallen had not my sister caught her.

"You wretch!" she cried, "what have you been doing to this girl?"

"Don't be a fool, Nan! I haven't been doing anything. But don't let's
have a scene here. Where's your room?"

We were still in the parlor of the hotel, and many curious glances were
directed at us. The attendant had set down his heavy and precious
burden, and was waiting patiently for further directions from me.

"Don't scold him," said Miss Carruthers; "for he has been very good to
me." She stretched out a small white hand, and I clasped it. "Mr.
Chadwick, make me a solemn promise."

"What is it?"--wondering.

"Promise me never to play games of chance again. Think of what might
have happened if God hadn't been so good to us after our having been so
bad."

I promised. Then we went to my sister's room, and the whole story came
out.


The colonel abruptly concluded his narrative.

"Here, here!" we cried; "this will never do. What was the end?"

"What happened to young Carruthers?" I demanded, with the novelist's
love for details.

"That wasn't his name," replied the colonel, smiling.

"And what became of the girl?" asked Fletcher. "You can't choke us off
that way, Bob. What became of the girl?"

"Seventy thousand dollars; I believe you're codding us a whole lot,"
said Collingwood.

"You're a fakir if you don't tell us what became of the girl," Fletcher
again declared persistently.

"Very well," laughed the colonel; "I'm a fakir."

But the very ease with which he acknowledged this confirmed my
suspicions that he had told only the plain truth. At this moment the
butler appeared in the doorway, and we all arose.

"Madam desires me to announce that dinner is served."

The Scotch and the brandy saved the colonel any further embarrassment;
we were all ravenously hungry. On our way to the drawing-room where we
were to join the ladies, Fletcher began hoping for a clear, cold day for
the morrow; and the colonel escaped.

It was my happiness to take in the hostess that night. She was toying
with her wine-glass, when I observed that the bracelet on her beautiful
arm had a curious bangle.

"I thought bangles passé," I said.

"This isn't a fad." She extended her arm or the bracelet (I don't know
which) for my inspection.

"Why," I exclaimed breathlessly, "it is a miniature French louis!" A
thousand fancies flooded my brain.

"Look," she said. She touched a spring, and the bangle opened,
discovering the colonel's youthful face.

"How came you to select a louis for a bangle?" I asked.

"That is a secret."

"Oh, if it's a secret, far be it that I should strive to peer within.
The colonel is a lucky dog. If I were half as lucky, I shouldn't be
writing novels for a living."

"Who knows?" she murmured, a far-away light in her glorious eyes.



NO CINDERELLA

THE ADVENTURE OF THE SATIN SLIPPER


I

"Madam, have you lost a slipper?" I asked politely. I held toward her
the dainty shoe that might very well have appareled the foot of Venus;
only one can not quite lift the imagination to the point of picturing
Venus rising out of the Cyprian wave in a pair of ball-room slippers.

"I am not yet addressed as madam," said she, calmly drawing her skirts
about her feet, which were already securely hidden.

"Not yet? Ah, that is very fortunate, indeed. I see I am not too late."

"Sir!"

But I saw no anger on her face. There was, however, a mixture of
amusement, _hauteur_ (that darling word of the lady novelists!) and
objection. She hadn't the least idea who I was, and I was not going to
tell her for some time to come. I was a prodigal, with a few new ideas.

"I meant nothing more serious than that you might happen to be
Cinderella," said I. "What in the world should I do with Cinderella's
slipper, once she was married to the prince?"

She swayed her fan indolently, but made no effort to rise. I looked upon
this as rather encouraging.

"It would be somewhat embarrassing to ask a married woman if she were
Cinderella," I proceeded.

"I should not particularize," she observed; "married or single, it would
be embarrassing."

She was charming; a Watteau shepherdess in a fashionable ball-gown. She
was all alone in the nook at the farther end of the conservatory; and I
was glad. Her eyes were brown, with a glint of gold around the pupils, a
kaleidoscopic iris, as it were. She possessed one of those adorable
chins that defy the future to double them; smooth and round, such as a
man delights to curve his palm under; and I might search the several
languages I know to describe fitly her red mouth. Her hair was the color
of a fallen maple-leaf, a rich, soft, warm October brown, streaked with
red. Patience! You may laugh, but, for my part, give me a dash of red
above the alabaster brow of a pretty woman. It is a mute language which
speaks of a sparkling intellect; and whenever I seek the exhilaration
that rises from a witty conflict, I find me a woman with a glimmer of
red in her hair.

"Well, sir?" said she, breaking in upon my train of specific adjectives.

"Pardon me! I was thinking how I should describe you were I a successful
novelist, which I declare I am not."

"You certainly have all the assurance of a writer of books, to speak to
me in this manner."

"My assurance is based wholly upon the possession of a truant slipper. I
am bold; but the end justifies the means,"--having in mind her foot.

Her shoulders drew together and fell.

"I am searching for the Cinderella who has lost a slipper; and I am
going to call you Cinderella till I have proof that you are not she whom
I seek."

"It is very kind of you," she replied, with a hint of sunshine
struggling at the corners of her lips. "Have I ever met you
before?"--puzzling her arched brows.

"Memory does not follow reincarnation," I answered owlishly; "but I dare
say that I often met you at the Temple of Venus in the old, old days."

She appeared slightly interested.

"What, may I ask, was your business in the old, old days?"

"I played the cithern."

"And I?"

"I believe you distributed flowers."

"Do you know the hostess?"--with solemn eyes.

"Oh, yes; though she hasn't the slightest recollection of me. But
that's perfectly natural. At affairs like this the hostess recalls
familiarly to her mind only those who sat at her dinner-table earlier in
the evening. All other invitations are paid obligations."

"You possess some discernment, at least."

"Thank you."

"But I wish I knew precisely what you are about,"--her eyes growing
critical in their examination.

"I am seeking Cinderella," once more holding out the slipper. Then I
looked at my watch. "It is not yet twelve o'clock."

"You are, of course, a guest here,"--ruminating, "else you could not
have passed the footman at the door."

"Mark my attire; or, candidly, do I look like a footman?"

"No-o; I can't say you do; but in Cinderella, don't you know, the
footman carried the slipper."

"Oh, I'm the prince," I explained easily; "I dismissed the footman at
the door."

"Cinderella," she mused. She nestled her feet, and looked thoughtfully
at her delicate hands. I could see she was at that instant recalling the
picture of Cinderella and the ash-heap.

"What was the prince's name?"

"In this case it is just a prince of good fellows."

"I should like some witnesses." She gazed at me curiously, but there was
no distrust in her limpid eye, as clear and moteless as Widow Wadman's.

"Isn't it fine," I cried with a burst of confidence, "to possess the
courage to speak to strangers?"

"It is equally courageous to listen," was the retort.

"I knew I should like you!"--with enthusiasm.

She stirred uneasily. It might have been that her foot had suddenly
grown chilled. A storm was whirling outside, and the pale, shadowy
flakes of snow brushed the windows.

I approached her, held up the slipper and contemplated it with wrinkled
brow. She watched me covertly. What a slipper! So small and dainty was
it, so light and airy, that had I suddenly withdrawn my hand I verily
believe it would have floated. It was part satin and part skin, and the
light, striking the inner side of it, permeated it with a faint, rosy
glow.

"What a darling thing it is!"--unable to repress my honest admiration.
"Light as one of those snowflakes out yonder in the night. What a proud
arch the instep has! Ah, but it is a high-bred shoe, fit to tread on the
heart of any man. Lovely atom!"

She stirred again. I went on:

"It might really belong to a princess, but only in a fairy-book; for all
the princesses I have ever seen couldn't put a hand in a shoe like this,
much less a foot. And when I declare to you, upon my honor, that I have
met various princesses in my time, you will appreciate the compliment I
pay to Cinderella."

The smile on her lips wavered and trembled, like a puff of wind on
placid water, and was gone.

"Leave it," she said, melting, "and be gone."

"I couldn't. It wouldn't be gallant at all, don't you know. The prince
himself put the slipper on Cinderella."

"But this is a modern instance, and a prosaic world. Men are no longer
gallants, but business men or club gossips; and you do not look like a
business man."

"I never belonged to a club in my life."

"You do not look quite so unpopular as all that."

A witty woman! To be pretty and witty at the same time--the gifts of
Minerva and Venus in lavishment!

"Besides, it is all very improper," she added.

"The shoe?" I cried.

"No; the shoe is proper enough."

"You admit it, then!"--joyfully.

"I refer to the dialogue between two persons who have not been
introduced."

"Convention! Formality! Detestable things, always setting Romance at
arm's length, and making Truth desire to wear fashionable clothes."

"Nevertheless, this is improper," she repeated.

"Why, it doesn't matter at all," I said negligently. "We both have been
invited to this house to dance; that is to say, our hostess would not
invite any objectionable persons. What you mean to say is,
unconventional. And I hate convention and formality."

"Are you a poet, then?"--with good-natured derision.

"Oh, no; I have an earning capacity and a pleasant income."

She really laughed this time; and I vaguely recalled pearls and coral
and murmuring brooks.

"Won't you please do that again?" I asked eagerly.

But there must have been something in my gaze that frightened Mirth
away, for she frowned.

Faintly came the music from the ball-room. They were playing the waltzes
from _The Queen's Lace Handkerchief_. The agony of an extemporization
seized me.

"Strauss!" I cried, flourishing the slipper. "The blue Danube, the
moonshine on the water, the tittle-tattle of the leaves, a man and woman
all, all alone! Romance, love, off to the wars!..."

"It is a far cry to Cinderella," she interrupted.

"Ah, yes. Music moves me so easily."

"Indeed! It is scarcely noticeable,"--slyly.

"Are you Cinderella, then?"

"I do not say so."

"Will you dance with me to prove it one way or the other?"

"Certainly not,"--rather indignantly.

"Why not?"

"There are any number of reasons," she replied.

"Name just one."

"I do not know you."

"You ought to,"--with a double meaning which went for nothing.

"My angle of vision obscures that idea."

"If you will stand up...." I hesitatingly suggested.

"I am perfectly comfortable where I am,"--with an oblique glance at the
doorway.

"I am convinced that you are the Cinderella; I can not figure it out
otherwise."

"Do not figure at all; simply leave the shoe."

"It is too near twelve o'clock for that. Besides, I wish to demolish the
pumpkin theory. It's all tommy-rot about changing pumpkins into
chariots, unless you happen to be a successful pie-merchant."

She bit her lips and tapped her cheek with the fan. (Did I mention the
bloomy cheeks?)

"Perhaps I am only one of Cinderella's elder sisters."

"That would be very unfortunate. You will recollect that the elder
sisters cut off their--"

"Good gracious!"

"Cut off their toes in the mad effort to capture the prince," I
continued.

"But I am not trying to capture any prince, not even a fairy prince;
and I wouldn't--"

"Cut off your toes?" I suggested.

"Prolong this questionable conversation, only--"

"You can not stop it till you have the shoe," I said.

"Only," she went on determinedly, "I am so comfortable here that I do
not care to return to the ball-room just at present."

"I never expected such a full compliment;" and I made her my most
engaging bow.

"I am afraid you will have to cut off _your_ toes to get into _that_
shoe,"--maliciously.

"I could expect no less than that from you. You keep coming closer to my
ideal every moment."

She shrugged disdainfully and assumed a bored expression that did not
deceive me in the least.

"Since you are so determined to continue this dialogue, go and fetch
some one you know. An introduction is absolutely necessary." She seemed
immovable on this point.

"And the moment I turned my back--presto! away would go Cinderella, and
I should be in the dark as much as ever regarding the pumpkins. No, I
thank you. Be good, and confess that you are Cinderella."

"Sir, this really ceases to be amusing." Her fan closed with a snap.

