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Title: Twin Tales: Are All Men Alike and The Lost Titian
Author: Stringer, Arthur
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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                              TWIN TALES


                           Are All Men Alike

                                 _and_

                            The Lost Titian

                                  _By_
                            ARTHUR STRINGER

                             [Illustration]

                          McCLELLAND & STEWART
                        PUBLISHERS       TORONTO



                             Copyright 1920
                        McClure’s Magazine, Inc.

                             Copyright 1920
                     The Curtis Publishing Company

                             Copyright 1921
                  The Bobbs-Merrill Publishing Company


               _Printed in the United States of America_



                               TWIN TALES


                                Contents
                            Are All Men Alike
                            The Lost Titian



                              TWIN TALES



                           Are All Men Alike


                              CHAPTER ONE

Her name was Theodora, which means, of course, “the gift of God,” as her
sad-eyed Uncle Chandler was in the habit of reminding her. In full, it
was Theodora Lydia Lorillard Hayden. But she was usually called Teddie.

She was the kind of girl you couldn’t quite keep from calling Teddie, if
you chanced to know her. And even though her frustrated male parent had
counted on her being a boy, and even though there were times when Teddie
herself wished that she had been a boy, and even though her own Aunt
Tryphena—who still reverentially referred to Ward McAllister and still
sedulously locked up the manor gates at Piping Rock when that modern
atrocity yclept the Horse Show was on—solemnly averred that no nice
girl ever had a boy’s name attached to her without just cause, Teddie,
you must remember, was not masculine. God bless her adorable little
body, she was anything but that! She was merely a poor little rich girl
who’d longed all her life for freedom and had only succeeded in
bruising, if not exactly her wings, at least the anterior of a very
slender tibia, on the bars of a very big and impressive cage.

What she really suffered from, even as a child, was the etiolating
restraints of the over-millioned. She panted for an elbow-room which
apparently could never be hers. And as she fought for breathing-space
between the musty tapestries of deportment she was called intractable
and incorrigible, when the only thing that was wrong with her was the
subliminal call of the wild in her cloistered little bosom, the call
that should have been respected by turning her loose in a summer-camp or
giving her a few weeks in the Adirondacks, where she might have
straightened out the tangled-up Robinson Crusoe complexes that made her
a menace and a trial to constituted authority.

But constituted authority didn’t understand Teddie. It even went so far,
in time, as to wash its hands of her. For those passionate but abortive
attempts at liberation had begun very early in Teddie’s career.

At the tender age of seven, after incarceration for sprinkling the West
Drive with roofing-nails on the occasion of a _fête champêtre_ from
which she had been excluded on the ground of youth, she had amputated
her hair and purchased appropriate attire from her maturer neighbor and
playmate, Gerald Rhindelander West, intent on running away to the Far
West and becoming a cowboy.

But Major Chandler Kane, an uncle who stoutly maintained that
obstreperous youth should not be faced as a virtue or a vice but as a
fact, happened to be coming out for the week-end at about the same time,
and intercepted Teddie at the railway station. So, after discreetly
depriving her of the gardener’s knife and the brass-mounted Moorish
pistol from the library mantel, with the assistance of three chocolate
_mousses_ and an incredibly complicated and sirup-drenched and
maraschino-stippled and pineapple-flavored nut sundae not
inappropriately designated on the menu-card as “The Hatchet-Burier,” he
succeeded in wheedling out of her the secret of her disguise, telephoned
for the car, and brought her home with a slight bilious attack and a
momentarily tempered spirit.

A year later, after condign punishment for having tied sunbonnets on the
heads of the Florentine marble lions in the Sunken Garden, she revolted
against the tyranny of French verbs and the chinless Mademoiselle
Desjarlais by escaping from the study window to the leads of the
conservatory, from which she climbed to the top of the chauffeurs’
domicile above the garage, where she calmly mounted a chimney and ate
salted pecans and refused to come down. It began to rain, later on, but
this didn’t matter. What really mattered was the arrival of Ladder-Truck
Number Three of the Tuxedo Fire Department. That was a great hour in the
life of our over-ennuied Teddie, who, in fact, formed so substantial a
friendship with those helmeted heroes that she was thereafter permitted
to slide down the polished brass pole which led from the
sleeping-quarters to the ground floor of the Fire Hall. So active was
her interest in their burnished apparatus, and so dominating grew her
hunger to hear the great red motors roar and see the Ladder-Truck wheels
strike fire as they took the car-rails at the Avenue-crossing, that she
turned in a quite unnecessary alarm. The resultant spectacle she
regarded as almost as satisfying as the Chariot Race in _Ben-Hur_. For
this offense, however, she was first severely reprimanded and later
confined to the Lilac Room, where she locked herself in the old nursery
bathroom and proceeded to flood the marble basin therein, reveling in
the primitive joy of running water until the servants’ stairs became
like unto a second Falls of Montmorency, and Wilson, the second footman,
had to wriggle in over the transom to shut off the taps and save the
house from inundation.

On the heels of this she was reported as having bitten the dentist’s
fingers when he unexpectedly touched a nerve. She further embarrassed
the family and the tranquillity of Tuxedo Park by prying open an express
crate and liberating two Russian wolf-hounds awaiting delivery on one
end of the neat little depot platform. She claimed, it is true, that the
dogs had stood there for a whole day, and wanted to get out, and were
starving to death—but that was not a potent factor when it came to
final adjustment of damages.

She hated the thought of captivity, of course, just as she hated
inertia, for two years earlier she had appropriated a niblick for the
purpose of demolishing a new French doll, protesting, after the
demolition, that she would be satisfied with nothing if she couldn’t
carry about something “with real livings in it.” Her preoccupied
parents, after the manner of their kind, maintained that she had a blind
spot in her moral nature and talked vaguely but hopefully of what school
would do to her when the time came.

She was, in fact, emerging into her tumultuous teens before she could be
persuaded that waxed parquetry was not made for the purpose of sliding
on and that a tea-wagon was not the correct thing to cascade down the
terrace on. And when the golden key of the printed word might have
opened a newer and wider world to her she was allotted a series of
exceedingly namby-pamby “uplift” books (kindly suggested by the Bishop
one day after he’d had a glance over the Ketley orchids in the
greenhouse). These, however, she quietly consigned to the garage
water-tank, and having entered into secret negotiations with Muggsie,
the head chauffeur’s stepson, she bartered a wrist-watch with a broken
hair-spring, a silver-studded dog-collar, and two Tournament racquets
for a dog-eared copy of _The Hidden Hand_ and a much-thumbed copy of
_The Toilers of the_ _Sea_ with the last seven chapters missing. Then,
urged on by that undecipherable ache for freedom, she padded a crotch in
the upper regions of the biggest copper-beech on the East Drive, padded
it with two plump sofa-pillows, and there ensconcing herself, let her
spirit expand in direct ratio to the accruing cramp in her spindly young
legs. But copper-beeches are not over-comfortable places to read in, and
Teddie developed a settled limp which prompted her mother to shake her
head and reiterate a conviction that the child should be looked over by
an orthopedic specialist.

With Teddie the movies were still strictly taboo, but having secretly
visited the Hippodrome with her Uncle Chandler, she became the victim of
a brief but burning passion to go on the stage, preferably in tank-work,
whereby she might startle the world through the grace of her aquatic
feats. When she proceeded to perfect herself in this calling, however,
by practising diving in the deeper end of the Lily Pond, she was given
castor-oil and sent to bed to obviate a perhaps fatal cold which gave no
slightest signs of putting in an appearance.

Her spirit was scotched, but not killed, for when, duly chaperoned, she
was permitted to visit the Garden and see Barnum & Bailey’s in all its
glory, she decided to run away with the circus and wear spangled tights
and do trapeze-work under the Big Top. She even escaped from official
guardianship long enough to offer a burly elephant-feeder two
thoroughbred Shetland ponies and what was left of her spending-money for
the privilege of being smuggled away in one of the band-wagons. The
burly feeder took pains to explain that their next move was into winter
quarters at Providence, but gravely assured the rapt-eyed girl that he’d
fix the thing up for her, once they went out under canvas again in the
spring. So for months poor deluded Teddie secretly and sedulously
practised chinning the bar and skin-the-cat and the muscle-grind,
together with divers other aerial contortions, only to learn, when the
crocuses bloomed again, that elephant-feeders weren’t persons one could
always depend upon.

About this time the era of indigestion and temperament came along, the
era when Teddie began to betray an abnormal interest in what might
repose on the _buffet_, and queen-olives fought with chocolate éclairs,
and pickled walnuts combined with _biscuit Tortoni_ to dispute the
ventral supremacy of broiled mushrooms. It was the era when capon-wings
and melon mangoes were apt to be found wrapped up in embroidered towels
with insets of Venetian lace, and tucked in under the edges of the
oppressively big colonial mahogany bed with the pineapple posts, and
bonbon-boxes obtruded from the corners of a much becushioned _bergère_,
and salted almonds mysteriously transferred themselves from below stairs
to the lacquered jewel-box in a lilac-tinted boudoir. This occurred
about the time that her mother so zealously took up the study of
genealogy and had an entirely new crest made for the family stationery
and even neglected her club work and her charity organizations to trace
out the little-known intermarriages in the house of the Romanoffs. And
it was about the same time that her dreamy-eyed father, who had been
born to more millions than he cared to count, “gave up dining out to
count electrons,” as Uncle Chandler expressed it. For Teddie’s father
was an amateur mathematician and scientist who had made two highly
important discoveries in light-deflection, highly important in only an
abstract and theoretical way, as he was at pains to point out, since
like the Einstein Theory they could never by any manner or means affect
any object or any person on this terrestrial globe. It was sufficient,
however, to convert him into what Uncle Chandler denominated as “an
eclipse-hound,” which meant that he and his complicated photographic
paraphernalia went dreamily and repeatedly off to Arizona or upper
Brazil or Egypt or the Island of Principe.

And this brought about the divorce in the Hayden family, the old Major
sturdily maintained, not an out-and-out Supreme Court one, but an astral
one, with a twelve-inch telescope as a co-respondent. However that might
have been, it left Trumbull Hayden a very faint and ghostly figure to
his daughter Theodora Lydia Lorillard, who had her own natural and
inherited love for solitude, but could never be alone, just as she could
never be free. For always, when she moved about, she did so with a maid
or a governess or a groom at her heels. And to add to her misery and her
despair of final emancipation, the régime of the governess and the tutor
and the dancing-master crept stealthily upon her. It was her second
tutor, an Oxford importation with a hot-potato accent and a pale but
penetrating eye, whom Teddie adroitly tied up in one of the big library
_fauteuils_ and refused to liberate until he had duly recounted the
entire story of The Pit and the Pendulum, with The Fall of the House of
Usher put in for good measure. And two days later, during tea on the
terrace, she put smelling-salts in his cup, the same being not only
punishment for an unfavorable conduct-report, but a timely intimation
that tittle-tattlers would have short shrift with her.

Then came other tutors and teachers and governesses, each determined in
character and each departing in time with a secret consolation check
from Uncle Chandler and the conviction that Miss Theodora was anything
but the gift of God. And then came boarding-school, boarding-school from
which so much was surreptitiously expected. But from this first
boarding-school, which had castellated eaves and overlooked the Hudson,
Teddie was brought back by her Uncle Chandler in disgrace and a
peacock-blue landaulet. A year later the attempt was renewed, it is
true, this time in a Quaker establishment with a Welsh name and an
imitation Norman arch over its main entrance. But this school, besides
being ultra-fashionable in name was also ultra-frugal in all matters of
_menu_, and Teddie proved so successful in playing cutthroat poker for
“desserts” that seventeen extraneous sweets in one week did not and
could not escape the attention of the quiet-eyed maiden-ladies in
attendance. So this, added to the gumming up of one of the grand-pianos
in the practise-room with five pounds of prohibited chocolate-creams,
led to an interview with the lady-principal herself. And even that
interview might not have been a valedictory one had Teddie not been
detected perusing a copy of Daudet’s _Jack_ during an ancient-history
“period,” a Daudet’s _Jack_ from which was unearthed an excellent
caricature of the lady-principal herself. So Teddie awoke still again to
the discovery that her dream of personal freedom was merely an _ignis
fatuus_, and she journeyed homeward, a melancholy loss to the
basket-ball team and an even more melancholy accession to the paternal
acres at Tuxedo.

Nor was the spirit of the home circle very greatly brightened when
Teddie attended her first holiday party in the white and gold ballroom
of the St. Regis, where she danced very badly with very dignified young
partners in Eton jackets. There she not only stumbled on to the
bewildering consciousness that there was something vaguely but
ineradicably different in boys and girls, but publicly punched one of
the older youths in the eye for holding her in a manner which she
regarded as objectionable. And later in the same evening, when the still
older brother of the thumped one sought to make family amends by the
seeming honesty of his apologies, and Teddie relentingly agreed to let
bygones be bygones, and they shook hands over it, man to man, as it
were, and while Teddie stood studying a hawthorn rose-jar on one of the
tulip-wood consoles, that same persistent youth, seeking to translate a
moment of impersonal softening into a movement of personal
appropriation, cheerfully and clumsily tried to kiss her. Whereupon, let
it be duly noted, Theodora Lydia first enunciated her significant, her
perplexed, and her slightly exasperated query: “Are all boys like that?”

Yet by the time the governess-cart had been stowed away and Teddie had
learned there was little use being a millionaire’s daughter, after all,
since the third pound of Maillards never did taste as sweet as the
first, her butternut-brown showed a tendency to fade into magnolia-pink
with a background of gardenia-white, and certain earlier boy-like
straightnesses of line took unto themselves mysterious contours, and the
runway of freckles that spanned the bridge of her adorable little nose
faded like a Milky Way in the morning sky.

And that meant still another era, the era of solemnly visited shops in
the City, and muffled and many-mirrored _salons_ where she was pinned up
and snipped at and pressed down, and sleepy afternoon concerts that
smelled of violets and warm furs and over-breathed air, and a carefully
selected matinée or two, and even revived lessons in dancing, which,
oddly enough, the resilient-spirited Teddie never greatly took to. And
then came equally sedate and carefully timed migrations to Lakewood and
Aiken and Florida, though Teddie openly acknowledged her dislike to
traveling with a retinue and seventeen pieces of baggage, to say nothing
of the genealogical books and the case of certified milk.

But there were quite a number of inexplicable wrinkles in Teddie’s
mental make-up. Although to the manner born, she entertained a fixed
indifference toward animals and a disturbingly _bourgeois_ admiration
for machinery. Horses bit at you as you passed them, and dogs were
rather smelly, and Guernsey cows put their heads down and tried to horn
you if you went near them in scarlet sports-clothes. But a machine was a
machine, and did only and always what it was ordained to do. If you took
the trouble to understand it and treat it right, it remained your meek
and faithful servant. Restoring the viscera of disemboweled
traveling-clocks, in fact, gave Teddie many repeated lessons in
patience, and one of her pleasantest rainy-day occupations was to
dissect and then reassemble one of her father’s larger and more
expensive lucernal microscopes.

And this tends to explain why Teddie, even before her toes could quite
reach the pedals, was able to run the Haydens’ big royal-blue limousine.
On one glorious occasion, indeed, and quite unknown to her deluded
family, she _chauffed_ in secret all the morning of Election Day,
_chauffed_ for the Democratic party, with strange banners encircling
that dignified vehicle and even stranger figures reposing therein, to
say nothing of a tin box of champagne-wafers and a brocaded carton of
candied fruit on the driving-seat beside her.

But her Uncle Chandler, who was a staunch Republican, beheld that
alliance with the treacherous enemy and rescued the royal-blue limousine
from ignominy while Teddie was regaling herself on three ice-cream sodas
in a corner drug store. Being less expert at such things than he
imagined, however, Uncle Chandler steered the big car into a box-pillar,
and broke the lamps, and dolorously entered into a compact with his
niece to the end that the doings of the day in question might remain a
sealed book to the rest of the family. For Uncle Chandler resolutely
maintained, when Teddie was not in hearing, that the girl was a brick
and a bit of a wonder, and that he hoped to heaven life wouldn’t tame
her down to a chow-chow in permanent-wave and petticoats.

“The fact is,” he was in the habit of saying to Lydia Hayden, “I can’t
possibly conceive how two every-day old oysters like you and Trummie
ever came into possession of a high-stepper like Theodora”—though,
mercifully, he never imparted this bit of information to Teddie herself.
For Teddie was quite hard enough to live with, even as things were. She
rather hated the town house on the Avenue, which she openly called a
mausoleum and agreed with her absent father that the one redeeming
feature about brownstone fronts was the fact that the brownstone itself
could never survive more than a century. She was, as her mother
sorrowfully and repeatedly acknowledged, without a sense of the past,
for she mocked at that town house’s crystal chandeliers and its white
marble mantels and the faded splendor of its antique gold-and-ivory
furniture, which looked as though it had come out of the Ark and made
you think of Queen Victoria with a backache. When the spreading tides of
commerce crept to and even encircled their staid party-walls and a
velour-draped art-emporium opened up beside them, Teddie protested that
she wasn’t greatly taken with the idea of living next to a paint shop.
For it was about this time that she first threatened to become a trained
nurse or a Deaconess if she had to have balsam-salts in her bath and a
maid to chaperon the faucet-flow and poke her feet into rabbit-skin
bags. She still hungered for freedom, and complained to her Uncle
Chandler about “having to punch a time-clock,” as she put it, and more
than once had been found enlarging on the Edwardian nature of her
environment.

“Poor mother, you know, hasn’t a thought later than 1899,” this apostle
of the New had quite pensively averred.

“There were some very respectable thoughts in 1899, as I remember them,”
her Uncle Chandler had promptly responded, vaguely aware of little black
clouds on the sky-line.

“Yes, that’s what’s the matter with them,” acknowledged Teddie. “They
were too respectable. They were smug. And I despise smugness.”

The wrinkled-eyed old dandy contemplated her with a ruminative and
abstracted stare.

“You’re right, Teddikins,” he finally agreed. “We all get smug as we get
older. That’s what that chap—er—that chap called Wordsworth tried to
tell us once. Life, my dear, is a waffle-iron that shuts down on us and
squeezes us into nice little squares like all the other waffles in the
world. It will come and take even the immortal You-ness out of you. It
tames you, Teddie, and trims you down, and turns you out an altogether
acceptable but an altogether commonplace member of society. It converts
you from a gooey savage into a genteel and straight-edged type. So if
you can’t quite jibe with the mater, don’t take it all too tragically.
There’ll be a time when Little Teddie Number Two will feel exactly the
same about you, and——”

“You’ll never see me idiotic enough to get married,” interrupted Teddie.

“Well, there’s lots of time to think about that. But in the meantime, my
dear, don’t break the Fifth Commandment, even though you have to bend it
a little. And on the way out I’m going to remind Lydia about that
roadster I’ve been telling her you ought to have. It’s wonderful what a
lot of steam you can let off in a roadster of your own!”

Teddie, in time, came into possession of her roadster, a small
wine-colored racer upholstered in dove-gray and neatly disguised as a
shopping-car. And it seemed, during the first few weeks of its
ownership, that the wings of personal freedom had finally been bestowed
upon the recalcitrant Teddie, who went hillward in her roadster with
claret and caviar sandwiches packed under its seat and went cityward
with fat and disorderly little rolls of bank-notes tucked under its
cushion-ends. She loved that car, for a fortnight at least, with a
devotion that was wonderful to behold, and talked to it fraternally as
her narrow-toed brogan spurred it into slipping past dust-trailing
joy-riders on the back roads, and wept openly when it blew a tire and
buckled a radius-rod in the ditch, patting its side sympathetically and
saying soothing little words to it as though it were an animal.

But time, alas, proved to Teddie that her _Château en Espagne_ was not
to be reached on rubber tires. For a car, after all, is only a
merry-go-round with an elastic orbit, a humdrum old merry-go-round that
isn’t so merry as it seems, since it must always cover the same old
roads and the same old rounds and remain hampered and held in by the
same old urban and suburban regulations. Teddie, it is true, soon found
herself on nodding terms with the Park “canaries” and the traffic cops,
and was able to weed out the ones who’d give her the wink when she
forgot about the one-way streets and the parking signs and the
speed-laws in general. Yet three times in one season she shocked Tuxedo
Park by appearing in court and being twice fined for road violations and
once publicly lectured for imperiling the peace and safety of the
commonwealth.

So even with the machinery which she loved she began to see that she was
still restricted and hampered and circumscribed and imprisoned. And the
poor little rich girl who should have been quite happy, remained quite
normally and satisfactorily and luxuriously miserable.


                              CHAPTER TWO

The Friday Junior Cotillions for the “Not-Outs,” in those older days
when the Banquet-Room at Sherry’s was still a beehive of youth and
beauty, had no particular appeal to a girl who preferred spanners and
monkey-wrenches to dance-favors. And even the charity-façaded carnivals
of the Junior League, which couldn’t be open to her before she “had gone
down the skids” (as Teddie flippantly phrased her long-discussed
_début_), stood without that glamour which consecrated them to the
humbler-born social climber. For the Tuxedo and Meadow Brook colonies,
Teddie had always mistily understood, were the salt of the earth and the
elect of the Social Register. Many a time, indeed, with amused and
indifferent eyes she had witnessed the gentle art of freezing-out
exercised at even so romping a thing as the Toboggan Slide, and many a
time, warm in her own security, she had beheld the tennis and squash
courts translated into frigidities which left Dante’s Seventh Inferno
sultry in comparison. Yet she heard diatribes on the new-rich with a
rather disdainful indifference, for not a few of these Want-to-Be’s
seems much handsomer to the eye than most of the Have-Beens, to say
nothing of being brighter and brisker. Teddie, in fact, nursed a secret
disdain for the hereditary millionaire, since it was the dullness of the
brood, she maintained, which was embittering her blighted young life.
For Teddie still chafed against the bars of her gilded cage and nursed
the pardonably human illusion that the thing you can’t quite get is the
thing you must have.

Now, most girls of Teddie’s set and inclination escape from their
adolescent boredom by excursion into amorous adventure. But Teddie felt
that she had exhausted love very early in life. For at the tender age of
nine she had fallen in love with the Park policeman who’d so easily
gathered her up in his arm after a fall on the Bridle Path just under
the Seventy-Second Street bridge, where the deep shadow of the arch gave
too abrupt a change from sunlight to gloom and caused her horse to
swerve, buck, and then bolt riderless as far as the Sheep-fold. But it
was Officer McGlinchy who picked up Teddie, with what he described as “a
foine bump on the bean,” little dreaming that through his purely
official and impersonal ministrations he was bruising Teddie’s heart
almost as badly as the Bridle Path had bruised her head. Teddie’s
passion remained a secret one, it is true, but the promised vision of
the statuesque Patrick McGlinchy gave a new interest to her morning
canter along the Bridle Path and a richer coloring to the sward and
rocks of Central Park. It was not until she was on the eve of forlornly
engineering still another fall in the neighborhood of that over-taciturn
officer that Teddie learned McGlinchy was sedately married and the
father of seven little McGlinchys down in the Ninth Ward.

Then she fell in love with Biquet, the second chauffeur, who had been a
flying-man and had a slashing wound of honor across his well-tanned
young cheek-bone. But her feeling for Biquet proved an odd confusion of
issues, for she found that she liked him only when he permitted her to
assist in eviscerating one of the car-engines or let her help overhaul
and assemble the landaulet’s differential, with her ready little paws
covered with oil and axle-grease and her white corduroy frock as black
as a sweep’s. But she realized, on witnessing Biquet kissing the
pantry-maid, one night when blockade-running for certain residuary
oyster _pâtés_, that it was not really Biquet she loved, but the
machinery over which he presided.

There was a time, too, during this period of potential romantic
alliances, when she might possibly have entertained some tenderer
feeling for Gerry Rhindelander West, her next-door neighbor whose
grilled iron gateway in the midst of its manorial stone wall was quite
as munificent as her own. But Gerry disappointed her. He primarily
disappointed her by meanly resorting to the habit of addressing her as
“Nero” (the soubriquet of a Great Dane of uncertain temper owned by her
mother) after Teddie had bit him on the wrist when forcibly held down in
a bitter struggle to recover from her possession a domesticated and
one-eyed Russian rat which had been, indiscreet enough to invade the
Hayden estate. And he finally disappointed her by abandoning his fixed
intention of becoming an engine-driver and deciding to waste a once
promising young life on due preparation for the study of law. Gerry, it
is true, later on attempted to revive this blighted romance by
bombarding her with purple-tinted boxes of English violets done up in
glazed paper and surmounted by small and neatly addressed white
envelopes, and sometimes with striped boxes so big they looked like
baby-coffins, except for the thorny stalks which protruded from one
cut-away end, until the matter-of-fact Teddie reminded him that he was
wasting a tremendous amount of money, as her mother’s head-gardener grew
those things in abundance. So before retiring into his professional
shell Gerry was at pains to point out, in a somewhat stilted little
note, that he had quite overlooked the etymology of “Tuxedo,” which he
found to be an Algonquin word derived from “Tuxcito,” which in the
original language meant “the meeting place of bears”—with the “bears”
heavily underlined.

But the fact that Gerry essayed little more than a stiff bow as he
passed by did not greatly trouble Teddie, for about this time she fell
secretly in love with an Episcopalian curate of delicate health and
indescribably melancholy eyes, a young man with a face like a Shelley
and an audible and asthmatic manner of breathing. And at the same time
that he sobered Teddie down a great deal his health improved perceptibly
under Teddie’s arduous campaign of forced feeding. She even extended
those ventral activities to the despatching of marrons and _bar de luc_
to hospital wards, and spoke of giving up her life to prison reform, and
argued on the beauties of the monastic life, and for a time considered
taking the veil. But the Shelley with the melancholy eyes unfortunately
developed a cough and for the sake of his health was transferred to a
curacy in southern California. This deportation gave every promise of
fanning the flame which it should have tempered, translating the exile
into a figure ideally romantic—until Teddie learned that on his western
migration he had inconsiderately married a certain ex-contralto of the
First Presbyterian Church who had graduated into the Chautauqua Circuit.

Teddie thereupon threw herself into golf and spent whole days on the
Tuxedo links, and the gardenia-white once more darkened down to the
beechnut brown. She became as hard as nails, both in body and spirit,
and did her best to forget to remember her asthmatic young curate’s pet
story of the Bishop who said “Assouan” every time he fuzzled the turf,
because Assouan, of course, was acknowledged to be the biggest “dam” in
the world.

But the time came when Teddie was tired of golf, just as tired of making
the rounds of her eighteen holes as she was of making the rounds of the
circular ballroom of the Tuxedo Club with fox-trotting youngsters and
sedately waltzing oldsters. She was tired of dinners at Table Rock, and
tired of seeing the “No-One-Admitted-Without-Permit” signs, and tired of
the Meadow Brook steeplechase, and tired of the stately and stupid
dinners in town. She was tired of life and tired of even herself. But
most of all she was tired of that complicated machinery of existence in
which she found herself so inextricably enmeshed. She still dreamed of
liberating herself from that ponderously engineered intricacy of
protectional pulleys and powers. But even while she felt that she was
encaged, encaged as a pulsing hair-spring is encaged in a watch-case of
smothering gold, she scarcely knew which way to look for escape. She
caught a momentary breath or two of freedom, it is true, by boldly
introducing motor-polo within the “No-Admittance-Without-Permit”
precincts, a brand of sublimated polo played with a football from a
runabout with a stripped _chassis_. But the gardeners and the board of
governors united in objecting to the havoc wrought to the Club turf, and
Monty Tilford broke an arm in one of the collisions, so a ban was put on
what might have proved a belated safety-valve for Teddie’s spiritual
steam-chest.

Still later, however, when her mother was undergoing hydropathic
revision in Virginia, she made one last and listless effort to escape by
taking up flying. This she did _sub rosa_ and under an assumed name, and
might have medicined her mysterious ailment with tail-spins and
altitude-tests, but she suffered inordinately from nose-bleed and was
unfortunately snapshotted for one of the Sunday papers the same week
that she taxied into a signboard—which demanded appallingly expensive
repairs to the machine and involved a cracked patella and a month or two
with a crick in her knee, though it was a rather ridiculous
three-hundred-word telegram from Virginia which really dissuaded the
hangar authorities from continuing the services of their ruthlawing
young novitiate.

And it was then that Teddie tipped over the apple-cart. It was then that
she broke jail, and bolted, and took her life in her own hands.

