Infomotions, Inc.While Caroline Was Growing / Bacon, Josephine Daskam, 1876-1961



Author: Bacon, Josephine Daskam, 1876-1961
Title: While Caroline Was Growing
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): caroline; william thayer; miss honey; uncle joe
Contributor(s): Gilfillan, George, 1813-1878 [Editor]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 60,834 words (short) Grade range: 7-9 (grade school) Readability score: 70 (easy)
Identifier: etext19869
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Title: While Caroline Was Growing

Author: Josephine Daskam Bacon

Release Date: November 19, 2006 [EBook #19869]

Language: English

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WHILE CAROLINE WAS GROWING




BOOKS ABOUT CHILDREN
BY
JOSEPHINE DASKAM BACON

    THE MADNESS OF PHILIP
    MEMOIRS OF A BABY
    BIOGRAPHY OF A BOY
    THE IMP AND THE ANGEL
    SISTER'S VOCATION
    TEN TO SEVENTEEN


THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
NEW YORK . BOSTON . CHICAGO
. SAN FRANCISCO

MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED
LONDON . BOMBAY . CALCUTTA
. MELBOURNE

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.
TORONTO




WHILE CAROLINE
WAS GROWING

BY

JOSEPHINE DASKAM BACON


_ILLUSTRATED_


NEW YORK
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
1911

       *       *       *       *       *

_All rights reserved_




Copyright, 1906, by P. F. Collier & Son
Copyright, 1907, by the S. S. McClure Co.
Copyright, 1909, by the S. S. McClure Co., Benjamin B. Hampton,
P. F. Collier & Son, and by the Phelps Publishing Company

       *       *       *       *       *

Copyright, 1911, by The Macmillan Company

       *       *       *       *       *

Set up and Electrotyped. Published March, 1911


Norwood Press:
Berwick & Smith Co., Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.




To S. B.
long Caroline's admirer,
from J. D. B.




CONTENTS


                                           PAGE

   I. AN IDYL OF THE ROAD                     1

  II. A LITTLE VICTORY FOR THE GENERAL       38

 III. THE PRIZE                              77

  IV. WHERE THIEVES BREAK IN                113

   V. A PILLAR OF SOCIETY                   158

  VI. HIS FATHER'S HOUSE                    202

 VII. THE PRETENDERS                        235

VIII. A WATCH IN THE NIGHT                  269

  IX. THE ENDS OF THE EARTH                 297




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                                 PAGE

With a great sweep of her arm, she brushed aside a portiere
and disappeared.                                                   66

"Sh! sh!" he whispered excitedly, "not a vordt! Not a vordt!
Mein Gott! but it is marvellous."                                  74

"What are you doing here, little girl?" he demanded sternly.      118

Caroline danced, bowing and posturing in a bewitched
abandon, around the tinkling, glistening fountain.                274

Across the court was a lighted room with a long French
window, and in the center of this window there sat in a high,
carved chair a very old woman.                                    282

Caroline was not a hundred yards away, sheltering under a
heavy arbor vitae, flat on her stomach.                            299




WHILE CAROLINE WAS GROWING

       *       *       *       *       *

I

AN IDYL OF THE ROAD


Caroline rocked herself back and forth from her waist, defying the
uncompromisingly straight chair which inclosed her portly little
person.

"Bounded 'n th' _north_ by _Mass'joosetts_; bounded 'n th' _north_
by _Mass'joosetts_; bounded 'n th' _north_ by _Mass'joosetts_," she
intoned in a monotonous chant. But her eyes were not upon the map;
like those of the gentleman in the poem, they were with her heart,
and that was far away.

Out of the window the spring was coming on, in waves of tree-bloom
and bright grass; the birds bickered sweetly in the sun-patches;
everything was reaching on tiptoe for the delicious thrill of
May--and she was bounding Connecticut! It was idiotic. What was a
knowledge of the uninteresting limits of her native State compared
to that soft fresh wind on her cheek, that indescribable odor of
brown earth?

Two fat birds descended with a twitter into a crystal rain-pool, and
bathed, with splashes of spray; Caroline's feet itched in her ribbed
stockings. A soiled and freckled boy, bare from the knees, whistled
by the window, jangling a can of bait, his pole balanced prettily on
one ragged shoulder. As he reached the puddle, a pure inconsequence
of good feeling seized him, and he splashed deliberately in it,
grinning around him. Caroline mechanically bent and unbuttoned the
top button of her stout boots. He caught her eye.

"Where you going?" she called through the glass.

"Oh, I d'no--anywheres, I guess!" he answered invitingly. "Want
to come?"

"I can't. I have to go to school," she said shortly.

"And so ought he--you ought to be ashamed of yourself, calling
through the window to that Simms boy!" cried a disgusted voice.
Caroline twitched her shoulder spitefully.

"A great girl like you, too! Why, he's no better than a common
tramp, that boy," proceeded the voice. "Look at his clothes!"

"Nobody wears good clothes to go fishing," Caroline grumbled. "I
wish he had mine!"

"Fishing! He never wears them anywhere. He hasn't got them to wear.
And he'd be glad enough to get yours, I can tell you."

"He wouldn't do any such thing! He told me Saturday he'd rather be a
dog than a girl; he'd get more use of his legs!"

There was a scandalized silence. Caroline waited grimly.

"What are you doing?" said the voice at last. "Studying my
jography," she replied.

"Well, mind you do, then."

"I can't, if everybody talks to me all the time," she muttered
sullenly.

Nevertheless she resumed her rocking and crooning.

"Bounded 'n th' _east_ by Rho _Disland_; bounded 'n th' _east_ by
Rho _Disland_; bounded 'n th' _east_ by _Rho Disland_."

The housemaid appeared just under the window, dragging a small
step-ladder and a pail of glistening, soapy water. Her head was
coifed in a fresh starched towel, giving her the appearance of a
holy sister of some clean blue-and-white order; her eyes were large
and mournful. She appealed instantly to Caroline's imagination.

"Oh, Katy, what a lovely Mother Superior you would make!" she cried
enthusiastically.

"I'm a Presbyterian, Miss Car'line," said Katy reprovingly. "You'd
better go on with your lessons," and she threw up the window from
the outside.

A great puff of spring air burst into the room and turned it into a
garden. Moist turf and sprouting leaves, wet flagstones and blowing
fruit-blossoms, the heady brew of early morning in the early year
assailed Caroline's quivering nostrils and intoxicated her soul.

"Oh, Katy, don't it smell grand!" she cried.

Katy wrung the soapy cloth and attacked the upper sash.

"You've got the nose of a bloodhound," she observed. "I b'lieve
you'd smell molasses cookies half a mile."

Caroline sighed.

"I didn't mean them," she said. "I meant----"

"You'd better be at your lesson; your aunty'll be here in a minute
if she hears you talking, now!"

Katy was severe, but fundamentally friendly. Caroline groaned and
applied herself.

"Bounded 'n th' _south_ by Long Island _Sound_; bounded 'n th'
_south_ by Long Island _Sound_; bounded 'n th' _south_--oh, look!"

Up the neat flagged path of the side yard a spotted fox-terrier
approached, delicately erect upon his hind legs, his mouth spread in
cheerful smiles, his ears cocked becomingly. He paused, he waved a
salute, and as a shrill whistle from behind struck up a popular
tune, he waltzed accurately up to the side porch and back, retaining
to the last note his pleased if painstaking smile.

Caroline gasped delightedly; Katy's severity relaxed.

"That's a mighty cute little dog," she admitted.

Another shrill whistle, and the dog returned, limping on three legs,
his ears drooping, his stumpy tail dejected. He paused in the middle
of the walk, and at a sharp clap, as of two hands, he dropped limply
on his side, rolled to his back, and stiffened there pathetically,
his eyes closed.

Caroline's chin quivered; Katy's position on the ladder was frankly
that of one who has paid for an orchestra-chair; Maggie had left the
cookies and stood grinning in the kitchen door; an aunt appeared in
an upper window.

One more clap, and the actor returned to life and left them, but
only for a moment. He was back again, erect and smiling, a small
wicker basket balanced on his paws. Marching sedately up to Maggie,
he paused, and glanced politely down at the basket, then up at her.

Flesh and blood could not resist him. Hastily tugging out from her
petticoat a bulging pocket-book, she deposited a dime in the basket;
the aunt, with extraordinary accuracy, dropped a five-cent piece
from the window; Katy mourned her distance from her own financial
center, and Caroline ran for her bank. It was a practical
mechanism, the top falling off at her onslaught with the ease of
frequent exercise, and she returned in time to slip six pennies
under the two hot cookies that Maggie had added to her first
contribution. At each tribute the terrier barked twice politely, and
only when there was no more to be hoped for did he trot off around
the corner of the house, the cookies swaying at a perilous angle
under his quivering nostrils.

A moment later a tall young man stepped across the grass and lifted
a worn polo-cap from a reddish-yellow head.

"Much obliged, all," he said, with an awkward little bow. "Good
day!"

He turned, whistled to the terrier, and was going on, when he caught
the heartfelt admiration of Caroline's glance.

"Want to pat him?" he inquired.

She nodded and approached them.

"Shake hands with the lady, William Thayer, and tell her how d'you
do," he commanded, as she knelt beside the wonderful creature.

The terrier offered a cool, tremulous paw, and barked with cheerful
interrogation as she shook it rapturously.

"Those were fine cookies," said the young man. "I had 'em for
breakfast. I'm going to buy a bone for William Thayer, and then
he'll have some, too."

"Was that _all_ you had?" she inquired, horror-stricken. He nodded.
"But I'll make it up on dinner," he added lightly.

Caroline sprang to her feet.

"You go over there behind that barn and wait a minute," she
commanded.

The young man--he was only a boy--blushed under his tan and bit
his lip.

"I didn't mean--I'll get along all right; you needn't bother," he
muttered, conscious of Katy's suspicious eye.

"Oh, do! Please do!" she entreated. "I'll be out there in just a
minute; hurry up, before Maggie gets through those cookies!"

He turned toward the barn, and Caroline ran back to the house.

"Is that man gone? What are you doing, Caroline?" called the
invisible voice.

"Yes, he's gone. I was patting the dog," she answered boldly,
stepping through the dining-room into the pantry and glancing
hastily about. Only a plate of rolls was in sight; the place was
ostentatiously clean and orderly. She sighed and pushed through the
swinging door; the refrigerator was a more delicate affair. But
Maggie's broad back was bent over her ovenful, and Caroline clicked
the door-knob unchallenged.

Two chops sat sociably on a large plate; a little mound of spinach
rested on one side of them, a huge baked potato on the other. She
slid the plate softly from the metal shelf, peeping apprehensively
at Maggie, tumbled the rolls on to the top, and sped into the
dining-room. From a drawer in the sideboard she abstracted a silver
fork which she slipped into her pocket, adding, after a moment of
consideration, a salt-shaker. Stepping to the door, she paused on
the little porch for a hasty survey. The coast seemed clear, and she
sped across the yard, the silver jingling in her pocket. She was
safe from the back, but a flank movement on Maggie's part would
have been most disastrous, and it was with full appreciation of the
audacity of her performance that she scudded around the barn and
gained the cherry-tree behind it.

The young man was sitting on the grass, his head against the tree;
his eyes brightened as she approached.

"Have any luck?" he inquired.

She held out the plate, and, as he took it, fumbled in her pocket
for the fork.

"It's all cold," she murmured apologetically, "but I knew Maggie'd
never warm it. Do you mind?"

"Not a bit," he answered, with a whimsical glance at her eagerness
to serve him. "I always _did_ like greens," he added, as he accepted
the fork and attacked the spinach.

"Here, William Thayer!"

He handed one of the chops to the dog, and stared as Caroline drew
out the salt-cellar.

"Did you--well, by--that's pretty kind, now!"

"Potatoes are so nasty without it," she explained.

"Yes, that's why I don't us'ally eat 'em," he replied.

There was a moment's silence, while he ate with the frank morning
appetite of twenty, and Caroline watched him, her sympathetic jaws
moving with his, her eyes shining with hospitality.

"Nice place you've got here," he suggested, breaking a roll.

"Yes. I _wish_ I'd brought you some butter, but I didn't dare cut
any off; it was in a jar, and it clatters so. ("Oh, that's all
right!") This is nicer than it used to be out here. It _was_ the
chicken-yard, and ashes and things got put here; but nobody keeps
chickens any more, and this is all new grass. They took down the
back part of the barn, too, and painted it, and now it's the
stables, or you _can_ say carriage-house," she explained
instructively.

He threw his chop-bone to William Thayer and drew a long breath.

"That was pretty good," he said, "and I'm much obliged to you,
Miss." Caroline swelled with importance at the title. "I must have
walked four or five miles, and it's not such fun with an empty
stomach. I came from Deepdale."

"Oh, how lovely!" cried she. "By the pond?"

"Yes, by the pond. I gave William Thayer a swim, and I had a little
nap. It's nice and pretty all around there. I cut some sassafras
root; want some?"

He felt in his pockets, and produced a brown, aromatic stump;
Caroline sucked at it with a relish.

"Where are you going now?" she asked respectfully, patting William
Thayer's back while his master caressed his ear.

"Oh, I don't know exactly. There's some nice woods back of the town;
I think I'll look 'em through, and then go on to New Derby. I read
in the paper about some kind of a firemen's parade there to-morrow,
and if there's a lot of people, we'll earn something. We haven't
made much lately, because William Thayer hurt his leg, and I've been
sparing of him--haven't I, pup? But he's all right now."

He squeezed the dog's body and tickled him knowingly; the little
fellow grinned widely and barked. Caroline sighed.

"It must be grand," she said wistfully, "to walk from one town to
another, that way. Where do you sleep?"

"In barns, sometimes, and there's lots of covered wagons all around
the farm-houses, outside the towns, you know. A church shed's as
good a place as any. I don't like the towns as big as this, though;
I like the country this time o' year."

Caroline nodded comprehendingly, breathing deep breaths of the
fresh, earth-scented air.

"I wish there never were any houses in the world--nor any schools,
either!" she cried.

He smiled. "I never was much for schools, myself," he said. "They
don't smell good."

Caroline looked at him solemnly. She felt that the resolution of her
life was taken. In one ecstatic flash she beheld her future.

"I shall never go to school again," she announced. "I shall--" A
wave of joyous possibility broke over her, but modesty tied her
tongue.

"Could I--would you--I'm a real good walker!" she burst out, and
blushed furiously. Who was she to associate with a dog like William
Thayer?

The young man looked curiously at her. A kind of anxiety clouded his
frank gray eyes. "Oh, you mustn't talk like that," he urged, laying
one brown hand on her apron. "That wouldn't do for a young lady like
you. I guess you better go to school. Girls, you know!"

He waited a moment, but she scowled silently. He began again:

"I guess it's different with girls, anyway. You see, you have to get
your education. A young lady----"

"I'm not a young lady," snapped Caroline. "I'm only ten 'n' a
quarter!"

"Well, anyway, it isn't respectable," he argued hastily. Caroline
opened her eyes wide at him.

"Aren't _you_ respectable?" she demanded, appraising unconsciously
his clothes, which were, if not fine, at least clean and whole, his
flannel shirt finished with a neat blue tie, his shoes no dustier
than the country roads accounted for.

He flushed under his thick freckles, and plucked at the grass
nervously.

"N-n--yes, I _am_!" he shouted defiantly. "I know lots of people
don't think so, but I am! We earn our way, William Thayer an' me,
an' we don't want much. I don't see as we do any harm. It don't take
much to live, anyhow; it's coal-scuttles an' lookin'-glasses
an'--an' carpets that cost money. And if you don't want _them_--oh,
what's the use talking? I never could live all tied up."

"Caroline! Caroline!" A loud voice cut across her meditative
silence. She shrugged her shoulders stubbornly and put her finger on
her lip. The boy shook his head.

"You better go," he said soothingly. "You'll have to sometime, you
know. Here, take these," as she jumped up, forgetting the fork and
the salt-shaker. "Be sure to put 'em back where you got 'em, won't
you?"

"Oh, leave 'em here. I'll come back," she said carelessly, but the
boy insisted.

"No, you take 'em right now," he commanded. "I wouldn't want any
mistake made."

"Just wait a minute--I'll come back," she repeated, as the call
sounded again.

"Caroline! where are you?"

The boy stood up, holding out the silver. "You--you don't want 'em
to say I--I took 'em?" he blurted out.

Her eyes opened wide; she looked all the incredulous horror she
felt.

"Steal?" she cried, "with a dog like that?"

He nodded. "That's the way I look at it, but some don't," he said
shortly. "You better go now. Much obliged for the breakfast. If I
come back this way, maybe I'll stop in again, if you'd like to see
William Thayer."

"I think she went across behind the stable, Miss Carrie," Katy
called helpfully.

Caroline thrust the silver into her pocket and turned to go.

"I'm coming!" she cried desperately, and, patting William Thayer,
she took a few backward steps.

"There's a nice brook in those woods," she observed irrelevantly,
"if you should want to take another nap," and, turning her back
resolutely, she rounded the barn and disappeared.

The boy picked up the empty plate and slipped it into a door at the
back of the stable. Then, lifting the dog over the nearest fence, he
climbed it and stepped through the next yard into the street.

"That was a mighty nice little girl, William Thayer," he said
thoughtfully. "She seemed to understand a lot, for such a little
one."

Caroline stalked aggressively into the dining-room, and finding it
for the moment empty, hastily replaced the salt-shaker. The fork she
laid in the pantry. Hardly was her pocket clear of the telltale
stuff when her aunt appeared before her.

"I suppose you know you're late for school, Caroline," she began,
with evident self-control. "If you think I am going to write you an
excuse, you are very much mistaken."

"All right," Caroline returned laconically. "Is my lunch ready?"

"It was nothing in the world but that dog; I cannot understand the
fascination that tramps and loafers have for you! You never got it
from this family. Why do you like to talk to dirty tramps! Some day
a strange dog will bite you. Then you'll be sorry!"

"He wasn't a bit dirty. If you weren't so afraid of dogs, you'd know
William Thayer wouldn't bite!" she retorted indignantly. "I think I
might have three cookies--those are nasty little thin ones. And you
never put enough butter."

Caroline and her namesake-aunt were as oil and water in their social
intercourse.

"Now, that's another thing. I cannot see where you put all the food
you eat! You get more than the boys, a great deal. And boys are
supposed--not that any one grudges it to you, child, but really----"

"I'm getting later all the time," Caroline remarked impartially.
"You needn't cut the crusts off; I like 'em."

Her aunt sighed, and handed her the lunch-basket; a fringe of
red-and-white napkin dangled invitingly from the corner.

"Now run along; what are you going in there for?"

"My jography."

She stood for a moment looking out at the flagstone where William
Thayer had waltzed so seductively, then strolled slowly out, along
the porch and by the house. The lilies-of-the-valley were white in
the sidebeds; their odor, blown to her on quick puffs of west wind,
filled her with a sort of pleasant sadness, the mingled sorrow and
delight of each new spring. She bent her strong little legs and
squatted down among them, sniffing ecstatically. What was it she was
trying to remember? Had it ever happened? Years ago, when she was
very little----

"Caroline! are you trying purposely to be naughty! It is twenty
minutes past nine!"

She muttered impatiently, stamped her foot deliberately upon the
lilies, and ran out of the yard.

It will never be known what Caroline's definite intentions were on
that morning. It is not improbable that she meant to go to school.
She undoubtedly walked to the building devoted to the instruction
of her generation and began to mount the steps. What power weighted
her lagging feet and finally dragged her to a sitting position on
the top step, she could not have told; but certain it is that for
ten minutes she sat upon the text-book of geography, thoughtfully
interposed between her person and the cold stone, her chin in her
hand, her eyes fixed and vague. Behind her a chorus of voices arose
in the melody that accompanied a peculiarly tedious system of
gymnastics; she scowled unconsciously. Before her, clear to the
inward vision, lay a pleasant little pond, set in a ring of new
grass. Clear lay the pebbles and roots at the bottom; clear was the
reflection of the feathering trees about it; clear shone the eyes of
William Thayer as he joyously swam for sticks across it. Great
patches of sun warmed the grass and cheered the hearts of two happy
wanderers, who fortified themselves from a lunch-basket padded with
a red-fringed napkin. Happy yellow dandelions were spotted about,
and the birds chirped unceasingly; the wind puffed the whole spring
into their eager nostrils. Truly a pleasant picture! As in a dream,
Caroline walked softly down the steps and toward the north.

For ten minutes she kept steadily on, looking neither to the right
nor to the left, when the rattle of a particularly noisy wagon
attracted her attention. She caught the eye of the driver; it was
the egg-and-chicken man. He nodded cheerfully.

"Hello, there!" said he.

"Hello!" Caroline returned. "You going home?"

"Sure," said the egg-and-chicken man. "Want a ride?"

Caroline wasted no breath in words, but clambered up to the seat
beside him.

"Startin' out early, ain't you?" he queried. "Goin' far up my way?"

"Pretty far," she answered cautiously, "but not so very."

"Oh!" said he, impressed by such diplomacy. "'Bout where, now?"

"Have you sold many eggs this morning?" she inquired with amiable
interest.

"Twenty-three dozen, an' seven pair o' broilers," he informed her.
"Goin' as far as my place?"

"I s'pose it's pretty cold as early as you get up," Caroline
suggested pleasantly.

The egg-and-chicken man surrendered. "Middling," he answered
respectfully, "but it smells so good and things looks so pretty, I
don't mind. I'm glad I don't live in the city. It's all pavin'-stone
an' smoke. This time o' year I like to feel the dirt under m' feet,
somehow."

"So do I," said Caroline fervently. They jogged on for a mile in
silence.

"I have to get out here," said he, finally, "but don't be scared.
That horse won't move a peg without me. I'll be back in a minute."

But when he returned she was not there.

The houses were thinning out rapidly; one side of the road was
already only a succession of fields, and along a tiny worn path
through one of these Caroline was hurrying nervously. She crossed
the widening brook, almost a little river now, and kept along its
farther bank for half an hour, then left it and struck into the
fringe of the woods.

It was very still here; the road was far away, and only the chatter
of the birds and the liquid cluck of the little stream disturbed the
stillness of the growing things. She walked softly, except for the
whisper of brushing against the spreading branches that choked the
tiny path. The heat of noon was rising to its climax, and the shafts
of light struck warm on her cheeks.

Suddenly a sound disturbed the peace of the woods--a scratching,
rattling, scurrying sound. Something was moving through the dead
leaves that had gathered among the roots and trunks. She started
back nervously, but jumped forward again with a cry of delight, and
caught William Thayer in her arms.

Even as he was licking her cheek, the path widened, the trees turned
into bushes, the underbrush melted away, and the brook, a little
river now, bent in upon them in a broad curve, spanned only by
stepping-stones. It ran full between its grassy banks, gurgling and
chuckling as it lapped the stones, a mirror for the fat white clouds
where it lay in still pools.

In the shelter of a boulder, a lad crouched over a fire, coaxing it
with bits of paper and handfuls of dry leaves. Just as the flames
shot up, the dog barked cheerily, and the lad turned to welcome him.
His eye fell on Caroline; amazement and real pleasure grew into a
delighted laugh.

"Well, if you don't beat the Dutch!" he cried. "How'd you get here?"

"I came in the wagon with the egg-and-chicken man," said she
happily, "and then I walked 'cross lots. William Thayer knew me just
as well!"

"'Course he did. He always knows his friends. Now, see here. You can
stay and watch this fire, an' I'll go over there a ways where those
men are buildin' a fence; I'll bet they'll give us something. You
look after the fire an' put on these old pieces of rail; it was hard
work gettin' dry stuff to-day. We won't be long."

They disappeared between the trees, and Caroline sat in proud
responsibility before the delightful little fire. The minutes
slipped by; from time to time she fed the blaze with bits of bent
twigs, and at the proper moment, with a thrill of anxiety, she laid
two pieces of the old fence-rail crosswise on the top. There was a
second of doubt, and then they broke into little sharp tongues of
flame. With a sigh of pleasure, she turned from this success, and,
opening the lunch-basket, laid the napkin on the ground and
methodically arranged four sandwiches, two cookies, and an orange on
it. Then, with her fat legs crossed before her, she waited in
silence. Between the sun at her back and the fire on her face, she
grew pleasantly drowsy; the sounds about her melted imperceptibly to
a soft, rhythmic drone; her head drooped forward....

"Hello, hello!"

She jumped and stared at the boy and the dog. For a moment she
forgot. Then she welcomed them heartily and listened proudly to his
admiring reception of her preparations.

"Well, William Thayer, will you look at that! How's this for a
surprise? And see what we've got." He balanced a tin pail carefully
between the two crossed sticks in the heart of the fire, and
unfolded from a newspaper two wedges of pumpkin-pie. In William
Thayer's little basket was a large piece of cheese.

"It's coffee 'n milk mixed together; they had bottles of it," he
explained. "William Thayer 'll take back the pail. Are you hungry?"

Caroline nodded.

"Awful," she stated briefly.

"Well, then," he said with satisfaction, "let's begin."

Caroline attacked a sandwich, with shining eyes, and when in another
minute the boy took from his pocket a tin ring that slipped
miraculously out of itself into a jointed cup, and dipped her a mug
of hot coffee from the bubbling pail, she realized with a pang of
joy that this was, beyond any question, the master moment of her
life.

"I take this along," he explained, "so's when I go by, and they're
milking, I can have some warm. Anybody'd give me all I want if
William Thayer dances and drops dead for 'em. It tastes good early
in the morning, I tell you."

She sighed with pleasure. To drink warm milk in the cool, early
dawn, with the cows about you, and the long, sweet day free before!

They sipped turn about; the boy divided the orange mathematically;
the pie was filled with fruit of the Hesperides.

"That was mighty good, that dinner," he announced luxuriously, "an'
now I'll have a pipe."

The pungent, fresh odor of the burning tobacco was sweet in the air;
a dreamy content held them quiet.

He did not ask her whence or whither; she had no apologies or
regrets. Two vagabonds from every law of home and duty, they were as
peaceful and unthoughtful of yesterday's bed and to-morrow's meal as
William Thayer, who slept in the sun at their feet.

For long they did not talk. An unspoken comprehension, an essential
comradeship, filled the deep spaces of silence that frighten and
irritate those whom only custom has associated; and Caroline, flat
on her filled stomach, her nose in the grass, was close in thought
and vague well-being to the boy who puffed blue rings toward the
little river, his head on his arms.

"I put the plate into that door in the barn," he said, finally.
"Did you put those silver things back?"

Caroline grunted assent.

"But they wouldn't think that you--what you said," she assured him
earnestly. "It's only tramps they're afraid of."

He glanced quickly over at her, but she was utterly innocent.

"One came to the kitchen once, and asked Mary for some hot tea or
coffee, and she hadn't any, but she said if he was very hungry she'd
give him a piece of bread and butter, and he said to go to hell with
her bread and butter. So she doesn't like them."

The boy gasped.

"You oughtn't to--had you--that isn't just right for you to say, is
it?" he asked awkwardly.

"What--hell?" Caroline inquired placidly. "No, I s'pose not. Nor
damn nor devil, either. But, of course, I know 'em. Those are the
only three I know. I guess they're about the worst, though," she
added with pardonable pride. "My cousin, the Captain, knows some
more. He's twelve 'n a half. But he won't tell 'em to me. He says
boys always know more than girls. I suppose," respectfully, "you
know more than those three, yourself?"

Her companion coughed.

"A boy--" he began, then paused, confronted with her round, trustful
eyes.

"A boy--" he started again, and again he paused.

"Oh, well, a boy's different," he blurted, finally.

Caroline nodded humbly.

"Yes, I know," she murmured.

There was silence for a while. The river slipped liquidly over the
stones, the white clouds raced along the blue above them, the boy
smoked. At length he burst out with:

"You're all right, now! You're just a regular little chum, aren't
you?"

She blushed with pleasure.

"I never had anybody along with me," he went on dreamily. "I always
go alone. I--I didn't know how nice it was. I _had_ a chum once, but
he--he--"

The boy's voice trembled. Caroline's face clouded with sympathy.

"Did he die?" she ventured.

"No," he said, shortly; "no, he didn't die. He's alive. He couldn't
stand my ways. I tried to stay in school and--and all that, but soon
as spring came I had to be off. So the last time, he told me we had
to part, him and me."

"What was his name?" she asked gently.

The boy jerked his head toward the dog.

"_That's_ his name," he said, "William Thayer." A little frown
gathered on Caroline's smooth forehead; she felt instinctively the
cloud on all this happy wandering. The spring had beckoned, and he
had followed, helpless at the call, but something--what and how
much?--tugged at his heart; its shadow dimmed the blue of the
April sky.

He shrugged his shoulders with a sigh; the smile came again into
his gray eyes and wrinkled his freckled face.

"Oh, well, let's be jolly," he cried, with a humorous wink. "The
winter's comin' soon enough!" and he burst into a song:

             "There was a frog lived in a well,
               Kitty alone, Kitty alone;
             There was a frog lived in a well;
               Kitty alone and I!"

His voice was a sweet, reedy tenor; the quaint old melody delighted
Caroline.

             "This frog he would a-wooing ride,
               Kitty alone, Kitty alone."

She began to catch the air, and nodded to the time with her chin.

             "Cock me cary, Kitty alone,
               Kitty alone and I!"

The boy lifted his polo-cap in a courtly manner, and began with
grimaces and bows to act out the song. His audience swayed
responsive to his every gesture, nodding and beaming.

     "Quoth he, 'Miss Mouse, I'm come to thee'--
               Kitty alone, Kitty alone;
     Quoth he, 'Miss Mouse, I'm come to thee,
     To see if thou canst fancy me.'
               Cock me cary, Kitty alone,
                 Kitty alone and I!"

Caroline swung her hat by its ribbons and shrilled the refrain,
intoxicated with freedom and melody:

             "Cock me cary, Kitty alone,
               Kitty alone and I!"

She drummed with her heels on the ground, the boy waved his cap, and
William Thayer rolled over and over, barking loudly for the chorus.
Suddenly the boy jumped up, pulled her to her feet, and with
grotesque, skipping steps pirouetted around the dying fire. The dog
waltzed wildly on his hind legs; Caroline's short petticoats stood
straight out around her as she whirled and jumped, a Bacchante in a
frilled pinafore. The little glade rang to their shouting:

               "Kitty alone and I!"

He darted suddenly through an opening in the bushes, William Thayer
close behind, Caroline panting and singing as she gave chase.
Through a field, across a little bridge they dashed. He flung the
empty coffee-pail at an astonished group of men, who stopped their
work, their fence-posts in hand, to stare at the mad trio.

Breathless at last, they flung themselves on a bank by the road and
smiled at each other. Caroline laughed aloud, even, in sheer,
irresponsible light-headedness, but over the boy's face a little
shadow grew.

"It won't seem so nice alone after this, will it, William Thayer?"
he said, slowly.

Caroline stared.

"But--but I'm coming! I'll be there," she cried. "I'm coming with
you!"

He went on as if he had not heard.

"Who'll there be to eat our dinner with us to-morrow, William
Thayer?" he questioned whimsically.

Caroline moved nearer and put her hand on his knee.

"There'll be--won't there be me?" she begged.

He shook his head.

"I guess not," he said bluntly.

Her eyes filled with tears.

"But--but you said I was a--a regular little chum," she whispered.
"Don't you like me?"

He was silent:

"Don't you? Oh, don't you?" she pleaded. "I don't _need_ much to
eat, really!"

The lad looked at her with a strange longing. The fatherhood that
lives in every boy thrilled at the touch of her fat little hand on
his knee; the comradely glow in her round brown eyes warmed his
restless, lonely heart. He shook her off almost roughly.

"I guess they'd miss you more'n that salt-shaker," he said grimly.
"I wish I could take you with me--honest, I do. But you better stay
home and go to school. You don't want to grow up ignorant, and have
your folks ashamed of you."

"But you--you aren't ignorant!" she urged warmly, her admiration
shining in her eyes.

He blushed and kicked nervously at the grass.

"I am," he said angrily. "I am, too. Oh, dear, I wish--I wish--"

They looked at each other, troubled and uncertain.

"You're a girl," he began again, "and girls can't; they just can't.
They have to stay with their folks and keep nice. It's too bad, but
that's the way it is. You'd want to see 'em, too. You'd miss 'em
nights."

Caroline winced, but could not deny. "Oh," she cried passionately,
"why do girls have to do _all_ the missing? It's just what that
Simms boy says: 'If I couldn't be a boy, I'd rather be a dog!'"

"There, there," he said soothingly, "just think about it. You'll
see. And you're not exactly like a girl, anyhow. You're too nice."

He patted her shoulder softly, and they lay quietly against the
bank. Her breathing grew slow and regular; raising himself
cautiously on one elbow, he saw that she had fallen asleep, her arm
about William Thayer, her dusty boots pathetically crossed. He
watched her tenderly, with frequent glances up and down the road.

Presently an irregular beat of hoofs sounded around a bend, and a
clattering wagon drew steadily nearer.

The egg-and-chicken man jumped out and strode angrily toward the
little group.

"I've caught you, have I, you young----"

"'Sh!"

The boy put up a warning hand.

"She's fast asleep," he whispered. "Are you goin' to take her home?"

The man stared.

"Oh, I'm no child-stealer," said the boy lightly. "Here, just lift
her soft with me, and I'll bet we can put her in without waking her
up at all."

Without a word, the man slipped his hands under Caroline's
shoulders, the boy lifted her dusty boots, and gently unloosing her
arm from the dog, they carried her lax little body carefully to the
wagon and laid her on the clean straw in the bottom, her head on a
folded coat. She stirred and half opened her eyes, murmured broken
words, and sank yet deeper into her dream.

The man pointed to a book on the seat.

"That's her lesson-book," he whispered hoarsely. It was the despised
geography.

"Her folks think a heap of her, I tell you," he added, still eying
the boy uncertainly. "She's about as bright as they make 'em, I
guess."

"I guess she is," said the lad simply. "She'd ought to have been a
boy. She'd have made a fine one."

The man's face cleared.

"Do--do you want a job?" he said abruptly. "We're short up at my
place, and I wouldn't mind the dog. I remember you, now. You caught
a chicken for me once; my wife gave you a hot supper."

The boy smiled faintly and shook his head. "I remember," he said.
"No, I don't believe I want any job, thank you. I--I'm sort of--I
have to keep along."

"Keep along? Where?"

He waved his hand vaguely.

"Oh, just along," he repeated. "This year, anyhow. Maybe--well,
good-by. Her folks might be gettin' anxious."

He stepped up to the cart and looked once more at the flushed cheeks
and brown hands, then strode off up the road.

The egg-and-chicken man gathered up the reins and the wagon started.
Caroline scowled a little at the motion, but slept on. The boy
whistled to the dog.

"Come on, William Thayer," he said. "I guess it's just you and me
now."




II

A LITTLE VICTORY FOR THE GENERAL


Caroline, Miss Honey, and the General were taking the morning air.
Caroline walked ahead, her chin well up, her nose sniffing
pleasurably the unaccustomed asphalt, the fresh damp of the river
and the watered bridle path. The starched ties at the back of her
white pinafore fairly took the breeze, as she swung along to the
thrilling clangor of the monster hurdy-gurdy. Miss Honey, urban and
_blase_, balanced herself with dignity upon her roller-skates and
watched with patronizing interest the mysterious jumping of young
persons with whom she was unacquainted through complicated diagrams
chalked on the pavement.

The General sucked a clothespin meditatively: his eyes were fixed on
something beyond his immediate surroundings. Occasionally a
ravishing smile swept up from the dimples at his mouth to the
yellow rings beneath his cap frill; he flapped his hands, emitting
soft, vague sounds. At such times a wake of admiration bubbled
behind him. Delia, who propelled his carriage, which resembled a
victoria except for the rearward position of its motor power, pursed
her lips consciously and affected not to hear the enraptured
comments of the women who passed them.

To the left the trees, set in a smooth green carpet, threw out tiny,
polished, early May leaves; graceful, white-coated children dotted
the long park. Beyond them the broad blue river twinkled in the sun,
the tugs and barges glided down, the yachts strained their white
sails against the purple bluffs of the Palisades. To the right
towered the long, unbroken rows of brick and stone: story on story
of shining windows, draped and muffled in silk and lace; flight
after flight of clean granite steps; polite, impersonal, hostile as
the monuments in a graveyard.

Immobile ladies glided by on the great pleasure drive like large
tinted statues; dressed altogether as the colored pictures in
fashion books, holding white curly dogs in their curved arms; the
coachmen in front of them seemed carved in plum-colored broadcloth;
only by watching the groom's eyelids could one ascertain that they
were flesh and blood. Young girls, two, three, and four, cantered
by; their linen habits rose and fell decorously, their hair was
smooth. Mounted policemen, glorious in buttons, breathing out
authority, curvetted past, and everywhere and always the
chug-chug-chug of the gleaming, fierce-eyed motor cars filled one's
ears. They darted past, flaming scarlet, sombre olive and livid
white; a crouching, masked figure, intent at the wheel, veiled,
shapeless women behind a whir of dust to show where they had been a
breath before.

