Infomotions, Inc.Wild Wings A Romance of Youth / Piper, Margaret Rebecca, 1879-



Author: Piper, Margaret Rebecca, 1879-
Title: Wild Wings A Romance of Youth
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): tony; larry; carlotta; alan; alan massey; ted; massey; phil; ruth; uncle phil; dick; holiday; geoffrey annersley; harrison cressy; tony holiday; john massey; ted holiday; alan massey's; uncle; larry holiday; philip lambert
Contributor(s): Payne, John, 1842-1916 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 126,749 words (average) Grade range: 6-8 (grade school) Readability score: 73 (easy)
Identifier: etext11165
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Title: Wild Wings
       A Romance of Youth

Author: Margaret Rebecca Piper

Release Date: February 19, 2004 [EBook #11165]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK WILD WINGS ***




Produced by The Online Distributed Proofreading Team




                               WILD WINGS

                           A ROMANCE OF YOUTH

                        BY MARGARET REBECCA PIPER

                                  1921




CONTENTS


      I MOSTLY TONY

     II WITH ROSALIND IN ARDEN

    III A GIRL WHO COULDN'T STOP BEING A PRINCESS

     IV A BOY WHO WASN'T AN ASS BUT BEHAVED LIKE ONE

      V WHEN YOUTH MEETS YOUTH

     VI A SHADOW ON THE PATH

    VII DEVELOPMENTS BY MAIL

   VIII THE LITTLE LADY WHO FORGOT

     IX TEDDY SEIZES THE DAY

      X TONY DANCES INTO A DISCOVERY

     XI THINGS THAT WERE NOT ALL ON THE CARD

    XII AND THERE IS A FLAME

   XIII BITTER FRUIT

    XIV SHACKLES

     XV ON THE EDGE OF THE PRECIPICE

    XVI IN WHICH PHIL GETS HIS EYES OPENED

   XVII A WEDDING RING IT WAS HARD TO REMEMBER

  XVIII A YOUNG MAN IN LOVE

    XIX TWO HOLIDAYS MAKE CONFESSION

     XX A YOUNG MAN NOT FOR SALE

    XXI HARRISON CRESSY REVERTS

   XXII THE DUNBURY CURE

  XXIII SEPTEMBER CHANGES

   XXIV A PAST WHICH DID NOT STAY BURIED

    XXV ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE

   XXVI THE KALEIDOSCOPE REVOLVES

  XXVII TROUBLED WATERS

 XXVIII IN DARK PLACES

   XXIX THE PEDIGREE OF PEARLS

    XXX THE FIERY FURNACE

   XXXI THE MOVING FINGER CONTINUES TO WRITE

  XXXII DWELLERS IN DREAMS

 XXXIII WAITING FOR THE END OF THE STORY

  XXXIV IN WHICH TWO MASSEYS MEET IN MEXICO

   XXXV GEOFFREY ANNERSLEY ARRIVES

  XXXVI THE PAST AND FUTURE MEET

 XXXVII ALAN MASSEY LOSES HIMSELF

XXXVIII THE SONG IN THE NIGHT

  XXXIX IN WHICH THE TALE ENDS IN THE HOUSE ON THE HILL




CHAPTER I

MOSTLY TONY


Among the voluble, excited, commencement-bound crowd that boarded the
Northampton train at Springfield two male passengers were conspicuous for
their silence as they sat absorbed in their respective newspapers which
each had hurriedly purchased in transit from train to train.

A striking enough contrast otherwise, however, the two presented. The
man next the aisle was well past sixty, rotund of abdomen, rubicund
of countenance, beetle-browed. He was elaborately well-groomed,
almost foppish in attire, and wore the obvious stamp of worldly
success, the air of one accustomed to giving orders and seeing them
obeyed before his eyes.

His companion and chance seat-mate was young, probably a scant five and
twenty, tall, lean, close-knit of frame with finely chiseled, almost
ascetic features, though the vigorous chin and generous sized mouth
forbade any hint of weakness or effeminacy. His deep-set, clear gray-blue
eyes were the eyes of youth; but they would have set a keen observer to
wondering what they had seen to leave that shadow of unyouthful gravity
upon them.

It happened that both men--the elderly and the young--had their papers
folded at identically the same page, and both were studying intently the
face of the lovely, dark-eyed young girl who smiled out of the duplicate
printed sheets impartially at both.

The legend beneath the cut explained that the dark-eyed young beauty
was Miss Antoinette Holiday, who would play Rosalind that night in the
Smith College annual senior dramatics. The interested reader was
further enlightened to the fact that Miss Holiday was the daughter of
the late Colonel Holiday and Laura LaRue, a well known actress of a
generation ago, and that the daughter inherited the gifts as well as
the beauty of her famous mother, and was said to be planning to follow
the stage herself, having made her debut as the charming heroine of "As
You Like It."

The man next the aisle frowned a little as he came to this last sentence
and went back to the perusal of the girl's face. So this was Laura's
daughter. Well, they had not lied in one respect at least. She was a
winner for looks. That was plain to be seen even from the crude newspaper
reproduction. The girl was pretty. But what else did she have beside
prettiness? That was the question. Did she have any of the rest of
it--Laura's wit, her inimitable charm, her fire, her genius? Pshaw! No,
of course she hadn't. Nature did not make two Laura LaRue's in one
century. It was too much to expect.

Lord, what a woman! And what a future she had had and thrown away for
love! Love! That wasn't it. She could have had love and still kept on
with her career. It was marriage that had been the catastrophe--the fatal
blunder. Marriage and domesticity for a woman like that! It was
asinine--worse--criminal! It ought to have been forbidden by law. And the
stubbornness of her! After all these years, remembering, Max Hempel could
have groaned aloud. Every stage manager in New York, including himself,
had been ready to bankrupt himself offering her what in those days were
almost incredible contracts to prevent her from the suicidal folly on
which she was bent. But to no avail. She had laughed at them all, laughed
and quit the stage at six and twenty, and a few years later her beauty
and genius were still--in death. What a waste! What a damnation waste!

At this point in his animadversions Max Hempel again looked at the girl
in the newspaper, the girl who was the product of the very marriage he
had been cursing, LaRue's only daughter. If there had been no marriage,
neither would there have been this glorious, radiant, vividly alive young
creature. Men called Laura LaRue dead. But was she? Was she not
tremendously alive in the life of her lovely young daughter? Was it not
he, and the other childless ones who had treated matrimony as the one
supreme mistake, that would soon be very much dead, dead past any
resurrection?

Pshaw! He was getting sentimental. He wasn't here for sentiment. He was
here for cold, hard business. He was taking this confounded journey to
witness an amateur performance of a Shakespeare play, when he loathed
traveling in hot weather, detested amateur performances of anything,
particularly of Shakespeare, on the millionth of a chance that
Antoinette Holiday might be possessed of a tithe of her mother's talent
and might eventually be starred as the new ingenue he was in need of,
afar off, so to speak. It was Carol Clay herself who had warned him.
Carol was wonderful--would always be wonderful. But time passes. There
would come a season when the public would begin to count back and
remember that Carol had been playing ingenue parts already for over a
decade. There must always be youth--fresh, flaming youth in the
offing. That was the stage and life.

As for this Antoinette Holiday girl, he had none too much hope. Max
Hempel never hoped much on general principles, so far as potential stars
were concerned. He had seen too many of them go off fizz bang into
nothingness, like rockets. It was more than likely he was on a false
trail, that people who had seen the girl act in amateur things had
exaggerated her ability. He trusted no judgment but his own, which was
perhaps one of the reasons why he was one of the greatest living stage
managers. It was more than likely she had nothing but a pretty, shallow
little talent for play acting and no notion under the sun of giving up
society or matrimony or what-not for the devilish hard work of a stage
career. Very likely there was some young galoot waiting even now, to
whisk Laura LaRue's daughter off the stage before she ever got on.

Moreover there was always her family to cope with, dyed in the wool New
Englanders at that, no doubt with the heavy Puritan mortmain upon them,
narrow as a shoe string, circumscribed as a duck pond, walled in by
ghastly respectability. Ten to one, if the girl had talent and ambition,
they would smother these things in her, balk her at every turn. They had
regarded Ned Holiday's marriage to Laura a misalliance, he recalled.
There had been quite a to-do about it at the time. Good God! It had been
a misalliance all right, but not as they reckoned it. It had not been
considered suitable for a Holiday to marry an actress. Probably it would
be considered more unsuitable for a Holiday to _be_ an actress. Suitable!
Bah! The question was not whether the career was fit for the girl, but
whether the girl could measure up to the career. And irascibly,
unreasonably indignant as if he had already been contending in argument
with legions of mythical, over-respectable Holidays, Max Hempel whipped
his paper open to another page, a page that told of a drive somewhere on
the western front that had failed miserably, for this was the year
nineteen hundred and sixteen and there was a war going on, "on the other
side." Oh, typically American phrase!

Meanwhile the young man, too, had stopped staring at Antoinette Holiday's
pictured face and was staring out of the window instead at the fast
flying landscape. He had really no need anyway to look at a picture of
Tony. His head and heart were full of them. He had been storing them up
for over eight years and it was a considerable collection by now and one
in which he took great joy in lonely hours in his dingy little lodging
room, or in odd moments as he went his way at his task as a reporter for
a great New York daily. The perspicuous reader will not need to be told
that the young man was in love with Tony Holiday--desperately in love.

Desperately was the word. Slight as Max Hempel's hope may have been that
Laura LaRue's daughter was to prove the ingenue he sought, infinitely
slighter was Dick Carson's hope of ever making Tony his wife. How could
it be otherwise? Tony Holiday was as far above him in his own eyes as the
top of Mount Tom was high above the onion beds of the valley. The very
name he used was his only because she had given it to him. Dick Nobody he
had been. Richard Carson he had become through grace of Tony.

Like his companion the young man went back into the past, though not so
far a journey. As vividly as if it were but yesterday he remembered the
misery of flesh and spirit which had been his as he stowed himself away
in the hay loft in the Holiday's barn, that long ago summer dawn, too
sick to take another step and caring little whether he lived or died,
conscious vaguely, however, that death would be infinitely preferable to
going back to the life of the circus and the man Jim's coarse brutality
from which he had made his escape at last.

And then he had opened his eyes, hours later, and there had been
Tony--and there had been chiefly Tony ever since, for him.

If ever he amounted to anything, and he meant to amount to something, it
would be all due to Tony and her Uncle Phil. The two of them had saved
him in more ways than one, had faith in him when he wasn't much but a
scarecrow, ignorant, profane, unmoral, miserable, a "gutter brat" as some
one had once called him, a phrase he had never forgotten. It had seemed
to brand him, set him apart from people like the Holidays forever. But
Tony and Doctor Phil had shown him a different way of looking at it,
proved to him that nothing could really disgrace him but himself. They
had given him his chance and he had taken it. Please God he would make
himself yet into something they could be proud of, and it would all be
their doing. He would never forget that, whatever happened.

A half hour later the train puffed and wheezed into the station at
Northampton. Dick Carson and Max Hempel, still close together, descended
into the swarming, chattering crowd which was delightfully if confusingly
congested with pretty girls, more pretty girls and still more pretty
girls. But Dick was not confused. Even before the train had come to a
full stop he had caught sight of Tony. He had a single track mind so far
as girls were concerned. From the moment his eyes discovered Tony Holiday
the rest simply did not exist for him. It is to be doubted whether he
knew they were there at all, in spite of their manifest ubiquity and
equally manifest pulchritude.

Tony saw him, too, as he loomed up, taller than the others, bearing
resistlessly down upon her. She waved a gay greeting and smiled her
welcome to him through the throng. Max Hempel, close behind, caught the
message, too, and recognized the face of the girl who smiled as the
original of the newspaper cut he had just been studying so assiduously.
Deliberately he dogged the young man's heels. He wanted to get a close-up
view of Laura LaRue's daughter. She was much prettier than the picture.
Even from a distance he had made that out, as she stood there among the
crowd, vivacious, vivid, clad all in white except for the loose
coral-hued sweater which set off her warm brunette beauty and the slim
but charmingly rounded curves of her supple young body. Yes, she was like
Laura, like her and yet different, with a quality which he fancied
belonged to herself and none other.

Almost jealously Hempel watched the meeting between the girl and the
youth who up to now had been negligible enough, but suddenly emerged into
significance as the possible young galoot already mentally warned off the
premises by the stage manager.

"Dick! O Dick! I'm _so_ glad to see you," cried the girl, holding out
both hands to the new arrival. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes shining.
She looked quite as glad as she proclaimed.

As for the young man who had set down his suitcase and taken possession
of both the proffered hands, there wasn't the slightest doubt that he was
in the seventh heaven of bliss wherever that may be. Next door to Fool's
Paradise, Max Hempel hoped somewhat vindictively.

"Just you wait, young man," he muttered to himself. "Bet you'll have to,
anyway. That glorious young thing isn't going to settle down to the
shallows of matrimony without trying the deep waters first, unless I'm
mightily mistaken. In the meantime we shall see what we shall see
to-night." And the man of power trudged away in the direction of a
taxicab, leaving youth alone with itself.

"Everybody is here," bubbled Tony. "At least, nearly everybody. Larry
went to a horrid old medical convention at Chicago, and can't be here for
the play; but he's coming to commencement. Of course, Granny isn't able
to travel and Aunt Margery couldn't come because the kiddies have been
measling, but Ted is here, and Uncle Phil--bless him! He brought the
twins over from Dunbury in the car. Phil Lambert and everybody are
waiting down the street. Carlotta too! To think you haven't ever met her,
when she's been my roommate and best friend for two years! And, oh!
Dicky! I haven't seen you myself for most a year and I'm so glad." She
beamed up at him as she made this rather ambiguous statement. "And you
haven't said a word but just 'hello!' Aren't you glad to see me, Dicky?"
she reproached.

He grunted at that.

"About a thousand times gladder than if I were in Heaven, unless you
happened to be sitting beside me on the golden stairs. And if you think I
don't know how long it is since I've seen you, you are mightily mistaken.
It is precisely one million years in round numbers."

"Oh, it is?" Tony smiled, appeased. "Why didn't you say so before, and
not leave me to squeeze it out of you like tooth-paste?"

Dick grinned back happily.

"Because you brought me up not to interrupt a lady. You seemed to have
the floor, so to speak."

"So to speak, indeed," laughed Tony. "Carlotta says I exist for that
sole purpose. But come on. Everybody's crazy to see you and I've a
million things to do." And tucking her arm in his, Tony marshaled the
procession of two down the stairs to the street where the car and the old
Holiday Hill crowd waited to greet the newest comer to the ranks of the
commencement celebrants.

With the exception of Carlotta Cressy, Tony's roommate, the occupants of
the car are known already to those who followed the earlier tale of
Holiday Hill.[1]

[Footnote 1: The earlier experiences of the Holidays and their friends
are related in "The House on the Hill."]

First of all there was the owner of the car, Dr. Philip Holiday
himself, a married man now, with a small son and daughter of his own,
"Miss Margery's" children. A little thicker of build and thinner of
hair was the doctor, but possessed of the same genial friendliness of
manner and whimsical humor, the same steady hand held out to help
wherever and whenever help was needed. He was head of the House of
Holiday now for his father, the saintly old pastor, had gone on to
other fields and his soldier brother Ned, Tony's father, had also gone,
in the prime of life, two years before, victim of typhus, leaving his
beloved little daughter, and his two sons just verging into manhood, in
the care of the younger Holiday.

As Dick and the doctor exchanged cordial greetings, the latter's friendly
eyes challenged the young man's and were answered. Plainly as if words
had been spoken the doctor knew that Dick was keeping faith with the old
pact, living up to the name the little girl Tony had given him in her
impulsive generosity.

"Something not quite right, though," he thought. "The boy isn't all
happy. Wonder what the trouble is. Probably a girl. Usually is at
that age."

At the wheel beside the doctor was his namesake and neighbor, Philip
Lambert. Phil was graduating, himself, this year from the college across
the river, a sturdy athlete of some note and a Phi Beta Kappa man as
well. Out of a harum-scarum, willful boyhood he had emerged into a finely
tempered, steady young manhood. The Dunbury wiseacres who had been wont
to shake their heads over Phil's youthful escapades and prophesy a bad
end for such a devil-may-care youngster now patted themselves
complacently on the back, as wiseacres will, and declared they had always
known the boy would turn out a credit to his family and the town.

On the back seat were Phil's sisters, the pretty twins, Charley and
Clare, still astonishingly alike at twenty, as they had been at twelve,
and still full of the high spirits and ready laughter and wit that had
made them the life of the Hill in the old days. Neither looked a day over
sixteen, but Clare had already been teaching two years in a Dunbury
public school and Charley was to go into nurse's training in the fall.

Larry, the young doctor, as Dunbury had taken to calling him in
distinction from his uncle, was not yet arrived, as Tony had explained;
but Ted, her younger brother, was very much on the scene, arrayed in all
the extravagant niceties of modish attire affected by university
undergraduates. At twenty, Ted Holiday was as handsome as the traditional
young Greek god and possessed of a godlike propensity to do as he liked
and the devil take the consequences. Already Ned Holiday's younger son
had acquired something of a reputation as a high flier among his own sex,
and a heart breaker among the fairer one. Reckless, debonair, utterly
irresponsible, he was still "terrible Teddy" as his father had jocosely
dubbed him long ago. Yet he was quite as lovable as he was irrepressible,
and had a manifest grace to counterbalance every one of his many faults.
His soberer brother Larry worried uselessly over Ted's misdeeds, and took
him sharply to task for them; but even Larry admitted that there was
something rather magnificent about Ted and that possibly in the end he
would come out the soundest Holiday of them all.

There remains only Carlotta to be introduced. Carlotta was lovely to look
upon. A poet speaks somewhere of a face "made out of a rose." Carlotta
had that kind of a face and her eyes were of that deep, violet shade
which works mischief and magic in the hearts of men. As for her hair, it
might well have been the envy of any princess, in or out of the covers of
a book, so fine spun was it in texture, so pure gold in color, like the
warm, vivid shimmer of tropical sunshine. She lifted an inquiring gaze
now to Dick, as she held out her hand in acknowledgment of the
introduction, and Dick murmured something platitudinous, bowed politely
over the hand and never noticed what color her eyes were. A single track
mind is both a curse and a protection to a man.

"Carlotta _would_ come," Tony was explaining gaily, "though I told her
there wasn't room. Let me inform you all that Carlotta is the most
completely, magnificently, delightfully spoiled young person in these
United States of America."

"Barring you?" teased her uncle.

"Barring none. By comparison with Carlotta, I am all the noble army of
saints, martyrs and seraphim on record combined. Carlotta is preordained
to have her own way. Everybody unites to give it to her. We can't help
it. She hypnotizes us. Some night you will miss the moon in its
accustomed place and you will find that she wanted it for a few moments
to play with."

Philip Lambert had turned around in his seat and was surveying Carlotta
rather curiously during this teasing tirade of Tony's.

"Oh, well," murmured Carlotta. "Your old moon can be put up again when I
am through with it. I shan't do it a bit of harm. Anyway, Mr. Carson must
not be told such horrid things about me the very first time he meets me,
must he, Phil? He might think they were true." She suddenly lifted her
eyes and smiled straight up into the face of the young man on the front
seat who was watching her so intently.

"Well, aren't they?" returned the young man addressed, stooping to
examine the brake.

Carlotta did not appear in the least offended at his curt comment.
Indeed the smile on her lips lingered as if it had some inner reason for
being there.

"Hop in, Tony," ordered Ted with brotherly peremptoriness. "Carlotta, you
are one too many, my love. You will have to sit in my lap."

"I'm getting out," said Phil. "I'm due across the river. Want Ted to take
the wheel, Doctor?"

"I do not. I have a wife and children at home. I cannot afford to place
my life in jeopardy." The doctor's eyes twinkled as they rested a moment
on his youngest nephew.

"Now, Uncle Phil, that's mean of you. You ought to see me drive."

"I have," commented Dr. Holiday drily. "Come on over here, one of you
twinnies, if Phil must go. See you to-night, my boy?" he turned to his
namesake to ask as Charley accepted the invitation and clambered over the
back of the seat while the doctor took her brother's vacated post.

Phil shook his head.

"No. I was in on the dress rehearsal last night. I've had my share. But
you folks are going to see the jolliest Rosalind that ever grew in Arden
or out of it. That's one sure thing."

Phil smiled at Tony as he spoke, and Dick, settling himself in the small
seat beside Ted, felt a small barbed dart of jealousy prick into him.

Tony and Phil were obviously exceedingly good friends. They had, he
knew, seen much of each other during the past four years, with only a
river between. Phil was Tony's own kind, college-trained, with a
certified line of good old New England ancestry behind him. Moreover, he
was a darned fine fellow--one of the best, in fact. In spite of that
hateful little jabbing dart, Dick acknowledged that. Ah well, there was
more than a river between himself and Tony Holiday and there always
would be. Who was he, nameless as he was, to enter the lists against
Philip Lambert or any one else?

The car sped away, leaving Phil standing bareheaded in the sunshine,
staring after it. The mocking silver lilt of Carlotta Cressy's laughter
drifted back to him. He shrugged, jammed on his hat and strode off in the
direction of the trolley car.

Dick Carson might just as well have spared himself the pain of jealousy.
Phil had already forgotten Tony, was remembering only Carlotta, who would
never deliberately do a mite of harm to the moon, would merely want to
play with it at her fancy and leave it at her whim for somebody else to
replace, if anybody cared to take the pains. And what was a moon more or
less anyway?




CHAPTER II

WITH ROSALIND IN ARDEN


Of course it is understood that every graduating class rightfully
asserts, and is backed up in its belief by doting and nobly partisan
relatives and blindly devoted, hyperbolic friends, that _its_ particular,
unique and proper senior dramatics is the most glorious and unforgettable
performance in all the histrionic annals of the college, a thing to make
Will Shakespeare himself rise and applaud from his high and far off hills
of Paradise.

Certainly Tony's class knew, past any qualms of doubt, and made no bones
of proclaiming its conviction that there never had been such a wonderful
"As You Like It" and that never, so long as the stars kept their seats in
the heavens and senior classes produced Shakespeare--two practically
synonymous conditions--would there ever be such another Rosalind as Tony
Holiday, so fresh, so spontaneous, so happy in her acting, so
bewitchingly winsome to behold, so boyish, yet so exquisitely feminine in
her doublet and hose, so daring, so dainty, so full of wit and grace and
sparkle, so tender, so merry, so natural, so all-in-all and utterly as
Will himself would have liked his "right Rosalind" to be.

So the class maintained and so they chanted soon and late, in many keys,
"with a hey and a ho and a hey nonino." And who so bold or malicious, or
age cankered as to dispute the dictum? Is it not youth's privilege to
fling enthusiasm and superlatives to the wind and to deal in glorious
arrogance?

It must be admitted, however, in due justice, that the class that played
"As You Like It" that year had some grounds on which to base its
pretensions and vain-glory. For had not a great stage manager been
present and applauded until his palms were purple and perspiration
beaded his beak of a nose? Had he not, as the last curtain, descended,
blown his nose, mopped his brow, exclaimed "God bless my soul!" three
times in succession and demanded to be shown without delay into the
presence of Rosalind?

As we know already, the great stage manager had not come over-willingly
or over-hopefully to Northampton to see Tony Holiday play Rosalind.
Indeed, when it had been first suggested that he do so, he had objected
violently and remarked with conviction that he would "be
da--er--_blessed_ if he would." But he had come and he had been blessed
involuntarily.

For he had seen something he had not expected to see--a real play, with
real magic to it, such magic as all his cunning stage artifice, all the
studied artistry of his fearfully and wonderfully salaried stellar
attachments somehow missed achieving. He tried afterwards to explain to
Carol Clay, his favorite star, just what the quality of the magic was,
but somehow he could not get it into words. It wasn't exactly wordable
perhaps. It was something that rendered negligible the occasionally
creaking mechanism and crudeness of stage business and rendition;
something compounded of dew and sun and wind, such as could only be found
in a veritable Forest of Arden; something elusive, exquisite, iridescent;
something he had supposed had vanished from the world about the time they
put Pan out of business and stopped up the Pipes of Arcady. It was
enchanting, elemental, genuine Elizabethan, had the spirit of Master
Skylark himself in it. Maybe it was the spirit of youth itself, immortal
youth, playing immortal youth's supreme play? Who knows or can lay finger
upon the secret of the magic? The great stage manager did not and could
not. He only knew that, in spite of himself, he had drunk deep for a
moment of true elixir.

But as for Rosalind herself that was another matter. Max Hempel was
entirely capable of analyzing his impressions there and correlating them
with the cold hard business on which he had come. Even if the play had
proved a greater bore than he had anticipated, the trip from Broadway to
the Academy of Music would still have been materially worth while.
Antoinette Holiday was a genuine find, authentic star stuff. They hadn't
spoiled her, plastered her over with meaningless mannerisms. She was
virgin material--untrained, with worlds to learn, of course; but with a
spark of the true fire in her--her mother's own daughter, which was the
most promising thing anybody could say of her.

No wonder Max Hempel had peremptorily demanded to be shown behind the
scenes without an instant's delay. He was almost in a panic lest some
other manager should likewise have gotten wind of this Rosalind and be
lurking in the wings even now to pounce upon his own legitimate prey. He
couldn't quite forget either the tall young man of the afternoon's
encounter, his seatmate up from Springfield. He wasn't exactly afraid,
however, having seen the girl and watched her live Rosalind. The child
had wings and would want to fly far and free with them, unless he was
mightily mistaken in his reading of her.

Tony was still resplendent in her wedding white, and with her arms full
of roses, when she obeyed the summons to the stage door on being told
that the great manager wished to see her. She came toward him, flushed,
excited, adorably pretty. She laid down her roses and held out her hand,
shy, but perfectly self-possessed.

"'Well, this is the Forest of Arden,'" she quoted. "It must be or else I
am dreaming. As long as I can remember I have wanted to meet you, and
here you are, right on the edge of the forest."

He bowed low over her hand and raised it gallantly to his lips.

"I rather think I am still in Arden myself," he said. "My dear, you have
given me a treat such as I never expected to enjoy again in this world.
You made me forget I knew anything about plays or was seeing one. You
carried me off with you to Arden."

"Did you really like the play?" begged Tony, shining-eyed at the praise
of the great man.

"I liked it amazingly and I liked your playing even more amazingly. Is it
true that you are going on the stage?" He had dropped Arden now, gotten
down to what he would have called brass tacks. The difference was in his
voice. Tony sensed it vaguely and was suddenly a little frightened.

"Why, I--I don't know," she faltered. "I hope so. Sometime."

"Sometime is never," he snapped. "That won't do."

The Arden magic was quite gone by this time. He was scowling a little and
thrust out his upper lip in a way Tony did not care for at all. It
occurred to her inconsequentially that he looked a good deal like the
wolf, in the story, who threatened to "huff and puff" until he blew in
the house of the little pigs. She didn't want her house blown in. She
wished Uncle Phil would come. She stooped to gather up her roses as if
they might serve as a barricade between her and the wolf. But suddenly
she forgot her misgivings again, for Max Hempel was saying incredible
things, things which set her imagination agog and her pulses leaping. He
was offering her a small role, a maid's part, in one of his road
companies.

"Me!" she gasped from behind her roses.

"You."

"When?"

"To-morrow--the day after--next week at the latest. Chances like that
don't go begging long, young lady. Will you take it?"

"Oh, I wish I could!" sighed Tony. "But I am afraid I can't. Oh, there is
Uncle Phil!" she interrupted herself to exclaim with perceptible relief.

In a moment Doctor Holiday was with them, his arm around Tony while he
acknowledged the introduction to the stage manager, who eyed him somewhat
uncordially. The two men took each the other's measure. Possibly a spark
of antagonism flashed between them for an instant. Each wanted the lovely
little Rosalind on his own side of the fence, and each suspected the
other of desiring to lure her to the other side if he could. For the
moment however, the advantage was all with the doctor, with his
protecting arm around Tony.

"Holiday!" muttered Hempel. "There was a Holiday once who married one of
the finest actresses of the American stage--carried her off to nurse his
babies. I never forgave that man. He was a brute."

Tony stiffened. Her eyes flashed. She drew away from her uncle and
confronted the stage manager angrily.

"He wasn't a brute, if you mean my father!" she burst out. "My mother was
Laura LaRue."

"I know it," grinned the manager, thoroughly delighted to have struck
fire. The girl was better even than he had thought. She was magnificent,
angry. "That's why I'm here," he added. "I just offered this young person
a part in a practically all-star cast, touring the West. Do you mind?" he
challenged Doctor Holiday.

"I should mind her accepting," said the other man tranquilly. "As it is,
I am duly appreciative of the offer. Thank you."

"What if I told you she had accepted?" the wolf snapped.

Tony saw the swift shadow cloud her uncle's face and hated the manager
for hurting him like that.

"I didn't," she protested indignantly. "You know I wouldn't promise
anything without talking to you, Uncle Phil. I told him I couldn't go."

"But you wanted to," persisted the wolf, bound to get his fangs in
somewhere.

Tony smiled a little wistfully.

"I wanted to most awfully," she confessed, patting her uncle's arm to
take the sting out of her admission. "Will you ask me again some day?"
she appealed to the manager.

He snorted at that.

"You'll come asking me, young lady, and before long, too. Laura LaRue's
daughter isn't going to settle down to being either a butterfly or a
blue-stocking. You are going on the stage and you know it. No use,
Holiday. You won't be able to hold her back. It's in the blood. You may
be able to dam the tide for a time, but not forever."

"I don't intend to dam it," said the doctor gravely. "If, when the time
comes, Tony wishes to go on the stage, I shall not try to prevent her. In
fact I shall help her in every way in my power."

"Uncle Phil!" Tony's voice had a tiny catch in it. She knew her
grandmother would be bitterly opposed to her going on the stage, and had
imagined she would have to win even her uncle over by slow degrees to the
gratifying of this desire of her heart. It had hurt her even to think of
hurting him or going against him in any way--he who was, "father and
mother and a'" to her. Dear Uncle Phil! How he always understood and took
the big, broad viewpoint!

The manager grunted approval at that. His belligerency waned.

"Congratulate you, sir. That's spoken like a man of sense. Evidently you
are able to see over the wall farther than most of the witch-ridden New
Englanders I've met. I should like the chance to launch this Rosalind of
yours. But don't make it too far off. Youth is the biggest drawing card
in the world and--the most transient. You have to get in the game early
to get away with it. I'll start her whenever you say--next week--next
month--next year. Guarantee to have her ready to understudy a star in
three months and perhaps a star herself in six. She might jump into the
heavens overnight. Stranger things have happened. What do you say? May I
have an option on the young lady?"

"That is rather too big a question to settle off hand at midnight. Tony
is barely twenty-two and she has home obligations which will have to be
considered. Her grandmother is old and frail and--a New Englander of the
old school."

"Too bad," commiserated the manager. "But never mind all that. All I ask
is that you won't let her sign up with anybody else without giving me a
chance first."

"I think we may safely promise that and thank you. Tony and I both
appreciate that you are doing her a good deal of honor for one small
school girl, eh Tony?" The doctor smiled down at his flushed, starry-eyed
niece. He understood precisely what a big moment it was for her.

"Oh, I should think so!" sighed Tony. "You are awfully kind, Mr. Hempel.
It is like a wonderful dream--almost too good to be true."

Both men smiled at that. For youth no dream is quite too extravagant or
incredible to be potentially true. No grim specters of failure and
disillusionment and frustration dog its bright path. All possibilities
are its divine inheritance.

"Mr. Hempel, did you know my mother?" Tony asked suddenly, with a shadow
of wistfulness in her dark eyes. There were so few people whom she met
that had known her mother. It was as if Laura LaRue had moved in a
different orbit from that of her daughter. It always hurt Tony to feel
that. But here was one who was of her mother's own world. No wonder her
eyes were beseeching as they sought the great manager's.

He bowed gravely.

"I knew her very well. She was one of the most beautiful women I have
ever seen--and one of the greatest actresses. Your father was a lucky
man, my dear. Few women would have given up for any man what she gave
up for him."

"Oh, but--she loved him," explained Laura LaRue's daughter simply.

Again Hempel nodded.

"She did," he admitted grimly. After all these years there was no use
admitting that that had been the deepest rub of all, that Laura had loved
Ned Holiday and had never, for even the span of a moment, thought of
caring for himself. "I repeat, your father was a very lucky man--a
damnably lucky one."

And with that they shook hands and parted.

It was many months before Tony was to see Max Hempel again and many
waters were to run under the bridge before the meeting came to pass.

Outside in the car, Ted, Dick and the twins waited the arrival of the
heroine of the evening. The three latter greeted her with a burst of
prideful congratulation; the former, being merely a brother, was
distinctly cross at having been kept waiting so long and did not hesitate
to express his sentiments fully out loud. But Doctor Holiday cut short
his nephew's somewhat ungracious speech by a quiet reminder that the car
was here primarily for Tony's use, and the boy subsided, having no more
to say until, having deposited the occupants of the car at their various
destinations, he announced to his uncle with elaborate carelessness that
he would take the car around to the garage.

But he did not turn in at the side street where the garage was. Instead
he shot out Elm Street, "hitting her up" at forty. There had been a
reason for his impatience. Ted Holiday had important private business to
transact ere cock crow.

Tony lay awake a long time that night, dreaming dreams that carried her
far and far into the future, until Rosalind's happy triumph of the
evening almost faded away in the glory of the yet-to-be. It was
characteristic of the girl's stage of development that in all her dreams,
no lovers, much less a possible husband, ever once entered. Tony Holiday
was in love with life and life alone that wonderful June night. As Hempel
had shrewdly perceived she was conscious of having wings and desirous of
flying far and free with them ere she came to pause.

She did remember, in passing however, how she had caught Dick's eyes
once as he sat in the box near the stage, and how his rapt gaze had
thrilled her to intenser playing of her part. And she remembered how
dear he was afterward in the car when he held her roses and told her
softly what a wonderful, wonderful Rosalind she was. But, on the whole,
Dick, like most of the rest of the people with whom she had held
converse since the curtain went down upon Arden, seemed unimportant and
indistinct, like courtiers and foresters, not specifically named among
the _dramatis personae_, just put in to fill out and make a more
effective stage setting.

Dick, too, in his room on Greene Street, was wakeful. He sat by the
window far into the night. His heart was heavy within him. The gulf
between him and Tony had suddenly widened immeasureably. She was a real
actress. He hadn't needed a great manager's verdict to teach him that. He
had seen it with his own eyes, heard it with his own ears, felt it with
his own heart. He had worshiped and adored and been made unutterably sad
and lonely by her dazzling success, glad as he was that it had come to
her. Tony would go on in her shining path. He would always lag behind in
the shadows. They would never come together as long as they both lived.
She had started too far ahead. He could never overtake her.

If only there were some way of finding out who he was, get some clue as
to his parentage. He only knew that the man they called Jim, who had
kicked and beaten and sworn at him with foul oaths until he could bear it
no longer, was no kin of his, though the other had claimed the authority
to abuse him as he abused his horses and dogs when drink and ugliness
were upon him. If only he could find Jim again after all these years,
perhaps he could manage to get the truth out of him, find out what the
man knew of himself, and how he had come to be in a circus troupe. Yet
after all, perhaps it was better not to know. The facts might separate
him from Tony even more than he was separated by his ignorance of them.
As it was, he started even, with neither honor nor shame bequeathed him
from the past. What he was, he was in himself. And if by any miracle of
fortune Tony ever did come to care for him it would be just himself,
plain Dick, that she would love. He knew that.

The thought was vaguely comforting and he, too, fell adreaming. Most of
us foiled humans learn to play the game of make-believe and to find such
consolation as we may therein. Often and often in his lonely hours Dick
Carson had summoned Tony Holiday to his side, a Tony as bright and
beautiful and all adorable as the real Tony, but a dream Tony, withal, a
Tony who loved him even as he loved her. And in his make-believe he was
no longer a nameless, impecunious cub reporter, but a man who had arrived
somewhere, made himself worthy, so far as any mere man could, of the
supreme gift of Tony's caring.

To-night, too, Dick played the game determinedly, but somehow he found
its consolation rather meager, as cold and remote as the sparkle of the
June stars, millions of miles away up there in the velvet sky, after
having sat by the side of the living, breathing Tony and, looking into
her happy eyes, known how little, how very little, he was in her
thoughts. She liked him to be near her, he knew, just as she liked her
roses to be fragrant, but neither the roses nor himself was a vital
necessity to her. She could do very well without either. That was the
pity of it.

At last he got up and went to bed. Falling into troubled sleep he dreamed
that he and Tony were wandering, hand in hand, in the Forest of Arden.
From afar off came the sound of music, airy voices chanting:

"When birds do sing, hey ding a ding
Sweet lovers love the spring."

And then somebody laughed mockingly, like Jacques, and somebody else,
clad in motley like Touchstone, but who seemed to speak in Dick's own
voice, murmured, "Ay, now am I in Arden, the more fool I."

And even with these words the forest vanished and Tony with it and the
dreamer was left alone on a steep and dusty road, lost and aching for the
missing touch of her hand.

But later he woke to the song of a thousand birds greeting the new day
with full-throated joy. And his heart, too, began to sing. For it was
indeed a new day--a day in which he should see Tony. He was irrationally
content. Of such is the kingdom of lad's love!




CHAPTER III

A GIRL WHO COULDN'T STOP BEING A PRINCESS


In the lee of a huge gray bowlder on the summit of Mount Tom sat
Philip Lambert and Carlotta Cressy. Below them stretched the wide
sweep of the river valley, amethyst and topaz and emerald, rich with
lush June verdure, soft shadowed, tranquil, in the late afternoon
sunshine. They had been silent for a little time but suddenly Carlotta
broke the silence.

"Phil, do you know why I brought you up here?" she asked. As she spoke
she drew a little closer to him and her hand touched his as softly as a
drifting feather or a blown cherry blossom might have touched it.

He turned to look at her. She was all in white like a lily, and otherwise
carried out the lily tradition of belonging obviously to the
non-toiling-and-spinning species, justifying the arrangement by looking
seraphically lovely in the fruits of the loom and labor of the rest of
the world. And after all, sheer loveliness is an end in itself. Nobody
expects a flower to give account of itself and flower-like Carlotta was
very, very lovely as she leaned against the granite rock with the valley
at her feet. So Phil Lambert's eyes told her eloquently. The valley was
not the only thing at Carlotta's feet.

"I labored under the impression that I did the bringing up myself," he
remarked, his hand closing over hers. "However, the point is immaterial.
You are here and I am here. Is there a cosmic reason?"

"There is." Carlotta's voice was dreamy. She watched a cloud shadow
creep over the green-plumed mountain opposite. "I brought you up here so
that you could propose to me suitably and without interruption."

"Huh!" ejaculated Phil inelegantly, utterly taken by surprise by
Carlotta's announcement. "Do you mind repeating that? The altitude seems
to have affected my hearing."

"You heard correctly. I said I brought you up here to propose to me."

Phil shrugged.

"Too much 'As You Like It,'" he observed. "These Shakespearean heroines
are a bad lot. May I ask just why you want me to propose to you, my dear?
Do you have to collect a certain number of scalps by this particular rare
day in June? Or is it that you think you would enjoy the exquisite
pleasure of seeing me writhe and wriggle when you refuse me?"

Phil's tone was carefully light, and he smiled as he asked the questions,
but there was a tight drawn line about his mouth even as he smiled.

"Through bush, through briar,
Through flood, through fire"

he had followed the will o' the wisp, Carlotta, for two years now,
against his better judgment and to the undoing of his peace of mind and
heart. And play days were over for Phil Lambert. The work-a-day world
awaited him, a world where there would be neither space nor time for
chasing phantoms, however lovely and alluring.

"Don't be horrid, Phil. I'm not like that. You know I'm not," denied
Carlotta reproachfully. "I have a surprise for you, Philip, my dear. I am
going to accept you."

"No!" exclaimed Phil in unfeigned amazement.

"Yes," declared Carlotta firmly. "I decided it in church this morning
when the man was telling us how fearfully real and earnest life is. Not
that I believe in the real-earnestness. I don't. It's bosh. Life was made
to be happy in and that is why I made up my mind to marry you. You might
manage to look a little bit pleased. Anybody would think you were about
to keep an appointment with a dentist, instead of having the inestimable
privilege of proposing to me with the inside information that I am going
to accept you."

Phil drew away his hand from hers. His blue eyes were grave.

"Don't, Carlotta! I am afraid the chap was right about the
real-earnestness. It may be a fine jest to you. It isn't to me. You see I
happen to be in love with you."

"Of course," murmured Carlotta. "That is quite understood. Did you think
I would have bothered to drag you clear up on a mountain top to propose
to me if I hadn't known you were in love with me and--I with you?" she
added softly.

"Carlotta! Do you mean it?" Phil's whole heart was in his honest
blue eyes.

"Of course, I mean it. Foolish! Didn't you know? Would I have tormented
you so all these months if I hadn't cared?"

"But, Carlotta, sweetheart, I can't believe you are in earnest even now.
Would you marry me really?"

"_Would_ I? _Will_ I is the verb I brought you up here to use. Mind
your grammar."

Phil clasped his hands behind him for safe keeping.

"But I can't ask you to marry me--at least not to-day."

Carlotta made a dainty little face at him.

"And why not? Have you any religious scruples about proposing on
Sunday?"

He grinned absent-mindedly and involuntarily at that. But he shook his
head and his hands stayed behind his back.

"I can't propose to you because I haven't a red cent in the world--at
least not more than three red cents. I couldn't support an everyday wife
on 'em, not to mention a fairy princess."

"As if that mattered," dismissed Carlotta airily. "You are in love with
me, aren't you?"

"Lord help me!" groaned Phil. "You know I am."

"And I am in love with you--for the present. You had better ask me while
the asking is good. The wind may veer by next week, or even by tomorrow.
There are other young men who do not require to be commanded to propose.
They spurt, automatically and often, like Old Faithful."

Phil's ingenuous face clouded over. The other young men were no
fabrication, as he knew to his sorrow. He was forever stumbling over them
at Carlotta's careless feet.

"Don't, Carlotta," he begged again. "You don't have to scare me into
subjection, you know. If I had anything to justify me for asking you to
marry me I'd do it this minute without prompting. You ought to know that.
And you know I'm jealous enough already of the rest of 'em, without your
rubbing it in now."

"Don't worry, old dear," smiled Carlotta. "I don't care a snap of my
fingers for any of the poor worms, though I wouldn't needlessly set
foot on 'em. As for justifications I have a whole bag of them up my
sleeve ready to spill out like a pack of cards when the time comes. You
don't have to concern yourself in the least about them. Your business
is to propose. 'Come, woo me, woo, me, for now I am in a holiday humor
and like enough to consent'"--she quoted Tony's lines and, leaning
toward him, lifted her flower face close to his. "Shall I count ten?"
she teased.

"Carlotta, have mercy. You are driving me crazy. Pretty thing it would be
for me to propose to you before I even got my sheepskin. Jolly pleased
your father would be, wouldn't he, to be presented with a jobless,
penniless son-in-law?"

"Nonsense!" said Carlotta crisply. "It wouldn't matter if you didn't even
have a fig leaf. You wouldn't be either jobless or penniless if you were
his son-in-law. He has pennies enough for all of us and enough jobs for
you, which is quite sufficient unto the day. Don't be stiff and silly,
Phil. And don't set your jaw like that. I hate men who set their jaws. It
isn't at all becoming. I don't say my dear misguided Daddy wouldn't raise
a merry little row just at first. He often raises merry little rows over
things I want to do, but in the end he always comes round to my way of
thinking and wants precisely what I want. Everything will be smooth as
silk, I promise you. I know what I am talking about. I've thought it out
very carefully. I don't make up my mind in a hurry, but when I do decide
what I want I take it."

"You can't take this," said Philip Lambert.

Carlotta drew back and stared, her violet eyes very wide open. Never in
all her twenty two years had any man said "can't" to her in that tone.
It was a totally new experience. For a moment she was too astounded even
to be angry.

"What do you mean?" she asked a little limply.

"I mean I won't take your father's pennies nor hold down a pseudo-job
I'm not fitted for, even for the sake of being his son-in-law. And I
won't marry you until I am able to support you on the kind of job I am
fitted for."

"And may I inquire what that is?" demanded Carlotta sharply, recovering
sufficiently to let the thorns she usually kept gracefully concealed
prick out from among the roses.

Phil laughed shortly.

"Don't faint, Carlotta. I am eminently fitted to be a village
store-keeper. In fact that is what I shall be in less than two weeks. I
am going into partnership with my father. The new sign _Stuart Lambert
and Son_ is being painted now."

Carlotta gasped.

"Phil! You wouldn't. You can't."

"Oh yes, Carlotta. I not only could and would but I am going to. It has
been understood ever since I first went to college that when I was out
I'd put my shoulder to the wheel beside Dad's. He has been pushing alone
too long as it is. He needs me. You don't know how happy he and Mums are
about it. It is what they have dreamed about and planned, for years. I'm
the only son, you know. It's up to me."

"But, Phil! It is an awful sacrifice for you." For once Carlotta forgot
herself completely.

"Not a bit of it. It is a flourishing concern--not just a two-by-four
village shop--a real department store, doing real business and making
real money. Dad built it all up himself, too. He has a right to be proud
of it and I am lucky to be able to step in and enjoy the results of all
his years of hard work. I'm not fooling myself about that. Don't get the
impression I am being a martyr or anything of the sort. I most
distinctly am not."

Carlotta made a little inarticulate exclamation. Mechanically she counted
the cars of the train which was winding its black, snake-like trail far
down below them in the valley. It hadn't occurred to her that the moon
would be difficult to dislodge. Perhaps Carlotta didn't know much about
moons, after all.

Phil went on talking earnestly, putting his case before her as best he
might. He owed it to Carlotta to try to make her understand if he could.
He thought that, under all the whimsicalities, it was rather fine of her
to lay down her princess pride and let him see she cared, that she really
wanted him. It made her dearer, harder to resist than ever. If only he
could make her understand!

"You see I'm not fitted for city life," he explained. "I hate it. I like
to live where everybody has a plot of green grass in front of his house
to set his rocking chair in Sunday afternoons; where people can have
trees that they know as well as they know their own family and don't have
to go to a park to look at 'em; where they can grow tulips and green
peas--and babies, too, if the lord is good to 'em. I want to plant my
roots where people are neighborly and interested in each other as human
beings, not shut away like cave dwellers in apartment houses, not knowing
or caring who is on the other side of the wall. I should get to hating
people if I had to be crowded into a subway with them, day after day,
treading on their toes, and they on mine. Altogether I am afraid I have a
small town mind, sweetheart."

He smiled at Carlotta as he made the confession, but she did not respond.
Her face gave not the slightest indication as to what was going on in her
mind as he talked.

"I wouldn't be any good at all in your father's establishment. I've
never wanted to make money on the grand scale. I wouldn't be my father's
son if I did. I couldn't be a banker or a broker if I tried, and I don't
want to try."

"Not even for the sake of--having me?" Carlotta's voice was as
expressionless as her face. She still watched the train, almost
vanishing from sight now in the far distance, leaving a cloud of ugly
black smoke behind it to mar the lustrous azure of the June sky.

Phil, too, looked out over the valley. He dared not look at Carlotta. He
was young and very much in love. He wanted Carlotta exceedingly. For a
minute everything blurred before his gaze. It seemed as if he would try
anything, risk anything, give up anything, ride rough shod over anything,
even his own ideals, to gain her. It was a tense moment. He came very
near surrendering and thereby making himself, and Carlotta too, unhappy
forever after. But something stronger held him back. Oddly enough he
seemed to see that sign _Stuart Lambert and Son_ written large all over
the valley. His gaze came back to Carlotta. Their eyes met. The hardness
was gone from the girl's, leaving a wistful tenderness, a sweet
surrender, no man had ever seen there before. A weaker lad would have
capitulated under that wonderful, new look of Carlotta's. It only
strengthened Philip Lambert. It was for her as well as himself.

"I am sorry, Carlotta," he said. "I couldn't do it, though I'd give you
my heart to cut up into pieces if it could make you happy. Maybe I would
risk it for myself. But I can't go back on my father, even for you."

"Then you don't love me." Carlotta's rare and lovely tenderness was
burned away on the instant in a quick blaze of anger.

"Yes I do, dear. It is because I love you that I can't do it. I have to
give you the best of me, not the worst of me. And the best of me belongs
in Dunbury. I wish I could make you understand. And I wish with all my
heart that, since I can't come to you, you could care enough to come to
me. But I am not going to ask it--not now anyway. I haven't the right.
Perhaps in two years time, if you are still free, I shall; but not now.
It wouldn't be fair."

"Two years from now, and long before, I shall be married," said
Carlotta with a sharp little metallic note in her voice. She was trying
to keep from crying but he did not know that and winced both at her
words and tone.

"That must be as it will," he answered soberly. "I cannot do any
differently. I would if I could. It--it isn't so easy to give you up. Oh,
Carlotta! I love you."

And suddenly, unexpectedly to himself and Carlotta, he had her in his
arms and was covering her face with kisses. Carlotta's cheeks flamed. She
was no longer a lily, but a red, red rose. Never in her life had she been
so frightened, so ecstatic. With all her dainty, capricious flirtations
she had always deliberately fenced herself behind barriers. No man had
ever held her or kissed her like this, the embrace and kisses of a lover
to whom she belonged.

"Phil! Don't, dear--I mean, do, dear--I love you," she whispered.

But her words brought Phil back to his senses. His arms dropped and he
drew away, ashamed, remorseful. He was no saint. According to his way of
thinking a man might kiss a girl now and then, under impulsion of
moonshine or mischief, but lightly always, like thistledown. A man didn't
kiss a girl as he had just kissed Carlotta unless he had the right to
marry her. It wasn't playing straight.

"I'm sorry, Carlotta. I didn't mean to," he said miserably.

"I'm not. I'm glad. I think way down in my heart I've always wanted you
to kiss me, though I didn't know it would be like that. I knew your
kisses would be different, because _you_ are different."

"How am I different?" Phil's voice was humble. In his own eyes he seemed
pitifully undifferent, precisely like all the other rash, intemperate,
male fools in the world.

"You are different every way. It would take too long to tell you all of
them, but maybe you are chiefly different because I love you and I don't
love the rest. Except for Daddy. I've never loved anybody but myself
before, and when you kissed me I just seemed to feel my _meness_ going
right out of me, as if I stopped belonging to myself and began to belong
to you forever and ever. It scared me but--I liked it."

"You darling!" fatuously. "Carlotta, will you marry me?"

It was out at last--the words she claimed she had brought him up the
mountain to say--the words he had willed not to speak.

"Of course. Kiss me again, Phil. We'll wire Daddy tomorrow."

"Wire him what?" The mention of Carlotta's father brought Phil back to
earth with a jolt.

"That we are engaged and that he is to find a suitable job for you so we
can be married right away," chanted Carlotta happily.

Phil's rainbow vanished almost as soon as it had appeared in the heavens.
He drew a long breath.

"Carlotta, I didn't mean that. I can't be engaged to you that way. I
meant--will you marry me when I can afford to have a fairy princess
in my home?"

Carlotta stared at him, her rainbow, too, fading.

"You did?" she asked vaguely. "I thought--"

"I know," groaned Phil. "It was stupid of me--worse than stupid. It
can't be helped now I suppose. The damage is done. Shall we take the next
car down? It is getting late."

He rose and put out both hands to help her to her feet. For a moment they
stood silent in front of the gray bowlder. The end of the world seemed to
have come for them both. It was like Humpty Dumpty. All the King's horses
and all the King's men couldn't restore things to their old state nor
bring back the lost happiness of that one perfect moment when they had
belonged to each other without reservations. Carlotta put out her hand
and touched Philip's.

"Don't feel too badly, Phil," she said. "As you say, it can't be
helped--nothing can be helped. It just had to be this way. We can't
either of us make ourselves over or change the way we look at things
and want things. I wish I were different for both our sakes. I wish I
were big enough and brave enough and fine enough to say I would marry
you anyway, and stop being a princess. But I don't dare. I know myself
too well. I might think I could do it up here where it is all still and
purple and sweet and sacred. But when we got down to the valley again I
am afraid I couldn't live up to it, nor to you, Philip, my king.
Forgive me."

Phil bent and kissed her again--not passionately this time, but with a
kind of reverent solemnity as if he were performing a rite.

"Never mind, sweetheart. I don't blame you any more than you blame me.
We've got to take life as we find it, not try to make it over into
something different to please ourselves. If some day you meet the man who
can make you happy in your way, I'll not grudge him the right. I'm not
sure I shall even envy him. I've had my moment."

"But Phil, you aren't going to be awfully unhappy about me?" sighed
Carlotta. "Promise you won't. You know I never wanted to hurt the
moon, dear."

Philip shook his head.

"Don't worry about the moon. It is a tough old orb. I shan't be too
unhappy. A man has a whole lot of things beside love in his life. I am
not going to let myself be such a fool as to be miserable because things
started out a little differently from what I would like to have them."
His smile was brave but his eyes belied the smile and Carlotta's heart
smote her.

"You will forget me," she said. It was half a reproach, half a command.

Again he shook his head in denial.

"Do you remember the queen who claimed she had Calais stamped on her
heart? Well, open mine a hundred years from now and you'll read
_Carlotta_."

"But won't you ever marry?" pursued Carlotta with youth's insistence on
probing wounds to the quick.

"I don't know. Probably," he added honestly. "A man is a poor stick in
this world without a home and kiddies. If I do it will be a long time yet
though. It will be many a year before I see anybody but you, no matter
where I look."

"But I am horrid--selfish, cowardly, altogether horrid."

"Are you?" smiled Phil. "I wonder. Anyway I love you. Come on, dear.
We'll have to hurry. The car is nearly due."

And, as twilight settled down over the valley like a great bird brooding
over its nest, Philip and Carlotta went down from the mountain.




CHAPTER IV

A BOY WHO WASN'T AN ASS BUT BEHAVED LIKE ONE


Baccalaureate services being over and the graduates duly exhorted to the
wisdom of the ages, the latter were for a time permitted to alight from
their lofty pedestal in the public eye and to revert temporarily to the
comfortable if less exalted state of being plain every day human girls.

While Philip and Carlotta went up on the heights fondly believing they
were settling their destinies forever, Tony had been enjoying an
afternoon _en famille_ with her uncle and her brother Ted.

Suddenly she looked at her watch and sprang up from the arm of her
uncle's chair on which she had been perched, chattering and content, for
a couple of hours.

"My goodness! It is most four o'clock. Dick will be here in a minute. May
I call up the garage and ask them to send the car around? I'm dying for a
ride. We can go over to South Hadley and get the twins, if you'd like.
I'm sure they must have had enough of Mt. Holyoke by this time."

"Car's out of commission," grunted Ted from behind his sporting sheet.

"Out of commission? Since when?" inquired Doctor Holiday. "It was all
right when you took it to the garage last night."

"I went out for a joy ride and had a smash up," explained his nephew
nonchalantly, and still hidden behind the newspaper.

"Oh Ted! How could you when you know we want to use the car every
minute?" There was sharp dismay and reproach in Tony's voice.

"Well, I didn't smash it on purpose, did I?" grumbled her brother,
throwing down the paper. "I'm sorry, Tony. But it can't be helped now.
You'd better be thankful I'm not out of commission myself. Came darn
near being."

"Oh Ted!" There was only concern and sympathy in his sister's exclamation
this time. Tony adored her brothers. She went over to Ted now,
scrutinizing him as if she half expected to see him minus an arm or a
leg. "You weren't hurt?" she begged reassurance.

"Nope--nothing to signify. Got some purple patches on my person and a
twist to my wrist, but that's all. I was always a lucky devil. Got more
lives than a cat."

He was obviously trying to carry matters off lightly, but never once
did he meet his uncle's eyes, though he was quite aware they were
fixed on him.

Tony sighed and shook her head, troubled.

"I wish you wouldn't take such risks," she mourned. "Some day you'll get
dreadfully hurt. Please be careful. Uncle Phil," she appealed to the
higher court, "do tell him he mustn't speed so. He won't listen to me."

"If Ted hasn't learned the folly of speeding by now, I am afraid that
nothing I can say will have much effect. I wonder--"

Just here the telephone interrupted with an announcement that Mr.
Carson was waiting downstairs. Tony flew from the phone to dab powder
on her nose.

"Since we can't go riding I think I'll take Dick for a walk in Paradise,"
she announced into the mirror. "Will you come, too, Uncle Phil?"

"No, thank you, dear. Run along and tell Dick we expect him back to
supper with us."

The doctor held open the door for his niece, then turned back to
Ted, who was also on his feet now, murmuring something about going
out for a stroll.

"Wait a bit, son. Suppose you tell me first precisely what happened
last night."

"Did tell you." The boy fumbled sulkily at the leaves of a magazine that
lay on the table. "I took the car out and, when I was speeding like Sam
Hill out on the Florence road, I struck a hole. She stood up on her ear
and pitched u--er--_me_ out in the gutter. Stuck her own nose into a
telephone pole. I telephoned the garage people to go after her this
morning. They told me a while ago she was pretty badly stove up and it
will probably take a couple of weeks to get her in order." The story came
out jerkily and the narrator kept his eyes consistently floorward during
the recital.

"Is that all?"

"What more do you want?" curtly. "I said I was sorry, if that is what
you mean."

"It isn't what I mean, Ted. I assume you didn't deliberately go out to
break my car and that you are not particularly proud of the outcome of
your joy ride. I mean, exactly what I asked. Have you told me the
whole story?"

Ted was silent, mechanically rolling the corner of the, rug under his
foot. His uncle studied the good-looking, unhappy young face. His mind
worked back to that inadvertent "u--er--_me_" of the confession.

"Were you alone?" he asked.

A scarlet flush swept the lad's face, died away, leaving it a
little white.

"Yes."

The answer was low but distinct. It was like a knife thrust to the
doctor. In all the eight years in which he had fathered Ned's sons, both
before and since his brother's death, never once to his knowledge had
either one lied to him, even to save himself discomfort, censure or
punishment. With all their boyish vagaries and misdeeds, it had been the
one thing he could count on absolutely, their unflinching, invariable
honesty. Yet, surely as the June sun was shining outside, Ted had lied to
him just now. Why? Rash twenty was too young to go its way unchallenged
and unguided. He was responsible for the lad whose dead father had
committed him to his charge.

Only a few weeks before his death Ned had written with curious
prescience, "If I go out any time, Phil, I know you will look after the
children as I would myself or better. Keep your eye on Ted especially.
His heart is in the right place, but he has a reckless devil in him that
will bring him and all of us to grief if it isn't laid."

Doctor Holiday went over and laid a hand on each of the lad's hunched
shoulders.

"Look at me, Ted," he commanded gently.

The old habit of obedience strong in spite of his twenty years, Ted
raised his eyes, but dropped them again on the instant as if they were
lead weighted.

"That is the first time you ever lied to me, I think, lad," said the
doctor quietly.

A quiver passed over the boy's face, but his lips set tighter than ever
and he pulled away from his uncle's hands and turned, staring out of the
window at a rather dusty and bedraggled looking hydrangea on the lawn.

"I wonder if it was necessary," the quiet voice continued. "I haven't the
slightest wish to be hard on you. I just want to understand. You know
that, son, don't you?"

The boy's head went up at that. His gaze deserted the hydrangea, for the
first time that day, met his uncle's, squarely if somewhat miserably.

"It isn't that, Uncle Phil. You have every right to come down on me. I
hadn't any business to have the car out at all, much less take fool
chances with it. But honestly I have told you all--all I can tell. I did
lie to you just now. I wasn't alone. There was a--a girl with me."

Ted's face was hot again as he made the confession.

"I see," mused the doctor. "Was she hurt?"

"No--that is--not much. She hurt her shoulder some and cut her head a
bit." The details came out reluctantly as if impelled by the doctor's
steady eyes. "She telephoned me today she was all right. It's a miracle
we weren't both killed though. We might have been as easy as anything.
You said just now nothing you could say would make me have sense about
speeding. I guess what happened last night ought to knock sense into me
if anything could. I say, Uncle Phil--"

"Well?" as the boy paused obviously embarrassed.

"If you don't mind I'd rather not say anything more about the girl.
She--I guess she'd rather I wouldn't," he wound up confusedly.

"Very well. That is your affair and hers. Thank you for coming halfway to
meet me. It made it easier all around."

The doctor held out his hand and the boy took it eagerly.

"You are great to me, Uncle Phil--lots better than I deserve. Please
don't think I don't see that. And truly I am awfully ashamed of smashing
the car, and not telling you, as I ought to have this morning, and
spoiling Tony's fun and--and everything." Ted swallowed something down
hard as if the "everything" included a good deal. "I don't see why I have
to be always getting into scrapes. Can't seem to help it, somehow. Guess
I was made that way, just as Larry was born steady."

"That is a spineless jellyfish point of view, Ted. Don't fool yourself
with it. There is no earthly reason why you should keep drifting from one
escapade to another. Get some backbone into you, son."

Ted's face clouded again at that, though he wasn't sulky this time. He
was remembering some other disagreeable confessions he had to make before
long. He knew this was a good opening for them, but somehow he could not
drive himself to follow it up. He could only digest a limited amount of
humble pie at a time and had already swallowed nearly all he could stand.
Still he skirted warily along the edge of the dilemma.

"I suppose you think I made an awful ass of myself at college this year,"
he averred gloomily.

"I don't think it. I know it." The doctor's eyes twinkled a little. Then
he grew sober. "Why do you, Ted? You aren't really an ass, you know. If
you were, there might be some excuse for behaving like one."

Ted flushed.

"That's what Larry told me last spring when he was pitching into me
about--well about something. I don't know why I do, Uncle Phil, honest I
don't. Maybe it is because I hate college so and all the stale old stuff
they try to cram down our throats. I get so mad and sick and disgusted
with the whole thing that I feel as if I had to do something to offset
it--something that is real and live, even if it isn't according to rules
and regulations. I hate rules and regulations. I'm not a mummy and I
don't want to be made to act as if I were. I'll be a long time dead and I
want to get a whole lot of fun out of life first. I hate studying. I want
to do things, Uncle Phil--"

"Well?"

"I don't want to go back to college."

"What do you want to do?"

"Join the Canadian forces. It makes me sick to have a war going on and
me not in it. Dad quit college for West Point and everybody thought it
was all right. I don't see why I shouldn't get into it. I wouldn't fall
down on that. I promise you. I'd make you proud of me instead of ashamed
the way you are now." The boy's voice and eyes were unusually earnest.

His uncle did not answer instantly. He knew that there was some truth in
his nephew's analysis of the situation. It was his uneasy, superabundant
energy and craving for action that made him find the more or less
restricted life of the college, a burden, a bore and an exasperation, and
drove him to crazy escapades and deeds of flagrant lawlessness. He needed
no assurance that the boy would not "fall down" at soldiering. He would
take to it as a duck to water. And the discipline might be the making of
him, prove the way to exorcise the devil. Still there were other
considerations which to him seemed paramount for the time at least.

"I understand how you feel, Ted," he said at last. "If we get into the
war ourselves I won't say a word against your going. I should expect you
to go. We all would. But in the meantime as I see it you are not quite a
free agent. Granny is old and very, very feeble. She hasn't gotten over
your father's death. She grieves over it still. If you went to war I
think it would kill her. She couldn't bear the strain and anxiety.
Patience, laddie. You don't want to hurt her, do you?"

"I s'pose not," said Ted a little grudgingly. "Then it is no,
Uncle Phil?"

"I think it ought to be no of your own will for Granny's sake. We don't
live to ourselves alone in this world. We can't. But aside from Granny I
am not at all certain I should approve of your leaving college just
because it doesn't happen to be exciting enough to meet your fancy and
means work you are too lazy and irresponsible to settle down to doing.
Looks a little like quitting to me and Holidays aren't usually quitters,
you know."

He smiled at the boy but Ted did not smile back. The thrust about
Holidays and quitters went home.

"I suppose it has got to be college again if you say so," he said
soberly after a minute. "Thank heaven there are three months ahead clear
though first."

"To play in?"

"Well, yes. Why not? It is all right to play in vacation, isn't it?" the
boy retorted, a shade aggressively.

"Possibly if you have earned the vacation by working beforehand."

Ted's eyes fell at that. This was dangerously near the ground of those
uncomfortable, inevitable confessions which he meant to put off as long
as possible.

"Do you mind if I go out now?" he asked with unusual meekness after a
moment's rather awkward silence.

"No, indeed. Go ahead. I've had my say. Be back for supper with us?"

"Dunno." And Ted disappeared into the adjoining room which connected with
his uncle's. In a moment he was back, expensive panama hat in one hand
and a lighted cigarette held jauntily in the other. "I meant to tell you
you could take the car repairs out of my allowance," he remarked casually
but with his eye shrewdly on his guardian as he made the announcement.

"Very well," replied the latter quietly. Then he smiled a little seeing
his nephew's crestfallen expression. "That wasn't just what you wanted me
to say, was it?" he added.

"Not exactly," admitted the boy with a returning grin. "All right, Uncle
Phil. I'm game. I'll pay up."

A moment later his uncle heard his whistle as he went down the driveway
apparently as care free as if narrow escapes from death were nothing in
his young life. The doctor shook his head dubiously as he watched him
from the window. He would have felt more dubious still had he seen the
boy board a Florence car a few minutes later on his way to keep a
rendezvous with the girl about whom he had not wished to talk.




CHAPTER V

WHEN YOUTH MEETS YOUTH


Three quarters of an hour later Ted was seated on a log, near a small
rustic bridge, beneath which flowed a limpid, gurgling stream. On a log
beside him sat a girl of perhaps eighteen years, exceedingly handsome
with the flaming kind of beauty like a poppy's, striking to the eye,
shallow-petaled. She was vividly effective against the background of deep
green spruces and white birch in her bright pink dress and large drooping
black hat. Her coloring was brilliant, her lips full, scarlet, ripely
sensuous. Beneath her straight black brows her sparkling, black eyes
gleamed with restless eagerness. An ugly, jagged, still fresh wound
showed beneath a carefully curled fringe of hair on her forehead.

"I don't like meeting you this way," Ted was saying. "Are you sure your
grandfather would have cut up rough if I had come to the house and called
properly?"

"You betcher," said his companion promptly. "You don't know grandpa. He's
death on young men. He won't let one come within a mile of me if he can
help it. He'd throw a fit if he knew I was here with you now. We should
worry. What he don't know won't hurt him," she concluded with a toss of
her head. Then, as Ted looked dubious, she added, "You just leave grandpa
to me. If you had had your way you would have spilled the beans by
telephoning me this morning at the wrong time. See how much better I
fixed it. I told him a piece of wood flew up and hit me when I was
chopping kindling before breakfast and that my head ached so I didn't
feel like going to church. Then the minute he was out of the yard I ran
to the 'phone and got you at the hotel. It was perfectly simple that
way--slick as grease. Easiest thing in the world to make a date. We
couldn't have gotten away with it otherwise."

Ted still looked dubious. The phrase "gotten away with it" jarred. At the
moment he was not particularly proud of their mutual success in "getting
away with it." The girl wasn't his kind. He realized that, now he saw her
for the first time in daylight.

She had looked all right to him on the train night before last. Indeed he
had been distinctly fascinated by her flashing, gypsy beauty, ready
laughter and quick, keen, half "fresh" repartee when he had started a
casual conversation with her when they chanced to be seat mates from
Holyoke on.

Casual conversations were apt to turn into casual flirtations with Ted
Holiday. Afterward he wasn't sure whether she had dared him or he had
dared her to plan the midnight joy ride which had so narrowly missed
ending in a tragedy. Anyway it had seemed a jolly lark at the time--a
test of the mettle and mother wit of both of them to "get away with it."

And she had looked good to him last night when he met her at the
appointed trysting place after "As You Like It." She had come out of the
shadows of the trees behind which she had been lurking, wearing a scarlet
tam-o'-shanter and a long dark cloak, her eyes shining like January
stars. He had liked her nerve in coming out like that to meet him alone
at midnight. He had liked the way she "sassed" him back and put him in
his place, when he had tried impudently enough to kiss her. He had liked
the way she laughed when he asked her if she was afraid to speed, on the
home stretch. It was her laugh that had spurred him on, intoxicated him,
made him send the car leaping faster and still faster, obeying his
reckless will.

Then the crash had come. It was indeed a miracle that they had not both
been killed. No thanks to the rash young driver that they had not been.
It would be many a day before Ted Holiday would forget that nightmare of
dread and remorse which took possession of him as he pulled himself to
his feet and went over to where the girl's motionless form lay on the
grass, her face dead white, the blood flowing from her forehead.

Never had he been so thankful for anything in his life as he was when he
saw her bright eyes snap open, and heard her unsteady little giggle as
she murmured, "My, but I thought I was dead, didn't you?"

Game to her fingertips she had been. Ted acknowledged that, even now that
the glamour had worn off. Never once had she whimpered over her injuries,
never hurled a single word of blame at him for the misadventure that had
come within a hair's breadth of being the last for them both.

"It wasn't a bit more your fault than mine," she had waived aside his
apologies. "And it was great while it lasted. I wouldn't have missed it
for anything, though I'm glad I'm not dead before I've had a chance to
really live. All I ask is that you won't tell a soul I was out with you.
Grandpa would think I was headed straight for purgatory if he knew."

"I won't," Ted had promised glibly enough, and had kept his promise even
at the cost of lying to his uncle, a memory which hurt like the
toothache even now.

But looking at the girl now in her tawdry, inappropriate garb he
suffered a revulsion of feeling. What he had admired in her as good sport
quality seemed cheap now, his own conduct even cheaper. His reaction
against himself was fully as poignant as his reaction against her. He was
suddenly ashamed of his joy ride, ashamed that he had ever wished or
tried to kiss her, ashamed that he had fallen in with her suggestion for
a clandestine meeting this afternoon.

Possibly Madeline sensed that he was cold to her charms at the moment.
She flashed a shrewd glance at him.

"You don't like me as well to-day as you did last night," she challenged.

Caught, Ted tried half-heartedly to make denial, but the effort was
scarcely a success. He had yet to learn the art of lying gracefully
to a lady.

