Infomotions, Inc.Gordon Keith / Page, Thomas Nelson, 1835-1922



Author: Page, Thomas Nelson, 1835-1922
Title: Gordon Keith
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): keith; wickersham; ferdy wickersham; lois huntington; gordon keith; norman wentworth; alice lancaster; squire rawson; general keith
Contributor(s): Marriage, Ellen [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 176,563 words (longer than most) Grade range: 6-9 (grade school) Readability score: 74 (easy)
Identifier: etext14068
Delicious Bookmark this on Delicious

Discover what books you consider "great". Take the Great Books Survey.

The Project Gutenberg eBook, Gordon Keith, by Thomas Nelson Page,
Illustrated by George Wright


This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net





Title: Gordon Keith

Author: Thomas Nelson Page

Release Date: November 17, 2004  [eBook #14068]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK GORDON KEITH***


E-text prepared by Rick Niles, Kat Jeter, Charlie Kirschner, and the
Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team



Note: Project Gutenberg also has an HTML version of this
      file which includes the original illustrations.
      See 14068-h.htm or 14068-h.zip:
      (http://www.gutenberg.net/dirs/1/4/0/6/14068/14068-h/14068-h.htm)
      or
      (http://www.gutenberg.net/dirs/1/4/0/6/14068/14068-h.zip)





GORDON KEITH

by

THOMAS NELSON PAGE

With Illustrations by George Wright

1903







TO

A GRANDDAUGHTER

OF ONE LOIS HUNTINGTON




CONTENTS

CHAPTER
     I. GORDON KEITH'S PATRIMONY
    II. GENERAL KEITH BECOMES AN OVERSEER
   III. THE ENGINEER AND THE SQUIRE
    IV. TWO YOUNG MEN
     V. THE RIDGE COLLEGE
    VI. ALICE YORKE
   VII. MRS. YORKE FINDS A GENTLEMAN
  VIII. MR. KEITH'S IDEALS
    IX. MR. KEITH IS UNPRACTICAL
     X. MRS. YORKE CUTS A KNOT
    XI. GUMBOLT
   XII. KEITH DECLINES AN OFFER
  XIII. KEITH IN NEW YORK
   XIV. THE HOLD-UP
    XV. MRS. YORKE MAKES A MATCH
   XVI. KEITH VISITS NEW YORK, AND MRS. LANCASTER SEES A GHOST
  XVII. KEITH MEETS NORMAN
 XVIII. MRS. LANCASTER
   XIX. WICKERSHAM AND PHRONY
    XX. MRS. LANCASTER'S WIDOWHOOD
   XXI. THE DIRECTORS' MEETING
  XXII. MRS. CREAMER'S BALL
 XXIII. GENERAL KEITH VISITS STRANGE LANDS
  XXIV. KEITH TRIES HIS FORTUNES ABROAD
   XXV. THE DINNER AT MRS. WICKERSHAM'S
  XXVI. A MISUNDERSTANDING
 XXVII. PHRONY TRIPPER AND THE REV. MR. RIMMON
XXVIII. ALICE LANCASTER FINDS PHRONY
  XXIX. THE MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE
   XXX. "SNUGGLERS' ROOST"
  XXXI. TERPY'S LAST DANCE AND WICKERSHAM'S FINAL THROW
 XXXII. THE RUN ON THE BANK
XXXIII. RECONCILIATION
 XXXIV. THE CONSULTATION
  XXXV. THE MISTRESS OF THE LAWNS
 XXXVI. THE OLD IDEAL




ILLUSTRATIONS

She was the first to break the silence (frontispiece)
"If you don't go back to your seat I'll dash your brains
  out," said Keith
"Then why don't you answer me?"
Sprang over the edge of the road into the thick bushes below
"Why, Mr. Keith!" she exclaimed
"Sit down. I want to talk to you"
"It is he! 'Tis he!" she cried
"Lois--I have come--" he began





CHAPTER I

_INTRODUCTORY_

GORDON KEITH'S PATRIMONY

Gordon Keith was the son of a gentleman. And this fact, like the cat the
honest miller left to his youngest son, was his only patrimony. As in
that case also, it stood to the possessor in the place of a good many
other things. It helped him over many rough places. He carried it with
him as a devoted Romanist wears a sacred scapulary next to the heart.

His father, General McDowell Keith of "Elphinstone," was a gentleman of
the old kind, a type so old-fashioned that it is hardly accepted these
days as having existed. He knew the Past and lived in it; the Present he
did not understand, and the Future he did not know. In his latter days,
when his son was growing up, after war had swept like a vast inundation
over the land, burying almost everything it had not borne away, General
Keith still survived, unchanged, unmoved, unmarred, an antique memorial
of the life of which he was a relic. His one standard was that of a
gentleman.

This idea was what the son inherited from the father along with some
other old-fashioned things which he did not know the value of at first,
but which he came to understand as he grew older.

When in after times, in the swift rush of life in a great city, amid
other scenes and new manners, Gordon Keith looked back to the old life
on the Keith plantation, it appeared to him as if he had lived then in
another world.

Elphinstone was, indeed, a world to itself: a long, rambling house, set
on a hill, with white-pillared verandahs, closed on the side toward the
evening sun by green Venetian blinds, and on the other side looking away
through the lawn trees over wide fields, brown with fallow, or green
with cattle-dotted pasture-land and waving grain, to the dark rim of
woods beyond. To the westward "the Ridge" made a straight, horizontal
line, except on clear days, when the mountains still farther away showed
a tenderer blue scalloped across the sky.

A stranger passing through the country prior to the war would have heard
much of Elphinstone, the Keith plantation, but he would have seen from
the main road (which, except in summer, was intolerably bad) only long
stretches of rolling fields well tilled, and far beyond them a grove on
a high hill, where the mansion rested in proud seclusion amid its
immemorial oaks and elms, with what appeared to be a small hamlet lying
about its feet. Had he turned in at the big-gate and driven a mile or
so, he would have found that Elphinstone was really a world to itself;
almost as much cut off from the outer world as the home of the Keiths
had been in the old country. A number of little blacks would have opened
the gates for him; several boys would have run to take his horse, and he
would have found a legion of servants about the house. He would have
found that the hamlet was composed of extensive stables and barns, with
shops and houses, within which mechanics were plying their trades with
the ring of hammers, the clack of looms, and the hum of
spinning-wheels-all for the plantation; whilst on a lower hill farther
to the rear were the servants' quarters laid out in streets, filled
with children.

Had the visitor asked for shelter, he would have received, whatever his
condition, a hospitality as gracious as if he had been the highest in
the land; he would have found culture with philosophy and wealth with
content, and he would have come away charmed with the graciousness of
his entertainment. And yet, if from any other country or region than the
South, he would have departed with a feeling of mystification, as though
he had been drifting in a counter-current and had discovered a part of
the world sheltered and to some extent secluded from the general
movement and progress of life.

This plantation, then, was Gordon's world. The woods that rimmed it were
his horizon, as they had been that of the Keiths for generations; more
or less they always affected his horizon. His father appeared to the boy
to govern the world; he governed the most important part of it--the
plantation--without ever raising his voice. His word had the convincing
quality of a law of nature. The quiet tones of his voice were
irresistible. The calm face, lighting up at times with the flash of his
gray eyes, was always commanding: he looked so like the big picture in
the library, of a tall, straight man, booted and spurred, and partly in
armor, with a steel hat over his long curling hair, and a grave face
that looked as if the sun were on it. It was no wonder, thought the boy,
that he was given a sword by the State when he came back from the
Mexican War; no wonder that the Governor had appointed him Senator, a
position he declined because of his wife's ill health. Gordon's wonder
was that his father was not made President or Commander-in-Chief of the
army. It no more occurred to him that any one could withstand his father
than that the great oak-trees in front of the house, which it took his
outstretched arms six times to girdle, could fall.

Yet it came to pass that within a few years an invading army marched
through the plantation, camped on the lawn, and cut down the trees; and
Gordon Keith, whilst yet a boy, came to see Elphinstone in the hands of
strangers, and his father and himself thrown out on the world.

His mother died while Gordon was still a child. Until then she had not
appeared remarkable to the boy: she was like the atmosphere, the
sunshine, and the blue, arching sky, all-pervading and existing as a
matter of course. Yet, as her son remembered her in after life, she was
the centre of everything, never idle, never hurried; every one and
everything revolved about her and received her light and warmth. She was
the refuge in every trouble, and her smile was enchanting. It was only
after that last time, when the little boy stood by his mother's bedside
awed and weeping silently in the shadow of the great darkness that was
settling upon them, that he knew how absolutely she had been the centre
and breath of his life. His father was kneeling beside the bed, with a
face as white as his mother's, and a look of such mingled agony and
resignation that Gordon never forgot it. As, because of his father's
teaching, the son in later life tried to be just to every man, so, for
his mother's sake, he remembered to be kind to every woman.

In the great upheaval that came just before the war, Major Keith stood
for the Union, but was defeated. When his State seceded, he raised a
regiment in the congressional district which he had represented for one
or two terms. As his duties took him from home much of the time, he sent
Gordon to the school of the noted Dr. Grammer, a man of active mind and
also active arm, named by his boys, from the latter quality,
"Old Hickory."

Gordon, like some older men, hoped for war with all his soul. A
great-grandfather an officer of the line in the Revolution, a
grandfather in the navy of 1812, and his father a major in the Mexican
War, with a gold-hilted sword presented him by the State, gave him a
fair pedigree, and he looked forward to being a great general himself.
He would be Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great at least. It was his
preference for a career, unless being a mountain stage-driver was. He
had seen one or two such beings in the mountains when he accompanied his
father once on a canvass that he was making for Congress, enthroned
like Jove, in clouds of oil-coats and leather, mighty in power and
speech; and since then his dreams had been blessed at times with
lumbering coaches and clanking teams.

One day Gordon was sent for to come home. When he came down-stairs next
morning his father was standing in the drawing-room, dressed in full
uniform, though it was not near as showy as Gordon had expected it to
be, or as dozens of uniforms the boy had seen the day before about the
railway-stations on his journey home, gorgeous with gold lace. He was
conscious, however, that some change had taken place, and a resemblance
to the man-in-armor in the picture over the library mantel suddenly
struck the boy. There was the high look, the same light in the eyes, the
same gravity about the mouth; and when his father, after taking leave of
the servants, rode away in his gray uniform, on his bay horse
"Chevalier," with his sword by his side, to join his men at the
county-seat, and let Gordon accompany him for the first few miles, the
boy felt as though he had suddenly been transported to a world of which
he had read, and were riding behind a knight of old. Ah! if there were
only a few Roundheads formed at the big-gate, how they would
scatter them!

About the third year of the war, Mr. Keith, now a brigadier-general,
having been so badly wounded that it was supposed he could never again
be fit for service in the field, was sent abroad by his government to
represent it in England in a semi-confidential, semi-diplomatic
position. He had been abroad before--quite an unusual occurrence at
that time.

General Keith could not bring himself to leave his boy behind him and
have the ocean between them, so he took Gordon with him.

After a perilous night in running the blockade, when they were fired on
and escaped only by sending up rockets and passing as one of the
blockading squadron, General Keith and Gordon transferred at Nassau to
their steamer. The vessel touched at Halifax, and among the passengers
taken on there were an American lady, Mrs. Wickersham of New York, and
her son Ferdy Wickersham, a handsome, black-eyed boy a year or two older
than Gordon. As the two lads were the only passengers aboard of about
their age, they soon became as friendly as any other young animals would
have become, and everything went on balmily until a quarrel arose over a
game which they were playing on the lower deck. As General Keith had
told Gordon that he must be very discreet while on board and not get
into any trouble, the row might have ended in words had not the sympathy
of the sailors been with Gordon. This angered the other boy in the
dispute, and he called Gordon a liar. This, according to Gordon's code,
was a cause of war. He slapped Ferdy in the mouth, and the next second
they were at it hammer-and-tongs. So long as they were on their feet,
Ferdy, who knew something of boxing, had much the best of it and
punished Gordon severely, until the latter, diving into him, seized him.

In wrestling Ferdy was no match for him, for Gordon had wrestled with
every boy on the plantation, and after a short scuffle he lifted Ferdy
and flung him flat on his back on the deck, jarring the wind out of him.
Ferdy refused to make up and went off crying to his mother, who from
that time filled the ship with her abuse of Gordon.

The victory of the younger boy gave him great prestige among the
sailors, and Mike Doherty, the bully of the fore-castle, gave him boxing
lessons during all the rest of the voyage, teaching him the mystery of
the "side swing" and the "left-hand upper-cut," which Mike said was "as
good as a belaying-pin."

"With a good, smooth tongue for the girlls and a good upper-cut for thim
as treads on your toes, you are aall right," said Mr. Doherty; "you're
rigged for ivery braize. But, boy, remimber to be quick with both, and
don't forgit who taaught you."

Thus, it was that, while Gordon Keith was still a boy of about twelve or
thirteen, instead of being on the old plantation rimmed by the great
woods, where his life had hitherto been spent, except during the brief
period when he had been at Dr. Grammer's school, he found himself one
summer in a little watering-place on the shores of an English lake as
blue as a china plate, set amid ranges of high green hills, on which
nestled pretty white or brown villas surrounded by gardens and parks.

The water was a new element for Gordon. The home of the Keiths was in
the high country back from the great watercourses, and Gordon had never
had a pair of oars in his hands, nor did he know how to swim; but he
meant to learn. The sight of the boats rowed about by boys of his own
age filled him with envy. And one of them, when he first caught sight of
it, inspired him with a stronger feeling than envy. It was painted white
and was gay with blue and red stripes around the gunwale. In it sat two
boys. One, who sat in the stern, was about Gordon's age; the other, a
little larger than Gordon, was rowing and used the oars like an adept.
In the bow was a flag, and Gordon was staring at it, when it came to him
with a rush that it was a "Yankee" flag. He was conscious for half a
moment that he took some pride in the superiority of the oarsman over
the boys in the other boats. His next thought was that he had a little
Confederate flag in his trunk. He had brought it from home among his
other treasures. He would show his colors and not let the Yankee boys
have all of the honors. So away he put as hard as his legs could carry
him. When he got back to the waterside he hired a boat from among those
lying tied at the stairs, and soon had his little flag rigged up, when,
taking his seat, he picked up the oars and pushed off. It was rather
more difficult than it had looked. The oars would not go together.
However, after a little he was able to move slowly, and was quite elated
at his success when he found himself out on the lake. Just then he
heard a shout:

"Take down that flag!"

Gordon wished to turn his boat and look around, but could not do so.
However, one of the oars came out of the water, and as the boat veered a
little he saw the boys in the white boat with the Union flag bearing
down on him.

The oarsman was rowing with strong, swift strokes even while he looked
over his shoulder, and the boat was shooting along as straight as an
arrow, with the clear water curling about its prow. Gordon wished for a
moment that he had not been so daring, but the next second his
fighting--blood was up, as the other boy called imperiously:

"Strike that flag!"

Gordon could see his face now, for he was almost on him. It was round
and sunburnt, and the eyes were blue and clear and flashing with
excitement. His companion, who was cheering him on, was Ferdy
Wickersham.

"Strike that flag, I say," called the oarsman.

"I won't. Who are you? Strike your own flag."

"I am Norman Wentworth. That's who I am, and if you don't take that flag
down I will take it down for you, you little nigger-driving rebel."

Gordon Keith was not a boy to neglect the amenities of the occasion.

"Come and try it then, will you, you nigger-stealing Yankees!" he
called. "I will fight both of you." And he settled himself for defence.

"Well, I will," cried his assailant. "Drop the tiller, Ferdy, and sit
tight. I will fight fair." Then to Gordon again: "I have given you fair
warning, and I will have that flag or sink you."

Gordon's answer was to drop one oar as useless, seize the other, and
steadying himself as well as he could, raise it aloft as a weapon.

"I will kill you if you try it," he said between clinched teeth.

However, the boy rowing the other boat was not to be frightened. He
gave a vigorous stroke of his oars that sent his boat straight into the
side of Gordon's boat.

The shock of the two boats coming together pitched Gordon to his knees,
and came near flinging him into the water; but he was up again in a
second, and raising his oar, dealt a vicious blow with it, not at the
boy in the boat, but at the flag in the bow of the boat. The
unsteadiness of his footing, however, caused him to miss his aim, and he
only splintered his oar into fragments.

"Hit him with the oar, Norman," called the boy in the stern. "Knock him
out of the boat."

The other boy made no answer, but with a quick turn of his wrist twisted
his boat out of its direct course and sent it skimming off to one side.
Then dropping one oar, he caught up the other with both hands, and with
a rapid, dexterous swing swept a cataract of water in Gordon's face,
drenching him, blinding him, and filling his eyes, mouth, and ears with
the unexpected deluge. Gordon gasped and sputtered, and before he could
recover from this unlooked-for flank movement, another turn of the wrist
brought the attacking boat sharp across his bow, and, with a shout of
triumph, Norman wrenched the defiant flag out of its socket.

Gordon had no time for thought. He had time only to act. With a cry,
half of rage, half of defiance, he sprang up on the point of the bow of
his boat, and with outstretched arms launched himself at the bow of the
other, where the captor had flung the flag, to use both oars. His boat
slipped from under his feet, and he fell short, but caught the gunwale
of the other, and dragged himself up to it. He held just long enough to
clutch both flags, and the next second, with a faint cheer, he rolled
off and sank with a splash in the water.

Norman Wentworth had risen, and with blazing eyes, his oar uplifted, was
scrambling toward the bow to repel the boarder, when the latter
disappeared. Norman gazed at the spot with staring eyes. The next second
he took in what was happening, and, with an exclamation of horror, he
suddenly dived overboard. When he came to the top, he was pulling the
other boy up with him.

Though Norman was a good swimmer, there was a moment of extreme danger;
for, half unconscious, Gordon pulled him under once. But fortunately
Norman kept his head, and with a supreme effort breaking the drowning
boy's hold, he drew him to the top once more. Fortunately for both, a
man seeing the trouble had brought his boat to the spot, and, just as
Norman rose to the surface with his burden, he reached out and, seizing
him, dragged both him and the now unconscious Gordon aboard his boat.

It was some days before Gordon was able to sit up, and meanwhile he
learned that his assailant and rescuer had been every day to make
inquiry about him, and his father, Mr. Wentworth, had written to
Gordon's father and expressed his concern at the accident.

"It is a strange fate," he wrote, "that should after all these years
have arrayed us against each other thus, and have brought our boys face
to face in a foreign land. I hear that your boy behaved with the courage
which I knew your son would show."

General Keith, in turn, expressed his gratitude for the promptness and
efficiency with which the other's son had apprehended the danger and
met it.

"My son owes his life to him," he said. "As to the flag, it was the
fortune of war," and he thought the incident did credit to both
combatants. He "only wished," he said, "that in every fight over a flag
there were the same ability to restore to life those who defended it."

Gordon, however, could not participate in this philosophic view of his
father's. He had lost his flag; he had been defeated in the battle. And
he owed his life to his victorious enemy.

He was but a boy, and his defeat was gall and wormwood to him. It was
but very little sweetened by the knowledge that his victor had come to
ask after him.

He was lying in bed one afternoon, lonely and homesick and sad. His
father was away, and no one had been in to him for, perhaps, an hour.
The shrill voices of children and the shouts of boys floated in at the
open window from somewhere afar off. He was not able to join them. It
depressed him, and he began to pine for the old plantation--a habit that
followed him through life in the hours of depression.

Suddenly there was a murmur of voices outside the room, and after a few
moments the door softly opened, and a lady put her head in and looked at
him. She was a stranger and was dressed in a travelling-suit. Gordon
gazed at her without moving or uttering a sound. She came in and closed
the door gently behind her, and then walked softly over to the side of
the bed and looked down at him with kind eyes. She was not exactly
pretty, but to Gordon she appeared beautiful, and he knew that she was a
friend. Suddenly she dropped down on her knees beside him and put her
arm over him caressingly.

"I am Norman's mother," she said, "and I have come to look after you and
to take you home with me if they will let me have you." She stooped over
and kissed him.

The boy put up his pinched face and kissed her.

"I will go," he said in his weak voice.

She kissed him again, and smiled down at him with moist eyes, and talked
to him in tender tones, stroking his hair and telling him of Norman's
sorrow for the trouble, of her own unhappiness, and of her regret that
the doctors would not let him be moved. When she left, it was with a
promise that she would come back again and see him; and Gordon knew that
he had a friend in England of his own kind, and a truth somehow had
slipped into his heart which set at odds many opinions which he had
thought principles. He had never thought to feel kindly toward a Yankee.

When Gordon was able to be out again, his father wished him to go and
thank his former foe who had rescued him. But it was too hard an ordeal
for the boy to face. Even the memory of Mrs. Wentworth could not
reconcile him to this.

"You don't know how hard it is, father," he said, with that assurance
with which boyhood always draws a line between itself and the rest of
the world. "Did you ever have to ask pardon of one who had fought you?"

General Keith's face wore a singular expression. Suddenly he felt a
curious sensation in a spot in his right side, and he was standing in a
dewy glade in a piece of woodland on a Spring morning, looking at a
slim, serious young man standing very straight and still a few paces
off, with a pistol gripped in his hand, and, queerly enough, his name,
too, was Norman Wentworth. But he was not thinking of him. He was
thinking of a tall girl with calm blue eyes, whom he had walked with the
day before, and who had sent him away dazed and half maddened. Then some
one a little to one side spoke a few words and began to count, "One,
two--" There was a simultaneous report of two pistols, two little puffs
of smoke, and when the smoke had cleared away, the other man with the
pistol was sinking slowly to the ground, and he himself was tottering
into the arms of the man nearest him.

He came back to the present with a gasp.

"My son," he said gravely, "I once was called on and failed. I have
regretted it all my life, though happily the consequences were not as
fatal as I had at one time apprehended. If every generation did not
improve on the follies and weaknesses of those that have gone before,
there would be no advance in the world. I want you to be wiser and
stronger than I."

Gordon's chance of revenge came sooner than he expected. Not long after
he got out of doors again he was on his way down to the lake, where he
was learning to swim, when a number of boys whom he passed began to hoot
at him. In their midst was Ferdy Wickersham, the boy who had crossed the
ocean with him. He was setting the others on. The cry that came to
Gordon was: "Nigger-driver! Nigger-driver!" Sometimes Fortune, Chance,
or whatever may be the deity of fortuitous occurrence, places our
weapons right to hand. What would David have done had there not been a
stony brook between him and Goliath that day? Just as Gordon with
burning face turned to defy his deriders, a pile of small stones lay at
his feet. It looked like Providence. He could not row a boat, but he
could fling a stone like young David. In a moment he was sending stones
up the hill with such rapidity that the group above him were thrown into
confusion.

Then Gordon fell into an error of more noted generals. Seizing a supply
of missiles, he charged straight up the hill. Though the group had
broken at the sudden assault, by the time he reached the hill-top they
had rallied, and while he was out of ammunition they made a charge on
him. Wheeling, he went down the hill like the wind, while his pursuers
broke after him with shouts of triumph. As he reached the stone-pile he
turned and made a stand, which brought them to a momentary stop. Just
then a shout arose below him. Gordon turned to see rushing up the hill
toward him Norman Wentworth. He was picking up stones as he ran. Gordon
heard him call out something, but he did not wait for his words. Here
was his arch-enemy, his conqueror, and here, at least, he was his equal.
Without wasting further time with those above him, Gordon sprang toward
his new assailant, and steadying himself, hurled his heaviest stone.
Fortunately, Norman Wentworth had been reared in the country and knew
how to dodge as well as to throw a stone, or his days might have ended
then and there.

"Hold on! don't throw!" he shouted "I am coming to help you," and,
without waiting, he sent a stone far over Gordon's head at the party on
the height above. Gordon, who was poising himself for another shot,
paused amazed in the midst of his aim, open-mouthed and wide-eyed.

"Come on," cried Norman. "You and I together can lick them. I know the
way, and we will get above them." So saying, he dashed down a side
alley, Gordon close at his heels, and, by making a turn, they came out a
few minutes later on the hill above their enemies, who were rejoicing in
their easy victory, and, catching them unprepared, routed them and
scattered them in an instant.

Ferdy Wickersham, finding himself defeated, promptly surrendered and
offered to enlist on their side. Norman, however, had no idea of letting
him off so easy.

"I am going to take you prisoner, but not until I have given you a good
kicking. You know better than to take sides against an American."

"He is a rebel," said Ferdy.

"He is an American," said Norman. And he forthwith proceeded to make
good his word, and to do it in such honest style that Ferdy, after first
taking it as a joke, got angry and ran away howling.

Gordon was doubtful as to the wisdom of this severity.

"He will tell," he said.

"Let him," said Norman, contemptuously. "He knows what he will get if he
does. I was at school with him last year, and I am going to school with
him again. I will teach him to fight with any one else against an
American!"

This episode made the two boys closer allies than they would have been
in a year of peace.

General Keith, finding his mission fruitless, asked leave to return home
immediately, so that Gordon saw little more of his former foe and
new ally.

A few days before their departure, Gordon, passing along a road, came on
a group of three persons, two children and a French governess with
much-frizzled hair, very black eyes, and a small waist. One of the
children was a very little girl, richly dressed in a white frock with a
blue sash that almost covered it, with big brown eyes and yellow
ringlets; the other child was a ragged girl several years older, with
tangled hair, gray eyes, and the ruddy, chubby cheeks so often seen in
children of her class. The governess was in a state of great
excitement, and was talking French so fast that it was a wonder any
tongue could utter the words. The little girl of the fine frock and
brown eyes was clutching to her bosom with a defiant air a large doll
which the governess was trying to get from her, while the other child
stood by, looking first toward one of them and then toward the other,
with an expression divided between timidity and eagerness. A big picture
of a ballet-dancer with a gay frock and red shoes in a flaring
advertisement on a sign-board had something to do with the trouble. Now
the girl drew nearer to the other child and danced a few steps, holding
out her hand; now she cast a look over her shoulder down the hill, as if
to see that her retreat were not cut off.

"_Mais, c'est a moi_--it's _my_ doll. I _will_ have it," insisted the
little girl, backing away and holding it firmly; at which the governess
began again almost tearing her hair in her desperation, though she ended
by giving it a pat to see that it was all right.

The approach of Gordon drew her attention to him.

"Oh," she exclaimed in desperation, "_c'est epouvantable_--it ees
terr-e-ble! Dese young ladie weel give de doll to dat meeseerable
creature!"

"She is not a 'meeseerable creature'!" insisted the little girl, mocking
her, her brown eyes flashing. "She danced for me, and I will give it to
her--I like her."

"Oh, _ciel_! What shall I do! Madame weel abuse me--weel keel me!"

"Mamma will not mind; it is _my_ doll. Aunt Abby gave it to me. I can
get a plenty more, and I will give it to her," insisted the little girl
again. Then suddenly, gaining more courage, she turned quickly, and,
before the governess could stop her, thrust the doll into the other
child's arms.

"Here, you _shall_ have it."

The governess, with a cry of rage, made a spring for the child, but too
late: the grimy little hands had clutched the doll, and turning without
a word of thanks, the little creature sped down the road like a
frightened animal, her ragged frock fluttering behind her.

"Why, she did not say 'Thank you'!" exclaimed the child, in a
disappointed tone, looking ruefully after the retreating figure.

The governess broke out on her vehemently in French, very comically
mingling her upbraidings of her charge, her abuse of the little girl,
and her apprehension of "Madame."

"Never mind; she does not know any better," said Gordon.

The child's face brightened at this friendly encouragement.

"She is a nasty little creature! You shall not play with her," cried the
governess, angrily.

"She is not nasty! I like her, and I will play with her," declared the
child, defiantly.

"What is your name?" asked the boy, much amused by such sturdiness in so
small a tot.

"Lois Huntington. What is your name?" She looked up at him with her big
brown eyes.

"Gordon Keith."

"How do you do, Gordon Keith?" She held out her hand.

"How do you do, Lois Huntington?"

She shook hands with him solemnly.

A day or two later, as Gordon was passing through one of the streets in
the lower part of the village, he came upon a hurdy-gurdy playing a
livelier tune than most of them usually gave. A crowd of children had
gathered in the street. Among them was a little barelegged girl who,
inspired by the music, was dancing and keeping perfect time as she
tripped back and forth, pirouetted and swayed on the tips of her bare
toes, flirting her little ragged frock, and kicking with quite the air
of a ballet-dancer. She divided the honors with the dismal Savoyard, who
ground away at his organ, and she brought a flicker of admiration into
his bronzed and grimy face, for he played for her the same tune over and
over, encouraging her with nods and bravas. She was enjoying her triumph
quite as much as any prima donna who ever tripped it on a more
ambitious stage.

Gordon recognized in the little dancer the tangled-haired child who had
run away with the little girl's doll a few days before.



CHAPTER II

GENERAL KEITH BECOMES AN OVERSEER

When the war closed, though it was not recognized at first, the old
civilization of the South passed away. Fragments of the structure that
had once risen so fair and imposing still stood for a time, even after
the foundations were undermined: a bastion here, a tower there; but in
time they followed the general overthrow, and crumbled gradually to
their fall, leaving only ruins and decay.

For a time it was hoped that the dilapidation might be repaired and the
old life be lived again. General Keith, like many others, though broken
and wasted in body, undertook to rebuild with borrowed money, but with
disastrous results. The conditions were all against him.

Three or four years' effort to repair his fallen fortunes only plunged
him deeper in debt. General Keith, like most of his neighbors and
friends, found himself facing the fact that he was hopelessly insolvent.
As soon as he saw he could not pay his debts he stopped spending and
notified his creditors.

"I see nothing ahead of me," he wrote, "but greater ruin. I am like a
horse in a quicksand: every effort I make but sinks me deeper."

Some of his neighbors took the benefit of the bankrupt-law which was
passed to give relief. General Keith was urged to do likewise, but
he declined.

"Though I cannot pay my debts," he said, "the least I can do is to
acknowledge that I owe them. I am unwilling to appear, even for a short
time, to be denying what I know to be a fact."

He gave up everything that he owned, reserving nothing that would bring
in money.

When Elphinstone was sold, it brought less than the debts on it. The old
plate, with the Keith coat-of-arms on it, from which generations of
guests had been served, and which old Richard, the butler, had saved
during the war, went for its weight in silver. The library had been
pillaged until little of it remained. The old Keith pictures, some of
them by the best artists, which had been boxed and stored elsewhere
until after the war, now went to the purchaser of the place for less
than the price of their frames. Among them was the portrait of the man
in the steel coat and hat, who had the General's face.

What General Keith felt during this transition no one, perhaps, ever
knew; certainly his son did not know it, and did not dream of it until
later in life.

It was, however, not only in the South that fortunes were lost by the
war. As vast as was the increase of riches at the North among those who
stayed at home, it did not extend to those who took the field. Among
these was a young officer named Huntington, from Brookford, a little
town on the sunny slope that stretches eastwardly from the Alleghanies
to the Delaware. Captain Huntington, having entered the army on the
outbreak of the war, like Colonel Keith rose to the rank of general,
and, like General Keith, received a wound that incapacitated him for
service. His wife was a Southern woman, and had died abroad, just at the
close of the war, leaving him a little girl, who was the idol of his
heart. He was interested in the South, and came South to try and
recuperate from the effects of his wound and of exposure during the war.

The handsomest place in the neighborhood of Elphinstone was "Rosedale,"
the family-seat of the Berkeleys. Mr. Berkeley had been killed in the
war, and the plantation went, like Elphinstone and most of the other
old estates, for debt. And General Huntington purchased it.

As soon as General Keith heard of his arrival in the neighborhood, he
called on him and invited him to stay at his house until Rosedale should
be refurnished and made comfortable again. The two gentlemen soon became
great friends, and though many of the neighbors looked askance at the
Federal officer and grumbled at his possessing the old family-seat of
the Berkeleys, the urbanity and real kindness of the dignified,
soldierly young officer soon made his way easier and won him respect if
not friendship. When a man had been a general at the age of twenty-six,
it meant that he was a man, and when General Keith pronounced that he
was a gentleman, it meant that he was a gentleman. Thus reasoned the
neighbors.

His only child was a pretty little girl of five or six years, with great
brown eyes, yellow curls, and a rosebud face that dimpled adorably when
she laughed. When Gordon saw her he recognized her instantly as the tot
who had given her doll to the little dancer two years before. Her eyes
could not be mistaken. She used to drive about in the tiniest of village
carts, drawn by the most Liliputian of ponies, and Gordon used to call
her "Cindy,"--short for Cinderella,--which amused and pleased her. She
in turn called him her sweetheart; tyrannized over him, and finally
declared that she was going to marry him.

"Why, you are not going to have a rebel for a sweetheart?" said her
father.

"Yes, I am. I am going to make him Union," she declared gravely.

"Well, that is a good way. I fancy that is about the best system of
Reconstruction that has yet been tried."

He told the story to General Keith, who rode over very soon afterwards
to see the child, and thenceforth called her his fairy daughter.

One day she had a tiff with Gordon, and she announced to him that she
was not going to kiss him any more.

"Oh, yes, you are," said he, teasing her.

"I am not." Her eyes flashed. And although he often teased her
afterwards, and used to draw a circle on his cheek which, he said, was
her especial reservation, she kept her word, even in spite of the
temptation which he held out to her to take her to ride if she
would relent.

One Spring General Huntington's cough suddenly increased, and he began
to go downhill so rapidly as to cause much uneasiness to his friends.
General Keith urged him to go up to a little place on the side of the
mountains which had been quite a health-resort before the war.

"Ridgely is one of the most salubrious places I know for such trouble as
yours. And Dr. Theophilus Balsam is one of the best doctors in the
State. He was my regimental surgeon during the war. He is a Northern man
who came South before the war. I think he had an unfortunate
love-affair."

"There is no place for such trouble as mine," said the younger man,
gravely. "That bullet went a little too deep." Still, he went
to Ridgely.

Under the charge of Dr. Balsam the young officer for a time revived, and
for a year or two appeared on the way to recovery. Then suddenly his old
trouble returned, and he went down as if shot. The name Huntington had
strong association for the old physician; for it was a Huntington that
Lois Brooke, the younger sister of Abigail Brooke, his old sweetheart,
had married, and Abigail Brooke's refusal to marry him had sent him
South. The Doctor discovered early in his acquaintance with the young
officer that he was Abigail Brooke's nephew. He, however, made no
reference to his former relation to his patient's people.

Division bitterer than that war in which he had fought lay between them,
the division that had embittered his life and made him an exile from his
people. But the little girl with her great, serious eyes became the old
physician's idol and tyrant, and how he worked over her father! Even in
those last hours when the end had unexpectedly appeared, and General
Huntington was making his last arrangements with the same courage which
had made him a noted officer when hardly more than a boy, the Doctor
kept his counsel almost to the end.

"How long have I to live, Doctor?" panted the dying man, when he rallied
somewhat from the attack that had struck him down.

"Not very long."

"Then I wish you to send for General Keith. I wish him to take my child
to my aunt, Miss Abigail Brooke."

"I will attend to it" said the Doctor.

"So long as she lives she will take care of her. But she is now an old
woman, and when she dies, God knows what will become of her."

"I will look after her as long as I live," said the Doctor.

"Thank you, Doctor." There was a pause. "She is a saint." His mind had
gone back to his early life. To this Dr. Balsam made no reply. "She has
had a sad life. She was crossed in love but instead of souring, it
sweetened her."

"I was the man," said the Doctor, quietly. "I will look after your
child."

"You were! I never knew his name. She never married."

He gave a few directions, and presently said: "My little girl? I wish to
see her. It cannot hurt me?"

"No, it will not hurt you," said the Doctor, quietly.

The child was brought, and the dying man's eyes lit up as they rested on
her pink face and brown eyes filled with a vague wonder.

"You must remember papa."

She stood on tiptoe and, leaning over, kissed him.

"And you must go to Aunt Abby when I have gone."

"I will take Gordon Keith with me," said the child.

The ghost of a smile flickered about the dying man's eyes. Then came a
fit of coughing, and when it had passed, his head, after a few gasps,
sank back.

At a word from the Doctor, an attendant took the child out of the room.

That evening the old Doctor saw that the little girl was put to bed, and
that night he sat up alone with the body. There were many others to
relieve him, but he declined them and kept his vigil alone.

What memories were with him; what thoughts attended him through those
lonely hours, who can tell!

General Keith went immediately to Ridgely on hearing of General
Huntington's death. He took Gordon with him, thinking that he would help
to comfort the little orphaned girl. The boy had no idea how well he was
to know the watering-place in after years. The child fell to his care
and clung to him, finally going to sleep in his arms. While the
arrangements were being made, they moved for a day or two over to Squire
Rawson's, the leading man of the Ridge region, where the squire's
granddaughter, a fresh-faced girl of ten or twelve years, took care of
the little orphan and kept her interested.

The burial, in accordance with a wish expressed by General Huntington,
took place in a corner of the little burying-ground at Ridgely, which
lay on a sunny knoll overlooking the long slope to the northeastward.
The child walked after the bier, holding fast to Gordon's hand, while
Dr. Balsam and General Keith walked after them.

As soon as General Keith could hear from Miss Brooke he took the child
to her; but to the last Lois said that she wanted Gordon to come
with her.

Soon afterwards it appeared that General Huntington's property had
nearly all gone. His plantation was sold.

Several times Lois wrote Gordon quaint little letters scrawled in a
childish hand, asking about the calves and pigeons and chickens that had
been her friends. But after a while the letters ceased to come.

When Elphinstone was sold, the purchaser was a certain Mr. Aaron
Wickersham of New York, the father of Ferdy Wickersham, with whom Gordon
had had the rock-battle. Mr. Wickersham was a stout and good-humored
man of fifty, with a head like a billiard-bail, and a face that was both
shrewd and kindly. He had, during the war, made a fortune out of
contracts, and was now preparing to increase it in the South, where the
mountain region, filled with coal and iron, lay virgin for the first
comer with sufficient courage and astuteness to take it. He found the
new legislature of the State an instrument well fitted to his hands. It
could be manipulated.

The Wickershams had lately moved into a large new house on Fifth Avenue,
where Fashion was climbing the hill toward the Park in the effort to get
above Murray Hill, and possibly to look down upon the substantial and
somewhat prosaic mansions below, whose doors it had sometimes been found
difficult to enter. Mrs. Wickersham was from Brookford, the same town
from which the Huntingtons came, and, when a young and handsome girl,
having social ambitions, had married Aaron Wickersham when he was but a
clerk in the banking-house of Wentworth & Son. And, be it said, she had
aided him materially in advancing his fortunes. She was a handsome
woman, and her social ambitions had grown. Ferdy was her only child, and
was the joy and pride of her heart. Her ambition centred in him. He
should be the leader of the town, as she felt his beauty and his
smartness entitled him to be. It was with this aim that she induced her
husband to build the fine new house on the avenue. She knew the value of
a large and handsome mansion in a fashionable quarter. Aaron Wickersham
knew little of fashion; but he knew the power of money, and he had
absolute confidence in his wife's ability. He would furnish the means
and leave the rest to her. The house was built and furnished by
contract, and Mrs. Wickersham took pride in the fact that it was much
finer than the Wentworth mansion on Washington Square, and more
expensive than the house of the Yorkes, which was one of the big houses
on the avenue, and had been the talk of the town when it was built ten
years before. Will Stirling, one of the wags, said that it was a good
thing that Mr. Wickersham did not take the contract for himself.

Mr. Wickersham, having spent a considerable sum in planning and
preparing his Southern enterprise, and having obtained a charter from
the legislature of the State that gave him power to do almost anything
he wished, suddenly found himself balked by the fact that the people in
the mountain region which he wished to reach with his road were so
bitterly opposed to any such innovation that it jeopardized his entire
scheme. From the richest man in that section, an old cattle-dealer and
lumberman named Rawson, to Tim Gilsey, who drove the stage from Eden to
Gumbolt Gap, they were all opposed to any "newfangled" notions, and they
regarded everything that came from carpet-baggers as "robbery and
corruption."

He learned that "the most influential man down there" was General Keith,
and that his place was for sale.

"I can reach him," said Mr. Wickersham, with a gleam in his eye. "I will
have a rope around his neck that will lead him." So he bought the place.

Fortunately, perhaps, for Mr. Wickersham, he hinted something of his
intentions to his counsel, a shrewd old lawyer of the State, who thought
that he could arrange the matter better than Mr. Wickersham could.

"You don't know how to deal with these old fellows," he said.

"I know men," said Mr. Wickersham, "and I know that when I have a hold
on a man--"

"You don't know General Keith," said Mr. Bagge. The glint in his eye
impressed the other and he yielded.

So Mr. Wickersham bought the Keith plantation and left it to Greene
Bagge, Esq., to manage the business. Mr. Bagge wrote General Keith a
diplomatic letter eulogistic of the South and of Mr. Wickersham's
interest in it, and invited the General to remain on the place for the
present as its manager.

General Keith sat for some time over that letter, his face as grave as
it had ever been in battle. What swept before his mental vision who
shall know? The history of two hundred years bound the Keiths to
Elphinstone. They had carved it from the forest and had held it against
the Indian. From there they had gone to the highest office of the State.
Love, marriage, death--all the sanctities of life--were bound up with
it. He talked it over with Gordon.

Gordon's face fell.

"Why, father, you will be nothing but an overseer."

General Keith smiled. Gordon remembered long afterwards, with shame for
his Speech, how wistful that smile was.

"Yes; I shall be something more than that. I shall be, at least, a
faithful one. I wish I could be as successful a one."

He wrote saying that, as he had failed for himself, he did not see how
he could succeed for another. But upon receiving a very flattering
reassurance, he accepted the offer. Thus, the General remained as an
employe on the estate which had been renowned for generations as the
home of the Keiths. And as agent for the new owner he farmed the place
with far greater energy and success than he had ever shown on his own
account. It was a bitter cup for Gordon to have his father act as an
"overseer"; but if it contained any bitterness for General Keith, he
never gave the least evidence of it, nor betrayed his feeling by the
slightest sign.

When Mr. Wickersham visited his new estate he admitted that Mr. Bagge
knew better than he how to deal with General Keith.

When he was met at the station by a tall, gray-haired gentleman who
looked like something between a general and a churchwarden, he was
inclined to be shy; but when the gentleman grasped his hand, and with a
voice of unmistakable sincerity said he had driven out himself to meet
him, to welcome him among them, he felt at home.

"It is gentlemen like yourself to whom we must look for the preservation
of our civilization," said General Keith, and introduced him personally
to every man he met as, "the gentleman who has bought my old place--not
a 'carpet-bagger,' but a gentleman interested in the development of our
country, sir."

Mr. Wickersham, in fact, was treated with a distinction to which he had
been a stranger during his former visits South. He liked it. He felt
quite like a Southern gentleman, and with one or two Northerners whom he
met held himself a little distantly.

Once or twice the new owner of Elphinstone came down with parties of
friends--"to look at the country." They were interested in developing
it, and had been getting sundry acts passed by the legislature with this
in view. (General Keith's nose always took a slight elevation when the
legislature was mentioned.) General Keith entertained the visitors
precisely as he had done when he was the master, and Mr. Wickersham and
his guests treated him, in the main, as if he were still the master.
General Keith sat at the foot of the table opposite Mr. Wickersham, and
directed the servants, who still called him "Master," and obeyed him
as such.

Mr. Wickersham conceived a great regard for General Keith, not unmingled
with a certain contempt for his inability to avail himself of the new
conditions. "Fine old fellow," he said to his friends. "No more
business-sense than a child. If he had he would go in with us and make
money for himself instead of telling us how to make it." He did not know
that General Keith would not have "gone in" with him in the plan he had
carried through that legislature to save his life. But he honored the
old fellow all the more. He had stood up for the General against Mrs.
Wickersham, who hated all Keiths on Ferdy's account. The old General,
who was as oblivious of this as a child, was always sending Mrs.
Wickersham his regards.

"Perhaps, she might like to come down and see the place?" he suggested.
"It is not what it used to be, but we can make her comfortable." His
glance as it swept about him was full of affection.

Mr. Wickersham said he feared that Mrs. Wickersham's health would not
permit her to come South.

"This is the very region for her," said the General. "There is a fine
health-resort in the mountains, a short distance from us. I have been
there, and it is in charge of an old friend of mine, Dr. Balsam, one of
the best doctors in the State. He was my regimental surgeon. I can
recommend him. Bring her down, and let us see what we can do for her."

Mr. Wickersham thanked him with a smile. Time had been when Mrs.
Wickersham had been content with small health-resorts. But that time was
past. He did not tell General Keith that Mrs. Wickersham, remembering
the fight between her son and Gordon, had consented to his buying the
place from a not very noble motive, and vowed that she would never set
her foot on it so long as a Keith remained there. He only assured the
General that he would convey his invitation.

Mr. Wickersham's real interest, however, lay in the mountains to the
westward. And General Keith gave him some valuable hints as to the
deposits lying in the Ridge and the mountains beyond the Ridge.

"I will give you letters to the leading men in that region," he said.
"The two most influential men up there are Dr. Balsam and Squire Rawson.
They have, like Abraham and Lot, about divided up the country."

Mr. Wickersham's eyes glistened. He thanked him, and said that he might
call on him.

Once there came near being a clash between Mr. Wickersham and General
Keith. When Mr. Wickersham mentioned that he had invited a number of
members of the legislature--"gentlemen interested in the development of
the resources of the State"--to meet him, the General's face changed.
There was a little tilting of the nose and a slight quivering of the
nostrils. A moment later he spoke.

"I will have everything in readiness for your--f--for your guests; but I
must ask you to excuse me from meeting them."

Mr. Wickersham turned to him in blank amazement.

"Why, General?"

The expression on the old gentleman's face answered him. He knew that at
a word he should lose his agent, and he had use for him. He had plans
that were far-reaching, and the General could be of great service
to him.

When the statesmen arrived, everything on the place was in order; they
were duly met at the station, and were welcomed at the house by the
owner. Everything for their entertainment was prepared. Even the fresh
mint was in the tankard on the old sideboard. Only the one who had made
these preparations was absent.

Just before the vehicles were to return from the railway, General Keith
walked into the room where Mr. Wickersham was lounging. He was booted
and spurred for riding.

"Everything is in order for your guests, sir. Richard will see that they
are looked after. These are the keys. Richard knows them all, and is
entirely reliable. I will ask you to excuse me till--for a day or two."

Mr. Wickersham had been revolving in his mind what he should say to the
old gentleman. He had about decided to speak very plainly to him on the
folly of such narrowness. Something, however, in the General's air again
deterred him: a thinning of the nostril; an unwonted firmness of the
mouth. A sudden increase in the resemblance to the man-in-armor over the
mantel struck him--a mingled pride and gravity. It removed him a hundred
years from the present.

The keen-eyed capitalist liked the General, and in a way honored him
greatly. His old-fashioned ideas entertained him. So what he said was
said kindly. He regretted that the General could not stay; he "would
have liked him to know his friends."

"They are not such bad fellows, after all. Why, one of them is a
preacher," he said jocularly as he walked to the door, "and a very
bright fellow. J. Quincy Plume is regarded as a man of great ability."

"Yes, sir; I have heard of him. His doctrine is from the 'Wicked Bible';
he omits the 'not.' Good morning." And General Keith bowed himself out.

When the guests arrived, Mr. Wickersham admitted to himself that they
were a strange lot of "assorted statesmen." He was rather relieved that
the General had not remained. When he looked about the table that
evening, after the juleps were handed around and the champagne had
followed, he was still more glad. The set of old Richard's head and the
tilt of his nose were enough to face. An old and pampered hound in the
presence of a pack of puppies could not have been more disdainful.

The preacher he had mentioned, Mr. J. Quincy Plume, was one of the
youngest members of the party and one of the most striking--certainly
one of the most convivial and least abashed. Mr. Plume had, to use his
own expression, "plucked a feather from many wings, and bathed his
glistening pinions in the iridescent light of many orbs." He had been
"something of a doctor"; then had become a preacher--to quote him again,
"not exactly of the gospel as it was understood by mossbacked
theologians, of 'a creed outworn,'" but rather the "gospel of the new
dispensation, of the new brotherhood--the gospel of liberty, equality,
fraternity." Now he had found his true vocation, that of statesmanship,
where he could practise what he had preached; could "bask in the light
of the effulgent sun of progress, and, shod with the sandals of Mercury,
soar into a higher empyrean than he had yet attained." All of which,
being translated, meant that Mr. Plume, having failed in several
professions, was bent now on elevating himself by the votes of the
ignorant followers whom he was cajoling into taking him as a leader.

Mr. Wickersham had had some dealing with him and had found him capable
and ready for any job. When he had been in the house an hour Mr.
Wickersham was delighted with him, and mentally decided to secure him
for his agent. When he had been there a day Mr. Wickersham mentally
questioned whether he had not better drop him out of his schemes
altogether.

One curious thing was that each guest secretly warned him against all
the others.

The prices were much higher than Mr. Wickersham had expected. But they
were subject to scaling.

"Well, Richard, what do you think of the gentlemen?" asked Mr.
Wickersham of the old servant, much amused at his disdain.

"What gent'mens?"

"Why, our guests." He used the possessive that the General used.

"Does you call dem 'gent'mens?'" demanded the old servant, fixing his
eyes on him.

"Well, no; I don't think I do--all of them."

"Nor, suh; dee ain't gent'mens; dee's scalawags!" said Richard, with
contempt. "I been livin' heah 'bout sixty years, I reckon, an' I never
seen nobody like dem eat at de table an' sleep in de beds in dis
house befo'."

When the statesmen were gone and General Keith had returned, old Richard
gave Mr. Wickersham an exhibition of the manner in which a gentleman
should be treated.



CHAPTER III

THE ENGINEER AND THE SQUIRE

Marius amid the ruins of Carthage is not an inspiring figure to us while
we are young; it is Marius riding up the Via Sacra at the head of his
resounding legions that then dazzles us. But as we grow older we see how
much greater he was when, seated amid the ruins, he sent his scornful
message to Rome. So, Gordon Keith, when a boy, thought being a gentleman
a very easy and commonplace thing. He had known gentlemen all his
life--had been bred among them. It was only later on, after he got out
into the world, that he saw how fine and noble that old man was, sitting
unmoved amid the wreck not only of his life and fortunes, but of
his world.

General Keith was unable to raise even the small sum necessary to send
the boy to college, but among the debris of the old home still remained
the relics of a once choice library, and General Keith became himself
his son's instructor. It was a very irregular system of study, but the
boy, without knowing it, was browsing in those pastures that remain ever
fresh and green. There was nothing that related to science in any form.

"I know no more of science, sir, than an Indian," the General used to
say. "The only sciences I ever thought I knew were politics and war, and
I have failed in both."

He knew very little of the world--at least, of the modern world. Once,
at table, Gordon was wishing that they had money.

"My son," said his father, quietly, "there are some things that
gentlemen never discuss at table. Money is one of them." Such were his
old-fashioned views.

It was fortunate for his son, then, that there came to the neighborhood
about this time a small engineering party, sent down by Mr. Wickersham
to make a preliminary survey for a railroad line up into the Ridge
country above General Keith's home. The young engineer, Mr. Grinnell
Rhodes, brought a letter to General Keith from Mr. Wickersham. He had
sent his son down with the young man, and he asked that the General
would look after him a little and would render Mr. Rhodes any assistance
in his power. The tall young engineer, with his clear eyes, pleasant
voice, and quick ways, immediately ingratiated himself with both General
Keith and Gordon. The sight of the instruments and, much more, the
appearance of the young "chief," his knowledge of the world, and his
dazzling authority as, clad in corduroy and buttoned in high yellow
gaiters, he day after day strode forth with his little party and ran his
lines, sending with a wave of his hand his rodmen to right or left
across deep ravines and over eminences, awakened new ambitions in Gordon
Keith's soul. The talk of building great bridges, of spanning mighty
chasms, and of tunnelling mountains inspired the boy. What was Newton
making his calculations from which to deduce his fundamental laws, or
Galileo watching the stars from his Florentine tower? This young captain
was Archimedes and Euclid, Newton and Galileo, all in one. He made
them live.

It was a new world for Gordon. He suddenly awoke.

Both the engineer and Gordon could well have spared one of the
engineer's assistants. Ferdy Wickersham had fulfilled the promise of his
boyhood, and would have been very handsome but for an expression about
the dark eyes which raised a question. He was popular with girls, but
made few friends among men, and he and Mr. Rhodes had already clashed.
Rhodes gave some order which Ferdy refused to obey. Rhodes turned on
him a cold blue eye. "What did you say?"

"I guess this is my father's party; he's paying the freight, and I guess
I am his son."

"I guess it's my party, and you'll do what I say or go home," said Mr.
Rhodes, coldly. "Your father has no 'son' in this party. I have a
rodman. Unless you are sick, you do your part of the work."

Ferdy submitted for reasons of his own; but his eyes lowered, and he did
not forget Mr. Rhodes.

The two youngsters soon fell out. Ferdy began to give orders about the
place, quite as if he were the master. The General cautioned Gordon not
to mind what he said. "He has been spoiled a little; but don't mind him.
An only child is at a great disadvantage." He spoke as if Gordon were
one of a dozen children.

But Ferdy Wickersham misunderstood the other's concession. He resented
the growing intimacy between Rhodes and Gordon. He had discovered that
Gordon was most sensitive about the old plantation, and he used his
knowledge. And when Mr. Rhodes interposed it only gave the sport of
teasing Gordon a new point.

One morning, when the three were together, Ferdy began, what he probably
meant for banter, to laugh at Gordon for bragging about his plantation.

"You ought to have heard him, Mr. Rhodes, how he used to blow about it."

"I did not blow about it," said Gordon, flushing.

Rhodes, without looking up, moved in his seat uneasily.

"Ferdy, shut up--you bother me. I am working."

But Ferdy did not heed either this warning or the look on Gordon's face.
His game had now a double zest: he could sting Gordon and worry Rhodes.

"I don't see why my old man was such a fool as to want such a dinged
lonesome old place for, anyhow," he said, with a little laugh. "I am
going to give it away when I get it."

Gordon's face whitened and flamed again, and his eyes began to snap.

"Then it's the only thing you ever would give away," said Mr. Rhodes,
pointedly, without raising his eyes from his work.

Gordon took heart. "Why did you come down here if you feel that way
about it?"

"Because my old man offered me five thousand if I'd come. You didn't
think I'd come to this blanked old place for nothin', did you? Not
much, sonny."

"Not if he knew you," Said Mr. Rhodes, looking across at him. "If he
knew you, he'd know you never did anything for nothing, Ferdy."

Ferdy flushed. "I guess I do it about as often as you do. I guess you
struck my governor for a pretty big pile."

Mr. Rhodes's face hardened, and he fixed his eyes on him. "If I do, I
work for it honestly. I don't make an agreement to work, and then play
'old soldier' on him."

"I guess you would if you didn't have to work."

"Well, I wouldn't," said Mr. Rhodes, firmly, "and I don't want to hear
any more about it. If you won't work, then I want you to let me work."

Ferdy growled something under his breath about guessing that Mr. Rhodes
was "working to get Miss Harriet Creamer and her pile"; but if Mr.
Rhodes heard him he took no notice of it, and Ferdy turned back to
the boy.

Meantime, Gordon had been calculating. Five thousand dollars! Why, it
was a fortune! It would have relieved his father, and maybe have saved
the place. In his amazement he almost forgot his anger with the boy who
could speak of such a sum so lightly.

Ferdy gave him a keen glance. "What are you so huffy about, Keith?" he
demanded. "I don't see that it's anything to you what I say about the
place. You don't own it. I guess a man has a right to say what he
chooses of his own."

Gordon wheeled on him with blazing eyes, then turned around and walked
abruptly away. He could scarcely keep back his tears. The other boy
watched him nonchalantly, and then turned to Mr. Rhodes, who was
glowering over his papers. "I'll take him down a point or two. He's
always blowing about his blamed old place as if he still owned it. He's
worse than the old man, who is always blowing about 'before the war' and
his grandfather and his old pictures. I can buy better ancestors on
Broadway for twenty dollars."

Mr. Rhodes gathered up his papers and rose to his feet.

"You could not make yourself as good a descendant for a million," he
said, fastening his eye grimly on Ferdy.

"Oh, couldn't I? Well, I guess I could. I guess I am about as good as he
is, or you either."

"Well, you can leave me out of the case," said Mr. Rhodes, sharply. "I
will tell you that you are not as good as he, for he would never have
said to you what you have said to him if your positions had been
reversed."

"I don't understand you."

"I don't expect you do," said Mr. Rhodes. He stalked away. "I can't
stand that boy. He makes me sick," he said to himself. "If I hadn't
promised his governor to make him stick, I would shake him."

Ferdy was still smarting under Mr. Rhodes's biting sarcasm when the
three came together again. He meant to be even with Rhodes, and he
watched his opportunity.

Rhodes was a connection of the Wentworths, and had been helped at
college by Norman's father, which Ferdy knew. One of the handsomest
girls in their set, Miss Louise Caldwell, was a cousin of Rhodes, and
Norman was in love with her. Ferdy, who could never see any one
succeeding without wishing to supplant him, had of late begun to fancy
himself in love with her also, but Mr. Rhodes, he knew, was Norman's
friend. He also knew that Norman was Mr. Rhodes's friend in a little
affair which Mr. Rhodes was having with one of the leading belles of the
town, Miss Harriet Creamer, the daughter of Nicholas Creamer of Creamer,
Crustback & Company.

Ferdy had received that day a letter from his mother which stated that
Louise Caldwell's mother was making a set at Norman for her daughter.
Ferdy's jealousy was set on edge, and he now began to talk about Norman.
Rhodes sniffed at the sneering mention of his name, and Gordon, whose
face still wore a surly look, pricked up his ears.

"You need not always be cracking Norman up," said Wickersham to Rhodes.
"You would not be if I were to tell you what I know about him. He is no
better than anybody else."

"Oh, he is better than some, Ferdy," said Mr. Rhodes. Gordon gave an
appreciative grunt which drew Ferdy's eyes on him.

"You think so too, Keith, I suppose?" he said. "Well, you needn't. You
need not be claiming to be such a friend of his. He is not so much of a
friend of yours, I can tell you. I have heard him say as many mean
things about you as any one."

It was Gordon's opportunity. He had been waiting for one.

"I don't believe it. I believe it's a lie," he declared, his face
whitening as he gathered himself together. His eyes, which had been
burning, had suddenly begun to blaze.

Mr. Rhodes looked up. He said nothing, but his eyes began to sparkle.

"You're a liar yourself," retorted Wickersham, turning red.

Gordon reached for him. "Take it back!" At the same moment Rhodes sprang
and caught him, but not quite in time. The tip of Gordon's fingers as he
slapped at Ferdy just reached the latter's cheek and left a red
mark there.

"Take it back," he said again between his teeth as Rhodes flung his arm
around him.

For answer Ferdy landed a straight blow in his face, making his nose
bleed and his head ring.

"Take that!"

Gordon struggled to get free, but in vain. Rhodes with one arm swept
Wickersham back. With the other he held Gordon in an iron grip. "Keep
off, or I will let him go," he said.

The boy ceased writhing, and looked up into the young man's face. "You
had just as well let me go. I am going to whip him. He has told a lie on
my friend, who saved my life. And he's hit me. Let me go." He began
to whimper.

"Now, look here, boys," said Rhodes; "you have got to stop right here
and make up. I won't have this fighting."

"Let him go. I can whip him," said Ferdy, squaring himself, and adding
an epithet.

Gordon was standing quite still. "I am going to fight him," he said,
"and whip him. If he whips me, I am going to fight him again until I do
whip him."

Mr. Rhodes's face wore a puzzled expression. He looked down at the
sturdy face with its steady eyes, tightly gripped mouth, and chin which
had suddenly grown squarer.

"If I let you go will you promise not to fight?"

"I will promise not to fight him here if he will come out behind the
barn," said Gordon. "But if he don't, I'm going to fight him here. I am
going to fight him and I am going to whip him."

Mr. Rhodes considered. "If I go out there with you and let you have two
rounds, will you make up and agree never to refer to the subject again?"

"Yes," said Wickersham.

"If I whip him," said Gordon.

"Come along with me. I will let you two boys try each other's mettle for
two rounds, but, remember, you have got to stop when I call time."

So they came to a secluded spot, where the two boys took off their
coats.

"Come, you fellows had better make up now," said Mr. Rhodes, standing
above them good-humored and kindly.

"I don't see what we are fighting about," said Ferdy.

"Take back what you said about Norman," demanded Gordon.

"There is nothing to take back," declared Ferdy.

"Then take that!" said Gordon, stepping forward and tapping him in the
mouth with the back of his hand.

He had not expected the other boy to be so quick. Before he could put
himself on guard, Ferdy had fired away, and catching him right in the
eye, he sent him staggering back. He was up again in a second, however,
and the next moment was at his opponent like a tiger. The rush was as
unlooked for on Wickersham's part as Wickersham's blow had been by
Gordon, and after a moment the lessons of Mike Doherty began to tell,
and Gordon was ducking his head and dodging Wickersham's blows; and he
began to drive him backward.

"By Jove! he knows his business," said Rhodes to himself.

Just then he showed that he knew his business, for, swinging out first
with his right, he brought in the cut which was Mr. Doherty's _chef
d'oeuvre_, and catching Wickersham under the chin, he sent him flat on
his back on the ground.

Mr. Rhodes called time and picked him up.

"Come, now, that's enough," he said.

Gordon wiped the blood from his face.

"He has got to take back what he said about Norman, or I have another
round."

"You had better take it back, Ferdy. You began it," said the umpire.

"I didn't begin it. It's a lie!"

"You did," said Mr. Rhodes, coldly. He turned to Gordon. "You have one
more round."

"I take it back," growled Ferdy.

Just then there was a step on the grass, and General Keith stood beside
them. His face was very grave as he chided the boys for fighting; but
there was a gleam in his eyes that showed Mr. Rhodes and possibly the
two combatants that he was not wholly displeased. At his instance and
Mr. Rhodes's, the two boys shook hands and promised not to open the
matter again.

As Wickersham continued to shirk the work of rodman, Rhodes took Gordon
in his party, instructed him in the use of the instruments, and inspired
him with enthusiasm for the work, none the less eager because he
contrasted him with Ferdy. Rhodes knew what General Keith's name was
worth, and he thought his son being of his party would be no
hindrance to him.

The trouble came when he proposed to the General to pay Gordon for his
work.

"He is worth no salary at present, sir," said the General. "I shall be
delighted to have him go with you, and your instruction will more than
compensate us."

The matter was finally settled by Rhodes declining positively to take
Gordon except on his own terms. He needed an axeman and would pay him as
such. He could not take him at all unless he were under his authority.

Mr. Rhodes was not mistaken. General Keith's name was one to conjure
with. Squire Rawson was the principal man in all the Ridge region, and
he had, as Rhodes knew, put himself on record as unalterably opposed to
a railroad. He was a large, heavy man, deep-chested and big-limbed, with
grizzled hair and beard, a mouth closer drawn than might have been
expected in one with his surroundings, and eyes that were small and
deep-set, but very keen. His two-storied white house, with wings and
portico, though not large, was more pretentious than most of those in
the section, and his whitewashed buildings, nestled amid the fruit-trees
on a green hill looking up the valley to the Gap, made quite a
settlement. He was a man of considerable property and also of great
influence, and in the Ridge region, as elsewhere, wealth is a basis of
position and influence. The difference is one of degree. The evidences
of wealth in the Ridge country were land and cattle, and these Squire
Rawson had in abundance. He was esteemed the best judge of cattle in all
that region.

Consistency is a jewel; but there are regions where Hospitality is
reckoned before Consistency, and as soon as the old squire learned that
General Keith's son was with the surveying party, even though it was, to
use a common phrase, "comin' interferin'" with that country, he rode
over to their camp and invited Gordon and his "friends" to be his guests
as long as they should remain in that neighborhood.

"I don't want you to think, young man," he said to Rhodes, "that I'm
goin' to agree to your dod-rotted road comin' through any land of mine,
killin' my cattle; but I'll give you a bed and somethin' to eat."

Rhodes felt that he had gained a victory; Gordon was doubtful.

Though the squire never failed to remind the young engineer that the
latter was a Yankee, and as such the natural and necessary enemy of the
South, he and Rhodes became great friends, and the squire's hospitable
roof remained the headquarters of the engineering party much longer than
there was any necessity for its being so.

The squire's family consisted of his wife, a kindly, bustling little old
dame, who managed everything and everybody, including the squire, with a
single exception. This was her granddaughter, Euphronia Tripper, a plump
and fresh young girl with light hair, a fair skin, and bright
eyes. The squire laid down the law to those about him, but Mrs.
Rawson--"Elizy"-laid down the law for him. This the old fellow was ready
enough to admit. Sometimes he had a comical gleam in his deep eyes when
he turned them on his guests as he rose at her call of "Adam, I
want you."

"Boys, learn to obey promptly," he said; "saves a sight o' trouble. It's
better in the family 'n a melojeon. It's got to come sooner or later,
and the sooner the better for you. The difference between me and most
married men around here is that they lies about it, and I don't. I know
I belongs to Eliza. She owns me, but then she treats me well. I'm sort
o' meek when she's around, but then I make up for it by bein' so durned
independent when I'm away from home. Besides, it's a good deal better to
be ordered about by somebody as keers for you than not to have anybody
in the world as keers whether you come or stay."

Besides Mrs. Rawson, there were in the family a widowed daughter, Mrs.
Tripper, a long, pale, thin woman, with sad eyes, who had once been
pretty, and her daughter Euphronia, already referred to, who, in right
of being very pretty, was the old squire's idol and was never thwarted
in anything. She was, in consequence, a spoiled little damsel,
self-willed, very vain, and as susceptible as a chameleon. The ease with
which she could turn her family around her finger gave her a certain
contempt for them. At first she was quite enamoured of the young
engineer; but Mr. Rhodes was too busy to give any thought to a girl whom
he regarded as a child, and she turned her glances on Gordon. Gordon
also was impervious to her charms. He was by no means indifferent to
girls; several little damsels who attended St. Martin's Church had at
one time or another been his load-stars for a while; but he was an
aristocrat at heart, and held himself infinitely above a girl like Miss
Euphronia.

Ferdy Wickersham had no such motives for abstaining from a flirtation
with the young girl as those which restrained Rhodes and Keith.

Euphronia had not at first taken much notice of him. She had been
inclined to regard Ferdy Wickersham with some disfavor as a Yankee; but
when the other two failed her, Wickersham fell heir to her
blandishments. Her indifference to him had piqued him and awakened an
interest which possibly he might not otherwise have felt. He had seen
much of the world for a youngster, and could make a good show with what
he knew. He could play on the piano, and though the aged instrument
which the old countryman had got at second-hand for his granddaughter
gave forth sounds which might have come from a tinkling cymbal, yet
Ferdy played with a certain dash and could bring from it tunes which the
girl thought very fine. The two soon began to be so much together that
both Rhodes and Keith fell to rallying Ferdy as to his conquest. Ferdy
accepted it with complacency.

"I think I shall stay here while you are working up in the mountains,"
he said to his chief as the time drew near for them to leave.

"You will do nothing of the kind. I promised to take you with me, and I
will take you dead or alive."

A frown began on the youngster's face, but passed away quickly, and in
its place came a look of covert complacency.

"I thought your father had offered you five thousand dollars if you
would stick it out through, the whole trip?" Keith said.

Ferdy shut one eye slowly and gazed at Gordon with the other.

"Sickness was barred. I'll tell the old man I've studied. He'd never
drop on to the game. He is a soft old bird, anyway."

"Do you mean you are going to lie to him?" asked Gordon.

"Oh, you are sappy! All fellows lie to their governors," declared Ferdy,
easily. "Why, I wouldn't have any fun at all if I did not lie. You stay
with me a bit, my son, and I'll teach you a few useful things."

"Thank you. I have no doubt you are a capable teacher," sniffed Gordon;
"but I think I won't trouble you."

That evening, as Keith was coming from his work, he took a cross-cut
through the fields and orchard, and under an overshadowing tree he came
on Ferdy and Euphronia. They were so deeply engaged that Keith hastily
withdrew and, making a detour, passed around the orchard to the house.

At supper Mrs. Tripper casually inquired of her daughter where she had
been, a remark which might have escaped Keith's observation had not
Ferdy Wickersham answered it in some haste.

"She went after the cows," he said, with a quick look at her, "and I
went fishing, but I did not catch anything."

"I thought, Phrony, I saw you in the orchard," said her mother.

Wickersham looked at her quickly again.

"No, she wasn't in the orchard," he said, "for I was there."

"No, I wasn't in the orchard this evening," said Euphronia. "I went
after the cows." She looked down in her plate.

Keith ate the rest of his supper in silence. He could not tell on Ferdy;
that would not be "square." He consulted his mentor, his chief, who
simply laughed at him.

"Leave 'em alone," he counselled. "I guess she knew how to lie before he
came. Ferdy has some sense. And we are going to leave for the mountains
in a little while. I am only waiting to bring the old squire around."

Gordon shook his head.

"My father says you mistake his hospitality for yielding," he said. "You
will never get him to consent to your plan."

Rhodes laughed.

"Oh, won't I! I have had these old countrymen to deal with before. Just
give them time and show them the greenbacks. He will come around. Wait
until I dangle the shekels before him."

But Mr. Rhodes found that in that provincial field there were some
things stronger than shekels. And among these were prejudices. The more
the young engineer talked, the more obstinate appeared the old
countryman.

"I raise cattle," he said in final answer to all his eloquence.

"Raise cattle! You can make more by raising coal in one year than you
can by raising cattle all your life. Why, you have the richest mineral
country back here almost in the world," said the young diplomat,
persuasively.

"And that's the reason I want to keep the railroads out," said the
squire, puffing quietly. "I don't want the Yankees to come down and take
it away from us."

Rhodes laughed. "I'd like to see any one take anything from you. They
will develop it for you."

"I never seen anybody develop anything for another man, leastways a
Yankee," said Squire Rawson, reflectively.

Just then Ferdy chipped in. He was tired of being left out.

"My father'll come down here and show you old mossbacks a thing or two,"
he laughed.

The old man turned his eyes on him slowly. Ferdy was not a favorite with
him. For one thing, he played on the piano. But there were
other reasons.

"Who is your father, son?" The squire drew a long whiff from his pipe.

"Aaron Wickersham of Wickersham & Company, who is setting up the chips
for this railroad. We are going to run through here and make it one of
the greatest lines of the country."

"Oh, you're _goin'_ to run it! From the way you talked I thought maybe
you _had_ run it. Was a man named Aaron once thought he knew more 'bout
runnin' a' expedition than his brother did. Ever heard what became
of him?"

"No," said Ferdy.

"Well, he run some of 'em in the ground. He didn't have sense to know
the difference between a calf and God."

Ferdy flushed.

"Well, my old man knows enough to run this railroad. He has run bigger
things than this."

"If he knows as much as his son, he knows a lot. He ought to be able to
run the world." And the squire turned back to Rhodes:

"What are you goin' to do, my son, when you've done all you say you're
goin' to do for us? You will be too good to live among them Yankees; you
will have to come back here, I reckon."

"No; I'm going to marry and settle down," said Rhodes, jestingly. "Maybe
I'll come back here sometime just to receive your thanks for showing you
how benighted you were before I came, and for the advice I gave you."

"He is trying to marry a rich woman," said Ferdy, at which Rhodes
flushed a little.

The old man took no notice of the interruption.

"Well, you must," he said to Rhodes, his eyes resting on him
benevolently. "You must come back sometime and see me. I love to hear a
young man talk who knows it all. But you take my advice, my son; don't
marry no rich man's daughter. They will always think they have done you
a favor, and they will try to make you think so too, even if your wife
don't do it. You take warnin' by me. When I married, I had just sixteen
dollars and my wife she had seventeen, and I give you my word I have
never heard the last of that one dollar from that day to this."

Rhodes laughed and said he would remember his advice.

"Sometimes I think," said the old man, "I have mistaken my callin'. I
was built to give advice to other folks, and instid of that they have
been givin' me advice all my life. It's in and about the only thing I
ever had given me, except physic."

The night before the party left, Ferdy packed his kit with the rest; but
the next morning he was sick in his bed. His pulse was not quick, but he
complained of pains in every limb. Dr. Balsam came over to see him, but
could find nothing serious the matter. He, however, advised Rhodes to
leave him behind. So, Ferdy stayed at Squire Rawson's all the time that
the party was in the mountains. But he wrote his father that he
was studying.

During the time that Rhodes's party was in the mountains Squire Rawson
rode about with them examining lands, inspecting coal-beds, and adding
much to the success of the undertaking.

He appeared to be interested mainly in hunting up cattle, and after he
had introduced the engineers and secured the tardy consent of the
landowners for them to make a survey, he would spend hours haggling over
a few head of mountain cattle, or riding around through the mountains
looking for others.

Many a farmer who met the first advances of the stranger with stony
opposition yielded amicably enough after old Rawson had spent an hour or
two looking at his "cattle," or had conversed with him and his
weather-beaten wife about the "craps" and the "child'en."

"You are a miracle!" declared young Rhodes, with sincere admiration.
"How do you manage it?"

The old countryman accepted the compliment with becoming modesty.

"Oh, no; ain't no miracle about it. All I know I learned at the Ridge
College, and from an old uncle of mine, and in the war. He used to say,
'Adam, don't be a fool; learn the difference between cattle.' Now,
before you come, I didn't know nothin' about all them fureign
countries--they was sort of vague, like the New Jerusalem--or about
coal. You've told me all about that. I had an idea that it was all made
jest so,--jest as we find it,--as the Bible says 'twas; but you know a
lot--more than Moses knowed, and he was 'skilled in all the learnin' of
the Egyptians.' You haven't taken to cattle quite as kindly as I'd 'a'
liked, but you know a lot about coal. Learn the difference between
cattle, my son. There's a sight o' difference between 'em."

Rhodes declared that he would remember his advice, and the two parted
with mutual esteem.



CHAPTER IV

TWO YOUNG MEN

The young engineer, on his return to New York, made a report to his
employer. He said that the mineral resources were simply enormous, and
were lying in sight for any one to pick up who knew how to deal with the
people to whom they belonged. They could be had almost for the asking.
But he added this statement: that the legislative charters would hardly
hold, and even if they did, it would take an army to maintain what they
gave against the will of the people. He advised securing the services of
Squire Rawson and a few other local magnates.

Mr. Wickersham frowned at this plain speaking, and dashed his pen
through this part of the report. "I am much obliged to you for the
report on the minerals. The rest of it is trash. You were not paid for
your advice on that. When I want law I go to a lawyer."

Mr. Rhodes rose angrily.

"Well, you have for nothing an opinion that is worth more than that of
every rascally politician that has sold you his opinion and himself, and
you will find it out."

Mr. Wickersham did find it out. However much was published about it, the
road was not built for years. The legislative charters, gotten through
by Mr. J. Quincy Plume and his confreres, which were to turn that region
into a modern Golconda, were swept away with the legislatures that
created them, and new charters had to be obtained.

Squire Rawson, however, went on buying cattle and, report said, mineral
rights, and Gordon Keith still followed doggedly the track along which
Mr. Rhodes had passed, sure that sometime he should find him a great
man, building bridges and cutting tunnels, commanding others and sending
them to right or left with a swift wave of his arm as of old. Where
before Gordon studied as a task, he now worked for ambition, and that
key unlocked unknown treasures.

Mr. Rhodes fell in with Norman just after his interview with Mr.
Wickersham. He was still feeling sore over Mr. Wickersham's treatment of
his report. He had worked hard over it. He attributed it in part to
Ferdy's complaint of him. He now gave Norman an account of his trip, and
casually mentioned his meeting Gordon Keith.

"He's a good boy," he said, "a nice kid. He licked Ferdy-a very pretty
little piece of work. Ferdy had both the weight and the reach on him."

"Licked Ferdy! It's an old grudge, I guess?" said Norman.

"No. They started in pretty good friends. It was about you."

"About me?" Norman's face took on new interest.

"Yes; Ferdy said something, and Keith took it up. He seems pretty fond
of you. I think he had it in for Ferdy, for Ferdy had been bedevilling
him about the place. You know old Wickersham owns it. Ferdy's strong
point is not taste. So I think Gordon was feeling a bit sore, and when
Ferdy lit into you, Keith slapped him."

Norman was all alert now.

"Well? Which licked?"

"Oh, that was all. Keith won at the end of the first round. He'd have
been fighting now if he had not licked him."

The rest of the talk was of General Keith and of the hardship of his
position.

"They are as poor as death," said Rhodes. He told of his surroundings.

When Norman got home, he went to his mother. Her eye lighted up as it
rested on the alert, vigorous figure and fresh, manly, eager face. She
knew he had something on his mind.

"Mother, I have a plan," he said. "You remember Gordon Keith, the boy
whose boat I sank over in England--'Keith the rebel'?"

Mrs. Wentworth remembered well. She remembered an older fight than that,
between a Keith and a Wentworth.

"Well, I have just heard of him. Rhodes--you remember Rhodes? Grinnell
Rhodes? Used to be stroke, the greatest stroke ever was. Well, Rhodes
has been down South and stayed at Keith's father's home. He says it's a
beautiful old place, and now belongs to Mr. Wickersham, Ferdy's father,
and the old gentleman, General Keith, who used to own it farms it for
him. Think of that! It's as if father had to be a bookkeeper in the
bank! Rhodes says he's a fine old fellow, and that Gordon is one of the
best. He was down there running a railway line for Mr. Wickersham, and
took Gordon with him. And he says he's the finest sort of a fellow, and
wants to go to college dreadfully, but hasn't a cent nor any way to get
anything. Rhodes says it's awful down there. They are so poor."

Mrs. Wentworth smiled. "Well?"

Norman blushed and stammered a little, as he often did when he was
embarrassed.

"Well, you know I have some money of my own, and I thought if you don't
mind it I'd like to lend him a little. I feel rather piggish just
spending it right and left for nothing, when a fellow like that would
give his eyes for the chance to go to college. Grinnell Rhodes says that
he is ever so fond of me; that Ferdy was blowing once and said something
against me, and Gordon jumped right into him--said I was a friend of
his, and that Ferdy should not say anything against me in his presence.
He knocked Ferdy down. I tell you, when a fellow is ready to fight for
another years after he has seen him, he is a good friend."

Mrs. Wentworth's face showed that she too appreciated such a friend.

"How do you know he needs it, or would accept it if he did?"

"Why, Rhodes says we have no idea of the poverty down there. He says our
poorest clerks are rich compared with those people. And I'll write him a
letter and offer to lend it to him. I'll tell him it's mine."

Mrs. Wentworth went over and kissed the boy. The picture rose to her
mind of a young man fresh from fields where he had won renown, honored
by his State, with everything that wealth and rank could give, laying
his honors at the feet of a poor young girl.

"All right, my son."

That night Norman sat down and wrote a letter.

A few days later than this, Gordon Keith received a letter with the
post-mark "New York." Who was there in New York who could know him? Not
his young engineer. He knew his hand. He was now abroad. As he read the
letter he wondered yet more. It was from Norman Wentworth. He had met an
old friend, he said, who had told him about Gordon and about his
father's misfortunes. He himself, he said, was at college, and he found
himself in a position to be able to help a friend. He did not know to
what extent aid might be of service; but he had some means of his own,
and he asked that Gordon would allow him to make him a loan of whatever
might be necessary to relieve his father and himself.

When Gordon finished reading the letter there were tears in his eyes.

He laid the letter in his father's lap, and the old gentleman read it
through slowly. He sat lost in reflection for a few moments and then
handed the letter back to Gordon.

"Write to him and thank him, my son--thank him warmly for both of us. I
will never forget his kindness. He is a gentleman."

This was all; but he too showed in his face that that far-off shaft of
light had reached his heart and rested there.

The General afterwards meditated deeply as to the wisdom of this action.
Just then, however, Providence seemed to come to his aid.

Old Adam Rawson, hearing that he was hard up, or moved by some kindly
impulse, offered to make him a loan. He "happened to have," he wrote, "a
little pile lying by that he didn't have any particular use for just
then, and it had come to him that, maybe, the General might be able to
use it to advantage. He didn't care anything about security or
interest."

The General was perplexed. He did not need it himself, but he was glad
to borrow enough to send Gordon to college for a year. He sent Gordon up
to old Rawson's with a letter.

The old man read the letter and then looked Gordon over; he read it and
looked him over again, much as if he were appraising a young steer.

"Well, I didn't say I'd lend it to you," he said; "but, maybe, I'll do
it if 'twill help the General. Investin' in a young man is kind of
hazardous; it's like puttin' your money in a harry-dick--you don't know
what he's goin' to be. All you has to go on is the frame and your
jedgment."

Fortunately for Keith, the old cattle-dealer had a good opinion of his
"jedgment." He went on: "But I admit blood counts for somethin', and I'm
half minded to adventure some on your blood."

Gordon laughed. He would be glad to be tried on any account, he said,
and would certainly repay the money.

"Well, I b'lieve you will if you can," said the squire. "And that's more
than I can say of everybody. I'll invest a leetle money in your future,
and I want to say this to you, that your future will depend on whether
you pay it back or not. I never seen a young man as didn't pay his debts
come to any good in my life, and I never seen one as did as didn't.
I've seen many a man'd shoot you if you dared to question his honor, an'
wouldn't pay you a dollar if he was lousy with 'em." He took out his
wallet, and untying the strings carefully, began to count out the
greenbacks.

"I have to carry a pretty good pile to buy calves with," he chuckled;
"but I reckon you'll be a fair substitute for one or two. How much do
you want--I mean, how little can you git along with?"

Gordon told him the amount his father had suggested. It was not a great
sum.

"That seems a heap of money to put in book-learnin'," said the old man,
thoughtfully, his eyes fixed on Gordon. "My whole edication didn't cost
twenty-five dollars. With all that learnin', you'd know enough to teach
the Ridge College."

Gordon, who had figured it out, began to give his necessary expenses.
When he had finished, the old man counted out his bills. Gordon said he
would give him his note for it, and his father would indorse it. The
other shook his head.

"No; I don't want any bond. I'll remember it and you'll remember it.
I've known too many men think they'd paid a debt when they'd given their
bond. I don't want you to think that. If you're goin' to pay me, you'll
do it without a bond, and if you ain't, I ain't goin' to sue you; I'm
jest goin' to think what a' o'nery cuss you are."

So Gordon returned home, and a few weeks later was delving deep into new
mysteries.

Gordon's college life may be passed over. He worked well, for he felt
that it was necessary to work.

Looking around when he left college, the only thing that appeared in
sight for Gordon Keith was to teach school. To be sure, the business;
"the universal refuge of educated indigents," as his father quoted with
a smile, was already overcrowded. But Gordon heard of a school which up
to this time had not been overwhelmed with applicants. There was a
vacancy at the Ridge College. Finally poor Gunn, after holding out as
long as he could, had laid down his arms, as all soldiers must do sooner
or later, and Gordon applied for the position. The old squire remembered
the straight, broad-shouldered boy with his father's eyes and also
remembered the debt he owed him, and with the vision of a stern-faced
man with eyes of flame riding quietly at the head of his men across a
shell-ploughed field, he wrote to Gordon to come.

"If he's got half of his daddy in him he'll straighten 'em out," he
said.

So, Gordon became a school-teacher.

"I know no better advice to give you," said General Keith to Gordon, on
bidding him good-by, "than to tell you to govern yourself, and you will
be able to govern them. 'He that is slow to anger is better than the
mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.'"

During the years in which Gordon Keith was striving to obtain an
education as best he might, Ferdy Wickersham had gone to one of the
first colleges of the land. It was the same college which Norman
Wentworth was attending. Indeed, Norman's being there was the main
reason that Ferdy was sent there. Mr. Wickersham wished his son to have
the best advantages. Mrs. Wickersham desired this too, but she also had
a further motive. She wished her son to eclipse Norman Wentworth. Both
were young men of parts, and as both had unlimited means at their
disposal, neither was obliged to study.

Norman Wentworth, however, had applied himself to secure one of the high
class-honors, and as he was universally respected and very popular, he
was regarded as certain to have it, until an unexpected claimant
suddenly appeared as a rival.

Ferdy Wickersham never took the trouble to compete for anything until he
discovered that some one else valued it. It was a trait he had
inherited from his mother, who could never see any one possessing a
thing without coveting it.

The young man was soon known at college as one of the leaders of the gay
set. His luxuriously furnished rooms, his expensive suppers and his
acquaintance with dancing-girls were talked about, and he soon had a
reputation for being one of the wildest youngsters of his class.

"Your son will spend all the money you can make for him," said one of
his friends to Mr. Wickersham.

"Well," said the father, "I hope he will have as much pleasure in
spending it as I have had in making it, that's all."

He not only gave Ferdy all the money he suggested a need for, but he
offered him large bonuses in case he should secure any of the honors he
had heard of as the prizes of the collegiate work.

Mrs. Wickersham was very eager for him to win this particular prize.
Apart from her natural ambition, she had a special reason. The firm of
Norman Wentworth & Son was one of the oldest and best-known houses in
the country. The home of Norman Wentworth was known to be one of the
most elegant in the city, as it was the most exclusive, and both Mr. and
Mrs. Wentworth were recognized as representatives of the old-time
gentry. Mrs. Wickersham might have endured the praise of the elegance of
the mansion. She had her own ideas as to house-furnishing, and the
Wentworth mansion was furnished in a style too quiet and antiquated to
suit her more modern tastes. If it was filled with old mahogany and hung
with damask-satin, Mrs. Wickersham had carved walnut and gorgeous
hangings. And as to those white marble busts, and those books that were
everywhere, she much preferred her brilliant figures which she "had
bought in Europe," and books were "a nuisance about a house." They ought
to be kept in a library, as she kept hers--in a carved-walnut case with
glass doors.

The real cause of Mrs. Wickersham's dislike of Mrs. Wentworth lay
deeper.

The elder lady had always been gracious to Mrs. Wickersham when they
met, as she was gracious to every one, and when a very large
entertainment was given by her, had invited Mrs. Wickersham to it. But
Mrs. Wickersham felt that Mrs. Wentworth lived within a charmed circle.
And Mrs. Wickersham was envious.

It must be said that Ferdy needed no instigation to supersede Norman in
any way that did not require too much work. He and Norman were very good
friends; certainly Norman thought so; but at bottom Ferdy was envious of
Norman's position and prestige, and deep in his heart lurked a
long-standing grudge against the older boy, to which was added of late a
greater one. Norman and he fancied the same girl, and Louise Caldwell
was beginning to favor Norman.

Ferdy announced to his father that the class-honor would be won if he
would give him money enough, and the elder Wickersham, delighted, told
him to draw on him for all the money he wanted. This Ferdy did promptly.
He suddenly gave up running away from college, applied himself to
cultivating the acquaintance of his fellow-students, spent his money
lavishly in entertainments, and for a time it appeared that he might
wrest the prize from Norman's grasp.

College boys, however, are a curious folk. The mind of youth is
virtuous. It is later on in life that it becomes sordid. Ferdy wrote his
father that he had the prize, and that Norman, his only rival, had given
up the fight. Mrs. Wickersham openly boasted of her son's success and of
her motive, and sent him money lavishly. Young Wickersham's ambition,
however, like that of many another man, o'erleaped itself. Wickersham
drew about him many companions, but they were mainly men of light
weight, roisterers and loafers, whilst the better class of his
fellow-students quickly awoke to a true realization of the case. A new
element was being introduced into college politics. The recognition of
danger was enough to set the best element in the college to meet it. At
the moment when Ferdy Wickersham felt himself victor, and abandoned
himself to fresh pleasures, a new and irresistible force unexpectedly
arose which changed the fate of the day. Wickersham tried to stem the
current, but in vain. It was a tidal wave. Ferdy Wickersham faced
defeat, and he could not stand it. He suddenly abandoned college, and
went off, it was said, with a coryphee. His father and mother did not
know of it for some time after he had left.

Mr. Wickersham received the first intimation of it in the shape of a
draft which came to him from some distant point. When Mrs. Wickersham
learned of it, she fell into a consuming rage, and then took to her bed.
The downfall of her hopes and of her ambition had come through the
person she loved best on earth. Finally she became so ill that Mr.
Wickersham telegraphed a peremptory order to his son to come home, and
after a reasonable time the young man appeared.

His mother's joy at meeting him overshadowed everything else with her,
and the prodigal was received by her with that forgiveness which is both
the weakness and the strength of a mother's heart. The father, however,
had been struck as deeply as the mother. His ambition, if of a different
kind, had been quite as great as that of Mrs. Wickersham, and the
hard-headed, keen-sighted man, who had spent his life fighting his way
to the front, often with little consideration for the rights of others,
felt that one of his motives and one of his rewards had
perished together.

The interview that took place in his office between him and his son was
one which left its visible stamp on the older man, and for a time
appeared to have had an effect even on the younger, with all his
insolence and impervious selfishness. When Aaron Wickersham unlocked his
private door and allowed his son and heir to go out, the clerks in the
outer office knew by the young man's face, quite as well as by the
rumbles of thunder which had come through the fast-closed door, that
the "old man" had been giving the young one a piece of his mind.

At first the younger man had been inclined to rebel; but for once in his
life he found that he had passed the limit of license, and his father,
whom he had rather despised as foolishly pliable, was unexpectedly his
master. He laid before Ferdy, with a power which the latter could not
but acknowledge, the selfishness and brutality of his conduct since he
was a boy. He told him of his own earlier privations, of his labors, of
his ambitions.

"I have worked my heart out," he said, "for your mother and for you. I
have never known a moment of rest or of what you call 'fun.' I set it
before me when your mother promised to marry me that I would make her as
good as the first lady in the land--that is, in New York. She should
have as big a house and as fine a carriage and as handsome frocks as any
one of them--as old Mrs. Wentworth or old Mrs. Brooke of Brookford, who
were the biggest people I ever knew. And I have spent my life for it. I
have grown old before my time. I have gotten so that things have lost
their taste to me; I have done things that I never dreamed I would do to
accomplish it. I have lost the power to sleep working for it, and when
you came I thought I would have my reward in you. I have not only never
stinted you, but I have lavished money on you as if I was the richest
man in New York. I wanted you to have advantages that I never had: as
good as Norman Wentworth or any one else. I have given you things, and
seen you throw them away, that I would have crawled on my knees from my
old home to this office to get when I was a boy. And I thought you were
going to be my pride and my stay and my reward. And you said you were
doing it, and your mother and I had staked our hearts on you. And all
the time you were running away and lying to me and to her, and not doing
one honest lick of work."

The young man interrupted him. "That is not so," he said surlily.

His father pulled out a drawer and took from it a letter. Spreading it
open on his desk, he laid the palm of his open hand on it. "Not so? I
have got the proof of it here." He looked at the young man with level
eyes, eyes in which was such a cold gleam that Ferdy's gaze fell.

"I did not expect you to do it for _me_," Aaron Wickersham went on
slowly, never taking his eyes from his son's face, "for I had discovered
that you did not care a button for my wishes; but I did think you would
do it for your mother. For she thought you were a god and worshipped
you. She has been talking for ten years of the time when she would go to
see you come out at the head of your class. She was going to Paris to
get the clothes to wear if you won, and you--" His voice broke--"you
won't even graduate! What will you think next summer when Mrs. Wentworth
is there to see her son, and all the other men and women I know who have
sons who graduate there, and your mother--?" The father's voice broke
completely, and he looked away. Even Ferdy for a moment seemed grave and
regretful. Then after a glance at his father he recovered his composure.

"I'm not to blame," he said surlily, "if she did. It was her fault."

Aaron Wickersham turned on him.

"Stop," he said in a quiet voice. "Not another word. One other word,
and, by God! I'll box your head off your shoulders. Say what you please
about me, but not one word against her. I will take you from college and
put you to sweeping the floor of this office at twenty dollars a month,
and make you live on your salary, too, or starve, if you say one
other word."

Ferdy's face blanched at the implacable anger that blazed in his
father's eyes, but even more at the coldness of the gleam. It made
him shiver.

A little later young Wickersham entered his father's office, and though
he was not much liked by the older clerks, it soon appeared that he had
found a congenial occupation and one for which he had a natural gift.
For the first time in his life he appeared inclined to work.



CHAPTER V

THE RIDGE COLLEGE

The school over which Gordon had undertaken to preside was not a very
advanced seminary of learning, and possibly the young teacher did not
impart to his pupils a great deal of erudition.

His predecessors in the schoolmaster's chair had been, like their
patrons, the product of a system hardly less conservative than that of
the Locrians. Any one who proposed an innovation would have done so with
a rope about his neck, and woe to him if it proved unsuccessful.

When Gordon reported first to the squire, the old man was manifestly
pleased.

"Why, you've growed considerable. I didn't have no idea you'd be so big
a man." He measured him with satisfaction. "You must be nigh as big
as your pa."

"I'm broader across the shoulders, but not so tall," said the young man.

"He is a pretty tall man," said the squire, slowly, with the light of
reflection in his eye. "You're a-goin' to try the Ridge College, are
you?" He had a quizzical twinkle in his eye as it rested on the younger
man's face.

"I'm going to try it." And Gordon's face lit up. "I don't know much, but
I'll do the best I can."

His modesty pleased the other.

"You know more than Jake Dennison, I reckon, except about devilment. I
was afred you mightn't be quite up to the place here; you was rather
young when I seen you last." He measured him as he might have done a
young bullock.

"Oh, I fancy I shall be," interrupted the young man, flushing at the
suggestion.

"You've got to learn them Dennison boys, and them Dennison boys is
pretty hard to learn anything. You will need all the grit you've got."

"Oh, I'll teach them," asserted Gordon, confidently. The old man's eye
rested on him.

"'Tain't _teachin'_ I'm a-talkin' about. It's _learnin'_ I'm tellin' you
they need. You've got to learn 'em a good deal, or they'll learn you.
Them Dennison boys is pretty slow at learnin'."

The young man intimated that he thought he was equal to it.

"Well, we'll see," grunted the old fellow, with something very like a
twinkle in his deep eyes. "Not as they'll do you any harm without you
undertake to interfere with them," he drawled. "But you're pretty young
to manage 'em jest so; you ain't quite big enough either, and you're too
big to git in through the cat-hole. And I allow that you don't stand no
particular show after the first week or so of gittin' into the house any
other way."

"I'll get in, though, and I won't go in through the cat-hole either.
I'll promise you that, if you'll sustain me."

"Oh, I'll sustain you," drawled the squire. "I'll sustain you in
anything you do, except to pizon 'em with _slow_ pizon, and I ain't
altogether sure that wouldn' be jest manslaughter."

"All right." Keith's eyes snapped, and presently, as the outer man's
gaze rested on him, his snapped also.

So the compact was struck, and the trustee went on to give further
information.

"Your hours will be as usual," said he: "from seven to two and fo' to
six in summer, and half-past seven to two and three to five in winter,
and you'll find all the books necessary in the book-chist. We had to
have 'em locked up to keep 'em away from the rats and the
dirt-daubers. Some of 'em's right smartly de-faced, but I reckon you'll
git on with 'em all right."

"Well, those are pretty long hours," said Gordon. "Seems to me they had
better be shortened. I shall--"

"Them's the usual hours," interrupted the old man, positively. "I've
been trustee now for goin' on twenty-six year, an' th'ain't never been
any change in 'em. An' I ain't see as they've ever been too
long--leastways, I never see as the scholars ever learned too much in
'em. They ain't no longer than a man has to work in the field, and the
work's easier."

Gordon looked at the old man keenly. It was his first battle, and it had
come on at once, as his father had warned him. The struggle was bitter,
if brief, but he conquered--conquered himself. The old countryman's face
had hardened.

"If you want to give satisfaction you'd better try to learn them
scholars an' not the trustees," he said dryly. "The Dennison boys is
hard, but we're harder."

Gordon looked at him quickly. His eyes were resting on him, and had a
little twinkle in them.

"We're a little like the old fellow 'at told the young preacher 'at he'd
better stick to abusin' the sins of Esau and Jacob and David and Peter,
an' let the sins o' that congregation alone."

"I'll try and give you satisfaction," said Keith.

The squire appeared pleased. His face relaxed and his tone changed.

"_You_ won't have no trouble," he said good-humoredly. "Not if you're
like your father. I told 'em you was his son, an' I'd be responsible
for you."

Gordon Keith looked at him with softened eyes. A mention of his father
always went to his heart.

"I'll try and give you satisfaction," he said earnestly. "Will you do me
a favor?"

"Yes."

"Will you come over to the examination of the school when it opens, and
then let me try the experiment of running it my way for, say, two
months, and then come to another examination? Then if I do not satisfy
you I'll do anything you say; I'll go back to the old way."

"Done," said the trustee, cordially. And so, Gordon Keith won another
victory, and started the school under favorable auspices.

Adam Rawson asked him to come and live at his house. "You might give
Phrony a few extra lessons to fit her for a bo'din'-school," he said. "I
want her to have the best edvantages."

Keith soon ingratiated himself further with the old squire. He broke his
young horses for him, drove his wagon, mended his vehicles, and was
ready to turn his hand to anything that came up about the place.

As his confidence in the young man grew, the squire let Keith into a
secret.

"You mind when you come up here with that young man from the
North,--that engineer fellow,--what come a-runnin' of a railroad
a-hellbulgin' through this country, and was a-goin' to carry off all the
coal from the top of the Alleghanies spang down to Torment?" Keith
remembered. "Well, he was right persuasive," continued the squire, "and
I thought if all that money was a-goin' to be made and them railroads
had to come, like he said, jest as certain as water runnin' down a hill,
I might as well git some of it. I had a little slipe or two up there
before, and havin' a little money from my cattle, lumber, and sich, I
went in and bought a few slipes more, jest to kind of fill in like, and
Phrony's growin' up, and I'm a-thinkin' it is about time to let the
railroads come in; so, if you kin git your young man, let him know I've
kind o' changed my mind."

Miss Euphronia Tripper had grown up into a plump and pretty country girl
of fifteen or sixteen, whose rosy cheeks, flaxen hair, and blue eyes,
as well as the fact that she was the only heiress of the old squire, who
was one of the "best-fixed" men in all that "country," made her quite
the belle of the region. She had already made a deep impression on both
big Jake Dennison and his younger brother Dave. Dave was secretly in
love with her, but Jake was openly so, a condition which he manifested
by being as plainly and as hopelessly bound in her presence as a bear
cub tangled in a net. For her benefit he would show feats of strength
which might have done credit to a boy-Hercules; but let her turn on him
the glow of her countenance, and he was a hopeless mass of
perspiring idiocy.

Keith found her a somewhat difficult pupil to deal with. She was much
more intent on making an impression on him than on progressing in
her studies.

After the first shyness of her intercourse with the young teacher had
worn off, she began for a while rather to make eyes at him, which if
Keith ever dreamed of, he never gave the least sign of it. She,
therefore, soon abandoned the useless campaign, and for a time held him
in mingled awe and disdain.

The Ridge College was a simple log-building of a single room, with a
small porch in front, built of hewn logs and plastered inside.

Gordon Keith, on entering on his new duties, found his position much
easier than he had been led to expect.

Whether it was the novelty of the young teacher's quiet manner, clear
eyes, broad shoulders, and assured bearing, or the idea of the
examination with which he undertook to begin the session, he had a week
of surprising quiet. The school filled day after day, and even the noted
Dennison boys, from Jacob Dennison, the strapping six-foot senior, down
to Dave, who was the youngest and smartest of the three, appeared duly
every morning, and treated the young teacher with reasonable civility,
if with somewhat insolent familiarity.

The day of the examination Squire Rawson attended, solemn and pompous
with a superfluity of white shirt-front. Brief as was the examination,
it revealed to Keith an astonishing state of ignorance of the simplest
things. It was incredible to him that, with so many hours of so-called
study, so little progress had been made. He stated this in plain
language, and outlined his plan for shorter hours and closer
application. A voice from the boys' side muttered that the owner did not
see anything the matter with the old hours. They were good enough for
them. Keith turned quickly:

"What is that?"

There was no answer.

"What is that, Dennison?" he demanded. "I thought I heard you speak."

"Wall, if you did, I warn't speakin' to you," said Jacob Dennison,
surlily.

"Well, when you speak in school, address yourself to me," said Keith. He
caught Euphronia Tripper's eyes on him.

"I mought an' I moughtn't," said Jacob, insolently.

"I propose to see that you do."

Jacob's reply was something between a grunt and a sneer, and the school
rustled with a sound very much like applause.

Next morning, on his arrival at school, Keith found the door fastened on
the inside. A titter from within revealed the fact that it was no
accident, and the guffaw of derision that greeted his sharp command that
the door should be opened immediately showed that the Dennison boys were
up to their old tricks.

"Open the door, Jake Dennison, instantly!" he called.

The reply was sung through the keyhole:

"'Ole Molly hyah, what you doin' dyah? Settin' in de cordner, smokin' a
ciggyah.'"

It was little Dave's voice, and was followed by a puff of tobacco smoke
through the keyhole and a burst of laughter led by Phrony Tripper.

An axe was lying at the woodpile near by, and in two minutes the door
was lying in splinters on the school-house floor, and Keith, with a
white face and a dangerous tremble in his voice, was calling the amazed
school to order. He heard the lessons through, and at noon, the hour he
had named the day before, dismissed all the younger scholars. The
Dennisons and one or two larger boys he ordered to remain. As the
scholars filed out, there was a colloquy between Jacob Dennison and his
younger brother Dave. Dave had the brains of the family, and he was
whispering to Jake. Keith moved his chair and seated himself near the
door. There was a brief muttered conversation among the Dennisons, and
then Jake Dennison rose, put on his hat slowly, and, addressing the
other boys, announced that he didn't know what they were going to do,
but he was "a-gwine home and git ready to go and see the dance up
at Gates's."

He swaggered toward the door, the others following in his wake.

Keith rose from his seat.

"Go back to your places." He spoke so quietly that his voice could
scarcely be heard.

"Go nowhere! You go to h----l!" sneered the big leader, contemptuously.
"'Tain't no use for you to try to stop me--I kin git away with two
like you."

Perhaps, he could have done so, but Keith was too quick for him. He
seized the split-bottomed chair from which he had risen, and whirling it
high above his head, brought it crashing down on his assailant, laying
him flat on the floor. Then, without a second's hesitation, he sprang
toward the others.

