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Title: Little Stories of Married Life
Author: Cutting, Mary Stewart
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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                     Little Stories of Married Life



------------------------------------------------------------------------



               “I ken far lands to wifeless men unknown.”



------------------------------------------------------------------------



[Illustration: “He kissed the laughing children as they clung to him”
“THE HAPPIEST TIME,” Page 114]



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                           Little Stories of
                              Married Life

                                   By

                          Mary Stewart Cutting

                       [Illustration: Decoration]

                         GARDEN CITY   NEW YORK
                       DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
                                  1920



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          Copyright, 1902, by
                         Doubleday, Page & Co.

                          Copyright, 1896, by
                           S. S. McClure Co.

                          Copyright, 1899, by
                           S. S. McClure Co.

                          Copyright, 1902, by
                           S. S. McClure Co.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                Contents


                   Their Second Marriage           1

                   A Good Dinner                  23

                   The Strength of Ten            45

                   In the Reign of Quintilia      73

                   The Happiest Time              93

                   In the Married Quarters       115

                   Mrs. Atwood’s Outer           139
                     Raiment

                   Fairy Gold                    159

                   A Matrimonial Episode         181

                   Not a Sad Story               199

                   Wings                         225



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                         Their Second Marriage



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                         Their Second Marriage


“HENRY, do you know what day Thursday will be?”

“Thursday? The twenty-first.”

“Yes, and what will the twenty-first be?”

“Thursday.”

“Oh, Henry!” Pretty Mrs. Waring looked tragically across the
breakfast-table at her husband, or rather at the newspaper that screened
him completely from her view. “Do put down that paper for a moment. I
never get a chance to speak to you any more in the morning, and I have
to spend the whole day alone. Do you really mean to say that you don’t
know what the twenty-first is?”

“The twenty-first?” Mr. Waring met his wife’s gaze blankly as he
hurriedly swallowed his coffee, and then furtively observed the hands of
the watch that lay open on the table before him. “What do you mean,
Doll? Say it quickly, for I’ve got to go.”

“Henry, have you forgotten that it is the anniversary of our wedding?”

“Oh—oh!” said Mr. Waring, a light dawning on him, and a suspicious note
of relief perceptible in his voice. He rose from his chair as he spoke.
“Forgotten that? Why, of course not; the day I was married to the
sweetest girl in the world! How lovely you did look, to be sure, and
what a lucky fellow I was to get you! _Can_ you just help me on with my
overcoat, dear? The lining of this sleeve—Yes, I know you haven’t had
time to mend it yet. Now, Doll, I would _like_ to stand here and kiss
you all day, but the train is whistling across the bridge. By, by, dear;
take good care of yourself and the babies!”

His wife watched him fondly as he walked down the path to the gate,
strong, alert, and masculine, and waved her hand as he looked back and
took off his hat to her with a smile before joining another man hurrying
for the train. She could see him almost visibly shut out the little
cottage from his mind as he turned away from it, and set his shoulders
squarely, as if to brace himself for entering the strenuous whirl of
business life that makes up the larger, waking half of a man’s life, and
in which wife and children have but a sub-existence. But this morning
Mrs. Waring did not feel the chill depression that sometimes stole over
her as she saw him disappear; her mind was too occupied with his words,
which, few and perfunctory as they might sound to the uninitiated,
carried deepest meaning to her ears. Her ardent mind conjured up the
picture of the girl in bridal attire who had stood beside her lover on
their marriage-day, and credited him with the same wealth of imagining
and all the tender sentiment connected with it. She fell into a
delightful dream of the romantic past, from which she was only aroused
by the patter of little feet above and the reminder that she was needed
in the nursery.

Mrs. Waring had, unknown to her husband, set her mind for some months
past on a celebration of her wedding anniversary, the observance of
which had lapsed, for one reason or another, for a couple of years; but
she had said to herself firmly that Henry must propose it, and not leave
it all to her. If she had to plan it out as she had their moving into
the country, or their trip to the seashore last summer, or the Christmas
party for the babies—nay, if she even had to suggest it to him, it would
be valueless to her. If he did not love her enough, if he did not have
her happiness enough at heart to think of pleasing her without being
reminded of it—why, she would have no celebration. It was entirely
against her resolution that she had spoken of it this morning, but she
knew in her soul that he never would remember if she did not, and she
could only think that, the date once recalled, the rest must follow.

She herself thought of nothing else all day. She told little Henry all
about mamma’s pretty wedding “once upon a time,” when mamma wore a
beautiful white dress with a long white veil, and walked up the aisle in
church when the organ played, and the chancel was full of roses and
palms; and although the child only asked innocently if there were any
bears or lions there, her small nurse-maid, Beesy, was deeply though
respectfully interested, and Mrs. Waring could not help being secretly
conscious that, while apparently engaged with her infant audience, she
was in reality playing to the gallery. She even got out her wedding
jewels to hang around baby Marjorie’s neck, to provoke Beesy’s
awestricken admiration.

It would have taken close study of the influences of the past year to
determine why this particular wedding anniversary should have assumed
such prominence in young Mrs. Waring’s mind. Both she and her husband
had been surprised to find that, in face of all preconceived opinions,
they had not settled down into the cool, platonic friendship held up to
them as the ultimate good of all wedded pairs, but were still honestly
and sincerely in love with each other. Yet, in spite of this fact, there
had lately been a certain strain. After all the first things are
over—the first year, which is seldom the crucial one in spite of its
conventional aspect in that light; after the first boy, and the first
girl, and the first venture at housekeeping in the suburbs—there comes a
long course of secondary living that tugs with its chain at character
and sometimes pulls it sharply from its stanchions.

Mrs. Waring greeted her husband that night with a countenance of soulful
meaning, and eyes that were uplifted to his in a fervid solemnity that
ought to have warned any man of peril ahead. She had a delightful
sensation that their most commonplace utterances were fraught with
repressed feeling, and when he finally said to her, after dinner, as
they sat by the little wood fire together, “I’ve a surprise for you,
Doll,” her heart gave a joyous bound, and she felt how truly he had
justified her thought of him.

“What is it, Henry?”

“Mother and Aunt Eliza and Mary Appleton and Nan are coming here to
lunch day after to-morrow—Thursday. Of course I said you’d be delighted.
It’s all right, isn’t it?”

“Coming on _Thursday_!”

“Yes. That isn’t a washing day or a cleaning day, is it?”

“No.”

Mr. Waring looked confounded.

“You’ve spoken so many times of their not coming out in the whole year
we’ve lived here, I thought you’d be glad, Doll.”

“Henry, why do you never call me Ethel any more? You used to say it was
the most beautiful name in the world, and now you seem to forget that I
have any name. Oh, if you knew how _sick_ I get of always being called
_Doll_! Such a horrid, common-sounding thing!”

“Why, Doll—”

“There it is again!”

“Ethel, my dear girl, don’t cry. If I had had the dimmest idea—I seem
always fated to do the wrong thing lately. Why can’t you tell me
sometimes what you’re driving at? If you don’t want my mother and the
girls, just say so. I can send them word to-morrow, and—”

“If you _do_!” Mrs. Waring stood up tragically with one hand on her
husband’s shoulder. “I wouldn’t have such a thing happen for worlds.”
She gave a little gasp of horror at the thought. “But, oh, Henry, you
nearly kill me sometimes! No, if you don’t know why this time, I shall
not tell you again.” She leaned her head against her husband as if
exhausted, and submitted to be drawn down beside him once more. “You
never think of me any more.”

“But I do think of you, sweetheart.” He patted her head persuasively.
“Lots of times, when you don’t know it. If you’d only tell me what you
want, dear. I’m such a bad guesser. And I know you really do wish to see
my mother and show her the children.”

“It’s the fourth time she has sent word that she was coming,” said his
wife pensively. She was already forecasting the plan of action to be
pursued in making ready for the expected guests.

When you are a young housekeeper with infants and only a nurse-maid
besides the cook, a day’s company means the revolutionizing of the
entire domestic machinery. In the city people carelessly come and go,
and the household of the entertainer is put to no special preparation
for them, but it is an unwritten law in the country that before the
advent of the seldom guest “to spend the day” the entire domicile must
be swept and garnished from top to bottom.

As Ethel Waring rubbed and polished and dusted she could but remember
that she had gone through the process of cleaning three times before for
Henry’s mother, who had always hitherto disappointed her. She prided
herself on being really fond of her mother-in-law, and his sister Nan
had been her particular friend, but Aunt Eliza and Mary Appleton were
the kind of people—well, the kind of people that belonged to her
husband’s family, and they always _saw_ everything around the house. She
cleaned now for the fourth time magnanimously. Since she had moved into
the country, and went to and from the city two or three times a week, it
had seemed odd to have her friends and relatives look upon the
half-hour’s journey in train and ferry-boat as a mighty undertaking, to
be planned for weeks ahead; and although she had been in her cottage
over a year, she had not yet become used to this point of view, and
still expected people to come after they had promised to.

There was something grimly sacrificial in her preparations now that
upheld her in her disappointment; her husband could not remember _her_
pleasure, but she was working her fingers off for his people. Yes, she
had nothing to look forward to but neglect—and the worst of it was that
he would not even know that he was neglecting her.

Perhaps, however, he did remember after all. She watched every word and
gesture of his up to the very morning of their anniversary. He was so
happy and merry and affectionate in his efforts to win her to smiles
that she could hardly withstand the infectiousness of it. But she felt
after his cheerful good-by as if the tragedy of her future years had
begun.

There was, indeed, no time for the luxury of quiet wretchedness. The two
children had to be bathed and put to bed for the morning nap, which both
she and Beesy prayed might be a long one, so that the last clearing up
might be done, and the table set, and the salad-dressing made, and the
cream whipped for the jelly, and she herself dressed and in the
drawing-room before twelve o’clock.

There was the usual panic when the butcher was late with the chickens,
and the discovery was made that the green grocer had not brought what
was ordered, and the usual hurried sending forth of Beesy to the village
at the last moment for the missing lettuce, only to be told that “there
was none in town this day”—a fact that smites the suburban housekeeper
like a blow. But finally everything was ready, the table set to
perfection, the drawing-room curtains drawn at their most effective
angle, the logs burning on the andirons, the chairs set most cozily, and
the vase of jonquils with their long, green stalks showing through the
clear glass, giving a lovely brightness to the room in their hint of
approaching spring. The babies, sweet and fresh, in the whitest of
frocks, and hair curled in little damp rings, ran up and down and
prattled beside the charmingly dressed, pretty mother, who sat with her
embroidery in hand and who could not help feeling somewhat of a glow of
satisfaction through her sadness. But after Harry had peeped out from
the curtains some twenty times to see if grandmamma was coming, and
little Marjorie had fallen down and raised a large bump on her forehead,
and the one-o’clock train had come in, there was a certain change in the
situation. The cook sent up word should she put on the oysters, and Mrs.
Waring answered no, to wait until the next train, although that did not
arrive until two o’clock. She pretended that her guests had missed the
earlier train, but in her soul she felt the cold chill of certainty that
they would not come.

As she sat eating her luncheon afterward in solitary state, and wishing
that she knew any of her neighbors well enough to ask them to join her,
she received a belated telegram from her husband: “Nan says party
postponed; Aunt Eliza has headache.” She read it, and cast it from her
scornfully.

And this was her wedding-day, passed in unnecessary work, futile
preparation for people who didn’t care a scrap for her! Oh, if she had
only been going in town that afternoon, as she had dreamed of doing, to
have a little dinner with Henry at the Waldorf, or Sherry’s, or the St.
Denis even—and go to a play afterward—she didn’t care where—and have
just their own little happy foolish time over it all! She had hardly
been anywhere since little Marjorie was born.

She was surprised to have a caller in the afternoon, a Mrs. Livermore.
The visitor was a large, stout woman with very blond hair, who lived on
the opposite corner. She was dressed in a magnificently florid style,
and sat in the little drawing-room a large mass of purple cloth and fur
and gleaming jet spangles, surmounted by curving plumes, that quite
dwarfed Mrs. Waring’s slender elegance. She apologized profusely for not
having called before, as illness had prevented her doing so, and sailed
at once smoothly off into a sea of medical terms, giving such an
intimate and minute account of the many diseases that had ravaged her
that poor Mrs. Waring paled. The one bright spot in her existence seemed
to have been her husband, whom she described as the most untiring of
nurses.

“I really didn’t know whether I’d find you at home this afternoon or
not,” she said. “Your nurse-girl, Beesy, told my cook that this was the
anniversary of your wedding. Willie and I always used to go off
somewhere for a little treat, but since I’ve been such an invalid I’ve
had to stay at home. But he never forgets. What do you think, Mrs.
Waring, every Saturday since our marriage, fourteen years ago, he has
brought me home a box of flowers! He always says, ‘Here are your roses,
Baby’—that’s his pet name for me. I don’t know what I’d do if Willie
wasn’t so attentive.”

“Indeed,” said Mrs. Waring.

On her return to the nursery she took occasion to reprove Beesy for
gossiping. Beesy was loud in extenuation. In a cottage one is thrown in
rather close companionship with one’s nurse-maid.

“Ah, I never said but two words to Ellen; but Mrs. Livermore—there’s
nothing she doesn’t find out. And the way she and Mr. Livermore
quar’ls!”

“Why, she says he is so devoted to her,” said Mrs. Waring incautiously.
“He brings her flowers every week.” She sighed as she thought of the
husband who did not bring them once a year.

“Him! Ah, ma’am, Ellen says they fights like cat and dog, and ’twas only
a week ago a-Monday the plates was flyin’ that thick in the dinin’-room,
Ellen she dassent put her head in at the door to take away the meat.
Ellen says ’twould have curdled y’r blood to hear ’em. The neighbors
have complained of ’em in the court. He drinks terrible!”

“You must not tell me these things, Beesy,” said Mrs. Waring with
dignity. “I do not wish to hear them. Come, Marjorie, sweetest, play
pat-a-cake with mamma—this way, baby darling. Oh, Beesy, there’s the
bell again!”

This time it was a neighbor whom Mrs. Waring had met before and rather
liked, a gentle, faded, sympathetic woman who had admired the children.
Mrs. Waring confided some of the household perplexities to her, and they
talked of the village markets and compared notes on prices, gradually
reaching even more personal ground. Mrs. Waring finally divulged the
fact that this was the anniversary of her wedding, and received her
guest’s congratulations.

“I had hoped to have celebrated the day in town,” she added impulsively,
“but Mr. Waring’s business arrangements have prevented.”

“It must be a _real_ disappointment to you,” commented her visitor
feelingly. “I often think how lonely you must be, knowing so few people.
A _man_ so seldom realizes what a _woman’s_ life is! He goes off into
the busy world every morning, little thinking of all _she_ must endure
throughout the day. I often watch you look after your husband when he
has left you in the morning; you look so _longingly_, dear. I said to
Mr. Morris just the other day, ‘I _do_ wish Mr. Waring would look back
just _once_ at that _sweet_ young _wife_ of his.’ Mr. Morris always
turns at the corner and waves his hand to me; perhaps you’ve seen
him—dear fellow!”

Mrs. Waring cooled suddenly toward this too sympathetic visitor, who
soon left, but the words had left a secret sting. Her voice had a tragic
sound when she told Beesy that she would order her meat henceforth from
Einstein, as Mrs. Morris said that his prices were lower than
O’Reilly’s.

“Mrs. Morris, ma’am!” caroled Beesy. “Ah, ma’am, you wouldn’t be after
eatin’ the kind of stuff she does. It’s not a roast of beef that does be
going in at that house from one week’s end to another—nothin’ but little
weenty scraps that wouldn’t keep a dog alive. Mr. Morris, poor man, he’s
that thin and wake. Oh, ’tis she has all the money, and she keeps him
that close! Ellen says ’tis only a quart of milk goes to them for five
days, and nobbut one shovelful of coal allowed to be put on the furnace
at a time, and him with the cough that’s tearing the heart out of him!
Ellen says—”

“That will do, Beesy,” said Mrs. Waring severely. The gossip of
servants, the trivial conversation and fulsome pity of vulgar neighbors,
was this all that was left to her?

She went downstairs again, and sat in the drawing-room, inside of the
window curtains, and wept. The gathering dusk seemed to prefigure the
gloom that was to encompass her future years. If people only wouldn’t
pity her she might be able to live; the children would love her at any
rate. Six years ago how happy she was, how dear his eyes looked when he
gave her that first married kiss! She could smell even now the fragrance
of the bride roses that she had held. She heard the patter of the
children’s feet overhead, and tried to wipe away the blinding tears.

A quick footstep on the walk outside startled her, and the gate slammed
to with a loud noise. Could it be possible? Her husband was running up
the piazza steps with something white in his hand—an enormous bunch of
white roses. Another moment and he was by her side, beaming down at her.
Oh, how handsome he was!

“How soon can you get on your things, Doll? I’ve tickets for the opera
to-night—‘Romeo and Juliet’—Emma Eames and Jean de Reszke—does that suit
you?”

“Oh, _Henry_!”

“I’ve brought some flowers, and we’ll make a lark of it. I’ve ordered a
cab from the station to be here in twenty minutes, and we’ll have to
dress and get a bite, too, if we can. I wanted to come out earlier, but
I wasn’t certain about the tickets until the last moment. We’ll have a
little supper after the opera, and take the one-ten out. What do you say
to that?”

“Oh, Henry! I thought you had forgotten, I thought—” But there was no
time to talk.

Could she ever forget that delightful, bewildering, hurried twenty
minutes? She spent five of them in trimming over a hat, to the masculine
creature’s amazement, her deft fingers pulling off bows and feathers and
sticking them on again with lightning rapidity. She ate a sandwich in
the intervals of dressing and giving directions to Beesy about the
babies.

When they finally whirled off in the stuffy little cab to the railway
station they were like a couple of children in their happy abandonment
to the expected pleasure.

The opera—had they ever gone to any opera before? How inconceivably
beautiful and brilliant the house, the lights, the gay assemblage to the
erstwhile dwellers of the suburbs! Together they scanned the emblazoned
women in the boxes, and pointed out to each other those whom they
recognized. And when Gounod’s delicious music stole into their hearts,
and Mrs. Waring sat with her bride roses in one hand, and the other
tucked secretly into Henry’s, under cover of her wrap, was ever any
woman happier? Had ever any girl a lover more devoted or more bubbling
over with fun? Romeo and Juliet—what were they to a real married couple
of to-day? Then the supper afterward with the gay throng at the
Waldorf—the reckless disregard of the midnight train—could there be
dizzier heights of revelry?

It was when they stood outside on the ferry-boat coming home that Mrs.
Waring spoke at last the thought that had lain nearest her heart all the
evening. They were out alone in front, the cold night wind blew
refreshingly, the dark water plashed around them, and across its black
expanse the colored lights gleamed faintly from the New Jersey shore.
Mrs. Waring leaned a little closer to her husband as they stood there in
the night and the darkness.

“Dear,” she murmured, “I can’t tell you how lovely the evening has been;
but you know what has made it so to me, that has been making me so
_very_ happy? The opera and the supper would have been _nothing_ without
it. Darling, it’s because you thought of it all yourself.”

A sudden tension in the arm on which she leaned startled Mrs. Waring.
She bent forward to look up into her husband’s face, with a swift
suspicion.

“Henry?”

“Well, Doll.”

“_Didn’t_ you think of it, yourself?”

“Nobody could have enjoyed our little fun together more than I have, you
know that, Doll; and nobody could want to make you any happier than I
do. What’s the use of picking the whole thing to pieces now and spoiling
it all?”

“Henry Waring, you haven’t answered me. Did you remember that this was
our wedding-day, or did you not? Who was it told you to take me out
to-night?”

“If you will not tell me these things yourself, Ethel—it’s mean of you,
dear; it puts me at a disadvantage when you remember and I don’t. Heaven
knows that I oughtn’t to forget anything that would give pleasure to
you—that’s true; but I’m not mean on purpose, and you are. You know—But
don’t let’s quarrel to-night.”

“Quarrel!” Mrs. Waring lifted her head indignantly. “As if I wanted to
_quarrel_! Who was it told you, Henry?”

“Well, Ethel, if you must know, Nan was in the office to-day to say they
couldn’t come, and she—”

“Nan—your sister Nan!”

Like a flash Mrs. Waring saw it all. She knew Nan’s impetuous,
whole-souled way; but—One of Henry’s family! Life could have no further
joy for her.

She looked at him furtively as he stood beside her gazing ruefully out
across the water. _Were_ they quarreling—would they get to throwing
plates after a while? His attitude was ludicrously dejected. In spite of
herself and the tears that had been ready to well up in her eyes the
moment before, a sudden sense of the absurdity of it all came over her,
and she broke into a refreshingly unexpected peal of laughter. Her
husband stared, and then laughed, too, in delighted relief. “Ah,” she
murmured, with her cheek against his coat sleeve, “I suppose I’ll just
have to love you as you are!”

“If you only _would_, dear,” he assented humbly.

The lights on the New Jersey shore shone brighter and brighter now,
yellow and red and green, casting their reflection on the black lapping
water below. The boat was nearing the dock. All unbidden with the last
words had come a deep joy, a thrill from heart to heart, wonderful in
its illuminating power. The warm silence that followed was an instant
benediction to unrecorded vows.

The chains clanked in the dock. As they stepped across the gangplank
toward the dark, waiting lines of cars beyond, he pressed her hand in
his as he bent over her, and whispered in tender playfulness, “Shall we
take the train for Washington or Philadelphia?”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             A Good Dinner



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             A Good Dinner


“THE butcher, ma’am.”

Mrs. Chauncey Callender put down her half-eaten muffin with a gesture of
despair, as she looked at the tidy, white-capped maid before her.

“Why does he always come at breakfast time? As if it is possible to know
then what one is going to want for the day! I’m sure I can’t think of a
thing! Chauncey, you _might_ help me. I get so tired planning the meals,
and it’s very hard to order for a small family. What would you like for
dinner to-night?”

“Roast peacock,” said Mr. Callender.

“Would you like a beefsteak?” His wife patiently ignored the last
remark, which as a stock answer to a stock question had even ceased to
irritate her.

“I shouldn’t mind having it.”

“‘Shouldn’t _mind_ having it!’ I’m asking you if you want it.”

“I want anything that you do.”

“Oh, Chauncey! You’ll drive me crazy-mad some day. I wish you’d express
a preference; it would make it so much easier for me. Would you like
chicken? I know that Cadmus has poultry on Wednesday.”

Mr. Callender’s expression became suddenly tinged with melancholy.
Although he was now metropolitan in appearance, manner, and habit, his
early existence had been spent upon a farm, where the killing and
eating-up of chickens at certain periods of the year was an economic
process, compulsory upon the household. A momentary sickness and
distaste of life seemed evolved from the recollection as he answered,

“I don’t seem to care much for chicken.”

“You never do, and I am so fond of it. Well, chops then. Would you like
breaded chops?”

“We have those almost every night, don’t we?” returned Mr. Callender
briskly, under the impression that he was being agreeable. “When in
doubt, have chops. Oh, yes, I like them well enough, when they’re not
raw in the middle, like the last. But get what you want yourself,
Cynthia, it really doesn’t make any difference to me.”

“That’s so like you! Why don’t you tell me at the time when things are
wrong, instead of coming out with it like this, afterwards? Why didn’t
you say the chops were raw? Mine were all right.” She regarded him with
affectionate exasperation, her wrath tempered by a guilty consciousness
that there had been undue sameness in the meals lately. “If I were like
some wives—”

“The butcher, ma’am—he’s waiting,” interposed the maid apologetically.

“Tell him I’ll come down to the village myself and give the order,” said
Mrs. Callender with dignity. “I’ll surprise you with a really good
dinner to-night, something out of the ordinary. We’ll have a dinner
party for ourselves.”

“All right,” said Mr. Callender with amiable alacrity, feeling relieved
of all individual responsibility. “Let’s, as the children say. I’ll
bring out a bottle of wine and some flowers for you, to carry out the
idea,” he added, with a magnificent cooperation in her plans that would
have made up for all his previous shortcomings if he had not suddenly
remarked as he was going out of the door,

“By the way, we may have company to-night, but I’m not _sure_. I nearly
forgot to mention it.”

“Chauncey!”

“A couple of Englishmen, over here to interview the firm; nice fellows,
you’d like ’em. They may give us a big order if things are satisfactory,
and we treat ’em right.”

“_Chauncey!_”

But he was gone for his train. Mrs. Callender looked horrified, and then
laughed. It was a way she had. His unexpectedness was always a secret
delight to her, although she outwardly bemoaned it; it gave her a
gambler’s interest in existence, and also a pleasing sense of masculine
masterfulness. She was wont to thank Heaven that she was married to a
_man_.

At no time would Mrs. Callender have been averse to the society of two
nice men for dinner. She decided at once to expect them permanently, and
accordingly took her cookery books in for consultation with the kitchen
divinity, an elderly competent woman, newly installed, whose look of
aggrieved patience had been gained from a peripatetic experience of
young and erratic housewives.

This being swooped a pile of dish-towels off in one arm from the back of
a chair as Mrs. Callender drew it forward, swooped a cluster of dishes
from the table, and with still another swoop wiped the white oil-cloth
cover clean enough for the books to be deposited on it. She then stood,
her hands in front of her, rigidly attentive to the words of fate.

There was, however, an innate joyousness about young Mrs. Callender
which bubbled forth at all times and in all places, carrying
preconceived opinions with it. The countenance of the cook insensibly
relaxed as Mrs. Callender beamingly said,

“I’m going to have a good dinner to-night, Catherine, and I want you to
help me.”

“Yes, ma’am—for how many?”

“Only four. I’ve decided on some of the things I want. You know how to
make cream of celery soup?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“And boiled salmon with white sauce—you made the last very nicely; and
cucumbers dressed with oil and vinegar—”

“You’ll have to order the oil, ma’am, as we’re just out of it.”

“Yes, I will; of course, we’ll need it for the mayonnaise also. I’ll
have tomato salad, and I wish you would make some cheese wafers to go
with it like those we had when you came last week. They were awfully
good. And I want just a few rhubarb tarts and a frozen chocolate pudding
for dessert—here’s the receipt for that—with whipped cream. And you
might make a small cake of any kind that’s easy, Catherine.”

“What kind of meat is it to be, ma’am?”

“Spring lamb,” said Mrs. Callender with all the solemnity which such a
resolution demanded. To buy real spring lamb in the suburbs in early
April puts one on a level with a moneyed aristocracy. “Spring lamb with
mint sauce and fresh peas and new potatoes, if I can get them,” she
added reverently as a saving clause. She blessed her lucky stars that it
was not a Friday, when, as every suburban dweller knows, there are only
a few wilted strands of green to be seen in the vegetable bins, and
nothing but cold round potatoes and onions and turnips are untemptingly
offered for sale.

“And oh, Catherine,” concluded Mrs. Callender, “we’ll have coffee, of
course; and I wish you’d make some of those lovely little rolls of
yours—that is, if you have time,” she generously conceded.

“I’ll put the bit of ironing I have on hand away until to-morrow,” said
Catherine with the resignation of necessity. “And you’ll make out a
list, ma’am, if you please, of the things we do be needing. I’d have to
get at the cake and the rolls this morning. There’s not a thing in the
house to-day to start on. We’ve no eggs, nor cheese, nor cream, nor
chocolate, and not enough butter, and no rock salt for the freezing, and
there’s no fruit either, if you want that.”

“Oh, yes, certainly! It’s well that you reminded me.” Mrs. Callender
beamed anew upon her help. “I’m going out to-day to luncheon, so you and
Nelly will have all the time there is. I’ll go and see about the
ordering at once as soon as I have given her directions about the table.
I want everything to look as pretty as possible. Mr. Callender is going
to bring me some lovely flowers for the center of it,” she concluded
with a little flourish.

In the little rounds of a suburban town any incident is an event. Mrs.
Callender felt that the day had become one of real importance. She let
her fancy play around the two Englishmen and her good dinner and her own
toilet until she was in a very pleasurable state of excitement. And to
be going out to luncheon besides! The latter, however, was not a real
function, but only the usual concomitant of a French reading which she
held every week with a friend—still, it was quite like having two
invitations in one day.

It happened that another friend stopped in casually that morning to see
Mrs. Callender, on her way home from marketing, and from her she gained
the pleasing knowledge that all the viands on which she had set her
reckless fancy were really to be had that day—even to the fresh peas,
whose pods might almost have contained small balls of gold, so
stupendous was the price asked for them. But when she finally went
upstairs to dress she found, to her consternation, that it was already
half-past eleven, and not a thing ordered yet!

                  *       *       *       *       *

Every moment now was precious. She concentrated all her attention, and
sitting down by her desk took up a sheet of blue paper and wrote down
rapidly on it a list of all her wants—one for the grocer, and one for
the butcher. Then Fortune favoring her with the sight of little Jack
Rand across the street, on his bicycle, she called him over and confided
the list to his care.

“And be sure that they both read the order carefully,” she said. “Take
it on to Cadmus when O’Reilly is through with it. You will not need to
tell them anything except that they are to send the things _at once_.”

“Yes,” said Jacky, departing with swift-revolving red legs. As she saw
the blue paper in his hands a strange reluctance seemed to hover over
her, she couldn’t tell why, as if it were somehow wrong to write lists
on blue paper. Perhaps it _was_ extravagant. There was a load off her
mind when Jack returned to affirm the faithful performance of his
errand, before she started out for the luncheon. “‘They had all the
things and they’ll send them right up, they _promised_.’” She repeated
his words with a glow of satisfaction.

There was no French after luncheon that day. Her friend had tickets for
the private view of some pictures in town and persuaded Mrs. Callender
to accompany her, under the pledge of taking an early train back. As a
matter of fact, the six o’clock bells were ringing before Mrs. Callender
had started to walk home from the station, feeling thoroughly guilty as
she thought of her long defection from the affairs of the household on
such a day, though it was quite likely that Chauncey’s friends would not
come. The blue paper returned to her mind, unpleasantly, mysteriously.

She hastened into the kitchen, to be confronted by a scene of spotless
order, a brilliant fire in the range shedding a red glow over the
hearth, and the white-aproned cook sitting in front of it with her hands
folded and a stony glare in her eyes.

“How is the dinner getting on?” asked Mrs. Callender nervously.

“There ain’t no dinner,” said the cook.

“No dinner! What do you mean, Catherine?”

“Not the sign of a thing has come this whole blessed day, ma’am; and me
a-waitin’ here with my ironin’ half done, in the middle of the week. Not
an egg nor a potato is there in the house, even.”

Mrs. Callender stopped, confounded. The shops were all closed at that
hour.

“Why, I saw Jack Rand myself, after he had given the order!” she
exclaimed, and then—she knew: like lightning her association with the
sheet of blue writing-paper was revealed to her; on the other side of it
was written the address of a newcomer who lived across the track at the
other end of the village. The marketing had gone there!

“Well, I never heard of such a thing!” she commented blankly, and, as
usual, laughed.

It was but a brief ten minutes later that her husband was presenting his
guests to her—they had come! She had been but hoping against hope that
they would not.

“Cynthia, I want to introduce Mr. Warburton and Mr. Kennard. I have
persuaded them to dine with us to-night.”