"You don't," she repeated. "You needn't try to pretend you do. You can't
fool me. You're getting cold feet already. You're remembering I'm
just--just a pick-up."

Ted winced again at that. He did not like the word "pick-up" either,
though to his shame he hadn't been above the thing itself.

"Don't talk like that, Madeline. You know I like you. You were immense
last night. Any other girl I know, except my sister Tony, would have had
hysterics and fainting fits and lord knows what else with half the excuse
you had. And you never made a bit of fuss about your head, though it must
have hurt like the deuce. I say, you don't think it is going to leave a
scar, do you?"

He leaned forward with genuine concern to examine the red wound.

"I think it is more than likely. Lot you'll care, Ted Holiday. You'll
never come back to see whether it leaves a scar or not. See that bee over
there nosing around that elderberry. Think he'll come back next week?
Not much. I know your kind," scornfully.

That bit into the lad's complacency.

"Of course, I care and of course, I'll come back," he protested, though a
moment before he had had not the slightest wish or purpose to see her
again, rather to the contrary.

"To see whether there is a scar?"

"To see you," he played up gallantly.

Her hard young face softened.

"Will you, honest, Ted Holiday? Will you come back?"

She put out her hand and touched his. Her eyes were suddenly wistful,
gentle, beseeching.

"Sure I'll come back. Why wouldn't I?" The touch of her hand, the new
softness, almost pathos of her mood touched him, appealed to the chivalry
always latent in a Holiday.

He heard her breath come quickly, saw her full bosom heave, felt the warm
pressure of her hand. He wanted to put his arm around her but he did not
follow the impulse. The code of Holiday "noblesse oblige" was operating.

"I wish I could believe that," Madeline sighed, looking down into the
water which whirled and eddied in white foam and splash over the rocks.
"I'd like to think you really wanted to come--really cared about seeing
me again. I know I'm not your kind."

He started involuntarily at her voicing unexpectedly his own
recent thought.

"Oh, you needn't be surprised," she threw at him half angrily. "Don't you
suppose I know that better than you do. Don't you suppose I know what the
girls you are used to look like? Well, I do. I've watched 'em, on the
street, on the campus, in church, everywhere. I've even seen your sister
and watched her, too. Somebody pointed her out to me once when she had
made a hit in a play and I've seen her at Glee Club concerts and at
vespers in the choir. She is lovely--lovely the way I'd like to be. It
isn't that she's any prettier. She isn't. It's just that she's
different--acts different--looks different--dresses different from me. I
can't make myself like her and the rest, no matter how I try. And I do
try. You don't know how hard I try. I got this dress because I saw your
sister Tony wearing a pink dress once. I thought maybe it would make me
look more like her. But it doesn't. It makes me look more _not_ like her
than ever, doesn't it?" she appealed rather disconcertingly. "It's
horrid. I hate it."

"I don't know much about girls' dresses," said Ted. "But, now you speak
of it, maybe it would be prettier if it were a little--" he paused for a
word--"quieter," he decided on. "Do you ever wear white? Tony wears it a
lot and I think she looks nice in it."

"I've got a white dress. I thought about putting it on to-day. But
somehow it didn't look quite nice enough. I thought--well, I thought I
looked handsomer in the pink. I wanted to look pretty--for you." The last
was very low--scarcely audible.

"You look good to me all right," said the boy heartily and he meant it.
He thought she looked prettier at the moment than she had looked at any
time since he had made her acquaintance.

Perhaps he was right. She had laid aside for once her mask of hard
boldness and was just a simple, humble, rather pathetic little girl,
voicing secret aspirations toward a fineness life had denied her.

"I say, Madeline," Ted went on. "You don't--meet other chaps the way you
met me to-day, do you?" Set the blind to lead the blind! If there was
anything absurd in scapegrace Ted's turning mentor he was unconscious of
the absurdity, was exceedingly in earnest.

"What's that to you?" She snapped the mask back into place.

"Nothing--that is--I wouldn't--that's all."

She laughed shrilly.

"You're a pretty one to talk," she scoffed.

Ted flushed.

"I know I am. See here, Madeline. You're dead right. I ought not to
have taken you out last night. I ought not to have let you meet me
here to-day."

"I made you--I made you do both those things."

Ted shook his head at that.

"A man's to blame always," he asserted.

"No, he isn't," denied Madeline. "A girl's to blame always."

They stared at each other a moment while the brook tinkled through the
silence. Then they both laughed at the solemnity of their contradictions.

"But there isn't a bit of harm done," went on Madeline. "You see, I knew
that first night on the train that you were a gentleman."

"Some gentlemen are rotters," said Ted Holiday, with a wisdom beyond his
twenty years.

"But you are not."

"No, I'm not; but some other chap might be. That is why I wish you would
promise not to go in for this sort of thing."

"With anybody but you," she stipulated.

"Not with anybody at all," corrected Ted soberly, remembering his own
recent restrained impulse to put his arm around her.

"Well, I don't want to--at least not with anybody but you. I never did it
before with anybody. Honest, Ted, I never did."

"That's good. I felt sure that you hadn't."

"Why?"

He grinned sheepishly and stooped to break off a dry twig from a
nearby bush.

"By the way you didn't let me kiss you," he admitted. "A fellow likes
that in a girl. Did you know it?" He tossed away the twig and looked back
at the girl as he asked the question.

"I thought they liked--the other thing."

"They do and they don't," said Ted, his paradox again betraying a
scarcely to be expected wisdom. "But that is neither here nor there. What
I started out to say was that I'm glad you don't make a practice of this
pick-up business. It--it's no good," he summed up.

"I know." Madeline nodded understanding of the import of his warning. She
was far too handsome and too prematurely developed physically to be
devoid of experience of the ways of the opposite sex. Like Ophelia she
knew there were tricks in the world and she liked frank Ted Holiday the
better for reminding her of them. "I won't do it," she promised. "That
is, unless you don't ever come back yourself. I don't know what I'll do
then--something awful, maybe."

"I'll come fast enough. I'll come to-morrow." he added obeying a sudden
impulse, Ted fashion.

"Will you?" The girl's face flushed with delight. "When?"

"To-morrow afternoon. I can't dodge the ivy stuff in the morning. Will
four o'clock do all right?"

"Yes. Come here to this same place."

"I say, Madeline, can't I come to the house? I hate doing it like this."

"No, you can't. If you want to see me you'll have to do it this way. It's
lots nicer here than in the house, anyway."

Ted acquiesced, since he had no choice, and rose, announcing that it was
time to go now.

"We don't have to go yet. I told Grandpa I was going to spend the
evening with my friend, Linda Bates. He won't know. We can stay as long
as we like."

"I am afraid we can't," said Ted decidedly. "Come on, my lady." He held
out both hands and Madeline let him draw her to her feet, though she was
pouting a little at his gainsaying of her wishes.

"You may kiss me now," she said suddenly, lifting her face to his.

But Ted backed away. The code was still on. A girl of his own kind he
would have kissed in a moment at such provocation, or none. But he had
an odd feeling of needing to protect this girl from herself as well as
from himself.

"You had more sense than I did last night. Let's follow your lead instead
of mine," he said. "It's better."

"But Ted, you will come to-morrow?" she pleaded. "You won't forget or go
back on your promise?"

"Of course, I'll come," promised Ted again readily.

Five minutes later they parted, he to take his car, and she to stroll in
the opposite direction toward her friend Linda's house.

"He is a dear," she thought. "I'm glad he wouldn't kiss me, so there,"
she said aloud to a dusty daisy that peered up at her rather mockingly
from the gutter.

An automobile horn honked behind her. She stepped aside, but the
car stopped.

"Well, here is luck. Where are you going, my pretty maid?" called a gay,
bold voice.

She turned. The speaker was one Willis Hubbard, an automobile agent by
profession, lady's man and general Lothario by avocation. His handsome
dark face stood out clearly in the dusk. She could see the avid shine in
his eyes. She hated him all of a sudden, though hitherto she had secretly
rather admired him, though she had always steadily refused his
invitations.

For Madeline was wary. She knew how other girls had gone out with Willis
in his smart car and come back to give rather sketchy accounts of the
evening's pleasure jaunt. Her friend Linda had tried it once and remarked
later that Willis was some speed and that Madeline had the right hunch to
keep away from him.

But it happened that Madeline Taylor was the particular peach that Willis
Hubbard hankered after. He didn't like them too easy, ready to drop from
the bough at the first touch. All the same, he meant to have his way in
the end with Madeline. He had an excellent opinion of his powers as a
conquering male. He had, alas, plenty of data to warrant it in his
relations with the fair and sometimes weak sex.

"What's your hurry, dearie?" he asked now. "Come on for a spin. It's the
pink of the evening."

But she thanked him stiffly and refused, remembering Ted Holiday's honest
blue eyes.

"What are you so almighty prunes and prisms for, all of a sudden? It's
the wrong game to play with a man, I can tell you, if you want to have a
good time in the world. I say, Maidie, be a good girl and come out with
me to-morrow night. We'll have dinner somewhere and dance and make a
night of it. Say yes, you beauty. A girl like you oughtn't to stay cooped
up at home forever. It's against nature."

But again Madeline refused and moved away with dignity.

"Your grandfather will never know. You can plan to stay with Linda
afterward. I'll meet you by the sycamore tree just beyond the Bates'
place at eight sharp--give you the best time you ever had in your life.
Believe me, I'm some little spender when I get to going."

"No, thank you, Mr. Hubbard. I tell you I can't go."

He stared at the finality of her manner. He had no means of knowing that
he was being measured up, to his infinite disadvantage, with a blue eyed
lad who had stirred something in the girl before him that he himself
could never have roused in a thousand years. But he did know he was being
snubbed and the knowledge disturbed his fond conceit of self.

"Highty tighty with your 'Mr. Hubbards'! You will sing another tune by
to-morrow night. I'll wait at the sycamore and you'll be there. See if
you won't. You're no fool, Maidie. You want a good time and you know I'm
the boy to give it to you. So long! See you to-morrow night." He started
his motor, kissed his hand impudently to her and was off down the road,
leaving Madeline to follow slowly, in his dust.




CHAPTER VI

A SHADOW ON THE PATH


Across the campus the ivy procession wound its lovely length, flanked by
rainbow clad Junior ushers immensely conscious of themselves and their
importance as they bore the looped laurel chains between which walked the
even more important Seniors, all in white and each bearing an American
Beauty rose before her proudly, like a wand of youth.

At the head of the procession, as president of the class, walked
Antoinette Holiday, a little lady of quality, as none who saw her could
have helped recognizing. Her uncle, watching the procession from the
steps of a campus house, smiled and sighed as he beheld her. She was so
young, so blithe-hearted, so untouched by the sad and sordid things of
life. If only he could keep her so for a little, preserve the shining
splendor of her shield of innocent young joy. But, even as he thought, he
knew the folly of his wish. Tony would be the last to desire to have life
tempered or kept from her. She would want to drain the whole cup, bitter,
sweet and all.

Farther back in the procession was Carlotta, looking as heavenly fair and
ethereal as if she had that morning been wafted down from the skies. Out
of the crowd Phil Lambert's eyes met hers and smiled. Very sensibly and
modernly these two had decided to remain the best of friends since fate
prevented their being lovers. But Phil's eyes were rather more than
friendly, resting on Carlotta, and, underneath the diaphanous, exquisite
white cloud of a gown that she wore, Carlotta's heart beat a little
faster for what she saw in his face. The hand that held her rose trembled
ever so slightly as she smiled bravely back at him. She could not forget
those "very different" kisses of his, nor, with all the will in the
world, could she go back to where she was before she went up the mountain
and came down again in the purple dusk. She knew she had to get used to a
strange, new world, a world without Philip Lambert, a rather empty world,
it seemed. She wondered if this new world would give her anything so
wonderful and sweet as this thing that she had by her own act
surrendered. Almost she thought not.

Ted, standing beside his uncle, watching the procession, suddenly heard a
familiar whistle, a signal dating back to Holiday Hill days, as
unmistakable as the Star Spangled Banner itself, though who should be
using it here and why was a mystery. In a moment his roving gaze
discovered the solution. Standing upon a slight elevation on the campus
opposite he perceived Dick Carson. The latter beckoned peremptorily. Ted
wriggled out of the group, descended with one leap over the rail to the
lawn, and made his way to where the other youth waited.

"What in Sam Hill's chewing you?" he demanded upon arrival. "You've made
me quit the only spot I've struck to-day where I had room to stand on my
own feet and see anything at the same time."

"I say, Ted, what train was Larry coming on?" counterquestioned Dick.

"Chicago Overland. Why?"

"Are you sure?"

"Of course I am sure. He wired Tony. What in thunder are you driving at?
Get it out for Pete's sake?"

"The Chicago Overland smashed into a freight somewhere near Pittsburgh
this morning. There were hundreds of people killed. Oh, Lord, Ted! I
didn't mean to break it to you like that." Dick was aghast at his own
clumsiness as Ted leaned against the brick wall of the college building,
his face white as chalk. "I wasn't thinking--guess I wasn't thinking
about much of anything except Tony," he added.

Ted groaned.

"Don't wonder," he muttered. "Let's not let her get wind of it till we
have to. Are you sure there--there isn't any mistake?" Ted put up his
hand to brush back a refractory lock of hair and found his forehead wet
with cold perspiration. "There's got to be a mistake. Larry--I won't
believe it, so there!"

"You don't have to believe it till you know. Even if he was on the train
it doesn't mean he is hurt." Dick would not name the harsher possibility
to Larry Holiday's brother.

"Of course, it doesn't," snapped Ted. "I say, Dick, is it in the
papers yet?"

"No, it will be in an hour though, as soon as the evening editions get
out."

"Good! Dick, it's up to you to keep Tony from knowing. She is going to
sing in the concert at five. That will keep her occupied until six. But
from now till then nix on the news. Take her out on the fool pond, walk
her up Sunset Hill, quarrel with her, make love to her, anything, so she
won't guess. I don't dare go near her. I'd give it away in a minute, I'm
such an idiot. Besides I can't think of anything but Larry. Gee!" The boy
swept his hand across his eyes. "Last time I saw him I consigned him to
the devil because he told me some perfectly true things about myself and
tried to give me some perfectly sound advice. And now--I'm damned if I
believe it. Larry is all right. He's got to be," fiercely.

"Of course, he is," soothed Dick. "And I'll try to do as you say about
Tony. I'm not much of an actor, but I guess I can carry it through
for--for her sake."

The little break in the speaker's voice made Ted turn quickly and stare
at the other youth.

"Dick, old chap, is it like that with you? I didn't know."

Ted's hand went out and held the other's in a cordial grip.

"Nobody knows. I--I didn't mean to show it then. It's no good. I know
that naturally."

"I'm not so sure about that. I know one member of the family that would
be mighty proud to have you for a brother."

The obvious ring of sincerity touched Dick. It was a good deal coming
from a Holiday.

"Thank you, Ted. That means a lot, I can tell you. I'll never forget your
saying it like that. You won't give me away, I know."

"Sure not, old man. Tony is way up in the clouds just now, anyway. We are
all mostly ants in our minor ant hills so far as she is concerned. Gee! I
hope it isn't this thing about Larry that is going to pull her down to
earth. If anything had to happen to any of us why couldn't it have been
me instead of Larry. He is worth ten of me."

"We don't know that anything has happened to Larry yet," Dick reminded.
"I say, Ted, they must have got the ivy planted. Everybody's coming back.
Tony is lunching with me at Boyden's right away, and I'll see that she
has her hands full until it is time for the concert. You warn Miss
Carlotta, so she'll be on guard after I surrender her. I'm afraid you
will have to tell your uncle."

"I will. Trot on, old man, and waylay Tony. I'll make a mess of things
sure as preaching if I run into her now."

Tony thought she had never known Dick to be so entertaining or talkative
as he was during that luncheon hour. He regaled her with all kinds of
newspaper yarns and related some of his own once semi-tragic but now
humorous misadventures of his early cub days. He talked, too, on current
events and world history, talked well, with the quiet poise and
assurance of the reader and thinker, the man who has kept his eyes and
ears open to life.

It was a revelation to Tony. For once their respective roles were
reversed, he the talker, she the listener.

"Goodness me, Dick!" she exclaimed during a pause in what had become
almost a monologue. "Why haven't you ever talked like this before? I
always thought I had to do it all and here you talk better than I ever
thought of doing because you have something to say and mine is just
chatter and nonsense."

He smiled at that.

"I love your chatter. But you are tired to-day and it is my turn. Do you
know what we are going to do after luncheon?"

"No, what?"

"We are going to take a canoe out on your Paradise and get into a shady
spot somewhere along the bank and you will lean back against a whole lot
of becoming cushions and put up that red parasol of yours so nobody but
me can see your face and then--"

"Dicky! Dicky! Whatever is in you to-day? Paradise, pillows and parasols
are familiar symptoms. You will be making love to me next."

"I might, at that," murmured Dick. "But you did not hear the rest of
my proposition. And then--I shall read you a story--a story that I
wrote myself."

"Dick!" Tony nearly upset her glass of iced tea in her amazement at this
unexpected announcement. "You don't mean you have really and truly
written a story!"

"Honest to goodness--such as it is. Please to remember it is my maiden
effort and make a margin of allowance. But I want your criticism,
too--all the benefit of your superior academic training."

"Superior academic bosh!" scoffed Tony. "I'll bet it is a corking
story," she added unacademically. "Come on. Let's go, quick. I can't
wait to hear it."

Nothing loath to get away speedily before the newsboys began to cry the
accident through the streets, Dick escorted his pretty companion back to
the campus and on to Paradise, at which point they took a canoe and,
finally selecting a shady point under an over-reaching sycamore tree,
drifted in to shore where Tony leaned against the cushions, tilted her
parasol as specified at the angle which forbade any but Dick to see her
charming, expressive young face and commanded him to "shoot."

Dick shot. Tony listened intently, watching his face as he read, feeling
as if this were a new Dick--a Dick she did not know at all, albeit a most
interesting person.

"Why Dick Carson!" she exclaimed when he finished. "It is great--a real
story with real laughter and tears in it. I love it. It is so--so human."

The author flushed and fidgeted and protested that it wasn't much--just a
sketch done from life with a very little dressing up and polishing down.

"I have a lot more of them in my head, though," he added. "And I'm
going to grind them out as soon as I get time. I wish I had a bigger
vocabulary and knew more about the technical end of the writing game.
I am going to learn, though--going to take some night work at the
University next fall. Maybe I'll catch up a little yet if I keep
pegging away."

"Catch up! Dick, you make me so ashamed. Here Larry and Ted and I have
had everything done for us all our lives and we've slipped along with the
current, following the line of least resistance. And you have had
everything to contend with and you are way ahead of the rest of us
already. But why didn't you tell me before about the story? I think you
might have, Dicky. You know I would be interested," reproachfully.

"I--I wasn't talking much about it to anybody till I knew it was any
good. But I--just took a notion to read it to you to-day. That's all."

It wasn't all, but he wanted Tony to think it was. Not for anything would
he have betrayed how reading the story was a desperate expedient to keep
her diverted and safe from news of the disaster on the Overland.

He escorted Tony back to the campus house at the latest possible moment
and Carlotta, in the secret, pretended to upbraid her roommate for her
tardiness and flew about helping her to get dressed, talking
continuously the while and keeping a sharp eye on the door lest some
intruder burst in and say the very thing Tony Holiday must not be
permitted to hear. It would be so ridiculously easy for somebody to ask,
"Oh, did you hear about the awful wreck on the Overland?" and then the
fat would be in the fire.

But, thanks to Carlotta, nobody had a chance to say it and later Tony
Holiday, standing in the twilight in front of College Hall's steps, sang
her solo, Gounod's beautiful Ave Maria, smiled happily down into the
faces of the dear folks from her beloved Hill and only regretted that
Larry was not there with the rest--Larry who, for all the others knew,
might never come again.

After dinner Ted rushed off again to the telegraph office which he had
been haunting all the afternoon to see if any word had come from his
brother, and Doctor Holiday went on up to the campus to escort his niece
to the informal hop. He had decided to go on just as if nothing was
wrong. If Larry was safe then there was no need of clouding Tony's joy,
and if he wasn't--well, there would be time enough to grieve when they
knew. By virtue of his being a grave and reverend uncle he was admitted
to the sacred precincts of his niece's room and had hardly gotten seated
when the door flew open and Ted flew in waving two yellow telegraph
blanks triumphantly, one in each hand, and announcing that everything was
all right--Larry was all right, had wired from Pittsburgh.

Before Tony had a chance to demand what it was all about the door opened
again and a righteously indignant house mother appeared on the threshold,
demanding by what right an unauthorized male had gone up her stairway and
entered a girl's room, without permission or escort.

"I apologize," beamed Ted with his most engaging smile. "Come on outside,
Mrs. Maynerd and I'll tell you all about it." And tucking his arm in hers
the irrepressible youth conveyed the angry personage out into the hall,
leaving his uncle to explain the situation to Tony.

In a moment he was back triumphant.

"She says I may stay since I'm here, and Uncle Phil is here to play
dragon," he announced. "She thought at first Carlotta would have to be
expunged to make it legal, but I overruled her, told her you and I had
played tiddle-de-winks with each other in our cradles," he added with an
impish grin at his sister's roommate. "Of course I never laid eyes on
you till two years ago, but that doesn't matter. I have a true
tiddle-de-winks feeling for you, anyway, and that is what counts, isn't
it, sweetness?"

Carlotta laughed and averred that she was going to expunge herself anyway
as Phil was waiting for her downstairs. She picked up a turquoise satin
mandarin cloak from the chair and Ted sprang to put it around her bare
shoulders, stooping to kiss the tip of her ear as he finished.

"Lucky Phil!" he murmured.

Carlotta shook her head at him and went over to Tony, over whom she bent
for an instant with unusual feeling in her lovely eyes.

"Oh, my dear," she whispered. "I wish I could tell you how I feel. I'm so
glad--so glad." And then she was gone before Tony could answer.

"Oh me!" she sighed. "She has been so wonderful. You all have. Ted--Uncle
Phil! Come over here. I want to hold you tight."

And, with her brother on one side of her and her uncle on the other, Tony
gave a hand to each and for a moment no one spoke. Then Ted produced his
telegrams one of which was addressed to Tony and one to her uncle. Both
announced the young doctor's safety. "Staying over in Pittsburgh. Letter
follows," was in the doctor's message. "Sorry can't make commencement.
Love and congratulations," was in Tony's.

"There, didn't I tell you he was all right?" demanded Ted, as if his
brother's safety were due to his own remarkably good management of the
affair. "Gee! Tony! If you knew how I felt when Dick told me this
morning. I pretty nearly disgraced myself by toppling over, just like a
girl, on the campus. Lord! It was fierce."

"I know." Tony squeezed his hand sympathetically. "And Dick--why Dick
must have kept me out in Paradise on purpose."

"Sure he did. Dick's a jim dandy and don't you forget it."

"I shan't," said Tony, her eyes a little misty, remembering how Dick had
fought all day to keep her care-free happiness intact. "I don't know
whether to be angry at you all for keeping it from me or to fall on your
necks and weep because you were all so dear not to tell me. And oh! If
anything had happened to Larry! I don't see how I could have stood it. It
makes us all seem awfully near, doesn't it?"

"You bet!" agreed Ted with more fervor than elegance. "If the old chap
had been done for I'd have felt like making for the river, myself. Funny,
now the scare is over and he is all safe, I shall probably cuss him out
as hard as ever next time he tries to preach at me."

"You had better listen to him instead. Larry is apt to be right and you
are apt to be wrong, and you know it."

"Maybe it is because I do know it and because he is so devilish right
that I damn him," observed the youngest Holiday sagely, his eyes meeting
his uncle's over his sister's head.

It wasn't until he had danced and flirted and made merry for three
consecutive hours at the hop, and proposed in the exuberance of his mood
to at least three different charmers whose names he had forgotten by the
next day, that Ted Holiday remembered Madeline and his promise to keep
tryst with her that afternoon. Other things of more moment had swept her
clean from his mind.

"Thunder!" he muttered to himself. "Wonder what she is thinking when I
swore by all that was holy to come. Oh well; I should worry. I couldn't
help it. I'll write and explain how it happened."

So said, so done. He scribbled off a hasty note of explanation and
apology which he signed "Yours devotedly, Ted Holiday" and went out to
the corner mail box to dispatch the same so it would go out in the
early morning collection, and prepared to dismiss the matter from his
mind again.

Coming back into his room he found his uncle standing on the threshold.

"Had to get a letter off," murmured the young man as his uncle looked
inquiring. He turned to light a cigarette with an air of determined
casualness. He didn't care to have Uncle Phil know any more about the
Madeline affair.

"It must have been important."

"Was," curtly. "Did you think I was joy riding again?"

"No, I heard you stirring and thought you might be sick. I haven't been
able to get to sleep myself."

Seeing how utterly worn out his uncle looked, Ted's resentment took
quick, shamed flight. Poor Uncle Phil! He never spared himself, always
bore the brunt of everything for them all. And here he himself had just
snapped like a cur because he suspected his guardian of desiring to
interfere with his high and mighty private business.

"Too bad," he said. "Wish you'd smoke, Uncle Phil. It's great to cool off
your nerves. Honest it is! Have one?" He held out his case.

Doctor Holiday smiled at that, though he declined the proffered weed. He
understood very well that the boy was making tacit amends for his
ungraciousness of a moment before.

"No, I'll get to sleep presently. It has been rather a wearing day."

"Should say it had been. I hope Aunt Margery doesn't know about the
wreck. She'll worry, if she knew Larry was coming east."

"I wired her this evening. I didn't want to take any chance of her
thinking he was in the smash."

Ted laid down his cigarette.

"You never forget anybody do you, Uncle Phil?" he said rather
soberly for him.

"I never forget Margery. She is a very part of myself, lad."

And when he was alone Ted pondered over that last speech of his uncle's.
He wondered if there would ever be a Margery for him, and, if so, what
she would think of the Madelines if she knew of them.




CHAPTER VII

DEVELOPMENTS BY MAIL


After the family had reassembled on the Hill the promised letter from
Larry arrived. He was staying on so long as his services were needed. The
enormous number of victims of the wreck had strained to the uttermost the
city's supply of doctors and nurses, and there was more than enough work
for all. The writer spared them the details of the wreck so far as
possible; indeed, evidently was not anxious to relive the horrors on his
own account. He mentioned a few of the many sad cases only. One of these
was the instant death of a famous surgeon whose loss to the world seemed
tragic and pitifully wasteful to the young doctor. Another was the
crushing to death of a young mother who, with her two children, had been
happily on their way to meet the husband who had been in South America
for a year. Larry had made friends with her on the train and played with
the babies who reminded him of his small cousins, Eric and Hester, Doctor
Philip's children.

A third case he went into more fully, that of a young woman--just a mere
girl in appearance though she wore a wedding ring--who had received a
terrible blow on the base of her brain which had driven out memory
entirely. She did not know who she was, where she was going, or whence
she had come. Her physical injuries, otherwise, were not serious, a
broken arm and some bad bruises, nothing but what she would easily
recover from in a short time; but, for all her effort, the past remained
as something on the other side of a strange, blank wall.

"She tries pitifully hard to remember, and is so sweet and brave we are
all devoted to her. I always stop and talk to her when I go by her. She
seems to cling to me, rather, as if I could help her get things back.
Lord knows I wish I could. She is too dainty and fragile a morsel of
humanity to be left to fight such a thing alone. She is a regular little
Dresden shepherdess, with the tiniest feet and hands and the yellowest
hair and bluest eyes I ever saw. Her husband must be about crazy, poor
chap, not hearing from her. I suppose he will be turning up soon to claim
her. I hope so. I don't know what will become of her if he does not.

"It is late and I must turn in. I don't know when I shall get home. I
don't flatter myself Dunbury will miss me much when it has you. Give
everybody my love and tell Tony I am awfully sorry I couldn't get to
commencement. I guess maybe she is glad enough to have me alive not to
mind much. I'm some glad to be alive myself."

The letter ended with affectionate greetings to the older doctor from his
nephew and junior assistant. With it came another epistle from the same
city from an old doctor friend who had watched Philip Holiday, himself,
grow up, and had immediately set his eye on the younger Holiday, when he
had discovered the relationship.

"You have a lad to be proud of in that Larry of yours," he wrote. "He is
on the job early and late, no smart Alecness, no shirking, no fool
questions, just there on the spot when you want him with cool head,
steady nerves and a hand as gentle as a woman's. I like his quality,
Phil. Quality shows up at a time like this. He is true Holiday, through
and through, and you can tell him I said so when you see him."

The doctor smiled, well pleased at this tribute to Ned's son and this
letter, like Larry's, he handed to his wife Margery to read.

The thirties had touched "Miss Margery" lightly. She was still slim and
girlish-looking. In her simple gown of that forgetmenot blue shade which
her husband particularly loved she seemed scarcely older than she had on
that day, some eight years earlier, when he had found her giving a Fourth
of July party to the Hill youngsters, and had begun to lose his heart to
her then and there. It was not by shedding care and responsibility,
however, that she had kept her youth. It was by no means the easiest
thing in the world to be a busy doctor's wife, the mother of two lively
children and faithful daughter to an invalid and rather "difficult"
mother-in-law, as well as to care for a big house and an elastic
household, which in vacation time included Ned Holiday's children and
their friends. Needless to say she did not do any painting these days.
But there is more than one way of being an artist, and of the art of
simple, lovely, human living Margery Holiday was past mistress.

"Doesn't sound much like 'Lazy Larry' these days, does it?" she
commented, giving the letters back to her husband. "I know you are proud
of Doctor Fenton's letter, Phil. You ought to be. It is more than a
little due to you that Larry is what he is."

"We are advertised by our loving wives," he misquoted teasingly. "I have
always observed that the things we approve of in the younger generation
are the fruit of seeds we planted. The things we disapprove of slipped in
inadvertedly like weeds."

The same mail that brought Larry's letter brought one also to Ted from
Madeline Taylor, a letter which made him wriggle a little internally,
and pull his forelock, as was his habit when things were a bit
perturbing.

Madeline had gone to bed that Sunday night after her meeting with Ted in
the woods, full of the happiest kind of anticipations and shy, foolish,
impossible dreams. Her mind told her it was the rankest of nonsense to
dream about Ted Holiday, but her heart would do it. She knew the affair
with Ted had begun wrong, but she couldn't help hoping it would come out
beautifully right. She couldn't help making believe she had found her
prince, a bonny laddie who liked her well enough to play straight with
her and to come again to see her.

She meant to try so hard, so very hard, to make herself into the kind of
girl he was used to and liked. She cut out the picture of Tony Holiday
that Max Hempel and Dick Carson had studied that day on the train. She
studied it even harder and hid it away among her very special treasures
where she could take it out and look at it often and use it as a model.
She even snatched her hitherto precious earrings from their pink cotton
resting place and hurled them as far as she could into the night. She was
very sure Tony Holiday did not wear earrings, and she was even surer she
had seen Ted's eyes resting disapprovingly on hers. The earrings had to
go. They had gone.

The next afternoon she had waited for a while patiently by the brook. The
distant clock struck the half hour, the three quarters, the full hour. No
Ted Holiday. By this time her patience had long since evaporated and now
blazed into blind rage. Ted had forgotten his promise, if indeed he had
ever meant to keep it. He was with those other girls--his kind. Maybe he
was laughing at her, telling them how "easy" she had been, how gullible.
No, he wouldn't! He would be ashamed to admit he had had anything to do
with her. Men did not boast of their conquest of one kind of girl to
another. She had read enough fiction to know that.

In any case she hated Ted Holiday with a fine fury of resentment. She
wanted to make him suffer, even as she was suffering, though she sensed
vaguely that men couldn't suffer that way. It was only women who were
capable of such fine-drawn torture. Men went free.

From her rage against her recreant cavalier she went on to rage against
life built on a man-made plan for the benefit of man. Women were hurt, no
matter what they did. Being good wasn't any use. You got hurt all the
worse if you were good. It was silly even to try. It was better to shut
your eyes and have a good time.

Pursuing this reasoning brought Madeline Taylor to the sycamore tree that
night where Willis Hubbard's car waited. She went with Willis, not to
please him, not to please herself, but to spite Ted Holiday. She had
hinted to Ted she would do something desperate if he failed her. She had
done something desperate, but it was herself, not Ted, that had been
hurt. She discovered that too late.

The next morning had brought Ted's pleasant, penitent note, explaining
his defection and expressing the hope that they might meet again soon,
signed hers "devotedly." Poor Madeline! The cup of her regret was very
bitter to the taste as she read that letter of Ted Holiday's.

Something of her misery and self-abasement crept into the letter to Ted,
together with a passionate remorse for having doubted him and her even
more vehement regret for having gone out with Willis Hubbard. The whole
complex story of her emotional reactions was of course not written down
for Ted's eyes; but he read quite enough to permit him to guess more than
he cared to know. Hubbard was evidently something of a rotter. Maybe he
was a bit of a rotter himself. If he hadn't taken the girl out joy riding
himself she wouldn't have gone with the other two nights later. That was
plain to be seen with half an eye and Ted Holiday was man enough to look
at the fact straight and unblinking for a moment.

Well! He should worry. It wasn't his fault if Madeline had been fool
enough to go out with Hubbard, when she knew what kind of a chap he was.
He wasn't her keeper. He didn't see why she had to ask him to forgive
her. It was none of his business. And he wished she hadn't begged so
earnestly and humbly that he would see her again soon. He didn't want to
see her. Yet, down underneath, Ted Holiday had an uneasy feeling he
ought to want it, ought to try to make up to her in some way for
something which was somehow his fault, even though he did disclaim the
responsibility.

Two days later came another letter even more disturbing. It seemed
Madeline was going to Holyoke again soon to visit her Cousin Emma and
wanted Ted to join her. She was "dying" to see him. He could stay at
Cousin Emma's, but maybe he wouldn't like that because there was a raft
of children always under foot and Fred, Emma's husband, was a dreadful
"ordinary" person who smoked a smelly pipe and sat round in his shirt
sleeves. But if he would come and stay at a hotel they could have a
wonderful time. She did want to see him so much. Besides, Willis
pestered her all the time and said if she went away he would come down
in his car every night to see her. So if Ted didn't want her to run
around with Willis as he said in his last letter he had better come
himself. She didn't like Willis the way she did Ted, though. Some ways
she hated him and she wished awfully she hadn't ever had anything to do
with him. And finally she liked Ted better than anybody in the world,
and would he please, please come to Holyoke, because she wanted him to
so very, very much?

And then the postscript. "The cut is going to leave a scar, I am most
sure. I don't care. I like it. It makes me think of you and what a
wonderful time we had together that night."

Ted read the letter coming up the Hill, and for once forebore to whistle
as he made the ascent. His mind was busy. A week of Dunbury calm and
sweet do-nothing had sufficed to make him undeniably restless. Madeline's
proposal struck him as rather a jolly idea accordingly. After all, she
was a dandy little girl, and he owed her a lot for not making any fuss
over his nearly killing her. He didn't like this Hubbard fellow, either.
He rather thought it was his duty to go and send him about his business.
Ted was a bit of a knight, at heart, and felt now the chivalric urge,
combining with others less unselfish, to go to the rescue of the damsel
and set her free of the false besieger.

Her undisguised admission of her caring for him was a bit
disconcerting, although perhaps also a little sweet to his youthful
male vanity. Her caring was a complication, made him feel as if somehow
he ought to make up to her for failing her in the big thing by granting
her the smaller favor.

By the time he had reached the top of the Hill he was rather definitely
committed in his own mind to the Holyoke trip, if he could throw enough
dust in his uncle's eyes to get away with it.

Arrived at the house he flung the other mail on the hall table and went
upstairs. As he passed his grandmother's room he noticed that the door
was ajar and stepped in for a word with her. She looked very still and
white as she lay there in the big, old fashioned four-poster bed! Poor
Granny! It was awfully sad to be old. Ted couldn't quite imagine it for
himself, somehow.

"'Lo, Granny dear," he greeted, stooping to kiss the withered old cheek.
"How goes it?"

"About as usual, dear. Any word from Larry?" There was a plaintive note
in Madame Holiday's voice. She was never quite content unless all the
"children" were under the family roof-tree. And Larry was particularly
dear to her heart.

"Yes, I just brought a letter for Uncle Phil. The very idea of your
wanting Larry when you have Tony and me, and you haven't had us for
so long." Ted pretended to be reproachful and his grandmother reached
for his hand.

"I know, dear boy. I am very glad to have you and Tony. But Larry is a
habit, like Philip. You mustn't mind my missing him."

"Course I don't mind, Granny. I was just jossing. I don't blame you a bit
for missing Larry. He is a mighty good thing to have in the family. Wish
I were half as valuable."

"You are, sonny. I am so happy to be having you here all summer."

"Maybe not quite all summer. I'll be going off for little trips," he
prepared her gently.

"Youth! Youth! Never still--always wanting to fly off somewhere!"

"We all fly back mighty quick," comforted Ted. "There come the kiddies."

A patter of small feet sounded down the hall. In the next moment they
were there--sturdy Eric, the six year old, apple-cheeked, incredibly
energetic, already bidding fair to equal if not to rival his cousin Ted's
reputation for juvenile naughtiness; and Hester, two years younger, a
rose-and-snow creation, cherubic, adorable, with bobbing silver curls,
delectably dimpled elbows and corn flower blue eyes.

Fresh from the tub and the daily delightful frolic with Daddy, they now
appeared for that other ceremonial known as saying good-night to Granny.

"Teddy! Teddy! Ride us to Granny," demanded Eric hilariously, jubilant at
finding his favorite tall cousin on the spot.

"'Es, wide us, wide us," chimed in Hester, not to be outdone.

"You fiends!" But Ted obediently got down on "all fours" while the small
folks clambered up on his back and he "rode" them over to the bed, their
bathrobes flying as they went. Arrived at the destination Ted deftly
deposited his load in a giggling, squirming heap on the rug and then
gathering up the small Hester, swung her aloft, bringing her down with
her rose bud of a mouth close to Granny's pale cheeks.

"Kiss your flying angel, Granny, before she flies away again."

"Me! Me!" clamored Eric vociferously, hugging Ted's knees. "Me flying
angel, too!"

"Not much," objected Ted. "No angel about you. Too, too much solid flesh
and bones. Kiss Granny, quick. I hear your parents approaching."

Philip and Margery appeared on the threshold, seeking their obstreperous
offspring.

There was another stampede, this time in the direction of the "parents."

"Ca'y me! Ca'y me, Daddy," chirruped Hester.

"No, me. Ride me piggy-back," insisted Eric.

"Such children!" smiled Margery. "Ted, you encourage them. They are more
barbarian than ever when you are here, and they are bad enough under
normal conditions."

Ted chuckled at that. He and his Aunt Margery were the best of good
friends. They always had been since Ted had refused to join her Round
Table on the grounds that he might have to be sorry for being bad if he
did, though he had subsequently capitulated, in view of the manifest
advantages accruing to membership in the order.

"That's right. Lay it to me. I don't believe Uncle Phil was a saint,
either, was he, Granny?" he appealed. "I'll bet the kids get some of
their deviltry by direct line of descent."

His grandmother smiled.

"We forget a good deal about our children's naughtinesses when they are
grown up," she said. "I've even forgotten some of yours, Teddy."

"Lucky," grinned her grandson, stooping to kiss her again. "_Allons,
enfants_."

Later, when the obstreperous ones were in bed and everything quiet Philip
and Margery sat together in the hammock, lovers still after eight years
of strenuous married life and discussed Larry's last letter, which had
contained the rather astonishing request that he be permitted to bring
the little lady who had forgotten her past to Holiday Hill with him.

"Queer proposition!" murmured the doctor. "Doesn't sound like
sober Larry."

"I am not so sure. There is a quixotic streak in him--in all you
Holidays, for that matter. You can't say much. Think of the stray boys
you have taken in at one time or another, some of them rather dubious
specimens, I infer."

Margery's eyes smiled tender raillery at her husband. He chuckled at the
arraignment, and admitted its justice. Still, boys were not mystery
ladies. She must grant him that. Then he sobered.

"It is only you that makes me hesitate, Margery mine. You are carrying
about as heavy a burden now as any one woman ought to take upon herself,
with me and the house and the children and Granny. And here is this crazy
nephew of mine proposing the addition to the family of a stranger who
hasn't any past and whose future seems wrapped mostly in a nebular
hypothesis. It is rather a large order, my dear."

"Not too large. It isn't as if she were seriously ill, or would be a
burden in any way. Besides, it is Larry's home as well as ours, and he so
seldom asks anything for himself, and is always ready to help anywhere.
Do you really mind her coming, Phil?"

"Not if you don't. I am glad to agree if it is not going to be too hard
for you. As you say, Larry doesn't ever ask much for himself and I am
interested in the case, anyway. Shall we wire him to bring her, then?"

"Please do. I shall be very glad."

"You are a wonder, Margery mine." And the doctor bent and kissed his wife
before going in to telephone the message to be sent his nephew that
night, a message bidding him and the little stranger welcome, whenever
they cared to come to the House on the Hill.

And far away in Pittsburgh, Larry got the word that night and smiled
content. Bless Uncle Phil and Aunt Margery! They never failed you, no
matter what you asked of them.




CHAPTER VIII

THE LITTLE LADY WHO FORGOT


Larry Holiday was a rather startlingly energetic person when he once got
under way. The next morning he overruled the "Mystery Lady's" faint
demurs, successfully argued the senior doctor into agreement with his
somewhat surprising plan of procedure, wired his uncle, engaged train
reservations for that evening, secured a nurse, preempted the services of
a Red Cap who promised to be waiting with a chair at the station so that
the little invalid would not have to set foot upon the ground, and
finally carried the latter with his own strong young arms onto the train
and into a large, cool stateroom where a fan was already whirring and the
white-clad nurse waiting to minister to the needs of the frail traveler.

In a few moments the train was slipping smoothly out of the station and
the girl who had forgotten most things else knew that she was being
spirited off to a delightful sounding place called Holiday Hill in the
charge of a gray-eyed young doctor who had made himself personally
responsible for her from the moment he had extricated her, more dead than
alive, from the wreckage. Somehow, for the moment she was quite content
with the knowledge.

Leaving his charge in the nurse's care, Larry Holiday ensconced himself
in his seat not far from the stateroom and pretended to read his paper.
But it might just as well have been printed in ancient Sanscrit for all
the meaning its words conveyed to his brain. His corporeal self occupied
the green plush seat. His spiritual person was elsewhere.

After fifteen minutes of futile effort at concentration he flung down the
paper and strode to the door of the stateroom. A white linen arm answered
his gentle knock. There was a moment's consultation, then the nurse came
out and Larry went in.

On the couch the girl lay very still with half-closed eyes. Her long
blonde braids tied with blue ribbons lay on the pillow on either side of
her sweet, pale little face, making it look more childlike than ever.

"I can't see why I can't remember," she said to Larry as he sat down on
the edge of the other cot opposite her. "I try so hard."

"Don't try. You are just wearing yourself out doing it. It will be all
right in time. Don't worry."

"I can't help worrying. It is--oh, it is horrible not to have any
past--to be different from everybody in the world."

"I know. It is mighty tough and you have been wonderfully brave about it.
But truly I do believe it will all come back. And in the meanwhile you
are going to one of the best places in the world to get well in. Take my
word for it."

"But I don't see why I should be going. It isn't as if I had any claim
on you or your people. Why are you taking me to your home?" The blue
eyes were wide open now, and looking straight up into Larry Holiday's
gray ones.

Larry smiled and Larry's smile, coming out of the usual gravity and
repose of his face, was irresistible. More than one young woman, case and
non-case, had wished, seeing that smile, that its owner had eyes for
girls as such.

"Because you are the most interesting patient I ever had. Don't begrudge
it to me. I get measles and sore throats mostly. Do you wonder I snatched
you as a dog grabs a bone?" Then he sobered. "Truly, Ruth--you don't mind
my calling you that, do you, since we don't know your other name?--the
Hill is the one place in the world for you just now. You will forgive my
kidnapping you when you see it and my people. You can't help liking it
and them."

"I am not afraid of not liking it or them if--" She had meant to say "if
they are at all like you," but that seemed a little too personal to say
to one's doctor, even a doctor who had saved your life and had the most
wonderful smile that ever was, and the nicest eyes. "If they will let
me," she substituted. "But it is such a queer, kind thing to do. The
other doctors were interested in me, too, as a case. But it didn't occur
to any of them to offer me the hospitality of their homes and family for
an unlimited time. Are you Holidays all like that?"

"More or less," admitted Larry with another smile. "Maybe we are a bit
vain-glorious about Holiday hospitality. It is rather a family tradition.
The House on the Hill has had open doors ever since the first Holiday
built it nearly two hundred years ago. You saw Uncle Phil's wire. He
meant that 'welcome ready.' You'll see. But anyway it won't be very hard
for them to open the door to you. They will all love you."

She shut her eyes again at that. Possibly the young doctor's expression
was rather more un-professionally eloquent than he knew.

"Tired?" he asked.

"Not much--tired of wondering. Maybe my name isn't Ruth at all."

"Maybe it isn't. But it is a name anyway, and you may as well use it for
the present until you can find your own. I think Ruth Annersley is a
pretty name myself," added the young doctor seriously. "I like it."

"Mrs. Geoffrey Annersley," corrected the girl. "That is rather
pretty too."

Larry agreed somewhat less enthusiastically.

Ruth lifted her hand and fell to twisting the wedding ring which was very
loose on her thin little finger.

"Think of being married and not knowing what your husband looks like.
Poor Geoffrey Annersley! I wonder if he cares a great deal for me."

"It is quite possible," said Larry Holiday grimly.

He had taken an absurd dislike to the very name of Geoffrey Annersley.
Why didn't the man appear and claim his wife? Practically every paper
from the Atlantic to the Pacific had advertised for him. If he was any
good and wanted to find his wife he would be half crazy looking for her
by this time. He must have seen the newspaper notices. There was
something queer about this Geoffrey Annersley. Larry Holiday detested him
cordially.

"You don't suppose he was killed in the wreck, do you?" Ruth's mind
worked on, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

"You were traveling alone. Your chair was near mine. I noticed you
because I thought--" He broke off abruptly.

"Thought what?"

"That you were the prettiest girl I ever saw in my life," he admitted. "I
wanted to speak to you. Two or three times I was on the verge of it but I
never could quite get up the courage. I'm not much good at starting
conversations with girls. My kid brother, Ted, has the monopoly of that
sort of thing in my family."

"Oh, if you only had," she sighed. "Maybe I would have told you
something about myself and where I was going when I got to New York."

"I wish I had," regretted Larry. "Confound my shyness! I don't see why
anybody ever let you travel alone from San Francisco to New York anyway,"
he added. "Your Geoffrey ought to have taken better care of you."

"Maybe I haven't a Geoffrey. The fact that there was an envelope in my
bag addressed to Mrs. Geoffrey Annersley doesn't prove that I am Mrs.
Geoffrey Annersley."

"No, still there is the ring." Larry frowned thoughtfully. "If you aren't
Mrs. Geoffrey Annersley you must be Mrs. Somebody Else, I suppose. And
the locket says _Ruth from Geoffrey_."

"Oh, yes, I suppose I am Mrs. Geoffrey Annersley. It seems as if I must
be. But why can't I remember? It seems as if any one would remember the
man she was married to--as if one couldn't forget that, no matter what
happened. But if there is a Geoffrey Annersley why doesn't he come and
get me and make me remember him?"

Larry shook his head.

"Don't worry, please. We'll keep on advertising. He is bound to come
before long if he really is your husband. Some day he will be coming up
our hill and run away with you, worse luck!"

Ruth's eyes were on the ring again.

"It is funny," she said. "But I can't make myself _feel_ married. I can't
make the ring mean anything to me. I don't want it to mean anything. I
don't want to be married. Sometimes I dream that Geoffrey Annersley has
come and I put my hand over my eyes because I don't want to see him.
Isn't that dreadful?" she turned to Larry to ask.

"You can't help it." Larry tried manfully to push back his own wholly
unreasonable satisfaction in her aversion to her presumptive husband.
"It is the blow and the shock of the whole thing. It will be all right in
time. You will fall on your Geoffrey's neck and call him blessed when the
time comes."

"I don't believe he is coming," she announced suddenly with conviction.

Larry got up and walked over to her couch.

"What makes you say that?" he demanded.

"I don't know. It was just a feeling I had. Something inside me said
right out loud: 'He isn't coming. He isn't your husband.' Maybe it is
because I don't want him to come and don't want him to be my husband. Oh,
dear! It is all so queer and mixed up and horrid. It is awful not to be
anybody--just a ghost. I wish I'd been killed. Why didn't you leave me?
Why did you dig me out? All the others said I was dead. Why didn't you
let me _be_ dead? It would have been better."

She turned her face away and buried it in the pillow, sobbing softly,
suddenly like a child.

This was too much for Larry. He dropped on his knees beside her and put
his arms around the quivering little figure.

"Don't, Ruth," he implored. "Don't cry and don't--don't wish you were
dead. I--I can't stand it."

There was a tap at the door. Larry got to his feet in guilty haste and
went to the door of the stateroom.

"It is time for Mrs. Annersley's medicine," announced the nurse
impersonally, entering and going over to the wash stand for a glass.

The white linen back safely turned, Larry gave one swift look at Ruth and
bolted, shutting the door behind him. The nurse turned to look at the
patient whose face was still hidden in the pillow and then her gaze
traveled meditatively toward the door out of which the young doctor had
shot so precipitately. Larry had forgotten that there was a mirror over
the wash stand and that nurses, however impersonal, are still women with
eyes in their heads.

"H--m," reflected the onlooker. "I wouldn't have thought he was that
kind. You never can tell about men, especially doctors. I wish him joy
falling in love with a woman who doesn't know whether or not she has a
husband. Your tablets, Mrs. Annersley," she added aloud.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Larry, I think your Ruth is the dearest thing I ever laid eyes on,"
declared Tony next day to her brother. "Her name ought to be Titania. I'm
not very big myself, but I feel like an Amazon beside her. And her laugh
is the sweetest thing--so soft and silvery, like little bells. But she
doesn't laugh much, does she? Poor little thing!"

"She is awfully up against it," said Larry with troubled eyes. "She can't
stop trying to remember. It is a regular obsession with her. And she is
very shy and sensitive and afraid of strangers."

"She doesn't look at you as if you were a stranger. She adores you."

"Nonsense!" said Larry sharply.

Tony opened her eyes at her brother's tone.

"Why, Larry! Of course, I didn't mean she was in love with you. She
couldn't be when she is married. I just meant she adored you--well, the
way Max adores me," she explained as the tawny-haired Irish setter came
and rested his head on her knee, raising solemn worshipful brown eyes to
her face. "Why shouldn't she? You saved her life and you have been
wonderful to her every way."

"Nonsense!" said Larry again, though he said it in a different tone this
time. "I haven't done much. It is Uncle Phil and Aunt Margery who are the
wonderful ones. It is great the way they both said yes right away when I
asked if I could bring her here. I tell you, Tony, it means something to
have your own people the kind you can count on every time. And it is
great to have a home like this to bring her to. She is going to love it
as soon as she is able to get downstairs with us all."

Up in her cool, spacious north chamber, lying in the big bed with the
smooth, fine linen, Ruth felt as if she loved it already, though she
found these Holidays even more amazing than ever, now that she was
actually in their midst. Were there any other people in the world like
them she wondered--so kind and simple and unfeignedly glad to take a
stranger into their home and a queer, mysterious, sick stranger at that!

"If I have to begin living all over just like a baby I think I am the
luckiest girl that ever was to be able to start in a place like this with
such dear, kind people all around me," she told Doctor Holiday, senior,
to whom she had immediately lost her heart as soon as she saw his smile
and felt the touch of his strong, magnetic, healing hand.

"We will get you out under the trees in a day or two," he said. "And then
your business will be to get well and strong as soon as possible and not
worry about anything any more than if you were the baby you were just
talking about. Can you manage that, young lady?"

"I'll try. I would be horrid and ungrateful not to when you are all so
good to me. I don't believe my own people are half as nice as you
Holidays. I don't see how they could be."

The doctor laughed at that.

"We will let it go at that for the present. You will be singing another
tune when your Geoffrey Annersley comes up the Hill to claim you."

The girl's expressive face clouded over at that. She did not quite dare
to tell Doctor Holiday as she had his nephew that she did not want to see
Geoffrey Annersley nor to have to know she was married to him. It sounded
horrid, but it was true. Sometimes she hated the very thought of Geoffrey
Annersley.

Later Doctor Holiday and his nephew went over the girl's case together
from both the personal and professional angles. There was little enough
to go on in untangling her mystery. The railway tickets which had been
found in her purse were in an un-postmarked envelope bearing the name
Mrs. Geoffrey Annersley, but no address. The baggage train had been
destroyed by fire at the time of the accident, so there were no trunks to
give evidence. The small traveling bag she had carried with her bore
neither initial nor geographical designation, and contained nothing which
gave any clew as to its owner's identity save that she was presumably a
person of wealth, for her possessions were exquisite and obviously
costly. A small jewel box contained various valuable rings, one or two
pendants and a string of matched pearls which even to uninitiated eyes
spelled a fortune. Also, oddly enough, among the rest was an absurd
little childish gold locket inscribed "Ruth from Geoffrey."

She had worn no rings at all except for a single platinum-set, and very
perfect, diamond and a plain gold band, obviously a wedding ring. The
inference was that she was married and that her husband's name was
Geoffrey Annersley, but where he was and why she was traveling across the
United States alone and from whence she had come remained utterly
unguessable. Larry had seen to it that advertisements for Geoffrey
Annersley were inserted in every important paper from coast to coast but
nothing had come of any of his efforts.

As for the strange lapse of memory, there seemed nothing to do but wait
in the hope that recovered health and strength might bring it back.

"It may come bit by bit or by a sudden bound or never," was Doctor
Holiday's opinion. "There is nothing that I know of that she or you or
any one can do except let nature take her course. It is a case of time
and patience. I am glad you brought her to us. Margery and I are very
glad to have her."

"You are awfully good, Uncle Phil. I do appreciate it and it is great to
have you behind me professionally. I haven't got a great deal of
confidence in myself. Doctoring scares me sometimes. It is such a fearful
responsibility."

"It is, but you are going to be equal to it. The confidence will come
with experience. You need have no lack of faith in yourself; I haven't.
There is no reason why I should have, when I get letters like this."

The senior doctor leaned over and extracted old Doctor Fenton's letter
from a cubby hole in his desk and gave it to his nephew to read. The
latter perused it in silence with slightly heightened color. Praise
always embarrassed him.

"He is too kind," he observed as he handed back the letter. "I didn't do
much out there, precious little in fact but what I was told to do. I
figured it out that we young ones were the privates and it was up to us
to take orders from the captains who knew their business better than we
did and get busy. I worked on that basis."

"Sound basis. I am not afraid that a man who can obey well won't be able
to command well when the time comes. It isn't a small thing to be
recognized as a true Holiday, either. It is something to be proud of."

"I am proud, Uncle Phil. There is nothing I would rather hear--and
deserve. But, if I am anywhere near the Holiday standard, it is you
mostly that brought me up to it. I don't mean any dispraise of Dad. He
was fine and I am proud to be his son. But he never understood me. I
didn't have enough dash and go to me for him. Ted and Tony are both
more his kind, though I don't believe either of them loved him as I
did. But you seemed to understand always. You helped me to believe in
myself. It was the best thing that could have happened to me, coming to
you when I did."

Larry turned to the mantel and picked up a photograph of himself which
stood there, a lad of fifteen or so, facing the world with grave,
sensitive eyes, the Larry he had been when he came to the House on the
Hill. He smiled at his uncle over the boy's picture.

"You burned out the plague spots, too, with a mighty hot iron, some of
them," he added. "I'll never forget your sitting there in that very chair
telling me I was a lazy, selfish snob and that, all things considered, I
didn't measure up for a nickel with Dick. Jerusalem! I wonder if you knew
how that hit. I had a fairly good opinion of Larry Holiday in some ways
and you rather knocked the spots out of it, comparing me to my
disadvantage with a circus runaway."

He replaced the picture, the smile still lingering on his face.

"It was the right medicine though. I needed it. I can see that now.
Speaking of doses I wish you would make Ted tutor this summer. I don't
know whether he has told you. I rather think not. But he flunked so many
courses he will have to drop back a year unless he makes up the work and
takes examinations in the fall."

The senior doctor drummed thoughtfully on the desk. So that was what the
boy had on his mind.

"Why not speak to him yourself?" he asked after a minute.

"And be sent to warm regions as I was last spring when I ventured to give
his lord highmightiness some advice. No good, Uncle Phil. He won't listen
to me. He just gets mad and swings off in the other direction. I don't
handle him right. Haven't your patience and tact. I wonder if he ever
will get any sense into his head. He is the best hearted kid in the
world, and I'm crazy over him, but he does rile me to the limit with his
fifty-seven varieties of foolness."




CHAPTER IX

TED SEIZES THE DAY


The next morning Ted strolled into his uncle's office to ask if the
latter had any objections to his accepting an invitation to a house-party
from Hal Underwood, a college classmate, at the latter's home near
Springfield.

The doctor considered a moment before answering. He knew all about the
Underwoods and knew that his erratic nephew could not be in a safer,
pleasanter place. Also his quick wit saw a chance to put the screws on
the lad in connection with the tutoring business.

"I suppose your June allowance is able to float your traveling expenses,"
he remarked less guilelessly than the remark sounded.

The June allowance was, it seemed, the missing link.

"I thought maybe you would be willing to allow me a little extra this
month on account of commencement stunts. It is darned expensive sending
nosegays to sweet girl graduates. I couldn't help going broke. Honest I
couldn't, Uncle Phil." Then as his uncle did not leap at the suggestion
offered, the speaker changed his tack. "Anyway, you would be willing to
let me have my July money ahead of time, wouldn't you?" he ingratiated.
"It is only ten days to the first."

But Doctor Holiday still chose to be inconveniently irrelevant.

"Have you any idea how much my bill was for repairing the car?" he
asked.

Ted shook his head shamefacedly, and bent to examine a picture in a
magazine which lay on the desk. He wasn't anxious to have the car
incident resurrected. He had thought it decently buried by this time,
having heard no more about it.

"It was a little over a hundred dollars," continued the doctor.

The boy looked up, genuinely distressed.

"Gee, Uncle Phil! It's highway robbery."

"Scarcely. All things considered, it was a very fair bill. A hundred
dollars is a good deal to pay for the pleasure of nearly getting yourself
and somebody else killed, Ted."

Ted pulled his forelock and had nothing to say.

"Were you in earnest about paying up for that particular bit of
folly, son?"

"Why, yes. At least I didn't think it would be any such sum as that," Ted
hedged. "I'll be swamped if I try to pay it out of my allowance. I can't
come out even, as it is. Couldn't you take it out of my own money--what's
coming to me when I'm of age?"

"I could, if getting myself paid were the chief consideration. As it
happens, it isn't. I'm sorry if I seem to be hard on you, but I am going
to hold you to your promise, even if it pinches a bit. I think you know
why. How about it, son?"

"I suppose it has to go that way if you say so," said Ted a little
sulkily. "Can I pay it in small amounts?"

"How small? Dollar a year? I'd hate to wait until I was a hundred and
forty or so to get my money back."

The boy grinned reluctantly, answering the friendly twinkle in his
uncle's eyes. He was relieved that a joke had penetrated what had begun
to appear to be an unpleasantly jestless interview. He hated to be
called to account. Like many another older sinner he liked dancing, but
found paying the piper an irksome business.

"Nonsense, Uncle Phil! I meant real paying. Will ten dollars a month do?"

"It will, provided you don't try to borrow ahead each month from the
next one."

"I won't," glibly. "If you will--" The boy broke off and had the grace to
look confused, realizing he had been about to do the very thing he had
promised in the same breath not to do. "Then that means I can't go to
Hal's," he added soberly.

He felt sober. There was more than Hal and the house-party involved,
though the latter had fallen in peculiarly fortuitous with his other
plans. He had rashly written Madeline he would be in Holyoke next week as
she desired, and the first of July and his allowance would still be just
out of reach next week. It was a confounded nuisance, to say the least,
being broke just now, with Uncle Phil turned stuffy.

"No, I don't want you to give up your house-party, though that rests with
you. I'll make a bargain with you. I'll advance your whole July allowance
minus ten dollars Saturday morning."

Ted's face cleared, beamed like sudden sunshine on a cloudy March day.

"You will! Uncle Phil, you certainly are a peach!" And in his exuberance
he tossed his cap to the ceiling, catching it deftly on his nose as it
descended.

"Hold on. Don't rejoice too soon. It was to be a bargain, you know. You
have heard only one side."

"Oh--h!" The exclamation was slightly crestfallen.

"I understand that you fell down on most of your college work this
spring. Is that correct?"

This was a new complication and just as he had thought he was safely
out of the woods, too. Ted hung his head, gave consent to his uncle's
question by silence and braced himself for a lecture, though he was a
little relieved that he need not bring up the subject of that
inconvenient flunking of his, himself; that his uncle was already
prepared, whoever it was that had told tales. The lecture did not
come, however.

"Here is the bargain. I will advance the money as I said, provided
that as soon as you get back from Hal's you will make arrangements to
tutor with Mr. Caldwell this summer, in all the subjects you failed in
and promise to put in two months of good, solid cramming, no half way
about it."

"Gee, Uncle Phil! It's vacation."

"You don't need a vacation. If all I hear of you is true, or even half of
it, you made your whole college year one grand, sweet vacation. What is
the answer? Want time to think the proposition over?"

"No--o. I guess I'll take you up. I suppose I'll have to tutor anyway if
I don't want to drop back a class, and I sure don't," Ted admitted
honestly. "Unless you'll let me quit and you won't. It is awfully tough,
though. You never made Tony or Larry kill themselves studying in
vacations. I don't see--"

"Neither Tony or Larry ever flunked a college course. It remained for you
to be the first Holiday to wear a dunce cap."

Ted flushed angrily at that. The shot went home, as the doctor intended
it should. He knew when to hit and how to do it hard, as Larry had
testified.

"Fool's cap if you like, Uncle Phil. I am not a dunce."

"I rather think that is true. Anyway, prove it to us this summer and
there is no one who will be gladder than I to take back the aspersion. Is
it understood then? You have your house-party and when you come back you
are pledged to honest work, no shirking, no requests for time off, no
complaints. Have I your word?"

Ted considered. He thought he was paying a stiff price for his
house-party and his lark with Madeline. He could give up the first,
though a fellow always had a topping time at Hal's; but he couldn't quite
see himself owning ignominiously to Madeline that he couldn't keep his
promise to her because of empty pockets. Moreover, as he had admitted, he
would have to tutor anyway, probably, and he might as well get some gain
out of the pain.

"I promise, Uncle Phil."

"Good. Then that is settled. I am not going to say anything more about
the flunking. You know how we all feel about it. I think you have sense
enough and conscience enough to see it about the way the rest of us do."

Ted's eyes were down again now. Somehow Uncle Phil always made him feel
worse by what he didn't say than a million sermons from other people
would have done. He would have gladly have given up the projected journey
and anything else he possessed this moment if he could have had a clean
slate to show. But it was too late for that now. He had to take the
consequences of his own folly.

"I see it all right, Uncle Phil," he said looking up. "Trouble is I never
seem to have the sense to look until--afterward. You are awfully decent
about it and letting me go to Hal's and--everything. I--I'll be gone
about a week, do you mind?"

"No. Stay as long as you like. I am satisfied with your promise to make
good when you do come."

Ted slipped away quickly then. He was ashamed to meet his uncle's kind
eyes. He knew he was playing a crooked game with stacked cards. He hadn't
exactly lied--hadn't said a word that wasn't strictly true, indeed. He
was going to Hal's, but he had let his uncle think he was going to stay
there the whole week whereas in reality he meant to spend the greater
part of the time in Madeline Taylor's society, which was not in the
bargain at all. Well he would make up later by keeping his promise about
the studying. He would show them Larry wasn't the only Holiday who could
make good. The dunce cap jibe rankled.

And so, having satisfied his sufficiently elastic conscience, he departed
on Saturday for Springfield and adjacent points.

He had the usual "topping" time at Hal's and tore himself away with the
utmost reluctance from the house-party, had half a mind, indeed, to wire
Madeline he couldn't come to Holyoke. But after all that seemed rather a
mean thing to do after having treated her so rough before, and in the end
he had gone, only one day later than he had promised.

It was characteristic that, arrived at his destination, he straightway
forgot the pleasures he was foregoing at Hal's and plunged
whole-heartedly into amusing himself to the utmost with Madeline Taylor.
_Carpe Diem_ was Ted Holiday's motto.

Madeline had indeed proved unexpectedly pretty and attractive when she
opened the door to him on Cousin Emma's little box of a front porch, clad
all in white and wearing no extraneous ornament of any sort, blushing
delightfully and obviously more than glad of his coming. He would not
have been Ted Holiday if he hadn't risen to the occasion. The last girl
in sight was usually the only girl for him so long as she _was_ in sight
and sufficiently jolly and good to look upon.

A little later Madeline donned a trim tailored black sailor hat and a
pretty and becoming pale green sweater and the two went down the steps
together, bound for an excursion to the park. As they descended Ted's
hand slipped gallantly under the girl's elbow and she leaned on it ever
so little, reveling in the ceremony and prolonging it as much as
possible. Well she knew that Cousin Emma and the children were peering
out from behind the curtains of the front bedroom upstairs, and that Mrs.
Bascom and her stuck up daughter Lily had their faces glued to the pane
next door. They would all see that this was no ordinary beau, but a real
swell like the magnificent young men in the movies. Perhaps as she
descended Cousin Emma's steps and went down the path between the tiger
lilies and peonies that flanked the graveled path with Ted Holiday beside
her, Madeline Taylor had her one perfect moment.

Only the "ordinary" Fred, on hearing his wife's voluble descriptions
later of Madeline's "grand" young man failed to be suitably impressed.
"Them swells don't mean no girl no good no time," he had summed up his
views with sententious accumulation of negatives.

But little enough did either Ted or Madeline reck of Fred's or any other
opinion as they fared their blithe and care-free way that gala week. The
rest of the world was supremely unimportant as they went canoeing and
motoring and trolley riding and mountain climbing and "movieing"
together. Madeline strove with all her might to dress and act and _be_ as
nearly like those other girls after whom she was modeling herself as
possible, to do nothing, which could jar on Ted in any way or remind him
that she was "different." In her happiness and sincere desire to please
she succeeded remarkably well in making herself superficially at least
very much like Ted's own "kind of girl" and though with true masculine
obtuseness he was entirely unaware of the conscious effort she was
putting into the performance nevertheless he enjoyed the results in full
and played up to her undeniable charms with his usual debonair and
heedless grace and gallantry.

The one thing that had been left out of the program for lack of suitable
opportunity was dancing, an omission not to be tolerated by two strenuous
and modern young persons who would rather fox trot than eat any day.
Accordingly on Thursday it was agreed that they should repair to the
White Swan, a resort down the river, famous for its excellent cuisine,
its perfect dance floor and its "snappy" negro orchestra. Both Ted and
Madeline knew that the Swan had also a reputation of another less
desirable sort, but both were willing to ignore the fact for the sake of
enjoying the "jolliest jazz on the river" as the advertisement read. The
dance was the thing.

It was, indeed. The evening was decidedly the best yet, as both averred,
pirouetting and spinning and romping through one fox trot and one step
after another. The excitement of the music, the general air of
exhilaration about the place and their own high-pitched mood made the
occasion different from the other gaieties of the week, merrier, madder,
a little more reckless.

Once, seeing a painted, over-dressed or rather under-dressed, girl in the
arms of a pasty-faced, protruding-eyed roue, both obviously under the
spell of too much liquid inspiration, Ted suffered a momentary revulsion
and qualm of conscience. He shouldn't have brought Madeline here. It
wasn't the sort of place to bring a girl, no matter how good the music
was. Oh, well! What did it matter just this once? They were there now and
they might as well get all the fun they could out of it. The music
started up, he held out his hand to Madeline and they wheeled into the
maze of dancers, the girl's pliant body yielding to his arms, her eyes
brilliant with excitement. They danced on and on and it was amazingly and
imprudently late when they finally left the Swan and went home to Cousin
Emma's house.

Ted had meant to leave Madeline at the gate, but somehow he lingered and
followed the girl out into the yard behind the house where they seated
themselves in the hammock in the shade of the lilac bushes. And suddenly,
without any warning, he had her in his arms and was kissing her
tempestuously.

It was only for a moment, however. He pulled himself together, hot
cheeked and ashamed and flung himself out of the hammock. Madeline sat
very still, not saying a word, as she watched him march to and fro
between the beds of verbena and love-lies-bleeding and portulaca.
Presently he paused beside the hammock, looking down at the girl.

"I am going home to-morrow," he said a little huskily.

Madeline threw out one hand and clutched one of the boy's in a
feverish clasp.

"No! No!" she cried. "You mustn't go. Please don't, Ted."

"I've got to," stolidly.

"Why?"

"You know why."

"You mean--what you did--just now?"

He nodded miserably.

"That doesn't matter. I'm not angry. I--I liked it."

"I am afraid it does matter. It makes a mess of everything, and it's all
my fault. I spoiled things. I've got to go."

"But you will come back?" she pleaded.

He shook his head.

"It is better not, Madeline. I'm sorry."

She snatched her hand away from his, her eyes shooting sparks of anger.

"I hate you, Ted Holiday. You make me care and then you go away and leave
me. You are cruel--selfish. I hate you--hate you."

Ted stared down at her, helpless, miserable, ashamed. No man knows what
to do with a scene, especially one which his own folly has precipitated.

"Willis Hubbard is coming down to-morrow night and if you don't stay as
you promised I'll go to the Swan with him. He has been teasing me to go
for ages and I wouldn't, but I will now, if you leave me. I'll--I'll do
anything."

Ted was worried. He did not like the sound of the girl's threats though
he wasn't moved from his own purpose.

"Don't go to the Swan with Hubbard, Madeline. You mustn't."

"Why not? You took me."