"It was serious the moment I entered and saw you," I replied frankly.

"I ought to be annoyed excessively. You are a total stranger; I declare
that I never saw you before in all my life. It is true that we are
guests in the same house, but that does not give privilege to this
particular annoyance. Here I am, talking to you as if it were distinctly
proper."

"I can not say that you have put your foot in it yet,"--having recourse
to the slipper again. I was having a fine time.

She smiled in spite of the anger which sparkled in her eyes. Of course,
if she became downright angry I should tell who I was, only it would
spoil everything.

"And you do not know me?" I said dejectedly. "Do you mean to tell me
that you have never dreamed of any Prince Charming?"

"I can not say I have,"--icily.

A flock of young persons came in noisily, but happily they contented
themselves with the bowl of lemon-punch at the other end of the
conservatory.

I sat down in the Roman chair which stood at the side of the
window-seat. I balanced the slipper on the palm of my hand. Funny, isn't
it, how much a woman will put up with rather than walk about in her
stockings. And I wasn't even sure that she had lost a slipper! I
wondered, too, where all her dancing partners were.

"You say you do not know me," I began. "Let me see,"--narrowing my eyes
as one does who attempts to recall a dim and shadowy past. "Didn't you
wear your hair in two plaits down your back?"

"That is regular; it is still the custom; it proves nothing."

"Let me recall a rambling old garret where we used to hold shows."

Her fan opened again, and the tendrils at her temples moved gently.

"Once we played the _Sleeping Beauty_, and you said that I should always
be Prince Charming. How easily we forget!"

She inclined forward a bit. There were signs of reviving interest. She
began to scrutinize me; hitherto she had surveyed and examined me.

"Once--"

"Say 'Once upon a time'; all fairy stories begin that way."

"Thank you; I stand corrected. Well, once upon a time you fell down
these same garret stairs; and if you will lift that beautiful lock of
hair from your right temple I shall see a scar. I am sure of your
identity."

Unconsciously her hand strayed to her temple, and dropped.

"Whoever you are, you seem acquainted with certain youthful adventures.
But some one might have told you these things, thinking to annoy me."
Then the light in her eyes grew dim with the struggle of retrospection,
the effort to pierce the veil of absent years, and to place me among the
useless, forgotten things of youth, or rather childhood. "No, I can not
place you. Please tell me who you are, if I have ever known you."

"Not just now. Mystery arouses a woman's curiosity, and I frankly
confess that I wish to arouse yours. You are nearly, if not quite,
twenty-four."

"One does not win a woman's interest by telling her her age."

"But I add that you do not look it."

"That is better. Now, let me see the slipper," holding out her hand.

"To no one but Cinderella. I'd be a nice prince, wouldn't I, to
surrender the slipper without finding Cinderella!"

"In these days no woman would permit you to put on her slipper, unless
you were her husband or her brother."

"No? Then I have a much perverted idea of society."

"And,"--passing over my remark, "she would rather sit in a corner all
the evening."

"But think of the fun you are missing!"

"To be frank with you, I am not missing very much fun. I was at a dance
last night, and the novelty begins to pall."

"At least, then, you will admit that I have proved a diversion."

"It will cost me nothing to admit that; but I think you are rude not to
tell me right away who you are."

She looked out of the blurred windows. Her profile was beautiful to
contemplate, and perhaps she knew it.

"Why don't you seek a footman," she asked, after a pause, "and have him
announce that you have found a slipper?"

"Have you no more regard for romance than that?"

"You said that I was twenty-four years old. I have less regard for
romance than for propriety."

"There you go again, battening down the hatches of convention! I am
becoming discouraged."

"Is it possible? I have long since been."

She had always been a match for me.

Enter upon the scene (as they say in the play-books) a flurried partner,
rather young and tender to be thrown in company with twenty-four years
of sparkling femininity. Well, that was his affair; I didn't propose to
warn him.

"Oh, here you are!" he cried, brightening. "I've been looking for you
everywhere,"--making believe that something was the matter with his
gloves.

"Do you know this gentleman?" she asked, pointing to me with her fan.

I felt a nervous tremor. I wondered if she had been waiting for a moment
like this.

The young fellow held out his hand; his smile was pleasant and
inquiring.

"Wait a moment," she interrupted wickedly. "I am not introducing you. I
am simply asking you if you know him."

Wasn't this a capital revenge?

"I ... I can't say that I ever saw the gentleman before," he stammered,
mightily bewildered. Then all at once his face grew red with anger. He
even balled his fists. "Has he dared--"

"No, no! I only wished to know if you knew him. Since you do not there
is nothing more to be done about it."

"But if he has insulted--"

"Sh! That's not a nice word to hear in a conservatory," she warned.

"But I do not understand."

"It is not necessary. If you do not take me instantly to the ball-room
you will lose the best part of the dance."

She rose, and then I saw two little blue slippers peeping out from under
the silken skirts.

"You might have told me," I said reproachfully. "And now I do not
believe any other Cinderella will do. Young man," said I, holding out
the slipper for his inspection, "I was just paying this lady the very
great compliment of thinking that this might be her shoe."

"And it isn't," she returned. "Now, in honor to yourself, what is my
name?"

"You are Nancy Marsden."

"And you?"

"Your humble servant,"--bending.

"I shall soon find out."

"It is quite possible."

And then, with a hand on her escort's arm, she laughed, and walked (or
should I say glided? It seems a sacrilege to say that so enchanting a
creature walked) out of the conservatory, leaving me gazing ruefully and
mournfully at the little white slipper in my hand.

Now, where in the world was Cinderella?


II

I thrust the slipper into the tail of my coat, and strolled over to the
marble bench which partly encircled the fountain. The tinkle of the
falling water made a pleasant sound. Ten years! I had been away ten
years. How quickly youth vanishes down the glimmering track of time!
Here I was at thirty, rather old, too, for that number; and here was
that pretty girl of fourteen grown into womanhood, a womanhood that
would have stirred the pulses of many a man less susceptible than
myself. That she was unmarried somehow made me glad, though why I can
not say, unless it be that vanity survives everything.

I had been violently in love with her; at that time she hadn't quite
turned six. Then I had lorded it over her tender eighth year, and from
the serene height of twenty I had looked down upon her fourteen in a
fatherly, patronizing fashion. As I recalled her new glory the truth
came upon me that she was like to pay me back with interest for all the
snubs I had given her.

Off to Heidelberg and Bonn and Berlin! Student days! Heigh-ho! Ten years
is a long time. I might still have been an alien, an exile, but for my
uncle's death and that the lonely aunt wanted a man about. (Not that I
was much of a man to have about.) In all these ten years I had not once
visited my native land, scandalous as it may seem; but I had always
celebrated the Fourth of July in my garden, celebrated it religiously,
too, and followed the general elections.

All these people (or nearly all of them) I had known in my youth; and
now not one of them recognized me. There was a pang in this knowledge.
No one likes to be completely forgotten, save the absconding bank-clerk
and the defeated candidate. I had made no effort to recall myself to
those I met. My hostess thoughtlessly supposed that I should take upon
myself the labor of renewing acquaintance; but I found this rather
impossible. Everything was changed, the people and the city; the one had
added to its height and the other to its girth. So I simply wandered
about the familiar rooms summoning up the pleasant ghosts of bygone
days. Then came the slipper episode--and Nancy!

Home again! No more should the sea call, nor the sky, nor the hills; I
was home again, for ever and for ever, so I hoped.

And then I glanced up from my reverie to behold a woman, fair, fat and
forty-eight, seat herself breathlessly on the far end of the bench. I
recognized her instantly: she had been one of the salient features of my
childhood, only a little farther removed than my mother herself. She
was florid in her October years; twenty years ago she had been plump and
pretty; now she was only pretty plump. But a rollicking soul beamed from
her kindly eyes. So I bethought me of the slipper, dragged it forth,
rose and approached.

"Madam," said I gravely, "are you Cinderella?"

She balanced her lorgnette and stared, first at the slipper, then at me.

"Young man, don't be silly. Do I look like a woman who could wear a
little thing like that? Run along with you, and don't make fun of poor
old women. If there is any Cinderella around here I'm only her
godmother."

For a moment I stood abashed. Here was one who had outlived vanity, or
at least had discovered its worthlessness.

"Have you no vanity, madam?" I asked solemnly.

"If I have it has ceased to protrude. Go and give the slipper to a
footman, and don't keep some girl hopping around on one foot."

I was almost tempted to tell her who I was.

"Madam, there was a time"--I began.

"Oh, yes; thirty years ago I might have claimed the slipper; I might
even have worn it,"--complacently.

"Permit me to conclude: there was a time when you held me on your
knees."

"What?"

"It is indeed so."

"Confess, then, that you were properly spanked.... Heavens and earth,
wherever did you come from?" she exclaimed suddenly. "Sit down beside me
instantly!" And she called me by name.

It was the third time I had heard it that night. I had heard it so
infrequently that I liked the sound of it.

"And it is really you?" pushing me off at arm's length the better to
observe the changes that had taken place. "You grow more like your
father; if you hadn't that beard you would be the exact picture of your
father when he married your mother. Oh, what a pretty wedding it was!"

"I shall have to take your word for it. I was up and about, however, at
the tin anniversary."

"I remember. Oh, but what a racket you made among the pans!" She laughed
softly at the recollection.

"I was properly spanked that night," I admitted.

And straightway we uncovered thirty and twenty years respectively.

"By the way," said I carelessly, "is Nancy Marsden engaged to be
married?"

"Nancy? She never will be, to my idea. She recently turned down a real
duke: a duke that had money and everything."

"And everything: is that castles?" I inquired.

"Nonsense!"

"Well, between you and me and the gatepost, Miss Nancy will be engaged
within two months."

"No!"--excitedly.

"It is written."

"And to whom, pray?"

"It's the woman's place to announce an engagement. But I know the man."

"He is worthy?"

"Oh, as men go."

Then the water-clock in the fountain struck twelve, and I sprang up.

"Mercy, I'll never find any Cinderella at this rate. All is lost if she
escapes me."

I kissed her hand gratefully, and made off.

I immediately ran into a young miss who, judging from her short dresses,
was a guest on sufferance, not having "come out" yet.

"Are you Cinderella?" I asked, with all the gravity I could assume.

"Thank you, sir, but mama will not permit me," her cheeks growing
furiously red.

I passed on, willing to wager that the little girl had understood me to
ask her to dance with me.

How I searched among the young faces; many I saw that I knew, but my
confounded beard (which I determined to cut the very next morning) hid
me as completely as the fabled invisible cloak. I wondered where Jim
was--Nancy's brother. I had seen him in Europe, and I knew if he were
anywhere around there would be one to clap me on the back and bid me
welcome home. This prodigal business isn't what it's cracked up to
be.... Somehow I felt that within a few days I should be making love
again to Nancy; and I may truthfully add that I dreaded the ordeal while
I courted it.

What if she refused me in the end? I cast out at once this horrific
thought as unworthy a man of my address.


Under the stairway there was a cozy corner. Upon the cushions I saw a
dark-haired girl in red. Now, when they haven't a dash of red in their
hair I like it in their dress. She was pretty, besides; so I stopped.

"Pardon me, but won't you tell me if you are Cinderella?"--producing the
slipper.

"I am,"--with an amused smile.

"Then there _is_ a Cinderella, after all?" I cried joyfully. "Where are
the pumpkins?" glancing about.

"I believe that several of them have gone hunting for the slipper."

I was delighted. Three witty women all in one night, and two of them
charming. It was more than a man had any right to expect.

"You have really and truly lost a slipper?"

"Really and truly; only I am _not_ the Cinderella you are looking for."
From under her skirt there came into view (immediately to disappear) a
small scarlet slipper.

I was very much taken aback.