“It was awfully good of your husband to invite us,” said Mr. Warburton,
who was the elder, pleasant-faced and gray-haired, with the refined
accent and accustomed manner of a gentleman. “I hope we’ll not
inconvenience you, Mrs. Callender.”

“No, I hope we’re not inconveniencing you,” murmured the other, who
looked nineteen and was twenty-nine, who spoke from somewhere down in
his throat and blushed with every word.

“Not in the least,” said Mrs. Callender, immediately and intrepidly
rising to the occasion. She was a stanchly hospitable little soul, and
to have refused a welcome to the guests foisted on her would have been
as impossible to her at any time as to the proverbial Arab. There was an
inscrutable defiance in her eyes, however, when they met her husband’s,
which puzzled him uncomfortably.

“Mr. Nichols wished us all to dine at the Waldorf-Astoria,” he
explained—Mr. Nichols was the senior partner of the firm. “But I found,
accidentally, that these gentlemen were extremely tired of living at
hotels, and longed for a little home-like dinner, by way of variety.”

“We have been so much in your big hotels,” said Mr. Warburton
apologetically. “It makes one very dull, after a time, I think. You
can’t imagine, Mrs. Callender, our joy when Mr. Callender so kindly
offered to take us in. It’s so uncommonly jolly of you both to treat us
in this way.”

“I remembered that you said we were to have a particularly good dinner
to-night, so I didn’t telegraph you when I found that they could come,”
said Mr. Callender when the party had separated to dress and he and his
wife were alone in their own room. “Nichols is very anxious to have them
pleased—I told you that before, I think. They’re looking at machines,
and if they take the London agency for us it will make a big difference.
Why on earth did you look at me in that way downstairs? Is there
anything wrong?”

“No; nothing is wrong,” said his wife ironically, “except that we
_haven’t_ any dinner—to speak of. Oh, dear, if you make me laugh I’ll
never be able to hook this gown. No, it _isn’t_ the least bit tight,
it’s almost too loose, in fact—but I can’t hook it when I laugh.
Chauncey, the order went wrong in some way, this morning, and the
marketing never came at all. Just stand and take that in. If you had
only helped me at breakfast when I _asked_ you to, it wouldn’t have
happened. I was away all the afternoon, and, of course, Catherine never
sent for anything—just sat and waited. There’s nothing in the house but
some cans of mock-turtle soup and tomatoes, and one can of corned beef,
and a small one of plum pudding. Catherine is going to warm the beef in
the tomatoes, and make a sauce for the pudding. I’d die before I’d
apologize beforehand to those men; they’d never forgive themselves for
coming.”

Mr. Callender whistled. “Good gracious! And to think we’ve come from the
Waldorf-Astoria for this! But I don’t see yet how it happened,” he
incautiously objected. “I should think you could have managed better in
some way, Cynthia.”

“Oh, you do, do you?” said Mrs. Callender. “Well, I don’t. If you had
the housekeeping to look after in a place like this, Chauncey, where you
never can get anything you want, and there’s not a shop in the place
open after half-past six—”

“Yes, I know, I know,” interposed Mr. Callender hastily, dodging the
subject with the ease of long practice. “But couldn’t you knock up an
omelet, or a Welsh rarebit, or some sort of a side dish? Couldn’t you
_borrow_ something?”

Mrs. Callender shook her head tragically.

“Nelly went to the Appletons and the Warings to see if she couldn’t get
some eggs, but they had only one left at each place. It’s no use,
Chauncey, we’ve got to do the best we can. I’ve put on my prettiest
gown, and—did you bring the wine?”

“Yes, and it’s good,” said Mr. Callender with returning cheerfulness. He
was glad now that he had paid a price for it that was too large ever to
be divulged to his wife.

“And the flowers?”

“What flowers?”

“The flowers you said you were going to bring me.”

“My dear girl, I never thought of them from that moment to this.”

“Then we have nothing for the center of the table but that old
crumpled-up fernery,” she paused tragically. “Not even fruit! There’s
another plank gone.”

“Never mind, you’re the whole platform,” said her husband with jollity.
“You always manage some way.”

“I have to,” she pleaded, looking at herself approvingly in the glass.
The jetted black dress set off her white neck and arms very well. She
never considered herself pretty, but she had an infectious smile,
brilliant teeth, and those very light gray eyes that look black under
excitement. She cast a provocative glance at her husband, with mock
coquetry, and then deftly avoided his outstretched arm.

“I’ve no time for you,” she said saucily. “But for goodness’ sake,
Chauncey, rise to the occasion all you _can_!”

The two irreproachably attired men who made their entrance into the
drawing-room looked at her in a manner which she certainly found
encouraging. She concluded that the chances were good for making them
enjoy the dinner, irrespective of its quality. She was enjoying their
unspoken admiration, and the conversation also, when Mr. Warburton
returned to the subject of their invitation.

“It’s so good of you to have us without any notice—so uncommonly jolly
for us. We’ve been so tired of hotel cooking, after the steamer.”

“Yes,” chimed in the other, “it grew to be almost as tiresome to us as
the beastly tinned food we lived on when we were in Africa.”

“Oh, have you been in Africa lately?” asked Mrs. Callender with
composure, although she and her husband felt the piercing of a mortal
dart, and did not dare to look at each other.

“Yes, Kennard and I were on an exploring expedition last year,
accidentally; it’s quite a long tale—but we lived on tinned soups and
meats, and even plum pudding—fancy it in the hot climate!—until even the
smell of them sickened us. We’ve not been able to touch a bit of tinned
food since.”

“Canned things—or tinned, as you call them—are very useful in
emergencies,” said Mr. Callender with idiotic solemnity. “You know you
have to eat them sometimes—when you can’t—help yourself, you know. Oh,
yes, in emergencies tinned things are very useful—if you like ’em.”

Mr. Kennard laughed heartily, as if at some delicate joke. “Ah, yes,
yes, if you like them—if you like them, Warburton, yes—mind that, yes!”

“Excuse me for a moment,” said Mrs. Callender with graceful
deliberation, sweeping slowly out of the room, and as soon as the door
had closed behind her rushing into the kitchen wildly. The fortunes of
war were against her, but win the victory she would. There _had_ to be
some way out of this!

“Don’t dish up a thing, Catherine,” she ordered breathlessly. “It is no
use; the gentlemen never eat anything canned. I’ve got to think up
something else.” Daunted by the grim face of the insulted cook, she
turned appealingly to the waitress, a young and venturesome person, as
woman to woman. “You must know of something I could do, Nelly!”

“The Warings, ma’am—”

“You _told_ me you’d been there, and that everything they had was cooked
for their own dinner.”

The eyes of Irish Nelly sparkled. “That’s just it, ma’am. Mr. Waring’s
home late to-night, and they’re only just now sitting down to the soup.
I seen it going in through the window. If you—” she stopped tentatively.

“Well, well—_say_ it!”

“Sure, they’d loan you the whole dinner, ma’am, if you asked it.”

The light of kindred inspiration kindled in Mrs. Callender. The
neighborhood was practically a joint-stock food company, where maids
might be seen flitting through the back yard at any hour of the day or
evening, with the spoils of the borrower. But an entire dinner! The
magnificence of the scheme took Mrs. Callender’s breath away.

“You’d give the lend of it yourself, ma’am,” said Nelly impartially.

Mrs. Callender gasped—and assented.

“Come!” she said, and followed by the maid, dashed out of the kitchen
door, down the back piazza steps, and then up again on the piazza of the
adjoining house.

The people seated at the table in the dining-room looked up at the long
window, amazed to see Mrs. Callender gesticulating insanely at them from
without.

“Don’t help any more of that soup,” she called insistently. “Don’t help
any more of it—wait till I get in.” The window opened from the inside,
and she hurled herself into the room. “No, _no!_” she answered the look
on their horror-struck faces, “it’s not poisoned. I don’t mean that—it’s
all right; but I want it myself, I want your dinner. Oh, _will_ you let
me take it home with me?”

“My _dear_ Mrs. Callender,” expostulated Mr. Waring in a quieting voice,
rising cautiously.

“No, I’m not crazy! I mean just what I say. My husband has brought home
company, and we had only a canned dinner, and they can’t eat it because
they’ve been in Africa—and, oh, I can’t explain. And it’s so important
to treat them well, and—oh, you _dear_ thing!”

For Mrs. Waring had handed the soup to Nelly and was already giving
orders to her own maid.

“Don’t say another word,” she commanded rapidly, with a woman’s
perception grasping the situation. “Send us over just what you have in
exchange. We have only a plain home dinner—roast beef, vegetables,
macaroni, cottage pudding—you can put the things in your oven again.
Henry, carry over this roast, will you? Don’t make any noise, any of
you.”

“I’ll take the potatoes,” said Mrs. Callender fervently, but as she
climbed her own piazza steps once more and saw the ghostly procession
that came and went stealthily bearing dishes, her knees suddenly bent
under her, and she leaned against one of the piazza posts, too weak from
laughter to move.

“Take care, you’ll drop that dish,” said Mr. Waring interposing a
dexterous arm, while he endeavored to balance the roast on the railing.
“Mrs. Callender, don’t sit down on the piazza; get up. You’ll have me
laughing, too, if you don’t stop, and I’ve got to take this in and go
back for plates.”

“We have plates,” said Mrs. Callender, strangling. “Oh, Mr. Waring, we
have plates—we have _something_. Oh, Mr. Waring, go and leave me, go and
_leave_ me! I’ll never be able to stand up.”

“Hello, what’s the matter?” Mr. Callender, with an excited whisper, came
peering out into the semi-darkness. “That back door keeps letting in an
infernal draught. What on earth are you and Waring doing out here,
Cynthia? And you without a thing over your shoulders! I call that mean,
having a good time out here by yourselves, and leaving me inside to do
all the entertaining. Don’t you know that we’re waiting for dinner, and
it’s after half-past seven o’clock?”

His ill-used expression was the last straw. Mr. Waring rocked and reeled
with his platter, while the roast performed an _obligato_ movement.

“Oh!” moaned Mrs. Callender as her husband finally assisted her to an
erect position, and offendedly took up the dish of potatoes. “Don’t say
a word, don’t ask me a thing; you’ll never in this world know all I’ve
gone through in the last hour—you couldn’t take it in. But I’ve got the
dinner—your Englishmen are provided for—your future is assured, and all
that we have to do now is to go in and eat—and eat—and eat.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          The Strength of Ten



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          The Strength of Ten


AFTER plunging from the light and comfort of the heated train to the
track, just below the little Gothic station of Braewood, John Atterbury
had well-nigh half a mile to walk before reaching his suburban
residence. The way led in part across untilled fields from the
inclosures of which bars had been removed to facilitate the passage of
daily commuters. In the slant sunlight of a summer evening, with insects
chirping in the dusty grass by the side of the worn foot-path, and a
fresh breeze from outlying meadows scented with clover and milkweed to
fan the brow of the toiler, this walk served as a pleasant approach, in
the company of conversational friends, to further country
refreshment—the hammock on the verandah, the intimate society of
rosebushes, or a little putting on the sward at the back of the house.
But on a night in January, with the thermometer five degrees above zero,
and a fierce wind blowing out of illimitable blackness, life in the
suburbs demanded strenuous will-power. Men put their heads down and ran
in silence, with overcoats tightly buttoned, and hands beating together,
their footsteps sounding heavily on the frozen earth.

The wind cut John Atterbury’s strong lungs like a knife, and his feet
seemed to stumble against the cold as if it had been a visible barrier.
Moreover, he bore within him no lightness of spirit, but all the chill
and fatigue of a hard day spent in business transactions that have come
to nothing, added to the bitter knowledge of an immediate and pressing
need for money in the common uses of life. He had a numbing sense of
defeat, and worse than that, of inadequacy. If the man whom he was to
meet to-night did not bring relief, he knew not where to turn. His tired
brain revolved subconsciously futile plans for the morrow, while his one
overmastering desire was to reach the light and warmth and rest of the
cozy house that sheltered his young wife and three small children.

With a sharp pang of disappointment, he perceived, as he turned the
corner, that the front of the villa was in darkness except for a dim
light in his wife’s room, and as he opened the door with his latch key
no gush of hot air greeted him, but a stony coldness. He knocked against
a go-cart in the square hall on his way to light the gas, and his wife’s
voice called down softly,

“Is that you, dear?”

“Yes. Are you ill?”

“No, only resting. Aren’t you coming up?”

“In a moment.”

He divested himself of his hat and coat, and stood absently trying to
warm his hands at the frozen register, and then with a long sigh,
prepared to take up this end of the domestic burden with the patient use
of habit. He went upstairs with a firm and even step, treading more
lightly as he passed the nursery door where the baby was going to sleep
under the charge of Katy, the nurse-maid, and entered the room where his
wife lay on the lounge in a crimson dressing-gown, a flowered coverlet
thrown over her feet, her dark hair lying in rings on the white pillow,
and her large, dark eyes turned expectantly toward him. The comfort of
the pretty, luxurious room, which gave no hint of this new poverty in
its fittings, was eclipsed by the icy chill that was like an opaque
atmosphere.

The wind outside hurled itself at the house and shook the shutters.

Atterbury turned up the gas, and then sat down on the couch by his wife
and kissed her.

“What’s the matter?”

“Nothing but that old pain; it will go over if I lie still—it was my
only chance if we are to go out to-night. It’s really better now. I
promised Mrs. Harrington faithfully this afternoon that we’d come, in
spite of the weather. Do you mind?”

“No. Is Harrington home yet?”

“She expects him back this evening. Oh, Jack, Bridget was sent for this
morning before the breakfast things were cleared away. She really didn’t
want to go off this time, but that mother of hers—! The children were
more troublesome than usual, and _had_ to be taken care of. They’re all
asleep now but the baby. I sent them off earlier than usual on account
of the cold. Katy is _no_ good around the house, and we’ve had such a
day! The furnace—”

“I see that it’s out.”

“Both fires were out, but the range is going now. The wind was all
wrong. We made up the furnace three times, but I couldn’t remember how
to turn the dampers; they never seemed to be the right way. There’s a
grate fire in the nursery, though.”

“The water hasn’t frozen in the pipes, I hope?”

There was an ominous sound in his voice.

She nodded speechlessly, and looked at him, her eyes large with unshed
tears.

“Why didn’t you _tell_ me?” He rose for action. “You should have sent
for the plumber at once.”

“There wasn’t anyone to send, and it was so late when I found it out; he
wouldn’t have come until to-morrow, anyway.”

There was a certain look in his wife’s face at times which filled
Atterbury with extreme tenderness. In the seven years of their wedded
life she had explained to him every varying grade of emotion which the
sight of him caused her, but there were many things which he had never
thought of telling her, or even consciously formulating to himself. He
went over to the closet, poured out some cordial in a small glass and
brought it to her to drink, watching narrowly until a faint tinge of
color relieved the bluish pallor around her mouth. Then he poured out
another small glass for himself, and spread the down coverlet more
closely over her, frustrating her evident desire to rise.

“You lie still.” He passed a heavy, affectionate hand over her forehead,
and she rested her cheek against it with a passionate helplessness.
“What on earth did you want to do all the work for, to-day? Why didn’t
you get the McCaffrey woman? You’ve no business to tire yourself out
like this, Agnes. I don’t see how you’re ever going out this evening!”

“Oh, I can go, I’m so much better now. I thought—I know that we have so
little money—I wanted to economize; other women seem to do such things
without any trouble at all.”

“Well, we won’t economize that way. Always get what help is necessary.”
He spoke with the quick, matter-of-fact decision of a man used to
affairs, temporarily regardless of the financial situation, whose
cramping iron restrictions could be felt at every turn. “I’ll go down
now and start things up!”

“Your dinner is in the oven. I’ll send Katy to you as soon as Herbert is
asleep. She can’t leave him now, for he crawls over the crib and drops
out.”

“All right! Don’t you worry, I’ll get it.”

He ran downstairs, arrayed for service, and Agnes listened to his
receding footsteps, a warm comfort in her heart despite that racking of
the bones, as of one “smote hip and thigh,” which comes to the
delicately-born with unaccustomed kitchen-work. After some
moments—spent, as she guiltily divined, in searching for the coal
shovel—the clatter and rattle of the furnace showed that a master hand
had taken it in charge.

Atterbury stoked and shoveled with every quick sense suddenly
concentrated on a deep and hidden care. If anything should happen to his
wife—vague, yet awful phrase—if anything should “happen” to his wife!
She was not made for struggle; the doctor had told him that before. He
knew, none better! how brave, loving, yet sensitive a spirit was housed
in that tender and fragile body. If she were to leave him and their
little children—

No mist came over his eyes at the phantasm, but a sobered keenness of
vision gleamed there. There were certain things which it behooved a man
to do. He walked over to the coal bins—they were nearly empty. Well,
more coal must be ordered at once; he would himself speak about it to
Murphy, and make arrangements to pay that last bill—somehow.

A catalogue of indebtedness unrolled itself before him, but he gazed at
it steadily. The fog-like depression was gone. He felt in his veins the
first tingling of that bitter wine of necessity which invigorates the
strong spirit.

And there was Harrington, at whose house the card party was to be held
to-night. He drew a long breath, and his heart beat quicker. He had not
told his wife how much he counted on seeing Harrington, but he was sure
that she had divined it—nothing else would have taken him out again on
such a night. This wealthy and genial neighbor had held out great hopes
of furthering one scheme of Atterbury’s in that trip out West from which
he had just returned. Atterbury had helped Harrington about his patent,
and the latter professed himself eager to repay the service. If
Harrington had used his influence—as he could use it—and had got the
company to look at the land, why, it was as good as sold. Atterbury knew
that it held the very qualities for which they were looking. If the plan
were a success, then what had been started first as an attractive
“flyer” might prove to be a main dependence when most needed. He felt a
little bitterly that the friends on whom he had most counted had failed
him. Callender—Nichols—Waring—in their plans there was no room for him.
This meeting with Harrington was the crucial point on which the future
hung.

When Atterbury went back to his wife, warmed with his work, she was
standing before the mirror, dressing; a faint, smoky smell arose from
the register. The wind was still evidently in the wrong direction for
chimneys. An infant’s prattle, mixed with an occasional whimper, came
from the nursery.

“I’ve wrapped hot cloths around the pipes,” he said cheerfully, “and
left a couple of kerosene lamps lighted on the floor near them. We’ll
have to take our chances now. What’s this envelope on the mantelpiece?”
His face fell. “Another assessment from the Association? That makes the
eleventh this month, besides the regular insurance, that was due on the
first.”

“But you can’t pay it!” She had looked bright when he came in, but now
her lips quivered.

“Oh, I’ll have to pay that; don’t you worry about it. I tell you,
though, Agnes, I’d be worth a good deal more to you dead than I am now.”

“Don’t! You know I hate to hear you talk like that. I’d never _take_
your old insurance money.” She grasped him by her two slender, cold
hands and tried ineffectually to shake him while he smiled down at her,
and then hid her head on his breast, raising it, however, to say,

“Did you eat your dinner? I hope that it wasn’t burned.”

“I ate—some of it!”

“Oh,” she groaned, “and on such a night!”

“Never mind, I’m counting on a good hot little supper at Harrington’s.
And, Agnes—” having none of the care of the children, he had a habit of
intervening at inopportune moments with well-meant suggestions—“just
listen to that child! Don’t you think he might go to sleep better if I
brought him in here with us for a few moments?”

“_No_,” said his wife. She added afterward, sweetly in token of renewed
amity, “He’s such a darling, and he looks more like you every day. He’ll
be asleep soon. But I’m sure Gwendolen will have the croup to-night, the
house has been so cold.”

“Oh, of course,” said Atterbury grimly. By some weird fatality the
festive hour abroad was almost inevitably followed by harrowing
attendance on one or other of the infants in the long watches of the
night. Husband and wife looked at each other and laughed, and then
kissed in silence, like two children, in simple accord.

It was with many instructions to Katy that the Atterburys finally left
the house, instructions that comprehended the dampers, the babies, and
the pipes.

“I don’t suppose that she will remember a word that we have told her,”
said Agnes resignedly.

“Well, we are only going three doors away; I’ll run back after a while
and see.”

“I’m so glad I’m going with _you_,” she whispered as they walked the few
steps, he trying to shield her from the violence of the wind.

“Ah, yes,” he jibed, “it’s such a new thing, isn’t it, to be with me!
You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

The Harringtons’ house was certainly a change from the one they had
left. Delicious warmth radiated from it as the ample doors unclosed to
let the guests in; the crimson-shaded lights were reflected on the card
tables and the polished floor, and laughing voices greeted the
newcomers.

“You are late,” said the hostess, who was considered handsome, with
heavy black eyebrows, dimples in her white, rounded cheeks, and a
petulant expression. She wore a bunch of violets in the belt of her
light blue gown. “You are late, but not so late as my husband. I
expected him home to dinner, and he hasn’t come yet. It’s the way I’m
always treated,” she pouted engagingly; “you other men will have to be
very, very nice to me.”

She stared with public audacity into the eyes of the man nearest her,
and then let her long black lashes sweep her cheek. It pleased her to
pose as the attractive young married woman, and by tacit consent the
suburban husbands were allowed by their wives to go through the motions
of flirting with her.

Atterbury settled down to the strain of waiting. The company was
composed of couples who saw each other daily, the men on the trains, the
women in their small social rounds. Every event that happened in their
little circle was common property, to be discussed by all. The evolution
of Mrs. Oliver’s black spangled gown, the expensive house which the new
doctor was erecting under the auspices of the Building Loan Association,
Totty Jenkins’ stirring experiences in the kindergarten, and Mr.
Waring’s sudden substitution of the seven-thirty-one morning train for
the eight-fourteen, were subjects interspersed with, and of the same
calibre, as discussions on the presidential candidate, the last new
book, or affairs in Africa.

In spite of this pooling of interests, so to speak, the weekly gathering
at the houses of different members always took on an aspect of novelty.
Everyone dressed for the occasion, and there was usually a good game of
cards, and a modest little supper afterwards, and the women met other
men besides their husbands, and the men met each other and smoked after
supper. The only real variety in the programme was that the simple and
hearty friendliness beneath all this was more apparent at some houses
than at others.

The Harringtons—somewhat new arrivals—were the confessedly rich people
of the set, and the entertainments which they gave were characterized
with a little more pomp and circumstance. Mrs. Harrington, for all her
perfunctory belleship, was a lively and entertaining hostess. Everyone
strove to make up to her for Harrington’s absence, and a particularly
cordial spirit prevailed. It was always a secret trial to Agnes not to
play cards at the same table as her husband in the progressive game, but
to-night she did not mind, for his steel-blue eyes met hers in a kind,
remembering glance whenever she looked for it, that spoke of a sweet and
intimate companionship, with which outside events had nothing to do.

In one of the intermissions of the game Atterbury heard Henry Waring say
to Nichols,

“Did you see the little item in one of the evening papers about that
Western Company to whom Harrington sold his patent?”

“No, what was it?” asked Nichols.

“They’re going to start up the plant at once near some town in Missouri,
I’ve forgotten the name—paid fifty thousand for the ground. You see,
they required peculiar natural facilities; that’s what’s kept them back
so long. It seems a good deal of money to pay for a clay-bank. Of
course, Harrington’s in a hurry to start them up; he’ll get a big
royalty.”

“You are _not_ to talk business,” said Mrs. Harrington’s gay voice.

Atterbury felt the room swirl around with him; _he_ knew the name of the
town well enough! He had been sure from the first that those barren
acres of his held just what the Company was looking for, but he had
never dreamed of getting more than ten or fifteen thousand for them. A
warm gratitude to Harrington filled him, and then a chill of doubt. The
newspaper only chronicled a rumor, not a certainty, for no real sale
could take place without his knowledge.

He did not know how he played after this, and it was a tremendous relief
when the players left the tables and stood or sat in little home-like
groups, all talking and laughing at once in a merry tumult. There was in
the air that fragrant aroma of newly-made coffee which is so peculiarly
convivial in the suburbs, and the absence of Harrington, who was
nevertheless considered to be a jolly good fellow, had ceased to be
noticed by anyone but Atterbury, when the sound of wheels was heard
grating on the driveway outside. He clutched the chair he stood by,
although his face was impassive. The hour he had been waiting for was
here—Harrington had come.

Mrs. Harrington ran into the hall with an exclamation of pleasure, as
the door opened, letting in a flood of cold air and a large man heavily
wrapped in fur. The listening company heard him say,

“What in—time—have you got this crowd here to-night for?” The words were
respectable, but the tone cursed.

There was a stiffening change in her voice. “Hush! Didn’t you get my
letter?”

“What letter? No, if I had I wouldn’t have been fool enough to come home
for a quiet night’s rest; I might have known I couldn’t get it here. You
can’t live without a lot of people cackling around you.”

“Go to bed, then. Nobody wants to see you!” It was the quick thrust of a
rapier.

“Much rest I’d get with that mob in there.”

The woman flashed back at him with a white heat,

“You have your men’s dinners and your wine parties—and you grudge me a
little pleasure like this! It’s like you; it’s like—” For very shame’s
sake, the guests were hurriedly talking to cover the sounds of strife.

“Harrington’s trip evidently hasn’t done him much good,” said Nichols to
Atterbury. “I doubt his success. He has too many large schemes on hand;
what he makes in one way he uses to float something else.”

“It’s possible,” said Atterbury thoughtfully.

“It doesn’t do to take things like that; if you lose your grip you can’t
get on.”

“That’s what I’m finding out now. I don’t mind telling you, Mr. Nichols,
that I’m in a hole. But you have no experience in that way; your
business is secure.”

The two men had drawn to one side and were talking in low and
confidential tones.

“Is it? I tell you, Atterbury, the time I went through five years ago
was awful, simply awful. No, I never said a word to a soul here; nobody
even suspected. There was one time when I thought I’d have to send Sue
and the babies home to her father, and light out for the Klondike.”

“But you didn’t,” said Atterbury, his own pulse leaping to the courage
of the other man with a sudden kinship.

“No, I didn’t go. You _can’t_ be discouraged when you have a wife and
children to support. Things turned out—it was most unexpected. I’ll tell
you all about it some day. It’s well that the opportunities of life are
not bounded by our knowledge of them, Atterbury.”

They looked at each other in silence with a large assent.

“By the way, we are rather at a standstill at present,” said Nichols
after a pause. “We’ve got to get some one to represent us in South
Africa at once—business possibilities are opening up there tremendously.
You don’t happen to know of the right person?”

“Myself,” said Atterbury.

“I wish it were possible,” said Nichols politely. “But of course that’s
out of the question. We must have some one who thoroughly understands
the business, and the machines—one who can take the initiative. The fact
is, either Callender or I ought to go, but we can’t leave. We virtually
need a third man in the firm, but he must have capital.”

“Please come into the other room, all of you,” said the hostess with a
forced playfulness, pulling aside the porti—res which had concealed the
little feast. There was a heightened color in her face, and her eyes
were hard. “Mr. Harrington says that he is going to stay in here until
we have finished, but I know you won’t miss _him_!”

“Oh, come along in, Harrington,” said Nichols good-naturedly. “Tell us
of your travels in the wild and woolly West.”

“There’s nothing to tell,” said Harrington shortly, turning away from
the instinctive question in Atterbury’s look with almost brutal
rudeness, and pushing past him to an armchair, where he sat down and
closed his eyes wearily. He was a big man, with thick, black hair, and a
black mustache, which dropped over a heavy chin.

“I’ve passed the nights in beastly sleeping cars, and the days in dining
and wining a lot of low, greasy politicians. I’m _dog_-tired.” There
were deep lines in his low forehead and under his eyes—and his large,
white, powerful hand clasped and unclasped nervously.

“You go in there, both of you. I’m all broke up. My wife will entertain
you; her damn chatter drives me mad!”

“I’ll stay here with you,” said Atterbury resolutely.

“I will send your supper in to you,” called Mrs. Harrington lightly, as
she saw him draw up a chair to one of the deserted card tables near
which Harrington was sitting with his eyes still closed and his head
leaned back against the cushions.

He paid no attention to the dishes, but Atterbury ate and drank quickly,
like the hungry man he was, though hardly knowing what he tasted, except
that it was warm and good. Then he sat absently looking at the scene in
the supper room where the guests were grouped around the table, the
wax-lights in the candelabra illumining the women opposite him; Mrs.
Harrington’s brilliant eyes and blue gown, the fair hair and scarlet
draperies of pretty Mrs. Waring, the white teeth and charming smile of
black-robed Mrs. Callender, and the old-rose bodice, slender neck, and
dusky, drooping head that belonged to Agnes.

                  *       *       *       *       *

In spite of the festive appearance, there was manifest chill and
restraint. The men, all but Callender and Nichols, who talked apart, had
shifted over to seats by their wives, a position which does not require
due exertion in the matter of entertainment. It is difficult to eat and
drink merrily when your host is palpably waiting for your departure.
Agnes’s hand shook as she held the cup of hot coffee to which she had
been looking forward, and her creamed oysters were untouched while she
tried to open a conversation with Mrs. Callender all about the Book
Club.

                  *       *       *       *       *

“Well,” said Atterbury suddenly after a while, “what have you got to say
to me, Harrington?” The other man’s manner was offensive, but Atterbury
was disposed to be conciliating.

Harrington unclosed his heavy, dark-ringed eyes and gazed at him.

“What have I got to say to you?” He gave a short laugh. “Why, nothing
that I know of—nothing but that I have an internal headache.” There was
an extraordinary undercurrent of insolence in his manner which Atterbury
was at a loss to explain.

“I am sorry to have to disturb you if you are ill,” said Atterbury in
level tones, “but a word will suffice, Harrington. I know that the land
is virtually sold—it was in the evening paper. How much does it bring?”

“What land?”

“My land.”

“I don’t know anything about your property; the ground that the Company
bought belonged to me.”

“To you! You never told me that you owned any in Missouri.”

“Do I have to tell you everything?” Harrington’s black eyes were
contemptuously defiant.

“No, but you will have to tell me _this_,” said Atterbury.

Harrington shifted uneasily. “Well, then, take the truth if you want it.
I meant to keep faith with you fairly enough, and I would have stuck to
your interests if I could have afforded to—that’s the whole gist of the
matter. And you’ve no case for complaint; we hadn’t signed any
agreement.”

“You found another section like mine?”

Harrington nodded. “Nearly as good. I bought it for a song, and the
Company sent out a surveyor and a couple of geologists of their own to
look it up, and paid me fifty thousand for it—that is, indirectly, of
course. I didn’t appear in the sale and by—I lost every cent in a deal
yesterday.” He swore under his breath.

“You used the private information I gave you, I suppose?” said Atterbury
in dangerously low tones.

A flicker of a smile crossed Harrington’s moody face.

“Well, yes. You gave me the points, and I used them; any man would.”

“You miserable—sneaking—liar!” said Atterbury very slowly. He rose, and
brought both hands down on the table with a gesture that did not lose in
power because it made no sound. “No man that lives shall cheat me with
impunity. I’ll brand you for what you are!”

“You can’t,” said Harrington insolently.