She took her life in her own hands, as even humbler prisoners of
circumstance had done before her, by allying herself with Art. She
abjured the parental roof, leased a studio in the well-policed
wilderness of Greenwich Village, and announced that she intended to
express herself through the pure and impersonal medium of dry-point or
modeling-clay. She wasn’t quite sure which it was to be, but that was a
matter of secondary importance. She panted for freedom and she didn’t
stop to worry over what particular hand was to bring about her
liberation. She installed the wine-colored roadster in a down-town
garage (to be taken out rarely and rather shamefacedly), and bought a
Latin-Quarter paint-smock and bobbed her hair and learned how to make
her own coffee and manipulate a kitchenette gas-range without smothering
herself.

And her old Uncle Chandler, on becoming duly acquainted with this state
of affairs, assented to everything but the bobbing of the hair, which he
regarded as much too lovely hair to be snipped off anybody’s head. He
even put the seal of his approval on her insurrection by sending down to
her a hamper of potted truffles and brandied peaches.

Yet he stood aghast, the next day, when these were duly returned to him.
That reversal of form, in fact, so disturbed him that he couldn’t get
Teddie out of his mind, for a Teddie without an appetite was a Teddie
who was no longer her old self. And the more he thought about it the
more he realized that it was his plain and bounden duty to go down to
Greenwich Village and investigate.

“The fact of the matter is,” he confidentially acknowledged to old
Commodore Stillman before the hickory-logs of the Nasturtium Club, “that
girl’s a demmed sight too good-looking to be left lying around loose!”

“Oh, the kid’ll take care of herself all right,” ventured the Commodore,
with rather vivid memories of a freckled young Artemis making a
polo-pony jump the tennis nets out at the Park. “And the learning how
will help her. It will help her considerable!”


                             CHAPTER THREE

The old Major, a little out of breath from the stairs, was glad of the
chance to sit down and recover himself. He was also glad that he had
found the roughly scrawled “Back at Two” sign on the door and the studio
still empty, for when Teddie was about there was always small chance of
studying anything beyond Teddie herself.

So, having returned to a normal manner of respiration, he proceeded to a
quiet but none the less critical examination of the premises. He was
disturbed, on the whole, by the baldness of the dingy-walled old studio
with its broken and paint-spattered floor and its big north window
entirely out of alignment. There was a long cherrywood table pretty well
littered with brushes and paint-tubes and boxes of pastels and a wooden
manikin and various disjointed portions of the human figure reproduced
in plaster-of-paris. And there was an easel, and an armchair draped in
faded brown velvet, and a number of hammered brass things, and a
castered model-platform, and a bedraggled blue canvas blouse over a
chair-back, and many drawings of very lean ladies and very muscular
young gentlemen thumb-tacked to the walls. And behind the studio, to the
right, was a much more orderly kitchenette, and, to the left, a rather
nun-like little sleeping-alcove with a couch-bed about as wide as a
tombstone.

Uncle Chandler sighed with relief, for he had resolutely keyed himself
up to expect what he’d called “a goulash of the Oriental stuff,” with
ruby lanterns and draped divans and punk-sticks in jade bowls. But Uncle
Chandler found himself in what looked more like a workshop than a
palm-reader’s parlor, and the frown of trouble lightened a little on his
wrinkled old forehead. He even took up an oblong of draughting-board and
was studying a pea-green omnibus going under a _café-au-lait_ Washington
Arch which veered a trifle to the right when the door opened and Teddie
herself came in with a big pigskin portfolio under her arm.

“Hello there, Teddie,” he said guardedly, as he watched her unspear a
turban-thing of twisted velvet from her bobbed hair.

“Hello, Uncle Chandler,” she rather indifferently responded as she put
the pigskin portfolio on the cherrywood table. “How’s the _haute monde_
and your sciatica?”

“How’s _l’art pour l’art_?” almost tartly responded her uncle, noting,
however, with undivulged satisfaction the clear crispness of her
movements and that she was thinner than usual, with an adorable little
Lina-Cavaliera hollow in the center of the cheek where the
butternut-brown had once more blanched into a magnolia-white.

Teddie laughed, without deigning an answer.

“How about some tea?” she said instead. And without waiting for his
reply she lifted out a battered old samovar and pushed the cigarettes
toward his end of the table as she proceeded, somewhat more deftly than
her visitor had anticipated, with the business in hand.

“About those peaches and truffles, Uncle Chandler,” she said as she
stooped to adjust the flickering blue flame. “I sent them back because
I’m out of the flapper class now. It was kind of you, of course. But I’m
no longer a schoolgirl. I’ve cut out that boarding-school stuff. I
intend to be something more than a Strasbourg goose, and if I’m
suffering from any sort of hunger, it’s more a hunger of the soul than
of the body.”

This was a new note from Teddie, and not unlike most newnesses, it came
with a slight sense of shock.

“My dear girl, I was only trying to get even with you for that—that
delightful little water-color of the Palisades above Fort Lee. It was
clever, my dear, and I always did like our Hudson River scenery.”

Teddie stood up straight. She stood inspecting him with a cold and
slightly combative eye.

“That was the Flatiron Building in a snow-storm,” she somewhat frigidly
explained.

“Ah!” said the astute old Major, settling into the brown velvet
armchair. “That’s what I said, all along. That’s precisely what I told
Higginson. And Higginson, who is always a bit bullheaded, y’ understand,
insisted that it was Palisades, saying he’d lived on ’em all his life
and ought to know. But I didn’t come here to talk about Higginson. I
came here to find out how you’re getting along.”

This was a question which Teddie found necessary to sit back and
consider carefully.

“You see, Uncle Chandler, I’ve so much to unlearn! You can’t keep a girl
under glass most of her life and then expect her to horn in where the
dairy-lunchers learned the game in their infancy.”

The Major winced a little. Here was still another newness to disturb
him, a newness not so much of phraseology as of outlook.

“This is a new life,” Teddie gravely continued, “and I’ve got to get in
step with it or get walked over. There are people down here who have the
gift of making poverty romantic, people who can turn an empty pocketbook
into a sort of adventure. They can eat onion soup and _spaghetti au
gratin_ and wash cold-storage capon down with that _eau-de-quinine_
stuff they drink and be happy on it because they know they are free,
free to express themselves as they want to express themselves, free to
work and live and think, and come and go as they like. And that’s
wonderful, Uncle Chandler, when you come to think of it.”

Uncle Chandler sat thinking this over, with no ponderable amount of
enthusiasm on his face.

“And just how do you intend expressing yourself?” he asked as the
samovar began to bubble.

“I think it will be in color,” said Teddie with the utmost solemnity. “I
began with modeling, but it was rather messy, and I didn’t make much
headway. I’m beginning to feel that pastel or dry-point is more my
_penchant_. Raoul Uhlan is giving me three lessons a week.”

“That big stiff!” ejaculated the philistine old Major.

“He’s one of the cleverest painters in New York,” Teddie calmly
explained.

“And a professional tame-robin who gets portrait commissions, I
understand, because he can dance like a stage acrobat!”

“I know nothing about his dancing,” remarked Teddie, with her eyebrows
up. “But I _do_ know it’s sinful the way the children of our idle rich
are kept cooped up and shut away from real life. They’re hemmed in with
a lot of silly old taboos. They’re laced up in a straight-jacket of
social laws until they’re too flabby to face a personal dilemma that an
East Side shop-girl could decide before she’d finished powdering her
nose.”

Uncle Chandler took up his teacup and then put it down again.

“I rather fail to see what the personal predicaments of shop-girls have
got to do with the matter,” he said with some acerbity. “You’re a
Hayden, the third wealthiest woman in Orange County, and a girl who’s
had every comfort that money and machinery can give her. Yet you leave a
home that cost about two-thirds of a million—without counting those
cross-eyed marble lions your mother brought over from Florence for the
Sunken Gardens!—and come down here into this moth-eaten backyard of the
Eighth Ward and live on macaroni and red ink and dream that raw life is
being dished up to you on the half-shell. You talk about liberty and
expressing yourself, and all you’re doing is slumming, just slumming!”

Teddie smiled. It was a languid smile and a superior one.

“Uncle Chandler,” she remarked, “you really don’t know what you’re
talking about. In the first place, I’ve decided that in one day you can
see more life, real life, out of that crooked old window there than you
could discern in Tuxedo Park in a century.” She ushered him toward the
casement in question. “Look at that Italian woman with the bundle of
clothes on her head. And those kids crowding about the hokey-pokey man.
And that gray-headed old candy-seller with the feather-duster in his
hand. And that white hearse with the white angel kneeling on the top and
that line of bareheaded Dago mourners marching along just as you’d see
them in Naples or Ancona. And look at that wagon-load of crated geese
that have just come from the Gansevoort Market, with their necks craned
out between the slats. Why, those poor things are fighting for liberty
just about the same as I’ve been fighting for it!”

“And about as effectively,” remarked Uncle Chandler.

“Well, whose funeral is it, anyway?” demanded Teddie, with her first
touch of impatience. “This happens to be my show, and I happen to be
running it in my own way. I know what’s ahead of me, and I’m going
straight for it.”

Teddie’s uncle was able to smile at the uncompromising ardor of youth.
But there was a touch of impatience in his movements as he crossed over
to what he hoped might prove a more comfortable chair. He had no
intention of letting a snip of a girl Cook’s-guide him about his own
city, the city he’d lived in for some sixty-odd years. And he wasn’t
such a stranger to Greenwich Village as she imagined, for through the
mists of time he could still remember Ned Harrigan and Perry Street, and
Sim Sharp and certain Tough Club chowders of the olden and golden days.

“So you’re going straight, are you?” he snapped out, with only the light
in his kindly old eyes to contradict the bruskness of his speech. “Well,
all I have to say is that you’re a wonder if you can go straight in a
district like this. Good gad, ma’am, even the streets don’t go straight
down here. They’re as deluded as the benzine-daubers who tramp them. And
it may be none of my business, but I’ve an itch to know what’s going to
happen to a high-spirited girl who’s veering dead south when she dreams
she’s heading due west.”

“And that means,” suggested Teddie, “that you propose to hang around to
see what’s going to happen?”

“On the contrary, young lady, I’m going down to Hot Springs to-morrow
morning to get some of the acid steamed out of my knee-joints. You’re
old enough to do as you like. I’ve always admitted that. And I’ve talked
to Trummie about it, before he got away. I’ve talked to your dad. And he
remarked that it wasn’t a matter of such tremendous importance, after
all, since he has just figured out that the planet on which we at
present subsist will be completely obliterated in some six million
years. And he seems to be more interested in Betelgeuse, at the moment,
than he is in Greenwich Village. But I repeat that you’ve come into a
crooked part of this old Island for any straight-cuts to freedom. You’ll
do just what the streets do down here: you’ll get all twisted up. Just
look at ’em! Look at ’em, I say. You’ve got Tenth Street doubling round
and running into Fourth Street, and Waverley Place going in four
directions at once—the same as the folks who live in it! They don’t
know where they’re at, none of ’em. And even the upper side of your
Square here is not only Washington Square North, but also Sixth Street,
and at the same time also Waverley Place again. And the east side of
your same old Square is University Place down as far as Fourth Street,
and then without rhyme or reason it calls itself Wooster Street. And
your south side is really Fourth Street, but on Fourth Street proper the
numbers increase from east to west, but on what is really the same
street called Washington Square South your numbers increase from west to
east. And your Square isn’t even a square, but a rectangle. And if you
can straighten all that out in your beautiful little bean you know your
old New York a trifle better than I do—and that, I acknowledge, would
be going some.”

“But I’m not interested in the streets and the mail-directory numbers,”
Teddie patiently explained. “What I’ve been talking about is the spirit
of the place, its aura.”

“Yes, I got a sniff of it as I came through that Italian settlement,”
acknowledged Uncle Chandler. “And it was quite a penetrating aura.”

“But you’re only croaking out of a swamp of prejudices,” contended
Teddie. “You don’t understand our ways of living or looking at life. You
try to gauge Greenwich Village, which was once good enough for Poe and
Masefield, by Fifth Avenue standards, and you get your numbers mixed.”
She looked up at him with a more commiserative light in her earnest
young eyes. “But if you want to see us as we are, why not take chow with
me at the Blue Pigeon to-night?”

“Not muchee!” averred Uncle Chandler, with great alacrity. “I’ve
altogether too much respect for my Fifth-Avenuey Little Mary. I’ve seen
’em before, those futuristic smoke-boxes with a tinned sardine rolled up
in a pimento-skin and _Mimis_ from Waterbury and up-State Villons who
muss their hair and get mixed up on the garlic and free-verse. So, much
as I love you, Teddie, I’ll toddle along to my benighted old Nasturtium
Club and deaden my soul on Green Turtle clear and Terrapin, Philadelphia
style, and breast of Chicken _Fincise_ with sweet potatoes Dixie, and
new peas _Saute_, and an ice and coffee to end up with.”

Teddie tried to look indifferent. But it took a struggle. For her Uncle
Chandler had rather disdainfully picked up an oblong of cardboard and
sat inspecting it with a none too approving eye.

What he inspected was a crayon sketch of an extremely muscular right arm
and shoulder, a right arm and shoulder which at least demanded some
qualified respect. But his grizzled old eyebrows were closer together as
he looked up at Teddie again.

“Did you say you drew from models?” he casually inquired.

“Of course,” acknowledged Teddie, pausing long enough to answer her
telephone and explain that she and not the landlord had ordered the new
glass for the skylight.

“You don’t mean to say you have men come up here and—and expose their
muscles for this sort of thing?” demanded Uncle Chandler, with a gesture
toward the ample biceps in crayon.

Teddie laughed.

“Oh, no, that wasn’t a professional model. That’s the arm of Gunboat
Dorgan, the prize-fighter. I sketched that the other afternoon when he
was up here with Ruby Reamer, one of my regular models. He’s Ruby’s
steady, as she calls it. She’s very proud of him, and had him showing me
some of his stunts. So I thought it would be a good chance to get a
study of an arm like that. And Gunnie—that’s what Ruby calls him—isn’t
a bit like what I thought a prize-fighter would be. He’s rather a
bright-minded boy, and a little shy, and if he wins the lightweight bout
from Slim Britton, the English boxer, he’s going to marry Ruby and take
a flat down on Second Avenue.”

“But you say he’s a fighter, a ring-fighter?”

“Yes, that’s how he makes his living. He’s quite serious about it all,
and trains hard, and plans about working his way up, just as a man in
any other profession would.”

Uncle Chandler sat thinking this over. He would have done considerably
more thinking if he’d been in possession of the information that his
niece had already allowed this same prize-fighter to pilot her and Ruby
and the wine-colored roadster out to a sea-food dinner at a Sound
road-house. But even as it was, Uncle Chandler seemed sufficiently
upset.

“Say, Teddikins,” he somewhat grimly remarked out of the silence that
had fallen over the darkening studio, “what d’you suppose your mother
would think about all this?”

“I’m not in the least interested in what mother thinks about it,” was
Teddie’s altogether irresponsible and wilful rejoinder.

The old Major, who had already risen to go, turned this speech over,
turned it over with great deliberation. Then he sat down again.

“It’s not so much Lydia, my dear,” he said. “It’s what poor old Lydia
embodies, the organized entrenchments that surround young girls, the
machinery of service that may shut you in, but at the same time does
things for you and gives you something to fall back on when the pinch
comes!”

“But I don’t understand what you mean by the pinch,” Teddie told him,
straightening the gardenia that stood so stiff and straight in his
coat-lapel. For she liked her Uncle Chandler, and she liked him a lot.
And she was a little disturbed by the look of anxiety that had come into
his worldly-wise old face.

He stared at her for a moment, shrugged his shoulders, and took up his
hat and stick.

“You’re all right, Teddie,” he announced with decision as he solemnly
kissed her on the cheek-bone. “But—but I wish somebody was looking
after you when I’m down there being boiled out.”

This made Teddie laugh. She not only laughed, but she extended her arms,
like a traffic-officer stopping a jay-driver, or a young eagle trying
its wings.

“But I don’t need any one to look after me, thank heaven! _I’m free!_”

The old Major stopped at the door.

“And you feel that you can manage it all right? That you can——”

For reasons entirely his own he did not finish the sentence.

“I _am_ managing it,” the girl quietly asserted.

And Uncle Chandler, in finally taking his departure, experienced at
least a qualified relief. The girl was wrong, all wrong. And what was
worse, she was much too lovely to the eye to remain unmolested by
predaceous man. But she had a will of her own, had Teddie. And, what was
more, she might have gone to Paris to “express herself,” as she called
it. Or she might have tried to find her soul by going on the stage. And
the Major knew well enough what that would have meant. After all, the
girl would learn to scratch for herself. She would have to. And as old
Stillman had intimated, it might do her a world of good!


                              CHAPTER FOUR

Teddie, as a matter-of-fact girl, had scant patience with the undue
attribution of the romantic to the commonplace. Yet the manner in which
she had first met Raoul Uhlan, it must be admitted, was not without its
touch of the picturesque.

Teddie, still a little intoxicated with her new-found liberty, and
further elated by the sparkling morning sunshine of Fifth Avenue, was
swinging smartly up that slope which an over-busy world no longer
remembers as Murray Hill. She was in a slightly shortened blue serge
skirt that whipped against her slim young knees suggestively akin to the
drapery of the _Nike_ of Samothrace, and was just approaching the
uplands of the Public Library Square when she caught sight of a
violet-peddler.

A glimpse of the seven earthy-smelling clumps of bloom, buskined in
tin-foil and neatly arranged on their little wooden tray, promptly
intrigued the girl into stopping, fumbling in her none too orderly
hand-bag, and passing over to the sloe-eyed Greek a bank-note with
double-X’s imprinted on its silk-threaded surface. And having adjusted
the sword-knotted clump to her belt by means of one of the peddler’s
glass-headed pins, she looked up to see this same peddler contemplating
the bank-note with a frown of perplexity. He was explaining, in broken
English, that his exchequer stood much too limited to make change for a
hill so big. Then, with a smile of inspiration, he placed the tray of
violets in the girl’s hands, pointed toward a near-by store on the
side-street, and plainly implied that he would break the twenty and
return with more negotiable currency.

So Teddie stood patiently holding the tray of violets, in the clear
white light of the sunny Avenue, happy in the flowery perfumes which
were being wafted up to her delicately distended nostril.

But something else was at the same time being wafted in Teddie’s
direction. It was a tall and handsome stranger in tight-fitting tweeds,
carrying a cane and an air of preoccupation. There was lightness in his
step, notwithstanding his size, and any unseemly amplitude of ventral
contour was fittingly corrected by a tightly laced obesity-belt, just as
the somewhat heavy line of the lips was lightened by a short-trimmed and
airily-pointed mustache. For the stranger was Raoul Uhlan, and Raoul
Uhlan was an artist, though any thoughtless motion-picture director who
had dared to flash him on the screen as a type of his profession would
have been held up to ridicule and reproof. But this particular artist,
who was neither dreamy-eyed nor addicted to velveteen jackets, found the
quest of beauty both a professional and a personal necessity. So when he
beheld a young lady of most unmistakable charm standing beside a
gray-stone retaining wall with a street-peddler’s violet-tray in her
hands, he momentarily forgot about the prospective sitter from
Pittsburgh with whom he was to breakfast. He hove-to in the offing, in
fact, for the seemingly innocent purpose of buying a boutonnière. It
would be gracious, he also decided as he soberly inquired the price of
violets that morning, to give the little thing a thrill. For Raoul often
wondered what it was about him that made him so attractive to women.

“One dollar a bunch,” soberly responded the little thing, in answer to
his question, giving scant evidence of being thrilled. She was uncertain
about prices, and her thoughts, in fact, were fixed on the matter of not
cheating the humble and honest tradesman whose wares had been delegated
to her hands. She noticed the strange man’s momentary wince, but never
dreamed it arose from a confrontation with profiteering. She
nonchalantly took his dollar, however, tucked it into one corner of the
tray, and handed him the violets and the essential pin.

She was quite prepared to repeat the operation with a dandified old
gentleman in pearl spats, who was hovering near, when an officer in
uniform sauntered up and, being out of sorts with the world that
morning, confronted her with a lowering and saturnine brow.

“Yuh gotta license t’ peddle them flowers?” he demanded.

Teddie, in no wise disturbed, explained the situation and further
announced that the gentleman who owned the tray would return
immediately.

Her urbanity, however, was wasted on the Avenue air.

“Yuh just made a sale to this guy here, didn’t yuh?” persisted the
officer of the law, with a none too respectful thumb-jerk toward the
immaculately tweeded figure with the over-sized bouquet in his
button-hole.

“Yes, this is the dollar he paid me,” Teddie sweetly acknowledged.

“That’s enough,” averred her persecutor. “Yuh’re street peddlin’ without
a license. So yuh’ll have to come along wit’ me.”

“But, odd as it may seem, I rather want my nineteen dollars,” maintained
Teddie, with an intent gaze down the side-street.

“Your nineteen dollars and seventy-five cents,” corrected the man in
tweeds, not forgetful of a recent extortion.

“Yuh’re likely to clap eyes on that Dago again, ain’t yuh!” The open
scorn of the officer was monumental. “He’ll be spendin’ what’s left of
his days tryin’ to ferret yuh out, I s’pose, wastin’ his young life away
battlin’ to get that easy coin back to yuh! What he’s breakin’ now isn’t
a twenty-dollar bill, my gerrl, but a travelin’ record down to the Third
Ward. And I guess the sooner yuh come along wit’ me, and the quieter yuh
come, the better.”

“But you really can’t do this sort of thing, you know, Officer,” the man
in tweeds interposed. “This girl——”

“Yuh shut your trap,” announced the upholder of law and order, with an
indifferent side-glance at the interloper, “or I’ll gather yuh in wit’
the dame here.”

“That’s an eventuality which I’d rather welcome,” averred the other,
with his blood up.

“All right, then, come along, the both o’ yuh,” was the prompt and easy
response. “And come quick or I’ll make it a double pinch for blockin’
traffic.”

But Raoul Uhlan, clinging to what was left of his dignity, insisted on
calling a taxi-cab (which Teddie paid for when they arrived at the
Forty-Seventh Street station-house) and in transit managed to say many
soothing and valorous things, so that by the time Teddie stood before a
somewhat grim-looking desk in the neighboring receiving depot for
miscreants, her courage had come back to her and she didn’t even resort
to home addresses and influences for a short-cut out of her difficulty.
She soon had the satisfaction, indeed, of seeing her moody patrolman
picturesquely berated by his higher official behind the desk, who
apologized for retaining the dollar bill and the tray of violets and
announced that as there was no case and no charge against her—which any
one but a pin-headed flatty with a double-barreled grouch could have
seen!—she was quite free to enjoy the morning air once more.

So Teddie sallied forth with a great load off her mind and with Raoul
Uhlan at her side. And the latter, instead of breakfasting with the
plutocrat from Pittsburgh who wished to perpetuate his obesity in oils,
sent a polite fib of explanation over the wires which were more or less
inured to such things, and carried Teddie off to luncheon at the
Brevoort, where he learned that she was one of the Haydens of Tuxedo and
had a studio on the fringe of Greenwich Village and wanted to paint. And
before she quite knew how it had all been arranged it was agreed that
Uhlan was to come three times a week and give her lessons in Art, for
the sake of Art.


                              CHAPTER FIVE

It wasn’t until the third lesson that Teddie, even through her
self-immuring hunger for knowledge, began to doubt the wisdom of her
arrangement with Raoul Uhlan. She began to dislike the perfume with
which this master of the brush apparently anointed his person, just as
she detected a growing tendency to emigrate from the realms of pure Art
to the airier outlands of more personal issues. She was as clean of
heart as she was clear of head, and she resented what began to dawn on
her as the rather unnecessary physical nearness of the man as he
corrected her drawing or pointed out her deficiencies in composition.
But his knowledge was undeniable, and his criticisms were true. She was
learning something. She was unquestionably getting somewhere. So she
refused to see what she had no wish to see. She endured the uliginous
oyster of self-esteem for the white pearl of knowledge that it harbored.

But on the day after the talk with her Uncle Chandler, when the next
lesson was under way, a new disquiet crept through her. The man seemed
to be forgetting himself. Instead of studying her over-scrambled
color-effects he seemed intent on studying the much more bewitching
lines of her forward-thrust chin and throat. Once, when he leaned
closer, apparently by accident, she moved away, apparently without
thought. It both puzzled and disturbed her, for she had not remained as
oblivious as she pretended to his stare of open hunger. Yet the
intentness of his gaze, as he attempted to lock glances with her, turned
out to be a bullet destined forever to fall short of its target. He was,
in fact, wasting his time on a Morse-code of the soul which had no
distinct meaning to her. He was lavishing on her a slowly-perfected
technique for which she had no fit and proper appreciation. Teddie, in
fact, didn’t quite know what he was driving at.

It wasn’t until she realized, beyond all measure of doubt, that the
repeated contact of his shoulder against hers was not accidental that a
faint glow of revulsion, shot through with anger, awakened in her. But
her inner citadels of fear remained uninvaded. She had nipped more than
one amatory advance in the bud, in her time. With one brief look, long
before that, she had blighted more than one incipient romance. Her scorn
was like a saber, slender and steel-cold, and she could wield it with
the impersonal young brutality of youth. And it had always been
sufficient.

When he stood close behind her, as she still sat confronting her sketch,
and, as he talked, placed his left hand on the shoulder of her blue
canvas blouse, and then, leaning closer, caught in his big bony hand her
small hand that held the pencil, to guide it along the line it seemed
unable to follow, she told herself that he was merely intent on
correcting her drawing. But a trouble, vague and small as the worry of a
mouse behind midnight wainscotting, began to nibble at her heart. For
that enclosing big hand was holding her own longer than need be, that
small horripilating disturbance of her hair was something more than
accidental. The small nibble of trouble grew into something disturbing,
something almost momentous, something to be stopped without loss of
time.

She got up sidewise from her chair, with a half-twist of the torso that
was an inheritance from her basket-ball days. It freed her without
obvious effort from all contact with the over-intimate leaning figure.
She even retained possession of the crayon-pencil, which she put down
beside her Nile-green brush-bowl after crossing the room to the
blackwooded console between the two windows.

“I guess that will about do us for to-day, won’t it?” she said in her
quiet and slightly reedy voice as she proceeded, with deluding grave
impersonality, to open one of the windows.

But he crossed the room after her and stood close beside her at the
window. He towered above her in his bigness like something taurine,
alert and yet ponderously calm.

“Why are you afraid of me?” he asked, with his eyes on the
gardenia-white oval of her cheek.

“I’m not,” she replied with a crisp small laugh like the stirring of
chopped ice in a wine-cooler. “I’m not in the least afraid of you.”

A less obtuse man would have been chilled by the scorn in her voice. But
Uhlan was too sure of his ground, his all too familiar ground, to heed
side-issues.

“It’s you who makes me afraid of myself,” he murmured, stooping closer
to her. He spoke quite collectedly, though his face was a shade paler
than before.

“You said to-morrow at three, I believe,” she observed in an icily
abstracted voice. That tone, she remembered, had always served its
purpose. It was conclusive, coolly dismissive. For she still refused to
dignify that approach with opposition. She declined to recognize it,
much less to combat it.

“Did I?” he said in a genuinely abstracted whisper, for his mind was not
on what he said or heard. His mind, indeed, was fixed on only one thing.
And that was her utterly defenseless loveliness. The blackness of his
pupils and the aquiline cruelty about the corner of his eyes frightened
her even more than his pallor.

But she did not give way to panic, for to do so was not the custom of
her kind. She fought down her sudden weak impulse to cry out, her
equally absurd propulsion to flight, her even more ridiculous temptation
to break the window-panes in front of her with her clenched fist and
scream for help.

For she realized, even before he made a move, that he was impervious to
the weapons that had always served her. He stood beyond the frontiers of
those impulses and reactions in which she moved and had her being. The
very laws of her world meant nothing to him. It was like waking up and
finding a burglar in the house, a burglar who knew no law but force.

So she wheeled slowly about, with her head up, watching him. There was a
blaze like something perilously close to hate in her slightly widened
eyes, for she knew, now, what lay ahead of her. Instinct, in one flash,
told her what lurked beside her path. And her inability to escape it, to
confront it with what it ought to be confronted with, was maddening.