"I know I did, but that is different," he finished lamely.

"I don't see anything very different," she retorted hotly.

Ted bit his lip. Remembering his own recent aberration, he did not see as
much difference as he would have liked to see himself.

"I suppose you wouldn't have taken _your_ kind of girl to the Swan,"
taunted Madeline.

"No, I--"

It was a fatal admission. Ted hadn't meant to make it so bluntly, but it
was out. The damage was done.

A demon of rage possessed the girl. Beside herself with anger she sprang
to her feet and delivered a stinging blow straight in the boy's face.
Then, her mood changing, she fell back into the hammock sobbing bitterly.

For a moment Ted was too much astonished by this fish-wife exhibition
of temper even to be angry with himself. Then a hot wave of wrath and
shame surged over him. He put up his hand to his cheek as if to brush
away the indignity of the blow. But he was honest enough to realize
that maybe he had deserved the punishment, though not for the reason
the girl had dealt it.

Looking down at her in her racked misery, his resentment vanished and
an odd impersonal kind of pity for her possessed him instead, though
her attraction was gone forever. He could see the scar on her forehead,
and it troubled and reproached him vaguely, seemed a symbol of a deeper
wound he had dealt her, though never meaning any harm. He bent over
her, gently.

"Forgive me, Madeline," he said. "I am sorry--sorry for
everything. Goodby."

In a moment he was gone, past the portulaca and love-lies-bleeding, past
Cousin Emma's unlit parlor windows, down the walk between the tiger
lilies and peonies, out into the street. And Madeline, suddenly
realizing that she was alone, rushed after him, calling his name softly
into the dark. But only the echo of his firm, buoyant young feet came
back to her straining ears. She fled back to the garden and, throwing
herself, face down, on the dew drenched grass, surrendered to a passion
of tearless grief.

Ted astonished his uncle, first by coming home a whole day earlier than
he had been expected and second, by announcing his intention of seeing
Robert Caldwell and making arrangements about the tutoring that very
day. He was more than usually uncommunicative about his house-party
experiences the Doctor thought and fancied too that just at first after
his return the boy did not meet his eyes quite frankly. But this soon
passed away and he was delighted and it must be confessed considerably
astounded too to perceive that Ted really meant to keep his word about
the studying and settled down to genuine hard work for perhaps the first
time, in his idle, irresponsible young life. He had been prepared to put
on the screws if necessary. There had been no need. Ted had applied his
own screws and kept at his uncongenial task with such grim determination
that it almost alarmed his family, so contrary was his conduct to his
usual light-hearted shedding of all obligations which he could, by hook
or crook, evade.

Among other things to be noted with relief the doctor counted the fact
that there were no more letters from Florence. Apparently that flame
which had blazed up rather brightly at first had died down as a good many
others had. Doctor Holiday was particularly glad in this case. He had not
liked the idea of his nephew's running around with a girl who would be
willing to go "joy-riding" with him after midnight, and still less had he
liked the idea of his nephew's issuing such invitations to any kind of
girl. Youth was youth and he had never kept a very tight rein on any of
Ned's children, believing he could trust them to run straight in the
main. Still there were things one drew the line at for a Holiday.




CHAPTER X

TONY DANCES INTO A DISCOVERY


Tony was dressing for dinner on her first evening at Crest House.
Carlotta was perched on the arm of a chair near by, catching up on mutual
gossip as to events that had transpired since they parted a month before
at Northampton.

"I have a brand new young man for you, Tony. Alan Massey--the artist. At
least he calls himself an artist, though he hasn't done a thing but
philander and travel two or three times around the globe, so near as I
can make out, since somebody died and left him a disgusting big fortune.
Aunt Lottie hints that he is very improper, but anyway he is amusing and
different and a dream of a dancer. It is funny, but he makes me think a
little bit once in a while of somebody we both know. I won't tell you
who, and see if the same thing strikes you."

A little later Tony met the "new young man." She was standing with her
friend in the big living room waiting for the signal for dinner when she
felt suddenly conscious of a new presence. She turned quickly and saw a
stranger standing on the threshold regarding her with a rather
disconcertingly intent gaze. He was very tall and foreign-looking,
"different," as Carlotta had said, with thick, waving blue-black hair, a
clear, olive skin and deep-set, gray-green eyes. There was nothing about
him that suggested any resemblance to anyone she knew. Indeed she had a
feeling that there was nobody at all like him anywhere in the world.

The newcomer walked toward her, their glances crossing. Tony stood very
still, but she had an unaccountable sensation of going to meet him, as if
he had drawn her to him, magnet-wise, by his strange, sweeping look. They
were introduced. He bowed low in courtly old world fashion over the
girl's hand.

"I am enchanted to know Miss Holiday," he said. His voice was as unusual
as the rest of him, deep-throated, musical, vibrant--an unforgettable
voice it seemed to Tony who for a moment seemed to have lost her own.

"I shall sit beside Miss Tony to-night, Carla," he added. It was not a
question, not a plea. It was clear assertion.

"Not to-night, Alan. You are between Aunt Lottie and Mary Frances Day.
You liked Mary Frances yesterday. You flirted with her outrageously
last night."

He shrugged.

"Ah, but that was last night, my dear. And this is to-night. And I have
seen your Miss Tony. That alters everything, even your seating
arrangements. Change me, Carlotta."

Carlotta laughed and capitulated. Alan's highhanded tactics always
amused her.

"Not that you deserve it," she said. "Don't be too nice to him, Tony. He
is not a nice person at all."

So it happened that Tony found herself at dinner between Ted's friend,
and her own, Hal Underwood, and this strange, impossible, arbitrary,
new personage who had hypnotized her into unwonted silence at their
first meeting.

She had recovered her usual poise by this time, however, and was quite
prepared to keep Alan Massey in due subjection if necessary. She did not
like masterful men. They always roused her own none too dormant
willfulness.

As they sat down he bent over to her.

"You are glad I made Carlotta put us together," he said, and this, too,
was no question, but an assertion.

Tony was in arms in a flash.

"On the contrary, I am exceedingly sorry she gave in to you. You seem to
be altogether too accustomed to having your own way as it is." And rather
pointedly she turned her pretty shoulder on her too presuming neighbor
and proceeded to devote her undivided attention for two entire courses to
Hal Underwood.

But, with the fish, Hal's partner on the other side, a slim young person
in a glittering green sequined gown, suggesting a fish herself, or, at
politest, a mermaid, challenged his notice and Tony returned perforce to
her left-hand companion who had not spoken a single word since she had
snubbed him as Tony was well aware, though she had seemed so entirely
absorbed in her own conversation with Hal.

His gray-green eyes smiled imperturbably into hers.

"Am I pardoned? Surely I have been punished enough for my sins, whatever
they may have been."

"I hope so," said Tony. "Are you always so disagreeable?"

"I am never disagreeable when I am having my own way. I am always good
when I am happy. At this moment I am very, very good."

"It hardly seems possible," said Tony. "Carlotta said you were not
good at all."

He shrugged, a favorite mannerism, it seemed.

"Goodness is relative and a very dull topic in any case. Let us talk,
instead, of the most interesting subject in the universe--love. You
know, of course, I am madly in love with you."

"Indeed, no. I didn't suspect it," parried Tony. "You fall in love
easily."

"Scarcely easily, in this case. I should say rather upon tremendous
provocation. I suppose you know how beautiful you are."

"I look in the mirror occasionally," admitted Tony with a glimmer of
mischief in her eyes. "Carlotta told me you were a philanderer.
Forewarned is forearmed, Mr. Massey."

"Ah, but this isn't philandery. It is truth." Suddenly the mockery had
died out of his voice and his eyes. "_Carissima,_ I have waited a very
long time for you--too long. Life has been an arid waste without you,
but, Allah be praised, you are here at last. You are going to love
me--ah, my Tony--how you are going to love me!" The last words were
spoken very low for the girl's ears alone, though more than one person at
the table seeing him bend over her, understood, that Alan Massey, that
professional master-lover was "off" again.

"Don't, Mr. Massey. I don't care for that kind of jest."

"Jest! Good God! Tony Holiday, don't you know that I mean it, that this,
is the real thing at last for me--and for you? Don't fight it,
Mademoiselle Beautiful. It will do no good. I love you and you are going
to love me--divinely."

"I don't even like you," denied Tony hotly.

"What of that? What do I care for your liking? That is for others. But
your loving--that shall be mine--all mine. You will see."

"I am afraid you are very much mistaken if you do mean all you are
saying. Please talk to Miss Irvine now. You haven't said a word to her
since you sat down. I hate rudeness."

Again Tony turned a cold shoulder upon her amazing dinner companion but
she did not do it so easily or so calmly this time. She was not unused
to the strange ways of men. Not for nothing had she spent so much of her
life at army posts where love-making is as familiar as brass buttons.
Sudden gusts of passion were no novelty to her, nor was it a new thing
to hear that a man thought he loved her. But Alan Massey was different.
She disliked him intensely, she resented the arrogance of his
assumptions with all her might, but he interested her amazingly. And,
incredible as it might seem and not to be admitted out loud, he was
speaking the truth, just now. He did love her. In her heart Tony knew
that she had felt his love before he had ever spoken a word to her when
their eyes had met as he stood on the threshold and she knew too
instinctively, that his love--if it was that--was not a thing to be
treated like the little summer day loves of the others. It was big,
rather fearful, not to be flouted or played with. One did not play with
a meteor when it crossed one's path. One fled from it or stayed and let
it destroy one if it would.

She roused herself to think of other people, to forget Alan Massey and
his wonderful voice which had said such perturbing things. Over across
the table, Carlotta was talking vivaciously to a pasty-visaged,
narrow-chested, stoop-shouldered youth who scarcely opened his mouth
except to consume food, but whose eyes drank in every movement of
Carlotta's. One saw at a glance he was another of that spoiled little
coquette's many victims. Tony asked Hal who he was. He seemed scarcely
worth so many of Carlotta's sparkles, she thought.

"Herb Lathrop--father is the big tea and coffee man--all rolled up in
millions. Carlotta's people are putting all the bets on him, apparently,
though for the life of me I can't see why. Don't see why people with
money are always expected to match up with somebody with a whole
caboodle of the same junk. Ought to be evened up I think, and a bit of
eugenics slipped in, instead of so much cash, for good measure. You can
see what a poor fish he is. In my opinion she had much better marry your
neighbor up there on the Hill. He is worth a gross of Herb Lathrops and
she knows it. Carlotta is no fool."

"You mean Phil Lambert?" Tony was surprised.

Hal nodded.

"That's the chap. Only man I ever knew that could keep Carlotta in
order."

"But Carlotta hasn't the slightest idea of marrying Phil," objected Tony.

"Maybe not. I only say he is the man she ought to marry. I say, Tony,
does she seem happy to you?"

"Carlotta! Why, yes. I hadn't thought. She seems gayer than usual, if
anything." Tony's eyes sought her friend's face. Was there something a
little forced about that gaiety of hers? For the first time it struck her
that there was a restlessness in the lovely violet eyes which was
unfamiliar. Was Carlotta unhappy? Evidently Hal thought so. "You have
sharp eyes, Hal," she commented. "I hadn't noticed."

"Oh, I'm one of the singed moths you know. I know Carlotta pretty well
and I know she is fighting some kind of a fight--maybe with herself. I
rather think it is. Tell Phil Lambert to come down here and marry her out
of hand. I tell you Lambert's the man."

"You think Carlotta loves Phil?"

"I don't think. 'Tisn't my business prying into a girl's fancies. I'm
simply telling you Phil Lambert is the man that ought to marry her, and
if he doesn't get on to the job almighty quick that pop-eyed simpleton
over there will be prancing down the aisle to Lohengrin with Carlotta
before Christmas, and the jig will be up. You tell him what I say. And
study the thing a bit yourself while you are here, Tony. See if you can
get to the bottom of it. I hate to have her mess things up for herself
that way."

Whereupon Hal once more proceeded to do his duty to the mermaid, leaving
Tony to her other partner.

"Well," the latter murmured, seeing her free. "I have done the heavy
polite act, discussed D'Annunzio, polo and psycho-analysis and finished
all three subjects neatly. Do I get my reward?"

"What do you ask?"

"The first dance and then the garden and the moon and you--all to
myself."

Tony shook her head. She was on guard.

"I shall want more than one dance and more than one partner. I am afraid
I shan't have time for the moon and the garden to-night. I adore dancing.
I never stop until the music does."

A flash of exultancy leaped into his eyes.

"So? I might have known you would adore dancing. You shall have your
fill. You shall have many dances, but only one partner. I shall suffice.
I am one of the best dancers in the world."

"And evidently one of the vainest men," coolly.

"What of it? Vanity is good when it is not misplaced. But I was not
boasting. I _am_ one of the best dancers in the world. Why should I not
be? My mother was Lucia Vannini. She danced before princes." He might
have added, "She was a prince's mistress." It had been the truth.

"Oh!" cried Tony. She had heard of Lucia Vannini--a famous Italian beauty
and dancer of three decades ago. So Alan Massey was her son. No wonder he
was foreign, different, in ways and looks. One could forgive his
extravagances when one knew.

"Ah, you like that, my beauty? You will like it even better when you
have danced with me. It is then that you will know what it is to dance.
We shall dance and dance and--love. I shall make you mine dancing,
_Toinetta mia_."

Tony shrank back from his ardent eyes and his veiled threat. She was a
passionate devotee of her own freedom. She did not want to be made his or
any man's--certainly not his. She decided not to dance with him at all.
But later, when the violins began to play and Alan Massey came and stood
before her, uttering no word but commanding her to him with his eyes and
his out-stretched, nervous, slender, strong, artist hands, she
yielded--could scarcely have refused if she had wanted to. But she did
not want to, though she told herself it was with Lucia Vannini's son
rather than with Alan Massey that she desired to dance.

After that she thought not at all, gave herself up to the very ecstasy of
emotion. She had danced all her life, but, even as he had predicted, she
learned for the first time in this man's arms what dancing really was. It
was like nothing she had ever even dreamed of--pure poetry of motion, a
curious, rather alarming weaving into one of two vividly alive persons in
a kind of pagan harmony, a rhythmic rapture so intense it almost hurt. It
seemed as if she could have gone on thus forever.

But suddenly she perceived that she and her partner had the floor alone,
the others had stopped to watch, though the musicians still played on
frenziedly, faster and faster. Flushed, embarrassed at finding herself
thus conspicuous, she drew herself away from Alan Massey.

"We must stop," she murmured. "They are all looking at us."

"What of it?" He bent over her, his passionate eyes a caress. "Did I not
tell you, _carissima_ Was it not very heaven?"

Tony shook her head.

"I am afraid there was nothing heavenly about it. But it was wonderful. I
forgive you your boasting. You are the best dancer in the world. I am
sure of it."

"And you will dance with me again and again, my wonder-girl. You must.
You want to."

"I want to," admitted Tony. "But I am not going to--at least not again
to-night. Take me to a seat."

He did so and she sank down with a fluttering sigh beside Miss Lottie
Cressy, Carlotta's aunt. The latter stared at her, a little oddly she
thought, and then looked up at Alan Massey.

"You don't change, do you, Alan?" observed Miss Cressy.

"Oh yes, I change a great deal. I have been very different ever since I
met Miss Tony." His eyes fell on the girl, made no secret of his emotions
concerning her and her beauty.

Miss Cressy laughed a little sardonically.

"No doubt. You were always different after each new sweetheart, I recall.
So were they--some of them."

"You do me too much honor," he retorted suavely. "Shall we not go out,
Miss Holiday? The garden is very beautiful by moonlight."

She bowed assent, and together they passed out of the room through the
French window. Miss Cressy stared after them, the bitter little smile
still lingering on her lips.

"Youth for Alan always," she said to herself. "Ah, well, I was young,
too, those days in Paris. I must tell Carlotta to warn Tony. It would be
a pity for the child to be tarnished so soon by touching his kind too
close. She is so young and so lovely."

Alan and Tony strayed to a remote corner of the spacious gardens and
came to a pause beside the fountain which leaped and splashed and caught
the moonlight in its falling splendor. For a moment neither spoke. Tony
bent to dip her fingers in the cool water. She had an odd feeling of
needing lustration from something. The man's eyes were upon her. She was
very young, very lovely, as Miss Cressy had said. There was something
strangely moving to Alan Massey about her virginal freshness, her
moonshine beauty. He was unaccustomed to compunction, but for a fleeting
second, as he studied Tony Holiday standing there with bowed head,
laving her hands in the sparkling purity of the water, he had an impulse
to go away and leave her, lest he cast a shadow upon her by his
lingering near her.

It was only for a moment. He was far too selfish to follow the brief urge
to renunciation. The girl stirred his passion too deeply, roused his will
to conquer too irresistibly to permit him to forego the privilege of the
place and hour.

She looked up at him and he smiled down at her, once more the
master-lover.

"I was right, was I not, _Toinetta mia_? I did make you a little bit
mine, did I not? Be honest. Tell me." He laid a hand on each of her bare
white shoulders, looked deep, deep into her brown eyes as if he would
read secret things in their depths.

Tony drew away from his hands, dropped her gaze once more to the rippling
white of the water, which was less disconcerting than Alan Massey's too
ardent green eyes.

"You danced with me divinely. I shall also make you love me divinely even
as I promised. You know it dear one. You cannot deny it," the magically
beautiful voice which pulled so oddly at her heart strings went on
softly, almost in a sort of chant. "You love me already, my white
moonshine girl," he whispered. "Tell me you do."

"Ah but I don't," denied Tony. "I--I won't. I don't want to love
anybody."

"You cannot help it, dear heart. Nature made you for loving and being
loved. And it is I that you are going to love. Mine that you shall
be. Tell me, did you ever feel before as you felt in there when we
were dancing?"

"No," said Tony, her eyes still downcast.

"I knew it. You are mine, belovedest. I knew it the moment I saw you. It
is Kismet. Kiss me."

"No." The girl pulled herself away from him, her face aflame.

"No? Then so." He drew her back to him, and lifted her face gently with
his two hands. He bent over her, his lips close to hers.

"If you kiss me I'll never dance with you again as long as I live!"
she flashed.

He laughed a little mockingly, but he lowered his hands, made no effort
to gainsay her will.

"What a horrible threat, you cruel little moonbeam! But you wouldn't keep
it. You couldn't. You love to dance with me too well."

"I would," she protested, the more sharply because she suspected he was
right, that she would dance with him again, no matter what he did. "Any
way I shall not dance with you again to-night. And I shall not stay out
here with you any longer." She turned to flee, but he put out his hand
and held her back.

"Not so fast, my Tony. They have eyes and ears in there. If you run away
from me and go back with those glorious fires lit in your cheeks and in
your eyes they will believe I did kiss you-."

"Oh!" gasped Tony, indignant but lingering, recognizing the probable
truth of his prediction.

"We shall go together after a minute with sedateness, as if we had been
studying the stars. I am wise, my Tony. Trust me."

"Very well," assented Tony. "How many stars are there in the Pleiades,
anyway?" she asked with sudden imps of mirth in her eyes.

Again she felt on safe ground, sure that she had conquered and put a
too presuming male in his place. She had no idea that the laurels had
been chiefly not hers at all but Alan Massey's, who was quite as wise
as he boasted.

But she kept her word and danced no more with Alan Massey that night.
She did not dare. She hated Alan Massey, disapproved of him heartily and
knew it would be the easiest thing in the world to fall in love with
him, especially if she let herself dance often with him as they had
danced to-night.

And so, her very first night at Crest House, Antoinette Holiday
discovered that, there was such a thing as love after all, and that it
had to be reckoned with whether you desired or not to welcome it at
your door.




CHAPTER XI

THINGS THAT WERE NOT ALL ON THE CARD


After that first night in the garden Alan Massey did not try to make open
love to Tony again, but his eyes, following her wherever she moved, made
no secret of his adoration. He was nearly always by her side, driving off
other devotees when he chose with a cool high-handedness which sometimes
amused, sometimes infuriated Tony. She found the man a baffling and
fascinating combination of qualities, all petty selfishness and colossal
egotisms one minute, abounding in endless charms and graces and small
endearing chivalries the next; outrageously outspoken at times, at other
times, reticent to the point of secretiveness; now reaching the most
extravagant pitch of high spirits, and then, almost without warning,
submerged in moods of Stygian gloom from which nothing could rouse him.

Tony came to know something of his romantic and rather mottled career
from Carlotta and others, even from Alan himself. She knew perfectly well
he was not the kind of man Larry or her uncle would approve or tolerate.
She disapproved of him rather heartily herself in many ways. At times she
disliked him passionately, made up her mind she would have no more to do
with him. At other times she was all but in love with him, and suspected
she would have found the world an intolerably dull place with Alan Massey
suddenly removed from it. When they danced together she was dangerously
near being what he had claimed she was or would be--all his. She knew
this, was afraid of it, yet she kept on dancing with him night after
night. It seemed as if she had to, as if she would have danced with him
even if she knew the next moment would send them both hurtling through
space, like Lucifer, down to damnation.

It was not until Dick Carson came down for a week end, some time later,
that Tony discovered the resemblance in Alan to some one she knew of
which Carlotta had spoken. Incredibly and inexplicably Dick and Alan
possessed a shadowy sort of similarity. In most respects they were as
different in appearance as they were in personality. Dick's hair was
brown and straight; Alan's, black and wavy. Dick's eyes were steady
gray-blue; Alan's, shifty gray-green. Yet the resemblance was there,
elusive, though it was. Perhaps it lay in the curve of the sensitive
nostrils, perhaps in the firm contour of chin, perhaps in the arch of the
brow. Perhaps it was nothing so tangible, just a fleeting trick of
expression. Tony did not know, but she caught the thing just as Carlotta
had and it puzzled and interested her.

She spoke of it to Alan the next morning after Dick's arrival, as they
idled together, stretched out on the sand, waiting for the others to come
out of the surf.

To her surprise he was instantly highly annoyed and resentful.

"For Heaven's sake, Tony, don't get the resemblance mania. It's a
disgusting habit. I knew a woman once who was always chasing likenesses
in people and prattling about them--got her in trouble once and served
her right. She told a young lieutenant that he looked extraordinarily
like a certain famous general of her acquaintance. It proved later that
the young man had been born at the post where the general was stationed
while the presumptive father was absent on a year's cruise. It had been
quite a prominent scandal at the time."

"That isn't a nice story, Alan. Moreover it is entirely irrelevant. But
you and Dick do look alike. I am not the only or the first person who saw
it, either."

Alan started and frowned.

"Good Lord! Who else?" he demanded.

"Carlotta!"

"The devil she did!" Alan's eyes were vindictive. Then he laughed.
"Commend me to a girl's imagination! This Dick chap seems to be head over
heels in love with you," he added.

"What nonsense!" denied Tony crisply, fashioning a miniature sand
mountain as she spoke.

"No nonsense at all, my dear. Perfectly obvious fact. Don't you suppose I
know how a man looks when he is in love? I ought to. I've been in love
often enough."

Tony demolished her mountain with a wrathful sweep of her hand.

"And registered all the appropriate emotions before the mirror, I
suppose. You make me sick, Alan. You are all pose. I don't believe there
is a single sincere thing about you."

"Oh, yes, there is--are--two."

"What are they?"

"One is my sincere devotion to yourself, my beautiful. The other--an
equally sincere devotion to--_myself_."

"I grant you the second, at least."

"Don't pose, yourself, my darling. You know I love you. You pretend you
don't believe it, but you do. And way down deep in your heart you love my
love. It makes your heart beat fast just to think of it. See! Did I not
tell you?" He had suddenly put out his hand and laid it over her heart.

"Poor little wild bird! How its wings flutter!"

Tony got up swiftly from the sand, her face scarlet. She was indignant,
self-conscious, betrayed. For her heart had been beating at a fearful
clip and she knew it.

"How dare you touch me like that, Alan Massey? I detest you. I don't see
why I ever listen to you at all, or let you come near me."

Alan Massey, still lounging at her feet, looked up at her as she stood
above him, slim, supple, softly rounded, adorably pretty and feminine in
her black satin bathing suit and vivid, emerald hued cap.

"I know why," he said and rose, too, slowly, with the indolent grace of a
leopard. "So do you, my Tony," he added. "We both know. Will you dance
with me a great deal to-night?"

"No."

"How many times?"

"Not at all."

"Indeed! And does his Dick Highmightiness object to your dancing with
me?"

"Dick! Of course not. He hasn't anything to do with it. I am not going to
dance with you because you are behaving abominably to-day, and you did
yesterday and the day before that. I think you are nearly always
abominable, in fact."

"Still, I am one of the best dancers in the world. It is a temptation, is
it not, my own?"

He smiled his slow, tantalizing smile and, in spite of herself, Tony
smiled back.

"It is," she admitted. "You are a heavenly dancer, Alan. There is no
denying it. If you were Mephisto himself I think I would dance with
you--occasionally."

"And to-night?"

"Once," relented Tony. "There come the others at last." And she ran off
down the yellow sands like a modern Atalanta.

"My, but Tony is pretty to-night!" murmured Carlotta to Alan, who
chanced to be standing near her as her friend fluttered by with Dick.
"She looks like a regular flame in that scarlet chiffon. It is awfully
daring, but she is wonderful in it."

"She is always wonderful," muttered Alan moodily, watching the slender,
graceful figure whirl and trip and flash down the floor like a gay poppy
petal caught in the wind.

Carlotta turned. Something in Alan's tone arrested her attention.

"Alan, I believe, it is real with you at last," she said. Up to that
moment she had considered his affair with Tony as merely another of his
many adventures in romance, albeit possibly a slightly more extravagant
one than usual.

"Of course it is real--real as Hell," he retorted. "I'm mad over her,
Carla. I am going to marry her if I have to kill every man in the path to
get to her," savagely.

"I am sorry, Alan. You must see Tony is not for the like of you. You
can't get to her. I wish you wouldn't try."

Dick and Tony passed close to them again. Tony was smiling up at her
partner and he was looking down at her with a gaze that betrayed his
caring. Neither saw Alan and Carlotta. The savage light gleamed brighter
in Alan's green eyes.

"Carlotta, is there anything between them?" he demanded fiercely.

"Nothing definite. He adores her, of course, and she is very fond of him.
She feels as if he sort of belonged to her, I think. You know the story?"

"Tell me."

Briefly Carlotta outlined the tale of how Dick had taken refuge in the
Holiday barn when he had run away from the circus, and how Tony had found
him, sick and exhausted from fatigue, hunger and abuse; how the Holidays
had taken him in and set him on his feet, and Tony had given him her own
middle name of Carson since he had none of his own.

Alan listened intently.

"Did he ever get any clue as to his identity?" he asked as
Carlotta paused.

"Never."

"Has he asked Tony to marry him?"

"I don't think so. I doubt if he ever does, so long as he doesn't know
who he is. He is very proud and sensitive, and has an almost
superstitious veneration for the Holiday tradition. Being a Holiday in
New England is a little like being of royal blood, you know. I don't
believe you will ever have to make a corpse of poor Dick, Alan."

"I don't mind making corpses. I rather think I should enjoy making one of
him. I detest the long, lean animal."

Had Alan known it, Dick had taken quite as thorough a dislike to his
magnificent self. At that very moment indeed, as he and Tony strolled in
the garden, Dick had remarked that he wished Tony wouldn't dance with
"that Massey."

"And why not?" she demanded, always quick to resent dictatorial airs.

"Because he makes you--well--conspicuous. He hasn't any business to dance
with you the way he does. You aren't a professional but he makes you look
like one."

"Thanks. A left-hand compliment but still a compliment!"

"It wasn't meant for one," said Dick soberly. "I hate it. Of course you
dance wonderfully yourself. It isn't just dancing with you. It is poetry,
stuff of dreams and all the rest of it. I can see that, and I know it
must be a temptation to have a chance at a partner like that. Lord! Tony!
No man in every day life has a right to dance the way he can. He
out-classes Castle. I hate that kind of a man--half woman."

"There isn't anything of a woman about Alan, Dick. He is the most
virulently male man I ever knew."

Dick fell silent at that. Presently he began again.

"Tony, please don't be offended at what I am going to say. I know it is
none of my business, but I wish you wouldn't keep on with this affair
with Massey."

"Why not?" There was an aggressive sparkle in Tony's eyes.

"People are talking. I heard them last night when you were dancing with
him. It hurts. Alan Massey isn't the kind of a man for a girl like you to
flirt with."

"Stuff and nonsense, Dicky! Any kind of a man is the kind for a girl to
flirt with, if she keeps her head."

"But Tony, honestly, this Massey hasn't a good reputation."

"How do you know?"

"Newspaper men know a great deal. They have to. Besides, Alan Massey is a
celebrity. He is written up in our files."

"What does that mean?"

"It means that if he should die to-morrow all we would have to do would
be to put in the last flip. The biographical data is all on the card
ready to shoot."

"Dear me. That's rather gruesome, isn't it?" shivered Tony. "I'm glad I'm
not a celebrity. I'd hate to be stuck down on your old flies. Will I get
on Alan's card if I keep on flirting with him?"

"Good Lord! I should hope not."

"I suppose I wouldn't be in very good company. I don't mean Alan. I
mean--his ladies."

"Tony! Then you know?"

"About Alan's ladies? Oh, yes. He told me himself."

Dick looked blank. What was a man to do in a case like this, finding his
big bugaboo no bugaboo at all?

"I know a whole lot about Alan Massey, maybe more than is on your old
card. I know his mother was Lucia Vannini, so beautiful and so gifted
that she danced in every court in Europe and was loved by a prince. I
know how Cyril Massey, an American artist, painted her portrait and
loved her and married her. I know how she worshiped him and was
absolutely faithful to him to the day he died, when the very light of
life went out for her."

"She managed to live rather cheerfully afterward, even without light, if
all the stories about her are true," observed Dick, with, for him,
unusual cynicism.

"You don't understand. She had to live."

"There are other ways of living than those she chose."

"Not for her. She knew only two things--love and dancing. She was thrown
from a horse the next year after her husband died. Dancing was over for
her. There was only--her beauty left. Her husband's people wouldn't have
anything to do with her because she had been a dancer and because of the
prince. Old John Massey, Cyril's uncle, turned her and her baby from his
door, and his cousin John and his wife refused even to see her. She said
she would make them hear of her before she died. She did."

"They heard all right. She, and her son too, must have been a thorn in
the flesh of the Masseys. They were all rigid Puritans I understand,
especially old John."

"Serve him right," sniffed Tony. "They were rolling in wealth. They might
have helped her kept her from the other thing they condemned so. She
wanted money only for Alan, especially after he began to show that he had
more than his father's gifts. She earned it in the only way she knew. I
don't blame her."

"Tony!"

"I can't help it if I am shocking you, Dick. I can understand why she did
it. She didn't care anything about the lovers. She never cared for anyone
after Cyril died. She gave herself for Alan. Can't you see that there was
something rather fine about it? I can."

Dick grunted. He remembered hearing something about a woman whose sins
were forgiven her because she loved much. But he couldn't reconcile
himself to hearing such stories from Tony Holiday's lips. They were
remote from the clean, sweet, wholesome atmosphere in which she belonged.

"Anyway, Alan was a wonderful success. He studied in Paris and he had
pictures on exhibition in salons over there before he was twenty. He was
feted and courted and flattered and--loved, until he thought the world
was his and everything in it--including the ladies." Tony made a little
face at this. She did not care very-much for that part of Alan's story,
herself. "His mother was afraid he was going to have his head completely
turned and would lose all she had gained so hard for him, so she made him
come back to America and settle down. He did. He made a great name for
himself before he was twenty-five as a portrait painter and he and his
mother lived so happily together. She didn't need any more lovers then.
Alan was all she needed. And then she died, and he went nearly crazy with
grief, went all to pieces, every way. I suppose that part of his career
is what makes you say he isn't fit for me to flirt with."

Dick nodded miserably.

"It isn't very pleasant for me to think of, either," admitted Tony. "I
don't like it any better than you do. But he isn't like that any more.
When old John Massey died without leaving any will Alan got all the
money, because his cousin John and his stuck-up wife had died, too, and
there was nobody else. Alan pulled up stakes and traveled all over the
world, was gone two years and, when he came back, he wasn't dissipated
any more. I don't say he is a saint now. He isn't, I know. But he got
absolutely out of the pit he was in after his mother's death."

"Lucky for him they never found the baby John Massey, who was stolen,"
Dick remarked. "He would have been the heir if he could have appeared to
claim the money instead of Alan Massey, who was only a grand nephew."

Tony stared.

"There wasn't any baby," she exclaimed.

"Oh yes, there was. John Massey, Junior, had a son John who was kidnapped
when he was asleep in the park and deserted by his nurse who had gone to
flirt with a policeman. There was a great fuss made about it at the time.
The Masseys offered fabulous sums of money for the return of the child,
but he never turned up. I had to dig up the story a few years ago when
old John died, which is why I know so much about it."

"I don't believe Alan knew about the baby. He didn't tell me anything
about it."

"I'll wager he knew, all right. It would be mighty unpleasant for him if
the other Massey turned up now."

"Dick, I believe you would be glad if Alan lost the money,"
reproached Tony.

"Why no, Tony. It's nothing to me, but I've always been sorry for that
other Massey kid, though he doesn't know what he missed and is probably a
jail-bird or a janitor by this time, not knowing he is heir to one of
the biggest properties in America."

"Sorry to disturb your theories, Mr.--er Carson," remarked Alan Massey,
suddenly appearing on the scene. "My cousin John happens to be neither a
jail-bird nor a janitor, but merely comfortably dead. Lucky John!"

"But Dick said he wasn't dead--at least that nobody knew whether he was
or not," objected Tony.

"Unfortunately your friend is in error. John Massey is entirely dead, I
assure you. And now, if he is quite through with me and my affairs,
perhaps Mr. Carson will excuse you. Come, dear."

Alan laid a hand on Tony's arm with a proprietorial air which made Dick
writhe far more than his insulting manner to himself had done. Tony
looked quickly from one to the other. She hated the way Alan was
behaving, but she did not want to precipitate a scene and yielded,
leaving Dick, with a deprecatory glance, to go with Alan.

"I don't like your manner," she told the latter. "You were abominably
rude just now."

"Forgive me, sweetheart. I apologize. That young man of yours sets my
teeth on edge. I can't abide a predestined parson. I'll wager anything he
has been preaching at you." He smiled ironically as he saw the girl
flush. "So he did preach,--and against me, I suppose."

"He did, and quite right, too. You are not at all a proper person for me
to flirt with, just as he said. Even Miss Lottie told me that and when
Miss Lottie objects to a man it means--"

"That she has failed to hold him herself," said Alan cynically. "Stop,
Tony. I want to say something to you before we go in. I am not a proper
person. I told you that myself. There have been other women in my life--a
good many of them. I told you that, too. But that has absolutely nothing
to do with you and me. I love you. You are the only woman I ever have
loved in the big sense, at least the only one I have ever wanted to
marry. I am like my mother. She had many lesser loves. She had only one
great one. She married him. And I shall marry you."

"Alan, don't. It is foolish--worse than foolish to talk like that. My
people would never let me marry you, even if I wanted to. Dick was
speaking for them just now when he warned me against you."

"He was speaking for himself. Damn him!"

"Alan!"

"I beg your pardon, Tony. I'm a brute to-night. I am sorry. I won't
trouble you any more. I won't even keep you to your promise to dance once
with me if you wish to be let off."

The music floated out to them, called insistently to Tony's rhythm-mad
feet and warm young blood.

"Ah, but I do want to dance with you," she sighed. "I don't want to be
let off. Come."

He bent over her, a flash of triumph in his eyes.

"My own!" he exulted. "You are my own. Kiss me, belovedest."

But Tony pulled away from him and he followed her. A moment later the
scarlet flame was in his arms whirling down the hall to the music of the
violins, and Dick, standing apart by the window watching, tasted the
dregs of the bitterest brew life had yet offered him. Better, far better
than Tony Holiday he knew where the scarlet flame was blowing.

His dance with Tony over, Alan retired to the library where he used the
telephone to transmit a wire to Boston, a message addressed to one James
Roberts, a retired circus performer.




CHAPTER XII

AND THERE IS A FLAME


When Alan Massey strayed into the breakfast room, one of the latest
arrivals at that very informal meal, he found a telegram awaiting him. It
was rather an odd message and ran thus, without capitalization or
punctuation. "Town named correct what is up let sleeping dogs lie sick."
Alan frowned as he thrust the yellow envelope into his pocket.

"Does the fool mean he is sick, I wonder," he cogitated. "Lord, I wish I
could let well enough alone. But this sword of Damocles business is
beginning to get on my nerves. I have half a mind to take a run into town
this afternoon and see the old reprobate. I'll bet he doesn't know as
much as he claims to, but I'd like to be sure before he dies."

Just then Tony Holiday entered, clad in a rose hued linen and looking
like a new blown rose herself.

"You are the latest ever," greeted Carlotta.

"On the contrary I have been up since the crack of dawn," denied Tony,
slipping into a seat beside her friend.

Carlotta opened her eyes wide. Then she understood.

"You got up to see Dick off," she announced.

"I did. Please give me some strawberries, Hal, if you don't mean to eat
the whole pyramid yourself. I not only got up, but I went to the
station; not only went to the station, but I walked the whole mile and a
half. Can anybody beat that for a morning record?" Tony challenged as she
deluged her berries with cream.

Alan Massey uttered a kind of a snarling sound such as a lion disturbed
from a nap might have emitted. He had thought he was through with Carson
when the latter had made his farewells the night before, saying
goodnight to Tony before them all. But Tony had gotten up at some
ridiculously early hour to escort him to the station, and did not mind
everybody's knowing it. He subsided into a dense mood of gloom. The
morning had begun badly.

Later he discovered Tony in the rose garden with a big basket on her arm
and a charming drooping sun hat shading her even more charming face. She
waved him away as he approached.

"Go away," she ordered. "I'm busy."

"You mean you have made up your mind to be disagreeable to me," he
retorted, lighting a cigarette and looking as if he meant to fight it out
along that line if it took all summer.

Tony snipped off a rose with her big shears and dropped it into her
basket. It rather looked as if she were meaning to snip off Alan Massey
figuratively in much the same ruthless manner.

"Put it that way, if you like. Only stay away. I mean it."

"Why?" he persisted.

Thus pressed she turned and faced him.

"It is a lovely morning--all blue and gold and clean-washed after last
night's storm--a good morning. I'm feeling good, too. The clean morning
has got inside of me. And when you come near me I feel a pricking in my
thumbs. You don't fit into my present, mood. Please go, Alan. I am
perfectly serious. I don't want to talk to you."

"What have I done? I am no different from what I was yesterday."

"I know. It isn't anything you have done. It isn't you at all. It is I
who am different--or want to be." Tony spoke earnestly. She was perfectly
sincere. She did want to be different. She had not slept well the night
before. She had thought a great deal about Holiday Hill and Uncle Phil
and her brothers and--well, yes--about Dick Carson. They all armed her
against Alan Massey.

Alan threw away his cigarette with an angry gesture.

"You can't play fast and loose with me, Tony Holiday. You have been
leading me on, playing the devil with me for days. You know you have. Now
you are scared, and want to get back to shallow water. It is too late.
You are in deep seas and you've got to stay there--with me."

"I haven't _got_ to do anything, Alan. You are claiming more than you
have any right to claim."

But he came nearer, towered above her, almost menacingly.

"Because that nameless fool of a reporter with his sanctimonious airs and
impeccable morals, has put you against me you want to sack me. You can't
do it. Last night you were ready to go any lengths with me. You know it.
Do you think I am going to be balked by a miserable circus brat--a mere
nobody? Not so long as I am Alan Massey. Count on that."

Tony's dark eyes were ablaze with anger.

"Stop there, Alan. You are saying things that are not true. And I forbid
you ever to speak of Dick like that again to me."

"Indeed! And how are you going to prevent my saying what I please about
your precious protege?" sneered Alan.

"I shall tell Carlotta I won't stay under the same roof with anybody who
insults my friends. You won't have to restrain yourself long in any case.
I am leaving Saturday--perhaps sooner."

"Tony!" The sneer died away from Alan's face, which had suddenly grown
white. "You mustn't go. I can't live without you, my darling. If you knew
how I worshiped you, how I cannot sleep of nights for wanting you, you
wouldn't talk of going away from me. I was brutal just now. I admit it.
It is because I love you so. The thought of your turning from me,
deserting me, maddened me. I am not responsible for what I said. You must
forgive me. But, oh my belovedest, you are mine! Don't try to deny it. We
have belonged to each other for always. You know it. You feel it. I have
seen the knowledge in your eyes, felt it flutter in your heart. Will you
marry me, Tony Holiday? You shall be loved as no woman was ever loved.
You shall be my queen. I will be true to you forever and ever, your
slave, your mate. Tony, Tony, say yes. You must!"

But Tony drew back from him, frightened, repulsed, shocked, by the
storm of his passion which shook him as mighty trees are shaken by
tempests. She shrank from the hungry fires in his eyes, from the
abandon and fierceness of his wooing. It was an alien, disturbing,
dreadful thing to her.

"Don't," she implored. "You mustn't love me like that, Alan. You
must not."

"How can I help it, sweetheart? I am no iceberg. I am a man and you are
the one woman in the world for me. I love you--love you. I want you. I'm
going to have you--make you mine--marry you, bell and book, what you
will, so long as you are mine--mine--mine."

Tony set down her basket, clasped her hands behind her and stood looking
straight up into his face.

"Listen, Alan. I cannot marry you. I couldn't, even if I loved you, and
I don't think I do love you, though you fascinate me and, when we are
dancing, I forget all the other things in you that I hate. I have been
very foolish and maybe unkind to let it go on so far. I didn't quite know
what I was doing. Girls don't know. That is why they play with men as
they do. They don't mean to be cruel. They just don't know."

"But you know now, my Tony?" His dark, stormy face was very close to
hers. Tony felt her heart leap but she did not flinch nor pull away
this time.

"Yes, Alan, I know, in a way, at least. We mustn't go on like this. It is
bad for us both. I'll tell Carlotta I am going home to-morrow."

"You want--to go away from me?" The haunting music of his voice, more
moving in its hurt than in its mastery of mood, stirred Tony Holiday
profoundly, but she steadied herself by a strong effort of will. She must
not let him sweep her away from her moorings. She must not. She must
remember Holiday Hill very hard.

"I have to, Alan," she said. "I am very sorry if I have hurt you, am
hurting you. But I can't marry you. That is final. The sooner we end
things the better."

"By God! It isn't final. It never will be so long as you and I are both
alive. You will come to me of your own accord. You will love me. You do
love me now. But you are letting the world come in between where it has
no right to come. I tell you you are mine--mine!"

"No, no!" denied Tony.

"And I say yes, my love. You are my love. I have set my seal upon you.
You can go away, back to your Hill, but you will not be happy without me.
You will never forget me for a waking moment. You cannot. You are a part
of me, forever."

There was something solemn, inexorable in Alan's tones. A strange fear
clutched at Tony's heart. Was he right? Could she never forget him?
Would he always be a part of her--forever? No, that was nonsense! How
could it be true? How could he have set his seal upon her when he had
never even kissed her? She would not let him hypnotize her into
believing his prophecy.

She stooped mechanically to pick up her roses and remembered the story
of Persephone gathering lilies in the vale of Enna and suddenly borne
off by the coal black horses of Dis to the dark kingdom of the lower
world. Was she Persephone? Had she eaten of the pomegranate seeds while
she danced night after night in Alan Massey's arms? No, she would not
believe it. She was free. She would exile Alan Massey from her heart and
life. She must.

This resolve was in her eyes as she lifted them to Alan's. The fire had
died out of his now, and his face was gray and drawn in the sunshine. His
mood had changed as his moods so often did swiftly.

"Forgive me, Tony," he said humbly. "I have troubled you, frightened you.
I am sorry. You needn't go away. I will go. I don't want to spoil one
moment of happiness for you. I never shall, except when the devil is in
me. Please try to remember that. Say always, 'Alan loves me. No matter
what he does or says, he loves me. His love is real, if nothing else
about him is.' You do believe that, don't you, dearest?" he pleaded.

"I do, Alan. I have always believed it, I think, ever since that first
night, though I have tried not to. I am very sorry though. Love--your
kind of love is a fearful thing. I am afraid of it."

"It is fearful, but beautiful too--very beautiful--like fire. Did you
ever think what a strange dual element fire is? It consumes--is a force
of destruction. But it also purifies, burns out dross. Love is like
that, my Tony. Mine for you may damn me forever, or it may take me to the
very gate of Heaven. I don't know myself which it will be."

As he spoke there was a strange kind of illumination on his face, a look
almost of spiritual exaltation. It awed Tony, bereft her of words. This
was a new Alan Massey--an Alan Massey she had never seen before, and she
found herself looking up instead of down at him.

He stooped and kissed her hand reverently, as a devotee might pay homage
at the shrine of a saint.

"I shall not see you again until to-night, Tony. I am going into town.
But I shall be back--for one more dance with you, heart's dearest. And
then I promise I will go away and leave you tomorrow. You will dance with
me, Tony--once? We shall have that one perfect thing to remember?"

Tony bowed assent. And in a moment she was alone with her roses.

That afternoon she shut herself in her room to write letters to the home
people whom she had neglected badly of late. Every moment had been so
full since she had come to Carlotta's. There had been so little time to
write and when she had written it had given little of what she was really
living and feeling--just the mere externals and not all of them, as she
was very well aware. They would never understand her relation with Alan.
They would disapprove, just as Dick had disapproved. Perhaps she did not
understand, herself, why she had let herself get so deeply entangled in
something which could not go on, something, which was the profoundest
folly, if nothing worse.

The morning had crystallized her fear of the growing complication of the
situation. She was glad Alan was going away, glad she had had the
strength of will to deny him his will, glad that she could now--after
to-night--come back into undisputed possession of the kingdom of herself.
But in her heart she was gladder that there was to-night and that one
last dance with Alan Massey before life became simple and sane and tame
again, and Alan and his wild love passed out of it forever.

She finished her letters, which were not very satisfactory after all.
How could one write real letters when one's pen was writing one thing
and one's thoughts were darting hither and thither about very different
business? She threw herself in the chaise longue, not yet ready to
dress and go down to join the others. There was nobody there she cared
to talk to, somehow. Alan was not there. Nobody else mattered. It had
come to that.

Idly she picked up a volume of verse that lay beside her on the table and
fluttered its pages, seeking something to meet her restless mood.
Presently in her vagrant seeking she chanced upon a little poem--a poem
she read and reread, twice, three times.

  "For there is a flame that has blown too near,
And there is a name that has grown too dear,
  And there is a fear.
And to the still hills and cool earth and far sky I make moan.
The heart in my bosom is not my own!
Oh, would I were free as the wind on wing!
Love is a terrible thing!"

Tony laid the book face down upon the table, still open at the little
verse. The shadows were growing long out there in the dusk. The late
afternoon sun was pale honey color. A soft little breeze stirred the
branches of a weeping willow tree and set them to swaying languorously.
Unseen birds twittered happily among the shrubbery. A golden butterfly
poised for a moment above the white holly hocks and then drifted off over
the flaming scarlet poppies and was lost to sight.

It was all so beautiful, so serene. She felt that it should have come
like a benediction, cooling the fever of her tired mind, but it did not.
It could not even drive the words of the poem out of her head.

Oh, would I were free as the wind on wing!
Love is a terrible thing!




CHAPTER XIII

BITTER FRUIT


From the North Station in Boston Alan Massey directed his course to a
small cigar store on Atlantic Avenue. A black eyed Italian lad in
attendance behind the counter looked up as he entered and surveyed him
with grave scrutiny.

"I am Mr. Massey," announced Alan. "Mr. Roberts is expecting me. I
wired."

"Jim's sick," said the boy briefly.

"I am sorry. I hope he is not too sick to see me."

"Naw, he'll see you. He wants to." The speaker motioned Alan to follow
him to the rear of the store. Together they mounted some narrow stairs,
passed through a hallway and into a bedroom, a disorderly, dingy,
obviously man-kept affair. On the bed lay a large framed, exceedingly
ugly looking man. His flesh was yellow and sagged loosely away from his
big bones. The impression he gave was one of huge animal bulk, shriveling
away in an unlovely manner, getting ready to disintegrate entirely. The
man was sick undoubtedly. Possibly dying. He looked it.

The door shut with a soft click. The two men were alone.

"Hello, Jim." Alan approached the bed. "Bad as this? I am sorry." He
spoke with the careless, easy friendliness he could assume when it
suited him.

The man grinned, faintly, ironically. The grin did not lessen the
ugliness of his face, rather accentuated it.

"It's not so bad," he drawled. "Nothing but death and what's that? I
don't suffer much--not now. It's cancer, keeps gnawing away like a rat in
the wall. By and by it will get up to my heart and then it's good-by Jim.
I shan't care. What's life good for that a chap should cling to it like a
barnacle on a rock?"

"We do though," said Alan Massey.

"Oh, yes, we do. It's the way we're made. We are always clinging to
something, good or bad. Life, love, home, drink, power, money! Always
something we are ready to sell our souls to get or keep. With you and me
it was money. You sold your soul to me to keep money and I took it to
get money."

He laughed raucously and Alan winced at the sound and cursed the morbid
curiosity that had brought him to the bedside of this man who for three
years past had held his own future in his dirty hand, or claimed to hold
it. Alan Massey had paid, paid high for the privilege of not knowing
things he did not wish to know.

"What kind of a trail had you struck when you wired me, Massey? I didn't
know you were anxious for details about young John Massey's career I
thought you preferred ignorance. It was what you bought of me."

"I know it was," groaned Alan, dropping into a creaking rocker beside the
bed. "I am a fool. I admit it. But sometimes it seems to me I can't stand
not knowing. I want to squeeze what you know out of you as you would
squeeze a lemon until there was nothing left but bitter pulp. It is
driving me mad."

The sick man eyed the speaker with a leer of malicious satisfaction. It
was meat to his soul to see this lordly young aristocrat racked with
misery and dread, to hold him in his power as a cat holds a mouse, which
it can crush and crunch at any moment if it will. Alan Massey's mood
filled Jim Roberts with exquisite enjoyment, enjoyment such as a gourmand
feels on setting his teeth in some rare morsel of food.

"I know," he nodded. "It works like that often. They say a murderer can't
keep away from the scene of his crime if he is left at large. There is an
irresistible fascination to him about the spot where he damned his
immortal soul."

"I'm not a criminal," snarled Alan. "Don't talk to me like that or you
will never see another cent of my money."

"Money!" sneered the sick man. "What's that to me now? I've lost my taste
for money. It is no good to me any more. I've got enough laid by to bury
me and I can't take the rest with me. Your money is nothing to me, Alan
Massey. But you'll pay still, in a different way. I am glad you came. It
is doing me good."

Alan made a gesture of disgust and got to his feet, pacing to and fro,
his face dark, his soul torn, between conflicting emotions.

"I'll be dead soon," went on the malicious, purring voice from the bed.
"Don't begrudge me my last fling. When I am in my grave you will be safe.
Nobody in the living world but me knows young John Massey's alive. You
can keep your money then with perfect ease of mind until you get to where
I am now and then,--maybe you will find out the money will comfort you no
longer, that nothing but having a soul can get you over the river."

The younger man's march came to a halt by the bedside.

"You shan't die until you tell me what you know about John Massey," he
said fiercely.

"You're a fool," said James Roberts. "What you don't know you are not
responsible for--you can forget in a way. If you insist on hearing the
whole story you will never be able to get away from it to your dying day.
John Massey as an abstraction is one thing. John Massey as a live human
being, whom you have cheated out of a name and a fortune, is another."

"I never cheated him of a name. You did that."

The man grunted.

"Right. That is on my bill. Lord knows, I wish it wasn't. Little enough
did I ever get out of that particular piece of deviltry. I over-reached
myself, was a darned little bit too smart. I held on to the boy, thinking
I'd get more out of it later, and he slid out of my hands like an eel and
I had nothing to show for it, until you came along and I saw a chance to
make a new deal at your expense. You fell for it like a lamb to the
slaughter. I'll never forget your face when I told you John Massey was
alive and that I could produce him in a minute for the courts. If I had,
your name would have been Dutch, young man. You'd never have gotten a
look in on the money. You had the sense to see that. Old John died
without a will. His grandson and not his grand-nephew was his heir
provided anybody could dig up the fellow, and I was the boy that could do
that. I proved that to you, Alan Massey."

"You proved nothing. You scared me into handing you over a whole lot of
money, you blackmailing rascal, I admit that. But you didn't prove
anything. You showed me the baby clothes you said John Massey wore when
he was stolen. The name might easily enough have been stamped on the
linen later. You showed me a silver rattle marked 'John Massey.' The
inscription might also easily enough have been added later at a crook's
convenience. You showed me some letters purporting to have been written
by the woman who stole the child and was too much frightened by her crime
to get the gains she planned to win from it. The letters, too, might
easily have been forgery. The whole thing might have been a cock and bull
story, fabricated by a rotten, clever mind like yours, to apply the money
screw to me."

"True," chuckled Jim Roberts. "Quite true. I wondered at your credulity
at the time."

"You rat! So it was all a fake, a trap?"

"You would like to believe that, wouldn't you? You would like to have a
dying man's oath that there was nothing but a pack of lies to the whole
thing, blackmail of the crudest, most unsupportable variety?"

Alan bent over the man, shook his fist in the evil, withered old face.

"Damn you, Jim Roberts! Was it a lie or was it not?"

"Keep your hands off me, Alan Massey. It was the truth. Sarah Nelson did
steal the child just as I told you. She gave the child to me when she was
dying a few months later. I'll give my oath on that if you like."

Alan brushed his hand across his forehead, and sat down again limply in
the creaking rocker.

"Oh, you are willing to believe that again now, are you?" mocked Roberts.

"I've got to, I suppose. Go on. Tell me the rest. I've got to know. Did
you really make a circus brat of John Massey and did he really run away
from you? That is all you told me before, you remember."

"It was all you wanted to know. Besides," the man smiled his diabolical
grin again, "there was a reason for going light on the details. At the
time I held you up I hadn't any more idea than you had where John Massey
was, nor whether he was even alive. It was the weak spot in my armor.
But you were so panic stricken at the thought of having to give up your
gentleman's fortune that you never looked at the hollowness of the thing.
You could have bowled over my whole scheme in a minute by being honest
and telling me to bring on your cousin, John Massey. But you didn't. You
were only too afraid I would bring him on before you could buy me off. I
knew I could count on your being blind and rotten. I knew my man."

"Then you don't know now whether John Massey is alive or not?" Alan asked
after a pause during which he let the full irony of the man's confession
sink into his heart and turn there like a knife in a wound.

"That is where you're dead wrong. I do know. I made it my business to
find out. It was too important to have an invulnerable shield not to
patch up the discrepancy as early as possible. It took me a year to get
my facts and it cost a good chink of the filthy, but I got them. I not
only know that John Massey is alive but I know where he is and what he is
doing. I could send for him to-morrow, and cook your goose for you
forever, young man."

He pulled himself up on one elbow to peer into Alan's gloomy face.

"I may do it yet," he added. "You needn't offer me hush money. It's no
good to me, as I told you. I don't want money. I only want to pass the
time until the reaper comes along. You'll grant that it would be amusing
to me to watch the see-saw tip once more, to see you go down and your
cousin John come up."

Alan was on his feet again now, striding nervously from door to window
and back again. He had wanted to know. Now he knew. He had knowledge
bitter as wormwood. The man had lied before. He was not lying now.

"What made you send that wire? Were you on the track, too, trying to
find out on your own where your cousin is?"

"Not exactly. Lord knows I didn't want to know. But I had a queer hunch.
Some coincidences bobbed up under my nose that I didn't like the looks
of. I met a young man a few days ago that was about the age John would
have been, a chap with a past, who had run away from a circus. The thing
stuck in my crop, especially as there was a kind of shadowy resemblance
between us that people noticed."

"That is interesting. And his name?"

"He goes under the name of Carson--Richard Carson."

Roberts nodded.

"The same. Good boy. You have succeeded in finding your cousin.
Congratulations!" he cackled maliciously.

"Then it really is he?"

"Not a doubt of it. He was taken up by a family named Holiday in Dunbury,
Massachusetts. They gave him a home, saw that he got some schooling,
started him on a country newspaper. He was smart, took to books, got
ahead, was promoted from one paper to another. He is on a New York daily
now, making good still, I'm told. Does it tally?"

Alan bowed assent. It tallied all too well. The lad he had insulted,
jeered at, hated with instinctive hate, was his cousin, John Massey, the
third, whom he had told the other was quite dead. John Massey was very
much alive and was the rightful heir to the fortune which Alan Massey was
spending as the heavens had spent rain yesterday.

It was worse than that. If the other was no longer nameless, had the
right to the same fine, old name that Alan himself bore, and had too
often disgraced, the barrier between him and Tony Holiday was swept
away. That was the bitterest drop in the cup. No wonder he hated
Dick--hated him now with a cumulative, almost murderous intensity. He had
mocked at the other, but how should he stand against him in fair field?
It was he--Alan Massey--that was the outcast, his mother a woman of
doubtful fame, himself a follower of false fires, his life ignoble,
wayward, erratic, unclean? Would it not be John rather than Alan Massey
Tony Holiday would choose, if she knew all? This ugly, venomous,
sin-scarred old rascal held his fate in the hollow of his evil old hand.

The other was watching him narrowly, evidently striving to follow
his thoughts.

"Well?" he asked. "Going to beat me at my own game, give your
cousin his due?"

"No," curtly.

"Queer," mused the man. "A month ago I would have understood it. It would
have seemed sensible enough to hold on to the cold cash at any risk. Now
it looks different. Money is filthy stuff, man. It is what they put on
dead eye-lids to keep them down. Sometimes we put it on our own living
lids to keep us from seeing straight. You are sure the money's worth so
much to you, Alan Massey?"

The man's eyes burned livid, like coals. It was a strange and rather
sickening thing, Alan Massey thought, to hear him talk like this after
having lived the rottenest kind of a life, sunk in slime for years.

"The money is nothing to me," he flung back. "Not now. I thought it was
worth considerable when I drove that devilish bargain with you to keep
it. It has been worse than nothing, if you care to know. It killed my
art--the only decent thing about me--the only thing I had a right to take
honest pride in. John Massey might have every penny of it to-morrow for
all I care if that were all there were to it."

"What else is there?" probed the old man.

"None of your business," snarled Alan. Not for worlds would he have
spoken Tony Holiday's name in this spot, under the baleful gleam of those
dying eyes.

The man chuckled maliciously.

"You don't need to tell me, I know. There's always a woman in it when a
man takes the path to Hell. Does she want money? Is that why you must
hang on to the filthy stuff?"

"She doesn't want anything except what I can't give her, thanks to you
and myself--the love of a decent man."

"I see. When we meet _the_ woman we wish we'd sowed fewer wild oats. I
went through that myself once. She was a white lily sort of girl and
I--well, I'd gone the pace long before I met her. I wasn't fit to touch
her and I knew it. I went down fast after that--nothing to keep me back.
Old Shakespeare says something somewhere about our pleasant vices beings
whips to goad us with. You and I can understand that, Alan Massey. We've
both felt the lash."

Alan made an impatient gesture. He did not care to be lumped with this
rotten piece of flesh lying there before him.

"I suppose you are wondering what my next move is," went on Roberts.

"I don't care."

"Oh yes, you do. You care a good deal. I can break you, Alan Massey, and
you know it."

"Go ahead and break and be damned if you choose," raged Alan.

"Exactly. As I choose. And I can keep you dancing on some mighty hot
gridirons before I shuffle off. Don't forget that, Alan Massey. And
there will be several months to dance yet, if the doctors aren't off
their count."

"Suit yourself. Don't hurry about dying on my account," said Alan with
ironical courtesy.

A few moments later he was on his way back to the station. His universe
reeled. All he was sure was that he loved Tony Holiday and would fight to
the last ditch to win and keep her and that she would be in his arms
to-night for perhaps the last time. The rest was a hideous blur.




CHAPTER XIV

SHACKLES


The evening was a specially gala occasion, with a dinner dance on, the
last big party before Tony went home to her Hill. The great ball room at
Crest House had been decorated with a network of greenery and crimson
rambler roses. A ruinous-priced, _de luxe_ orchestra had been brought
down from the city. The girls had saved their prettiest gowns and looked
their rainbow loveliest for the crowning event.

Tony was wearing an exquisite white chiffon and silver creation, with
silver slippers and a silver fillet binding her dark hair. Alan had sent
her some wonderful orchids tied with silver ribbon, and these she wore;
but no jewelry whatever, not even a ring. There was something
particularly radiant about her young loveliness that night. The young men
hovered about her like honey bees about a rose and at every dance they
cut in and cut in until her white and silver seemed to be drifting from
one pair of arms to another.

Tony was very gay and bountiful and impartial in her smiles and favors,
but all the time she waited, knowing that presently would come the one
dance to which there would be no cutting in, the dance that would make
the others seem nothing but shadows.

By and by the hour struck. She saw Alan leave his place by the window
where he had been moodily lounging, saw him come toward her, taller
than any man in the room, distinguished--a king among the rest, it
seemed to Tony, waiting, longing for his coming? yet half dreading it,
too. For the sooner he came, the sooner it must all end. She was with
Hal at the moment, waiting for the music to begin, but as Alan
approached she turned to her companion with a quick appeal in her eyes
and a warm flush on her cheeks.

"I am sorry, Hal," she said, low in his ear. "But this is Alan's. He is
going away to-morrow. Forgive me."

Hal turned, stared at Alan Massey, turned back to Tony, bowed and
moved away.

"Hanged if there isn't something magnificent about the fellow," he
thought. "No matter how you detest him there is something about him that
gets you. I wonder how far he has gone with Tony. Gee! It's a rotten
combination. But Lordy! How they can dance--those two!"

Never as long as she lived was Tony Holiday to forget that dance with
Alan Massey. As a musician pours himself into his violin, as a poet puts
his soul into his sonnet, as a sculptor chisels his dream in marble, so
her companion flung his passion and despair and imploring into his
dancing. They forgot the others, forgot everything but themselves. They
might have been dancing alone on the top of Olympus for all either knew
or cared for the rest of the world.

It was Alan, not Tony, who brought it to an end, however. He whispered
something in the girl's ear and their feet paused. In a moment he was
holding open the French window for her to pass out into the night. The
white and silver vanished like a cloud. Alan Massey followed. The window
swung shut again. The music stopped abruptly as if now its inspiration
had come to an end. A single note of a violin quivered off into silence
after the others, like the breath of beauty itself passing.

Carlotta and her aunt happened to be standing near each other. The girl's
eyes were troubled. She wished Alan had not come back at all from the
city. She hoped he really intended to go away to-morrow as he had told
her. More than all she hoped she was right in believing that Tony had
refused to marry him. Like Dick, Carlotta had reverence for the Holiday
tradition. She could not bear to think of Tony's marrying Alan. She felt
woefully responsible for having brought the two together.

"Did you say he was going to-morrow?" asked her aunt.

Carlotta nodded.

"He won't go," prophesied Miss Cressy.

"Oh, yes. I think he will. I don't know for certain but I have an idea
she refused him this morning."

"Ah, but that was this morning. Things look very different by star light.
That child ought not to be out there with him. She is losing her head."

"Aunt Lottie! Alan is a gentleman," demurred Carlotta.

Miss Lottie smiled satirically. Her smile repeated Ted Holiday's verdict
that some gentlemen were rotters.

"You forget, my dear, that I knew Alan Massey when you and Tony were in
short petticoats and pigtails. You can't trust too much to his
gentlemanliness."

"Of course, I know he isn't a saint," admitted Carlotta. "But you don't
understand. It is real with Alan this time. He really cares. It isn't
just--just the one thing."

"It is always the one thing with Alan Massey's kind. I know what I am
talking about, Carlotta. He was a little in love with me once. I dare say
we both thought it was different at the time. It wasn't. It was pretty
much the same thing. Don't cherish any romantic notions about love,
Carlotta. There isn't any love as you mean it."

"Oh yes, there is," denied Carlotta suddenly, a little fiercely.
"There is love, but most of us aren't--aren't worthy of it. It is too
big for us. That is why we get the cheap _little_ stuff. It is all we
are fit for."

Miss Carlotta stared at her niece. But before she could speak Hal
Underwood had claimed the latter for a dance.

"H--m!" she mused looking after the two. "So even Carlotta isn't immune.
I wonder who he was."

Meanwhile, out in the garden Tony and Alan had strayed over to the
fountain, just as they had that first evening after that first dance.

"Tony, belovedest, let me speak. Listen to me just once more. You do love
me. Don't lie to me with your lips when your eyes told me the truth in
there. You are mine, mine, my beautiful, my love--all mine."

He drew her into his arms, not passionately but gently. It was his
gentleness that conquered. A storm of unrestrained emotion would have
driven her away from him, but his sudden quiet strength and tenderness
melted her last reservation. She gave her lips unresisting to his kiss.
And with that kiss, desire of freedom and all fear left her. For the
moment, at least, love was all and enough.

"Tony, my belovedest," he whispered. "Say it just once. Tell me you love
me." It was the old, old plea, but in Tony's ears it was immortally new.

"I love you, Alan. I didn't want to. I have fought it all along as you
know. But it was no use. I do love you."

"My darling! And I love you. You don't know how I love you. It is like
suddenly coming out into sunshine after having lived in a cave all my
life. Will you marry me to-morrow, _carissima_?"

But she drew away from his arms at that.

"Alan, I can't marry you ever. I can only love you."

"Why not? You must, Tony!" The old masterfulness leaped into his voice.

"I cannot, Alan. You know why."

She lifted her eyes to his and in their clear depths he saw reflected his
own willful, stained, undisciplined past. He bowed his head in real shame
and remorse. Nothing stood between himself and Antoinette Holiday but
himself. He had sown the wind. He reaped the whirlwind.

After a moment he looked up again. He made no pretence of
misunderstanding her meaning.

"You couldn't forgive?" he pleaded brokenly. Gone was the royal-willed
Alan Massey. Only a beggar in the dust remained.

"Yes, Alan. I could forgive. I do now. I think I can understand how such
things can be in a man's life though it would break my heart to think Ted
or Larry were like that. But you never had a chance. Nobody ever helped
you to keep your eyes on the stars."

"They are there now," he groaned. "You are my star, Tony, and stars are
very, very far away from the like of me," he echoed Carlotta's phrase.

For almost the first time in his life humility possessed him. Had he
known it, it lifted him higher in Tony's eyes than all his arrogance and
conceit of power had ever done.

Gently she slid her hand into his.

"I don't feel far away, Alan. I feel very near. But I can't marry
you--not now anyway. You will have to prove to them all--to me, too--that
you are a man a Holiday might be proud to marry. I could forget the
past. I think I could persuade Uncle Phil and the rest to forget it, too.
They are none of them self-righteous Puritans. They could understand,
just as I understand, that a man might fall in battle and carry scars of
defeat, but not be really conquered. Alan, tell me something. It isn't
easy to ask but I must. Are the things I have to forget far back in the
past or--nearer? I know they go back to Paris days, the days Miss Lottie
belongs to. Oh, yes," as he started at that. "I guessed that. You mustn't
blame her. She was merely trying to warn me. She meant it for my good,
not to be spiteful and not because she still cares, though I think she
does. And I know there are things that belong to the time after your
mother died, and you didn't care what you did because you were so
unhappy. But are they still nearer? How close are they, Alan?"

He shook his head despairingly.

"I wish I could lie to you, Tony. I can't. They are too close to be
pleasant to remember. But they never will be again. I swear it. Can you
believe it?"

"I shall have to believe it--be convinced of it before I could marry
you. I can't marry you, not being certain of you, just because my heart
beats fast when you come near me, because I love your voice and your
kisses and would rather dance with you than to be sure of going to
Heaven. Marriage is a world without end business. I can't rush into it
blindfold. I won't."

"You don't love me as I love you or you couldn't reason so coldly about
it," he reproached. "You would go blindfold anywhere--to Hell itself
even, with me."

"I don't know, Alan. I could let myself go. While we were dancing in
there I am afraid I would have been willing to go even as far as you say
with you. But out here in the star-light I am back being myself. I want
to make my life into something clean and sweet and fine. I don't want to
let myself be driven to follow weak, selfish, rash impulses and do things
that will hurt other people and myself. I don't want to make my people
sorry. They are dearer than any happiness of my own. They would not let
me marry you now, even if I wished it. If I did what you want and what
maybe something in me wants too--run off and marry you tomorrow without
their consent--it would break their hearts and mine, afterward when I had
waked up to what I had done. Don't ask me, dear. I couldn't do it."

"But what will you do, Tony? Won't you marry me ever?" Alan's tone was
helpless, desolate. He had run up against a power stronger than any he
had ever wielded, a force which left him baffled.

"I don't know. It will depend upon you. A year from now, if you still
want me and I am still free, if you can come to me and tell me you have
lived for twelve months as a man who loves a woman ought to live, I will
marry you if I love you enough; and I think--I am sure, I shall, for I
love you very much this minute."

"A year! Tony, I can't wait a year for you. I want you now." Alan's tone
was sharp with dismay. He was not used to waiting for what he desired. He
had taken it on the instant, as a rule, and as a rule, his takings had
been dust and ashes as soon as they were in his hands.

"You cannot have me, Alan. You can never have me unless you earn the
right to win me--straight. Understand that once for all. I will not marry
a weakling. I will marry--a conquerer--perhaps."

"You mean that, Tony?"

"Absolutely."

"Then, by God, I'll be a conquerer!" he boasted.

"I hope you will. Oh, my dear, my dear! It will break my heart if you
fail. I love you." And suddenly Tony was clinging to him, just a woman
who cared, who wanted her lover, even as he wanted her. But in a
breath she pulled herself away. "Take me in, Alan, now," she said.
"Kiss me once before we go. I shall not see you in the morning. This
is really good-by."

Later, Carlotta, coming in to say goodnight to Tony, found the latter
sitting in front of the mirror brushing out her abundant red-brown hair
and noticed how very scarlet her friend's cheeks were and what a
tell-tale shining glory there was in her eyes.

"It was a lovely party," announced Tony casually, unaware how much
Carlotta had seen over her shoulder in the mirror.