"Into your seats instantly!" he shouted, as he raised once more the
damaged, but still formidable, weapon. By an instinct the mutineers fell
into the nearest seats, and Keith turned back to his first opponent,
who was just rising from the floor with a dazed look on his face. A few
drops of blood were trickling down his forehead.

[Illustration: "If you don't go back to your seat, I'll dash your brains
out," said Keith.]

"If you don't go to your seat instantly, I'll dash your brains out,"
said Keith, looking him full in the eye. He still grasped the chair, and
as he tightened his grip on it, the crestfallen bully sank down on the
bench and broke into a whimper about a grown man hitting a boy with
a chair.

Suddenly Keith, in the moment of victory, found himself attacked in the
rear. One of the smaller boys, who had gone out with the rest, hearing
the fight, had rushed back, and, just as Keith drove Jake Dennison to
his seat, sprang on him like a little wild-cat. Turning, Keith seized
and held him.

"What are you doing, Dave Dennison, confound you?" he demanded angrily.

"I'm one of 'em," blubbered the boy, trying to reach him with both fist
and foot. "I don't let nobody hit my brother."

Keith found that he had more trouble in quelling Dave, the smallest
member of the Dennison tribe, than in conquering the bigger brothers.

"Sit down and behave yourself," he said, shoving him into a seat and
holding him there. "I'm not going to hit him again if he
behaves himself."

Keith, having quieted Dave, looked to see that Jake was not much hurt.
He took out his handkerchief.

"Take that and wipe your face with it," he said quietly, and taking from
his desk his inkstand and some writing-paper, he seated himself on a
bench near the door and began to write letters. It grew late, but the
young teacher did not move. He wrote letter after letter. It began to
grow dark; he simply lit the little lamp on his desk, and taking up a
book, settled down to read; and when at last he rose and announced that
the culprits might go home, the wheezy strains of the three instruments
that composed the band at Gates's had long since died out, and Gordon
Keith was undisputed master of Ridge College.

His letter to the trustees was delivered that morning, saying that if
they would sustain his action he would do his best to make the school
the best in that section; but if not, his resignation was in
their hands.

"I guess he is the sort of medicine those youngsters need," said Dr.
Balsam. "We'd better let it work."

"I reckon he can ride 'em," said Squire Rawson.

It was voted to sustain him.

The fact that a smooth-faced boy, not as heavy as Jake Dennison by
twenty pounds, had "faced down" and quelled the Dennisons all three
together, and kept Jake Dennison from going where he wanted to go,
struck the humor of the trustees, and they stood by their teacher almost
unanimously, and even voted to pay for a new door, which he had offered
to pay for himself, as he said he might have to chop it down again. Not
that there was not some hostility to him among those to whom his methods
were too novel; but when he began to teach his pupils boxing, and showed
that with his fists he was more than a match for Jake Dennison, the
chief opposition to him died out; and before the year ended, Jake
Dennison, putting into practice the art he had learned from his teacher,
had thrashed Mr. William Bluffy, the cock of another walk high up across
the Ridge, for ridiculing the "newfangled foolishness" of Ridge College,
and speaking of its teacher as a "dom-fool furriner." Little Dave
Dennison, of all those opposed to him, alone held out. He appeared to be
proof against Keith's utmost efforts to be friends.

One day, however, Dave Dennison did not come to school. Keith learned
that he had fallen from a tree and broken his leg--"gettin' hawks' eggs
for Phrony," Keith's informant reported. Phrony was quite scornful about
it, but a little perky as well.

"If a boy was such a fool as to go up a tree when he had been told it
wouldn't hold him, she could not help it. She did not want the eggs,
anyhow," she said disdainfully. This was all the reward that little Dave
got for his devotion and courage.

That afternoon Keith went over the Ridge to see Dave.

The Dennison home was a small farm-house back of the Ridge, in what was
known as a "cove," an opening in the angle between the mountains, where
was a piece of level or partly level ground on the banks of one of the
little mountain creeks. When Keith arrived he found Mrs. Dennison, a
small, angular woman with sharp eyes, a thin nose, and thin lips, very
stiff and suspicious. She had never forgiven Keith for his victory over
her boys, and she looked now as if she would gladly have set the dogs on
him instead of calling them off as she did when he strode up the path
and the yelping pack dashed out at him.

She "didn' know how Dave was," she said glumly. "The Doctor said he was
better. She couldn' see no change. Yes, he could go in, she s'posed, if
he wanted to," she said ungraciously.

Keith entered. The boy was lying on a big bed, his head resting against
the frame of the little opening which went for a window, through which
he was peeping wistfully out at the outside world from which he was to
be shut off for so many weary weeks. He returned Keith's greeting in the
half-surly way in which he had always received his advances since the
day of the row; but when Keith sat down on the bed and began to talk to
him cheerily of his daring in climbing where no one else had ventured to
go, he thawed out, and presently, when Keith drifted on to other stories
of daring, he began to be interested, and after a time grew
almost friendly.

He was afraid they might have to cut his leg off. His mother, who always
took a gloomy view of things, had scared him by telling him she thought
it might have to be done; but Keith was able to reassure him. The Doctor
had told him that, while the fracture was very bad, the leg would
be saved.

"If he had not been as hard as a lightwood knot, that fall would have
mashed him up," said the Doctor. This compliment Keith repeated, and it
evidently pleased Dave. The pale face relaxed into a smile. Keith told
him stories of other boys who had had similar accidents and had turned
them to good account--of Arkwright and Sir William Jones and Commodore
Maury, all of whom had laid the foundation for their future fame when
they were in bed with broken legs.

When Keith came away he left the boy comforted and cheered, and even the
dismal woman at the door gave him a more civil parting than her
greeting had been.

Many an afternoon during the boy's convalescence Keith went over the
Ridge to see him, taking him story-books, and reading to him until he
was strong enough to read himself. And when, weeks later, the lame boy
was able to return to school, Keith had no firmer friend in all the
Ridge region than Dave Dennison, and Dave had made a mental progress
which, perhaps, he would not have made in as many months at school, for
he had received an impulse to know and to be something more than he was.
He would show Phrony who he was.

It was fine to Gordon to feel that he was earning his own living. He was
already making his way in the world, and often from this first rung of
the ladder the young teacher looked far up the shining steep to where
Fame and Glory beckoned with their radiant hands. He would be known. He
would build bridges that should eclipse Stevenson's. He would be like
Warren Hastings, and buy back the home of his fathers and be a great
gentleman.

The first pay that he received made him a capitalist. He had no idea
before of the joy of wealth. He paid it to old Rawson.

"There is the first return for your investment," he said.

"I don' know about its bein' the first return," said the squire, slowly;
"but an investment ain't done till it's all returned." His keen eyes
were on Keith's face.

"I know it," said Keith, laughing.

But for Dr. Balsam, Keith sometimes thought that he must have died that
first winter, and, in fact, the young man did owe a great deal to the
tall, slab-sided man, whose clothes hung on him so loosely that he
appeared in the distance hardly more than a rack to support them. As he
came nearer he was a simple old countryman with a deeply graved face and
unkempt air. On nearer view still, you found the deep gray eyes both
shrewd and kindly; the mouth under its gray moustache had fine lines,
and at times a lurking smile, which yet had in it something grave.

To Dr. Balsam, Keith owed a great deal more than he himself knew at the
time. For it is only by looking back that Youth can gauge the steps by
which it has climbed.



CHAPTER VI

ALICE YORKE

It is said that in Brazil a small stream which rises under a bank in a
gentleman's garden, after flowing a little distance, encounters a rock
and divides into two branches, one of which flows northward and empties
into the Amazon, whilst the other, turning to the southward, pours its
waters into the Rio del Plata. A very small obstruction caused the
divergence and determined the course of those two streams. So it is
in life.

One afternoon in the early Spring, Gordon Keith was walking home from
school, his books under his arm, when, so to speak, he came on the stone
that turned him from his smooth channel and shaped his course in life.

He was going to break a colt for Squire Rawson that afternoon, so he was
hurrying; but ever as he strode along down the winding road, the
witchery of the tender green leaves and the odors of Spring filled eyes
and nostrils, and called to his spirit with that subtle voice which has
stirred Youth since Youth's own Spring awoke amid the leafy trees. In
its call were freedom, and the charm of wide spaces, and the unspoken
challenge of Youth to the world, and haunting vague memories, and
whisperings of unuttered love, and all that makes Youth Youth.

Presently Gordon became aware that a little ahead of him, under the
arching boughs, were two children who were hunting for something in the
road, and one of them was crying. At the same moment there turned the
curve beyond them, coming toward him, a girl on horseback. He watched
her with growing interest as she galloped toward him, for he saw that
she was young and a stranger. Probably she was from "the Springs," as
she was riding one of Gates's horses and was riding him hard.

The rider drew in her horse and stopped as she came up to the children.
Keith heard her ask what was the matter with the little one, and the
older child's reply that she was crying because she had lost her money.
"She was goin' to buy candy with it at the store, but dropped it."

The girl sprang from her horse.

"Oh, you poor little thing! Come here, you dear little kitten. I'll give
you some money. Won't you hold my horse? He won't hurt you." This to the
elder child.

She threw herself on her knees in the road, as regardless of the dust as
were the children, and drawing the sobbing child close to her, took her
handkerchief from her pocket and gently wiped its little, dirty, smeared
face, and began comforting it in soothing tones. Keith had come up and
stood watching her with quickening breath. All he could see under her
hat was an oval chin and the dainty curve of a pink cheek where it faded
into snow, and at the back of a small head a knot of brown hair resting
on the nape of a shapely neck. For the rest, she had a trim figure and
wore new gloves which fitted perfectly. Keith mentally decided that she
must be about sixteen or seventeen years old, and, from the glimpse he
had caught of her, must be pretty. He became conscious suddenly that he
had on his worst suit of clothes.

"Good evening," he said, raising his hand to his hat.

The girl glanced up just as the hat was lifted.

"How do you do?"

Their eyes met, and the color surged into Keith's face, and the hat came
off with quite a flourish.

Why, she was beautiful! Her eyes were as blue as wet violets.

"I will help you hunt for it," he said half guilefully, half kindly.
"Where did she drop it?" He did not take his eyes from the picture of
the slim figure on her knees.

"She has lost her money, poor little dear! She was on her way to the
store to buy candy, and lost all her money."

At this fresh recital of her loss, the little, smeared face began to
pucker again. But the girl cleared it with a kiss.

"There, don't cry. I will give you some. How much was it? A nickel! A
whole nickel!" This with the sweetest smile. "Well, you shall have a
quarter, and that's four nickels--I mean five."

"She is not strong on arithmetic," said Keith to himself. "She is like
Phrony in that."

She began to feel about her skirt, and her face changed.

"Oh, I haven't a cent. I have left my purse at the hotel." This was to
Keith.

"Let me give it to her." And he also began to feel in his pocket, but as
he did so his countenance fell. He, too, had not a cent.

"I have left my purse at home, too," he said. "We shall have to do like
the woman in the Bible, and sweep diligently till we find the money
she lost."

"We are a pauper lot," said Alice Yorke, with a little laugh. Then, as
she glanced into the child's big eyes that were beginning to be troubled
again, she paused. The next second she drew a small bracelet from her
wrist, and began to pull at a small gold charm. "Here, you shall have
this; this is gold."

"Oh, don't do that," said Keith. "She wouldn't appreciate it, and it is
a pity to spoil your bracelet."

She glanced up at him with a little flash in her blue eyes, as a
vigorous twist broke the little gold piece from its chain.

"She shall have it. There, see how she is smiling. I have enjoyed it,
and I am glad to have you have it. Now, you can get your candy.
Now, kiss me."

Somehow, the phrase and the tone brought back to Keith a hill-top
overlooking an English village, and a blue lake below, set like a
mirror among the green hills. A little girl in white, with brown eyes,
was handing a doll to another child even more grimy than this one. The
reminiscence came to him like a picture thrown by a magic lantern.

The child, without taking her eyes from the tiny bit of metal, put up
her little mouth, and the girl kissed her, only to have the kiss wiped
off with the chubby, dirty little hand.

The next moment the two little ones started down the road, their heads
close together over the bit of yellow gold. Then it was that Alice Yorke
for the first time took a real look at Keith,--a look provoked by the
casual glance she had had of him but a moment before,--and as she did so
the color stole up into her cheeks, as she thought of the way in which
she had just addressed him. But for his plain clothes he looked quite a
gentleman. He had a really good figure; straight, broad shoulders, and
fine eyes.

"Can you tell me what time it is?" she asked, falteringly. "I left my
watch at the hotel."

"I haven't a watch; but I think it must be about four o'clock--it was
half-past three when I left school, by the school clock; I am not sure
it was just right."

"Thank you." She looked at her horse. "I must get back to the hotel. Can
you--?"

Keith forestalled her.

"May I help you up?'

"Thanks. Do you know how to mount me?"

"I think so," he said airily, and stepped up close to her, to lift her
by the elbows to her saddle. She put out a foot clad in a very pretty,
neat shoe. She evidently expected Keith to let her step into his hand.
He knew of this mode of helping a lady up, but he had never tried it.
And, though he stooped and held his hand as if quite accustomed to it,
he was awkward about it, and did not lift her; so she did not get up.

"I don't think you can do it that way," said the girl.

"I don't think so either," said Keith. "I must learn it. But I know how
to do it this way." He caught her by both elbows. "Now jump!"

Taken by surprise she gave a little spring, and he lifted her like a
feather, and seated her in her saddle.

As she rode away, he stood aside and lifted his hat with an air that
surprised her. Also, as she rode away, he remarked that she sat her
horse very well and had a very straight, slim figure; but the picture of
her kneeling in the dust, with her arm around the little sobbing child,
was what he dwelt on.

Just as she disappeared, a redbird in its gorgeous uniform flitted
dipping across the road, and, taking his place in a bush, began to sing
imperiously for his mate.

"Ah, you lucky rascal," thought Keith, "you don't get caught by a pretty
girl, in a ragged coat. You have your best clothes on every day."

Next second, as the bird's rich notes rang out, a deeper feeling came to
him, and a wave of dissatisfaction with his life swept over him. He
suddenly seemed lonelier than he had been. Then the picture of the girl
on her knees came back to him, and his heart softened toward her. He
determined to see her again. Perhaps, Dr. Balsam knew her?

As the young girl rode back to the hotel she had her reward in a
pleasant sensation. She had done a good deed in helping to console a
little child, and no kindness ever goes without this reward. Besides,
she had met a young, strange man, a country boy, it was true, and very
plainly dressed, but with the manner and tone of a gentleman, quite
good-looking, and very strong. Strength, mere physical strength, appeals
to all girls at certain ages, and Miss Alice Yorke's thoughts quite
softened toward the stranger. Why, he as good as picked her up! He must
be as strong as Norman Wentworth, who stroked his crew. She recalled
with approval his good shoulders.

She would ask the old Doctor who he was. He was a pleasant old man, and
though her mother and Mrs. Nailor, another New York lady, did not like
the idea of his being the only doctor at the Springs, he had been very
nice to her. He had seen her sitting on the ground the day before and
had given her his buggy-robe to sit on, saying, with a smile, "You must
not sit on the wet ground, or you may fall into my hands."

"I might do worse," she had said. And he had looked at her with his deep
eyes twinkling.

"Ah, you young minx! When do you begin flattering? And at what age do
you let men off?"

When Miss Alice Yorke arrived at the hotel she found her mother and Mrs.
Nailor engaged in an animated conversation on the porch.

The girl told of the little child she had found crying in the road, and
gave a humorous account of the young countryman trying to put her on
her horse.

"He was very good-looking, too," she declared gayly. "I think he must be
studying for the ministry, like Mr. Rimmon, for he quoted the Bible."

Both Mrs. Yorke and Mrs. Nailor thought it rather improper for her to be
riding alone on the public roads.

The next day Keith put on his best suit of clothes when he went to
school, and that afternoon he walked home around the Ridge, as he had
done the day before, thinking that possibly he might meet the girl
again, but he was disappointed. The following afternoon he determined to
go over to the Springs and see if she was still there and find out who
she was. Accordingly, he left the main road, which ran around the base
of the Ridge, and took a foot-path which led winding up through the
woods over the Ridge. It was a path that Gordon often chose when he
wanted to be alone. The way was steep and rocky, and was so little used
that often he never met any one from the time he plunged into the woods
until he emerged from them on the other side of the Ridge. In some
places the pines were so thick that it was always twilight among them;
in others they rose high and stately in the full majesty of primeval
growth, keeping at a distance from each other, as though, like another
growth, the higher they got the more distant they wished to hold all
others. Trees have so much in common with men, it is no wonder that the
ancients, who lived closer to both than we do nowadays, fabled that
minds of men sometimes inhabited their trunks.

Gordon Keith was in a particularly gloomy frame of mind on this day. He
had been trying to inspire in his pupils some conception of the poetry
contained in history. He told them the story of Hannibal--his aim, his
struggles, his conquest. As he told it the written record took life, and
he marched and fought and lived with the great Carthaginian
captain--lived for conquest.

"Beyond the Alps lies Italy." He had read the tale with lips that
quivered with feeling, but as he looked up at his little audience, he
met only listless eyes and dull faces. A big boy was preparing a pin to
evoke from a smaller neighbor the attention he himself was withholding.
The neighbor was Dave Dennison. Dave was of late actually trying to
learn something. Dave was the only boy who was listening. A little girl
with a lisp was trying in vain to divide her attention between the story
and an imprisoned fly the boy next her was torturing, whilst Phrony was
reading a novel on the sly. The others were all engaged in any other
occupation than thinking of Hannibal or listening to the reader.

Gordon had shut the book in a fit of disappointment and disgust and
dismissed the school, and now he was trying with very poor success to
justify himself for his outbreak of impatience. His failure spoiled the
pleasure he had anticipated in going to the Springs to find out who the
Madonna of the Dust was.

At a spot high up on the rocky backbone, one could see for a long way
between the great brownish-gray trunks, and Gordon turned out of the dim
path to walk on the thick brown carpet of pine-needles. It was a
favorite spot with Gordon, and here he read Keats and Poe and other
poets of melancholy, so dear to a young man's heart.

Beyond the pines at their eastern edge, a great crag jutted forth in a
sort of shoulder, a vast flying-buttress that supported the pine-clad
Ridge above--a mighty stone Atlas carrying the hills on its shoulder.
From this rock one looked out eastward over the rolling country below to
where, far beyond sloping hills covered with forest, it merged into a
soft blue that faded away into the sky itself. In that misty space lay
everything that Gordon Keith had known and loved in the past. Off there
to the eastward was his old home, with its wide fields, its deep
memories. There his forefathers had lived for generations and had been
the leaders, making their name always the same with that of gentleman.

Farther away, beyond that dim line lay the great world, the world of
which he had had as a boy a single glimpse and which he would
yet conquer.

Keith had climbed to the crest of the Ridge and was making his way
through the great pines to the point where the crag jutted out sheer and
massive, overlooking the reaches of rolling country below, when he
lifted his eyes, and just above him, half seated, half reclining against
a ledge of rock, was the very girl he had seen two days before. Her eyes
were closed, and her face was so white that the thought sprang into
Keith's mind that she was dead, and his heart leaped into his throat. At
the distance of a few yards he stopped and scanned her closely. She had
on a riding-habit; her hat had fallen on her neck; her dark hair,
loosened, lay about her throat, increasing the deep pallor of her face.
Keith's pity changed into sorrow. Suddenly, as he leaned forward, his
heart filled with a vague grief, she opened her eyes--as blue as he
remembered them, but now misty and dull. She did not stir or speak, but
gazed at him fixedly for a little space, and then the eyes closed again
wearily, her head dropped over to the side, and she began to sink down.

Gordon sprang forward to keep her from rolling down the bank. As he
gently caught and eased her down on the soft carpeting of pine-needles,
he observed how delicate her features were; the blue veins showed
clearly on her temples and the side of her throat, and her face had that
refinement that unconsciousness often gives.

Gordon knew that the best thing to do was to lower her head and unfasten
her collar. As he loosened the collar, the whiteness of her throat
struck him almost dazzlingly. Instinctively he took the little crumpled
handkerchief that lay on the pine carpet beside her, and spread it over
her throat reverently. He lifted her limp hand gently and felt her
little wrist for her pulse.

Just then her eyelids quivered; her lips moved slightly, stopped, moved
again with a faint sigh; and then her eyelids opened slowly, and again
those blue eyes gazed up at him with a vague inquiry.

The next second she appeared to recover consciousness. She drew a long,
deep breath, as though she were returning from some unknown deep, and a
faint little color flickered in her cheek.

"Oh, it's you?" she said, recognizing him. "How do you do? I think I
must have hurt myself when I fell. I tried to ride my horse down the
bank, and he slipped and fell with me, and I do not remember much after
that. He must have run away. I tried to walk, but--but I am better now.
Could you catch my horse for me?"

Keith rose and, followed the horse's track for some distance along the
little path. When he returned, the girl was still seated against
the rock.

"Did you see him?" she asked languidly, sitting up.

"I am afraid that he has gone home. He was galloping. I could tell from
his tracks."

"I think I can walk. I must."

She tried to rise, but, with the pain caused by the effort, the blood
sprang to her cheek for a second and then fled back to her heart, and
she sank back, her teeth catching her lip sharply to keep down an
expression of anguish.

"I must get back. If my horse should reach, the hotel without me, my
mother will be dreadfully alarmed. I promised her to be back by--"

Gordon did not hear what the hour was, for she turned away her face and
began to cry quietly. She tried to brush the tears away with her
fingers; but one or two slipped past and dropped on her dress. With face
still averted, she began to feel about her dress for her handkerchief;
but being unable to find it, she gave it up.

There was something about her crying so quietly that touched the young
man very curiously. She seemed suddenly much younger, quite like a
little girl, and he felt like kissing her to comfort her. He did the
next thing.

"Don't cry," he said gently. "Here, take mine." He pressed his
handkerchief on her. He blessed Heaven that it was uncrumpled.

Now there is something about one's lending another a handkerchief that
goes far toward breaking down the barriers of conventionality and
bridges years. Keith in a moment had come to feel a friendliness for the
girl that he might not have felt in years, and he began to soothe her.

"I don't know what is the matter--with me," she said, as she dried her
eyes. "I am not--usually so--weak and foolish. I was only afraid my
mother would think something had happened to me--and she has not been
very well." She made a brave effort to command herself, and sat up very
straight. "There. Thank you very much." She handed him his handkerchief
almost grimly. "Now I am all right. But I am afraid I cannot walk. I
tried, but--. You will have to go and get me a carriage, if you please."

Keith rose and began to gather up his books and stuff them in his
pockets.

"No carriage can get up here; the pines are too thick below, and there
is no road; but I will carry you down to where a vehicle can come, and
then get you one."

She took a glance at his spare figure. "You cannot carry me, you are
not strong enough I want you to get me a carriage or a wagon, please.
You can go to the hotel. We are stopping at the Springs."

By this time Gordon had forced the books into his pocket, and he squared
himself before her.

"Now," he said, without heeding her protest; and leaning down, he
slipped his arms under her and lifted her as tenderly and as easily as
if she had been a little girl.

As he bore her along, the pain subsided, and she found opportunity to
take a good look at his face. His profile was clean-cut; the mouth was
pleasant and curved slightly upward, but, under the weight he was
carrying, was so close shut as to bring out the chin boldly. The
cheekbones were rather high; the gray eyes were wide open and full of
light. And as he advanced, walking with easy strides where the path was
smooth, picking his way carefully where it was rough, the color rose
under the deep tan of his cheeks.

She was the first to break the silence. She had been watching the rising
color in his face, the dilation of his nostrils, and feeling the
quickening rise and fall of his chest.

"Put me down now and rest; you are tired."

"I am not tired." He trudged on. He would show her that if he had not
been able to mount her on her horse, at least it was not from lack
of strength.

"Please put me down; it pains me," she said guilefully. He stopped
instantly, and selecting a clear place, seated her softly.

"I beg your pardon. I was a brute, thinking only of myself."

He seated himself near her, and stole a glance at her face. Their eyes
met, and he looked away. He thought her quite beautiful.

To break the silence, she asked, a little tone of politeness coming into
her voice: "May I inquire what your name is? I am Miss Yorke--Miss Alice
Yorke," she added, intending to make him feel at ease.

"Gordon Keith is my name. Where are you from?" His manner was again
perfectly easy.

"From New York."

"I thought you were."

She fancied that a little change came over his face and into his manner,
and she resented it. She looked down the hill. Without a word he rose
and started to lift her again. She made a gesture of dissent. But before
she could object further, he had lifted her again, and, with steady eyes
bent on the stony path, was picking his way down the steep hill.

"I am dreadfully sorry," he said kindly, as she gave a start over a
little twinge. "It is the only way to get down. No vehicle could get up
here at present, unless it were some kind of a flying chariot like
Elijah's. It is only a little farther now."

What a pleasant voice he had! Every atom of pride and protection in his
soul was enlisted.

When they reached the road, the young lady wanted Gordon to go off and
procure a vehicle at the hotel. But he said he could not leave her alone
by the roadside; he would carry her on to a house only a little way
around the bend.

"Why, I can carry a sack of salt," he said, with boyish pride, standing
before her very straight and looking down on her with frank eyes.

Her eyes flashed in dudgeon over the comparison.

"A girl is very different from a sack of salt."

"Not always--Lot's wife, for instance. If you keep on looking back, you
don't know what may happen to you. Come on."

Just then a vehicle rapidly driven was heard in the distance, and the
next moment it appeared in sight.

"There comes mamma now," said the girl, waving to the lady in it.

Mrs. Yorke sprang from the carriage as soon as it drew up. She was a
handsome woman of middle age and was richly dressed. She was now in a
panic of motherly solicitude.

"Oh, Alice, how you have frightened me!" she exclaimed. "You were due at
the hotel two hours ago, and when your horse came without you! You will
kill me!" She clapped her hands to her heart and panted. "You know my
heart is weak!"

Alice protested her sorrow, and Keith put in a word for her, declaring
that she had been dreadfully troubled lest the horse should
frighten her.

"And well she might be," exclaimed Mrs. Yorke, giving him a bare glance
and then turning back to her daughter. "Mrs. Nailor was the first who
heard your horse had come home. She ran and told me. And, oh, I was so
frightened! She was sure you were killed."

"You might be sure she would be the first to hear and tell you," said
the girl. "Why, mamma, one always sprains one's knee when one's horse
falls. That is part of the programme. This--gentleman happened to come
along, and helped me down to the road, and we were just discussing
whether I should go on farther when you came up. Mother, this is
Mr. Keith."

Keith bowed. He was for some reason pleased that she did not say
anything of the way in which he had brought her down the Ridge.

Mrs. Yorke turned and thanked him with graciousness, possibly with a
little condescension. He was conscious that she gave him a sweeping
glance, and was sorry his shoes were so old. But Mrs. Yorke took no
further notice of him.

"Oh, what will your father say! You know he wanted us to go to
California; but you would come South. After Mr. Wickersham told you of
his place, nothing else would satisfy you."

"Oh, papa! You know I can settle him," said the girl.

Mrs. Yorke began to lament the wretchedness of a region where there was
no doctor of reputation.

"There is a very fine surgeon in the village. Dr. Balsam is one of the
best surgeons anywhere," said Keith.

"Oh, I know that old man. No doubt, he is good enough for little common
ailments," said Mrs. Yorke, "but in a case like this! What does he know
about surgery?" She turned back to her daughter. "I shall telegraph your
father to send Dr. Pilbury down at once."

Keith flushed at her manner.

"A good many people have to trust their lives to him," he said coldly.
"And he has had about as much surgical practice as most men. He was in
the army."

The girl began again to belittle her injury.

It was nothing, absolutely nothing, she declared.

"And besides," she said, "I know the Doctor. I met him the other day. He
is a dear old man." She ended by addressing Keith.

"One of the best," said Keith, warmly.

"Well, we must get you into the vehicle and take you home immediately,"
said her mother. "Can you help put my daughter into the carriage?" Mrs.
Yorke looked at the driver, a stolid colored man, who was surly over
having had to drive his horses so hard.

Before the man could answer, Gordon stepped forward, and, stooping,
lifted the girl, and quietly put her up into the vehicle. She simply
smiled and said, "Thank you," quite as if she were accustomed to being
lifted into carriages by strange young men whom she had just met on
the roadside.

Mrs. Yorke's eyes opened wide.

"How strong you must be!" she exclaimed, with a woman's admiration for
physical strength.

Keith bowed, and, with a flush mounting to his cheeks, backed a little
away.

"Oh, he has often lifted sacks of salt," said the girl, half turning her
eyes on Keith with a gleam of satisfaction in them.

Mrs. Yorke looked at her in astonishment.

"Why, Alice!" she exclaimed reprovingly under her breath.

"He told me so himself," asserted the girl, defiantly.

"I may have to do so again," said Keith, dryly.

Mrs. Yorke's hand went toward the region of her pocket, but uncertainly;
for she was not quite sure what he was. His face and air belied his
shabby dress. A closer look than she had given him caused her to stop
with a start.

"Mr.--ah--?" After trying to recall the name, she gave it up. "I am very
much obliged to you for your kindness to my daughter," she began. "I do
not know how I can compensate you; but if you will come to the hotel
sometime to-morrow--any time--perhaps, there is something--? Can you
come to the hotel to-morrow?" Her tone was condescending.

"Thank you," said Keith, quietly. "I am afraid I cannot go to the
village to-morrow. I have already been more than compensated in being
able to render a service to a lady. I have a school, and I make it a
rule never to go anywhere except Friday evening or Saturday." He lifted
his hat and backed away.

As they drove away the girl said, "Thank you" and "Good-by," very
sweetly.

"Who is he, Alice? What is he?" asked her mother.

"I don't know. Mr. Keith. He is a gentleman."

As Gordon stood by the roadside and saw the carriage disappear in a haze
of dust, he was oppressed with a curious sense of loneliness. The
isolation of his position seemed to strike him all on a sudden. That
stout, full-voiced woman, with her rich clothes, had interposed between
him and the rest of his kind. She had treated him condescendingly. He
would show her some day who he was. But her daughter! He went off into
a revery.

He turned, and made his way slowly and musingly in the direction of his
home.

A new force had suddenly come into his life, a new land had opened
before him. One young girl had effected it. His school suddenly became a
prison. His field was the world.

As he passed along, scarcely conscious of where he was, he met the very
man of all others he would rather have met--Dr. Balsam. He instantly
informed the Doctor of the accident, and suggested that he had better
hurry on to the Springs.

"A pretty girl, with blue eyes and brown hair?" inquired the Doctor.

"Yes." The color stole into Gordon's cheeks.

"With a silly woman for a mother, who is always talking about her heart
and pats you on the back?"

"I don't know. Yes, I think so."

"I know her. Is the limb broken?" he asked with interest.

"No, I do not think it is; but badly sprained. She fainted from the
pain, I think."

"You say it occurred up on the Ridge?"

"Yes, near the big pines--at the summit."

"Why, how did she get down? There is no road." He was gazing up at the
pine-clad spur above them.

"I helped her down." A little color flushed into his face.

"Ah! You supported her? She can walk on it?"

"Ur--no. I brought her down. I had to bring her. She could not walk--not
a step."

"Oh! ah! I see. I'll hurry on and see how she is."

As he rode off he gave a grunt.

"Humph!" It might have meant any one of several things. Perhaps, what it
did mean was that "Youth is the same the world over, and here is a
chance for this boy to make a fool of himself and he will probably do
it, as I did." As the Doctor jogged on over the rocky road, his brow was
knit in deep reflection; but his thoughts were far away among other
pines on the Piscataqua. That boy's face had turned the dial back nearly
forty years.



CHAPTER VII

MRS. YORKE FINDS A GENTLEMAN

When Mrs. Yorke arrived at the hotel, Dr. Balsam was nowhere to be
found. She was just sending off a messenger to despatch a telegram to
the nearest city for a surgeon, when she saw the Doctor coming up the
hill toward the hotel at a rapid pace.

He tied his horse, and, with his saddle-pockets over his arm, came
striding up the walk. There was something reassuring in the quick, firm
step with which he came toward her. She had not given him credit for so
much energy.

Mrs. Yorke led the way toward her rooms, giving a somewhat highly
colored description of the accident, the Doctor following without a
word, taking off his gloves as he walked. They reached the door, and
Mrs. Yorke flung it open with a flurry.

"Here he is at last, my poor child!" she exclaimed.

The sight of Alice lying on a lounge quite effaced Mrs. Yorke from the
Doctor's mind. The next second he had taken the girl's hand, and holding
it with a touch that would not have crumpled a butterfly's wings, he was
taking a flitting gauge of her pulse. Mrs. Yorke continued to talk
volubly, but the Doctor took no heed of her.

"A little rest with fixation, madam, is all that is necessary," he said
quietly, at length, when he had made an examination. "But it must be
rest, entire rest of limb and body--and mind," he added after a pause.
"Will you ask Mrs. Gates to send me a kettle of hot water as soon as
possible?"

Mrs. Yorke had never been so completely ignored by any physician. She
tossed her head, but she went to get the water.

"So my young man Keith found you and brought you down the Ridge?" said
the Doctor presently to the girl.

"Yes; how do you know?" she asked, her blue eyes wide open with
surprise.

"Never mind; I may tell you next time I come, if you get well quickly,"
he said smiling.

"Who is he?" she asked.

"He is the teacher of the school over the Ridge--what is known as the
Ridge College," said the Doctor, with a smile.

Just at this moment Mrs. Yorke bustled in.

"Alice, I thought the Doctor said you were not to talk."

The Doctor's face wore an amused expression.

"Well, just one more question," said the girl to him. "How much does a
sack of salt weigh?"

"About two hundred pounds. To be accurate,--"

"No wonder he said I was light," laughed the girl.

"Who is a young man named Keith--a school-boy, who lives about here?"
inquired Mrs. Yorke, suddenly.

"The Keiths do not live about here," said the Doctor. "Gordon Keith, to
whom you doubtless refer, is the son of General Keith, who lives in an
adjoining county below the Ridge. His father was our minister during
the war--"

At this moment the conversation was interrupted by the appearance of
Mrs. Gates with the desired kettle of hot water, and the Doctor,
stopping in the midst of his sentence, devoted all of his attention to
his patient.

The confidence which he displayed and the deftness with which he worked
impressed Mrs. Yorke so much that when he was through she said: "Doctor,
I have been wondering how a man like you could be content to settle down
in this mountain wilderness. I know many fashionable physicians in
cities who could not have done for Alice a bit better than you have
done--indeed, nothing like so well--with such simple appliances."

Dr. Balsam's eyes rested on her gravely. "Well, madam, we could not all
be city doctors. These few sheep in the wilderness need a little
shepherding when they get sick. You must reflect also that if we all
went away there would be no one to look after the city people when they
come to our mountain wilderness; they, at least, need good attendance."

By the time Gordon awoke next morning he had determined that he would
see his new acquaintance again. He must see her; he would not allow her
to go out of his life so; she should, at least, know who he was, and
Mrs. Yorke should know, too.

That afternoon, impelled by some strange motive, he took the path over
the Ridge again. It had been a long day and a wearing one. He had tried
Hannibal once more; but his pupils cared less for Hannibal than for the
bumble-bees droning in the window-frame. For some reason the dull
routine of lessons had been duller than usual. The scholars had never
been so stupid. Again and again the face that he had seen rest on his
arm the day before came between him and his page, and when the eyes
opened they were as blue as forget-me-nots. He would rouse himself with
a start and plunge back bravely into the mysteries of physical geography
or of compound fractions, only to find himself, at the first quiet
moment, picking his way through the pines with that white face resting
against his shoulder.

When school was out he declined the invitation of the boys to walk with
them, and settled himself in his chair as though he meant to prepare the
lessons for the next day. After a quarter of an hour, spent mostly in
revery, he rose, put up his books, closed the door, and took the same
path he had followed the day before. As he neared the spot where he had
come on the girl, he almost expected to find her propped against the
rock as he had found her the afternoon before. He was conscious of a
distinct shock of loneliness that she was not there. The woods had never
appeared so empty; the soughing of the pines had never sounded
so dreary.

He threw himself down on the thick brown carpet. He had not felt so
lonely in years. What was he! And what chance did he have! He was alone
in the wilderness. He had been priding himself on being the superior of
those around him, and that strange woman had treated him with
condescension, when he had strained his heart out to get her daughter to
the road safely and without pain.

His eyes rested on the level, pale line of the horizon far below him.
Down there lay all he had ever known and loved. All was changed; his
home belonged to an alien. He turned his face away. On the other side,
the distant mountains lay a mighty rampart across the sky. He wondered
if the Alps could be higher or more beautiful. A line he had been
explaining the day before to his scholars recurred to him: "Beyond those
mountains lies Italy."

Gradually it came to him that he was duller than his scholars. Those who
were the true leaders of men surmounted difficulties. Others had crossed
the mountains to find the Italy of their ambition. Why should not he?
The thought strung him up sharply, and before he knew it he was standing
upright, his face lifted to the sky, his nerves tense, his pulses
beating, and his breath coming quickly. Beyond that blue rim lay the
world. He would conquer and achieve honors and fame, and win back his
old home, and build up again his fortune, and do honor to his name. He
seized his books, and, with one more look at the heights beyond, turned
and strode swiftly along the path.

It was, perhaps, fortunate that the day had been a dull one for both
Mrs. Yorke and Alice. Alice had been confined to her lounge, and after
the first anxiety was over Mrs. Yorke had been inclined to scold her for
her carelessness and the fright she had given her. They had not agreed
about a number of matters. Alice had been talking about her adventure
until Mrs. Yorke had begun to criticise her rescuer as "a spindling
country boy."

"He was strong enough to bring me down the mountain a mile in his arms,"
declared the girl. "He said it was half a mile, but I am sure it was
a mile."

Mrs. Yorke was shocked, and charged Alice with being susceptible enough
to like all men.

"All those who are strong and good-looking," protested Alice.

Their little difference had now been made up, and Alice, who had been
sitting silent, with a look of serious reflection on her face, said:

"Mamma, why don't you invite him over to dinner?"

Mrs. Yorke gave an exclamation of surprise.

"Why, Alice, we know nothing about him."

But the girl was insistent.

"Why, mamma, I am sure he is a gentleman. Dr. Balsam said he was one of
the best people about here, and his father was a clergyman. Besides, he
is very interesting. His father was in the war; I believe he was
a general."

Mrs. Yorke pondered a moment, her pen in the air. Her thoughts flew to
New York and her acquaintances there. Their view was her gauge.

"Well," she said doubtfully, "perhaps, later I will; there is no one
here whom we know except Mrs. Nailor. I have heard that the people are
very interesting if you can get at them. I'll invite him first to
luncheon Saturday, and see how he is."

It is, doubtless, just as well that none of us has the magic mirror
which we used to read of in our childhood, which showed what any one we
wished to know about was doing. It would, no doubt, cause many
perplexities from which, in our ignorance, we are happily free. Had
Gordon Keith known the terms on which he was invited to take a meal in
the presence of Mrs. Yorke, he would have been incensed. He had been
fuming about her condescension ever since he had met her; yet he no
sooner received her polite note than he was in the best humor possible.
He brushed up his well-worn clothes, treated himself to a new necktie,
which he had been saving all the session, and just at the appointed hour
presented himself with a face so alight with expectancy, and a manner
which, while entirely modest, was so natural and easy, that Mrs. Yorke
was astonished. She could scarcely credit the fact that this bright-eyed
young man, with his fine nose, firm chin, and melodious voice, was the
same with the dusty, hot-faced, dishevelled-looking country boy to whom
she had thought of offering money for a kindness two days before.

When Keith first entered the room Alice Yorke was seated in a
reclining-chair, enveloped in soft white, from which she gave him a
smiling greeting. For years afterwards, whenever Gordon Keith thought of
beauty it was of a girl smiling up at him out of a cloud of white. It
was a charming visit for him, and he reproached himself for his hard
thoughts about Mrs. Yorke. He aired all of his knowledge, and made such
a favorable impression on the good lady that she became very friendly
with him. He did not know that Mrs. Yorke's kindness to him was
condescension, and her cordiality inspired as much by curiosity
as courtesy.

"Dr. Balsam has been telling us about you, Mr. Keith," said Mrs. Yorke,
with a bow which brought a pleased smile to the young man's face.

"He has? The Doctor has always been good to me. I am afraid he has a
higher opinion of me than I deserve," he said, with a boy's pretended
modesty, whilst his eyes strongly belied his words.

Mrs. Yorke assured him that such could not be the case.

"Don't you want to know what he said?" asked Miss Alice, with a
bell-like laugh.

"Yes; what?" he smiled.

"He said if you undertook to carry a bag of salt down a mountain, or up
it either, you would never rest until you got there."

Her eyes twinkled, and Gordon appeared half teased, though he was
inwardly pleased.

Mrs. Yorke looked shocked.

"Oh, Alice, Dr. Balsam did not say that, for I heard him!" she exclaimed
reprovingly. "Dr. Balsam was very complimentary to you, Mr. Keith," she
explained seriously. "He said your people were among the best families
about here." She meant to be gracious; but Gordon's face flushed in
spite of himself. The condescension was too apparent.

"Your father was a pre--a--a--clergyman?" said Mrs. Yorke, who had
started to say "preacher," but substituted the other word as more
complimentary.

"My father a clergyman! No'm. He is good enough to be one; but he was a
planter and a--a--soldier," said Gordon.

Mrs. Yorke looked at her daughter in some mystification. Could this be
the wrong man?

"Why, he said he was a clergyman?" she insisted.

Gordon gazed at the girl in bewilderment.

"Yes; he said he was a minister," she replied to his unspoken inquiry.

Gordon broke into a laugh.

"Oh, he was a special envoy to England after he was wounded."

The announcement had a distinct effect upon Mrs. Yorke, who instantly
became much more cordial to Gordon. She took a closer look at him than
she had given herself the trouble to take before, and discovered, under
the sunburn and worn clothes, something more than she had formerly
observed. The young man's expression had changed. A reference to his
father always sobered him and kindled a light in his eyes. It was the
first time Mrs. Yorke had taken in what her daughter meant by calling
him handsome.

"Why, he is quite distinguished-looking!" she thought to herself. And
she reflected what a pity it was that so good-looking a young man should
have been planted down there in that out-of-the-way pocket of the world,
and thus lost to society. She did not know that the kindling eyes
opposite her were burning with a resolve that not only Mrs. Yorke, but
the world, should know him, and that she should recognize his
superiority.



CHAPTER VIII

MR. KEITH'S IDEALS

After this it was astonishing how many excuses Gordon could find for
visiting the village. He was always wanting to consult a book in the
Doctor's library, or get something, which, indeed, meant that he wanted
to get a glimpse of a young girl with violet eyes and pink cheeks,
stretched out in a lounging-chair, picturesquely reclining amid clouds
of white pillows. Nearly always he carried with him a bunch of flowers
from Mrs. Rawson's garden, which were to make patches of pink or red or
yellow among Miss Alice's pillows, and bring a fresh light into her
eyes. And sometimes he took a basket of cherries or strawberries for
Mrs. Yorke. His friends, the Doctor and the Rawsons, began to rally him
on his new interest in the Springs.

"I see you are takin' a few nubbins for the old cow," said Squire
Rawson, one afternoon as Gordon started off, at which Gordon blushed as
red as the cherries he was carrying. It was just what he had been doing.

"Well, that is the way to ketch the calf," said the old farmer,
jovially; "but I 'low the mammy is used to pretty high feedin'." He had
seen Mrs. Yorke driving along in much richer attire than usually dazzled
the eyes of the Ridge neighborhood, and had gauged her with a
shrewd eye.

Miss Alice Yorke's sprain turned out to be less serious than had been
expected. She herself had proved a much less refractory patient than her
mother had ever known her.

It does not take two young people of opposite sexes long to overcome the
formalities which convention has fixed among their seniors, especially
when one of them has brought the other down a mountain-side in his arms.

Often, in a sheltered corner of the long verandah, Keith read to Alice
on balmy afternoons, or in the moonlit evenings sauntered with her
through the fields of their limited experience, and quoted snatches from
his chosen favorites, poems that lived in his heart, and fancied her the
"maid of the downward look and sidelong glance."

Thus, by the time Alice Yorke was able to move about again, she and
Keith had already reached a footing where they had told each other a
good deal of their past, and were finding the present very pleasant, and
one of them, at least, was beginning, when he turned his eyes to the
future, to catch the glimmer of a very rosy light.

It showed in his appearance, in his face, where a new expression of a
more definite ambition and a higher resolution was beginning to take
its place.

Dr. Balsam noted it, and when he met Gordon he began to have a quizzical
light in his deep-gray eyes. He had, too, a tender tone in his voice
when he addressed the girl. Perhaps, a vision came to him at times of
another country lad, well-born like this one, and, like this one, poor,
wandering on the New England hills with another young girl, primmer,
perhaps, and less sophisticated than this little maiden, who had come
from the westward to spend a brief holiday on the banks of the
Piscataqua, and had come into his life never to depart--of his dreams
and his hopes; of his struggles to achieve the education which would
make him worthy of her; and then of the overthrow of all: of darkness
and exile and wanderings.

When the Doctor sat on his porch of an evening, with his pipe, looking
out over the sloping hills, sometimes his face grew almost melancholy.
Had he not been intended for other things than this exile? Abigail
Brooke had never married, he knew. What might have happened had he gone
back? And when he next saw Alice Yorke there would be a softer tone in
his voice, and he would talk a deeper and higher philosophy to her than
she had ever heard, belittling the gaudy rewards of life, and instilling
in her mind ideas of something loftier and better and finer than they.
He even told her once something of the story of his life, and of the
suffering and sorrow that had been visited upon the victims of a foolish
pride and a selfish ambition. Though he did not confide to her that it
was of himself he spoke, the girl's instinct instantly told her that it
was his own experience that he related, and her interest was
deeply excited.

"Did she ever marry, Doctor?" she asked eagerly. "Oh, I hope she did
not. I might forgive her if she did not; but if she married I would
never forgive her!"

The Doctor's eyes, as they rested on her eager face, had a kindly
expression in them, and a look of amusement lurked there also.

"No; she never married," he said. "Nor did he."

"Oh, I am glad of that," she exclaimed; and then more softly added, "I
know he did not."

Dr. Balsam gazed at her calmly. He did not pursue the subject further.
He thought he had told his story in such a way as to convey the moral
without disclosing that he spoke of himself. Yet she had discovered it
instantly. He wondered if she had seen also the moral he intended
to convey.

Alice Yorke was able to walk now, and many an afternoon Gordon Keith
invited her to stroll with him on the mountain-side or up the Ridge,
drawing her farther and farther as her strength returned.

The Spring is a dangerous season for a young man and a pretty girl to be
thrown closely together for the first time, and the budding woods are a
perilous pasture for their browsing thoughts. It was not without some
insight that the ancient poets pictured dryads as inhabitants of the
woods, and made the tinkling springs and rippling streams the
abiding-places of their nymphs.

The Spring came with a burst of pink and green. The mountains took on
delicate shades, and the trees blossomed into vast flowers, feathery and
fine as lace.

An excursion in the budding woods has been dangerous ever since the day
when Eve found a sinuous stranger lurking there in gay disguise, and was
beguiled into tasting the tempting fruit he offered her. It might be an
interesting inquiry to collect even the most notable instances of those
who, wandering all innocent and joyous amid the bowers, have found the
honey of poisonous flowers where they meant only innocence. But the
reader will, perhaps, recall enough instances in a private and
unrecorded history to fill the need of illustration. It suffices, then,
to say that, each afternoon that Gordon Keith wandered with Alice Yorke
through the leafy woods, he was straying farther in that perilous path
where the sunlight always sifts down just ahead, but the end is veiled
in mist, and where sometimes darkness falls.

These strolls had all the charm for him of discovery, for he was always
finding in her some new trait, and every one was, he thought, an added
charm, even to her unexpected alternations of ignorance and knowledge,
her little feminine outbreaks of caprice. One afternoon they had
strolled farther than usual, as far even as the high pines beyond which
was the great rock looking to the northeastward. There she had asked him
to help her up to the top of the rock, but he had refused. He told her
that she had walked already too far, and he would not permit her
to climb it.

"Not permit me! Well, I like that!" she said, with a flash of her blue
eyes; and springing from her seat on the brown carpet, before he could
interpose, she was climbing up the high rock as nimbly as if she were
a boy.

He called to her to stop, but she took no heed. He began to entreat her,
but she made no answer. He was in terror lest she might fall, and
sprang after her to catch her; but up, up she climbed, with as steady a
foot and as sure an eye as he could have shown himself, until she
reached the top, when, looking down on him with dancing eyes, she kissed
her hand in triumph and then turned away, her cheeks aglow. When he
reached the top, she was standing on the very edge of the precipice,
looking far over the long reach of sloping country to the blue line of
the horizon. Keith almost gasped at her temerity. He pleaded with her
not to be so venturesome.

"Please stand farther back, I beg you," he said as he reached her side.

"Now, that is better," she said, with a little nod to him, her blue eyes
full of triumph, and she seated herself quietly on the rock.

Keith began to scold her, but she laughed at him.

He had done it often, she said, and what he could do she could do.

The beauty of the wide landscape sank into both their minds, and after a
little they both took a graver tone.

"Tell me where your old home is," she said presently, after a long pause
in which her face had grown thoughtful. "You told me once that you could
see it from this rock."

Keith pointed to a spot on the far horizon. He did not know that it was
to see this even more than to brave him that she had climbed to the top
of the rock.

"Now tell me about it," she said. "Tell me all over what you have told
me before." And Keith related all he could remember. Touched with her
sympathy, he told it with more feeling than he had ever shown before.
When he spoke of the loss of his home, of his mortification, and of his
father's quiet dignity, she turned her face away to keep him from seeing
the tears that were in her eyes.

"I can understand your feeling a little," she said presently; "but I did
not know that any one could have so much feeling for a plantation. I
suppose it is because it is in the country, with its trees and flowers
and little streams. We have had three houses since I can remember. The
one that we have now on Fifth Avenue is four times as large--yes, six
times as large--and a hundred times as fine as the one I can first
remember, and yet, somehow, I always think, when I am sad or lonely, of
the little white house with the tiny rooms in it, with their low
ceilings and small windows, where I used to go when I was a very little
girl to see my father's mother. Mamma does not care for it; she was
brought up in the city; but I think my father loves it just as I do. He
always says he is going to buy it back, and I am going to make him
do it."

"I am going to buy back mine some day," said Keith, very slowly.

She glanced at him. His eyes were fastened on the far-off horizon, and
there was that in his face which she had never seen there before, and
which made her admire him more than she had ever done.

"I hope you will," she said. She almost hated Ferdy Wickersham for
having spoken of the place as Keith told her he had spoken.

When Keith reached home that evening he had a wholly new feeling for the
girl with whom accident had so curiously thrown him. He was really in
love with her. Hitherto he had allowed himself merely to drift with the
pleasant tide that had been setting in throughout these last weeks. But
the phases that she had shown that afternoon, her spirit, her courage,
her capricious rebelliousness, and, above all, that glimpse into her
heart which he had obtained as she sat on the rock overlooking the wide
sweep where he had had his home, and where the civilization to which it
belonged had had its home, had shown him a new creature, and he plunged
into love. Life appeared suddenly to open wide her gates and flood him
with her rosy light.



CHAPTER IX

MR. KEITH IS UNPRACTICAL, AND MRS. YORKE GIVES HIM GOOD ADVICE

The strolls in the budding woods and the glimpses shown her of a spirit
somewhat different from any she had known were beginning to have their
influence on Alice. It flattered her and filled her with a certain
content that the young school-teacher should like her so much; yet,
knowing herself, it gave her a vague feeling that he was wanting in that
quality of sound judgment which she recognized in some of her other
admirers. It rather frightened her to feel that she was on a pedestal;
and often he soared away from her with his poetry and his fancies, and
she was afraid that he would discover it and think she was a hypocrite.
Something that her mother had said remained in her mind.

"He knows so much, mamma," said Alice one day. "Why, he can quote whole
pages of poetry."

"He is too romantic, my dear, to be practical," said Mrs. Yorke, who
looked at the young men who approached her daughter with an eye as cool
as a physician's glass. "He, perhaps, does know more about books than
any boy of his age I am acquainted with; but poetry is a very poor thing
to live on; and if he were practical he would not be teaching that
wretched little school in the wilderness."

"But, mamma, he will rise. You don't know how ambitious he is, and what
determination he has. They have lost everything. The place that Ferdy
Wickersham told me about his father owning, with its old pictures and
all that, was his old home. Old Mr. Keith, since he lost it, has been
farming it for Mr. Wickersham. Think of that!"

"Just so," said Mrs. Yorke. "He inherits it. They are all unpractical.
Your father began life poor; but he was practical, and he had the
ability to succeed."

Alice's face softened. "Dear old dad!" she said; "I must write to him."
Even as she thought of him she could not but reflect how absorption in
business had prevented his obtaining the culture of which this young
school-teacher had given her a glimpse, and had crushed, though it could
not wholly quench, the kindliness which lived in his big heart.

Though Alice defended Keith, she felt in her heart there was some truth
in her mother's estimate. He was too romantic. She soon had proof of it.

General Keith came up to the Ridge just then to see Gordon. At least, he
gave this out as the reason for his visit, and Gordon did not know until
afterwards that there was another reason for it--that he had been in
correspondence for some time with Dr. Balsam. He was looking thin; but
when Gordon spoke of it, he put it by with a smile.

"Oh, I am very well. We need not worry about my troubles. I have but
two: that old wound, and Old Age; both are incurable."

Gordon was very pleased to have the opportunity to introduce his father
to Mrs. Yorke and Miss Alice. As he scanned the thin, fine face with its
expression of calm and its lines of fortitude, he felt that it was a
good card to play. His resemblance to the man-in-armor that hung in the
old dining-room had increased.

The General and Miss Alice promptly became great friends. He treated her
with a certain distinction that pleased her. Mrs. Yorke, too, was both
pleased and flattered by his gracious manner. She was, however, more
critical toward him than her daughter was.

General Keith soon discovered Gordon's interest in the young girl. It
was not difficult to discover, for every moment of his spare time was
devoted to her in some way. The General observed them with a quiet smile
in his eyes. Now and then, however, the smile died out as he heard
Gordon expressing views which were somewhat new to him. One evening they
were all seated on the verandah together, and Gordon began to speak of
making a fortune as a high aim. He had heard Mrs. Yorke express the same
sentiments a few days before.

"My son," said his father, gently, looking at him with grave eyes, "a
fortune is a great blessing in the hands of the man who knows how to
spend it. But riches considered as something to possess or to display is
one of the most despicable and debasing of all the aims that men
can have."

Mrs. Yorke's eyes opened wide and her face hardened a little. Gordon
thought of the toil and patience it had cost him to make even his little
salary, and wealth appeared to him just then a very desirable
acquisition.

"Why, father," he said, "it opens the world to a man. It gives such
great opportunities for everything; travel, knowledge, art, science,
power, the respect and esteem of the world, are obtained by it."

Something like this Mrs. Yorke had said to him, meaning, kindly enough,
to encourage him in its pursuit.

The old General smiled gravely.

"Opportunity for travel and the acquirement of knowledge wealth
undoubtedly gives, but happily they are not dependent upon wealth, my
son. The Columbuses of science, the Galileos, Newtons, Keplers; the
great benefactors of the world, the great inventors, the great artists,
the great poets, philosophers, and statesmen have few of them
been rich."

"He appears to have lived in another world, mamma," said Alice when he
had left. "He is an old dear. I never knew so unworldly a person."

Mrs. Yorke's chin tilted a little.

"Now, Alice, don't you be silly. He lives in another world now, and
certainly, of all the men I know, none appears less fitted to cope with
this world. The only real people to him appear to be those whom he has
read of. He never tried wealth."

"He used to be rich--very rich. Don't you remember what that lady told
you?"

"I don't believe it," said Mrs. Yorke, sententiously.

Alice knew that this closed the argument. When her mother in such cases
said she did not believe a thing, it meant that the door of her mind was
fast shut and no reason could get into it.

Mrs. Yorke could not but notice that some change had taken place in
Alice of late. In a way she had undoubtedly improved. She was more
serious, more thoughtful of Mrs. Yorke herself, less wilful. Yet it was
not without some misgiving that Mrs. Yorke noted the change.

She suddenly had her eyes opened. Mrs. Nailor, one of her New York
friends, performed this amiable office. She assigned the possible cause,
though not directly--Mrs. Nailor rarely did things directly. She was a
small, purring lady, with a tilt of the head, and an insinuating voice
of singular clearness, with a question-mark in it. She was of a very
good family, lived in a big house on Murray Hill, and had as large a
circle of acquaintance as any one in New York. She prided herself on
knowing everybody worth knowing, and everything about everybody. She was
not lacking in amiability; she was, indeed, so amiable that she would
slander almost any absent friend to please one who was present. She had
a little grudge against Keith, for she had been struck from the first by
his bright eyes and good manners; but Keith had been so much engrossed
by his interest in Alice Yorke that he had been remiss in paying Mrs.
Nailor that attention which she felt her position required. Mrs. Nailor
now gave Mrs. Yorke a judicious hint.

"You have such a gift for knowing people?" she said to her, "and your
daughter is so like you?" She showed her even teeth.

Mrs. Yorke was not quite sure what she meant, and she answered somewhat
coldly that she was glad that Mrs. Nailor thought so. Mrs. Nailor soon
indicated her meaning.

"The young schoolmaster--he is a schoolmaster in whom your daughter is
interested, isn't he? Yes? He appears so well-read? He brought your
daughter down the mountain the day her horse ran off with her? So
romantic to make an acquaintance that way--I quite envy you? There is so
little real romance these days! It is delightful to find it?" She
sighed, and Mrs. Yorke thought of Daniel Nailor and his little bald head
and round mouth. "Yes, I quite envy you--and your daughter. Who is he?"

Mrs. Yorke said he was of a very old and distinguished family. She gave
him a pedigree that would have done honor to a Derby-winner.

"I am so glad," declared Mrs. Nailor. "I knew he must be, of course. I
am sure you would never encourage such an intimacy unless he were?" She
smiled herself off, leaving Mrs. Yorke fuming.

"That woman is always sticking pins into people," she said to herself.
But this pin had stuck fast, and Mrs. Yorke was in quite a panic.

Mrs. Yorke determined to talk to Alice on the first occasion that
offered itself; but she would not do it too abruptly. All that would be
needed would be a hint judiciously given. For surely a girl of such
sound sense as Alice, a girl brought up so wisely, could not for a
moment think of acting so foolishly. And really Mrs. Yorke felt that she
herself was very fond of this young man. She might do something for
him--something that should be of use to him in after life. At first this
plan took the form in her mind of getting her husband to give him a
place; but she reflected that this would necessitate bringing him where
his acquaintance with them might prove inconvenient. She would aid him
in going to college for another year. This would be a delicate way to
discharge the obligation under which his kindness had placed her.

Keith, meantime, was happily ignorant of the plot that was forming
against him. The warm weather was coming, and he knew that before long
Mrs. Yorke and Alice would be flitting northward. However, he would make
his hay while the sun shone for him. So one afternoon Keith had borne
Miss Alice off to his favorite haunt, the high rock in the Ridge woods.
He was in unusual spirits; for he had escaped from Mrs. Nailor, who of
late had appeared to be rather lying in wait for him. It was the spot he
loved best; for the pines behind him seemed to shut out the rest of the
world, and he felt that here he was in some sort nearer to having Alice
for his own than anywhere else. It was here that he had caught that
glimpse of her heart which he felt had revealed her to him.

This afternoon he was talking of love and of himself; for what young man
who talks of love talks not of himself? She was dressed in white, and a
single red rose that he had given her was stuck in her dress. He had
been reading a poem to her. It contained a picture of the goddess of
love, decked out for "worship without end." The book now lay at his
side, and he was stretched at her feet.

"If I ever am in love," he said suddenly, "it will be with a girl who
must fill full the measure of my dreams." He was looking away through
the pine-trees to the sky far beyond; but the soft light in his face
came not from that far-off tent of blue. He was thinking vaguely how
much bluer than the sky were her eyes.

"Yes?" Her tone was tender.

"She must be a beauty, of course." He gazed at her with that in his eyes
which said, as plainly as words could have said it, "You are
beautiful."

But she was looking away, wondering to herself who it might be.

"I mean she must have what _I_ call beauty," he added by way of
explanation. "I don't count mere red and white beauty. Phrony Tripper
has that." This was not without intention. Alice had spoken of Phrony's
beauty one day when she saw her at the school.

"But she is very pretty," asserted the girl, "so fresh and such color!"

"Oh, pretty! yes; and color--a wine-sap apple has color. But I am
speaking of real beauty, the beauty of the rose, the freshness that you
cannot define, that holds fragrance, a something that you love, that you
feel even more than you see."

She thought of a school friend of hers, Louise Caldwell, a tall,
statuesque beauty, with whom another friend, Norman Wentworth, was in
love, and she wondered if Keith would think her such a beauty as he
described.

"She must be sweet," he went on, thinking to himself for her benefit. "I
cannot define that either, but you know what I mean?"

She decided mentally that Louise Caldwell would not fill his measure.

"It is something that only some girls have in common with some
flowers--violets, for instance."

"Oh, I don't care for sweet girls very much," she said, thinking of
another schoolmate whom the girls used to call _eau sucre_.

"You do," he said positively. "I am not talking of that kind. It is
womanliness and gentleness, fragrance, warmth, beauty, everything."

"Oh, yes. That kind?" she said acquiescingly. "Well, go on; you expect
to find a good deal."

"I do," he said briefly, and sat up. "I expect to find the best."

She glanced at him with new interest. He was very good-looking when he
was spirited. And his eyes now were full of light.

"Well, beauty and sweetness," she said; "what else? I must know, for I
may have to help you find her. There don't appear to be many around
Ridgely, since you have declined to accept the only pretty girl I
have seen."

"She must be good and true. She must know the truth as--" His eye fell
at that instant on a humming-bird, a gleaming jewel of changing sapphire
that, poised on half-invisible wings, floated in a bar of sunlight
before a sprig of pink honeysuckle. "--As that bird knows the flowers
where the honey lies."

"Where do you expect to find this paragon?"

As if in answer, the humming-bird suddenly caught sight of the red rose
in her dress, and, darting to it, thrust its bill deep into the crimson
heart of the flower. They both gave an exclamation of delighted wonder.

"I have found her," he said firmly, leaning a little toward her, with
mantling cheeks and close-drawn lips, his glowing eyes on her face. "The
bird has found her for me."

The bird darted away.

"Ah, it is gone! What will you give her in return?" She turned to him,
and spoke half mockingly, wishing to get off such delicate ground.

He turned and gazed into her eyes.

"'Worship without end.'" There was that in his face that made her change
color. She looked away and began to think of her own ideal. She found
that her idea of the man she loved had been of height of figure and
breadth of shoulders, a handsome face and fashionable attire. She had
pictured him as tall and straight, taller than this boy and larger every
way, with a straight nose, brown eyes, and dark hair. But chiefly she
had thought of the style of his clothes. She had fancied the neckties he
should wear, and the pins that should be stuck in them. He must be
brave, of course, a beautiful dancer, a fine tennis-player. She had once
thought that black-eyed, handsome young Ferdy Wickersham was as near her
ideal as any one else she knew. He led germans divinely. But he was
selfish, and she had never admired him as much as another man, who was
less showy, but was, she knew, more of a man: Norman Wentworth, a bold
swimmer, a good horseman, and a leader of their set. It suddenly
occurred to her now how much more like this man Norman Wentworth was
than Ferdy Wickersham, and following her thought of the two, she
suddenly stepped up on a higher level and was conscious of a certain
elation, much like that she had had the day she had climbed up before
Gordon Keith on the out-jutting rock and looked far down over the wide
expanse of forest and field, to where his home had been.

She sat for a little while in deep reflection. Presently she said, quite
gravely and a little shyly:

"You know, I am not a bit what you think I am. Why, you treat me as if I
were a superior being. And I am not; I am a very matter-of-fact girl."

He interrupted her with a gesture of dissent, his eyes full of light.

"Nonsense! You don't know me, you don't know men, or you would know that
any girl is the superior of the best man," he reiterated.

"You don't know girls," she retorted.

"I know one, at least," he said, with a smile that spoke his admiration.

"I am not sure that you do," she persisted, speaking slowly and very
seriously. She was gazing at him in a curious, reflective way.

"The one I know is good enough for me." He leaned over and shyly took
her hand and raised it to his lips, then released it. She did not resist
him, but presently she said tentatively:

"I believe I had rather be treated as I am than as something I am not. I
like you too much to want to deceive you, and I think you are deceived."

He, of course, protested that he was not deceived. He "knew perfectly
well," he said. She was not convinced; but she let it go. She did not
want to quarrel with him for admiring her.

That afternoon, when Alice came in, her manner was so different from
what it had been of late that her mother could not but observe it. One
moment she was distraite; the next she was impatient and even irritable;
then this mood changed, and she was unusually gay; her cheeks glowed and
her eyes sparkled; but even as she reflected, a change came, and she
drifted away again into a brown study.

Next day, while Mrs. Yorke was still considering what to do, a card was
handed her. It was a name written simply on one of the slips of paper
that were kept on the hotel counter below. Keith of late had not been
sending up his card; a servant simply announced his name. This, then,
decided her. It was the most fortunate thing in the world that Alice had
gone off and was out of the way. It gave Mrs. Yorke the very opportunity
she desired. If, as she divined, the young man wished to talk to her
about anything personal, she would speak kindly to him, but so plainly
that he could never forget it. After all, it would be true kindness to
him to do so. She had a virtuous feeling as she smoothed her hair
before a mirror.

He was not in the sitting-room when she came down; so she sought for him
on one of the long verandahs where they usually sat. He was seated at
the far end, where he would be more or less secluded, and she marched
down on him. He was evidently on the watch for her, and as soon as she
appeared he rose from his seat. She had made up her mind very clearly
what she would say to him; but as she approached him it was not so easy
to say as she had fancied it. There was something in his bearing and
expression that deterred her from using the rather condescending words
she had formulated. His face was somewhat pale; his mouth was firmly
set, throwing out the chin in a way to make it quite strong; his eyes
were anxious, but steady; his form was very erect, and his shoulders
were very square and straight. He appeared to her older than she had
considered him. It would not do to patronize this man. After greeting
her, he handed her a chair solemnly, and the next moment plunged
straight into his subject. It was so sudden that it almost took her
breath away; and before she knew it he had, with the blood coming and
going in his cheeks, declared his love for her daughter, and asked her
permission to pay her his addresses. After the first gulp or two he had
lost his embarrassment, and was speaking in a straightforward, manly
way. The color had come rushing back into his face, and his eyes were
filled with light. Mrs. Yorke felt that it was necessary to do
something. So, though she felt some trepidation, she took heart and
began to answer him. As she proceeded, her courage returned to her, and
seeing that he was much disturbed, she became quite composed.

She regretted extremely, she said, that she had not foreseen this. It
was all so unexpected to her that she was quite overwhelmed by it. She
felt that this was a lie, and she was not sure that he did not know it.
Of course, it was quite impossible that she could consent to anything
like what he had proposed.

"Do you mean because she is from the North and I am from the South?" he
asked earnestly.

"No; of course not. I have Southern blood myself. My grandmother was
from the South." She smiled at his simplicity.

"Then why?"

This was embarrassing, but she must answer.

"Why, you--we--move in--quite different--spheres, and--ah, it's really
not to be thought of Mr. Keith," she said, half desperately.

He himself had thought of the different spheres in which they moved, but
he had surmounted that difficulty. Though her father, as he had learned,
had begun life as a store-boy, and her mother was not the most learned
person in the world, Alice Yorke was a lady to her finger-tips, and in
her own fine person was the incontestable proof of a strain of gentle
blood somewhere. Those delicate features, fine hands, trim ankles, and
silken hair told their own story.

So he came near saying, "That does not make any difference"; but he
restrained himself. He said instead, "I do not know that I
understand you."

It was very annoying to have to be so plain, but it was, Mrs. Yorke
felt, quite necessary.

"Why, I mean that my daughter has always moved in the--the
most--exclusive society; she has had the best advantages, and has a
right to expect the best that can be given her."

"Do you mean that you think my family is not good enough for your
daughter?"

There was a tone in his quiet voice that made her glance up at him, and
a look on his face that made her answer quickly:

"Oh, no; not that, of course. I have no doubt your family is--indeed, I
have heard it is--ur--. But my daughter has every right to expect the
best that life can give. She has a right to expect--an--establishment."

"You mean money?" Keith asked, a little hoarsely.

"Why, not in the way in which you put it; but what money stands
for--comforts, luxuries, position. Now, don't go and distress yourself
about this. You are nothing but a silly boy. You fancy yourself in love
with my daughter because she is the only pretty girl about here."

"She is not; but she is the prettiest I know," ejaculated Keith,
bitterly.

"You think that, and so you fancy you are in love with her."

"It is no fancy; I am," asserted Keith, doggedly. "I would be in love
with her if she were as ugly as--as she is beautiful."

"Oh, no, you wouldn't," declared Mrs. Yorke, coolly. "Now, the thing for
you to do is to forget all about her, as she will in a short time forget
all about you."

"I know she will, though I hope she will not," groaned the young man. "I
shall never forget her--never."

His voice and manner showed such unfeigned anguish that the lady could
not but feel real commiseration for him, especially as he appeared to be
accepting her view of the case. She glanced at him almost kindly.

"Is there nothing I can do for you? I should like very much to do
something--something to show my appreciation of what you have done for
us to make our stay here less dreary than it would have been."

"Thank you. There is nothing," said Keith. "I am going to turn my
attention now to--getting an establishment." He spoke half
sarcastically, but Mrs. Yorke did not see it.

"That is right," she said warmly.

"It is not right," declared Keith, with sudden vehemence. "It is all
wrong. I know it is all wrong."

"What the world thinks is right can't be all wrong." Mrs. Yorke spoke
decisively.

"When are you going away?" the young man asked suddenly.

"In a few days." She spoke vaguely, but even as she spoke, she
determined to leave next day.

"I thank you for all your kindness to me," said Keith, standing very
straight and speaking rather hoarsely.

Mrs. Yorke's heart smote her. If it were not for her daughter's welfare
she could have liked this boy and befriended him. A vision came to her
from out of the dim past; a country boy with broad shoulders suddenly
flashed before her; but she shut it off before it became clear. She
spoke kindly to Keith, and held out her hand to him with more real
sincerity than she had felt in a long time.

"You are a good boy," she said, "and I wish I could have answered you
otherwise, but it would have been simple madness. You will some day know
that it was kinder to you to make you look nakedly at facts."

"I suppose so," said Keith, politely. "But some day, Mrs. Yorke, you
shall hear of me. If you do not, remember I shall be dead."

With this bit of tragedy he turned and left her, and Mrs. Yorke stood
and watched him as he strode down the path, meaning, if he should turn,
to wave him a friendly adieu, and also watching lest that which she had
dreaded for a quarter of an hour might happen. It would be dreadful if
her daughter should meet him now. He did not turn, however, and when at
last he disappeared, Mrs. Yorke, with a sigh of relief, went up to her
room and began to write rapidly.



CHAPTER X

MRS. YORKE CUTS THE KNOT

When Alice Yorke came from her jaunt, she had on her face an expression
of pleasant anticipation. She had been talking to Dr. Balsam, and he had
said things about Gordon Keith that had made her cheeks tingle. "Of the
best blood of two continents," he had said of him. "He has the stuff
that has made England and America." The light of real romance was
beginning to envelop her.

As she entered the hall she met Mrs. Nailor. Mrs. Nailor smiled at her
knowingly, much as a cat, could she smile, might smile at a mouse.

"I think your mother is out on the far end of the verandah. I saw her
there a little while ago talking with your friend, the young
schoolmaster. What a nice young man he is? Quite uncommon, isn't he?"

Alice gave a little start. "The young schoolmaster" indeed!

"Yes, I suppose so. I don't know." She hated Mrs. Nailor with her quiet,
cat-like manner and inquisitive ways. She now hated her more than ever,
for she was conscious that she was blushing and that Mrs. Nailor
observed it.

"Your mother is very interested in schools? Yes? I think that is nice in
her? So few persons appreciate education?" Her air was absolute
innocence.

"I don't know. I believe she is--interested in everything," faltered
Alice. She wanted to add, "And so you appear to be also."

"So few persons care for education these days," pursued Mrs. Nailor, in
a little chime. "And that young man is such a nice fellow? Has he a good
school? I hear you were there? You are interested in schools, too?" She
nodded like a little Japanese toy-baby.

"I am sure I don't know. Yes; I think he has. Why don't you go?" asked
the girl at random.

"Oh, I have not been invited." Mrs. Nailor smiled amiably. "Perhaps, you
will let me go with you sometime?"

Alice escaped, and ran up-stairs, though she was eager to go out on the
porch. However, it would serve him right to punish him by staying away
until she was sent for, and she could not go with Mrs. Nailor's
cat-eyes on her.

She found her mother seated at a table writing busily. Mrs. Yorke only
glanced up and said, "So you are back? Hope you had a pleasant time?"
and went on writing.

Alice gazed at her with a startled look in her eyes. She had such a
serious expression on her face.

"What are you doing?" She tried to speak as indifferently as she could.

"Writing to your father." The pen went on busily.

"What is the matter? Is papa ill? Has anything happened?"

"No; nothing has happened. I am writing to say we shall be home the last
of the week."

"Going away!"

"Yes; don't you think we have been here long enough? We only expected to
stay until the last of March, and here it is almost May."

"But what is the matter? Why have you made up your mind so suddenly?
Mamma, you are so secret! I am sure something is the matter. Is papa not
well?" She crossed over and stood by her mother.

Mrs. Yorke finished a word and paused a moment, with the end of her
silver penholder against her teeth.

"Alice," she said reflectively, "I have something I want to say to you,
and I have a mind to say it now. I think I ought to speak to you
very frankly."

"Well, for goodness' sake, do, mamma; for I'm dying to know what has
happened." She seated herself on the side of a chair for support. Her
face was almost white.

"Alice--"

"Yes, mamma." Her politeness was ominous.

"Alice, I have had a talk with that young man--"

Alice's face flushed suddenly.

"What young man?" she asked, as though the Ridge Springs were thronged
with young men behind every bush.

"That young man--Mr. Keith," firmly.

"Oh!" said Alice. "With Mr. Keith? Yes, mamma?" Her color was changing
quickly now.

"Yes, I have had a quite--a very extraordinary conversation with Mr.
Keith." As Mrs. Yorke drifted again into reflection, Alice was
compelled to ask:

"What about, mamma?"

"About you."

"About me? What about me?" Her face was belying her assumed innocence.

"Alice, I hope you are not going to behave foolishly. I cannot believe
for a minute that you would--a girl brought up as you have been--so far
forget yourself--would allow yourself to become interested in a
perfectly unknown and ignorant and obscure young man."

"Why, mamma, he is not ignorant; he knows more than any one I ever
saw,--why, he has read piles of books I never even heard of,--and his
family is one of the best and oldest in this country. His grandfathers
or great-grandfathers were both signers of the Decla--"

"I am not talking about that," interrupted Mrs. Yorke, hastily. "I must
say you appear to have studied his family-tree pretty closely."

"Dr. Balsam told me," interjected Alice.

"Dr. Balsam had very little to talk of. I am talking of his being
unknown."

"But I believe he will be known some day. You don't know how clever and
ambitious he is. He told me--"

But Mrs. Yorke had no mind to let Alice dwell on what he had told her.
He was too good an advocate.

"Stuff! I don't care what he told you! Alice, he is a perfectly unknown
and untrained young--creature. All young men talk that way. He is
perfectly gauche and boorish in his manner--"

"Why, mamma, he has beautiful manners!" exclaimed Alice "I heard a lady
saying the other day he had the manners of a Chesterfield."

"Chester-nonsense!" exclaimed Mrs. Yorke.

"I think he has, too, mamma."

"I don't agree with you," declared Mrs. Yorke, energetically. "How would
he appear in New York? Why, he wears great heavy shoes, and his neckties
are something dreadful."

"His neckties are bad," admitted Alice, sadly.

Mrs. Yorke, having discovered a breach in her adversary's defences, like
a good general directed her attack against it.

"He dresses horribly; he wears his hair like a--countryman; and his
manners are as antiquated as his clothes. Think of him at the opera or
at one of Mrs. Wentworth's receptions! He says 'madam' and 'sir' as if
he were a servant."

"I got after him about that once," said the girl, reflectively. "I said
that only servants said that."

"Well, what did he say?"

"Said that that proved that servants sometimes had better manners than
their masters."

"Well, I must say, I think he was excessively rude!" asserted Mrs.
Yorke, picking up her fan and beginning to fan rapidly.

"That's what I said; but he said he did not see how it could be rude to
state a simple and impersonal fact in a perfectly respectful way."

Alice was warming up in defence and swept on.

"He said the new fashion was due to people who were not sure of their
own position, and were afraid others might think them servile if they
employed such terms."

"What does he know about fashion?"

"He says fashion is a temporary and shifting thing, sometimes caused by
accident and sometimes made by tradesmen, but that good manners are the
same to-day that they were hundreds of years ago, and that though the
ways in which they are shown change, the basis is always the same, being
kindness and gentility."

Mrs. Yorke gasped.

"Well, I must say, you seem to have learned your lesson!" she exclaimed.

Alice had been swept on by her memory not only of the words she was
repeating, but of many conversations and interchanges of thought Gordon
Keith and she had had during the past weeks, in which he had given her
new ideas. She began now, in a rather low and unsteady voice, her hands
tightly clasped, her eyes in her lap:

"Mamma, I believe I like him very much--better than I shall ever--"

"Nonsense, Alice! Now, I will not have any of this nonsense. I bring you
down here for your health, and you take up with a perfectly obscure
young countryman about whom you know nothing in the world, and--"

"I know all about him, mamma. I know he is a gentleman. His
grandfather--"

"You know _nothing_ about him," asserted Mrs. Yorke, rising. "You may be
married to a man for years and know very little of him. How can you know
about this boy? You will go back and forget all about him in a week."

"I shall never forget him, mamma," said Alice, in a low tone, thinking
of the numerous promises she had made to the same effect within the
past few days.

"Fiddlesticks! How often have you said that? A half-dozen times at
least. There's Norman and Ferdy Wickersham and--"

"I have not forgotten them," said Alice, a little impressed by her
mother's argument.

"Of course, you have not. I don't think it's right, Alice, for you to be
so--susceptible and shallow. At least once every three months I have to
go through this same thing. There's Ferdy Wickersham--handsome, elegant
manners, very ri--with fine prospects every way, devoted to you for ever
so long. I don't care for his mother, but his people are now received
everywhere. Why--?"

"Mamma, I would not marry Ferdy Wickersham if he were the last man
in--to save his life--not for ten millions of dollars. And he does not
care for me."

"Why, he is perfectly devoted to you," insisted Mrs. Yorke.

"Ferdy Wickersham is not perfectly devoted to any one except
himself--and never will be," asserted Alice, vehemently. "If he ever
cared for any one it is Louise Caldwell."

Mrs. Yorke shifted her ground.

"There's Norman Wentworth? One of the best--"

"Ah! I don't love Norman. I never could. We are the best of friends, but
I just like and respect him."

"Respect is a very safe ground to marry on," said Mrs. Yorke,
decisively. "Some people do not have even that when they marry."

"Then I am sorry for them," said Miss Alice. "But when I marry, I want
to love. I think it would be a crime to marry a man you did not love.
God made us with a capacity to form ideals, and if we deliberately fall
below them--"

Mrs. Yorke burst out laughing.

"Oh, stuff! That boy has filled your head with enough nonsense to last a
lifetime. I would not be such a parrot. I want to finish my letter now."

Mrs. Yorke concluded her letter, and two mornings later the Yorkes took
the old two-horse stage that plied between the Springs and the little
grimy railway-station, ten miles away at the foot of the Ridge, and
metaphorically shook the dust of Ridgely from their feet, though, from
their appearance when they reached the railway, it, together with much
more, must have settled on their shoulders.

The road passed the little frame school-house, and as the stage rattled
by, the young school-teacher's face changed. He stood up and looked out
of the window with a curious gaze in his burning eyes. Suddenly his face
lit up: a little head under a very pretty hat had nodded to him. He
bowed low, and went back to his seat with a new expression. That bow
chained him for years. He almost forgave her high-headed mother.

Alice bore away with her a long and tragic letter which she did not
think it necessary to confide to her mother at this time, in view of the
fact that the writer declared that in his present condition he felt
bound to recognize her mother's right to deny his request to see her;
but that he meant to achieve such success that she would withdraw her
prohibition, and to return some day and lay at her feet the highest
honors life could give.

A woman who has discarded a man is, perhaps, nearer loving him just
afterwards than ever before. Certainly Miss Alice Yorke thought more
tenderly of Gordon Keith when she found herself being borne away from
him than she had ever done during the weeks she had known him.

It is said that a broken heart is a most valuable possession for a young
man. Perhaps, it was so to Keith.

The rest of the session dragged wearily for him. But he worked like
fury. He would succeed. He would rise. He would show Mrs. Yorke who
he was.

Mrs. Yorke, having reached home, began at once to lead her daughter back
to what she esteemed a healthier way of thinking than she had fallen
into. This opportunity came in the shape of a college commencement with
a consequent boat-race, and all the gayeties that this entailed.

Mrs. Yorke was, in her way, devoted to her daughter, and had a definite
and what she deemed an exalted ambition for her. This meant that she
should be the best-dressed girl in society, should be a belle, and
finally should make the most brilliant marriage of her set--to wit, the
wealthiest marriage. She had dreamed at times of a marriage that should
make her friends wild with envy--of a title, a high title. Alice had
beauty, style, wealth, and vivacity; she would grace a coronet, and
mamma would be "Madam, the Countess's mother." But mamma encountered an
unexpected obstacle.

When Mrs. Yorke, building her air-castles, casually let fall her idea of
a title for Alice, there was a sudden and unexpected storm from an
unlooked-for quarter. Dennis Yorke, usually putty in his wife's hands,
had two or three prejudices that were principles with him. As to these
he was rock. His daughter was his idol.

For her, from the time she had opened her blue eyes on him and blinked
at him vaguely, he had toiled and schemed until his hair had turned from
brown to gray and then had disappeared from his round, strongly set
head. For the love he bore her he had served longer than Jacob served
for Rachel, and the time had not appeared long. The suggestion that the
money he had striven for from youth to age should go to some reprobate
foreigner, to pay his gambling-debts, nearly threw him into a
convulsion. His ancestors had been driven from home to starve in the
wilderness by such creatures. "Before any d----d foreign reprobate should
have a dollar of his money he would endow a lunatic asylum with it." So
Mrs. Yorke prudently refrained from pressing this subject any further at
this time, and built her hopes on securing the next most advantageous
alliance--a wealthy one. She preferred Norman Wentworth to any of the
other young men, for he was not only rich, but the Wentworths were an
old and established house, and Mrs. Wentworth was one of the old
aristocrats of the State, whose word was law above that of even the
wealthiest of the new leaders. To secure Norman Wentworth would be
"almost as good as a title." An intimacy was sedulously cultivated with
"dear Mrs. Wentworth," and Norman, the "dear boy," was often brought to
the house.

Perversely, he and Alice did not take to each other in the way Mrs.
Yorke had hoped. They simply became the best of friends, and Mrs. Yorke
had the mortification of seeing a tall and statuesque schoolmate of
Alice's capture Norman, while Alice appeared totally indifferent to him.
What made it harder to bear was that Mrs. Caldwell, Louise Caldwell's
mother, a widow with barely enough to live respectably on, was quietly
walking off with the prize which Mrs. Yorke and a number of other
mothers were striving to secure, and made no more of it than if it had
been her right. It all came of her family connections. That was the way
with those old families. They were so selfishly exclusive and so proud.
They held themselves superior to every one else and appeared to despise
wealth. Mrs. Yorke did not believe Mrs. Caldwell really did despise
wealth, but she admitted that she made a very good show of doing it.

Mrs. Yorke, foreseeing her failure with Norman Wentworth, was fain to
accept in his place Ferdy Wickersham, who, though certainly not Norman's
equal in some respects, was his superior in others.

To be sure, Ferdy was said to be a somewhat reckless young fellow, and
Mr. Yorke did not fancy him; but Mrs. Yorke argued, "Boys will be boys,
and you know, Mr. Yorke, you have told me you were none too good
yourself." On this, Dennis Yorke growled that a man was "a fool ever to
tell his wife anything of the kind, and that, at least, he never was in
that young Wickersham's class."

All of which Mrs. Yorke put aside, and sacrificed herself unstintedly to
achieve success for her daughter and compel her to forget the little
episode of the young Southern schoolmaster, with his tragic air.

Ah, the dreams of the climbers! How silly they are! Golden clouds at the
top, and just as they are reached, some little Jack comes along and
chops down the beanstalk, clouds and all.

So, Mrs. Yorke dreamed, and, a trifle anxious over Alice's persistent
reference to the charms of Spring woods and a Southern climate, after a
week or two of driving down-town and eager choosing of hats and wearying
fitting of dresses, started off with the girl on the yacht of Mr.
Lancaster, a wealthy, dignified, and cultivated friend of her husband's.
He had always been fond of Alice, and now got up a yacht-party for her
to see the boat-race.

       *       *       *       *       *

Keith had thought that the time when he should leave the region where he
had been immersed so long would be the happiest hour of his life. Yet,
when the day came, he was conscious of a strange tugging at his heart.
These people whom he was leaving, and for whom he had in his heart an
opinion very like contempt on account of their ignorance and narrowness,
appeared to him a wholly different folk. There was barely one of them
but had been kind to him. Hard they might appear and petty; but they
lived close together, and, break through the crust, one was sure to find
a warm heart and often a soft one.

He began to understand Dr. Balsam's speech: "I have lived in several
kinds of society, and I like the simplest best. One can get nearer to
men here. I do not ask gratitude. I get affection."

Keith had given notice that the school would close on a certain day. The
scholars always dropped off as summer came, to work in the crops; and
the attendance of late had been slim. This last day he hardly expected
to have half a dozen pupils. To his surprise, the school-house
was filled.

Even Jake Dennison, who had been off in the mountains for some little
time getting out timber, was on hand, large and good-humored, sitting
beside Phrony Tripper in her pink ribbons, and fanning her hard enough
to keep a mine fresh. A little later in the day quite a number of the
fathers and mothers of the children arrived in their rickety vehicles.
They had come to take leave of the young teacher. There were almost as
many as were present at the school celebration. Keith was quite
overcome, and when the hour arrived for closing the school, instead of,
as he had expected, tying up the half-dozen books he kept in his desk,
shaking hands with the dozen children eager to be turned loose in the
delightful pasturage of summer holiday, turning the key in the lock, and
plodding alone down the dusty road to Squire Rawson's, he now found the
school-room full, not of school-children only, but of grown people as
well. He had learned that they expected him to say something, and there
was nothing for him to do but to make the effort. For an hour, as he sat
during the last lessons,--which were in the nature of a review,--the
pages before him had been mere blurred spaces of white, and he had been
cogitating what he should say. Yet, when he rose, every idea that he had
tried so faithfully to put into shape fled from his brain.

Dropping all the well-turned phrases which he had been trying to frame,
he said simply that he had come there two years before with the conceit
of a young man expecting to teach them a good deal, and that he went
away feeling that he had taught very little, but that he had learned a
great deal; he had learned that the kindest people in the world lived in
that region; he should never forget their kindness and should always
feel that his best friends were there. A few words more about his hopes
for the school and his feeling for the people who had been so good to
him, and he pronounced the school closed. To his surprise, at a wink
from Squire Rawson, one of the other trustees, who had formerly been
opposed to Keith, rose, and, addressing the assemblage, began to say
things about him that pleased him as much as they astonished him.

He said that they, too, had begun with some doubt as to how things would
work, as one "could never tell what a colt would do till he got the
harness on him," but this colt had "turned out to be a pretty good
horse." Mr. Keith, maybe, had taught more than he knew. He had taught
some folks--this with a cut of his eye over toward where Jake Dennison
sat big and brown in the placid content of a young giant, fanning
Euphronia for life--he had "taught some folks that a door had to be
right strong to keep out a teacher as knowed his business." Anyhow, they
were satisfied with him, and the trustees had voted to employ him
another year, but he had declined. He had "business" that would take him
away. Some thought they knew that business. (At this there was a
responsive titter throughout the major portion of the room, and Gordon
Keith was furious with himself for finding that he suddenly turned hot
and red.) He himself, the speaker said, didn't pretend to know anything
about it, but he wanted to say that if Mr. Keith didn't find the
business as profitable as he expected, the trustees had determined to
hold the place open for him for one year, and had elected a successor
temporarily to hold it in case he should want to come back.

At this there was a round of approval, as near general applause as that
stolid folk ever indulged in.

Keith spent the next day in taking leave of his friends.

His last visit that evening was to Dr. Balsam. He had not been to the
village often in the evening since Mrs. Yorke and her daughter had left
the place. Now, as he passed up the walk, the summer moonlight was
falling full on the white front of the little hotel. The slanting
moonlight fell on the corner of the verandah where he had talked so
often to Alice Yorke as she lay reclining on her lounge, and where he
had had that last conversation with Mrs. Yorke, and Keith saw a young
man leaning over some one enveloped in white, half reclining in an
arm-chair. He wondered if the same talk were going on that had gone on
there before that evening when Mrs. Yorke had made him look nakedly
at Life.

When Keith stated his errand, the Doctor looked almost as grave as he
could have done had one of his cherished patients refused to respond to
his most careful treatment.

"One thing I want to say to you," he said presently "You have been
eating your heart out of late about something, and it is telling on you.
Give it up. Give that girl up. You will have to sooner or later. They
will prove too strong for you. Even if you do not, she will not suit
you; you will not get the woman you are after. She is an attractive
young girl, but she will not remain so. A few years in fashionable
society will change her. It is the most corroding life on earth!"
exclaimed the Doctor, bitterly. "Convention usurps the place of every
principle, and becomes the only god. She must change. All is Vanity!"
repeated the Doctor, almost in a revery, his eyes resting on
Keith's face.

"Well," he said, with a sigh, "if you ever get knocked down and hurt
badly, come back up here, and I will patch you up if I am living; and if
not, come back anyhow. The place will heal you provided you don't take
drugs. God bless you! Good-by." He walked with Keith to the outer edge
of his little porch and shook hands with him again, and again said,
"Good-by: God bless you!" When Keith turned at the foot of the hill and
looked back, he was just reentering his door, his spare, tall frame
clearly outlined against the light within. Keith somehow felt as if he
were turning his back on a landmark.

Just as Keith approached the gate on his return home, a figure rose up
from a fence-corner and stood before him in the starlight.

"Good even'n', Mr. Keith." The voice was Dave Dennison's. Keith greeted
him wonderingly. What on earth could have brought the boy out at that
time of the night? "Would you mind jest comin' down this a-way a
little piece?"

Keith walked back a short distance. Dave was always mysterious when he
had a communication to make. It was partly a sort of shyness and partly
a survival of frontier craft.

Dave soon resolved Keith's doubt. "I hear you're a-goin' away and ain't
comin' back no more?"

"How did you hear that--I mean, that I am not coming back again?" asked
Keith.

"Well, you're a-sayin' good-by to everybody, same's if they were all
a-goin' to die. Folks don't do that if they're a-comin' back." He leaned
forward, and in the semi-darkness Keith was aware that he was
scrutinizing his face.

"No, I do not expect to come back--to teach school again; but I hope to
return some day to see my friends."

The boy straightened up.

"Well, I wants to go with you."

"You! Go with me?" Keith exclaimed. Then, for fear the boy might be
wounded, he said: "Why, Dave, I don't even know where I am going. I have
not the least idea in the world what I am going to do. I only know I am
going away, and I am going to succeed."

"That's right. That's all right," agreed the boy. "You're a-goin'
somewheres, and I want to go with you. You don't know where you're
a-goin', but you're a-goin'. You know all them outlandish countries like
you've been a-tellin' us about, and I don't know anything, but I want to
know, and I'm a-goin' with you. Leastways, I'm a-goin', and I'm a-goin'
with you if you'll let me."

Keith's reply was anything but reassuring. He gave good reasons against
Dave's carrying out his plan; but his tone was kind, and the youngster
took it for encouragement.

"I ain't much account, I know," he pleaded. "I ain't any account in the
_worl'_," he corrected himself, so that there could be no mistake about
the matter. "They say at home I used to be some account--some little
account--before I took to books--before I _sorter_ took to books," he
corrected again shamefacedly; "but since then I ain't been no manner of
account. But I think--I kinder think--I could be some account if I
knowed a little and could go somewheres to be account."

Keith was listening earnestly, and the boy went on:

"When you told us that word about that man Hannibal tellin' his soldiers
how everything lay t'other side the mountains, I begin to see what you
meant. I thought before that I knowed a lot; then I found out how durned
little I did know, and since then I have tried to learn, and I mean to
learn; and that's the reason I want to go with you. You know and I
don't, and you're the only one as ever made me want to know."

Keith was conscious of a flush of warm blood about his heart. It was the
first-fruit of his work.

The boy broke in on his pleasant revery.

"You'll let me go?" he asked. "Cause I'm a-goin' certain sure. I ain't
a-goin' to stay here in this country no longer. See here." He pulled out
an old bag and poked it into Keith's hand. "I've got sixteen dollars and
twenty-three cents there. I made it, and while the other boys were
spendin' theirn, I saved mine. You can pour it out and count it."

Keith said he would go and see his father about it the next day.

This did not appear to satisfy Dave.

"I'm a-goin' whether he says so or not," he burst forth. "I want to see
the worl'. Don't nobody keer nothin' about me, an' I want to git out."

"Oh, yes! Why, I care about you," said Keith.

To his surprise, the boy began to whimper.

"Thankee. I'm obliged to you. I--want to go away--where Phrony ner
nobody--ner anybody won't never see me no more--any more."

The truth dawned on Keith. Little Dave, too, had his troubles, his
sorrows, his unrequited affections. Keith warmed to the boy.

"Phrony is a lot older than you," he said consolingly.

"No, she ain't; we are just of an age; and if she was I wouldn't keer.
I'm goin' away."

Keith had to interpose his refusal to take him in such a case. He said,
however, that if he could obtain his father's consent, as soon as he got
settled he would send for him. On the basis of this compromise the boy
went home.



CHAPTER XI

GUMBOLT

With the savings of his two years of school-teaching Keith found that he
had enough, by practising rigid economy, to give himself another year at
college, and he practised rigid economy.

He worked under the spur of ambition to show Alice Yorke and those who
surrounded her that he was not a mere country clod.

With his face set steadily in the direction where stood the luminous
form of the young girl he had met and come to worship amid the
blossoming woods, he studied to such good purpose that at the end of the
session he had packed two years' work into one.

Keith had no very definite ideas, when he started out at the end of his
college year, as to what he should do. He only knew that he had strong
pinions, and that the world was before him. He wished to bury himself
from observation until he should secure the success with which he would
burst forth on an astonished world, overwhelm Mrs. Yorke, and capture
Alice. His first intention had been to go to the far West; but on
consideration he abandoned the idea.

Rumors were already abroad that in the great Appalachian mountain-range
opportunity might be as golden as in that greater range on the other
side of the continent.

Keith had a sentiment that he would rather succeed in the South than
elsewhere.

"Only get rifles out and railroads in, and capital will come pouring
after them," Rhodes had said. "Old Wickersham knows his business."

That was a good while ago, and at last the awakening had begun. Now that
carpet-bagging was at an end, and affairs were once more settled in that
section, the wealth of the country was again being talked of in
the press.

The chief centre of the new life was a day's drive farther in the
mountains than Eden, the little hamlet which Keith had visited once with
Dr. Balsam when he attended an old stage-driver, Gilsey by name, and cut
a bullet out of what he called his "off-leg." This was the veiled
Golconda. To the original name of Humboldt the picturesque and humorous
mountaineer had given the name of "Gumbolt."

This was where old Adam Rawson, stirred by the young engineer's
prophecy, had taken time by the forelock and had bought up the mineral
rights, and "gotten ahead" of Wickersham & Company.

Times and views change even in the Ridge region, and now, after years of
delay, Wickersham & Company's railroad was about to be built. It had
already reached Eden.

Keith, after a few days with his father, stopped at Ridgely to see his
old friends. The Doctor looked him over with some disapproval.

"As gaunt as a greyhound," he muttered. "My patient not married yet, I
suppose? Well, she will be. You'd better tear her out of your memory
before she gets too firmly lodged there."

Keith boldly said he would take the chances.

When old Rawson saw him he, too, remarked on his thinness; but more
encouragingly.

"Well, 'a lean dog for a long chase,'" he said.

"How are cattle?" inquired Keith.

The old fellow turned his eyes on him with a keen look.

"Cattle's tolerable. I been buyin' a considerable number up toward
Gumbolt, where you're goin'. I may get you to look after 'em some day,"
he chuckled.

Gordon wrote to Dave Dennison that he was going to Gumbolt and would
look out for him. A little later he learned that the boy had already
gone there.

The means of reaching Gumbolt from Eden, the terminus of the railroad
which Wickersham & Company were building, was still the stage, a
survivor of the old-time mountain coach, which had outlasted all the
manifold chances and changes of fortune.

Happily for Keith, he had been obliged, though it was raining, to take
the outside seat by the driver, old Tim Gilsey, to whom he recalled
himself, and by his coolness at "Hellstreak Hill," where the road
climbed over the shoulder of the mountain along a sheer cliff, and
suddenly dropped to the river below, a point where old Gilsey was wont
to display his skill as a driver and try the nerves of passengers, he
made the old man his friend for life.

When the stage began to ascend the next hill, the old driver actually
unbent so far as to give an account of a "hold-up" that had occurred at
that point not long before, "all along of the durned railroad them
Yankees was bringin' into the country," to which he laid most of the
evils of the time. "For when you run a stage you know who you got with
you," declared Mr. Gilsey; "but when you run a railroad you dunno
who you got."

"Well, tell me about the time you were held up."

"Didn't nobody hold me up," sniffed Mr. Gilsey. "If I had been goin' to
stop I wouldn't 'a' started. It was a dom fool they put up here when I
was down with rheumatiz. Since then they let me pick my substitute.

"Well," he said, as a few lights twinkled below them, "there she is.
Some pretty tough characters there, too. But you ain't goin' to have no
trouble with 'em. All you got to do is to put the curb on 'em onct."

As Keith looked about him in Gumbolt, the morning after his arrival, he
found that his new home was only a rude mining-camp, raw and rugged; a
few rows of frame houses, beginning to be supplanted by hasty brick
structures, stretched up the hills on the sides of unpaved roads, dusty
in dry weather and bottomless in wet. Yet it was, for its size, already
one of the most cosmopolitan places in the country. Of course, the
population was mainly American, and they were beginning to pour
in--sharp-eyed men from the towns in black coats, and long-legged,
quiet-looking and quiet-voiced mountaineers in rusty clothes, who hulked
along in single file, silent and almost fugitive in the glare of
daylight. Quiet they were and well-nigh stealthy, with something of the
movement of other denizens of the forest, unless they were crossed and
aroused, and then, like those other denizens, they were fierce almost
beyond belief. A small cavil might make a great quarrel, and pistols
would flash as quick as light.

The first visit that Keith received was from J. Quincy Plume, the editor
of the _Gumbolt Whistle_. He had the honor of knowing his distinguished
father, he said, and had once had the pleasure of being at his old home.
He had seen Keith's name on the book, and had simply called to offer him
any services he or his paper could render him. "There are so few
gentlemen in this ---- hole," he explained, "that I feel that we should
all stand together." Keith, knowing J. Quincy's history,
inwardly smiled.

Mr. Plume had aged since he was the speaker of the carpet-bag
legislature; his black hair had begun to be sprinkled with gray, and had
receded yet farther back on his high forehead, his hazel eyes were a
little bleared; and his full lips were less resolute than of old. He had
evidently seen bad times since he was the facile agent of the Wickersham
interests. He wore a black suit and a gay necktie which had once been
gayer, a shabby silk hat, and patent-leather shoes somewhat broken.

His addiction to cards and drink had contributed to Mr. Plume's
overthrow, and after a disappearance from public view for some time he
had turned up just as Gumbolt began to be talked of, with a small sheet
somewhat larger than a pocket-handkerchief, which, in prophetic tribute
to Gumbolt's future manufactures, he christened the _Gumbolt Whistle_.

Mr. Plume offered to introduce Keith to "the prettiest woman in
Gumbolt," and, incidentally, to "the best cocktail" also. "Terpsichore
is a nymph who practises the Terpsichorean art; indeed, I may say,
presides over a number of the arts, for she has the best faro-bank in
town, and the only bar where a gentleman can get a drink that will not
poison a refined stomach. She is, I may say, the leader of
Gumbolt society."

Keith shook his head; he had come to work, he declared.

"Oh, you need not decline; you will have to know Terpy. I am virtue
itself; in fact, I am Joseph--nowadays. You know, I belong to the
cloth?" Keith's expression indicated that he had heard this fact. "But
even I have yielded to her charms--intellectual, I mean, of course."

Mr. Plume withdrew after having suggested to Keith to make him a small
temporary loan, or, if more convenient, to lend him the use of his name
on a little piece of bank-paper "to tide over an accidental and
unexpected emergency," assuring Keith that he would certainly take it up
within sixty days.

Unfortunately for Keith, Plume's cordiality had made so much impression
on him that he was compliant enough to lend him the use of his name, and
as neither at the expiration of sixty days, nor at any other time, did
Mr. Plume ever find it convenient to take up his note, Keith found
himself later under the necessity of paying it himself. This
circumstance, it is due to Mr. Plume to say, he always deplored, and
doubtless with sincerity.

       *       *       *       *       *

Women were at a premium in Gumbolt, and Mr. Plume was not the only
person who hymned the praises of "Terpsichoar," as she was mainly
called. Keith could not help wondering what sort of a creature she was
who kept a dance-house and a faro-bank, and yet was spoken of with
unstinted admiration and something very like respect by the crowd that
gathered in the "big room of the Windsor." She must be handsome, and
possibly was a good dancer, but she was no doubt a wild, coarse
creature, with painted cheeks and dyed hair. The mental picture he
formed was not one to interfere with the picture he carried in
his heart.