Atterbury smiled with the scorn which disdained reply, and turned on his
heel. He did not see the startled glance of Nichols and Callender as he
went over to a place beside them. His wife wondered, as they did, at a
new royalty in his tall bearing, as of one used to high command, and
bowed herself in adoration before it.

He defeated, he cast down! In that moment of tingling indignation he
felt himself a conqueror; nor obstacle, nor loss, nor circumstance, nor
treachery should stand in his way. This blow had felled the last barrier
that confined a free spirit, superbly at one with the elemental force
which displaces atoms and creates new worlds.

The current of a mighty strength was in him, dominant, compelling, that
strength which in some mysterious way has a volition of its own, apart
from him who possesses it, bending men and events to his uses.

There was a vibrant tone in his voice as he said,

“Mr. Nichols, I want to go to South Africa for you.”

The gaze of the two men met with almost an electric shock.

“But you don’t know the business!”

The protest half invited discussion.

“I can learn it.”

“We don’t want a man _to learn_,” said Callender, speaking for the first
time. “You must understand that, Atterbury! We can find men on every
street corner who would like to learn. We want some one with a good
working knowledge, who has had experience, and is familiar with our
machines and our methods—one who can leave his family—and has capital—”

Atterbury shook his head. “No! You want a man like me, one who cannot
only handle your machines, but handle men, and has had experience
outside of your narrow line. Good heavens, Callender, the man you speak
of—barring the capital—can almost be picked up at the street corners.
Your house is full of such as he—good, plodding, trustworthy men, who
understand what they have been taught about your machines and your
accounts and your methods, and who understand nothing else; who stick to
their desks year in and year out. Will one like that do for you? You
know that it will not! Granted that I _don’t_ know the business as you
do—that’s but a detail; I know what business really _is_. Granted that
I’ve got no capital—I’ve got the one thing you really need, and that’s
the brains and energy to get it for _you_. Take me into your
conferences, give me a fighting knowledge of what you want, and I’ll
bring in the capital.

“The export trade has a tremendous future; my mind’s been full of it
lately. You send me to South Africa—to China—to the Philippines, and
I’ll undertake to double the business in three years, but you mustn’t
confine yourself to one narrow line; you must broaden out. You ought to
be able to distance all your competitors; you ought to be able to merge
them in your own company. For many reasons I can be worth more to you
than any other man you know. Great Scott, Nichols, can’t you _see_ that
I’m the opportunity you want?”

Nichols sat immovable, holding on to the arms of his chair with both
hands. Facing the light of Atterbury’s face, the answering light shone
in his own. Callender still objected, although plainly under great
excitement.

“You haven’t managed your own affairs so well.”

“No,” said Atterbury, turning on him like lightning, “and you know why.
You know just what claims the death of Anderson laid upon me, and how
I’ve tried to carry them. They will be paid off now. Callender, you’re
not worth my powder and shot; you’re just _talking_. Mr. Nichols, I’m
speaking to _you_. You know I can handle this thing!”

Both men rose unconsciously and looked at each other, with a long breath
between them.

“When will you send me out?” asked Atterbury at last with his brilliant
smile.

“Come to me to-morrow at ten,” said Nichols, giving his hand to the
other, who grasped it silently. “Mind, I don’t promise anything.”

“No, we don’t promise anything,” agreed the excited Callender.

“No,” said Atterbury jubilantly, “that’s all right. We’ve got a great
future before us, my friends.”

As he wheeled around he caught sight of Harrington, whom he had
momentarily forgotten.

“Ah,” he said airily, “do either of you own any stock in our host’s
Company? It may be just as well for you to investigate a little; you may
find that as the treasurer he’s been speculating with the funds. I’ll
give you my reasons for this also—to-morrow.”

“Come,” he said to Agnes, “we must be going.” As they stepped out once
more into the darkness, the wind nearly hurled them off their feet; a
million icy points of snow pricked and stung the face. She clung to him,
and he put his arm around her and swept her through the storm as a lover
might his bride, unknowing of it.

Yet for all that warm clasp, she subtly felt the severance of his
thought from her, and when they were safely landed in the hall, she said
nervously,

“What was that I heard you saying to Mr. Nichols? You’re not going to
_leave_ me!”

Her tone had in it the universal protest of womankind, to whom the
bodily desertion is less than the spiritual one that makes it possible.

He bent his ardent eyes upon her with a glow which she had never seen in
them even in the earliest days of their love.

“Ah, but it will be only to come back to _you_,” he said with a leap
forward to a joy that made parting dim, and she looked up at him with a
soul so steeped in love that for the moment she could only desire what
he did.

The evidences of a clinging domesticity were again around them; fierce
blasts of heat from the furnace showed that Katy had peacefully
forgotten the dampers; the water dripped, dripped into the kitchen sink
from the thawing pipes. A hollow clanging cough from the upper regions
told that poor little Gwendolen’s post-festive croup had indeed set in,
but even this no longer appeared a bitter and blasting ill to Atterbury,
but merely a temporary discomfort, to be gone with the morrow.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                       In the Reign of Quintilia



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                       In the Reign of Quintilia


AS Mr. Nichols sped on his homeward way to the suburbs by boat and
train, the abstraction which the clerks had noted grew upon him. At
forty-six, his leonine locks streaked with gray, the comfortable, solid,
prosperous father of a family, the president of one corporation and
member of Heaven only knows how many governing boards, Mr. Nichols was
in love—deeply and irremediably in love—with his youngest daughter, an
infant of parts.

She was the sixth child, not the seventh, whom tradition surrounds with
the mysterious opportunities of good fortune. She was, moreover, the
fifth girl in unbroken succession, and her father, like many another man
in like case, had not even looked at the baby until she was nearly a
week old, only to fall a victim to the charms of the little warm,
helpless being after he had once held it in his arms and felt the tiny
rose-leaf fingers close over one of his. As he gazed intently at the
face with its miniature features, the blue eyes suddenly opened and
gazed at him unwinkingly for a space of seconds. Then the lids closed
over them peacefully, and a long sigh issued from the parted lips, in
its reflex breathing giving the indication of a ridiculous dimple at one
corner of the mouth. When Mr. Nichols looked at his wife, who had been
observing him, they both smiled, with a tightening of a new bond of
affection between them.

“Pretty nice sort of a girl, isn’t she?” he remarked as he handed the
child back to the waiting nurse, and when he went downstairs his wife
heard him whistling a tune that had been a part of their early betrothal
days, and hid her face in the pillow with a happy glow on it, although
she was a staid and respectable matron.

It was noticed after this that Mr. Nichols contracted a habit of coming
in each night and gazing at the child intently when he thought himself
unobserved, and that he seemed to derive great and increasing
satisfaction from the perusal. As the baby grew older her face lighted
up for him as for no one else, and before she had reached her present
age of two years they were sweethearts indeed, with a passion on his
part which made it unbearable pain to him if she bumped her head or
pinched her finger.

“How is Quintilia?”

The voice of a near neighbor arrested Mr. Nichols’s attention. A slow
smile overspread his countenance at the mention of the beloved name,
with which the doctor had playfully christened this fifth girl, to the
exclusion of her lawful cognomen.

“Oh, she’s all right. At least I hope she is to-night—she hasn’t been
very well for a couple of days; it’s bothered me a good deal.”

“My wife says that she grows prettier every day,” continued the obliging
neighbor.

Mr. Nichols beamed. “She does. I’m coming home a little earlier to-night
to see how she is. Her mother usually keeps her up for me when she’s
well.”

He could not tell how much he hoped against hope that she _would_ be up
and looking out for him. He knew so well how the little lovely white
thing with the starry eyes and glinting curls would run to the stairway
in her nightgown, and sitting down on the top step with all the
delicious fluttering and sidling motions of her babyhood, would thrust
her plump, bare pink foot up against his rough cheek with the delighted
cry of,

“Pa-pa, _kiss_ a footie! Kiss a footie, pa-pa!”

Then how he would mumble and kiss that darling foot, and pretend to eat
it, finally snatching the adored baby in his arms, laughing and
struggling, to cuddle close to him when he pressed her to his heart,
with the infinitely tender gentleness of the strong, as he carried her
to her crib and laid her in it. His wife was always there, too, watching
him with an indulgent smile. All love between them seemed to have grown
deeper since it merged in this sixth child, whose advent had called
forth a large offering of honest condolence from mistaken friends, and
who had brought a joy which at first the parents decorously—nay,
guiltily—concealed, to revel in it almost indecently afterwards.

The novelty of the first-born, a boy, had hindered complete enjoyment,
and with him, as with the four girls who followed close after, it was a
matter of such supreme importance that all the small rules which
governed the infantile world should be strictly observed.

Even as a young woman Mrs. Nichols was a serious and conscientious
mother, who read all the literature bearing on family health and
education. The infants were trained with adamantine firmness from their
birth, and as they grew older Mrs. Nichols attended kindergarten
meetings where the child was meditated upon with deep graspings of the
intellect, and also painstakingly sat through recitations mixed with
exasperating calisthenics in the higher schools. In fine, she so ordered
her days that when pussy-cats were under discussion in the morning
classes to which Ethel and Edith belonged, she could still lead their
thoughts intelligently pussywards in the afternoon, besides holding the
fourteen-year-old Stan to that hour’s exercise in spelling which was
also like an exercise in breaking stone.

To the higher rule Quintilia promised from the first to be an exception.
She made her own laws. When she lifted her little arms to be “taken up”
it was not in the heart of mortal to resist her; food was given her when
she cried for it, and for the life of her Mrs. Nichols could not always
combat the temptation to hold the dear little clinging form in her arms,
with the damp head and its thistledown curls nestling on her shoulder,
and rock and sing her baby to sleep in the old-fashioned way.

“No, I don’t think she’s any worse.” Mr. Nichols’s wife had met him at
the door with the peaceful kiss of possession before reassuring him for
the non-appearance of Quintilia. She was a woman of medium height,
rather stout, with somewhat large features, a fresh complexion, thick
black hair, brown eyes, and an expression that was at once pleasant and
capable. The heart of her husband trusted in her implicitly, and her
tone was a relief to him.

“What did the doctor say?”

“He thinks that it’s only a cold, but she must be kept very quiet. The
nurse came this afternoon, but she doesn’t seem very—What is it, Miss
Candy?”

Mr. Nichols looked up at the stairs, and his tense gaze involuntarily
softened. A pretty girl in a blue and white cambric uniform appears to
most men as an angel of healing. This one had large and appealing eyes,
and little brown fuzzy curls in front under her white cap. There was a
slip of paper in the hand held forward.

“Would you kindly have this prescription filled at once? I forgot it
when you sent out last.”

“Certainly,” said Mr. Nichols with alacrity. “I’ve got my coat on. I’ll
go for it now.”

“Oh, thank you! And would you mind bringing home some alcohol? I think
there ought to be some in the house.”

“There is a bottle of alcohol,” interpolated Mrs. Nichols.

“I’m so sorry, but I just tipped it over accidentally. Would you please
send one of the maids to sweep up the broken glass? Thank you.”

The vision of the pretty face supported Mr. Nichols but insubstantially
while he waited half an hour in the drug-store in contemplation of a
deserted soda fountain, fly-specked packages of brown headache cure, a
white and bony array of tooth-brushes, and some open boxes of flabby
cigars in a glass case under an electric lighter. A suburban drug-store
is not exactly an enlivening spot, and he was to become fatally well
acquainted with it in the next few days.

To-night he went up and looked at the baby on his return; she was
asleep, with cheeks flushed to a beautiful rose. She was breathing very
hard, but still she slept, with her head thrown back, and the soft rings
of hair spread out over the pillow; the curves of the little round body
were carved out in the white bedclothes. The light in the room was
shaded, and the nurse sat by the table under it, writing out her
official report with a gold pencil held in her taper fingers; but his
wife sat and watched the child. A sudden ache invaded the man’s heart.

“Is she all right?” he whispered.

His wife nodded. “Oh, yes. Doesn’t she look _darling_?”

But Mr. Nichols did not answer. The nurse came forward and smoothed
little Quintilia’s pillow professionally.

“She seems to take an interest,” he whispered to his wife as they left
the room. He felt the tenderness which a good man has for a young girl
who has to earn her own living; she is somewhat on the same plane as
himself, and it is a state of being of which he appreciates the
difficulties. He realized that his wife’s silence was distinctly
unsympathetic.

The children were very noisy that evening, without their mother’s
presence, in the hour allotted them before bedtime. The youngest,
Loulou, who was next to the baby, was seven years old—a stubby, chubby,
black-haired child, with that genius for saying the wrong thing in the
wrong place which is a mother’s woe. As she climbed on her father’s knee
to-night she kept saying:

“Quintilia’s sick, father. Quintilia’s sick! Do you think she’ll be
worse, to-morrow, father?” she grinned at him pleasantly, showing a
mouth with three front teeth missing.

Mr. Nichols resisted a strong impulse to set her down forcibly. His
attitude toward Loulou was a continual reproach to him. He knew, as his
wife often reminded him, that Loulou had been his pet when she was a
baby; he knew that he really loved her, and that if she were ill his
fatherly affection would assert itself in the utmost care for her; but
now her presence in rude and awkward health annoyed and irritated him
beyond expression.

“If Quintilia dies, I’ll be the baby!”

“For shame, Loulou!” said the eldest girl, Christine, who had her
mother’s own gentle manner. “You mustn’t talk like that. Ethel and
Edith, don’t make so much noise. They can’t go to bed, father dear,
until Ann comes back; she’s just gone to the village for something Miss
Candy wanted.”

“Miss Candy is awful pretty!” said the bounding Loulou. “Stan waited by
the stairs to-night to see her come down. She calls him Mr. Stanley, and
he’s been going errands for her all the afternoon. And he put on his
best jacket!”

“I didn’t,” blurted Stan, with a very red face, regardless of the chorus
of horrified ohos! from the rest of the children. “Well, if I did, it
was because the old one was torn.”

“If Quintilia dies, I’ll be the baby.” Loulou reverted to the first
idea.

Stan cried, “Shut up, will you?” and threw his book at her, being a boy
on whom years of training had had no appreciable effect; but Christine
came and put her arm around her father’s neck and kissed him, with her
soft braid of yellow hair falling across his shoulder, and he pressed
the little comforter to him fondly.

Anxiety about Quintilia had grown by morning. Mrs. Nichols came down to
breakfast in a brown cambric gown, with her hair brushed severely back
from her forehead, and hurriedly drank a cup of coffee. The tense
expression of her face, which she strove to render cheerful, took some
of the charm for Mr. Nichols from Miss Candy’s curls and crispness. He
left the house with a load upon him, which grew heavier—and
lighter—heavier—and lighter, with rhythmical regularity, as hope or fear
predominated.

Nearly a week passed, and still the baby’s life hung wavering in the
balance; the president had come down town every day, looking grayer and
quieter each morning.

He came to the office mechanically, and attended mechanically to the
business that had to be transacted. He was dulled to a strange and
abnormal gentleness both there and at home. He thanked those who
performed the usual services for him in the office with punctilious
politeness.

The children at home went unreproved by him. The chatter of poor little
Loulou had ceased to irritate, although it occasionally gave him a spasm
of pain. They were nothing to him, mere simulacrums of what had once
power to please or displease. Even Stan did not come in for the usual
disapprobation on the dirty hands, the slouching walk, or the uncouth
expressions which characterized him. To Mr. Nichols his wife was the
only real person in the house, and there was but one thought between
them—the thought of Quintilia.

The mother worked untiringly, while Miss Candy curled her hair, and
wrote interminable reports, and stood in charming professional attitudes
when the doctor was present, and sent the household individually and
collectively for belated prescriptions, and bottles that were “just
out,” and glycerine, and boracic acid, and camphorated oil, and
disinfectants, and oiled silk, and medicine-droppers, and rubber
water-bags, and absorbent cotton, and whisky, and malted milk, and
biscuits, and candles, and lime-water, and all the various foods so
chemically prepared that they are warranted to be retained by the
weakest stomach, and of which no invalid can ever be persuaded to
swallow more than the first teaspoonful. The doctor studied Miss Candy’s
reports—patently composed from memory—with an imperturbable face, and
questioned Mrs. Nichols closely afterwards. Mr. Nichols, as a mortal
man, still derived a vague satisfaction in her presence, although he
spent his tired evenings in going errands for her; she looked so pretty
that he always felt as if Quintilia must be better.

Sometimes he was allowed to sit by the child while his wife took a short
rest. He knew, most humbly, his deficiencies in the sick-room—by some
ulterior influence when he moved fire-irons fell over, bottles broke,
papers rattled, his shoes made an earthquake, whatever he touched
creaked. He would sit in a rigidly quiet attitude until his wife
returned, with his head on his hand, watching the little pinched face,
the half-closed eyes, listening to the breathing, the rise and fall of
the little chest. Oh, God, the hours by a sick child!

A night came that was long to be remembered in the Nichols household—a
night of ringing bells and shutting doors and hurried running up and
down stairs, with the scared children in their white night-gowns peeping
out of the bedroom door after their tearful prayers for little sister.

In the small hours the doctor’s steady tread could be heard in the
sick-room, or on the landing where he came to give brief orders. Mr.
Nichols sat on a couch in the wide hall outside the door. Sometimes his
wife came from the sick-room and sat down by him for a few seconds, and
they were together in an anguish of dreadful love. When she was gone he
remained with his head on his breast thinking.

He thought of the years of happiness they had had; he thought of the
beloved sleeping children around them and of honest, clumsy Stan, and
troublesome, inconsequent Loulou with special tenderness; he thought of
all the blessings that had been his.

It was as if life were brought to a close, and he humbly confessed to
himself the unfaithfulness of his own part in it, his faults of temper,
his neglect of opportunities to make others happy. He might have been
drowning. His gaze, brought back to land once more, questioned those who
passed him in the hall. Miss Candy went by once with red eyes, her cap
pushed to one side, and her pretty hair all out of curl. She did not
even see him as she passed.

“Father dear!”

He looked up—it was the little eldest daughter of the house, Christine.
“Father dear, I can’t go to sleep, and I’ve been lying in bed so long!”

She sat down beside him and slipped her hand into his; her blue eyes had
the depth that comes from lying awake in darkness. “I’m thinking all the
time of baby. Mayn’t I stay here with you, father dear? I want to stay
with you so much.”

“Yes, my darling.” He took the steamer-rugs his wife had left beside him
and wrapped them around the woman-child, yellow braid and all, and they
stayed there together. Once she whispered,

“You’re praying, too, father dear, aren’t you? I feel that you’re
praying;” and he held her closer and whispered, “Yes.” By-and-by she
fell asleep, and he held her still.

The first streaks of dawn filtered through the rooms, strange to those
who sat bound in darkness and the shadow of death, a household prepared
only for the night. Then an electric current seemed to run through the
breathing souls in it.

The doctor came out in the hall and said, “She will live!” A door opened
farther down—one flashed to another, “She will live!” The message flew
from lip to lip, from heart to heart. The returning breath of the little
ruler of the house revivified all within it. The awakened children ran
out for a moment to whisper the gladness, the servants stole down the
back stairs to clatter in the kitchen and make preparations for an early
breakfast, one could hear the cocks crowing, and the sunshine grew
strong and gathered into a long bar of light. Quintilia would live.

“You may come in and see her for just a minute,” said Mrs. Nichols to
her husband, leading him in as one leads the blind. He fell on his knees
by the bed, awestricken. Was _this_ the little rosy darling of his love?
But she would live—she would live! As he looked the eyes opened
recognizingly; there was a faint roguish smile on the beautiful lips,
and the faintest movement under the bedclothes.

“She wants you to kiss her foot,” said the divining mother.

“Just hearken to the voice of himself in there,” said Ellen, the
waitress, as she came into the kitchen from the breakfast-room. “He says
you’re to make some more coffee, for this isn’t fit to be drank. Oh,
he’s ragin’! He’s sent Loulou from the table for spilling her milk, and
the boy’s not to play golf for a week on account of the dirty hands of
him, the poor child; and he’s got Miss Christine crying into the
porridge, telling her how she’d oughter look after her little sisters
better. Oh, he’s the holy terror the morn, and herself not downstairs to
quaite him! Take your time with the coffee, Ann; sure he’ll murder me
when I get back.”

“The pore man!” said the cook indulgently, pouring out a fresh
installment of the fragrant brown liquid into the coffee-pot. “’Tis the
way wid ’em all; sure ’tis drunk wid sorrow he’s been! What can ye
expict? The big sobs was rindin’ him whin he come from the child’s room
early, and sure he’s got to take it out of somebody. Run you wid the
coffee now!”

“_Please_ don’t go down town to-day,” his wife implored him afterwards.
“You look so horribly tired. Stay at home and rest.” She put her arms
round him tenderly, feeling that now was the opportunity for the
happiness of mutual thanksgiving; and he unconsciously pushed her away
from him as he answered,

“Nonsense! There’s no reason why I should rest.”

She smothered her disappointment at his rebuff. “You won’t be any good
at all at the office; I _know_ you have a dreadful headache. Go upstairs
and lie down in the blue room for a while, and nobody will disturb you
there.”

“Well!” He gave a grudging assent.

The blue room was white and chilly and unlived in. The stiff
pillow-shams rattled down off the pillows as he touched them. He liked
his own room, his own bed. The light glared down from the windows. But
it was a place where he could be let alone, without those eyes
continually waiting upon him to see how he felt. After his debauch of
misery all feeling was nauseous to him. He lay stiffly on the cold,
straight, unaccustomed bed, and looked with burning eyes at the pictures
on the wall. Gradually the rack in his head slackened a little, his
eyelids fell shut, he discerned the far-off approach of a blessed ease.

The door opened and his wife came quietly in, unselfishly remembering
his needs in the midst of her own fatigue; she had brought a warm
coverlet to throw over him. She lowered the shades and went softly out
again, taking with her every atom of the peace that he had begun to
wrest from a torturing universe.

The younger children talked in the hall; he heard them say,

“Don’t wake father. Hush! Don’t talk so _loud_.”

Then Loulou screamed, and some one came and took them away forcibly.

Ellen, the waitress, knocked at the door to say that the man had come
for the gas bill, and would he pay it? And Miss Candy came afterwards
professionally with a cup of hot broth, which she thought he had better
drink.

Then Mr. Nichols rose up and took a bath and shaved and went down town.

That day was long remembered in the rooms of the Electrographic Company.
Worried heads of departments consulted together; scared clerks went
hurrying hither and thither; mistakes were routed out, abuses which had
the sanction of custom sternly reformed, lapses from punctuality
clinched by new and stringent rules. There was a large arrearage of his
own affairs to be attended to, by which he had lost money.

The intellect of Mr. Nichols revolted fiercely against the sentiment to
which it had been subjugated; he saw every fact at last stripped bare.

As the afternoon waned and the rush of business was over, Mr. Nichols
leaned forward over his desk and tried to make up his mind to get up and
go home. He was weary. That blessed assurance that he had longed for so
unutterably yesterday was his, yet it seemed no longer a new bliss, but
a fact that he had always known. The pendulum had been set swinging so
hard toward the extreme of grief that it could not at once reverse its
motion and swing toward happiness. He felt indescribably worn,
indescribably old. There are times in all lives that are safely passed
through, but take something out of one which no after-delight can put
back again; some of those delicate sinews are broken which make the
unthinking strength of youth. In his sickness of soul Mr. Nichols sought
mechanically for some bright ray in the gray around him—something to
bring back his accustomed pleasure in living. Quintilia’s recovery—his
wife—children—friends—success—even dinner—all were but words.

In this gloom of effort he half drowsed off; some fleeting wave of a
dream showed a spot of light before him; it grew larger and larger, and
with it a figure grew also, until it was plainly revealed—the figure of
the sixth child, a lovely rounded thing with starry eyes and thistledown
curls, dimpling and laughing and thrusting a delicious little pink foot
in his bearded face. He could hear the baby voice crying,

“Pa-pa, kiss a footie. Kiss a footie, pa-pa!”

A foolish smile overspread the countenance of the president of the
Electrographic Company. In the rapture of love he forgot that he had
been disloyal even for a moment to this Sovereign Joy.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                           The Happiest Time



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                           The Happiest Time


“AREN’T you coming to church with me this morning?”

“Well—not _this_ morning, I think, petty.”

“You _said_ you would.”

“Yes, I know I did, but I have a slight cold. I don’t think it would be
best for me, really, petty. I’ve been working pretty hard this week.”
Mr. Belmore carefully deposited a pile of newspapers beside his armchair
upon the floor of the little library, removing and opening the top layer
for perusal as he spoke, his eyes already glued to the headlines. “A
quiet day will do me lots of good. I’ll tell you what it is: I’ll
promise to go with you next Sunday, if you say so.”

“You always promise you’ll go next Sunday.” Mrs. Belmore, a
brown-haired, clear-eyed young woman in a blue and white spotted morning
gown, looked doubtfully, yet with manifest yielding, at her husband. Mr.
Belmore presented the radiantly clean and peaceful aspect of the man who
has risen at nine o’clock instead of the customary seven, and bathed and
dressed in the sweet unhurried calm that belongs only to the first day
of the week, poking dilatorily among chiffonier drawers, discovering
hitherto forgotten garments in his closet, and leisurely fumbling over a
change of shirt-studs before coming down to consume the breakfast kept
waiting for him.

“Of course I know it’s your only day at home—” Mrs. Belmore reverted to
her occupation of deftly setting the chairs in their rightful places,
and straightening the books on the tables. “I suppose I _ought_ to
insist on your going—when you promised—but still—” She gave a sigh of
relinquishment. “I suppose you _do_ need the rest,” she added. “We can
have a nice afternoon together, anyway. You can finish reading that
story aloud, and we’ll go out and take a good look at the garden. I
think the beans were planted too close under the pear tree last
year—that was the reason they didn’t come up right. Edith Barnes and
Alan Wilson are coming out from town after dinner for the rest of the
day, but that won’t make any difference to us.”

“_What?_”

“Now Herbert, how could I help asking them? You know the boarding house
she and her mother live in. Edith never gets a chance to see him alone.
They’re saving up now to get married—they’ve been engaged a year—so he
can’t spend any more money for theaters and things, and they just have
to walk and walk the streets, unless they go visiting, and they’ve been
almost everywhere, Edith says. She wrote and asked me to have them for
this Sunday; he’s been away for a whole week somewhere up in the State.
I think it’s pathetic.” In the warmth of explanation Mrs. Belmore had
unwittingly removed the pile of newspapers from the floor to an ottoman
at the further end of the room. “Edith says she knows it’s the happiest
time of their lives, and she does want to get some of the benefit of it,
poor girl.”

“What do they want to be engaged for, anyway?”

“_Herbert!_ How ridiculous! You are the most unreasonable man at times
for a sensible one that I ever laid my eyes on. Why did _we_ want to be
engaged?”

“That was different.” Mr. Belmore’s tone conveyed a permanent
satisfaction with his own case. “If every woman were like you, petty—I
never _could_ stand Edith, she’s one of your clever girls; there’s
something about her that always sets my teeth on edge. As for Wilson—oh,
Wilson’s just a usual kind of a fool, like myself. Hello, where are my
newspapers—and what in thunder makes it so cold? You don’t mean to say
you’ve got the window open?”

Mrs. Belmore had a habit of airing the rooms in the morning, which her
husband approved of theoretically, and combated intensely in practice.
After the window was banged shut she could hear him rattling at the
furnace below to turn on an extra flow of heat before settling down once
more in comfort. Although the April sun was bright, there was still a
chill in the air.

She looked in upon him, gowned and bonneted for church, sweet and placid
of mien, followed by two little girls, brave in their Sunday best, all
big hats and ribboned hair, and little starchy ruffles showing below
their brown coats. Mrs. Belmore stooped over her husband’s chair to kiss
him good-by.

“You won’t have to talk to Edith and Alan at all,” she said as if
continuing the conversation from where they had left off. “All we have
to do is to let them have the parlor or the library. They’ll entertain
each other.”

“Oh, don’t you bother about that. Now go ahead or you’ll be late, and
don’t forget to say your prayers for me, too. That’s right, always go to
church with your mother, girlies.”

“I _wish_ you were going, too.” Mrs. Belmore looked at her husband
lingeringly.

“I wish I were, petty,” said Mr. Belmore with a prompt mendacity so
evidently inspired by affection that his wife condoned it at once.

She thought of him more than once during the service with generous
satisfaction in his comfortable morning. She wished she had thought it
right to remain at home, too, as she did sometimes, but there were the
children to be considered. But she and Herbert would have the afternoon
together, and take part of it to see about planting the garden, a plot
twenty feet square in the rear of the suburban villa.

The Sunday visit to the garden was almost a sacrament. They might look
at it on other days, but it was only on Sunday, beginning with the early
spring, that husband and wife strolled around the little patch together,
first planning where to start the summer crop of vegetables and
afterwards watching the green things poking their spikes up through the
mold, and growing, growing. He did the planting and working in the long
light evenings after he came home, while she held the papers of seeds
for him, but it was only on Sunday that he could really watch the green
things grow, and learn to know each separate leaf intimately, and count
the blossoms on the beans and the cucumbers. From the pure pleasure of
the first radish, through all the various wiltings and shrivelings
incident to amateur gardening in summer deluge and drought, to the
triumphant survival of tomato plants and cucumber vines, running riot
over everything in the fall of the year, the little garden played its
old part as paradise to these two, who became more fully one in the
watching of the miracle of growth. When they gathered the pears from the
little tree in the corner of the plot, before the frost, and picked the
few little green tomatoes that remained on the dwindling stems, it was
like garnering a store of peaceful happiness. Every stage of the garden
was a romance. Mrs. Belmore could go to church without her husband, but
to have him survey the garden without her would have been the touch
beyond.

It must be horrid, anyway, she thought, to have to go every morning into
town in those smoky cars and crowded ferry-boats; just to run into town
twice a week tired her out. Now he would have finished the paper—now
little Dorothy would have come in, red cheeked from her walk, to kiss
daddy before her nap—now he must be pottering around among his
possessions and looking out for her. She knew so well how he would look
when he came to the door to meet her. The sudden sight of either one to
the other always shed a reflected light, like the glow of the sun. It
was with a feeling of wonder that she marked its disappearance, after a
brief gleam, as he not only opened the door, but came out on the piazza
to greet her, and closed it behind him.

“They’re in there—Edith and Alan.” He pointed over his shoulder with his
thumb. “I thought they weren’t coming until after dinner.”

“Why, they weren’t.”

“Well, they’re in the parlor, just the same. Came out over an hour ago.
Great Scott, I wished I’d gone with you. I’m worn out.”

“You don’t mean to say you’ve stayed with them all the time!” Mrs.
Belmore looked scandalized.

“I should say I had; I couldn’t lose ’em. Whichever room I went to they
followed; at least, she did, and he came after. I went from pillar to
post, I give you my word, petty, but Edith had me by the neck; she never
let go her grip for an instant. They won’t speak to each other, you see,
only to me. I haven’t had a chance to even finish the paper. I’ve had
the deuce of a time! I don’t know what you are going to do about it.”