"Tony, are you in love with Alan Massey?" demanded Carlotta.

Tony whirled around on the stool, her cheeks flying deeper crimson
banners at this unexpected challenge.

"I am afraid I am, Carlotta," she admitted. "It is rather a mess,
isn't it?"

Carlotta groaned and dropping into a chaise lounge encircled her knees
with her arms, staring with troubled eyes at her guest.

"A mess? I should say it was--worse than a mess--a catastrophe. You know
what Alan is--isn't--" She floundered off into silence.

"Oh, yes," said Tony, the more tranquil of the two. "I know what he is
and isn't, better than most people, I think. I ought to. But I love him.
I just discovered it to-night, or rather it is the first time I ever let
myself look straight at the fact. I think I have known it from the
beginning."

"But Tony! You won't marry him. You can't. Your people will never let
you. They oughtn't to let you."

Tony shook back her wavy mane of hair, sent it billowing over her
rose-colored satin kimono.

"It don't matter if the whole world won't let me. If I decide to marry
Alan I shall do it."

"Tony!"

There was shocked consternation in Carlotta's tone and Tony relenting
burst into a low, tremulous little laugh.

"Don't worry, Carlotta. I'm not so mad as I sound. I told Alan he would
have to wait a year. He has to prove to me he is--worth loving."

"But you are engaged?" Carlotta was relieved, but not satisfied.

Tony shook her head.

"Absolutely not. We are both free as air--technically. If you were in
love yourself you would know how much that amounts to by way of freedom."

Carlotta's golden head was bowed. She did not answer her friend's
implication that she could not be expected to comprehend the delicate,
invisible, omnipotent shackles of love.

"Don't tell anyone, Carlotta, please. It is our secret--Alan's and mine.
Maybe it will always he a secret unless he--measures up."

"You are not going to tell your uncle?"

"There is nothing to tell yet."

"And I suppose this is the end of poor Dick."

"Don't be silly, Carlotta. Dick never said a word of love to me in
his life."

"That doesn't mean he doesn't think 'em. You have convenient eyes, Tony
darling. You see only what you wish to see."

"I didn't want to see Alan's love. I tried dreadfully hard not to. But it
set up a fire in my own house and blazed and smoked until I had to do
something about it. See here, Carlotta. I'd like to ask you a question or
two. You are not really going to marry Herbert Lathrop, are you?"

A queer little shadow, almost like a veil, passed over Carlotta's face at
this counter charge.

"Why not?" she parried.

"You know why not. He is exactly what Hal Underwood calls him, a poor
fish. He is as close to being a nonentity as anything I ever saw."

"Precisely why I selected him," drawled Carlotta. "I've got to marry
somebody and poor Herbert hasn't a vice except his excess of virtue. We
can't have another old maid in the family. Aunt Lottie is a shining
example of what to avoid. I am not going to be 'Lottie the second' I have
decided on that."

"As if you could," protested Tony indignantly.

"Oh, I could. You look at Aunt Lottie's pictures of fifteen years ago.
She was just as pretty as I am. She had loads of lovers but somehow they
all slipped through her fingers. She has been sex-starved. She ought to
have married and had children. I don't want to be a hungry spinster. They
are infernally miserable."

"Carlotta!" Tony was a little shocked at her friend's bluntness, a
little puzzled as to what lay behind her arguments. "You don't have to
be a hungry spinster. There are other men besides Herbert that want to
marry you."

"Certainly. Some of them want to marry my money. Some of them want to
marry my body. I grant you Herbert is a poor fish in some ways, but at
least he wants to marry me, myself, which is more than the others do."

"That isn't true. Hal Underwood wants to marry you, yourself."

"Oh, Hal!" conceded Carlotta. "I forgot him for a moment. You are right.
He is real--too real. I should hurt him marrying him and not caring
enough. That is why a nonentity is preferable. It doesn't know what it
is missing. Hal would know."

"But there is no reason why you shouldn't wait until you find somebody
you could care for," persisted Tony.

"That is all you know about it, my dear. There is the best reason in the
world. I found him--and lost him."

"Carlotta--is it Phil?"

Carlotta sprang up and went over to the window. She took the rose she had
been wearing, in her hands and deliberately pulled it apart letting the
petals drift one by one out into the night. Then she turned back to Tony.

"Don't ask questions, Tony. I am not going to talk." But she lingered a
moment beside her friend. "You and I, Tony darling, don't seem to have
very much luck in love," she murmured. "I hope you will be happy with
Alan, if you do marry him. But happiness isn't exactly necessary. There
are other things--" She broke off and began again. "There are other
things in a man's life besides love. Somebody said that to me once and I
believe it is true. But there isn't so much besides that matters much to
a woman. I wish there were. I hate love." And pressing a rare kiss on her
friend's cheek Carlotta vanished for the night.

Meanwhile Alan Massey smoked and thought and cursed the past that had him
in its hateful toils. Like the guilty king in Hamlet, his soul,
"struggling to be free" was "but the more engaged." He honestly desired
to be worthy of Tony Holiday, to stand clear in her eyes, but he did not
want it badly enough, to the "teeth and forehead of his faults to give in
evidence." He did not want to bare the one worst plague spot of all and
run the risk not only of losing Tony himself but perhaps also of clearing
the way to her for his cousin, John Massey. Small wonder he smoked gall
and wormwood in his cigarettes that night.

And far away in the heat and grime and din of the great city, Dick Carson
the nameless, who was really John Massey and heir to a great fortune, sat
dreaming over a girl's picture, telling himself that Tony must care a
little to have gotten up in the silver gray of the morning to see him off
so kindly. Happily for the dreamer's peace of mind he had no means of
knowing that that very night, in the starlit garden by the sea, Tony
Holiday had taken upon herself the mad and sad and glad bondage of love.




CHAPTER XV

ON THE EDGE OF THE PRECIPICE


Tony, getting off the train at Dunbury on Saturday, found her brothers
waiting for her with the car, and the kiddies on the back seat, "for
ballast" as Ted said. With one quick apprizing glance the girl took in
the two young men.

Ted was brown and healthy looking, clear-eyed, steady-nerved, for once,
without the inevitable cigarette in his mouth. He was oddly improved
somehow, his sister thought, considering how short a time she had been
away from the Hill. She noticed also that he drove the car much less
recklessly than was his wont, took no chances on curves, slid by no
vehicles at hair-breadth space, speeded not at all, and though he kept
up a running fire of merry nonsense, had his eye on the road as he
drove. So far so good. That spill out on the Florence road wasn't all
loss, it seemed.

Larry was more baffling. He was always quiet. He was quieter than ever
to-day. There was something in his gray eyes which spelled trouble, Tony
thought. What was it? Was he worried about a case? Was Granny worse? Was
Ted in some scrape? Something there certainly was on his mind. Tony was
sure of that, though she could not conjecture what.

The Holidays had an almost uncanny way of understanding things about each
other, things which sometimes never rose to the surface at all. Perhaps
it was that they were so close together in sympathy that a kind of small
telepathic signal registered automatically when anything was wrong with
any of them. So far as her brothers were concerned Tony's intuition was
all but infallible.

She found the family gift a shade disconcerting, a little later, when
after her uncle kissed her he held her off at arm's length and studied
her face. Tony's eyes fell beneath his questioning gaze. For almost the
first time in her life she had a secret to keep from him if she could.

"What have they been doing to my little girl?" he asked. "They have taken
away her sunshininess."

"Oh, no, they haven't," denied Tony quickly. "It is just that I am tired.
We have been on the go all the time and kept scandalously late hours.
I'll be all right as soon as I have caught up. I feel as if I could sleep
for a century and any prince who has the effrontery to wake me up will
fare badly."

She laughed, but even in her own ears the laughter did not sound quite
natural and she was sure Uncle Phil thought the same, though he asked no
more questions.

"It is like living in a palace being at Crest House," she went on. "I've
played princess to my heart's content--been waited on and feted and
flirted with until I'm tired to death of it all and want to be just plain
Tony again."

She slid into her uncle's arms with a weary little sigh. It was good--oh
so good--to have him again! She hadn't known she had missed him so until
she felt the comfort of his presence. In his arms Alan Massey and all he
stood for seemed very far away.

"Got letters for you this morning," announced Ted. "I forgot to give them
to you." He fished the aforesaid letters out of his pocket and examined
them before handing them over. "One is from Dick--the other"--he held the
large square envelope off and squinted at it teasingly. "Some scrawl!"
he commented. "Reckless display of ink and flourishes, I call it. Who's
the party?"

Tony snatched the letters, her face rosy.

"Give me Dick's. I haven't heard from him but once since he went back to
New York and that was just a card. Oh-h! Listen everybody. The Universal
has accepted his story and wants him to do a whole series of them. Oh,
isn't that just wonderful?"

Tony's old sparkles were back now. There were no reservations necessary
here. Everybody knew and loved Dick and would be glad as she was herself
in his success.

"Hail to Dicky Dumas!" she added, gaily waving the letter aloft. "I
always knew he would get there. And that was the very story he read me.
Wasn't it lucky I liked it really? If I hadn't, and it had turned out to
be good, wouldn't it have been awful?"

Everybody laughed at that and perhaps nobody but the doctor noticed that
the other letter in the unfamiliar handwriting was tucked away very
quickly out of sight in her bag and no comments made.

It was not until Tony had gone the rounds of the household and greeted
everyone from Granny down to Max that she read Alan's letter, as she sat
curled up in the cretonned window seat, just as the little girl Tony had
been wont to sit and devour love stories. This was a love story, too--her
own and with a sadly complicated plot at that.

It was the first letter she had had from Alan and she found it very
wonderful and exciting reading. It was brimming over, as might have been
expected, with passionate lover's protests and extravagant endearments
which Tony could not have imagined her Anglo-Saxon relatives or friends
even conceiving, let alone putting on paper. But Alan was different.
These things were no affectation with him, but natural as breathing, part
and parcel of his personality. She could hear him now say "_carissima_"
in that low, deep-cadenced, musical voice of his and the word seemed very
sweet and beautiful to her as it sang in her heart and she read it in the
dashing script upon the paper.

He was desolated without her, he wrote. Nothing was worth while. Nothing
interested him. He was refusing all invitations, went nowhere. He just
sat alone in the studio and dreamed about her or made sketches of her
from memory. She was everywhere, all about him. She filled the studio
with her voice, her laughter, her wonderful eyes. But oh, he was so
lonely, so unutterably lonely without her. Must he really wait a whole
year before he made her his? A year was twelve long, long months.
Anything could happen in a year. One of them might die and the other
would go frustrate and lonely forever, like a sad wind in the night.

Tony caught her breath quickly at that sentence. The poetry of it
captivated her fancy, the dread of what it conjured clutched like cold
hands at her heart. She wanted Alan now, wanted love now. Already those
dear folks downstairs were beginning to seem like ghosts, she and Alan
the only real people. What if he should die, what if something should
happen to keep them forever apart, how could she bear it? How could she?

She turned back to her letter which had turned into an impassioned plea
that she would never forsake him, no matter what happened, never drive
him over the precipice like the Gadderene swine.

"You and your love are the only thing that can save me, dear heart," he
wrote. "Remember that always. Without you I shall go down, down into
blacker pits than I ever sank before. With you I shall come out into the
light. I swear it. But oh, beloved, pray for me, if you know how to pray.
I don't. I never had a god."

There were tears in Tony's eyes as she finished her lover's letter.
His unwonted humility touched her as no arrogance could ever have
done. His appeal to his desperate need moved her profoundly as such
appeals will always move woman. It is an old tale and one oft
repeated. Man crying out at a woman's feet, "Save me! Save me! Myself
I cannot save!" Woman, believing, because she longs to believe it,
that salvation lies in her power, taking on herself the all but
impossible mission for love's high sake.

Tony Holiday believed, as all the million other women have believed since
time began, that she could save her lover, loved him tenfold the more
because he threw himself upon her mercy, came indeed perhaps to truly
love him for the first time now with a kind of consecrated fervor which
belonged all to the spirit even as the love that had come to her while
they danced had belonged rather to the flesh.

       *       *       *       *       *

And day by day Jim Roberts grew sicker and the gnawing thing crept up
nearer to his heart. Day by day he gloated over the goading whips he
brandished over Alan Massey's head, amused himself with the various
developments it lay in his power to give to the situation as he passed
out of life.

He wrote two letters from his sick bed. The first one was addressed to
Dick Carson, telling the full story of his own and Alan Massey's share in
the deliberate defraudment of that young man of his rightful name and
estate. It pleased him to read and reread this letter and to reflect that
when it was mailed Alan Massey would drink the full cup of disgrace and
exposure while he who was infinitely guiltier would be sleeping very
quietly in a cool grave where hate, nor vengeance, nor even pity could
touch him.

The other letter, which like the first he kept unmailed, was a less
honest and less incriminating letter, filled with plausible half truths,
telling how he had just become aware at last through coming into
possession of some old letters of the identity of the boy he had once had
in his keeping and who had run away from him, an identity which he now
hastened to reveal in the interests of tardy justice. The letter made no
mention of Alan Massey nor of the unlovely bargain he had driven with
that young man as the price of silence and the bliss of ignorance. It was
addressed to the lawyers who handled the Massey estate.

Roberts had followed up various trails and discovered that Antoinette
Holiday was the girl Massey loved, discovered through the bribing of a
Crest House servant, that the young man they called Carson was also
presumably in love with the girl whose family had befriended him so
generously in his need. It was incredibly good he thought. He could
hardly have thought out a more diabolically clever plot if he had tried.
He could make Alan Massey writhe trebly, knowing these things.

Pursuing his malignant whim he wrote to Alan Massey and told him of the
existence of the two letters, as yet unmailed, in his table drawer. He
made it clear that one of the letters damned Alan Massey utterly while
the other only robbed him of his ill-gotten fortune, made it clear also
that he himself did not know which of the two would be mailed in the end,
possibly he would decide it by a flip of a coin. Massey could only wait
and see what happened.

"I suppose you think the girl is worth going to Hell for, even if the
money isn't," he had written. "Maybe she is. Some women are, perhaps. But
don't forget that if she loves you, you will be dragging her down there
too. Pretty thought, isn't it? I don't mean any future-life business
either. That's rot. I heard enough of that when I was a boy to sicken me
of it forever. It is the here and now Hell a man pays for his sins with,
and that is God's truth, Alan Massey."

And Alan, sitting in his luxurious studio reading the letter, crushed
it in his hands and groaned aloud. He needed no commentary on the "here
and now Hell" from Jim Roberts. He was living it those summer days if
ever a man did.

It wasn't the money now. Alan told himself he no longer cared for that,
hated it in fact. It was Tony now, all Tony, and the horrible fear lest
Roberts betray him and shut the gates of Paradise upon him forever.
Sometimes in his agony of fear he could almost have been glad to end it
all with one shot of the silver-mounted automatic he kept always near, to
beat Jim Roberts to the bliss of oblivion in the easiest way.

But Alan Massey had an incorrigible belief in his luck. Just as he had
hoped, until he had all but believed, that his cousin John was as dead as
he had told that very person he was, so now he hoped against all reason
that he would be saved at the eleventh hour, that Roberts would go to his
death carrying with him the secret that would destroy himself if it
ceased to be a secret.

Those unmailed letters haunted him, however, day and night, so much so,
in fact, that he took a journey to Boston one day and sought out the
little cigar store again. But this time he had not mounted the stairs.
His business was with the black-eyed boy. With one fifty dollar bill he
bought the lad's promise to destroy the letters and the packet in
Robert's drawer in the event of the latter's death; secured also the
promise that if at any time before his death Roberts gave orders that
either letter should be mailed, the boy would send the same not to the
address on the envelope but to Alan Massey. If the boy kept faith with
his pledges there would be another fifty coming to him after the death of
the man. He bought the lad even as Roberts had once bought himself. It
was a sickening transaction but it relieved his mind considerably and
catered in a measure to that incorrigible hope within him.

But he paid a price too. Fifty miles away from Boston was Tony Holiday on
her Heaven kissing hill. He was mad to go to her but dared not, lest this
fresh corruption in some way betray itself to her clear gaze.

So he went back to New York without seeing her and Tony never knew he had
been so near.

And that night Jim Roberts took an unexpected turn for the worse and
died, foiled of that last highly anticipated spice of malice in flipping
the coin that was to decide Alan Massey's fate.

In the end the boy had not had the courage to destroy the letters as he
had promised to do. Instead he sent them both, together with the packet
of evidence as to John Massey's identity, to Alan Massey.

The thing was in Alan's own hands at last. Nothing could save or destroy
him but himself. And by a paradox his salvation depended upon his being
strong enough to bring himself to ruin.




CHAPTER XVI

IN WHICH PHIL GETS HIS EYES OPENED


At home on her Hill Tony Holiday settled down more or less happily after
her eventful sally into the great world. To the careless observer she was
quite the same Tony who went down the Hill a few weeks earlier. If at
times she was unusually quiet, had spells of sitting very still with
folded hands and far away dreams in her eyes, if she crept away by
herself to read the long letters that came so often, from many addresses
but always in the same bold, beautiful script and to pen long answers to
these; if she read more poetry than was her wont and sang love songs with
a new, exquisite, but rather heart breaking timbre in her lovely
contralto voice, no one paid much attention to these signs except
possibly Doctor Philip who saw most things. He perceived regretfully that
his little girl was slipping away from him, passing through some
experience that was by no means all joy or contentment and which was
making her grow up all too fast. But he said nothing, quietly bided the
hour of confidence which he felt sure would come sooner or later.

Tony puzzled much over the complexities of life these days, puzzled over
other things beside her own perverse romance. Carlotta too was much on
her mind. She wished she could wave a magic wand and make things come
right for these two friends of hers who were evidently made for each
other as Hal had propounded. She wondered if Phil were as unhappy as
Carlotta was and meant to find out in her own time and way.

She had seen almost nothing of him since her return to the Hill. He was
working very hard in the store and never appeared at any of the little
dances and picnics and teas with which the Dunbury younger set passed
away the summer days and nights, and which Ted and the twins and usually
Tony herself frequented. Larry never did. He hated things of that sort.
But Phil was different. He had always liked fun and parties and had
always been on hand and in great demand hitherto at every social function
from a Ladies' Aid strawberry festival to a grand Masonic ball. It wasn't
natural for Phil to shut himself out of things like that. It was a bad
sign Tony thought.

At any rate she determined to find out for herself how the land lay if
she could. Having occasion to do some shopping she marched down the Hill
and presented herself at Stuart Lambert and Son's, demanding to be served
by no less a person than Philip himself.

"I want a pair of black satin pumps with very frivolous heels," she
announced. "Produce them this instant, slave." She smiled at Phil and he
smiled back. He and Tony had always been the best of chums.

"Cannzy ones?" he laughed. "That's what one of our customers calls them."

And while he knelt before her with an array of shoe boxes around him,
fitting a dainty slipper on Tony's pretty foot, Tony herself looked not
at the slipper but at Philip, studying his face shrewdly. He looked
older, graver. There was less laughter in his blue eyes, a grimmer line
about his young mouth. Poor Phil! Evidently Carlotta wasn't the only one
who was paying the price of too much loving. Tony made up her mind to
rush in, though she knew it might be a case for angel hesitation.

"I've never given you a message Hal Underwood sent you," she observed
irrelevantly.

Philip looked up surprised.

"Hal Underwood! What message did he send me? I hardly know him."

"He seemed to know you rather well. He told me to tell you to come down
and marry Carlotta, that you were the only man that could keep her in
order. That is too big, Phil. Try a smaller one." The speaker kicked off
the offending slipper. Philip mechanically picked it up and replaced it
in the box.

"That is rather a queer message," he commented. "I had an idea Underwood
wanted to marry Carlotta himself. Try this." He reached for another pump.
His eyes were lowered so Tony could not see them. She wished she could.

"He does," she said. "She won't have him."

"Is--is there--anybody she is likely to have?" The words jerked out as
the young man groped for the shoe horn which was almost beside his hand
but which apparently he did not see at all.

"I am afraid she is likely to take Herbert Lathrop unless somebody
stops her by main force. Why don't you play Lochinvar yourself, Phil?
You could."

Philip looked straight up at Tony then, the slipper forgotten in his
hand.

"Tony, do you mean that?" he asked.

"I certainly do. Make her marry you, Phil. It is the only way with
Carlotta."

"I don't want to _make_ any girl marry me," he said.

"Oh, hang your silly pride, Phil Lambert! Carlotta wants to marry you I
tell you though she would murder me if she knew I did tell you."

"Maybe she does. But she doesn't want to live in Dunbury. I've good
reason to know that. We thrashed it out rather thoroughly on the top of
Mount Tom last June. She hasn't changed her mind."

Tony sighed. She was afraid Phil was right. Carlotta hadn't changed her
mind. Was it because she was afraid she might, that she was determining
to marry Herbert?

"And you can't leave Dunbury?" she asked soberly.

Just at that moment Stuart Lambert approached, a tall fine looking man,
with the same blue eyes and fresh coloring as his son and brown hair only
slightly graying around the temples. He had an air of vigor and ageless
youth. Indeed a stranger might easily have taken the two men for brothers
instead of father and son.

"Hello, Tony, my dear," he greeted cordially. "It is good to see you
round again. We have missed you. This boy of mine getting you what
you want?"

"He is trying," smiled Tony. "A woman doesn't always know what she wants,
Mr. Lambert. The store is wonderful since it was enlarged and I see lots
of other improvements too." Her eyes swept her surroundings with sincere
appreciation.

"Make your bow to Phil for all that. It is good to get fresh brains into
a business. We old fogies need jerking out of our ruts."

The older man's eyes fell upon Phil's bowed head and Tony realized how
much it meant to him to have his son with him at last, pulling shoulder
to shoulder.

"New brains nothing!" protested Phil. "Dad's got me skinned going and
coming for progressiveness. As for old fogies he's the youngest man I
know. Make all your bows to him, Tony. It is where they belong." And Phil
got to his feet and himself made a solemn obeisance in Stuart Lambert's
direction.

Mr. Lambert chuckled.

"Phil was always a blarney," he said. "Don't know where he got it.
Don't you believe a word he says, my dear." But Tony saw he was
immensely pleased with Phil's tribute for all that. "How do you like
the sign?" he asked.

"Fine. Looks good to me and I know it does to you, Mr. Lambert."

"Well, rather." The speaker rested his hand on Phil's shoulder a moment.
"I tell you it _is_ good, young lady, to have the son part added, worth
waiting for. I'm mighty proud of that sign. Between you and me, Miss
Tony, I'm proud of my son too."

"Who is blarneying now?" laughed Phil. "Go on with you, Dad. You are
spoiling my sale."

The father chuckled again and moved away. Phil looked down at the girl.

"I think your question is answered. I can't leave Dunbury," he said.

"Then Carlotta ought to come to you."

"There are no oughts in Carlotta's bright lexicon. I don't blame her,
Tony. Dunbury is a dead hole from most points of view. I am afraid she
wouldn't be happy here. You wouldn't be yourself forever. Bet you are
planning to get away right now."

Tony nodded ruefully.

"I suppose I am, Phil. The modern young woman isn't much to pin one's
faith to I am afraid. Do I get another slipper? Or is one enough?"

Phil came back from his mental aberration with a start and a grin at his
own expense.

"I am afraid I am not a very good salesman today," he apologized.
"Honestly I do better usually but you hit me in a vulnerable spot."

"You do care for Carlotta then?" probed Tony.

"Care! I'm crazy over her. I'd go on my hands and knees to Crest House if
I thought I could get her to marry me by doing it."

"You would much better go by train--the next one. That's my advice. Are
you coming to Sue Emerson's dance? That is why I am buying slippers. You
can dance with 'em if you'll come."

"Sorry. I don't go to dances any more."

"That is nonsense, Phil. It is the worst thing in the world for you to
make a hermit of yourself. No girl's worth it. Besides there are other
girls besides Carlotta."

Phil shook his head as he finished replacing Tony's trim brown oxfords.

"Unfortunately that isn't true for me," he said rising. "At present my
world consists of myself bounded, north, south, east and west by
Carlotta."

And Tony passing out under the sign of STUART LAMBERT AND SON a few
minutes later sighed a little. Here was Carlotta with a real man for the
taking and too stubborn and foolish to put out her hand and here was
herself, Tony Holiday, tying herself all up in a strange snarl for the
sake of somebody who wasn't a man at all as Holiday Hill standards ran.
What queer creatures women were!

Other people besides Tony were inclined to score Phil's folly in making a
hermit of himself. His sisters attacked him that very night on the
subject of Sue Emerson's dance and accused him of being a "Grumpy
Grandpa" and a grouch and various other uncomplimentary things when he
announced that he wasn't going to attend the function.

"I'm the authentic T.B.M.," he parried from his perch on the porch
railing. "I've cut out dancing."

"More idiot you!" retorted Charley promptly. "Mums, do tell Phil it is
all nonsense making such an oyster in a shell of himself."

Mrs. Lambert smiled and looked up at her tall young son, looked rather
hard for a moment.

"I think the twins are right, Phil," she said. "You are working too hard.
You don't allow yourself any relaxation."

"Oh, yes I do. Only my idea of relaxation doesn't happen to coincide with
the twins. Dancing in this sort of weather with your collar slumping and
the perspiration rolling in tidal waves down your manly brow doesn't
strike me as being a particularly desirable diversion."

"H-mp!" sniffed Charley. "You didn't object to dancing last summer when
it was twice as hot. You went to a dance almost every night when Carlotta
was visiting Tony. You know you did."

"I wasn't a member of the esteemed firm of Stuart Lambert and Son last
summer. A lily of the field can afford to dance all night. I'm a working
man I'd have you know."

"Well, I think you might come just this once to please us," joined in
Clare, the other twin. "You are a gorgeous dancer, Phil. I'd rather have
a one step with you than any man I know." Clare always beguiled where
Charley bullied, a method much more successful in the long run as Charley
sometimes grudgingly admitted after the fact.

Phil smiled now at pretty Clare and promised to think about it and the
twins flew off across the street to visit with Tony and Ruth whom the
whole Hill adored.

"Phil dear, aren't you happy?" asked Mrs. Lambert. "Have we asked too
much of you expecting you to settle down at home with us?"

"Why yes, Mums. I'm all right." Phil left his post on the rail and
dropped into a chair beside his mother. Perhaps he did it purposely lest
she see too much. "Don't get notions in your head. I like living in
Dunbury. I wouldn't live in a city for anything and I like being with Dad
not to mention the rest of you."

Mrs. Lambert shifted her position also. She wanted to see her son's face;
just as much as he didn't want her to see it.

"Possibly that is all so but you aren't happy for all that. You can't
fool mother eyes, my dear."

Phil looked straight at her then with a little rueful smile.

"I reckon I can't," he admitted. "Very well then. I am not entirely happy
but it is nobody's fault and nothing anybody can help."

"Philip, is it a girl?"

How they dread the _girl_ in their sons' lives--these mothers! The very
possibility of her in the abstract brings a shadow across the path.

"Yes, Mums, it is a girl."

Mrs. Lambert rose and went over to where her son sat, running her fingers
through his hair as she had been wont to do when the little boy Phil was
in trouble of any sort.

"I am very sorry, dear boy," she said. "It won't help to talk about it?"

"I am afraid not. Don't worry, Mums. It is just--well, it hurts a little
just now that's all."

She kissed his forehead and went back to her chair. It hurt her to
know her boy was being hurt, hurt her almost as much to know she could
not help him, she must just let him close the door on his grief and
bear it alone.

Yet she respected his reserve and loved him the better for it. Phil was
like that always. He never cried out when he was hurt. She remembered how
long ago the little boy Phil had come to her with a small finger just
released from a slamming door that had crushed it unmercifully, the
tears streaming down his cheeks but uttering no sound. She recalled
another incident of years later, when the coach had been obliged to put
some one else in Phil's place on the team the last minute because his
sprained ankle had been bothering. She and Stuart had come on for the
game. It had been a bitter disappointment to them all. To the boy it had
been little short of a tragedy. But he had smiled bravely at her in spite
of the trouble in his blue eyes. "Don't mind, Mums. It is all right," he
had said steadily. "We've got to win. We can't risk my darned ankle's
flopping. It's the bleachers for me. The game's the thing."

The game had always been the thing for Phil. Even in his blundering,
willful boyhood he had played hard and played fair and taken defeat like
a man when things had gone against him.

There was a moment's silence. Then Mrs. Lambert spoke again.

"Phil, I wish you would go to the dance with the girls. It will please
them and be good for you. You can't shut yourself away from everything
the way you are doing, if you are going to make Dunbury your home. Your
father never has. He has always given himself freely to it, worked with
it, played with it, made it a real part of himself. You mustn't start out
by building a wall around yourself."

"Am I doing that, Mums?" Phil's voice was sober.

"I am afraid you are, Phil. It troubles your father. He was so
disappointed when you wouldn't serve on the library committee. They were
disappointed too. They didn't expect it of your father's son."

"I--I wasn't interested."

"No, you weren't interested. That was the trouble. You ought to have
been. You have had your college training, the world of books has been
thrown wide open for you. You come back here and aren't interested in
seeing that others less fortunate get the right kind of books into their
hands and heads. I don't want to preach, dear. But education isn't only a
privilege. It is a responsibility."

"Maybe you are right, Mums. I didn't think of it that way. I just
didn't want to bother. I was--well, I was thinking too much about
myself I suppose."

"Youth is apt to. There were other things too. When they asked you to
take charge of the Fourth of July pageant, to dig up Dunbury's past
history and make it live for us again, your father and I both thought you
would enjoy it. He was tremendously excited about it, full of ideas to
help. But the project fell through because nobody would undertake the
leadership. You were too busy. Every one was too busy."

"But, Mums, I was busy," Phil defended himself. "It is no end of a job to
put things like that through properly."

"Most things worth doing are no end of a job. Your father would have
taken it with all the rest he has on his hands and made a success of it.
But he was hurt by your high handed refusal to have anything to do with
it and he let it go, though you know having Fourth of July community
celebrations is one of his dearest hobbies--always has been since he used
to fight so hard to get rid of the old, wretched noise, law breaking and
rowdyism kind of village celebration you and the other young Dunbury
vandals delighted in."

Phil flushed at that. The point went home. He remembered vividly his
boyish self tearing reluctantly from Doctor Holiday's fireworks impelled
by an unbearably guilty conscience to confess to Stuart Lambert that his
own son had been a transgressor against the law. Boy as he was, he had
gotten out of the interview with his father that night a glimpse into the
ideal citizenship which Stuart Lambert preached and lived and worked for.
He had understood a little then. He understood better now having stood
beside his father man to man.

"I am sorry, Mums. I would have done the thing if I'd known Dad wanted me
to. Why didn't he say so?"

Mrs. Lambert smiled.

"Dad doesn't say much about what he wants. You will have to learn to keep
your eyes open and find out for yourself. I did."

"Any more black marks on my score? I may as well eat the whole darned
pie at once." Phil's smile was humorous but his eyes were troubled. It
was a bit hard when you had been thinking you had played your part
fairly creditably to discover you had been fumbling your cues wretchedly
all along.

"Only one other thing. We were both immensely disappointed when you
wouldn't take the scout-mastership they offered you. Father believes
tremendously in the movement. He thinks it is going to be the making of
the next generation of men. He would have liked you to be a Scoutmaster
and when you wouldn't he went on the Scout Troop Committee himself though
he really could not spare the time."

"I see," said Phil. "I guess I've been pretty blind. Funny part of it is
I really wanted to take the Scoutmaster job but I thought Dad would think
it took too much of my time. Anything more?" he asked.

"Not a thing. Haven't you had quite enough of a lecture for once?" his
mother smiled back.

"I reckon I needed it. Thank you, Mums. I'll turn over a new leaf if it
isn't too late. I'll go to the dance and I'll ask them if there is still
a place for me on the library committee and I'll start a troop of Scouts
myself--another bunch I've had my eyes on for some time."

"That will please Dad very much. It pleases me too. Boys are very dear to
my heart. I wonder if you can guess why, Philip, my son?"

"I wish I'd been a better son, Mums. Some chaps never seem to cause
their-mothers any worry or heart ache. I wasn't that kind. I am afraid I
am not even yet."

"No son is, dear, unless there is something wrong with him or the mother.
Mothering means heart ache and worries, plus joy and pride and the joy
and pride more than makes up for the rest. It has for me a hundred times
over even when I had a rather bad little boy on my hands and now I have a
man--a man I am glad and proud to call my son."




CHAPTER XVII

A WEDDING RING IT WAS HARD TO REMEMBER


It was a grilling hot August afternoon. The young Holidays were keeping
cool as best they could out in the yard. Ruth lay in the canopied hammock
against a background of a hedge of sweet peas, pink and white and
lavender, looking rather like a dainty, frail little flower herself. Tony
in cool white was seated on a scarlet Navajo blanket, leaning against the
apple tree. Around her was a litter of magazines and an open box of
bonbons. Ted was stretched at his ease on the grass, gazing skyward, a
cigarette in his lips, enjoying well-earned rest after toil. Larry
occupied the green garden bench in the lee, of the hammock. He was
unsolaced either by candy or smoke and looked tired and not particularly
happy. There were dark shadows under his gray eyes which betrayed that he
was not getting the quota of sleep that healthy youth demands. His eyes
were downcast now, apparently absorbed in contemplation of a belated
dandelion at his feet.

"Ruth, why don't you come down to the dance with us tonight?" demanded
Tony suddenly dropping her magazine. "You are well enough now and I
know you would enjoy it. It is lovely down on the island where the
pavilion is--all quiet and pine-woodsy. You needn't dance if you don't
want to. You could just lie in the hammock and listen to the music and
the water. We'd come and talk to you between dances so you wouldn't be
lonesome. Do come."

"Oh, I couldn't." Ruth's voice was dismayed, her blue eyes filled with
alarm at the suggestion.

"Why couldn't you?" persisted Tony. "You aren't going to just hide away
forever are you? It is awfully foolish, isn't it, Larry?" she appealed to
her brother.

He did not answer, but he did transfer his gaze from the dandelion to
Ruth as if he were considering his sister's proposition.

"Sure, it's foolish," Ted replied for him, sitting up. "Come on down and
dance the first foxtrot with me, sweetness. You'll like it. Honest you
will, when you get started."

"Oh, I couldn't" reiterated Ruth.

"That is nonsense. Of course, you could," objected Tony. "It is just your
notion, Ruthie. You have kept away from people so long you are scared.
But you would get over that in a minute and truly it would be lots better
for you. Tell her it would, Larry. She is your patient."

"I don't know whether it would or not," returned Larry in his deliberate
way, which occasionally exasperated the swift-minded, impulsive Tony.

"Then you are a rotten doctor," she flung back. "I know better than that
myself and Uncle Phil agrees with me. I asked him."

"Ruth's my patient, as you reminded me a moment ago. She isn't Uncle
Phil's." There was an unusual touchiness in the young doctor's voice. He
was not professionally aggressive as a rule.

"Well, I wouldn't be a know-it-all, if she is," snapped Tony. "Maybe
Uncle Phil knows a thing or two more than you do yet. And anyway you are
only a man and I am a girl and I know that girls need people and fun and
dancing. It isn't good for anybody to hide away by herself. I believe you
are keeping Ruth away from everybody on purpose."

The hot weather and other things were setting Tony's nerves a bit on
edge. She felt slightly belligerent and not precisely averse to
picking a quarrel with her aggravatingly quiet brother, if he gave her
half an opening.

Larry flushed and scowled at that and ordered her sharply not to talk
nonsense. Whereupon Ted intervened.

"I'm all on your side, Tony. Of course it is bad for Ruth not to see
anybody but us. Any fool would know that. Dancing may be the very thing
for her anyhow. You can't tell till you try. Maybe when you are
foxtrotting with me, goldilocks, you'll remember how it seemed to have
some other chap's arm around you. It might be like laying a fuse."

"I'm glad you all know so much about my business," said Larry testily.
"You make me tired, both of you."

"Oh," begged Ruth, her blue eyes full of trouble. "Please, please, don't
quarrel about me."

"I beg your pardon," apologized Larry. "See here, would you be willing to
try it, just as an experiment? Would you go down there for a little while
tonight with us?"

The blue eyes met the gray ones.

"If you--wanted me to," faltered the blue-eyes.

"Would you mind it very much?" Larry leaned forward. His voice was low,
solicitous. Tony, listening, resented it a little. She didn't see why
Larry had to keep his good manners for somebody outside the family. He
might have spoken a little more politely to herself, she thought. She had
only been trying to be nice to Ruth.

"Not--if you would take care of me and not let people talk to me too
much," Ruth answered the solicitous tone.

"I will," promised Larry. "You needn't talk to a soul if you don't
want to. I'll ward 'em off. And you can dance if you want to--one
dance anyway."

"With me," announced Ted complacently from the grass. "My bid was in
first. Don't you forget, Miss Peaseblossom." Ted had a multitude of pet
names for Ruth. They slipped off his tongue easily, as water falling
over a cliff.

"No, with me," said his brother shortly.

"Gee, I wish I were a doctor! It gives you a hideous advantage."

"But I haven't anything to wear," exclaimed Ruth, coming next to the
really sole and only supreme woman question.

"We'll fix that easy as easy," said Tony, amicable again now. "I've a
darling blue organdy that will look sweet on you--just the color of your
eyes. Don't you worry a minute, honey. Your fairy godmother will see to
all that. All I ask is that you won't let that old ogre of an M.D. change
his mind and say you can't go. It isn't good for Larry to obey him so
meekly. He is getting to be a regular tyrant."

A moment later Doctor Holiday joined the group, dropped on the bench
beside Larry and was informed by Tony that Ruth was to go on an adventure
down the Hill; to Sue Emerson's dance in fact.

"Isn't that great?" she demanded.

"Superb," he teased. Then he smiled approval at Ruth. "Good idea, Larry,"
he added to his nephew. "Glad you thought of it."

"I didn't think of it. Tony did. You really approve?" The gray eyes were
a little anxious. Larry was by no means a know-it-all doctor, as his
sister accused him. He had too little rather than too much confidence in
his own judgment in fact.

"I certainly do. Go to it, little lady. May be the best medicine in the
world for you."

"Now you are talking," exulted Ted. "That's what Tony and I said
and Larry wanted to execute us on the spot for daring to have an
opinion at all."

"Scare you much to think of it?" Doctor Holiday asked Ruth, prudently
ignoring this last sally.

"A good deal," sighed Ruth. "But I'll try not to be too much scared if
Larry will go too and not let people ask questions."

The young doctor had long since become Larry to Ruth. It was too
confusing talking about two Doctor Holidays. Everybody in Dunbury said
Larry or Doctor Larry or at most, respectfully, Doctor Laurence.

"I'll let nobody talk to you but myself," said Larry.

"There you are!" flashed Tony. "You might just as well keep her penned up
here in the yard. You want to keep her all to yourself."

She didn't mean anything in particular, only to be a little disagreeable,
to pay Larry back for being so snappy. But to her amazement Ruth was
suddenly blushing a lovely but startling blush and Larry was bending over
to examine the hammock-hook in obvious confusion.

"Good gracious!" she thought in consternation. "Is that what's up? It
can't be. I'm just imagining it. Larry wouldn't fall in love with any one
who wore a wedding ring. He mustn't."

But she knew in her heart that whether Larry must or must not he had. A
thousand signs betrayed the truth now that her eyes were open. Poor
Larry! No wonder he was cross and unlike himself. And Ruth was so
sweet--just the girl for him. And poor Uncle Phil! She herself was
hurting him dreadfully keeping her secret about Alan and nobody knew what
Ted had up his sleeve under his cloak of incredible virtue. And now here
was Larry with a worse complication still. Oh dear! Would the three of
them ever stop getting into scrapes as long as they lived? It was bad
enough when they were children. It was infinitely worse now they were
grown up and the scrapes were so horribly serious.

"I suppose you can't tear yourself away from your studies to attend a
mere dance?" Doctor Holiday was asking of his younger nephew with a
twinkle in his eyes when Tony recovered enough to listen again.

Ted sent his cigarette stub careening off into the shrubbery and grinned
back at his uncle, a grin half merry, half defiant.

"Like fun, I can't!" he ejaculated. "I'm a union man, I am. I've done my
stunt for the day. If anybody thinks I'm going to stick my nose in
between the covers of a book before nine A.M. tomorrow he has a whole
orchard of brand new little thinks growing up to stub his toes on,
that's all."

"So the student life doesn't improve with intimate acquaintance?" The
doctor's voice was still teasing, but there was more than teasing behind
his questions. He was really interested in his nephew's psychology.

"Not a da--ahem--darling bit. If I had my way every book in existence
would be placed on a huge funeral pyre and conflagrated instantly.
Moreover, it would be a criminal offence punishable by the death sentence
for any person to bring another of the infernal nuisances into the world.
That is my private opinion publicly expressed." So saying Ted picked
himself up from the grass and sauntered off toward the house.

His uncle chuckled. He was sorry the boy did not take more cordially to
books, since it looked as if there were a good two years of them ahead at
the least. But he liked the honesty that would not pretend to anything
it did not feel, and he liked even better the spirit that had kept the
lad true to his pledge of honest work without a squirm or grumble through
all these weeks of grilling summer weather when sustained effort of any
sort, particularly mental effort, was undoubtedly a weariness and
abomination to flesh and soul, to his restless, volatile, ease-addicted,
liberty loving young ward. The boy had certainly shown more grit and
grace than he had credited him with possessing.

The village clock struck six. Tony sprang up from her blanket and began
to gather up her possessions.

"I never get over a scared, going-to-be-scolded feeling running down my
spine when the clock strikes and I'm not ready for supper," she said.
"Poor dear Granny! She certainly worked hard trying to make truly proper
persons out of us wild Arabs. It isn't her fault if she didn't succeed,
is it Larry?" She smiled at her brother--a smile that meant in Tony
language "I am sorry I was cross. Let's make up."

He smiled back in the same spirit. He rose taking the rug and magazines
from his sister's hand and walked with her toward the house.

Ruth sat up in her hammock and smoothed her disarrayed blonde hair.

"I am glad you are going down the Hill," said the doctor to her. "It is a
fine idea, little lady. Do you lots of good."

"Doctor Holiday, I think I ought to go away," announced Ruth suddenly. "I
am perfectly well now, and there is no reason why I should stay."

"Tired of us?"

"Oh no! I could never be that. I love it here and love all of you. But
after all I am only a stranger."

"Not to us, Ruthie. Listen. I would like to explain how I feel about
this, not from your point of view but from ours."

Tony would be going away soon. They needed a home daughter very much,
needed Ruth particularly as she had such a wonderful way with the
children, who adored her, and because Granny loved her so well, though
she did not love many people who were not Holidays. And he and Larry
needed her good fairy ministrations. They had not been unmindful, though
perhaps manlike they had not expressed their appreciation of the way
fresh flowers found their way to the offices daily, and they were kept
from being snowed under by the newspapers of yester week. In short Doctor
Holiday made it very clear that, if Ruth cared to stay she was wanted and
needed very much in the House on the Hill. And Ruth touched and grateful
and happy promised to remain.

"If you think it is all right--" she added with rather sudden blush, "for
me to stay when I am married or not married and don't know which."

Whereupon Doctor Holiday, who happened not to observe the blush, remarked
that he couldn't see what that had to do with it. Anyway she seemed like
such a child to them that they hardly remembered the wedding ring at all.

Ruth blushed again at that and wished she dared confess that she was
afraid the wedding ring had a good deal to do with the situation in the
eyes of one Holiday at least. But she could not bring herself to speak
the fatal word which might banish her from the dear Hill and from Larry,
who had come to be even dearer.

A dozen times, while she was dressing for the dance later, Ruth felt like
crying out to Tony in the next room that she could not go, that she dared
not face strangers, that it was too hard. But she set her lips firmly
and did nothing of the sort. Larry wanted her to do it. She wouldn't
disappoint him if it killed her.

Oh dear! Why did she always have to do everything as a case, never just
as a girl. She couldn't even be natural as a girl. She had to be maybe
married. She hated the ring which seemed to her a symbol of bondage to a
past that was dead and yet still clutched her with cold hands. She had a
childish impulse to fling the ring out of the window where she could
never--never see it again. If it wasn't for the ring--

She interrupted her own thoughts, blushing hotly again. She knew she had
meant to go on, "If it were not for the ring she could marry Larry
Holiday." She mustn't think about that. She must not forget the ring, nor
let Larry forget it. She must not let him love her. It was a terrible
thing she was doing. He was unhappy--dreadfully unhappy and it was all
her fault. And by and by they would all see it. Tony had seen it today,
she was almost sure. And Doctor Holiday would see it. He saw so much it
was a wonder he had not seen it long before this. They would hate her for
hurting Larry and spoiling his life. She could not bear to have them hate
her when she loved them so and they had been so kind and good to her. She
must go away. She must. Maybe Larry would forget her if she wasn't always
there right under his eyes.

But how could she go? Doctor Philip would think it queer and ungrateful
of her after she had promised to stay. How could she desert him and the
children and dear Granny? And if she went what could she do? What use was
she anyway but to be a trouble and a burden to everybody? It would have
been better, much better, if Larry had left her to die in the wreck.

Why didn't Geoffrey Annersley come and get her, if there was a Geoffrey
Annersley? She knew she would hate him, but she wished he would come for
all that. Anything was better than making Larry suffer, making all the
Holidays suffer through him. Oh why hadn't she died, why hadn't she?

But in her heart Ruth knew she did not want to die. She wanted to live.
She wanted life and love and happiness and Larry Holiday.

And then Tony stood on the threshold, smiling friendly encouragement.

"Ready, hon? Oh, you look sweet! That blue is lovely for you. It never
suited me at all. Blue is angel color and I have too much--well, of the
other thing in my composition to wear it. Come on. The boys have been
whistling impatience for half an hour and I don't want to scare Larry out
of going. It is the first function he has condescended to attend in a
blue moon."

On the porch Ted and Larry waited, two tall, sturdy, well-groomed,
fine-looking youths, bearing the indefinable stamp of good birth and
breeding, the inheritance of a long line of clean strong men and gentle
women--the kind of thing not forged in one generation but in many.

They both rose as the girls appeared. Larry crossed over to Ruth. His
quick gaze took in her nervousness and trouble of mind.

"Are you all right, Ruth? You mustn't let us bully you into going if you
really don't want to."

"No, I am all right. I do want to--with you," she added softly.

"We'll all go over in the launch," announced Ted, but Larry interposed
the fact that he and Ruth were going in the canoe. Ruth would get too
tired if she got into a crowd.

"More professional graft," complained Ted. He was only joking but Tony
with her sharpened sight knew that it was thin ice for Larry and
suspected he had non-professional reasons for wanting Ruth alone in the
canoe with him that night. Poor Larry! It was all a horrible tangle, just
as her affair with Alan was.

It was a night made for lovers, still and starry. Soft little breezes
came tiptoeing along the water from fragrant nooks ashore and stopped
in their course to kiss Ruth's face as she lay content and lovely among
the scarlet cushions, reading the eloquent message of Larry Holiday's
gray eyes.

They did not talk much. They were both a little afraid of words. They
felt as if they could go on riding in perfect safety along the edge of
the precipice so long as neither looked over or admitted out loud that
there was a precipice.




CHAPTER XVIII

A YOUNG MAN IN LOVE


The dance was well in progress when Larry and Ruth arrived. The latter
was greeted cordially and not too impressively by gay little Sue Emerson,
their hostess, and her friends. Ruth was ensconced comfortably in a big
chair where she could watch the dancers and talk as much or little as she
pleased. Everybody was so pleasant and natural and uncurious that she did
not feel frightened or strange at all, and really enjoyed the little
court she held between dances. Pretty girls and pleasant lads came to
talk with her, the latter besieging her with invitations to dance which
she refused so sweetly that they found the little Goldilocks more
charming than ever for her very denial.

They rallied Larry however on his rigorous dragonship and finally Ruth
herself dismissed him to dance with his hostess as a proper guest should.
She never meant he must stick to her every moment anyway. That was
absurd. He rose to obey reluctantly; but paused to ask if she wouldn't
dance with him just once. No, she couldn't--didn't even know whether she
could. He mustn't try to make her. And seeing she was in earnest, Larry
left her. But Ted came skating down the floor to her and he begged for
just one dance.

"Oh, I couldn't, Ted, truly I couldn't," she denied.

But obeying a sudden impulse Ted had swooped down upon her, picked her up
and before she really knew what was happening she had slid into step
with him and was whirling off down the floor in his arms.

"Didn't I tell you, sweetness?" he exulted. "Of course you can dance.
What fairy can't? Tired?" He bent over to ask with the instinctive
gentleness that was in all Holiday men.

Ruth shook her head. She was exhilarated, excited, tense, happy. She
could dance--she could. It was as easy and natural as breathing. She did
not want to stop. She wanted to go on and on. Then suddenly something
snapped. They came opposite Sue and Larry. The former called a gay
greeting and approval. Larry said nothing. His face was dead white, his
gray eyes black with anger. Both Ted and Ruth saw and understood and the
lilt went out of the dance for both of them.

"Oh Lord!" groaned Ted. "Now I've done it. I'm sorry, Ruth. I didn't
suppose the old man would care. Don't see why he should it you are
willing. Come on, just one more round before the music stops and we're
both beheaded."

But Ruth shook her head. There was no more joy for her after that one
glimpse of Larry's face.

"Take me to a seat, Ted, please. I'm tired."

He obeyed and she sank down in the chair, white and trembling, utterly
exhausted. She was hurt and aching through and through. How could she?
How could she have done that to Larry when he loved her so? How could she
have let Ted make her dance with him when she had refused to dance with
Larry? No wonder he was angry. It was terrible--cruel.

But he mustn't make a scene with Ted. He mustn't. She cast an
apprehensive glance around the room. Larry was invisible. A forlornness
came over her, a despair such as she had never experienced even in that
dreadful time after the wreck when she realized she had forgotten
everything. She felt as if she were sinking down, down in a fearful
black sea and that there was no help for her anywhere. Larry had deserted
her. Would he never come back?

In a minute Tony and the others were beside her, full of sympathetic
questions. How had it seemed to dance again? Wasn't it great to find she
could still do it? How had she dared to do it while Larry was off guard?
Why wouldn't she, couldn't she dance with this one or that one if she
could dance with Ted Holiday? But they were quick to see she was really
tired and troubled and soon left her alone to Tony's ministrations.

"Ruth, what is the trouble? Where is Larry? And Ted is gone, too. What
happened?" Tony's voice was anxious. She hadn't seen Larry's face, but
she knew Larry and could guess at the rest.

"Ted made me dance with him. I didn't mean to. But when we got started I
couldn't bear to stop, it was so wonderful to do it and to find I could.
I--am afraid Larry didn't like it."

"I presume he didn't," said Larry's sister drily. "Let him be angry if he
wants to be such a silly. It was quite all right, Ruthie. Ted has just as
much right to dance with you as Larry has."

"I am afraid Larry doesn't think so and I don't think so either."

Tony squeezed the other girl's hand.

"Never mind, honey. You mustn't take it like that. You are all of a
tremble. Larry has a fearful temper, but he will hang on to it for your
sake if for no other reason. He won't really quarrel with Ted. He never
does any more. And he won't say a word to you."

"I'd rather he would," sighed Ruth. "You are all so good to me and I--am
making a dreadful lot of trouble for you all the time, though I don't
mean to and I love you so."

"It isn't your fault, Ruthie, not a single speck of it. Oh, yes. I mean
just what you mean. Not simply Larry's being so foolish as to lose his
temper about this little thing, but the whole big thing of your caring
for each other. It is all hard and mixed up and troublesome; but you are
not to blame, and Larry isn't to blame, and it will all come out right
somehow. It has to."

As soon as Ted had assured himself that Ruth was all right in his
sister's charge he had looked about for Larry. Sue was perched on a table
eating marshmallows she had purloined from somewhere with Phil Lambert
beside her, but there was no Larry to be seen.

Ted stepped outside the pavilion. He was honestly sorry his brother was
hurt and angry. He realized too late that maybe he hadn't behaved quite
fairly or wisely in capturing Ruth like that, though he hadn't meant any
harm, and had had not the faintest idea Larry would really care, care
enough to be angry as Ted had not seen him for many a long day. Larry's
temper had once been one of the most active of the family skeletons. It
had not risen easily, but when it did woe betide whatever or whomever it
met in collision. By comparison with Larry's rare outbursts of rage
Tony's frequent ebullitions were as summer zephyrs to whirlwinds.

But that was long past history. Larry had worked manfully to conquer his
familiar demon and had so far succeeded that sunny Ted had all but
forgotten the demon ever existed. But he remembered now, had remembered
with consternation when he saw the black passion in the other's face as
they met on the floor of the dance hall.

Puzzled and anxious he stared down the slope toward the water. Larry was
just stepping into the canoe. Was he going home, leaving Ruth to the
mercies of the rest of them, or was he just going off temporarily by
himself to fight his temper to a finish as he had been accustomed to do
long ago when he had learned to be afraid and ashamed of giving into it?
Ted hesitated a moment, debating whether to call him back and get the row
over, if row there was to be, or to let him get away by himself as he
probably desired.

"Hang it! It's my fault. I can't let him go off like that. It just about
kills him to take it out of himself that way. I'd rather he'd take it
out of me."

With which conclusion Ted shot down the bank whistling softly the old
Holiday Hill call, the one Dick had used that day on the campus to summon
himself to the news that maybe Larry was killed.

Larry did not turn. Ted reached the shore with one stride.

"Larry," he called. "I say, Larry."

No answer. The older lad picked up the paddle, prepared grimly to push
off, deaf, to all intents and purposes to the appeal in the younger
one's voice.

But Ted Holiday was not an easily daunted person. With one flying leap
he landed in the canoe, all but upsetting the craft in his sudden
descent upon it.

The two youths faced each other. Larry was still white, and his sombre
eyes blazed with half subdued fires. He looked anything but hospitable to
advances, however well meant.

"Better quit," he advised slowly in a queer, quiet voice which Ted knew
was quiet only because Larry was making it so by a mighty effort of
will. "I'm not responsible just now. We'll both be sorry if you don't
leave me alone."

"I won't quit, Larry. I can't. It was my fault. Confound it, old man!
Please listen. I didn't mean to make you mad. Come ashore and punch my
fool head if it will make you feel any better."

Still Larry said nothing, just sat hunched in a heap, running his
fingers over the handle of the paddle. He no longer even looked at Ted.
His mouth was set at its stubbornest.

Ted rushed on, desperately in earnest, entirely sincere in his
willingness to undergo any punishment, himself, to help Larry.

"Honest, I didn't mean to make trouble," he pleaded. "I just picked her
up and made her dance on impulse, though she told me she wouldn't and
couldn't. I never thought for a minute you would care. Maybe it was a
mean trick. I can see it might have looked so, but I didn't intend it
that way. Gee, Larry! Say something. Don't swallow it all like that. Get
it out of your system. I'd rather you'd give me a dozen black eyes than
sit still and feel like the devil."

Larry looked up then. His face relaxed its sternness a little. Even the
hottest blaze of wrath could not burn quite so fiercely when exposed to a
generous penitence like his young brother's. He understood Ted was
working hard not only to make peace but to spare himself the sharp battle
with the demon which, as none knew better that Larry Holiday, did,
indeed, half kill.

"Cut it, Ted," he ordered grimly. "'Nough said. I haven't the
slightest desire to give you even one black eye at present, though I
may as well admit if you had been in my hands five minutes ago
something would have smashed."

"Don't I know it?" Ted grinned a little. "Gee, I thought my hour
had struck!"

"What made you come after me then?"

Ted's grin faded.

"You know why I came, old man. You know I'd let you pommel my head off
any time if it could help you anyhow. Besides it was my fault as I told
you. I didn't mean to be mean. I'll do any penance you say."

Larry picked up the paddle.

"Your penance is to let me absolutely alone for fifteen minutes. You had
better go ashore though. You will miss a lot of dances."

"Hang the dances! I'm staying."

Ted settled down among the cushions against which Ruth's blonde head had
nestled a few hours ago. He took out his watch, struck a match, looked at
the time, lit a cigarette with the same match, replaced the watch and
relapsed into silence.

The canoe shot down the lake impelled by long, fierce strokes. Larry was
working off the demon. Far away the rhythmic beat of dance music reached
them faintly. Now and then a fish leaped and splashed or a bull frog
bellowed his hoarse "Better go home" into the silence. Otherwise there
was no sound save the steady ripple of the water under the canoe.

Presently Ted finished his cigarette, sent its still ruddy remains
flashing off into the lake where it fell with a soft hiss, took out his
watch again, lit another match, considered the time, subtracted gravely,
looked up and announced "Time's up, Larry."

Larry laid down the paddle and a slow reluctant smile played around the
corners of his mouth, though there was sharp distress still in his
eyes. He loathed losing his temper like that. It sickened him, filled
him with spiritual nausea, a profound disgust for himself and his
mastering weakness.

"I've been a fool, kid," he admitted. "I'm all right now. You were a
trump to stand by me. I appreciate it."

"Don't mention it," nonchalantly from Ted "Going back to the pavilion?"

His brother nodded, resumed the paddle and again the canoe shot through
the waters, this time toward the music instead of away from it.

"I suppose you know why your dancing with Ruth made me go savage," said
Larry after a few moments of silence.

"Damned if I do," said Ted cheerfully. "It doesn't matter. I don't need a
glossary and appendix. Suit yourself as to the explanations. I put my
foot in it. I've apologized. That is the end of it so far as I am
concerned unless you want to say something more yourself. You don't have
to you know."

"It was plain, fool movie stuff jealousy. That is the sum and
substance of it. I'm in love with her. I couldn't stand her dancing
with you when she had refused me. I could almost have killed you for a
minute. I am ashamed but I couldn't help it. That is the way it was.
Now--forget it, please."

Ted swallowed hard and pulled his forelock in genuine perturbation.

"Good Lord, Larry!" he blurted. "I--"

His brother held up an imperious warning hand.

"I said 'forget it.' Don't make me want to dump you now, after coming
through the rest."

Ted saluted promptly.

"Ay, ay, sir! It's forgot. Only perhaps you'll let me apologize again,
underscored, now I understand. Honest, I'm no end sorry, Larry."

The other nodded acceptance of the underscored apology and again silence
had its way.

As they landed Ted fastened the canoe and for a moment the two brothers
stood side by side in the starlight. Larry put out his hand. Ted took it.
Their eyes met, said more than any words could have expressed.

"Thank you, Ted. You've been great--helped a lot."

Larry's voice was a little unsteady, his eyes were full of trouble
and shame.

"Ought to, after starting the conflagration," said Ted. "I'll attend to
the general explanations. You go to Ruth."

More than one person had wondered at the mysterious disappearance of the
two Holidays. It is quite usual, and far from unexpected, when two young
persons of the opposite sex drift off somewhere under the stars on a
summer night without giving any particular account of themselves; but one
scarcely looks for that sort of social--or unsocial--eccentricity from
two youths, especially two brothers. Nobody but Ruth and Tony, and
possibly shrewd-eyed Sue, suspected a quarrel, but everybody was curious
and ready to burst into interrogation upon the simultaneous return of the
two young men which was quite as sudden as their vanishing had been.

"Larry and I had a wager up," announced Ted to Sue in a perfectly clear,
distinct voice which carried across the length of the small hall now that
the music was silent. "He said he could paddle down to the point, current
against him, faster than I could paddle back, current with me. We took a
notion to try it out tonight. Please forgive us, Susanna, my dear. A
Holiday is a creature of impulse you know."

Sue made a little face at the speaker. She was quite sure he was lying
about the wager, but she was a good hostess and played up to his game.

"You don't deserve to be forgiven, either of you," she sniffed.
"Especially Larry who never comes to parties and when he does has to go
off and do a silly thing like that. Who won though? I will ask that." She
smiled at Ted and he grinned back.

"Larry, of course. Give me a dance, Sue. I've got my second wind."

"Bless Ted!" thought Tony, listening to her brother's glib excuses.
"Thank goodness he can lie like that. Larry never could." And as her eyes
met Ted's a moment later when they passed each other in the maze of
dancers he murmured "All right" in her ear and she was well content.
Bless Ted, indeed!

Meanwhile Larry had gone, as Ted bade him, straight to Ruth. He bent over
her tired little white face, an agony of remorse in his own.

"Ruth, forgive me. I'll never forgive myself."

"Don't, Larry. It is I who ought to be sorry and I am--oh so sorry--you
don't know. Ted didn't mean any harm. I ought not to have let him do it.
It was my fault."

"There was nobody at fault except me and my fool temper. I am desperately
ashamed of myself Ruth. I've left you all alone all this time and I
promised I wouldn't. You'll never trust me again and I don't deserve to
be trusted. It doesn't do any good to say I am sorry. It can't undo what
I did. I didn't dare stay and that's the fact. I didn't know what I'd do
to Ted if he got in my way. I felt--murderous."

"Larry!"

"I know it sounds awful. It is awful. It is an old battle. I thought I'd
won it, but I haven't. Don't look so scared though. Nothing happened. Ted
came after me like the corking big-hearted kid he is and brought me to,
in half the time I could have done it for myself. It is thanks to him I'm
here now. But never mind that. It is only you that matters. Shall I take
you home? I don't deserve it, but if you will let me it will show you
forgive me a little bit anyway," he finished humbly.

"Don't look so dreadfully unhappy, Larry. It is over now, and of course I
forgive you if you think there is anything to forgive. I'm so thankful
you didn't quarrel with Ted. I was awfully worried and so was Tony. She
watched the door every minute till you came back."

"I suppose so," groaned Larry. "I made one horrible mess of everything
for you all. Are you ready to go?"

"I'd like to dance with you once first, Larry, if--if you would like to."

"Would I like to!" Larry's face lost its mantle of gloom, was sudden
sunshine all over. "Will you really dance with me--after the rotten way
I've behaved?"

"Of course, I will. I wanted to all the time, but I was afraid. But when
Ted made me it all came back and I loved it, only it was you I wanted to
dance with most. You know that, don't you, Larry, dear?" The last word
was very low, scarcely more than a breath, but Larry heard it and it
nearly undid him. A flood of long-pent endearments trembled on his lips.
But Ruth held up a hand of warning.

"Don't, Larry. We mustn't spoil it. We've got to remember the ring."

"Damn the ring!" he exploded. "I beg your pardon." Larry was genuinely
shocked at his own bad manners. "I don't know why I'm such a brute
tonight. Let's dance."

And to the delight and relief of the younger Holidays, Larry and Ruth
joined the dancers.

The dance over, they made their farewells. Larry guided Ruth down the
slope, his arm around her ostensibly for her support, and helped her into
the canoe. Once more they floated off over the quiet water, under the
quiet stars. But their young hearts were anything but quiet. Their love
was no longer an unacknowledged thing. Neither knew just what was to be
done with it; but there it was in full sight, as both admitted in joy
and trepidation and silence.

As Larry held open the door for her to step inside the quiet hall he bent
over the girl a moment, taking both her hands in his. Then he drew away
abruptly and bolted into the living room, leaving her to grope her way up
stairs in the dark alone.

"I wonder," she murmured to herself later as she stood before her mirror
shaking out her rippling golden locks from their confining net. "I wonder
if it would have been so terrible if he had kissed me just that once.
Sometimes I wish he weren't quite so--so Holidayish."




CHAPTER XIX

TWO HOLIDAYS MAKE CONFESSION


The next evening Doctor Holiday listened to a rather elaborate argument
on the part of his older nephew in favor of the latter's leaving Dunbury
immediately in pursuit of his specialist training that he had planned to
go in for eventually.

"You are no longer contented here with me--with us?" questioned the older
man when the younger had ended his exposition.

Larry's quick ear caught the faint hurt in his uncle's voice and hastened
to deny the inference.

"It isn't that, Uncle Phil. I am perfectly satisfied--happier here with
you that I would be anywhere else in the world. You have been wonderful
to me. I am not such an ungrateful idiot as not to understand and
appreciate what a start it has given me to have you and your name and
work behind me. Only--maybe I've been under your wing long enough. Maybe
I ought to stand on my feet."

Doctor Holiday studied the troubled young face opposite him. He was
fairly certain that he wasn't getting the whole or the chief reasons
which were behind this sudden proposition.

"Do you wish to go at once?" he asked. "Or will the first of the year be
soon enough."

Larry flushed and fell to fumbling with a paper knife that lay on the
desk.

"I--I meant to go right away," he stammered.

"Why?"

Larry was silent.

"I judge the evidence isn't all in," remarked the older doctor a little
drily. "Am I going to hear the rest of it--the real reason for your
decision to go just now?"

Still silence on Larry's part, the old obstinate set to his lips.

"Very well then. Suppose I take my turn. I think you haven't quite all
the evidence yourself. Do you know Granny is dying?"

The paper knife fell with a click to the floor.

"Uncle Phil! No, I didn't know. Of course I knew it was coming but you
mean--soon?"

"Yes, Larry, I mean soon. How soon no one can tell, but I should say
three months would be too long to allow."

The boy brushed his hand across his eyes. He loved Granny. He had always
seemed to understand her better than the others had and had been himself
always the favorite. Moreover he was bound to her by a peculiar tie,
having once saved her life, conquering his boyish fear to do so. It was
hard to realize she was really going, that no one could save her now.

"I didn't know," he said again in a low voice.

"Ted will go back to college. I shall let Tony go to New York to study as
she wishes, just as you had your chance. It isn't exactly the time for
you to desert us, my boy."

"I won't, Uncle Phil. I'll stay."

"Thank you, son. I felt sure you wouldn't fail us. You never have. But I
wish you felt as if you could tell me the other reason or reasons for
going which you are keeping back. If it is they are stronger than the one
I have given you for staying it is only fair that I should have them."

Larry's eyes fell. A slow flush swept his face, ran up to his very hair.

"My boy, is it Ruth?"

The gray eyes lifted, met the older man's grave gaze unfalteringly.

"Yes, Uncle Phil, it is Ruth. I thought you must have seen it before
this. It seemed as if I were giving myself away, everything I did or
didn't do."

"I have thought of it occasionally, but dismissed the idea as too
fantastic. It hasn't been so obvious as it seemed to you no doubt. You
have not made love to her?"

"Not in so many words. I might just as well have though. She knows. If it
weren't for the ring--well, I think she would care too."

"I am very sorry, Larry. It looks like a bad business all round. Yet I
can't see that you have much to blame yourself for. I withdraw my
objections to your going away. If it seems best to you to go I haven't a
word to say."

"I don't know whether it is best or not. I go round and round in circles
trying to work it out. It seems cowardly to run away from it,
particularly if I am needed here. A man ought not to pull up stakes just
because things get a little hard. Besides Ruth would think she had driven
me away. I know she would go herself if she guessed I was even thinking
of going. And I couldn't stand that. I'd go to the north pole myself and
stay forever before I would send her away from you all. I was so grateful
to you for asking her to stay and making her feel she was needed. She was
awfully touched and pleased. She told me last night."

The senior doctor considered, thought back to his talk with Ruth. Poor
child! So that was what she had been trying to tell him. She had thought
she ought to go away on Larry's account, just as he was thinking he ought
to go on hers. Poor hapless youngsters caught in the mesh of
circumstances! It was certainly a knotty problem.

"It isn't easy to say what is right and best to do," he said after a
moment. "It is something you will have to decide for yourself. When you
came to me you had decided it was best to go, had you not? Was there a
specially urgent reason?"

Larry flushed again and related briefly the last night's unhappy
incident.

"I'm horribly ashamed of the way I acted," he finished. "And the whole
thing showed me I couldn't count on my self-control as I thought I could.
I couldn't sleep last night, and I thought perhaps maybe the thing to do
was to get out quick before I did any real damage. It doesn't matter
about me. It is Ruth."

"Do you think you can stay on and keep a steady head for her sake and
for ours?"

"I can, Uncle Phil. It is up to me to stick and I'll do it. Uncle
Phil, how long must a woman in Ruth's position wait before she can
legally marry?"

"Ruth's position is so unique that I doubt if there is any legal
precedent for it. Ordinarily when the husband fails to put in appearance
and the presumption is he is no longer living, the woman is considered
free in the eyes of the law, after a certain number of years, varying I
believe, in different states. With Ruth the affair doesn't seem to be a
case of law at all. She is in a position which requires the utmost
protection from those who love her as we do. The obligation is moral
rather than legal. I wouldn't let my mind run on the marrying aspects of
the case at present my boy."

"I--Uncle Phil, sometimes I think I'll just marry her anyway and let the
rest of it take care of itself. There isn't any proof she is married--not
the slightest shadow of proof," Larry argued with sudden heat.

His uncle's eyebrows went up. "Steady, Larry. A wedding ring is usually
considered presumptive evidence of marriage."

"I don't care," flashed the boy, the tension of the past weeks suddenly
snapping. "She loves me. I don't see what right anything has to come
between us. What is a wedding ceremony when a man and woman belong to
each other as we belong? Hanged if I don't think I'd be justified in
marrying her tomorrow! There is nothing but a ring to prevent."

"There is a good deal more than a ring to prevent," said Doctor Holiday
with some sternness. "What if you did do just that and her husband
appeared in two months or six?"

"I don't believe she has a husband. If she had he would have come after
her before this. We've waited. He's had time."

"You have waited scarcely two months, Larry. That is hardly enough time
upon which to base finalities."

"What of it? I'm half crazy sometimes over the whole thing. I can't see
things straight. I don't want to. I don't want anything but Ruth, whether
she is married or not. I want her. Some day I'll ask her to go off with
me and she will go. She will do anything I ask."

"Hold on, Larry lad. You are saying things you don't mean. You are the
last man in the world to take advantage of a girl's defenseless position
and her love for you to gratify your own selfish desires and perhaps
wreck her life and your own."

Larry bit his lip, wheeled and went over to the window, staring out into
the night. At last he turned back, white, but master of himself again.

"I beg your pardon, Uncle Phil. You are right. I was talking like a fool.
Of course I'll do nothing of the kind. I won't do anything to harm Ruth
anyway. I won't even make love to her--if I can help it," he qualified in
a little lower tone.

"If you can't you had better go at once," said his uncle still a
bit sternly. Then more gently. "I know you don't want to play the
cad, Larry."