Next day, as he was making a purchase in a shop, a neat and trim-looking
young woman, with a fresh complexion and a mouth full of white teeth,
walked in, and in a pleasant voice said, "Good mornin', all." Keith did
not associate her at all with Terpsichore, but he was surprised that old
Tim Gilsey should not have known of her presence in town. He was still
more surprised when, after having taken a long and perfectly unabashed
look at him, with no more diffidence in it than if he had been a lump of
ore she was inspecting, she said:

"You're the fellow that come to town night before last? Uncle Tim was
tellin' me about you."

"Yes; I got here night before last. Who is Uncle Tim?"

"Uncle Tim Gilsey."

She walked up and extended her hand to him with the most perfect
friendliness, adding, with a laugh as natural as a child's:

"We'll have to be friends; Uncle Tim says you're a white man, and that's
more than some he brings over the road these days are."

"Yes, I hope so. You are Mr. Gilsey's nieces I am glad to meet you"

The young woman burst out laughing.

"Lor', _no_. I ain't anybody's niece; but he's my uncle--I've adopted
_him_. I'm Terpy--Terpsichore, run Terpsichore's Hall," she said by way
of explanation, as if she thought he might not understand her allusion.

Keith's breath was almost taken away. Why, she was not at all like the
picture he had formed of her. She was a neat, quiet-looking young woman,
with a fine figure, slim and straight and supple, a melodious voice, and
laughing gray eyes.

"You must come and see me. We're to have a blow-out to-night. Come
around. I'll introduce you to the boys. I've got the finest ball-room in
town--just finished--and three fiddles. We christen it to-night. Goin'
to be the biggest thing ever was in Gumbolt."

Keith awoke from his daze.

"Thank you, but I am afraid I'll have to ask you to excuse me," he said.

"Why?" she inquired simply.

"Because I can't come. I am not much of a dancer."

She looked at him first with surprise and then with amusement.

"Are you a Methodist preacher?"

"No."

"Salvation?"

"No."

"I thought, maybe, you were like Tib Drummond, the Methodist, what's
always a-preachin' ag'in' me." She turned to the storekeeper. "What do
you think he says? He says he won't come and see me, and he ain't a
preacher nor Salvation Army neither. But he will, won't he?"

"You bet," said the man, peeping up with a grin from behind a barrel.
"If he don't, he'll be about the only one in town who don't."

"No," said Keith, pleasantly, but firmly. "I can't go."

"Oh, yes, you will," she laughed. "I'll expect you. By-by"; and she
walked out of the store with a jaunty air, humming a song about the
"iligint, bauld McIntyres."

The "blow-out" came off, and was honored with a column in the next issue
of the Whistle--a column of reeking eulogy. But Keith did not attend,
though he heard the wheezing of fiddles and the shouting and stamping of
Terpsichore's guests deep into the night.

Keith was too much engrossed for the next few days in looking about him
for work and getting himself as comfortably settled as possible to think
of anything else.

If, however, he forgot the "only decent-looking woman in Gumbolt," she
did not forget him. The invitation of a sovereign is equivalent to a
command the world over; and Terpsichore was as much the queen regnant of
Gumbolt as Her Majesty, Victoria, was Queen of England, or of any other
country in her wide realm. She was more; she was absolute. She could
have had any one of a half-dozen men cut the throat of any other man in
Gumbolt at her bidding.

The mistress of the "Dancing Academy" had not forgotten her boast. The
institution over which she presided was popular enough almost to justify
her wager. There were few men of Keith's age in Gumbolt who did not
attend its sessions and pay their tribute over the green tables that
stretched along the big, low room.

In fact, Miss Terpsichore was not of that class that forget either
friends or foes; whatever she was she was frankly and outspokenly. Mr.
Plume informed Keith that she was "down on him."

"She's got it in for you," he said. "Says she's goin' to drive you out
of Gumbolt."

"Well, she will not," said Keith, with a flash in his eye.

"She is a good friend and a good foe," said the editor. "Better go and
offer a pinch of incense to Diana. She is worth cultivating. You ought
to see her dance."

Keith, however, had made his decision. A girl with eyes like dewy
violets was his Diana, and to her his incense was offered.

A day or two later Keith was passing down the main street, when he saw
the young woman crossing over at the corner ahead of him, stepping from
one stone to another quite daintily. She was holding up her skirt, and
showed a very neat pair of feet in perfectly fitting boots. At the
crossing she stopped. As Keith passed her, he glanced at her, and caught
her eye fastened on him. She did not look away at all, and Keith
inclined his head in recognition of their former meeting.

"Good morning," she said.

"Good morning." Keith lifted his hat and was passing on.

"Why haven't you been to see me?" she demanded.

Keith pretended not to hear.

"I thought I invited you to come and see me?"

Still, Keith did not answer, but he paused. His head was averted, and he
was waiting until she ceased speaking to go on.

Suddenly, to his surprise, she bounded in front of him and squared her
straight figure right before him.

"Did you hear what I said to you?" she demanded tempestuously.

"Yes."

"Then why don't you answer me?" Her gaze was fastened on his face. Her
cheeks were flushed, her voice was imperative, and her eyes flashed.

"Because I didn't wish to do so," said Keith, calmly.

Suddenly she flamed out and poured at him a torrent of vigorous oaths.
He was so taken by surprise that he forgot to do anything but wonder,
and his calmness evidently daunted her.

"Don't you know that when a lady invites you to come to see her, you
have to do it?"

"I have heard that," said Keith, beginning to look amused.

"You have? Do you mean to say Tam not a lady?"

"Well, from your conversation, I might suppose you were a man," said
Keith, half laughing.

"I will show you that I am man enough for you. Don't you know I am the
boss of this town, and that when I tell you to do a thing you have
to obey me?"

"No; I do not know that," said Keith. "You may be the boss of this town,
but I don't have to obey you."

"Well, I will show you about it, and ---- quick, too. See if I don't! I
will run you out of this town, my young man."

"Oh, I don't think you will," said Keith, easily.

"Yes, I will, and quick enough, too. You look out for me."

"Good morning," said Keith, raising his hat.

The loudness of her tone and the vehemence of her manner had arrested
several passers-by, who now stood looking on with interest.

"What's the matter, Terpy?" asked one of them. "What are you so peppery
about? Bank busted?"

The young woman explained the matter with more fairness than Keith would
have supposed.

"Oh, he is just a fool. Let him alone," said the man; whilst another
added: "He'll come around, darlin'; don't you bother; and if he don't,
I will."

"---- him! He's got to go. I won't let him now. You know when I say a
thing it's got to be, and I mean to make him know it, too," asserted the
young Amazon. "I'll have him driven out of town, and if there ain't any
one here that's man enough to do it, I'll do it myself." This
declaration she framed with an imprecation sufficiently strong if an
oath could make it so.

That evening Tim Gilsey came in to see Keith. He looked rather grave.

"I am sorry you did not drop in, if it was for no more than to git
supper," he said. "Terpy is a bad one to have against you. She's the
kindest gal in the world; but she's got a temper, and when a gal's got a
temper, she's worse'n a fractious leader."

"I don't want her against me; but I'll be hanged if I will be driven
into going anywhere that I don't want to go," asserted Keith.

"No, I don't say as you should," said the old driver, his eye resting on
Keith with a look that showed that he liked him none the less for his
pluck. "But you've got to look out. This ain't back in the settlements,
and there's a plenty around here as would cut your throat for a wink of
Terpy's eye. They will give you a shake for it, and if you come out of
that safe it will be all right. I'll see one or two of the boys and see
that they don't let 'em double up on you. A horse can't do nothin' long
if he has got a double load on him, no matter what he is."

Tim strolled out, and, though Keith did not know it for some time, he
put in a word for him in one or two places which stood him in good stead
afterwards.

The following day a stranger came up to Keith. He was a thin man between
youth and middle age, with a long face and a deep voice, and light hair
that stuck up on his head. His eyes were deep-set and clear; his mouth
was grave and his chin strong. He wore a rusty black coat and short,
dark trousers.

"Are you Mr. Keith?" His voice was deep and melancholy.

Keith bowed. He could not decide what the stranger was. The short
trousers inclined him to the church.

"I am proud to know you, sir. I am Mr. Drummond, the Methodist
preacher." He gripped Keith's hand.

Keith expressed the pleasure he had in meeting him.

"Yes, sir; I am proud to know you," repeated Mr. Drummond. "I hear you
have come out on the right side, and have given a righteous reproof to
that wretched dancing Jezebel who is trying to destroy the souls of the
young men of this town."

Keith said that he was not aware that he had done anything of the kind.
As to destroying the young men, he doubted if they could be injured by
her--certainly not by dancing. In any event, he did not merit
his praise.

Mr. Drummond shook his head. "Yes, sir. You are the first young man who
has had the courage to withstand the wiles of that person. She is the
most abandoned creature in this town; she beguiles the men so that I can
make no impression on them. Even when I am holding my meetings, I can
hear the strains of her fiddles and the shouts of the ribald followers
that throng her den-of-Satan. I have tried to get her to leave, but she
will not go."

Keith's reply was that he thought she had as much right there as any
one, and he doubted if there were any way to meet the difficulty.

"I am sorry to hear you say that," said the preacher. "I shall break up
her sink of iniquity if I have to hold a revival meeting at her very
door and call down brimstone and fire upon her den of wickedness"

"If you felt so on the subject of dancing, why did you come here?"
demanded Keith. "It seems to me that dancing is one of the least sins
of Gumbolt."

The preacher looked at him almost pensively. "I thought it my duty. I
have encountered ridicule and obloquy; but I do not mind them. I count
them but dross. Wherever I have found the print of my Lord's shoe in the
earth, there I have coveted to set my feet also."

Keith bowed. The speech of Mr. Valiant-for-Truth carried its cachet with
it. The stiff, awkward figure had changed. The preacher's sincerity had
lent him dignity, and his simple use of a simple tinker's words had
suddenly uplifted him to a higher plane.

"Do not you think you might go about it in a less uncompromising spirit?
You might succeed better and do more good," said Keith.

"No, sir; I will make no compromise with the devil--not even to succeed.
Good-by. I am sorry to find you among the obdurate." As he shook hands,
his jaw was set fast and his eye was burning. He strode off with the
step of a soldier advancing in battle.

Keith had not long to wait to test old Gilsey's advice. He was sitting
in the public room of the Windsor, a few evenings later, among the
motley crew that thronged that popular resort, who were discoursing of
many things, from J. Quincy Plume's last editorial on "The New Fanny
Elssler," to the future of Gumbolt, when Mr. Plume himself entered. His
appearance was the signal for some humor, for Mr. Plume had long passed
the time when any one but himself took him seriously.

"Here comes somebody that can tell us the news," called some one. "Come
in, J. Quincy, and tell us what you know."

"That would take too long," said Mr. Plume, as he edged himself toward
the stove. "You will find all the news in the _Whistle_ to-morrow."

Just then another new arrival, who had pushed his way in toward the
stove, said: "I will tell you a piece of news: Bill Bluffy is back."

"Come back, has he?" observed one of the company. "Well, that is more
interesting to J. Quincy than if the railroad had come. They are hated
rivals. Since J. Quincy has taken to writing editorials on Terpy, Bill
says there ain't no show for him. He threatened to kill Terp, I heard."

"Oh, I guess he has got more sense than that, drunk or sober. He had
better stick to men; shootin' of women ain't popular in most parts, an'
it ain't likely to get fashionable in Gumbolt, I reckon."

"He is huntin' for somebody," said the newcomer.

"I guess if he is going to get after all of Terpy's ardent admirers, he
will have his hands pretty full," observed Mr. Plume--a sentiment which
appeared to meet with general approval.

Just then the door opened a little roughly, and a man entered slowly
whom Keith knew intuitively to be Mr. Bill Bluffy himself. He was a
young, brown-bearded man, about Keith's size, but more stockily built,
his flannel shirt was laced up in front, and had a full, broad collar
turned over a red necktie with long ends. His slouch-hat was set on the
back of his head. The gleaming butts of two pistols that peeped out of
his waistband gave a touch of piquancy to his appearance. His black eyes
were restless and sparkling with excitement. He wavered slightly in his
gait, and his speech was just thick enough to confirm what his
appearance suggested, and what he was careful to declare somewhat
superfluously, that he was "on a ---- of a spree."

"I am a-huntin' for a ---- furriner 'at I promised to run out of town
before to-morrow mornin'. Is he in here!" He tried to stand still, but
finding this difficult, advanced.

A pause fell in the conversation around the stove. Two or three of the
men, after a civil enough greeting, hitched themselves into a more
comfortable posture in their chairs, and it was singular, though Keith
did not recall it until afterwards, that each of them showed by the
movement a pistol on his right hip.

After a general greeting, which in form was nearer akin to an eternal
malediction than to anything else, Mr. Bluffy walked to the bar. Resting
himself against it, he turned, and sweeping his eye over the assemblage,
ordered every man in the room to walk up and take a drink with him,
under penalties veiled in too terrific language to be wholly
intelligible. The violence of his invitation was apparently not quite
necessary, as every man in the room pulled back his chair promptly and
moved toward the bar, leaving Keith alone by the stove. Mr. Bluffy had
ordered drinks, when his casual glance fell on Keith standing quietly
inside the circle of chairs on the other side of the stove. He pushed
his way unsteadily through the men clustered at the bar.

"Why in the ---- don't you come up and do what I tell you? Are you
deaf?"

"No," said Keith, quietly; "but I'll get you to excuse me."

"Excuse ----! You aren't too good to drink with me, are you? If you
think you are, I'll show you pretty ----d quick you ain't."

Keith flushed.

"Drink with him," said two or three men in an undertone. "Or take a
cigar," said one, in a friendly aside.

"Thank you, I won't drink," said Keith, yet more gravely, his face
paling a little, "and I don't care for a cigar."

"Come on, Mr. Keith," called some one.

The name caught the young bully, and he faced Keith more directly.

"Keith?--Keith!" he repeated, fastening his eyes on him with a cold
glitter in them. "So you're Mr. Keith, are you?"

"That is my name," said Keith, feeling his blood tingling.

"Well, you're the man I'm a-lookin' for. No, you won't drink with me,
'cause I won't let you, you ---- ---- ----! You are the ---- ---- that
comes here insultin' a lady?"

"No; I am not," said Keith, keeping his eyes on him.

"You're a liar!" said Mr. Bluffy, adding his usual expletives. "And
you're the man I've come back here a-huntin' for. I promised to drive
you out of town to-night if I had to go to hell a-doin' it."

His white-handled pistol was out of his waistband with a movement so
quick that he had it cocked and Keith was looking down the barrel before
he took in what had been done. Quickness was Mr. Bluffy's strongest
card, and he had played it often.

Keith's face paled slightly. He looked steadily over the pistol, not
three feet from him, at the drunken creature beyond it. His nerves grew
tense, and every muscle in his frame tightened. He saw the beginning of
the grooves in the barrel of the pistol and the gray cones of the
bullets at the side in the cylinder; he saw the cruel, black, drunken
eyes of the young desperado. It was all in a flash. He had not a chance
for his life. Yes, he had.

"Let up, Bill," said a voice, coaxingly, as one might to soothe a wild
beast. "Don't--"

"Drop that pistol!" said another voice, which Keith recognized as Dave
Dennison's.

The desperado half glanced at the latter as he shot a volley of oaths at
him. That glance saved Keith. He ducked out of the line of aim and
sprang upon his assailant at the same time, seizing the pistol as he
went, and turning it up just as Bluffy pulled the trigger. The ball
went into the remote corner of the ceiling, and the desperado was
carried off his feet by Keith's rush.

The only sounds heard in the room were the shuffling of the feet of the
two wrestlers and the oaths of the enraged Bluffy. Keith had not uttered
a word. He fought like a bulldog, without noise. His effort was, while
he still gripped the pistol, to bring his two hands together behind his
opponent's back. A sudden relaxation of the latter's grip as he made
another desperate effort to release his pistol favored Keith, and,
bringing his hands together, he lifted his antagonist from his feet, and
by a dexterous twist whirled him over his shoulder and dashed him with
all his might, full length flat on his back, upon the floor. It was an
old trick learned in his boyish days and practised on the Dennisons, and
Gordon had by it ended many a contest, but never one more completely
than this. A buzz of applause came from the bystanders, and more than
one, with sudden friendliness, called to him to get Bluffy's pistol,
which had fallen on the floor. But Keith had no need to do so, for just
then a stoutly built young fellow snatched it up. It was Dave Dennison,
who had come in just as the row began. He had been following up Bluffy.
The desperado, however, was too much shaken to have used it immediately,
and when, still stunned and breathless, he rose to his feet, the crowd
was too much against him to have allowed him to renew the attack, even
had he then desired it.

As for Keith, he found himself suddenly the object of universal
attention, and he might, had he been able to distribute himself, have
slept in half the shacks in the camp.

The only remark Dave made on the event was characteristic:

"Don't let him git the drop on you again."

The next morning Keith found himself, in some sort, famous. "Tacklin'
Bill Bluffy without a gun and cleanin' him up," as one of his new
friends expressed it, was no mean feat, and Keith was not insensible to
the applause it brought him. He would have enjoyed it more, perhaps, had
not every man, without exception, who spoke of it given him the same
advice Dave had given--to look out for Bluffy. To have to kill a man or
be killed oneself is not the pleasantest introduction to one's new home;
yet this appeared to Keith the dilemma in which he was placed, and as,
if either had to die, he devoutly hoped it would not be himself, he
stuck a pistol in his pocket and walked out the next morning with very
much the same feeling he supposed he should have if he had been going to
battle. He was ashamed to find himself much relieved when some one he
met volunteered the information that Bluffy had left town by light that
morning. "Couldn't stand the racket. Terpy wouldn't even speak to him.
But he'll come back. Jest as well tote your gun a little while, till
somebody else kills him for you." A few mornings later, as Keith was
going down the street, he met again the "only decent-lookin' gal in
Gumbolt." It was too late for him to turn off, for when he first caught
sight of her he saw that she had seen him, and her head went up, and she
turned her eyes away. He hoped to pass without appearing to know her;
but just before they met, she cut her eye at him, and though his gaze
was straight ahead, she said, "Good morning," and he touched his hat as
he passed. That afternoon he met her again. He was passing on as before,
without looking at her, but she stopped him. "Good afternoon." She spoke
rather timidly, and the color that mounted to her face made her very
handsome. He returned the salutation coldly, and with an uneasy feeling
that he was about to be made the object of another outpouring of her
wrath. Her intention, however, was quite different. "I don't want you to
think I set that man on you; it was somebody else done it." The color
came and went in her cheeks.

Keith bowed politely, but preserved silence.

"I was mad enough to do it, but I didn't, and them that says I done it
lies." She flushed, but looked him straight in the face.

"Oh, that's all right," said Keith, civilly, starting to move on.

"I wish they would let me and my affairs alone," she began.' "They're
always a-talkin' about me, and I never done 'em no harm. First thing
they know, I'll give 'em something to talk about."

The suppressed fire was beginning to blaze again, and Keith looked
somewhat anxiously down the street, wishing he were anywhere except in
that particular company. To relieve the tension, he said:

"I did not mean to be rude to you the other day. Good morning."

At the kind tone her face changed.

"I knew it. I was riled that mornin' about another thing--somethin' what
happened the day before, about Bill," she explained. "Bill's bad enough
when he's in liquor, and I'd have sent him off for good long ago if they
had let him alone. But they're always a-peckin' and a-diggin' at him.
They set him on drinkin' and fightin', and not one of 'em is man enough
to stand up to him."

She gave a little whimper, and then, as if not trusting herself further,
walked hastily away. Mr. Gilsey said to Gordon soon afterwards:

"Well, you've got one friend in Gumbolt as is a team by herself; you've
captured Terp. She says you're the only man in Gumbolt as treats her
like a lady."

Keith was both pleased and relieved.

A week or two after Keith had taken up his abode in Gumbolt, Mr. Gilsey
was taken down with his old enemy, the rheumatism, and Keith went to
visit him. He found him in great anxiety lest his removal from the box
should hasten the arrival of the railway. He unexpectedly gave Keith
evidence of the highest confidence he could have in any man. He asked
if he would take the stage until he got well. Gordon readily assented.

So the next morning at daylight Keith found himself sitting in the boot,
enveloped in old Tim's greatcoat, enthroned in that high seat toward
which he had looked in his childhood-dreams.

It was hard work and more or less perilous work, but his experience as a
boy on the plantation and at Squire Rawson's, when he had driven the
four-horse wagon, stood him in good stead.

Old Tim's illness was more protracted than any one had contemplated,
and, before the first winter was out, Gordon had a reputation as a
stage-driver second only to old Gilsey himself.

Stage-driving, however, was not his only occupation, and before the next
Spring had passed, Keith had become what Mr. Plume called "one of
Gumbolt's rising young sons." His readiness to lend a hand to any one
who needed a helper began to tell. Whether it was Mr. Gilsey trying to
climb with his stiff joints to the boot of his stage, or Squire Rawson's
cousin, Captain Turley, the sandy-whiskered, sandy-clothed surveyor,
running his lines through the laurel bushes among the gray debris of the
crumbled mountain-side; Mr. Quincy Plume trying to evolve new copy from
a splitting head, or the shouting wagon-drivers thrashing their teams up
the muddy street, he could and would help any one.

He was so popular that he was nominated to be the town constable, a
tribute to his victory over Mr. Bluffy.

Terpy and he, too, had become friends, and though Keith stuck to his
resolution not to visit her "establishment," few days went by that she
did not pass him on the street or happen along where he was, and always
with a half-abashed nod and a rising color.



CHAPTER XII

KEITH DECLINES AN OFFER

With the growth of Gumbolt, Mr. Wickersham and his friends awakened to
the fact that Squire Rawson was not the simple cattle-dealer he appeared
to be, but was a man to be reckoned with. He not only held a large
amount of the most valuable property in the Gap, but had as yet proved
wholly intractable about disposing of it. Accordingly, the agent of
Wickersham & Company, Mr. Halbrook, came down to Gumbolt to look into
the matter. He brought with him a stout, middle-aged Scotchman, named
Matheson, with keen eyes and a red face, who was represented to be the
man whom Wickersham & Company intended to make the superintendent of
their mines as soon as they should be opened.

The railroad not having yet been completed more than a third of the way
beyond Eden, Mr. Halbrook took the stage to Gumbolt.

Owing to something that Mr. Gilsey had let fall about Keith, Mr.
Halbrook sent next day for Keith. He wanted him to do a small piece of
surveying for him. With him was the stout Scotchman, Matheson.

The papers and plats were on a table in his room, and Keith was looking
at them.

"How long would it take you to do it?" asked Mr. Halbrook. He was a
short, alert-looking man, with black eyes and a decisive manner. He
always appeared to be in a hurry.

Keith was so absorbed that he did not answer immediately, and the agent
repeated the question with a little asperity in his tone.

"I say how long would it take you to run those lines?"

"I don't know," said Keith, doubtfully. "I see a part of the property
lies on the mountain-side just above and next to Squire Rawson's lands.
I could let you know to-morrow."

"To-morrow! You people down here always want to put things off. That is
the reason you are so behind the rest of the world. The stage-driver,
however, told me that you were different, and that is the reason I
sent for you."

Keith straightened himself. "Dr. Chalmers said when some one praised him
as better than other Scotchmen, 'I thank you, sir, for no compliment
paid me at the expense of my countrymen." He half addressed himself to
the Scotchman.

Matheson turned and looked him over, and as he did so his grim face
softened a little.

"I know nothing about your doctors," said Mr. Halbrook; "what I want is
to get this work done. Why can't you let me know to-day what it will
cost? I have other things to do. I wish to leave to-morrow afternoon."

"Well," said Keith, with a little flush in his face, "I could guess at
it to-day. I think it will take a very short time. I am familiar with a
part of this property already, and--"

Mr. Halbrook was a man of quick intellect; moreover, he had many things
on his mind just then. Among them he had to go and see what sort of a
trade he could make with this Squire Rawson, who had somehow stumbled
into the best piece of land in the Gap, and was now holding it in an
obstinate and unreasonable way.

"Well, I don't want any guessing. I'll tell you what I will do. I will
pay you so much for the job." He named a sum which was enough to make
Keith open his eyes. It was more than he had ever received for any one
piece of work.

"It would be cheaper for you to pay me by the day," Keith began.

"Not much! I know the way you folks work down here. I have seen
something of it. No day-work for me. I will pay you so many dollars for
the job. What do you say? You can take it or leave it alone. If you do
it well, I may have some more work for you." He had no intention of
being offensive; he was only talking what he would have called
"business"; but his tone was such that Keith answered him with a flash
in his eye, his breath coming a little more quickly.

"Very well; I will take it."

Keith took the papers and went out. Within a few minutes he had found
his notes of the former survey and secured his assistants. His next step
was to go to Captain Turley and take him into partnership in the work,
and within an hour he was out on the hills, verifying former lines and
running such new lines as were necessary. Spurred on by the words of the
newcomer even more than by the fee promised him, Keith worked with might
and main, and sat up all night finishing the work. Next day he walked
into the room where Mr. Halbrook sat, in the company's big new office at
the head of the street. He had a roll of paper under his arm.

"Good morning, sir." His head was held rather high, and his voice had a
new tone in it.

Mr. Wickersham's agent looked up, and his face clouded. He was not used
to being addressed in so independent a tone.

"Good morning. I suppose you have come to tell me how long it will take
you to finish the job that I gave you, or that the price I named is not
high enough?"

"No," said Keith, "I have not. I have come to show you that my people
down here do not always put things off till to-morrow. I have come to
tell you that I have done the work. Here is your survey." He unrolled
and spread out before Mr. Halbrook's astonished gaze the plat he had
made. It was well done, the production of a draughtsman who knew the
value of neatness and skill. The agent's eyes opened wide.

"Impossible! You could not have done it, or else you--"

"I have done it," said Keith, firmly. "It is correct."

"You had the plat before?" Mr. Halbrook's eyes were fastened on him
keenly. He was feeling a little sore at what he considered having been
outwitted by this youngster.

"I had run certain of the lines before," said Keith: "these, as I
started to tell you yesterday. And now," he said, with a sudden change
of manner, "I will make you the same proposal I made yesterday. You can
pay me what you think the work is worth. I will not hold you to your
bargain of yesterday."

The other sat back in his chair, and looked at him with a different
expression on his face.

"You must have worked all night?' he said thoughtfully.

"I did," said Keith, "and so did my assistant, but that is nothing. I
have often done that for less money. Many people sit up all night in
Gumbolt," he added, with a smile.

"That old stage-driver said you were a worker." Mr. Halbrook's eyes were
still on him. "Where are you from?"

"Born and bred in the South," said Keith.

"I owe you something of an apology for what I said yesterday. I shall
have some more work for you, perhaps."

       *       *       *       *       *

The agent, when he went back to the North, was as good as his word. He
told his people that there was one man in Gumbolt who would do their
work promptly.

"And he's straight," he said. "He says he is from the South; but he is a
new issue."

He further reported that old Rawson, the countryman who owned the land
in the Gap, either owned or controlled the cream of the coal-beds there.
"He either knows or has been well advised by somebody who knows the
value of all the lands about there. And he has about blocked the game. I
think it's that young Keith, and I advise you to get hold of Keith."

"Who is Keith? What Keith? What is his name?" asked Mr. Wickersham.

"Gordon Keith."

Mr. Wickersham's face brightened. "Oh, that is all right; we can get
him. We might give him a place?"

Mr. Halbrook nodded.

Mr. Wickersham sat down and wrote a letter to Keith, saying that he
wished to see him in New York on a matter of business which might
possibly turn out to his advantage. He also wrote a letter to General
Keith, suggesting that he might possibly be able to give his son
employment, and intimating that it was on account of his high regard for
the General.

That day Keith met Squire Rawson on the street. He was dusty and
travel-stained.

"I was jest comin' to see you," he said.

They returned to the little room which Keith called his office, where
the old fellow opened his saddle-bags and took out a package of papers.

"They all thought I was a fool," he chuckled as he laid out deed after
deed. "While they was a-talkin' I was a-ridin'. They thought I was
buyin' cattle, and I was, but for every cow I bought I got a calf in the
shape of the mineral rights to a tract of land. I'd buy a cow and I'd
offer a man half as much again as she was worth if he'd sell me the
mineral rights at a fair price, and he'd do it. He never had no use for
'em, an' I didn't know as I should either; but that young engineer o'
yourn talked so positive I thought I might as well git 'em inside my
pasture-fence." He sat back and looked at Keith with quizzical
complacency.

"Come a man to see me not long ago," he continued; "Mr.
Halbrook--black-eyed man, with a face white and hard like a tombstone.
I set up and talked to him nigh all night and filled him plumb full of
old applejack. That man sized me up for a fool, an' I sized him up for a
blamed smart Yankee. But I don't know as he got much the better of me."

Keith doubted it too.

"I think it was in and about the most vallyble applejack that I ever
owned," continued the old landowner, after a pause. "You know, I don't
mind Yankees as much as I used to--some of 'em. Of course, thar was Dr.
Balsam; he was a Yankee; but I always thought he was somethin' out of
the general run, like a piebald horse. That young engineer o' yourn that
come to my house several years ago, he give me a new idea about
'em--about some other things, too. He was a very pleasant fellow, an' he
knowed a good deal, too. It occurred to me 't maybe you might git hold
of him, an' we might make somethin' out of these lands on our own
account. Where is he now?"

Keith explained that Mr. Rhodes was somewhere in Europe.

"Well, time enough. He'll come home sometime, an' them lands ain't
liable to move away. Yes, I likes some Yankees now pretty well; but,
Lord! I loves to git ahead of a Yankee! They're so kind o' patronizin'
to you. Well," he said, rising, "I thought I'd come up and talk to you
about it. Some day I'll git you to look into matters a leetle for me."

The next day Keith received Mr. Wickersham's letter requesting him to
come to New York. Keith's heart gave a bound.

The image of Alice Yorke flashed into his mind, as it always did when
any good fortune came to him. Many a night, with drooping eyes and
flagging energies, he had sat up and worked with renewed strength
because she sat on the other side of the hot lamp.

It is true that communication between them had been but rare. Mrs. Yorke
had objected to any correspondence, and he now began to see, though
dimly, that her objection was natural. But from time to time, on
anniversaries, he had sent her a book, generally a book of poems with
marked passages in it, and had received in reply a friendly note from
the young lady, over which he had pondered, and which he had always
treasured and filed away with tender care.

Keith took the stage that night for Eden on his way to New York. As they
drove through the pass in the moonlight he felt as if he were soaring
into a new life. He was already crossing the mountains beyond which lay
the Italy of his dreams.

He stopped on his way to see his father. The old gentleman's face glowed
with pleasure as he looked at Gordon and found how he had developed.
Life appeared to be reopening for him also in his son.

"I will give you a letter to an old friend of mine, John Templeton. He
has a church in New York. But it is not one of the fashionable ones; for

     "'Unpractised he to fawn or seek for power
     By doctrines fashioned to the varying hour:
     Far other aims his heart had learned to prize,
     More skilled to raise the wretched than to rise.'

"You will find him a safe adviser. You will call also and pay my respects
to Mr. and Mrs. Wentworth."

On his way, owing to a break in the railroad, Keith had to change his
train at a small town not far from New York. Among the passengers was an
old lady, simply and quaintly dressed, who had taken the train somewhere
near Philadelphia. She was travelling quite alone, and appeared to be
much hampered by her bags and parcels. The sight of an old woman, like
that of a little girl, always softened Keith's heart. Something always
awoke in him that made him feel tender. When Keith first observed this
old lady, the entire company was streaming along the platform in that
haste which always marks the transfer of passengers from one train to
another. No one appeared to notice her, and under the weight of her bags
and bundles she was gradually dropping to the rear of the crowd. As
Keith, bag in hand, swung past her with the rest, he instinctively
turned and offered his services to help carry her parcels. She panted
her thanks, but declined briefly, declaring that she should do
very well.

"You may be doing very well," Keith said pleasantly, "but you will do
better if you will let me help you."

"No, thank you." This time more firmly than before. "I am quite used to
helping myself, and am not old enough for that yet. I prefer to carry my
own baggage," she added with emphasis.

"It is not the question of age, I hope, that gives me the privilege of
helping a lady," said Keith. He was already trying to relieve her of her
largest bag and one or two bundles.

A keen glance from a pair of very bright eyes was shot at him.

"Well, I will let you take that side of that bag and this bundle--no;
that one. Now, don't run away from me."

"No; I will promise not," said Keith, laughing; and relieved of that
much of her burden, the old lady stepped out more briskly than she had
been doing. When they finally reached a car, the seats were nearly all
filled. There was one, however, beside a young woman at the far end, and
this Keith offered to the old lady, who, as he stowed her baggage close
about her, made him count the pieces carefully. Finding the tale
correct, she thanked him with more cordiality than she had shown before,
and Keith withdrew to secure a seat for himself. As, however, the car
was full, he stood up in the rear of the coach, waiting until some
passengers might alight at a way-station. The first seat that became
vacant was one immediately behind the old lady, who had now fallen into
a cheerful conversation with the young woman beside her.

"What do you do when strangers offer to take your bags?" Keith heard her
asking as he seated himself.

"Why, I don't know; they don't often ask. I never let them do it," said
the young woman, firmly.

"A wise rule, too. I have heard that that is the way nowadays that they
rob women travelling alone. I had a young man insist on taking my bag
back there; but I am very suspicious of these civil young men." She
leaned over and counted her parcels again. Keith could not help laughing
to himself. As she sat up she happened to glance around, and he caught
her eye. He saw her clutch her companion and whisper to her, at which
the latter glanced over her shoulder and gave him a look that was almost
a stare. Then the two conferred together, while Keith chuckled with
amusement. What they were saying, had Keith heard it, would have amused
him still more than the other.

"There he is now, right behind us," whispered the old lady.

"Why, he doesn't look like a robber."

"They never do. I have heard they never do. They are the most dangerous
kind. Of course, a robber who looked it would be arrested on sight."

"But he is very good-looking," insisted the younger woman, who had, in
the meantime, taken a second glance at Keith, who pretended to be
immersed in a book.

"Well, so much the worse. They are the very worst kind. Never trust a
good-looking young stranger, my dear. They may be all right in romances,
but never in life."

As her companion did not altogether appear to take this view, the old
lady half turned presently, and taking a long look down the other side
of the car, to disarm Keith of any suspicion that she might be looking
at him, finally let her eyes rest on his face, quite accidentally, as it
were. A moment later she was whispering to her companion.

"I am sure he is watching us. I am going to ask you to stick close
beside me when we get to New York until I find a hackney-coach."

"Have you been to New York often?" asked the girl, smiling.

"I have been there twice in the last thirty years; but I spent several
winters there when I was a young girl. I suppose it has changed a good
deal in that time?"

The young lady also supposed that it had changed in that time, and
wondered why Miss Brooke--the name the other had given--did not come to
New York oftener.

"You see, it is such an undertaking to go now," said the old lady.
"Everything goes with such a rush that it takes my breath away. Why,
three trains a day each way pass near my home now. One of them actually
rushes by in the most impetuous and disdainful way. When I was young we
used to go to the station at least an hour before the train was due, and
had time to take out our knitting and compose our thoughts; but now one
has to be at the station just as promptly as if one were going to
church, and if you don't get on the train almost before it has stopped,
the dreadful thing is gone before you know it. I must say, it is very
destructive to one's nerves."

Her companion laughed.

"I don't know what you will think when you get to New York."

"Think! I don't expect to think at all. I shall just shut my eyes and
trust to Providence."

"Your friends will meet you there, I suppose?"

"I wrote them two weeks ago that I should be there to-day, and then my
cousin wrote me to let her know the train, and I replied, telling her
what train I expected to take. I would never have come if I had imagined
we were going to have this trouble."

The girl reassured her by telling her that even if her friends did not
meet her, she would put her in the way of reaching them safely. And in a
little while they drew into the station.

Keith's first impression of New York was dazzling to him. The rush, the
hurry, stirred him and filled him with a sense of power. He felt that
here was the theatre of action for him.

The offices of Wickersham & Company were in one of the large buildings
down-town. The whole floor was filled with pens and railed-off places,
beyond which lay the private offices of the firm. Mr. Wickersham was
"engaged," and Keith had to wait for an hour or two before he could
secure an interview with him. When at length he was admitted to Mr.
Wickersham's inner office, he was received with some cordiality. His
father was asked after, and a number of questions about Gumbolt were put
to him. Then Mr. Wickersham came to the point. He had a high regard for
his father, he said, and having heard that Gordon was living in Gumbolt,
where they had some interests, it had occurred to him that he might
possibly be able to give him a position. The salary would not be large
at first, but if he showed himself capable it might lead to
something better.

Keith was thrilled, and declared that what he most wanted was work and
opportunity to show that he was able to work. Mr. Wickersham was sure of
this, and informed him briefly that it was outdoor work that they had
for him--"the clearing up of titles and securing of such lands as we may
wish to obtain," he added.

This was satisfactory to Keith, and he said so.

Mr. Wickersham's shrewd eyes had a gleam of content in them.

"Of course, our interest will be your first consideration?" he said.

"Yes, sir; I should try and make it so."

"For instance," proceeded Mr. Wickersham, "there are certain lands lying
near our lands, not of any special value; but still you can readily
understand that as we are running a railroad through the mountains, and
are expending large sums of money, it is better that we should control
lands through which our line will pass."

Keith saw this perfectly. "Do you know the names of any of the owners?"
he inquired. "I am familiar with some of the lands about there."

Mr. Wickersham pondered. Keith was so ingenuous and eager that there
could be no harm in coming to the point.

"Why, yes; there is a man named Rawson that has some lands or some sort
of interest in lands that adjoin ours. It might be well for us to
control those properties."

Keith's countenance fell.

"It happens that I know something of those lands."

"Yes? Well, you might possibly take those properties along with others?"

"I could certainly convey any proposition you wish to make to Mr.
Rawson, and should be glad to do so," began Keith.

"We should expect you to use your best efforts to secure these and all
other lands that we wish," interrupted Mr. Wickersham, speaking with
sudden sharpness. "When we employ a man we expect him to give us all his
services, and not to be half in our employ and half in that of the man
we are fighting."

The change in his manner and tone was so great and so unexpected that
Keith was amazed. He had never been spoken to before quite in this way.
He, however, repressed his feeling.

"I should certainly render you the best service I could," he said; "but
you would not expect me to say anything to Squire Rawson that I did not
believe? He has talked with me about these lands, and he knows their
value just as well as you do."

Mr. Wickersham looked at him with a cold light in his eyes, which
suddenly recalled Ferdy to Keith.

"I don't think that you and I will suit each other, young man," he said.

Keith's face flushed; he rose. "I don't think we should, Mr. Wickersham.
Good morning." And turning, he walked out of the room with his head
very high.

As he passed out he saw Ferdy. He was giving some directions to a
clerk, and his tone was one that made Keith glad he was not under him.

"Haven't you any brains at all?" Keith heard him say.

"Yes, but I did not understand you."

"Then you are a fool," said the young man.

Just then Keith caught his eye and spoke to him. Ferdy only nodded
"Hello!" and went on berating the clerk.

Keith walked about the streets for some time before he could soothe his
ruffled feelings and regain his composure. How life had changed for him
in the brief interval since he entered Mr. Wickersham's office! Then his
heart beat high with hope; life was all brightness to him; Alice Yorke
was already won. Now in this short space of time his hopes were all
overthrown. Yet, his instinct told him that if he had to go through the
interview again he would do just as he had done.

He felt that his chance of seeing Alice would not be so good early in
the day as it would be later in the afternoon; so he determined to
deliver first the letter which his father had given him to Dr.
Templeton.

The old clergyman's church and rectory stood on an ancient street over
toward the river, from which wealth and fashion had long fled. His
parish, which had once taken in many of the well-to-do and some of the
wealthy, now embraced within its confines a section which held only the
poor. But, like an older and more noted divine, Dr. Templeton could say
with truth that all the world was his parish; at least, all were his
parishioners who were needy and desolate.

The rectory was an old-fashioned, substantial house, rusty with age, and
worn by the stream of poverty that had flowed in and out for many years.

When Keith mounted the steps the door was opened by some one without
waiting for him to ring the bell, and he found the passages and front
room fairly filled with a number of persons whose appearance bespoke
extreme poverty.

The Doctor was "out attending a meeting, but would be back soon," said
the elderly woman, who opened the door. "Would the gentleman wait?"

Just then the door opened and some one entered hastily. Keith was
standing with his back to the door; but he knew by the movement of those
before him, and the lighting up of their faces, that it was the Doctor
himself, even before the maid said: "Here he is now."

He turned to find an old man of medium size, in a clerical dress quite
brown with age and weather, but whose linen was spotless. His brow under
his snow-white hair was lofty and calm; his eyes were clear and kindly;
his mouth expressed both firmness and gentleness; his whole face was
benignancy itself.

His eye rested for a moment on Keith as the servant indicated him, and
then swept about the room; and with little more than a nod to Keith he
passed him by and entered the waiting-room. Keith, though a little
miffed at being ignored by him, had time to observe him as he talked to
his other visitors in turn. He manifestly knew his business, and
appeared to Keith, from the scraps of conversation he heard, to know
theirs also. To some he gave encouragement; others he chided; but to all
he gave sympathy, and as one after another went out their faces
brightened.

When he was through with them he turned and approached Keith with his
hands extended.

"You must pardon me for keeping you waiting so long; these poor people
have nothing but their time, and I always try to teach them the value of
it by not keeping them waiting."

"Certainly, sir," said Keith, warmed in the glow of his kindly heart. "I
brought a letter of introduction to you from my father, General Keith."

The smile that this name brought forth made Keith the old man's friend
for life.

"Oh! You are McDowell Keith's son. I am delighted to see you. Come back
into my study and tell me all about your father."

When Keith left that study, quaint and old-fashioned as were it and its
occupant, he felt as though he had been in a rarer atmosphere. He had
not dreamed that such a man could be found in a great city. He seemed to
have the heart of a boy, and Keith felt as if he had known him all his
life. He asked Gordon to return and dine with him, but Gordon had a
vision of sitting beside Alice Yorke at dinner that evening
and declined.



CHAPTER XIII

KEITH IN NEW YORK

Keith and Norman Wentworth had, from time to time, kept up a
correspondence, and from Dr. Templeton's Keith went to call on Norman
and his mother.

Norman, unfortunately, was now absent in the West on business, but Keith
saw his mother.

The Wentworth mansion was one of the largest and most dignified houses
on the fine old square--a big, double mansion. The door, with its large,
fan-shaped transom and side-windows, reminded Keith somewhat of the hall
door at Elphinstone, so that he had quite a feeling of old association
as he tapped with the eagle knocker. The hall was not larger than at
Elphinstone, but was more solemn, and Keith had never seen such palatial
drawing-rooms. They stretched back in a long vista. The heavy mahogany
furniture was covered with the richest brocades; the hangings were of
heavy crimson damask. Even the walls were covered with rich crimson
damask-satin. The floor was covered with rugs in the softest colors,
into which, as Keith followed the solemn servant, his feet sank deep,
giving him a strange feeling of luxuriousness. A number of fine pictures
hung on the walls, and richly bound books lay on the shirting tables
amid pieces of rare bric-a-brac.

This was the impression received from the only glance he had time to
give the room. The next moment a lady rose from behind a tea-table
placed in a nook near a window at the far end of the spacious room. As
Gordon turned toward her she came forward. She gave him a cordial
hand-shake and gracious words of welcome that at once made Keith feel at
home. Turning, she started to offer him a chair near her table, but
Keith had instinctively gone behind her chair and was holding it
for her.

"It is so long since I have had the chance," he said.

As she smiled up at him her face softened. It was a high-bred face, not
always as gentle as it was now, but her smile was charming.

"You do not look like the little, wan boy I saw that morning in bed, so
long ago. Do you remember?"

"I should say I did. I think I should have died that morning but for
you. I have never forgotten it a moment since." The rising color in his
cheeks took away the baldness of the speech.

She bowed with the most gracious smile, the color stealing up into her
cheeks and making her look younger.

"I am not used to such compliments. Young men nowadays do not take the
trouble to flatter old ladies."

Her face, though faded, still bore the unmistakable stamp of
distinction. Calm, gray eyes and a strong mouth and chin recalled
Norman's face. The daintiest of caps rested on her gray hair like a
crown, and several little ringlets about her ears gave the charm of
quaintness to the patrician face. Her voice was deep and musical. When
she first spoke it was gracious rather than cordial; but after the
inspective look she had given him it softened, and from this time Keith
felt her warmth.

The easy, cordial, almost confidential manner in which she soon began to
talk to him made Keith feel as if they had been friends always, and in a
moment, in response to a question from her, he was giving quite frankly
his impression of the big city: of its brilliance, its movement, its
rush, that keyed up the nerves like the sweep of a swift torrent.

"It almost takes my breath away," he said. "I feel as if I were on the
brink of a torrent and had an irresistible desire to jump into it and
swim against it."

She looked at the young man in silence for a moment, enjoying his
sparkling eyes, and then her face grew grave.

"Yes, it is interesting to get the impression made on a fresh young
mind. But so many are dashed to pieces, it appears to me of late to be a
maelstrom that engulfs everything in its resistless and terrible sweep.
Fortune, health, peace, reputation, all are caught and swept away; but
the worst is its heartlessness--and its emptiness."

She sighed so deeply that the young man wondered what sorrow could touch
her, intrenched and enthroned in that beautiful mansion, surrounded by
all that wealth and taste and affection could give. Years afterwards,
that picture of the old-time gentlewoman in her luxurious home came
back to him.

Just then a cheery voice was heard calling outside:

"Cousin?--cousin?--Matildy Carroll, where are you?"

It was the voice of an old lady, and yet it had something in it familiar
to Keith.

Mrs. Wentworth rose, smiling.

"Here I am in the drawing-room," she said, raising her voice the least
bit. "It is my cousin, a dear old friend and schoolmate," she explained
to Keith. "Here I am. Come in here." She advanced to the door,
stretching out her hand to some one who was coming down the stair.

"Oh, dear, this great, grand house will be the death of me yet!"
exclaimed the other lady, as she slowly descended.

"Why, it is not any bigger than yours," protested Mrs. Wentworth.

"It's twice as large, and, besides, I was born in that and learned all
its ups and downs and passages and corners when I was a child, just as I
learned the alphabet. But this house! It is as full of devious ways and
pitfalls as the way in 'Pilgrim's Progress,' and I would never learn it
any more than I could the multiplication table. Why, that second-floor
suite you have given me is just like six-times-nine. When you first put
me in there I walked around to learn my way, and, on my word, I thought
I should never get back to my own room. I thought I should have to
sleep in a bath-tub. I escaped from the bath-room only to land in the
linen-closet. That was rather interesting. Then when I had calculated
all your sheets and pillow-cases, I got out of that to what I recognized
as my own room. No! it was the broom-closet--eight-times-seven! That was
the only familiar thing I saw. I could have hugged those brooms. But, my
dear, I never saw so many brooms in my life! No wonder you have to have
all those servants. I suppose some of them are to sweep the other
servants up. But you really must shut off those apartments and just give
me one little room to myself; or, now that I have escaped from the
labyrinth, I shall put on my bonnet and go straight home."

All this was delivered from the bottom step with a most amusing gravity.

"Well, now that you have escaped, come in here," said Mrs. Wentworth,
laughing. "I want a friend of mine to know you--a young man--"

"A gentleman!"

"Yes; a young gentleman from--"

"My dear!" exclaimed the other lady. "I am not fit to see a young
gentleman--I haven't on my new cap. I really could not."

"Oh, yes, you can. Come in. I want you to know him, too. He
is--m--m--m--"

This was too low for Keith to hear. The next second Mrs. Wentworth
turned and reentered the room, holding by the hand Keith's old lady of
the train.

As she laid her eyes on Keith, she stopped with a little shriek, shut
both eyes tight, and clutched Mrs. Wentworth's arm.

"My dear, it's my robber!"

"It's what?"

"My robber! He's the young man I told you of who was so suspiciously
civil to me on the train. I can never look him in the face--never!"
Saying which, she opened her bright eyes and walked straight up to
Keith, holding out her hand. "Confess that you are a robber and
save me."

Keith laughed and took her hand.

"I know you took me for one." He turned to Mrs. Wentworth and described
her making him count her bundles.

"You will admit that gentlemen were much rarer on that train than
ruffians or those who looked like ruffians?" insisted the old lady,
gayly. "I came through the car, and not one soul offered me a seat. You
deserve all the abuse you got for being so hopelessly unfashionable as
to offer any civility to a poor, lonely, ugly old woman."

"Abby, Mr. Keith does not yet know who you are. Mr. Keith, this is my
cousin, Miss Brooke."

"Miss Abigail Brooke, spinster," dropping him a quaint little curtsy.

So this was little Lois's old aunt, Dr. Balsam's sweetheart--the girl
who had made him a wanderer; and she was possibly the St. Abigail of
whom Alice Yorke used to speak!

The old lady turned to Mrs. Wentworth.

"He is losing his manners; see how he is staring. What did I tell you?
One week in New York is warranted to break any gentleman of
good manners."

"Oh, not so bad as that," said Mrs. Wentworth. "Now you sit down there
and get acquainted with each other."

So Keith sat down by Miss Brooke, and she was soon telling him of her
niece, who, she said, was always talking of him and his father.

"Is she as pretty as she was as a child?" Keith asked.

"Yes--much too pretty; and she knows it, too," smiled the old lady. "I
have to hold her in with a strong hand, I tell you. She has got her head
full of boys already."

Other callers began to appear just then. It was Mrs. Wentworth's day,
and to call on Mrs. Wentworth was in some sort the cachet of good
society. Many, it was true, called there who were not in "society" at
all,--serene and self-contained old residents, who held themselves above
the newly-rich who were beginning to crowd "the avenues" and force
their way with a golden wedge,--and many who lived in splendid houses on
the avenue had never been admitted within that dignified portal. They
now began to drop in, elegantly dressed women and handsomely appointed
girls. Mrs. Wentworth received them all with that graciousness that was
her native manner. Miss Brooke, having secured her "new cap," was seated
at her side, her faded face tinged with rising color, her keen eyes
taking in the scene with quite as much avidity as Gordon's. Gordon had
fallen back quite to the edge of the group that encircled the hostess,
and was watching with eager eyes in the hope that, among the visitors
who came in in little parties of twos and threes, he might find the face
for which he had been looking. The name Wickersham presently fell on
his ear.

"She is to marry Ferdy Wickersham," said a lady near him to another.
They were looking at a handsome, statuesque girl, with a proud face, who
had just entered the room with her mother, a tall lady in black with
strong features and a refined voice, and who were making their way
through the other guests toward the hostess. Mrs. Wentworth greeted them
cordially, and signed to the elder lady to take a seat beside her.

"Oh, no; she is flying for higher game than that." They both put up
their lorgnons and gave her a swift glance.

"You mean--" She nodded over toward Mrs. Wentworth.

"Yes."

"Why, she would not allow him to. She has not a cent in the world. Her
mother has spent every dollar her husband left her, trying to get
her off."

"Yes; but she has spent it to good purpose. They are old friends. Mrs.
Wentworth does not care for money. She has all she needs. She has never
forgotten that her grandfather was a general in the Revolution, and Mrs.
Caldwell's grandfather was one also, I believe. She looks down on the
upper end of Fifth Avenue--the Wickershams and such. Don't you know what
Mrs. Wentworth's cousin said when she heard that the Wickershams had a
coat-of-arms? She said, 'Her father must have made it.'"

Something about the placid voice and air of the lady, and the knowledge
she displayed of the affairs of others, awoke old associations in Keith,
and turning to take a good look at her, he recognized Mrs. Nailor, the
inquiring lady with the feline manner and bell-like voice, who used to
mouse around the verandah at Gates's during Alice Yorke's convalescence.

He went up to her and recalled himself. She apparently had some
difficulty in remembering him, for at first she gave not the slightest
evidence of recognition; but after the other lady had moved away she was
more fortunate in placing him.

"You have known the Wentworths for some time?"

Keith did not know whether this was a statement or an inquiry. She had a
way of giving a tone of interrogation to her statements. He explained
that he and Norman Wentworth had been friends as boys.

"A dear fellow, Norman?" smiled Mrs. Nailor. "Quite one of our rising
young men? He wanted, you know, to give up the most brilliant prospects
to help his father, who had been failing for some time. Not failing
financially?" she explained with the interrogation-point again.

"Of course, I don't believe those rumors; I mean in health?"

Keith had so understood her.

"Yes, he has quite gone. Completely shattered?" She sighed deeply. "But
Norman is said to be wonderfully clever, and has gone in with his father
into the bank?" she pursued. "The girl over there is to marry him--if
her mother can arrange it? That tall, stuck-up woman." She indicated
Mrs. Caldwell, who was sitting near Mrs. Wentworth. "Do you think her
handsome?"

Keith said he did. He thought she referred to the girl, who looked
wonderfully handsome in a tailor-made gown under a big white hat.

"Romance is almost dying out?" she sighed. "It is so beautiful to find
it? Yes?"

Keith agreed with her about its charm, but hoped it was not dying out.
He thought of one romance he knew.

"You used to be very romantic? Yes?"

Keith could not help blushing.

"Have you seen the Yorkes lately?" she continued. Keith had explained
that he had just arrived. "You know Alice is a great belle? And so
pretty, only she knows it too well; but what pretty girl does not? The
town is divided now as to whether she is going to marry Ferdy Wickersham
or Mr. Lancaster of Lancaster & Company. He is one of our leading men,
considerably older than herself, but immensely wealthy and of a
distinguished family. Ferdy Wickersham was really in love with"--she
lowered her voice--"that girl over there by Mrs. Wentworth; but she
preferred Norman Wentworth; at least, her mother did, so Ferdy has gone
back to Alice? You say you have not been to see her? No? You are going,
of course? Mrs. Yorke was so fond of you?"

"Which is she going to--I mean, which do people say she prefers?"
inquired Keith, his voice, in spite of himself, betraying his interest.

"Oh, Ferdy, of course. He is one of the eligibles, so good-looking, and
immensely rich, too; They say he is really a great financier. Has his
father's turn? You know he came from a shop?"

Keith admitted his undeniable good looks and knew of his wealth; but he
was so confounded by the information he had received that he was in
quite a state of confusion.

Just then a young clergyman crossed the room toward them. He was a stout
young man, with reddish hair and a reddish face. His plump cheeks, no
less than his well-filled waistcoat, showed that the Rev. Mr. Rimmon
was no anchoret.

"Ah, my dear Mrs. Nailor, so glad to see you! How well you look! I
haven't seen you since that charming evening at Mrs. Creamer's."

"Do you call that charming? What did you think of the dinner?" asked
Mrs. Nailor, dryly.

He laughed, and, with a glance around, lowered his voice.

"Well, the champagne was execrable after the first round. Didn't you
notice that? You didn't notice it? Oh, you are too amiable to admit it.
I am sure you noticed it, for no one in town has such champagne as you."

He licked his lips with reminiscent satisfaction.

"No, I assure you, I am not flattering you. One of my cloth! How dare
you charge me with it!" he laughed. "I have said as much to Mrs. Yorke.
You ask her if I haven't."

"How is your uncle's health?" inquired Mrs. Nailor.

The young man glanced at her, and the glance appeared to satisfy him.

"Robust isn't the word for it. He bids fair to rival the patriarchs in
more than his piety."

Mrs. Nailor smiled. "You don't appear as happy as a dutiful nephew
might."

"But he is so good--so pious. Why should I wish to withhold him from the
joys for which he is so ripe?"

Mrs. Nailor laughed.

"You are a sinner," she declared.

"We are all miserable sinners," he replied. "Have you seen the Yorkes
lately?"

"No; but I'll be bound you have."

"What do you think of the story about old Lancaster?"

"Oh, I think she'll marry him if mamma can arrange it."

"'Children, obey your parents,'" quoted Mr. Rimmon, with a little smirk
as he sidled away.

"He is one of our rising young clergymen, nephew of the noted Dr.
Little," explained Mrs. Nailor. "You know of him, of course? A good deal
better man than his nephew." This under her breath. "He is his uncle's
assistant and is waiting to step into his shoes. He wants to marry your
friend, Alice Yorke. He is sure of his uncle's church if flattery can
secure it."

Just then several ladies passed near them, and Mrs. Nailor, seeing an
opportunity to impart further knowledge, with a slight nod moved off to
scatter her information and inquiries, and Keith, having made his adieus
to Mrs. Wentworth, withdrew. He was not in a happy frame of mind over
what he had heard.

The next visit that Keith paid required more thought and preparation
than that to the Wentworth house. He had thought of it, had dreamed of
it, for years. He was seized with a sort of nervousness when he found
himself actually on the avenue, in sight of the large brown-stone
mansion which he knew must be the abode of Miss Alice Yorke.

He never forgot the least detail of his visit, from the shining brass
rail of the outside steps and the pompous little hard-eyed servant in a
striped waistcoat and brass buttons, who looked at him insolently as he
went in, to the same servant as he bowed to him obsequiously as he came
out. He never forgot Alice Yorke's first appearance in the radiance of
girlhood, or Mrs. Yorke's affable imperviousness, that baffled
him utterly.

The footman who opened the door to Keith looked at him with keenness,
but ended in confusion of mind. He stood, at first, in the middle of the
doorway and gave him a glance of swift inspection. But when Keith asked
if the ladies were in he suddenly grew more respectful. The visitor was
not up to the mark in appointment, but there was that in his air and
tone which Bower recognized. He would see. Would he be good enough
to walk in?

When he returned after a few minutes, indifference had given place to
servility.

Would Mr. Keats please be good enough to walk into the drawing-room?
Thankee, sir. The ladies would be down in a few moments.

Keith did not know that this change in bearing was due to the pleasure
expressed above-stairs by a certain young lady who had flatly refused to
accept her mother's suggestion that they send word they were not
at home.

Alice Yorke was not in a very contented frame of mind that day. For some
time she had been trying to make up her mind on a subject of grave
importance to her, and she had not found it easy to do. Many questions
confronted her. Curiously, Keith himself had played a part in the
matter. Strangely enough, she was thinking of him at the very time his
card was brought up. Mrs. Yorke, who had not on her glasses, handed the
card to Alice. She gave a little scream at the coincidence.

"Mr. Keith! How strange!"

"What is that?" asked her mother, quickly. Her ears had caught the name.

"Why, it is Mr. Keith. I was just--." She stopped, for Mrs. Yorke's face
spoke disappointment.

"I do not think we can see him," she began.

"Why, of course, I must see him, mamma. I would not miss seeing him for
anything in the world. Go down, Bower, and say I will be down directly."
The servant disappeared.

"Now, Alice," protested her mother, who had already exhausted several
arguments, such as the inconvenience of the hour, the impoliteness of
keeping the visitor waiting, as she would have to do to dress, and
several other such excuses as will occur to mammas who have plans of
their own for their daughters and unexpectedly receive the card of a
young man who, by a bare possibility, may in ten minutes upset the work
of nearly two years--"Now, Alice, I think it very wrong in you to do
anything to give that young man any idea that you are going to reopen
that old affair."

Alice protested that she had no idea of doing anything like that. There
was no "old affair." She did not wish to be rude when he had taken the
trouble to call--that was all.

"Fudge!" exclaimed Mrs. Yorke. "Trouble to call! Of course, he will take
the trouble to call. He would call a hundred times if he thought he
could get--" she caught her daughter's eye and paused--"could get you.
But you have no right to cause him unhappiness."

"Oh, I guess I couldn't cause him much unhappiness now. I fancy he is
all over it now," said the girl, lightly. "They all get over it. It's a
quick fever. It doesn't last, mamma. How many have there been?"

"You know better. Isn't he always sending you books and things? He is
not like those others. What would Mr. Lancaster say?"

"Oh, Mr. Lancaster! He has no right to say anything," pouted the girl,
her face clouding a little. "Mr. Lancaster will say anything I want him
to say," she added as she caught sight of her mother's unhappy
expression. "I wish you would not always be holding him up to me. I like
him, and he is awfully good to me--much better than I deserve; but I get
awfully tired of him sometimes: he is so serious. Sometimes I feel like
breaking loose and just doing things. I do!" She tossed her head and
stamped her foot with impatience like a spoiled child.

"Well, there is Ferdy?--" began her mother.

The girl turned on her.

"I thought we had an understanding on that subject, mamma. If you ever
say anything more about my marrying Ferdy, I _will_ do things! I vow
I will!"

"Why, I thought you professed to like Ferdy, and he is certainly in love
with you."

"He certainly is not. He is in love with Lou Caldwell as much as he
could be in love with any one but himself; but if you knew him as well
as I do you would know he is not in love with any one but Ferdy."

Mrs. Yorke knew when to yield, and how to do it. Her face grew
melancholy and her voice pathetic as she protested that all she wished
was her daughter's happiness.

"Then please don't mention that to me again," said the girl.

The next second her daughter was leaning over her, soothing her and
assuring her of her devotion.

"I want to invite him to dinner, mamma."

Mrs. Yorke actually gasped.

"Nonsense! Why, he would be utterly out of place. This is not Ridgely. I
do not suppose he ever had on a dress-coat in his life!" Which was true,
though Keith would not have cared a button about it.

"Well, we can invite him to lunch," said Alice, with a sigh.

But Mrs. Yorke was obdurate. She could not undertake to invite an
unknown young man to her table. Thus, the want of a dress-suit limited
Mrs. Yorke's hospitality and served a secondary and more important
purpose for her.

"I wish papa were here; he would agree with me," sighed the girl.

When the controversy was settled Miss Alice slipped off to gild the
lily. The care she took in the selection of a toilet, and the tender
pats and delicate touches she gave as she turned before her
cheval-glass, might have belied her declaration to her mother, a little
while before, that she was indifferent to Mr. Keith, and might even have
given some comfort to the anxious young man in the drawing-room below,
who, in default of books, was examining the pictures with such interest.
He had never seen such a sumptuous house.

Meantime, Mrs. Yorke executed a manoeuvre. As soon as Alice disappeared,
she descended to the drawing-room. But she slipped on an extra diamond
ring or two. Thus she had a full quarter of an hour's start of
her daughter.

The greeting between her and the young man was more cordial than might
have been expected. Mrs. Yorke was surprised to find how Keith had
developed. He had broadened, and though his face was thin, it had
undeniable distinction. His manner was so dignified that Mrs. Yorke was
almost embarrassed.

"Why, how you have changed!" she exclaimed. What she said to herself
was: "What a bother for this boy to come here now, just when Alice is
getting her mind settled! But I will get rid of him."

She began to question him as to his plans.

What Keith had said to himself when the step on the stair and the
rustling gown introduced Mrs. Yorke's portly figure was: "Heavens! it's
the old lady! I wonder what the old dragon will do, and whether I am not
to see Her!" He observed her embarrassment as she entered the room, and
took courage.

The next moment they were fencing across the room, and Keith was girding
himself like another young St. George.

How was his school coming on? she asked.

He was not teaching any more. He had been to college, and had now taken
up engineering. It offered such advantages.

She was so surprised. She would have thought teaching the very career
for him. He seemed to have such a gift for it.

Keith was not sure that this was not a "touch." He quoted Dr. Johnson's
definition that teaching was the universal refuge of educated indigents.
"I do not mean to remain an indigent all my life," he added, feeling
that this was a touch on his part.

Mrs. Yorke pondered a moment.

"But that was not his name. His name was Balsam. I know, because I had
some trouble getting a bill out of him."

Keith changed his mind about the touch.

Just then there was another rustle on the stair and another step,--this
time a lighter one,--and the next moment appeared what was to the young
man a vision.

Keith's face, as he rose to greet her, showed what he thought. For a
moment, at least, the dragon had disappeared, and he stood in the
presence only of Alice Yorke.

The girl was, indeed, as she paused for a moment just in the wide
doorway under its silken hangings,--the minx! how was he to know that
she knew how effective the position was?--a picture to fill a young
man's eye and flood his face with light, and even to make an old man's
eye grow young again. The time that had passed had added to the charm of
both face and figure; and, arrayed in her daintiest toilet of blue and
white, Alice Yorke was radiant enough to have smitten a much harder
heart than that which was at the moment thumping in Keith's breast and
looking forth from his eager eyes. The pause in the doorway gave just
time for the picture to be impressed forever in Keith's mind.

Her eyes were sparkling, and her lips parted with a smile of pleased
surprise.

"How do you do?" She came forward with outstretched arm and a cordial
greeting.

Mrs. Yorke could not repress a mother's pride at seeing the impression
that her daughter's appearance had made. The expression on Keith's face,
however, decided her that she would hazard no more such meetings.

The first words, of course, were of the surprise Alice felt at finding
him there. "How did you remember us?"

"I was not likely to forget you," said Keith, frankly enough. "I am in
New York on business, and I thought that before going home I would see
my friends." This with some pride, as Mrs. Yorke was present.

"Where are you living?"

Keith explained that he was an engineer and lived in Gumbolt.

"Ah, I think that is a splendid profession," declared Miss Alice. "If I
were a man I would be one. Think of building great bridges across mighty
rivers, tunnelling great mountains!"

"Maybe even the sea itself," said Mr. Keith, who, so long as Alice's
eyes were lighting up at the thought of his profession, cared not what
Mrs. Yorke thought.

"I doubt if engineers would find much to do in New York," put in Mrs.
Yorke. "I think the West would be a good field--the far West," she
explained.

"It was so good in you to look us up," Miss Alice said sturdily and,
perhaps, a little defiantly, for she knew what her mother was thinking.

"If that is being good," said Keith, "my salvation is assured." He
wanted to say, as he looked at her, "In all the multitude in New York
there is but one person that I really came to see, and I am repaid," but
he did not venture so far. In place of it he made a mental calculation
of the chances of Mrs. Yorke leaving, if only for a moment. A glance at
her, however, satisfied him that the chance of it was not worth
considering, and gloom began to settle on him. If there is anything that
turns a young man's heart to lead and encases it in ice, it is, when he
has travelled leagues to see a girl, to have mamma plant herself in the
room and mount guard. Keith knew now that Mrs. Yorke had mounted guard,
and that no power but Providence would dislodge her. The thought of the
cool woods of the Ridge came to him like a mirage, torturing him.

He turned to the girl boldly.

"Sha'n't you ever come South again?" he asked. "The humming-birds are
waiting."

Alice smiled, and her blush made her charming.

Mrs. Yorke answered for her. She did not think the South agreed with
Alice.

Alice protested that she loved it.

"How is my dear old Doctor? Do you know, he and I have carried on quite
a correspondence this year?"

Keith did not know. For the first time in his life he envied the Doctor.

"He is your--one of your most devoted admirers. The last time I saw him
he was talking of you."

"What did he say of me? Do tell me!" with exaggerated eagerness.

Keith smiled, wondering what she would think if she knew.

"Too many things for me to tell."

His gray eyes said the rest.

While they were talking a sound of wheels was heard outside, followed by
a ring at the door. Keith sat facing the door, and could see the
gentleman who entered the hail. He was tall and a little gray, with a
pleasant, self-contained face. He turned toward the drawing-room, taking
off his gloves as he walked.

"Her father. He is quite distinguished-looking," thought Keith. "I
wonder if he will come in here? He looks younger than the dragon." He
was in some trepidation at the idea of meeting Mr. Yorke.

When Keith looked at the ladies again some change had taken place in
both of them. Their faces wore a different expression: Mrs. Yorke's was
one of mingled disquietude and relief, and Miss Alice's an expression of
discontent and confusion. Keith settled himself and waited to be
presented.

The gentleman came in with a pleased air as his eye rested on the young
lady.

"There is where she gets her high-bred looks--from her father," thought
Keith; rising.

The next moment the gentleman was shaking hands warmly with Miss Alice
and cordially with Mrs. Yorke. And then, after a pause,--a pause in
which Miss Alice had looked at her mother,--the girl introduced "Mr.
Lancaster." He turned and spoke to Keith pleasantly.

"Mr. Keith is--an acquaintance we made in the South when we were there
winter before last," said Mrs. Yorke.

"A friend of ours," said the girl. She turned back to Keith.

"Tell me what Dr. Balsam said."

"Mr. Keith knows the Wentworths--I believe you know the Wentworths very
well?" Mrs. Yorke addressed Mr. Keith.

"Yes, I have known Norman since we were boys. I have met his mother, but
I never met his father."

Mrs. Yorke was provoked at the stupidity of denying so advantageous an
acquaintance. But Mr. Lancaster took more notice of Keith than he had
done before. His dark eyes had a gleam of amusement in them as he turned
and looked at the young man. Something in him recalled the past.

"From the South, you say?"

"Yes, sir." He named his State with pride.

"Did I catch your name correctly? Is it Keith?"

"Yes, sir."

"I used to know a gentleman of that name--General Keith."

"There were several of them," answered the young man, with pride. "My
father was known as 'General Keith of Elphinstone.'"

"That was he. I captured him. He was desperately wounded, and I had the
pleasure of having him attended to, and afterwards of getting him
exchanged. How is he? Is he still living?"

"Yes, sir."

Mr. Lancaster turned to the ladies. "He was one of the bravest men I
have known," he said. "I was once a recipient of his gracious
hospitality. I went South to look into some matters there," he explained
to the ladies.

The speech brought a gratified look into Keith's eyes. Mrs. Yorke was
divided between her feeling of relief that Mr. Lancaster should know of
Keith's social standing and her fear that such praise might affect
Alice. After a glance at the girl's face the latter predominated.

"Men have no sense at all," she said to herself. Had she known it, the
speech made the girl feel more kindly toward her older admirer than she
had ever done before.

Gordon's face was suffused with tenderness, as it always was at any
mention of his father. He stepped forward.

"May I shake hands with you, sir?" He grasped the hand of the older man.
"If I can ever be of any service to you--of the least service--I hope
you will let my father's son repay a part of his debt. You could not do
me a greater favor." As he stood straight and dignified, grasping the
older man's hand, he looked more of a man than he had ever done. Mr.
Lancaster was manifestly pleased.

"I will do so," he said, with a smile.

Mrs. Yorke was in a fidget. "This man will ruin everything," she said to
herself.

Seeing that his chance of seeing Alice alone was gone, Keith rose and
took leave with some stateliness. At the last moment Alice boldly asked
him to take lunch with them next day.

"Thank you," said Keith, "I lunch in Sparta to-morrow. I am going South
to-night." But his allusion was lost on the ladies.

When Keith came out, a handsome trap was standing at the door, with a
fine pair of horses and a liveried groom.

And a little later, as Keith was walking up the avenue looking at the
crowds that thronged it in all the bravery of fine apparel, he saw the
same pair of high-steppers threading their way proudly among the other
teams. He suddenly became aware that some one was bowing to him, and
there was Alice Yorke sitting up beside Mr. Lancaster, bowing to him
from under a big hat with great white plumes. For one moment he had a
warm feeling about his heart, and then, as the turnout was swallowed up
in the crowd, Keith felt a sudden sense of loneliness, and he positively
hated Mrs. Yorke. A little later he passed Ferdy Wickersham, in a long
coat and a high hat, walking up the avenue with the girl he had seen at
Mrs. Wentworth's. He took off his hat as they passed, but apparently
they did not see him. And once more that overwhelming loneliness swept
over him.

He did not get over the feeling till he found himself in Dr. Templeton's
study. He had promised provisionally to go back and take supper with the
old clergyman, and had only not promised it absolutely because he had
thought he might be invited to the Yorkes'. He was glad enough now to
go, and as he received the old gentleman's cordial greeting, he felt his
heart grow warm again. Here was Sparta, too. This, at least, was
hospitality. He was introduced to two young clergymen, both earnest
fellows who were working among the poor. One of them was a
High-churchman and the other a Presbyterian, and once or twice they
began to discuss warmly questions as to which they differed; but the old
Rector appeared to know just how to manage them.

"Come, my boys; no division here," he said, with a smile, "Remember, one
flag, one union, one Commander. Titus is still before the walls."



CHAPTER XIV

THE HOLD-UP

Keith returned home that night. He now and then thought of Lancaster
with a little misgiving. It was apparent that Mrs. Yorke was his friend;
but, after all, Alice would never think of marrying a gray-haired man.
She could not do it.

His father's pleasure when he told him of the stand he had taken with
Mr. Wickersham reassured him.

"You did exactly right, sir; as a gentleman should have done," he said,
as his face lighted up with pride and affection. "Go back and make your
own way. Owe no man anything."

Gordon went back to his little office filled with a determination to
succeed. He had now a double motive: he would win Alice Yorke, and he
would show Mr. Wickersham who he was. A visit from Squire Rawson not
long after he returned gave him new hope. The old man chuckled as he
told him that he had had an indirect offer from Wickersham for his land,
much larger than he had expected. It had only confirmed him in his
determination to hold on.

"If it's worth that to him," he said, "it's worth that to me. We'll hold
on awhile, and let him open a track for us. You look up the lines and
keep your eye on 'em. Draw me some pictures of the lands. I reckon
Phrony will have a pretty good patrimony before I'm through." He gave
Keith a shrewd glance which, however, that young man did not see.

Not long afterwards Gordon received an invitation to Norman's wedding.
He was to marry Miss Caldwell.

When Gordon read the account of the wedding, with the church "banked
with flowers," and the bridal couple preceded by choristers, chanting,
he was as interested as if it had been his brother's marriage. He tried
to picture Alice Yorke in her bridesmaid's dress, "with the old lace
draped over it and the rosebuds festooned about her."

He glanced around his little room with grim amusement as he thought of
the difference it might make to him if he had what Mrs. Yorke had called
"an establishment." He would yet be Keith of Elphinstone.

One fact related disturbed him. Ferdy Wickersham was one of the ushers,
and it was stated that he and Miss Yorke made a handsome couple.

Norman had long ago forgotten Ferdy's unfriendly action at college, and
wishing to bury all animosities and start his new life at peace with the
whole world, he invited Ferdy to be one of his ushers, and Ferdy, for
his own reasons, accepted. Ferdy Wickersham was now one of the most
talked-of young men in New York. He had fulfilled the promise of his
youth at least in one way, for he was one of the handsomest men in the
State. Mrs. Wickersham, in whose heart defeat rankled, vowed that she
would never bow so low as to be an usher at that wedding. But her son
was of a deeper nature. He declared that he was "abundantly able to
manage his own affairs."

At the wedding he was one of the gayest of the guests, and he and Miss
Yorke were, as the newspapers stated, undoubtedly the handsomest couple
of all the attendants. No one congratulated Mrs. Wentworth with more
fervid words. To be sure, his eyes sought the bride's with a curious
expression in them; and when he spoke with her apart a little later,
there was an air of cynicism about him that remained in her memory. The
handsomest jewel she received outside of the Wentworth family was from
him. Its centre was a heart set with diamonds.

For a time Louise Wentworth was in the seventh heaven of ecstasy over
her good fortune. Her beautiful house, her carriages, her gowns, her
husband, and all the equipage of her new station filled her heart. She
almost immediately took a position that none other of the young brides
had. She became the fashion. In Norman's devotion she might have quite
forgotten Ferdy Wickersham, had Ferdy been willing that she should do
so. But Ferdy had no idea of allowing himself to be forgotten. For a
time he paid quite devoted attention to Alice Yorke; but Miss Alice
looked on his attentions rather as a joke. She said to him:

"Now, Ferdy, I am perfectly willing to have you send me all the flowers
in New York, and go with me to the theatre every other night, and offer
me all the flattery you have left over from Louise; but I am not going
to let it be thought that I am going to engage myself to you; for I am
not, and you don't want me."

"I suppose you reserve that for my fortunate rival, Mr. Lancaster?" said
the young man, insolently.

Alice's eyes flashed. "At least not for you."

So Ferdy gradually and insensibly drifted back to Mrs. Wentworth. For a
little while he was almost tragic; then he settled down into a state of
cold cynicism which was not without its effect. He never believed that
she cared for Norman Wentworth as much as she cared for him. He believed
that her mother had made the match, and deep in his heart he hated
Norman with the hate of wounded pride. Moreover, as soon as Mrs.
Wentworth was beyond him, he began to have a deeper feeling for her than
he had ever admitted before. He set before himself very definitely just
what he wanted to do, and he went to work about it with a patience
worthy of a better aim. He flattered her in many ways which, experience
had told him, were effective with the feminine heart.

Ferdy Wickersham estimated Mrs. Wentworth's vanity at its true value;
but he underestimated her uprightness and her pride. She was vain
enough to hazard wrecking her happiness; but her pride was as great as
her vanity.

Thus, though Ferdy Wickersham flattered her vanity by his delicate
attentions, his patient waiting, he found himself, after long service,
in danger of being balked by her pride. His apparent faithfulness had
enlisted her interest; but she held him at a distance with a resolution
which he would not have given her credit for.

Most men, under such circumstances, would have retired and confessed
defeat; but not so with Ferdy Wickersham. To admit defeat was gall and
wormwood to him. His love for Louise had given place to a feeling almost
akin to a desire for revenge. He would show her that he could conquer
her pride. He would show the world that he could humble Norman
Wentworth. His position appeared to him impregnable. At the head of a
great business, the leader of the gayest set in the city, and the
handsomest and coolest man in town--he was bound to win. So he bided his
time, and went on paying Mrs. Wentworth little attentions that he felt
must win her in the end. And soon he fancied that he began to see the
results of his patience. Old Mr. Wentworth's health had failed rapidly,
and Norman was so wholly engrossed in business, that he found himself
unable to keep up with the social life of their set. If, however, Norman
was too busy to attend all the entertainments, Ferdy was never too busy
to be on hand, a fact many persons were beginning to note.

Squire Rawson's refusal of the offer for his lands began to cause Mr.
Aaron Wickersham some uneasiness. He had never dreamed that the old
countryman would be so intractable. He refused even to set a price on
them. He "did not want to sell," he said.

Mr. Wickersham conferred with his son. "We have got to get control of
those lands, Ferdy. We ought to have got them before we started the
railway. If we wait till we get through, we shall have to pay double.
The best thing is for you to go down there and get them. You know the
chief owner and you know that young Keith. You ought to be able to work
them. We shall have to employ Keith if necessary. Sometimes a very small
lever will work a big one."

"Oh, I can work them easy enough," said the young man; "but I don't want
to go down there just now--the weather's cold, and I have a lot of
engagements and a matter on hand that requires my presence here now."

His father's brow clouded. Matters had not been going well of late. The
Wentworths had been growing cooler both in business and in social life.
In the former it had cost him a good deal of money to have the Wentworth
interest against him; in the latter it had cost Mrs. Wickersham a good
deal of heart-burning. And Aaron Wickersham attributed it to the fact,
of which rumors had come to him, that Ferdy was paying young Mrs.
Wentworth more attention than her husband and his family liked, and they
took this form of resenting it.

"I do not know what business engagement you can have more important than
a matter in which we have invested some millions which may be saved by
prompt attention or lost. What engagements have you?"

"That is my affair," said Ferdy, coolly.

"Your affair! Isn't your affair my affair?" burst out his father.

"Not necessarily. There are several kinds of affairs. I should be sorry
to think that all of my affairs you had an interest in."

He looked so insolent as he sat back with half-closed eyes and stroked
his silken, black moustache that his father lost his temper.

"I know nothing about your affairs of one kind," he burst out angrily,
"and I do not wish to know; but I want to tell you that I think you are
making an ass of yourself to be hanging around that Wentworth woman,
having every one talking about you and laughing at you."

The young man's dark face flushed angrily.

"What's that?" he said sharply.

"She is another man's wife. Why don't you let her alone?" pursued the
father.

"For that very reason," said Ferdy, recovering his composure and his
insolent air.

"---- it! Let the woman alone," said his father. "Your fooling around
her has already cost us the backing of Wentworth & Son--and,
incidentally, two or three hundred thousand."

The younger man looked at the other with a flash of rage. This quickly
gave way to a colder gleam.

"Really, sir, I could not lower myself to measure a matter of sentiment
by so vulgar a standard as your ---- money."

His air was so intolerable that the father's patience quite gave way.

"Well, by ----! you'd better lower yourself, or you'll have to stoop
lower than that. Creamer, Crustback & Company are out with us; the
Wentworths have pulled out; so have Kestrel and others. Your deals and
corners have cost me a fortune. I tell you that unless we pull through
that deal down yonder, and unless we get that railroad to earning
something, so as to get a basis for rebonding, you'll find yourself
wishing you had my 'damned money.'"

"Oh, I guess we'll pull it through," said the young man. He rose coolly
and walked out of the office.

The afternoon he spent with Mrs. Norman. He had to go South, he told
her, to look after some large interests they had there. He made the
prospects so dazzling that she laughingly suggested that he had better
put a little of her money in there for her. She had quite a snug sum
that the Wentworths had given her.

"Why do not you ask Norman to invest it?" he inquired, with a laugh.

"Oh, I don't know. He says bonds are the proper investment for women."

"He rather underestimates your sex, some of them," said Wickersham. And
as he watched the color come in her cheeks, he added: "I tell you what I
will do: I will put in fifty thousand for you on condition that you
never mention it to a soul."

"I promise," she said half gratefully, and they shook hands on it.

That evening he informed his father that he would go South. "I'll get
those lands easy enough," he said.

A few days later Ferdy Wickersham got off the train at Ridgely, now
quite a flourishing little health-resort, and in danger of becoming a
fashionable one, and that afternoon he drove over to Squire Rawson's.

A number of changes had taken place in the old white-pillared house
since Ferdy had been an inmate. New furniture of black walnut
supplanted, at least on the first floor, the old horsehair sofa and
split-bottomed chairs and pine tables; a new plush sofa and a new piano
glistened in the parlor; large mirrors with dazzling frames hung on the
low walls, and a Brussels carpet as shiny as a bed of tulips, and as
stiff as the stubble of a newly cut hay-field, was on the floor.

But great as were these changes, they were not as great as that which
had taken place in the young person for whom they had been made.

When Ferdy Wickersham drove up to the door, there was a cry and a scurry
within, as Phrony Tripper, after a glance out toward the gate, dashed up
the stairs.

When Miss Euphronia Tripper, after a half-hour or more of careful and
palpitating work before her mirror, descended the old straight stairway,
she was a very different person from the round-faced, plump school-girl
whom Ferdy, as a lad, had flirted with under the apple-trees three or
four years before. She was quite as different as was the new piano with
its deep tones from the rattling old instrument that jingled and clanged
out of tune, or as the cool, self-contained, handsome young man in
faultless attire was from the slim, uppish boy who used to strum on it.
It was a very pretty and blushing young country maiden who now entered
quite accidentally the parlor where sat Mr. Ferdy Wickersham in calm and
indifferent discourse with her grandfather on the crops, on cattle, and
on the effect of the new railroad on products and prices.

Several sessions at a boarding-school of some pretension, with ambition
which had been awakened years before under the apple-trees, had given
Miss Phrony the full number of accomplishments that are to be gained by
such means. The years had also changed the round, school-girl plumpness
into a slim yet strong figure; and as she entered the parlor,--quite
casually, be it repeated,--with a large basket of flowers held
carelessly in one hand and a great hat shading her face, the blushes
that sprang to her cheeks at the wholly unexpected discovery of a
visitor quite astonished Wickersham.

"By Jove! who would have believed it!" he said to himself.

Within two minutes after she had taken her seat on the sofa near
Wickersham, that young envoy had conceived a plan which had vaguely
suggested itself as a possibility during his journey South. Here was an
ally to his hand; he could not doubt it; and if he failed to win he
would deserve to lose.

The old squire had no sooner left the room than the visitor laid the
first lines for his attack.

Why was she surprised to see him? He had large interests in the
mountains, and could she doubt that if he was within a thousand miles he
would come by to see her?

The mantling cheeks and dancing eyes showed that this took effect.

"Oh, you came down on business? That was all! I know," she said.

Wickersham looked her in the eyes.

Business was only a convenient excuse. Old Halbrook could have attended
to the business; but he preferred to come himself. Possibly she could
guess the reason? He looked handsome and sincere enough as he leant
over and gazed in her face to have beguiled a wiser person than Phrony.

She, of course, had not the least idea.

Then he must tell her. To do this he found it necessary to sit on the
sofa close to her. What he told her made her blush very rosy again, and
stammer a little as she declared her disbelief in all he said, and was
sure there were the prettiest girls in the world in New York, and that
he had never thought of her a moment. And no, she would not listen to
him--she did not believe a word he said; and--yes, of course, she was
glad to see any old friend; and no, he should not go. He must stay with
them. They expected him to do so.

So Ferdy sent to Ridgely for his bags, and spent several days at Squire
Rawson's, and put in the best work he was capable of during that time.
He even had the satisfaction of seeing Phrony treat coldly and send away
one or two country bumpkins who rode up in all the bravery of long
broad-cloth coats and kid gloves.

But if at the end of this time the young man could congratulate himself
on success in one quarter, he knew that he was balked in the other.
Phrony Tripper was heels over head in love with him; but her
grandfather, though easy and pliable enough to all outward seeming, was
in a land-deal as dull as a ditcher. Wickersham spread out before him
maps and plats showing that he owned surveys which overlapped those
under which the old man claimed.

"Don't you see my patents are older than yours?"

"Looks so," said the old man, calmly. "But patents is somethin' like
folks: they may be too old."

The young man tried another line.

The land was of no special value, he told him; he only wanted to quiet
their titles, etc. But the squire not only refused to sell an acre at
the prices offered him, he would place no other price whatever on it.

In fact, he did not want to sell. He had bought the land for mountain
pasture, and he didn't know about these railroads and mines and such
like. Phrony would have it after his death, and she could do what she
wished with it after he was dead and gone.

"He is a fool!" thought Wickersham, and set Phrony to work on him; but
the old fellow was obdurate. He kissed Phrony for her wheedling, but
told her that women-folks didn't understand about business. So
Wickersham had to leave without getting the lands.

       *       *       *       *       *

The influx of strangers was so great now at Gumbolt that there was a
stream of vehicles running between a point some miles beyond Eden, which
the railroad had reached, and Gumbolt. Wagons, ambulances, and other
vehicles of a nondescript character on good days crowded the road,
filling the mountain pass with the cries and oaths of their drivers and
the rumbling and rattling of their wheels, and filling Mr. Gilsey's soul
with disgust. But the vehicle of honor was still "Gilsey's stage." It
carried the mail and some of the express, had the best team in the
mountains, and was known as the "reg'lar." On bad nights the road was a
little less crowded. And it was a bad night that Ferdy Wickersham took
for his journey to Gumbolt.

Keith had been elected marshal, but had appointed Dave Dennison his
deputy, and on inclement nights Keith still occasionally relieved Tim
Gilsey, for in such weather the old man was sometimes too stiff to climb
up to his box.

"The way to know people," said the old driver to him, "is to travel on
the road with 'em. There is many a man decent enough to pass for a
church deacon; git him on the road, and you see he is a hog, and not of
no improved breed at that. He wants to gobble everything": an
observation that Keith had some opportunity to verify.

Terpsichore appeared suddenly to have a good deal of business over in
Eden, and had been on the stage several times of late when Keith was
driving it, and almost always took the box-seat. This had occurred often
enough for some of his acquaintances in Gumbolt to rally him about it.

"You will have to look out for Mr. Bluffy again," they said. "He's run
J. Quincy off the track, and he's still in the ring. He's layin' low;
but that's the time to watch a mountain cat. He's on your track."

Mr. Plume, who was always very friendly with Keith, declared that it was
not Bluffy, but Keith, who had run him off the track. "It's a case where
virtue has had its reward," he said to Keith. "You have overthrown more
than your enemy, Orlando. You have captured the prize we were all trying
for. Take the goods the gods provide, and while you live, live. The
epicurean is the only true philosopher. Come over and have a cocktail?
No? Do you happen to have a dollar about your old clothes? I have not
forgotten that I owe you a little account; but you are the only man of
soul in this--Gehenna except myself, and I'd rather owe you ten dollars
than any other man living."

Keith's manner more than his words shut up most of his teasers. Nothing
would shut up J. Quincy Plume.

Keith always treated Terpsichore with all the politeness he would have
shown to any lady. He knew that she was now his friend, and he had
conceived a sincere liking for her. She was shy and very quiet when a
passenger on his stage, ready to do anything he asked, obedient to any
suggestion he gave her.

It happened that, the night Wickersham chose for his trip to Gumbolt,
Keith had relieved old Gilsey, and he found her at the Eden end of the
route among his passengers. She had just arrived from Gumbolt by another
vehicle and was now going straight back. As Keith came around, the young
woman was evidently preparing to take the box-seat. He was conscious of
a feeling of embarrassment, which was not diminished by the fact that
Jake Dennison, his old pupil, was also going over. Jake as well as Dave
was now living at Gumbolt. Jake was in all the splendor of a black coat
and a gilded watch-chain, for he had been down to the Ridge to see Miss
Euphronia Tripper.

It had been a misty day, and toward evening the mist had changed into a
drizzle.

Keith said to Terpsichore, with some annoyance:

"You had better go inside. It's going to be a bad night."

A slight change came over her face, and she hesitated. But when he
insisted, she said quietly, "Very well."

As the passengers were about to take their seats in the coach, a young
man enveloped in a heavy ulster came hurriedly out of the hotel,
followed by a servant with several bags in his hands, and pushed hastily
into the group, who were preparing to enter the coach in a more
leisurely fashion. His hat partly concealed his face, but something
about him called up memories to Keith that were not wholly pleasant.
When he reached the coach door Jake Dennison and another man were just
on the point of helping in one of the women. The young man squeezed in
between them.

"I beg your pardon," he said.

The two men stood aside at the polite tone, and the other stepped into
the stage and took the back seat, where he proceeded to make himself
comfortable in a corner. This, perhaps, might have passed but for the
presence of the women. Woman at this mountain Eden was at a premium, as
she was in the first.

Jake Dennison and his friend both asserted promptly that there was no
trouble about three of the ladies getting back seats, and Jake, putting
his head in at the door, said briefly:

"Young man, there are several ladies out here. You will have to give up
that seat."

As there was no response to this, he put his head in again.

"Didn't you hear? I say there are some ladies out here. You will have to
take another seat."

To this the occupant of the stage replied that he had paid for his seat;
but there were plenty of other seats that they could have. This was
repeated on the outside, and thereupon one of the women said she
supposed they would have to take one of the other seats.

Women do not know the power of surrender. This surrender had no sooner
been made than every man outside was her champion.

"You will ride on that back seat to Gumbolt to-night, or I'll ride in
Jim Digger's hearse. I am layin' for him anyhow." The voice was Jake
Dennison's.

"And I'll ride with him. Stand aside, Jake, and let me git in there.
I'll yank him out," said his friend.

But Jake was not prepared to yield to any one the honor of "yanking."
Jake had just been down to Squire Rawson's, and this young man was none
other than Mr. Ferdy Wickersham. He had been there, too.

Jake had left with vengeance in his heart, and this was his opportunity.
He was just entering the stage head foremost, when the occupant of the
coveted seat decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and
announced that he would give up the seat, thereby saving Keith the
necessity of intervening, which he was about to do.

The ejected tenant was so disgruntled that he got out of the stage, and,
without taking any further notice of the occupants, called up to know if
there was a seat outside.

"Yes. Let me give you a hand," said Gordon, leaning down and helping him
up. "How are you?"

Wickersham looked at him quickly as he reached the boot.

"Hello! You here?" The rest of his sentence was a malediction on the
barbarians in the coach below and a general consignment of them all to a
much warmer place than the boot of the Gumbolt stage.

"What are you doing here?" Wickersham asked.

"I am driving the stage."

"Regularly?" There was something in the tone and look that made Keith
wish to say no, but he said doggedly:

"I have done it regularly, and was glad to get the opportunity."

He was conscious of a certain change in Wickersham's manner toward him.

As they drove along he asked Wickersham about Norman and his people, but
the other answered rather curtly.

Norman had married.

"Yes." Keith had heard that. "He married Miss Caldwell, didn't he? She
was a very pretty girl."

"What do you know about here?" Wickersham asked. His tone struck Keith.

"Oh, I met her once. I suppose they are very much in love with each
other?"

Wickersham gave a short laugh. "In love with Norman! Women don't fall in
love with a lump of ice."

"I do not think he is a lump of ice," said Keith, firmly.

Wickersham did not answer at first, then he said sharply:

"Well, she's worth a thousand of him. She married him for his money.
Certainly not for his brains."

"Norman has brains--as much as any one I know," defended Keith.

"You think so!"

Keith remembered a certain five minutes out behind the stables at
Elphinstone.

He wanted to ask Wickersham about another girl who was uppermost in his
thoughts, but something restrained him. He could not bear to hear her
name on his lips. By a curious coincidence, Wickersham suddenly said:
"You used to teach at old Rawson's. Did you ever meet a girl named
Yorke--Alice Yorke? She was down this way once."

Keith said that he had met "Miss Yorke." He had met her at Ridgely
Springs and also in New York. He was glad that it was dark, and that
Wickersham could not see his face. "A very pretty girl," he hazarded as
a leader, now that the subject was broached.

"Yes, rather. Going abroad--title-hunting."

"I don't expect Miss Yorke cares about a title," said Keith, stiffly.

"Mamma does. Failing that, she wants old Lancaster and perquisites."

"Who does? Why, Mr. Lancaster is old enough to be her father!"

"Pile's old, too," said Wickersham, dryly.

"She doesn't care about that either," said Keith, shortly.

"Oh, doesn't she! You know her mother?"

"No; I don't believe she does. Whatever her mother is, she is a fine,
high-minded girl."

Ferdy gave a laugh which might have meant anything. It made Keith hot
all over. Keith, fearing to trust himself further, changed the subject
and asked after the Rawsons, Wickersham having mentioned that he had
been staying with them.

"Phrony is back at home, I believes She has been off to school. I hear
she is very much improved?"

"I don't know; I didn't notice her particularly," said Wickersham,
indifferently.

"She is very pretty. Jake Dennison thinks so," laughed Keith.

"Jake Dennison? Who is he?"

"He's an old scholar of mine. He is inside now on the front seat; one of
your friends."

"Oh, that's the fellow! I thought I had seen him before. Well, he had
better try some other stock, I guess. He may find that cornered. She is
not going to take a clod like that."

Wickersham went off into a train of reflection.

"I say, Keith," he began unexpectedly, "maybe, you can help me about a
matter, and if so I will make it worth your while."

"About what matter?" asked Keith, wondering.

"Why, about that old dolt Rawson's land. You see, the governor has got
himself rather concerned. When he got this property up here in the
mountains and started to build the railroad, some of these people here
got wind of it. That fool, Rhodes, talked about it too much, and they
bought up the lands around the old man's property. They think the
governor has got to buy 'em out. Old Rawson is the head of 'em. The
governor sent Halbrook down to get it; but Halbrook is a fool, too. He
let him know he wanted to buy him out, and, of course, he raised. You
and he used to be very thick. He was talking of you the other night."

"He and I are great friends. I have a great regard for him, and a much
higher opinion of his sense than you appear to have. He is a very
shrewd man."

"Shrewd the deuce! He's an old blockhead. He has stumbled into the
possession of some property which I am ready to pay him a fair price
for. He took it for a cow-pasture. It isn't worth anything. It would
only be a convenience to us to have it and prevent a row in the future,
perhaps. That is the only reason I want it. Besides, his title to it
ain't worth a ----, anyhow. We have patents that antedate his. You can
tell him that the land is not worth anything. I will give you a good sum
if you get him to name a price at, say, fifty per cent. on what he gave
for it. I know what he gave for it. You can tell him it ain't worth
anything to him and that his title is faulty."

"No, I could not," said Keith, shortly.

"Why not?"

"Because I think it is very valuable and his title perfect. And he knows
it."

Wickersham glanced at him in the dusk.

"It isn't valuable at all," he said after a pause. "I will give you a
good fee if you will get through a deal for it at any price we may agree
on. Come!"

"No," said Keith; "not for all the money you own. My advice to you is to
go to Squire Rawson and either offer to take him in with you to the
value of his lands, or else make him a direct offer for what those lands
are really worth. He knows as much about the value of those lands as you
or Mr. Halbrook or any one else knows. Take my word for it."

"Rats!" ejaculated Wickersham, briefly. "I tell you what," he added
presently: "if he don't sell us that land he'll never get a cent out of
it. No one else will ever take it. We have him cornered. We've got the
land above him, and the water, too, and, what is more, his title is not
worth a damn!"

"Well, that is his lookout. I expect you will find him able to take care
of himself."

Wickersham gave a grunt, then he asked Keith suddenly:

"Do you know a man named Plume over there at Gumbolt?"

"Yes," said Keith; "he runs the paper there."

"Yes; that's he. What sort of a man is he?"

Keith gave a brief estimate of Mr. Plume: "You will see him and can
judge for yourself."

"I always do," said Wickersham, briefly. "Know anybody can work him? The
governor and he fell out some time ago, but I want to get hold of him."

Keith thought he knew one who might influence Mr. Plume; but he did not
mention the name or sex.

"Who is that woman inside?" demanded Wickersham. "I mean the young one,
with the eyes."

"They call her Terpsichore. She keeps the dance-hall."

"Friend of yours?"

"Yes." Keith spoke shortly.

The stage presently began to descend Hellstreak Hill, which Keith
mentioned as the scene of the robbery which old Tim Gilsey had told him
of. As it swung down the long descent, with the lights of the lamps
flashing on the big tree-tops, and with the roar of the rushing water
below them coming up as it boiled over the rocks, Wickersham conceived a
higher opinion of Keith than he had had before, and he mentally resolved
that the next time he came over that road he would make the trip in the
daytime. They had just crossed the little creek which dashed over the
rocks toward the river, and had begun to ascend another hill, when
Wickersham, who had been talking about his drag, was pleased to have
Keith offer him the reins. He took them with some pride, and Keith
dived down into the boot. When he sat up again he had a pistol in
his hand.

"It was just about here that that 'hold-up' occurred."

"Suppose they should try to hold you up now, what would you do?" asked
Wickersham.

"Oh, I don't think there is any danger now," said Keith. "I have driven
over here at all hours and in all weathers. We are getting too civilized
for that now, and most of the express comes over in a special wagon.
It's only the mail and small packages that come on this stage."

"But if they should?" demanded Wickersham.

"Well, I suppose I'd whip up my horses and cut for it," said Keith.

"I wouldn't," asserted Wickersham. "I'd like to see any man make me run
when I have a gun in my pocket."

Suddenly, as if in answer to his boast, there was a flash in the road,
and the report of a pistol under the very noses of the leaders, which
made them swerve aside with a rattling of the swingle-bars, and twist
the stage sharply over to the side of the road. At the same instant a
dark figure was seen in the dim light which the lamp threw on the road,
close beside one of the horses, and a voice was heard:

"I've got you now, ---- you!"

It was all so sudden that Wickersham had not time to think. It seemed to
him like a scene in a play rather than a reality. He instinctively
shortened the reins and pulled up the frightened horses. Keith seized
the reins with one band and snatched at the whip with the other; but it
was too late. Wickersham, hardly conscious of what he was doing, was
clutching the reins with all his might, trying to control the leaders,
whilst pandemonium broke out inside, cries from the women and oaths
from the men.

There was another volley of oaths and another flash, and Wickersham felt
a sharp little burn on the arm next Keith.

"Hold on!" he shouted. "For God's sake, don't shoot! Hold on! Stop the
horses!"

[Illustration: Sprang over the edge of the road into the thick bushes
below.]

At the same moment Keith disappeared over the wheel. He had fallen or
sprung from his seat.

"The ---- coward!" thought Wickersham. "He is running."

The next second there was a report of a pistol close beside the stage,
and the man in the road at the horses' heads fired again. Another
report, and Keith dashed forward into the light of the lantern and
charged straight at the robber, who fired once more, and then, when
Keith was within ten feet of him, turned and sprang over the edge of the
road into the thick bushes below. Keith sprang straight after him, and
the two went crashing through the underbrush, down the steep side of
the hill.

The inmates of the stage poured out into the road, all talking together,
and Wickersham, with the aid of Jake Dennison, succeeded in quieting the
horses. The noise of the flight and the pursuit had now grown more
distant, but once more several shots were heard, deep down in the woods,
and then even they ceased.

It had all happened so quickly that the passengers had seen nothing.
They demanded of Wickersham how many robbers there were. They were
divided in their opinion as to the probable outcome. The men declared
that Keith had probably got the robber if he had not been killed himself
at the last fire.

Terpsichore was in a passion of rage because the men had not jumped out
instantly to Keith's rescue, and one of them had held her in the stage
and prevented her from poking her head out to see the fight. In the
light of the lantern Wickersham observed that she was handsome. He
watched her with interest. There was something of the tiger in her lithe
movement. She declared that she was going down into the woods herself to
find Keith. She was sure he had been killed.

The men protested against this, and Jake Dennison and another man
started to the rescue, whilst a grizzled, weather-beaten fellow caught
and held her.

"Why, my darlint, I couldn't let you go down there. Why, you'd ruin your
new bonnet," he said.

The young woman snatched the bonnet from her head and slung it in his
face.

"You coward! Do you think I care for a bonnet when the best man in
Gumbolt may be dying down in them woods?"

With a cuff on the ear as the man burst out laughing and put his hand on
her to soothe her, she turned and darted over the bank into the woods.
Fortunately for the rest of her apparel, which must have suffered as
much as the dishevelled bonnet,--which the grizzled miner had picked up
and now held in his hand as carefully as if it were one of the birds
which ornamented it,--some one was heard climbing up through the bushes
toward the road a little distance ahead.

The men stepped forward and waited, each one with his hand in the
neighborhood of his belt, whilst the women instinctively fell to the
rear. The next moment Keith appeared over the edge of the road. As he
stepped into the light it was seen that his face was bleeding and that
his left arm hung limp at his side.

The men called to Terpy to come back: that Keith was there. A moment
later she emerged from the bushes and clambered up the bank.

"Did you get him?" was the first question she asked.

"No." Keith gave the girl a swift glance, and turning quietly, he asked
one of the men to help him off with his coat. In the light of the lamp
he had a curious expression on his white face.

"Terpy was that skeered about you, she swore she was goin' down there to
help you," said the miner who still held the hat.