“Never mind, it will be all right now,” said Mrs. Belmore reassuringly.
She pushed past him into the parlor where sat a tall, straight girl with
straight, light brows, a long straight nose, and a straight mouth with a
droop at the corners. In the room beyond, a thick set, dark young man
with glasses and a nervous expression was looking at pictures. It did
not require a Solomon to discover at a glance how the land lay.

If Mrs. Belmore had counted easily on her powers of conciliation she was
disappointed this time. After the dinner, whereat the conversation was
dragged laboriously around four sides of a square, except when the two
little girls made some slight diversion, and the several futile attempts
when the meal was over to leave the lovers alone together, Mrs. Belmore
resigned herself, perforce, to the loss of her cherished afternoon.

“It’s no use, we’ll have to give up the reading,” she said to her
husband rapidly, in one of her comings and goings. “Perhaps later, dear.
But it’s really dreadful, here we’ve been talking of religion and
beet-root sugar and smallpox, when anyone can see that her heart is
breaking.”

“I think he is getting the worst of it,” said Mr. Belmore impartially.

“Oh, it won’t hurt _him_.”

“Well, you’ve given them plenty of opportunities to make up.”

“Yes, but he doesn’t know how.”

She added in a louder tone, “You take Mr. Wilson up to your den for a
while, Herbert, Ethel and I are going to have a cozy little time with
the children, aren’t we, dear?”

“Have a cigar?” said Mr. Belmore as the two men seated themselves
comfortably in a couple of wooden armchairs in the sunny little
apartment hung with a miscellaneous collection of guns, swords, and
rods, the drawing of a bloated trout and a dusty pair of antlers.

“Thank you, I’m not smoking now,” said Mr. Wilson with a hungry look at
the open box on the table beside him.

“Oh!” said his host genially, “so you’re at that stage of the game.
Well, I’ve been there myself. You have my sympathy. But this won’t last,
you know.”

“Does your wife like smoking?”

“Loves it,” said Mr. Belmore, sinking the fact of his official limit to
four cigars a day. “That is, of course, she thinks it’s a dirty habit,
and unhealthy, and all that sort of thing, you know, but it doesn’t make
any _difference_ to her—not a pin’s worth. Cheer up, old fellow, you’ll
get to this place too.”

“Looks like it,” said the other bitterly. “Here I haven’t seen her for a
week—I came two hundred miles on purpose yesterday, and now she won’t
even look at me. I don’t know what’s the matter—haven’t the least
idea—and I can’t _get_ her to tell me. I have to be off to-morrow at
seven o’clock, too—I call it pretty hard lines.”

“Let me see,” said Mr. Belmore judicially, knitting his brows as if
burrowing into the past as he smoked. “Perhaps I can help you out. What
have you been writing to her? Telling her all about what you’ve been
doing, and just sending your love at the end? They don’t like that, you
know.”

Mr. Wilson shook his head. “No, upon my soul I’ve done nothing but tell
her how I—how I was looking forward to—oh, hang it, Belmore, the letters
have been all _right_, I know that.”

“H’m,” said Mr. Belmore, “there’s got to be _something_ back of it, you
know. Seen any girls since you’ve been gone?”

Mr. Wilson hastened to shake his head more emphatically than before.
“Not one,” he asseverated with the relief of complete innocence. “Didn’t
even meet a soul I knew, except Brower—you remember Dick Brower? I went
into a jeweler’s to get my glasses mended and found him buying a
souvenir spoon for his fiancée.”

“O—o—h!” said Mr. Belmore intelligently, “and did you buy a present for
Edith?”

“No, I didn’t. She made me promise not to buy anything more for her; she
thinks I’m spending too much money, and that I ought to economize.”

“And did you tell her about Brower?”

“Why, of course I did—as we were coming out this morning.”

Mr. Wilson stared blankly at his friend.

“Chump!” said Mr. Belmore. He bit off the end of a new cigar and threw
it away. “Wilson, my poor fellow, you’re so besotted in ignorance that I
don’t know how to let the light in on you. A man is a fool by the side
of his fiancée, anyhow.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” said the bewildered Wilson stiffly. “_I_
don’t know what I’m to do.”

“No, of course you don’t—but Edith does—you can just trust her for that.
A girl _always_ knows what a man ought to do—she can give him cards and
spades and beat him every time.”

“Then why doesn’t she _tell_ me what she wants? I asked her to,
particularly.”

“Oh, no! She’ll tell you everything the opposite—that is, half the time.
She’ll put every obstacle possible in your way, to see if you’re man
enough to walk over ’em; that’s what she wants to find out; if you’re
man enough to have your own way in spite of her; and, of course, if you
aren’t, you’re an awful disappointment.”

“Are you sure?” said Mr. Wilson deeply, after an awestruck pause. “Half
the time, you say. But how am I to find out when she means—I give you my
word, Belmore, that I thought—I suppose I could have brought her a small
present, anyway, in spite of what she said; a souvenir spoon—but she
hates souvenir spoons.”

“You’ll have to cipher it out for yourself, old man,” said Mr. Belmore.
“_I_ don’t set out to interpret any woman’s moods. I only give you cold,
bare facts. But if I were you,” he added impartially, “I’d go down after
a while and try and get her alone, you know, and say something. You can,
if you try.” A swish of skirts outside of the open door made Mr. Wilson
jump forward as Mrs. Belmore came in sight with her friend. The latter
had her arm around the older woman, and her form drooped toward her as
they passed the two men. The eyes of the girl were red, and her lips had
a patient quiver. Mr. Wilson gave an exclamation and sprang forward as
she disappeared in the further room.

It was some hours later that the husband and wife met unexpectedly upon
the stairs with a glad surprise.

“You don’t mean to say it’s you—alone!” he whispered.

“Wait—is she coming up?” They clutched each other spasmodically as they
listened to the sound of a deflecting footstep. There was a breathless
moment, and then the chords of a funeral march boomed forth upon the
air. The loud pedal was doing its best to supplement those long and
strenuous fingers.

The listeners breathed a sigh of relief.

“He’s gone to the station for a time table,” whispered the husband with
a delighted grin: “though I can stand _him_ all right. We had a nice
walk with the little girls, after he got tired of playing hide and seek.
I wished you were with us. You must be about used up. How are you
getting along with her?”

“Oh, pretty well.” She let herself be drawn down on the hall window seat
at the top of the landing. “You see, Edith really feels dreadfully, poor
girl.”

“What about?”

“Herbert, she isn’t really sure that she loves him.”

“Isn’t sure! After they’ve been engaged for a year!”

“That’s just it. She says if they had been married out of hand, in the
first flush of the novelty, she wouldn’t have had time, perhaps, to have
any doubts. But it’s the seeing him all the time that’s made her think.”

“Made her think _what_?”

“Whether she loves him or not; whether they are really suited. I
remember that I used to feel that way about you, dear. Oh, you know,
Herbert, it’s a very serious thing for a girl. She says she knows her
whole life is at stake; she thinks about it all the time.”

“How about his?”

“Well, that’s what I said,” admitted Mrs. Belmore. “She says that she
feels that _he_ is so rational and self-poised that she makes little
difference in his life either way—it has come to her all at once. She
says his looking at everything in a matter-of-fact way just chills her;
she longs for a whole-souled enthusiasm that can sweep everything before
it. She feels that if they are married she will have to keep up the
ideal for both of them, and she doesn’t know whether she can.”

“No, she can’t,” said Mr. Belmore.

“She says she could if she loved him enough,” pursued Mrs. Belmore.
“It’s the _if_ that kills her. She says that when she wakes up in the
morning that she feels as if she’d die if she didn’t see him before
night, and when she _does_ see him it’s all a dreadful disappointment to
her; she can’t talk to him at all, she feels perfectly hard and stony;
then, the moment he’s gone, she’s crazy to have him back again. She
cries herself thin over it.”

“She’s pretty bony, anyway,” said Mr. Belmore impartially.

“Even his appearance changes to her. She says sometimes he looks like a
Greek god, so that she could go down on her knees to him, and at other
times—Once she happened to catch a glimpse of him in a horrid red
sweater, polishing his shoes, and she said she didn’t get over it for
weeks, he looked positively _ordinary_, like some of the men you see in
the trolley cars.”

“Oh, good gracious!” protested Mr. Belmore feebly. “Oh, good _gracious_,
petty! This is _too_ much.”

“Hush—don’t laugh so loud—be quiet,” said his wife anxiously.

“If Wilson _ever_ looks like a Greek god to her, she’s all right, she
loves him—you can tell her so for me. _Wilson!_ Here are we sitting up
here like a pair of lovers, and they—Hello!”

The hall door opened and shut, the piano lid closed simultaneously with
a bang, and there was a swirl of skirts again towards the staircase that
scattered the guilty pair on the landing. The hostess heaved a patient
sigh.

“They _shall_ speak,” said Mrs. Belmore when another hour had gone with
the situation still unchanged. Her gentle voice had a note of
determination. “I can’t understand why he doesn’t _make_ her. She is
literally crying her eyes out, because the whole day has been lost. Why
didn’t you send him into the parlor for a book as I told you to, when I
came up to take care of Dorothy?”

“He wouldn’t go—he said he wasn’t doing the kindergarten act any more.
Hang it, I don’t blame him. A man objects to being made a fool of before
people, and he’s tired of it. Here he goes off again to-morrow for two
weeks, and she with no more heart than—”

“Where is he now?” asked Mrs. Belmore.

“Upstairs in my room, smoking.”

“_Smoking!_ I thought he’d promised her solemnly not to.”

“Yes, he did; but he says he doesn’t care a—red apple; he’s going to
have some comfort out of the day. I’ve left him with a box of cigars;
good ones, too. He’s having the time of his life.”

“O—o—h!” said Mrs. Belmore with the rapt expression of one who sees
beyond the veil. When she spoke it was with impressive slowness. “When
you hear me come downstairs with Edith and go in the parlor, you wait a
moment and then bring him down—_with his cigar_—into the library. Do you
understand?”

“No,” said Mr. Belmore.

“Oh, Herbert! If she sees him _smoking_—! There’s no time to lose, for I
have to get tea to-night. When I call you, leave him and come at once,
do you hear? Don’t stop a minute—just come, before they get a chance to
follow.”

“You bet I’ll come,” said Mr. Belmore, “like a bird to its—I will,
really, petty.”

That he nearly knocked her down by his wildly tragic rush when she
called from the back hall—“Herbert, please come at once! I can’t turn
off the water,” was a mere detail—they clung to each other in silent
laughter, behind the enshrouding porti—res, not daring to move. The
footfall of the deserted Edith was heard advancing from the front room
to the library, and her clear and solemn voice, as of one actuated only
by the lofty dictates of duty, penetrated distinctly to the listeners.

“Alan Wilson, is it possible that you are _smoking?_ Have you broken
your promised word?”

“Well, they’re at it, at last,” said Mr. Belmore, relapsing into a chair
in the kitchen with a sigh of relief, and drawing a folded newspaper
from his pocket. “I wouldn’t be in his shoes for a farm.”

“Oh, it will be all right now,” said Mrs. Belmore serenely. She added
with some irrelevancy, “I’ve left the children to undress each other;
they’ve been _so_ good. It’s been such a different day, though, from
what we had planned.”

“It’s too bad that you have to get the tea.”

“Oh, I don’t mind that a bit.”

She had tucked up the silken skirt of her gown and was deftly measuring
out coffee—after the swift, preliminary shaking of the fire with which
every woman takes possession of a kitchen—pouring the water into the
coffee-pot from the steaming kettle, and then vibrating between the
kitchen closet and the butler’s pantry with the quick, capable movements
of one who knows her ground thoroughly. “Really, it isn’t any trouble.
Margaret leaves half of the things ready, you know. If you’ll just lift
down that dish of salad for me—and the cold chicken is beside it. I hate
to ask you to get up, but—Thank you. How good the coffee smells! I know
you always like the coffee I make.”

“You bet I do,” said Mr. Belmore with fervor. “Say, petty, you don’t
think you could come out now and take a look at the garden? I’m almost
sure the peas are beginning to show.”

“No, I’m afraid there isn’t time. We’ll have to give it up for this
Sunday.” She paused for a great effort. “If you’d like to go by
yourself, dear—”

“Wouldn’t you mind?”

She paused again, looking at him with her clear-eyed seriousness.

“I don’t think I mind now, but I might—afterwards.”

If he had hesitated, it was for a hardly appreciable second. “And I
don’t want to go,” he protested stoutly, “it wouldn’t be the same thing
at all without you.”

——“Everything is ready now,” said his wife. “Though I do hate to disturb
Edith and Alan. I’ll just run up and hear the children say their prayers
before I put those things on the table. If you would just take a look at
the furnace—” it was the sentence Mr. Belmore had been dreading—“and
then you can come up and kiss the children good night.”

Mr. Belmore, on his way up from stoking, caught a glimpse projected from
the parlor mirror through an aperture in the doorway which the porti—res
had left uncovered. The reflection was of a girl, with tear-stained face
and closed eyes, her head upon a young man’s shoulder, while his lips
were touchingly pressed to her hair. The picture might have been called
“After the Storm,” the wreckage was so plainly apparent. As Mr. Belmore
turned after ascending the flight of stairs he came full in sight of
another picture, spread out to view in the room at the end of the hall.
He stood unseen in the shadow regarding it.

His wife sat in a low chair near one of the two white beds; little
Dorothy’s crib was in their room, beyond. The three children were
perched on the foot of the nearest bed, white-gowned, with rosy faces
and neatly brushed hair. While he looked, the youngest child gave a
birdlike flutter and jump, and lighted on the floor, falling on her
knees, with her bowed head in the mother’s lap, her hands upraised. As
she finished the murmured prayer, helped by the tender mother-voice, she
rose and stood to one side, in infantine seriousness, while the next one
spread her white plumes for the same flight, waiting afterwards in
reverent line with the first as the third hovered down.

It was plain to see from the mother’s face that she had striven to put
all earthly thoughts aside in the performance of this sacred office of
ministering to innocence; her eyes must be holy when her children’s
looked up at her on their way to God.

This was the little inner chapel, the Sanctuary of Home, where she was
priestess by divine right. It would have been an indifferent man,
indeed, who had not fallen upon his knees in spirit, in company with
this little household of faith, in mute recognition of the love and
peace and order that crowned his days.

He kissed the laughing children as they clung to him, before she turned
down the light. When she came out of the room he was waiting for her. He
put his arm around her as he said, with the darling tenderness that made
her life,

“Come along, old sweetness. We’ve got to go down and stir up those
lunatics again. Call _that_ ‘the happiest time of your life!’ _We_ know
better than that, don’t we, petty? I’ll tell you what it is: I’ll go to
church with you next Sunday, if you say so!”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                        In the Married Quarters



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                        In the Married Quarters


MR. BROOKTON RIVERS watched the spark at the end of his cigar as he held
the short stub between his thumb and forefinger. It was going out. While
he had had that cigar to smoke his mind had been at rest, for he knew
that he was going to sit in that particular angle in the piazza until he
finished it, which would be about half-past eight. After that—what?

He threw away the cigar and leaned meditatively forward to catch a
glimpse of the moon as it rose over the patch of straggling woods next
to the Queen Anne cottage opposite him. It showed a deserted piazza, and
a man and his wife and two small children walking past it. The man
walked with the heavy, shuffling steps of a laborer, and the woman, in a
white shirt-waist and a dragging skirt, held one child by the hand,
while the other, in tiny trousers, toddled bow-leggedly behind. As they
vanished down the street, two silent men on bicycles sped past, their
little lamps twinkling in the shadows; then half a dozen more, laughing
and calling to each other, then a swiftly driven buggy that sent the
dust flying up on the vines that were already laden with it. The
prevailing smell of the humid night was of damp weeds. It was also very
hot.

There were no lights in the house opposite, nor in the one next to it,
or in the one next to that, nor were there any, as he knew without
seeing, in either of the houses next to his own. From farther down the
street came the sound of a jangling piano, obstructed intermittently by
the loud, unvaried barking of a melancholy dog. From nearer by the
persistent wail of a very young infant, protesting already against
existence in such a hot world, became more and more unbearable each
instant. Mr. Rivers absent-mindedly killed three feasting mosquitoes at
a blow, and rose to his feet with determination. He could stay here no
longer. Should he go out, or retire to his room in the doubtful comfort
of extreme negligee, and read?

It will, of course, be evident to the meanest suburban intelligence that
the month was August, and that Mrs. Rivers was away, as were most of her
immediate neighbors, enjoying a holiday by either mountains or seashore.
Rivers could see in imagination how glorious this moonlight became as
the waves rolled into its path and broke there on the wet sands into a
delicious rush and swirl of silvery sparkling foam. He could smell the
very perfume of the sea, and feel the cold breath that the water exhales
with one’s face close down by it, no matter how warm the night. It had
been a pretty bad day in town. He was glad, very glad, that Elizabeth
had the change. She needed it. He had said this stoutly to himself many
times in the last six weeks, and knew that it was true. She had
protested against going, and only yielded at last for the children’s
sake and in wifely obedience to lawful masculine authority. He had
insisted on sleeping in the house alone, in defiance of her pleading,
alleging an affinity for his own bed, his own belongings, and an
individual bath tub. A woman came once a week to sweep and straighten up
the house. He had repeatedly declared there would be really nothing to
do after business hours but to go around and enjoy himself. He had made
her almost envious of these prospective joys. He would take little trips
to Manhattan Beach with “the boys” and go to Bronxville to see Tom
Westfield, as he had been meaning to for five years, and visit the roof
garden with the Danas, who were on from St. Louis, and take dinner at
the Café Ruritania. On the between nights he would visit the neighbors.
All these things he had done, more or less disappointingly, but what
should he do to-night?

“I beg your pardon, Rivers, but have you any paregoric in the house?
We’ve got to get something to quiet the baby.”

A tall, thin, wearied-looking young man had come up the steps, hidden by
the vines in which dwellers in a mosquito country are wont to
picturesquely embower themselves, defiant of results.

“Why, how are you, Parker?” said Rivers cordially. “Paregoric is it that
you want? Come inside, and we’ll have a look for it, old man.” He led
the way, scratching matches as he went to relieve the darkness, dropping
them on the floor as they went out, and finally lighting the gas in the
butler’s pantry.

“My wife keeps the medicines on the top shelf here to be out of the way
of the children,” he explained. “I don’t know about the paregoric,
though. I seem to remember that she didn’t believe much in using it for
babies.”

“We’ve had a fight with the nurse about it,” said the other man, gnawing
at a very light mustache as he leaned against the door, “but Great
Scott, Rivers, we’ve got to do something. _I_ would have murdered
anybody whose child cried like this one. We’ve been complained of as it
is. That’s paregoric, isn’t it?”

“It was, but the bottle’s empty,” said Rivers, who was standing on the
rung of a chair, holding out a vial now and then from an inner recess
to read the name on it. “That’s another empty bottle—and here’s
_another_ empty bottle—and, this is—another. Bottle of sewing machine
oil. Prescription for neuralgia, 178, 902, empty. Bottle of
glycerine—confound the thing! the cork was out of it; get my
handkerchief for me out of my pocket, will you? Prescription for hair
tonic; empty bottle—another empty prescription bottle—dregs of cough
medicine. What in thunder does Bess want with all these empty bottles?
I’m awfully sorry, Parker, but we don’t seem to have the stuff you
want, or any other, for that matter.”

“Never mind,” said Parker. “I’ll ride down to the village and get some.
I’d have gone there first, but the tire of my wheel wants blowing up.”

“I’d lend you my wheel, but it’s at the shop,” called Rivers as they
disappeared out of the door.

He put the bottles back, upsetting, as he did so, a package of some
white powder, out of which ran three cockroaches. As he stooped to
gather it up again in the paper he disturbed a half-eaten peach which he
remembered leaving there the night before, and a small colony of ants
that had made their dwelling in it scuttled cheerily around. He uttered
an exclamation of disgust, and shut the door of the butler’s pantry upon
them. The whole house seemed given up to a plague of insects, utterly
unknown in the reign of its careful mistress. In spite of screens, small
stinging mosquitoes whizzed out from everything he touched; spiders hung
down from webs in the ceiling, and a moth had flown from his closet that
very morning. He kept the blinds and windows closed while he was away
all day; he had begun by leaving them open, but a slanting shower had
made havoc in his absence and also flooded the cellar through the open
cellar door. It had not dried up since, and he was sure that there were
fleas down there.

There was a deadly hot damp and silence in the dining-room and parlor as
he came through them, and the same unnatural atmosphere in the rooms
above as he drearily invaded them for a clean collar. Every place was
shut up and in order; the tops of the dressing tables even were bare
save for the clean towel laid over each. His own room was in an ugly,
disheveled confusion, and though his windows were open, no air came
through the wire screens. He opened a closet door inadvertently, and the
sight of a pink kimono of his wife’s, and the hats of the two little
boys hanging up neatly beside it, emphasized his solitude. His latent
idea of spending the rest of the evening at home was gone from him—he
felt that he could not get out of this accursed house quickly enough,
although he had not made up his mind where to go; he did not feel up to
cheering the sick man in the next street, or equal to a gentle literary
conversation with the two elderly ladies beyond who had known his
mother. He wanted to go somewhere where he could smoke and have some
pleasing light drink for refreshment, and be cheered and amused himself.

The Callenders! If he only had his wheel—it was nine o’clock now, and
the place was away over on the other side of town. Never mind, he would
go, and chance their being at home and out of bed when he got there.
Anything to get away from this loathsome place, although coming back to
it again seemed suddenly an impossible horror. He wondered if he were
getting ill. The night before—

As he walked, the shadows of the moonlight lengthened his long legs, and
their dragging strides. His face, with its short brown beard and the
hollows under his dark eyes, was bent forward. He figured out anew the
income there would be from his insurance money, and how it might be
supplemented for Bess and the children. Clearly, he would have to earn
more before he died. And oh, the burden, the burden, the burden was his!
The thought leaped out like a visible thing. Her sweet presence, her
curling hair, her dimples, her loving feminine inconsequence, with the
innocent, laughing faces of the little boys, overlaid the daily care for
him, but with these appointed Lighteners of Life away it loomed up into
a hideously exaggerated specter that seemed to have always had its hand
upon his fearsome heart, and only pressed a little closer upon him now
in this hot windless night. Even his wilted collar partook of the
tragic; he might as well have kept on the first one.

“Hello! Hello! Where are you going? This is the place.” A shout of
laughter accompanied the words. “Come up, brother, we’ve been waiting
for you!”

He looked up to see that he was in front of Callender’s house, and that
the piazza, a large square end of which was screened off into a room,
held a company in jovial mood, under moonlight as bright as day. The
women were in white, with half bare neck and arms, rocking and fanning
themselves, and the men in tennis shirts and belts, two of them smoking
pipes, and the other a cigar. A tray, holding a large crystal bowl and
glasses, stood on a bamboo table at one side, half shielded by jars of
palms whose spiked shadows carpeted the floor and projected themselves
across the white dress and arms of Mrs. Callender, while she held the
door open with one hand, and half welcomed, half dragged him in with the
other, amid a chorus of voices,

“Come in, come in, you’re one of us.”

“If you let a mosquito in—Take that chair by Mrs. Weir if you feel up to
it; she wants to be entertained.”

“I feel up to anything—now,” said Rivers, taking with alacrity the seat
allotted to him, after shaking hands with pretty Mrs. Waring, who lived
next door, and her cousin, Mrs. Weir. “Same old crowd, I see.”

The laughter broke out anew as his wandering eyes took tally of the
group, and he said, “Where’s Callender? and Weir? What’s the joke?”

“Oh, don’t ask for any woman’s husband or any man’s wife,” said Mrs.
Callender despairingly, with her graceful figure reclining back in the
low chair. “Can’t you see that we’re all detached?” Her charming smile
suddenly broke forth. “It’s really too absurd.”

“No!” said Rivers, a light dawning on him. “Nichols, you don’t mean that
you are on the waiting list too?”

Mr. Nichols, a large man with a grizzled head, nodded and helped himself
to the contents of the suggestive bowl. “The missus and the kids went
off last week; I’m detained for a while longer. As for Callender; he got
a summons from the company, and he’s half way to Chicago by this time, I
hope. I came over on purpose to tell his last words to his wife, who
didn’t want them.”

“Ned had already brought them,” said Mrs. Callender, turning to the
tall, quiet man of the cigar, Mr. Atwood, who was her brother. “It’s
such a mercy that he happened to come on, or I’d have been here all
alone.”

“Looks like it,” said Mr. Porter, a stout fair gentleman with a cool
gray eye, a bald head, and a gurgling laugh. “What do you think, Rivers,
these girls here”—he waved his hand—“had been counting on seeing the
whole lot of us to-night, and brewed that lemonade on purpose.”

“Everyone has come now but the Martindales,” said Mrs. Weir, a little
woman with loosely piled dark hair, and a gentle, winning voice,
occasionally diversified with a surprising shriek of laughter.

“The Martindales! Why, they only returned this evening—I met them on the
boat,” said Rivers.

“Yes, we know that, but one of them will be over here just the same,”
said Mrs. Callender placidly. “They’ll want to see what we’re doing. Do
somebody pay a little attention to Mrs. Waring; she hasn’t said a word
for half an hour. I believe she’s hoping that Henry’ll be too homesick
to stay away.”

“Not quite,” said Mrs. Waring with a little tremble of her lower lip.

“Nice, kind little woman you are,” said Porter severely. “Want to enjoy
yourself thinking how unhappy Waring is. Well, I’m _glad_ he went, and I
hope he’ll stay until he’s well; if any man needed a change, he did.”

“He would have taken me with him if I could have left the children,”
murmured Mrs. Waring.

“Yes, the children win every time,” said Porter with easy philosophy.
“You think you’re important, my brothers, until you’re confronted with
your own offspring, and then you’re not in it.”

“I don’t see,” said Mr. Nichols, filling his pipe again, “why a man’s
family should stay in town and broil because he has to. It wouldn’t be
any satisfaction to _me_, I know that. My little girls write to me every
day.”

“I remember,” said Rivers, leaning forward, “once when Bess and I took a
trip together we had to come home just when the fishing was at its
height, because she imagined what it would be like if a menagerie broke
loose and a tiger got at little Brook when he was asleep in his crib.
She said she knew it was perfectly absurd, but she couldn’t stand it a
moment longer. So we came home.”

He laughed tenderly at the reminiscence, and the other men laughed with
him, but the women, even Mrs. Callender, who had no children, were
serious, and Mrs. Weir said, as if speaking for the rest,

“Yes, one does feel that way sometimes.”

The men looked at each other and nodded, as in the presence of something
known of old, something to be smiled at, and yet reverenced. The fierce
maternal impulses of his wife were divine to Rivers, he loved her the
more for her foolishness; it seemed fitting, and all he could expect,
that the children should be her passion, as she was his. If he had once
dreamed that it would be otherwise, he knew better now. Women were to be
taken care of and loved for their very limitations, even if one bore a
little sense of loss and soreness forever in one’s own heart. What could
they know?

“Why don’t you take a vacation, Mr. Rivers?” asked Mrs. Weir later as
the others had fallen into general conversation. “You look as if _you_
needed it. Mr. Nichols says it was dreadful in town to-day; forty-seven
heat prostrations.”

“Oh, I can’t get off,” said Rivers with unconscious weariness in his
voice. “It makes an awful lot of difference when you’re running the
business yourself. If I were working for somebody else I’d take my
little two weeks the way my own clerks do, without caring a hang what
became of the concern in my absence. I thought I was going to get up to
Maine over the Fourth, and after all I couldn’t leave in time. It’s
quite a journey, you know. Bess and the boys were as disappointed as I
was,” he added conscientiously. “But they’re getting along finely. Sam
and Jack are learning to swim, she says—pretty good for little shavers
of five and six! They’re as brown as Indians. She says—” he began to
laugh as he repeated confidentially some anecdotes of their prowess to
which Mrs. Weir apparently listened with the deeply interested attention
that is balm to the family exile, only asking him after a while
irrelevantly, as he pushed back the hair from his forehead,

“How did you get that ugly cut on your temple?”

Even in the moonlight she could see his face flush.

“Oh, come, Rivers,” said Atwood, who was passing, “make up some story,
for the credit of mankind.”

“Then you might as well have the truth, I suppose,” said Rivers,
laughing, yet embarrassed. “It’s really nothing, though; I felt dizzy
and queer when I went to bed last night. I suppose it was just the heat,
and I have had a good deal to carry in a business way lately. I found
myself at daylight this morning lying on the floor with my head by the
edge of the bureau, and I don’t know in the least how I got there. I
have a faint memory that I started to go for some water. I’m all right
to-day, though; it hasn’t bothered me a bit.”

“No, of course not,” said Mrs. Weir encouragingly. “And you don’t mind
staying alone?” she dropped her voice.

“Oh, no, not at all. Only—I don’t mind telling _you_—” he looked at her
with strange eyes—“I _hate_ the house! It’s got all the plagues of Egypt
in it. And all the hours I’ve spent alone there are shut up in it too. I
know just how it’s going to be when I open that front door and walk in.”

“Stay here to-night,” said Mrs. Weir smoothly. “Stay here with Mr.
Atwood; Mrs. Callender will be delighted to have you.”

“Oh, I can’t, possibly,” said Rivers with decision. “I didn’t even lock
the front door when I came away. I only remembered it a moment ago. And
I won’t really mind a bit after I’m once back there—it’s only the
plunge. You’re awfully good to me, Mrs. Weir,” he added gratefully; but
he wanted his wife—he did not want to be confidential with anyone but
her. No matter what enjoyment he had in this brief hour, it was bound to
fail him at the end. One of the dearest pleasures of married life is the
going home together after the outside pleasuring is over.

As they all trooped into the dining-room for the crabs and salad Mrs.
Callender told of as in the ice-box, the figure of Elizabeth in her pink
kimono seemed to weave in and out among the others, but in another
moment he was laughing and talking uproariously with the men, while the
women, on Mrs. Callender’s assertion that the servants were in bed,
tucked up their gowns and descended the cellar stairs for the
provisions, refusing all masculine assistance.

“I think it’s an eternal shame,” said Mrs. Callender as the three held
an excited conclave in cellared seclusion by the open refrigerator.
“It’s just as Celeste says, he’s ill—anyone can see it. Why, he starts
whenever he’s spoken to. He told Mr. Callender the other day that he’d
been horribly worried about business. He’s a nervous kind of a fellow,
and he takes everything too hard. He ought not to be left alone in this
way.”

“I think somebody ought to write to _her_,” said Mrs. Waring solemnly,
resting the dish of salad on the top of the ice-box. “I think it’s
perfectly heartless of her to go on enjoying herself when he’s ill.”

“She doesn’t know it,” interrupted Mrs. Callender with rare justice.

“That’s what I say, somebody ought to _tell_ her. She never seems to
think about anything but herself, though—or the children, or clothes. If
I thought that Henry—but I’d never leave him this way, never; _I_
wouldn’t have a bit of comfort. He’s so devoted to his home, just like
Mr. Rivers.”

“Do you know—I have a dreadful feeling that something is going to happen
to him to-night?”

“If you had heard him talk—” said Mrs. Weir with tragic impressiveness.

The three women looked at each other silently.

“Are we to have anything to eat to-night, or are you girls going to talk
until morning?” came the steady tones of Porter from the head of the
stairs. “It’s after eleven now.”