"I won't, Uncle Phil. I promise."

"Very well. I am satisfied with your word. Remember I am ready to
help any way and if it gets too hard I'll make it easy at any time
for you to go. But in the mean time we won't talk about it. The least
said the better."

Larry nodded his assent to that and suddenly switched to another subject,
asking his uncle what he knew about this Alan Massey with whom Tony was
having such an extensive correspondence.

His uncle admitted that he didn't know much of anything about him, except
that he was the inheritor of the rather famous Massey property and an
artist of some repute.

"He has plenty of repute of other kinds," said Larry. "He is a
thorough-going rotter, I infer. I made some inquiries from a chap who
knows him. He has gone the pace and then some. It makes me sick to have
Tony mixed up with a chap like that."

"You haven't said anything to her yourself?"

"No. Don't dare. It would only make it worse for me to tackle her.
Neither she nor Ted will stand any interference from me. We are a cranky
lot I am afraid. We all have what Dad used to call the family devil. So
far as I know you are the only person on record that can manage him."

And Larry smiled rather shame-facedly at his uncle.

"I am afraid you will all three have to learn to manage your own
particular familiar. Devils are rather personal property, Larry."

"Don't I know it? I got into mighty close range with mine last night, and
just now for that matter. Anyway I am not prepared to do any preaching at
anybody at present; but I would be awfully grateful to you if you will
speak to Tony. Somebody has to. And you can do it a million times better
than anyone else."

"Very well. I will see what I can do." And thus quietly Doctor Holiday
accepted another burden on his broad shoulders.

The next day he found Tony on the porch reading one of the long letters
which came to her so frequently in the now familiar, dashing script.

"Got a minute for me, niece o' mine?" he asked.

Tony slid Alan's letter back into its envelope and smiled up at
her uncle.

"Dozens of them, nice uncle," she answered.

"It is getting well along in the summer and high time we decided a few
things. Do you still want to go in for the stage business in the fall?"

"I want to very much, Uncle Phil, if you think it isn't too much like
deserting Granny and the rest of you."

"No, you have earned it. I want you to go. I don't suppose because you
haven't talked about Hempel's offer that it means you have forgotten it?"

"Indeed, I haven't forgotten it. For myself I would much rather get
straight on the stage if I could and learn by doing it, but you would
prefer to have me go to a regular dramatic school, wouldn't you?"

"Yes, Tony, I would. A year of preparation isn't a bit too much to get
your bearings in before you take the grand plunge. I want you to be very
sure that the stage is what you really want."

"I am sure of that already. I've been sure for ages. But I am perfectly
willing to do the thing any way you want and I am more grateful than I
can tell you that you are on my side about it. Are you going to tell
Granny? It will about break her heart I am afraid." Tony's eyes were
troubled. She did hate to hurt Granny; but on the other hand she couldn't
wait forever to begin.

She did not see the shadow that crept over her uncle's face. Well he knew
that long before Tony was before the footlights, Granny would be where
prejudices and misunderstandings were no more; but he had no wish to mar
the girl's happiness by betraying the truth just now.

"I think we are justified in indulging in a little camouflage there," he
said. "We will tell Granny you are going to study art. Art covers a
multitude of sins," he added with a lightness he was far from feeling.
"One thing more, my dear. I have waited a good while to hear something
about the young man who writes these voluminous letters."' He nodded at
the envelope in Tony's lap. "I like his writing; but I should like to
know something about him,--himself."

Tony flushed and averted her eyes for a moment. Then she looked up
frankly.

"I haven't said anything because I didn't know what to say. He is Alan
Massey, the artist. I met him at Carlotta's. He wants to marry me."

"But you have not already accepted him?"

"No, I couldn't. He--he isn't the kind of man you would want me to marry.
He is trying to be, for my sake though. I think he will succeed. I told
him if he wanted to ask me again next summer I would tell him what my
answer would be."

"He is on probation then?"

"Yes."

"And you care for him?"

"I--think so."

"You don't know it?"

"No, Uncle Phil. I don't. He cares so much for me--so terribly much. And
I don't know whether I care enough or not. I should have to care a great
deal to overlook what he has been and done. Maybe it wasn't anything but
midsummer madness and his wonderful dancing. We danced almost every night
until I sent him away. And when we danced we seemed to be just one
person. Aside from his dancing he fascinated me. I couldn't forget him or
ignore him. He was--is--different from any man I ever knew. I feel
differently about him from what I ever felt about any other man. Maybe it
is love. Maybe it isn't. I--I thought it was last month."

Doctor Holiday shook his head dubiously.

"And you are not so sure now?" he questioned.

"Not always," admitted Tony. "I didn't want to love him. I fought it with
all my might. I didn't want to be bothered with love. I wanted to be
happy and free and make a great success of my work. But after Alan came
all those things didn't seem to matter. I am afraid it goes rather deep,
Uncle Phil. Sometimes I think he means more to me than even you and Larry
and Ted do. It is strange. It isn't kind or loyal or decent. But that is
the way it is. I have to be honest, even if it hurts."

Her dark eyes were wistful and beseeched forgiveness as they sought her
uncle's. He did not speak and she went on swiftly, earnestly.

"Please don't ask me to break off with him, Uncle Phil. I couldn't do it,
not only because I care for him too much, but because it would be cruel
to him. He has gotten out of his dark forest. I don't want to drive him
back into it. And that is what it would mean if I deserted him now. I
have to go on, no matter what you or Larry or any one thinks about it."

She had risen now and stood before her uncle earnestly pleading her
lover's cause and her own.

"It isn't fair to condemn a man forever because he has made mistakes back
in the past. We don't any of us know what we would have been like if
things had been different. Larry and Ted are fine. I am proud of their
clean record. It would be horrible if people said things about either of
them such as they say about Alan. But Larry and Ted have every reason to
be fine. They have had you and Dad and Grandfather Holiday and the rest
of them to go by. They have lived all their lives in the Holiday
tradition of what a man should be. Alan has had nobody, nothing. Nobody
ever helped him to see the difference between right and wrong and why it
mattered which you chose. He does see now. He is trying to begin all over
again and begin right. And I'm going to stand by him. I have to--even if
I have to go against you, Uncle Phil."

There was a quiver--almost a sob in Tony's voice Her uncle drew her
into his arms.

"All right, little girl. It is not an easy thing to swallow. I hate to
have your shining whiteness touch pitch even for a minute. No, wait,
dear. I am not going to condemn your lover. If he is sincerely in earnest
in trying to clean the slate, I have only respect for the effort. You are
right about much of it. We can none of us afford to do over much judging.
We are all sinners, more or less. And there are a million things to be
taken into consideration before we may dare to sit in judgment upon any
human being. It takes a God to do that. I am not going to ask you to give
him up, or to stop writing or even seeing him. But I do want you to go
slow. Marriage is a solemn thing. Don't wreck your life from pity or
mistaken devotion. Better a heart-ache now than a life-long regret. Let
your lover prove himself just as you have set him to do. A woman can't
save a man. He has to save himself. But if he will save himself for love
of her the chances are he will stay saved and his love is the real thing.
I shall accept your decision. I shan't fight it in any way, whatever it
is. All I ask is that you will wait the full year before you make any
definite promise of marriage."

"I will," said Tony. "I meant to do that any way. I am not such a foolish
child as maybe you have been thinking I was. I am pretty much grown up,
Uncle Phil. And I have plenty of sense. It I hadn't--I should be married
to Alan this minute."

He smiled a little sadly at that.

"Youth! Youth! Yes, Tony, I believe you have sense. Maybe I have
under-estimated it. Any way I thank the good Lord for it. No more
secrets? Everything clear?"

He lifted her face in his hands and looked down into her eyes with tender
searching.

"Not a secret. I am very glad to have you know. We all feel better the
moment we dump all our woes on you," she sighed.

He smiled and stroked her hair.

"I had much rather be a dumping ground than be shut out of the confidence
of any one of you. That hurts. We all have to stand by Larry, just now.
Not in words but in--well, we'll call it moral support. The poor lad
needs it."

"Oh, Uncle Phil! Did he tell you or did you guess?"

"A little of both. The boy is in a bad hole, Tony. But he will keep out
of the worst of the bog. He has grit and chivalry enough to pull through
somehow. And maybe before many weeks the mystery will be cleared for
better or worse. We can only hope for the best and hold on tight to
Larry, and Ruth too, till they are out of the woods."




CHAPTER XX

A YOUNG MAN NOT FOR SALE


Philip Lambert was rather taken by surprise when Harrison Cressy appeared
at the store one day late in August, announcing that he had come to talk
business and practically commanding the young man to lunch with him that
noon. It was Saturday and Phil had little time for idle conjecture, but
he did wonder every now and then that morning what business Carlotta's
father could possibly have with himself, and if by any chance Carlotta
had sent him.

Later, seated in the dining-room of the Eagle Hotel, Dunbury's one
hostelry, it seemed to Phil that his host was distinctly nervous, with
considerably less than his usual brusque, dogmatic poise of manner.

Having left soup the waiter shuffled away with the congenital air of
discouragement which belongs to his class, and Harrison Cressy got down
to business in regard both to the soup and his mission in Dunbury. He was
starting a branch brokerage concern in a small city just out of Boston.
He needed a smart young man to put at the head of it. The smart young man
would get a salary of five thousand a year, plus his commissions to start
with. If he made good the salary would go up in proportion. In fact the
sky would be the limit. He offered the post to Philip Lambert.

Phil laid down his soup spoon and stared at his companion. After a moment
he remarked that it was rather unusual, to say the least, to offer a
salary like that to an utter greenhorn in a business as technical as
brokerage, and that he was afraid he was not in the least fitted for the
position in question.

"That is my look out," snapped Mr. Cressy. "Do I look like a born fool,
Philip Lambert? You don't suppose I am jumping in the dark do you? I have
gone to some pains to look up your record in college. I found out you
made good no matter what you attempted, on the gridiron, in the
classroom, everywhere else. I've been picking men for years and I've gone
on the principle that a man who makes good in one place will make good in
another if he has sufficient incentive."

"I suppose the five thousand is to be considered in the light of an
incentive," said Phil.

"It is five times the incentive and more than I had when I started out,"
grunted his host. "What more do you want?"

"Nothing. I don't want so much. I couldn't earn it. And in any case I
cannot consider any change at present. I have gone in with my father."

"So I understood. But that is not a hard and fast arrangement. A young
man like you has to look ahead. Your father won't stand in the way of
your bettering yourself." Harrison Cressy spoke with conviction. Well he
might. Though Philip had not known it his companion had spent an hour in
earnest conversation with his father that morning. Harrison Cressy knew
his ground there.

"Go ahead, Mr. Cressy," Stewart Lambert had said at the close of the
interview. "You have my full permission to offer the position to the
boy and he has my full permission to accept it. He is free to go
tomorrow if he cares to. If it is for his happiness it is what his
mother and I want."

But the younger Lambert was yet to be reckoned with.

"It is a hard and fast arrangement so far as I am concerned," he said
quietly now. "Dad can fire me. I shan't fire myself."

Mr. Cressy made a savage lunge at a fly that had ventured to light on the
sugar bowl, not knowing it was for the time being Millionaire Cressy's
sugar bowl. He hated being balked, even temporarily. He had supposed the
hardest sledding would be over when he had won the father's consent. He
had authentic inside information that the son had stakes other than
financial. He counted on youth's imperious urge to happiness. The lad had
done without Carlotta for two months now. It had seemed probable he would
be more amenable to reason in August than he had been in June. But it did
not look like it just now.

"You are a darn fool, my young man," he gnarled.

"Very likely," said Phil Lambert, with the same quietness which had
marked his father's speech earlier in the day. "If you had a son, Mr.
Cressy, wouldn't you want him to be the same kind of a darn fool? Would
you expect him to take French leave the first time somebody offered him
more money?"

Harrison Cressy snorted, beckoned to the waiter his face purple with
rage. Why in blankety blank blank et cetera, et cetera, didn't he bring
the fish? Did he think they were there for the season? Philip did not
know he had probed an old wound. The one great disappointment of Harrison
Cressy's career was the fact that he had no son, or had had one for such
a brief space of hours that he scarcely counted except as a pathetic
might-have-been And even as Phil had said, so he would have wanted his
son to behave. The boy was a man, every inch of him, just such a man as
Harrison Gressy had coveted for his own.

"Hang the money part." he snapped back at Phil, after the interlude with
the harrassed waiter. "Let's drop it."

"With all my heart," agreed Phil. "Considering the money part hanged what
is left to the offer? Carlotta?"

Mr. Cressy dropped his fork with a resounding clatter to the floor and
swore muttered monotonous oaths at the waiter for not being
instantaneously on the spot to replace the implement.

"Young man," he said to Phil. "You are too devilish smart. Carlotta--is
why I am here."

"So I imagined. Did she send you?"

"Great Scott, no! My life wouldn't be worth a brass nickel if she knew I
was here."

"I am glad she didn't. I wouldn't like Carlotta to think I could
be--bribed."

"She didn't. Carlotta has perfectly clear impressions as to where you
stand. She gives you entire credit for being the blind, stubborn,
pigheaded jack-ass that you are."

Phil grinned faintly at this accumulation of epithets, but his blue eyes
had no mirth in them. The interview was beginning to be something of a
strain. He wished it were over.

"That's good," he said. "Apparently we all know where we all stand. I
have no illusions about Carlotta's view-point either. There is no reason
I should have. I got it first hand."

"Don't be an idiot," ordered Mr. Cressy. "A woman can have as many
view-points as there are days in the year, counting Sundays double. You
have no more idea this minute where Carlotta stands than--than I have,"
he finished ignominiously, wiping his perspiring forehead with an
imported linen handkerchief.

"Do you mind telling me just why you are here, if Carlotta didn't send
you? I don't flatter myself you automatically selected me for your new
post without some rather definite reason behind it."

"I came because I had a notion you were the best man for another job--a
job that makes the whole brokerage business look like a game of
jack-straws--the job of marrying my daughter Carlotta."

Phil stared. He had not expected Mr. Cressy to take this position. He had
been ready enough to believe Carlotta's prophecy that her parent would
raise a merry little row if she announced to him her intention of
marrying that obscure individual, Philip Lambert, of Dunbury,
Massachusetts. He thought that particular way of behavior on the parent's
part not only probable but more or less justifiable, all things
considered. He saw no reason now why Mr. Cressy should feel otherwise.

Harrison Cressy drained a deep draught of water, once more wiped his
highly shining brow and leaned forward over the table toward his
puzzled guest.

"You see, Philip," he went on using the young man's first name for the
first time. "Carlotta is in love with you."

Philip flushed and his frank eyes betrayed that this, though not entirely
new news, was not unwelcome to hear.

"In fact," continued Carlotta's father grimly, "she is so much in love
with you she is going to marry another man."

The light went out of Phil's eyes at that, but he said nothing to this
any more than he had to the preceding statement. He waited for the other
man to get at what he wanted to say.

"I can't stand Carlotta's being miserable. I never could. It is why I am
here, to see if I can't fix up a deal with you to straighten things out.
I am in your hands, boy, at your mercy. I have the reputation of being
hard as shingle nails. I'm soft as putty where the girl is concerned. It
kills me by inches to have her unhappy."

"Is she--very unhappy?" Phil's voice was sober. He thought that he too
was soft as putty, or softer where Carlotta was concerned. It made him
sick all over to think of her being unhappy.

"She is--damnably unhappy." Harrison Cressy blew his nose with a sound as
of a trumpet. "Here you," he bellowed at the waiter who was timidly
approaching. "Is that our steak at last? Bring it here, quick and don't
jibber. Are you deaf and dumb as well as paralyzed?"

The host attacked the steak with ferocity, slammed a generous section on
a plate and fairly threw it at the young man opposite. Phil wasn't
interested in steak. He scarcely looked at it. His eyes were on Mr.
Cressy, his thoughts were on that gentleman's only daughter.

"I am sorry she is unhappy," he said. "I don't know how much you know
about it all; but since you know so much I assume you also know that I
care for Carlotta just as much as she cares for me, possibly more. I
would marry her tomorrow if I could."

"For the Lord Harry's sake, do it then. I'll put up the money."

Phil's face hardened.

"That is precisely the rock that Carlotta and I split on, Mr. Cressy. She
wanted to have you put up the money. I love Carlotta but I don't love her
enough to let her or you--buy me."

The old man and the young faced each other across the table. There was a
deadlock between them and both knew it.

"But this offer I've made you is a bona fide one. You'll make good. You
will be worth the five thousand and more in no time. I know your kind. I
told you I was a good picker. It isn't a question of buying. Can the
movie stuff. It's a fair give and take."

"I have refused your offer, Mr. Cressy."

"You refused it before you knew Carlotta was eating her heart out for
you. Doesn't that make any difference to you, my lad? You said you loved
her," reproachfully.

A huge blue-bottle fly buzzed past the table, passed on to the window
where it fluttered about aimlessly, bumping itself against the pane here
and there. Mechanically Phil watched its gyrations. It was one of the
hardest moments of his life.

"In one way it makes a great difference, Mr. Cressy," he answered slowly.
"It breaks my heart to have her unhappy. But it wouldn't make her happy
to have me do something I know isn't right or fair or wise. I know
Carlotta. Maybe I know her better than you do; I know she doesn't want me
that way."

"But you can't expect her to live in a hole like this, on a yearly
income that is probably less than she spends in one month just for
nothing much."

"I don't expect it," explained Phil patiently. "I've never blamed
Carlotta for deciding against it. But there is no use going over it all.
She and I had it out together. It is our affair, not yours, Mr. Cressy."

"Philip Lambert, did you ever see Carlotta cry?"

Phil winced. The shot went home.

"No. I'd hate to," he admitted.

"You would," seconded Harrison Cressy. "I hated it like the devil myself.
She cried all over my new dress suit the other night."

Phil's heart was one gigantic ache. The thought of Carlotta in tears was
almost unbearable. Carlotta--his Carlotta--was all sunshine and laughter.

"It was like this," went on Carlotta's parent. "Her aunt told me she was
going to marry young Lathrop--old skin-flint tea-and-coffee Lathrop's
son. I couldn't quite stomach it. The fellow's an ass, an unobjectionable
ass, it is true, but with all the ear marks. I tackled Carlotta about it.
She said she wasn't engaged but might be any minute. I said some fool
thing about wanting her to be happy, and the next thing I knew she was in
my arms crying like anything. I haven't seen her cry since she was a
little tot. She has laughed her way through life always up to now. I
couldn't bear it. I can't bear it now, even remembering it. I squeezed
the story out of her, drop at a time, till I got pretty much the whole
bucket full. I tell you, Phil Lambert, you've got to give in. I can't
have her heart broken. You can't have her heart broken. God, man, it's
your funeral too."

Phil felt very much as if it were his own funeral. But he did not speak.
He couldn't. The other forged on, his big, mumbling bass mingled with the
buzz of the blue-bottle in the window.

"I made up my mind something had to be done and done quick. I wasn't
going to have my little girl run her head into the noose by marrying
Lathrop when it was you she loved. I got busy, made inquiries about you
as I said. I had to before I offered you the job naturally, but it was
more than that. I had to find out whether you were the kind of man I
wanted my Carlotta to marry. I found out, and came up here to put the
proposition to you. I talked to your father first, by the way, and got
his consent to go ahead with my plans."

"You went to my father!" There was concern and a trace of indignation in
Phil's voice.

"Naturally I was playing to win. I had to hold all the trumps. I wanted
your father on my side--had to have him in fact. He came without a
murmur. He is a good sport. Said all he wanted was your happiness, same
as all I wanted was Carlotta's. We quite understood each other."

Phil sat silent with down cast eyes on his almost untasted salad. He
couldn't bear to think of his father's being attacked like that, hit with
a lightning bolt out of a clear sky. The more he thought about it the
more he resented it. Of course Dad would agree. He was a good sport as
Mr. Cressy said. Rut that didn't make the thing any easier or more
justifiable.

"Your father is willing. I want it. Carlotta wants it. You want it,
yourself. Lord, boy, be honest. You know you do. You'll never regret
giving in. Remember it is for Carlotta's happiness we are both looking
for." There was an almost pleading note in Harrison Cressy's voice--a
note few men had heard. He was more used to command than to sue for what
he desired.

Phil rose from the table. His face was a little white as he stood there,
tall, quiet, perfectly master of himself and the situation. Even before
the young man spoke Harrison Cressy knew he had failed.

"I am sorry, Mr. Cressy. If Carlotta wants happiness with me I am afraid
she will have to come to Dunbury."

"You won't reconsider?"

"There is nothing to reconsider. There never was any question. I am sorry
you even raised one in Dad's mind. You shouldn't have gone to him in the
first place. You should have come to me. It was for me to settle."

"Highty, tighty!" fumed the exasperated magnate. "People don't tell me
what I should and should not do. They do what I tell 'em."

"I don't," said Philip Lambert in much the same tone he had once said to
Carlotta, "You can't have this." "I am sorry, Mr. Cressy. I don't want to
be rude, or unkind or obstinate; but there are some things no man can
decide for me. And there are some things I won't do even to win
Carlotta."

Harrison Cressy's head drooped for a moment. He was beaten for
once--beaten by a lad of twenty-three whose will was quite as strong as
his own. The worst of it was he had never liked any young man in his
life so well as he liked Philip Lambert at this minute, never so coveted
any thing for his daughter Carlotta as he coveted her marriage with
Philip Lambert.

"That is final, I suppose," he asked after a moment, looking up at the
young man.

"Absolutely, Mr. Cressy. I am sorry."

Harrison Cressy lumbered to his feet.

"I am sorry too," he said, "damnably sorry for Carlotta and for
myself. Will you shake hands with me, Philip? It is good to meet a man
now and then."




CHAPTER XXI

HARRISON CRESSY REVERTS


Left to himself, Harrison Cressy discovered to his annoyance that there
was no train out of Dunbury for two hours. That was the worst of these
little one-horse towns. You might as well be dead as alive in 'em. By the
time he had smoked his after-dinner cigar he felt as if he might as well
be dead himself. He felt suddenly heavy, old, almost decrepit, though
that morning when he had left Boston he had considered himself in the
prime of life and vigor. Hang it! He was sixty-nine. A man was about done
for at sixty-nine, all but ready to turn into his grave. And he without
son or grandson. Lord! What a swindle life was anyway!

Well, there was no use sitting still groaning. He would get up and take a
little walk until train time. Maybe it was his liver that made him feel
so confoundedly rotten and no count. A little exercise would do him good.

Absentmindedly he noted, as he strolled down the elm-shaded streets, the
neatness of the lawns, the gay flower beds, the hammocks and swings out
under the trees as if people really lived out of doors here. There were
animate evidences of the fact everywhere. Children played here and there
in shady spaces under big trees. Pretty girls on wide, hospitable-looking
porches chatted and drank lemonade and knitted. A lithe, red-haired lass
in white played tennis on a smooth dirt court with a tall, clean looking
youth. As Mr. Cressy passed the girl cried out, "Love all" and the
millionaire smiled. It occurred to him it was not so hard to love all in
a village like this. It was only in cities that you hated your neighbor
and did him first lest you be done yourself.

He hadn't been loose in a country town like this for years. He had almost
forgotten what they were like when you didn't shoot through them in a
motor car, rushing always to get somewhere else. His casual saunter down
the quiet street was oddly soothing to his nerves, awoke happy, yet
half-sad memories.

He had met and loved Carlotta's mother in a country town. The lilacs had
been in bloom and the orioles had stood sponsor for his first Sunday
call. They had become engaged by the time the asters were out. The next
lilac time they had been married. A third spring and the little Carlotta
had come. They had both been disappointed at its not being a boy, but the
little girl was a wonder, with hair as gold as buttercups, eyes like wood
violets and a laugh that lilted and gurgled like the little brook down in
the meadow.

And then, two years later, the boy had come, come and drifted off to some
far place. It had been a bitter blow to Rose as well as to Harrison
Cressy, especially as they said there never could be any more children.
Rose grew frail, did not rally or regain her strength. They advised a
sanitarium in the Adirondacks for her. She had gone, but it had been of
no use. By the time they brought in the first gentians Rose had drifted
off after her little son. Carlotta and her father were alone.

By this time Harrison Cressy had begun to show the authentic Midas
touch. Only the little Carlotta stood between him and sheer, sordid
money grubbing. And even she was an excuse for the getting of always
more and more wealth. He told himself Carlotta should be a veritable
princess, should go always clad in the finest, have of the best, be
surrounded always by the most beautiful. She should know only joy and
light and laughter.

Thinking these thoughts, Carlotta's father sighed. For now at last
Carlotta wanted something he could not give her, was learning after
twenty-two years of cloudless joy the bitter way of tears. Why hadn't
that stubborn boy surrendered?

For that matter why didn't Carlotta surrender? This was a new idea to
Harrison Cressy. All the time he had been talking to Philip Lambert he
had been seeing Carlotta only in relation to Crest House and the Beacon
Street mansion. But just now he had been recalling her mother under very
different associations. Rose had been content with a tiny little cottage
set in a green yard gay with bright old fashioned flowers. He and Rose
had nested as happily as the orioles in the maples, especially after the
gold-haired baby came. Was Carlotta so different from Rose? Was her
happiness such a different kind of thing? Were women not pretty much
alike at heart? Did they not want about the same things?

Carlotta loved this lad of hers as Rose had loved himself. Was it her own
father who was cheating her out of happiness because he had taught her to
believe that money and limousines and great houses and many servants and
silken robes are happiness? If he had talked to her of other things, told
her about her mother and the happy old days among the lilacs and orioles,
with little but love to nest with, couldn't he have made her see things
more truly, shown her that love was the main thing, that money could not
buy happiness? One could not buy much of anything that was worth buying
Harrison Cressy thought. One could purchase only the worthless. That was
the everlasting failure of money.

He remembered the boy's, "I love Carlotta. But I don't love her enough to
let her or you buy me." It was true. Neither he nor his daughter had been
able to purchase the lad's integrity, his good faith, his ideals. And
Harrison Cressy was thankful from the bottom of his heart that it was so.

He turned his steps back to the village and as he did so an oriole
flashed out of the shrubbery near him, and passed like a flame out of
sight among the trees. This was a good sign. Orioles had nested every
year in the maple tree by the little white house where Carlotta had been
born. Carlotta herself had always loved them. "Pretty, pretty, birdie!"
she had been wont to call out. "Come, daddy, let's follow him and see
where he goes."

He would go home and tell Carlotta all this, make her see that her
happiness was in her own hands. No, it was the boy's story. If Carlotta
would not follow the orioles and her own heart for Philip Lambert she
would not for any argument of his.

By this time a distant puff of smoke gave evidence that the Boston train
was already on its way, leaving Harrison Cressy in Dunbury. Not that he
cared. He had business still to transact ere he departed, a new battle to
fight. He walked with the firm elastic step of a youth back to town. What
did it matter if you were sixty-nine when the best things of life were
still ahead of you?

Accordingly Phil was a second time that day surprised by the unheralded
arrival of Carlotta's father, a rather dusty, weary and limp-looking
gentleman this time, but exuding a sort of benignant serenity that had
not been there early in the day.

"Hello," greeted the millionaire blandly. "Missed my train--got to
browsing round the town like an old billy goat. Not sorry though. It is a
nice little town. Mind if I sit down? I'm a bit blown." And dropping on a
stool Mr. Cressy fanned himself with his panama and grinned at Philip, a
grin the young man could not quite fathom. What new trick had the clever
old financier at the bottom of his mind? Phil hoped he had not got to go
through the thing again. Once had been quite enough for one day.

"Let me send out for something cool to drink, Mr. Cressy. You must be
horribly hot. It is warm in here, even with all the fans going. Hi,
there, Tommy!" Philip summoned a freckled, red-haired youth from
somewhere in the background. "Run over to Greene's and get a lemonade for
this gentleman, will you?"

"Right, Mr. Phil." The boy saluted--an odd salute, Mr. Cressy noted. It
was rendered with the right hand, the three middle fingers held up, the
thumb bent over touching the nail of the little finger. The saluter stood
very straight as he went through the ceremony and looked very serious
about it. "Queer!" thought the onlooker. The messenger boys he knew did
not behave like that when you gave them an order.

Philip excused himself to attend to a customer and in a moment the
red-haired lad was back with a tall glass of lemonade clinking
delightfully with ice. Mr. Cressy took it and set it down on the counter
while he fumbled for his wallet and produced a dollar bill.

To his amazement the boy's grin faded, and he drew himself up with
dignity.

"No, thank you, sir," he said to the proffered greenback. "I'm a Scout
and Scouts don't take tips."

"What!" gasped Harrison Cressy. In all his life he did not recall meeting
a boy who ever refused money before. He began to think there was
something uncanny about this town of Dunbury. First a young man who could
not be bought at any price. And now a boy who wouldn't take a tip for
service rendered.

"I said I was a Scout," repeated the lad patiently. "And Scouts don't
take tips. We are supposed to do one good turn every day, anyway, and I
hadn't gotten mine in before. I'm only a Tenderfoot but I'm most ready
for my second class tests. Mr. Phil's going to try me out in first aid as
soon as he gets time."

"Mr. Phil! What's he got to do with it?" inquired Mr. Cressy, after a
long, satisfying swig of lemonade.

"He is our Scout-master and a peach of a one too. He is going to take us
on a hike tomorrow."

"Tomorrow? Tomorrow is Sunday, young man." The Methodist in Harrison
Cressy rose to the surface.

"I know. We all go to church and Sunday school in the morning. Mr. Phil
won't take us unless we do. But in the afternoon he thinks it is all
right to go on a hike. We don't practise signaling and things like that,
but we get in a lot of nature study. I can identify all my ten trees now
and a whole lot more besides, and I've got a bird list of over sixty."

"You don't say so?" Harrison Cressy was plainly impressed. "So your Mr.
Phil gives a good deal of time to that sort of thing, does he?" he added,
his eyes seeking Philip Lambert in the distance.

"Should say he did. I guess he gives about all the time he has outside
of the store. He's a dandy Scout-master. What he says goes, you betcher."

Remembering the scene at the luncheon table that day, Harrison Cressy
thought it quite probable. What Philip had said had gone "you betcher" on
that occasion with a vengeance. So young Lambert gave his off hours to
business of this sort. Most of Carlotta's male friends gave most of
theirs to polo, jazz, and chorus girls. He began to covet Philip more
than ever for a possible, and he hoped probable, son-in-law.

It played into his purposes excellently that Philip on returning invited
him to supper on the Hill that night. He wanted to meet the boy's people,
especially the mother. Carlotta had told him once that Philip's mother
was the most wonderful person in the world.

Seated at the long table in the Lambert dining-room Harrison Cressy
enjoyed a meal such as his chef-ridden soul had almost forgotten could
exist--a meal so simple yet so delectable that he dreamed of it for days
afterward.

But the food, excellent as it was, was only a small part of the
significance of the occasion. It was a revelation to the millionaire to
know that a family could gather around the board like this and have such
a thoroughly delightful time all round. There was gay talk and ready
laughter, a fine flavor of old-fashioned courtesy and hospitality and
good will in everything that was said or done.

The Lambert girls--the pretty twins and the younger, slim slip of a
lassie, Elinor--were charming, fresh, natural, unspoiled, very different
from and far more to his taste than most of the young women who came to
Crest House--hot-house products, over-sophisticated, cynical, too
familiar with rouge and cigarettes and the game of love and lure,
huntresses more or less, the whole pack of them. It seemed girls could
still be plain girls on this enchanted Hill--girls who would make
wonderful wives some day for some lucky men.

But the mother! She was the secret of it all, quite as remarkable as
Carlotta had said. She was extraordinarily well read, talked well on a
dozen subjects as to which he was himself but vaguely informed, and she
was evidently even more extraordinarily busy. There was talk of a Better
Babies movement in which she was interested, of a Red Cross Chapter at
which she had spent the afternoon, of a committee meeting of the local
Woman's Club which was bringing a noted English poet-lecturer to town.
There were Chatauqua plans in view, and a new children's reading room in
the public library with a story-telling hour of which Clare was to be in
charge. A hundred things indicated that Mrs. Lambert was by no means
confined to the four walls of her home for interests and activities. Yet
her home was exquisitely kept and she was a mother first of all. One
could see that every moment. It was "Mums, this" and "Mums, that" from
them all. The life of the home clearly pivoted about her.

Harrison Cressy found himself wishing that Carlotta could have known a
motherhood like that. Rose had gone so soon. Carlotta had never known
what she missed. Perhaps Mr. Cressy himself had not known until he saw
Mrs. Lambert and realized what a mother might be. Poor Carlotta! He had
given her a great deal. At least, until this, afternoon, he had thought
he had. But he had never given her anything at all comparable to what
this quiet village store-keeper and his wife had given to their son and
daughters. He hadn't had it to give. He had been poor, after all, all
along. Though he hadn't suspected it until now.

After supper Stuart Lambert had slipped quickly away, bidding his son
stay up on the Hill a little longer with their guest. Phil had demurred,
but had been quietly overruled and had acquiesced perforce. Poor Dad!
There had not been a moment all day to relieve his mind about Mr.
Cressy's offer. Not once had the father and son been alone. Phil was
afraid his father was taking the thing a good deal to heart, and it
worried him. He had counted on talking it over together as they went back
to the store but his father had willed otherwise.

It was with Carlotta's father instead of his own that Philip talked first
after all.

"See here, Philip," began Mr. Cressy as they descended the Hill in
"Lizzie." "I went at this all wrong. So did Carlotta. I understand
better now. I've been back in the past this afternoon, remembering what
it means to live in the country and love and mate there in the good
old-fashioned way as Carlotta's mother and I did. It is what I want her
to do with you. Do you get that, boy? I want her to come to Dunbury. I
want her to have a piece of your mother. Carlotta never knew what it was
to have a mother. It is mostly my fault she doesn't see any clearer. You
mustn't blame her, lad."

"I don't," said Phil. "I love her."

"I know you do. And she loves you. Go to her. Make her see. Make her
marry you and be happy."

Phil was silent, not because he was not moved by the older man's plea but
because he was almost too moved to speak. It rather took his breath away
to have Harrison Cressy on his side like this. It was almost too
incredible, and yet there was no mistaking the sincerity in the other's
words or on his face. Carlotta's father did want Carlotta to come to him
on his Hill.

But would Carlotta want it? That was the question. For himself he
sought no higher road to follow than the one where his father and
mother had blazed the trail through fair weather and stormy these many
years. But would Carlotta be content to travel so with him? He did not
know. At any rate he could ask her, try once more to make her see, as
her father put it.

He turned to his companion with a sober smile at this point in his
reflections.

"Thank you, Mr. Cressy. I will try again and I know it is going to make a
great deal of difference to Carlotta--and to me--to have you on my side.
Perhaps she will see it differently this time. I--hope so."

"Lord, boy, so do I!" groaned Mr. Cressy. "You will come back to Crest
House tomorrow with me?"

Phil hesitated, considered, shook his head.

"I'll come next Saturday. I can't get away tomorrow," he said.

"Why not? For the Lord's sake, boy, get it over!"

Phil smiled but shook his head. He too wanted to get it over. He could
hardly wait to get to Carlotta, would have started that moment if he
could have done so. But there were clear-cut reasons why he could not go
tomorrow, obligations that held him fast in Dunbury.

"I can't go tomorrow because I have promised my boys a hike," he
explained.

Harrison Cressy nearly exploded.

"Heavens, man! What does a parcel of kids amount to when it comes to
getting you a wife? You can call off your hike, can't you?"

"I could, but it would be hard on a good many of them. They count on it a
good deal. Some of them have given up other pleasures they might have had
on account of it. Tommy has, for instance. His uncle asked him to go to
Worcester with him in his car, and he refused because of his date with
me. They are all bribed to church and Sunday School by the means. One of
the things Scouting stands for is sticking to your job and your word. I
don't think it is exactly up to the Scoutmaster to dodge his
responsibilities when he preaches the other kind of thing. Of course, if
it were a life and death matter, it would be different. It isn't. I have
waited a good many weeks to see Carlotta. I can wait one more."

Harrison Cressy grunted. He hardly knew whether to fly into a rage with
this extraordinary young man or to clap him on the back and tell him he
liked him better and better every minute. He contented himself by
repeating a remark he had made earlier in the day.

"You are a darn fool, young man." Then he added, half against his will,
"But I like your darnfoolness, hang me if I don't!"

Phil had a strenuous two hours in the store with never a minute to get at
his father. It was not until the last customer had departed, the last
clerk fled away and the clock striking eleven that the father and son
were alone.

Philip came over to where the older man stood. His heart smote him when
he saw how utterly worn and weary the other looked, as if he had suddenly
added a full ten years to his age since morning. His characteristic
buoyancy seemed to have deserted him for once.

"Dad, I've not had a minute alone with you all day. I am sorry Mr. Cressy
bothered you about that blue sky proposition of his. I never would have
let him if I had known. Of course there was nothing in it. I didn't
consider it for a minute."

Stuart Lambert smiled wearily and sat down on the counter.

"I am afraid you have given up more than we realized, Philip, in coming
into the store. Mr. Cressy gave me a glimpse into things that I knew
nothing about. You should have told us."

"There was nothing to tell. I've given up nothing that was mine. I told
Carlotta all along she would have to come to me. I couldn't come to her.
My whole life is here with you. It is what I have wanted ever since I had
the sense to want anything but to enjoy my fool self. But even then I
didn't appreciate what it would be like to be here with you. I couldn't,
till I had tried it and found out first hand what kind of a man my dad
was. I am absolutely satisfied. If Mr. Cressy had offered me a million a
year I wouldn't have taken it. It wouldn't have been the slightest
temptation even--" he smiled a little sadly--"even with Carlotta thrown
in. I don't want to get Carlotta that way."

"You say you are satisfied, Philip. Maybe that is so. But you are
not happy."

"I wasn't, just at first. I was a fool. I let the thing swamp me for
awhile. Mums helped pull me out of the slough and since then I've been
finding out that happiness is--well, a kind of by-product. Like the
kingdom of heaven it doesn't come for observation. I have had about as
much happiness here with you, and with Mums and the girls at home, and
with my Scouts in the woods, as I deserve, maybe more. I'm going to try
to get Carlotta. I haven't given up hope. I'm going down to Sea View next
week to ask her again and maybe things will be different this time. Her
father is on my side now, which is a great help. He has got the Holiday
Hill viewpoint all at once. He wants Carlotta to come to me--us. So do I,
with all my heart. But whether she does or doesn't, I am here with you as
long as you want me, first last and all the time and glad to be. Please
believe that, Dad, always."

Stuart Lambert rose.

"Philip, you don't know what it means to me to hear you say this." There
was a little break in the older man's voice, the suggestion of pent
emotion. "It nearly killed me to think I ought to give you up. You are
sure you are not making too much of a sacrifice?"

"Dad! Please don't say that word to me. There isn't any sacrifice. It is
what I want. I haven't been a very good son always. Even this summer I am
afraid I haven't come up to all you expected of me, especially just at
first when I was wrapped up in myself and my own concerns too much to see
that doing a good job in the store was only a small part of what I was
here in Dunbury to do. But anyway I am prouder than I can tell you to be
your son and I am going to try my darndest to live up to the sign if you
will let me stay on being the minor part of it."

He held out his hand and his father took it. There were tears in the
older man's eyes. A moment later the store was dark as the two passed out
shoulder to shoulder beneath the sign of STUART LAMBERT AND SON.




CHAPTER XXII

THE DUNBURY CURE


Harrison Cressy awoke next morning to the cheerful chirrup of robins and
the pleasant far-off sound of church bells. He liked the bells. They
sounded different in the country he thought. You couldn't hear them in
the city anyway. There were too many noises to distract you. There was no
Sabbath stillness in the city. For that matter there wasn't much Sabbath.

He got up out of bed and went and looked out of the window. There was a
heavenly hush everywhere. It was still very early. It had been the
Catholic bells ringing for mass that he had heard. The dew was a-dazzle
on every grass blade. The robins hopped briskly about at their business
of worm-gathering. The morning glories all in fresh bloom climbed
cheerfully over the picket fence. He hadn't seen a morning glory in
years. It set him dreaming again, took him back to his boyhood days.

If only Carlotta would be sensible and yield to the boy's wooing. Dunbury
had cast a kind of spell upon him. He wanted his daughter to live here.
He wanted to come here to visit her. In his imagination he saw himself
coming to Carlotta's home--not too big a home--just big enough to live
and grow in and raise babies in. He saw himself playing with Carlotta's
little golden-haired violet-eyed daughters, and walking hand in hand with
her small son Harrison, just such a sturdy, good-looking, wide-awake
youngster as Philip Lambert had no doubt been. Harrison Cressy's mind
dwelt fondly upon this grandson of his. That was a boy indeed!

Carlotta's son should not be permitted to grow up a money grubber. There
would be money of course. One couldn't very well avoid that under the
circumstances. The boy would be trained to the responsibilities of being
Harrison Cressy's heir. But he should be taught to see things in their
true values and proportions. He must not grow up money-blinded like
Carlotta. He should know that money was good--very good. But he should
know it was not the chief good, was never for an instant to be classed
with the abiding things--the real things, not to be purchased at a price.

Mr. Cressy sighed a little at that point and crept back to bed. It
occurred to him he would have to leave this latter part of his grandson's
education to the Lambert side of the family. That was their business,
just as the money part was his.

He fell asleep again and presently re-awoke in a kind of shivering panic.
What if Carlotta would not marry Philip after all? What if it was too
late already? What if his grandson turned out to be a second Herbert
Lathrop, an unobjectionable, possibly even an objectionable ass.
Perspiration beaded on the millionaire's brow. Why was that young idiot
on the Hill waiting? What were young men made of nowadays? Didn't Philip
Lambert know that you could lose a woman forever if you didn't jump
lively? Hanged if he wouldn't call the boy this minute and tell him he
just had to change his mind and go to Crest House that very morning
without a moment's delay. Delay might be fatal. Harrison Cressy sat up in
bed, fumbled for his slippers, shook his head gloomily and returned to
his place under the covers.

It wasn't any use. He might as well give up. He couldn't make Philip
Lambert do anything he did not want to do. He had tried it twice and
failed ignominiously both times. He wouldn't tackle it again. The boy was
stronger than he was. He had to lie back and let things take their course
as best they might.

"Cheer up! Cheer up!" counseled the robins outside, but millionaire
Cressy heeded not their injunctions. The balloon of his hopes lay pricked
and flat in the dust.

He rose, dressed, breakfasted and discovered there was an eleven o'clock
train for Boston. He discovered also that he hadn't the slightest wish to
take it. He did not want to go to Boston. He did not want to go to Crest
House. And very particularly and definitely he did not want to see his
daughter Carlotta. Carlotta might ferret out his errand to Dunbury and be
bitterly angry at his interference with her affairs. Even if she were not
angry how could he meet her without telling her everything, including
things that were the boy's right to tell? It was safer to stay away from
Crest House entirely. That was it. He would telegraph Carlotta his gout
was worse, that he had gone to the country to take a cure. He would be
home Saturday.

Immensely heartened he dispatched the wire. By this time it was
ten-thirty and the dew on the grass was all dry, the morning glories shut
tight and the robins vanished. The church bells were ringing again
however and Harrison Cressy decided to go to church, the white Methodist
church on the common. He wouldn't meet any of the Hill people there. The
Holidays were Episcopal, the Lamberts Unitarian--a loose, heterodox kind
of creed that. He wished Phil were Methodist. It would have given him
something to go by. Then he grinned a bit sheepishly at his own expense
and shook his head. He had had the Methodist creed to go by himself and
much good had it done him. Maybe it did not make so much difference what
you believed. It was how you acted that mattered. Why that was
Unitarianism itself, wasn't it? Queer. Maybe there was something in it
after all.

Seated in the little church Harrison Cressy hardly listened to the
preacher's droning voice. He followed his own trend of thought instead,
recalling long-forgotten scriptural passages. "What shall it profit a man
though he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" was one of the
recurring phrases. He applied it to Philip Lambert, applied it sadly to
himself and with a shake of his head to his daughter, Carlotta. He
remembered too the story of the rich young man. Had he made Carlotta as
the rich young man, cumbered her with so many worldly possessions and
standards that by his own hand he was keeping her out of the heaven of
happiness she might have otherwise inherited? He feared so.

He bowed his head with the others but he did not pray. He could not. He
was too unhappy. And yet who knows? Perhaps his unwonted clarity of
vision and humility of soul were acceptable that morning in lieu of
prayer to Sandalphou.

As he ate his solitary dinner his despondency grew upon him. He felt
almost positive Philip would fail in his mission, that Carlotta would go
her willful way to regret and disillusionment, and all these things gone
irretrievably wrong would be at bottom his own fault.

Later he endeavored to distract himself from his dreary thoughts by
discoursing with his neighbor on the veranda, a tall, grizzled, soldierly
looking gentleman with shrewd but kind eyes and the brow of a scholar.

As they talked desultorily a group of khaki clad youngsters filed past,
Philip Lambert among them, looking only an older and taller boy in their
midst. The lads looked happy, alert, vigorous, were of clean, upstanding
type, the pick of the town it seemed probable to Harrison Cressy who said
as much to his companion.

The other smiled and shook his head.

"You are mistaken, sir," he said. "Three months ago most of those fellows
were riffraff--the kind that hang around street corners smoking and
indulging in loose talk and profanity. Young Lambert, the chap with them,
their Scout-master, picked that kind from choice, turned down a
respectable church-mothered bunch for this one, left the other for a man
who wanted an easier row to hoe. It was some stunt, as the boys say. It
took a man like Phil Lambert to put it through. He has the crowd where he
wants them now though. They would go through fire and water if he led
them and he is a born leader."

Harrison Cressy's eyes followed the departing group. Here was a new light
on his hoped-for son-in-law. So he picked "publicans-and sinners" to eat
with. Mr. Cressy rather liked that. He hated snobs and pharisees,
couldn't stomach either brand.

"It means a good deal to a town like this when its college-bred boys come
back and lend a hand like that," the other man went on. "So many of them
rush off to the cities thinking there isn't scope enough for their
ineffable wisdom and surpassing talents in their own home town. A number
of people prophesied that young Lambert would do the same instead of
settling down with his father as we all wanted him to do. I wasn't much
afraid of that myself. Phil has sense enough to see rather straight
usually. He did about that. And then the kickers put up a howl that he
had a swelled head, felt above the rest of Dunbury because he had a
college education and his father was getting to be one of the most
prosperous men in town. They complained he wouldn't go in for things the
rest of the town was interested in, kept to himself when he was out of
the store. There were some grounds for the kick I will admit. But it
wasn't a month before he got his bearings, had his head out of the clouds
and was in the thick of everything. They swear by him now almost as much
as they do by his father which is saying a good deal for Dunbury has
revolved about Stuart Lambert for years. It is beginning to revolve about
Stuart Lambert and Son now. But I am boring you with all this. Phil
happens to be rather a favorite of mine."

"You know him well?" questioned Mr. Cressy.

"I ought to. I am Robert Caldwell, principal of the High School here.
I've known Phil since he was in knickerbockers and had him under my
direct eye for four years. He kept my eye sufficiently busy at that," he
added with a smile. "There wasn't much mischief that youngster and a
neighbor of his, young Ted Holiday, didn't get into. Maybe that is why he
is such a success with the black sheep," he added with a nod in the
direction in which the khaki-clad lads had gone.

"H-mm," observed Mr. Cressy. "I am rather glad to hear all this. You see
it happens that I came to Dunbury to offer Philip Lambert a position. My
name's Cressy--Harrison Cressy," he explained.

His companion lifted his eye-brows a little dubiously.

"I see. I didn't know I was discussing a young man you knew well enough
to offer a position to. May I ask if he accepted it?" "He did not,"
admitted Harrison Cressy grimly.

"Turned it down, eh?" The school man looked interested.

"Turned it down, man? He made the proposition look flatter than a last
year's pan-cake and it was a mighty good proposition. At least I thought
it was," the magnate added with a faint grin remembering all that went
with that proposition.

Robert Caldwell smiled. He rather liked the idea of one of his boys
making a proposition of millionaire Cressy's look like a last year's
pan-cake. It was what he would have expected of Phil Lambert.

"I am sorry for you, Mr. Cressy," he said. "But I am glad for Dunbury.
Philip is the kind we need right here."

"He is the kind we need right everywhere," grunted Mr. Cressy. "Only we
can't get 'em. They aren't for sale."

"No," agreed Robert Caldwell. "They are not for sale. Ah, the Boston
train must be in. There is the stage."

Mr. Cressy allowed his eyes to stray idly to the arriving bus and the
descending passengers.

Suddenly he stiffened.

"Good Lord!" he ejaculated, an exclamation called forth by the fact that
the last person to alight from the bus was a slim young person in a trim,
tailored, navy blue suit and a tiny black velvet toque whose air bespoke
Paris, a person with eyes which were precisely the color of violets which
grow in the deepest woods.

A little later Harrison Cressy sat in a deep leather upholstered chair in
his bedroom with his daughter Carlotta in his lap.

"Don't try to deceive me, Daddy darling," Carlotta was saying. "You were
worried--dreadfully worried because your little Carlotta wept salt tears
all over your shirt bosom. You thought that Carlotta must not be allowed
to be unhappy. Wars, earthquakes, ship sinkings, wrecks--anything might
be allowed to go on as usual but not Carlotta unhappy. You thought that,
didn't you, Daddy darling?"

Daddy darling pleaded guilty.

"Of course you did, you old dear. The moment I knew you were in Dunbury I
knew what you were up to. I understand perfectly how your mind works. I
ought to. Mine works very much the same way. It is a simple three stage
operation. First we decide we want a thing. Next we decide the surest,
quickest way to get it and third--we get it. At least we usually do. We
must do ourselves that much justice, must we not, Daddy darling?"

Daddy darling merely grunted.

"You came to Dunbury to tell Phil he had to marry me because I was in
love with him and wanted to marry him. He couldn't very well marry me and
keep on living in Dunbury because I wouldn't care to live in Dunbury.
Therefore he would have to emigrate to a place I would care to live in
and he couldn't very well do that unless he had a very considerable
income because spending money was one of my favorite sports both indoor
and outdoor and I wouldn't be happy if I didn't keep right on playing it
to the limit. Therefore, again, the very simple solution of the whole
thing was for you to offer Phil a suitable salary so that we could marry
at once and live in the suitable place and say, 'Go to it. Bless you my
children. Bring on your wedding bells--I mean bills. I'll foot 'em.' Put
in the rough, that was the plan wasn't it, my dear parent?"

"Practically," admitted the dear parent with a wry grin. "How did you
work it out so accurately?"

Carlotta made a face at him.

"I worked it out so accurately because it was all old stuff. The plan
wasn't at all original with you. I drew the first draft of it myself last
June up on the top of Mount Tom, took Phil up there on purpose indeed to
exhibit it to him."

"Humph!" muttered Harrison Cressy.

"Unfortunately Phil didn't at all care for the exhibit because it
happened that I had fallen in love with a man instead of a puppet. I
could have told you coming to Dunbury was no earthly use if you had
consulted me. Phil did not take to your plan, did he?"

"He did not."

"And he told you--he didn't care for me any more?" Carlotta's voice was
suddenly a little low.

"He did not. In fact I gathered he was fair-to-middling fond of you
still, in spite of your abominable behavior."

"Phil, didn't say I had behaved abominably Daddy. You know he didn't. He
might think it but he wouldn't ever say it--not to you anyway."

"He didn't. That is my contribution and opinion. Carlotta, I wish to the
Lord Harry you would marry Philip Lambert!"

Carlotta's lovely eyes flashed surprise and delight before she
lowered them.

"But, Daddy," she said. "He hasn't got very much money. And it takes a
great deal of money for me."

"You had better learn to get along with less then," snapped Harrison
Cressy. "I tell you, Carlotta, money is nothing--the stupidest, most
useless, rottenest stuff in the world."

Carlotta opened her eyes very wide.

"Is that what you thought when you came to Dunbury?" she asked gravely.

"No. It is what I have learned to think since I have been in Dunbury."

"But you--you wouldn't want me to live here?" probed Carlotta.

"My child, I would rather you would live here than any place in the whole
world. I've traveled a million miles since I saw you last, been back in
the past with your mother. Things look different to me now. I don't want
what I did for you. At least what I want hasn't changed. That is the same
always--your happiness. But I have changed my mind as to what makes for
happiness."

"I am awfully glad, Daddy darling," sighed Carlotta snuggling closer in
his arms. "Because I came up here on purpose to tell you that I've
changed my mind too. If Dunbury is good for gout maybe--maybe it will be
good for what ails me. Do you think it might, Daddy?" For answer he held
her very tight.

"Do you mean it, child? Are you here to tell that lad of yours you are
ready to come up his Hill to him?"

"If--if he still wants me," faltered Carlotta. "I'll have to find that
out for myself. I'll know as soon as I see Phil. There won't anything
have to be said. I am afraid there has been too much talking already. You
shouldn't have told him I cried," reproachfully.

"How could I help it? That is, how the deuce did you know I did?"
floundered the trapped parent.

"Daddy! You know you played on Phil's sympathy every way you could. It
was awful. At least it would have been awful if you had bought him
with my silly tears after you failed to buy him with your silly money.
But he didn't give in even for a moment--even when you told him I
cried, did he?"

"Not even then. But that doesn't mean he doesn't care. He--"

But Carlotta's hand was over his mouth at that. How much Phil cared she
wanted to hear from nobody but from Phil himself.

Philip Lambert found a queer message waiting for him when he came in from
his hike. Some mysterious person who would give no name had telephoned
requesting him to be at the top of Sunset Hill at precisely seven o'clock
to hear some important information which vitally concerned the firm of
Stuart Lambert and Son.

"Sounds like a hoax of some sort," remarked Phil. "But Lizzie has been
chafing at the bit all day in the garage and I don't mind a ride. Come
on, Dad, let's see what this bunk means."

Stuart Lambert smiled assent. And at precisely seven o'clock when dusk
was settling gently over the valley and the glory in the western sky was
beginning to fade into pale heliotrope and rose tints Lizzie brought the
two Lamberts to the crest of Sunset Hill where another car waited, a
hired car from the Eagle garage.

From the tonneau of the other car Harrison Cressy stepped out, somewhat
ponderously, followed by some one else, some one all in white with hair
that shone pure gold even in the gathering twilight.

Phil made one leap and in another moment, before the eyes of his father
and Carlotta's, not to mention the interested stare of the Eagle garage
chauffeur, he swept his far-away princess into his arms. There was no
need of anybody's trying to make Carlotta see. Love had opened her
eyes. The two fathers smiled at each other, both a little glad and a
little sad.

"Brother Lambert," said Mr. Cressy. "Suppose you and I ride down the
hill. I rather think this spot belongs to the children."

"So it seems," agreed Stuart Lambert. "We will leave Lizzie for
chaperone. I think there will be a moon later."

"Exactly. There always was a moon, I believe. It is quite customary."

As Stuart Lambert got out of the small car Philip and Carlotta came to
him hand-in-hand like happy children.

Carlotta slipped away from Phil, put out both hands to his father. He
took them with a happy smile.

"I have a good many daughters, my dear," he said. "But I have always
wanted to welcome one more. Do you think you could take in another Dad?"

"I know I could," said Carlotta lifting her flower face to him for a
daughterly kiss.

"Come, come! Where do I come in on this deal? Where is my son, I'd like
to know?" demanded Mr. Cressy.

"Right here at your service--darnfoolness and all," said Phil holding
out his hand.

"Don't rub it in," snapped Harrison Cressy, though he gripped the
proffered hand hard. "Come on, Lambert. This is no place for us."

And the two fathers went down the hill in the hired car leaving Lizzie
and the lovers in possession of the summit with the world which the moon
was just turning to silver at their feet.




CHAPTER XXIII

SEPTEMBER CHANGES


When September came Carlotta, who had been ostensibly visiting Tony
though spending a good deal of her time "in the moon with Phil" as she
put it, departed for Crest House, carrying Philip with her "for
inspection," as he dubbed it somewhat ruefully. He wasn't particularly
enamored of the prospect of being passed upon by Carlotta's friends and
relatives. It was rather incongruous when you came to think of it that
the lovely Carlotta, who might have married any one in the world, should
elect an obscure village store keeper for a husband. But Carlotta herself
had no qualms. She was shrewd enough to know that with her father on her
side no one would do much disapproving. And in any case she had no fear
that any one even just looking at Phil would question her choice.
Carlotta was not the woman to choose a man she would have to apologize
for. Phil would hold his own with the best of them and she knew it. He
was a man every inch of him, and what more could any woman ask?

Ted went up for his examinations and came back so soberly that the family
held its composite breath and wondered in secret whether he could
possibly have failed after all his really heroic effort. But presently
the word came that he had not only not failed but had rather covered
himself with glory. The Dean himself, an old friend of Doctor Holiday's,
wrote expressing his congratulations and the hope that this performance
of his nephew's was a pledge of better things in the future and that this
fourth Holiday to pass through the college might yet reflect credit upon
it and the Holiday name.

Ted himself emphatically disclaimed all praise whatsoever in the matter
and cut short his uncle's attempt at expressing his appreciation not only
of the successful finish of the examinations but the whole summer's hard
work and steadiness.

"I am glad if you are satisfied, Uncle Phil," he said. "But there isn't
any credit coming to me. It was the least I could do after making such a
confounded mess of things. Let's forget it."

But Ted Holiday was not quite the same unthinking young barbarian in
September that he had been in June. Nobody could work as he had worked
that summer without gaining something in character and self-respect.
Moreover, being constantly as he was with his brother and uncle, he
would have been duller than he was not to get a "hunch," as he would
have called it, of what it meant to be a Holiday of the authentic sort.
Larry's example was particularly salutary. The younger Holiday could
not help comparing his own weak-willed irresponsibility of conduct with
the older one's quiet self-control and firmness of principle. Larry's
love for Ruth was the real thing. Ted could see that, and it made his
own random, ill-judged attraction to Madeline Taylor look crude and
cheap if nothing worse. He hated to remember that affair in Cousin
Emma's garden. He made up his mind there would be no more things like
that to have to remember.

"You can tell old Bob Caldwell," he wrote from college to his uncle,
"that he'll sport no more caddies and golf balls at my expense. Flunking
is too damned expensive every way, saving your presence, Uncle Phil. No
more of it for this child. But don't get it into your head I am a
violently reformed character. I am nothing of the kind and don't want to
be. If I see any signs of angel pin-feathers cropping out I'll shave 'em.
I'd hate to be conspicuously virtuous. All the same if I have a few
grains more sense than I had last year they are mostly to your credit.
Fact is, Uncle Phil, you are a peach and I am just beginning to realize
it, more fool I."

Tony also flitted from the Hill that September for her new work and life
in the big city. Rather against her will she had ensconced herself in a
Student Hostelry where Jean Lambert, Phil's older sister, had been living
several years very happily, first as a student and later as a successful
illustrator. Tony had objected that she did not want anything so
"schooly," and that the very fact that Jean liked the Hostelry would be
proof positive that she, Tony, would not like it. What she really wanted
to do was either to have a studio of her own or accept Felice Norman's
invitation to make her home with her. Mrs. Norman was a cousin of Tony's
mother, a charming widow of wealth and wide social connections whom Tony
had always adored and admired extravagantly. Just visiting her had always
been like taking a trip to fairy land and to live with her--well, it
would be just too wonderful, Tony thought. But Doctor Holiday had vetoed
decidedly both these pleasant and impractical propositions. Tony was far
too young and pretty to live alone. That was out of the question. And he
was scarcely more willing that she should go to Mrs. Norman, though he
liked the latter very well and was glad that his niece would have her to
go to in any emergency. He knew Tony, and knew that in such an
environment as Mrs. Norman's home offered the girl would all but
inevitably drift into being a gay little social butterfly and forget she
ever came to the city to do serious work. Life with Mrs. Norman would be
"too wonderful" indeed.

So Tony went to the Hostelry with the understanding that if after a few
months' trial she really did dislike it as much as she declared she knew
she would they would make other arrangements. But rather to her chagrin
she found herself liking the place very much and enjoying the society of
the other girls who were all in the city as she and Jean were, pursuing
some art or other.

The dramatic school work was all she had hoped and more, stimulating,
engrossing, altogether delightful. She made friends easily as always,
among teachers and pupils, slipped naturally here as in college into a
position of leadership. Tony Holiday was a born queen.

She had plenty of outside diversion too. Cousin Felice was kind and
delighted to pet and exhibit her pretty little kinswoman. There were
fascinating glimpses into high society, delightful private dancing
parties in gorgeous ball rooms, motor trips, gay theater parties in
resplendent boxes, followed by suppers in brilliant restaurants--all the
pomp and glitter of life that youth loves.

There were other no less genuinely happy occasions spent with Dick
Carson, way up near the roof in the theaters and opera house or in queer,
fascinating out-of-the-way foreign restaurants. The two had the jolliest
kind of time together, always like two children at a picnic. Tony was
very nice to Dick these days. He kept her from being too homesick for the
Hill and anyway she felt a wee bit sorry for him because he did not know
about Alan and those long letters which came so frequently from the
retreat in the mountains where the latter was sketching. She knew she
ought to tell Dick how far things had gone but somehow she couldn't quite
drive herself to do it. She didn't want to hurt him. And she did not want
to banish him from her life. She wanted him, needed him just where he
was, at her feet, and never bothering her with any inconvenient demands
or love-making. It was selfish but it was true. And in any case it would
be soon enough to worry Dick when Alan came back to town.

And then without warning he was back, very much back. And with his return
the pleasant nicely balanced, casual scheme of things which she had been
following so contentedly was knocked sky high. She had to adjust herself
to a new heaven and a new earth with Alan Massey the center of both. In
her delight and intoxication at having her lover near her again, more
fascinating and lover-like than ever, Tony lost her head a little,
neglected her work, snubbed her friends, refused invitations from Dick
and Cousin Felice, and indeed from everybody except Alan. She went
everywhere with him, almost nowhere without him, spent her days and more
of her nights than was at all prudent or proper in his absorbing society,
had, in short, what she afterward described to Carlotta as a "perfect
orgy of Alan."

At the end of ten days she called a halt, sat down and took honest
account of herself and her proceedings and found that this sort of thing
would not do. Alan was too expensive every way. She could not afford so
much of him. Accordingly with her usual decision and frankness she
explained the situation to him as she saw it and announced that
henceforth she would see him only twice a week and not as often if she
were especially busy.

To this ultimatum she kept rigidly in spite of her lover's protests and
pleas and threats. She was inexorable. If Alan wanted to see her at all
he must do it on her terms. He yielded perforce and was madder over her
than ever, feted and worshiped and adored her inordinately when he was
with her, deluged her with flowers and poetry and letters between times,
called her up daily and nightly by telephone just to hear her voice, if
he might not see her face.

So superficially Tony conquered. But she was not over-proud of her
victory. She knew that whether she saw Alan or not he was always in the
under-current of her thoughts and feelings. In the midst of other
occupations she caught herself wondering whether he had written her,
whether she would find his flowers when she got home, where he was,
what he was doing, if he was thinking of her as she of him. She wanted
him most irrationally when she forbade his coming to her. She looked
forward to those few hours spent with him as the only time when she was
fully alive, dreamed them over afterward, knew they meant a hundredfold
more to her than those she spent with any other man or woman. She wore
his flowers, pored over his long, beautiful, impassioned letters,
devoured the books of poetry he sent her, danced with him as often and
as long as she dared, gave her soul more and more into his keeping, the
more so perhaps in that he was so tenderly reverential of her body,
never even touching her lips with his, though his eyes often told a
less moderate story.

The orgy over she was again doing well with her work at the school. She
knew that. Her teachers praised her gifts and her progress. Without any
vanity she could not help seeing that she was forging ahead of others who
had started even with her, had more real talent perhaps than most of
those with whom she worked and played. But she took no pride in these
things. For equally clearly she saw that she was not doing half what she
might have done, would have done, had there been no Alan Massey in the
city and in her heart. She had a divided allegiance and a divided
allegiance is a hard thing to live with as a daily companion.

But she would not have had it otherwise. Not for a moment did she ever
wish to go back to those free days when love was but a name and the flame
had not blown so dangerously near.

As for Alan Massey himself, he alternated between moods which were starry
pinnacles of ecstasy and others which were bottomless pits of despair. He
lived for two things only--his hours with Tony and his work. For he had
begun to paint again, magnificently, furiously, with all his old power
and a new almost godlike one added to it. As an artist it was his supreme
hour. He painted as he had never painted before.

His love for Tony ran the whole gamut. He loved her passionately, found
it exquisite torture to have her in his arms when they danced and to
have still to bank the fires which consumed him and of which she only
dimly guessed. He loved her humbly, worshipfully as a moth might look to
a star. He loved her tenderly, protectingly, longed to shield her by his
own might from all griefs, troubles and petty annoyances, to guard her
day and night, lest any rough, unlovely or unseemly thing press near her
shining sphere. He desired to wrap her about with a magic mantle of
beauty and luxury and the quintessence of life, to keep her in a place
apart as he kept his priceless collection of rubies and emeralds. He
loved her jealously, was sick at the thought that some other man might
be near her when he might not, might dance with her, covet her, kiss
her. He hated all men because of her and particularly he hated with
black hate the man whom he was wronging daily by his silence, his
cousin, John Massey.

Beneath all this strange, sad welter of emotion deeper still in Alan
Massey's heart lay the tragic conviction that he would never win Tony,
that his own sins would somehow rise to strike at him like a snake out of
the grass. He had lost faith in his luck, had lost it strangely enough
when luck had laid at his feet that most desirable of all gifts, Jim
Roberts' timely death.

In the House on the Hill, things were very quiet, missing the gay
presence of the two younger Holidays and with those at home cumbered with
cares and perplexity and grief.

Things were easier for Ruth than for Larry. It was less difficult for her
to play the part of quiet friendship than for him, partly because her
love was a much less tempestuous affair and partly because a woman nearly
always plays a part of any kind with more facility than a man does. And
Larry Holiday was temperamentally unfit to play any part whatsoever. He
was a Yea-Yea and Nay-Nay person.

The simplicity of the girl's role was also very largely created by her
lover's rigid self control. She took her cue from his quietness and felt
that things could not be so bad after all. At least they were together.
Neither had driven the other away from the Hill by any unconsidered act
or word. Ruth had no idea that being with her under the tormenting
circumstances was scarcely undivided happiness for poor Larry or that her
peace of mind was more or less purchased at cost of his.

Larry kept the promise he had made to his uncle more literally than the
latter had had any idea he would or could. He never sought out Ruth's
society, was never alone with her if he could help it, never so much as
touched her hand. Ruth being a very human and feminine little person
sometimes wished he were not quite so consistently, "Holidayish" in his
conduct. She missed the ardent gaze of those wonderful gray eyes which he
now kept studiously averted from hers. Privately she thought it would not
have mattered so fearfully if just once in a while he had forgotten the
ring. Life was very, very drab when you never forgot and let yourself go
the tiniest little bit. Child like little Ruth never guessed that a man
like Larry Holiday does not dare let himself go the tiniest little bit,
lest he go farther, far enough to regret.

Doctor Holiday watching in silence out of the tail of his eye understood
better what was going on behind his nephew's quiet exterior demeanor,
and wondered sometimes if it had not been a mistake to keep the boy
bound to the wheel like that, if he should not rather have packed him
off to the uttermost parts of the earth, far away from the little lady
with the wedding ring who was so little married. And yet there was
Granny, growing perceptibly weaker day by day, clinging pathetically to
Larry's young strength. Poor Granny! And poor Larry! How little one
could do for either!

Ruth's memory did not return. She remembered, or at least found familiar,
books she had read, songs she must have sung, drifted into doing a
hundred little simple everyday things she must have done before, since
they came to her with no effort. She could sew and knit and play the
piano exquisitely. But all this seemed rather a trick of the fingers than
of the mind. The people, the places, the life that lay behind that crash
on the Overland never returned to her consciousness for all her anxious
struggle to get them back.

It began to look as if her husband, if she had one, were not going to
claim her. No one claimed her. Not a single response came from all the
extensive advertising which Larry still kept up in vain hope of success.
Apparently no one had missed the little Goldilocks. Precious as she was
none sought her.

In the meanwhile she was an undisguised angel visitant to the House on
the Hill. If in his kindly hospitality Doctor Holiday had stretched a
point or two in the first place to make the little stranger feel at home
the case was different now. She was needed, badly needed and she played
the part of house daughter so sweetly and unselfishly that her presence
among them was a double blessing to them all, except perhaps to poor
Larry who loved her best of all.




CHAPTER XXIV

A PAST WHICH DID NOT STAY BURIED


Coming in from a lively game of tennis with Elsie Hathaway, his newest
sweetheart, the Ancient History Prof's pretty daughter, Ted Holiday found
awaiting him a letter from Madeline Taylor. He turned it over in his
hands with a keen distaste for opening it, had indeed almost a mind to
chuck it in the waste paper basket unread. Hang it all! Why had she
written? He didn't want to hear from her, didn't want to be reminded of
her existence. He wanted instead distinctly to forget there was a
Madeline Taylor and that he had been fool enough to make love to her
once. Nevertheless he opened the letter and pulled his forelock in
perturbation as he read it.

She had quarrelled with her grandfather and he would not let her come
back home. She was with Emma just now but she couldn't stay. Fred was
behaving very nastily and he might tell Emma any day that she, Madeline,
had to go. They were all against her. Everything was against a girl
anyway. They never had a chance as a man did. She wished she had been
killed when she had been thrown out of the car that night. It would have
been much better for her than being as miserable as she was now. She
often wished she was dead. But what she had written to Ted Holiday for
was because she thought perhaps he could help her to find a job in the
college town. She had to earn some money right away. She would do
anything. She didn't care what and would be very grateful to Ted if he
would or could help her to find work.

That was all. There was not a single personal note in the whole thing, no
reference to their flirtation of the early summer except the one allusion
to the accident, no attempt to revive such frail ties as had existed
between them, no reproaches to Ted for having broken these off so
summarily. It was simply and exclusively a plea for help from one human
being to another.