A box on the ear from the young woman stopped whatever further
observation he was going to make.

"Shut up. Don't you see he's hurt?" She pushed away the man who was
helping Keith off with his coat, and took his place.

No one who had seen her as she relieved Keith of the coat and with
dexterous fingers, which might have been a trained nurse's, cut away the
bloody shirt-sleeve, would have dreamed that she was the virago who, a
few moments before, had been raging in the road, swearing like a
trooper, and cuffing men's ears.

When the sleeve was removed it was found that Keith's arm was broken
just above the elbow, and the blood was pouring from two small wounds.
Terpy levied imperiously on the other passengers for handkerchiefs;
then, not waiting for their contributions, suddenly lifting her skirt,
whipped off a white petticoat, and tore it into strips. She soon had the
arm bound up, showing real skill in her surgery. Once she whispered a
word in his ear--a single name. Keith remained silent, but she read his
answer, and went on with her work with a grim look on her face. Then
Keith mounted his box against the remonstrances of every one, and the
passengers having reentered the stage, Wickersham drove on into Gumbolt.
His manner was more respectful to Keith than it had ever been before.

Within a half-hour after their arrival the sheriff and his party, with
Dave Dennison at the head of the posse, were on their horses, headed for
the scene of the "hold-up." Dave could have had half of Gumbolt for
posse had he desired it. They attempted to get some information from
Keith as to the appearance of the robber; but Keith failed to give any
description by which one man might have been distinguished from the rest
of the male sex.

"Could they expect a man to take particular notice of how another looked
under such circumstances? He looked like a pretty big man."

Wickersham was able to give a more explicit description.

The pursuers returned a little after sunrise next morning without having
found the robber.



CHAPTER XV

MRS. YORKE MAKES A MATCH

The next day Keith was able to sit up, though the Doctor refused to let
him go out of the house. He was alone in his room when a messenger
announced that a woman wished to see him. When the visitor came up it
was Terpy. She was in a state of suppressed excitement. Her face was
white, her eyes glittered. Her voice as she spoke was tremulous
with emotion.

"They're on to him," she said in a husky voice. "That man that comed
over on the stage with you give a description of him, this mornin', 't
made 'em tumble to him after we had throwed 'em off the track. If I ever
git a show at him! They knows 'twas Bill. That little devil Dennison is
out ag'in."

"Oh, they won't catch him," said Keith; but as he spoke his face
changed. "What if he should get drunk and come into town?" he
asked himself.

"If they git him, they'll hang him," pursued the girl, without heeding
him. "They're all up. You are so popular.

"Me?" exclaimed Keith, laughing.

"It's so," said the girl, gravely. "That Dave Dennison would kill
anybody for you, and they're ag'in' Bill, all of 'em."

"Can't you get word to him?" began Keith, and paused. He looked at her
keenly. "You must keep him out of the way.'

"He's wounded. You got him in the shoulder. He's got to see a doctor.
The ball's still in there."

"I knew it," said Keith, quietly.

The girl gazed at him a moment, and then looked away.

"That was the reason I have been a-pesterin' you, goin' back'ards and
for'ards. I hope you will excuse me of it," she said irrelevantly.

Keith sat quite still for a moment, as it all came over him. It was,
then, him that the man was after, not robbery, and this girl, unable to
restrain her discarded suitor without pointing suspicion to him, had
imperilled her life for Keith, when he was conceited enough to more than
half accept the hints of strangers that she cared for him.

"We must get him away," he said, rising painfully. "Where is he?"

"He's hid in a house down the road. I have flung 'em off the track by
abusin' of him. They know I am against him, and they think I am after
you," she said, looking at him with frank eyes; "and I have been lettin'
'em think it," she added quietly.

Keith almost gasped. Truly this girl was past his comprehension.

"We must get him away," he said.

"How can we do it?" she asked. "They suspicion he's here, and the
pickets are out. If he warn't hit in the shoulder so bad, he could fight
his way out. He ain't afraid of none of 'em," she added, with a flash of
the old pride. "I could go with him and help him; I have done it before;
but I would have to break up here. He's got to see a doctor."

Keith sat in reflection for a moment.

"Tim Gilsey is going to drive the stage over to Eden to-night. Go down
and see if the places are all taken."

"I have got a place on it," she said, "on the boot."

As Keith looked at her, she added in explanation:

"I take it regular, so as to have it when I want it."

Under Keith's glance she turned away her eyes.

"I am going to Eden to-night," said Keith.

She looked puzzled.

"If you could get old Tim to stop at that house for five minutes till I
give Bluffy a letter to Dr. Balsam over at the Springs, I think we might
arrange it. My clothes will fit him. You will have to see Uncle Tim."

Her countenance lit up.

"You mean you would stop there and let him take your place?"

"Yes."

The light of craft that must have been in Delilah's eyes when Samson lay
at her feet was in her face. She sprang up.

"I will never forgit you, and Bill won't neither. He knows now what a
hound he has been. When you let him off last night after he had slipped
on the rock, he says that was enough for him. Before he will ever pull a
pistol on you ag'in, he says he will blow his own brains out; and he
will, or I will for him." She looked capable of it as she stood with
glowing eyes and after a moment held out her hand. She appeared about to
speak, but reflected and turned away.

When the girl left Keith's room a few moments later, she carried a large
bundle under her arm, and that night the stage stopped in the darkness
at a little shanty at the far end of the fast-growing street, and Keith
descended painfully and went into the house. Whilst the stage waited,
old Tim attempted to do something to the lamp on that side, and in
turning it down he put it out. Just then Keith, with his arm in a sling
and wrapped in a heavy coat, came out, and was helped by old Tim up to
the seat beside him. The stage arrived somewhat ahead of time at the
point which the railroad had now reached, and old Tim, without waiting
for daylight, took the trouble to hire a buggy and send the wounded man
on, declaring that it was important that he should get to a hospital as
soon as possible.

Amusements were scarce in Gumbolt, and Ferdy Wickersham had been there
only a day or two when, under Mr. Plume's guidance, he sought the
entertainment of Terpsichore's Hall. He had been greatly struck by Terpy
that night on the road, when she had faced down the men and had
afterwards bound up Keith's arm. He had heard from Plume rumors of her
frequent trips over the road and jests of her fancy for Keith. He would
test it. It would break the monotony and give zest to the pursuit to
make an inroad on Keith's preserve. When he saw her on the little stage
he was astonished at her dancing. Why, the girl was an artist! As good a
figure, as active a tripper, as high a kicker, as dainty a pair of
ankles as he had seen in a long time, not to mention a keen pair of eyes
with the devil peeping from them. To his surprise, he found Terpy stony
to his advances. Her eyes glittered with dislike for him.

He became one of the highest players that had ever entered the gilded
apartment on Terpsichore's second floor; he ordered more champagne than
any man in Gumbolt; but for all this he failed to ingratiate himself
with its presiding genius. Terpsichore still looked at him with level
eyes in which was a cold gleam, and when she showed her white teeth it
was generally to emphasize some gibe at him. One evening, after a little
passage at arms, Wickersham chucked her under the chin and called her
"Darling." Terpsichore wheeled on him.

"Keep your dirty hands to yourself" she said, with a flash in her eye,
and gave him such a box on the ear as made his head ring. The men around
broke into a guffaw.

Wickersham was more than angry; he was enraged. He had heard a score of
men call her by endearing names. He had also seen some of them get the
same return that he received; but none so vicious. He sprang to his
feet, his face flushed. The next second his senses returned, and he saw
that he must make the best of it.

"You vixen!" he said, with a laugh, and caught the girl by the wrist. "I
will make you pay for that." As he tried to draw her to him, she
whipped from her dress a small stiletto which she wore as an ornament,
and drew it back.

"Let go, or I'll drive it into you," she said, with fire darting from
her eyes; and Wickersham let go amid the laughter and jeers of those
about them, who were egging the girl on and calling to her to "give
it to him."

Wickersham after this tried to make his peace, but without avail. Though
he did not know it, Terpsichore had in her heart a feeling of hate which
was relentless. It was his description that had set the sheriff's posse
on the track of her dissipated lover, and though she had "washed her
hands of Bill Bluffy," as she said, she could not forgive the man who
had injured him.

Then Wickersham, having committed one error, committed another. He tried
to get revenge, and the man who sets out to get revenge on a woman
starts on a sad journey. At least, it was so with Wickersham.

He attributed the snubbing he had received to the girl's liking for
Keith, and he began to meditate how he should get even with them. The
chance presented itself, as he thought, when one night he attended a
ball at the Windsor. It was a gay occasion, for the Wickershams had
opened their first mine, and Gumbolt's future was assured. The whole of
Gumbolt was there--at least, all of those who did not side with Mr.
Drummond, the Methodist preacher. Terpsichore was there, and Keith, who
danced with her. She was the handsomest-dressed woman in the throng,
and, to Wickersham's surprise, she was dressed with some taste, and her
manners were quiet and subdued.

Toward morning the scene became hilarious, and a call was made for
Terpsichore to give a Spanish dance. The girl held back, but her
admirers were in no mood for refusal, and the call became insistent.
Keith had gone to his room, but Wickersham was still there, and his
champagne had flowed freely. At length the girl yielded, and, after a
few words with the host of the Windsor, she stepped forward and began
to dance.

She danced in such a way that the applause made the brass chandeliers
ring. Even Wickersham, though he hated her, could not but admire her.

Keith, who had found it useless to try to sleep even in a remote corner
of the hotel, returned just then, and whether it was that Terpsichore
caught sight of him as she glanced his way, or that she caught sight of
Wickersham's hostile face, she faltered and stopped suddenly.

Wickersham thought she had broken down, and, under the influence of the
champagne, turned with a jeer to Plume.

"She can't dance, Plume," he called across to the editor, who was at
some little distance in the crowd.

Those nearest to the dancer urged her to continue, but she had heard
Wickersham's jeer, and she suddenly faced him and, pointing her long,
bare arm toward him, said: "Put that man out, or I won't go on."

Wickersham gave a laugh. "Go on? You can't go on," he said, trying to
steady himself on his feet. "You can't dance any more than a cow."

He had never heard before the hum of an angry crowd.

"Throw him out! Fling him out of the window!" were the words he caught.

In a second a score of men were about him, and more than a score were
rushing in his direction with a sound that brought him quickly to
his senses.

Fortunately two men with cool heads were near by. With a spring Keith
and a short, stout young fellow with gray eyes were making their way to
his side, dragging men back, throwing them aside, expostulating,
ordering, and, before anything else had happened than the tearing of his
coat half off of his back, Wickersham found himself with Keith and Dave
Dennison standing in front of him, defending him against the angry
revellers.

The determined air of the two officers held the assailants in check
long enough for them to get their attention, and, after a moment, order
was restored on condition that Wickersham should "apologize to the lady
and leave town."

This Wickersham, well sobered by the handling he had received, was
willing to do, and he was made to walk up and offer a humble apology to
Terpsichore, who accepted it with but indifferent grace.

       *       *       *       *       *

That winter the railroad reached Gumbolt, and Gumbolt, or New Leeds, as
it was now called, sprang at once, so to speak, from a chrysalis to a
full-fledged butterfly with wings unfolding in the sun of prosperity.

Lands that a year or two before might have been had for a song, and
mineral rights that might have been had for less than a song, were now
held at fabulous prices.

Keith was sitting at his table, one day, writing, when there was a heavy
step outside, and Squire Rawson walked in on him.

When all matters of mutual interest had been talked over, the squire
broached the real object of his visit; at least, he began to approach
it. He took out his pipe and filled it.

"Well, it's come," he said.

"What has come?"

"The railroad. That young man Rhodes said 'twas comin', and so it's
done. He was something of a prophet." The old fellow chuckled softly and
lit his pipe. "That there friend of yours, Mr. Wickersham, is been down
here ag'in. Kind o' hangs around. What's he up to?"

Keith laughed.

"Well, it's pretty hard to tell what Wickersham is up to,--at least, by
what he says,--especially when you don't tell me what he is doing."

The old man looked pleased. Keith had let him believe that he did not
know what he was talking of, and had expressed an opinion in which
he agreed.

"That's what I think. Well, it's about my land up here."

Keith looked relived.

"Has he made you another offer for it?"

"No; he ain't done that, and he won't do it. That's what I tells him. If
he wants it, let him make me a good offer; but he won't do that. He kind
o' circles around like a pigeon before he lights, and talks about what I
paid for it, and a hundred per cent. advance, and all that. I give a
sight for that land he don't know nothin' about--years of hard work on
the mountain-side, sweatin' o' days, and layin' out in the cold at
nights, lookin' up at the stars and wonderin' how I was to git
along--studin' of folks jest as I studied cattle. That's what I paid for
that land. He wants me to set him a price, and I won't do that--he might
give it." He looked shrewdly at Keith. "Ain't I right?"

"I think so."

"He wants me to let him have control of it; but I ain't a-goin' to do
that neither."

"That's certainly right," said Keith, heartily.

"I tell him I'm a-goin' to hold to that for Phrony. Phrony says she
wants me to sell it to him, too. But women-folks don't know about
business."

Keith wondered what effect this piece of information had on Wickersham,
and also what further design the old squire had in mind.

"I think it's about time to do something with that land. If all he says
is true,--not about _my_ land (he makes out as _my_ land is situate too
far away ever to be much account--fact is, he don't allow I've got any
land; he says it's all his anyway), but about other lands--everybody
else's land but mine,--it might be a good time to look around. I know as
my land is the best land up here. I holds the key to the situation.
That's what we used to call it durin' the war.

"Well, there ain't but three ways to git to them coal-lands back up
yonder in the Gap: one's by way of heaven, and I 'lows there ain't many
land-speculators goin' by that way; the other is through hell, a way
they'll know more about hereafter; and the third's through my land."

Keith laughed and waited.

"He seems to be hangin' around Phrony pretty considerable?"

Keith caught the gleam in the old fellow's deep eye, and looked away.

"I can't make it out. Phrony she likes him."

Keith fastened his gaze on something out of the window.

"I don't know him," pursued the squire; "But I don't think--he'd suit
Phrony. His ways ain't like ours, and--." He lapsed into reflection, and
Keith, with his eyes still fastened on something outside the window,
sighed to think of the old man's innocence. That he should imagine that
Wickersham had any serious idea of marrying the granddaughter of a
backwoods magistrate! The old squire broke the silence.

"You don't suppose he could be hankerin' after Phrony for her property,
do you?"

"No, I do not," said Keith, positively, relieved that at last a question
was put which he could answer directly.

"Because she ain't got any," asserted the squire. "She's got prospects;
but I'm goin' to remove them. It don't do for a young woman to have too
much prospects. I'm goin' to sell that land and git it down in cash,
where I can do what I want with it. And I want you to take charge of
it for me."

This, then, was the real object of his visit. He wanted Keith to take
charge of his properties. It was a tempting offer to make Keith. The old
man had been a shrewd negotiator.

There is no success so sweet as that which comes to a young man.

That night Keith spent out under the stars. Success had come. And its
other name was Alice Yorke.

The way before Keith still stretched steep enough, but the light was on
it, the sunshine caught peak after peak high up among the clouds
themselves, and crowning the highest point, bathed in perpetual
sunlight, was the image of Alice Yorke.

Alice Yorke had been abroad now for some time; but he had followed her.
Often when his work was done he had locked his door and shut himself in
from the turmoil of the bustling, noisy throng outside to dream of
her--to read and study that he might become worthy of her.

He had just seen by the papers that Alice Yorke had returned.

She had escaped the dangers of a foreign service; but, by the account,
she was the belle of the season at the watering-place which she was
honoring with her presence. As he read the account, a little jealousy
crept into the satisfaction which he had felt as he began. Mr. Lancaster
was spoken of too pointedly; and there was mention of too many
yacht-parties and entertainments in which their names appeared together.

In fact, the forces exerted, against Alice Yorke had begun to tell. Her
mother, overawed by her husband's determination, had reluctantly
abandoned her dreams of a foreign title with its attendant honors to
herself, and, of late, had turned all her energies to furthering the
suit of Mr. Lancaster. It would be a great establishment that he would
give Alice, and no name in the country stood higher. He was the soul of
honor, personal and commercial; and in an age when many were endeavoring
to amass great fortunes and make a dazzling display, he was content to
live modestly, and was known for his broad-minded philanthropy. What did
it matter that he was considerably older than Alice? reflected Mrs.
Yorke. Mrs. Creamer and half the mothers she knew would give their eyes
to secure him for their daughters; and certainly he had shown that he
knew how to enter into Alice's feelings.

Even Mr. Yorke had begun to favor Mr. Lancaster after Mrs. Yorke had
skilfully pointed out that Alice's next most attentive admirer was Ferdy
Wickersham.

"Why, I thought he was still trying to get that Caldwell girl," said he.

"You know he cannot get her; she is married," replied Mrs. Yorke.

"I guess that would make precious little difference to that young man,
if she would say the word. I wish he would keep away from here."

"Oh, Ferdy is no worse than some others; you were always unjust to him.
Most young men sow their wild oats."

No man likes to be charged with injustice by his wife, and Mr. Yorke's
tone showed that he was no exception to this rule.

"He is worse than most others _I_ know, and the crop of oats he is
sowing, if he does not look out, he will reap somewhere else besides in
New York. Alice shall marry whom she pleases, provided it is not that
young man; but she shall not marry him if she wants to."

"She does not want to marry him," said Mrs. Yorke; "if she had she could
have done it long ago."

"Not while I lived," said Mr. Yorke, firmly. But from this time Mr.
Yorke began to acquiesce in his wife's plans touching Mr. Lancaster.

Finally Alice herself began to yield. The influences were very strong,
and were skilfully exerted. The only man who had ever made any lasting
impression on her heart was, she felt, out of the question. The young
school-teacher, with his pride and his scorn of modern ways, had
influenced her life more than any one else she had ever known, and
though under her mother's management the feeling had gradually subsided,
and had been merged into what was merely a cherished recollection,
Memory, stirred at times by some picture or story of heroism and
devotion, reminded her that she too might, under other conditions, have
had a real romance. Still, after two or three years, her life appeared
to have been made for her by Fate, and she yielded, not recognizing that
Fate was only a very ambitious and somewhat short-sighted mamma aided by
the conditions of an artificial state of life known as fashionable
society.

Keith wrote Alice Yorke a letter congratulating her upon her safe
return; but a feeling, part shyness, part pride, seized him. He had
received no acknowledgment of his last letter. Why should he write
again? He mailed the letter in the waste-basket. Now, however, that
success had come to him, he wrote her a brief note congratulating her
upon her return, a stiff little plea for remembrance. He spoke of his
good fortune: he was the agent for the most valuable lands in that
region, and the future was beginning to look very bright. Business, he
said, might take him North before long, and the humming-birds would show
him the way to the fairest roses. The hope of seeing her shone in every
line. It reached Alice Yorke in the midst of preparation for
her marriage.

Alice Yorke sat for some time in meditation over this letter. It brought
back vividly the time which she had never wholly forgotten. Often, in
the midst of scenes so gay and rich as to amaze her, she had recalled
the springtime in the budding woods, with an ardent boy beside her,
worshipping her with adoring eyes. She had lived close to Nature then,
and Content once or twice peeped forth at her from its covert with calm
and gentle eyes. She had known pleasure since then, joy, delight, but
never content. However, it was too late now. Mr. Lancaster and her
mother had won the day; she had at last accepted him and an
establishment. She had accepted her fate or had made it.

She showed the letter to her mother. Mrs. Yorke's face took on an
inscrutable expression.

"You are not going to answer it, of course?" she said.

"Of course, I am; I am going to write him the nicest letter that I know
how to write. He is one of the best friends I ever had."

"What will Mr. Lancaster say?"

"Mr. Lancaster quite understands. He is going to be reasonable; that is
the condition."

This appeared to be satisfactory to Mrs. Yorke, or, at least, she said
no more.

Alice's letter to Keith was friendly and even kind. She had never
forgotten him, she said. Some day she hoped to meet him again. Keith
read this with a pleasant light in his eyes. He turned the page, and his
face suddenly whitened. She had a piece of news to tell him which might
surprise him. She was engaged to be married to an old friend of her
family's, Mr. Lancaster. He had met Mr. Lancaster, she remembered, and
was sure he would like him, as Mr. Lancaster had liked him so much.

Keith sat long over this letter, his face hard set and very white. She
was lost to him. He had not known till then how largely he had built his
life upon the memory of Alice Yorke. Deep down under everything that he
had striven for had lain the foundation of his hope to win her. It went
down with a crash. He went to his room, and unlocking his desk, took
from his drawer a small package of letters and other little mementos of
the past that had been so sweet. These he put in the fire and, with a
grim face, watched them blaze and burn to ashes. She was dead to him. He
reserved nothing.

The newspapers described the Yorke-Lancaster wedding as one of the most
brilliant affairs of the season. They dwelt particularly on the fortunes
of both parties, the value of the presents, and the splendor of the
dresses worn on the occasion. One journal mentioned that Mr. Lancaster
was considerably older than the bride, and was regarded as one of the
best, because one of the safest, matches to be found in society.

Keith recalled Mr. Lancaster: dignified, cultivated, and coldly
gracious. Then he recalled his gray hair, and found some satisfaction in
it. He recalled, too, Mrs. Yorke's friendliness for him. This, then, was
what it meant. He wondered to himself how he could have been so blind to
it. When he came to think of it, Mr. Lancaster came nearer possessing
what others strove for than any one else he knew. Yet, Youth looks on
Youth as peculiarly its own, and Keith found it hard to look on Alice
Yorke's marriage as anything but a sale.

"They talk about the sin of selling negroes," he said; "that is as very
a sale as ever took place at a slave-auction."

For a time he plunged into the gayest life that Gumbolt offered. He even
began to visit Terpsichore. But this was not for long. Mr. Plume's
congratulations were too distasteful to him for him to stomach them; and
Terpy began to show her partiality too plainly for him to take advantage
of it. Besides, after all, though Alice Yorke had failed him, it was
treason to the ideal he had so long carried in his heart. This still
remained to him.

He went back to his work, resolved to tear from his heart all memory of
Alice Yorke. She was married and forever beyond his dreams. If he had
worked before with enthusiasm, he now worked with fury. Mr. Lancaster,
as wealthy as he was, as completely equipped with all that success could
give, lacked one thing that Keith possessed: he lacked the promise of
the Future. Keith would show these Yorkes who he was.



CHAPTER XVI

KEITH VISITS NEW YORK, AND MRS. LANCASTER SEES A GHOST

For the next year or two the tide set in very strong toward the
mountains, and New Leeds advanced with giant strides. What had been a
straggling village a year or two before was now a town, and was
beginning to put on the airs of a city. Brick buildings quite as
pretentious as the town were springing up where a year before there were
unsightly frame boxes; the roads where hogs had wallowed in mire not
wholly of their own kneading were becoming well-paved streets. Out on
the heights, where had been a forest, were sprinkled sightly dwellings
in pretty yards. The smoke of panting engines rose where but a few years
back old Tim Gilsey drew rein over his steaming horses. Pretty girls and
well-dressed women began to parade the sidewalks where formerly
Terpsichore's skirts were the only feminine attire seen. And "Gordon
Keith, civil and mining engineer," with his straight figure and tanned,
manly face, was not ignored by them. But locked in his heart was the
memory of the girl he had found in the Spring woods. She was forever
beyond him; but he still clung to the picture he had enshrined there.

When he saw Dr. Balsam, no reference was made to the verification of the
latter's prophecy; but the young man knew from the kind tone in the
older man's voice that he had heard of it. Meantime Keith had not been
idle. Surveys and plats had been made, and everything done to facilitate
placing the Rawson properties on the market.

When old man Rawson came to New Leeds now, he made Keith's little office
his headquarters, and much quaint philosophy Keith learned from him.

"I reckon it's about time to try our cattle in the New York market," he
said at length to Keith. It was a joke he never gave up. "You go up
there and look around, and if you have any trouble send for me."

So, taking his surveys and reports and a few letters of introduction
Keith went to New York.

Only one thought marred Keith's joy: the dearest aim he had so long had
in view had disappeared. The triumph of standing before Alice Yorke and
offering her the reward of his endeavor was gone. All he could do was to
show her what she had lost. This he would do; he would win life's
highest honors. He grew grim with resolve.

Something of this triumphant feeling showed in his mien and in his face
as he plunged into the crowded life of the city. From the time he passed
into the throng that streamed up the long platforms of the station and
poured into the wide ferry-boats, like grain pouring through a mill, he
felt the thrill of the life. This was what he had striven for. He would
take his place here and show what was in him.

He had forgotten how gay the city life was. Every place of public resort
pleased him: theatres, hotels, beer-gardens; but best of all the
streets. He took them all in with absolute freedom and delight.

Business was the watchword, the trade-mark. It buzzed everywhere, from
the Battery to the Park. It thronged the streets, pulsating through the
outlets and inlets at ferries and railway-stations and crossings, and
through the great buildings that were already beginning to tower in the
business sections. It hummed in the chief centres. And through it all
and beyond it all shone opulence, opulence gilded and gleaming and
dazzling in its glitter: in the big hotels; in the rich shops; in the
gaudy theatres; along the fine avenues: a display of wealth to make the
eyes ache; an exhibition of riches never seen before. It did Keith good
at first just to stand in the street and watch the pageant as it passed
like a gilded panorama. Of the inner New York he did not yet know: the
New York of luxurious homes; of culture and of art; of refinement and
elegance. The New York that has grown up since, with its vast wealth,
its brazen glitter, its tides that roll up riches as the sea rolls up
the sand, was not yet. It was still in its infancy, a chrysalis as yet
sleeping within its golden cocoon.

Keith had no idea there were so many handsome and stylish young women in
the world as he now saw. He had forgotten how handsome the American girl
is in her best appointment. They sailed down the avenue looking as fine
as young fillies at a show, or streamed through the best shopping
streets as though not only the shops, but the world belonged to them,
and it were no longer the meek, but the proud, that inherit the earth.

If in the throngs on the streets there were often marked contrasts,
Keith was too exhilarated to remark it--at least, at first. If women
with worn faces and garments unduly thin in the frosty air, carrying
large bundles in their pinched hands, hurried by as though hungry, not
only for food, but for time in which to earn food; if sad-eyed men with
hollow cheeks, sunken chests, and threadbare clothes shambled eagerly
along, he failed to note them in his first keen enjoyment of the
pageant. Old clothes meant nothing where he came from; they might be the
badge of perilous enterprise and well-paid industry, and food and fire
were at least common to all.

Keith, indeed, moved about almost in a trance, absorbing and enjoying
the sights. It was Humanity in flood; Life at full tide.

Many a woman and not a few men turned to take a second look at the
tanned, eager face and straight, supple figure, as, with smiling, yet
keen eyes, he stalked along with the free, swinging gait caught on the
mountains, so different from the quick, short steps of the city man.
Beggars, and some who from their look and apparel might not have been
beggars, applied to him so often that he said to one of them, a fairly
well-dressed man with a nose of a slightly red tinge:

"Well, I must have a very benevolent face or a very credulous one!"

"You have," said the man, with brazen frankness, pocketing the
half-dollar given him on his tale of a picked pocket and a remittance
that had gone wrong.

Keith laughed and passed on.

Meantime, Keith was making some discoveries. He did not at first call on
Norman Wentworth. He had a feeling that it might appear as if he were
using his friendship for a commercial purpose. He presented his business
letters. His letters, however, failed to have the weight he had
expected. The persons whom he had met down in New Leeds, during their
brief visits there, were, somehow, very different when met in New York.
Some whom he called on were civil enough to him; but as soon as he
broached his business they froze up. The suggestion that he had
coal-property to sell sent them down to zero. Their eyes would glint
with a shrewd light and their faces harden into ice. One or two told him
plainly that they had no money to embark in "wild-cat schemes."

Mr. Creamer of Creamer, Crustback & Company, Capitalists, a tall,
broad-shouldered man, with a strongly cut nose and chin and keen, gray
eyes, that, through long habitude, weighed chances with an infallible
appraisement, to whom Keith had a letter from an acquaintance, one of
those casual letters that mean anything or nothing, informed him frankly
that he had "neither time nor inclination to discuss enterprises,
ninety-nine out of every hundred of which were frauds, and the hundredth
generally a failure."

"This is not a fraud," said Keith, hotly, rising. "I do not indorse
frauds, sir." He began to draw on his gloves. "If I cannot satisfy any
reasonable man of the fact I state, I am willing to fail. I ought to
fail." With a bow, he turned to the door.

Something in Keith's assurance went further with the shrewd-eyed
capitalist than his politeness had done. He shot a swift glance as he
was retiring toward the door.

"Why didn't Wickersham make money down there?" he demanded, half in
query, half in denial, gazing keenly over his gold-rimmed glasses. "He
usually makes money, even if others lose it."

Mr. Creamer had his own reasons for not liking Wickersham.

Keith was standing at the door.

"For two or three reasons. One was that he underestimated the people who
live down there, and thought he could force them into selling him their
lands, and so lost the best properties there."

"The lands you have, I suppose?" said the banker, looking again at Keith
quickly.

"Yes, the lands I have, though you don't believe it," said Keith,
looking him calmly in the eyes.

The banker was gazing at the young man ironically; but, as he observed
him, his credulity began to give way.

That stamp of truth which men recognize was written on him unmistakably.
Mr. Creamer's mind worked quickly.

"By the way, you came from down there. Did you know a young man named
Rhodes? He was an engineer. Went over the line."

Keith's eyes brightened. "He is one of my best friends. He is in Russia
now."

Mr. Creamer nodded. "What do you think of him?"

"He is one of the best."

Mr. Creamer nodded. He did not think it necessary to tell Keith that
Rhodes was paying his addresses to his daughter.

"You write to him," said Keith. "He will tell you just what I have. Tell
him they are the Rawson lands."

Keith opened the door. "Good morning, sir."

"One moment!" Mr. Creamer leaned back in his chair. "Whom else do you
know here?" he asked after a second.

Keith reflected a moment.

"I know Mr. Wentworth."

"Norman Wentworth?"

"Yes; I know him very well. He is an old friend of mine."

"Have you been to him?"

"No, sir."

"Why not?"

"Because my relations with him are entirely personal. We used to be warm
friends, and I did not wish to use his friendship for me as a ground on
which to approach him in a commercial enterprise."

Mr. Creamer's countenance expressed more incredulity than he intended to
show.

"He might feel under obligations to do for me what he would not be
inclined to do otherwise," Keith explained.

"Oh, I don't think you need have any apprehension on that score," Mr.
Creamer said, with a glint of amusement in his eyes. "It is a matter of
business, and I don't think you will find business men here overstepping
the bounds of prudence from motives of sentiment."

"There is no man whom I would rather have go into it with me; but I
shall not ask him to do it, for the reason I have given. Good morning."

The banker did not take his eyes from the door until the sound of
Keith's steps had died away through his outer office. Then he reflected
for a moment. Presently he touched a bell, and a clerk appeared in
the door.

"Write a note to Mr. Norman Wentworth and ask him to drop in to see
me--any time this afternoon."

"Yes, sir."

When Norman Wentworth called at Mr. Creamer's office he found the
financier in a good humor. The market had gone well of late, and Mr.
Creamer's moods were not altogether unlike the mercury. His greeting was
more cordial than usual. After a brief discussion of recent events, he
pushed a card across to his visitor and asked casually:

"What do you know about that man?"

"Gordon Keith!" exclaimed the younger man, in surprise. "Is he in New
York, and I have not seen him! Why, I know all about him. He used to be
an old friend of mine. We were boys together ever so long ago."

He went on to speak warmly of him.

"Well, that was long ago," said Mr. Creamer, doubtfully. "Many things
have happened in that time. He has had time to change."

"He must have changed a good deal if he is not straight," declared
Norman. "I wonder why he has not been to see me?"

"Well, I'll tell you what he said," began Mr. Creamer.

He gave Keith's explanation.

"Did he say that? Then it's true. You ought to know his father. He is a
regular old Don Quixote."

"The Don was not particularly practical. He would not have done much
with coal and iron lands," observed the banker. "What do you know about
this man's knowledge of such things?"

Norman admitted that on this point he had no information.

"He says he knows Wickersham--your friend," said Mr. Creamer, with a sly
look at Norman.

"Yes, I expect he does--if any one knows him. He used to know him. What
does he say of him?"

"Oh, I think he knows him. Well, I am much obliged to you for coming
around," he said in a tone of dismissal. "You are coming to dine with us
soon, I believe? The Lancasters are coming, too. And we expect Rhodes
home. He's due next week."

"One member of your family will be glad to see him," said Norman,
smiling. "The wedding is to take place in a few weeks, I believe?"

"I hear so," said the father. "Fine young man, Rhodes? Your cousin,
isn't he? Been very successful?"

"Yes."

Once, as Keith passed along down Broadway, just where some of the great
shops were at that time, before the tide had rolled so far up-town, a
handsome carriage and pair drew up in front of one of the big shops, and
a lady stepped from it just behind him. She was a very pretty young
woman, and richly dressed. A straight back and a well-set head, with a
perfect toilet, gave her distinction even among the handsomely appointed
women who thronged the street that sunny morning, and many a woman
turned and looked at her with approval or envy.

The years, that had wrought Keith from a plain country lad into a man of
affairs of such standing in New Leeds that a shrewd operator like Rawson
had selected him for his representative, had also wrought a great change
in Alice Lancaster. Alice had missed what she had once begun to expect,
romance and all that it meant; but she had filled with dignity the place
she had chosen. If Mr. Lancaster's absorption in serious concerns left
her life more sombre than she had expected, at least she let no one know
it. Association with a man like Mr. Lancaster had steadied and elevated
her. His high-mindedness had lifted her above the level of her worldly
mother and of many of those who constituted the set in which she lived.

He admired her immeasurably. He was constantly impressed by the
difference between her and her shallow-minded and silly mother, or even
between her and such a young woman as Mrs. Wentworth, who lived only for
show and extravagance, and appeared in danger of ruining her husband and
wrecking his happiness.

It was Mrs. Lancaster who descended from her carriage as Keith passed
by. Just as she was about to enter the shop, a well-knit figure with
square shoulders and springy step, swinging down the street, caught her
eye. She glanced that way and gave an exclamation. The door was being
held open for her by a blank-faced automaton in a many-buttoned uniform;
so she passed in, but pausing just inside, she glanced back through the
window. The next instant she left the shop and gazed down the street
again. But Keith had turned a corner, and so Alice Lancaster did not
see him, though she stood on tiptoe to try and distinguish him again in
the crowd.

"Well, I would have sworn that that was Gordon Keith," she said to
herself, as she turned away, "if he had not been so broad-shouldered and
good-looking." And wherever she moved the rest of the day her eyes
wandered up and down the street.

Once, as she was thus engaged, Ferdy Wickersham came up. He was dressed
in the tip of the fashion and looked very handsome.

"Who is the happy man?"

The question was so in keeping with her thought that she blushed
unexpectedly.

"No one."

"Ah, not me, then? But I know it was some one. No woman looks so
expectant and eager for 'no one.'"

"Do you think I am like you, perambulating streets trying to make
conquests?" she said, with a smile.

"You do not have to try," he answered lazily. "You do it simply by being
on the street. I am playing in great luck to-day."

"Have you seen Louise this morning?" she asked.

He looked her full in the face. "I see no one but you when you are
around."

She laughed lightly.

"Ferdy, you will begin to believe that after a while, if you do not stop
saying it so often."

"I shall never stop saying it, because it is true," he replied
imperturbably, turning his dark eyes on her, the lids a little closed.

"You have got so in the habit of saying it that you repeat it like my
parrot that I taught once, when I was younger and vainer, to say,
'Pretty Alice.' He says it all the time."

"Sensible bird," said Mr. Wickersham, calmly. "Come and drive me up to
the Park and let's have a stroll. I know such a beautiful walk. There
are so many people out to-day. I saw the lady of the 'cat-eyes and
cat-claws' go by just now, seeking some one whom she can turn again and
rend." It was the name she had given Mrs. Nailor.

"I do not care who is out. Are you going to the Wentworths' this
evening?" she asked irrelevantly.

"No; I rarely go there. Will you mention that to Mrs. Nailor? She
apparently has not that confidence in my word that I could have expected
in one so truthful as herself."

Mrs. Lancaster laughed.

"Ferdy--" she began, and then paused irresolute. "However--"

"Well, what is it? Say it."

"You ought not to go there so often as you do."

"Why?" His eyes were full of insolence.

"Good-by. Drive home," she said to the coachman, in a tone intentionally
loud enough for her friend to hear.

Ferdy Wickersham strolled on down the street, and a few minutes later
was leaning in at the door of Mrs. Wentworth's carriage, talking very
earnestly to the lady inside.

Mr. Wickersham's attentions to Louise Wentworth had begun to be the talk
of the town. Young Mrs. Wentworth was not a person to allow herself to
be shelved. She did not propose that the older lady who bore that name
should be known by it. She declared she would play second fiddle to no
one. But she discovered that the old lady who lived in the old mansion
on Washington Square was "Mrs. Wentworth," and that Mrs. Wentworth
occupied a position from which she was not to be moved. After a little
she herself was known as "Mrs. Norman." It was the first time Mrs.
Norman had ever had command of much money. Her mother had made a good
appearance and dressed her daughter handsomely, but to carry out her
plans she had had to stint and scrape to make both ends meet. Mrs.
Caldwell told one of her friends that her rings knew the way to the
pawnbroker's so well that if she threw them in the street they would
roll into his shop.

This struggle Louise had witnessed with that easy indifference which was
part her nature and part her youth. She had been brought up to believe
she was a beauty, and she did believe it. Now that she had the chance,
she determined to make the most of her triumph. She would show people
that she knew how to spend money; embellishment was the aim of her life,
and she did show them. Her toilets were the richest; her equipage was
the handsomest and best appointed. Her entertainments soon were among
the most splendid in the city.

Those who were accustomed to wealth and to parade wondered both at Mrs.
Norman's tastes and at her gratification of them.

All the town applauded. They had had no idea that the Wentworths, as
rich as they knew them to be, had so much money.

"She must have Aladdin's lamp," they said. Only old Mrs. Wentworth
looked grave and disapproving at the extravagance of her
daughter-in-law. Still she never said a word of it, and when the
grandson came she was too overjoyed to complain of anything.

It was only of late that people had begun to whisper of the frequency
with which Ferdy Wickersham was seen with Mrs. Norman. Certain it was
that he was with her a great deal.

That evening Alice Lancaster was dining with the Norman Wentworths. She
was equally good friends with them and with their children, who on their
part idolized her and considered her to be their especial property. Her
appearance was always the signal for a romp. Whenever she went to the
Wentworths' she always paid a visit to the nursery, from which she would
return breathless and dishevelled, with an expression of mingled
happiness and pain in her blue eyes. Louise Wentworth knew well why the
longing look was there, and though usually cold and statuesque, she
always softened to Alice Lancaster then more than she was wont to do.

"Alice pines for children," she said to Norman, who pinched her cheek
and, like a man, told her she thought every one as romantic and as
affectionate as herself. Had Mrs. Nailor heard this speech she would
have blinked her innocent eyes and have purred with silent thoughts on
the blindness of men.

This evening Mrs. Lancaster had come down from the nursery, where shouts
of childish merriment had told of her romps with the ringletted young
brigand who ruled there, and was sitting quite silent in the deep
arm-chair in an attitude of profound reflection, her head thrown back,
her white arms resting languidly on the arms of the chair, her face
unusually thoughtful, her eyes on the gilded ceiling.

Mrs. Wentworth watched her for a moment silently, and then said:

"You must not let the boy tyrannize over you so."

Mrs. Lancaster's reply was complete:

"I love it; I just love it!"

Presently Mrs. Wentworth spoke again.

"What is the matter with you this evening? You seem quite distraite."

"I saw a ghost to-day." She spoke without moving.

Mrs. Wentworth's face took on more interest.

"What do you mean? Who was it?"

"I mean I saw a ghost; I might say two ghosts, for I saw in imagination
also the ghost of myself as I was when a girl. I saw the man I was in
love with when I was seventeen."

"I thought you were in love with Ferdy then?"

"No; never." She spoke with sudden emphasis.

"How interesting! And you congratulated yourself on your escape? We
always do. I was violently in love with a little hotel clerk, with oily
hair, a snub-nose, and a waxed black moustache, in the Adirondacks when
I was that age."

Mrs. Lancaster made no reply to this, and her hostess looked at her
keenly.

"Where was it? How long before--?" She started to ask, how long before
she was married, but caught herself. "What did he look like? He must
have been good-looking, or you would not be so pensive."

"He looked like--a man."

"How old was he--I mean, when he fell in love with you?" said Mrs.
Wentworth, with a sort of gasp, as she recalled Mr. Lancaster's gray
hair and elderly appearance.

"Rather young. He was only a few years older than I was; a young--what's
his name?--Hercules, that brought me down a mountain in his arms the
second time I ever saw him."

"Alice Lancaster!"

"I had broken my leg--almost I had got a bad fall from a horse and could
not walk, and he happened to come along."

"Of course. How romantic! Was he a doctor? Did you do it on purpose?"
Mrs. Lancaster smiled.

"No; a young schoolmaster up in the mountains. He was not handsome--not
then. But he was fine-looking, eyes that looked straight at you and
straight through you; the whitest teeth you ever saw; and shoulders! He
could carry a sack of salt!" At the recollection a faint smile flickered
about her lips.

"Why didn't you marry him?"

"He had not a cent in the world. He was a poor young school-teacher, but
of a very distinguished family. However, mamma took fright, and whisked
me away as if he had been a pestilence."

"Oh, naturally!"

"And he was too much in love with me. But for that I think I should not
have given him up. I was dreadfully cut up for a little while. And he--"
She did not finish the sentence.

On this Mrs. Wentworth made no observation, though the expression about
her mouth changed.

"He made a reputation afterwards. I knew he would. He was bound to
succeed. I believed in him even then. He had ideals. Why don't men have
ideals now?"

"Some of them do," asserted Mrs. Wentworth.

"Yes; Norman has. I mean unmarried men. I heard he made a fortune, or
was making one--or something."

"Oh!"

"He knew more than any one I ever saw--and made you want to know. All I
ever read he set me to. And he is awfully good-looking. I had no idea he
would be so good-looking. But I tell you this: no woman that ever saw
him ever forgot him."

"Is he married?"

"I don't think so--no. If he had been I should have heard it. He really
believed in me."

Mrs. Wentworth glanced at her with interest.

"Where is he staying?"

"I do not know. I saw him through a shop-window."

"What! Did you not speak to him?"

"I did not get a chance. When I came out of the shop he was gone."

"That was sad. It would have been quite romantic, would it not? But,
perhaps, after all, he did not make his fortune?" Mrs. Wentworth looked
complacent.

"He did if he set his mind to it," declared Mrs. Lancaster.

"How about Ferdy Wickersham?" The least little light of malevolence
crept into Mrs. Wentworth's eyes.

Mrs. Lancaster gave a shrug of impatience, and pushed a photograph on a
small table farther away, as if it incommoded her.

"Oh, Ferdy Wickersham! Ferdy Wickersham to that man is a heated room to
the breath of hills and forests." She spoke with real warmth, and Mrs.
Wentworth gazed at her curiously for a few seconds.

"Still, I rather fancy for a constancy you'd prefer the heated rooms to
the coldness of the hills. Your gowns would not look so well in
the forest."

It was a moment before Mrs. Lancaster's face relaxed.

"I suppose I should," she said slowly, with something very like a sigh.
"He was the only man I ever knew who made me do what I did not want to
do and made me wish to be something better than I was," she
added absently.

Mrs. Wentworth glanced at her somewhat impatiently, but she went on:

"I was very romantic then; and you should have heard him read the
'Idylls of the King.' He had the most beautiful voice. He made you live
in Arthur's court, because he lived there himself."

Mrs. Wentworth burst into laughter, but it was not very merry.

"My dear Alice, you must have been romantic. How old were you, did you
say?"

"It was three years before I was married," said Mrs. Lancaster, firmly.

Her friend gazed at her with a puzzled expression on her face.

"Oh! Now, my dear Alice, don't let's have any more of this
sentimentalizing. I never indulge in it; it always gives me a headache.
One might think you were a school-girl."

At the word a wood in all the bravery of Spring sprang into Alice's
mind. A young girl was seated on the mossy ground, and outstretched at
her feet was a young man, fresh-faced and clear-eyed, quoting a poem of
youth and of love.

"Heaven knows I wish I were," said Mrs. Lancaster, soberly. "I might
then be something different from what I am!"

"Oh, nonsense! You do nothing of the kind. Here are you, a rich woman,
young, handsome, with a great establishment; perfectly free, with no one
to interfere with you in any way. Now, I--"

"That's just it," broke in Mrs. Lancaster, bitterly. "Free! Free from
what my heart aches for. Free to dress in sables and diamonds and die of
loneliness." She had sat up, and her eyes were glowing and her color
flashing in her cheeks in her energy.

Mrs. Wentworth looked at her with a curious expression in her eyes.

"I want what you have, Louise Caldwell. In that big house with only
ourselves and servants--sometimes I could wish I were dead. I envy every
woman I see on the street with her children. Yes, I am free--too free! I
married for respect, and I have it. But--I want devotion, sympathy. You
have it. You have a husband who adores you, and children to fill your
heart, cherish it." The light in her eyes was almost fierce as she
leaned forward, her hands clasped so tightly that the knuckles showed
white, and a strange look passed for a moment over Mrs.
Wentworth's face.

"You are enough to give one the blue-devils!" she exclaimed, with
impatience. "Let's have a liqueur." She touched a bell, but Mrs.
Lancaster rose.

"No; I will go."

"Oh, yes; just a glass." A servant appeared like an automaton at the
door.

"What will you have, Alice?" But Mrs. Lancaster was obdurate. She
declined the invitation, and declared that she must go, as she was going
to the opera; and the next moment the two ladies were taking leave of
each other with gracious words and the formal manner that obtains in
fashionable society, quite as if they had known each other just
fifteen minutes.

Mrs. Lancaster drove home, leaning very far back in her brougham.

Mrs. Wentworth, too, appeared rather fatigued after her guest departed,
and sat for fifteen minutes with the social column of a newspaper lying
in her lap unscanned.

"I thought she and Ferdy liked each other," she said to herself; "but he
must have told the truth. They cannot have cared for each other. I think
she must have been in love with that man."



CHAPTER XVII

KEITH MEETS NORMAN

The day after Keith's interview with Mr. Creamer he was walking up-town
more slowly than was his wont; for gloom was beginning to take the place
where disappointment had for some time been holding session. His
experience that day had been more than usually disheartening. These
people with all their shrewdness appeared to him to be in their way as
contracted as his mountaineers. They lived to amass wealth, yet went
like sheep in flocks, and were so blind that they could not recognize a
great opportunity when it was presented. They were mere machines that
ground through life as monotonously as the wheels in their factories,
turning out riches, riches, riches.

This morning Keith had come across an article in a newspaper which, in a
measure, explained his want of success. It was an article on New Leeds.
It praised, in florid sentences, the place and the people, gave a
reasonably true account of the rise of the town, set forth in a veiled
way a highly colored prospectus of the Wickersham properties, and
asserted explicitly that all the lands of value had been secured by this
company, and that such as were now being offered outside were those
which Wickersham had refused as valueless after a thorough and searching
examination. The falsity of the statements made Keith boil with rage.
Mr. J. Quincy Plume immediately flashed into his mind.

As he walked along, the newspaper clutched in his hand, a man brushed
against him. Keith's mind was far away on Quincy Plume and Ferdy
Wickersham; but instinctively, as his shoulder touched the
stranger's, he said:

"I beg your pardon."

At the words the other turned and glanced at him casually; then stopped,
turned and caught up with him, so as to take a good look at his face.
The next second a hand was on Keith's shoulder.

"Why, Gordon Keith!"

Keith glanced up in a maze at the vigorous-looking, well-dressed young
man who was holding out his gloved hand to him, his blue eyes full of a
very pleasant light. Keith's mind had been so far away that for a second
it did not return. Then a light broke over his face. He seized the
other's hand.

"Norman Wentworth!"

The greeting between the two was so cordial that men hurrying by turned
to look back at the pleasant faces, and their own set countenances
softened.

Norman demanded where Keith had just come from and how long he had been
in town, piling his questions one on the other with eager cordiality.

Keith looked sheepish, and began to explain in a rather shambling
fashion that he had been there some time and "intended to hunt him up,
of course"; but he had "been so taken up with business," etc., etc.

"I heard you were here on business. That was the way I came to know you
were in town," explained Norman, "and I have looked everywhere for you.
I hope you have been successful?" He was smiling. But Keith was still
sore from the treatment he had received in one or two offices
that morning.

"I have not been successful," he said, "and I felt sure that I should
be. I have discovered that people here are very much like people
elsewhere; they are very like sheep."

"And very suspicious, timid sheep at that," said Norman "They have
often gone for wool and got shorn. So every one has to be tested. An
unknown man has a hard time here. I suppose they would not look into
your plan?"

"They classed me with 'pedlers, book-agents, and beggars'--I saw the
signs up; looked as if they thought I was a thief. I am not used to
being treated like a swindler."

"The same old Keith! You must remember how many swindlers they have to
deal with, my boy. It is natural that they should require a guarantee--I
mean an introduction of some kind. You remember what one of them said
not long ago? 'A man spends one part of his life making a fortune and
the rest of it trying to keep others from stealing it from him.' You
ought to have come to me. You must come and dine with me this evening,
and we will talk it over. Perhaps, I can help you. I want to show you my
little home, and I have the finest boy in the world."

At the tone of cordial sincerity in his voice, Keith softened. He laid
his hand on the back of Norman's and closed it tightly.

"I knew I could always count on you, and I meant, of course, to come and
see you. The reason I have not come before I will explain to you
sometime. I was feeling a little sore over a matter--sheer lies that
some one has written." He shook the newspaper in his hand.

"Oh, don't mind that paper," said Norman. "The columns of that paper are
for hire. They belong at present to an old acquaintance of ours. They do
_me_ the honor to pay their compliments to my affairs now and then."

Keith walked up the street with a warm feeling about his heart. That
friendly face and kindly pressure of the hand had cheered him like
sunshine in a wintry day, and transformed the cold, cheerless city into
an abode of life and happiness. The crowds that thronged by him once
more took on interest for him. The faces once more softened into human
fellowship.

That evening, when Keith arrived at Norman Wentworth's, he found that
what he had termed his "little house" was, in fact, a very ample and
commodious mansion on one of the most fashionable avenues in the city.
Outside there was nothing to distinguish it particularly from the scores
of other handsome houses that stretched for blocks up and down the
street with ever-recurrent brown-stone monotony. They were as much alike
as so many box-stalls in a stable.

"If I had to live in one of these," thought Keith, as he was making his
way to keep his appointment, "I should have to begin and count my house
from the corner. No wonder the people are all so much alike!"

Inside, however, the personal taste of the owner counted for much more,
and when Keith was admitted by the velvety-stepped servant, he found
himself in a scene of luxury for which nothing that Norman had said had
prepared him.

A hall, rather contracted, but sumptuous in its furnishings, opened on a
series of drawing-rooms absolutely splendid with gilt and satin. One
room, all gold and yellow, led into another all blue satin, and that
into one where the light filtered through soft-tinted shades on
tapestries and rugs of deep crimson.

Keith could not help thinking what a fortunate man Norman was, and the
difference between his friend's situation in this bower of roses, and
his own in his square, bare little box on the windy mountain-side,
insensibly flashed over him. This was "an establishment"! How unequally
Fortune scattered her gifts! Just then, with a soft rustle of silk, the
portieres were parted, and Mrs. Wentworth appeared. She paused for a
second just under the arch, and the young man wondered if she knew how
effective she was. She was a vision of lace and loveliness. A figure
straight and sinuous, above the middle height, which would have been
quite perfect but for being slightly too full, and which struck one
before one looked at the face; coloring that was rich to brilliance;
abundant, beautiful hair with a glint of lustre on it; deep hazel eyes,
the least bit too close together, and features that were good and only
just missed being fine Keith had remembered her as beautiful, but as
Mrs. Wentworth stood beneath the azure portieres, her long, bare arms
outstretched, her lips parted in a half-smile of welcome, she was much
more striking-looking than Keith's memory had recorded. As he gazed on
her, the expression on his face testified his admiration.

She came forward with the same gratified smile on her face and greeted
him with formal words of welcome as Norman's old friend. Her thought
was, "What a strong-looking man he is! Like a picture I have seen
somewhere. Why doesn't Ferdy like him?"

As she sank into a soft divan, and with a sudden twist her train fell
about her feet, making an artistic drapery, Keith experienced a sense of
delight. He did not dream that Mrs. Wentworth knew much better than he
precisely the pose to show the curve of her white full throat and round
arm. The demands of notorious beauty were already beginning to tell on
her, and even while she spoke gracious words of her husband's friendship
for him, she from time to time added a touch here and a soft caress
there with her long white, hands to make the arrangement the more
complete. It was almost too perfect to be unconscious.

Suddenly Keith heard Norman's voice outside, apparently on the stair,
calling cheerily "Good-by" to some one, and the next second he came
hastily into the drawing-room. His hair was rumpled and his necktie a
trifle awry. As he seized and wrung Keith's hand with unfeigned
heartiness, Keith was suddenly conscious of a change in everything. This
was warmth, sincerity, and the beautiful room suddenly became a home.
Mrs. Wentworth appeared somewhat shocked at his appearance.

"Well, Norman, you are a sight! Just look at your necktie!"

"That ruffian!" he laughed, feeling at his throat and trying to adjust
the crooked tie.

"What will Mr. Keith think?"

"Oh, pshaw! Keith thinks all right. Keith is one of the men I don't have
to apologize to. But if I do"--he turned to Keith, smiling--"I'll show
you the apology. Come along." He seized Keith by the hand and started
toward the door.

"You are not going to take Mr. Keith up-stairs!" exclaimed his wife.
"Remember, Mr. Keith may not share your enthusiasm."

"Wait until he sees the apology. Come along, Keith." He drew Keith
toward the door.

"But, Norman, I don't think--" began Mrs. Wentworth. What she did not
think was lost to the two men; for Norman, not heeding her, had, with
the eagerness of a boy, dragged his visitor out of the door and started
up the stairs, telling him volubly of the treat that was in store for
him in the perfections of a certain small young gentleman who had been
responsible for his tardiness in appearing below.

When Norman threw back a silken portiere up-stairs and flung open a
door, the scene that greeted Keith was one that made him agree that
Norman was fully justified. A yellow-haired boy was rolling on the
floor, kicking up his little pink legs in all the abandon of his years,
while a blue-eyed little girl was sitting in a nurse's lap, making
strenuous efforts to join her brother on the floor.

At sight of his father, the boy, with a whoop, scrambled to his feet,
and, with outstretched arms and open mouth, showing all his little white
teeth, made a rush for him, while the young lady suddenly changed her
efforts to descend, and began to jump up and down in a frantic ecstasy
of delight.

Norman gathered the boy up, and as soon as he could disentwine his
little arms from about his neck, turned him toward Keith. The child gave
the stranger one of those calm, scrutinizing looks that children give,
and then, his face suddenly breaking into a smile, with a rippling laugh
of good-comradeship, he sprang into Keith's outstretched arms. That
gentleman's necktie was in danger of undergoing the same damaging
process that had incurred Mrs. Norman's criticism, when the youngster
discovered that lady herself, standing at the door. Scrambling down from
his perch on Keith's shoulder, the boy, with a shout, rushed toward his
mother. Mrs. Wentworth, with a little shriek, stopped him and held him
off from her; she could not permit him to disarrange her toilet; her
coiffure had cost too much thought; but the pair were evidently on terms
of good-fellowship, and the light in the mother's eyes even as she
restrained the boy's attempt at caresses changed her, and gave Keith a
new insight into her character.

Keith and the hostess returned to the drawing-room before Norman, and
she was no longer the professional beauty, the cold woman of the world,
the mere fashionable hostess. The doors were flung open more than once
as Keith talked warmly of the boy, and within Keith got glimpses of what
was hidden there, which made him rejoice again that his friend had such
a treasure. These glimpses of unexpected softness drew him nearer to her
than he had ever expected to be, and on his part he talked to her with a
frankness and earnestness which sank deep into her mind, and opened the
way to a warmer friendship than she usually gave.

"Norman is right," she said to herself. "This is a man."

At the thought a light flashed upon her. It suddenly came to her.

This is "the ghost"! Yet could it be possible? She solved the question
quickly.

"Mr. Keith, did you ever know Alice Lancaster?"

"Alice Lancaster--?" For a bare second he looked puzzled. "Oh, Miss
Alice Yorke? Yes, a long time ago." He was conscious that his expression
had changed. So he added: "I used to know her very well."

"Decidedly, this is the ghost," reflected Mrs. Wentworth to herself, as
she scanned anew Keith's strong features and sinewy frame. "Alice said
if a woman had ever seen him, she would not be likely to forget him,
and I think she was right."

"Why do you ask me?" inquired Keith, who had now quite recovered from
his little confusion. "Of course, you know her?"

"Yes, very well. We were at school together. She is my best friend,
almost." She shut her mouth as firmly as though this were the last
sentence she ever proposed to utter; but her eyes, as they rested on
Keith's face, had the least twinkle in them. Keith did not know how much
of their old affair had been told her, but she evidently knew something,
and it was necessary to show her that he had recovered from it long ago
and yet retained a friendly feeling for Mrs. Lancaster.

"She was an old sweetheart of mine long ago; that is, I used to think
myself desperately in love with her a hundred years ago or so, before
she was married--and I was, too," he added.

He gained not the least idea of the impression this made on Mrs.
Wentworth.

"She was talking to me about you only the other day," she said casually.

Keith again made a feint to open her defence.

"I hope she said kind things about me? I deserve some kindness at her
hands, for I have only pleasant memories of her."

"I wonder what he means by that?" questioned Mrs. Wentworth to herself,
and then added:

"Oh, yes; she did. Indeed, she was almost enthusiastic about
your--friendship." Her eyes scanned his face lightly.

"Has she fulfilled the promise of beauty that she gave as a school-girl?
I used to think her one of the most beautiful creatures in the world;
but I don't know that I was capable of judging at that time," he added,
with a smile, "for I remember I was quite desperate about her for a
little while." He tried to speak naturally.

Mrs. Wentworth's eyes rested on his face for a moment.

"Why, yes; many think her much handsomer than she ever was. She is one
of the married beauties, you know." Her eyes just swept Keith's face.

"She was also one of the sweetest girls I ever knew," Keith said, moved
for some reason to add this tribute.

"Well, I don't know that every one would call her that. Indeed, I am not
quite sure that I should call her that myself always; but she can be
sweet. My children adore her, and I think that is always a good sign."

"Undoubtedly. They judge correctly, because directly."

The picture of a young girl in a riding-habit kneeling in the dust with
a chubby, little, ragged child in her arms flashed before Keith's mental
vision. And he almost gave a gasp.

"Is she married happily?'" he asked "I hope she is happy."

"Oh, as happy as the day is long," declared Mrs. Wentworth, cheerfully.
Deep down in her eyes was a wicked twinkle of malice. Her face wore a
look of content. "He is not altogether indifferent yet," she said to
herself. And when Keith said firmly that he was very glad to hear it,
she did him the honor to disbelieve him.

"Of course, you know that Mr. Lancaster is a good deal older than
Alice?"

Yes, Keith had heard so.

"But a charming man, and immensely rich."

"Yes." Keith began to look grim.

"Aren't you going to see here?" inquired Mrs. Wentworth, finding that
Keith was not prepared to say any more on the subject.

Keith said he should like to do so very much. He hoped to see her before
going away; but he could not tell.

"She is married now, and must be so taken up with her new duties that I
fear she would hardly remember me," he added, with a laugh. "I don't
think I ever made much impression on her."

"Alice Yorke is not one to forget her friends. Why, she spoke of you
with real friendship," she said, smiling, thinking to herself, Alice
likes him, and he is still in love with her. This begins to be
interesting.

"A woman does not have to give up all her friends when she marries?" she
added, with her eyes on Keith.

Keith smiled.

"Oh, no; only her lovers, unless they turn into friends."

"Of course, those," said Mrs. Wentworth, who, after a moment's
reflection, added, "They don't always do that. Do you believe a woman
ever forgets entirely a man she has really loved?"

"She does if she is happily married and if she is wise."

"But all women are not happily married."

"And, perhaps, all are not wise," said Keith.

Some association of ideas led him to say suddenly:

"Tell me something about Ferdy Wickersham. He was one of your ushers,
wasn't he?" He was surprised to see Mrs. Wentworth's countenance change.
Her eyelids closed suddenly as if a glare were turned unexpectedly on
them, and she caught her breath.

"Yes--I have known him since we were children. Of course, you know he
was desperately in love with Alice Lancaster?"

Keith said he had heard something of the kind.

"He still likes her."

"She is married," said Keith, decisively.

"Yes."

A moment later Mrs. Wentworth drew a long breath and moistened her lips.

"You knew him at the same time that you first knew Norman, did you not?"
She was simply figuring for time.

"Yes, I met him first then," said Keith.

"Don't you think Ferdy has changed since he was a boy?" she demanded
after a moment's reflection.

"How do you mean?" Keith was feeling very uncomfortable, and, to save
himself an answer, plunged along:

"Of course he has changed." He did not say how, nor did he give Mrs.
Wentworth time to explain herself. "I will tell you one thing, though,"
he said earnestly: "he never was worthy to loose the latchet of your
husband's shoe."

Mrs. Wentworth's face changed again; she glanced down for a second, and
then said:

"You and Norman have a mutual admiration society."

"We have been friends a long time," said Keith, thoughtfully.

"But even that does not always count for so much. Friendships seem so
easily broken these days."

"Because there are so few Norman Wentworths. That man is blessed who has
such a friend," said the young man, earnestly.

Mrs. Wentworth looked at him with a curious light in her eyes, and as
she gazed her face grew more thoughtful. Then, as Norman reappeared she
changed the subject abruptly.

After dinner, while they were smoking, Norman made Keith tell him of his
coal-lands and the business that had brought him to New York. To Keith's
surprise, he seemed to know something of it already.

"You should have come to me at first," he said. "I might, at least, have
been able to counteract somewhat the adverse influence that has been
working against you." His brow clouded a little.

"Wickersham appears to be quite a personage here. I wonder he has not
been found out," said Keith after a little reverie.

Norman shifted slightly in his chair. "Oh, he is not worth bothering
about. Give me your lay-out now."

Keith put him in possession of the facts, and he became deeply
interested. He had, indeed, a dual motive: one of friendship for Keith;
the other he as yet hardly confessed even to himself.

The next day Keith met Norman by appointment and gave him his papers.
And a day or two afterwards he met a number of his friends at lunch.

They were capitalists and, if General Keith's old dictum, that gentlemen
never discussed money at table, was sound, they would scarcely have met
his requirement; for the talk was almost entirely of money. When they
rose from the table, Keith, as he afterwards told Norman, felt like a
squeezed orange. The friendliest man to him was Mr. Yorke, whom Keith
found to be a jovial, sensible little man with kindly blue eyes and a
humorous mouth. His chief cross-examiner was a Mr. Kestrel, a
narrow-faced, parchment-skinned man with a thin white moustache that
looked as if it had led a starved existence on his bloodless lip.

"Those people down there are opposed to progress," he said, buttoning up
his pockets in a way he had, as if he were afraid of having them picked.
"I guess the Wickershams have found that out. I don't see any money
in it."

"It is strange that Kestrel doesn't see money in this," said Mr. Yorke,
with a twinkle in his eye; "for he usually sees money in everything. I
guess there were other reasons than want of progress for the Wickershams
not paying dividends."

A few days later Norman informed Keith that the money was nearly all
subscribed; but Keith did not know until afterwards how warmly he had
indorsed him.

"You said something about sheep the other day; well, a sheep is a
solitary and unsocial animal to a city-man with money to invest. My
grandfather's man used to tell me: 'Sheep is kind of gregarious, Mr.
Norman. Coax the first one through and you can't keep the others out.'
Even Kestrel is jumping to get in."



CHAPTER XVIII

MRS. LANCASTER

Keith had not yet met Mrs. Lancaster. He meant to call on her before
leaving town; for he would show her that he was successful, and also
that he had recovered. Also he wanted to see her, and in his heart was a
lurking hope that she might regret having lost him. A word that Mrs.
Wentworth had let fall the first evening he dined there had kept him
from calling before.

A few evenings later Keith was dining with the Norman Wentworths, and
after dinner Norman said:

"By the way, we are going to a ball to-night. Won't you come along? It
will really be worth seeing."

Keith, having no engagement, was about to accept, but he was aware that
Mrs. Wentworth, at her husband's words, had turned and given him a quick
look of scrutiny, that swept him from the top of his head to the toe
of his boot.

He had had that swift glance of inspection sweep him up and down many
times of late, in business offices. The look, however, appeared to
satisfy his hostess; for after a bare pause she seconded her husband's
invitation.

That pause had given Keith time to reflect, and he declined to go. But
Norman, too, had seen the glance his wife had given, and he urged his
acceptance so warmly and with such real sincerity that finally
Keith yielded.

"This is not one of _the_ balls," said Norman, laughingly. "It is only
_a_ ball, one of our subscription dances, so you need have no scruples
about going along."

Keith looked a little mystified.

"Mrs. Creamer's balls are _the_ balls, my dear fellow. There, in
general, only the rich and the noble enter--rich in prospect and noble
in title--"

"Norman, how can you talk so!" exclaimed Mrs. Wentworth, with some
impatience. "You know better than that. Mrs. Creamer has always been
particularly kind to us. Why, she asks me to receive with her
every winter."

But Norman was in a bantering mood. "Am not I rich and you noble?" he
laughed. "Do you suppose, my dear, that Mrs. Creamer would ask you to
receive with her if we lived two or three squares off Fifth Avenue? It
is as hard for a poor man to enter Mrs. Creamer's house as for a camel
to pass through the needle's eye. Her motions are sidereal and her orbit
is as regulated as that of a planet."

Mrs. Wentworth protested.

"Why, she has all sorts of people at her house--!"

"Except the unsuccessful. Even planets have a little eccentricity of
orbit."

An hour or two later Keith found himself in such a scene of radiance as
he had never witnessed before in all his life. Though, as Norman had
said, it was not one of the great balls, to be present at it was in some
sort a proof of one's social position and possibly of one's pecuniary
condition.

Keith was conscious of that same feeling of novelty and exhilaration
that had come over him when he first arrived in the city. It came upon
him when he first stepped from the cool outer air into the warm
atmosphere of the brilliantly lighted building and stood among the young
men, all perfectly dressed and appointed, and almost as similar as the
checks they were receiving from the busy servants in the cloak-room. The
feeling grew stronger as he mounted the wide marble stairway to the
broad landing, which was a bower of palms and flowers, with handsome
women passing in and out like birds in gorgeous plumage, and gay voices
sounding in his ears. It swept over him like a flood when he entered the
spacious ball-room and gazed upon the dazzling scene before him.

"This is Aladdin's palace," he declared as he stood looking across the
large ball-room. "The Arabian Nights have surely come again."

Mrs. Wentworth, immediately after presenting Keith to one or two ladies
who were receiving, had been met and borne off by Ferdy Wickersham, and
was in the throng at the far end of the great apartment, and some one
had stopped Norman on the stairway. So Keith was left for a moment
standing alone just inside the door. He had a sense of being charmed.
Later, he tried to account for it. Was it the sight before him? Even
such perfect harmony of color could hardly have done it. It must be the
dazzling radiance of youth that almost made his eyes ache with its
beauty. Perhaps, it was the strain of the band hidden in the gallery
among those palms. The waltz music that floated down always set him
swinging back in the land of memory. He stood for a moment quite
entranced. Then he was suddenly conscious of being lonely. In all the
throng before him he could not see one soul that he knew. His friends
were far away.

Suddenly the wheezy strains of the fiddles and the blare of the horns in
the big dining-room of the old Windsor back in the mountains sounded in
his ears, and the motley but gay and joyous throng that tramped and
capered and swung over the rough boards, setting the floor to swinging
and the room to swaying, swam in a dim mist before his eyes. Girls in
ribbons so gay that they almost made the eyes ache, faces flushed with
the excitement and joy of the dance; smiling faces, snowy teeth,
dishevelled hair, tarlatan dresses, green and pink and white; ringing
laughter and whoops of real merriment--all passed before his senses.

As he stood looking on the scene of splendor, he felt lost, lonely, and
for a moment homesick. Here all was formal, stiff repressed; that gayety
was real, that merriment was sincere. With all their crudeness, those
people in that condition were all human, hearty, strong, real. He
wondered if refinement and elegance meant necessarily a suppression of
all these. There, men came not only to enjoy but to make others enjoy as
well. No stranger could have stood a moment alone without some one
stepping to his side and drawing him into a friendly talk. This mood
soon changed.

Still, standing alone near the door waiting for Norman to appear, Keith
found entertainment watching the groups, the splendidly dressed women,
clustered here and there or moving about inspecting or speaking to each
other. One figure at the far end of the room attracted his eye again and
again. She was standing with her back partly toward him, but he knew
that she was a pretty woman as well as a handsome one, though he saw her
face only in profile, and she was too far off for him to see it very
well. Her hair was arranged simply; her head was set beautifully on her
shoulders. She was dressed in black, the bodice covered with spangles
that with her slightest movement shimmered and reflected the light like
a coat of flexible mail. A number of men were standing about her, and
many women, as they passed, held out their hands to her in the way that
ladies of fashion have. Keith saw Mrs. Wentworth approach her, and a
very animated conversation appeared to take place between them, and the
lady in black turned quickly and gazed about the room; then Mrs.
Wentworth started to move away, but the other caught and held her,
asking her something eagerly. Mrs. Wentworth must have refused to
answer, for she followed her a few steps; but Mrs. Wentworth simply
waved her hand to her and swept away with her escort, laughing back at
her over her shoulder.

Keith made his way around the room toward Mrs. Wentworth. There was
something about the young lady in black which reminded him of a girl he
had once seen standing straight and defiant, yet very charming, in a
woodland path under arching pine-boughs. Just then, however, a waltz
struck up and Mrs. Wentworth began to dance, so Keith stood leaning
against the wall. Presently a member of a group of young men near
Keith said:

"The Lancaster looks well to-night."

"She does. The old man's at home, Ferdy's on deck."

"Ferdy be dashed! Besides, where is Mrs. Went--?"

"Don't lay any money on that."

"She's all right. Try to say anything to her and you'll find out."

The others laughed; and one of them asked:

"Been trying yourself, Stirling?"

"No. I know better, Minturn."

"Why doesn't she shake Ferdy then?" demanded the other. "He's always
hanging around when he isn't around the other."

"Oh, they have been friends all their lives. She is not going to give up
a friend, especially when others are getting down on him. Can't you
allow anything to friendship?"

"Ferdy's friendship is pretty expensive," said his friend,
sententiously.

Keith took a glance at the speakers to see if he could by following
their gaze place Mrs. Lancaster. The one who defended the lady was a
jolly-looking man with a merry eye and a humorous mouth. The other two
were as much alike as their neckties, their collars, their shirt-fronts,
their dress-suits, or their shoes, in which none but a tailor could have
discovered the least point of difference. Their cheeks were smooth,
their chins were round, their hair as perfectly parted and brushed as a
barber's. Keith had an impression that he had seen them just before on
the other side of the room, talking to the lady in black; but as he
looked across, he saw the other young men still there, and there were
yet others elsewhere. At the first glance they nearly all looked alike.
Just then he became conscious that a couple had stopped close beside
him. He glanced at them; the lady was the same to whom he had seen Mrs.
Wentworth speaking at the other end of the room. Her face was turned
away, and all he saw was an almost perfect figure with shoulders that
looked dazzling in contrast with her shimmering black gown. A single
red rose was stuck in her hair. He was waiting to get a look at her
face, when she turned toward him.

[Illustration: "Why, Mr. Keith!" she exclaimed.]

"Why, Mr. Keith!" she exclaimed, her blue eyes open wide with surprise.
She held out her hand. "I don't believe you know me?"

"Then you must shut your eyes," said Keith, smiling his pleasure.

"I don't believe I should have known you? Yes, I should; I should have
known you anywhere."

"Perhaps, I have not changed so much," smiled Keith.

She gave him just the ghost of a glance out of her blue eyes.

"I don't know. Have you been carrying any sacks of salt lately?" She
assumed a lighter air.

"No; but heavier burdens still."

"Are you married?"

Keith laughed.

"No; not so heavy as that--yet."

"So heavy as that _yet_! Oh, you are engaged?"

"No; not engaged either--except engaged in trying to make a lot of
people who think they know everything understand that there are a few
things that they don't know."

"That is a difficult task," she said, shaking her head, "if you try it
in New York."

     "'John P. Robinson, he
     Says they don't know everything down in Judee,'"

put in the stout young man who had been standing by waiting to speak to
her.

"But this isn't Judee yet," she laughed, "for I assure you we do know
everything here, Mr. Keith." She held out her hand to the gentleman who
had spoken, and after greeting him introduced him to Keith as "Mr.
Stirling."

"You ought to like each other," she said cordially.

Keith professed his readiness to do so.

"I don't know about that," said Stirling, jovially. "You are too
friendly to him."

"What are you doing? Where are you staying? How long are you going to be
in town?" demanded Mrs. Lancaster, turning to Keith.

"Mining.--At the Brunswick.--Only a day or two," said Keith, laughing.

"Mining? Gold-mining?"

"No; not yet."

"Where?"

"Down South at a place called New Leeds. It's near the place where I
used to teach. It's a great city. Why, we think New York is jealous
of us."

"Oh, I know about that. A friend of mine put a little money down there
for me. You know him? Ferdy Wickersham?"

"Yes, I know him."

"Most of us know him," observed Mr. Stirling, turning his eyes on Keith.

"Of course, you must know him. Are you in with him? He tells me that
they own pretty much everything that is good in that region. They are
about to open a new mine that is to exceed anything ever known. Ferdy
tells me I am good for I don't know how much. The stock is to be put on
the exchange in a little while, and I got in on the ground-floor. That's
what they call it--the lowest floor of all, you know.

"Yes; some people call it the ground-floor," said Keith, wishing to
change the subject.

"You know there may be a cellar under a ground-floor," observed Mr.
Stirling, demurely.

Keith looked at him, and their eyes met.

Fortunately, perhaps, for Keith, some one came up just then and claimed
a dance with Mrs. Lancaster. She moved away, and then turned back.

"I shall see you again?"

"Yes. Why, I hope so-certainly."

She stopped and looked at him.

"When are you going away?"

"Why, I don't exactly know. Very soon. Perhaps, in a day or two."

"Well, won't you come to see us? Here, I will give you my address. Have
you a card?" She took the pencil he offered her and wrote her number on
it. "Come some afternoon--about six; Mr. Lancaster is always in then,"
she said sedately. "I am sure you will like each other." Keith bowed.

She floated off smiling. What she had said to Mrs. Wentworth occurred to
her.

"Yes; he looks like a man." She became conscious that her companion was
asking a question.

"What is the matter with you?" he said. "I have asked you three times
who that man was, and you have not said a word."

"Oh, I beg your pardon. Mr. Keith, an old friend of mine," she said, and
changed the subject.

As to her old friend, he was watching her as she danced, winding in and
out among the intervening couples. He wondered that he could ever have
thought that a creature like that could care for him and share his hard
life. He might as soon have expected a bird-of-paradise to live by
choice in a coal-bunker.

He strolled about, looking at the handsome women, and presently found
himself in the conservatory. Turning a clump, of palms, he came on Mrs.
Wentworth and Mr. Wickersham sitting together talking earnestly. Keith
was about to go up and speak to Mrs. Wentworth, but her escort said
something under his breath to her, and she looked away. So Keith
passed on.

A little later, Keith went over to where Mrs. Lancaster stood. Several
men were about her, and just after Keith Joined her, another man walked
up, if any movement so lazy and sauntering could be termed walking.

"I have been wondering why I did not see you," he drawled as he came up.

Keith recognized the voice of Ferdy Wickersham. He turned and faced him;
but if Mr. Wickersham was aware of his presence, he gave no sign of it.
His dark eyes were on Mrs. Lancaster. She turned to him.

"Perhaps, Ferdinand, it was because you did not use your eyes. That is
not ordinarily a fault of yours."

"I never think of my eyes when yours are present," said he, lazily.

"Oh, don't you?" laughed Mrs. Lancaster. "What were you doing a little
while ago in the conservatory--with--?"

"Nothing. I have not been in the conservatory this evening. You have
paid some one else a compliment."

"Tell that to some one who does not use her eyes," said Mrs. Lancaster,
mockingly.

"There are occasions when you must disbelieve the sight of your eyes."
He was looking her steadily in the face, and Keith saw her expression
change. She recovered herself.

"Last time I saw you, you vowed you had eyes for none but me, you may
remember?" she said lightly.

"No. Did I? Life is too awfully short to remember. But it is true. It is
the present in which I find my pleasure."

Up to this time neither Mrs. Lancaster nor Mr. Wickersham had taken any
notice of Keith, who stood a little to one side, waiting, with his eyes
resting on the other young man's face. Mrs. Lancaster now turned.

"Oh, Mr. Keith." She now turned back to Mr. Wickersham. "You know Mr.
Keith?"

Keith was about to step forward to greet his old acquaintance; but
Wickersham barely nodded.

"Ah, how do you do? Yes, I know Mr. Keith.--If I can take care of the
present, I let the past and the future take care of themselves," he
continued to Mrs. Lancaster. "Come and have a turn. That will make the
present worth all of the past."

"Ferdy, you are discreet," said one of the other men, with a laugh.

"My dear fellow," said the young man, turning, "I assure you, you don't
know half my virtues."

"What are your virtues, Ferdy?"

"One is not interfering with others." He turned back to Mrs. Lancaster.
"Come, have a turn." He took one of his hands from his pocket and
held it out.

"I am engaged," said Mrs. Lancaster.

"Oh, that makes no difference. You are always engaged; come," he said.

"I beg your pardon. It makes a difference in _this_ case," said Keith,
coming forward. "I believe this is my turn, Mrs. Lancaster?"

Wickersham's glance swept across, but did not rest on him, though it was
enough for Keith to meet it for a second, and, without looking, the
young man turned lazily away.

"Shall we find a seat?" Mrs. Lancaster asked as she took Keith's arm.

"Delighted, unless you prefer to dance."

"I did not know that dancing was one of your accomplishments," she said
as they strolled along.

"Maybe, I have acquired several accomplishments that you do not know of.
It has been a long time since you knew me," he answered lightly. As they
turned, his eyes fell on Wickersham. He was standing where they had left
him, his eyes fastened on them malevolently. As Keith looked he started
and turned away. Mrs. Lancaster had also seen him.

"What is there between you and Ferdy?" she asked.

"Nothing."

"There must be. Did you ever have a row with him?"

"Yes; but that was long ago."

"I don't know. He has a good memory. He doesn't like you." She spoke
reflectively.

"Doesn't he?" laughed Keith. "Well, I must try and sustain it as best I
can."

"And you don't like him? Few men like him. I wonder why that is?"

"And many women?" questioned Keith, as for a moment he recalled Mrs.
Wentworth's face when he spoke of him.

"Some women," she corrected, with a quick glance at him. She reflected,
and then went on: "I think it is partly because he is so bold and partly
that he never appears to know any one else. It is the most insidious
flattery in the world. I like him because I have known him all my life.
I know him perfectly."

"Yes?" Keith spoke politely.

She read his thought. "You wonder if I really know him? Yes, I do. But,
somehow, I cling to those I knew in my girlhood. You don't believe that,
but I do." She glanced at him and then looked away.

"Yes, I do believe it. Then let's be friends--old friends," said Keith.
He held out his hand, and when she took it grasped hers firmly.

"Who is here with you to-night?" he asked.

"No one. Mr. Lancaster does not care for balls."

"Won't you give me the pleasure of seeing you home?" She hesitated for a
moment, and then said:

"I will drop you at your hotel. It is right on my way home."

Just then some one came up and joined the group.

"Ah, my dear Mrs. Lancaster! How well you are looking this evening!"

The full voice, no less than the words, sounded familiar to Keith, and
turning, he recognized the young clergyman whom he had met at Mrs.
Wentworth's when he passed through New York some years before. The years
had plainly used Mr. Rimmon well. He was dressed in an evening suit with
a clerical waistcoat which showed that his plump frame had taken on an
extra layer, and a double chin was beginning to rest on his collar.

Mrs. Lancaster smiled as she returned his greeting.

"You are my stand-by, Mr. Rimmon. I always know that, no matter what
others may say of me, I shall be sure of at least one compliment before
the evening is over if you are present."

"That is because you always deserve it." He put his head on one side
like an aldermanic robin. "Ah, if you knew how many compliments I do pay
you which you never hear! My entire life is a compliment to you,"
declared Mr. Rimmon.

"Not your entire life, Mr. Rimmon. You are like some other men. You
confound me with some one else; for I am sure I heard you saying the
same thing five minutes ago to Louise Wentworth."

"Impossible. Then I must have confounded her with you," sighed Mr.
Rimmon, with such a look at Mrs. Lancaster out of his languishing eyes
that she gave him a laughing tap with her fan.

"Go and practise that on a debutante. I am an old married woman,
remember."

"Ah, me!" sighed the gentleman. "'Marriage and Death and Division make
barren our lives.'"

"Where does that come from?" asked Mrs. Lancaster.

"Ah! from--ah--" began Mr. Rimmon, then catching Keith's eyes resting on
him with an amused look in them, he turned red.

She addressed Keith. "Mr. Keith, you quoted that to me once; where does
it come from? From the Bible?"

"No."

"I read it in the newspaper and was so struck by it that I remembered
it," said Mr. Rimmon.

"I read it in 'Laus Veneris,'" said Keith, dryly, with his eyes on the
other's face. It pleased him to see it redden.

Keith, as he passed through the rooms, caught sight of an old lady over
in a corner. He could scarcely believe his senses; it was Miss Abigail.
She was sitting back against the wall, watching the crowd with eyes as
sharp as needles. Sometimes her thin lips twitched, and her bright eyes
snapped with inward amusement. Keith made his way over to her. She was
so much engaged that he stood beside her a moment without her seeing
him. Then she turned and glanced at him.

"'A chiel's amang ye takin' notes,'" he said, laughing and holding out
his hand.

"'An', faith! she'll prent 'em,'" she answered, with a nod. "How are
you? I am glad to see you. I was just wishing I had somebody to enjoy
this with me, but not a man. I ought to be gone; and so ought you, young
man. I started, but I thought if I could get in a corner by myself where
there were no men I might stay a little while and look at it; for I
certainly never saw anything like this before, and I don't think I ever
shall again. I certainly do not think you ought to see it."

Keith laughed, and she continued:

"I knew things had changed since I was a girl; but I didn't know it was
as bad as this. Why, I don't think it ought to be allowed."

"What?" asked Keith.

"This." She waved her hand to include the dancing throng before them.
"They tell me all those women dancing around there are married."

"I believe many of them are."

"Why don't those young women have partners?"

"Why, some of them do. I suppose the others are not attractive enough,
or something."

"Especially _something_," said the old lady. "Where are their husbands?"

"Why, some of them are at home, and some are here."

"Where?" The old lady turned her eyes on a couple that sailed by her,
the man talking very earnestly to his companion, who was listening
breathlessly. "Is that her husband?"

"Well, no; that is not, I believe."

"No; I'll be bound it is not. You never saw a married man talking to his
wife in public in that way--unless they were talking about the last
month's bills. Why, it is perfectly brazen."

Keith laughed.

"Where is her husband?" she demanded, as Mrs. Wentworth floated by, a
vision of brocaded satin and lace and white shoulders, supported by
Ferdy Wickersham, who was talking earnestly and looking down into her
eyes languishingly.

"Oh, her husband is here."

"Well, he had better take her home to her little children. If ever I saw
a face that I distrusted it is that man's."

"Why, that is Ferdy Wickersham. He is one of the leaders of society. He
is considered quite an Adonis," observed Keith.

"And I don't think Adonis was a very proper person for a young woman
with children to be dancing with in attire in which only her husband
should see her." She shut her lips grimly. "I know him," she added. "I
know all about them for three generations. One of the misfortunes of age
is that when a person gets as old as I am she knows so much evil about
people. I knew that young man's grandfather when he was a worthy
mechanic. His wife was an uppish hussy who thought herself better than
her husband, and their daughter was a pretty girl with black eyes and
rosy cheeks. They sent her off to school, and after the first year or
two she never came back. She had got above them. Her father told me as
much. The old man cried about it. He said his wife thought it was all
right; that his girl had married a smart young fellow who was a clerk in
a bank; but that if he had a hundred other children he'd never teach
them any more than to read, write, and figure. And to think that her son
should be the Adonis dancing with my cousin Everett Wentworth's
daughter-in-law! Why, my Aunt Wentworth would rise from her grave if
she knew it!"

"Well, times have changed," said Keith, laughing. "You see they are as
good as anybody now."

"Not as good as anybody--you mean as rich as anybody."

"That amounts to about the same thing here, doesn't it?"

"I believe it does, here," said the old lady, with a sniff. "Well," she
said after a pause, "I think I will go back and tell Matilda what I have
seen. And if you are wise you will come with me, too. This is no place
for plain, country-bred people like you and me."

Keith, laughing, said he had an engagement, but he would like to have
the privilege of taking her home, and then he could return.

"With a married woman, I suppose? Yes, I will be bound it is," she added
as Keith nodded. "You see the danger of evil association. I shall write
to your father and tell him that the sooner he gets you out of New York
the better it will be for your morals and your manners. For you are the
only man, except Norman, who has been so provincial as to take notice of
an unknown old woman."

So she went chatting merrily down the stairway to her carriage, making
her observations on whatever she saw with the freshness of a girl.

"Do you think Norman is happy?" she suddenly asked Keith.

"Why--yes; don't you think so? He has everything on earth to make him
happy," said Keith, with some surprise. But even at the moment it
flitted across his mind that there was something which he had felt
rather than observed in Mrs. Wentworth's attitude toward her husband.

"Except that he has married a fool," said the old lady, briefly. "Don't
you marry a fool, you hear?"

"I believe she is devoted to Norman and to her children," Keith began,
but Miss Abigail interrupted him.

"And why shouldn't she be? Isn't she his wife? She gives him, perhaps,
what is left over after her devotion to herself, her house, her frocks,
her jewels, and--Adonis."

"Oh, I don't believe she cares for him," declared Keith. "It is
impossible."

"I don't believe she does either, but she cares for herself, and he
flatters her. The idea of a Norman-Wentworth's wife being flattered by
the attention of a tinker's grandson!"

When the ball broke up and Mrs. Lancaster's carriage was called, several
men escorted her to it. Wickersham, who was trying to recover ground
which something told him he had lost, followed her down the stairway
with one or two other men, and after she had entered the carriage stood
leaning in at the door while he made his adieus and peace at the
same moment.

"You were not always so cruel to me," he said in a low tone.

Mrs. Lancaster laughed genuinely.

"I was never cruel to you, Ferdy; you mistake leniency for harshness."

"No one else would say that to me."

"So much the more pity. You would be a better man if you had the truth
told you oftener."

"When did you become such an advocate of Truth? Is it this man?"

"What man?"

"Keith. If it is, I want to tell you that he is not what he pretends."

A change came over Mrs. Lancaster's face.

"He is a gentleman," she said coldly.

"Oh, is he? He was a stage-driver."

Mrs. Lancaster drew herself up.

"If he was--" she began. But she stopped suddenly, glanced beyond
Wickersham, and moved over to the further side of the carriage.

Just then a hand was laid on Wickersham's arm, and a voice behind him
said:

"I beg your pardon."

Wickersham knew the voice, and without looking around stood aside for
the speaker to make his adieus. Keith stepped into the carriage and
pulled to the door before the footman could close it.

At the sound the impatient horses started off, leaving three men
standing in the street looking very blank. Stirling was the first to
speak; he turned to the others in amazement.

"Who is Keith?" he demanded.

"Oh, a fellow from the South somewhere."

"Well, Keith knows his business!" said Mr. Stirling, with a nod of
genuine admiration.

Wickersham uttered an imprecation and turned back into the house.

Next day Mr. Stirling caught Wickersham in a group of young men at the
club, and told them the story.

"Look out for Keith," he said. "He gave me a lesson."

Wickersham growled an inaudible reply.

"Who was the lady? Wickersham tries to capture so many prizes, what you
say gives us no light," said Mr. Minturn, one of the men.

"Oh, no. I'll only tell you it's not the one you think," said the jolly
bachelor. "But I am going to take lessons of that man Keith. These
countrymen surprise me sometimes."

"He was a d----d stage-driver," said Wickersham.

"Then you had better take lessons from him, Ferdy," said Stirling. "He
drives well. He's a veteran."

When Keith reached his room he lit a cigar and flung himself into a
chair. Somehow, the evening had not left a pleasant impression on his
mind. Was this the Alice Yorke he had worshipped, revered? Was this the
woman whom he had canonized throughout these years? Why was she carrying
on an affair with Ferdy Wickersham? What did he mean by those last words
at the carriage? She said she knew him. Then she must know what his
reputation was. Now and then it came to Keith that it was nothing to
him. Mrs. Lancaster was married, and her affairs could not concern him.
But they did concern him. They had agreed to be old friends--old
friends. He would be a true friend to her.

He rose and threw away his half-smoked cigar.

Keith called on Mrs. Lancaster just before he left for the South. Though
he had no such motive when he put off his visit, he could not have done
a wiser thing. It was a novel experience for her to invite a man to call
on her and not have him jump at the proposal, appear promptly next day,
frock-coat, kid gloves, smooth flattery, and all; and when Keith had not
appeared on the third day after the ball, it set her to thinking. She
imagined at first that he must have been called out of town, but Mrs.
Norman, whom she met, dispelled this idea. Keith had dined with them
informally the evening before.

"He appeared to be in high spirits," added the lady. "His scheme has
succeeded, and he is about to go South. Norman took it up and put it
through for him."

"I know it," said Mrs. Lancaster, demurely.

Mrs. Wentworth's form stiffened slightly; but her manner soon became
gracious again. "Ferdy says there is nothing in it."

Could he be offended, or afraid--of himself? reflected Mrs. Lancaster.
Mrs. Wentworth's next observation disposed of this theory also. "You
ought to hear him talk of you. By the way, I have found out who that
ghost was."

Mrs. Lancaster threw a mask over her face.

"He says you have more than fulfilled the promise of your girlhood: that
you are the handsomest woman he has seen in New York, my dear," pursued
the other, looking down at her own shapely figure. "Of course, I do not
agree with him, quite," she laughed. "But, then, people will differ."

"Louise Wentworth, vanity is a deadly sin," said the other, smiling,
"and we are told in the Commandments--I forget which one--to envy
nothing of our neighbor's."

"He said he wanted to go to see you; that you had kindly invited him,
and he wished very much to meet Mr. Lancaster," said Mrs.
Wentworth, blandly.

"Yes, I am sure they will like each other," said Mrs. Lancaster, with
dignity. "Mamma also is very anxious to see him. She used to know him
when--when he was a boy, and liked him very much, too, though she would
not acknowledge it to me then." She laughed softly at some recollection.

"He spoke of your mother most pleasantly," declared Mrs. Wentworth, not
without Mrs. Lancaster noticing that she was claiming to stand as
Keith's friend.

"Well, I shall not be at home to-morrow," she began. "I have promised to
go out to-morrow afternoon."

"Oh, sha'n't you? Why, what a pity! because he said he was going to pay
his calls to-morrow, as he expected to leave to-morrow night. I think he
would be very sorry not to see you."

"Oh, well, then, I will stay in. My other engagement is of no
consequence."

Her friend looked benign.

Recollecting Mrs. Wentworth's expression, Mrs. Lancaster determined that
she would not be at home the following afternoon. She would show Mrs.
Wentworth that she could not gauge her so easily as she fancied. But at
the last moment, after putting on her hat, she changed her mind. She
remained in, and ended by inviting Keith to dinner that evening, an
invitation which was so graciously seconded by Mr. Lancaster that Keith,
finding that he could take a later train, accepted. Mrs. Yorke was at
the dinner, too, and how gracious she was to Keith! She "could scarcely
believe he was the same man she had known a few years before." She "had
heard a great deal of him, and had come around to dinner on purpose to
meet him." This was true.

"And you have done so well, too, I hear. Your friends are very pleased
to know of your success," she said graciously.

Keith smilingly admitted that he had had, perhaps, better fortune than
he deserved; but this Mrs. Yorke amiably would by no means allow.

"Mrs. Wentworth--not Louise--I mean the elder Mrs. Wentworth--was
speaking of you. You and Norman were great friends when you were boys,
she tells me. They were great friends of ours, you know, long before
we met you."

He wondered how much the Wentworths' indorsement counted for in securing
Mrs. Yorke's invitation. For a good deal, he knew; but as much credit as
he gave it he was within the mark.

It was only her environment. She could no more escape from that than if
she were in prison. She gauged every one by what others thought, and she
possessed no other gauge. Yet there was a certain friendliness, too, in
Mrs. Yorke. The good lady had softened with the years, and at heart she
had always liked Keith.

Most of her conversation was of her friends and their position. Alice
was thinking of going abroad soon to visit some friends on the other
side, "of a very distinguished family," she told Keith.

When Keith left the Lancaster house that night Alice Lancaster knew that
he had wholly recovered.



CHAPTER XIX

WICKERSHAM AND PHRONY

Keith returned home and soon found himself a much bigger man in New
Leeds than when he went away. The mine opened on the Rawson property
began to give from the first large promises of success.

Keith picked up a newspaper one day a little later. It announced in
large head-lines, as befitted the chronicling of such an event, the
death of Mr. William Lancaster, capitalist. He had died suddenly in his
office. His wife, it was stated, was in Europe and had been cabled the
sad intelligence. There was a sketch of his life and also of that of his
wife. Their marriage, it was recalled, had been one of the "romances" of
the season a few years before. He had taken society by surprise by
carrying off one of the belles of the season, the beautiful Miss Yorke.
The rest of the notice was taken up in conjectures as to the amount of
his property and the sums he would be likely to leave to the various
charitable institutions of which he had always been a liberal patron.

Keith laid the paper down on his knee and went off in a revery. Mr.
Lancaster was dead! Of all the men he had met in New York he had in some
ways struck him the most. He had appeared to him the most perfect type
of a gentleman; self-contained, and inclined to be cold, but a man of
elegance as well as of brains. He felt that he ought to be sorry Mr.
Lancaster was dead, and he tried to be sorry for his wife. He started to
write her a letter of condolence, but stopped at the first line, and
could get no further. Yet several times a day, for many days, she
recurred to him, each time giving him a feeling of dissatisfaction,
until at length he was able to banish her from his mind.

Prosperity is like the tide. It comes, each wave higher and higher,
until it almost appears that it will never end, and then suddenly it
seems to ebb a little, comes up again, recedes again, and, before one
knows it, is passing away as surely as it came.

Just when Keith thought that his tide was in full flood, it began to ebb
without any apparent cause, and before he was aware of it, the
prosperity which for the last few years had been setting in so steadily
in those mountain regions had passed away, and New Leeds and he were
left stranded upon the rocks.

Rumor came down to New Leeds from the North. The Wickersham enterprises
were said to be hard hit by some of the failures which had occurred.

A few weeks later Keith heard that Mr. Aaron Wickersham was dead. The
clerks said that he had had a quarrel with his son the day after the
panic and had fallen in an apoplectic fit soon afterwards. But then the
old clerks had been discharged immediately after his death. Young
Wickersham said he did not want any dead-wood in his offices. Also he
did not want any dead property. Among his first steps was the sale of
the old Keith plantation. Gordon, learning that it was for sale, got a
friend to lend him the money and bought it in, though it would scarcely
have been known for the same place. The mansion had been stripped of its
old furniture and pictures soon after General Keith had left there, and
the plantation had gone down.

Rumor also said that Wickersham's affairs were in a bad way. Certainly
the new head of the house gave no sign of it. He opened a yet larger
office and began operations on a more extensive scale. The _Clarion_
said that his Southern enterprises would be pushed actively, and that
the stock of the Great Gun Mine would soon be on the New York Exchange.

Ferdy Wickersham suddenly returned to New Leeds, and New Leeds showed
his presence. Machinery was shipped sufficient to run a dozen mines. He
not only pushed the old mines, but opened a new one. It was on a slip of
land that lay between the Rawson property and the stream that ran down
from the mountain. Some could not understand why he should run the shaft
there, unless it was that he was bent on cutting the Rawson property off
from the stream. It was a perilous location for a shaft, and Matheson,
the superintendent, had protested against it.

Matheson's objections proved to be well founded. The mine was opened so
near the stream that water broke through into it, as Matheson had
predicted, and though a strong wall was built, the water still got in,
and it was difficult to keep it pumped out sufficiently to work. Some of
the men struck. It was known that Wickersham had nearly come to a
rupture with the hard-headed Scotchman over it; but Wickersham won.
Still, the coal did not come. It was asserted that the shafts had failed
to reach coal. Wickersham laughed and kept on--kept on till coal did
come. It was heralded abroad. The _Clarion_ devoted columns to the
success of the "Great Gun Mine" and Wickersham.

Wickersham naturally showed his triumph. He celebrated it in a great
banquet at the New Windsor, at which speeches were made which likened
him to Napoleon and several other generals. Mr. Plume declared him
"greater than Themistocles, for he could play the lute and make a small
city a great one."

Wickersham himself made a speech, in which he professed his joy that he
had silenced the tongue of slander and wrested from detraction a victory
not for himself, but for New Leeds. His enemies and the enemies of New
Leeds were, he declared, the same. They would soon see his enemies suing
for aid. He was applauded to the echo. All this and much more was in
the _Clarion_ next day, with some very pointed satire about
"rival mines."

Keith, meantime, was busy poring over plats and verifying lines.

The old squire came to town a morning or two later. "I see Mr.
Wickersham's struck coal at last," he said to Keith, after he had got
his pipe lit. His face showed that he was brimming with information.

"Yes--_our_ coal." Keith showed him the plats. "He is over our line--I
do not know just where, but in here somewhere."

The old fellow put on his spectacles and looked long and carefully.

"He says he owns it all; that he'll have us suin' for pardon?"

"Suing for damages."

The old squire gave a chuckle of satisfaction. "He is in and about
_there_." He pointed with a stout and horny finger.

"How did you know?"

"Well, you see, little Dave Dennison--you remember Dave? You taught
him."

"Perfectly--I mean, I remember him perfectly. He is now in New York."

"Yes. Well, Dave he used to be sweet on Phrony, and he seems to be still
sweet on her."

Mr. Keith nodded.

"Well, of course, Phrony she's lookin' higher than Dave--but you know
how women air?"

"I don't know--I know they are strange creatures," said Keith, almost
with a sigh, as his past with one woman came vividly before him.

"Well, they won't let a man go, noway, not entirely--unless he's in the
way. So, though Phrony don't keer nothin' in the world about Dave, she
sort o' kep' him on-an'-off-like till this here young Wickersham come
down here. You know, I think she and him like each other? He's been to
see her twicet and is always a--writin' to her?" His voice had an
inquiry in it; but Keith took no notice of it, and the old man went on.

"Well, since then she's sort of cooled off to Dave--won't have him
around--and Dave's got sort of sour. Well, he hates Wickersham, and he
up and told her t'other night 't Wickersham was the biggest rascal in
New York; that he had 'most broke his father and had put the stock of
this here new mine on the market, an' that he didn't have coal enough in
it to fill his hat; that he'd been down in it an' that the coal all come
out of our mine."

Keith's eyes glistened.

"Exactly."

"Well, with that she got so mad with Dave, she wouldn't speak to him;
and Dave left, swearin' he'd settle Wickersham and show him up, and
he'll do it if he can."

"Where is he?" asked Keith, in some anxiety. "Tell him not to do
anything till I see him."

"No; I got hold of him and straightened him out. He told me all about
it. He was right much cut up. He jest cried about Phrony."

Keith wrote a note to Wickersham. He referred to the current rumors that
the cutting had run over on their side, suggesting, however, that it
might have been by inadvertence.

When this letter was received, Wickersham was in conference with his
superintendent, Mr. Matheson. The interview had been somewhat stormy,
for the superintendent had just made the very statement that Keith's
note contained. He was not in a placid frame of mind, for the work was
going badly; and Mr. Plume was seated in an arm-chair listening to his
report. He did not like Plume, and had wished to speak privately to
Wickersham; but Wickersham had told him to go ahead, that Plume was a
friend of his, and as much interested in the success of the work as
Matheson was. Plume's satisfaction and nonchalant air vexed the
Scotchman. Just then Keith's note came, and Wickersham, after reading
it, tossed it over first to Plume. Plume read it and handed it back
without the least change of expression. Then Wickersham, after some
reflection, tossed it to Matheson.

"That's right," he nodded, when he had read it. "We are already over the
line so far that the men know it."

Wickersham's temper gave way.

"Well, I know it. Do you suppose I am so ignorant as not to know
anything? But I am not fool enough to give it away. You need not go
bleating around about it everywhere."

Plume's eye glistened with satisfaction.

The superintendent's brow, which had clouded, grew darker. He had
already stood much from this young man. He had followed his orders in
running the mine beyond the lines shown on the plats; but he had
accepted Wickersham's statement that the lines were wrong, not
the workings.

"I wush you to understand one thing, Mr. Wickersham," he said. "I came
here to superintend your mines and to do my work like an honest man; but
I don't propose to soil my hands with any dirrty dealings, or to engage
in any violation of the law; for I am a law-abiding, God-fearing man,
and before I'll do it I'll go."

"Then you can go," said Wickersham, angrily. "Go, and be d----d to you!
I will show you that I know my own business."

"Then I will go. I do not think you do know it. If you did, you would
not--"

"Never mind. I want no more advice from you," snarled Wickersham.

"I would like to have a letter saying that the work that has been done
since you took charge has been under your express orders."

"I'll see you condemned first. I suppose it was by my orders that the
cutting ran so near to the creek that that work had to be done to keep
the mine from being flooded?"

"It was, by your _express_ orders."

"I deny it. I suppose it was by my orders that the men were set on to
strike?"

"You were told of the danger and the probable consequences of your
insisting."