And everywhere, as far as the eye could reach, a thin stream of
white and pink and blue, a tumbling river of curls and caps and bare
legs, were the children. A babble of shrill cries, of chattering
laughter, of fretful screams, an undercurrent of remonstrance, of
soothing patience, of angry threatening, marked their slow progress
up and down the walk; in the clear spaces of the little park they
trotted freely after hoops and balls, rolled and ran over the green,
and hid, shouting, behind the bushes. It was a giant nursery, and
the mere man who trespassed on its borders smiled deprecatingly, and
steered a careful course among the parasols and tricycles, stooping
now and then to rescue some startled adventurer, sprawling from the
disgusted shock of encounter with this large and rapidly moving
object.

To Caroline, fresh from untrammeled sporting, through neighborly
suburban yards, this disciplined procession, under the escort of
Delia and the General, was fascinating to a degree. Far from
resenting the authority she would have scorned at home, she derived
an intense satisfaction from it, and pranced ostentatiously beside
the perambulator, mimicking Miss Honey's unconscious deference to a
higher power in the matter of suitable crossings and preferred
playfellows with the absorbed gravity of the artist.

"See! General, see the wobblybubble," Delia murmured affectionately.
"(Will you see that child turn his head just like a grown person?
Did you ever see anything as smart as that?) Did he like the red one
best? So does Delia. We'll come over here, and then you won't get
the sun in your precious eyes. Do you want me to push you
frontwards, so you can see me? (Watch him look at me--he knows what
I mean just as well, the rascal!) Just wait till we get across, and
I will. Look out, Miss Honey! Take hold of your cousin's hand and
run across together, now, like good girls."

Miss Honey made an obedient snatch at Caroline's apron strings, and
darted forward with a long roll of her skates. The road was clear
for a block. Delia, with a quick glance to left and right, lowered
the perambulator to the road-level and forged ahead. Caroline, nose
in air, studied the nearest policeman curiously.

"Look out, there! _Look out!_"

A man's voice like a pistol shot crashed behind them. Caroline heard
quick steps and a woman's scream, looked up at the huge, blood-red
bulk of an automobile that swooped around the corner and dashed
forward. But Miss Honey's hand was clutching her apron string, and
Miss Honey's weight as she fell, tangled in the skates, dragged her
down. Caroline, toppling, caught in one dizzy backward glance a
vision of a face in the automobile staring down on her, white as
chalk, under a black moustache and staring goggles, and another
face, Delia's, white too, with eyes more strained and terrible than
the goggles themselves. One second that look swept her and Miss
Honey, and then, shifting, fell upon the General strapped securely
into his carriage. Even as Caroline caught her breath, he flew by
her like an arrow, his blue eyes round with surprise under a whirl
of white parasol, the wicker body of the perambulator swaying and
lurching. With that breath still in her nostrils, she was pushed
violently against Miss Honey, who was dragged over her from the
other side by a large hairy hand. A sharp blow from her boot heel
struck Caroline's cheek, and she screamed with the pain; but her cry
was lost in the louder one that echoed around her as the dust from
the red monster blew in her eyes and shut out Delia's figure, flat
on the ground, one arm over her face as the car rushed by.

"My God! She's down!" That was the man.

"Take his number!" a shrill voice pierced the growing confusion.

Caroline, crying with pain, was forced to her feet and stumbled
along, one apron string twisted fast in Miss Honey's hand. Instantly
they were surrounded by a crowd of nurses, and Miss Honey, dazed and
obedient, was shoved and pulled from one to another.

"Here, get out o' this--don't let the children see anything! Let's
get home."

"No, wait a minute. Let's see if she's alive. Have they got the
ambulance?"

"Look out, there, Miss Dorothy, you just stop by me, or you'll be
run over, too!"

"See! She's moving her head! Maybe she's not--"

Sobbing with excitement, Caroline wrenched herself free from the
tangle of nurses and carriages, and pushed her way through the
crowd. Against the curb, puffing and grinding, stood the great red
engine; on the front seat a tall policeman sat, one woman in the
back leaned over another, limp against the high cushions, and fanned
her with the stiff vizor of her leather cap.

"It's all right, dear, it's all right," she repeated monotonously,
with set lips, "the doctor's coming. It wasn't Pullton's fault. It's
all right."

Caroline wriggled between two policemen, and made for a striped blue
and white skirt that lay motionless on the ground. Across the white
apron ran a broad dirty smudge.

Caroline ran forward.

"Delia! Delia!" she gulped. "Is she--is she dead?"

A little man with eyeglasses looked up from where he knelt beside
the blue and white skirt.

"I don't believe so, my dear," he said briskly; "is this your nurse?
See, she's opening her eyes, now--speak to her gently."

As he shifted a leather-covered flask from one hand to the other,
Caroline saw a strange face with drawn purplish lids when she had
always known two merry gray eyes, and tight thin lips she could not
believe Delia's. The head moved a little from side to side, the lips
parted slightly. A nervous fear seized her and she turned to run
away; but she remembered suddenly how kind Delia had been to her;
how that very morning--it seemed so long now--Delia had helped her
with her stubby braids of hair, and chided Miss Honey for laughing
at her ignorance of the customs of the park. She gathered her
courage together and crouched down by the silent, terrifying figure.

"Hel--hello, Delia!" she began jerkily, wincing as the eyes opened
and stared stupidly at the ring of anxious faces. "How do you
f-feel, Delia?"

"Lean down," said the little man softly, "she wants to say
something."

Caroline leaned lower.

"General," Delia muttered. "Where's General?"

The little man frowned.

"Do you know what she means?" he asked.

Caroline patted her bruised cheek.

"Of course I do," she said shortly. "That's the baby. Oh," as she
remembered, "where _is_ the General?"

"Here--here's the baby," called some one. "Push over that carriage,"
and a woman breathing heavily, crowded through the ring with the
general, pink and placid, under his parasol.

"Lift him out," said the little man, and as the woman fumbled at the
strap, he picked the baby out neatly, and held him down by the girl
on the ground.

"Here's your baby, Delia," he said, with a kind roughness in his
voice. "Safe and sound--not a scratch! Can you sit up and take him?"

And then, while the standing crowd craned their necks and even the
steady procession moving in the way the police kept clear for them,
paused a moment to stare, while the little doctor held his breath
and the ambulance came clanging up the street, Delia sat up as
straight as the mounted policeman beside her and held out her arms.

"General, oh, General!" she cried, and buried her face in his fat
warm neck.

The men coughed, the women's faces twisted, but the little doctor
watched her intently.

"Move your leg," he said sharply. "Now the other. Hurt you? Not at
all?"

He turned to the young man in a white jacket, who had jumped from
the back of the ambulance.

"I thought so," he said. "Though it didn't seem possible. I saw the
thing go over her. Right over her apron--never touched her. Half an
inch more--"

"Please, is Miss--the other little girl--is she--"

This was Delia's old voice, and Caroline smiled happily at her.

"She's all right, Delia--here she is!"

Miss Honey limped across on one roller-skate, pale, but conscious of
her dramatic value, and the crowd drew a long breath of relief.

"You are a very brave girl," said the doctor, helping Delia to her
feet and tucking the General, who alternately growled and cooed at
his clothespin, into the perambulator. "You have undoubtedly saved
the lives of all three of these children, and their parents will
appreciate it, you may be sure. The way you sent that baby wagon
flying across the street...! Well, any time you're out of a job,
just come to me, that's all. Dr. Gibbs, West Forty-ninth. Can you
walk now? How far do you have to go?"

The crowd had melted like smoke. Only the most curious and the
idlest lingered and watched the hysteria of the woman in the
automobile, who clutched her companion, weeping and laughing. The
chauffeur sat stolid, but Caroline's keen round eyes saw that he
shook, from the waist down, like a man in a chill.

"Yes, sir, I'm all right. It's not so very far." But Delia leaned on
the handle she pushed, and the chug-chug of the great car sent the
blood out of her cheeks. The little doctor frowned.

"Look here," he said, "I'll tell you what you'll do. You come down
these steps with me, there aren't but three of them, you see, and
we'll just step in here a moment. I don't know what house it is, but
I guess it'll be all right. Oh, yes, you can take him out; he is
safe, you know. Come on, youngsters."

Before Delia could protest he had pressed the button, and a man in
livery was opening the door.

"We've just escaped a nasty accident out here," said the little
doctor easily. "You were probably looking out of the window? Yes.
Well, this young woman is a sort of a patient of mine--Dr. Gibbs,
West Forty-ninth Street--and though she's very plucky and perfectly
uninjured, I want her to rest a moment in the hall here and have a
drink of water, if your mistress doesn't object. Just take up this
card and explain the circumstances, and"--his hand went into his
pocket a moment--"that's about all. Sit down, my dear."

The man took in at a glance the neat uniform of the nurse, the
General's smart, if diminutive, apparel, and the unmistakable though
somewhat ruffled exterior of Miss Honey.

"Very well, sir," he said politely, taking the card. "It will be all
right, sir, I'm sure. Thank you, sir. Sit down, please. It will be
all right. I will tell Madame Nicola."

"Well, well, so this is Madame Nicola's!" The little doctor looked
around him appreciatively, as the servant ran up the stairs.

"I wish I could stay with you, chickens, but I'm late for an
appointment as it is. I must rush along. Now, mind you, stay here
half an hour, Delia, and sit down. You're no trouble at all, and
Madame Nicola knows who I am--if she remembers. I sprayed her
throat once, if I'm not mistaken--she was on a tour, at Pittsburg.
She'll take care of you." He opened the door. "You're a good girl,
you biggest one," he added, nodding at Caroline. "You do as you're
told. Good-by."

The door shut, and Caroline, Miss Honey and Delia looked at each
other in a daze. Tears filled Delia's eyes, but she controlled her
voice, and only said huskily, "Come here, Miss Honey, and let me
brush you off--you look dreadful. Let me take your handkerchief. Did
it--were you--are you hurt, dear?"

"No, but you pushed me awful hard, Delia, and a nasty big man
grabbed me and tore my guimpe--see! I wish you'd told me what you
were going to do," began Miss Honey irritably.

"And you gave me a big kick--it was _me_ he grabbed--look at my
cheek!" Caroline's lips began to twitch; she felt hideously tired,
suddenly.

"Children, children, don't quarrel. General, darling, _won't_ you
sit still, please? You hurt Delia's knees, and you feel so heavy.
Oh, I wish we were all home!"

The man in livery came down the stairs. "Will you step up, Madame
says, and she has something for you up there. I'll take the baby,"
as Delia's eyes measured the climb. "Lord, I won't drop her--I've
got two o' my own. 'Bout a year, isn't she?"

"He's a boy," panted Delia, as she rested her weight on the rail,
"and he's only eight months last week," with a proud smile at the
General's massive proportions.

"Well, he _is_ a buster, isn't he? Here is the nurse, Madame, and
the children. The doctor has gone."

Caroline stretched her eyes wide and abandoned herself to a frank
inspection of her surroundings. For this she must be pardoned, as
every square inch of the dark, deep-colored room had been taken
bodily from Italian palaces of the most unimpeachable Renaissance
variety. With quick intuition, she immediately recognized a
background for many a tale of courts and kings hitherto unpictured
to herself, and smiled with pleasure at the Princess who advanced,
most royally clad in long shell pink, lace-clouded draperies, to
meet them.

"You are the brave nurse my maid told me about," said the Princess;
"she saw it all. You ought to be very proud of your quick wits. I
have some sherry for you, and you must lie down a little and then I
will send you home."

Delia blushed and sank into a high carved chair, the General staring
curiously about him. "It wasn't anything at all," she said,
awkwardly, "if I could have a drink--"

Caroline checked the Princess as she moved toward a wonderful
colored decanter with wee sparkling tumblers like curved bits of
rainbow grouped about it.

"She means a drink of water," she explained politely. "She only
drinks water--sometimes a little tea, but most usu'lly water."

"The sherry will do her more good, I think," the Princess returned,
noticing Caroline for the first time, apparently, her hand on the
decanter.

At this point Miss Honey descended from a throne of faded
wine-colored velvet, and addressed the Princess with her most
impressive and explanatory manner.

"It won't do you any good at all to pour that out," she began, with
her curious little air of delivering a set address, prepared in
private some time before, "and I'll tell you why. Delia knew a nurse
once that drank some beer, and the baby got burned, and she never
would drink anything if you gave her a million dollars. Besides, it
makes her sick."

The Princess looked amused and turned to a maid who appeared at that
moment with apron strings rivalling Caroline's.

"Get me a glass of water, please," she said, "and what may I give
you--milk, perhaps? I don't know very well what children drink."

"Thank you, we'd like some water, too," Miss Honey returned primly,
"we had some soda-water, strawberry, once to-day."

Caroline cocked her head to one side and tried to remember what the
lady's voice made her think of; she scowled in vain while Delia
drank her water and smiled her thanks at the maid. Suddenly it came
to her. It was not like a person talking at all, it was like a
person singing. Up and down her voice traveled, loud and soft; it
was quite pleasant to hear it.

"Do you feel better now? I am very glad. Bring in that reclining
chair, Ellis, from my room; these great seats are rather stiff,"
said the Princess, and Delia, protesting, was made comfortable in a
large curved lounging basket, with the General, contentedly putting
his clothespin through its paces, in her arm.

"How old is it?" the Princess inquired, after an interval of
silence, during which Miss Honey and Caroline regarded her with a
placid interest, and Delia stroked the General's hair, from which
she had taken the absurd lace cap.

"He's eight months, Madam, last week--eight months and ten days,
really."

"That's not very old, now, is it?" pursued the lady. "I suppose they
don't know very much, do they, so young?"

"Indeed he does, though," Delia protested, "You'll be surprised.
Just watch him, now. Look at Delia, darlin'; where's Delia?"

The General withdrew his lingering gaze from the clothespin, and
turned his blue eyes wonderingly up to her. The corner of his mouth
trembled, widened, his eyelids crinkled, and then he smiled
delightfully, straight into the eyes of the nurse, stretched up a
wavering pink hand, and patted her cheek. A soft, gurgling
monosyllable, difficult of classification but easy to interpret,
escaped him.

The Princess smiled appreciatively, and moved with a stately, long
step toward them.

"That was very pretty," she said, but Delia did not hear her.

"My baby, my own baby!" she murmured with a shiver, and hiding her
face in the General's neck she sobbed aloud.

Miss Honey, shocked and embarrassed, twisted her feet nervously and
looked at the inlaid floor. Caroline shared these feelings, but
though she turned red, she spoke sturdily.

"I guess Delia feels bad," she suggested shyly, "when she thinks
about--about what happened, you know. She don't cry usu'lly."

The Princess smiled again, this time directly at Caroline, who
fairly blinked in the radiance. With her long brown eyes still
holding Caroline's round ones, she patted Delia's shoulder kindly,
and both the children saw her chin tremble.

The General, smothered in that sudden hug, whimpered a little and
kicked out wildly with his fat white-stockinged legs. Seen from the
rear he had the appearance of a neat, if excited, package,
unaccountably frilled about with embroidered flannel. Delia
straightened herself, dabbed apologetically at her eyes, and
coughed.

"It's bottle-time," she announced in horror-stricken tones,
consulting a large nickel watch hanging from her belt, under the
apron. "It's down in the carriage. Could I have a little boiling
water to heat it, if you please?"

"Assuredly," said the Princess. "Ellis, will you get the--the bottle
from the baby's carriage and some boiling water, please. Do you mix
it here?"

"Mix--the food is all prepared, Madam." Delia spoke with repressed
scorn. "I only want to heat it for him."

"Oh, in that case, Ellis, take it down and have it heated, or," as
the nurse half rose, "perhaps you would feel better about it if you
attended to it yourself?"

"Yes, I think I will go down if you don't mind--when persons aren't
used to 'em they're apt to be a little careless, and I wouldn't have
it break, and him losing his three o'clock bottle, for the world.
You know how it is...."

The Princess shook her head whimsically. "But surely you will leave
the baby," and she moved toward them again. "I will hold it," with a
half grimace at her own condescension. "It seems so very good and
cheerful--I thought they cried. Will it come to me?"

Delia loosened her arms, but tightened them again as the little
creature leaned forward to catch at the swinging lace on the lady's
gown.

"I--I think I'll take baby with me. Thank you just the same, and
he'll go to any one--yes, indeed--but I feel so sort of nervous, I
think I'd better take him. If anything should happen.... Wave your
hand good-by--now, General!"

The General flapped his arms violently, and bestowed a toothless but
affectionate grin upon the wearer of the fascinating, swaying lace,
before he disappeared with the delighted Ellis in the van.

"And can you buy all that devotion for twenty, thirty, or is it
forty dollars a month, I wonder?" mused the Princess.

"Dear me," she added petulantly. "It really makes one actually
_want_ to hold it! It seems a jolly little rat--they're not all like
that, are they? They howl, I'm sure."

Again Miss Honey took the floor.

"When babies are sick, or you don't treat them right," she announced
didactically, "they cry, but not a well baby, Delia says. I"--with
conscious pride--"screamed night and day for two weeks!"

"Really!" observed the Princess. "That must have been--er--trying
for your family!"

"Worried to death!" Miss Honey rejoined airily, with such an adult
intonation that the Princess started.

"The General, he just laughs all the time," Caroline volunteered,
"unless you tease him," she added guiltily, "and then he squawks."

"Yes, indeed," Miss Honey bore witness, jealous of the lady's
flashing smile to Caroline, "my mother says I'm twice the trouble he
is!"

The Princess laughed aloud. "You're all trouble enough, I can well
believe," she said carelessly, "though you particular three are
certainly amusing little duds--for an afternoon. But for a steady
diet--I'm afraid I'd get a bit tired of you, eh?"

She tapped their cheeks lightly with a cool, sweet-smelling finger.
Miss Honey smiled uncertainly, but Caroline edged away. There was
something about this beautiful tall lady she could not understand,
something that alternately attracted and repelled. She was grown up,
certainly; her skirts, her size and her coiled hair proved that
conclusively, and the servants obeyed her without question. But what
was it? She was not like the other grown up people one knew. One
moment she sparkled at you and the next moment she forgot you. It
was perfectly obvious that she wanted the General only because Delia
had not wanted to relinquish him, which was not like grown people;
it was like--yes, that was it: she was like a little girl herself,
even though she was so tall and had such large red and blue rings on
her fingers.

Vaguely this rushed through Caroline's mind, and it was with an
unconscious air of patronage, that she said, as one making
allowances for inexperience, "When you get married, then you'll
_have_ to get tired of them, you know."

"But you'll be glad you've got 'em, when they're once in bed," Miss
Honey added encouragingly. "My mother says I'm a real treasure to
her, after half past seven!"

The Princess flushed; her straight dark eyebrows quivered and met
for an instant.

"But I _am_ married," she said.

There was an utter silence.

"I was married five years ago yesterday, as it happens," she went
on, "but it's not necessary to set up a day nursery, you know, under
those circumstances."

Still silence. Miss Honey studied the floor, and Caroline, after an
astonished stare at the Princess, directed her eyes from one
tapestry to another.

"I suppose you understand that, don't you?" demanded the Princess
sharply. She appeared unnecessarily irritated, and as a matter of
fact embarrassed her guests to such an extent that they were utterly
unable to relieve the stillness that oppressed them quite as much as
herself.

The Princess uttered an angry exclamation and paced rapidly up and
down the room, looking more regal and more unlike other people than
ever.

"For heaven's sake, say something, you little sillies!" she cried.
"I suppose you want me to lose my temper?"

Caroline gulped and Miss Honey examined her shoe ties mutely.

Suddenly a well-known voice floated toward them.

"Was his nice bottle all ready? Wait a minute, only a minute now,
General, and Delia'll give it to you!"

The procession filed into the room, Delia and the General, Ellis
deferentially holding a tiny white coat, the man in livery bearing a
small copper saucepan in which he balanced a white bottle with some
difficulty. His face was full of anxious interest.

Delia thanked them both gravely, seated herself on the foot of the
basket chair, arranged the General flat across her knees, and amid
the excited silence of her audience, shook the bottle once or twice
with the air of an alchemist on the brink of an epoch-making
discovery.

"Want it? Does Delia's baby want it?" she asked enticingly. The
General waved his arms and legs wildly; wreathed in smiles, he
opened and shut his mouth in quick alternation, chirping and
clucking, as she held it up before him; an ecstatic wriggling
pervaded him, and he chuckled unctuously. A moment later only
his deep-drawn, nozzling breaths could be heard in the room.
They watched him in hushed satisfaction; once, as he smiled
gratefully at Delia, Ellis sighed with pleasure.

"Ain't he sweet, though!" she murmured, and then glancing at the
butler, giggled impressibly as the strained attitudes of the
circle struck her.

"That will do, thank you, Haddock," said the Princess quickly,
drawing a long breath and seating herself, and the two servants
withdrew. Delia noted nothing, her eyes fixed on her charge;
clearly, it would not have surprised her in the least if they
had all stood, rapt, till the meal was over.

"He takes it beautiful," she said in low tones, looking
confidentially at the Princess; "I didn't know but being
in a strange place might make a difference with him, but
he's the best baby!--"

She wiped his mouth and lifting him, still horizontal,
approached her hostess.

"You can hold him now," she said superbly, "but keep him flat
for twenty minutes, please. I'll go and take the bottle down,
and get his carriage ready. He'll be good. He'll take a little
nap, most likely."

She laid him across the rose-colored lap of the Princess, who looked
curiously down on him, and offered him her finger tentatively. "I
never held one before," she explained. "I--I don't know...." The
General smiled lazily and patted the finger, picking at the great
sapphire.

"How soft its hands are," said the Princess. "They slip off, they
are so smooth! And how good--does it never cry?" This she said half
to herself, and Caroline and Miss Honey, knowing there was no need
to answer her, came and leaned against her knee unconsciously, and
twinkled their fingers at the baby.

"Hello, General! Hello!" they cried softly, and the General smiled
impartially at them and caressed the lady's finger.

The Princess stroked his cheek. "What a perfectly exquisite skin!"
she said, and bending over him, kissed him delicately.

"How good it smells--how--how different!" she murmured. "I thought
they--I thought they didn't."

Miss Honey had taken the lady's other hand, and was examining the
square ruby with a diamond on either side.

"My mother says that's the principal reason to have a baby," she
remarked, absorbed in the glittering thing. "You sprinkle 'em all
over with violet powder--just like doughnuts with sugar--and kiss
'em. Some people think they get germs that way, but my mother says
if she couldn't kiss 'em she wouldn't have 'em!"

The Princess bent over the baby again.

"It's going to sleep here!" she said, half fearfully, with an
inquiring glance at the two. "Oughtn't one to rock it?"

Miss Honey shook her head severely. "Not General," she answered, "he
won't stand it. My mother tried again and again--could I take that
blue ring a minute? I'd be awful careful--but he wouldn't. He sits
up and he lies down, but he won't rock."

"I might sing to him," suggested the Princess, brushing a damp lock
from the General's warm forehead and slipping her ringless finger
into his curved fist carefully. "Would he like it?"

"No, he wouldn't," said Miss Honey bluntly, twisting the ring around
her finger. "He only likes two people to sing--Delia and my mother.
Was that ruby ring a 'ngagement ring?"

Caroline interfered diplomatically. "General would be very much
obliged," she explained politely, "except that my Aunt Deedee is a
very good singer indeed, and Uncle Joe says General's taste is
ruined for just common singing."

The Princess stared at her blankly.

"Oh, indeed!" she remarked. Then she smiled again in that whimsical
expressive way. "You don't think I could sing well enough for
him--as well as your mother?"

[Illustration: With a great sweep of her arm, she brushed aside a
portiere and disappeared.]

Miss Honey laughed carelessly. "My mother is a singer," she said, "a
real one. She used to sing in concerts--real ones. In theatres.
Real theatres, I mean," as the lady appeared to be still amused.

"If you know where the Waldorf Hotel is," Caroline interrupted, "she
has sung in that, and it was five dollars to get in. It was to send
the poor children to a Fresh Air Fund. It--it's not the same as you
would sing--or me," she added politely.

The lady arose suddenly and deposited the General, like a doll, with
one swift motion in the basket chair. Striding across the room she
turned, flushed and tall, and confronted the wondering children.

"I will sing for you," she said haughtily, "and you can judge
better!"

With a great sweep of her half bare arm, she brushed aside a
portiere and disappeared. A crashing chord rolled out from a piano
behind the curtains and ceased abruptly.

"What does your mother sing?" she demanded, not raising her voice,
it seemed, and yet they heard her as plainly as when they had leaned
against her knee.

"She sings, 'My Heart's Own Heart,'" Miss Honey called back
defiantly.

"And it's printed on the song, 'To Madame Edith Holt!'" shrilled
Caroline.

The familiar prelude was played with a firm, elastic touch, the
opening chords struck, and a great shining voice, masterful, like a
golden trumpet, filled the room. Caroline sat dumb; Miss Honey,
instinctively humming the prelude, got up from her foot-stool and
followed the music, unconscious that she walked. She had been
privileged to hear more good singing in her eight years than most
people have in twenty-four, had Miss Honey, and she knew that this
was no ordinary occasion. She did not know she was listening to one
of the greatest voices her country had ever produced--perhaps in
time to be known for the head of them all--but the sensitive little
soul swelled in her and her childish jealousy was drowned deep in
that river of wonderful sound.

Higher and sweeter and higher yet climbed the melody; one last
triumphant leap, and it was over.

"_My heart--my heart--my heart's own heart!_"

The Princess stood before them in the echoes of her glory, her
breath quick, her eyes brilliant.

"Well?" she said, looking straight at Miss Honey, "do I sing as well
as your mother?"

Miss Honey clenched her fists and caught her breath. Her heart was
breaking, but she could not lie.

"You--you--" she motioned blindly to Caroline, and turned away.

"You sing better," Caroline began sullenly; but the lady pointed to
Miss Honey.

"No, you tell me," she insisted remorselessly.

Miss Honey faced her.

"You--you sing better than my m-mother," she gulped, "but I _love_
her better, and she's nicer than you, and I don't love you at
_all_!"

She buried her face in the red velvet throne, and sobbed aloud with
excitement and fatigue. Caroline ran to her: how could she have
loved that cruel woman? She cast an ugly look at the Princess as she
went to comfort Miss Honey, but the Princess was at the throne
before her.

"Oh, I am abominable," she cried. "I am too horrid to live! It
wasn't kind of me, _cherie_, and I love you for standing up for
your mother. There's no one to do as much for me, when _I'm_ down
and out--no one!" Sorrow swept over her flexible face like a veil,
and seizing Miss Honey in her strong nervous arms she wept on her
shoulder.

Caroline, worn with the strain of the day, wept, too, and even the
General, abandoned in the great chair, burst into a tiny warning
wail.

Quick as thought the Princess was upon him, and had raised him
against her cheek.

"Hush, hush, don't cry--don't cry, little thing," she whispered, and
sank into one of the high carved chairs with him.

"No, no, I'll hold him," she protested, as Delia entered, her arms
out. "I'm going to sing to him. May I? He's sleepy."

Delia nodded indulgently. "For half an hour," she said, as one
allowing a great privilege, "and then we must go. The children are
tired."

"What do you sing to him?" the Princess questioned humbly.

"I generally sing 'Flow Gently, Sweet Afton,'" the nurse answered.
"Do you know it?"

"I think so," and the Princess began a sort of glorified humming,
like a great drowsy bee, all resonant and tremulous.

"Tell me the words," she said, and Delia recited them, as a mother
would, to humor a petted child.

The Princess lifted her voice and pressing the General to her, began
the song,

    "Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,
      Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise."

Soft the great voice was, soft and widely flowing; to Caroline, who
had retreated to the further end of the music-room, so that Delia
should not see her tears, it seemed as if Delia herself, a wonderful
new Delia, were singing her, a baby again, to sleep. She felt
soothed, cradled, protected by that lapping sea of melody that
drifted her off her moorings, out of the room....

Vaguely she saw Miss Honey, relaxed on the red throne, smile in her
sleep, one arm falling over the broad seat. Was it in her dream that
some one in a blue and white apron--not Delia, for Delia was
singing--leaned back slowly in the long basket chair and closed her
tired eyes? Who was it that held the General close in her arms, and
smiled as he patted her cheek at the familiar song and mumbled her
fingers with happy cooing noises?

    "My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream,
    Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream!"

Soft as plush, sweet as honey, the warm voice dipped and rose to the
old tune. The General's head was growing heavy, but he smiled
confidingly into the dark eyes above him and stretched himself out
in full-fed, drowsy content. One hand slipped through the lace under
his cheek and rested on the singer's soft breast. She started like a
frightened woman, and her voice broke.

Down in the hall the butler and the maid sat on the lower stair.

"Ain't it grand?" she whispered, and Haddock nodded dreamily.

"Mother used to sing us that in the old country," he said. "There
was Tom and 'Enry an' me--Lord, Lord!"

The General was asleep. Sometimes a tiny frown drew his eyebrows
together. Sometimes she clenched and uncurled his warm hands.
Sometimes he sucked softly at nothing, with moist, reminiscent lips.
But on and on, over and over, rose and fell the quaint old song,

    "My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream!"

It flooded the listening house, it spread a net of dreams about the
happy people and coaxed them back to childhood and a child's
protected sleep. It seemed a song that could not stop, that must
return on its simple refrain so long as there were arms to encircle
and breasts to lean upon.

Two men came softly up a smaller stair than the grand entrance
flight, and paused in amazement at sight of Caroline stretched, full
length, across the threshold. The older and smaller of the men had
in fact stepped on her, and confused and half awake she listened to
his apologies.

"Sh! sh!" he whispered excitedly, "not a vordt! not a vordt! Mein
Gott! but it is marvellous! A voice of velvet! Hey? A voice of the
heart. My friend, what is this?"

He peeped behind the drawn curtains, and withdrew a face of wonder.

"It is nothing but children--and they sleep!" he whispered. "Oh, but
listen, listen! And I offered her fifteen hundred dollars for two
hours only of that!"

The other man peeped behind the curtain in his turn, and seizing
Caroline by the arm tip-toed with her to a further room.

"What--who--what is the meaning of this?" he whispered hoarsely.
"That child--where--"

Caroline rubbed her eyes. The golden voice rose and fell around her.

"General--Delia," she muttered, and stumbled against him. He lifted
her limp little body and laid it gently on a leather sofa.

"Another time," he said softly to the other man, "I--we cannot talk
with you now. Will you excuse us?"

The man looked longingly at the curtains.

"She will never do more well than that. Never!" he hissed. "Oh, my
friend, hear it grow soft! Yes, yes, I am going."

[Illustration: "Sh! sh!" he whispered excitedly, "not a vordt! Not a
vordt! Mein Gott! but it is marvellous."]

It seemed to Caroline that in a dream some one with a red face and
glasses askew, shook her by the shoulder and said to her sternly,
"Sh! sh! Listen to me. To-day you hear a great artist--hey? Will you
forget it? I must go because they do not vant me, but you will stay
and listen. There is here no such voice. Velvet! Honey! Sh! sh!" and
he went the way of dreams.

The man who stayed looked long through the curtains.

As a swing droops slow and slower, as the ripples fade from a stone
thrown in the stream, the song of the Princess softened and crooned
and hushed. Now it was a rich breath, a resonant thread,

    "Flow gently, sweet Afton--"

The man stepped across the room and sank below the General at her
feet. With her finger on her lips she turned her eyes to his and
looked deep into them. He caught his breath with a sob, and wrapping
his arm about her as he knelt, hid his face on her lap, against the
General. She laid her hand on his head, across the warm little body,
and patted it tenderly. Around them lay the sleepers; the General's
soft breath was in their ears. The man lifted his head and looked
adoringly at the Princess: her hand caressed his cheek, but her eyes
looked beyond him into the future.




III

THE PRIZE


Caroline sniffed her way luxuriously through the dusky panelled
library.

"I think it smells awfully good here, don't you?" she inquired of
her hostess.

The lady's wonderful velvet train dragged listlessly behind her. Her
neck and arms were dressed in heavy yellowish lace, but all around
her slim body waves of deep colored, soft velvet held the light in
lustrous pools or darkened into almost black shadows. It was like
stained glass in a church, thought Caroline, stroking it
surreptitiously, and like stained glass, too, were the lovely books,
bloody red, grassy green and brown, like Autumn woods, with edges of
gold when the sunlight struck them. They made the walls like a great
jewelled cabinet, lined from floor to ceiling: here and there a
niche of polished wood held a white, clear-cut head. From the
ceiling great opal tinted globes swung on dull brass chains; they
swayed ever so slightly when one watched them closely.

"This is my favorite room, Duchess," said Caroline, "isn't it
yours?"

"Do you really think I look like one?" returned the lady, "the only
duchess I ever saw was fat--horribly fat. It is a very handsome
library, of course."

"Then _she_ didn't look like a duchess, that's all," Caroline
explained. "What I like about this library is, it's so clean. And
you can pull the chairs out and show those big, shiny yellow ones on
the bottom shelf."

"Of course; why not?" said the Duchess, dropping into a great carved
chair with griffins' heads on the top.

"Why, you can't do that at Uncle Joe's," Caroline confided, sitting
on a small griffin stool at the lady's feet, "because General gets
at the bottom row and smears 'em. You see he's only two, and you
can't blame him, but he licks himself dreadfully and then rubs it on
the backs. He marks them, too, inside, with a pencil or a hatpin,
or even an orange-wood stick that you clean your nails with. Yours
is made of pearl, you know, but most--a great many, I mean--people
have them wood. And so the chairs have to be all leaned around
against the walls to keep him from the books."

The Duchess drew a long breath. "And your uncle objects?" she said,
between her teeth.

"Uncle Joe says," Caroline returned, patting the griffin heads on
her little stool, "that if the President had General in his library
for half an hour he'd feel different about race suicide."

The Duchess laughed shortly.

"That is possible, too," she agreed. "You said Cousin Joe was
well--and Edith?"

"Oh, yes, they're well--I mean, they're very well indeed, thank
you," said Caroline. "Uncle Joe says they have to be, with the
General's shoes two dollars and a half a pair! You see he has quite
thick soles, now--he runs about everywhere. Aunt Edith says he needs
a mounted policeman 'stead of a nurse."

"Did Edith get rested after the moving?"

"Oh, yes," Caroline answered absently. She was watching the opal
globes sway. "Aunt Edith says before she was married she'd have gone
South with a trained nurse after such an experience, but now she has
to save the nurse for measles, she s'poses, so she just lies down
after lunch."

The Duchess moved restlessly half out of the griffin chair, but sank
back again.

"And you have a trained nurse all the time," Caroline mused,
stroking the glistering velvet, "isn't that funny? Just so in case
you _might_ be sick...." The sunlight peeped and winked on the gold
book-edges.

"It amounts to that," the Duchess said, adding very low, "but she is
not likely to be needed for measles."

"No," Caroline assented, "you and cousin Richard are pretty old for
measles. It's children that have 'em, mostly. I never did, yet. But
you don't seem to ever have any children. And such a big house, too!
And you're very fond of children, aren't you? It seems so queer that
when you like them you can't manage to have any. And people that
don't care about them have them all the time. It was only Christmas
time that Norah Mahoney--she does the extra washing in the
summer--had another. That makes seven. It's a boy. Joseph Michael,
he's named, partly after Uncle Joe. Norah says there don't seem to
be any end to your troubles, once you're married to a man."

The Duchess turned aside her head, but Caroline knew from the corner
of her mouth that her eyes were full of tears. She stroked the hands
that clenched the griffin's crest.

"Never mind," she urged, "maybe you'll have some. Most everybody has
just one, anyway."

The Duchess shook her head mutely; a large round tear dropped on
the griffin.

"Well, then," said Caroline briskly, "why don't you adopt one? The
Weavers did, and she was quite a nice girl; I used to play with her.
She sucked her thumb, though. But prob'ly they don't, all of them."

"I wouldn't mind, if she did," the Duchess declared. Already she
spoke more brightly. "I wanted to adopt one--one could take it when
it was very little. But Richard won't hear of it."

"Not a bit?" Caroline looked worried; she knew Richard.

"Not a bit," the Duchess repeated, "that is, he says he is willing
under certain conditions, but they are simply impossible. Nobody
could find such a child."

"There are lots of 'em in the Catholic Foundling," said Caroline
thoughtfully, "all kinds. Aunt Edith went there to sing for them and
she took Miss Honey and me. They're all dressed differently and they
look so sweet. You can take your choice of them; Aunt Edith cried.
But you must let them be Catholics."

"Richard wouldn't let me take one from an institution," the Duchess
said, "and somehow I wouldn't care to, myself. But there is a woman
I know of who is interested in children that--that aren't likely to
grow up happily, and she will get one for anybody, only one can't
ask any questions about them. You may have all the rights in them,
but you will never know where they came from. And Richard won't have
that. I suppose he's right."

"But there are plenty of people who would let you have one, if you
would give her a good home and be kind to her," Caroline began,
lapsing for the moment into her confusing, adult manner.

"Yes, but Richard says that no people nice enough to have a child we
could want would ever give us the child, don't you see," the Duchess
interrupted eagerly. "He says the father must be a gentleman--and
educated--and the mother a good woman. He says there must be good
blood behind it. And they must never see it, never ask about it,
never want it. He says he doesn't see how I could bear to have a
child that any other mother had ever loved."

Caroline sighed.

"Cousin Richard does make up his mind, so!" she muttered.