"Red?" said I. "Ah, I have it. The wicked fairy has cast a spell over
the slipper and turned it white."

"That would simplify everything ... if we lived in fairy-tale times. Oh,
dear, there are no fairies nowadays, and I wonder how in the world I am
to get home."

"You have the pumpkins and the mice."

"Only the pumpkins; it is after twelve, and all the mice have gone
home."

"Haven't you an incantation?"

She stretched out her arms dramatically. "Be gone, young man, be gone!"

"Very good," said I; "but I am impervious to incantations of that
sort."

"I wonder where the other Cinderella is?"--adroitly. It was quite
evident that she wanted to be rid of me.

If I hadn't met Nancy--!

"Supposing I try this white slipper on your foot?"

"It is not a supposable matter."

"Would that I possessed a cobbler's license!"--sighing.

She laughed. "You wouldn't be half so nice."

This was almost the beginning of an enchantment.

"If you will turn your head toward the wall I'll try on the slipper. I
am curious to learn if there is a girl here who has a smaller foot than
I."

"Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!"

"'Tisn't vanity; it's curiosity; and maybe my foot is getting cold."

I took some pillows and piled them on the floor. "How will this do?"

"Since I can not have the slipper I shall not move. Besides, I am
sitting on the unshod foot. Hadn't you better sit down here beside me
and give an account of yourself and what you have been doing all these
ten years?"

"You know me?" genuinely astonished.

"But you do not know me?"

"No; it's a terrible thing to admit, but I do not recognize you."

"Don't you remember Betty Lee?"

"Betty Lee? That homely little girl turned into a goddess? Small wonder
that I didn't recognize you."

"My girl friends all say that I haven't changed a bit in ten years."

"Envy, malice, jealousy! But it is odd that you should recognize me and
that Nancy Marsden should forget me."

"I used to detest you; we forget only those we loved."

Enter one of the pumpkins, a young fellow about twenty. Hang it, I was
always being interrupted by some callow youth!

"Here's your confounded shoe, Bett. I've had a deuce of a time finding
it." He tossed the slipper cavalierly into her lap.

"Young man," said I severely, "you will never succeed with the ladies."

"The lady happens to be my sister,"--haughtily.

"Pardon me!"--contritely. "I should have remembered that sisters don't
belong."

The girl laughed and pushed out one of the pillows. Then she gave me the
slipper.

"We'll not haggle over a cobbler's license," she said.

I knelt and put on the slipper. Only one thing marred the completeness
of my happiness: the slipper wasn't a blue one.

The girl stood up and shook the folds in her dress, then turned coldly
on her brother.

"You are a disgrace to the family, Bob."

"Oh, fudge! Come on along to supper; it's ready, and I'm half starved."

Brothers don't belong, either.

"I wish you luck with the white slipper," said Betty, as she turned to
leave. "Call on me soon, and I'll forgive all the past."

"That I shall." But I made up my mind that I should call on Nancy
first. Otherwise it would be dangerous.

I stood alone. It rather hurt to think one girl should remember me and
that the other should absolutely forget. But supper brought me out of my
cogitations. So once again I put away the slipper and looked at my
supper-card. I was destined to sit at table four. I followed the
pilgrims out to worship at the shrine of Lucullus.

Evidently there was no Cinderella; or, true to her condition in life,
she was at this moment seated before her ash-heap, surrounded by
strutting and cooing doves. Well, well, I could put the slipper on the
mantel at home; it would be a pleasant reminder.

I found table four. There were four chairs, none of them occupied; and
as I sat down I wondered if any one I knew would sit down with me.

A heavy hand fell rudely upon my shoulder.

"What do you mean, sir, by entering a gentleman's house in this
manner?" demanded a stern voice.

I turned, my ears burning hotly.

"You old prodigal! You old man-without-a-country! You pirate!" went on
the voice. "How dared you sneak in in this fashion? Nan, what would you
do with him if you were in my place?" The voice belonged to Nancy
Marsden's brother.

"I have no desire to put myself in your place," said the only girl who
_could_ be Cinderella.

"I wouldn't bother about _his_ slipper, not if he went barefooted all
his life," said I.

And then, and then, and then! What a bombardment! How pleased I was! I
was inordinately happy, and I didn't eat a thing till the salad.

"How could you!" said Nancy.

"But you didn't recognize me,"--with a show of defiance; "and I expected
that you would be the very first."

"Cut off that horrid beard."

"To-morrow morning."

"And never wear it again."

"Never."

"Have you found Cinderella?" Nancy asked presently.

"No; but I haven't given up all hope."

"Let me see it."

With some hesitance I placed the slipper in her hand. She looked at it
sharply.

"Good gracious!"

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"Why, this slipper has _never_ been worn at all. It is brand new!" She
was greatly bewildered.

"I know it," I replied; "I brought it myself."

Then how she laughed! And when I asked her to do it again she did, even
more heartily than before.

"You will always be the same,"--passing the slipper back to me.

"No, I want to be just a little different from now on,"--inscrutably.

She gave me an indescribable glance.

"Give the slipper to me."

"To keep?"

"Yes, to keep. Somehow, I rather fancy I should like to try it
on,"--demurely.

So I gave her the slipper.



TWO CANDIDATES

AN ADVENTURE IN LOVE AND POLITICS


I

To begin with, I am going to call things by their real name. At first
glance this statement will give you a shiver of terror, that is, if you
happen to be a maiden lady or a gentleman with reversible cuffs. But
your shivers will be without reason. Prue may read, and modest Prue's
mama; for it isn't going to be a naughty story; on the contrary,
grandma's spring medicines are less harmless. Yet, there is a parable to
expound and a moral to point out; but I shall leave these to your own
discernment.

It has always appealed to me as rather a silly custom on a
story-teller's part to invent names for the two great political parties
of the United States; and for my part, I am going to call a Democrat a
Democrat and a Republican a Republican, because these titles are not so
hallowed in our time as to be disguised in print and uttered in a bated
breath. There is no _lèse-majesté_ in America.

Men inclined toward the evil side of power will be found in all parties,
and always have been. Unlike society, the middle class in politics
usually contains all the evil elements. In politics the citizen becomes
the lowest order, and the statesman the highest; and, thanks to the
common sense of the race, these are largely honest and incorruptible.
When these become disintegrated, a republic falls.

Being a journalist and a philosopher, I look upon both parties with
tolerant contempt. The very nearness of some things disillusions us; and
I have found that only one illusion remains to the newspaper man, and
that is that some day he'll get out of the newspaper business. I vote as
I please, though the family does not know this. The mother is a
Republican and so is the grandmother; and loving peace in the house, I
dub myself a Republican till that moment when I enter the voting-booth.
Then I become an individual who votes as his common sense directs.

The influence of woman in politics is no inconsiderable matter. The
great statesman may flatter himself that his greatness is due to his
oratorical powers; but his destiny is often decided at the
breakfast-table. Why four-fifths of the women lean toward Republicanism
is something no mere historian can analyze.

In my town politics had an evil odor. For six years a Democrat had been
mayor, and for six years the town had been plundered. For six years the
Republicans had striven, with might and main, to regain the power ...
and the right to plunder. It did not matter which party ruled, graft
(let us omit the quotation marks) was the tocsin. The citizens were
robbed, openly or covertly, according to the policy of the party in
office. There was no independent paper in town; so, from one month's end
to another it was leaded editorial vituperation. Then Caliban revolted.
An independent party was about to be formed.

The two bosses, however, were equal to the occasion. They immediately
hustled around and secured as candidates for the mayoralty two prominent
young men whose honesty and integrity were unimpeachable. Caliban, as is
his habit, sheathed his sword and went back to his bench, his desk, or
whatever his occupation was.

On the Republican side they nominated a rich young club-man. Now, as you
will readily agree, it is always written large on the political banner
that a man who is rich has no incentive to become a grafter. The public
is ever willing to trust its funds to a millionaire. The Democrats, with
equal cunning, brought forward a brilliant young attorney, whose income
was rather moderate but whose ability and promise were great. The
Democratic organs hailed his nomination with delight.

"We want one of the people to represent us, not one of the privileged
class." You see, there happened to be no rich young Democrat available.

These two candidates were close personal friends. They had been chums
from boyhood and had been graduated from the same college. They belonged
to the same clubs, and were acknowledged to be the best horsemen in
town. As to social prominence, neither had any advantage over the other,
save in the eyes of matrons who possessed marriageable (and extravagant)
daughters. Williard, the Republican nominee, was a handsome chap,
liberal-minded and generous-hearted, without a personal enemy in the
world. I recollect only one fault: he loved the world a little too well.
The opposition organs, during the heat of the campaign, dropped vague
hints regarding dinners to singers and actresses and large stakes in
poker games. Carrington, his opponent, was not handsome, but he had a
fine clean-cut, manly face, an intrepid eye, a resolute mouth, and a
tremendous ambition. He lived well within his income, the highest
recommendation that may be paid to a young man of these days.

He threw himself into the fight with all the ardor of which his nature
was capable; whereas Williard was content to let the machine direct his
movements. The truth is, Williard was indifferent whether he became
mayor or not. To him the conflict was a diversion, a new fish to
Lucullus; and when the Democratic organs wrote scathing editorials about
what they termed his profligate career, he would laugh and exhibit the
articles at the club. It was all a huge joke. He made very few speeches,
and at no time could he be forced into the foreign districts. He
complained that his olfactory nerve was too delicately educated. The
leaders swallowed their rancor; there was nothing else for them to do.
In Williard's very lack of ambition lay his strength. Poverty would have
made a great man out of him; but riches have a peculiar way of numbing
the appreciation of the greater and simpler things in life.

Carrington went everywhere; the Poles hurrahed for him, the Germans, the
Irish, the Huns and the Italians. And he made no promises which he did
not honestly intend to fulfil. To him the fight meant everything; it
meant fame and honor, a comfortable addition to his income, and
Washington as a finality. He would purify the Democrats while he
annihilated the pretensions of the Republicans. He was what historians
call an active dreamer, a man who dreams and then goes forth to
accomplish things. His personality was engaging.

Besides all this (for the secret must be told) Carrington was in love
and wished to have all these things to lay at the feet of his beloved,
even if she returned them. You will regularly find it to be true that
the single man is far more ambitious than his married brother. The
latter invariably turns over the contract to his wife.

Williard was deeply in love, too, with Senator Gordon's lovely daughter,
and Senator Gordon was that mysterious power which directed the
Republican forces in his section of the state. So you may readily
believe that Carrington was forced to put up a better fight than
Williard, who stood high in Senator Gordon's favor. The girl and the two
young men had been friends since childhood, and nobody knew whether she
cared for either of them in the way they desired. Everybody in town, who
was anybody, understood the situation; and everybody felt confident that
Williard was most likely to win. The girl never said anything, even to
her intimate friends; but when the subject was brought up, she smiled in
a way that dismissed it.

Such was the political situation at the beginning of the municipal
campaign. There have been like situations in any number of cities which
boast of one hundred thousand inhabitants or more; perhaps in your town,
and yours, and yours. That bugaboo of the politician, reform, brings
round this phenomenon about once in every eight years. For a while the
wicked ones promise to be good, and you will admit that that helps.

It was amusing to follow the newspapers. They vilified each other,
ripped to shreds the character of each candidate, recalled boyhood
escapades and magnified them into frightful crimes, and declared in turn
that the opposition boss should land in the penitentiary if it took all
the type in the composing-rooms to do it. What always strikes me as odd
is that, laughter-loving people that we are, nobody laughs during these
foolish periods. Instead, everybody goes about, straining his conscience
and warping his common sense into believing these flimsy campaign lies,
these political roorbacks.