"Oh, you are always croaking--"

"And I will croak once more," said the discharged official. "You will
never make that mine pay, for there is no coal there. It is all on the
other side of the line."

"I won't! Well, I will show you. I, at least, stand a better chance to
make it pay than I ever did before. I suppose you propose now to go over
to Keith and tell him all you know about our work. I imagine he would
like to know it--more than he knows already."

"I am not in the habit of telling the private affairs of my employers,"
said the man, coldly. "He does not need any information from me. He is
not a fool. He knows it."

"Oh, he does, does he! Then you told him," asserted Wickersham,
furiously.

This was more than the Scotchman could bear. He had already stood much,
and his face might have warned Wickersham. Suddenly it flamed. He took
one step forward, a long one, and rammed his clinched and hairy fist
under the young man's nose.

"You lie! And, ---- you! you know you lie. I'm a law-abiding,
God-fearing man; but if you don't take that back, I will break every
bone in your face. I've a mind to do it anyhow."

Wickersham rolled back out of his chair as if the knotted fist under his
nose had driven him. His face was white as he staggered to his feet.

"I didn't mean--I don't say--. What do you mean anyhow?" he stammered.

"Take it back." The foreman advanced slowly.

"Yes--I didn't mean anything. What are you getting so mad about?"

The foreman cut him short with a fierce gesture. "Write me that paper I
want, and pay me my money."

"Write what--?"

"That the lower shaft and the last drift was cut by your order. Write
it!" He pointed to the paper on the desk. Wickersham sat down and wrote
a few lines. His hand trembled.

"Here it is," he said sullenly.

"Now pay me," said the glowering Scotchman.

The money was paid, and Matheson, without a word, turned and walked out.

"D---- him! I wish the mine had fallen in on him," Wickersham growled.

"You are well quit of him," said Mr. Plume, consolingly.

"I'll get even with him yet."

"You have to answer your other friend," observed Mr. Plume.

"I'll answer him." He seized a sheet of paper and began to write,
annotating it with observations far from complimentary to Keith and
Matheson. He read the letter to Plume. It was a curt inquiry whether Mr.
Keith meant to make the charge that he had crossed his line. If so,
Wickersham & Company knew their remedy and would be glad to know at last
the source whence these slanderous reports had come.

"That will settle him."

Mr. Plume nodded. "It ought to do it."

Keith's reply to this note was sent that night.

It stated simply that he did make the charge, and if Mr. Wickersham
wished it, he was prepared to prove it.

Wickersham's face fell. "Matheson's been to him."

"Or some one else," said Mr. Plume. "That Bluffy hates you like poison.
You've got to do something and do it quick."

Wickersham glanced up at Plume. He met his eye steadily. Wickersham's
face showed the shadow of a frown; then it passed, leaving his face set
and a shade paler. He looked at Plume again and licked his lips.
Plume's eye was still on him.

"What do you know!" he asked Plume.

"Only what others know. They all know it or will soon."

Wickersham's face settled more. He cursed in a low voice and then
relapsed into reflection.

"Get up a strike," said Plume. "They are ripe for it. Close her down and
blow her up."

Wickersham's countenance changed, and presently his brow cleared.

"It will serve them right. I'll let them know who owns these mines."

Next morning there was posted a notice of a cut of wages in the
Wickersham mines. There was a buzz of excitement in New Leeds and anger
among the mining population. At dinner-time there were meetings and much
talking. That night again, there were meetings and whiskey and more
talking,--louder talking,--speeches and resolutions. Next morning a
committee waited on Mr. Wickersham, who received the men politely but
coldly. He "thought he knew how to manage his own business. They must be
aware that he had spent large sums in developing property which had not
yet begun to pay. When it began to pay he would be happy, etc. If they
chose to strike, all right. He could get others in their places."

That night there were more meetings. Next day the men did not go to
work. By evening many of them were drunk. There was talk of violence.
Bill Bluffy, who was now a miner, was especially savage.

Keith was surprised, a few days later, as he was passing along the
street, to meet Euphronia Tripper. He spoke to her cordially. She was
dressed showily and was handsomer than when he saw her last. The color
mounted her face as he stopped her, and he wondered that Wickersham had
not thought her pretty. When she blushed she was almost a beauty. He
asked about her people at home, inquiring in a breath when she came,
where she was staying, how long she was going to remain, etc.

She answered the first questions glibly enough; but when he inquired as
to the length of her visit and where she was staying, she appeared
somewhat confused.

"I have cousins here, the Turleys."

"Oh! You are with Mr. Turley?" Keith felt relieved.

"Ur--no--I am not staying with them. I am with some other friends." Her
color was coming and going.

"What is their name?"

"Their name? Oh--uh--I don't know their names."

"Don't know their names!"

"No. You see it's a sort of private boarding-house, and they took me
in."

"Oh, I thought you said they were friends," said Keith.

"Why, yes, they are, but--I have forgotten their names. Don't you
understand?"

Keith did not understand.

"I only came a few days ago, and I am going right away."

Keith passed on. Euphronia had clearly not changed her nature.
Insensibly, Keith thought of Ferdy Wickersham. Old Rawson's conversation
months before recurred to him. He knew that the girl was vain and
light-headed. He also knew Wickersham.

He mentioned to Mr. Turley having seen the girl in town, and the old
fellow went immediately and took her out of the little boarding-house
where she had put up, and brought her to his home.

Keith was not long in doubt as to the connection between her presence
and Wickersham's.

Several times he had occasion to call at Mr. Turley's. On each occasion
he found Wickersham there, and it was very apparent that he was not an
unwelcome visitor.

It was evident to Keith that Wickersham was trying to make an impression
on the young girl.

That evening so long ago when he had come on her and Wickersham in the
old squire's orchard came back to him, and the stalwart old countryman,
with his plain ways, his stout pride, his straight ideas, stood before
him. He knew his pride in the girl; how close she was to his heart; and
what a deadly blow it would be to him should anything befall her. He
knew, moreover, how fiercely he would avenge any injury to her.

He determined to give Wickersham a hint of the danger he was running,
if, as he believed, he was simply amusing himself with the girl. He and
Wickersham still kept up relations ostensibly friendly. Wickersham had
told him he was going back to New York on a certain day; but three days
later, as Keith was returning late from his mines, he came on Wickersham
and Phrony in a byway outside of the town. His arm was about her. They
were so closely engaged that they did not notice him until he was on
them. Phrony appeared much excited. "Well, I will not go otherwise,"
Keith heard her say. She turned hastily away as Keith came up, and her
face was scarlet with confusion, and even Wickersham looked
disconcerted.

That night Keith waited for Wickersham at the hotel till a late hour,
and when at length Wickersham came in he met him.

"I thought you were going back to New York?" he said.

"I find it pleasanter here," said the young man, with a significant look
at him.

"You appear to find it pleasant."

"I always make it pleasant for myself wherever I go, my boy. You are a
Stoic; I prefer the Epicurean philosophy."

"Yes? And how about others?"

"Oh, I make it pleasant for them too. Didn't it look so to-day?" The
glance he gave him authorized Keith to go on.

"Did it ever occur to you that you might make it too pleasant for
them--for a time?"

"Ah! I have thought of that. But that's their lookout."

"Wickersham," said Keith, calmly, "that's a very young girl and a very
ignorant girl, and, so far as I know, a very innocent one."

"Doubtless you know!" said, the other, insolently.

"Yes, I believe she is. Moreover, she comes of very good and respectable
people. Her grandfather--"

"My dear boy, I don't care anything about the grandfather! It is only
the granddaughter I am interesting myself in. She is the only pretty
girl within a hundred miles of here, unless you except your old friend
of the dance-hall, and I always interest myself in the prettiest woman
about me."

"Do you intend to marry her?"

Wickersham laughed, heartily and spontaneously.

"Oh, come now, Keith. Are you going to marry the dance-hall keeper,
simply because she has white teeth?"

Keith frowned a little.

"Never mind about me. Do you propose to marry her? She, at least, does
not keep a dance-hall."

"No; I shall leave that for you." His face and tone were insolent, and
Keith gripped his chair. He felt himself flush. Then his blood surged
back; but he controlled himself and put by the insolence for the moment.

"Leave me out of the matter. Do you know what you are doing?" His voice
was a little unsteady.

"I know at least what you are doing: interfering in my business. I know
how to take care of myself, and I don't need your assistance."

"I was not thinking of you, but of her--"

"That's the difference between us. I was," said Ferdy, coolly. He rolled
a cigarette.

"Well, you will have need to think of yourself if you wrong that girl,"
said Keith. "For I tell you now that if anything were to happen to her,
your life would not be worth a button in these mountains."

"There are other places besides the mountains," observed Wickersham. But
Keith noticed that he had paled a little and his voice had lost some of
its assurance.

"I don't believe the world would be big enough to hide you. I know two
men who would kill you on sight."

"Who is the other one?" asked Wickersham.

"I am not counting myself--yet," said Keith, quietly. "It would not be
necessary. The old squire and Dave Dennison would take my life if I
interfered with their rights."

"You are prudent," said Ferdy.

"I am forbearing," said Keith.

Wickersham's tone was as insolent as ever, but as he leaned over and
reached for a match, Keith observed that his hand shook slightly. And
the eyes that were levelled at Keith through the smoke of his cigarette
were unsteady.

Next morning Ferdy Wickersham had a long interview with Plume, and that
night Mr. Plume had a conference in his private office with a man--a
secret conference, to judge from the care with which doors were locked,
blinds pulled down, and voices kept lowered. He was a stout, youngish
fellow, with a low forehead, lowering eyes, and a sodden face. He might
once have been good-looking, but drink was written on Mr. William Bluffy
now in ineffaceable characters. Plume alternately cajoled him and
hectored him, trying to get his consent to some act which he was
unwilling to perform.

"I don't see the slightest danger in it," insisted Plume, "and you did
not use to be afraid. Your nerves must be getting loose."

The other man's eyes rested on him with something like contempt.

"My nerves're all right. I ain't skeered; but I don't want to mix up in
your ---- business. If a man wants trouble with me, he can get it and he
knows how to do it. I don't like yer man Wickersham--not a little bit.
But I don't want to do it that way. I'd like to meet him fair and full
on the street and settle which was the best man."

Plume began again. "You can't do that way here now. That's broke up. But
the way I tell you is the real way." He pictured Wickersham's wealth,
his hardness toward his employes, his being a Yankee, his boast that he
would injure Keith and shut up his mine.

"What've you got against him?" demanded Mr. Bluffy. "I thought you and
him was thick as thieves?"

"It's a public benefit I'm after," declared Plume, unblushingly. "I am
for New Leeds first, last, and all the time."

"You must think you are New Leeds," observed Bluffy.

Plume laughed.

"I've got nothing against him particularly, though he's injured me
deeply. Hasn't he thrown all the men out of work!" He pushed the bottle
over toward the other, and he poured out another drink and tossed it
off. "You needn't be so easy about him. He's been mean enough to you.
Wasn't it him that gave the description of you that night when you
stopped the stage?"

Bill Bluffy's face changed, and there was a flash in his eye.

"Who says I done it?"

Plume laughed. "I don't say you did it. You needn't get mad with me. He
says you did it. Keith said he didn't know what sort of man it was.
Wickersham described you so that everybody knew you. I reckon if Keith
had back-stood him you'd have had a harder time than you did."

The cloud had gathered deeper on Bluffy's brow. He took another drink.

"---- him! I'll blow up his ---- mine and him, too!" he growled. "How
did you say 'twas to be done?"

Plume glanced around at the closed windows and lowered his voice as he
made certain explanations.

"I'll furnish the dynamite."

"All right. Give me the money."

But Plume demurred.

"Not till it's done. I haven't any doubt about your doing it," he
explained quickly, seeing a black look in Bluffy's eyes. "But you know
yourself you're liable to get full, and you mayn't do it as well as you
otherwise would."

"Oh, if I say I'll do it, I'll do it."

"You needn't be afraid of not getting your money."

"I ain't afraid," said Bluffy, with an oath. "If I don't get it I'll get
blood." His eyes as they rested on Plume had a sudden gleam in them.

When Wickersham and Plume met that night the latter gave an account of
his negotiation. "It's all fixed," he said, "but it costs more than I
expected--a lot more," he said slowly, gauging Wickersham's views by
his face.

"How much more? I told you my limit."

"We had to do it," said Mr. Plume, without stating the price.

Wickersham swore.

"He won't do it till he gets the cash," pursued Plume. "But I'll be
responsible for him," he added quickly, noting the change in
Wickersham's expression.

Again Wickersham swore; and Plume changed the subject.

"How'd you come out?" he asked.

"When--what do you mean?"

Plume jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "With the lady?"

Wickersham sniffed. "All right." He drifted for a moment into
reflection. "The little fool's got conscientious doubts," he said
presently, with a half-smile. "Won't go unless--." His eyes rested on
Plume's with a gauging expression in them.

"Well, why not? That's natural enough. She's been brought up right.
They're proud as anybody. Her grandfather--"

"You're a fool!" said Wickersham, briefly.

"You can get some one to go through a ceremony for you that would
satisfy her and wouldn't peach afterwards--"

"What a damned scoundrel you are, Plume!" said Mr. Wickersham, coldly.

Plume's expression was between a smile and a scowl, but the smile was
less pleasant than the frown.

"Get her to go to New York--When you've got her there you've got her.
She can't come back. Or I could perform it myself? I've been a
preacher-am one now," said Plume, without noticing the interruption
further than by a cold gleam in his eyes.

Wickersham laughed derisively.

"Oh, no, not that. I may be given to my own diversions somewhat
recklessly, but I'm not so bad as to let you touch any one I--I take an
interest in."

"As you like," said Plume, curtly. "I just thought it might be a
convenience to you. I'd help you out. I don't see 't you need be
so--squeamish. What you're doing ain't so pure an' lofty 't you can set
up for Marcus Aurelius and St. Anthony at once."

"At least, it's better than it would be if I let you take a hand in it,"
sneered Wickersham.

The following afternoon Wickersham left New Leeds somewhat
ostentatiously. A few strikers standing sullenly about the station
jeered as he passed in. But he took no notice of them. He passed on to
his train.

A few nights later a tremendous explosion shook the town, rattling the
windows, awakening people from their beds, and calling the timid and the
curious into the streets.

It was known next morning that some one had blown up the Great Gun Mine,
opened at such immense cost. The dam that kept out the water was blown
up; the machinery had been wrecked, and the mine was completely
destroyed.

The _Clarion_ denounced it as the deed of the strikers. The strikers
held a meeting and denounced the charge as a foul slander; but the
_Clarion_ continued to denounce them as _hostes humani generis_.

It was, however, rumored around that it was not the strikers at all. One
rumor even declared that it was done by the connivance of the company.
It was said that Bill Bluffy had boasted of it in his cups, But when Mr.
Bluffy was asked about it he denied the story in toto. He wasn't such
a ---- fool as to do such a thing as that, he said. For the rest, he
cursed Mr. Plume with bell, book, and candle.

A rumor came to Keith one morning a few days later that Phrony Tripper
had disappeared.

She had left New Leeds more than a week before, as was supposed by her
relatives, the Turleys, to pay a visit to friends in the adjoining State
before returning home. To others she had said that she was going to the
North for a visit, whilst yet others affirmed that she had given another
destination. However this might be, she had left not long after
Wickersham had taken his departure, and her leaving was soon coupled
with his name. One man even declared that he had seen the two together
in New York.

Another name was connected with the girl's disappearance, though in a
different way. Terpsichore suggested that Mr. Plume had had something to
do with it, and that he could give information on the subject if he
would. Mr. Plume had been away from New Leeds for several days about the
time of Phrony's departure.

"He did that Wickersham's dirty work for him; that is, what he didn't do
for himself," declared the young woman.

Plume's statement was that he had been off on private business and had
met with an accident. The nature of this "accident" was evident in his
appearance.

Keith was hardly surprised when, a day or two after the rumor of the
girl's disappearance reached him, a heavy step thumping outside his
office door announced the arrival of Squire Rawson. When the old man
opened the door, Keith was shocked to see the change in him. He was
haggard and worn, but there was that in his face which made Keith feel
that whoever might be concerned in his granddaughter's disappearance had
reason to beware of meeting him.

"You have heard the news?" he said, as he sank into the chair which
Keith offered him.

Keith said that he had heard it, and regretted it more than he could
express. He had only waited, hoping that it might prove untrue, to
write to him.

"Yes, she has gone," added the old man, moodily. "She's gone off and
married without sayin' a word to me or anybody. I didn't think she'd
'a' done it."

Keith gasped with astonishment. A load appeared to be lifted from him.
After all, she was married. The next moment this hope was dashed by
the squire.

"I always thought," said the old man, "that that young fellow was
hankerin' around her a good deal. I never liked him, because I didn't
trust him. And I wouldn't 'a' liked him anyway," he added frankly; "and
I certainly don't like him now. But--." He drifted off into reflection
for a moment and then came back again--"Women-folks are curious
creatures. Phrony's mother she appeared to like him, and I suppose we
will have to make up with him. So I hev come up here to see if I can git
his address."

Keith's heart sank within him. He knew Ferdy Wickersham too well not to
know on what a broken reed the old man leaned.

"Some folks was a-hintin'," pursued the old fellow, speaking slowly,
"as, maybe, that young man hadn't married her; but I knowed better then
that, because, even if Phrony warn't a good girl,--which she is, though
she ain't got much sense,--he knowed _me_. They ain't none of 'em ever
intimated that to _me_," he added explanatorily.

Keith was glad that he had not intimated it. As he looked at the squire,
he knew how dangerous it would be. His face was settled into a grimness
which showed how perilous it would be for the man who had deceived
Phrony, if, as Keith feared, his apprehensions were well founded.

But at that moment both Phrony and Wickersham were far beyond Squire
Rawson's reach.

The evening after Phrony Tripper left New Leeds, a young woman somewhat
closely veiled descended from the train in Jersey City. Here she was
joined on the platform a moment later by a tall man who had boarded the
train at Washington, and who, but for his spruced appearance, might
have been taken for Mr. J. Quincy Plume. The young woman having
intrusted herself to his guidance, he conducted her across the ferry,
and on the other side they were met by a gentleman, who wore the collar
of his overcoat turned up. After a meeting more or less formal on one
side and cordial on the other, the gentleman gave a brief direction to
Mr. Plume, and, with the lady, entered a carriage which was waiting and
drove off; Mr. Plume following a moment later in another vehicle.

"Know who that is?" asked one of the ferry officials of another. "That's
F.C. Wickersham, who has made such a pile of money. They say he owns a
whole State down South."

"Who is the lady?"

The other laughed. "Don't ask me; you can't keep up with him. They say
they can't resist him."

An hour or two later, Mr. Plume, who had been waiting for some time in
the cafe of a small hotel not very far up-town, was joined by Mr.
Wickersham, whose countenance showed both irritation and disquietude.
Plume, who had been consoling himself with the companionship of a
decanter of rye whiskey, was in a more jovial mood, which further
irritated the other.

"You say she has balked? Jove! She has got more in her than I thought!"

"She is a fool!" said Wickersham.

Plume shut one eye. "Don't know about that. Madame de Maintenon said:
'There is nothing so clever as a good woman.' Well, what are you
going to do?"

"I don't know."

"Take a drink," said Mr. Plume, to whom this was a frequent solvent of a
difficulty.

Wickersham followed his advice, but remained silent.

In fact, Mr. Wickersham, after having laid most careful plans and
reached the point for which he had striven, found himself, at the very
moment of victory, in danger of being defeated. He had induced Phrony
Tripper to come to New York. She was desperately in love with him, and
would have gone to the ends of the earth for him. But he had promised to
marry her; it was to marry him that she had come. As strong as was her
passion for him, and as vain and foolish as she was, she had one
principle which was stronger than any other feeling--a sense of modesty.
This had been instilled in her from infancy. Among her people a woman's
honor was ranked higher than any other feminine virtue. Her love for
Wickersham but strengthened her resolution, for she believed that,
unless he married her, his life would not be safe from her relatives.
Now, after two hours, in which he had used every persuasion, Wickersham,
to his unbounded astonishment, found himself facing defeat. He had not
given her credit for so much resolution. Her answer to all his efforts
to overcome her determination was that, unless he married her
immediately, she would return home; she would not remain in the hotel a
single night. "I know they will take me back," she said, weeping.

This was the subject of his conversation, now, with his agent, and he
was making up his mind what to do, aided by more or less frequent
applications to the decanter which stood between them.

"What she says is true," declared Plume, his courage stimulated by his
liberal potations. "You won't be able to go back down there any more.
There are a half-dozen men I know, would consider it their duty to blow
your brains out."

Wickersham filled his glass and tossed off a drink. "I am not going down
there any more, anyhow."

"I suppose not. But I don't believe you would be safe even up here.
There is that devil, Dennison: he hates you worse than poison."

"Oh--up here--they aren't going to trouble me up here."

"I don't know--if he ever got a show at you--Why don't you let me
perform the ceremony?" he began persuasively. "She knows I've been a
preacher. That will satisfy her scruples, and then, if you ever had to
make it known--? But no one would know then."

Wickersham declined this with a show of virtue. He did not mention that
he had suggested this to the girl but she had positively refused it. She
would be married by a regular preacher or she would go home.

"There must be some one in this big town," suggested Plume, "who will do
such a job privately and keep it quiet? Where is that preacher you were
talking about once that took flyers with you on the quiet? You can seal
his mouth. And if the worst comes to the worst, there is Montana; you
can always get out of it in six weeks with an order of publication. _I_
did it," said Mr. Plume, quietly, "and never had any trouble about it."

"You did! Well, that's one part of your rascality I didn't know about."

"I guess there are a good many of us have little bits of history that we
don't talk about much," observed Mr. Plume, calmly. "I wouldn't have
told you now, but I wanted to help you out of the fix that--"

"That you have helped me get into," said Wickersham, with a sneer.

"There is no trouble about it," Plume went on. "You don't want to marry
anybody else--now, and meantime it will give you the chance you want of
controlling old Rawson's interest down there. The old fellow can't live
long, and Phrony is his only heir. You will have it all your own way.
You can keep it quiet if you wish, and if you don't, you can acknowledge
it and bounce your friend Keith. If I had your hand I bet I'd know how
to play it."

"Well, by ----! I wish you had it," said Wickersham, angrily.

Wickersham had been thinking hard during Plume's statement of the case,
and what with his argument and an occasional application to the decanter
of whiskey, he was beginning to yield. Just then a sealed note was
handed him by a waiter. He tore it open and read:


     "I am going home; my heart is broken. Good-by."

                                            "PHRONY."


With an oath under his breath, he wrote in pencil on a card: "Wait; I
will be with you directly."

"Take that to the lady," he said. Scribbling a few lines more on another
card, he gave Plume some hasty directions and left him.

When, five minutes afterwards, Mr. Plume finished the decanter, and left
the hotel, his face had a crafty look on it. "This should be worth a
good deal to you, J. Quincy," he said.

An hour later the Rev. Mr. Rimmon performed in his private office a
little ceremony, at which, besides himself, were present only the bride
and groom and a witness who had come to him a half-hour before with a
scribbled line in pencil requesting his services. If Mr. Rimmon was
startled when he first read the request, the surprise had passed away.
The groom, it is true, was, when he appeared, decidedly under the
influence of liquor, and his insistence that the ceremony was to be kept
entirely secret had somewhat disturbed Mr. Rimmon for a moment. But he
remembered Mr. Plume's assurance that the bride was a great heiress in
the South, and knowing that Ferdy Wickersham was a man who rarely lost
his head,--a circumstance which the latter testified by handing him a
roll of greenbacks amounting to exactly one hundred dollars,--and the
bride being very pretty and shy, and manifestly most eager to be
married, he gave his word to keep the matter a secret until they should
authorize him to divulge it.

When the ceremony was over, the bride requested Mr. Rimmon to give her
her "marriage lines." This Mr. Rimmon promised to do; but as he would
have to fill out the blanks, which would take a little time, the bride
and groom, having signed the paper, took their departure without
waiting for the certificate, leaving Mr. Plume to bring it.

A day or two later a steamship of one of the less popular companies
sailing to a Continental port had among its passengers a gentleman and a
lady who, having secured their accommodations at the last moment, did
not appear on the passenger list.

It happened that they were unknown to any of the other passengers, and
as they were very exclusive, they made no acquaintances during the
voyage. If Mrs. Wagram, the name by which the lady was known on board,
had one regret, it was that Mr. Plume had failed to send her her
marriage certificate, as he had promised to do. Her husband, however,
made so light of it that it reassured her, and she was too much taken up
with her wedding-ring and new diamonds to think that anything else was
necessary.



CHAPTER XX

MRS. LANCASTER'S WIDOWHOOD

The first two years of her widowhood Alice Lancaster spent in
retirement. Even the busy tongue of Mrs. Nailor could find little to
criticise in the young widow. To be sure, that accomplished critic made
the most of this little, and disseminated her opinion that Alice's grief
for Mr. Lancaster could only be remorse for her indifference to him
during his life. Every one knew, she said, how she had neglected him.

The idea that Alice Lancaster was troubled with regrets was not as
unfounded as the rest of Mrs. Nailor's ill-natured charge. She was
attached to her husband, and had always meant to be a good wife to him.

She was as good a wife as her mother and her friends would permit her to
be. Gossip had not spared some of her best friends. Even as proud a
woman as young Mrs. Wentworth had not escaped. But Gossip had never yet
touched the name of Mrs. Lancaster, and Alice did not mean that it
should. It was not unnatural that she should have accepted the liberty
which her husband gave her and have gone out more and more, even though
he could accompany her less and less.

No maelstrom is more unrelenting in its grasp than is that of Society.
Only those who sink, or are cast aside by its seething waves, escape.
And before she knew it, Alice Lancaster had found herself drawn into the
whirlpool.

An attractive proposal had been made to her to go abroad and join some
friends of hers for a London season a year or two before. Grinnell
Rhodes had married Miss Creamer, who was fond of European society, and
they had taken a house in London for the season, which promised to be
very gay, and had suggested to Mrs. Lancaster to visit them. Mr.
Lancaster had found himself unable to go. A good many matters of
importance had been undertaken by him, and he must see them through, he
said. Moreover, he had not been very well of late, and he had felt that
he should be rather a drag amid the gayeties of the London season. Alice
had offered to give up the trip, but he would not hear of it. She must
go, he said, and he knew who would be the most charming woman in London.
So, having extracted from him the promise that, when his business
matters were all arranged, he would join her for a little run on the
Continent, she had set off for Paris, where "awful beauty puts on all
its arms," to make her preparations for the campaign.

Mr. Lancaster had not told her of an interview which her mother had had
with him, in which she had pointed out that Alice's health was suffering
from her want of gayety and amusement. He was not one to talk
of himself.

Alice Lancaster was still in Paris when a cable message announced to her
Mr. Lancaster's death. It was only after his death that she awoke to the
unselfishness of his life and to the completeness of his devotion
to her.

His will, after making provision for certain charities with which he had
been associated in his lifetime, left all his great fortune to her; and
there was, besides, a sealed letter left for her in which he poured out
his heart to her. From it she learned that he had suffered greatly and
had known that he was liable to die at any time. He, however, would not
send for her to come home, for fear of spoiling her holiday.

"I will not say I have not been lonely," he wrote. "For God knows how
lonely I have been since you left. The light went with you and will
return only when you come home. Sometimes I have felt that I could not
endure it and must send for you or go to you; but the first would have
been selfishness and the latter a breach of duty. The times have been
such that I have not felt it right to leave, as so many interests have
been intrusted to me.... It is possible that I may never see your face
again. I have made a will which I hope will please you. It will, at
least, show you that I trust you entirely. I make no restrictions; for I
wish you greater happiness than I fear I have been able to bring you....
In business affairs I suggest that you consult with Norman Wentworth,
who is a man of high integrity and of a conservative mind. Should you
wish advice as to good charities, I can think of no better adviser than
Dr. Templeton. He has long been my friend."

In the first excess of her grief and remorse, Alice Lancaster came home
and threw herself heart and soul into charitable work. As Mr. Lancaster
had suggested, she consulted Dr. Templeton, the old rector of a small
and unfashionable church on a side street. Under his guidance she found
a world as new and as diverse from that in which she had always lived as
another planet would have been.

She found in some places a life where vice was esteemed more honorable
than virtue, because it brought more bread. She found things of which
she had never dreamed: things which appeared incredible after she had
seen them. These things she found within a half-hour's walk of her
sumptuous home; within a few blocks of the avenue and streets where
Wealth and Plenty took their gay pleasure and where riches poured forth
in a riot of splendid extravagance.

She would have turned back, but for the old clergyman's inspiring
courage; she would have poured out her wealth indiscriminately, but for
his wisdom--but for his wisdom and Norman Wentworth's.

"No, my dear," said the old man; "to give lavishly without
discrimination is to put a premium on beggary and to subject yourself to
imposture."

This Norman indorsed, and under their direction she soon found ways to
give of her great means toward charities which were far-reaching and
enduring. She learned also what happiness comes from knowledge of others
and knowledge of how to help them.

It was surprising to her friends what a change came over the young
woman. Her point of view, her manner, her face, her voice changed. Her
expression, which had once been so proud as to mar somewhat her beauty,
softened; her manner increased in cordiality and kindness; her voice
acquired a new and sincerer tone.

Even Mrs. Nailor observed that the enforced retirement appeared to have
chastened the young widow, though she would not admit that it could be
for anything than effect.

"Black always was the most bewilderingly becoming thing to her that I
ever saw. Don't you remember those effects she used to produce with
black and just a dash of red? Well, she wears black so deep you might
think it was poor Mr. Lancaster's pall; but I have observed that
whenever I have seen her there is always something red very close at
hand. She either sits in a red chair, or there is a red shawl just at
her back, or a great bunch of red roses at her elbow. I am glad that
great window has been put up in old Dr. Templeton's church to William
Lancaster's memory, or I am afraid it would have been but a small one."

Almost the first sign that the storm, which, as related, had struck New
York would reach New Leeds was the shutting down of the Wickersham
mines. The _Clarion_ stated that the shutting down was temporary and
declared that in a very short time, when the men were brought to reason,
they would be opened again; also that the Great Gun Mine, which had been
flooded, would again be opened.

The mines belonging to Keith's company did not appear for some time to
be affected; but the breakers soon began to reach even the point on
which Keith had stood so securely. The first "roller" that came to him
was when orders arrived to cut down the force, and cut down also the
wages of those who were retained. This was done. Letters, growing
gradually more and more complaining, came from the general office in
New York.

Fortunately for Keith, Norman ran down at this time and looked over the
properties again for himself. He did not tell Keith what bitter things
were being said and that his visit down there was that he might be able
to base his defence of Keith on facts in his own knowledge.

"What has become of Mrs. Lancaster?" asked Keith, casually. "Is she
still abroad?"

"No; she came home immediately on hearing the news. You never saw any
one so changed. She has gone in for charity."

Keith looked a trifle grim.

"If you thought her pretty as a girl, you ought to see her as a widow.
She is ravishing."

"You are enthusiastic. I see that Wickersham has returned?"

Norman's brow clouded.

"He'd better not come back here," said Keith.

It is a trite saying that misfortunes rarely come singly, and it would
not be so trite if there were not truth in it. Misfortunes are sometimes
like blackbirds: they come in flocks.

Keith was on his way from his office in the town to the mines one
afternoon, when, turning the shoulder of the hill that shut the opening
of the mine from view, he became aware that something unusual had
occurred. A crowd was already assembled about the mouth of the mine,
above the tipple, among them many women; and people were hurrying up
from all directions.

"What is it?" he demanded of the first person he came to.

"Water. They have struck a pocket or something, and the drift over
toward the Wickersham line is filling up."

"Is everybody out?" Even as he inquired, Keith knew hey were not.

"No, sir; all drowned."

Keith knew this could not be true. He hurried forward and pushed his way
into the throng that crowded about the entrance. A gasp of relief went
up as he appeared.

"Ah! Here's the boss." It was the expression of a vague hope that he
might be able to do something. They gave way at his voice and stood
back, many eyes turning on him in helpless appeal. Women, with blankets
already in hand, were weeping aloud; children hanging to their skirts
were whimpering in vague recognition of disaster; men were growling and
swearing deeply.

"Give way. Stand back, every one." The calm voice and tone of command
had their effect, and as a path was opened through the crowd, Keith
recognized a number of the men who had been in and had just come out.
They were all talking to groups about them. One of them gave him the
first intelligent account of the trouble. They were working near the
entrance when they heard the cries of men farther in, and the first
thing they knew there was a rush of water which poured down on them,
sweeping everything before it.

"It must have been a river," said one, in answer to a question from
Keith. "It was rising a foot a minute. The lights were all put out, and
we just managed to get out in time."

According to their estimates, there were about forty men and boys still
in the mine, most of them in the gallery off from the main drift. Keith
was running over in his mind the levels. His face was a study, and the
crowd about him watched him closely, as if to catch any ray of hope that
he might hold out. As he reflected, his face grew whiter. Down the slant
from the mine came the roar of the water. It was a desperate chance.

Half turning, he glanced at the white, stricken faces about him.

"It is barely possible some of the men may still be alive. There are two
elevations. I am going down to see."

At the words, the sound through the crowd hushed suddenly.

"Na, th' ben't one alive," said an old miner, contentiously.

The murmur began again.

"I am going down to see," said Keith. "If one or two men will come with
me, it will increase the chances of getting to them. If not, I am going
alone. But I don't want any one who has a family."

A dead silence fell, then three or four young fellows began to push
their way through the crowd, amid expostulations of some of the women
and the urging of others.

Some of the women seized them and held on to them.

"There are one or two places where men may have been able to keep their
heads above water if it has not filled the drift, and that is what I am
going to see," said Keith, preparing to descend.

"My brother's down there and I'll go," said a young light-haired fellow
with a pale face. He belonged to the night shift.

"I ain't got any family," said a small, grizzled man. He had a thin
black band on the sleeve of his rusty, brown coat.

Several others now came forward, amid mingled expostulations and
encouragement; but Keith took the first two, and they prepared to enter.
The younger man took off his silver watch, with directions to a friend
to send it to his sister if he did not come back. The older man said a
few words to a bystander. They were about a woman's grave on the
hillside. Keith took off his watch and gave it to one of the men, with a
few words scribbled on a leaf from a memorandum-book, and the next
moment the three volunteers, amid a deathly silence, entered the mine.

Long before they reached the end of the ascent to the shaft they could
hear the water gurgling and lapping against the sides as it whirled
through the gallery below them. As they reached the water, Keith let
himself down into it. The water took him to about his waist and
was rising.

"It has not filled the drift yet," he said, and started ahead. He gave a
halloo; but there was no sound in answer, only the reverberation of his
voice. The other men called to him to wait and talk it over. The
strangeness of the situation appalled them. It might well have awed a
strong man; but Keith waded on. The older man plunged after him, the
younger clinging to the cage for a second in a panic. The lights were
out in a moment. Wading and plunging forward through the water, which
rose in places to his neck, and feeling his way by the sides of the
drift, Keith waded forward through the pitch-darkness. He stopped at
times to halloo; but there was no reply, only the strange hollow sound
of his own voice as it was thrown back on him, or died almost before
leaving his throat. He had almost made up his mind that further attempt
was useless and that he might as well turn back, when he thought he
heard a faint sound ahead. With another shout he plunged forward again,
and the next time he called he heard a cry of joy, and he pushed ahead
again, shouting to them to come to him.

Keith found most of the men huddled together on the first level, in a
state of panic. Some of them were whimpering and some were praying
fervently, whilst a few were silent, in a sort of dazed bewilderment.
All who were working in that part of the mine were there, they said,
except three men, Bill Bluffy and a man named Hennson and his boy, who
had been cut off in the far end of the gallery and who must have been
drowned immediately, they told Keith.

"They may not be," said Keith. "There is one point as high as this. I
shall go on and see."

The men endeavored to dissuade him. It was "a useless risk of life,"
they assured him; "the others must have been swept away immediately. The
water had come so sudden. Besides, the water was rising, and it might
even now be too late to get out." But Keith was firm, and ordering them
back in charge of the two men who had come in with him, he pushed on
alone. He knew that the water was still rising, though, he hoped,
slowly. He had no voice to shout now, but he prayed with all his might,
and that soothed and helped him. Presently the water was a little
shallower. It did not come so high up on him. He knew from this that he
must be reaching the upper level. Now and then he spoke Bluffy's and
Hennson's names, lest in the darkness he should pass them.

Presently, as he stopped for a second to take breath, he thought he
heard another sound besides the gurgling of the water as it swirled
about the timbers. He listened intently.

It was the boy's voice. "Hold me tight, father. Don't leave me."

Then he heard another voice urging him to go. "You can't do any good
staying; try it." But Hennson was refusing.

"Hold on. I won't leave you."

"Hennson! Bluffy!" shouted Keith, or tried to shout, for his voice went
nowhere; but his heart was bounding now, and he plunged on. Presently he
was near enough to catch their words. The father was praying, and the
boy was following him.

"'Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven,'" Keith heard him say.

"Hennson!" he cried again.

From the darkness he heard a voice.

"Who is that? Is that any one?"

"It is I,--Mr. Keith,--Hennson. Come quick, all of you; you can get out.
Cheer up."

A cry of joy went up.

"I can't leave my boy," called the man.

"Bring him on your back," said Keith. "Come on, Bluffy."

"I can't," said Bluffy. "I'm hurt. My leg is broke."

"God have mercy!" cried Keith, and waded on.

After a moment more he was up with the man, feeling for him in the
darkness, and asking how he was hurt.

They told him that the rush of the water had thrown him against a timber
and hurt his leg and side.

"Take the boy," said Bluffy, "and go on; leave me here."

The boy began to cry.

"No," said Keith; "I will take you, too: Hennson can take the boy. Can
you walk at all?"

"I don't think so."

Keith made Hennson take the boy and hold on to him on one side, and
slipping his arm around the injured man, he lifted him and they started
back. He had put new courage into them, and the force of the current was
in their favor. They passed the first high level, where he had found the
others. When they reached a point where the water was too deep for the
boy, Keith made the father take him on his shoulder, and they waded on
through the blackness. The water was now almost up to his chin, and he
grew so tired under his burden that he began to think they should never
get out; but he fought against it and kept on, steadying himself against
the timbers. He knew that if he went down it was the end. Many thoughts
came to him of the past. He banished them and tried to speak words of
encouragement, though he could scarcely hear himself.

"Shout," he said hoarsely; and the boy shouted, though it was somewhat
feeble.

A moment later, he gave a shout of an entirely different kind.

"There is a light!" he cried.

The sound revived Keith's fainting energies, and he tried to muster his
flagging strength. The boy shouted again, and in response there came
back, strangely flattened, the shrill cry of a woman. Keith staggered
forward with Bluffy, at times holding himself up by the side-timbers. He
was conscious of a light and of voices, but was too exhausted to know
more. If he could only keep the man and the boy above water until
assistance came! He summoned his last atom of strength.

"Hold tight to the timbers, Hennson," he cried; "I am going."

The rest was a confused dream. He was conscious for a moment of the
weight being lifted from him, and he was sinking into the water as if
into a soft couch. He thought some one clutched him, but he knew
nothing more.

       *       *       *       *       *

Terpsichore was out on the street when the rumor of the accident reached
her. Any accident always came home to her, and she was prompt to do what
she could to help, in any case. But this was Mr. Keith's mine, and rumor
had it that he was among the lost. Terpsichore was not attired for such
an emergency; when she went on the streets, she still wore some of her
old finery, though it was growing less and less of late. She always
acted quickly. Calling to a barkeeper who had come to his front door on
hearing the news, to bring her brandy immediately, she dashed into a
dry-goods store near by and got an armful of blankets, and when the
clerk, a stranger just engaged in the store, made some question about
charging them to her, she tore off her jewelled watch and almost flung
it at the man.

"Take that, idiot! Men are dying," she said. "I have not time to box
your jaws." And snatching up the blankets, she ran out, stopped a
passing buggy, and flinging them into it, sprang in herself. With a nod
of thanks to the barkeeper, who had brought out several bottles of
brandy, she snatched the reins from the half-dazed driver, and heading
the horse up the street that led out toward the mine, she lashed him
into a gallop. She arrived at the scene of the accident just before the
first men rescued reappeared. She learned of Keith's effort to save
them. She would have gone into the mine herself had she not been
restrained. Just then the men came out.

The shouts and cries of joy that greeted so unexpected a deliverance
drowned everything else for a few moments; but as man after man was met
and received half dazed into the arms of his family and friends, the
name of Keith began to be heard on all sides. One voice, however, was
more imperative than the others; one figure pressed to the front--that
of the gayly dressed woman who had just been comforting and encouraging
the weeping women about the mine entrance.

"Where is Mr. Keith?" she demanded of man after man.

The men explained. "He went on to try and find three more men who are
down there--Bluffy and Hennson and his boy."

"Who went with him?"

"No one. He went alone."

"And you men let him go?"

"We could not help it. He insisted. We tried to make him come with us."

"You cowards!" she cried, tearing off her wrap. "Of course, he insisted,
for he is a _man_. Had one woman been down there, she would not have let
him go alone." She sprang over the fencing rope as lightly as a deer,
and started toward the entrance. A cry broke from the crowd.

"She's going! Stop her! She's crazy! Catch her!"

Several men sprang over the rope and started after her. Hearing them,
Terpsichore turned. With outstretched arms spread far apart and blazing
eyes, she faced them.

"If any man tries to stop me, I will kill him on the spot, as God
lives!" she cried, snatching up a piece of iron bar that lay near by. "I
am going to find that man, dead or alive. If there is one of you man
enough to come with me, come on. If not, I will go alone."

"I will go with you!" A tall, sallow-faced man who had just come up
pushed through the throng and overtook her. "You stay here; I will go."
It was Tib Drummond, the preacher. He was still panting. The girl hardly
noticed him. She waved him aside and dashed on.

A dozen men offered to go if she would come back.

"No; I shall go with you," she said; and knowing that every moment was
precious, and thinking that the only way to pacify her was to make the
attempt, the men yielded, and a number of them entered the mine with
her, the lank preacher among them.

They had just reached the bottom when the faint outline of something
black was seen in the glimmer that their lights threw in the distance.
Terpy, with a cry, dashed forward, and was just in time to catch Keith
as he sank beneath the black water.

When the rescuing party with their burdens reached the surface once
more, the scene was one to revive even a flagging heart; but Keith and
Bluffy were both too far gone to know anything of it.

The crowd, which up to this time had been buzzing with the excitement of
the reaction following the first rescue, suddenly hushed down to an awed
silence as Keith and Bluffy were brought out and were laid limp and
unconscious on a blanket, which Terpsichore had snatched from a man in
the front of the others. Many women pressed forward to offer assistance,
but the girl waved them back.

"A doctor!" she cried, and reaching for a brandy-bottle, she pressed it
first to Keith's lips. Turning to Drummond, the preacher, who stood
gaunt and dripping above her, she cried fiercely: "Pray, man; if you
ever prayed, pray now. Pray, and if you save 'em, I'll leave town. I
swear before God I will. Tell Him so."

But the preacher needed no urging. Falling on his knees, he prayed as
possibly he had never prayed before. In a few moments Keith began to
come to. But Bluffy was still unconscious, and a half-hour later the
Doctor pronounced him past hope.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was some time before Keith was able to rise from his bed, and during
this period a number of events had taken place affecting him, and, more
or less, affecting New Leeds. Among these was the sale of Mr. Plume's
paper to a new rival which had recently been started in the place, and
the departure of Mr. Plume (to give his own account of the matter) "to
take a responsible position upon a great metropolitan journal." He was
not a man, he said, "to waste his divine talents in the attempt to carry
on his shoulders the blasted fortunes of a 'bursted boom,' when the
world was pining for the benefit of his ripe experience." Another
account of the same matter was that rumor had begun to connect Mr.
Plume's name with the destruction of the Wickersham mine and the
consequent disaster in the Rawson mine. His paper, with brazen
effrontery, had declared that the accident in the latter was due to the
negligence of the management. This was too much for the people of New
Leeds in their excited condition. Bluffy was dead; but Hennson, the man
whom Keith had rescued, had stated that they had cut through into a
shaft when the water broke in on them, and an investigation having been
begun, not only of this matter, but of the previous explosion in the
Wickersham mine, Mr. Plume had sold out his paper hastily and shaken the
dust of New Leeds from his feet.

Keith knew nothing of this until it was all over. He was very ill for a
time, and but for the ministrations of Dr. Balsam, who came up from
Ridgely to look after him, and the care of a devoted nurse in the person
of Terpsichore, this history might have ended then. Terpsichore had,
immediately after Keith's accident, closed her establishment and devoted
herself to his care. There were many other offers of similar service,
for New Leeds was now a considerable town, and Keith might have had a
fair proportion of the gentler sex to minister to him; but Dr. Balsam,
to whom Terpsichore had telegraphed immediately after Keith's rescue,
had, after his first interview with her in the sick-room, decided in
favor of the young woman.

"She has the true instinct," said the Doctor to himself. "She knows when
to let well enough alone, and holds her tongue."

Thus, when Keith was able to take notice again, he found himself in good
hands.

A few days after he was able to get up, Keith received a telegram
summoning him to New York to meet the officers of the company. As weak
as he was, he determined to go, and, against the protestations of doctor
and nurse, he began to make his preparations.

Just before Keith left, a visitor was announced, or rather announced
himself; for Squire Rawson followed hard upon his knock at the door. His
heavy boots, he declared, "were enough to let anybody know he was
around, and give 'em time to stop anything they was ashamed o' doin'."

The squire had come over, as he said, "to hear about things." It was the
first time he had seen Keith since the accident, though, after he had
heard of it, he had written and invited Keith to come "and rest up a bit
at his house."

When the old man learned of the summons that had come to Keith, he relit
his pipe and puffed a moment in silence.

"Reckon they'll want to know why they ain't been a realizin' of their
dreams?" he said, with a twinkle in his half-shut eyes. "Ever notice,
when a man is huntin', if he gits what he aims at, it's himself; but if
he misses, it's the blamed old gun?"

Keith smiled. He had observed that phenomenon.

"Well, I suspicionate they'll be findin' fault with their gun. I have
been a-watchin' o' the signs o' the times. If they do, don't you say
nothin' to them about it; but I'm ready to take back my part of the
property, and I've got a leetle money I might even increase my
herd with."

The sum he mentioned made Keith open his eyes.

"When hard times comes," continued the old man, after enjoying Keith's
surprise, "I had rather have my money in land than in one of these here
banks. I has seen wild-cat money and Confederate money, and land's land.
I don't know that it is much of a compliment to say that I has more
confidence in you than I has in these here men what has come down from
nobody-knows-where to open a bank on nobody-knows-what."

Keith expressed his appreciation of the compliment, but thought that
they must have something to bank on.

"Oh, they've got something," admitted the capitalist. "But you know what
it is. They bank on brass and credulity. That's what I calls it."

The old man's face clouded. "I had been puttin' that by for Phrony," he
said. "But she didn't want it. _My_ money warn't good enough for her.
Some day she'll know better."

Keith waited for his humor to pass.

"I won't ever do nothin' for her; but if ever you see her, I'd like you
to help her out if she needs it," he said huskily.

Keith promised faithfully that he would.

That afternoon Terpy knocked at his door, and came in with that mingled
shyness and boldness which was characteristic of her.

Keith offered her a chair and began to thank her for having saved his
life.

"Well, I am always becoming indebted to you anew for saving my life--"

"I didn't come for that," declared the girl. "I didn't save your life. I
just went down to do what I could to help you. You know how that mine
got flooded?"

"I do," said Keith.

"They done it to do you," she said; "and they made Bill believe it was
to hurt Wickersham. Bill's dead now, an' I don't want you to think he
had anything against you." She began to cry.

All this was new to Keith, and he said so.

"Well, you won't say anything about what I said about Bill. J. Quincy
made him think 'twas against Wickersham, and he was that drunk he didn't
know what a fool they was makin' of him.--You are going away?" she
said suddenly.

"Oh, only for a very little while--I am going off about a little
business for a short time. I expect to be back very soon."

"Ah! I heard--I am glad to hear that you are coming back." She was
manifestly embarrassed, and Keith was wondering more and more what she
wanted of him. "I just wanted to say good-by. I am going away." She was
fumbling at her wrap. "And to tell you I have changed my business. I'm
not goin' to keep a dance-house any longer."

"I am glad of that," said Keith, and then stuck fast again.

"I don't think a girl ought to keep a dance-house or a bank?"

"No; I agree with you. What are you going to do?"

"I don't know; I thought of trying a milliner. I know right smart about
hats; but I'd wear all the pretty ones and give all the ugly ones away,"
she said, with a poor little smile. "And it might interfere with Mrs.
Gaskins, and she is a widder. So I thought I'd go away. I thought of
being a nurse--I know a little about that. I used to be about the
hospital at my old home, and I've had some little experience since." She
was evidently seeking his advice.

"You saved my life," said Keith. "Dr. Balsam says you are a born nurse."

She put this by without comment, and Keith went on.

"Where was your home?"

"Grofton."

"Grofton? You mean in England? In the West Country?"

She nodded. "Yes. I was the girl the little lady gave the doll to. You
were there. Don't you remember? I ran away with it. I have it now--a
part of it. They broke it up; but I saved the body."

Keith's eyes opened wide.

"That Lois Huntington gave it to?"

"Yes. I heard you were going to be married?" she said suddenly.

"I! Married! No! No such good luck for me." His laugh had an unexpected
tone of bitterness in it. She gave him a searching glance in the dusk,
and presently began again haltingly.

"I want you to know I am never going back to that any more."

"I am glad to hear it."

"You were the first to set me to thinkin' about it."

"I!"

"Yes; I want to live straight, and I'm goin' to."

"I am sure you are, and I cannot tell you how glad I am," he said
cordially.

"Yes, thankee." She was looking down, picking shyly at the fringe on her
wrap. "And I want you to know 'twas you done it. I have had a hard
life--you don't know how hard--ever since I was a little bit of a
gal--till I run away from home. And then 'twas harder. And they all
treated me's if I was just a--a dog, and the worst kind of a dog. So I
lived like a dog. I learned how to bite, and then they treated me some
better, because they found I would bite if they fooled with me. And then
I learned what fools and cowards men were, and I used 'em. I used to
love to play 'em, and I done it. I used to amuse 'em for money and hold
'em off. But I knew sometime I'd die like a dog as I lived like one--and
then you came--." She paused and looked away out of the window, and
after a gulp went on again: "They preached at me for dancin'. But I
don't think there's any harm dancin'. And I love it better'n anything
else in the worl'."

"I do not, either," said Keith.

"You was the only one as treated me as if I was--some'n' I warn't. I
fought against you and tried to drive you out, but you stuck, and I knew
then I was beat. I didn't know 'twas you when I--made such a fool of
myself that time--."

Keith laughed.

"Well, I certainly did not know it was you."

"No--I wanted you to know that," she went on gravely, "because--because,
if I had, I wouldn' 'a' done it--for old times' sake." She felt for her
handkerchief, and not finding it readily, suddenly caught up the bottom
of her skirt and wiped her eyes with it as she might have done when a
little girl.

Keith tried to comfort her with words of assurance, the tone of which
was at least consoling.

"I always was a fool about crying--an' I was thinkin' about Bill," she
said brokenly. "Good-by." She wrung his hand, turned, and walked rapidly
out of the room, leaving Keith with a warm feeling about his heart.



CHAPTER XXI

THE DIRECTORS' MEETING

Keith found, on his arrival in New York to meet his directors, that a
great change had taken place in business circles since his visit there
when he was getting up his company.

Even Norman, at whose office Keith called immediately on his arrival,
appeared more depressed than Keith had ever imagined he could be. He
looked actually care-worn.

As they started off to attend the meeting, Norman warned Keith that the
meeting might be unpleasant for him, but urged him to keep cool, and not
mind too much what might be said to him.

"I told you once, you remember, that men are very unreasonable when they
are losing." He smiled gloomily.

Keith told him of old Rawson's offer.

"You may need it," said Norman.

When Keith and Norman arrived at the office of the company, they found
the inner office closed. Norman, being a director, entered at once, and
finally the door opened and "Mr. Keith" was invited in. As he entered, a
director was showing two men out of the room by a side door, and Keith
had a glimpse of the back of one of them. The tall, thin figure
suggested to him Mr. J. Quincy Plume; but he was too well dressed to be
Mr. Plume, and Keith put the matter from his mind as merely an odd
resemblance. The other person he did not see.

Keith's greeting was returned, as it struck him, somewhat coldly by
most of them. Only two of the directors shook hands with him.

It was a meeting which Keith never forgot. He soon found that he had
need of all of his self-control. He was cross-examined by Mr. Kestrel.
It was evident that it was believed that he had wasted their money, if
he had not done worse. The director sat with a newspaper in his lap, to
which, from time to time, he appeared to refer. From the line of the
questioning, Keith soon recognized the source of his information.

"You have been misled," Keith said coldly, in reply to a question. "I
desire to know the authority for your statement."

"I must decline," was the reply. "I think I may say that it is an
authority which is unimpeachable. You observe that it is one who knows
what he is speaking of?" He gave a half-glance about him at his
colleagues.

"A spy?" demanded Keith, coldly, his eye fixed on the other.

"No, sir. A man of position, a man whose sources of knowledge even you
would not question. Why, this has been charged in the public prints
without denial!" he added triumphantly.

"It has been charged in one paper," said Keith, "a paper which every one
knows is for sale and has been bought--by your rival."

"It is based not only on the statement of the person to whom I have
alluded, but is corroborated by others."

"By what others?" inquired Keith.

"By another," corrected Mr. Kestrel.

"That only proves that there are two men who are liars," said Keith,
slowly. "I know but two men who I believe would have been guilty of such
barefaced and brazen falsehoods. Shall I name them?"

"If you choose."

"They are F.C. Wickersham and a hireling of his, Mr. J. Quincy Plume."

There was a stir among the directors. Keith had named both men. It was a
fortunate shot.

"By Jove! Brought down a bird with each barrel," said Mr. Yorke, who was
one of the directors, to another in an undertone.

Keith proceeded to give the history of the mine and of its rival mine,
the Wickersham property.

During the cross-examination Norman sat a silent witness. Beyond a look
of satisfaction when Keith made his points clearly or countered on his
antagonist with some unanswerable fact, he had taken no part in the
colloquy. Up to this time Keith had not referred to him or even looked
at him, but he glanced at him now, and the expression on his face
decided Keith.

"Mr. Wentworth, there, knows the facts. He knows F.C. Wickersham as well
as I do, and he has been on the ground."

There was a look of surprise on the face of nearly every one present.
How could he dare to say it!

"Oh, I guess we all know him," said one, to relieve the tension.

Norman bowed his assent.

Mr. Kestrel shifted his position.

"Never mind Mr. Wentworth; it's _your_ part in the transaction that we
are after," he said insolently.

The blood rushed to Keith's face; but a barely perceptible glance from
Norman helped him to hold himself in check. The director glanced down at
the newspaper.

"How about that accident in our mine? Some of us have thought that it
was carelessness on the part of the local management. It has been
charged that proper inspection would have indicated that the flooding of
an adjacent mine should have given warning; in fact, had given warning."
He half glanced around at his associates, and then fastened his eyes
on Keith.

Keith's eyes met his unflinchingly and held them. He drew in his breath
with a sudden sound, as a man might who has received a slap full in the
face. Beyond this, there was no sound. Keith sat for a moment in
silence. The blow had dazed him. In the tumult of his thought, as it
returned, it seemed as if the noise of the stricken crowd was once more
about him, weeping women and moaning men; and he was descending into the
blackness of death. Once more the roar of that rushing water was in his
ears; he was once more plunging through the darkness; once more he was
being borne down into its depths; again he was struggling, gasping,
floundering toward the light; once more he returned to consciousness, to
find himself surrounded by eyes full of sympathy--of devotion. The eyes
changed suddenly. The present came back to him. Hostile eyes were
about him.

Keith rose from his chair slowly, and slowly turned from his questioner
toward the others.

"Gentlemen, I have nothing further to say to you. I have the honor to
resign my position under you."

"Resign!" exclaimed the director who had been badgering him. "Resign
your position!" He leaned back in his chair and laughed.

Keith turned on him so quickly that he pushed his chair back as if he
were afraid he might spring across the table on him.

"Yes. Resign!" Keith was leaning forward across the table now, resting
his weight on one hand. "Anything to terminate our association. I am no
longer in your employ, Mr. Kestrel." His eyes had suddenly blazed, and
held Mr. Kestrel's eyes unflinchingly. His voice was calm, but had the
coldness of a steel blade.

There was a movement among the directors. They shifted uneasily in their
chairs, and several of them pushed them back. They did not know what
might happen. Keith was the incarnation of controlled passion. Mr.
Kestrel seemed to shrink up within himself. Norman broke the silence.

"I do not wonder that Mr. Keith should feel aggrieved," he said, with
feeling. "I have held off from taking part in this interview up to the
present, because I promised to do so, and because I felt that Mr. Keith
was abundantly able to take care of himself; but I think that he has
been unjustly dealt with and has been roughly handled."

Keith's only answer was a slow wave of the arm in protest toward Norman
to keep clear of the contest and leave it to him. He was standing quite
straight now, his eyes still resting upon Mr. Kestrel's face, with a
certain watchfulness in them, as if he were expecting him to stir again,
and were ready to spring on him should he do so.

Unheeding him, Norman went on.

"I know that much that he says is true." Keith looked at him quickly,
his form stiffening. "And I believe that _all_ that he says is true,"
continued Norman; "and I am unwilling to stand by longer and see this
method of procedure carried on."

Keith bowed. There flashed across his mind the picture of a boy rushing
up the hill to his rescue as he stood by a rock-pile on a hillside
defending himself against overwhelming assailants, and his
face softened.

"Well, I don't propose to be dictated to as to how I shall conduct my
own business," put in Mr. Kestrel, in a sneering voice. When the spell
of Keith's gaze was lifted from him he had recovered.

If Keith heard him now, he gave no sign of it, nor was it needed, for
Norman turned upon him.

"I think you will do whatever this board directs," he said, with almost
as much contempt as Keith had shown.

He took up the defence of the management to such good purpose that a
number of the other directors went over to his side.

They were willing to acquit Mr. Keith of blame, they said, and to show
their confidence in him. They thought it would be necessary to have some
one to look after the property and prevent further loss until better
times should come, and they thought it would be best to get Mr. Keith to
remain in charge for the present.

During this time Keith had remained motionless and silent, except to bow
his acknowledgments to Norman. He received their new expression of
confidence in silence, until the discussion had ceased and the majority
were on his side. Then he faced Mr. Yorke.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I am obliged to you for your expression; but it
comes too late. Nothing on earth could induce me ever again to assume a
position in which I could be subjected to what I have gone through this
morning. I will never again have any business association with--" he
turned and looked at Mr. Kestrel--"Mr. Kestrel, or those who have
sustained him."

Mr. Kestrel shrugged his shoulders.

"Oh, as to that," he laughed, "you need have no trouble. I shall get out
as soon as I can. I have no more desire to associate with you than you
have with me. All I want to do is to save what you mis--"

Keith's eyes turned on him quietly.

"--what I was misled into putting into your sink-hole down there. You
may remember that you told me, when I went in, that you would guarantee
me all I put in." His voice rose into a sneer.

"Oh, no. None of that, none of that!" interrupted Norman, quickly. "You
may remember, Mr. Kestrel,--?"

But Keith interrupted him with a wave of his hand.

"I do remember. I have a good memory, Mr. Kestrel."

"That was all done away with," insisted Norman, his arm outstretched
toward Mr. Kestrel. "You remember that an offer was made you of your
input and interest, and you declined?"

"I am speaking to _him_," said Mr. Kestrel, not turning his eyes from
Keith.

"I renew that offer now," said Keith, coldly.

"Then that's all right." Mr. Kestrel sat back in his chair. "I accept
your proposal, principal and interest."

Protests and murmurs went around the board, but Mr. Kestrel did not heed
them. Leaning forward, he seized a pen, and drawing a sheet of paper to
him, began to scribble a memorandum of the terms, which, when finished,
he pushed across the table to Keith.

Keith took it against Norman's protest, and when he had read it, picked
up a pen and signed his name firmly.

"Here, witness it," said Mr. Kestrel to his next neighbor. "If any of
the rest of you want to save your bones, you had better come in."

Several of the directors agreed with him.

Though Norman protested, Keith accepted their proposals, and a paper was
drawn up which most of those present signed. It provided that a certain
time should be given Keith in which to raise money to make good his
offer, and arrangements were made provisionally to wind up the present
company, and to sell out and transfer its rights to a new organization.
Some of the directors prudently insisted on reserving the right to
withdraw their proposals should they change their minds. It may be
stated, however, that they had no temptation to do so. Times rapidly
grew worse instead of better.

But Keith had occasion to know how sound was Squire Rawson's judgment
when, a little later, another of the recurrent waves of depression swept
over the country, and several banks in New Leeds went down, among them
the bank in which old Rawson had had his money. The old man came up to
town to remind Keith of his wisdom.

"Well, what do you think of brass and credulity now?" he demanded.

"Let me know when you begin to prophesy against me," said Keith,
laughing.

"'Tain't no prophecy. It's jest plain sense. Some folks has it and some
hasn't. When sense tells you a thing, hold on to it.

"Well, you jest go ahead and git things in shape, and don't bother about
me. No use bein' in a hurry, neither. I have observed that when times
gits bad, they generally gits worse. It's sorter like a fever; you've
got to wait for the crisis and jest kind o' nurse 'em along. But I don't
reckon that coal is goin' to run away. It has been there some time,
accordin' to what that young man used to say, and if it was worth what
they gin for it a few years ago, it's goin' to be worth more a few years
hence. When a wheel keeps turnin', the bottom's got to come up sometime,
and if we can stick we'll be there. I think you and I make a pretty good
team. You let me furnish the ideas and you do the work, and we'll come
out ahead o' some o' these Yankees yet. Jest hold your horses; keep
things in good shape, and be ready to start when the horn blows. It's
goin' to blow sometime."

       *       *       *       *       *

The clouds that had begun to rest in Norman Wentworth's eyes and the
lines that had written themselves in his face were not those of business
alone. Fate had brought him care of a deeper and sadder kind. Though
Keith did not know it till later, the little rift within the lute, that
he had felt, but had not understood, that first evening when he dined at
Norman's house, had widened, and Norman's life was beginning to be
overcast with the saddest of all clouds. Miss Abigail's keen intuition
had discovered the flaw. Mrs. Wentworth had fallen a victim to her
folly. Love of pleasure, love of admiration, love of display, had become
a part of Mrs. Wentworth's life, and she was beginning to reap the
fruits of her ambition.

For a time it was mighty amusing to her. To shop all morning, make the
costliest purchases; to drive on the avenue or in the Park of an
afternoon with the latest and most stylish turnout, in the handsomest
toilet; to give the finest dinners; to spend the evening in the most
expensive box; to cause men to open their eyes with admiration, and to
make women grave with envy: all this gave her delight for a time--so
much delight that she could not forego it even for her husband. Norman
was so occupied of late that he could not go about with her as much as
he had done. His father's health had failed, and then he had died,
throwing all the business on Norman.

Ferdy Wickersham had returned home from abroad not long before--alone.
Rumor had connected his name while abroad with some woman--an unknown
and very pretty woman had "travelled with him." Ferdy, being rallied by
his friends about it, shook his head. "Must have been some one else."
Grinnell Rhodes, who had met him, said she declared herself his wife.
Ferdy's denial was most conclusive--he simply laughed.

To Mrs. Wentworth he had told a convincing tale. It was a slander.
Norman was against him, he knew, but she, at least, would believe he had
been maligned.

Wickersham had waited for such a time in the affairs of Mrs. Wentworth.
He had watched for it; striven to bring it about in many almost
imperceptible ways; had tendered her sympathy; had been ready with help
as she needed it; till he began to believe that he was making some
impression. It was, of all the games he played, the dearest just now to
his heart. It had a double zest. It had appeared to the world that
Norman Wentworth had defeated him. He had always defeated him--first as
a boy, then at college, and later when he had borne off the prize for
which Ferdy had really striven. Ferdy would now show who was the real
victor. If Louise Caldwell had passed him by for Norman Wentworth, he
would prove that he still possessed her heart.

It was not long, therefore, before society found a delightful topic of
conversation,--that silken-clad portion of society which usually deals
with such topics,--the increasing intimacy between Ferdy Wickersham and
Mrs. Wentworth.

Tales were told of late visits; of strolls in the dusk of evenings on
unfrequented streets; of little suppers after the opera; of all the
small things that deviltry can suggest and malignity distort. Wickersham
cared little for having his name associated with that of any one, and he
was certainly not going to be more careful for another's name than for
his own. He had grown more reckless since his return, but it had not
injured him with his set. It flattered his pride to be credited with
the conquest of so cold and unapproachable a Diana as Louise Wentworth.

"What was more natural?" said Mrs. Nailor. After all, Ferdy Wickersham
was her real romance, and she was his, notwithstanding all the
attentions he had paid Alice Yorke. "Besides," said the amiable lady,
"though Norman Wentworth undoubtedly lavishes large sums on his wife,
and gives her the means to gratify her extravagant tastes, I have
observed that he is seen quite as much with Mrs. Lancaster as with her,
and any woman of spirit will resent this. You need not tell me that he
would be so complacent over all that driving and strolling and
box-giving that Ferdy does for her if he did not find his divertisement
elsewhere."

Mrs. Nailor even went to the extent of rallying Ferdy on the subject.

"You are a naughty boy. You have no right to go around here making women
fall in love with you as you do," she said, with that pretended reproof
which is a real encouragement.

"One might suppose I was like David, who slew his tens of thousands,"
answered Ferdy. "Which of my victims are you attempting to rescue?"

"You know?"

As Ferdy shook his head, she explained further.

"I don't say that it isn't natural she should find you
more--more--sympathetic than a man who is engrossed in business when he
is not engrossed in dangling about a pair of blue eyes; but you ought
not to do it. Think of her."

"I thought you objected to my thinking of her?" said Mr. Wickersham,
lightly.

Mrs. Nailor tapped him with her fan to show her displeasure.

"You are so provoking. Why won't you be serious?"

"Serious? I never was more serious in my life. Suppose I tell you I
think of her all the time?" He looked at her keenly, then broke into a
laugh as he read her delight in the speech. "Don't you think I am
competent to attend to my own affairs, even if Louise Caldwell is the
soft and unsophisticated creature you would make her? I am glad you did
not feel it necessary to caution me about her husband?" His eyes gave
a flash.

Mrs. Nailor hastened to put herself right--that is, on the side of the
one present, for with her the absent was always in the wrong.

Wickersham improved his opportunities with the ability of a veteran.
Little by little he excited Mrs. Wentworth's jealousy. Norman, he said,
necessarily saw a great deal of Alice Lancaster, for he was her business
agent. It was, perhaps, not necessary for him to see her every day, but
it was natural that he should. The arrow stuck and rankled. And later,
at an entertainment, when she saw Norman laughing and enjoying himself
in a group of old friends, among whom was Alice Lancaster, Mrs. Norman
was on fire with suspicion, and her attitude toward Alice
Lancaster changed.

So, before Norman was aware of it, he found life completely changed for
him. As a boatman on a strange shore in the night-time drifts without
knowing of it, he, in the absorption of his business, drifted away from
his old relation without marking the process. His wife had her life and
friends, and he had his. He made at times an effort to recover the old
relation, but she was too firmly held in the grip of the life she had
chosen for him to get her back.

His wife complained that he was out of sympathy with her, and he could
not deny it. She resented this, and charged him with neglecting her. No
man will stand such a charge, and Norman defended himself hotly.

"I do not think it lies in your mouth to make such a charge," he said,
with a flash in his eye. "I am nearly always at home when I am not
necessarily absent. You can hardly say as much. I do not think my worst
enemy would charge me with that. Even Ferdy Wickersham would not
say that."

She fired at the name.

"You are always attacking my friends," she declared. "I think they are
quite as good as yours."

Norman turned away. He looked gloomily out of the window for a moment,
and then faced his wife again.

"Louise," he said gravely, "if I have been hard and unsympathetic, I
have not meant to be. Why can't we start all over again? You are more
than all the rest of the world to me. I will give up whatever you object
to, and you give up what I object to. That is a good way to begin." His
eyes had a look of longing in them, but Mrs. Wentworth did not respond.

"You will insist on my giving up my friends," she said.

"Your friends? I do not insist on your giving up any friend on earth.
Mrs. Nailor and her like are not your friends. They spend their time
tearing to pieces the characters of others when you are present, and
your character when you are absent. Wickersham is incapable of being
a friend."

"You are always so unjust to him," said Mrs. Wentworth, warmly.

"I am not unjust to him. I have known him all my life, and I tell you he
would sacrifice any one and every one to his pleasure."

Mrs. Wentworth began to defend him warmly, and so the quarrel ended
worse than it had begun.



CHAPTER XXII

MRS. CREAMER'S BALL

The next few years passed as the experience of old Rawson had led him to
predict. Fortunes went down; but Fortune's wheel is always turning, and,
as the old countryman said, "those that could stick would come up on
top again."

Keith, however, had prospered. He had got the Rawson mine to running
again, and even in the hardest times had been able to make it pay
expenses. Other properties had failed and sold out, and had been bought
in by Keith's supporters, when Wickersham once more appeared in New
Leeds affairs. It was rumored that Wickersham was going to start again.
Old Adam Rawson's face grew dark at the rumor. He said to Keith:

"If that young man comes down here, it's him or me. I'm an old man, and
I ain't got long to live; but I want to live to meet him once. If he's
got any friends, they'd better tell him not to come." He sat glowering
and puffing his pipe morosely.

Keith tried to soothe him; but the old fellow had received a wound that
knew no healing.

"I know all you say, and I'm much obliged to you; but I can't accept it.
It's an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth with me. He has entered
my home and struck me in the dark. Do you think I done all I have done
jest for the money I was makin'! No; I wanted revenge. I have set on my
porch of a night and seen her wanderin' about in them fureign cities,
all alone, trampin' the streets--trampin', trampin', trampin'; tired,
and, maybe, sick and hungry, not able to ask them outlandish folks for
even a piece of bread--her that used to set on my knee and hug me with
her little arms and call me granddad, and claim all the little calves
for hers--jest the little ones; and that I've ridden many a mile over
the mountains for, thinkin' how she was goin' to run out to meet me when
I got home. And now even my old dog's dead--died after she went away.

"No!" he broke out fiercely. "If he comes back here, it's him or me! By
the Lord! if he comes back here, I'll pay him the debt I owe him. If
she's his wife, I'll make her a widow, and if she ain't, I'll
revenge her."

He mopped the beads of sweat that had broken out on his brow, and
without a word stalked out of the door.

But Ferdy Wickersham had no idea of returning to New Leeds. He found New
York quite interesting enough for him about this time.

The breach between Norman and his wife had grown of late.

Gossip divided the honors between them, and some said it was on Ferdy
Wickersham's account; others declared that it was Mrs. Lancaster who had
come between them. Yet others said it was a matter of money--that Norman
had become tired of his wife's extravagance and had refused to stand it
any longer.

Keith knew vaguely of the trouble between Norman and his wife; but he
did not know the extent of it, and he studiously kept up his friendly
relations with her as well as with Norman. His business took him to New
York from time to time, and he was sensible that the life there was
growing more and more attractive for him. He was fitting into it too,
and enjoying it more and more. He was like a strong swimmer who, used to
battling in heavy waves, grows stronger with the struggle, and finds
ever new enjoyment and courage in his endeavor. He felt that he was now
quite a man of the world. He was aware that his point of view had
changed and (a little) that he had changed. As flattering as was his
growth in New Leeds, he had a much more infallible evidence of his
success in the favor with which he was being received in New York.

The favor that Mrs. Lancaster had shown Keith, and, much more, old Mrs.
Wentworth's friendship, had a marked effect throughout their whole
circle of acquaintance. That a man had been invited to these houses
meant that he must be something. There were women who owned large
houses, wore priceless jewels, cruised in their own yachts, had their
own villas on ground as valuable as that which fronted the Roman Forum
in old days, who would almost have licked the marble steps of those
mansions to be admitted to sit at their dinner-tables and have their
names appear in the Sunday issues of the newly established society
journals among the blessed few. So, as soon as it appeared that Gordon
was not only an acquaintance, but a friend of these critical leaders,
women who had looked over his head as they drove up the avenue, and had
just tucked their chins and lowered their eyelids when he had been
presented, began to give him invitations. Among these was Mrs. Nailor.
Truly, the world appeared warmer and kinder than Keith had thought.

To be sure, it was at Mrs. Lancaster's that Mrs. Nailor met him, and
Keith was manifestly on very friendly terms with the pretty widow. Even
Mrs. Yorke, who was present on the occasion with her "heart," was
impressively cordial to him. Mrs. Nailor had no idea of being left out.
She almost gushed with affection, as she made a place beside her on
a divan.

"You do not come to see all your friends," she said, with her winningest
smile and her most bird-like voice. "You appear to forget that you have
other old friends in New York besides Mrs. Lancaster and Mrs. Yorke.
Alice dear, you must not be selfish and engross all his time. You must
let him come and see me, at least, sometimes. Yes?" This with a
peculiarly innocent smile and tone.

Keith declared that he was in New York very rarely, and Mrs. Lancaster,
with a slightly heightened color, repudiated the idea that she had
anything to do with his movements.

"Oh, I hear of you here very often," declared Mrs. Nailor, roguishly. "I
have a little bird that brings me all the news about my friends."

"A little bird, indeed!" said Alice to herself, and to Keith later.
"I'll be bound she has not. If she had a bird, the old cat would have
eaten it."

"You are going to the Creamers' ball, of course?" pursued Mrs. Nailor.

No, Keith said: he was not going; he had been in New York only two days,
and, somehow, his advent had been overlooked. He was always finding
himself disappointed by discovering that New York was still a larger
place than New Leeds.

"Oh, but you must go! We must get you an invitation, mustn't we, Alice?"
Mrs. Nailor was always ready to promise anything, provided she could
make her engagement in partnership and then slip out and leave the
performance to her friend.

"Why, yes; there is not the least trouble about getting an invitation.
Mrs. Nailor can get you one easily."

Keith looked acquiescent.

"No, my dear; you write the note. You know Mrs. Creamer every bit as
well as I," protested Mrs. Nailor, "and I have already asked for at
least a dozen. There are Mrs. Wyndham and Lady Stobbs, who were here
last winter; and that charming Lord Huckster, who was at Newport last
summer; and I don't know how many more--so you will have to get the
invitation for Mr. Keith."

Keith, with some amusement, declared that he did not wish any trouble
taken; he had only said he would go because Mrs. Nailor had appeared to
desire it so much.

Next morning an invitation reached Keith,--he thought he knew through
whose intervention,--and he accepted it.

That evening, as Keith, about dusk, was going up the avenue on his way
home, a young girl passed him, walking very briskly. She paused for a
moment just ahead of him to give some money to a poor woman who, doubled
up on the pavement in a black shawl, was grinding out from a wheezy
little organ a thin, dirge-like strain.

"Good evening. I hope you feel better to-day," Keith heard her say in a
kind tone, though he lost all of the other's reply except the "God
bless you."

She was simply dressed in a plain, dark walking-suit, and something
about her quick, elastic step and slim, trim figure as she sailed along,
looking neither to the right nor to the left, attracted his attention.
Her head was set on her shoulders in a way that gave her quite an air,
and as she passed under a lamp the light showed the flash of a fine
profile and an unusual face. She carried a parcel in her hand that might
have been a roll of music, and from the lateness of the hour Keith
fancied her a shop-girl on her way home, or possibly a music-teacher.

Stirred by the glimpse of the refined face, and even more by the
carriage of the little head under the dainty hat, Keith quickened his
pace to obtain another glance at her. He had almost overtaken her when
she stopped in front of a well-lighted window of a music-store. The
light that fell on her face revealed to him a face of unusual beauty.
Something about her graceful pose as, with her dark brows slightly
knitted, she bent forward and scanned intently the pieces of music
within, awakened old associations in Keith's mind, and sent him back to
his boyhood at Elphinstone. And under an impulse, which he could better
justify to himself than to her, he did a very audacious and improper
thing. Taking off his hat, he spoke to her. She had been so absorbed
that for a moment she did not comprehend that it was she he was
addressing. Then, as it came to her that it was she to whom this
stranger was speaking, she drew herself up and gave him a look of such
withering scorn that Keith felt himself shrink. Next second, with her
head high in the air, she had turned without a word and sped up the
street, leaving Keith feeling very cheap and subdued.

But that glance from dark eyes flashing with indignation had filled
Keith with a sensation to which he had long been a stranger. Something
about the simple dress, the high-bred face with its fine scorn;
something about the patrician air of mingled horror and contempt, had
suddenly cleaved through the worldly crust that had been encasing him
for some time, and reaching his better self, awakened an emotion that he
had thought gone forever. It was like a lightning-flash in the darkness.
He knew that she had entered his life. His resolution was taken on the
instant. He would meet her, and if she were what she looked to be--again
Elphinstone and his youth swept into his mind. He already was conscious
of a sense of protection; he felt curiously that he had the right to
protect her. If he had addressed her, might not others do so? The
thought made his blood boil. He almost wished that some one would
attempt it, that he might assert his right to show her what he was, and
thus retrieve himself in her eyes. Besides, he must know where she
lived. So he followed her at a respectful distance till she ran up the
steps of one of the better class of houses and disappeared within. He
was too far off to be able to tell which house it was that she entered,
but it was in the same block with Norman Wentworth's house.

Keith walked the avenue that night for a long time, pondering how he
should find and explain his conduct to the young music-teacher, for a
music-teacher he had decided she must be. The next evening, too, he
strolled for an hour on the avenue, scanning from a distance every fair
passer-by, but he saw nothing of her.

Mrs. Creamer's balls were, as Norman had once said, _the_ balls of the
season. "Only the rich and the noble were expected."

Mrs. Creamer's house was one of the great, new, brown-stone mansions
which had been built within the past ten years upon "the avenue." It had
cost a fortune. Within, it was so sumptuous that a special work has been
"gotten up," printed, and published by subscription, of its "art
treasures," furniture, and upholstery.

Into this palatial residence--for flattery could not have called it a
home--Keith was admitted, along with some hundreds of other guests.

To-night it was filled with, not flowers exactly, but with floral
decorations; for the roses and orchids were lost in the
designs--garlands, circles, and banks formed of an infinite number
of flowers.

Mrs. Creamer, a large, handsome woman with good shoulders, stood just
inside the great drawing-room. She was gorgeously attired and shone with
diamonds until the eyes ached with her splendor. Behind her stood Mr.
Creamer, looking generally mightily bored. Now and then he smiled and
shook hands with the guests, at times drawing a friend out of the line
back into the rear for a chat, then relapsing again into indifference
or gloom.

Keith was presented to Mrs. Creamer. She only nodded to him. Keith moved
on. He soon discovered that a cordial greeting to a strange guest was no
part of the convention in that society. One or two acquaintances spoke
to him, but he was introduced to no one; so he sauntered about and
entertained himself observing the people. The women were in their best,
and it was good.

Keith was passing from one room to another when he became aware that a
man, who was standing quite still in the doorway, was, like himself,
watching the crowd. His face was turned away; but something about the
compact figure and firm chin was familiar to him. Keith moved to take a
look at his face. It was Dave Dennison.

He had a twinkle in his eye as he said: "Didn't expect to see me here?"

"Didn't expect to see myself here," said Keith.

"I'm one of the swells now"; and Dave glanced down at his expensive
shirt-front and his evening suit with complacency. "Wouldn't Jake give a
lot to have such a bosom as that? I think I look just as well as some of
'em?" he queried, with a glance about him.

Keith thought so too. "You are dressed for the part," he said. Keith's
look of interest inspired him to go on.

"You see, 'tain't like 'tis down with us, where you know everybody, and
everything about him, to the number of drinks he can carry."

"Well, what do you do here?" asked Keith, who was trying to follow Mr.
Dennison's calm eye as, from time to time, it swept the rooms, resting
here and there on a face or following a hand. He was evidently not
merely a guest.

"Detective."

"A detective!" exclaimed Keith.

Dave nodded. "Yes; watchin' the guests, to see they don't carry off each
other. It is the new ones that puzzle us for a while," he added. "Now,
there is a lady acting very mysteriously over there." His eye swept over
the room and then visited, in that casual way it had, some one in the
corner across the room. "I don't just seem to make her out. She looks
all right--but--?"

Keith followed the glance, and the blood rushed to his face and then
surged back again to his heart, for there, standing against the wall,
was the young girl whom he had spoken to on the street a few evenings
before, who had given him so merited a rebuff. She was a
patrician-looking creature and was standing quite alone, observing the
scene with keen interest. Her girlish figure was slim; her eyes, under
straight dark brows, were beautiful; and her mouth was almost perfect.
Her fresh face expressed unfeigned interest, and though generally grave
as she glanced about her, she smiled at times, evidently at her
own thoughts.

"I don't just make her out," repeated Mr. Dennison, softly. "I never saw
her before, as I remember, and yet--!" He looked at her again.

"Why, I do not see that she is acting at all mysteriously," said Keith.
"I think she is a music-teacher. She is about the prettiest girl in the
room. She may be a stranger, like myself, as no one is talking to her."

"Don't no stranger git in here," said Mr. Dennison, decisively. "You see
how different she is from the others. Most of them don't think about
anything but themselves. She ain't thinkin' about herself at all; she is
watchin' others. She may be a reporter--she appears mighty interested
in clothes."

"A reporter!"

The surprise in Keith's tone amused his old pupil. "Yes, a sassiety
reporter. They have curious ways here. Why, they pay money to git
themselves in the paper."

Just then so black a look came into his face for a second that Keith
turned and followed his glance. It rested on Ferdy Wickersham, who was
passing at a little distance, with Mrs. Wentworth on his arm.

"There's one I am watchin' on my own account," said the detective. "I'm
comin' up with him, and some day I'm goin' to light on him." His eye
gave a flash and then became as calm and cold as usual. Presently he
spoke again:

"I don't forgit nothin'--'pears like I can't do it." His voice had a new
subtone in it, which somehow sent Keith's memory back to the past. "I
don't forgit a kindness, anyway," he said, laying his hand for a second
on Keith's arm. "Well, see you later, sir." He moved slowly on. Keith
was glad that patient enemy was not following him.

Keith's inspection of the young girl had inflamed his interest. It was
an unusual face--high-bred and fine. Humor lurked about the corners of
her mouth; but resolution also might be read there. And Keith knew how
those big, dark eyes could flash. And she was manifestly having a good
time all to herself. She was dressed much more simply than any other
woman he saw, in a plain muslin dress; but she made a charming picture
as she stood against the wall, her dark eyes alight with interest. Her
brown hair was drawn back from a brow of snowy whiteness, and her little
head was set on her shoulders in a way that recalled to Keith an old
picture. She would have had an air of distinction in any company. Here
she shone like a jewel.

Keith's heart went out to her. At sight of her his youth appeared to
flood over him again. Keith fancied that she looked weary, for every now
and then she lifted her head and glanced about the rooms as though
looking for some one. A sense of protection swept over him. He must meet
her. But how? She did not appear to know any one. Finally he determined
on a bold expedient. If he succeeded it would give him a chance to
recover himself as nothing else could; if he failed he could but fail.
So he made his way over to her. But it was with a beating heart.

"You look tired. Won't you let me get you a chair?" His voice sounded
strange even to himself.

"No, thank you; I am not tired." She thanked him civilly enough, but
scarcely looked at him. "But I should like a glass of water."

"It is the only liquid I believe I cannot get you," said Keith. "There
are three places where water is scarce: the desert, a ball-room, and the
other place where Dives was."

She drew herself up a little.

"But I will try," he added, and went off. On his return with a glass of
water, she took it.

As she handed the glass back to him, she glanced at him, and he caught
her eye. Her head went up, and she flushed to the roots of her
brown hair.

"Oh!--I beg your pardon! I--I--really--I don't--Thank you very much. I
am very sorry." She turned away stiffly.

"Why?" said Keith, flushing in spite of himself. "You have done me a
favor in enabling me to wait on you. May I introduce myself? And then I
will get some one to do it in person--Mrs. Lancaster or Mrs. Wentworth.
They will vouch for me."

The girl looked up at him, at first with a hostile expression on her
face, which changed suddenly to one of wonder.

"Isn't this Gordon Keith?"

Gordon's eyes opened wide. How could she know him?

"Yes."

"You don't know me?" Her eyes were dancing now, and two dimples were
flitting about her mouth. Keith's memory began to stir. She put her head
on one side.

"'Lois, if you'll kiss me I'll let you ride my horse,'" she said
cajolingly.

"Lois Huntington! It can't be!" exclaimed Keith, delighted. "You are
just so high." Keith measured a height just above his left watch-pocket.
"And you have long hair down your back."

With a little twist she turned her head and showed him a head of
beautiful brown hair done up in a Grecian knot just above the nape of a
shapely little neck.

"--And you have the brightest--"

She dropped her eyes before his, which were looking right into
them--though not until she had given a little flash from them, perhaps
to establish their identity.

"--And you used to say I was your sw--"

"Did I?" (this was very demurely said). "How old was I then?"

"How old are you now?"

"Eighteen," with a slight straightening of the slim figure.

"Impossible!" exclaimed Keith, enjoying keenly the picture she made.

"All of it," with a flash of the eyes.

"For me you are just all of seven years old."

"Do you know who I thought you were?" Her face dimpled.

"Yes; a waiter!"

She nodded brightly.

"It was my good manners. The waiters have struck me much this evening,"
said Keith.

She smiled, and the dimples appeared again.

"That is their business. They are paid for it."

"Oh, I see. Is that the reason others are--what they are? Well, I am
more than paid. My recompense is--you."

She looked pleased. "You are the first person I have met!--Did you have
any idea who I was the other evening?" she asked suddenly.

Keith would have given five years of his life to be able to answer yes.
But he said no. "I only knew you were some one who needed protection,"
he said, trying to make the best of a bad situation. You are too young
to be on the street so late."

"So it appeared. I had been out for a walk to see old Dr. Templeton and
to get a piece of music, and it was later than I thought."

"Whom are you here with?" inquired Keith, to get off of delicate ground.
"Where are you staying?"

"With my cousin, Mrs. Norman Wentworth. It is my first introduction into
New York life."

Just then there was a movement toward the supper-room.

Keith suggested that they should go and find Mrs. Norman. Miss
Huntington said, however, she thought she had better remain where she
was, as Mrs. Norman had promised to come back.

"I hope she will invite you to join our party," she said naively.

"If she does not, I will invite you both to join mine," declared Keith.
"I have no idea of letting you escape for another dozen years."

Just then, however, Mrs. Norman appeared. She was with Ferdy Wickersham,
who, on seeing Keith, looked away coldly. She smiled, greatly surprised
to find Keith there. "Why, where did you two know each other?"

They explained.

"I saw you were pleasantly engaged, so I did not think it necessary to
hasten back," she said to Lois.

Ferdy Wickersham said something to her in an undertone, and she held out
her hand to the girl.

"Come, we are to join a party in the supper-room. We shall see you after
supper, Mr. Keith?"

Keith said he hoped so. He was conscious of a sudden wave of
disappointment sweeping over him as the three left him. The young girl
gave him a bright smile.

Later, as he passed by, he saw only Ferdy Wickersham with Mrs. Norman.
Lois Huntington was at another table, so Keith joined her.

After the supper there was to be a novel kind of entertainment: a sort
of vaudeville show in which were to figure a palmist, a gentleman set
down in the programme with its gilt printing as the "Celebrated
Professor Cheireman"; several singers; a couple of acrobatic performers;
and a danseuse: "Mlle. Terpsichore."

The name struck Keith with something of sadness. It recalled old
associations, some of them pleasant, some of them sad. And as he stood
near Lois Huntington, on the edge of the throng that filled the large
apartment where the stage had been constructed, during the first three
or four numbers he was rather more in Gumbolt than in that gay company
in that brilliant room.

"Professor Cheireman" had shown the wonders of the trained hand and the
untrained mind in a series of tricks that would certainly be wonderful
did not so many men perform them. Mlle. de Voix performed hardly less
wonders with her voice, running up and down the scale like a squirrel
in a cage, introducing trills into songs where there were none, and
making the simplest melodies appear as intricate as pieces of opera. The
Burlystone Brothers jumped over and skipped under each other in a
marvellous and "absolutely unrivalled manner." And presently the
danseuse appeared.

Keith was standing against the wall thinking of Terpy and the old hail
with its paper hangings in Gumbolt, and its benches full of eager,
jovial spectators, when suddenly there was a roll of applause, and he
found himself in Gumbolt. From the side on which he stood walked out his
old friend, Terpy herself. He had not been able to see her until she was
well out on the stage and was making her bow. The next second she
began to dance.

After the first greeting given her, a silence fell on the room, the best
tribute they could pay to her art, her grace, her abandon. Nothing so
audacious had ever been seen by certainly half the assemblage. Casting
aside the old tricks of the danseuse, the tipping and pirouetting and
grimacing for applause, the dancer seemed oblivious of her audience and
as though she were trying to excel herself. She swayed and swung and
swept from side to side as though on wings.

Round after round of applause swept over the room. Men were talking in
undertones to each other; women buzzed behind their fans.

She stopped, panting and flushed with pride, and with a certain scorn in
her face and mien glanced over the audience. Just as she was poising
herself for another effort, her eye reached the side of the room where
Keith stood just beside Miss Huntington. A change passed over her face.
She nodded, hesitated for a second, and then began again. She failed to
catch the time of the music and danced out of time. A titter came from
the rear of the room. She looked in that direction, and Keith did the
same. Ferdy Wickersham, with a malevolent gleam in his eye, was
laughing. The dancer flushed deeply, frowned, lost her self-possession,
and stopped. A laugh of derision sounded at the rear.

"For shame! It is shameful!" said Lois Huntington in a low voice to
Keith.

"It is. The cowardly scoundrel!" He turned and scowled at Ferdy.

At the sound, Terpy took a step toward the front, and bending forward,
swept the audience with her flashing eyes.

"Put that man out."

A buzz of astonishment and laughter greeted her outbreak.

"Cackle, you fools!"

She turned to the musicians.

"Play that again and play it right, or I'll wring your necks!"

She began to dance again, and soon danced as she had done at first.

Applause was beginning again; but at the sound she stopped, looked over
the audience disdainfully, and turning, walked coolly from the stage.

"Who is she?" "Well, did you ever see anything like that!" "Well, I
never did!" "The insolent creature!" "By Jove! she can dance if she
chooses!" buzzed over the room.

"Good for her," said Keith, his face full of admiration.

"Did you know her?" asked Miss Huntington.

"Well."

The girl said nothing, but she stiffened and changed color slightly.

"You know her, too," said Keith.

"I! I do not."

"Do you remember once, when you were a tot over in England, giving your
doll to a little dancing-girl?--When your governess was in such
a temper?"

Lois nodded.

"That is she. She used to live in New Leeds. She was almost the only
woman in Gumbolt when I went there. Had a man laughed at her there then,
he would never have left the room alive. Mr. Wickersham tried it once,
and came near getting his neck broken for it. He is getting even
with her now."

As the girl glanced up at him, his face was full of suppressed feeling.
A pang shot through her.

Just then the entertainment broke up and the guests began to leave. Mrs.
Wentworth beckoned to Lois. Wickersham was still with her.

"I will not trust myself to go within speaking distance of him now,"
said Keith; "so I will say good-by, here." He made his adieus somewhat
hurriedly, and moved off as Mrs. Wentworth approached.

Wickersham, who, so long as Keith remained with Miss Huntington, had
kept aloof, and was about to say good night to Mrs. Wentworth, had, on
seeing Keith turn away, followed Mrs. Wentworth.

Every one was still chatting of the episode of the young virago.

"Well, what did you think of your friend's friend?" asked Wickersham of
Lois.

"Of whom?"

"Of your friend Mr. Keith's young lady. She is an old flame of his," he
said, turning to Mrs. Wentworth and speaking in an undertone, just loud
enough for Lois to hear. "They have run her out of New Leeds, and I
think he is trying to force her on the people here. He has cheek enough
to do anything; but I think to-night will about settle him."

"I do not know very much about such things; but I think she dances very
well," said Lois, with heightened color, moved to defend the girl under
an instinct of opposition to Wickersham.

"So your friend thinks, or thought some time ago," said Wickersham. "My
dear girl, she can't dance at all. She is simply a disreputable young
woman, who has been run out of her own town, as she ought to be run out
of this, as an impostor, if nothing else." He turned to Mrs. Wentworth:
"A man who brought such a woman to a place like this ought to be kicked
out of town."

"If you are speaking of Mr. Keith, I don't believe that of him," said
Lois, coldly.

Wickersham looked at her for a moment. A curious light was in his eyes
as he said:

"I am not referring to any one. I am simply generalizing." He shrugged
his shoulders and turned away.

As Mrs. Wentworth and Lois entered their carriage, a gentleman was
helping some one into a hack just behind Mrs. Wentworth's carriage. The
light fell on them at the moment that Lois stepped forward, and she
recognized Mr. Keith and the dancer, Mile. Terpsichore. He was handing
her in with all the deference that he would have shown the highest lady
in the land.

Lois Huntington drove home in a maze. Life appeared to have changed
twice for her in a single evening. Out of that crowd of strangers had
come one who seemed to be a part of her old life. They had taken each
other up just where they had parted. The long breach in their lives had
been bridged. He had seemed the old friend and champion of her
childhood, who, since her aunt had revived her recollection of him, had
been a sort of romantic hero in her dreams. Their meeting had been such
as she had sometimes pictured to herself it would be. She believed him
finer, higher, than others. Then, suddenly, she had found that the
vision was but an idol of clay. All that her aunt had said of him had
been dashed to pieces in a trice.

He was not worthy of her notice. He was not a gentleman. He was what Mr.
Wickersham had called him. He had boasted to her of his intimacy with a
common dancing-girl. He had left her to fly to her and escort her home.

As Keith had left the house, Terpsichore had come out of the side
entrance, and they had met. Keith was just wondering how he could find
her, and he considered the meeting a fortunate one. She was in a state
of extreme agitation. It was the first time that she had undertaken to
dance at such an entertainment. She had refused, but had been
over-persuaded, and she declared it was all a plot between Wickersham
and her manager to ruin her. She would be even with them both, if she
had to take a pistol to right her wrongs.

Keith had little idea that the chief motive of her acceptance had been
the hope that she might find him among the company. He did what he could
to soothe her, and having made a promise to call upon her, he bade her
good-by, happily ignorant of the interpretation which she who had
suddenly sprung uppermost in his thoughts had, upon Wickersham's
instigation, put upon his action.

Keith walked home with a feeling to which he had been long a stranger.
He was somehow happier than he had been in years. A young girl had
changed the whole entertainment for him--the whole city--almost his
whole outlook on life. He had not felt this way for years--not since
Alice Yorke had darkened life for him. Could love be for him again?

The dial appeared to have turned back for him. He felt younger, fresher,
more hopeful. He walked out into the street and tried to look up at the
stars. The houses obscured them; they were hardly visible. The city
streets were no place for stars and sentiment. He would go through the
park and see them. So he strolled along and turned into a park. The
gas-lamps shed a yellow glow on the trees, making circles of feeble
light on the walks, and the shadows lay deep on the ground. Most of the
benches were vacant; but here and there a waif or a belated homegoer sat
in drowsy isolation. The stars were too dim even from this
vantage-ground to afford Keith much satisfaction. His thoughts flew back
to the mountains and the great blue canopy overhead, spangled with
stars, and a blue-eyed girl amid pillows whom he used to worship. An
arid waste of years cut them off from the present, and his thoughts
came back to a sweet-faced girl with dark eyes, claiming him as her old
friend. She appeared to be the old ideal rather than the former.

All next day Keith thought of Lois Huntington. He wanted to go and see
her but he waited until the day after. He would not appear too eager.

He called at Norman's office for the pleasure of talking of her; but
Norman was still absent. The following afternoon he called at Norman's
house. The servant said Mrs. Norman was out.

"Miss Huntington?"

"She left this morning."

Keith walked up the street feeling rather blank. That night he started
for the South. But Lois Huntington was much in his thoughts. He wondered
if life would open for him again. When a man wonders about this, life
has already opened.

By the time he reached New Leeds, he had already made up his mind to
write and ask Miss Abby for an invitation to Brookford, and he wrote his
father a full account of the girl he had known as a child, over which
the old General beamed.

He forgave people toward whom he had hard feelings. The world was better
than he had been accounting it. He even considered more leniently than
he had done Mrs. Wentworth's allowing Ferdy Wickersham to hang around
her. It suddenly flashed on him that, perhaps, Ferdy was in love with
Lois Huntington. Crash! went his kind feelings, his kind thoughts. The
idea of Ferdy making love to that pure, sweet, innocent creature! It was
horrible! Her innocence, her charming friendliness, her sweetness, all
swept over him, and he thrilled with a sense of protection.

Could he have known what Wickersham had done to poison her against him,
he would have been yet more enraged. As it was, Lois was at that time
back at her old home; but with how different feelings from those which
she had had but a few days before! Sometimes she hated Keith, or, at
least, declared to herself that she hated him; and at others she
defended him against her own charge. And more and more she truly hated
Wickersham.

"So you met Mr. Keith?" said her aunt, abruptly, a day or two after her
return. "How did you like him?"

"I did not like him," said Lois, briefly, closing her lips with a snap,
as if to keep the blood out of her cheeks.

"What! you did not like him? Girls are strange creatures nowadays. In my
time, a girl--a girl like you--would have thought him the very pink of a
man. I suppose you liked that young Wickersham better?" she
added grimly.

"No, I did not like him either. But I think Mr. Keith is perfectly
horrid."

"Horrid!" The old lady's black eyes snapped. "Oh, he didn't ask you to
dance! Well, I think, considering he knew you when you were a child, and
knew you were my niece, he might--"

"Oh, yes, I danced with him; but he is not very nice. He--ah--Something
I saw prejudiced me."

Miss Abby was so insistent that she should tell her what had happened
that she yielded.

"Well, I saw him on the street helping a woman into a carriage."

"A woman? And why shouldn't he help her in? He probably was the only man
you saw that would do it, if you saw the men I met."

"A dis--reputable woman," said Lois, slowly.

"And, pray, what do you know of disreputable women? Not that there are
not enough of them to be seen!"

"Some one told me--and she looked it," said Lois, blushing. The old lady
unexpectedly whipped around and took her part so warmly that Lois
suddenly found herself defending Gordon. She could not bear that others
should attack him, though she took frequent occasion to tell herself
that she hated him. In fact, she hated him so that she wanted to see him
to show him how severe she would be.

The occasion might have come sooner than she expected; but alas! Fate
was unkind. Keith was not conscious until he found that Lois Huntington
had left town how much he had thought of her. Her absence appeared
suddenly to have emptied the city. By the time he had reached his room
he had determined to follow her home. That rift of sunshine which had
entered his life should not be shut out again. He sat down and wrote to
her: a friendly letter, expressing warmly his pleasure at having met
her, picturing jocularly his disappointment at having failed to find
her. He made a single allusion to the Terpsichore episode. He had done
what he could, he said, to soothe his friend's ruffled feelings; but,
though he thought he had some influence with her, he could not boast of
having had much success in this. In the light in which Lois read this
letter, the allusion to the dancing-girl outweighed all the rest, and
though her heart had given a leap when she first saw that she had a
letter from Keith, when she laid it down her feeling had changed. She
would show him that she was not a mere country chit to be treated as he
had treated her. His "friend" indeed!

When Keith, to his surprise, received no reply to his letter, he wrote
again more briefly, asking if his former letter had been received; but
this shared the fate of the first.

Meantime Lois had gone off to visit a friend. Her mind was not quite as
easy as it should have been. She felt that if she had it to go over, she
would do just the same thing; but she began to fancy excuses for Keith.
She even hunted up the letters he had written her as a boy.

It is probable that Lois's failure to write did more to raise her in
Keith's estimation and fix her image in his mind than anything else she
could have done. Keith knew that something untoward had taken place, but
what it was he could not conceive. At least, however, it proved to him
that Lois Huntington was different from some of the young women he had
met of late. So he sat down and wrote to Miss Brooke, saying that he was
going abroad on a matter of importance, and asking leave to run down and
spend Sunday with them before he left. Miss Brooke's reply nearly took
his breath away. She not only refused his request, but intimated that
there was a good reason why his former letters had not been acknowledged
and why he would not be received by her.

It was rather incoherent, but it had something to do with "inexplicable
conduct." On this Keith wrote Miss Brooke, requesting a more explicit
charge and demanding an opportunity to defend himself. Still he received
no reply; and, angry that he had written, he took no further steps
about it.

By the time Lois reached home she had determined to answer his letter.
She would write him a severe reply.

Miss Abby, however, announced to Lois, the day of her return, that Mr.
Keith had written asking her permission to come down and see them. The
blood sprang into Lois's face, and if Miss Abby had had on her
spectacles at that moment, she must have read the tale it told.

"Oh, he did! And what--?" She gave a swallow to restrain her impatience.
"What did you say to him, Aunt Abby? Have you answered the letter?" This
was very demurely said.

"Yes. Of course, I wrote him not to come. I preferred that he should not
come."

Could she have but seen Lois's face!

"Oh, you did!"

"Yes. I want no hypocrites around me." Her head was up and her cap was
bristling. "I came very near telling him so, too. I told him that I had
it from good authority that he had not behaved in altogether the most
gentlemanly way--consorting openly with a hussy on the street! I think
he knows whom I referred to."

"But, Aunt Abby, I do not know that she was. I only heard she was,"
defended Lois.

"Who told you?"

"Mr. Wickersham."

"Well, _he_ knows," said Miss Abigail, with decision. "Though I think he
had very little to do to discuss such matters with you."

"But, Aunt Abby, I think you had better have let him come. We could have
shown him our disapproval in our manner. And possibly he might have some
explanations?"

"I guess he won't make any mistake about that. The hypocrite! To sit up
and talk to me as if he were a bishop! I have no doubt he would have
explanation enough. They always do."