"He is unreasonable," said the Duchess suddenly, "unreasonable! He
must know all about the child, but the parents must not know about
us! Not know our name, even! Just give up the child and
withdraw--why, the poorest, commonest people would not do that, and
does he expect that people of the kind he requires would be so
heartless? We shall never be able to get one--never. And yet he
wants one so--almost as much as I!"

The Duchess had forgotten Caroline. Staring at the opal globes she
sat, and again the tears rose, brimmed and overflowed.

Caroline slipped off the little stool and walked softly out of the
beautiful room. The books glowed jewel-like, the four milky moons
swayed ever so little on their brass chains, the white busts looked
coldly at the Duchess as she sat crying in her big carved chair, and
there was nobody that could help at all.

Through the dark, shiny halls she walked--cautiously, for she had
had embarrassing lessons in its waxy polish--and paused from force
of habit to pat the great white polar bear that made the little
reception room such a delightful place. More than the busts in
the library even, he set loose the fancy, and whiled one away to
the enchanted North where the Snow Queen drove her white sledge
through the sparkling glades, and the Water Baby dived beneath
the dipping berg.

Miss Grundman, the trained nurse, appeared in the doorway.

"Did you care to go out with the brougham, to-day, dear?" she asked.
"Hunt tells me he has to go 'way down town."

"Yes, I'd like to--can you take care of babies, too?" Caroline
returned abruptly.

Miss Grundman started.

"What an odd child you are--of course I can!" she said. "All nurses
can; it's part of the training. Have you any you're worried about?"
she added pointedly. Caroline flushed.

"You're making fun o' me," she muttered, "you know very well only
grown people have them! I don't mean if they're sick, but can you
wash them, and cook the milk in that tin thing, and everything like
that?"

"Bless the child, of course I can!" Miss Grundman cried, "you bring
me one and I'll show you!"

"Oh, I b'lieve you, Miss Grundman, if you say so," Caroline assured
her, and slid carefully along the hall for the stairs that led to
her hat and coat.

They spun smoothly down the avenue with an almost imperceptible
electric whir, Caroline bolt upright on the plum-colored cushion,
Hunt and Gleggson bolt upright on the seat outside. It was a matter
for congratulation to Caroline that of all the vehicles that glided
by them, none boasted a more upright pair than Hunt and Gleggson.

The tall brown houses were gradually changing into bright shops; the
carriages grew thicker and thicker; the long procession stopped and
waited now almost every moment, so crowded was the brilliant street.
Once a massive policeman actually smiled at her as Hunt stopped the
brougham close to him, and Caroline's admiring soul crowded to her
eyes at the mighty wave of his white, arresting hand. They drew up
before a great window filled with broughams and victorias displayed
as lavishly as if they had been hats or bonbon boxes--it was like a
gigantic toy-shop. Hunt dropped acrobatically to the pavement and
was seen describing his mysterious desires to an affable gentleman
behind the plate-glass; he measured with his knuckles and
illustrated in pantomime the snapping of something over his knee;
the clerk shook his head in commiseration and signalled to an
attendant, who darted off. Soon Hunt appeared with a small package
and they started on again, turning a corner abruptly and winding
through less exciting streets. The shops grew smaller and dingier;
drays passed lumbering by and street cars jarred along beside them,
but vehicles like their own were noticeably lacking. It was plain
that they attracted more attention, now, and more than one group of
children dancing in the street to the music of the hurdy-gurdy
lingered daringly to provoke the thrilling, mellow warning of their
horn. At last they stopped at a corner and Hunt dropped again to the
pavement, lingering for a short consultation with Gleggson who
pointed once or twice behind them to the small occupant of the
brougham. On this occasion he took with him a mysterious and
powerful handle, and Caroline knew that this was precisely
equivalent to running away with the horses. He hurried around an
unattractive corner, and Gleggson sat alone in front. Five, ten
minutes passed. They seemed very dull to Caroline, and she reached
for the plum-colored tube and spoke boldly through it.

"What are we waiting for, please, Gleggson? Where is Hunt?"

"'E just stepped off, Miss, for a minute, like. 'E'll be 'ere
directly. Would you wish for me to go and look 'im up, Miss?"

Gleggson spoke very cordially.

"We-ell, I don't know," Caroline said doubtfully. "If you think
he'll be right back ... I can wait...."

"Pre'aps I'd better, as you say, Miss," Gleggson continued, "for 'e
_'as_ been gone some time, and I think I could lay me 'and on 'im.
You'll not get out, of course, Miss, and I'll be back before you
know it."

He clambered down and took the same general course as Hunt had
taken, deflecting, however, to enter a little door made like a
window-blind, that failed to reach its own door-sill.

"Hunt didn't go there at all," Caroline muttered resentfully, and
deliberately opening the door of the brougham, she stepped out.

She had followed Hunt's track quite accurately till a sudden turn
confused her, and she realized that after that corner she had no
idea in which direction he had gone. She paused uncertainly; the
street was dirty, the few children in sight were playing a game
unknown to her and not playing very pleasantly, at that; the women
who looked at her seemed more curious than kindly. The atmosphere
was not sordid enough to be alarming or even interesting; it was
merely slovenly and distasteful, and Caroline had almost decided to
go back when a young girl stopped by her and eyed her inquisitively.

"Were you lookin' for any particular party?" she asked.

"I was looking for Hunt," said Caroline, "he went this way,
I think."

"There's some Hunts across the street there," the girl suggested,
"right hand flat, second floor. I seen the name once. I guess
you're lost all right, ain't you?"

"Oh, no," Caroline assured her, "I'm not lost. I can go right back.
I'll see if Hunt's there."

The threshold was greasy and worn, the stairs covered with faded oil
cloth, the side walls defaced and over-scrawled. At the head of the
stairs three dingy doors opened in three different directions, and a
soiled card on the middle one bore the name of Hunt. A man's voice
somewhere behind it talked in a strange loud sing-song; he seemed to
be telling a long, confusing story. At the moment of Caroline's
timid knock he was saying over and over again,

"Isn't that so? Isn't that so? Who wouldn't have done the same? Put
your finger on the place where I made the mistake! Will you? Will
anybody? I ask it as a favor--"

"Hush, won't you?" a woman's voice interrupted, "wasn't that a
knock?"

Caroline knocked again.

There was a hasty shuffling and a key turned in the door.

"Who is it?" the woman's voice asked. "What do you want? The
auction's all over--there's nothing left. We're moving out
to-morrow."

Surprise held Caroline dumb. How could one have an auction in such a
place? At auctions there were red flags, and horses and carriages
gathered around the house, and people brought luncheon; they had
often driven to auctions out in the country.

The door opened.

"Why it's only a child!" said the woman, thin and fatigued, with
dark rings under her not ungentle eyes. "What do you want here?"

"I'm looking for Hunt," Caroline answered, "doesn't he live here?"

"Heavens, no!" the woman said, "that old card's been there long
before we moved in, I guess. They were old renters, most likely.
What's the party to you, anyway? Is he your--"

She paused, studying Caroline's simple but unmistakeable clothes
and manner.

"He drives the automobile," Caroline explained, "I thought he came
this way."

"Come in, won't you?" said the woman, "there's no good getting any
more lost than you are, I guess. There's not much to sit on,
'specially if you're used to automobiles, but we can find you
something, I hope. I try to keep it better looking than this
gen'ally, but this is my last day here. I'm going out West
to-morrow."

An old table, two worn chairs and an over-turned box furnished the
small room; through an open door Caroline spied a tumbled bed. A
kitchen, dismantled and dreary, faced her.

"The agent gave me five dollars for all I left," the woman said, "I
don't know which of us got the best o' the bargain. Now, about you.
Where do you live? I s'pose they're looking for you right now while
we're talking. Do you know where you left the automobile?"

"Oh, yes." Caroline stared frankly about her. "Wasn't there a man in
here? Where did he go?"

The woman grunted out a sort of laugh. "If you're not the limit!"
she murmured. She stepped to the door of the kitchen, looked in, and
beckoned to Caroline.

"I suppose you heard him carrying on," she said, "he's in there.
Poor fellow, he's all worn out."

Caroline peered into the kitchen. With his rough, unshaven face
resting on his arms, his hair all tossed about, his face drawn in
misery, even in his heavy sleep, a young man sat before a table,
half lying on it, one hand on a soiled plate still grasping a piece
of bread.

"Is he sick?" whispered Caroline.

"N--no, I wouldn't say sick, exactly, but I guess he'd be almost as
well off if he was," said the woman. "It would take his mind off.
He's had a lot of trouble."

The man scowled in his sleep and clenched his hand, so that the
bread crumbled in it.

"And so I won the prize," he muttered, "just as I told her I would.
Did I have any pull? Was there any favoritism? No--you know it as
well as I do--it was good work won that prize!"

"Was it a bridge prize?" Caroline inquired maturely. The woman
stared.

"A bridge prize?" she repeated vaguely. "Why, no, I guess not. It
was for writing a story for one of those magazines. He won a
thousand dollars."

The man opened his eyes suddenly.

"And if you don't believe it," he said, still in that strange
sing-song voice, "just read that letter."

He pulled a worn, creased sheet from an inner pocket and thrust it
at Caroline.

"It's typewritten," he added, "it's easy enough to see if I'm lying.
Just read it out."

Caroline glanced at the engraved letter-heading and began to read in
her careful, childish voice:

    MY DEAR MR. WILLISTON:

    _It is with great pleasure that I have to announce the fact that
    your story, "The Renewal," has been selected by the judges as
    most worthy of the thousand-dollar prize offered by us._

The woman snatched the paper from her hand.

"The idea!" she cried, "let the child alone, Mr. Williston! Don't
you see she's lost?"

The man dropped like a stone on the table.

"Lost!" he whispered, "lost! Oh, that dreadful word! Yes, she's
lost. Poor little Lou. It's all over."

The woman drew Caroline back into the sitting room.

"I'm sorry you should see him," she said. "You must excuse him--he
don't really know what he's doing. He lost his wife a week ago and
he's hardly slept since. It's real sad. I was as sorry as I could be
for 'em, and I'd have kept 'em even longer if she'd lived, though
they couldn't pay. I'd keep the baby, too, if I could, it's such a
cute little thing, but I can't, and I'm to take it to the Foundling
to-day. I'll go right out with you, and see that the police--"

"Oh, is there a baby? Let me see it!" Caroline pleaded. "How old
is it?"

"Just a week," said the woman. "Yes, you can see him. He's good as
gold, and big--! He weighs nine pounds."

In the third room, lying in a roll of blankets on a tumbled cot, a
pink, fat baby slept, one fist in his dewy mouth. The red-gold down
was thick on his round head; he looked like a wax Christ-child for
a Christmas tree.

Caroline sighed ecstatically.

"Isn't he lovely!" she breathed.

"He's a fine child," the woman agreed. "And his mother never saw
him, poor little thing. Nor his father either, for that matter."

Caroline looked in amazement toward the kitchen.

"Never laid his eyes on him," the woman went on sadly, "as if it was
any good, to blame the poor baby! He's taken a terrible grudge on
the little thing. He was awfully fond of his wife, though. He told
me he was going to leave him right here, and then, of course,
somebody in the house would notify the police, if I didn't take him
to the Foundling. And of course he'd get better care, for that
matter--there's no doubt about that. It's too bad. There's people
that would give their eyes for a fine baby like that, you know."

"I know it," said Caroline simply, "my cousin Richard would be glad
to have him--he wants one very much. But he's very particular."

The woman looked at her sharply. "What do you mean?" she asked. "How
particular?"

Suddenly she laughed nervously. "I ought to be ashamed of myself,"
she said, "you ought to be at the police station now. But I'm all
worn out, and it does me good to talk to anybody. I don't let the
neighbors in much--it's a cheap set of people around here, and Mr.
Williston's different from them and I hate to hear him talking to
them the way he will. He don't know what he's doing. He tells 'em
all about that prize--and it's true, you know, he did get it; that's
what they married on, and he thought he could get plenty more that
way, and then he never sold another story. It was too bad. He's a
real gentleman, though you might not think it to look at him now,
not shaved, and all. He thought he could earn a thousand every week,
I s'pose, poor fellow. He got work in a department store, fin'ly,
and it took all he made to bury her. She was a sweet little thing,
but soft. I was real sorry for 'em."

She wiped her eyes hastily.

"Do you know whether he went to Harvard?" Caroline inquired, in a
business-like tone.

The woman was heating some milk in a bottle, over a lamp, and did
not answer her, but a voice from the door brought her sharply
around. The young man stood there. Though still unshaven, he was
otherwise quite changed. His hair was parted neatly, his coat
brushed, his face no longer flushed, but pale and composed.

"If your extraordinary question refers to me, yes, I went to
Harvard," he said in a grating, disagreeable voice. "I have in fact
been called a 'typical Harvard man.' But that was some time ago. May
I ask who you are?"

The woman lifted the bottle from the tin cup that held it and picked
up the baby; the young man shifted his eyes from her immediately and
looked persistently over Caroline's head.

"Her family's coachman's name is Hunt," said the woman, "and she
thought he lived here, she says. He'd no business to go off and
leave her alone. Her family'd be worried to death. When I go out
with the baby I'll take her. I suppose you haven't changed your mind
about the baby, Mr. Williston?--now you're feeling more like
yourself," she added.

"I cannot discuss that subject, Mrs. Ufford," the young man
answered, in his rasping, unnatural voice. "When you have disposed
of the matter along the lines you yourself suggested, I am at your
service till you take the train. After that--after that"--his lips
tightened in a disagreeable smile--"I may be able to get to
work--and win another prize!"

"There, there!" she cautioned him, "don't talk about that, Mr.
Williston, don't, now! Why don't you go out with the little girl and
see if you can find her automobile? That'll be less for me to do.
Why don't you?"

He turned, muttering something about his hat, but Caroline tugged at
his coat.

"Wait, wait!" she urged him, "I want you to tell her to let me take
the baby! If you went to Harvard, that's all Cousin Richard said,
except about a gentleman"--she paused and scrutinized him a moment.
"You _are_ a gentleman, aren't you?" she asked.

He looked at her. "My father was," he answered briefly. "In my own
case, I have grave doubts. What do you think?" he asked the woman,
looking no lower than her eyes.

She fed the baby deftly. "Oh, Mr. Williston, don't talk so--of
course you're a gentleman!" she cried, "you couldn't help about the
money. You did your best."

His mouth twisted pitifully.

"That'll do," he said, "what does this child mean? Who is your
cousin? Where does he live?"

"He lives on Madison Avenue," Caroline began eagerly, "but I mustn't
tell you his last name, you know, because he doesn't want you to
know. That's just it. But he'd love the baby. I could take it right
back in the automobile."

The man felt in under his coat and detached from his waistcoat a
small gold pin. He tore a strip of wrapping paper from the open box
near him and wrote rapidly on it.

"There," he said, fastening the pin into the folded paper, "I'm glad
I never pawned it. If your cousin is a Harvard man, the pin will be
enough, but he can look me up from this paper--all he wants. They're
all dead but me, though. Here, wait a moment!"

He went back into the sitting room and fumbled in a heap of waste
paper on the floor, picked out of it a stiff sheet torn once
through, and attached it with the gold pin to the bit of writing.

"That's her marriage certificate," he said to the woman. She stared
at him.

"Mr. Williston, do you believe that child?" she burst out, loosening
her hold on the bottle in her hand. "Why, she may be making it all
up! I--I--you must be crazy! You don't even know her name! I won't
allow it--"

He broke into her excited remonstrance gravely.

"I don't believe a child could make up such details, in the first
place, Mrs. Ufford," he said, "she is repeating something she's
heard, I think. Did your cousin mention anything else?" he said
abruptly to Caroline.

She smiled gratefully at him. "The mother must be a good woman," she
quoted placidly.

Both of them started.

"Do you think a child would invent that?" he demanded. "Now, see
here. You take Mrs. Ufford home with you in the automobile and she
can see if there's anything in what you say, really. If there's not,
she can go right on with the--with it, and do as--as we arranged
before. It's all written on the paper, and my full consent to the
adoption, and if there's anything legal to do about it, Mrs. Ufford
can attend to it. But nobody'll trouble 'em--they can be sure of
that. My people all died long ago and--and hers--hers...."

He stopped short. With eyes filled and lips vaguely moving he fell
into a strange revery, a sort of tranced stupor. So intense were his
absent thoughts that they impressed the woman and the child; they
knew that he was back in the past and waited patiently while for a
few kind moments he forgot. At length his eyes shifted and he took
up his broken phrase, unconscious, evidently, of the pause. "--her's
are back in New England. They never knew.... I had _some_ pride.
They're the I-told-you-so sort, anyhow. And they told her, all
right. Oh yes, they told her! Narrow-minded, God-fearing prigs!" He
stared at Mrs. Ufford curiously. "But they paid their debts, all the
same," he added with a harsh laugh, "and that's more than I've been
able to do, I suppose you're thinking."

But almost before the dark red had flushed her tired, lined face,
he leaned forward and touched her shoulder kindly.

"I didn't mean that," he apologized. "I'm half crazy, I think.
You've been as good as gold, and even when I've paid you the money I
owe you, I'll owe you more than I can ever pay. I know that. And
you're New England, too."

His sudden softening encouraged the woman, and she looked
appealingly up at him, while she patted the bundle on her lap.

"Folks have hearts in New England, Mr. Williston," she began, "and
if you was to go to her folks or write to 'em, I guess you'd
find--oh, couldn't you?"

His impatient hand checked her.

"He might grow up to be a real comfort to you," she murmured
persistently, "and you could look out for him well enough, once you
get started. Just see how smart you are, Mr. Williston--look at that
prize you got; she was awful proud of it."

His face twisted painfully.

"I looked out for _her_ well, didn't I?" he said coldly, "I was a
'good provider,' as they say up there, wasn't I? Do you think--"
his voice rang harshly and he struck the table by his side till it
rattled on its unsteady legs--"do you think if I couldn't look out
for her, I would look out for _that_? Get it ready."

The woman rose, her lips pressed together, and rolled the blankets
tightly about the quiet child. With one gesture she put on a shabby
hat and pinned it to her hair.

"I'll leave the bottle with you," she said to Caroline; "it'll help
keep him quiet, when I'm gone. Come on."

The man turned away his head as they passed him. At the outer door
she paused a moment, and her face softened.

"I know how you feel, Mr. Williston, and I don't judge you," she
said gently, "for the Lord knows you've had more than your share of
trouble. But won't you kiss it once before--before it's too late?
It's your child, you know. Don't you feel--"

"I feel one thing," he cried out, and the bitterness of his voice
frightened Caroline; "I feel that it murdered her! Take it away!"

They shrank through the door.

The woman sobbed once or twice on the stairs, but Caroline patted
the flannel bundle excitedly.

They had rounded the corner in a moment, and the woman pointed ahead
with her free hand.

"Is that the automobile?" she asked.

Caroline nodded. The brougham stood empty and alone where she had
left it.

"They're not back yet!" she cried in disgust, "the idea!"

"Maybe they're looking for you," Mrs. Ufford said shortly.

"Aren't you glad we've got it?" Caroline inquired timidly. "I am,
awfully. I didn't expect to get such a good one, so soon," she went
on more easily, "but I don't like that man much. He's so cross."

"Child, child, you don't know what you're talkin' about!" the woman
cried impatiently. "He's not cross--but his heart's just about
broke. He thinks more money would've saved her. And I guess he's
right about that. She was a soft little thing. But she stuck to
him."

They walked a few steps in silence.

"I don't know as I was actin' right, either, to talk as I did," she
continued abruptly. "I s'pose it is better as 'tis, 'specially if
your folks will take the baby. They'll do a lot more for it than
ever he could, prob'ly. I s'pose they're real rich--regular swells?
I can see they've got a fine automobile."

"Oh, yes. Cousin Richard's very rich," Caroline answered,
indifferently, "that's only the brougham--there are two more. I have
more fun at Aunt Edith's, though."

"_'Twas_ queer about all those things your cousin wanted, wasn't
it?" the woman said, musingly. "'Seemed like kind of a sign to him,
I could see--going to Harvard College and all. I s'pose it was a
sign--maybe."

She walked slowly, perhaps because of her burden.

"That's a fine college, I s'pose?" she said, inquiringly.

"It's good enough," Caroline allowed, "of course Yale's the best. We
all go to Yale. Uncle Joe says there had to be something for Yale to
beat, so they founded Harvard!"

"You don't say," Mrs. Ufford returned, "that's funny."

They were very near the brougham now. It stood as deserted as when
Caroline had left it. The baby in the bundled blanket neither cried
nor stirred.

"He's the best child," said the woman, with her tired, kindly smile.
"He's next to nothing to tend to. If he'd felt to go back to her
folks with it, I'd 'a' gone with him to look after it. I've got
enough for that--the things sold real well, and he'd never let me
lose, anyhow. He isn't that kind. I took a real likin' to both of
'em. I've kept boarders, all over, for fifteen years and I never
lost a cent from anybody like him, not one. You get to know all
sorts, keepin' boarders, and Mr. Williston's all right--though you
mightn't think so," she ended loyally.

Caroline hardly listened. She saw herself in the bearskin reception
room, up the stairs, in the library, her baby in her arms; she heard
the incredulous joy of the Duchess, she explained importantly with
convincing detail, to Cousin Richard the critical. To her eager soul
this thin, friendly woman was merely an incident; that irritable,
incoherent man less than a dream.

They paused on the curb, and she opened the brougham door
hospitably.

"You get in first," she said, "and then I can hold him a little
while, can't I?"

"I never was in one o' these," Mrs. Ufford answered doubtfully,
"s'pose you go in first. It can't go--or back, or anything, can it?"

"No, no, of course not," said Caroline impatiently. "There's Hunt
'way up the street--he doesn't see us--how he's hurrying!"

The woman paused, her foot on the broad step.

"'Taint Hunt--it's Mr. Williston," she announced. "What's he want, I
wonder? Look--he's wavin' at us! I guess he forgot some paper he
wants you to take--he's bound to have it legal," she added with a
sigh. "No, dear, let me be. I'll see what he wants before I get in."

The young man was running fast; his face was red, his eyes anxious.

"Have you got it? Is it here?" he cried, panting, and as she lifted
the bundle high, his face cleared and Caroline saw that he was very
handsome.

"Oh, Mrs. Ufford," he gasped, "read this! Just read it! I found it
in my pocket-book--I thought you might be gone--she put it there for
me--my poor little Lou! My God, what a brute--what a brute!"

The woman, one foot still on the step of the brougham, supported the
child on her raised knee and held the paper in her free hand.

"_My dearest husband_," she read aloud, "_if I get well you will
never see this, for I will take it out, but I don't believe I will
take it out, for I don't believe I will get well. They say everybody
thinks they will die, and of course a great many don't, but some do,
and I think I will, I don't know why, but I am sure. But you will
have the little girl. I am sure she will be a girl, and I hope she
will look like me and be a comfort to you. You will take good care
of her, I know. Think how nicely you took care of me and how hard
you worked. You take her to my sister, and when she gets big enough,
then you take her. She will not be a burden for you will earn lots
of money when you can stop working in that horrid store on my
account, and have time to do your writing. You must not get
discouraged, for your writing is fine. Remember that prize you took.
They will all be proud of you some day. You have been so good to me.
Your loving wife, Lou._"

Her voice broke, and with no further word she held the child out to
the young man. Without a word he took it and stared eagerly into its
face, pushing the wrappings aside.

"He has her eyes," he murmured, "Lou's eyes!"

The baby felt the grip of a stronger arm, wrinkled its features and
appeared to scan the dark, trembling face above it.

"He knows me! Mrs. Ufford, he knows me!" cried the man.

"Maybe so, maybe so," she said, soothingly. "You'll keep him, won't
you, now?"

"Keep him? Keep him?" he repeated, "why he's all I've got of
hers--all! He's Lou's and mine, together! He's--"

"Hush, hush!" she warned him, "here's a crowd already! We're right
out in the street, Mr. Williston! Come back with me. Yes, keep him
if you want to."

She turned to Caroline, neglected and wide-eyed, in the brougham.

"You see how it is, dear," she said hastily, "he wants it, after
all. I can't help bein' glad. It ain't always that money does the
most, you know. And he's the baby's father. Don't you mind, will
you?"

Caroline gulped.

"I--I guess not," she answered bravely. "But I did want him!"

"I know. You meant all right," the woman assured her. "You're
real--there's your coachman runnin'. He saw the crowd gatherin',
prob'ly. Good-by, dear."

She slipped through the curious street children after the tall
figure that hurried on with his bundle, a block ahead. Gleggson
dashed up to the brougham.

"W'ere was you, Miss, for goodness' sake?" he gasped out, "h'I've
been h'all over after yer! Don't, don't tell Hunt on me, will you,
Miss? He'd fair kill the life out o' me! He's comin' now. 'e 'ad to
go, Miss, fer his little boy was took sick last night and callin'
for 'im. So 'e made up the errant. But it'll cost us both our place,
y' know, Miss!"

The man's voice shook. Hunt was very near them now, walking hard.

"I'd no business to leave, I know--_will_ you h'overlook it for
once, Miss, and keep mum?" the man pleaded.

"All right, Gleggson--all right," she said wearily, "I won't tell."

Confused, disappointed, and yet with a curious sense of joy in the
joy of the two even now rounding the corner, she leaned back in the
brougham.

"I'm afraid he'll go to Harvard, anyway," she sighed.




IV

WHERE THIEVES BREAK IN.


One glance at Caroline's shoulders, hunched with caution, the merest
profile, indeed, of her tense and noiseless advance up the narrow
gravel path, would have convinced the most casual observer that she
was bent upon arson, at the least. At the occasional crunch of the
gravel she scowled; the well meant effort of a speckled gray hen,
escaped from some distant part of the grounds, to bear her company,
produced a succession of pantomimic dismissals that alarmed the hen
to the point of frenzy, so that her clacks and cackles resounded far
beyond the trim hedge that separated the drying-ground from the
little kitchen garden.

Caroline scowled, turned to shake her fist at the hen, now lumbering
awkwardly through the hedge, and sat down heavily on a little bed of
parsley.

"Nasty old thing!" she gulped, "_anybody_ could've heard me! And I
was creeping up so still...."

She peered out from behind a dwarf evergreen and made a careful
survey of the situation. The big square house stood placid and empty
in the afternoon sun; not a cat on the kitchen porch, not a curtain
fluttering from an open window. All was neat, quiet and deserted.
Caroline set her lips with decision.

"We'll pretend there wasn't any hen," she said, in a low voice, "and
go on from here, just the same."

Rising with great caution she picked her way, crouching and dodging,
from bush to bush; occasionally she took a lightning peep at the
silent house, then dipped again and continued her stalking.
Following the evergreen hedge around a final corner, she emerged
stealthily in the lee of the latticed kitchen porch and drew a
breath of relief.

"All right so far," she muttered; "I wonder if that old gray cat
with the new kittens is fussing around here?"

But no breath of life stirred under the porch as she stooped to peer
through a break in the lattice, and with a final survey of the
premises, inserted her plump person into the gap and wriggled,
panting, into the darkness below.

It was stuffy and dusty there; the light filtered dimly through the
diamond spaces, and the adventurer, crawling on hands and knees,
bumped into a shadowy pile of flower-pots, sneezed violently and
grovelled wrathfully among the ruins for at least five minutes,
helplessly confused. Quite by accident she knocked her cobwebbed
head against a narrow, outward swinging window, seized it
thankfully, and plunged through it. Hanging a moment by her grimy
hands she swayed, a little fearfully, then dropped with a quick
breath to the concrete floor beneath, and smiled with relief as the
comparative brightness of a well kept cellar revealed her safety.
Vegetable bins, a neat pile of kindling wood, a large portable
closet of wire netting, with occasional plates and covered dishes
suggestively laid away in it, met her eye; on the floor in front of
this last rested a little heap of something wet and glistening.
Untidy as it looked, it had an eatable appearance to Caroline,
whose instinct in these matters was unimpeachable, and bending over
it she inserted one finger.

"Current jelly!" she whispered, thoughtfully licking the inquiring
member. "The idea!"

She approached the wire closet and peered along the shelves; there
was no jelly there.

"'Dropped it getting it out," she pursued, "I wonder why Selma
didn't wipe it up."

Suddenly her face brightened.

"We'll keep right on and pretend _'twas_ burglars," she announced to
the quiet cellar, "and they stole the jelly in a hurry and dropped
this and never noticed, and went upstairs to eat it and get the
silver! And so I found 'em, after all!"

Still on tiptoe, she left the cellar, stole through the laundry, and
crept mysteriously up the back stairs. So absorbed she was that a
cracking board stopped her heart for a breath, and a slip on the
landing sent her to her knees in terror. The empty quiet seemed to
hum around her; strange snappings of the old woodwork dried her
throat. With her hand on the swing door that led into the
dining-room, she paused in a delicious ecstasy of terror, as the
imagined clink of glass and silver, the normal clatter of a cheerful
meal, seemed to echo in the air.

It was always difficult for Caroline in such moments of excitement
to distinguish between what she saw and heard and what she wished to
see and hear, and at this ghost of table music she smiled with
pleasure.

"The house is empty," said her common-sense, but she pursed her lips
and whispered, "they're up here eating--they've come for the
silver!"

By fractions of inches she pushed the door on its well-oiled hinge
and slipped noiselessly into the dining-room.

A broad beam of light fell across the dark, wainscoted room, and in
the track of it sat a handsome well-dressed man, busily eating. In
front of him was a roast chicken, a cut-glass dish of celery and a
ruby mound of jelly; a crusty loaf of new bread lay broken at his
right; at his left, winking in the sunbeam, stood a decanter half
filled with a topaz liquor. He was daintily poising a bit of jelly
on some bread, the mouthful was in the air, when his eyes fell on
Caroline, an amazed and cobwebbed statue in front of him.

The hand that held the bread grew rigid. As spilled milk spreads
over a table, the man's face was flooded with sudden grayish white;
against it his thin lips were marked in lavender. While the
grandfather clock ticked ten times they stared at each other, and
then a wave of deep red poured over his face and his mouth twitched.

"What are you doing here, little girl?" he demanded sternly,
pointedly regarding her dusty rumpled figure.

Caroline gulped and dropped her eyes.

"I--I--nothing particular," she murmured guiltily.

The man laid the piece of bread down carefully and wiped his fingers
on the napkin spread across his knees.

"Some time," he said, in a leisurely drawl, "you'll burst into a
room like that, where a person with a weak heart may be sitting, and
that'll be the last of 'em."

[Illustration: "What are you doing here, little girl?" he demanded
sternly.]

"The last of 'em?" Caroline repeated vaguely.

"Just so. They'll die on you," he explained briefly.

Caroline stepped nearer.

"Is--is your heart weak?" she inquired fearfully. "I'm so sorry. So
is my Uncle Lindsay's."

"What were you sneaking about so soft for?" he demanded.

She flushed.

"I--I was playing burglars," she confessed, "and I got to where they
were in here with the silver, and--and I was coming in to--to get
them, and I didn't expect anybody would be here, really, you know,
and I was surprised when I saw you. I didn't know about your heart."

"Burglars?" said the man, laughing loudly. "Well, that's one on me!
I must say you're a nervy young party. So you thought I was a
burglar, did you?"

"Oh, no!" Caroline cried, "of course not--I meant I was playing it
was burglars; I didn't mean you. I--I didn't know anybody was here."

"Humph!" said he. "What made you play burglars? Anything in that
line yourself, ever?"

Caroline stared uncomprehendingly.

"My mother doesn't think it's right for Aunt Edith to go off and
leave the house all alone the way she does," she explained; "she's
always telling her some one will break in if she doesn't leave Selma
or a dog. And she never locks a thing, you know--she says if they
intend to get in, they will, and that's all there is about it. So
this time she went for three days, and Miss Honey and the General
and Delia; and Selma and Anna went to a wedding and Ed went
somewhere about a lawn-mower, and little Ed was going to get the
pony shod. I told Aunt Edith I'd--" she coughed importantly--"keep
an eye on the house."

"I see," said the man.

He poured himself two inches of the topaz liquor; it rocked in the
glass.

Caroline sniffed inquiringly.

"That's the Scotch," she said; "I know by the smell, partly like
cologne and partly smoky. Do you like it?"

The man raised the glass to the level of his eyes and watched the
light play through it, then made a slight movement of his arm and
the whisky disappeared smoothly.

"Your Aunt Edith's taste is as good as her voice," he said, eyeing
Caroline carefully.

"Oh, that's not Aunt Edith's--that's Uncle Joe's," she explained.
Then, as it flashed across her suddenly.

"Did you want to see him? He's in New York, too. They're going to
have pictures taken of Miss Honey and General. But after that, Uncle
Joe's going to Chicago. Did you want him?"

"N-no, not exactly," said the man, studying his well-kept
finger-nails. "I can't say I do. No, my business is with--is more--"

He stopped suddenly and followed the direction of Caroline's eyes.

There on the sideboard behind him stood a leather suit-case, long
and solid looking. It was open and tight rows of forks and spoons
filled it.

The room was quite still for a moment. Caroline wanted to show by
some intelligent remark that she understood the situation, and
could easily imagine what the man was doing with the silver, but
she found this difficult.

Strange people came to Aunt Edith's house. Dark, foreign-looking men
ate meals there at unusual hours; once Caroline had seen with her
own eyes a plump, yellow German fall suddenly on his knees at Aunt
Edith's feet, as a hand-organ struck up its brassy music under the
window, and burst into passionate singing, waving a whisk-broom in
the air and offering it to Aunt Edith with the most extraordinary
force of manner. And her aunt, who wore at the time a raincoat and
tam o'shanter cap, had leaned forward graciously, gurgled out a most
delicious little tune, accepted the whisk-broom, affected to inhale
its fragrance rapturously, and whirled into a big and beautiful song
in which the plump, yellow gentleman joined, and rising seized her
in his arms, at which point they drowned the hand-organ completely,
and the hand-organ man and Uncle Joe applauded loudly, and they gave
the hand-organ man all he could eat and a dollar.

You may see from this that one did not look for the commonplace in
Aunt Edith's house. Moreover, the stranger was not unlike some of
her aunt's friends; though he was handsome and assured and
noticeably at his ease, Caroline felt that his manner was subtly
different from that of the friends of her own family. But even the
most unconventional guest had never collected the sideboard silver,
and a little feeling was growing in the air ... doubt and a bit of
what might have begun to be fear ... when suddenly the man began to
laugh. It was abrupt and it rang harshly at first, but grew with
every moment warmer and more infectious, so that Caroline, though
she felt that she was in some way the cause of it, joined in it
finally, in spite of herself.

"If you knew what a sight you were!" he exclaimed, wiping his eyes
with the napkin, "with your hair all cobwebs and all that dirt on
your knees and those finger-marks on your apron, and being so small
and all"--he began to chuckle again.

"Small?" she repeated portentously.

"Oh, I didn't mean small compared with--with anybody else the same
size," he assured her quickly.

Catching her mollified glance, he went on more soberly.

"And how did you get in, now? No doors, I'll bet."

"Under the kitchen porch, through the little cellar window and up
the back stairs," she explained.

"You mean to say you were out in that little back hall and I never
heard you?"

She nodded. "I took pains to be still," she added, "so as to
surprise the--so if there had been--"

"I understand," he said gravely, "so as to get them if they had been
there. Well, you'd have done it. You're all right. Now, I suppose
you're wondering what all this means, aren't you? You haven't got
any idea who I am, have you? You don't know one single thing about
me, and you may be thinking--"

"I know one thing about you," she interrupted, "I know you went to
Yale."

The man's jaw dropped, his hands gripped the arm of the chair.

"And how in--how did you know that?" he cried roughly, with blazing
eyes.

Caroline shrank a little but faced him.

"Your pin," she said, pointing to his vest, "I saw it when you held
your arm up."

The man sank back in his chair and fingered the little jeweled badge
unconsciously.

"Well, of all the cute ones ... so you've seen this before?" he
suggested.

"Of course I have--my brother has one, and my Uncle Joe and Uncle
Lindsay and Cousin Lindsay and Cousin Joe."

"All went to Yale?" he inquired.

"Lindsay and Joe are there now--they're seniors," she informed him.
"The General's going when he grows up. All the Holts go there.
Grandfather Holt went."

"You don't say," said the man, bending forward in genuine interest,
"I guess it's a pretty good college, eh?"

"The best of them all," she assured him.

"I'll tell you an awful funny thing," she went on abruptly, "you
know all the Holts look alike. Well, when Uncle Lindsay first went
to Yale, he was walking along the Campus, and right by Old South
Middle he met the President. And the President stopped and said,
'Well, well, I see the race of Holts is not yet extinct. Good
afternoon, sir!' _The President._ And he never saw him before!"

The man shook his head thoughtfully.

"You don't say," he repeated. "Old South Middle--that's it. That's
the one."

Suddenly he shrugged his shoulders and took out his watch. "This'll
never pay the rent!" he said briskly. "Now let's get to business. I
suppose you were surprised to see all that stuff in the suit-case?"

Caroline nodded and grinned back at him, his own quick smile was so
friendly and compelling.