Ted thrust the letter soberly in his pocket and went off for a shower.
But the thing went with him. He wished Madeline hadn't written, wished
she hadn't besought his aid, wished most of all she hadn't been such a
devilish good sport in it all. If she had whined, cast things up against
him as she might have done, thrown herself in any way upon him, he could
perhaps have ignored her and her plea. But she had done nothing of the
sort. She was deucedly game now just as she had been the night of the
smash. And by a queer trick of his mind her very gameness made Ted
Holiday feel more quiet and responsible, a frame of mind he heartily
resented. Hanged if he could see why it was his funeral! If that old
Hottentot of a grandfather of hers chose to turn her out without a cent
it wasn't his fault. For that matter he wasn't to blame for what Madeline
herself had done. He didn't suppose the old man would have cut so rough
without plenty of cause. Why did she have to bob up now and make him feel
so darned rotten?

Unfortunately, even the briefest of episodes have a way of not erasing
themselves as conveniently as most of us would like to have them. The
thing was there and Ted Holiday had to look at it whether it made him
feel "darned rotten" or not. He did not want to help the girl, did not
even want to renew their acquaintance by even so much as a letter. The
whole thing was an infernal nuisance. But infernal nuisance or not, he
had to deal with it, could not funk it. He was a Holiday and no Holiday
ever shirked obligations he himself had incurred. He was a Holiday and no
Holiday ever let a woman ask for help, and not give It. By the time he
was back from the shower Ted knew precisely where he stood. Perhaps he
had known all along.

The next day he bestirred himself, went to Berry the florist who he
happened to know was in need of a clerk, got the burly Irishman's consent
to give the girl a job at excellent wages, right away, the sooner the
better. Ted opened his mouth to ask for an advance of salary but thought
better of it before the words came out. Madeline might not like to have
anybody know she was up against it like that. He would have to see to
that part of it himself somehow.

"You're a good customer, Mr. Holiday," the genial florist was saying.
"I'm tickled to be obligin' ye and mesilf at the same time. Anything in
the flower line, to-day, Mr. Holiday? Some roses now or violets? Got some
Jim dandies just in. Beauties, I'm tellin' you. Want to see 'em?"

Ted hesitated. His exchecquer was low, very low. The first of the month
was also far away--too far, considering all things. His bill at Berry's
already passed the bounds of wisdom and the possibility of being paid in
full out of the next month's allowance without horribly crippling the
debtor. It was exceedingly annoying to have to forfeit that ten dollars
to Uncle Phil every month for that darned automobile business which it
seemed as if he never would get free of one way or another. He certainly
ought not to buy any more flowers this month.

Still, there was the hop to-night. Elsie was going with him. He had run
a race with three other applicants for the privilege of escorting her and
being victor it behooved him to prove he appreciated his gains. He didn't
want Elsie to think he was a tight-wad, or worse still suspect him of
being broke. He fell, let Berry open the show case, debated seriously the
respective merits of roses and violets, having reluctantly relinquished
orchids as a little too ruinous even for a ruined young man.

"If they are for Miss Hathaway," murmured a pretty, sympathetic clerk in
his ear, "Mr. Delany sent roses this morning and she likes violets best.
I've heard her say so."

That settled it. Ted Holiday wasn't going to be beaten by a poor fish
like Ned Delany. The violets were bought and duly charged along with
those other too numerous items on Ted Holiday's account. Going home Ted
wrote a cheerful, friendly letter to Madeline Taylor reporting his
success in getting her a job and enclosing a check for twenty live
dollars, "just to tide you over," he had put in lightly, forbearing to
mention that the gift made his bank balance even lighter, so light in
fact that it approached complete invisibility. He added that he was sorry
things were in a mess for her but they would clear up soon, bound to, you
know. And nix on the wish-I-were-dead-stuff! It was really a jolly old
world as she would say herself when her luck turned. He remained hers
sincerely and so forth.

This business off his mind, young Mr. Holiday felt highly relieved and
pleased with himself and the world which was such a jolly old affair as
he had just assured Madeline. Later he went to the hop and had a corking
time, stayed till the last violin swooned off into silence, then
sauntered with deliberate leisureliness toward Prof. Hathaway's house
with Elsie on his arm. On the Prof's porch he had lingered as long as was
prudent, perhaps a little longer, spooning discreetly the while as one
may, even with an Ancient History Prof's daughter. There was nothing
suggestive of Ancient History about Elsie. She was slim and young as the
little new moon they had both nearly broken their necks to see over their
right shoulders a few minutes before. Moreover she was exceedingly pretty
and as provocative as the dickens. In the end Ted stole a saucy kiss and
left her pretending to be as indignant as if a dozen other impudent
youths had not done precisely the same thing since the opening of the
college year. It was the lady's privilege to protest. Ted granted that,
but neither was he much taken in by injured innocence airs. Elsie was
quite as sophisticated as he was himself as he knew very well. No first
kiss business for either of them, he reflected as he went whistling back
to the frat house. It was all in the game and both knew it was nothing
but a game which made it perfectly pleasant and harmless.

At the frat house he found a quiet little game of another sort in
progress, slid in, took a hand, got interested, played until three A.M.
and on quitting found himself in possession of some thirty odd dollars he
had not had when he sat in. Considering his recent financial depression
the thirty dollars was all to the good, covered Madeline's check and
Elsie's violets. It was indeed a jolly old world if you treated it right
and did not take it or yourself too seriously.

Inasmuch as playing cards for money was strictly against college rules
and gambling had been the one vice of all vices the late Major Holiday
had hated with unrelenting hate, it might be a satisfaction to record
that the late Major's son took an uneasy conscience to bed that night, or
rather that morning, but truth is truth and we are compelled to state
that Ted Holiday did not suffer the faintest twinge of remorse and went
to sleep the moment his head touched the pillow as peacefully as a
guileless new born babe might have done.

Moreover when he woke the next morning at an unconscionably late hour he
turned over, looked at the clock, grunted and grinned sleepily and lapsed
off again into blissful oblivion, thereby cutting all his morning classes
and generally submerging himself in the unregenerate ways of his
graceless sophomoric year. He had never contracted to be conspicuously
virtuous it will be recalled.

The next day he secured a suitable lodging place for Madeline in an
inexpensive but respectable neighborhood and the day after that betook
himself to the station to meet the girl herself. Ted never did things by
halves. Having made up his mind to stand by he did it thoroughly, perhaps
the more punctiliously because in his heart he loathed the whole business
and wished he were well out of it.

For a moment as Madeline came toward him he hardly recognized her. She
looked years older. The brilliancy of her beauty was curiously dimmed as
an electric light might be dimmed inside a dusty globe. There were hard
lines about her full lips and a sharp, driven look in her black eyes. The
two had met in June on equal terms of blithe youth. Now, only a few
months later, Ted was still a careless boy but Madeline Taylor had been
forced into premature womanhood and wore on her haggard young face, the
stamp of a woman's hard won wisdom.

To the girl Ted Holiday appeared more the bonny Prince Charming than
ever only infinitely farther removed from her than he had seemed in
those happy summer days which were a million years ago to all intents
and purposes now. How good looking he was--how tall and clean and
manly looking! Her heart gave a quick jump seeing him again after all
these dreary months. But oh, she must be very careful--must never
forget for a moment that things were very, very different now from what
they were in June!

There was a moment's slightly embarrassed silence as they shook hands.
Both were remembering all too vividly the scene in Cousin Emma's garden
upon the occasion of their last meeting. It was Ted who first found
tongue and announced casually that he was going to take her straight to
the house of Mrs. Bascom, her landlady to be.

"She's a good sort," he added. "Mothery like you know. You'll like her."

Madeline did not answer. She couldn't. Something choked in her throat.
The phrase, "mothery like" was almost too much for the girl who had
never had a mother to remember and wanted one now as she never had
wanted one in her life. Ted's kindness--the first she had received from
any one these many days--touched her deeply. For the first time in
months the tears brimmed up into her eyes as she followed her companion
to the cab and let him help her in. As the door closed upon them Ted
turned and faced the girl and seeing the tears put out his hand and
touched hers gently.

"Don't worry, Madeline," he said. "Things are going to look up. And
please don't cry," he pleaded earnestly.

She wiped away the tears and summoned a wan little smile to meet his.

"I won't," she said. "Crying is silly and won't help anything. It is just
that I was awfully tired and your being so good to me upset me. You've
always been good even--when I thought you weren't. I understand better
now. And oh, Ted, you don't know how ashamed I am of the way I behaved
that night! It was awful--my striking you like that. It made me sick to
think of it afterward."

"It needn't have. If anybody has any call to be ashamed of that night
it's yours truly. See here, Madeline, I've worried a lot about you though
maybe you won't believe it because I didn't write or act as if I were
sorry about things. I kept still because it seemed the straightest thing
to do all round, but I did think a great deal about you, honest I did,
and I've wondered millions of times if my darn-foolness set things going
wrong for you. Did it, Madeline?" he demanded.

"No," she answered her gaze away from his out the cab window.
"You mustn't worry, Ted, or blame yourself. It--it's all my
fault--everything."

"It's good of you to let me out but I am not so sure I ought to be let
out. I'd give a good deal this minute if I could go back and not take
Uncle Phil's car that night." Ted leaned forward suddenly and for a
startled instant Madeline thought he meant to kiss her. But nothing was
farther from his wish or thought. It was the scar he was looking for. He
had almost forgotten it, just as he had almost forgotten the episode it
represented. But there it was on her forehead. Even in the gathering
darkness it showed with perfect distinctness. "I hoped it had gone," he
added. "But it is still there, isn't it?"

"The scar? Yes, it is still there." For a moment the ghost of a
smile played about the girl's lips. "I've always liked it. I'd miss
it if it went."

"Well, I don't like it. I hate it," groaned the boy. "Why, Madeline I
might have killed you!"

"I know. Sometimes I wish it had come out so. It--it would have
been better."

"Don't Madeline. That is an awful thing to say. Things can't be as bad as
all that, you know they can't. By the way, can you tell me the whole
business or would you rather not?"

The girl shivered.

"No. Don't ask me, Ted. It--it's too awful. Don't bother about me.
You have done quite enough as it is. I am very grateful but truly I
would rather you wouldn't have anything more to do with me. Just
forget I am here."

And because this injunction was precisely in line with his own
inclination Ted suspected its propriety and swung counterwise in true
Ted fashion.

"I'll do just exactly as I please about that. I won't pester you but you
needn't think I'm going to leave you all soul alone in a strange place
when you are feeling rotten anyway. I'm pretty doggoned selfish but not
quite that bad."




CHAPTER XXV

ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE


Although Max Hempel had not openly sought out Tony Holiday he was
entirely aware of her presence in the city and in the dramatic school.
Whenever she played a role in the course of the latter's program he had
his trusted aides on the spot to watch her, gauge her progress, report
their finding to himself. Once or twice he had come himself, sat in a
dark corner and kept his eye unblinking from first to last upon the girl.

In November it had seemed good to the school to revive The Killarney
Rose, a play which ten years ago had had a phenomenal run and ended as it
began with packed houses. It was past history now. Even the road
companies had lapsed, and its name was all but forgotten by the fickle
public which must and will have ever new sensations.

Hempel was glad the school had made this particular selection, doubly
glad it had given Antoinette Holiday the title role. The play would show
whether the girl was ready for his purposes as he had about decided she
was. He would send Carol Clay to see her do the thing. Carol would know.
Who better? It was she who created the original Rose.

Tony Holiday behind the scene on that momentous evening, on being
informed that Carol Clay--the famous Carol Clay herself--the real
Rose--was out there in a box, was paralyzed with fear, for the first
time in her life, victim of genuine stage fright. She was cold. She was
hot. She was one tremendous shake and shiver. She was a very lump of
stone. The orchestra was already playing. In a moment her call would
come and she was going to fail, fail miserably. And with Carol Clay
there to see.

Some flowers and a card were brought in. The flowers were from Alan of
course, great crimson roses. It was dear of him to send them. Later she
would appreciate it. But just now not even Alan mattered. She glanced at
the card which had come separately, was not with the flowers. It was
Dick's. Hastily she read the pencil-written scrawl. "Am covering the
Rose. Will be close up. See you after the show. Best o' luck and love."

Tony could almost have cried for joy over the message. Somehow the
knowledge of Dick's nearness gave her back her self-possession. She had
refused to let Alan come. His presence in the audience always distracted
her, made her nervous. But Dick was different. It was almost like having
Uncle Phil himself there. She wouldn't fail now. She couldn't. It was for
the honor of the Hill.

A moment later, still clutching Dick's comforting card, she ran in on the
stage, swinging her sun-bonnet from its green ribbons with hoydenish
grace, chanting a gay little lilt of an Irish melody. Her fear had gone
even as the dew might have disappeared at the kiss of the sun upon the
Killarney greensward.

Almost at once she discovered Dick and sang a part of her song straight
down at him. A little later she dared to let her eyes stray to the box
where Carol Clay sat. The actress smiled and Tony smiled back and then
forgot she was Tony, was henceforth only Rose of Killarney.

It was a winsome, old-timey sort of play, with an almost Barriesque
charm and whimsicality to it. The witching little Rose laughed and danced
and sang and flirted and wept and loved her way through it and in the end
threw herself in the right lover's arms, presumably there to dwell happy
forever after.

After the last curtain went down and she had smiled and bowed and kissed
her hand to the kindly audience over and over Tony fled to the dressing
room where she could still hear the intoxicating, delightful thunder of
applause. It had come. She could act. She could. Oh! She couldn't live
and be any happier.

But, after all she could stand a little more joy without coming to an
untimely end, for there suddenly smiling at her from the threshold was
Carol Clay congratulating her and telling her what a pleasure to-night's
Rose had been to the Rose of yesterday. And before Tony could get her
breath to do more than utter a rather shy and gasping word of gratitude,
the actress had invited her to take tea with her on the next day and she
had accepted and Carol Clay was gone.

It was in a wonderful world of dreams that Tony Holiday dwelt as she
removed a little of her makeup, gave orders to have all her flowers sent
to a near-by hospital, except Alan's, which she gathered up in her arms
and drawing her velvet cloak around her, stepped out into the
waiting-room.

But it was a world of rather alarming realities that she went into. There
was Dick Carson waiting as she had bidden him to wait in the message she
had sent him. And there was Alan Massey, unbidden and unexpected. And
both these males with whom she had flirted unconscionably for weeks past
were ominously belligerent of manner and countenance. She would have
given anything to have had a wand to wave the two away, keep them from
spoiling her perfect evening. But it was too late. The hour of reckoning
which comes even to queens was here.

"Hello, you two," she greeted, putting on a brave front for all her
sinking heart. She laid down the roses and gave a hand impartially to
each. "Awfully glad to see you, Dicky. Alan, I thought I told you not to
come. Were you here all the same?"

"I was. I told you so in my note. Didn't you get it? I sent it in with
the roses." He nodded at the flowers she had just surrendered.

Dick's eyes shadowed. Massey had scored there. He had not thought of
flowers. Indeed there had been no time to get any he had gotten the
assignment so late. There had been quantities of other flowers, he knew.
The usher had carried up tons of them it seemed to the popular Rose, but
she carried only Alan Massey's home with her.

"I am sorry, Alan. I didn't see it. Maybe it was there; I didn't half
look at the flowers. Your message did me so much good, Dicky. I was
scared to death because they had just said Miss Clay was outside. And
somehow when I knew you were there I felt all right again. I carried your
card all through the first act and I know it was your wishing me the best
o' luck that brought it."

She smiled at Dick and it was Alan's turn to glower. She had not looked
at his roses, had not cared to look for his message; but she carried the
other man's card, used it as a talisman. And she was glad. The other was
there, but she had forbidden himself--Alan Massey--to come, had even
reproached him for coming.

A group of actors passed through the reception room, calling gay
goodnights and congratulations to Tony as they went and shooting glances
of friendly curiosity at the two, tall frowning men between whom the
vivacious Rose stood.

"Tony Holiday doesn't keep all her lovers on the stage," laughed the
near-heroine as she was out of hearing. "Did you ever see two gentlemen
that hated each other more cordially?"

"She is an arrant little flirt, isn't she, Micky?" The speaker challenged
the Irish lover of the play who had had the luck to win the sweet, thorny
little Killarney Rose in the end and to get a real, albeit a play kiss
from the pretty little heroine, who as Tony Holiday as well as Rose was
prone to make mischief in susceptible male hearts.

"She can have me any minute, on the stage or off," answered Micky
promptly. "She's a winner. Got me going all right. Most forgot my lines
she was so darned pretty."

Dick took advantage of the confusion of the interruption to get in his
word.

"Will you come out with me for a bite somewhere, Tony. I won't keep you
late, but there are some things I want to talk over with you."

Tony hesitated. She had caught the ominous flash of Alan's eyes. She was
desperately afraid there would be a scene if she said yes to Dick now in
Alan's hearing. The latter strode over to her instantly, and laid his
hand with a proprietorial air on her arm. From this point of vantage he
faced Dick insolently.

"Miss Holiday is going out with me," he asserted. "You--clear out."

The tone and manner even more than the words were deliberate insult.
Dick's face went white. His mouth set tight. There was almost as ugly a
look in his eyes as there was in Alan's. Tony had never seen him look
like that and was frightened.

"I'll clear out when Miss Holiday asks me to and not before," he said in
a significantly quiet voice. "Don't go too far, Mr. Massey. I have taken
a good deal from you. There's a limit. Tony, I repeat my question. Will
you go out with me to-night?"

Before Tony could speak Alan Massey's long right arm shot out in Dick's
direction. Dick dodged the blow coolly.

"Hold on, Massey," he said. "I'm perfectly willing to smash your head any
time it is convenient. Nothing would afford me greater pleasure in fact.
But you will kindly keep from making trouble here. You can't get a
woman's name mixed up with a cheap brawl such as you are trying to start.
You know, it won't do."

Alan Massey's white face turned a shade whiter. His arm fell. He turned
back to Tony, real anguish in his fire-shot eyes.

"I beg your pardon, Tony dearest," he bent over to say. "Carson is right.
We'll fight it out elsewhere when you are not present. May I take you to
the taxi? I have one waiting outside."

Another group of people passed through the vestibule, said goodnight and
went on out to the street exit. It made Tony sick to think of what they
would have seen if Dick had lost his self control as Alan had. She
thought she had never liked Dick as she did that moment, never despised
Alan Massey so utterly. Dick was a man. Alan was a spoiled child, a
weakling, the slave of his passions. It was no thanks to him that her
name was not already bandied about on people's lips, the name of a girl,
about whom men came to fist blows like a Bowery movie scene. She was
humiliated all over, enraged with Alan, enraged with herself for
stooping to care for a man like that. She waited until they were
absolutely alone again and then said what she had to say. She turned to
face Alan directly.

"You may take me nowhere," she said. "I don't want to see you again as
long as I live."

For an instant Alan stared at her, dazed, unable to grasp the force of
what she was saying, the significance of her tone. As a matter of fact
the artist in him had leaped to the surface, banished all other
considerations. He had never seen Tony Holiday really angry before. She
was magnificent with those flashing eyes and scarlet cheeks--a glorious
little Fury--a Valkyrie. He would paint her like that. She was
stupendous, the most vividly alive thing he had ever seen, like flame
itself, in her flaming anger. Then it came over him what she had said.

"But, Tony," he pleaded, "my belovedest--"

He put out both hands in supplication, but Tony whirled away from them.
She snatched the great bunch of red roses from the table, ran to the
window, flung up the sash, hurled them out into the night. Then she
turned back to Alan.

"Now go," she commanded, pointing with a small, inexorable hand to the
door.

Alan Massey went.

Tony dropped in a chair, spent and trembling, all but in tears. The
disagreeable scene, the piled up complex of emotions coming on top of the
stress and strain of the play were almost too much for her. She was a
quivering bundle of nerves and misery at the moment.

Dick came to her.

"Forgive me, Tony. I shouldn't have forced the issue maybe. But I
couldn't stand any more from that cad."

"I am glad you did exactly what you did do, Dick, and I am more grateful
than I can ever tell you for not letting Alan get you into a fight here
in this place with all these people coming and going. I would never have
gotten over it if anything like that had happened. It would have been
terrible. I couldn't ever have looked any of them in the face again."
She shivered and put her two hands over her eyes ashamed to the quick at
the thought.

Dick sat down on the arm of her chair, one hand resting gently on the
girl's shoulder.

"Don't cry, Tony," he begged. "I can't stand it. You needn't have
worried. There wasn't any danger of anything like that happening. I care
too much to let you in for anything of that sort. So does he for that
matter. He saw it in a minute. He really wouldn't want to do you any harm
anyway, Tony. Even I know that, and you must know it better than I."

Tony put down her hands, looked at Dick. "I suppose that is true," she
sighed. "He does love me, Dick."

"He does, Tony. I wish he didn't. And I wish with all my heart I were
sure you didn't love him."

Tony sighed again and her eyes fell.

"I wish--I were sure, too," she faltered.

Dick winced at that. He had no answer. What was there to say?

"I don't see why I should care. I don't see how I can care after
to-night. He is horrid in lots of ways--a cad--just as you called him. I
know Larry would feel just as you do and hate to have him come near me.
Larry and I have almost quarreled about it now. He thinks Uncle Phil is
all wrong not to forbid my seeing Alan at all. But Uncle Phil is too
wise. He doesn't want to have me marry Alan any more than the rest of you
do but he knows if he fights it it would put me on the other side in a
minute and I'd do it, maybe, in spite of everybody."

"Tony, you aren't engaged to him?"

She shook her head.

"Not exactly. I am afraid I might as well be though. I said I didn't
ever want to see him again, but I didn't mean it. I shall want to see him
again by to-morrow. I always do no matter what he does. I always shall I
am afraid. It is like that with me. I'm sorry, Dicky. I ought to have
told you that before. I've been horrid not to, I know. Take me home now,
please. I'm tired--awfully tired."

Going home in the cab neither spoke until just as they were within a few
blocks of the Hostelry when Dick broke the silence.

"I am sorry all this had to happen to-night," he said. "Because, well, I
am going away tomorrow."

"Going away! Dick! Where?" It was horribly selfish of her, Tony knew;
but it didn't seem as if she could bear to have Dick go. It seemed as if
the only thing that was stable in her reeling life would be gone if he
went. If he went she would belong to Alan more and more. There would be
nothing to hold her back. She was afraid. She clung to Dick. He alone of
the whole city full of human beings was a symbol of Holiday Hill. With
him gone it seemed to her as if she would be hopelessly adrift on
perilous seas.

"To Mexico--Vera Cruz, I believe," he answered her question.

"Vera Cruz! Dick, you mustn't! It is awful down there now. Everybody says
so." He smiled a little at that.

"It is because it is more or less awful that they are sending me," he
said. "Journalism isn't much interested in placidity. A newspaper man has
to be where things are happening fast and plenty. If things are hot down
there so much the better. They will sizzle more in the copy."

"Dick! I can't have you go. I can't bear it." Tony's hand crept into
his. "Something dreadful might happen to you," she wailed.

He pressed her hand, grateful for her real trouble about him and for
her caring.

"Oh no, dear. Nothing dreadful will happen to me. You mustn't worry,"
he soothed.

"But I do. I shall. How can I help it? It is just as if Larry or Ted were
going. It scares me."

Dick drew away his hand suddenly.

"For heaven's sake, Tony, please don't tell me again that I'm just like
Larry and Ted to you. It is bad enough to know it without your rubbing it
in all the time. I can't stand it--not to-night."

"Dick!" Tony was startled, taken aback by his tone. Dick rarely let
himself go like that.

In a moment he was all contrition.

"Forgive me, Tony. I'm sorry I said that. I ought to be thankful you care
that much, and I am. It is dear of you and I do appreciate it."

"Oh me!" sighed Tony. "Everything I do or say is wrong. I wish I did care
the other way for you, Dicky dear. Truly I do. It would be so much nicer
and simpler than caring for Alan," she added naively.

"Life isn't fixed nice and simple, Tony. At least it never has
been for me."

"Oh, Dick! Everything has been horribly hard for you always, and I'm
making it harder. I don't want to, Dicky dear. You know I don't. It is
just that I can't help it."

"I know, Tony. You mustn't bother about me. I'm all right. Will you tell
me just one thing though? If you hadn't cared for Massey--no I won't put
it like that. If you had cared for me would my not having any name have
made any difference?"

"Of course it wouldn't have made any difference, Dicky. What does a name
matter? You are you and that is what I would care for--do care for. The
rest doesn't matter. Besides, you are making a name for yourself."

"I am doing it under your name--the one you gave me."

"I am proud to have it used that way. Why wouldn't I be? It is honored.
You have not only lived up to it as you promised Uncle Phil. You have
made it stand for something fine. Your stories are splendid. You are
going to be famous and I--Why, Dicky, just think, it will be my name you
will take on up to the stars. Oh, we're here," as the cab jolted to a
halt in front of the Hostelry.

The cabby flung open the door. Tony and Dick stepped out, went up the
steps. In a moment they were alone in the dimly lit hall.

"Tony, would you mind letting me kiss you just once as you would Larry or
Ted if one of them were going off on a long journey away from you?"

Dick's voice was humble, pleading. It touched Tony deeply, and sent the
quick tears welling up into her eyes as she raised her face to his.

For a moment he held her close, kissed her on the cheek and then
released her.

"Good-by, Tony. Thank you and God bless you," he said a little huskily as
he let her go.

"Good-by, Dick." And then impulsively Tony put up her lips and kissed
him, the first time he ever remembered a woman's lips touching his.

A second later the door closed upon him, shutting him out in the night.
He dismissed the cab driver and walked blindly off, not knowing or caring
in what direction he went. It was hours before he let himself into his
lodging house. It seemed as if he could have girdled the earth on the
strength of Tony Holiday's kiss. The next morning he was off for Mexico.




CHAPTER XXVI

THE KALEIDOSCOPE REVOLVES


Tony slept late next morning and when she did open her eyes they fell
upon a huge florist box by the door and a special delivery letter on top
of it. The maid had set the two in an hour ago and tiptoed away lest she
waken the weary little sleeper.

Tony got up and opened the box. Roses--dozens of them, worth the price of
a month's wages to many a worker in the city! Frail, exquisite,
shell-pink beauties, with gold at their hearts! Tony adored roses but she
almost hated these because it seemed to her Alan was bribing her
forgiveness by playing upon her worship of their beauty and fragrance.

Still kneeling by the flowers she glanced at the clock. Ten-thirty! Dick
was already miles away on his hateful journey, had gone sad and hopeless
because she loved Alan Massey. Why did it have to be so? Why was love so
perverse and unreasonable a thing? Alan was not worthy to touch Dick's
hand, though in his arrogance he affected to despise the other. But it
was Alan she loved, not Dick. There must be something wrong with her,
dreadfully wrong that it should be so. After last night there could be no
doubt of that.

She sat down on the floor, opened Alan's letter, despised herself for
letting its author's spell creep over her anew with every word. It was an
abject plea for mercy, for forgiveness, for restoration to favor. It had
been a devil of jealousy that had possessed him, he had not known what
he was doing. Surely she must know that he would not willingly harm or
hurt or anger her in any way. He loved her too much. Carson had behaved
like a man. Alan would apologize to him if the other man would accept the
apology. It was Tony really who had driven him mad by being so much
kinder to the other than to himself. She must realize what he was, not
drive him too far.

"I am sending you roses," he ended. "Please don't throw them away as you
did the others. Keep them and let them plead for me. And don't ah Tony,
don't ever, ever say again what you said last night, that you never
wanted to see me again! You don't mean it, I know. But don't say it. It
kills me to hear you. If you throw me over I'll blow my brains out as
sure as I am a living man this moment. But you won't, you cannot, Tony
dearest. You will forgive me, stand by me, rotten as I am. You are mine.
You love me. You won't push me down to Hell."

It was a cowardly letter Tony thought, a letter calculated to frighten
her, bring her to subjection again as well as to gratify the writer's own
Byronic instinct for pose. He had behaved badly. He acknowledged it but
claimed forgiveness on the grounds of love, his love for her which had
been goaded to mad jealousy by her thoughtless unkindness, her love for
him which would not desert him no matter what he did.

But pose or not, Tony was obliged to admit there was some truth in it
all. Perhaps it was all true-too true. Even if he did not resort to the
pistol as he threatened he would find other means of slaying his soul if
not his body if she forsook him now. She could not do it. As he said she
loved him too well. She had gone too far in the path to turn back now.

Ah why, why had she let it go so far? Why had she not listened to Dick,
to Uncle Phil, to Carlotta, even to Miss Lottie? They had all told her
there was no happiness for her in loving Alan Massey. She knew it herself
better than any of them could possibly know it. And yet she had to go on,
for his sake, for her own because she loved him.

By this time she was no longer angry or resentful. She was just
sorry--sorry for Alan--sorry for herself. She knew just as she had known
all along that last night's incident would not really make any
difference. It would be put away in time with all the other things she
had to forgive. She had eaten her pomegranate seeds. She could not escape
the dark kingdom. She did not wish to.

Later came violets from Dick which she put in a vase on her desk beside
Uncle Phil's picture. But it was the fragrance and color of Alan's roses
that filled the room, and presently she sat down and wrote her
ill-behaved lover a sweet, forgiving little note. She was sorry if she
had been unkind. She had not meant to be. As for what happened it was too
late to worry about it now. They had best forget it, if they could. He
couldn't very well apologize to Dick in person because he was already on
his way to Mexico. There was no need of any penance. Of course she
forgave him, knew he had not meant to hurt her, though he had horribly.
If he cared to do so he might take her to dinner tomorrow
night--somewhere where they could dance. And in conclusion she was always
his, Tony Holiday.

Both Dick and Alan were driven out of her mind later that day by the
delightful and exciting interview over the tea table with Carol Clay.
Miss Clay was a charming hostess, drew the girl out without appearing to
do so, got her to talk naturally about many things, her life with her
father at army barracks, and with her uncle on her beloved Hill, of her
friends and brothers, her college life, of books and plays. Plays took
them to the Killarney Rose and once more Miss Clay expressed her pleasure
in the girl's rendering of one of her own favorite roles.

"You acted as if you had been playing Rose all your life," she added
with a smile.

"Maybe I have," said Tony. "Rose is--a good deal like me. Maybe that is
why I loved playing her so."

"I shouldn't wonder. You are a real little actress, my dear. I wonder if
you are ready to pay the price of it. It is bitterly hard work and it
means giving up half the things women care for."

The speaker's lovely eyes shadowed a little. Tony wondered what
Carol Clay had given up, was giving up for her art to bring that
look into them.

"I am not afraid. I am willing to work. I love it. And I--I am willing to
give up a good deal."

"Lovers?" smiled Miss Clay.

"Must I? I thought actresses always had lovers, at least worshipers.
Can't I keep the lovers, Miss Clay?" There was a flash of mischief in
Tony's eyes as she asked the important question.

"Better stick to worshipers. Lovers are risky. Husbands--fatal."

Tony laughed outright at that.

"I am willing to postpone the fatality," she murmured.

"I am glad to hear it for I lured you here to take you into a deep-laid
plot. I suppose you did not suspect that it was Max Hempel who sent me to
see you play Rose?"

"Mr. Hempel? I thought he had forgotten me."

"He never forgets any one in whom he is interested. He has had his eye
on you ever since he saw you play Rosalind. He told me when he came back
from that trip that I had a rival coming on."

"Oh, no!" Tony objected even in jest to such desecration.

"Oh, yes," smiled her hostess. "Max Hempel is a brutally frank person. He
never spares one the truth, even the disagreeable truth. He has had his
eye out for a new ingenue for a long time. Ingenues do get old--at least
older you know."

"Not you," denied Tony.

"Even I, in time. I grant you not yet. It takes a degree of age and
sophistication to play youth and innocence. We do it better as a rule at
thirty than at twenty. We are far enough away from it to stand off and
observe how it behaves and can imitate it better than if we still had it.
That is one reason I was interested in your Rose last night. You played
like a little girl as Rose should. You looked like a little girl. But you
couldn't have given it that delightfully sure touch if you hadn't been a
little bit grown up. Do you understand?"

Tony nodded.

"I think so. You see I am--a little bit grown up."

"Don't grow up any more. You are adorable as you are. But to business.
Have you seen my Madge?"

"In the 'End of the Rainbow?' Yes, indeed. I love it. You like the part
too, don't you? You play it as if you did."

"I do. I like it better than any I have had since Rose. Did it occur to
you that you would like to play Madge yourself?"

Tony blushed ingenuously.

"Well, yes, it did," she admitted half shyly. "Of course, I knew I
couldn't play it as you did. It takes years of experience and a real art
like yours to do it like that, but I did think I'd like to try it and see
what I could do."

Miss Clay nodded, well pleased.

"Of course you did. Why not? It is your kind of a role, just as Rose is.
You and I are the same types. Mr. Hempel has said that all along, ever
since he saw your Rosalind. But I won't keep you in suspense. The long
and short of all this preliminary is--how would you like to be my
understudy for Madge?"

"Oh, Miss Clay!" Tony gasped. "Do you think I could?"

"I know you could, my dear. I knew it all the time while I was
watching you play Rose. Mr. Hempel has known it even longer. I went to
see Rose to find out if there was a Madge in you. There is. I told Mr.
Hempel so this morning. He is brewing his contracts now so be
prepared. Will you try it?"

"I'd love to if you and Mr. Hempel think I can. I promised Uncle Phil I
would take a year of the school work though. Will I have to drop that?"

"I think so--most of it at least. You would have to be at the rehearsals
usually which are in the morning. You might have to play Madge quite
often then. There are reasons why I have to be away a great deal just
now." Again the shadow, darkened the star's eyes and a droop came to her
mouth. "It isn't even so impossible that you would be called upon to
play before the real Broadway audience in fact. Understudies sometimes
do you know."

Miss Clay was smiling now, but the shadow in her eyes had not
lifted Tony saw.

"I am particularly anxious to get a good understudy started in
immediately," the actress continued. "The one I had was impossible, did
not get the spirit of the thing at all. It is absolutely essential to
have some one ready and at once. My little daughter is in a sanitarium
dying with an incurable heart leakage. There will be a time--probably
within the next two months--when I shall have to be away."

Tony put out her hand and let it rest upon the other woman's. There was
compassion in her young eyes.

"I am so sorry," she said simply. "I didn't know you had a daughter. Of
course, I did know you weren't really Miss Clay, that you were Mrs.
Somebody, but I didn't think of your having children. Somehow we don't
remember actresses may be mothers too."

"The actresses remember it--sometimes," said Miss Clay with a tremulous
little smile. "It isn't easy to laugh when your heart is heavy, Miss
Antoinette. It is all I can do to go on with 'Madge' sometimes. I just
have to forget--make myself forget I am a mother and a wife. Captain
Carey, my husband, is in the British Army. He is in Flanders now, or was
when I last heard."

"Oh, I don't see how you can do it--play, I mean," sighed Tony aghast at
this new picture the actress's words brought up.

"One learns, my dear. One has to. An actress is two distinct persons.
One of her belongs to the public. The other is just a plain woman.
Sometimes I feel as if I were far more the first than I am the second.
There wouldn't be any more contracts if I were not. But never mind that.
To come back to you. Mr. Hempel will send you a contract to-morrow. Will
you sign it?"

"Yes, if Uncle Phil is willing. I'll wire him to-night. I am almost
positive he will say yes. He is very reasonable and he will see what a
wonderful, wonderful chance this is for me. I can't thank you enough,
Miss Clay. It all takes my breath away. But I am grateful and so happy;
you can't imagine it."

Miss Clay smiled and drew on her gloves. The interview was over.

"There is really nothing to thank me, for," she said. "The favor is on
the other side. It is I who am lucky. The perfect understudy like a
becoming hat is hard to find, but when found is absolutely beyond price.
May I send you a pass for to-morrow night to the 'End of the Rainbow'?
Perhaps you would like to see it again and play 'Madge' with me from a
box. The pass will admit two. Bring one of the lovers if you like."

Tony wired her uncle that night. In the morning mail arrived Max Hempel's
contract as Miss Clay had promised. Tony regarded it with superstitious
awe. It was the first contract she had ever seen in her life, much less
had offered for her signature. The terms were, generous--appallingly so
it seemed to the girl who knew little of such things and was not inclined
to over-rate her powers financially speaking. She wisely took the
contract over to the school and got the manager's advice to "Go ahead."

"We've nothing comparable to offer you, Miss Tony. With Hempel and Miss
Clay both behind you you are practically made. You are a lucky little
lady. I know a dozen experienced actresses in this city who would give
their best cigarette cases to be in your shoes."

Arrived home at the Hostelry, armed with this approval, Tony found her
Uncle's answering wire bidding her do as she thought best and sending
heartiest love and congratulations. Dear Uncle Phil!

And then she sat down and signed the impressive document that made her
Carol Clay's understudy and a real wage-earning person.

All the afternoon she spent in long, delicious, dreamless slumber. At
five she was wakened by the maid bringing a letter from Alan, a
wonderful, extravagant lover-note such as only he could pen. Later she
bathed and dressed, donning the white and silver gown she had worn the
night when she had first admitted to Alan in Carlotta's garden that she
loved him, first took his kisses. It was rather a sacred little gown to
Tony, sacred to Alan and her own surrender to love. He called it her
starlight dress and loved it especially because it brought out the
springlike, virginal quality of her youth and loveliness as her other
more sophisticated gowns did not. Tony wore it for Alan to-night,
wanted him to think her lovely, to love her immensely. She wanted to
taste all life's joy at once, have a perfect deluge of happiness. Youth
must be served.

Alan, graceful for being forgiven so easily, fell in with her mood and
was at his best, courtly, considerate, adoring. He exerted all the
magic of his not inconsiderable charm to make Tony forget that other
unfortunate night when he had appeared in other, less attractive
colors. And Tony was ready enough to forget beneath his worshiping
green eyes and under the spell of his wonderful voice. She meant to
shut out the unwelcome guests of fear and doubt from her heart, let
love alone have sway.

They dined at a gorgeous restaurant in a great hotel. Tony reveled in the
splendor and richness of the setting, delighted in the flawless service,
the perfection of the strange and delectable viands which Alan ordered
for their consumption. Particularly she delighted in Alan himself and the
way he fitted into the richness and luxury. It was his rightful setting.
She could not imagine him in any of the shabby restaurants where she and
Dick had often dined so contentedly. Alan was a born aristocrat,
patrician of the patricians. His looks, his manner, everything about him
betrayed it. Most of all it was revealed in the way the waiters scurried
to do his bidding, bowed obsequiously before him, recognized him as the
authentic master, lord of the purple.

"So Carson really has gone to Mexico," Alan murmured as they dallied over
their salads, looking mostly into each other's eyes.

"Yes, he went yesterday. I hated to have him go. It is awfully
disagreeable and dangerous down there they say. He might get a fever or
get killed or something." Tony absent-mindedly nibbling a piece of roll
already saw Dick in her mind's eye the victim of an assassin's blade.

"No such luck!" thought Alan Massey bitterly. The thought brought a flash
of venom into his eyes which Tony unluckily caught.

"Alan! Why do you hate Dick so? He never did you any harm."

Tony Holiday did not know what outrageous injury Dick had done his
cousin, Alan Massey.

Alan was already suavely master of himself, the venom expunged
from his eyes.

"Why wouldn't I hate him, _Antoinetta mia_? You are half in love
with him."

"I am not," denied Tony indignantly. "He is just like Lar--." She broke
off abruptly, remembering Dick's flare of resentment at that familiar
formula, remembering too the kiss she had given him in the dimly-lit hall
in the Hostelry, the kiss which had not been precisely such a one as she
would have given Larry.

Alan's face darkened again.

"Oh, yes, you are. You are blushing."

"I am not." Then putting her hands up to her face and feeling it warm
she changed her tactics. "Well, what, if I am? I do care a lot about
Dick. I found out the other night that I cared a whole lot more than I
knew. It isn't like caring for Larry and Ted. It's different. For after
all he isn't my brother--never was--never will be. I'm a wretched flirt,
Alan. You know it as well as I do. I've let Dick keep on loving me,
knowing all the time I didn't mean to marry him. And I'm not a bit sure I
am going to marry you either."

"Tony!"

"Well, anyway not for a long, long time. I want to go on the stage. I
can't put all of myself into my work and give it to you at the same time.
I don't want to get married. I don't dare to. I don't dare even let
myself care too much. I want to be free."

"You want to be loved."

"Of course. Every woman does."

Alan made an impatient gesture.

"I don't mean lip-worship. You are a woman, not a piece of statuary. Come
on now. Let's dance."

They danced. In her lover's arms, their feet keeping time to the
syncopated, stirring rhythms of the violins, their hearts beating to a
mightier harmony of nature's own brewing, Tony Holiday was far from being
a piece of statuary. She was all woman, a woman very much alive and very
much in love.

Alan bent over her.

"Tony, belovedest. There are more things than art in the world," he said
softly. "Don't you know it, feel it? There is life. And life is bigger
than your work or mine. We're both artists, but we'll be bigger artists
together. Marry me now. Don't make me wait. Don't make yourself wait. You
want it as much as I do. Say yes, sweetheart," he implored.

Tony shook her head vehemently. She was afraid. She knew that just now
all her dreams of success in her chosen art, all her love for the dear
ones at home were as nothing in comparison with this greater thing which
Alan called life and which she felt surging mightily within her. But she
also knew that this way lay madness, disloyalty, regret. She must be
strong, strong for Alan as well as for herself.

"Not yet," she whispered back. "Be patient, Alan. I love you,
dear. Wait."

The music came to an end. Many eyes followed the two as they went back to
their places at the table. They were incomparable artists. It was worth
missing one's own dance to see them have theirs. Aside from his wonderful
dancing and striking personality Alan was at all times a marked figure,
attracting attention wherever he went and whatever he did. The public
knew he had a superlative fortune which he spent magnificently as a
prince, and that he had a superlative gift which for all they were aware
he had flung wantonly away as soon as the money came into his hands.
Moreover he was even more interesting because of his superlatively bad
reputation which still followed him. The public would have found it hard
to believe that at last Alan Massey was leading the most temperate and
arduous of lives and devoting himself exclusively to one woman whom he
treated as reverently as if she were a goddess. The gazes focussed upon
Alan now inevitably included the girl with him, as lovely and young as
spring itself.

"Who was she?" they asked each other. "What was a girl like that doing
in Alan Massey's society?" To most of the observers it meant but one
thing, eventually if not now. Even the most cynical and world-hardened
thought it a pity, and these would have been confounded if they could
have heard just now his passionate plea for marriage. One did not
associate marriage with Alan Massey. One had not associated it too much
with his mother, one recalled.




CHAPTER XXVII

TROUBLED WATERS


Ted Holiday drifted into Berry's to buy floral offerings for the
reigning goddess who chanced still to be pretty Elsie Hathaway. Things
had gone on gayly since that night a month ago when he had stolen that
impudent kiss beneath the crescent moon. Not that there was anything at
all serious about the affair. College coquettes must have lovers, and
Ted Holiday would not have been himself if there had not been a pretty
sweetheart on hand.

By this time Ted had far outdistanced the other claimants for Elsie's
favor. But the victory had come high. His bank account was again sadly
humble in porportions and his bills at Berry's and at the candy shops
were things not to be looked into too closely. Nevertheless he was in a
gala humor that November morning. Aside from chronic financial
complications things were going very well with him. He was working just
hard enough to satisfy his newly-awakened common sense or conscience, or
whatever it was that was operating. He was having a jolly good time with
Elsie and basket ball and other things and college life didn't seem quite
such a bore and burden as it had hitherto. Moreover Uncle Phil had just
written that he would waive the ten dollar automobile tax for December in
consideration of the approach of Christmas, possibly also in
consideration of his nephew's fairly creditable showing on the new leaf
of the ledger though he did not say so. In any case it was a jolly old
world if anybody asked Ted Holiday that morning as he entered Berry's.

He made straight for Madeline as he invariably did. He was always
friendly and gay and casual with her, always careful to let no one
suspect he had ever known her any more intimately than at present--not
because he cared on his own account--Ted Holiday was no snob. But because
he had sense to see it was better for Madeline herself.

He was genuinely sorry for the girl. He could not help seeing how her
despondency grew upon her from week to week and that she appeared
miserably sick as well as unhappy. She looked worse than usual to-day, he
thought, white and heavy-eyed and unmistakably heavy-hearted. It troubled
him to see her so. Ted had the kindest heart in the world and always
wanted every one else to be as blithely content with life as he was
himself. Accordingly now under cover of his purchase of chrysanthemums
for Elsie he managed to get in a word in her ear.

"You look as if you needed cheering up a bit. How about the movies
to-night? Charlie's on. He'll fix you."

"No, thank you, I couldn't." The girl's voice was also prudently low,
and she busied herself with the flowers instead of looking at Ted as
she spoke.

"Why not?" he challenged, always impelled to insistence by denial.

"Because I--" And then to Ted's consternation the flowers flew out of her
hands, scattering in all directions, her face went chalky white and she
fell forward in a heavy faint in Ted Holiday's arms.

Ted got her to a chair, ordered another clerk to get water and spirits of
ammonia quick. His arm was still around her when Patrick Berry strayed
in from the back room. Berry's eyes narrowed. He looked the girl over
from head to foot, surveyed Ted Holiday also with sharp scrutiny and
knitted brows. The clerk returned with water and dashed off for the
ammonia as ordered. Madeline's eyes opened slowly, meeting Ted's anxious
blue ones as he bent over her.

"Ted!" she gasped. "Oh, Ted!"

Her eyes closed again wearily. Berry's frown deepened. His best
customer had hitherto in his hearing been invariably addressed by the
girl as Mr. Holiday.

In a moment Madeline's eyes opened again and she almost pushed Ted away
from her, shooting a frightened, deprecating glance at her employer as
she did so.

"I--I am all right now," she said, rising unsteadily.

"You are nothing of the sort, Madeline," protested Ted, also forgetting
caution in his concern. "You are sick. I'll get a taxi and take you
home. Mr. Berry won't mind, will you Berry?" appealed the best
customer, completely unaware of the queer, sharp look the florist was
bending upon him.

"No, she'd better go," agreed Berry shortly. "I'll call a cab." He walked
over to the telephone but paused, his hand on the receiver and looked
back at Ted. "Where does she live?" he asked. "Do you know?"

"Forty-nine Cherry," returned Ted still unconsciously revelatory.

The big Irishman got his number and called the cab. The clerk came back
with the ammonia and vanished with it into the back room. Berry walked
over to where Ted stood.

"See here, Mr. Holiday," he said. "I don't often go out of my way to give
college boys advice. Advice is about the one thing in the world nobody
wants. But I'm going to give you a bit. I like you and I liked your
brother before you. Here's the advice. Stick to the campus. Don't get
mixed up with Cherry Street. You wanted the chrysanthemums sent to Miss
Hathaway, didn't you?"

"I did." There was a flash in Ted's blue eyes. "Send 'em and send a dozen
of your best roses to Miss Madeline Taylor, forty-nine Cherry and mind
your business. There is the cab. Ready, Madeline?" As the girl appeared
in the doorway with her coat and hat on. "I'll take you home."

"Oh, no, indeed, it isn't at all necessary," protested Madeline. "You
have done quite enough as it is, Mr. Holiday. You mustn't bother." The
speaker's tone was cool, almost cold and very formal. She did not know
that Patrick Berry had heard that very different, fervid, "Ted! Oh, Ted!"
if indeed she knew it had ever passed her lips as she came reluctantly
back to the world of realities.

Ted held the door open for her. They passed out. But a moment later when
Berry peered out the window he saw the cab going in one direction and his
best customer strolling off in the other and nodded his satisfaction.

Sauntering along his nonchalant course, Madeline Taylor already half
forgotten, Ted Holiday came face to face with old Doctor Hendricks, a
rosy cheeked, white bearded, twinkling eyed Santa Claus sort of person
who had known his father and uncle and brother and had pulled himself
through various minor itises and sprains. Seeing the doctor reminded him
of Madeline.

"Hello, Doc. Just the man I wanted to see. Want a job?"

"Got more jobs than I can tend to now, young man. Anything the matter
with you? You look as tough as a two year old rooster."

The old man's small, kindly, shrewd eyes scanned the lad's face
as he spoke.

"Smoking less, sleeping more, nerves steadier, working harder, playing
the devil lighter," he gummed up silently with satisfaction. "Good, he'll
come out a Holiday yet if we give him time."

"I am tough," Ted grinned back, all unconscious that he had been
diagnosed in that flitting instant of time. "Never felt better in my
life. Always agrees with me to be in training."

The old doctor nodded.

"I know. You young idiots will mind your coaches when you won't your
fathers and your doctors. What about the job?"

"There's a girl I know who works at Berry's flower shop. I am afraid she
is sick though she won't see a doctor. She fainted away just now while I
was in the store, keeled over into my arms, scared me half out of my
wits. I'm worried about her. I wish you would go and see her. She lives
down on Cherry Street."

"H-m!" The doctor's eyes studied the boy's face again but with less
complacency this time. Like Patrick Berry he thought a young Holiday
would better stick to the campus, not run loose on Cherry Street.

"Know the girl well?" he queried.

Ted hesitated, flushed, looked unmistakably embarrassed.

"Yes, rather," he admitted. "I ran round with her quite a little the
first of the summer. I got her the job at Berry's. Her grandfather, a
pious old stick in the mud, turned her out of his house. She had to do
something to earn her living. I hope she isn't going to be sick. It would
be an awful mess. She can't have much saved up. Go and see her, will you,
Doc? Forty-nine Cherry. Taylor is the name."

"H-m." The doctor made a note of these facts. "All right, I'll go. But
you had better keep away from Cherry Street, young man. It is not the
environment you belong in."

"Environment be--blessed!" said Ted. "Don't you begin on that sort of
rot, please, Doc. Old Pat Berry's just been giving me a lecture on the
same subject. You make me tired both of you. As if the girls on Cherry
Street weren't as good any day as the ones on the campus, just because
they work in shops and stores and the girls on the campus work--us," he
concluded with a grin. "I'm not an infant that has to be kept in a Kiddie
coop you know."

"Look out you don't land in a chicken coop," sniffed the doctor. "Very
well, you young sinner. Don't listen to me if you don't want to. I know I
might as well talk to the wind. You always were open to all the fool
germs going, Ted Holiday. Some day you'll own the old Doc knew best."

"I wouldn't admit to being so hanged well up on the chicken-roost
proposition myself if I were you," retorted Ted impudently. "So long. I'm
much obliged for your kind favors all but the moral sentiments. You can
have those back. You may need 'em to use over again."

So Ted went on his way, dropped in to see Elsie, had a cup of tea and
innumerable small cakes, enjoyed a foxtrot to phonograph music with the
rug rolled up out of the way, conversed amicably with the Ancient History
Prof himself, who wasn't such a bad sort as Profs go and had the merit of
being one of the few instructors who had not flunked Ted Holiday in his
course the previous year.

The next morning Ted found a letter from Doctor Hendricks in his mail
which he opened with some curiosity wondering what the old Doc could have
to say. He read the communication through in silence and tucking it in
his pocket walked out of the room as if he were in a dream, paying no
attention to the question somebody called after him as he went. He went
on to his classes but he hardly knew what was going on about him. His
mind seemed to have stopped dead like a stop watch with the reading of
the old doctor's letter.

He understood at last the full force of the trouble which engulfed
Madeline Taylor and why she had said that it would have been better for
her if that mad joy ride with him had ended life for her. The doctor had
gone to her as he had promised and had extracted the whole miserable
story. It seemed Madeline had married, or thought she had married,
Willis Hubbard against her grandfather's express command, a few weeks
after Ted had parted from her in Holyoke. In less than two months
Hubbard had disappeared leaving behind him the ugly fact that he already
had one wife living in Kansas City in spite of the pretense of a wedding
ceremony which he had gone through with Madeline. Long since
disillusioned but still having power and pride to suffer intensely the
latter found herself in the tragic position of being-a wife and yet no
wife. In her desperate plight she besought her grandfather's clemency
and forgiveness but that rigid old covenanter had declared that even as
she had made her bed in willful disobedience to his command so she
should lie on it for all of him.

It was then that she had turned as a last resort to Ted Holiday though
always hoping against hope that she could keep the real truth of her
unhappy situation from him.

"It is a bad affair from beginning to end," wrote the doctor. "I'd like
to break every rotten bone in that scoundrel's body but he has taken
mighty good care to effect a complete disappearance. That kind is never
willing to foot the bills for their own villainy. I am telling you the
story in order to make it perfectly clear that you are to keep out of the
business from now on. You have burned your fingers quite enough as it is
I gather. Don't see the girl. Don't write her. Don't telephone her. Let
her alone absolutely. Mind, these aren't polite requests. They are
orders. And if you don't obey them I'll turn the whole thing over to your
uncle double quick and I don't think you want me to do that. Don't worry
about the girl. I'll look after her now and later when she is likely to
need me more. But you keep hands off. That is flat--the girl's wish as
well as my orders."

And this was what Ted Holiday had to carry about with him all that bleak
day and a half sleepless, uneasy night. And in the morning he was
summoned home to the House on the Hill. Granny was dying.




CHAPTER XXVIII

IN DARK PLACES


The House on the Hill was a strange place to Tony and Ted those November
days, stranger than to the others who had walked day by day with the
sense of the approaching shadow always with them. Death itself was an
awesome and unaccustomed thing to them. They did not see how the others
bore it so well, took it all so calmly. To make matters worse, Uncle Phil
who never failed any one was stricken down with a bad case of influenza
and was unable to leave his bed. This of course made Margery also
practically _hors de combat_. The little folks spent most of their time
across the street in motherly Mrs. Lambert's care. Upon Ned Holiday's
children rested the chief burden of the hour.

Granny was rarely conscious and all three of her grandchildren coveted
the sad privilege of being near her when these brief moments of lucidity
came though Tony and Ted could not stand long periods of watching beside
the still form as Larry could and did. It was Larry that she most often
recognized. Sometimes though he was his father to her and she called him
"Ned" in such tones of yearning tenderness that it nearly broke down his
self control. Sometimes too he was Philip to her and this also was
bitterly hard for Larry missed his uncle's support woefully in this dark
hour. Ruth, Granny seemed to know, oftener indeed, than she did Tony to
the latter's keen grief though she acknowledged the justice of the stab.
For she had gone her selfish way leaving the stranger to play the loving
granddaughter's part.

One night when the nurse was resting and Larry too had flung himself upon
the couch in the living room to snatch a little much needed relaxation,
leaving Ruth in charge of the sickroom, Ted drifted in and demanded to
take his turn at the watch, giving Ruth a chance to sleep. She demurred
at first, knowing how hard these vigils were for the restless, unhappy
lad. But seeing he was really in earnest she yielded. As she passed out
of the room her hand rested for a moment on the boy's bowed head. She had
come to care a great deal for sunny, kind-hearted Teddy, loved him for
himself and because she knew he loved Larry with deep devotion.

He looked up with a faint smile and gave her hand a squeeze.

"You are a darling, Ruthie," he murmured. "Don't know what we would ever
do without you."

And then he was alone with death and his own somber thoughts. He could
not get away from the memory of Madeline, could not help feeling with a
terrible weight of responsibility that he was more than a little to blame
for her plight. Whether he liked to think it or not he couldn't help
knowing that the whole thing had started with that foolish joy ride with
himself. Madeline had never risked her grandfather's displeasure till she
risked it for him. She had never gone anywhere with Hubbard till she went
because she was bitterly angry with himself because he had not kept his
promise--a promise which never should have been made in the first place.
And if he had not gone to Holyoke, hadn't behaved like an idiot that last
night, hadn't deserted her like a selfish cad to save his own precious
self--if none of these things had happened would Madeline still have
gone to Hubbard? Perhaps. But in his heart Ted Holiday had a hateful
conviction that she would not, that her wretchedness now was indirectly
if not directly chargeable to his own folly. It was terrible that such
little things should have such tremendous consequences but there it was.

All his life Ted Holiday had evaded responsibility and had found self
extenuation the easiest thing in the world. But somehow all at once he
seemed to have lost the power of letting himself off. He had no plea to
offer even to himself except "guilty." Was he going to do as Doctor
Hendricks commanded and let Madeline pay the price of her own folly alone
or was he going to pay with her? The night was full of the question.

The quiet figure on the bed stirred. Instantly the boy had forgotten
himself, remembered only Granny.

He bent over her.

"Granny, don't you know me? It's Teddy," he pleaded.

The white lips quivered into a faint smile. The frail hand on the cover
lid groped vaguely for his.

"I know--Teddy," the lips formed slowly with an effort.

Ted kissed her, tears in his eyes.

"Be--a man, dear," the lips breathed softly. "Be--" and Granny was off
again to a world of unconsciousness from which she had returned a moment
to give her message to the grief stricken lad by her side.

To Ted in his overwrought condition the words were almost like a voice
from heaven, a sacred command. To be a man meant to face the hardest
thing he had ever had to face in his life. It meant marrying Madeline
Taylor, not leaving her like a coward to pay by herself for something
which he himself had helped to start. He rose softly and went to the
window, staring out into the night. A few moments later he turned back
wearing a strange uplifted sort of look, a look perhaps such, as Percival
bore when he beheld the Grail.

Strange forces were at work in the House on the Hill that night. Ruth
had gone to her room to rest as Ted bade her but she had not slept in
spite of her intense weariness. She had almost lost the way of sleep
latterly. She was always so afraid of not being near when Larry needed
her. The night watches they had shared so often now had brought them
very, very close to each other, made their love a very sacred as well as
very strong thing.

Ruth knew that the time was near now when she would have to go away from
the Hill. After Granny went there would be no excuse for staying on. If
she did not go Larry would. Ruth knew that very well and did not intend
the latter should happen.

She had laid her plans well. She would go and take a secretarial course
somewhere. She had made inquiries and found that there was always demand
for secretaries and that the training did not take so long as other
professional education did. She could sell her rings and live on the
money they brought her until she was self supporting. She did not want to
dispose of her pearls if she could help it. She wanted to hold on to them
as the link to her lost past. Yes, she would leave the Hill. It was quite
the right thing to do.

But oh, what a hard thing it was! She did not see how she was ever going
to face life alone under such hard, queer conditions without Doctor
Philip, without dear Mrs. Margery and the children, without Larry,
especially without Larry. For that matter what would Larry do without
her? He needed her so, loved her so much. Poor Larry!

And suddenly Ruth sat up in bed. As clearly as if he had been in the
room with her she heard Larry's voice calling to her. She sprang up
and threw a dark blue satin negligee around her, went out of the room,
down the stairs, seeming to know by an infallible instinct where her
lover was.

On the threshold of the living room she paused. Larry was pacing the
floor nervously, his face drawn and gray in the dim light of the
flickering gas. Seeing her he made a swift stride in her direction, took
both her hands in his.

"Ruth, why did you come?" There was an odd tension in his voice.

"You called me, didn't you? I thought you did." Her eyes were wondering.
"I heard you say 'Ruth' as plain as anything."

He shook his head.

"No, I didn't call you out loud. Maybe I did with my heart though. I
wanted you so."

He dropped her hands as abruptly as he had taken them.

"Ruth, I've got to marry you. I can't go on like this. I've tried to
fight it, to be patient and hang on to myself as Uncle Phil wanted me to.
But I can't go on. I'm done."

He flung himself into a chair. His head went down on the table. The clock
ticked quietly on the mantel. What was Death upstairs to Time? What were
Youth and Love and Grief down here? These things were merely eddies in
the great tide of Eternity.

For a moment Ruth stood very still. Then she went over and laid a hand on
the bowed head, the hand that wore the wedding ring.

"Larry, Larry dear," she said softly. "Don't give up like that. It
breaks my heart." There was a faint tremor in her voice, a hint of tears
not far off.

He lifted his head, the strain of his long self mastering wearing thin
almost to the breaking point at last, for once all but at the mercy of
the dominant emotion which possessed him, his love for the girl at his
side who stood so close he could feel her breathing, got the faint violet
fragrance of her. And yet he must not so much as touch her hand.

The clock struck three, solemn, inexorable strokes. Ruth and Larry and
the clock seemed the only living things in the quiet house. Larry brushed
his hand over his eyes, got to his feet.

"Ruth, will you marry me?"

"Yes, Larry."

The shock of her quiet consent brought Larry back a little to realities.

"Wait, Ruth. Don't agree too soon. Do you realize what it means to marry
me? You may be married already. Your husband may return and find you
living--illegally--with me."

"I know," said Ruth steadily. "There must be something wrong with me,
Larry. I can't seem to care. I can't seem to make myself feel as if I
belonged to any one else except to you. I don't think I do belong to any
one else. I was born over in the wreck. I was born yours. You saved me. I
would have died if you hadn't gotten me out from under the beams and
worked over and brought me back to life when everybody else gave me up as
dead. I wouldn't have been alive for my husband if you hadn't saved me. I
am yours, Larry. If you want me to marry you I will. If you want me--any
way--I am yours. I love you."

"Ruth!"

Larry drew her into his arms and kissed her--the first time he had ever
kissed any girl in his life except his sister. She lay in his arms, her
fragrant pale gold hair brushing his cheek. He kissed her over and over
passionately, almostly roughly in the storm of his emotion suddenly
unpent. Then he was Larry Holiday again. He pushed her gently from him,
remorse in his gray eyes.

"Forgive me, Ruth. It's all wrong. I'm all wrong. We can't do it. I
shouldn't have kissed you. I shouldn't have touched you--shouldn't have
let you come to me like this. You must go now, dear. I am sorry."

Ruth faced him in silence a moment then bowed her head, turned and walked
away to the door meekly like a chidden child. Her loosened hair fell like
a golden shower over her shoulders. It was all Larry could do to keep
from going after her, taking her in his arms again. But he stood grimly
planted by the table, gripping its edge as if to keep himself anchored.
He dared not stir one inch toward that childish figure in the dark robe.

On the threshold Ruth turned, flung back her hair and looked back at him.
There was a kind of fearless exaltation and pride on her lovely young
face and in her shining eyes.

"I don't know whether you are right or wrong, Larry, or rather when you
are right and when you are wrong. It is all mixed up. It seems as if it
must be right to care or we wouldn't be doing it so hard, as if God
couldn't let us love like this if he didn't mean we should be happy
together, belong to each other. Why should He make love if He didn't want
lovers to be happy?"

It was an argument as old as the garden of Eden but to Ruth and Larry it
was as if it were being pronounced for the first time for themselves,
here in the dead of night, in the old House on the Hill, as they felt
themselves drawn to each other by the all but irresistible impulse of
their mutual love.

"Maybe," went on Ruth, "I forgot my morals along with the rest I forgot.
I don't seem to care very much about right and wrong to-night. You
called me. I heard you and I came. I am here." Her lovely, proud little
head was thrown back, her eyes still shining with that fearless elation.

"Ruth! Don't, dear. You don't know what you are saying. I've got to care
about right and wrong for both of us. Please go. I--I can't stand it."

He left his post by the table then came forward and held open the door
for her. She passed out, went up the stairs, her hair falling in a wave
of gold down to her waist. She did not turn back.

Larry waited at the foot of the stairs until he heard the door of her
room close upon her and then he too went up, to Granny's room. Ted met
him at the threshold in a panic of fear and grief.

"Larry--I think--oh--" and Ted bolted unable to finish what he had begun
to say or to linger on that threshold of death.

The nurse was bending over Madame Holiday forcing some brandy between the
blue lips. Larry was by the bedside in an instant. The nurse stepped back
with a sad little shake of the head. There was nothing she could do and
she knew it, knew also there was nothing the young doctor could do
professionally. He knelt, chafed the cold hands. The pale lips quivered a
little, the glazed eyes opened for a second.

"Ned--Larry--give Philip love--" That was all. The eyes closed. There was
a little flutter of passing breath. Granny was gone.

It was two days after Granny's funeral. Ted had gone back to college.
Tony would leave for New York on the morrow. Life cannot wait on
death. It must go on its course as inevitably as a river must go its
way to the sea.

Yet to Tony it seemed sad and heartless that it should be so. She was
troubled by her selfishness, first to Granny living and now to Granny
dead. She said as much to her uncle sorrowfully.

"It isn't really heartless or unkind," he comforted her. "We have to go
on with our work. We can't lay it down or scamp it just because dear
Granny's work is done. It is no more wrong for you to go back to your
play than it is for me to go back to my doctoring."

"I know," sighed Tony. "But I can't help feeling remorseful. I had so
much time and Granny had so little and yet I wasn't willing to give her
even a little of mine. I would have if I had known though. I knew I was
selfish but I didn't know how selfish. I wish you had told me, Uncle
Phil. Why didn't you? You told Ruth. You let her help. Why wouldn't you
let me?" she half reproached.

"I tried to do what was best for us all. I wanted to find a reason for
keeping Ruth with us and I did not think then and I don't think now that
it was right or necessary to keep you back for the little comfort it
could have brought to Granny. You must not worry, dear child. The blame
if there is any is mine. I know you would have stayed if I had let you."

Back in college Ted sorted out his personal letters from the sheaf of
bills. Among them was one from Madeline Taylor, presumably the answer to
the one Ted had written her from the House on the Hill. He stared at the
envelope, dreading to open it. He was too horribly afraid of what it
might contain. Suddenly he threw the letter down on the table and his
head went down on top of it.

"I can't do it," he groaned. "I can't. I won't. It's too hard."

But in a moment his head popped up again fiercely.

"Confound you!" he muttered. "You can and you will. You've got to.
You've made your bed. Now lie on it." And he opened the letter.

"I can't tell you," wrote the girl, "how your letter touched me. Don't
think I don't understand that it isn't because you love me or really want
to marry me that you are asking me to do it. It is all the finer and more
wonderful because you don't and couldn't, ever. You had nothing to
gain--everything to lose. Yet you offered it all as if it were the most
ordinary gift in the world instead of the biggest.

"Of course, I can't let you sacrifice yourself like that for me. Did you
really think I would? I wouldn't let you be dragged down into my life
even if you loved me which you don't. Some day you will want to marry a
girl--not somebody like me--but your own kind and you can go to her clean
because you never hurt me, never did me anything but good ever. You
lifted me up always. But there must have been something still stronger
that pulled me down. I couldn't stay up. I was never your kind though I
loved you just as much as if I were. Forgive my saying it just this once.
It will be the last time. This is really good-by. Thank you over and over
for everything,

"Madeline."

A mist blurred Ted Holiday's eyes as he finished the letter. He was free.
The black winged vulture thing which had hovered over him for days was
gone. By and by he would be thankful for his deliverance but just now
there was room only in his chivalrous boy's heart for one overmastering
emotion, pity for the girl and her needlessly wrecked life. What a
hopeless mess the whole thing was! And what could he do to help her since
she would not take what he had offered in all sincerity? He must think
out a way somehow.




CHAPTER XXIX

THE PEDIGREE OF PEARLS


"Where is Larry?" asked Doctor Holiday a few days later coming into the
dining room at supper time. "I haven't seen him all the afternoon."

Margery dropped into her chair with a tired little sigh.

"There is a note from him at your place. I think he has gone out of town.
John told me he took him to the three ten train."

"H--m!" mused the doctor. "Where is Ruth?" he looked up to ask.

"Ruth went to Boston at noon. At least so Bertha tells me." Bertha
was the maid. "She did not say good-by to me. I thought possibly she
had to you!"

Her husband shook his head, perplexed and troubled.

"Dear Uncle Phil," ran Larry's message.

"Ruth has gone to Boston. She left a letter for me saying good-by and
asking me to say good-by to the rest of you for her. Said she would write
as soon as she had an address and that no one was to worry about her. She
would be quite all right and thought it was best not to bother us by
telling us about her plans until she was settled."

"Of course I am going after her. I don't know where she is but I'll find
her. I've got to, especially as I was the one who drove her away. I broke
my promise to you. I did make love to her and asked her to marry me the
night Granny died. She said she would and then of course I said she
couldn't and we've not seen each other alone since so I don't know what
she thinks now. I don't know anything except that I'm half crazy."

"I know it is horribly selfish to go off and leave you like this when you
need me especially. Please forgive me. I'll be back as soon as I can or
send Ruth or we'll both come. And don't worry. I'm not going to do
anything rash or wrong or anything that will hurt you or Ruth. I am sorry
about the other night. I didn't mean to smash up like that."

The doctor handed the letter over to his wife.

"Why didn't he wait until he had her address? How can he possibly find
her in a city like Boston with not the slightest thing to go on?"

Doctor Holiday smiled wearily.

"Wait! Do you see Larry waiting when Ruth is out of his sight? My dear,
don't you know Larry is the maddest of the three when he gets under way?"

"The maddest and the finest. Don't worry, Phil. He is all right. He won't
do anything rash just as he tells you."

"You can't trust a man in love, especially a young idiot who waited a
full quarter century to get the disease for the first time. But you are
right. I'd trust him anywhere, more rather than less because of that
confession of his. I've wondered that he didn't break his promise long
before this. He is only human and his restraint has been pretty nearly
super-human. I don't believe he would have smashed up now as he calls it
if his nerves hadn't been strained about to the limit by taking all the
responsibility for Granny at the end. It was terrible for the poor lad."

"It was terrible for you too, Phil. Larry isn't the only one who has
suffered. I do wish those foolish youngsters could have waited a little
and not thrown a new anxiety on you just now. But I suppose we can't
blame them under the circumstances. Isn't it strange, dear? Except for
the children sleeping up in the nursery you and I are absolutely alone
for the first time since I came to the House on the Hill."

He nodded a little sadly. His father was gone long since and now Granny
too. And Ned's children were all grown up, would perhaps none of them
ever come again in the old way. Their wings were strong enough now to
make strange flights.

"We've filled your life rather full, Margery mine," he said. "I hope
there are easier days ahead."

"I don't want any happier ones," said Margery as she slipped her
hand into his.

The next few days were a perfect nightmare to Larry. Naturally he found
no trace of Ruth, did not know indeed under what name she had chosen to
go. The city had swallowed her up and the saddest part of it was she had
wanted to be swallowed, to get away from himself. She had gone for his
sake he knew, because he had told her he could endure things no longer.
She had taken him at his word and vanished utterly. For all her
gentleness and docility Ruth had tremendous fortitude. She had taken this
hard, rash step alone in the dark for love's sake, just as she was ready
that unforgettable night to take that rasher step with him to marriage or
something less than marriage had he permitted it. She would have
preferred to marry him, not to bother with abstractions of right and
wrong, to take happiness as it offered but since he would not have it so
she had lost herself.