“_You Hun!_” she said in a passionate small moan of misery which he
mistook for terror. “Oh, you Hun!”

He could afford to smile down at her, fortified by her loss of
fortitude, warm with the winy ichors of mastery.

“You adorable kid!” he cried out, catching the hand which she reached
out to the window-frame to steady herself with.

“Don’t _touch_ me!” she called out in a choking squeak of anger. And
this time, as he swung her about, he laughed openly.

“You wonderful little wildcat!” he murmured, as he pinned her elbows
close to her sides and drew her, smothered and helpless, in under the
wing of his shoulder.

For a moment or two she fought with all that was left of her strength,
writhing and twisting and panting, struggling to free her pinioned arms.
Then she ceased, abruptly, devastated, not so much by her helplessness
as by the ignominy of her efforts. She went limp in his arms as he
forced back her head, and with his arm encircling her shoulders, kissed
her on the mouth.

He stopped suddenly, perplexed by her passiveness, even suspecting for a
moment that she might have fainted. But he found himself being surveyed
with a tight-lipped and narrow-eyed intentness which shot a vague
trouble through his triumph. He even let his arms drop, in bewilderment,
though the drunkenness had not altogether gone out of his eyes.

She was wiping her mouth with her handkerchief, with a white look of
loathing on her face. She was still mopping her lips as she crossed to
the studio-door and swung it open.

“But I didn’t say I was going,” he demurred, frowning above his smile.
He was sure of himself, sure of his mastery, sure of his technique.

“_You are going_,” she said, slowly and distinctly.

He stood there, as she repeated those three flat-toned words of hers,
reviewing his technique, going back over it, for some undivulged
imperfection. For it was plain that she piqued him. She more than piqued
him; she disturbed him. But he refused to sacrifice his dignity for any
such momentary timidity. It was familiar ground to him; each endearing
move and maneuver was instinctive with him. Only the type was new. And
novelty was not to be scoffed at.

He was smiling absently as he picked up his hat and gloves from the
cherrywood table. And he stopped in front of her, still smiling, on his
way out.

“Remember, wild-bird, that I am coming back to-morrow,” he said,
arrested in spite of himself by the beauty of the white face with the
luminous eyes. “To-morrow, at three!”

She did not look at him. She didn’t even bother to attempt to look
through him.

“You are not coming back,” she quietly explained.

Already, she knew, all the doors of all the world were closed between
them. The thing seemed so final, so irrefutably over and done with, that
there was even a spurning touch of weariness in her tone. But he refused
to be spurned.

“I am coming back,” he maintained, facing the eyes which refused to meet
his, speaking more violently than he had at first intended to speak. “I
am coming back again, as sure as that sun is shining on those housetops
out there. I’m coming back, and I’m going to take you in my arms again.
For I’m going to tame you, you crazy-hearted little stormy petrel, even
though I have to break down that door of yours, and break down that
pride of yours, to do it!”

She went whiter than ever as she stood there with her hand on the
door-knob. She stood there for what seemed a very long time.

“To-morrow at three,” she repeated in her dead voice, with just the
faintest trace of a shiver shaking her huddled figure. It was not
altogether a question; it was not altogether an answer.

But it was enough for Uhlan, who passed with a dignity not untouched
with triumph out through the open door. Yet Teddie’s shiver, as she
stood staring after him, was the thoracic râle of her youth. And down on
her protesting body, for the first time in her life, pressed a big
flanged instrument with indented surfaces, like a pair of iron jaws from
which she could not entirely free herself.


                              CHAPTER SIX

Theodora Lydia Lorillard Hayden, confronted by the first entirely
sleepless night of her career, hugged her wounded pride to her breast
and went pioneering. She lay on her narrow bed blazing new trails of
thought. She turned and twisted and waited for morning, as torn in
spirit as a Belgian villager over whom the iron hooves of war had
trampled. For she found herself a victim of strange and violent
reactions and her body a small but seething cauldron of bitterness.

The more she thought of Raoul Uhlan and his affront to her the more she
hated him. The scene in her studio began to take on the distorted
outlines of a nightmare, merging into something as disquieting as
remembered dreams of being denuded. Even when the ordained reactions of
nature demanded lassitude after tempest she found the incandescent coals
of her hatred fanned by the thought of her helplessness. For it was for
more than the mere indignities to her person that she hated the man. She
hated him for crushing down with an over-brutal heel the egg-shell dream
of her emancipation. She hated him for defiling her peace of mind, for
undermining her faith in a care-free world which she had fought so hard
to attain. He had done more than hurt her pride; he had shaken her
temple of art down about her ears.

Teddie began to see, as she felt seismic undulations in what she had so
foolishly accepted as bed-rock, that her home-life had perhaps stood for
more than she imagined. It had meant not an accidental but an
elaborately sustained dignity, a harboring seclusion, an achieved though
cluttered-up spaciousness where the wheels of existence revolved on
bearings so polished that one was apt to forget their power. And all
this took her thoughts on to Ruby Reamer, the businesslike young girl of
the studios from whom, without quite realizing it, she had learned so
much. Beside the worldly-wise and sophisticated Ruby, Teddie remembered,
she had more than once felt like a petted and pampered and slightly
over-fed Pomeranian beside a quick-witted street-wanderer who’d only too
early learned to forage for a living. And the question as to what Ruby
might do in any such contingency led her to a calmer and colder
assessment of her own resources.

But these, she found, were even more limited than she had imagined.
There seemed no one to whom she could turn in her emergency, no one to
whom she could look for any restoration of dignity without involving
some still greater loss of dignity. And that one word of “dignity,” for
all her untoward impulses of insurrection, was a very large word in the
lexicon of Teddie’s life. She had been mauled and humiliated. She had
been unthinkably misjudged and cheapened. And it was as much the insult
to her intelligence as the hammer-blow to her pride which made her ache
with the half-pagan hunger of rebellious youth for adequate atonement.

It wasn’t until daylight came that any possible plan of procedure
presented itself. Then, as she paced her studio in the more lucid white
light of morning, with the sheathed blade of her indignation still
clanking at her heels, her eye fell on the crayon sketch of Gunboat
Dorgan’s well muscled right arm.

She stopped short, arrested by a thought as new as though it had bloomed
out of the cherrywood table beside her. Then she sat down in the
velvet-draped armchair, letting this somewhat disturbing thought slip
from her head to her heart, as it were, where it paced its silent
parliaments of instinct until she had breakfasted. In leaving it thus to
instinct she felt that she was leaving it to a conference of ancestral
ghosts to argue over and fight out to a finish. But when that decision
was once made she accepted it without questioning. Her only hope, she
suddenly felt, lay in Gunboat Dorgan. Her only chance of balancing
life’s ledger of violence rested with that East Side youth with the
fore-shortened Celtic nose and the cauliflower ear. It was Gunboat
Dorgan who could do for her what the situation demanded.

Her only way of getting in touch with young Dorgan, she remembered, was
through Ruby Reamer. But Ruby’s telephone number had been left with her
in case of need, and with impulse still making her movements crisp she
went to the telephone and called up her model.

“Ruby,” she said in the most matter-of-fact tone of which she was
capable, “can you tell me where I can find your friend, Mr. Dorgan?”

There was a ponderable space of silence.

“And what do you want with me friend Mr. Dorgan?” asked the voice over
the wire, not without a slight saber-edge of suspicion.

Teddie entrenched herself behind a timely but guarding trill of
laughter.

“It’s for something I can’t very well tell you,” she said, “something
that I’ll be able to explain to you later on.”

And again a silence that was obviously meditative intervened.

“Of course I’ve never tried to butt in on Gunnie’s personal affairs,”
announced a somewhat dignified Miss Reamer, remembering that the lady on
the other end of the wire was much more attractive than anything she
could fashion out of pastels. “But when Gunnie makes a date he’s never
held himself above explainin’ it to me.”

Teddie fortified herself with a deep breath.

“Then suppose we leave the explaining to him, when he feels that the
psychological moment has arrived,” she suggested. “So I’ll be obliged if
you can tell me just where and how I might get in touch with Mr.
Dorgan?”

“I guess maybe you’ll find him at the Aldine Athletic Club about this
time any morning,” Ruby finally conceded, without any perceptible
decrease of dignity. And with that the conference ended.

It took time, however, to get in touch with the gentleman in question.
It was, in fact, three long hours before Gunboat had finished with his
boxing-class at the Aldine Athletic Club, had taken his shower and his
rub-down, and had apparelled himself in attire befitting a call on a
rib, as he expressed it, who could bed her ponies down in bank-notes if
she had a mind to. When he appeared before Teddie, accordingly, he did
so in oxblood shoes and light tan gloves and a close-fitting “college”
suit that translated him into anything but a knight of brawn.

“Mr. Dorgan,” promptly began Teddie, with a quietness which was merely a
mask to her inner excitement, “I’m in a very great difficulty and I’ve
been wondering if you’d be willing to help me out of it.”

“What’s the trouble, lady?” asked Gunboat, a little stiff and
embarrassed in his Sunday best as he gazed at her out of an honest but
guarded eye. For the knights of the ring, in their own world and in
their own way, have many advances of the softer sex to withstand and
many blandishments of the rose-sheathed enemy to be wary of.

But Teddie was direct enough, once she was under way.

“I’ve just been insulted in this studio by a brute who calls himself a
man, intolerably and atrociously insulted.”

Gunboat Dorgan’s face lost a little of its barricaded look. This was a
matter which brought him back to earth again. And Teddie saw that
nothing was to be gained by beating about the bush.

“And this man threatens to come here to-day and repeat that insult,” she
went on. “And, to speak quite plainly, I want some one to protect me.”

Gunboat’s face brightened. He moistened a hard young lip with the point
of his tongue as he stood gazing into clouded eyes for which lances
would surely have been shattered at Ashley.

“Who’s the guy what’s been gettin’ fresh?” he demanded.

Teddie, looking very lovely in a tailored black suit with an Ophelia
rose pinned to its front, did her best to resist all undue surrender to
the lethal tides of sympathy.

“It’s a beast called Raoul Uhlan,” she announced, disturbed for a moment
by the slenderness of her would-be champion. But it was only for a
moment, for she remembered the flexed right arm Ruby Reamer had tried to
caliper with her admiring fingers on the afternoon that the
crayon-drawing had been made.

“That puddin’!” cried Gunboat, with a touch of ecstasy. “Why, that guy
tried to pull the soft stuff with Ruby last winter, but nothin’ put me
wise until it was six months too late.” He fell to pacing the
studio-rug, as though it were a roped ring, with significant undulatory
movement of the shoulders. “Say, lady, what d’ yuh want me to do to that
cuff-shooter? Blot ’im out?”

There was a hard light in the pagan young eyes of the girl in black.

“Yes,” she announced, without hesitation.

“Then he’ll get his!” affirmed the other, just as promptly.

“I want you to give him a lesson that he’ll never, never forget,” she
explained, a little paler than usual. “I want you to show him it isn’t
safe to insult defenseless girls.”

“Oh, I’ll show ’im!” announced Gunboat, with his chin out and his heels
well apart. “He’ll know something when I get through wit’ him. And he’ll
have a map like a fried egg!”

“But I don’t want you to——”

“Leave that to me, lady,” interrupted her champion, sensing what he
recognized as purely feminine compunctions. “Yuh’ve gotta know when to
quit, in this business, the same as when to start. Just leave it to me,
and I’ll do it, and do it right!”

“And what,” demanded Teddie in the most businesslike tone of which she
was capable, “will you expect me to pay you for this?”

“Pay me?” repeated Gunboat Dorgan, wheeling about on her. “Who said
anything about a purse in this bout? I’m not doin’ this for pay.”

“Then what are you doing it for?” asked the slightly perplexed Teddie.

“I’m doin’ it for _yuh_!” asserted Gunboat, leaning fraternally over the
table-end.

“I’ve that little club-roadster of my own,” the entirely unpractical
Teddie rather feebly suggested, feeling the appropriateness of some
effort to depersonalize the issue. “It wouldn’t be pay, of course. But
when you and Ruby settle down in your flat it would be nice for running
out into the country in hot weather. You’d take _that_, surely?”

Gunboat essayed a hand-movement of repudiation which he’d seen quite
often in the movies. He was warmly conscious, in fact, of an appeasing
touch of the theatrical in this knight-errantry that had bobbed so
unexpectedly up at the tail end of a humdrum morning of dub-drilling and
bag-punching.

“Noth-thing doin’!” he said with decision. “I get enough out of it when
I see that stiff go to the mat. Yuh say he’s goin’ to horn in here at
three o’clock. Well, I’ll breeze in at three-two, railroad time. And
I’ll learn him to think twice before he flies that zooin’-bug around a
girl who’s been born and bred a lady!”

And even Teddie, as she stood up and shook hands with her new-found
champion, was troubled by a vague yet persistent touch of theatricality
about the situation as a whole. But she had made her decision, and she
intended to stick to it.

She watched Gunboat step to the door, with his hat in his hand, come to
a stop, and then step back to the table-end.

“Say,” he said with a slightly self-conscious and not altogether heroic
look on his face, “don’t say anything to—to Miss Reamer about this,
lady, if yuh don’t mind. It’s not that I’ve got anything to hide. But
yuh know what women are!”

And, with an even more fraternal nod of the head, he passed out through
the door with his peculiarly light and panther-like tread, and was gone.


                             CHAPTER SEVEN

“Come in,” said Teddie, rather shakily.

The bronze Moorish knocker on her studio-door had sounded ominously
through the quietness, and even that second wind of courage which had
come to her at the eleventh hour seemed to vanish before a sudden and
rather breathless sense of impending culmination, not unlike that which
once thrilled her childish body when an asbestos stage-curtain rolled
up.

For thirty tense minutes, indeed, Teddie had been doing her best to work
on a sketch of the Macauley Mission by Moonlight, slightly bewildered by
the discovery that an ineradicable quaver in her fingers was giving
uninvited Childe-Hassan vibrations to her lines. And now she had no need
to look still again at her watch to become aware of the fact that it was
exactly three minutes to three.

If her visitor was Raoul Uhlan, she remembered, that meant five full
minutes before Gunboat Dorgan would arrive on the scene. It would be
five full minutes, even though Gunboat should keep his word and be on
time. It meant three hundred precious seconds, she reminded herself with
an involuntary tremor, in which almost anything could happen.

Even before the door quietly opened, in fact, Teddie found herself
failing to feel as valorous as she had expected. She hadn’t slept well,
and she hadn’t eaten well, and the more she had thought over the
melodrama which she was engineering into the dove-breasted days of her
tranquillity the more disquieting the entire arrangement became to her.
And her emotions were still playing tennis with her resolution, making
her dread at one moment that her enemy might fail to appear and leaving
her afraid the next moment that he might indeed return.

Then she abruptly realized that the question was already settled. For
she knew, as she saw Raoul Uhlan step quietly into the studio and close
the door behind him, that the die was cast, that it was already too late
to evade that intimidating final issue. Yet her visitor, as he crossed
smilingly to the table where she sat, carried less of the air of a
cave-man than she had expected. There was a carnation in his button-hole
and an air of relief touched with meekness on a face plainly more pallid
than usual. He stood looking down a her with mournful and slightly
reproving eyes.

“Don’t be afraid of me,” he murmured, as he put down his hat and gloves
without letting his gaze for one moment wander from her face.

“I’m not,” asserted Teddie, quite bravely, as she rose to her feet. But
there was a tremor in her voice, for his meekness, she already realized,
was merely a mask. And inapposite as it may have been, he impressed her
as being pathetic, as pathetic as a ponderous and full-blooded ruminant
of the herd already marked for slaughter by the butcher’s appraising
eye.

“But you’re pale,” said Uhlan with all the _vox tremolo_ stops pulled
out. And she was able to wonder how often he had fluttered the
dove-cotes of feminine emotion with those intimately lowered yet vibrant
chest-tones of his. Her mind leapt to the conclusion, even before he
placed one hand on her shoulder, that he was serenely sure of himself.
Yet his sheer effrontery, his immeasurable vanity, tended to stabilize
her when she stood most in need of such adjustment. She shook the
appropriating hand from her blouse-shoulder and fell back a few steps,
eying him intently. For she was swept by a sudden and belated impulse to
save him from himself, to warn him off from the dead-fall into which he
was so stupidly blundering.

“There’s just one thing I want to say to you, that I _must_ say to you,”
she told him, still in the grip of that forlorn impulse to escape from
it all while escape was yet possible. But he advanced confidently, step
by step, as she retreated.

“What’s the use of wasting words?” he softly inquired.

“But they won’t be wasted,” cried the girl.

“Everything that keeps me from remembering will be wasted!”

“Remembering what?”

“That you waited in for me! Everything but that will be wasted,” he
reminded her. “At first I was afraid, terribly afraid, that you wouldn’t
be here when I came. But you knew that I was coming, and you stayed! And
that’s all I want to know.”

“Do you know why I stayed?” she demanded, whiter than ever, stunned by
the colossal egotism that could assume so much.

“Yes—for this,” was his reply as he took possession of the two
barricading arms in their loose-sleeved blouse.

She tried to gasp out a desperate “Wait!” but he smothered the cry on
her lips. It was not a scream that she gave voice to, when she could
catch her breath, but more a moan of hate tangled up with horror.

And it was at that precise moment that Gunboat Dorgan stepped into the
room.

Teddie’s persecutor, with one quick glance over his shoulder, saw the
intruder. He saw the younger man in the natty high-belted
sophomoric-looking suit that gave him the beguiling air of a stripling,
saw him standing there, studiously arrested, appraisingly alert, with
anticipation as sweet to his palate as a chocolate-drop is sweet to the
tongue of a street urchin.

“And what do _you_ want?” demanded Uhlan, with one appropriative arm
still grasping the girl in the paint-smudged smock.

“I want yuh,” announced Gunboat Dorgan, shedding his coat with one and
only one miraculously rapid movement of the arms.

The big portrait-painter slowly released his hold. His face hardened.
Then he looked sharply at Teddie. Then he looked even more sharply at
the audacious youth who had so significantly kicked a chair away from
the center of the room.

“What does all this mean?” he demanded, drawing himself up, for Gunboat
Dorgan was already advancing toward him.

“It means I’m going to pound this zooin’-bug out o’ your fat carcase,”
cried the smaller man, with exultation in his kindling Celtic eyes.

And Teddie, overcome by what she knew to be so imminent, tried to call
out “Stop!” tried to say “No, no; it’s too——”

But she was too late.

For the second time in one day Raoul Uhlan was guilty of a grave error
in judgment. He decided to show the Celtic intruder in shirt-sleeves
that he intended to pursue his own paths without the intervention of
others. He decided to show this diminutive intruder that a man of his
dimensions and determination wasn’t to be trifled with. But something
altogether unexpected seemed to intervene. That decision, in some way,
evaporated under sudden and unlooked-for thuds of pain, thuds which, in
the haze that enveloped him, he found it hard to account for. He was, in
fact, suddenly subjected to many experiences which were hard to account
for, the principal one being a misty wonder as to why an opponent so
insignificant to the eye could be so explosive in his movements, so
devastating in his fore-shortened arm-strokes.

Not that the big-framed artist didn’t resist, and resist to the last of
his strength. But the thing became loathsome to the girl, who no longer
stood aside in a cold and impersonal fury. For the nose above the once
airy mustache bled prodigiously and left tell-tale maculations on the
studio-floor. The easel went down with a crash, and gasps and grunts
became odiously labored. The dazed big frame staggered back and wabbled
against the table, and Teddie, realizing that she had trifled with
darker and deeper currents than she had dreamed, felt a good deal like a
murderess, and could stand it no more. She was a trifle faint and sick
and uncertain in the knee-joints.

“Oh, take him away, take him away!” she pleaded childishly, with her
hands held over her face to shut out the horror of it all.

And the triumphant Gunboat Dorgan took him away, an inert and
unprotesting hulk that was anything but good to look upon, a disheveled
somnambulist with a right eye that was already beginning to close.

Gunboat took the vanquished one to the stairway, and started him down,
and then flung his hat and gloves after him.

When the youth with the cauliflower ear stepped back into the studio and
closed the door he already seemed to have himself well in hand. He was
flushed and a little warm, but outwardly unruffled. He put on his coat
and came and stood over Teddie where she sat limp and white, staring
down at the overturned easel. And he in turn stood staring down at her,
with his head a little to one side.

“Yuh’re a thoroughbred,” he averred with unqualified admiration. “Yuh’re
a thoroughbred, and I’m for yuh, lady, to the last jab!”

Whereupon Teddie, who felt tragically alone in the world, began to cry.

“Hully gee, don’t do that,” implored her protector, genuinely disturbed.

But Teddie, oblivious of his presence, sat there with the tears welling
from her eyes. She wept without sound or movement, with her face buried
in her hands.

“Why, your gink’s canned f’r yuh, f’r good,” he explained as he made a
roughly gentle effort to draw her hands away from her wet face.

“Oh, please go away,” said the weak-voiced girl, with a revulsion of
feeling which left utter solitude the only thing to be desired.

But Gunboat Dorgan had experienced his own revulsions of feeling. And he
was flushed now with something more than victory.

“Say, Ruby’s all right,” he confidentially acknowledged. “But this sure
puts her in the discard. And what’s more, I’m glad things broke the way
they did. I’m mighty glad it was _me_ you got to put this thing
straight. And——”

“I want to be alone,” moaned Teddie through her tear-wet fingers.

“Of course yuh do,” acknowledged her new-found knight. “And yuh will be.
But if I’m goin’ to hit those Long Island resorts in a li’l
club-roadster when the hot weather comes, I’d like to think it’s goin’
to be _wit’ yuh_!”

And before she quite realized what he meant Gunboat Dorgan had caught
her up and kissed her on the tear-stained cheek.

“Y’ understand don’t yuh!” he said, laughing a little triumphantly at
the stricken light which came into her eyes.

She stood up, dizzy, gathering her breath to say what she had to say.
But he pushed her back gently into her chair, with a smile that was both
a little shy and a little proprietary. Then he slipped out of the room
with his light and panther-like step, leaving her with the bed-rock of
existence no longer merely undulating, but fallen utterly away.


                             CHAPTER EIGHT

Since thinness of skin seems to stand an immediate though unhappy
corollary to blueness of blood, Theodora Lydia Lorillard Hayden, being
an aristocrat, even if one under protest, found herself without that
indurated armor which protects her humbler fellow-beings from the
buffets and shocks of fate. So her spirit still winced at the thought of
what she had passed through. Her body still alternately flushed with
indignation and chilled with a tangle of fears. Something, she knew, was
about to happen, was bound to happen. Yet what this was she had neither
the power nor the inclination to fathom. She merely waited, sure only of
the recurring waves of desolation which beat upon her soul. She even
struggled to escape from this denuding loneliness, the next morning, by
trying to lose herself in her work. But so small and trivial did that
work now stand to her that it seemed like trying to bury her bruised and
burning body in a bird-bath.

Yet by both temperament and habit, she was averse to passivity. She
hated the thought of sitting back in vague but enveloping apprehension
of the unknown. She reached a point, in fact, where she would have been
willing to see the blue deliver its bolt, where she would have welcomed,
for the sheer relief of action, the end of that deluding interregnum of
silence.

She started nervously, none the less, when her telephone bell broke the
silence, an hour later, for that shrill of sound suddenly translated
itself into something as ominous as the starting-gong of undefined
combat. She even hesitated, for a moment, as to whether or not she would
answer that call. But besides being tired of silence and indecision she
was a person of habitual promptitude in movement. So temperament in the
end asserted itself. With a deep breath, she took the receiver from its
hook and answered the call.

“This is William Shotwell, the senior member of the firm of Shotwell,
Attridge and Bannister, speaking,” a suave and dignified voice announced
over the wire, once she had acknowledged her identity. “And I’ve been
wondering, Miss Hayden, if it would be convenient for you to drop down
to my office some time this afternoon for a short conference?”

“And what would the nature and object of that conference be?” inquired
Teddie, as coolly as she was able.

“That, I’m afraid, is a matter it would be inexpedient to discuss over
the telephone,” was the none too tranquillizing response. “But I might
mention that the client whose interests I am compelled to look after in
this case is Mr. Raoul Uhlan, the well-known portrait-painter.”

A cold chill crept slowly up through Teddie’s body.

“I really don’t think it would be possible for me to come down to your
office,” she said in an exceptionally controlled voice. She was going to
add “Either this afternoon or any other afternoon,” but instinct told
her to suppress the impulse.

“In that case,” continued the persistently suave voice, “perhaps it
would be advisable for me to run up to see you, so that there may be no
undue loss of time.”

Teddie wavered, for all too recent events had been combining to test the
metal of her emancipation. Yet disturbed as she may have been, she was
not without still undrained reservoirs of courage.

“Yes, that might be better,” she finally admitted.

“I shall be up within an hour,” was the crisp ultimatum with which the
brief colloquy was concluded.

And Teddie, reverting to her pretense of working, felt more than ever
alone in the world. Life seemed emptier than on the day she had learned
her curate had married the Chautauqua singer, emptier even than that
black day when the butler, acting under orders from above-stairs, had
drowned her mongrel pup for merely eating the tapestry off a library
Chesterfield. And her new environment, as she stared about the
high-ceilinged studio, seemed to stand as bald as that denuded
Chesterfield had stood, as destitute of padded graces and relieving
softnesses, an empty and ugly skeleton, a thing of obtruding bones quite
barren of comfort.

It accordingly relieved Teddie not a little, when Mr. William Shotwell
arrived, to find him quite urbane and fatherly, although he did seem to
survey her somewhat bald-looking studio with a momentary frown of
perplexity. Then, removing his _pince-nez_, he was at pains to remind
her that he had met that estimable lady, her mother, during his
activities as an officer of the Cooperative Social Settlement Society,
and had dined with her equally estimable father three years before at
the annual banquet of the Astronomical Club, and stood in no way
ignorant of the position and prestige which her family might claim both
in the Tuxedo colony and the City itself. He appeared so reluctant to
come to the point, in fact, that the none-too-patient Teddie was
compelled to prod him on a bit. And even then he seemed to hesitate so
long that Teddie, with a sinking heart, began to wonder if Raoul Uhlan
had passed away from his injuries and she was about to be indicted as a
murderess.

Seeing that sharp look of distress in her eyes, the attorney for the
plaintiff became more urbane than ever, and protested that from the
first he had advocated adjustment of some sort, a quiet and respectable
settlement out of court that would cast no reflection on a family as
prominent as hers and would obviate, of course, a distressing and
perhaps humiliating campaign of publicity.

“I’ll be greatly obliged,” cried Teddie, shouldered over the brink of
patience, “if you’ll tell me just what you’re driving at.”

“I’m driving at this,” responded William Shotwell, with a slight
evaporation of urbanity and a corresponding hardening of face-lines: “my
client, Raoul Uhlan, is now under the care of a doctor, under the care
of _two_ doctors, I might add, as the result of an assault which he
sustained in this studio some twenty-four hours ago.”

“Oh!” said Teddie, with the quite familiar feeling of a miscreant being
called up for reproof.

“That assault was condoned, and, I am given to understand, was
personally instigated and abetted by you, Miss Hayden,” continued the
enemy. “Mr. Uhlan is not only a gentleman of high social and
professional standing, but is to-day one of the best-paid
portrait-painters in America. Through the injuries which he sustained in
this assault, I find, he is unable to execute a commission for the
portrait of one of Pittsburgh’s most prominent millionaires, before the
latter sails for Europe. And through that, I regret to inform you, he
has sustained a direct loss of exactly twelve thousand dollars.”

A tempered sigh of relief escaped Teddie. She had expected something
much worse, something much more difficult of adjustment.

“Well, if that’s all that’s worrying him,” she remarked, “I’ll be quite
willing to make his loss good to him.”

The aged attorney, as he sat massaging his bony knuckles, saw that the
picking was good. So he could afford to become fatherly again.

“I may as well be frank with you, Miss Hayden, and make it clear from
the outset that involved with this claim is one for a corresponding
amount based on the personal injuries which Mr. Uhlan has received,
injuries which, so far as medical science seems able to determine, give
every promise of proving permanent. And there is a further claim of one
thousand dollars for costs and medical services, which establishes the
total claims at a round figure of twenty-five thousand dollars.”

Teddie, who had sat watching him with rather solemn eyes, somewhat
startled the sedate William Shotwell by a brief but scornful laugh.