"Well," he continued, rising and bunching the napkin beside his
plate, "I don't blame you. Not a bit. I'd have been the same myself.
And you'll be even more surprised when you find out what I'm
doing--that is," he stopped abruptly, "unless your Uncle Joe has
told you already and sent you over to help?"

She shook her head.

"Didn't, eh?" he stepped over to the sideboard, wiping off the knife
and fork he had been using, and packed them with the others.
Caroline, watching his hands, noticed in the corner of the case a
familiar chamois skin bag; she had often seen it on Aunt Edith's
bureau.

"Well, now," he continued, "If I had a niece as sharp and smart and
quiet as you are, Missy, I'd tell her my plans, I would, and get her
to help me. I wonder your uncle didn't. Sure he didn't mention
me--Mr. Barker?"

Again she shook her head, her eyes fastened to the bag.

"Well," said the man, shutting down the cover of the suit-case and
strapping it tightly, "it's this way. You may have heard your uncle
say something about it being kind o' careless, leaving the house so
much alone? Anyhow, whether he's talked to you or not about it, he
has to me often enough."

"Oh, yes!" Caroline was conscious of a distinct sense of relief.
"I've often heard him. Then you _do_ know Uncle Joe?"

The man faced her, starting in violent surprise.

"Do I know Uncle Joe?" he repeated; "do I _know_ him?" He shook his
head feebly and gazed about the room. "She says, do I know Joe Holt!
And what should I be doing, eating my lunch here, if I didn't?" he
demanded. "What should he tell me about his troubles for, and ask me
to help him, if I didn't know him? Is it likely I'd be packing his
silver in my suit-case if I didn't know him?"

Caroline stood abashed.

"I should think you might guess by this time what the joke is," he
went on forgivingly, seeing that she was quite overcome with her own
stupidity, "but as I have to get away pretty quick now, I'll tell
you. You see, Joe isn't coming right back with your aunt; he's going
on to Chicago, and that may keep him some time away--"

("I know," Caroline interpolated), "and he wanted your aunt to have
somebody stay in the house to look after it--he felt worried. But
no, she wouldn't. Wouldn't even get a dog--that is," eyeing Caroline
steadily, "unless she's got one lately, but when I last heard--"

"No," she assured him, "she wouldn't. Aunt Edith hates dogs."

"So Joe told me. 'Now what would you do, Henry,' says Joe to me,
that's my name, Henry Barker, 'what would you do with a woman like
that?'

"'Do, Joe?' says I, 'why, I'll tell you what I'd do, I'd teach her a
lesson, that's what. I'd I'd give her one good scare, and then you'd
find she'd take your advice, after that.'"

At this point the man reached for his overcoat and began to struggle
into it.

"'But I don't know how to, Henry,' says he. 'You don't?' says I,
'nothing easier. Just tip somebody off when the house is empty and
they'll run up and slip in, take what silver and jewelry they can
find in a hurry, pack it up careful and hide it away wherever you
say. Then when your wife gets back and finds 'em gone, there'll be
the d---- there'll be a row, and when she says it's her fault for
not leaving the servants in the house, and she'll never do it again,
then you say, 'All right, my dear, I'm glad you've learned your
lesson,' and step out and get the bag! How's that?' I said."

He put his hat on, drew a pair of gloves from his pocket, and looked
hard at Caroline; her answering glance was troubled and
non-committal. He scowled slightly and rested one hand on the bag.

"'All very well, Henry,' says Joe to me, 'but who's to do all this?
I don't know anyone that would dare to, let alone be willing,'" he
went on, glancing hurriedly around the room. "'You know as well as I
do that if they should get caught doing it, anybody would swear
'twas burglary plain and simple, and run' em right in. They'd call
the police. It would look bad for whoever did it, you know,' he
said."

"He might have asked me. I'd love to do it," Caroline muttered
resentfully.

As a matter of fact the scheme was sufficiently like many a
practical joke of her irrepressible uncle. Better than anyone,
Caroline, his conspirator elect, knew the lengths he was capable of
going to confound or scandalize his adjacent relatives.

"Of course," said the man, with relief in his voice, "that's why I
asked you if he hadn't. I guess he was afraid you wouldn't dare. I'd
have trusted you, though, myself."

She looked gratefully at him.

"Then, I said, 'Why, Joe, if that's the way you feel about it, I'll
do it myself,'" he concluded, lifting the suit-case from the
sideboard and grimacing at its weight. "'What's the good,' says I,
'of calling yourself a friend, if you can't run a little risk? Just
tell me the day to come and where you want 'em put--be sure you pick
a good safe place--and I'll 'tend to it for you,' I said, 'and
you'll do as much for me some day when I'm in a tight place.'"

He settled his hat firmly and moved to the long window.

"I'll have to hurry if I don't want to lose my train," he explained.

"But where's the place?" Caroline cried excitedly; "what place did
Uncle Joe pick out? Won't you tell me? I won't tell--truly, I
won't!"

The man paused with one hand on the window button, and looked
thoughtfully at her.

"By George," he announced, "I've a good mind to tell you! I'm not
supposed to tell a soul, you know, but you've been such a brick, and
being his own niece and all, I think you've got a _right_ to know, I
really do."

Caroline nodded breathlessly.

"Look here!" he cried, "I'll trust you if your uncle won't. I don't
like the place he told me, much--it isn't safe enough. There's two
thousand dollars' worth of stuff here, counting the--counting
everything, and an old barn's no place for it. See here. You promise
me to stay here for an hour--one hour exactly, by the clock--and
I'll leave this bag at your house for you. Then you can hide it
under your bed, or anywhere you want, till to-morrow, and then you
can manage the rest to suit yourself. How's that?"

"Oh, that would be grand!" she gasped.

"You can just tell your uncle that I saw you were game and I trusted
you, if he wouldn't," he concluded, opening the window, "and I'll
take this to your house in half an hour. Will you promise not to
leave for an hour? We mustn't be seen together, you know, or people
might suspect and then the game'd be up. And will you lock this
window after me and go out the same way you came?"

"Yes, yes! I promise, I promise solemnly!" she assured him, flushed
with importance, "and tell 'em not to open it, will you? They might.
Say it's private for me, will you?"

"All right," he said soberly. "I'm kind o' sorry they went to Yale,"
he added abruptly. "I'd rather--sh! what's that?"

He stood rigidly listening; his eyes rolled back, his hand raised in
warning.

"I don't hear--" she began, but his angry gesture and the furious
whisper that went with it cowed her into a silence as strained as
his own.

For a moment it seemed to Caroline that she heard a faint snap as of
a board released from pressure, but dead quiet followed; she held
her breath with excitement as the man lifted the suit-case over the
ledge, and peering over the balcony stepped out. Suddenly he paused,
one leg over the sill; his eyes rolled back towards the room, his
lips tightened. So terrible, and so despairing his face had turned
that Caroline rushed to the window. Even as she started she heard
quick soft steps in the hall, and pointed to the freedom outside.

"Jump, oh, jump, Mr. Barker!" she whispered in a glow of terror,
"hurry! It _is_ somebody!"

He pointed silently to the ground below, and with her heart pounding
heavily she peered over the sill. Directly below them crouched a
Great Dane, brindled, enormous, one eye fixed sternly on the window.

The soft steps paused: perhaps she had imagined them! Perhaps, if
they kept quite still, that quaking pair, perhaps.... The man
breathed like a drowning swimmer; it seemed to Caroline she must
scream.

The door flew open.

"Look out, there--it's loaded!" the voice came sharp as a
cracked whip.

Caroline gave a shriek of joy.

"Why, it's Lindsay!" she cried, "it's just Cousin Lindsay!"

A tall, powerful young man came in behind a leveled revolver.

"Car--what--be still, there!" he gasped, steadying the weapon. The
man stood motionless, his eyes on the ground.

"It's all right--I never carried a gun in my life," he said quietly.

"Oh, Lindsay, it's only a joke!"

Caroline ran towards him, stopping in horror at the ugly winking
eyes of the revolver.

"Mr. Barker only meant--tell Lin about it!" she entreated, sick with
foreboding at the dogged man before her, the scornful flushed boy at
her side.

"I guess you better tell him, Missy," said the man in a low empty
voice.

"Go home, Caroline; go straight home this moment."

Caroline had never heard her cousin speak in that tone, and it was
partly in tears, partly in wrath that she answered,

"I will _not_ go straight home, Lindsay Holt, and you needn't talk
to me that way, either! Uncle Joe himself asked Mr. Barker--"

She began glibly enough, but even to her simple consciousness the
story wavered and rang false, with this stricken, passive man before
her. Her voice faltered, she choked.... Had Uncle Joe really asked
this man to get the emeralds? Was it possible that--Lindsay laughed
disagreeably.

"If you've quite finished, Caroline, will you go home?" he demanded,
his eyes still on the revolver.

She gulped painfully; her faith tottered on the last brink.

"Oh, let it go at that; can't you?" the man broke in roughly. "What
difference does it make to you, eh, how this part of the job gets
done? Have I made you any trouble yet? My goose is cooked, all
right, and we'll--we'll talk that over, later, when Missy goes,
but--but couldn't you"--he looked almost appealingly at the young
fellow,--"couldn't we--it's all there in the suit-case--"

"It was going under my bed Lin--I'd have been careful," Caroline was
hoping against hope, now.

"You see, Missy," said the man quickly, in almost his old manner,
"you see how it turns out. It was a bad plan, I guess--you can see
how your cousin takes it. You'll have to--to tell your uncle how it
worked; it's one on me, all right."

"Suppose we put it all back and--oh Lord, what's the use?" he ended
suddenly.

"Cut it short--what the hell do I care?"

He dropped suddenly into the chair behind him; his head fell over on
his arms, and the stiff hat rolled along the floor.

The young man stared curiously at him, but the weakness was genuine;
every muscle was relaxed.

Lindsay's face softened a little. "As far as that goes, you're quite
right," he said curtly, "though it's a little late in the day. Look
here, Caroline. Mr.--Mr. Barker and I don't agree very well on the
best way to teach people to lock their houses. I--it seems to me a
pretty poor joke. Uncle Joe never meant it to go quite so far, I'm
quite sure," he concluded jerkily. "I--I want to do the best thing
all round, but," looking anxiously towards her for a second, "this
is a little too--a little too--"

Her face cleared at his change of tone. "I know," she returned
eagerly, "I know just what you mean, Lindsay. I think so, too.
Anybody would think--"

"That's it," he said briefly.

"You say you thought so yourself at first," she added, looking
uncomfortably at the bent figure in the chair, "and that made him
feel--"

"Well, well, I understand now," Lindsay interrupted irritably, "it's
all right now, Caroline. Hadn't you better go? Mr.--Mr. Barker and I
will come along later."

"Oh, I'll wait and go with you, Lin," she returned, almost assured,
now, "why do I have to go first?"

The man lifted his head; at sight of the young fellow's nervous
perplexity he smiled faintly.

"Suppose you run along, Missy," he suggested; "your cousin and I
want to talk business, and--and then I must be hurrying on--hurrying
on," he repeated vaguely, with dazed eyes. He raised his hand to
his head; Lindsay started forward, the revolver loose in his hand.

"Where did you get that pin?" he cried sharply. "Give that to me."

The man fingered the pin thoughtfully. "You're 'way off there," he
said. "That's not--that's not--"

"Not one of your 'jokes'?" Lindsay's voice rang disagreeably. "I
happen to know the contrary. I'll trouble you to hand it over. I'll
soon know to whom it belongs."

Caroline, hanging over the sill, lost in talkative admiration of the
Great Dane, was oblivious for the moment of the room behind her.

"It belongs to my son," said the man. There was a moment of silence.
Outside the great hound whined softly.

"His name Barker, too?" Lindsay asked coldly, half rising.

"No, sir. His name is James Wardwell," said the man defiantly.

Lindsay sprang to his feet.

"That's a dirty lie!" he shouted. He stood over the man, careless
of the revolver. "And you'll pay for it, too!"

Caroline stared aghast at them.

"Look out for the gun," the man warned him, and, as with a flush of
mortification Lindsay mastered his weapon, he added quietly, "you
can't be too careful with firearms."

Lindsay gritted his teeth.

"You--you--" he began furiously. The man met his eyes for a second,
then with a dark, slow blush, dropped his arm.

The boy drew back uncertainly.

"What's the good of lying like that?" he said, "how's it going to
help you?"

The man looked at the floor.

"Don't be a fool--how's it going to?" Lindsay repeated irritably.

The other did not move.

"Is that the truth?" Lindsay's voice was strained and worried.

The man drew a long, uneven breath. "Yes," he answered.

Lindsay glanced at the suit-case, at the man in the chair, at the
revolver.

"Jimmy!" he muttered, "Jimmy B.!" For the first time since he had
last addressed her, he noticed Caroline. He frowned, then suddenly
his face cleared.

"Look here," he said, his eye again on the man, "do you know where
all that silver belongs?"

She nodded.

"I help Selma sometimes."

"Could you put it back so nobody would know?"

"Oh, yes," she answered him, "and the--things from the bureau, too?"

His lips curled scornfully and his hold on the revolver tightened.

"A thorough job, wasn't it?" he muttered, then controlling himself
he answered evenly, "Oh, yes, might as well get 'em all back. We'll
just step in the library a minute."

The man got up and went before him into the library, stumbling as he
walked.

Lindsay watched him drop into a seat and stood in front of him.

"What proof have you got that what you said in there is true?" he
asked abruptly, "before we leave the house, I must know."

"Proof?" the man repeated, "proof?" He stared almost vacantly at
Lindsay.

"Why, yes," the boy answered impatiently.

"You say you're the father of one of the most brilliant men in my
class, you wear the pin of his society--a pin I happen to know he
lost recently--and I find you stealing my aunt's spoons! For God's
sake, what's the meaning of it?"

The man twisted his fingers together and moistened his lips.

"It kind of settled on me all at once," he said in a hollow voice,
"I felt it since morning. She scared me so to begin with--she came
like a ghost--and then the dog finished me. I had one o' them once
and he nearly did me up--turned on me. Jim pulled him off," he
added, "but they give me a turn whenever I see 'em."

Lindsay stamped angrily.

"Will you prove what you say? Or shall we discuss it at the
station-house?"

The man raised his hand deprecatingly. "No, no;" he said hastily,
"no--that's what I don't want. That's why I--that's the reason I
don't--good Lord, don't you know you've given me a half a dozen
chances, if I'd had the nerve for the risk? Why, I c'd've butted
that gun out of your hand twice in the last ten minutes, you young
fool! How long d'ye suppose it would take a husky man to back you
into one closet and Missy into another and walk off with the stuff?
Hey?"

His eyes flashed, he threw back his head and breathed hard, a
cornered animal. Lindsay felt a tingle of excitement run down his
spine; for a moment there was danger in the air.

"I--I notice you didn't see your way to all this," he said
scornfully. But he blushed as he spoke, the man saw it, and Lindsay
knew he saw it; he winced and drew himself up in a boyish attempt to
save the situation.

"It's quite true--I'm not in the habit of catching house thieves,"
he said, drawling a little, "and I doubt if many of them are quite
such accomplished liars as you appear to be; but my stroke will
improve, I've no doubt, as we go on. Would you mind getting up and
'coming along with me' as they call it, I believe?"

The man made no answer, but raised his hands high above his head.

"If you'll look in that left vest pocket, there's a little leather
case there," he said, "and--and you'd better take the pin, too, I
guess. I'd be obliged if you'd say you found it somewhere; I never
should've put it on."

Somewhat clumsily Lindsay extricated the leather case, cursing his
awkwardness and the patience of the man.

A worn little photograph of a boy of eight or nine was in his hand;
across the bottom was scrawled in a childish hand, "Daddy, from your
son James."

He drew a long breath.

"That's Jimmy, all right," he said dully.

"If you'll just tear it up," said the man. "It's all I've got, and
nobody'd know but some friend that--that would be lookin' for the
likeness."

Lindsay threw the picture on the floor.

"I won't believe it--its too sickening!" he cried, "Jim Wardwell's a
gentleman! I--I--why I admired him more than--good God, he's a
_friend_ of mine!"

The man smiled faintly.

"Oh, Jimmy has fine friends," he said almost complacently, "he's
always gone with the best. He's very particular."

Lindsay's forehead was a network of pain and doubt.

"But Jimmy has plenty of money," he insisted, "he always had
the--his things--oh, it's idiotic! You're crazy, that's all."

"Oh, yes, he always had plenty," the man said simply.

In the pause that followed they heard the soft chink of silver
through the wall; Caroline was evidently busy.

Lindsay twisted his face into an ugly smile.

"And I thought he was the squarest of the lot," he said slowly,
"I've said so often. We all did. Pretty easy, weren't we?"

"He is!" The man half rose, but fell back with a grunt of pain.

"Oh, _damn_ this heart!" he complained fretfully. "I don't know
what's the matter with me. That fortune woman, she knew. Last week
it was I went. 'You're making a plan to end up your business,' she
says to me, 'and so you will, mister, but not the way you think.
There's some trouble coming to you and a child's mixed up in it.
Look out for strange dogs,' she says, they all tell me that--'and
run no risks this month. I don't just like the looks of your hand,'
she says. And when I saw that child, it was all up with me, I
thought. I didn't think the machine would ever get started again.
And then that infernal dog...."

"We were speaking of--of--did you say that Jim--" Lindsay's voice
sounded strange, even to himself.

The man blinked a moment.

"What?" he said vaguely, "what about Jim? Oh--he don't know anything
about it, of course. I sh'd think you'd know enough for that. That's
what I'm telling you, if you'd keep still a minute."

He stared thoughtfully at the floor and Lindsay waited. Caroline ran
up the front stairs, and he had counted each step before the man
went on.

"So I sent the money regular every quarter," he muttered, as if
continuing some tale, "and I'd go to see him sometimes all dressed
up, and I tried to talk like he did. He thought I was traveling and
didn't want to be bothered. But I couldn't see him much--was I going
to drag him down, just as I'd got him started right? Not much. 'Go
and visit your friends, o' course,' I used to tell him, 'and you can
write to me.' The best schools I picked out, the very best. And they
came high. But I was good for it."

He shifted in his chair and rubbed his eyes.

"I had a hunch when I bought the ticket," he muttered. "It just come
over me--'you ought not to go to a place you got the idea of from
Jim,' something seemed to say to me, 'it's unlucky.' And everything
so still, and the stuff so easy--'twas like finding it in the road.
And the last time, too--the last time."

"But Jim--he thought--" Lindsay prompted. A dreadful curiosity
held him.

"So then he wrote, 'of course it's Yale, dad,' he wrote, 'we're all
going up together. You don't mind if it costs a little to get
settled, do you?' And was I going to go to him--he was head of his
class, mind you--and say, the Trust has treated me the way I
wouldn't treat a dog--it's all up with me and you? I can go back and
be foreman again at the works--we're bought up, chewed up and spit
out like a wad o' paper?' Not much, I guess. No. Here's where I quit
the honesty game, I said, for it don't pay. You stole my patent, and
I shut up because I couldn't afford to fight you, and you raised me
and raised me--and let me into the firm when you knew it was going
to bust! Now, I says, since my boy's education has been stole from
me, I'll steal it back, I says, and only from them that can afford
it, too! And I'll use no lawyer to do it, either, and we'll have no
trick-work with papers. I'll get it straight from the wives and
daughters of the big thieves that pass the plate on Sundays."

Lindsay listened to Caroline moving over their heads; her steps
seemed the only reality in this horrid dream.

"It--it will just about kill Jim," he said slowly.

"It would have killed him not to go to college," the man returned
sharply, "and he had a right to go."

"But, good heavens, there are ways--he could have earned money--he's
clever enough to work his way through a dozen colleges!" Lindsay
cried despairingly.

"There wasn't any working his way through for _my_ boy," said the
man, with a cunning grin; "I've done enough o' that for the family,
thank you. So did his mother--she died of it. No, there's money
enough for all, and it only needs a little planning. The thing is,
never take a risk. Wait for a sure thing. Take from the kind that
takes from _your_ kind--they'll never miss it. Work alone, and never
try to get too much. Who are the ones that get caught? The 'pals'!
No, I've just done for myself, and contented to sell at a big loss,
and only wanted to get my twenty-five hundred a year for Jim, and
something over for his vacations--those camps cost a lot--and enough
to dress as I may need to."

Lindsay cleared his throat.

"Do you mean to say that Jim never asked you what your business
was?"

"He didn't know I ever changed till last month. He thought I
traveled for the Comp'ny. Of course he didn't like that any too
well--you know, you wouldn't expect him to, brought up as he's
been--and I guess he thought 'twould be kinder to me not to
mention it much. He thought I didn't know, but I did. Last
month--last month--" the man paused and his mouth worked,
though he bit his lips.

"Well, last month?" Lindsay repeated pitilessly.

"I got my hunch to quit. That fortune woman and--and other things.
The doctor told me to keep quiet and not get on my nerve. And I sort
of fixed it up with Jim in a letter. I told him I'd sold out my
interest in the firm and I was going to send him one more thousand
for graduatin' with and I was going to let him try for himself after
that. I knew that was all right, because he's told me of plenty of
rich young swells who had to. Fathers believed in it."

"He was going with Buck Williamson on the ranch," said Lindsay
slowly.

"That's it! Buck Williamson. He asked me wouldn't I look 'em up
after they got settled and try it out there. It was an awful nice
letter," said the man softly, "he's a real gentleman."

Lindsay jerked his head toward the dining-room.

"Was this the 'thousand'?" he asked coldly.

The man nodded.

"I've never been with him more than a day or two, you see, and I
thought I'd go up to New Haven this spring--when he graduated, and
see him. Just a day or two. And then I was planning to drop out. Of
course I never meant to see him much. I was always deadly afraid
something'd happen, and I didn't want to get connected up with Jim.
But I've been careful. There's not a line o' writing anywhere, and
the man that sold the stuff for me in Jersey City is close as wax."

"But your friends--" Lindsay was wrung with an angry pity.

"I don't care for much of anybody but Jim," said the man.

Caroline was moving restlessly about in the dining-room again.
Lindsay shook himself nervously.

"Of course, this is very awkward for me," he began, "I mean--I--oh,
the devil! You know what I've got to do, of course?"

The man looked appealingly at him. "You've got it all back," he said
quickly, "and you know Jim--"

"Yes, plague take it--I know Jim," the boy muttered, "we all know
Jim."

"Known well, isn't he?" the man inquired eagerly, "there's no
cleverer scholar there, much cleverer, I mean, is there?"

Lindsay shook his head. "Not that amounts to anything," he said
shortly.

"I'll bet there's no better fellow there than Jim--none of the big
bugs?"

"There is no better fellow anywhere," said Lindsay.

Caroline tapped fretfully on the door. "Aren't we ever going, Lin?"
she begged; "it's all put back."

"Yes, yes, in a minute!" he answered, and turned to the man. "I'm
damned sorry to have to do it," he began, "it's a horrible thing to
do, but I can't see that there are any two ways about it. I don't
want to hear you say any more. If you'll come quietly, well and
good. If it was anybody else--but in my uncle's house--and the
community--and--well, will you come?"

The man sighed. He looked ten years older. "All right," he said, "I
didn't know but--well, never mind. My nerve's gone. I never had a
failure, you see. An' I always knew I couldn't stand one. Never even
left a trail. I couldn't afford to, workin' as I did. I always knew
'twas bound to come, though, and here it is. But it's hard. Jim was
telling me last month about this singer that he'd heard was so
careless, and I noted it down for use some day. You have to notice
those things. He never said his friends lived here. I--it makes me
feel dreadful when I think how he'd feel if he knew I'd been working
his _friends_ this way--he'd never stand for that, Jim wouldn't. It
makes me feel--oh, well, what's the odds? But I wish you didn't
belong to Yale College."

Lindsay scowled and motioned to the door.

"Shut up and come on, will you?" he blurted.

The man got up.

"I guess I won't see Jim again, then," he said, "will I? Of course
there isn't one chance in a hundred he'll ever know. But I couldn't
explain why I didn't go up to New Haven, nor send the thousand, and
it'll be five years, anyhow--ten, maybe. And I shan't hold out that.
The doctor only gave me two."

"Ten years? Oh, no!" Lindsay cried.

"It's grand larceny," said the man simply.

"Lin, Lin, come _on_!" called Caroline.

"You've got the pin, and I'll tear the picture up," said the man.
"I've got it all planned, o' course--I give the name of Barker.
And--and _if_ Jim ever says anything to you or any of his friends
about me being mean about the thousand, when I'd promised it, just
kind of give a hint, will you, that things may have happened so's I
couldn't? I hope he'll think I died. I wish he was through Yale,
though. The thousand won't make any difference with graduatin', will
it?"

Lindsay swallowed hard; his nerves were strained to snapping.

"Good God, no!" he shouted. He stepped to the French window, opened
it, and threw the revolver over the sill.

"Get out!" he said briefly, turning to the man, "get out of my
sight! If Jim ever receives another penny from you, I'll tell him
all I know."

The man swayed towards the chair. "Do you mean it?" he gasped,
"honest?"

He began to sob and choke a little, and turning half bent over the
chair, hunted with his hand for his hat.

"Get out!" Lindsay repeated violently, looking persistently
sidewise.

The man leaned over and fumbled for the picture on the floor, found
it and straightened himself.

Suddenly he leaped back and fell into the chair again; a dreadful
pallor reached the roots of his hair.

"All up, I guess--twice to-day--'Jim good-by," he said very quickly,
and rolled against Lindsay, the picture tight in his hand.

"Lin! If you don't come pretty soon"--Caroline pushed open the door
a little.

"Hush! Run and bring that whisky!" her cousin whispered, his face
drawn and frightened.

She waited outside while he labored mysteriously, breathing hard.

"Is Mr. Barker sick, Lin?" she whispered fearfully when he came back
to the door.

"Y--yes. I guess he's pretty sick," he said slowly, stepping out
with her and turning the knob carefully. The dining-room reeked with
the whisky on his hands and his coat.

"We'll go for the doctor," he went on, "both of us, because we'll
have to fix--I'll have to talk to you on the way. You needn't hurry
so, Caroline. There's no--we don't have to hurry." He tried the
outside door twice, to make sure it was latched, and glanced hastily
at the library windows.

"I'd better wire Uncle Joe," he said half to himself; "he'll know
what to do--oh, there's the dog. Come on, Hamlet--he's Buck
Williams's--gentle as a kitten."

"Yes, he'll know," she repeated, contentedly, reaching for Hamlet's
black muzzle.

"But I don't think that was right, do you, Lin, even for a joke?"
she queried, following him down the side path. The big hound padded
on behind them.

"No," he agreed briefly.

"Wasn't it funny he had one of your pins?" She was trotting rapidly,
to keep up with him.

Lindsay stopped short and almost faced her. He looked very young and
tired.

"I swear, Caroline, I believe worse men have worn it!" he said.




V

A PILLAR OF SOCIETY


Caroline slipped out of the woodshed with Henry D. Thoreau barking
under his breath at her heels, and struck across the dusty mountain
road into the trail. The advantages of the woodshed were many: it
was cool and dark, the stacked wood had a soothing odor and a neat,
restful appearance, and one was more or less forgotten there. More
important, it lay directly under the long living-room, and sounds
carried easily through the primitive plank floor. Up to now the
murmur of the company's voices had been a negligible quantity, a
background for thought, merely, but suddenly a familiar intonation
had risen higher.

"Why, certainly, Caroline can show you--she knows all the trails.
Yes, indeed, she'd be delighted, I'm sure.... Oh, any time you
prefer. Don't let her dawdle along, though; she's such a strange
child--sometimes it will take her ten minutes to get across the
road, and then another time she will be as quick as a flash. I'll
see where she is."

But even as the boards squeaked above her head, Caroline had fled,
and Henry D. Thoreau, smarting from the indignity of her brown,
berry-stained hand circling his muzzle, was expressing his feelings
to the yellow birches and ground pine.

"Oh shut up, won't you, Henry D.?" she urged him indignantly, "do
you want to take that fat old tiresome lady around our nice
mountain? I don't b'lieve you do. You can be called 'girlie' if you
want to--I don't. She is so hot and she creaks so when she walks! I
_had_ to hold your nose."

Henry D., who had only wanted an explanation, subsided, and they
trudged on in silence, Indian file, along the narrow trail.

The early afternoon sun filtered down through the birch and beech
leaves on Caroline's brown head and Henry D.'s brindled back, pine
needles crunched under their feet, thick glossy moss twinkled with
last night's rain. They sniffed the damp, wholesome mold
delightedly; from time to time Caroline kicked the rotten stump of
some pithy, crumbling trunk or marked patterns with her finger nail
in the thin new moss of some smooth slab. Indian pipes and glowing
juniper berries embroidered the way; pale, late anemones, deceived
by the cold mountain weather, sprang up between the giant mushrooms.
It was as still as eternity.

The wood grew steadily thicker, the light pierced down in golden
arrows only, the silence was almost oppressive. Caroline stepped
suddenly out of the tiny path, pushed aside a clump of fern, buried
her arm up to the elbow in a hollow stump and produced a large
crumbling molasses cooky.

"Just where I left it, Henry D., just exactly!" she whispered
delightedly. "I wish now I'd left 'em both, but I didn't feel able
to spare 'em at the time."

They ate the cooky pleasantly, Henry D. receiving every third bite
with scrupulous accuracy.

"I used to think maybe that huckleberry-boy followed us up and
discovered our places, but this proves he don't," she announced, as
the last crumb disappeared; "he's not so smart as he thinks he is,
is he, Henry D.?"

They trotted on, moving more quickly as the faint, regular crash of
an axe on wood came nearer and nearer. A barbed-wire fence had
sprung up unaccountably in the wood, following a devious course
among the thick trees, and as they scrambled carefully under it,
Henry D. pausing with accustomed gallantry while his mistress
disentangled two petticoats and an unfortunate stocking, a little
gray-shingled cottage jumped out suddenly from the gray beeches, and
they emerged into its front yard.

It was a ridiculously operatic little cottage, composed chiefly of
bulging balconies, scarlet and yellow with geraniums and
nasturtiums, casement windows with tiny leaded panes, and double
Dutch doors, evidently practicable. It had all the air of having
retired from the other scenery to practice for its own act, and it
seemed highly probable that a chorus of happy short-skirted
peasantry would skip out from behind it and tunefully relate the
fortunes of the heroine within.

But the only person in sight was obviously impossible of such
classification. Though she was chopping wood, and chopping it very
well, though she wore what is sometimes called a Mother Hubbard
wrapper and a stiff, clean blue-checked apron, she was not in the
least a peasant. Her figure was tall and spare, her hair gray and
drawn into an uncompromising knot, her face wrinkled and shrewd, her
eyes soft, and full of the experience that middle-age brings to the
native American woman who has lived all her life in the
sparsely-settled country districts.

Her face relaxed at sight of her visitors. "How d'ye do?" she called
cheerfully, "ma want anything?"

"I don't believe so," Caroline returned sociably, "I've just come
up, that's all."

"I thought maybe your ma was worried about them shirt-waists, but
she needn't be: I'll have 'em back by Friday, sure. It'll be all I
can do, though--he's on the rampage these days, and I've got my
hands full, I tell you."

"Is Old Grumpy bad to-day?" Caroline inquired.

"Bad? Child, that old fellow is just about the worst I ever saw, and
I've seen plenty. What's on his mind the Lord knows, but it's a
lesson to us all to keep our tempers and not have secret thoughts
preying on us night and day! Just now he told me the truth for once.
'I'm so worried I can't digest, Luella,' he says to me, 'and I
digest so damnably that it's enough to worry an archangel!' There--I
shouldn't 'a' said that before you, but--"

"Oh, I know 'damn,' Luella," Caroline assured her, "and it isn't as
if you said it purposely, anyway; you just repeated it. It makes all
the difference."

"I guess it does," Luella assented, "s'long's you understand it. But
then, you understand everything, more or less, 'seems to me. Where
you picked it all up at your age--"

"What's that, Luella? Who is talking out there? What's going on
_now_ behind my back?"

A petulant and gray-haired gentleman rushed out at them, very much
like a wiry Scotch terrier, and glared fiercely at Caroline and
Henry D. Thoreau.

"Nothin's goin' on behind your back that I know of, Mr. Wortley,"
Luella returned composedly. "This little girl comes up to see me
every once 'n a while--I do washing for her mother at one of the
cottages--and we were just talkin' back and forth, that's all."

"You fried that liver!" the gentleman burst forth abruptly, "you
know you fried it, Luella! I might as well have eaten a shingle off
the cottage--it's killing me! Ugh! As if I hadn't enough to bear
without being murdered with fried liver!"

"I do' know what you've got to bear, Mr. Wortley," and Luella
gathered her apron full of kindlings, "but you needn't add fried
liver to it, 'cause it was broiled."

"Never!" exploded the fiery gentleman.

"I'd ought to know," said Luella firmly, "I had the grid-iron to
wash."

"As for children," he veered off again, "you couldn't have poorer
company. Think what they'll grow into--think!"

"Some don't turn out so bad," she reminded him, starting toward the
house.

"Ah, but when are you going to decide that they _have_ 'turned
out'?" he demanded, trotting angrily beside her, "tell me that, will
you? Perhaps you imagine that when they're of age, legally men and
women, and you've managed to keep 'em out of the State Reform School
up to then, you're justified in thinking they've 'turned out'? Hey?"

"Oh, now, I wouldn't go on so about the State Reform School, Mr.
Wortley," Luella urged pacifically, "that's awful. I always say the
young ones mean well, mostly; there ain't many that set out to be
bad a-purpose. Only, accordin' to their judgment--"

"Their judgment! _Their_ judgment! For God's sake!" he thundered,
and darted into the house, slamming the door so that the casements
rattled.

"I guess you'd better run on, dear," Luella suggested, "he's bad
to-day. Some days I just have my hands full with him, and then again
he'll be real pleasant and amusin'--he'll say the cutest things. But
he's perturbed to-day, and that's a fact. You stop in 'long in the
afternoon, when he takes his nap and I'm at my ironing, and we'll
have a good visit."

Caroline nodded soberly and took up her journey again, not a little
depressed; he had been such a whirlwind of a gentleman.

Unconsciously she followed a tiny, all-but-overgrown trail that led
straight up the hill against which the cottage was built and lost
itself, apparently, in the thick wood at the top. A belt of tall
beeches half way up blotted out everything behind it, and the dozens
of chipmunks and red squirrels that scurried hither and yon, the fat
hen-partridge schooling her brood under Caroline's very nose, the
flame-colored, translucent lizards slipping under mossy roots at her
feet, showed the neglect into which the trail had fallen. She pushed
on, hardly certain now that she had not lost it, or that it had ever
led anywhere, when she stumbled suddenly over a handsome meerschaum
pipe, still warm, and colored to a nicety. She picked it up, poked
experimentally at the ashes with a twig, smelled it distastefully
and stared about her. No one was in sight, and she had walked at
least a quarter of a mile before she encountered a young man sitting
in a dejected attitude on the stump of a yellow birch.

He was peering gloomily into the hemlocks opposite him, his hands
were deep in his pockets, his feet crossed at an uncomfortable
angle. He was a pale young man with dark circles under darker eyes,
and an expression of such settled melancholy that Caroline lost no
time in assuaging it as far as she could.

"Here it is," she remarked, holding out the pipe, "how do you do?"

The young man started violently.

"Holy Bridget, who are you?" he demanded. "How did you get here?
This is private property--didn't you see the sign?"

"There wasn't any sign the way we came," she returned placidly, "we
came over the mountain. Don't you want your pipe?"

The young man blushed and scowled. "Thank you very much," he said,
extending a thin, brown hand, "I'm afraid I was rather rude. Where
did you find it?"

"Oh, down there," she answered vaguely.

He handled the pipe lovingly, knocked it against the birch stump and
cleared it further with a curl of the polished, champagne-tinted
bark.

"Nice dog," he suggested, "what's his name?"

"Henry D. Thoreau," she replied, studying the green scarab in his
necktie and the heavy seal-ring on his left hand.

"For heaven's sake! Who named him?"

"My Uncle Joe," she returned simply, "because he takes to the woods
whenever he gets the chance. Was that pin a bug once?"

"Not since I ran across it," said the young man, "before that, I
can't say. Has your uncle any other animals?"

"Oh, yes," she assured him. "There's the donkey, his name is
Rose-Marie; and the baby's cat, his name is Pharaoh Meneptah, but
the baby calls him Coo-coo; and there's Miss Honey's rabbits,
they're all named Eleanor, because you can't tell them apart, and
one name does just as well; and the canary, his name is Jean and
Edouard de Reszke."

The young man burst into laughter and fell off the stump abruptly.

"Those are fine names, all of them," he declared, picking himself up
with great solicitude for the pipe, "but why did the canary get
two?"

"Because Aunt Edith likes Jean the best, but Uncle Joe says there's
more to Edouard," she explained, "so they named him both, because
Uncle Joe said anything was better than a divided family."

"That's right," said the young man, "anything is."

His face, which had looked for a moment merry and boyish, darkened
again, and his big eyes glowered intently at the shadowy hemlocks.

"Anything," he added, in a low voice, "but a sacrifice of principle,
a sacrifice of truth, as it actually is, to the petty conventions of
a rotten society!"

With that he sat his teeth hard and pulling a leather pouch out of
his pocket, began stuffing the pipe decisively. Caroline waited for
him to continue, but as he lit the pipe and puffed at it in
silence, she concluded that the interview was at an end, and started
up the path.