CHAPTER XXIII

GENERAL KEITH VISITS STRANGE LANDS

Just then the wheel turned. Interest was awaking in England in American
enterprises, and, fortunately for Keith, he had friends on that side.

Grinnell Rhodes now lived in England, dancing attendance on his wife,
the daughter of Mr. Creamer of Creamer, Crustback & Company, who was
aspiring to be in the fashionable set there.

Matheson, the former agent of the Wickershams, with whom Ferdy had
quarrelled, had gone back to England, and had acquired a reputation as
an expert. By one of the fortuitous happenings so hard to account for,
about this time Keith wrote to Rhodes, and Rhodes consulted Matheson,
who knew the properties. Ferdy had incurred the Scotchman's implacable
hate, and the latter was urged on now by a double motive. To Rhodes, who
was bored to death with the life he was leading, the story told by the
Wickershams' old superintendent was like a trumpet to a war-horse.

Out of the correspondence with Rhodes grew a suggestion to Keith to come
over and try to place the Rawson properties with an English syndicate.
Keith had, moreover, a further reason for going. He had not recovered
from the blow of Miss Brooke's refusal to let him visit Lois. He knew
that in some way it was connected with his attention to Terpsichore; he
knew that there was a misunderstanding, and felt that Wickersham was
somehow connected with it. But he was too proud to make any further
attempt to explain it.

Accordingly, armed with the necessary papers and powers, he arranged to
go to England. He had control of and options on lands which were
estimated to be worth several millions of dollars at any fair valuation.

Keith had long been trying to persuade his father to accompany him to
New York on some of his visits; but the old gentleman had never been
able to make up his mind to do so.

"I have grown too old to travel in strange lands," he said. "I tried to
get there once, but they stopped me just in sight of a stone fence on
the farther slope beyond Gettysburg." A faint flash glittered in his
quiet eyes. "I think I had better restrain my ambition now to migrations
from the blue bed to the brown, and confine my travels to 'the realms
of gold'!"

Now, after much urging, as Gordon was about to go abroad to try and
place the Rawson properties there, the General consented to go to New
York and see him off. It happened that Gordon was called to New York on
business a day or two before his father was ready to go. So he exacted a
promise that he would follow him, and went on ahead. Though General
Keith would have liked to back out at the last moment, as he had given
his word, he kept it. He wrote his son that he must not undertake to
meet him, as he could not tell by what train he should arrive.

"I shall travel slowly," he said, "for I wish to call by and see one or
two old friends on my way, whom I have not seen for years."

The fact was that he wished to see the child of his friend, General
Huntington, and determined to avail himself of this opportunity to call
by and visit her. Gordon's letter about her had opened a new vista
in life.

The General found Brookford a pleasant village, lying on the eastern
slope of the Piedmont, and having written to ask permission to call and
pay his respects, he was graciously received by Miss Abby, and more than
graciously received by her niece. Miss Lois would probably have met any
visitor at the train; but she might not have had so palpitating a heart
and so rich a color in meeting many a young man.

Few things captivate a person more than to be received with real
cordiality by a friend immediately on alighting at a strange station
from a train full of strangers. But when the traveller is an old and
somewhat unsophisticated man, and when the friend is a young and very
pretty girl, and when, after a single look, she throws her arms around
his neck and kisses him, the capture is likely to be as complete as any
that could take place in life. When Lois Huntington, after asking about
his baggage, and exclaiming because he had sent his trunk on to New York
and had brought only a valise, as if he were only stopping off between
trains, finally settled herself down beside the General and took the
reins of the little vehicle that she had come in, there was, perhaps,
not a more pleased old gentleman in the world than the one who sat
beside her.

"How you have grown!" he said, gazing at her with admiration. "Somehow,
I always thought of you as a little girl--a very pretty little girl."

She thought of what his son had said at their meeting at the ball.

"But you know one must grow some, and it has been eleven years since
then. Think how long that has been!"

"Eleven years! Does that appear so long to you?" said the old man,
smiling. "So it is in our youth. Gordon wrote me of his meeting you and
of how you had changed."

I wonder what he meant by that, said Lois to herself, the color mounting
to her cheek. "He thought I had changed, did he?" she asked tentatively,
after a moment, a trace of grimness stealing into her face, where it lay
like a little cloud in May.

"Yes; he hardly knew you. You see, he did not have the greeting that I
got."

"I should think not!" exclaimed Lois. "If he had, I don't know what he
might have thought!" She grew as grave as she could.

"He said you were the sweetest and prettiest girl there, and that all
the beauty of New York was there, even the beautiful Mrs.--what is her
name? She was Miss Yorke."

Lois's face relaxed suddenly with an effect of sunshine breaking through
a cloud.

"Did he say that?" she exclaimed.

"He did, and more. He is a young man of some discernment," observed the
old fellow, with a chuckle of gratification.

"Oh, but he was only blinding you. He is in love with Mrs. Lancaster."

"Not he."

But Lois protested guilefully that he was.

A little later she asked the General:

"Did you ever hear of any one in New Leeds who was named Terpsichore?"

"Terpsichore? Of course. Every one knows her there. I never saw her
until she became a nurse, when she was nursing my son. She saved his
life, you know?"

"Saved his life!" Her face had grown almost grim. "No, I never heard of
it. Tell me about it."

"Saved his life twice, indeed," said the old General. "She has had a sad
past, but she is a noble woman." And unheeding Lois's little sniff, he
told the whole story of Terpsichore, and the brave part she had played.
Spurred on by his feeling, he told it well, no less than did he the part
that Keith had played. When he was through, there had been tears in
Lois's eyes, and her bosom was still heaving.

"Thank you," she said simply, and the rest of the drive was in silence.

When General Keith left Brookford he was almost as much in love with his
young hostess as his son could have been, and all the rest of his
journey he was dreaming of what life might become if Gordon and she
would but take a fancy to each other, and once more return to the old
place. It would be like turning back the years and reversing the
consequences of the war.

       *       *       *       *       *

The General, on his arrival in New York, was full of his visit to
Brookford and of Lois. "There is a girl after my own heart," he declared
to Gordon, with enthusiasm. "Why don't you go down there and get
that girl?"

Gordon put the question aside with a somewhat grim look. He was very
busy, he said. His plans were just ripening, and he had no time to think
about marrying. Besides, "a green country girl" was not the most
promising wife. There were many other women who, etc., etc.

"Many other women!" exclaimed the General. "There may be; but I have not
seen them lately. As to 'a green country girl'--why, they make the best
wives in the world if you get the right kind. What do you want? One of
these sophisticated, fashionable, strong-minded women--a woman's-rights
woman? Heaven forbid! When a gentleman marries, he wants a lady and he
wants a wife, a woman to love him; a lady to preside over his home, not
over a woman's meeting."

Gordon quite agreed with him as to the principle; but he did not know
about the instance cited.

"Why, I thought you had more discernment," said the old gentleman. "She
is the sweetest creature I have seen in a long time. She has both sense
and sensibility. If I were forty years younger, I should not be
suggesting her to you, sir. I should be on my knees to her for myself."
And the old fellow buttoned his coat, straightened his figure, and
looked quite spirited and young.

At the club, where Gordon introduced him, his father soon became quite a
toast. Half the habitues of the "big room" came to know him, and he was
nearly always surrounded by a group listening to his quaint observations
of life, his stories of old times, his anecdotes, his quotations from
Plutarch or from "Dr. Johnson, sir."

An evening or two after his appearance at the club, Norman Wentworth
came in, and when the first greetings were over, General Keith inquired
warmly after his wife.

"Pray present my compliments to her. I have never had the honor of
meeting her, sir, but I have heard of her charms from my son, and I
promise myself the pleasure of calling upon her as soon as I have called
on your mother, which I am looking forward to doing this evening."

Norman's countenance changed a little at the unexpected words, for half
a dozen men were around. When, however, he spoke it was in a very
natural voice.

"Yes, my mother is expecting you," he said quietly. Mrs. Wentworth also
would, he said, be very glad to see him. Her day was Thursday, but if
General Keith thought of calling at any other time, and would be good
enough to let him know, he thought he could guarantee her being at home.
He strolled away.

"By Jove! he did it well," said one of the General's other acquaintances
when Norman was out of ear-shot.

"You know, he and his wife have quarrelled," explained Stirling to the
astonished General.

"Great Heavens!" The old gentleman looked inexpressibly shocked.

"Yes--Wickersham."

"That scoundrel!"

"Yes; he is the devil with the women."

Next evening, as the General sat with Stirling among a group, sipping
his toddy, some one approached behind him.

Stirling, who had become a great friend of the General's, greeted the
newcomer.

"Hello, Ferdy! Come around; let me introduce you to General Keith,
Gordon Keith's father."

The General, with a pleasant smile on his face, rose from his chair and
turned to greet the newcomer. As he did so he faced Ferdy Wickersham,
who bowed coldly. The old gentleman stiffened, put his hand behind his
back, and with uplifted head looked him full in the eyes for a second,
and then turned his back on him.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Stirling, for declining to recognize any one
whom you are good enough to wish to introduce to me, but that man I must
decline to recognize. He is not a gentleman."

"I doubt if you know one," said Ferdy, with a shrug, as he strolled away
with affected indifference. But a dozen men had seen the cut.

"I guess you are right enough about that, General," said one of them.

When the General reflected on what he had done, he was overwhelmed with
remorse. He apologized profusely to Stirling for having committed such
a solecism.

"I am nothing but an irascible old idiot, sir, and I hope you will
excuse my constitutional weakness, but I really could not recognize
that man."

Stirling's inveterate amiability soon set him at ease again.

"It is well for Wickersham to hear the truth now and then," he said. "I
guess he hears it rarely enough. Most people feed him on lies."

Some others appeared to take the same view of the matter, for the
General was more popular than ever.

Gordon found a new zest in showing his father about the city. Everything
astonished him. He saw the world with the eyes of a child. The streets,
the crowds, the shop-windows, the shimmering stream of carriages that
rolled up and down the avenue, the elevated railways which had just been
constructed, all were a marvel to him.

"Where do these people get their wealth?" he asked.

"Some of them get it from rural gentlemen who visit the town," said
Gordon, laughing.

The old fellow smiled. "I suspect a good many of them get it from us
countrymen. In fact, at the last we furnish it all. It all comes out of
the ground."

"It is a pity that we did not hold on to some of it," said Gordon.

The old gentleman glanced at him. "I do not want any of it. My son,
Agar's standard was the best: 'neither poverty nor riches.' Riches
cannot make a gentleman."

Keith laughed and called him old-fashioned, but he knew in his heart
that he was right.

The beggars who accosted him on the street never turned away
empty-handed. He had it not in his heart to refuse the outstretched
hand of want.

"Why, that man who pretended that he had a large family and was out of
work is a fraud," said Gordon. "I'll bet that he has no family and
never works."

"Well, I didn't give him much," said the old man. "But remember what
Lamb said: 'Shut not thy purse-strings always against painted distress.
It is good to believe him. Give, and under the personate father of a
family think, if thou pleasest, that thou hast relieved an indigent
bachelor.'"

A week later Gordon was on his way to England and the General had
returned home.

It was just after this that the final breach took place between Norman
Wentworth and his wife. It was decided that for their children's sake
there should be no open separation; at least, for the present. Norman
had business which would take him away for a good part of the time, and
the final separation could be left to the future. Meanwhile, to save
appearances somewhat, it was arranged that Mrs. Wentworth should ask
Lois Huntington to come up and spend the winter in New York, partly as
her companion and partly as governess for the children. This might stop
the mouths of some persons.

When the proposal first reached Miss Abigail, she rejected it without
hesitation; she would not hear of it. Curiously enough, Lois suddenly
appeared violently anxious to go. But following the suggestion came an
invitation from Norman's mother asking Miss Abigail to pay her a long
visit. She needed her, she said, and she asked as a favor that she
would let Lois accept her daughter-in-law's invitation. So Miss Abby
consented. "The Lawns" was shut up for the winter, and the two ladies
went up to New York.

As Norman left for the West the very day that Lois was installed, she
had no knowledge of the condition of affairs in that unhappy household,
except what Gossip whispered about her. This would have been more than
enough, but for the fact that the girl stiffened as soon as any one
approached the subject, and froze even such veterans as Mrs. Nailor.

Mrs. Wentworth was far too proud to refer to it. All Lois knew,
therefore, was that there was trouble and she was there to help tide it
over, and she meant, if she could, to make it up. Meanwhile, Mrs.
Wentworth was very kind, if formal, to her, and the children, delighted
to get rid of the former governess, whom they insisted in describing as
an "old cat," were her devoted slaves.

Yet Lois was not as contented as she had fondly expected to be.

She learned soon after her arrival that one object of her visit to New
York would be futile. She would not see Mr. Keith. He had gone
abroad.--"In pursuit of Mrs. Lancaster," said Mrs. Nailor; for Lois was
willing enough to hear all that lady had to say on this subject, and it
was a good deal. "You know, I believe she is going to marry him. She
will unless she can get a title."

"I do not believe a title would make any difference to her," said Lois,
rather sharply, glad to have any sound reason for attacking Mrs. Nailor.

"Oh, don't you believe it! She'd snap one up quick enough if she had the
chance."

"She has had a plenty of chances," asserted Lois.

"Well, it may serve Mr. Keith a good turn. He looked very low down for a
while last Spring--just after that big Creamer ball. But he had quite
perked up this Fall, and, next thing I heard, he had gone over to
England after Alice Lancaster, who is spending the winter there. It was
time she went, too, for people were beginning to talk a good deal of the
way she ran after Norman Wentworth."

"I must go," said Lois, suddenly rising; "I have to take the children
out."

"Poor dears!" sighed Mrs. Nailor. "I am glad they have some one to look
after them." Lois's sudden change prevented any further condolence.
Fortunately, Mrs. Nailor was too much delighted with the opportunity to
pour her information into quite fresh ears to observe Lois's expression.

       *       *       *       *       *

The story of the trouble between Mr. and Mrs. Wentworth was soon public
property. Wickersham's plans appeared to him to be working out
satisfactorily. Louise Wentworth must, he felt, care for him to
sacrifice so much for him. In this assumption he let down the barriers
of prudence which he had hitherto kept up, and, one evening when the
opportunity offered, he openly declared himself. To his chagrin and
amazement, she appeared to be shocked and even to resent it.

Yes, she liked him--liked him better than almost any one, she admitted;
but she did not, she could not, love him. She was married.

Wickersham ridiculed the idea.

Married! Well, what difference did that make? Did not many married women
love other men than their husbands? Had not her husband gone
after another?

Her eyes closed suddenly; then her eyelids fluttered.

"Yes; but I am not like that. I have children." She spoke slowly.

"Nonsense," cried Wickersham. "Of course, we love each other and belong
to each other. Send the children to your husband."

Mrs. Wentworth recoiled in horror. There was that in his manner and look
which astounded her. "Abandon her children?" How could she? Her whole
manner changed. "You have misunderstood me."

[Illustration: "Sit down. I want to talk to you."]

Wickersham grew angry.

"Don't be a fool, Louise. You have broken with your husband. Now, don't
go and throw away happiness for a priest's figment. Get a divorce and
marry me, if you want to; but at least accept my love."

But he had overshot the mark. He had opened her eyes. Was this the man
she had taken as her closest friend!--for whom she had quarrelled with
her husband and defied the world!

Wickersham watched her as her doubt worked its way in her mind. He could
see the process in her face. He suddenly seized her and drew her to him.

"Here, stop this! Your husband has abandoned you and gone after another
woman."

She gave a gasp, but made no answer.

She pushed him away from her slowly, and after a moment rose and walked
from the room as though dazed.

It was so unexpected that Wickersham made no attempt to stop her.

A moment later Lois entered the room. She walked straight up to him.
Wickersham tried to greet her lightly, but she remained grave.

"Mr. Wickersham, I do not think you--ought to come here--as often as you
do."

"And, pray, why not?" he demanded.

Her brown eyes looked straight into his and held them steadily.

"Because people talk about it."

"I cannot help people talking. You know what they are," said Wickersham,
amused.

"You can prevent giving them occasion to talk. You are too good a friend
of Cousin Louise to cause her unhappiness." The honesty of her words was
undoubted. It spoke in every tone of her voice and glance of her eyes.
"She is most unhappy."

Wickersham conceived a new idea. How lovely she was in her soft blue
dress!

"Very well, I will do what you say There are few things I would not do
for you." He stepped closer to her and gazed in her eyes. "Sit down. I
want to talk to you."

"Thank you; I must go now."

Wickersham tried to detain her, but she backed away, her hands down and
held a little back.

"Good-by."

"Miss Huntington--Lois--" he said; "one moment."

But she opened the door and passed out.

Wickersham walked down the street in a sort of maze.



CHAPTER XXIV

KEITH TRIES HIS FORTUNES IN ANOTHER LAND

In fact, as usual, Mrs. Nailor's statement to Lois had some foundation,
though very little. Mrs. Lancaster had gone abroad, and Keith had
followed her.

Keith, on his arrival in England, found Rhodes somewhat changed, at
least in person. Years of high living and ease had rounded him, and he
had lost something of his old spirit. At times an expression of
weariness or discontent came into his eyes.

He was as cordial as ever to Keith, and when Keith unfolded his plans he
entered into them with earnestness.

"You have come at a good time," he said. "They are beginning to think
that America is all a bonanza."

After talking over the matter, Rhodes invited Keith down to the country.

"We have taken an old place in Warwickshire for the hunting. An old
friend of yours is down there for a few days,"--his eyes twinkled,--"and
we have some good fellows there. Think you will like them--some of
them," he added.

"Who is my friend?" asked Keith.

"Her name was Alice Yorke," he replied, with his eyes on Keith's face.

At the name another face sprang to Keith's mind. The eyes were brown,
not blue, and the face was the fresh face of a young girl. Yet
Keith accepted.

Rhodes did not tell him that Mrs. Lancaster had not accepted their
invitation until after she had heard that he was to be invited. Nor did
he tell him that she had authorized him to subscribe largely to the
stock of the new syndicate.

On reaching the station they were met by a rich equipage with two
liveried servants, and, after a short drive through beautiful country,
they turned into a fine park, and presently drove up before an imposing
old country house; for "The Keep" was one of the finest mansions in all
that region. It was also one of the most expensive. It had broken its
owners to run it. But this was nothing to Creamer of Creamer, Crustback
& Company; at least, it was nothing to Mrs. Creamer, or to Mrs. Rhodes,
who was her daughter. She had plans, and money was nothing to her.
Rhodes was manifestly pleased at Keith's exclamations of appreciation as
they drove through the park with its magnificent trees, its coppices and
coverts, its stretches of emerald sward and roll of gracious hills, and
drew up at the portal of the mansion. Yet he was inclined to be a little
apologetic about it, too.

"This is rather too rich for me," he said, between a smile and a sigh.
"Somehow, I began too late."

It was a noble old hall into which he ushered Keith, the wainscoting
dark with age, and hung with trophies of many a chase and forgotten
field. A number of modern easy-chairs and great rich rugs gave it an air
of comfort, even if they were not altogether harmonious.

Keith did not see Mrs. Rhodes till the company were all assembled in the
drawing-room for dinner. She was a rather pretty woman, distinctly
American in face and voice, but in speech more English than any one
Keith had seen since landing. Her hair and speech were arranged in the
extreme London fashion. She was "awfully keen on" everything she
fancied, and found most things English "ripping." She greeted Keith with
somewhat more formality than he had expected from Grinnell Rhodes's
wife, and introduced him to Colonel Campbell, a handsome,
broad-shouldered man, as "an American," which Keith thought rather
unnecessary, since no one could have been in doubt about it.

Keith found, on his arrival in the drawing-room, that the house was full
of company, a sort of house-party assembled for the hunting.

Suddenly there was a stir, followed by a hush in the conversation, and
monocles and lorgnons went up.

"Here she comes," said a man near Keith.

"Who is she?" asked a thin woman with ugly hands, dropping her monocle
with the air of a man.

"La belle Americaine," replied the man beside her, "a friend of the
host."

"Oh! Not of the hostess?"

"Oh, I don't know. I met her last night--"

"Steepleton is ahead--wins in a walk."

"Oh, she's rich? The castle needs a new roof? Will it be in time for
next season?"

The gentleman said he knew nothing about it.

Keith turned and faced Alice Lancaster.

She was dressed in a black gown that fitted perfectly her straight,
supple figure, the soft folds clinging close enough to show the gracious
curves, and falling away behind her in a train that, as she stood with
her head uplifted, gave her an appearance almost of majesty. Her round
arms and perfect shoulders were of dazzling whiteness; her abundant
brown hair was coiled low on her snowy neck, showing the beauty of her
head; and her single ornament was one rich red rose fastened in her
bodice with a small diamond clasp. It was the little pin that Keith had
found in the Ridgely woods and returned to her so long ago; though Keith
did not recognize it. It was the only jewel about her, and was worn
simply to hold the rose, as though that were the thing she valued.
Keith's thoughts sprang to the first time he ever saw her with a red
rose near her heart--the rose he had given her, which the humming-bird
had sought as its chalice.

The other ladies were all gowned in satin and velvet of rich colors,
and were flaming in jewels, and as Mrs. Lancaster stood among them and
they fell back a little on either side to look at her, they appeared, as
it were, a setting for her.

After the others were presented, Keith stepped forward to greet her, and
her face lit up with a light that made it suddenly young.

"I am so glad to see you." She clasped his hand warmly. "It is so good
to see an old friend from our ain countree."

"I do not need to say I am glad to see you," said Keith, looking her in
the eyes. "You are my ain countree here."

At that moment the rose fell at her feet. It had slipped somehow from
the clasp that held it. A half-dozen men sprang forward to pick it up,
but Keith was ahead of them. He took it up, and, with his eyes looking
straight into hers, handed it to her.

"It is your emblem; it is what I always think of you as being." The tone
was too low for any one else to hear; but her mounting color and the
light in her eyes told that she caught it.

Still looking straight into his eyes without a word, she stuck the rose
in her bodice just over her heart.

Several women turned their gaze on Keith and scanned him with sudden
interest, and one of them, addressing her companion, a broad-shouldered
man with a pleasant, florid face, said in an undertone:

"That is the man you have to look out for, Steepleton."

"A good-looking fellow. Who is he?"

"Somebody, I fancy, or our hostess wouldn't have him here."

       *       *       *       *       *

The dinner that evening was a function. Mrs. Rhodes would rather have
suffered a serious misfortune than fail in any of the social refinements
of her adopted land. Rhodes had suggested that Keith be placed next to
Mrs. Lancaster, but Mrs. Rhodes had another plan in mind. She liked
Alice Lancaster, and she was trying to do by her as she would have been
done by. She wanted her to make a brilliant match. Lord Steepleton
appeared designed by Providence for this especial purpose: the
representative of an old and distinguished house, owner of a
famous--indeed, of an historic--estate, unhappily encumbered, but not
too heavily to be relieved by a providential fortune. Hunting was his
most serious occupation. At present he was engaged in the most serious
hunt of his career: he was hunting an heiress.

Mrs. Rhodes was his friend, and as his friend she had put him next to
Mrs. Lancaster.

Ordinarily, Mrs. Lancaster would have been extremely pleased to be
placed next the lion of the occasion. But this evening she would have
liked to be near another guest. He was on the other side of the board,
and appeared to be, in the main, enjoying himself, though now and then
his eyes strayed across in her direction, and presently, as he caught
her glance, he lifted his glass and smiled. Her neighbor observed the
act, and putting up his monocle, looked across the table; then glanced
at Mrs. Lancaster, and then looked again at Keith more carefully.

"Who is your friend?" he asked.

Mrs. Lancaster smiled, with a pleasant light in her eyes.

"An old friend of mine, Mr. Keith."

"Ah! Fortunate man. Scotchman?"

"No; an American."

"Oh!--You have known him a long time?"

"Since I was a little girl."

"Oh!--What is he?"

"A gentleman."

"Yes." The Englishman took the trouble again to put up his monocle and
take a fleeting glance across the table. "He looks it," he said. "I
mean, what does he do? Is he a capitalist like--like our host? Or is he
just getting to be a capitalist?"

"I hope he is," replied Mrs. Lancaster, with a twinkle in her eyes that
showed she enjoyed the Englishman's mystification. "He is engaged
in mining."

She gave a rosy picture of the wealth in the region from which Keith
came.

"All your men do something, I believe?" said the gentleman.

"All who are worth anything," assented Mrs. Lancaster.

"No wonder you are a rich people."

Something about his use of the adjective touched her.

"Our people have a sense of duty, too, and as much courage as any
others, only they do not make any to-do about it. I have a friend--a
_gentleman_--who drove a stage-coach through the mountains for a while
rather than do nothing, and who was held up one night and jumped from
the stage on the robber, and chased him down the mountains and
disarmed him."

"Good!" exclaimed the gentleman. "Nervy thing!"

"Rather," said Mrs. Lancaster, with mantling cheeks, stirred by what she
considered a reflection on her people. And that was not all he did. "He
had charge of a mine, and one day the mine was flooded while the men
were at work, and he went in in the darkness and brought the men
out safe."

"Good!" said the gentleman. "But he had others with him? He did not go
alone?"

"He started alone, and two men volunteered to go with him. But he sent
them back with the first group they found, and then, as there were
others, he waded on by himself to where the others were, and brought
them out, bringing on his shoulder the man who had attempted his life."

"Fine!" exclaimed the gentleman. "I've been in some tight places myself;
but I don't know about that. What was his name?"

"Keith."

"Oh!"

Her eyes barely glanced his way; but the Earl of Steepleton saw in them
what he had never been able to bring there.

The Englishman put up his monocle and this time gazed long at Gordon.

"Nervy chap!" he said quietly. "Won't you present me after dinner?"

In his slow mind was dawning an idea that, perhaps, after all, this
quiet American who had driven his way forward had found a baiting-place
which he, with all his titles and long pedigrees, could not enter. His
honest, outspoken admiration had, however, done more to make him a place
in that guarded fortress than all Mrs. Rhodes's praises had effected.

A little later the guests had all departed or scattered. Those who
remained were playing cards and appeared settled for a good while.

"Keith, we are out of it. Let's have a game of billiards," said the
host, who had given his seat to a guest who had just come in after
saying good night on the stair to one of the ladies.

Keith followed him to the billiard-room, a big apartment finished in
oak, with several large tables in it, and he and Rhodes began to play.
The game, however, soon languished, for the two men had much to
talk about.

"Houghton, you may go," said Rhodes to the servant who attended to the
table. "I will ring for you when I want you to shut up."

"Thank you, sir"; and he was gone.

"Now tell me all about everything," said Rhodes. "I want to hear
everything that has happened since I came away--came into exile. I know
about the property and the town that has grown up just as I knew it
would. Tell me about the people--old Squire Rawson and Phrony, and
Wickersham, and Norman and his wife."

Keith told him about them. "Rhodes," he said, as he ended, "you started
it and you ought to have stayed with it. Old Rawson says you foretold
it all."

Suddenly Rhodes flung his cue down on the table and straightened up.
"Keith, this is killing me. Sometimes I think I can't stand it another
day. I've a mind to chuck up the whole business and cut for it."

Keith gazed at him in amazement. The clouded brow, the burning eyes, the
drawn mouth, all told how real that explosion was and from what depths
it came. Keith was quite startled.

"It all seems to me so empty, so unreal, so puerile. I am bored to death
with it. Do you think this is real?" He waved his arms impatiently about
him. "It is all a sham and a fraud. I am nothing--nobody. I am a puppet
on a hired stage, playing to amuse--not myself!--the Lord knows I am
bored enough by it!--but a lot of people who don't care any more about
me than I do about them. I can't stand this. D----n it! I don't want to
make love to any other man's wife any more than I will have any of them
making love to my wife. I think they are beginning to understand that. I
showed a little puppy the front door not long ago--an earl, too, or next
thing to it, an earl's eldest son--for doing what he would no more have
dared to do in an Englishman's house than he would have tried to burn
it. After that, I think, they began to see I might be something. Keith,
do you remember what old Rawson said to us once about marrying?"

Keith had been thinking of it all the evening.

"Keith, I was not born for this; I was born to _do_ something. But for
giving up I might have been like Stevenson or Eads or your man Maury,
whom they are all belittling because he did it all himself instead of
getting others to do it. By George! I hope to live till I build one more
big bridge or run one more long tunnel. Jove! to stand once more up on
the big girders, so high that the trees look small below you, and see
the bridge growing under your eyes where the old croakers had said
nothing would stand!"

Keith's eyes sparkled, and he reached out his hand; and the other
grasped it.

When Keith returned home, he was already in sight of victory.

The money had all been subscribed. His own interest in the venture was
enough to make him rich, and he was to be general superintendent of the
new company, with Matheson as his manager of the mines. All that was
needed now was to complete the details of the transfer of the
properties, perfect his organization, and set to work. This for a time
required his presence more or less continuously in New York, and he
opened an office in one of the office buildings down in the city, and
took an apartment in a pleasant up-town hotel.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Keith returned to New York that Autumn, it was no longer as a young
man with eyes aflame with hope and expectation and face alight with
enthusiasm. The eager recruit had changed to the veteran. He had had
experience of a world where men lived and died for the most sordid of
all rewards--money, mere money.

The fight had left its mark upon him. The mouth had lost something of
the smile that once lurked about its corners, but had gained in
strength. The eyes, always direct and steady, had more depth. The
shoulders had a squarer set, as though they had been braced against
adversity. Experience of life had sobered him.

Sometimes it had come to him that he might be caught by the current and
might drift into the same spirit, but self-examination up to this time
had reassured him. He knew that he had other motives: the trust reposed
in him by his friends, the responsibility laid upon him, the resolve to
justify that confidence, were still there, beside his eager desire
for success.

He called immediately to see Norman. He was surprised to find how much
he had aged in this short time. His hair was sprinkled with gray. He had
lost all his lightness. He was distrait and almost morose.

"You men here work too hard," asserted Keith. "You ought to have run
over to England with me. You'd have learned that men can work and live
too. I spent some of the most profitable time I was over there in a
deer forest, which may have been Burnam-wood, as all the trees had
disappeared-gone somewhere, if not to Dunsinane."

Norman half smiled, but he answered wearily: "I wish I had been anywhere
else than where I was." He turned away while he was speaking and fumbled
among the papers on his desk. Keith rose, and Norman rose also.

"I will send you cards to the clubs. I shall not be in town to-night,
but to-morrow night, or the evening after, suppose you dine with me at
the University. I'll have two or three fellows to meet you--or, perhaps,
we'll dine alone. What do you say? We can talk more freely."

Keith said that this was just what he should prefer, and Norman gave him
a warm handshake and, suddenly seating himself at his desk, dived
quickly into his papers.

Keith came out mystified. There was something he could not understand.
He wondered if the trouble of which he had heard had grown.

Next morning, looking over the financial page of a paper, Keith came on
a paragraph in which Norman's name appeared. He was mentioned as one of
the directors of a company which the paper declared was among those that
had disappointed the expectations of investors. There was nothing very
tangible about the article; but the general tone was critical, and to
Keith's eye unfriendly.

When, the next afternoon, Keith rang the door-bell at Norman's house,
and asked if Mrs. Wentworth was at home, the servant who opened the door
informed him that no one of that name lived there. They used to live
there, but had moved. Mrs. Wentworth lived somewhere on Fifth Avenue
near the Park. It was a large new house near such a street, right-hand
side, second house from the corner.

Keith had a feeling of disappointment. Somehow, he had hoped to hear
something of Lois Huntington.

Keith, having resolved to devote the afternoon to the call on his
friend's wife, and partly in the hope of learning where Lois was, kept
on, and presently found himself in front of a new double house, one of
the largest on the block. Keith felt reassured.

"Well, this does not look as if Wentworth were altogether broke," he
thought.

A strange servant opened the door. Mrs. Wentworth was not at home. The
other lady was in--would the gentleman come in? There was the flutter of
a dress at the top of the stair.

Keith said no. He would call again. The servant looked puzzled, for the
lady at the top of the stair had seen Mr. Keith cross the street and had
just given orders that he should be admitted, as she would see him. Now,
as Keith walked away, Miss Lois Huntington descended the stair.

"Why didn't you let him in, Hucless?" she demanded.

"I told him you were in, Miss; but he said he would not come in."

Miss Huntington turned and walked slowly back up to her room. Her face
was very grave; she was pondering deeply.

A little later Lois Huntington put on her hat and went out.

Lois had not found her position at Mrs. Wentworth's the most agreeable
in the world. Mrs. Wentworth was moody and capricious, and at
times exacting.

She had little idea how often that quiet girl who took her complaints so
calmly was tempted to break her vow of silence, answer her upbraidings,
and return home. But her old friends were dropping away from her. And it
was on this account and for Norman's sake that Lois put up with her
capriciousness. She had promised Norman to stay with her, and she
would do it.

Mrs. Norman's quarrel with Alice Lancaster was a sore trial to Lois.
Many of her friends treated Lois as if she were a sort of upper servant,
with a mingled condescension and hauteur. Lois was rather amused at it,
except when it became too apparent, and then she would show her little
claws, which were sharp enough. But Mrs. Lancaster had always been
sweet to her, and Lois had missed her sadly. She no longer came to Mrs.
Wentworth's. Lois, however, was always urged to come and see her, and an
intimacy had sprung up between the two. Lois, with her freshness, was
like a breath of Spring to the society woman, who was a little jaded
with her experience; and the elder lady, on her part, treated the young
girl with a warmth that was half maternal, half the cordiality of an
elder sister. What part Gordon Keith played in this friendship must be
left to surmise.

It was to Mrs. Lancaster's that Lois now took her way. Her greeting was
a cordial one, and Lois was soon confiding to her her trouble; how she
had met an old friend after many years, and then how a contretemps had
occurred. She told of his writing her, and of her failure to answer his
letters, and how her aunt had refused to allow him to come to Brookford
to see them.

Mrs. Lancaster listened with interest.

"My dear, there was nothing in that. Yes, that was just one of Ferdy's
little lies," she said, in a sort of reverie.

"But it was so wicked in him to tell such falsehoods about a man,"
exclaimed Lois, her color coming and going, her eyes flashing.

Mrs. Lancaster shrugged her shoulders.

"Ferdy does not like Mr. Keith, and he does like you, and he probably
thought to prevent your liking him."

"I detest him."

The telltale color rushed up into her cheeks as Mrs. Lancaster's eyes
rested on her, and as it mounted, those blue eyes grew a little more
searching.

"I can scarcely bear to see him when he comes there," said Lois.

"Has he begun to go there again?" Mrs. Lancaster inquired, in some
surprise.

"Yes; and he pretends that he is coming to see me!" said the girl, with
a flash in her eyes. "You know that is not true?"

"Don't you believe him," said the other, gravely. Her eyes, as they
rested on the girl's face, had a very soft light in them.

"Well, we must make it up," she said presently. "You are going to Mrs.
Wickersham's?" she asked suddenly.

"Yes; Cousin Louise is going and says I must go. Mr. Wickersham will not
be there, you know."

"Yes." She drifted off into a reverie.



CHAPTER XXV

THE DINNER AT MRS. WICKERSHAM'S

Keith quickly discovered that Rumor was busy with Ferdy Wickersham's
name in other places than gilded drawing-rooms. He had been dropped from
the board of more than one big corporation in which he had once had a
potent influence. Knowing men, like Stirling and his club friends, began
to say that they did not see how he had kept up. But up-town he still
held on-held on with a steady eye and stony face that showed a nerve
worthy of a better man. His smile became more constant,--to be sure, It
was belied by his eyes: that cold gleam was not mirth,--but his voice
was as insolent as ever.

Several other rumors soon began to float about. One was that he and Mrs.
Wentworth had fallen out. As to the Cause of this the town was divided.
One story was that the pretty governess at Mrs. Wentworth's was in some
way concerned with it.

However this was, the Wickersham house was mortgaged, and Rumor began to
say even up-town that the Wickersham fortune had melted away.

The news of Keith's success in England had reached home as soon as he
had. His friends congratulated him, and his acquaintances greeted him
with a warmth that, a few years before, would have cheered his heart and
have made him their friend for life. Mrs. Nailor, when she met him,
almost fell on his neck. She actually called him her "dear boy."

"Oh, I have been hearing about you!" she said archly. "You must come
and dine with us at once and tell us all about it."

"About what?" inquired Keith.

"About your great successes on the other side. You see, your friends
keep up with you!"

"They do, indeed, and sometimes get ahead of me," said Keith.

"How would to-morrow suit you? No, not to-morrow--Saturday? No; we are
going out Saturday. Let me see--we are so crowded with engagements I
shall have to go home and look at my book. But you must come very soon.
You have heard the news, of course? Isn't it dreadful?"

"What news?" He knew perfectly what she meant.

"About the Norman-Wentworths getting a divorce? Dreadful, isn't it?
Perfectly dreadful! But, of course, it was to be expected. Any one could
see that all along?"

"I could not," said Keith, dryly; "but I do not claim to be any one."

"Which side are you on? Norman's, I suppose?"

"Neither," said Keith.

"You know, Ferdy always was in love with her?" This with a glance to
obtain Keith's views.

"No; I know nothing about it."

"Yes; always," she nodded oracularly. "Of course, he is making love to
Alice Lancaster, too, and to the new governess at the Wentworths'."

"Who is that?" asked Keith, moved by some sudden instinct to inquire.

"That pretty country cousin of Norman's, whom they brought there to save
appearances when Norman first left. Huntington is her name."

Keith suddenly grew hot.

"Yes, Ferdy is making love to her, too. Why, they say that is what they
have quarrelled about. Louise is insanely jealous, and she is very
pretty. Yes--you know, Ferdy is like some other men? Just gregarious!
Yes? But Louise Wentworth was always his _grande passion_. He is just
amusing himself with the governess, and she, poor little fool, supposes
she has made a conquest. You know how it is?"

"I really know nothing about it," declared Keith, in a flame.

"Yes; and he was always her _grande passion_? Don't you think so?"

"No, I do not," said Keith, firmly. "I know nothing about it; but I
believe she and Norman were devoted,--as devoted a couple as I ever
saw,--and I do not see why people cannot let them alone. I think none
too well of Ferdy Wickersham, but I don't believe a word against her.
She may be silly; but she is a hundred times better than some who
calumniate her."

"Oh, you dear boy! You were always so amiable. It's a pity the world is
not like you; but it is not."

"It is a pity people do not let others alone and attend to their own
affairs," remarked Keith, grimly. "I believe more than half the trouble
is made by the meddlers who go around gossiping."

"Don't they! Why, every one is talking about it. I have not been in a
drawing-room where it is not being discussed."

"I suppose not," said Mr. Keith.

"And, you know, they say Norman Wentworth has lost a lot of money, too.
But, then, he has a large account to fall back on. Alice Lancaster has
a plenty."

"What's that?" Keith's voice had an unpleasant sharpness in it.

"Oh, you know, he is her trustee, and they are great friends. Good-by.
You must come and dine with us sometime--sometime soon, too."

And Mrs. Nailor floated away, and in the first drawing-room she visited
told of Keith's return and of his taking the story of Louise Wentworth
and Ferdy Wickersham very seriously; adding, "And you know, I think he
is a great admirer of Louise himself--a very great admirer. Of course,
he would like to marry Alice Lancaster, just as Ferdy would. They all
want to marry her; but Louise Wentworth is the one that has their
hearts. She knows how to capture them. You keep your eyes open. You
ought to have seen the way he looked when I mentioned Ferdy Wickersham
and her. My dear, a man doesn't look that way unless he feels something
here." She tapped solemnly the spot where she imagined her heart to be,
that dry and desiccated organ that had long ceased to know any
real warmth.

A little time afterwards, Keith, to his great surprise, received an
invitation to dine at Mrs. Wickersham's. He had never before received an
invitation to her house, and when he had met her, she had always been
stiff and repellent toward him. This he had regarded as perfectly
natural; for he and Ferdy had never been friendly, and of late had not
even kept up appearances.

He wondered why he should be invited now. Could it be true, as Stirling
had said, laughing, that now he had the key and would find all doors
open to him?

Keith had not yet written his reply when he called that evening at Mrs.
Lancaster's. She asked him if he had received such an invitation. Keith
said yes, but he did not intend to go. He almost thought it must have
been sent by mistake.

"Oh, no; now come. Ferdy won't be there, and Mrs. Wickersham wants to be
friendly with you. You and Ferdy don't get along; but neither do she and
Ferdy. You know they have fallen out? Poor old thing! She was talking
about it the other day, and she burst out crying. She said he had been
her idol."

"What is the matter?"

"Oh, Ferdy's selfishness."

"He is a brute! Think of a man quarrelling with his mother! Why--!" He
went into a reverie in which his face grew very soft, while Mrs.
Lancaster watched him silently. Presently he started. "I have nothing
against her except a sort of general animosity from boyhood, which I am
sorry to have."

"Oh, well, then, come. As people grow older they outgrow their
animosities and wish to make friends."

"You being so old as to have experienced it?" said Keith.

"I am nearly thirty years old," she said. "Isn't it dreadful?"

"Aurora is much older than that," said Keith.

"Ah, Sir Flatterer, I have a mirror." But her eyes filled with a
pleasant light as Keith said:

"Then it will corroborate what needs no proof."

She knew it was flattery, but she enjoyed it and dimpled.

"Now, you will come? I want you to come." She looked at him with a soft
glow in her face.

"Yes. On your invitation."

"Alice Lancaster, place one good deed to thy account: 'Blessed are the
peacemakers,'" said Mrs. Lancaster.

When Keith arrived at Mrs. Wickersham's he found the company assembled
in her great drawing-room--the usual sort to be found in great
drawing-rooms of large new chateau-like mansions in a great and
commercial city.

"Mr. Keats!" called out the prim servant. They always took this poetical
view of his name.

Mrs. Wickersham greeted him civilly and solemnly. She had aged much
since Keith saw her last, and had also grown quite deaf. Her face showed
traces of the desperate struggle she was making to keep up appearances.
It was apparent that she had not the least idea who he was; but she
shook hands with him much as she might have done at a funeral had he
called to pay his respects. Among the late arrivals was Mrs. Wentworth.
She was the richest-dressed woman in the room, and her jewels were the
finest, but she had an expression on her face, as she entered, which
Keith had never seen there. Her head was high, and there was an air of
defiance about her which challenged the eye at once.

"I don't think I shall speak to her," said a voice near Keith.

"Well, I have known her all my life, and until it becomes a public
scandal I don't feel authorized to cut her--"

The speaker was Mrs. Nailor, who was in her most charitable mood.

"Oh, of course, I shall speak to her here, but I mean--I certainly shall
not visit her."

"You know she has quarrelled with her friend, Mrs. Lancaster? About her
husband." This was behind her fan.

"Oh, yes. She is to be here to-night. Quite brazen, isn't it? We shall
see how they meet. I met a remarkably pretty girl down in the
dressing-room," she continued; "one of the guests. She has such pretty
manners, too. Really, I thought, from her politeness to me in arranging
my dress, she must be one of the maids until Mrs. Wentworth spoke to
her. Young girls nowadays are so rude! They take up the mirror the whole
time, and never think of letting you see yourself. I wonder who she
can be?"

"Possibly Mrs. Wentworth's companion. I think she is here. She has to
have some one to do the proprieties, you know?" said Mrs. Nailor.

"I should think it might be as well," assented the other, with a sniff.
"But she would hardly be here!"

"She is really her governess, a very ill-bred and rude young person,"
said Mrs. Nailor.

The other sighed.

"Society is getting so democratic now, one might say, so mixed, that
there is no telling whom one may meet nowadays."

"No, indeed," pursued Mrs. Nailor. "I do not at all approve of
governesses and such persons being invited out. I think the English way
much the better. There the governess never dreams of coming to the table
except to luncheon, and her friends are the housekeeper and the butler."

Keith, wearied of the banalities at his ear, crossed over to where Mrs.
Wentworth stood a little apart from the other ladies. One or two men
were talking to her. She was evidently pleased to see him. She talked
volubly, and with just that pitch in her voice that betrays a subcurrent
of excitement.

From time to time she glanced about her, appearing to Keith to search
the faces of the other women. Keith wondered if it were a fancy of his
that they were holding a little aloof from her. Presently Mrs. Nailor
came up and spoke to her.

Keith backed away a little, and found himself mixed up with the train of
a lady behind him, a dainty thing of white muslin.

He apologized in some confusion, and turning, found himself looking into
Lois Huntington's eyes. For a bare moment he was in a sort of maze. Then
the expression in her face dispelled it. She held out her hand, and he
clasped it; and before he had withdrawn his eyes from hers, he knew that
his peace was made, and Mrs. Wickersham's drawing-room had become
another place. This, then, was what Alice Lancaster meant when she spoke
of the peacemakers.

"It does not in the least matter about the dress, I assure you," she
said in reply to his apology. "My dressmaker, Lois Huntington, can
repair it so that you will not know it has been torn. It was only a ruse
of mine to attract your attention." She was trying to speak lightly. "I
thought you were not going to speak to me at all. It seems to be a way
you have of treating your old friends--your oldest friends,"
she laughed.

"Oh, the insolence of youth!" said Keith, wishing to keep away from a
serious subject. "Let us settle this question of age here and now. I say
you are seven years old."

"You are a Bourbon," she said; "you neither forget nor learn. Look at
me. How old do I look?"

"Seven--"

"No. Look."

"I am looking-would I were Argus! You look like--perpetual Youth."

And she did. She was dressed in pure white. Her dark eyes were soft and
gentle, yet with mischief lurking in them, and her straight brows,
almost black, added to their lustre. Her dark hair was brushed back from
her white forehead, and as she turned, Keith noted again, as he had done
the first time he met her, the fine profile and the beautiful lines of
her round throat, with the curves below it, as white as snow. "Perpetual
Youth," he murmured.

"And do you know what you are?" she challenged him.

"Yes; Age."

"No. Flattery. But I am proof. I have learned that men are deceivers
ever. You positively refused to see me when I had left word with the
servant that I would see you if you called." She gave him a swift little
glance to see how he took her charge.

"I did nothing of the kind. I will admit that I should know where you
are by instinct, as Sir John knew the Prince; but I did not expect you
to insist on my doing so. How was I to know you were in the city?"

"The servant told you."

"The servant told me?"

As Keith's brow puckered in the effort to unravel the mystery, she
nodded.

"Um-hum--I heard him. I was at the head of the stair."

Keith tapped his head.

"It's old age--sheer senility."

"'No; I don't want to see the other lady,'" she said, mimicking him so
exactly that he opened his eyes wide.

"I am staying at Mrs. Wentworth's--Cousin Norman's," she continued, with
a little change of expression and the least little lift of her head.

Keith's expression, perhaps, changed slightly, too, for she added
quietly: "Cousin Louise had to have some one with her, and I am teaching
the children. I am the governess."

"I have always said that children nowadays have all the best things,"
said Keith, desirous to get off delicate ground. "You know, some one has
said he never ate a ripe peach in his life: when he was a boy the
grown-ups had them, and since he grew up the children have them all."

She laughed.

"I am very severe, I assure you."

"You look it. I should think you might be Herod himself."

She smiled, and then the smile died out, and she glanced around her.

"I owe you an apology," she said in a lowered voice.

"For what?"

"For--mis--for not answering your letters. But I mis--I don't know how
to say what I wish. Won't you accept it without an explanation?" She
held out her hand and gave him the least little flitting glance
of appeal.

"I will," said Keith. "With all my heart."

"Thank you. I have been very unhappy about it." She breathed a little
sigh of relief, which Keith caught.

Mrs. Lancaster did not arrive until all the other guests had been there
a little while. But when she entered she had never looked handsomer. As
soon as she had greeted her hostess, her eyes swept around the room, and
in their circuit rested for a moment on Keith, who was talking to Lois.
She gave them a charming smile. The next moment, however, her eyes stole
that way again, and this time they bore a graver expression. The
admiration that filled the younger girl's eyes was unbounded and
unfeigned.

"Don't you think she is the handsomest woman in the room?" she asked,
with a nod toward Mrs. Lancaster.

Keith was suddenly conscious that he did not wish to commit himself to
such praise. She was certainly very handsome, he admitted, but there
were others who would pass muster, too, in a beauty show.

"Oh, but I know you must think so; every one says you do," Lois urged,
with a swift glance up at him, which, somehow, Keith would have liked
to avoid.

"Then, I suppose it must be so; for every one knows my innermost
thoughts. But I think she was more beautiful when she was younger. I do
not know what it is; but there is something in Society that, after a few
years, takes away the bloom of ingenuousness and puts in its place just
the least little shade of unreality."

"I know what you mean; but she is so beautiful that one would never
notice it. What a power such beauty is! I should be afraid of it." Lois
was speaking almost to herself, and Keith, as she was deeply absorbed in
observing Mrs. Lancaster, gazed at her with renewed interest.

"I'd so much rather be loved for myself'," the girl went on earnestly.
"I think it is one of the compensations that those who want such
beauty have-"

"Well, it is one of the things which you must always hold merely as a
conjecture, for you can never know by experience."

She glanced up at him with a smile, half pleased, half reproving.

"Do you think I am the sort that likes flattery? I believe you think we
are all silly. I thought you were too good a friend of mine to attempt
that line with me."

Keith declared that all women loved flattery, but protested, of course,
that he was not flattering her.

"Why should I?" he laughed.

"Oh, just because you think it will please me, and because it is so
easy. It is so much less trouble. It takes less intellect, and you don't
think I am worth spending intellect on."

This Keith stoutly denied.

She gave him a fleeting glance out of her brown eyes. "She, however, is
as good as she is handsome," she said, returning to Mrs. Lancaster.

"Yes; she is one of those who 'do good by stealth, and blush to find it
fame.'"

"There are not a great many like that around here," Lois smiled. "Here
comes one now?" she added, as Mrs. Nailor moved up to them. She was "so
glad" to see Miss Huntington out. "You must like your Winter in New
York?" she said, smiling softly. "You have such opportunities for seeing
interesting people-like Mr. Keith, here?" She turned her eyes on Keith.

"Oh, yes. I do. I see so many entertaining people," said Lois,
innocently.

"They are very kind to you?" purred the elder lady.

"Most condescending." Lois turned her eyes toward Keith with a little
sparkle in them; but as she read his appreciation a smile stole
into them.

Dinner was solemnly announced, and the couples swept out in that stately
manner appropriate to solemn occasions, such as marriages, funerals, and
fashionable dinners.

"Do you know your place?" asked Keith of Lois, to whom he had been
assigned.

"Don't I? A governess and not know her place! You must help me through."

"Through what?"

"The dinner. You do not understand what a tremendous responsibility you
have. This is my first dinner."

"I always said dinners were a part of the curse," said Keith, lightly,
smiling down at her fresh face with sheer content. "I shall confine
myself hereafter to breakfast and lunch-except when I receive
invitations to Mrs. Wickersham's." he added.

Mrs. Lancaster was on the other side of Keith; so he found the dinner
much pleasanter than he had expected. She soon fell to talking of Lois,
a subject which Keith found very agreeable.

"You know, she is staying with Louise Wentworth? Louise had to have some
one to stay with her, so she got her to come and teach the children this
Winter. Louise says she is trying to make something of her."

"From my slight observation, it seems to me as if the Creator has been
rather successful in that direction already. How does she propose to
help Him out?"

Mrs. Lancaster bent forward and took a good look at the girl, who at the
moment was carrying on an animated conversation with Stirling. Her color
was coming and going, her eyes were sparkling, and her cheek was
dimpling with fun.

"She looks as if she came out of a country garden, doesn't she?" she
said.

"Yes, because she has, and has not yet been wired to a stick."

Mrs. Lancaster's eyes grew graver at Keith's speech. Just then the
conversation became more general. Some one told a story of a man
travelling with his wife and meeting a former wife, and forgetting which
one he then had.

"Oh, that reminds me of a story I heard the other day. It was awfully
good-but just a little wicked," exclaimed Mrs. Nailor.

Keith's smile died out, and there was something very like a cloud
lowering on his brow. Several others appeared surprised, and Mr. Nailor,
a small bald-headed man, said across the table: "Hally, don't you tell
that story." But Mrs. Nailor was not to be controlled.

"Oh, I must tell it! It is not going to hurt any of you. Let me see if
there is any one here very young and innocent?" She glanced about the
table. "Oh, yes; there is little Miss Huntington. Miss Huntington, you
can stop your ears while I tell it."

"Thank you," said Lois, placidly. She leaned a little forward and put
her fingers in her ears.

A sort of gasp went around the table, and then a shout of laughter, led
by Stirling. Mrs. Nailor joined in it, but her face was red and her eyes
were angry. Mrs. Wentworth looked annoyed.

"Good," said Mrs. Lancaster, in an undertone.

"Divine," said Keith, his eyes snapping with satisfaction.

"It was not so bad as that," said Mrs. Nailor, her face very red. "Miss
Huntington, you can take your hands down now; I sha'n't tell it."

"Thank you," said Lois, and sat quietly back in her chair, with her face
as placid as a child's.

Mrs. Nailor suddenly changed the conversation to Art. She was looking at
a painting on the wall behind Keith, and after inspecting it a moment
through her lorgnon, turned toward the head of the table.

"Where did you get that picture, Mrs. Wickersham? Have I ever seen it
before?"

The hostess's gaze followed hers.

"That? Oh, we have had it ever so long. It is a portrait of an ancestor
of mine. It belonged to a relative, a distant relative--another branch,
you know, in whose family it came down, though we had even more right to
it, as we were an older branch," she said, gaining courage as she
went on.

Mrs. Lancaster turned and inspected the picture.

"I, too, almost seem to have seen it before," she said presently, in a
reflective way.

"My dear, you have not seen it before," declared the hostess,
positively. "Although we have had it for a good while, it was at our
place in the country. Brush, the picture-dealer, says it is one of the
finest 'old masters' in New York, quite in the best style of Sir
Peter--What's his name?"

"Then I have seen some one so like it--? Who can it be?" said Mrs.
Lancaster, her mind still working along the lines of reminiscence.

Nearly every one was looking now.

"Why, I know who it is!" said Lois Huntington, who had turned to look at
it, to Mrs. Lancaster. "It is Mr. Keith." Her clear voice was heard
distinctly.

"Of course, it is," said Mrs. Lancaster. Others agreed with her.

Keith, too, had turned and looked over his shoulder at the picture
behind him, and for a moment he seemed in a dream. His father was
gazing down at him out of the frame. The next moment he came to himself.
It was the man-in-armor that used to hang in the library at Elphinstone.
As he turned back, he glanced at Mrs. Lancaster, and her eyes gazed into
his. The next moment he addressed Mrs. Wickersham and started a new
subject of conversation.

"That is it," said Mrs. Lancaster to herself. Then turning to her
hostess, she said: "No, I never saw it before; I was mistaken."

But Lois knew that she herself had seen it before, and remembered where
it was.

Mrs. Wickersham looked extremely uncomfortable, but Keith's calm
courtesy set her at ease again.

When the gentlemen, after their cigars, followed the ladies into the
drawing-room, Keith found Mrs. Lancaster and Lois sitting together, a
little apart from the others, talking earnestly. He walked over and
joined them.

They had been talking of the incident of the picture, but stopped as he
came up.

"Now, Lois," said Mrs. Lancaster, gayly, "I have known Mr. Keith a long
time, and I give you one standing piece of advice. Don't believe one
word that he tells you; for he is the most insidious flatterer
that lives."

"On the contrary," said Keith, bowing and speaking gravely to the
younger girl, "I assure you that you may believe implicitly every word
that I tell you. I promise you in the beginning that I shall never tell
you anything but the truth as long as I live. It shall be my claim upon
your friendship."

"Thank you," said Lois, lifting her eyes to his face. Her color had
deepened a little at his earnest manner. "I love a palpable truth."

"You do not get it often in Society," said Mrs. Lancaster.

"I promise you that you shall always have it from me," said Keith.

"Thank you," she said again, quite earnestly, looking him calmly in the
eyes. "Then we shall always be friends."

"Always."

Just then Stirling came up and with a very flattering speech asked Miss
Huntington to sing.

"I hear you sing like a seraph," he declared.

"I thought they always cried," she said, smiling; then, with a
half-frightened look across toward her cousin, she sobered and declared
that she could not.

"I have been meaning to have her take lessons," said Mrs. Wentworth,
condescendingly, from her seat near by; "but I have not had time to
attend to it. She will sing very well when she takes lessons." She
resumed her conversation. Stirling was still pressing Miss Huntington,
and she was still excusing herself; declaring that she had no one to
play her accompaniments.

"Please help me," she said in an undertone to Keith. "I used to play
them myself, but Cousin Louise said I must not do that; that I must
always stand up to sing."

"Nonsense," said Keith. "You sha'n't sing if you do not wish to do so;
but let me tell you: there is a deed of record in my State conveying a
tract of land to a girl from an old gentleman on the expressed
consideration that she had sung 'Annie Laurie' for him when he asked her
to do it, without being begged."

She looked at him as if she had not heard, and then glanced at her
cousin.

"Either sing or don't sing, my dear," said Mrs. Wentworth, with a slight
frown. "You are keeping every one waiting."

Keith glanced over at her, and was about to say to Lois, "Don't sing";
but he was too late. Folding her hands before her, and without moving
from where she stood near the wall, she began to sing "Annie Laurie."
She had a lovely voice, and she sang as simply and unaffectedly as if
she had been singing in her own room for her own pleasure.

When she got through, there was a round of applause throughout the
company. Even Mrs. Wentworth joined in it; but she came over and said:

"That was well done; but next time, my dear, let some one play your
accompaniment."

"Next time, don't you do any such thing," said Keith, stoutly. "You can
never sing it so well again if you do. Please accept this from a man who
would rather have heard you sing that song that way than have heard
Albani sing in 'Lohengrin.'" He took the rosebud out of his buttonhole
and gave it to her, looking her straight in the eyes.

"Is this the truth?" she asked, with her gaze quite steady on his face.

"The palpable truth," he said.



CHAPTER XXVI

A MISUNDERSTANDING

Miss Lois Huntington, as she sank back in the corner of her cousin's
carriage, on their way home, was far away from the rattling New York
street. Mrs. Wentworth's occasional recurrence to the unfortunate
incidents of stopping her ears and of singing the song without an
accompaniment did not ruffle her. She knew she had pleased one man--the
one she at that moment would rather have pleased than all the rest of
New York. Her heart was eased of a load that had made it heavy for many
a day. They were once more friends. Mrs. Wentworth's chiding sounded as
if it were far away on some alien shore, while Lois floated serenely on
a tide that appeared to begin away back in her childhood, and was
bearing her gently, still gently, she knew not whither. If she tried to
look forward she was lost in a mist that hung like a soft haze over the
horizon. Might there be a haven yonder in that rosy distance? Or were
those still the billows of the wide and trackless sea? She did not know
or care. She would drift and meantime think of him, the old friend who
had turned the evening for her into a real delight. Was he in love with
Mrs. Lancaster? she wondered. Every one said he was, and it would not be
unnatural if he were. It was on her account he had gone to Mrs.
Wickersham's. She undoubtedly liked him. Many men were after her. If Mr.
Keith was trying to marry her, as every one said, he must be in love
with her. He would never marry any one whom he did not love. If he were
in love with Mrs. Lancaster, would she marry him? Her belief was that
she would.

At the thought she for one moment had a pang of envy.

Her reverie was broken in on by Mrs. Wentworth.

"Why are you so pensive? You have not said a word since we started."

"Why, I do not know. I was just thinking. You know, such a dinner is
quite an episode with me."

"Did you have a pleasant time? Was Mr. Keith agreeable? I was glad to
see you had him; for he is a very agreeable man when he chooses, but
quite moody, and you never know what he is going to say."

"I think that is one of his--of his charms--that you don't know what he
is going to say. I get so tired of talking to people who say just what
you know they are going to say--just what some one else has just said
and what some one else will say to-morrow. It is like reading an
advertisement."

"Lois, you must not be so unconventional," said Mrs. Wentworth. "I must
beg you not to repeat such a thing as your performance this evening. I
don't like it."

"Very well, Cousin Louise, I will not," said the girl, a little stiffly.
"I shall recognize your wishes; but I must tell you that I do not agree
with you. I hate conventionality. We all get machine-made. I see not the
least objection to what I did, except your wishes, of course, and
neither did Mr. Keith."

"Well, while you are with me, you must conform to my wishes. Mr. Keith
is not responsible for you. Mr. Keith is like other men--ready to
flatter a young and unsophisticated girl."

"No; Mr. Keith is not like other men. He does not have to wait and see
what others think and say before he forms an opinion. I am so tired of
hearing people say what they think others think. Even Mr. Rimmon, at
church, says what he thinks his congregation likes--just as when he
meets them he flatters them and tells them what dear ladies they are,
and how well they look, and how good their wine is. Why can't people
think for themselves?"

"Well, on my word, Lois, you appear to be thinking for yourself! And you
also appear to think very highly of Mr. Keith," said Mrs. Wentworth.

"I do. I have known Mr. Keith all my life," said the girl, gravely. "He
is associated in my mind with all that I loved."

"There, I did not mean to call up sorrowful thoughts," said Mrs.
Wentworth. "I wanted you to have a good time."

Next day Mr. Keith gave himself the pleasure of calling promptly at Mrs.
Norman's. He remembered the time when he had waited a day or two before
calling on Miss Huntington and had found her gone, with its train of
misunderstandings. So he had no intention of repeating the error. In
Love as in War, Success attends Celerity.

Miss Huntington was not at home, the servant said in answer to Keith's
inquiries for the ladies; she had taken the children out to see Madam
Wentworth. But Mrs. Wentworth would see Mr. Keith.

Mrs. Wentworth was more than usually cordial. She was undoubtedly more
nervous than she used to be. She soon spoke of Norman, and for a moment
grew quite excited.

"I know what people say about me," she exclaimed. "I know they say I
ought to have borne everything and have gone on smiling and pretending I
was happy even when I had the proof that he was--was--that he no longer
cared for me, or for my--my happiness. But I could not--I was not
constituted so. And if I have refused to submit to it I had
good reason."

"Mrs. Wentworth," said Keith, "will you please tell me what you are
talking about?"

"You will hear about it soon enough," she said, with a bitter laugh.
"All you have to do is to call on Mrs. Nailor or Mrs. Any-one-else for
five minutes."

"If I hear what I understand you to believe, that Norman cares for some
one else, I shall not believe it."

She laughed bitterly.

"Oh, you and Norman always swore by each other. I guess that you are no
better than other men."

"We are, at least, better than some other men," said Keith, "and Norman
is better than most other men."

She simply shrugged her shoulders and drifted into a reverie. It was
evidently not a pleasant one.

Keith rose to go. And a half-hour later he quite casually called at old
Mrs. Wentworth's, where he found the children having a romp. Miss
Huntington looked as sweet as a rose, and Keith thought, or at least
hoped, she was pleased to see him.

Keith promptly availed himself of Mrs. Wentworth's permission, and was
soon calling every day or two at her house, and even on those days when
he did not call he found himself sauntering up the avenue or in the
Park, watching for the slim, straight, trim little figure he now knew so
well. He was not in love with Lois. He said this to himself quite
positively. He only admired her, and had a feeling of protection and
warm friendship for a young and fatherless girl who had once had every
promise of a life of ease and joy, and was by the hap of ill fortune
thrown out on the cold world and into a relation of dependence. He had
about given up any idea of falling in love. Love, such as he had once
known it, was not for him. Love for love's sake--love that created a new
world and peopled it with one woman--was over for him. At least, so
he said.

And when he had reasoned thus, he would find himself hurrying along the
avenue or in the Park, straining his eyes to see if he could distinguish
her among the crowd of walkers and loungers that thronged the sidewalk
or the foot-path a quarter of a mile away. And if he could not, he was
conscious of disappointment; and if he did distinguish her, his heart
would give a bound, and he would go racing along till he was at
her side.

Oftenest, though, he visited her at Mrs. Wentworth's, where he could
talk to her without the continual interruption of the children's busy
tongues, and could get her to sing those old-fashioned songs that,
somehow, sounded to him sweeter than all the music in the world.

In fact, he went there so often to visit her that he began to neglect
his other friends. Even Norman he did not see as much of as formerly.

Once, when he was praising her voice to Mrs. Wentworth, she said to him:
"Yes, I think she would do well in concert. I am urging her to prepare
herself for that; not at present, of course, for I need her just now
with the children; but in a year or two the boys will go to school and
the two girls will require a good French governess, or I may take them
to France. Then I shall advise her to try concert. Of course, Miss
Brooke cannot take care of her always. Besides, she is too independent
to allow her to do it."

Keith was angry in a moment. He had never liked Mrs. Wentworth so
little. "I shall advise her to do nothing of the kind," he said firmly.
"Miss Huntington is a lady, and to have her patronized and treated as an
inferior by a lot of _nouveaux riches_ is more than I could stand."

"I see no chance of her marrying," said Mrs. Wentworth. "She has not a
cent, and you know men don't marry penniless girls these days."

"Oh, they do if they fall in love. There are a great many men in the
world and even in New York, besides the small tuft-hunting, money-loving
parasites that one meets at the so-called swell houses. If those you and
I know were all, New York would be a very insignificant place. The
brains and the character and the heart; the makers and leaders, are not
found at the dinners and balls we are honored with invitations to by
Mrs. Nailor and her like. Alice Lancaster was saying the other day--"

Mrs. Wentworth froze up.

"Alice Lancaster!" Her eyes flashed. "Do not quote her to me!" Her lips
choked with the words.

"She is a friend of yours, and a good friend of yours," declared Keith,
boldly.

"I do not want such friends as that," she said, flaming suddenly. "Who
do you suppose has come between my husband and me?"

"Not Mrs. Lancaster."

"Yes."

"No," said Keith, firmly; "you wrong them both. You have been misled."

She rose and walked up and down the room in an excitement like that of
an angry lioness.

"You are the only friend that would say that to me."

"Then I am a better friend than others." He went on to defend Mrs.
Lancaster warmly.

When Keith left he wondered if that outburst meant that she still loved
Norman.

It is not to be supposed that Mr. Keith's visits to the house of Mrs.
Wentworth had gone unobserved or unchronicled. That portion of the set
that knew Mrs. Wentworth best, which is most given to the discussion of
such important questions as who visits whom too often, and who has
stopped visiting whom altogether, with the reasons therefor, was soon
busy over Keith's visits.

They were referred to in the society column of a certain journal
recently started, known by some as "The Scandal-monger's Own," and some
kind friend was considerate enough to send Norman Wentworth a
marked copy.

Some suggested timidly that they had heard that Mr. Keith's visits were
due to his opinion of the governess; but they were immediately
suppressed.

Mrs. Nailor expressed the more general opinion when she declared that
even a debutante would know that men like Ferdy Wickersham and Mr. Keith
did not fall in love with unknown governesses. That sort of thing would
do to put in books; but it did not happen in real life. They might
visit them, but--! After which she proceeded to say as many ill-natured
things about Miss Lois as she could think of; for the story of Lois's
stopping her ears had also gotten abroad.

Meantime, Keith pursued his way, happily ignorant of the motives
attributed to him by some of those who smiled on him and invited him to
their teas. A half-hour with Lois Huntington was reward enough to him
for much waiting. To see her eyes brighten and to hear her voice grow
softer and more musical as she spoke his name; to feel that she was in
sympathy with him, that she understood him without explanation, that she
was interested in his work: these were the rewards which lit up life for
him and sent him to his rooms cheered and refreshed. He knew that she
had no idea of taking him otherwise than as a friend. She looked on him
almost as a contemporary of her father. But life was growing very sweet
for him again.

It was not long before the truth was presented to him.

One of his club friends rallied him on his frequent visits in a certain
quarter and the conquest which they portended. Keith flushed warmly. He
had that moment been thinking of Lois Huntington. He had just been to
see her, and her voice was still in his ears; so, though he thought it
unusual in Tom Trimmer to refer to the matter, it was not unnatural. He
attempted to turn the subject lightly by pretending to misunderstand
him.

"I mean, I hear you have cut Wickersham out. Ferdy thought he had a
little corner there."

Again Keith reddened. He, too, had sometimes thought that Ferdy was
beginning to be attentive to Lois Huntington. Others manifestly
thought so too.

"I don't know that I understand you," he said.

"Don't you?" laughed the other. "Haven't you seen the papers lately?"

Keith chilled instantly.

"Norman Wentworth is my friend," he said quietly.

"So they say is Mrs. Norm--" began Mr. Trimmer, with a laugh.

Before he had quite pronounced the name, Keith leaned forward, his eyes
levelled right into the other's.

"Don't say that, Trimmer. I want to be friends with you," he said
earnestly. "Don't you ever couple my name with that lady's. Her husband
is my friend, and any man that says I am paying her any attention other
than such as her husband would have me pay her says what is false."

"I know nothing about that," said Tom, half surlily. "I am only giving
what others say."

"Well, don't you even do that." He rose to his feet, and stood very
straight. "Do me the favor to say to any one you may hear intimate such
a lie that I will hold any man responsible who says it."

"Jove!" said Mr. Trimmer, afterwards, to his friend Minturn, "must be
some fire there. He was as hot as pepper in a minute. Wanted to fight
any one who mentioned the matter. He'll have his hands full if he fights
all who are talking about him and Ferdy's old flame. I heard half a
roomful buzzing about it at Mrs. Nailor's. But it was none of my affair.
If he wants to fight about another man's wife, let him. It's not the
best way to stop the scandal."

"You know, I think Ferdy is a little relieved to get out of that," added
Mr. Minturn. "Ferdy wants money, and big money. He can't expect to get
money there. They say the chief cause of the trouble was Wentworth would
not put up money enough for her. He has got his eye on the
Lancaster-Yorke combine, and he is all devotion to the widow now."

"She won't look at him. She has too much sense. Besides, she likes
Keith," said Stirling.

As Mr. Trimmer and his friend said, if Keith expected to silence all the
tongues that were clacking with his name and affairs, he was likely to
be disappointed. There are some people to whose minds the distribution
of scandal is as great a delight as the sweetest morsel is to the
tongue. Besides, there was one person who had a reason for spreading the
report. Ferdy Wickersham had returned and was doing his best to give it
circulation.

Norman Wentworth received in his mail, one morning, a thin letter over
which a frown clouded his brow. The address was in a backhand. He had
received a letter in the same handwriting not long previously--an
anonymous letter. It related to his wife and to one whom he had held in
high esteem. He had torn it up furiously in little bits, and had dashed
them into the waste-basket as he had dashed the matter from his mind. He
was near tearing this letter up without reading it; but after a moment
he opened the envelope. A society notice in a paper the day before had
contained the name of his wife and that of Mr. Gordon Keith, and this
was not the only time he had seen the two names together. As his eye
glanced over the single page of disguised writing, a deeper frown grew
on his brow. It was only a few lines; but it contained a barbed arrow
that struck and rankled:

     "When the cat's away
     The mice will play.
     If you have cut your wisdom-teeth,
     You'll know your mouse. His name is ----"

It was signed, "_A True Friend_."

Norman crushed the paper in his band, in a rage for having read it. But
it was too late. He could not banish it from his mind: so many things
tallied with it. He had heard that Keith was there a great deal. Why had
he ceased speaking of it of late?

When Keith next met Norman there was a change in the latter. He was cold
and almost morose; answered Keith absently, and after a little while
rose and left him rather curtly.

When this had occurred once or twice Keith determined to see Norman and
have a full explanation. Accordingly, one day he went to his office.
Mr. Wentworth was out, but Keith said he would wait for him in his
private office.

On the table lay a newspaper. Keith picked it up to glance over it. His
eye fell on a marked passage. It was a notice of a dinner to which he
had been a few evenings before. Mrs. Wentworth's name was marked with a
blue pencil, and a line or two below it was his own name
similarly marked.

Keith felt the hot blood surge into his face, then a grip came about his
throat. Could this be the cause? Could this be the reason for Norman's
curtness? Could Norman have this opinion of him? After all these years!

He rose and walked from the office and out into the street. It was a
blow such as he had not had in years. The friendship of a lifetime
seemed to have toppled down in a moment.

Keith walked home in deep reflection. That Norman could treat him so was
impossible except on one theory: that he believed the story which
concerned him and Mrs. Wentworth. That he could believe such a story
seemed absolutely impossible. He passed through every phase of regret,
wounded pride, and anger. Then it came to him clearly enough that if
Norman were laboring under any such hallucination it was his duty to
dispel it. He should go to him and clear his mind. The next morning he
went again to Norman's office. To his sorrow, he learned that he had
left town the evening before for the West to see about some business
matters. He would be gone some days. Keith determined to see him as soon
as he returned.

Keith had little difficulty in assigning the scandalous story to its
true source, though he did Ferdy Wickersham an injustice in laying the
whole blame on him.

Meantime, Keith determined that he would not go to Mrs. Wentworth's
again until after he had seen Norman, even though it deprived him of the
chance of seeing Lois. It was easier to him, as he was very busy now
pushing through the final steps of his deal with the English syndicate.
This he was the more zealous in as his last visit South had shown him
that old Mr. Rawson was beginning to fail.

"I am just livin' now to hear about Phrony," said the old man, "--and to
settle with that man," he added, his deep eyes burning under his
shaggy brows.

Keith had little idea that the old man would ever live to hear of her
again, and he had told him so as gently as he could.

"Then I shall kill him," said the old man, quietly.

Keith was in his office one morning when his attention was arrested by a
heavy step outside his door. It had something familiar in it. Then he
heard his name spoken in a loud voice. Some one was asking for him, and
the next moment the door opened and Squire Rawson stood on the
threshold. He looked worn; but his face was serene. Keith's intuition
told him why he had come; and the old man did not leave it in any doubt.
His greeting was brief.

He had gotten to New York only that morning, and had already been to
Wickersham's office; but the office was shut.

"I have come to find her," he said, "and I'll find her, or I'll drag him
through this town by his neck." He took out a pistol and laid it by him
on the table.

Keith was aghast. He knew the old man's resolution. His face showed that
he was not to be moved from it. Keith began to argue with him. They did
not do things that way in New York, he said. The police would arrest
him. Or if he should shoot a man he would be tried, and it would go hard
with him. He had better give up his pistol. "Let me keep it for you,"
he urged.

The old man took up the pistol and felt for his pocket.

"I'll find her or I'll kill him," he said stolidly. "I have come to do
one or the other. If I do that, I don't much keer what they do with me.
But I reckon some of 'em would take the side of a woman what's been
treated so. Well, I'll go on an' wait for him. How do you find this here
place?" He took out a piece of paper and, carefully adjusting his
spectacles, read a number. It was the number of Wickersham's office.

Keith began to argue again; but the other's face was set like a rock. He
simply put up his pistol carefully. "I'll kill him if I don't find her.
Well, I reckon somebody will show me the way. Good day." He went out.

The moment his footsteps had died away, Keith seized his hat and dashed
out.

The bulky figure was going slowly down the street, and Keith saw him
stop a man and show him his bit of paper. Keith crossed the street and
hurried on ahead of him. Wickersham's office was only a few blocks away,
and a minute later Keith rushed into the front office. The clerks hooked
up in surprise at his haste. Keith demanded of one of them if Mr.
Wickersham was in. The clerk addressed turned and looked at another man
nearer the door of the private office, who shook his head warningly. No,
Mr. Wickersham was not in.

Keith, however, had seen the signal, and he walked boldly up to the door
of the private office.

"Mr. Wickersham is in, but he is engaged," said the man, rising hastily.

"I must see him immediately," said Keith, and opening the door, walked
straight in.

Wickersham was sitting at his desk poring over a ledger, and at the
sudden entrance he looked up, startled. When he saw who it was he sprang
to his feet, his face changing slightly. Just then one of the clerks
followed Keith.

As Keith, however, spoke quietly, Wickersham's expression changed, and
the next second he had recovered his composure and with it his
insolence.

"To what do I owe the honor of this unexpected visit?" he demanded, with
a curl of his lip.

Keith gave a little wave of his arm, as if he would sweep away his
insolence.

"I have come to warn you that old Adam Rawson is in town hunting you."

Wickersham's self-contained face paled suddenly, and he stepped a little
back. Then his eye fell on the clerk, who stood just inside the door.
"What do you want?" he demanded angrily. "---- you! can't you keep out
when a gentleman wants to see me on private business?"

The clerk hastily withdrew.

"What does he want?" he asked of Keith, with a dry voice.

"He is hunting for you. He wants to find his granddaughter, and he is
coming after you."

"What the ---- do I know about his granddaughter!" cried Wickersham.

"That is for you to say. He swears that he will kill you unless you
produce her. He is on his way here now, and I have hurried ahead to
warn you."

Wickersham's face, already pale, grew as white as death, for he read
conviction in Keith's tone. With an oath he turned to a bell and
rang it.

"Ring for a cab for me at once," he said to the clerk who appeared.
"Have it at my side entrance."

As Keith passed out he heard him say to the clerk:

"Tell any one who calls I have left town. I won't see a soul."

A little later an old man entered Wickersham & Company's office and
demanded to see F.C. Wickersham.

There was a flurry among the men there, for they all knew that something
unusual had occurred; and there was that about the massive, grim old
man, with his fierce eyes, that demanded attention.

On learning that Wickersham was not in, he said he would wait for him
and started to take a seat.

There was a whispered colloquy between two clerks, and then one of them
told him that Mr. Wickersham was not in the city. He had been called
away from town the day before, and would be gone for a month or two.
Would the visitor leave his name?

"Tell him Adam Rawson has been to see him, and that he will come
again." He paused a moment, then said slowly: "Tell him I'm huntin' for
him and I'm goin' to stay here till I find him."

He walked slowly out, followed by the eyes of every man in the office.

The squire spent his time between watching for Wickersham and hunting
for his granddaughter. He would roam about the streets and inquire for
her of policemen and strangers, quite as if New York were a small
village like Ridgely instead of a great hive in which hundreds of
thousands were swarming, their identity hardly known to any but
themselves. Most of those to whom he applied treated him as a harmless
old lunatic. But he was not always so fortunate. One night, when he was
tired out with tramping the streets, he wandered into one of the parks
and sat down on a bench, where he finally fell asleep. He was awakened
by some one feeling in his pocket. He had just been dreaming that Phrony
had found him and hail sat down beside him and was fondling him, and
when he first came back to consciousness her name was on his lips. He
still thought it was she who sat beside him, and he called her by name,
"Phrony." The girl, a poor, painted, bedizened creature, was quick
enough to answer to the name.

"I am Phrony; go to sleep again."

The joy of getting back his lost one aroused the old man, and he sat up
with an exclamation of delight. The next second, at sight of the
strange, painted face, he recoiled.

"You Phrony?"

"Yes. Don't you know me?" She snuggled closer beside him, and worked
quietly at his big watch, which somehow had caught in his tight
vest pocket.

"No, you ain't! Who are you, girl? What are you doin'?"

The young woman put her arms around his neck, and began to talk
cajolingly. He was "such a dear old fellow," etc., etc. But the old
man's wit had now returned to him. His disappointment had angered him.

"Get away from me, woman. What are you doin' to me?" he demanded
roughly.

She still clung to him, using her poor blandishments. But the squire was
angry. He pushed her off. "Go away from me, I say. What do you want? You
ought to be ashamed of yourself. You don't know who I am. I am a deacon
in the church, a trustee of Ridge College, and I have a granddaughter
who is older than you. If you don't go away, I will tap you with
my stick."

The girl, having secured his watch, with something between a curse and a
laugh, went off, calling him "an old drunk fool."

Next moment the squire put his hand in his pocket to take out his watch,
but it was gone. He felt in his other pockets, but they were empty, too.
The young woman had clung to him long enough to rob him of everything.
The squire rose and hurried down the walk, calling lustily after her;
but it was an officer who answered the call. When the squire told his
story he simply laughed and told him he was drunk, and threatened, if he
made any disturbance, to "run him in."

The old countryman flamed out.

"Run who in?" he demanded. "Do you know who I am, young man?"

"No, I don't, and I don't keer a ----."

"Well, I'm Squire Rawson of Ridgely, and I know more law than a hundred
consarned blue-bellied thief-hiders like you. Whoever says I am drunk is
a liar. But if I was drunk is that any reason for you to let a thief rob
me? What is your name? I've a mind to arrest you and run you in myself.
I've run many a better man in."

It happened that the officer's record was not quite clear enough to
allow him to take the chance of a contest with so bold an antagonist as
the squire of Ridgely. He did not know just who he was, or what he might
be able to do. So he was willing to "break even," and he walked off
threatning, but leaving the squire master of the field.

The next day the old man applied to Keith, who placed the matter in Dave
Dennison's hands and persuaded the squire to return home.

Keith was very unhappy over the misunderstanding between Norman and
himself. He wrote Norman a letter asking an interview as soon as he
returned. But he received no reply. Then, having heard of his return, he
went to his office one day to see him.

Yes, Mr. Wentworth was in. Some one was with him, but would Mr. Keith
walk in? said the clerk, who knew of the friendship between the two. But
Keith sent in his name.

The clerk came out with a surprised look on his face. Mr. Wentworth was
"engaged."

Keith went home and wrote a letter, but his letter was returned
unopened, and on it was the indorsement, "Mr. Norman Wentworth declines
to hold any communication with Mr. Gordon Keith."

After this, Keith, growing angry, swore that he would take no further
steps.



CHAPTER XXVII

PHRONY TRIPPER AND THE REV. MR. RIMMON

As Keith stepped from his office one afternoon, he thought he heard his
name called--called somewhat timidly. When, however, he turned and
glanced around among the hurrying throng that filled the street, he saw
no one whom he knew. Men and women were bustling along with that
ceaseless haste that always struck him in New York--haste to go, haste
to return, haste to hasten: the trade-mark of New York life: the hope of
outstripping in the race.

A moment later he was conscious of a woman's step close behind him. He
turned as the woman came up beside him, and faced--Phrony Tripper. She
was so worn and bedraggled and aged that for a moment he did not
recognize her. Then, as she spoke, he knew her.

"Why, Phrony!" He held out his hand. She seized it almost hungrily.

"Oh, Mr. Keith! Is it really you? I hardly dared hope it was. I have not
seen any one I knew for so long--so long!" Her face worked, and she
began to whimper; but Keith soothed her.

He drew her away from the crowded thoroughfare into a side street.

"You knew--?" she said, and gazed at him with a silent appeal.

"Yes, I knew. He deceived you and deluded you into running away with
him."

"I thought he loved me, and he did when he married me. I am sure he did.
But when he met that lady--"

"When he did what?" asked Keith, who could scarcely believe his own
ears. "Did he marry you? Ferdy Wickersham? Who married you? When? Where
was it? Who was present?"

"Yes; I would not come until he promised--"

"Yes, I knew he would promise. But did he marry you afterwards? Who was
present? Have you any witnesses?"

"Yes. Oh, yes. I was married here in New York--one night--about ten
o'clock--the night we got here. Mr. Plume was our only witness. Mr.
Plume had a paper the preacher gave him; but he lost it."

"He did! Who married you? Where was it?"

"His name was Rimm--Rimm-something--I cannot remember much; my memory is
all gone. He was a young man. He married us in his room. Mr. Plume got
him for me. He offered to marry us himself--said he was a preacher; but
I wouldn't have him, and said I would go home or kill myself if they
didn't have a preacher. Then Mr. Plume went and came back, and we all
got in a carriage and drove a little way, and got out and went into a
house, and after some talk we were married. I don't know the street. But
I would know him if I saw him. He was a young, fat man, that smiled and
stood on his toes." The picture brought up to Keith the fat and
unctuous Rimmon.

"Well, then you went abroad, and your husband left you over there?"

"Yes; I was in heaven for--for a little while, and then he left me--for
another woman. I am sure he cared for me, and he did not mean to treat
me so; but she was rich and so beautiful, and--what was I?" She gave an
expressive gesture of self-abnegation.

"Poor fool!" said Keith to himself. "Poor girl!" he said aloud.

"I have written; but, maybe, he never got my letter. He would not have
let me suffer so."

Keith's mouth shut closer.

She went on to tell of Wickersham's leaving her; of her hopes that after
her child was born he would come back to her. But the child was born and
died. Then of her despair; of how she had spent everything, and sold
everything she had to come home.

"I think if I could see him and tell him what I have been through, maybe
he would--be different. I know he cared for me for a while.--But I can't
find him," she went on hopelessly. "I don't want to go to him where
there are others to see me, for I'm not fit to see even if they'd let me
in--which they wouldn't." (She glanced down at her worn and shabby
frock.) "I have watched for him 'most all day, but I haven't seen him,
and the police ordered me away."

"I will find him for you," said Keith, grimly.

"Oh, no! You mustn't--you mustn't say anything to him. It would make
him--it wouldn't do any good, and he'd never forgive me." She
coughed deeply.

"Phrony, you must go home," said Keith.

For a second a spasm shot over her face; then a ray of light seemed to
flit across it, and then it died out.

She shook her head.

"No, I'll never go back there," she said.

"Oh, yes, you will--you must. I will take you back. The mountain air
will restore you, and--" She was shaking her head, but the look in her
eyes showed that she was thinking of something far off.

"No--no!"

"I will take you," repeated Keith. "Your grandfather will be--he will be
all right. He has just been here hunting for you."

The expression on her face was so singular that Keith put his hand on
her arm. To his horror, she burst into a laugh. It was so unreal that
men passing glanced at her quickly, and, as they passed on, turned and
looked back again.

"Well, good-by; I must find my husband," she said, holding out her hand
nervously and speaking in a hurried manner. "He's got the baby with him.
Tell 'em at home I'm right well, and the baby is exactly like
grandmother, but prettier, of course." She laughed again as she turned
away and started off hastily.

Keith caught up with her.

"But, Phrony--" But she hurried on, shaking her head, and talking to
herself about finding her baby and about its beauty. Keith kept up with
her, put his hand in his pocket, and taking out several bills, handed
them to her.

"Here, you must take this, and tell me where you are staying."

She took the money mechanically.

"Where am I? Oh!--where am I staying? Sixteen Himmelstrasse, third
floor--yes, that's it. No:--18 Rue Petits Champs, troisieme etage. Oh,
no:--241 Hill Street. I'll show you the baby. I must get it now." And
she sped away, coughing.

Keith, having watched her till she disappeared, walked on in deep
reflection, hardly knowing what course to take. Presently his brow
cleared. He turned and went rapidly back to the great office building
where Wickersham had his offices on the first floor. He asked for Mr.
Wickersham. A clerk came forward. Mr. Wickersham was not in town. No, he
did not know when he would be back.

After a few more questions as to the possible time of his return, Keith
left his card.

That evening Keith went to the address that Phrony had given him. It was
a small lodging-house of, perhaps, the tenth rate. The dowdy woman in
charge remembered a young woman such as he described. She was ill and
rather crazy and had left several weeks before. She had no idea where
she had gone. She did not know her name. Sometimes she called herself
"Miss Tripper," sometimes "Mrs. Wickersham."

Keith took a cab and drove to the detective agency where Dave Dennison
had his office. Keith told him why he had come, and Dave listened with
tightened lips and eyes in which the flame burned deeper and deeper.

"I'll find her," he said.

Having set Dennison to work, Keith next directed his steps toward the
commodious house to which the Rev. William H. Rimmon had succeeded,
along with the fashionable church and the fashionable congregation which
his uncle had left.

He was almost sure, from the name she had mentioned, that Mr. Rimmon had
performed the ceremony. Rimmon had from time to time connected his name
with matrimonial affairs which reflected little credit on him.

From the time Mr. Rimmon had found his flattery and patience rewarded,
the pulpit from which Dr. Little had for years delivered a well-weighed,
if a somewhat dry, spiritual pabulum had changed.

Mr. Rimmon knew his congregation too well to tax their patience with any
such doctrinal sermons as his uncle had been given to. He treated his
people instead to pleasant little discourses which were as much like
Epictetus and Seneca as St. John or St. Paul.

Fifteen minutes was his limit,--eighteen at the outside,--weighed out
like a ration. Doubtless, Mr. Rimmon had his own idea of doing good. His
assistants worked hard in back streets and trod the dusty byways,
succoring the small fry, while he stepped on velvet carpets and cast his
net for the larger fish.

Was not Dives as well worth saving as Lazarus--and better worth it for
Rimmon's purposes! And surely he was a more agreeable dinner-companion.
Besides, nothing was really proved against Dives; and the crumbs from
his table fed many a Lazarus.

But there were times when the Rev. William H. Rimmon had a vision of
other things: when the Rev. Mr. Rimmon, with his plump cheeks and plump
stomach, with his embroidered stoles and fine surplices, his rich
cassocks and hand-worked slippers, had a vision of another life. He
remembered the brief period when, thrown with a number of earnest young
men who had consecrated their lives to the work of their Divine Master,
he had had aspirations for something essentially different from the life
he now led. Sometimes, as he would meet some hard-working, threadbare
brother toiling among the poor, who yet, for all his toil and narrowness
of means, had in his face that light that comes only from feasting on
the living bread, he envied him for a moment, and would gladly have
exchanged for a brief time the "good things" that he had fallen heir to
for that look of peace. These moments, however, were rare, and were
generally those that followed some evening of even greater conviviality
than usual, or some report that the stocks he had gotten Ferdy
Wickersham to buy for him had unexpectedly gone down, so that he must
make up his margins. When the margins had been made up and the stocks
had reacted, Mr. Rimmon was sufficiently well satisfied with his
own lot.

And of late Mr. Rimmon had determined to settle down. There were those
who said that Mr. Rimmon's voice took on a peculiarly unctuous tone when
a certain young widow, as noted for her wealth as for her good looks and
good nature entered the portals of his church.

Keith now having rung the bell at Mr. Rimmon's pleasant rectory and
asked if he was at home, the servant said he would see. It is
astonishing how little servants in the city know of the movements of
their employers. How much better they must know their characters!

A moment later the servant returned.

"Yes, Mr. Rimmon is in. He will be down directly; will the gentleman
wait?"

Keith took his seat and inspected the books on the table--a number of
magazines, a large work on Exegesis, several volumes of poetry, the
Social Register, and a society journal that contained the gossip and
scandal of the town.

Presently Mr. Rimmon was heard descending the stair. He had a light
footfall, extraordinarily light in one so stout; for he had grown
rounder with the years.

"Ah, Mr. Keith. I believe we have met before. What can I do for you?" He
held Keith's card in his hand, and was not only civil, but almost
cordial. But he did not ask Keith to sit down.

Keith said he had come to him hoping to obtain a little information
which he was seeking for a friend. He was almost certain that Mr. Rimmon
could give it to him.

"Oh, yes. Well? I shall be very glad, I am sure, if I can be of service
to you. It is a part of our profession, you know. What is it?"

"Why," said Keith, "it is in regard to a marriage ceremony--a marriage
that took place in this city three or four years ago, about the middle
of November three years ago. I think you possibly performed the
ceremony."

"Yes, yes. What are the names of the contracting parties? You see, I
solemnize a good many marriage ceremonies. For some reason, a good many
persons come to me. My church is rather--popular, you see. I hate to
have 'fashionable' applied to holy things. I cannot tell without
their names."

"Why, of course," said Keith, struck by the sudden assumption of a
business manner. "The parties were Ferdinand C. Wickersham and a young
girl, named Euphronia Tripper."

Keith was not consciously watching Mr. Rimmon, but the change in him was
so remarkable that it astonished him. His round jaw actually dropped for
a second. Keith knew instantly that he was the man. His inquiry had
struck home. The next moment, however, Mr. Rimmon had recovered himself.
A single glance shot out of his eyes, so keen and suspicious that Keith
was startled. Then his eyes half closed again, veiling their flash of
hostility.

"F.C. Wickershaw and Euphronia Trimmer?" he repeated half aloud, shaking
his head. "No, I don't remember any such names. No, I never united in
the bonds of matrimony any persons of those names. I am quite positive."
He spoke decisively.

"No, not Wicker_shaw_--F.C. Wicker_sham_ and Euphronia Tripper. Ferdy
Wickersham--you know him. And the girl was named Tripper; she might have
called herself 'Phrony' Tripper."

"My dear sir, I cannot undertake to remember the names of all the
persons whom I happen to come in contact with in the performance of my
sacred functions," began Mr. Rimmon. His voice had changed, and a
certain querulousness had crept into it.

"No, I know that," said Keith, calmly; "but you must at least remember
whether within four years you performed a marriage ceremony for a man
whom you know as well as you know Ferdy Wickersham--?"

"Ferdy Wickersham! Why don't you go and ask him?" demanded the other,
suddenly. "You appear to know him quite as well as I, and certainly Mr.
Wickersham knows quite as well as I whether or not he is married. I know
nothing of your reasons for persisting in this investigation. It is
quite irregular, I assure you. I don't know that ever in the course of
my life I knew quite such a case. A clergyman performs many functions
simply as a ministerial official. I should think that the most natural
way of procedure would be to ask Mr. Wickersham."

"Certainly it might be. But whatever my reason may be, I have come to
ask you. As a matter of fact, Mr. Wickersham took this young girl away
from her home. I taught her when she was a school-girl. Her grandfather,
who brought her up, is a friend of mine. I wish to clear her good name.
I have reason to think that she was legally married here in New York,
and that you performed the ceremony, and I came to ask you whether you
did so or not. It is a simple question. You can at least say whether you
did so or did not. I assumed that as a minister you would be glad to
help clear a young woman's good name."

"And I have already answered you," said Mr. Rimmon, who, while Keith was
speaking, had been forming his reply.

Keith flushed.

"Why, you have not answered me at all. If you have, you can certainly
have no objection to doing me the favor of repeating it. Will you do me
the favor to repeat it? Did you or did you not marry Ferdy Wickersham to
a young girl about three years ago?"

"My dear sir, I have told you that I do not recognize your right to
interrogate me in this manner. I know nothing about your authority to
pursue this investigation, and I refuse to continue this conversation
any longer."

"Then you refuse to give me any information whatever?" Keith was now
very angry, and, as usual, very quiet, with a certain line about his
mouth, and his eyes very keen.

"I do most emphatically refuse to give you any information whatever. I
decline, indeed, to hold any further communication with you," (Keith was
yet quieter,) "and I may add that I consider your entrance here an
intrusion and your manner little short of an impertinence." He rose on
his toes and fell on his heels, with, the motion which Keith had
remarked the first time he met him.

Keith fastened his eye on him.

"You do?" he said. "You think all that? You consider even my entrance to
ask you, a minister of the Gospel, a question that any good man would
have been glad to answer, 'an intrusion'? Now I am going; but before I
go I wish to tell you one or two things. I have heard reports about you,
but I did not believe them. I have known men of your cloth, the holiest
men on earth, saints of God, who devoted their lives to doing good. I
was brought up to believe that a clergyman must be a good man. I could
not credit the stories I have heard coupled with your name. I now
believe them true, or, at least, possible."

Mr. Riminon's face was purple with rage. He stepped forward with
uplifted hand.

"How dare you, sir!" he began.

"I dare much more," said Keith, quietly.

"You take advantage of my cloth--!"

"Oh, no; I do not. I have one more thing to say to you before I go. I
wish to tell you that one of the shrewdest detectives in New York is at
work on this case. I advise you to be careful, for when you fall you
will fall far. Good day."

He left Mr. Rimmon shaken and white. His indefinite threats had struck
him more deeply than any direct charge could have done. For Mr. Rimmon
knew of acts of which Keith could not have dreamed.

When he rose he went to his sideboard, and, taking out a bottle, poured
out a stiff drink and tossed it off. "I feel badly," he said to himself:
"I have allowed that--that fellow to excite me, and Dr. Splint said I
must not get excited. I did pretty well, though; I gave him not the
least information, and yet I did not tell a falsehood, an actual
falsehood."

With the composure that the stimulant brought, a thought occurred to
him. He sat down and wrote a note to Wickersham, and, marking it,
"Private," sent it by a messenger.

The note read:

"DEAR FERDY: I must see you without an hour's delay on a matter of the
greatest possible importance. Tripper-business. Your friend K. has
started investigation; claims to have inside facts. I shall wait at my
house for reply. If impossible for you to come immediately, I will run
down to your office.

"Yours, RIMMON."

When Mr. Wickersham received this note, he was in his office. He frowned
as he glanced at the handwriting. He said to himself:

"He wants more money, I suppose. He is always after money, curse him. He
must deal in some other office as well as in this." He started to toss
the note aside, but on second thought he tore it open. For a moment he
looked puzzled, then a blank expression passed over his face.

He turned to the messenger-boy, who was waiting and chewing gum with the
stolidity of an automaton.

"Did they tell you to wait for an answer?"

"Sure!"

He leant over and scribbled a line and sealed it. "Take that back."

"Yes, sir." The automaton departed, glancing from side to side and
chewing diligently.

The note read: "Will meet you at club at five."

As the messenger passed up the street, a smallish man who had come
down-town on the same car with him, and had been reading a newspaper on
the street for some little time, crossed over and accosted him.

"Can you take a note for me?"

"Where to?"

"Up-town. Where are you going?"

The boy showed his note.

"Um--hum! Well, my note will be right on your way." He scribbled a line.
It read: "Can't be back till eight. Look out for Shepherd. Pay boy 25 if
delivered before four."

"You drop this at that number before four o'clock and you'll get a
quarter."

Then he passed on.

That afternoon Keith walked up toward the Park. All day he had been
trying to find Phrony, and laying plans for her relief when she should
be found. The avenue was thronged with gay equipages and richly dressed
women, yet among all his friends in New York there was but one woman to
whom he could apply in such a case--Alice Lancaster. Old Mrs. Wentworth
would have been another, but he could not go to her now, since his
breach with Norman. He knew that there were hundreds of good, kind
women; they were all about him, but he did not know them. He had chosen
his friends in another set. The fact that he knew no others to whom he
could apply struck a sort of chill to his heart. He felt lonely and
depressed. He determined to go to Dr. Templeton. There, at least, he was
sure of sympathy.

He turned to go back down-town, and at a little distance caught sight of
Lois Huntington. Suddenly a light appeared to break in on his gloom.
Here was a woman to whom he could confide his trouble with the certainty
of sympathy. As they walked along he told her of Phrony; of her
elopement; of her being deserted; and of his chance meeting with her and
her disappearance again. He did not mention Wickersham, for he felt that
until he had the proof of his marriage he had no right to do so.

"Why, I remember that old, man, Mr. Rawson," said Lois. "It was where my
father stayed for a while?" Her voice was full of tenderness.

"Yes. It is his granddaughter."

"I remember her kindness to me. We must find her. I will help you." Her
face was sweet with tender sympathy, her eyes luminous with
firm resolve.

Keith gazed at her with a warm feeling surging about his heart. Suddenly
the color deepened in her cheeks; her expression changed; a sudden flame
seemed to dart into her eyes.

"I wish I knew that man!"

"What would you do?" demanded Keith, smiling at her fierceness.

"I'd make him suffer all his life." She looked the incarnation of
vengeance.

"Such a man would be hard to make suffer," hazarded Keith.

"Not if I could find him."

Keith soon left her to carry out his determination, and Lois went to see
Mrs. Lancaster, and told her the story she had heard. It found
sympathetic ears, and the next day Lois and Mrs. Lancaster were hard at
work quietly trying to find the unfortunate woman. They went to Dr.
Templeton; but, unfortunately, the old man was ill in bed.

The next afternoon, Keith caught sight of Lois walking up the street
with some one; and when he got nearer her it was Wickersham. They were
so absorbed that Keith passed without either of them seeing him. He
walked on with more than wonder in his heart. The meeting, however, had
been wholly accidental on Lois's part.

Wickersham of late had frequently fallen in with Lois when she was out
walking. And this afternoon he had hardly joined her when she began to
speak of the subject that had been uppermost in her mind all day. She
did not mention any names, but told the story just as she had heard it.

Fortunately for Wickersham, she was so much engrossed in her recital
that she did not observe her companion's face until he had recovered
himself. He had fallen a little behind her and did not interrupt her
until he had quite mastered himself. Then he asked quietly:

"Where did you get that story?"

"Mr. Keith told me."

"And he said the man who did that was a 'gentleman'?"

"No, he did not say that; he did not give me the least idea who it was.
Do you know who it was?"

The question was so unexpected that Wickersham for a moment was
confounded. Then he saw that she was quite innocent. He almost gasped.

"I? How could I? I have heard that story--that is, something of it. It
is not as Mr. Keith related it. He has some of the facts wrong. I will
tell you the true story if you will promise not to say anything
about it."

Lois promised.

"Well, the truth is that the poor creature was crazy; she took it into
her head that she was married to some one, and ran away from home to
try and find him. At one time she said it was a Mr. Wagram; then it was
a man named Plume, a drunken sot; then I think she for a time fancied it
was Mr. Keith himself; and"--he glanced at her quickly--"I am not sure
she did not claim me once. I knew her slightly. Poor thing! she was
quite insane."

"Poor thing!" sighed Lois, softly. She felt more kindly toward
Wickersham than she had ever done before.

"I shall do what I can to help you find her," he added.

"Thank you. I hope you may be successful."

"I hope so," said Wickersham, sincerely.

That evening Wickersham called on Mr. Rimmon, and the two were together
for some time. The meeting was not wholly an amicable one. Wickersham
demanded something that Mr. Rimmon was unwilling to comply with, though
the former made him an offer at which his eyes glistened. He had offered
to carry his stock for him as long as he wanted it carried. Mr. Rimmon
showed him his register to satisfy him that no entry had been made there
of the ceremony he had performed that night a few years before; but he
was unwilling to write him a certificate that he had not performed such
a ceremony. He was not willing to write a falsehood.

Wickersham grew angry.

"Now look here, Rimmon," he said, "you know perfectly well that I never
meant to marry that--to marry any one. You know that I was drunk that
night, and did not know what I was doing, and that what I did was out of
kindness of heart to quiet the poor little fool."

"But you married her in the presence of a witness," said Mr. Rimmon,
slowly. "And I gave him her certificate."

"You must have been mistaken. I have the affidavit of the man that he
signed nothing of the kind. I give you my word of honor as to that.
Write me the letter I want." He pushed the decanter on the table nearer
to Rimmon, who poured out a drink and took it slowly. It appeared to
give him courage, for after a moment he shook his head.

"I cannot."

Wickersham looked at him with level eyes.

"You will do it, or I will sell you out," he said coldly.

"You cannot. You promised to carry that stock for me till I could pay up
the margins."

"Write me that letter, or I will turn you out of your pulpit. You know
what will happen if I tell what I know of you."