When Williard and Carrington met at the club, at the Saturday-night
luncheons, they avoided each other tactfully, each secretly longing to
grasp the other's hand and say: "Don't believe a word of it, old boy;
it's all tommy-rot." But policy held them at arm's length. What would
the voters say if they heard that their respective candidates were
hobnobbing at a private club? Carrington played billiards in the
basement while Williard played a rubber at whist up stairs; and the
Saturday rides out to the country club became obsolete. Only a few
cynics saw the droll side of the situation; and they were confident that
when the election was over the friendship would be renewed all the more
strongly for the tension.

One night, some weeks before the election, Williard dined alone with the
senator at the Gordon home. Betty Gordon was dining elsewhere. With the
cognac and cigars, the senator drew out a slip of paper, scrutinized it
for a space, then handed it to his protégé.

"That's the slate. How do you like it?"

Williard ran his glance up and down the columns. Once he frowned.

"What's the matter?" asked the senator shrewdly.

"I do not like the idea of Matthews for commissioner of public works.
He's a blackleg,--there's no getting around that. He practically runs
that faro-bank above his down-town saloon. Can't you put some one else
in his place?"

The senator filliped the ash from the end of his cigar.

"Honestly, my boy, I agree with your objection; but the word is given,
and if we turn him down now, your friend Carrington will stand a pretty
fair show of being the next mayor."

"You might get a worse one," Williard laughed. "Jack is one of the
finest fellows in the world,"--loyally.

"Not a bit of doubt; but politically," said the senator, laughing, "he
is a rascal, a man without a particle of character, and all that. But
personally speaking, I would that this town had more like him. Win or
lose, he will always be welcome in this house. But this Matthews matter;
you will have to swallow him or be swallowed."

"He's a rascal."

"Perhaps he is. Once you are elected, however, you can force him out,
and be hanged to him. Just now it would be extremely dangerous. My boy,
politics has strange bed-fellows, as the saying goes. These men are
necessary; to fight them is to cut your own throat. No one knows just
how they get their power; but one morning you wake up and find them
menacing you, and you have to placate them and toss them sops."

"I might at least have been consulted."

"I appreciated your antagonism beforehand. Politics is a peculiar
business. A man must form about himself a shell as thick as a turtle's,
or his feelings are going to be hurt. Now, if you would like to change
any of these smaller offices, the health department doesn't matter. What
do you say?"

"Oh, if Matthews remains on the slate, I do not care to alter the rest
of it. But I warn you that I shall get rid of him at the earliest
opportunity."

"Just as you like."

The senator smiled covertly. Matthews was one of his henchmen in the
larger matters of state. His name had been the first to appear on the
slate, and the senator was determined that it should remain there. Not
that he had any liking for the man; simply he was one of the wheels
which made the machine run smoothly. The senator knew his power of
persuasion; he knew Williard's easy-going nature; but he also knew that
these easy-going persons are terribly stubborn at times. He was obliged
to hold on to Matthews. The gubernatorial campaign was looming up for
the ensuing year, and the senator was curious to learn the real power
that went with the seal of a governor of a first-class state.

There fell an intermission to the conversation. Williard smoked
thoughtfully. He recalled the years during which he had accepted the
generous hospitality of this house, and the love he held for the host's
daughter. Only since his return from abroad had he learned the strength
of his sentiment. Heretofore he had looked upon the girl as a sister,
jolly, talented, a fine dancer, a daring rider, a good comrade. He had
been out of the country for three years. On his return he had found
Betty Gordon a beautiful woman, and he had silently surrendered. As yet
he had said nothing, but he knew that she knew. Yet he always saw the
shadow of Carrington, old Jack Carrington. Well, let the best man win!

"I can find a way to dispose of Matthews," he said finally.

"I dare say."

But Williard did not know the tenacity with which some men cling to
office. The senator did.

Here the servant ushered in two lieutenants of the senator's. One was an
ex-consul and the other was the surveyor of customs, who was not
supposed to dabble in local politics.

"Everything is agreeable to Mr. Williard," the senator answered in reply
to the questioning looks of his subordinates. "He vows, however, that he
will shake Matthews when he gets the chance."

The new arrivals laughed.

"We'll put you through, young man," said the ex-consul; "and one of
these fine days we shall send you to France. That's the place for a man
of your wit and wealth."

Williard smiled and lighted a fresh cigar. He did possess the reputation
of being a clever wit, and in his secret heart he would much prefer a
consulate or a secretaryship at the French embassy. He thoroughly
detested this indiscriminate hand-shaking which went with local
politics.

But Matthews stuck in his gorge, and he wondered if Carrington was
going through any like ordeal, and if Carrington would submit so
readily.... Why the deuce didn't Betty return? It was almost nine
o'clock.

Presently her sunny countenance appeared in the doorway, and Williard
dropped his cigar joyfully and rose. It was worth all the politics in
the world!

"Gentlemen, you will excuse me," he said.

"Go along!" the senator cried jovially. "We can spare you."

As indeed they very well could!

In a minute Williard was in the music-room.

"I really do not know that I ought to shake hands with you, Dick," began
Betty, tossing her hat on the piano. "You have deceived me for years."

"Deceived you! What do you mean?"--mightily disturbed.

"Wait a moment." She brought forth a paper. "Sit down in front of me.
This is going to be a court of inquiry, and your sins shall be passed
in review." He obeyed meekly. "Now listen," the girl went on, mischief
in her eyes; "this paper says horrid things about you. It claims that
you have given riotous dinners to actresses and comic-opera singers. I
classify them because I do not think comic-opera singers are actresses."

"Rot!" said Williard, crossing his legs and eying with pleasure the
contours of her face. "Jolly rot!"

"You mustn't say 'jolly' in this country; it's English, and they'll be
accusing you of it."

"Well, bally rot; how will that go?"

"That isn't very pretty, but it will pass. Now, to proceed. They say
that your private life is profligate."

"Oh, come now, Betty!" laughing diffidently.

"They say that you gamble at poker and win and lose huge sums."

"Your father plays poker in Washington; I've seen him."

"He's not on trial; _you_ are. Furthermore," went on the girl, the
twinkle going from her eye, leaving it searching yet unfathomable, "this
editor says that you are only a dummy in this game of politics, and that
once you are mayor, your signature will be all that will be required of
you. That is to say, you will be nothing but a puppet in the hands of
the men who brought about your election."

Williard thought of Matthews, and the smile on his lips died.

"Now, Dick, this paper says that it seeks only the truth of things, and
admits that you possess certain engaging qualities. What am I to
believe?"

"Betty, you know very well that they'll have me robbing the widows
before election." He was growing restless. He felt that this trial
wasn't all play. "If you don't mind, I'd rather talk of something else.
Politics, politics, morning, noon and night until my ears ache!"

"Or burn," suggested the girl. "The things they say about your private
life--I don't care for them. I know that they are not truths. But the
word 'puppet' annoys me." She laid aside the paper.

"Have I ever acted like a dummy, Betty? In justice to me, have I?" He
was serious.

"Not in ordinary things."

"No one has ever heard that I broke a promise."

"No."

"Or that I was cowardly."

"No, no!"

"Well, if I am elected, I shall fool certain persons. I am easy-going; I
confess to that impeachment; but I have never been crossed
successfully."

"They'll know how to accomplish their ends without crossing you. That's
a part of the politician's business."

"If I am elected, I'll study ways and means. Hang it, I wasn't running
after office. They said that they needed me. As a property owner I had
to surrender. I am not a hypocrite; I never was. I can't go honestly
among the lower classes and tell them that I like them, shake their
grimy hands, hobnob with them at caucuses and in gloomy halls. I am not
a politician; my father was not before me; it isn't in my blood. I
haven't the necessary ambition. Carrington's grandfather was a
war-governor; mine was a planter in the South. Now, Carrington has
ambition enough to carry him to the presidency; and I hope he'll get it
some day, and make an ambassador out of me. Sometimes I wish I wasn't
rich, so that I might enjoy life as some persons do. To have something
to fight for constantly! I am spoiled."

He wheeled his chair toward the fire and rested his elbows on his knees.

"He's very handsome," thought the girl; but she sighed.


II

That same evening Carrington and McDermott, the Democratic leader, met
by appointment in the former's law-offices. McDermott was a wealthy
steel-manufacturer who had held various state and national offices. As
a business man his policy was absolute honesty. He gave liberal wages,
met his men personally, and adjusted their differences. There were as
many Republicans as Democrats in his employ. Politics never entered the
shop. Every dollar in his business had been honestly earned. He was a
born leader, kindly, humorous, intelligent. But once he put on his silk
hat and frock coat, a metamorphosis, strange and incomprehensible, took
place. He became altogether a different man; cold, purposeful,
determined, bitter, tumbling over obstacles without heart or conscience,
using all means to gain his devious ends; scheming, plotting,
undermining this man or elevating that, a politician in every sense of
the word; cunning, astute, long-headed, far-seeing. He was not suave
like his old enemy, the senator; he was blunt because he knew the
fullness of his power. But for all his bluntness, he was, when need said
must, a diplomat of no mean order. If he brought about a shady election,
he had the courage to stand by what he had done. He was respected and
detested alike.

The present incumbent in the city hall was no longer of use to him. He
was wise enough to see that harm to his power would come about in case
the reform movement got headway; he might even be dethroned. So his
general's eye had lighted on Carrington, as the senator's had lighted on
Williard; only he had mistaken his man where the senator had not.

"My boy," he began, "I'm going to lecture you."

"Go ahead," said Carrington. "I know what the trouble is. I crossed out
Mr. Murphy's name from the list you fixed up for my inspection."

"And his name must go back,"--smiling. "We can't afford to turn him down
at this late day."

"I can," said the protégé imperturbably and firmly.

For a moment their glances met and clashed.

"You must always remember the welfare of the party,"--gently.

"And the people," supplemented the admonished one.

"Of course,"--with thin lips. "But Murphy's name must stand. We depend
upon the eighth ward to elect you, and Murphy holds it in his palm. Your
friend Williard will be forced to accept Matthews for the same reason.
It's a game of chess, but a great game."

"Matthews? I don't believe it. Williard would not speak to him on the
street, let alone put him on the ticket."

"Wait and see."

"He's a blackleg, a gambler, worse than Murphy."

"And what is your grievance against Murphy? He has always served the
party well."

"Not to speak of Mr. Murphy."

"What has he done?"

"He has sold his vote three times in the common council. He sold it once
for two thousand dollars in that last pavement deal. I have been rather
observant. Let him remain alderman; I can not see my way clear to
appoint him to a position in the city hall."

McDermott's eyes narrowed. "Your accusations are grave. If Murphy
learns, he may make you prove it."

Carrington remained silent for a few minutes, his face in thoughtful
repose; then having decided to pursue a certain course, he reached into
a pigeon-hole of his desk and selected a paper which he gave to
McDermott. The latter studied the paper carefully. From the paper his
glance traveled to the face of the young man opposite him. He wondered
why he hadn't taken more particular notice of the cleft chin and the
blue-gray eyes. Had he made a mistake? Was the young fellow's honesty
greater than his ambition? McDermott returned the paper without comment.

"Is that proof enough?" Carrington asked, a bit of raillery in his
tones.

"You should have told me of this long ago."

"I hadn't the remotest idea that Murphy's name would turn up. You can
very well understand that I can not consider this man's name as an
appointee."

"Why hasn't it been turned over to the district attorney?"

"The plaintiff is a patient man. He left it to me. It is a good sword,
and I may have to hold it over Mr. Murphy's neck."

McDermott smiled.

"The Democratic party in this county needs a strong tonic in the nature
of a clean bill. I want my appointees men of high standing; I want them
honest; I want them not for what they have done, but what they may do."