"You'd better not--" he began, but stopped suddenly and appeared to
reconsider. "Oh, I don't know," he added, "it might be better, after
all. Go along."

The trail was little more than a worn line in the grass, now; soon
it turned sharply to the left, skirted the wood, and led to a tiny,
dilapidated cottage. Caroline had more than once passed it by under
the impression that it was abandoned, or used perhaps for storing
ice or wood; but to-day a thin curl of smoke stained the blue above
it and through the open door of the one living-room that formed its
ground-floor she saw a scarlet Navajo blanket, on which reposed a
magnificent snowy Angora cat. A great green bough covered one of the
walls, and a few chairs, a square pine table and a guitar flung
against a pile of bright cushions, completed the furniture. At the
further end of the room, stretched upon the mate to the Angora's
blanket, lay a young woman, sobbing violently.

Caroline hesitated, but Henry D. Thoreau recognized grief, and knew
perfectly well what to do. Stepping quietly over to the prostrate
figure he encircled it once, looking for a point of vantage, then
selecting two little white, pink-tipped fingers, he licked them
caressingly.

The sobbing ceased: the girl drew a longer shaking breath.

"Is that you, Mimi?" she said huskily, "I didn't know you cared as
much as--oh, what is that?"

Her hand had fallen on the little bull-dog's smooth, stiff coat and
she started up in surprise. Caroline smiled shyly into her big,
stained gray eyes.

"It's all right--Henry D. never bites--do you feel bad?" she asked.

The girl pushed back a handful of crinkly, chestnut hair from her
damp face and rose, shaking out her skirts.

"Y--yes," she said, frankly, "yes, I do. Do you know why?"

"No. Why?" Caroline inquired.

"Because I can't make huckleberry bread," the girl assured her
solemnly. "I--I've been trying all the morning. Look in there."

Caroline peered into the little lean-to, filled to over-flowing with
a stove, some tin cooking pans, a table full of soiled dishes and a
case of kitchen sundries, half unpacked.

"You did get it all over, didn't you?" she observed cheerfully,
noting the prints of doughy fingers on oven and chairs and the
burned, odorous wreck, resting in soggy isolation in the middle of
the floor. "You cooked it a little too much, maybe."

"Maybe," the girl assented listlessly. "I was going to have it for
luncheon. The woman promised to be here by ten o'clock, and I got
the breakfast well enough--after a fashion--but she hasn't come, and
I'm s-so hungry!"

Her eyes filled again. "It's simply filthy here," she murmured. "Do
you know anybody we could depend on--oh, how stupid of me, of course
you don't."

"There's Luella," Caroline suggested, "she's right near here, and
she makes lovely huckleberry bread. Shall I go get her? Old
Gr'--the gentleman that she keeps house for takes his nap now, and
I know she could come."

The look of relief on the girl's face was enough, and Caroline
hurried out, leaving Henry D. Thoreau, who seemed to feel
responsible for his hostess's peace of mind, snuggled in her lap.

She burst into Luella's placid afternoon kitchen, big with her news,
bustling about excitedly, while Luella methodically packed a
market-basket with half a cold chicken, an untouched loaf of
huckleberry bread, a pan of tiny biscuits and a glass of currant
jelly.

"Butter I know they've got, and milk, for I see Wilkins stop up
there this mornin' as I come down, and I wondered who on earth had
taken that God-forsaken little cottage. 'Twasn't occupied last
season. Cryin' right out loud, was she? She must 'a been all tired
out to make such a fuss over a tin o' huckleberry bread. I s'pose
she hasn't got many breakfasts in her life. Ten to one 'twas Myra
Tenny that disappointed her: it sounds like her. Always undertakin'
more 'n any one woman c'd possibly attend to, and then goin' back on
you. Pretty cross himself, was he? Well, they'd had words, most
likely. They take it hard at first. They ain't long married, of
course, if they're young as you say. Poor things. There, I guess
that's about all."

Luella closed the kitchen door softly and they hurried along the
trail.

"He's off as sound as a baby," she confided to Caroline, "sometimes
he'll sleep two hours, he's up so much in the night."

As the relief expedition neared the cottage, Henry D. Thoreau
bounded out to greet them, the girl behind him, still flushed and
swollen-eyed, but with her thick, reddish hair newly braided in a
crown around her head.

"Good afternoon," Luella called cheerily, "I hear you're in trouble
up here! You ought to let me known--I'm the one for jobs like this.
Just let me into the kitchen, Miss----" She paused, but as the girl
made no attempt to help her, continued easily, "well, I should say
so! Got a little burnt, didn't it? Never mind, you ought to a' seen
my first corn-meal muffins! Now you just step out and rest a minute,
dear, and by the time you've called your husband I'll have a little
lunch scratched up and you'll feel so different you won't know
yourself. It's surprisin' how distressed you c'n get on an empty
stomach. 'Tis your husband, isn't it, or is it your brother?"

"No, it's not--yes. It--it's not my brother," the girl said in a
low voice.

"No," Luella repeated soothingly, "no, I see. That's a fine cat,
ain't it? I've read of 'em--Angora, ain't it?--but I never saw one.
They say they're mostly deaf. Is that one?"

"Yes. No--I don't know. I don't believe she is," the girl murmured,
brokenly. She seemed newly distressed; her lips, very red against
her white cheeks, quivered, her full breast strained against her
white linen blouse.

Luella strode lightly about the disorderly little kitchen; she had
forgotten the very presence of the girl, it seemed, for as she
gathered the soiled dishes, coaxed the fire, filled the kettle and
hastily removed the traces of the ill-fated huckleberry bread, she
hummed a tune and appeared to see only her work.

Caroline was on her knees before the Angora and knew nothing of the
flight of time, though it was really hardly more than a quarter of
an hour before the kitchen rivalled Luella's in neatness and the
pine table in the living-room, covered with a fresh cloth, and shiny
plated silver, only waited its host.

"Now if you'll step out and call your husband, Miss--I didn't just
get the name?" said Luella invitingly.

The girl rose from the chair where she had been sitting, motionless,
except for her eyes, which had followed every movement of the older
woman. She stood very straight and threw her head back with a
gesture almost defiant.

"My name is Dorothy Hartley," she declared, and ran abruptly out of
the cottage.

"Well, well," Luella shook her head whimsically, "she's pretty well
wrought up, isn't she? Sweet little thing, too--real loveable, I
sh'd say. It don't seem possible he'd be mean to her. But o' course
he wants his breakfast fit to eat, just the same. I put a place for
you, Car'line, 'cause I know you c'n eat, no matter what time
'tis--you're 's empty's a bag. There he comes--my, but he's
haughty! He looks like somebody in one o' those novels, don't he,
now?"

They came slowly up the path, hand in hand, like children, her gray
eyes on the ground, his black ones challenging the world. The clear
mountain air carried his words easily to the two in the door:

"Now, dearest, be brave! Remember, we are right, and we know we are
right."

She clutched his hand nervously, but made no reply.

"Come right in," Luella urged them hospitably, "you must be 'most
starved."

"Oh, no," he assured her, with a loyal glance at the girl, "I--I had
a good breakfast, didn't I, dear?"

But his eyes brightened at sight of the half chicken and the omelet,
glowing in a parsley wreath, and he had broken one of the puffy
rolls and plunged into a great cup of coffee before he addressed
Caroline.

"You seem to be a valuable person to know," he observed,
"you and Matthew Arnold or John Greenleaf Whittier or
what-ever-his-name-is."

Caroline looked embarrassed and helped herself to jelly.

"You have helped my--we are very much obliged to you, I am sure,"
he turned to address Luella, who was passing from stove to table,
"aren't we, dearest?"

The girl sat with her hands in her lap, staring at her plate.

"Yes, of course," she agreed, "certainly."

"If you could come every day--they told me I could find some one to
do that--it would be a great accommodation," he went on, with a
worried look at the sad face opposite him, "and anything it might be
worth, I am sure, Mrs.----"

"Judd, Luella Judd," she supplied, briskly. "Now, dear, try to eat a
little, do! That omelet'll do you good. And that's a lovely piece o'
breast I cut you off. It was all right my bringin' it, for the old
gentleman never touches cold meat and the jelly's my own. There,
that's right. I thought you'd like it, once you began. There's no
need to tempt Car'line and your husband, is there? But that's all
right: young folks ought to eat--I never grudged mine a crumb, and
the Lord knows they eat me out of house and home."

The young man, indeed, ate voraciously, and under Luella's kindly
domineering the hostess herself cleared her plate. The hot coffee
brought the color to her cheeks, and she had even smiled at Henry D.
Thoreau. Caroline had never seen anyone prettier. She had a great
dimple in either cheek, and her gray eyes smiled with the sweetest
confidence into the black eyes opposite: any one could see that they
loved each other very much, even if they had "had words."

"Just a little more o' the huckleberry bread, dear?" Luella urged
her. "I've been sort o' plannin' out how I c'd manage to get here
every day, and I guess I can, if you'll be content to wait a little
for your breakfast. My old gentleman don't have anything but a cup
o' coffee in the morning, an' I c'd be over here by ha' past eight,
easy enough, Mr. Hartley, if that suited you--"

"Wortley, my name is Wortley," the young man interrupted, hastily.

Luella looked puzzled.

"Wortley?" she repeated, "why, that's--well, never mind, it's none
o' my business. I cert'nly thought she said Hartley, though. Well,
if you'n Mrs. Wortley _can_ wait till ha' past eight--"

"Frank, dear," the girl broke in appealingly, but the young man
shook his head.

"No, darling," he said firmly, and then looking straight at Luella,
he went on: "This lady's name is Hartley. We are not--we are not
related."

Luella stared blankly at him a moment, then turned to the girl. But
she, though she got up from her seat and going over to the young man
seized his hand and pressed it between her own, did not lift her
eyes to the woman's troubled and accusing gaze.

Luella drew a long breath, took off her checked apron and rolled it
mechanically into a bundle. Her face had hardened; only the
shrewdness was left in her eyes.

"You might 'a told me so before," she said briefly, and turned on
her heel.

The girl was crying on his shoulder. "Tell her, Frank, please tell
her why," she begged, through her sobs.

Luella faced her sternly. "He needn't trouble to tell me why,"
she said, "I know more'n you think, maybe. I know who your
father is, Mr. Wortley, an' I guess I understand pretty well
by now what his troubles are. If he forbade you marryin' each
other, he had his reasons, I don't doubt, for he's a good man,
if he is quick-tempered, an'--"

"He _didn't_ forbid our marrying," the young man broke in sharply,
glaring with ill-suppressed irritation at Luella, while he softly
patted the girl's shoulder. "He begged us on his bended knees to
marry, though I don't know how you know him."

Luella paused with her hand on the door.

"What!" she exclaimed sharply. "Then it was your folks?" She looked
at the girl.

"No, it wasn't!" Dorothy lifted her head. "They b-begged us on
_their_ b-bended knees, too," she sobbed and disappeared again.

"For the Lord's sake!" Luella muttered. Then turning fiercely on him
she took a step forward.

"Do you mean to tell me you're scoundrel enough--" she began, but
the young man--he was really only a boy--shook his head angrily.

"Not at all, not at all," he burst out with a curious likeness to
his father, "I'm no more a scoundrel than you are, Mrs. Judd, and
you'll oblige me by acting accordingly."

It was so evident that he meant what he said, he appeared so
righteously indignant, that Luella paused, dumbfounded, twisting the
apron in her hands.

"Wh-why ain't you married, then?" she demanded.

The young man surveyed her calmly. "Because I--we disapprove of
marriage," he said.

Luella turned a brick-red; her mouth opened vaguely. Though she
spoke not a word, he answered her amazed face.

"The conditions of marriage at the present day," he stated loftily,
"are not such as to lead me--to lead us to suppose that as an
institution it has accomplished its purpose. Where it is not merely
legalized--"

"Oh, Frank!" the girl moaned softly, putting her little hand over
his opened lips. He kissed it gently, but removed it.

"To say nothing of the absolute misery you can see all about you as
a result of a chain that ought long ago to have been broken, or
better still, never--"

"And before that child, too!" Luella burst out. "Caroline, you get
right up and come home. I never heard anything like it in my life.
Come this minute, now!"

Caroline rose unwillingly; she thought Luella unnecessarily severe.

"As to that," young Mr. Wortley announced composedly, "we differ
again. The sooner these matters are discussed frankly before
children, the sooner we shall have fewer unhappy men and women.
There is nothing whatever in my intentions or Miss--or Dorothy's,
to shock or affront the youngest child. I have no children myself,
but--"

"Humph!" Luella sniffed furiously, "I sh'd hope not!"

"--but _if_ I had," he pursued evenly, "I should teach them
precisely--"

"Look here," Luella interrupted roughly, "look me in the face, both
of you!"

They turned their eyes full on her, the boy's dilated to
fanaticism, glowing with obstinacy; the girl's, wet and pleading,
miserable, but full of love. Luella, with narrowed lids, bored into
those clear young eyes: no shadow of deceit, no hint of shuffling or
double-dealing could withstand that relentless scrutiny.

Slowly her face softened, her eyebrows relaxed, her hold on the
twisted apron loosened.

"I guess we better talk this over," she said decisively, closing the
door and seating herself squarely in the chair nearest it. "How old
did you say you was, Mr. Wortley?"

The forensic expression faded helplessly from the boy's face. He
clutched at it, but it failed him, and with the air of a pupil
addressing his teacher, he replied: "I didn't say, but I'm
twenty-one."

Luella nodded. "An' you can't be a day over nineteen, can you?" she
demanded of the girl. The braided chestnut head shook sadly.

"I thought not. I s'pose you've found out that your views ain't
shared by most o' the world," she proceeded, with a fine air of
impartiality.

"I--we have been very much misunderstood," said the boy stiffly,
"but I have never been in the habit of allowing other people's ideas
to affect my actions."

"You been spoiled, you mean," Luella interpolated, "I thought so.
Spoiled to death, prob'ly."

He bit his lip. "But I hope I--we are prepared for
anything--_anything_," he repeated with emphasis, "that may result
from the course we have taken. I expect the results will be
unpleasant--I expect it fully."

"I guess your expectations 'll be fulfilled right enough," she
responded promptly. "And as for bein' prepared--you remind me o' my
father, Mr. Wortley. He used to say he'd been prepared for death
since the age o' seven years, but he did hope the Lord wouldn't take
advantage of it. Is--is she prepared, too?"

He looked lovingly at the girl who crouched on the floor beside him.
"Dorothy and I think precisely the same in everything," he said
proudly, "don't we, my dearest one?"

Luella's lips twitched; she looked at the flushed arrogant young
face with irrepressible admiration.

"I reely b'lieve you think so!" she declared, and as his hand
clinched and his eyes flashed dangerously, she raised her hand with
a warning gesture.

"There, there now, I get enough o' that from your father!" she
admonished him, adding quickly, "Does he know you're here?"

"I don't know," he answered irritably, "I never supposed _he'd_ be
here. I came up here because I'd made all my plans to--and I never
let my plans be interfered with, if I can possibly avoid it. I told
the man to get it ready for me, but just before we started he
telegraphed that it was engaged for the season. But I came all the
same, because I knew this little one would be empty. Father bought
it up to protect himself. Does he know I'm here?"

Luella looked thoughtful. "I reely don't know," she said slowly.

"It'll come pretty hard on her, doin' her own work, won't it?" she
went on, watching him curiously. Then, as he started angrily, "Oh,
there ain't nobody here will come, by the day, or any other way--I
sh'd s'pose you'd known that. And as for any o' the cottage
people--heavens an' earth, Car'line, will you get up an' go home? I
don't know what's come over me to forget that child--she sits so
still--"

But as Caroline got sulkily from her seat, cowed by Luella's stern
face, Dorothy put out her hand and caught the child's dress.

"Oh! Oh!" she cried hysterically, "don't send her away--don't,
Frank! L-let me have somebody!"

"There, you see!" said Luella sadly, "you see how 'tis, Mr. Wortley.
Do you mean to say you have the heart--"

"Dorothy, I don't understand you at all," said the young man, with
evident self restraint.

"You probably do not realize the very trying position you put me in.
I hope it is not necessary to explain to you, Mrs. Judd, that if
Miss Hartley _wishes_ to marry me, she has but to say the word, and
it shall be done instantly--instantly!" he repeated with emphasis,
"as if," Luella said later, "he'd had a minister in his side
pocket."

"There, my dear, hear that!" she cried triumphantly, "now just tell
him what you want--"

"You horrid woman, you ought to be ashamed of yourself!" the girl
broke in furiously. "How dare you intimate--as if I didn't know that
Frank would do anything in the world I asked him to!"

"Oh, no, dearest," he broke in satirically, "that's a poor basis for
action in this beautiful world of ours! Catch your man and tie him
tight before he has time to change his mind. Then he'll be obliged
to stay by you--you've got him hand and foot! That is love!"

"It's just as well, sometimes, though," Luella inserted placidly.

"Do you suppose I would ever," the girl stormed, "unless I--oh,
dear, will somebody understand? Don't you know that my--that Frank
has studied this question very deeply, that it's a matter of
principle with us? If you had read all the dreadful things--"

"I am afraid, darling," he interrupted, with cold dignity, "that
if your people and mine cannot understand the position I take,
if we are actually obliged to take the matter into our own hands,
and--and run away, in fact, in order to prove our sincerity, you
can hardly expect people of a different--of less--with fewer--"

"I know what you mean, Mr. Wortley," Luella said gravely. She
rose to her feet, beckoning to Caroline, whose waist the girl
still clasped.

"I haven't got your education," she went on, with a simple humility
that became her very touchingly, "we're poor people up here, us
'natives,' and we don't get much time for books, or when we do,
we're too tired to read 'em much. I don't doubt you've been to
college, yourself, and you've prob'ly learnt a lot about the
mistakes that's been made in the world--a lot that I wouldn't
understand. But I want to tell you one thing. I'm old enough to 'a
been your mother, Mr. Wortley, my oldest boy'd 'a been twenty if
he'd lived--and I've buried two besides him. You'll know I've seen
trouble when I tell you that I've always thought we'd saved him and
Annie if we could 'a had another doctor that'd had more experience
with typhoid, and that's an awful thing to feel."

She paused a moment with somber eyes.

"I've worked hard since I was ten years old, and for the last five
years there's been nothin' but me between the children and the poor
house. You don't know much about that kind o' worry, Mr. Wortley,
an' 'taint likely you ever will. I was married when I was
nineteen--" Her eyes fell on the girl and softened lovingly, "'an
what that means in the country with seven children an' no help, an'
the winters what they are here, maybe you can guess a little. But I
tell you this: I ain't had the sorrow, all told, that's preparin'
for that girl, if you keep on like this. An' I wouldn't change my
lot for hers, nor would she, if she knew."

There was a dead silence in the room. Only the short, grunting
breaths of the sleeping dog stirred the air. The girl sat as if
turned to stone, her arm hard about Caroline; the boy stared
doubtfully at the woman, studying her plain, wrinkled face.

"I--I have plenty of money," he said, in a hollow thin little voice,
"she will always--"

"Money!" Luella's voice shook with scorn, "what's money? The Lord
knows, Mr. Wortley, I need money more'n you ever will, but let me
tell you there's things money can't buy. Can you buy children--nice
children like this one--to play with your children? Tell me that!"

"I shall never have any children," the girl's voice came in a husky,
strained whisper, "I shall be too--too miserable," she concluded
softly, and utterly to herself; she had absolutely forgotten the
others, even the boy, whose eyes turned incessantly from her face to
the older woman's.

Luella's shrewd glance enveloped the strong young figure. "I never
heard 't misery prevented 'em," she said dryly.

The boy seemed unable to move, so intense was the concentration of
his thoughts; his fingers stuck out stiffly in a purposeless, set
gesture.

"If it is true, all that we thought," he said slowly, "then no
hardship, no merely personal suffering should prevent ... the
experiment must be made ... must inevitably, _sometime_...."

"But not with her, not _her_, Mr. Wortley!" Luella cried. Her
expression turned quickly whimsical.

"You remind me o' me an' my mother one time, when I was a girl," she
cried. "I wanted to prove that you c'd raise biscuits without the
bakin' powder--I was terrible headstrong; I know what 'tis well
'nough, an' how hard 'tis to give 'way--an' she was tryin' to
persuade me.

"'I think 't least you might let me make th' experiment,' I says,
an' she turned to me--I c'n see her now an',

"'Luella,' says she, 'it's all very well for you to make th'
experiment, but I'm the one that'll have to pay the bill!' she says.

"It'll be like that with you, Mr. Wortley--you'll make th'
experiment, but _she'll_ pay!"

There was another silence.

"We always pay," Luella added thoughtfully, "it don't seem just
fair, but we do."

The young man shook himself suddenly, like a dog fresh from the
water.

"I didn't mean to--God knows I wouldn't hurt a hair of her head," he
said, in a low voice. His hands relaxed, his shoulders drooped. "It
seemed the best thing only this morning--is that what you meant this
morning, Dorothy, when we--when we--when I went away?" he asked
gently.

She held out her hand to him, still clasping Caroline, and he knelt
beside her, one arm around her neck.

"I--I don't want you ever--to do--what you--think--is--is wrong,"
she said brokenly, but with a brave effort at steadiness.
"I'll--I'll never--leave you--Frank."

She gazed adoringly into his eyes, her hand tight in his. Luella's
mouth twitched and she choked as she spoke.

"Oh, Mr. Wortley," she urged, "it isn't that I don't see what you
mean--partly. You think I don't, but I do. There's awful mistakes
made in marryin', we all see 'em; even 'way back here in the country
dreadful things happen, an' the papers--we c'n read 'em, that's
enough an' more'n enough. There's things that ought to be changed, I
know, but not the way you want to change 'em--oh, not that way! It
can't help any, not marryin', don't you see--folks must just take
pains and marry more careful, 'cause we've begun this way and now we
can't stop without somebody gettin' hurt--and that won't be you, nor
any other man. Marryin's all we've got to tie to, Mr. Wortley, us
women, an' we can't quit now!"

The boy looked thoughtfully at her: "I--I think perhaps you are
right," he said slowly. He appeared unaccountably older; small,
worried lines were cutting themselves deep around his eyes and
mouth.

He threw back his head in an attempt to regain the old, masterful
manner.

"I hope I am too sincere not to state honorably that I--I feel sure
you are right!" he announced, "that is, in this particular instance.
I have no desire to establish any point at the expense--at the
expense...."

He frowned into space; his lips tightened obstinately.

"But it will _have_ to be at somebody's expense!" he cried
irritably. "Shall we _always_ go on like this, putting off, putting
off, letting this shameful, unsatisfactory state of things continue,
just because it would be _our_ wives that would suffer...."

"I guess that's about it," Luella answered, seriously.

"Then all I have to say is, we're damned cowards, all of us!" he
cried, with the old flash of rage.

But it was the last time. Beaten, yet triumphant, he stooped for his
harness and himself assumed it, with set teeth.

"I--I shouldn't have said that," he said, gravely. "It's--it's a
very difficult thing ... a man has so many responsibilities...."

They waited patiently.

"It seems one must compromise--something--anyway," he went on,
thinking his way painfully along. "I don't know why it seems so
difficult to me now; ... they talked enough, all the others, and of
course I shall never speak to your Aunt Ethel again--you may use
your own judgment, Dorothy--because there are some insults...."

He shook himself again and drew the girl to her feet.

"Dearest," he said, and there was a sad little ring in his voice,
but a strangely kind one, "I--we have been mistaken. It wouldn't do.
I think--" he looked anxiously at Luella--"the sooner we get some
one--to--to--a clergyman, you know, or a--a legal person of some
kind--"

"I'll get Mr. Andrews right away," Luella assured him briskly. "He's
Cong'ational, and he's a real pleasant young man--new here.
Car'line, you run right down cross-lots to that first white house
an' there he'll be, callin' this minute on the Wilkinses, 'cause she
told me he would. You say Luella Judd wants him right away, an'
he'll come."

"Yes, Luella, I will," said Caroline but her eyes were fastened on
the girl.

She was in the boy's arms, her head on his shoulder; she clung to
him tightly, shivering a little, hiding her face.

"You don't mind, darling?" he begged her earnestly, "you believe I
am doing it for the best? You won't blame me for changing, after all
I've said?"

She lifted her head and through her loving gray eyes looked out at
him the woman she would be in ten years. A little tender smile
curved her lips; she patted his shoulder as a mother caresses her
headstrong, dearest son.

"Whatever you think is best, Frank dear," she said, "let's do that."

       *       *       *       *       *

"I only hope to heaven she don't understand!" Luella muttered
nervously, glancing unguardedly at Caroline.

Caroline stamped her foot angrily. Her sensitive little body had
thrilled in the girl's arm; she had felt all the pathos and dignity
of Luella's appeal, the young man seemed to her mysterious and
noble. And now she was distrusted, grudged her free part in this
exciting afternoon! She scowled at Luella.

"You must think I'm a baby, Luella Judd!" she cried irritably. "I
understand all about it, just as well as you do! Didn't we have just
the same thing in the family, ourselves?"

Luella gasped.

"For heaven's sakes, Car'line, wha' do you mean?" she demanded;
"it's perfectly awful the things you city children know! I do
declare, I don't think it's right!"

"Pooh!" said Caroline grandly. "I should hope I knew more'n that!
Why, my Uncle Joe's own sister, her man that she was engaged to, he
didn't believe in church weddings, either, and he told my mother if
he had to stand up in gray trousers with those six girls in pink
hats and the bishop all togged out and the whole town glaring at 'em
he'd run away with Cousin Elizabeth, and he didn't know whether he'd
marry her at all! And they cried and they begged 'em, and I was to
be a flower girl and wear my white silk stockings, but still they
wouldn't. And Cousin Elizabeth cried, too, and she said she'd never
feel married in a travelling dress, but Cousin Richard said he
guessed she would. And everybody was terribly angry with them, but
they just had it in her aunt's house that was paralyzed and couldn't
ever go out, and it was right next door to Cousin Richard's father's
house, too, just like this! Not one bridesmaid and nobody had any
cake in a box to take away. It was awful, just like Luella says, but
afterwards we all forgave 'em. They ran off and did it in the
afternoon--there was only her father and that paralyzed aunt."

She drew a long breath and smiled importantly at them.

Dorothy put an arm over her fat little shoulders.

"You must be my bridesmaid and my flower girl, too," she said
softly.

"You'll go get your father, o' course, Mr. Wortley?" Luella appeared
unconscious of the possibility of any refusal, and though he
started, scowled, and shook his head, her warning glance in
Caroline's direction checked him, and he plunged out of the door.

       *       *       *       *       *

"And may God bless you both," the Reverend Mr. Andrews concluded
unofficially, noting with a certain curiosity, the impeccable riding
breeches of the groom, and the bride's looped-up linen habit--he had
never married a couple attired in precisely that manner, and he
scented romance.

"Your generosity, Mr. Wortley, to say nothing of your father--" He
paused helplessly. "Mrs. Judd knows what this will mean to us this
winter," he finished. "No, I thank you, Mr. Wortley, I thank you
sir, but I never touch liquor in any form. But I drink their health
in this excellent iced coffee, I do indeed."

Caroline slipped around to Luella, who sat mopping her eyes behind
the kitchen door.

"I wish Mr. Wortley--Mr. Grumpy Wortley--wouldn't kiss me any more,
Luella," she complained, "it prickles my face dreadfully. I don't
see why I can't go with 'em as far as the Mountain Road--I'd love to
ride on his horse. I was bridesmaid--why can't I? Do you think my
mother'll let me keep this pin? What did you cry for, Luella? What
was it he said to you? He's going to drive me down to the village to
write some telegrams to New York with him, after they've started.
And then he'll speak to mother about the pin, but we have to get the
telegrams written first. Why do they always put it into the papers
the first thing, Luella? When you were married, were there telegrams
about it in the papers, up here?"

Luella tied on her checked apron and attacked the soiled dishes
heaped on the kitchen table; her cheeks were deeply flushed and her
hands trembled a little. She smiled affectionately at Caroline.

"I'll drive down with you, I guess, an' stop off at your ma's," she
answered.

"No, it wasn't telegraphed 'round much when I was married, but
then," with a humorous twinkling of her deep-set eyes, "I hadn't
never studied into the marryin' question so thorough as some!"




VI

HIS FATHER'S HOUSE


Caroline stopped abruptly at the edge of the little pine-encircled
glade that edged the pond-lily pond and waved her hand in warning.

"Hist! there are human creatures there!" she whispered loudly.

It would be evident to anyone not absolutely stone blind that she
was a fairy. A lace-edged, snowy nightgown was caught up by a sky
blue ribbon about her hips, trailing gloriously behind her over the
grass; two large wings artfully constructed of wrapping-paper
flopped behind her surprisingly bare shoulders--the nightgown was
decidedly _decollete_, and had been made for a person several sizes
larger than Caroline.

"Hooma keecha da!" crooned the General. His conversation was
evidently based on the theory that the English language is a dark
mystery, insoluble by system, but likely to be blundered into
fortuitously, at any moment, if the searcher gabble with sufficient
steadiness and persistence. His costume, consisting merely of the
ordinary blue denim overalls of commerce, would have been positively
commonplace were it not for the wings of bright pink tissue paper,
which he wore with a somewhat confusing obstinacy, pinned firmly to
his chest. Miss Honey assisted his wavering footsteps rather
sulkily; she longed for the white and lacy draperies in front of her
and regarded her ballet skirts of stitched newspaper with bare
tolerance. It is true she wore a crown of tinfoil and carried a wand
made of half a brass curtain rod; but her laced tan boots, stubbed
and stained, showed with disgusting plainness, and nobody would take
the trouble to make her a newspaper bodice.

"If you don't stop tickling me with that arrow, Brother Washburn,
I'll go back!" she declared, snappishly.

The fourth member of the crew, whose bathing trunks and jersey,
fitted with surprisingly life-like muslin wings, pointed to Puck,
though the quiver slung across his shoulder woke conflicting
memories of Diana, chuckled guiltily and took a flying leap
from the big boulder into the center of the glade. His wings
stiffened realistically, and as he landed, poised on one
classically sandalled foot with arms outspread, the picnic
party before him started violently, and one of them clutched
the other's sleeve with a little cry.

"What the--oh, it's all right! He's the real thing, isn't he, now?"

The young man patted the girl's shoulder reassuringly and chuckled
as the rest of the crew emerged from the pines and peered over the
boulder.

"They're only children," he said.

She dropped her eyes and tightened her fingers around the shining
drinking cup.

"Why, yes, they're only children," she repeated carelessly.

Now, each of these picnic people had said the same words, but it was
entirely obvious to their fascinated audience that the words meant
very different things. For this reason they sidled around the young
lady impersonally, avoiding with care the edges of her pale-tinted
billowy skirts, and lined up confidently beside the young gentleman.

Not that he controlled the picnic. It was spread out in front of
her, bewitching, intimate, in its suggestion of you--and--I; two
shiny plates, two knives, two forks, two fringed and glossy napkins.
A dark red bottle was propped upright between two stones, a pile of
thin, triangular sandwiches balanced daintily on some cool lettuce
leaves, and a fascinating object that glistened mysteriously in the
sun, held the platter of honor in the middle.

"The Honorable Mr. Puck," suggested the young man, in the tone of
one continuing an interrupted conversation, "is figuring out how the
chicken got into the jelly without busting it--am I not right?"

Brother grinned, and Caroline moved a little nearer. Miss Honey
stared at the young lady's fluted skirts and glistening yellow waves
of hair, at the sweeping plume in her hat, and her tiny high-heeled
buckled slippers.

"I am obliged to admit," the young man went on, slicing into the
quivering aspic, "that I don't know myself. I never could find out.
Perhaps the young person in the--the not-too-long skirts, waved her
wand over the bird and he jumped in and the hole closed up?" He
slipped a section of the bird in question upon the lady's plate and
held the red bottle over her cup.

"There was hard-boiled eggs stuck on those jelly things at our
wedding," Brother remarked, "on the outside, all around. But they
were bigger than yours."

"I don't doubt it for a moment," the young man assured him politely.
"Have you been married long, may I ask? And which of these ladies--"

"Brother doesn't mean that _he_ was married," Miss Honey explained,
"it was his oldest sister. She married a lawyer. I was flower girl."

"Ima fow guh," murmured the General, thrusting out a fat and
unexpected hand and snatching from a hitherto unperceived box a tiny
cake encased in green frosting.

"Oh, dear, it's got the pistache!" said the yellow-haired lady
disgustedly.

Miss Honey fled after the General, who, though he was obliged to
wear whalebone braces in his shoes on account of youth and a
waddling and undeveloped gait, scattered over the ground with the
elusive clumsiness of a young duckling. Brother blushed, but scorned
to desert his troop.

"He's awfully little, you know--he doesn't mean to steal," he
explained.

"Twenty-two months," Caroline added, "and he does go so fast." She
smiled doubtfully at the lady, who selected a cake covered with
chocolate and looked at the young man.

"Don't forget that Mr. Walbridge wants to use the car at six," she
said, "and you have to allow for that bad hill."

He looked a little uncomfortable. "Don't you want to speak to the
children, Tina, dear?" he asked, dropping his voice; he sat very
close to her.

"They have both spoken directly to you, you see, and children feel
that so--not being noticed. They're trying to apologize to you for
the cake."

She bit her lip and turned to Miss Honey, who arrived panting, with
the General firmly secured by the band of his overalls. An oozy
green paste dripped from his hand; one of the pink wings
intermittently concealed his injured expression.

"That's all right," she said, "don't bother about the cake, little
girl, the baby can have it."

Miss Honey sniffed.

"I guess you don't know much about babies if you think they can eat
cake like that," she answered informingly.

"Hush, now, General, don't begin to hold your breath? Do you want a
nice graham cracker! It's _so_ nice!"

"_So_ nice!" Caroline repeated mechanically, with a business-like
smile at the General, helpfully champing her teeth.

The General wavered. He allowed one sticky paw to be cleaned with a
handful of grass, but his expression was most undecided, and he was
evidently in a position to hold his breath immediately if necessary.

Miss Honey nodded to Caroline. "You've got 'em, haven't you?" she
asked.

Caroline fumbled at the interior of the nightgown and produced a
somewhat defaced brown wafer.

"General want it?" she said invitingly. There was another moment of
disheartening suspense. Brother assisted gallantly.

"They're fine, General!" he urged, "try one!" And he, too, nodded
and chewed the empty air. Instinctively the strange young gentleman
did the same.

The General looked around at them cautiously, noted the strained
interest of the circle, smiled forgivingly, and reached out for the
brown wafer. Peace was assured.

"If you could only see how ridiculous you looked," the young lady
remarked, wiping her shining pink finger nails carefully, "you'd
never do that again, Rob. Have a cake?"

He laughed, but blushed a little at her tone.

"I suppose so," he admitted. "No, thanks, I'll pass up the cake.
Isn't there enough to go 'round, perhaps?"

He examined the box.

"By George, there are exactly three left!" he said delightedly.
"Will the fairy queen hand one to her brother--the big brother--and
one to--to the angel?"

Caroline moved firmly to the front. "I am the Queen," she explained,
"but I let Miss Honey take the crown and the wand, or she wouldn't
be anything. Brother isn't her brother--that's just his name.
Brother Washburn. The General's her brother. I'll take that
strawberry one. We're much obliged, thank you."

The cakes vanished unostentatiously and the young gentleman filled
his cup and disposed of it before anyone spoke.

"We were such a big family, you see," he explained to the pursed red
mouth beside him, "and I know just how it is. You never get enough
cake, and never that dressy kind. It's molasses cake and cookies,
mostly."

Brother moved nearer and nodded.

"Well, but you can have all the cake you want, now, thank goodness,"
said the lady, glancing contentedly at the tea basket, complete with
its polished fittings, at the big box of bonbons beside her, and the
handsome silk motor coat that was spread as a carpet under her
light dress.

"Oh, yes, but now I don't want it," he assured her, "I want--other
things." He flashed a daring glance from two masterful brown eyes,
and she smiled indulgently at him for a handsome, spoiled boy.

"Am I going to get them?" he persisted.

She laughed the light little laugh of the triumphant woman.

"My dear Bob," she said, "anybody who can buy all the cake he wants
can usually get the--other things!"

His face clouded slightly.

"I hate to hear you talk like that, Christine," he began, "it's not
fair to yourself--"

"How'd you know I was Puck?" Brother inquired genially. He made no
pretense of including the lady in the conversation; for him she was
simply not there.

"Oh, I'm not so ignorant as I look," the young man replied. "I don't
believe you could stump me on anything you'd be likely to be--I've
probably been 'em all myself. We were always rigging up at home.
Didn't you use to do that, Tina?"

The lady shook her head decidedly.

"If I'd ever got hold of a--well, if I'd had a chance of things as
nice as that biggest one's dragging through the dirt there, I'd have
been doing something very different with it, I can assure you, Mr.
Armstrong! I'd have been saving it."

"But at that age--" he protested.

"Oh, I knew real lace from imitation at that age, all right," she
insisted.

"But you don't think of those things--you go in for the fun," he
urged.

"It wasn't exactly my idea of fun."