“Goodness!” said Mrs. Callender, hastily completing her preparations.
“Yes! we’re coming. You can send Ned down now to crack some more ice,
and then we’ll be ready.”

But she turned to say, “I think someone _ought_ to go home with him.”

“This is what I call comfort,” said Porter as they sat hilariously
around the Flemish oak table, eating the cool viands and drinking anew
from the iced bowl, a lacy square of white linen and a glass vase of
scarlet nasturtiums gracing the center of the board. “Clear, clear
comfort!”

“I feel at peace with all mankind—even with Atwood, who believes in an
imperial policy.”

“Hush,” said Mrs. Callender, “who is that on the piazza?”

The door opened, a head was thrust in, and a shout arose.

“Martindale! Martindale, by all that’s holy! Come in, we’re expecting
you.”

“That’s mighty good of you,” said the intruder, who seemed to be all red
hair and smiles. “All the same, you don’t seem to have left me much of
anything to eat.” He drew up a chair to the table and sat down.

“Where’s your wife?” asked Mrs. Weir.

“Oh, she had a headache this evening. I went out for a ride, and when I
came back I saw you were on deck over here, so I thought I’d look in and
see what was up.” He stopped, oblivious of the renewed laughter, and
stared at Rivers. “Why, when did _you_ get here? I saw a light in your
house ten minutes ago. I nearly dropped in on you.”

“A light in _my_ house!” exclaimed Rivers. He rose, and the others
instinctively rose also, with startled glances at each other.

“Perhaps your family has come home,” suggested Mrs. Waring.

Rivers shook his head. “No, I had a letter from Bess to-day saying she
had taken the rooms for two weeks more. It might have been Parker, but I
don’t think so. Are you sure you saw a light?”

“On the lower floor,” asseverated Martindale. “Was the door locked when
you came out?”

“No.”

“All right,” said Atwood briskly. “Porter and I’ll go back with you,
Rivers. No, we don’t need you, Nichols, you’re tired. Come upstairs and
choose from Callender’s arsenal.”

“Each of those women begged me secretly not to let _him_ get shot,”
whispered Porter to his companion as they set off at a jog trot down the
street, Rivers a little ahead. “I suppose they could sing our requiems
with pleasure.”

“I know. They pounded it into me, too. They’ve got some kind of an idea
between ’em that he’s coming to harm. Anything for an excitement. We’ll
get ahead of him when we’re a little nearer to the house.”

It looked very dark and still as they reached it. The moon had set, and
the patch of straggling woods stretched out weird and formless. The
piano, the infant, the yelping dog had given place to an oppressive
silence save for the dismal chirping of insects and the shuddering of a
train of coal cars as it backed far off down the track. “There is no
light now,” said Porter.

The three were drawn up in a line outside the house, and even while he
spoke the gas flared up bright in the second story. The edge of a shadow
wavered toward the back of the room; then it came forward and
disappeared. The next moment the shade of the front window was partly
drawn up and pulled down again by a round white arm, half clad in the
loose sleeve of a pink kimono.

                  *       *       *       *       *

RIVERS sat in the big wicker chair with his arms around his little wife.
Her head, with its light curls, lay on his shoulder, and both of her
hands held one of his large ones as she talked.

“You are sure you do not mind my coming in this way?”

“No. No, my Betsy, I do not mind.” He touched his lips to her forehead,
and smoothed the folds of her pink gown with the strong, unnecessarily
firm touch of a man. “But where are the boys?”

“I left them with Alice”—Alice was her sister—“for another week. I
couldn’t bring them back in this hot weather.”

“Left them with Alice!”

“Yes, don’t talk about it.” She colored nervously and then went on. “I
know they’re all right, but if I think about it too much I’ll get
silly—as I did about you. But, of course, it’s really different with
them, for they have someone to look after them, and Alice will telegraph
every day.”

“How did you get silly about me?”

She clasped and unclasped his hand. “I don’t know. Yes, I do. It was
worse than the time I thought of little Brook and the tiger. I kept
imagining and imagining dreadful things. Last night I thought you
were—dead. I saw you fallen on the floor.” Her voice dropped to a note
of horror, and her eyes grew dark as they stared at him. “Where did you
get that cut on your forehead? Were you ill last night? _Did_ you have a
fall?”

He nodded, gazing steadily at her.

“I’m all right now.”

“Oh,” she said with a long, shivering breath, and hid her face on his
shoulder. Presently she fell to kissing his hand, holding it tight when
he strove to draw it away. Then she went on in a smothered tone, with a
little pause between each sentence,

“I got here at ten o’clock. I thought you’d _never_ come home. Of
course, I _knew_ you were at the Callenders’. I went to work and cleared
up the butler’s pantry, or I couldn’t have _slept_ here! The house is in
a dreadful condition.”

“Yes. Don’t you care.”

“I don’t. I’ll have an army here cleaning to-morrow. But oh, Brookton—”
she broke off suddenly—“don’t send me away again!” There was a new,
passionate ring in her voice. “_Never_ send me away again. I’ve been
wild, wild, _wild_ for you! Promise never to send me away again. Let me
stay with you always—whatever happens—like this—until we die!” A sob
caught her by the throat.

The strong and tender clasp of his arms answered her—her trembling
ceased. After a silence, he said gently,

“I’m going downstairs now to lock up.”

She rose, flushing under his smiling eyes as he held her off at arm’s
length to say,

“It seems to me you’ve reached a high pitch of romance after seven
years, Mrs. Rivers!”

“Ah, don’t, don’t,” she deprecated. She raised her drooping head and
flashed a reckless glance at him, half mirthful, half tragic.

“Oh, it’s dreadful to care so much for _any_ man! Goodness knows what
I’ll get to in seven years more!”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                      Mrs. Atwood’s Outer Raiment



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                      Mrs. Atwood’s Outer Raiment


“HOW much will a new suit cost, Jo?” Mr. Atwood held his fingers
reflectively on the rubber band of his pocketbook as he asked the
question, and glanced as he did so at the round brunette face of his
wife, which had suddenly become all flush and sparkle.

“Oh, Edward!”

“Well?”

“You oughtn’t to give me the money for it now—you really oughtn’t. There
are so many calls on you at this season of the year, I don’t see how we
can meet them as it is. The second quarter of Josephine’s music lessons
begins next month, and the dancing school bill comes in too—besides the
coal. Everything just piles in before Christmas. I meant to have saved
the money, for a coat at any rate, this summer out of my allowance, but
I was obliged to fit Josephine out from head to foot—she grows so fast,
she takes as much for a dress as I do. But it doesn’t make any
difference—I can do very well for a while with what I have—really!”

“How about the Washington trip with me next month? I thought you said
you couldn’t go anywhere without a new suit?”

“Well, I _can’t_, but—”

“That settles it.”

Mr. Atwood pulled off the rubber band from the pocketbook and laid it on
the table before him, as he extracted a roll of bills and began to count
them. It was a shabby article, worn brown at the edges, but it had been
made of handsome leather to begin with, and still held together in spite
of many years of service. Mrs. Atwood would hardly have known her
husband without that pocketbook. It represented in its way the heart of
a kind and generous man, always ready to do his utmost in help of the
family needs, without complaint or caviling.

His wife always experienced mingled feelings when that leather
receptacle appeared—a quick and blessed relief and a sharp wince, as if
it were really his heart’s blood that she was taking. Her fervent
imagination was perennially ready to picture unknown depths of stress.

He paid no attention now to her inarticulate murmur of protest; but
asked, in a business-like way,

“How much will it take?”

“I _could_ get the material for a dollar a yard—” Mrs. Atwood sat with
her hands clasped and her eyes looking off into space, feeling the words
wrung from her—“I could get it for a dollar a yard, but I suppose it
ought to be heavier weight for the winter.”

“Have it warm enough, whatever else you do,” interrupted her husband.

“It would take seven yards, or I might get along with six and a half, it
depends on the width. It’s the linings that make it mount up to so much,
and the making. You _can_ get a suit made for ten dollars; Cynthia
Callender did, and hers looks well, but Mrs. Nichols went to the same
place, and—”

“Will thirty dollars be enough?” asked Mr. Atwood with masculine
directness, seeking for some tangible fact.

“Oh, yes. I’m sure it will be, I—”

“Then here’s fifty,” said Mr. Atwood. He counted out five tens and
pushed them over to her. “Get a good suit while you’re about it, Jo.”

“Oh, Edward. I don’t want—”

“Make her take it,” said a girl of sixteen, rising from the corner where
she had been sitting with a book in her hand, a very tall and thin and
pretty girl, brunette like her mother, with a long black braid that hung
down her back. She came forward and threw her arm around her mother’s
neck, bending protectingly over her. “Make her take it, papa. She buys
everything for me and the boys, and goes without herself, so that I’m
ashamed to walk out in the street with her; it makes me look so horrid
to be all dressed up when she wears that old spring jacket. When it’s
cold she puts a cape over it. I wish you’d see that cape! She’s had it
since the year one. She doesn’t dare wear it when she goes out with you,
she just shivers.”

“Hush, hush, Josephine,” said the mother embarrassed, yet laughing, as
her husband lifted his shaggy eyebrows at her in mock severity. “You
needn’t say any more, either of you. I’ll take the money.” She paused
impressively, and then gently pushed the girl aside and went over and
kissed her husband.

“If I were only as good a manager as some people! I don’t know what’s
the matter with me. I try, and I try, but—”

“Yes, yes, I know,” said the husband. “All I ask now is that you spend
this money on yourself; it’s not for other needs. Remember! You are to
spend it all on yourself.”

“Yes, I will,” said Mrs. Atwood, with the guilty thrill of the perjured
at the very moment of her promise. She knew very well that some of it
would have to be spent for other needs. She had but fifty cents left of
her allowance to last her until the end of the month, five long days
away. No one but the mother of a family of moderate means realizes what
the demand for pads, pencils, shoestrings, lunches, postage stamps, hair
ribbons, medicines, mended shoes, and such like can amount to in that
short time. She had meant to ask Edward to advance her a little more on
the next month’s allowance—already largely anticipated—but she had not
the face to after his generosity to her now. A couple of dollars out of
the fifty would make very little difference, and she did not need it
all, anyway. She almost wept as she thought of Josephine’s championship
of her, and her husband’s thoughtfulness.

Mrs. Atwood adored her husband and her three children. She firmly
believed them to be superior in every way to all other mortals;
sacrificing service for them was her joy of joys, her keenest affliction
the fear that she did not appreciate them half enough. It is certain
that the children, truthful, loving, and obedient as they had been
trained to be, would have been spoiled beyond tolerance if it were not
that the very strength of her admiration made it innocuous. They were so
used to being told that they were the loveliest and dearest things on
earth that the words were not even heard. As they grew older the
extravagance of her devotion was beginning to rouse the protective
element in them, to her wonder and humility.

Mrs. Atwood, at twenty, the time of her marriage, had been a
warm-hearted, fervent, loquacious, impulsive child. At thirty-eight she
was still in many ways the girl her husband had married; even to her
looks, while he appeared much older than his real age, in reality but a
couple of years ahead of hers. She was always longing to be a silent,
noble, and finely-balanced character, quite oblivious of the fact that
she suited him, a humorous but self-contained man, exactly as she was,
and that he would have been very lonesome with anything more perfect.
Perhaps, after all, there are few things that are better to bring into a
household than an uncalculating and abounding love, even if the
manifestations of it are not always of the wisest.

The extra money cast a rich glow over Mrs. Atwood’s horizon. In the
effulgence of it she received a bill for twelve dollars presented to her
just after breakfast the next morning, by the waitress, with the word
that the man waiting outside the door had already brought it once
before, when they were out of town. Could Mrs. Atwood pay it now? He
needed the money.

“Why, certainly,” said Mrs. Atwood with affluent promptness. The bill
was for work on the lawn during the summer, something her husband always
paid for, but it seemed a pity to have the man go away again when the
money was there at hand. She would not in the least mind asking Edward
to refund it to her. But she felt the well-known drop into her usual
condition of calculating economy.

Her husband came home that night with a bad headache, and the night
after she had another bill waiting for him for repairs on the furnace.
It was unexpectedly and villainously large, and Mrs. Atwood was
constitutionally incapable of adding another straw to his burden, while
she stood by consenting sympathetically unto his righteous wrath. A day
later, when she spoke of going to town to buy the material for her new
costume with outward buoyancy, but inward panic at the rapid shrinkage
of her funds, Sam, a boy of twelve, announced the fact that he must have
a new suit of clothes at once. As it was Saturday, he could accompany
her.

“What is the matter with those you have on? They are not in the least
worn out,” said his mother.

“Mamma, they’re so thin that I’m freezing all the time I’m in school.
You ought to have heard me coughing yesterday.”

“You have the old blue suit; I’m sure that’s thick enough.”

“The blue suit! Yes, and it hurts me, it’s so tight I can hardly walk in
it. I can’t sit down in it at all. It makes ridges all around my legs.”

Mrs. Atwood looked at her son with rare exasperation. It was well known
that when Sam took a dislike to his clothes for any reason, they always
hurt him. His coats, his trousers, his caps, his shoes, even his
neckties developed hitherto unsuspected attributes of torture. And there
was always a haunting feeling with the outraged dispenser of these
articles that it might be true. A penetrative and scornful remark from
the passing Josephine at once emphasized this view of the case to the
anxious mother, remorseful already at her own lack of sympathy.

“I’m astonished at you, Josephine. If the clothes hurt him—” but the
girl had disappeared beyond hearing. Sam came from town that jubilant
evening, in warm and roomy jacket and trousers, and, oh, weakness of
woman! with a new football, besides. Mrs. Atwood carried with her a box
of lead soldiers for Eddy, and a sweet little fluffy thing in neckwear
for Josephine, such as she saw other girls displaying. After all, what
was her own dress in comparison with the darling children’s happiness?
She would get some cheap stuff and make it up herself. No one would know
the difference.

“How about your suit, Jo?” asked her husband one evening as they sat
around the fire. “Is it almost finished?”

“Not—exactly,” said Mrs. Atwood.

“The club goes to Washington on the fifteenth of the month, it was
decided to-day. Nearly all the men are going to take their wives with
them. I’m looking forward to showing off mine.”

“My mamma will look prettier than any of them,” said Eddy belligerently.

“And lots younger,” added Sam.

“Have you ordered the suit yet?” asked the voice of Josephine. Oh, how
her mother dreaded it!

“No, I haven’t—yet,” she felt herself forced into saying.

“I don’t believe there is any money left for it,” pursued the pitiless
one. “She spends it for other things, papa. She pays bills and doesn’t
tell, because she hates to bother you. And she buys things for us. And
she paid a subscription to the Orphan’s Home yesterday, and she got a
new wash-boiler for Katy. And—”

“Hush, hush, Josephine,” said her father severely. “I found that
receipted bill of Patrick’s lying around the other day, Jo. I should
have paid you back at once. How much money have you left?”

“Oh, Edward—I’m _so_ foolish. I—”

“Have you thirty dollars?”

“I—I don’t think so.”

“Have you twenty?”

“I haven’t—_more_ than that.” She had, as she well knew, the sum of nine
dollars and sixty-seven cents in the purse in her dressing table drawer.

“Will this help you out?” His tone had the business-like quality in it
as natural as breathing to a man when he speaks of money matters, and
which a woman feels almost as a personal condemnation in its chill
removal from sentiment.

“Oh, Edward—please don’t! It makes me feel so—” She tried not to be too
abject. “But nearly all of it has gone for necessary things.”

“That’s all _right_.” He added with a touch of severity. “Don’t let
there be any mistake about it this time, Jo,” and she murmured
contentedly,

“No. No, indeed.”

With her allowance money, too, how could there be?

Mrs. Atwood now set herself seriously to the work of getting appareled.
She read advertisements, and went to town two days in succession,
bringing home samples of cloth for family approval; she sought the
advice of her young sister-in-law, Mrs. Callender, and of her friend,
Mrs. Nichols, with the result that she finally sat down one morning
immediately after breakfast, and wrote a letter to a New York firm
ordering a jacket and skirt made like one in a catalogue issued by them,
and setting down her measurements according to its directions. Just
before she finished, a maid brought her up word that Mrs. Martindale was
below.

“Mrs. Martindale—at this time in the morning!”

Mrs. Martindale was her cousin, and lived over the other side of the
track, some distance away. Mrs. Atwood hurried down with a premonition
of evil to find the visitor, a pretty woman, elegantly but hastily
gowned, sitting on the edge of a chair, as if ready for instant flight.
There was a wild expression in her eye.

She began at once, taking no notice of Mrs. Atwood’s greeting.

“I suppose you think I’m crazy to come here in this way. I didn’t sleep
a wink last night. I didn’t know what to do. We’re in such a state!”

“Is it the business?”

“Oh, it’s the estate and the business and everything. Mr. Bellew’s death
has just brought the whole thing to a standstill. All the money is tied
up in some dreadful way—don’t ask _me_. Of course it will be all right
in three or four weeks, Dick says, and we have credit everywhere. It’s
just to tide over this time. But we haven’t a penny of ready money; not
a _penny_. It would be ridiculous if it wasn’t horrible. Dick gave me
all he could scrape together last week, and told me to try and make it
last, but it’s all gone—_I_ couldn’t help it. And the washerwoman comes
to-day. If you could let me have ten dollars, Jo; I couldn’t _bear_ to
let Dick know.”

“Why, certainly,” said Mrs. Atwood with loving alacrity. “Don’t say
another word.” If she felt a pang, she scorned it.

“You don’t know how many calls there are on one,” murmured the other,
sinking back with relief.

Mrs. Atwood thought she did, but she only said, “You poor thing,” and
rushed upstairs to get one of her crisp ten-dollar bills; she could not
use the house money for this. She passed Josephine in the hall,
afterwards, on her way to school, and held the bill behind her, but she
felt sure the girl’s keen eyes had spied it.

“I’m so glad I had it! Are you sure this will be enough?” she asked as
the other kissed her fervently. What were clothes for herself in
comparison with poor Bertha’s need? She would look over the catalogue
again to-morrow, when she had time, and order a cheaper suit, or buy one
ready made.

After all, she did neither. Her money—but why chronicle further the
diminution of her forces? Delay made it as inevitable as the thaw after
snow. Her entire downfall was completed the day she had unexpected and
honorable company to dinner, and sent Sam out to the nearest shops
instead of those at which she usually dealt, to “break a
bill”—heart-rending process—in the purchase of fruits and sweets for
their consumption. No one has ever satisfactorily explained why the
change from five dollars never amounts to more than two dollars and
sixteen cents. Poor Mrs. Atwood could never get quite used to the fact
that if she spent money it was gone. She cherished an underlying hope
that she could get it back somehow.

As the time approached for the Washington trip she did not dare to meet
her Edward’s eye, and replied but feebly to his unusually jolly
anticipations of “this time next week.” She had hoped that she might
have some excuse to remain at home, much as she had longed for this
jaunt alone with her husband, but there seemed to be no loophole of
escape.

She tried to freshen up her heaviest skirt, and took the spring jacket
she was wearing and made a thick lining to it, planning to disguise it
further with a piece of fur at the neck. She felt horribly guilty when
Josephine came in and caught her at it. The tall girl with her red
cheeks just out of the wintry air looked at her mother with an
inscrutable expression, but she merely said,

“I suppose that’s to save your new suit. You’ll never be able to get
into it, if you put so much wadding in,” and went off again. The mother
felt relieved, yet a little hurt, too, in some mysterious way.

Many a time she tried to screw her courage up to confessing that she had
no outer raiment; that after all the money and all her promises she had
nothing to show in exchange. The fatal moment had to come, but she put
it off. She had done it so many times! For herself she did not mind; she
could have confessed joyfully to all the crimes in the Decalogue, if it
would have benefited her dear ones, but to wound their idea of her, to
pain them by showing how unworthy she was, how unfit to be trusted—that
came hard. She prayed a great deal about it on her knees by the bed in
the dusk of her own room when she came upstairs after dinner, on the
pretext of “getting something”; she belonged to the old-fashioned,
child-like order of women who do pray about things, not only daily, but
hourly, and who, unknown to themselves, exhale the sweetness born of
heavenly contact.

She wondered if, perhaps, it might not be better if she were dead, she
was such a poor manager, and set such a bad example to the children.
Josephine had that clear common sense that she lacked. The girl was
getting to be so companionable to her father, too. She had the
sacrificial pleasure of the victim when she heard them laughing and
talking downstairs together.

“Well, Jo, has your suit come home yet?”

It was three nights before the fateful Thursday, and the family were
grouped in the library as was their wont in the evenings immediately
after dinner. Eddy was lying on the fur rug playing with the cat in the
warmth of the wood fire, and Mr. Atwood, in a big chair with his wife
leaning on the arm of it, sat watching the little boy. The two older
children were studying by a table in the back of the room in front of a
shaded lamp, with a pile of books before them.

Mr. Atwood, although his hair and mustache were grizzled and his face
prematurely lined, had a curious faculty of suddenly looking like a boy,
under some pleasurable emotion; anticipation of his holiday made him
young for the moment. His wife thought him beautiful.

“Did you say it had not come home yet? You must be sure to have it on
time. Take all your party clothes along, too.”

“Oh, yes, I’m going to,” said Mrs. Atwood. She was on sure ground here.
The gown she had had made for a wedding in the spring was crying to be
worn again.

“What color did you decide on?”

“I—I decided on—brown,” said Mrs. Atwood with fixed eyes. Her respite
was gone.

“Brown—yes, I always liked you in brown. Have you heard your mother talk
much about her new clothes, Josephine?”

“No,” said Josephine, “I haven’t.”

“Didn’t you wear brown when we went on our wedding trip? It seems to me
that I remember that. I know you had red berries in your hat, for I
knocked some of them out.”

“Were you married in a brown dress?” called Sam.

“No,” answered the father for her, “your mother was married in
white—some kind of white mosquito-netting. What makes you look so
unhappy, Jo? Aren’t you glad to go off with me—in a new suit?”

“Edward!” said Mrs. Atwood. She rose and stood in front of him, her dark
eyes unnaturally large, the color coming and going in her rounded olive
cheek. Her red lips trembled. Here, before the loved and dreaded
domestic tribunal she would be shriven at last. Her children should know
just what she was like. “Edward! I have something to tell you.”

“There’s the door bell,” said her husband with an arresting hand, as he
listened for the outer sounds.

“A package, sir. By the express. Twenty-five cents.”

“Have you the change, Jo? It’s some clothes I ordered myself for the
Washington trip; I wanted to do you credit. Oh, don’t go upstairs for
it.”

“I don’t mind,” said Mrs. Atwood. Change! She had nothing but change.
Clothes! How easy it was for him to get them! Do her credit—in his
glossy newness, while she was in that old black skirt, grown skimp and
askew with wear, and that tight, impossible jacket! She charged up and
down stairs in the vehemence of her emotion, filled with anger at her
folly, and paid the man herself before reentering the library.

Her husband was untying the cords of the long pasteboard box with slow
and patient fingers. He was a man who had never cut a string in his
life. The children were standing by in what seemed unnecessary
excitement, their faces all turned to her as she came toward them.
Edward had lifted the cover of the box.

“What color are your clothes, Edward?” asked his wife. It was the first
time that he had ever bought anything without consulting her.

“What color? Oh—brown,” said Mr. Atwood. He swooped her into a front
place in the circle with his long arm. “Here, look and tell me what you
think of this.”

“Edward!”

“Lined throughout with taffeta, gores on every frill—why, _Jo_! Bring
your mother a chair, Josephine.”

Before the eyes of Mrs. Atwood lay the rich folds of a cloth skirt,
surmounted by a jacket trimmed with fur.

She lay back in the armchair with the family clustered around her, their
tongues loosened.

“We all knew about it—” “We promised not to tell—” “We wanted to _see_
you get it—” “There won’t be anybody as pretty as you, mamma.” “You left
out that letter of measurements, and papa and I took it to Aunt
Cynthia”—this from Josephine—“and she helped us. She says you’re
_disgracefully_ unselfish.” The girl emphasized her remark with a sudden
and strangling hug. “There isn’t anybody in the _world_ as good as you
are. I was watching you all last week; I knew you wouldn’t buy a
_thing_. But it was papa who thought of doing it, when I told him. Feel
the stuff—isn’t it lovely? so thick and soft. He and Aunt Cynthia said
you should have the best; she _can_ spend money! And you’re to go uptown
to-morrow with me to buy a hat with red in it, and if the suit needs
altering it can be done then. _Don’t_ you like it, mamma?”

“It’s perfectly beautiful,” said the mother, her hands clasped in those
of her three darlings, but her eyes sought her husband’s.

He alone said nothing, but stood regarding her with twinkling eyes,
through a suspicion of moisture. What did she see in them? The love and
kindness that clothed her not only with silk and wool, but with honor;
that made of this new raiment a vesture wherein she entered that special
and exquisite heaven of the woman whose husband and children arise up
and call her blessed.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               Fairy Gold



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               Fairy Gold


WHEN Mr. William Belden walked out of his house one wet October evening
and closed the hall door carefully behind him, he had no idea that he
was closing the door on all the habits of his maturer life and entering
the borders of a land as far removed from his hopes or his imagination
as the country of the Gadarenes.

He had not wanted to go out that evening at all, not knowing what the
fates had in store for him, and being only too conscious of the comfort
of the sitting-room lounge, upon which, after the manner of the suburban
resident who traveleth daily by railways, he had cast himself
immediately after the evening meal was over. The lounge was in
proximity—yet not too close proximity—to the lamp on the table; so that
one might have the pretext of reading to cover closed eyelids and a
general oblivion of passing events. On a night when a pouring rain
splashed outside on the pavements and the tin roofs of the piazzas, the
conditions of rest in the cozy little room were peculiarly attractive to
a man who had come home draggled and wet, and with the toil and wear of
a long business day upon him. It was therefore with a sinking of the
heart that he heard his wife’s gentle tones requesting him to wend his
way to the grocery to purchase a pound of butter.

“I hate to ask you to go, William dear, but there really is not a scrap
in the house for breakfast, and the butter-man does not come until
to-morrow afternoon,” she said deprecatingly. “It really will only take
you a few minutes.”

Mr. Belden smothered a groan, or perhaps something worse. The butter
question was a sore one, Mrs. Belden taking only a stated quantity of
that article a week, and always unexpectedly coming short of it before
the day of replenishment, although no argument ever served to induce her
to increase the original amount for consumption.

“Cannot Bridget go?” he asked weakly, gazing at the small, plump figure
of his wife, as she stood with meek yet inexorable eyes looking down at
him.

“Bridget is washing the dishes, and the stores will be closed before she
can get out.”

“Can’t one of the boys—” He stopped. There was in this household a god
who ruled everything in it, to whom all pleasures were offered up, all
individual desires sacrificed, and whose Best Good was the greedy and
unappreciative Juggernaut before whom Mr. Belden and his wife prostrated
themselves daily. This idol was called The Children. Mr. Belden felt
that he had gone too far.

“William!” said his wife severely, “I am surprised at you. John and
Henry have their lessons to get, and Willy has a cold; I could not think
of exposing him to the night air; and it is so damp, too!”

Mr. Belden slowly and stiffly rose from his reclining position on the
sofa. There was a finality in his wife’s tone before which he succumbed.

The night air _was_ damp. As he walked along the street the water
slopped around his feet, and ran in rills down his rubber coat. He did
not feel as contented as usual. When he was a youngster, he reflected
with exaggerated bitterness, boys were boys, and not treated like
precious pieces of porcelain. He did not remember, as a boy, ever having
any special consideration shown him; yet he had been both happy and
healthy, healthier perhaps than his over-tended brood at home. In his
day it had been popularly supposed that nothing could hurt a boy. He
heaved a sigh over the altered times, and then coughed a little, for he
had a cold as well as Willy.

The streets were favorable to silent meditation, for there was no one
out in them. The boughs of the trees swished backward and forward in the
storm, and the puddles at the crossings reflected the dismal yellow
glare of the street lamps. Everyone was housed to-night in the pretty
detached cottages he passed, and he thought with growing wrath of the
trivial errand on which he had been sent. “In happy homes he saw the
light,” but none of the high purpose of the youth of “Excelsior” fame
stirred his heart—rather a dull sense of failure from all high things.
What did his life amount to, anyway, that he should count one thing more
trivial than another? He loved his wife and children dearly, but he
remembered a time when his ambition had not thought of being satisfied
with the daily grind for a living and a dreamless sleep at night.

“‘Our life is but a sleep and a forgetting,’” he thought grimly, “in
quite a different way from what Wordsworth meant.” He had been one of
the foremost in his class at college, an orator, an athlete, a favorite
in society and with men. Great things had been predicted for him. Then
he had fallen in love with Nettie; a professional career seemed to place
marriage at too great a distance, and he had joyfully, yet with some
struggles in his protesting intellect, accepted a position that was
offered to him—one of those positions which never change, in which men
die still unpromoted, save when a miracle intervenes. It was not so good
a position for a family of six as it had been for a family of two, but
he did not complain. He and Nettie went shabby, but the children were
clothed in the best, as was their due.

He was too wearied at night to read anything but the newspapers, and the
gentle domestic monotony was not inspiring. He and Nettie never went out
in the evenings; the children could not be left alone. He met his
friends on the train in that diurnal journey to and from the great city,
and she occasionally attended a church tea; but their immediate and
engrossing world seemed to be made up entirely of persons under thirteen
years of age. They had dwelt in the place almost ever since their
marriage, respected and liked, but with no real social life. If Mr.
Belden thought of the years to come, he may be pardoned an unwonted
sinking of the heart.

It was while indulging in these reflections that he mechanically
purchased the pound of butter, which he could not help comparing with
Shylock’s pound of flesh, so much of life had it taken out of him, and
then found himself stepping up on the platform of the station, led by
his engrossing thoughts to pass the street corner and tread the path
most familiar to him. He turned with an exclamation to retrace his way,
when a man pacing leisurely up and down, umbrella in hand, caught sight
of him.

“Is that you, Belden?” said the stranger. “What are you doing down here
to-night?”

“I came out on an errand for my wife,” said Mr. Belden sedately. He
recognized the man as a young lawyer much identified with politics; a
mere acquaintance, yet it was a night to make any speaking animal seem a
friend, and Mr. Belden took a couple of steps along beside him.

“Waiting for a train?” he said.

“Oh, thunder, yes!” said Mr. Groper, throwing away the stump of a cigar.
“I have been waiting for the last half hour for the train; it’s late, as
usual. There’s a whole deputation from Barnet on board, due at the
Reform meeting in town to-night, and I’m part of the committee to meet
them here.”

“Where is the other part of the committee?” asked Mr. Belden.

“Oh, Jim Crane went up to the hall to see about something, and Connors
hasn’t showed up at all; I suppose the rain kept him back. What kind of
a meeting we’re going to have I don’t know. Say, Belden, I’m not up to
this sort of thing. I wish you’d stay and help me out—there’s no end of
swells coming down, more your style than mine.”

“Why, man alive, I can’t do anything for you,” said Mr. Belden. “These
carriages I see are waiting for the delegation, and here comes the train
now; you’ll get along all right.”