McDermott smiled again. "I have made a mistake in not coming to you
earlier. There is a great future for a man of your kidney, Carrington.
You have a genuine talent for politics. You possess something that only
a dozen men in a hundred thousand possess, a tone. Words are empty
things unless they are backed by a tone. Tone holds the auditor,
convinces him, directs him if by chance he is wavering. You are a born
orator. Miller retires from Congress next year. His usefulness in
Washington has passed. How would you like to succeed him?"

Insidious honey! Carrington looked out of the window. Washington! A
seat among the Seats of the Mighty! A torch-light procession was passing
through the street below, and the noise of the fife and drum rose. The
world's applause; the beating of hands, the yells of triumph, the
laudation of the press,--the world holds no greater thrill than this.
Art and literature stand pale beside it. But a worm gnawed at the heart
of this rose, a cancer ate into the laurel. Carrington turned. He was by
no means guileless.

"When I accepted this nomination, I did so because I believed that the
party was in danger, and that, if elected, I might benefit the people. I
have remained silent; I have spoken but little of my plans; I have made
few promises. Mr. McDermott, I am determined, first and foremost, to be
mayor in all the meaning of the word. I refuse to be a figure-head. I
have crossed out Murphy's name because he is a dishonest citizen. Yes, I
am ambitious; but I would forego Washington rather than reach it by
shaking Murphy's hand." The blood of the old war-governor tingled in
his veins at that moment.

"It must be replaced,"--quietly.

"In face of that document?"

"In spite of it."

"I refuse!"

"Listen to reason, my boy; you are young, and you have to learn that in
politics there's always a bitter pill with the sweet. To elect you I
have given my word to Murphy that he shall have the office."

"You may send Mr. Murphy to me," said Carrington curtly. "I'll take all
the blame."

"This is final?"

"It is. And I am surprised that you should request this of me."

"He will defeat you."

"So be it."

McDermott was exceedingly angry, but he could not help admiring the
young man's resoluteness and direct honesty.

"You are making a fatal mistake. I shall make an enemy of the man, and I
shall not be able to help you. I have a great deal at stake. If we lose
the eighth, we lose everything, and for years to come."

"Perhaps. One dishonest step leads to another, and if I should sanction
this man, I should not hesitate at greater dishonesty. My honesty is my
bread and butter ... and my conscience."

"Corporations have no souls; politics has no conscience. Williard...."

"My name is Carrington,"--abruptly. "In a matter of this kind I can not
permit myself to be subjected to comparisons. You brought about my
present position in municipal affairs."

"We had need of you, and still need you," confessed the other
reluctantly. "The party needs new blood."

"You are a clever man, Mr. McDermott; you are a leader; let me appeal to
your better judgment. Murphy is a blackguard, and he would be in any
party, in any country. In forcing him on me, you rob me of my
self-respect."

McDermott shrugged. "In this case he is a necessary evil. The success
of the party depends upon his good will. Listen. Will you find, in all
this wide land, a ruling municipality that is incorrupt? Is there not a
fly in the ointment whichever way you look? Is not dishonesty fought
with dishonesty; isn't it corruption against corruption? Do you believe
for a minute that you can bring about this revolution? No, my lad; no.
This is a workaday world; Utopia is dreamland. You can easily keep your
eye on this man. If he makes a dishonest move, you can find it in your
power to remove him effectually. But I swear to you that he is
absolutely necessary."

"Well, I will assume the risk of his displeasure."

"Show him your document, and tell him that if he leaves you in the lurch
at the polls, you'll send him to prison. That's the only way out."
McDermott thought he saw light.

"Make a blackmailer of myself? Hardly."

"I am sorry." McDermott rose. "You are digging a pit for a very bright
future."

"Politically, perhaps."

"If you are defeated, there is no possible method of sending you to
Washington in Miller's place. You must have popularity to back you. I
have observed that you are a very ambitious young man."

"Not so ambitious as to obscure my sense of right."

"I like your pluck, my boy, though it stands in your own light. I'll do
all I can to pacify Murphy. Good night and good luck to you." And
McDermott made his departure.

Carrington remained motionless in his chair, studying the night. So much
for his dreams! He knew what McDermott's "I'll do what I can" meant. If
only he had not put his heart so thoroughly into the campaign! Was there
any honesty? Was it worth while to be true to oneself? Murphy controlled
nearly four hundred votes. For six years the eighth ward had carried the
Democratic party into victory. Had he turned this aside? For years the
elections had been like cheese-parings; and in ten years there hadn't
been a majority of five hundred votes on either side. If Murphy was a
genuine party man, and not a leech, he would stand square for his party
and not consider personal enmity. What would he do when he heard from
McDermott that he (Carrington) had deliberately crossed him off the
ticket of appointees?

From among some old papers in a drawer Carrington produced the portrait
of a young girl of sixteen in fancy dress. When he had studied this a
certain length of time, he took out another portrait: it was the young
girl grown into superb womanhood. The eyes were kind and merry, the
mouth beautiful, the brow fine and smooth like a young poet's, a nose
with the slightest tilt; altogether a high-bred, queenly, womanly face,
such as makes a man desire to do great things in the world. Carrington
had always loved her. He had gone through the various phases: the boy,
the diffident youth, the man. (Usually it takes three women to bring
about these changes!) There was nothing wild or incoherent in his love,
nothing violent or passionate; rather the serene light, the steady
burning light, that guides the ships at sea; constant, enduring, a sure
beacon.

As he studied the face from all angles, his jaws hardened. He lifted his
chin defiantly. He had the right to love her; he had lived cleanly, he
had dealt justly to both his friends and his enemies, he owed no man, he
was bound only to his mother, who had taught him the principles of manly
living. He had the right to love any woman in the world.... And there
was Williard,--handsome, easy-going old Dick! Why was it written that
their paths must cross in everything? Yes, Dick loved her, too, but with
an affection that had come only with majority. Williard had everything
to offer besides. Should he step down and aside for his friend? Did
friendship demand such a sacrifice? No! Let Williard fight for her as he
(Carrington) intended to fight for her; and if Williard won, there would
be time then to surrender.

It was almost twelve when the scrub-woman aroused him from his reveries.
He closed his desk and went home, his heart full of battle. He would
put up the best fight that was in him, for love and for fame; and if he
lost he would still have his manhood and self-respect, which any woman
might be proud to find at her feet, to accept or decline. He would go
into Murphy's own country and fight him openly and without secret
weapons. He knew that he held it in his power to coerce Murphy, but that
wasn't fighting.

Neither of the candidates slept well that night.


So the time went forward. The second Tuesday in November was but a
fortnight off. Carrington fought every inch of ground. He depended but
little, if any, upon McDermott's assistance, though that gentleman came
gallantly to his rescue, as it was necessary to save his own scalp. It
crept into the papers that there was a rupture between Murphy and the
Democratic candidate. The opposition papers cried in glee; the others
remained silent. Murphy said nothing when questioned; he simply smiled.
Carrington won the respect of his opponents. The laboring classes saw
in him a Moses, and they hailed him with cheers whenever they saw him.

There were many laughable episodes during the heat of the campaign; but
Carrington knew how and when to laugh. He answered questions from the
platform, and the ill-mannered were invariably put to rout by his
good-natured wit. Once they hoisted him on top of a bar in an obscure
saloon. His shoulders touched the gloomy ceiling, and he was forced to
address the habitués, with his head bent like a turtle's, his nose and
eyes offended by the heat and reek of kerosene and cheap tobacco. They
had brought him there to bait him; they carried him out on their
shoulders. To those who wanted facts he gave facts; to some he told
humorous stories; and to others he spoke his sincere convictions.

Meantime Williard took hold of affairs, but in a bored fashion. He did
the best he knew how, but it wasn't the best that wins high places in
the affections of the people.

The betting was even.

Election day came round finally--one of those rare days when the pallid
ghost of summer returns to view her past victories, when the broad wings
of the West go a-winnowing the skies, and the sun shines warm and
grateful. On that morning a change took place in Carrington's heart. He
became filled with dread. After leaving the voting-polls early in the
morning, he returned to his home and refused to see any one. He even had
the telephone wires cut. Only his mother saw him, and hovered about him
with a thousand kindly attentions. At the door she became a veritable
dragon; not even telegraph messengers could pass her or escape her
vigilance.

At six in the evening Carrington ordered around his horse. He mounted
and rode away into the hill country south of the city, into the cold
crisp autumn air. There was fever in his veins that needed cooling;
there were doubts and fears in his mind that needed clearing. He wanted
that sense of physical exhaustion which makes a man indifferent to
mental blows.

The day passed and the night came. Election night! The noisy,
good-natured crowds in the streets, the jostling, snail-moving crowds!
The illuminated canvas-sheets in front of the newspaper offices! The
blare of horns, the cries, the yells, the hoots and hurrahs! The petty
street fights! The stalled surface-cars, the swearing cabbies, the
venders of horns and whistles, the newsboys hawking their extras! It is
the greatest of all spectacular nights; humanity comes out into the
open.

The newspaper offices were yellow with lights. It was a busy time. There
was a continuous coming and going of messengers, bringing in returns.
The newspaper men took off their coats and rolled up their sleeves.
Figures, figures, thousands of figures to sift and resift! Filtering
through the various noises was the maddening click of the telegraph
instruments. Great drifts of waste paper littered the floors. A sandwich
man served coffee and sandwiches. The chief distributed cigars.
Everybody was writing, writing. Five men were sent out to hunt for
Carrington, but none could find him. His mother refused to state where
he had gone; in fact, she knew nothing save that he had gone horseback
riding.

At nine there was a gathering at the club. Williard was there, and all
who had charge of the wheels within wheels. They had ensconced
themselves in the huge davenports in the bow-window facing the street,
and had given orders to the steward to charge everything that night to
Senator Gordon. A fabulous number of corks were pulled; but gentlemen
are always orderly.

Williard, however, seemed anything but happy. He had dined at the
senator's that evening, and something had taken place there which the
general public would never learn. He was gloomy, and the wine he drank
only added to his gloom.

The younger element began to wander in, carrying those execrable
rooster-posters. A gay time ensued.

Carrington had ridden twelve miles into the country. At eight o'clock
the temperature changed and it began to snow. He turned and rode back
toward the city, toward victory or defeat. Sometimes he went at a
canter, sometimes at a trot. By and by he could see the aureola from the
electric lights wavering above the city. Once he struck a wind-match and
glanced at his watch. Had he lost or had he won? A whimsical inspiration
came to him. He determined to hear victory or defeat from the lips of
the girl he loved. The snow fell softly into his face and melted. His
hair became matted over his eyes; his gauntlets dripped and the reins
became slippery; a steam rose from the horse's body, a big-hearted
hunter on which he had ridden many a mile.

"Good boy!" said Carrington; "we'll have it first from her lips."

Finally he struck the asphalt of the city limits, and he slowed down to
a walk. He turned into obscure streets. Whenever he saw a bonfire, he
evaded it.

It was ten o'clock when he drew up in front of the Gordon home. He tied
his horse to the post with the hitching-chain and knotted the reins so
that they would not slip over the horse's head, wiped his face with his
handkerchief, and walked bravely up to the veranda. There were few
lights. Through the library window he saw the girl standing at the
telephone. He prayed that she might be wholly alone. After a moment's
hesitation he pressed the button and waited.

Betty herself came to the door. She peered out.

"What is it?" she asked.

"I did not expect that you would recognize me," said Carrington,
laughing.

"John? Where in the world did you come from?"--taking him by the arm and
dragging him into the hall. "Good gracious!"

"The truth is, Betty, I took to my heels at six o'clock, and have been
riding around the country ever since." He sent her a penetrating glance.

"Come in to the fire," she cried impulsively. "You are cold and wet and
hungry."