"No?" he queried, "why, I thought all children did this sort of
thing. We had a regular property room in the attic. We used to be
rigged out as something-or-other all day Saturday, usually."

"What were you?" Brother demanded eagerly. Unconsciously he dropped,
hugging his knees, by the side of the young man, and Caroline,
observing the motion, came over a little shyly and stood behind
them. The young lady raised her eyebrows and shot a side glance at
her host, but he smiled back at her brightly.

"Well, we did quite a little in the pirate line," he replied. "I had
an old Mexican sword and Ridgeway--that was my cousin--owned a pair
of handcuffs."

"Handcuffs!" Brother's jaw dropped.

"Yes, sir, handcuffs. It was rather unusual, of course, and he was
awfully proud of them. An uncle of his was a sheriff out in
Pennsylvania somewhere, and when he died he left 'em to Ridge in his
will. That was pretty grand, too, having it left in a will."

Caroline nodded and sat down on an old log behind the young man. A
long smear of brown, wet bark appeared on the nightgown, and one end
of the blue ribbon dribbled into a tiny pool of last night's shower,
caught in a hollow stone.

"It was a toss-up who'd be pirate king," the young man went on,
smiling over his shoulder at Caroline, "because I was older than he
was, handcuffs or not, and after all, a sword is something. This one
was hacked on the edge and every hack may have meant--probably
did--a life."

He paused dramatically.

"I bet you they did!" Brother declared, clapping his hands on his
knees.

"Weren't there any girls?"

Caroline slipped from the log and sprawled on the pine needles.

"Dear me, yes," said the young man, "I should say so. Four of them.
Winifred and Ethel and Dorothea and the Babe--about as big as your
General, there, and dreadfully greedy, the Babe was. Winifred had
the brains and she made up most of the games; I tell you, that girl
had a head!"

"Just like Caroline," Brother inserted eagerly.

"Probably," the young man agreed. "She was pretty certain to be
Fairy Queen, too, I remember. But Thea sewed the clothes and begged
the things we needed and looked after the Babe."

"And what did Ethel do?"

"Why, now you speak of it, I don't remember that Ethel did much of
anything but look pretty and eat most of the luncheon," he said.
"She used to be Pocahontas a good deal--she's very dark--and I
usually was Captain John Smith. Ridge was Powhatan. And Ethel's
married now. Good Lord! She has twins--of all things!--and they're
named for Ridge and me."

"I'm glad General isn't twins," said Miss Honey thoughtfully,
pulling her brother back from the fascinations of the tea basket and
comforting him with the curtain-rod wand.

"Still, we could do the Princes in the Tower with him--them, I
mean," Caroline reminded her, "and then, when they got bigger, the
Corsican Brothers--don't you remember that play Uncle Joe told
about?"

The young man laughed softly.

"If that's not Win all over!" he exclaimed. "She always planned for
Ridge to be Mazeppa on one of the carriage horses, when he got the
right size, but somehow, when you _do_ get that size, you don't pull
it off."

"I did Mazeppa," said Brother modestly, "but of course it was only a
donkey. It wasn't much."

"We never had one," the young man explained. "Nothing but Ridge's
goat, and she was pretty old. But she could carry a lot of lunch."

He turned suddenly on his elbow and smiled whimsically at the lady.

"Come on, Tina, what did _you_ play?" he asked.

"Is it possible you have remembered that I still exist?" she
answered, half mockingly, half seriously vexed. "I'm afraid I'm out
of this, really. I never pretended to be anything, that I remember."

"But what _did_ you do when you were a youngster?" he persisted,
"you must have played something!"

She shook her head.

"We played jackstones," she said indulgently, after a moment of
thought, "and then I went to school, of course, and--oh, I guess we
cut out paper dolls."

Caroline looked aghast.

"Didn't you have any dog?" she demanded.

"I hope not, in a four-room flat," the lady returned with feeling.
"One family kept one, though, and the nasty little thing jumped up
on a lovely checked silk aunty had just given me, and ruined it. I
tried to take it out with gasolene, but it made a dreadful spot, and
I cried myself sick. Of course I didn't understand about rubbing the
gasolene dry then; I was only eleven."

The children looked uncomfortably at the ground, conscious of a
distinct lack of sympathy for the tragedy that even at this distance
deepened the lovely rose of the lady's cheek and softened her dark
blue eyes.

"But in the summer," the young man said, "surely it was different
then! In the country--"

"Oh, mercy, we didn't get to the country very much," she
interrupted. "You know July and August are bargain times in the
stores and a dressmaker can't afford to leave. Aunty did all her
buying then and I went with her. Dear me," as something in his face
struck her, "you needn't look so horrified! It's not bad in New York
a bit--there's something going on all the while; and then we went to
Rockaway and Coney Island evenings, and had grand times. To tell
you the truth, I never cared for the country--I don't sleep a bit
well there. Of course, to come out this way, with everything nice,
it's all very fine, but to stay in--no, thanks."

"I know what you mean, of course," he said, "but the city's no place
for children. I'm mighty glad I didn't grow up there. And I've
always had the idea the country would be the best place to settle
down in, finally. You can potter around better there when you're
old, don't you think so? I remember old Uncle Robert and his
chrysanthemums--"

"Dear me, we all seem to be remembering a good deal this afternoon!"
she broke in. "Since we're neither of us children and neither of us
ready to settle down on account of old age, suppose we stick to
town, Bob?"

There was a practical brightness in her voice, and her even white
teeth, as she smiled persuasively at him, were very pretty. He
smiled back at her.

"That seems a fair proposition," he agreed. He reached for her
hand and for a moment her soft, bright coloring, her dainty
completeness, framed in the green of the little glade, were all he
saw. Then, as his eyes lingered on the cool little pond and the
waving pine boughs dark against the blue sky, he sighed.

"But I'm sorry you don't like the country, Tina, I am, truly," he
said boyishly. "I've had such bully times in it. And I--I rather had
the idea that we liked the same things."

"Gracious!" the young lady murmured, "after the arguments we've had
over plays and actors!"

"Oh well, I suppose girls are all alike. But I mean other things--"

"Where did you do the Pirates?" Brother inquired, politely.

"What? Where did I--oh to be sure," he returned good-naturedly. "We
had an enormous cellar, all full of pillars, to hold it up, and
queer little rooms and compartments in it; a milk room and vegetable
bins and a workshop. You could ride on a wheel all round, dodging
the pillars. There were all kinds of places to lie in wait there,
and spring out. Win told us an awful thing out of Poe that happened
in a cellar, and Thea would never go there after four in the
afternoon.

"It was a jolly old place," he went on dreamily, "I can't keep my
mind off it this afternoon, somehow, since I've seen you fellows
rigged out the way we used to. And there was a pond back in the
Christmas Tree Lot like this one. Ridge and I built a raft out there
and stayed all day on it. It was something out of Clark Russell's
books, and Win pushed a barrel out and rescued us. She was a wonder,
that girl."

He chuckled softly to himself.

"We tried to stock that pond with oysters once, and Ridge and I
printed invitations for a clambake on our handpress, on the strength
of them, but it was a dreadful waste of money. When we found it
wasn't working, Ridge nearly killed himself diving for 'em, so we
could get some good out of 'em. There they lay at the bottom,
showing just as plain as possible, but it was no use--Poor fellow,
he'll never dive any more."

"Is he--did he--" Caroline had crawled along till her head lay
almost on the young man's knee; her eyes were big with sympathy.

"Lost his leg," he told her briefly. "Philippines. Above the knee.
He ran away from college to go. He had the fever badly, too, and
he'll never be fit for much again, I'm afraid. But he's just as
brave about it--"

"Oh, yes," Brother burst out eagerly, "I bet you he is!"

"We had such plans," he said softly, "all of us, you know, for
coming back to the old place and ending up there. Win says her kids
shall stay there if she can't."

"Where is she?"

"Oh, she's 'most anywhere. Her husband's in the Navy--Asiatic
Squadron--and she hangs about where he's likely to strike the
country next. She was in Honolulu the last I heard. So she's not
likely to do much for the place, you see."

"Where's Thea?" Miss Honey inquired.

"Wha tee?" mimicked the General, with an astounding similarity of
inflection.

The young man threw his light cap at the baby's head; it landed
grotesquely cocked over one eye, and the General, promptly sitting
upon it to protect himself from further attacks, fell into
convulsions of laughter as the young man threatened him.

"Thea's out West, on a ranch just out of Denver. She was married
first, and her boys have ponies now--broncos. Of course it's fine
for them out there, but she says she won't be happy till they can
get East for a year or two. She wants them to see the place and grow
up a little in it. She wants 'em to see the attic and poke about the
barn and the stable and climb over the rocks. You see they're on the
ranch all summer and in school in Denver all winter, and Thea says
they don't know the look of an old stone wall with an apple tree in
the corner. She says the fruit's not nearly so nice out there."

"Where is the place? Near here?"

"No, not so very. It's in the Berkshires, just out of Great
Barrington. Father's practice was there, and grandfather's, too.
Grandfather built it."

"That's where Lenox is, the Berkshires, isn't it?" the lady inquired
with a yawn.

"Heavens, its nothing like Lenox!" he assured her hastily.

"No?" she moved slightly and scowled.

"My foot's asleep! That comes of sitting here forever!"

She got up slowly and with little tentative gasps and cries stamped
her prickled feet.

"Aunty has several customers who go to Lenox"--a vicious stamp--"it
must be grand there, I think. One of them, a regular swell, too--she
thinks nothing of a hundred and fifty for a dress"--a faint stamp
and a squeal of anguish--"told her that property was going up like
everything around there. You could probably"--a determined little
jump--"sell your old place and buy a nice house right in Lenox."

The young man sat up suddenly. "Sell the place!" he repeated, "sell
the place!"

He had been watching her pretty, vexed contortions with lazy
pleasure, noticing through rings of cigarette smoke her dainty
ankles, white through the mesh of the thin silk stockings, her
straight, slim back, and the clear flush that deepened her eyes. But
now his face changed, and he stared at her in frank irritation.

"Sell the place!" echoed Brother and Miss Honey in horror, and
Caroline's lower lip pushed out scornfully.

The lady stamped again, but not wholly as a therapeutic measure.

"Well, really!" she cried, "any one would think that these children
were your friends, and I was the stranger, from the way you all
talk. What is the matter with you, anyway? What are you quarreling
about, Rob?"

He looked at her thoughtfully, appraisingly.

"I don't think we're quarreling, Tina," he said, "its only that we
look at things differently. And--and looking at things in the same
way rather makes people friends, you know."

He glanced down at the children, close about him now, and then over
appealingly at her. But she had moved to a rock a little away from
them and now sat on it, her face turned toward the road, leaning on
her pale pink parasol: she did not catch the glance.

"What became of the Babe?" Caroline suggested suddenly.

"Babe? She's--her name's Margaret--at school now. She's growing
awfully pretty."

"And is she going to live at the place, too?" queried the young lady
sharply.

"Babe's going to capture a corporation or trust or something, and
have oceans of money and build on a wing and a conservatory and make
Italian gardens, I believe," he answered, pleasantly enough.

"But I'd just as soon she left the gardens alone," he went on, "the
rest of us like 'em the way they are. There was one separate one on
the west side, just for Uncle Robert's chrysanthemums. He used to
work all the morning there and then read in the afternoon. He'd sit
on the side porch with his pipe and Bismarck--he was an old
collie--and he did tell the bulliest yarns. He helped us with
lessons, too. I don't know what we'd have done without Uncle Rob.
Father was so busy--he had a big country practice and he used to get
terribly tired--and we went to Uncle Rob for everything. He got us
out of more scrapes, Ridge and me--

"There were tiger lillies in the south garden and lots of clumps of
peonies. Grandmother put those there. And fennel and mint. Mother
used to like dahlias--it seems as if she must have had a quarter of
a mile of dahlias, but of course she didn't--all colors. That garden
ran right up against the house, and directly next to the bricks was
a row of white geraniums. They looked awfully well against the red.
It's a brick house and the date is in bricks over the door--1840. Of
course it's been rented for ten years now, but we have our things
stored in the attic and the people are careful and--well they love
the old place, you know, and they keep up the gardens. They wanted
to buy when father died and again after mother--

"But Ridge and I just hung on and leased it from year to year. We
always hoped to get it back. And now to think that I should be the
one to do it!"

"How are you the one?" Brother inquired practically.

"Why Uncle Wesley that ran away to sea--I used to have his room,
just over the kitchen, and many a time I've climbed down the side
porch just as he did, and run away fishing--Uncle Wesley died in
England, last year, and left me considerably more than he'd ever
have made if he'd minded grandmother and studied to be a parson. It
seems Uncle Rob knew where he was all the time, and wrote him,
before he was sick himself, to leave the money to the family, and by
George, he did.

"Lots of the old stuff is there--the sideboard and the library table
and grandfather's old desk mother kept the preserves in.

"I used to lie on an old sofa in the dining-room on hot afternoons,
waiting for it to get cool, reading some travel book, eating summer
apples, and listening to Win and Thea practicing duets in the
parlor. Lord, I can hear 'em now! I'd look out at the brick walls,
hot, you know, in the sun, and the pear tree, with the nurse rocking
Babe under it, and old Annie shelling peas by the kitchen door, and
it all seemed so comfortable--"

His eyes were half closed. The children listened dreamily, huddled
against him; low red rays crept down from the west-bound sun and
struck the little pond to copper, the nickel dishes to silver, the
lady's skirt to a peach-colored glory; a little sudden breeze set
the red bottle tinkling between the stones. But to the group
entranced with memories so vivid that reality blurred before them,
the peach and copper glories were ripe fruit against an old brick
wall, the tinkle echoed from an old piano in a dim, green-shuttered
parlor, and the soft snoring of the General, asleep on the silk
motor coat, was the drowsy breathing of a contented little fellow in
knickerbockers dreaming in a window seat.

"Did you ever go to Atlantic City?"

The lady's voice woke them as a gong wakes a sleeper. "Now that's my
idea of the country!"

He stared at her vaguely.

"But--but that's no place for children," he protested. He had hardly
grown up at that moment, himself.

She shrugged her shoulders.

"It's not exactly necessary to have six children, you know," she
said, "and then you needn't be worried over a place for them, and
can afford to think a little about the place you'd like for
yourself."

The sun was in her eyes and she missed the look in his as he jumped
up from the astonished group and seized her wrist.

"Christine, you simply shan't talk that way!" he said. "I don't
know what's the matter with you to-day--why are you so different?
Are you trying to tease me? Because I might as well tell you right
now that you're succeeding a little too well."

The pink parasol dropped between them. Her eyes met his squarely,
though her voice shook a little.

"Let my wrist go, Mr. Armstrong," she said, "you hurt me. I assure
you I'm not different at all. If you really want to know what the
matter with me is, let me ask you if you saw anything out of the way
before your friends there interfered?" she pointed to the little
group he had left. "We seemed to be getting on very well then."

His face fell, and she went on more quickly and with less controlled
tones.

"You are the one that is different! I have always been just the
same--just exactly the same! Ask anybody if I've changed--ask aunty!
'Tina has the best temper of any girl I know,' aunty always says.
But its just as she warned me. Aunty always knows--she's seen lots
and lots of people and plenty of swells, too--it isn't as if you
were the only one, Mr. Armstrong!"

He looked curiously at the flushed, lovely face; curiously, as
though he had never really studied it before.

"Perhaps--perhaps it _is_ I," he said slowly, "I--maybe you're
right. And of course I know--" he smiled oddly at the pretty picture
she made--"that I'm not the only one."

Something in his tone irritated her; she unfurled the rosy parasol
angrily.

"Aunty said from the beginning you'd be hard to get on with," she
flashed out. "She said the second time you came to the house with
Mr. Walbridge for his sister's fitting and asked Kitty and I for a
ride in the machine, 'I'm perfectly willing you girls should go, for
they're both all right and I think the dark one's serious, but--"

"You discussed me with your aunt, then?"

She looked at him in amazement.

"Discussed you with aunty? Why certainly I did. Why shouldn't I? How
do you suppose I'm to get anywhere, placed as I am, Mr. Armstrong,
unless I'm pretty careful? I've nothing but my looks--I know that
perfectly well--and I can't afford to make any mistakes. And aunty
said, 'I think the dark one's serious, Tina, but I don't know,
somehow, I'd keep in with Walbridge. He may not have so much money,
but he'll be easier to manage. Armstrong seems like any other gay
young fellow, and for all I know he is--he's certainly generous--but
I'd rather have you Mrs. Walter Walbridge and lose the family
custom, than have you tied up to an obstinate man."

"And--excuse me, but I'm really interested," he asked, "could you be
Mrs. Walter Walbridge?"

"Yes, I could," she answered, "he asked me when he lent you the
machine. I suppose he thought you might," she added simply.

He drew a long breath.

"And you answered--"

"I said I'd think it over," she said softly. "I--are you really
angry with me, Rob? We're friends, aren't we? Friends--"

Her eyes lifted to his. "You see, Rob," she went on, still softly,
"a girl like me has to be awfully straight and pretty careful. It's
not easy to go to theaters and suppers and out with the machines and
keep your head--you can't always tell about men. And I've cost
aunty quite a lot, though of course, my clothes were the cheapest,
really, all made in the house. I had two good offers to go on the
stage, but she wouldn't have it. And even if Mr. Walbridge's mother
did make a fuss, she can't help his getting the money. Of course I
told him I'd think it over, but I always liked--"

"And now you've thought it over," he interrupted quickly, "and
you've found out that your remarkably able aunt was right. You're a
wise little girl, Tina, for if I know Walter, he _will_ be easier to
manage! He's a lucky fellow--always was. But he'll never get his car
at six to-night."

He plucked out his watch and strapping up the tea basket began to
push the things hastily into it.

She stared ahead of her, her chin shaking a little, her eyes a
little dim and most beautiful.

"I--you don't--you're not angry, Rob?" She leaned over him.

"Tina, if you look like that I'll kiss you, and Walter will call me
out!" he said lightly. "Of course I'm not angry--we're as chummy as
you'll let me be. Come on and find the choo-choo car!"

He slipped his arm through the basket handle and made for his coat.
The children scrambled off it apologetically; they were not quite
certain where they stood in the present crisis. But he smiled at
them reassuringly.

"We'll have to meet again," he called, already beyond them, "and
have some more of those little cakes! Good-by till next time!"

"Good-by! Good-by!" they called, and Miss Honey, eyeing the pink
parasol longingly, ventured, "Good-by, Miss Tina!"

The lady did not answer, but walked slowly after the young man,
shaking out her billowy skirts. Soon he was behind the big boulder;
soon she had followed him.

"Yady go!" the General announced.

"They had a quarrel, didn't they?" Miss Honey queried. "But they
made up, so it was all right."

Caroline shook her head wisely.

"We--ell," she mused, "they made it up, but I don't believe he
changed his mind, just the same."

Something puffed loudly in the road, whirred down to a steady growl,
and grew fainter and fainter.

"There they go!" Brother cried.

He picked up a bit of bark and tossed it into the little pool.

"I bet you Ridge will be glad to get back to the Place," he said.




VII

THE PRETENDERS


Midsummer dust lay ankle-deep in the road, white and hot. The
asphalt sidewalk baked in the noon sun, the leaves hung motionless
from the full trees; only the breathless nasturtiums flickered like
flames along the fences, for the other flowers wilted in the glare.
Caroline, hatless and happy as a lizard in the relentless heat, spun
along on her bicycle, the only bit of movement on all the long
stretch of the road. The householders had all retired behind their
green blinds; even New England yielded to August's imperious
_siesta_, and it might have been a deserted village, empty and
mysterious, through which she glided.

By little and little she grew to feel this; her feet moved more and
more slowly on the pedals, her brows knitted as the great idea grew.
Her lips moved, inaudibly at first, but soon began the sing-song
murmur so well known to those who crept upon her unawares.

"I am all alone; the rest have gone--where have they gone!--where
_could_ they go? Oh, they're dead. Murdered! No, the town was
besieged, and we made ropes with our hair, and bowstrings.... And
they all marched out, and they closed the city gates...." Slower and
slower the pedals moved: Caroline was pushing uphill. "So then the
Mayor said: 'No, this sacrifice is too great--I can not allow you to
make it, my brave children. Death--and worse--await you beyond these
walls. Let us die here together.'" Her chin quivered. At the summit
of the hill she paused.

"'Then _die_! Die like the dogs you are!' cried the Captain"--with
feet perched high she swooped down the slope, her heart pounding
with excitement, narrowly escaping collision at the bottom with an
empty van, crawling through the heat, manned by a somnolent, huddled
driver. Its hollow, cumbrous rattling pointed sharply the loneliness
of the silent road, almost bare now of houses, for they were on the
very outskirts of the village, and in a flash Caroline knew it for
what it was, and shuddered.

"It's the Tumbrel!" she murmured softly, and to her awed fancy the
graceful, slim-necked figures in flowered gowns drooped dreadfully
or stiffened in a last pathetic defiance as they rolled by.

"Courage, my sister, courage!" whispered the brave gentleman, while
the hoarse crowd shouted.... "_And I am Marie Antoinette!_" cried
Caroline in a burst of inspiration.

Dismounting, she walked proudly beside her wheel; scornfully she
held her head above that vulgar, cruel mob; the driver, poor in
illusions, drowsed stupidly in front of the baleful wagon-load he
knew not of, and clattered down the hill. To the ill-fated Queen,
who followed the curving line of the twelve-foot iron fence that had
sprung up at her side, ten minutes seemed but one. Lost in tragic
musing, she wandered swiftly on; had you, meeting her suddenly,
asked her where she was going, there is little doubt that she would
have told you she was escaping to her palace. And all at once, as
she halted a moment opposite a clear space in the shrubbery and
thickly planted trees that followed the inside line Of the iron
fence, she beheld the palace, high on a terraced knoll. It was of
clean-cut gray stone, rising into a square tower at one corner, from
which the flag drooped in bright folds of red and blue. The windows
shone like mirrors; trim, striped awnings broke the severe angles of
the long building; brilliant flower-beds gleamed from the smooth
turf and bordered the neat walks of crushed gray stone. It stood
massively above its terraces, a very castle of romance to Caroline,
who had never before seen it so polished and beflagged. Wonderingly
she tried the great wrought-iron gate, but it was securely locked,
and a new sign was attached to it:

            PRIVATE PROPERTY!

       ALL TRESPASSERS ARE WARNED

           FROM THE PREMISES!

    VISITORS PLEASE RING AT THE LODGE.

Caroline stared at it vaguely. So delicate are the oscillations of
the imaginative imp, that it is hard to say just where he swings his
slaves into determined self-delusion. If you had shaken Caroline
severely and demanded of her in the character of an impatient adult
the name of her castle, she would undoubtedly have informed you that
it was Graystone Tower, a long deserted mansion, too expensive
hitherto for any occupants but the children who roamed every inch of
it for the first spring flowers and coasted down its terraces in
winter. But no one was there to shake her, and so with parted lips
and dreamy eyes she speculated as to whether they would fire the
cannon on her arrival and whether she would scatter coins among her
loyal servants or merely order an ox roasted whole in honor of her
safe return.

Soon she reached the smaller gate, but before she tried the handle
the sign warned her that it would be useless. She frowned: no one
could keep up the spirit of a royal home-coming under these
disadvantages. Suddenly her eyes brightened, she tossed her head,
and following what was apparently a little blind alley of shrubbery,
she plunged into a tangle of undergrowth and disappeared. Only her
bicycle, resting against the fence, showed that some one had passed
that way. Working herself through the screen of leaves, she emerged
into a fairly cleared path that her accustomed feet followed to its
logical climax--a deep depression scooped out under the sharp,
down-pointed iron prongs, worn smooth by the frequent pressure of
small bodies. The fence had lost its shiny blackness by now and the
grass grew rank and untended around the mouth of the gap. Wriggling
through, Caroline straightened herself and strolled unconcerned
toward the castle, not so near her now. Soon she reached a newly
rolled tennis court; farther on two saddled horses pawed beside a
little summer-house, impatient for the start; an iridescent fountain
tossed two gleaming balls high into the air. Caroline moved like one
in a dream; her fancy, grown so overwhelmingly real, dazzled her,
fairly. But it was like the court of the Sleeping Beauty--no one
came or called.

At length, wandering on, she came upon a gardener in a neat gray
livery, clipping with a large, distorted pair of scissors the velvet
edge of a flower-bed. He resembled so undeniably the gardeners in
that ageless chronicle of Alice that Caroline smiled approvingly
upon him.

"You are one of my gardeners, I suppose," she said regally.

"Yes, Miss," he replied, respectfully, touching his banded cap, "I
am that."

"You garden very well," said Marie Antoinette, dizzy with delight at
his manner.

"Yes, Miss; thank you, Miss, I'm sure," and the cap came off.

She walked on superbly. At last it had happened, and she, Caroline
in the flesh, had fought her way through the prickly hedge of
every-day appearance and won into the garden of romance, where
dreams were true and anything might happen.

At that moment there came to meet her from behind a great beech tree
a slender little lady. She had gray hair puffed daintily and
fancifully about her small, pale face, and knots of pale blue
ribbon, woven in and out of her lacy, trailing gown, repeated the
color of her mild, round eyes. Half consciously Caroline muttered:
"Here is one of my ladies-in-waiting," when the little lady rushed
at her, smiling delightedly.

"Are you a queen, then?" she cried in a high, sweet voice. "How very
pleasant. Dear me, how _very_ pleasant!"

Caroline smiled with equal delight. Very few persons of this little
lady's age had such quick sense; mostly they had to be taught the
game.

"Yes," she answered, "I am. I am Queen Marie Antoinette."

The little lady fell back a step. Her blue eyes clouded and she
pouted like a big baby.

"Why--why, how _can_ you be?" she demanded, fretfully, "when that is
who I am, myself!"

For a moment Caroline scowled; such flexibility was almost
disconcerting. Then her natural good-humor and the training
resulting from many summers with Miss Honey, who claimed all the
best roles at once and shifted often, prompted her generous reply:

"All right. I'll be Mary Queen of Scots, then--I like it about as
well."

The little lady beamed again.

"That will be very pleasant," she said, "I trust your majesty is
quite well?"

"Yes, indeed," Caroline assured her, adding airily; "How well the
castle is looking this morning! I think I'll have the flag out every
day, now that I'm back."

Marie Antoinette flushed angrily and pouted once more.

"You! _You!_" she mimicked. "What have you to do with my flag? That
goes up by my orders, let me inform you! Here, gardener--" and she
waved her little parasol at the man in gray, who was already walking
rapidly towards them--"is that flag in my honor or not?"

"Yes, Miss," he said promptly. "Sure it is, Miss," and he nodded
politely at them both. For a moment the rival queens confronted each
other fiercely, then her Majesty of France smiled at Scottish Mary.

"You see," she said, in her high, bright voice; "you see, I was
right. But then, I always am. I shall have to leave your Royal
Highness now, for I see one of my subjects coming whom I don't care
for at all--she is not very pleasant."

Sweeping a low courtesy, the little lady glided away with a
graceful, dipping motion; the white hand that lifted her trailing
skirts was covered with turquoises.

Caroline looked where her royal sister had pointed, and saw a tall,
handsome young woman hurrying toward her. She was dressed plainly
in black, but with a rich plainness that could not have escaped the
youngest of womankind. Opposite Caroline she paused, her hand on her
heart.

"John! Oh, John! This--this is a child!"

"Yes, Miss; sure it is," said the gardener politely.

"But how did she get here? Surely no children come here?" Her hands
were trembling.

"Yes, Miss, many of 'em--sure they do," he said pleasantly, with a
good Irish smile.

But it was plain that his good-nature did not please the handsome
lady. She bit her lip angrily.

"You know very well, John, that you are not to talk to me in that
idiotic way," she said decidedly. "You know that there is no
necessity for it as well as I do."

"All right, Miss," he replied, soothingly.

"And you are lying when you say that children come here," she went
on, controlling herself with a great effort, "for they do not."

The gardener scratched his head doubtfully and walked away,
muttering to himself. The girl turned to Caroline.

"Tell me," she demanded eagerly, her voice low and hurried, "how did
you come here? Are you with friends? Where are they? What were you
saying to that queen woman?"

"I--I--we were--I was Mary Queen of Scots," Caroline stammered,
struggling, as the happy dreamer struggles, not to wake.

The girl started back from her, pale with an emotion that left her
handsome face drawn and old.

"Good Heavens!--it can't be--a child! A _child_!" she cried. Tears
stood in her dark eyes.

"How pitiful!" she said, softly, to herself. Then, forcing a smile,
she leaned coaxingly over Caroline.

"I am only too delighted to make your Majesty's acquaintance," she
said, her voice a little husky, but very sweet. "I have read of you
often. But surely your Majesty has not been here long? I do not
recall having seen you before to-day."

"N--no, you haven't," Caroline answered, a little grudgingly, "I
only just came."

"Ah!" said the girl, "and how did you come? Not through the house
surely?"

"I came under the fence," said Caroline, "the gates were locked. I
was Marie Antoinette then, but I changed after she said she was."

"Oh! Oh!" the girl groaned, covering her face with slender, ringless
hands.

"But I'd just as soon," Caroline assured her--"honestly I would.
Only you need a Bothwell for her. I only thought of Marie Antoinette
after the tumbrel went by. I suppose she's used to Marie Antoinette,
prob'ly, and so you can't get her to change."

She nodded in the direction of the little lady, now far from them,
white against the shrubbery.

The girl drew in her breath in little gasps, as if she had been
running.

"Y--yes," she assented, "she's used to being Marie Antoinette. Where
is the hole you got through? Is it big enough for--for anybody?"

"Oh, yes," said Caroline indifferently, "but nobody knows about it
but me and a few other k--prisoners, I mean; I've used it when I was
escaping before. I think it was a rabbit-hole first, and then we
made it bigger. Isn't that funny--Alice got in by a rabbit-hole,
too, didn't she? I thought of her as soon as I saw the gardener.
He's very polite, isn't he?"

The girl pressed her lips together. "They are all polite here," she
said briefly. "Do you mean that you go in and out of this hole as
you like? Do they know of it? Is it far from here?"

"It's over there," Caroline waved, vaguely. "Why? Do you want to
escape, too? Are you a queen?"

"No." The girl said it with a slight shudder. "No, I'm not.
I'm--I'm--Oh, I'm Joan of Arc! You know about her, don't you, dear?"

Caroline nodded. "Are you trying to escape?" she repeated,
interested at last.

"Yes," said the girl, "I am. But don't tell any one, will you? Don't
tell that gardener, for instance."

"Oh, no," Caroline assured her, "I won't tell. Wouldn't he help
you?"

The girl laughed, an excited, sobbing laugh.

"No, he wouldn't help me at all," she said. "Come on, walk a little.
He is watching us. Don't tell him about the hole, will you? Promise
me faithfully." She turned and seized the child's wrist. "Can you
keep a promise?" she panted.

"Of course I can."

"And if any one should ask you, could you--oh, _could_ you say you
came in by the gate?"

Caroline wriggled free.

"Of course," she said scornfully. "Do you think I'm a baby?"

"Don't be angry--don't," the girl pleaded. "I don't mean to frighten
you--your Majesty, I mean--but I am so excited, and--and I don't
quite do what I intend to do or say just what I mean. I am quite all
right now. You see, that gardener--he isn't really a gardener." She
watched Caroline narrowly, quite unprepared for the sudden delight
in her eyes.

"Oh, _he's_ pretending, too!" cried Mary of Scots joyfully. "What is
he, really?"

"He's--he's one of my jailers," said the girl somberly. "And the
first thing he would do would be to stop up your hole under the
fence."

"Oh!" Caroline stared respectfully at the gardener, not far from
them now.

"Were you ever in chains?" she said, in an awed voice.

"No," said Joan of Arc, "I never was. I wouldn't be in this--this
fortress if I had to be in chains. This is for well-behaved
prisoners."

"Is Marie Antoinette a prisoner, too?"

"Yes," said the girl, wearily, "she is. And she has kept me one. I
should not be here now but for her. She prevented my escape."

"The mean old thing!" Caroline cried, indignantly, "did she tell?"

"She called that gardener," said the girl, "just as I was walking
out of the little gate. Of course I had to walk slowly. She is very
malicious--poor thing," she added quickly.

They were close to a little arbor now, and not so far from the
castle. Caroline could see figures here and there strolling on the
upper terraces and sitting on the piazzas. The tinkle of a mandolin
cut the soft air and the new-mown grass smelled sweet.

"I think this castle is lovely, though, don't you, Joan of Arc?" she
burst out.

"It is an abominable castle," said the girl, in a muffled voice.
"Abominable!"

"Well, then," said Caroline, practically, "if you feel that way,
you'd _better_ escape."

The girl stared at her.

"Tell me," she said, earnestly, "have you ever been in this place
before? Where do you live?"

Caroline shrugged her shoulders impishly.

"I am Mary Queen of Scots," she replied, obstinately, "and I live in
Scotland. Of course, I've been here before. Who are all those other
people in the castle?"

The girl drew a long, worried breath. "I believe I should go mad if
I stayed here much longer," she said, to herself. She drew Caroline
down beside her behind the arbor.

"Listen to me, Mary Queen of Scots," she murmured, very low, with
anxious glances all about her.

"I don't know who you are nor where you come from, but I believe you
will help me--I believe you're sorry for me. You know how badly Joan
of Arc's friends felt when she was in prison? I'm sure you do. Well
I have a--a dear friend who would die for me, if it would help me.
He has no idea where I am. He thinks I don't want to see him. He
thinks--he must think--I'm no longer his--his--his friend. If I
could only get to him, I should be safe."

"Why don't you write to him?" Caroline suggested.

The girl laughed bitterly.

"If _you_ had prisoners in _your_ fortress, and they wrote letters
to their friends to come and get them out, would _you_ mail the
letters?" she demanded.

"I s'pose not," said Caroline gravely. Joan of Arc gulped.

"My letters never went," she said. "Now listen: I must go up to my
room and get some money--I can't do anything without money. Will you
wait here till I come back and not let anyone see you if you can
help it? And if they do, will you say that you slipped in at the
gate with a party that came in an automobile? One was here lately.
Ask if you mayn't stay and see the flowers. And then I will meet
you."

She looked hard in Caroline's eyes. "You're only playing," she said,
suddenly. "You aren't--you aren't--What is your real name, dear?"

Caroline scowled.

"You better hurry up," she said, "or that gardener'll catch us.
You're just like Marie Antoinette," she added irritably. "You think
nobody can be anything but only yourself!"

Without a word the girl turned and left her, half running. Caroline
heard her sobs.

At the same moment she caught the crunch of footsteps on the stone
path that led to the arbor and crouched low behind it. Two men,
talking idly, entered the spot of shade and sank down on the rustic
bench.

"Look here, Ferris," said one voice, "is she really dippy--that
one?"

"What do you mean?" This was a deeper voice, attached evidently to
blue serge legs, for the speaker leaned to Caroline's eye level to
scratch a match on one of them.

"Oh, I mean what I say." A gray striped coat sleeve poked through
the lattice work, as the first speaker leaned hard on it. "If she
is, then I am, that's all. It looks queer to me."

The blue legs crossed themselves tightly under the seat.

"Look here yourself, Riggs," said the second voice. "If you're
curious in this matter, I advise you to ask the doctor. He's boss
here, not I--thank God! I obey orders and draw my forty per, as per
contract. The same to you, only it's hardly forty, I suppose."

"No, it's not," grunted Graycoat. "Not by a good sight. I see myself
asking the old man. I only asked your private opinion, Ferris,--you
needn't get sore about it."

"My young friend," said Bluelegs, slowly, "there's only one thing
you can ask me in this place that I won't tell you, and that's my
private opinion!"

There was a little pause. Caroline, reveling in conspiracy, lay
quiet, wondering who these people were and what they were talking
about.

"You are perfectly welcome to anything I know about Miss Aitken,"
Bluelegs continued, puffing at a fresh cigarette and throwing the
old one through the lattice at Caroline's feet.

"Her brother was a pronounced epileptic--died in a fit. I have seen
the doctor's certificate. She was greatly worried over his death,
and the manner of it, and showed signs of incipient melancholia."

"As how?" interrupted Graycoat.

"Don't know," said Bluelegs briefly. "Uncle said so. Wouldn't speak
to anybody; cried all day; off her feed--that sort of thing. Very
obstinate."

"Um," Graycoat muttered thoughtfully, "so am I. But I'd hate to be
shut up on that account."

"So her uncle," proceeded Bluelegs, "wishing to save her, if
possible, from her brother's fate, decided to--er--take steps in
that direction and--and here she is."

"So I see," said Graycoat. "Was the brother's epilepsy hereditary?"

"I believe not," Bluelegs returned. "I believe the young gentlemen
inherited a little too much a little too soon for his best good, and
hit up a rather fast pace; his constitution wasn't the best."

"Did she know about all this?"

"I believe she did. Thought she might have saved him if she'd known
sooner, her uncle said."

"Ah," said Graycoat. "Why didn't this kind uncle put his nephew with
the doctor?"

"He wasn't his trustee," Bluelegs answered, quietly.

"Dear me," said Graycoat gently, "how fortunate for the nephew!"

"That's as you look at it," responded Bluelegs.

Caroline dozed in the warm shade; in dreams she chased the French
Queen around the iridescent fountain.