“So that was rather an expensive thump on the nose, wasn’t it?” she
observed, with the last of her meekness taking wing. For it began to
dawn on her, ignorant as she was of the meaning of money, just what they
were trying to do to her.

“I am not prepared to disagree with you,” admitted her enemy, not
without acerbity.

“And did he tell you just what he was doing when he got that thump on
the nose?” demanded Teddie, with slowly rising indignation.

“He was doing nothing, apparently, which demanded his—his being maimed
for life,” the man of the law responded with dignity.

“He wasn’t maimed for life,” declared Teddie, with the last of her
desolation gone, “but he got exactly what he deserved.”

“That, of course, is a matter not for us but for the courts to decide,”
remarked William Shotwell, with a lugubrious shake of the head.

“Then what’s the use of us talking about it now?” demanded Teddie, with
a glance at her unfinished sketch of the Macauley Mission by Moonlight.

“It was merely to save you pain,” remarked her benefactor as he rose
from his chair.

“It seems rather an expensive anesthetic,” observed Teddie, “at
twenty-five thousand dollars a whiff!”

“Am I to understand, then, that you intend to contest this claim?”
demanded the man of law, taking up his hat.

Teddie swung about on him, with a little flush of anger on her
magnolia-white cheeks. Then, for once in her life, discretion put a hand
on the sleeve of impulse. About her rebellious young body she felt the
phantasmal jaws of her Uncle Charlton’s waffle-iron coming closer and
closer together.

“I must decline to enter into any discussion of the matter until I have
seen my attorney,” she said with dignity. It was what was usually said,
she remembered, at all such junctures.

“Then might I inquire just who your attorney is?” inquired William
Shotwell.

And Teddie’s dignity, for a moment, betrayed serious evidences of
collapsing. She had no attorney. She didn’t even know of any attorney.
But she couldn’t afford to betray her isolation.

“You will hear from him in due time,” she said with what was plainly a
valedictory smile, as she preceded her persecutor to the door.

But her persecutor exhibited no signs of taking his departure. Instead,
he stepped closer, seeming to suffer some mysterious inward
deliquescence as he studied her with a sympathetic if slightly watery
eye.

“My dear girl,” he softly intoned, with one hand stretched out in her
direction, “as a friend of your family—and I trust I may regard myself
as such—but more as a friend of your own, I am compelled to say that I
think you are taking the wrong course in this. I know whereof I speak.
You are too young, too innocent, too—er—too sweet, to be dragged
without knowing what you have to face into the brutalities and
humiliations of litigation like this. Indeed, my child, I think too much
of you, of your——”

“Good afternoon,” interrupted Teddie with that rising inflection which
can make two innocent words so unmistakably dismissive. For Teddie was
worried. For a moment or two, indeed, she felt terribly afraid that he
was going to kiss her. And during the last day or so, she remembered,
there had been altogether too much of that sort of thing. “Good
afternoon,” she repeated with _frappéd_ finality, as she opened the door
and swung it wide, with her back against the wall.

She stood there, even after he had bowed himself pompously out, with a
frown of perplexity on her smooth young brow and a weight on her
troubled young heart. She felt like a harried front-liner whose supports
have failed to come up. She felt like a thirty-footer being pounded by a
big and brutal Atlantic. She felt like a hothouse orchid that had been
blown out of a coupelet window and was being trampled on by all the
heels and run over by all the wheels of Fifth Avenue.

She was awakened from that little reverie of self-pity by the repeated
shrill of her telephone bell. So she crossed wearily to her desk and
took up the receiver.

“This is Ruby Reamer speakin’,” said the voice over its thread of metal,
“and I guess I’ve got considerable speakin’ to do with you.”

“About what?” somewhat indifferently inquired Teddie.

“About my Gunnie,” was the prompt and shrill-noted reply. “I want ’o
know just what call you’ve got to come between Gunboat and me after
we’ve been going together for a year and a half! I want ’o know what
right, just b’cause you’re rotten with money, you’ve got to turn a poor
boy’s head and have him say the things that Gunnie’s just been sayin’ to
me! I want——”

“Ruby,” interrupted Teddie, steadying herself, “you are saying things
yourself that are utterly ridiculous. I haven’t either the intention or
the desire to come in any way whatever between you and the young
gentleman you speak of as Gunnie. I——”

“Then just why were you usin’ me, _me_ of all people, to make a date
with him not more than twenty-four hours ago?” demanded the irate voice
over the wire. “And if there’s nothin’ to _that_, just why is he runnin’
round in your car to-day?”

“In my car?” echoed Teddie.

“Yes, and bumpin’ into a Fifth Avenue bus with it and havin’ the ink
sleuths from the canary-colored evenin’ papers comin’ and frightenin’
his poor old mother into a nervous breakdown?”

It took a little time for Teddie to digest this.

“But, my dear girl,” she finally explained, “your Gunnie has no more
claim on that car of mine than he has on me.”

“Well, he thinks he has. And he’s so sure of it he’s even been
advertisin’ that you know he has. And I’ve been goin’ with Gunnie long
enough to realize that that boy never told a lie in his life.”

This declaration of faith in Gunboat Dorgan was followed by a moment or
two of unbroken silence.

“Ruby,” finally called out the bewildered girl at the telephone, “I want
you to come here. I want to see you. I _must_ see you at once.”

“From the way things are breakin’,” clearly and coldly announced the
lady on the other end of the wire, “I don’t think it’s me you want to
see. You’d better do your talkin’ to my lawyer!”

“Ruby!” called the girl at the desk.

But the wire brought no answer to that repeated call, and Teddie hung up
the receiver. She placed it slowly and carefully on its hook and sat
staring at the cadmium tinted wall, with a look of helpless protest on
her bewildered young face. And for the second time she found herself
face to face with a forlorn and seemingly fruitless survey of her
resources.

Once or twice, in her desperation, she was even tempted to pack up and
scurry off to Hot Springs in the wake of her Uncle Chandler. But that,
she remembered, would be more than cowardly. It would be foolish, for it
would be nothing more than a momentary evasion of the inevitable. And
besides being a sacrifice of dignity, it would stand as an advertisement
of guilt.

Then out of a world that seemed as cold and empty as a glacial moraine
came one faint glow of hope. On the gray sky-line of a Sahara of
uncertainties appeared a tremulous palm-frond or two. For Teddie, in her
misery, had suddenly taken thought of Gerald Rhindelander West. Gerry,
she remembered with a gulp, was not only one of her own set, but also a
corporation lawyer. It wouldn’t be easy to explain things to Gerry. It
would, in fact, involve sacrifices of pride which made her wince without
knowing it. But she had talked about having an attorney. And it was her
duty to find one.


                              CHAPTER NINE

When Teddie made ready for her conference with Gerald Rhindelander West
she did so with a particularity which might have surprised both her
recently abandoned maid and the immediate members of her own family. She
went forth to the _terra incognita_ of Nassau Street cuirassed in
tailored and braided trimness and gauntleted in spotless kid with just
the right array of wrinkles about her glove-tops. She was still further
entrenched behind a four-skin scarf of blue-fox—which wasn’t blue at
all—and a canteen muff to match, to say nothing of seven
cyanitic-looking orchids which completed the color-scheme and fluttered
demurely above her slightly fluttering heart.

For it wasn’t often that Teddie was as excited as she found herself that
morning, just as it wasn’t often that she had turned to give ponderable
thought to the question of armor-plate. But it loomed up before her as a
serious matter, this commandeering of a clever young attorney to her
side of the case, and she felt the need of not producing an unfavorable
impression on Gerry.

Yet even after she had unearthed Gerry’s aerial office-suite in that
seldom explored warren of industry known as Nassau Street, she found the
attorney in question not quite so accessible as she had anticipated. For
she was compelled to send in a card, and cool her heels in an outer
room, and even after being admitted to the royal presence had to wait
for a further minute or two while Gerry instructed an altogether
unnecessarily attractive stenographer as to the procedure in manifolding
a somewhat dignified array of documents.

He seemed still preoccupied, in fact, as he seated Teddie in a chair at
his desk-end and absently took her muff and put it down and motioned
away a secretarial-looking intruder and crisply asked just what he could
do for her.

Teddie found it hard to begin. She made two false starts, in fact,
before she was able to begin. And then she refused to be further
intimidated by the paraded professional dignity of a person who’d once
helped her paint zebra-stripes on a Jersey cow.

“Gerry, do you know Raoul Uhlan?” she found herself quite casually
inquiring.

Gerry pondered the question for a moment. He was really thinking, all
the time, how extraordinarily lovely Teddie could look in blue-fox.

“He’s a man whom I have the privilege of not knowing,” was Gerry’s
retarded but none the less satisfactory reply. “Why do you ask?”

“Because he’s suing me for twenty-five thousand dollars,” was Teddie’s
altogether unexpected announcement. Gerry, however, seemed determined to
remain immobile.

“Not for breach of promise?” he asked, with an air of diffidence.

“No; it’s for what I suppose you’d call breach of the peace,” explained
his client.

“What did you do?” inquired Gerry, with vivid but secret memories of the
Nero incident.

“I had his nose thumped,” acknowledged Teddie with vigor.

“Why?” asked Gerry, wondering why his mind kept straying back to
one-eyed Russian rats.

Teddie hesitated. It wasn’t an easy thing to talk about. That was a
lesson she had already learned. But Gerry was different. He was one of
her own world and one of her own set, and he’d look at the thing in the
right way, in the only way.

“Why?” he repeated, secretly astounded by this new mood of humility in
which he found Teddie Hayden immersed.

“Because he tried to kiss me,” acknowledged Teddie, meeting Gerry’s
unwavering gaze.

“Fine!” said Gerry, as cool as a cucumber. “But who did the thumping?”

“A prize-fighter by the name of Dorgan—Gunboat Dorgan.”

“Better still,” calmly agreed her interlocutor, “for that implies it was
a genuine professional thumping.”

“It was,” conceded Teddie. She was more than serious, she was even grim
about it all. And if Gerry West had laughed at her, at any moment of
that perilous mood, everything would have been over between them.

But Gerry was solemnity itself. “Go on!” he said, almost bruskly.

“Now Raoul Uhlan claims that he’s lost a valuable commission
through—through what was done to him. And the young lady who’s
interested in Gunboat Dorgan seems to think because I had him protect me
in this way that I’ve interfered with her claim on this hero of hers.”

“In what way interfered with him?” demanded Gerry.

“That I’ve—that I’ve made love to him,” acknowledged the none too happy
Theodora Lydia.

“Why do you say that?”

“Because she’s seeing her lawyer about it.”

“And this man Uhlan?”

“He sent his attorney, a man named Shotwell, to my studio to explain
that because of his injuries he couldn’t paint his
twelve-thousand-dollar portrait. I was quite willing to pay for that
until old Shotwell put in another claim for twelve thousand dollars for
damages in general and an extra thousand for himself.”

“So they’re all trying after a bite,” commented Gerry, studying his
engagement-pad. “Now, tell me, Miss Hayden——”

“Don’t do that,” was Teddie’s sharp command.

“Don’t do what?”

“Don’t call me Miss Hayden.”

“All right, Teddie,” acquiesced her counsel-at-law, without a break in
his solemnity. “But the first thing you must tell me is just what you
intend doing.”

“I don’t know _what_ to do. That’s why I came to see you. That’s what
I’m willing to pay you for. But it’s not entirely unnatural, I think, to
nurse a fixed aversion to be chased around the map by an army of
reporters and subpœna-servers.”

“There are several things, of course, that we can do,” explained Gerry,
quite unruffled by this unmasking of the guns of irony. “But before we
go any further there’s a phase or two of the case I must understand. It
was in your studio, you say, that this assault took place?”

“I _hate_ that word!” interpolated Teddie.

“Well—er—this incident. Now, had you forbidden this man Uhlan entry,
warned him away, and all that sort of thing?”

“No, he was coming there three times a week, to give me lessons,”
explained Teddie.

“For which he was being duly paid?”

“No, nothing was ever said about his being paid,” she acknowledged. And
Gerry’s increase of gravity didn’t altogether add to her happiness.

“And the day he got his thumping—why did he come to your studio on that
occasion?”

For the second time Teddie hesitated. Life, after all, wasn’t so simple
as she had once imagined it.

“He came to make love to me,” she finally admitted, not meeting Gerry’s
eyes. “And I had Gunboat Dorgan there to give him what he deserved.”

Gerry wagged his head. He did so with what impressed Teddie as quite
unnecessary solemnity.

“Now, about this man Dorgan: He knew exactly why he was doing what he
did?”

“Of course!”

“And he expected to be duly paid for this—er—service he rendered you?”
asked Gerry, seeming to persist in his determination that things should
not be made too easy for her.

“No, he declined to have the matter of money come into it at all,”
Teddie rather falteringly acknowledged.

“Then what was the understanding?”

“There was no understanding.”

“Then what did he do, when the thing was over?”

A silence fell between them.

“He kissed me,” slowly acknowledged truthful Teddie, flushing up to the
tiptilted brim of her hat.

Gerry swung sharply about. He swung about and stared out of the
skyscraper window.

“He had no reason, no excuse, for doing anything like that!”
supplemented the tingling Teddie.

“Didn’t he, now!” silently soliloquized Gerry as he swung slowly back in
his swivel-chair and sat staring at her. Then he added, aloud: “And what
happened after that?”

“He presumed on his privileges to the extent of taking my car out of the
garage and going joy-riding in it.”

“Without your knowledge and permission?”

“Entirely! And bumped into a street-bus and broke my lamps.”

“That’s much better,” Gerry surprised her by saying.

“Why?” asked Teddie, vaguely disturbed by her remembered failure to
mention an offhanded proffer of this same car to this same knight with
the cauliflower ear.

“Because we can settle _his_ hash with a larceny action,” retorted
Gerry. “But our biggest nut to crack, I imagine, will be Uhlan!”

“What can we do about him?” asked Teddie, with the faintest trace of a
tremor in her voice.

“There are quite a number of things we can do,” coolly explained her
solemn-eyed counsellor. “I can have him put out of the Camperdown Club,
for one thing, before the week-end. I can demand an impartial
appraisement of his physical injuries. I can see Shotwell, this attorney
of his, and accept service. I can even get after ’em for blackmail. And
there are several other things I can do. But each and every one of them
will result in exactly the end we are most anxious to obviate. By that I
mean publicity, newspaper talk, the reporters you spoke of as chasing
you all over the map. That’s the one thing, Teddie, we must not and
shall not have!”

“No, we mustn’t have that!” echoed Teddie, mysteriously comforted by the
masterfulness of this new-found sage who could achieve such a
cool-headed and clear-eyed view of the entire tangled-up muddle. It took
a load off her mind, to know that she had some one so adroit and
dependable as Gerry to stand beside her in this fight against the forces
of evil. She felt sorry, in fact, that she hadn’t come to Gerry in the
first place. Then she felt rather glad in remembering that since she had
come to him, she hadn’t come looking like a frump.

“So the best thing you can do, Teddie,” her new-found adviser was saying
to her, “is to leave this entirely in my hands for a day or two. All I’m
going to ask you to do is to keep mum, to sit tight. Before the
week-end, I feel sure, we’ll have the whole thing straightened out. And,
by the way, what’s the name and address of your prize-fighter’s
lady-friend?”

He remained solemnity incarnate as he jotted Ruby Reamer’s name and
address down on his scratch-pad.

“Has it occurred to you,” he said as he wrote, without looking up, “that
this man Dorgan might have been the proper person for Uhlan to take
action against?”

“I imagine he saw about all he wanted to of Dorgan,” announced Teddie,
with the icicle-look once more in her eyes.

“But not all he wanted to of _you_?” questioned Gerry, pretending to
ignore her eye-flash of indignation. It was not often that he’d enjoyed
the luxury of finding Teddie Hayden on the defensive, and he intended to
make the most of it. “It’s quite apparent he isn’t afraid of _you_!”

“I was hoping you could make him that way,” acknowledged Teddie. She
said it quietly, but there was a barb in it which Gerry couldn’t quite
overlook.

“Well, we’ll get him that way,” he announced with vigor, as he rose to
his feet. “If it’s action they’re after, they’ll get all they want!”

A consciousness of clearing skies both elated and depressed the
brooding-eyed Teddie. What Gerry was doing for her was being done merely
in the way of a professional duty for which he would be duly paid. But
they had been friends once, and she had treated him, she remembered,
rather rottenly of late. She wanted to say something about that, make
some effort to explain it away, yet she didn’t quite know how to get
that belated mood of repentance into words.

So, as she rose from her chair, she didn’t even try to put it into
words. She merely smiled softly and gratefully up into Gerry’s eyes as
he stood beside her, with the magnolia-white of her cheeks tinging into
pink as he stared back at her, with his jaw-muscles set and a quick look
of pain on the face that still remained preoccupied.

“It’s—it’s awfully good of you, Gerry,” she said as she held out her
hand to him.

“That’s how I make my living,” was Gerry’s unexpectedly brusk reply.
But, apparently without knowing it, he still held her hand in his.

“It’s awfully, awfully good of you,” she repeated, as she reached with
her free hand to restore the scarf which had slipped off her shoulder.

“It’s not a bit good of me,” he countered, almost harshly, as he put the
scarf back where it belonged. And she would have been afraid of him,
with that sudden black look in his eyes, if she hadn’t remembered that
Gerald Rhindelander West was a gentleman, a man of her own world and her
own way of looking at things. And she rather liked that touch of
_camaraderie_ which was expressing itself in the unconsidered
big-brothery weight of his hand on her unaverted shoulder.

“I feel so—so safe with you,” she reassured him, with that misty look
in her up-raised eyes which can seem so much like a sigh made visible.
And it was beginning to be a luxury, she felt, to find somebody she
could feel that way with.

“Well, you’re not!” he said in a voice that was almost a bark.

“Why do you mean I’m not?” she asked, perplexed, with a still more
searching study of his face.

“I mean because——”

He did not finish. Instead, with his hand still on her shoulder, he
stooped and kissed her.

Teddie recoiled three full steps, and stood with her arms straight at
her sides and a black rage in her startled eyes. Gerry’s own hands had
dropped to his side, and his head fell forward, for all the world like a
chrysanthemum that needed watering.

“O-o-o-o-o-o!” gasped Teddie, with the most unmistakable accents of
loathing and anger in her voice. “Are _all_ men like that?”

“Wait!” called out Gerry, unhappily, pleadingly.

But Teddie had no intention of waiting. She withered him with one short
look of revulsion, of utter repudiation, wheeled about, and strode out
of the office.

She went, leaving behind her a blue-fox canteen muff and a much bluer
young attorney who for quite a number of minutes stood staring morose
and motionless out over the East River. He contemplated that
wharf-fringed waterway very much as though he should like to take a
header down into it. Then, as he slowly and dejectedly turned about, his
eye fell on the forgotten muff.

He crossed to his desk and took the furry pillow up in his hands,
turning it over and over. He meditatively stroked the deep pelt, sniffed
at it, started for the door, and just as suddenly stopped. Then he
quietly removed two tennis racquets and a box of golf-balls wrapped in a
llama-wool sweater-coat from the bottom drawer of his desk and into this
same drawer carefully tucked away the blue-fox muff—after which he
stood, irresolute and unmoving, for another full five minutes.

Then Gerry West, as though to make up for lost time, exploded into a
sudden fury of movement. He punched the buzzer-button for his
stenographer, jerked down the messenger-call lever and caught up the
telephone directory with one hand while he possessed himself of the
receiver with the other.

“I’ll show ’em,” he muttered darkly to himself, “I’ll show ’em they
can’t pull that cave-man stuff around my home circle!”

And in half an hour’s time he had an ex-pool-roomer from a private
detective agency busily shadowing Gunboat Dorgan, and another
quiet-moving agent gathering what data he could as to the physical
disabilities of Raoul Uhlan, and an expeditious clerk from the outer
office confirming the address and movements of a certain Miss Ruby
Reamer. Then, having started these wheels into motion, he hurriedly
looked up a point or two of law, consulted his watch, and called up
Louis Lipsett, of _The Star_, at the Press Club.

“Louis,” he said over the wire, “I’ve got a great news story for you.”

“Good!” promptly announced the other.

“Yes, it’s so good, in fact, that you’ve got to come and help me kill it
in the bud.”

“Then let me add that what you want isn’t a reporter, but an
undertaker,” retorted the unfeeling young White Hope of his
over-saffroned daily.

“No, I want you, Louis, and I want you as quick as you can come,” Gerry
coolly averred.

“But why _me_?”

“Because you’re the only ink-coolie on this Island who’d keep your word
if you once promised to. So come over here in a taxi and let me unload.”

Louis came, and smoked Gerry’s good cigars, and listened, and remembered
his promise with a true inkster’s pang of regret.

“Now, the one thing that Avenue-robin can’t stand, the one thing be
doesn’t want, in all this, is printer’s ink. So it’s up to us to give
him what he’s afraid of. It’s up to us to hold a full-page Sunday story
over his fat head. I want you to go right up to him as a reporter from
_The Star_, with every detail I’ve given you. I want you to let him see
just what it’ll look like when it’s unrolled, the entire unsavory story.
And if he isn’t sending a hurry-call in for the soft pedal before you’re
out of the elevator I’ll buy _The Star_ and give it to you to play with
when you’ve got writer’s cramp in the coco and can’t dream up
cable-despatches any more.”

“And supposing our Romeo doesn’t weaken?”

“He can’t help it. But if he’s crazy enough not to, I’ll bring Gunboat
Dorgan up there myself. And if that doesn’t turn the trick, I’ll call
the rotter out myself and give ’im what he deserves. And if that doesn’t
work, I’ll put a bullet into him!”

The man from _The Star_ office smiled a bit wearily.

“Say, Gerry, doesn’t this strike you as going pretty far for a mere
client?”

“A mere client!” echoed the other. “A mere client?” he repeated as he
looked his confederate straight in the eye. “She’s a darned sight more
than that. She’s the girl, please God, that I’m going to marry!”

“So at last I get you,” announced the solemn-eyed Louis as he reached
over the desk-end and solemnly shook hands with the other man. “And now
I’ll know how to put the screws to that palette-scraper!”

“Then let’s get busy,” suggested Gerry as he reached for his hat and
coat, after a moment’s talk over the wire. “They’ve got that Reamer girl
for me, and the sooner we have our pow-wow the better!”


                              CHAPTER TEN

When Teddie left Gerald Rhindelander West’s office she left behind her
more than a blue-fox canteen muff. She left the last of her confidence
in life, the last of her belief in mankind. She found herself compelled
to face a world that seemed too big and brutal for even the valorous
spirit of youth. And after a vast amount of frantic and quite fruitless
thinking she also found herself compelled to eat crow. The current was
too strong for her. It had tired her out, and baffled her, and broken
down both her will-power and her pride. Much as she hated to do it, she
felt that her only way out was to compromise with Raoul Uhlan. Right or
wrong, she would pay the man’s claim and get the thing over with.

A quick assessment of her immediate means, however, showed her that she
had little more than half enough money to meet his demand. So she
promptly stopped in at the Waldorf telegraph desk and sent a message to
her Uncle Chandler at Hot Springs.

“Please wire my banker,” she said, “eleven thousand dollars without
delay or foolish questions, as it is urgent. Lovingly, Teddie.”

Her Uncle Chandler, after frowning for a full hour over this unexpected
message, none too willingly wired instructions for eleven thousand
dollars to be placed to the credit of his niece. Then, after still
another hour of troubled thought, he sent a day-letter off to old
Commodore Stillman at the Nasturtium Club explaining that he had reason
to believe that Theodora was in some sort of trouble and requesting him
to drop quietly down to the girl’s studio and have a look around to see
just what was wrong.

And the Commodore in question, instead of being upset by this calamitous
intimation of beauty in distress, adjusted his cravat and stopped in at
Thorley’s for the insertion of a Richmond rose-bud in the button-hole of
his right-hand lapel. Then he toddled blithely down to the wilds of
Greenwich Village, where he arrived at Teddie’s studio just in time to
see an urbane old gentleman pocket, with an air of quiet but unqualified
satisfaction, a narrow slip of paper which looked remarkably like a
bank-check. He stood aside, however, until this triumphant-eyed old
gentleman had bowed himself triumphantly out, whereupon it came to his
attention that his somewhat abstracted young hostess remained undeniably
divorced from the customary buoyancies of youth.

He was so impressed, in fact, by the shadows of fatigue about Teddie’s
starry eyes and the world-weariness in her forlorn little smile that he
concluded the gravest fears of his old friend the Major to be quite well
founded. But Teddie, accepting him as an emissary from a world of pomp
and order which seemed eternally lost to her, was glad enough to
ensconce him in the brown velvet armchair and make tea for him in the
battered old samovar. It was not particularly good tea, he soon
discovered, but that in no way dampened his ardor or discouraged him in
the object of his visitation. So he hummed and hawed, and touched
lightly on the prerogatives of the elderly, and ventured the assertion
that New York was an extremely bewildering city, especially for the
young, and he became paternal and platitudinous over the perils of the
wide, wide world in general, and then with rather awkward unconcern
announced his hope that Teddie was making a go of it.

But Teddie wasn’t making a go of it, as she very well knew, and for one
weak moment she was tempted to take this kindly-eyed and clean-hearted
old gentleman into her confidence and exteriorate her troubles by freely
and frankly talking them over with one of her own kind. But a revival of
her old spirit of independence nipped this impulse in the bud, so she
merely gave the Commodore another cup of tea and somewhat pensively
asked if the autumn ball at Tuxedo had been a success this year.
Whereupon the old Commodore admitted that it had been a success, if you
could call such things a success. But they weren’t like the good old
days of the Patriarchs and the Assemblies and The Howling Swells. The
spirit of the times had changed, had lamentably changed, and the
relationship of the sexes in the younger generation seemed disturbing to
the survivors of the older era when a lady was accepted as a lady and
treated as one. And from this diatribe on the degeneration of the
present day Teddie’s counsellor glided easily and eloquently into the
advantages, for the girl of to-day, of early marriage and adequate
guardianship. Every girl of spirit ought to marry. Even Teddie herself,
he finally ventured, ought to marry.

“No young whippersnapper, mind you,” discreetly qualified the old
Commodore, “but some older and steadier man who knows the world and its
ways, a man to be relied on in times of trouble, a man who’d be a harbor
of refuge when the seas got to kicking up a bit!”

But this didn’t seem to impress Teddie as he had hoped it would.

“I’ve seen all I want to of men,” she announced with unexpected passion.
“I despise ’em, the whole pack of them!”

“And you don’t intend to marry?” demanded the scion of the statelier
years.

“Never!” retorted Teddie, staring fixedly at her unfinished sketch of
the Macauley Mission by Moonlight.

“Then what, may I ask, do you intend doing?” inquired her
stiff-shouldered old visitor.

She had intended to say that she wanted to live for Art. But she
hesitated. For Art, at that particular juncture, seemed a very anemic
and elusive thing to live for. She had no idea, in fact, just what she
_did_ intend living for. She was less impatient of others than she might
once have been. She even recognized kindliness under the intentions of
that over-personal emissary from her older world, however heavy-handed
he may have been in his executions of those intentions. And that,
impinging on her desolated young spirit, intrigued her into a brief but
depressing mood of self-pity. There was no trace of tears in her eyes,
for Teddie was not habitually lachrymose. But before she found that mood
conquered and killed she was unable to resist the temptation to let her
bobbed head sink wearily into the crooked arm which rested on one end of
the none-too-orderly cherrywood table.

“Oh, I say, you know; this sort of thing won’t do!” ejaculated her
obviously disturbed visitor. “It won’t do, my dear,” he repeated as he
patted what was left of the bobbed hair with his fatherly old hand.

Teddie, however, was without the spirit either to agree or disagree with
that statement. And her unhappiness so melted the heart of the benignant
old Commodore that he took her hand and stroked it as he talked to her.
And so gratified was he to see even the ghost of a grim little smile
about her lips that a paternally commiserative impulse prompted him to
stoop down and kiss the magnolia-white cheek.

So intent, indeed, had he been on his contemplation of this white cheek,
faintly shot through with its shell-pink, that the door had opened and a
third person had stepped into the studio without his being conscious of
the fact. And it was the voice of this intruder, more than Teddie’s
sudden recoil of startled wonder, that promptly brought the Commodore to
attention.

“So _he’s_ doin’ it too!” called out Gunboat Dorgan, with a quaver of
incredulity in his Celtic young voice. Whereupon he threw down his hat
and advanced slowly toward the table-end. “Say it quick,” he commanded.
“D’ yuh want me to knock his block off?”