"Only wet," he admitted as he entered the cheerful library. He went
directly to the blazing grate and spread out his red, wet, aching hands.
He could hear her bustling about; it was a pleasant sound. A chair
rolled up to the fender; the rattle of a tea-table followed. It was all
very fine. "I ought to be ashamed to enter a house in these reeking
clothes," he said; "but the temptation was too great."

"You are always welcome, John,"--softly.

His keen ear caught the melancholy sympathy in her tone. He shrugged. He
had lost the fight. Had he won, she would already have poured forth her
congratulations.

"Sit down," she commanded, "while I get the tea. Or would you prefer
brandy?"

"The tea, by all means. I do not need brandy to bolster up my courage."
He sat down.

She left the room and returned shortly with biscuit and tea. She filled
a cup, put in two lumps of sugar, and passed the cup to him.

"You've a good memory," he said, smiling at her. "It's nice to have
one's likes remembered, even in a cup of tea. I look as if I had been to
war, don't I?"

She buttered a biscuit. He ate it, not because he was hungry, but
because her fingers had touched it. It was a phantom kiss. He put the
cup down.

"Now, which is it; have I been licked, or have I won?"

"What!" she cried; "do you mean to tell me you do not know?" She gazed
at him bewilderedly.

"I have been four hours in the saddle. I know nothing, save that which
instinct and the sweet melancholy of your voice tell me. Betty, I've
been licked, haven't I, and old Dick has gone and done it, eh?"

The girl choked for a moment; there was a sob in her throat.

"Yes, John."

Carrington reached over and tapped the hearth with his riding-crop,
absent-mindedly. The girl gazed at him, her eyes shining in a mist of
unshed tears.... She longed to reach out her hand and smooth the
furrows from his care-worn brow, to brush the melting crystals of snow
from his hair; longed to soothe the smart of defeat which she knew was
burning his heart. She knew that only strong men suffer in silence.

From a half-opened window the night breathed upon them, freighted with
the far-off murmur of voices.

"I confess to you that I built too much on the outcome. I am ambitious;
I want to be somebody, to take part in the great affairs of the world. I
fought the very best I knew how. I had many dreams. Do you recollect the
verses I used to write to you when we were children? There was always
something of the poet in me, and it is still there, only it no longer
develops on paper. I had looked toward Washington ... even toward you,
Betty."

Silence. The girl sat very still. Her face was white and her eyes large.

"I am honest. I can see now that I have no business in politics...." He
laughed suddenly and turned toward the girl. "I was on the verge of
wailing. I'm licked, and I must begin all over again. Dick will make a
good mayor, that is, if they leave him alone.... Whimsical, wasn't it,
of me, coming here to have you tell me the news." He looked away.

The girl smiled and held out her hand to him, and as he did not see it,
laid it gently on his sleeve.

"It does not matter, John. Some day you will realize all your ambitions.
You are not the kind of man who gives up. Defeat is a necessary step to
greatness; and you will become great. I am glad that you came to me."
She knew now; all her doubts were gone, all the confusing shadows.

Carrington turned and touched her hand with his lips.

"Why did you come to me?" she asked with fine courage.

His eyes widened. "Why did I come to you? If I had won I should have
told you. But I haven't won; I have lost."

"Does that make the difference so great?"

"It makes the difficulty greater."

"Tell me!"--with a voice of command.

They both rose suddenly, rather unconsciously, too. Their glances held,
magnet and needle-wise. Across the street a bonfire blazed, and the
ruddy light threw a mellow rose over their strained faces.

"I love you," he said simply. "That is what drew me here, that is what
has always drawn me here. But say nothing to me, Betty. God knows I am
not strong enough to suffer two defeats in one night. God bless you and
make you happy!"

He turned and took a few steps toward the door.

"If it were not defeat ... if it were victory?" she said, in a kind of
whisper, her hands tense on the back of her chair.


The senator came in about midnight. He found his daughter asleep in a
chair before a half-dead fire. There was a tender smile on her lips. He
touched her gently.

"It is you, daddy?" Her glance traveled from his florid countenance to
the clock. "Mercy! I have been dreaming these two hours."

"What do you suppose Carrington did to-night?"--lighting a cigar.

"What did he do?"

"Came into the club and congratulated Williard publicly."

"He did that?" cried the girl, her cheeks dyeing exquisitely.

"Did it like a man, too." The senator dropped into a chair. "It was a
great victory, my girl."

Betty smiled. "Yes, it was."



THE ENCHANTED HAT

THE ADVENTURE OF MY LADY'S LETTER


It was half-after six when I entered Martin's from the Broadway side. I
chose a table by the north wall and sat down on the cushioned seat. I
ordered dinner, and the ample proportions of it completely hoodwinked
the waiter as to the condition of my cardiac affliction: being, as I
was, desperately and hopelessly and miserably in love. Old owls say that
a man can not eat when he is in love. He can if he is mad at the way the
object of his affections has treated him; and I was mad. To be sure, I
can not recall what my order was, but the amount of the waiter's check
is still vivid to my recollection.

I glanced about. The café was crowded, as it usually is at this hour.
Here and there I caught glimpses of celebrities and familiar faces:
journalists, musicians, authors, artists and actors. This is the time
they drop in to be pointed out to strangers from out of town. It's a
capital advertisement. To-night, however, none of these interested me in
the slightest degree; rather, their animated countenances angered me.
How _could_ they laugh and look happy!

At my left sat a young man about my own age. He was also in evening
dress. At my right a benevolent old gentleman, whose eye-glasses
balanced neatly upon the end of his nose, was deeply interested in _The
Law Journal_ and a pint of mineral water. A little beyond my table was
an exiled Frenchman, and the irritating odor of absinthe drifted at
times across my nostrils.

With my coffee I ordered a glass of Dantzic, and watched the flakes of
beaten gold waver and settle; and presently I devoted myself entirely to
my own particularly miserable thoughts.... To be in love and in debt! To
be with the gods one moment and hunted by a bill-collector the next! To
have the girl you love snub and dismiss you for no more lucid reason
than that you did not attend the dance at the Country Club when you
promised you would! It did not matter that you had a case on that night
from which depended a large slice of your bread and butter; no, that did
not matter. Neither did the fact that you had mixed the dates. You had
promised to go, and you hadn't gone or notified the girl that you
wouldn't go. Your apologetic telegram she had torn into halves and
returned the following morning, together with a curt note to the effect
that she could not value the friendship of a man who made and broke a
promise so easily. It was all over. It was a dashed hard world. How the
deuce do you win a girl, anyhow?

Supposing, besides, that you possessed a rich uncle who said that on the
day of your wedding he would make over to you fifty thousand in
Government three per cents? Hard, wasn't it? Suppose that you were
earning about two thousand a year, and that the struggle to keep up
smart appearances was a keen one. Wouldn't you have been eager to
marry, especially the girl you loved? A man can not buy flowers twice a
week, dine before and take supper after the theater twice a week, belong
(and pay dues and house-accounts) to a country club, a town club and
keep respectable bachelor apartments on two thousand ... and save
anything. And suppose the girl was independently rich? Heigh-ho!

I find that a man needs more money in love than he does in debt. This is
not to say that I was ever very hard pressed; but I hated to pay ten
dollars "on account" when the total was only twenty. You understand me,
don't you? If you don't, somebody who reads this will. Of course, the
girl knew nothing about these things. A young man always falls into the
fault of magnifying his earning capacity to the girl he loves. You see,
I hadn't told her yet that I loved her, though I was studying up
somebody on Moral and Physical Courage for that purpose.

And now it was all over!

I did not care so much about my uncle's gold-bonds, but I did think a
powerful lot of the girl. Why, when I recall the annoyances I've put up
with from that kid brother of hers!... Pshaw, what's the use?

His mother called him "Toddy-One-Boy," in memory of a book she had read
long years ago. He was six years old, and I never think of him without
that jingle coming to mind:


    "Little Willie choked his sister,
    She was dead before they missed her.
    Willie's always up to tricks.
    Ain't he cute, he's only six!"


He had the face of a Bouguereau cherub, and mild blue eyes such as we
are told inhabit the countenances of angels. He was the most
innocent-looking chap you ever set eyes on. His mother called him an
angel; I should hate to tell you what the neighbors called him. He
lacked none of that subtile humor so familiar in child-life. Heavens!
the deeds I could (if I dared) enumerate. They turned him loose among
the comic supplements one Sunday, and after that it was all over.

Hadn't he emptied his grandma's medicine capsules and substituted
cotton? And hadn't dear old grandma come down stairs three days later,
saying that she felt much improved? Hadn't he beaten out the brains of
his toy bank and bought up the peanut man on the corner? Yes, indeed!
And hadn't he taken my few letters from his sister's desk and played
postman up and down the street? His papa thought it all a huge joke till
one of the neighbors brought back a dunning dressmaker's bill that had
lain on the said neighbor's porch. It was altogether a different matter
then. Toddy-One-Boy crawled under the bed that night, and only his
mother's tears saved him from a hiding.

All these things I thought over as I sat at my table. She knew that I
would have gone had it been possible. Women and logic are only cousins
german. Six months ago I hadn't been in love with any one but myself,
and now the Virgil of love's dream was leading me like a new Dante
through _his_ Inferno, and was pointing out the foster-brother of
Sisyphus (if he had a foster-brother), pushing the stone of my lady's
favor up the steeps of Forlorn Hope. Well, I would go up to the club,
and if I didn't get home till mor-r-ning, who was there to care?

The Frenchman had gone, and the benevolent old gentleman. The crowd was
thinning out. The young man at my left rose, and I rose also. We both
stared thoughtfully at the hat-rack. There hung two hats: an opera-hat
and a dilapidated old stovepipe. The young fellow reached up and, quite
naturally, selected the opera-hat. He glanced into it, and immediately a
wrinkle of annoyance darkened his brow. He held the hat toward me.

"Is this yours?" he asked.

I looked at the label.

"No." The wrinkle of annoyance sprang from his brow to mine. My
opera-hat had cost me eight dollars.

The young fellow laughed rather lamely. "Do you live in New York?" he
asked.

I nodded.

"So do I," he continued; "and yet it is evident that both of us have
been neatly caught." He thought for a moment, then brightened. "I'll
tell you what; let's match for the good one."

I gazed indignantly at the rusty stovepipe. "Done!" said I.

I lost; I knew that I should; and the young fellow walked off with the
good hat. Then, with the relic in my hand, a waiter and myself began a
systematic search. My hat was nowhere to be found. How the deuce was I
to get up town to the club? I couldn't wear the old plug; I wasn't rich
enough for such an eccentricity. I had nothing but a silk hat at the
apartment, and I hated it because it was always in the way when I
entered carriages and elevators.

Angrily, I strode up to the cashier's desk and explained the situation,
leaving my address and the number of my apartment; my name wasn't
necessary.

Troubles never come singly. Here I had lost my girl and my hat, to say
nothing of my temper--of the three the most certain to be found again. I
passed out of the café, bareheaded and hotheaded. I hailed a cab and
climbed in. I had finally determined to return to my rooms and study. I
simply could not afford to be seen with that stovepipe hat either on my
head or under my arm. Had I been green from college it is probable that
I should have worn it proudly and defiantly. But I had left college
behind these six years.

Hang these old duffers who are so absent-minded! For I was confident
that the benevolent old gentleman was the cause of all this confusion.
Inside the cab I tried on the thing, just to get a picture in my mind of
the old gentleman going it up Broadway with my opera-hat on his head.
The hat sagged over my ears; and I laughed. The picture I had conjured
up was too much for my anger, which vanished suddenly. And once I had
laughed I felt a trifle more agreeable toward the world. So long as a
man can see the funny side of things he has no active desire to leave
life behind; and laughter does more to lighten his sorrows than
sympathy, which only aggravates them.