"Uncle any business--besides trusteeship?" asked Graycoat.

"You can search me," said Bluelegs.

"Niece about twenty-one, I take it?" asked Graycoat.

"Search me again," said Bluelegs.

"Should you think," Graycoat demanded, after a pause, "that this
incipient melancholia was likely to last long--speaking, of course,
professionally?"

"Really, Dr. Riggs, I don't know." Bluelegs replied. "I am not at
all in touch with the case. The doctor has entire charge of it. He
mentioned to me last week that he was sorry to see both in her and
young Dahl evidences of clearly formed delusions--"

"Young Dahl!" cried Graycoat, "why, the boy is an admitted
paranoiac!"

"Really?" said Bluelegs, "you know I don't do much but cocaine and
morphia, these days. Did you know the doctor was going to print my
pamphlet?"

"He can afford it, I judge," growled Graycoat. "He gets a hundred a
week from Miss Aitken."

Bluelegs got up and sent a second cigarette after the first.

"Riggs," he said gravely, "if you're aiming to succeed as a magazine
writer, you're beginning well; if it's your ambition to succeed in
this business, and succeed right here, you're beginning badly. You
were keen enough to get this place. If you talk much this way, you
won't keep it long--you can take it from me. Let's come in to
lunch."

Their tread on the arbor floor roused the sleeping conspirator; she
sat up, rubbing her eyes half afraid that the clipped terraces, the
floating, flag, the inhabited castle, were only parts of her dream.
But even as she peered around the arbor, Joan of Arc rushed toward
her. She wore a black shade hat and carried a fluffy black parasol
under her arm.

"Be careful!" she panted. "We can't go yet--I was stopped. I had to
talk. You say yes to whatever I say, will you? Then you can escape
with me--" she smiled sweetly at Caroline--"a real escape, as they
do in story books! Won't that be fine?" Her hand was at her heart
again; a red circle burned in either cheek.

Caroline nodded eagerly.

"That will be grand!" she said. She had forgotten till that moment
that she wanted to escape.

"Ah, Miss Aitken! Late for lunch again!"

Caroline started guiltily, for it was the voice of Bluelegs.

Joan threw her arm over Caroline's shoulder carelessly.

"Yes, Dr. Ferris, I'm afraid I am," she said. "I was delayed by this
little visitor."

He looked suspiciously at them. "Who is she?" he asked.

"I don't know." Joan led Caroline along quickly. "She _says_ she is
Mary Queen of Scots."

He stared blankly.

"I found her conversing with Marie Antoinette," she went on easily,
"and she seems to have slipped in with an automobile party--was
there one? Children are so secretive, you know. She is trying to get
out, but she says all the gates are locked."

"Oh, yes, that was the Dahls--they came to see Frederick," he
explained.

"I see. You were left with the chauffeur, Mademoiselle, and it's
easy to imagine the rest," he added with a smile. He had a very
attractive smile, and Caroline slipped her hand into his offered one
readily.

"You are fond of children?" said Joan, abruptly.

"Very," he answered simply. "Why not! And they are fond of me, as
you see. My dear young lady, did you think we are all brutes because
we must obey orders?"

She set her teeth and walked swiftly forward.

"I know you think us cruel," he went on frankly, "because we can not
do for you the one thing that you want; but, except for that, have
you anything to complain of?"

She smiled scornfully.

"'Except for that'?" she echoed, "no, Dr. Ferris, nothing in the
world--but 'that'!"

"And you must remember," he continued, in his pleasant, soothing
voice, "that it may not be for long, after all. If you continue to
improve as you have--" She flung away impatiently. "Oh, yes, you
have improved, you know; you eat better, you sleep better, your
nerves are quieter. We get good reports of you. Many are ill longer
than you. Do you like the new masseuse?"

She did not answer.

"Now, this little lady must have some lunch with us, and then, no
doubt, we shall see that careless chauffeur again," he said easily.
"Would you like to stay?" he asked Caroline.

"Yes, I would."

"Mary was always fickle, you know," he laughed, glancing at her
clinging hand.

And, indeed, Caroline found him far more winning than the sulky,
silent Joan, and leaned confidingly against him as they climbed the
stone steps and passed through the rich, dark-paneled hall, hung
with bright pictures, filled with bowls of flowers. Several men,
uniformed like the gardener, stood about the steps and terraces;
two stood by the door of a large, airy dining-room filled with
hurrying waiters. About a long silver-laden table some twenty men
and women, cool in lawn and lace and white flannel, were seated,
eating and talking gaily. At the head was a large, tall man in a
snowy vest; evidently the host, by his smiling, interested attention
to everybody's wants. At his right was a vacant chair, and toward
this Joan of Arc directed her steps. She had caught Caroline's hand
in hers, and, as Bluelegs bent and whispered in the tall man's ear,
she added:

"I think, doctor, if the little girl stays by me she will feel less
shy, perhaps."

"Certainly, certainly--by all means. A good thought, Miss Aitken, a
good thought," he answered in a rich, kind voice. He shook hands
with Caroline warmly.

"So you find our grounds attractive?" he asked politely.

She nodded, a little shyly. All this company, so freshly dressed, so
ceremoniously served, so utterly unconscious of her presence,
embarrassed her a little. For not one of the ladies and
gentlemen--there were no children--paid the slightest attention to
her arrival, even when a place was made for her by Joan and a mug of
milk procured. They talked, or, as she noticed now, sat, many of
them, listless and silent, playing with their rings and bracelets,
answering only with monosyllables the questions of the large,
cordial doctor.

"Where is Marie Antoinette?" she whispered to her friend, who seemed
nearer, suddenly, than these cold table-mates.

"She does not eat with us," said Joan, helping her to chicken and
green peas, and beginning her own meal.

The doctor turned to them, having recommended some asparagus to the
stolid lady at his left.

"I am glad to see your appetite so good, Miss Aitken," he observed,
lowering his voice a little, "at this rate we shall have no excuse
for keeping you much longer."

"You have had none for six months," she replied curtly.

"I am sorry you feel so bitterly," he said, "but you know I can not
agree with you there. You will think more kindly of me some day, I
hope, when time has freed your mind of its prejudice."

"When will that be?" she asked, meeting his eyes full for a moment.

"I wrote only this morning to your uncle, stating your gradual but
steady improvement, and assuring him that in my opinion--subject, of
course, to circumstances--it would be a matter of a few months more
only," he said. "Does not that make your feelings a little--only a
little more tender--"

"What did you say?" a shrill voice interrupted, "say that again,
please."

Caroline had beguiled the woman next her, a frail, anemic little
creature with pathetic eyes, into a halting conversation.

"I said," she repeated, buttering her roll thickly and
appreciatively with fresh, clover-scented butter, "I said that no
weather was too hot for me. I love it."

("Now, really, I _am_ pleased," the big doctor murmured to the girl
beside him. "Mrs. Du Long hasn't seemed so interested for days. In
fact, she's been quite silent; I was alarmed about her. It's the
child's influence.")

"--Uncle Joe said," Caroline went on, the roll at her mouth, "and he
said I was a regular little snake."

She heard a guttural, growling sound beside her, lifted her eyes
innocently, and for one flashing, doubtful second beheld the
swollen, distorted face, the bulging eyes, the back-drawn snarling
lips beside her. She did not see the plunging fork above her head,
so quickly did Joan's arm intervene between her and it; she did not
hear its impact against the big doctor's plate nor the gurgling
voice of what had been the sad-eyed little woman beside her, for her
head was buried in Joan's stifling skirt.

"Kill the snake! Kill the snake!" some one--or something--yelled,
and then a grip of iron caught her arm and the voice of Bluelegs
said sternly:

"Look straight ahead of you--don't turn your head! Don't turn, Miss
Aitken--you can do nothing--they have her safe. The guards are
here."

The room, indeed, seemed full of gardeners; a bell rang noisily near
by.

"But the others--the others!" Joan gasped.

"They are all right--it won't trouble them," he answered quietly;
and as Caroline and the girl looked fearfully where they were
bidden, they saw the men and women eating placidly, talking with
each other or sitting listless, staring idly at four liveried men
who fought furiously with one small, snarling creature. Like the
cruel witnesses in dreams, they sat, and the waiters served them
swiftly and handed the dishes between their shoulders, as deaf as
they. And suddenly they became terrible to Caroline, and the castle
menacing, a thing to flee from.

"Step out this way," said Bluelegs, when the sounds of struggle had
died away, "and take the child through the grounds, will you,
please? Try to occupy her thoughts, and your own, too, if you can.
This is one of the unfortunate things that rarely happen, but when
they do--Yes, indeed, Mr. Ogden, it was certainly fine asparagus--I
am glad you enjoyed it. No, she was only a little indisposed--she'll
soon be well again. The heat of the sun, undoubtedly. Don't be
alarmed, Miss Arliss, she will have every attention."

The gardeners had vanished from the steps where they went down, and
none were seen in the grounds. Joan of Arc clutched Caroline's
waist.

"Now--now!" she said, between her teeth; "now is the time not to
faint! I never fainted--never. Come and show me that hole in the
fence. There is no one about. But don't run."

They hurried across the sunlit, smiling terrace.

"What was the matter?" Caroline queried fearfully, "was she--was
she--"

"Yes," said Joan brusquely. "Yes. Don't think about it. Don't run
and don't think. Only find the hole."

They stood beside it. No one was near them; no one called to them.
Silently Caroline slid under the sharp prongs. Joan of Arc put her
hands under her skirt a moment and a white ruffled petticoat slipped
around her feet. She adjusted it over her dress and pulled herself
with difficulty through. As she stood erect in the soiled, stained
petticoat, Caroline saw her knees, tremble under it, and she
drooped against the fence, white-cheeked.

"Don't faint," she said severely to Caroline.

With shaking hands she tied the petticoat under her dress again and
they crouched through the underbrush to the outer walk. Caroline
reached for her wheel and the two peered fearfully up and down the
empty road.

"I can't--I can't," the girl moaned, "my dress is so black--they can
see it from the hill. Oh, what shall I do? I thought I could, and I
can't!"

The measured trot of a pair of horses sounded on the road. An empty
station wagon came rapidly toward them; groom and driver regarded
them curiously.

The girl straightened herself and raised her hand with a pretty,
imperious gesture.

"One moment, please," she said, "but are you going to the village?"

"Yes, Miss," said the driver, "to the station. Was there anything--"

She opened a bag at her side and took out carelessly a small gold
piece.

"My little friend here," she said, in an even, low voice, "was
showing me this beautiful building and grounds and I utterly
neglected to note the time. I fear I have lost my train, if we try
to walk back. If you could take us--"

"Certainly, Miss," said the driver. "William, put the young lady's
wheel on top. Was it the express you wanted, Miss? I'm to meet
it--the 2.08. Party from Boston."

They climbed in, the bicycle settled noisily into the trunk-rack on
top, and the big chestnuts pounded down the hill.

Joan stared straight before her. Presently she drew a pair of black
gloves from her little bag and put them on. Her lips moved steadily,
and Caroline knew from her closed eyes that she was praying.

They drew into the neat station as the train Snorted itself in. The
girl handed the gold piece to the driver.

"Divide it, please," she said calmly. "I am much obliged."

She walked to the drawing-room car, and signaled the black porter.

"I shall be safe to-night," she said softly, to the child by her
side, "and I won't tell you my name, because it will not be mine
much longer. But what is yours? Tell me quick!"

"All _aboard_! Next stop One Hund' Twent'-_fifth_ Street!" some one
called, hoarsely.

Caroline looked dazed. She tried to speak sensibly, but her tongue
played tricks with her, and the tension of her feelings was too much
for her. As the girl paused a second on the platform, and the train
shuddered for its start, Caroline called above the escaping steam:

"I'm Mary Queen of Scots--I am! I am!"

The white face of Joan of Arc broke into a wavering smile.

"You dear little idiot," she called, chokingly, "I'll find you out
yet! You'll see! Good-by--God bless your Majesty."

And while she might, Caroline ran beside the window, waving her hand
at that tearful, happy face.




VIII

A WATCH IN THE NIGHT


The village clock boomed out the first strokes of eleven. Solemn and
mellow, the waves of sound flowed over the sleeping streets; the
aftertones vibrated plaintively. Caroline stirred restlessly,
tossing off the sheet and muttering in her dreams. The tears had
dried on her hot cheeks; her brows were still knitted.

"Four! Five! Six!" the big bell tolled.

Caroline sat up in bed and dropped her bare, pink legs over the
edge. Her eyes were open now, but set in a fixed, unseeing stare.

"Seven! Eight!"

She fumbled with her toes for her leather barefoot sandals and
slipped her feet under the ankle straps.

"Nine! Ten!" moaned the bell.

She moved forward, vaguely, in the broad path of moonlight that
poured through the wide-open window, and ran her hands like a blind
girl over the warm sill, lifting her knee to its level.

"Eleven!"

Before the murmuring aftertones had lost themselves in the night,
Caroline was out of the window. She stole lightly along the tin
roof, warm yet with the first intense heat of June, dropped easily
to the level of the kitchen-ell, and, slipping down onto the massive
trunk of the old wistaria, fitted accustomed feet into its curled
niches and clambered down among the warm, fragrant clusters. Steeped
in the full moon, it sent out its cloying perfume like a visible
cloud; her white nightgown glistened ghostlike through the leaves.

She paused a moment in the shadow of the vine, and a great tawny
cat, his orange markings distinct in the moonlight, stole to her,
brushing against her bare ankles caressingly. As he curled and
uncurled his soft tail about her little feet, a sudden impulse
caught her, and she started swiftly through the wide backyard,
bending to a broken gap in the privet hedge, cutting diagonally
across the neighboring grounds, and emerging into a pleasant
country road on the outskirts of the little village, with sleeping
houses sprinkled along its length, well back, mostly, from its edge,
showing here and there a light.

She struck into the soft, dusty road at a quick, swinging pace, the
fruit of much walking, and the big yellow cat pattered at her side.

The night was almost windless; sweet, nameless odors poured up from
the heated summer soil; the shadows of the grasses were outlined
like Japanese pictures on the white roadway. Except for the child
and the cat, no living being moved, as far as the eye could see;
only the burdocks and mulleins swayed almost imperceptibly with
breezes so delicate that the leaf tips of the trees could not feel
them.

A great white moth, blundering against a heavy thistle head, tumbled
against Caroline's elbow and fluttered clumsily into her face. She
started, blinked, drew a long breath, and woke with a frightened
gasp. Before her stretched the pale, curving road; above her the
spangled sky throbbed and glittered; the earth, drenched in
moonlight, beautiful as all lovely creatures caught sleeping,
breathed softly into her face and with every breath put courage into
her heart.

She looked down and saw the yellow cat, stopping, with one lifted
paw, his green, lamplike eyes fixed unwaveringly on hers.

"Why, it's you, Red Rufus!" she whispered, "when did we come here? I
don't remember--"

A bat whirred by: the cat pricked his ears.

"I don't believe we're here at all, Red Rufus," she whispered again.
"We're just dreaming--at least, I am. I s'pose you're only in my
dream. If I was really here, I'd be frightened to death, prob'ly,
but if it's just a dream, I think it's lovely. Let's go on. I never
had a dream like this--it seems so real, doesn't it, Rufus?"

They went on aimlessly up the road. Quaint little night sounds began
now to make themselves heard: now and then a drowsy twitter from the
sleeping nests, now and then a distant owl hoot. A sudden gust of
honeysuckle, so strong that it was like a friendly, fragrant body
flung against her, halted her for a moment, and while she paused,
sniffing ecstatically, the low murmur of voices caught her ear.

The honeysuckle ran riot over an old stone wall, followed an arching
gateway at the foot of a winding path that led to a lighted house on
a knoll above, and flung screening tendrils over an entwined pair
that paused just inside the gate. The girl's white, loose sleeves
fell back from her round arms as she flung them up about her tall
lover's neck; his dark head bent low over hers, their lips met, and
they hung entranced in the bowery archway.

For a moment Caroline watched them with frank curiosity. Then
something woke and stirred in her, faint and vague, but alive now,
and she turned away her eyes, blushing hot in the cool moonlight.

The soft tones of their good-night died into broken whispers; parted
from his white lady, he started on for a few, irresolute steps, then
flung about suddenly and walked back toward the house, after a low,
happy protest. The cooing of some drowsy pigeons in the stable on
the other side of the road carried on the lovers' language long
after they were out of earshot, and confused itself with them in
Caroline's mind.

She wandered on, intoxicated with the mild, spacious night, the dewy
freedom of the fields, the delicious pressure of the warm, velvet
air against her body. Red Rufus purred as he went, rejoicing with
his vagabond comrade. Just how or when she began to know that she
was not asleep, just why the knowledge did not alarm her, it would
be hard to say. But when the truth came to her, the friendly,
powdered stars had been above her long enough to accustom her to
their winking; the tiny, tentative noises of the night had sounded
in her ears till they comforted and reassured her; the vast and
empty field stretches meant only freedom and exhilaration. In a
sudden delirium of joy she slipped between the bars of a rolling
meadow and ran at full speed down its long, grassy slope, her
nightgown streaming behind her, her slender, childish legs white as
ivory against the greenish-black all around her. Beside her bounded
the great cat with shining, gemlike eyes. They rolled down the last
reaches of the slope, and all the Milky Way wondered at them, but
never a sound broke the solemn quiet of the night: the ecstasy was
noiseless.

[Illustration: Caroline danced, bowing and posturing in a bewitched
abandon, around the tinkling, glistening fountain.]

Her face buried in sweet clover, she panted, prone on the grass.

"Let's go right on, Rufus, and run away, and do just as we please!"
she whispered to the nestling cat. "If I can't do like the boys do,
I don't want to stay home--the fellows laugh at me! I'd rather be
whipped than sent to bed like a girl. I _won't_ be a young lady--I
_won't_!"

Rufus purred approvingly.

"If I only had some trousers!" she mourned, softly; "a boy can do
_anything_!"

Across the quiet night there cut a thin, shrill cry: a little,
fretful pipe that brought instantly before the mind some hushed,
white room with a shaded light and a tiny basket bed. Caroline sat
up and stared about her: such cries did not come from open fields.
Hardly a stone's throw from her there was a small knoll, and behind
it what might have been a large, projecting boulder suddenly flashed
into red light and showed itself for a dormer window; a cottage had
evidently hidden behind the little hill. Curiously Caroline
approached it and walked softly up the knoll.

Almost on the top she paused and peered into the unshaded window.
These householders had no fear of peeping neighbors, for only the
moon and the night moths found them out, and the simple bedroom was
framed like some old naive interior, realistic with the tremendous
realism of the Great Artist.

The high, old-fashioned footboard of the bed faced the dormer
window, and Caroline could see only the upper portion of the woman's
figure as she leaned over a small crib beside her, her heavy dark
hair falling across her cheek, and lifted up with careful slowness
the tiny creature that wailed in it. Beside her, as he supported
himself anxiously on his elbow, the broad chest and shoulders of her
young husband rose above the screening footboard. The mother gazed
hungrily at the doll-like, writhing object, passed her hand over its
downy forehead, smiled with relief into its opening eyes, and gave
it her breast.

Instantly the wail ceased. A slow, placid smile--and yet, not quite
a smile--it was rather an elemental content, a gratified drifting
into the warm current of the stream of this world's being--spread
over the woman's face; the man's long arm wrapped around his
wealth, at once protecting and defiant; his head flung back against
the world, while his eyes studied humbly the mystery that he
grasped. The night lamp behind them threw a halo around the mother
and her child, and the great trinity of all times and all faiths
gleamed immortal upon the canvas of the simple room--its only
spectator a child.

In her, malleable to all the influences of the revealing night,
fairly disembodied, in her detached and flitting presence, the scene
woke dim, coiled memories of an infancy that stirred and pained her
even as it left her forever, and frightened longing for the
motherhood that life was holding for her. No longer an infant, not
yet a woman, this creature that was both felt the helplessness of
one, the yearning of the other, and as she pressed the nestling cat
tightly to her little breast two great, eager tears slipped down her
hot cheeks, and a gulping sob, half loneliness, half pure
excitement, broke into the gentle stillness of the lighted room.

"Who's there?"

The man's voice rang like a sudden pistol shot in the night; before
Caroline's fascinated gaze the gleaming, softly colored picture
faded and vanished into the engulfing darkness, as the lamp went out
and a dark, scudding mackerel cloud flew over the moon.
Instinctively she fled softly down the knoll, instinctively she
dropped behind a bush at the bottom. She heard the rattle of the
window pane as the man pushed himself half out of the window; she
heard him call back to the waiting room behind him!

"It's a cat, dear--I saw it, plain. It's pretty bright out here. But
I thought I saw something white beside it, too. I guess I'll take a
look around outside."

There was a sound of movement behind the window, and, caught in an
ecstasy of terror, Caroline turned at right angles from the fields
and ran to the road that gleamed white, far on the other side of the
cottage. Panting, she won it, crossed it, and fairly safe behind the
low growth of wayside brushes that fringed its other side, she
dashed along, farther and farther from the cottage, more and more
frightened with every gasping breath.

On and on she flew, light as a skimming leaf in the wind, the cat
bounding in easy, flexible curves beside her. Now a little brown
cottage in its plot of land sent them into the road for a moment;
now some tiny pond, a mirror for the sprinkled heavens, broke into
their course, and they skirted it more slowly, peering continuously
into its jeweled depths. With them their hurrying shadows, black on
the road, fainter on the grass, fled ceaselessly, hardly more quiet
than they. A very intoxication of fear, a panic terror almost
delicious, drove Caroline through the night, though after a while
she ran more slowly. Utterly ignorant of where she was, reckless
of where she might go, she swung along under the streaming moon,
no white moth or whispering leaf more wholly a part of the night
than she.

Whatever idea of going back she might have had was lost long ago;
however little she might have meant to range so far, she was now
beyond any turning. No wood creature, no skipping faun or startled
dryad dancing under the moon could have belonged more utterly than
she to the fragrant, mysterious world around her. The bright,
bustling life of every day, its clatter of food and drink, its
smarts and fatigues, its settled routine of work and play, all
seemed as far behind her as some old tale of another life, half
forgotten now.

Just as her pace subsided into a little skipping trot, a thick hedge
sprang up across their path, driving them into the road, and
continued, stiff and tall, along its edge. The pure pleasure of
conquering its prickly stiffness sent Caroline through it, tearing
one sleeve from her nightgown and dragging a great rent in one side
of it. Emerging into a magnificent sweep of clipped turf, where
wide, leafy boughs spread dappled moon shadows, they made for a
whispering, clucking fountain that threw a diamond column straight
toward the stars, only to break at the top into a beaded mist and
clink musically back to its marble basin. Its rhythmic tinkle, the
four ball-shaped box trees at either corner, the carved whiteness of
the marble basin, and the massive pillar-fronted stone house beyond
it, all spread a glamour of fairyland and foreign courts. Caroline
bowed gravely to the cat, and, seizing his feathery paws, danced,
bowing and posturing, in a bewitched abandon around the tinkling,
glistening fountain. The plumy tail of Red Rufus flew behind him as
he twirled, his little feet pattered furiously after Caroline's
twinkling sandals. Stooping over the fountain, she threw a silvery
handful high in the air and ran to catch it on her head.

As she stood at last, panting and dazed with her mad circling, she
was aware of the low murmur of a voice, rising and falling in a
steady measure, reaching out of the dim bulk of the great house,
dark and sunk in sleep before her. For a moment a chill fear struck
to the bottom of her little heart: was some weird spell aimed at
her, some malignant eye spying on her? She stood frozen to the spot,
the tiny drops of sweat cooling on her forehead, while the droning
sounded in her ears. Then, out of the very core of her terror, some
inexplicable impulse urged her on to face it, and she crept, step by
step, the cat tight in her nervous grasp, around the corner of the
great house, toward the sound.

This corner was a wing, set at right angles to the main building,
and as she rounded it she found herself at the edge of an inner
court. In the opposite wing, looking straight across the court, was
a lighted room with a long French window opening directly on the
shaven turf, and in the center of this window there sat in a high,
carved chair a very old woman. She was carefully dressed in deep
black, with pure white ruffles at her neck and around her shrunken
wrists, and a lace cap on her thin, white hair. Her feet were on a
carved foot-stool, and a quaint silver lamp, set on a slender table
at her side, threw a stream of light across the court. Her face,
lined with countless wrinkles, was bent upon a large book in her
lap; from its pages she read in a low, steady voice--the
passionless, almost terrifying voice of great and weary age:

    "_Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all
    generations._

    "_Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou
    hast formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting
    to everlasting thou art God._"

Caroline stared, fascinated, down the path of lamplight. It marked a
bed of yellow tulips with a broad band; they stood motionless, as if
carved in ivory.

[Illustration: Across the court was a lighted room with a long
French window, and in the center of this window there sat in a high,
carved chair a very old woman.]

    "_For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday
    when it is past, and as a watch in the night._"

The grave, steady voice flowed out and mingled with the silver
lamplight; the marble sill of the long window was white like the
sill of a tomb.

    "_We spend our years as a tale that is told._

    "_The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and
    if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is
    their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off,
    and we fly away._"

The hot excitement of this magic night cooled slowly; over
Caroline's bubbling spirit there fell a mild, strange calm. A breath
from the very caverns of the infinite stole out along the path of
that silver lamp, and in the grave, surrendered voice there sounded
for the child upon life's threshold echoes of the final tolling.

Entranced by the measured cadences, Caroline stepped forward
unconsciously and stood, white against the gray stone, full in the
path of the lamp. The heavy, wrinkled lids raised themselves from
the deep-set eyes, and the aged reader gazed calmly at the little
figure across the court. The withered old hands clasped each other.

"Jemmy! O _Jemmy_!"

Caroline never moved.

"It _is_ you, Jemmy!"

The faded eyes devoured the little white figure.

"I thought you'd never come, Jemmy--but I knew they'd send you. I'm
all ready. Don't you think I'm afraid, Jemmy: I'm eighty-four years
old, and I want to go."

Caroline hardly breathed; a nameless awe held her motionless and
silent.

"You see, I don't sleep much any more, Jemmy," the old, toneless
voice went on, "and hardly any at night. They're very kind, all of
them, but I'm--I'm eighty-four years old, and I want to go."

The ivory tulips gleamed under the stars; the silver lamp, burned
lower and lower: its oil was nearly gone.

"And you brought your yellow kitty, too, Jemmy! To think of that!
Did they think I wouldn't know my baby? It's only fifty years, ...
shall I come now, Jemmy?"

The silver lamp went out. In the starlight Caroline saw the lace cap
droop forward, as the the old woman's head settled gently on her
breast. Her hands lay clasped on the great volume; her deep-set eyes
were closed. She read no more from the book, and the child, awed and
sober, stole like a shadow behind the gray wall and left the quiet
figure in the carved chair.

Her feet fell into a tiny graveled path, and she drifted aimlessly
along it, musing on the meaning of what she had heard. Almost she
had persuaded herself that the gray stone building was an enchanted
palace, and herself a fairy messenger sent to break the spell, when
the delight of pushing through a tiny turnstile and finding a
running brook with a waterfall in it close at hand, drove everything
else from her mind. The grounds had completely changed their
character by now: the turnstile marked the end of cultivation, and
the little path, no longer graveled, wound through the wild
woodland. Here and there a boulder blocked the way; the undergrowth
became dense; great clumps of fern and rhododendron sent out their
heavy, rank odors. Now and again the spicy scent of warm pines and
cedars prepared the ear for the gentle, ceaseless rustle of their
stiff foliage; little scufflings and chitterings at the ground level
told of wood-people wakened by the presence of Red Rufus.

A strange whitish bulk that glimmered through the thinning
foreground, too big for even a big boulder, too symmetrical and
quiet for a waterfall, tempted Caroline on, and she pressed forward
hastily, lost in speculation, when a sudden odor foreign to the
woods stopped her short at the very edge of a little glade, and she
paused, sniffing curiously.

A man, bareheaded, with grizzled curly hair, turned suddenly, not
ten feet from her, and stared dumfounded at her, his twisted, brown
cigar an inch from his lips.

The torn-out sleeve of her nightgown had bared one side to her
waist: the great rent that slit the lower half of the garment left
one slender leg uncovered above her white knee. A spray of wild
azalea wreathed her dark tumbled hair, and Rufus, his plumy tail
curled around her feet in the shadow, and his green eyes flaming,
might have been a baby panther. She leaned one hand on the rough
bark of a chestnut and gazed with startled eyes at the man; it
seemed that the forest must swallow her at a breath from a human
throat.

He lifted one hand and pinched the back of the other with it till
his face contorted with the pain.

"Then there _are_ such things!" he said softly; "well, why not?"

He moved forward almost imperceptibly.

"If I were younger, I should know you were not possible," he
muttered, "but now I know that I have never doubted you--really."

Again he took a small step. Caroline, paralyzed with fear and
embarrassment, for she thought he was merely teasing her a little
before he punished her--his pleasant, low voice and whimsical
manners brought her back suddenly to the ordinary world and the
stern facts of her escapade--shivered slightly, but did not attempt
flight.

"It was this extraordinary night that brought you out, of course,"
he went on, again slightly shortening the distance between them,
"you and the little cub. It was a moon out of five thousand, I
admit. Do you live in that chestnut?"

With a sudden agile bound he covered the space between them and
seized her by the shoulder.

"Aha!" he cried, "I have--good heavens, it _is_ a child!"

"Of course I am--I'm Caroline," she murmured writhing under his
grasp.

He pulled her out into the little glade.

"Oh! you're Caroline, are you?" he repeated, thoughtfully; "dear me,
you gave me quite a turn, Caroline. Where did you come from--the big
house?"

"I came from a long way," she said briefly. "I was--I was taking a
walk. Where do you live? Don't you ever to go bed?"

The man chuckled.

"I have been feeling adventures in my bones all day," he said,
"and here they are; a child and a cat. If you will come with
me, Mademoiselle, I will show you where I live."

He led the way gravely to the dim, white object, and Caroline
perceived it to be a tent, pitched by the side of a spring that
poured through a tiny pipe set into the rock. The tent flap was
tied back, and she saw inside it a narrow cot, covered with a
coarse blue blanket, a roughly made table, spread with a game
of solitaire, and a small leather trunk. On the further side of
the tent there smoked, in a rude, improvised oven of stones, a
dying fire. Above it, under a shelf nailed to the tree, hung a
few simple utensils; two or three large stumps had been hacked
into the semblance of seats.

To one of these stumps the man led Caroline, and, seating her, he
turned to the shelf above the fire and fumbled among the pots and
pans there, producing finally a buttered roll, a piece of maple
sugar, and a small fruit tart.

"You must be hungry," he said simply, and Caroline ate greedily.
After he had brought her a tin cup of the spring water, he selected
a brown pipe from a half dozen on the shelf and began filling it
from a leather pouch that hung on the tree.

"Now let's hear all about it," he said easily.

"I am running away," said Caroline abruptly. At that moment it
really seemed that she had planned her flight from the hour that
left her, tear-stained and disgraced, in her little bed.

"They didn't treat you well?" he suggested, picking out a red ember
from the coals on the point of a knife and applying it to the pipe.

"I'm not to wear my knickers any more," Caroline said, with a gulp,
"and my bathing suit has to have a skirt. I've got to stop p-playing
with the b-boys--so much, that is," she added, honestly.

The man turned his head slightly.

"That seems hard," he said; "what's the reason?"

"I'm 'most twelve," said Caroline; "you have to be a young lady,
then."

"I see," the man said. He looked at her thoughtfully. "I suppose you
_would_ look larger in more clothes," he added.

"That's it," she assured him, "I do. That's just it."

"And so you expect to avoid all this by running away?" he asked,
settling into his own stump seat. "I am afraid you can't do it."

Caroline set her teeth. He regarded her quizzically.

"See here," he went on, "I wish you'd take my advice in this
matter."

They confronted each other in the starlight, a strange pair before
the dying fire. The moon had gone, and the stars, though bright,
seemed less solid and less certainly gold than before. A cool breeze
swept through the wood and Caroline shivered in her torn nightdress.
The man stepped into the tent and returned with a long army cloak.
This he wrapped round her and resumed his seat, with Rufus on his
knee.

"My name," he said, "is Peter. Everybody calls me that--just Peter.
I don't know exactly why it is, but a lot of people--all over--have
got into the way of taking my advice. Perhaps because I've knocked
about all over the world more or less, and haven't got any wife or
children or brothers and sisters of my own to advise, so I take it
out on everybody else. Perhaps because I try to put myself in the
other fellow's place before I advise him. Perhaps because I've had a
little trouble of my own, here and there, and haven't forgotten it.
Anyhow, I get used to talking things over."

A gentle stirring seemed to pass through the woods: the birds spoke
softly back and forth, a squirrel chattered. Again that cool wind
swept over the trees.

"Now, take it this week," the man went on, puffing steadily; "you
wouldn't believe the people just about here who've asked for my
advice. I usually camp up here for a week or so in the summer--the
people who own the property like to have me here--and the first day
I unpacked, up comes a nice girl--I used to make birch whistles for
her mother--to tell me all about her young man. She brought me that
spray of honeysuckle over the pipes--grows over the front gate. She
wants to marry him before her father gets to like him, but she hates
to run away. 'Would you advise me to, Peter?' she says. And I
advised her to wait.

"Then there's my friend the blacksmith. He lives in a queer little
house with dormer windows under a hill, just off the county road.
He's got a new baby, and he was afraid it wouldn't pull through. He
knew I'd seen a lot of babies--black and red and yellow--and _he_
wanted my advice. 'Peter, what'll I do?' he says, 'what'll I do?'

"'Why, just wait, Harvey. He'll live. Just wait,' I told him."

Caroline listened with interest. He might have been talking to his
equal in years, from his tone.

"Then, oddly enough," he continued, "here's my old friend in the big
house up yonder--and she _is_ old--and what do you think she's
worried about? She's afraid she _won't_ die! 'Oh, Peter,' she says
to me--she's fond of me because I'm the same age as a little boy of
hers that died--'it seems to me that I can't wait, Peter! What shall
I do?' she says. And I tell _her_ to wait. 'Dear old friend,' said I
to her last night, 'it will come. It's bound to come. Just be
patient.'"

He paused and knocked his pipe empty.

"Now, as to your case," he said, "I know how you feel. I'm sorry for
you--by the Lord, I'm sorry for you! But what's the use of running
away? You'll keep on growing up, you know. It's one of the things
that doesn't stop. You can't beat the game by wearing knickers, you
know. And then, there'd come a time when you'd want to quit,
anyhow."

She shook her head.

"Really, you would," he assured her, persuasively. "They all do."

"That's what Uncle Joe says," she admitted, "and Aunt Edith. She
changed her mind, she says--"

"Are you talking about Joe Holt?" Peter demanded.

"Yes--do you know him? He lives in a big white house with wistaria
on the side," Caroline cried joyfully.

"I was a senior when he was a freshman," said Peter. "Then he's
taken the Washburn house."

"Do you know Aunt Edith, too?" asked Caroline.

"Yes," said Peter, after a pause, "yes, I know Aunt Edith--or used
to. But I didn't know she--they were up in this country. I haven't
seen her--them for a good while. Does--does she sing yet?"

"Oh, yes, but not on the stage any more, you know," Caroline
explained.

"I see. Does she sing, I wonder, a song about--Oh, something about
'my heart'?"

"'My heart's own heart,' you mean," Caroline said importantly; "yes,
indeed. It's her encore song."

"I see," said Peter again.

He looked into the fire, and there was a long silence. After a while
he shook his shoulders like a water-dog.

"Now, Caroline," he said briskly, "here's the way of this business.
You can't wear knickers until you're one of the boys, and you can't
be one of the boys until you wear knickers. Do you see? So you don't
get anywhere."

Caroline looked puzzled. She was suddenly overcome with sleep, and
the old familiar names and ways tasted of home and comfort to her
soul.

"You're too nice to be a boy, Caroline," said Peter, leaning over
her and brushing her azalea-crowned hair tenderly with his lips. "If
you persist in this plan of running away to be a boy, some boy,
growing up anxiously, somewhere, will never forgive you! Take my
advice, and wait--will you? Say 'Yes, Peter.'"

"Yes, Peter," Caroline murmured, drowsily.

"Good girl! Then I'll take you home with my little donkey. I don't
believe they've missed you yet. You've come four miles, though, you
little gypsy!"

He disappeared behind the trees, and Caroline nodded. Later she woke
sufficiently to find herself and Rufus on the blue blanket on the
bottom of a little donkey cart; Peter stood by the gentle,
long-eared head.

"Thank you, Peter," she murmured, half asleep, "and you'll see Aunt
Edith, won't you?"

"I don't believe so," he said, very low. "Not yet. Tell her Peter
brought you back. Just Peter. But he can't come yet. Get up, Jenny!"

They wound out by an old wood road. A cool spiciness flowed though
the green aisles, and as the tiny donkey struck into a dog trot, the
man striding easily at her head, a far-away cock crowed shrilly and
the dawn gleamed white.