“No, no,” cried Teddie, already on her feet. “There’s been too much of
that already!”

“But I saw the old bird tryin’ to kiss yuh!” proclaimed the indignant
youth.

“Who is this young jackanapes?” interrupted the older man, in no way
intimidated by the interloper with the cauliflower ear.

“Didn’t I see this old mutt pullin’ that muggin’-stuff?” persisted
Gunboat, ignoring the stately old gentleman with the rose-bud in his
lapel. But Teddie was herself by this time and she fixed her champion
from the East Side with a cold and steely stare.

“I want to talk to you!” she said, with great deliberation. And she made
that announcement with such an unlooked-for note of masterfulness that,
unimpressed as it left the newcomer, it rather bewildered the old
Commodore.

“And I guess I gotta earful or two to unload to yuh!” countered Gunboat,
betraying that he was laboring under an excitement which more recent
events had only temporarily eclipsed.

“I should be obliged to know just who this young bounder is,” repeated
the older man, in his most authoritative quarter-deck manner. But that
manner was entirely lost on Gunboat Dorgan.

“Yuh just play dead, yuh old Has-Been, until I say a word or two to me
lady-friend here,” he proclaimed as he confronted Teddie and gave his
back to an all too negligible enemy. “I came here to find out what right
a law-sharp named West has got to take that car of yours away from me. I
wantta know what call he’s got to load Ruby up wit’ a lot o’ talk about
me goin’ to State’s Prison. And I may be a prize-fighter, but I’ve got
the right to ask if I ain’t lived decent and done my work on the square.
I’ve got——”

“A prize-fighter?” interrupted the older man in the background. Then he
strode valorously in between the two. “Do you mean to tell me, Miss
Hayden, that a girl of your antecedents has—has come to have dealings
with——”

But he in turn was destined to interruption.

“Say, d’ yuh want me to throw this old cuff-shooter out o’ here?” was
Gunboat Dorgan’s crisp and angry demand of the girl.

“Stop it!” cried Teddie, with a stamp of the foot. “Stop it, right here
and right now! I’m tired of all this. I’m so tired of it I can’t stand
another moment of it!” Then, with a deep breath, she turned about to the
old gentleman with the rose-bud in his button-hole. “It’s been very kind
of you, I’m sure,” she said in a voice of laboriously achieved patience,
“but you can’t possibly help me, and you can’t possibly do any good by
remaining here. So if you’ll permit Mr. Dorgan and me to talk this
quietly over, by ourselves——”

“You are requesting me to leave you?” her would-be benefactor inquired,
as he reached for his hat.

“You must,” announced Teddie.

“Then permit me, Miss Hayden,” said the other with dignity, “to bid not
only you, but also your—your professional boxer, a good afternoon.”

And the old Commodore buttoned his coat and took his departure. He
sallied forth with considerable trepidation, trepidation which remained
with him even until he stopped in at a telegraph-office on lower Fifth
Avenue and despatched a none too carefully worded message to the old
Major in Hot Springs, announcing that things looked very dark indeed, as
Theodora seemed to be mixed up with a young prize-fighter by the name of
Dorgan, and suggesting that the sooner Theodora’s uncle could get back
to the city the better it might be for all concerned.


                             CHAPTER ELEVEN

Teddie, alone with her irate young prize-fighter, turned and regarded
him with a studiously narrowed eye.

“Now, what do you want to know?” she quietly demanded. She felt oddly
and immeasurably older than she had done but one short week ago.

“I want ’o know who’s playin’ double in this mix-up,” Gunboat Dorgan
promptly asserted.

“I don’t quite understand,” protested Teddie.

“Well, first thing, I want ’o know just what yuh said about that car?”

“When?” temporized Teddie. “And where?”

“Just b’fore I kissed yuh, right here in this room,” asserted the
over-honest youth. Whereupon Teddie stiffened and winced and had to take
a grip on herself before she could control her voice.

“I’m sorry there’s been any mistake about it,” explained Teddie, doing
her best to be patient. “I remember now, I said you could have the car.
And, as a matter of fact, you are perfectly welcome to it, or what’s
left of it!”

“Then why’s this man West talkin’ so big about grand larceny and gettin’
me locked up? What’s he know about what’s been passin’ strictly b’tween
yuh and me? Yuh were up ag’inst it, and I could see it, and I helped yuh
out the same as I’d help any girl. And I didn’t have me hand out when I
did it!”

“That was the trouble, Mr. Dorgan,” Teddie tried to tell him. “I was
willing to accept service from you without stopping to consider whether
or not it could be repaid, I mean adequately repaid. And that’s where I
made my mistake. You’ll have to attribute that mistake, I’m afraid, to
the defects in my bringing up. It’s a sort of penalty for the past. One
gets into the habit of accepting things, just as one accepts
cinnamon-toast from the footman, or a trip across the Hudson from the
ferry-boat, without being actively conscious of any human obligation.
That man had made himself unbearably offensive to me, and I asked you to
punch his nose for me, without remembering the risks it involved,
without appreciating the danger I was bringing——”

“Risks!” cried Gunboat, with a derisive hoot, finally arriving at a
definite idea in what seemed a morass of abstractions. “Where’s the
risks in standin’ up to a big stiff like that?”

“I’m afraid I wasn’t thinking of the risks to you,” Teddie rather
wearily explained. “I was rather selfishly remembering the risks to
myself.”

“Well, yuh ain’t suffered none from it, have yuh?” derided her still
indignant-eyed cross-examiner.

“I’ve just paid Raoul Uhlan twenty-five thousand dollars as compensation
for his injuries,” explained Teddie, as coolly as she was able.

Gunboat Dorgan fell back, gaped a little, and then swallowed hard.

“Yuh paid—yuh paid that mutt—that money—for—for what he’d get tarred
and feathered for—down in my Ward!” he gasped, wide-eyed with
incredulity.

Teddie nodded.

And Gunboat, seeing that movement of acquiescence, repeated:
“Twenty-five thousand dollars!” Then he began to stride meditatively
back and forth, pacing the studio-rug with his characteristic
panther-like step. Teddie watched him, without speaking, without moving.
She watched him until he came to an abrupt stop.

“Say, Ruby was right in this, after all,” he suddenly proclaimed. “_I_
was the guy who got off his trolley. Yuh—yuh looked so good to me I got
my numbers mixed. I got to dreamin’ things. But twenty-five thousand
bucks in cold cash ain’t no dream. And d’ yuh know what I’m goin’ to do,
and do right now? I’m goin’ up to that Uhlan guy and get that
twenty-five thousand back. Just so ’s yuh can see I’m a little more on
the level than yuh’ve been imaginin’. I’m goin’ to make that
studio-lizard come across wit’ that dough—_with_ that dough,” he
amended, remembering, in his excitement, certain old-time admonitions as
to the utterance of his mother-tongue.

“But I don’t want you to do that!” cried Teddie, harboring a strangely
muddled-up and reluctant admiration for the deluded young fire-eater
with the Saint Anthony light in his blazing blue eyes.

“Of course yuh don’t, for the thing’s got yuh buffaloed the same as
_yuh_ got me buffaloed,” proclaimed the knight of the ring. “And the
whole lay-out’s wrong. The only thing that got hurt about that guy was
his dignity. I knew what I was doin’ all the time. I held back on the
sleep-punch, and played wit’ him. I didn’t give him anything that a
pound of beefsteak wouldn’t put right inside o’ twenty-four hours—and
he knows it as well as I do. But now he’s pulled this blackmail stuff
I’m goin’ to put him wise to how I was toyin’ wit’ him. I’m goin’ to let
him see that if he ever so much as opens his trap about this business
he’s goin’ to have it decorated wit’ a double set o’ plates when I get
through wit’ him—when I get through _with_ him. And the next time he’ll
holler so loud for help they’ll be fannin’ him wit’ a hearse-plume
before he’s finished!”

Teddie tried to stop him as he turned away.

“Noth-thing doin’!” he proclaimed with his movie-hero side-movement of
the hand. “I’m Irish, I am, and me Irish is up. Yuh’re goin’ to see this
goob bitin’ on a mouth-gag or yuh’re goin’ to see crape swingin’ over
his door-mat!”

“It’s no use,” Teddie still tried to tell him. “It’s too late. It will
only make things much worse than they already are!”

But Gunboat Dorgan hadn’t been crowned with that soubriquet of
belligerency without fit and proper reason.

“I’m wise to this lay-out now,” he announced from the doorway, “and I’m
goin’ to have a hand in windin’ it up. It’s no use tryin’ to flag me
off. And I ain’t sayin’ yuh’re a quitter, for yuh’re only a girl. But
yuh don’t see me layin’ down in the shafts wit’ a thing like this under
me nose. I’m goin’ through wit’ this, and nobody’s goin’ to stop me. And
maybe this’ll square up a little for—for them lamps o’ yours I put on
the blink!”


                             CHAPTER TWELVE

Teddie, once she was alone in her studio, experienced a sense of
confinement, a feeling of compression, which had hitherto been absent
from her newer mode of life. She felt the need for untrammelled movement
through fresh air, the craving to get out into open spaces and leave the
suffocation of city walls behind her. She promptly decided, in fact, to
drive her car out to Tuxedo, and even went to the telephone to order it
from the garage. Then she remembered that she no longer had a car.

But this, in the face of the denudations with which life had been
confronting her, did not impress her as a very vast deprivation. She
merely called for another number and ordered a taxi, contenting herself
with the thought of three gasoline-flavored hours in that _rus in urbe_
known as Central Park.

But Teddie did not go gloom-riding in Central Park. For when she opened
the door to what she thought to be a taxi-driver she found Gerry West
there with his hat in his hand and a look of triumph in his eyes.

“Well, I’ve got it back,” he announced, only momentarily abashed by the
iciness of her manner.

“Got what back?” asked Teddie, without so much as asking him to step
inside.

“Your car,” explained Gerry, entering the abode of art on his own hook.
“It’s down at the door. And I had ’em put on a new pair of lamps on the
way over.”

“I’m sure that was very kind of you,” Teddie coldly admitted. But her
attitude was something more than unbending. It was distinctly hostile.
For there were certain things which she wasn’t quite able to forget.

“Say, Teddie,” demanded her quick-eyed visitor, entirely ignoring her
expression in his comprehensive stare about the studio, “what in the
name of heaven are you doing in a dump like this?”

“It seems to have proved an entirely satisfactory place to me,” Teddie
responded with the utmost dignity.

“But has it?” demanded Gerry, putting down his hat.

“It would, if I were left alone,” said Teddie, biting her lips.

“And what would that mean? What would that bring you?” asked Gerry, with
a suddenly sobered face.

“It would bring me the freedom I want,” retorted Teddie, with a
challenge still in her gaze.

“That is the one thing it could never do, O Helen of the Ruinous Face!”
corrected Gerry. But Teddie, who was in no sense a classical student,
saw nothing remarkably appropriate in this allusion to the ancients.

“What makes you think that?” she asked, with a tremor in her voice. She
hadn’t intended any retreat from her earlier severity of tone. She
prided herself on not being the sort of girl who would willingly show
the white feather. But Gerry had touched on something which had been
bewildering her, of late, more than she was ready to acknowledge.

“The things that have been happening around here,” he had the brutality
to retort, “the things I’m now trying to straighten out for you!”

And remembering those things, the sense of her desolation returned to
her double-fold. She walked to the window, looked out, and then turned
slowly about. She was neither obtuse nor unsympathetic; she was merely a
girl who had been prodigiously preoccupied with her fight for freedom
and the depressing discovery that it was a losing fight.

“Oh, Gerry, what’s the matter with me, anyway?” she demanded with an
altogether unlooked-for note of wistfulness in her voice.

“Don’t you know?” he said as he followed her to the window. “Don’t you
know, you poor little muddle-headed kid?”

Teddie shook her head. She was rather foolishly afraid that Gerry was
going to be sympathetic, and she didn’t want that, for sympathy, of
late, seemed the inevitable overture to the unmusical opera of
mushiness.

“I’ll tell you what’s the matter with you, Teddie,” asserted Gerry,
wondering why she was refusing to meet his gaze. “You’re inflammatory
without quite knowing it. You’re provocative, without being foolish
enough to have fathomed the fact. The Lord made you so lovely, girl,
that you put an ache in men’s hearts and a mist in front of their eyes.
You make them forget themselves. And that’s why I’ve got to take you in
hand.”

“Take me in hand?” repeated Teddie, standing up very straight and white.

“Yes, take you in hand,” repeated Gerry in turn.

“I rather think I’ve something to say about that!”

“Teddie, I’ve loved you all my life,” said Gerry, quite simply,
disregarding even the abysmal scorn in her voice.

“Then this is no time to tell me a thing like that,” she retorted with
spirit.

“And you’re wrong there,” contended Gerry, quite unmoved. “It’s the
only, the essential time.”

“What makes you feel that way about it?” asked Teddie, disturbed by the
darkening light in his eye.

“Because heaven only knows how long we can be alone here,” was his not
altogether satisfactory reply.

“I fail to see any particular advantage arising out of our—our
temporary isolation,” retorted Teddie, with quite unexpected Johnsonian
dignity.

“Teddie!” was Gerry’s sharp cry as he towered over her. “Don’t you
understand?”

“Understand what?” asked the girl with the exasperatingly level gaze as
she surveyed the none too steady hands which he was holding out toward
her.

“_That I can’t help kissing you!_” he abandonedly exclaimed as he just
as abandonedly proceeded to do so.

Teddie drew slowly away from him. He had seen children draw back, that
way, from a milk-snake coiled up in a chocolate-box. Her eyes were
blazing.

“Now I know you’re no better than——”

But that was as far as Teddie got. For the door was flung open and a
protesting and much dishevelled Louis Lipsett was piloted into the room.
He was piloted in without ceremony, and by the lapel of his overcoat.
The hand that grasped that collar was Gunboat Dorgan’s, and the lines of
his wide mouth were grim with determination.

“Call off this wildcat,” gasped Louis as he dropped weakly into a chair.
“Call him or I’ll get a shooting-iron and kill him!”

Gerry tried to remove the steel-corded hand from the uptwisted
coat-collar, but Gunboat Dorgan betrayed no slightest intention of
relaxing his hold.

“Not on your life,” he irately announced. “Not until he eats every word
of it!”

“Of what?” demanded Gerry, with an abstracted and mildly perplexed
inspection of Louis Lipsett’s person.

“Don’t listen to him,” cried the prisoner. “He’s gone crazy. He’s gummed
up the whole game. He came tearing into Uhlan’s studio when I had the
big bounder scared stiff, had him eating out of my hand and willing to
sign any kind of quitclaim I was ready to hand out. He blew in there
ready to eat Uhlan up, until he found out I was from _The Star_ and
heard that tricky brush-tickler swear his lips were sealed and then step
from under by saying it was me and my paper that were going to open up
on a full-page story. _Me_, mind you, with all I’d done! Then this East
Side rat-terrier let loose, and wouldn’t even give me a chance to get to
a phone and have you put things straight or call up our sporting-editor
to shoot a little reason into his empty nut. He’s hauled me around like
a civet-bag and dragged me down here across eleven city blocks to say
what you very well know I don’t even need to say. And I call this a fine
line of reporting, this ghost-laying for a bunch of love-sick idiots
who’re so afraid of printer’s ink they’re playing tennis with
bank-checks over it. For I’m not the only thing he’s collared, I want y’
to understand. He collared old Shotwell as well and shook that
twenty-five-thousand-dollar draft out of him and has got it right here
in his jeans while he’s joy-riding on the back of my neck! But I’m tired
of being bullyragged and manhandled and having my clothes spoilt, and if
this rising star of suburban ring doesn’t get his fingers out of my back
hair inside of ten seconds I’m going to let loose with something more
than ink before the day is over.”

“Let him go!” commanded Gerry, in his most authoritative grand-jury
voice. “This man is acting for Miss Hayden, is very generously and
unselfishly acting for Miss Hayden.”

“Am I now?” gritted Louis Lipsett, breathing hard and writhing his
disordered clothing back into place.

“Well, so am I,” averred Gunboat Dorgan as he tossed Teddie’s much
crumpled check out on the cherrywood table. “And I want ’o know,” he
continued as he confronted Gerry West, “just what call yuh’ve got for
buttin’ in on this?”

“I am acting for Miss Hayden,” Gerry announced with gravity.

“We’re _all_ acting for Miss Hayden!” mocked Louis, with a foolish
upward movement of his hands. But Gunboat ignored that derisive
interruption.

“In what way ’re yuh actin’ for her?” he demanded, with his shoulders
squared and his chin out.

“As her husband,” said Gerry with a grimness which was quite new to him.

Gunboat swung slowly about and stared at the girl on the other side of
the cherrywood table. He saw a slow flush creep up into the shell-pink
of her cheeks.

“Are yuh married to this mucker?” he demanded, with a thumb-jerk toward
the unobserving Gerald Rhindelander West. And he swallowed hard as he
put the question, just as Teddie used to swallow hard when she beheld
the castor-oil bottle being lifted down out of the medicine cabinet.

“I am not!” was Teddie’s quiet but distinct-noted reply.

“Are yuh goin’ to be?” queried the narrow-eyed Gunboat.

“I am not going to be,” replied Teddie, with an opaque eye on a slightly
crestfallen young attorney.

Gunboat shook his cauliflower ear in a little nod of comprehension. Then
he turned back to the girl.

“All right, then. I’m takin’ care of yuh. Remember that. We’ll cut out
the hot-air artists and get busy. And that brings us round to this
newspaper boob. He’s got the whole story of what’s been happenin’ here,
and he’s talkin’ big about puttin’ it into print. I heard him wit’ my
own——”

“He won’t put it into print,” interrupted Gerry.

“What’ll stop him?” demanded the man of battle.

“The knowledge of what we’d both do to him if he tried it,” announced
the expounder of law, doing his best to overlook Gunboat’s oblique
glance of contempt. “And the further knowledge that he never even
intended to put it into print.”

“No, putting things into print doesn’t seem to be my business any more,”
interpolated the morose-eyed Lipsett.

“Then why——” began Gunboat, but he was interrupted by the trill of the
telephone bell. It was Teddie who finally crossed to the instrument and
answered the call.

“It’s for you, Mr. Dorgan,” she said, without emotion, as she waited
with the receiver in her hand.

“Oh, is that yuh, Ruby,” Gunboat was murmuring a moment later, into the
transmitter. He spoke in a strangely altered tone, a tone with even a
touch of meekness in it. “All right, Ruby,” he docilely agreed after
several minutes of an obviously one-sided conversation. “Sure, Ruby,
yuh’re dead right.” Then came the receiver’s turn again, with an
amending “Whatever yuh say, Ruby,” gently intoned into the transmitter.

If Teddie garnered any inkling of that capitulating meekness on Gunboat
Dorgan’s part, she gave out no echo of it in her own icy stare of
disapproval as she stood regarding Gerald Rhindelander West. Even the
rueful Louis Lipsett awakened to that oddly sustained duel of glances
between the two silent figures on the far side of the room. He awakened,
in fact, to the all-pervading, three-cornered preoccupation which
surrounded him. And he made hay while the sun shone. He took advantage
of that momentary inattention and slipped from his chair. He tiptoed
discreetly out of the room and hurried away into the comparative
quietness of Fourth Street, where he caught a Broadway surface-car and
headed for the peace of Park Row.

Gunboat Dorgan, as he meditatively hung up the receiver, did not even
miss the vanished newspaper man. He was too busy watching the strange
couple still confronting each other on the far side of the studio. The
girl, with ice-cold deliberation, pinned a tiptilted turban on her head,
adjusted a four-piece blue-fox throw about her shoulders, and drew on a
pair of wrinkled-topped gloves.

“Where are you going?” demanded the dark-browed expounder of the law, in
a tone savoring unmistakably of the cave-man age.

“I regard that as entirely my own affair,” retorted the girl in
blue-fox, just as unmistakably reverting to the age of ice.

“Where are you going?” repeated the neolithic young giant in tweeds.

“Will you kindly permit me to open my own door?” said Teddie, with her
chin up.

“Where are you going?” demanded Gerry, for the third and last time.

For one long moment of silence Teddie inspected him as though he were
something under plate-glass, something behind Zoo bars.

“I’m going home!” she finally told him.

“Why?” exacted her altogether too obtuse tormentor.

“Because I’m tired of all this!” was the intense but low-noted reply.

“Of all what?” demanded the bewildered Gerry.

“Of seeing everything that’s most sacred in life mauled over in
public—of being mauled over myself as though I was something marked
down on a bargain-counter—of finding out that all men are so—so
disgusting and degradingly alike!”

It seemed to take time for Gerry to digest this. And even with time the
process appeared to be unattended by any great degree of satisfaction.

“Haven’t I been doing what I could for you?” he demanded, with the air
of a man who asked only for reason.

“Are you worrying about your fee?” countered the pale-cheeked Teddie.

“I don’t want a fee,” said Gerry.

“Then what is it you want?”

Gerry tried to square his shoulders.

“I want _you_!”

She met his eye, but it took an effort. And Gerry, for the life of him,
couldn’t help thinking once more of the milk-snake in the chocolate-box.

“How about my wishes in the matter?” she asked with a slow and pointed
emphasis which brought a wince to even Gunboat Dorgan’s Celtic eyes.

“Just a minute, yuh folks,” suggested the perturbed man of the ring.
“This actin’ as though yuh was married for ten years ain’t goin’ to bury
any tomahawks and end the war-dance! There’s been too much pullin’ at
cross——”

But it was Gunboat’s turn to be interrupted. That final interruption
came in the form of the unceremonious flinging back of the studio-door,
disclosing the bristling but the immaculate figure of Teddie’s Uncle
Chandler.

“What’s wrong here, Teddie?” demanded that perplexed-eyed old gentleman,
striding into the room with all the dignity his sciatica would permit.

“She wants to go home,” said Gerry. And as he said those five words in a
singularly dull tone his hands went down to his sides. The movement, in
some way, was oddly suggestive of flying colors forlornly lowered.

“Well, that impresses me as an eminently sane and respectable place to
want to go to,” remarked the old Major as he blinked from one to the
other of the odd trio confronting him. But his eye, for some reason, was
on Gerald Rhindelander West when he spoke next, though his question,
obviously, was addressed to Teddie. “And just when do you want to go, my
dear?”

“As soon as you can get me away from here,” was Teddie’s prompt but
low-noted reply.

Ceremoniously the old Major held out his crooked right arm and
dolorously the girl in the blue-fox took it. Neither of them spoke until
they came to a stop beside the wine-colored shopping-car.

“I never intend to speak to Gerry West again as long as I live,”
announced Teddie, with a combined suddenness and fierceness which made
her Uncle Chandler forget his left hip-joint as he climbed into the car
beside her.

He patted her knee, comprehendingly.

“Under the circumstances, then,” he observed as she made the motor whine
with an altogether unnecessary jab on the accelerator, “it’ll be just as
well, Teddikins, if you don’t see him for a week or two!” . . .

Back in the dismal emptiness of the dismal gray studio Gerry and Gunboat
stood looking at each other. Then Gunboat sighed fraternally and essayed
an owl-like wag of the head.

“They’re all alike, them women!” he remarked with the sagacity of one
who has survived many unfair ordeals at the hands of the fair.


                            CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Teddie’s head was much clearer by the time she had motored out to
Tuxedo. Her head was clearer, but the contradictory tides of feeling
that eddied about her troubled young heart seemed as muddled-up as ever.
Even her Uncle Chandler was not entirely oblivious of the fact that some
newer ferment was working in the depths of that bottled-up young soul.
But he asked no questions. There were two things which he knew too well
for that: one was life in general, and the other was Theodora Lydia
Lorillard Hayden in particular.

As for Teddie herself, she was tyrannical and melting and snappy and
chummy all at the same time. She promptly ordered the servants back at
their posts, and just as promptly proceeded to bully them in a manner
which plainly betokened that she intended to be master of her fate in at
least one quarter of an otherwise unconquered world. She ordered silver
unpacked and moth-bags banished and the striped ticking off the
furniture and the cars overhauled and the drapes restored and the
drive-borders retrimmed and an absurd amount of cut flowers for every
room in the house. But she prowled moodily about that house, resenting
its quietness at the same time that she gave orders she was at home to
nobody. She tried riding before breakfast, and found her old mount gone
soft and her new groom grown sulky. She tried reading, and discovered
how unbelievably dull all modern books could be. She tried motoring, and
found no interest in maneuvering the old hair-pin curves on two wheels
and no thrill in defying the old speed-traps at sixty miles an hour.
Even the greenhouses, when she invaded them, seemed to suggest funeral
set-pieces and the vanity of all earthly ways. The very walls about that
lordly Hayden demense grew still again remarkably suggestive of jail
walls. And that particular wall which intervened between her own and the
adjacent West estate seemed to take on a particularly objectionable
coloring.

As for her Uncle Chandler, he punctiliously dressed for dinner, and
punctiliously sat at one end of the big dining-room table while Teddie
just as solemnly sat at the other—though she did once emerge
sufficiently from her self-absorption to remark that they looked exactly
like two palm-trees on the edge of the Sahara. She also once ventured to
ask if Watkins really oughtn’t to have a passport when he carried the
joint all the way from her end of the table down to the old Major’s end
of the table. And her Uncle Chandler brightened up sufficiently to
inquire if he hadn’t better order a taxi to run them out to the terrace
for coffee, so abysmally vast seemed the distances in that dolorous and
empty house.

If the old Major remained suspiciously meek and long-suffering during
these days of trial, it must be acknowledged that he made divers and
undivulged trips in to the City, whence he returned oddly fortified in
spirit and beguilingly abstracted in manner. The only excursion which
brought him obvious displeasure was that when he brought back to Teddie
a motor-truck loaded down with her studio possessions—which the lady in
question solemnly committed to a bonfire on the rear end of the East
Drive. And that afternoon as they sat taking tea and cinnamon-toast on
the Terrace, he finally found the courage to confront the morose-eyed
young lady who sat in the high-backed willow-chair so moodily tearing an
Ophelia rose to pieces.

“Say, Teddie, isn’t it about time you were loosening up?” the old Major
quietly inquired.

“About what?” demanded Teddie, taking her third slice of cinnamon-toast.

“About that mix-up down in the Village.”

“It wasn’t a mix-up,” corrected Teddie.

“Then what was it?”

“It was a revelation!”

“A revelation of what?” asked Uncle Chandler as he put his teacup down.

“Of what men are!” asserted the abstracted-eyed Teddie.

“Of course,” said the old Major as he took out a chased gold case and
meditatively extracted a cigarette. “So let’s have it, Teddikins, hook,
line and sinker!”

But Teddie shook her head.

“I telegraphed to father,” she inappositely remarked.

“Where _is_ Trummie this summer?” her uncle inquired.

“He’s still at the Arizona Camp Observatory,” explained Teddie.

“Trummie moves so slowly,” complained the old Major. “The poor man can’t
help it, I suppose, trailing that chain of D. S.’s, and F. R. S.’s and
F. R. G. S.’s around after him all the time. But I suppose you felt he
was the proper person to talk such things over with?”

Teddie nodded a slightly abstracted assent.

“Yes, I felt that way. But I had a wire from father this morning. He
says he’ll be through with his spectographic analysis of the Milky Way
nebulæ before the end of October and that as soon as he feels sure he
can synthesize an isotope of hydrogen approximating to nebulum he’ll
come east and have a talk with me!”

The old Major smiled pensively.

“Yes, I remember what he said when the Rubber Trust swallowed up my
little Congolo Company and squeezed me out after I’d squeezed out the
original Amsterdammers: ‘The oysters eat the diatoms, and we eat the
oysters!’ It makes me wish, Teddie, that I could be a philosopher now
and then.”

“I wish women could be,” remarked Teddie.

“Then why not make a stab at it,” ventured the old gentleman who had
been so intently studying her averted face, “by telling me what the
trouble is?”

“There’s really nothing to tell, Uncle Chandler,” solemnly asserted the
young lady with the moody eyes, drawing the striped ticking of reticence
over the brocaded injustices of youth.

The old Major tossed away his cigarette. He sat staring at the poor
little rich girl in the willow lawn-chair. He stared at her so long and
so intently that she finally turned about and looked none too
fraternally into his face.

“What are you thinking about?” she asked.