He waited as the train slowed into the station, smiling anew at little
Groper’s perturbation. He was quite curious to see the arrivals. Barnet
had been the home of his youth, and there might be some one whom he
knew. He had half intended, earlier in the day, to go himself to the
Reform meeting, but a growing spirit of inaction had made him give up
the idea. Yes, there was quite a carload of people getting out—ladies,
too.

“Why, Will Belden!” called out a voice from the party. A tall fellow in
a long ulster sprang forward to grasp his hand. “You don’t say it’s
yourself come down to meet us. Here we all are, Johnson, Clemmerding,
Albright, Cranston—all of the old set. Rainsford, you’ve heard of my
cousin, Will Belden. My wife and Miss Wakeman are behind here; but we’ll
do all the talking afterward, if you’ll only get us off for the hall
now.”

“Well, I am glad to see you, Henry,” said Mr. Belden heartily. He thrust
the pound of butter hastily into a large pocket of his mackintosh, and
found himself shaking hands with a score of men. He had only time to
assist his cousin’s wife and the beautiful Miss Wakeman into a carriage,
and in another moment they were all rolling away toward the town hall,
with little Mr. Groper running frantically after them, ignored by the
visitors, and peacefully forgotten by his friend.

The public hall of the little town—which called itself a city—was all
ablaze with light as the party entered it, and well filled,
notwithstanding the weather. There were flowers on the platform where
the seats for the distinguished guests were placed, and a general air of
radiance and joyful import prevailed. It was a gathering of men from all
political parties, concerned in the welfare of the State. Great measures
were at stake, and the election of governor of immediate importance. The
name of Judge Belden of Barnet was prominently mentioned. He had not
been able to attend on this particular occasion, but his son had come
with a delegation from the county town, twenty miles away, to represent
his interests. On Mr. William Belden devolved the task of introducing
the visitors; a most congenial one, he suddenly found it to be.

His friends rallied around him as people are apt to do with one of their
own kind when found in a foreign country. They called him Will, as they
used to, and slapped him on the shoulder in affectionate abandon. Those
among the group who had not known him before were anxious to claim
acquaintance on the strength of his fame, which, it seemed, still
survived him in his native town. It must not be supposed that he had not
seen either his cousin or his friends during his sojourn away from them;
on the contrary, he had met them once or so in two or three years, in
the street, or on the ferry-boat—though they traveled by different
roads—but he had then been but a passing interest in the midst of
pressing business. To-night he was the only one of their kind in a
strange place—his cousin loved him, they all loved him. The expedition
had the sentiment of a frolic under the severer political aspect.

In the welcome to the visitors by the home committee Mr. Belden also
received his part, in their surprised recognition of him, almost
amounting to a discovery.

“We had no idea that you were a nephew of Judge Belden,” one of them
said to him, speaking for his colleagues, who stood near.

Mr. William Belden bowed, and smiled; as a gentleman, and a rather
reticent one, it had never occurred to him to parade his family
connections. His smile might mean anything. It made the good
committeeman, who was rich and full of power, feel a little
uncomfortable, as he tried to cover his embarrassment with effusive
cordiality. In the background stood Mr. Groper, wet, and breathing hard,
but plainly full of admiration for his tall friend, and the position he
held as the center of the group. The visitors referred all arrangements
to him.

At last they filed on to the platform—the two cousins together.

“You must find a place for the girls,” said Henry Belden, with the
peculiar boyish giggle that his cousin remembered so well. “By George,
they _would_ come; couldn’t keep ’em at home, after they once got Jim
Shore to say it was all right. Of course, Marie Wakeman started it; she
said she was bound to go to a political meeting and sit on the platform;
arguing wasn’t a bit of use. When she got Clara on her side I knew that
I was doomed. Now, you couldn’t get them to do a thing of this kind at
home; but take a woman out of her natural sphere, and she ignores
conventionalities, just like a girl in a bathing-suit. There they are,
seated over in that corner. I’m glad that they are hidden from the
audience by the pillar. Of course, there’s that fool of a Jim, too, with
Marie.”

“You don’t mean to say she’s at it yet?” said his cousin William.

“‘At it yet!’ She’s never stopped for a moment since you kissed her that
night on the hotel piazza after the hop, under old Mrs. Trelawney’s
window—do you remember that, Will?”

Mr. William Belden did indeed remember it; it was a salute that had
echoed around their little world, leading, strangely enough, to the
capitulation of another heart—it had won him his wife. But the little
intimate conversation was broken off as the cousins took the places
allotted to them, and the business of the meeting began.

If he were not the chairman, he was appealed to so often as to almost
serve in that capacity. He became interested in the proceedings, and in
the speeches that were made; none of them, however, quite covered the
ground as he understood it. His mind unconsciously formulated
propositions as the flow of eloquence went on. It therefore seemed only
right and fitting toward the end of the evening, when it became evident
that his Honor the Mayor was not going to appear, that our distinguished
fellow-citizen, Mr. William Belden, nephew of Judge Belden of Barnet,
should be asked to represent the interests of the county in a speech,
and that he should accept the invitation.

He stood for a moment silent before the assembly, and then all the old
fire that had lain dormant for so long blazed forth in the speech that
electrified the audience, was printed in all the papers afterward, and
fitted into a political pamphlet.

He began with a comprehensive statement of facts, he drew large and
logical deductions from them, and then lit up the whole subject with
those brilliant flashes of wit and sarcasm for which he had been famous
in bygone days. More than that, a power unknown before had come to him;
he felt the real knowledge and grasp of affairs which youth had denied
him, and it was with an exultant thrill that his voice rang through the
crowded hall, and stirred the hearts of men. For the moment they felt as
he felt, and thought as he thought, and a storm of applause arose as he
ended—applause that grew and grew until a few more pithy words were
necessary from the orator before silence could be restored.

He made his way to the back of the hall for some water, and then, half
exhausted, yet tingling still from the excitement, dropped into an empty
chair by the side of Miss Wakeman.

“Well done, Billy,” she said, giving him a little approving tap with her
fan. “You were just fine.” She gave him an upward glance from her large
dark eyes. “Do you know you haven’t spoken to me to-night, nor shaken
hands with me?”

“Let us shake hands now,” he said, smiling, flushed with success, as he
looked into the eyes of this very pretty woman.

“I shall take off my glove first—such old friends as we are! It must be
a real ceremony.”

She laid a soft, white, dimpled hand, covered with glistening rings, in
his outstretched palm, and gazed at him with coquettish plaintiveness.
“It’s so _lovely_ to see you again! Have you forgotten the night you
kissed me?”

“I have thought of it daily,” he replied, giving her hand a hearty
squeeze. They both laughed, and he took a surreptitious peep at her from
under his eyelids. Marie Wakeman! Yes, truly, the same, and with the
same old tricks. He had been married for nearly fourteen years, his
children were half grown, he had long since given up youthful
friskiness, but she was “at it” still. Why, she had been older than he
when they were boy and girl; she must be for—He gazed at her soft,
rounded, olive cheek, and quenched the thought.

“And you are very happy?” she pursued, with tender solicitude. “Nettie
makes you a perfect wife, I suppose.”

“Perfect,” he assented gravely.

“And you haven’t missed me at all?”

“Can you ask?” It was the way in which all men spoke to Marie Wakeman,
married or single, rich or poor, one with another. He laughed inwardly
at his lapse into the expected tone. “I feel that I really breathe for
the first time in years, now that I’m with you again. But how is it that
you are not married?”

“What, after I had known you?” She gave him a reproachful glance. “And
you were so cruel to me—as soon as you had made your little Nettie
jealous you cared for me no longer. Look what I’ve declined to!” She
indicated Jim Shore, leaning disconsolately against the cornice, chewing
his moustache. “Now don’t give him your place unless you really want to;
well, if you’re tired of me already—thank you ever so much, and I _am_
proud of you to-night, Billy!”

Her lustrous eyes dwelt on him lingeringly as he left her; he smiled
back into them. The lines around her mouth were a little hard; she
reminded him indefinably of “She”; but she was a handsome woman, and he
had enjoyed the encounter. The sight of her brought back so vividly the
springtime of life; his hopes, the pangs of love, the joy that was his
when Nettie was won; he felt an overpowering throb of tenderness for the
wife at home who had been his early dream.

The last speeches were over, but Mr. William Belden’s triumph had not
ended. As the acknowledged orator of the evening he had an ovation
afterward; introductions and unlimited hand-shakings were in order.

He was asked to speak at a select political dinner the next week; to
speak for the hospital fund; to speak for the higher education of woman.
Led by a passing remark of Henry Belden’s to infer that his cousin was a
whist player of parts, a prominent social magnate at once invited him to
join the party at his house on one of their whist evenings.

“My wife, er—will have great pleasure in calling on Mrs. Belden,” said
the magnate. “We did not know that we had a good whist player among us.
This evening has indeed been a revelation in many ways—in many ways. You
would have no objection to taking a prominent part in politics, if you
were called upon? A reform mayor is sadly needed in our city—sadly
needed. Your connection with Judge Belden would give great weight to any
proposition of that kind. But, of course, all this is in the future.”

Mr. Belden heard his name whispered in another direction, in connection
with the cashiership of the new bank which was to be built. The
cashiership and the mayoralty might be nebulous honors, but it _was_
sweet, for once, to be recognized for what he was—a man of might; a man
of talent, and of honor.

There was a hurried rush for the train at the last on the part of the
visitors. Mr. William Belden snatched his mackintosh from the peg
whereon it had hung throughout the evening, and went with the crowd,
talking and laughing in buoyant exuberance of spirits. The night had
cleared, the moon was rising, and poured a flood of light upon the wet
streets. It was a different world from the one he had traversed earlier
in the evening. He walked home with Miss Wakeman’s exaggeratedly tender
“Good-by, dear Billy!” ringing in his ears, to provoke irrepressible
smiles. The pulse of a free life, where men lived instead of vegetating,
was in his veins. His footstep gave forth a ringing sound from the
pavement; he felt himself stalwart, alert, his brain rejoicing in its
sense of power. It was even with no sense of guilt that he heard the
church clocks striking twelve as he reached the house where his wife had
been awaiting his return for four hours.

She was sitting up for him, as he knew by the light in the parlor
window. He could see her through the half-closed blinds as she sat by
the table, a magazine in her lap, her attitude, unknown to herself,
betraying a listless depression. After all, is a woman glad to have all
her aspirations and desires confined within four walls? She may love her
cramped quarters, to be sure, but can she always forget that they are
cramped? To what does a wife descend after the bright dreams of her
girlhood! Does she really like above all things to be absorbed in the
daily consumption of butter, and the children’s clothes, or is she
absorbed in these things because the man who was to have widened the
horizon of her life only limits it by his own decadence?

She rose to meet her husband as she heard his key in the lock. She had
exchanged her evening gown for a loose, trailing white wrapper, and her
fair hair was arranged for the night in a long braid. Her husband had a
smile on his face.

“You look like a girl again,” he said brightly, as he stooped and kissed
her. “No, don’t turn out the light; come in and sit down a while longer,
I’ve ever so much to tell you. You can’t guess where I’ve been this
evening.”

“At the political meeting,” she said promptly.

“How on earth did you know?”

“The doctor came here to see Willy, and he told me he saw you on the
way. I’m glad you did go, William; I was worrying because I had sent you
out; I did not realize until later what a night it was.”

“Well, I am very glad that you did send me,” said her husband. He lay
back in his chair, flushed and smiling at the recollection. “You ought
to have been there, too; you would have liked it. What will you say if I
tell you that I made a speech—yes, it is quite true—and was applauded to
the echo. This town has just waked up to the fact that I live in it. And
Henry said—but there, I’ll have to tell you the whole thing, or you
can’t appreciate it.”

His wife leaned on the arm of his chair, watching his animated face
fondly, as he recounted the adventures of the night. He pictured the
scene vividly, and with a strong sense of humor.

“And you don’t say that Marie Wakeman is the same as ever?” she
interrupted with a flash of special interest. “Oh, William!”

“_She_ called me Billy.” He laughed anew at the thought. “Upon my word,
Nettie, she beats anything I ever saw or heard of.”

“Did she remind you of the time you kissed her?”

“Yes!” Their eyes met in amused recognition of the past.

“Is she as handsome as ever?”

“Um—yes—I think so. She isn’t as pretty as you are.”

“Oh, Will!” She blushed and dimpled.

“I declare, it is true!” He gazed at her with genuine admiration. “What
has come over you to-night, Nettie?—you look like a girl again.”

“And you were not sorry when you saw her, that—that—”

“Sorry! I have been thinking all the way home how glad I was to have won
my sweet wife. But we mustn’t stay shut up at home as much as we have;
it’s not good for either of us. We are to be asked to join the whist
club—what do you think of that? You used to be a little card fiend once
upon a time, I remember.”

She sighed. “It is so long since I have been anywhere! I’m afraid I
haven’t any clothes, Will. I suppose I _might_—”

“What, dear?”

“Take the money I had put aside for Mary’s next quarter’s music lessons;
I do really believe a little rest would do her good.”

“It would—it would,” said Mr. Belden with suspicious eagerness. Mary’s
after-dinner practicing hour had tinged much of his existence with gall.
“I insist that Mary shall have a rest. And you shall join the reading
society now. Let us consider ourselves a little as well as the children;
it’s really best for them, too. Haven’t we immortal souls as well as
they? Can we expect them to seek the honey dew of paradise while they
see us contented to feed on the grass of the field?”

“You call yourself an orator!” she scoffed.

He drew her to him by one end of the long braid, and solemnly kissed
her. Then he went into the hall and took something from the pocket of
his mackintosh which he placed in his wife’s hand—a little wooden dish
covered with a paper, through which shone a bright yellow substance—the
pound of butter, a lump of gleaming fairy gold, the quest of which had
changed a poor, commonplace existence into one scintillating with magic
possibilities.

Fairy gold, indeed, cannot be coined into marketable eagles. Mr. William
Belden might never achieve either the mayoralty or the cashiership, but
he had gained that of which money is only a trivial accessory. The
recognition of men, the flashing of high thought to high thought, the
claim of brotherhood in the work of the world, and the generous social
intercourse that warms the heart—all these were to be his. Not even his
young ambition had promised a wider field, not the gold of the Indies
could buy him more of honor and respect.

At home also the spell worked. He had but to speak the word, to name the
thing, and Nettie embodied his thought. He called her young, and happy
youth smiled from her clear eyes; beautiful, and a blushing loveliness
enveloped her; clever, and her ready mind leaped to match with his in
thought and study; dear, and love touched her with its transforming fire
and breathed of long-forgotten things.

If men only knew what they could make of the women who love them—but
they do not, as the plodding, faded matrons who sit and sew by their
household fires testify to us daily.

Happy indeed is he who can create a paradise by naming it!

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                         A Matrimonial Episode



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                         A Matrimonial Episode


IT was in the year that Dick Martindale spent out West in the service of
the Electrographic Company that his wife became acquainted with Sarah
Latimer. Although the latter was by birth a Western girl she had lived
long enough in the East to seem like a compatriot to Bertha Martindale,
who had come from the dear gregarious suburban life with its commingling
of family interests and sympathy, to a land peopled thinly with her
husband’s friends, mostly men. Dick laughingly asserted that she had
never forgiven him for his few years of Western life previous to their
marriage, ascribing all his faults of habit and expression to that
demoralizing influence, and he wondered at her courage in exposing
little Rich and Mary to the chance of acquiring the wide ease and
carelessness she objected to in him. He had been a little uneasy, in
view of her previous opinions, as to the manner in which she would
dispense hospitality in the little furnished house that they hired, but
he need not have feared. Bertha had always been used to popularity.

“Don’t you think I get on well with people?” she asked.

“Like a bird,” said her husband.

“No, but really. Don’t you think I adapt myself?”

“You do so much adapting that I’m getting afraid of you.”

“_Don’t._” She put his newspaper one side and kissed him, and he
submitted to the caress patiently, his eyes still following the
paragraph on which they had been fixed.

“The two women I really feel at home with,” she continued musingly, “are
the clergyman’s wife, who is just a _dear_, poor soul! and a living
reproach to everyone, and Sarah Latimer. I wonder that you never told me
about her, Richard.”

“Sarah Latimer! I always thought she was a stick,” said Richard,
glancing up from the newspaper.

“Well, she is not, at all; at any rate, she’s only the least little bit
stick-y. Oh! I suppose if I were at home I mightn’t have taken such a
fancy to her, but out here—! and I do think it’s pathetic about her.”

“How on earth you can discover anything pathetic about Sarah Latimer,
Bertha, beats me. That long, sandy-haired wisp of a girl! Let me alone;
I want to read my paper.”

“No,” she held the paper down with one hand. “It’s really important; do
listen to me, Dick! I want to do something for her.”

“You _are_ doing something for her; you have her here morning, noon, and
night. She’s forever going about with little Rich and Mary; people will
be taking her for my wife some day, you just see if they don’t. I nearly
kissed her by mistake for you yesterday; she was right in the way as I
came in the door. Now don’t feel jealous!”

“No, I won’t,” said Bertha with indignation. “But look here, Dick! I
know she is with us a good deal, but I do want to give her a chance.”

“A chance of what?”

“A chance to enjoy herself, and to see people, and to feel that she’s
young, and—oh, a chance to get married, if you _will_ have me say it.”

“I thought so,” said Dick. “You may as well let her go back to private
life, Bertha; she’ll never be a success on any stage of _that_ kind. I
don’t believe any man ever wanted to marry her, or ever will.”

“You can’t tell,” said Bertha musingly. “So many fellows come here! I
should think some of them might fancy her.”

“No, they will not,” said Richard deliberately. “You mark my words; that
girl will never get married. Yes, I know she’s good, and she’s clever,
and really not bad looking, either, when you take her to pieces. But
she’s not interesting—that’s the gist of the whole matter, and nothing
you can say or do will alter that.”

“She may not be interesting to you, but she is to me,” returned Bertha.
“And that argument goes for nothing, Dick. Scores of uninteresting girls
get married every year. Here is Sarah Latimer at thirty, or near it,
with nothing in this world to occupy her, or take up her attention. Her
uncle and aunt are very good to her, but they don’t need her—she is
rather in the way, if anything. That big house is all solemnly
comfortable and well arranged, and oppressively neat. The servants have
been there for years. The furniture was bought in the age when it was
made to last, and it _has_ lasted. The curtains are always drawn in the
parlor, and if a chink of light comes in, Mrs. Latimer draws them
closer; everything is dim and well preserved, and smells stuffy when it
doesn’t smell of oilcloth. It gives me the creeps!”

“You are eloquent,” said Richard.

“There is only one place that looks as if it were ever used,” continued
Bertha, unheeding, “and that’s the sitting-room off the parlor. It has a
faded green lounge in it, and discolored family photographs in oval
walnut frames, and two big haircloth rockers, with tidies on them, on
either side of the table, which holds a lamp, a newspaper—not a pile of
them, they are always cleared away neatly—and a piece of knitting work.
Here Mr. and Mrs. Latimer doze all the evening.”

“What on earth has all this to do with Sarah’s marriage?” asked Richard.

“Everything! Don’t you see that the poor girl is just being choked by
degrees; it’s a case of slow suffocation. She lived East after she left
school until five years ago, and came back to find her girl friends
married and moved away. People, of course, sent her invitations, and
were polite to her, but there seemed no particular place for her,
anywhere. She’s too clever for most of the men here, and her standard is
above them. She’s what _I_ call a _very_ highly educated girl.”

“You seem to suit them,” said Richard, laughing.

“I’m naturally frivolous,” said Bertha with a sigh, “but Sarah isn’t. If
she only had to work for a living she would be a great success, but she
has enough of a little income to support her. She reads to Rich and
Mary, and she is giving music lessons to some little girls just for
occupation. Besides, she practices Beethoven three hours a day—she’s
making a specialty of the sonatas. She reads Herbert Spencer a great
deal, and has theories of education, and on governing children. I’m
afraid that neither Mr. Allenton nor your friend Dick Quimby care about
sonatas or Herbert Spencer.”

“Not a hang!” said Richard. “If she could play the banjo, or give them a
dance—by Jove, I’d like to see Sarah Latimer dance a—”

“Richard!” cried Bertha, indignantly. “If you’re going to be _horrid_
I’ll go away, I won’t say another word.”

“Then I’ll _be_ horrid, for I don’t want you to say another word! I’m
dead sick of Sarah with her pale, moony eyes and her straw-colored
smile—send her to Jericho, and let me read my newspaper, and don’t
embrace me _any_ more, you’ll muss my hair.” He turned and kissed his
wife as an offset to the words.

Bertha could not help owning to herself that week that Sarah was a
little heavy. She was a tall, thin girl, with a long nose, light gray
eyes, and a quantity of sandy red hair. She had no color in her cheeks,
and she had a peculiar look of withered youth, like a bud that the frost
has touched. Beneath that outer crust of primness and shyness there was,
as Bertha had divined, an absolutely virginal heart, as untried in the
ways of love or love’s pretense as that of a child of six. She had not
had any real girlhood yet at all, while she was apparently long past it.
Bertha wondered at that slow development, which occurs much oftener than
she dreamed of.

She asked Sarah indefatigably to spend the evenings with her. On these
occasions Sarah sat completely, appallingly silent amid the jokes and
laughter of the others. Bertha had long consultations with her dear
friend, the clergyman’s wife, about her.

“She will never like anyone who is not on the highest intellectual
plane,” said Bertha with a sigh; “but there’s a sort of wistful
sentimentality through it all that makes me so sorry!”

It was some days after this that Bertha sat one morning cutting out
garments for little Rich and Mary, when Sarah Latimer came in. The
children greeted her, but not effusively. They were always instructed to
be on their best behavior in her presence, and regarded her more as an
awe-inspiring companion, who read to them, took them walking, and picked
up blocks for them, than as a friend to be loved; she was always
oppressively quiet while they chattered.

“Sit down, Sarah,” said Bertha cordially, sweeping a pile of cambrics
from a chair. “Here’s a fan, if you want it, but _you_ don’t look a bit
hot; you never do. I think you’re pale this morning. Aren’t you well?”

“Why, yes,” said Sarah slowly. Her eyes had a dazed look in them, and
there was an uncertain note in her voice.

Bertha observed her critically. Sarah’s drab gown, made with severe
plainness, took all the life out of her hair and complexion, and made
her tall figure gaunt. Bertha cast her brown eyes down at her own lilac
muslin, overflowing with little rippling frills and furbelows, and
sighed, a genuine sigh of pity, for another woman’s misuse of her
opportunities.

“What have you been doing lately, Sarah? I haven’t seen you for some
days.”

“Nothing much,” said Sarah.

“I expected you yesterday; Dick Quimby asked why you were not here. He’s
asked after you twice lately, Sarah. I think he’s beginning to be fond
of you.”

“Because he asked after me twice?” said Sarah. “Perhaps he’ll propose to
me to-morrow.” She gave a spasmodic laugh, and the color came and went
in her face. Bertha gazed at her in genuine surprise.

“I don’t know what’s the matter with you, Sarah,” she said. “I’m glad
you came in, for I wanted to ask you to join us in a little trip to the
Lakes. Dick has to go Thursday, and we have concluded to make up a
party. We’ll be gone a couple of weeks, and Mr. Quimby is to join us
there. I think we’ll have a lovely time.”

“You’re very kind,” said Sarah, pulling nervously at her fan, “but I
don’t think I can go.”

“Why not? You won’t have to dress.”

“It’s not that. The fact is—Did I ever speak to you of Will Bronson?”

“No, who is he?”

“I had almost forgotten that myself,” said Sarah, “until he came to call
yesterday. I knew him years ago when I was a young girl; we went to
school together. He was a nice boy, but I never had much to do with him;
boys never cared for me as they did for other girls. At any rate, he
came to see us yesterday. He lives in Idaho; he’s been out there for a
dozen years, and he says he’s pretty well off.”

“Well,” said Bertha expectantly, as the other stopped, “what does he
look like?”

“Oh, he’s pretty tall, and he has a big brown beard.”

“I suppose that he is intellectual?”

“Not a bit! He’s very—very—Western. You think we are Western _here_,
Bertha, but we’re not.”

“And is this gentleman stopping with you?” pursued Bertha.

“No, he left for New York to-day.”

“Then why can’t you join our party for the Lakes?”

“Because—” The fan dropped from Sarah’s fingers. “The truth is, Bertha,
he asked me to marry him; that’s what he came for.”

“_What!_” cried Bertha.

“He brought some letters to uncle,” went on Sarah, “recommendations, and
all that, and afterwards he spoke to me. He says he’s always thought
he’d marry me when he had time, but he has never been able to leave the
mines before. He has an aunt who lives here, and she has written to him
about me, sometimes. He has gone on to New York for a week, and wants to
stop back here over one day to get married and then go straight out to
Idaho. He wanted me to answer him yesterday, but I asked him to give me
until this morning to make up my mind.”

“And what did you say then?” asked Bertha breathlessly.

“I said yes,” said Sarah.

Bertha rose up, heedless of all her sewing materials, which dropped on
the floor, and walking over to Sarah, solemnly embraced her.

“You are a dear girl,” she said. Then she took Sarah’s hand in hers,
solicitously. “Hadn’t you better lie down, Sarah, and let me bathe your
forehead and get you a glass of lemonade?”

“I’m not ill,” said the girl with a convulsive laugh.

“You are just shaking all over,” said Bertha, “and no wonder! Do you
think you _love_ him, Sarah?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, you are sure he loves you?”

“He says he does.”

“And does he seem perfectly splendid to you, dear?”

“I guess so,” said Sarah.

“And you are to be married—when? A week from to-day? Oh, _what_ a time
you will have getting your clothes! And to think I’ll not be here at the
wedding—it’s too, too bad. Sarah, I’m just delighted with you. I always
knew you weren’t like other people; most girls wouldn’t have dared.”

“Maybe I’ll wish that I hadn’t,” said Sarah, and the dazed, vacant
expression came back with the words.

Richard and his friends were at first incredulous when Bertha narrated
the news to them; then, to quote Dick’s expression, Sarah’s stock, in
the general estimation, went up fifty per cent.

“The old girl must have had something jolly about her, after all,” he
said. “You were right this time, Bertha. I met this Bronson once, and
he’s a good fellow. What a lot of courage he must have!”

Bertha only met Sarah once after this before she left for the Lakes. She
saw the bridegroom’s picture, which represented him as a tall, stalwart
fellow, with a big beard and merry, honest eyes. Bertha liked the face,
and felt that it was one that inspired confidence.

“To think that after all my planning she should have done it just by
herself,” said Bertha to her husband, “and it was such an _unlikely_
thing.”

“It _is_ singular that the world can move without your pushing it,”
replied her husband with a quizzical smile.

Within a few months the Martindales’ plans were broken up; their stay
West was no longer necessary, and they went back home again. Bertha
received one letter from Sarah after her marriage, a singularly flat and
colorless epistle, which told nothing. Bertha had periodical times of
wonderment as to Sarah’s present life and chances of happiness. Her own
short experience of Western life resolved itself mainly into a
recollection of the girl with whom, after all, she had been most
intimately associated, and who had disappeared from her horizon so
suddenly and romantically.

It was not until three years later that she heard of Sarah again. Then
she received a note from Mrs. Bronson, who, it appeared, had come East
for a few days and was stopping at a large hotel in town.

Bertha was delighted. With a whimsical remembrance of her long, tedious
days with Sarah was a real affection for her. She left the children at
home, although they clamored to be taken to see their old friend.

She felt that there was so much to talk about that she must be
absolutely untrammeled. How she would astonish Dick when he came home!

As she ascended in the gorgeous elevator, her mind mechanically reverted
to Sarah’s former surroundings; she was glad to be able to infer that
the silver mines had proved fortunate. She was shown into a private
parlor, equally gorgeous in its appointments. She heard the sound of a
laughing voice in the adjoining room, and the next moment a porti—re was
pushed aside and Sarah appeared. She was dressed in a trailing silken
tea-gown of a deep crimson tint—her hair shone like a coronal of gold,
there was a rosy flush on her cheeks, and her eyes gleamed with
merriment. In her arms she held a handsome baby boy of about a year old,
who suddenly turned and ducked his head into his mother’s neck as he saw
the stranger, taking hold of her hair with both hands and giving it a
pull that loosened its fastenings and sent it tumbling around them both.

“You little rogue,” she said. “His nurse has gone out for a few moments,
and I don’t know what to do with him. Keep still, Wilfred.”

Two small, fat, black-stockinged feet, like little puddings, were
kicking wildly in a vain attempt to get up on her shoulder, and,
presumably, over on the other side, where his head and hands already
were, as far as possible from the strange lady.

Sarah sat down on the sofa, clasping the boy in one arm; with the other
she swept the tumbled hair back from her face.

“Now I can at least look at you, Bertha,” she said.

Bertha made a movement forward to kiss her, but the infant, who had
turned his head for furtive observation, ducked back again with renewed
scramblings and kicking at the first indication of her approach.

“I think he will kill me soon,” said his mother resignedly.

“Where is your Herbert Spencer?” Bertha couldn’t help asking; but at
that moment the truant nurse arrived; the boy, still in his attitude of
clutching, was detached from his mamma’s gown, one hand and foot at a
time, as one separates a cat from a cushion. As soon as this was
accomplished, he turned and fell upon his nurse in like manner, and the
sight of a round little body, entirely headless, with two waving black
feet, was Bertha’s last view of the heir of the Bronsons.

The two women clasped hands impulsively and looked at each other; then
they both burst into a fit of laughter, deliciously inconsequent.

“It is so perfectly ridiculous!” said Sarah at last.

“What?” asked Bertha.

“Why, that it is I, at all. It’s so absurd to think that that’s my baby!
I haven’t the least idea what to do with him.”

They both laughed again, helplessly.

“You are very happy?” asked Bertha, trying to be serious.

“I suppose I am. Sometimes I think everything is topsy-turvy, and I
don’t see straight; it’s all so different from the life I used to live,
but—it’s nice.”

“Do you keep up your music?” asked Bertha again, after a pause.

“I don’t keep up anything. I play dance music, and read the newspapers.
I’ve been traveling nearly all the time since I was married. Will’s
business keeps us flying, for one reason or another, there are so many
companies that he has to see. I’m always packing or unpacking, or in a
Pullman car, and I think always that when I get through traveling I will
find myself back at uncle’s once more, and begin to dust everything
neatly. You know that we go off again to-night. I’m so sorry you won’t
see my husband; he’ll not be back here until train time.”

“I’m sorry, too,” said Bertha.

“I want to thank you for all you did for me in the old days,” pursued
her hostess. Their positions were reversed; it was she who led the
conversation, while Bertha replied.

“If it hadn’t been for you I should never have been married at all.”

“My dear, I had absolutely nothing to do with the matrimonial cyclone
which swept you off,” said Bertha, laughing again.

“Yes, you did, you were so happy, it made me very envious to see you and
your husband together. If it hadn’t been for that, I don’t think I’d
ever have had the courage to say yes when Will asked me. And you _were_
so kind and good to me, and I know I’m only a stupid thing at best.”