After all, the old gentleman would feel the change more sharply than I.
This was, in all probability, the only hat he had. I turned it over and
scrutinized it. It was a genteel old beaver, with an air of
respectability that was quite convincing. There was nothing smug about
it, either. It suggested amiability in the man who had recently
possessed it. It suggested also a mild contempt for public opinion,
which is always a sign of superior mentality and advanced years. I began
to draw a mental portrait of the old man. He was a family lawyer,
doubtless, who lived in the past and hugged his retrospections. When we
are young there is never any vanishing point to our day-dreams. Well,
well! On the morrow he would have a new hat, of approved shape and
pattern; unless, indeed, he possessed others like this which had fallen
into my keeping. Perhaps he would soon discover his mistake, return to
the café and untangle the snarl. I sincerely hoped he would. As I
remarked, my hat had cost me eight dollars.

I soon arrived at my apartments, and got into a smoking-jacket. I rather
delight in lolling around in a dress-shirt; it looks so like the
pictures we see in the fashionable novels. I picked up Blackstone and
turned to his "promissory notes." I had two or three out myself. It was
nine o'clock when the hall-boy's bell rang, and I placed my ear to the
tube. A gentleman wished to see me in regard to a lost hat.

"Send him up, James; send him up!" I bawled down the tube. Visions of
the club returned, and I tossed Blackstone into a corner.

Presently there came a tap on the door, and I flung it wide. But my
visitor was not the benevolent old gentleman. He was the Frenchman whose
absinthe had offended me. He glanced at the slip of paper in his hand.

"I have zee honaire to address zee--ah--gentleman in numbaire six?"

"I live here."

"Delight'! We have meexed zee hats, I have zee r-r-regret. Ees thees
your hat?" He held out, for my inspection, an opera-hat. "I am _so_
absent-mind'--what you call deestrait?"--affably.

I took the hat, which at first glance I thought to be mine, and went
over to the rack, taking down the old stovepipe.

"This is yours, then?" I said, smiling.

"Thousand thanks, m'sieu! Eet ees certain mine. I have zee honaire to
beg pardon for zee confusion. My compliments! Good night!"

Without giving the hat a single glance, he clapped it on his head, bowed
and disappeared, leaving me his card. He hadn't been gone two minutes
when I discovered that the hat he had exchanged for the stovepipe was
_not_ mine. It came from the same firm, but the initials proved it
without doubt to belong to the young fellow I had met at the table. I
said some uncomplimentary things. Where the deuce _was_ my hat?
Evidently the benevolent old gentleman hadn't waked up yet.

Ting-a-ling! It was the boy's bell again.

"Well?"

"Another man after a hat. What's goin' on?"

"Send him up!" I yelled. It came over me that the Frenchman had made a
second mistake.

I was not disappointed this time in my visitor. It was the benevolent
old gentleman. Evidently he had not located _his_ hat either, and might
not for some time to come. I began to believe that I had given it to the
Frenchman. He seemed terribly excited.

"You are the gentleman who occupies number six?"

"Yes, sir. This is my apartment. You have come in regard to a hat?"

"Yes, sir. My name is Chittenden. Our hats got mixed up at Martin's this
evening; my fault, as usual. I am always doing something absurd, my
memory is so bad. When I discovered my mistake I was calling on the
family of a client with whom I had spent most of the afternoon. I missed
some valuable papers, legal documents. I believed as usual that I had
forgotten to take them with me. They were nowhere to be found at the
house. My client has a very mischievous son, and it seems that he
stuffed the papers behind the inside band of my hat. With them there was
a letter. I have had two very great scares. A great deal of trouble
would ensue if the papers were lost. I just telephoned that I had
located the hat." He laughed pleasantly.

Good heavens! here was a howdy-do.

"My dear Mr. Chittenden, there has been a great confusion," I faltered.
"I had your hat, but--but you have come too late."

"Too late?" he roared, or I should say, to be exact, shouted.

"Yes, sir."

"What have you done with it?"

"Not five minutes ago I gave it to a Frenchman, who seemed to recognize
it as his. It was the Frenchman, if you will remember, who sat near your
table in the café."

"And this hat isn't yours, then?"--helplessly.

"This" was a flat-brimmed hat of the Paris boulevards, the father of
all stovepipe hats, dear to the Frenchman's heart.

"Candidly, now," said I with a bit of excusable impatience, "do I look
like a man who would wear a hat like that?"

He surveyed me miserably through his eye-glasses.

"No, I can't say that you do. But what in the world am I to do?" He
mopped his brow in the ecstasy of anguish. "The hat must be found. The
legal papers could be replaced, but.... You see, sir, that boy put a
private letter of his sister's in the band of that hat, and it must be
recovered at all hazards."

"I am very sorry, sir."

"But what shall I do?"

"I do not see what can be done save for you to leave word at the café.
The Frenchman is doubtless a frequenter, and may easily be found. If you
had come a few moments sooner...."

With a gurgle of dismay he fled, leaving me with a half-finished
sentence hanging on my lips and the Frenchman's chapeau hanging on my
fingers. And _my_ hat; where was _my_ hat? (I may as well add here, in
parenthesis, that the disappearance of my eight-dollar hat still remains
a mystery. I have had to buy a new one.)

So the boy had put a letter of his sister's in the band of the hat, I
mused. How like _her_ kid brother! It seemed that more or less families
had Toddy-One-Boys to look after. Pshaw! what a muddle because a man
couldn't keep his thoughts from wool-gathering!

Well, here I had two hats, neither of which was mine. I could, at a
pinch, wear the opera-hat, as it was the exact size of the one I had
lost. But what was to be done with the Frenchman's?... Fool that I was!
I rushed over to the table. The Frenchman had left his card, and I
had forgotten all about it. And I hadn't asked the benevolent old
gentleman where he lived. The Frenchman's card read: "M. de Beausire,
No. -- Washington Place." I decided to go myself to the address, state
the matter to Monsieur de Beausire, and rescue the letter. I knew all
about these Toddy-One-Boys, and I might be doing some girl a signal
service.

I looked at my watch. It was closing on to ten. So I reluctantly got
into my coat again, drew on a topcoat, and put on the hat that fitted
me. Probably the girl had been writing some fortunate fellow a
love-letter. No gentleman will ever overlook a chance to do a favor for
a young girl in distress. I had scarcely drawn my stick from the
umbrella-jar when the bell rang once again.

"Hello!" I called down the tube. Why couldn't they let me be?

"Lady wants to see you, sir."

"A lady!"

"Yes, sir. A real lady; l-a-d-y. She says she's come to see the
gentleman in number six about a plug-hat. What's the graft, anyway?"

"A plug-hat!"

"Yes, sir; a plug-hat. She seems a bit anxious. Shall I send her up?
She's a peach."

"Yes, send her up," I answered feebly enough.

And now there was a woman in the case! I wiped the perspiration from my
brow and wondered what I should say to her. A woman.... By Jove! the
sister of the mischievous boy! Old Chittenden must have told her where
he had gone, and as he hasn't shown up, she's worried. It must be a
tremendously important letter to cause all this hubbub. So I laid aside
my hat and waited, tugging and gnawing at my mustache.... Had the Girl
acted reasonably I shouldn't have gone to Martin's that night.

How easy it is for a woman to hurt the man she knows is in love with
her! And the Girl had hurt me more than I was willing to confess even to
myself. She had implied that I had carelessly broken an engagement.

Soon there came a gentle tapping. Certainly the young woman had abundant
pluck. I approached the door quickly, and flung it open.

The Girl herself stood on the threshold, and we stared at each other
with bewildered eyes!


II

She was the most exquisite creature in all the wide world; and here she
was, within reach of my hungry arms!

"You?" she cried, stepping back, one hand at her throat and the other
against the jamb of the door.

Dumb as ever was Lot's wife (after the turning-point in her career), I
stood and stared and admired. A woman would instantly have noticed the
beauty of her sables, but I was a man to whom such details were
inconsequent.

"I did not expect ... that is, only the number of the apartment was
given," she stammered. "I...." Then her slender figure straightened, and
with an effort she subdued the fright and dismay which had evidently
seized her. "Have you Mr. Chittenden's hat?"

"Mr. Chittenden's hat?" I repeated, with a tingling in my throat
similar to that when you hit your elbow smartly on a corner. "Mr.
Chittenden's hat?"

"Yes; he is so thoughtless that I dared not trust him to search for it
alone. Have _you_ got it?"

Heavens! how my heart beat at the sight of this beautiful being, as she
stood there, palpitating between shame and anxiety! She _was_ beautiful;
and I knew instantly that I loved her better than anything else on
earth.

"Mr. Chittenden's hat?" I continued, as lucid as a trained parrot and in
tones not wholly dissimilar.

"Can't you say anything more than that?"--impatiently.

How much more easily a woman recovers her poise than a man, especially
when that man gives himself over as tamely as I did!

"Was it _your_ letter he was seeking?" I cried, all eagerness and
excitement as this one sane thought entered my head.

"Did he tell you that there was a letter in it?"--scornfully.

"Yes,"--guiltily. Heaven only knows why I should have had any sense of
guilt.

"Give it to me at once,"--imperatively.

"The hat or the letter?" Truly, I did not know what I was about. Only
one thing was plain to my confused mind, and that was the knowledge that
I wanted to put my arms around her and carry her far, far away from
Toddy-One-Boy.

"Are you mad, to anger me in this fashion?" she said, balling her little
gloved hands wrathfully. Had there been real lightning in her eyes I'd
have been dead this long while. "Do you dare believe that I knew you
lived in this apartment?"

"I ... haven't the hat."

"You dared to search it?"--drawing herself up to a supreme height, which
was something less than five-feet-two.

I became angry, and somehow found myself.

"I never pry into other people's affairs. You are the last person I
expected to see this night."

"Will you answer a single question? I promise not to intrude further
upon your time, which, doubtless, is very valuable. Have you either the
hat or the letter?"

"Neither. I knew nothing about any letter till Mr. Chittenden came. But
he came too late."

"Too late?"--in an agonized whisper.

"Yes, too late. I had, unfortunately, given his hat to another gentleman
who made a trifling mistake in thinking it to be his own." Suddenly my
manners returned to me. "Will you come in?"

"Come in? No! You have given the hat to another man? A trifling mistake!
He calls it a trifling mistake!"--addressing the heavens, obscured
though they were by the thickness of several ceilings. "Oh, what _shall_
I do?" She began to wring her hands, and when a woman does that what
earthly hope is there for the man who looks on?

"Don't do that!" I implored. "I'll find the hat." At a word from her,
for all she had trampled on me, I would gladly have gone to Honolulu in
search of a hat-pin. "The gentleman left me his card. With your
permission I will go at once in search of him."

"I have a cab outside. Give me the address."

"I refuse to permit you to go alone."

"You have absolutely nothing to say in regard to where I shall or shall
not go."

"In this one instance. I shall withhold the address."

How her eyes blazed!

"Oh, it is easily to be seen that you do not trust me." I was utterly
discouraged.

"I did not imply that," with the least bit of softening. "Certainly I
would trust you. But...."

"Well?"--as laughingly as I could.

"I must be the one to take out that letter,"--decidedly.

"I offer to bring you the hat untouched," I replied.

"I insist on going."

"Very well; we shall go together; under no other circumstances. This is
a common courtesy that I would show to a perfect stranger."

I put on my hat, took up the Frenchman's card and tile, and bowed her
gravely into the main hallway. We did not speak on the way down to the
street. We entered the cab in silence, and went rumbling off southwest.
When the monotony became positively unbearable I spoke.

"I regret to force myself upon you."

No reply.

"It must be a very important letter."

"To no one but myself,"--with extreme frigidity.

"His father ought to wring his neck,"--thinking of Toddy-One-Boy.

"Sir, he is my brother!"