“It’s queer I never noticed it before,” remarked the old Major,
apparently more to himself than to the girl confronting him.

“Noticed what?” asked Teddie.

“How you’re getting a bit like your mater,” replied the placid-eyed old
gentleman in the armchair, “a bit tamed and trimmed off and ironed out!”

“_I won’t be!_” proclaimed Teddie, with quite unlooked-for passion, as
she got up from her chair.

“But how, my dear, are you going to stop it?” asked the still equable
old Major.

“I won’t get like that!” reiterated Teddie, looking for all the world
like a second Artemisia confronting an army of embattled males. She
stood there, as though expecting some retort from him. But he said
nothing. He merely took out another cigarette, lighted it, and recovered
his morning _Herald_ from the grass at his feet. This he proceeded to
peruse with studied unconcern, quite ignoring the young Artemisia still
glowering at him over the edge of it. Then he looked up, with the ghost
of a yawn.

“By the way, I saw the Commodore in town yesterday,” observed Teddie’s
uncle as he leisurely turned a page. “He was telling me a queer thing
about young West.”

“Indeed!” said Teddie, without moving.

“The Commodore was saying that Gerry’s going to marry that Rivers girl,”
offhandedly announced the maculated old scoundrel in immaculate
cricketer’s flannel.

He waited behind his paper, for several seconds. Then he heard a
mirthless little laugh. Then he heard the contemptuous ejaculation of
“_That frump!_” And then he heard quick steps along the marble walk that
bisected the Terrace.

“Where are you going?” he demanded as he looked up to see Teddie making
off with the stride of a Diana.

But Teddie entirely ignored that question. Instead of answering that not
unnatural interrogation she was calling sharply out to Watkins: “Tell
Parrish I want my car. I want it _at once_!” And two minutes later, as
the old Major folded up his paper and watched Teddie vanish down the
West Drive leaving a scurry of gravel and a residuary cloud of dust
above the shrubbery, he sighed audibly, and took out another cigarette,
and sat deep in thought.


                            CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Teddie, as she swung into the open road and headed for the blue hills of
Forgetfulness, which receded as she approached them, remembered that she
was at least mistress of that ever-responsive piece of machinery on
which she sat poised like a stormy petrel on the crest of a comber. It
was hers to hasten and retard, to control and direct, as she wished. It
was hers to curb into submission and harry into dust-trailing violation
of the state road-laws. And as she went careening along the open
highway, crouched frowningly over her mahogany wheel, she sought to ease
the tumult in her perplexed young body by drinking up distance very much
as disheartened men drink alcohol. She did her best to drug herself with
speed, letting the air whip through the opened wind-shield and sting her
clouded and untalcumed young face.

When she caught sight of Luddy O’Brien, the traffic cop at the Valley
Crossing, she dropped an eye to her speedometer and automatically slowed
down. Quite automatically, too, she accosted that officer, after the
long-established manner so disapproved of by her family, by raising her
left hand to the level of her ear, holding the palm outward, and
wigwagging her hunched fingers nervously up and down, very much as if
she were twanging the strings of an invisible Irish harp.

Luddy grinned briefly but fraternally, saluted, and declined to commit
himself, as an officer of the law, by turning to observe her as she
swept past him and mounted the next hill—at a rate, be it recorded, not
strictly in accordance with traffic regulations.

Teddie, in fact, was already discovering how brief and deluding can be
the sense of release born of four flying wheels with nowhere in
particular to fly to. She almost wished that she might hear the
_put-put_ of Luddy’s motorcycle as it rode her down. She almost wished
that Luddy would arrest her and have her committed to a jail-yard with
high walls where she couldn’t possibly get out and where she could spend
what remained of her blighted life breaking limestone rocks with a big
hammer, breaking them by thumping them until they went to pieces, the
same as she’d like to thump a few heads!

Then her thoughts went back to her car. From the crest of the hill which
it had mounted like a swallow, Teddie could see the familiar gray ribbon
of the road where it twined through the woodlanded valley below her. It
was a very inviting road. It was more than inviting, in Teddie’s present
mood—it was challenging. And she breathed deeper as she saw that she
couldn’t even afford to keep an eye on her speedometer dial.

She was more than half-way down the long slope when she first caught
sight of the motor-truck loaded with a double tier of cement blocks.
That failed to trouble her, however, for she had ample room to slither
by. What troubled her, for a moment, was something coming down the
opposing slope. It was a pigeon-gray roadster stripped of its top, a
homely and heavy-bodied roadster which trailed rolling _cumuli_ of
road-dust in its wake. Her quick eye told her that as the different
factors now revealed themselves the pigeon-gray roadster would pass the
motor-truck before she could. This meant that she would have to give way
and slow down and humbly wait for the autocrat piloting the pigeon-gray
roadster. And this Teddie had neither the desire nor the intention of
doing. For she knew who owned that roadster. She knew it even before she
saw the bareheaded driver alone in the high-backed seat, the tanned and
goggled face with the oil-stained old putty-colored motor-coat buttoned
close up under the bony young Cæsar-Augustus chin. It was Gerry West’s
car. And Gerry West was in it, imperially demanding his right-of-way as
he pounded man-like down a road which he regarded as entirely and
altogether his own. But it was not Teddie’s intention, that afternoon,
to play second fiddle to any one.

Her heart tightened a little, for she knew it would take promptness to
swing out to the left and back to the right again before the lordly
roadster pounded opposite the motor-lorry. If he had to slow up, at the
last moment, so much the better, for he seemed, at the moment, to stand
typical of those steam-rollers of life which she had always so actively
resented. It was a bigger car than hers, a distinctly male car, and as
such it owed her consideration. The burden of courtesy naturally must
rest upon it.

Subliminally her practised eye was measuring the distances, appraising
the speed of the rival car, evaluating the advance of the motor-truck.
Her hand-palm punched the horn at the same time that her shoe-sole
pushed down on the accelerator. Then she careened ahead, claiming her
fairway by right of conquest. She punched the horn again, for the dust
was troubling her more than she had expected. She swung out to the left
to clear the thundering motor-truck, rocked up to it, was abreast of it,
and saw the pigeon-gray roadster opposing her, dancing down on her, with
no visible decrease of speed.

He was not giving way an inch—and she knew what it meant. The truck
still hemmed her in on the right, cluttering briskly forward,
imperturbable and indifferent. It was too late to swing ahead and over;
it was too late to slow down and drop back. Gerald Rhindelander West was
refusing to give in to her!

But Gerry, at that moment, must have seen her. He must have seen her for
the first time, just as he saw for the first time what was going to
happen if they thundered together. And he gave way.

He gave way in the only manner possible, by throwing over his wheel and
taking the ditch. There was a thump and scrape of mud-guards, a shout
from the startled truck-driver, and an involuntary soprano scream from
Teddie as she stiffened at her wheel and with a grinding of rubber and
gravel brought her car to a stop.

When she looked back, with her heart in her mouth, she saw no sign of a
roadster and no sign of Gerry along the road. This both puzzled and
bewildered her. And still again she stared back through the settling
dust.

Then she saw, and understood. She saw the heavy roadster half-way up the
slope of the side-hill, with its nose buried in a privet-hedge, oddly
suggestive of a shoat rooting for tubers. And on the dust-powdered grass
beside it she saw Gerry, lying startlingly inert, with a stain of red on
the putty-colored motor-coat.

She made incoherent small cries of protest as she left her car in the
middle of the road and ran back to him. She bent over him, and
unbuttoned his coat, and saw the little stream of red running from a cut
on his wrist.

“Oh, Gerry, I’ve killed you!” she wailed as she sat down beside him and
tore a band of white from her petticoat and bound up the bleeding wrist.
He opened his eyes as she stooped over her work, and promptly closed
them again. “Oh, my love, my love, I’ve killed you!” she said in
helpless little moans as she struggled to knot the bandage tight over
the well-wrapped wrist-bone.

It reminded her of her aeronautical days of old. And she tried to tell
herself to be calm, and to remember what one should do in such cases.
She even slipped a hand over his heart, and found it to be beating, and
summoned up the courage to study his face. On his left temple she
noticed a lump, almost as big as a shirred egg, and a subsidiary small
pain shot through her as she remembered how much it looked like the lump
Gunboat Dorgan had once brought out on Raoul Uhlan’s pallid forehead.
She was brushing the dusty hair back from this slowly discoloring lump
when she awakened for the first time to the knowledge that the driver of
the motor-truck was not only standing there beside her, but addressing
her in none too commiserative tones.

“Yuh’ve kilt him, all right, lady! Yuh’ve kilt him, and I s’pose yuh’re
satisfied!”

“I haven’t killed him,” protested Teddie as she took Gerry’s head in her
lap.

“Yuh sure set out to kill something,” announced the blue-denimed giant
from the truck. “And this looks to me like yuh got what yuh was after!”

“Don’t be silly,” cried Teddie. “But get into my car and get back here
with a doctor. Do you understand: I want a doctor right away!”

“It’d be more sensible to get the body into the truck,” maintained the
heartless one in blue-denim.

“You get that doctor!” blazed Teddie with a stare which drove the
truck-driver off even as naked steel might have done. And when he was
gone she leaned over the still inert Gerry, and wiped the dust from his
face with her tiny mockery of a handkerchief, and murmured ridiculous
little incoherencies which made him open one eye, like a sleepy hound on
a hearth-rug, and quite inconsiderately close it again.

“Oh, Gerry!” she moaned as she put her hand once more in under his vest,
to make sure his heart was still beating, and fell to pondering the
reason for a resultant small writhe of his body. She leaned closer over
his face, assuring herself that he was still breathing.

Then she stooped still lower. She slipped an arm in under his head and
held his dusty cheek against hers. _And then she kissed him._

She kissed him grimly, determinedly, abandonedly, saying “Oh, Gerry!” in
foolish little gasps and not bothering to wipe away the tear that was
running down her nose.

Then she sat back, with his head still in her arms, for his eyes were
open and gazing up into her face.

“How dare you do that?” demanded Gerry, in a voice singularly steady for
one so recently emerging from unconsciousness.

“Oh, Gerry!” repeated Teddie, hugging him tight. And she kissed him
again, out of sheer relief at finding him still anchored to the same
muddled-up old world with her.

“You’ll have to marry me for this, remember!” announced Gerry, doing his
best to look magisterial.

“I couldn’t live without you, Gerry,” she had the honesty to
acknowledge. “And they said I was going to lose you!”

“Not if I know it,” proclaimed her captive.

Teddie looked up for a moment at the sadly wrecked roadster.

“But it wasn’t sporting of me, Gerry!”

“What wasn’t?”

“Everything—everything I’ve done!”

Gerry reached out with his one good arm.

“No queen, Teddie, can possibly do wrong. But there’s one thing,
Belovedness, I want to know, I’ve got to know.”

“What is it?”

“I’ve got to know just why you kissed me!”

Teddie studied him with solemn eyes. Then she studied the lengthening
shadows along the valley-slope and the blue hills beyond.

“Because, Gerry, you’re so different from other men,” she finally
acknowledged.



                            The Lost Titian


                              CHAPTER ONE

Conkling stopped his car. He drew up, dry and dust-laden, in the narrow
green gullet of the side-road overhung with sycamore and soft maple. A
cooler breath of air sighed out through the oval frame of verdure
slightly powdered with road-dust and slightly suggestive of a woman with
prematurely silvered temples.

Conkling sat staring down the open throat of the hill-lane which dropped
away like a waterfall toward the misty blue of Lake Erie. To the east he
could see the opal green of Rond-Eau, iridescent as mercury in its
verdigris-tinted shadow-box of rushes and wild-rice. Beyond that
confusion of intermingling greens he could see the long line of Pointe
Aux Pins, seeming neither main-land nor cloud-land, but floating
aerially in the veiled light, as misted and mirage-like as the ghostly
plume of smoke trailing behind a ghostly coal-boat nosing slowly in
toward the harbor. Directly in front of him he could see only the
diminishing mottled terraces of the tree-tops selvaged with the paler
green of willows where the lake-cliffs ended abruptly in the pallid blue
of the water. A mile out on this water, hazy with the windless heat of
August, he could discern the vague L of a pile-driver, floating beside a
row of pound-stakes. It floated there ghostly and insubstantial, a
blurred and lonely shadow that seemed to belong more to the air than to
the water.

Conkling liked that view, with its receding vistas and its abrupt
suggestion of repose. He liked it so much that he regretted not having
seen it in spring, in the virginal greenery of its first awakenings. He
even surrendered to an impulse to dip deeper into it, by releasing his
foot-brake and letting his car coast quietly down the overarched incline
of broken shadow and sunlight. That impassive and almost noiseless
descent, with his engine silent, seemed to him like an aerial flight
into some older and sleepier world. When a cushioning carpet of
pine-needles finally brought him to a stop, he was satisfied to sit
there, within twenty paces of a weather-bleached gate which marked a gap
in the straggling undergrowth of cedar.

This gate, as a gate, challenged his attention. Yet he studied it for
several minutes before reaching for his pack easel and thumb box and
climbing down from his car-seat. Then he proceeded to inspect the gate
at closer range. It was antiquated and uninviting and it sagged on one
hinge. But beyond it, he found as he leaned across its moldering top
bar, lay an arresting vista of checkered sunlight and cool green shadow
centering in the warm red of a brick manor-house.

That glimpse of an unexpected old garden, cool and shadowy and secluded
behind the sheltering cedars, held him so close that he overlooked the
No Trespassing sign which semaphored so forbiddingly down at him from a
half-dead silver birch. For here in the heart of a country which had
impressed him as a land without a past he had stumbled across a
homestead with the true patina of time upon it.

And here, he told himself, was surely a chance for some of that old
walnut and mahogany for which, in the eyes of the native, he stood ready
to pay romantic prices.

So closely did he inspect the red-brick manor-house that it was several
minutes before he became conscious of the girl standing within ten paces
of him. She stood there in a birdlike attitude of arrested movement,
with her body pressed in close to the hedge, as though timorously
anxious to escape his eye. And he realized, as he stared at her, how
some unconsidered protective coloration was causing her to merge into
the brocaded background of that ruinous old garden. For she wore a
lilac-colored sunbonnet and a frock of flowered organdie, and her hands
were incased in a pair of russet gauntlets which had plainly known
better days. Conkling could see that she had been engaged in clipping
streamers of wild grape from the hedge which half screened her. She
still held a pair of rusty-looking rose shears in her fingers.

He no longer studied the garden, with its sundial slightly awry and its
unused fountain and its shadowed turf-slope and ragged paths edged with
perennials. It was the girl that held his attention, and oddly enough,
his first vague feeling of depression slipped away from him. Just what
lay at the root of that depression he could not have said. But he felt
so like a wanderer into regions of desolation touched with mystery that
the opening lines of _Childe Harold to the Dark Tower Came_ kept
recurring to his mind. And it struck him as odd that he should spot a
figure so vivid in a background so dolorous. For the girl’s eyes were a
cornflower blue, made deeper in color by the thickly planted black
lashes. Her hair, which even the abundant hood of the sunbonnet could
not altogether hide, was a burnished mahogany brown. Yet her face
itself, which struck him as austere and a trifle pinched, held its
undertones suggestive of still youthful vitalities, of unawakened
ardencies. It was the lips, he decided, with the faintly rebellious
lines about their warmth, which did the trick. But there was breeding in
that face, and something even more than breeding; something which he
could not quite decipher, but was content in the end to write down as
intensity. This played the added trick of making her seem, to Conkling,
like a child prematurely aged, vaguely silvered by the life about her,
the same as her roadside sycamores had been silvered by dust. Yet as his
quick gaze rested on the gravely innocent eyes and the rose-like cream
and pink of the arm above the gauntlet-top he was again perplexed by a
persistent sense of girlishness.

Those gravely non-committal eyes, however, were no longer even covertly
observing him. The gloved hands were once more decorously busy among the
grapevine tendrils. Conkling could see, by that austere preoccupation,
that the grave-eyed young lady with the rose shears was respectably
eliminating him from her universe. He felt his color deepen. Yet it was
only by audacity, he knew, that he could win his point. And the vague
but universal air of impoverishment which overhung the place breathed
life into his newer boldness. He pushed open the gate and stepped
through it.

“Could I sketch a corner of your garden?” he inquired with all the
casualness at his command.

The face under the sunbonnet turned slowly in his direction. But the
eyes were still austerely non-committal.

“Sir?”

In that short monosyllable he noticed many things. He noticed a certain
sharp fastidiousness of tone which spoke of caste. He caught from it a
note of warning mixed with a cool and condescending forbearance. But in
it, most of all, he found a beauty of timbre, a full-throated English
resonance which he had not expected to stumble across in that
higher-voiced Canadian countryside. This was no peasant type, and the
crisp monosyllable was apparently intended to remind him of the fact.

“Would you mind if I tried a water-color of one end of your garden?”
Conkling repeated, parading the folded stool and easel and thumb box,
which had obviously escaped her attention.

The rose shears went on with their clipping. She was weighing his
request, and as she did so she reverted oddly back to the child type. He
found it hard to think of her as a woman. She seemed disturbed by the
matter-of-factness with which he had put a matter-of-fact question. But
it was plain that he was an outlander, a stranger unversed in the
traditions of those reticent byways.

“If you wish to,” she finally said, without stopping in her work.

It struck Conkling as odd that her face should go pale over a decision
so trivial. It struck him as equally odd, when he unfolded stool and
easel in the shadow of the cedar hedge, that the thin face should just
as suddenly flush again. For he had sagaciously made note of the
direction in which the girl was working her way along this hedge, and he
chose his position so that her activities, as time went on, would not
take her farther away from him. Yet he opened up his thumb box and fell
to work without further addressing her, only too conscious of the
uninterrupted clicking of the shears behind him. If he sniffed an aroma
of the idyllic in that situation he betrayed no signs of it. She had
not, at any rate, taken to her heels; and he could afford to leave the
outcome on the lap of time.

He turned, with a less impersonal eye, and studied the house. He was
impressed by the pathos of its faded grandeur. It might at one time,
built as it was in imitation of an English manor, have been a
pretentious enough pile. But everything about it had long since fallen
into decay. The neglected cornices drooped without paint. The mortar had
fallen away from between the bricks. The dilapidated verandas, half
covered with masses of Virginia creeper, showed a roof sadly broken and
a railing much awry. Here and there, in the tall French windows, a pane
of glass had been replaced by an unpainted board. A broken stretch of
eave troughing hung from an upper façade like an unkempt tress from a
faded brow. On the parched slope to the right of its main entrance
wandered a flock of hungry ducks, and under the maples, beyond the
ducks, hobbled a solitary and disheveled peacock, which screamed from
time to time at the advent of a stranger within its domains. On the
nearer side of the house, beyond parterres of weeds and brambles which
might at one time have been a rose garden, stood a tilted chicken
brooder which had once been painted red, and the ruins of a cider press,
with a row of overturned beehives in the background.

To the south, where the lawn sloped down to the empty fountain basin and
was bisected by a narrow walk along which still flamed the valiant and
invincible perennials, the aspect was less ruinous. Conkling could make
out iris and phlox and ragged sailor and golden glow and tiger lilies in
a glorious tangle and riot of color. Beyond the sundial he could discern
an arbor with broken seats, and beyond that again the heavy and huddled
foliage which on all sides screened in from the outside world that
little area of color and quietness. The next moment, however, his
casually wandering glance came to a stop. It came to a stop abruptly,
with his startled attention balking as a colt balks at a shadow across
the roadway of reason. For before him, in the unequivocal open light of
the afternoon, he saw an overturned marble sarcophagus. It was the sort
of thing one stumbled across now and then in Italy, the sort of thing he
had himself seen crated and lowered into ships’ holds at Palermo and
Catania, the sort of thing they kept behind brass railings in New World
museums. But here it stood weather-stained on a slope of turf, with
three tin milk-pans sunning on its mottled upturned bottom.

He sat squinting at the strange thing for a full minute. Then he turned
to speak to the girl in the lilac sunbonnet.

But he did not speak. For from the direction of the house came the sound
of a new and quite unexpected voice. It was a thin and acrid voice,
obviously barbed with indignation.

“Julia!” was the repeated and reproving cry which echoed through the
quietness.

The girl with the rose shears, more childlike than ever, turned a
frightened face toward the house. But she did not answer.

“Is that a man in the grounds?” demanded the distant monitorial voice.
And Conkling, for the first time, was no longer at his ease.

“Y-yes,” the girl called hesitatingly back.

Her face was quite pale, and the meekness in her voice rather disturbed
the man at the easel. He peered about for the author of that
over-disturbing challenge, but he could see nothing.

“Lavinia,” commanded the shrill and mysteriously distant voice—and
Conkling for a moment wondered why that name should fret his memory with
an uncaptured association—“Lavinia, unchain Nero at once!”

Conkling caught a sound like a gasp from the girl with the shears.

“Please don’t mind,” she said without turning her head. “He’s so old!”

“Who’s so old?” asked Conkling. He had begun to repack his thumb box.

“Nero. I have to soak his bread crusts for him. He has no teeth left.
But I really think you ought to go!”

There was no misjudging her distress. It amounted almost to terror, and
the mystery of it was sufficient to revive his audacity.

“May I come back?” he asked, tingling a trifle before the amazed
innocence of her eyes.

“What good could it do?” she found the courage to inquire.

“That’s what I intended to find out,” he told her. He said it more
determinedly than he had intended.

“I don’t think you understand,” she said with her austere and troubled
eyes on his face.

“Understand what?” he demanded.

“Us!” was all she said.

And it was all she had a chance to say, for the next moment the distant
and indignant voice was commanding her to come to the house, and to come
at once. She went without hesitation, like a bidden child. Conkling saw
the deep gloom of one of the French windows swallow up the lilac
sunbonnet and the organdie gown. Then he folded his easel and his camp
stool, stared for a minute or two at the decrepid peacock and the
overturned sarcophagus, and told himself that without a shadow of doubt
he would come back.


                              CHAPTER TWO

Conkling went back. It was, indeed, rather a habit with him, this going
back to authenticate the questionable, this returning to appraise the
survivals of undecipherable civilizations. But before going back the
technique of his calling as a collector, of his activities as an
antiquarian, prompted him to assemble what data he could concerning the
occupants of the old Kent County manor-house on the Lake Road.

He did not discover a great deal, and much of this, in the end, proved
contradictory. But once he had tapped the rock of rural reticence he
found a copious enough flow of the waters of hostility. The countryside
apparently had very little that was good to say of the Keswicks. They
were “queer” and felt themselves above their neighbors. They had even
shot off an old blunderbuss at certain youths of Weston who had raided
the row of oxheart cherries in their orchard, and had allowed a horse to
die of distemper without calling in a veterinary surgeon. As for the
girl, Julia Keswick, she wasn’t so bad as the two old she-dragons, but
she was reputed to be a spitfire and hard to hold down. This, however,
Conkling found neutralized by later information to the effect that the
girl was as shy as a rabbit, and no one ever knew what she was up to.
But she gave herself airs, chiefly, apparently, because she had been at
a convent school in Quebec.

“And there was them as called her a beauty, and them as preferred a
woman with more meat’n a sparrow on her bones!”

Yet the data concerning her two aunts, Georgina and Lavinia Keswick, was
less ambiguous in coloring. These two antique maiden-ladies were
variously described as “a couple of old crows,” “a pair o’ bloodless old
hardheads,” and “a team o’ skinflints who put pennies in the collection
plate of a Sunday.” There had been a brother once, a rolling stone who
wasted the family substance and went off to Europe once a year to buy
marble lions and tombstones and paint little pictures on pieces of
canvas. He had been a poor sort, this brother, and it couldn’t have been
much loss when he died of Roman fever somewhere in Italy, for he had
always preferred daubing a picture of a field to driving a plow up and
down its landsides. And you can’t farm in a country like Canada with a
camel’s-hair brush! Not by a long shot! The two old crows still tried to
run that farm, for they would endure no man about the place, but they
couldn’t even pay the interest on the mortgage, and year by year things
were only getting worse. They’d be foreclosing on ’em any time now.

It would make great tobacco land, the upper half of the farm, once it
was worked right. They could get five or six hundred a year out of it,
easy, growing Burley on shares, but the two elderly Keswick women had
religious scruples about surrendering land for the cultivation of the
filthy weed.

Yet Belinda Brittner, who had been in service with them in the old days,
claimed their religion to be a pretense and a mockery, remembering as
she did how Miss Lavinia had turned the clock back on Saturday night so
as to finish her strawberry jam without breaking the Sabbath, as she put
it. And their believing themselves to be better than other folks was
likewise a deception and a mockery before the Lord, for Belinda wasn’t
so blind that she didn’t know they dined on dog-fish discarded on the
beach by the pound-net fisherman, and frugally bought cat-meat which
went to no cats, but was frugally stewed with sour-dock for their own
parsimonious table. And when the _Annie Huff_ missed the harbor mouth at
Rond-Eau and pounded to pieces in a south-easter on the beach just below
the Keswick farm the two old vultures had been discovered by certain
midnight wanderers frugally salvaging everything washed up from the
wreck.

Just why this was held against them Conkling could not quite define,
just as he could not actively share in the rural indignation against
Kendal Keswick’s fifteen-year-old crime of importing a figure model from
New York. A justice of the peace had taken a hand in that affair and
there had been high words in the attic studio of the old manor-house,
where the model had been ordered in the name of the law to put on her
clothes and take her departure by the first train to the States. And
Kendal Keswick, after roundly cursing the country, had also taken his
departure. That eccentric dilettante went morosely off to Italy, for a
chance, as he put it, to breathe again. But there, ironically enough, he
breathed his last before the end of the year.

All this, piled up before Conkling in a garrulous campaign of
discouragement, only added a razor edge to that cool-eyed connoisseur’s
determination to revisit the Keswick manor-house. There was, he kept
reminding himself, every reason to assume that this old house might be
rich in the things he was most eager to obtain. But that purely
antiquarian curiosity became perplexingly involved with the memory of an
intense-eyed girl with mahogany-tinted hair.

So two days later, when he parked his car in the deep shadow of a
horse-chestnut beside the Lake Road, he felt that luck was with him when
he caught sight of a lilac sunbonnet on the far side of the
half-strangled cedar hedge. Yet his heart skipped a beat as he pushed
open the broken gate, and in stepping through it seemed to step back a
century in time.

The girl, who had a garden rake in her hand, paled a little as she
caught sight of him.

“It was good of you to come back,” she said quite simply. But that
acknowledgment seemed enriched by the look of intensity on her face. It
was a look, he was beginning to see, which was habitual with her, and
had much to do with her persistent aura of childishness.

“I call it good of you to let me,” he protested. Yet his eyes, as he
spoke, were on the faded front of the old manor-house.

“_They_ didn’t understand,” she said with her childlike immediacy.

“Understand what?” he asked.

“That you were an artist,” she explained.

“But I’m not. I’m only a curio hound for a kindly old gentleman named
Banning, who gives me a car and pays me money for wandering about and
enjoying life.”

“But you paint,” she reminded him.

Conkling could afford to laugh at her solemnity.

“I thought I could paint once, but two years in Paris showed me I was
barking up the wrong tree. About all I’m good for now is to size up
other people’s painting.”

The girl’s gaze became impersonal.

“_They_ found that out,” she admitted.

“Who did?”

“My aunts; and they’re rather sorry now about Nero.”

“Why?” he asked, with his eyes on her rapt young face. She was, after
all, more of a child than he had imagined. But he had not missed the
heat-lightning smile of humor that had played momentarily about her
lips. And he was grateful for it. It humanized her; it tended to
authenticate her reality. He wanted, above everything else, to establish
her as real, through and through, very much as he might wish some find
in old mahogany not to thin out into mere veneer.

“Because my Aunt Georgina is rather anxious to see you,” the girl was
saying.

“About what?”

“About the things you’re interested in.”

“But how does she know what I’m interested in?” he demanded, pondering
the fact that the enemy had also been active in the fields of
reconnaissance.

The faded lilac sunbonnet slowly turned until it faced the house front.

“I don’t think I can talk to you any longer,” said the girl, with her
non-committal eyes once more on his. “But she’ll probably come out when
she sees you here.”

“But it’s you that I’m interested in,” he protested, impressed by the
latent tragedy in the face which a lilac sunbonnet tended to turn into a
mockery. It made him think of columbines in a churchyard.

Her color deepened painfully, but she did not speak again. She left him
there and crossed the sloping, parched lawn and entered the house.