“You’re just a dear,” said Bertha very warmly. Then the two women had a
long and exhaustive conversation, before they finally parted.

“She’s very handsome,” said Bertha to her husband that night. He was
quite interested and curious about it all. “She’s rich, and she’s happy.
Isn’t she the last woman on earth you would have imagined such a romance
happening to!”

“Yes, indeed,” said Richard.

“What do you suppose there is in married life to improve a girl so?
She’s not in the least uninteresting now.”

“Judge from your own experience,” said Richard. “Association with a
superior being cannot fail—”

“You need not say any more,” said Bertha with the scorn expected of her.
Then, with a sudden change of tone, “If she had married you, darling,
instead of that Bronson man, I could have understood it—no woman could
help being nicer for loving _you_!”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                            Not a Sad Story



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                            Not a Sad Story


THE little Rhodes boy was dead. The two women who slipped out of the
back door of Mrs. Rhodes’s house had red eyes, and conversed in low
tones as they came down the street facing the bitter wind. One of them
wore a long cloak of rich fur, which covered her from throat to ankles,
but the other only drew her short gray shawl tightly around her and
walked in the snow with feet encased in the carpet slippers which she
had worn all night. Although one woman was young, and the other well
past middle age, they had a certain likeness in the haggard look which
watching and grief bring.

The early morning light shone wanly over the snow, the white houses with
their closed blinds, and the range of white hills beyond. The smoke was
beginning to rise from the kitchen chimneys at the back of some of the
houses, where occasional lights were seen flickering to and fro, and the
smell of the burning wood pervaded the frosty air.

“You’re tired,” said the older woman suddenly, as if noticing her
companion’s fatigue for the first time.

“So are you, Mrs. Rawls.”

“Oh, I’m used to it. I ain’t been rested since Jimmy was born, and that
was—let me see—thirty-five year ago. There ain’t a week passed in all
that time that I haven’t planned to rest the _next_ week, but I ain’t
never compassed it yet.” She laughed a little as she spoke, and trudged
along more vigorously. “I guess you ain’t often been out at this time in
the mornin’.”

“Not very often,” said the other. Her voice was low and sweet, with a
little tremulous catch in it, as if she were almost exhausted.

“’Tisn’t but a step now to the house,” said Mrs. Rawls encouragingly. “I
knew the sleigh wouldn’t be down for you for a couple of hours yet, and
it did seem best to leave Mis’ Rhodes for a while, with just Elmira
downstairs, after we’d done all we could. There’ll be neighbors in
later, and people to inquire, and she won’t get much quiet. She wants
just to be alone with _him_ for a little. That dear child—” she stopped
and choked for a minute. “There! It don’t seem right to cry, and him so
sweet and peaceful. It was mighty good of you to stay these last two
nights.”

“Oh, don’t, don’t!” said the other in a pained tone. “As if I could have
helped wanting to stay! It was so good of her to let me. All that I
could do seemed so little. She was so brave, so patient; I shall never
forget it, and that sweet child—” she stopped as Mrs. Rawls had done.

“Why, it was only last week that I was walking along here in the snow,
and he ran across the street to me and said: ‘It’s so slippery here now,
Mrs. Armstrong, I’m afraid you’ll fall; you had better lean on me.’ He
put out his little hand for me to take, as seriously as you please, and
I let him help me over the crossing. I can see his blue eyes now, with
that merry light in them, gazing at me. It doesn’t seem possible—”

“Hardly a morning passed,” said Mrs. Rawls, “that was fit for him to be
out, that he didn’t put his head in at my door and say, ‘How are you,
Mis’ Rawls? Can I do anything for you?’ He was just like a bit of
sunshine, with his curly golden head. It don’t appear as if it could be
right that such as him should be took—him as was just born to be a
blessing, and his mother without a soul in the world but the boy, and
they all in all to each other. I can’t understand it, nohow.”

“It is very difficult,” said the other with a long-drawn sigh. “My heart
just aches for her, she seems so alone. Is this your house, Mrs. Rawls?
It is odd, isn’t it, that we’ve both lived here all these years, and yet
this is the first time I’ve ever known you to speak to. I always thought
you had such a kind face. I’ve often felt that I’d like to speak to you,
but I didn’t know how.”

“Why, my _dear_!” said Mrs. Rawls, stopping on the threshold, her
countenance fairly illumined with pleased surprise; “you that’s so rich
and proud and handsome—why, I never even sensed that you _saw_ me. You
afraid to speak to _me_! Well, that does beat all! But you’re just done
out now, poor child; come right in here! I’m going to slip off your
cloak, so, and lay you right down on the lounge and make you a good hot
cup of coffee, and then you’ve got to take a little nap before the
sleigh comes for you.”

Almost before she knew Helen Armstrong was lying on the old chintz
lounge with Mrs. Rawls’s gray shawl wrapped around her feet. The room
was small, low-ceilinged, and homely, filled with evidences of daily
occupation; nothing could be further removed from her own luxurious
chamber, yet she felt an unwonted sensation of comfort which reached its
height after the fragrant coffee had been swallowed, and Mrs. Rawls’s
motherly hand had smoothed back the pillows for her. Helen caught the
hand and held it tight in her own for a minute, before she turned over
on one side and closed her eyes. It was years since she had been taken
care of. It was she who planned and gave orders for the comfort of
others, but she had no near relatives of her own, and hers had been the
personal isolation which state and riches bring.

With her eyes closed, she thought of many things; of her old school
friend Anne Rhodes, whom she had always been fond of, yet with whom she
had kept up but a spasmodic intercourse since marriage had claimed both
lives.

Most of Anne’s unfortunate wedded life had been spent in the far West,
and when she came back four years ago in straitened circumstances, with
the child, the breadth of riches and a different way of living still
divided them. But with the boy it was otherwise. The little fellow, with
his blue eyes, his sunny smile, his trusting heart, and his infant
manliness, had touched a chord that it half frightened Helen to feel
vibrating so strongly. That chord belonged to the far past—another child
had made its harmony. A little grave had its depths in Helen’s heart,
although she had kept it out of sight for many years; it almost scared
her to feel that it was still there, and yet it was sweet, too. When she
put her arms around little Silvy Rhodes, he was like an angel of
resurrection. When she had taken him home in her carriage out of the wet
snow not a week ago, his cheeks rosy red, his tongue chattering sweetly,
his eyes looking at her so confidingly, she did not dream that it was
for the last time. The mortal illness had stolen upon him in the night,
and Helen had gone to inquire, and then stayed to help.

Somehow trouble brought back the old days when Anne had leaned on her
for comfort and protection. Helen had always felt a nervous dread of a
sick-room, yet she had stayed, and was glad—glad of it! No one would
ever know how many necessaries her money had supplied to the dying child
and the stricken mother. “John Sylvester Rhodes, aged eight years.” The
formal words glanced across her thoughts unbidden, and brought a sudden
hot rush of tears.

She wondered whether her husband was surprised that she had stayed away.
Perhaps he didn’t even know it, they were together so little these days,
and she remembered that he had gone on a journey about that syndicate.
There would be nobody at home but Kathleen. Kathleen! Her face reddened.
Kathleen would have full scope in her absence. Helen wondered if she had
taken advantage of it to see that man. No, the girl would do nothing
underhand. It was unimaginable that a girl like Kathleen Armstrong, her
husband’s sister, should have fallen in love with James Sandersfield,
now the superintendent of the hat factory in which he had been a common
“hand” for many years. How unfortunate that she had met him on that
visit South! It could never have happened in their own town. Helen had
felt deeply with her husband’s disgust, for Kathleen had been immodestly
obstinate; what the outcome would be they did not know; Helen grew hot
with the thought. She had forgotten where she was till Mrs. Rawls’s
voice came to her through the half-open door, crooning an old hymn tune
in the kitchen; and the tears came again to her eyes. The dear old
soul—she thought, and then once more came the feeling of Silvy’s warm,
chubby hand as he helped her over the slippery crossing—and Helen slept.

“You needn’t go in there,” said Mrs. Rawls impressively, as one of her
friends appeared an hour later. “Mis’ Armstrong’s asleep on the lounge.
She’s clean beat out watchin’. I sent the coachman back to the stable
when he came for her just now; I wouldn’t have her woke.”

“It don’t seem possible that little Silvy’s gone,” said the newcomer in
an awestricken voice. “I just come up the street now, and I could hardly
get here for people stopping me to ask about it. Old Squire Peters
himself halted the sleigh and sent Miss Isabel over to inquire. She said
if there was anything in the world they could do, to let them know; and
she was goin’ home to fix up something that might tempt Mis’ Rhodes to
eat, for I told them she hadn’t taken hardly a mouthful for the last two
days. And you know them two ladies in black that moved into the big
house on the hill last fall? One of them came up afterward and said,

“‘You don’t mean that that dear little boy with the blue eyes and yellow
hair, who lived at the foot of the hill, is _dead_!’”

“And when I said yes, ’twas as true as Gospel, though the dear Lord
alone knew why it was so, she looked almost as if she were crying, and
said, ‘Oh, do you think his mother would mind if I sent her some flowers
from our greenhouse? I don’t know her at all, but we have had sorrow
ourselves; and the dear little boy brought us some golden-rod just the
day we came here—it seemed like a welcome to us.”

“I told her I would tell Mis’ Rhodes ’twas for Silvy’s sake.”

“What beats me,” said another woman, who had joined the other two, “is
why the Lord should take Silvy—‘the only son of his mother, and she a
widow’—cut off that child before his time, and leave old Gran’pa Slade
dodderin’ ’round, who is near ninety and ain’t never been no good to
nobody all his days. There’s Amelia Slade with her own mother and sister
to care for, an’ him always a trouble. It does seem that the old might
be taken before the young, when they just cumber the ground, like
gran’pa.”

“Well, I don’t think he’s much care to Amelia, Mis’ Beebe,” said the
first visitor, Mehitable Phelps. “She’s always grudged him his keep, as
far as I see. Not but what he is tryin’.”

“Mis’ Rawls! Mis’ Beebe! Hitty Phelps!” cried another comer
breathlessly. “Do somebody come over to Mis’ Slade’s; gran’pa’s in a
dreadful way, cryin’ and moanin’ about little Silvy’s death. He says
_he’d_ oughter have been took instead, and that he’s no good to anybody.
‘Melia’s afraid he’ll take his life; she never sensed before that he
felt his age so.”

The three women gazed at each other with a scared expression as they
rose to the summons. “Well, I presume it ain’t his fault that he’s let
to live,” said one.

“I tell you what,” said Mrs. Beebe. “I’ll send Josiah around with the
cutter to bring grand’pa over to our house to spend the day and get a
good dinner. All he needs is cockerin’ up; I don’t believe he’s had an
outing in dear knows when, and a change will hearten him. You coming
with us, Mis’ Rawls?”

“I’ll just step along a piece to Emma Taylor’s,” said Mrs. Rawls,
getting down her shawl from a hook. “I won’t be gone a minute. I’d clean
forgot the baby was sick.”

She glanced into the sitting-room, and then, closing the outer door
noiselessly behind her, hurried up the street with her friends.

She was welcomed at the little white cottage where she stopped by a
pretty, worn-looking young woman, who came to the door with a baby in
her arms and two small children pulling at her skirts.

“Oh, we’re all right,” she said cheerfully, in answer to Mrs. Rawls.
“Come in; you’ll be surprised to see John around at this time of
day—here he is now. He’s staying home a spell on account of Mrs. Rhodes.
The Batchellor boys brought her wood, and Mr. Fellows’s coachman
shoveled off the snow, but we thought she might like to feel there was a
man waiting near to call upon if she wanted anything.”

“Let me take the baby, Emma,” said her husband, “you’re tired, dear.”

He stretched out his arms and took the child, holding the little white
face fondly against his own bearded one.

“Poor little man, he didn’t sleep much last night; kept us both awake;
but we didn’t care a mite for that, we were so glad we had him. Do you
see his light curls? Emma and I think he has a look of Silvy, Mrs.
Rawls.”

“I don’t know but he has,” said Mrs. Rawls as she turned toward the
outer world once more.

“Must you go, Mrs. Rawls? It was kind of you to stop in. If you see Mrs.
Rhodes you’ll tell her, please, that John’s waiting home so’s she can
feel there’s a man near her to call on if she wants for anything.”

“She’s bound to be awake, now,” thought Mrs. Rawls as she hurried home
to her guest.

Helen had wakened suddenly in the empty, quiet house. She could not, in
a sort of sweet, drowsy contentment, understand at once where she was.
She gradually realized that a big wooden clock on the mantel ticked with
a loud, aggressive noise, that a teakettle was singing somewhere, and
that a large faded red hood hung on the brown-papered wall directly in
her line of vision, with a many-flowered pink geranium on a shelf below.
She was closing her eyes once more when a loud knock on the outer door
startled her instantly into a sitting position. The knock was followed
by another, more tentative; then the door opened, and a footstep was
heard inside. Helen jumped hastily up and went toward the kitchen.

A tall man stood there, drumming with his fingers absently on the table
while he waited. He raised his head quickly as she entered, and she saw
that he had a thin, clean-shaven face with firm lips and dark, steady
eyes. His dress was the dress of a gentleman. Although Helen had never
spoken to him, she knew that this was James Sandersfield.

“I beg your pardon,” he said stiffly, “I came for Mrs. Rawls. I was sent
for Mrs. Rawls.”

“She must have gone out,” said Mrs. Armstrong, “but I am sure that she
will be back soon. The message—”

“Is from Mrs. Rhodes,” said the stranger, taking up his hat, “Mrs.
Rhodes would like Mrs. Rawls to come over to her when she can.”

“Is she—” Helen began.

“She is very quiet—very peaceful. I did not expect to see her this
morning, but she had sent for me; she knew—” He bit his lip, and stopped
as if it were very hard to go on; his steady eyes met hers with a
certain piteousness in them. “I—I carried Silvy downstairs; she said I
was so strong it was a comfort to her to have me do it.” He stopped
again and turned away his head. “I loved the child,” he added after a
minute, very simply.

“I am glad you were with her; I know it was a comfort,” said Helen. Her
eyes roved over the man’s tall figure thoughtfully. “And I am glad that
I was in to take your message, Mr. Sandersfield,” she added a little
coldly. “I am Mrs. Armstrong.”

“I know, I know,” he replied with a gesture that was almost rough in its
curtness. He stood as if he were about to speak further, then hesitated,
and finally turned resolutely away. “Good morning,” he said as he passed
out of the door, but Helen did not answer. To her that pause had been
strangely voiceful of Kathleen; she tingled to the very finger tips with
the strong current of his thoughts. She could not tell whether she
resented it or not.

Mrs. Rawls was full of pleasure that her visitor had slept so long. The
sleigh was once more waiting for Helen. “Tell Mrs. Rhodes I will be with
her later,” she said as she tucked herself comfortably in, and lay back
against the red velvet cushions. The glare of the sunshine on the snow
dazzled her.

“Ma’am,” said a voice in her ear. The coachman was waiting to let some
teams pass. “Ma’am, may I speak to ye?” She turned, startled, to find a
large, gaunt, bearded man standing beside her, with his big, hairy hand
laid detainingly on the sleigh. His working clothes had all the color
worn out of them.

“What is it?” asked Helen, drawing back.

“As I come up I seen white crape and ribbons on the door below, and I
just heard ye speak _her_ name, ma’am; it’s not the gay little felly
with the light curls that’s dead?”

“Oh, it is,” cried Helen, the tears coming to her eyes.

The man took off his hat and stood bare-headed in the snow, his lips
moving, though Helen heard no sound.

“He was one of the Lord’s own,” he said after a minute in a husky voice.
“Sure He knows best. Not a day that little felly passed us a-workin’ on
the road but he had a word for each man! Sure he was known all over this
town. ’Twas no more than a couple of weeks ago that he brought home Mike
O’Brien’s little gell that was sitting in a puddle in Dean Street, and
she just free of the measles. Ma’am, my heart’s sore for the boy’s
mother, and she a widdy. Would ye just tell her that me and me mates
would turn our hands to any work for her for the boy’s sake? Sure
there’s no other work a-doin’ this weather.”

“If you will come up to Lawndale this afternoon Mr. Armstrong will see
about some employment for you,” said Helen hurriedly. “Do you know the
place? The big stone house with the pillars? Yes, that is right. And I
will tell Mrs. Rhodes. Drive on, Benson.”

The richly-appointed, quiet mansion that she entered was a change,
indeed, from the meager little house, sickness-crowded, where she had
been watching for two days and nights, or from the homely room she had
just left in the nurse’s cottage. The velvet-shod silence seemed almost
an alien thing. Not in years had she felt so alive, so warm at the heart
with other people’s loves and sorrows brought close to it. Habit should
not chill her yet into the indifferent self-centered woman whose cold
manner and shy distrust of herself kept her solitary.

She was glad when her maid asked her timidly some question about little
Silvy, and answered with a cordiality that surprised herself, although
she was always kind, taking note of a cold the girl had, and giving her
some simple remedy for it. “What is it, Margaret?” she asked, seeing
that the girl lingered as if she wished to speak.

Margaret hesitated. “Mrs. Armstrong, we do all be feelin’ so bad for the
sweet child that’s gone. May the saints comfort his mother! And I was
thinking, ma’am, to-morrow is my day out, and if it’s not making too
bold I could take my clean cap and apron with me and stay at the house
to open the door for the people that’ll be troopin’ there—if you think I
might, maybe. I know she’s a lady born, and ’twould be no more than she
was used, to have things dacent.”

“You are a good girl, Margaret,” said Helen, more moved than she cared
to show. “Yes, indeed, you shall go.”

Kathleen came in later. Her cheeks were scarlet from the cold wind, her
dark hair was tangled and blown, there was a rushing vigor in her
movements as of exuberant young health and bounding impulse. She kissed
her quiet sister-in-law impetuously and threw her cap and furs from her
before she seated herself by the blazing wood fire. Helen looked at her
from a new standpoint—she was trying to fancy that glowing, tumultuous
young beauty by the side of James Sandersfield’s rugged strength, trying
to fancy his steady eyes gazing into those flashing ones. The feeling of
repugnance might be lessened, but it was still there! Why, Kathleen had
patrician written in every line of her face, in every curve of her body,
in her least gesture.

“I’ve just come from the Country Club,” said the girl, shielding her
face with one slim hand from the blaze of the fire.

“What on earth could you do this morning? Play golf in the snow?”

“Oh, we tried to, but it didn’t amount to anything. A lot of us got
around the fire in the hall and talked. They said—But sister, aren’t you
tired? Weren’t you up all night? Have you been home long?”

“I did sit up all night,” said Helen, “but I am not tired, and I have
been home for some time.”

“And she—poor Mrs. Rhodes?”

“I left her very quiet, dear.”

“There!” said Kathleen stormily, “we could talk of nothing else this
morning but darling, darling little Silvy, and of _her_. Of course they
don’t all know Mrs. Rhodes, but every one had seen _him_, at any rate.
It seems so dreadful for her to lose all she had in the world! She isn’t
very young, is she?”

“About my age, dear.”

“Well, that’s not old, of course, but still—What I can’t make out,
sister, is why she should be afflicted in this way. Mrs. Harper had
known her, like you, ever since she was a little girl, and she has had
so many troubles; all her people died soon after she was married, and
her husband was not—nice, and he lost all her money before he died, and
she has always been so good and lovely and patient and uncomplaining, so
earnestly striving to do right, so that Mrs. Harper says she has been an
example to everyone. Why should _she_ have this terrible, terrible blow
fall upon her? Why should her sweet, darling little child be taken away?
What has she _done_ that she should be punished so? It seems
wrong—wrong! I don’t understand it.”

“I’m afraid I don’t, either,” said Helen very low. She put her hand on
her heart for a minute and looked up, smiling a little wistfully. Her
own trouble was so old that people had forgotten it.

“We nearly got crying,” pursued Kathleen, “all the girls, I mean. Harvey
Spencer tried to make us laugh; he told jokes—horrid ones. Oh, how silly
he was! I hate society men. But it seemed as if we couldn’t get off the
subject; first one thing brought it up, and then another. Everybody
wants to do something for Mrs. Rhodes. What I was going to tell you was
that Mary Barbour said she believed that sweet little Silvy was taken
because his mother made an idol of him; that you shouldn’t love anybody
so much—that it was wrong. I don’t believe it, sister! I don’t _believe_
it; you can’t love anyone too much! People forget what love means, and
it seems unnatural to them when we love as much as we can. Oh, you may
look at me! I think of a great, great many things I never tell. You and
my brother Orrin, who have done everything and had everything, you think
me silly and romantic, but I am wiser than you. It’s because you’ve
forgotten. Why, there’s nothing but love that makes life worth living!”
said young Kathleen, her voice thrilling through the room. “I shall
never try to love only a little, no matter what happens, but as much, as
much, _as much_, always, as God will let me, if I die for it myself!”

She went over to Helen and flung herself down on the floor beside her,
and laid her head in Helen’s lap.

“He will let you,” said Helen with an unsteady voice. Something in her
tone made the girl raise her head suddenly—their eyes met in a long
look, and a deep rose overspread Kathleen’s face before she hid it
again. To the elder woman had come quite unbidden a picture of a man
carrying tenderly in his strong arms the white, still body of a little
dead child. She would like to have told Kathleen if shyness had not held
her tongue. After all, he did not seem quite unworthy. If Orrin thought—

He made a grimace when she told him in the brief half hour they had
together before she left the house.

“It is only the conclusion I had been coming to,” he said. “There is
nothing personally against the man; I almost wish there were. I knew
Kathleen would be too much for us—Kathleen and love. But how she can
want him, I cannot see.”

“Ah, but, Orrin, _we_ don’t either of us have to marry him,” said his
wife. “I have just found out that it’s Kathleen’s happiness, not ours,
that is at stake. What are you looking at?”

He had walked over to her dressing table, where there stood the faded
photograph of a little child, with a vase of flowers near it. He gazed
steadily at it without speaking.

“I always thought this better than the large portrait,” he said at last
huskily. “You have not had it out in some time.”

“No,” she replied, “the frame wanted repairing, and the picture had
grown so dim I—I couldn’t bear to see it, someway. But to-day—oh, Orrin,
I have been so longing to have someone remember—”

“I have never forgotten,” he said; “did you think that? It is only that
I am so busy, there are so many things that crowd upon me that I don’t
get a chance to tell you. I gave a thousand dollars to the Children’s
Hospital to-day for little Silvy’s sake—and our child’s. Why, Helen,
Helen, _Helen_! Poor girl, poor girl, I’ll have to look after you more,
I shall not allow you to go again to-night.”

“But it has done me more good than anything else in this world,” said
his wife. “I’ve been one of the dead souls in prison. It’s not for
sorrow that I’m crying, Orrin, not for sorrow alone—oh, for so much
else, dear! And now I must go, and I think my man is downstairs for some
work from you, and I’ll say good-by until to-morrow.”

When Helen reached her friend’s house she found the clergyman just
descending the steps. It was beginning to snow again in the dusk, and he
buttoned his overcoat tightly around his spare figure as he came forward
to assist her from the sleigh.

“Mrs. Rhodes told me that she was expecting you,” he said.

“Then have you seen her?”

“Yes, for a few minutes.” He sighed and stood meditatively looking up
the street. “Judge Shillaber has just been here. I was surprised to see
him, he so seldom goes out, and never seemed to take any interest in his
neighbors. But perhaps I should not say that,” he added hastily.
“Everyone must feel the blow that has fallen here; the circumstances are
so peculiarly sad. The ways of the Lord are very mysterious.” As he
spoke he raised his face, which was thin and careworn because the
sorrows of his people weighed very heavily upon him. “The ways of the
Lord are very mysterious. We must have faith, Mrs. Armstrong, more
faith.”

“Yes, indeed,” cried Helen, “I feel that.”

“I would like to speak to you about—But I must not keep you out here.
There is Mrs. Rawls. Another time!” He hurried off down the street,
while Helen found herself drawn inside the door by Mrs. Rawls and into
the little dining-room, where the blinds were open somewhat, now that
the evening dusk had settled down. The room was warm and quiet, with a
heavy perfume of flowers loading the air.

“Such a time as we’ve had!” said Mrs. Rawls in a loud whisper. “Me and
Mis’ Loomis and Ellen Grant has just had our hands full seein’ people.
Ellen’s as deaf as a post, but she _would_ stay, and she set by the
winder and let us know when she seen anyone comin’ up the steps. Mis’
Dunham, she spelled us for a while. You never see anything like it in
all your born days, Mis’ Armstrong! The hull town’s been here, and
carriages driving up, folks some of ’em Mis’ Rhodes didn’t even know,
comin’ to inquire or leave cards. There’s been port wine sent for her,
and Tokay, and chicken broth, and jellies—I thought there’d been enough
sent last week for _him_, but they’re comin’ yet. What to do with ’em I
don’t know, for she won’t touch nothin’. And there’s flowers, flowers,
flowers!—from them great white lilies from Colonel Penn’s greenhouse to
a little wilty sprig o’ pink geranium that one of them colored children
at the corner brought tied with a white ribbon, for ‘little Marse
Silvy’; the child was cryin’ when she came. I filled her full of broth
and jelly before she went home. Some of the things has on ’em ‘For
Silvy’s mother’—that pleases her best of all. And the dear child lies
there so peaceful and sweet—She put the geranium by him herself. But
she’s waitin’ in there to see you, I know.”

Such a slender, drooping figure in its black garments that came to meet
Helen! Such patience, such gentleness in the pale face! The tears rose
once more to Helen’s eyes as she put her protecting arms around her
friend and held her close in a long embrace.

“I’m glad you’ve come,” said Anne Rhodes at last. “I want you to sit
here by me, we shall be alone for a little while. There is something I
want to say—while I can.” Her voice was very sweet and low, and her
tearless eyes were luminous. “Let me take your hand—this one; it held my
darling’s hand when he was dying. _I_ knew! Dear hand, _dear_ hand!” She
held it close to her cheek. After a moment she went on. “Such love, such
goodness! I never dreamed of anything like it, that people should be so
good. I want you to tell everyone—all who have done the least thing for
my little child’s sake, yes, or who have wanted to do anything, that
never while my life lasts—I hope it won’t be long—but never while it
lasts will I forget them, never will I cease to ask God to bless them,
‘to reward them sevenfold into their bosom.’ I have been praying to-day,
when I _could_ pray, that He would teach me how to help others, that the
world might be better because my little child had lived in it, and I had
had such joy. Helen, you will not forget?”

“No,” said Helen. She drew her friend’s head to her shoulder, and they
spoke no more. It grew darker and darker in the room where they sat, but
in the next chamber the moonlight poured through an opening in the
curtains and shone upon the lovely face of the child whose life had been
a delight, whose memory was a blessing, whose death touched the spring
of love in every heart, and, for one little heavenly space, made men
know that they were brothers.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                 Wings



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                 Wings

                               _A Study_


                                   I


IT was a lovely morning in the early summer that Milly Clark’s lover
brought her the engagement ring with which she was also to be wedded
some sweet day. It was a plain hoop of gold, with the word Mizpah graven
upon its inner side, not because there was any thought of parting
between them then, but simply in accordance with a somewhat sentimental
fashion of the day. Milly had been given her choice between the ring and
a little padlocked bracelet of which Norton was to keep the key, after
it had been safely fastened on her white wrist, and this, indeed,
appealed to all the instincts of barbaric womanhood, in its suggestion
of a lover’s mastery; but the ring was the holier symbol, and the pledge
of love eternal.

The bees were buzzing around the syringa bushes in the corner of the
old-fashioned garden, where the lovers stood looking out upon the road
through the white fence which was built upon a stone wall, and covered
with climbing roses. The road, shining in the sunlight, sloped down to a
bridge half hidden by chestnut trees, and beyond was a glimpse of hills
against the blue sky of June. The air, the countryside, the hum of
unseen insects, contained that suggestion of joy unspeakable that comes
only at this heavenly time of the year, but there were only the two by
the garden wall to feel it in its perfection this morning. As far as the
eye could see there was no other human being anywhere. At eleven o’clock
in a New England village, after the marketing is seen to and mail time
over, all self-respecting persons are at home behind the bowed green
blinds of the white houses by the roadside, or at work farther off in
the fields. For Milly and Norton to be out in the garden now was to be
quite alone, and when he put his arm around her and drew her down beside
him on the stone wall among the roses, she only smiled confidingly up
into his face, and flushed sweetly as he kissed her.

“I can’t seem to get used to it,” she said.

“Get used to what, dear?”

“Your—loving me.”

“I don’t want you to get used to it!” he cried fervently. “I’m sure I
never shall. Why, when we’re quite old people it will be just the same
as it is now. Love can never grow old—not ours, anyway. Can it, Milly!”

She gave him a smile for answer and he gazed down at her admiringly,
taking note anew of the deep blue of her eyes, the little veins on her
forehead, where the soft brown hair was drawn smoothly back from it, and
the pure curve of her throat and chin—a face of the highest New England
type, fine and beautiful. He himself was the product of a different
civilization, and cast in a rougher mold. It was the very difference
that had drawn them close together, his rude strength giving sweetest
promise of protection to her delicate fineness. She sat silently looking
at him, her soul steeped in a delicious dream.

“Yes, we will be like this always,” she said at last with almost
religious solemnity.

“Always,” he assented.

“Only growing better and better all the time, Norton. I feel as if I
could never be good enough to show how thankful I am that you love me.
Do you think I ever can?”

“Hush,” he said, frowning. “You must not talk in that way. I’m only a
stupid, commonplace fellow at best, not half good enough for _you_.
You’ll have to make _me_ better.”

“Oh, Norton!” she protested.

“Ah, never mind now, dear! You haven’t put on my ring yet,
Milly—remember it is not to come off until I have to put it on the next
time—do you know when that will be? When we are married, when you are
mine, really and forever. May that day soon come! Give me your hand now,
dear, and let me ‘ring your finger with the round hoop of gold,’ as you
were reading to me last night.”

“There is someone coming,” said Milly nervously. She stood up as the
shadow of a parasol touched the roses, and met the gaze of the Episcopal
clergyman’s wife, as she stopped to rest, panting a little, by the
garden wall. She was a thin woman in a black and white print gown, and
with a black lace bonnet trimmed with bunches of artificial violets
surmounting her sallow face.

“Oh, it’s you, is it, Milly?” she asked with a kindly inflection of her
rather sharp voice. “And Mr. Edwards, too, of course. Well, good morning
to you both. Isn’t it a perfect day! A little hot in the sun though. It
always tires me to walk up this hill; I have to stop a moment here to
get my breath. I suppose you’re not going to the funeral, either of you?
No, it’s not a bit necessary, but I fancied you might like to see the
service performed as it should be for once.”

“I did not know anyone had died,” said Milly.

“My dear, it’s only a little boy from the poorhouse. His relatives—such
as he had—are not able to bury him, and Mr. Preston did want to show the
parish what a properly conducted funeral was like. You know what a
frightfully bigoted place this is! We had to give up candles altogether,
Mr. Edwards. It fairly makes me shiver at times—the ignorance! I
wonder—I _do_ wonder, they don’t knock the cross off the spire some day,
because it’s a symbol. I wonder they even have a church, instead of a
circus tent!”