The other man's face turned white.

"You would not be so base."

Wickersham rose and buttoned up his coat.

"It will be in the papers day after to-morrow."

"Wait," gasped Rimmon. "I will see what I can say." He poured a drink
out of the decanter, and gulped it down. Then he seized a pen and a
sheet of paper and began to write. He wrote with care.

"Will this do?" he asked tremulously.

"Yes."

"You promise not to use it unless you have to?"

"Yes."

"And to carry the stock for me till it reacts and lets me out?"

"I will make no more promises."

"But you did promise--," began Mr. Rimmon.

Wickersham put the letter in his pocket, and taking up his hat, walked
out without a word. But his eyes glinted with a curious light.



CHAPTER XXVIII

ALICE LANCASTER FINDS PHRONY

Mr. Rimmon was calling at Mrs. Lancaster's a few days after his
interview with Keith and the day following the interview with
Wickersham. Mr. Rimmon called at Mrs. Lancaster's quite frequently of
late. They had known each other a long time, almost ever since Mr.
Rimmon had been an acolyte at his uncle Dr. Little's church, when the
stout young man had first discovered the slim, straight figure and
pretty face, with its blue eyes and rosy mouth, in one of the best pews,
with a richly dressed lady beside her. He had soon learned that this was
Miss Alice Yorke, the only daughter of one of the wealthiest men in
town. Miss Alice was then very devout: just at the age and stage when
she bent particularly low on all the occasions when such bowing is held
seemly. And the mind of the young man was not unnaturally affected by
her devoutness.

Since then Mr. Rimmon had never quite banished her from his mind,
except, of course, during the brief interval when she had been a wife.
When she became a widow she resumed her place with renewed power. And of
late Mr. Rimmon had begun to have hope.

Now Mr. Rimmon was far from easy in his mind. He knew something of
Keith's attention to Mrs. Lancaster; but it had never occurred to him
until lately that he might be successful. Wickersham he had feared at
times; but Wickersham's habits had reassured him. Mrs. Lancaster would
hardly marry him. Now, however, he had an uneasy feeling that Keith
might injure him, and he called partly to ascertain how the ground lay,
and partly to forestall any possible injury Keith might do. To his
relief, he found Mrs. Lancaster more cordial than usual. The line of
conversation he adopted was quite spiritual, and he felt elevated by it.
Mrs. Lancaster also was visibly impressed. Presently she said: "Mr.
Rimmon, I want you to do me a favor."

"Even to the half of my kingdom," said Mr. Rimmon, bowing with his plump
hand on his plump bosom.

"It is not so much as that; it is only a little of your time and, maybe,
a little of your company. I have just heard of a poor young woman here
who seems to be in quite a desperate way. She has been abandoned by her
husband, and is now quite ill. The person who told me, one of those good
women who are always seeking out such cases, tells me that she has
rarely seen a more pitiable case. The poor thing is absolutely
destitute. Mrs. King tells me she has seen better days."

For some reason, perhaps, that the circumstances called up not wholly
pleasant associations, Mr. Rimmon's face fell a little at the picture
drawn. He did not respond with the alacrity Mrs. Lancaster had expected.

"Of course, I will do it, if you wish it--or I could have some of our
workers look up the case, and, if the facts warrant it, could apply some
of our alms to its relief. I should think, however, the woman is rather
a fit subject for a hospital. Why hasn't she been sent to a hospital,
I wonder?"

"I don't know. No, that is not exactly what I meant," declared Mrs.
Lancaster. "I thought I would go myself and that, as Dr. Templeton is
ill, perhaps you would go with me. She seems to be in great distress of
mind, and possibly you might be able to comfort her. I have never
forgotten what an unspeakable comfort your uncle was when we were in
trouble years ago."

"Oh, of course, I will go with you," said the divine. "There is no
place, dear lady, where I would not go in such company," he added, his
head as much on one side as his stout neck would allow, and his eyes as
languishing as he dared make them.

Mrs. Lancaster, however, did not appear to notice this. Her face did not
change.

"Very well, then: we will go to-morrow. I will come around and pick you
up. I will get the address."

So the following morning Mrs. Lancaster's carriage stopped in front of
the comfortable house which adjoined Mr. Rimmon's church, and after a
little while that gentleman came down the steps. He was not in a happy
frame of mind, for stocks had fallen heavily the day before, and he had
just received a note from Ferdy Wickersham. However, as he settled his
plump person beside the lady, the Rev. William H. Rimmon was as
well-satisfied-looking as any man on earth could be. Who can blame him
if he thought how sweet it would be if he could drive thus always!

The carriage presently stopped at the entrance of a narrow street that
ran down toward the river. The coachman appeared unwilling to drive down
so wretched an alley, and waited for further instructions. After a few
words the clergyman and Mrs. Lancaster got out.

"You wait here, James; we will walk." They made their way down the
street, through a multitude of curious children with one common
attribute, dirt, examining the numbers on either side, and commiserating
the poor creatures who had to live in such squalor.

Presently Mrs. Lancaster stopped.

"This is the number."

It was an old house between two other old houses.

Mrs. Lancaster made some inquiries of a slatternly woman who sat sewing
just inside the doorway, and the latter said there was such a person as
she asked for in a room on the fourth floor. She knew nothing about her
except that she was very sick and mostly out of her head. The
health-doctor had been to see her, and talked about sending her to
a hospital.

The three made their way up the narrow stairs and through the dark
passages, so dark that matches had to be lighted to show them the way.
Several times Mr. Rimmon protested against Mrs. Lancaster going farther.
Such holes were abominable; some one ought to be prosecuted for it.
Finally the woman stopped at a door.

"She's in here." She pushed the door open without knocking, and walked
in, followed by Mrs. Lancaster and Mr. Rimmon. It was a cupboard hardly
more than ten feet square, with a little window that looked out on a
dead-wall not more than an arm's-length away.

A bed, a table made of an old box, and another box which served as a
stool, constituted most of the furniture, and in the bed, under a ragged
coverlid, lay the form of the sick woman.

"There's a lady and a priest come to see you," said the guide, not
unkindly. She turned to Mrs. Lancaster. "I don't know as you can make
much of her. Sometimes she's right flighty."

The sick woman turned her head a little and looked at them out of her
sunken eyes.

"Thank you. Won't you be seated?" she said, with a politeness and a
softness of tone that sounded almost uncanny coming from such a source.

"We heard that you were sick, and have come to see if we could not help
you," said Mrs. Lancaster, in a tone of sympathy, leaning over the bed.

"Yes," said Mr. Rimmon, in his full, rich voice, which made the little
room resound; "it is our high province to minister to the sick, and
through the kindness of this dear lady we may be able to remove you to
more commodious quarters--to some one of the charitable institutions
which noble people like our friend here have endowed for such persons as
yourself?"

[Illustration: "It is he! 'Tis he!" she cried.]

Something about the full-toned voice with its rising inflection caught
the invalid's attention, and she turned her eyes on him with a quick
glance, and, half raising her head, scanned his face closely.

"Mr. Rimmon, here, may be able to help you in other ways too," Mrs.
Lancaster again began; but she got no further. The name appeared to
electrify the woman.

With a shriek she sat up in bed.

"It is he! 'Tis he!" she cried. "You are the very one. You will help me,
won't you? You will find him and bring him back to me?" She reached out
her thin arms to him in an agony of supplication.

"I will help you,--I shall be glad to do so,--but whom am I to bring
back? How can I help you?"

"My husband--Ferdy--Mr. Wickersham. I am the girl you married that night
to Ferdy Wickersham. Don't you remember? You will bring him back to me?
I know he would come if he knew."

The effect that her words, and even more her earnestness, produced was
remarkable. Mrs. Lancaster stood in speechless astonishment.

Mr. Rimmon for a moment turned ashy pale. Then he recovered himself.

"She is quite mad," he said in a low tone to Mrs. Lancaster. "I think we
had better go. She should be removed to an asylum."

But Mrs. Lancaster could not go. Just then the woman stretched out her
arms to her.

"You will help me? You are a lady. I loved him so. I gave up all for
him. He married me. Didn't you marry us, sir? Say you did. Mr. Plume
lost the paper, but you will give me another, won't you?"

The commiseration in Mr. Rimmon's pale face grew deeper and deeper. He
rolled his eyes and shook his head sadly.

"Quite mad--quite mad," he said in an undertone. And, indeed, the next
moment it appeared but too true, for with a laugh the poor creature
began a babble of her child and its beauty. "Just like its father. Dark
eyes and brown hair. Won't he be glad to see it when he comes? Have you
children?" she suddenly asked Mrs. Lancaster.

"No." She shook her head.

Then a strange thing happened.

"I am so sorry for you," the poor woman said. And the next second she
added: "I want to show mine to Alice Yorke. She is the only lady I know
in New York. I used to know her when I was a young girl, and I used to
be jealous of her, because I thought Ferdy was in love with her. But he
was not, never a bit."

"Come away," said Mr. Rimmon to Mrs. Lancaster. "She is crazy and may
become violent."

But he was too late; the whole truth was dawning on Mrs. Lancaster. A
faint likeness had come to her, a memory of a far-back time. She ignored
him, and stepped closer to the bed.

"What is your name?" she asked in a kind voice, bending toward the woman
and taking her hand.

"Euphronia Tripper; but I am now Mrs. Wickersham. He married us." She
turned her deep eyes on Mr. Rimmon. At sight of him a change came
over her face.

"Where is my husband?" she demanded. "I wrote to you to bring him. Won't
you bring him?"

"Quite mad--quite mad!" repeated Mr. Rimmon, shaking his head solemnly,
and turning his gaze on Mrs. Lancaster. But he saw his peril. Mrs.
Lancaster took no notice of him. She began to talk to the woman at the
door, and gave her a few directions, together with some money. Then she
advanced once more to the bed.

"I want to make you comfortable. I will send some one to take care of
you." She shook hands with her softly, pulled down her veil, and then,
half turning to Mr. Rimmon, said quietly, "I am ready."

As they stepped into the street, Mr. Rimmon observed at a little
distance a man who had something familiar about him, but the next second
he passed out of sight.

Mrs. Lancaster walked silently down the dirty street without turning
her head or speaking to the preacher, who stepped along a little behind
her, his mind full of misgiving.

Mr. Rimmon, perhaps, did as hard thinking in those few minutes as he had
ever done during the whole course of his life. It was a serious and
delicate position. His reputation, his position, perhaps even his
profession, depended on the result. He must sound his companion and
placate her at any cost.

"That is one of the saddest spectacles I ever saw," he began.

To this Mrs. Lancaster vouchsafed no reply.

"She is quite mad."

"No wonder!"

"Ah, yes. What do you think of her?"

"That she is Ferdy Wickersham's wife--or ought to be."

"Ah, yes." Here was a gleam of light. "But she is so insane that very
little reliance should be placed on anything that she says. In such
instances, you know, women make the most preposterous statements and
believe them. In her condition, she might just as well have claimed me
for her husband."

Mrs. Lancaster recognized this, and looked just a little relieved. She
turned as if about to speak, but shut her lips tightly and walked on to
the waiting carriage. And during the rest of the return home she
scarcely uttered a word.

An hour later Ferdy Wickersham was seated in his private office, when
Mr. Rimmon walked in.

Wickersham greeted him with more courtesy than he usually showed him.

"Well," he said, "what is it?"

"Well, it's come."

Wickersham laughed unmirthfully. "What? You have been found out? Which
commandment have you been caught violating?"

"No; it's you," said Mr. Rimmon, his eyes on Wickersham, with a gleam of
retaliation in them. "Your wife has turned up." He was gratified to see
Wickersham's cold face turn white. It was a sweet revenge.

"My wife! I have no wife." Wickersham looked him steadily in the eyes.

"You had one, and she is in town."

"I have no wife," repeated Wickersham, firmly, not taking his eyes from
the clergyman's face. What he saw there did not satisfy him. "I have
your statement."

The other hesitated and reflected.

"I wish you would give me that back. I was in great distress of mind
when I gave you that."

"You did not give it," said Wickersham. "You sold it." His lip curled.

"I was--what you said you were when it occurred," said Mr. Rimmon. "I
was not altogether responsible."

"You were sober enough to make me carry a thousand shares of weak stock
for you till yesterday, when it fell twenty points," said Wickersham.
"Oh, I guess you were sober enough."

"She is in town," said Rimmon, in a dull voice.

"Who says so?"

"I have seen her."

"Where is she?"--indifferently.

"She is ill. She is mad."

Wickersham's face settled a little. His eyes blinked as if a blow had
been aimed at him nearly. Then he recovered his poise.

"How mad?"

"As mad as a March hare."

"You can attend to it," he said, looking the clergyman full in the face.
"I don't want her to suffer. There will be some expense. Can you get her
into a comfortable place for--for a thousand dollars?"

"I will try. The poor creature would be better off," said the other,
persuading himself. "She cannot last long. She is a very ill woman."

Wickersham either did not hear or pretended not to hear.

"You go ahead and do it. I will send you the money the day after it is
done," he said. "Money is very tight to-day, almost a panic at
the board."

"That stock? You will not trouble me about it?"

Wickersham growled something about being very busy, and rose and bowed
the visitor out. The two men shook hands formally at the door of the
inner office; but it was a malevolent look that Wickersham shot at the
other's stout back as he walked out.

As Mr. Rimmon came out of the office he caught sight of the short, stout
man he had seen in the street to which he had gone with Mrs. Lancaster.
Suddenly the association of ideas brought to him Keith's threat. He was
shadowed. A perspiration broke out over him.

Wickersham went back to his private office, and began once more on his
books. What he saw there was what he began to see on all sides: ruin. He
sat back in his chair and reflected. His face, which had begun to grow
thinner of late, as well as harder, settled more and more until it
looked like gray stone. Presently he rose, and locking his desk
carefully, left his office.

As he reached the street, a man, who had evidently been waiting for him,
walked up and spoke to him. He was a tall, thin, shabby man, with a face
and figure on which drink was written ineffaceably. Wickersham, without
looking at him, made an angry gesture and hastened his step. The other,
however, did the same, and at his shoulder began to whine.

"Mr. Wickersham, just a word."

"Get out," said Wickersham, still walking on. "I told you never to speak
to me again."

"I have a paper that you'd give a million dollars to get hold of."

Wickersham's countenance showed not the least change.

"If you don't keep away from here, I'll hand you over to the police."

"If you'll just give me a dollar I'll swear never to trouble you again.
I have not had a mouthful to eat to-day. You won't let me starve?"

"Yes, I will. Starve and be ---- to you!" He suddenly stopped and faced
the other. "Plume, I wouldn't give you a cent if you were actually
starving. Do you see that policeman? If you don't leave me this minute,
I'll hand you over to him. And if you ever speak to me again or write to
me again, or if I find you on the street about here, I'll arrest you and
send you down for blackmail and stealing. Now do you understand?"

The man turned and silently shuffled away, his face working and a glint
in his bleared eye.

       *       *       *       *       *

An evening or two later Dave Dennison reported to Keith that he had
found Phrony. Dave's face was black with hate, and his voice was tense
with suppressed feeling.

"How did you find her?" inquired Keith.

"Shadowed the preacher. Knew he and that man had been confabbin'. She's
clean gone," he added. "They've destroyed her. She didn't know me." His
face worked, and an ominous fire burned in his eyes.

"We must get her home."

"She can't go. You'd never know her. We'll have to put her in an
asylum."

Something in his voice made Keith look at him. He met his gaze.

"They're getting ready to do it--that man and the preacher. But I don't
mean 'em to have anything more to do with her. They've done their worst.
Now let 'em keep away from her."

Keith nodded his acquiescence.

That evening Keith went to see a doctor he knew, and next day, through
his intervention, Phrony was removed to the private ward of an asylum,
where she was made as comfortable as possible.

It was evident that she had not much longer to stay. But God had been
merciful to her. She babbled of her baby and her happiness at seeing it
soon. And a small, strongly built man with grave eyes sat by her in the
ambulance, and told her stories of it with a fertility of invention that
amazed the doctor who had her in charge.

When Mr. Rimmon's agents called next day to make the preliminary
arrangements for carrying out his agreement with Wickersham, they found
the room empty. The woman who had charge of the house had been duly
"fixed" by Dave, and she told a story sufficiently plausible to pass
muster. The sick woman had disappeared at night and had gone she did not
know where. She was afraid she might have made away with herself, as she
was out of her head. This was verified, and this was the story that went
back to Mr. Rimmon and finally to Ferdy Wickersham. A little later the
body of a woman was found in the river, and though there was nothing to
identify her, it was stated in one of the papers that there was good
ground for believing that she was the demented woman whose disappearance
had been reported the week before.



CHAPTER XXIX

THE MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE

One day after Phrony was removed, Keith was sitting in the office he had
taken in New York, working on the final papers which were to be
exchanged when his deal should be completed, when there was a tap at the
door. A knock at the door is almost as individual as a voice. There was
something about this knock that awakened associations in Keith's mind.
It was not a woman's tap, yet Terpy and Phrony Tripper both sprang into
Keith's mind.

Almost at the same moment the door opened slowly, and pausing on the
threshold stood J. Quincy Plume. But how changed from the Mr. Plume of
yore, the jovial and jocund manager of the Gumbolt _Whistle_, or the
florid and flowery editor of the New Leeds _Clarion_!

The apparition in the door was a shabby representation of what J. Quincy
Plume had been in his palmy days. He bore the last marks of extreme
dissipation; his eyes were dull, his face bloated, and his hair thin and
long. His clothes looked as if they had served him by night as well as
by day for a long time. His shoes were broken, and his hat, once the
emblem of his station and high spirits, was battered and rusty.

"How are you, Mr. Keith?" he began boldly enough. But his assumption of
something of his old air of bravado died out under Keith's icy and
steady gaze, and he stepped only inside of the room, and, taking off his
hat, waited uneasily.

"What do you want of me?" demanded Keith, leaning back in his chair and
looking at him coldly.

"Well, I thought I would like to have a little talk with you about a
matter--"

Keith, without taking his eyes from his face, shook his head slowly.

"About a friend of yours," continued Plume.

Again Keith shook his head very slowly.

"I have a little information that might be of use to you--that you'd
like to have."

"I don't want it."

"You would if you knew what it was."

"No."

"Yes, you would. It's about Squire Rawson's granddaughter--about her
marriage to that man Wickersham."

"How much do you want for it?" demanded Keith.

Plume advanced slowly into the room and looked at a chair.

"Don't sit down. How much do you want for it?" repeated Keith.

"Well, you are a rich man now, and--"

"I thought so." Keith rose. "However rich I am, I will not pay you a
cent." He motioned Plume to the door.

"Oh, well, if that's the way you take it!" Plume drew himself up and
stalked to the door. Keith reseated himself and again took up his pen.

At the door Plume turned and saw that Keith had put him out of his mind
and was at work again.

"Yes, Keith, if you knew what information I have--"

Keith sat up suddenly.

"Go out of here!"

"If you'd only listen--"

Keith stood up, with a sudden flame in his eyes.

"Go on, I say. If you do not, I will put you out. It is as much as I can
do to keep my hands off you. You could not say a word that I would
believe on any subject."

"I will swear to this."

"Your oath would add nothing to it."

Plume waited, and after a moment's reflection began in a different key.

"Mr. Keith, I did not come here to sell you anything--"

"Yes, you did."

"No, I did not. I did not come--only for that. If I could have sold it,
I don't say I wouldn't, for I need money--the Lord knows how much I need
it! I have not a cent in the world to buy me a mouthful to eat--or
drink. I came to tell you something that only _I_ know--"

"I have told you that I would not believe you on oath," began Keith,
impatiently.

"But you will, for it is true; and I tell it not out of love for you
(though I never disliked--I always liked you--would have liked you if
you'd have let me), but out of hate for that--. That man has treated me
shamefully--worse than a yellow dog! I've done for that man what I
wouldn't have done for my brother. You know what I've done for him, Mr.
Keith, and now when he's got no further use for me, he kicks me out into
the street and threatens to give me to the police if I come to
him again."

Keith's expression changed. There was no doubt now that for once Quincy
Plume was sincere. The hate in his bleared eyes and bloated face was
unfeigned.

"Give me to the police! I'll give him to the police!" he broke out in a
sudden flame at Keith's glance of inspection. "He thinks he has been
very smart in taking from me all the papers. He thinks no one will
believe me on my mere word, but I've got a paper he don't know of."

His hand went to the breast of his threadbare coat with an angry clutch.
"I've got the marriage lines of his wife."

One word caught Keith, and his interest awoke.

"What wife?" he asked as indifferently as he could.

"His wife,--his lawful wife,--Squire Rawson's granddaughter, Phrony
Tripper. I was at the weddin'--I was a witness. He thought he could get
out of it, and he was half drunk; but he married her."

"Where? When? You were present?"

"Yes. They were married by a preacher named Rimmon, and he gave me her
certificate, and I swore to her I had lost it: _he_ got me to do it--the
scoundrel! He wanted me to give it to him; but I swore to him I had lost
it, too. I thought it would be of use some of these days." A gleam of
the old craftiness shone in his eyes.

Keith gazed at the man in amazement. His unblushing effrontery staggered
him.

"Would you mind letting me see that certificate?"

Plume hesitated and licked his ups like a dog held back from a bone.
Keith noted it.

"I do not want you to think that I will give you any money for it, for I
will not," he added quietly, his gray eyes on him.

For a moment Plume was so taken aback that his face became a blank.
Then, whether it was that the very frankness of the speech struck home
to him or that he wished to secure a fragment of esteem from Keith, he
recovered himself.

"I don't expect any money for it, Mr. Keith. I don't want any money for
it. I will not only show you this paper, I will give it to you."

"It is not yours to give," said Keith. "It belongs to Mrs. Wickersham. I
will see that she gets it if you deliver it to me."

"That's so," ejaculated Plume, as if the thought had never occurred to
him before. "I want her to have it, but you'd better keep it for her.
That man will get it away from her. You don't know him as I do. You
don't know what he'd do on a pinch. I tell you he is a gambler for life.
I have seen him sit at the board and stake sums that would have made me
rich for life. Besides," he added, as if he needed some other reason for
giving it up, "I am afraid if he knew I had it he'd get it from me in
some way."

He walked forward and handed the paper to Keith, who saw at a glance
that it was what Plume had declared it to be: a marriage certificate,
dirty and worn, but still with signatures that appeared to be genuine.
Keith's eyes flashed with satisfaction as he read the name of the Rev.
William H. Rimmon and Plume's name, evidently written with the same ink
at the same time.

"Now," said Keith, looking up from the paper, "I will see that Mrs.
Wickersham's family is put in possession of this paper."

"Couldn't you lend me a small sum, Mr. Keith," asked Plume, wheedlingly,
"just for old times' sake? I know I have done you wrong and given you
good cause to hate me, but it wasn't my fault, an' I've done you a favor
to-day, anyhow."

Keith looked at him for a second, and put his hand in his pocket.

"I'll pay you back, as sure as I live--" began Plume, cajolingly.

"No, you will not," said Keith, sharply. "You could not if you would,
and would not if you could, and I would not lend you a cent or have a
business transaction with you for all the money in New York. I will give
you this--for the person you have most injured in life. Now, don't thank
me for it, but go."

Plume took, with glistening eyes and profuse thanks, the bills that were
handed out to him, and shambled out of the room.

That night Keith, having shown the signatures to a good expert, who
pronounced them genuine, telegraphed Dr. Balsam to notify Squire Rawson
that he had the proof of Phrony's marriage. The Doctor went over to see
the old squire. He mentioned the matter casually, for he knew his man.
But as well as he knew him, he found himself mistaken in him.

"I know that," he said quietly, "but what I want is to find Phrony." His
deep eyes glowed for a while and suddenly flamed. "I'm a rich man," he
broke out, "but I'd give every dollar I ever owned to get her back, and
to get my hand once on that man."

The deep fire glowed for a while and then grew dull again, and the old
man sank back into his former grim silence.

The Doctor looked at him commiseratingly. Keith had written him fully of
Phrony and her condition, and he had decided to say nothing to the old
grandfather.



CHAPTER XXX

"SNUGGLERS' ROOST"

Wickersham began to renew his visits to Mrs. Wentworth, which he had
discontinued for a time when he had found himself repulsed. The repulse
had stimulated his desire to win her; but he had a further motive. Among
other things, she might ask for an accounting of the money he had had of
her, and he wanted more money. He must keep up appearances, or others
might pounce upon him.

When he began again, it was on a new line. He appealed to her sympathy.
If he had forgotten himself so far as to ask for more than friendship,
she would, he hoped, forgive him. She could not find a truer friend. He
would never offend her so again; but he must have her friendship, or he
might do something desperate.

Fortunately for him, Wickersham had a good advocate at court. Mrs.
Wentworth was very lonely and unhappy just then, and the plea prevailed.
She forgave him, and Wickersham again began to be a visitor at
the house.

But deeper than these lay another motive. While following Mrs. Wentworth
he had been thrown with Lois Huntington. Her freshness, her beauty, the
charm of her girlish figure, the unaffected gayety of her spirits,
attracted him, and he had paused in his other pursuit to captivate her,
as he might have stepped aside to pluck a flower beside the way. To his
astonishment, she declined the honor; more, she laughed at him. It
teased him to find himself balked by a mere country girl, and from this
moment he looked on her with new eyes. The unexpected revelation of a
deeper nature than most he had known astonished him. Since their
interview on the street Lois received him with more friendliness than
she had hitherto shown him. In fact, the house was a sad one these days,
and any diversion was welcome. The discontinuance of Keith's visits had
been so sudden that Lois had felt it all the more. She had no idea of
the reason, and set it down to the score of his rumored success with
Mrs. Lancaster. She, too, could play the game of pique, and she did it
well. She accordingly showed Wickersham more favor than she had ever
shown him before. While, therefore, he kept up his visits to Mrs.
Norman, he was playing all the time his other game with her cousin,
knowing the world well enough to be sure that it would not believe his
attentions to the latter had any serious object. In this he was not
mistaken. The buzz that coupled his name with Mrs. Wentworth's was soon
as loud as ever.

Finally Lois decided to take matters in her own hands. She would appeal
to Mr. Wickersham himself. He had talked to her of late in a manner
quite different from the sneering cynicism which he aired when she first
met him. In fact, no one could hold higher sentiments than he had
expressed about women or about life. Mr. Keith himself had never held
loftier ideals than Mr. Wickersham had declared to her. She began to
think that the tittle-tattle that she got bits of whenever she saw Mrs.
Nailor or some others was, perhaps, after all, slander, and that Mr.
Wickersham was not aware of the injury he was doing Mrs. Wentworth. She
would appeal to his better nature. She lay in wait several times without
being able to meet him in a way that would not attract attention. At
length she wrote him a note, asking him to meet her on the street, as
she wished to speak to him privately.

When Wickersham met her that afternoon at the point she had designated,
not far from the Park, he had a curious expression on his cold face.

She was dressed in a perfectly simple, dark street costume which fitted
without a wrinkle her willowy figure, and a big black hat with a single
large feather shaded her face and lent a shadow to her eyes which gave
them an added witchery. Wickersham thought he had never known her so
pretty or so chic. He had not seen as handsome a figure that day, and he
had sat at the club window and scanned the avenue with an eye for
fine figures.

She held out her hand in the friendliest way, and looking into his eyes
quite frankly, said, with the most natural of voices:

"Well, I know you think I have gone crazy, and are consumed with
curiosity to know what I wanted with you?"

"I don't know about the curiosity," he said, smiling at her. "Suppose we
call it interest. You don't have to be told now that I shall be only too
delighted if I am fortunate enough to be of any service to you." He bent
down and looked so deep into her eyes that she drew a little back.

"The fact is, I am plotting a little treason," she said, with a blush,
slightly embarrassed.

"By Jove! she is a real beauty," thought Wickersham, noting, with the
eye of a connoisseur, the white, round throat, the dainty curves of the
slim figure, and the purity of the oval face, in which the delicate
color came and went under his gaze.

"Well, if this be treason, I'll make the most of it," he said, with his
most fascinating smile. "Treasons, stratagems, and spoils are my game."

"But this may be treason partly against yourself?" She gave a
half-glance up at him to see how he took this.

"I am quite used to this, too, my dear girl, I assure you," he said,
wondering more and more. She drew back a little at the familiarity.

"Come and let us stroll in the Park," he suggested, and though she
demurred a little, he pressed her, saying it was quieter there, and she
would have a better opportunity of showing him how he could help her.

They walked along talking, he dealing in light badinage of a flattering
kind, which both amused and disturbed her a little, and presently he
turned into a somewhat secluded alley, where he found a bench sheltered
and shadowed by the overhanging boughs of a tree.

"Well, here is a good place for confidences." He took her hand and,
seating himself, drew her down beside him. "I will pretend that you are
a charming dryad, and I--what shall I be?"

"My friend," she said calmly, and drew her hand away from him.

"_Votre ami? Avec tout mon coeur_. I will be your best friend." He held
out his hand.

"Then you will do what I ask? You are also a good friend of Mrs.
Wentworth?"

A little cloud flitted over his face but she did not see it.

"We do not speak of the absent when the present holds all we care for,"
he said lightly.

She took no notice of this, but went on: "I do not think you would
wittingly injure any one."

He laughed softly. "Injure any one? Why, of course I would not--I could
not. My life is spent in making people have a pleasant time--though some
are wicked enough to malign me."

"Well," she said slowly, "I do not think you ought to come to Cousin
Louise's so often. You ought not to pay Cousin Louise as much attention
as you do."

"What!" He threw back his head and laughed.

"You do not know what an injury you are doing her," she continued
gravely. "You cannot know how people are talking about it?"

"Oh, don't I?" he laughed. Then, as out of the tail of his eye he saw
her troubled face, he stopped and made his face grave. "And you think I
am injuring her!" She did notice the covert cynicism.

"I am sure you are--unwittingly. You do not know how unhappy she is."

An expression very like content stole into his dark eyes.

Lois continued:

"She has not been wise. She has been foolish and unyielding and--oh, I
hate to say anything against her, for she has been very kind to me!--She
has allowed others to make trouble between her and her husband; but she
loves him dearly for all that--and--"

"Oh, she does! You think so!" said Wickersham, with an ugly little gleam
under his half-closed lids and a shrewd glance at Lois.

"Yes. Oh, yes, I am sure of it. I know it. She adores him."

"She does, eh?"

"Yes. She would give the world to undo what she has done and win him
back."

"She would, eh?" Again that gleam in Wickersham's dark eyes as they
slanted a glance at the girl's earnest face.

"I think she had no idea till--till lately how people talked about her,
and it was a great shock to her. She is a very proud woman, you know?"

"Yes," he assented, "quite proud."

"She esteems you--your friendship--and likes you ever so much, and all
that." She was speaking rapidly now, her sober eyes on Wickersham's face
with an appealing look in them. "And she doesn't want to do anything
to--to wound you; but I think you ought not to come so often or see her
in a way to make people talk--and I thought I'd say so to you." A smile
that was a plea for sympathy flickered in her eyes.

Wickersham's mind had been busy. This explained the change in Louise
Wentworth's manner of late--ever since he had made the bold declaration
of his intention to conquer her. Another idea suggested itself. Could
the girl be jealous of his attentions to Mrs. Wentworth? He had had
women play such a part; but none was like this girl. If it was a game
it was a deep one. He took his line, and when she ended composed his
voice to a low tone as he leant toward her.

"My dear girl, I have listened to every word you said. I am shocked to
hear what you tell me. Of course I know people have talked about
me,--curse them! they always will talk,--but I had no idea it had gone
so far. As you know, I have always taken Mrs. Wentworth's side in the
unhappy differences between her and her husband. This has been no
secret. I cannot help taking the side of the woman in any controversy. I
have tried to stand her friend, notwithstanding what people said.
Sometimes I have been able to help her. But--" He paused and took a long
breath, his eyes on the ground. Then, leaning forward, he gazed into
her face.

"What would you say if I should tell you that my frequent visits to Mrs.
Wentworth's house were not to see her--entirely?" He felt his way
slowly, watching the effect on her. It had no effect. She did not
understand him.

"What do you mean?"

He leant over, and taking hold of her wrist with one hand, he put his
other arm around her. "Lois, can you doubt what I mean?" He threw an
unexpected passion into his eyes and into his voice,--he had done it
often with success,--and drew her suddenly to him.

Taken by surprise, she, with a little exclamation, tried to draw away
from him, but he held her firmly.

"Do you think I went there to see her? Do you give me no credit for
having eyes--for knowing the prettiest, sweetest, dearest little girl in
New York? I must have concealed my secret better than I thought. Why,
Lois, it is you I have been after." His eyes were close to hers and
looked deep into them.

She gave an exclamation of dismay and tried to rise. "Oh, Mr.
Wickersham, please let me go!" But he held her fast.

"Why, of course, it is yourself."

"Let me go--please let me go, Mr. Wickersham," she exclaimed as she
struggled.

"Oh, now don't get so excited," he said, drawing her all the closer to
him, and holding her all the tighter. "It is not becoming to your
beautiful eyes. Listen to me, my darling. I am not going to hurt you. I
love you too much, little girl, and I want your love. Sit down. Listen
to me." He tried to kiss her, but his lips just touched her face.

"No; I will not listen." She struggled to her feet, flushed and panting,
but Wickersham rose too.

"I will kiss you, you little fool." He caught her, and clasping her with
both arms, kissed her twice violently; then, as she gave a little
scream, released her. "There!" he said. As he did so she straightened
herself and gave him a ringing box on his ear.

"There!" She faced him with blazing eyes.

Angry, and with his cheek stinging, Wickersham seized her again.

"You little devil!" he growled, and kissed her on her cheek again and
again.

As he let her go, she faced him. She was now perfectly calm.

"You are not a gentleman," she said in a low, level tone, tears of shame
standing in her eyes.

For answer he caught her again.

Then the unexpected happened. At that moment Keith turned a clump of
shrubbery a few paces off, that shut out the alley from the bench which
Wickersham had selected. For a second he paused, amazed. Then, as he
took in the situation, a black look came into his face.

The next second he had sprung to where Wickersham stood, and seizing him
by the collar, jerked him around and slapped him full in the face.

"You hound!" He caught him again, the light of fury in his eyes, the
primal love of fight that has burned there when men have fought for a
woman since the days of Adam, and with a fierce oath hurled him spinning
back across the walk, where he measured his length on the ground.

Then Keith turned to the girl:

"Come; I will see you home."

The noise had attracted the attention of others besides Gordon Keith.
Just at this juncture a stout policeman turned the curve at a
double-quick.

As he did so, Wickersham rose and slipped away.

"What th' devil 'rre ye doin'?" the officer demanded in a rich brogue
before he came to a halt. "I'll stop this racket. I'll run ye ivery wan
in. I've got ye now, me foine leddy; I've been waitin' for ye for some
time." He seized Lois by the arm roughly.

"Let her go. Take your hand off that lady, sir. Don't you dare to touch
her." Keith stepped up to him with his eyes flashing and hand raised.

"And you too. I'll tache you to turn this park into--"

"Take your hand off her, or I'll make you sorry for it."

"Oh, you will!" But at the tone of authority he released Lois.

"What is your name? Give me your number. I'll have you discharged for
insulting a lady," said Keith.

"Oh, me name's aall right. Me name's Mike Doherty--Sergeant Doherty. I
guess ye'll find it on the rolls right enough. And as for insultin' a
leddy, that's what I'm goin' to charrge against ye--that and--"

"Why, Mike Doherty!" exclaimed Keith. "I am Mr. Keith--Gordon Keith."

"Mr. Keith! Gordon Keith!" The big officer leant over and looked at
Keith in the gathering dusk. "Be jabbers, and so it is! Who's your leddy
friend?" he asked in a low voice. "Be George, she's a daisy!"

Keith stiffened. The blood rushed to his face, and he started to speak
sharply. He, however, turned to Lois.

"Miss Huntington, this is an old friend of mine. This is Mike Doherty,
who used to be the best man on the ship when I ran the blockade as
a boy."

"The verry same," said Mike.

"He used to teach me boxing," continued Keith.

"I taaught him the left upper-cut," nodded the sergeant.

Keith went on and told the story of his coming on a man who was annoying
Miss Huntington, but he did not give his name.

"Did ye give him the left upper-cut?" demanded Sergeant Doherty.

"I am not sure that I did not," laughed Keith. "I know he went down over
there where you saw him lying--and I have ended one or two
misunderstandings with it very satisfactorily."

"Ah, well, then, I'm glad I taaught ye. I'm glad ye've got such a good
defender, ma'am. Ye'll pardon what I said when I first coomed up. But I
was a little over-het. Ye see, this place is kind o' noted
for--for--This place is called 'Snugglers' Roost.' Nobody comes here
this time 'thout they'rre a little aff, and we has arders to look
out for 'em."

"I am glad I had two such defenders," said Lois, innocently.

"I'm always glad to meet Mr. Keith's friends--and his inimies too," said
the sergeant, taking off his helmet and bowing. "If I can sarve ye any
time, sind worrd to Precin't XX, and I'll be proud to do it."

As Keith and Lois walked slowly homeward, Lois gave him an account of
her interview with Wickersham. Only she did not tell him of his kissing
her the first time. She tried to minimize the insult now, for she did
not know what Keith might do. He had suddenly grown so quiet.

What she said to Keith, however, was enough to make him very grave. And
when he left her at Mrs. Wentworth's house the gravity on his face
deepened to grimness. That Wickersham should have dared to insult this
young girl as he had done stirred Keith's deepest anger. What Keith did
was, perhaps, a very foolish thing. He tried to find him, but failing in
this, he wrote him a note in which he told him what he thought of him,
and added that if he felt aggrieved he would be glad to send a friend to
him and arrange to give him any satisfaction which he might desire.

Wickersham, however, had left town. He had gone West on business, and
would not return for some weeks, the report from his office stated.

On reaching home, Lois went straight to her room and thought over the
whole matter. It certainly appeared grave enough to her. She determined
that she would never meet Wickersham again, and, further, that she would
not remain in the house if she had to do so. Her cheeks burned with
shame as she thought of him, and then her heart sank at the thought that
Keith might at that moment be seeking him.

Having reached her decision, she sought Mrs. Wentworth.

As soon as she entered the room, Mrs. Wentworth saw that something
serious had occurred, and in reply to her question Lois sat down and
quietly told the story of having met Mr. Wickersham and of his
attempting to kiss her, though she did not repeat what Wickersham had
said to her. To her surprise, Mrs. Wentworth burst out laughing.

"On my word, you were so tragic when you came in that I feared something
terrible had occurred. Why, you silly creature, do you suppose that
Ferdy meant anything by what he did?"

"He meant to insult me--and you," said Lois, with a lift of her head and
a flash in her eye.

"Nonsense! He has probably kissed a hundred girls, and will kiss a
hundred more if they give him the chance to do so."

"I gave him no chance," said Lois, sitting very straight and stiff, and
with a proud dignity which the other might well have heeded.

"Now, don't be silly," said Mrs. Wentworth, with a little hauteur. "Why
did you walk in a secluded part of the Park with him?"

"I thought I could help a friend of mine," said Lois.

"Mr. Keith, I suppose!"

"No; _not_ Mr. Keith."

"A woman, perhaps?"

"Yes; a woman." She spoke with a hauteur which Mrs. Wentworth had never
seen in her.

"Cousin Louise," she said suddenly, after a moment's reflection, "I
think I ought to say to you that I will never speak to Mr.
Wickersham again."

The color rushed to Mrs. Wentworth's face, and her eyes gave a flash.
"You will never do what?" she demanded coldly, looking at her with
lifted head.

"I will never meet Mr. Wickersham again."

"You appear to have met him once too often already. I think you do not
know what you are saying or whom you are speaking to."

"I do perfectly," said Lois, looking her full in the eyes.

"I think you had better go to your room," said Mrs. Wentworth, angrily.

The color rose to Lois's face, and her eyes were sparkling. Then the
color ebbed back again as she restrained herself.

"You mean you wish me to go?" Her voice was calm.

"I do. You have evidently forgotten your place."

"I will go home," she said. She walked slowly to the door. As she
reached it she turned and faced Mrs. Wentworth. "I wish to thank you for
all your kindness to me; for you have been very kind to me at times, and
I wish--" Her voice broke a little, but she recovered herself, and
walking back to Mrs. Wentworth, held out her hand. "Good-by."

Mrs. Wentworth, without rising, shook hands with her coldly. "Good-by."

Lois turned and walked slowly from the room.

As soon as she had closed the door she rushed up-stairs, and, locking
herself in, threw herself on the bed and burst out crying. The strain
had been too great, and the bent bow at last snapped.

An hour or two later there was a knock on her door. Lois opened it, and
Mrs. Wentworth entered. She appeared rather surprised to find Lois
packing her trunk.

"Are you really going away?" she asked.

"Yes, Cousin Louise."

"I think I spoke hastily to you. I said one or two things that I regret.
I had no right to speak to you as I did," said Mrs. Wentworth.

"No, I do not think you had," said Lois, gravely; "but I will try and
never think of it again, but only of your kindness to me."

Suddenly, to her astonishment, Mrs. Wentworth burst out weeping. "You
are all against me," she exclaimed--"all! You are all so hard on me!"

Lois sprang toward her, her face full of sudden pity. "Why, Cousin
Louise!"

"You are all deserting me. What shall I do! I am so wretched! I am so
lonely--so lonely! Oh, I wish I were dead!" sobbed the unhappy woman.
"Then, maybe, some one might be sorry for me even if they did not
love me."

Lois slipped her arm around her and drew her to her, as if their ages
had been reversed. "Don't cry, Cousin Louise. Calm yourself."

Lois drew her down to a sofa, and kneeling beside her, tried to comfort
her with tender words and assurances of her affection. "There, Cousin
Louise, I do love you--we all love you. Cousin Norman loves you."

Mrs. Wentworth only sobbed her dissent.

"I will stay. I will not go," said Lois. "If you want me."

The unhappy woman caught her in her arms and thanked her with a humility
which was new to the girl. And out of the reconciliation came a view of
her which Lois had never seen, and which hardly any one had seen often.



CHAPTER XXXI

TERPY'S LAST DANCE AND WICKERSHAM'S FINAL THROW

Curiously enough, the interview between Mrs. Lancaster and Lois brought
them closer together than before. The older woman seemed to find a new
pleasure in the young girl's society, and as often as she could she had
the girl at her house. Sometimes, too, Keith was of the party. He held
himself in leash, and hardly dared face the fact that he had once more
entered on the lane which, beginning among flowers, had proved so thorny
in the end. Yet more and more he let himself drift into that sweet
atmosphere whose light was the presence of Lois Huntington.

One evening they all went together to see a vaudeville performance that
was being much talked about.

Keith had secured a box next the stage. The theatre was crowded.
Wickersham sat in another box with several women, and Keith was aware
that he was covertly watching his party. He had never appeared gayer or
been handsomer.

The last number but one was a dance by a new danseuse, who, it was
stated in the playbills, had just come over from Russia. According to
the reports, the Russian court was wild about her, and she had left
Europe at the personal request of the Czar. However this might be, it
appeared that she could dance. The theatre was packed nightly, and she
was the drawing-card.

As the curtain rose, the danseuse made her way to the centre of the
stage. She had raven-black hair and brows; but even as she stood, there
was something in the pose that seemed familiar to Keith, and as she
stepped forward and bowed with a little jerk of her head, and then, with
a nod to the orchestra, began to dance, Keith recognized Terpy. That
abandon was her own.

As she swept the boxes with her eyes, they fell on Keith, and she
started, hesitated, then went on. Next moment she glanced at the box
again, and as her eye caught Keith's she gave him a glance of
recognition. She was not to be disconcerted now, however. She had never
danced so well. And she was greeted with raptures of applause. The crowd
was wild with delight.

At that moment, from one of the wings, a thin curl of smoke rose and
floated up alongside a painted tamarind-tree. It might at first have
been only the smoke of a cigar. Next moment, however, a flick of flame
stole out and moved up the tree, and a draught of air blew the smoke
across the stage. There were a few excited whispers, a rush in the
wings; some one in the gallery shouted "Fire!" and just then a shower of
sparks from the flaming scenery fell on the stage.

In a second the whole audience was on its feet. In a second more there
would have been a panic which must have cost many lives. Keith saw the
danger. "Stay in this box," he said. "The best way out is over the
stage. I will come for you if necessary." He sprang on the stage, and,
with a wave of his arm to the audience, shouted: "Down in your seats! It
is all right."

Those nearest the stage, seeing a man stand between them and the fire,
had paused, and the hubbub for a moment had ceased. Keith took
advantage of it.

"This theatre can be emptied in three minutes if you take your time," he
cried; "but the fire is under control."

Terpy had seized the burning piece of scenery and torn it down, and was
tearing off the flaming edges with her naked hands. He sprang to Terpy's
side. Her filmy dress caught fire, but Keith jerked off his coat and
smothered the flame. Just then the water came, and the fire
was subdued.

"Strike up that music again," Keith said to the musicians. Then to Terpy
he said: "Begin dancing. Dance for your life!" The girl obeyed, and, all
blackened as she was, began to dance again. She danced as she had never
danced before, and as she danced the people at the rear filed out, while
most of those in the body of the house stood and watched her. As the
last spark of flame was extinguished the girl stopped, breathless.
Thunders of applause broke out, but ceased as Terpy suddenly sank to the
floor, clutching with her blackened hands at her throat. Keith caught
her, and lowering her gently, straightened her dress. The next moment a
woman sprang out of her box and knelt beside him; a woman's arm slipped
under the dancer's head, and Lois Huntington, on her knees, was
loosening Terpy's bodice as if she had been a sister.

A doctor came up out of the audience and bent over her, and the curtain
rang down.

That night Keith and Lois and Mrs. Lancaster all spent in the
waiting-room of the Emergency Hospital. They knew that Terpy's life was
ebbing fast. She had swallowed the flame, the doctor said. During the
night a nurse came and called for Keith. The dying woman wanted to see
him. When Keith reached her bedside, the doctor, in reply to a look of
inquiry from him, said: "You can say anything to her; it will not hurt
her." He turned away, and Keith seated himself beside her. Her face and
hands were swathed in bandages.

"I want to say good-by," she said feebly. "You don't mind now what I
said to you that time?" Keith, for answer, stroked the coverlid beside
her. "I want to go back home--to Gumbolt.--Tell the boys good-by
for me."

Keith said he would--as well as he could, for he had little voice left.

"I want to see _her_," she said presently.

"Whom?" asked Keith.

"The younger one. The one you looked at all the time. I want to thank
her for the doll. I ran away."

Lois was sent for, but when she reached the bedside Terpy was too far
gone to speak so that she could be understood. But she was conscious
enough to know that Lois was at her side and that it was her voice that
repeated the Lord's Prayer.

The newspapers the next day rang with her praises, and that night Keith
went South with her body to lay it on the hillside among her friends,
and all of old Gumbolt was there to meet her.

       *       *       *       *       *

Wickersham, on finding his attempt at explanation to Mrs. Wentworth
received with coldness, turned his attentions in another direction. It
was necessary. His affairs had all gone wrong of late. He had seen his
great fortune disappear under his hands. Men who had not half his
ability were succeeding where he had failed. Men who once followed him
now held aloof, and refused to be drawn into his most tempting schemes.
His enemies were working against him. He would overthrow them yet.
Norman Wentworth and Gordon Keith especially he hated.

He began to try his fortune with Mrs. Lancaster again. Now, if ever,
appeared a good time. She was indifferent to every man--unless she cared
for Keith. He had sometimes thought she might; but he did not believe
it. Keith, of course, would like to marry her; but Wickersham did not
believe Keith stood any chance. Though she had refused Wickersham, she
had never shown any one else any special favor. He would try new tactics
and bear her off before she knew it. He began with a dash. He was quite
a different man from what he had been. He even was seen in church,
turning on Rimmon a sphinx-like face that a little disconcerted that
eloquent person.

Mrs. Lancaster received him with the serene and unruffled indifference
with which she received all her admirers, and there were many. She
treated him, however, with the easy indulgence with which old friends
are likely to be treated for old times' sake; and Wickersham was
deceived. Fortune appeared suddenly to smile on him again. Hope sprang
up once more.

Mrs. Nailor one day met Lois, and informed her that Mr. Wickersham was
now a rival of Mr. Keith's with Mrs. Lancaster, and, what was more, that
Norman Wentworth had learned that it was not Wickersham at all, but Mr.
Keith who had really caused the trouble between Norman and his wife.

Lois was aghast. She denied vehemently that it was true; but Mrs. Nailor
received her denial with amused indulgence.

"Oh, every one knows it," she said. "Mr. Keith long ago cut Fredy out;
and Norman knows it."

Lois went home in a maze. This, then, explained why Mr. Keith had
suddenly stopped coming to the house. When he had met her he had
appeared as glad as ever to see her, but he had also appeared
constrained. He had begun to talk of going away. He was almost the only
man in New York that she could call her friend. To think of New York
without him made her lonely. He was in love with Mrs. Lancaster, she
knew--of that she was sure, notwithstanding Mrs. Nailor's statement.
Could Mrs. Lancaster have treated him badly? She had not even cared for
her husband, so people said; would she be cruel to Keith?

The more she pondered over it the more unhappy Lois became. Finally it
appeared to her that her duty was plain. If Mrs. Lancaster had rejected
Keith for Wickersham, she might set her right. She could, at least, set
her right as to the story about him and Mrs. Wentworth.

That afternoon she called on Mrs. Lancaster. It was in the Spring, and
she put on a dainty gown she had just made.

She was received with the sincere cordiality that Alice Lancaster always
showed her. She was taken up to her boudoir, a nest of blue satin and
sunshine. And there, of all occupations in the world, Mrs. Lancaster,
clad in a soft lavender tea-gown, was engaged in mending old clothes.
"For my orphans," she said, with a laugh and a blush that made her look
charming.

A photograph of Keith stood on the table in a silver frame. When,
however, Lois would have brought up the subject of Mr. Keith, his name
stuck in her throat.

"I have what the children call 'a swap' for you," said the girl,
smiling.

Mrs. Lancaster smiled acquiescingly as she bit off a thread.

"I heard some one say the other day that you were one of those who 'do
good by stealth, and blush to find it fame.'"

"Oh, how nice! I am not, at all, you know. Still, it is pleasant to
deceive people that way. Who said it?"

"Mr. Keith." Lois could not help blushing a little; but she had broken
the ice.

"And I have one to return to you. I heard some one say that you had 'the
rare gift of an absolutely direct mind.' That you were like George
Washington: you couldn't tell a lie--that truth had its home in your
eyes." Her eyes were twinkling.

"My! Who said that?" asked the girl.

"Mr. Keith."

Lois turned quickly under pretence of picking up something, but she was
not quick enough to hide her face from her friend. The red that burned
in her cheeks flamed down and made her throat rosy.

Mrs. Lancaster looked at the young girl. She made a pretty picture as
she sat leaning forward, the curves of her slim, light-gowned figure
showing against the background of blue. Her face was pensive, and she
was evidently thinking deeply.

"What are you puzzling over so?"

At the question the color mounted into her cheeks, and the next second a
smile lit up her face as she turned her eyes frankly on Mrs. Lancaster.

"You would be amused to know. I was wondering how long you had known Mr.
Keith, and what he was like when he was young."

"When he was young! Do you call him old now? Why, he is only a little
over thirty."

"Is that all! He always seems much older to me, I do not know why. But
he has seen so much--done so much. Why, he appears to have had so many
experiences! I feel as if no matter what might happen, he would know
just what to do. For instance, that story that Cousin Norman told me
once of his going down into the flooded mine, and that night at the
theatre, when there was the fire--why, he just took charge. I felt as if
he would take charge no matter what might happen."

Mrs. Lancaster at first had smiled at the girl's enthusiasm, but before
Lois had finished, she had drifted away.

"He would--he would," she repeated, pensively.

"Then that poor girl--what he did for her. I just--" Lois paused,
seeking for a word--"trust him!"

Mrs. Lancaster smiled.

"You may," she said. "That is exactly the word."

"Tell me, what was he like when--you first knew him?"

"I don't know--why, he was--he was just what he is now--you could have
trusted him--"

"Why didn't you marry him?" asked Lois, her eyes on the other's face.

Mrs. Lancaster looked at her with almost a gasp.

"Why, Lois! What are you talking about? Who says--?"

"He says so. He said he was desperately in love with you."

"Why, Lois--!" began Mrs. Lancaster, with the color mounting to her
cheeks. "Well, he has gotten bravely over it," she laughed.

"He has not. He is in love with you now," the young girl said calmly.

Mrs. Lancaster turned and faced her with her mouth open to speak, and
read the girl's sincerity in her face. "With me!" She clasped her hands
with a pretty gesture over her bosom. A warm feeling suddenly surged to
her heart.

The younger woman nodded.

"Yes--and, oh, Mrs. Lancaster, don't treat him badly!" She laid both
hands on her arm and looked at her earnestly. "He has loved you always,"
she continued.

"Loved me! Lois, you are dreaming." But as she said it, Alice's heart
was beating.

"Yes, he was talking to me one evening, and he began to tell me of his
love for a girl,--a young girl,--and what a part it had played in
his life--"

"But I was married," put in Mrs. Lancaster, seeking for further proof
rather than renouncing this.

"Yes, he said she did not care for him; but he had always striven to
keep her image in his heart--her image as she was when he knew her and
as he imagined her."

Mrs. Lancaster's face for a moment was a study.

"Do you know whom he is in love with now?" she said presently.

"Yes; with you."

"No--not with me; with you." She put her hand on Lois's cheek
caressingly, and gazed into her eyes.

The girl's eyes sank into her lap. Her face, which had been growing
white and pink by turns, suddenly flamed.

"Mrs. Lancaster, I believe I--" she began in low tones. She raised her
eyes, and they met for a moment Mrs. Lancaster's. Something in their
depths, some look of sympathy, of almost maternal kindness, struck her,
passed through to her long-stilled heart. With a little cry she threw
herself into the other's arms and buried her burning face in her lap.

The expression on the face of the young widow changed. She glanced down
for a moment at the little head in her lap, then bending down, she
buried her face in the brown tresses, and drew her form close to
her heart.

In a moment the young girl was pouring out her soul to her as if she had
been her daughter.

The expression in Alice Lancaster's eyes was softer than it had been for
a long time, for it was the light of self-sacrifice that shone in them.

"You have your happiness in your hands," she said tenderly.

Lois looked up with dissent in her eyes.

Mrs. Lancaster shook her head.

"No. He will never be in love with me again."

The girl gave a quick intaking of her breath, her hand clutching at her
throat.

"Oh, Mrs. Lancaster!" She was thinking aloud rather than speaking. "I
thought that you cared for him."

Alice Lancaster shook her head. She tried to meet frankly the other's
eyes, but as they gazed deep into hers with an inquiry not to be put
aside, hers failed and fell.

"No," she said, but it was with a gasp.

Lois's eyes opened wide, and her face changed.

"Oh!" she murmured, as the sense of what she had done swept over her.
She rose to her feet and, bending down, kissed Mrs. Lancaster tenderly.
One might have thought she was the elder of the two.

Lois returned home in deep thought. She had surprised Mrs. Lancaster's
secret, and the end was plain. She allowed herself no delusions. The
dream that for a moment had shed its radiance on her was broken. Keith
was in love with Mrs. Lancaster, and Alice loved him. She prayed that
they might be happy--especially Keith. She was angry with herself that
she had allowed herself to become so interested in him. She would forget
him. This was easier said than done. But she could at least avoid seeing
him. And having made her decision, she held to it firmly. She avoided
him in every way possible.

The strain, however, had been too much for Lois, and her strength began
to go. The doctor advised Mrs. Wentworth to send her home. "She is
breaking down, and you will have her ill on your hands," he said. Lois,
too, was pining to get away. She felt that she could not stand the city
another week. And so, one day, she disappeared from town.

When Wickersham met Mrs. Lancaster after her talk with Lois, he was
conscious of the change in her. The old easy, indulgent attitude was
gone; and in her eye, instead of the lazy, half-amused smile, was
something very like scorn. Something had happened, he knew.

His thoughts flew to Keith, Norman, Rimmon, also to several ladies of
his acquaintance. What had they told her? Could it be the fact that he
had lost nearly everything--that he had spent Mrs. Wentworth's money?
That he had written anonymous letters? Whatever it was, he would brave
it out. He had been in some hard places lately, and had won out by his
nerve. He assumed an injured and a virtuous air, and no man could do
it better.

"What has happened? You are so strange to me. Has some one been
prejudicing you against me? Some one has slandered me," he said, with an
air of virtue.

"No. No one." Mrs. Lancaster turned her rings with a little
embarrassment. She was trying to muster the courage to speak plainly to
him. He gave it to her.

"Oh, yes; some one has. I think I have a right to demand who it is. Is
it that man Keith?"

"No." She glanced at him with a swift flash in her eye. "Mr. Keith has
not mentioned your name to me since I came home."

Her tone fired him with jealousy.

"Well, who was it, then? He is not above it. He hates me enough to say
anything. He has never got over our buying his old place, and has never
lost an opportunity to malign me since."

She looked him in the face, for the first time, quite steadily.

"Let me tell you, Mr. Keith has never said a word against you to me--and
that is much more than I can say for you; so you need not be
maligning him now."

A faint flush stole into Wickersham's face.

"You appear to be championing his cause very warmly."

"Because he is a friend of mine and an honorable gentleman."

He gave a hard, bitter laugh.

"Women are innocent!"

"It is more than men are" she said, fired, as women always are, by a
fleer at the sex.

"Who has been slandering me?" he demanded, angered suddenly by her
retort. "I have stood in a relation to you which gives me a right to
demand the name."

"What relation to me?--Where is your wife?"

His face whitened, and he drew in his breath as if struck a blow,--a
long breath,--but in a second he had recovered himself, and he burst
into a laugh.

"So you have heard that old story--and believe it?" he said, with his
eyes looking straight into hers. As she made no answer, he went on.
"Now, as you have heard it, I will explain the whole thing to you. I
have always wanted to do it; but--but--I hardly knew whether it were
better to do it or leave it alone. I thought if you had heard it you
would mention it to me--"

"I have done so now," she said coldly.

"I thought our relation--or, as you object to that word, our
friendship--entitled me to that much from you."

"I never heard it till--till just now," she defended, rather shaken by
his tone and air of candor.

"When?

"Oh--very recently."

"Won't you tell me who told you?"

"No--o. Go on."

"Well, that woman--that poor girl--her name was--her name is--Phrony
Tripper--or Trimmer. I think that was her name--she called herself
Euphronia Tripper." He was trying with puckered brow to recall exactly.
"I suppose that is the woman you are referring to?" he said suddenly.

"It is. You have not had more than one, have you?"

He laughed, pleased to give the subject a lighter tone.

"Well, this poor creature I used to know in the South when I was a
boy--when I first went down there, you know? She was the daughter of an
old farmer at whose house we stayed. I used to talk to her. You know how
a boy talks to a pretty girl whom he is thrown with in a lonesome old
country place, far from any amusement." Her eyes showed that she knew,
and he was satisfied and proceeded.

"But heavens! the idea of being in love with her! Why, she was the
daughter of a farmer. Well, then I fell in with her afterwards--once or
twice, to be accurate--when I went down there on business, and she was a
pretty, vain country girl--"

"I used to know her," assented Mrs. Lancaster.

"You did!" His face fell.

"Yes; when I went there to a little Winter resort for my throat--when I
was seventeen. She used to go to the school taught by Mr. Keith."

"She did? Oh, then you know her name? It was Tripper, wasn't it?"

She nodded.

"I thought it was. Well, she was quite pretty, you remember; and, as I
say, I fell in with her again, and having been old friends--" He shifted
in his seat a little as if embarrassed--"Why--oh, you know how it is. I
began to talk nonsense to her to pass away the time,--told her she was
pretty and all that,--and made her a few presents--and--" He paused and
took a long breath. "I thought she was very queer. The first thing I
knew, I found she was--out of her mind. Well, I stopped and soon came
away, and, to my horror, she took it into her head that she was my wife.
She followed me here. I had to go abroad, and I heard no more of her
until, not long ago, I heard she had gone completely crazy and was
hunting me up as her husband. You know how such poor creatures are?" He
paused, well satisfied with his recital, for first surprise and then a
certain sympathy took the place of incredulity in Mrs. Lancaster's face.

"She is absolutely mad, poor thing, I understand," he sighed, with
unmistakable sympathy in his voice.

"Yes," Mrs. Lancaster assented, her thoughts drifting away.

He watched her keenly, and next moment began again.

"I heard she had got hold of Mr. Rimmon's name and declares that he
married us."

Mrs. Lancaster returned to the present, and he went on:

"I don't know how she got hold of it. I suppose his being the
fashionable preacher, or his name being in the papers frequently,
suggested the idea. But if you have any doubt on the subject, ask him."

Mrs. Lancaster looked assent.

"Here--Having heard the story, and thinking it might be as well to stop
it at once, I wrote to Mr. Rimmon to give me a statement to set the
matter at rest, and I have it in my pocket." He took from his
pocket-book a letter and spread it before Mrs. Lancaster. It read:

     "DEAR MR. WICKERSHAM: I am sorry you are being annoyed. I
     cannot imagine that you should need any such statement as you
     request. The records of marriages are kept in the proper
     office here. Any one who will take the trouble to inspect
     those records will see that I have never made any such
     report. This should be more than sufficient.

     "I feel sure this will answer your purpose.

          "Yours sincerely,

               "W.H. RIMMON."

"I think that settles the matter," said Wickersham, with his eyes on her
face.

"It would seem so," said Mrs. Lancaster, gravely.

As she spoke slowly, Wickersham put in one more nail.

"Of course, you know there must be a witness to a marriage," he said.
"If there be such a witness, let K---- let those who are engaged in
defaming me produce him."

"No, no," said Mrs. Lancaster, quickly. "Mr. Rimmon's statement--I think
I owe you an apology for what I said. Of course, it appeared incredible;
but something occurred--I can't tell you--I don't want to tell you
what--that shocked me very much, and I suppose I judged too hastily and
harshly. You must forget what I said, and forgive me for my injustice."

"Certainly I will," he said earnestly.

The revulsion in her belief inclined her to be kinder toward him than
she had been in a long time.

The change in her manner toward him made Wickersham's heart begin to
beat. He leant over and took her hand.

"Won't you give me more than justice, Alice?" he began. "If you knew how
long I have waited--how I have hoped even against hope--how I have
always loved you--" She was so taken aback by his declaration that for a
moment she did not find words to reply, and he swept on: "--you would
not be so cold--so cruel to me. I have always thought you the most
beautiful--the most charming woman in New York."

She shook her head. "No, you have not."

"I have; I swear I have! Even when I have hung around--around other
women, I have done so because I saw you were taken up with--some one
else. I thought I might find some one else to supplant you, but never
for one moment have I failed to acknowledge your superiority--"

"Oh, no; you have not. How can you dare to tell me that!" she smiled,
recovering her self-possession.

"I have, Alice, ever since you were a girl--even when you
were--were--when you were beyond me--I loved you more than ever--I--"
Her face changed, and she recoiled from him.

"Don't," she said.

"I will." He seized her hand and held it tightly. "I loved you even then
better than I ever loved in my life--better than your--than any one else
did." Her face whitened.

"Stop!" she cried. "Not another word. I will not listen. Release my
hand." She pulled it from him forcibly, and, as he began again, she,
with a gesture, stopped him.

"No--no--no! It is impossible. I will not listen."

His face changed as he looked into her face. She rose from her seat and
turned away from him, taking two or three steps up and down, trying to
regain control of herself.

He waited and watched her, an angry light coming into his eyes. He
misread her feelings. He had made love to married women before and had
not been repulsed.

She turned to him now, and with level eyes looked into his.

"You never loved me in your life. I have had men in love with me, and
know when they are; but you are not one of them."

"I was--I am--" he began, stepping closer to her; but she stopped him.

"Not for a minute," she went on, without heeding him. "And you had no
right to say that to me."

"What?" he demanded.

"What you said. My husband loved me with all the strength of a noble,
high-minded man, and notwithstanding the difference in our ages, treated
me as his equal; and I loved him--yes, loved him devotedly," she said,
as she saw a spark come into his eyes.

"You love some one else now," he said coolly.

It might have been anger that brought the rush of color to her face. She
turned and looked him full in the face.

"If I do, it is not you."

The arrow went home. His eyes snapped with anger.

"You took such lofty ground just now that I should hardly have supposed
the attentions of Mr. Wentworth meant anything so serious. I thought
that was mere friendship."

This time there was no doubt that the color meant anger.

"What do you mean?" she demanded, looking him once more full in the
eyes.

"I refer to what the world says, especially as he himself is such a
model of all the Christian virtues."

"What the world says? What do you mean?" she persisted, never taking her
eyes from his face.

He simply shrugged his shoulders.

"So I assume Mr. Keith is the fortunate suitor for the remnant of your
affections: Keith the immaculate--Keith the pure and pious gentleman who
trades on his affections. I wish you good luck."

At his insolence Mrs. Lancaster's patience suddenly snapped.

"Go," she said, pointing to the door. "Go."

When Wickersham walked out into the street, his face was white and
drawn, and a strange light was in his eyes. He had played one of his
last cards, and had played it like a fool. Luck had gone against him,
and he had lost his head. His heart--that heart that had never known
remorse and rarely dismay--began to sink. Luck had been going against
him now for a long time, so long that it had swept away his fortune and
most of his credit. What was worse to him, he was conscious that he had
lost his nerve. Where should he turn? Unless luck turned or he could get
help he would go down. He canvassed the various means of escape. Man
after man had fallen away from him. Every scheme had failed.

He attributed it all to Norman--to Norman and Keith. Norman had ruined
him in New York; Keith had blocked him and balked him in the South. But
one resource remained to him. He would make one more supreme effort.
Then, if he failed? He thought of a locked drawer in his desk, and a
black pistol under the papers there. His cheek blanched at the thought,
but his lips closed tight. He would not survive disgrace. His disgrace
meant the known loss of his fortune. One thing he would do. Keith had
escaped him, had succeeded, but Norman he could overthrow. Norman had
been struck hard; he would now complete his ruin. With this mental tonic
he straightened up and walked rapidly down the street.

That evening Wickersham was closeted for some time with a man who had of
late come into especial notice as a strong and merciless
financier--Mr. Kestrel.

Mr. Kestrel received him at first with a coldness which might have
repelled a less determined man. He had no delusions about Wickersham;
but Wickersham knew this, and unfolded to him, with plausible frankness,
a scheme which had much reason in it. He had at the same time played on
the older man's foibles with great astuteness, and had awakened one or
two of his dormant animosities. He knew that Mr. Kestrel had had a
strong feeling against Norman for several years.

"You are one of the few men who do not have to fall down and worship the
name of Wentworth," he said.

"Well, I rather think not," said Mr. Kestrel, with a glint in his eyes,
as he recalled Norman Wentworth's scorn of him at the board-meeting
years before, when Norman had defended Keith against him.

"--Or this new man, Keith, who is undertaking to teach New York
finance?"

Mr. Kestrel gave a hard little laugh, which was more like a cough than
an expression of mirth, but which meant that he was amused.

"Well, neither do I," said Wickersham. "To tell you frankly, I hate them
both, though there is money, and big money, in this, as you can see for
yourself from what I have said. This is my real reason for wanting you
in it. If you jump in and hammer down those things, you will clean them
out. I have the old patents to all the lands that Keith sold those
people. They antedate the titles under which Rawson claims. If you can
break up the deal now, we will go in and recover the lands from Rawson.
Wentworth is so deep in that he'll never pull through, and his friend
Keith has staked everything on this one toss."

Old Kestrel's parchment face was inscrutable as he gazed at Wickersham
and declared that he did not know about that. He did not believe in
having animosities in business matters, as it marred one's judgment.
But Wickersham knew enough to be sure that the seed he had planted would
bear fruit, and that Kestrel would stake something on the chance.

In this he was not deceived. The next day Mr. Kestrel acceded to his
plan.

For some days after that there appeared in a certain paper a series of
attacks on various lines of property holdings, that was characterized by
other papers as a "strong bearish movement." The same paper contained a
vicious article about the attempt to unload worthless coal-lands on
gullible Englishmen. Meantime Wickersham, foreseeing failure, acted
independently.

The attack might not have amounted to a great deal but for one of those
untimely accidents that sometimes overthrow all calculations. One of the
keenest and oldest financiers in the city suddenly dropped dead, and a
stampede started on the Stock Exchange. It was stayed in a little while,
but meantime a number of men had been hard hit, and among these was
Norman Wentworth. The papers next day announced the names of those who
had suffered, and much space was given in one of them to the decline of
the old firm of Wentworth & Son, whose history was almost contemporary
with that of New York.

By noon it was extensively rumored that Wentworth & Son would close
their doors. The firm which had lasted for three generations, and whose
name had been the synonym for honor and for philanthropy, which had
stood as the type of the highest that can exist in commerce, would go
down. Men spoke of it with a regret which did them honor--hard men who
rarely expressed regret for the losses of another.

It was rumored, too, that Wickersham & Company must assign; but this
caused little surprise and less regret. Aaron Wickersham had had
friends, but his son had not succeeded to them.

Keith, having determined to talk to Alice Lancaster about Lois, was
calling on the former a day or two after her interview with Wickersham.
She was still somewhat disturbed over it, and showed it in her manner so
clearly that Keith asked what was the trouble.

It was nothing very much, she said. Only she had broken finally with a
friend she had known a long time, and such things upset her.

Keith was sympathetic, and suddenly, to his surprise, she broke down and
began to cry. He had never seen her weep before since she sat, as a
girl, in the pine-woods and he lent her his handkerchief to dry her
tears. Something in the association gave him a feeling of unwonted
tenderness. She had not appeared to him so soft, so feminine, in a long
time. He essayed to comfort her. He, too, had broken with an old friend,
the friend of a lifetime, and he would never get over it.

"Mine was such a blow to me," she said, wiping her eyes; "such cruel
things were said to me. I did not think any one but a woman would have
said such biting things to a woman."

"It was Ferdy Wickersham, I know," said Keith, his eyes contracting;
"but what on earth could he have said? What could he have dared to say
to wound you so?"

"He said all the town was talking about me and Norman." She began to cry
again. "Norman, dear old Norman, who has been more like a brother to me
than any one I have ever known, and whom I would give the world to bring
back happiness to."

"He is a scoundrel!" exclaimed Keith. "I have stood all--more than I
ever expected to stand from any man living; but if he is attacking
women"--he was speaking to himself rather than to her--"I will unmask
him. He is not worth your notice," he said kindly, addressing her again.
"Women have been his prey ever since I knew him, when he was but a young
boy." Mrs. Lancaster dried her eyes.

"You refer to the story that he had married that poor girl and abandoned
her?"

"Yes--partly that. That is the worst thing I know of him."

"But that is not true. However cruel he is, that accusation is
unfounded. I know that myself."

"How do you know it?" asked Keith, in surprise.

"He told me the whole story: explained the thing to my satisfaction. It
was a poor crazy girl who claimed that he married her; said Mr. Rimmon
had performed the ceremony She was crazy. I saw Mr. Rimmon's letter
denying the whole thing."

"Do you know his handwriting?" inquired Keith, grimly.

"Whose?"

"Well, that of both of them?"

She nodded, and Keith, taking out his pocket-book, opened it and took
therefrom a slip of paper. "Look at that. I got that a few days ago from
the witness who was present."

"Why, what is this?" She sprang up in her excitement.

"It is incredible!" she said slowly. "Why, he told me the story with the
utmost circumstantiality."

"He lied to you," said Keith, grimly. "And Rimmon lied. That is their
handwriting. I have had it examined by the best expert in New York City.
I had not intended to use that against him, but only to clear the
character of that poor young creature whom he deceived and then
abandoned; but as he is defaming her here, and is at his old trade of
trying to deceive women, it is time he was shown up in his true colors."

She gave a shudder of horror, and wiped her right hand with her left.
"Oh, to think that he dared!" She wiped her hand on her handkerchief.

At that moment a servant brought in a card. As Mrs. Lancaster gazed at
it, her eyes flashed and her lip curled.

"Say that Mrs. Lancaster begs to be excused."

"Yes, madam." The servant hesitated. "I think he heard you talking,
madam."

"Say that Mrs. Lancaster begs to be excused," she said firmly.

The servant, with a bow, withdrew.

She handed the card to Keith. On it was the name of the Rev. William H.
Rimmon.

Mr. Rimmon, as he stood in the hall, was in unusually good spirits,
though slightly perturbed. He had determined to carry through a plan
that he had long pondered over. He had decided to ask Mrs. Lancaster to
become Mrs. Rimmon.

As Keith glanced toward the door, he caught Mr. Rimmon's eye. He was
waiting on the threshold and rubbing his hands with eager expectancy.
Just then the servant gave him the message. Keith saw his countenance
fall and his face blanch. He turned, picked up his hat, and slipped out
of the door, with a step that was almost a slink.

As Mr. Rimmon passed down the street he knew that he had reached a
crisis in his life. He went to see Wickersham, but that gentleman was in
no mood for condolences. Everything had gone against him. He was facing
utter ruin. Rimmon's upbraiding angered him.

"By the way, you are the very man I wanted to see," he said grimly. "I
want you to sign a note for that twenty thousand I lost by you when you
insisted on my holding that stock."

Rimmon's jaw fell. "That you held for me? Sign a note! Twenty-six
thousand!"

"Yes. Don't pretend innocence--not on me. Save that for the pulpit. I
know you," said the other, with a chilling laugh.

"But you were to carry that. That was a part of our agreement. Why,
twenty thousand would take everything I have."

"Don't play that on me," said Wickersham, coldly. "It won't work. You
can make it up when you get your widow."

Rimmon groaned helplessly.

"Come; there is the note. Sign."

Rimmon began to expostulate, and finally refused pointblank to sign.
Wickersham gazed at him with amusement.

"You sign that, or I will serve suit on you in a half-hour, and we will
see how the Rev. Mr. Rimmmon stands when my lawyers are through with
him. You will believe in hell then, sure enough."

"You won't dare do it. Your marriage would come out. Mrs. Lancaster
would--"

"She knows it," said Wickersham, calmly. And, as Rimmon looked
sceptical, "I told her myself to spare you the trouble. Sign." He rose
and touched a bell.

Rimmon, with a groan, signed the paper.

"You must have showed her my letter!"

"Of course, I did."

"But you promised me not to. I am ruined!"

"What have I to do with that? 'See thou to that,'" said Wickersham, with
a bitter laugh.

Rimmon's face paled at the quotation. He, too, had betrayed his Lord.

"Now go." Wickersham pointed to the door.

Mr. Rimmon went home and tried to write a letter to Mrs. Lancaster, but
he could not master his thoughts. That pen that usually flowed so glibly
failed to obey him. He was in darkness. He saw himself dishonored,
displaced. Wickersham was capable of anything. He did not know where to
turn. He thought of his brother clergymen. He knew many good men who
spent their lives helping others. But something deterred him from
applying to them now. To some he had been indifferent, others he had
known only socially. Yet others had withdrawn themselves from him more
and more of late. He had attributed it to their envy or their folly. He
suddenly thought of old Dr. Templeton. He had always ignored that old
man as a sort of crack-brained creature who had not been able to keep up
with the world, and had been left stranded, doing the work that properly
belonged to the unsuccessful. Curiously enough, he was the one to whom
the unhappy man now turned. Besides, he was a friend of Mrs. Lancaster.

A half-hour later the Rev. Mr. Rimmon was in Dr. Templeton's simple
study, and was finding a singular sense of relief in pouring out his
troubles to the old clergyman. He told him something of his unhappy
situation--not all, it is true, but enough to enable the other to see
how grave it was, as much from what he inferred as from what Rimmon
explained. He even began to hope again. If the Doctor would undertake to
straighten out the complications he might yet pull through. To his
dismay, this phase of the matter did not appear to present itself to the
old man's mind. It was the sin that he had committed that had
touched him.

"Let us carry it where only we can find relief;" he said. "Let us take
it to the Throne of Grace, where we can lay all our burdens"; and before
Rimmon knew it, he was on his knees, praying for him as if he had been a
very outcast.

When the Rev. Mr. Rimmon came out of the shabby little study, though he
had not gotten the relief he had sought, he, somehow, felt a little
comforted, while at the same time he felt humble. He had one of those
brief intervals of feeling that, perhaps, there was, after all,
something that that old man had found which he had missed, and he
determined to find it. But Mr. Rimmon had wandered far out of the way.
He had had a glimpse of the pearl, but the price was great, and he had
not been able to pay it all.

       *       *       *       *       *

Wickersham discounted the note; but the amount was only a bagatelle to
him: a bucket-shop had swallowed it within an hour. He had lost his
instinct. It was only the love of gambling that remained.

Only one chance appeared to remain for him. He had made up with Louise
Wentworth after a fashion. He must get hold of her in some way. He might
obtain more money from her. The method he selected was a desperate one;
but he was a desperate man.

After long pondering, he sat down and wrote her a note, asking her "to
meet some friends of his, a Count and Countess Torelli, at supper"
next evening.



CHAPTER XXXII

THE RUN ON THE BANK

It was the day after the events just recorded that Keith's deal was
concluded. The attack on him and the attempt made by Wickersham and
Kestrel to break up his deal had failed, and the deeds and money
were passed.

Keith was on his way back to his office from his final interview with
the representative of the syndicate that had bought the properties. He
was conscious of a curious sensation, partly of exhilaration, partly of
almost awe, as he walked through the crowded streets, where every one
was bent on the same quest: gold. At last he had won. He was rich. He
wondered, as he walked along, if any of the men he shouldered were as
rich as he. Norman and Ferdy Wickersham recurred to him. Both had been
much wealthier; but Wickersham, he knew, was in straits, and Norman was
in some trouble. He was unfeignedly glad about Wickersham; but the
recollection of Norman clouded his face.

It was with a pang that he recalled Norman's recent conduct to him--a
pang that one who had always been his friend should have changed so; but
that was the way of the world. This reflection, however, was not
consoling.

He reached his office and seated himself at his desk, to take another
look at his papers. Before he opened them he rose and locked the door,
and opening a large envelope, spread the papers out on the desk
before him.

He thought of his father. He must write and tell him of his success.
Then he thought of his old home. He remembered his resolution to restore
it and make it what it used to be. But how much he could do with the
money it would take to fit up the old place in the manner he had
contemplated! By investing it judiciously he could double it.

Suddenly there was a step outside and a knock at his door, followed by
voices in the outer office. Keith rose, and putting his papers back in
his pocket, opened the door. For a second he had a mingled sensation of
pleasure and surprise. His father stood there, his bag clutched in his
hand. He looked tired, and had aged some since Keith saw him last; but
his face wore the old smile that always illumined it when it rested
on his son.

Keith greeted him warmly and drew him inside. "I was just thinking of
you, sir."

"You would not come to see me, so I have come to see you. I have heard
from you so rarely that I was afraid you were sick." His eyes rested
fondly on Gordon's face.

"No; I have been so busy; that is all. Well, sir, I have won." His eyes
were sparkling.

The old gentleman's face lit up.

"You have? Found Phrony, have you? I am so glad. It will give old Rawson
a new lease of life. I saw him after he got back. He has failed a good
deal lately."

"No, sir. I have found her, too; but I mean I have won out at last."

"Ah, you have won her? I congratulate you. I hope she will make you
happy."

Keith laughed.

"I don't mean that. I mean I have sold my lands at last. I closed this
morning with the Englishmen, and received the money."

The General smiled.

"Ah, you have, have you? That's very good. I am glad for old Adam
Rawson's sake."

"I was afraid he would die before the deeds passed," said Keith. "But
see, here are the drafts to my order." He spread them out. "This one is
my commission. And I have the same amount of common stock."

His father made no comment on this, but presently said: "You will have
enough to restore the old place a little."

"How much would it cost to fix up the place as you think it ought to be
fixed up?"

"Oh, some thousands of dollars. You see, the house is much out of
repair, and the quarters ought really all to be rebuilt. Old Charlotte's
house I have kept in repair, and Richard now sleeps in the house, as he
has gotten so rheumatic. I should think five or six thousand dollars
might do it."

"I can certainly spare that much," said Keith, laughing.

"How is Norman?" asked the General.

Keith was conscious of a feeling of discontent. His countenance fell.

"Why, I don't know. I don't see much of him these days."

"Ah! I want to go to see him."

"The fact is, we have--er--had--. There has been an unfortunate
misunderstanding between us. No one regrets it more than I; but I think
I can say it was not at all my fault, and I have done all and more than
was required of me."

"Ah, I am very sorry for that. It's a pity--a pity!" said the old
General. "What was it about?"

"Well, I don't care to talk about it, sir. But I can assure you, I was
not in the least to blame. It was caused mainly, I believe, by that
fellow, Wickersham."

"He's a scoundrel!" said the General, with sudden vehemence.

"He is, sir!"

"I will go and see Norman. I see by the papers he is in some trouble."

"I fear he is, sir. His bank has been declining."

"Perhaps you can help him?" His face lit up. "You remember, he once
wrote you--a long time ago?"

"I remember; I have repaid that," said Keith, quickly. "He has treated
me very badly." He gave a brief account of the trouble between them.

The old General leant back and looked at his son intently. His face was
very grave and showed that he was reflecting deeply.

"Gordon," he said presently, "the Devil is standing very close to you. A
real misunderstanding should always be cleared up. You must go to him."

"What do you mean, sir?" asked his son, in some confusion.

"You are at the parting of the ways. A gentleman cannot hesitate. Such a
debt never can be paid by a gentleman," he said calmly. "You must help
him, even if you cannot restore the old place. Elphinstone has gone for
a debt before." He rose as if there was nothing more to be said. "Well,
I will go and wait for you at your rooms." He walked out.

Keith sat and reflected. How different he was from his father! How
different from what he had been years ago! Then he had had an affection
for the old home and all that it represented. He had worked with the
idea of winning it back some day. It had been an inspiration to him. But
now it was wealth that he had begun to seek.

It came to him clearly how much he had changed. The process all lay
before him. It had grown with his success, and had kept pace with it in
an almost steady ratio since he had set success before him as a goal. He
was angry with himself to find that he was thinking now of success
merely as Wealth. Once he had thought of Honor and Achievement, even of
Duty. He remembered when he had not hesitated to descend into what
appeared the very jaws of death, because it seemed to him his duty. He
wondered if he would do the same now.

He felt that this was a practical view which he was now taking of life.
He was now a practical man; yes, practical like old Kestrel, said his
better self. He felt that he was not as much of a gentleman as he used
to be. He was further from his father; further from what Norman was.
This again brought Norman to his mind. If the rumors which he had heard
were true, Norman was now in a tight place.

As his father had said, perhaps he might be able to help him. But why
should he do it? If Norman had helped him in the past, had he not
already paid him back? And had not Norman treated him badly of late
without the least cause--met his advances with a rebuff? No; he would
show him that he was not to be treated so. He still had a small account
in Norman's bank, which he had not drawn out because he had not wished
to let Norman see that he thought enough of his coldness to make any
change; but he would put his money now into old Creamer's bank. After
looking at his drafts again, he unlocked his door and went out on
the street.

There was more commotion on the street than he had seen in some days.
Men were hurrying at a quicker pace than the rapid gait which was always
noticeable in that thoroughfare. Groups occasionally formed and, after a
word or two, dispersed. Newsboys were crying extras and announcing some
important news in an unintelligible jargon. Messengers were dashing
about, rushing in and out of the big buildings. Something unusual was
evidently going on. As Keith, on his way to the bank of which Mr.
Creamer was president, passed the mouth of the street in which Norman's
office was situated, he looked down and saw quite a crowd assembled. The
street was full. He passed on, however, and went into the big building,
on the first floor of which Creamer's bank had its offices. He walked
through to the rear of the office, to the door of Mr. Creamer's private
office, and casually asked the nearest clerk for Mr. Creamer. The young
man said he was engaged. Keith, however, walked up to the door, and was
about to knock, when, at a word spoken by his informant, another clerk
came hastily forward and said that Mr. Creamer was very busily engaged
and could see no one.

"Well, he will see me," said Keith, feeling suddenly the courage that
the possession of over a quarter of a million dollars gave, and he
boldly knocked on the door, and, without waiting to be invited in,
opened it.

Mr. Creamer was sitting at his desk, and two or three other men, one or
two of whom Keith had seen before, were seated in front of him in close
conference. They stared at the intruder.

"Mr. Keith." Mr. Creamer's tone conveyed not the least feeling, gave no
idea either of welcome or surprise.

"Excuse me for interrupting you for a moment," said Keith. "I want to
open an account here. I have a draft on London, which I should like to
deposit and have you collect for me."

The effect was immediate; indeed, one might almost say magical. The
atmosphere of the room as suddenly changed as if May should be dropped
into the lap of December. The old banker's face relaxed. He touched a
bell under the lid of his desk, and at the same moment pushed back
his chair.

"Gentlemen, let me introduce my friend, Mr. Keith." He presented Keith
in turn to each of his companions, who greeted him with that degree of
mingled reserve and civility which is due to a man who has placed a
paper capable of effecting such a marked change in the hands of the most
self-contained banker in Bankers' Row.

A tap at the door announced an answer to the bell, and the next moment a
clerk came in.

"Ask Mr. Penwell to come here," said Mr. Creamer. "Mr. Penwell is the
head of our foreign department," he added in gracious explanation
to Keith.

"Mr. Keith, gentlemen, is largely interested in some of those Southern
mining properties that you have heard me speak of; and has just put
through a very fine deal with an English syndicate."

The door opened, and a cool-looking, slender man of fifty-odd, with a
thin gray face, thin gray hair very smoothly brushed, and keen gray
eyes, entered. He was introduced to Mr. Keith. After Mr. Creamer had
stated the purpose of Keith's visit and had placed the drafts in Mr.
Penwell's hands, the latter stated, as an interesting item just off the
ticker, that he understood Wentworth was in trouble. Some one had just
come and said that there was a run on his bank.

"Those attacks on him in the newspapers must have hurt him
considerably," observed one of the visitors.

"Yes, he has been a good deal hurt," said Mr. Creamer. "We are all
right, Penwell?" He glanced at his subordinate.

Mr. Penwell nodded with deep satisfaction.

"So are we," said one of the visitors. "This is the end of Wentworth &
Son. He will go down."

"He has been going down for some time. Wife too extravagant."

This appeared to be the general opinion. But Keith scarcely heard the
speakers. He stood in a maze.

The announcement of Norman's trouble had come to him like a
thunder-clap. And he was standing now as in a dream. Could it be
possible that Norman was going to fail? And if he failed, would this be
all it meant to these men who had known him always?

The vision of an old gentleman sitting in his home, which he had lost,
came back to him across the years.

"That young man is a gentleman," he heard him say. "It takes a gentleman
to write such a letter to a friend in misfortune. Write to him and say
we will never forget his kindness." He heard the same old gentleman say,
after years of poverty, "You must pay your debt though I give up
Elphinstone."

Was he not now forgetting Norman's kindness? But was it not too late?
Could he save him? Would he not simply be throwing away his money to
offer it to him? Suddenly again, he seemed to hear his father's voice:

"The Devil is standing close behind you. You are at the parting of the
ways. A gentleman cannot hesitate."

"Mr. Creamer," he said suddenly, "why don't Norman Wentworth's friends
come to his rescue and help him out of his difficulties?"

The question might have come from the sky, it was so unexpected. It
evidently caught the others unprepared with an answer. They simply
smiled vaguely. Mr. Creamer said presently, rubbing his chin:

"Why, I don't suppose they know the extent of his difficulties."

"And I guess he has no collateral to offer?" said another.

"Collateral! No; everything he has is pledged."

"But I mean, why don't they lend him money without collateral, if
necessary, to tide him over his trouble? He is a man of probity. He has
lived here all his life. He must have many friends able to help him.
They know that if he had time to realize on his properties he would
probably pull through."

With one accord the other occupants of the room turned and looked at
Keith.

"Did you say you had made a fortune in mining deals?" asked one of the
gentlemen across the table, gazing at Keith through his gold-rimmed
glasses with a wintry little smile.

"No, I did not. Whatever was said on that subject Mr. Creamer said."

"Oh! That's so. He did. Well, you are the sort of a man we want about
here."

This remark was received with some amusement by the others; but Keith
passed it by, and turned to Mr. Creamer.

"Mr. Creamer, how much money will you give me on this draft? This is
mine. The other I wish to deposit here."

"Why, I don't know just what the exchange would be. What is the exchange
on this, Penwell?"

"Will you cash this draft for me?" asked Keith.

"Certainly."

"Well, will you do me a further favor? It might make very little
difference if I were to make a deposit in Norman's bank; but if you were
to make such a deposit there, it would probably reassure people, and the
run might be stopped. I have known of one or two instances."

Mr. Creamer agreed, and the result was a sort of reaction in Norman's
favor, in sentiment if not in action. It was arranged that Keith should
go and make a deposit, and that Mr. Creamer should send a man to make a
further one and offer Wentworth aid.

When Gordon Keith reached the block on which stood Norman's bank, the
street was already filled with a dense crowd, pushing, growling,
complaining, swearing, threatening. It was evidently a serious affair,
and Keith, trying to make his way through the mob, heard many things
about Norman which he never could have believed it would have been
possible to hear. The crowd was in an ugly mood, and was growing uglier.
A number of policemen were trying to keep the people in line so that
they could take their turn. Keith found it impossible to make his way to
the front. His explanation that he wished to make a deposit was greeted
with shouts of derision.

"Stand back there, young man. We've heard that before; you can't work
that on us. We would all like to make deposits--somewhere else."

"Except them what's already made 'em," some one added, at which there
was a laugh.

Keith applied to a policeman with hardly more success, until he opened
the satchel he carried, and mentioned the name of the banker who was to
follow him. On this the officer called another, and after a hurried word
the two began to force their way through the crowd, with Keith between
them. By dint of commanding, pushing, and explaining, they at length
reached the entrance to the bank, and finally made their way, hot and
perspiring, to the counter. A clerk was at work at every window counting
out money as fast as checks were presented.

Just before Keith reached the counter, on glancing through an open door,
he saw Norman sitting at his desk, white and grim. His burning eyes
seemed deeper than ever. He glanced up, and Keith thought he caught his
gaze on him, but he was not sure, for he looked away so quickly. The
next moment he walked around inside the counter and spoke to a clerk,
who opened a ledger and gave him a memorandum. Then he came forward and
spoke to a teller at the receiving-window.

"Do you know that man with the two policemen? That is Mr. Gordon Keith.
Here is his balance; pay it to him as soon as he reaches the window."

The teller, bending forward, gazed earnestly out of the small grated
window over the heads of those nearest him. Keith met his gaze, and the
teller nodded. Norman turned away without looking, and seated himself on
a chair in the rear of the bank.

When Keith reached the window, the white-faced teller said immediately:

"Your balance, Mr. Keith, is so much; you have a check?" He extended his
hand to take it.

"No," said Keith; "I have not come to draw out any money. I have come to
make a deposit."

The teller was so much astonished that he simply ejaculated:

"Sir--?"

"I wish to make a deposit," said Keith, raising his voice a little, and
speaking with great distinctness.

His voice had the quality of carrying, and a silence settled on the
crowd,--one of those silences that sometimes fall, even on a mob, when
the wholly unexpected happens,--so that every word that was spoken was
heard distinctly.

"Ah--we are not taking deposits to-day," said the astonished teller,
doubtfully.

Keith smiled.

"Well, I suppose there is no objection to doing so? I have an account in
this bank, and I wish to add to it. I am not afraid of it."

The teller gazed at him in blank amazement; he evidently thought that
Keith was a little mad. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but said
nothing from sheer astonishment.

"I have confidence enough in this bank," pursued Keith, "to put my money
here, and here I propose to put it, and I am not the only one; there
will be others here in a little while."

"I shall--really, I shall have to ask Mr. Wentworth," faltered the
clerk.

"Mr. Wentworth has nothing to do with it," said Keith, positively, and
to close the discussion, he lifted his satchel through the window, and,
turning it upside down, emptied before the astonished teller a pile of
bills which made him gasp. "Enter that to my credit," said Keith.

"How much is it?"

The sum that Keith mentioned made him gasp yet more. It was up in the
hundreds of thousands.

"There will be more here in a little while." He turned his head and
glanced toward the door. "Ah, here comes some one now," he said, as he
recognized one of the men whom he had recently left at the council
board, who was then pushing his way forward, under the guidance of
several policemen.

The amount deposited by the banker was much larger than Keith had
expected, and a few well-timed words to those about him had a marked
effect upon the depositors. He said their apprehension was simply
absurd. They, of course, had the right to draw out their money, if they
wished it, and they would get it, but he advised them to go home and
wait to do so until the crowd dispersed. The bank was perfectly sound,
and they could not break it unless they could also break its friends.

A few of the struggling depositors dropped out of line, some of the
others saying that, as they had waited so long, they guessed they would
get their money now.

The advice given, perhaps, had an added effect, as at that moment a
shriek arose from a woman near the door, who declared that her pocket
had been picked of the money she had just drawn.

The arrival of the new depositors, and the spreading through the crowd
of the information that they represented several of the strongest banks
in the city, quieted the apprehensions of the depositors, and a
considerable number of them abandoned the idea of drawing out their
money and went off. Though many of them remained, it was evident that
the dangerous run had subsided. A notice was posted on the front door of
the bank that the bank would remain open until eight o'clock and would
be open the following morning at eight, which had something to do with
allaying the excitement of the depositors.

That afternoon Keith went back to the bank. Though depositors were still
drawing out their money, the scene outside was very different from that
which he had witnessed earlier in the day. Keith asked for Mr.
Wentworth, and was shown to his room. When Keith entered, Norman was
sitting at his desk figuring busily. Keith closed the door behind him
and waited. The lines were deep on Norman's face; but the hunted look it
had borne in the morning had passed away, and grim resolution had taken
its place. When at length he glanced up, his already white face grew yet
whiter. The next second a flush sprang to his cheeks; he pushed back his
chair and rose, and, taking one step forward, stretched out his hand.

"Keith!"

Keith took his hand with a grip that drove the blood from the ends of
Norman's fingers.

"Norman!"

Norman drew a chair close to his desk, and Keith sat down. Norman sank
into his, looked down on the floor for a second, then, raising his eyes,
looked full into Keith's eyes.

"Keith--?" His voice failed him; he glanced away, reached over, and took
up a paper lying near, and the next instant leant forward, and folding
his arms on the desk, dropped his head on them, shaken with emotion.

Keith rose from his chair, and bending over him, laid his hand on his
head, as he might have done to a younger brother.

"Don't, Norman," he said helplessly; "it is all right." He moved his
hand down Norman's arm with a touch as caressing as if he had been a
little child, but all he said was: "Don't, Norman; it is all right."

Suddenly Norman sat up.

"It is all wrong!" he said bitterly. "I have been a fool. I had no
right--. But I was mad! I have wrecked my life. But I was insane. I was
deceived. I do not know even now how it happened. I ought to have known,
but--I learned only just now. I can never explain. I ask your
pardon humbly."

Keith leant forward and laid his hand upon him affectionately.

"There, there! You owe me no apology, and I ask no explanation; it was
all a great mistake."

"Yes, and all my fault. She was not to blame; it was my folly. I drove
her to--desperation."

"I want to ask just one thing. Was it Ferdy Wickersham who made you
believe I had deceived you?" asked Keith, standing straight above him.

"In part--mainly. But I was mad." He drew his hand across his forehead,
sat back in his chair, and, with eyes averted, sighed deeply. His
thoughts were evidently far from Keith. Keith's eyes rested on him, and
his face paled a little with growing resolution.

"One question, Norman. Pardon me for asking it. My only reason is that
I would give my life, a worthless life you once saved, to see you as you
once were. I know more than you think I know. You love her still? I know
you must."

Norman turned his eyes and let them rest on Keith's face. They were
filled with anguish.

"Better than my life. I adore her."

Keith drew in his breath with a long sigh of relief and of content.

"Oh, I have no hope," Norman went on despairingly. "I gave her every
right to doubt it. I killed her love. I do not blame her. It was all my
fault. I know it now, when it is too late."

"It is not too late."

Norman shook his head, without even looking at Keith.

"Too late," he said, speaking to himself.

Keith rose to his feet.

"It is not too late," he declared, with a sudden ring in his voice; "she
loves you."

Norman shook his head.

"She hates me; I deserve it."

"In her heart she adores you," said Keith, in a tone of conviction.

Norman turned away with a half-bitter laugh.

"You don't know."

"I do know, and you will know it, too. How long shall you be here?"

"I shall spend the night here," said Norman. "I must be ready for
whatever may happen to-morrow morning.--I have not thanked you yet." He
extended his hand to Keith. "You stemmed the tide for me to-day. I know
what it must have cost you. I cannot regret it, and I know you never
will; and I beg you to believe that, though I go down to-morrow, I shall
never forget it, and if God spares me, I will repay you."

Keith's eyes rested on him calmly.

"You paid me long ago, Norman. I was paying a debt to-day, or trying to
pay one, in a small way. It was not I who made that deposit to-day, but
a better man and a finer gentleman than I can ever hope to be--my
father. It was he who inspired me to do that; he paid that debt."

From what Keith had heard, he felt that he was justified in going to see
Mrs. Wentworth. Possibly, it was not too late; possibly, he might be
able to do something to clear away the misapprehension under which she
labored, and to make up the trouble between her and Norman. Norman still
loved her dearly, and Keith believed that she cared for him. Lois
Huntington always declared that she did, and she could not have
been deceived.

That she had been foolish Keith knew; that she had been wicked he did
not believe. She was self-willed, vain, extravagant; but deep under her
cold exterior burned fires of which she had once or twice given him a
glimpse; and he believed that her deepest feeling was ever for Norman.

When he reached Mrs. Wentworth's house he was fortunate enough to find
her at home. He was shown into the drawing-room.

When Mrs. Wentworth entered the room, Keith was conscious of a change in
her since he had seen her last. She, too, had heard the clangor of the
evil tongues that had connected their names. She greeted him with
cordial words, but her manner was constrained, and her expression was
almost suspicious.

She changed, however, under Keith's imperturbable and unfeigned
friendliness, and suddenly asked him if he had seen Norman. For the
first time real interest spoke in her voice and shone in her face. Keith
said he had seen him.

"I have come to see if I could not help you. Perhaps, I may be able to
do something to set things right."

"No--it is too late. Things have gone too far. We have just
drifted--drifted!" She flung up her hands and tossed them apart with a
gesture of despair. "Drifted!" she repeated. She put her handkerchief to
her eyes.

Keith watched her in silence for a moment, and then rising, he seated
himself beside her.

"Come--this is all wrong--all wrong!" He caught her by the wrist and
firmly took her hand down from her eyes, much as an older brother might
have done. "I want to talk to you. Perhaps, I can help you--I may have
been sent here for the purpose--who knows? At least, I want to help you.
Now tell me." He looked into her face with grave, kind eyes. "You do not
care for Ferdy Wickersham? That would be impossible."

"No, of course not,--except as a friend,--and Norman liked another
woman--your friend!" Her eyes flashed a sudden flame.

"Never! never!" repeated Keith, after a pause. "Norman is not that
sort."

His absolute certainty daunted her.

"He did. I have reason to think--" she began. But Keith put her down.

"Never! I would stake my salvation on it."

"He is going to get a--try to get a divorce. He is willing to blacken my
name."

"What! Never."

"But you do not know the reasons I have for saying so," she protested.
"If I could tell you--"

"No, and I do not care. Doubt your own senses rather than believe that.
Ferdy Wickersham is your authority for that."

"No, he is not--not my only authority. You are all so hard on Ferdy. He
is a good friend of mine."

"He is not," asserted Keith. "He is your worst enemy--your very worst.
He is incapable of being a friend."

"What have you against him?" she demanded. "I know you and he don't like
each other, but--"

"Well, for one thing, he deceived a poor girl, and then abandoned
her--and--"

"Perhaps, your information is incorrect? You know how easy it is to get
up a slander, and such women are--not to be believed. They always
pretend that they have been deceived."

"She was not one of 'such women,'" said Keith, calmly. "She was a
perfectly respectable woman, and the granddaughter of an old friend
of mine."

"Well, perhaps, you may have been misinformed?"

"No; I have the evidence that Wickersham married her--and--"

"Oh, come now--that is absurd! Ferdy married! Why, Ferdy never cared
enough for any one to marry her--unless she had money. He has paid
attention to a rich woman, but--You must not strain my credulity too
far. I really thought you had something to show against him. Of course,
I know he is not a saint,--in fact, very far from it,--but he does not
pretend to be. But, at least, he is not a hypocrite."

"He is a hypocrite and a scoundrel," declared Keith, firmly. "He is
married, and his wife is living now. He abandoned her, and she is
insane. I know her."

"You know her! Ferdy married!" She paused in wonder. His certainty
carried conviction with it.

"I have his marriage certificate."

"You have?" A sort of amaze passed over her face.

He took out the paper and gave it to her. She gazed at it with staring
eyes. "That is his hand." She rose with a blank face, and walked to the
window; then, after a moment, came back and sat down. She had the
expression of a person lost. "Tell me about it."

Keith told her. He also told her of Norman's losses.

Again that look of amazement crossed her face; her eyes became almost
blank.

"Norman's fortune impaired! I cannot understand it--_he_ told me--Oh,
there must be some mistake!" she broke out vehemently. "You are
deceiving me. No! I don't mean that, of course,--I know you would
not,--but you have been deceived yourself." Her face was a
sudden white.

Keith shook his head. "No!"

"Why, look here. He cannot be hard up. He has kept up my allowance and
met every demand--almost every demand--I have made on him." She was
grasping at straws.

"And Ferdy Wickersham has spent it in Wall Street."

"What! No, he has not! There, at least, you do him an injustice. What he
has got from me he has invested securely. I have all the papers--at
least, some of them."

"How has he invested it?"

"Partly in a mine called the 'Great Gun Mine,' in New Leeds. Partly in
Colorado.--I can help Norman with it." Her face brightened as the
thought came to her.

Keith shook his head.

"The Great Gun Mine is a fraud--at least, it is worthless, not worth
five cents on the dollar of what has been put in it. It was flooded
years ago. Wickersham has used it as a mask for his gambling operations
in Wall Street, but has not put a dollar into it for years; and now he
does not even own it. His creditors have it."