Conkling, as he unfolded his camp stool and set up his easel, resented
the passing of that slender and lightly swaying figure. The riot of
color along the tangled garden paths seemed without meaning. The tones
that had first caught his eyes became crude and uncoordinated under a
hot afternoon sun. But he remembered what she had said, and he sat
there, washing absurd colors together and wondering if she would come
back. Then, as the shadows lengthened and time dragged on, he wondered
if he was to be ignored even by the monitorial old aunts. But he daubed
stubbornly on, and when his patience was all but exhausted he was
rewarded by seeing a figure emerge from the house.

It was a remarkable figure, and as it bore down on him in silence he
studied it with oblique intentness. For it was that of an extremely tall
and an extremely angular woman, well past middle life, clad in rusty
black silk. On the iron-gray hair, parted and drawn severely down across
the pale and narrow forehead, reposed a small black satin cap edged with
coffee-colored lace. Half mittens of knitted linen were on the lank
hands clasped so fastidiously in front of a narrow waist elongated by
its ruchings of rusty silk. On the scrawny throat hung a cameo brooch,
oddly repeating the line of the pendulous dewlap under the yellow chin,
where the neck, as long and lean as a turkey’s, suggested a poised and
persistent wariness. But once this was passed over, there was a general
air of limpness, of deadness, about every line of the long body. It was
something suggestive of starvation, of starved lives and starved souls,
of empty years eked out in empty ways.

It was, Conkling had to admit, a striking enough face, with its long and
narrow boniness and its high-bridged nose. But there was a promise of
cruelty in the small mouth with its down-drawn corners, where the
earlier lines of haughtiness had merged into a pursed-up network of
little wrinkles. The eyes were deep-set and cold, of faded blue, with a
touch of tragedy in the looseness of the skin-fold under the thin and
high circling brows.

It was not the sort of face to make Conkling feel altogether at ease.
Yet it held him spellbound. It seemed to step from another century.

He sat behind the fragile shelter of his easel, studying that face as it
came to a stop before him, as it towered above him with a frown of
interrogation on its flinty brows.

“Might I make so bold as to inquire the nature of your visit here?” the
woman demanded in a voice as austere and unconceding as her face.

“The young lady said I might make a sketch of the garden,” he explained,
exasperated by the meekness which had crept into his own voice.

The scorn on the lean old face confronting him did not add to Conkling’s
happiness.

“Gentlemen were once in the habit of rising, as I remember it, when
accosted by a lady.”

“I’m sorry,” cried Conkling, nettling brick red as he rose to his feet
with his hat in his hand. “I beg your pardon,” he murmured again as he
essayed a jack-knife bow in which deference was not visibly shot through
with mockery.

“I presume you are a stranger in this neighborhood,” she said in an
acridly condoning tone of voice.

“You are quite correct in that presumption,” retorted Conkling, a little
tired of being treated like an urchin caught in a cherry tree.

“Otherwise you would have respected the long-established wishes of the
owner of this garden,” concluded his enemy, with a glance at the No
Trespassing sign.

“Undoubtedly, if I’d known in time,” admitted the intruder.

The woman in the half mittens shifted her position a little.

“Since you paint, I suppose you are interested in paintings,” she
suggested.

Along that glacial frontier Conkling thought he detected certain surface
meltings, certain vague trickles of surrendering austerities.

“That is my business,” he admitted.

“What is?” she demanded, not unaware of the impatience in his tone.

“Paintings and old furniture and _objets d’art_ in general,” he told
her. “That’s what I go about appraising and buying up for the New York
expert who is foolish enough to trust such matters to my judgment.”

She was plainly puzzled by his ironic note of levity.

“Am I to accept this as an acknowledgment that you do not understand
your own business?” she asked in her pointed, monitorial severity of
tone.

“To err is human,” he said as he folded up his camp stool. “And several
times I’ve paid good money for mahogany that turned out to be dyed
boxwood.”

Her solemnity, however, was unshakable.

“But in the matter of paintings,” she persisted. “You’ve had experience
with them?”

“Some very disagreeable experiences,” he evaded, consoled by the
consciousness that his enemy was in some mysterious way on the
defensive.

“But if it’s your business,” she went on, with the austere old eyes
fixed on his face, “you must understand about their value; you must have
a reasonable idea of what they are worth.”

“Madam, nobody understands that nowadays.”

“Apparently not,” she admitted. “But it’s at least possible to estimate
the market value of such things, is it not? The value which the dealers
in a big city such as yours would set on a collection of canvases?”

There was a note of concession, of unlooked-for hesitation, in her voice
as she spoke. It caused Conkling to become serious again.

“It’s possible in a way,” he explained to her. “But there are cases, of
course, where even experts differ.”

“But when it’s a matter of old masters?” she pursued, with her pale eyes
fixed on his face.

“Oh, they’re all pretty much evaluated,” he told her, “provided they are
old masters.”

She was about to speak again, but an interruption came in the form of a
slow and distant clangor. It was a dinner gong, Conkling suspected.
There was, however, no note of blitheness in its summons. It fell on his
ears as depressingly mournful as a bell-buoy tolling over a fog-bound
reef. It made him think of bells that he had heard in the second act of
_Macbeth_.

“We are about to take tea,” announced Georgina Keswick with the utmost
solemnity, “and I trust you will give us the honor of your company.”

Conkling was tempted to smile at this ponderous unbending. But he became
sober again as he caught sight of a slender young figure in organdie
passing from one side of the old manor to the other.

“That’s very kind of you,” he said, with his gaze following the girl in
organdie as she disappeared through one of the French windows. “I should
like to very much.”

He saw, as he started toward the house again, the solitary and stately
peacock, perched motionless on the moldering upper bar of a grape
trellis. He couldn’t help wondering why it had no mate. He couldn’t help
wondering how it endured that decrepid grandeur of burnished crest and
plume unshared by another. And he couldn’t help wondering, as he meekly
followed the gaunt and solemn woman in rusty black across the parched
lawn-slopes, just what was ahead of him.


                             CHAPTER THREE

Conkling found himself in a faded room with faded damask curtains. It
was a somber and musty-smelling room, but two walls of it were lined
with open bookshelves edged with pinked morocco and surmounted by three
Tanagra figurines which momentarily made him forget the mustiness about
him. He caught sight of a carved _leggio_ that must have come from the
choir of an Italian church, and a mahogany pedestal table with
dragon-claw feet on which stood a brass candelabrum with a square marble
base. Yet the next moment he was shuddering inwardly at the sight of a
handworked fire screen. On this screen, with thread and needle, patient
fingers had fabricated a foolish landscape of waterfall and woodland and
strolling ladies in hoop-skirts. It impressed him as not so much a
monument of wasted effort as it was a betrayal of a childish and
impoverished outlook on life. And the house began to depress him, for
even the black horsehair furniture so in need of repair became
significant of a mean discomfort heroically endured.

His feeling of depression increased when the second sister entered the
room. She came austere and silent and arrayed in plum-colored moiré. She
impressed him as having hurriedly changed for the occasion and as still
chafing under the necessity for that change. She seemed bonier and more
muscular than her sister Georgina, and when Conkling saw her hands,
calloused and toil-hardened and bloodless as bird claws, he was
persuaded that she had been called away from labor in some neighboring
field. Even her bow of greeting was a hostile one. And the young man in
the stiff-backed horsehair chair fell to wondering why she had been so
resolutely commandeered from her agrarian activities; and why, also, he
was being so laboriously introduced into that house of sinister
antiquities. He expected, until he saw tea actually being served, that
the girl, Julia Keswick, would be included in the gathering. But in this
he was disappointed.

He thought about her a great deal as he sat drinking his tea. It was not
good tea. It was weak and watery, just as a slight aroma of mustiness
clung to the solitary biscuit which was served with it. The skimmed milk
which was soberly spoken of as cream, the loaf of sugar which was doled
out so sparingly, the old Coalport so pathetically chipped and cracked,
all united to confirm his earlier impressions of a genteel poverty
grimly accepted.

He wondered how the girl could stand it, and he could foretell what it
would do to her. She would get like the other two in time. The years
would pinch her in body and soul alike. Her color would fade and the
fuller line of lip and throat would wither. Yet in her face he had
detected something unawakened and anticipatory, something which made
that grim house oppress him afresh with its sheathed claws of cruelty.

He was surprised to see Lavinia Keswick, having drunk her cup of tea and
eaten her wafer, rise grimly from her chair and as grimly leave their
presence. Conkling surmised that she was already resolutely removing the
plum-colored moiré and making ready for a delayed return to her scuffle
hoe.

It was not until Georgina Keswick was alone with her guest that she
returned to the matter uppermost in her mind.

“You have doubtless heard of my brother, Kendal Keswick, in the art
world?”

She paused, as though waiting for the name to strike home. But to
Conkling it meant nothing. For a moment the tragic pale eyes in the
tragic old face took on a deeper pathos.

“He was an artist himself in his time,” she stiffly acknowledged. “But
he was also a collector.”

“He would be before my time,” mercifully explained the young man,
puzzled by the air of hesitancy which had overtaken the rusty old crow
confronting him.

“I presume so,” acknowledged the woman in black, contriving to make her
survey of Conkling’s still youthful figure a slightly contemptuous one.

“You spoke of him as a collector,” Conkling found the heart to remind
her, out of the ensuing silence. “And that naturally prompts me to ask
what became of his collection.”

The pallid old eyes grew less abstracted.

“Some of it he sold a year or two before his death.”

“And the rest of it?”

“The rest of it has remained ever since in the possession of the family.
They are, in fact, held in trust here by me and my sister.”

“Paintings, you mean?”

“Yes, paintings,” she admitted.

“Then they’re the property, I take it, of your niece, Julia?” suggested
the young man, only too glad to direct the line of talk into more
congenial channels.

“Nominally, but not altogether,” was the somewhat acidulated reply.
“Julia’s father, at his death, left many obligations behind him.”

Conkling, vaguely chilled, waited for the woman in rusty black to speak
again.

“In a country such as this there are few persons with a knowledge of
art—of great art,” she continued with an obvious effort. “And of late
it has seemed advisable—advisable that these paintings, or at least a
certain number of them, should be disposed of.”

Conkling felt almost sorry for her. She was plainly not a woman who
could easily ask a favor, yet behind that grim front, for all its
momentary embarrassment, lurked an equally grim purpose.

“And you’d like me to look them over and tell you what I consider
they’re worth,” suggested her visitor—“what they’re worth from the New
York dealer’s standpoint?”

She blinked her eyes like an old eagle, plainly disturbed by his
slightly impatient short-cut to directness.

“It would be a great service,” she said out of the silence.

“On the contrary, it would be a great pleasure,” contended Conkling. “So
what’s the matter with getting at it while the light’s still good?”

He was startled to see a ghost of a flush creep up into her faded
cheeks.

“That would be impossible to-day,” she told him with something oddly
akin to terror in the eyes which evaded his.

“Why not to-day?” he asked, intent on his study of her mysterious
abashment.

“They will have to be prepared,” she replied, ill at ease.

“What do you mean by prepared?”

“They will have to be cleaned, for one thing.”

“And how do you propose cleaning them?” he demanded.

“I have always regarded coal oil and turpentine as quite satisfactory,”
she retorted, plainly resenting his tone.

“Then if your canvases are of any value you’ve been using something
which will very quickly take the value out of them. You’d kill their
color in no time. We wash a picture with cheesecloth in warm water and
soap, the same as you’d wash fine lace; and a part of the trick is to
dry it quickly to keep it from warping. Then dissolve mastic tears in
turpentine and put it on with a camel’s hair brush, if you have to.”

It was plain that she was as averse to criticism as she was unaccustomed
to it.

“In that case perhaps the cleaning can be dispensed with,” she replied
with dignity.

“Then I suppose I can see ’em at once,” he suggested. But her
embarrassment returned to her.

“They will have to be arranged,” she said with a solemnity which in some
way went lame.

“How many canvases are there?” he asked.

“Between twenty and thirty,” was the hesitating reply.

Conkling showed his surprise.

“It’ll take time, of course, to go over a bunch like that.”

“That,” said Georgina Keswick with an air of escape, “is why I should
prefer making an appointment for some other day.”

“It all depends on the pictures, of course, just how long it’ll take
me.”

“I don’t think you’ll find them altogether trivial.”

He recalled the earlier allusion to old masters. But he had had
experience with the bucolic conception of such things.

“Who are the artists?” he asked in his most matter-of-fact tone.

“I’m not sure,” she said, after a moment’s hesitation. “At least, not
sure of all of them.”

“But the ones you know?” he prompted. And again a period of silence
reigned in the shadowy room before she spoke.

“There’s a Decamps and two Corots and a Holbein,” she said very quietly.
“There is also a Constable—no, two Constables—and one Boldini, and
what we were once led to believe was a copy of Correggio, though our
late rector, who was in both Rome and Florence once, remained strongly
persuaded that it was an original.”

Conkling, as he sat staring at the faded face in the fading light, lost
a little of his own color. It took his breath away. It was too much to
believe.

“That’s rather a formidable list,” he murmured weakly enough, for the
whole thing still seemed incredible.

Here, in the obscure corner of a Canadian colony, he was threatened with
stumbling across a collection that might be the envy of a national
gallery. They were claiming to have Corot and Correggio, Decamps and
Holbein, housed in this decrepid old homestead hidden away in its
ruinous old garden.

His bewildered eye rested for a moment on the Tanagra figurines. Yet
they only added to his disturbance, for the man who had captured them,
he knew, had been a good picker; and nothing, after all, was too
preposterous for such a house.

“When shall I come back?” he asked, with rather an anxious face.

“Will to-morrow at two be convenient?” he heard his hostess in rusty
black inquiring.

“I’ll be here at two,” he said with a belated effort at professional
impersonality. But it was an abortive effort, for he had become too
actively conscious that he stood on the threshold of some high
adventure. And so sharp was that inner excitement that he even forgot
about Julia Keswick until he saw her rose shears hanging on a cedar twig
near the broken gate.


                              CHAPTER FOUR

Conkling, on returning to the Keswick house for the second time, nursed
an elusive sense of frustration. He nursed, as well, a sense of playing
little more than a secondary rôle in a drama of deferment. For the
accessories of the drama were not arranging themselves as he might have
wished. On his way back to the manor-house he had come face to face with
Lavinia Keswick, and that austere old figure, seated in a decrepid
canopied phaëton drawn by a rawboned mare, had either failed or refused
to recognize him. He was further depressed by the ominous silence which
reigned when he pounded on the faded manor-door with the heavy brass
knocker in the form of an ape with laughter on its embittered metal
face. But in a minute or two the door was opened, and Julia Keswick
herself stood confronting him.

She was dressed in Quaker gray, and seemed more repressed and more
mature than when he had first caught sight of her. But she had the
power, for all her quietness, of once more making his pulse skip a beat
or two.

“I was to look over the pictures,” he explained, noticing her hesitancy.

“I’m afraid that won’t be possible to-day,” she told him in a tone of
constraint.

“But your aunt asked me to,” he reminded her.

“I know, but there has been an accident.”

“A serious one?” he asked.

“I hope not. But my Aunt Georgina slipped on the attic steps and
sprained her ankle. It’s paining her a great deal, and she has gone to
bed.”

“Could I possibly see her?”

A ghost of a smile appeared on the girl’s face. It would not be easy to
explain to him that no living man had ever beheld her Aunt Georgina in
bed. So she merely shook her head.

“Then how about your Aunt Lavinia?”

Again the girl shook her head.

“She has had to go to Weston to see a lawyer about a mortgage
foreclosure—and she has always hated the pictures.”

“Then why couldn’t you show them to me?” he suggested.

“I don’t think my aunt would approve of that.”

“But in an emergency like this?” he contended.

“I wouldn’t be allowed to,” she said with an odd flattening of the
voice. “Some of them are not——” she broke off. Her shoulder movement
was a half-ironic one. “Even my aunt objected to some of them. She was
carrying one of the bigger canvases down to her bedroom when she slipped
and fell.”

“That was unfortunate,” he perfunctorily exclaimed. His mind, for the
moment, seemed to be on other things. It was his glance into the girl’s
face, where he sensed pennons of valor behind the bastions of silence,
that brought his thoughts back to the present.

“But why to her bedroom?” he asked.

“To hide it away,” was the level-noted reply. And again their glances
came together.

“What was the nature of that canvas,” he finally asked, “the canvas that
caused the accident?”

There was a silence of several seconds before she answered.

“It was a Bouguereau!”

He was able to smile as he studied her in the shadow of the
weather-bleached doorway. He understood, at last, the grim valor of her
gaze. And she saw that he understood, and seemed glad of it.

“It’s all ridiculous, of course,” he said with his renewing smile of
comprehension. “But it’s at least given me the chance of seeing you
again.”

She in turn studied him for a moment or two with her intent eyes. Then
she slowly changed color.

“I’m sorry,” she finally said.

“About what?”

Her slow look back over her shoulder had not escaped him. But he was
quite satisfied to stand and stare at her. She seemed the only point of
life in that house of dead and silent mustiness.

“I can’t talk to you any longer,” she said in lowered tones. “I really
can’t!”

“Why not?” he demanded.

“I’d be punished for it,” she told him, without meeting his eye,
“cruelly punished.”

She had spoken quietly enough, but there was an undertone of passion in
her words.

“That doesn’t sound reasonable,” he expostulated. For she seemed, in her
present mood and posture, far removed from the child.

“It isn’t,” he heard her answering. “But there’s nothing I can do about
it.”

“How old are you?” he asked with a frankness sired by impatience.

“I’m nineteen—almost twenty,” she told him, with her habitual
impersonal candor.

“Then that makes it more unreasonable than ever,” he proclaimed with a
touch of triumph.

“All my life has been unreasonable.”

“But——” he began, and broke off. Still again their glances had met and
locked, and he seemed to drink courage from the quietness of her eyes.
“Why couldn’t I see you?”

“See me?” she echoed.

“Without them knowing it,” he explained, paling under his tan.

She stood silent a moment.

“Where?” she finally asked, in little more than a whisper.

“What’s the matter with that old arbor of yours at the foot of the
garden?” he suggested.

He still misunderstood her hesitation, for it was resolution and not
timidity which was so completely whitening her face.

“Why couldn’t you meet me there, about nine o’clock to-night?”

“That would be too early,” she said, bewilderingly composed.

“Then say ten,” he persisted, marveling at his own unpremeditated deadly
earnestness; and still again she stood silent. But she found the courage
to lift her intent eyes and let them rest on his face. It seemed
significant of tremendous capitulations. But when she spoke she spoke
very quietly.

“I’ll be there.”

Conkling watched her retreat into the shadow and watched the faded door
swing slowly shut between them. Then he turned and went down the steps.
He went away this time without thinking of the pictures, and he went
with no slightest sense of disappointment.


                              CHAPTER FIVE

Conkling, as he waited in the shadowy arbor, was conscious of a series
of rhythms. One was the distant rise and fall of lake water on its
pebbled shore. Another was the antiphonal call of katydids from the mass
of shrubbery behind him. Still another was the stridulous chorus of the
crickets in the parched grass, rising and falling with a cadence of its
own. And still another was the beat of his own pulse, quickened with an
expectancy which tended to disturb him.

He waited for almost half an hour. Then Julia Keswick came ghost-like
out of the dusk, heavy with its mingled smell of phlox and mignonette.
He stood up, once he was sure who it was. She, too, stood, without
speaking, face to face with him in the filtered moonlight.

“Was it hard?” he asked inadequately and with a quaver in his voice. She
missed his small gesture of self-accusation in the darkness.

“It was dangerous,” she admitted, more composedly than he had expected.

“What would happen if they knew?” he questioned, more conscious of her
nearness than of the words he was uttering.

“I could never go back,” she told him. The forlornness of her voice, for
all its composure, brought a surge of pity through his body. There was,
however, something faintly dismissive in her movement as she sat down on
the rough seat. “I want to talk to you about the pictures,” she said in
a more resolute voice.

“But I’d much rather talk about you,” he objected, and he waited, with
his heart in his mouth, to see if she challenged that audacity.

“I’ve seen you only three times before to-night,” she said, staring off
through a break in the shrubbery where a stretch of the lake lay like
moving quicksilver.

“Well, a good deal can happen in that time,” he argued, wondering where
his courage had gone.

“I’ve found that out,” she said with her Keswick candor.

He leaned closer to see her face. She did not move.

“Everything seemed clouded and hopeless before you came,” he heard her
saying.

“Oh, you’re still thinking of the pictures,” he said, with a note of
disappointment.

She laughed, almost inaudibly.

“I wish we didn’t have to think about them,” she told him.

He found something oddly inflammatory in that acknowledgment. “Then
let’s not think about them,” he suggested. “Why should we, on a night
like this?”

She did not answer him. But out of the prolonged silence that fell
between them a tree toad shrilled sharply somewhere over their heads. He
turned and stared across the garden at the distant house front. It
seemed less sinister, bathed as it was in its etherealized wash of
light. But it depressed him.

“I shouldn’t have asked you to do this,” he said, with remorse in his
voice.

“It’s the most wonderful night I have ever known,” her small voice
answered through the dusk.

“It is to me, too,” he told her, conscious of some gathering tide which
was creeping up to him, which was taking possession of him, which was
carrying him along on its tumbling and racing immensities.

“And it can never happen again,” she said, as much to herself as to him.

“Why can’t it?” he demanded.

“How can it?” she quietly countered.

“But I intend to make it!” he cried.

She sat back against the arbor railing, apparently startled by the
passion in his voice.

“I’d rather you didn’t say things like that,” she told him.

“Why?” he asked.

“I want you to be always wonderful to me.”

“But I mean it,” he said, his voice shaking.

She stood up with what seemed her first gesture of timidity. He could
see her face, flower soft, in the ragged square of moonlight which fell
across her shoulders. He rose to his feet and stood beside her, with his
pulses pounding. Then in the silence he reached out for her hand and
turned her about so that she faced him.

“Don’t you see what it means to me?” he said, his face above hers in the
uncertain light.

She looked down at her imprisoned hand, but that was all. He leaned
closer. Her eyes closed as he kissed her.

“You must not do that if you don’t mean it,” she said almost abruptly
and with a passionate intensity which startled him.

“But I do mean it, so much more than I could ever put into words,” he
cried, more shaken than he had imagined. “I love you.”

Her hand went up to his shoulder in a gesture of helplessness.

“Are you sure?” she exacted. “Are you certain?” she repeated, with a
soft desperation which left her adorable.

He took her in his arms and held her close as he murmured, “As certain
as life!”

He kissed her again, this time more appropriately, more masterfully. And
with it a lifetime of repression went up in flames.

“I love you,” she said, her grim Keswick candor once more asserting
itself. “I’ll always have to love you, whatever happens.” She turned
away from him a little and stared toward the shadowy front of the old
manor-house. “I don’t care so much now what they say.”

“Why should you?” he demanded, realizing how little he had thought of
the world beyond that arbor.

“This is my only home,” she told him, quite simply. “I can live here
only by doing what is demanded of me.”

“But when those demands are absurd?”

“That doesn’t seem to have made much difference.”

“But you’re—you’re a woman now, and you have your human rights.”

“That’s easy to say,” she told him. “But my world’s been very different
from yours.”

“Then we’ve got to bring them closer together,” he said, stirred by the
wistfulness of her face.

“Bring what together?” she asked, apparently not following him.

“Your world and mine!” he said, quite grimly.

He took possession of her hand again. But she moved her head slowly from
side to side. It seemed a protest against the impossible.

“It’s got to be done!” he proclaimed. That cry, however, seemed to fall
short of her attention.

“But I can show you the pictures now,” she said in a tone of quiet
challenge.

“What have the pictures got to do with us?” he demanded, resenting the
intrusion of a workaday world on that moment of tensed emotion.

“Everything,” the girl told him. “That’s why you must see them.”

“When?” he asked, resenting not only her movement away from him but also
the manner in which the trivialities of his calling could so stubbornly
re-impose themselves on his moments of exaltation.

“It will have to be like our meeting to-night—without their knowing.
I’ll send you word in some way—in the morning. But it will have to be
secret. And now I must go!”

“That way?” he challenged, with bitterness in his voice.

She came to a stop, staring at him through the dusk for a moment of
silence. Then she slowly lifted her arms, and as slowly stepped across
the filtered moonlight until she came to where he stood waiting for her.


                              CHAPTER SIX

It was early the next day that a sandy-headed small boy brought a note
to Conkling at his hotel in Weston. The note was from Julia Keswick. It
merely said “Come at once.”

The brevity of that note disturbed him, but he lost no time in
responding to its summons. When, as he started out, he once more caught
sight of Lavinia Keswick in the old family chariot, this time proceeding
somberly down the main street of Weston, he interpreted that migration
as a ponderable reason for the hurried summons. But he remained ill at
ease, even as he crossed the parched lawn and dispersed the ducks
gabbling about the house front.

The door opened before he had a chance to knock. The girl obviously had
been on guard, awaiting him. Her hand, when he took it, was passive, and
she did not return his smile. Her face seemed preoccupied and pinched.
Yet if she looked older, she looked none the less lovely to him.

“They know!”

She said it in little more than a whisper, as her eyes met his.

“Know what?” he had to ask, so intent was he on what the moment held for
him.

“That we were together last night,” she told him.

“And what does that mean?” he asked, surprised the next moment at her
look of tragic intensity.

“It means, I suppose, that I at last have to act for myself. But I’d
rather not talk about it now. The one thing I want is for you to come up
and look over the pictures while we’ve still the chance.”

“I’m ready,” he said.

“We must go quietly,” she warned him.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because this is one of the things in which I’m acting for myself,” she
said in the gloom of the hallway, once the door was shut behind him.

She piloted him deeper into that gloom, and up a stairway with
black-walnut bannisters. Then after a moment of waiting silence at the
stairhead they crept along the second gloomy hallway, passed through a
door which they closed behind them, and faced a flight of steep and
narrow steps leading to the upper story. There the girl, after a
moment’s thought, returned to the closed door behind her and quietly
turned a key in the lock. Then she motioned to Conkling to mount the
little stairway, where the light hung strong above their well of gloom.

He found himself, when he had emerged into that light, in a hip-roofed
attic with a row of dormer windows along the north. It impressed him at
first as little more than a large lumber room, for it was littered, like
other rural attics he had seen, with broken furniture and frayed
traveling trunks, with disorderly packing boxes and obsolete bric-a-brac
and the banished impedimenta of an earlier generation. A stratum of
golden light flowed in through the one window on the east. This
light-band was filled with floating motes, so active that it seemed like
subaqueous life in its native element.

But the commonplaceness ebbed out of that dusty attic as Conkling,
looking about, made out what was most unmistakably the remains of a
Roman bath, a portion of a carved reredos in time-blackened oak, and
beside a fractured ewer of _cloisonné_ enamel a painted statuette that
reminded him of the Artemis in the Museo Nazionale at Naples. He noticed
a second sarcophagus, less imperfect than the one he had already
observed in the dooryard, an empty easel with its heavy-timbered
framework draped with cobwebs, and an artist’s manikin without a head.
Beyond these, in a cleared space which lay toward the southern wall of
the attic studio, he discerned a vague pile covered with yellowed cotton
sheeting.

This pile, he assumed, was the pictures. Yet those pictures, in some
way, had already become subsidiary. A greater interest had usurped their
place in his mind. But the sense of being on the threshold of some great
adventure remained with him as he watched the girl cross the dusty floor
and proceed, without speaking, to lift away the faded cotton coverings.

What was to be revealed by those movements he could not tell. But it
impressed him as being a pretty ridiculous way of treasuring canvases of
any value or any origin, to leave them unprotected in an old fire trap
of a farm-house attic. The whole thing, in fact, was ridiculous. The
only element that redeemed it, that vitalized it, to him was the
stooping, ardent figure with the strong side light on the creamy white
of her throat and chin.

But the girl, as he stood studying her, had turned and looked at him.

“How shall I show them?” she asked in a moderated voice which he first
accepted as awe, but later remembered to be based on ordinary caution.

“Just as they come,” he told her, as casually as he could, intent on
impressing her with that sustained deliberateness which one expects of
the critic. “One at a time, if you can manage them. And I’ll tell you
when to change.”

She showed him first what must have been a small collection of family
portraits, for only lineal ties and obligations, he felt, could
extenuate the somber monstrosities which silently anathematized him from
their dusty frames.