Despair, remorse, anxiety, loneliness held him-in thrall while he roamed
the streets of the old city, almost hopeless now of finding her but still
doggedly persistent in his search. Another man under such a strain of
mind and body would have gone on a stupendous thought drowning carouse.
Larry Holiday had no such refuge in his misery. He took it straight
without recourse to anaesthetic of any sort. And on the fourth day when
he had been about to give up in defeat and go home to the Hill to wait
for word of Ruth a crack of light dawned.

Chancing to be strolling absent mindedly across the Gardens he ran into a
college classmate of his, one Gary Eldridge, who shook his hand with
crushing grip and announced that it was a funny thing Larry's bobbing up
like that because he had been hearing the latter's name pretty
consecutively all the previous afternoon on the lips of the daintiest
little blonde beauty it had been his luck to behold in many a moon, a
regular Greuze girl in fact, eyes and all.

Naturally there was no escape for Eldridge after that. Larry Holiday
grabbed him firmly and demanded to know if he had seen Ruth Annersley and
if he had and knew where she was to tell him everything quick. It was
important.

Considering Larry Holiday's haggard face and tense voice Eldridge
admitted the importance and spun his yarn. No, he did not know where Ruth
Annersley was nor if the Greuze girl was Ruth Annersley at all. He did
know the person he meant was in the possession of the famous Farringdon
pearls, a fact immensely interesting to Fitch and Larrabee, the jewelers
in whose employ he was.

"Your Ruth Annersley or Farringdon or whoever she is brought the pearls
in to our place yesterday to have them appraised. You can bet we sat up
and took notice. We didn't know they had left Australia but here they
were right under our noses absolutely unmistakable, one of the finest
sets of matched pearls in the world. You Holidays are so hanged smart. I
wonder it didn't occur to you to bring 'em to us anyway. We're the boys
that can tell you who's who in the lapidary world. Pearls have pedigrees,
my dear fellow, quite as faithfully recorded as those of prize pigs."

Larry thumped his cranium disgustedly. It did seem ridiculous now that
the very simple expedient of going to the master jewelers for information
had not struck any of them. But it hadn't and that was the end of it. He
made Eldridge sit down in the Gardens then and there however to tell him
all he knew about the pearls but first and most important did the other
have any idea where the owner of the pearls was? He had none. The girl
was coming in again in a few days to hear the result of a cable they had
sent to Australia where the pearls had been the last Larrabee and Fitch
knew. She had left no address. Eldridge rather thought she hadn't cared
to be found. Larry bit his lip at that and groaned inwardly. He too was
afraid it was only too true, and it was all his fault.

This was the story of the pearls as his friend briefly outlined it for
Larry Holiday's benefit. The Farringdon pearls had originally belonged to
a Lady Jane Farringdon of Farringdon Court, England. They had been the
gift of a rejected lover who had gone to Africa to drown his
disappointment and had died there after having sent the pearls home to
the woman he had loved fruitlessly and who was by this time the wife of
another man, her distant cousin Sir James Farringdon. At her death Lady
Jane had given the pearls to her oldest son for his bride when he should
have one. He too had died however before he had attained to the bride.
The pearls went to his younger brother Roderick a sheep raiser in
Australia who had amassed a fortune and discarded the title. The sheep
raiser married an Australian girl and gave her the pearls. They had two
children, a girl and a boy. Roderick was since deceased. Possibly his
wife also was dead. They had cabled to find out details. But it looked as
if the little blonde lady who possessed the pearls although she did not
know where she got them was in all probability the daughter of Roderick
Farringdon, the granddaughter of the famous beauty, Lady Jane. She was
probably also a great heiress. The sheep raiser and his father-in-law had
both been reported to be wallowing in money. "Oh boy!" Eldridge had ended
significantly.

"But if Ruth is a person of so much importance why did they let her
travel so far alone with those valuable pearls in her possession? Why
haven't they looked her up? I suppose she told you about the wreck
and--the rest of it?"

"She did, sang the praises of the family of Holiday in a thousand keys.
Your advertisements were all on the Annersley track you see and they
would all be out on the Farringdon one. The paths didn't happen to cross
I suppose."

"You don't know anything about, Geoffrey Annersley do you?" Larry asked
anxiously.

"Not a thing. We are jewelers not detectives or clairvoyants. It is only
the pearls we are up on and we've evidently slipped a cog on them. We
should have known when they came to the States but we didn't."

"I'll cable the American consul at Australia myself. It's the first
real clue we have had--the rest has been working in the dark. The first
thing though is to find Ruth." And Larry Holiday looked so very
determined and capable of doing anything he set out to do that Gary
Eldridge grinned a little.

"Wonderful what falling in love will do for a chap," he reflected. "Used
to think old Larry was rather a slow poke but he seems to have developed
into some whirlwind. Don't wonder considering what a little peach the
girl is. Hope the good Lord has seen fit to recall Geoffrey Annersley to
his heaven if he really did marry her."

Aloud he promised to telephone Larry the moment the owner of the pearls
crossed the threshold of Larrabee and Fitch and to hold her by main force
if necessary until Larry could get there. In the meantime he suggested
that she had seemed awfully interested in the Australia part of the story
and it was very possible she had gone to the--

"Library." Larry took the words out of his mouth and bolted without any
formality of farewell into the nearest subway entrance.

His friend gazed after him.

"And this is Larry Holiday who used to flee if a skirt fluttered in his
direction," he murmured. "Ah well, it takes us differently. But it gets
us all sooner or later."

Larry's luck had turned at last. In the reading room of the Public
Library he discovered a familiar blonde head bent over a book. He strode
to the secluded corner where she sat "reading up" on Australia.

"Ruth!" Larry tried to speak quietly though he felt like raising the
echoes of the sacred scholarly precincts.

The reader looked up startled, wondering. Her face lit with quick
delight.

"Larry, oh Larry, I'm finding myself," she whispered breathlessly.

"I'm glad but I'm gladder that I'm finding--yourself. Come on outside
sweetheart. I want to shout. I can't whisper and I won't. I'll get us
both put out if you won't come peaceably."

"I'll come," said Ruth meekly.

Outside in the corridor she raised blue eyes to gray ones.

"I didn't mean you to find me--yet," she sighed.

"So I should judge. I didn't think a mite of a fairy girl like you could
be so cruel. Some day I'll exact full penance for all you've made me
suffer but just now we'll waive that and go over to the Plaza and have a
high tea and talk. But first I'm going to kiss you. I don't care if
people are looking. All Boston can look if it likes. I'm going to do it."

But it was only a scrub woman and not all Boston who witnessed that kiss,
and she paid no attention to the performance. Even had she seen it is
hardly probable that she would have been vastly startled at the sight.
She was a very old woman and more than likely she had seen such sights
before. Perhaps she had even been kissed by a man herself, once upon a
time. We hope so.

The next day Larry and Ruth came home to the Hill, radiantly happy and
full of their strange adventures. Ruth was wearing an immensely becoming
new dark blue velvet suit, squirrel furs and a new hat which to Margery's
shrewd feminine eyes betrayed a cost all out of proportion to its
minuteness. She was looking exquisitely lovely in her new finery. Scant
wonder Larry could not keep his eyes off of her. Margery and Philip were
something in the same state.

"On the strength of my being an heiress maybe Larry thought I might
afford some new clothes," Ruth confessed. "Of course he paid for
them--temporarily," she had added with a charming blush and a side long,
deprecating glance at Doctor Holiday, senior. She did not want him to
disapprove of her for letting Larry buy her pretty clothes nor blame
Larry for doing it.

But he only laughed and remarked that he would have gone shopping with
her himself if he had any idea the results would be so satisfactory.

It was only when he was alone with Margery that he shook his head.

"Those crazy children behave as if everything were quite all right and as
if they could run right out any minute and get married. She doesn't even
wear her ring any more and they both appear to think the fact it
presumably represents can be disposed of as summarily."

"Let them alone," advised his wife. "They are all right. It won't do them
a bit of harm to let themselves go a bit. Larry does his worshiping with
his eyes and maybe with his tongue when they are alone. I don't blame
him. She is a perfect darling. And it is much better for him not to
pretend he doesn't care when we all know he does tremendously. It was
crushing it all back that made him so miserable and smash up as he wrote
you. I don't believe he smashed very irretrievably anyway. He is too much
of a Holiday."

The doctor smiled a little grimly.

"You honor us, my dear. Even Holidays are men!"

"Thank heaven," said Margery.




CHAPTER XXX

THE FIERY FURNACE


A few days after the return of Larry and Ruth to the Hill Doctor Holiday
found among his mail an official looking document bearing the seal of the
college which Ted attended and which was also his own and Larry's alma
mater. He opened it carelessly supposing it to be an alumni appeal of
some sort but as his-eyes ran down the typed sheet his face grew grave
and his lips set in a tight line. The communication was from the
president and informed its recipient that his nephew Edward Holiday was
expelled from the college on the confessed charge of gambling.

"We are particularly sorry to be obliged to take this action," wrote the
president, "inasmuch as Edward has shown recently a marked improvement
both in class-room work and general conduct which has gone far to
eradicate the unfortunate impression made by the lawlessness of his
earlier career. But we cannot overlook so flagrant an offense and are
regretfully forced to make an example of the offender. As you know
gambling is strictly against the rules of the institution and your nephew
played deliberately for high stakes as he admits and made a considerable
sum of money--three hundred dollars to be precise--which he disposed of
immediately for what purpose he refuses to tell. Again regretting," et
cetera, et cetera, the letter closed.

But there was also a hand written postscript and an enclosure.

The postscript ran as follows:

"As a personal friend and not as the president of the college I am
sending on the enclosed which may or may not be of importance. A young
girl, Madeline Taylor by name, of Florence, Massachusetts, who has until
recently been employed in Berry's flower shop, was found dead this
morning with the gas jet fully turned on, the inference being clearly
suicide. A short time ago a servant from the lodging house where the
dead girl resided came to me with a letter addressed to your nephew. It
seems Miss Taylor had given the girl the letter to mail the previous
evening and had indeed made a considerable point of its being mailed.
Nevertheless the girl had forgotten to do so and the next day was too
frightened to do it fearing the thing might have some connection with
the suicide. She meant to give it to Ted in person but finding him out
decided at the last moment to deliver it to me instead. I am sending the
letter to you, as I received it, unopened, and have not and shall not
mention the incident to any one else. I should prefer and am sure that
you will also wish that your nephew's name shall not be associated in
any way with the dead girl's. Frankly I don't believe the thing contains
any dynamite whatever but I would rather you handled the thing instead
of myself.

"Believe me, my dear Holiday, I am heartily sick, and sorry over the
whole matter of Ted's expulsion. If we had not had his own word for it I
should not have believed him guilty. Even now I have a feeling that there
was more behind the thing than we got, something perhaps more to his
credit than he was willing to tell."

Philip Holiday picked up the enclosed letter addressed to Ted and looked
at it as dubiously as if indeed it might have contained dynamite. The
scrawling handwriting was painfully familiar. And the mention of
Florence as the dead girl's home was disagreeably corroborating evidence.
What indeed was behind it all?

Steeling his will he tore open the sealed envelope. Save for a folded
slip of paper it was quite empty. The folded slip was a check for three
hundred dollars made payable to Madeline Taylor and signed with Ted
Holiday's name.

Here was dynamite and to spare for Doctor Holiday. Beside the uneasy
questions this development conjured the catastrophe of the boy's
expulsion took second place. And yet he forced himself not to judge until
he had heard Ted's own story. What was love for if it could not find
faith in time of need?

He said nothing to any one, even his wife, of the president's letter and
that disconcerting check which evidently represented the results of the
boy's law breaking. All day he looked for a letter from Ted himself and
hoped against hope that he would appear in person. His anxiety grew as he
heard nothing. What had become of the boy? Where had he betaken himself
with his shame and trouble? How grave was his trouble? It was a bad day
for Philip Holiday and a worse night.

But the morning brought a letter from his nephew, mailed ominously enough
from a railway post office in northern Vermont. The doctor tore it open
with hands that trembled a little. One thing at least he was certain of.
However bad the story the lad had to tell it would be the truth. He could
count on that.

"Dear Uncle Phil--" it ran. "By the time you get this I shall be over the
border and enlisted, I hope, with the Canadians. I am horribly sorry to
knife you like this and go off without saying good-by and leaving such a
mess behind but truly it is the best thing I could do for the rest of
you as well as myself.

"They will write you from college and tell you I am fired--for gambling.
But they won't tell you the whole story because they don't know it. I
couldn't tell them. It concerned somebody else besides myself. But you
have a right to know everything and I am going to tell it to you and
there won't be anything shaved off or tacked on to save my face either.
It will be straight stuff on my honor as a Holiday which means as much to
me as it does to you and Larry whether you believe it or not."

Then followed a straightforward account of events from the first
ill-judged pick-up on the train and the all but fatal joy ride to the
equally ill-judged kisses in Cousin Emma's garden.

"I hate like the mischief to put such things down on paper," wrote the
boy, "but I said I'd tell the whole thing and I will, even if it does
come out hard, so you will know it isn't any worse than it is. It is bad
enough I'll admit, I hadn't any business to make fool love to her when I
really didn't care a picayune. And I hadn't any business to be there in
Holyoke at all when you thought I was at Hal's. I did go to Hal's but I
only stayed two days. The rest of the time I was with Madeline and knew I
was going to be when I left the Hill. That part can't look any worse to
you than it does to me. It was a low-down trick to play on you when you
had been so white about the car and everything. But I did it and I can't
undo it. I can only say I am sorry. I did try afterward to make up a
little bit by keeping my word about the studying. Maybe you'll let that
count a little on the other side of the ledger. Lord knows I need
anything I can get there. It is little enough, more shame to me!"

Then followed the events of the immediately preceding months from
Madeline Taylor's arrival in the college town on to the stunning
revelation of old Doctor Hendricks' letter.

"You don't know how the thing made me feel. I couldn't help feeling more
or less responsible. For after all I did start the thing and though
Madeline was always too good a sport to blame me I knew and I am sure she
knew that she wouldn't have taken up with Hubbard if I hadn't left her in
the lurch just when she had gotten to care a whole lot too much for me.
Besides I couldn't help thinking what it would have been like if Tony had
been caught in a trap like that. It didn't seem to me I could stand off
and let her go to smash alone though I could see Doc Hendricks had common
sense on his side when he ordered me to keep out of the whole business.

"I had all this on my mind when I came home that last time when Granny
was dying. I had it lodged in my head that it was up to me to straighten
things out by marrying Madeline myself though I hated the idea like death
and destruction and I knew it would about kill the rest of you. I wrote
and asked her to marry me that night after Granny went. She wouldn't do
it. It wasn't because she didn't love me either. I guess it was rather
because she did that she wouldn't. She wouldn't pull me down in the quick
sands with her. Whatever you may think of what she was and did you will
have to admit that she was magnificent about this. She might have saved
herself at my expense and she wouldn't. Remember that, Uncle Phil, and
don't judge her about the rest."

Doctor Holiday ceased reading a moment and gazed into the fire. By the
measure of his full realization of what such a marriage would have meant
to his young nephew he paid homage to the girl in her fine courage in
refusing to take advantage of a chivalrous boy's impulsive generosity
even though it left her the terrible alternative which later she had
taken. And he thought with a tender little smile that there was something
also rather magnificent about a lad who would offer himself thus
voluntarily and knowingly a living sacrifice for "dear Honor's sake." He
went back to the letter.

"But I still felt I had to do something to help though she wouldn't
accept the way I first offered. I knew she needed money badly as she
wasn't able to work and I wanted to give her some of mine. I knew I had
plenty or would have next spring when I came of age. But I was sure you
wouldn't let me have any of it now without knowing why and Larry wouldn't
lend me any either, sight unseen. I wouldn't have blamed either of you
for refusing. I haven't deserved to be taken on trust.

"The only other way I knew of to get money quick was to play for it. I
have fool's luck always at cards. Last year I played a lot for money.
Larry knew and rowed me like the devil for it last spring. No wonder. He
knew how Dad hated it. So did I. I'd heard him rave on the subject often
enough. But I did it just the same as I did a good many other things I am
not very proud to remember now. But I haven't done it this year--at least
only a few times. Once I played when I'd sent Madeline all the money I
had for her traveling expenses and once or twice beside I did it on my
own account because I was so darned sick of toeing a chalk mark I had to
go on a tangent or bust. I am not excusing it. I am not excusing
anything. I am just telling the truth.

"Anyhow the other night I played again in good earnest. There were quite
a number of fellows in the game and we all got a bit excited and plunged
more than we meant to especially myself and Ned Delany who was out to
get me if he could. He hates me like the seven year itch anyway because I
caught him cheating at cards once and said so right out in meeting. I had
absolutely incredible luck. I guess the devil or the angels were on my
side. I swept everything, made about three hundred dollars in all. The
fellows paid up and I banked the stuff and mailed Madeline a check for
the whole amount the first thing. I don't know what would have happened
if I had lost instead of winning. I didn't think about that. A true
gambler never does I reckon.

"But I want to say right here and now, Uncle Phil, that I am through with
the business. The other night sickened me of gambling for good and all.
Even Dad couldn't have hated it any more than I do this minute. It is
rotten for a man, kills his nerves and his morals and his common sense.
I'm done. I'll never make another penny that way as long as I live. But
I'm not sorry I did it this once no matter how hard I'm paying for it. If
I had it to do over again I'd do precisely the same thing. I wonder if
you can understand that, Uncle Phil, or whether you'll think I'm just
plain unregenerate.

"I thought then I was finished with the business but as a matter of fact
I was just starting on it. Somebody turned state's evidence. I imagine it
was Delany though I don't know. Anyhow somebody wrote the president an
anonymous letter telling him there was a lot of gambling going on and I
was one of the worst offenders, and thoughtfully suggested the old boy
should ask me how much I made the other night and what I did with it. Of
course that finished me off. I was called before the board and put
through a holy inquisition. Gee! They piled up not only the gambling
business but all the other things I'd done and left undone for two years
and a half and dumped the whole avalanche on my head at once. Whew! It
was fierce. I am not saying I didn't deserve it. I did, if not for this
particular thing for a million other times when I've gone scot-free.

"They tried to squeeze out of me who the other men involved were but I
wouldn't tell. I could have had a neat little come back on Delany if I
had chosen but I don't play the game that way and I reckon he knew it and
banked on my holding my tongue. I'd rather stand alone and take what was
coming to me and I got it too good and plenty. They tried to make me tell
what I did with the money. That riled me. It was none of their business
and I told 'em so. Anyway I couldn't have told even if it would have done
me any good on Madeline's account. I wouldn't drag her into it.

"Finally they dismissed me and said they would let me know later what
they would do about my case. But there wasn't any doubt in my mind what
they were going to do nor in theirs either, I'll bet. I was damned. They
had to fire me--couldn't help it when I was caught with the goods under
their very noses. I think a good many of them wished I hadn't been
caught, that they could have let me off some way, particularly Prof.
Hathaway. He put out his hand and patted my shoulder when I went out and
I knew he was mighty sorry. He has been awfully decent to me always
especially since I have been playing round with his daughter Elsie this
fall and I guess it made him feel bad to have me turn out such a black
sheep. I wished I could tell him the whole story but I couldn't. I just
had to let him think it was as bad as it looked.

"I had hardly gotten back into the Frat house when I was called to the
telephone. It was Madeline. She thanked me for sending her the money but
said she was sending the check back as she didn't need it, had found a
way out of her difficulties. She was going on a long, long journey in
fact, and wouldn't see me again. Said she wanted to say good-by and wish
me all kinds of luck and thank me for what she was pleased to call my
goodness to her. And then she hung up before I could ask any questions or
get it through my head what she meant by her long, long journey. My brain
wasn't working very lively after what I'd been through over there at the
board meeting anyway and I was too wrapped up in my own troubles to
bother much about hers at the moment, selfish brute that I am.

"But the next morning I understood all right. She had found her way out
and no mistake, just turned on the gas and let herself go. She was dead
when they found her. I don't blame her, Uncle Phil. It was too hard for
her. She couldn't go through with it. Life had been too hard for her from
the beginning. She never had half a chance. And in the end we killed her
between us, her pious old psalm singing hypocrite of a grandfather, the
rotter who ruined her, and myself, the prince of fools.

"I went to see her with the old Doc. And, Uncle Phil, she was beautiful.
Not even Granny looked more peaceful and happy than she did lying there
dead with the little smile on her lips as if she were having a pleasant
dream. But the scar was there on her forehead--the scar I put there. I've
got a scar of my own too. It doesn't show on the surface but it is there
for all that and always will be. I shan't talk about it but I'll never
forget as long as I live that part of the debt she paid was mine. It is
_mea culpa_ for me always so far as she is concerned.

"Her grandfather arrived while I was there. If ever there was a man
broken, mind and body and spirit he was. I couldn't help feeling sorry
for him. Of the two I would much rather have been Madeline lying there
dead than that poor old chap living with her death on his conscience.

"Later I got my official notice from the board. I was fired. I wanted to
get out of college. I'm out for better or worse. Uncle Phil, don't think
I don't care. I know how terribly you are going to be hurt and that it
will be just about the finish of poor old Larry. I am not very proud of
it myself--being catapulted out in disgrace where the rest of you left
trailing clouds of glory. It isn't only what I have done just now. It is
all the things I have done and haven't done before that has smashed me in
the end--my fool attitude of have a good time and damn the expense. I
didn't pay at the time. I am paying now compound interest accumulated.
Worst of it is the rest of you will have to pay with me. You told me once
we couldn't live to ourselves alone. I didn't understand then. I do now.
I am guilty but you have to suffer with me for my mistakes. It is that
that hurts worst of all.

"You have been wonderful to me always, had oceans of patience when I
disappointed you and hurt you and worried you over and over again. And
now here is this last, worst thing of all to forgive. Can you do it,
Uncle Phil? Please try. And please don't worry about me, nor let the
others. I'll come through all right. And if I don't I am not afraid of
death. I have found out there are lots of worse things in the world. I
haven't any pipe dreams about coming out a hero of any sort but I do mean
to come out the kind of a man you won't be ashamed of and to try my
darnedest to live up a little bit to the Holiday specifications. Again,
dear Uncle Phil, please forgive me if you can and write as soon as I can
send an address." Then a brief postscript. "The check Madeline sent back
never got to me. If it is forwarded to the Hill please send it or rather
its equivalent to the president. I wouldn't touch the money with a ten
foot pole. I never wanted it for myself but only for Madeline and she is
beyond needing anything any of us can give her now."




CHAPTER XXXI

THE MOVING FINGER CONTINUES TO WRITE


Having read and reread the boy's letter Doctor Holiday sat long with it
in his hand staring into the fire. Poor Teddy for whom life had hitherto
been one grand and glorious festival! He was getting the other, the seamy
side of things, at last with a vengeance. Knowing with the sure intuition
of love how deeply the boy was suffering and how sincerely he repented
his blunders the doctor felt far more compassion than condemnation for
his nephew. The fineness and the folly of the thing were so inextricably
confused that there was little use trying to separate the two even if he
had cared to judge the lad which he did not, being content with the boy's
own judgment of himself. Bad as the gambling business was and deeply as
he regretted the expulsion from college the doctor could not help seeing
that there was some extenuation for Ted's conduct, that he had in the
main kept faith with himself, paid generously, far more than he owed, and
traveling through the fiery furnace had somehow managed to come out
unscathed, his soul intact. After all could one ask much more?

It was considerably harder for Larry to accept the situation
philosophically than it was for the senior doctor's more tolerant and
mature mind. Larry loved Ted as he loved no one else in the world not
perhaps even excepting Ruth. But he loved the Holiday name too with a
fine, high pride and it was a bitter dose to swallow to have his younger
brother "catapulted in disgrace," as Ted himself put it, out of the
college which he himself so loved and honored. He was inclined to resent
what looked in retrospect as entirely unnecessary and uncalled for
generosity on Ted's part.

"Nobody but Ted would ever have thought of doing such a fool thing," he
groaned. "Why didn't he pull out in the first place as Hendricks wanted
him to? He would have been entirely justified."

But the older man smiled and shook his head.

"Some people could have done it, not Ted," he said. "Ted isn't built that
way. He never deserted anybody in trouble in his life. I don't believe he
ever will. We can't expect him to have behaved differently in this one
affair just because we would have liked it better so. I am not sure but
we would be wrong and he right in any case."

"Maybe. But it is a horrible mess. I can't get over the injustice of the
poor kid's paying so hard when he was just trying to do the decent, hard,
right thing."

"You have it less straight than Ted has, Larry. He knows he is paying not
for what he did and thought right but for what he did and knew was wrong.
You can't feel worse than I do about it. I would give anything I have to
save Ted from the torture he is going through, has been going through
alone for days. But I would rather he learned his lesson thoroughly now,
suffering more than he deserves than have him suffer too little and fall
worse next time. No matter how badly we feel for him I think it is up to
us not to try to dilute his penitence and to leave a generous share of
the blame where he puts it himself--on his own shoulders."

"I suppose you are right, Uncle Phil," sighed Larry. "You usually are.
But it's like having a piece taken right out of me to have him go off
like that. And the Canadians are the very devil of fighters. Always in
the thick of things."

"That is where Ted would want to be, Larry. Let us not cross that
bridge until we have to. As he says himself there are worse things than
death anyway."

"I know. Marrying the girl would have been worse. She was rather
magnificent, wasn't she, just as he says, not saving herself when she
might have at his expense?"

"I think she was. I am almost glad the poor child is where she can suffer
no more at the hands of men."

The next day came a wire from Ted announcing his acceptance in the
Canadian army and giving his address in the training camp.

The doctor answered at once, writing a long, cheerful letter full of home
news especially the interesting developments in Ruth's romantic story. It
was only at the end that he referred to the big thing that had to be
faced between them.

"I am not going to say a word that will add in any way to the burden you
are already carrying, Teddy, my lad. You know how sadly disappointed we
all are in your having to leave college this way but I understand and
sympathize fully with your reasons for doing what you did. Even though I
can't approve of the thing itself. I haven't a single reproach to offer.
You have had a harsh lesson. Learn it so well that you will never bring
yourself or the rest of us to such pain and shame again. Keep your scar.
I should be sorry to think you were so callous that you could pass
through an experience like that without carrying off an indelible mark
from it. But it isn't going to ruin your life. On the contrary it is
going to make a man of you, is doing that already if I may judge from
the spirit of your letter which goes far to atone for the rest. The
forgiveness is yours always, son, seventy times seven if need be. Never
doubt it. We shall miss you very much. I wonder if you know how dear to
us you are, Teddy lad. But we aren't going to borrow trouble of the
future. We shall say instead God speed. May he watch over you wherever
you are and bring you safe back to us in His good time!"

And Ted reading the letter later in the Canadian training camp was not
ashamed of the tears that came stinging up in his eyes. He was woefully
homesick, wanted the home people, especially Uncle Phil desperately.
But the message from the Hill brought strength and comfort as well as
heart ache.

"Dear Uncle Phil," he thought. "I will make it up to him somehow. I will.
He shan't ever have to be ashamed of me again."

And so Ted Holiday girded on manhood along with his khaki and his Sam
Browne belt and started bravely up out of the pit which his own willful
folly had dug for him.

Tony was not told the full story of her brother's fiasco. She only
knew that he had left college for some reason or other and had taken
French leave for the Canadian training camp. She was relieved to
discover that even in Larry's stern eyes the escapade, whatever it
was, had not apparently been a very damaging one and accepted
thankfully her uncle's assurance that there was nothing at all to
worry about and that Ted was no doubt very much better off where he
was than if he had stayed in college.

As for the going to war part small blame had she for Ted in that. She
knew well it was precisely what she would have done herself in his case
and teemed with pride in her bonny, reckless, beloved soldier brother.

She had small time to think much about anybody's affairs beside her own
just now. Any day now might come the word that little Cecilia had gone
and that Tony Holiday would take her place on the Broadway stage as a
real star if only for a brief space of twinkling.

She saw very little even of Alan. He was tremendously busy and seemed,
oddly enough, to be drawing a little away from her, to be less jealously
exacting of her time and attention. It was not that he cared less, rather
more, Tony thought. His strange, tragic eyes rested hungrily upon her
whenever they were together and it seemed as if he would drink deep of
her youth and loveliness and joy, a draught deep enough to last a long,
long time, through days of parching thirst to follow. He was very gentle,
very quiet, very loveable, very tender. His stormy mood seemed to have
passed over leaving a great weariness in its wake.

A very passion of creation was upon him. Seeing the canvases that
flowered into beauty beneath his hand Tony felt very small and humble,
knew that by comparison with her lover's genius her own facile gifts were
but as a firefly's glow to the light of a flaming torch. He was of the
masters. She saw that and was proud and glad and awed by the fact. But
she saw also that the artist was consuming himself by the very fire of
his own genius and the knowledge troubled her though she saw no way to
check or prevent the holocaust if such it was.

Sometimes she was afraid. She knew that she would never be happy in the
every day way with Alan. Happiness did not grow in his sunless garden.
Married to him she would enter dark forests which were not her natural
environment. But it did not matter. She loved him. She came always back
to that. She was his, would always be his no matter what happened. She
was bound by the past, caught in its meshes forever.

And then suddenly a new turn of the wheel took place. Word came just
before Christmas that Dick Carson was very ill, dying perhaps down in
Mexico, stricken with a malarial fever.

A few moments after Tony received this stunning news Alan Massey's card
was brought to her. She went down to the reception room, gave him a limp
cold little hand in greeting and asked if he minded going out with her.
She had to talk with him. She couldn't talk here.

Alan did not mind. A little later they were walking riverward toward a
brilliant orange sky, against which the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument
loomed gray and majestic. It was bitter cold. A stinging wind lashed the
girl's skirts around her and bit into her cheeks. But somehow she
welcomed the physical discomfort. It matched her mood.

Then the story came out. Dick was sick, very sick, going to die maybe and
she, Tony Holiday couldn't stand it.

Alan listened in tense silence. So Dick Carson might be going to be so
unexpectedly obliging as to die after all. If he had known how to pray he
would have done it, beseeched whatever gods there were to let the thing
come to an end at last, offered any bribe within his power if they would
set him free from his bondage by disposing of his cousin.

But there beside him clinging to his arm was Tony Holiday aquiver with
grief for this same cousin. He saw that there were tears on her cheeks,
tears that the icy wind turned instantly to frosted silver. And suddenly
a new power was invoked--the power of love.

"Tony, darling, don't cry," he beseeched. "I--can't stand it. He--he
won't die."

And then and there a miracle took place. Alan Massey who had never
prayed in his life was praying to some God, somewhere to save John Massey
for Tony because she loved him and his dying would hurt her. Tony must
not be hurt. Any God could see that. It must not be permitted.

Tony put up her hand and brushed away the frosted silver drops.

"No, he isn't going to die. I'm not going to let him. I'm going to Mexico
to save him."

Alan stopped short, pulling her to a halt beside him.

"Tony, you can't," he gasped, too astonished for a moment even to be
angry.

"I can and I am going to," she defied him.

"But my dear, I tell you, you can't. It would be madness. Your uncle
wouldn't let you. I won't let you."

"You can't stop me. Nobody can stop me. I'm going. Dick shan't die alone.
He shan't."

"Tony, do you love him?"

"I don't know. I don't want to talk about love--your kind. I do love him
one way with all my heart. I wish it were the way I love you. I'd go down
and marry him if I did. Maybe I'll marry him anyway. I would in a minute
if it would save him."

"Tony!" Alan's face was dead white, his green eyes savage. "You promised
to stick to me through everything. Where is your Holiday honor that you
can talk like that about marrying another man?" Maddened, he branished
his words like whips, caring little whether they hurt or not.

"I can't help it, Alan. I am sorry if I am hurting you. But I can't think
about anybody but Dick just now."

"Forgive me, sweetheart. I know you didn't mean it, what you said about
marrying him and you didn't mean it about going to Mexico. You know you
can't. It is no place for a woman like you."

"If Dick is there dying, it _is_ the place for me. I love you, Alan. But
there are some things that go even deeper, things that have their very
roots in me, the things that belong to the Hill. And Dick is a very big
part of them, sometimes I think he is the biggest part of all. I have to
go to him. Please don't try to stop me. It will only make us both unhappy
if you try."

A bitter blast struck their faces with the force of a blow. Tony
shivered.

"Let's go back. I'm cold--so dreadfully cold," she moaned clinging
to his arm.

They turned in silence. There was nothing to say. The sunset glory had
faded now. Only a pale, cold mauve tint was left where the flame had
blazed. A star or two had come out. The river flowed sinister black,
showing white humps of foam here and there.

At the Hostelry Jean Lambert met them in the hall.

"Tony, where have you been? We have been trying everywhere to locate you.
Cecilia died this afternoon. You have to take Miss Clay's place tonight."

Tony's face went white. She leaned against the wall trembling.

"I forgot--I forgot about the play. I can't go to Mexico. Oh, what shall
I do? What shall I do?"




CHAPTER XXXII

DWELLERS IN DREAMS


The last curtain had gone down on the "End of the Rainbow" and Tony
Holiday had made an undeniable hit, caught the popular fancy by her young
charm and vivid personality and fresh talents to such a degree that for
the moment at least even its idol of many seasons, Carol Clay, was
forgotten. The new arriving star filled the whole firmament. Broadway was
ready to worship at a new shrine.

But Broadway did not know that there were two Tony Holidays that night,
the happy Tony who had taken its fickle, composite heart by storm and the
other Tony half distracted by grief and trapped bewilderment. Tony had
willed to exile that second self before she stepped out behind the foot
lights. She knew if she did not she never could play Madge as Madge had
the right to be played. For her own sake, for Max Hempel's sake because
he believed in her, for Carol Clay's sake because Tony loved her, she
meant to forget everything but Madge for those few hours. Later she would
remember that Dick was dying in Mexico, that she had hurt Alan cruelly
that afternoon, that she had a sad and vexed problem to solve to which
there seemed no solution. These things must wait. And they had waited but
they came crowding back upon her the moment the play was over and she saw
Alan waiting for her in the little room off the wings.

He rose to meet her and oblivious of curious eyes about them drew
her into his arms and kissed her. And Tony utterly miserable in a
daze of conflicting emotions nestled in his embrace unresisting for a
second, not caring any more than Alan himself what any one saw or
thought upon seeing.

"You were wonderful, belovedest," he whispered. "I never saw them go
madder over anybody, not even Carol herself."

Tony glowed all over at his praise and begged that they might drive a
little in the park before they went home. She had to think. She couldn't
think in the Hostelry. It stifled her. Nothing loath Alan acquiesced,
hailed a cab and gave the necessary orders. For a moment they rode in
silence Tony relaxing for the first time in many hours in the comfort of
her lover's presence, his arm around her. Things were hard, terribly hard
but you could not feel utterly disconsolate when the man you loved best
in all the world was there right beside you looking at you with eyes that
told you how much you were beloved in return.

"Tony, dear, I am going to surprise you," he said suddenly breaking the
silence. "I have decided to go to Mexico."

"To go to Mexico! Alan! Why?"

Tony drew away from her companion to study his face, with amazement
on her own.

"To find Carson and look after him. Why else?"

"But your exhibition? You can't go away now, Alan, even if I would let
you go to Dick that way."

"Oh, yes I can. The arrangements are all made. Van Slyke can handle the
last stages of the thing far better than I can. I loathe hanging round
and hearing the fools rant about my stuff and wonder what the devil I
meant by this or that or if I didn't mean anything. I am infinitely
better off three thousand miles away."

"But even so--I don't want to hurt you or act as if I didn't appreciate
what you are offering to do--but you hate Dick. I don't see how you could
help him."

"I don't hate him any more, Tony. At least I don't think I do. At any
rate whether I do or don't won't make the slightest bit of difference. I
shall look after him as well as your uncle or your brothers would--better
perhaps because I know Mexico well and how to get things done down there.
I know how to get things done in most places."

"Oh, I know. I have often thought you must have magic at your command the
way people fly to do your bidding. It is startling but it is awfully
convenient."

"Money magic mostly," he retorted grimly.

"Partly, not mostly. You are a born potentate. You must have been a
sultan or a pashaw or something in some previous incarnation. I don't
care what you are if you will find Dick and see that he gets well. Alan,
don't you think--couldn't I--wouldn't it be better--if I went too?"

There was a sudden gleam in Alan's eyes. The hour was his. He could take
advantage of the situation, of the girl's anxiety for his cousin, her
love for himself while it was at high tide as it was at this over
stimulated hour of excitement. He could marry her. And once the rite was
spoken--not John Massey--not all Holiday Hill combined could take her
from him. She would be his and his alone to the end. Tony was ripe for
madness to-night, overwrought, ready to take any wild leap in the dark
with him. He could make her his. He felt the intoxicating truth quiver in
the touch of her hand, read it in her eager, dark eyes lifted to his for
his answer.

Alan Massey was unused to putting away temptation but this, perhaps the
biggest and blackest that had ever assailed him he put by.

"No, dear I'll go alone," he said. "You will just have to trust me, Tony.
I swear I'll do everything in the world that can be done for Carson. Let
us have just one dance though. I should like it to remember--in Mexico."

Tony hesitated. It was very late. The Hostelry would ill approve of her
going anywhere to dance at such an hour. It ill approved of Alan Massey
any way. Still--

"I am going to-morrow. It is our last chance," he pleaded. "Just one
dance, _carissima_. It may have to last--a long, long time."

And Tony yielded. After all they could not treat this night as if it were
like all the other nights in the calendar. They had the right to their
one more hour of happiness before Alan went away. They had the right to
this one last dance.

The one dance turned into many before they were through. It seemed to
both as if they dared not stop lest somehow love and happiness should
stop too with the end of the music. They danced on and on "divinely" as
Alan had once called it. Tony thought the rest of his prophecy was
fulfilled at last, that they also loved each other divinely, as no man or
woman had ever loved since time began.

But at last this too had to come to an end as perfect moments must in
this finite world and Alan and Tony went out of the brilliantly lighted
restaurant into white whirls of snow. For a storm had started while they
had been inside and was now well in progress. All too soon the cab
deposited them at the Hostelry. In the dimly lit hall Alan drew the girl
into his arms and kissed her passionately then suddenly almost flung her
from him, muttered a curt good-by and before Tony hardly realized he was
going, was gone, swallowed up in the night and storm. Alone Tony put her
hands over her hot cheeks. So this was love. It was terrible, but oh--it
was wonderful too.

Soberly after a moment she went to change the damning OUT opposite her
name in the hall bulletin just as the clock struck the shocking hour of
three. But lo there was no damning OUT visible, only a meek and proper IN
after her name. For all the bulletin proclaimed Antoinette Holiday might
have been for hours wrapt in innocent slumber instead of speeding away
the wee' sma' hours in a public restaurant in the arms of a lover at whom
Madame Grundy and her allies looked awry. Somebody had tampered with the
thing to save Tony a reprimand or worse. But who? Jean? No, certainly not
Jean. Jean's conscience was as inelastic as a yard stick. Whoever had
committed the charitable act of mendacity it couldn't have been Jean.

But when Tony opened her own door and switched on the light there was
Jean curled up asleep in the big arm chair. The sudden flare of light
roused the sleeper and she sat up blinking.

"Wherever have you been, Tony? I have been worried to death about you.
I've been home from the theater for hours. I couldn't think what had
happened to you."

"I am sorry you worried. You needn't have. I was with Alan, of course."

"Tony, people say dreadful things about Mr. Massey. Aren't you ever
afraid of him yourself?" Jean surveyed the younger girl with
troubled eyes.

Tony flung off her cloak impatiently.

"Of course I am not afraid. People don't know him when they say such
things about him. You needn't ever worry, Jean. I am safer with Alan than
with any one else in the world. I'd know that to-night if I never knew it
before. We were dancing. I knew it was late but I didn't care. I
wouldn't have missed those dances if they had told me I had to pack my
trunk and leave to-morrow." Thus spoke the rebel always ready to fly out
like a Jack-in-the box from under the lid in Tony Holiday.

"They won't," said Jean in a queer, compressed little voice.

"Jean! Was it you that fixed that bulletin?"

"Yes, it was. I know it wasn't a nice thing to do but I didn't want them
to scold you just now when you were so worried about Dick and
everything. I thought you would be in most any minute any way and I
waited up myself to tell you how I loved the play and how proud I was of
you. Then when you didn't come for so long I got really scared and then
I fell asleep and--"

Tony came over and stopped the older girl's words with a kiss.

"You are a sweet peach, Jean Lambert, and I am awfully grateful to you
for straining your conscience like that for my sake and awfully sorry I
worried you. I am afraid I always do worry good, sensible, proper people.
I'm made that way, mad north north west like Hamlet," she added
whimsically. "Maybe we Holidays are all mad that much, excepting Uncle
Phil of course. He's all that keeps the rest of us on the track of sanity
at all. But Alan is madder still. Jean, he is going to Mexico to take
care of Dick."

"Mr. Massey is going to Mexico to take care of Dick!" Jean' stared. "Why,
Tony--I thought--"

"Naturally. So did I. Who wouldn't think him the last person in the world
to do a thing like that? But he is going and it is his idea not mine. I
wanted to go too but he wouldn't let me," she added.

Jean gasped.

"Tony! You would have married him when your uncle--when everybody
doesn't want you to?"

To Jean Lambert's well ordered, carefully fenced in mind such wild mental
leaps as Tony Holiday's were almost too much to contemplate. But worse
was to come.

"Married him! Oh, I don't know. I didn't think about that. I would just
have gone with him. There wouldn't have been time to get a license. Of
course I couldn't though on account of the play."

Jean gasped again. If it hadn't been for the play this astounding young
person before her would have gone gallivanting off with one man to whom
she was not married to the bedside, thousands of miles away, of another
man to whom she was also not married. Such simplicity of mental processes
surpassed any complexity Jean Lambert could possibly conceive.

"Alan wouldn't let me," repeated the astounding Tony. "I suppose it is
better so. By to-morrow I will probably agree with him. When the wind is
southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw too. But the wind isn't southerly
to-night. It wasn't when I was dancing nor afterward," she added with a
flaming color in her cheeks remembering that moment in the Hostelry hall
when wisdom had mattered very little to her in comparison with love. "Oh,
Jean, what if something dreadful should happen to him down there! I can't
let him go. I can't. But Dick mustn't die alone either. Oh, what shall I
do? What shall I do?"

And suddenly Tony threw herself face down on the bed sobbing great, heart
rending sobs, but whether she was crying for Dick or Alan or herself or
all three Jean was unable to decipher. Perhaps Tony did not know herself.

The next morning when Tony awoke Alan had already left for his long
journey, but a great box full of roses told her she had been his last
thought. One by one she lifted them out of the box--great, gorgeous,
blood red beauties, royal, Tony thought, like the royal lover who had
sent them. The only message with the flowers was a bit of verse, a poem
of Tagore's whom Alan loved and had taught Tony to love too.

 You are the evening cloud floating in the sky of
     my dreams.
 I paint you and fashion you with my love longings.
 You are my own, my own, Dweller in my endless
     dreams!

 Your feet are rosy-red with the glow of my heart's
     desire, Gleaner of my sunset songs!
 Your lips are bitter-sweet with the taste of my wine
     of pain.
 You are my own, my own, Dweller in my lonesome
     dreams!

 With the shadow of my passion have I darkened
     your eyes, Haunter of the depth of my gaze!
 I have caught you and wrapt you, my love, in the
     net of my music.
 You are my own, my own, Dweller in my deathless
     dreams!

As she read the exquisite lines Antoinette Holiday knew it was all
true. The poet might have written his poem for her and Alan. Her lips
were indeed bitter-sweet with the taste of his wine of pain, her eyes
were darkened by his shadows. He had caught her and wrapt her in the
net of his love, which was a kind of music in itself--a music one
danced to. She was his, dweller in his dreams as he was always to dwell
in hers. It was fate.




CHAPTER XXXIII

WAITING FOR THE END OF THE STORY


At home on the Hill Ruth's affairs developed slowly. It was in time
ascertained from Australia that the Farringdon pearls had come to America
in the possession of Miss Farringdon who was named Elinor Ruth, daughter
of Roderick and Esther Farringdon, both deceased. What had become of her
and her pearls no one knew. Grave fears had been entertained as to the
girl's safety because of her prolonged silence and the utter failure of
all the advertising for her which had gone on in English and American
papers. She had come to America to join an aunt, one Mrs. Robert Wright,
widow of a New York broker, but it had been later ascertained that Mrs.
Wright had left for England before her niece could have reached her and
had subsequently died having caught a fever while engaged in nursing in a
military hospital. Roderick Farringdon, the brother of Elinor Ruth, an
aviator in His Majesty's service, was reported missing, believed to be
dead or in a German prison somewhere. The lawyers in charge of the huge
business interests of the two young Farringdons were in grave distress
because of their inability to locate either of the owners and begged that
if Doctor Laurence Holiday knew anything of the whereabouts of Miss
Farringdon that he would communicate without delay with them.

So far so good. Granted that Ruth was presumably Elinor Ruth Farringdon
of Australia. Was she or was she not married? There had been no
opportunity in the cables to make inquiry about one Geoffrey Annersley
though Larry had put that important question first in his letter to the
consul which as yet had received no answer. The lawyers stated that when
Miss Farringdon had left Australia she was not married but
unsubstantiated rumors had reached them from San Francisco hinting at her
possible marriage there.

All this failed to stir Ruth's dormant memory in any degree. There was
nothing to do but wait until further information should be forthcoming.

Not unnaturally these facts had a somewhat different effect upon the two
individuals most concerned. Ruth was frankly elated over the whole thing
and found it by no means impossible to believe that she was a princess in
disguise though she had played Cinderella contentedly enough.

On the strength of her presumable princessship she had gone on another
excursion to Boston carrying the Lambert twins with her this time and had
returned laden with all manner of feminine fripperies. She had an
exquisite taste and made unerringly for the softest and finest of
fabrics, the hats with an "air," the dresses that were the simplest, the
most ravishing and it must be admitted also the most extravagant. If she
remembered nothing else Ruth remembered how to spend royally.

She had consulted the senior doctor before making the splendid plunge.
She did not want to have Larry buy her anything more and she didn't want
Doctor Philip and Margery to think her stark mad to go behaving like a
princess before the princess purse was actually in her hands. But she had
to have pretty things, a lot of them, had to have them quick. Did the
doctor mind very much advancing her some money? He could keep her rings
as security.

He had laughed indulgently and declared as the rings and the pearls too
for that matter were in his possession in the safe deposit box he should
worry. He also told her to go ahead and be as "princessy" as she liked.
He would take the risk. Whereupon he placed a generous sum of money at
her account in a Boston bank and sent her away with his blessing and an
amused smile at the femininity of females. And Ruth had gone and played
princess to her heart's content. But there was little enough of heart's
content in any of it for poor Larry. Day by day it seemed to him he could
see his fairy girl slipping away from him. Ruth was a great lady and
heiress. Who was Larry Holiday to take advantage of the fact that
circumstances had almost thrown her into his willing arms?

Moreover the information afforded as to Roderick Farringdon had put a new
idea into his head. Roderick was reported "missing." Was it not possible
that Geoffrey Annersley might be in the same category? Missing men
sometimes stayed missing in war time but sometimes also they returned as
from the dead from enemy prisons or long illnesses. What if this should
be the case with the man who was presumably Ruth's husband? Certainly it
put out of the question, if there ever had been a question in Larry's
mind, his own right to marry the girl he loved until they knew absolutely
that the way was clear.

Considering these things it was not strange that the new year found Larry
Holiday in heavy mood, morose, silent, curt and unresponsive even to his
uncle, inclined at times to snap even at his beloved little Goldilocks
whose shining new happiness exasperated him because he could not share
it. Of course he repented in sack cloth and ashes afterward, but
repentance did not prevent other offenses and altogether the young doctor
was ill to live with during those harrassed January days.

It was not only Ruth. Larry could not take Ted's going with the quiet
fortitude with which his uncle met it. Those early weeks of nineteen
hundred and seventeen were black ones for many. The grim Moloch War
demanded more and ever more victims. Thousands of gay, brave, high
spirited lads like Ted were mown down daily by shrapnel and machine gun
or sent twisted and writhing to still more hideous death in the
unspeakable horror of noxious gases. It was all so unnecessary--so
senseless. Larry Holiday whose life was dedicated to the healing and
saving of men's bodies hated with bitter hate this opposing force which
was all for destruction and which held the groaning world in its
relentless grip. It would not have been so bad he thought if the Moloch
would have been content to take merely the old, the life weary, the
diseased, the vile. Not so. It demanded the young, the strong, the clean
and gallant hearted, took their bodies, maimed and tortured them, killed
them sooner or later, hurled them undiscriminatingly into the bottomless
pit of death.

To Larry it all came back to Ted. Ted was the embodiment, the symbol of
the rest. He was the young, the strong, the clean and gallant
hearted--the youth of the world, a vain sacrifice to the cruel blindness
of a so called civilization which would not learn the futility of war and
all the ways of war.

So while Ruth bought pretty clothes and basked in happy anticipations
which for her took the place of memories, poor Larry walked in dark
places and saw no single ray of light.

One afternoon he was summoned to the telephone to receive the word that
there was a telegram for him at the office. It was Dunbury's informal
habit to telephone messages of this sort to the recipient instead of
delivering them in person. Larry took the repeated word in silence. A
question evidently followed from the other end.

"Yes, I got it," Larry snapped back and threw the receiver back in place
with vicious energy. His uncle who had happened to be near looked up to
ask a question but the young doctor was already out of the room leaving
only the slam of the door in his wake. A few moments later the older man
saw the younger start off down the Hill in the car at a speed which was
not unlike Ted's at his worst before the smash on the Florence road.
Evidently Larry was on the war path. Why?

The afternoon wore on. Larry did not return. His uncle began to be
seriously disturbed. A patient with whom the junior doctor had had an
appointment came and waited and finally went away somewhat indignant in
spite of all efforts to soothe her not unnatural wrath. Worse and
worse! Larry never failed his appointments, met every obligation
invariably as punctiliously as if for professional purposes he was
operated by clock work.

At supper time Phil Lambert dropped in with the wire which had already
been reported to Larry and which the company with the same informality
already mentioned had asked him to deliver. Doctor Holiday was tempted to
read it but refrained. Surely the boy would be home soon.

The evening meal was rather a silent one. Ruth was wearing a charming
dark blue velvet gown which Larry especially liked. The doctor guessed
that she had dressed particularly for her lover and was sadly
disappointed when he failed to put in his appearance. She drooped
perceptibly and her blue eyes were wistful.

An hour later when the three, Margery, her husband, and Ruth, were
sitting quietly engaged in reading in the living room they heard the
sound of the returning car. All three were distinctly conscious of an
involuntary breath of relief which permeated the room. Nobody had said a
word but every one of them had been filled with foreboding.

Presently Larry entered with the yellow envelope in his hand. He was pale
and very tired looking but obviously entirely in command of himself
whatever had been the case earlier in the day. He crossed the room to
where his uncle sat and handed him the telegram.

"Please read it aloud," he said. "It--it concerns all of us."

The older doctor complied with the request.

_Arrive Dunbury January 18 nine forty_ A.M. So ran the brief though
pregnant message. It was signed _Captain Geoffrey Annersley_.

The color went out of Ruth's face as she heard the name. She put her
hands over her eyes and uttered a little moan. Then abruptly she dropped
her hands, the color came surging back into her cheeks and she ran to
Larry, fairly throwing herself into his arms.

"I don't want to see him. Don't let him come. I hate him. I don't want to
be Elinor Farringdon. I want to be just Ruth--Ruth Holiday," she
whispered the last in Larry's ear, her head on his shoulder.

Larry kissed her for the first time before the others, then meeting his
uncle's grave eyes he put her gently from him and walked over to the
door. On the threshold he turned and faced them all.

"Uncle Phil--Aunt Margery, help Ruth. I can't." And the door
closed upon him.

Philip and Margery did their best to obey his parting injunction but it
was not an easy task. Ruth was possessed by a very panic of dread of
Geoffrey Annersley and an even more difficult to deal with flood of love
for Larry Holiday.

"I don't want anybody but Larry," she wailed over and over. "It is Larry
I love. I don't love Geoffrey Annersley. I won't let him be my husband. I
don't want anybody but Larry."

In vain they tried to comfort her, entreat her to wait until to-morrow
before she gave up. Perhaps Geoffrey Annersley wasn't her husband.
Perhaps everything was quite all right. She must try to have patience and
not let herself get sick worrying in advance.

"He _is_ my husband," she suddenly announced with startling conviction.
"I remember his putting the ring on my finger. I remember his saying
'You've got to wear it. It is the only thing to do. You must.' I remember
what he looks like--almost. He is tall and he has a scar on his cheek
--here." She patted her own face feverishly to show the spot. "He made me
wear the ring and I didn't want to. I didn't want to. Oh, don't let me
remember. Don't let me," she implored.

At this point the doctor took things in his own hands. The child was
obviously beginning to remember. The shock of the man's coming had
snapped something in her brain. They must not let things come back
too disastrously fast. He packed her off to bed with a stiff dose of
nerve quieting medicine. Margery sat with her arms tight around the
forlorn little sufferer and presently the dreary sobbing ceased and
the girl drifted off to exhausted sleep, nature's kindest panacea for
all human ills.

Meanwhile the doctor sought out Larry. He found him in the office
apparently completely absorbed in the perusal of a medical magazine. He
looked up quickly as the older man entered and answered the question in
his eyes giving assurance that Ruth was quite all right, would soon be
asleep if she was not already. He made no mention of that disconcerting
flash of memory. Sufficient unto the day was the trouble thereof.

He came over and laid a kindly, encouraging hand on the boy's shoulder.

"Keep up heart a little longer," he said. "By tomorrow you will
know where you stand and that will be something, no matter which
way it turns."

"I should say it would," groaned Larry. "I'm sick of being in a
labyrinth. Even the worst can't be much worse than not knowing. You don't
know how tough it has been, Uncle Phil."

"I can make a fairly good guess at it, my boy. I've seen and understood
more than you realize perhaps. You have put up a magnificent fight, son.
And you are the boy who once told me he was a coward."

"I am afraid I still am, Uncle Phil,--sometimes."

"We all are, Larry, cowards in our hearts, but that does not matter so
long as the yellow streak doesn't get into our acts. You have not let
that happen I think."

Larry was silent. He was remembering that night when Ruth had come to
him. He wasn't very proud of the memory. He wondered if his uncle guessed
how near the yellow streak had come to the surface on that occasion.

"I don't deserve as much credit as you are giving me," he said humbly.
"There have been times--at least one time--" He broke off.

"You would have been less than a man if there had not been, Larry. I
understand all that. But on the whole you know and I know that you have a
clean slate to show. Don't let yourself get morbid worrying about things
you might have done and didn't. They don't worry me. They needn't worry
you. Forget it."

"Uncle Phil! You are great the way you always clear away the fogs. But my
clean slate is a great deal thanks to you. I don't know where I would
have landed if you hadn't held me back, not so much by what you said as
what you are. Ted isn't the only one who has learned to appreciate what a
pillar of strength we all have in you. However this comes out I shan't
forget what you did for me, are doing all the time."

"Thank you, Larry. It is good to hear things like that though I think you
underestimate your own strength. I am thankful if I have helped in any
degree. I have felt futile enough. We all have. At any rate the strain is
about over. The telegram must have been a knock down blow though. Where
were you this afternoon?"

"I don't know. I just drove like the devil--anywhere. Did you worry? I am
sorry. Good Lord! I cut my appointment with Mrs. Blake, didn't I? I never
thought of it until this minute. Gee! I am worse than Ted. Used to think
I had some balance but evidently I am a plain nut. I'm disgusted with
myself and I should think you would be more disgusted with me." The boy
looked up at his uncle with eyes that were full of shamed compunction.

But the latter smiled back consolingly.

"Don't worry. There are worse things in the world than cutting an
appointment for good and sufficient reasons. You will get back your
balance when things get normal again. I have no complaint to make anyway.
You have kept up the professional end splendidly until now. What you need
is a good long vacation and I am going to pack you off on one at the
earliest opportunity. Do you want me to meet Captain Annersley for you
tomorrow?" he switched off to ask.

Larry shook his head.

"No, I'll meet him myself, thank you. It is my job. I am not going to
flunk it. If he is Ruth's husband I am going to be the first to shake
hands with him."




CHAPTER XXXIV

IN WHICH TWO MASSEYS MEET IN MEXICO


And while things were moving toward their crisis for Larry and Ruth
another drama was progressing more or less swiftly to its conclusion
down in Vera Cruz. Alan Massey had found his cousin in a wretched,
vermin haunted shack, nursed in haphazard fashion by a slovenly,
ignorant half-breed woman under the ostensible professional care of a
mercenary, incompetent, drunken Mexican doctor who cared little enough
whether the dog of an American lived or died so long as he himself
continued to get the generous checks from a certain newspaper in New
York City. The doctor held the credulity of the men who mailed those
checks in fine contempt and proceeded to feather his nest valiantly
while his good luck continued, going on many a glorious spree at the
paper's expense while Dick Carson went down every day deeper into the
valley of the shadow of death.

With the coming of Alan Massey however a new era began. Alan was apt to
leave transformation of one sort or another in his wake. It was not
merely his money magic though he wielded that magnificently as was his
habit and predilection, spent Mexican dollars with a superb disregard of
their value which won from the natives a respect akin to awe and wrought
miracles wherever the golden flow touched. But there was more than money
magic to Alan Massey's performance in Vera Cruz. There was also the
magic of his dominating, magnetic personality. He was a born master and
every one high or low who crossed his path recognized his rightful
ascendency and hastened to obey his royal will.

His first step was to get the sick man transferred from the filthy hovel
in which he found him to clean, comfortable quarters in an ancient adobe
palace, screened, airy, spacious. The second step was to secure the
services of two competent and high priced nurses from Mexico City, one an
American, the other an English woman, both experienced, intrepid,
efficient. The third step taken simultaneously with the other two was to
dismiss the man who masqueraded as a physician though he was nothing in
reality but a cheap charlatan fattening himself at the expense of
weakness and disease. The man had been inclined to make trouble at first
about his unceremonious discharge. He had no mind to lose without a
protest such a convenient source of unearned increment as those checks
represented. He had intended to get in many another good carouse before
the sick man died or got well as nature willed. But a single interview
with Alan Massey sufficed to lay his objections to leaving the case. In
concise and forcible language couched in perfect Spanish Alan had made it
clear that if the so-called doctor came near his victim again he would be
shot down like a dog and if Carson died he would in any case be tried for
man slaughter and hanged on the spot. The last point had been further
punctuated by an expressive gesture on the speaker's part, pointing to
his own throat accompanied by a significant little gurgling sound. The
gesture and the gurgle had been convincing. The man surrendered the case
in some haste. He did not at all care for the style of conversation
indulged in by this tall, unsmiling, green-eyed man. Consequently he
immediately evaporated to all intents and purposes and was seen no more.
The new physician put in charge was a different breed entirely, a man who
had the authentic gift and passion for healing which the born doctor
always possesses, be he Christian or heathen, gypsy herb mixer or ten
thousand dollar specialist. Alan explained to this man precisely what was
required of him, explained in the same forcible, concise, perfect Spanish
that had banished the other so completely. His job was to cure the sick
man. If he succeeded there would be a generous remuneration. If he failed
through no fault of his there would still be fair remuneration though
nothing like what would be his in case of complete recovery. If he failed
through negligence--and here the expressive gesture and the gurgle were
repeated--. The sentence had not needed completion. The matter was
sufficiently elucidated. The man was a born healer as has been recorded
but even if he had not been he would still have felt obliged to move
heaven and earth so far as in him lay to cure Dick Carson. Alan Massey's
manner was persuasive. One did one's best to satisfy a person who spoke
such Spanish and made such ominous gestures. One did as one was
commanded. One dared do no other.

As for the servants whom Alan rallied to his standard they were slaves
rather than servants. They recognized in him their preordained master,
were wax to his hands, mats to his feet. They obeyed his word as
obsequiously, faithfully and unquestioningly as if he could by a clap of
his lordly hands banish them to strange deaths.

They talked in low tones about him among themselves behind his back.
This was no American they said. No American could command as this
green-eyed one commanded. No American had such gift of tongues, such
gestures, such picturesque and varied and awesome oaths. No American
carried small bright flashing daggers such as he carried in his inner
pockets, nor did Americans talk glibly as he talked of weird poisons,
not every day drugs, but marvelous, death dealing concoctions done up in
lustrous jewel-like capsules or diluted in sparkling, insidious gorgeous
hued fluids. The man was too wise--altogether too wise to be an
American. He had traveled much, knew strange secrets. They rather
thought he knew black art. Certainly he knew more of the arts of healing
than the doctor himself. There was nothing he did not know, the
green-eyed one. It was best to obey him.

And while Alan Massey's various arts operated Dick Carson passed through
a series of mental and physical evolutions and came slowly back to
consciousness of what was going on.

At first he was too close to the hinterland to know or care as to what
was happening here, though he did vaguely sense that he had left the
lower levels of Hell and was traversing a milder purgatorial region. He
did not question Alan's presence or recognize him. Alan was at first
simply another of those distrusted foreigners whose point of view and
character he comprehended as little as he did their jibbering tongues.

Gradually however this one man seemed to stand out from the others and
finally took upon himself a name and an entity. By and by, Dick thought,
when he wasn't so infernally-tired as he was just now he would wonder why
Alan Massey was here and would try to recall why he had disliked him so,
some time a million years ago or so. He did not dislike him now. He was
too weak to dislike anybody in any case but he was beginning to connect
Alan vaguely but surely with the superior cleanliness and comfort and
care with which he was now surrounded. He knew now that he had been
sick, very sick and that he was getting better, knew that before long he
would find himself asking questions. Even now his eyes followed Alan
Massey as the latter came and went with an ever more insistent wonderment
though he had not yet the force of will or body to voice that pursuing
question as to why Alan Massey was here apparently taking charge of his
own slow return to health and consciousness.

Meanwhile Alan wired Tony Holiday every day as to his patient's condition
though he wrote not at all and said nothing in his wires of himself.
Letters from Tony were now beginning to arrive, letters full of eager
gratitude and love for Alan and concern for Dick.

And one day Dick's mind got suddenly very clear. He was alone with the
nurse at the time, the sympathetic American one whom he liked better and
was less afraid of than he was of the stolid, inexorable British lady.
And he began to ask questions, many questions and very definite ones. He
knew at last precisely what it was he wanted to know.

He got a good deal of information though by no means all he sought. He
found out that he had been taken desperately ill, that he had been
summarily removed from his lodging place because of the owner's
superstitious dread of contagion into the miserable little thatch
roofed hut in which he had nearly died thanks to the mal-practice of
the rascally, drunken doctor and the ignorant half-breed nurse. He
learned how Alan Massey had suddenly appeared and taken things in his
own hands, discovered that in a nutshell the fact was he owed his life
to the other-man. But why? That was what he had to find out from Alan
Massey himself.

The next day when Alan came in and the nurse went out he asked
his question.

"That is easy," said Alan grimly. "I came on Tony's account."

Dick winced. Of course that was it. Tony had sent Massey. He was here as
her emissary, naturally, no doubt as her accepted lover. It was kind.
Tony was always kind but he wished she had not done it. He did not want
to have his life saved by the man who was going to marry Tony Holiday. He
rather thought he did not want his life saved anyway by anybody. He
wished they hadn't done it.

"I--I am much obliged to you and to Tony," he said a little stiffly. "I
fear it--it was hardly worth the effort." His eyes closed wearily.

"Tony didn't send me though," observed Alan Massey as if he had read the
other's thought. "I sent myself."

Dick's eyes opened.

"That is odd if it is true," he said slowly.

Alan dropped into a chair near the bed.

"It is odd," he admitted. "But it happens to be true. It came about
simply enough. When Tony heard you were sick she went crazy, swore
she was coming down here in spite of us all to take care of you. Then
Miss Clay's child died and she had to go on the boards. You can
imagine what it meant to her--the two things coming at once. She
played that night--swept everything as you'd know she would--got 'em
all at her feet."

Dick nodded, a faint flash of pleasure in his eyes. Down and out as he
was he could still be glad to hear of Tony's triumph.

"She wanted to come to you," went on Alan. "She let me come instead
because she couldn't. I came for--for her sake."

Dick nodded.

"Naturally--for her sake," he said. "I could hardly have expected you to
come for mine. I would hardly have expected it in any case."

"I would hardly have expected it of myself," acknowledged Alan with a wry
smile. "But I've had rather a jolly time at your expense. I've always
enjoyed working miracles and if you could have seen yourself the way you
were when I got here you would think there was a magic in it somehow."

"I evidently owe you a great deal, Mr. Massey. I am grateful or at least
I presume I shall be later. Just now I feel a little--dumb."

"My dear fellow, nothing would please me better than to have you continue
dumb on that subject. I did this thing as I've done most things in my
life to please myself. I don't want your thanks. I would like a little of
your liking though. You and I are likely to see quite a bit of each other
these next few weeks. Could you manage to forget the past and call a kind
of truce for a while? You have a good deal to forgive me--perhaps more
than you know. If you would be willing to let the little I have done down
here--and mind you I don't want to magnify that part--wipe off the slate
I should be glad. Could you manage it, Carson?"

"It looks as if it hardly could be magnified," said Dick with sudden
heartiness. "I spoke grudgingly just now I am afraid. Please overlook it.
I am more than grateful for all you have done and more than glad to be
friends if you want it. I don't hate you. How could I when you have saved
my life and anyway I never hated you as you used to hate me. I've often
wondered why you did, especially at first before you knew how much I
cared for Tony. And even that shouldn't have made you hate me
because--you won."

"Never mind why I hated you. I don't any more. Will you shake hands with
me, Carson, so we can begin again?"

Dick pulled himself weakly up on the pillow. Their hands met.

"Hang it, Massey," Dick said. "I am afraid I am going to like you. I've
heard you were hypnotic. I believe on my soul you came down here to make
me like you? Did you?"

But Alan only smiled his ironic, noncommital smile and remarked it was
time for the invalid to take a nap. He had had enough conversation for
the first attempt.

Dick soon drifted off to sleep but Alan Massey prowled the streets of the
Mexican city far into the night, with tireless, driven feet. The demons
were after him again.

And far away in another city whose bright lights glow all night Tony
Holiday was still playing Madge to packed houses, happy in her triumph
but with heart very pitiful for her beloved Miss Clay whose sorrow and
continued illness had made possible the fruition of her own eager hopes.
Tony was sadly lonely without Alan, thought of him far more often and
with deeper affection even than she had while she had him at her beck and
call in the city, loved him with a new kind of love for his generous
kindness to Dick. She made up her mind that he had cleared the shield
forever by this splendid act and saw no reason why she should keep him
any longer on probation. Surely she knew by this time that he was a man
even a Holiday might be proud to marry.

She wrote this decision to her uncle and asked to be relieved from
her promise.

"I am sorry," she wrote, "if you cannot approve but I cannot help it. I
love him and I am going to be engaged to him as soon as he comes back to
New York if he wants it. I am afraid I would have married him and gone
to Mexico with him, given up the play and broken my promise to you, if he
would have let me. It goes that far and deep with me.

"People are crazy over his pictures. The exhibition came off last week
and they say he is one of the greatest living painters with a wonderful
future ahead of him. I am so proud and happy. He is fine everyway now,
has really sloughed off the past just as he promised he would. So please,
dear Uncle Phil, forgive me if I do what you don't want me to. I have to
marry him. In my heart I am married to him already."

And this was the letter Philip Holiday found at his place at breakfast on
the morning of the day Geoffrey Annersley was expected. He read it
gravely. Rash, loving, generous-hearted Tony. Where was she going? Ah
well, she was no longer a child to be protected from the storm and stress
of life. She was a woman grown, woman enough to love and to be loved
greatly, to sacrifice and suffer if need be for love's mighty sake. She
must go her way as Ted had gone his, as their father had gone his before
them. He could only pray that she was right in her faith that for love of
her Alan Massey had been born anew.

His own deep affection for Ned's children seemed at the moment a sadly
powerless thing. He had coveted the best things of life for them, happy,
normal ways of peace and gentle living. Yet here was Ted at twenty
already lived through an experience, tragic enough to leave its scarlet
mark for all the rest of his life and even now on the verge of
voluntarily entering a terrific conflict from which few returned alive
and none came back unchanged. Here was Tony taking upon herself the
thraldom of a love, which try as he would Philip Holiday could not see
in any other light but as at best a cataclysmic risk. And at this very
hour Larry might be learning that the desire of his heart was dust and
ashes, his hope a vain thing, himself an exile henceforth from the things
that round out a man's life, make it full and rich and satisfying.

And yet thinking of the three Philip Holiday found one clear ray of
comfort. With all their vagaries, their rash impulsions, their willful
blindness, their recklessness, they had each run splendidly true to type.
Not one of the three had failed in the things that really count. He had
faith that none of them ever would. They might blunder egregiously,
suffer immeasurably, pay extravagantly, but they would each keep that
vital spirit which they had in common, untarnished and undaunted, an
unconquerable thing.




CHAPTER XXXV

GEOFFREY ANNERSLEY ARRIVES


There were few passengers alighting from the south bound train from
Canada. Larry Holiday had no difficulty in picking out Geoffrey Annersley
among these, a tall young man, wearing the British uniform and supporting
himself with a walking stick. His face was lean and bronzed and lined,
the face of a man who has seen things which kill youth and laughter and
yet a serene face too as if its owner had found that after all nothing
mattered very much if you looked it square in the eye.

Larry went to the stranger at once.

"Captain Annersley?" he asked. "I am Laurence Holiday."

The captain set down his bag, leaned on his stick, deliberately
scrutinized the other man. Larry returned the look frankly. They were of
nearly the same age but any one seeing them would have set the Englishman
as at least five years the senior of the young doctor. Geoffrey Annersley
had been trained in a stern school. A man does not wear a captain's bars
and four wound stripes for nothing.