IX

THE ENDS OF THE EARTH


"Caroline!" Henry D. Thoreau cocked one brindled ear cannily and
rapped sharply with his tail on the piazza floor, but there was no
other answer to the call. "Caroline!" The insistent voice rang
louder; it was a very determined voice. A sleepy Angora cat scowled
reprovingly at its violence; a gray and pink parrot mimicked its
hortatory note, but after that the midsummer silence settled down
again. Only the bees droned heavily among the heavy August roses.

"Don't nag her, dear; it doesn't do any good," a sleepy contralto,
rich as creamy chocolate, crooned out of a scarlet-fringed hammock.

"That's all very well for you, Edith, you don't have the
responsibility of her. Her father wants her to read a little history
every day, and this is the best time--it's too hot for anything
else."

"Rather hot for history, dear?"

"It's not too hot for the Moonstone, I notice! She's been at that
since breakfast, steadily. Not a word for any one."

"'Moonstone' sounds cool, anyhow," drawled the contralto
appeasingly.

"Oh, Edith! You're as bad as the child herself!"

"She's fourteen, dear."

"Fourteen! What is that?"

"Anything but a child, when it's you, Sis. You talk to her as if she
were ten."

"You'd think she was, if you saw her riding that donkey--a great
girl like her!"

"There it is, dear! One moment she's a baby, the next she's a great
girl! It's hard on her, Sis."

"But, Edith--that donkey!"

"Poor Rose-Marie! I rode him myself--bareback and standing up!--when
I was fifteen--at a circus. Do you remember?"

The voice chuckled unwillingly. "You always were a tomboy, Deedee!
Do you remember Joe's bull fight?"

[Illustration: Caroline was not a hundred yards away, sheltering
under a heavy arbor vitae, flat on her stomach.]

"And the lemonade stand!" Contralto cried, with a rich swoop of
laughter. Their voices took up a happy canon of gold memories; there
were no more cries for Caroline.

She was not a hundred yards away from the sister aunts, sheltering
under a heavy arbor vitae, flat on her stomach, her nose glued to the
reprehensible Moonstone: that she had heard the calls and resented
them the scowl between her eyebrows exhibited. Behind her, patiently
at graze, a small, mouse-colored donkey stood, shifting a pair of
quaint panniers from side to side and wagging his scarlet ear
tassels thoughtfully.

The chapter ended, Caroline rose, peered across to the piazza,
nodded to herself at the flow of voices and shrugged her shoulders.

"Good old Aunt Deedee!" she muttered, "she choked her off! Now, for
heaven's sake, don't bray, Rose-Marie, and perhaps we can get away.
I wouldn't dare get over to the house for a luncheon; we'll have to
get along with sweet-boughs."

She slipped the book into one pannier, a cushion into the other
and threw a worn steamer rug over the little beast's back;
Caroline was a luxurious lounger and rarely traveled without
her sumpter mule and his impedimenta. She led him with practiced
quiet away from the house and paused under the gnarled old
sweet-bough tree: the greenish-yellow, almost translucent globes
dotted the lush, warm grass, their languorous sweet filled the
air. Selecting a dozen thoughtfully, she added them to the
donkey's load, and they went on at a foot pace, through the
slowly reddening Baldwins and seek-no-furthers, the tiny
lady-apples and the king-of-Tompkins-counties, through the
belt of dead, warped fruit trees, blighted and gray--"like
those Dore pictures," she murmured to Rose-Marie--down three,
crumbling brick steps, where the little fellow picked his way
as daintily as a careful lady, and across the dusty road into
a pasture trail that led to a wood stretch, sparse at first,
thicker as one plunged in deeper. The sun filtered through in
delicious diamonds; here and there a resinous pine, steeped in
heat, threw out a cloud of balmy odor; a chipmunk scuttered
across their path, clicking nervously, only to squat on his
haunches and stare beadily at Rose-Marie, taut with quivering
curiosity. Caroline scowled at him.

"Rise of the Dutch Republic!" she muttered angrily. "I think not!"

The chipmunk winked sympathetically.

"Your father says it's as interesting as any novel" (with startling
mimicry of the piazza voice). "I notice _they_ don't read it!"

The chipmunk's place was empty; only a slight stir among the leaves
marked his path.

Caroline's eyes widened, grew dreamy. She leaned her sharp elbows on
Rose-Marie's hairy back and threw her weight on him thoughtfully: he
checked and stood like a table.

"Do you suppose there really are regular roads through the trees,
like the monkeys took Mowgli on?" she queried.

Rose-Marie waved his long, hairy ears meditatively, but said
nothing.

"I don't mean in any fairy way," she explained hastily, "but just
scientifically. It might be. Corners and turns and short-cuts--why
not? they all know them. He may be running home by a back way, now,
to call his children to look at Rose-Marie; it's as good as a whole
circus parade to them, I suppose. And they talk to each other...."

Held in a muse, she leaned against the donkey; the moments slipped
by. She lost all count of time. Her eyes stared emptily at some
sunny flicker, some dappled pattern of leaf work; her ears were
filled with the forest drone, the mysterious murmur made up of so
many nameless instruments that only the Great Conductor can classify
and number them. Time ceased to be.

At length she woke with a start, shook herself coltishly, and they
pushed on. The wood grew thicker; now and then Rose-Marie had to
force his way along the tiny trail; his red tassels caught on the
twigs.

"I'll tell you what," Caroline began, suddenly, "I'm going to try
that wood track to-day and see where it goes, to the very end. It
must go somewhere. Where do they haul the wood from, if there isn't
some place at the end? Come on, Rose-Marie!"

At a point where the trail forked she led the donkey along the wider
and less interesting way. It was ridged and rutty, and Rose-Marie
sniffed disgustedly as he slipped among the gnarled roots; the
apples bumped and slid in the pannier. After a while Caroline
stopped under a tree, ate three of the apples, gave the donkey two,
and resting in an artfully constructed nest of rug and pillow,
dipped refreshingly into the Moonstone.

"That's a kind of luncheon," she remarked philosophically, "and now
we'll start again. I'll go to the end of this, if it takes all day!"

They settled down to a dogged pace and after an hour, during which
the wood grew thinner by imperceptible degrees, found themselves on
a relatively easy track that forked suddenly into a genuine country
road, stretching far to left and right of them. It was a new country
to Caroline; she found no landmarks whatever. The road glared with
heat, the dust was powdery, the shade nowhere, once they had cleared
the wood. She sighed with fatigue and emptiness; it seemed a long
pull, and the harbor far from worth the voyage, when all was said
and done.

"What _did_ we want to get to this nasty hot road for, Rose-Marie?"
she cried pettishly, shifting from one long leg to the other,
shrugging a nervous, bony shoulder. "Oh, what's the sense of
anything, anyway?"

Rose-Marie turned a patient, clear brown eye toward her and shook
his head vaguely. Gnats buzzed about his flexible ears, and with a
swishing fanning motion he displaced them.

"If my back aches," she warned him callously, "you'll have to take
me home, you know! Tired or not. It feels as if it might, any
minute. I never used to get tired, this way."

A half mile along the road, set off to the left, among cool trees
and behind a great well sweep, she perceived suddenly a white farm
house. It stood alone, neighborless and well up on a drained,
southerly slope; smoke rose languidly from one of its chimneys.

"Perhaps they'll give us some milk, Rose-Marie," said Caroline, "and
farms usually have cookies. If there are any children there, you can
give 'em rides to pay for it!"

Rose-Marie nodded and they went on with some spirit. As they turned
into the deep front yard Caroline almost wept with comfort and a
pathetic sense of the wayworn wanderer on the edge of home and
rest, so the place breathed of these. Clear and white with the faded
whiteness of old New England white shingles, it drowsed under its
elms; a fire of nasturtiums smoldered along the broken, flagged path
that led to it; phlox and "Bouncing Bets" crowded up among the once
formal bed of larkspur on each side the sagging flagstone steps,
beneath the simple entrance porch. Old-fashioned green paper shades
hung evenly half way down the clean windows; the door stood
hospitably ajar.

"Just wait there, Rose-Marie, till I find out about things," said
Caroline, tapping lightly on the door. The house was perfectly
silent. She tapped again, and it seemed that something heavy moved
across the floor in a farther room, but there was no answer. Pushing
the door open gently, she stepped in and stood surprised, for she
found herself not in the stiff, unused country "parlor" she had
expected, but a neat bedroom. A quaint four-poster with a fluted
valance, a polished mahogany chest of drawers, a stand by the bed
with a Bible worn to a soft gray and a night lamp on it, some faded
photographs tacked to the white walls--this was an odd reception
room. She hesitated, and again the faint rumbling sound pointed to
some person stirring and she went into the next room.

Here was a clean, kindly kitchen of the best; a swept floor, a
freshly blackened cooking stove, a row of bright tins. It was
carpeted with faded oilcloth, but rag rugs, washed dim and
soft-toned, lay here and there, and the room was so large that the
spread table, standing in an ell, made only a pleasant episode in
it, a certainty of restoring food at needful times.

It was evidently a sitting room as well, in the primitive, clear
fashion that groups all domestic life about the central fire that
feeds it; a stand with books, a sewing basket, oil lamps for evening
reading, all not too far from brick-shaped pans where unmistakable
bread rose under a clean, folded, red cloth. The whole place seemed
waiting, quietly, hospitably waiting, for just such an empty,
discouraged pilgrim as Caroline.

She sank gratefully into a high-backed arm-chair, stuffed to just
the hollow of her tired back, covered with a clean, homely
patchwork, and drew out the faithful Moonstone from under her elbow.

"Someone'll come soon," she assured herself, and slipped into the
story as a hot swimmer slips off his sunny rock into the waiting
blue. Another world, a delicious, smooth element--Romance
itself--received her, and of hunger and heat, thirst and the fatigue
of the road, she knew no more than the blessed dead themselves....

A sharp tap at the farther door disturbed her, and instinctively she
called, "Come in!"

A swift, swishing step brushed across the bedroom and a slender,
angry-eyed young woman poised like a gull before her.

"Can I get something to eat here?"

Her voice was at once imperious, irritated, unsure of itself. It
could not be that the owner of this voice, dressed with that
insolent simplicity that need not consider the costly patience of
the work-women, ringed like a dowager with great audacious squares
of ruby and white diamond, booted and hatted as one who wears and
throws away, with a bag of golden mesh on her wrist to pay the
price of any whim--it could not be that she doubted what answer she
should receive. And yet she did--did, and had before this: so much
was evident at first sight. She was a curious gypsyish type, for all
her _Rue de la Paix_ curvings and slim, inevitable folds and pleats;
a full, drooping mouth in a slender dark face, great brown eyes and
heavy waves of black hair. She looked discontented and ready to make
some one suffer for it.

"Well--can I?" she repeated, as Caroline stared. "I'm ready to pay,
of course."

"I don't know--I don't live here," said Caroline shortly. She felt
untidy and badly dressed beside this graceful thing standing in a
faint cloud of subtle perfume of her own; her sleeves were too short
and her heavy shoes knobby and worn. She wanted furiously to smell
sweet like that; and the golden bag--oh, to feel it, powerful and
careless, on her wrist!

"Can you find out?" said the girl, eyeing the room attentively; "my
car broke down--the man left it in the road and went to Ogdenville
for gasoline. I've got to rest somewhere."

"I don't know anything about it," Caroline said coldly. "I'm waiting
for someone to come, myself. There's nobody here. I don't live here
at all."

With that, and because she was embarrassed and cross and hungry, she
opened her book ostentatiously and affected to read busily. The girl
frowned angrily a moment, then gave a foreign little shrug of her
shoulder and settled herself in a low rocking chair near the bread,
her hands loose in her lap. The old clock ticked reprovingly through
the hot and conscious silence of the room, but there was no other
sound. Caroline could not have lifted her eyes to save her life, and
the older girl's lips curled scornfully: her eyelids were sullen.

After a few moments of this intolerable stillness the same low
rumbling sound was heard again, this time moving nearer. Something
was advancing to the kitchen from a farther room, and as they looked
instinctively at the door it pushed open slowly and a sort of foot
rest upon wheels appeared; two large wheels followed, and a woman
pushed her chair into the kitchen. She was a large, good-looking
woman, middle-aged, and not weak, evidently, for she managed her
chair easily with one hand; the other held a slice of pink ham on a
white platter in her lap. Her face, under a placid parting of
grayish fair hair, was rather high colored than of an invalid
pallor, her chest broad and deep, her blue eyes at once kind and
keen. She wore a neat dress of dark-blue print with a prim,
old-fashioned linen collar and a blue bow, a white apron around her
plump waist almost covered the patchwork quilt that wrapped her from
the hips down: a shell comb showed slightly above her crisp hair. As
she faced her two angry guests a smile of unmistakable sincerity and
delight greeted them.

"Well, of all things!" she cried eagerly; "how long, 'you been
here?"

Caroline waited sulkily for her social superior; the girl was
undoubtedly a "young lady." Her errand was soon explained, her
question asked.

"Something to eat?" echoed their delighted hostess. "Well, I should
think so! I'm just getting my dinner. Of course I'm all alone, this
time o' day, but I always say if I'm good enough to cook it well,
I'm good enough to eat it comfortable, and I sit down to table
just's if the family was all here. There's some that believe in a
bite and a bit, when the men folks are out, but I never did. And
then--" she blushed shyly like a girl--"I always want to feel ready
in case anyone should come. Just in case. He says it's foolishness,
but look at you two, now! How'd I feel if I wasn't prepared! And
once--in April, 'twas--a sewing-machine man came. I had ham then,
too."

She beamed on them, frankly overjoyed in their company, and in the
mellow warmth of that honest pleasure the fog and anger in the room
rolled back like mist under a noon sun, and Caroline unbent, named
herself, and mentioned her donkey and their woodland journey.

"You don't say!"

Quick as a flash their hostess was across the room and peering
through the window.

"Well, of all the funny little fellows! I never saw one before, that
I remember. Aren't those red tossels neat, though! I s'pose he's
tame?"

Caroline put him through his paces, as he came like a dog at her
call, and she of the wheel chair applauded like a child at a Punch
and Judy.

"We saw so many of those in Italy," said the older girl. "I rode one
in the Alps."

The woman's face flushed a deep, quick red; she gripped the arms of
her chair and stared at the nervous little jeweled creature before
her as if she were a vision of the night.

"Have you been to Italy?" she cried eagerly, "not really!"

"Me? Oh, yes, I've been all over Europe," said the girl
indifferently. "Why? Do you like it?"

Now it was the woman who echoed, "Me?"

She flashed a whimsical look at Caroline; instinct taught her that
they were two to one, here.

"Why, dear, I've never been out of Lockwood's Corners in my life!"

Simple, rude incredulity pushed out the girl's lip.

"Nonsense!" she said brusquely, "that's ridiculous!"

"Maybe it is," her hostess answered quietly, "but it's true, all the
same. I never have." Gold-bag did not blush for her rudeness, for
the simple reason that she did not realize it, and Caroline suddenly
felt less embarrassed by her. Girls of that age were too old to talk
so pettishly to people not in their own families, and she twiddled
her fingers too much, anyway, and stared too much, or else, again,
she didn't look at one enough.

"You've been to New York, haven't you?" she asked abruptly.

"Never," said the woman. "I've been this way since I was seventeen.
I'm a pretty heavy woman, you know, and they couldn't put me on a
train very well. So--"

"There's plenty of room in a drawing-room car."

"I guess we couldn't afford that," said the woman simply.

There was an awkward pause; Caroline blushed furiously. How horrid
it all was! But their hostess brushed it away in a moment.

"And here you are hungry!" she cried; "the idea! I'll get this ham
right on and fry up some potatoes--I'll do them French! I've got
some fresh raised-doughnuts--I got the prize for them at the county
fair, years ago, so I know they're all right--and some summer apple
sauce; 'tain't much, with summer apples, but I put in lemon peel and
a taste o' last year's cider--it makes a relish, anyhow; and I've
got some fine sweet-pickled watermelon rind. I could have had sponge
cakes, if I'd only known! Would you care to try a cut pie? The
sewing-machine man said he hadn't tasted anything like my squash pie
in years. It was cut, too."

With incredible swiftness she rolled from table to buttery, from
stove to larder. As the pink ham curled and sputtered in its savory
juices, she turned an earnest face to the girl who watched her
curiously.

"Can't you tell us a little about Italy, while we're waiting?" she
begged.

"It's full of fleas," said the traveler carelessly, "and moldy old
places--it's awfully cold, too. I wore my furs a lot of the time. It
smells bad nearly everywhere. Do you stay here in the winter, too?"

"I've stayed here forty-five winters"--she turned the ham
capably--"and I expect to stay as many more as the Lord spares my
life! I was born here. So was father. Grandfather was born right in
the Corners. In eighty-eight we were snowed up a week here. Mr.
Winterpine--that's my husband--had bronchitis, and he couldn't get
out to tend to the stock. Edgar--that was the hired man's name--was
only twenty, and I had to help with one of the cows; I went out in
my chair through a snow tunnel!"

She chuckled reminiscently and her guests listened, fascinated.

"We were caught in a bad storm outside of St. Petersburg, once,"
Gold-bag volunteered. "If it hadn't been for J. G. we'd have gone
out, probably. As it was, the driver lost a finger."

"St. Petersburg, Russia?" the woman inquired respectfully, her
skillet full of potatoes colored like autumn beech leaves.

The girl nodded. "J. G. swore at the man, so he didn't _dare_ die,"
she continued, with a hard little grin; "and we just about pulled
through."

"Who is J. G.?" asked Caroline abruptly.

"J. G. Terwilliger," she answered simply. It was as if one had said
"Edward Seventh" or "Adelina Patti" or "P. T. Barnum."

"Who's he?"

"He's my father, for one thing. I suppose you know who he is as well
as anybody else."

"I never heard of him," Caroline said carelessly, "are you all
ready, now, Mrs. Winterpine?"

"He is the greatest mining expert in the world," the girl declared
emphatically, "and I don't know where you've lived not to know it.
You--" with a look at the woman, "you know him, of course?"

"I don't know anybody of that name, no," the woman admitted; "but
then, you know, we don't know much, 'way off here, about city
people."

"There hasn't been a daily paper for ten days that hasn't had his
name in it," the girl remarked dryly.

Mrs. Winterpine wiped her face, flanked the ham with the potatoes,
assembled an incredible array of sweets and relishes in odd, thick
little glass dishes, and with a wave of her hand indicated her
guests' places.

"We take the _Lockwood's Corners Clarion_," she explained
pacifically.

They addressed themselves to the meal, a strange trio. Caroline,
usually a hopeless chatterbox, fell somehow and inevitably into the
listener's seat. Their hostess could no longer be denied: her thirst
gleamed in her eyes, and flesh and blood could not have withstood
her plea for tidings of those distant, rosy lands whose laden
wharves she could never see, nor ever glimpse their tiled roofs
under foreign sunsets, their white spires beneath mysterious moons.
Their clothes: was it true that the French wore wooden shoes? She
had read that men in Italy walked in gay capes, colored like birds.
Was there water in the streets, and were boats really their
carriages? Did soldiers, red-coated, demand passports? Had her guest
seen the snow tops of green slopes? Did dogs drag milk carts for
white-capped women?

The girl, sulky at first, yielded finally, and in quick, nervous
phrases poured out of her full budget. Taken from her convent
school in California at fifteen, she had roamed the world with the
tireless "J. G." From Panama to Alaska, from Cairo to Christiania,
with her uncreased Paris frocks and the discontented line between
her dark eyes, she had steamed and sailed and ridden; she had
ridden a camel in Algeria, a gelding in Hyde Park, a broncho
on the Western plains.

"Why do you call your father 'J. G.'?" Caroline demanded suddenly.

"Do you like 'Klondike Jim' any better? That's his other name,"
Gold-bag shot at her defiantly.

Then came strange tales of a flaring, glaring mining camp: lights
and liquor and bared knives, rough men and rougher words, and in the
midst a thin, big-eyed little creature in the hand of a burly,
red-shirted miner, with the very gift of gold under his matted hair,
the scent for it in his blunt nostrils, the feel for it in his
callous finger tips. Klondike Jim! He had made for his Klondike as a
bloodhound makes for the quarry; he could not be mistaken. Night and
day she had been with him, his first claim named for her--the
Madeline--his first earnings a gold belt for her childish waist!

And then, money and money and more money. Rivers of it, ponds of it.

"If J. G. said there was copper under Fifth Avenue, they'd dig it up
to-morrow!"

"You must be real proud of him," said Mrs. Winterpine genially.

"I used to be," the girl answered, with her mouth a little awry.

"My dear, my dear!"

"Oh, yes," she cried angrily, pushing back her chair and facing
them; "all very well, but who are we? Who was my mother? Who was my
grandfather? Where did we come from? Will a sapphire bracelet answer
me that, do you think? Who knows us? 'Miss Maddy Money Bags'! How
long do you think I'd stay in that convent? Who does J. G. know?
Hotelmen and barkeeps and presidents of things! If you could see the
counts he wanted me to marry! If you could hear the couriers laugh
at him!"

"But think of all the traveling you've done, dear! What things to
remember! How happy--"

"Happy! I hate it. As J. G. says, I hate it like--well, I just hate
it," she concluded, with propriety, if a little lamely.

Something in the look she cast around the warm, clean kitchen struck
the woman suddenly. "You don't mean you'd rather live here--_here_?"
she exclaimed amazedly.

"Don't you like it?" queried Madeline sharply.

Mrs. Winterpine considered a moment. "You see, it's my home," she
began. The girl's dry laugh interrupted her.

"That's just it. It's your home," she repeated. "We haven't any.
That's the idea. What's the use of traveling if you can't come home?
And we can't, ever. Unless we go back to the Klondike," she added
satirically.

There was a long pause. It seemed that the girl was slowly
undressing herself before them: travel and money and gold bag and
scented linings slipped from her like so many petticoats and left
her thin and cold between them, warm as they were in their solid
homespun of kin and hearth. Lean and empty, a houseless, flitting,
little shadow, she had scoured the world and sat now, envious, by a
kitchen fire. How strange!

Mrs. Winterpine gathered the dishes with accustomed hands and piled
them by a pan of hot, soapy water. Caroline, sobered, rose to help
her with the instinctive courtesy of the home-trained child, but
drew back at her shaken head and waving finger, and followed her
glance toward her other guest, who stared morosely into the
dooryard, her chin in her ringed, brown hand. She was evidently not
far from tears--in a nervous crisis.

"I wonder if you'd help me with these dishes, Madeline?" said the
woman quietly, and with a start the girl rose, stood meekly while a
checked apron was tied about her waist and received the moist,
shining ware from the plump hands without a word. She appeared to
have utterly forgotten Caroline.

After a few moments of rhythmical click and splash, a few journeys
from sink to dresser, the tension broke quietly and the air was
aware of it, as when a threatened thunderstorm goes by above and
dissipates in wind. Feeling this, Mrs. Winterpine began to talk
softly, half to herself it seemed, for her voice took on the tone
of one who is much alone and thinks aloud.

"All my life I've been crazy for travel. I used to read my geography
book till I wore it out nearly; the exports and the imports, you
know? And the pictures of those Arabian men with white turbans, and
the South Sea Islanders riding on surf boards--I can see 'em now.
There was a castle for Germany, with the moon behind it and the
Rhine--do you know 'Bingen on the Rhine'? I love the sound of that.
And the Black Forest! Think of it!"

She paused with a platter dripping in her hand, her eyes fixed; and
so strong was the compulsion of her vision that to Caroline, vibrant
as a wind harp to such suggestion, the splash of the water in the
tin was the very tinkle of Undine's mystic stream and _Kuehleborn_,
that wicked uncle-brook dashed in cold floods over the belated
knight in the dark German wood!

"I dreamed once about an Indian temple," the woman went on, "and
you'd really think I'd been there, I saw it so plain. Fat priests
and that big idol that sits cross-legged, all made of brass, and
smiling; and such funny drums and pipes--creepy music. The heathens
brought wreaths and stretched out on their stomachs flat on the
ground. I'd read it somewhere, I guess. I could smell the flowers,
like pond lilies and honeysuckle."

She poured away the dish water, wiped the pan and began rinsing her
towels and cloths in a small wooden tub bound with tin. The girl
moved aimlessly about the room, fingering the worn furniture.

"That clock looks awfully old," she said abruptly, pausing before a
square high Dutch affair with a ridiculous picture of Mount Vernon,
wobbly-columned, let in at the bottom.

"Goodness, yes! That clock--why, that clock was a wedding present to
Lorenzo's great aunt Valeria--she was a Swedenborgian, I believe.
She used to have trances and she could tell you where things were
lost. That chair by the window was her mother's. It's made with
wooden nails, dowels, they call 'em."

"Did she live here, too?"

"Yes, indeed. The Winterpines are great hands to stay in one place.
And the way they come back to die! I'm half Winterpine myself--he
and I were second cousins--and I well remember Uncle Milton
Winterpine coming home from Java to die in his bed. He was a sailor,
and how I used to hang around and coax him to tell me what he'd
seen! I remember how he staggered into the house--Mother Winterpine
was living then.

"'Here, Esther, here's a fifty-pound sack of Old Gov'ment Javvy for
ye, green, and fit for the president's table as soon's it gits
ripe,' he says, 'and you won't have to nurse me long;' and we got
his boots off and helped him to bed. He never left it. He brought me
a parrot, that trip, sort of indigo color and pink. It used to set
me thinking of the hot countries and pineapples and natives, and
those tall trees with all the leaves on top--palms, I guess I mean.
It seems the stars are lower, there, and look bigger; did you ever
see the Southern Cross?"

"Oh, yes. It's like any other stars. The first officer on the P & O
line always asks me to come and see it. Then he proposes. J. G.
plays poker the whole trip. He can't lose. He says it's tiresome."

The strange dialogue went on for what might have been an hour. Far
ports and foreign streets, full sails and thronged inns, the
fountains of paved courts, the market squares of dark and vivid
nations, blossomed from the tongue of this chair-bound woman in her
farmhouse prison; and from the blind, unhappy voyager came halting,
telegraphic phrases: climate and train schedules and over-lavish
fees, miles and meals and petty miseries. No sunset had stained her
hurried way, no handed flowers from shy street children had
sweetened it. And ever and again she returned insistently to the
barnyard interests of the Winterpines!

"See here!" she burst out suddenly, "I'll tell you what I'll do! I
told J. G. that I wouldn't go another step with him--mascot or no
mascot. He wants to go over the Himalayas--to start next week--he
has an idea. But if you'll go, I'll take you! What do you say? My
guest, of course: it don't cost you a penny."

The woman turned utterly white. Where her knuckles gripped the arms
of the chair they showed a bluish tinge.

"Me? Me?" she whispered. Her eyes fell to her helpless knees.

"Oh, you needn't think of that at all," said Madeline. "I knew a man
who didn't _have_ any legs, even, that went round the world and up
the Pyramids. He had money."

The woman looked wildly about. Her eyes fell on Caroline and this
seemed to bring her into some sort of focus again; the color came
back to her face.

"That was lovely for you to think of, dear," she said, breathlessly
yet; "but--but--for a moment I forgot.... I--I didn't think of
Lorenzo!"

"Oh, we'll get a housekeeper for Lorenzo," Madeline said lightly;
"he'll do very well, won't he? One man can't be much to take care
of--you haven't any children?"

The easy, equal tone, the bright, dry impudence of this little air
plant, this rootless, aimless bubble skipping over the bottomless
deeps of life, brought the dazzled woman quickly to herself. She
looked compassionately at the girl.

"No," she said gravely, her hands unconsciously flying to her deep
breast; "we haven't any children. And he's not much to take care
of--for his wife. But he wouldn't care for a housekeeper."

"Oh!" her eyes fell uneasily. "Then we'll take him along!" She
recovered herself.

Mrs. Winterpine sent her chair with a swift push close to the girl
and laid one hand on her hot forehead, pushing back the thick hair.

"What a gen'rous little thing you are!" she cried wonderingly. "But
where were you brought up, child? Lorenzo can't jump and run off to
the Himalaya Mountains like that! It takes him a long time to make
up his mind. He--he don't care for travel, besides. He's a regular
Winterpine. And there's the stock. No. I guess I'll keep on doing my
traveling at home. That book you said you'd send...."

"I'll send a dozen--fifty!" the girl cried impulsively. "I'll bring
them up from New York to-morrow! I'll bring some pictures, too. The
Alps and Venice and the snapshots I took on the Nile! You seem to
know how they look, well enough!"

"Yes, I know, I know...." the woman repeated dreamily.

"Don't you want to go?" Madeline urged curiously.

Again Mrs. Winterpine turned white.

"Then why don't you?"

"Child, child!" cried she of the chair, "didn't I tell you he don't
care for travel? We can't do as we like in this world--we don't live
alone. We're placed. There's a hundred things.... Where were you
brought up?"

Madeline's face flushed a dark, heavy red. Her light confidence
drowned in it; she dropped her eyes.

"In the Klondike!" she said sullenly, "I told you."

A loud, whirring horn cut through the country quiet. A great rattle
of gear and chain stormed along the road.

"There's the machine!" the girl said sulkily; "I must go. It's
fifteen miles to Ogdenville, and a vile road. Good-by--I'll be up
with the books in a day or two."

She moved to the door.

"If I can't come--I change my mind awfully--I'll send them just the
same, and--and--" a curious sense of struggle, a visible effort at
thought for another, an attempt to grasp an alien point of view,
dawned in the defiant dark eyes--"I'll write to you from India, if
you want. Would you like it? I can take snap shots...."

"You're real gen'rous, dear," said her hostess, and wheeling quickly
to her, kissed her warmly.

She was gone in a cloud of dust. Caroline and the woman sat in
silence. At last Rose-Marie yawned pitifully and his mistress got up
with reluctance.

"Good-by, Mrs. Winterpine," she said soberly; "I have to go home.
They'll be anxious about me. But I'll come again."

"Do, my dear," said the other; "this'll be a wonderful summer for
me, with so much company. Wonderful. He'll be interested. But you
run right on: don't let the folks worry. I never had any children,
but I always had my heart set on a daughter. Good-by."

Caroline and the donkey walked slowly off toward the wood, which
cast cool shadows. They vanished into its depths, and Mrs.
Winterpine sat and watched them kindly from her chair, as one
watches off the traveler bound for far and golden countries.

"He'd have liked that young one," she said softly.

       *       *       *       *       *




The following pages contain advertisements of a few of the
Macmillan novels.




NOVELS, ETC., BY "BARBARA"

(MABEL OSGOOD WRIGHT)


_Each, in decorated cloth binding, $1.50_


The Garden of a Commuter's Wife      Illustrated

"Reading it is like having the entry into a home of the class that
is the proudest product of our land, a home where love of books and
love of nature go hand in hand with hearty, simple love of 'folks.'
... It is a charming book."--_The Interior_.


People of the Whirlpool      Illustrated

"The whole book is delicious, with its wise and kindly humor, its
just perspective of the true values of things, its clever pen
pictures of people and customs, and its healthy optimism for the
great world in general."--_Philadelphia Evening Telegraph_.


The Woman Errant

"The book is worth reading. It will cause discussion. It is an
interesting fictional presentation of an important modern question,
treated with fascinating feminine adroitness."--Miss JEANNETTE
GILDER in the _Chicago Tribune_.


At the Sign of the Fox

"Her little pictures of country life are fragrant with a genuine
love of nature, and there is fun as genuine in her notes on rural
character."--_New York Tribune_.


The Garden, You and I

"This volume is simply the best she has yet put forth, and quite too
deliciously torturing to the reviewer, whose only garden is in
Spain.... The delightful humor which pervaded the earlier books, and
without which Barbara would not be Barbara, has lost nothing of its
poignancy."--_Congregationalist_.


The Open Window.       Tales of the Months.

"A little vacation from the sophistication of the
commonplace."--_Argonaut_.


Poppea of the Post-Office

"A rainbow romance, ... tender yet bracing, cheerily stimulating ...
its genial entirety refreshes like a cooling shower."--_Chicago
Record-Herald_.


Princess Flower Hat      _Just Ready_

A Comedy from the Perplexity Book of Barbara the Commuter's Wife.


THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
Publishers  64-66 Fifth Avenue  New York

       *       *       *       *       *




BY ZONA GALE


Friendship Village

_Cloth, 12mo, $1.50_

"As charming as an April day, all showers and sunshine, and
sometimes both together, so that the delighted reader hardly knows
whether laughter or tears are fittest for his emotions.... This book
especially makes for higher thinking and better living and
emphasizes the existence of these virtues in lowly places as well as
high."--_New York Times_.

"The characters are like an orchestra, each instrument holding a
part of its own, all interwoven to a harmonious whole; an orchestra
of strings, be it added, for even the Proudfits' motor fails to
introduce a note of brass.... With the wholesome pungency of humor
that pervades it all, the book cannot fail to find a welcome."--_New
York Post_.

"There is not a trace of sarcasm or even grotesqueness; her
villagers are not caricatures; they are efficient, useful men and
women whose individualities have been crystallized into distinct
outlines by their limited environments and intimate relations. The
book is happily optimistic, presenting, indeed, the commonplaces of
narrow lives but breathing also the underlying spirit of poetry and
romance."--_Baltimore Sun_.


The Loves of Pelleas and Etarre

_Cloth, 12mo, $1.50_

"To all who know the hidden sources of human joy and have neither
grown old in cynicism nor gray in utilitarianism, Miss Gale's
charming love stories, full of fresh feeling and grace of style,
will be a draught from the fountain of youth."--_Outlook_.

"The achievement is unusual for delicacy, subtlety, and the ...
felicitous tenderness which brood over the book like a golden
autumnal haze which dims the outlines of common things and
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an idyl for the aged--a romance of seventy."--_Chicago Tribune_.

"It is an ideal book for husband and wife to read aloud together....
Its picture of steadfast love in old age is the best kind of
idealism."--_Chicago Record Herald_.


PUBLISHED BY
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
64-66 Fifth Avenue, New York

       *       *       *       *       *




Mr. JAMES LANE ALLEN'S NOVELS

_Each, cloth, 12mo, $1.50_


The Choir Invisible

_This can also be had in a special edition illustrated by Orson
Lowell, $2.50_

"One reads the story for the story's sake, and then re-reads the
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very core.... Mr. Allen stands to-day in the front rank of American
novelists. _The Choir Invisible_ will solidify a reputation already
established and bring into clear light his rare gifts as an artist.
For this latest story is as genuine a work of art as has come from
an American hand."--HAMILTON MABIE in _The Outlook_.


The Reign of Law. A Tale of the Kentucky Hempfields

"Mr. Allen has a style as original and almost as perfectly finished
as Hawthorne's, and he has also Hawthorne's fondness for spiritual
suggestion that makes all his stories rich in the qualities that are
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way, it cannot fail to add to one's spiritual possessions."--_San
Francisco Chronicle_.


The Mettle of the Pasture

"It may be that _The Mettle of the Pasture_ will live and become a
part of our literature; it certainly will live far beyond the
allotted term of present-day fiction. Our principal concern is that
it is a notable novel, that it ranks high in the range of American
and English fiction, and that it is worth the reading, the
re-reading, and the continuous appreciation of those who care for
modern literature at its best."--By E. F. E. in the _Boston
Transcript_.


Summer in Arcady. A Tale of Nature _Cloth, $1.25_

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is artistic in its setting, realistic and true to nature and life in
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difficult to give an outline of the story; it is one of the stories
which do not outline; it must be read."--_Boston Daily Advertiser_.


_Shorter Stories_

The Blue Grass Region of Kentucky                 $1.50
Flute and Violin, and Other Kentucky Tales        $1.50
The Bride of the Mistletoe                        $1.25
A Kentucky Cardinal. _Illustrated_                $1.00
Aftermath. A Sequel to "A Kentucky Cardinal"      $1.00


THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
PUBLISHERS, 64-66 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK

       *       *       *       *       *




Mr. ROBERT HERRICK'S NOVELS

_Cloth, extra, gilt tops, each, $1.50_


The Gospel of Freedom

"A novel that may truly be called the greatest study of social life,
in a broad and very much up-to-date sense, that has ever been
contributed to American fiction."--_Chicago Inter-Ocean_.


The Web of Life

"It is strong in that it faithfully depicts many phases of American
life, and uses them to strengthen a web of fiction, which is most
artistically wrought out."--_Buffalo Express_.


The Real World

"The title of the book has a subtle intention. It indicates, and is
true to the verities in doing so, the strange dreamlike quality of
life to the man who has not yet fought his own battles, or come into
conscious possession of his will--only such battles bite into the
consciousness."--_Chicago Tribune_.


The Common Lot

"It grips the reader tremendously.... It is the drama of a human
soul the reader watches ... the finest study of human motive that
has appeared for many a day."--_The World To-day_.

The Memoirs of an American Citizen. Illustrated with about fifty
drawings by F. B. Masters.

"Mr. Herrick's book is a book among many, and he comes nearer to
reflecting a certain kind of recognizable, contemporaneous American
spirit than anybody has yet done."--_New York Times_.

"Intensely absorbing as a story, it is also a crisp, vigorous
document of startling significance. More than any other writer
to-day he is giving us _the_ American novel."--_New York Globe_.


Together

"Journeys end in lovers meeting," says the old saw; so all novels
used to end--in marriage. Yet Mr. Herrick's interesting new novel
only begins there; the best brief description of it is, indeed,--a
novel about married people for all who are married.


THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
PUBLISHERS, 64-66 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK





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