"I beg your pardon." It seemed that I wasn't getting on very well.

We bumped across the Broadway tracks. Once or twice our shoulders
touched, and the thrill I experienced was as painful as it was
rapturous. What was in a letter that she should go to this extreme to
recall it? A heat-flash of jealousy went over me. She had written to
some other fellow; for there always is some other fellow, hang him!...
And then a grand idea came into my erstwhile stupid head. Here she was,
alone with me in a cab. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. I could
force her to listen to my explanation.

"I received your note," I began. "It was cruel and without justice."

Her chin went up a degree.

"The worst criminal is not condemned without a hearing, and I have had
none."

No perceptible movement.

"We are none of us infallible in keeping appointments. We are liable to
make mistakes occasionally. Had I known that Tuesday night was the night
of the dance I'd have crossed to Jersey in a rowboat."

The chin remained precipitously inclined.

"I am poor, and the case involved some of my bread and butter. The work
was done at ten, and even then I did not discover that I had in any way
affronted you. I had it down in my note-book as Wednesday night."

The lips above the chin curled slightly.

"You see," I went on, striving to keep my voice even-toned, "my uncle is
rich, but I ask no odds of him. I live entirely upon what I earn at law.
It's the only way I can maintain my individuality, my self-respect and
independence. My uncle has often expressed his desire to make me a
handsome allowance, but what would be the use ... now?"--bitterly.

The chin moved a little. It was too dark to see what this movement
expressed.

"It seems that I am only a very unfortunate fellow."

"You had given me your promise."

"I know it."

"Not that I cared,"--with cat-like cruelty; "but I lost the last train
out while waiting for you. Not even a note to warn me! Not the slightest
chance to find an escort! When a man gives his promise to a lady it does
not seem possible that he could forget it ... if he cared to keep it."

"I tell you honestly that I mixed the dates." How weak my excuses
seemed, now that they had passed my lips!

"You are sure that you mixed nothing else?"--ironically. (She afterward
apologized for this.) "It appears that it would have been better to come
alone."

"I regret I did not give you the address."

"It is not too late."

"I never retreat from any position I have taken."

"Indeed?"

Then both our chins assumed an acute angle and remained thus. When a
woman is angry she is about as reasonable as a frightened horse; when a
man is angry he longs to hit something or smoke a cigar. Imagine my
predicament!

When the cab reached Washington Place and came to a stand I spoke again.

"Shall I take the hat in, or will you?"

"We shall go together."

Ah, if only I had had the courage to say: "I would it were for ever!"
But I feared that it wouldn't take.

I rang the bell, and presently a maid opened the door.

"Is Monsieur de Beausire in?" I asked.

"No, sir, he is not," the maid answered civilly.

"Do you know where he may be found?"

"If you have a bill you may leave it,"--frostily and with sudden
suspicion.

There was a smothered sound from behind me, and I flushed angrily.

"I am not a bill-collector."

"Oh; it's the second day of the month, you know. I thought perhaps you
were."

"He has in his possession a hat which does not belong to him."

"Good gracious, he hasn't been _stealing_? I don't believe"--making as
though to shut the door.

This was too much, and I laughed. "No, my girl; he hasn't been stealing.
But, being absent-minded, he has taken another man's hat, and I am
bringing his home in hopes of getting the one he took by mistake."

"Oh!" And the maid laughed shrilly.

I held out the hat.

"My land! that's his hat, sure enough. I was wondering what made him
look so funny when he went out."

"Where has he gone?" came sharply over my shoulder.

"If you will wait," said the maid good-naturedly, "I will inquire."

We waited. So far as I was concerned, I hoped he was miles away, and
that we might go on riding for hours and hours. The maid returned soon.

"He has gone to meet the French consul at Mouquin's."

"Which one?" I asked. "There are two, one down and one up town."

"I'm sure I don't know. You can leave the hat and your card."

"Thank you; we shall retain the hat. If we find monsieur he will need
it."

"I'm sorry," said the maid sympathetically. "He's the worst man you ever
saw for forgetting things. Sometimes he goes right by the house and has
to walk back."

"I'm sorry to have bothered you," said I; and the only girl in the
world and myself re-entered the cab.

"This is terrible!" she murmured as we drove off.

"It might be worse," I replied, thinking of the probable long ride with
her: perhaps the last I should ever take!

"How could it be!"

I had nothing to offer, and subsided for a space.

"If we should not find him!"

"I'll sit on his front stoop all night.... Forgive me if I sound
flippant; but I mean it." Snow was in the air, and I considered it a
great sacrifice on my part to sit on a cold stone in the small morning
hours. It looks flippant in print, too, but I honestly meant it. "I am
sorry. You are in great trouble of some sort, I know; and there's
nothing in the world I would not do to save you from this trouble. Let
me take you home and continue the search alone. I'll find him if I have
to search the whole town."

"We shall continue the search together,"--wearily.

What had she written to this other fellow? _Did_ she love some one else
and was she afraid that I might learn who it was? My heart became as
lead in my bosom. I simply could not lose this charming creature. And
now, how was I ever to win her?

It was not far up town to the restaurant, and we made good time.

"Would you know him if you saw him?" she asked as we left the cab.

"Not the least doubt of it,"--confidently.

She sighed, and together we entered the restaurant. It was full of
theater-going people, music and the hum of voices. We must have created
a small sensation, wandering from table to table, from room to room, the
girl with a look of dread and weariness on her face, and I with the
Frenchman's hat grasped firmly in my hand and my brows scowling. If I
hadn't been in love it would have been a fine comedy. Once I surprised
her looking toward the corner table near the orchestra. How many joyous
Sunday dinners we had had there! Heigh-ho!

"Is that he?" she whispered, clutching my arm of a sudden, her gaze
directed to a nearby table.

I looked and shook my head.

"No; my Frenchman had a mustache and a goatee."

Her hand dropped listlessly. I confess to the thought that it must have
been very trying for her. What a plucky girl she was! She held me in
contempt, and yet she clung to me, patiently and unmurmuring. And I had
lost her!

"We may have to go down town.... No! as I live, there he is now!"

"Where?" There was half a sob in her throat.

"The table by the short flight of stairs ... the man just lighting the
cigarette. I'll go alone."

"But I can not stand here alone in the middle of the floor...."

I called a waiter. "Give this lady a chair for a moment;" and I dropped
a coin in his palm. He bowed, and beckoned for her to follow.... Women
are always writing fool things, and then moving Heaven and earth to
recall them.

"Monsieur de Beausire?" I said.

Beausire glanced up.

"Oh, eet ees.... I forget zee name?"

I told him.

"I am delight'!" he cried joyfully, as if he had known me all my life.
"Zee chair; be seat'...."

"Thank you, but it's about the hats."

"Hats?"

"Yes. It seems that the hat I gave you belongs to another man. In your
haste you did not notice the mistake. _This_ is your hat,"--producing
the shining tile.

"_Mon Dieu!_" he gasped, seizing the hat; "eet _ees_ mine! See! I bring
heem from France; zee _nom_ ees mine. _V'là!_ And I nevaire look in zee
uzzer hat! I am _pair_fickly dumfound'!" And his astonishment was
genuine.

"Where is the other hat: the one I gave you?" I was in a great hurry.

"I have heem here," reaching to the vacant chair at his side, while the
French consul eyed us both with some suspicion. We _might_ be lunatics.
Beausire handed me the benevolent old gentleman's hat, and the burden
dropped from my shoulders. "Eet ees _such_ a meestake! I laugh; eh?" He
shook with merriment. "I wear _two_ hats and not know zee meestake!"

I thanked him and made off as gracefully as I could. The girl rose as
she saw me returning. When I reached her side she was standing with her
slender body inclined toward me. She stretched forth a hand and solemnly
I gave her Mr. Chittenden's hat. I wondered vaguely if anybody was
looking at us, and, if so, what he thought of us.

The girl pulled the hat literally inside out in her eagerness; but her
gloved fingers trembled so that the precious letter fluttered to the
floor. We both stooped, but I was quicker. It was no attempt on my part
to see the address; my act was one of common politeness. But I could
not help seeing the name. It was my own!

"Give it to me!" she cried breathlessly.

I did so. I was not, at that particular moment, capable of doing
anything else. I was too bewildered. My own name! She turned, hugging
the hat, the legal documents and the letter, and hurried down the main
stairs, I at her heels.

"Tell the driver my address; I can return alone."

"I can not permit that," I objected decidedly. "The driver is a stranger
to us both. I insist on seeing you to the door; after that you may rest
assured that I shall no longer inflict upon you my presence, odious as
it doubtless is to you."

As she was already in the cab and could not get out without aid, I
climbed in beside her and called the street and number to the driver.

"Legally the letter is mine; it is addressed to me, and had passed out
of your keeping."

"You shall never, never have it!"--vehemently.

"It is not necessary that I should," I replied; "for I vaguely
understand."

I saw that it was all over. There was now no reason why I should not
speak my mind fully.

"I can understand without reading. You realize that your note was cruel
and unlike anything you had done, and your good heart compelled you to
write an apology; but your pride got the better of you, and upon second
thought you concluded to let the unmerited hurt go on."

"Will you kindly stop the driver, or shall I?"

"Does truth annoy you?"

"I decline to discuss truth with you. Will you stop the driver?"

"Not until we reach Seventy-first Street West."

"By what right----"

"The right of a man who loves you. There, it is out, and my pride has
gone down the wind. After to-night I shall trouble you no further. But
every man has the right to tell one woman that he loves her; and I love
you. I loved you the moment I first laid eyes on you. I couldn't help
it. I say this to you now because I perceive how futile it is. What
dreams I have conjured up about you! Poor fool! When I was at work your
face was always crossing the page or peering up from the margins. I
never saw a fine painting that I did not think of you, or heard a fine
piece of music that I did not think of your voice."

There was a long interval of silence; block after block went by. I never
once looked at her.

"If I had been rich I should have put it to the touch some time ago; but
my poverty seems to have been fortunate; it has saved me a refusal. In
some way I have mortally offended you; how, I can not imagine. It can
not be simply because I innocently broke an engagement."

Then she spoke.

"You dined after the theater that night with a comic-opera singer. You
were quite at liberty to do so, only you might have done me the honor
to notify me that you had made your choice of entertainment."

So it was out! Decidedly it was all over now. I never could explain away
the mistake.

"I have already explained to you my unfortunate mistake. There was and
is no harm that I can see in dining with a woman of her attainments. But
I shall put up no defense. You have convicted me. I retract nothing I
have said. I _do_ love you."

I was very sorry for myself.

Cabby drew up. I alighted, and she silently permitted me to assist her
down. I expected her immediately to mount the steps. Instead, she
hesitated, the knuckle of a forefinger against her lips, and assumed the
thoughtful pose of one who contemplates two courses.

"Have you a stamp?" she asked finally.

"A stamp?"--blankly.

"Yes; a postage-stamp."

I fumbled in my pocket and found, luckily, a single pink square, which I
gave to her. She moistened it with the tip of her tongue and ... stuck
it on the letter!

"Now, please, drop this in the corner box for me, and take this hat
over to Mr. Chittenden's--Sixty-ninth."

"What----"

"Do as I say, or I shall ask you to return the letter to me."

I rushed off toward the letter-box, drew down the lid, and deposited the
letter--my letter. When I turned she was running up the steps, and a
second later she had disappeared.

I hadn't been so happy in all my life!

Cabby waited at the curb.

Suddenly I became conscious that I was holding something in my hand. It
was the benevolent old gentleman's stovepipe hat!


I pushed the button: pushed it good and hard. Presently I heard a window
open cautiously.

"What is it?" asked a querulous voice.

"Mr. Chittenden?"

"Yes."

"Well, here's your hat!" I cried.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

A Table of Contents has been added.





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