Then the Englishman held out his hand with a pleasant and unexpectedly
boyish smile.

"So you are Larry," he said. "Your brother sent me to you."

"Ted! You have seen him?" For a minute Larry forgot who Geoffrey
Annersley was, forgot Ruth, forgot himself, remembered only Ted and
gave his guest a heartier handshake than he had willed for his "Kid"
brother's sake.

"Yes, I was with him day before yesterday and the night before that. He
was looking jolly well and sent all kinds of greetings to you all. See
here, Doctor Holiday, I have no end of things to say to you. Can we go
somewhere and talk?"

"My car is outside. You will come up to the house will you not? We are
all expecting you." Larry tried hard to keep his voice quiet and
emotionless. Not for anything would he have had this gallant soldier
suspect how his knees were trembling.

"Delighted," bowed the captain suavely and permitted Larry to take his
bag and lead the way to the car. Nothing more was said until the two men
were seated and the car had left the station yard.

"I am afraid I should have made my wire a bit more explicit," observed
the captain turning to Larry. "My wife says I am too parsimonious with my
words in telegrams--a British trait possibly." He spoke deliberately and
his keen eyes studied his companion's face as he made the casual remark
which set Larry's brain reeling. "See here, Holiday, I'm a blunt brute. I
don't know how to break things gently to people. But I am here to tell
you if you care to know that Elinor Ruth Farringdon is no more married
than you are unless she is married to you. That was her mother's wedding
ring. Lord, man, do you always drive a car like this? I've been all but
killed once this year and I don't care to repeat the experiment."

Larry grinned, flushed, apologized and moderated the speed of his motor.
He wondered that he could drive at all. He felt strangely light as if he
were stripped of his body and were nothing but spirit.

"Do you mind if we drive about a bit and talk things over before I see
Elinor--Ruth, as you call her? I'm funking that a little though I've
been trying ever since your brother told me the story to get used to
the idea of her being, well not quite right, you know. But I can't
stick it somehow."

"She is all right, perfectly normal every way except that she had
forgotten things." Larry's voice was faintly indignant. He resented
anybody's implying that Ruth was queer, unbalanced in any way. She
wasn't. She was absolutely sane, as sane as Captain Annersley himself,
considerably more sane than Larry Holiday could take oath he was at
this moment.

"Good heavens! Isn't that enough?" groaned Annersley almost equally
indignant. "You forget or rather you don't know all she has forgotten. I
know. I was brought up with her. Her father was my uncle and guardian. We
played together, had the same tutor, rode the same ponies, got into the
same jolly old scrapes. Why, Elinor's like my own sister, man. I can't
swallow her forgetting me and her brother Rod and all the rest as easily
as you seem to do. It--well, it's the limit as you say in the states."
The captain wiped his forehead on which great drops of perspiration stood
in spite of the January chill in the air. There was agitation, suppressed
vehemence in his tone.

"I suppose it is natural that you should feel that way." Larry spoke
thoughtfully as he turned the car away from the Hill in response to his
guest's request that he be permitted to postpone meeting Elinor Ruth
Farringdon a little while. "The remembering part hasn't bothered me so
much. Maybe I wasn't very keen on having her remember. Maybe I was afraid
she would remember too much," he added coloring a little.

The frown on his companion's stern young face melted at that. The
frank, boyish smile appeared again. He liked Larry Holiday none the less
for his lack of pretense. He understood all that. The younger Holiday
had taken pains to make things perfectly clear to him. He knew precisely
what the young doctor was afraid of and why in case Elinor Farringdon's
memory returned.

"My uncle thinks and I think too that her memory will come back now that
it has the external stimulus to waken it," Larry continued. "I shouldn't
be surprised if seeing you would give the necessary impetus. In fact I am
counting on that very thing happening, hoping for it with all my might.
That was one of the reasons I was glad to have you come. Please believe
that I should have been glad even if your coming had made her remember
she was your wife. Of course her recovery is the main thing. The rest
is--a side issue."

"A jolly important side issue I take it for her and for you. I'm not a
stranger, Doctor Holiday. I am Elinor Ruth Farringdon's cousin, in her
brother's absence I represent her family and in that capacity I would
like to say before I am a minute older that what you and the rest of you
Holidays have done for Elinor passes anything I know of for sheer
fineness and generosity. I'm not a man of words. War would have knocked
them out of me if I had been but when I remember that you not only saved
Elinor's life but took care of her afterward when she apparently hadn't a
friend in the world--well, there isn't anything I can say but thank you
and tell you that if there is ever anything I can do in return for you or
yours you have only to ask. Neither Elinor nor I can ever repay you. It
is the sort of thing that is--unpayable." And again the captain wiped his
perspiring brow. He was deeply moved and emotion went hard with his
Anglo-Saxon temperament.

"We did nothing but what anybody would have been glad to do. If there
are any thanks coming they are chiefly due to my uncle and his wife. But
we don't any of us want thanks. We love Ruth. Please forget the rest. We
would rather you would."

The captain nodded quick approval. He had been told Americans were
boasters, given to Big-Itis. But either people got the Americans wrong or
these Holidays were an exception to the general run. He remembered that
other young Holiday whom he had met rather intimately in the Canadian
camp. There had been no side there either. His modesty had been one of
his chief charms. And here was the brother quietly putting aside credit
for a course of conduct which was simply immense in its quixotic
generosity. He liked these Holidays. There was something rather
magnificent about their simplicity--something almost British he thought.

"That is all very well," he made answer. "I won't talk about it if you
prefer but you will pardon me if I don't forget that you saved my
cousin's life and looked after her when she was in a desperately unhappy
situation and her own people seemed to have utterly deserted her. And I
consider my running into your brother at camp one of the sheerest pieces
of good luck I've had these many days on all counts."

"How did it happen?" asked Larry.

"I was doing some recruiting work in the vicinity and they asked me to
say a few words to the lads in training. I did. Your brother was there
and lost no time in getting in touch with me when he heard who I was. And
jolly pleased I was to hear his story--all of it."

The speaker smiled at his companion.

"I mean that, Larry Holiday. Elinor and I were kid sweethearts. We used
to swear we were going to get married when we grew up. That was when she
was eight and I a man of twelve or so. I gave her the locket which made
some of the trouble as a sort of hostage for the future. We called her
Ruth in those days. It was her own fancy to change it to Elinor later.
She thought it more grown up and dignified I remember. Then I went back
to England to school. I didn't see her again until we were both grown up
and then I married her best friend with her blessing and approval. But
that is another story. Just now I am trying to tell you that I am ready
to congratulate my cousin with all my heart if it happens that you want
to marry her as your brother seems to think."

"There is no doubt about what I want," said Larry grimly. "Whether it is
what she wants is another matter. We haven't been exactly in a position
to discuss marriage."

"I understand. I'm beastly sorry to have been such an infernal dog in the
manger unwittingly. The only thing I can do to make, up is to give my
blessing and wish you best of luck in your wooing. Shall we shake on it,
Larry Holiday, and on the friendship I hope you and I are going to have?"

And with a cordial man to man grip there was cemented a friendship which
was to last as long as they both lived.

To relate briefly the links of the story some of which Larry Holiday now
heard as the car sped over the smooth, frost hardened roads which the
open winter had left unusually snowless and clean. Geoffrey Annersley had
been going his careless, happy go lucky way as an Oxford undergraduate
when the sudden firing of a far off shot had startled the world and made
war the one inevitable fact. The young man had enlisted promptly and had
been in practically continuous service of one sort or another ever since.
He had gone through desperate fighting, been four times wounded, and was
now at last definitely eliminated from active service by a semi-paralyzed
leg, the result of his last visit to "Blighty." He had been invalided the
previous spring and had been sent to Australia on a recruiting mission.
Here he had renewed his acquaintance with his cousins whom he had not
seen for years and promptly fell in love with and married pretty Nancy
Hallinger, his cousin Elinor's chum.

The speedy wooing accomplished as well as the recruiting job which was
dispatched equally expeditiously and thoroughly Geoffrey prepared to
return to France to get in some more good work against the Huns while his
wife planned to enter Red Cross service as a nurse for which she had been
in training for some time. Roderick had entered the Australian air
service and was already in Flanders where he had the reputation of being
one of the youngest and most reckless aviators flying which was saying
considerable.

It was imperative that some arrangement be made for Elinor who obviously
could not be left alone in Sydney. It was decided in family conclave that
she should go to America and accept the often proffered hospitality of
her aunt for a time at least. A cable to this effect had been dispatched
to Mrs. Wright which as later appeared never reached that lady as she was
already on her way to England and died there shortly after.

Geoffrey had been exceedingly reluctant to have his young cousin take the
long journey alone though she had laughed at his fears and his wife had
abetted her in her disregard of possible disastrous consequences, telling
him that women no longer required wrapping in tissue paper. The war had
changed all that.

At his insistence however Ruth had finally consented to wear her mother's
wedding ring as a sort of shadowy protection. He had an idea that the
small gold band, being presumptive evidence of an existing male guardian
somewhere in the offing might serve to keep away the ill intentioned or
over bold from his lovely little heiress cousin about whom he worried to
no small degree.

They had gone their separate ways, he to the fierce fighting of May,
nineteen hundred and sixteen, she to her long journey and subsequent
strange adventures. At first no one had thought it unnatural that they
heard nothing from Elinor. Letters went easily astray those days.
Geoffrey was weeks without news even from his wife and poor Roderick
was by this time beyond communication of any kind, his name labeled
with that saddest of all tags--missing. It was not until Geoffrey was
out of commission with that last worst knock out, lying insensible,
more dead than alive in a hospital "somewhere in France" that the
others began to realize that Elinor had vanished utterly from the ken
of all who knew her. Some one who knew her by sight had chanced to see
her in California and had noted the wedding ring, hence the
"unsubstantiated rumor" of her marriage in San Francisco, a rumor which
Nancy half frantic over her husband's desperate illness was the only
person who was in a position to explain.

When Geoffrey came slowly back to the land of the living it was to learn
that his cousin Roderick was still reported missing and that Elinor was
even more sadly and mysteriously vanished from the face of the earth in
spite of all effort to discover her fate. It had been a tragic coming
back for the sick man. But an Englishman is hard to down and gradually he
got back health and a degree of hope and happiness. There would be no
more fighting for him but the War Department assured him there were
plenty of other ways in which he could serve the cause and he had
readily placed himself at their disposal for the recruiting work in which
he had already demonstrated his power to success in Australia.

Which brings us to the Canadian training camp and Ted Holiday. Captain
Annersley had been asked as he had told Larry to speak to the boys. He
had done so, given a little straight talk of what lay ahead of them and
what they were fighting for, bade them get in a few extra licks for him
since he was out of it for good, done for, "crocked." In conclusion he
had begged them give the Huns hell. It was all he asked of them and from
the look of them he jolly well knew they would do it.

While he was speaking he was aware all the time of a tall, blue-eyed
youth who stood leaning against a post with a kind of nonchalant grace.
The boy's pose had been indolent but his eyes had been wide awake,
earnest, responsive. Little by little the captain found himself talking
directly to the lad. What he was saying might be over the heads of some
of them but not this chap's. He got you as the Americans say. He had the
vision, would go wherever the speaker could take him. One saw that.

Afterwards the boy had sought out the recruiter to ask if by any chance
he knew a girl named Elinor Ruth Farringdon. It had been rather a
tremendous moment for both of them. Each had plenty to say that the other
wanted to hear. But the full story had to wait. Corporal Holiday couldn't
run around loose even talking to a distinguished British officer. There
would have to be special dispensation for that and special dispensations
take time in an army world. It would be forthcoming however--to-morrow.

In the meantime Geoffrey Annersley had heard enough to want to know a
great deal more and thought he might as well make some inquiries on his
own. He wanted to find out who these American Holidays were, one of whom
had apparently saved his cousin Elinor's life and all of whom had, one
concluded, been amazingly kind to her though the blue-eyed boy had
gracefully made light of that side of the thing in the brief synopsis of
events he had had time to give to the Englishman. The captain had taken a
fancy to the narrator and was not averse to beginning his investigation
as to the Holiday family with the young corporal himself.

Accordingly he tackled the boy's commanding officer, a young colonel with
whom he chanced to be dining. The colonel was willing to talk and
Geoffrey Annersley discovered that young Holiday was rather by way of
being a top-notcher. He had enlisted as a private only a short time ago
but had been shot speedily into his corporalship. Time pressed. Officers
were needed. The boy was officer stuff. He wouldn't stay a corporal. If
all went well he would go over as a sergeant.

"We put him through though, just at first handled him rather nasty," the
colonel admitted with a reminiscent twinkle. "We do put the Americans
through somehow, though it isn't that we have any grudge against 'em. We
haven't. We like 'em--most of 'em and we have to admit it's rather decent
of them to be here at all when they don't have to. All the same we give
'em an extra twist of the discipline crank on general principles just to
see what they are made of. We found out mighty quick with this youngster.
He took it all and came back for more with a 'sir,' and a salute and a
devilish debonair, you-can't-down-me kind of grin that would have
disarmed a Turk."

"He doesn't look precisely meek to me," Annersley had said remembering
the answering flash he had caught in those blue eyes when he was begging
the boys to get in an extra lick against the Huns for his sake.

"Meek nothing! He has more spirit than any cub we've had to get into
shape this many a moon. It isn't that. It is just that he has the right
idea, had it from the start however he came by it. You know what it is,
captain. It is obedience, first, last and all the time, the will to be
willed. A soldier's job is to do what he is told whether he likes it or
not, whether it is his job or not, whether it makes sense or not, whether
he gets his orders from a man he looks up to and respects or whether he
gets them from a low down cur that he knows perfectly well isn't fit to
black his boots--none of that makes any difference. It is up to him to do
what he is told and he does it without a kick if he's wise. Young Holiday
is wise. He'd had his medicine sometime. One sees that. I don't know why
he dropped down on us like a shooting star the way he did, some college
fiasco I understand. He doesn't talk about himself or his affairs though
he is a frank outspoken youngster in other ways. But there was a look in
his eyes when he came to us that most boys of twenty don't have, thank
the Lord! And it is that look or what is behind it that has made him ace
high here. That boy struck bottom somewhere and struck it hard. I'll bet
my best belt on that."

This interested Geoffrey Annersley. He thought he understood what the
colonel meant. There was something in Ted Holiday's eyes which betrayed
that he had already been under fire somehow. He had seen it himself.

"He is as smart as they make 'em," went on the colonel. "Quick as a flash
to think and to see and to act, never loses his head. And he's a wonder
with the men, jollies 'em along when they are grousing or homesick, sets
'em grinning from ear to ear when they are down-hearted, has a pat on the
shoulder for this one and a jeer for that one. Old and young they are
all crazy about him. They'd go anywhere he led. I tell you he's the stuff
that will take 'em over the top and make the boches feel cold in the pit
of their fat tumtums when they see him coming. Lord, but the uselessness
of it though! He'll get killed. His kind always does. They are always in
front. They are made that way. Can't help it. Sometimes they do come
through though." The colonel flashed a quick admiring glance at his guest
who had also been the kind that was always in front and yet had somehow
by the grace of something come through in spite of the hazards he had run
and the deaths he had all but died. "You are a living witness to that
little fact," he added. "Lord love us! It's all in the game anyway and a
man can die but once."

The next day Corporal Holiday was given a brief leave of absence from
camp at the request of the distinguished British officer. Together the
two went over the strange story of Elinor Ruth Farringdon and the
Holidays' connection with the later chapters thereof. They decided not to
write to the Hill as Annersley was planning to go to Boston next day
whence he was to return soon to England his mission accomplished, and
could easily stop over in Dunbury on his way and set things right in
person, perhaps even by his personal presence renew Ruth's memory of
things she had forgotten.

All through the pleasant dinner hour Ted kept wishing he could get the
captain to talking about himself and his battle experiences and had no
idea at all that he himself was being shrewdly studied as they talked.
"Good breeding, good blood-quality," the captain summed up. "If he is a
fair sample of young America then young America is a bit of all right."
And if he is a fair sample of the Holiday family then Elinor had indeed
fallen into the best of hands. Praise be! He wondered more than once what
the young-corporal's own story was, what was the nature of the fiasco
which had driven him into the Canadian training camp and what was behind
that unboyish look which came now and then into his boyish eyes.

Later during the intimate evening over their cigarettes both had their
curiosity gratified. Captain Annersley was moved to relate some of his
hair breadth escapes and thrilling moments to an alert and hero
worshiping listener. And later still Ted too waxed autobiographical in
response to some clever baiting of which he was entirely unaware though
he did wonder afterward how he had happened to tell the thing he had kept
most secret to an entire stranger. It was an immense relief to the boy to
talk it all out. It would never haunt him again in quite the same way now
he had once broken the barriers of his reserve. Geoffrey Annersley served
his purpose for Ted as well as Larry Holiday.

Annersley was immensely interested in the confession. It matched very
well he thought with that other story of a gallant young Holiday to whom
his cousin Elinor owed so much in more than one way. They were a queer
lot these Holidays. They had the courage of their convictions and tilted
at windmills right valiantly it seemed.

And then he fell to talking straight talk to Ted Holiday, saying things
that only a man who has lived deeply can say with any effect. He urged
the boy not to worry about that smash of his. It was past history, over
and done with. He must look ahead not back and be thankful he had come
out as well as he had.

"There is just one other thing I want to say," he added. "You think you
have had your lesson. Maybe it is enough but you'll find it a jolly lot
easier to slip up over there than it is at home. You lose your sense of
values when there is death and damnation going all around you, get to
feeling you have a right to take anything that comes your way to even it
up. Anyway I felt that way until I met the girl I wanted to marry. Then
the rest looked almighty different. I've given Nancy the best I had to
give but it wasn't good enough. She deserved more than I could give her.
That is plain speaking, Holiday. Men say war excuses justify anything. It
doesn't do anything of the sort. Some day you will be wanting to marry a
girl yourself. Don't let anything happen in this next year over there
that you will regret for a life-time. That is a queer preachment and I'm
a jolly rotten preacher. But somehow I felt I had to say it. You can
remember it or forget it as you like."

Ted lit another cigarette, looked up straight into Geoffrey Annersley's
war lined face.

"Thank you," he said. "I think I'll remember it. Anyway I appreciate your
saying it to me that way."

The subject dropped then, went back to war and how men feel on the edge
of death, of the unimportance of death anyway.




CHAPTER XXXVI

THE PAST AND FUTURE MEET


Larry knocked at Ruth's door. It opened and a wan and pathetically
drooping little figure stood before him. Ever since she had been awake
Ruth, had been haunted by that unwelcome bit of memory illumination which
had come the night before. No wonder she drooped and scarcely dared to
lift her eyes to her lover's face. But in a moment he had her in his
arms, a performance which banished the droop and brought a lovely color
back into the pale cheeks.

"Larry, oh Larry, is it all right? I'm not his wife? He didn't marry me?"

Larry kissed her.

"He didn't marry you. Nobody's going to marry you but me. No, I didn't
mean to say that now. Forget it, sweetheart. You are free, and if you
want to say so I'll let you go. If you don't want--"

"But I do want," she interrupted. "I want Larry Holiday and he is all I
want. Why won't you ever, ever believe I love you? I do, more than
anything in the world."

"You darling! Will you marry me? I shouldn't have asked you that other
time. I hadn't the right. But I have now. Will you, Ruth? I want you so.
And I've waited so long."

"Listen to me, Larry Holiday." Ruth held up a small warning forefinger.
"I'll marry you if you will promise never, never to be cross to me again.
I have shed quarts of tears because you were so unkind and--faithless. I
ought to make you do some terrible penance for thinking the money or
anything but you mattered to me. Not even the wedding ring mattered. I
told you so but still you wouldn't believe."

Larry shook his head remorsefully.

"Rub it in, sweetheart, if you must. I deserve it. But don't you think I
have had purgatory enough because I didn't dare believe to punish me for
anything? As for the rest I know I've been behaving like a brute. I've a
devil of a disposition and I've been half crazy anyway. Not that that is
any excuse. But I'll behave myself in the future. Honest I will, Ruthie.
All you have to do is to lift this small finger of yours--" He indicated
the digit by a loverly kiss "and I'll be as meek and lowly as--as an ash
can," he finished prosaically.

Ruth's happy laughter rang out at this and she put up her lips for a
kiss.

"I'll remember," she said. "You're not a brute, Larry. You're a darling
and I love you--oh immensely and I'll marry you just as quick as ever I
can and we'll be so happy you won't ever remember you have a
disposition."

Another interim occurred, an interim occupied by things which are
nobody's business and which anybody who has ever been in love can supply
ad lib by exercise of memory and imagination. Then hand in hand the two
went down to where Geoffrey Annersley waited to bring back the past to
Elinor Farringdon.

"Does he know me?" queried Ruth as they descended.

"He surely does. He knows all there is to know about you, Miss Elinor
Ruth Farringdon. He ought to. He is your cousin and he married your best
friend, Nan--"

"Wait!" cried Ruth excitedly, "it's coming back. He married Nancy
Hollinger and she gave me some San Francisco addresses of some friends of
hers just before I sailed. They were in that envelope. I threw away the
addresses when I left San Francisco and tucked my tickets into it. Why,
Larry, I'm remembering--really remembering," she stopped short on the
stairs to exclaim in a startled incredulous tone.

"Of course you are remembering, sweetheart," echoed Larry happily. "Come
on down and remember the rest with Annersley's help. He is some cousin.
You'd better be prepared to be horribly proud of him. He is a captain and
wears all kinds of honorable and distinguished dingle dangles and
decorations as well as a romantic limp and a magnificent gash on his
cheek which he evidently didn't get shaving."

Larry jested because he knew Ruth was growing nervous. He could feel her
tremble against his arm. He was more than a little anxious as to the
outcome of the thing itself. The shock and the strain of meeting Geoffrey
Annersley were going to be rather an ordeal he knew.

They entered the living room and paused on the threshold, Larry's arm
still around the girl. Doctor Holiday and the captain both rose. The
latter limped gallantly toward Ruth who stared at him an instant and then
flung herself away from Larry into the other man's arms.

"Geoff! Geoff!" she cried.

For a moment nothing more was said then Ruth drew herself away.

"Geoffrey Annersley, why did you ever, ever make me wear that horrid
ring?" she demanded reproachfully. "Larry and I could have married each
other months ago if you hadn't. It was the silliest idea anyway and it's
all your fault--everything."

He laughed at that, a, big whole-souled hearty laugh that came from the
depths of him.

"That sounds natural," he said. "Every scrape you ever enticed me into as
a kid was always my fault somehow. Are you real, Elinor? I can't help
thinking I am seeing a ghost. Do you really remember me?" anxiously.

"Of course I remember you. Listen, Geoff. Listen hard."

And unexpectedly Ruth pursed her pretty lips and whistled a merry,
lilting bar of melody.

"By Jove!" exulted the captain. "That does sound like old times."

"Don't tell me I don't remember," she flashed back happy and excited
beyond measure at playing this new remembering game. "That was our
special call, yours and Rod's and mine. Oh Rod!" And at that all the joy
went out of the eager, flushed face. She went back into her cousin's
arms again, sobbing in heart breaking fashion. The turning tide of
memory had brought back wreckage of grief as well as joy. In Geoffrey
Annersley's arms Ruth mourned her brother's loss for the first time.
Larry sent his uncle a quick look and went out of the room. The older
doctor followed. Ruth and her cousin were left alone to pick up the
dropped threads of the past.

They all met again at luncheon however, Ruth rosy cheeked, excited and
red-eyed but on the whole none the worse for her journey back into the
land of forgotten things. As Larry had hoped the external stimulus of
actually seeing and hearing somebody out of that other life was enough to
start the train. What she did not yet remember Geoffrey supplied and
little by little the past took on shape and substance and Elinor Ruth
Farringdon became once more a normal human being with a past as well as a
present which was dazzlingly delightful, save for the one dark blur of
her dear Rod's unknown fate.

In the course of the conversation at table Geoffrey addressed his cousin
as Elinor and was promptly informed that she wasn't Elinor and was Ruth
and that he was to call her by that name or run the risk of being
disapproved of very heartily.

He laughed, amused at this.

"Now I know you are real," he said. "It is exactly the tone you used when
you issued the contrary command and by Jove almost the same words except
for the reversed titles. 'Don't call me Ruth, Geoff,'" he mimicked. "'I
am not going to be Ruth any more. I am going to be Elinor. It is a much
prettier name.'"

"Well, I don't think so now," retorted Ruth. "I've changed my mind again.
I think Ruth is the nicest name there is because--well--" She blushed
adorably and looked across the table at the young doctor, "because Larry
likes it," she completed half defiantly.

"Is that meant to be an official publishing of the bans?" teased her
cousin when the laugh that Ruth's naive confession had raised subsided
leaving Larry as well as Ruth a little hot of cheek.

"If you want to call it that," said Ruth. "Larry, I think you might say
something, not leave me everything to do myself. Tell them we are engaged
and are going to be married--"

"To-morrow," put in Larry suddenly pushing back his chair and going
over to stand behind Ruth, a hand on either shoulder, facing the
others gallantly if obviously also embarrassedly over her shyly bent
blonde head.

The blonde head went up at that, and was shaken very decidedly.

"No indeed. That isn't right at all," she objected. "Don't listen to him
anybody. It isn't going to be tomorrow. I've got to have a wedding dress
and it takes at least a week to dream a wedding dress when it is the only
time you ever intend to be married. I have all the other
things--everything I need down to the last hair pin and powder puff.
That's why I went to Boston. I knew I was going to want pretty clothes
quick. I told Doctor Holiday so." She sent a charming, half merry, half
deprecating smile at the older doctor who smiled back.

"She most assuredly did," he corroborated. "I never suspected it was part
of a deep laid plot however. I thought it was just femininity cropping
out after a dull season. How was I to know it was because you were
planning to run off with my assistant that you wanted all the gay
plumage?" he teased.

Ruth made a dainty little grimace at that.

"That isn't a fair way to put it," she declared. "If I had been
planning to run away with Larry or he with me we would have done it
months ago, plumage or no plumage. I wanted to but he wouldn't anyway,"
she confessed. "I like this way much, much better though. I don't want
to be married anywhere except right here in the heart of the House on
the Hill."

She slipped out of her chair and away from Larry's hands at that and went
over to where Doctor Philip sat.

"May we?" she asked like a child asking permission to run out and play.

"It is what we all want more than anything in the world, dear child," he
said. "You belong with Larry in our hearts as well as in the heart of the
House. You know that, don't you?"

"I know you are the dearest man that ever was, not even excepting Larry.
And I am going to kiss you, Uncle Phil, so there. I can call you that
now, can't I? I've always wanted to." And fitting the deed to the word
Ruth bent over and gave Doctor Philip a fluttering little butterfly kiss.

They rose from the table at that and Ruth was bidden go off to her room
and get a long rest after her too exciting morning. Larry soberly
repaired to the office and received patients and prescribed gravely for
them just as if his inner self were not executing wild fandangoes of joy.
Perhaps his patients did get a few waves of his happiness however for
there was not one of them who did not leave the office with greater hope
and strength and courage than he brought there.

"The young doctor's getting to be a lot like his uncle," one of them said
to his wife later. "Just the very touch of his hand made me feel better
today, sort of toned up as if I had had an electrical treatment. Queer
how human beings can shoot sparks sometimes."

Not so queer. Larry Holiday had just been himself electrified by love and
joy. No wonder he had new power that day and was a better healer than he
had ever been before.

In the living room Doctor Philip and Captain Annersley held converse. The
captain expressed his opinion that Ruth should go at once to Australia.

"If her brother is dead as we have every reason to fear, Elinor--Ruth--is
the sole owner of an immense amount of property. The lawyers are about
crazy trying to keep things going without either Roderick or Ruth. They
have been begging me to come out and take charge of things for months but
I haven't been able to see my way clear owing to one thing or another.
Somebody will have to go at once and of course it should be Ruth."

"How would it do for her and Laurence both to go?"

"Magnificent. I was hoping you would think that was a feasible project.
They will be glad to have a man to represent the family. My cousin knows
nothing about the business end of the thing. She has always approached it
exclusively from the spending side. Do you think your nephew would care
to settle there?"

"Possibly," said the Doctor. "That will develop later. They will have to
work that out for themselves. I am rather sorry he is going to marry a
girl with so much money but I suppose it cannot be helped."

"Some people wouldn't look at it that way, Doctor Holiday," grinned the
captain. "But I am prepared to accept the fact that you Holidays are in a
class by yourselves. We have always been afraid that Elinor would be a
victim of some miserable fortune hunter. I can't tell you what a relief
it is to have her marry a man like your nephew. I am only sorry he had to
go through such a punishing period of suspense waiting for his happiness.
Since there wasn't really the slightest obstacle I rather wish he had cut
his scruples and married her long ago."

"I don't agreed with you, Captain Annersley.. They are neither of them
worse off for waiting and being absolutely sure that this is what they
both want. If he had taken the risk and married her when he knew he
hadn't the full right to do it he would have been miserable and made her
more so. Larry is an odd chap. There is a morbid streak in him. He
wouldn't have forgiven himself if he had done it. And losing his own
self-respect would have been the worst thing that could have happened to
him. No amount of actual legality could have made up for starting out on
a spiritually illegal basis. We Holidays have to keep on moderately good
terms with ourselves to be happy," he added with a quiet smile.

"I suppose you are right," admitted the Englishman. "Anyway the thing is
straight and clear now. He has earned every bit of happiness that is
coming to him and I hope it is going to be a great deal. My own sense of
indebtness for all you Holidays have done for Ruth is enormous. I wish
there were some way of making adequate returns for it all. But it is too
big to be repaid. I may be able to keep an eye on your other nephew when
he gets over. I certainly should like to. I don't know when I've taken
such a fancy to a lad. My word he is a ripping sort."

"Ted?" Doctor Holiday smiled a little. "Well, yes, I suppose he is what
you Britishers call ripping. It has been rather ripping in another sense
being his guardian sometimes."

"I judge so by his own account of himself. Yoxi mustn't let that smash of
his worry you. He'll find something over there that will be worth a
hundred times what any college can give him, and as for the rest half the
lads of mettle in the world come to earth with a jolt over a girl sooner
or later and they don't all rise up out of the dust as clean as he did
by, a long shot."

"So he told you about that affair? You must have gotten under his skin
rather surprisingly Ted doesn't talk much about himself and I fancy he
hasn't talked about that thing at all to any one. It went deep."

"I know. He shows that in a hundred ways. But it hasn't crushed him or
made him reckless. It simply steadied him and I infer he needed some
steadying."

Doctor Holiday nodded assent to that and asked if he thought the boy was
doing well up there.

"Not a doubt of it," said the Englishman heartily. And he added a brief
synopsis of the things that the colonel had said in regard to his
youngest corporal.

"That is rather astonishing," remarked Doctor Holiday. "Obedience
hasn't ever been one of Ted's strong points. In fact he has been a
rebel always."

"Most boys are until they perceive that there is sense instead of tyranny
in law. Your nephew has had that knocked into him rather hard and he is
all the better for it tough as it was in the process. He is making good
up there. He will make good over seas. He is a born leader--a better
leader of men than his brother would be though maybe Larry is finer
stuff. I don't know."

"They are very different but I like to think they are both rather fine
stuff. Maybe that is my partial view but I am a bit proud of them both,
Ted as well as Larry."

"You have every reason," approved the captain heartily. "I have seen a
good many splendid lads in the last four years and these two measure up
in a way which is an eye opener to me. In my stupid insular prejudice
maybe I had fallen to thinking that the particular quality that marks
them both was a distinctly British affair. Apparently you can breed it in
America too. I'm glad to see it and to own it. And may I say one other
thing, Doctor Holiday? I have the D.S.C. and a lot of other junk like
that but I'd surrender every bit of it this minute gladly if I thought
that I would ever have a son that would worship me the way those lads of
yours worship you. It is an honor any man might well covet."




CHAPTER XXXVII

ALAN MASSEY LOSES HIMSELF


While Ruth and Larry steered their storm tossed craft of love into smooth
haven at last; while Ted came into his own in the Canadian training camp
and Tony played Broadway to her heart's content, the two Masseys down in
Mexico drifted into a strange pact of friendship.

Had there been no other ministrations offered save those of creature
comfort alone Dick would have had cause to be immensely grateful to Alan
Massey. To good food, good nursing and material comfort the young man
reacted quickly for he was a healthy young animal and had no bad habits
to militate against recovery.

But there was more than creature comfort in Alan's service. Without the
latter's presence loneliness, homesickness and heartache would have
gnawed at the younger man retarding his physical gains. With Alan
Massey life even on a sick bed took on fascinating colors like a prism
in sunlight.

For the sick lad's delectation Alan spun long thrilling tales, many of
them based on personal experience in his wide travels in many lands. He
was a magnificent raconteur and Dick propped up among his pillows drank
it all in, listening like another Desdemona to strange moving accidents
of fire and flood which his scribbling soul recognized as superb copy.

Often too Alan read from books, called in the masters of the pen to set
the listener's eager mind atravel through wondrous, unexplored worlds.
Best of all perhaps were the twilight hours when Alan quoted long
passages of poetry from memory, lending to the magic of the poet's art
his own magic of voice and intonation. These were wonderful moments to
Dick, moments he was never to forget. He drank deep of the soul vintage
which the other man offered him out of the abundance of his experience as
a life long pilgrim in the service of beauty.

It was a curious relation--this growing friendship between the two men.
In some respects they were as master and pupil, in others were as man and
man, friend and friend, almost brother and brother. When Alan Massey gave
at all he gave magnificently without stint or reservation. He did now.
And when he willed to conquer he seldom if ever failed. He did not now.
He won, won first his cousin's liking, respect, and gratitude and finally
his loyal friendship and something else that was akin to reverence.

Tony Holiday's name was seldom mentioned between the two. Perhaps they
feared that with the name of the girl they both loved there might return
also the old antagonistic forces which had already wrought too much
havoc. Both sincerely desired peace and amity and therefore the woman who
held both their hearts in her keeping was almost banished from the talk
of the sick room though she was far from forgotten by either.

So things went on. In time Dick was judged by the physician well enough
to take the long journey back to New York. Alan secured the tickets, made
all the arrangements, permitting Dick not so much as the lifting of a
finger in his own behalf. And just then came Tony Holiday's letter to
Alan telling him she was his whenever he wanted her since he had cleared
the shield forever in her eyes by what he had done for Dick. She trusted
him, knew he would not ask her to marry him unless he was quite free
morally and every other way to ask her. She wanted him, could not be
surer of his love or her own if she waited a dozen years. He meant more
to her than her work, more than her beloved freedom more even than
Holiday Hill itself although she felt that she was not so much deserting
the Hill as bringing Alan to it. The others would learn to love him too.
They must, because she loved him so much! But even if they did not she
had made her choice. She belonged to him first of all.

"But think, dear," she finished. "Think well before you take me. Don't
come to me at all unless you can come free, with nothing on your soul
that is going to prevent your being happy with me. I shall ask no
questions if you come. I trust you to decide right for us both because
you lave me in the high way as well as all the other ways."

Alan took this letter of Tony's out into the night, walked with it
through flaming valleys of hell. She was his. Of her own free will she
had given herself to him, placed him higher in her heart at last than
even her sacred Hill. And yet after all the Hill stood between them, in
the challenge she flung at him. She was his to take if he could come
free. She left the decision to him. She trusted him.

Good God! Why should he hesitate to take what she was willing to give? He
had atoned, saved his cousin's life, lived decently, honorably as he had
promised, kept faith with Tony herself when he might perhaps have won her
on baser terms than he had made himself keep to because he loved her as
she said "in the high way as well as all the other ways." He would
contrive some way of giving his cousin back the money. He did not want
it. He only wanted Tony and her love. Why in the name of all the devils
should he who had sinned all his life, head up and eyes open, balk at
this one sin, the negative sin of mere silence, when it would give him
what he wanted more than all the world? What was he afraid of? The answer
he would not let himself discover. He was afraid of Tony Holiday's clear
eyes but he was more afraid of something else--his own soul which somehow
Tony had created by loving and believing in him.

All the next day, the day before they were to leave on the northern
journey, Alan behaved as if all the devils of hell which he had invoked
were with him. The old mocking bitterness of tongue was back, an even
more savage light than Dick remembered that night of their quarrel was in
his green eyes. The man was suddenly acidulated as if he had over night
suffered a chemical transformation which had affected both mind and body.
A wild beast tortured, evil, ready to pounce, looked out of his drawn,
white face.

Dick wondered greatly what had caused the strange reaction and seeing
the other was suffering tremendously for some reason or other
unexplained and perhaps inexplicable was profoundly sorry. His
friendship for the man who had saved his life was altogether too strong
and deep to be shaken by this temporary lapse into brutality which he
had known all along was there although held miraculously in abeyance
these many weeks. The man was a genius, with all the temperamental
fluctuations of mood which are comprehensible and forgivable in a
genius. Dick did not begrudge the other any relief he might find in his
debauch of ill humor, was more than willing he should work it off on his
humble self if it could do any good though he would be immensely
relieved when the old friendly Alan came back.

Twilight descended. Dick turned from the mirror after a critical survey
of his own lean, fever parched, yellow countenance.

"Lord! I look like a peanut," he commenced disgustedly. "I say, Massey,
when we get back to New York I think I should choke anybody if I were you
who dared to say we looked alike. One must draw the line somewhere at
what constitutes a permissible insult." He grinned whimsically at his own
expense, turned back to the mirror. "Upon my word, though, I believe it
is true. We do look alike. I never saw it until this minute. Funny
things--resemblances."

"This isn't so funny," drawled Alan. "We had the same great grandfather."

Dick whirled about staring at the other man as if he thought him
suddenly gone mad.

"What! What do you know about my great grandfather? Do you know
who I am?"

"I do. You are John Massey, old John's grandson, the chap I told you once
was dead and decently buried. I hoped it was true at the time but it
wasn't a week before I knew it was a lie. I found out John Massey was
alive and that he was going under the name of Dick Carson. Do you wonder
I hated you?"

Dick sat down, his face white. He looked and was utterly dazed.

"I don't understand," he said. "Do you mind explaining? It--it is a
little hard to get all at once."

And then Alan Massey told the story that no living being save himself
knew. He spared himself nothing, apologised for nothing, expressed no
regret, asked for no palliation of judgment, forgiveness or even
understanding. Quietly, apparently without emotion, he gave back to the
other man the birthright he had robbed him of by his selfish and
dishonorable connivance with a wicked old man now beyond the power of any
vengeance or penalty. Dick Carson was no longer nameless but as he
listened tensely to his cousin's revelations he almost found it in his
heart to wish he were. It was too terrible to have won his name at such a
cost. As he listened, watching Alan's eyes burn in the dusk in strange
contrast to his cool, liquid, studiously tranquil voice, Dick remembered
a line Alan himself had read him only the other day, "Hell, the shadow of
a soul on fire," the Persian phrased it. Watching, Dick Carson saw before
him a sadder thing, a soul which had once been on fire and was now but
gray ashes. The flame had blazed up, scorched and blackened its path. It
was over now, burnt out. At thirty-three Alan Massey was through, had
lived his life, had given up. The younger man saw this with a pang which
had no reactive thought of self, only compassion for the other.

"That is all, I think," said Alan at last. "I have all the proofs of your
identity with me. I never could destroy them somehow though I have meant
to over and over again. On the same principle I suppose that the sinning
monk sears the sign of the cross on his breast though he makes no outward
confession to the world and means to make none. I never meant to make
mine. I don't know why I am doing it now. Or rather I do. I couldn't
marry Tony with this thing between us. I tried to think I could, that I'd
made up to you by saving your life, that I was free to take my happiness
with her because I loved her and she loved me. And she does love me. She
wrote me yesterday she would marry me whenever I wished. I could have had
her. But I couldn't take her that way. I couldn't have made her happy.
She would have read the thing in my soul. She is too clean and honest and
true herself not to feel the presence of the other thing when it came
near her. I have tried to tell myself love was enough, that it would make
up to her for the rest. It isn't enough. You can't build life or
happiness except on the quarry stuff they keep on Holiday Hill, right,
honor, decency. You know that. Tony forgave my past. I believe she is
generous enough to forgive even this and go on with me. But I shan't ask
her. I won't let her. I--I've given her up with the rest."

The speaker came over to where Dick sat, silent, stunned.

"Enough of that. I have no wish to appeal to you in any way. The next
move is yours. You can act as you please. You can brand me as a
criminal if you choose. It is what I am, guilty in the eyes of the law
as well as in my own eyes and yours. I am not pleading innocence. I am
pleading unqualified guilt. Understand that clearly. I knew what I was
doing when I did it. I have known ever since. I've never been blind to
the rottenness of the thing. At first I did it for the money because I
was afraid of poverty and honest work. And then I went on with it for
Tony, because I loved her and wouldn't give her up to you. Now I've
given up the last ditch. The name is yours and the money is yours and
if you can win Tony she is yours. I'm out of the face for good and all.
But we have to settle just how the thing is going to be done. And that
is for you to say."

"I wish I needn't do anything about it," said Dick slowly after a moment.
"I don't want the money. I am almost afraid of it. It seems accursed
somehow considering what it did to you. Even the name I don't seem to
care so much about just now thought I have wanted a name as I have never
wanted anything else in the world except Tony. It was mostly for her I
wanted it. See here, Alan, why can't we make a compromise? You say
Roberts wrote two letters and you have both. Why can't we destroy the one
and send the other to the lawyers, the one that lets you out? It is
nobody's business but ours. We can say that the letter has just fallen
into your hands with the other proof that I am the John Massey that was
stolen. That would straighten the thing out for you. I've no desire to
brand you in any way. Why should I after all I owe you? You have made up
a million times by saving my life and by the way you have given the thing
over now. Anyway one doesn't exact payment from one's friends. And you
are my friend, Alan. You offered me friendship. I took it--was proud to
take it. I am proud now, prouder than ever."

And rising Dick Carson who was no longer Dick Carson but John Massey held
out his hand to the man who had wronged him so bitterly. The paraquet in
the corner jibbered harshly. Thunder rumbled heavily outside. An eerily
vivid flash of lightning dispelled for a moment the gloom of the dusk as
the two men clasped hands.

"John Massey!" Alan's voice with its deep cello quality was vibrant with
emotion. "You don't know what that means to me. Men have called me many
things but few have ever called me friend except in lip service for what
they thought they could get out of it. And from you--well, I can only
say, I thank you."

"We are the only Masseys. We ought to stand together," said Dick simply.

Alan smiled though the room was too dark for Dick to see.

"We can't stand together. I have forfeited the right. You chose the high
road long ago and I chose the other. We have both to abide by our
choices. We can't change those things at will. Spare me the public
revelation if you care to. I shall be glad for Tony's sake. For myself it
doesn't matter much. I don't expect to cross your path or hers again. I
am going to lose myself. Maybe some day you will win her. She will be
worth the winning. But don't hurry her if you want to win. She will have
to get over me first and that will take time."

"She will never get over you, Alan. I know her. Things go deep with her.
They do with all the Holidays. You shan't lose yourself. There is no need
of it. Tony loves you. You must stay and make her happy. You can now you
are free. She need never know the worst of this any more than the rest of
the world need know. We can divide the money. It is the only way I am
willing to have any of it."

Alan shook his head.

"We can divide nothing, not the money and not Tony's love. I told you I
was giving it all up. You cannot stop me. No man has ever stopped me from
doing what I willed to do. I have a letter or two to write now and so
I'll leave you. I am glad you don't hate me, John Massey. Shall we shake
hands once more and then--good-night?"

Their hands met again. A sharp glare of lightning lit the room with
ominous brilliancy for a moment. The paraquet screamed raucously. And
then the door closed on Alan Massey.

An hour later a servant brought word to Dick that an American was below
waiting to speak to him. He descended with the card in his hand. The name
was unfamiliar, Arthur Hallock of Chicago, mining engineer.

The stranger stood in the hall waiting while Dick came down the stairs.
He was obviously ill at ease.

"I am Hallock," announced the visitor. "You are Richard Carson?"

Dick nodded. Already the name was beginning to sound strange on his ears.
In one hour he had gotten oddly accustomed to knowing that he was John
Massey. And no longer needed Tony's name, dear as it was.

"I am sorry to be the bearer of ill news, Mr. Carson," the stranger
proceeded. "You have a friend named Alan Massey living here with you?"

Again Dick nodded. He was apprehensive at the mention of Alan's name.

"There was a riot down there." The speaker pointed down the street. "A
fuss over an American flag some dirty German dog had spit at. It didn't
take long to start a life sized row. We are all spoiling for a chance to
stick a few of the pigs ourselves whether we're technically at war or
not. A lot of us collected, your friend Massey among the rest. I
remember particularly when he joined the mob because he was so much
taller than the rest of us and came strolling in as if he was going to
an afternoon tea instead of getting into an international mess with
nearly all the contracting parties drunk and disorderly. There was a
good deal of excitement and confusion. I don't believe anybody knows
just what happened but a drunken Mexican drew a dagger somewhere in the
mix up and let it fly indiscriminate like. We all scattered like
mischief when we saw the thing flash. Nobody cares much for that kind of
plaything at close range. But Massey didn't move. It got him, clean in
the heart. He couldn't have suffered a second. It was all over in a
breath. He fell and the mob made itself scarce. Another fellow and I
were the first to get to him but there wasn't anything to do but look in
his pockets and find out who he was. We found his name on a card with
this address and your name scribbled on it in pencil. I say, Mr. Carson,
I am horribly sorry," suddenly perceiving Dick's white face. "You care a
lot, don't you?"

"I care a lot," said Dick woodenly. "He was my cousin and--my best
friend."

"I am sorry," repeated the young engineer. "Mr. Carson, there is
something else I feel as if I had to say though I shan't say it to any
one else. Massey might have dodged with the rest of us. He saw it coming
just as we did. He waited for it and I saw him smile as it came--a queer
smile at that. Maybe I'm mistaken but I have a hunch he wanted that
dagger to find him. That was why he smiled."

"I think you are entirely right, Mr. Hallock," said Dick. "I haven't any
doubt but that was why he smiled. He would smile just that way. Where
--where is he?" Dick brushed his hands across his eyes as he asked the
question. He had never felt so desolate, so utterly alone in his life.

"They are bringing him here. Shall I stay? Can I help anyway?"

Dick shook his head sadly.

"Thank you. I don't think there is anything any one can do. I--I wish
there was."

A little later Alan Massey's dead body lay in austere dignity in the
house in which he had saved his cousin's life and given him back his name
and fortune together with the right to win the girl he himself had loved
so well. The smile was still on his face and a strange serenity of
expression was there too. He slept well at last. He had lost himself as
he had proclaimed his intent to do and in losing had found himself. One
could not look upon that calm white sculptured face without feeling that.
Alan Massey had died a victor undaunted, a master of fate to the end.




CHAPTER XXXVIII

THE SONG IN THE NIGHT


Tony Holiday sat in the dressing room waiting her cue to go on the stage.
It was only a rehearsal however. Miss Clay was back now and Tony was once
more the humble understudy though with a heart full of happy knowledge of
what it is like to be a real actress with a doting public at her feet.

While she waited she picked up a newspaper and carelessly scanned its
pages. Suddenly to the amazement and consternation of the other girl who
was dressing in the same room she uttered a sharp little cry and for the
first time in her healthy young life slid to the floor in a merciful
faint. Her frightened companion called for help instantly and it was only
a moment before Tony's brown eyes opened and she pulled herself up from
the couch where they had laid her. But she would not speak or tell them
what had happened and it was only when they had gotten her off in a cab
with a motherly, big hearted woman who played shrew's and villainess'
parts always on the stage but was the one person of the whole cast to
whom every one turned in time of trouble that the rest searched the paper
for the clew to the thing which had made Tony look like death itself. It
was not far to seek. Tony looked like death because Alan Massey was dead.

They all knew Alan Massey and knew that he and Tony Holiday were intimate
friends, perhaps even betrothed. More than one of them had seen and
remembered how he had kissed her before them all on the night of Tony's
first Broadway triumph and some of them had wondered why he had not been
seen since with her. So he had been in Mexico and now he was dead, his
heart pierced by a Mexican dagger. And Tony--Tony of the gay tongue and
the quick laughter--had the dagger gone into her heart too? It looked so.
The "End of the Rainbow" cast felt very sad and sober that day. They
loved Tony and just now she was not an actress to them but a girl who had
loved a man, a man who was dead.

Jean Lambert telegraphed at once for Doctor Holiday to come to Tony who
was in a bad way. She wouldn't talk. She wouldn't eat. She did not sleep.
She did not cry. Jean thought if she cried her grief would not have been
so pitiful to behold. It was the stony, white silence of her that was
intolerable to witness.

In her uncle's arms Tony's terrible calm gave way and she sobbed herself
to utter weariness and finally to sleep. But even to him she would not
talk much about Alan. He had not known Alan. He had never
understood--never would understand now how wonderful, how lovable, how
splendid her lover had been. For several days she was kept in bed and the
doctor hardly left her. It was a hard time for him as well as his
stricken niece. Even their love for each other did not serve to lighten
the pain to any great extent. It was not the same sorrow they had. Doctor
Holiday was suffering because his little girl suffered. Tony was
suffering because she loved Alan Massey who would never come to her
again. Neither could entirely share the grief of the other. Alan Massey
was between them still.

Finally Dick came and was able to give what Doctor Philip could not. He
could sing Alan's praises, tell her how wonderful he had been, how
generous and kind. He could share her grief as no one else could because
he had learned to love Alan Massey almost as well as she did herself.

Dick talked freely of Alan, told her of the strange discovery which they
had made that he and Alan were cousins and that he himself was John
Massey, the kidnapped baby whom he had been so sorry for when he had
looked up the Massey story at the time of the old man's death. Dick was
not an apt liar but he lied gallantly now for Alan's sake and for Tony's.
He told her that it was only since Alan had been in Mexico that he had
known who his cousin was and had immediately possessed the other of the
facts and turned over to him the proofs of his identity as John Massey.

It was a good lie, well conceived and well delivered but the liar had not
reckoned on that fatal Holiday gift of intuition. Tony listened to the
story, shut her eyes and thought hard for a moment. Then she opened her
eyes again and looked straight at Dick.

"That is not the truth," she said. "Alan knew before he went to Mexico.
He knew long before. That was the other ghost--the one he could not lay.
Don't lie to me. I know."

And then yielding to her command Dick began again and told her the truth,
serving Alan's memory well by the relation. One thing only he kept back.
After all he had no proof that the young engineer had been right in his
conjecture that Alan had wanted the dagger to find him. There was no need
of hurting Tony with that.

"Dick--I can't call you John yet. I can't even think about you to-night
though I am so thankful to have you back safe and well. I can't be glad
yet for you. I can't remember any one but Alan. You will forgive me, I
know. But tell me. It was a terrible thing he did to you. Do you forgive
him really?" The girl's deep shadowed eyes searched the young man's face,
challenging him to speak the truth and only that.

He met the challenge willingly. He had nothing to conceal here. Tony
might read him through and through and she would find in him neither hate
nor rancor, nor condemnation.

"Of course I forgive him, Tony. He did a terrible thing to me you say.
He did a much more terrible thing to himself. And he made up for
everything over and over by what he did for me in Mexico. He might have
let me die. I should have died if he had not come. There is no doubt in
the world of that. He could not have done more if he had been my own
brother. He meant me to like him. He did more. He made me love him. He
was my friend. We parted as friends with a handshake which was his
good-by though I didn't know it."

It was a fatal speech. Too late Dick realized it as he saw Tony's face.

"Dick, he meant to let himself get killed. I've thought so all along and
now I know you think so too."

"I didn't mean to let that out. Maybe I am mistaken. We shall never know.
But I believe he was not sorry to let the dagger get him. He had given up
everything else. It wasn't so hard for him to give up the one thing
more--the thing he didn't want anyway--life. Life wasn't much to him
after he gave you up, Tony. His love was the biggest thing about him. I
love you myself but I am not ashamed to say that his love was a bigger
thing than mine every way, finer, more magnificent, the love of a genius
whereas mine is just the love of an every day man. It was love that
saved him."

"Dick, do you believe that the real Alan is dust--nothing but dust down
in a grave?" demanded Tony suddenly.

"No, Tony, I don't. I can't. The essence of what was best in him is alive
somewhere. I know it. It must be. His love for you--for all beauty--they
couldn't die, dear. They were big enough to be immortal."

"And his dancing," sighed Tony. "His dancing couldn't die. It had a
soul."

If she had not been sure already that Alan had meant to go out of her
life even if he had not meant to go to his death when he left New York
she would have been convinced a little later. Alan's Japanese servant
brought two gifts to her from his honorable master according to his
honorable master's orders should he not return from his journey. His
honorable master being unfortunately dead his unworthy servant laid the
gifts at Mees Holiday's honorable feet. Whereupon the bearer had departed
as quietly as death itself might come.

One of the gifts was a picture, a painting which Tony had seen, and which
was she thought the most beautiful of all his beautiful creations. Its
sheer loveliness would have hurt her even if it had had no other
significance and it did have a very real message.

At first sight the whole scene seemed enveloped in translucent, silver
mist. As one looked more closely however there was revealed the figure of
a man, black clad in pilgrim guise, kneeling on the verge of a
precipitous cliff which rose out of a seemingly bottomless abyss of
terrific blackness. Though in posture of prayer the pilgrim's head was
lifted and his face wore an expression of rapt adoration. Above a film
of fog in the heavens stretched a clear space of deep blue black sky in
which hung a single luminous star. From the star a line of golden light
of unearthly radiance descended and finding its way to the uplifted
transfigured face of the kneeling pilgrim ended there.

Tony Holiday understood, got the message as clearly as if Alan himself
stood beside her to interpret it. She knew that he was telling her
through the picture that she had saved his soul, kept him out of the
abyss, that to the end she was what he had so often called her--his star.

With tear blinded eyes she turned from the canvas to the little silver
box which the servant had placed in her hands together with a sealed
envelope. In the box was a gorgeous, unset ruby, the gem of Alan's
collection as Tony well knew having worshiped often at its shrine. It lay
there now against the austere purity of its white satin background--the
symbol of imperishable passion.

Reverently Tony closed the little box and opened the sealed envelope
dreading yet longing to know its contents. Alan had sent her no word of
farewell, had not written to her that night before he went out into the
storm to meet his death, had made no response to the letter she herself
had written offering herself and her love and faith for his taking. At
first these things had hurt her. But these gifts of his were beginning to
make her understand his silence. Selfish and spectacular all his life at
his death Alan Massey had been surpassingly generous and simple. He had
chosen to bequeath his love to her not as an obsession and a bondage but
as an elemental thing like light and air.

The message in the envelope was in its way as impersonal as the ruby had
been but Tony found it more hauntingly personal than she had ever found
his most impassioned love letter. Once more the words were couched in the
symbol tongue of the poet in India--in only two sentences, but sentences
so poignant that they stamped themselves forever on Tony Holiday's mind
as they stood out from the paper in Alan's beautiful, striking
handwriting.

"When the lighted lamp is brought into the room
    I shall go.
 And then perhaps you will listen to the night, and
    hear my song when I am silent."

The lines were dated on that unforgettable night when Tony had played
Broadway and danced her last dance with her royal lover. So he had known
even then that he was giving her up. Realizing this Tony realized as she
never had before the high quality of his love. She could guess a little
of what that night had meant to him, how passionately he must have
desired to win through to the full fruition of his love before he gave
her up for all the rest of time. And she herself had been mad that night
Tony remembered. Ah well! He had been strong for them both. And now their
love would always stay upon the high levels, never descend to the ways of
earth. There would never be anything to regret, though Tony loving her
lover's memory as she did that moment was not so sure but she regretted
that most of all.

Yet tragic as Alan's death was and bitterly and sincerely as she mourned
his loss Tony could see that he had after all chosen the happiest way
out for himself as well as for her and his cousin. It was not hard to
forgive a dead lover with a generous act of renunciation his last deed.
It would have been far less easy to forgive a living lover with such a
stain upon his life. Even though he tried to wash it away by his
surrender and she by her forgiveness the stain would have remained
ineradicable. There would always have been a barrier between them for
all his effort and her own.

And his love would ill have borne denial or frustration. Without her he
would have gone down into dark pits if he had gone on living. Perhaps he
had known and feared this himself, willing to prevent it at any cost.
Perhaps he had known that so long as he lived she, Tony, would never have
been entirely her own again. His bondage would have been upon her even if
he never saw her again. Perhaps he had elected death most of all for this
reason, had loved her well enough to set her free. He had told her once
that love was twofold, a force of destruction and damnation but also a
force of purification and salvation. Alan had loved her greatly, perhaps
in the end his love had taken him in his own words "to the gate of
Heaven." Tony did not know but she thought if there really was a God he
would understand and forgive the soul of Alan Massey for that last
splendid sacrifice of his in the name of love.

And whatever happened Tony Holiday knew that she would bear forever the
mark of Alan Massey's stormy, strange, and in the end all-beautiful love.
Perhaps some day the lighted lamp might be brought in. She did not know,
would not attempt to prophesy about that. She did not know that she would
always listen to the night for Alan Massey's sake and hear his song
though he was silent forever.

The next day Richard Carson officially disappeared from the world and
John Massey appeared in his place. The papers made rather a striking
story of his romantic history and its startling denouement which had
come they said through the death bed confessions of the man Roberts which
had only just reached the older Massey's hands, strangely enough on the
eve of his own tragic death, which was again related to make the tale a
little more of a thriller. That was all the world knew, was ever to know
for the Holidays and John Massey kept the dead man's secret well.

And the grass grew green on Alan Massey's grave. The sun and dew and rain
laid tender fingers upon it and great crimson and gold hearted roses
strewed their fragrant petals upon it year by year. The stars he had
loved so well shone down upon the lonely spot where his body slept quiet
at last after the torment of his brief and stormy life. But otherwise, as
John Massey and Tony Holiday believed, his undefeated spirit fared on
splendidly in its divine quest of beauty.




CHAPTER XXXIX

IN WHICH THE TALE ENDS IN THE HOUSE ON THE HILL


The winter had at last decided to recapture its forsaken role of the Snow
King. For two days and as many nights the air had been one swirl of snow
which shut out earth and sky. But on the third morning the Hill woke to a
dazzling world of cloudless blue and trackless white. A resplendent
bride-like day it was and fitly so for before sundown the old House on
the Hill was to know another bride. Elinor Ruth Farringdon's affairs
required her immediate attention in Australia and she was leaving
to-night for that far away island which was again now dear to her heart
as the home of her happy childhood, the memory of which had now all
returned after months of strange obliteration. But she would not go as
Elinor Ruth Farringdon. That name was to be shed as absolutely as her
recollection of it had once been shed. She would go as Mrs. Laurence
Holiday with a real wedding ring all her own and a real husband also all
her own by her side.

There were to be no guests outside the family except for the Lamberts,
Carlotta and Dick--John Massey, as they were now trying to learn to call
him. The wedding was to be very quiet not only because of Granny but
because they were all very pitiful of Tony's still fresh grief, the more
so because she bore it so bravely and quietly, anxious lest she cast any
shadow upon the happiness of the others, especially that of Larry and
Ruth. In any case a quiet wedding would have been the choice of the two
who were most concerned. They wanted only their near and dear about them
when they took upon themselves the rites which were to unite them for the
rest of their two lives.

Aside from Tony's sorrow the only two regrets which marred the household
joy that bride white day were Ted's absence and imminent departure for
France and that other even soberer remembrance of that other gallant
young soldier, Ruth's brother Roderick of whom no news had come, though
Ruth insisted that Rod wasn't dead, that he would came back just as her
vivid memory of him had returned.

And it happened that her faith was rewarded and on the very day of days
when one drop more of happiness made the cup fairly spill over. Larry was
summoned to the telephone just as he had been once before on a certain
memorable occasion to be told that a cabled message awaited him. The
message was from Geoffrey Annersley and bore besides his love and
congratulations the wonderful news that Roderick Farringdon had escaped
from a German prison camp and was safe in England.

Ruth shed many happy tears over this best of all bridal gifts, not enough
to dim the shining blue of her eyes but enough to give them a lovely,
misty tenderness which made her sweeter than ever Larry thought, and who
should have magic eyes if not a bridegroom?

A little later came Carlotta and Dick, the latter well and strong again
but thin and pale and rather sober. Tony loved him for grieving for Alan
as she knew he did. He too had known and loved the dead man and
understood him perhaps better than she had herself. For after all no man
and woman can ever fully understand each other especially if they are in
love. So many faint nuances of doubt and fear and pride and passion and
jealousy are forever drifting between lovers obscuring clarity of vision.

Carlotta was prettier than ever with a new sweetness and womanliness
which her love had wrought in her during the year. People who had known
her mother said she was growing daily more like Rose though always before
they had traced a greater resemblance to the other side of the house, to
her Aunt Lottie particularly. She and Philip were to be married in the
spring. "When the orioles come" Carlotta had said remembering her
father's story of that other brief mating.

Tony and Carlotta slipped away from the others to talk by
themselves. Carlotta too had known and liked Alan and to all such
Tony clung just now.

"He was so different at the end," she said to her friend. "I wish you
could have known him that way--so dear and gentle and wonderful. He kept
his promise everyway, lived absolutely straight and clean and fine."

"He did it for you, Tony. He never could have done it for himself. He
wouldn't have thought it worth while. Don't tell me if you don't want to
but I have guessed a good many things since I knew about Dick and I have
wondered if he wasn't rather glad--to get killed."

"Yes, Dick thinks and I think too that he let the dagger find him. I
have always called him my royal lover. His death was the most royal
part of all."

Carlotta was silent. She hoped that somewhere Alan was finding the
happiness he seemed always to have missed on earth. Then seeing her
friend's lovely eyes with the heavy shadow in them where there had been
only sunshine before her heart rebelled. Poor Tony! Why must she suffer
like this? She was so young. Was life really over for her? For Carlotta
in her own happiness life and love were synonymous terms. Something of
what was in her mind she said to her friend.

"I don't know," confessed Tony. "It is too soon to tell. Just now Alan
fills every nook and cranny of me. I can't think of any other man or
imagine myself loving anybody else as I loved him. But I am a very much
alive person. I don't believe I shall give myself to death forever. Alan
himself wouldn't want it so. A part of me will always be his but there
are other margins of me that Alan never touched and these maybe I shall
give to some one else when the time comes."

"Does that mean Dick--John Massey?"

"Maybe. Maybe not. I have told him not to speak of love for a long, long
time. We must both be free. He is going to France as a war correspondent
next week."

"Don't you hate to have him go?"

"Yes, I do. But I can't be selfish enough to keep him hanging round me
forever on the slim chance that some time I shall be willing to marry
him. He is too fine to be treated like that. He wants to go overseas
unless I will marry him now and I can't do that. It is better that we
should be apart for a while. As for me I have my work and I am going to
plunge into it as deep and hard as I can. I am not going to be unhappy.
You can't be unhappy when you love your work as I love mine. Don't be
sorry for me, Carlotta. I am not sorry for myself. Even if I never loved
again and never was loved I should still have had enough for a life time.
It is more than many women have, more than I deserve."

The bride white day wore on to twilight and as the clock struck the hour
of five Ruth Farringdon came down the broad oak staircase clad in the
shining splendor of the bridal gown she had "dreamed," wearing her
grandmother's pearls and the lace veil which Larry's lovely mother had
worn as Ned Holiday's bride long and long ago. At the foot of the stairs
Larry waited and took her hand. Eric and Hester flanking the living room
door pushed aside the curtains for the two who still hand in hand walked
past the children into the room where the others were assembled. Gravely
and brimming with importance the guard of honor followed, the latter
bearing the bride's bouquet, the former squeezing the wedding ring in his
small fist. Ruth took her place beside the senior doctor. The minister
opened his mouth to proceed with the ceremony, shut it again with a
little gasp.

For suddenly the curtains were swept aside again, this time with a
breezier and less stately sweep and Ted Holiday in uniform and sergeant's
regalia plunged into the room, a thinner, browner, taller Ted, with a new
kind of dignity about him but withal the same blue-eyed lad with the old
heart warming smile, still always Teddy the beloved.

"Don't mind me," he announced. "Please go on." And he slipped into
a place beside Tony drawing her hand in his with a warm pressure as
he did so.

They went on. Laurence LaRue Holiday and Elinor Ruth Farringdon were made
man and wife till death did them part. The old clock on the mantel which
had looked down on these two on a less happy occasion looked on still,
ticking away calmly, telling no tales and asking no questions. What was a
marriage more or less to time?

The ceremony over it was the newly arrived sergeant rather than the bride
and groom who was the center of attraction and none were better pleased
than Larry and Ruth to have it so.

It was a flying visit on Ted's part. He had managed to secure a last
minute leave just before sailing from Montreal at which place he had to
report the day after to-morrow.

"So let's eat, drink, and be merry," he finished his explanation gayly.
"But first, please, Larry, may I kiss the bride?"

"Go to it," laughed his brother. "I'm so hanged glad to see you Kid, I've
half a mind to kiss you myself."

Needing no further urging Ted availed himself of the proffered privilege
and kissed the bride, not once but three times, once on each rosy cheek,
and last full on her pretty mouth itself.

"There!" he announced standing off to survey her, both her hands still in
his possession. "I've always wanted to do that and now I've done it. I
feel better."

Everybody laughed at that not because what he said was so very
amusing as because their hearts were so full of joy to have the
irrepressible youngest Holiday at home again after the long anxious
weeks of his absence.

Under cover of the laugh he whispered in Ruth's ear, "Gee! But I'm
glad you are all right again, sweetness. And your Geoffrey Annersley
is some peach of a cousin, I'm telling you, though I'm confoundedly
glad he decided he was married to somebody else and left the coast
clear for Larry."

He squeezed her hand again, a pressure which meant more than his words
as Ruth knew and then he turned to Larry. The hands of the two brothers
met and each looked into the other's face, for once unashamed of the
emotion that mastered them. Characteristically Ted was the first to
recover speech.

"Larry, dear old chap, I wish I could tell you how happy I am that it
has come out so ripping right for you and Ruth. You deserve all the luck
and love in the world. I only wish mother and dad could be here now.
Maybe they are. I believe they must know somehow. Dad seems awfully close
to me lately especially since I've been in this war business." Then
seeing Larry's face shadow he added, "And you mustn't worry about me, old
man. I am going to come through and it is all right anyway whatever
happens. You know yourself death isn't so much--not such a horrible
calamity as we talk as if it were."

"I know. But it is horribly hard to reconcile myself to your going. I
can't seem to make up my mind to accept it especially as you needn't
have gone."

"Don't let that part bother you. The old U.S.A. will be in it herself
before you know it and then I'd have gone anyway. Nothing would have kept
me. What is the odds? I am glad to be getting in on the front row myself.
I am going to be all right I tell you. Going to have a bully time and
when we have the Germans jolly well licked I'm coming home and find me as
pretty a wife as Ruth if there is one to be found in America and marry
her quick as lightning."

Larry smiled at that. It was so like Ted it was good to hear. And
irrationally enough he found himself more than a little reassured and
comforted because the other lad declared he was going to be all right and
have a bully time and come back safe when the job was done.

"And I say, Larry." Ted's voice was soberer now. "I have always wanted
to tell you how I appreciated your standing by me so magnificently in
that horrible mess of mine. I wouldn't have blamed you if you had felt
like throwing me over for life after my being such a tarnation idiot
and disgracing the family like that. I'll never forget how white you and
Uncle Phil both were about it every way and maybe you won't believe it
but there'll never be anything like that again. There are some things
I'm through with--at least if I'm not I'm even more of a fool than I
think I am."

"Don't, Ted. I haven't been such a model of virtue and wisdom that I can
afford to sit in judgment on you. I've learned a few things myself this
year and I am not so cock sure in my views as I was by a long shot.
Anyway you have more than made up by what you have done since and what
you are going to do over there. Let's forget the rest and just remember
that we are both Holidays, and it is up to both of us to measure up to
Dad and Uncle Phil, far as we can."

"Some stunt, what?" Thus Ted flippantly mixed his familiar American and
newly acquired British vernacular. "You are dead right, Larry. I am
afraid I'm doomed to land some nine miles or so below the mark but I'm
going to make a stab at it anyway."

Later there was a gala dinner party, an occasion almost as gay as that
Round Table banquet over eight years ago had been when Dick Carson had
been formally inducted into the order and Doctor Holiday had announced
that he was going to marry Miss Margery. And as before there was
laughter and gay talk and teasing, affectionate jest and prophecy
mingled with the toasting.

There were toasts to the reigning bride and groom, Larry and Ruth, to the
coming bride and groom Philip and Carlotta, to Tony, the understudy that
was, the star that was to be; to Dick Carson that had been, John Massey
that was, foreign correspondent, and future famous author. There was a
particularly stirring toast to Sergeant Ted who would some day be
returning to his native shore at least a captain if not a major with all
kinds of adventures and honors to his credit. Everybody smiled gallantly
over this toast. Not one of them would let a shadow of grief or dread for
Teddy the beloved cloud this one happy home evening of his before he left
the Hill perhaps forever. The Holidays were like that.

And then Larry on his feet raised his hand for silence.

"Last and best of all," he said, "I give you--the Head of the House of
Holiday--the best friend and the finest man I know--Uncle Phil!"

Larry smiled down at his uncle as he spoke but there was deep
feeling in his fine gray eyes. Better than any one else he knew how
much of his present happiness he owed to that good friend and fine
man Philip Holiday.

The whole table rose to this toast except the doctor, even to the small
Eric and Hester who had no idea what it was all about but found it all
very exciting and delightful and beautifully grown up. As they drank
the toast Ted's free hand rested with affectionate pressure on his
uncle's and Tony on the other side set down her glass and squeezed his
hand instead. They too were trying to tell him that what Larry had
spoken in his own behalf was true for them also. They wanted to have
him know how much he meant to them and how much they wanted to do and
be for his dear sake.

Perhaps Philip Holiday won his order of distinguished service then and
there. At any rate with his own children and Ned's around him, with the
wife of his heart smiling down at him from across the table with proud,
happy, tear wet eyes, the Head of the House of Holiday was content.


THE END





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