“These don’t count, of course,” she said, noticing the absence of all
approval from his intent face.

He could see the excitement under which she was laboring, for all her
restraint. He felt vaguely yet persistently sorry for her. It was not an
auspicious beginning, and he would have to be more circumspect, more
non-committal. For whatever happened, however things turned out, it was
going to mean more to her than he had imagined.

“This,” she said in little more than a whisper as she placed a small
canvas for his inspection, “is the Holbein.”

He stepped forward a little, apparently to study it more intently. But
the movement was scarcely necessary, for he saw almost at a glance that
the thing was nothing more than a copy by an ordinarily adept student.
More than once, in fact, he had sat before the original in Munich. But
he wondered how he was going to tell her.

Her questioning eye, in fact, was already on his face. So after
deliberately prolonging his study he merely nodded his head.

“The next, please,” he said with judicial matter-of-factness.

“This is one of the Constables,” she quietly told him, catching her cue
from that achieved impersonality of his.

His heart went down as he examined it, for it stood a confirmation of
his earlier fears. The canvas in front of him was a copy, and nothing
more. It was a much cleverer copy than the first one. But that scarcely
excused the effrontery of the forgery, for the painting was signed. On
the frame, too, was a lettered medallion, soberly attempting to
authenticate it as a Constable.

“This was your father’s collection, was it not?” he asked the girl.

“Yes,” she told him.

“And he was an artist as well as a collector?”

She shook her head.

“He was not a good artist. But he loved pictures.”

“And these he brought back with him after his different visits to
Europe?”

“I think that was it, but my aunt has always refused to talk about
them.”

“Why?”

“She hated my father. She blames him for all the troubles that have come
into her life.”

“And now she takes that hate out on you?”

The girl did not answer his question. Instead, she placed a smaller
canvas for his inspection and said: “Would you care to see the Corot
now?”

It was the same story over again, only this time the copy was of a
canvas with which he was not familiar; and again he wondered how he was
going to be able to tell her. She became conscious of his increasing
gravity.

“You don’t like them?” she asked at a venture.

The only thing he liked in all that dusty-aired attic was the slender,
stooping figure with its aura of repressed ardencies. But this, he knew,
was not the time to say so.

“How do you feel about them?” he countered, watching her as she turned
toward him and absently rubbed her fingers together. It struck him at
first as a movement of repudiation, but he remembered that it was merely
an effort to remove the attic dust from her hands.

“It’s hard to explain,” was her answer. “Some of them I dislike and some
of them I can’t understand, and there are a few of them I almost hate.”

“Why?” he asked.

“I don’t think I could make it clear to you,” was all she said.

He saw no light through the blind wall of his dilemma, and he could not
quite see how the first move was to be made. So he asked, in a merciful
effort at postponement: “What pictures were taken from this collection?”

“My father took the ones he liked when he went away the last time. He
took them all but one.” She had misunderstood him.

“No; you spoke of your Aunt Georgina carrying some of them downstairs
when she fell,” he reminded her. “What were they, besides the
Bouguereau?”

She met his glance courageously in the clear light that flooded them.

“One was a copy of Manet’s _Breakfast on the Grass_ and the other was
the _Olympe_.”

He began to divine the demands he had made on her courage.

“They were nudes?”

“Yes,” she acknowledged.

“And that was the reason they were removed?” he asked, smiling in spite
of himself.

“They hate everything like that.”

He found it harder than ever to go on. So he said almost curtly: “Let’s
see the Correggio.”

She turned back to the stacked canvases.

“Now the others,” he commanded, after he had confirmed his suspicions as
to the larger canvas with the mendacious medallion on its tarnished
frame.

He went through them patiently, and the inspection left him more
depressed than he could understand. Yet he was tired of equivocation. He
felt that nothing was to be gained by any further deferment of the death
sentence.

“I’m afraid I have a very great disappointment for you,” he began as
gently as he could.

He watched her as she turned slowly away and stared at the stacked
canvases and the strips of faded cotton littering the floor. He could
detect no stirring of emotion on her face, and for a moment he thought
she had failed to catch at the note of forewarning in his voice.

“You mean they’re not so valuable—not so valuable in the matter of
dollars and cents—as my Aunt Georgina has been led to believe they
are?”

“I’m sorry,” said Conkling, “but the two Constables are only copies, and
there’s no chance of being mistaken when I say the Holbein is a palpable
forgery. The Correggio is not even worth considering. It impresses me as
a gallery student’s sketch—the sort of thing they used to sell to
tourists by the mile. Strictly speaking, it has no commercial value. As
for the others—well, candidly, I’m afraid it would scarcely pay you to
put them in an agent’s hands. They’re not the character of work a city
dealer could handle—could handle with any degree of profit to you and
your aunts, I mean.”

She studied his face with her questioning, grave eyes.

“I was afraid so,” she finally said, with a new listlessness in her
voice.

“I know it hurts,” he said, moving toward her, “and I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?” she asked with no reciprocal movement.

“That instead of bringing you happiness at the very first I’ve only been
able to bring you the other thing.”

“I wasn’t thinking about myself,” she told him. “I was thinking more
about them.”

He knew that she meant the two strange old women with whom she lived,
with whom she had lived; and in the strong side light, as she stood
there still vital and ardent and unawakened, he tried to picture her
face as it might be in the years to come, pinched with time and penury,
devitalized by the vampire seasons which would drink up the blood from
her warm bosom, dulled and hardened by the mean and monotonous years of
backwater existence. She impressed him as too warm and rich to be wasted
on that sterile air, and he fell to wondering how she would respond to
the world as he knew it, to that tranquil and sophisticated world which
would be so new to her. Under the fuller sun of freedom, he told
himself, she would open up like one of the tea roses in the old
manor-house garden below them. He imagined her emerging from the
Pennsylvania Station in a taxi-cab, with all New York towering about her
in the pale gold of early autumn. But that thought stopped short, for
she was speaking again.

“It was their only hope,” she was saying, with her meditative eyes on
the leaning array of canvases. “It seemed the only thing that could have
saved them from all their hopelessness, from all the misery that has
made them what they are.”

He thought of that sepulchral pair, immured in their withered and Old
World narrownesses, but he thought of them without pity. They were as
set as granite, those two old vultures, and nothing would ever move
them—would ever change them.

“It will mean just keeping on in the same old way until the end,” he
heard the voice of Julia Keswick saying.

“But surely there’s some way out for them,” he protested without giving
much thought to his words.

“There is!” asserted the girl with a flash of what seemed defiance on
her face.

“What is it?” he asked.

“There is a painting I haven’t shown you.”

He noticed for the first time that her face had grown almost colorless.
He could see the lips that carried a touch of rebelliousness, framing
themselves into what seemed a line of fortitude. It added to her air of
maturity. Yet she became girlish again as she met his glance with what
was almost a look of audacity.

“I didn’t intend you to see it,” she told him, and he felt that there
was now almost a challenge in that steady gaze of hers.

“Why not?” he asked, nettled by a sense of remoteness drifting between
them.

“Because I know my aunts would not wish it to be seen. It has been kept
hidden year after year.”

“Why?” repeated Conkling.

She was silent for a moment or two. She was no longer looking at him.
But for the second time he became conscious of the achieved air of
fortitude in her averted face.

“They would say it was—it was sinful.”

She stood silent a moment when he asked for the reason.

“Because it’s a nude,” she finally said, looking up at him. He had no
means of judging what that moment was costing her. He could even afford
to smile a little.

“Well,” he demanded, “what of that?”

“I’ve already told you that my aunts do not approve of such things,” she
said with an appeal in her eyes which he could not understand.

“Do _you_?” he queried almost bruskly. He noticed that her pallor had
increased in the last minute or two.

“Yes, I do,” she said with a return of her earlier defiant tone. “I
can’t help feeling that this picture is beautiful. I know there is
nothing wrong about it—that there is nothing to be ashamed of in
looking at it.”

“Why should there be?” he demanded.

The girl’s glance wandered involuntarily back toward the stairhead.

“They would say it was wrong.”

That reiterated use of the pronoun began to impress him with the extent
to which “they” had dominated and dwarfed her life.

“But some of the world’s most beautiful and most valuable pictures are
nudes,” he protested. “Surely we don’t need to go into all that!”

“I’ve felt that way,” she said after a silence, as though the confession
were a relinquishment of something momentous, of something which she
would not lightly part with.

“Would you rather I didn’t see this picture?” he asked with a second
wind of patience, troubled by the look on her face.

“No!” she said almost with fierceness. “I want you to see it! You must
see it!”


                             CHAPTER SEVEN

Julia Keswick stooped low as she stepped in under the sloping roof,
coming to a stop before a large canvas, covered with faded
blue-and-white ticking, which leaned against the wall. Conkling watched
her, with a revived impression of the epochal close about him, as she
drew away this ticking and swung the framed picture about so that it
faced him.

Yet his next impression was one of sharp disappointment, for all he saw
was a mediocre landscape of muddy and mediocre colors. It struck him as
a climax of disillusionment, and his heart went down like a lift. And
like a lift, having reached bottom, it began to ascend again, for he
could see the stooping girl oddly intent on turning the metal latches on
the back of the heavy frame. When the inclosed canvas was released she
let it fall back a little from its confining ledges, and then drew it
sidewise out of the frame. The movement reminded him of a photographer
withdrawing the slide from a plate holder.

But he had no chance to let his mind dwell on that movement, for a
moment later his eyes were startled by a sudden impression of gold and
ivory merging into a flow of soft and melting line and re-emerging into
vivid and gracious contours which brought a catch in his throat. He
stood staring at this second canvas which had been hidden under the
first, stood staring at it with that faint tingling of the nerve ends
with which the astonished senses sometimes dizzily capitulate to sheer
bewilderment.

“Great God!” he gasped. And there was reverence in that ejaculation, for
all its sharpness.

“What is it?” whispered the girl, catching an echo of his amazement.

“Great God!” he repeated in his own whisper of awe. “It’s a Titian!”

He saw before him the figure of a woman holding an apple. The apple was
golden, but not more golden than the soft ivory glow of the woman’s
body, bathed in its wash of purifying color. That body made Conkling’s
mind flash back to the Borghese with its _Sacred and Profane Love_ and a
moment later revert to the _Magdalen_ in the Pitti. There was the same
divine fullness of throat and breast, the same wealth of red-gold hair,
the unmistakable mellowness of color and melting loveliness of line.
There was a largeness and power in the conception of the figure, a
stubborn yet exalted animality, which convinced Conkling the canvas
before him belonged to Titian’s later days. Yet as he studied it he
objected to the word “animality.” He preferred to substitute the phrase
“spiritualized paganism” as he deciphered subtler effects which made him
think of the National Gallery _Magdalen_ and remember the abundant glow
of bosom in the _Flora_ of the Uffizi, the machinery of human life made
adorable to human eyes.

“It’s a Titian!” he repeated in a shocked and half incredulous whisper
as he stepped still closer to the canvas.

That canvas, he could see, had suffered somewhat through the
vicissitudes of its history. Extremes of heat and cold obviously had
imposed a slight rimple of fine lines on its surface. But this did not
greatly trouble Conkling. He even found in it, in fact, an accidental
and subsidiary delight, for it added eloquence to its tone of time and
enriched its note of history with an accentuation of age. But the
miracle that it could have been carried unknown and unheralded across
the Atlantic, that it could lie for years in the attic of a dilapidated
Ontario manor-house, tended to take his breath away. He knew enough of
Titian to remember that much of that great Venetian’s work had been
lost. He had Vasari to back him up in that. More had been lost, in fact,
than had survived, but behind the possession of that painting, he knew,
lay a history which would not be easy to unravel. It impressed him as
something which kings might have intrigued over. He recalled how nearly
two centuries ago, when the _Flora_ was unearthed to Florence, a nation
practically ceased warfare to come and stare at the canvas—and it would
soon be America’s time to stop and stare.

The girl moved closer to his side, but he remained unconscious of her
presence there. He did not see the rapt light in her eyes. The look of
vague triumph on her face was lost to him. It was, in fact, several
minutes before he even remembered her. Then it came home to him what the
picture meant, not to the America which was to stop and stare, but to
the impoverished household where it lay like a jewel hidden away in a
straw mattress. He remembered what it would mean to that haughty and
broken pair so in need of sustenance. It was their release—their
salvation. That benignant golden figure with the apple of desire in her
clustered fingers stood the goddess who was to work the miracle, who in
a day might transform their penury into plenty. And this thought took
his attention back to Julia Keswick.

She was studying him, he saw, with troubled eyes in which some new
anxiety seemed to be formulating itself.

“You needn’t worry,” he told her, though he smiled the next moment at
the inadequacy of his phrasing. “That canvas is a Titian. There’s not a
shadow of doubt about it. There’s no chance of a mistake. No copyist
could ever turn the trick like that—not in a thousand years! The only
thing that leaves me stumped is how it ever got here.”

“I’ve never been told about it, of course,” she explained, with a slight
tremolo of excitement in her voice. “I don’t think there was anybody to
tell about it after my father died. But in a letter to a French artist
named Branchaud, which must have been returned undelivered after he went
to Italy for the last time and was among his papers, father wrote that
he’d live on acorns and sleep in a dog kennel before he’d part with the
T. ‘T,’ I remember, was all he had written. He said it had cost him too
much—too much in blood and tears and worry and work. There was
something about a monk at Parma, a monk who had sinned against both God
and man, as the letter put it, to whom father had first gone to buy one
of West’s portraits of Shelley.”

“Where is that letter?” asked Conkling.

“My aunts burned it four or five years ago. They saw nothing in it but
what was discreditable, and destroyed it along with the other things of
father’s which they wanted out of existence.”

“The fools!” he cried with a sudden hot resentment.

“What father wrote about it costing him so much in worry and work used
to make me wonder if he had copied it at some time with his own hand. I
tried to believe that, and it made me prouder of him.”

Conkling shook his head.

“You were wrong there,” he said. “That canvas has got what you can’t
copy. The secret of it slipped away from the world over three centuries
ago. And no one has ever got within speaking distance of it again.”

Slowly she moved her head up and down, as though consoled by some final
confirmation of a long doubtful issue. A faint tinge of color even crept
back into her face, and Conkling stood arrested by the miraculous echo
of loveliness which the living face seemed to catch from the painted
face so close above it. It made him think of a woodland pool overhung by
an April twilight. Then his eye wandered on to the Quaker gray of her
gown. It made a frame too dull for the buoyant ardencies of her thin
young body. And it came home to him how soon, now, that dullness could
be done away with.

“All this reminds me of what brought me here under your roof,” he went
on, doing his best to key down to her own quietness of tone. “You’ve
asked me to tell you what your pictures are worth. But all I’m going to
do is to try to give you an idea of what this one is worth. I don’t want
to exaggerate, but I’d say this one canvas is worth your farm, and your
neighbors’ farms, and every farm and all they hold between here and
Weston!”

“You mean to an artist?” she ventured, with the color once more slipping
away from her face.

“No, I mean to a dealer, to a collector, to any one with the brains to
recognize what it is. As I say, I don’t want to exaggerate. In one way
it’s not easy to figure out—in dollars and cents, I mean. But I’m being
as reasonable as a man who says a loaf of bread is worth ten cents when
I say this Titian is to-day, as it stands there, worth at least three or
four hundred thousand dollars.”

It was bewilderment, more than elation, that showed on her face. He even
detected a touch of incredulity there as she turned back to the mellow
glow of light reflected from the canvas.

“That sounds ridiculous, perhaps, but I know about such things. It has
been my business to know. For instance, there was the Panshanger
_Raphael_, sometimes spoken of as the Small Cowper _Madonna_, which
Widener paid seven hundred thousand dollars for. And the same collector,
when he bought Rembrandt’s _Mill_, paid a cool half million for it, just
as he paid a half million for a Vandyke from the Cattaneo collection.
And Huntington paid four hundred thousand dollars for Velasquez’s _Duke
of Olivares_, and Frick paid the same amount for a Gainsborough
portrait, and a quarter of a million for a small Rembrandt. And I could
go on that way until you got tired listening to me. But that’s not the
important thing. All you’ve got to do is look at it. You’d know——”

He broke off with a sense of inadequacy. Then wakening to the extent to
which he had overlooked her in his excitement, he linked his arm
fraternally through hers as she stood studying the canvas.

“Yes, it’s lovely,” she murmured, without responding to the pressure on
her arm. She seemed suddenly small and fragile there under the shadow of
his shoulder.

“There’s only one thing in all the world lovelier,” he told her as he
smiled down into her face, grown pitiful with its shadows of fatigue.

“One thing lovelier?” she echoed absently, clinging to him with a touch
of forlornness. That morning of tangled emotions had plainly been a
little too much for her.

“I mean you,” he said.

She raised ardent eyes at that, flushing happily as she looked up into
his troubled face. For his thoughts, even as he spoke, had gone
pioneering off into the uncertain future. And he turned her jealously
away from the glow of the canvas.

“It mustn’t take you away from me,” he cried out, with a parade of
self-pity.

She smiled surrenderingly, at that, and still again looked up into his
eyes with a gaze so shot through with incongruously mingled hunger and
gratitude that he turned sharply and took her in his arms.

She lay there passively, with her eyes half closed again. And he studied
her, satisfied with the silence and her nearness.

He was still studying her when the sharp clangor of a bell sounded from
below stairs. She drew away from him with a stricken light in her eyes.

The bell sounded again, more authoritatively, more angrily.

“That’s Aunt Georgina,” she said, with a look of childishness creeping
back into her face. “She keeps that bell beside her bed. It means she
wants me.”

He arrested her retreat, resenting the meekness which that summons had
imposed upon her.

“But what are we to do about this?” he demanded, with a gesture toward
the Titian.

“What is best to do?” she asked in a whisper.

It took some time before he seemed able to answer that question.

“First thing, I want to wire for Banning. He’s the head of our house.
This thing’s too big for me to handle alone. I’ve got to get Banning
here as soon as wheels can bring him. Then—oh, confound that bell! It
sounds like something out of Dante!”

“I must go!” she told him.

He was tempted to smile for a moment at what seemed like terror on her
face. But there were certain things he had not forgotten.

“And what will you do with me?” he asked, holding her back by one white
hand.

“You’ll have to go down by the back stairway,” she whispered.

“But I’m not going for long,” he stoutly asserted as he held her face up
to the light. “From to-day,” he said, as he stooped and kissed her
impassive lips, “the new era begins, and you’ll see me back
to-morrow—with trumpets blowing.”


                             CHAPTER EIGHT

It was not with trumpets blowing, and it was not the next morning, that
Conkling returned to the tumble-down old manor-house overlooking Lake
Erie.

It was before sundown of the same day that he returned. And he went back
without the reasons for doing so being altogether clear to his own mind.
It was a movement born of subliminal propulsions as vague yet as
compelling as those of a young mother creeping through midnight darkness
to the disturbingly silent crib of the new life she had brought into
being.

Conkling had thought, at first, to have Banning join him, for now that
the movement had taken on dimensions so bewildering he felt the need not
so much of pilotage from the older man as of partnership in the
knowledge of a fact which had the power of leaving him a bit dizzy.

Yet his efforts to connect with Banning over the long-distance telephone
had not met with success, and the mere despatch of a telegram, worded as
judicially as he could contrive it, brought no sense of response and no
companionable easing off of his own excitement.

It was noon before that initial high tension fried itself in its own
juices. With the lengthening day Conkling grew, if not calmer, at least
more coherent, and afterthought paced sedulously at his elbow. He began
to see difficulties and dangers. The disturbing thought of even a second
Alcazar crept into his mind, for such a thing as insurance, of course,
had never entered the heads of those two old incompetents of the
manor-house. Then his attention swung away from the Titian and centered
more and more on Julia Keswick. He had no liking for the situation in
which she had been left, short-lived as it was bound to prove. She was
as wonderful, in a way, as the Titian itself. In many ways she was much
more wonderful. She had been tragically held in, repressed, walled up
with her own self-communing young soul. But the potentialities were
there, and he was to throw open the gates of life for her. He had
already seen knowledge come to that intent and eager young face. The
memory of it, in fact, still had the power to quicken his pulse. That
had never happened to him before. It was something which he could not
analyze, which he had no wish to analyze. Instinct, he felt, had already
shown itself infallible. Besides being infallible, it was also
incontestable. It had swept him, helpless, into a feverish and
unexpected happiness. And that happiness, he told himself, was only the
beginning.

But now that the die had been cast, he had his obligations to the woman
he loved. Yet he had passively left her in a situation which was
anything but savory. She was a woman, in a way, but that house of hate,
that atmosphere of fundamental intolerances, cramped her back into
something akin to childhood. The memory of that raucous call bell began
to grate on him. Equally distasteful to him grew the thought of her
being confronted by two inquisitorial old tyrants who had stumbled
across the new secret of her life. Their power to harm her was already
gone. He would see to that promptly enough. But their power to make that
day one of unhappiness for her remained still with them. He asked
himself if she could possibly need him. And once that question had been
put, his disquieted soul wondered if through the clairvoyance of passion
she was not striving to reach him at that very moment, if she was not
calling to him through the hot and lonely afternoon.

He put a sudden end to those questionings and his own mounting unrest.
He did so by climbing into his car and starting out for the Keswick
home, and he was racing before he was half-way there as though some
etheric summons kept reminding him that he must make up for lost time.

When he arrived there he found the gate nailed up. This disturbed him,
but it did not deter him. He promptly removed a moldering picket from
the fence which ran beside the overgrown cedar hedge, crept through the
opening and pushed his way on through the tangle of dry shrubbery. He
heard the inhospitable scream of the peacock as he crossed the parched
lawn, and the bawling of a neglected calf in one of the outbuildings
beyond the grim-fronted manor-house. He stared up at that house as he
entered the lengthening shadow from its dormer-windowed hip roof, and as
he did so he was tempted to laugh down what seemed little more than
half-hysteric fears huddling about his heart. It was sheer paganism, he
tried to tell himself, this foolish fretting of his own soul with the
thought that exceptional happiness such as his promised to be stood in
some way involved with exceptional penalties. He even stopped and looked
up at the house again, deciphering something reassuring in its unaltered
and unaltering face. Then, of a sudden, his heart seemed to stop
beating. For drifting out of its open attic window he saw a
thinly-coiling column of smoke.

He stood, for a ponderable space of time, frowning vacuously up at it.
Then, as he ran to the broken veranda steps, a thin tumult of voices
crept down to him. He heard the repeated high-pitched call of “Unclean!
Unclean!” and a voice which reminded him of the frenzied prayer of
camp-meeting supplicants cry out, “And forgive, O God, these
abominations which have been thrust before thee!”

He did not stop to hear more. He went up the steps two at a time, tried
the door, and found it locked. Then without hesitation he ran to one of
the French windows, found it fastened and broke away its flimsy catch
with one taurine thrust of his shoulder.

He called out as he crossed the shadowy room, knocking over a horsehair
chair as he went. But his call remained unanswered. He circled about to
the door that opened into the hallway, ran through it and started up the
half-lighted stairs with the walnut banister. He was startled by the
bright eyes of a cat staring down at him through the gloom. They seemed
burning with hate, those luminous and barricading eyes. They even
prompted Conkling, in advancing on them, to crouch low as a man crouches
before the spring of a cougar. But they were gone, gone completely, by
the time he reached the stairhead.

Even before he arrived at the second and steeper stairway leading to the
attic he once more caught the sound of voices from that upper story.
They were excited voices, shrill with ecstasy, though one seemed
fuller-timbred than the other. It was this voice which he heard intone:
“Lust shall not dwell in this house! This abomination has been in our
house and has been a curse to us! Cleanse us, O God, of the grossness
which has been thrust upon us!” and through this strange incantation the
shriller voice piped: “Nor shall we fatten on nakedness and live
slothfully on the fruits of sin! And she who has degraded herself before
Thine eyes shall be lashed with scorpions and branded with shame!”

And crowding on this came the drunken chanting of the deeper voice:
“Therefore will I discover thy skirts upon thy face that thy shame may
appear. I have seen thine adulteries and thy neighings, the lewdness of
thy whoredom and thine abominations on the hills in the fields—and thou
wilt be made clean!”

Conkling, emerging from the well of the narrow stairway, stood panting
and stunned. The air was thick with smoke, and for a moment or two he
found it far from easy to see. But he made out two gaunt old women,
disheveled and rapt, so intent on their own ends that they neither
challenged nor regarded him. He saw the taller one kneeling beside the
hone-white sarcophagus which stood toward the center of the attic floor.
In this wide basin of marble she had built what first impressed him as a
funeral pyre. Heavy coils of smoke were rising from it as she rocked her
body back and forth and prayed aloud. But a vaguely familiar smell about
that heavy smoke brought Conkling toward her at a bound, for his
nostrils, he knew, were sniffing the odors of burning canvas impregnated
with oil. But he stopped midway in his flight and ran to the far side of
the room, where he knew the Titian stood. He saw there only the empty
frame from which the canvas had been slashed. That took him at a leap
back to the sarcophagus.

As he stared down through the thick air he saw a stretch of rimpled
canvas belly up with the heat of the flames beneath it. He saw the
mellowed and magic ivory gold of a rounded breast swell up and burst in
a darkening bubble of heat. He stooped forward with a gasp and caught at
one unseared edge of the crumpled-up canvas. Then he just as quickly
dropped it and wheeled about. For a repeated hissing sound, followed by
a gasp that might have been an echo of his own, fell on his ears.

He saw Lavinia Keswick, with her hair down, with a face like a mænad and
with a crop of plaited leather in her hand. Beyond her in the blue-gray
air he saw the slender white back of a girl. Her posture impressed him
as singularly unnatural, until he suddenly wakened to the fact that she
was tied with a cotton rope to the heavy-timbered easel in front of her.
Then as he saw the mænad with the flying scant tresses raise the whip in
her hand he realized what was taking place.

He forgot about the crumpled canvas in the narrow marble basin. He ran
for the claw that held the whip, caught it and twisted it back. With
almost one and the same movement he wrested the rawhide from that
shaking claw and sent the bony figure tumbling back over a headless
winged lion in marble.

“You muckers! Oh, you muckers!” he cried out, reverting in his
excitement to the language of his school-days. Then he turned back to
the easel. “Oh, God! Oh, God!” he kept mumbling as he tugged at the
knotted cotton rope, for he could see two stripes of red across the
whiteness of the stooping slender back.

The girl’s face, when he had set her free, was as white as the shoulders
from which the clothing had been stripped. She said nothing. She did not
even raise her eyes to his. But she drew back as he essayed a futile
effort to lift her fallen waist up about her naked shoulders. His hands
were shaking and the thick air stung his throat. He turned about, dazed,
as he heard the renewed shrill duet of voices in prayer. The two
frenzied old women were on their knees side by side in front of the
smoking sarcophagus. They were on their knees, swaying back and forth
and calling on God to cleanse their house of its lewdness. In the
sarcophagus lay nothing but a layer of smoldering ashes, subsiding
slowly, like melting snow. And Conkling, who knew by this time entirely
what it meant, felt a blind wave of hate untouched by pity well through
his body.

“You fools!” he gasped. “You hopeless fools!”

He was even sobbing a little with the nauseous reaction of it all, and
he tried to smother his shame by a parade of ferocity as he turned back
to the white-faced girl.

“They’ve made their nest, the muckers, and now they can lie in it!” he
cried, as the girl shrank away a little to stare at the intoning pair
still on their knees. She, he remembered as he in turn stared at the
youthful face with the prematurely tragic look in its eyes, was all that
he could get out of it now. But it was enough, God knew! And the time
for claiming his own was at hand.

“You must come with me,” he said as he reached for her. He felt the
weight of her body on his arm, weak and relaxed, as he groped his way
toward the stairhead.

He thought for a moment that she had fainted. But she said very quietly,
“This way,” as he made a wrong turn in the gloom of the lower hallway.

                                THE END


                 *        *        *        *        *


                      OTHER BOOKS BY MR. STRINGER

                         The House of Intrigue
                           The Door of Dread
                       The Man Who Couldn’t Sleep
                            The Prairie Wife
                           The Prairie Mother

Transcriber’s Notes:

The list of Other Titles by Mr. Stringer has been moved from the front
of the book to the end of the eBook. A few obvious typesetting and
punctuation errors have been corrected without note. Spelling and
hyphenation have been left in the original publication.


[End of _Twin Tales: Are All Men Alike and The Lost Titian_ by Arthur
Stringer]





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ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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