“Oh, Mrs. _Preston_!” remonstrated Milly. She glanced sideways nervously
at Norton, who was picking a rose to pieces with an imperturbable
expression.

“You will hear the choir boys at any rate as they march in procession
around the grave,” pursued Mrs. Preston, raising her parasol again. “I
don’t suppose there will be a soul there but ourselves. Well, I put on
my best bonnet, anyway, out of respect—I know you will both be glad when
I’m gone, although you’re too polite to say so.”

She relaxed into a quizzical smile as she regarded them. “Well,
good-by.”

“Thank Heaven! she’s gone at last,” said Norton with boyish petulance,
as they watched her disappear behind the evergreens that bordered the
churchyard. “What possessed her to give us so much of her society just
now—the very wrong moment, wasn’t it, dear? She has left me only a
quarter of an hour before the noon train to town, and I’ll not be back
until Monday, you know, this time. To think that I shall be working for
you now, Milly—for a sweet girl in a blue dress, with a dimple in one
cheek and long brown lashes that droop lower and lower as I—oh, you
darling!” They both laughed in joyously blissful content.

“Shall I put the ring on now?” he asked after a few moments. “Stand up
beside me, then. There, that is right. This is our betrothal, Milly. Say
the words, dear, since you would have them, while I slip on the ring.”

“Let us say them together. Oh, Norton, it is to be forever!”

“Forever. Give me your dear hand. Now with me. ‘The Lord’—‘The
Lord,’”—her clear voice mingled with his deep one. “The Lord
watch—between thee—and me—when we are parted—(but we never shall be!)
when we are parted—the one from the other.” The ring shone on her
finger, their lips met in a long kiss. He caught her to him and laid her
head upon his breast and her arms around his neck, and they stood thus,
silently, while the seconds passed. What power was in those words of
might to bring a sudden hush upon both hearts, and to change the
sunshine into the awesome, beautiful light of another world? Something
deeper, nobler, purer than they stirred those two souls, and made them
sacredly, divinely one. Each felt intensely what neither could have
expressed. Never, while life lasted, could the witness of that moment be
forgotten.

Long after her lover had left her Milly sat in the garden, her face half
hidden in the roses, with the bees still booming around the syringas,
and the sky growing bluer and bluer in the heat of noon. She heard the
choir boys singing now in the little churchyard near by as they marched
around the open grave,

                    “_Brief life is here our portion,
                       Brief sorrow, shortlived care,
                     The life that knows no ending,
                       The tearless life, is there.
                     Oh happy retribution,
                       Short toil, eternal rest!
                     For mortals and for sinners,
                       A mansion with the blest._”

The words brought her no realization of the shortness of human life, of
inevitable sorrow, of impending care, and no remembrance of the dead
pauper child, or of the open grave—they only served to add to the
fullness of her bliss the thought that after all this measureless
happiness of earth, there was still the joy of heaven beyond.


                                   II


IT was only a few weeks after their betrothal that Norton sailed for
Australia on that long journey from which he did not return for three
years. The trip was to make his fortune, and fortune meant a home and
Milly for his own; so neither rebelled, and, indeed, it was only
intended at first that he should stay away a year. In the first ardor of
romance parting seemed but a little thing—two hearts like theirs could
beat as one with a continent between them. And love shows sweetly in
different lights; the purple shadows of impending separation gave it a
deeper, richer glow.

She took a little journey in from the country to see him off, and they
talked of this beforehand as of something quite festive, although there
proved to be a bewildering hurry and bustle about it that mixed
everything up in a whirl. Mrs. Preston went with her, and there was a
disjointed attempt at conversation on the deck of the steamer with some
of Norton’s friends who had also come to see him off, and the
examination with them, amid laughter and jokes, of Norton’s tiny
stateroom, and the few moments there when, lingering behind, the two
kissed each other good-by, and, the veil of pretense ruthlessly torn
aside, Milly felt a sudden terrible spasm of heartbreak.

“I cannot let you go—I cannot!” she sobbed, and her lover had to loosen
her arms from around his neck and dry her eyes with his handkerchief,
whispering soothing words, and then she must be led out into the glaring
sunlight and turn her face away from the group of friends, while her
hand still lay in Norton’s. And then the bell rang—the signal for
parting—and then—do we not know it all? The last look from the pier at
the beloved face, and then the slow watching, watching until the vessel
is out of sight and the vision is filled with green overlapping waves,
and afterwards the walk back again along the wharf, among bales and vans
of plunging horses, out into the world of dusty streets and houses, and
the midsummer sights and smells, and the busy, empty life that is left.

Milly was grateful to Mrs. Preston for not talking. She blindly let
herself be piloted anywhere to find that she was at last ensconced in a
hurrying train proceeding homeward through a green landscape, with
freshly cooler air blowing in through the open window to soothe her
aching head. When they reached the village in the dusk it was Mrs.
Preston who walked home with her up the long hill (and, oh, the going
home when the one we love most has just left it) and answered all the
questions that were showered upon both, and afterward went upstairs to
Milly’s room and saw that the girl put on a loose gown to rest in, and
made her drink the cup of tea she had brought up. She gave Milly a
little kiss, “like a peck,” thought Milly, suddenly alive to the
remembrance of those other kisses, and after the elder woman had left,
she slipped from the bed where she had even submitted to have her feet
covered, and went over to the window and knelt down by it with her head
on the sill almost in the branches of the maple tree through which she
could see the moon rising in golden quiet. _He_ was looking at the same
moon now, and the Lord was watching between them. She pressed the ring
to her lips, she pressed it to her bosom—the ring that made her his—joy
flooded back upon her with the thought. She had forgotten that she could
speak to him still, that she could write.

Oh, quick, quick, lose not a moment; it was treachery to have a thought
in her soul and he not know it! Down on her knees in the moonlight she
wrote, and wrote, and wrote, all that she never could have said—her very
heart.

She woke to joy the next morning, still in this consciousness of
new-found power, and with a high ideal of the life before her. She was
to grow and grow that she might be worthy of him—that she might help
_him_ grow to be worthy of the highest. Every minute of the day she
could live for him, just as in every minute of the day he was living for
her. She went about her daily tasks with renewed energy, because he was
thinking of her while she performed them. Even during little Letty
Stevens’s tedious music lesson she smiled, thinking how she would write
him that the child’s halting five-finger exercise counted itself out to
her in the words, “How I love you, how I love you, how I love you, how I
love you, _dear_!”

She had a little note from him by the pilot boat, written a few hours
after they had parted; how little it seemed after all she had thought
and felt in this twenty-four hours! But it made the color rise in her
soft cheeks, and she cried over it and wore it next her bosom by day and
laid it under her pillow by night. For many long weeks it was the only
message from him that she had to feed on. The mail does not come quickly
from Australia. She had sent off pages and pages to him in the two or
three months before his first letter came, and it was much longer before
she had an answer to hers. How she studied those letters—simple, almost
boyish effusions—full of wondering pride in those that she wrote to him.

“Why, you are a real poetess, Milly; I don’t see how you manage to think
of such things. I wish I _had_ been thinking of you at the time you
speak of, but I’m afraid that must have been when I was staying at
Jackson’s, and he and Blessington and I played cards every evening;
awfully poor luck I had, too. I suppose I must have been thinking of
you, after all, and that’s what made me play so badly, don’t you believe
it? No, I don’t do much reading out here; you’ll have to do the reading
for both of us, and you can tell it all to me when I get home. _When I
get home._ Oh, Milly! I can’t write about it as you do, but I’m working
for my sweet, sweet girl with all the strength I’ve got.”

The girl bloomed as she never had before with this quickening of her
soul. The days were so full of duties; her music scholars, the household
matters, in which she helped her widowed aunt, the two young cousins to
be looked after, her reading, and, when she could attend them, the
weekday afternoon prayers at the little church where she sometimes, with
the sexton, represented all Mr. Preston’s congregation. Milly’s people
were of the Congregational faith, but Norton and she had gone to St.
John’s together. People found fault with Mr. Preston—a rather dull man
with impassive wooden features—because he had no variety of expression;
he read service and sermon in a low monotonous voice which, however,
grew to have a soothing charm for Milly. Why need anyone express
anything? It was all in herself—other people’s expression only jarred.
Those few moments in the half light of the empty church gave a sense of
peace that was an actual physical rest, undisturbed by the personality
of others. She was even guilty of slipping from the church afterwards to
avoid Mr. Preston’s perfunctory handshake.

Then, after each quickly-passing day, came the long evening when in her
little white room she wrote to him—wrote to Norton, her own, own lover.
Ah, what fire there can be in the veins of a little Puritan girl!

So the swift winter passed and the spring came around again, and he had
not returned.

Then came hours when the sense of separation began to press more heavily
upon her, when the soft breeze wearied her and the common roadside
flowers brought tears to her eyes—especially when the Australian mail
was long delayed. It was in a mood of this kind that she went one day to
see Mrs. Preston, whose sharp features relaxed at the sight of her. Mrs.
Preston was sitting in the front parlor by the window, with her sleeves
rolled up a little, and a gingham apron tied around her waist, beating
up eggs in a large bowl.

“Come in,” she called cheerfully to Milly. “I just saw Mrs. Furniss go
past; she looked as if she thought I was committing one of the seven
deadly sins when she discovered that I was beating my eggs in here. The
aborigines consider a parlor a sacred thing, you know. It’s the
pleasantest place in the whole house this morning, and this lilac bush
is budding. It’s spring again, for certain.”

“Yes,” said Milly listlessly.

“I’m making custard for dessert to-morrow; the bishop’s coming. He
always says, ‘Mrs. Preston, it’s such a relief to reach your house and
get sponge cake and syllabub, instead of relays of pie!’ You know the
poor, dear man has the dyspepsia terribly, and you New England people
have no mercy on him. I’m glad he’s coming to-morrow, it gives me
something more to do; one must _work_ in the spring, or die. If this
weather keeps on I’ll get at the garret. What is the matter with you
this morning, Milly?”

“I’m tired,” said Milly with a quiver of her lip.

“Work.”

“I _have_ worked! I’m busy all the time, but it doesn’t do any good.
It’s hard to have Norton away for so long. I can’t help feeling—” she
stopped a moment and looked very hard out of the window. “I’m afraid I’m
beginning to get—melancholy about it.” She was trying to smile, but a
bright tear fell in her lap.

“I don’t think you’re very unhappy,” said Mrs. Preston. She put the bowl
of eggs down on the table and folded her thin arms. “It’s the luxury of
grief that you’re enjoying—part of the romance. Be melancholy—as you
call it—while you can.”

“You are always so cheerful,” said Milly rather resentfully.

“I, my dear! I don’t dare to be anything else. I _have_ to be cheerful,
or—” She turned a darkening face to the budding lilacs. “I don’t dare to
_think_ long enough to be depressed, to even—remember. There’s an awful
abyss down which I slip when _I_ get melancholy; it’s the bottomless
pit. I know it’s there all the time, but I have to pretend to myself
that I’m not near it, or I get dragged under. I avoid it like the
plague!” A momentary spasm contracted her face; she added in a lower
tone, “Did you know that I had four children once? They died within a
year.”

“Oh, you poor thing!” cried Milly. She reached forward and tried to take
one of the fast-locked hands of the woman before her. “Oh, how terrible,
how terrible! How did you _live_?”

“I didn’t; all the best part of me went too, this thing you see here—”
she stopped, and the same shiver as before went over her.

“But you have your husband,” said Milly, seeking about for comfort. A
vision of Mr. Preston, stiff, dull, formal, with his wooden features,
fronted her confusingly.

“Yes, that’s the worst of it—if I only had not William!”

“Oh, Mrs. _Preston_!” cried Milly.

“I suppose it _is_ surprising. After having bored each other for so many
years, we really ought to be very much attached, don’t you think?
Perhaps even you can see how much comfort I get from William. If I were
an article of the Rubric, instead of a woman—but of course, that is
different.”

“But you must have loved him when you were married,” cried Milly,
shocked.

“Did I, dear? I loved something that went by his name, it wasn’t
William. There, don’t let us talk of it; I find no fault. He should have
been a celibate priest; I agree with him there. He has never really
cared for me, or for—the children.” The spasm passed over her face
again. “Oh, if I did not have him, if I were not tied to this narrow
round which chokes every higher instinct of me, if I could go off
somewhere by myself, to California or Egypt, or Cathay—travel, travel,
travel, keep going on and on, seeing something new every hour, breathing
freer every day, getting out into the great life of the world!” She
clenched her hands. “I have given my life, my aspirations, the whole
strength of my being, to William, and now I have nothing left—but
William.”

“You have four children in heaven,” said Milly softly.

The elder woman broke down into a fit of weeping that seemed to rend
her. Milly sat by, appalled at this glimpse of the inner life of two
respectable married people. Later, as she was going home, she met Mr.
Preston, his tall, thin figure in its clerical garb silhouetted against
the bright green of the spring foliage. His pale eyes gazed solemnly at
her as he drew near across the fields; she felt that he might be
murmuring Credos, or even Aves, quite oblivious of her presence. But he
reached the bars in time to let them down for her, and offer her the
handshake from which she had been wont to flee, and then stood a moment
as if he would have spoken, while she gazed at him furtively. Could any
woman put her arms around that stiff neck or kiss those thin, set lips?
Oh, poor Mrs. Preston! But he was really speaking.

“I saw you in the distance and I stopped to pick these for you,” he said
in his slow, even tone. It was a little bunch of violets that he held
out to her.

“Oh, Mr. Preston, thank you!” said Milly in wonder.

“It is a pleasure to me that you attend our services. If—” he paused,
“if my daughter had lived she would have been your age—like you, in her
springtime.”

He gazed past her solemnly and then taking off his hat to her, went on
his way, leaving Milly overpowered with bewilderment.

What did it all mean? Who was right, and who was wrong? How did people
drift apart after they were married? A new idea of the complexity of
life came to her, the strange way in which human beings acted on each
other, drawn, as by magnets, with the differing forces. Marriage to her
had always presented a picture of growth in happiness, growth in
goodness, a path upward together for lover and beloved. She tried now
and for the first time vainly to recall if any in her limited circle of
acquaintance seemed to fulfill these conditions. Sordidness, narrowness,
selfishness, a jealous love of one’s children, these stood revealed
instead to the casual eye.

She wrote a long page in her journal letter that night. His answer came
back at last. It said: “Don’t bother your head, dear, about these
things. You will always be the dearest girl in the world to me, and the
purest and the best; and as for me, I never forget that I’m working for
you, and if that won’t keep me straight, nothing will. What do you care
about those old fossils of Prestons, anyhow? You are you, and I am I,
and that’s all I care for, sweetheart.”

The wealth of meaning with which Milly freighted these honest lines it
would take pages to chronicle; perhaps it was partly on account of some
words of Mrs. Preston’s which haunted her: “I loved something that went
by his name—it wasn’t William.”

The clergyman’s family remained in her mind an unsolved problem; it was
nearly a month before she went to the rectory again, where she found
Mrs. Preston “up to her ears,” as she expressed it, endeavoring to
settle the affairs of a poor family who were preparing for emigration to
the West. Her snapping black eyes and vivacious mien showed thorough
enjoyment of the task, to say nothing of her dominant volubility. Mr.
Preston, who came in from the garden bearing the first strawberry
solemnly on a gilt plate for his wife’s acceptance, was unheeded until
Milly directed attention to him. He had been waiting, he explained
gravely, some days for this particular strawberry to ripen. Mrs. Preston
said, “Oh, yes,” and thereupon ate the fruit absent-mindedly as she went
on talking, with apparently no more appreciation of flavor than if it
had been gutta percha, and quite ignoring the giver.

Milly could not help smiling, but she left the house more bewildered
than ever. Mrs. Preston _must_ like her life more than she thought she
did, and it was impossible not to feel a little tinge of sympathy for
Mr. Preston. Did people after all know what they really liked—or,
indeed, what they really were? The moods of different days, of different
hours, what kind of a whole did they form?

Her own life seemed to be all question in these days, to which nobody
gave the answer.

Thus the second year stole on, and Norton’s home-coming appeared to grow
no nearer. The photograph which he sent her startled by its unlikeness
to her thought of him; those were the eyes that were to look into hers
again some day, those the lips that were to kiss hers. After a while by
much poring over it, the picture looked to her any way she pleased.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder”—possibly, and possibly not always
fonder of the unseen beloved, but of one’s own personality, projected
into the suitable position.

But if any moment of serious doubt came, the remembrance of the
betrothal in the garden quenched it. There was always that to fall back
upon. Milly lived that over again, and again, and again, never without
the solemn rush of feeling that had accompanied the pledge with God for
their witness—“never to be forgotten, never to be denied”—the latter
words Norton had himself used in a letter to her once, a letter from
which she never parted.

With love came at last the teaching of death to Milly, and she went down
into the shadows and cried out affrighted. All props were torn away from
her, and she stood alone trembling, reaching out on the right hand and
on the left. “I had not thought it meant this,” she wrote piteously. “I
believe in God, and in heaven, why, then, should this desolation touch
me? Words—words that I have said all my life and believed in, mean
nothing to me. I believe in them now, but they mean nothing. I can’t
make anything real but death, not even your love! Oh, help me, tell me
that I shall not die alone, that you will go with me, tell me that you
are not afraid; help me, Norton. You _must_ know something to make it
all better!”

She had gained some peace before his reply reached her—a sense of the
eternal Fatherhood that pervaded the unseen world as well as the one she
walked and lived and loved in now—a protection that was a rest and
brought light into the sunshine once more. But he wrote,

“Milly, if you love me, don’t send me any more letters like the last. To
think of such things would drive me mad. I can’t think of death. It’s as
much as I can do to work for a living, and try and be worthy of you, and
I’ll have to leave the rest to the good Lord, I expect. I’ll be coming
home some day before you know it—drop me a line to tell me how you’d
feel if you saw me walking in just after you get this.”

If there was a graver look in Milly’s eyes than had been, there was also
a sweeter depth. The lines around her mouth were very gentle. She did
not talk much. It was the third summer of the separation; she no longer
tried to solve the problem of the Prestons, but accepted the fact that
she stood a little nearer to each of them than anyone else did. People
said she was a good listener, but although she seemed to give a quiet
attention to them, it was the voice across the sea that she was always
listening for. The letters came now so full of matters and people that
she knew nothing of; the whole burden of them for her lay in the few
loving sentences that began and ended the pages. Had she ever had a
lover? It was so long ago, and for so short a time! Yet at last she had
word that he was coming home.

It was after this news had reached her, and nearly three years from the
day of the revealing of love in the garden, that the second revelation
was given her. This time it was of immortality.

She was kneeling in the church during the afternoon service; the church
was almost empty. She had had a singularly calm spirit all day, and as
she knelt in the dim aisle, her gaze directed upward to the stained
glass window in one of the arches of the ceiling, she was not praying,
she was only peaceful. The window was partly open, so that a glimpse of
pale blue sky slanted through it with the afternoon sunshine. And as she
gazed, not consciously, her spirit went from her and mingled with that
sunlight, becoming one with it, and in a rapture of buoyancy, of
radiance, of exultant immortality. It had in it no acknowledged
perception of God, no conviction of sin, no so-called “experience”; it
was simply life eternal, utterly free from the body, the spirit divested
of the hampering bonds of the flesh. The wonder of it, the joy of it—yet
the wonderful and joyful familiarity with it, as of something known
always, that had been only forgotten for a little while, and was now
remembered; and beyond and through all something indescribable. One
cannot translate the meaning of life into words that belong to
mortality.

Milly bowed her head and the light closed over her and her spirit came
back to her body once more. She neither wept nor trembled; like Mary of
old she marveled and was silent. She thought she would write it all to
Norton, but she could not; she thought to tell him when he came, but she
did not. She never had the revelation again, but like the first it could
never be forgotten nor denied.


                                  III


THEY were married at St. John’s a couple of months after his return. Mr.
Preston united them in the bonds of holy matrimony with his still
unvarying wooden gravity, through which, however, Milly was able to
discern some faint, limited attempt at warmth, and Mrs. Preston folded
her in her arms afterwards with a scoffing fondness that rather troubled
the bride when she thought of it. She did not want to think now of
spoiled lives. Something in Mrs. Preston’s manner implied—could it be
pity?

It had been delightful after three years of maiden dreaming and shadowy
aspiration to be carried forcibly out of them into a clear, cheerful,
masculine territory where things seemed to be exactly what they were.
The charm of having a lover who was almost a stranger, yet whom it was
taken for granted must be both dear and familiar, was nearly too
bewildering. She laughed at absurd jokes, was betrayed into
demonstrative foolishness, and could scarcely believe in her own
metamorphosis. She was in a state of suppressed excitement which must be
happiness.

“I hardly knew you when I saw you coming in the gate,” she confessed one
day soon after his arrival. “Think of it! I ran and hid.”

“You did not hide long,” he answered gravely, taking a hairpin from her
smooth locks. “Let your hair down, I want to see if it has grown.”

“Norton! how silly. Are you always like this?”

“Certainly.”

“But I want to tell you of so many things that I could not write when
you were away. Oh, Norton, the years have been short, yet they were so
very, very long, too! There is so much I have to confess to you—how
shall I ever begin?”

“Don’t try,” he answered laconically. “Leave all that time out, Milly, I
hate it. We’ll begin fresh now.” He drew a long breath. “It was a hard,
coarse life out there—you couldn’t even understand it, sweetheart. But
one thing I _can_ tell—” he turned around and faced her with steadfast
gaze—“I can look you straight in the eyes, dear, and not be ashamed.”

“Why, _of course_!” said Milly.

And so the new life began. A few months after the wedding they went to
live in a narrow street in the great city, away from all the dear lovely
hills and fields and sky that had hitherto made Milly’s world. She was
surprised to find that the dreary outlook on brick and stone affected
her like a physical blow, and that she missed familiar voices strangely.
She had often and often thought that she would be willing to live with
Norton in a desert, and forego all other companionship than his, which
necessarily must be satisfying. Was it? Gradually, very gradually, but
surely, a sinking of the heart, a gnawing homesickness began to take
possession of her—the homesickness of one transplanted in body and mind
to an alien soil; a feeling fiercely combated, fiercely denied, yet
conquering insidiously. To many women—to most women, perhaps—there is no
medium between worshiping and delicately despising the man they love.
They must either look up or down; anything but a level view, with clear
eyes meeting, and the honest admission: _Dear friend, my insufficiency
balances thine. What thou art not to me, that other thing I am not to
thee._

But it is torture not to be able to look up! The sense of superiority is
only a sting.

Milly took life with intense earnestness. She could not understand
Norton’s light, jocular way of looking at things; he cared for nothing
“improving,” he simply wanted recreation. He loved her—yes, as much, she
thought, sadly, as he could have loved any woman, but not, oh, not as
she loved! She missed so much, _so_ much! Each day brought a subtle
shock of disappointment with it, a miserable feeling of loss. What could
she do about it? She tried vainly to adjust her vision to the man’s
point of view. Her husband seemed to her shallow, coarse, with no high
standard of honor. It must be her mission to elevate him.

The more unsatisfied her mind became, the more her heart endeavored to
make up for it. “You are not what I dreamed—but kiss me, kiss me more
passionately that I may forget it!” was the continued inner cry. But
kisses do not grow more passionate under the insistent claim.

She prayed for him with a hysterical uplifting of the spirit, followed
by fathomless exhaustion and depression. He was always very, very kind
to her when she wept—and very glad to get away.

She relapsed into an obedient endurance, a patient and uncomplaining
disapproval.

There seemed to be nothing in him of the man she had married except a
certain sweet boyishness that had always been one of his charms, and
which showed at times through everything, and a bright, yet delicate
kindness which other people liked, although to her it had no depth.
Sometimes she felt a little envious of his ease with others.

“How you talked to Mrs. Catherwood to-night,” she said one evening after
the guests had gone. “You quite monopolized her. I wonder what she
thought of you!”

“Oh, that was all right!” he answered somewhat absently. Then he looked
up with a smile. “What do you think? I found that she came from the town
I used to live in. I knew her sister well. We went back over old times.”

“You never talk to me about them.”

“You—oh, that’s different; you wouldn’t be interested, dear.” He shook
his head with a kind of rueful amusement. “I always feel when I tell you
of such things that you are wondering how I could enjoy them. It came
sort of _easy_ to talk to Mrs. Catherwood—she seemed to understand; some
people do make you feel that way, you know.” He looked up a little
sadly, and then came over to his wife and kissed her. “You’re a saint,
Milly, and saints are not expected to take stock in vain jestings. You
have to be good for both of us, you know.”

Milly flushed angrily. “I _wish_ you wouldn’t say such things—you take
such a low view! And I wanted you to see something of Professor Stearns
to-night, he is such a fine man, so thoroughly high-minded, so firm in
principle, he never gives way an inch in what he thinks is right. How
people dislike him for it! It’s really splendid.”

Norton looked humorous, but discreetly held his peace.

“I tell you, Jordan,” he said one day to a friend, half sadly, half
jestingly, “my wife wants me to be a good _woman_, to like all the
things she likes, and to do all the things she does. I know she mourns
over me every day of her life. I suppose it’s a hopeless job for both of
us. I never was anything but a commonplace sort of fellow, not near good
enough for her.”

“That is the proper frame of mind, old fellow,” said his friend, and
they went on riding together in silence.

To what end had the higher life been Milly’s? In five years she and
Norton had been drifting slowly but surely ever further apart. Had
companionship with her elevated him? Impossible not to see that he had
deteriorated, that the lax hold on former ideals had lapsed entirely!

Can any human soul thrive in an atmosphere of doubt?

It was when this knowledge of further separation lay heaviest upon her,
that word came to Milly one morning in the bright sunlight that Norton
had been arrested for embezzlement and was in jail. Her heart stood
still. This, then, was what she had been foreboding all along; the
instantaneous conviction of his guilt was the cruel blow. Oh, the awful,
awful wrench of the heart, when disgrace lays its hand on one we love!
Death seems an honest, joyful thing in comparison. Yet she could think
of a thousand extenuations for him—she found herself yearning over him
as she might have done over the children that had never been hers.

She prayed all the way to jail. How often she had read of similar
journeys—the prisoner was always “sitting on the side of his bed,” in
the cell. Norton was sitting on the side of his bed; his face was turned
away as she came in. She sat down beside him and took his hand.
“Norton!” she said and yet again, “Norton!” and he turned and looked at
her.

“I knew you would come,” he said, “and I knew—you would think—I had done
it.”

“Oh, Norton, Norton! Say only that you did not, and I will believe you.”

“You will believe—if I tell you—that I am not—a thief? What would a
thief’s word be good for, Milly? Do I have to tell such a thing to my
own wife? Why, even that poor Irish woman you can hear crying in the
next cell believes in her husband; you should have heard her talking
before you came—and he’s a brute.”

Milly gasped painfully, the tears were running down her cheeks. “You
know you always thought some things honest that I did not—some
transactions—we have often talked—how could I tell—”

“You had your ideas and I had mine,” he interrupted. “It’s mighty hard
to conduct business on abstract principles—perhaps—I don’t deny it! My
ways weren’t always what they ought to have been. But this is
_stealing_. It somehow kills me to think that you—” he stopped short
with a gesture, and hid his face in his hands.

Milly longed to put her arms around him, to kiss the hands that hid him
from her, to do anything to show her love and grief, and her faith in
him, but she did not dare. This was her husband, but she did not dare.

He spoke quite calmly after a few minutes. “You had better go back to
the house now. My arrest was all a stupid blunder; I sent for Catherwood
at once, and he saw Forrest. They are on the right track and I will be
set free as soon as possible, to-morrow, probably; the charge is to be
withdrawn. And don’t feel so badly, dear, I suppose it’s all my fault
that you have never believed in me since we were married—for you never
have, Milly.” He stooped and kissed her good-by, saying gently, “You
must go now, dear.”

Three days after that he came home very ill. All that Milly had been
longing to say to him, all that she had been longing to hear, must wait
until the morrow—until the next week—until the next month; and then, and
then, could it be? Until the next life!

He was so very ill from the beginning that there was nothing else to be
considered; for the first time her own wishes and feelings were as
naught. In the delirium he did not even know her. But there came a time
before the end when she was startled as she sat by him in the twilight,
holding his wasted hand to see his conscious eyes fixed upon her through
the shadows. Her own responded with a depth of piteous eager love in
them as she bent closer to him. Still the eyes gazed at her—what, oh,
_what_ were they saying?

“_Darling_,” she whispered.

His lips did not move, but the fingers of the hand which lay in hers
felt feebly for something—touched the golden circle on her finger, and
held it as if contented at last.

And still the eyes—

It was again the moment of their betrothal, and God was with them as in
the garden.

                  *       *       *       *       *

LATE in the moonlight, the tender moonlight of June, Milly sat alone by
a grave. The soft night wind touched her face, the smell of countless
budding flowers was around her. It was again the beautiful youth of the
year, the time of love, and for her youth and love were done. Such a
little while ago it seemed since she had been looking forward to it, and
now it was done. Oh, what did it all mean, the love, the yearning, the
striving, that it should end in such bitter loss; how had they made such
a failure of marriage—marriage, that could have been so beautiful! Why
was it that that last moment with Norton had been the first to show it
to her?

In the utter solitude she thought and thought, with strained brow, with
hands tightly clasped. She searched her soul as if it were the judgment
day. Death held up the lamp by which she saw her husband at last
clearly—all that he was, all that he might have been if she had not used
her higher thought to build up a barrier between them. The sense of his
maimed life, the loss of all the joy and trust there might have been,
pierced her to the heart. His nature, lower than hers, had yet held in
it the capacity to be more than hers—had seen more clearly, and had been
more generous. Could it be that, after all, she who had loved so much
had not loved enough?

Oh, what was it that was expected of love; to desire utterly the good of
the best beloved, the development along lines where one cannot follow,
on which one has no claim, which touch no answering chord of self—no one
poor human being can love perfectly, as perfectly as that! If one were
only God—

But there was God.

Milly raised her head, and the moonlight fell on her face.

“Oh, far beyond this poor horizon’s bound” shone the answer to all her
thought. The capability of endless growth, the mating of two souls
beyond the spheres and through all ages was the message of high emprise
that called her like the voice of a star. With the heart of love, with
the wings of immortality came the third revelation, reaching to infinite
depths and heights, revealing the ineffable space where self is lost in
the divine. The secret of life and death, of loss and reprisal, of the
seen and the unseen, of _thou and I_, was there in the oneness of all
that our mortal sense divides. Oh, the great, free, beautiful vision!

In the long silence—in the blowing of the night wind—when the clouds
veiled the moon—spirit to spirit she stood with her beloved at last, as
never, oh, never before upon this earth, and repeated aloud once more
the words of eternal might:

“The Lord watch between thee and me—between thee and me—when we are
parted the one from the other.”



                                THE END



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                       [Illustration: Decoration]

                         THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS
                           GARDEN CITY, N. Y.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



 ● Transcriber’s Notes:
    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was corrected.
    ○ Unbalanced quotation marks were corrected.
    ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.
    ○ Inconsistent spelling was made consistent only when a predominant
      form was found in this book.
    ○ Text that was in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).





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