Her face had turned perfectly white.

A look, partly of pity for her, partly of scorn for Wickersham, crossed
Keith's face. He rose and strode up and down the room in perplexity.

"He is a common thief," he said sternly--"beneath contempt!"

His conviction suddenly extended to her. When he looked at her, she
showed in her face that she believed him. Her last prop had fallen. The
calamity had made her quiet.

"What shall I do?" she asked hopelessly.

"You must tell Norman."

"Oh!"

"Make a clean breast of it."

"You do not know Norman! How can I? He would despise me so! You do not
know how proud he is. He--!" Words failed her, and she stared at Keith
helplessly.

"If I do not know Norman, I know no one on earth. Go to him and tell
him everything. It will be the happiest day of his life--your
salvation and his."

"You think so?"

"I know it."

She relapsed into thought, and Keith waited.

"I was to see Fer--Mr. Wickersham to-night," she began presently. "He
asked me to supper to meet some friends--the Count and Countess
Torelli."

Keith smiled. A fine scorn came into his eyes.

"Where does he give the dinner? At what hour?"

She named the place--a fashionable restaurant up-town. The time was
still several hours away.

"You must go to Norman."

She sat in deep reflection.

"It is your only chance--your only hope. Give me authority to act for
you, and go to him. He needs you."

"If I thought he would forgive me?" she said in a low tone.

"He will. I have just come from him. Write me the authority and go at
once."

A light appeared to dawn in her face.

She rose suddenly.

"What shall I write?"

"Write simply that I have full authority to act for you--and that you
have gone to Norman."

She walked into the next room, and seating herself at an escritoire, she
wrote for a short time. When she handed the paper to Keith it contained
just what he had requested: a simple statement to F.C. Wickersham that
Mr. Keith had full authority to represent her and act for her as he
deemed best.

"Will that do?" she asked.

"I think so," said Keith. "Now go. Norman is waiting."



CHAPTER XXXIII

RECONCILIATION

For some time after Keith left her Mrs. Wentworth sat absolutely
motionless, her eyes half closed, her lips drawn tight, in deep
reflection. Presently she changed her seat and ensconced herself in the
corner of a divan, leaning her head on her hand; but her expression did
not change. Her mind was evidently working in the same channel. A tumult
raged within her breast, but her face was set sphinx-like, inscrutable.
Just then there was a scurry up-stairs; a boy's voice was
heard shouting:

"See here, what papa sent us."

There was an answering shout, and then an uproar of childish delight. A
sudden change swept over her. Light appeared to break upon her.
Something like courage came into her face, not unmingled with
tenderness, softening it and dispelling the gloom which had clouded it.
She rose suddenly and walked with a swift, decisive step out of the room
and up the richly carpeted stairs. To a maid on the upper floor she said
hurriedly: "Tell Fenderson to order the brougham--at once," and passed
into her chamber.

Closing the door, she locked it. She opened a safe built in the wall; a
package of letters fell out into the room. A spasm almost of loathing
crossed her face. She picked up the letters and began to tear them up
with almost violence, throwing the fragments into the grate as though
they soiled her hands. Going back to the safe, she took out box after
box of jewelry, opening them to glance in and see that the jewels were
there. Yes, they were there: a pearl necklace; bracelets which had been
the wonder of her set, and which her pretended friend and admirer had
once said were worth as much as her home. She put them all into a bag,
together with several large envelopes containing papers.

Then she went to a dress-closet, and began to search through it,
choosing, finally, a simple, dark street dress, by no means one of the
newest. A gorgeous robe, which had been laid out for her to wear, she
picked up and flung on the floor with sudden loathing. It was the gown
she had intended to wear that night.

A tap at the door, and the maid's mild voice announced the carriage; and
a few minutes later Mrs. Wentworth descended the stairs.

"Tell Mademoiselle Clarisse that Mr. Wentworth will be here this evening
to see the children."

"Yes, madam." The maid's quiet voice was too well trained to express the
slightest surprise, but as soon as the outer door had closed on her
mistress, and she had heard the carriage drive away, she rushed down to
the lower storey to convey the astounding intelligence, and to gossip
over it for half an hour before she deemed it necessary to give the
message to the governess who had succeeded Lois when the latter
went home.

It was just eight o'clock that evening when the carriage drove up to the
door of Norman Wentworth's bank, and a lady enveloped in a long wrap,
her dark veil pulled down over her face, sprang out and ran up the
steps. The crowd had long ago dispersed, though now and then a few timid
depositors still made their way into the bank, to be on the safe side.

The intervention of the banks and the loans they had made that afternoon
had stayed the run and saved the bank from closing; but Norman Wentworth
knew that if he was not ruined, his bank had received a shock from which
it would not recover in a long time, and his fortune was crippled, he
feared, almost beyond repair. The tired clerks looked up as the lady
entered the bank, and, with glances at the clock, muttered a few words
to each other about her right to draw money after the closing-hour had
passed. When, however, she walked past their windows and went straight
to Mr. Wentworth's door, their interest increased.

Norman, with his books before him, was sitting back in his chair, his
head leaning back and resting in his clasped hands, deep in thought upon
the gloom of the present and the perplexities of the future, when there
was a tap at the door.

With some impatience he called to the person to enter.

The door opened, and Norman could scarcely believe his senses. For a
second he did not even sit forward. He did not stir; he simply remained
sitting back in his chair, his face turned to the door, his eyes resting
on the figure before him in vague amazement. The next second, with a
half-cry, his wife was on her knees beside him, her arms about him, her
form shaken with sobs. He sat forward slowly, and his arm rested on her
shoulders.

"There! don't cry," he said slowly; "it might be worse."

But all she said was:

"Oh, Norman! Norman!"

He tried to raise her, with grave words to calm her; but she resisted,
and clung to him closer.

"It is not so bad; it might be worse," he repeated.

She rose suddenly to her feet and flung back her veil.

"Can you forgive me? I have come to beg your forgiveness on my knees. I
have been mad--mad. I was deceived. No! I will not say that--I was
crazy--a fool! But I loved you always, you only. You will forgive me?
Say you will."

"There, there! Of course I will--I do. I have been to blame quite as
much--more than you. I was a fool."

"Oh, no, no! You shall not say that; but you will believe that I loved
you--you only--always! You will believe this? I was mad."

He raised her up gently, and with earnest words reassured her, blaming
himself for his harshness and folly.

She suddenly opened her bag and emptied the contents out on his desk.

"There! I have brought you these."

Her husband gazed in silent astonishment.

"I don't understand."

"They are for you," she said--"for us. To pay _our_ debts. To help you."
She pulled off her glove and began to take off her diamond rings.

"They will not go a great way," said Norman, with a smile of indulgence.

"Well, as far as they will go they shall go. Do you think I will keep
anything I have when you are in trouble--when your good name is at
stake? The house--everything shall go. It is all my fault. I have been a
wicked, silly fool; but I did not know--I ought to have known; but I did
not. I do not see how I could have been so blind and selfish."

"Oh, don't blame yourself. I have not blamed you," said Norman,
soothingly. "Of course, you did not know. How could you? Women are not
expected to know about those things."

"Yes, they are," insisted Mrs. Wentworth. "If I had not been such a fool
I might have seen. It is all plain to me now. Your harassment--my
folly--it came to me like a stroke of lightning."

Norman's eyes were on her with a strange inquiring look in them.

"How did you hear?" he asked.

"Mr. Keith--he came to me and told me."

"I wish he had not done it. I mean, I did not want you troubled. You
were not to blame. You were deceived."

"Oh, don't say that! I shall never cease to thank him. He tore the veil
away, and I saw what a heartless, vain, silly fool I have been." Norman
put his hand on her soothingly. "But I have never forgotten that I was
your wife, nor ceased to love you," she went on vehemently.

"I believe it."

"I have come to confess everything to you--all my folly--all my
extravagance--my insane folly. But what I said just now is true: I have
never forgotten that I was your wife."

Norman, with his arm supporting her, reassured her with comforting
words, and, sustained by his confidence, she told him of her folly in
trusting Ferdy Wickersham: of her giving him her money--of everything.

"Can you forgive me?" she asked after her shamefaced recital.

"I will never think of that again," said Norman, "and if I do, it will
be with gratitude that they have played their part in doing away with
the one great sorrow of my life and bringing back the happiness of my
youth, the one great blessing that life holds for me."

"I have come to take you home," she said; "to ask you to come back, if
you will but forgive me." She spoke humbly.

Norman's face gave answer even before he could master himself to speak.
He stretched out his hand, and drew her to him. "I am at home now.
Wherever you are is my home."

When Norman came out of his private office, there was such a change in
him that the clerks who had remained at the bank thought that he must
have received some great aid from the lady who had been closeted with
him so long. He had a few brief words with the cashier, explaining that
he would be back at the bank before eight o'clock in the morning, and
saying good night, hurried to the door after Mrs. Wentworth. Handing her
into the carriage, he ordered the coachman to drive home, and, springing
in after her, he closed the door behind him, and they drove off.

Keith, meantime, had not been idle. After leaving Mrs. Wentworth, he
drove straight to a detective agency. Fortunately the chief was in, and
Keith was ushered into his private office immediately. He was a
quiet-looking, stout man, with a gray moustache and keen dark eyes. He
might have been a moderately successful merchant or official, but for
the calmness of his manner and the low tones of his voice. Keith came
immediately to the point.

"I have a piece of important work on hand this evening," he said, "of a
private and delicate nature." The detective's look was acquiescent.
"Could I get Dennison?"

"I think so."

Keith stated his case. At the mention of Wickersham's name a slight
change--the very slightest--flickered across the detective's calm face.
Keith could not tell whether it was mere surprise or whether it was
gratification.

"Now you see precisely what I wish," he said, as he finished stating the
case and unfolding his plan. "It may not be necessary for him even to
appear, but I wish him to be on hand in case I should need his service.
If Wickersham does not accede to my demand, I shall arrest him for the
fraud I have mentioned. If he does accede, I wish Dennison to accompany
him to the boat of the South American Line that sails to-morrow morning,
and not leave him until the pilot comes off. I do not apprehend that he
will refuse when he knows the hand that I hold."

"No, he will not. He knows what would happen if proceedings were
started," said the detective. "Excuse me a moment." He walked out of the
office, closing the door behind him, and a few minutes later returned
with David Dennison.

"Mr. Keith, this is Mr. John Dimm. I have explained to him the nature of
the service you require of him." He looked at Mr. Dimm, who simply
nodded his acquiescence. "You will take your orders from Mr. Keith,
should anything arise to change his plans, and act accordingly."

"I know him," said Keith, amused at the cool professional air with which
his old friend greeted him in the presence of his principal.

Dave simply blinked; but his eyes had a fire in them.

It was arranged that Dennison should precede Keith to the place he had
mentioned and order a supper there, while Keith should get the ticket at
the steamship office and then follow him. So when Keith had completed
his arrangements, he found Dennison at supper at a table near the
ladies' entrance, a view of which he commanded in a mirror just before
him. Mr. Dimm's manner had entirely changed. He was a man of the world
and a host as he handed Keith to his seat.

"A supper for two has been ordered in private dining-room 21, for 9:45,"
he said in an undertone as the waiter moved off. "They do not know
whether it is for a gentleman and a lady, or two gentlemen; but I
suppose it is for a lady, as he has been here a number of times with
ladies. If you are sure that the lady will not come, you might wait for
him there. I will remain here until he comes, and follow him up, in case
you need me."

Keith feared that the waiter might mention his presence.

"Oh, no; he knows us," said Dave, with a faint smile at the bare
suggestion.

Mr. Dimm called the head-waiter and spoke to him in an undertone. The
waiter himself showed Keith up to the room, where he found a table
daintily set with two covers.

The champagne-cooler, filled with ice, was already on the floor beside
the table. Keith looked at it grimly. The curtains of the window were
down, and Keith walked over to see on what street the window looked. It
was a deep embrasure. The shade was drawn down, and he raised it, to
find that the window faced on a dead-wall. At the moment the door opened
and he heard Wickersham's voice.

"No one has come yet?"

"No, sir, not as I knows of," stammered the waiter. "I have just come
on."

"Where is Jacques, the man who usually waits on me?" demanded
Wickersham, half angrily.

"Jacques est souffrant. Il est tres malade."

Wickersham grunted. "Well, take this," he said, "and remember that if
you serve me properly there will be a good deal more to follow."

The waiter thanked him profusely.

"Now, get down and be on the lookout, and when a lady comes and asks for
21, show her up immediately. If she asks who is here, tell her two
gentlemen and a lady. You understand?"

The waiter bowed his assent and retired. Wickersham came in and closed
the door behind him.

He had just thrown his coat on a chair, laid his hat on the mantelpiece,
and was twirling his moustache at the mirror above it, when he caught
sight in the mirror of Keith. Keith had stepped out behind him from the
recess, and was standing by the table, quietly looking at him. He gave
an exclamation and turned quickly.

"Hah! What is this? You here! What are you doing here? There is some
mistake." He glanced at the door.

"No, there is no mistake," said Keith, advancing; "I am waiting for
you."

"For me! Waiting for me?" he demanded, mystified.

"Yes. Did you not tell the waiter just now a gentleman was here? I
confess you do not seem very pleased to see me."

"You have read my looks correctly," said Wickersham, who was beginning
to recover himself, and with it his scornful manner. "You are the last
person on earth I wish to see--ever. I do not know that I should weep if
I never had that pleasure again."

Keith bowed.

"I think it probable. You may, hereafter, have even less cause for joy
at meeting me."

"Impossible," said Wickersham.

Keith put his hand on a chair, and prepared to sit down, motioning
Wickersham to take the other seat.

"The lady you are waiting for will not be here this evening," he said,
"and it may be that our interview will be protracted."

Wickersham passed by the last words.

"What lady? Who says I am waiting for a lady?"

"You said so at the door just now. Besides, I say so."

"Oh! You were listening, were you?" he sneered.

"Yes; I heard it."

"How do you know she will not be here? What do you know about it?"

"I know that she will no more be here than the Countess Torelli will,"
said Keith. He was looking Wickersham full in the face and saw that the
shot went home.

"What do you want?" demanded Wickersham. "Why are you here? Are you
after money or a row?"

"I want you--I want you, first, to secure all of Mrs. Wentworth's money
that you have had, or as much as you can."

Wickersham was so taken aback that his dark face turned almost white,
but he recovered himself quickly.

"You are a madman, or some one has been deceiving you. You are the
victim of a delusion."

Keith, with his eyes fastened on him, shook his head.

"Oh, no; I am not."

A look of perplexed innocence came over Wickersham's face.

"Yes, you are," he said, in an almost friendly tone. "You are the victim
of some hallucination. I give you my word, I do not know even what you
are talking about. I should say you were engaged in blackmail--" The
expression in his eyes changed like a flash, but something in Keith's
eyes, as they met his, caused him to add, "if I did not know that you
were a man of character. I, too, am a man of character, Mr. Keith. I
want you to know it." Keith's eyes remained calm and cold as steel.
Wickersham faltered. "I am a man of means--of large means. I am worth--.
My balance in bank this moment is--is more than you will ever be worth.
Now I want to ask you why, in the name of Heaven, should I want anything
to do with Mrs. Wentworth's money?"

"If you have such a balance in bank," said Keith, "it will simplify my
mission, for you will doubtless be glad to return Mr. Wentworth's money
that you have had from Mrs. Wentworth. I happen to know that his money
will come in very conveniently for Norman just now."

"Oh, you come from Wentworth, do you?" demanded Wickersham.

"No; from Mrs. Wentworth," returned Keith.

"Did she send you?" Wickersham shot at Keith a level glance from under
his half-closed lids.

"I offered to come. She knows I am here."

"What proof have I of that?"

"My statement."

"And suppose I do not please to accept your statement?"

Keith leant a little toward him over the table.

"You will accept it."

"He must hold a strong hand," thought Wickersham. He shifted his ground
suddenly. "What, in the name of Heaven, are you driving at, Keith? What
are you after? Come to the point."

"I will," said Keith, rising. "Let us drop our masks; they are not
becoming to you, and I am not accustomed to them. I have come for
several things: one of them is Mrs. Wentworth's money, which you got
from her under false pretences." He spoke slowly, and his eyes were
looking in the other's eyes.

Wickersham sprang to his feet.

"What do you mean, sir?" he demanded, with an oath. "I have already told
you--! I will let no man speak to me in that way."

Keith did not stir. Wickersham paused to get his breath.

"You would not dare to speak so if a lady's name were not involved, and
you did not know that I cannot act as I would, for fear of
compromising her."

An expression of contempt swept across Keith's face.

"Sit down," he said. "I will relieve your mind. Mrs. Wentworth is quite
ready to meet any disclosures that may come. I have her power of
attorney. She has gone to her husband and told him everything."

Wickersham's face whitened, and he could not repress the look of mingled
astonishment and fear that stole into his eyes.

"Now, having given you that information," continued Keith, "I say that
you stole Mrs. Wentworth's money, and I have come to recover it, if
possible."

Wickersham rose to his feet. With a furious oath he sprang for his
overcoat, and, snatching it up, began to feel for the pocket.

"I'll blow your brains out."

"No, you will not," said Keith, "and I advise you to make less noise. An
officer is outside, and I have but to whistle to place you where nothing
will help you. A warrant is out for your arrest, and I have the proof to
convict you."

Wickersham, with his coat still held in one hand, and the other in the
pocket, shot a glance at Keith. He was daunted by his coolness.

"You must think you hold a strong hand," he said. "But I have known them
to fail."

Keith bowed.

"No doubt. This one will not fail. I have taken pains that it shall not,
and I have other cards which I have not shown you. Sit down and listen
to me, and you shall judge for yourself."

With a muttered oath, Wickersham walked back to his seat; but before he
did so, he slipped quietly into his pocket a pistol which he took from
his overcoat.

Quickly as the act was done, Keith saw it.

"Don't you think you had better put your pistol back?" he said quietly.
"An officer is waiting just outside that door, a man that can neither be
bullied nor bought. Perhaps, you will agree with me when I tell you
that, though called Dimm, his real name is David Dennison. He has orders
at the least disturbance to place you under arrest. Judge for yourself
what chance you will have."

"What do you wish me to do?" asked Wickersham, sullenly.

"I wish you, first, to execute some papers which will secure to Norman
Wentworth, as far as can possibly be done, the amount of money that you
have gotten from Mrs. Wentworth under the pretence of investing it for
her in mines. Mrs. Wentworth's name will not be mentioned in this
instrument. The money was her husband's, and you knew it, and you knew
it was impairing his estate to furnish it. Secondly, I require that you
shall leave the country to-morrow morning. I have arranged for passage
for you, on a steamer sailing before sunrise."

"Thank you," sneered Wickersham. "Really, you are very kind."

"Thirdly, you will sign a paper which contains only a few of the facts,
but enough, perhaps, to prevent your returning to this country for some
years to come."

Wickersham leant across the table and burst out laughing.

"And you really think I will do that? How old do you think I am? Why did
you not bring me a milk-bottle and a rattle? You do my intellect a great
deal of honor."

For answer Keith tapped twice on a glass with the back of a knife. The
next second the door opened, and Dave Dennison entered, impassive, but
calmly observant, and with a face set like rock.

At sight of him Wickersham's face whitened.

"One moment, Dave," said Keith; "wait outside a moment more."

Dennison bowed and closed the door. The latch clicked, but the knob did
not settle back.

"I will give you one minute in which to decide," said Keith. He drew
from his pocket and threw on the table two papers. "There are the
papers." He took out his watch and waited.

Wickersham picked up the papers mechanically and glanced over them. His
face settled. Gambler that he was with the fortunes of men and the
reputations of women, he knew that he had lost. He tried one more
card--it was a poor one.

"Why are you so hard on me?" he asked, with something like a whine--a
faint whine--in his voice. "You, who I used to think--whom I have known
from boyhood, you have always been so hard on me! What did I ever do to
you that you should have hounded me so?"

Keith's face showed that the charge had reached him, but it failed of
the effect that Wickersham had hoped for. His lip curled slightly.

"I am not hard on you; I am easy on you--but not for your sake," he
added vehemently. "You have betrayed every trust reposed in you. You
have deceived men and betrayed women. No vow has been sacred enough to
restrain you; no tie strong enough to hold you. Affection, friendship,
faith, have all been trampled under your feet. You have deliberately
attempted to destroy the happiness of one of the best friends you have
ever had; have betrayed his trust and tried to ruin his life. If I
served you right I would place you beyond the power to injure any one,
forever. The reason I do not is not on your account, but because I
played with you when we were boys, and because I do not know how far my
personal feeling might influence me in carrying out what I still
recognize as mere justice." He closed his watch. "Your time is up. Do
you agree?"

"I will sign the papers," said Wickersham, sullenly.

Keith drew out a pen and handed it to him. Wickersham signed the papers
slowly and deliberately.

"When did you take to writing backhand?" asked Keith.

"I have done it for several years," declared Wickersham. "I had writer's
cramp once."

The expression on Keith's face was very like a sneer, but he tried to
suppress it.

"It will do," he said, as he folded the papers and took another envelope
from his pocket. "This is your ticket for the steamer for Buenos Ayres,
which sails to-morrow morning at high tide. Dennison will go with you to
a notary to acknowledge these papers, and then will show you aboard of
her and will see that you remain aboard until the pilot leaves her.
To-morrow a warrant will be put in the hands of an officer and an
application will be made for a receiver for your property."

Wickersham leant back in his chair, with hate speaking from every line
of his face.

"You will administer on my effects? I suppose you are also going to be
administrator, _de bonis non_, of the lady in whose behalf you have
exhibited such sudden interest?"

Keith's face paled and his nostrils dilated for a moment. He leant
slightly forward and spoke slowly, his burning eyes fastened on
Wickersham's face.

"Your statement would be equally infamous whether it were true or false.
You know that it is a lie, and you know that I know it is a lie. I will
let that suffice. I have nothing further to say to you." He tapped on
the edge of the glass again, and Dennison walked in. "Dennison," he
said, "Mr. Wickersham has agreed to my plans. He will go aboard the
Buenos Ayres boat to-night. You will go with him to the office I spoke
of, where he will acknowledge these papers; then you will accompany him
to his home and get whatever clothes he may require, and you will not
lose sight of him until you come off with the pilot."

Dennison bowed without a word; but his eyes snapped.

"If he makes any attempt to evade, or gives you any cause to think he is
trying to evade, his agreement, you have your instructions."

Dennison bowed again, silently.

"I now leave you." Keith rose and inclined his head slightly toward
Wickersham.

As he turned, Wickersham shot at him a Parthian arrow:

"I hope you understand, Mr. Keith, that the obligations I have signed
are not the only obligations I recognize. I owe you a personal debt,
and I mean to live to pay it. I shall pay it, somehow."

Keith turned and looked at him steadily.

"I understand perfectly. It is the only kind of debt, as far as I know,
that you recognize. Your statement has added nothing to what I knew. It
matters little what you do to me. I have, at least, saved two friends
from you."

He walked out of the room and closed the door behind him.

As Wickersham pulled on his gloves, he glanced at Dave Dennison. But
what he saw in his face deterred him from speaking. His eyes were like
coals of fire.

"I am waiting," he said. "Hurry."

Wickersham walked out in silence.

       *       *       *       *       *

The following afternoon, when Dave Dennison reported that he had left
his charge on board the outgoing steamer, bound for a far South American
port, Keith felt as if the atmosphere had in some sort cleared.

A few days later Phrony's worn spirit found rest. Keith, as he had
already arranged, telegraphed Dr. Balsam of her death, and the Doctor
went over and told Squire Rawson, at the same time, that she had been
found and lost.

The next day Keith and Dave Dennison took back to the South all that
remained of the poor creature who had left there a few years before in
such high hopes.

One lady, closely veiled, attended the little service that old Dr.
Templeton conducted in the chapel of the hospital where Phrony had
passed away, before the body was taken South. Alice Lancaster had been
faithful to the end in looking after her.

Phrony was buried in the Rawson lot in the little burying-ground at
Ridgely, not far from the spot where lay the body of General Huntington.
As Keith passed this grave he saw that flowers had been laid on it
recently, but they had withered.

All the Ridge-neighborhood gathered to do honor to Phrony and to
testify their sympathy for her grandfather. It was an exhibition of
feeling such as Keith had not seen since he left the country. The old
man appeared stronger than he had seemed for some time. He took charge
and gave directions in a clear and steady voice.

When the services were over and the last word had been said, he stepped
forward and raised his hand.

"I've got her back," he said. "I've got her back where nobody can take
her from me again. I was mighty harsh on her; but I've done forgive her
long ago--and I hope she knows it now. I heard once that the man that
took her away said he didn't marry her. But--". He paused for a moment,
then went on: "He was a liar. I've got the proof.--But I want you all to
witness that if I ever meet him, in this world or the next, the Lord do
so to me, and more also! if I don't kill him!" He paused again, and his
breathing was the only sound that was heard in the deathly stillness
that had fallen on the listening crowd.

"--And if any man interferes and balks me in my right," he continued
slowly, "I'll have his blood. Good-by. I thank you for her." He turned
back to the grave and began to smooth the sides.

Keith's eyes fell on Dave Dennison, where he stood on the outer edge of
the crowd. His face was sphinx-like; but his bosom heaved twice, and
Keith knew that two men waited to meet Wickersham.

As the crowd melted away, whispering among themselves, Keith crossed
over and laid a rose on General Huntington's grave.



CHAPTER XXXIV

THE CONSULTATION

Keith had been making up his mind for some time to go to Brookford. New
York had changed utterly for him since Lois left. The whole world seemed
to have changed. The day after he reached New York, Keith received a
letter from Miss Brooke. She wrote that her niece was ill and had asked
her to write and request him to see Mrs. Lancaster, who would explain
something to him. She did not say what it was. She added that she wished
she had never heard of New York. It was a cry of anguish.

Keith's heart sank like lead. For the first time in his life he had a
presentiment. Lois Huntington would die, and he would never see her
again. Despair took hold of him. Keith could stand it no longer. He went
to Brookford.

The Lawns was one of those old-fashioned country places, a few miles
outside of the town, such as our people of means used to have a few
generations ago, before they had lost the landholding instinct of their
English ancestors and gained the herding proclivity of modern life. The
extensive yard and grounds were filled with shrubbery--lilacs,
rose-bushes, and evergreens--and shaded by fine old trees, among which
the birds were singing as Keith drove up the curving road, and over all
was an air of quietude and peace which filled his heart with tenderness.

"This is the bower she came from," he thought to himself, gazing around.
"Here is the country garden where the rose grew."

Miss Brooke was unfeignedly surprised to see Keith.

She greeted him most civilly. Lois had long since explained everything
to her, and she made Keith a more than ample apology for her letter.
"But you must admit," she said, "that your actions were very
suspicious.--When a New York man is handing dancing-women to their
carriages!" A gesture and nod completed the sentence.

"But I am not a New York man," said Keith.

"Oh, you are getting to be a very fair counterfeit," said the old lady,
half grimly.

Lois was very ill. She had been under a great strain in New York, and
had finally broken down.

Among other items of interest that Keith gleaned was that Dr. Locaman,
the resident physician at Brookford, was a suitor of Lois. Keith asked
leave to send for a friend who was a man of large experience and a
capital doctor.

"Well, I should be glad to have him sent for. These men here are
dividing her up into separate pieces, and meantime she is going down the
hill every day. Send for any one who will treat her as a whole human
being and get her well."

So Keith telegraphed that day for Dr. Balsam, saying that he wanted him
badly, and would be under lasting obligations if he would come to
Brookford at once.

Brookford! The name called up many associations to the old physician. It
was from Brookford that that young girl with her brown eyes and dark
hair had walked into his life so long ago. It was from Brookford that
the decree had come that had doomed him to a life of loneliness and
exile. A desire seized him to see the place. Abby Brooke had been living
a few years before. She might be living now.

As the Doctor descended from the cars, he was met by Keith, who told him
that the patient was the daughter of General Huntington--the little girl
he had known so long ago.

"I thought, perhaps, it was your widow," said the Doctor.

A little dash of color stole into Keith's grave face, then flickered
out.

"No." He changed the subject, and went on to say that the other
physicians had arranged to meet him at the house. Then he gave him a
little history of the case.

"You are very much interested in her?"

"I have known her a long time, you see. Yes. Her aunt is a friend of
mine."

"He is in love with her," said the old man to himself. "She has cut the
widow out."

As they entered the hall, Miss Abby came out of a room. She looked worn
and ill.

"Ah!" said Keith. "Here she is." He turned to present the Doctor, but
stopped with his lips half opened. The two stood fronting each, other,
their amazed eyes on each other's faces, as it were across the space of
a whole generation.

"Theophilus!"

"Abby!"

This was all. The next moment they were shaking hands as if they had
parted the week before instead of thirty-odd years ago. "I told you I
would come if you ever needed me," said the Doctor. "I have come."

"And I never needed you more, and I have needed you often. It was good
in you to come--for my little girl." Her voice suddenly broke, and she
turned away, her handkerchief at her eyes.

The Doctor's expression settled into one of deep concern. "There--there.
Don't distress yourself. We must reserve our powers. We may need them.
Now, if you will show me to my room for a moment, I would like to get
myself ready before going in to see your little girl."

Just as the Doctor reappeared, the other doctors came out of the
sick-room, the local physician, a simple young man, following the city
specialist with mingled pride and awe. The latter was a silent,
self-reliant man with a keen eye, thin lips, and a dry, business manner.
They were presented to the Doctor as Dr. Memberly and Dr. Locaman, and
looked him over. There was a certain change of manner in each of them:
the younger man, after a glance, increased perceptibly his show of
respect toward the city man; the latter treated the Doctor with
civility, but talked in an ex-cathedra way. He understood the case and
had no question as to its treatment. As for Dr. Balsam, his manner was
the same to both, and had not changed a particle. He said not a word
except to ask questions as to symptoms and the treatment that had been
followed. The Doctor's face changed during the recital, and when it was
ended his expression was one of deep thoughtfulness.

The consultation ended, they all went into the sick-room, Dr. Memberly,
the specialist, first, the young doctor next, and Dr. Balsam last. Dr.
Memberly addressed the nurse, and Dr. Locaman followed him like his
shadow, enforcing his words and copying insensibly his manner. Dr.
Balsam walked over to the bedside, and leaning over, took the patient's
thin, wan hand.

"My dear, I am Dr. Balsam. Do you remember me?"

She glanced at him, at first languidly, then with more interest, and
then, as recollection returned to her, with a faint smile.

"Now we must get well."

Again she smiled faintly.

The Doctor drew up a chair, and, without speaking further, began to
stroke her hand, his eyes resting on her face.

One who had seen the old physician before he entered that house could
scarcely have known him as the same man who sat by the bed holding the
hand of the wan figure lying so placid before him. At a distance he
appeared a plain countryman; on nearer view his eyes and mouth and set
chin gave him a look of unexpected determination. When he entered a
sick-room he was like a king coming to his own. He took command and
fought disease as an arch-enemy. So now.

Dr. Memberly came to the bedside and began to talk in a low,
professional tone. Lois shut her eyes, but her fingers closed slightly
on Dr. Balsam's hand.

"The medicine appears to have quieted her somewhat. I have directed the
nurse to continue it," observed Dr. Memberly.

"Quite so. By all means continue it," assented Dr. Locaman. "She is
decidedly quieter."

Dr. Balsam's head inclined just enough to show that he heard him, and he
went on stroking her hand.

"Is there anything you would suggest further than has already been
done?" inquired the city physician of Dr. Balsam.

"No. I think not."

"I must catch the 4:30 train," said the former to the younger man.
"Doctor, will you drive me down to the station?"

"Yes, certainly. With pleasure."

"Doctor, you say you are going away to-night?" This from the city
physician to Dr. Balsam.

"No, sir; I shall stay for a day or two." The fingers of the sleeper
quite closed on his hand. "I have several old friends here. In fact,
this little girl is one of them, and I want to get her up."

The look of the other changed, and he cleared his throat with a dry,
metallic cough.

"You may rest satisfied that everything has been done for the patient
that science can do," he said stiffly.

"I think so. We won't rest till we get the little girl up," said the
older doctor. "Now we will take off our coats and work."

Once more the fingers of the sleeper almost clutched his.

When the door closed, Lois turned her head and opened her eyes, and when
the wheels were heard driving away she looked at the Doctor with a wan
little smile, which he answered with a twinkle.

"When did you come?" she asked faintly. It was the first sign of
interest she had shown in anything for days.

"A young friend of mine, Gordon Keith, told me you were sick, and asked
me to come, and I have just arrived. He brought me up." He watched the
change in her face.

"I am so much obliged to you. Where is he now?"

"He is here. Now we must get well," he said encouragingly. "And to do
that we must get a little sleep."

"Very well. You are going to stay with me?"

"Yes."

"Thank you"; and she closed her eyes tranquilly and, after a little,
fell into a doze.

When the Doctor came out of the sick-room he had done what the other
physicians had not done and could not do. He had fathomed the case, and,
understanding the cause, he was able to prescribe the cure.

"With the help of God we will get your little girl well," he said to
Miss Abby.

"I begin to hope, and I had begun to despair," she said. "It was good of
you to come."

"I am glad I came, and I will come whenever you want me, Abby," replied
the old Doctor, simply.

From this time, as he promised, so he performed. He took off his coat,
and using the means which the city specialist had suggested, he studied
his patient's case and applied all his powers to the struggle.

The great city doctor recorded the case among his cures; but in his
treatment he did not reckon the sleepless hours that that country doctor
had sat by the patient's bedside, the unremitting struggle he had made,
holding Death at bay, inspiring hope, and holding desperately every
inch gained.

When the Doctor saw Keith he held out his hand to him. "I am glad you
sent for me."

"How is she, Doctor? Will she get well?"

"I trust so. She has been under some strain. It is almost as if she had
had a shock."

Keith's mind sprang back to that evening in the Park, and he cursed
Wickersham in his heart.

"Possibly she has had some strain on her emotions?"

Keith did not know.

"I understand that there is a young man here who has been in love with
her for some time, and her aunt thinks she returned the sentiment."

Keith did not know. But the Doctor's words were like a dagger in his
heart.

Keith went back to work; but he seemed to himself to live in darkness.
As soon as a gleam of light appeared, it was suddenly quenched. Love was
not for him.



CHAPTER XXXV

THE MISTRESS OF THE LAWNS

Strange to say, the episode in which Keith had figured as the reliever
of Norman Wentworth's embarrassment had a very different effect upon
those among whom he had moved, from what he had expected. Keith's part
in the transaction was well known.

His part, too, in the Wickersham matter was understood by his
acquaintances. Wickersham had as good as absconded, some said; and there
were many to tell how long they had prophesied this very thing, and how
well they had known his villany. Mrs. Nailor was particularly
vindictive. She had recently put some money in his mining scheme, and
she could have hanged him. She did the next thing: she damned him. She
even extended her rage to old Mrs. Wickersham, who, poor lady, had lost
her home and everything she had in the world through Ferdy.

The Norman-Wentworths, who had moved out of the splendid residence that
Mrs. Norman's extravagance had formerly demanded, into the old house on
Washington Square, which was still occupied by old Mrs. Wentworth, were,
if anything, drawn closer than ever to their real friends; but they were
distinctly deposed from the position which Mrs. Wentworth had formerly
occupied in the gay set, who to her had hitherto been New York. They
were far happier than they had ever been. A new light had come into
Norman's face, and a softness began to dawn in hers which Keith had
never seen there before. Around them, too, began to gather friends whom
Keith had never known of, who had the charm that breeding and kindness
give, and opened his eyes to a life there of which he had hitherto
hardly dreamed. Keith, however, to his surprise, when he was in New
York, found himself more sought after by his former acquaintances than
ever before. The cause was a simple one. He was believed to be very
rich. He must have made a large fortune. The mystery in which it was
involved but added to its magnitude. No man but one of immense wealth
could have done what Keith did the day he stopped the run on Wentworth &
Son. Any other supposition was incredible. Moreover, it was now plain
that in a little while he would marry Mrs. Lancaster, and then he would
be one of the wealthiest men in New York. He was undoubtedly a coming
man. Men who, a short time ago, would not have wasted a moment's thought
on him, now greeted him with cordiality and spoke of him with respect;
women who, a year or two before, would not have seen him in a ball-room,
now smiled to him on the street, invited him among their "best
companies," and treated him with distinguished favor. Mrs. Nailor
actually pursued him. Even Mr. Kestrel, pale, thin-lipped, and frosty as
ever in appearance, thawed into something like cordiality when he met
him, and held out an icy hand as with a wintry smile he congratulated
him on his success.

"Well, we Yankees used to think we had the monopoly of business ability,
but we shall have to admit that some of you young fellows at the South
know your business. You have done what cost the Wickershams some
millions. If you want any help at any time, come in and talk to me. We
had a little difference once; but I don't let a little thing like that
stand in the way with a friend."

Keith felt his jaws lock as he thought of the same man on the other side
of a long table sneering at him.

"Thank you," said he. "My success has been greatly exaggerated. You'd
better not count too much on it."

Keith knew that he was considered rich, and it disturbed him. For the
first time in his life he felt that he was sailing under false colors.

Often the fair face, handsome figure, and cordial, friendly air of Alice
Lancaster came to him; not so often, it is true, as another, a younger
and gentler face, but still often enough. He admired her greatly. He
trusted her. Why should he not try his fortune there, and be happy?
Alice Lancaster was good enough for him. Yes, that was the trouble. She
was far too good for him if he addressed her without loving her utterly.
Other reasons, too, suggested themselves. He began to find himself
fitting more and more into the city life. He had the chance possibly to
become rich, richer than ever, and with it to secure a charming
companion. Why should he not avail himself of it? Amid the glitter and
gayety of his surroundings in the city, this temptation grew stronger
and stronger. Miss Abby's sharp speech recurred to him. He was becoming
"a fair counterfeit" of the men he had once despised. Then came a new
form of temptation. What power this wealth would give him! How much good
he could accomplish with it!

When the temptation grew too overpowering he left his office and went
down into the country. It always did him good to go there. To be there
was like a plunge in a cool, limpid pool. He had been so long in the
turmoil and strife of the struggle for success--for wealth; had been so
wholly surrounded by those who strove as he strove, tearing and
trampling and rending those who were in their way, that he had almost
lost sight of the life that lay outside of the dust and din of that
arena. He had almost forgotten that life held other rewards than riches.
He had forgotten the calm and tranquil region that stretched beyond the
moil and anguish of the strife for gain.

Here his father walked with him again, calm, serene, and elevated, his
thoughts high above all commercial matters, ranging the fields of lofty
speculation with statesmen, philosophers, and poets, holding up to his
gaze again lofty ideals; practising, without a thought of reward, the
very gospel of universal gentleness and kindness.

There his mother, too, moved in spirit once more beside him with her
angelic smile, breathing the purity of heaven. How far away it seemed
from that world in which he had been living!--as far as they were from
the worldlings who made it.

Curiously, when he was in New York he found himself under the allurement
of Alice Lancaster. When he was in the country he found that he was in
love with Lois Huntington.

It was this that mystified him and worried him. He believed--that is, he
almost believed--that Alice Lancaster would marry him. His friends
thought that she would. Several of them had told him so. Many of them
acted on this belief. And this had something to do with his retirement.
As much as he liked Alice Lancaster, as clearly as he felt how but for
one fact it would have suited that they should marry, one fact changed
everything: he was not in love with her.

He was in love with a young girl who had never given him a thought
except as a sort of hereditary friend. Turning from one door at which
the light of happiness had shone, he had found himself caught at another
from which a radiance shone that dimmed all other lights. Yet it was
fast shut. At length he determined to cut the knot. He would put his
fate to the test.

Two days after he formed this resolve he walked into the hotel at
Brookford and registered. As he turned, he stood face to face with Mrs.
Nailor. Mrs. Nailor of late had been all cordiality to him.

"Why, you dear boy, where did you come from?" she asked him in pleased
surprise. "I thought you were stretched at Mrs. Wentworth's feet in
the--Where has she been this summer?"

Keith's brow clouded. He remembered when Wickersham was her "dear boy."

"It is a position I am not in the habit of occupying--at least, toward
ladies who have husbands to occupy it. You are thinking of some one
else," he added coldly, wishing devoutly that Mrs. Nailor were
in Halifax.

"Well, I am glad you have come here. You remember, our friendship began
in the country? Yes? My husband had to go and get sick, and I got really
frightened about him, and so we determined to come here, where we should
be perfectly quiet. We got here last Saturday. There is not a man here."

"Isn't there?" asked Keith, wishing there were not a woman either. "How
long are you going to stay?" he asked absently.

"Oh, perhaps a month. How long shall you be here?"

"Not very long," said Keith.

"I tell you who is here; that little governess of Mrs. Wentworth's she
was so disagreeable to last winter. She has been very ill. I think it
was the way she was treated in New York. She was in love with Ferdy
Wickersham, you know? She lives here, in a lovely old place just outside
of town, with her old aunt or cousin. I had no idea she had such a nice
old home. We saw her yesterday. We met her on the street."

"I remember her; I shall go and see her," said Keith, recalling Mrs.
Nailor's speech at Mrs. Wickersham's dinner, and Lois's revenge.

"I tell you what we will do. She invited us to call, and we will go
together," said Mrs. Nailor.

Keith paused a moment in reflection, and then said casually:

"When are you going?"

"Oh, this afternoon."

"Very well; I will go."

Mrs. Nailor drove Keith out to The Lawns that afternoon.

In a little while Miss Huntington came in. Keith observed that she was
dressed as she had been that evening at dinner, in white, but he did
not dream that it was the result of thought. He did not know with what
care every touch had been made to reproduce just what he had praised, or
with what sparkling eyes she had surveyed the slim, dainty figure in the
old cheval-glass. She greeted Mrs. Nailor civilly and Keith warmly.

"I am very glad to see you. What in the world brought you here to this
out-of-the-way place?" she said, turning to the latter and giving him
her cool, soft hand, and looking up at him with unfeigned pleasure, a
softer and deeper glow coming into her cheek as she gazed into his eyes.

"A sudden fit of insanity," said Keith, taking in the sweet, girlish
figure in his glance. "I wanted to see some roses that I knew bloomed in
an old garden about here."

"He, perhaps, thought that, as Brookford is growing so fashionable now,
he might find a mutual friend of ours here?" Mrs. Nailor said.

"As whom, for instance?" queried Keith, unwilling to commit himself.

"You know, Alice Lancaster has been talking of coming here? Now, don't
pretend that you don't know. Whom does every one say you are--all in
pursuit of?"

"I am sure I do not know," said Keith, calmly. "I suppose that you are
referring to Mrs. Lancaster, but I happened to know that she was not
here. No; I came to see Miss Huntington." His face wore an expression of
amusement.

Mrs. Nailor made some smiling reply. She did not see the expression in
Keith's eyes as they, for a second, caught Lois's glance.

Just then Miss Abigail came in. She had grown whiter since Keith had
seen her last, and looked older. She greeted Mrs. Nailor graciously, and
Keith cordially. Miss Lois, for some reason of her own, was plying Mrs.
Nailor with questions, and Keith fell to talking with Miss Abigail,
though his eyes were on Lois most of the time.

The old lady was watching her too, and the girl, under the influence of
the earnest gaze, glanced around and, catching her aunt's eye upon her,
flashed her a little answering smile full of affection and tenderness,
and then went on listening intently to Mrs. Nailor; though, had Keith
read aright the color rising in her cheeks, he might have guessed that
she was giving at least half her attention to his side of the room,
where Miss Abigail was talking of her. Keith, however, was just then
much interested in Miss Abigail's account of Dr. Locaman, who, it
seemed, was more attentive to Lois than ever.

"I don't know what she will do," she said. "I suppose she will decide
soon. It is an affair of long standing."

Keith's throat had grown dry.

"I had hoped that my cousin Norman might prove a protector for her; but
his wife is not a good person. I was mad to let her go there. But she
would go. She thought she could be of some service. But that woman is
such a fool!"

"Oh, she is not a bad woman," interrupted Keith.

"I do not know how bad she is," said Miss Abigail. "She is a fool. No
good woman would ever have allowed such an intimacy as she allowed to
come between her and her husband; and none but a fool would have
permitted a man to make her his dupe. She did not even have the excuse
of a temptation; for she is as cold as a tombstone."

"I assure you that you are mistaken," defended Keith. "I know her, and I
believe that she has far more depth than you give her credit for--"

"I give her credit for none," said Miss Abigail, decisively. "You men
are all alike. You think a woman with a pretty face who does not talk
much is deep, when she is only dull. On my word, I think it is almost
worse to bring about such a scandal without cause than to give a real
cause for it. In the latter case there is at least the time-worn excuse
of woman's frailty."

Keith laughed.

"They are all so stupid," asserted Miss Abigail, fiercely. "They are
giving up their privileges to be--what? I blushed for my sex when I was
there. They are beginning to mistake civility for servility. I found a
plenty of old ladies tottering on the edge of the grave, like myself,
and I found a number of ladies in the shops and in the churches; but in
that set that you go with--! They all want to be 'women'; next thing
they'll want to be like men. I sha'n't be surprised to see them come to
wearing men's clothes and drinking whiskey and smoking tobacco--the
little fools! As if they thought that a woman who has to curl her hair
and spend a half-hour over her dress to look decent could ever be on a
level with a man who can handle a trunk or drive a wagon or add up a
column of figures, and can wash his face and hands and put on a clean
collar and look like--a gentleman!"

"Oh, not so bad as that," said Keith.

"Yes; there is no limit to their folly. I know them. I am one myself."

"But you do not want to be a man?"

"No, not now. I am too old and dependent. But I'll let you into a
secret. I am secretly envious of them. I'd like to be able to put them
down under my heel and make them--squeal."

Mrs. Nailor turned and spoke to the old lady. She was evidently about to
take her leave. Keith moved over, and for the first time addressed Miss
Huntington.

"I want you to show me about these grounds," he said, speaking so that
both ladies could hear him. He rose, and both walked out of the parlor.
When Mrs. Nailor came out, Keith and his guide were nowhere to be found,
so she had to wait; but a half-hour afterwards he and Miss Huntington
came back from the stables.

As they drove out of the grounds they passed a good-looking young fellow
just going in. Keith recognized Dr. Locaman.

"That is the young man who is so attentive to your young friend," said
Mrs. Nailor; "Dr. Locaman. He saved her life and now is going to
marry her."

It gave Keith a pang.

"I know him. He did not save her life. If anybody did that, it was an
old country doctor, Dr. Balsam."

"That old man! I thought he was dead years ago."

"Well, he is not. He is very much alive."

A few evenings later Keith found Mrs. Lancaster in the hotel. He had
just arrived from The Lawns when Mrs. Lancaster came down to dinner. Her
greeting was perfect. Even Mrs. Nailor was mystified. She had never
looked handsomer. Her black gown fitted perfectly her trim figure, and a
single red rose, half-blown, caught in her bodice was her only ornament.
She possessed the gift of simplicity. She was a beautiful walker, and as
she moved slowly down the long dining-room as smoothly as a piece of
perfect machinery, every eye was upon her. She knew that she was being
generally observed, and the color deepened in her cheeks and added the
charm of freshness to her beauty.

"By Jove! what a stunning woman!" exclaimed a man at a table near by to
his wife.

"It is not difficult to be 'a stunning woman' in a Worth gown, my dear,"
she said sweetly. "May I trouble you for the Worcestershire?"

Keith's attitude toward Mrs. Lancaster puzzled even so old a veteran as
Mrs. Nailor.

Mrs. Nailor was an adept in the art of inquisition. To know about her
friends' affairs was one of the objects of her life, and it was not only
the general facts that she insisted on knowing: she proposed to be
acquainted with their deepest secrets and the smallest particulars. She
knew Alice Lancaster's views, or believed she did; but she had never
ventured to speak on the subject to Gordon Keith. In fact, she stood in
awe of Keith, and now he had mystified her by his action. Finally, she
could stand it no longer, and so next evening she opened fire on Keith.
Having screwed her courage to the sticking-point, she attacked boldly.
She caught him on the verandah, smoking alone, and watching him closely
to catch the effect of her attack, said suddenly:

"I want to ask you a question: are you in love with Alice Lancaster?"

Keith turned slowly and looked at her, looked at her so long that she
began to blush.

"Don't you think, if I am, I had better inform her first?" he said
quietly.

Mrs. Nailor was staggered; but she was in for it, and she had to fight
her way through. "I was scared to death, my dear," she said when she
repeated this part of the conversation, "for I never know just how he is
going to take anything; but he was so quiet, I went on."

"Well, yes, I think you had," she said; "Alice can take care of herself;
but I tell you that you have no right to be carrying on with that sweet,
innocent young girl here. You know what people say of you?"

"No; I do not," said Keith. "I was not aware that I was of sufficient
importance here for people to say anything, except perhaps a few persons
who know me."

"They say you have come here to see Miss Huntington?"

"Do they?" asked Keith, so carelessly that Mrs. Nailor was just thinking
that she must be mistaken, when he added: "Well, will you ask people if
they ever heard what Andrew Jackson said to Mr. Buchanan once when he
told him it was time to go and dress to receive Lady Wellesley?"

"What did he say?" asked Mrs. Nailor.

"He said he knew a man in Tennessee who had made a fortune by attending
to his own business."

Having failed with Keith, Mrs. Nailor, the next afternoon, called on
Miss Huntington. Lois was in, and her aunt was not well; so Mrs. Nailor
had a fair field for her research. She decided to test the young girl,
and she selected the only mode which could have been successful with
herself. She proposed a surprise. She spoke of Keith and noticed the
increased interest with which the girl listened. This was promising.

"By the way," she said, "you know the report is that Mr. Keith has at
last really surrendered?"

"Has he? I am so glad. If ever a man deserved happiness it is he. Who is
it?"

The entire absence of self-consciousness in Lois's expression and voice
surprised Mrs. Nailor.

"Mrs. Lancaster," she said, watching for the effect of her answer. "Of
course, you know he has always been in love with her?"

The girl's expression of unfeigned admiration of Mrs. Lancaster gave
Mrs. Nailor another surprise. She decided that she had been mistaken in
suspecting her of caring for Keith.

"He has evidently not proposed yet. If she were a little older I should
be certain of it," she said to herself as she drove away; "but these
girls are so secretive one can never tell about them. Even I could not
look as innocent as that to save my life if I were interested."

That evening Keith called at The Lawns. He did not take with him a
placid spirit. Mrs. Nailor's shaft had gone home, and it rankled. He
tried to assure himself that what people were thinking had nothing to do
with him. But suppose Miss Abigail took this view of the matter? He
determined to ascertain. One solution of the difficulty lay plain before
him: he could go away. Another presented itself, but it was
preposterous. Of all the women he knew Lois Huntington was the least
affected by him in the way that flatters a man. She liked him, he knew;
but if he could read women at all, and he thought he could, she liked
him only as a friend, and had not a particle of sentiment about him. He
was easy, then, as to the point Mrs. Nailor had raised; but had he the
right to subject Lois to gossip? This was the main thing that troubled
him. He was half angry with himself that it kept rising in his mind. He
determined to find out what her aunt thought of it, and decided that he
could let that direct his course. This salved his conscience. Once or
twice the question dimly presented itself whether it were possible that
Lois could care for him. He banished it resolutely.

When he reached The Lawns, he found that Miss Abigail was sick, so the
virtuous plan he had formed fell through. He was trying to fancy himself
sorry; but when Lois came out on the verandah in dainty blue gown which
fell softly about her girlish figure, and seated herself with
unconscious grace in the easy-chair he pushed up for her, he knew that
he was glad to have her all to himself. They fell to talking about
her aunt.

"I am dreadfully uneasy about her," the girl said. "Once or twice of
late she has had something like fainting spells, and the last one was
very alarming. You don't know what she has been to me." She looked up at
him with a silent appeal for sympathy which made his heart beat. "She is
the only mother I ever knew, and she is all I have in the world." Her
voice faltered, and she turned away her head. A tear stole down her
cheek and dropped in her lap. "I am so glad you like each other. I hear
you are engaged," she said suddenly.

He was startled; it chimed in so with the thought in his mind at the
moment.

"No, I am not; but I would like to be."

He came near saying a great deal more; but the girl's eyes were fixed on
him so innocently that he for a moment hesitated. He felt it would be
folly, if not sacrilege, to go further.

Just then there was a step on the walk, and the young man Keith had
seen, Dr. Locaman, came up the steps. He was a handsome man, stout, well
dressed, and well satisfied.

Keith could have consigned him and all his class to a distant and torrid
clime.

He came up the steps cheerily and began talking at once. He was so glad
to see Keith, and had he heard lately from Dr. Balsam?--"such a fine
type of the old country doctor," etc.

No, Keith said; he had not heard lately. His manner had stiffened at
the young man's condescension, and he rose to go.

He said casually to Lois, as he shook hands, "How did you hear the piece
of news you mentioned?"

"Mrs. Nailor told me. You must tell me all about it."

"I will sometime."

"I hope you will be very happy," she said earnestly; "you deserve to
be." Her eyes were very soft.

"No, I do not," said Keith, almost angrily. "I am not at all what you
suppose me to be."

"I will not allow you to say such things of yourself," she said,
smiling. "I will not stand my friends being abused even by themselves."

Keith felt his courage waning. Her beauty, her sincerity, her
tenderness, her innocence, her sweetness thrilled him. He turned back to
her abruptly.

"I hope you will always think that of me," he said earnestly. "I promise
to try to deserve it. Good-by."

"Good-by. Don't forget me." She held out her hand.

Keith took it and held it for a second.

"Never," he said, looking her straight in the eyes. "Good-by"; and with
a muttered good-by to Dr. Locaman, who stood with wide-open eyes gazing
at him, he turned and went down the steps.

"I don't like that man," said the young Doctor. This speech sealed his
fate.

"Don't you? I do," said Lois, half dreamily. Her thoughts were far from
the young physician at that moment; and when they returned to him, she
knew that she would never marry him. A half-hour later, he knew it.

The next morning Lois received a note from Keith, saying he had left for
his home.

When he bade Mrs. Lancaster good-by that evening, she looked as if she
were really sorry that he was going. She walked with him down the
verandah toward where his carriage awaited him, and Keith thought she
had never looked sweeter.

He had never had a confidante,--at least, since he was a college
boy,--and a little of the old feeling came to him. He lingered a little;
but just then Mrs. Nailor came out of the door near him. For a moment
Keith could almost have fancied he was back on the verandah at Gates's.
Her mousing around had turned back the dial a dozen years.

Just what brought it about, perhaps, no one of the participants in the
little drama could have told; but from this time the relations between
the two ladies whom Keith left at the hotel that Summer night somehow
changed. Not outwardly, for they still sat and talked together; but they
were both conscious of a difference. They rather fenced with each other
after that. Mrs. Nailor set it down to a simple cause. Mrs. Lancaster
was in love with Gordon Keith, and he had not addressed her. Of this she
was satisfied. Yet she was a little mystified. Mrs. Lancaster hardly
defined the reason to herself. She simply shut up on the side toward
Mrs. Nailor, and barred her out. A strange thing was that she and Miss
Huntington became great friends. They took to riding together, walking
together, and seeing a great deal of each other, the elder lady spending
much of her time up at Miss Huntington's home, among the shrubbery and
flowers of the old place. It was a mystification to Mrs. Nailor, who
frankly confessed that she could only account for it on the ground that
Mrs. Lancaster wanted to find out how far matters had gone between Keith
and Miss Huntington. "That girl is a sly minx," she said. "These
governesses learn to be deceptive. I would not have her in my house."

If there was a more dissatisfied mortal in the world than Gordon Keith
that Autumn Keith did not know him. He worked hard, but it did not ease
his mind. He tried retiring to his old home, as he had done in the
Summer; but it was even worse than it had been then. Rumor came to him
that Lois Huntington was engaged. It came through Mrs. Nailor, and he
could not verify it; but, at least, she was lost to him. He cursed
himself for a fool.

The picture of Mrs. Lancaster began to come to him oftener and oftener
as she had appeared to him that night on the verandah--handsome,
dignified, serene, sympathetic. Why should he not seek release by this
way? He had always admired, liked her. He felt her sympathy; he
recognized her charm; he appreciated her--yes, her advantage. Curse it!
that was the trouble. If he were only in love with her! If she were not
so manifestly advantageous, then he might think his feeling was more
than friendship; for she was everything that he admired.

He was just in this frame of mind when a letter came from Rhodes, who
had come home soon after Keith's visit to him. He had not been very
well, and they had decided to take a yacht-cruise in Southern waters,
and would he not come along? He could join them at either Hampton Roads
or Savannah, and they were going to run over to the Bermudas.

Keith telegraphed that he would join them, and two days later turned his
face to the South. Twenty-four hours afterwards he was stepping up the
gangway and being welcomed by as gay a group as ever fluttered
handkerchiefs to cheer a friend. Among them the first object that had
caught his eye as he rowed out was the straight, lithe figure of Mrs.
Lancaster. A man is always ready to think Providence interferes
specially in his, case, provided the interpretation accords with his own
views, and this looked to Keith very much as if it were Providence. For
one thing, it saved him the trouble of thinking further of a matter
which, the more he thought of it, the more he was perplexed. She came
forward with the others, and welcomed him with her old frank, cordial
grasp of the hand and gracious air. When he was comfortably settled, he
felt a distinct self-content that he had decided to come.

A yacht-cruise is dependent on three things: the yacht itself, the
company on board, and the weather. Keith had no cause to complain of
any of these.

The "Virginia Dare" was a beautiful boat, and the weather was
perfect--just the weather for a cruise in Southern waters. The company
were all friends of Keith; and Keith found himself sailing in Summer
seas, with Summer airs breathing about him. Keith was at his best. He
was richly tanned by exposure, and as hard as a nail from work in the
open air. Command of men had given him that calm assurance which is the
mark of the captain. Ambition--ambition to be, not merely to
possess--was once more calling to him with her inspiring voice, and as
he hearkened his face grew more and more distinguished. Providence,
indeed, or Grinnell Rhodes was working his way, and it seemed to him--he
admitted it with a pang of contempt for himself at the admission--that
Mrs. Lancaster was at least acquiescent in their hands. Morning after
morning they sat together in the shadow of the sail, and evening after
evening together watched the moon with an ever-rounder golden circle
steal up the cloudless sky. Keith was pleased to find how much
interested he was becoming. Each day he admired her more and more; and
each day he found her sweeter than she had been before. Once or twice
she spoke to him of Lois Huntington, but each time she mentioned her,
Keith turned the subject. She said that they had expected to have her
join them; but she could not leave her aunt.

"I hear she is engaged," said Keith.

"Yes, I heard that. I do not believe it. Whom did you hear it from?"

"Mrs. Nailor."

"So did I."



CHAPTER XXXVI

THE OLD IDEAL

One evening they sat on deck. Alice Lancaster had never appeared so
sweet. It happened that Mrs. Rhodes had a headache and was down below,
and Rhodes declared that he had some writing to do. So Mrs. Lancaster
and Keith had the deck to themselves.

They had been sailing for weeks among emerald isles and through waters
as blue as heaven. Even the "still-vex'd Bermoothes" had lent them their
gentlest airs.

They had left the Indies and were now approaching the American shore.
Their cruise was almost at an end, and possibly a little sadness had
crept over them both. As she had learned more and more of his life and
more and more of his character, she had found herself ready to give up
everything for him if he only gave her what she craved. But one thing
had made itself plain to Alice: Keith was not in love with her as she
knew he could be in love. If he were in love, it was with an ideal. And
her woman's intuition told her that she was not that ideal.

This evening she was unusually pensive. She had never looked lovelier or
been more gracious and charming, and as Keith thought of the past and of
the future,--the long past in which they had been friends, the long
future in which he would live alone,--his thought took the form of
resolve. Why should they not always be together? She knew that he liked
her, so he had not much to do to go further. The moon was just above the
horizon, making a broad golden pathway to them. The soft lapping of the
waves against the boat seemed to be a lullaby suited to the peacefulness
of the scene; and the lovely form before him, clad in soft raiment that
set it off; the fair face and gentle voice, appeared to fill everything
with graciousness. Keith had more than once, in the past few weeks,
considered how he would bring the subject up, and what he would say if
he ever addressed her. He did not, however, go about it in the way he
had planned. It seemed to him to come up spontaneously. Under the spell
of the Summer night they had drifted into talking of old times, and they
both softened as their memory went back to their youth and their
friendship that had begun among the Southern woods and had lasted so
many years.

She had spoken of the influence his opinions had had with her.

"Do you know," he said presently, "I think you have exerted more
influence on my life than any one else I ever knew after I grew up?"

She smiled, and her face was softer than usual.

"I should be very glad to think that, for I think there are few men who
set out in life with such ideals as you had and afterwards
realize them."

Keith thought of his father and of how steadily that old man had held to
his ideals through everything. "I have not realized them," he said
firmly. "I fear I have lost most of them. I set out in life with high
ideals, which I got from my father; but, somehow, I seem to have
changed them."

She shook her head, with a pleasant light in her eyes.

"I do not think you have. Do you remember what you said to me once about
your ideal?"

He turned and faced her. There was an expression of such softness and
such sweetness in her face that a kind of anticipatory happiness fell
on him.

"Yes; and I have always been in love with that ideal," he said gravely.

She said gently: "Yes, I knew it."

"Did you?" asked Keith, in some surprise. "I scarcely knew it myself,
though I believe I have been for some time."

"Yes?" she said. "I knew that too."

Keith bent over her and took both her hands in his. "I love and want
love in return--more than I can ever tell you."

A change came over her face, and she drew in her breath suddenly,
glanced at him for a second, and then looked away, her eyes resting at
last on the distance where a ship lay, her sails hanging idly in the dim
haze. It might have been a dream-ship. At Keith's words a picture came
to her out of the past. A young man was seated on the ground, with a
fresh-budding bush behind him. Spring was all about them. He was young
and slender and sun-browned, with deep-burning eyes and close-drawn
mouth, with the future before him; whatever befell, with the hope and
the courage to conquer. He had conquered, as he then said he would to
the young girl seated beside him.

"When I love," he was saying, "she must fill full the measure of my
dreams. She must uplift me. She must have beauty and sweetness; she must
choose the truth as that bird chooses the flowers. And to such an one I
will give worship without end."

Years after, she had come across the phrase again in a poem. And at the
words the same picture had come to her, and a sudden hunger for love,
for such love,--the love she had missed in life,--had seized her. But it
was then too late. She had taken in its place respect and companionship,
a great establishment and social prominence.

For a moment her mother, sitting calm and calculating in the little room
at Ridgely, foretelling her future and teaching, with commercial
exactness, the advantages of such a union, flashed before her; and then
once more for a moment came the heart-hunger for what she had missed.

Why should she not take the gift thus held out to her? She liked him and
he liked her. She trusted him. It was the best chance of happiness she
would ever have. Besides, she could help him. He had powers, and she
could give him the opportunity to develop them. Love would come. Who
could tell? Perhaps, the other happiness might yet be hers. Why should
she throw it away? Would not life bring the old dream yet? Could it
bring it? Here was this man whom she had known all her life, who filled
almost the measure of her old dream, at her feet again. But was this
love? Was this the "worship with out end"? As her heart asked the
question, and she lifted her eyes to his face, the answer came with it:
No. He was too cool, too calm. This was but friendship and respect, that
same "safe foundation" she had tried. This might do for some, but not
for him. She had seen him, and she knew what he could feel. She had
caught a glimpse of him that evening when Ferdy Wickersham was so
attentive to the little Huntington girl. She had seen him that night in
the theatre when the fire occurred. He was in love; but it was with Lois
Huntington, and happiness might yet be his.

The next moment Alice's better nature reasserted itself. The picture of
the young girl sitting with her serious face and her trustful eyes came
back to her. Lois, moved by her sympathy and friendship, had given her a
glimpse of her true heart, which she knew she would have died before she
would have shown another. She had confided in her absolutely. She heard
the tones of her voice:

"Why, Mrs. Lancaster, I dream of him. He seems to me so real, so true.
For such a man I could--I could worship him!" Then came the sudden
lifting of the veil; the straight, confiding, appealing glance, the
opening of the soul, and the rush to her knees as she appealed for him.

It all passed through Mrs. Lancaster's mind as she looked far away over
the slumbering sea, while Keith waited for her answer.

When she glanced up at Keith he was leaning over the rail, looking far
away, his face calm and serious. What was he thinking of? Certainly
not of her.

"No, you are not--not in love with me," she said firmly.

Keith started, and looked down on her with a changed expression.

She raised her hand with a gesture of protest, rose and stood beside
him, facing him frankly.

"You are in love, but not with me."

Keith took her hand. She did not take it from him; indeed, she caught
his hand with a firm clasp.

"Oh, no; you are not," she smiled. "I have had men in love with me--"

"You have had one, I know--" he began.

"Yes, once, a long time ago--and I know the difference. I told you once
that I was not what you thought me."

"And I told you--" began Keith; but she did not pause.

"I am still less so now. I am not in the least what you think me--or you
are not what I think you."

"You are just what I think you," began Keith. "You are the most charming
woman in the world--you are my--" He hesitated as she looked straight
into his eyes and shook her head.

"What? No, I am not. I am a worldly, world-worn woman. Oh, yes, I am,"
as dissent spoke in his face. "I know the world and am a part of it and
depend upon it. Yes, I am. I am not so far gone that I cannot recognize
and admire what is better, higher, and nobler than the world of which I
speak; but I am bound to the wheel--Is not that the illustration you
wrote me once? I thought then it was absurd. I know now how true it is."

"I do not think you are," declared Keith. "If you were, I would claim
the right to release you--to save you for--yourself and--"

She shook her head.

"No, no. I have become accustomed to my Sybarite's couch of which you
used to tell me. Would you be willing to give up all you have striven
for and won--your life--the honors you have won and hope to win?"

"They are nothing--those I have won! Those I hope to win, I would win
for us both. You should help me. They would be for you, Alice." His eyes
were deep in hers.

She fetched a long sigh.

"No, no; once, perhaps, I might have--but now it is too late. I chose my
path and must follow it. You would not like to give up all you--hope
for--and become like--some we know?"

"God forbid!"

"And I say, 'Amen.' And if you would, I would not be willing to have you
do it. You are too much to me--I honor you too much," she corrected
quickly, as she caught the expression in his face. "I could not let you
sink into a--society man--like--some of those I sit next to and dance
with and drive with and--enjoy and despise. Do I not know that if you
loved me you would have convinced me of it in a moment? You have not
convinced me. You are in love,--as you said just now,--but not with me.
You are in love with Lois Huntington."

Keith almost staggered. It was so direct and so exactly what his thought
had been just now. But he said:

"Oh, nonsense! Lois Huntington considers me old enough to be her
grandfather. Why, she--she is engaged to or in love with Dr. Locaman."

"She is not," said Mrs. Lancaster, firmly, "and she never will be. If
you go about it right she will marry you." She added calmly: "I hope she
will, with all my heart."

"Marry me! Lois Huntington! Why--"

"She considers me her grandmother, perhaps; but not you her grandfather.
She thinks you are much too young for me. She thinks you are the most
wonderful and the best and most charming man in the world."

"Oh, nonsense!"

"I do not know where she got such an idea--unless you told her so
yourself," she said, with a smile.

"I would like her to think it," said Keith, smiling; "but I have
studiously avoided divulging myself in my real and fatal character."

"Then she must have got it from the only other person who knows you in
your true character."

"And that is--?"

She looked into his eyes with so amused and so friendly a light in her
own that Keith lifted her hand to his lips.

"I do not deserve such friendship."

"Yes, you do; you taught it to me."

He sat back in his chair, trying to think. But all he could think of was
how immeasurably he was below both these women.

"Will you forgive me?" he said suddenly, almost miserably. He meant to
say more, but she rose, and at the moment he heard a step behind him. He
thought her hand touched his head for a second, and that he heard her
answer, "Yes"; but he was not sure, for just then Mrs. Rhodes spoke to
them, and they all three had to pretend that they thought nothing
unusual had been going on.

They received their mail next day, and were all busy reading letters,
when Mrs. Rhodes gave an exclamation of surprise.

"Oh, just hear this! Little Miss Huntington's old aunt is dead."

There was an exclamation from every one.

"Yes," she went on reading, with a faint little conventional tone of
sympathy in her voice; "she died ten days ago--very suddenly, of
heart-disease."

"Oh, poor little Lois! I am so sorry for her!" It was Alice Lancaster's
voice.

But Keith did not hear any more. His heart was aching, and he was back
among the shrubbery of The Lawns. All that he knew was that Rhodes and
Mrs. Rhodes were expressing sympathy, and that Mrs. Lancaster, who had
not said a word after the first exclamation, excused herself and left
the saloon. Keith made up his mind promptly. He went up on deck. Mrs.
Lancaster was sitting alone far aft in the shadow. Her back was toward
him, and her hand was to her eyes. He went up to her. She did not look
up; but Keith felt that she knew it was he.

"You must go to her," she said.

"Yes," said Keith. "I shall. I wish you would come."

"Oh, I wish I could! Poor little thing!" she sighed.

Two days after that Keith walked into the hotel at Brookford. The clerk
recognized him as he appeared, and greeted him cordially. Something in
Keith's look or manner, perhaps, recalled his former association with
the family at The Lawns, for, as Keith signed his name, he said:

"Sad thing, that, up on the hill."

"What?" said Keith, absently.

"The old lady's death and the breaking up of the old place," he said.

"Oh!--yes, it is," said Keith; and then, thinking that he could learn if
Miss Huntington were there without appearing to do so, except
casually, he said:

"Who is there now?"

"There is not any one there at all, I believe."

Keith ordered a room, and a half-hour later went out.

Instead of taking a carriage, he walked There had been a change in the
weather. The snow covered everything, and the grounds looked wintry and
deserted. The gate was unlocked, but had not been opened lately, and
Keith had hard work to open it wide enough to let himself through. He
tramped along through the snow, and turning the curve in the road, was
in front of the house. It was shut up. Every shutter was closed, as well
as the door, and a sudden chill struck him. Still he went on; climbed
the wide, unswept steps, crossed the portico, and rang the bell, and
finally knocked. The sound made him start. How lonesome it seemed! He
knocked again, but no one came. Only the snowbirds on the portico
stopped and looked at him curiously. Finally, he thought he heard some
one in the snow. He turned as a man came around the house. It was the
old coachman and factotum. He seemed glad enough to see Keith, and Keith
was, at least, glad to see him.

"It's a bad business, it is, Mr. Kathe," he said sadly.

"Yes, it is, John. Where is Miss Huntington?"

"Gone, sir," said John, with surprise in his voice that Keith should not
know.

"Gone where?"

"An' that no one knows," said John.

"What! What do you mean?"

"Just that, sir," said the old fellow. "She went away two days after the
funeral, an' not a worrd of her since."

"But she's at some relative's?" said Keith, seeking information at the
same time he gave it.

"No, sir; not a relative in the world she has, except Mr. Wentworth in
New York, and she has not been there."

Keith learned, in the conversation which followed, that Miss Abigail had
died very suddenly, and that two days after the funeral Miss Lois had
had the house shut up, and taking only a small trunk, had left by train
for New York. They had expected to hear from her, though she had said
they would not do so for some time; and when no letter had come they had
sent to New York, but had failed to find her. This all seemed natural
enough. Lois was abundantly able to take care of herself, and, no doubt,
desired for the present to be in some place of retirement. Keith
decided, therefore, that he would simply go to the city and ascertain
where she was. He thought of going to see Dr. Locaman, but something
restrained him. The snow was deep, and he was anxious to find Lois; so
he went straight down to the city that evening. The next day he
discovered that it was not quite so easy to find one who wished to be
lost. Norman knew nothing of her.

Norman and his wife were now living with old Mrs. Wentworth, and they
had all invited her to come to them; but she had declined. Keith was
much disturbed.

Lois, however, was nearer than Keith dreamed.

Her aunt's death had stricken Lois deeply. She could not bear to go to
New York. It stood to her only for hardness and isolation.

Just then a letter came from Dr. Balsam. She must come to him, he said.
He was sick, or he would come for her. An impulse seized her to go to
him. She would go back to the scenes of her childhood: the memories of
her father drew her; the memory also of her aunt in some way urged her.
Dr. Balsam appeared just then nearer to her than any one else. She could
help him. It seemed a haven of refuge to her.

Twenty-four hours later the old Doctor was sitting in his room. He
looked worn and old and dispirited. The death of an old friend had left
a void in his life.

There was a light step outside and a rap at the door.

"It's the servant," thought the Doctor, and called somewhat gruffly,
"Come in."

When the door opened it was not the servant. For a moment the old man
scarcely took in who it was. She seemed to be almost a vision. He had
never thought of Lois in black. She was so like a girl he had known
long, long ago.

Then she ran forward, and as the old man rose to his feet she threw her
arms about his neck, and the world suddenly changed for him--changed as
much as if it had been new-created.

From New York Keith went down to the old plantation to see his father.
The old gentleman was renewing his youth among his books. He was much
interested in Keith's account of his yachting-trip. While there Keith
got word of important business which required his presence in New Leeds
immediately. Ferdy Wickersham had returned, and had brought suit against
his company, claiming title to all the lands they had bought from
Adam Rawson.

On his arrival at New Leeds, Keith learned that Wickersham had been
there just long enough to institute his suit, the papers in which had
been already prepared before he came. There was much excitement in the
place. Wickersham had boasted that he had made a great deal of money in
South America.

"He claims now," said Keith's informant, Captain Turley, "that he owns
all of Squire Rawson's lands. He says you knew it was all his when you
sold it to them Englishmen, and that Mr. Rhodes, the president of the
company, knew it was his, and he has been defrauded."

"Well, we will see about that," said Keith, grimly.

"That's what old Squire Rawson said. The old man came up as soon as he
heard he was here; but Wickersham didn't stay but one night. He had
lighted out."

"What did the squire come for?" inquired Keith, moved by his old
friend's expression.

"He said he came to kill him. And he'd have done it. If Wickersham's got
any friends they'd better keep him out of his way." His face testified
his earnestness.

Keith had a curious feeling. Wickersham's return meant that he was
desperate. In some way, too, Keith felt that Lois Huntington was
concerned in his movements. He was glad to think that she was abroad.

But Lois was being drawn again into his life in a way that he little
knew.

In the seclusion and quietude of Ridgely at that season, Lois soon felt
as if she had reached, at last, a safe harbor. The care of the old
Doctor gave her employment, and her mind, after a while, began to
recover its healthy tone. She knew that the happiness of which she had
once dreamed would never be hers; but she was sustained by the
reflection that she had tried to do her duty: she had sacrificed herself
for others. She spent her time trying to help those about her. She had
made friends with Squire Rawson, and the old man found much comfort in
talking to her of Phrony.

Sometimes, in the afternoon, when she was lonely, she climbed the hill
and looked after the little plot in which lay the grave of her father.
She remembered her mother but vaguely: as a beautiful vision, blurred by
the years; but her father was clear in her memory. His smile, his
cheeriness, his devotion to her remained with her. And the memory of him
who had been her friend in her childhood came to her sometimes,
saddening her, till she would arouse herself and by an effort banish him
from her thoughts.

Often when she went up to the cemetery she would see others there: women
in black, with a fresher sorrow than hers; and sometimes the squire, who
was beginning now to grow feeble and shaky with age, would be sitting on
a bench among the shrubbery beside a grave on which he had placed
flowers. The grave was Phrony's. Once he spoke to her of Wickersham. He
had brought a suit against the old man, claiming that he had a title to
all of the latter's property. The old fellow was greatly stirred up by
it. He denounced him furiously.

"He has robbed me of her," he said "Let him beware. If he ever comes
across my path I shall kill him."

So the Winter passed, and Spring was beginning to come. Its harbingers,
in their livery of red and green, were already showing on the hillsides.
The redbud was burning on the Southern slopes; the turf was springing,
fresh and green; dandelions were dappling the grass like golden coins
sown by a prodigal; violets were beginning to peep from the shelter of
leaves caught along the fence-rows; and some favored peach-trees were
blushing into pink.

For some reason the season made Lois sad. Was it that it was Nature's
season for mating; the season for Youth to burst its restraining bonds
and blossom into love? She tried to fight the feeling, but it clung to
her. Dr Balsam, watching her with quickened eyes, grew graver, and
prescribed a tonic. Once he had spoken to her of Keith, and she had told
him that he was to marry Mrs. Lancaster. But the old man had made a
discovery. And he never spoke to her of him again.

Lois, to her surprise and indignation, received one morning a letter
from Wickersham asking her to make an appointment with him on a matter
of mutual interest. He wished, he said, to make friends with old Mr.
Rawson and she could help him. He mentioned Keith and casually spoke of
his engagement. She took no notice of this letter; but one afternoon
she was lonelier than usual, and she went up the hill to her father's
grave. Adam Rawson's horse was tied to the fence, and across the lots
she saw him among the rose-bushes at Phrony's grave. She sat down and
gave herself up to reflection. Gradually the whole of her life in New
York passed before her: its unhappiness; its promise of joy for a
moment; and then the shutting of it out, as if the windows of her soul
had been closed.

She heard the gate click, and presently heard a step behind her. As it
approached she turned and faced Ferdy Wickersham. She seemed to be
almost in a dream. He had aged somewhat, and his dark face had hardened.
Otherwise he had not changed. He was still very handsome. She felt as if
a chill blast had struck her. She caught his eye on her, and knew that
he had recognized her. As he came up the path toward her, she rose and
moved away; but he cut across to intercept her, and she heard him
speak her name.

She took no notice, but walked on.

"Miss Huntington." He stepped in front of her.

Her head went up, and she looked him in the eyes with a scorn in hers
that stung him. "Move, if you please."

His face flushed, then paled again.

"I heard you were here, and I have come to see you, to talk with you,"
he began. "I wish to be friends with you."

She waved him aside.

"Let me pass, if you please."

"Not until you have heard what I have to say. You have done me a great
injustice; but I put that by. I have been robbed by persons you know,
persons who are no friends of yours, whom I understand you have
influence with, and you can help to right matters. It will be worth your
while to do it."

She attempted to pass around him; but he stepped before her.

"You might as well listen; for I have come here to talk to you, and I
mean to do it. I can show you how important it is for you to aid me--to
advise your friends to settle. Now, will you listen?"

"No." She looked him straight in the eyes.

"Oh, I guess you will," he sneered. "It concerns your friend, Mr. Keith,
whom you thought so much of. Your friend Keith has placed himself in a
very equivocal position. I will have him behind bars before I am done.
Wait until I have shown that when he got all that money from the English
people he knew that that land was mine, and that he had run the lines
falsely on which he got the money."

"Let me pass," said Lois. With her head held high she started again to
walk by him; but he seized her by the wrist.

"This is not Central Park. You shall hear me."

"Let me go, Mr. Wickersham," she said imperiously. But he held her
firmly.

At that moment she heard an oath behind her, and a voice exclaimed:

"It is you, at last! And still troubling women!"

Wickersham's countenance suddenly changed. He released her wrist and
fell back a step, his face blanching. The next second, as she turned
quickly, old Adam Rawson's bulky figure was before her. He was hurrying
toward her: the very apotheosis of wrath. His face was purple; his eyes
blazed; his massive form was erect, and quivering with fury. His heavy
stick was gripped in his left hand, and with the other he was drawing a
pistol from his pocket.

"I have waited for you, you dog, and you have come at last!" he cried.

Wickersham, falling back before his advance, was trying, as Lois looked,
to get out a pistol. His face was as white as death. Lois had no time
for thought. It was simply instinct. Old Rawson's pistol was already
levelled. With a cry she threw herself between them; but it was
too late.

She was only conscious of a roar and blinding smoke in her eyes and of
something like a hot iron at her side; then, as she sank down, of
Squire Rawson's stepping over her. Her sacrifice was in vain, for the
old man was not to be turned from his revenge. As he had sworn, so he
performed. And the next moment Wickersham, with two bullets in his body,
had paid to him his long-piled-up debt.

When Lois came to, she was in bed, and Dr. Balsam was leaning over her
with a white, set face.

"I am all right," she said, with a faint smile. "Was he hurt?"

"Don't talk now," said the Doctor, quietly. "Thank God, you are not hurt
much."

Keith was sitting in his office in New Leeds alone that afternoon. He
had just received a telegram from Dave Dennison that Wickersham had left
New York. Dennison had learned that he was going to Ridgely to try to
make up with old Rawson. Just then the paper from Ridgely was brought
in. Keith's eye fell on the head-lines of the first column, and he
almost fell from his chair as he read the words:

     DOUBLE TRAGEDY--FATAL SHOOTING

     F.C. WICKERSHAM SHOOTS MISS LOIS HUNTINGTON AND IS KILLED BY
     SQUIRE RAWSON

The account of the shooting was in accordance with the heading, and was
followed by the story of the Wickersham-Rawson trouble.

Keith snatched out his watch, and the next second was dashing down the
street on his way to the station. A train was to start for the east in
five minutes. He caught it as it ran out of the station, and swung
himself up to the rear platform.

Curiously enough, in his confused thoughts of Lois Huntington and what
she had meant to him was mingled the constant recollection of old Tim
Gilsey and his lumbering stage running through the pass.

It was late in the evening when he reached Ridgely; but he hastened at
once to Dr. Balsam's office. The moon was shining, and it brought back
to him the evenings on the verandah at Gates's so long ago. But it
seemed to him that it was Lois Huntington who had been there among the
pillows; that it was Lois Huntington who had always been there in his
memory. He wondered if she would be as she was then, as she lay dead.
And once or twice he wondered if he could be losing his wits; then he
gripped himself and cleared his mind.

In ten minutes he was in Dr. Balsam's office. The Doctor greeted him
with more coldness than he had ever shown him. Keith felt his suspicion.

"Where is Lois--Miss Lois Huntington? Is she--?" He could not frame the
question.

"She is doing very well."

Keith's heart gave a bound of hope. The blood surged back and forth in
his veins. Life seemed to revive for him.

"Is she alive? Will she live?" he faltered.

"Yes. Who says she will not?" demanded the Doctor, testily.

"The paper--the despatch."

"No thanks to you that she does!" He faced Keith, and suddenly flamed
out: "I want to tell you that I think you have acted like a
damned rascal!"

Keith's jaw dropped, and he actually staggered with amazement. "What!
What do you mean? I do not understand!"

"You are not a bit better than that dog that you turned her over to, who
got his deserts yesterday."

"But I do not understand!" gasped Keith, white and hot.

"Then I will tell you. You led that innocent girl to believe that you
were in love with her, and then when she was fool enough to believe you
and let herself become--interested, you left her to run, like a little
puppy, after a rich woman."

"Where did you hear this?" asked Keith, still amazed, but recovering
himself. "What have you heard? Who told you?"

"Not from her." He was blazing with wrath.

"No; but from whom?"

"Never mind. From some one who knew the facts. It is the truth."

"But it is not the truth. I have been in love with Lois Huntington since
I first met her."

"Then why in the name of heaven did you treat her so?"

"How? I did not tell her so because I heard she was in love with some
one else--and engaged to him. God knows I have suffered enough over it.
I would die for her." His expression left no room for doubt as to his
sincerity.

The old man's face gradually relaxed, and presently something that was
almost a smile came into his eyes. He held out his hand.

"I owe you an apology. You are a d----d fool!"

"Can I see her?" asked Keith.

"I don't know that you can see anything. But I could, if I were in your
place. She is on the side verandah at my hospital--where Gates's tavern
stood. She is not much hurt, though it was a close thing. The ball
struck a button and glanced around. She is sitting up. I shall bring her
home as soon as she can be moved."

Keith paused and reflected a moment, then held out his hand.

"Doctor, if I win her will you make our house your home?"

The old man's face softened, and he held out his hand again.

"You will have to come and see me sometimes."

Five minutes later Keith turned up the walk that led to the side
verandah of the building that Dr. Balsam had put up for his sanatorium
on the site of Gates's hotel. The moon was slowly sinking toward the
western mountain-tops, flooding with soft light the valley below, and
touching to silver the fleecy clouds that, shepherded by the gentle
wind, wreathed the highest peaks beyond. How well Keith remembered it
all: the old house with its long verandah; the moonlight flooding it;
the white figure reclining there; and the boy that talked of his ideal
of loveliness and love. She was there now; it seemed to him that she had
been there always, and the rest was merely a dream. He walked up on the
turf, but strode rapidly. He could not wait. As he mounted the steps, he
took off his hat.

"Good evening." He spoke as if she must expect him.

She had not heard him before. She was reclining among pillows, and her
face was turned toward the western sky. Her black dress gave him a pang.
He had never thought of her in black, except as a little girl. And such
she almost seemed to him now.

She turned toward him and gave a gasp.

"Mr. Keith!"

"Lois--I have come--" he began, and stopped.

She held out her hand and tried to sit up. Keith took her hand softly,
as if it were a rose, and closing his firmly over it, fell on one knee
beside her chair.

"Don't try to sit up," he said gently. "I went to Brookford as soon as I
heard of it--" he began, and then placed his other hand on hers,
covering it with his firm grasp.

"I thought you would," she said simply.

Keith lifted her hand and held it against his cheek. He was silent a
moment. What should he say to her? Not only all other women, but all the
rest of the world, had disappeared.

"I have come, and I shall not go away again until you go with me."

For answer she hid her face and began to cry softly. Keith knelt with
her hand to his lips, murmuring his love.

"I am so glad you have come. I don't know what to do," she said
presently.

"You do not have to know. I know. It is decided. I love you--I have
always loved you. And no one shall ever come between us. You are
mine--mine only." He went on pouring out his soul to her.

[Illustration: "Lois--I have come"--he began]

"My old Doctor--?" she began presently, and looked up at him with eyes
"like stars half-quenched in mists of silver dew."

"He agrees. We will make him live with us."

"Your father-?"

"Him, too. You shall be their daughter."

She gave him her hands.

"Well, on that condition."

       *       *       *       *       *

The first person Keith sought to tell of his new happiness was his
father. The old gentleman was sitting on the porch at Elphinstone in the
sun, enjoying the physical sensation of warmth that means so much to
extreme youth and extreme age. He held a copy of Virgil in his hand, but
he was not reading; he was repeating passages of it by heart. They
related to the quiet life. His son heard him saying softly:

     "'O Fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint,
     Agricolas!'"

His mind was possibly far back in the past.

His placid face lit up with the smile that always shone there when his
son appeared.

"Well, what's the news?" he asked. "I know it must be good."

"It is," smiled Keith. "I am engaged to be married."

The old gentleman's book fell to the floor.

"You don't say so! Ah, that's very good! Very good! I am glad of that;
every young man ought to marry. There is no happiness like it in this
world, whatever there may be in the next.

     "'Interea dulces pendent circum oscula nati.'

"I will come and see you," he smiled.

"Come and see me!"

"But I am not very much at home in New York," he pursued rather
wistfully; "it is too noisy for me. I am too old-fashioned for it."

"New York? But I'm not going to live in New York!"

A slight shadow swept over the General's face.

"Well, you must live where she will be happiest," he said thoughtfully.
"A gentleman owes that to his wife.--Do you think she will be willing to
live elsewhere?"

"Who do you think it is, sir!"

"Mrs. Lancaster, isn't it?"

"Why, no; it is Lois Huntington. I am engaged to her. She has promised
to marry me."

"To her!--to Lois Huntington--my little girl!" The old gentleman rose to
his feet, his face alight with absolute joy. "That is something like it!
Where is she? When is it to be? I will come and live with you."

"Of course, you must. It is on that condition that she agrees to marry
me," said Keith, smiling with new happiness at his pleasure.

"'In her tongue is the law of kindness,'" quoted the old gentleman. "God
bless you both. 'Her price is far above rubies.'" And after a pause he
added gently: "I hope your mother knows of this. I think she must: she
seems so close to me to-day."



***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK GORDON KEITH***


******* This file should be named 14068.txt or 14068.zip *******


This and all associated files of various formats will be found in:
http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/1/4/0/6/14068



Updated editions will replace the previous one--the old editions
will be renamed.

Creating the works from public domain print editions means that no
one owns a United States copyright in these works, so the Foundation
(and you!) can copy and distribute it in the United States without
permission and without paying copyright royalties.  Special rules,
set forth in the General Terms of Use part of this license, apply to
copying and distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works to
protect the PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm concept and trademark.  Project
Gutenberg is a registered trademark, and may not be used if you
charge for the eBooks, unless you receive specific permission.  If you
do not charge anything for copies of this eBook, complying with the
rules is very easy.  You may use this eBook for nearly any purpose
such as creation of derivative works, reports, performances and
research.  They may be modified and printed and given away--you may do
practically ANYTHING with public domain eBooks.  Redistribution is
subject to the trademark license, especially commercial
redistribution.



*** START: FULL LICENSE ***

THE FULL PROJECT GUTENBERG LICENSE
PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE YOU DISTRIBUTE OR USE THIS WORK

To protect the Project Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting the free
distribution of electronic works, by using or distributing this work
(or any other work associated in any way with the phrase "Project
Gutenberg"), you agree to comply with all the terms of the Full Project
Gutenberg-tm License (available with this file or online at
http://gutenberg.net/license).


Section 1.  General Terms of Use and Redistributing Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic works

1.A.  By reading or using any part of this Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic work, you indicate that you have read, understand, agree to
and accept all the terms of this license and intellectual property
(trademark/copyright) agreement.  If you do not agree to abide by all
the terms of this agreement, you must cease using and return or destroy
all copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in your possession.
If you paid a fee for obtaining a copy of or access to a Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic work and you do not agree to be bound by the
terms of this agreement, you may obtain a refund from the person or
entity to whom you paid the fee as set forth in paragraph 1.E.8.

1.B.  "Project Gutenberg" is a registered trademark.  It may only be
used on or associated in any way with an electronic work by people who
agree to be bound by the terms of this agreement.  There are a few
things that you can do with most Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works
even without complying with the full terms of this agreement.  See
paragraph 1.C below.  There are a lot of things you can do with Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works if you follow the terms of this agreement
and help preserve free future access to Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works.  See paragraph 1.E below.

1.C.  The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation ("the Foundation"
or PGLAF), owns a compilation copyright in the collection of Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works.  Nearly all the individual works in the
collection are in the public domain in the United States.  If an
individual work is in the public domain in the United States and you are
located in the United States, we do not claim a right to prevent you from
copying, distributing, performing, displaying or creating derivative
works based on the work as long as all references to Project Gutenberg
are removed.  Of course, we hope that you will support the Project
Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting free access to electronic works by
freely sharing Project Gutenberg-tm works in compliance with the terms of
this agreement for keeping the Project Gutenberg-tm name associated with
the work.  You can easily comply with the terms of this agreement by
keeping this work in the same format with its attached full Project
Gutenberg-tm License when you share it without charge with others.

1.D.  The copyright laws of the place where you are located also govern
what you can do with this work.  Copyright laws in most countries are in
a constant state of change.  If you are outside the United States, check
the laws of your country in addition to the terms of this agreement
before downloading, copying, displaying, performing, distributing or
creating derivative works based on this work or any other Project
Gutenberg-tm work.  The Foundation makes no representations concerning
the copyright status of any work in any country outside the United
States.

1.E.  Unless you have removed all references to Project Gutenberg:

1.E.1.  The following sentence, with active links to, or other immediate
access to, the full Project Gutenberg-tm License must appear prominently
whenever any copy of a Project Gutenberg-tm work (any work on which the
phrase "Project Gutenberg" appears, or with which the phrase "Project
Gutenberg" is associated) is accessed, displayed, performed, viewed,
copied or distributed:

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net

1.E.2.  If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is derived
from the public domain (does not contain a notice indicating that it is
posted with permission of the copyright holder), the work can be copied
and distributed to anyone in the United States without paying any fees
or charges.  If you are redistributing or providing access to a work
with the phrase "Project Gutenberg" associated with or appearing on the
work, you must comply either with the requirements of paragraphs 1.E.1
through 1.E.7 or obtain permission for the use of the work and the
Project Gutenberg-tm trademark as set forth in paragraphs 1.E.8 or
1.E.9.

1.E.3.  If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is posted
with the permission of the copyright holder, your use and distribution
must comply with both paragraphs 1.E.1 through 1.E.7 and any additional
terms imposed by the copyright holder.  Additional terms will be linked
to the Project Gutenberg-tm License for all works posted with the
permission of the copyright holder found at the beginning of this work.

1.E.4.  Do not unlink or detach or remove the full Project Gutenberg-tm
License terms from this work, or any files containing a part of this
work or any other work associated with Project Gutenberg-tm.

1.E.5.  Do not copy, display, perform, distribute or redistribute this
electronic work, or any part of this electronic work, without
prominently displaying the sentence set forth in paragraph 1.E.1 with
active links or immediate access to the full terms of the Project
Gutenberg-tm License.

1.E.6.  You may convert to and distribute this work in any binary,
compressed, marked up, nonproprietary or proprietary form, including any
word processing or hypertext form.  However, if you provide access to or
distribute copies of a Project Gutenberg-tm work in a format other than
"Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other format used in the official version
posted on the official Project Gutenberg-tm web site (www.gutenberg.net),
you must, at no additional cost, fee or expense to the user, provide a
copy, a means of exporting a copy, or a means of obtaining a copy upon
request, of the work in its original "Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other
form.  Any alternate format must include the full Project Gutenberg-tm
License as specified in paragraph 1.E.1.

1.E.7.  Do not charge a fee for access to, viewing, displaying,
performing, copying or distributing any Project Gutenberg-tm works
unless you comply with paragraph 1.E.8 or 1.E.9.

1.E.8.  You may charge a reasonable fee for copies of or providing
access to or distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works provided
that

- You pay a royalty fee of 20% of the gross profits you derive from
     the use of Project Gutenberg-tm works calculated using the method
     you already use to calculate your applicable taxes.  The fee is
     owed to the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark, but he
     has agreed to donate royalties under this paragraph to the
     Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.  Royalty payments
     must be paid within 60 days following each date on which you
     prepare (or are legally required to prepare) your periodic tax
     returns.  Royalty payments should be clearly marked as such and
     sent to the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation at the
     address specified in Section 4, "Information about donations to
     the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation."

- You provide a full refund of any money paid by a user who notifies
     you in writing (or by e-mail) within 30 days of receipt that s/he
     does not agree to the terms of the full Project Gutenberg-tm
     License.  You must require such a user to return or
     destroy all copies of the works possessed in a physical medium
     and discontinue all use of and all access to other copies of
     Project Gutenberg-tm works.

- You provide, in accordance with paragraph 1.F.3, a full refund of any
     money paid for a work or a replacement copy, if a defect in the
     electronic work is discovered and reported to you within 90 days
     of receipt of the work.

- You comply with all other terms of this agreement for free
     distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm works.

1.E.9.  If you wish to charge a fee or distribute a Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic work or group of works on different terms than are set
forth in this agreement, you must obtain permission in writing from
both the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation and Michael
Hart, the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark.  Contact the
Foundation as set forth in Section 3 below.

1.F.

1.F.1.  Project Gutenberg volunteers and employees expend considerable
effort to identify, do copyright research on, transcribe and proofread
public domain works in creating the Project Gutenberg-tm
collection.  Despite these efforts, Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works, and the medium on which they may be stored, may contain
"Defects," such as, but not limited to, incomplete, inaccurate or
corrupt data, transcription errors, a copyright or other intellectual
property infringement, a defective or damaged disk or other medium, a
computer virus, or computer codes that damage or cannot be read by
your equipment.

1.F.2.  LIMITED WARRANTY, DISCLAIMER OF DAMAGES - Except for the "Right
of Replacement or Refund" described in paragraph 1.F.3, the Project
Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, the owner of the Project
Gutenberg-tm trademark, and any other party distributing a Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic work under this agreement, disclaim all
liability to you for damages, costs and expenses, including legal
fees.  YOU AGREE THAT YOU HAVE NO REMEDIES FOR NEGLIGENCE, STRICT
LIABILITY, BREACH OF WARRANTY OR BREACH OF CONTRACT EXCEPT THOSE
PROVIDED IN PARAGRAPH F3.  YOU AGREE THAT THE FOUNDATION, THE
TRADEMARK OWNER, AND ANY DISTRIBUTOR UNDER THIS AGREEMENT WILL NOT BE
LIABLE TO YOU FOR ACTUAL, DIRECT, INDIRECT, CONSEQUENTIAL, PUNITIVE OR
INCIDENTAL DAMAGES EVEN IF YOU GIVE NOTICE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH
DAMAGE.

1.F.3.  LIMITED RIGHT OF REPLACEMENT OR REFUND - If you discover a
defect in this electronic work within 90 days of receiving it, you can
receive a refund of the money (if any) you paid for it by sending a
written explanation to the person you received the work from.  If you
received the work on a physical medium, you must return the medium with
your written explanation.  The person or entity that provided you with
the defective work may elect to provide a replacement copy in lieu of a
refund.  If you received the work electronically, the person or entity
providing it to you may choose to give you a second opportunity to
receive the work electronically in lieu of a refund.  If the second copy
is also defective, you may demand a refund in writing without further
opportunities to fix the problem.

1.F.4.  Except for the limited right of replacement or refund set forth
in paragraph 1.F.3, this work is provided to you 'AS-IS', WITH NO OTHER
WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO
WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTIBILITY OR FITNESS FOR ANY PURPOSE.

1.F.5.  Some states do not allow disclaimers of certain implied
warranties or the exclusion or limitation of certain types of damages.
If any disclaimer or limitation set forth in this agreement violates the
law of the state applicable to this agreement, the agreement shall be
interpreted to make the maximum disclaimer or limitation permitted by
the applicable state law.  The invalidity or unenforceability of any
provision of this agreement shall not void the remaining provisions.

1.F.6.  INDEMNITY - You agree to indemnify and hold the Foundation, the
trademark owner, any agent or employee of the Foundation, anyone
providing copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in accordance
with this agreement, and any volunteers associated with the production,
promotion and distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works,
harmless from all liability, costs and expenses, including legal fees,
that arise directly or indirectly from any of the following which you do
or cause to occur: (a) distribution of this or any Project Gutenberg-tm
work, (b) alteration, modification, or additions or deletions to any
Project Gutenberg-tm work, and (c) any Defect you cause.


Section  2.  Information about the Mission of Project Gutenberg-tm

Project Gutenberg-tm is synonymous with the free distribution of
electronic works in formats readable by the widest variety of computers
including obsolete, old, middle-aged and new computers.  It exists
because of the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and donations from
people in all walks of life.

Volunteers and financial support to provide volunteers with the
assistance they need, is critical to reaching Project Gutenberg-tm's
goals and ensuring that the Project Gutenberg-tm collection will
remain freely available for generations to come.  In 2001, the Project
Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation was created to provide a secure
and permanent future for Project Gutenberg-tm and future generations.
To learn more about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation
and how your efforts and donations can help, see Sections 3 and 4
and the Foundation web page at http://www.gutenberg.net/fundraising/pglaf.


Section 3.  Information about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive
Foundation

The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation is a non profit
501(c)(3) educational corporation organized under the laws of the
state of Mississippi and granted tax exempt status by the Internal
Revenue Service.  The Foundation's EIN or federal tax identification
number is 64-6221541.  Contributions to the Project Gutenberg
Literary Archive Foundation are tax deductible to the full extent
permitted by U.S. federal laws and your state's laws.

The Foundation's principal office is located at 4557 Melan Dr. S.
Fairbanks, AK, 99712., but its volunteers and employees are scattered
throughout numerous locations.  Its business office is located at
809 North 1500 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84116, (801) 596-1887, email
business@pglaf.org.  Email contact links and up to date contact
information can be found at the Foundation's web site and official
page at http://www.gutenberg.net/about/contact

For additional contact information:
     Dr. Gregory B. Newby
     Chief Executive and Director
     gbnewby@pglaf.org

Section 4.  Information about Donations to the Project Gutenberg
Literary Archive Foundation

Project Gutenberg-tm depends upon and cannot survive without wide
spread public support and donations to carry out its mission of
increasing the number of public domain and licensed works that can be
freely distributed in machine readable form accessible by the widest
array of equipment including outdated equipment.  Many small donations
($1 to $5,000) are particularly important to maintaining tax exempt
status with the IRS.

The Foundation is committed to complying with the laws regulating
charities and charitable donations in all 50 states of the United
States.  Compliance requirements are not uniform and it takes a
considerable effort, much paperwork and many fees to meet and keep up
with these requirements.  We do not solicit donations in locations
where we have not received written confirmation of compliance.  To
SEND DONATIONS or determine the status of compliance for any
particular state visit http://www.gutenberg.net/fundraising/donate

While we cannot and do not solicit contributions from states where we
have not met the solicitation requirements, we know of no prohibition
against accepting unsolicited donations from donors in such states who
approach us with offers to donate.

International donations are gratefully accepted, but we cannot make
any statements concerning tax treatment of donations received from
outside the United States.  U.S. laws alone swamp our small staff.

Please check the Project Gutenberg Web pages for current donation
methods and addresses.  Donations are accepted in a number of other
ways including including checks, online payments and credit card
donations.  To donate, please visit:
http://www.gutenberg.net/fundraising/donate


Section 5.  General Information About Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works.

Professor Michael S. Hart is the originator of the Project Gutenberg-tm
concept of a library of electronic works that could be freely shared
with anyone.  For thirty years, he produced and distributed Project
Gutenberg-tm eBooks with only a loose network of volunteer support.

Project Gutenberg-tm eBooks are often created from several printed
editions, all of which are confirmed as Public Domain in the U.S.
unless a copyright notice is included.  Thus, we do not necessarily
keep eBooks in compliance with any particular paper edition.

Most people start at our Web site which has the main PG search facility:

     http://www.gutenberg.net

This Web site includes information about Project Gutenberg-tm,
including how to make donations to the Project Gutenberg Literary
Archive Foundation, how to help produce our new eBooks, and how to
subscribe to our email newsletter to hear about new eBooks.


Colophon

This file was acquired from Project Gutenberg, and it is in the public domain. It is re-distributed here as a part of the Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts (http://infomotions.com/alex/) by Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.) for the purpose of freely sharing, distributing, and making available works of great literature. Its Infomotions unique identifier is etext14068, and it should be available from the following URL:

http://infomotions.com/etexts/id/etext14068



Infomotions, Inc.

Infomotions Man says, "Give back to the 'Net."